Archive for November, 2011

Books? As a holiday present? Absolutely!

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

A great book can take you around the world without having to pack a suitcase. Nonfiction will shine new light on historic events and people. An activity book is a way to tackle something new. And, of course, a picture book is a wonderful way to spend time together.

Here are 10 terrific titles to jumpstart your list.


Time Shift Your TV – Holiday Performance Specials

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Last night, our 16-year-old son said he wanted to watch a Christmas movie. This has become a tradition in our house – spending a couple of hours together on a Sunday evening watching holiday films. We have a drawer full of DVDs with classics ranging from White Christmas to Elf. But we were in the mood for something new. We searched around and landed on ION cable channel watching a movie called 12 Wishes of Christmas. It wasn’t a great film, but it’s always nice to spend time with our teenage son. If you’re looking for new holiday fare to share with members of your family, IONHallmark Channel and ABC Family are among the channels offering original made-for-TV movies. And if you’re looking for holiday music in particular, here are four specials you might enjoy.

CMA: Country Christmas (ABC, Dec. 1, 9 p.m.). Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles is the host for this two-hour special featuring performances from American Idolstars Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, Amy Grant, Faith Hill, Little Big Town, Kellie Pickler, Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker, Brian Setzer with special guest Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Vince Gill in a special duet with Miss Piggy.

Live From Lincoln Center: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (PBS, Dec. 14, 8 p.m.). This classic ballet, set to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score, features New York City Ballet’s dancers and the New York City Ballet Orchestra, as well as 50 children from the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet.  Check PBS listings for many more musical holiday specials.

Christmas in Washington (TNT, Dec. 16, 8 p.m.). President and Mrs. Obama usually attend this concert show. This year’s lineup, taped at the National Building Museum, includes Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, Victoria Justice and The Band Perry.

A Home for the Holidays with Martina McBride (CBS, Dec. 21, 8 p.m.). The 13th annual special, which celebrates adoption, will include performances by McBride, Mary J. Blige, Gavin DeGraw, One Republic and Christina Perri. Katherine Heigl and Denise Richards, celeb moms who have adopted children, are among the stars slated to appear.

Chatting with Mister G

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

For our holiday guide, we created a video demonstrating how play can let children explore their dreams. As our chipmunk and future “Animal Ambassador” explored new places, Mister G’s “Cocodrilo” played in the background. Not only does Mister G’s music fit perfectly in the video, but the singer and songwriter also spends a lot of time helping children develop their own creativity and self-expression via music. His Parents’ Choice Award winning CD, BUGS, is filled with fun songs perfect for singing along, and they inspire creativity with their clever bilingual lyrics.

We spoke with Mister G and asked him about why he chose to make music for children, his most memorable performance, and his tips for encouraging an interest in music.

Mister G was kind enough to share a free MP3 of “Cocodrilo.” We hope that you’ll enjoy listening to it as you read our fun interview with him!

Mister G – Cocodrilo

When did you decide that you wanted to make music for children?

For twenty years I toured internationally as a singer/songwriter. My last band and I led a bizarre double life: performing in rock clubs until late at night, and then again at schools early the next morning with my educational ensemble (The Roots Music Collective). The energy and creativity of the kids was infectious; ultimately I earned a Masters in Education and became a teacher. I started writing songs with my students, one thing led to another, and now I perform for kids and teach workshops all over the world.

What’s the best part about that? 

That’s tough—there are so many wonderful things!  I love to play my original songs, and see hundreds of kids singing and dancing to them at concerts.  It’s also really gratifying when parents tell me that they keep listening to the Mister G CD’s  after they drop their kids off at school!

You’re known for your lively performances. What’s been the most memorable performing experience you’ve had?

Last spring, I played my first big concert in Mexico performing songs I’d written in Spanish for hundreds of kids and their teachers.  I’d never played to a completely Spanish-speaking audience, so I wasn’t sure how the performance would go over. From the start, everyone was so welcoming, and it was incredible to see their enthusiasm and appreciation for the music. The concert inspired me to write more bilingual songs and continue doing shows in Latin America.

What inspires your songs? 

Pretty much everything—everywhere I go, I’m always on the lookout for new song ideas.  Primarily, I try to think about what kids love (“Pizza for Breakfast”; “Bugs), and what makes them laugh (“Sneaky Chihuahua”;”Pony with a Problem”).  I also like to touch on issues of protecting the environment (“Don’t Waste Stuff”; “Mister Chubby Pants”) because I know this is a big topic for kids these days– as it should be for all of us.

What advice do you have for the parents of budding songwriters and performers?

Foster your child’s creativity at every turn. Encourage them to make up stories/songs, enable them to perform for you, and most all, make time to listen to music and have fun together.


For more, visit our review of Mister G’s Parents’ Choice Recommended Award winning CD.



No Batteries Required

Monday, November 21st, 2011


If you’ve ever found yourself scrambling for batteries on Christmas morning, then you might want to have a backup plan. Here are a few blissfully battery (and electricity) free toys that will never need replacement AAs!


Time Shift Your TV – Thanksgiving

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Thanksgiving is time for food, family and football. We all know that. But how much do you really know about the history of the holiday?

When you’re done watching the annual New York Thanksgiving Day parade (9 a.m. to noon, NBC and CBS), and you’ve finished off all the turkey and fixins’ you can stuff into yourself, you might want to relax on the couch with and test your knowledge with The Real Story of Thanksgiving on the History Channel. It airs at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 24, (or you could DVR it on Tuesday at 10 p.m.

The special looks at the Thanksgiving feast of 1621, where there was no pumpkin pie and no cranberry sauce. Lobster was on the menu. The special also delves into the fact that some southern states thought Thanksgiving was an abolitionist plot and refused to go along with the celebrations. When did it become an annual holiday and who pushed for it to become one? Find out how much you really know about the day known for gathering with friends and family to feast and be thankful.

And if you’re looking for more information about the history of Thanksgiving, the History Channel website has 15 short videos in its Topics area that look at different aspects of Thanksgiving. They range from Mayflower: Deconstructed, which serves up facts about how many pilgrims were on board to the size of the ship, to Turducken, a look at the creation of the Louisiana specialty that combines a turkey, a duck and a chicken for one, big Thanksgiving entrée.