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7 St. Patrick’s Day Facts to Share with Kids

March 15, 2016

By Jessica Vician

7 St. Patrick’s Day Facts to Share with Kids

St. Patrick’s Day is known for a lot of things, but did you know it started as a religious holiday in Ireland and was first celebrated in the U.S. to help Irish soldiers feel less homesick?

Share these facts with your kids to give them a better understanding of the legends, superstitions, and history behind the March 17 celebration.

Why do the Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
St. Patrick is believed to have died on March 17. He is known for bringing Christianity to Ireland, which is why the day he died is an Irish national holiday.

Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S.?
It all started before we signed the Declaration of Independence. Irish soldiers were fighting for the British Army on American soil, and they held a St. Patrick’s Day parade to help the soldiers feel less homesick through music and friends.

Years later, when the Irish immigrated to the United States, they continued their traditions from their old country in their new country by celebrating the holiday.

What are leprechauns?
According to Irish legend, leprechauns are small, Irish faeries who work very hard as cobblers and craft specialists, earning a lot of gold. But they were very thrifty, and it’s said that leprechauns would bury their gold in pots at the end of the rainbow.

The legend says that if you catch a leprechaun, you can ask him where he hid his gold and he must tell you the truth.

Why do you have to wear green?
It’s tradition that if you don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, anyone is allowed to pinch you.

Why do we eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day?
It all comes down to the other green stuff: money. Corned beef and cabbage used to be the least expensive options for meat and vegetables.

The Irish ate a lot of salted pork in the 19th century, so when Irish immigrants were looking for an American option for salted meat, they found corned beef was the least expensive choice.

They paired it with cabbage because cabbage was (and still is) an inexpensive vegetable in the U.S.

Why do we wear shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day?
Shamrocks are three-leaf clovers that are supposed to give you good luck on St. Patrick’s Day. They represent Ireland’s magic number of three and also represent the Holy Trinity in the Christian religion, which are the Father (God), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.

Why are four-leaf clovers lucky?
Clover plants don’t naturally produce four-leaf clovers, only three-leaf clovers. Finding a four-leaf clover is quite the anomaly, which makes you very lucky!

Tags :  academicholiday

Good Times for All: 10 Thanksgiving Family Activities for All Ages

November 24, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Good Times for All: 10 Thanksgiving Family Activities for All Ages | How can you spark that good energy early and ensure everyone makes the most of the holiday before and after that meal? Encourage your kids to take advantage of their family time this year with these activities for all ages. | A family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner.

Sitting down to the table on Thanksgiving is a great feeling. The cooking is done, the food smells delicious, and everyone is eagerly awaiting that first bite.

So how can you spark that good energy early and ensure everyone makes the most of the holiday before and after that meal? Encourage your kids to take advantage of their family time this year with these activities for all ages.

Kids 3-10

  • Get crafty. Prepare Thanksgiving-themed art projects for your kids to do with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Use our Pinterest board to find cute project inspiration.
  • Sing a song. Rent a karaoke machine for the kids to sing their favorite songs after dinner. The adults can sit back and digest while the kids put on the show.
  • Perform a play. Speaking of shows, if you have a group of future Tony Award winners in the house, ask them to put on a play at the end of the day. They’ll spend the afternoon working on the script and rehearsing, and they’ll be so excited to share their talent with the family after dinner.

Ages 11-13
Middle school kids are sometimes difficult to please. If yours like playing with younger kids, encourage them to help with the play or karaoke show. You can also try these conversation starters:

  • Make it a game. Before guests arrive, challenge your child to talk to each member of your extended family by the end of the day. Give them a few questions to ask everyone throughout the day and invite your child to talk about their common threads at dinner.
  • Cook together. Task your tween with a recipe and encourage them to ask an aunt, uncle, or grandparent for help. It will give them a project to work on together and spark more conversation.
  • Have a deck of cards handy. Playing cards can bring the family together, as games encourage us to be competitive and rely on each other to teach and learn the rules.

Ages 14-18
Just like kids in middle school, teenagers might need a little prodding to make the most of the holiday with family. In addition to cooking together and playing cards, try these activities with your teen:

  • Give them talking points. Encourage your child to ask aunts, uncles, and grandparents about their first concert, the first album they bought, or other things that interest your child. While the answers may highlight the age difference, they can also spark conversations about what it was like to live through certain decades that your teen missed out on.
  • Start a new tradition. Ask your teen what kind of holiday tradition they would like to see every year. Assuming it’s doable, have your teen explain their idea to the family at dinner and start right away.
  • Give your teen something to look forward to. If your teen is more focused on seeing friends, host a dessert party after dinner. Your teen can invite their friends over and the family members who are still there can meet the friends and share in that experience.

College students
Your student coming home from college for the holiday will probably be grateful for a home cooked meal and a comfortable bed, so take advantage of that gratitude and encourage them to learn more about their other family members.

Once a person starts college, they start to see the world a little differently. Their studies are more focused on what they want to learn, not what they’re required to learn.

Embrace that shift by encouraging your student to talk to their grandparents. They have lived through a different time than your child and might shed some light on topics your child might be more interested in now.

For instance, did a grandparent serve in Vietnam? What were politics like when the grandparents were growing up? What types of shows were on television?

Not only will the grandparents want to share about their past, but your child will gain great perspective and learn something about their family that they might not have known before.

Do you have tried-and-true activities that foster family bonding over the holidays? Share your secrets below so we can try them this week!


5 Healthy and Creative Halloween Party Foods

October 6, 2015

By Nikki Cecala

It’s difficult to come up with healthy, satisfying treats for children at Halloween parties, so I recently took on the challenge. Not only did I try to find amazing recipes for all ages to enjoy, but I also tried to make the food so appealing that the kiddies would beg for more!

These recipes were the biggest hits for the eyes and the taste buds. Bring these fun treats to your child’s classroom Halloween party or to the family bash you’re throwing this year.

BOOnana Pops

5 Healthy and Creative Halloween Party Food | Boonana pops, recipe and photo via Amber's Recipes | Banana pops covered in white chocolate with chocolate chips for the eyes and mouths of the ghosts.

Photo and recipe via Amber's Recipes

Ingredients and materials:
Skewers (sharp edges trimmed) or wooden or plastic treat sticks
Bananas (one banana will give you two pops)
White chocolate
Raisins or chocolate chips

First, slice the banana in half. Insert the skewer or wooden/plastic stick into the thick end of each banana half. Place the bananas on wax paper or a plate and put in the freezer for at least three hours.

Once the bananas are frozen, place the white chocolate in the microwave (30 seconds) or in a pot on the stove to melt. Stir it frequently. I recommend putting the melted white chocolate in mug so it’s easier to dip the banana into. Dip the bananas in the white chocolate one at a time and then place on the wax paper.

Quickly add the chocolate chips or raisins for the eyes (and mouth if you prefer) before the chocolate hardens. When finished, place back into the freezer until ready to serve.


5 Healthy and Creative Halloween Party Foods | Frankenguac, recipe and photo via Dine and Dish | Frankenstein's face is made of guacamole, with blue corn chips serving as hair, sour cream as eyeballs, and olives as pupils and the mouth.

Photo and recipe via Dine and Dish.

This is a fun and quick recipe.

A batch of your favorite guacamole
Handful of blue tortilla chips
2 tablespoons sour cream
¼ cup sliced black olives

First, make sure you have a rectangular platter. Spoon the guacamole onto the platter using a flat-edged rubber scraper to shape the guacamole.

Place the blue tortilla chips near the top of Frankenstein’s head with the triangle tip pointing downward. Add two dollops of sour cream a few inches under the chips onto the guacamole for the eyes. Place a sliced black olive in the middle of the sour cream eyes, with the hole of the olive facing down.

As for the mouth, I recommend looking at a picture of Frankenstein to get the idea. Push sliced olives with the rounded edges facing up into the guacamole.

Bloody Brains

5 Healthy and Creative Halloween Party Foods | Bloody brains made with cauliflower and beet hummus. Recipe and photo via Jeanette's Healthy Living

Recipe and photo via Jeanette's Healthy Living

Scare the kids with this healthy treat!

Ingredients and materials:
1 head cauliflower (cut into florets)
Virgin olive oil
Ground pepper
6 roasted beets
¼ cup roasted pine nuts
Balsamic vinegar
Parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the cut up cauliflower with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place a piece of parchment paper onto the baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower for about 20-30 minutes or until tender.

In a food processor or blender, combine the roasted beets and pine nuts, blending until the nuts are finely ground. Add olive oil and vinegar and blend again until smooth. Use a spoon to smear the roasted beet hummus or “blood” on a plate and top with the “brain,” (the cauliflower).

Dracula’s Teeth

5 healthy and creative Halloween Party Foods | Dracula's dentures are made of cookies, marshmallows for teeth, red-tinted vanilla frosting for gums, and slivered almonds for fangs. | Photo and recipe via The Girl Who Ate Everything

Photo and recipe via The Girl Who Ate Everything

This was super fun to make. While it’s more delicious than healthy, you can vary the recipe to swap a gluten-free version of the cookies if needed.

1 package refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough (or your favorite cookie recipe)
½ cup red-tinted vanilla frosting
1¾ cup miniature marshmallows
Slivered almonds

Prepare cookies as directed on package or according to your favorite recipe. Once the cookies are cooled, cut each in half for 48 halves (assuming you make 24 cookies). Then, frost the bottoms of all the cookie halves.

Place six marshmallow teeth around the curved edges of 24 halves. Place the other frosted cookie half on top of the marshmallows. Insert two almond slivers in between the teeth for fangs. If the fangs do not stay put, dip the tips into the frosting.

Pumpkin Fudge

5 healthy and creative Halloween party foods | Pumpkin fudge recipe via Blissful Basil.

Photo and recipe via Blissful Basil

Did you really think I was going to give you five recipes and not include pumpkin? You can decorate this fudge how you please after it’s made, but here is the basic recipe that is “vegan, gluten-free, paleo, and free of refined sugars,” according to Ashley at Blissful Basil.

½ cup of coconut butter (NOT oil)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin purée
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons creamy almond butter
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Fine grain sea salt

Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over slow heat. For 3-5 minutes, whisk constantly until everything is melted.

Using coconut butter, grease a small container (3x5 or 4x6) and pour the mix into the container. Freeze for one hour.

Remove the block of fudge from the container by turning it over and tapping until the fudge releases. Cut the fudge up into small slices and store in the refrigerator (for soft fudge) or freezer (for firm fudge).

What are your favorite healthy Halloween recipes? Share with us in the comments below.


Father’s Day for the Modern Dad

June 18, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Father’s Day for the Modern Dad | This year, avoid the cliché gifts for Father's Day and give dad an experience he really wants based on the type of dad he is. | A dad works from home on his laptop while his daughter naps on the couch next to him.

We know the Father’s Day cliché gifts: the ties, the money clips, the cuff links. But today’s American father is very different from the father who might enjoy or need those gifts. Our idea of what a father is and should be has changed, and we can reflect that change with how we celebrate Father’s Day.

Back in the old days (which are as recent as the 90s), men were usually the primary breadwinners. They worked all day, so when a father’s children saw him, it was often at dinner and on the weekends. To his kids, those impersonal Father’s Day gifts seemed to be perfect for the man they didn’t really know. They knew he wore a tie to work or was responsible for the money, so those gifts made sense.

Now, defining fatherhood is just as complicated as defining motherhood, so buying a tie and saying “Happy Father’s Day” isn’t enough anymore (and thank goodness—who wants a generic gift anyway?).

Tradition suggests that dads should spend time with their children on Father’s Day. But isn’t it a day to celebrate and thank dads for all they do? This year, instead of a tie or a new shirt, think about the kind of father he is and help your child plan accordingly.

  • Is he a stay-at-home dad: hands-on, working hard every day to keep his son or daughter healthy, on time, and constantly learning? 
  • Is he the breadwinner: working long hours but trying to see his kids as much as he can and shape their lives in a positive way?
  • Is he a dad who works from home: balancing conference calls with playtime?

Whatever version of a father he is, he deserves a fitting Father’s Day celebration.

  • If he’s hands-on all the time, maybe the perfect gift is a day to himself. Let the kids make him breakfast in bed and thank him for everything he does, then let him be—whether that’s getting the kids out of the house so he can nap or sending him to a game with friends.
  • If he works long hours in a job where he’s on his feet, treat him to an affordable foot or body massage, let the kids make him lunch or dinner, and give him control of the remote for the day.
  • If he works from home during the week, get him out of the house. Head to a nature preserve or a park and organize an activity where he can watch the kids play while taking in the sunshine and smell of nature.

On Father’s Day, thank him for everything he does for the kids and show him he is appreciated. Gifts don’t have to cost money, but thinking about the type of dad and person he is and giving him an appropriate experience (with or without the kids) is a great way to say thanks to the modern dad.


Healthy Grilling Recipes

May 21, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Healthy Grilling Recipes for Memorial Day Weekend | Most people love good barbecue. On this Memorial Day weekend, expand your repertoire to include healthy grilling recipes that will have the kids begging for seconds. | A family gathers outside at a table in the lawn while kebabs are cooking on the grill.

It's (unofficially) barbecue season, when evening walks around the neighborhood are highlighted by smoky smells wafting from grills.

Most people love good barbecue, and I’m sure your family has a few treasured recipes that you cook throughout the summer. This weekend and throughout the summer, expand your repertoire to include healthy grilling recipes that will have the kids begging for seconds.

Skewers are a great way to grill your protein and vegetables at the same time, making for a quick and easy well-rounded meal. These marinated Greek chicken skewers feature lean chicken protein and multi-colored vegetables from red and green peppers and red onion.

Food on a stick
Instead of eating the fried food on a stick at fairs and festivals, try a few of these 38 healthy foods on a stick that may or may not require grilling, but still represent a slice (or stick) of summer.

Grilled seafood
Salmon on the grill is one of the best ways to enjoy this rich and flavorful fish, which is full of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, it keeps your kitchen from stinking for days. Try this honey soy grilled salmon with edamame for a satisfying dinner.

If your kids prefer shrimp to salmon, there are a myriad of grilled shrimp recipes available. As long as you avoid sugary marinades, shrimp are healthy and easy to grill quickly.

Alternative burgers
Turkey, salmon, and even portobello burgers are all protein-rich and leaner alternatives to beef burgers. The next time the kids ask for burgers, try this California turkey burger recipe or this grilled portobello mushroom burger and see if they prefer it to hamburgers.

Barbecue Sauce
Did you know that most store-bought (and even homemade) barbecue sauces have lots of hidden sugar? From molasses to brown sugar, the added sweeteners can dose your kids with a sugar high (and subsequent crash).

Play around with your own homemade barbecue sauce, using as little added sugar as possible. This recipe from Whole Foods only uses chopped dates for the sweetened effect, which is a fiber-rich alternative to other sugar forms.

Grilled corn is so delicious. If you’re in the Midwest where there is sweet corn a-plenty, your family won’t even need to add butter—the fresh sweet corn flavors develop nicely when heated on the grill. The kids will love the slight charred look and sweet taste.

What are your family’s favorite healthy grilling recipes? Share them with us in the comments below.

For a complete guide to raising healthy, well-developed kids, check out our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon

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