By Katy Killilea

Copy of IMG_4796Rebekah Ham has beautiful hair. She'll be shaving it all off this September with 45 other women equally devoted to children who've had cancer. She knows that a big group of women shaving their heads will raise money and awareness, and Bekah also considers it performance art. When 46 women get shaved in unison on say, Ellen or Oprah, it makes a statement.  And that is what Bekah's group 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave has set out to do. While raising a million dollars.

When Grace Carey, Bekah's younger daughter, was about to enter kindergarten, she started having powerful, nauseating headaches. She was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and spent the next year in arduous treatment and recovery. Now that Grace (currently a busy Brownie and first grader at The Paul Cuffee School) is better, Bekah is committed to advocating for a cure. People ask her why–now that she is free to leave it behind–she doesn't distance herself from the cancer world. Her response: "Children with cancer can't advocate for themselves. Parents with kids in treatment have to focus on day to day survival. Parents whose children have died are coping with unimaginable grief. And, understandably, parents of survivors often need to run far and fast from the world of cancer for the sake of their families. People who can advocate have to step up."

Women in the 46 Mommas are from all over the United States. (46 is not a random number–it's the number of children diagnosed with cancer each school day.) Each of the 46 Mommas is, right now, in the process of raising $22,000 toward the group's goal of a million dollars. For her part, Bekah asked forty friends to donate $40 each on her recent fortieth birthday. You'll find her on Hope Street during the Hope for the Earth street festival on April 25th, raffling off the thrill of throwing out the first Paw Sox pitch of the 2010 season. She makes roses out of duck tape (when they're not sold out, you can find them at Frog and Toad on the East Side) and a friend with a children's book shop is contributing a portion of her profits to the 46 Mommas. Right up until shave-day in September, she'll be working toward the $22,000 mark with gusto, creativity, and the attention of friends and strangers. Local businesses who would like to join forces with Bekah are invited to step right up!

Anyone who would like to contribute is welcome to do so, and more information can be found on the 46 Mommas team page,  the group's facebook page, or on NBC10, in Bekah and Grace's recent interview with health reporter Barbara Morse Silva.

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The 46 Mommas are working together as part of Saint Baldrick's huge fundraising effort, which gathers millions of dollars each year to fund research into children's cancer. Oprah or no Oprah, 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave will be an astounding part of that effort.

Reviewed by Katy Killilea

green hourRegarding happy children, the evidence is clear: one requirement is time outside in unstructured activity. GreenHour.org, a website of the National Wildlife Foundation, encourages families to carve out one hour every day for outdoor exploration and play. It's hard to imagine an argument against that. And it doesn't sound hard to do . . . unless it's raining. Or icy. Or too hot. Or you're busy. Or you just got a new Lego set. Or you prefer reading to all of life's other pleasures.

Todd Christopher, the creator of GreenHour.org, gives us The Green Hour, a guide filled with simple ideas and activities that inspire outdoor creativity and discovery. One age-level leap above the beloved little I Love Dirt, the activities are simple, but the information goes deep enough for curious school-age minds. Wherever you are--your yard, in the woods, at the beach--this book has absorbing activities for all ages.

Digging into the earth that your very own home rests upon becomes an other-worldly adventure with this book as your guide. I love the way it offers both projects (make a worm jar; make a bagel bird feeder) and clear information (why there is wind; the courtship and mating of frogs) to help non-expert eyes see the natural world on a more intricate level.

Exploring nature doesn't come naturally to all of us, and not every child gravitates to the study of leaves and bugs. But with The Green Hour, I Love Dirt, and in-person live inspiration from resources like Rhode Island Families in Nature, The Audubon Society of Rhode Island, and Norman Bird Sanctuary, all of us can learn enough to play along.

The details:

The Green Hour by Todd Christopher
$18 Trumpeter/Shambhala

Shambhala provided a review copy of this book. Kidoinfo does not have any undisclosed relationship with this publisher, and received no compensation for this review.

By Katy Killilea

April is National Poetry month, and kids are natural poets. They've got that unselfconscious rhythm, love to rhyme, and they get passionate pleasure from alliteration. While they're pounding out the beats all year long, we can celebrate poetry month with special activities that people of many ages can get into.

scranimals1. Hinky Pinkys: also known as Hink Pinks or Hinkety Pinketys. You give a clue, leading to a solution that is a two-word rhyme, each word having the same number of syllables as whatever you're calling the game (eg in Hink Pinks, each word would have one syllable). In Hink Pinks, a squashed feline is a flat cat. In Hinky Pinkys, if our dog makes a disgruntled sound, that's a Butter mutter. Great examples, written by kids, can be found here.

2. Tongue Twisters: Remember trying to say these ten times, fast? So..how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? If your family is very refined, don't use this one: One smart fellow, he felt smart. Here's one for Rhode Islanders: Clean clams crammed in clean cans. And for the very advanced: A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk, but the stump thunk the skunk stunk. No one can do that one--it's impossible to even read it silently without getting all discombobulated.chickenbook

3. Jack Prelutsky: we have read our Jack Prelutsky books so often that even their duck tape repairs are falling off. His poems are filled with fun language, twists, and kooky people with peanut hats (Peanut Peg and Peanut Pete in The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders) and creatures that are part broccoli, part lion (the broccolions, as seen in Scranimals). Less creepy than Shel Silverstein, and with no chance of falling into a lifelong guilt trip (I remain–probably deservedly so–shamed by The Giving Tree), Jack Prelutsky's work is smart, delightful to read out loud, and illustrated by many different artists so each book has its own feel.

4. A new book: Chicken Scratches will be released this April and has so many absurd and silly chicken-related poems--more than one of which will make you rethink that omelet or drumstick--that when you get to then end you'll think, "Did we just read an entire book of chicken poems?" The illustrations will crack you up (look, a pun!), whether it's the utterly blase chicken trick-or-treater in the melted ice cream cone costume or the elegant ballerina chicken who lays an egg in her tights. (Chicken Scratches, April 2010 by Chronicle Books, $15.)

Does your family have favorite poems, tongue twisters, or ways to celebrate poetry month?

By Katy Killilea

Recently in the kitchen laboratory we learned how to make ginger ale, ice cream, and Jello from almost nothing but pixie dust. Some people observe the transformation of ingredients and think: How did we get from point A to point B? Others think merely: Where is my spoon? These are worthwhile experiments, however your mind works and whatever your age.

eden-agar-agar-300x300Jello: Making jello at home from a packet from the Jell-o company might be enough of a thrill for some chemists. But the frontiers of science must not be limited to the likes of lime and blue raspberry. With agar-agar (a seaweed derivative) or plain gelatin (if the cowhide/hoof thing isn't an issue), you can turn almost any liquid into jello.

Grape juice and orange juice are fun, but what about apricot nectar? Pureed watermelon? Chocolate milk? (Gin and tonic?) It's fun to see the unexpected wiggle-jiggle, and in many cases the result will be fun to eat as well. Sometimes your liquid might not become jello or will be unpalatable. Do not be disgruntled: Was Excedrin PM invented in one day? Time for a new hypothesis and more experimentation. (more…)

Reviewed by Katy Killilea

souploveSpoon it up, dip a hunk of bread into it, and if you are a baby, eat it by the fistful. Soup brings joy to so many. But how much devotion can a bowl of soup inspire? Consider these two new soup books. SoupLove is a teeny-tiny book with three (yes, just three!) family-perfect soups for each season. Love Soup, on the other hand, is thick with over 150 recipes for soups and soup accompaniments. Both are vegetarian (for the most part vegan), and organized by season. Both feature top-of-the-line nourishment. Both are written by women with unshakable admiration for both farmer's markets and soup.

Wee SoupLove is the creation of Rebecca Stevens and is as unpretentious as a brown paper bag. It's illustrated with sparse, lovely line drawings of carrots and spoons and gawky long-stemmed mushrooms. You've already heard that this book has just three soups per season. Each season gets one smooth soup, one chunky/brothy soup, and one hearty soup with beans and/or grains. All of these are easy to prepare, and each makes two quarts; that's enough for a medium-sized family dinner. EspeciallyLoveSoup tempting: Lemon Lentil for Spring. Ginger Yam for Fall. In lieu of stock, Winter's Pure Parsnip uses the two beverages a household with children is likely to have on tap: white wine and apple juice. I am in love with this book and feel that its author is onto something great. How refreshing to see a completely pared-down book, free of not-so-favorite recipes.

Mighty Love Soup comes to us from Anna Thomas, author of the legendary Vegetarian Epicure. She starts off with the very most basic (broth) and proceeds encyclopedically through the soup universe. There are "Green and Greener" recipes for dark-leafy-greens-intensive soups, noodle soups, spicy soups, and chilled soups. Many of these are perfect for snobs (i.e. picky eaters). Who would turn down Cold Peach and Nectarine Soup with Strawberry Sauce? Love Soup includes salad and baking recipes as well, to help round out your soup-centered meals.

When Spring arrives, I'm usually sad to see soup season end. But beginning this year, we're in for eternal soup.

The details:

SoupLove
by Rebecca Stevens, illustrated by Nabil Samadani
2009 by Rebecca Stevens, available online, $8

Love Soup
by Anna Thomas, illustrated by Annika Huett
2009 by W.W. Norton & Company, $23

The publishers of these books sent copies for review. Neither the author nor Kidoinfo has an undisclosed relationship with the publishers and Kidoinfo never accepts payment for reviews.

IMG_3773Red velvet cupcakes and Nutella are featured, so please count me in. The Duck & Bunny just opened on Wickenden Street in the space most recently occupied by The Blue Elephant. The Duck and Bunny calls itself not a cafe, not a restaurant, but a snuggery. Meaning a cozy place to relax with something yummy. Cupcakes (in both mini and regular sizes) are prominently displayed, but they've got more than cute sweets: savory crepes and salads, pots of tea, and a long list of wines keep you thinking of occasions to go back. (Here are a few: report card day, book group, not-too-pricey date night, gray sky, just feel like eating cupcakes.)

Wife and husband owners Jessica and Daniel Becker moved to Rhode Island from New York just a few months ago. Jessica had always wanted her own tea shop; Dan, his own bar. Those longings to create space for people to enjoy themselves in good company led to this clever venture. Students, adults, and families all fit right in. Infants will placidly drool and stare at the sparkly lights from their floor-space babybuckets. Schoolchildren can have a cupcake or even high tea–any day of the week, and at any time of day. What a coup for the child who wants high tea for her birthday breakfast!IMG_3776

With delightful duck/bunny art on the walls (a bunny Van Gogh, a duck Girl with a Pearl Earring), and crepes with names that make you need to eat them (the Chubby Ella is filled with bananas and Nutella, and The Rachel and Monica is a time capsule back to the 1990s with sundried tomatoes and goat cheese), The Duck and Bunny is a joyful addition to the neighborhood. People of all ages will love getting snug there.

Details
The Duck and Bunny
312 Wickenden Street, Providence 02903
401-270-3300
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10AM-late

by Katy Killilea

eatsEATS sits between our house and the Target in Seekonk so we'd gone past it zillions of times. The neon "Hot Wieners" sign never really called out to me until I won a gift certificate to EATS in a school silent auction's "Eat Local" basket. Long story short, we went. We ate. We loved.

Why love? EATS is perfect for children who are along for Route 6 errands. It's like Johnny Rockets, covering the five food groups: hot dog, cheeseburger, french fries, coffee milk, and ketchup. But EATS pulls this off simply, without any self-conscious retro styling. And it's a bargain.

The cheeseburger ($3.60) on a squishy sesame seed bun was a hit, as was the hot dog ($1.70). There's a list of hot dog toppings longer than our brains could process, and I had to ask for it to be repeated more than twice: Coney Island, ketchup, mustard, relish, cheese, celery salt...and some other stuff. A small order of french fries ($2.25) was large enough to split three ways. If you're in the mood for jacksomething more outre, you can get a salad ($3 and up), a wrap ($4.55), or breakfast any time (omelette, $5 with home fries and toast).

The experience was straightforward and old-fashioned. Eating lunch as we did at 11:00 in the morning, there were many seniors at EATS, sharing club sandwiches and newspapers. The restaurant is sparkling clean and you can see right into the kitchen where food is cooked to order yet arrives faster than you can say "McNugget."

But say your child is accustomed to getting a toy with his or her ketchupy Route 6-I'm so-tired-of-running-errands reward meal. Well, as luck would have it, EATS is adjacent to Cutie's, a tiny but well-stocked stuffed animal store. If you stick to the adorable Japanese erasers ($1),  this wholesome meal + toy experience can be yours for less than the price of a Happy Meal.IMG_3205

The details:

EATS
1395 Fall River Avenue (Route 6), Seekonk, MA
(508) 336-4384
Hours: 7AM-3:30PM Mondays and Wednesdays. Closed on Sundays. 7AM-8:30PM other days.

Reviewed by Katy Killilea

cornbreadAt a friend's cookout, the children tasted heaven in a Shaw's brand corn muffin.  A feeding frenzy ensued: The kids dropped everything to cram the yellow golf balls into their faces with two fists.

However delicious they may have been, grocery-store muffins have two strikes against them: The list of ingredients is too weird and too long, and they cost too much. Corn muffins are easy enough (and so cheap!) to make, but it can be tricky to pinpoint the precise level of sweet-salt-butter-crumbly that make them so appealing. Enter The Cornbread Gospels.

This book covers every regional corn-based, bread-related thing in the universe and allows you to find the precise combination that will satisfy your audience. Little muffins are perfect for lunch boxes and snacks, and they have the yin-yang of cakey treat and wholesome energy that makes everyone happy to have them around.

Crescent Dragonwagon gives us more than 200 takes on cornbread. (She includes things like tortillas and johnnycakes, but doesn't 200 seem impossible?) The following muffin recipe is, for the moment, The One. For a few minutes of measuring and stirring, and a few cents' worth of ingredients, you can have loads of delicious muffins that rival, yes, even those purchased in a plastic clamshell box at the grocery store.

Simply Corn Muffins
(adapted from The Cornbread Gospels
by Crescent Dragonwagon. Used with permission from Workman Publishing Co. Inc., New York. All rights reserved.)
Makes one dozen standard muffins or approximately 50 mini-muffins.

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by Katy Killilea and Jaci Arnone

In each of our families, fun-loving grandparents organized a trip to Disney World. Lacking intuitive understanding of why parents consider this kind of trip "fun," we experienced some apprehension and gathered information from every seasoned Disney veteran we knew. We'd both enjoyed mid-1970s trips to Disney World as little girls, and many of our parent-friends had gone and lived to tell about it. In fact, they'd all had a blast...but could we? Armed with lists of tips, deep knowledge of fast passes, hopper tickets, and character breakfasts, our families traveled to Orlando for multi-generational adventure. Here are our stories.

KATYminnie

Weeks before departing, my kids and I watched a trip-planning DVD (free from Disney) to learn about the attractions and pick our favorites. Friends shared dog-eared guidebooks and annotated maps. My parents arranged the trip to be as easy as possible, booking our rooms on a hotel floor that featured a rotating array of snacks coordinated with a complicated timetable of alcohols. All we had to do was show up with shorts and flip-flops.

Sure enough, Disney World was as everyone said it would be: busy, clean, friendly. It was the kids who didn't function as planned. Some surprising parts of our trip:

By Katy Killilea

Families do all kinds of kooky things to save money and/or time. Shopping at a warehouse club, for example: It takes forever to maneuver the giant cart around the place, and then the line to pay is long, and something like a case of pens or forearm-size loaf of goat cheese finds its way into the cart, making the savings in time and money nil. But then there are things that other families do that are pure genius.

Here are the very best convenience tips I've learned from other parents this year:

Efficient Household Management:

Shopping Avoidance Techniques:

Voila! Food:

A Streamlined Lifestyle:

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