Smoothie Wars

How do you get kids to eat healthy and have fun while they’re doing it? Challenge them to a smoothie contest! Children love to create in the kitchen, and these vitamin-packed drinks satisfy hunger while offering a delicious afterschool alternative to prepackaged sugary, starchy snacks. Kids will love going to “war” with siblings, friends, and even parents! Who can make the most flavorful, the prettiest, the greenest, or the ugliest smoothie? Which recipe uses the craziest ingredients? Whose concoction has the coolest name? The beauty of making a smoothie is that there’s no wrong way to do it. You can mix and match ingredients to your liking and don’t need to measure exact amounts. You are limited only by your imagination! The best part is that these nutrient-rich masterpieces can be whipped up in about five minutes. Provide an array of fresh ingredients for your junior chefs, like bananas, watermelon, pears, apples, pineapple, berries, yogurt, and fruit juice or milk. Instead of plain or vanilla yogurt, kick up the flavor profile with kid-friendly options, like caramel, chocolate cherry, pineapple-coconut, strawberry cheesecake, orange cream, or mint chocolate. And consider opting for Greek yogurt, which contains twice the protein of regular yogurt. For fewer calories, replace whole milk (typically 148 calories per cup) with vanilla-almond (90 calories) or coconut-almond milk (60 calories). These nutrient-rich almond blends actually provide 50% more calcium than milk and will add rich, nutty undertones to the recipe. If you prefer to use juice as your liquid base, try orange, apple, grape, mango, pomegranate, pineapple, or a mix of these sweet nectars. In addition to the fresh fruit, add about a ½ cup of frozen blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries, along with two or three ice cubes. This will make for a thick and frosty beverage. And if you’re giving out scores to Smoothie War competitors, be sure to award bonus points to the chefs who add a handful of vitamin-rich spinach or kale leaves to the blender. They can rest assured that the taste-testing panel won’t detect a hint of green vegetable in their smoothie—all they’ll experience is the refreshing burst of fruity flavors!...
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Summer Theater in the Park

DON’T MISS THIS FABULOUS OUTDOOR EVENT AT WOLFE PARK STARTING TONIGHT! Get ready for another exciting summer of live theater in southwestern Connecticut!  In 2014, Two Planks will be taking audiences to the gritty streets of London with our production of the timeless classic Oliver!  We look forward to your joining us for a fun and exciting evening of theater under the stars. 2014 Summer Workshop Production – OLIVER! Training and performance workshop for actors ages 9-18 Want to purchase tickets?  You can buy tickets online and have them emailed directly to you! Performances:  July 31, August 1,2 (with potential rain dates/location as necessary) Location: Wolfe Park, 285 Fan Hill Road, Monroe, CT What’s more, for the first time every TPTC will be performing outdoors at Wolfe Park in Monroe! Plus, also for the first time, TPTC is offering theater goers the opportunity for dinner and a show.  Join us for an evening of great theater and let your meal be prepared and waiting for you when you arrive.  Gates open at 6:30 for pre-show picnic...
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Gramma’s coming for the holiday, quick pull her hutch out of the attic!

Most of us have a piece of furniture  in our homes that we inherited, and although we love it, we never display or end up just ‘sticking it somewhere’ simply because it is the wrong color or does not match the rest of the decor.  My favorite pieces are hand me downs full of memories, and when it comes to decorating your home, sometimes it’s just a matter of re-decorating instead to preserve those memories. That’s where I come in…helping clients change their vision and restyle something old, into something new.  Some people just can’t fathom putting paint on a beautiful maple, vintage buffet (for example) from their grandmother, but are you truly paying tribute to her by having it sit in the garage or attic? Having it restyled will help you preserve the piece, showcase it and make it part of your home again. Here’s how you get started… 1-Find a piece you love, whether it’s in your house or at your local tag sale. Don’t worry about its condition or its existing color.  As long as it’s not broken, it can be restyled! 2-Find a place in your home that you have a need, or that you can see it being used. Again, don’t worry about its condition or its existing color. 3-What color pallet would you like it to be? Are you thinking of a color pop in that room, or does it need to be more neutral? Keep in mind, the tops and doors do not always need to be the same color as the base. My favorite color combinations are a dark top and a light bottom (or vice versa) as they really play off of each other. 4-Now comes the hard part. With a color in mind, what kind of ‘look’ would you like it to have beyond the color. For example, does it need to be a little distressed with some paint slightly removed? (I always recommend slight distressing in homes with small children. There’s nothing more gut wrenching than watching your child throw a toy at it and seeing the first nick…sigh). You can also have a bit of a wash done over it in an accent color (think a cream colored base with a chocolate wash!). Another option is more of a two toned approach where the first coat is a white, gray, red (just examples), and then the top coat...
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Creating a Sense of Gratitude

It’s never too early to instill a sense of gratitude in our children, and no better time to practice kindness than the Thanksgiving season! Start a dialogue with your child about the many blessings in his or her life. Work together to come up with a list of everything he or she is thankful for. Reflecting on their good fortune helps children foster an appreciation for what they have, while also impressing upon them that there are others less fortunate. Next, brainstorm together: How can we show our appreciation for others? Here are a few ideas to get you started: Notes of appreciation. What better way to show gratitude to the special people in our lives than with a handwritten note, homemade card, or one-of-a-kind painting? It’s a wonderful reminder to a coach, teacher, nurse, grandparent, babysitter, or dance instructor of the positive influence they’ve had on your child’s life. Shopping for a cause. Contact local shelters and food pantries to see what they need in the way of groceries, bedding, clothing, and personal care items (such as toothpaste, soap, and shaving cream). Shop for and deliver the items together. If your child’s school doesn’t already have a food or clothing drive in place for the holiday season, encourage him or her to start one! It’s a great way to give back to the community and to get students to work together toward a common goal. It’s great to donate. Is your child’s room filled with toys, furniture, blankets, and clothes that he or she has outgrown? Pore through closets, toy boxes, and dresser drawers to put together a pile of gently used items for Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or other donation center. Year-round gratitude. While Thanksgiving is the perfect time to introduce or reinforce the concept of gratitude, it’s a practice that should be woven into the fabric of our daily lives. Whether it’s making muffins for a sick friend, weeding a garden for an elderly neighbor, or complimenting a brother or sister on a job well done, there are countless ways for children to practice kindness every day of the year! Marcy Kelman is a mom of two and author of more than 60 children’s books for Disney Publishing Worldwide. Image courtesy of...
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