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Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Primer on Getting Your Kids to Read by Susan Arscott - @Barclay_PR

As a lifelong lover of reading—yes I was the nerdy kid with glasses hanging out at the library—a College English instructor, a writer of children’s fiction, and most important of all, a mother of two, I’ve spent more time than I probably should admit researching the importance of children’ reading and figuring out ways to get reluctant readers to crack open those books. The good news is that my pondering and data combing has not been in vain because I can say without the slightest hesitation that children and reading are as essential as strawberry jam is to peanut butter.

Okay, before you chase me out of here for stating such an obvious fact, let me tell you what you probably already know, but still bears repeating. Reading aloud to your children—by children I mean from a teeny baby all the way through elementary school and beyond if they’ll let you—a mere twenty minutes a day does wondrous things. Wondrous things are nice, you’re most likely thinking, but how can you squeeze in a daily twenty-minute reading session along with the zillions of other things you are currently doing with your kiddoes while cooking meals, doing laundry, cleaning (if you’re so inclined, I know I’m not), and perhaps working a full-time job outside of the home.

I hear your pain and understand your quandary, but before you shut me out, hear me out. I know you’re busy, when my kids were little, I was too. Despite the crazy schedule, however every evening after dinner before any other activities began, my husband or I read to our kids. We let them choose the books, usually from their school’s reading list, which was a true win-win: they got their required reading done and my husband and I read some great children’s literature. Just because it’s for kids doesn’t mean it’s not good reading. Oh, and if you have to spend the evening in the car racing hither and yon, pop in an audio book. It’s not quite the same as you reading to them, but it’s the next best thing.

There is some serious data behind the importance of reading aloud to your children. Using info from the Department of Education, the nonprofit Reading is Fundamental ( suggests that an easy way to help your children learn to read is to read with them, doing so will help children become “proficient readers by 3rd grade.” This was certainly true for my children; they were both strong readers by 3rd grade.  

More data comes from one of the most trusted companies in children’s literature, Scholastic, (who doesn’t remember filling out the Scholastic book forms?). Scholastic has done tons of research on childhood reading from infant to teenagers and calls reading aloud "a gift for time-challenged parents who may feel guilty about missing special moments with their kids." Scholastic suggests parents schedule reading sessions often and use the time to enrich their relationships with their children, as well as build the children’s vocabularies. Again, everybody wins.

As a final bit of data (promise, I’ll stop after this), the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that reading three to five times a week to your four and five year olds,
  • Puts them miles ahead of those kids not read to on a regular basis
  • Increases their vocabulary
  • Teaches them about reading by your example
  • Increases their attention span
  • Boosts their self esteem and communication skills
  • Increases the likelihood of them having a strong self-image, a sense of confidence, and higher academic standing, and
  • Increases their ability to formulate their thoughts before becoming angry or demonstrative

Okay, now you might be shaking your head muttering, “I know it’s important, but despite all of my reading aloud, my children won’t read on their own. Don’t fret, this is a common problem and one I faced with my children. The answer to this is simple, give them books and magazines about things they’re interested in and enjoy. My son loved fishing and baseball so, with the help of a librarian, I found him books about both. My daughter loved books about girls her age so I read her my old favorites (I still love the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary and the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder) as well as new ones recommended by the librarian.

and my state’s award lists. The Texas list is at: Do a search for your own state or ask your librarian.

Some other good places to search for great books to read with your children or for them to read on their own are: the winners of the Caldecott Medal for illustration Horn Book  and Booklist For boys there’s and for girls

Subscribe to book club memberships and magazine subscriptions. Children love getting things in the mail, so the excitement of having something addressed to them in the mailbox gets them reading. The Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson was an early reader favorite for both my children and the audio books are funny, funny.

Start the love of reading early by having a shelf of books specifically for your toddler. If you don’t have bookshelves, get some. We bought some super inexpensive ones at Home Depot, and by inexpensive I mean under $20.

Take advantage of the public library, by loading up with books every couple of weeks. Libraries are the best resource parents have for finding all sorts of things for their kids to read and do literacy-wise.

I did all of these things and am rewarded with two adult children that love to read, which makes all the effort worthwhile. My book, The End of Normal, released October 6, is geared for readers aged 10 – 14, especially those liking science and adventure books.

Sometimes what you think is normal, is anything but.

Told in the vein of Susan Pfeiffer’s LIFE AS WE KNOW IT and Courtney Summers’ THIS IS NOT A TEST, this new YA novel will appeal to fans of Sci-Fi both young and old. END OF NORMAL is now available at Amazon and Champagne Books. Get to know more about Susan in this exclusive letter to readers...

End of Normal

16-year-old Olivia Richards’ last day of normal is simply that, normal. She spends her entire pre-school morning dressing to impress gorgeous guy Sawyer Rising, the hottest guy in high school. She argues with her mother about her skinny jeans being too tight, which Olivia considers ridiculous because isn’t that the point of skinny jeans? Sometimes her mother makes no sense. Olivia’s normal world also includes her gentle astrophysicist father and her twin brother Charlie, who is deaf. Despite proclaiming that his deafness is no big deal, deep inside Olivia feels it is a big deal and that it’s her duty to protect him.

Olivia’s normal ends that night when strange lights shoot out of the sky and turn into stinging drones, killing their parents, or at least they think their parents die, but do they? Forced to flee, the twins join forces with friends Axel, Clara, and Sawyer, to search for answers to the strange invasion. Discovering a conspiracy to hide the location of a second earth, they search for a way to stop the destruction of their world.

SC Arscott

Susan worked as a high school teacher until she thought her head would explode from all the ideas and questions her students asked. Thinking it would be easier; she foolishly switched from teaching to the ridiculous job of professional fundraiser. After spending more years than she wants to admit begging strangers for money, she gathered what pride she had left and enrolled in Spalding University’s MFA program where she became blissfully happy working with other writers and improving her writing. She currently lives and writes in Seabrook, Texas with her husband Mike, Vlad the cat, and their deaf dog Chester.

My first YA novel, END OF NORMAL, will be available October 6, 2014 by Champagne Books and can be purchased through any online bookstore. I am in the process of developing a new, and much better website, but until it’s ready, you can check out my current, rather pitiful site. It has my bi-weekly blog and books I’m working on. My new site will be much better, so bookmark my web address and check back in a few weeks.

Keep up with the tour by stopping by one of these fabulous sites:

Oct 24th ~ The Cover Contessa

Friday, October 17, 2014

Motor City Brass Band presents family-friendly Halloween entertainment - 10/26

Metro Detroit’s Motor City Brass Band will open its 19 annual music series on Sunday, Oct. 26 with Horns & Howls XIV: And the Award goes to..., a family-friendly holiday performance at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn. MCBB provides an American take on the British brass band tradition. With dazzling set design and extraordinary showmanship, the band produces action-packed performances that are sure to entertain audiences of all ages. 

“Horns & Howls XIV is going to take you on a journey of music both profound and delightful,” said MCBB Music Director and Conductor Craig Strain. “Come in costume and win a prize. Join us in celebrating the most fun holiday of the year.”  

Musicians will perform familiar, interactive hits in a variety of genres to keep even the youngest audience members engaged from opening note to final bow. Costumed performers will transform FCPAC into the setting of a glamorous award show, where they will honor a variety of musical classics that have earned a place in American popular culture, including selections from Rent, Rocky, Wizard of Oz and a special Motown Medley. The annual Halloween program embodies the MCBB motto, “It’s more than a concert … It’s a show!” Audience members will   become active performance participants during a sing-along, children’s costume parade and adult costume contest. Strain said the concert will “please every level of music enthusiast.”   

Single tickets can be purchased from the FCPAC Box Office at 313-943-2354 or online at Tickets are $19 for adults, $17 for seniors and $15 for students. Discounted tickets and subscriptions can be purchased directly from MCBB by calling 248-788- 6618 or visiting Subscriptions are $42 for adults, $36 for seniors and $30 for students ages 21 and younger. Each subscription comes with four Bring-a-Friend vouchers.  

Motor City Brass Band takes pride in producing a quality and entertaining musical experience for the whole family. Currently ranked among the top brass bands in the country, MCBB continues to musically define itself as an integral part of the growing national brass band movement and competes in the North American Brass Band Association Championships and the U.S. Open Brass Band Championships. MCBB has been led by the artistic vision of conductor and music director Craig Strain since its inception in 1996. To find out more, please visit

How to Build an Enduring Marriage by Karen Budzinski #bookreview #giveaway @kbudzin

Disclaimer: I have received a free copy of this book in exchange for this promotional post.  All opinions are my own.  Your experience may differ.

How to Build an Enduring Marriage, written by fellow Metro Detroiter, Karen Budzinski, is a book written just for women about how to improve their marriage (specifically with a man). Despite the specificity of the book, I think anyone could pick up the book and use it to improve themselves and their relationship with anyone {friends, family, children, parents, lover}.

I have to admit, there is a ton to digest in this book.  It has taken me quite a bit of time to read through it and I will likely come back to it over and over.  I rarely use a highlighter when reading, but this is one of those books where I did. There are a lot of great tips and words of advice in this book.  I am not quite sure every little bit will work for me, but most of it is exceptional.

Through the book, the message is strong, you are the only one you can change, so if you want to improve your marriage, you need to look in the mirror and change yourself.  It is somewhat of a conundrum, I totally agree that trying to enact a change in anyone other than yourself is a futile effort, but placing the responsibility of a relationship entirely on one person's shoulders is a bit unfair. However, it is hard to place blame on someone else, when you have a lot of work to do yourself.  Being the best person you can be has no negative (or negligible) side effects, so it is the best place to start.

The book is filled with strong Christian values and quotes from the Bible, so if you are not of the Christian faith and you can't put that aside, this would not be the book for you.  Being a Humanist, I personally struggled to be able to turn off the religious aspects of the book to begin with, but after reading through a few of the passages I was able to read the stories and appreciate their value and the morals they teach.

There are many generalizations and it seems as you read that the book might have been written in the 1920's, there is a lot to swallow.  Women should be responsible for cleaning the home, making dinner, rearing the children, etc.  A woman should be virtuous, beautiful, joyful, wise and content wife.  There is little mention of two working parents, but when Karen does address this, there is no exception.  That being said, what spouse wouldn't be thrilled to be able to come home to a loving wife and be able to enjoy their down time in whatever manner they choose?  Every traditional expectation is explained and after reading, it totally makes sense to me.

Overall, I have to say this book won me over.  There is a lot of great advice, tips, words to live by and so much more.  This book will not only help you with your marriage but relationships with everyone else.

How to Build an Enduring Marriage is available on

Keep in touch with Karen here:
LinkedIn: under Karen Budzinski

Pumpkin Madness

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate,
The first one said "oh my its getting late,"
The second one said "there's a chill in the air,"
The third one said "but we don't care,"
The fourth one said "we're ready for some fun,"
The fifth one said "lets run, run, run,"
So woo went the wind, and out went the lights,
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

So, like many of you - fall is my favorite time of year and I love pumpkins and all things pumpkin.  Every fall I find a day to dedicate to pumpkin madness.  So, today was that day.

As we speak, I have 2 loaves of pumpkin bread in the oven, along with 24 pumpkin/apple muffins.  I have already made about 5 dozen pumpkin pancakes, about 20 pumpkin smoothies and have some left over for a batch of pumpkin/chia seed waffles.  Everything I have made is going to be frozen for use through the whole winter!  It's totally worth the day to have such an awesome stock up of fresh pumpkin goods that make great on-the-go snacks or in a pinch meal additions.

Want to accomplish this?  Here's what you need for the pumpkin puree:

10 pie pumpkins.  If you don't purchase organic, I would suggest scrubbing them with castile soap before cutting and roasting them.  DO NOT REMOVE THE SEEDS!  Just simply slice in half.

A Ninja, Food Processor or Magic Bullet  (If you do not already own one of these kitchen magicians, I highly recommend investing in one.  Personally, my favorite is the ninja).

Organic ground cinnamon

Almond Milk or Coconut Milk (be sure to check the label so you're not getting carageenan)

So, I do not remove the seeds from my pumpkins when I puree them.  Why?  Because those seeds are little nutritious goldmines and I would hate to miss the opportunity to turn my baked goods into superfoods.  Those little guys pack in: magnesium, zinc/immune system support, support for healthy eyes, bones, teeth and gut, healthy digestive function, DHA, EPA, ALA and omega 3's, they have anti-inflammatory benefits, natural insulin regulation (anti-diabetic properties) and so many more benefits it would be nearly impossible to name them all.  In addition to that, the flesh of the pumpkin is packed full of vitamins and antioxidants, including more than 100% recommended daily amount of A and E.

Simply put your sliced pie pumpkins in glass baking dishes, fill half full with water and bake them in the oven.  There are two temperature options - 350 degrees for 2 hours or 140 degrees for 4 hours.  The benefit of baking lower and slower is to keep the pumpkin in a raw state which maintains higher benefits and nutritional value.

When the come out of the oven, allow them to cool before you begin scooping the insides out and into your food processor.  For every 2 cups of pumpkin, add 1/4 cup of your milk of choice (or purified water) and a few dashes of cinnamon to taste.  You will need to run the processor for several minutes to completely break down the pumpkin seeds so they become part of the puree.  You will know you accomplished this when your puree is smooth like applesauce and has no lumps.  For the 5-10 minutes you are blending (offering your device plenty of breaks as not to overheat it) be sure to pump up some music and dance around your kitchen like the domestic goddess you are! us your moves, girl!

Store puree in mason jars or freezer bags and use them as needed to make your favorite pumpkin recipes!

Cheers & Happy Fall!

Metro Detroit Mommy
Owner of

Family Friendly Frightful Fun at @TheHenryFord Greenfield Village

Metro Detroit Mommy Blogger: Jennifer Wooley Any Age Fitness

Disclaimer: Jennifer and her family received free admission to this event in exchange for this promotional post.  She was not obliged to post a positive review.  Her opinions are her own, your experience may differ.

On Oct. 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26 Hallowe’en takes over Greenfield Village. This is a family event, so creative or creepy characters of all ages are welcome to join. Since this event has become a holiday staple for many Michigan families, they might have experienced it before, but never like this. This year, there will be more pumpkins, new costumes, and many twists along the way.

 Upon entering Greenfield Village's jack-o-lantern lined streets, it is apparent that this is not your typical Halloween celebration.  From spooky (yet, kid friendly) haunted homes to delicious treats for the kids, Halloween at Greenfield Village is spectacle to enjoy.

The village streets are lit through the luminance of pumpkins, each individually carved and spaced evenly to light the way for festive, costumed-clad kids of all ages.  The mile-long line of pumpkins winds throughout the village, skillfully directing traffic toward the main attractions.  
The first stop is near the old farm house located just outside the entry gate where the Grim Reaper greets guests beside a raging bonfire.  Although ominous, the Reaper is staged far enough away from the walkway that he is non-threatening to the kids.

Following the road, the next major stop is near the Edison home where a "mad scientist" conducts his "experiments" in a "haunted home."  Again, the Village does an excellent job of spooking up the joint, but pulling back enough (through the use of entertaining and hilarious Vaudevillian actors) to keep the kids interested, but not freak them out.

Next up is the "haunted bridge" which is actually Greenfield Village's famed covered span.  Of all the attractions, this one seemed to put the most fright into my youngest children, 7 and 3.  Although both made it through, the bridge's fog machine and bright under lighting were enough to make them uneasy.  For parents who think their child might not be up for this crossing, there is a bypass located to the left of the bridge that conveniently ends at a concession stand which offers cider and donuts for sale.

After making it over the bridge, visitors are directed over the hill and into the Walnut Grove where normally games of old-fashioned baseball are played.  However, for Halloween at Greenfield Village, the field doubles as a haunted Civil War battle site.  Across the street from the Grove, a quartet of projected pumpkins serenade you.  Continuing on, you are led past a port where a pirate and a spunky lassie tell dead men's tales.

The Haunted Cemetery and Martha-Mary Chapel await atop the hillside beyond Walnut Grove, near the village green,  Inside the chapel, a surprise attendee will pop up in the pews every once in a while.  Again, the little ones might get caught off guard here, so a peek inside before the scare might suffice.

Finally, the trail begins to wind down through the forest where Little Red Riding Hood warns of a possible wolf sighting.  In the pond near the glass-blowing houses, a man in a row boat then proceeds to announce the presence of the Village's culmination- the Ride of the Headless Horseman.  In the open field of Firestone Farms, the Headless Horseman (in pursuit of Ichabod Crane) makes a number of up close appearances providing plenty of photo ops for visitors.

In short, Halloween at Greenfield Village is the perfect and affordable way for a family to enjoy the crisp autumn air of one of Michigan's true gems.  Along with the attractions, parents and kids alike are offered to indulge at stands specifically set up to honor the tradition of "trick or teats."  

This is no trick; Halloween at Greenfield Village is a treat.

For more information visit the website.

Time slots are every 1/2 hour 6:30pm-9pm Fridays & Saturdays. Sundays 6:30pm - 8pm
Tickets rain or shine. Complete program presented in all weather conditions!
Download coupon for $2 off admission on select nights.

Jennifer (Jenny) is the founder of Any Age Fitness. She's an Independent Beachbody Coach, nurse, wife, and mom of 4. Jenny is passionate about health, nutrition and exercise and helping others achieve their fitness goals regardless of how old they are or how old they might feel. In her spare time she enjoys reading.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Briarwood Mall -Annual Boo Bash #halloween #metrodetroit @briarwoodmall

From ghosts and goblins to princesses and pirates, Ann Arbor-area kids and families are invited to Briarwood Mall as it hosts the annual FREE Boo Bash event Saturday, October 25 from 5-8:00 p.m.

For the first hour, kids can trick-or-treat with participating retailers throughout the mall. There will also be fun activities throughout the evening, including appearances from Colors the Clown and Leonard the Lion, a chocolate drop station from The Melting Pot, and an obstacle course from Gym America. Students from the University of Michigan will dress in costumes and teach kids about proper dental care. Art Van Furniture is hosting Clownie from The Parade Company and providing reflective Halloween treat bags. Families will also be able to take home a special keepsake from the event, as Noerr will be on hand to take “Frightfully Fantastic” family photos.

Tickets will be available at The Boo Bash for this year’s Breakfast with Santa, which is set for December 13 from 8-10:00 a.m. The cost is $20, and 100% of the proceeds from that event will go toward the #ChadTough Fund for pediatric brain tumor research in honor of Chad Carr, the 4-year-old grandson of former U-M football coach Lloyd Carr who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor last month.

 “We’re looking forward to all our holiday events this year, starting with Boo Bash,” said Denise Murray, director of marketing and business development. “The Boo Bash has been an iconic tradition within the community for many years, and we are proud that we can provide families with this fun way to celebrate Halloween.”

About Briarwood Mall 
Briarwood offers shoppers over 120 stores from which to choose and is anchored by Macy's, jcpenney, Sears and Von Maur. A 1,013,000-square foot property located in Ann Arbor, Briarwood is located at the intersection of State Street and I-94, the major east-west freeway in Southern Michigan that connects Ann Arbor to the airport and downtown Detroit. The mall is three miles south of downtown Ann Arbor. For more information, visit or