Archive for November, 2012

Top 10 Christmas Carols Kids Should Learn

November 28th, 2012 by admin

Christmas carols are a cornerstone of the holiday season, and hearing your favorite jingle can instantly fill you with holiday cheer. Everyone has their own personal favorite, and your kids will likely find themselves smitten with their own favorite songs.  Whether you’re just starting to teach your kids different carols or trying to put together a medley so that you can go caroling around the neighborhood this year, there is no shortage of songs to choose from. Here is a list of the top 10 Christmas carols kids should learn and a little of their history.

  1. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Robert May created the story Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer for the retailer Montgomery Ward in 1939.  May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks then turned the story into a song.  The song was recorded by the legendary Gene Autry and the song went to #1 on the music charts during the week of Christmas in 1949.  It has since sold over 25 million copies.  The story was later made into a cartoon in 1944 and the song was added in 1948.
  2. Frosty the Snowman This song happened in reverse of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  The song was recorded by Gene Autry in 1950 following the success of Rudolph.  A little golden book of Frosty the Snowman was adapted from the song in 1950.  The cartoon version came out in 1969.
  3. Away in the Manger – This song was first published in 1885 and the words have been attributed to Martin Luther, however, there is some skepticism about whether or not he really wrote the poem that became this song.  There is nothing hard and fast that says who really wrote it.  Charles Gabriel added the third verse of “Be near me Lord Jesus” in 1892.  It’s been voted one of the best carols ever written.
  4. Deck the Halls – A very old song, the tune dates back to the 16th century.  Mozart used the tune in Sonata No. 18.  The lyrics are believed to be American. 
  5. Silent Night – This German song was first performed in 1818 in Austria by father Joseph Mohr.  This song is so popular that it has been recorded by nearly every artist that has ever recorded a Christmas album.  There are various stories about this song’s history, but most think Mohr just needed another song he could play on his guitar.
  6. We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Going back to 16th century England, this was a popular carol sung through the streets, and the wealthy used to give the carolers figgy puddings for their singing efforts.  This song was typically the last song sung.
  7. Santa Claus is Coming to Town – This traditional song was written by John Coots and Haven Gillespie and was first performed on a radio show in 1934.  The song was very popular, and has been recorded by many artists over the years.
  8. Jingle Bells – A well-known secular song, Jingle Bells was written by James Lord Pierpont in 1850.  Funny as it sounds, this song was actually written for Thanksgiving and not Christmas.  The song was originally called “One Horse Open Sleigh.”
  9. Joy to the World – This song is based on Psalm 98 from the Bible and written by a hymn writer named Isaac Watts in 1719.  Watts actually wrote the hymn to celebrate Jesus’ return, not his birth.  Only the last part of Watts’ original lyrics are used today. 
  10. 12 Days of Christmas – Not a lot is known about the origins of this song.  It is believed to be French originally, but was sung a lot in England as well.  Common belief is that it may have started as a game, where one person started and then the next person had to say what the first person said and then add on to it.  The game continued until someone made a mistake.  The 12 days of Christmas start on Dec. 25th and end on Jan. 5th.  All of the gifts are believed to cost $24,263.18 in 2011.  The gifts have almost doubled in price since the 1984 estimated cost.

These 10 songs are some of the most well-known Christmas carols, and are beloved by many. Your kids will have a blast singing these popular favorites, and if they learn them well enough you might just have to take the kids Christmas caroling this year to show them off.

10 Fire Dangers Commonly Involving Kids

November 15th, 2012 by admin

Few words strike fear in a parent’s heart like “fire.” There are many different ways for children to inadvertently start or be injured in a fire, and the potential for destruction is so great that the mere mention of fire can set off a panic among parents. Here are 10 of the most common dangers of fire in relation to children.

  1. Matches and Lighters – Most children have a natural curiosity about fire that is paired with a limited understanding of the dangers that are typically associated with it. Access to matches or lighters can present a very real fire hazard as that curiosity takes hold.
  2. Attempts at Cooking – Many appliances and gadgets in the kitchen produce heat; from the stove to the toaster, there are several opportunities for a child to accidentally set a kitchen fire in their attempts to cook.
  3. Burning Candles and Horseplay – Kids, especially when there are more than one in the room, have a tendency to spontaneously burst into spirited play. However, rough-housing in a room with a lit candle can lead to serious problems. Should the candle be knocked to the floor or a flammable object fall into its wick, a small fire can quickly become a large blaze.
  4. Campfires – Camping is a part of childhood for many, and sitting around campfires is a cherished part of the experience. When proper caution is exercised, the potential for a devastating fire injury is reduced; be sure that kids have a good knowledge of campfire safety before sending them off into the great outdoors.
  5. Unattended Fireplaces – There are few things as homey as a crackling fireplace on a cold day, but leaving the fire unattended in a house with children can easily lead to injury and property damage. Curious kids might be tempted to throw things into the fire or engage in other unsafe behavior in the absence of an adult.
  6. Hairstyling Appliances – Older kids that are beginning to use heated hairstyling appliances like curling irons and straighteners can create a fire hazard by placing the appliance on a flammable surface or forgetting to unplug it when they’re finished.
  7. Lamps – When messy kids throw clothing over a lamp, or those with a penchant for decorating deliberately place scarves over lampshades, they are inadvertently creating a fire hazard in their own bedrooms.
  8. Overloading Electrical Outlets – As more and more of the modern child’s entertainment comes from electronic gaming and computer devices, there may not be enough outlets in the room to accommodate everything. This can cause kids to overload outlets with surge protectors and the like, which can pose a serious fire risk.
  9. Flammable Substances – The moment that a kid understands what flammable liquid is and the noticeable effect it has on an already-burning fire, curiosity can take hold and lead to very serious trouble. Educating kids about the dangers and repercussions of playing with fire is the best way to prevent this risky behavior.
  10. Smoking – Despite the many programs aimed at keeping kids away from smoking, there will always be a few that insist on sneaking cigarettes. The need for secrecy paired with a limited understanding of fire safety make cigarette-related fires among the most common.

Kids are never too young to start learning about fire safety and prevention; this ongoing lesson could be one that saves their life. Additionally, if you have concerns that your child has an unhealthy fixation or obsession with fire, there are programs through your local fire department that can point you in the right direction to get help.

10 iPhone Apps to Use for Christmas Shopping

November 14th, 2012 by admin

Traditional wisdom may state that it’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it can actually be one of the most stressful when it comes to shopping for gifts. Making sure that everyone on your list receives just what they’re looking for isn’t always easy, especially when the crowds descend simultaneously in search of big markdowns and the hot, limited-supply toys of the season. These 10 iPhone apps can help you manage the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping with a minimal amount of stress.

  1. TGI Black Friday – By far the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday requires a serious battle plan before you leave the house. With this free app you can begin drafting that plan weeks before the stores open, accessing ads and sale information from major retailers long before it’s released in the papers.
  2. Better Christmas List – Scoring all the gifts you’re looking for before the holidays is much easier when you plan in advance by building a comprehensive shopping list before you begin shopping. This $0.99 app will keep track of every hint your loved ones drop so that you can make Christmas wishes come true.
  3. Santa’s Bag – Christmas Gift List – Manage not only your Christmas gift shopping lists, but also planning and keeping track of your budget, with the $1.99 Santa’s Bag app. Save gift preference information, like sizes, interests and favorite stores, so that you’ll never find yourself without that pertinent information again.
  4. Delivery Status – If you’re the type that would rather handle your holiday shopping from the comfort of your home via online merchants, the $4.99 Delivery Status app will allow you to quickly and easily track the location of your purchases. Know when they’ll arrive so that you can plan accordingly, especially when you need to intercept certain gifts before curious family members are tempted to snoop.
  5. Amazon Mobile – As one of the largest online retailers, Amazon is likely to have most, if not all, of the items on your holiday shopping list. Browsing product information and making purchases during any downtime you have throughout the day is easy to do, and the app is free.
  6. Black Friday – Finding the best Black Friday deals with the free Black Friday app from FatWallet is as easy as swiping and tapping your iPhone’s screen. Shop, save, and compare deals from various retailers with the power of your mobile device in order to make braving rabid shopping crowds a bit more efficient.
  7. Shopping by The Find – Comparison shopping can net significant savings during the busy Christmas shopping season, both online and at brick-and-mortar retail stores. Scan barcodes of the items you’re considering, and this free app will search for the best deals while creating a shopping list. There’s no advertising clutter, and the app will detect your location in order to find stores close to you at any given time.
  8. Lemon Wallet – Minimizing the number of things you’re forced to carry during the chaotic Black Friday shopping day is essential, and also as easy as snapping a picture with your iPhone’s camera if you have this free app installed. Take pictures of your loyalty cards, credit and debit cards, and your ID, gaining merchant rewards and keeping track of expenditures.
  9. Gift Plan – Plan not only Christmas gifts, but also those for every gift-giving occasion, with this $2.99 app that stores clothing sizes and preferences while sending alerts when a loved one’s anniversary or birthday is approaching. Manage a full shopping profile for those closest to you and Gift Plan will make purchasing their Christmas gifts a snap.
  10. shopkick – Simply entering major stores like Macy’s, Old Navy and Target earns you reward points, which increase when you scan items and make purchases. Use your Christmas purchases to earn rewards from Starbucks, iTunes and gift cards, offsetting some of your expenses and maximizing the amount of gifts you’re able to purchase with your existing budget.

In addition to these apps, there are a variety on the market that offer users access to a number of specialty items, local deals and bargains. Be sure that you look for any shopping apps relevant to your city or region as well so that you don’t miss out on savings from retailers you might ordinarily overlook.

5 Ways to Make Ice Cream without an Ice Cream Maker

November 13th, 2012 by admin

Ice cream… that cold, rich and creamy dessert that never seems to go out of style. You can use it to top off your warm piece of apple pie, put a dollop on top of your peach crisp, or just enjoy a scoop or two on its own.  As the weather gets cold people sometimes shy away from ice cream as their dessert of choice, but often winter is the best time to make homemade ice cream because it’s already cold out.  Check out these five ways to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.

  1. Snow scream- Bring in a big bowl of clean snow, about 8 cups.  You can use shaved ice if you don’t have access to snow.  Pour a can of sweetened condensed milk over the snow and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and stir it together.  Serve immediately.  You’ll be surprised at how yummy this tastes.
  2. Coffee can ice cream- Mix up your favorite ice cream base recipe and pour it into a 3lb coffee can.  Put the 3lb coffee can into a 5 lb. coffee can and put ice and salt around the smaller can.  Put the lid on and have the kids roll the can back and forth.  At the beginning you will be able to feel the ice cream sloshing around in there, but then the can will get really cold and you won’t feel any sloshing except the ice that’s melting.  This part should take about 30 minutes or so, depending on how warm it is in your house.  Open the lid to the smaller can to make sure the ice cream is frozen to a soft serve consistency, and if it is you can remove it and transfer it to the freezer to harden or you can eat it right away.
  3. Straight to the freezer cream- Find a recipe that is custard based.  The higher the fat content and the richer the base, the better this method will work.  After your custard base is ready, pour it into a stainless steel bowl and cool it over an ice bath.  Set the bowl of cooled custard base in the freezer for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes has passed, take a whisk and vigorously stir the ice cream.  Return the base to the freezer for 30 more minutes and then repeat the stirring process.  This can also be done with a hand mixer, which will require less effort from you and turn out a better product in the end.  Keep freezing and stirring in 30 minute increments until the ice cream is pretty well frozen.  Transfer to a suitable container with a lid and freeze until ready to eat.  The sooner you eat this type of ice cream, the better the texture will be.
  4. Crushed ice cube cream- Whisk together 8 egg yolks, 1 cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt for 5 minutes, or until its pale yellow and falls off of the whisk in ribbons.  In a medium sauce pan heat up 12 ounces of evaporated milk (1 can) until it just comes up to a simmer.  Remove the milk from the heat and slowly add it to the egg mixture with one hand while whisking vigorously with the other hand.  Add the mixture slowly or you will make scrambled eggs instead of custard.  Return the warm mixture to the sauce pan and heat until it reaches 180 degrees or coats the back of a spoon.  Make sure to whisk constantly while heating.  Don’t overheat or, again, you will have scrambled eggs.  Now pour warm custard into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, making sure that the wrap touches the surface of the custard so it doesn’t form a skin.  Cool the custard completely.  Once the custard is cool, whisk 1 cup of heavy cream in until it’s doubled in volume.  Fold the whipped cream into the custard until the mixture has no lumps.  Pour the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze (this will take about 4 hours).  To make the ice cream, add 1 cup of heavy cream to a food processor and the ice cubes that you made and blend until the ice cream is smooth and creamy.  Eat immediately.  
  5. Whipped cream style- Take 2 cups of heavy whipping cream and beat to stiff peaks.  Stir your favorite mix-ins together with a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Now, fold the stiff peaks into the milk mixture and pour the mixture into a freezer safe container with a lid.  Once frozen, this will be rich and creamy, just like ice cream.

Despite popular belief, ice cream isn’t a dessert reserved for just the summertime. Give some of these different methods a try and see which one you like best, then fix yourself a bowl and eat it by the fire to keep warm.

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10 iPhone Apps Kids Love

November 7th, 2012 by admin

While limiting screen time is a very real concern for many parents, there are times when a child’s natural fascination with Apple’s powerful and popular iPhone mobile device can provide a much-needed diversion. The intuitive interface and ease of use offered by these 10 apps, all of which are available in the App Store, make them great options for harried parents who need a distraction for their children during long waits. Sometimes all that children need to prevent tantrums and misbehavior borne of frustration and restlessness is the fun that one or more of these apps can provide.

  1. Helicopter Taxi – By simulating a helicopter flight in the same room as your child through the use of the iPhone’s camera, the $1.99 Helicopter Taxi app delights and amazes. Don’t be surprised, however, if you find yourself furtively using this one yourself. The augmented reality effect is completely addictive, and the app runs no third-party advertising to distract from game play.
  2. Pocket Frogs – Kids can discover frogs with the Pocket Frogs app, then collect and breed them to create their own diverse collection. Habitats are customizable, allowing kids to put their own personal stamp on the game as they play. Free in the app store, Pocket Frogs also makes new in-game items available each day.
  3. Cut the Rope – Cut ropes to release candy into the ravenous Om Nom’s mouth, collecting gold star rewards and unlocking new levels as you progress. While this $0.99 app is directed at kids, it’s cute and engaging enough to make your own mass transit commute or long wait time a bit more bearable.
  4. Disney Fairies Fly – If a few Tinkerbell-themed movies simply aren’t enough to satisfy your little one’s craving for all things Fairy, this $4.99 app might be just what you’re looking for. Kids can explore changing seasons and help the fairies complete various tasks, while dodging dastardly birds and thistles along the way.
  5. Dinosaurs: The American Museum of Natural History Collections – This app is sure to satisfy every dinosaur-crazy aspiring paleontologist. With images from the archives of the American Museum of Natural History, Dinosaurs helps kids learn about science while they entertain themselves.
  6. SmackTalk! – It’s no secret to any parent that the things kids love the most will almost always be the ones that adults find most irritating. This $0.99 app is no exception, as it allows kids to convert recordings of their own voices and chosen phrases into a distorted or altered version of themselves, with the effects ranging from the most high-pitched squeaks to unsettling low rumbles.
  7. Pianist – The full 88 keys of a piano are represented faithfully in this $3.99 app, which is heavily touted by the Apple corporation themselves. Budding musicians can experiment with music and begin to grasp the basics of playing the piano with a few taps of the screen. A word to the wise: invest in headphones.
  8. Pocket Pond – Kids can feed the native koi fish, create ripple effects, and observe the behavior of schools of fish by scaring them, feeding them or simply watching them move with this app. While the app is marketed as a relaxation app for adults, it’s also fascinating to young children and devoid of the character commercialization that often accompanies apps marketed to a younger audience.
  9. Alphabet Animals – Talking ABC Cards for Kids – These interactive flash cards keep toddlers and preschoolers happily engaged with three different sound effects for each, including a pronunciation of the animal’s name, the associated letter or an easy-to-grasp phrase that connects a specific animal to colors or places.
  10. Mad Libs – The same rollicking fun that you remember from your own childhood is now available to your youngsters with this free app, which packs all of the laugh-inducing power of its pen-and-paper predecessor. Help kids learn parts of speech and the basic rules of grammar while composing outlandish tales together through Mad Libs.

Though these apps are loved by kids and are extremely useful at keeping them occupied in some situations, it’s also important to remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that parents keep kids’ screen time to a manageable minimum. In addition to their ability to stave off any bad behavior resulting from boredom, using these apps together with your little one allows you to spend quality time with your youngsters, even when they’re absorbed in the features of your iPhone.