Monthly Archive: August 2014

Fox News 4On Sunday, August 17, I appeared on Fox News in Salt Lake City, Utah (KSTU Fox 13).  Kelly Chapman was the host and interviewed me about my book, Good Music Brighter Children. We had an immediate connection—which is important for a successful TV interview.  She asked me a variety of questions including: how music affects the brain, the ideal age to introduce a child to music; what age should a child start learning a musical instrument and how to motivate a child to practice his instrument, etc. (all information contained in my book).  I’ve been told that the “test” of a good interview is what happens after the interview–in other words–if the interview continues.  Our “after interview” was great as we discussed specific ideas that she can use to involve her three children in music.

Fox News 2


 Fox News 1This interview turned out to be a positive experience. I’ve been on TV three other times previous—on PBS Los Angeles and Orange County and Loudoun County News in Virginia. My Fox News experience was the best—clearly because Kelly created a relaxed atmosphere and lots of enthusiasm for the subject! Thank you Kelly!Fox News 3

 Here is a YouTube link of the interview:

The interview was a prelude to my speaking at BYU Education Week 2014. If any of you are familiar with BYU Education Week, you know it is a yearly tradition at BYU where they offer 1000 classes to over 50,000 attendees. I spoke Tuesday-Friday about various topics on music.

 Speaking at Education Week is always thrilling, exciting and yes…exhausting! The best part is meeting people from all corners of the United States and even from other countries. The 1000 classes offered include every subject imaginable—and most people leave inspired with a notebook chock full of exciting new ideas and suggestions for changing their lives.  If you ever have the chance to go—do it! I can’t think of a better way to stay young in mind and heart than to become a lifelong learner—plus it is just plain FUN!



Sharlene 2014

Here are the recipes that go with the children’s books I discussed in two earlier blogs. They are fun to make and add a special reading/eating experience for your children.

Pasta Fajioli Soup (Book: Stone Soup)

pasta fagioli


3 tsp. oil

2 lbs ground beef

12 oz. onion chopped (1 ½ cups)

14 oz carrots diced (2 cups)

14 oz. celery diced (2 cups)

48 oz. cans tomatoes, diced

2 cups red kidney beans

2 cups white kidney beans

88 oz. beef stock

3 tsp. oregano

2 ½ tsp pepper

2 tsp. fresh chopped parsley

1 ½ tsp. Tabasco sauce

48 oz. spaghetti sauce

1 package of shell macaroni


Sauté beef in oil

Add onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes

Simmer 10 minutes.

Drain and rinse beans and add to the pot

Add the beef stock, oregano, pepper, parsley, Tabasco sauce, spaghetti sauce and the package of shell macaroni

Simmer until tender about 45 minutes

Yields: 9 quarts soup


Finger Jell-O (Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar)

Finger Jello   Hungry Caterpillar


5 boxes of 3 oz. Jell-O in various colors

7 pkgs. Knox gelatin

1 can sweetened condensed milk


Dissolve 2 envelopes Knox gelatin and 1 cup boiling water in glass dish

Drizzle in 1 can sweetened condensed milk

You will be using ½ cup of this mixture between the colored Jell-O layers

Set aside this mixture in warm place so that it won’t set-up. (I usually put mine in the oven on the lowest setting)

Next, take 1 pkg. Jello, 1 pkg Knox gelatin, and 1 cup boiling water: mix until dissolved.

Pour the jello mixture into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan

Put in the fridge for 10 or 15 minutes or until slightly sticky.

Take out of fridge and, evenly pour ½ cup of the white mixture over the Jell-O

Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until slightly sticky.

Next, repeat the process: use a colored Jell-O layer, then a white layer.

Continue this process until you have used the all 5 boxes of Jell-O

The last layer will be a colored Jell-O.

When the Jell-O is fully set, you can use cookie cutters of various shapes and press them into the Jell-O–this is a really fun recipe!


Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (Book: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie)

Chocolate Chip cookies   If you Give a mouse a cookie


1 ½ Cups White Sugar

2 Cups Brown Sugar

1 lb. Butter (four sticks)

3 Eggs

2 Tablespoons Vanilla

6 Cups Flour (Use the brand, “Wheat Montana” you can get this at Wal-Mart—it is not a GMO)

1 ¼ Tablespoons Salt

1 ¼ Tablespoons Baking Soda

2 12 oz. pkgs. Chocolate Chips

Chopped walnuts, as desired


  1. Mix together the white and brown sugars.
  2. Add the butter and cream until fluffy.
  3. Blend in the eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add the flour, salt and baking soda.
  5. Mix well but do not over beat.
  6. Add the chocolate chips and nuts.
  7. Use an ice cream scoop and drop dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.


Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes (Blueberries for Sal)

Blueberry Pancakes  Blueberries for Sal045


2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon coarse salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen blueberries

2 cups buttermilk (shake well before measuring)

2 large eggs

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Vegetable oil for cooking

Unsalted butter and syrup for serving


  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl until thoroughly combined
  2. Toss blueberries with 1 tablespoon flour mixture in a medium bowl and set aside
  3. Make a well in the center of the remaining flour mixture and add buttermilk, eggs, and lemon zest
  4. Whisk together, gradually incorporating flour mixture, mixing just until combined; some small lumps should remain in the batter.
  5. Fold in blueberries
  6. Let batter stand 10 minutes
  7. Preheat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat
  8. Brush griddle with oil and ladle 1/3 cup batter per pancake onto griddle.
  9. When small bubbles appear across surface of pancakes and the edges lift up from griddle, flip and continue cooking until pancakes are golden brown.
  10. Serve with butter and maple syrup


Pasta Primavera Salad (Strega Nona)

Strega Nona


8 oz pasta (I like the fusilli)

1 Tablespoon

½ pound broccoli, trimmed, cut into flowerets

1 8 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped, save the marinade

½ cup bottled Italian salad dressing

1 clove garlic, crushed

½ cup minced green onions

2 zucchini, thinly sliced

1/3 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

½ cup frozen peas, uncooked

½ basket cherry tomatoes, halved

½ of a 1 pound can of pitted black olives

1/3 cup minced parsley

1/8 cup vinegar

1 cup mayonnaise

Salt & Pepper to taste

Red Leaf Lettuce


  1. Cook pasta in boiling salted water to which 1 tablespoon oil has been added. When cooked to al dente stage, drain and run cold water over it, drain again
  2. Cook broccoli in small amount of boiling water until crisp-tender; drain
  3. Pour marinade from artichoke hearts over cooked pasta along with bottled Italian dressing; add garlic and stir well
  4. Add green onions, zucchini, mushrooms, peas, cherry tomatoes, olives and minced parsley
  5. Combine vinegar with mayonnaise and add to salad along with salt & pepper
  6. Gently mix all ingredients thoroughly and allow to chill for several hours or overnight.
  7. Taste before serving and adjust seasonings.
  8. Sever each portion on a red lettuce leaf
  9. If salad becomes a little dry upon standing and doesn’t hold together as it did when first mixed, add a little mayonnaise, Italian dressing or water until moist.
  10. You can also add cooked diced chicken to this or Italian salami cut into small pieces.


Peach Cobbler (James and the Giant Peach)

James Giant Peach


8 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced into thin wedges

¼ cup white sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup white sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces

¼ cup boiling water

 Mix together:

3 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, combine peaches, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Toss to coat evenly, and pour into a 2 quart baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips, or a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.
  4. Remove peaches from oven, and drop spoonfuls of topping over them. Sprinkle entire cobbler with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes.


Sharlene 2014

Did your mother ever tell you to “Stop dawdling?”  When I was growing up, doodling and dawdling, (according to my mother) were wasteful activities that had no value. So after calling me to task, she would add, “and get busy and do something useful!”

 Well, it seems that doodling IS doing something useful—and science says so!

 You would think scientific minds would have something more important to study than the art of doodling, but not so. Even the great scientific minds find doodling worth investigating. What have they discovered? Doodling is an important way for people to relax, stay focused, grasp new concepts and retain information. Yes, doodling does all that…and more.

Brandon Red

Brandon’s Doodle Art

 Those little spontaneous, random marks on the page appear to be more meaningful than originally thought. “They are a thinking tool,” states Sunni Brown, author of “The Doodle Revolution.” According to Brown, doodling can affect how we process information and solve problems.


 For some, doodling relieves tension; for others doodling takes random thoughts and solidifies them into a purposeful whole; still others find that doodling is a way of expressing creative energy. (like color-coding a blog…) Scientists have also found that doodling actually improves memory. When people were encouraged to doodle while listening to a list of people’s names being read, they were able to remember 29 percent more of the information on a surprise quiz later on.

Whatever the reasons for doodling, it is fast becoming a respectable pastime. (I need to tell my mother!)

 For instance, a virtual boot camp, called “The School of Doodle,” has sprung up online and is a platform for the imagination to bloom. Backed by Yoko Ono, Sarah Silverman and Arianna Huffington this website’s focus is to create a place for teen girls to develop their imaginations and learn about creative opportunities.  Still in the development process, the website will offer free creative lessons, a chance to earn “doodle dollars,” behind-the-scenes “field trip” videos to movie sets and recording studios, as well as first-person accounts from women about their industries and career paths. The goal: encourage the development of non-cognitive skills!

Another form of doodling called, “zentangle” is the focus behind the book, Totally Tangled by Sandy Steen Bartholomew. Supported by thousands of faithful followers, the basis of this doodling is that even if you are not an artist, you can still “tangle.” Your creations are called, zentangles” and all you need to create these multi-patterned little doodles is a black sharpie pen, white paper and some imagination.  Usually “zentangles” are black and white, with some gray shading, but color can be added. The idea behind tangling?– unwind, be creative and have fun. My son Brandon was doodling long before it was considered an art form and he doodled to express his inner creative self, focus and relax (see his doodles below; they are not exactly considered zentangles, but they’re still interesting).

Brandon Rend the Veil

Brandon’s Doodle Art

 By the way, doodling is not some new art form—many great artists, scientists and musicians have doodled their way through history.  For instance, the master doodler was artist, engineer, scientist, etc., Leonardo da Vinci–and even maestro musical composer Ludwig Van Beethoven did his share of doodling, along with scientist and creative genius, Albert Einstein. However, their “doodles” have a more cerebral name: mind mapping.


Tony Buzan, author of The Mind Map Book, discusses how mind-mapping is a form of doodling using pictures, symbols or images. Mind mapping actually improves memory, concentration, and creativity and accelerates the ability to learn, remember and record information. Classes have sprung up all over the world helping people to understand this fun and interesting way to map, to doodle and to learn.


 Benjamin Zander, Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic created a mind map for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. It was the result of years of study, and internal mind mapping. If you are not familiar with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9—think the famous “Ode to Joy.”  It was Beethoven’s last symphony and he wrote it when he was totally deaf. Zander’s mind map is a wonderful doodle/inner expression of this great musical masterpiece. I’ve made this image larger because I want you to see the details of this–pretty amazing!


 If you want to take your experience to a new level—turn on a classical music CD while doodling, tangling or mind mapping. Consider Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart, or if you want someone a little more edgy, try Stravinsky. You can check out the 50-page Resource section of my book for ideas of specific pieces of music to play from the great classical composers that will take your doodles and mapping to new heights.

And, btw: by adding music when doodling you are bound to solve the problems of the world—or at the very least—your own!



Sharlene 2014

Note: This is an excerpt taken from chapter five of my book, Good Music Brighter Children


Jason Record-1039

Jason had over 100 records by the age of 3 and he knew every song on them

When our son Jason was eighteen months old, he would climb on a chair, reach up to the stereo, and put music on to sing and dance to. By the time he was three, he was studying the violin and taking group music lessons, which he immensely enjoyed. At seven, Jason started taking private piano lessons.

Jason Violin-1037

Jason playing the violin at age 3

Eight months later, with positive comments from the judges, he won second place in the duo division at the Southwest Music Festival at California State University, Dominguez Hills. At eleven, he performed from memory an hour-long recital on piano and organ. At twelve, he lost this intense interest in the piano. He continued taking piano lessons until he went to college, but not with the same focus. Today, at thirty-seven, he still loves and appreciates all kinds of music, plays the piano for personal enjoyment and is practicing law in Northern California. Here is an excerpt of Jason playing at his recital at age 11–entirely from memory.

 Jason Piano-3041There were many reasons why Jason lost interest in seriously studying the piano, but regardless of the reasons, we did not feel he would have ever become a concert pianist, nor were we grooming him for such. The willingness to put in mega hours to become a concert pianist was simply not there.

 The goals for children studying music should not be to transform them into virtuosos, but rather to help them realize their full potential in all aspects of life and to instill in them a love of music.

 By learning a musical instrument Jason learned many valuable lessons, such as responsibility, perseverance, and dependability, which carried him through life’s challenges. Additionally, Jason acquired increased inner confidence in his abilities and a love for the arts, which forever will enhance the quality of his life—and he didn’t need to become a virtuoso to do so.

 Many parents who see signs of genius in their young child feel compelled to relentlessly develop those talents immediately, fearing that if they do not, the child’s potential, however dramatic it may be, will be lost…forever. This potential could be in music, sports, math, or any other subject in which the child shows exceptional talent at an early age. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

Trevor Piano-1040

Trevor playing the piano at age six

 Lauren A. Sosniak, an associate professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, conducted a study that gives a very clear outline on how exceptional talent is developed. Twenty-one concert pianists were interviewed to find out what was involved in developing outstanding achievement in music and how this relates to the overall development of talent. Ms. Sosniak found the following:

  • Development of a talent takes a long time—an average of seventeen years of hard work from the time the child begins training until she receives international recognition.

  • All of the pianists interviewed started out playing a musical instrument with no intention of becoming concert-level performers.

  • Surprisingly, they did not show any unusual talent at an early age. Their parents gave them lessons because, like many parents, they felt that learning a musical instrument was a positive thing.

  • It wasn’t until they were thirteen or fourteen, after spending several years taking lessons and practicing daily, that the teacher or parent realized they could accomplish more with their music. At this point, the focus of their music changed.

  • From that point, the pianists started spending a lot more time practicing, giving serious attention to the details and technicality of the music.

  • They got involved in musical competitions, summer camps, auditions, and public musical activities.

  • Eventually, after working with some of the finest piano teachers and developing a music style uniquely their own, they reached their goal of concert status.

 The musicians in the Sosniak study did not start piano lessons with the intent of becoming concert pianists—it was a natural evolution. If their parents saw talent, they did not push it. Some of the parents were not even musical themselves. By the time the students realized they wanted to seriously pursue music, they were also willing to work hard.


Yo-Yo Ma is an excellent example of the evolution of a virtuoso. Ma began playing the cello at age four, and six months later he was playing Bach suites. His father taught him but was careful not to put too much pressure on his young son. In fact, he insisted that young Ma practice only thirty minutes a day, learning only two measures of music, but playing them technically perfectly. By following this system, he had memorized three Bach suites at the young age of seven. When Ma was fourteen, it was obvious to people in the music business in New York that he was virtuoso material, but his father wanted his son to be “normal.” Therefore, Ma did not enter competitions, and he rarely gave concerts. He said, “My father wanted us to be educated, good people first and musicians second.” It was while he was at Harvard pursuing a liberal arts degree that he began to realize how very important music was in his life. It became clear to him that his first desire and priority was music. Today, he is internationally recognized as one of the greatest cellists in the world.

Ryan Piano-1042

Ryan playing the piano as a teen

 The musical journey will be different for each of our children. Some will achieve concert status; some will enjoy playing a musical instrument with the school band, while others will enjoy listening to music with a deep love and appreciation. Whatever musical road your child chooses, the evolution and process involved take the time and patience of parents and child. As you watch your child emerge musically, encourage him or her to work hard, enjoy the journey, and, finally, appreciate the destination.


Sharlene 2014




A few days ago I shared five children’s books that are perfect to incorporate fun foods. Today is a continuation of five more delightful books. I’ll post the recipes later this week.

Blueberries for Sal045Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

 Synopsis: Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! Sal and her mother are picking blueberries to can for the winter. But when Sal wanders to the other side of Blueberry Hill, she discovers a mama bear preparing for her own long winter.  Meanwhile Sal’s mother is being followed by a small bear with a big appetite for berries! Will each mother go home with the right little one? With its expressive line drawings and charming story, Blueberries for Sal has won readers’ hearts since its first publication in 1948.

 Food: We are in the middle of blueberry season so go and purchase a container of this delicious fruit because there is nothing like eating these amazing little berries that are chocked full of healthy vitamins, minerals and phyto-chemicals.

When our sons were little, I made blueberry pancakes or blueberry muffins for a treat and we munched on them while reading the book.  Last year I found a delicious recipe for blueberry pancakes (Martha Stewart, of course).  There are many fun recipes that include blueberries, (blueberry cobbler, blueberry jam, blueberry muffins) and if you don’t feel like making something with the blueberries—eat them right out of the bag! Blueberries for Sal is a classic and a MUST-read for children—and add the blueberries for a memorable experience!

 Recipe: Blueberry Pancakes (a Martha Stewart recipe)Blueberry Pancakes


Strega Nona Strega Nona By Tomie dePaola   

 Synopsis: Strega Nona — “Grandma Witch” — is the source for potions, cures, magic, and comfort in her Calabrian town. Her magical everfull pasta pot is especially intriguing to hungry Big Anthony. He is supposed to look after her house and tend her garden but one day, when she goes over the mountain to visit Strega Amelia, Big Anthony recites the magic verse over the pasta pot, with disastrous results.

 Food: This story lends itself to eating a scrumptious pasta dish—spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli, fettuccine, etc. Most kids love spaghetti and unless you make the noodles from scratch, it goes together rather quickly. Read the charming story (it was one of our kids favorites) while your pasta pot is boiling away like Big Anthony’s pot. Years ago I took a class to learn how to make lasagna from scratch—including the noodles and béchamel sauce. Although delicious, it was an all-day extravaganza.

Keep in mind that all of the Strega Nona books are delightful and incorporate the use of food or potions—use your creativity and make a fun pasta dish or something from scratch (without the use of magic) while reading this book. Another favorite is: Strega Nona’s Christmas

 Recipe: Pasta Salad (a great recipe for the hot summer months)Pasta Salad


Charlie Chocolate FactoryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

 Synopsis: Only five lucky children will be allowed inside Mr. Willy Wonka’s famous candy factory and they must have a golden ticket that can be found inside five chocolate bars. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

 Food: Well, you can thank technology, because you can now make your own special chocolate bar labels that will mimic the chocolate bars found in this buyer-beware story! This D.I.Y. project requires you to purchase some Hershey’s chocolate bars; carefully remove the label and then make your own label from several different label programs online. Here is one I found on Pinterest. It is for a Willy Wonka bar and it’s free: Assemble several of these bars AND a golden ticket inside some of them. Then create a game where your children have to “purchase” a Wonka bar and try to “win” one of the golden tickets. Certainly the book is memorable on its own, but adding this fun game takes it to new heights!

Wonka Bar



James Giant Peach  James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

 Synopsis: After James Henry Trotter’s parents are tragically eaten by a rhinoceros, he goes to live with his two horrible aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Life there is no fun, until James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree and strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it’s as big as a house. Inside, James meets a bunch of oversized friends—Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the great adventure begins!

 Food: This is one of the greatest children’s books ever written! It is amazing on so many levels and has many of the same trappings as a fairytale with the hero, James having to overcome great obstacles to finally reach his heart’s desire. Of course, because this is about an enormous peach—I loved getting fresh peaches for the boys to eat while we read it—the juiciest and the freshest peaches, and you can only find them during the summer months. But, if you can’t find fresh peaches, try peach ice cream or peach jam or even canned peaches (not a great choice, but better than no peaches at all!).

 Recipe: Peach Cobbler. I love peach cobbler—there is nothing quite like it and if you can find some blueberries to add to it—delicious! This recipe is to die for—enjoy!

Gregory the Colorful Eater1044Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat

 Synopsis:Gregory isn’t like most goats. Instead of indulging in delicacies like old shoes, boxes, and bottle caps, he prefers to eat fruits, vegetables, eggs, and fish. Mother Goat and Father Goat are disgusted, and after several attempts to get Gregory to eat like a proper goat, they finally take him to see Dr. Ram. But when Gregory finally develops a taste for flat tires and broken violins, he’s not just eating like a goat—he’s eating like a pig! Will Gregory be able to find a healthy balance before he eats everything in the house?

 Food: In the beginning of this book, Gregory is a pretty amazing example to children of eating good food. Instead of eating sweets, sodas and French fries, he indulges in fruits, vegetables, eggs and fish. Then he starts eating like a piggy goat and the story changes a bit. However, it was still a favorite in our family and we all enjoyed the funny antics of Gregory. This is one of those books where anything healthy should be tried—especially vegetables.

 Recipe: Use one of your family’s favorite recipes here–and let your kids know the history behind the recipe and why it is so special!

 ReadingAgain—these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg—get your creative juices working and come up with more ideas of your own, unique to your family and your traditions!


Sharlene 2014





I love children’s literature! Reading children’s books takes you to faraway places; allows you to vicariously participate in exciting adventures and overcome impossible feats! And you can have all this for a $15-$20 price tag!

 When our boys were young, I loved reading books to them that included food in some way (think: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). These books became a wonderful family tradition because our added food activities created a double treat.

Here are some of our family’s favorite children’s books and some ideas on how we added food to the experience. I’m discussing five books today and I will post another five other books later next week as well as the recipes.

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown:

Stone Soup

 Synopsis: This story is about three hungry soldiers who outwit the greedy inhabitants of a village into providing them with a feast. It is based on an old French tale.

 Food: My son’s preschool teachers read this book in class and then had each of the children bring a different vegetable from home to make a soup. So, Mark and I had our boys help plant our vegetable garden; pick the vegetables; help make our soup, as I read the book. It was a vegetable soup and included green peppers, beans, carrots and tomatoes from our garden. Later, the soup became a little more sophisticated as we added additional ingredients. This book is a great way to get your kids to eat veggies and to teach them the joys of sharing.

 Recipe: Pasta Fajioli Soup   pasta fagioli


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

The Lion Witch Wardrobe

 Synopsis: Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

 Food: If you have read this book, you will remember Edmund, the White Witch, and Turkish delight. After eating the Turkish delight given to him by the evil White Witch, Edmund loses all desire to help or be with his family. He can only think of his own selfish desires. To make this a memorable moment in our reading, I went to See’s candies and purchased a pound of dark raspberry creme chocolates. I explained to the boys that we were going to pretend we were selfish Edmund and eat the whole pound of candy in one sitting to see how Edmund must have felt. Afterwards, I reminded them that we can’t get full on things we don’t need.  It was a hit!  From that moment on, they called the chocolates “Turkish delight!” I still buy them at Christmas time to everyone’s “delight!”

 Raspberry chocolateRecipe Suggestion: Go to See’s candy and find ONE kind of chocolate that you think is very sweet (the raspberry creme chocolates are very sweet). Remember that Turkish delight was sickening sweet and that is what you want—something that will cause them to feel a bit “woozy” after stuffing themselves with it. Relish this selfish moment!  Btw—there is an actual candy called Turkish delight.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Hungry Caterpillar

 Synopsis: This book is an all-time classic picture book, from generation to generation, and is sold somewhere in the world every 30 seconds! It has been said that “The very hungry caterpillar literally eats his way through the pages of the book—and right into your child’s heart…”

 Food: this is such a fun book for little kids. Put different foods that the caterpillar eats onto plates for each of your children such as a strawberry, a piece of apple, a pear, a plum, a piece of cheese, and a pickle. As you read about each food the caterpillar eats, take a bite of that food. Turn this into a multi-activity: explain to them what that food does for your body. Let your children know that one of the reasons the caterpillar got sick was that he ate too many junk foods such as the cake, ice cream cone, lollipop, cupcake, pizza, and cherry pie and he had to go back to eating something simple like the leaf to feel better. The leaf would be like eating vegetables each day–they help us to feel better.

Recipe: Layered Finger Jell-O. I made layered finger Jell-O and we used cookie cutters and cut them into the various shapes of the food the caterpillar ate; such as a strawberry, an apple and a pear.

Finger Jello


Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Green Eggs and Ham

 Synopsis: “Do you like green eggs and ham?” asks Sam-I-am in this Beginner Book by Dr. Seuss. In a house or with a mouse? In a boat or with a goat? On a train or in a tree? Sam keeps asking persistently. With unmistakable characters and signature rhymes, Dr. Seuss’s beloved favorite has cemented its place as a children’s classic. In this most famous of cumulative tales, the list of places to enjoy green eggs and ham, and friends to enjoy them with, gets longer and longer. Follow Sam-I-am as he insists that this unusual treat is indeed a delectable snack to be savored everywhere and in every way.

 Food: If you are feeling adventurous, go ahead and dye some scrambled eggs green and while you are reading this book, have everyone try this gross concoction!  OR, you can explain to your kids you are having a new food that night for dinner, and like the character in the story—each child needs to try at least one bite. This book is really a wonderful example of how difficult it is to get kids to try new foods (unless it is from McDonalds). It has been said that in order for a child to embrace a new food, it needs to be introduced to them from eight to eleven times! So, the next time you want them to eat a new veggie or meat (Brussels sprouts or liver) read this book beforehand—and at the very least, everyone will enjoy the delightful sing-song rhyme!


If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff

If you Give a mouse a cookie

 Synopsis: If a hungry little mouse shows up on your doorstep, you might want to give him a cookie. And if you give him a cookie, he’ll ask for a glass of milk. He’ll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache, and then he’ll ask for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim…

 Food: It is impossible to read this book without having a bag of chocolate chip cookies nearby to munch on and a glass of milk to drink. So, make this a fun and memorable experience for your kids and bake some chocolate chip cookies and then read the book while you are munching away—trust me—they will forever associate this book with wonderful, warm, and chocolaty memories!

 Chocolate Chip cookiesRecipe: The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World

Just realize that anytime you use more than one of the five senses when reading to your children, that book remains forever in their minds and in their hearts. Stay tuned for the next  five books coming soon!


Sharlene 2014

Fruit Soup 2



4 cups sugar

4 cups water

¾ cups lemon juice

2 pkgs. loose frozen raspberries (they can be fresh)

1 pkg. loose frozen boysenberries (they can be fresh)

2 boxes loose frozen blueberries (they can be fresh)

1 can (#2) crushed pineapple (this can be fresh, cut up)

6 sliced bananas

1 quart ginger ale or other carbonated drink—grapefruit, lemon, etc.



Combine sugar and water and bring to boil to dissolve the sugar.

 Add lemon juice and freeze the entire mixture.

 In another large bowl combine the raspberries, boysenberries, blueberries, pineapple and bananas.

 Just before serving, remove from freezer the sugar/water mixture and add to fruit. It will be somewhat solid but will un-freeze and make the soup slushy.

 Stir in ginger ale.

 Serve with a spoon.



15-20 people



There is a frozen fruit medley available at Sam’s Club. I’ve tried it before and it works perfectly. I’ve also tried to find it at Costco, but they do not carry it. As mentioned, the fruit can be fresh when all the berries are in season–like the summer months. I’ve tried it both ways and it is delicious.


I’ve been making this recipe for our special Christmas Eve dinners since 1982. I got it from my friend, Margaret Miller—an amazing cook!  The boys love it and although it’s really not a soup, (really more of a slushy fruit concoction) we’ve always called it, “Fruit Soup.” It’s a very refreshing recipe and can be used as an appetizer, part of the main meal or as a dessert.  I’ve made this during the hot summer months, during the holidays and years ago when we had the school teachers over for lunch. It’s one of those recipes with many happy memories attached.


Sharlene 2014

Honeycomb on a white background.

A few weeks ago I talked about the problems with sugar so the question remains—what do you replace it with?

 The answer: HONEY!

Here is my experience with honey: I love honey, I cook with honey, and I eat it out of the jar. I have purchased my honey in the past from beekeepers in Utah and from Farmer’s Markets in California and from Honeyville in Riverside, California. At each place, I have purchased raw honey. It is honey that has either been heated at a very low temperature or unheated, unpasteurized, and unprocessed.  It is very thick and the taste of the honey depends on where the bees have pollinated.

My favorite honey is clover (from Utah) and I also like orange (from California). I have also ordered Manuka honey which is a healing honey from New Zealand.  You can purchase this honey from The Synergy Company.

 I try not to purchase honey from the grocery stores because most of it has been heated to high temperatures which destroys the enzymes. First try your local Farmer’s Markets or go online and order from Honeyville. If you have a beekeeper nearby, definitely order from them. Be aware that the cost of honey is rising because bees are disappearing.

Honey has a lot of advantages, but today I want to focus on how it can help your teeth.


 Honey for Your Teeth (a study)

 According to a study conducted by researchers in New Zealand, unprocessed honey with mid-range antibacterial potency can actually protect against tooth decay! “By using average-potency honeys, the growth of bacteria is stopped completely,” says lead researcher Peter Molan, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and director of the Honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. “Honey has components that prevent dental plaque from forming.”


 There are three bacterial species responsible for dental caries that were tested in the lab: Streptococcus mitis, Streptococcus sobrinus, and Lactobacillus caseii. The researchers found that honey sharply reduced the quantity of acid produced by these bacteria. “It almost cut the acid production down to zero,” says Molan. “Honey also stopped the bacteria from producing dextran, which is a component of dental plaque.” The researchers say that unprocessed honey contains an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide. The guess is that it is mainly responsible for the unlikely antimicrobial activity of honey.


 The researchers also found that honey can fight inflammatory infections of the gum. Because of this, honey could be used in treating periodontal disease and gingivitis—both inflammatory conditions that result from infected gums. They found that the honey could remove swelling and pain very quickly.

 “Honey has shown fantastic results in healing wounds,” says Molan. “It has good anti-inflammatory components, which clears the infection.” Researchers say that honey producers in New Zealand and Australia have batches of honey tested in the laboratory to identify the samples with high antimicrobial activity. Those types of honey are labeled as “antiseptic” and are available to consumers.

 Marcia Cardetti, director of scientific affairs at the National Honey Board in the United States stated, “Consumers ought to know that honey has this benefit for dental health: Perhaps they can make it as part of their diet.”

So there you have it! Try incorporating honey into your diet–on your oatmeal, on your toast, substitute honey when cooking and eat at least 1 Tablespoon a day for improved health–and your teeth and gums!


Sharlene 2014

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