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    Holiday Traditions and Special Recipes

    by Sheryl Pidgeon

    Since my kids were little, we’ve taken to the kitchen each Chanukah to create marshmallow dreidels. Turns out the tradition has continued even now that my kids are young adults. Not only are they fun to make and delicious to eat, but they also make a great dessert display at our annual Chanukah party! 

    Marshmallow Driedels from The Pidgeon Family

    Marshmallows form the dreidels’ bodies, chocolate kisses serve as the tips, and pretzel sticks act as the knobs. A quick dip in melted white or milk chocolate provides a surface for colorful sprinkles.


    One bag of marshmallows

    One bag of thin pretzel sticks

    One bag of Hershey’s Kisses

    One package white chocolate chips

    One package milk, semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

    Assorted Sprinkles


    Line a baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper.

    Using a separate microwave-safe bowl for each type, melt the chocolate chips over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.

    Spear each marshmallow with a pretzel stick, making sure it goes about 3/4 of the way into the marshmallow. Using the pretzel stick as a handle, dip one of your treats into the chocolate so that it is completely coated.  Adhere a Hershey’s Kiss to the other end of the marshmallow.  Place on lined baking sheet and decorate with sprinkles.

    Put the marshmallow dreidels in the fridge for 10 minutes before serving.

    Enjoy! More

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    Holiday Traditions and Recipes from Good Life Family to You!

    Temperatures are cooling down, the days are starting to get shorter, and the holiday season is just around the corner. The best part of the year is finally upon us! 

    Besides the school break, delicious food, and gift-giving, what is it that makes this time of year so special? Why is it that our fondest family memories can be traced back to this time of year? The answer is simple: Traditions. Elf on the shelf? Christmas cookies left out for Santa? Potato pancakes and the dreidel game? The festive rituals we carry out year after year surrounded by our loved ones bring us together and create ever-lasting memories. 

    With the holidays approaching once again, it’s the perfect time to acknowledge and appreciate these special moments.

    Our staff has put together some of our favorite recipe traditions and will be sharing them with you in the weeks to come.

    And, we’d love to hear from you, too! Send your traditions and recipes to: Tricia White, Managing Editor

    Recipe #1: The Donahue Family

    “Holidays would not be complete in our home without Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake.”– Beth Donahue, Creative Director, Good Life Family Magazine 


    Adapted by the Donahues 

    CRUST:3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs1/4 cup light brown sugar1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 

    FILLING:1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin3 large eggs, beaten1/2 cup light brown sugar2 tablespoons heavy cream1 teaspoon vanilla1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon1/2 cup granulated sugar1 tablespoon cornstarch1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg1/2 teaspoon ground ginger1/2 teaspoon salt3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature 

    TOPPING:2 cups sour cream2 tablespoons granulated sugar1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon 

    Stir together crust ingredients until combined well. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Chill crust 1 hour. 

    Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla and bourbon until combined. In a separate bowl, stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth. 

    Pour the filling into crust, smoothing the top. Place the springform pan into a shallow baking pan and bake at 350°F until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool 5 minutes. 

    Whisk together topping ingredients. Spread on top of cheesecake and bake for 5 more minutes. Cool completely in springform pan on a rack. 

    Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove side of pan and bring to room temperature before serving. Garnish with pecan halves. 

    Watch for more holiday traditions recipes in the weeks to come! More

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    Early Childhood Development (Ages 0-3) – Child and Family Blog

    Early Childhood Development (Ages 0-3) – Child and Family Blog Transforming new research on cognitive, social & emotional development and family dynamics into policy and practice.Fri, 14 May 2021 09:32:46 +0000en-GB hourly 1 parent during the COVID-19 pandemic? There is a simple way to make meaningful connections with your baby Fri, 14 May 2021 […] More

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    Cinnamon French Toast Casserole

    This is the perfect breakfast casserole to prepare for an early brunch gathering because it rests overnight! Simply put it in the oven to bake the next morning and voila! You have a delicious casserole hot and ready to enjoy. Serve with maple syrup, berries, sprinkles of confectioner’s sugar, or all of the above! 

    Time: 55 minutes

    Yield: 10 servings


    Casserole:• 1 pound loaf sourdough or french bread • 8 large eggs • 2 cups of 2% or whole milk • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream • 1/2 cup granulated sugar • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon Topping: • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar • 2 teaspoon cinnamon • 1/4 teaspoon salt • 1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces 


    Step 1

    Lightly grease your casserole dish or spray with non-stick cooking spray. 

    Step 2

    Slice your bread into 1-2 inch cubes and distribute along the bottom of the dish. 

    Step 3

    In a mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine eggs with milk, cream, sugars, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour the egg mixture over the bread in the casserole dish. It is important that all of the bread is wet. 

    Step 4

    Cover the casserole dish and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 6 hours or, ideally, overnight. 

    Step 5

    You may make the topping right before baking, or it can be made ahead and stored overnight. To make the topping, combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in the butter until a crumble begins to form. This should resemble a streusel. 

    Step 6

    Once you are ready to bake your casserole, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. 

    Step 7

    Evenly distribute streusel topping over the casserole. 

    Step 8

    If you desire a moist consistency, bake for 45 minutes. If you desire a firm casserole with less moisture, bake for 1 hour. Remove the casserole from the oven and serve warm. More

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    New parent during the COVID-19 pandemic? There is a simple way to make meaningful connections with your baby

    Around this time last year, an inexorable force swept into people’s lives. It upended everything — relationships, friendships, routines, work life, independence, and sense of control. In this respect, the COVID-19 pandemic has similarities to another dramatic event — becoming a parent. And just like the pandemic, nothing quite prepares you for it. For all those who became parents in the last year, these two realties have collided. New parents have been left without many of the usual support networks that help support them through the early days. Those networks include their own parents, parent-baby groups, informal social networks, and in-person postnatal and breastfeeding support groups. Added to all this is the constant threat from a life-threatening virus. “We hope it is a comfort to know that there is something simple and easy to do together, safely and in the comfort of home, that lays positive foundations for the developing brain.” It is too soon to say what effect these extraordinary circumstances will have on babies born during the pandemic, but the effect on parents is already being felt. Numerous studies show that parents have found lockdowns extremely hard emotionally, and that the strain they are under has affected their ability to parent, which has consequences for children. The lockdowns have been linked to an increase in parental anxiety, depression, and hostility. And the pandemic has put women at increased risk of anxiety and depression in the perinatal period. At the same time, increased parental support has been shown to help decrease stress associated with the pandemic. The brunt of this burden has fallen on certain groups, including single parents and low-income families. Because of this, it is vital that new parents receive additional support at this difficult time, especially in terms of their mental health. There are some very simple, intuitive ways parents can work on laying the foundations for their children’s development from the very early days. One of the simplest of these is to pick up a book and read together. Plenty of evidence shows how important it is to read with children, not least for their cognitive development and vocabulary. In one study, both the quality of the books and the amount of reading time starting at six months were important predictors of literacy and vocabulary four years later. New parents might be surprised to learn that a shared activity like reading promotes a kind of back-and-forth interaction between child and caregiver that can trigger a chain reaction of long-lasting beneficial effects, and that these interactions might also help reduce the stress parents are feeling. Adults who interact sensitively with a child — for instance, reading or singing, looking at the same things, and copying sounds and faces — help children feel safe and secure. In turn, these feelings can help children cope better in challenging situations later on — something we know is important during the pandemic. These interactions also encourage children to explore more, which helps them develop problem-solving skills. All this builds to the kind of learning and development that prepares children for big steps in life, like starting school. This cascade of development is supported by the science of early learning, which shows that parents and caregivers lay the foundation for secure caregiver-child attachment relationships, which help children develop the ability to focus and pay attention, remember instructions, and demonstrate self-control (also called executive function). Positive caregiver-child interactions also help children develop social-emotional skills, such as cooperating and playing well with others, and managing feelings appropriately. Together, secure relationships and strong social-emotional and executive function skills in children are related to resilience and school readiness. “New parents might be surprised to learn that a shared activity like reading or singing together promotes a kind of back-and-forth interaction between child and caregiver that can trigger a chain reaction of long-lasting beneficial effects.” The children are not the only ones who benefit. Positive and engaging interactions between children and the adults in their lives are also good for the adults, helping them become more confident caregivers. Reading to children may also help with parental stress and even depression. It can feel strange to read books to very young babies. Even without a pandemic, the early days of parenthood can be overwhelming and it can be hard for parents to know what they should be doing, especially given the deluge of parenting advice. Parents also underestimate just how early the care they provide has long-term impacts on their children’s development. For instance, in one survey, parents said they believed what they did started to make a difference at six months, but we know that the impact starts from birth. At a time when uncertainty abounds, especially for new parents, we hope it is a comfort to know that there is something simple and easy to do together, safely and in the comfort of home. And that the simple back and forth that reading and rhyming creates can extend beyond the pages of the book and lay positive foundations for the developing brain that last for many years. More

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    What makes us human? How minds develop through social interactions

    Just how social we are as a species is made even more evident by the COVID-19 lockdowns that have restricted our everyday social interactions and affected our physical and mental health. Social engagement influences us at an even more fundamental level because it is crucial to the formation of human thinking and minds. We address this issue in What Makes Us Human? How Minds Develop Through Social Interactions. In the words of a 9-year-old, the question is, “How do you go from a bunch of cells to something that thinks?” How are we as humans able to explore such questions about our own origins and the workings of our minds? Humans are intrigued by the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, but a puzzle unfolding right before our eyes is how intelligence develops in our homes as babies start to communicate and then understand the world in ways that adults simply take for granted. In our book, we develop and justify the idea that the essential aspects of being human arise through our relations with other people. To understand these processes and the way human intellect develops, it is essential to look closely at the nature of communication in infancy and childhood, with which much of our thinking is intricately entwined. To explore the complexities of human language, we begin by describing the rich social and emotional niches in which human babies develop and the forms of interaction on which communication is based emerge. We develop and justify the idea that the essential aspects of being human arise through our relations with other people. Have you ever considered why human infants are born so helpless that they must be cared for over many years, yet they develop such powerful ways of thinking? Our answer to this question follows a historical tradition that suggests that this helplessness is an important factor in the development of human thinking. This is because the need for constant care in the early years necessarily produces a social context in which complex human skills develop. Although the infant is unable to fend for herself, she is born with a host of evolved biological characteristics that draw her into engagement with others. For example, typically developing babies are interested in looking at human eyes, which are particularly striking compared to the eyes of other primates because the dark center is surrounded by contrasting white sclera. Such attentiveness to eyes may be interpreted as indicating babies’ apparent interest in other people, and this interest is typically reciprocated by parents, who love to engage with their infants. This bidirectional process of attentiveness promotes the infant’s development. Initially, this consists of staring into the eyes of a caregiver, or cuddling into the caregiver for comfort, but these early and simple skills soon develop into more complex abilities like smiling or cooing. These new forms of interaction elicit even more positive experiences because they are so rewarding for parents. This repeated daily social interaction between infants and their parents becomes increasingly coordinated, which reflects early forms of communication. For instance, when a baby reaches her arms toward her parent, the meaning of this action — a desire to be held — is clear to the parent, who typically picks up the baby. Through experiencing this response to her reaching, the baby learns to anticipate this outcome of her reaching action. That is, she comes to grasp the meaning that her action has for others and then she gradually learns to communicate this desire intentionally. This is a crucial change in ways of interacting, not seen to such an extent in other species that lack an extended period of helplessness: The baby becomes aware of the meaning in the interaction and can then anticipate the response and communicate intentionally. Later, she can learn to add words such as up or uppy to these sorts of shared social routines. Other acts, such as mutually sharing a toy with a caregiver or gesturing in a specific way, develop in a similar fashion as their meaning emerges within shared patterns of interaction. Beginning at about 10 to 12 months, babies typically start to point, but not in a sophisticated way. It takes a lot of experience to realize that successful pointing involves the pointer gesturing to the object and checking that the receiver is following the line of the point. It also requires the receiver to identify what is being pointed to and why their attention is being drawn to it. The hard-won reading of these sorts of gestures reveals the origins and nature of children’s understanding of other people. It shows how a grasp of simple experiences like reaching to be picked up facilitates further interaction in which children develop yet more complex communicative and social skills. These are concrete examples of how increasingly sophisticated human thinking and minds emerge as communication develops in everyday interaction, a fact that makes their significance easy to overlook. They are instances of the sort of mundane interactions on which human ways of being and thinking are based. The use of words is an extension of earlier communication with gestures. Language gradually becomes part of the way thinking can take place. Initially, the baby’s words refer to objects and actions in the here and now, but gradually they can be applied to experiences not directly perceptible – for example, toddlers can relate what happened at preschool or make up a story about an imaginary character. More sophisticated forms of social understanding emerge when children gradually master the language skills needed to talk about human activity in psychological terms. Most toddlers articulate what they want with words by age two, and soon afterwards use words like think and know to show that they are aware that they and the people around them are influenced by their own thoughts and motivations. By acquiring the ability to talk about the psychological world, children can begin to reflect on themselves and others in these ways. From the perspective we have developed here, morality emerges at the level of interaction as children learn to coordinate their daily activities with others in relationships of mutual affection and respect. These interactions based on equality are well suited for reaching mutual understanding because they require children to listen to others and explain themselves. This allows them to coordinate conflicts and develop a practical morality in their interaction with equals. A further step is to begin to articulate what was first implicit in their activity, which then makes reflection possible. In this way, children become able to articulate and reflect on their initially practical ways of interacting with others. Moral notions such as fairness and justice do not have their source in biology alone, nor are they pre-existing and passed on from a previous generation to be imposed on children. Instead, they arise through particular forms of cooperative interaction among equals based on mutual affection and respect. To understand the way human intellect develops it is essential to look closely at the nature of communication in infancy and childhood, with which much of our thinking is intricately entwined. Of course, explaining the origins of human thinking is controversial and not everyone will agree with our account. In our book, we compare our developmental account, which is grounded in the processes of social interaction, with two competing explanations for human thinking: that it is either simply determined by biology or that the computer makes a good metaphor for the human mind. First, we show that although biological factors are crucial in structuring the developmental system in which human skills emerge, the claim that thinking is determined by genes is incompatible with work in biology over the last 50 years. Research in genetics and developmental neurobiology highlights that we must consider the complex developmental system in which multiple levels of biology and environment interact with each other to drive the individual’s development. Key aspects of human thinking, although based on neural activity, emerge only at the level of the person interacting with others. Second, the claim that thinking can be likened to computation is based on a flawed assumption that meaning is fixed, as it is in a computer. Instead, as we illustrate, human communication is rooted in shared ways of interacting. This is also why current approaches to artificial intelligence that attempt to model human intelligence are based on the wrong foundation. Revealing the flaws in these two general approaches to human psychological development supports our argument that human communication and thinking emerges within interaction with others in a developmental system in which biological and social levels are thoroughly interwoven. We trace this development by beginning as gestures emerge in early interaction, leading to language and then to human forms of thinking. Header photo: Gigin Krishnan. Creative Commons.  More

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    Honeydew Jalapeño Margarita

    If you’re rounding up the sassiest – and most delicious – spins on the margarita for upcoming Cinco de Mayo festivities, check out this El Pepino from La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Created by the historic hotel’s F & B Director John Cuviello and Beverage Manager Sara Davis, this refreshing cocktail has just the right balance of sweetness and spice. 

    La Fonda on the Plaza’s El Pepino

    Serving Size: 1 Drink


    3 jalapeño slices, muddled1.5 oz. blanco tequila.75 oz. orange liqueur1 oz honeydew jalapeño shrub1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juiceTajin seasoning and lime wedge for rimAdditional lime wedge for garnish


    Run a lime wedge around the rim of a cocktail glass and dip it into Tajin seasoning. Fill glass with ice.Combine tequila, orange liqueur, honeydew jalapeño shrub, and fresh-squeezed lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.Shake and strain into prepared glass. Garnish with lime wedge and enjoy.

    Recipe courtesy of La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Created by the historic hotel’s F & B Director John Cuviello and Beverage Manager Sara Davis.  More

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    Ten ways to protect your child against bad experiences

    Adversity, such as abuse, neglect, and poverty, damages children. But protective experiences can build resilience against adversity and promote positive development.
    We identified 10 relationships and resources proven to counter the impact of adverse experiences. They have hidden magic that can transform an otherwise miserable childhood. Perhaps a child has been abused and has an alcoholic or depressed parent – or both. Down the street lives a grandmother who provides safe harbor. Maybe a caring teacher or an athletics coach takes the child under her wing. These are just a few of many protective antidotes that can diminish the toxicity of adverse experiences. They mean that a child’s outcomes may turn out to be much better than expected in the face of difficult circumstances.
    This list of PACEs – Protective and Compensatory Experiences – is based on more than common sense. The impact of such experiences is often identifiable through changes to the brain and in behaviors. For example, experiments with mice graphically demonstrate what can happen when a PACE repairs some of the damage caused by bad early experiences.
    PACEs and genetic changes
     A new mother mouse placed after the she gives birth in an unfamiliar environment with inadequate bedding typically becomes abusive to her pups. She may step on her young, and stop licking or grooming them because she is stressed. These pups grow up and act in a depressed manner, and are more likely to be harsh and fail to nurture their own pups. However, when the pups are fostered by non-stressed, nurturing mothers, over time, the epigenetic change driving their abusive behaviors can be reversed.

    “When children experience multiple forms of adversity, the impacts are magnified. Multiple protective experiences may also have a cumulative effect.”

    We do not yet have data for humans on the epigenetic impact of switching from an adverse to a protective experience. However, infants raised initially in Romanian orphanages who were later fostered in nurturing homes showed developmental benefits that likely mirrored the neurobiological improvements observed in mice.
    Our colleague, David Bard, professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, has demonstrated how positive parenting practices in thousands of U.S. families have buffered children against the impacts of adversity. Activities such as reading to children; ensuring they have routines; and taking them to shops, museums, and playgrounds were associated with better learning in preschool and fewer behavioral problems at school than would otherwise have been expected.
    Top 10 protective and compensatory experiences
    From research evidence, we have assembled a list of the top 10 types of relationships and resources that provide the PACEs that bolster children against adversity. These are detailed more extensively in our new book, Adverse and Protective Childhood Experiences: A Developmental Perspective.

    Receiving unconditional love: Not only do children need to be nurtured and loved, that love should feel unconditional. This does not mean that children never get in trouble or parents never get mad. The crucial point is that whatever a child does, the parent stays on the child’s side. As an infant, it means that when you cry, you get a response; your parents make eye contact with you and cherish you; and they sing, play, and talk with you. As a child, you can count on your parent’s eyes lighting up when you walk into the room; mom or dad always has your back. And when you grow older, it means that your parent sets limits and explains how things are done. There are many ways to express unconditional love.
    Having a best friend: Close friendship offers protection from peer rejection, bullying, and victimization. This happens not just because a child has someone to talk to, but because it helps the child learn how to deal with conflict and grow a relationship over time. Children have a sense of being important and they have someone to go to.
    Volunteering in the community: Volunteering helps children learn about the needs of others and gives them the opportunity to see a world outside their own. When they understand that helping is not done out of pity, it allows them to accept help from others when they need it.
    Being part of a group: Being in a group gives children a sense of belonging outside the family. It allows children and teenagers to learn about themselves in different contexts, and provides opportunities for friendship and leadership. Taking part in school clubs and sports is linked to academic success, psychological well-being, and lower rates of substance abuse.
    Having a mentor: Having an adult other than a parent who can be trusted and counted on for help and advice helps protect against psychological distress and academic difficulties, and reduces the incidence of high-risk activities. Even if children have exemplary parents, an adult outside the home can be an alternative role model to whom children can aspire and is a reminder that someone else loves them.
    Living in a clean, safe home with enough food: These primary needs are crucial. Good, regular nutrition is important for brain development and protects against health problems; eating dinner regularly with your family reduces the risk of weight problems. Chaotic, unpredictable home environments are associated with harsh and inconsistent parenting. Children who live in unclean, cluttered homes have worse outcomes than those living in clean, organized homes.
    Getting an education: Just like living in a clean, safe home, the opportunity to learn and be educated in an environment with boundaries and rules also protects children from risk. High-quality early childhood programs make a lasting difference to outcomes for children from low-income families.
    Having a hobby: Whether it is playing an instrument, dancing, doing judo, reading, or playing chess, any recreational activity helps teach self-discipline and self-regulation, and can provide children and youth with a routine and a sense of mastery, competence, and self-esteem.
    Engaging in physical activity: Being physically active helps children handle the physiological effects of stress on the body, and improves mood and mental health. In so doing, it reduces the likelihood that children will grab a bag of chips or lash out to relieve stress.
    Having rules and routines: Security comes when children know what to expect and when caregivers enforce clear rules and limits. Children cannot parent themselves; they need high expectations, consistency, and parents’ involvement. In early childhood, this means that parents should establish and enforce bedtime and other routines, redirect children when they misbehave, and as children grow up, explain the effects of their behavior on others.

    Photo: Anna Earl. Unsplash.
    We know that when children experience multiple forms of adversity, the impacts are magnified. Likewise, multiple protective experiences may have a cumulative effect for children, though the power of this accumulation requires further study.
    PACEs matter for all children
    Adverse experiences can happen anywhere to anyone — the rich as well as the poor. All children should have access to experiences that bolster and protect them. Children from more well-to-do families who face adverse experiences, such as family break-up, mental illness, and substance abuse, are more likely to have compensatory experiences. These might be opportunities to participate in clubs, have tutors, go to drama classes, choose to play an instrument, and have teachers and coaches who really care about them.

    “Down the street lives a grandmother who provides safe harbor. Maybe a caring teacher or athletics coach takes the child under her wing. These are just a few of many protective antidotes that can diminish the toxicity of adverse experiences.”

    In contrast, children in families living in high-crime and high-poverty neighborhoods might lack access to protective experiences because their families have insufficient money or time. These children face a double jeopardy – more adversity and less compensatory protection. Their difficulties have increased in recent decades as many PACE resources, such as youth sports and activities, have become increasingly expensive.
    The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized how alone many parents are as they try to help their children gain access to PACEs. Parents have struggled to support their children’s learning at home, grappling with isolation; lack of routines; inadequate opportunities for exercise and hobbies; and in some cases, lack of enough food to keep children healthy.
    The pandemic reminds us that promoting childhood development is about much more than preventing adversity. We need to think more about how to ensure that children have the good things in life so they are less likely to be hindered by what can go wrong.
    Header photo: Anna Samoylova. Unsplash.  More