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    Grandma's Briefs, Grilled Grandma and all content unless otherwise noted Copyright © 2009-2015, Lisa Carpenter. All rights reserved.
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    Grandma's Back Room

    Tuesday
    Mar052013

    Count down the days until Easter with the latest from Countdown Cal

    While living in the moment may be admirable, there's oh-so-much enjoyment in counting down the days until a special event or holiday — especially when the countdown includes chocolate.

    The folks at Countdown Cal, makers of the popular Halloween Countdown Calendar, have hit gold of a chocolatey sort again with their Easter Countdown Calendar Game.

    This Easter version works much the same as the Halloween version, wherein kids get to open one flap a day for the fifteen days preceding Easter, beginning on March 16. Behind each flap is a crispy chocolate Easter treat made by the RM Palmer Company.

    My grandsons loved the Halloween Countdown Calendar, and I look forward to sharing with them the Easter Countdown Calendars, one for each, thanks to free ones the Countdown Cal folks sent me. Opening the flap for each day before Halloween was a big thrill for both, and I'm sure the Easter version will be just as much fun.

    Not only is there the candy treat for each day, there's an Easter mini picture on each flap for kids to find the matching picture in the garden scene printed on the back of the box.

    Also on the back of the box is the "Countdown Pal" calendar for the kids to mark off each day they've opened a flap, ending on Easter Sunday.

    The Easter Countdown Calendar has two educational components — counting down the days and spotting the objects from the flaps with those on the back — and make for a fun and tasty activity for kids anxiously awaiting Easter.

    In addition, the Countdown Cal company offers various fundraising options for schools and charities.

    For more information on Countdown Cal and to order the Easter Countdown Calendar ($10 each), visit www.countdowncal.com. You can also like Countdown Cal on Facebook.

    Disclosure: I received free samples of the product. Opinions and anecdotes are my own.

    Tuesday
    Mar052013

    Minute® Ready to Serve Rice: Sixty seconds to simple meals

    minute rice

    Working from home has its advantages. One biggie is that I don't have to worry about packing a lunch or storing snacks in my desk drawer. That said, lunches and snacks can become quite boring when leftovers are often the easiest, most accessible option.

    Which is why I jumped at the opportunity to try out the new Minute® Ready to Serve Rice options. The individual cups — two cups per package, each cup one serving — take only sixty seconds in the microwave to prepare a hot and healthy side for a solo lunch.

    Minute Ready to Serve Rice

    I do love rice, any time, anywhere. Adding a few stir-ins made for a full meal in a bowl. One especially cold day, I heated things up by adding extra spicy picante sauce and black beans to my rice, topping it off with a slice of cheese and a sprinkling of cilantro. Super quick. Super easy. Super spicy. Super good. In sixty seconds.

    Minute Ready to Serve Rice

    As I mentioned, I tend to fall back on leftovers for my lunches, especially when I have a deadline to meet and I'm toiling away on the computer. Heating up a serving of Minute® Ready to Serve Rice to include with my leftover egg rolls made for a perfect lunch to enjoy while working.

    rice and eggrolls 

    Minute® Ready to Serve Rice comes in a variety of flavors. The long grain white rice was delicious (and perfect) alone, as well as once I added the beans and picante sauce. I think I'll try adding some pesto next time. Another thing I considered — and will do in the future — is add some vanilla pudding to make a dessert of it. My daughters used to love rice pudding for breakfast, and I hadn't really thought of making it in years, until I considered how simple it would be with the portion-controlled, one-serving  (4.4 ounce) cups of Minute® Ready to Serve Rice. Other stir-in ideas and recipes can be found at www.love-every-minute.com.

    In addition to long-grain white rice, there are plenty of other healthy Minute® Ready to Serve Rice flavors:

    •Whole Grain Brown Rice
    •Brown & Wild Rice
    •Multi-Grain Medley
    •Chicken Rice Mix
    •Italian Rice Mix
    •Spanish Rice Mix
    •Yellow Rice Mix
    •Pilaf Rice Mix
    •Jasmine Rice

    Considering that my husband and I have very different tastes, all those varieties of Minute® Ready to Serve Rice will come in handy for dinners with him, too, not just lunches on my own. In just seconds, he can have the kind he prefers, while I enjoy whichever one I've chosen for the evening.

    Minute® Ready to Serve Rice is an ideal portable solution for lunch or breakfast because you can eat it on the go, straight from the cup. In just 60 seconds, you have fully cooked rice for any meal or snack. You’ll never get bored with your lunch since there are 10 flavorful and wholesome varieties. If you’re looking for a healthy option, Minute® Ready to Serve Rice provides easy portion control since it’s conveniently packaged in two individual single-serve cups.

    Visit http://www.minuterice.com/ for recipes, including Minute® Ready to Serve Stir it Up recipe ideas and more information about the Minute® Rice family of products.

    This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Minute® Ready to Serve Rice.

    Friday
    Feb152013

    Security for seniors living alone: Vtech's Careline Home Safety Telephone System

    My mother-in-law was always a strong, independent woman, even into her late seventies. She lived alone and no one could tell her what to do nor when to do it. She accepted help and assistance reluctantly, if at all. Unfortunately, her determination to manage on her own left her fully dependent on the staff of an assisted living center, unable to care for herself.

    One night a few years ago, after a medical scare that sent her to the hospital, my mother-in-law was determined to return home, determined to change the tank of her required oxygen on her own. Sometime in the wee morning hours — the family isn't sure, as she was alone and can no longer remember herself what happened — my mother-in-law got up to change her oxygen tank, had a stroke with violent seizures in which she hit her head on the wall with tremendous force. No one is sure exactly how long she was unconscious nor on the floor as she was discovered only when my sister-in-law arrived to check on her hours later.

    There's certainly no guarantee that if my mother-in-law were equipped with a device such as the Careline telephone system that she would be back to her old self again, but she surely would have fared better. With such a system, calling for help would have been as easy as pushing a button. Unfortunately, the what ifs are many yet of little consequence as there's no way to turn back time to change the outcome.

    There is a way, though, to avoid a similar circumstance with my own mother, who also lives alone. One of my sisters currently stays with her occasionally, as she's in the midst of a residence change. But on most days and nights, my mom is by herself.

    My mom suffered a stroke several years ago, so the fact she lives on her own is of huge concern not only to her but to her adult children. She worries about what may happen if she falls during the day, has medical issues during the night. My siblings and I worry about the same. That said, she's a young senior — in her early 70s — and wants to live on her own, have her own home. Being relatively healthy and of sound mind, there's no reason for her not to, as long as a few precautions are in place.

    Enter the CarelineTM Home Safety Telephone System. I was offered the opportunity to try out the Careline system from Vtech and knew immediately my mom would be the perfect one to try out the product.

    Together we followed the quick installation guide and had the Careline up and running in no time. The answering system was easy to set up, as was programming speed dial for four folks my mom can call by pressing one button (with a spot for a photo for each of those buttons, for easily remembering which number belongs to whom). We set one button as 911, another is her dear friend and neighbor, who would come running if called.

    The display on the base, handset and pendant are easy to see, easy to figure out their function. "They're big numbers, big letters, big words," Mom said. "I won't have any problem being able to see."

    She also won't have trouble paying a monthly fee for the system as there is no monthly fee. It simply connects to the phone jack, like any other land-line phone.

    The pendant, which she can wear around her neck or clipped onto her waistband or pocket, features two buttons that correspond to those programmed as first and second speed-dial numbers on the base. The pendant can be controlled by voice, but no matter how we tried saying "What is the time?" or such, the recorded woman's response was that she couldn't understand us.

    Also frustrating was that the clasp easily comes undone and needs to be reinforced with SuperGlue or tape. Overall, though, I'm pleased my mom won't be headed out to work in the yard without the pendant, and that if any unfortunate slips, stumbles or worse were to take place, with the touch of one button she'd have a neighbor at her side.

    Between the base and its plentiful and helpful functions, the handset and the pendant, my mom and I are more confident about her safety while alone, day or night.

    "This makes me feel secure and modern," Mom says. "It'll help stop a lot of worries of going to sleep at night alone."

    It'll help stop her kids from worrying about the exact same thing.

    Disclosure: I wrote this blog post while participating in a campaign by BOOMboxNetwork.com on behalf VTech Communications, Inc. and received payment for my participation. All opinions stated within are
    my own.

    Tuesday
    Feb122013

    'Lettuce Love One Another' — A VeggieTales DVD for Valentine's Day

    Beloved Bob and Larry from VeggieTales are off and running with a new DVD just in time for Valentine's Day, VeggieTales Lettuce Love One Another.

    For this love-filled collection, the rotund tomato and perky cucumber characters share three favorite VeggieTales episodes plus five brand-new "Bible Bits."

    VeggieTales episodes in the collection, presented by Bob the Tomato, include:

    • Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry's Big River
    • Abe & The Amazing Promise
    • King George & the Ducky

    And Larry the Cucumber shares the five Bible Bits, each a lesson in and example of forgiving, helping, giving, praying, or sharing.

    Bonus fun: Three silly songs, two story book tales, instructions on how to draw Abe and King George, and more.

    Take a look:

     

    VeggieTales offers up some fun printables to go along with Lettuce Love One Another. The Service Coupons make perfect last-minute Valentine's Day gifts for kids to give and get, and the Kindness Chart keeps kindness front of mind on a daily basis. And, of course, there's a VeggieTales Valentine's Day card for printing on cardstock, too. Click on the graphics thumbnails below for the full-sized printable pages (if you have trouble printing from the page, right-click the full-size image to save to your computer, then print from that).

    Lettuce Love One Another Service Coupons


    Lettuce Love One Another Kindness Chart

    Lettuce Love One Another Valentine


    VeggieTales Lettuce Love One Another, released Jan. 15, is available at all major retail outlets for SRP $12.99.

    Disclosure: I received a copy of the DVD for review. Opinions are my own.

    Sunday
    Feb102013

    Gifts for Valentine's Day or President's Day: Presidential books of historic proportion

    Valentine's Day will soon be upon us. While Cupid would do right by many by showering upon them flowers, chocolates, music and more, some folks might prefer something a little more suited for the holiday following on the heels of Valentine's Day. I'm talking, of course, about President's Day. If your Valentine—or you—enjoy history and all things presidential, here are two books sure to make an ideal gift for either holiday.

    Ronald Reagan's Wisdom for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Charlotte Livingston with commentary by John E. Wade II and Daniel P. Agatino. Regardless of one's political affiliation, the quotes culled from the "Great Communicator's" speeches offer insightful observations that still hold true in our times. That said, this book is one surely to be savored by folks leaning more to the right than the left. Topics in this paperback collection include America, politics, pop culture, God, the economy and more.

    The book is divided into chapters based on the topics, and each page in the chapters features a quote from the former president, followed by commentary by Wade and/or Agatino (most often, both). Reagan's wisdom and vision underscore the fact that although our society has changed much since his presidency, it and we are still very much the same.

    My favorite history lover—my husband—thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the many famous and some not-so-famous witticisms and inspirational quotes from his favorite president. He didn't, though, enjoy the commentary included with each quote quite as much.

    Ronald Reagan's Wisdom for the Twenty-First Century, published by Pelican, has a suggested retail price of $12.95 and is available at most book stores.

     

    George Washington: An Interactive Biography by Rod Gragg. Much has been written about our country's first president, but never in as engaging a manner as this hardcover, colorful book filled with flaps, forms, pockets, pictures, documents and more. Readers—well, more like explorers—are treated to reproductions of historical documents and maps from the front of the book on through to the back, many pulled from parchment pockets or hidden compartments.

    My history hound of a husband delighted in the unique presentation of facts and information on President Washington, trivia and tales that added to the veneration of Washington and a better understanding of his character and the challenges he faced in shaping and protecting our nation.

    I, even though not a huge fan of history, was delighted by the bits and pieces of history shared throughout. I had previously seen—and purchased—books of a similar style, though related to musicians. I had never considered how such presentation can make the acquiring of historical information far easier to swallow for folks who, like myself, fail miserably at the "history" card in games of trivia. I'm pretty sure I'll be a winner going forward in such games, at least as the questions may relate to Washington, simply because it's impossible to not retain massive amounts of information via the bite-sized and tactile nuggets shared in this fascinating edition.

    George Washington: An Interactive Biography, published by Pelican, has a suggested retail price of $34.95 and is available at most book stores.

    Disclosure: I received copies of these books for review. Opinions and anecdotes are my own.

    Tuesday
    Feb052013

    Picture book love just in time for Valentine's Day

    Share some love on Valentine's Day with these picture books and more from Candlewick Press—especially sweet treats for teeny to teen kiddos. 

    Huggy Kissy by Leslie Patricelli ($6.99 / 1-3 years). Patricelli's board books are a favorite of many a toddler, with titles such as two beloved by my oldest grandson, Yummy YUCKY, No No YES YES. Huggy Kissy is no exception and one my youngest grandson thoroughly enjoyed. From Mommy and Daddy to fish and doggy, everyone gives hugs and kisses in different ways. I loved that when it comes to grandmothers, "Grandma's kisses stay all day." Memorable displays of affection throughout.

     

    Love Waves by Rosemary Wells ($8.99 / 18 mos-3 yrs) It's hard when Mommy or Daddy must leave a little one behind as they go to work. Ever-popular Rosemary Wells shows in two chapters—one in which Mommy works, the other it's Daddy—that sending "love waves" is the perfect and brave solution when missing one another. My four-year-old grandson appreciated the lesson and told me as he woke from his nap that he had sent love waves to Mommy and Daddy who were away on their trip.

     

    A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy ($12.99 / 2-4 yrs). There are even more kisses to enjoy in this hardcover picture book featuring split pages kids turn for charmingly illustrated surprises, each described as "like this!" My favorite is, "A mouse kiss is quick and small ... (turn the flap) like this!" Each "like this" is a sweet kiss between Mama and Baby characters, emphasized with a smoochy heart above their lips. The "everybody's kissing" page is a hoot—and not just because it includes a Mama Owl and Baby Owl.

     

    Bear in Love by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand ($15.99 / 2-6 yrs). Bear seems to be the object of a secret admirers attention, evidenced by the crunchy orange treats left outside his cave entrance. He, in turn, leaves goodies for the secret admirer. The mystery continues as the treats continue to be shared and songs sung, with the new besties eventually discovering one another and sharing a sunset. A sweet tale of unexpected kindness and finding someone special.

     

    Olive and the Big Secret by Tor Freeman ($15.99 / 4-7 yrs) Keeping a secret—even when shared by a best friend you adore—is oh so hard to do. Olive desperately wants to share...and does. And she suffers the consequences of her misdeed as it travels back round to the friend who originally confided in her. A witty, delightful conversation starter about the importance of not always sharing everything.


    Otter and Odder: A Love Story by James Howe and illustrated by Chris Raschka ($14.00 / 6-10 yrs). As the jacket flap says, "In a perfect world, an otter could fall in love with a fish and a fish with an otter, and that would be that." But such nonconformity is hard for many to swallow in a non-perfect world like ours, as well as in the complicated but beautifully watercolored world of Otter and Myrtle the fish. The tale of following one's heart was a tad over the heads of my grandsons (who are not in the suggested age range) but they sure enjoyed the interesting illustrations while I chuckled at the story.

     

    And for older readers:

    Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald ($7.99 / 14 yrs and up) Not one I shared with my grandsons, but an oversized paperback tale of unrequited affection teens will surely relate to. From the press materials: Seventeen-year-old Sadie is in love: epic, heartfelt, and utterly one-sided. The object of her obsession — ahem, affection — is her best friend, Garrett Delaney, who has been oblivious to Sadie’s feelings ever since he sauntered into her life and wowed her with his passion for Proust (not to mention his deep blue eyes). When Garrett leaves for a summer literary retreat, Sadie is sure that the absence will make his heart grow fonder — until he calls to say he's fallen in love. With some other girl! A heartbroken Sadie realizes that she’s finally had enough. It’s time for a total Garrett detox! Aided by a barista job, an eclectic crew of new friends (including the hunky chef, Josh), and a customized self-help guide, Sadie embarks on a summer of personal reinvention full of laughter, mortifying meltdowns, and a double shot of love. 

    All the above selections are available wherever books are sold. Visit the publisher's website, www.candlewick.com, for more information.

    Disclosure: I received review copies of each book. Opinions are my own. Link to publisher site is not an affiliate link.