Let’s go mountain biking, Mom

dsc_1254I was an avid mountain biker in my early 30s, and once again I have taken up the sport, more than a decade later, to find that lots has changed. The trails and techniques have not changed much, but I have. Luckily, mountain bikes have changed too, and newer models are much more suited for people at various stages of life and skill levels.

The Mongoose Switchback Sport ($399) women’s mountain bike is a great bike for a new or returning mountain biker. The Switchback is tall, with its 27.5-inch wheelbase and a raised handlebar stem, and it allows me to sit high and upright. As I have gotten a little older, my neck and back sometimes feel stiff and painful, so this more erect posture is exceedingly more comfortable than the hunched-over downward-facing position of older mountain bikes.

The front suspension fork absorbs shock and offers a lower-impact ride than a fixed fork, so again, for an older body, this is more comfortable. The fork features a lockout knob, so that if you are on a paved surface and you don’t require the benefits of suspension, you can change over the fork so that it performs like a fixed fork, which offers a less laborious ride.

The pedals on this bike feature standard platform pedals. When I was a more aggressive mountain biker, I used clipless pedals, which required me to have special shoes with clips, and when clicked into the pedals, my pedal stroke was more efficient. For serious riders, clipless pedals are a must, but for a weekend rider like myself, the platform pedals are more suitable. As I am out of practice with the clipless pedals, the platforms gave me less anxiety. There is nothing worse than not being able to clip out of your pedals in time when you stop, and tipping over like a bad scene from Laugh In.

As this bike is tall, I appreciated the girls’ style lower top tube. While in my younger days I would easily swing my leg over the seat, now I am glad to be able to have the option of stepping through the bike to mount it.

One thing that will take some adjustment for me is the width of the handlebars. Because of the gears and their positioning on the handlebars, I am not able to place my hands close together. At first I felt like my grip was too wide, but I am getting use to this stance.
The aluminum frame keeps the bike lightweight, which is not only good for quick riding on the trails, it makes it easier for me to lift to put on a bike rack on the back of my car or to hang on a rack in my garage. It’s the small things that are important! One non-standard component that I will add to this bike is a kickstand. I’m aware that true mountain bikers do not have kickstands on their bikes, as it could be dangerous if it snags on roots, rocks or other obstacles on the trail, and it also adds a minuscule amount of weight to the bike, but I prefer the convenience of a kickstand to leaning my bike against a pole or a tree, or having to lay it on the ground.

The components on this bike are high-end for the price point. The Shimano Tourney 3_7 drivetrain with Shimano EZ-Fire shifters make shifting smooth and easy, and the mechanic disc brakes with 160 mm rotors are responsive without seizing up. At around $399, this is a great entry-point hardtail bike for a rider who wants the bells and whistles of a specialized bike but who is not yet willing to invest in a bike costing upwards of $1,500 for features like rear suspension. If I continue riding and want to become more competitive, I can always upgrade this bike, or trade up to a more advanced model.

For my weekend jaunts on and off single-track and paved trails, the Switchback is ideal. It is a serious enough bike, loaded with high quality Shimao and Xposure components, that I am not embarrassed riding among avid cyclists on the popular local trails, whereas on my comfort bike I felt a little like an oddball. It has performance features that make it enjoyable to ride but not too high maintenance for someone like myself who just wants to have a great time and not make a career of tinkering with my bike. This particular Mongoose model is among the higher end of the brand’s offerings. Mongoose also makes less expensive models, though for anyone who wants to get carefree, long use out of their equipment, I recommend going with one of their upper-end models. It might be another $100 to $300 to buy the better bike, but in the end you will get your money’s worth.

While certainly the hardware of mountain biking is the most significant investment, the apparel you wear while will riding can make your experience much better. Biking apparel today is nearly as technical as bikes themselves. The high tech fabrics have evolved and to provide more efficient wicking of perspiration to keep you comfortable when you work up a sweat, and they have features that allow you to adapt them as you progress in your ride or the weather or riding condition changes.

Sugoi, a brand that was forged in British Columbia, Canada, is designed to give you all optimal comfort and performance no matter what the weather. They make a great all-around Coast Hoode ($120), featuring a Aero fleece fabric that is a bonded knit with DWR, so that it protects against wind and water. It’s lined with a dry active jersey fabric to keep you warm, and it has two hand pockets for when you’re off the bike, and an inside pocket perfect for a cell phone or wallet. The collar features a media management system so you can secure headphone cords. When wearing this jacket, it is clear it was designed by true bikers, who thought of everything.

For early fall riding were days when it is less cool, the Coast Long Sleeve shirt ($65) is a great option. It also has great styling, so if you slip into a café on a rest break, you’ll fit right in and not look like your necessarily wearing a bike jersey.

For safety, Sugoi also makes an excellent reflective Zap Training jacket that makes you stand out like a radioactive rider when headlights hit you, if you ride after dark.

As I is a have always been a believer in dressing for success, it is my philosophy that if you have the right gear and clothing, you will perform better, and you will get the most out of your ride, whether that it is pleasure or trying to meet a training goal. When you feel comfortable on your bike and in your riding clothes, and you feel confident about your equipment, you can focus on your ride and getting the most benefit from it. As I gear up to get back into mountain biking, and now I have a nine-year-old son to keep up with, I am thrilled to be back in the saddle, and I am ready to roll.


A dated living room gets a hi-tech makeover

1111_s_Crescent_Heights_blvd_LA_90035The Brown family was immersed in technology in their daily lives at work and school, but at home, their living room was still in the dark ages. Here is how Los Angeles interior designer Andee Ferrer took on the task of transforming the “great room” of their 1930s Spanish-style duplex into a contemporary, smart and connected hi-tech haven.

Out with the old

As a designer of the digital age, Ferrer didn’t need to leave her laptop to reset this room with all the latest devices, décor and computer comforts of modern life. First thing Ferrer did was send the Colonial-style entertainment center off to the woodpile, via TruckBuddy. Next the sagging drab olive sofa and loveseat, bulky coffee table, 26” TV, DVD player, stereo receiver, five-CD changer, external speakers and other vintage electronics and furnishings, found new homes via craigslist. Then, it was time to refresh the scene.

Technology and function

While a TV is the centerpiece of a traditional family room, Ferrer eschewed the eyesore of a wall-mounted TV and tucked it away in a custom-built Cabinet Tronix television cabinet.  With a touch of a button, the TV emerges, neatly and discretely, connected to half a dozen media peripherals, including a Blu-Ray player and X-Box, which are also hidden away, enclosed in a compartment at the bottom of the unit.



Inside the cabinet, the family’s former tiny TV was upsized and upgraded with a 43″ TCL Roku TV.  Since streaming is the new cable, the family cut the cord, and cost, and now uses a TERK Trinity Indoor Amplified HDTV antenna to get basic channels sans subscription.


Atop the cabinet, a stylish Sonos Playbar connects to the TV via optical cable and lends rich AV sound. The app-controlled system connects with other Sonos speakers in the house to stream free and paid playlists from sites like Pandora, Amazon Music, and Spotify. To amplify Wi-Fi throughout the house, a TP-Link VR900 modem/router is paired with the eero extender system to boost bufferless audio and video streaming.

Above the lift cabinet, Ferrer used the wall space as a projection screen for a  ZTE Spro2 projector. The palm-sized tablet-like projector transforms the living room into a cinema, streaming directly from the device or connecting to other devices via USB or HDMI cable.


After some research, Ferrer learned that the best color wall for projection was not white, as one might expect, but grey.  She chose Sherwin-Williams Passive Gray to make the colors pop and show vividly on the wall.


Get smart

To outsmart kids prone to leaving lights on, the Lutron Maestro motion sensor automatically turns lights on and off, and to set the mood lighting, the handy Lutron Caseta Wireless controller dims lights and raises and lowers blinds while iDevices switches wirelessly control the Robert Abbey Delta Emerald Glazed Table Lamp and floor fan, while the heat and AC are controlled by a Honeywell Lyric thermostat.  Both wireless controllers and the thermostat respond to app or voice commands by Amazon Echo, which can also play music, update a Google calendar, report the news, and even read the kids a story. The family can play it safe anywhere in the home with Samsung smartthings hub home monitoring kit which sends alerts via app if anyone passes a sensor or opens or closes a connected door or window.


Creature Comforts

A couch is fundamental in a family room, so Ferrer started by replacing the old sofa and loveseat with a bright, comfortable contemporary sectional with a lounger sidecar from Article.  Ferrer also found beautifully floral-patterned side chairs and marble top sofa tables by La-Z-y Boy, gray lacquered BluDot Strut Square coffee table, a ghost chair from InStyleModern,  two Safavieh benches from Wayfair for extra seating, a gold geometric gardening stool by IMAX to serve as an end table, and a modern IKEA large-shade floor lamp.  Other textile pieces included Sanela room darkening draperies in light turquoise and faux skin rugs for the stools from IKEA, a Safavieh Hand Woven Natural Kilim Ivory Wool Rug and comfort padding from Overstock, Roman Shades by Pottery Barn, and fabric panels for the Cabinet Tronix lift cabinet, featuring Robert Allen fabric in Tiny Pebbles Parchment design.

To help brighten the room when it was not in use for projection viewing, Ferrer mounted two bright satin brass Robert Sonneman Palo Wall Sconces, which freed up space where floor lamps once stood.


To help brighten the room when it was not in use for projection viewing, Ferrer mounted two bright satin brass Robert Sonneman Palo Wall Sconces, which freed up space where floor lamps once stood.

It’s all about the vase

No makeover is complete without the accessories. In keeping with an underlying gold and silver theme, Ferrer found an elegant silver bowl with bronze beading from Beatriz Ball collection, which complemented other metallic décor in the room including gold-accented vases and geometric shapes from Gold Leaf Design Group and unique Wall Play wire designs she used to sculpt and frame the projection “screen” to create anticipation on the wall.  Adorning another wall were two bird prints by Wooden Pencil Company, featuring a California quail and Virginia red cardinal, representing family member’s two home states. Across one wall Ferrer displayed a collection of black and white family photos created on aluminum by WhiteWall, a German company specializing in gallery-quality prints.

Centered above the sofa hung a Nurai Mora 2015 Artist Event Print from IKEA, which carried through the geometric design theme from the wire sculpture, the table sculpture and the leaded glass windows.


Ferrer softened the room with geometric-patterned pillows from Fab and luxurious linen and wool throw blankets from COAST New Zealand.  She picked up all the remaining tchotchkes she needed, including silk flower arrangements, at HomeGoods.


Good study

Because the room served as a home office for parents and a study room for kids, Ferrer placed a Liberty Furniture Brookview Writer’s Desk in one corner, which held the sleek workhorse Intel-powered HP Envy 34” Curved All-in-One PC, loaded with Windows 10 and featuring a Bang & Olufsen audio system, which serves as both entertainment center and homework base.  Homework or play can become a family affair by using the Nyrius Aries Pro wireless HDMI transmitter to stream content from the desktop to the TV or projector or other HD device.


Good clean fun

Just as the Tronix cabinet was a sophisticated hideaway solution for the TV, Ferrer wanted to make the room multifunctional as a family play space and a place where adults could entertain, without being surrounded by kids’ playthings.  Three Casement black sideboards from Crate & Barrel, with the glass covered with frosted glass film, served to neatly and discreetly store all of the family’s board games, toys, and electronic peripherals.


IT room

In case you worry that you have to be an IT genius to set up and enjoy this room, fret not.  Even if you have trouble programming your universal remote, anyone can be king of their smart domain with the help of HelloTech, the “Uber of tech.” All in all, it took one of their hero tech a few hours to unbox and get all of the electronics in the room and throughout the house up and working together.

(Photography by Katya Grozovskaya)

Editor’s note:  Companies featured in this article provided sample products for reviews, but all opinions belong to the author.

Creating a habitable and cozy basement living space

Most basements are underutilized real estate, often used for storage, home gyms or kids’ recreation rooms. By warming up these subterranean spaces with a few creature comforts, you can create an inviting apartment, perfect for grown children living at home, house guests or home-sharing.

Bedding buy

Let the sunshine in your basement boudoir with blooming florals from bluebellgray, the flirty and fashionable bedding that Lena Dunham slept pretty on in HBO’s Girls. Add uptown style to your downstairs space with the collection’s assortment of bold and bright or subtle and elegant patterns of duvet covers ($270, with closeout styles priced as low as $37), sheet sets ($75-$165) and decorative pillows ($85-$100) to create the look and mood you want. Available at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.



Get FLOR’d

Polished concrete floors of unfinished basements is a vogue look, but it can be cold and hard on feet. Warm up the space and add a splash of style with FLOR carpet tiles. The brands innovated design concept allows you to mix and match tiles to create a unique look, and the tiles are easily replaceable and washable. The materials are also low VOCs, so there are no toxic fumes as with many other carpeting textiles. The floor DIY tiles are designed to hug the floor, and they come with adhesive dots that hold the tiles together, so there is no need for nails, tax or glue, or even additional padding.



Warm and fuzzy

Stay cozy in your basement space with plenty of warm blankets, like the snuggly Heat Holders Thermal Oversized Throw/Blanket ($29.99), available in seven fashion colors to fit in with your decor.  The super soft fur fleece, called HeatWeaver, was developed to be efficient at retaining heat, which is why it has an official TOG rating of 1.4, making the material measurably warmer to the touch.


Dry time

Basements don’t have to be damp.  Invest in a good dehumidifier. This will not only make the environment more comfortable to live in, less humid in the summer and less cold in the winter. It will help eliminate that musty smell of furniture, clothes and other items stored in the basement. The Frigidaire FFAD5033R1 Energy Star 50-pint unit ($279, Best Buy, Sears, Home Depot) will effectively dry up a large basement, and it has a stylish design so that it won’t be an eyesore in the room. This type of unit has an option to drain into a tank, which has an alarm and it automatically shuts off if the bucket gets too full; or you can use a hose and it can automatically flow into a drain. With an effective dehumidifier, odors from mold and mildew caused by excess moisture can be eliminated, along with airborne bacteria that can make breathing difficult and irritate allergies.


The smart basement

Keep your basement space and entire home comfortable year-round with a thermostat that you can regulate from anywhere – at home or outside the home.  Cool off or warm up the basement before you get home with the programmable  Honeywell Lyric WiFi Thermostat ($199, Home Depot)  This Wi-Fi thermostat is Apple HomeKit and Amazon Echo compatible, so you can control your HVAC system with Siri or Alexa voice commands and through your smartphone.


Never worry again if you leave on the heat or AC after you have left the house, and with Lyric WiFi Water Leak and Freeze Detector ($79.99, Home Depot) you can track for mold, water damage and pipe leaks from your phone, for added peace of mind when you are away from home. Check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=yKKrFaJbRy8


Heat it up

It is a fact of thermodynamics that hot air rises, cold air sinks, so it’s not surprising the basement is often the chilliest place in the house. In order for basement dwellers to keep warm, often the furnace has to be turned up so high that the upstairs occupants are boiling hot. Avoid this upstairs downstairs feud with a cost efficient space heater. Honeywell, one of the most trusted names and heating and air conditioning, makes a number of reliable and safe room heaters. Their latest digital 360 surround heater ($39.99), one of their bestsellers, delivers 25% warmer heat output and 20% faster room heat up compared to prior models.


It also features an automatic shut off if it is tipped over and an automatic shut off if the unit gets too hot. Also has a four-hour programmable thermostat and timer and a handy remote control you can place on a bed stand, so you don’t have to get up to adjust it during the night. The Honeywell Digital display ceramic tower heater ($39.99-$69.99) with a remote control is a tall stylish design that oscillates to give you full room heat. This style is perfect for rooms where floor space is at a premium, and it features tip over and over heat protection or piece of mine, and it’s great if you have small children or pets, because it features a safeguard motion sensor that shuts off of any object gets too close.  Available at www.honeywellpluggedin.com, Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Amazon.


Be alarmed

It’s an unpleasant thing to think about, but carbon monoxide leaks from furnaces can kill, and most furnaces are located in basements. Make sure you safeguard yourself with a CO alarm. Kidde makes some of the best-rated CO alarms in the industry, including their single screw easy install combination smoke and CO alarm ($53) that is always on and features a sealed lithium battery that lasts for 10 years and has a hush button too quickly silence false alerts. It also has a voice alarm that states “Fire!” and an 85 decibel alarm if carbon monoxide or smoke is detected. Kidde also makes a plug-in CO detector ($67) unit perfect for hallways that doubles as a night light that even works when the power goes out.


Note:  The companies featured in this article provided sample products for review, but the opinions stated belong to the author.

Delicious hostess gifts for foodies

If you want to bring your holiday party hostess something more exciting than the usual potted poinsettia, or if you have a foodie on your gift list, here are some exquisite, tasteful hostess gifts that your host will appreciate and savor.

Hit oil

A gourmet household cannot live without olive oil, and the most discerning of restaurants and kitchens and world-class chefs like Chef Ori Menashe of LA’s Bestia prefer the exquisite taste of Ranch Olive Oil. With so many flavor varieties there’s a blend for every dish, but for the true connoisseur, there is Reserve Collection, which includes 500 ml bottles of fruity Arbequina, the nutty and complex Arbosana, and the robust Miller’s Blend, in a three-bottle gift box ($59.99) perfect for a hostess of good taste.


Daily grind

Every gourmet cook uses plenty of salt-and-pepper, but that doesn’t mean the most common of spices must be contained in ordinary shakers. Trudeau’s elegant Professional Stainless Steel Salt and Pepper Mills not only could look fabulous in the kitchen or on the table, but they precisely grind and distribute just the desired amount of spice. These sleek mills are constructed of resistant 18/8 stainless steel and feature a unique carbon steel grinding mechanism for peppercorns and spring-load technology to ensure a consistent grind selection.  A stylish piece to add to any kitchen, each set comes in an attractive gift box. $119. At gourmet cooking stores or www.trudeau.com.


Warmth by chocolate

With temperatures dropping below freezing, warm up inside with legendary GODIVA premium Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa.  Made with highest quality all-natural ingredients, this hot chocolate mix is the ultimate hot chocolate indulgence that delivers a rich, smooth, and velvety drinking experience. If coffee is more your taste, GODIVA’s Chocolate Truffle Coffee, made with specially selected coffee beans from around the world, features melt-in-your mouth GODIVA chocolate flavor with a medium-bodied roast. $15 for 10-servings canister of cocoa or $14 for a 10-ounce bag of ground coffee. Available at GODIVA stores nationwide or www.godiva.com.


Raw and unfiltered

Honey is always a sweet gift, and Rice’s Lucky Clover Honey Raw and Unfiltered Honey is even more special because it is not processed, therefore it retains all its flavor, vitamins, minerals and delicious taste. Locally sourced from family beekeepers and available nationwide online, this completely raw, unfiltered delicacy is naturally high in antimicrobial and antibacterial properties and delivered pure honey taste in both hot and cold drinks and in recipes from desserts to entrees. $6.50 for 16-ounce squeezable bottle.  Available at locations from Whole Foods to Walmart and online at www.riceshoney.com.


A real charmer

Make your party guests feel special with their own glass charm that expresses their unique personality with distinct Simply Charmed magnetic wine charms.  Using strong magnets to keep them in place on just about all drinking glasses or mugs, these tiny ornaments help guests know which glass is there’s when they set it down. The charms come in cute and quirky designs, such as emojis and seasonal or hobby related ornaments and even charms made from Swarovski crystals. Though the magnets are strong and generally do not move, these are not recommended for children because of the danger of accidentally ingesting magnets. Available for $5.99 to $26.99 at http://www.wineswithcharm.com


Greet and Meat

Bring the treat of meat to your next party with Hickory Farms Signature Party Planner Gift Box filled with hearty treats that satisfy their carnivore and gourmet cheese tastes.  Each box includes three sausage flavors, four cheeses, two nut mixes, and condiments.  Available at $42 at hickoryfarms.com.


A cut above

Foodies can be snobs about their cookware and cutlery, but Crisp Cooking Tools make precision cooking tools accessible and affordable to all.  Fashioned from durable plastic materials in bright stylish colors, Crisp tools are specifically designed and engineered to save time during the food prep process, making them the perfect addition to any kitchen. In the, “Why didn’t I think of that?” category, Crisp makes unique tools for food prep tasks, such as the Zester ($12.99), a spring-loaded Cherry Pitter ($9.99), and an innovative Citrus Squeezer ($19.99) featuring a twist on collection cup, as well as standard tools like an all-purpose Straight Paring Knife ($9.99).  Available at www.Crispcooking.com


Pasta for all

Pasta began as a staple of Italian cuisine, and now it is an American favorite and beloved around the world. Explore Cuisine has created the next generation of pasta with nutritious and innovative products noodles such as Edamame Spaghetti, Brown Rice Fusili, Green Lentil Lasagne, made of beans and other clean, organic ingredients that are certified gluten-free and non-GMO, and are high in protein, fiber and iron. Some of their products include Pulse Pastas, Bean PastasThai Rice Protein Pastas, Thai Rice Noodles, and Instant Soybean Noodle Soups. Not only are these pastas great if you are watching your weight or looking to cook nutritious foods for your family, they are tasty and satisfying like a true pasta should be.  Available at natural food and general grocery stores nationwide, $2.49 – $4.99 each, or $21.99-$25 for a six pack.


Dreaming of a white wine

As the weather gets colder outside, many of us reach for those spicy, robust red wines that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, but many white wines have those same characteristics.  OneHope 2014 Rutherford Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($34.99) and 2014 Rutherford Fumé Blanc ($44.99) are two varietals that give you that good feeling inside, not just because of the superior grapes picked at optimum ripeness during an ideal warm summer, creating intense aromatics on the nose and great fruit character on the pallet, and the 11 months the grapes spent in French and American oak before bottling in late August, but also because for every case sold of OneHope the wine makers provide one local Napa farmworker with on-site medical care and health education.  Available at wine stores nationwide and www.onehopewine.com.


Light it up

In addition to great food, the ambiance is an essential to a dining experience. Enhance your dining room with a decorative candle in a hand-blown art glass vessel from Luxury Articles and Fragrance Company (LAFCO) that not only beautifies your room but complements the meal with its aroma  The light, fresh and green fragrance of the Celery/Thyme candle ($60) from LAFCO Home and House Collection features a  mix of crisp celery, clean white florals and a touch of thyme.  Each candle is hand poured in the USA and features a hand-centered pure-cotton, chemical-free wick and is formulated with a high soy content wax which burns cleaner than paraffin yields a 90-hour burn. The candles are scented with natural essential oil-based fragrances that burn richly and evenly, filling the entire space with fragrance.  Available at www.lafco.com.


Bubbly conversation

For those who want to enhance the lively tête-à-tête at a dinner party, Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry Cava from Spain offers long lasting bubbles, by itself or as a complement to cocktails.  This sparkling wine, made in the traditional méthode champenoise, is for those that like it “not too dry,” with a palate that’s earthy with light fruits and a whiff of chocolate and flavors of plum and raspberry accented by spice with an essence of peach, melon and candied citrus flavors, culminating in a long, flavorful and smooth finish, making it excellent to pair with spicy cuisine.


Snack on

For festive get togethers or special movie nights, bring on the popcorn, but not just any garden variety.  Popcorn, Indiana, maker of America’s #1 Kettlecorn, pops up limited edition winter flavors, such as Black & White, Dark Fudge Sea Salt Caramel, Dark Fudge Pretzel Drizzlecorn and Dark Fudge Peppermint Drizzlecorn. These decadent flavors feature Popcorn, Indiana’s tender popcorn, made from non-GMO corn and free of artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, drizzled in lusciously sweet dark fudge, then generously sprinkled with delicious accents. Available at national, regional and local retailers across the U.S. and Canada in 5-ounce and 6-ounce bags, $3.49, or 20-ounce bag $10.49. Locate stores at www.popcornindiana.com.


Ways to talk to kids about sexual abuse


Sexual violence is a very serious public health problem that affects millions of women and men. However, research done by the Crimes Against Children Research Center showed that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. These children who are the victims of prolonged sexual abuse usually develop low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may also become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults.


Every year there is an opportunity for parents to learn how to talk to their children about this sensitive topic, during Sexuality Education Awareness Month in October, but year-round this is an issue that may come up for families.  One organization that has helped parents by giving them tools to assist them in talking to children is Krav Maga Worldwide, a leading self-defense organization, which offers parents these tips on what to teach their children if they are involved in an attack and also tips for preventing attacks.


  1. Begin talking to them as young as 2 years old. This may seem very early but children under 12 are most at risk at 4 years old. Even if they can’t speak well, children at this age are busy figuring out the world. And they certainly understand and remember a lot more than adults usually realize.
  2. Share the only instances when their private parts can be seen and touched. An age appropriate concept for a young child to understand is that nobody – including a parent or caregiver – should see or touch their private parts (what a swimming suit covers up) – unless they’re keeping them clean, safe, or healthy.
  3. Talk openly about sexuality and sexual abuse to teach your child that these topics do not need to be “secret.” Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse should be kept a secret. Let your child know that if someone is touching him or her or talking to him or her in ways that make him or her uncomfortable or scared, that it should not stay a secret.
  4. Inform your child about the tricks used by sexual predators. Tricks such as continued accidental touching, or an emergency trick where the predator tricks the child into thinking there is an emergency and the child must go with the predator.
  5. Teach children that they must trust their inner voice. Especially That Yucky Feeling We all have that feeling inside that tells us what feels right and what feels wrong or uncomfortable. Many children who have been sexually abused describe a feeling of discomfort as having a “yucky” feeling inside. You must teach your child to trust or honor their inner voice or that “yucky” feeling.
  6. Teach your child that they have the right to say NO! As the majority of child abuse is based on coercion rather than force, teaching your child to say NO strongly and forcefully really can make a big difference in many situations.




7 Holiday snacks and beverages that bring good cheer

There are plenty of goodies to nibble on and imbibe during the day holiday season to fill you up like a bowl full of jelly. Here are some sweet snacks and twists on traditional treats and drinks for you and your guests that taste good and will get you on the nice list.

Party poppers

Want to bring a little, little hostess gift?  Pack along a bag of The Little Kernel mini popcorn. These tiny sans-hull crunchy popped corns, in six flavors– Truffle Sea Salt, Sweet and Salty Pink Himalayan, White Cheddar, Butter and Naked, made with 100% pure olive oil and are gluten-free, dairy-free, whole-grain and non-GMO. And for a conversation starter, the snack company was founded by Chris Laurita of the Real Housewives of New Jersey and business partner Andy Epstein. $3.99, Giant, Sprouts and other select grocery stores nationwide.


Just like Grandma made

Serve up nostalgia at your holiday with a tin of Malt Shop Cookies. These retro treats made with real malted milk are beloved by baby boomers as well as Gen Xers and millennials who crave the malted milk finishing touch. The cookies come in a gift tin with a personalized message label and are available in chocolate chip, double chocolate and mocha chocolate flavors.  $24.99, $29.99 and $39.99 for a small, medium or large tin of 12, 18 or 36 cookies.


Nuts to go

Grab some snacks for the long ride to the relatives for the holidays and crunch down on Nuts About You, handcrafted small batch treats, and with five delicious flavors of Fireball Almonds, Green Tea Almonds, Coconut Almonds, Cookies N Cream Almonds, and Sweet Sriracha, there is a nut flavor for every taste, from fiery to savory to sweet. Sampler of all five flavors, 4 oz. bags, $32, www.nutsaboutyoula.com.


Snack like a Mediterranean

The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world, and now anyone can eat like a Mediterranean. Mediterra, the latest in healthful, all-natural snack bars, offers savory bars including flavors such as Bell Peppers and Green Olives, Black Olives and Walnuts, and Kale and Pumpkin Seeds, all with less than 4 grams of sugar and packing in 5 grams of protein. They’re rich in vegetables, nuts, herbs and seeds and contain protein-rich pea crisps, amaranth and olive oil, and all-natural, non-GMO, gluten-free, certified kosher, dairy free and vegan. $1.99 each 1.23-ounce bar or three bars of each flavor in a variety pack of 12 for $23.95. Available at Safeway, Whole Foods, Wegmans and other grocers nationwide or www.MediterraNutrition.com


Got nut milk?

Don’t leave Santa a boring glass of 2% dairy milk, make him jolly with the treat of MALK.  This wonderfully delicious and healthy nut milk is made with more than one cup of sprouted and organic nuts and is cold pressed to keep it fresh. The various MALK products are made from organic pecans, almonds, and cashews, and each MALK product is less than 7 grams of sugar. The nut milk flavors are perfect to drink by themselves or to stir into egg nog, smoothies or hot cocoa. $6.99 per 28-ounce bottle.  Available nationally, including all Whole Foods and Ralph’s Grocery Stores.


Cider in the house rules

When traditional spiced cider just won’t do the trick, Sonoma Cider offers a punch, from the latest style of cider drink, hard cider. With certified organic ingredients and distinctive flavors, including the The Wimble, which is a variation on gose, an old German-style beer known to be sour and briny with a lingering and addicting harmonic tartness with notes of rhubarb and apple, The Crowbar, a habanero lime cider, and The Pulley, a crisp, refreshing apple cider with overtones of black licorice and a hint of anise, the botanical heart of absinthe. Four 12-ounce cans in a pack for $10.99, or Four bottles for $9.99. Target, Whole Foods, Food Lion and other grocery and liquor stores nationwide.


Ice is nice

Make your holiday cocktails bright and cheery with a splash of color and flavor with ICE Sparkling Ice beverages. These light and refreshing sparkling waters, teas and lemonades contain real fruit flavor in unexpected fruit combinations, like Black Raspberry, Orange Mango, Pink Grapefruit, Kiwi Strawberry, and Coconut Pineapple, without all the calories. They make flavorful mixers for your party drinks, such as a yummy pomegranate wine spritzer, with Riesling, Pomegranate Blueberry Sparkling ICE, pomegranate seeds, cranberries, a teaspoon of agape, and mint. Available in 12 packs for $12 at grocery stores nationwide.


Holiday safety for familes

christmas-safetyThe holiday season is one of the most wonderful times of the year, but did you know it’s also one of the most dangerous? In fact, household fires occur more often during the holidays than any other time of the year. So here are some holiday safety tips from our friends at Omnishield.

Safety Tip #1 –  They are the centerpiece of holiday celebrations (trees, wreathes, garland), but buyer beware! If purchasing a real tree, make sure that it has fresh, green needles that aren’t easily broken. Water regularly to keep it moist. If going artificial, make sure it’s flame retardant. Also check to make sure light strings and other holiday decorations are in good condition. Do not use anything with frayed electrical cords and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Safety Tip #2 – Candle Safety
Candles looks beautiful and festive on the table or mantel, but they can be a fire hazard! Watch candles closely around children as they may want to touch the flame or even blow them out and splatter wax which can be very hot and burn them.  Consider using a wick snuffer or tweezers to extinguish candles.  Just dip the snuffer/tweezer down into the wax just beneath the surface and gently draw it up pinching the wick until the flame is extinguished.  Always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed.

Safety Tip #3 – Kitchen Safety
Keep an eye on what you are cooking! Cooking is the leading cause of fires and the holidays are especially dangerous, because we’re entertaining and cooking even more! And it’s not just deep fried turkeys. Make sure to keep anything that can catch on fire away from your stove top. And never leave anything unattended! Plus even if you have a fire extinguisher, learn the ins and outs of putting  out fires. Generally speaking you should use a non-glass lid or baking sheet (for stove-top fires), use salt or baking soda (for oven fires) and use a non-water based fire extinguisher for stove-top or oven fires.

Safety Tip #4 – Teach Children Safety
A roaring fire or glowing candles can add to the holiday atmosphere… but can also peak your children’s curiosity. Think about what most kids do every year ….blow out birthday candles, so candles can be fascinating to them.  Teach them about the dangers of fire and help them understand the consequences of playing with matches or lighters!

Safety Tip #5 – Be Prepared
Make sure you have smoke alarms. Test them and replace the batteries.  Smart technology offers a better solution with multiple sensors and alerts for smoke, heat, CO, flood and freeze. One of the newest, high-tech networks available is the OmniShield. It’s a smart product which is interconnected with an app that gives you the ability to see danger inside your home, anytime and anywhere. It alerts you with low frequency speakers, bed shakers, LED icons as well as emails and text. Plus it has a 20 year battery life… so you no longer have to worry about replacing the batteries or wake up to that annoying chirping noise in the middle of the night.  http://www.homesafenetwork.com/  Chris Roberts is the President of the OmniShield team and is a President’s Council Member of the National Association of State Fire Marshals. With over 25 years’ experience he also serves on the NFPA 720 Committee on Carbon Monoxide.