Monday, March 1, 2021

Book Nook: Sing Out!


The Secret Mountain, a Montreal-based publisher marking their 20th anniversary of publishing award-winning music-forward children’s books, just released a new book - Sing Out! Six Classic Folk Songs for Tomorrow.

Original illustrations by Sophie Casson offer an whimsical rendering of timeless songs (“She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” “Little Bingo,” “This Old Man,” “Pop Goes the Weasel,” “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”). Each takes on a life of its own to become a stand-alone story featuring zany characters. The 176-page book (it's not as overwhelming as it sounds) invites family singalongs, as it includes a recording of all six songs by the duo Sin & Swoon. Casson is an acclaimed Quebec-based artist whose illustrations frequently appear in major publications.

I teach piano, and I loved the chance to review this book. I have been looking for books to put in my music room for siblings who are waiting for lessons, and this one is perfect - the short amount of words on each page make it accessible for my youngest readers, but the illustrations are engaging enough for a little older readers as well. It's a really fun book to celebrate some classic songs. 

The Secret Mountain, distributed by Independent Publishers Group (IPG), offers a rich and varied catalog of books, e-books, and music. Visit for the latest news.

Fun Freetime: Cubekins

 I recently had a chance to see a screener of a new Christian faith-based show for kids called Cubekins. The show provides family-friendly content designed for kids ages 3-8 and was created by two homeschooling dads and their families. 

It's an animated small-town tale of an energetic young boy named Kip exploring a constantly-changing world and learning more about his never-changing God. Although my kids are older than the target age range, I still found this to be a cute show. The characters are friendly, the show is easy to follow, and it teaches easy-to-understand lessons for kids about God. (And those eyes are just so cute!)

You can buy or rent Cubekins episode 1 - Invasion of the Cubecumbers - on the Cubekins website (or other available streaming platforms). If you become a fan member at you can get exclusive content like coloring books, bonus videos, and more (downloads, members-only sections, future perks, etc).

I have the chance to giveaway one free screening link of Cubekins so you can check out the fun for yourself! To enter, leave a comment with what you think you'd like best about the show. Deadline is March 5th.

Learn more: 

Dove Article 



Fun Freetime: Bluey

The new season of hugely popular Emmy-winning series, Bluey, returned on February 5 with a batch of brand-new episodes airing on Disney Channel (during the Disney Junior block) and in DisneyNOW.

Among the must-see episodes is a special story featuring Robert Irwin! Irwin, part of one of the most famous families from Down Under (just like Bluey!), makes a special guest appearance voicing the pup Alfie, the helpful store clerk who saves the day in the episode “The Quiet Game,” which premiered Friday, February 26.

The latest heartfelt and humor-filled stories also bring preschoolers (and caregivers alike!) along as Bluey makes her first trip the movies; Mum reminisces about when Bluey was a baby; Muffin comes to visit wearing a cone (to stop sucking her thumb!) and Bluey (and Dad) have a birthday cake mishap…and more!

In case you’re not as familiar with the show (one watch and you’re guaranteed to fall in love!), Bluey has been lauded by media and families all over the world for its relatability of every day moments of childhood and family life. The series follows a loveable, inexhaustible 6-year-old Blue Heeler pup, Bluey, who lives with her Mum, Dad and her 4-year-old little sister, Bingo. The series showcases the everyday events of family life – from going to a restaurant and visiting the hairdressers to catching the bus or having a playdate – and celebrates these moments, turning ordinary experiences into extraordinary imagination-packed adventures.


 Kids Craft from JCPenney

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Book Nook: Let's Learn About Chemistry

I recently had a chance to review Let's Learn About Chemistry, a book written by children's science educator Stephanie Ryan. The book is targeted to kids up to age seven, although even kids a little older could learn something from the book (but they may be a little turned off by the board book format if you get the hard copy).

The book uses comparing and contrasting to work with related science concepts - and there are lots of right answers. It encourages kids to think like a scientist and be observant.

Author Stephanie Ryan said, “Showing kids that science is all around us and that even their toys are related to chemistry helps stage it as a part of their world early.”

This is the perfect book for kids to read to younger siblings and for parents to start open-ended discussions with their kids about observations and details.

The book is only $0.99 as an eBook for Kindle and iPad. You can also purchase a hard copy of the book through the distributor Itasca Books,  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other bookstores.


Stephanie Ryan

Stephanie Ryan has a strong background in chemistry and biology and enjoys applying her background to develop superior educational products. She is also interested in how mathematics and science intertwine. Stephanie Ryan has experience in curriculum development, assessment, and training staff how to use technology and software. Stephanie Ryan has taught science in formal and informal settings from K-16, and developed curricula for After School Matters programs in Chicago, Illinois.

Stephanie Ryan earned her Ph.D. in the Learning Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has an M.S. and B.S. in chemistry, from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Saint Mary’s College, respectively.

Learn more: or

Follow Stephanie Ryan on Instagram @LetsLearnAboutScience

Thrifty Thinking: Tips to Renovate Your Home on a Budget

Everyone wants their home to be a perfectly safe space to come home to at the end of the day. Your home should be a place you want to spend time and enjoy being in, which often includes modern features and comforts. However, not all homes are in the best or most pristine shape, and renovations can be expensive. Most people picture spending tens of thousands of dollars on home renovations, but there are other ways to update your home without taking out a loan or a second mortgage. While a full-blown renovation is the typical dream, it is not always the most practical idea, and there are still ways to make your home more personalized and comfortable without breaking the bank. No matter how big or small your budget is, there are various ways to update your home so you can work towards crafting your perfect home using a more reasonable timeline. Below are just a few ways and ideas to get you started on renovating your home on a budget. Embrace your creativity, personal tastes, and less common renovation ideas to build your home into the dream house you always pictured.
A Firm Budget Is Not Optional

Sadly, money is what stands in the way of many of our most extraordinary plans and wishes, but it must be respected. There is no point in blowing all your money on a home renovation if you are now behind on mortgage payments. When you are working within a budget, it is critical that you stick to your established budget. You may be able to flex and spend a little more here or there, but do not talk yourself into spending far more money than you intended. The fun rush of buying fancy new things will come crashing down once the bill is due and you realize how far over the budget you went. It is not worth spending more money than you can comfortably handle, so set a budget with a little room to flex and stick to it or risk the consequences of overspending. If you can’t make a mental budget, there are plenty of apps that can help you track your spending.
The Unseen Upgrades
Most people think about redoing a black splash or buying new furniture when they imagine renovating their home, but many unseen upgrades go a long way towards making your house more comfortable. Buying a new propane water heater is not the most attractive or conventional home renovation, but you will appreciate the fix when you go to take a long hot shower. Replacing your old HVAC unit is expensive, and the units can only be so attractive, but you will appreciate the renovation in the summertime when an older AC unit would be unable to keep up. Consider what your home needs and what upgrades will make your home more comfortable instead of what will make it more visually appealing.
DIY To Save Money

There are a few areas of home renovation that typically cost the most. Materials and labor are generally the two most expensive items during a renovation, but there are ways to reduce those costs. If you can tackle any parts of your renovations by yourself, you should use those DIY skills to save money. Try to look for materials or items on your own in second-hand stores where normal contractors or designers may not look. Look at your planned renovations and see which tasks are easy enough that you can DIY them rather than pay for labor. Simple paint jobs, hanging shelves, and moving furniture are all things most people can handle on their own but do not get over-ambitious. If you feel uncomfortable or unsure about some renovation tasks, leave them to professionals as fixing a mistake costs more than paying someone to do it right the first time. DIY as much is safe and cost-effective as some professionals can get discounts on materials through professional connections.

Another aspect you can DIY are small changes that you don’t need professional help for anyway. Switch out your old light bulbs for energy-efficient LEDs, replace air filters, and consider adding a smart thermostat to control your home’s temperature better while saving energy.

There are an endless number of ways to upgrade or renovate your home, but not all of them require a big budget. There are plenty of ways to refresh your home without spending too much money. Make a budget and stick to it, consider unseen upgrades that make your home more comfortable, and use DIY to save money.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Music Minute: Jonah Prill - You Remind Me

 Country singer/songwriter Jonah Prill blames it on the whiskey with the release of his latest single, “You Remind Me.”  Written with Ryan Hayes and Justin Olmstead, this single two steps onto the scene with traction and cross-genre appeal. Shining a light on the one that got away, “You Remind Me” tells the classic story of a time where a spark and a youthful heart were not enough to stall a love on the run and keep the fire lit. From Montana mornings to Nashville nights, “You Remind Me” drives listeners down an all too familiar road of reliving a former love through everyday experiences. Prill’s baritone voice blends into pop-driven melodies with small hints of traditional country present in the slide guitar and the banjo. “You Remind Me” premiered on Newsmax and is available on all digital platforms now to stream or download.

To listen to Jonah talk about “You Remind Me” on Newsmax visit HERE. Stream/download here:

“I’m thrilled to be releasing my second song as an independent artist. Being from Montana, I can’t wait to share my unique upbringing through country roots, with a modern rock and pop tone,” shares Prill.

Country music’s newest flame kicks up the dust to deliver a one-of-a-kind track to be enjoyed by all audiences. It takes a powerful song to come along and make a listener feel at ease in the relation of the lyrics while also wanting to get up and dance at the same time. With a fan base of almost 1 million and counting across Instagram and Tik Tok, Prill keeps followers craving new music with his genuine tone and country charm. Fans will not want to miss what this rising star has in store for the coming months!

To keep up with future releases and everything Jonah Prill, visit HERE and follow his social channels linked below:

About Jonah Prill:
Jonah Prill, an American singer-songwriter from Billings, Montana, is primed to stake his claim in the world of country music. Prill, a born and bred country boy, began writing songs at an early age and continued through his teens. Raised on traditional country western, Prill shines through with one foot remaining where he was planted, and the other pointing in a new direction. Drawing inspiration from voices such as Morgan Wallen, Cody Johnson, and Jon Pardi, Jonah‘s sound resonates equal parts country, rock, and heartfelt. With an immense grassroots following of over 690k Tik-Tok fans and 110k Instagram fans, Prill will be a country name you will hear for years to come.

Crayons Ready to Eat - Creator Interview

I had a chance to interview Frank Manteau, former military and the co-founder of Crayons Ready to Eat, also known as CRE, about his campaign to ship the first ever edible/colorable crayons in the world to first responders, military, and their families.

Crayons are not just for coloring anymore; you can now eat them too! Frank Manteau, a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps and the co-founder of Crayons Ready to Eat, just started a Business Venture campaign on Fund the First crowdfunding platform. Fund the First is a verified crowdfunding platform for our nation’s heroes to create campaigns and receive donations without having to worry about fraud or scams. Each CRE™ tastes like delicious vanilla-flavored Chocolate that is fully edible and you can write and/or color with. They are asking for support to help them ship their delicious edible crayons.

Who doesn’t love crayons? Especially kids. Adults love them too. Why not combine play with an amazing treat you can eat afterward? Frank Manteau is creating the first ever crayon you can use to color with, but eat later. The business campaign was started as an initial effort to support the startup.

Often, those with iron deficiency or Pica are usually prone to eating crayons, initially pulled-in by their mesmerizing color but ultimately seduced by their flavor. According to Crayola, children on average will go through 720 crayons in the first decade of their life; which is great for business.

1. Why did you create this product? 
To bring a military joke to a reality!

2. What has been the biggest surprise in launching your own product?
The reactions and support from the military and veteran community. 

3. What are the benefits of doing some of the work yourself instead of contracting it out?
The pride and honor of knowing we were able to turn this joke into a reality and we made it. 

4. How do you juggle launching a product with raising a family?
It’s hard. You miss stuff and you're not present while you’re working and you explain to them your job and the benefits that are coming out of it. But when you’re not working be present and be there."

Fun Freetime: Outta the Books - Reinventing Fairy Tales for the Streaming Generation

 February 26th is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day!

Who better than to get your storytelling juices flowing than the cast and creative crew of Outta the Books, the acclaimed fairy tale-based multi-platform series.

Friday marks the release of the full Outta the Books cast recording. At 2 pm EST/11 am PST/7 pm GMT, A webinar entitled Outta the Books - reinventing Fairy Tales for the Streaming Generation” will be shared on Outta the Books’ YouTube channel and social media.


The cast and crew will talk about what it was like to film a new children’s series during lockdown. This international behind-the-scenes panel discussion includes the performers from Outta the Books, along with producer Erica Ehm and writer/creator Brian Banks.

Outta the Books is a multi-platform family entertainment project that reimagines favorite fairy tales and takes kids on musical journeys into the Land of Once Upon a Time. The series, originally set to debut as a children's theatrical show at last year's Edinburgh Fringe Fest, features an amazing cast of actors (some from the West End production of "Hamilton!") and an award-winning production and creative team based in the UK, Canada and the United States.


Instead of presenting the show onstage, the StorySongs production crew quickly pivoted to the virtual world, working virtually together to produce seven video episodes and the accompanying recordings. Since “Chapter 1: A Wicked Competition” launched last November, Outta the Books has received international attention and worldwide fans.


Outta The Books harnesses the power of music, the most universal of communicators, to tell simple, time-tested and meaningful tales, one StorySong at a time. Characters inspired by familiar fairy tales and fables come to life as they keep stories alive through song. These are stories that can help us answer basic human questions – What is right?  What is fair?  How can I be a good person?  Why do I feel like this today?  Drawing on time-honored themes with a modern twist, Outta the Books offers something for young and old alike.

All seven episodes of season 1 of Outta the Books stream on YouTube HERE. 

Order the cast recording on Friday from Apple Music, Amazon and other sources, or stream these StorySongs on Spotify.

Enriching Education: Family History with Vivid-Pix

 Have you ever wanted to tell your story and your family story? To harness photography’s impact on family history, Vivid-Pix has launched new education for families and family historians. In this six-part series, author/storyteller and genealogist Laura Hedgecock teaches us how to share stories in bite-sized videos, starting with the class Witness to History: Now and Then. Classes are available at:

Vivid-Pix is also providing education for librarians. The American Library Association (ALA) estimates that there are 116,867 libraries in the United States. Very few universities offer a genealogy course path for librarians pursuing a Master of Library Science. Working with experts in the field, Vivid-Pix has created a twelve-part Genealogy Librarian Education Series at: with classes and special panel discussions, including:
  • Introduction to Genealogical Research and the Role of the Genealogy Librarian”: taught by Drew Smith, MA LIS, USF Libraries.
  • The Genealogical Reference Interview, Orientation to Library Resources & Services: taught by Sue Kaufman, MLIS, Sr. Manager, Houston Public Library – Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research.
  • Working with Local Genealogical and Historical Societies”: panel discussion hosted by Cherie BushDeputy Chief Genealogical Officer for FamilySearch Intl.
  • Marketing the Genealogy Library: panel discussion hosted by Allison DePrey SingletonMA, MLS, Sr. Librarian, Genealogy Center, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The CDC estimates that 20% of people age 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder) - see:  Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation can result in long-term negative health outcomes. Studies also illustrate the health benefits of using photos to reduce loneliness, stress, and anxiety, as well as the recollective benefits for those that suffer from early-onset of dementia, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.
achi, Tellegacy & Vivid-Pix (ATV) Launch Academic and Business Research to Assist Aging Population
Vivid-Pix is also announcing ATV, a partnership with achi and Tellegacy to study and improve older adult 
population health. Dr. Jeremy Holloway, Assistant Professor and Director of Geriatrics Education at University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, will lead the primary research utilizing student caregiver/senior engagement. Rick Voight, MBA, CEO, Vivid-Pix, will lead the effort on business research and Hayley Studer, CPA, FHFMA, will lead financial modeling to study how to reduce cost and improve older adult health. The inter-generational Tellegacy program helps keep older adults connected. ATV activities will integrate photos into loneliness, isolation, and reminiscence therapy research. Read research info at: “Photo Reminiscing Can Reduce Stress & Depression During Coronavirus.
Vivid-Pix at RootsTech Connect and Beyond
Vivid-Pix is a bronze sponsor and exhibitor of RootsTech Connect, which is being held virtually from Feb. 25-27, 2021. In addition to RootsTech Connect, Vivid-Pix is also the title sponsor of NGS Conference’s SLAM (Societies, Libraries, Archives, Museums) and Focus on Societies (genealogical societies, historical societies, and family organizations), two pillars of the five-day 
National Genealogical Society (NGS) virtual conference, held May 17-21, 2021. NGS and RootsTech Connect are the backbone of the genealogy community and an important source of information and knowledge for budding family historians and experts alike.
Vivid-Pix also recently announced the acquisition of 
Reunions magazine, a leading publication for reunion planning and celebration for the past 30 years. This resource provides family, class, and military reunions ideas, features, and education to connect in person and online. For more information on Vivid-Pix, see the website:
About Tellegacy
Tellegacy is an intergenerational program created to combat loneliness and social isolation among older adults, keeping them connected and engaged through weekly phone or virtual visits with university students. As research shows, loneliness and social isolation can result in long-term negative health outcomes. Tellegacy founder, Jeremy Holloway, PhD, is determined to change that narrative with his flexible, relationship-oriented, mindfulness, goal-setting and guided imagery curriculum. In partnership with Hayley Studer, founder of achi, a holistic care management company that lowers overall expenses by actively engaging people and connecting them to organizations to address the social determinants of health, the infrastructure for which Tellegacy was built. To learn more about the Tellegacy program and how it can save lives, visit