Saturday, March 16, 2013

Teens Only | What Am I Gonna Do?

So I had the honor of presenting at Cesar Chavez High School's Career Day and I got to thinking of how...when I was getting ready to graduate from high school a few years ago...I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. Oh sure, a lot of adults around me had quite a few ideas of what I should do. And where I should go to college. And what I should study.
But I really had no idea. I remember the days leading up to graduation were filled with lots of fun events with my BFFs, but I also recall feeling a little like a fish out of water. What was I going to do with the rest of my life?
I know you're all busy these days, but I hope you'll take some time to really figure out what is the best career path for you. To that end, let me introduce you to a book that might help you get a little perspective on your future: Carol Christen's What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens: Discovering Yourself, Defining Your Future. This book will make you think about your interests, your passions, so that you can pursue a career that will mean something to you. You're going to work for lots and lots of years; wouldn't you rather be doing something that really fulfills you? So check this book out. As always, if you don't find it on the shelf at your local branch library, request it from another branch. It's easy and it's free.
And while you're waiting to check out that book, here's a website you might want to take a look at. It's called Occupational Outlook Handbook. It's put out by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it will give you up-to-date info on every career you could ever imagine! You'll find hundreds of occupations, and the profiles featured include great descriptions, work environment, what you need to study or do to get into the occupation, what to expect in pay, and more. Each profile also includes employment projections for the 2010–20 decade. It's a really cool resource, so check it out!
Your future awaits reach for the stars, and pick the brightest one!
See you next Saturday!

Books On Film | E.T.

Don't you just hate it when your parents think your new alien friend is scary? And the government wants to capture them even though they just want to get home? 

If your child has never watched E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)--also available on LINK+--they are missing out. It's considered one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. It tells the story of a young boy, Elliot, who meets an stranded alien in his backyard. Elliot, his older brother, and his younger sister set out to help E.T. find his way back home all the while trying to avoid being discovered by his mother and by the government who is searching for E.T. 

If you can grab the original version of the film (not the 20th anniversary version). I think puppet E.T. beats computer animated E.T. hands down.

A novelization of the film was released in 1982. The book titled E.T., the extra-terrestrial: a novel--also available on LINK+-- as well as it's sequel, E.T.: the book of the Green Planet: a novel (LINK+) which follows E.T. on his journey home, was written by William Kotzwinkle. Kotzwinkle is an award winning novelist, children's book writer, and screen writer. Some of his popular works include The Bear Went Over The Mountain (LINK+) and the Walter the Farting Dog series.

Covers courtesy of LibraryThing

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book Bucket List | Angels and Demons

"It is only the second best book ever written of all time."  That is what was said by a friend of mine about the book Angels and Demons by Dan Brown.  I'm pretty sure he would call The Da Vinci Code the best book of all time.  Since the Cardinals of the Catholic Church were in Conclave deciding who the new Pope will be, Angels and Demons would be a pretty interesting read right now.

When the secret society, the Illuminati, steal a newly developed super weapon, symbologist Robert Langdan goes to the Vatican to try and stop them.  When he gets there, he discovers that there are multiple Cardinals missing and that he is in a race against time to keep the Illuminati fro m destroying the Vatican.

I doubt that there was anything as exciting as in the book when the real Conclave convened, so reading this might make it all seem all the more exciting.

Also for up to the minute information about the latest Conclave and the new Pope, check out the Vatican's website!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Short Attention Span Challenge | The Coupon Queen

Like many others, my family has dealt with our share of budget cuts and economic set backs.  In some ways, it has made things more difficult for us, but in others it has been a sort of blessing.  I have found ways to cut our expenses that I didn't even know existed and learned how remove things from our budget that my family wouldn't even notice was gone (although the "no cable" experiment was a complete bust). However, there was always one skill I knew in the back of my mind would probably help me, but I never really could bring myself to try.  Couponing.  I have heard couponing is a great way to save some money, but...

1.  Couponing takes time.
2.  You can't be shy if you want to coupon.

Believe it or not, I don't have time (although maybe when I am done writing these blogs posts every week, I will), but I am also pretty shy.  I can strike up a conversation easily enough and do my fair share of socializing but when it comes down to it, I embarrass easily.  I hate the thought of inconveniencing people, including strangers in a checkout line or people working in a store.

That can happen when you coupon.  Does it mean it is wrong?  No way!  Can it feel a little awkward?  Well, for me, yeah.
Extreme Couponing on The Learning Channel

The Challenge
Find and get some amazing coupon deals---like "buy in bulk, I just bought this for free" type of deals! EXTREME couponing!

The Process
Even though my rule is no online sources, for this challenge I was forced to go online.  However, I did use books to learn the basics, but in order to find the weekly savings, I had to use certain websites.  Another thing to note is that although I only did this challenge for one week, I had been saving coupon books for about a month or more.  This is part of couponing that is a challenge for some people.  In order to get many of the coupons, you have to have a newspaper subscription or know someone who does.  If you didn't already subscribe to a newspaper and you are doing so just to get coupons, you need to subtract that from part of the money you are saving. 
There are several different types of coupons.  There are the manufacturer inserts that come in the newspaper (SmartSource, Red Plum, Proctor and Gamble), as well as the store inserts and coupons.  There are also printable coupons that are available online from sites such as  Smart phones can also be used to access coupons, but I think I am the only person in their 30s to not have one.
On their own, most of these coupons are not worth much. You can find $1 or so here and there, but the real savings comes from stacking.  Stacking is using store discounts, combined with manufacturer's coupons, combined with store specific coupons to create a sizable savings.

This is where it gets a little tricky.  Couponers must be aware of store policies in order to use their coupons effectively.  For example, Costco does not accept manufacturer's coupons (but they do send out their own coupon book once a month). They also need to know who has the deals.

My challenge was figuring out how to use the coupons together to create an amazing deal.  I have seen those shows where Couponers go out and fill up their carts with goods, and once they are through getting everything rung up their total is $0.  I want to do that!

Here are the steps I took:
  • Collect coupons- See above
  • Organize - Some books suggested taking the coupons out and putting them in binders, by date or type.  Other suggested using a shoebox with dividers.  I tried the shoebox but it wasn't working for me, and took too much time, so  I just put mine in piles.  I had a pile of SmartSource Books, a pile of Red Plum books, a Proctor and Gamble book, and a pile of store books.  
  • Find -  Use the internet to find weekly deals at particular stores.  I used and  Here, I looked up the different stores I was interested in and found items that I would like to buy.  I tried to pick stores that I already shopped at and stores that were not far out of my way.  So, I scratched out Walmart, because I don't really shop there.  Also, even though there were lots of items that could have been free after  the coupons, I skipped things I did not need.  However, I would like to suggest that if you are interested in couponing, and there is something that you think you don't need, but you can donate, this is a great way to help our local homeless shelters and charities.  If you see a deal where you can get free soap, diapers, or toilet paper, go for it! Here is a list of things the Stockton Shelter can use.
  • Clip - Take out the coupons you will use and organize them by stores.  For example, I found some deals at Walgreens. I cut out the coupons I needed, paper clipped them together, then wrote down the deals I was looking for on a Post-it and stuck it on top.  
The Result
I had two very different, but interesting coupon experiences.
  • Walgreens - There was a buy one get one (BOGO) 1/2 off deal on many Almay products at Walgreens.  I had two coupons I could use for Almay products.  One was a $2 off/1 item Walgreens coupon, the other was a $5 off/2 items printable coupon.  Walgreens accepts a manufacturer's coupon combined with their store coupons and the $2 coupon could be used twice, taking $4 off total..  According to one of my websites, I could get a makeup remover for free.  Two with BOGO 1/2 off deal = $8.99-$5 printable coupon =$3.99-$4 Walgreens coupon=$0.There was only one problem!  By the time I got there, there was nothing left!  The nice saleslady (at the Ripon location)  even went through some of the inventory boxes for me, to no avail.  So instead, I found another Almay product I could get a good deal on, eyeliner.  Here's how the deal worked.  Originally, they were $7.50 each.  With a BOGO 1/2 off 2 eyeliners came to  $11.25-$4 Walgreen's coupon = $7.25-$5 Man. coupon=$2.25 total.  So, I got $15 worth of makeup for $2.25.  
My experience at Walgreens was great.  I told the lady who helped me that I was writing a blog and she made sure that I understood how all my discounts (I got a few other things too) worked so I could explain it to you!  I asked her if she ever got annoyed with people coming in with coupons and she said, "NO! Not at all. We have people come in with binders full of coupons, and I say 'Good for them!". 

  • Target - There were two deals I was looking for at this store. The first was a deal on 34 count Bounce Dryer sheets ($1.97 regular), where after using a $3 off 3 manu coupon and a $3 off 3 Target coupon would end up being $0.  Once again, when I got to the store, there were none left on the shelf.  I found a store associate walking around nearby and asked her if they had any in the back.  No luck.  The second deal at Target was a deal on Neutrogena bar soap.  Regular price on these items is $1.97, and with a $5 off/2 items it would make them $0.  According to Target's coupon policies, they are free to lower the discount of a manu coupon, and will not give money back.  I thought this would have been a great item to give to the homeless shelter.  When I got up to the register with my coupon and two bars of soap, the lady at the register said the coupon was not possible because the total was less than $0.  I politely asked her if she was sure and she turned on her blinky light thing above the register and loudly yelled, "MANAGER!!!  I NEED A MANAGER!!!".  When the manager walked over, the associate held up the coupon and said "Coupon!" in a no-so-nice tone.  The manager looked at the coupon and said "The picture has a big item on it, this is too small."  Already completely embarrassed, I told her I would look for something larger.  As I was walking back to the soap aisle, I looked at the coupon and nowhere did it say that the item should be a certain size or price.  I ended up grabbing 2 hand lotions (priced at about $3.50 each) for around $2.30 total with tax instead. At that point I just wanted to leave.
So, using coupons at Target was pretty much my worst nightmare.  Exactly what I didn't want to happen did.

Will I coupon again?  Maybe, if there is something I need and it is easy or an exceptionally good deal.  Would I count on couponing as a way to cut our budget, probably not.  On top of raising two young kids with a full time job, I do not have time to coupon regularly.
How about you?  Have you ever tried extreme couponing?  I would love to hear about your experiences!

Learning | Rebuses

Rebuses are representations of words or phrases, using pictures, letters and numbers. For instance, the number and letter combination of B4 stands for the word "before." I see people using rebuses frequently when they're texting or chatting on social networks; for example,  "C U later" stands for "see you later."

SSJCPL's rebus books tend to be for an audience of young children. This makes sense, because rebuses are a fun tool to use to write words--and they are easy for emerging readers to understand.  You don't need to know how to spell, in order to understand a picture.  I suspect rebuses are part of the appeal of the immensely popular Dora the Explorer books.

There are plenty of rebus picture books:

Bruce McMillan's Puniddles

This is an unusual picture book. The pages are filled with pairs of black and white photographs that act as rebuses, suggesting a pun.

Can you guess the answer to the picture here?  Hint: The answer is the name of some sweet treats.  The solution to this puniddle is at the bottom of the picture, printed upside down. Click on the picture, to enlarge the image.

Judy Sierra's We Love Our School!: a Read-Together Rebus Story has rhyming rebuses on the left page, illustrated by a brightly colored picture on the right page.  The rebus symbols on the left page are easily recognized in the big illustration to the right.


If you want a complicated picture book, try Shirley Neitzel's cumulative rebus stories. 

For example, The House I'll Build for the Wrens has a narrator who adds another phrase to her recitation each time she plans another step in the birdhouse construction process.

Jean Marzollo's I Love You: A Rebus Poem is a very simple picture book with few words.  It's like a love poem with pictures.  It ends with a rebus version of "And I love you."

We have some easy readers with rebuses.  Easy readers are books for beginning readers with the call number "JEZ." Did you notice that this call number has a rebus? "EZ" stands for "easy."

A Friend for Noodles is a good example of an easy reader rebus book. We follow the story of  a little dog who searches for a lost teddy bear, and makes a friend in the process.

Somehow looking at rebuses gives me an itch to try it myself, especially when I look at the puniddles.  I hope you're inspired to try your hand at it, too.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

4 Kids | Trackers

Greetings all you tech-savvy readers. How many of you have read Patrick Carman's Trackers? Oh. My. Gosh. I just finished the first book and can't wait to read the next one!
Trackers is about 4 kids -- Adam, Finn, Emily, and Lewis. They're trackers. Trackers, you ask? Trackers are the opposite of hackers; trackers try to protect the public from Internet criminals. And as we all know, there are Internet criminals out there. Have you really considered that in this, our 21st century world of tech everything, each and every one of us leaves a digital footprint? You may think you don't, but you do. The trackers in Carman's books are tech-savvy kids with some really awesome video cameras and some unbelievable coding (and decoding) skills. And these 4 kids find themselves entangled in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse with Shantorian, the world's most dangerous hacker. Of course the further they dig, the more they realize that things aren't always as they seem.
This is a great book -- full of suspense from the very opening pages where we find Adam being interrogated by someone in an official capacity. We're not quite sure what has happened. Has Adam been arrested? What's happened to the other 3 trackers -- Finn, Emily and Lewis? I'll say no more because I don't want to ruin this for you readers!
But wait, there's more! To make the reading experience even more real, there is a website where you can complete missions, challenge your friends, and play games. this book! You won't be sorry.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Life & Style | Persian New Year

In my family, we are lucky to celebrate two New Years each year. One American and one Iranian. 

Iranian New year or Norooz starts on the first day of Spring. 

This year, Persian New Year starts on Wednesday, March 20th at 4:01 am and we are celebrating the year 1392

Before the new year, all the Iranian families do serious spring cleaning.

For spring cleaning we wash and clean everything and anything including our Persian carpets & curtains & every single dish from every single cabinet. The darn Spring cleaning took a good two weeks to complete.

I even had to help out my grandma with taking down all her curtains and hanging them afterwards since she was too afraid to climb a ladder and I am telling you her house had lots of windows. One of the joys of being an adult is to choose not to do any radical spring cleaning. Some traditions need to be modified, I tell you.

For kids, Norooz means skipping school for 13 straight days.

To celebrate Norooz, we set up a beautiful table that includes at least 7 items which start with sound of C in Farsi and some other traditional items.  We call this table (Haft Sin or seven C's)

These are the items that I place on my table for Norooz.
  • Sonbol ( Hyacinth)
  • Serkeh (Vinegar)
  • Sir (Garlic)
  • Sekeh (Coins)
  • Sib (Apple)
  • Samanoo (Sweet delicacy made from germinated wheat)
  • Saat (Clock)
  • Cenjed (Dried fruit from the lotus tree)
  • A beautiful mirror
  • A bowl of water with a red gold fish
  • Colorful eggs
  • Sabzeh (Lentil or wheat sprouts)
  • Candles
Each of these items are metaphors for things such as " beauty, prosperity, fertility and so on and on" but don't ask me to demystify this table for you since I am clueless and so are half of the Iranians who set up this table each year. Let's just say that it tradition and leave it at that.

The Tuesday night before our New Year is called Char-Chan-Be-Sori.

To celebrate, we buy fireworks and jump over bonfires. We chant this song as we jump over the fire:

Zardi man as too, Sorkie to az man.( Which basically means: I am giving you my yellowness and taking away your redness. We are just hoping for a healthy New year ahead...I guess)

Back home, we used to get together with all my cousins and neighbors and friends and make rows of bonfires and jump over them and then we enjoyed the fireworks after dark. Then we would go to my grandma's house to have a feast with at least 20 cousins and aunts and uncles. That was a very fun and noisy endeavor.

A week or so before the New Year, Parents usually take their kids shopping for new shoes and clothes. Usually government workers get bonus pay right before the New Year in Iran.

At the moment of the new Year, we gather around our table and pray or read poetry. We only receive gifts from our immediate family. If you are a kid, you also get money from family and friends.

The Persian calendar starts on the first day of Spring. The first month in Persian calendar is called " Farvardine".

For Norooz, you are expected to visit family and friends to wish them happy New Year and it involves going from one house to the next and it involves lots of tea drinking and pastry eating. In a single day, you might end up visiting several families and friends. You have about 2 weeks to make your rounds.

Iranians outside Iran also celebrate Norooz. There are 470,000 Iranians in the U.S.A who celebrate Norooz each year.

So on Tuesday, March 19th, I am going to jump over the fire in Sacramento and then I am going to wake up really early the next day to celebrate the New Iranian Year at 4:01 am in the morning.

On the 13th day after the New Year, all Iranian families go on a picnic. We call this day Siz Da Bedar.

In Stockton, all the Iranians get together in Oak Grove Regional Park every year to have a big picnic to celebrate this day. There are at least  150 Iranians who show up for this picnic each year.
Ok, I am letting you go, I got to start my spring cleaning before it is too late.

Signing off until next Monday- Panteha