Monthly Archive: May 2014



This is a family favorite and tastes amazing over roast beef sandwiches–it is the perfect sauce for summer barbecues!


1 10 oz. can tomato soup

1 8 oz can tomato sauce

½ cup dark molasses

½ cup cider vinegar

½ cup brown sugar, packed

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 T instant minced onion

1 T dry mustard

1 T Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. paprika

½ tsp each of pepper and garlic powder



Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour into containers and store up to 6 months in the fridge.


This is a quick and easy recipe for ice cream. We are getting into warmer days and this will hit the spot!


2 quarts ½ & ½

3 cups sugar

5 cups crushed strawberries (gently crush in the blender)


Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend well. Pour into an ice cream maker & freeze



Sharlene 2014

Reminder: my Friday blogs are on general music subjects rather than kids and music, so today, I want to talk about using music as a lifelong learning tool to keep you young and thinking young.

Several years ago, I read about a group of nuns called School Sisters of Notre Dame in Mankato, Minnesota. Their average age is eighty-five and many of them are in their nineties and some are one hundred and older.  Despite their age they are exceptionally active and alert. When I first read about them and how medical science is studying why they are living to such old ages, I had to laugh a little. I mean, after all, they are nuns; therefore they do not have husbands or children so I think it is safe to say that considering their circumstances, they can add an additional 50+ years to their lives! (children and a husband are great, but they do age us with stress and worry!)

Actually, their secret to productive longevity is disciplined, livelong learning! Their activities include: earning college degrees, teaching, reading, doing puzzles, studying politics and current events, working math problems, and…learning to play musical instruments! In short, exercising the brain is a way of life at the nunnery. And if you want to live a full, rich and productive life—then you need to become active in many different ways. And one way is—learning a musical instrument. “Too late,” you say? It is NEVER too late! John Holt, an educator and musician wrote a book, Never Too Late—My Musical Life Story, about learning the cello at age 50 and eventually joined a chamber orchestra and string quartet.

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and at Princeton University discovered that intense mental exercise could spur the growth of new brain cells throughout our lives. Mental challenges that required spatial relationships and timing (which are required when learning a musical instrument) had the greatest effect in developing new brain cells.

Studying a musical instrument can act as a high-powered stimulus for dendritic growth. Many musicians and composers have kept their brains alert by actively playing and composing music throughout their lives. Stephane Grappelli was a French jazz violinist and was still performing for audiences all over the world at eighty-nine years old. George Stevens, at the age of ninety-one was still singing with the oldest non-university men’s singing club in the nation. My friend Carolyn Allen is almost sixty-nine years old and two years ago she started taking drum lessons. You would think she would be interested in the harp or the violin—but no—she wanted to learn drums. Her reason, “I’m just doing this to have fun and build brain cells.”

I play the piano nearly every morning. I’m not planning on performing at Carnegie Hall anytime soon, but like Carolyn, I’m building brain cells. My own piano teacher, Dorothea Alpert is 102 years old and is still playing the piano. Music has kept her young and alert and still enjoying life.

There are many more examples in my book, Good Music Brighter Children including ideas on how to get started, etc,.  So, what are you waiting for? Find an instrument and start practicing. Your brain will thank you!


Sharlene 2014



On Tuesday we discussed the importance of sleep. Today, we are discussing ways of getting to sleep and staying asleep. So here are some suggestions:

  1. Tech devices: shut off all tech devices one hour before you go to bed and for heaven’s sake do NOT take your cell phone to bed! Who cares if someone is calling at 3am? It can wait until morning!  And for that matter, do not watch the news, read the newspaper, or entertain any disturbing information that will upset you and wake up your brain.

  1. Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, the organ which regulates the body’s sleep/wake cycle. The hormone is secreted in a circadian rhythm by enzymes which are activated by darkness and depressed by light. Melatonin will only help you to sleep IF your body is deficient in it. Take 1 3mg capsule 30 minutes before retiring to bed.

  1. Magnesium (citrate): Magnesium is a vital mineral that has many uses, and also has a calming effect on people. Try a magnesium citrate (75 mg) 20 minutes before retiring. It may be the key to calming down!

  1. Hot Foot Bath: Are you suffering from insomnia because you can’t “turn-off” your brain? If so, you need to transfer the energy from your brain to your feet. Get a flat container; fill it with very hot water and soak your feet in it until the water cools—about 20 minutes. It will take the intense thought-producing energy from your brain into your feet and you will be able to relax and fall asleep easier.

  1. Epsom Salt Baths: Taking a bath is a luxury, but it can really relax people for a good night’s sleep. For starters, purchase some bath salts or Epsom salts. I like the San Francisco Bath Salt Company—they carry everything from Himalayan bath salts to natural bath salts to Dead Sea salts. You can also find Epsom salts at the grocery store. Most bath salts are made from magnesium sulfate and helps people to relax. Soak for about 20 minutes—and read something soothing.

  1. Music: with all of the above suggestions, enhance the experience by turning on some classical music. Try, “Clair de Lune” by Debussy, Adagio in G Minor by Albinoni, Morning from “Peer Gynt,” by Grieg, or everyone’s favorite: Pachelbel Canon in D. Last, dim the lights, light a soy candle and close your eyes during your soak. Music just may make you sleep like a baby!

  1. The Brainwave Music System—it is a six-CD set created by Jeffrey Thompson, director of the Center for NeuroAcoustic Research in Carlsbad, CA. The CDs use music embedded with tones to get you to sleep faster. The system is based on company research showing sound patterns combined with music can alter brain waves and a person’s state of consciousness.

  1. Calming Foods: Here is a list of foods that may/may not help with sleep (most contain tryptophan) and should be eaten about 1 hour before sleep (so say the “experts”)


Bananas contain magnesium to relax muscles, and also melatonin and serotonin as well.

 Warm milk. Mom was right — the amino-acid tryptophan found in milk acts like a sedative, and the calcium helps the body use it.

 Potatoes. Potatoes cancel out the acids that can interfere with snooze-inducing tryptophan.

 Chamomile tea. A long-time staple of teas formulated for drinking before bedtime, chamomile acts as a mild sedative.

 Oats are rich in melatonin — and are filling, so as to tide you over during your journey through the land of Nod.

 Cheddar cheese. A wedge of cheddar cheese is also rich in tryptophan.

 Honey. A bit of honey to sweeten tea or warm milk will help your brain switch off orexin, a neurotransmitter that helps keep you alert.

 Whole-wheat bread. Add a piece of toast to tea that’s sweetened with honey, and insulin will help convert tryptophan to serotonin.

 Almonds. Heart-healthy almonds also contain tryptophan and magnesium.

 Turkey. Loaded with tryptophan, a couple of slices of turkey on whole-wheat bread will help bring a restful night’s sleep


  1. Hormones: if you are low in estrogen, you will have difficulty sleeping. Go to your doctor and have your hormone levels checked.

  2. Sleep Aid: If nothing else works, try an over-the counter sleep aid. Use them sparingly and be aware that they are not a long-term answer for sleep deprivation.


Do you ever take a minute to look at the label of the skincare product or cosmetic you are purchasing? (That is-if you can read the teeny-tiny font size!) Well, if you are one of the millions who ignore the labels—you might want to change your approach and start reading—it is important to your health!

“Oh, a few dangerous ingredients aren’t that bad,” you may say. Yes, that is true; however a steady blast of dangerous ingredients slapped on your skin and hair day in and day out can add up and cause what is referred to as the threshold principle. That is when you body has had enough and you have a reaction to something—it can be an allergic reaction or getting sick all of a sudden and not being able to find a cause.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggests that consumers should be on high alert for the following seven ingredients. They are listed in order of danger significance:

**Coal tar: used in dandruff shampoos and anti-itch creams. Coal tar is a known carcinogen. Coal tar-based dyes such as FD&C Blue1, which are used in toothpastes, and FD&C Green 3, which is used in mouthwash, should be avoided

 **Fragrance: this ubiquitous term is used to mask hundreds of ingredients, including phthalates, which disrupt the endocrine system and could cause reproductive and developmental harm.

 **Hydroquinone: Commonly found in skin lighteners and facial moisturizers, it is a neurotoxin and is allergic.

**Aluminum:often found in eye shadow as a color additive and also used in deodorants, it is listed as carcinogenic, toxic and mutagenic.

**Triclosan: this chemical is used in almost all antibacterial products, including liquid soaps, toothpaste, and cosmetics. Triclosan is often contaminated with dioxins, which are highly carcinogenic and can also weaken you immune system, decrease fertility and cause birth defects. Triclosan can also alter your gut bacteria. Just use plain old soap and water—it will sanitize just fine!

**P-Phenylenediamine: This is the chemical that has given a bad name to regular hair dye. It can damage your nervous system, cause lung irritation, and cause severe allergic reactions. It’s also listed as 1,4-Benzenediamine; p-Phenyldiamine and 4-Phenylenediamine.

**Lead and Mercury:Lead could appear in toothpaste as a naturally occurring contaminant of hydrated silica. It is a neurotoxin that also appears as lead acetate in men’s hair dye. Mercury is found in a cosmetic preservative called thimerosol. Thimerosol is also used as a preservative in vaccinations.

 This is just a partial list—there is more to come—but make a copy of this list and put it in your wallet or purse and take it with you when you purchase your next cosmetics or skincare products.

Sharlene 2014

When our sons were growing up I was always looking for fun CDs to enhance their classical music experience. My search led me to— “Heigh-Ho! Mozart” and “Bibbidi Bobbidi Bach.”  I’m sure many of you have heard of these CDs and perhaps you owned and played them for your children. If so, then you know how fun they are. I would classify them as a “must” for your CD collection. The best part is—they are still available!

A great CD for riding in the car

A great CD for riding in the car

 Both CDs feature the music of Disney in the style of the great classical composers. For example, the song, “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is performed in the style of Beethoven (classical period). “Can You Fee the Love Tonight,” from Lion King is in the style of Tchaikovsky (romantic period) and “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas is played in the style of Dvořák (twentieth century). Both CDs are perfect when helping your child understand the difference between each period of music such as what classifies a piece of music from the Baroque or Classical or Romantic or Twentieth Century. Because they are familiar Disney tunes your child will readily be able to distinguish the differences between each musical era.  Bibbidi Bobbidi Bach

 When your children hear these familiar songs repeatedly, they will begin to recognize the various styles and nuances of each composer and the musical era they lived in. Here is an idea when to play these CDs where you, as the parent, can be involved:

While driving in the car, instead of having your child glued to their cell phones, iphones or computers, plug-in these CDs and play a guessing game. Try the following:

  1. Guess which movie the song is from

  2. Guess which style of music the Disney song is portraying (baroque, classical, romantic, Twentieth Century)

  3. Guess which composer is portrayed by the particular song.

The answers to each of these questions will take your child some time, but with practice they will become pretty proficient! If you really want to make if fun—get some simple prizes for the children who win the most guesses.


 What you are doing for your child with this simple game is incalculable:

  1. Aural Skills: You are helping your child develop “aural” skills—or listening skills that can be transferred to reading and listening skills in the classroom—essential for school!

  2. Stimulating the Brain: You are stimulating all aspects of your child’s brain—left, right, front, back portions.

  3. Smart Kids: You are creating smart kids—kids who can tell the difference between the classical, baroque, romantic or twentieth century era.

  4. Cultured Kids: You are developing cultured kids—in our tech-driven society this quality is fast disappearing!

  5. Quality Attention: And last, you are giving your child quality attention instead of letting their electronic devices turn them into comatose dummies!

 You can purchase these CDs at amazon. For more information on these CDs and this subject, see my book, Good Music Brighter Children







There are a growing number of people who experience sleep disorders—they either have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This is not good because sleep is very important for many different body and cognitive functions. It used to be that menopausal women had the most difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, but now the problem is even affecting very young people.

 The Harvard Women’s Health Watch says there are six reasons we need our sleep:

  1. Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.

  1. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.

  1. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.

  1. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.

  1. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.

  1. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

 So here are some compelling reasons we all need to get our zzzz’s. In Part Two, I will be giving several ideas that will actually help you fall asleep and stay asleep—and as evidenced–a good night’s rest is imperative for health!

Next: Ways to Get to Sleep: Part Two, Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sharlene 2014

Did you know that facial cleansers can “wear out” your skin quicker than anything else you apply to your skin? It’s true. Ninety percent of skin problems begin with cleansing issues. Why? Because most women use cleansers that are way too harsh for their skin even when the label on the packaging says “for sensitive skin.”

 The biggest culprit in all these cleansers are anionic and cationic surfactants—one of the largest categories of cosmetic chemicals. They include detergents and soaps; they lather lightly and break up oils, fats and other debris. Surfactants either have a negative, positive, or neutral charge and most, by definition, are an irritant to the skin. One example is sodium lauryl sulfate; one of the members of the sulfate family (i.e.: disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, alpha-olefin sulfonate, etc).  They are caustic to the skin and an irritant and are not only found in detergents, soaps and cleansers, but also toothpastes.

 Look at your labels—if they contain any of the sulfates—dump them! They will age your skin. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) will give you more data on the sulfate family regarding toxicity, environmental concerns, etc., but just know that SLS is too harsh to use on your skin. Usually after you use a cleanser containing harsh ingredients, your skin feels stripped. You don’t want to strip the oil glands (also called the “sebaceous glands”). You want to stabilize them.

 The kind of cleanser you want is referred to as an amphorteric surfactant that can safely remove dirt, etc and not harm, irritate, strip, or age the skin. An amphorteric surfactant adapts to the pH of the water used in solution and is adaptable to both acid and alkaline water. Their neutrality indicates the mildness of the product.  My favorite amphorteric cleansers are found in the brand: 302 Skincare. They offer many different cleaners and an amazing bar soap. The main ingredient is avocado; in fact in the bar they use the entire avocado—skin, meat and seed!


 Last, it is important to keep your skin “surprised” so that it doesn’t get used to any particular product and stop reacting or shut down. And the best way to keep your skin surprised is by trading off and using different cleansers. Mix them up—use two or three different ones—one in the morning and a different one in the evening.

 Using the correct cleanser is the beginning step toward great looking skin!

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