Archive for May, 2011

Owl Kids Book Review: Just a Minute

Did you know that a honey bee beats its wings around 11,000 times a minute? These are the type of facts this cool book is loaded with. This book is geared towards the older set, ages 6 and up.

My eldest is very interested in random but interesting facts, just like I am, so this book was a very interesting and fun read for the two of us. She is also a new reader so she spent a lot of time going through the facts in the book, reciting them back to us in amazement. In fact, she enjoyed this book so much that she has asked for us to buy her more like it!

Gwen is our Green Living Blogger

Science for Kids: Plan now for 2011 Fall Fun

Teachers, I know you don’t want to think about next year while you’re scrambling to finish up this year, but we all know that some opportunities are missed if they’re not seized upon early.

This came across my desk a few days ago and I thought I’d share it with you. 

 The 2011 National Science and Technology Week in Ottawa is scheduled for October 14 to 23.  The organizers have planned some interesting and free tours during which students can meet scientists in their natural indoor habitats (laboratories):

  • Movie Critiques (Grades 4 and up; 1 hour)
  • The Fate of Fuels under Aquatic and Terrestrial Conditions (grade not specified)
  • Fossils (Grades 4–8; 1 hour)
  • Geoscape Ottawa — Gatineau (Grades 4 and up; 1 hour)
  • Introduction to Rocks and Minerals (Grades 4–8; 1 hour)     
    • Minerals in My Life- From the Ground to You- the Mining Cycle

(Grades 4 to 8; 2 hours)

  • Remote Sensing (Grades 4 and up; 1 hour)
  • Landslides- Slip Sliding Away (Grades 7 and up; 1 hour)
  • Traditional Aboriginal Knowledge — Helping to Protect Our Environment (Grades 4 and up; 1 hour)


  • What’s Shaking? (Grades 4 and up; 1 hour)


  • Global Positioning System (Grades 6 and up; 1 hour)


And if you’re an Ottawa-area parent or caregiver looking for something engaging and educational (with free admission and free parking), mark your October calendar with the

Science FunFest    

I know, I know, it’s still May.  But if October comes around as quickly as summer has, you’ll want to start planning soon.  So, tuck it away in your tickle file (we used to call it a “bring forward” file) and have a look in the summer, while you’re sitting in the backyard, sipping a cool one, and wondering why it can’t be July all year long.

Until next time,


Diane Duff, B. Ed., is a literacy consultant who works with families, schools, and literacy coaches/tutors.  Diane conducts assessments for reading/writing skills and dyslexia; provides workshops for parent groups; leads reading and language curriculum review for private schools, Montessori schools and homeschooling parents; and conducts teacher training in language and literacy development.     For more information, visit 

Owl Kids Book Review: Where are you Bear?

My kids and I both enjoyed this book! It is geared towards a younger age group; I’d say 3-6. The book follows a little girl, Sophie, who has lost her bear. We follow her on a geographic alphabet adventure across Canada in her search to find the lost Bear.

My youngest is just starting to recognize the letters of the alphabet so this was a great book for her. She is also very curious about the sounds the letters make, so the words and images that accompanied each letter were a good way to help teach the sounds.

The book contained images of famous landmarks and location specific things to each province which kept the kids interested in each page.

Reviewed by Gwen, our Green Living blogger

School Year End – Be Prepared

Right now your children are busy with Track & Field and many other outdoor activities at school (that is if they haven’t been rained out), but next month is filled with end of the year recitals, awards ceremonies, class parties and for some, graduations.
Why not get organized for that now?  Will you be expected to bring in a year end treat?  Make sure while your shopping to grab cake mix, icing and sprinkles! 

Why not change things up and make a teacher gift instead of buying one?  Just Google Easy To Make Teacher’s Gifts or Homemade Teacher’s Gifts, but make sure to get all the supplies for it now so you’re prepared to tackle the task. 

Are you attending any year end assemblies/talent shows?  Make sure you have fresh batteries for your camera. 

Will you be volunteering for a play day?  Stock up on sunscreen and bug repellant. 

Do you have a child that is graduating?  Shopping for the perfect outfit now will leave time for haircuts before the big event next month. 

These tasks by themselves seem small, but if you have children in different grades you might have all of these activities on your plate.  Taking care of the prep work will ease the year end craziness and leave you lots of time to bake those 3 dozen cupcakes.
Have a great summer!

Lisa is a Mother to one son.  Co-Host of MeFest, Half of @Those2Girls & a lover of all things Facebook & Twitter.

Test Kitchen: Toad in a Hole

Shouldn’t Mother’s Day happen all the time? Well it can certainly feel like it by teaching your kids to make one really great breakfast all on their own. It won’t take much before they want to make you a special breakfast every weekend! What’s so great about this recipe? No sharp knives needed, it has a funny name and it’s really tasty.

Kids will need supervision and a crash course on cooking safety, but older kids will be able to pull off this recipe pretty much on their own once they have been given some instruction. Remember how excited you were when they learned to tie their own shoes because you knew you wouldn’t always have to be the one doing it?? Prepare to feel that times 10 because this time you get something delicious out of the process!


  • 4 slices of bread
  • 4 eggs
  • Butter
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 handfuls of grated cheese

Spread the butter on the bread. Using a 3-inch circle cookie cutter (other shapes are fun too! Just make sure they are big enough for the egg to fit into) cut out a circle in the centre of the bread. Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Place all pieces of bread on the pan and crack an egg into the middle of the cut out. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 2-3 minutes until egg white begins to cook. Flip the bread and the egg together and the ‘holes’ over and cook until egg is cooked to desired consistency. I like mine over easy… hint hint, nudge nudge family. Over each egg add a handful of cheese and top with the toasted ‘hole’ or ‘lid’.

Jodi Lariviere is a blogger and food writer with a real passion for healthy, local ingredients and she also writes two of her own blogs:  Simply Fresh – and the new Vegging for Two –

Image credit: Toad in a Hole by flickr user domit

Staying safe in the sun: Sunscreen Information

It is that time of year again, the time when we all start to look at purchasing sunscreen for the upcoming sunny days of summer. With all of products on the market and the abundance of information out there it can get confusing. The following are the basics on sun block/screen, and the terms you should know.

What is SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The most common SPF factors are 15, 30 and 45. The SPF tells you approximately how long your sun block/screen will protect you from the sun. For example, if you normally burn after 10 minutes in the sun, multiply 10 minutes by the SPF. Therefore, an SPF15 will protect you for 150 minutes (2 hours 30 minutes) before you have to re-apply. It is important not to go exactly by the SPF calculation though. Sweating, clothing rubbing against the skin and water can all reduce the “safe time” so it is always a good idea to re-apply well before the calculated SPF time. A good rule is to apply once every hour.

What is the difference between sunscreen and sun block?

A chemical based sunscreen is known as a chemical block. These types of sunscreens do not leave a white film on the skin and rub in as a regular lotion would. The chemicals in these sunscreens filter sunlight and reduce the ultraviolet penetration to the skin. Chemical sunscreens usually contain chemical preservatives such as parabens to lengthen shelf life. It is a good idea to stay away from chemical ingredients and preservatives because they easily absorb into the skin and can cause a multitude of problems.

A sun block that is not chemical based is known as a physical block. These types of blocks contain an active natural mineral ingredient, either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. After applying, the sun block physically blocks the ultraviolet penetration to the skin and do not use any chemicals to do so. Physical blocks usually leave a whitish tinge to the skin after application and contain natural preservatives that in turn give them a shorter shelf life than their chemical based equivalents. To combat the unappealing look of the “white sunscreen” sitting on the skin, some companies turn to nano-particles.
What is broad spectrum?

A sun block/screen is broad spectrum if it protects against Ultraviolet-A (UVA) and Ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. UVA and UVB rays together cause skin cancer, premature aging, sunburn and more, so always be sure that the sun block/screen you choose is labelled broad spectrum.
Note: The sun also emits Ultraviolet-C (UVC) rays but they are of little concern because the majority of UVC rays are filtered by the earth’s ozone layer before it reaches us (a little bit more incentive to protect the environment).


What is the difference between water resistant and waterproof?

Water resistant means that that the sun block/screen will retain its SPF after 40 minutes of any type of moisture exposure. Keep in mind that water exposure also includes sweating.
Waterproof means that the product will retain its SPF after 80 minutes of water exposure.

Gwen is a mom of 2, a freelancer and the owner of Nayla Natural Care, an online store which carries a wide assortment of organic, natural and eco-friendly items for you and your family.  Follow the store on Twitter: @naylanatural

This post was originally published on the Nayla Natural Care blog.

image credit: stock.xchng

Something magical happens when…

By the time my son was 2 years old, he knew how to scroll the mouse on the laptop. At 4 and a half, he can boot up his favourite game, download an app on my phone, and navigate through digital cable.  He would gladly spend all his free time playing games on my laptop, my phone or on the Wii at his grandparents’ house. I notice him starting to mimic what he sees on TV or in games on the Wii, instead of coming up with his own games.

I’m the big bad Mommy who says ‘no you can’t play another game on my phone’.  When he finally gets over the disappointment of having the screen turned off, something magical that happens. He starts to play, using his imagination! He invents games and characters and develops a whole world just for him. I watch from the corner of my eye, being very careful not to let him see me and risk breaking his concentration.  I love watching him in his own little world, with the screens turned off.

Do you regulate how much ‘screen time’ your kids get?

Vicky is a teacher and mom to two young children. She also has a children’s clothing business. Find her on Facebook.

Book Review: Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!

I’m always on the hunt for interesting books to expose my 6-year old son too. He enjoys picture books but the stories are usually short and not very complex. The same can be said for many beginner reader books also. But the jump into chapter books can be a bit abrupt. I think that’s why graphic novels are so appealing; they are like a hybrid of picture books and chapter books. We’ve had a chance to review a few great ones like The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen of the Future and Alison Dare.

Penguin Young Readers’ Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever! (age 9-12), written and illustrated by Stephen McCranie, is another great graphic novel for boys (though my girls enjoyed it too). Mal is a goofy geek of a young boy who builds jet packs, rocket ships and time machines in his spare time, along with his talking dog Chad (another of Mal’s inventions). Mal and Chad are best friends, going on many adventures together, including a trip back to the time of the dinosaurs (Mal wanted to see if studying dinosaurs would be something of interest to him as a grown-up).

Mal’s life isn’t all about experiments and scientific discovery; like most geeky boys he has to deal with the bully at school and his crush on the most popular girl in his class, while trying to maintain the guise of being a normal kid.  But one day an event occurs and both worlds collide.

Although Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever! Is a little much for my son to read on his own, he was captivated with the story, staying focused until the end. This is a great way to transition kids into stories, like chapter books, that require a longer attention span. Graphic novels, like this, are great for older boys who might be reluctant to give reading a try or who are looking for a fun, light read.

I want to thank Vimala Jeevanandam from Penguin Group Canada for my review copy.

Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!

Written and illustrated by Stephen McCranie

Age 9-12

Penguin Young Readers

Carrie Anne is a contributing book reviewer on Best Tools for School’s blog and No Time for Flash Cards as well as Managing Partner and Editor-in-Chief of You can catch up with her and her three kids on her blog Another Day Another Thought… Or Two.

When ‘They’ Don’t Teach us Enough

 Last weekend, I had the pleasure of travelling to Toronto (yes, I saw my grandkids) to attend the Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association’s (ONBIDA) annual convention.

It was fabulous! 

Not only did I enjoy a laugh- and info-filled keynote address by Dr. Gordon Sherman,  “Welcome to the Future: Where Dyslexic Brains Thrive,” but I also got to spend the day enjoying Dee Ledet-Rosenberg’s take on how to provide effective in-class reading instruction.  

Many teachers in the room had not heard of some of the reading programmes Dee described, nor about some of the research about reading development and reading disability.  

Am I surprised by that?  Not at all. Canadian teacher education institutes do not subscribe to a common curriculum about practices that encourage emergent reading, and many pre-service schools spend a lot more time talking about balanced literacy and reading circles than they do about literacy development, phonological awareness, phonics instruction, and the importance of vocabulary and comprehending skills.

That’s not just sad ~  it’s a travesty. 

The research is pretty clear about what kids who are at risk for reading disability need.  And while some students can learn to read without a structured, sequential research-based approach, not all can.  If we’re only implementing one curriculum in an early elementary classroom, shouldn’t it be one that can enrich the language learning of those for whom reading is not an issue, while it catches those kids who are at-risk and keeps them from becoming statistics? 

As teachers, we all know that we get what “they” offer for pre-service training.  But we also know, we get to choose what we learn after we graduate.

For those among us who did not benefit from a research-based reading strategies curriculum, and who have not yet had the time (goodness knows there is a lot to read and learn) to ferret out all the information ourselves, good solid PD is available.

This summer ONBIDA is offering a three-day summer workshop entitled “Un-lock-ing Language: Teaching Structured Language.”  I hope they’ll forgive me for cutting and pasting from the list of skills teachers can learn from this professional development opportunity:

  • Understand how the languages of Anglo-Saxon, Latin and Greek influence English spelling patterns.
  • Accurately match speech sounds with their written forms in English words.
  • Recognize and explain common rules and patterns in English.
  • Differentiate between ‘high frequency’ and ‘irregular’ words.
  • Identify, explain, and categorize six basic syllable types in English spelling.
  • Identify and categorize common morphemes in English.


Why not check it out?  ONBIDA PD BROCHURE  Psst. Early registration ends June 4th

If you see me there, come on over and introduce yourself, will you?

Until next time,


BTW:  Professional development can be costly.  ONBIDA knows that.  So they’re providing three scholarships to this PD opportunity (through the Oliver Martin Trust Fund).  But, visit quickly if you’re interested in learning for free.  Applications for scholarships close on May 14th at noon.

Diane Duff, B. Ed., is a literacy consultant who works with families, schools, and literacy coaches/tutors.  Diane conducts assessments for reading/writing skills and dyslexia; provides workshops for parent groups; leads reading and language curriculum review for private schools, Montessori schools and homeschooling parents; and conducts teacher training in language and literacy development.     For more information, visit 

Green Shopping: Local Farmers’ Markets

Now that Spring is finally here, our local farmers’ markets will be back open for business before we know it (in Ottawa, some have already opened). When we shop at a farmers’ market, we are not only buying fresh healthy foods for the family, we are also doing much more such as:

- creating a direct line of communication with someone who is involved with growing/raising/preparing the foods we are buying. You can ask specific questions about how it is grown, how long ago it was harvested/prepared…questions your grocer can’t always answer.

- supporting the local economy. The less hands that your purchases have to pass through, the more money goes back to the farmer who grew/raised/prepared it.

- saving yourself some money. Because the food is coming to you directly from the farmer, there isn’t usually a large mark up.

- creating a smaller carbon footprint. The things you buy at a farmer’s market don’t have to travel as far to get to you. It is all locally produced, and will taste better and be fresher.

- creating a sense of curiosity in your kids. When we shop at the grocery store, we tend to stick to the same types of produce week after week. If we come across a farmer selling a seasonal vegetable or fruit that has never been tried before, it may (hopefully!) open up their interest and curiosity to try something different!

Looking for a farmers’ market in your area? For those in the Ottawa area, here is a handy list. For those outside of Ottawa, simply google farmers’ markets for your area.

And when you go, don’t forget to bring your re-useable bags J

image credit: stock.xchng

Gwen is a mom of 2, a freelancer and the owner of Nayla Natural Care, an online store which carries a wide assortment of organic, natural and eco-friendly items for you and your family.  Follow the store on Twitter: @naylanatural

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