Wednesday, December 30, 2009

simplehuman - Review

Touch-Free Soap Pump

With all the germs and super-viruses floating around, I think we’re all getting a bit paranoid, especially when it comes to bathrooms. We’ve been told and shown a number of times the unseen, lurking germs on faucet handles, toilets, sinks and yes, even our soap dispensers.

So I was thrilled when simplehuman came out with a hands-free soap dispenser. Beautifully designed to fit into any décor, and so easy to fill and use, I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t proudly display this state-of-the-art product.

Here’s how it works. Simply add the batteries, fill with you favourite liquid soap, set the volume dial for how much soap you want dispensed and you’re ready to go. Your guests will thank you when they swipe their hand under your beautiful bathroom dispenser and like magic the soap is squirted out.

No fuss. No mess. And most importantly…No GERMS.

Simplehuman also carries a full line of other bathroom and kitchen aids like;
• recycle bins
• bathroom caddy’s
• canister garbage receptacles
• grocery bag holders
• dish racks
• and so much more

To see simplehuman’s full line of household-helpers, visit their web site at;

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Return to Sawyerton - Review

The quirkiness of a small town is brought to life among the pages of ‘Return to Sawyerton Springs.’ Based on Andy Andrews real life, this book draws you into a what a small community is really like. Even though it’s based in a small town, you don’t have to be from one in order to appreciate the story behind Sawyerton Springs….

…”It is a place where the paper comes out once a week, and everyone already know what’s in it. When the pastor speaks on Sunday morning, his congregation already knows what he will say. As the children bring home their report cards, the parents already know their grades. This is a place of character and love and memories. Good memories…”

Whether it’s the idiosyncrasies of the town folk, or the way in which a small town newspaper and businesses are run, Andrews humour and love for this town is prevalent throughout. I found myself at least smiling if not laughing out loud several times. This book will even have you reflecting back on your own childhood – Halloween fun, fears of staying alone for the first time, camping, ghost stories and strange neighbours, it has it all.

In addition to a great read, ‘Return to Sawyerton Springs,’ also has a ‘Readers Guide’ at the very back, with general questions on every chapter. This is perfect for book clubs or even for further personal reflection.

Return to Sawyerton Springs by Andy Andrews is available at all major bookstores or on any electronic location.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas from Our Family to Yours.
May your day be Merry and Bright, filled with peace and love :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder of

By Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder of

Gift-giving can be confusing, especially when it comes to caregivers and other service providers. Determining the etiquette behind finding the right gift for the right person is a tough challenge! I've put together a few tips and tricks to help guide your family when it comes thanking your caregivers this holiday season.

Tips for Child Care Providers:

• Nannies and Au Pairs: If you have a full-time nanny, offer them a tip or a "Christmas bonus" that reflects 10-15 percent of one week's pay.

• Regular babysitters: If you have a regular, go-to sitter who takes care of your children regularly, thank her (or him!) with a tip or a gift ranging from one or two night's pay—whatever equals about a week's worth of service.

• Coaches, tutors, and instructors: I always like to have Adam involved in thanking his teachers with a small gift or a thank-you card and a gift certificate.

• Pet sitters: If you have someone regularly take care of your animals while you're at work or traveling, say thank you with a week's pay. And if your dog is like Blake and Sydney and requires regular visits to a groomer, don't forget them, either!

• Home-care attendants and caregivers: I suggest a thank-you of one week's pay, but give two weeks for extra special care or long-term service.

If money is tight, you can be creative about saying thank you for your regular caregivers. Often, families give them a few extra days in paid time off to use throughout the year. Your cost remains the same, but you don't have to worry about finding extra funds for gifts around the holidays.

But beyond the care providers you can find on, there are a lot of folks out there who bring care into our lives and deserve an extra thank you. Some of these people can be forgotten during the holidays—but not by you!

Other People You Should Tip:

• School bus drivers: I find they're often overlooked. A small thank you (a $10 gift certificate and a card signed by your children) is a nice "something extra" in December.

• Service industries: Think of the people that make your home life a little easier—your mail and newspaper delivery people and garbage collectors While you don't have to necessarily tip them a week's wage or the price of a recycling pickup, I always try to help them feel special around the holidays. A nice card with a $10 gift certificate for coffee or a plate of fresh cookies goes far when it's cold outside!

• Maintenance people: If you've hired a regular landscaper or have a building manager that regularly does work around the property, shovels walkways, and plows driveways, let them know they're appreciated. It doesn't have to be much—just slip 10-15% extra in their December bill as a thank you.

• Housekeepers: If you have a regular housekeeper or house cleaner, tell them thank you by giving them an extra week's pay during the holiday season. But if you only hire one for occasional tidying up, it's okay to just wish them a verbal "Happy Holidays!"

• Baristas/clerks: Some of us have those regular spots that we visit daily for our morning coffee or bagel. If you're used to seeing the same person and they give you great service, say thanks! Buy them a cup and give them a card. They'll be surprised, and pleased, by your consideration.

Again, just like mom always said, "It's the thought that counts." Don't feel like you have to get caught up in what you give or how much it cost. The point is to show gratitude for the people who matter to you and your family.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Whoops Bunny

Interview with Founder, Maude Humphris

We all try so hard to avoid mistakes in our lives that we sometimes forget they can be fun. Just ask Whoops Bunny’s Founder and President, Maude Humphris and she’ll tell you…a Whoops doesn’t discriminate, it unifies us all.

Having had her fill of the big corporate rat-race in Sydney Australia as a catalogue retailer, managing a procurement team for everything from toys to furniture & consumer electronics, Maude says, “The stress was phenomenal and non-sustainable and I really missed my kids.”

So when the opportunity to move to the USA arose, they jumped at the chance and moved to the mountains of Park City, Utah. “I love the change of pace,” Maude says. “The people here are so friendly and supportive. I enjoy being part of a community after years of being in the office and [also] being at home with my kids.”

Soon after her move tragedy struck her family. Maude confides, “For the first 6 months, I was settling in but really wanted to still do something work-wise without working for another big corporation. My step-father died around that time and left me some money; it was basically a decision of going on a holiday to Disneyland or trying to set up a company.”

Whoops Bunny-to-Be

Why vacation when you can embark on a whole new destiny? Maude continues, “Shortly after, my parents-in-law came to visit, my mother-in-law taught Edward, my then 3 year old, an old rhyme she had been taught in England by her uncle, nicknamed Bunny. It went like this, bunny, bunny, whoops bunny, whoops bunny, bang, bang, bang!

And so…Once upon a time a little bunny had a ‘whoops’. The bunny was jumping across the fingers on a hand and whoops…almost slipped off.

This simply children’s song soon turned into the basis for the entire Whoops Bunny philosophy. Maude says, “It was easy to develop a brand story with the products being related to a whoops - either to stop one or help with one.”

Whoops Bunny Now

With a full catalogue of eco-friendly products from stationery and organizational tools to gorgeous, all natural make-up for kids of all ages, vibrant, sturdy melamine dishware, non-fray hair accessories, practical yet fun gear: rain wear/chef apparel/play clothes/purses, Whoops Bunny continues to work.

Maude adds, “The most amazing thing about setting up this company is the involvement of my kids and their friends. Every day they have an idea for Whoops Bunny - a bit wacky, but some real jewels among them [that] are now part of our business plan for 2011.”

Where is Whoops Bunny?

Even though Whoops Bunny products are available at their web site, Maude reminds us that, “We have some stores already in Park City [Utah] but are in the process of appointing a sales force across the USA. They will then sell on our behalf into pretty much every kind of retailer.”

Maude finishes by telling us, “Once you start thinking about a whoops, it becomes contagious. I have people stopping me from every walk of life telling me what whoops they have had and what whoops product they want me to develop! I am really proud of the business and our values and product line-up. I can't wait to get Whoops Bunny out there!”

To find out more about Whoops Bunny or to view their full product line, visit their web site at

Friday, December 18, 2009

Five ways for parents to teach children the true spirit of the holidays

The holiday gift-giving season is an appropriate time to involve children in charitable giving and teach them why the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive,” is true. Here are five great ways for parents to lead by example and teach their children the true spirit of the holidays.

1. As a family, select a charitable organization you'd like to support. Use online tools like Charity Navigator to find an organization that you trust. Give your children a budget and encourage them to decide how your family will donate to that organization this holiday.

2. Cherish the stories of your family. Have your children talk to their grandparents and write down the stories of their past. Create a book to share with the entire family or record it online through Story Corps.

3. Consider do-it-yourself gifts, like no-sew fleece blankets, that you can make with your children. Donate those blankets to a local homeless shelter. Find other homemade gift ideas at’s Family Crafts page.

4. Work with your children to create a coupon book for your neighbors that might need an extra hand this year. Coupons could include shoveling their sidewalk, watching their children, or providing a meal.

5. Bake cookies or sweets with your children and deliver them to your local nursing home or school-in-need. Get started with this list of holiday recipes.

Devin Hermanson, a charitable giving expert and national director of World Vision’s Gift Catalog, is seeing a return to meaningful giving through the Gift Catalog. Despite the recession, Gift Catalog sales are higher than last year's figures at this time.

"The holiday season can be a stressful time of year. There are gifts to purchase and wrap, cookies to bake, and family and friends to visit, but when we pause to help our neighbors in need, we all experience Christmas in a more meaningful way," says Hermanson.

For each item in World Vision’s Gift Catalog, the giver makes the purchase in the name of a friend, family member or business associate. World Vision then sends special cards to those individuals, describing the gifts and their impact. Last year alone, World Vision’s Gift Catalog raised $25 million and provided assistance to more than 500,000 people worldwide. The Gift Catalog launched in 1996, and while a goat ($75) is still World Vision’s number one seller, there are many affordable items for $35 or less.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Decrease Pain and Inflammation Naturally

Each year, the use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), account for an estimated 7,600 deaths and 76,000 hospitalizations in the United States. NSAIDs include: aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, ketoprofen, and tiaprofenic acid. Researchers are now linking inflammation to an ever-wider array of chronic illnesses such as hay fever, heart disease, depression, diabetes and colon cancer. Practitioner, Dr. Steven Arculeo, DC, suggests cleaning up your kitchen cabinets to help alleviate pain and inflammation without the risky use of NSAIDS.

Foods often found in kitchens that cause inflammation in the body and should be avoided include:

· Hydrogenated or Trans Fats
· Processed foods
· Caffeine
· Red Meat
· Sugar
· Soda
· Alcohol

Instead, fill your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, lean meats and cooking ingredients which can decrease inflammation and rid yourself of sickness and pain:

· Apples & Blueberries: these fruits are packed full of nutrients and are natural anti-inflammatories
· Kale: contains over 80 nutrients per serving
· Fish: one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods, fish contains heart healthy and anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. Choose cod, salmon or tilapia instead of the fatty deep water bottom dweller fish such as shrimp or catfish
· Ginger: aids in digestion
· Garlic: lowers hypertension and cholesterol
· Basil, Parsley, Rosemary, Turmeric, Thyme, Chili Peppers & Cinnamon: all are proven to have anti-inflammatory properties
· Oil: use cold pressed extra virgin olive oil to aid in decreasing inflammation

For more information visit Chicago Helaers at

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Gift of Three; Secret Giving Strategy

By Guest Blogger, Jennifer Melnick Carota

I bet you’d like to make a splash on your next gift giving occasion but don’t want to spend a fortune? Try my super secret gift giving technique called “The Gift of Three” and make your gift giving experience more personal, affordable, and memorable. Better yet, the Gift of Three strategy is fun and easy…anyone on any budget can do it!

1. *Think of an experience that you would like to give rather than a specific gift. For example, if you would like to give the experience of relaxation to a special lady on your list, you can begin you build a theme around a home spa or pampering experience.

2. *Choose one central gift that will be the foundation or centerpiece of the gift experience. Remember, you are building a gift with three crucial components. This gift should be the main focus.

3. *Choose two smaller gifts that will tie the theme together. To save major moolah, consider making gift items by hand, baking gifts from your kitchen, or pull from your emergency gift stash. Re-gifting is OK, but make sure the item is in excellent condition or has a clear sentimental value. Just make sure they fit in with your theme, and you’ll be amazed at the results!

For Example: The Gift of Family Time

Gift One: A family friendly DVD the entire family can watch together
Gift Two: A board game or jigsaw puzzle the family can build together
Gift Three: A disposable camera to take pictures throughout the evening and capture precious memories at the same time!

For more great gift ideas please visit my blog at for creative gifts and gift giving themes using “the Gift of Three (3)” technique.

Jennifer Melnick Carota (a.k.a. the Gift Therapist) is an expert gift giver and bargain shopper featured nationally in major market gift guides, personal finance websites, and lifestyle columns throughout the US and Canada. Check out her new free holiday gift giving survival guide, ‘Giveology’ and learn how to spend less but give more!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Luggage Charms - Don't Travel Without Them

Looking for a unique gift for the traveller on your list? Check out Luggage Charms by My Charmed Life.

These sturdy decorative tags will make finding your luggage at the airport or bus station fast and easy. The long, durable ribbon can easily be fastened to any handle, and the laminated tag is large enough to put all your contact information on in case your luggage is lost.

Luggage Charms come in a variety of styles and colours. You can choose a themed tag (e.g. golfing, baby, bridal, or tennis) or get a monogrammed one for that extra personal touch.

Not sure a Luggage Charm is what you’re looking for? No problem. My Charmed Life has a wide selection of merchandise from bracelets and necklaces to pins, key rings, zipper pulls, and so much more.

Still can’t decide? My Charmed Life also offers gift cards.

So don’t waste another moment! Pop on over to My Charmed Life at

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Winter - Time to think about that Snowboard

By Dr. Margaret Lewin – Medical Director, Cinergy Health (

With all the inconveniences of winter (driving and walking on rain and ice-slicked roads, dressing in clumsy layers so you’re not too cold outside and not too warm inside, feeling weighed down by the gray skies) , your thoughts just might be going farther north – where the cold and the snow can be enjoyed on the slopes! The following are a few tips for enjoying some healthy time on that S.N.O.W.B.O.A.R.D.!

Stay away from sick people – at least 3 to 6 feet, when possible. If the passenger next to you on the plane is coughing and sneezing, and you can’t change seats, offer him a packet of tissues and turn the air vent toward him.

Never go outside without wearing a good sunscreen. The combination of high altitude and reflected light from the snow expose you to significant damaging UVA and UVB rays. Not only is sun exposure a risk for skin cancers, but it’s also a major cause of pre-mature wrinkling. (Just look at the skin of the year-long ‘ski bums’ around you – they’re probably at least 10 years younger than you’d predict by looking at the lines and crevices on their faces!)

Obtain your flu shot(s) at least two weeks before your travel, so you have time to rev up your immune system for your trip.

Wash your hands scrupulously before touching your face or eating. There are only two ways to catch a cold or the flu: by getting the virus from an ill person’s sneezing or coughing directly at you, or by his coughing into his hand and then touching a doorknob or banister which you yourself touch – picking up the virus. Once you touch your face or food with that contaminated hand, you’re well on your way to spending part of your well-deserved vacation huddled under the covers alone except for some aspirin and a cup of lukewarm chicken soup… looking wistfully out the window at the happy, healthy skiers.

Be sure to get enough sleep and fluids. Winter vacations can be physically exhausting, and your system needs enough rest for you to enjoy the next day’s activities. You also need plenty of fluids to compensate for the dry, cold air outside and the warm dry air in front of the fireplace.

Over-the-counter vitamin D (at least 800IU daily) is thought to offer some protection against colds and the flu. (You also need vitamin D for good bone health, and it may even offer some protection against the eventual development of heart disease and dementia.)

Allow plenty of time to get in shape before your trip, concentrating on exercises which protect your knees, hips and balance.

Remember to check your health insurance when you schedule your vacation. Make sure that you’re generously covered for medical evacuation… just in case. If your policy isn’t adequate, take a look at such internet sites as to find inexpensive travel health and accident coverage.

Don’t forget to eat healthily just because you’re on vacation. You will have burned up about 400 calories every hour you’ve skied, giving you the chance to sneak in some extra calories during the day. Aim for light, healthy snacks (such as fruit or trail mix) – remembering that you don’t ski your best on a very full stomach. You really can eat your evening meal healthily without feeling deprived by following a few simple rules.

· Eat slowly – it takes at least 20 minutes to ‘feel full’, so you’ll eat less and enjoy it more if you just slow down.

· Skip the bread (or share a piece)

· Order a great salad as an appetizer – dressing on the side

· Choose any fabulous main course (as long as it’s not fried) – sauce on the side

· Share your dessert

· Order wine by the glass so you and your companion won’t feel compelled to finish the bottle.

So enjoy the sun, enjoy the slopes, enjoy the food, and have a wonderful, healthy time on that S.N.O.W.B.O.A.R.D.!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Winter - Get Ready for Some BEACHTIME!

By Dr. Margaret Lewin – Medical Director, Cinergy Health (

As the weather gets colder, the snow shovel’s at the front door, you can’t find warm enough gloves, and the car’s heater takes forever to warm up, your vacation thoughts just might be going south to some sun and surf. The following are a few tips for enjoying some healthy B.E.A.C.H.T.I.M.E.!

Be sure to use sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors and cover up during the sunniest part of the day. Not only is sun exposure a risk for skin cancers in the long term, but it’s a major cause of pre-mature wrinkling in the shorter term. (Just take a look at the unprotected middle-aged faces sharing the sun with you –they’re probably at least 10 years younger than you’d predict by looking at their skin.)

Eat healthily. One of the great attractions of travel is eating all those wonderful new foods, tastefully prepared by someone other than yourself. You really can eat healthily without feeling deprived by following a few simple rules.

· Eat slowly – it takes at least 20 minutes to ‘feel full’, so you’ll eat less and enjoy it more if you just slow down

· Skip the bread (or share a piece)

· Order a great salad as an appetizer – dressing on the side

· Choose any fabulous main course (as long as it’s not fried) – sauce on the side

· Share your dessert – or order some wonderful tropical fruit

· Order wine by the glass so you and your companion won’t feel compelled to finish the bottle

Always wash your hands carefully before eating and before touching your face. There is only one way to catch a cold or the flu: by getting the virus directly from an ill person’s sneezing or coughing directly at you, or by his coughing into his hand then touching a doorknob or banister which you yourself touch, picking up the virus. Once you touch your face or food with that hand, you’re well on your way to spending part of your long-awaited vacation huddled under the covers alone except for some aspirin and a cup of lukewarm chicken soup.

Check the weather reports for your destination, so that you take proper layers of clothing in case of inclement weather.

Have all your medications in your carry-on luggage to prevent missing doses if there are unexpected delays or your checked luggage gets lost.

Take with you a list of all your medications (and their doses) and any allergies; and put the list - together with your doctor’s business card - in your wallet… just in case.

Inspect your health insurance policy before you leave, making sure that you’re covered during your trip. If not, take a look at such internet sites as to find inexpensive travel health and accident coverage.

Make sure to get your flu shot(s) at least two weeks before your travel, so it has time to rev up your immune system for your trip.

Expect delays during your travel, and take healthy snacks with you so you’re not dependent on the unhealthy (and expensive) fast foods available when winter weather slows air and ground traffic.

So enjoy the sun, enjoy the water, enjoy the food, and have a wonderful, healthy T.I.M.E. at the B.E.A.C.H.!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Great Games Book - Contest

Christmas is here, and as we all know, that means trying to find gifts for family and friends. If you are looking for gift ideas that are different, fun, and meaningful - then I have the perfect solution for you. My friend Matthew Toone just published a book entitled: "Great Games! 175 Games & Activities for Families, Groups, & Children." This book is literally full of fun game and activity ideas for people of all ages, groups of all sizes, and there are games for any category or setting. You can check it out at:

3 lucky people, however, will get a free copy of 'Great Games.' In order to be entered into the contest to win a free copy, simply send me a one paragraph response about a time where you played games with your family or friends and it created a fun memory, strengthened relationships, or simply brought your family closer together. The deadline to send your story in is Dec 15th. If your story is chosen, you will win a free copy of 'Great Games'
Please send your entry to with 'Games Contest' in the subject line.
Good Luck :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

True Stories About Saving Animals - Review

What do a smelly puppy, a three-legged cat, an abandoned kitten, and two orphan owls have in common?

They’ve all been rescued and live on a one hundred-year-old farm with Old Farmer Samuel and his wife, Cheri. And they’ve all had books made out of their stories.

Read about these lovable misfits in the four-book series, which comprises Stinky Little Scroungy, Our Orphaned Owls, The Three-Legged Kitten, and The Miracle of the Little Kitten. Published by Little Five Star, a division of Five Star Publications, these books are written for ages 3–8 but are sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who loves animals. Written and illustrated by Samuel Lopez himself (Farmer Samuel), these delightful books not only tell the tales of each of these rescued critters, but you’ll also find a sweet mixture of illustrations and real-life photography among their pages.

“Samuel and his wife, Cheri Lopez, founded Compassionate Pet Sanctuary as a haven for lost, abandoned, and injured animals. Over the years, they have rescued hundreds of dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, owls, goats, geese, and other animals.” The ones that aren’t placed in their loving forever homes are always kept safe and nurtured on the old farm. The proceeds from these wonderful books go directly to supporting Compassionate Pet Sanctuary.

Stinky Little Scroungy: When Farmer Samuel’s nephew, Mossy, takes a walk down the country road he happens upon a large cardboard box filled with rags. Mossy wonders what could possibly be so smelly in the box. When he opens it, to his amazement there’s a small, sickly puppy buried amongst the old clothe. The puppy is near death, but Mossy knows just what to do. It’s back to the farm where Aunt Cheri and Uncle Samuel jump into action.

Our Orphaned Owls: Every year on the hundred-year-old farm, the owl family makes a nest high up in the huge eucalyptus tree not far from the house. However, when a brutal storm with icy winds and cold rain pummels the nest for five days, Mom Owl soon abandons her babies, with Dad Owl not far behind. How can these orphaned birds survive? It’s Farmer Samuel and Cheri to the rescue once again.

The Three-Legged Kitten: Tossed out of a speeding car and left to die in a junk yard, a little kitten finds the strength and courage to go on. With a little help from Farmer Samuel and Cheri, Tri-Ike the three-legged kitten finds a new home and a real chance at happiness.

The Miracle of the Little Kitten: After several days of hearing the mewing sound of what can only be a kitten, Farmer Samuel knows he has to find it. But it’s Stinky Little Scroungy who finally solves the mystery when she shows up one morning with a tiny, cold, stiff kitten in her mouth. Once again Farmer Samuel and Cheri know exactly what to do.

This four-book series, True Stories About Saving Animals, is available at bookstores or through,,,,,, and To find out more, visit the web site at

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Need a Unique Gift?


What would you do if you knew that 71% of the world’s surface needed protection?

The world’s oceans are at a critical juncture and face collapse if more isn’t done.

· Industries will continue to dump pollutants into our water unless stiffer laws are enforced.

· On average 16 billion pounds of “bycatch” (creatures like dolphins, sea turtles, and birds, as well as unwanted fish) are being slaughtered and discarded overboard dead or dying due to the effects of most commercial fishing gear.

· Bottom trawling and dredging of the ocean floors cause more harm than any other human activity to the ancient deep-sea corals and marine habitants.

Now you know. Will you help?

Oceana is providing a unique and meaningful way to give funds to preserve coral reefs, curb climate change, protect sea creatures, and best of all, to maintain a healthy and abundant ocean.

You can help by Adopting a Sea Creature

Choose from any 10 adoption choices that support Oceana’s campaigns, like:

· Cookie Cutters: choice of Dolphin, Octopus, Penguin, Polar Bear, Sea Turtle Shark

· Plush Toys: Dolphin, Hammerhead Shark, Killer Whale and Seal

As well as helping with a worthy cause, your donation level will send you items like:

· $35: cookie cutter, sugar cookie recipe card, and personalized adoption certificate

· $50: plush creature and personalized adoption certificate

· $75: cookie cutter, recipe card, framed adoption certificate, and an additional gift or you may choose a plushie and a framed adoption certificate

· $100: complete set of cookie cutters, framed adoption certificate and an additional gift

· $150: complete set of plushies and framed adoption certificate

Or you may opt for the special “Limited Edition” Sea Turtle Adoption Package in honour of 1- year-old sea turtle advocate Casey Sokolovic, a finalist for Oceana’s 2009 “Ocean Heroes” award. This package consists of:

· 22-inch plush sea turtle

· Sea turtle cookie cutter

· Sugar cookie recipe

· Personalized framed adoption certificate

· Information about sea turtles

· A note from Casey

Any of these options would make a great gift this holiday season for those hard-to-buy-for folks on your list or anyone who loves the ocean and the creatures in it.

For more information on Oceana’s work or to donate to this worthy cause, please visit the web site at or go directly to “Donate” at

Friday, November 27, 2009

Interview with Moira Donahue

An ex-lawyer, playwright, children’s author and a self-proclaimed “punctuation and grammar geek,” Moira Donahue puts the pun back in punctuation.

Both Moira’s books make learning grammar fun and memorable. She says, “My first book, Alfie and the Apostrophe (Albert Whitman, 2006), is the story of an apostrophe who is afraid to try out for the annual talent show - Alfie's talent? Magic, because he can make letters disappear.

My second book, a companion to "Alfie," is Penny and the Punctuation Bee (Albert Whitman, 2008), was inspired by the spelling bee. I modified it to work with punctuation marks and gave it a spunky heroine - Penny, a period who is also a safety patrol.”

Moira’s unique take on punctuation is fun and fabulous. She says, “Did you know punctuation marks have their own secret personalities? Question marks love riddles, jokes and, well, any kind of question. And exclamation points? Cheerleaders!”

Moira’s books are both educational and memorable. The proof is evident at Moira’s school visits. She explains, “If no one tells you that punctuation is boring, then you don't think it is. I also try to make it extra fun by talking about what kind of punctuation mark you would be based on your personality.”

What punctuation mark does Moira consider herself? “The asterisk- its name comes from the Greek word meaning "star" and it's sparkly and twinkly, which is how I like to think of myself!”

Moira continues, “I really love school visits. When I present my "Alfie the Apostrophe" program, we end with a magic trick (taught to me by a teacher friend) where we make letters disappear and an apostrophe appear. It's a lot of fun! When I talk about "Penny and the Apostrophe Bee," I have a mini punctuation bee with the students. And there's never any predicting how that will turn out!”

Moira finishes by saying, “Most importantly, I have had children tell me they sleep with "Alfie" under their pillows. And that's really why I write!”

To read more about Moira or Alfie the Apostrophe and Penny and the Punctuation Bee, visit her web site at; or her blog at;

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hayneedle - Experts

“It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”

Not anymore. Hayneedle has done all the work for you.

Hayneedle is a new destination consisting of more than 200 online specialty stores that exist in a realm where floor space is irrelevant and freedom of choice is unlimited. The focus is product variety rather than the typical limited mass-merchant array of products. A universal shopping cart allows customers to purchase products from thousands of SKUs from all 200 stores at one domain name,, making it simple to search, shop, and buy with confidence.

“Consumers’ freedom to choose has come under assault over the past several decades because traditional commerce has been significantly affected by cost-cutting and the bricks and mortar distribution channel,” says Carter Cast, Hayneedle’s President and CEO. “Hayneedle provides the missing link between style and self-expression, allowing consumers to customize their home with unique products that actually represent their personality—not the most common personality of every other consumer shopping at the local store.”

While the typical retailer currently offers approximately three storage benches, Hayneedle advertises 246. Need a hammock? Hayneedle provides over 100 in styles such as Brazilian, Mayan, Nicaraguan, poolside, and quilted. This virtually endless shelf space affords design, color, and style combinations ranging from 243 telescope items to thousands of possible living room furnishings.

The lack of product variety is a primary reason consumers are shopping more and more for home and lifestyle products online today, according to Ash ElDifrawi, Hayneedle’s Chief Marketing Officer.

“A survey of our customers showed that about 70 percent are not finding what they want at bricks and mortar retail stores,” says ElDifrawi. “We created Hayneedle as a wake-up call. Thank goodness people are rising up to say that one size does not fit all, and no two patios should look alike. We want consumers to buy what they love and love what they buy.”

With the limited choices offered at mass retail and home improvement stores, many consumers settle—dare we say reluctantly—on a green patio umbrella or a typical black bar stool. Larger retailers will offer anywhere from two to six options of each, on average. Hayneedle offers 87 umbrella choices and a whopping 949 bar stools.

“Consumers want choices, but they don’t want to waste hours traveling from store to store to get them,” says ElDifrawi. “We’re seeing a steady increase of online consumers who realize they can more readily find the style they want at a fraction of the time it takes to shop [at] bricks and mortar stores. The merchants that will win in the new retail environment are the ones that recognize consumers want price and convenience but are not willing to sacrifice their sense of style to get it.”

Style is something Hayneedle knows well. The company has a team of buyers and merchants who select each and every product.

“They’re obsessive about it,” says ElDifrawi, referring to the buying team. “It’s on their mind 24-7, so they find styles and designs to fit everything from eclectic to traditional to modern.”

The Hayneedle buying team uses a simple technique to determine versatile yet in-demand products and styles. Representatives from the company meet regularly to determine product lines and categories that are under-represented in the marketplace.

And when it comes to “not settling,” Hayneedle practices what it preaches.

“We’re inspired to keep searching and discovering unique products,” explains ElDifrawi. “It’s what we do and what our customers want. . . . And if you're ever in my neighborhood, stop in—just look for the fuchsia patio umbrella among the 28 green ones on the block.”

Looking for unique gift ideas for your kids this year? Hayneedle has those too. “We carry traditional, timeless toys such as rocking horses and dollhouses,” says a toy expert from Hayneedle. “These are the items parents and grandparents buy because they had one too. Play-kitchens and petal cars are great for imaginations and offer years of play.”

Have a hard-to-buy-for kid? Hayneedle suggests, “Personalized items are always great. . . . We have toy boxes, table and chair sets, and dollhouses that can all have a child’s name added for a unique, special gift. Hayneedle has a great selection of items kids won’t see in the stores.”

About Hayneedle

Hayneedle (, the leading online retailer in product variety, was originally established in 2002 as NetShops, Inc. with just three employees. NetShops, Inc. has been recognized by and Inc. magazine as one of online retail’s fastest growing companies. In 2009, it changed its name to Hayneedle, recognizing an opportunity to develop multiple ecommerce niche stores. The privately held company is based in Omaha, Nebraska, and funded by Insight Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital. For more information, visit

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Interview With Frank McKinney

Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes, and the Good Luck Circle

How will the new kid in town, Ppeekk (“Peekie”), age 13, fight the evil forces of a 50 million-year-old bus-sized shark called Megalodon who is determined to take over the underwater world of High Voltage?

With the help of a magic good luck circle, a royal talking fish, King Frederick the Ninth (nicknamed Dead Fred); Ppeekk’s two new friends, a geeky boy named Quatro and his mouthy kid sister, Mini Romey; and a whole host of sea creatures . . . that’s how.

Ppeekk’s first day at a new school takes her on a walk through a nature preserve, where she encounters a strange dwarf working with a construction crew: “He puffed on a pipe and blew perfect smoke rings that seemed to hang in the air,” his piercing blue eyes and soothing voice chanting:

“Waves of Smoke

And Fish that Sing

Silvery, Shimmery,

Glittery Wings,

Step and Dance

Within the Ring,

Look to See,

What Dreaming Brings.”

Ppeekk’s adventure of a lifetime is about to begin.

Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes, and the Good Luck Circle is packed full of under-sea adventure, suspense, mystery, and magic. Author Frank McKinney got the idea for Dead Fred on the way to his daughter’s school. He says, “I have personally walked my daughter Laura to school over 1,200 times (she has never been driven). Imagine the stories, games, and adventures we have schemed and experienced since pre-kindergarten (she is in 6th grade now) as we walked through a dense forest, past a nature preserve, and over an old drawbridge every single school day of her life!”

McKinney has definitely captured the essence of being young. His characters are what any adolescent would love to be: courageous, smart, adventurous, and, most of all, likeable.

Frank McKinney is indeed a bit of an enigma. He’s written five books, all of which have become international bestsellers. He’s an extreme risk-taker, a philanthropist, a real-estate “artist,” and a visionary, all without any previous training. To see another example of Frank’s success, look at Acqua Liana (, the world’s largest and most opulent certified green home, covering over 15,000 square feet and costing $29 million dollars.

How does he do it?

Frank says, “Success is sharing your blessings with those less fortunate. It is applying the wonderful life mantra, regardless of your religious preference, the biblical passage from the Gospel of Luke (12:48): ‘To whom much is entrusted, much will be expected.’ I believe in exercising your risk threshold like a muscle; eventually it will become stronger and able to withstand greater pressure. Never lose the little girl or boy inside. Once you do, all creativity dies, and it is ingenuity and artistry that are rewarded in life today. That is the reason I wrote Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes, and the Good Luck Circle from my tree house office!”

With the success of Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes, and the Good Luck Circle, I ask Frank, is there a sequel in his future? He said, “As I am contemplating the sequel, I am asking readers to be a part of the new book by submitting their ideas for new characters and a new villain to;

In addition, Frank also reminds us to “be sure to play the ‘three-headed treasure hunt’ when reading Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes, and the Good Luck Circle” at:

Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes, and the Good Luck Circle is sure to please any adventurer on your list this holiday season. Look for it in bookstores everywhere or online at

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries

“You’ve come a long way, baby…”

This may seem like a tired, old cliché, but it definitely holds true, especially in the realm of parenting. Parents today have to deal with many more obstacles than the parents of yesteryear; from sex, drugs, and violence in our schools and on TV to a whole new realm of cyber-bullying and internet predators. Not to mention that with the tough economic times we’re in, parents are working more and having to depend on the help of family, friends, or neighbours to help out with their kids.

Well, don’t despair. Help is here. No I’m not personally going to come over and clean your house or entertain your little ones, but I can recommend this one-stop-shop, Big Book of Parenting Solutions by Michele Borba Ed.D.

This book is like having a psychologist at your fingertips. “It’s based on cases of children and their families with whom I have worked over the last years or gathered from my observations,” writes Borba, (Notes to Reader).

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions starts out by giving the reader an overview of the “Seven Deadly Parenting Styles.” Take time to read this section and identify the category you most likely fall into, this will help in your “Parenting for Change.”

That’s not all. This book covers every problem, worry, and situation you could possible think of. Plus, it’s broken up into nine sections for easy reference, with sub-categories in each.

Part 1: Family

Part 2: Behaviour

Part 3: Character

Part 4: Emotions

Part 5: Social Scene

Part 6: School

Part 7: Special Needs

Part 8: Day to Day

Part 9: Electronics

After you’ve pinpointed the section you need, you can then read about The Problem: Red Flags, The Change to Parent For, Why Change?, and The Solution. If that’s not enough, each sub-category also has added advice in sidebars with, More Helpful Advice, Late-Breaking News, One Parent’s Answer, and Pay Attention to This.

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions has over 626 pages of solid, practical advice and solutions for all your parenting needs. This would make an excellent gift for anyone just starting a family or in the very midst of raising their own kids.

To order your copy, please visit;

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Perfect Nest for Mrs Mallard - Review

Come on a journey with Mrs. Mallard as she looks for the perfect nesting spot.

Is it by the pool’s edge, where the Coots have taken up residence? Maybe under the rhododendron bush would be better? Or perhaps on the island’s edge, where the swans, Canada geese, and herons make their home?

After Mrs. Mallard finally decides on a nesting spot, whom will she trust to help get her babies safely across the parking lot and to the pond?

Mrs. Mallard has some tough decisions to make in A Perfect Nest for Mrs. Mallard by Angela Cater. This beautifully illustrated picture book chronicles the quest of one mother duck to find the perfect nesting spot. In addition, Cater has sprinkled in facts about mallards and various other water foul, as well as actual photographs of “Mrs. Mallard” and her babies.

This would make the perfect gift for the little nature lover on your list. A Perfect Nest for Mrs Mallard is available at, Barnes & Noble, and Borders and online at

Sunday, November 15, 2009

IBW Books - Review

IBW Books (Interactive Book-Webscene)

Looking for a fun new way to teach your Preschoolers? The Busy Preschooler’s Guide to Learning, by Trish Kline and Mary Donev may just be your answer.

Why settle for a flat, one-dimensional book when you can have a full hands-on experience? Interactive Book-Webscene (IBW) takes the tangibility of a print book and combines it with the fun, excitement, and interactivity of the computer for a unique mix. Reading a plain book is good, but having the option of incorporating different games and learning tools is awesome—your kids will love it.

Here’s how it works: You read a chapter. At the end of the chapter, you find a web-link. Go to the web-link and you’ll see an animation or other multimedia called a webscene that’s part of the story. After you view the webscene, you go back to the book and read another chapter, find another web-link, and so on. Six or more webscenes are included in every IBW book.

IBW - The Busy Preschoolers Guide to Learning takes your tyke through the alphabet with several unique and fun games/exercises for each individual letter. Plus, your child will also be learning valuable skills, such as:

• Reading readiness
• Position and direction
• Colors and shapes
• Numbers
• Listening and sequencing
• Gross- and fine-motor skills
• Time
• Size
• Social-emotional development

In addition, be sure to check out the online handwriting program called ABC-TRACE-123 at the bottom of each webscene. This enables your child to click and drag animal icons around the target for a fun way to learn the alphabet while developing the motor skills needed for handwriting.

This is the most fun you could ever ask for from a book. IBW is sure to be the wave of the future.
To learn more about IBW or to get started, visit their web site at

Friday, November 13, 2009

10 Ways to Make Your Work from Home Experience Successful

By Lesley Spencer Pyle, MSc.

1. Whether you are dealing with a customer over the phone or via email, it should always be done with the utmost professionalism. You want your current and potential customers to feel confident in your abilities. This should include stepping into a quiet area to make a call to a client or getting a company-dedicated phone number so you can answer the call with a company greeting. Emails should always be spell- checked before they are sent.

2. Schedule your day and create goals to ensure you are completing all the tasks that need to be done as well as making a set number of marketing contacts each day. This will help you remain focused and productive despite any distractions that might be taking place in your home.

3. Create a business plan to help keep you on track. It is a lengthy and miserable process for some, but once completed, it is so advantageous to the success of your business. Even if no one else ever sees it, a business plan creates a tool for you to make sure you have thought through the entire process of running a successful business.

4. Determine your strengths and weaknesses and what responsibilities take up the majority of your time, either in the workplace or your household. These are the functions that should be considered for outsourcing, which will help you find a balance and, more importantly, focus on the strengths that will help thrust your business forward.

5. Participate in local and online networking groups to help build resources and a support group. There are several online groups, including,, and

6. Get yourself up to speed with new technologies. Whether it is taking a class online or at a local community college or having someone come in to train you, you will keep up with your competitors by being technologically literate.

7. Set parameters with your family members so they know that when you are working, this is your work time. This may be challenging with little ones but should get easier as you continue to emphasize the importance of “work time.” Be sure to hire help when needed. Your business needs your full attention, as do your children. Don’t try to do both at once.

8. Set a limit so you are not overwhelmed by taking on too much at one time. Be comfortable with letting people know that you are not available to watch their kids, do volunteer work, etc. It is OK to say that your schedule is really booked right now but maybe in the near future they can call on you when things have settled down.

9. Create emergency back-up plans. These would include back-up daycare, instructions for what to do if your computer system goes down, or lists of people you can rely on for assistance if a huge project comes in. This prevents you from scrambling at the last minute.

10. Make time for yourself. Points 1–9 will not make any difference if you are not looking out for yourself. You need to be healthy and happy to be there for your family and your business. Prioritize time for you, your faith, your family, your friends, and your home in addition to your business.

Lesley Spencer Pyle is the founder and president of the, Inc. Network, which includes Home-Based Working Moms ( and ( Pyle has been featured in numerous publications, including Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Parenting, Dr. Laura’s Perspectives, Family PC, and many others. She has four children ages two to fourteen years old and has been working from home since the first baby was born!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tips on Cleaning and Disinfecting

Holidays are Haven for Germs

THE MAIDS offer tips on cleaning and disinfecting to minimize spread of germs

If your home will be holiday headquarters for family and friends, it may also be a haven for germs and viruses. Follow these tips provided by THE MAIDS Home Services to help battle pesky germs before, during, and after your holiday celebrations.

· Wash your hands regularly in warm, soapy water. Place antibacterial hand sanitizer in plain view for guests to use. Make an effort to not touch your mouth, nose, or eyes without first washing your hands.

· Spray disinfecting spray on a cloth, and wipe all hard surfaces—doorknobs, appliance handles, keyboards, remote controls, light switches, phones, facial tissue box covers, tables, chairs, and counters. Viruses can live for up to 48 hours on hard surfaces.

· Keep germs at bay in the bathroom by stashing disinfecting wipes near the toilet and sink for easy, quick clean-up whenever needed.

· Hosting overnight guests? Wash items like towels and bedding in hot water with soap. Be sure to not share these items until they are thoroughly cleaned.

· To keep children safe, you can clean and sanitize toys by putting them through a dishwasher cycle. Make sure items are dishwasher-safe and are placed securely on the racks away from the heat source. Turn off “heat dry” and run the wash cycle as usual.

About THE MAIDS Home Services:

THE MAIDS Home Services, founded in 1979, is a premier residential cleaning service in the U.S. and Canada. Rated as the fastest-growing residential cleaning franchise in Entrepreneur magazine for the past four years, THE MAIDS is one of the oldest and largest residential cleaning franchisers, serving over 40 states and four provinces in North America. For more information, visit THE MAIDS Home Services web site at “Nobody Outcleans The Maids.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Guest Blogger - Author David Krueger

French Fries, Credit Cards, and Debt Psychology: The Behavioral Economics of Small Decisions

by David Krueger, MD

The Tyranny of Small Decisions

How do two French fries weigh 40 pounds?

· Putting on 40 pounds over 10 years means gaining an average of four pounds per year

· 40 pounds divided by 10 years equals 4 pounds per year

· 4 pounds divided by 12 months equals .33 (1/3) of a pound per month.

· This is approximately 1/100th of a pound per day (1/3 pound divided by 30 days)

· One pound of stored fat represents 3500 calories

· 3500 times 1/100 equals 35

· To achieve the feat of gaining 40 pounds in 10 years, all you have to do is consume

an extra 35 calories every day.

· 35 calories = two regular French fries

Little things count.

Economist Alfred Kahn described how we become trapped by the series of seemingly insignificant choices that we make—the tyranny of small decisions. And if we were able to see ahead to the end results of those small decisions, we might chart an entirely different course.

If you are burdened by credit card debt, it probably wasn’t one huge purchase that created the problem. More likely, it was hundreds of small decisions all along the way. Some were necessary, some justified, some rationalized. “It’s just a couple of French fries” thinking. Internal bargaining took care of others: “Just this one time” or “I’ll pay it off next month.” Segmentation of the pleasure of the purchase from the pain of payment obviated any lingering questions.

The Nobility of Small Decisions

Consider the inverse: the nobility of small decisions.

We recognize, in parenting, from the very beginning, that we really don’t know which interactions or words will be really important or even remembered. Knowing that we don’t know, we have to assume that everything we do is important. Everything matters.

Consider the very small decision of stopping for a $4 coffee each day. Calculate how much that is per year. With interest, how much it would be in ten years. In twenty years.

Epictetus asked twenty centuries ago: “What is a good person?” The one, he reflected, who achieves tranquility by having formed the habit of asking on every occasion, “What is the right thing to do now?”

You can be held hostage by small decisions. Or you can be effective, achieve mastery, and freedom by small decisions.

All you have to do in life is the next right thing.


David Krueger, MD

1. Don’t use credit cards.

In numerous studies, individuals spend significantly more—on the average 23%—when using credit cards versus paying cash. Credit cards make money an abstraction, as well as relegating payment to a future time. The immediacy of real money makes cash a real consideration.

2. Estimate expenses in detail; pay in cash.

Studies at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland found that people spend less when they have to estimate expenses in detail as well as pay in cash instead of using credit.

3. Pause between the pick and the purchase.

Time cures wants. Wants are the language of the initial intoxicating exposure to dopamine. A study from UCLA found that when purchases were interrupted—a break in the buying process—purchasers became more objective and discerning about the need to buy. Dopamine is released with an increase in anticipation. The anticipation makes actions feel compelling. Neuroscientists at Emory University found that this delay disrupted dopamine release. This is the chemical that, once a purchase is made, diminishes to result in “buyer’s remorse.” Create a contemplative pause—a space of time between choosing something and paying for it at check-out.

4. Simplify your symbolism.

Designer brands are marketed to symbolically represent quality, desirability, and the experience of having “arrived.” The symbolism of specialness costs more. The qualities that we attribute to brands create a relationship with the brand that results in both desire and the commitment to pay more.

5. Leave emotions at home.

Emotions highjack the logical brain and, along with it, reasonable decisions. Under stress, we may relieve that stress by buying, hoarding, or purchasing out of other emotional needs, such as insecurity or a desire to win approval.

6. Don’t be special.

Special offers or other indications that you are in a select group—an inner circle of consideration—will make you buy more than you need. Special, exclusive, unique offers induce a desire to respond with gratitude and with purchases. Be suspicious of special offers.

7. Shop alone.

The social contagion of shopping with friends induces a relaxation of usual constraints as well as the desire to impress friends with purchases.

8. Know what “good enough” is.

Rather than go on an impossible quest for perfection or the unattainable endpoint of “more,” you need to specifically define what good enough is. Having an endpoint lets you know when you have arrived, when you can feel satisfaction, and when you can experience effectiveness and mastery at reaching a goal.

9. Keep your eye on the ball . . .

Focus on the immediate and the specific and their importance.

10. . . . and your head in the game.

Be aware of the big picture—the scope of importance. A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that wealthy Londoners do not feel rich because they do not mix with less affluent people. When you look at the global neighborhood, that half of humanity lives on less than $3 a day, it puts things in perspective. In the United States about 1% of the people owns 96% of the wealth. Keep the big picture in mind. “Good enough” is the antithesis of “more.”

11. Consider the opportunity cost of your purchase.

Instead of purchasing an item, calculate what the money would be worth in five or ten years if you invested it.

12. Consider the absolute value rather than the anchor price.

Evaluate an item you purchase on the basis of the item itself rather than the stated initial price. Our brains are wired to log in an initial anchor price and then to judge everything in reference to that anchor price.

13. Consider the actual product and what you will do with it if purchased.

Disregard the brand, the esteem of ownership, and how you will be perceived as its owner. Marketing produces desires we didn’t know we had.

14. Use “free” as a cue to spend more slowly.

Evaluate carefully. “Free” is designed to induce action and minimize consideration.
NOTE: Dave will do "An Evening With The Author" discussion of his book just released by McGraw Hill, The Secret Language of Money on Tuesday evening, November 10 at 7:00 PM Eastern by Teleseminar. Registration, which includes free downloads of excerpts, is at

Friday, November 6, 2009

TIME Great Discoveries: Explorations that Changed History

Looking for a chance to get away from it all, but tight on funds? What if you could journey through the past on a trip through the Egyptian ruins with leading archaeologist and Egypt’s own “Indiana Jones,” Zahi Hawass, as your tour guide? Or learn about the “Calendars of Stone” and the “City in the Sky,” Machu Picchu? Or maybe travelling along the trail of Viking navigators is more your style?

What if you could search for the source of the Nile, go on a polar exploration, travel to the ends of the earth, go on a quest for mineral riches, or seek a new species of human known as “Hobbits”?

Sound like fun? There’s more.

You’re not limited to the past and present. Take a journey into space and the future. Map out Mars. Take a look at the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Or view the astonishing auroras’ magnetic rope tricks. You can even learn about NASA’s Kepler Telescope.

Now what if I told you it would only cost you around $35 to have all these incredible experiences? Impossible, right? Wrong. You can do all this and more.

TIME Great Discoveries: Explorations that Changed History is your one-stop source for all these great adventures, and it won’t break your budget. This beautiful coffee table book is 135 pages of fun and interesting facts. Plus, its large, glossy pages are loaded with visually stunning photography, making you feel like you’re right there.

This book would make a great addition to any collection, and with Christmas right around the corner, those hard-to-buy-for folks are now taken care of. Pick up your copy today at leading booksellers or online at

Take the journey with TIME Great Discoveries . . . you’ll be glad you did

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wellspring Camp

Did you know?

· Research indicates overweight children and teens perform worse on some measures of intellectual functioning and in school.

· Obese children are absent from school an average of 20% more days than healthy- weight children.

· Significant weight loss has led to improvements in a measure of academic competence.

We all know what the effects of being overweight can bring – physically, mentally, and socially. When you’re an obese child or teenager “just trying to fit in,” the added strain is only intensified.

The number of obese children has increased explosively over the last ten years and continues to rise. Let’s face it, we live in a “fast-food-computer-generated” era, where food is prepared for the taste buds and ease of preparation and exercise is looked upon as a leisure activity, rather than a way of life.

So what can we do to help our overweight kids? Of course we start by setting an example, eating healthy, and getting daily exercise, but sometimes that’s just not enough.

Wellspring Camp, the leading weight loss program for teens and young adults, may be the answer to your problem. Wellspring has a scientific approach to diet and activity management that helps campers change behaviors in order to adopt a new, healthy lifestyle. Campers lose an average of 4 lbs. per week and, best of all, 70% of Wellspring campers maintain or continue losing weight at home.

Wellspring takes kids as young as five years of age and has fourteen locations located in California, Hawaii, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania, and in the UK and Canada. Family camps, retreats and adult programs are also available. Wellspring Camps isn’t only a place to get healthy; your kids will meet others struggling with the same issues and have a lot of fun doing it.

This organization just launched an early enrolment deal of $1,000 off their summer 2010 programs from now until January 31, 2010. How does it work? Any parent who registers his or her child will immediately receive the discount upon completion of the form. Summer programs start at $6,000 and many guests will be eligible for health insurance reimbursement.

To see more of what Wellspring Camps are all about, or to take advantage of this great offer, check out their web site at

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Guest Blogger - Catharina De Swardt - Butterfly Children

Katherine is a spunky eight-year-old. She does what every child her age does. She runs outside, climbs trees she can’t get down from, and enjoys having her friends over to her house. The only difference is that most of the time Katherine is wrapped in bandages. Almost her entire body is covered with bandages.

Katherine has Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). It is a genetic skin disorder that causes blisters on the skin. These wounds are very similar to third-degree burn wounds.

Katherine was five weeks old when her mother spotted a blister on her hand. The blister got bigger and bigger until it burst.

The blisters are very painful, even with the slightest touch. Katherine says that when she meets someone for the first time, she tells them: “Be careful, I am fragile.” She wants people to understand they must be gentle around her.

EB is a very rare disease and affects both boys and girls. About 1 out of every 50,000 children are born with it. There are different types of EB, ranging from mild to severe.

Katherine suffers from Recessive Dystrophic EB. It gets worse the older Katherine gets.

“Sometimes I just want to carry a sign above my head saying ‘I’ve got EB’ so people will stop asking. I want to carry a video explaining to people what it is,” Katherine says.

Because their skin is so fragile, children affected by the disorder are often referred to as “Butterfly Children.”

Epidermolysis Bullosa is a chronic disease. There is no cure for it, and the only thing you can do is make the patient comfortable and provide good wound care.

Children suffering from this disease need a lot of care. Bandages need to be replaced daily. It is very important to keep the blisters from getting infected and prevent friction on the skin.

There are a lot of specialized bandages and ointments designed to improve wound care for EB patients. Katherine and her mother spend two to three hours every day dressing her wounds.

Very often the healing wounds itch, and kids must refrain from scratching themselves, as it will only make the skin worse.

In more severe cases the disease not only affects the outer layers of the skin but also the eyes, intestines, and esophagus. Children with EB normally have to be on a special diet. Sometimes they can only drink liquids because it hurts too much to swallow.

The important thing to know about EB is that it is not contagious. Despite the physical problems, there is no impairment of intelligence. Many children suffering from EB can still have normal, active lives.

Katherine loves to read, and her favorite subjects are math and science. She is in the gifted program for languages and social studies at her school.

Katherine is very fortunate that she does not have web fingers, like some children with EB do. She plays the piano and performs recitals for patients at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Katherine loves to dance. She dances competitively and won a scholarship in her jazz class to attend the Jump Convention. Katherine says it doesn’t matter how much it hurts as long as she can keep on dancing.

If you would like to learn more about EB, visit

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Noticer

Could we change our lives, our very beings, by changing our perspective on our circumstances?

Jones, the old, grey-haired gentleman drifter carrying a well-worn brown suitcase has a very special gift:

He Notices.

His kind manner, to-the-point directness, and common sense wisdom give the folks of Orange Beach, Alabama, new hope. Jones says, “A grateful perspective brings happiness and abundance into a person’s life.”

However, will the poverty-stricken man living under the pier, a couple whose marriage is failing, and the other hurting residents of this small coastal town embrace his wisdom?

“Everybody wants to be on the mountaintop, but if you’ll remember, mountaintops are rocky and cold. There is no growth on the top of a mountain. Sure the view is great, but what’s a view for? A view just gives us a glimpse of our next destination—our next target” (excerpt from The Noticer).

Jones sets his sights on several different people with not-so-different problems. All they need is a little perspective and old Jones to guide them along the way.

If you only read one book this year, make it The Noticer. It’s uplifting and inspirational, and unlike so many other books on the market today, this book will leave you feeling like there’s still hope left in this dog-eat-dog world.

I caught up with Andy Andrews and asked him about The Noticer. He says, “I was inspired [to write The Noticer] by the time I spent homeless as a young adult and a man named Jones (the first chapter of The Noticer is true). That time spent diligently searching for wisdom has become a lifelong process. Now my mission is to share what I have learned with others in story form.”

Andy didn’t only write a fiction story. When I asked him if he actually lives the “Jones” philosophy, he replied, “Absolutely! My time with him [Jones] impacted me in such a way that I have become a second generation noticer. I think most of us need a ‘Jones’ and can become one for other people.

“The message of The Noticer is that there are things that we can do to make us better parents, better spouses, better friends, and more successful in life. There are better choices we can make and huge hope to be gained with an open mind, a little reading, and some perspective.”

For more information on Andy Andrews or his books, visit his web site at You can also follow Andy on Twitter at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Lion Called Christian - John Rendall Interview

It has received over 60 million hits on YouTube: Christian the Lion reunites with his “foster parents,” Anthony Bourke and John Rendall. If you haven’t seen it yet, I dare you not to cry.

After watching this remarkable video I just had to talk to one of the men responsible for this “once in a lifetime” phenomenon. John Rendall has been kind enough to answer my questions and give us a bigger glimpse into this remarkable story. I have left it Q/A style so as to not leave out anything.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you're up to now?

I am currently in London spending time with my daughter Tallulah, who is a singer/songwriter ( I have one son at Sydney University and another at a college in Massachusetts, so all I seem to do is chase them around the world!

2. Have you always been an animal/cat enthusiast?

Always. I grew up in the oldest country town in New South Wales—Bathurst, which was founded in 1813. We had working cattle dogs, house pet dogs, cats, birds, native galahs, frill-necked lizards, snakes, and kangaroos. Young kangaroos, “joeys,” were hand-fed in the laundry room with milk and honey until they were old enough to set free in the garden and later in the paddocks.

The first lions I saw were part of a travelling circus that came to town when I was eight or nine years old. They were so exotic and frightening I didn’t really think about the grim cages they were kept in. I was just glad the bars were strong. It is only right that such circuses no longer exist. What terrible lives those animals lived.

3. Did you have any second thoughts about taking in a lion cub?

Of course. It was a huge challenge, but I could not bear the thought of this beautiful cub staying any longer in the small cage at Harrods. I knew so much more about animals.

4. Most people "fall in love" with the idea of having an exotic pet, but you know firsthand what that entails. What would you tell people today about having a pet like Christian or any other exotic animal?

Don’t. We were incredibly lucky with Christian. He had been hand-reared and well–looked after at Harrods, within the confines of his small cage. But I would never do it again. By buying Christian we had inadvertently bought into the trade in exotic animals. Since the Endangered Species Act was implemented in 1973, it has been illegal for pet shops to deal in exotic animals.

The only exotic animal dealing/trading I condone is the swapping of animals between institutions involved in the breeding of endangered species. Examples are Taronga Zoo in Sydney; the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, New South Wales; Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom; Frankfurt Zoo in Germany; and the San Diego Zoo in the United States. These institutions are no longer “zoos” by definition as simply “show places” for exotic species but are centres of exotic species breeding programmes that protect gene pools and aid in the research of diseases in exotic species.

I am a Trustee of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust, which administers and funds the Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania. We breed endangered species, protect the game and environment, and educate local children. We have recently received three black rhinos from Czechoslovakia. They are from a separate gene pool than those we are breeding in Tanzania and are a bonus to our programme. This gene pool may well have died out if the rhinos had not been taken to Czechoslovakia.

5. Do you agree with circuses’ having large animals, such as lions and elephants, as part of their acts?

This is certainly no longer acceptable. It never has been. Cirque de Soleil has shown that circuses no longer need to have animal acts to bring the exotic to an audience. Sadly, there are still some old-style circuses featuring exotic animals in parts of Europe and Asia.

6. How did you find the courage, despite the odds, to do what you did?

It was a determination to try and find a better life for this beautiful animal. Even if it was only in the short-term, we felt we must be able to provide a better life than that in a small cage in a department store. We were young, fit Aussies and fortunately had enough resources to be able to look after Christian. Also, the owners of the pine furniture shop where we worked were very supportive: Joe Harding and John Barnardiston; the manageress, Jennifer-Mary (who was my girlfriend at the time); our daily, Kay Dew; and a girl called Unity Jones who came in to play with Christian every day (she had raised a lioness in Rome!).

7. Did you ever think, “What did we get ourselves into?" with Christian?

Only when he began to outgrow the shop. He was 35 lbs when we bought him, and by one year old he weighed 175 lbs. We were worried he might fall against a window and hurt himself and others. When we received the offer from George Adamson to rehabilitate him, we immediately accepted.

8. If you could do it all over again, would you?

No. First, I really do believe that Christian was a very special lion, and I would never be lucky enough to find another equally special lion. I have subsequently met many other lions, and none of them matched Christian’s accepting and trusting nature. Of course I am biased, but George Adamson, the “lion whisperer,” the man who knew more about lions than anyone else in the world, became totally besotted with Christian. Despite his first reservations about the chances of Christian succeeding in the wild, George wrote in his autobiography, My Pride and Joy, “The easiest lion to rehabilitate was a brave and mischievous little lion from London, Christian.”

9. Could you tell us a bit about your experience in Africa?

When we took Christian to Africa, it was my first visit to that magnificent continent. I was immediately entranced by the sights and smells. To see Christian in his right environment was so exciting. Suddenly he blended into the landscape. Instead of being “exotic” he instantly fit in, blending into the landscape.

10. What was your first thought when you saw Christian again after he'd spent a year in Africa?

First, his size! When we bought Christian he weighed 35 lbs. When we left him with George a year later, he weighed 175 lbs. Now, a year later, he was over 350 lbs. But we recognised him instantly. We also realised he had matured and was confident. The way he walked toward us was so impressive: calm, curious, unafraid, and certainly not in hunting “mode.” He did not stalk us—he just walked purposefully towards us . . . until we called him, and then he started to run. He was so excited.

Raising Christian has had an incredible impact on my life. Without Christian I would not have had such a unique introduction to Africa and the opportunity to meet and work with George Adamson. For the past 40 years I have worked to raise money for George, the George Adamson Trust, and other conservation charities. The renewed interest in Christian is helping continue to stress the importance of wildlife and conservation issues.
He was a magnificent lion, and it appears he still has a job to do.

For further information about Christian and the George Adamson Trust, visit these web sites: Wildlife Preservation Trust:,, and

You can also get the whole story in A Lion Called Christian: The Remarkable Bond Between Two Friends and a Lion by John Rendall and Anthony Bourke, which is available at bookstores everywhere and is on the New York Times bestseller list.
If you haven't seen the A Lion Called Christian YouTube Video, check it out below under our New & Now section :)


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