Thursday, November 29, 2012

Join in the PT Cookbook Fun(draiser)!

Parent Talk is putting together a family cookbook to sell in 2013 (all proceeds from the cookbook will benefit ParentTalk).  Please consider contributing a favorite recipe today!  Send all recipes to Here are two recipes to get you thinking.  Might as well start with dessert, the best part of ANY meal! 

Pumpkin Glazed Cookies by Alexandra Etscovitz

My husband loves pumpkin pie....even in July! I love to make these cookies for Thanksgiving.....or a trip to the beach :). They are really easy to make and definitely a fun fall treat for your kid's lunch box (or your own). :)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup pumpkin
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered Sugar

1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2)  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl.
3)  Beat sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended.  Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
4)  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.
5)  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
6)  To make the glaze:  Combine the powdered sugar with water until it is creamy. Drizzle over cooled cookies.

Magic Bars by Vidya Kagan
Magic Bars are just that:  totally magic.  I first tried these when I was in grad school at Cornell.  My kind younger sister (the baker in our family) sent me a care package filled with her magnificent chocolate-chip cookies and this new gooey, coconutty, chocolaty treat as well.  What were these beautiful morsels of goodness?  I took one bite and fell on the floor – these Magic Bars were the best things I’d ever tasted, bar none (pun intended).  Fast forward about 10 years, when I had a house, kitchen and a husband who loves to eat.  I looked up this Magic Bars recipe and added it to my cookbook binder right away.  It’s been a staple in our house ever since and always makes an appearance – and disappearance! – at our annual neighborhood holiday party.

Magic Bars
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups flaked sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (325 degrees if using a glass dish).
2.  Put butter in a 9”x13” baking pan and put the pan in the oven for 5 minutes to melt the butter.
3.  Remove the pan from the oven.  Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs over the butter; pour condensed milk over the crumbs.  Top with remaining ingredients.  Press down firmly with fork.
4.  Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool.  Chill if desired.  Cut into bars or diamonds (about 24-bars).  Store at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Need ideas on what to buy your family this holiday season? We've compiled a list of some of our favorite suggestions from bloggers this year. From "all things boys" gift ideas to "free gifts," we have something for everyone on your list. Plus, if you do any shopping on Amazon this holiday season, click through via a Parent Talk link and the organization will get a little kick back.

101 Holiday Gift Ideas for Boys this Season
By Audrey McClelland, Mom Generations/Audrey Confidential

Toddler Holiday Gift Guide 2012
By Emily Roach, Random Recycling

101 Best Holiday Gifts for Baby
By Audrey McClelland, Mom Generations/Audrey Confidential
51 Free Gifts Your Spouse Could Give You for the Holidays

By Audrey McClelland, Mom Generations/Audrey Confidential

Holiday Gift Guide 2012 for Moms
By Emily Roach, Random Recycling

25 Holiday Gift Ideas for the Gardener in your Life

By Audrey McClelland, Mom Generations/Audrey Confidential

Ultimate Holiday Guide: Holiday Recipes, Decorating Tips, Fashion Advice and SAVINGS!

By Audrey McClelland (Mom Generations/Audrey Confidential), Vera Sweeney (Lady and the Blog), Dawn Sandomeno and Elizabeth Mascali (


Audrey McClelland
Audrey left the fashion world of Donna Karan International in NYC to raise her brood of boys (4 of them!) in her home state of Rhode Island. She’s learned that you can take the girl out of the Fashion District, but you can’t take the Fashion District out of the girl. Audrey brings her fashion expertise and mom experience to Mom Generations. But here... on "Audrey Confidential" she's just "MOM."

Emily Roach

Emily lives in Needham with her husband Jim and two children. After working in retail for 10 years, she decided to stay home with the kids and bake. Emily is also engaged in the world of social media, helping both Parent Talk Marketing, Needham Farmers Market and writes the blog Random Recycling.

Audrey and Emily, thank you for letting us share your top Holiday picks with the Parent Talk blog readers! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

6 Ways You Can Avoid Gender Stereotypes of Your Kids

Don't miss the next Parent Talk lecture, Tuesday, December 11:
The Truth About Girls and Boys: Challenging Toxic Stereotypes About Our Children
Newman Elementary School 
7:00 pm reception
7:30 pm lecture
Speakers: Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett


Written by Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett
Kids, new research is telling us, pick up very early on what sort of behavior is appropriate for girls and boys. Even before they learn to talk, they’ve absorbed multiple messages about the role of the sexes.
Young kids start out with a wide-ranging curiosity, and learn all sorts of things from the world around them. But as this period closes, kids enter the culture created by adults, a culture that guides them into areas the adults think appropriate.
Parents are being told that their young boys are “hardwired” for assertiveness, aggression, and acting out—that’s just what boys do. In the same breath, parents are told that their girls are wired for nurturance, co-operation and passivity. Girls should focus on areas they’re good at--relationships and communication--and avoid the stuff that’s hard for them, like math, science and understanding systems. Bestsellers and educational “gurus” tell us that boys and girls brains are so different that they need to be parented and educated in very different ways
True? No. Lise Eliot, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Chicago and the author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain, conducted an exhaustive review of the scientific literature on human brains from childhood to adolescence. She concluded there is "surprisingly little evidence of sex differences in children's brains."
Parents can fight back against toxic stereotypes and help girls and boys discover all their talents so that they can follow their dreams wherever they may lead. Here are six suggestions for mothers and fathers based on the newest research.
 1. Don’t assume your boys don’t have the right (verbal) stuff.  It’s a myth that boys have inherently weaker verbal skills than girls. Many voices say boys should be given “informational texts” to read instead of the classics or any material containing emotion, which they aren’t good at either. But in fact, overall, there are virtually no differences in verbal abilities between girls and boys.
In 2005, University of Wisconsin psychologist Janet Hyde synthesized data from 165 studies on verbal ability and gender. They revealed a female superiority so slight as to be meaningless. You can see how alike boys and girls are in the illustration below.
Boys have the ability to master verbal skills. But sometimes, in actual performance, they score more poorly than girls. Why? They may shun reading because it’s not a “boy thing” to do, and, with less practice, they may actually do less well. Parents can offset this downward spiral by encouraging boys to read challenging material and by expecting them to perform well. The earlier this happens, the better.
2. Vaccinate your daughters against teachers' math anxiety. One example of parent power comes from a new study of first-and second-graders that found that female elementary school teachers who lack confidence in their own math skills could be passing their anxiety along to the girls they teach.
The more anxious teachers were about their own math skills, the lower were the girls’ (but not the boys’) math achievement scores at the end of the school year. The female students were also more likely than the male students to agree that "boys are good at math and girls are good at reading." But there may be a silver lining in this story for parents. Even if your daughter has a teacher with high math anxiety, it’s not inevitable that she’s going to have problems with math. It turns out that parents (or others) can “vaccinate” girls against stereotypes.

Teachers’ anxiety alone didn’t do the damage. If girls already had a belief that “girls aren’t good at math,” then their achievement suffered.
However, girls who didn’t buy into the stereotype, who thought that of course girls could be good at math, didn’t tumble into an achievement gulf.
3. Use expressive speech rather than brief, curt commands when you talk to boys. The truth is that verbal ability isn’t hardwired by gender, but parents, teachers and other adults do have a very strong impact on children’s early language skills, for good or ill.
A 2006 study looked at mothers of preverbal infants (6, 9, and 14 months) in a free-play situation. With their little girls, mothers engaged in more conversation and expected them to be more responsive than their sons. A mother might ask her daughter, “You’re playing with the octopus. You like that, right?” Mothers were much less likely to engage in such verbal exchanges with their sons. More often, they gave sons simple directions, such as “Come here.” (The same thing happens with older preschoolers)
Might these mothers be acting on expectations that their sons are not as verbal as their daughters? And, since the human brain develops in response to external stimuli, were the boys getting shortchanged? Probably so. If mothers talk more to their daughters, girls have a greater chance of hearing and imitating words, an advantage that could easily account for their higher early vocabulary scores.
Any parent concerned about his or her son’s language abilities could make sure that the language used with boys is rich and peppered with emotion. This will help them to speak, read and write well.
4. Arm your daughter against stereotype threat. We applaud the messages we now send to girls in middle school that "of course girls can do math and science." But these messages are often way too late. New research finds that even when girls say they believe this message, they don’t really believe it. Too often, they just know what parents and teachers want to hear. Data show that “stereotype threat” has a dampening effect on their actual performance. (What is this threat? Women and girls can suffer an extra burden of anxiety because they are aware of the negative stereotype of the group to which they belong. When they are told that women and girls aren’t good at math, females do much worse on a math test than when they are told nothing at all before the test.)
So, as early as possible, talk to little girls about science and math, actively encourage their interest and buy toys that promote spatial skills—like Leggo blocks, Lincoln Logs, erector sets and blocks. Don’t think girls don’t like them. They may just have decided such toys are not OK for girls. With your encouragement, they may discover that that is not so.
5. Don’t overprotect your girls. From early on, parents may discourage girls from taking risks by underestimating their daughters’ abilities. In one study, 11-month-old babies crawled down a carpeted slope that had adjustable angles. First, the mothers were asked to adjust the ramp to the angle they thought their babies would be capable of crawling down. Then the kids were turned loose. It turned out that boys and girls didn’t differ when it came to the steepness of the slopes they crawled down. In fact, the girl babies tended to be more daring. But the mothers’ expectations were all wrong. They thought their daughters would avoid the steep slopes, while they expected their boys would be fearless.
This intriguing study reveals how mothers (and maybe fathers ) start to underestimate their girls’ physical abilities at an early age. It also explains why adults are quicker to intervene when they perceive that little girls are doing something “risky.” But encouraging girls to take reasonable risks gives them confidence and helps them grow and thrive.
6. Help your son develop his natural caring abilities. Boys are naturally just as caring as girls, notes Harvard psychologist William Pollack, author of Real Boys. “They may have different patterns of behavior and learn and communicate through action, but they are as capable of being sensitive and empathic as girls are.” Male infants, he says, are more emotionally expressive than baby girls, but boys, as they grow, too often learn to display a “mask of masculinity” that hides their inner feelings. That doesn't mean they don’t have them. In fact, boys from a very early age are as nurturing as girls towards younger siblings, according to an international study of 12 cultures. However, after age five, thanks to gender stereotypes, boys start to think of caring for young children as a “mommy thing.” They often transfer their nurturing abilities to their pets. There is no gender difference in the degree to which children love and care for their pets. As it turns out, parents play a major role in boys’ nurturing behavior. Psychologist Judith Blakemore, from Indiana University–Purdue University, Fort Wayne, found that when young boys get praise for being loving and caring towards baby siblings, they become virtually indistinguishable from girls of the same age in the amount of interest they demonstrated in babies and young brothers and sisters. Parents’ actions speak louder than their words in shaping children’s caring behavior.

We think parents need to know that many of the ‘trendy’ ideas they are hearing about their kids is junk science based on no real data. Even when parents view these ideas with suspicion, it’s hard to resist the sales pitches, and the media hype.
So forget the pink and blue boxes where your kids are concerned. Education pioneer Howard Gardner of Harvard thinks that children, when they are very young, have wide-ranging curiosity and learn all sorts of things from the world around them. But then the adult world intrudes; parents, teachers, institutions, markets and society take over and guide children in certain directions
And kids, eager to please, want to go where these powerful figures guide them.
We believe that the paths laid out for our kids need to be broad rather than narrow, encouraging children to develop the entire range of abilities that are within their grasp. Parents can be the guides along this road, rather than the sentries who block their way.
Boston University journalism professor Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett, senior scientist at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center are the co-authors of “The Truth About Girls and Boys: Challenging Toxic Stereotypes About our Children.” (Columbia University Press.)

photo credit: sethph88 via photopin cc

Monday, November 26, 2012

Needham is Getting a New Playground! Greene's Field Fundraising Currently Underway

Written by Caera Horwitz

I am excited to report that the Town of Needham recently approved funds for a complete renovation of Greene's Field. Improvements to the field will include new play structures to appeal to both younger children, as well as older kids that need a bit more of a challenge, a renewed basketball court, a new soccer field, a new baseball diamond, beautiful landscaping, a walking path around the perimeter of the field, and a gazebo. Construction is slated to begin summer of 2013.

While town funding will cover much of the renovation, the Fundraising Committee has set a goal of raising $100,000 in order to build a spectacular playground at Greene’s Field.

Buy a Board 

One unique opportunity to contribute to the playground is to buy a board which will be incorporated into a walkway around the field. The board can be engraved with up to 19 letters and is a special way to both honor friends and family AND make a positive contribution to the town. What about the person on your gift list that has everything? These boards can make excellent, one-of-a-kind holiday gifts!
Another great idea is to pool resources with friends. One Parenttalk playgroup is joining forces to contribute a board or two in honor of their group.

I have young children and therefore have a special interest in building a new and amazing local playground. But what inspires me most about this project is that it truly is a community effort, and I feel so privileged to be a part of it. Whatever you are able to give, no matter what the size, will be transformed into something tangible; a slide, swings, a climbing wall, a walkway....your donation directly translates into happy memories for kids for generations. What could be better than that?

Please see for more information and to donate directly online. 
And last but not least, a special thank you to The Needham Women's Club and Needham Little League for giving us a great headstart with raising money for this project!

We will post another update soon as the project takes off!

Caera Horwitz, Greene's Field Fundraising Committee member

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Craft Projects

Written by Amanda Liljedahl
Now that the kids are out of school for Thanksgiving, here's a little craft to keep them busy just in time for Turkey Day. 
Have children gather pine cones from the yard, then gather an assortment of colored paper.  
 Fold the paper in half and cut out feather shapes. Open the feathers and inside, write what each child is thankful for this holiday.  Fold the paper in half and cut out feather shapes. Open the feathers and inside, write what each child is thankful for this holiday.  Arrange feathers in the wide end of the pine-cone  for the turkey's colorful tail, then add googly plastic eyes and an orange beak.  At Thanksgiving dinner, enjoy plucking the feathers to read the thoughtful sentiments or have fun guessing who came up with each quote!

For another easy turkey craft, trace your child's hand on a brown paper bag then cut out. Glue feathers to each of the fingers. The thumb becomes the turkey's face when you add an eye and a beak. Glue the turkey onto a Popsicle stick for an instant gobbling puppet!

 Happy Thanksgiving!

Amanda Liljedahl lives in Needham with her husband and five children (two boys, a set of identical twin girls and their newest addition, another girl). She chronicles her days which include arts & crafts projects, great recipes for the family and driving her kids from hockey practice and ballet to what's happening in her life as a mom, wife and friend on her blog The Little Lily Pad

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Recipe Spotlight: Turkey Chili

There is nothing like a warm bowl of chili in the fall and winter months, especially one that is full of vegetables and protein. This recipe makes enough for an entire family for dinner and a few lunches. Enjoy!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic
1 cup diced onion 
2 cups chopped peppers (use any color)
1 cup diced carrot
3 teaspoons cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 lb. ground turkey
1 container salsa (any kind you like)
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of a big soup pan with the olive oil and heat on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic, onion, pepper, and carrots. Saute for seven minutes or so, until the onions and carrots are tender. Add the cumin and chili powder and stir. Push the vegetable and spice mixture to the edges of the pan and put the ground turkey in the middle, breaking the meat up frequently and cooking through, about 7 minutes. Add salsa, broth, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and tomato paste. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 45minutes. Add salt and pepper until you get your desired flavor.  

Top photo credit: Dalboz17 via photopin cc

Friday, November 16, 2012

Parent Talk Sale Success Thanks to Volunteers and Local Businesses

We are writing to convey our deep gratitude for the time, donations, and efforts that numerous volunteers and multiple local businesses provided in order to make the semi-annual Parent Talk Used Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale happen on October 20th! As the co-chairs for this amazing event, we had the pleasure of witnessing first-hand the incredible contributions of our community. We were constantly awed by how everyone came together and worked so hard to make it a truly successful sale.

First and foremost, we want to thank all of our Parent Talk
members and volunteers (plus their families) who donated countless hours setting up, coordinating efforts, and then breaking down this event. We also want to highlight some of the great contributions of our local businesses. Gentle Giant provided not only multiple trucks but also some extremely helpful people so we could get donated items and clothing racks in and out of the church quickly, safely--and much more efficiently than we have ever done in the past! JC Timmerman donated two large and incredibly useful dumpsters that simplified our set-up and clean-up activities and were much appreciated. PODS let us use a storage unit that was invaluable to us while we collected generous local donations of used clothing, toys, and equipment. And Copley Motors provided significant funds to help us not only pay for the POD but also for the supplies we needed to keep the sale organized and running smoothly.

In addition, each of the following businesses graciously supported and supplied our sale committee with delicious sustenance to keep them well fed and energized for the three long days it took to execute the sale: Starbucks, CafĂ© Fresh Bagels, Bertucci’s, Stone Hearth Pizza, RiceBarn, Dragon Chef, New Garden, Pronti Bistro, Hazel’s Bakery, Whole FoodsWellesley, UnReal | Candy UnJunked, Hint Waterand Roche Brothers. We also want to thank the Needham Life Skills team at Needham High School for all their help. Finally, a very special thank you goes out to everyone at Christ Episcopal Church. Your support is crucial to our ability to execute the sale well, and we greatly appreciated the input of Julia Baker, Michael Beagan and Bob Begin.

In all, we want to say a big THANK YOU to Needham volunteers and businesses for proving there are truly amazing people out there and that our great community is one of a kind!
Parent Talk relies exclusively on volunteers, and this fall about 200+ of them helped out with the sale. All proceeds benefit Parent Talk's community work and events, and all unsold items were donated directly to local charities that depend on these goods to fulfill their missions.
With gratitude and infinite appreciation,

Susan Orr, Joanna Noon and Nikki Amara Myers
Parent Talk Sale Co-Chairs

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Graco SnugRide Click Connect Giveaway and Review

Written by The Blog Committee

Did you know Graco has come out with the first car seat that allows a child to ride rear facing until they are two?  It works from infancy to toddlerhood in a standard bucket seat style car seat. It's called the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 (as it fits up to a 40 pound child) and Parent Talk has one to GIVEAWAY!!  It's a $220 value and would be a wonderful gift for yourself, or another expecting parent.

There are lots of interesting safety information on the Graco Safety website.
Three car seats in a row!

Parent Talk co-President Mary Richman tested out the car seat with her four-month old daughter.

We were excited to try out the new car seat.  I have to admit, I love our bucket seat so I have high expectations :)
I did the carry test and while I know the Graco is a bit heavier than some bucket seats, it didn't feel too heavy compared to ours (Maxi Cosi). Which is great because I tend to grab ours and carry it while running in and out of stores or doing pick-up and drop-off with the older kids. Installing the base in the car was incredibly easy. I used the shoulder belt and I had it in and snug in just a few minutes.  Getting the baby in and ready to go was just as simple - the straps were easily adjustable, she seemed nice and comfy tucked into the seat and the seat easily clicked in and out of the base.  All-in-all a nice ride.  The only thing I saw missing was a bit more of a hood to shade the baby from the sun and wind. While I didn't get to really make use of it, I do like the built in kick board for the older kids. An update that should save some car seats from dirt and damage!

Since we drive a very large SUV, I wasn't really concerned with the seat fitting, but I was surprised to find that at the infant or lowest setting it was just an inch or so away from the back of the driver's seat. I'm only 5' 4" and the seat was set up for me. When I changed to my husbands seat settings, I noticed the car seat was just pressing against the back of the driver's chair.  Needless to say, if we wanted to use this for a larger child we couldn't have it behind the driver as it just wouldn't fit safely. It did however fit very nicely as one of three carseats across the second row.

Here are the giveaway details:  Contest is open to all current Parent Talk members.  You need to enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway will be open until Sunday, Nov 18th at midnight.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Charlene from Metrowest Mamas for hosting us at a party at MiniLuxe in Wellesley. If any moms need to get away, this is the place!

The Graco SnugRide® Click Connect™ 40 – the first and only newborn to two-year infant car seat that actually grows with your baby from four pounds all the way up to 40 pounds. The car seat is designed for a parent on the go. The infant car seat can be easily removed from the base and used as a carrier when the infant is small, providing portability and convenience so you can easily move your infant in and out of the car without disturbing them.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently made the recommendation to keep all children in rear-facing car seats until the age of 2. Graco set out to make this product so parents can keep infants rear facing longer while still keeping them comfortable.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Graco. The opinions and text are all mine.

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