Thursday, December 1, 2016

Amazing Apps: Simpliday

The importance of having your schedule, meetings and to-do’s in one place to reach all your organizational goals for the holidays and New Year can make or break the season!
If this topic interests you there is Simpliday, which can help organize one’s life and take away stress of getting things done. This newly launched iPhone app is an all-in-one calendar that simplifies planning for those with busy schedules, which become incredibly hectic around the holiday season…to allow them to do everything on their holiday list this year!
Simpliday app allows users to:
  • Manage all of their phone’s calendars and meetings in one app
  • Lists reminders side-by-side with their calendar
  • Assigns reminders with notes to others who may be attending the same family events, parties, etc.
  • Looks aesthetically appealing and beautiful, and not dull and boring to keep the holidays festive
Simpliday helps ease the stresses and helps balance busy schedules for anyone who is looking to simplify their busy calendars, nonstop emails, and to-dos. The app is currently free for iOS download here.

Caring Causes: Cricket Media


Since their founding in 1973, Cricket Media - the most award-winning magazine publisher in children's media - has opened incredible windows of creativity and discovery for kids of all ages.  Each month, across 11 publications, their ad-free, child-centric magazines deliver stories with substance, beautiful illustrations and fantastic flights of fancy in highly visual format guaranteed to spark curiosity, inspire creativity and lead to a lifetime love of reading.


Looking for the perfect gift this holiday season? Check out Cricket's "Bug" magazines: BABYBUG, LADYBUG, SPIDER and CRICKET (for more Cricket publications on a variety of topics including science and history, visit cricketmedia.com), unique, high-value gifts that keep on giving throughout the year.  And, this year, in the spirit of the holiday season, Cricket is undertaking a "Double the Giving" campaign that'll allow generous gift-givers to share the love of reading and learning with kids they love, as well as with a child in need (Read more below; we hope you'll share with your audience, as well).

A gift of a Cricket Media publication is a "digital detox", supporting growing minds and helping to raise creative, curious and confident kids -- no batteries (or screens) required!  And we hope you'll join us this holiday season in offering your audience one of the best, most unplugged and inspirational gifts that once can give: a subscription to a Cricket Media magazine.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Contest: TurfMutt Be a Backyard Superhero

Thanks to an amazing rescue dog named Lucky, a.k.a. TurfMutt, a lucky teacher will win a trip to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) annual conference, an elementary school will win a $10,000 grant, and thousands of children in grades K-5 will learn science and how to take care of the environment.
Lucky is the real-life rescue dog behind the cartoonized superhero, TurfMutt. Through classroom materials developed with Scholastic, TurfMutt teaches students and teachers how to “save the planet, one yard at a time.” 
To win the “Be a Backyard Superhero” contest, students in grades K-5 submit essays on how they are helping TurfMutt and his band of superheroes, the Outdoor Powers, combat the environmental villains (Carbon Creep, Dust Demon, Dr. Runoff and Heat Freak). Entries are due January 23, 2017, and contest entry deadlines and rules are available at www.TurfMutt.com.
“We are thrilled to create the new TurfMutt Teacher Award where we will send one teacher to the NSTA annual conference next year. Highlighting teaching success and investing in professional development leads to better learning for students,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute and Lucky’s rescuer. “The $10,000 grant gives the winning school enough money to do a significant project – like install an outdoor classroom, a teaching garden, or another environmental education project of their choosing.”
Selecting winning schools based on the strength of the student entries, the TurfMutt program has awarded $35,000 to schools nationwide since 2010. This year, a teacher at the winning student’s school will also be awarded a trip to the 2017 NSTA conference.
The TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship program has touched more than 62 million children, educators and families, since 2009 and was created by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) Research and Education Foundation.
TurfMutt program materials are free and aligned to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) standards for grades K-5. In 2017 TurfMutt will once again appear on the Lucky Dog show, and TurfMutt’s personal, home habitat will also be featured in the 2017 Wildlife Habitat Council calendar.
TurfMutt is an education resource at the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
About OPEI
The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) is an international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. OPEI is the advocacy voice of the industry, and a recognized Standards Development Organization for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and active internationally through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in the development of safety and performance standards. OPEI is managing partner of GIE+EXPO, the industry’s annual international trade show, and the creative force behind the environmental education program, TurfMutt.com. OPEI-Canada represents members on a host of issues, including recycling, emissions and other regulatory developments across the Canadian provinces. For more information, visit www.OPEI.org

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Consumer Critique: Poppin' Peas

Sensible Portions has created another veggie-based option for snacking. I had a chance to try out Poppin' Peas, a non-GMO, gluten free snack that provides a good source of fiber. It comes in two flavors, sea salt and sour cream & onion (which I loved). With only five ingredients you know exactly what you're getting - no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, and 50% less fat than the leading potato chip. Right now it can be purchased at Hy-Vee and Woodman's Markets. Sensible Portions products can be purhcased at a variety of retailers across the US for healthier but still tasty snacking!

Consumer Critique: Dream Big, Little Princess

I recently had a chance to review Disney's Dream Big, Little Princess from Put Me in the Story. I love being able to personalize books for gifts for my children and other special children in my life. For little kids especially, seeing their name in the books really helps make them come alive and it's fun and easy to do. The books do cost a little more, but if it's a book they'll treasure for a long time then it's worth it to me!

In Disney's Dream Big, Little Princess, the book looks at several prominent Disney princesses and encourages the young reader to check off a passport as they read about the adventures each princess has. The unique positive qualities of princesses like Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Belle, and more are celebrated, as well as traits that mirror those qualities in the young reader.

The site runs specials often, so be sure to check those out to save on your purchase!

Music Minute: Jackie Evancho - Someday at Christmas

I absolutely love Christmas and Christmas music. I do try to keep it to its own season between Thanksgiving and Epiphany, but during that time I really enjoy it. My husband doesn't like hearing the same songs over and over, though, so I'm always on the lookout for new music to listen to during December. That's why I was happy to review Jackie Evancho's new album Someday at Christmas (Portrait Records).

I love the collaborations this artist made. She works with opera stars Il Volo, Placido Domingo, and Vittorio Grigolo (beautiful male voices to complement her female singing), and also collaborates with Youtube star Peter Hollens to add some pop-influenced tracks. With familiar favorites like "Do You Hear What I Hear" (one of my favorite Christmas songs) and ones that were new to me, it made a great album to listen to - and my husband didn't even mind listening to it before Thanksgiving to review!


Buy Someday at Christmas here:
 
Sony Music Masterworks comprises Masterworks, Sony Classical, OKeh, Portrait, Masterworks Broadway and Flying Buddha imprints. For email updates and information please visit www.sonymusicmasterworks.com/.
 

Parenting Pointers: Using Alternative Strategies to Deal with Bullying

Bullying has been front and center in recent news coverage, particularly among junior high and high school age children. However, the phenomenon is not limited to this age group— research actually indicates that these behaviors may begin as early as 3 years of age. In fact, “data from one study of children’s experience with violence showed that 20.4% of children ages 2-5 had experienced physical bullying in their lifetime and 14.6% had been teased (verbally bullied).” (Source: http://www.naeyc.org/blogs/bullying-early-childhood)
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, numbers indicate that 50 percent of children are bullied and l0 percent are victims of bullying on a regular basis, and children who have unique personalities are especially vulnerable to bullying problems. (Source: http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Bullying-080.aspx)
In addition, the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 to 24 is suicide, according to the CDC. Some of these suicides may be attributable to the individual being bullied.
(Source:  http://www.cdc.gov/injury/images/lc-charts/leading_causes_of_death_age_group_2014_1050w760h.gif)
When a child is being bullied, it is a very emotional situation for children and their parents. The initial reaction is to handle it personally, but that can lead to worse situations and consequences. The solution we recommend is having an experienced attorney contact the bully’s parents directly by sending them an informative letter regarding the legal consequences of bullying and a request to have their child immediately cease and desist from future bullying behavior.
You will not want to deal with a bully directly. There are numerous risks in doing so, including:
  1. You may break the law and go to jail. You may well incur legal action against you if you take physical action or make documented threats against a bully.
     
  2. You may aggravate an already-bad situation. By calling out the bully and the bullying behavior, you may provoke them into retaliatory action, which could ultimately result in physical injury to either you or the bully, or both of you.
     
  3. You may end up embarrassing your child or inadvertently affect their self-esteem. Your child could view your personal confrontation with a bully as a form of personal humiliation, e.g., believing you are fighting their battles for them.
As the saying goes, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Respect and utilize the law in dealing with bullying, for your child’s sake as much as your own.
How is this accomplished? Our organization offers an attorney letter that will clarify the situation to the parents and elaborate on the negative consequences if this bullying does not stop. The expectation is that the parents will intercede with their children to ensure that no legal consequences result, either for them or for their children.
A “stop bullying cease and desist letter” includes an attorney consultation, followed by the issuance of a respectful letter to the parents of the young bully that outlines the following:
  • Laws that make bullying illegal and/or bullies liable for damages.
  • What is bullying? Legal definitions of behavior that includes bullying.
  • How bullying may cause serious psychological damage and physical harm to the victim of bullying.
  • Resources for the parents of the bully to identify signs if their child is being a bully.
  • Ways for the parents of the bully to counteract bully behavior.
  • The consequences of a parent’s failure to stop bullying behavior (legal liability, personal protection orders, financial liability, police involvement and more)
For more information, visit https://www.allisontaylor.com/blog/bully-cease-desist-letter/
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About Allison & Taylor Inc.
Allison & Taylor, Inc. and its principals have been in the business of offering “Cease & Desist Letters to Bully Bosses “since 1984.
For further details on services and procedures please visit http://www.allisontaylor.com/.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Caring Causes: Carter's Giving Tuesday


On Tuesday, November 29, parents and holiday gift-givers can feel especially warm and fuzzy about their purchase of cozy Carter’s pajamas this year, thanks to the manufacturer’s donation program.

This year marks Carter’s first program, inspired by Giving Tuesday, a pro-social movement that encourages manufacturers and other participants to support charitable giving on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
For every Carter’s pajama purchased online at http://www.Carters.com or at one of Carter’s 650+ retail stores on November 29, Carter’s will donate one of America’s favorite jammies to children in need.

With close to 900 styles, including 1-piece, 2-piece, 4-piece, and gown options in cotton, flannel and fleece in sizes newborn to 12 years, parents and gift-givers are sure to find the perfect PJs for the little ones on their holiday gift lists.

Parenting Pointers: 5 Tips For Kids Wanting To Invest In Stock

Most adults have never invested in stock because it can be expensive and intimidating to get started.  But you don’t have to wait until you’re an adult – or have thousands of dollars or a PhD – to invest in stock.  Here are five easy tips to help you get started with stock investing and find your road to financial awesomeness.

Ask yourself:  Do I want to be rich?  If you want to start building wealth for your future, you’ll want to start saving part of your allowance or your paycheck, but that probably won’t get you there all by itself.  The secret to building large amounts of wealth is to invest your money, which means getting your money to work for you.

Here’s an example.  Let’s say you saved up $1000 this year from your allowance, birthday presents, and other things, and stored it in a shoebox.  If you came back a year later, or even 100 years later, you’d still have $1000 in that shoebox. 

Now let’s say you invested that $1000 in the stock market instead of putting it in a shoebox.  Stocks can go up and down in value (more on this later), but on average, they went up 9.8% a year from 1928 to 2014.*  So if you had invested $1000 back in 1928, you would have had more than $3.4 million by the end of 2014!  Pretty incredible, huh?

*Source:  S&P 500 historical rate of return

How to get started.  The first thing you’ll need to do is open a stock account (also called a brokerage account), and there are a few things you’ll probably want to look for. 

First, you’ll want to open an account that lets you invest as much or as little as you want.  At most brokerages, you need thousands of dollars just to open the account.  And some stocks are hard to afford – one share of Tesla stock costs about $200, and one share of Amazon costs about $700, for example.   At Stockpile, there’s no minimum amount you need to open an account, and you can buy fractional shares of your favorite stocks.  For example, you can buy $50 of Tesla, which translates to about a quarter of a share.  It’s real stock that comes in fractions to make it easier to afford.

Second, you want to make sure you won’t be paying any monthly fees because they’ll eat into your investment return.  Same thing when it comes to trading commissions (that’s the fee a brokerage charges when you buy or sell stock, which is between $5 and $10 at most brokerages).  At Stockpile, we don’t charge a monthly fee, and the trading commission is just 99 cents a trade.  So if you want to buy $50 of Tesla stock, you’ll pay just $50.99. 

Third, you’ll want a stock account that lets you keep track of your investments on your own.  Most brokerages can set up stock accounts for kids and teens.  They’re called “custodial accounts,” and mom or dad (or another adult) will be on the account with you.  It’s great, except for one thing – mom or dad get the account login and the monthly statements, which means you’ll have to get them to check in on your stocks for you.  Which is sometimes not the easiest because they’re busy with their own stuff. 

At Stockpile, you get your own log-in so you can check in on your stocks anytime you want, without having to bug mom or dad.  You can even place your own stock trades, which mom or dad can approve.  So if you want to buy $20 of Nike, you just enter that information on the Stockpile app and the trade shows up on mom or dad’s smartphone.  If they approve the trade, it goes to the stock market and executes.  It’s like being a student driver – you get to be in the driver’s seat, with an adult next to you as your co-pilot.

It’s easy to set up an account at stockpile.com. Your parents can help you do it, and it takes only a few minutes.

Start early, invest regularly, and diversify!  Remember how we said that the stock market went up an average of 9.8% a year between 1928 and 2014?  You would have missed out on an average of 9.8% in investment gains for every year you waited to get started!

But that doesn’t mean the stock market goes up 9.8% every year.  For example, the market went up 32% in 2013, but in 2001 it went down nearly 12%. 
It also doesn’t mean every stock will go up or down the same amount.  In 2014, Facebook was up 43%, while IBM was down 14%. 

In other words, you can’t really predict which stocks are going to go up, or when they’ll go up.  You just know that if you invest over a long enough period of time, you’ll do well based on how the stock market has done in the past.  The key to making money in the stock market is to start early, invest regularly (even if it’s a small amount), and diversify. 

Let’s take that piece by piece.  Since you don’t know which years will be the good ones, but you do know that the market has gone up an average of 9.8% a year, starting early will (on average) be better than starting late.  If you invest regularly, you’ll be spreading your risk over a bunch of years, so you don’t end up investing a bunch of money in a bad year.  If you diversify, you’ll spread your risk over a bunch of different stocks, so you don’t end up putting all your eggs in one basket.  And if you do it for the long haul and receive a positive rate of return (say, 9.8% per year), the more years, the better!

Have a strategy.  There are almost as many investing strategies as there are investors.  In other words, everyone has an opinion, but here are some strategies that are better than “day trading,” which amounts to guessing what the market will do on any given day.

One good strategy is to “buy and hold” a stock, because you believe in the company and think it will go up over the course of months or years even though it might be bouncing around a lot day-to-day.  If you follow this strategy every month (by buying a little more stock every month), it’s called “dollar cost averaging.”  Or, you can “buy on the dips,” which means you track companies you think are good, wait for their stock prices to dip, and buy when they dip.  You can also buy stocks you think are underrated or “undervalued” and hold on to them until they make a comeback.  Likewise, people who own a stock sometimes decide to sell when they think the stock is getting to be overrated or “overvalued.”

No strategy is foolproof, though.  You could buy on a dip and then watch the stock go down even further.  Or you could wait for a dip that doesn’t happen for a long time and miss out on lots of gains.  But these strategies have worked well for lots of investors.

One thing that helps is to stick to companies you know.  It may give you a leg up on other investors who may not know as much about a company’s products and what people think about those products.   It also helps to stay informed and read up on your companies online.

Enlist friends and family!  You can get to financial goals sooner by telling friends and family that you’re investing for your future and would love to have their help! 

We’ve made it really easy for them with Stockpile gift cards.  They can buy an e-gift in about 2 minutes by picking a stock and dollar amount, entering your email address, and paying with a debit or credit card.  When you redeem the e-gift, you end up with stock in your Stockpile account!  They can also buy a physical gift card at Kmart, OfficeMax, Wegman’s, Giant Eagle, and other retailers or online.

Stockpile is the world’s first gift card for stock! To make gifting really easy for you, Stockpile launching a gift registry this fall.  Email us at support@stockpile.com to be added to our waitlist, so you can tell friends and family which stocks are your favorites and they know just what to buy you for your next birthday or special occasion!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Amazing Apps: Playability

Playability Toys' vision is to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to laugh, learn, play, and grow though an enriching experience with exceptional toys and apps:

Nurture Smart MobileDeveloped with input from over one hundred Certified Child Life Specialists in the United States and Canada, the award-winning Nurture Smart Mobile is the most innovative patent-pending crib mobile designed to maximize cognitive development and provide optimum cleaning capabilities. More here: http://playabilitytoys.com/nurture-smart-mobile.html


Pigsy - Designed to step a child through basic "change counting" exercises, the Pigsy app teaches basic financial literacy, and includes unique personalization features to make learning engaging and fun. Available at http://playabilitytoys.com/apps.html, Pigsy is not only targeted to the autistic/special needs community, but is unique in its personalization for the child. It features a section for the parent or teacher to input personalized information, such as name of their school, pets, street they live on, child's name, and favorite color.

Visit their website at http://www.PlayabilityToys.com and http://www.MoreThanPlay.com to see all their toys, including in-depth toy descriptions and videos.