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Archive for November, 2008

1 DAY until Thanksgiving: Entertain the kids

KN HOLIDAYSURVIVAL KCOK, show of hands: How many of us hated sitting at the kids’ table at holiday meals? At my grandparent’s house, eating at the kids’ table meant getting bumped to the kitchen and eating off a table with no table cloth or fine china.

Fortunately, with a little imagination and creativity, you can turn the kids’ table into the fun table. Here are a few tricks: Use white butcher block paper instead of a table cloth and give each child a cup of crayons. Then let them color in between bites. Create a game-and-puzzle placemat, similar to what you might find at a family restaurant. Include word finds, mazes, and riddles that are Thanksgiving related. Let the children make pilgrim hats. (You can find step-by-step instructions at www.crafts.kaboose.com). Glue leaves on a paper lunch bag. Fill the bag with inexpensive treats or toys and set one above each child’s plate. When all of the children have finished eating and cleared their dishes, let them open their bags. And most of all, ask the kids what they want. In our house, giving them their own pie, ditching the slicing and letting them just dig in with spoons actually has a few of the adults wanting to be at the kids’ table, too. (For more Thanksgiving ideas, see our Home & Garden section.)

Posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
Under: Thanksgiving | No Comments »

2 DAYS until Thanksgiving: Time to set table

LLIFE HDY-TABLEDECOR 1 FTGrowing up, the dining room was always off limits 48 hours before Thanksgiving. That’s because my mother needed time to turn our table into something that looked as if it had jumped off the pages of “Better Homes & Garden.” She took table setting very seriously, right down to pulling out an illustrated table chart that showed exactly where every plate, bowl, glass and utensil belonged.

The first must-know in table setting is the basics (American-style): n Plates go 1 inch from the edge of the table. Flatware is lined up with the bottom of the plates: fork on the left; knife, with the blade turned toward the plate, and spoon go on the right. Bread-and-butter plates are set above the forks with the butter knife laid across it. If these are not used, the salad plates go here; otherwise they belong left of the forks. Flatware is arranged with the pieces used first on the outside. So, a salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork. The exception is the dessert silverware, which goes above the plate. The water glass sits at the tip of the knife, with the wine or beverage glass to the right of the water glass. Coffee cups and saucers are placed to the right of the spoon or brought out with dessert. Napkins sit in the center of each plate, are tucked in wine glasses or are placed to the left of the fork.

But knowing where everything goes is only part of what is involved in setting the table for Thanksgiving. Now it’s time to give it a little style…

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Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
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SPIDERWICK Chronicles Giveaway

Spiderwick Chronicles gift set Here’s a way to put a little dent in your holiday shopping. We’re giving away a “Spiderwick Chronicles” gift set — volumes 1-5 of these magical tales about a world filled with elves, goblins and other fantastical creatures. All you have to do to win is click “comments” and tell us, are you doing anything different for the holidays this year? Tightening purse strings, for example, or cutting down your gift list because of the economy? Going the homemade route? We’ll draw a winner’s name Sunday night. (Congrats, by the way, to CB who won last week’s Thanksgiving DVD and book!)

Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008
Under: Books, Contest | No Comments »

PARENT TALKS: Teen Drivers, Youth Athletes & More

Calm drivers ILLUS.jpg“Childhood Matters: The Pediatrician is In!”
Nov. 29 from 9 to 10 a.m. on Green 960 AM and streamed live on www.childhoodmatters.org. Nurse Rona Renner and panelists discuss flu season, immunizations, prevention of colds and your health too.

“Every 15 Minutes”
Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. at Las Lomas High, Walnut Creek
Speaker: Pat Lickiss, Las Lomas principal, and members of the Walnut Creek Police Department
View the “Every 15 Minutes” anti-drunk driving video and discuss how it has affected families in the community. (Free)

“Drive Smart, Stay Safe: A Class for Teens and Parents”
Dec. 2 from 5:45 to 8 p.m. at the Miramonte High Theater, Orinda
A free road safety class sponsored by the California Highway Patrol for parents and teens to attend together. (Free)
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Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008
Under: Parenting Issues | No Comments »

COUNTDOWN to Thanksgiving: 3 More Days!

Village People (Family Fun Magazine)We’ve always been big fans of Family Fun Magazine and its crafts, and these “Village People” look like the perfect children’s table activity and table decoration all in one. All you need are toilet paper tubes, colored paper, glue and some markers – although we’re dying to try putting our kids in the pilgrim and American Indian roles by printing appropriately sized family photos on lightweight paper, then cutting out the little faces and gluing them in place.

Anyway, here’s how to make these guys: wrap a rectangle of colored paper – a brown shade for the Indians, black for the pilgrims – around each tube, attaching it with glue or double sticky tape. Draw a little face on a 2×3 inch piece of paper and glue it into place. Glue on hair – cut a fringe into one end of a paper rectangle, then roll it around a pen to make it curly. Glue it on!

All that’s left are the embellishments. Your American Indian needs a paper headband and feathers. Your pilgrims could probably use white collars and a bonnet or hat with square buckle. Click here for directions from Family Fun.

Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008
Under: Crafts, Thanksgiving | No Comments »

FAMILY TRAVEL: Croatian Adventures

The Pollaks in Croatia
Forget Hawaii. Put Croatia on your must-see, family vacation destination list, says the Pollak family. This Mediterranean country has something for everyone – gorgeous sights, wonderful food and friendly people. “We had drinks on top of a castle turret under a full moon, and stood on the streets of Marco Polo’s hometown,” they said. “It was a few weeks filled with culture but also relaxation, awe and comfort. Families with kids of any age could really love this place. We did!”

THE TRAVELERS: Novato residents Randy and Cristy Pollak and their daughters Erin, age 22, and Dana, age 18 and a freshman at Cal State Northridge.

THE TREK: “We traveled from Zagreb to Dubrovnik and saw highlights of Croatia over three weeks — day trips to the Pula Coliseum, hilltop towns, lakes and the Dalmatian islands of Hvar and Korcula. It was a spectacular paradise at every turn! History, art, natural beauty, friendly English speaking people, and a good safe feeling everywhere.”
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Posted on Sunday, November 23rd, 2008
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4 DAYS until Thanksgiving: Create Old-World feel

carriedavecornoffering08smTraditions rank pretty high for me when it comes to holidays, but not necessarily because of their ties to the past. Carrie Franzwa is the exact opposite. Bored with Thanksgiving, she dug into the roots of the holidays and now would put most of us to shame when it comes to trying to relive an authentic First Thanksgiving experience. Franzwa’s family dress the parts, cook in an outdoor fire pit and even use replicated place settings from 1621. Her expertise, along with how-to instructions for trying this yourself, are part of the book, “The American Patriot’s Treasury of Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas” (Booksurge Publishing, $19.95).

Franzwa also provides tips in an online article for “Thanksgiving Time Travel under $50.” I’m not much for dressing up (Halloween and I aren’t exactly tight anymore) and I could never master cooking over an open flame while camping, but some of Franzwa’s ideas are pretty interesting. In particular, I like the idea of ditching the salt and pepper shakers and trying a communal salt dip — it sounds like a great way to keep the kids entertained. For a closer look at creating Old World table settings, continue reading…

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Posted on Sunday, November 23rd, 2008
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5 DAYS until Thanksgiving: Cool table toppers

FOOD THANKSGIVING 4 CSI confess, while I have part of my mother’s crafty touch, I’m still a relative newcomer in the holiday host department. Christmas I have down pat: tree, lights, garland, wreaths and every conceivable decorating knick knack in between (we even had to build a new storage closet to hold the Christmas decor). When it comes to Thanksgiving, I’m essentially a decorating rookie. Aside from a cornucopia, a little garland and an odd knick knack or two, my house still looks stuck in Halloween.

But I’m on tap to host the big turkey dinner, and no way am I leaving the dining room table looking like a neglected afterthought. It’s time to get creative, while sticking with a minimalist approach. After all, most eyes will be on the turkey. So, really all I want is a simple table topper. I accomplished mine for under $10. I took a low-set basket that was kicking around the house, filled it with pine cones and wrapped the handle with wired fall-themed ribbon. It works, and so do these other tricks and tips…

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Posted on Saturday, November 22nd, 2008
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BRONX MOWGLI??

Ashlee Simpson (Abaca Press)Ahem. Seems Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz just named their baby Bronx Mowgli. Yeah, as in the less-than fashionable New York borough and the protagonist of the “Jungle Book.” How weird is that? Very, says Bruce Lansky, the self-styled Baby Name Guru, although at least the kid’s initials will be BMW. “I think he’ll be called that or Beemer in school. Either would be easier (and more fun) to live with than Bronx Mowgli.”

But why would the rocking Wentzes go with that pairing when there were so many other terrible options out there?

Posted on Friday, November 21st, 2008
Under: Babies & Tots | No Comments »

SCHOOL NEWS: Vallejo Sexual Assault, Budget Woes

School activities (Lexington Herald-Leader)
School and university leaders are hitting the fax machines – wait, they still use those? – to vent their frustration over impending state budget cuts. And there’s outrageous news out of Vallejo, where district officials hushed up the sexual assault of a middle school girl on the tennis courts.

Let’s start with the budgetary woes, shall we? CSU officials are seething over proposals that would add another $66.3 million to cuts that were already estimated at $246 million. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, November 21st, 2008
Under: Schools | No Comments »