Common Good: From the Cover

We chose to feature peaches on our cover for the month of July— not only because they are in season, but also because there are so many delicious ways to enjoy them in the summer. Before you can choose the right peach to fit your needs, you should know a few important facts about them.

Peaches are a member of the rose family— a group that includes apricots, cherries, nectarines, plums, and almonds. They are categorized in three different varieties: clingstone, freestone, and semi-freestone.

Clingstone peaches are often found in the northern hemisphere and are most often identified as those with bright yellow flesh streaked with red as you get closer to its core. This kind is most commonly used in desserts, jellies and jams, and for canning. They are the most flavorful of the three varieties.

Though flavorful, clingstone peaches can become difficult on the go. Freestone peaches are more convenient for carrying in lunch boxes or for mid-morning snacks. Though this variety is firmer and less juicy, they’re still delicious. They are also much easier to find in a grocery store.

Semi-freestone peaches are a combination of the two and can be used in many different dishes.

For a great summer recipe using peaches, visit Everyday Occasions.

 

Written by Lani Maddox

Backyard Fun!

When summer arrives do you see even less of your kids than you did during the school year? Too many American children, tweens and teens spend those extra hours of free time indoors playing with technology, rather than engaging in healthy outdoor activities. Even when you know where your kids are, you may not understand what they’re doing with all those devices and game controllers.

This summer, why not help your children get excited about a healthy and fun time outdoors? You can make your backyard the neighborhood hotspot that no kid can resist by providing three key ingredients to a great summer: fun, food and friendship.

Fun in the sun

To compete with smartphones, PCs, tablets and other digital devices, you need outdoor excitement – the kind that only water can provide. Installing a backyard pool may not be practical for everyone, but a backyard water slide is a great substitute.

Easy to set up and use, a water slide is a cost-effective way to create outdoor fun this summer. For example, we love H2OGO! backyard water slides for their modern but comfortable products. They feature the Speed Ramp, an inflatable launch pad that creates a smooth belly-flop landing at the start of the superfast 18-foot slide. A Splash Lagoon funnels water throughout the entire slide, reducing friction and increasing speed. Learn more at www.bestway-global.com.

Food for fun

All that water sliding and other fun activity is going to make kids work up an appetite. They’ll need fuel so they can keep having fun. Look for fare that is easy, kid-friendly and nutritious. For example, instead of serving high-fat, high-sugar ice cream, consider frozen fruit or fruit pops. Replace sugary, calorie-laden sodas with flavored water. For kids who crave crunch, replace chips with fresh-cut crisp fruits like apples and kid-friendly veggies such as carrots or cherry tomatoes. You can serve them with a variety of delicious, yogurt-based dips. Whip up a nacho platter that incorporates low-fat shredded cheese, fresh salsa and lean protein like beans or grilled chicken.

Friendship and fun

With your backyard gaining the reputation of the neighborhood hot spot for great food and fun, you may notice some new faces showing up. Encourage children to engage in games that can help them get to know each other and create new friendships with others in the neighborhood.

Some of the simplest games are great ice-breakers. One game that’s great for getting to know each other is to have kids stand in a circle and toss around a bean bag or small ball. The child who throws asks a question – such as “What’s your name?” or “What’s your favorite sport?” – and the child who catches has to answer.

Another fun idea for older children is a biography building circle. Kids sit in a circle and start with one child making a simple statement about himself, such as “I like to play baseball with my dad.” The next child in line adds his or her own information by building off something the first child said, such as “My dad is an airline pilot.” The play continues with children each saying something new that is somehow linked to what the last child said.

Each of these activities will help keep your child healthy and happy this summer. Inspire them to grow and make good choices by fostering outdoor play in your own backyard!

Keeping a Journal

Any writer will tell you that there is something to be said for journaling. Not only does it help you organize your thoughts and remember important and inspirational moments down the road, it also puts things into perspective and can change your outlook for the better.

I’ve kept a journal since I was a teenager. The old ones are long gone, and only their most important pages remain in storage. However, I have kept my journals from the last few years, transferring important quotes onto fresh pages every time I start a new one.

In college, I met a professor who inspired me to dedicate a few moments of every single day to journaling. At first, it was difficult. But, like any habit (watching TV, scrolling through Facebook, playing video games), over time I began to enjoy it. The difference between this task and the aforementioned habits is that I could look back and learn from the moments I recorded in years past. They inspired me and helped me realize how much I had grown over the years.

Often, in the moment, we are bogged down by the stress of every day life. It is hard to feel like you have accomplished anything when you are still surrounded by challenges and rejection. Last year, we had a writer talk about filling up your salt shaker with joy so you can empty it out during the trying times. It’s a concept so important that it is worth reiterating.

Journaling is a great way to make sure your salt shaker stays full– even if you have never really thought of yourself as a writer. If you need a little help getting started, try one of the following books:

41OwjGJym1L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_10 Mindful Minutes: A Journal by Goldie Hawn is inspired by the actress’ advocacy for mindfulness. It is a guided journal with simple meditations and prompts, along with thoughtful quotations that will inspire you to focus on specific qualities from optimism or gratitude to anger or fear. The goal is to enhance the positive qualities and help the negative ones by incorporating a meditative practice.

 

51q1RK95cvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_You may find yourself inspired by a simple quotation, and less in need of the guidance of a writing prompt. If that is the case, a great resource is The Last Word: A Treasury of Women’s Quotes by Carolyn Warner. With more than 2,000 timeless quotes by women, representing everyone from Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots to pop megastar Madonna, The Last Word is a must-have for any woman looking for inspiration.

 

 

51XI3IzeqML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_My personal favorite isn’t new, but it is great for all levels of journaling. Writing and Being: Embracing Your Life Through Creative Journaling by G. Lynn Nelson will change the way you write for the better by explaining the distinctions between private and public writing. If you need more proof that journaling can help you discover your true self and heal psychological and spiritual wounds, this is the book for you.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page next week for a chance to win your own copy of 10 Mindful Minutes and The Last Word!

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

Top Ten Kid-Friendly Apps

It’s unavoidable, we live in an age of technology. Our children seem almost glued to anything with a screen. There are many ways that you can use your child’s love of smartphones and tablets to your advantage. One way is to foster continuous learning, even during summer break. There are an abundance of apps designed specifically for learning.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Unknown-2Duolingo is a free language learning app. You can choose from ten different languages to learn. It is a great app for all ages, so you can learn alongside your child.

Lumosity is a fun brain-training website that helps you increase your attention span and increase memory retention. The app is free and was designed for all ages.

Star Chart by Escapist Games Limited allows kids to learn all about the universe. You can hold it up to the sky and find out exactly what stars or planets you are looking at. The app is free, but there are some in-app purchases.

THE aMAZEing Labyrinth has puzzles and mazes that will challenge your kids to think and problem solve. It costs $3.99.

toca lab logoToca Lab allows your children to learn about chemistry, magnetism, and electricity in a safe and fun way. The app costs $2.99.

Kids Numbers and Math by Intellijoy focuses on helping pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade children learn numbers and early math skills. There is a free version, but the full package costs $2.99.

Unknown-1Endless Alphabet by Originator Inc. teaches youngsters the alphabet and basic vocabulary with fun and engaging games. A smaller version of the app is free, but the full package must be unlocked by an in-app purchase.

Dr. Panda & Toto’s Treehouse is a fun app where kids can play with and take care of Toto the Turtle. The app includes many activities, so there’s endless replay value. The app costs $2.99.

UnknownFarFaria Free Children’s Books includes hundreds of choices so your child isn’t stuck reading the same story over and over again. It is best for ages 1-9. The app is free, but there are some in-app purchases.

The NASA App allows you to view video hundreds of photos and videos to learn more about different ongoing projects. It is free and is a great resource for young rocket scientists and astronauts.

 

Written by Krista Knauer

Homesweet Homegrown

Homesweet Homegrown, a successful hot sauce company based out of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, began in part of an incident following a book tour.

Screen_Shot_2014-07-18_at_12.08.06_AM_largeRobyn Jasko and husband Paul David traded in their urban lifestyle to become farmers who, little did they know, would create a product that would change the look of store bought hot sauce.

This tear-jerking hot sauce was dubbed Homesweet Homegrown in part of Robyn’s first book’s title that was published in 2012, and also it was the product of her successful blog, Grow Indie. Robyn and friend, Jennifer Biggs, Amtrak-ed their way across the country on a book tour and gave little thought to the habaneros, ghost peppers, and lemon drop chili peppers that they left behind; and so, when they made their way back to PA they were in for a little surprise, which resulted in pounds of peppers. That’s where their journey as Homesweet Homegrown began.

ghost_pepper_kit_largeAll of their peppers are organically grown on their farm. They are big on the idea of healthy, so they throw in superfood ingredients like chia seeds, and leave out additives, colors, and GMOSs pesticides and preservatives (which many of the competitors contain!).

 

3_pack_grande_a9b463c6-2335-473e-a85a-be84501a4012_largeIn part of their “beyond organic” methods, they have hit the shelves in over 140+ stores and are sold in every Whole Foods location in the surrounding areas of NY, NJ, CT, and Philly. They have three signature flavors that are unique to their company: Punch Drunk Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce (the hottest!), Aramingo Mango Pineapple Habanero Hot Sauce, and Orange Crush Habanero Pepper Hot Sauce. They are sold separately in 5 Oz bottles that run about $6 a pop, and also you can buy them in a variety of gift sets. If you want a little more of what Homesweet Homegrown has to offer then you can look into their Grow Kits and their Salts + Spices.

Take the challenge and see how far you can go in a taste test of Homesweet Homegrown Hot Sauce!

 

Written by Lani Maddox

On Paint Nite and Bonding

As you grow older, it is very common for the child-parent dynamic to transform and it can be a rocky, uphill battle on the way. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great relationship with my mom, but I’ve got to tell you, there have been more struggles after going away to college.

Before I left home, I was taking classes at Virginia Western and I could feel a sense of friction between us. After nineteen years, I was ready to throw the household rules out of the window and start living my own life. My first semester away at school was great and we talked on a regular basis, and then I came home for an extended Christmas break, and that’s when the struggle I had felt before reared its ugly head, again. It’s my way against hers, and after being away and creating my own lifestyle, it has created a mess of differences. So basically, the things I despised at home didn’t come with me to college, and to my mom’s dismay, didn’t come home with me either. At the time, it seemed as though these little differences mattered, but now I can see it meant so little.

I’ve grown up with parents that act just like that, parents; but I’ve been lucky enough to be able to talk with them as if they’re my friends too. Whatever feelings either side felt could be expressed openly, and I know that not all relationships work in a bi-directional way. Maintaining relationships through the different phases of life is ever changing, and I may be young, but I can tell it’ll be a lifelong feat but one that is certainly worthwhile.

IMG_2580Something I have made the mistake of not doing is making the time to bond with my mom. You may be physically present, but if you are somewhere else in your head, then it doesn’t count! To start the summer off right, we decided to shake things up a little bit, so we bought tickets for Paint Nite, and it was a great experience!

IMG_2545Neither my mom nor I have experience with painting, so it put us on common ground. At arrival we stopped by the mini-bar and grabbed a couple of margaritas, and then we grabbed our smocks and got to work! It was fun helping each other achieve the look we wanted for our own piece of art, since we really had no idea what we were doing!

With graduation quickly approaching in December, and my foot halfway out of the door, now I’m regretting those missed opportunities. There are many things to do around the Roanoke Valley, such as Paint Nite, so take the time to make memories with your family. Our masterpieces we made at Paint Nite will always be a good laugh!

Visit Paint Nite’s website to choose from a variety of pieces that you can create at many locations in Roanoke.

Written by Lani Maddox

 

Adventure Awaits!

Summer and fun – while these words aren’t technically synonyms, they probably should be. School is out for the children, you have summer vacation time from work stocked up, and the nice weather across the country is beckoning.

Are you in search of some fun ideas for your summer activities? Check out these family-friendly ideas everyone will love!

Camp – Sleeping under the stars is just the first great benefit of going on a camping adventure. You can plan plenty of fun and kid-friendly activities to keep you busy all summer long. Hiking, cooking over the campfire, fishing, swimming, catching fireflies, telling ghost stories and toasting marshmallows all add to the fun. Just remember to pack plenty of bug spray and sunblock so your fun doesn’t get interrupted by painful or itchy skin.

Ride the Trails – Taking the family for an ATV ride is an adventure all in itself. You get to see the country in a new way, plus you’ll have fun trekking across the countryside. However, we recommend riding with an experienced driver and ALWAYS follow all safety precautions, including wearing a helmet.

Develop a Family Project – It’s always fun to spend time together as a family working on a project. Let your imagination run wild and see where it takes you. If you want to explore your creative talents, consider producing a short play or movie. Everyone can get involved in writing the script, the acting, set creation and finding the perfect costumes. Or consider participating in a community service project. Maybe you have an organization close to your heart you could raise money to help support. Ask the organization if there is something your family can help with this summer.

Road Trip – A themed road trip can create a lot of excitement for your family members. For example, maybe you want to create a theme of seeing all the odd tourist attractions like the world’s largest ball of twine or the country’s biggest collection of autographed baseballs. Perhaps you want to visit as many national parks as you can. Have your children help with the planning and you’ll have a very interesting road trip adventure.

Museums – Make it an educational summer by planning visits to all the museums in the nearest city. Include the local zoos and planted gardens on the list, and you’ll be sure to pique the interest of every member of your family. Plan for one family museum visit a month or every other week, and combine it with a family dinner out or a picnic in the park.

You can combine several of these ideas together for even more fun this summer. So whether you go camping, road tripping, or tour museums, you know every member of the family will enjoy the summer activities!

A Guide to Last Minute Traveling

UnknownIf you’re anything like us, you probably like to begin planning for trips and vacations at least a few weeks ahead of time. But sometimes things pop up and you need to make travel arrangements quickly and cheaply. There is no need to panic if you are unable to peruse your favorite travel sites for the best deal. Your smart phone has the potential to help you plan your entire trip in less than fifteen minutes. There are many different travel apps that you can download to make things easier. Here are a couple of our favorite free ones:

mzl.xbhlyiabHotel Tonight: Finding a hotel last minute can be a hassle. You know what you want, and the price you need, but eliminating those that are completely booked can make this task seem impossible. Fortunately, Hotel Tonight helps you find a hotel where you want at a price that works. You can book for up to one week ahead and reserve your room for one week at the most—giving you a little extra time to look for additional options if you will be staying in one location for a while. The app tells you when there are only a few rooms left at a hotel, and won’t show you any that have no vacancies. They also have a nice little classification system. Hotels are ranked as “crash pads, basic, solid, charming, hip, luxe, or high rollers.”

6284824fa2dc70a3c213aa175a4ae0c6Couchsurfing: If you’re a more laid back and adventurous person you might want to try the Couchsurfing app. On Couchsurfing, you can look for people who have opened up their homes to travelers or you can open up your own couch for visitors. Couchsurfing is free; it is about meeting people and exploring the world, not making money. So it’s great if you need to travel but are strapped for cash!

There are many more travel apps out there. The best way to find one to fit your needs is to experiment with a few of them. You may also want to try Travelzoo, LMT Deals, and Tripit. Some of them can help you secure airfare, transportation, AND accommodations. Others have fun day planning and excursion features.

Unexpected detours or obstacles can make traveling a hassle, even if you are an excellent planner. So relax, pull out your smart phone, and let these apps take care of everything for you!

Written by Krista Knauer