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Strong Kids, Healthy Kids: The Revolutionary Program for Increasing Your Child's Fitness in 30 Minutes a Week
Strong Kids, Healthy Kids: The Revolutionary Program for Increasing Your Child's Fitness in 30 Minutes a Week
by Fredrick Hahn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.47
57 used & new from $0.01

9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A sound idea, poorly executed., July 16, 2011
SKHK presents basic facts about the benefits of weight training for children, provides a training regimen using either free weights or machines, and concludes with a section on nutrtition. The appendix contains some notes for the weight training section, as well as a small section on scientific support for weight training with children. Hahn does not provide notes for the nutrition section but does offer some suggestions for further reading. The appendix also includes a limited number of suggestions for finding equipment and, oddly, one parenting book. A chart is also included for keeping track of workouts, whether with free-weights or with machines.

Overall, the book is economical with facts and generous with opinions. The typeface is large and there are lots of boldface headings and offset boxes, and that makes me take this book less seriously than I take other weight training books. The author makes a good case for children using weights and/or machines to build strength, presenting some of the current thinking on the topic and addressing some common concerns of parents, coaches, and teachers. He briefly treats two peripheral topics that can be confusing to beginners: moderation in training (Hahn advises no more than two 20 minute sessions for kids and explains why overtraining is detrimental), and stretching (not necessary and potentially harmful, but fine if the trainee enjoys it and doesn't overdo it.)

The meat of the book is comprised of two weight-training plans. I was surprised at the author's insistence that a gym-based program is superior to home-based, and that the weight machines are better than free weights. This goes against everything I've read, so I talked to several of the personal trainers at my gym. None of them agreed with the author. In my experience, the weight machines are a little awkward to use -- the motions feel unnatural and it can be diifficult to find a comfortable setting. I use free weights because they more closely mimic actual motions I perform in daily life, and because I can feel more muscles being engaged. I'll stick with free weights for myself and my children, and I think they are the better choice for most people of any age with normal functioning. It's a shame that the author chose not to present more of the supposed benefits of each, for parents to consider, but instead advocated pretty heavily for machines over free weights. However, his presentation of all the exercises is mostly good and should be useful to parents not familiar with them already.

The nutrition section feels incomplete. The author does not list any relevant credentials, nor does he provide research notes for the diet he advocates. His `food plan' (`diet' being a dirty word these days) is decent enough -- limit industrial foods and eat lots of whole, pure foods. He suggests a grain-free diet and implies that there is little difference between whole grains and refined grains. Readers interested in the science behind grains, sugar, insulin, and the optimal proportions of macronutrients should look elsewhere. If you're looking for a new diet fad, or are already sold on the grain-free idea, Hahn's nutrition chapter should do as well as any other.

I was disappointed with SKHK. The topic is timely and relevant, but the treatment is sloppy and too brief. I haven't seen anything else that is better and would recommend this book to parents with no weight training experience themselves. For my children, I've planned a workout with the help of a trusted, well-credentialed personal trainer at my gym, and we'll be doing it at home, with free weights.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 8, 2012 9:47 AM PDT

Melitta Cone Filter Coffeemaker 10 Cup, 1-Count
Melitta Cone Filter Coffeemaker 10 Cup, 1-Count
Price: $10.49
29 used & new from $9.37

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes great coffee -- nearly perfect!, October 16, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This makes far better coffee than my old Gevalia coffeemaker (the freebie they send when you sign up for their mail-order club.) I'm able to control the temperature of the water which I believe is the most important factor in making a great cup of joe. I pour the water in at just under boiling and keep the kettle on the heat while I'm brewing so that when I add more water it is the correct temperature -- I try to maintain about 205degrees throughout. It's simple and it works. It'd be perfect if the glass carafe were replaced with a thermal carafe, with a small 'window' for checking water level. However, thermal carafes are widely available (I use the one that came with my Gevalia coffeemaker) so this is a minor complaint. Outside of a French Press, this makes the best-tasting coffee of any method I've tried (I haven't tried cold brew yet, but have done percolators, auto-drip, press, and vacuum.) Another small complaint is that the instructions are a little vague -- if you really want to make a great cup of coffee, experiment with the amount of coffee (should be about 2t per cup), grind (I use fine with the manual drip) and water temperature (about 200-210) and, of course, bean and roast (I like a moderate to light roast - as unhip as that sounds, I believe the coffee flavor is more complex and, well, tasty, with these roasts.) Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 29, 2012 2:26 PM PDT

The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections
The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections
by Amanda Blake Soule
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.12
215 used & new from $0.01

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous book, best for new moms, has some flaws, September 24, 2009
I waited over a year before reviewing this book because I wanted to give it a 5-star review. I love the idea behind the book, and I enjoy the author's blog a great deal. When I couldn't rate the book as highly as I wanted to, I decided not to review at all. However, I always look at the 1,2, and 3 star reviews before selecting a book because they give usually give the most useful information, so I'm going to point out where I think the book shines and where I think it falls short.

First, this is a beautiful book with lots of inspiring photos of the author and her children being happy together, and of pleasant spaces in and around the author's home. The projects are simple and, as other reviewers have noted, nothing that you couldn't find in other craft books, blogs, and magazines. However, they provide a good selection of techniques and media, and they are well-presented.

This would make a great book for a new parent looking for ways to nourish her own and her child's creative spirit. I would give it to moms who already had a creative mindset but I think it could also make a good gift for a parent who isn't especially crafty, because there are plenty of ideas for simply providing open-ended materials for kids (and adults) to play around with. I think it would also make good reading for families who've lost touch with their creative selves or with each other.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who already has a creative, nurturing family life or who already 'makes stuff' with her kids. There really isn't anything new here for such readers. Even if you're an avid bibliophile like me, I would hold off on this one in preference for something with more projects or more in-depth discussions of how to nurture children. The writing style is enjoyable but the content is a little shallow and there are too many passages that sound vaguely familiar, as though the author is repeating herself in slightly different words.

I would also warn readers that the author sometimes comes across as condescending or smug. Her advice to buy small quantities of high-quality art materials rather than a whole lot of crap is good as far as it goes, but she is a little too sanguine in her reliance on thrift stores and surplus sales. Yes, sometimes you can get extremely lucky at the thrift store or a yard sale, and perhaps some art schools really do sell off surplus materials, but in the end most of us will have to budget for markers, paints, fabric, and yarn and we will have to make compromises based on what we can afford. The 'resource list' at the end of the book is painfully brief and includes only moderate to very expensive retailers. The book would have been better with a longer list of resources and more ideas about what materials to splurge on and what materials to buy cheaply.

In another section, the author encourages readers to find a 'special spot' out in nature where they will feel 'grounded and connected to the earth.' She urges us not to let 'financial or geographical circumstances get in the way of having a spot.." because nature can be found in the middle of a city! Coming from someone fortunate enough to live in coastal Maine, this is a bit much. I live in the city and yes, we have wildlife of the plant and animal kind here, but it does make a difference, contrary to what the author says a few pages later, "whether it's a small patch of dandelions on a tiny strip of city grass or a remote, wide-open lake with room to explore." It's silly and a little insulting to pretend that place doesn't matter.

Many readers, looking at the photo of the author's children paddling a canoe or playing on the beach will feel a little wistful that they can't provide that kind of experience for their children very often or even at all. Those of us who live in cities (or in poorly-planned suburbs) know that, despite cultural amenities and public transportation, the noise, crime, grime, and nature deficit all take their toll. Those of us who struggle financially know that it's impossible not to allow financial constraints to 'get in the way.' On the other hand, I almost feel I should praise the author for even alluding to a subject many authors would simply have ignored. I also feel I should thank the author, because she inspired me to begin writing a zine about enjoying nature and living creatively for limited-income urbanites like me!

That note of privilege and blissful ignorance is present throughout the book, as is a mild dose of self-congratulation. I think it's pretty easy to get past that and to enjoy the evident joy and pleasure the author takes in her children and in her lifestyle. It's refreshing to read about a homemaker who finds the work fulfilling and rewarding, especially because the decision to be a homemaker is almost incidental. Although the author can sometimes seem repetitious or a little smug, she also comes across as a happy, fulfilled mother who has lots of good ideas to share.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 31, 2009 2:01 PM PST

The South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health for Life
The South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health for Life
by Arthur Agatston
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.08
285 used & new from $0.01

108 of 128 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still A Good Diet, Not Really 'SuperCharged', June 26, 2009
While this book is an improvement over the original, it isn't really a new book and should have been sold as a revised edition of the original. The exercise section is decent but unremarkable. Interval walking (basically alternating between harder and easier effort while walking) is hardly a new idea, but it's a very good exercise to promote. The strength-training exercises are also decent, but again, nothing new.

I found the interval walking routines to be far too easy, and I'm overweight by 50 pounds. To be fair, I walk quite a lot (1-4 miles a day)just to get to the library, grocery store, swimming pool, etc, so I might be in better physical shape than others who are similarly overweight. The strength training exercises were a good fit for me, but I suspect that for many folks they will be too easy. If you care to modify the workouts to be more challenging, do follow the basic 'effort' curve that Agatston recommends, or, better still, get a sports-fitness book and learn from that. Ideally, you want to build the intensity of your workouts, and then back off, in cycles; any basic sports training book can give you more information, but you could cobble together a reasonable workout following this book as a loose guide.

The diet is more or less the same as in the previous book, with some new recipes and new foods added. I am following phase 1 right now, with some modifications. First, I don't consume sugar substitutes, and I don't think they're a good idea for anyone. I'm surprised any doctor would recommend them, but I'm prejudiced in favor of a natural, whole-foods diet. Agatston seems a little too keen on artificial sugars, and even lists 'light whipped topping' as an option -- yuck! I think anyone embarking on a fairly ambitious diet overhaul should be discouraged from eating 'fake foods' such as these.

Another modification I made to the Phase 1 food list was to remain open to full-fat dairy, particularly cheeses. This is just a personal preference, but I mention it just to let people know that you can lose weight on this diet even if you 'cheat' a little!

The recipes are fair-to-middling, but this seems to be par for the course for diet books. I don't use them at all. Instead, I just cook with the 'allowed' foods using my instincts. I'm an avid chef, and I do think the recipes are decent enough for folks who aren't that interested in cooking. Some of them have goofy names though, and the 'ricotta creme' meant as a phase 1 desert is just silly and yucky. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I think that if you're going to give up sugar, just give it up for awhile rather than using fake stuff!

Overall I give this 3, rather than 4 stars because I do think the author is 'cashing in' a bit; I wish the cover made it more clear how similar it is to the previous book, and that owners of the first book could buy an inexpensive supplement. Also, as I wrote above, the artificial sweetener thing really bugs me, as does the awful 'ricotta creme.' If you don't have or haven't read the first South Beach Diet, this is a marginally better choice. If you have, just sign 'supercharged' out from the library or wait until it shows up as a remainder or used book for cheap!
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2015 10:38 AM PDT

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
by Jeanne Birdsall
Edition: Paperback
Price: $4.54
417 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasant Read, Perhaps Overpraised, June 22, 2009
My daughter (10 when she read this) and I thoroughly enjoyed The Penderwicks. My daughter loaned our copy to a younger neighbor (9) who also enjoyed it, and both loved the sequel as well. As others have noted, this is an old-fashioned story. The pacing is slower and the plot more gentle than many contemporary middle-grade novel. If you happen to enjoy this sort of novel, you will probably enjoy Penderwicks.

Some reviewers feel that the Penderwick girls are too mature, too articulate, for their supposed ages. While their dialog isn't slangy or hip, it's also not, to my mind, that of an adult trying to sound like a child. Those of us who were, or who know, very articulate children who are also avid readers probably will recognize the speech style and accept it as childlike. There are certainly some passages that miss the mark, but overall I found it believable.

Another frequent criticism of this book is that it should have been set in the past; that the characters aren't believable as modern Americans. I mostly disagree with this; not everybody lives the kind of hectic, overprogrammed, suburban lifestyle portrayed on television as typically American. Yes, the family is very privileged, and so are able to take a long summer holiday and, generally, have few of the worries that beset many real families. However, the way the sisters interacted with each other and with the people they meet didn't seem at all unusual to me, and I have 3 children of my own and live in a city neighborhood with lots of other children, none of whom seem so terribly different from the Penderwicks, except in the matter of wealth.

One problem I did have with this book is that the adult characters are a little hard to swallow. Since the book is centered on the children, I didn't mind very much. But the father is a little too absent, the mother next door a little too evil, and the housekeeper a little too jolly and plain-spoken, with a heart of gold. Very stock characters, indeed!

Overall, this book is a very enjoyable one if you like old-fashioned stories, and I don't believe it is as anachronistic as it's detractors seem to think. On the other hand, I just don't see it as being quite as wonderful as it's most enthusiastic supporters think either. It will appeal to a certain kind of child, who will identify with the sisters, and is probably more appealing to adult readers who fondly remember Anne, the March sisters, the Moffats, the 'One-Of-A-Kind' family, and the denizens of Klickitat street. I'd have given it 3.5 stars out of 5, or 7 of 10 if I could, but I can't and my practice is to 'round up' so I give The Penderwicks 4 stars.

Eragon (Inheritance, Book 1)
Eragon (Inheritance, Book 1)
by Christopher Paolini
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.74
798 used & new from $0.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Yes, it's poorly written, and yes, the author stole all his ideas from better writers, June 21, 2009
It is possible to work within a genre and follow it's conventions and still be original. It's possible to emulate the greats without recycling their ideas into thinly disguised, poorly drawn copies. Many fantasy writers have done this, but Paolini has not. Other reviewers have pointed out the specific instances of literary grand-larceny (and there are a lot) so I won't do that here. I will just say that I enjoyed the first few pages of Eragon before becoming first amused, then annoyed, then incredulous at how badly written this book is, and how full of others' ideas. Some reviewers have noted that this novel might be good for readers too young for Tolkein, but I disagree. This book could well spoil Tolkein for those readers. It's almost like reading a condensed version written by a hack without skill or integrity. Or, as another reviewer noted, like mediocre fan fiction. I award the book one star partly because I have to, but also because it has been a treasure trove of errors to point out to my children. It is also a very good example of plagiarism. The adult critics who have failed to pan this book should be ashamed. Young people deserve good literature, or at least honest trash. This is neither.

Bend-the-Rules Sewing: The Essential Guide to a Whole New Way to Sew
Bend-the-Rules Sewing: The Essential Guide to a Whole New Way to Sew
by Amy Karol
Edition: Paperback
Price: $21.95
111 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Freed My Inner Seamstress!, February 23, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'd made a few projects with my sewing machine before I got this book, with only one real success. I didn't enjoy sewing very much, and I would have quit trying except I had an unreasonable need to both enjoy and be good at sewing.

When I first got my hands on the book, I spent a few weeks just enjoying Amy's writing style and the very appealing pictures. Eventually, the bib project lured me in; it looked easy enough even for me, and my 2 yr. old was a frightfully messy eater so I knew I'd use my project even if it was ugly. The bib turned out adorably, and I made many more, including some for a local baby boutique.

I've also made the artsy clutch, the turtle buddy, and the simple tote. All 4 of these projects are accessible to beginners, and very rewarding to make. I especially recommend the bib for absolute beginners or for those, like me, who've been frustrated by earlier attempts at sewing. The artsy clutch is a good 2nd project; it requires some concentration and either decent spatial reasoning skills or blind faith (I went the blind faith route) but the finished product is most impressive and will convince anyone that she or he is at least competent and perhaps even skilled.

I've read through some of the negative reviews and would like to address two common criticisms. First, there are some errors and omissions in the first edition. I believe these are now corrected, but even so I would encourage anyone using the book to join the flickr group -- Amy has been very generous with advice, as have many of the other members. Also, it's a great place to post pictures of your finished objects and receive well-deserved accolades!

A second criticism involves the hand-drawn templates, which some reviewers have compared unfavorably with professionally drafted commercial patterns. For me, this approach was perfect for two reasons. First, it produces the diy, one-of-a-kind style that is so appealing. Second, it freed me from the stress of perfectionism and strict pattern-following. I'm now confident enough to make simple garments for my children. These aren't projects from the book, nor are they commercial patterns. I'm able to figure out the best way to cut and construct simple skirts, pants, and smocks without feeling like I need precise drawings and instructions.

In addition to a fun selection of funky, simple, and stylish projects, Amy's 'Bend The Rules' approach showed me a better way to think about sewing. I've gone from disliking sewing and feeling pretty hopeless about my abilities, to looking forward to sewing as a creative outlet and even, in a small way, a source of income. Thanks Amy!

The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?
The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?
by Leslie Bennetts
Edition: Hardcover
156 used & new from $0.01

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just another salvo in the tiresome 'mommy wars', February 15, 2009
Despite claims to the contrary, this book is, for the most part, just another anti-sahm diatribe. Yes, there is some sensible advice to young women about what can happen if they take little or no thought for their futures, relying instead on a Prince Charming to care for them. But Bennetts' attitude toward homemakers is derisive and ugly; she is willfully ignorant, choosing to recognize a few basic 'types': privileged leeches, benighted victims, scared women lacking ambition, smug women happily upholding the patriarchy, etc.

For women who have chosen to be homemakers for anything longer than a year, this book will most likely be offensive, laughable, or both. The author's attitude and ignorance fatally poison her book. In any case, many (perhaps most?) of us are well aware of the financial implications of our choice, and have taken intelligent measures to protect our futures.

For women who have chosen to work outside the home and who are either insecure about that choice or who share the author's contempt for women who make a different choice, this book will be an affirming and pleasurable read.

Women who honestly believe that all they need is a 'good man' and who don't see divorce, death, or dismemberment as eventualities to be planned for, well, maybe this book could help them if it weren't so insulting.

The bottom line? This book is of little value to anyone who doesn't share the author's prejudices. If you don't believe that a family can thrive on one income, that caring for a home and children can be fulfilling for women or men who freely choose such work, that volunteer work in the community is as valuable as paid work, that our society isn't necessarily improved when when income and spending go up, or that men and women are capable of negotiating egalitarian relationships when only one partner earns an income, then you might enjoy this book, even if it will prove of little practical value.

About Marsupials: A Guide for Children (About... (Peachtree))
About Marsupials: A Guide for Children (About... (Peachtree))
by Cathryn P. Sill
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.95
49 used & new from $0.18

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent part of a wonderful series., February 10, 2009
I can't praise these books highly enough; the illustrations are very appealing, the text is clear and simple without being babyish, and the layout is inviting.

Each double page spread features a charming picture of a particular marsupial on the right side, and a clean white page with anywhere from one word to one sentence describing an attribute of the marsupial pictured that also applies to other, sometimes all marsupials.

The simple text and layout make the book appealing as a read-aloud text for toddlers and preschoolers (my almost 3 yr. old loves this series) as well as an excellent choice for emerging readers.

It can be difficult to find high-quality nonfiction texts for the preschool and early elementary crowd, but this book and it's companions are a perfect choice. My 8 yr. old, who struggles with reading, enjoys these because they are within his grasp but are not oversimplified or dull.

At the end of the book are a few pages with thumbnails of each illustration accompanied by slightly more in-depth information about each animal. I read just a few of these at a time to my 3 yr. old, to match his comprehension and attention span; they are a very nice 'bonus' to an aleady delightful book. Very highly recommended.

LeapFrog Original LeapPad Learning System from 2004
LeapFrog Original LeapPad Learning System from 2004
17 used & new from $28.00

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fun, but cheaply made: will disappoint and frustrate you!, February 10, 2009
= Durability:1.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Like most of the other negative reviewers, my biggest problem with this product was it's lack of durability. It's fun, and I suppose it does have some educational value, but mostly it's just another expensive electronic toy that will malfunction shortly after the warranty expires.

Like lots of electronic toys, it is apt to lose it's appeal fairly quickly. However, one of our children did get many hours of play out of this without getting bored. The different cartridges can extend it's appeal, but only for so long and they are expensive.

LeapPad is touted as an educational toy, but just about anything with lights and sounds is so-called; kids learn more from reading, playing, building, and 'doing' than they ever will from an electronic device. Yes, it provides some phonics practice and can help emerging readers. Yes, children may learn some random facts and may memorize lists (state capitals, multiplication table, etc.) But LeapPad is no substitute for more active forms of learning and is, of course, entirely dispensable.

If LeapPad were just another pricey electronic form of edutainment, I'd have given it maybe 3 or 4 stars. It's fun, the noises it emits aren't terribly annoying, and it's somewhat expandable/adaptable. It isn't the educational boon that it's advertised to be, but most consumers will know that anyway. I gave it it's low rating mostly because of it's poor durability.

Our LeapPad stopped accepting new cartridges after about a year. We tried cleaning the cartridges as directed by customer service, but that didn't help. Subsequent calls to customer service were futile; each rep we spoke to insisted that we must not have take proper care of the LeapPad. This was the only reason any of them could think of for the product malfunctioning! Of course, I knew, they knew, and they knew that I knew, that this was all a farce; that Leapfrog is just like most other manufacturers: they don't care about quality or service, as long as they can sucker enough new consumers into buying their overpriced product.

Bottom Line: Avoid buying this product. Find a friend or neighbor who has one if you're curious, but don't waste your money on something that will almost certainly malfunction as soon as the warranty period is over.

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