Alzheimer’s caregivers: Tips to take care of yourself, too

April 1st, 2015 by Brenda Bassett

“It’s important for caregivers to take care of themselves as well, and to help those they care for find treatment options that can make it easier for both patient and caretaker to better manage Alzheimer’s symptoms,” says Dr. Richard S. Isaacson*, associate professor of neurology and director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention & Treatment Program at Weill Cornell Medical College and a respected AD researcher who has several family members with the disease. “Just as there is no one solution for managing Alzheimer’s symptoms, caregivers need to employ a suite of tactics in coping with their responsibilities – from stress-relieving habits and regular medical care for themselves, as well education about nutritional therapy and medication for patients.”

Caregivers should keep in mind that helping themselves stay well is also helping the people for whom they’re caring. If you’re taking care of a loved one with AD, here are some ways you can help both yourself and the person in your care:

* Therapy to mitigate AD symptoms – Coping with common symptoms of AD such as disorientation, forgetfulness and emotional imbalances are among the most stressful aspects of caregiving. Helping patients mitigate those symptoms can improve the quality of life for both the patient and caregiver. Some medications show promise in helping reduce symptoms, and a new medical food, Axona(R) by Accera, Inc. can further help some mild to moderate patients mitigate symptoms, especially when used in tandem with drug therapies.

Axona helps by providing the brain of mild to moderate AD patients with an alternative to glucose – the “food” which fuels brain function. A brain affected by AD doesn’t process glucose into energy as efficiently as a healthy brain, creating a condition known as diminished cerebral glucose metabolism (DCGM)) which most often occurs in the areas of the brain involved in memory and thoughts. The easy-to-mix, once-daily prescription medical food Axona helps provide brain cells with an alternative energy source, which may help ease the effects of DCGM and enhance memory and cognitive function in AD patients. Doctors and caregivers of AD patients who use Axona report patients appear more alert and engaged in daily activities and interactions with others.

* Seek support – Caregivers provide a tremendous amount of support for both patients and those who love them, but they can use support too. If you are a caregiver, join a support group where you can connect with people whose experiences and emotions parallel your own. You can find a support group through the Alzheimer Association’s website, Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends, too. Something as simple as picking up laundry or groceries, or sitting with a patient for an hour while you run errands doesn’t take much time away from someone else’s schedule, but it could give you a much-needed break.

* Keep an organized schedule – Routine can be very comforting for AD patients, and a schedule can help caregivers stay on track and feel less stressed by day-to-day demands. Online calendars or apps for your mobile device can help you keep a schedule and stay organized. Be sure to schedule in some time to give yourself a break, along with doctor’s appointments and medication timings.

* Avoid isolation – Withdrawal from society is common among dementia patients and can take a toll on those caring for them. Caregivers can feel isolated, too. It’s important to connect with others. Seek social interaction that will benefit you and your loved one with AD, whether it’s attending a weekly prayer meeting or a regularly scheduled dinner with family members.

* Keep things in perspective – The Alzheimer’s Association outlines five key things to remember: Don’t take behaviors personally; stay calm and patient; realize pain can be a trigger for behavior; don’t argue; and accept upsetting behaviors as part of the disease. Remember, your loved one can’t control his or her disease, but you can control your reaction to disease-related behaviors.

To learn more about Axona, visit For more information on AD, including tips for caregivers, visit

*Dr. Richard Isaacson is a paid scientific advisor/consultant for Accera, Inc.

11th Annual Deering Seafood Festival

March 30th, 2015 by Hal Feldman

It was another perfect weather day for the Deering Seafood Festival. Over 7500 people jammed the grounds of the Deering Estate in Palmetto Bay to take in the incredible food, drink, sights and sounds of what has become a staple of South Florida spring.

“We love how the community comes together to support us. Every year it is bigger and better and today is no exception,” exclaimed Deering Estate Foundation Executive Director Mary Pettit, “We started this eleven years ago and really allows us to share this wonderful location on Biscayne Bay with the world.”

Throughout the day, in the Stone House Courtyard, Whole Foods presented Celebrity Cooking demonstrations. With Chefs from Ocean Reef Club, DJM Restaurants, Ortinique on the Mile, 3030 Club and Haven South Beach, it was impossible not to pick up some great tips on how to prepare mouth-watering meals. Bridgette Young, the 2015 winner of the Johnson & Wales student seafood competition, even gave away a few of her secrets.

Premiere sponsor Golden Rule Seafood’s Marketing and Operations Director Courtney Reeder explained, “We served up more than 4500 meals today including plenty of old favorites and Fish Tacos and Fried Oysters making their debut this year.”

Owner of Sports Grill, Eric Haas, joking pointed out, “We’re the only landlubber here today, but we’ve done this every year since it began. We are a great seafood alternative.”

Besides dozens of food vendors, there were arts and crafts booths, a giant Kids Zone and free tours of both the Deering buildings and grounds.

Music played a big part in the day’s event, with the Bahamas Junkanoo Revue strolling the grounds with their highly spirited musical performances, involving not only costuming but dance-like body movement.

The relaxed island tunes continued on the main stage with great acts like Fourth Dimension Reggae Band and Caribbean Crew.

Mr. Nice Guy closed the event with a blistering set of great classic rock that really got the crowd going. Mary Pettit remarked how the band was part of the origins of the Seafood Festival and how happy she was to have them continue to be a part of it.

Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn remarked, “There’s nothing better than a day like this right here in our own backyard.”

First-time attendee Nina Coletta (from Broward) summed it up best, “It’s been a fabulous time, the weather is perfection, the food is excellent and the art is very interesting. I’m definitely coming back next year!”

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Award-Winning Hannah Richter

March 25th, 2015 by Hal Feldman

Hannah Richter is not your average teen. As an 18-year old senior at Miami Palmetto High School, she recently won a Scholastic Art & Writing Awards National Gold Key for Writing Portfolio, an award only eight people in the country received this year. Hannah is also the only National Gold Key Writing Portfolio winner from Florida since 2001. She’ll accept her award June 11 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Hannah has already been accepted to several prestigious colleges, but is still waiting to hear back from her favorite, Duke. Any school would be honored to have a student like this in their ranks. I can say this after spending just a few minutes talking to Hannah. She is clearly a focused and driven spirit.

“Writing for me is about finding my personal truth and understanding life through my mind. Not only do I learn about life by reading other people, but also reviewing what I’ve written,” says Hannah. “I’ve always lived half in my imagination and half in the real world, so poetry for me is very therapeutic way for me to bring my two halves together.”

Hannah’s path to this writing award started with her Creative Writing teacher Mr. Jason Meyers. “Besides helping my writing in inexplicable ways, he encouraged all his students to submit their work to Scholastic,” explained Hannah. “And I did a lot better than I expected.”

Here is her favorite winning poem, entitled Induced Winter:

Should you and I
One day walk together
I might comment
On the sap
Leaking from
The corners of
Your parted lips

And at this
You might pause
Confused because
As a child
You had been told that
Was a thing
Better left outside with
The dog

At age thirteen
They gave you
Woolen sweaters
To conceal the
Ochre bark
Which had begun
To creep over the hollows
Of your sanitized

Even now
You tug on the hems
Of your sleeves
Your freckled wrists
Whose azure veins
Are the silhouettes
Of aspens at dusk

Perhaps they envied
Your adoration
For wood ants
And the way you
Incessantly talked of them
As relatives
While at the dinner table
There was only

Over the years
Withered and
Collapsed in on itself
And when you mentioned
That the room was
Too small for your
Oaken arms
They assured you
That the freedom
You sought
Looked like an automobile

But every time
You bowed your wooden spine
In prayer
To a steering wheel
You were aware
That your truths
Had become scattered
Leaves on your

You never considered
That Spring too
Had an agenda
Even your woolen sweaters
Could not stop the rain
From visiting the drought
In your ribcage
As your bones
Began to
Expel violets from
Their centers

Try as they might
To uproot the wildflowers
Growing from
Your shoulder blades
You have always
That the forces which
Nurture our marrow
Are the same
As those which
Drive hurricanes

And I see this in you
Because I too acknowledge
That I am
A manifestation of
This earth
And I believe
Diffidence is a contagion
To which you must not

There is woodland in
Your stomach
Your speech impeded
By sap
And the leaves of cherry trees
Unfurling from your
Half convinced mouth
Are born of seeds
In childhood

Hannah shows grace and maturity beyond her years. “I don’t fit into any particular clique or group at school. I tend to be friends with everyone and connect with the parts of people that don’t have a label. I appreciate the variety and differences in life.” Her advice to other students is “I feel like I am out of the box and my own little species, but I celebrate not being typical and that’s a good thing. I find the happiness of not fitting in.” Others should find their happiness.

As for how writing plays into Hannah’s future, “I definitely plan to keep writing for myself. Where writing leads me professionally is up to the universe.”

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Eight ways to help kids hone their homework habits

March 24th, 2015 by Brenda Bassett

“Whether your kids are just learning to read, write and spell, or they are studying for the SATs, we parents have an opportunity to help instill work and study habits that will stick with our children for life,” says education and parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba, who is the bestselling author of 22 parenting books and a frequent TODAY show contributor.

Borba offers parents some easy tips to help children of all ages develop skills that will help them reach their academic goals:

* Give them space – Create a dedicated space for homework and study. This underscores the importance of homework to kids. If you don’t have room for a homework desk, consider keeping all homework and study tools in a bin or box that children can take out and use every day. Keep all essentials in one place to help avoid time wasted looking for the dictionary, ruler, calculator or other tool.

* Create a routine – Choose a time that works best for your child to do homework, then stick to that time every day. A set and predictable schedule helps minimize homework battles. “Work before play” can motivate kids to get their homework done, but if your child plays sports or has other after-school commitments, doing homework after dinner may be the best option.

* Give them smart tools and study aids – Just as your mechanic can’t fix your car without the right tools, it’s hard for kids to do homework without the proper tools. Choose tools like the new Post-it Study collection (, which is designed to help students stay organized and use time efficiently. For example, Post-it Study Message Flags are restickable flags that feature helpful reminders like “Study,” “To Do” and “On Test” that help kids highlight material that needs additional attention. Note Tabs, Page Markers, Flags and other products in this collection by Post-it Brand stick securely to papers, notebooks, textbooks and more – yet remove cleanly – to help kids organize information during homework and study time.

* Avoid distractions – Establish a technology-free zone for homework and studying. Turn off TVs, ban text messaging and ensure kids are using their PC for research, rather than Facebook. This measure may seem obvious to you, but remember – kids are so tied to tech these days that they may be surprised to find out they can more efficiently use their time without the distractions of technology.

* Map out assignments – Help children plot homework on a schedule so they have simple reminders of daily, weekly or long-term assignments. Include other engagements like sports or music lessons to help kids have a clearer picture of their own schedules. This can help build basic time management skills, like working on a long-term project every day over time, or avoiding a late-night cramming session for a big test.

* Lessons in planning and prioritizing – Teach kids to make lists of what they need to do each night in order of priority. As your child accomplishes each item, have him cross it off the list. For children who had difficulty staying on task, breaking large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks can help. Encourage kids to do the hardest homework first to help relieve the pressure of a long to-do list.

* Emphasize the effort – Stressing perseverance and effort in a task helps children work longer and harder, because they recognize their success is based on how hard they work. Instead of asking “What score did you get?” ask “How hard are you working?”

* Effective study habits – Spreading out study sessions and practice testing were the two most-effective learning tactics, according to a recent report by the Association for Psychological Science. Both techniques involve strong time management skills. Help children think of study sessions or pieces of a larger project as daily to-dos, and just as important as the homework assignment that may be due tomorrow.

Six must-have travel apps

March 24th, 2015 by Brenda Bassett

(BPT) – You have a choice of great travel apps that can help make your getaways a breeze, from booking a flight or renting a car while on the road to finding a bathroom during a busy day of sightseeing. For readers in the throes of booking their adventures, we’ve rounded up six of the most useful go-to apps for savvy travelers. Bonus: They all just so happen to be free.

* WhatsApp (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone) – Now there’s almost no excuse not to stay in touch with mom during your travels. WhatsApp uses your smartphone’s data plan or a Wi-Fi connection to let you message with family and friends around the world for free. On your next vacation, use the app to organize group chats, or send audio, photo or video messages. It’s now one of the most downloaded apps in the world. Moms, you’re welcome.

* Orbitz Flights, Hotels, Cars (iOS, Android, Kindle Fire) – There’s no shortage of booking apps out there, but leading travel site’s revamped version is so speedy and user friendly that it’s just one of 48 apps to earn a spot in the Apple App Store’s coveted Hall of Fame. This app lets you accomplish everything you would expect – book flights, hotels, cars and packages – but a big bonus is that it also treats users to mobile-exclusive deals on hotels. Other selling points include access to your account preferences, and up-to-date flight and gate info. Just think of this hall of famer as the Willie Mays of travel apps.

* TripWhat (iOS) – Once you’ve got your flight and hotel details sorted, you can focus on the fun side of travel – figuring out which sights to see, where to dine and what sort of entertainment’s happening nearby. TripWhat helps you sort through and map out the options with detailed listings uploaded from other sites such as WikiVoyage, SeatGeek, Google Maps, Yelp and, among others. You’ll never have to ask, “So, what do we do now?”

* SitOrSquat (iOS, Android) – In certain cities – we’re looking at you New York – finding a clean public bathroom in the middle of a long day of sightseeing can put you in a real pinch. The SitOrSquat app, sponsored by Charmin, not only helps you find a local public potty, but also includes user reviews that inform you of their condition, as indicated by “Sit” or “Squat” icons. This app’s an especially great pick for families with small kids whose bathroom emergencies tend to spring up at the most inopportune times.

* Field trip (iOS, Android) – What’s the fastest way to really get to know a city while traveling? Have a well-informed local show you. Consider Google’s FieldTrip your friend in town, guiding you to the best off-the-beaten-path sights, shops, restaurants and hidden histories. Just stroll around the city you’re exploring and watch as the hyper-local, customizable geo-publishing tool populates your screen – no clicking required – with interesting tidbits such as a recommended dish at a nearby restaurant or a free concert happening nearby.

* RoadAhead Highway Exit Finder (iOS)– Don’t play rest-stop roulette when it comes to stopping for food, gas or bathrooms while on the road. On your next trip, plan your stops smarter with RoadAhead, an app that helps you find the best highway exit for all your travel needs – gas prices, dining options, lodging, distance from exit and other useful info included. You’ll never again have to white-knuckle your way along an unknown number of miles to the next station.

Five ways to invest in gold

March 18th, 2015 by Brenda Bassett

If that includes you, you’re not alone. A recent survey shows that nearly half of U.S. investors don’t believe they’re knowledgeable enough about the precious metal to make a decision about adding gold to their portfolios. The World Gold Council highlights these five options to get you started: 
1. Gold Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
Since 2004, U.S. investors have been able to buy Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) backed by physical gold through their brokerage accounts on a regulated stock exchange, just like a share of a company’s stock. Ownership of gold ETF shares provides investors with a vehicle that reflects the performance of the price of gold bullion, less expenses of the ETF.  With these gold ETFs, individuals do not need to physically store gold, so no need for a safe or safety deposit box. Different types of gold ETFs are available on the market but not all are 100 percent backed by physical gold, so read the prospectus carefully and ask your financial adviser to help you select the one that best suits your needs. 
2. Gold mining stocks
With this option, you are investing in a gold-mining company, rather than gold bullion. Depending on the company, you may be able to generate income from dividends. While the value of gold stocks has historically been closely tied to the price of gold itself, other factors can determine the value of the individual companies. More than 300 gold-mining companies are listed and publicly traded in the U.S. 
3. Gold Accumulation Plans (GAPs) 
Similar to a conventional accumulation plan, GAPs allow investors to set aside a fixed amount of money every month in order to purchase gold on various days. This cost averaging cushions investors from short-term variations in the price of gold. When the account closes, investors could have one or more of the following alternatives: receiving bullion bars or jewelry or simply selling the gold for cash.
4. Gold bars
Gold bars range in size from just a few grams to the 400 ounce London Good Delivery bars most people have only seen in the movies. There are many different refineries that produce gold bars and most companies that sell gold will offer a variety of sizes to suit various budgets.  
5. Gold coins
Issued by governments around the world, gold bullion coins are a popular choice for investors. Their value is primarily based on their fine gold content. Bullion coins differ from numismatic or collectable coins, which are valued on rarity, design and finish rather than their gold content. Many mints will offer “proof” versions of the bullion coins at a premium to the gold content for collectors and those looking for an heirloom gift for milestone celebrations such as a birthday or wedding. American Eagle coins are a common form of bullion coin in the U.S. and other popular bullion coins that are widely available include the Gold American Buffalo, Canadian Maple Leaf, South African Kruggerrand and Chinese Panda and Austrian Philharmonic.
Where to buy: Both bullion coins and gold bars may be purchased online or by phone from companies that specialize in precious metals.
“There are a number of ways to invest in gold and each can play its own role in your portfolio. Owning an ETF, bars or coins and mining shares may be viewed as complementary investments,” says Juan Carlos Artigas, Global Head of Investment Research at the World Gold Council.
The World Gold Council ( provides useful information on why, how and where to invest in gold.
The information provided is for educational purposes only. Consult your financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

13th Annual Palmetto Bay Celebration Picnic

March 11th, 2015 by Hal Feldman

On March 7, Palmetto Bay held its annual Celebration Picnic in recognition of their Village incorporation in 2002. The setting was the same as always, Coral Reef Park. And what’s old seemed new again. Eugene Flinn, the Village’s original mayor is back in his old post and so he rekindled one of his picnic traditions.

Mayor Flinn, Councilman Schaffer, Councilwoman Cunningham, Vice Mayor DuBois and Councilwoman Siegel Lara

“The dunk tank keeps me humble, and it raises money for the Ronald McDonald House. In addition, I’d like to thank Vice Mayor John DuBois for donating to Camillus House each time I get dunked,” said Flinn.

Compared to the prior administration, there was a palpable difference with how the Council interacted with each other. In addition, Palmetto Bay resident and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Danielle Levine-Cava set a fun tone proclaiming, “I love this park. I love this place. And I recommend the roasted corn!”

The three-hour picnic was threatened by rain a few times but ultimately made it through unscathed, providing the nearly 4000 attendees a sun-shaded day to enjoy the festivities. As usual, it was the Parks Department that really put the work into creating such a success. Parks Director Fanny Carmona proudly said, “The staff did a great job! We love doing this for our Village and to see so many smiling faces.”

The day began with a bike ride with Mayor Flinn. As a follow-up, Palmetto Bay resident and Green Mobility Network bike and pedestrian advocate Eric Tullberg ran a bike valet service for anyone who rode to the picnic.

Throughout the day, the picnic saw strong performances under the gazebo from local schools and organizations, including Coral Reef and Howard Drive Elementary Schools.

As is the case every year, there were tons of bounce-house activities for the kids to run around and enjoy themselves, including two high-action obstacle avoidance arenas.

The fire-rescue folks educated people about their equipment, there was a helicopter fly-over that wowed the crowd, the Palmetto Bay Police department fingerprinted kids for safety, and Miami Children’s Hospital fitted people for bike helmets.

Resident Jamie Wasser complimented the entire event, “I’ve lived in Miami my whole life, and for people who don’t think there is great community here, you should be in Palmetto Bay right now. There are kids dancing, singing, playing, and people enjoying each other’s company. I’ve never been more proud to live here than I am today!”

By the end of the picnic, Palmetto Bay had downed 3500 hot dogs, 2000 ears of roasted corn, 2500 slices of pizza…

…chips, 6000 servings of drinks, popcorn, snow-cones and tons of cotton candy. There were also tons of smiles and good conversation. Not a bad way to spend the day in the idyllic bedroom community.

“If you miss, your taxes go up,” Mayor Eugene Flinn quipped as he sat atop the dunk tank. “There had to be at least 25 successful dunks,” said Palmetto Bay spokesman Bill Kress.

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Suffer from migraines? Treatments help prevent attacks before they start

March 10th, 2015 by Brenda Bassett

Are there effective treatments for preventing debilitating migraine attacks? New guidelines say yes, but many people are not taking advantage of these treatments.

Migraine is a condition involving recurring headaches that often can last anywhere from two hours to four days, and can completely interrupt your daily activities, impair your work performance and affect your family obligations. Research shows that many treatments can help prevent migraines, yet few people use these preventive treatments, according to new guidelines issued by the American Academy of Neurology and American Headache Society. 
“Studies show that migraine is under-recognized and under-treated,” says guideline author Dr. Stephen Silberstein of Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. “About 38 percent of people who suffer from migraine could benefit from preventive treatments, but less than a third of these people currently use them.”

Unlike acute treatments, which are used to relieve the pain of a migraine attack when it occurs, preventive treatments usually are taken every day to lessen the frequency, severity and duration of attacks.  

“Some studies show that migraine attacks can be reduced by more than half with preventive treatments,” Silberstein says. 
Some over-the-counter treatments may offer relief for migraine sufferers. 

Several herbal preparations, vitamins and minerals are used for preventing migraine. The guideline research found that the herbal supplement Petasites, also known as butterbur, is effective in preventing migraine attacks. There is moderate evidence that riboflavin (vitamin B2), the mineral magnesium and the herbal preparation MIG-99 (Feverfew) can help prevent migraine.
In addition, several drugs for inflammation have been studied for migraine prevention. These are known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. Evidence shows the NSAIDs fenoprofen, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, naproxen and naproxen sodium can help prevent migraine attacks.

Silberstein notes that while people do not need a prescription from a physician for these over-the-counter and complementary treatments, they should still see their doctor regularly for follow-up. You can learn more about the guideline recommendations at

Some prescription drugs help prevent migraine attacks, too.
The blood pressure drugs metoprolol, propranolol and timolol have been shown to be effective. The depression drugs amitriptyline and venlafaxine, as well as epilepsy drugs divalproex sodium, sodium valproate and topiramate can help prevent future occurrences of migraine. It’s important to discuss prescription drug options with your doctor to see if one is right for you.

What other steps can you take to avoid migraine attacks?

In addition to preventative treatments, it’s wise to avoid common migraine triggers. In some people, migraine headaches can be triggered by certain foods and beverages, according to the American Headache Society. Skipped meals, dehydration, strong odors and bright lights are other factors to avoid if possible. 
“Migraines can get better or worse over time,” Silberstein says. “People should discuss these changes in the pattern of attacks with their doctors and see whether they need to adjust their dose or even stop their medication, or switch to a different medication.”

Gluten-free meals with ‘wow’ factor, from breakfast to dinner

March 10th, 2015 by Brenda Bassett

(BPT) – As awareness of gluten-free diets continues to grow, more people are searching for ways to make their menus delicious, creative and varied while still staying gluten-free. In the past, forgoing gluten was challenging at best and frustrating at worst, due to a lack of available ingredients and products. But that was then. Now, whether it’s gluten intolerance or a goal of healthier eating that drives your meal plans, you can indulge and enjoy great meals from breakfast to dinner (and everything in between).

The expanding availability of gluten-free substitutes for favorites like tortillas, breads and pastas means that you don’t need to give up the dishes you love. For truly healthy options, it’s important to look for gluten-free products with shorter ingredient lists filled with familiar items.

Get your gluten-free menu started with these tips for meals throughout the day. Packed with flavor, nutrition and great ingredients, they’ll keep the whole family happy.


* Breakfast burrito bar – Get the day off to a spicy start with delicious breakfast burritos. Make it an interactive morning event on the weekend with a burrito bar. Set out an array of gluten-free ingredients, like scrambled eggs, beans, vegetables and cheese, for your family to mix and match. Fold it all up in black rice tortillas made by Food For Life, which are highly nutritious – black rice boasts antioxidant levels on par with “superfruits” like acai and blackberries.

* Dressed-up English muffins – Crispy outside, fluffy inside and topped with delicious, nutritious goodies – what could be a better way to start the day? Try topping yours with mashed avocado that’s been whisked with crushed chili, a splash of lime juice and a pinch of salt. Or, if you like something sweeter, try gluten-free almond butter with raspberries, blackberries or a dash of cinnamon sugar. Gluten-free English muffins are available from Food For Life.


* Standout sandwiches – Go beyond the basics for your midday meal. Using gluten-free bread, you can create gourmet sandwiches that would cost far more in a restaurant. Rethink tuna salad by using Dijon mustard instead of mayo, and adding capers, diced sundried tomatoes and preserved lemon. Or, go for a veggie extravaganza with Portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, crunchy sprouts and hummus.

* Seasoned quesadillas – Add a little something extra to your classic quesadilla, that well-loved snack of melted cheese between two gluten-free tortillas. Try adding a variety of cheeses and boosting the flavor with herbs and spice mixes.


* A new take on pizza – Everyone loves pizza for dinner, especially when they can make it their own. Using gluten-free tortillas, the whole family can create personalized mini-pizzas with thin, crunchy crusts. Simply assemble the toppings of choice and either grill or toast in the oven. For busy nights, it’s a meal that’s quick, easy and guaranteed to please.

* Enchiladas -This classic Mexican dish is great for crowds, so if you’re welcoming friends, add it to your menu. Black rice tortillas will add eye-catching color and lots of nutrition, without bringing gluten to the table. Fill the enchiladas with the meat of your choice (such as shredded chicken or beef) as well as rice, beans and grilled onions and peppers. Top with a spiced sauce of roasted tomatoes, as well as Mexican cheese like cotija or chihuahua, and bake.

Today, gluten-free diets can be every bit as delicious and rich with nutrition – and maybe more so – than other diets. Celebrate the possibilities and find creativeness in your gluten-free kitchen. For more ideas, go to

Avoid the summer slide: 7 fun, brain-stimulating activities for students

March 4th, 2015 by Brenda Bassett

“This significant loss in knowledge can mean a child may spend the first two months of the new school year playing catch-up,” says Dr. Ashley Norris, assistant dean of the College of Education at University of Phoenix. To avoid the summer slide, Norris says it is important to plan a mix of activities for children during their time off. -”Many parents focus on sports and other extracurricular activities over the summer, but parents also need to look for learning opportunities that emphasize math and reading skills.”

Norris, who is also an instructor for teacher preparation courses at University of Phoenix, offers seven fun, educational activities that parents and children can embark on this summer and throughout the year. Not only can these activities help kids avoid the summer slide, but they also provide parents with opportunities to connect with their children.

1. Turn everyday activities into teaching opportunities
 Teaching opportunities occur every day in your home or own backyard. To help children grow their math skills, ask them to make the grocery list, go shopping with you and practice adding up the bill and calculating the tax. Then invite children into the kitchen to learn about cooking and practice fractions by measuring ingredients. If you garden, have children help seed and tend to the plants. Study the animals and bugs in your yard, such as birds, squirrels, deer, lizards, worms or lady bugs.

2. Turn learning into an adventure
 Look at your city’s community calendar or open the morning newspaper and choose an adventure for the day. Visit the farmers’ market to learn about vegetables. Attend concerts in the park or other community music events, then research the instruments. Head to the local nature center to learn about native plants and then return home and have kids draw what they saw.

3. Embrace technology and create interactive projects and activities
 Involve children in digital storytelling by using computer-based tools (video, photos and presentation software). For instance, your children can use family photos and videos to tell a story about summer activities, and you can keep it as a precious memento. Another fun activity pairs technology with the outdoors – geo-caching is a high-tech treasure hunt you can do in just about any city across the country.

4. Focus on core competencies
 Book-making is a great way to build reading, writing and research skills. Summer camps help children grow social skills and allow them to gain knowledge at the same time. Look for science and technology camps that provide hands-on learning projects such as bridge building, mouse-trap cars or the construction of robots. Alternatively, do your own research and try these projects at home. Many science museums offer home projects on their websites.

5. Balance academic and social engagement
 It is important to give children a balance of activities during their break. Not only does playing with friends provide important social engagement, but it also gives parents insight into how their children learn best. Educational activities can be fun in groups too – your children enjoy both social stimulation and keep their brains buzzing.

6. Summer learning activities do not have to be expensive
 Many of the best summer learning activities are free or cost very little. Visit your local public library to borrow books, and pick up an event schedule for story times, art activities, reading clubs and more. Head to a museum during free admission days. Also consider virtual museums, accessed on a home or library computer.

7. Be engaged in your child’s learning
 A variety of stimulating activities help children avoid the summer slide, but activities also serve as an opportunity for parents to connect with children on a deeper level. When you find out what interests your child, build an assortment of activities based on those preferences. Then plan activities together and explore those interests. You’ll both enjoy the quality time spent together.