Thursday, October 17, 2019

Consumer Critique: Welch's Halloween Treats

When it comes to giving out Halloween treats (or birthday treats), many families are looking for options that are allergy-friendly. I recently had a chance to try out some Halloween options from Welch's.

  • Welch’s® Mixed Fruit Halloween Fruit Snacks: Made specifically for Halloween, Welch’s offers fruit snacks in fun and festive shapes like bats, witches, ghosts, haunted castles, and pumpkins! Welch’s Fruit Snacks Halloween-themed box and pouch have custom graphics with fun shapes– perfect for trick or treating, lunchbox treats or parties!
  • Original Gummi FunMix Halloween Variety Pack: Bring your Halloween party to life with the new, limited edition Original Gummi FunMix Halloween-themed bags feature pouches of GUMMI PARTY and SOUR PARTY! With over 30 sweet and sour Gummi favorites like Gummi Bears, Gummi Sharks and more, they’re perfect for anything from trick-or-treating to Halloween parties!

Both of these were tasty. They're sweet enough to satisfy a sweet tooth, they're fun and seasonal, and they are free of many common allergens.

You can find these treats at many retailers, including Walmart, Target, Dollar General, Walgreens, CVS, Kroger, and more.

Boo Nook: Big Cat

I recently had a chance to review the debut book Big Cat by Emma Lazell. It's a funny little story that will appeal to kids and have a little twist too.

The book has bright, bold colors with a slightly nostalgic or classic feel, but a timeless story. Isobel and Gran are looking for Gran's lost glasses and they come across a very big stripy cat. The cat moves in with them but eats all the food and takes up the new space. But when Gran finds her glasses and the new cat's family shows up, Gran realizes it was a tiger!

This book has lot of little details in the illustrations that make it fun to read, and it's a cute story too!

About the author: Emma Lazell is a UK-based illustrator and author. Her work is linear, expressive, and sprinkled with irony and playfulness. In 2018 she completed the prestigious MA in Children's Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University, graduating with a distinction. In 2014 she graduated with an undergraduate degree in Illustration from The University for the Creative Arts. Big Cat is her debut picture book.

Giveaway: Wally Whale's Mighty Tale and Compare Bear's Double Dare

Kapalua Cove Publishing recently introduced the initial two books in its new series, EQ Explorers, designed to inspire and empower children through fun, educational stories focused on themes of emotional intelligence—or EQ. The titles, Wally Whale’s Mighty Tale and Compare Bear’s Double Dare, are the first from author, entrepreneur, and mother of six Kim Linette. Soon to follow will be Jojo Giraffe’s Big Laugh, Lulu Llama and the Triangle of Drama, and many more. The EQ Explorers books weave magical stories of friendship and learning, geared toward children ages 5-10.

One hundred percent of profits from the sales of Kapalua Cove books go to help children and families in need around the globe through non-profit Kapalua Cove Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to provide resources and inspiration for children to dream big and develop emotional health. Direct donations are made to charitable initiatives and books are donated to orphanages, remote libraries, care centers, and more.

Diversity and inclusion are also key components of the EQ Explorers series. Author Kim Linette includes children from a wide variety of cultures as her starring characters. She chooses animals from various countries and locales. Her goal is to give children a broadened world view and a sense of traveling the globe as they read the series.

“In ancient Hawaiian, ‘Kapalua’ means ‘arms embracing the sea.’ It’s a word that perfectly depicts our desire to embrace and nurture children and families all around the world,” says Kim Linette.

I have a chance to give away a copy of each book. To enter, leave a comment with what you know about EQ. Deadline is 10/25.

Why did you write these books?

I spent more than two decades learning and practicing the principles of emotional intelligence (EQ) that I share in each EQ Explorers book. I first learned about the concept of EQ while I was a young mother. At the time, I realized that I had *everything* I wanted—a wonderful marriage, six fabulous kids, a successful business and career—and yet I didn’t feel *happy* in the way I thought I could or should. 

With the help of a therapist, I began to explore my emotional well-being—my ups and downs, self-worth, self-confidence, and more. Through these sessions, and through years of personal growth and work, I came to know and embrace EQ as a critical life skill and key to happiness. 

Something else very powerful happened: as my happiness increased, my children’s happiness increased, too. As I shared and modeled the principles I learned with them, and in turn they incorporated these principles into their lives, they became happier individuals. 

Research backs up what my family and I experienced. Studies show that EQ is a key component to living a happy, successful life. And—unlike IQ—EQ can be learned. I was inspired to create EQ Explorers to help other parents fast track the lessons that took me over 20 years to uncover and internalize, and to share this emotional understanding with their kids in a fun, connected way—cuddling up together with a book.

The EQ Explorers books weave magical stories of friendship and learning, geared toward children ages 5-10. Each story stars a child and an animal who adventure together to discover and understand EQ principles, such as “happiness is a choice” and “be yourself—don’t compare.” The principles taught in each book (i.e. the morals of each story) have been proven to help boost happiness and healthy human connections. They are intended to benefit child readers and their parents and caretakers alike.

I quickly realized, however, that writing and publishing the books was not enough. I felt compelled to help nurture children all around the world—especially those facing socio-economic challenges—by providing the tools and opportunities they need to live happy, healthy, emotionally connected lives. That’s why one hundred percent of profits from EQ Explorers goes to Kapalua Cove Foundation—the foundation I created to give direct donations and donations of books to orphanages, remote libraries, care centers, and more. 

Why is it so important for kids to start learning about emotions early?

Children (and adults alike) often fall in the trap of believing that happiness is determined by external factors: what happens to them, what they have, or how other people perceive them or treat them. In truth, no matter what happens to us or whatever comes or doesn’t come our way, we have a choice. We can choose to make the best of any situation. 
The key principle of one of the first EQ Explorers books is the fact that “happiness is a choice.” In Wally Whale’s Might Tale, Wally knows that we always have the choice to choose to gratitude for what we have—and not get hung up or envious about what we don’t. This simple fact can empower children, helping them avoid the pitfalls of blaming or expecting other people or things to create their happiness. Instead, when they realize they have the power to choose their own happiness, they can put their time, focus, and energy into creating big, happy lives.
I can give you similar reasoning for the importance of each principle of emotional intelligence—those taught in the first two books, which we recently released, and those in the two-dozen-plus more books to come. My dream is that the generation who grows up with the EQ Explorer series will have a big head start in life. They will be able to save all the energy so many people waste, running in circles with faulty emotional patterns. Instead, they can skip all that and use their energy to create happy, emotionally fulfilling lives. They can become inventors, creators, entrepreneurs, or anything they’re passionate about. And above all else, they can develop deep, meaningful connections with others.

How can parents use books to start discussions about EQ?
The EQ Explorers series is intended as a toolkit of stories and questions to aid parents. I know firsthand that parenting can be exhausting—so the books are a smart, fun, and easily accessible way to bring this important element into childrearing. I’ve created the content, so other parents don’t have to!
The series is intended to be edutainment—educational and entertaining, all at once. That’s why each story features a unique, lovable animal character. The animals help create a fun, non-threatening, and never-boring way for kids to learn valuable principles of emotional intelligence. At the back of each book, you’ll find the “Let’s Explore” section, with conversation-starter questions and exercises to help parents and children dive deeper into the EQ principle taught in the book. The questions are designed to help kids understand how the lesson of the story relates to their personal experience. We feature additional activities and resources pertaining to each book and principle on (at no extra cost).
In my family, the characters, principles, and language from the EQ Explorers series have become part of our household vocabulary. “Are you Compare Bear-ing?” “Happiness is a choice—how do you want to feel?” “Don’t take it personally—he’s just thinking like a zebra.” These are all things you might hear in our home. When children become familiar with the EQ Explorer stories, family members can refer to principles of emotional intelligence with simple, common language. This can be a game changer in terms of communication dynamics. It makes expressing emotions more fun and it helps as a gentle way to bring up topics that could otherwise feel heavy or judgmental.
One of the unintended benefits of this series—something that I know to be true in my family, and that I’m hearing about from early readers of the books—has to do with the universal importance of the EQ principles within. While the books are written for children, the stories and principles open up dialogue for teens, parents, and family members of all ages alike. Something powerful happens when the entire family is, excuse the pun, but “on the same page.”

About Kapalua CoveWe are dedicated to educating and empowering children and adults to live happy, healthy, emotionally connected lives through the joy of books. One hundred percent of the profits from Kapalua Cove Publishing go to help underserved children through Kapalua Cove Foundation. The foundation provides direct donations to charitable initiatives and donates books to orphanages, remote libraries, care centers, and more.

Mealtime Magic: Pandora's Box (The Art of Escapism Cooking)

 Mandy Lee (aka @ladyandpups), is author of The Art of Escapism Cooking: A Survival Story, with Intensely Good Flavors. This "unique and deeply felt debut” (Publisher's Weekly starred review) is packed with meticulous recipes & dramatic photography. There's even a chapter devoted to high-end doggie treats!

I had a chance to review the cook book. It has a great variety of dishes, many of which I hadn't really ever thought about making, but all of them looked great. I also liked the commentary in the cookbook - it really helped make it seem persona and fun. Many of the recipes have somewhat specialized ingredients, or at the very least, might challenge you to go out of your regular ingredient repertoire. However, there's a comprehensive pantry section that will help. And, you can often substitute ingredients and still end up with a tasty dish.

Here is one of my favorites.

Pandora’s Box 
I think the funny thing about growing up sandwiched between two polar-opposite cultures is that often I just couldn’t tell if a particular idea that made total sense to one side would be found by the other to be equally awesome or utterly bizarre. Take this thing called shibuya honey toast. It is an ingenious Japanese creation that basically involves cutting a whole loaf of sweet milk bread into humongous cubes, toasting them, removing the interiors, reprocessing them, then stuffing them back into the cubes and adding various toppings. To us Asians who are fanatics about milk toast—you know, those sweet, squishy, goosedown-pillow breads sold at Asian bakeries?—this is seriously genius stuff. But to the other side of me, raised to throw stones at people who eat bread that didn’t bloom from a decade-old levain . . . a sweet white bread bowl? Bizarre. So I guess this recipe is my effort to make ultimate sense of it all. It is shibuya honey toast, sort of. It is crème brûlée French toast, sort of. It even has a little bit of a custard-filled doughnut going on. The whole cube of crustless milk bread is encased in a shiny, shatteringly thin caramel shell, then filled with an enormous dollop of chamomile-infused vanilla bean custard. It’s crispy, soft, pillowy, and creamy all at once, with a few pops of tart fresh berry to give it a little shout. 

1 vanilla bean 
2 cups (480 mL) whole milk 
1 tablespoon loose chamomile tea 
5 large egg yolks 
1/4 cup (60 mL) honey 
1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar 
5 tablespoons (39 g) all-purpose flour 
1 tablespoon custard powder (find online, or replace with another 1 tablespoon flour) 
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick/54 g) unsalted butter 

1 approximately 11-inch (28-cm) loaf Hokkaido milk bread or rectangular brioche 
3/4 cup (180 mL) whole milk 
1 large egg 
2 tablespoons light brown sugar 
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/8 teaspoon salt 
Granulated sugar, for coating 
Unsalted butter, for frying 
Tart berries—raspberries, strawberries, blueberries—to sprinkle on top 

1. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, then scrape out all the seeds. Combine the pod, seeds, and milk in a medium saucepan and set it over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scalding. When it is almost at a simmer, turn off the heat. Place a sieve over the saucepan so that it dips into the milk but doesn’t sink to the bottom, then add the chamomile tea. Let steep for 5 minutes. 2. In a medium bowl, using a handheld mixer or whisk, whisk the egg yolks, honey, and sugar until thick and velvety, about 2 minutes (you should see ribbons fall from the whisk). Add the flour and custard powder, then whisk until lump-free. Remove the chamomile and vanilla pods from the milk, then slowly pour 1/2 cup (120 mL) of the hot milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly until combined. Add the yolk mixture back to the pan, then set it over medium-low heat. Whisking constantly, let the mixture bubble gently until you have a thick custard (take the pot off the heat and whisk to blend if lumps start forming on the side of the pan). Turn off the heat and whisk in the unsalted butter, one tablespoon at a time, until evenly incorporated. Let cool slightly, then transfer to an airtight container and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. The custard can be made a couple of days ahead. 

3. With a serrated knife, remove the crust from the bread on all sides, then cut the loaf into two 5-inch (13-cm) cubes. Try to keep the edges as straight as possible. 
4. In a large bowl, whisk the milk, egg, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. On a rimmed baking sheet, scatter a thin layer of granulated sugar. Working one at a time, dip the bread cubes in the milk mixture for just a couple of seconds on each side, then place them on a baking sheet. With a spoon, scatter a generous but even layer of granulated sugar over each side (you need a good coating to get that hardened caramel shell). 
5. Set a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat and add enough butter to thinly coat the surface. Use a flat spatula to gently place the coated bread cubes in the skillet, then fry on each side until the sugar is golden brown and caramelized. If you see burned sugar in the skillet as you cook, remove it with a spoon. Keep adding more butter as needed. 
6. Let the cubes cool slightly on a cooling rack (the caramel needs a couple of minutes to harden). They can be made 15 minutes before serving but no longer. Right before serving, cut out a 2-inch (5-cm) hole on one side of each cube, then remove about half of the bread from the interior (chopsticks are perfect for this job). Using a piping bag or plastic bag with a cutout hole, squeeze the chilled custard inside to fill the cavity up to the top. Sprinkle with tart berries (I used blueberries because that was what I had, but more sour berries like raspberries or strawberries would work better) and a bit of powdered sugar. Dig in.

Book Nook: Origami Books from Dover Craft

Meditative Origami: 10 Origami Models to Fold with Designs You Color
Two mindfulness techniques in one book!

Spirituality seekers can begin their meditation by creating their own origami paper — it's just a matter of detaching and coloring one of these 23 pages, which are preprinted with intriguing designs. Then step-by-step directions provide guidance for the peaceful folding of 10 origami models, including a swan, butterfly, unicorn, and rose. Inspirational quotes throughout the book provide thought-provoking boosts your day as you practice meditative origami.
Internationally renowned author John Montroll has significantly increased the origami repertoire with his original designs. Best known as the inspiration behind the single-square, no-cuts, no-glue approach, Montroll offers readers meticulously developed folding sequences that allow them to create better models with fewer steps. These original designs to color and fold will delight origami enthusiasts of all ages.

Dollar Bill Animals in Origami
John Montroll has consistently expanded the limits of the ancient art of paper folding. Now in this exciting volume of more than 30 original models, the world-renowned origami master departs from the traditional square form and crafts each creation from an ordinary dollar bill.

Using the familiar rectangular shape as a base, Dollar Bill Animals in Origami offers easy-to-follow diagrams for folders at every level of expertise, from beginner to expert. You may use actual dollar bills or any paper cut to the same proportions to create a stunning display of animals of land, air, and sea: giraffe, unicorn, dinosaur, parrot, owl, shark, and many others. Also included are pictures of each completed project and instructions for basic folds. With this innovative book an exciting journey in origami art is as close as the nearest dollar.

Butterflies in OrigamiOrigami master Nick Robinson presents 20 delightful butterfly models for folders at every level of experience. In this easy-to-follow guide, he offers fold-by-fold instructions that are fully illustrated with color photos and diagrams.

Models include such real-life species as the Maniola jurtina, or meadow brown. You'll also find a butterfly bursting from its cocoon, a caterpillar, an envelope with a butterfly, and other imaginative possibilities. Each project is graded according to difficulty.

Enriching Education: New Strategy for Education Equity Focuses on Youth and Trauma

75 to 95% of youth in the juvenile justice system have experienced trauma and research indicates that the majority of youth suffering from trauma perform poorly in our education system, and indeed, many drop-out. In a new interview with C.M. Rubin, Founder of CMRubinWorld, Ashley Edwards, Co-founder and CEO of Mindright says, “Trauma has been proven to have chronic long-term psychological repercussions including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders.” Edwards’ organization, Mindright, seeks to tackle this epidemic with a tech-supported, human-driven mental health coaching model. Untreated trauma “continues to marginalize an already historically underserved population and perpetuate income and opportunity gaps,” says Edwards. Trauma also contributes to significant preventable public health costs and “advances the school to prison pipeline.” MindRight offers teens mental health support through text messages with 24/7 access 365 days a year.

Read the full article here

Ashley Edwards is the CEO and Co-founder of MindRight. She was included as a Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneur and in Forbes’ list of the top 30 innovators of this century. She is a 2019 Tribeca Disruptive Awards Honoree.

CMRubinWorld’s award-winning series, The Global Search for Education, brings together distinguished thought leaders in education and innovation from around the world to explore the key learning issues faced by most nations. The series has become a highly visible platform for global discourse on 21st century learning, offering a diverse range of innovative ideas which are presented by the series founder, C. M. Rubin, together with the world’s leading thinkers.

For more information on CMRubinWorld

Follow @CMRubinWorld on Twitter

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Book Nook: Below the Moon (Excerpt)

Are you looking for a new series? I have the chance to post an interview from Alexis Marie Chute, author of Below the Moon (Amazon synopsis):
Ella Wellsley is not your typical teenager. Cancer left her mute, but not powerless. Trapped in a parallel dimension, Ella rallies her strength to join her family—her mother, Tessa, her grandpa Archie, and her magical boyfriend—in locating the cure to her illness. This cure is entangled in the fate of all worlds, and threatened by the presence of an evil Star anchored in the sea. The Star has thrown life everywhere into chaos—and it is Ella who holds the key to unlocking its mystery.
Caught in a web of betrayal, mistaken identities, secrets, and love triangles, Ella, Tessa, and Archie must overcome their troubled pasts to ensure a future for all worlds. On this journey—armed with unearthly abilities and unexpected allies—each member of the Wellsley family will learn the power of love in the face of their greatest fears.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Or what first inspired you to write?
I have been writing since as far back as I can remember—and even before I could hold a pen. As a child, I was very creative and cerebral. I was always coming up with stories and adventures. Fortunately, I didn’t lose that trait as I grew up. I find writing inspiration everywhere, at all times. My brain is a sponge for my environment and stimuli. Sometimes this is overwhelming, but most often I use this hyper-awareness to my advantage.

What inspired your story?
My 8th Island Trilogy was inspired by the belief that we will go to extreme lengths to save those we love. The three unlikely characters learn that their past selves do not define their present bravery. They rally against unsurmountable odds and learn that they possess strength they never imagined. In many ways, the trilogy is a fictionalized look at the resiliency of the human spirit. That is a topic I am obsessed with and optimistic about!

Is there a message/theme in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The resiliency of the human spirit is what percolates up in most of my work. It’s the dogged determinedness that I see in so many people, no matter the hardships they face. They inspire me, and because of them, I want my work to inspire others. 

What’s the best writing advice you have ever received?
Never ever give up.

More about the author:

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Music Minute: Again Again - Listen. Love. Repeat

Two Los Angeles-based musicians and moms, Jennifer Cook and Anne Montone, are Again Again, a performing duo that has created its own musical style to help children develop harmoniously in both heart and mind. Again Agains debut family album, LISTEN. LOVE. REPEAT., will be released on October 18, 2019.

On one hand, LISTEN. LOVE, REPEAT. is a sparkling collection of original songs that will sound comfortably familiar to young listeners. Building on this base of cozy aural comfort, Again Again has produced an album of extraordinary vocal accomplishment. The singing is clear, perfectly in tune, and tremendously exciting. Jennifer Cook and Anne Montone have crafted truly musical compositions that employ their well-matched voices with sophistication and charm. Throughout the album, hand clapping and other rhythmic devices link the music with the sound of a contemporary childhood environment.

However, embedded in this organic world of childhood sound are lyrics packed with progressive life lessons that are a top priority in today’s world: blended/multicultural families; families with two dads, two moms, or just one parent; being kind to Planet Earth; getting through challenging situations, and more.

Anne Montone cites diverse musical influences ranging from Joni Mitchell, Bette Midler and the Cocteau Twins to Linda Ronstadt and Kate Bush, while Jennifer Cook would add Ella Fitzgerald to the mix. “Female vocalists for the win!” says Anne Montone. “Strong vocals with a wide range and the ability to express emotion in just one note … so inspiring!”

A companion lyric and coloring book featuring artwork inspired by the music from a dozen different artists will be published in tandem with the album.

A percentage of the proceeds from Again Again’s projects is donated to The Harmony Project, a Los Angeles based organization that provides high quality music instruction and social support to children year-round, at no cost.

LISTEN. LOVE. REPEAT and its accompanying lyric and coloring book will be available at iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, and other digital outlets through CDBaby, and at Again Again shows.

Visit Again Again on Facebook.

Giveaway: The Boonie Bears

Make way, all—the forest has an unexpected visitor! Briar and Bramble, the bear brothers and Logger Vick discover a baby girl lost in their sprawling forest. These long time rivals instantly warm to the little angel and establish a truce as they undergo a chaotic crash course in infant care. Meanwhile, a group of bad guys are in hot pursuit of this mystery baby! The Brother Bears and Logger Vick must team up and formulate a plan to get her home safe and sound.

Brother Bears Briar and Bramble and Logger Vick learn that wonderful things happen when you put your differences aside and learn to work together. 
Vision Films Inc. are delighted to present the fun-filled family adventure coming soon to VOD and DVD, Boonie Bears: To The Rescue. Directed by Leon Ding (Ding Liang), this charming animated feature about the importance of friendship and teamwork is a crazy journey in the lives of the beloved Briar and Bramble, the bear brothers, and their arch-rival, Logger Vick. The film is part of the famous Boonie Bears brand which has been distributed to over 100 countries and territories. After taking the Chinese box-office by storm, Boonie Bears: To The Rescue became available for the first time in the United States on VOD across major platforms on October 8, 2019. 

Boonie Bears: To the Rescue will be available on digital for an SRP of $4.99 - $9.99 from platforms including iTunes, Vudu, Playstation, Google Play, Amazon Prime and FandangoNow in the United States and Shaw and Rogers in Canada, as well as cable affiliates including Comcast, Spectrum, Verizon, Frontier, Suddenlink, Mediacom, Google Fiber, Dish and DirectTV.

I have a chance to give away two codes to watch the digital version for free. To enter, leave a comment with why you think you'd like The Boonie Bears. Deadline is 10/24.

Book Nook: Welcome to Jazz

I'm a music teacher, so it was fun to review Welcome to Jazz: A Swing-Along Celebration of America’s Music, Featuring “When the Saints Go Marching In”.

This book is a great way to introduce young kids to concepts of jazz music. To really help students learn, it includes 12 sound clips to feature instruments and sounds from jazz. It talks about the history of this African American art form that started in New Orleans, and touches on several of the big jazz greats. 

The book is designed for early elementary grades, and is appropriate for home use, or to have in a school library (as long as the sound effects are used appropriately.

Carolyn Sloan is a music educator at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, New York, and the author of Finding Your Voice: A Practical and Spiritual Approach to Singing and Living. A songwriter and musician, she has been writing music for theater, television, and children for the past 20 years. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.