P’s & Q’s: 5 Tips to Get Your Child Writing Great Thank You Notes

Any parent knows that getting children to complete even the simplest tasks such as putting pajamas in the clothes hamper or turning a light off when leaving a room is near impossible. How then are we expected to teach wee-ones the seemingly abject habit of writing thank-you notes? Don’t despair. All hope is not lost! In fact, we have some very simple tips every parent can implement into their usual routine to get their kids not only writing the thank-you, but actually writing great thank-you notes (with very little effort on both parts!). There is one caveat though (isn’t there always?!)…. It all depends on YOU. Yes, you, the grownup in this parent-child dyad. Tips can come, and tips will go; but unless the parent chooses to take the initiative, set examples by writing thank yous themselves, are consistent in their expectations of the child, and follow through with consequences if notes are not written – you children will continue to avoid completing this, and all chores, at any cost.

1. Remember the Golden Rule of Parenting: Always be the person you want your child to be. You want your child to write thank-you notes, which means you need to write them too. And make it obvious. When an occasion arises for you to set a good example, such as your own birthday or a holiday, make a big production out of writing your next set of notes. Clear a place at the family’s kitchen table. Set all of your items out around you: notes, pens, address book, stamps, etc. Make an announcement such as “Mommy is taking a time put to write some thank-you’s now, so please let me have a little time to get this done”. Get your child involved: let them make suggestions on what to say, place a stamp on the envelope, or take the finished letters out to the mailbox. Monkey see, monkey do; kids like to emulate.

2. Help kids imagine the emotion behind the gesture. A hard lesson for kids to learn is that they’re really thanking the person not for the gift but the thoughtfulness behind it. “Grandma thought a lot about what to give you this year.” Explain to the child the lengthy process a gift giver goes through to deliver a gift. Explain this to your child as thoroughly as possible. An example might be. “First Grandma had the idea that she wanted to get you something special for your birthday. Then she had to think about all the things you like to do. Then she had to go to the store to find something you’d like. Then she had to choose it, pay for it, and bring it home. Then she had to wrap it special and write a card for you. Then she had to make time to come to your party. Then she had to bring that present with her. PHEW! That is a LOT of work grandma had to do to get you this special gift! Wouldn’t it be nice if you took just a minute or two to write her a thank you for the gift and her thoughtfulness?”

3. Provide children with age-appropriate notecards printed on recycled paper and help them with the message. For very young children who do not yet write, a crayon picture of the child’s choosing created with the gift-giver in mind can be mailed along with a note by a parent saying something like, “Lucy created this for you in appreciation of her gift of a new doll for her birthday.” Budding writers can be given the thank-you cards that only require a child to fill in certain blanks. While not as personal, this format encourages a youngster to write a note that may only include the salutation, the gift received, and name, but it’s a great first start! Older kids should write thank-you notes on their own; but providing them with their own grown-up style stationery with a monogram or design they help choose will get them engaged and feel as though this is an important step in their maturing.

4. Turn on kids’ creative juices. Another way to get kids more involved in the “thank you” writing process is to ask them to come up with their own unique way of thanking Grandma. A few creative “thank you” card ideas for kids might include: making a video and emailing or posting it, taking a photo with the gift & using it as a postcard or taking M&M’s and glue to spell out your thank you on construction paper.

5. Enforce the “Write then Play” rule. You can do items 1-4, but the simplest way to get your children to eagerly write a thank you note for each and every gift they ever receive from this moment forward is to implement one simple family rule: “You must write the thank you note first, and then you may use the gift.” Period. End of story. Believe me, that mandate speeds up the writing process a thousand percent. And if they refuse? Well, I know more than a few hospitals and day care centers that would just love to get your donation of unused toys and books! Seriously, all you need to do is set the rule, and stick to it. Your kid will do the rest. Wham, bam, thank-you sir and ma’am!

We’re eager to hear what works for you! Feel free to start a dialogue or comment below.

About the Author

J.J. Morgan is a writer for Parchment, a custom stationery boutique and online store catering to celebrity clientele since 1968.

Savory and sweet, these warm & gooey vanilla cinnamon apples mke the whole house smell delightful! Fall is in the air!

Vanilla Cinnamon Apples

Ingredients

4 baking apples
3 tbsp. butter
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. allspice
1 tbsp. brandy
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup walnuts
Pinch of salt

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat the bottom of a shallow baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each apple so it will stand upright. Scoop out the core of each apple from the top down with the small end of a melon ball cutter, making sure not to core all the way through the apple.

Combine the butter, brown sugar and vanilla paste in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat until the butter is melted, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon, allspice, brandy, raisins, walnuts and salt. Fill the apples with equal amounts of the filling using a teaspoon. Place the apples in the prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until caramelized and fork tender.

Serves 4.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Nielsen-Massey.*

Minimizing Your Eco-Footprint When Buying a New Computer

Many people believe that computers and technology are actually minimizing the eco-footprint of today’s digitally connected world. The truth is that while large amounts of paper may be saved by computers and personal computing devices, information technology is actually costing around 8 billions dollars annually in electrical costs in the United States alone. Combine that with carbon emissions – and it becomes evident just how important it is to ‘think green,’ when purchasing a new computer. In the long run, buying green technological devices not only saves YOU money, but also lends a conscious ode to the environment.

Today, computer companies are continuously looking for more environmentally friendly products. As regulations get tighter and lobbyists call for responsibility on the part of technology companies – a perfectly eco-friendly computer is in the future. Until it arrives however, there are a few things that you can do to ensure you are doing your part.

Think Size!

A laptop consumes around 5 times less energy than a desktop. Plus, most laptops do not utilize as much electricity as their desktop brethren. In today’s competitive market – you won’t have to trade functionality by choosing a laptop computer.

Go LCD!

If you were to compare a 19-inch LCD screen to a 19-inch CRT screen, you would see that the LCD uses only 1/3 of the power. Many LCD monitors on the market today, are ENERGY STAR rated, which means it will utilize only around 1-2 watts of power in the stand-by mode.

Check out EPEAT.

EPEAT is the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool Despite regulations and out cries from the public to reduce the amounts of toxic chemicals used in computers, most are still busting at the seems with hazardous components. According to the EPA, if consumers would check the EPEAT rating before purchasing and purchase those with the best ratings (meaning most environmentally friendly), millions of pounds of hazardous waste could be reduced annually.

Ask Your Dealer About PSU?

PSU is short for the power supply unit that comes with your computer. In recent years a voluntary, 80 plus program has been producing power supply units which are conscious of electronic use. So, by switching out your PSU, you could not only improve the cost effectiveness of running your device, but also can eliminate the need for computer fans because the power source is not heat generated.

Dual Core Technology.

In head-to-head studies, dual or duo core computers are said to be faster and more energy efficient than single core processors. They only power up certain computer components as necessary and are able to do the computer jobs faster, meaning less electrical pull than single core processors. Essentially, you get more performance from your computer, with less environmental draws.

The good news is that buying eco-friendly computer products does not mean that you will have to spend more money. Purchasing eco-friendly computers may take a little more elbow grease for the buyer, in terms of research and shopping, but does not make significant difference at the cash register.

And of course, recycle! It is estimated that less than 10% of all computers being thrown away are being disposed of properly, or recycled. Look for recycling programs or buy-back programs such as the one offered by Dell, that makes replacing a computer a less environmentally threatening endeavor.

About the Author

Frank Anderson is a technology writer for webhosting.net. He works with mail exchange hosting as well as many other hosting machines.

*Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

You don’t need beef to make a sprightly, satisfying brisket. When making the gravy, it’s easier to stir the flour into the fat, switching to a whisk when you add in the broth.

Seitan Brisket

Adapted from Leah Koenig, MyJewishLearning.com

VEGETABLES AND SEITAN
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced vertically into ½-inch pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, sliced into 1-inch pieces
½ tablespoon tamari
15 ounces seitan, sliced into 6 pieces

GLAZE
1½ tablespoons grape juice or fruity red wine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1½ tablespoons miso paste

GRAVY
1¾ cups “no chicken” chicken stock or vegetable stock, plus extra if necessary
¾ cup grape juice or fruity red wine
1½ tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
or canola oil
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt to taste

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

For the vegetables and seitan, place the oil, onions, carrots, celery, and tamari in a heavy medium baking dish. Stir to coat the vegetables, then roast for 40 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and place the seitan on top of the vegetables.

For the gravy, in a medium bowl, combine the stock, grape juice or wine, brown sugar, and caraway seeds, then pour over the seitan and vegetables. Season to taste with pepper, tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil, and return the pan to the oven. Bake for 40 minutes.

Remove the pan, uncover, and ladle out as much of the cooking broth as possible into a large liquid measuring cup. Heat butter or oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the reserved cooking broth and stir constantly until smooth and thick, 2 to 3 minutes. If you don’t have enough broth left to make the gravy, add some more stock. Stir in half the garlic. Spread the gravy over the seitan, stirring to blend with any juices remaining in the pan. Add the salt to taste. For the glaze, change the oven setting to broil. In a small bowl, whisk together the grape juice or wine, brown sugar, miso paste, and the remaining garlic. Spoon the glaze over the seitan. Return the pan to the oven and broil, uncovered, until the gravy is bubbling hot and the seitan is deeply browned, about 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 4–6

*Recipe and image courtesy of The Brisket Book/Andrews McMeel Publishing.*

Pack your child’s lunch in an extremely unique, hand-crafted lunchbox made from items that have been thrown away, such as juice containers, rice bags, and even advertising banners! Each creation from Bazura is truly one-of-a-kind, and makes quite the conversation piece! With each purchase, you are helping to provide a job for hundreds of women in the Phillipines who are part of a woman’s co-operative. BaZura.Biz works closely with these women to assist them as they transform garbage into practical, useful items that are used everyday!

More than just lunchboxes are created – the extensive collection from Bazura includes Messenger Bags, Backpacks, Pencil Bags, Diaper Bags, Duffel Bags, and even Bowling Bags! Bright and cheerful, each colorful piece is a work of art! Who knew trash could be this functional!

Mom” received the Lunchbox and Mini Lunchbox to use, and both are sturdy & perfect for keeping everything cool for lunch. With an easy-to-clean foil interior and inside slip pocket, each lunchbox can be packed accordingly – the Mini Lunchbox for snacks after-school, and the regular-sized lunchbox for lunchtime. Each one is available in 6 bold colors, including pink, red, green, blue, purple and orange.

Environmentally-conscious families will adore each and every product Bazura offers, and will love that they are helping to make a difference both locally and globally.

To learn more about Bazura.Biz, or to order your own lunchbox or bag, visit www.bazurashop.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this review.*

Turning Your Kids into Tiny Green Machines

When we think about environmental impact and saving the planet, it’s usually in terms of adult successes and failures. In the most environmentalists’ opinions, people who drive gigantic SUVs are burning up fossil fuels and causing global warming, huge chemical companies are dumping harmful products into our drinking water, and textile corporations are abusing workers in third world countries. Psychics could have predicted that that these things would be bad for us in the future, but the easy and comfortable beat the practical and safe.

Most parents want to save the world for their children. They take precautions like driving hybrid SUVs, packing organic snacks in their lunches, and sanitizing anything that ever even looked at a chicken. Instead of over-analyzing ways they can keep our environment and their kids safe, we need to teach them how to be proactive and step things up a notch. Here are some lifelong lessons you may want to instill in your child’s environmental education:

Taking the Bus to School

Most of the children who attend schools today get dropped off by their parents in luxurious SUV’s. Most of the adults are afraid to let their kids walk to the bus stop in the morning in fear of their children getting harmed. Allow your kids walk to the bus stop in order to teach them about moderate exercise and the importance of public transportation. When they get older, they will realize the ease of an urban commute and the environmental efficiency of the bus system.

Packing Lunch

Remember taking a brown-bag lunch to school? Just about every kid did it and didn’t say a word about it. Today schools are filled with soda and snack machines, deep fried mozzarella sticks, and other processed nightmares. There are healthy options available on the school menu, but kids aren’t going to pick it over sugar, fat, and salt. You can teach your kids about eating healthier if you avoid giving them cash and pack a traditional lunch. If you pack a perishable meal, make sure to let your child’s teacher know to put it in the cooler.

Packing a lunch teaches kids how to become fiscally responsible later on in life. Instead of eating out at a restaurant when they get office jobs, kids who are packed with a lunch will be more inclined to bring their own lunch when they reach adulthood.

Demanding Corporate Responsibility

Most Americans realize that government accountability is a thing of the past. Cronyism, lobbyists, and all-around corruption are the norm instead of reasonable debate and common sense. Make sure that your children learn the importance of civics; but also make sure they vote with their wallets. By not purchasing things from harmful big businesses, they will have no way to fund their exploitation of the earth. Only use products in your home which demonstrate your own morality concerning corporate responsibility.

By letting your children know about their environmental and social impacts, they will be better prepared later on in life. Give a child a fish, you have fed him for a day; teach a child to fish, you have taught him about the dangers of mass produced fish farms.

Sweet and crunchy together – now that makes a good pair! These are super easy to make for a healthy after-school snack.

Roasted Apple Slices

Ingredients

2 apples, any kind
1 tsp. of brown sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Cinnamon

Preparation

Heat oven to 150 degrees. Wash, core and thinly slice the apples. In a bowl blend the brown sugar and lemon juice.

Dip the slices into the lemon juice mixture. Place the slices on a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Put in the oven and leave until edges curl and become chewy or longer oven time for more crispy. Baking time: one hour more or less.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Kathy Kaehler.*

Advantages of Solar Energy

Solar panel systems use photovoltaic (PV) cells to convert the sun’s power into energy which can then be used to power electrical appliances in the home, or be fed back into the national grid. The chemical reaction in the panels creates a flow of direct current electrons (D/C), which then feeds into an inverter to convert the flow into alternating current (A/C) to power the home.

Here are a few advantages of this renewable energy source:

1. The incentives are better than ever
Government schemes such as the Feed-in Tariff coupled with rising electricity bills and dwindling fossil fuel resources make free solar energy an ever more compelling way to cut down on both environmental damage and costs to the homeowner.

2. Sunshine not required
It is a myth that solar panels need sunshine to work. The photovoltaic cells react to daylight, meaning they can generate 40% of their potential electricity yield even if the weather is completely overcast. Electricity can also still be provided to the home outside of daylight hours as the home will still be connected to the national grid as before – the homeowner will also be paid back for any unused electricity that they feed back to the grid (more on this later).

3. Environmental benefits
The argument for more renewable forms of energy is getting louder and more prominent by the day. Oil and gas prices are on a continuous increase and fossil fuel recovery methods such as tar sands are getting progressively worse for the environment. More and more of these methods are leaving areas of land highly polluted and can emit up to 45% more greenhouse gas than traditional oil and gas. Solar energy is becoming increasingly more acknowledged as a key component of a low-carbon future, especially with peak oil production rapidly approaching.

4. Financial benefits
Fortunately, solar energy is something that the homeowner can already start to benefit from in terms of cost savings. The US government has introduced schemes that provide hugely compelling cost incentives for installing domestic solar panels, namely the Feed-in Tariff (FIT). For example, the state of California’s Feed-in Tariff currently pays between $1.10 and $1.90 per A/C watt that a solar panel system produces, whether or not that electricity is used in the home. The amount the homeowner receives back will also increase with inflation and is guaranteed for at least 25 years.

In total, homeowners can make an estimated $19,000 profit over their solar panel system’s lifecycle, as well as electricity bill savings of between $110 and $173 every year.


A worthwhile investment
The solar panel provider will handle the installation and maintenance of the panels and in the majority of cases planning permission won’t be required.

Whilst the initial cost of the panels and their installation is between $12,500 and $22,000, the combined bill savings and money from the Feed-in Tariff means the homeowner will start earning back straight away. Many providers also offer the system for free in exchange for rights to the Feed-in Tariff until the costs are paid off; meaning solar energy is more accessible and rewarding than ever.

Kathy learned about gorp from her aunt and her cousins when they all went to Girl Scout camp. Having a yummy nutritious snack that has lots of different flavors and textures is her kind of thing. Making it yourself is so easy and half the fun.

Kathy’s Gorp

Ingredients

1 cup popped popcorn (She uses hulless baby white corn)
1 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup shelled pistachios

Preparation

Find a fun jar or container and put them all together. Now you have gorp!

*Recipe and image courtesy of Kathy Kaehler.*

Top Eco Luxury Resorts

Not all travelers are looking for a manmade paradise when they hit the road. Certainly you want to be comfortable and well provided for when you take off to parts unknown, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want a whole slew of overblown tourist traps (complete with paid entertainers and lavish synthetic settings). Many people have begun to embrace a different style of travel known as ecotourism. Rather than looking for the next big spectacle to take them away from the drudgery of their daily lives, a lot of travelers want to get away from it all, reconnect with nature, and do less to harm the environment along the way. So if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint on your next walkabout, even as you enjoy the luxuries to which you have become accustomed, here are a few great resorts that could fit the bill.

1. CESiaK – Sian Ka’an, Mexico. The Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an (CESiaK for short) is part of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, an ecological model of sustainability located near the Mayan ruins of Tulum on the Caribbean Coast of Mexico. If you thought that white-sand beaches, warm waters, and eco-friendly attitudes didn’t mix, think again. This beach resort situated on a 1.3-million-acre park employed local labor for building (and staffing) and uses solar and wind power for all of their buildings, plus filtered rainwater collected from cisterns.

2. Longitude 131˚ – Northern Territory, Australia. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding this establishment since its geographic location is right in the name; but just in case, look for the world’s largest monolith peeking up out of the desert. Situated on top of a sand dune just a stone’s throw from Uluru, this hotel consists of 15 so-called “tents” that are like little luxury cabanas on stilts. They barely disturb the desert floor and everything runs on solar power. Plus, all the entertainment comes from the natural surroundings.

3. Bardessono – Napa Valley, California. Dubbed the “greenest luxury hotel in America”, this resort has the creds to back up the claim (if their status of LEED Platinum certification is any indicator). Heating for rooms (and water) is geothermal, photovoltaic panels provide energy, a vertical garden covers the walls of the hotel lobby, and a massive compost (called the “Earth tub”) turns kitchen scraps into fertilizer. Talk about sustainable.

4. Camp Ya Kanzi – Kenya. With Mt. Kilimanjaro providing a scenic backdrop, you’ll feel the closeness of nature every time you look out the window. And with an eye on sustaining the view, the “Camp of the Hidden Treasure” used local building materials (cutting down nary a tree in the process). In addition, energy and heating come from solar panels, rainwater is collected and filtered from rooftops, and cooking takes place thanks to eco-friendly charcoal created from coffee husks.

5. Capital Coast Resort and Spa – Paphos, Cyprus. Although there aren’t many Paphos hotels that can claim to uphold any standards of ecotourism, this one has met local certification standards to be listed as a green/sustainable property. Not only is it adjacent to historical Cyprus attractions like the Tomb of the Kings and the Paphos Lighthouse, it also overlooks beautiful Paphos harbor. And in addition to checking its environmental impact, the property is also friendly to diverse communities, actively welcoming LGBT guests.