Sunday, November 27, 2011

In This Season of Thanksgiving Sesame Street Introduces Lily and Modern Family’s Nolan Gould discusses The Heart of a True Volunteer

Sesame Street does not only teach kids about letters and numbers. It has always been about helping children learn about life and being a good person.

There is always something new joining the familiar and this keeps it both enduring and fresh – capturing our hearts and imagination.

Now Sesame Street has a new initiative, Growing Hope Against Hunger, and has introduced a new character – Lily – a child whose family is insecure about food. This can be a difficult subject to introduce to young children but Sesame Street has done this in a very sensitive way. And just as children of different cultural backgrounds should see themselves when watching TV so should children whose family may live with financial insecurity every day. Lily was introduced in a PBS prime time special this Fall and you can see the hour long special here. The special, hosted by Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams Paisley, is an excellent introduction for young children to the larger world around them.

Last week Nolan Gould who plays Luke Dunphy (the cute kid) on Modern Family joined the muppet, Murray, at the Los Angeles Food Bank and learns what it means to be a “volunteer.” It is never too SOON to learn about volunteering.

Click here to watch this very short video with Nolan and Murray volunteering.

My grandson is only two and a half but he enjoys watching short videos with his grandmother. We watched this one together this afternoon and he was very intent as he wanted to see it several times. I explained that the word volunteer means to help others and that's what Murray and Nolan were doing. And as he gets older we’ll expand that understanding.

There are many things that I look forward to doing with Zach. Volunteering is on my list. It has been an important part of my life and I hope it will be for him too.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grandma Marion’s Easy Thanksgiving Recipes - Sides Featuring Fresh Ingredients

Still deciding about your Thanksgiving menu or planning a festive meal over the weekend? I’m taking a break from cooking and thought that I would share these two recipes with you. Both are great vegetarian dishes and share some of the same ingredients and so preparation can be done at the same time. Both dishes are old fashioned homade holiday favorites – but they are healthy with my easy updated recipes. The pictures were taken this morning before baking so they are not the final dishes.

Green Bean Casserole
What is Thanksgiving without a green bean casserole. This is one with all fresh ingredients – no soup – that is festive in color and flavor.

2 lbs. green beans
1 large onion
1 large green pepper
2 medium slicing tomatoes
Italian bread crumbs
2 tbs butter
Cut off ends of green beans and if long cut in half. Dice the onion and green pepper. The the tomato in half and prepare very thin slices of tomato. Although you can dice or cut the tomato in smaller pieces, these thin sliced tomatoes add to the luxury of this dish. Steam the green beans for about 4 minutes. They should still have their rich green color and be partially cooked.

Butter your casserole pan – bottom and sides. I use this oval corning ware. It’s a go to casserole dish if there ever was one. Put a layer of beans on bottom of pan. Add a layer of the thin sliced tomatoes across the top of the beans. Sprinkle a layer of diced onions and diced peppers. Sprinkle with a thin layer of Italian bread crumbs. Drizzle with some melted butter.

Repeat with one or two layers. You can make this up to this point ahead and refrigerate if you have other things to prepare.

Bake covered in a 350 oven – 20 minutes covered and then 10 minutes uncovered.

This is a healthy dish made with fresh ingredients. It is simple to make but looks and tastes right for the holidays.

This gets made separate from the turkey and so you can make it with a ham or whatever roast you want. It also is completely vegetarian and features fresh ingredients. it will be on everyone’s plate – for seconds and take home portions too.

I package Pepperidge Farm cubed Country Style stuffing
2 large onions
1 large green pepper
3 stalks of celery
1 lb mushrooms
6 tbs butter
2 cups water

Dice the onions, green pepper celery and mushrooms. Melt butter in large frying pan. Saute onions and green pepper but do not brown. Add celery half way through. Add mush rooms and complete sauté. Add the stuffing and mix well. Add the water – icup right away and then gradually until well mixed – well but not drenched or soggy.

Arrange in a sauté pan or casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

These are two good dishes to make at the same time. You can dice and slice the fresh ingredients the day before – my husband did all of that yesterday – wow he is wonderful - and preparation on the day of cooking does not take that long. They also can be put in the oven at the same time – after the turkey is taken out and cooling.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and let us kow if you tried these recipes or have your own favorites to share.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Playskool Transformers Rescue Bots for Preschoolers - A Winner

When my son was elementary school age transformers were very popular and we had our share of them. It really was a cool idea for a toy and boys loved them. My grandson, Zach, is two years old so I thought I would have to wait 4-5 years before transformers were popular and suitable. But now Playskool has adapted them for preschoolers with its PLAYSKOOL HEROES product line and they can experience the adventure of big kid action figures. Based on favorite characters from the TRANSFORMERS, MARVEL and STAR WARS™ universes, the figures, vehicles and playsets are sized right and contain simple features that are easy for preschoolers to master.

I keep the toys that I have for product reviews on a counter in my home office, and Zach has learned that there can be some pretty interesting treasures there. He is too small to reach the counter but he will ask to be held so that he can look over the cache. I had two of these Transformer Rescue Bots for review and they caught his eye and then--- the request --- or is it a command --- “open.” I don’t always acquiesce to these “requests” but Zach seemed to be intrigued and so the Playskool Rescue Bot version of Optimus Prime was opened. 
Zach was intrigued by the way the figure “transformed” from a rescue hero to a vehicle and I enjoyed watching his motor skills at work as he mastered changing it back and forth. He decided by himself that it was meant to be a fireman and took out this small fire truck to play with it. Later when his father visited – he was a BIG Transformer fan - he realized right away that it was Optimus Prime – and he seemed to enjoy playing with it too.

So what’s the story here?  If you have a preschooler with a Dad who loved Transformers – this will be something that they both enjoy playing with together. They are reasonably priced at $11.99 each and they are available everywhere Playskool toys are sold.

If you have a bigger budget, there is the Transformers Rescue Bots Fire Station Prime Playset where the fire station turns into Optimus Prime’s face with a full featured firehouse and then can fold into a carrying case for the playset and transformers. Perfect for carrying to your grandparent’s house to play with them.

This is the best toy that I have seen directed at the pre-school boy market. It fosters healthy, imaginative play, learning about how things work and motor skill development. It’s a winner. Check it out at Amazon at a link provided below.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Multi-Generational Family Get Together – What a Treat!

Last week my husband’s sister and her husband, Eileen and Ed, visited New Jersey from Florida to celebrate the first birthday of their twin granddaughters. Jay and Sean are the proud – and busy – parents of Ava and Leela. On Thursday they all piled into their SUV and drove an hour to our house. My daughter, Fran came to visit also with my 2 ½ year old grandson. Rounding out the crowd was my husband’s other sister, Clare. It isn’t even Thanksgiving yet and we had a large family get together.

It was the first time that the young cousins were meeting each other and they hit it off right away. Because our grandson lives nearby and visits often we are very set up for young children. It was a nice day so we started the visit outdoors.

Zach had been here awhile so he had already taken a bunch of outdoor toys out of the garage. What was so wonderful about this visit was that the kids really enjoyed themselves and Zach was so gracious sharing with his younger cousins.

The clincher is that these two big Little Tikes toys were hand me downs from Clare’s daughter, Clare’s twin boys – John and Michael. It was such a pleasure to see the youngest generation begin to bond as a family.

Here are all three kids enjoying the Little Tikes Classic Alligator Teeter Totter and Zach was happy to show off his power wheels truck to Ava. We haven’t “powered this up” yet as Zach is too young for that but we push it out of the garage and he enjoys sitting in it, hitting the horn and putting things in the back – whether it is an empty box or a bag of grass seed he picked up in the garage.
Ava enjoyed the swing

Zach was very gracious sharing his Little Tikes Cozy Coupe with Leela and Ava.

Finally we headed inside for snacks and more play in the living room. Leela had a great time with the Fisher price Little People garage and the Thomas Early Engineers railroad. She clearly will be interested in a wide range of toys and not just traditional toys for girls. Leela then recognized Elmo in the Elmo’s Christmas Flap Book that I’ll be reviewing soon. Like Zach – she loved the flaps.

A visit to our house is never complete without a duet - or quartet on the piano.

We were 8 adults and 3 young children –  from 3 generations - and we all had a great time.Young children have a way of making that weave happen in such a joyful way. As we approach Thanksgiving I am so grateful for family and this year I am particularly grateful for our family’s newest generation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Halloween – Zach Sports a Squirrel Costume

Halloween was delayed in our area because of the freak snowstorm two days earlier. Since the trees were still full of leaves and we had a foot of wet snow, trees and power lines were downed everywhere. The towns in our area as a group decided to move celebrating Halloween to Friday because it just wasn’t safe on Monday for children to be out walking around.

Kids seemed to fine with this plan - trick or treating with vigor on Friday. Our neighborhood always gets lots of trick or treaters and this year we again had a big crowd.

Zach looked adorable in this squirrel costume. This is a home made creation thought up and made by my daughter, Fran, and my husband, Hugh. The starting base was a plain gray sweat suit which can now be worn all winter. Fran and I went to the craft store, Michael’s, and she bought this cotton mesh and my husband painted it with a blend of white and brown tempura paint. He applied several coats in streaks until he was satisfied that it had the proper squirrel look. He sewed grey felt ears to a grey sock cap and Fran topped off the costume with face painting the whiskers and nose. Zach was the cutest squirrel I ever saw!  And yes, he loves nuts!

Zach is only two years old but he got to trick or treat in three neighborhoods. First, he visited neighbors at the condo complex where he lives. They don’t get many trick or treaters but they were prepared for Zach and everyone he visited had a treat for him. Next he visited his other grandparents to show off his costume and delight their neighbors. By the time he got to our neighborhood he was an old pro at trick or treating and had a full plastic pumpkin with his treats.  But he had his last round visiting our neighbors.  What fun!

I snapped these pictures at the end of all this. For the next hour Zach played and went with me or his Mom to greet the Trick or Treaters.  He really enjoyed having so many kids come to the house in costume. I always offer small containers of play doh to young children and this is a super hit. The kids always leave my porch holding it up to show parents saying “I got play doh.” Parents love it too – something that isn’t candy.  Zach also likes these litte containers of play doh - I highly recommend them for Halloween.

Zach had two pieces of candy and wanted another treat from his loot but his Mom was worried about sugar overload. His neighbor, Linda had given him two bananas and so his Mom offered him a banana from his pumpkin. Good news. A banana satisfied the squirrel’s desire for one of his treats.

Although I always have plenty of Hershey chocolate bars, I have found that lollipops are the favorite treat for many kids. That’s right – lollipops. I offer the good ones – Charms, tootsie roll and blow pops and they disappeared as quickly as I could add them to the basket.  Lollipops provide some variety to the most common chocolate candy. As Zach studied what kids were choosing, he, of course, wanted a lollipop and so the last candy treat of the night was a lollipop from Grandma.

I must say that my daughter and husband make a great Halloween costume team.  Last year's "pile of Leaves" costume was a major hit.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.  Here's the link to last year's Halloween report.

How "A Pile of Leaves" Had a Happy Halloween and Reminds Me of a "Fairy Godmother"


Monday, November 7, 2011

Cabbage Patch Dolls and National Adoption Awareness Month Working Together

November is National Adoption Awareness month and JAKKS Pacific - maker of the Cabbage Patch dolls - is sponsoring a 10-day online auction on eBay of celebrity lookalike Cabbage Patch Kids.

Celebrities including Steven Tyler, Al Roker, Katherine Heigl, Kristin Chenoweth and Raven Symone are recreated as unique, one-of-a kind Cabbage Patch Kids that will be auctioned on eBay with proceeds benefitting Children’s Action Network (CAN), a national adoption awareness organization dedicated to finding homes for children in the U.S. who are in foster care.

Distinctive features of the Celebrity ‘Kids include Steven Tyler’s rocker inspired outfit and mic stand; Al Roker’s signature glasses and tailored suit; Katherine Heigl’s favorite red carpet couture; Kristin Chenoweth’s royal blue ball gown; and Raven-Symoné’s trendy romper and blinged out platform heels. JAKKS Pacific worked closely with each celebrity to make sure their one-of-a-kind ‘Kid embodied their individual look and personality. Each Celebrity ‘Kid, will also come with its own autographed birth certificate.

If you are a fan of any of these celebrities and Cabbage Patch Kids this is a great opportunity to add a unique doll to your collection that you will love showing off – autograph and all. Visit and place your bid. The auction is open November 7-17. That’s 10 days only – so don’t delay.

All proceeds of the Steven Tyler, Al Roker, and Raven Symone Celebrity ‘Kids will benefit Children’s Action Network, while Kristin Chenoweth and Katherine Heigl are donating 50 percent of funds to CAN and the other 50 percent to Maddie’s Corner and the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, respectively.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hey Grandparents – Smart Shopping for the Holidays

When my kids were little we went to ToysRUs and carted home everything we bought for them. Sometimes it was a challenge to get it in the back of the Reliant station wagon, but we always did. Well, I don’t have a station wagon anymore and I don’t have a SUV – I have a Ford Focus. I also am not as willing to cart home big bulky containers – whether or not they weigh a lot. My grandson, Zach, is 2 ½ years old so he is at the peak of things that come in big packages. But I have the modern day solution – shop online and have it delivered!

Many of the name brands have specials on sale with very good prices. Little Tikes has been having Friday four hour specials and I bought the tool workbench for Zach at a great price with this deal. If you plan to purchase something from a wish list – either your child’s idea of what your grandchild should have or what he/she wants, don’t go crazy trying to figure out how ToysRUs is organized today. That’s a project in itself. Go to, enter the name – even something close and 99.9% of the time it comes up. If you want to be an extra smart shopper, check out the price at and  because who has the best price can vary quite a bit. Don’t forget to make sure you know what the shipping charge will be because that can change the bottom line best price. Amazon and ToysRUs also have product reviews. If you click on the reviews you’ll see what people who have bought the product have to say – this can help you choose a toy wisely.  I use this feature all the time..

My favorite place to shop online is It is not just for books anymore. I guess I was used to buying books there first, but I have bought everything at this site including a special hairbrush, a new rechargeable battery for my computer and a camera. So I guess it was natural to check it out for toys too.  And I'm glad I did.

When I do product reviews I frequently put a link to – but not if the price is too high. Sometimes I come back later and add the link – I did that with the cabbage patch kids when the price came down. I have also added the link to the Amazon Holiday Toy List and Countdown to Black Friday in the sidebar of this blog - you may want to check those out if you don’t get a list to work from and you are left up to your own devices to figure out what to give for holiday gifts.

In my family we have a tradition. On Thanksgiving weekend, everyone has their list of books, CDs and DVDs that they want for Christmas. We gather round the computer and check them out and I do a good bit of my holiday shopping right there. Often, there are specials on these items and so it is a good time to buy. Its convenient and everyone get what they really want instead of my idea of what they would like.

Anyway, if you haven’t shopped ofr grandkids this way, consider it. It really works for me.  Cehck to sidebar or below  for the link to Amazon's holiday toys list.

Leave a comment and let us know your favorite way to do holiday shopping.


Shop Amazon's Holiday Toy List