The sweetest bribe ever, with powdered sugar on top

img_4708Just like the old punishments are not working anymore – my son scoffs at time-outs these days – the former perks of points and stickers don’t have the same motivating effect either, so our family has a new reward system. Donuts.

For each A grade, chore completed without asking, extra kind gesture to a family member or friend, it’s a donut of his choice at Dunkin Donuts. Considering my son has a weekly spelling and math quiz, along with random pop quizzes, and a list of weekly tasks around the house, his chances are good to bring home a cool half dozen to share with family and friends each week.

I had tried other bribes, even dollar bills, but when my son says things like, “It only cost a thousand dollars, get it!” the value of money is lost on him. Likewise, the dollar bins at Target have lost their appeal, as there’s only so many bags of marbles, sling shots, rubber balls and harmonicas that a boy wants.

Donuts are a special treat around our home, so this reward is something he is excited about, and since he can share his bounty with friends, he can be king among the neighborhood gang.  The other great thing about donuts is they go quickly, so he needs to earn them again.

Like most kids, half the fun of donuts is choosing them, so he relishes going to the shop to see all the varieties; and very sweetly he selects specific ones for me and his grandmother, since he knows our favorites are eclairs and cream filled varieties.

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Since we have a Dunkin Donuts near our house that we pass every time we go grocery shopping, it’s a constant reminder for him to do well in school and play nice. The other great thing is that local Dunkin Donuts shops are always doing something charitable, so it’s a great learning opportunity to see the displays and talk about giving back to the community.

And of course, Mom doesn’t mind a weekly trip to the donut shop either!

Charity gives DC girls prom dresses, boosts confidence

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A new charity called the “Believe in Yourself Project” is helping to replace the poor body image that afflicts many girls and women. This image is heightened by what the traditional fashion industry deems as beautiful: Women are expected to appear a certain way and live up to a manufactured and unrealistic notion of what beauty is. At the same time, strained finances can prevent many girls from keeping up with what’s trending or cool, making them feel isolated among their friends for not being able to afford clothing that is deemed as “in” socially.

In an attempt to promote a positive body image, Believe in Yourself http://www.believeinyourself.org aims to help women feel better about themselves and their physical attributes and to promote healthy self esteem among young girls at an early age, empowering these young women to take on active social roles within their school communities.

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Over the past year, UsTrendy Founder and Believe in Yourself President Sam Sisakhti has given formal dresses to underprivileged high school girls and college students across the country, for them to wear at their school dances. Donations began last winter, and Sisakhti reports that many of the girls in the program have had the self confidence to attend their first school dance.

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This month, girls with limited financial resources in the Washington DC Area received dresses.

“It was such an amazing and humbling experience to hear the stories of the girls and see their excitement about receiving a brand new dress to wear for their upcoming dance. Many of them said it was one of their first new items that were not handed down” says Sam Sisakhti.

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Sundance Kids

 

Sundance Mountain Resort offers year-round family friendly activities

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When most of us think of Sundance, we think of the film festival founded by Robert Redford in the 1980s. The indie filmmaker event moved many years ago to nearby Park City, Utah, but still today Sundance Mountain Resort remains a beacon for creatives and independent spirits, and it has become known as a wonderland for families, where they can spend quality time together and make lifelong memories.

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Purposefully kept small, true to Redford’s vision when he took over the former Timp Haven in 1968 and developed it to create this idyllic resort, Sundance prides itself as a sanctuary committed to the balance of art, nature and community.

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Many families we met at Sundance say they vacation year after year at the resort because of its smallness and the appeal of its family friendly offerings, such as a top-notch children’s snow sports school, art and pottery classes, wooded paths and mountain streams for exploring, and activities such as evening snowshoe hikes with owl spotters.

The wild, wild best

The resort sits on 5,000 acres of beauteous mountain land just outside of Provo, Utah, on the slopes of Mount Timpanogos in Utah’s Wasatch Range. Locals and those who return year after year to this best-kept secret in Utah ski country refer to it as Shangri-La.

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A true testament to an enterprise that is well-managed from the top down, the staff, from the hotel check-in clerks to the ski instructors, are impressively professional and enthusiastic about their work. And like a dedicated CEO and true believer in his mission, Redford himself skis at the resort at least a few times a season, ensuring the resort runs at peak level.

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Accommodations are limited to approximately 400 guests at the privately owned or leased 115 cabins and a dozen mountain homes at the resort. Our ski party of two adults and two kids stayed at one of the resort’s chalets nestled in the wooded property, which felt like a private retreat. Paths from the villas lead to the restaurants and other resort buildings, or guests can utilize the resort’s fleet of SUVs to shuttle around the resort.

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The chalets on the property speckle the woods of the hillsides, and in a heavy snow they are barely visible except for their rooftops and chimneys. After one snowy night we awoke to a fresh foot of powder on our doorstep, perfect for snow man making and a snowball fight in our front yard.

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Inside, the cabins are luxurious yet designer-rustic.  Each feature breathtaking views of the mountains, a private deck, expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, wood-paneled and slate stone walls, an open floor plan with a climb-up loft – a favorite with the kids, a kitchen, large fireplace, and rooms outfitted with alpine chic pine and leather furniture and hand braided rugs.

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Our cabin was also stocked with board games, which we played by the fire, until the tired kids passed out before 8 pm, after a day on the slopes.

Mountains of food

When it comes to dining, you can’t go wrong with any of the resort’s restaurants, which all have stellar reputations for their culinary excellence. The romantic candlelit Tree Room Restaurant is the most formal offering, yet the ambiance is comfortable and inviting. Décor includes Native American art from Redford’s personal collection.

For more casual and family friendly dining, the frontier-themed Foundry Grill features fresh hearty fare and pizza from its open kitchen. Après ski and into the night, the late crowd can enjoy drinks and live music at the Owl Bar, the site of the original Redwood Bar where Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang hung out. For quick pick-me-ups, the Creekside Café offers sandwiches and soups at the base of the mountain, and for the adventurous, the Bearclaw Café is a treat at the top of the back mountain, for skiers skilled enough to get there.

Snow, snow on the range

While the dining is superb, it’s the mountains that are the main attraction of Sundance.  For those old enough to remember the Redford classic “Jerimiah Johnson,” these are the mountains that provided the stunning backdrop for the film. Though quaint in size compared to other local resorts, such as Park City Mountain and Deer Valley, Sundance holds its own when it comes to the quality and variety of terrain for all levels of skiers and boarders, and the resort boasts four chair lifts and a beginner tow lift, with the newest quad lift, Reds, carrying 500 people uphill per hour.

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During our visit near the holidays, which is peak ski season, the staff remarked that the “crowds” were large, but not once did any of our party wait more than five minutes for a chair lift; and even during the busiest hours for renting and returning skis, we did not experience any long waits more than 20 minutes.

Heading for the hills

Sundance is easily accessible, about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City airport. Rather than brave the mountain roads after dark when we flew in at night, we opted to stay overnight at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. If we had not been so eager to get to the mountains, we would have certainly stayed longer at this gorgeous hotel, which offers the only five-star luxury accommodations in Salt Lake City and features one of the most beautiful displays of holiday lights and Christmas trees in the world during the holidays.

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Sundance’s proximity to the airport makes it an easy ski-in, ski-out resort, but its location lower on the mountain range, at about 12,000 feet, means the resort has a shorter snow season than its neighbors at higher elevations.

The compact season is a boon to the resort, as the resort hosts more guests after the snow melts. When other area resorts are winding down with dwindling crowds for spring skiing, Sundance is gearing up for its busiest time of year, when spring and summer vacationers come for horseback riding, mountain biking, zip tours, and, of course – for fans of Redford’s “A River Runs Through it” — fly fishing.

Like the plot of that film, the great outdoors and the notion of family is treated as sacred at Sundance. The resort’s fame may be born of its celebrity owner and the Hollywood-once-removed SWAG-circus festival that bears its name, but otherwise this serene retreat is an escape from city life, and a place where visitors can reconnect with nature, and their families.

 

No politics at the Oscars please, survey says

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There’s plenty of surveys on the possible winners of the Oscars, but Pollfish conducted a survey of another kind, to find out opinions about politics and diversity at the Oscars.  Of course there’s different views on why those polled feel the way they do, but in my view, it’s not because we think actors and others in Hollywood don’t have valuable things to say, but the event is supposed to be a celebration of talent, and hearing about the state of our Country at this time and the horrible divide among our population following the election.

Here’s what the survey said.

Most Americans don’t want to hear Hollywood’s political opinions

45% of Americans think celebrities should be allowed to voice their opinions at the Oscars. Another 25% say Hollywood shouldn’t use its platform to talk politics, 21% think celebrities should completely stay out of politics, and 10% say Hollywood is too liberal.

One in four Americans Don’t want to hear Trump’s name at the Oscars

Asked which issues they don’t want to hear about at the Oscars, 19% of Americans said they hope celebrities don’t talk about Donald Trump. Other topics Americans don’t want to hear about are immigration (14%), the refugee situation (12%), and racial inequality (12%). Only 12% of Americans wouldn’t mind hearing about political topics during the Oscars.

Half of Americans think this year’s nominees are more diverse than usual

Asked whether they think this year’s Oscar-nominated films are more diverse than in previous years, 49% of Americans said yes. Another 18% said no, and 13% think the Oscars have always been diverse. 1 in 5 Americans aren’t sure.

Men and women don’t see eye-to-eye on Oscar diversity

54% of men and 47% of women think this year’s Oscar-nominated movies are more diverse than in years past—a 7% difference.

Best states for raising a family

2017-02-22-2For anyone considering a move out of state, here’s a ranking of 2017’s Best & Worst States to Raise a Family by WalletHub, a personal finance site.

In order to determine the best states in which to put down family roots, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 40 key indicators of family-friendliness. Our data set ranges from “median family salary” to “housing affordability” to “unemployment rate.”

  Best States for Families   Worst States for Families
  1 North Dakota   42 Alabama
  2 New Hampshire   43 West Virginia
  3 Vermont   44 Georgia
  4 Minnesota   45 Arizona
  5 Nebraska   46 Alaska
  6 Massachusetts   47 Nevada
  7 New Jersey   48 Louisiana
  8 Iowa   49 District of Columbia
  9 Connecticut   50 Mississippi
  10 South Dakota   51 New Mexico

Best vs. Worst

  • Wyoming has the highest median family annual income (adjusted for cost of living), $79,732, which is 1.7 times higher than in Hawaii, where it is lowest at $48,111.
  • Utah has the lowest divorce rate, 16.22 percent, which is 1.8 times lower than in the District of Columbia, where it is highest at 29.81 percent.
  • Wyoming has the lowest share of families receiving food stamps, 6.17 percent, which is 3.6 times lower than in the District of Columbia, where it is highest at 22.01 percent.
  • New Hampshire has the lowest share of families living below poverty level, 5.6 percent, which is 3.1 times lower than in Mississippi, where it is highest at 17.6 percent.
  • Mississippi has the lowest child-care costs (adjusted for median family income), 6.16 percent, which is 2.8 times lower than in the District of Columbia, where they are highest at 17.41 percent.
  • California has the lowest infant-mortality rate, 4.30 percent, which is two times lower than in Alabama, where it is highest at 8.68 percent.
  • Vermont has the lowest violent-crime rate per 1,000 residents, 1.18, which is 10.8 times lower than in the District of Columbia, where it is highest at 12.69.

To view the full report and your state or the District’s rank, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-to-raise-a-family/31065/

The portable battery that helps you face your dying phone with a smile

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If you or your kids’ phones run out of juice at the end of the day, this little fella will come to the rescue in style.  The Cheero FLOWERS Power Plus portable battery almost makes a low battery fun.

The brightly colored 10050 mAh mobile battery has a unique design of a cartoon face, with two round circles for eyes, and a triangle nose. Available in seven flower inspired colors, Cheero is ready to charge Apple and Android phones and tablets. The battery features two ports so it can charge more than one device at a time, and it is equipped with an AUTO-IC function, allowing the external battery to automatically recognize if a device is connected. The external battery optimizes the supplied power best suited for each device.

The most obvious appeal of this battery is its cute design is attractive to children and those who like cutesy things. It may encourage children to take a long their battery packs, so there’s no excuse for their phone dying when mom and dad are trying to call them coordinate a pick up at school.

Another advantage of its different look is that you won’t get it confused with everyone else’s black square of a battery pack, unless of course they also have Cheero.

The battery comes with a cute canvas carry bag, so you can keep the little fellow from getting scratched. It also comes with a short micro-USB to USB cable. Cheero is available at select Nordstrom and at Amazon Prime for $39.99 at Amazon.com.

Sink Shroom quick stopper fix keeps jewelry from going down the drain, and prevents clogs

Recently I pulled up the metal stopper in my sink, and it came out in my hand. After fiddling with it for about an hour I gave up. A plumber told me the entire assembly needed to be replaced, at a cost of $135.

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I decided to live with an open drain, but after a few close calls with Contacts and earrings falling into the sink and almost going into the drain, I decided I needed another option. I found out about A sink strainer and hair catcher called Sink Shroom. It gets it’s moniker from its mushroom shape, with a system that fits down into the drain with a top that rests outside the drain. It has two tabs that keep it from going to flush against the drain.

This little device is designed to catch hair before it goes down the drain, and it can be easily removed and cleaned with a tissue or paper towel. It’s a great option if you don’t want to make an expensive repair, as in my case, or if you have a problem with clogs from hair going into the drain.

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My situation being a case in point, plumbers can cost a lot of money, and clogs can cause other problems besides inconvenience, such as requiring the use of dangerous acid-based liquid solutions to dissolve clogs. These chemicals are harmful to your pipes and also a hazard for humans, not just because they can cause skin irritation if they come in contact, but also because they can splash up and some have even been known to blind people.

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So far the SinkvShroom has been an easy fix, with no special installation required. I’m not looking forward to cleaning it regularly, but it’s a better option than clogs, and it beats losing my jewelry other items down the drain. One warning though, there is a gap of about a half an inch that allows water flow, so small jewelry can still fall down the drain, but you may get an extra second or two to retrieve it if it bounces off the Sinks Shroom.

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The Sink Shroom fits a typical utility sink drain, which is about 1.25 inches in diameter. It’s made of high-grade material that is resistant to corrosion and discoloration. Find out where you can get it at www.tubshroom.com.