To Russia With Love

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The Olympic games have begun in Russia. Maybe it’s because I am of Polish and Ukrainian descent, but I am fascinated by Russia. I especially love the colorful St. Basil’s cathedral that looks like something out of Candy Land. It was built in 1555 on orders from Ivan the Terrible. I so hope to be able to visit it someday.

I am also intrigued by the story of the Russian Czar Nicholas Romanov, his daughter Anastasia and his family that were all brutally murdered. I love the beautiful wooden Matryoshka nesting dolls where each one fits so perfectly inside the other. Russian painted eggs or jeweled Faberge eggs are another beautiful Russian creation.

It is the largest country on earth which spans 11 time zones, has over 40 national parks and Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world. A place where grandmothers are called babushkas, people eat beet soup and chess is a national obsession. Although Russia has had a dark past, it also has had moments of great beauty.


The Boy Who Loved Math

Book CoverThis is a wonderful children’s picture book about the incredible life of mathematician Paul Erdos. At the young age of four, Paul could calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head.

I love the colorful, fun illustrations! This story presents many interesting math concepts in an appealing way.

It surprised me that I have never heard of this fascinating, brilliant man who contributed so much to the world of math. I really wish this book had been around when I was a child.

As a young girl, I hated math! I was led to believe that most girls just were not good at it. There seems to be a widespread belief that you are either born good at math or not. I now see this is simply not true.

Anyone can become better at math with a little desire, time, and practice. It is so important we convey this message to children. Math should be a part of every day life. It needs to be presented in a meaningful, fun way that children can understand from an early age.

This is a great book for younger and older children to enjoy! You can also check out the author’s website for links to math activities.


Welcome October!

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As Anne of Green Gables said “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!” I just love this time of year in New England. The leaves are turning beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow. And soon it will time for fires in the wood stove. Apple crisp and pumpkin bread will be baking in the oven.

I have always enjoyed decorating with the changing seasons. There are little orange lights draped on a large plant in the corner of the living room. I have brought out the fall colored table cloths and candles. Mini scarecrows and pumpkins are scattered around the house. Pretty mums grace our steps and add a splash of color.

Welcome October!


Chocolate Bread Pudding

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I just have to tell you about this delicious bread pudding I had at my friends fabulous party the other night. It was amazing~ the ultimate comfort food! The picture and recipe below are both borrowed from the Tupperware website.

I have always thought of bread pudding as being very old fashioned and not too exciting. It is not something I would have chosen to make… before sampling this yummy dessert.

Bread pudding has it’s origins in the 11th century, as a way for frugal cooks to use up stale and leftover bread. Basically, the dish is made by layering bits of bread and  pouring a custard sauce over before baking. The possibilities are endless, because you can vary the type of bread and add different ingredients of your choice.

 The lovely hostess baked the bread pudding in Tupperware’s new ultrapro ovenware which is made out of plastic and pretty cool. She also sprinkled chocolate chips on top before baking for extra chocolaty goodness. We enjoyed the bread pudding warm with a chocolate syrup drizzled on top.

My boys really loved this yummy dessert! I like that the recipe calls for six eggs and lots of milk, as I feel all that protein is good for my growing boys and somehow helps make it more nutritious. :)

~ Tupperware’s Chocolate Bread Pudding ~

(serves 12)

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. Simple Indulgence™ Cinnamon & Vanilla
6 eggs
1 loaf Challah bread, cut into 1 inch cubes

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine cream, milk and sugar in Chef Series™ 2 1/2 Qt. / 2.5L Covered Nonstick Saucepan. Heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved; remove from heat and cool slightly. Add chocolate and Simple Indulgence™ Cinnamon & Vanilla; stir until chocolate completely melts and is blended in. Break eggs into Prep Essentials™ Mix-N-Stor® Plus Pitcher; gradually beat in the warm chocolate to temper the eggs. Place bread cubes into a buttered 9″ square baking pan. Pour chocolate mixture over the bread, pressing down to fully coat the bread. Bake 45-60 minutes until center is set and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into center.

Slightly cool and lightly dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

 


I am thankful for…

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On this Monday morning I am thankful for…

1. Meeting new friends like Carolina, who are just so warm and kind that you instantly feel connected to them  It is so nice to know there are still kindred spirits out there!

2. Khan Academy which is such an amazing website with videos and practice exercises to help supplement my children’s education and get them excited about learning new things.

3. A very fun Tupperware party hosted by a wonderful friend. The lovely hostess demonstrated some great products and served up some fabulous food such as guacamole and chips, chicken with veggies and citrus sauce, and chocolate chip bread pudding.

4. The Cuckoo’s Calling by J. K. Rowling, which although it is nothing like Harry Potter, I am really enjoying this book. I can’t put it down!

5. Finding new and interesting people to follow and connect with on Twitter, especially other moms. I never thought I would join, but I am really enjoying this form of social media!


Chicken with Citrus Herb Sauce

steamed chicken with herbed vegetables

This lovely photo is borrowed from Tupperware. I attended a fun party last night and the hostess made this delicious chicken with citrus herb sauce and steamed vegetables. The herb sauce recipe is listed below. It was so good! I  happen to have one of Tupperware’s handy choppers, which I love, and you simply add the ingredients, chop them up slightly and then pour over your cooked chicken. Yum!

Ingredients for Citrus Herb Sauce:

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 green onion
2 tbsp. Italian parsley
2 tbsp. capers, drained
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups fat-free chicken broth
2 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 lb./225g green beans, trimmed
1 red pepper, cored and cut into thick strips

 


Friday the 13th!

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So how did Friday the 13th become such an unlucky day? Fear of Friday the 13th is rooted in ancient bad-luck associations with the number 13 and the day Friday which when combined, make for one unlucky day.

Did you know that: many high-rises lack a 13th floor, many airports skip the 13th gate, and hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13? Also, on streets in Florence, Italy, the house between number 12 and 14 is addressed as 12 and a half.

Apparently this fear of the number 13 has it’s roots in ancient Norse Myth. It all began with 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla. The uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous Loki, arranged for the death of Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness. When Balder died, the whole earth grew dark. From that moment on, the number 13 has been considered ominous and foreboding.

Also Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper. And, since witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12, the 13th witch is believed to be the devil.

So what can you do to offset all this bad luck superstition?

~Since my boys love Halloween so much, it might be fun to celebrate by dressing up in costumes or wearing black and have a little party with spooky music and treats like black licorice and chocolate cupcakes!

~ Maybe we could have a scary movie night with popcorn, and watch something like Friday the 13th (for the grown ups) or Monster House (for the kids)!

~Perhaps host a fun potluck gathering with 13 people, decorated with 13′s, where you try 13 different new foods!

~Compose a list of 13 reasons why we are so lucky, to help counteract all the bad luck!

Who says 13 has to be an unlucky number? After all, my wonderful Mom was born today on the 13th, so I for one think it is a very lucky day! :)


Kindness…

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No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aesop 

With the anniversary of 9/11 yesterday, I have been thinking so much about kindness. There are always so many wonderful acts of kindness that shine brightly through the dark days that follow a horrible tragedy. Difficult times often help us reach out to each other and bring people closer together.

I try to be a kind person and do nice things for others, but I know I can always do better. The world would be a much nicer place if we all focused on performing acts of kindness on a regular basis, even just one a day. I have discussed this with the boys before, but I want to remind them about this at dinner tonight.

I am hoping we can each share an act of kindness that happened during the day at dinner every night. It may just be a compliment, lending a helping hand, or even a smile to brighten someone’s day. I think it is important for the boys to think about performing acts of kindness every day, no matter how small that act may be.

PS. ~ I just found a wonderful blog called Pennies of Time that shares ideas for teaching children to perform an act of kindness for a few minutes every day.


Pumpkin pie time!

Libby-pumpkin-pieYippee~ it’s pumpkin pie time! I know it’s not quite fall yet, but it sure feels like it here in New England! We had some chilly weather this past weekend.

So we kicked off fall early with two yummy pumpkin pies made by my lovely Aunt. After receiving rave reviews about her delicious pies, she confessed to feeling guilty because they were so easy to make. Apparently she bought a large can of Libby pie filling, two pie crusts and simply followed the recipe on the can.

The recipe has been around since 1950 and makes enough for two pumpkin pies. Be sure to have a can of whipped cream on hand to cover your pie with, before hungrily devouring it. Seeing how much my boys loved this easy fall dessert, I will definitely be making my own pumpkin pies soon! :)


The Smartest Kids In The World

Book CoverI am especially fascinated by educational systems around the world that are truly working. While browsing in a cute little bookstore in New Hampshire, I discovered this great book; The Smartest Kids In The World: And How They Got That Way.

It was on the counter with a sign that said recommended by NPR and immediately caught my eye. I just had to buy it! Needless to say, I absolutely love it and can’t put it down. I really enjoy the author Amanda Ripley’s interesting style of writing.

The book follows the experiences of three bright American teens as they go abroad for a year. They each attend high school in three of the top ranking countries in the world for education: Finland, South Korea, and Poland~ yes Poland! Apparently they have got a good thing going on in Poland.

What I found very interesting was American exchange students all agree that school in America is much easier than in these education superpowers. Expectations are just so much lower in our country. For instance, there are no multiple choice tests abroad. Students must solve problems, write essays and demonstrate true understanding.

A good attitude is also a critical factor with these foreign students. They want to learn! Most Americans just don’t place that much value on education. All Finnish students even the so called stoners want to do well and succeed in school because they know that it is the key to a good future. They care about education in these countries and really push themselves. Teachers are also highly trained and valued in Finland.

I really think if more American families and teachers raised their expectations for children our country would greatly benefit. Finland’s quality of life and happiness levels are supposed to be the highest in the world, so apparently there is much to be said for their excellent educational system. It is so important to raise children who can think, solve problems and are capable of succeeding in this extremely competitive global world.

So although I have yet to finish this intriguing book, I just had to blog about it. I highly recommend it and will most definitely be finishing it. I am eager to read about Poland’s education success story. I am also thinking about signing my kids up for a year abroad in Finland! :)