Posts Tagged ‘education’

The Benefits of Cooking Groups

In Your Food, Your Guest Writers on October 4, 2010 at 8:21 AM

Image Credit Michaela Kobyakov


There’s almost nothing bad that one can really say about cooking groups. Defined for the sake of this article as groups in which likeminded people gather in a single place, cook large quantities of food, and reconvene to do the same thing weekly or monthly, a cooking group provides a number of opportunities: it gives one a chance to meet new people, discover foods and ingredients that one otherwise might not have come across, and come away with leftovers for less than it would cost to eat out or cook for one.  

Cooking clubs may specify a type of food or impose a dietary restriction to attract a specific crowd; for example, a number of cooking clubs exist to produce vegan or vegetarian meals. In doing so, they help people meet others in their community who may have similar social or political interests and bring together a group that may, depending on the surrounding area, be otherwise unserved by the restaurants around them. Others may focus on a style, or each week suggest a guideline to produce variety; one, for example, may emphasize Italian cooking one week, then produce Korean or Indian food the next. In doing so, attendants are forced both to expand their repertoire and get to learn new things to make when cooking outside of the cooking club. 

Some members may have connections of some kind, which can then translate into better deals and better meals for everyone. If a club has an attendant who, for example, butchers meat, that person may be able to provide cuts at a discount as well as in bulk, then share their expertise when that meat is prepared, served, and enjoyed. If a particularly experienced baker participates in one, they can show off the ways in which they prepare certain goods in order to teach other aspiring bakers. Amateur (or professional) beer brewers, winemakers, and distillers can supply their wares as well, adding another element to a cooking club. 

Cooking clubs often also cook enough to leave everyone with leftovers. This is an obvious convenience, as one’s labors are rewarded not just once, but several times throughout the week. Better yet, some produce difficult to make condiments, sauces, reductions, and garnishes, many of which either require costly ingredients or are, for various reasons, prohibitive to make at home in small quantities. By making them for a cooking club, you can get the experience without having a mountain of something that can only last a few days, ensuring that all of it will be used before it turns, expires, or otherwise becomes inedible. 

Organizing and finding a cooking club can be easy. Groups often promote them on social networking sites, friends (and friends of friends) likely know someone involved with one, and co-ops, local grocery stores, and area coffee shops may all help locate cooking clubs. If there are none, start one: by merely talking to your friends, gauging interest, finding a big enough kitchen, and hitting up farmers’ markets and bulk foods aisles, you’ll be well on your way. 

Andrew Hall is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on online schools for Guide to Online Schools.

Character Development and Teens: A Winning Combination!

In Your Guest Writers, Your Health on August 5, 2010 at 8:14 AM

by Traci S. Campbell 

The road to adulthood for most teens is a challenging one. Puberty, mood swings, insecurities, and peer pressure are just some of the hurdles young people encounter as they prepare to face the even bigger challenges lying ahead for them because of the pressure to fit in and be “popular”.  I can clearly remember when the dilemma to wear my IZOD polo shirt versus my off the shoulder sweatshirt (you gotta love the 80’s) was one of my most major decisions of the day!

However, when I look back, I also remember traits and habits that were instilled in me that served as “tools” I have used to weather the storms I have faced in adulthood. These traits and habits can be summed up in two words …. Great Character. This may sound like a trivial (maybe even slightly abstract) concept on the surface, when we talk about practical life skills. But, the effect of having and being mindful of one’s character has far-reaching benefits. Character determines the course of our lives because it is simply the application of certain habits that become “fixed” in our psyche. We then begin to act like we think. And the sooner we develop those certain habits, the better off we are on the road of life.

Just think if character development was just as important and emphasized in school as, say, history or math?  We could change the whole shape of future generations, and ultimately the future of us all, by taking the issue of character development in teens more seriously. But, the good news is that we CAN take baby steps and start with the character development of your own tween or teen at home. And what’s even more good news….the road to instilling great character in your tween or teen is very simple to do:

1. Be a Character MODEL: Your teens and tweens are around you more often than anyone … well … if you exclude the time they spend on the phone or at the mall. 😉  And what they regularly see will surely rub off. Practice good character yourself and they will soak it in like a sponge!  Also practice, and openly discuss your values and morals. It will set up a firm foundation of not only being conscientious of what they do, but it will help to foster open communication between parent and teen as well.

2. Training Begins at Home:  The basic things we all learn to do at home at 10 will affect our lives at 30. Saying thank you, opening the door for an older person or lady, or making up  beds, etc.  sounds insignificant. But the enforcement of these very basic things have long reaching effects later, on how a teen or tween may view life and/or treat others.

3.  Practice Prayer Power: Regardless of your chosen religion or faith, the need for a spiritual foundation is vital to you and your teens (or tweens) mental and emotional health, (and studies have shown that those who practice some form of spirituality have a lower incident of heart disease and depression). So, why not make this an activity you do together on a regular basis?  This provides two benefits: not only will you spend quality time together, but you can grow together spiritually too.

 3. Take Action…Together:  While my own mother is no longer with me, the times I spent doing things with her as a teenager are some of my fondest memories. Make it a point to carve out a specific day and time on a regular basis to do fun things together. Make it a top priority and stick to it…no excuses and no cancellations. Memories will be captured for a lifetime and the bond between you and your teen or tween will be strengthened.

4. Credit Card 101:  While is it “trendy” to sport the latest fashions and “hip” to have the latest cell phone model, the bill that comes later is FAR from trendy or hip! Teach your teens to be a wiser consumer. Limit their spending and at the same time, teach them money management skills. And remember, how you spend and manage your money will truly influence your teen or tween. Help them to understand that they can still have SOME of the newest material things out there…but they surely don’t need to have ALL of them.  🙂

5. More Chores, Please:  Another way of looking at chores is to “assign responsibilities”.  The assignment and completion of these “responsibilities” will set the stage in your teen and tween’s mind that they have obligations to not only themselves, but to others as well.  This will go a long way in how they view their responsibilities in the future. And, like most things, responsibility begins at home, first.

6. Mean What You Say…:   especially when the answer is “NO!”  As a parent, you will be tested by your teen. All parents have experienced this phenomenon. However, stick to your guns and do not back down when your answer of “NO” is truly in their best interest. Sometimes saying “no” is actually saying “yes” to their overall safety and well being and at the same time, instilling true respect for authority.

7. Be the Boss:  Teens really WANT someone they can look up to (whether they admit it or not). They want and need someone that will make them feel protected. And they want and need someone they can get guidance from, especially during the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Establish your ground as a parent and boss…first.

Character development does not have to be complicated or difficult. But it must be consistent and made a priority in your tween’s or teen’s life. Years down the road, they will reflect (as I have) on these teachings and be eternally grateful for the positive impact it will have on their lives.

Traci S. Campbell is an author, public speaker, coach and creator of  The C.H.A.M.P Within, an interactive program that fosters strong mental, and emotional health in young people.  She  also hosts, Heros At Home Radio, a site dedicated to helping and “Celebrating Single Parent Success”.

Budget Friendly Summer Fun!

In budget, You, Your Guest Writers on May 14, 2010 at 7:32 AM

by:  Kristl

   The Budget Diet

Image by Jeremy Doorten


Be prepared for the “I’m bored” syndrome this summer with a few budget friendly summer fun ideas! 

Field Trips:    Plan a field trip every week this summer!   Here’s how…

            #1.  Start by taking your kids to the local library to find some books on your area.

            #2.  Do a simple search:  Free Things to do in (my city).   You’ll be amazed what comes up!

            #3.  Let each child make a list of what they would like to see & do!  Set a budget limit!

            #3.  Think beyond museums and amusement parks…think budget friendly fun like:  a visit to the farmer’s    market,  berry picking, check out different area playgrounds & rate them or take a tour of an area factory! 

            #4.  Pack a picnic lunch!


Summer Book Swap:   A fun way to kick-off a summer of reading!  Here’s how…

            #1.  Invite friends (in the same grade) to bring 3 used paperback books at their current reading level.

            #2.  After the children arrive, display the books on a large table or two.

            #3.  Draw numbers for the order in which the children will choose a book.  If there are 10 children at the party, put numbers 1 – 10 into the drawing.

            #4.  Round 1 begins!  The child that drew #1 picks a book, then #2 takes a turn and so on.

            #5.  Before beginning Round 2, draw numbers again.

            #6.  After the final round, make bookmarks (using scrap paper, markers & assorted stickers) & let the children make their own ice cream  sundaes.

            #7.  HAPPY SUMMER READING!


Fun at Home:

            #1.  Start a summer tradition of having sundaes on Saturday!

            #2.  Family Game Day

            #3.  Family Puzzle Day

            #4.  Taste Test…try different brands of frozen pizza & ice cream, eat & vote for the family favorite!

            #5.  Water Painting…it’s painting without the mess!  You’ll need a bucket of water, a big  fat paint brush & let your child have fun “painting” the driveway, the fence or the picnic table!

            #6.  Lemonade Stand!

            #7.  Teach your children to cook!  Have “cooking school” one day each week, and let your children choose the recipes!  If you don’t have a children’s cookbook, a trip to the library is in order!

            #8.  Plant a garden!

Bonus Feature

Celebrate your child’s next birthday with these creative and budget friendly party ideas!

Garden Party 

1st Birthday Party

Amazing Race Party

Carnival Birthday Party

The Budget Diet is a diet for your wallet…not your waistline!  You’ll discover new money saving tips everyday to help you slim down your daily spending!  The Budget Diet girl Is not a financial planner or an accountant…just a mom that knows how to live the good life on a budget!  Follow The Budget Diet on Facebook and Twitter .

Take a Hike!

In Your World on April 22, 2010 at 11:51 AM

US National Parks



Utah Arches National Park


A quick reminder that entrance into all 392 National Parks is free during National Park Week April 17 – 25.   Go ahead, get out and “Experience Your America”!