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Back to School: Preparing Your Child for the Classroom

It’s back to school season; a time parents celebrate and kids, well, don’t. Perhaps your son or daughter will be much more excited about going back to school this year with the right encouragement from you. Allowing your son or daughter to be a little bit more independent when it comes to preparing for the school year and encouraging extracurricular activity are all ways to make sure your child doesn’t dread waking up after the summer is over. If you’re having a hard time getting your child motivated about returning to the classroom, here are some suggestions that will help:

Preschool and Elementary School-aged Children

If your child is beginning preschool, you’ll want to be extra sensitive regarding this very important transition. At least two weeks before preschool starts, talk to your child about going to school, and ask what they will like about being a student. It’s also a good idea to practice being away from your child for hours at a time, so that he or she will get used to not being around you throughout the whole day.

preschoolIf you can find books or videos about the first day of school at your local library or bookstores, take a few of these home to read to your child, so that he or she will get used to the idea that ‘big boys and girls’ go to school, and that starting school is definitely a good thing. Reading to your child about the first day of school will also let them know that it is all right to be afraid or nervous, but school is necessary for learning, and will even help them to make new friends. You should also go shopping with your preschooler to purchase supplies that he or she will need for school and home. For instance, if you’re buying crayons or paint for school, purchase a smaller box of crayons at home, so that your child can practice coloring and drawing at home. This will get your preschooler used to the idea of homework, so the concept won’t be so foreign when he or she reaches elementary school.

On the first day of preschool, make sure that you can take your child to school yourself, and let him or her get used to the environment before you leave. You may not be able to do this every day, but try to be in your child’s classroom to say goodbye in the morning for at least a week or so, until he or she gets used to this major change in their day.

For elementary school students, especially those entering kindergarten, it’s important to talk about the way your son or daughter has grown in the past year, and to ask what they’ll want to get out of school in the coming year. If you can, speak to the principal of your child’s school during the summer, so that you can get an idea of exactly what your child needs to know before the coming school year. Take about an hour each day to review familiar academic concepts to your child, and slowly introduce new learning tools during the summer, so that your son or daughter won’t be so overwhelmed in the classroom.

When you’re ready to go shopping for the first day of school, take some of your child’s clothes from the closet to see what still fits. This will not only help you to decide how many new outfits you need to buy, but it will help your child to see how much he or she has grown. If your child has to wear a uniform to school, check with local retailers in your area to see which stores are offering discounts. And, let your child be involved in shopping for school clothes as well; let them choose their favorite colors or styles as much as possible, so that they will wear their clothes with confidence and feel more comfortable about starting school.

You’ll also want to take your child to the doctor before school starts for an exam. If your child has to take medication regularly, make sure that he or she knows the time of the dosages, in case they have to visit the school nurse during the day. You can also make sure that your child is feeling good about going back to school by taking time to have a discussion with your son or daughter about their feelings about returning to school. Make sure that your child is comfortable expressing fear or anxiety about going back to school, and be sensitive to their concerns.

About a week or so before school starts, you should get your child back into ‘student mode’. Bedtime should be adjusted to the time your child usually goes to sleep during the school year. All forms that need to be turned in to the school should be signed and returned before the first day of school. You should also take your son or daughter to the new classroom to meet the teacher a couple of days before the first day of school, so that he or she will already be used to the room and can get a first impression of the teacher before school starts. If your child’s school has an open house before the first day, make sure that you make time to go, especially if this is your child’s first year in the school.

The day before school, help your child pick out an outfit for the first day, and as much as possible, make his or her lunch the night before. Let your child perform these tasks for the most part, and step in when you need to. This will help your son or daughter to learn independence, as well as instill the confidence that is needed to make the most of school. If you can, take your son or daughter to school yourself on the first day, and be sure to leave promptly when the bell rings after a cheerful goodbye.

Middle and High School Students

By this time, your child may be a little more excited about going back to school, since friendships have been established, and school is an outlet for a child to express independence. Now is the time in your child’s life where you’ll have to grant more privileges and freedom, so use your best judgment when helping your child to choose after school activities and social events to attend during the school year. Letting your son or daughter do his or her own school shopping this year is a great way to show them that you trust their judgment and have confidence in their decisions.

Even though your child may be a little older, you should still make time to discuss his or her concerns about returning to school. Although your child is definitely used to going to school at this point and have established friendships at school, the middle and high school years can be a very awkward time. Your son or daughter may still be desperately searching for social acceptance, or may be unsure about his or her talents and abilities, and you need to be aware of this before the school year begins. Even though your child may rely heavily on the suggestions of friends during this time in their lives, your feedback still matters very much. Your son or daughter still needs your encouragement and advice, so make sure that your child knows that you are available to talk anytime during the school year, not just before the first day.

To keep your child focused on his or her studies throughout the year, make sure that there is a quiet, well-lit place in the house that can be designated for homework. You should also make sure that your computer is equipped to download certain software that your kids will need to complete school assignments. Set up a schedule with your son or daughter to determine daily homework time, so that they will stay organized throughout the year.

The morning of the first day of school, try to get up a little early to make a special breakfast for your son or daughter. Handle any last-minute tasks before seeing them off for the day, and make sure that you tell your son or daughter where you’ll be all day so they’ll know how to reach you. You may not need to drop your son or daughter off at school yourself (since they may die of embarrassment), so send your child off with a word of encouragement and a big hug-they’ll never be too big for that.

Tilapia: Delicious Fish for Low-Fat, Low-Carb Diets!

Tilapia has been an important food staple in Mediterranean and African countries since ancient times. Legend tell us that the disciple Peter fished for tilapia, and that it is the fish that Jesus fed the masses with.

Tilapia is the common name for many species of Cichlid. The fish comes in range of colors, from gray to blue-black, light red or bright golden red. This small fish, similar in shape to a sunfish, is usually harvested at 1-1/2 to 2 pounds.

A freshwater fish native to tropical climates, tilapia is raised on fish farms in North and South America, making it an ideal food for those who are concerned about the environment. Fish farming allows the species population to be controlled, without the danger of the species being fished into extinction, and gives consumers a constant and consistent supply year round.

This delicious, sweet-tasting fish is low in fat and carbohydrates and high in protein. A four-ounce serving (before cooking) contains 100 calories, with 25 of those calories from fat. A serving also provides 0.5mg saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 60g sodium, 21g protein, and 1g total carbohydrates.

Tilapia can be purchased fresh or frozen, as whole fish, skin-on fillets, or boneless, skinless fillets. The meat is white, but the red-skinned varieties may have a pinkish color. The skin is edible but may have a bitter taste. The mild, flaky meat is takes seasoning well and lends itself to any cooking method. Tilapia can be substituted for other fish in most fish recipes, and works especially well in recipes for red snapper, sea bass and porgy.

The fillets are small and thin, and cook quickly. This versatile fish can be broiled, baked, grilled, sauteed, poached, steamed or microwaved for a low-fat meal (provided the cook doesn’t add extra fats). It can also be battered or breaded, and deep fried or pan fried.

When preparing tilapia, don’t handle it too much. This flaky fish will fall apart easily when cooked. Tilapia can be marinated, but leave it in the marinade for only a short time or it will break down the structure of the meat.

When buying fresh tilapia, use it within three days and keep it wrapped tightly in plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Tilapia can be frozen in plastic wrap or an airtight container for up to four months.

Here are some simple tilapia recipes you can try:

Coat boneless tilapia fillets with an egg wash and seasoned bread crumbs, then place on a baking sheet coated with non-stick spray. Bake at 400 degrees F for10-15 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Try this easy Tilapia Gratin: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and butter a shallow baking dish. Lay boneless fillets in the bottom of the dish. Combine a can of cream of celery soup with 1/4 cup milk, and warm the mixture in a saucepan. Pour the soup mixture over the fish, and sprinkle with grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the top is browned and the fish flakes easily.

Marinate tilapia with your favorite salad dressing or barbecue sauce, then grill 3 to 4 minutes per side, turning once.

Broken pieces can be added to pasta, salads, soups, sauces.

Tilapia is excellent for fish tacos!

How to Make a Great Cheesecake: Simple Techniques to Improve Cheesecake Quality

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that it is very difficult to make a great cheesecake. I won’t try to tell you that my cheesecakes are always flawless. I have, however, discovered how to make a great cheesecake consistently.

Before you start your cheesecake, you need to select a recipe and assemble the ingredients. This may seem like a very obvious, basic step. It is also a very important step. Once you have selected your recipe, following the tips and techniques in this article will help ensure that your cheesecake comes out great.

Just like anything else you make, cheesecake requires a good recipe. Whether you choose a simple or an elaborate recipe depends only on your preference. If you have not had a lot of luck with cheesecakes in the past, or if this is your first attempt, it is a good idea to begin with an easy, basic cheesecake.

Basic cheesecakes taste great plain or with toppings such as fresh berries. Learning to make a great cheesecake with a basic recipe saves you the aggravation of spending lots of time (or money) on a more impressive cheesecake that doesn’t work out. Once you have learned the techniques to making a great cheesecake, you can move on to fancier, more special varieties.

As with any recipe, your first step should be to sit down and read it over. Make sure you understand all of the terms used in the instructions. Check that you have all of the ingredients on hand – you know how frustrating it can be to have to run to the store when you’re almost done. Finally, be sure that you have the time you will need to complete the recipe. Cheesecakes do take a long time to make, though most of it is baking/cooling, not hands on time.

Once you have selected your recipe and assembled your ingredients, you are ready to make a great cheesecake – no special skills required. The first helpful trick is to fully thaw all of the ingredients and beat the eggs before adding.

The consistency of your cheesecake is dependent upon fully mixing the ingredients. To have a great texture and finish for your cheesecake, you can’t over mix. The best way to strike this balance is to start with soft ingredients and pre-beaten eggs. This allows you to mix everything well without over-beating.

The next trick is the way that you bake your cheesecake. Before you put the cheesecake in the oven, fill a glass or metal baking pan half to three quarters full of water. Place this pan on the rack at the very bottom of the oven. It will create a steam-bath environment which will help ensure a great cheesecake.

Allow the oven to cool completely after baking the crust. Cheesecake bakes best at a low, consistent temperature. Try baking at 225 to 250 degrees. Do not open the oven any more than is necessary, to keep the temperature even.

Use the oven light to keep a close eye on your cheesecake once it is close to done (beginning to “rise” up and look fuller). Your goal is to turn off the oven before the cheesecake begins to brown or crack.

Cheesecakes are very sensitive. Besides liking to take their time, cheesecakes like consistency and don’t like to be shocked. Allow your cheesecake to “rest” in the oven with the door slightly cracked. This will let the cheesecake’s temperature lower more evenly then if you remove it from the oven immediately.

After allowing your cheesecake to cool in the oven for 15 or 20 minutes, remove it to the counter. This is a very good time to run a knife around the outside edges to separate the cheesecake from the pan. Also, if your cheesecake did begin to crack, small cracks can be repaired at this stage. Dip your finger in lukewarm water and use it to smooth over the crack.

Your cheesecake should be left on the counter to cool until it reaches (or at least is very close to) room temperature. The point of all of these stages of cooling is simply to allow the cheesecake to cool gradually, which leads to a better finish.

Cheesecakes will also take a lot of time. Fortunately, the hands on time is minimal. Once you learn the techniques, you can look forward to consistently great cheesecakes!

The Ultimate Guide to Freezing Peanut Butter Sandwiches

This is valuable information if you or your family like peanut butter sandwiches and eat them at least once a month. I recently found out my children are willing to eat peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and jam sandwiches every day or even twice a day. This is good news for me!
1 loaf of whole wheat bread (You could use white, but why sacrifice all those good nutrients?)

Peanut butter? Honey or Jelly or Jam?

On a clean countertop, lay out the bread in sets of two pieces. On one slice spread a very, very thin layer of peanut butter. This will be the slice that the honey, jelly, or jam goes on. You don’t want to put the honey, jelly, or jam directly on the bread if it’s going into the freezer-it would crystallize all gross-like. So, this very, very thin layer of peanut butter protects the bread. Then you can spread the honey, jelly, or jam on top of it. When we do honey, we like to mix it in with the peanut butter. On the second slice of bread spread the peanut butter as thick as you like. Place two pieces together and voila! Place sandwich in a sandwich baggie and into the freezer. When all the sandwiches are frozen, I like to line them all back up in the bread bag.

Prepare all the peanut butter slices first then do all the honey, jelly, or jam slices next. That way you don’t get gooey stuff back in the peanut butter jar.

To thaw: Remove from freezer and thaw at room temperature for an hour.

There will be no sogginess. It’s like you just made it.

How is this valuable to you? Well, if your child likes to eat peanut butter for lunch every single day (and you’re okay with it), make a whole bunch at the start of the week or month. If you like to have emergency sandwiches for unexpected doctor or ER trips or long car rides (which we do if we’re going to the temple 2 hours away), grab your bag of sandwiches and go!

I haven’t tried it yet, but I heard you can also freeze lunchmeat and cheese sandwiches. I wouldn’t recommend putting mayonnaise on it though, because mayonnaise does NOT freeze well. You could keep the extra packets from fast food places and throw it in your lunch so you could add the mayo or mustard later to your sandwich.

Your challenge this week: figure out how much time and money you would save if you sent your child or spouse with a pre-made lunch this week with sandwiches from the freezer.

Nostra Pizza in Miami, FL

Located at 8373 NW 12th St, Doral, FL, most people who’ve lived in Miami (or, worked) have a pretty good idea of where all the hot dining spots are and ask an Miami native about Nostra Pizza, and they will probably tell you it’s worth your hard-earned money! Some come on in and grab a bite to eat! Plus, the ambience makes is the perfect spot for a nice dinner with your sweetheart, making you feel like you’re somewhere in New York perhaps.

What is interesting about Nostra Pizza is that they also serve a reduce breakfast menu, served 8 am to 11 am, with selections like empanadas with spinach, ham, and cheese, for just $1.50, as well as some delicious breakfast combos like the ham and cheese omelet for $3.

The regular, daily menu consists of daily specials, as well as regular selections such as, of course, pizza – around $3 a slice or around $12 a whole pizza. Enjoy pizza choices with toppings like pepperoni, Italian sausage, and chicken, as well as vegetable selections like spinach, mushrooms, pineapple, and there’s even a delicious spinach alfredo pizza!

Or, instead, go with a pasta dish like good old spaghetti with meatballs, just $6, or enjoy other favorites like spinach alfredo, lasagnas (there’s even a chicken lasagna and mushroom lasagna). The restaurant does very well with the selection of gourmet specials, such as stuffed pizza (a must try, either this visit or the next one) that can be stuffed with all kinds of items, but comes with a base of spinach, ricotta, and alfredo sauce. Calzones are delicious options, too, around $5 each, and come with your choice of meats.

Or, instead, opt for a thick sandwich prepared fresh like the ham, cheese, and salami sandwich; or perhaps enjoy a tuna sandwich or even the very popular meatball sandwich oozing with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce! Each sandwich is around $5.

Keep in mind that the restaurant does no serve alcoholic beverages, but you can enjoy some fruity selections like mango, pineapple, guava, or apple drinks from Jugos Naturals. And there are desserts, as well, along with delicious side orders you will want to take advantage of like the garlic bread.

The restaurant can be reached at (305)592-2828.

5 Pink Decorating Themes for a Girl’s Bedroom

These pink decorating themes for a girl’s bedroom are filled with feminine frills and girly fun. They can be tailored to fit any age, from toddler to teenager, and designed in a way to grow with your daughter. The choices in hues are unlimited, from a traditional soft color to a contemporary neon splash and can be pared with any other favorite colors your child may have.

Princess Theme

Break out the tiaras and fill the room with glitter and glam. Use removable wall decals to showcase her favorite princesses of the moment. Hang a prism filled chandelier that will be considered elegant at any age. A canopy bed is a must with this design. The white lace can always be changed later for a more grownup fabric.

Cotton Candy

Use a faux finish on the walls to mimic the soft swirls found in cotton candy. Ask at your local home improvement store for a kit to it simply and easily. Complete the fair theme with musical carousals and other magical rides found at a carnival.


This pink decorating theme for a girl’s bedroom can be as whimsical or modern as you want. Paint the walls a crisp white and the trim a neon pink. Use a flamingo statue as the focal point of the space and dress it up in an outfit for extra fun. If your daughter decides that she doesn’t like the design anymore, take out the flamingo and pair the pink with another neon color for modern contrast.


Paint the walls a soft hue. When decorating a pink bedroom for a girl in a rose theme, add other garden touches to fit your daughter’s personal style. Attach a white trellis to the wall, or install a garden swing in the corner of the room. Bring in pictures of butterflies and birds and white wicker furniture to complete the scene.


This pink decorating theme for a girl’s bedroom can be tailored to fit many interior design tastes, for any age. Hang shelving with heart cutouts on the side. Bring in swans, doves and other symbols of love. As your daughter gets older, she can change out pictures of valentines to famous romantic couples throughout history.

When figuring out how to decorate a pink bedroom for a girl, mix and match as many of the themes as she wants. As she gets older, it will be easy to tailor the colors to fit into a Shabby Chic style or Parisian feel.

The Enlightened Cook – Suggestions for Kitchen Lighting

Throw on a tank top and well-worn jeans, add a vintage blazer and a pair of designer shoes. The result? Those alligator pumps make the basic ensemble chic. One well chosen accessory makes the outfit. In home design, thoughtful lighting acts as jewelry for the room. Casual kitchens become personalized with the addition of art and antiques. Formal elements add dimension to formally function-focused rooms. General lighting and task lighting is always necessary, but current trends are focused on pieces that are more art than appliance.

Kitchens require layered lighting. Soft yellow incandescents, including recessed downlights, work for general lighting. Crisp white light is best for work areas. Rely on halogen bulbs for task lighting, mounted underneath shelves to avoid shadows. The basic scheme can be controlled with programmable dimmer switches. New designer-colored controls can be pre-set to favorite settings like a car radio. The next layer is more decorative, but also provides ambient glow. Kitchens are put to many family purposes, and the lighting needs to be just as versatile.

Pendant Lights

Hanging pendants play perfectly above center islands. Available in a dizzying array of styles, they add a creative pop. Glass shades echo all of the shapes of cocktail glasses: upside down martinis, flutes, goblets, and highballs, as well as orbs, cubes, and drums. Hand-blown glass is popular in the caramel and chocolate tortoiseshell tones, mod multicolored swirls, primary brights, and deep jewel tones. Monorail tracks can be straight or curlicue over islands. Groups of three lights tend to look best.


Turn everyday dinners into fine dining under an exquisite lighting. Brilliant cut crystal chandeliers give any kitchen a couture vibe. Classicists should indulge in curling polished silver, gilded, or bronze frames with electrified candlesticks and romantic tear-drop pendants. Edgier folks should opt for more geometric frames with cascading ribbons of pendants. Make the look more contemporary with amethyst, black, or red crystals.

Don’t be afraid to bring extravagant chandeliers into more casual kitchens. Just as diamonds wear well with any wardrobe, they add a little class. Shadeless chandeliers are in fashion, though capricious types can change shades depending on mood or season. Eccentric mixes are encouraged this season – just pay attention to scale. As a general rule, add the width and length of the room. The sum (in feet) is the number of inches the diameter of the proposed fixture.


Flood the kitchen with sun. Open up small quarters by taking advantage of natural light. Skylights and glass brick walls are aesthetic light sources that won’t sacrifice privacy.

Accent Lighting

As in living areas, use small spots to draw the eye to the focal point of the room, whether it be art or architectural features. Uplights on top of cabinetry will highlight high ceilings. Adding touch-control lighting to glass front cabinets helps showcase the treasures within.

Treat light fixtures as works of art themselves. Let them express your personality. Embrace color and luxury in your lighting scheme and your kitchen’s sure to be in style.