August 23, 2017

DoJo Digest Online Magazine

Acted as the creative editor for Issue 1 and Issue 2 for the online magazine, DoJo Digest.  This online magazine was written for the martial arts community. As creative editor I helped create the look and feel of the magazine and was responsible for creating the work plan, hiring graphic artists, coming up with story ideas, and editing and proofing all copy.  I also wrote two monthly columns, “From a Mother’s Point of View, and Cool Tips.

Dojo Digest Issue 1 Sample

Dojo Digest Issue 2 sample


Buy Your Children a Share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Get a Weekly Share of the Crop – by Pam Laughlin

CSA-ChildrenI really wanted to introduce my three sons to the benefits of gardening. I tried my hand at vegetable gardening at home two summers ago. After spending well over three hundred dollars I think I yielded a couple of jalapeño peppers that the chipmunks were too afraid to eat and a half a bushel of tomatoes. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but the reality of it was that it was a tremendous amount of work with very little results.

Still, I love the idea of growing and eating fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and love the idea of my sons enjoying them even more. I just don’t want to be the one responsible for hauling in the manure or picking the weeds. So this summer I decided to reap the rewards without the work, by purchasing a share in a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA).

What is a CSA?

In basic terms a CSA is a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation with the growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, shareholders of the farm pledge money at the beginning of the season to cover anticipated operation and salary costs in return for shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season. But what it means to me as a mother of three boys is that I can introduce them to farm life without having to farm. Priceless!

I decided to join the Cook Student Organic Farm in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It operates on 5 acres on the Cook College Campus of Rutgers University and is run by eight volunteer student farmers called interns. They offered two different types of shares. A sixteen week share ran from June through September and cost four hundred dollars. The 24 week share ran from June through November and cost six hundred for the season. I opted for the16 week share and was very satisfied with the amount, the quality, and the taste of the produce. It turned out to cost me approximately 25 dollars a week for locally grown, fresh organic produce which I thought was very reasonable.

Here’s how it works:

Each week one of the interns would post a list of that week’s vegetables and herbs, along with the amount each shareholder was entitled to. All you needed to do was sign in, fill your bags with the allocated vegetables that were stored in the refrigerated bins, and head on home with your bounty. Typically I would fill one or two bags each week. An example of a week’s share for October 1st was butternut squash, chard, eggplant, kale, lettuce mix, okra, onions, peppers, spaghetti squash, tomatoes, tomatillos, chives, lavender, lemon grass, lovage, mint, oregano, sage, sorrel, and thyme. It was certainly enough to feed our family of five for the week with enough left over to give to friends and family. Any left-over produce was donated at the end of the week to a local soup kitchen by the interns at the farm.

I especially liked the idea of introducing my children to vegetables that I would not normally use. The college interns published a weekly newsletter that had interesting facts about the farm, a column called “Wicked Weed of the Week”, instructions on how best to store the vegetables and some pretty good recipes. I found that I learned a lot of different things that I would never normally have bothered to learn, and taught my children interesting things like how to make homemade ketchup and greens such as kale, mustard, collards, and beet tops should be stored unwashed with a dampened paper towel and placed in a plastic bag and will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. Herbs can be dried and stored and parsley, basil and cilantro can be frozen. You can dry and save onions by leaving them in a warm, dry, sunny place for a few days. When the skins are dry and papery they can be stored in a mesh bag and kept in a dry, cool location for months.

My children tasted kohlrabi for the first time. I cut it up like an apple and put it in a salad. It was a little like broccoli, but had a bit of a sweet taste which partnered well with the raisins and blue cheese. Lemon balm iced tea became a summer staple in our house.

There are a lot of other good reasons to join a CSA besides eating new vegetables and trying new recipes. One of the obvious reasons is that the produce was probably picked within a day or two before you get it so it is really fresh, and tastes so much better than store bought. Also, local farms help to preserve open space. When you buy locally grown food you are helping the farmers turn a profit and hopefully it reduces the likelihood of them selling the farmland for development. At least that is what I liked to think when my family and I were juicing our vegetables.

I think my boys began to feel like part of a community when we drove up to the storage shed each week. I needed to slow down to about 5 miles an hour so that I wouldn’t run over one of the chickens that were crossing the road. I liked the idea of my children seeing the clothes hanging on the clothesline and blowing in the breeze – because they certainly wouldn’t witness a scene like that at our house. We also looked forward to seeing the interns sitting outside and selling cut flowers and seedlings. We enjoyed sharing recipes and opinions about whether or not we liked a new vegetable with the other shareholders.

I really think my children enjoyed going along with me and learning about nature and agriculture and the names of the vegetables. It felt good exposing them to life on a farm and I hope that it helped to create a good memory for them. Also, it was good for them to see where the vegetables at the grocery store come from and to teach them the benefit in buying locally.

If this sounds at all like fun to you and you want to join a CSA, you can locate one near where you live by entering your zip code at

As just one person it often seems like there’s not a lot that you can do to help preserve the land and community for future generations. However, there are some things that I feel obligated to do. I purchase green cleaning supplies or make my own cleaning solutions, I use floresant light bulbs, I buy clothes that don’t need to be dry cleaned, and I buy organic whenever possible. I will now add, participating in a CSA to that list. It not only gave me and my family access to nourishing and flavorful food, but it made me feel good that we helped to sustain a farm for future generations to enjoy – and it was so easy to do.


AAA Rainbow Painting Receives a Five-Star Rating from Service Magic

Some things you just can’t buy. Such is the case with business owner, Emilio Rojas of AAA Rainbow Painting of Somerville, NJ when he received a five star rating from Service Magic for work well done.

Service Magic is an online resource providing homeowners with the names and numbers of reliable home remodeling and painting contractors. Each contractor must go through a rigorous screening process before receiving Service Magic’s seal of approval. Each contractor receives a rating (from 1 to 5 stars) from their customers based upon their job performance.

With a five star rating from 144 customers, AAA Rainbow can proudly claim that 99 % of their customers would use their services again. Emilio attributes his success to a unique business modeling approach. “When I started my business, I took the time to ask people what their main complaints were about painting contractors and home remodelers. When I put the list together this became my business plan. I vowed that I would address each of the complaints and make sure that AAA Rainbow Painting would not do these things.”

What were some of the major complaints that Emilio heard from consumers about contractors and vowed not to do? These are some of the common complaints that Emilio took notice of from homeowners regarding painting contractors:

  • Late or don’t show up at all
  • Messy in the treatment of the home
  • Don’t return calls
  • Underbid jobs
  • Impolite and rude behavior
  • Unprofessional attitude
  • Inferior results
  • Dishonesty

Emilio has taken these complaints and reverse-engineered his business model so that AAA Rainbow Painting makes sure they do NOT give their customers anything to complain about and a lot to rave about.

Apparently this approach has worked well with a whopping 99 % of customers on Service Magic eager to use AAA Rainbow Painting services again. AAA Rainbow Painting gets positive feedback on their work performance and receives raving testimonials like these:

“They were everything we were looking for- on-time, clean, courteous. The job itself was superior, and all within our budget. We are extremely happy with the results!”

“The owner, Emilio was an absolute pleasure to work with and regularly followed up with me to check on the progress. The work was completed in less time than he had originally estimated and the finished product looks fantastic! The two workers who did the job were very professional, hard working individuals who take pride in their work. I would highly recommend using AAA to anyone looking for an honest company, quality workmanship and competitive prices. Well done Emilio!”

Emilio advises his customers to check a contractor’s credentials and to ask for professional references before hiring someone to do the job. Make sure that you call the contactor’s references and ask them how they would rate the job. Or, you can make it easy on yourself and use an online service like Service Magic. Make sure you hire a painter with a five-star rating and positive feedback to ensure you hire the right professional for the job.

Learn How to Personalize Kid’s Items

Personalize Children’s Items the Easy Way

It’s easy to personalize your children’s favorite plastic or metal items, such as plastic pails, plastic storage containers, and other plastic items. These make great party favors, especially the sand pails for summer birthday parties. I’ve even used them to hold potato chips, macaroni salad, sand cakes and more. It makes a colorful summer-inspired table decoration as well as a useful tool to hold food items. You can even use the shovel as a serving utensil. They’re fun and easy and inexpensive too.

Children’s sand pails look adorable as birthday party favors, especially when you personalize them with the children’s names. As long as you have the right supply, it’s really simple to do. It’s as easy as, well, writing your name.

Here are a few quick tips on how to decorate the pails in a simple, 1,2,3 style. You’ll be surprised how professional they will look. The trick really is to use the right type of markers and use some fun, easy to draw embellishments that will make you look like a pro.

Here you go:

  • Use simple child-like writing (or font) in a variety of markers. To make it straight, use scotch tape and measure about 1 /3 from the top of the item that you will be personalizing.
  • Use the tape as a level, and write the child’s name above the tape. When finished, remove the tape and add some simple circles along the end points of each of the letters. Finish with a simple curved line beneath the name. If you want to go a step further, you can add some flowers for the girls. Just simple easy to draw flowers work best. Because they are for children and you are going for a kid-like look, the more simple the better. Think of your favorite flower you drew in 3rd grade and you’ll be spot on.
  • And for boys, chose simple easy graphics like a soccer ball or sailboat.
  • For some easy patterns to copy, check out the free online craft classes at

You didn’t know it was this easy to be an artist, did you?

Written by Pam Laughlin from

Kraftykid offers children’s 3, 6, 9, and 12 month subscriptions to craft of the month clubs. Fun and educational craft kits delivered directly to the lucky child’s home each month. Fun facts sheets and kid-tested instructions included.

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Eight Ways Snail Mail Encourages Reading Skills in Young Children

Today, most children’s idea of getting mail corresponds with the ‘You’ve got mail’ icon on their computer and not necessary with what’s inside that metal box located on the curb in front of their house.

But even so, children still like to get the mail and ask, ‘Is there anything for me?’ Except for the occasional birthday card or package from eBay or Netflicks, the answer is usually ‘Not today.’ But on those occasions when they do get mail they are pretty much thrilled to the bone.

That feeling is hard to forget and I don’t know about you, but I still can remember that feeling of excitement and surprise when I received my Highlights Magazine or something I ordered from the back of the cereal box. So I totally understand how they feel. It’s a little magical.

Sending and receiving mail is a great way to encourage your children to read and write in a fun and enjoyable way.

Here are EIGHT ways to help encourage good reading habits in your children:

  1. Write or order a letter from Santa, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy.
  2. Write or buy a special certificate to celebrate your child’s latest milestone or achievement, e.g. preschool graduation, first dentist visit, learning how to swim, keeping their room clean. I’m sure you can come up with a gazillion ideas of your own.
  3. Write a hand-written letter that discusses your child’s special interests. Make it something that they find interesting, like what did they think about the new episode of Thomas the Train or Phineas and Ferb. Talk their language, not yours!
  4. Put a note in the mailbox giving clues where you hid a present. If they aren’t reading yet, make a cryptic note by substituting pictures for words. Not an artist? Try cutting pictures from a magazine instead.
  5. Does your child have a hard time talking about feelings? Write them a note asking them how they felt about something and ask them to write down the answer.
  6. Give them a subscription to a children’s magazine like, Babybug, Sesame Street Magazine, Ranger Rick, or Highlights.
  7. Plan a fun surprise and send an announcement in the mail. ‘Pack your bathing suits and put on sunscreen. Meet at the breakfast table at 9:00 on Saturday for your surprise trip’ ought to get them pretty excited.
  8. Join a kid’s craft of the month club and have fun craft kits delivered right to your mailbox for your child. Make sure you find one that is age appropriate for your child and includes instructions that are easy to understand.

Besides the fun factor involved in getting mail delivered, children will also receive educational benefits as well. Receiving mail on a regular basis will help children get excited about reading and that’s what it’s all about.

Written by Pam Laughlin, owner of offers craft of the month clubs for kids (ages 3-6) and (ages 7 – 10.) Each craft kit is designed to be fun and educational and comes with easy to understand instructions and fun fact sheets.

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Teach Your Toddler to Enjoy Arts and Crafts Through the Senses of Touch and Smell

Do you want to enhance your toddler’s arts and craft experience? Try craft projects that use as many of their senses as possible and really get the most out of crafting for your young child.

Here are some toddler craft projects that do just that:

  • Finger painting: Finger painting is always a fun activity and craft to do because it allows your toddler to actually ‘feel’ the craft as well as be creative. Make your own finger paints from ingredients in your cupboard that already have wonderful scents, such as pudding or jello. This way you won’t worry if a little paint actually ends up in the mouth. Encourage your toddler to smell the paint before creating their masterpiece.
  • Sandpaper Art – Have your toddler “feel” lots of different textures while creating art work on a piece of sandpaper. Cut various colors of yarn into different lengths. Show your toddler how to stick the yarn to the sandpaper and make designs. It’s easy to create a design, take it off, and start all over. This mess-free activity is easy to pack up and take with you when you know you will be away from home. Cut pieces of yarn into various lengths. Try to select yarns that come in various colors and textures (thick and bulky, soft and fluffy, metallic, and rough.) Then put them in a plastic bag for an “on the go” craft.
  • Texture Art – Find different types of objects that are rough, smooth, bumpy, ect. Some good selections are leaves, plastic bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard, and textured fabric scraps. Then put a piece of paper on top of the object and have your child color on top of the paper in order to get textured designs. Now have your child feel their design. Ask them questions like, “How does this feel? Is it rough or smooth?”
  • Spaghetti Mobile – Use some warm spaghetti noodles and prepare several containers of glue colored with food coloring. Show your toddler how to dip the pieces of pasta into the colored glue and place on a piece of wax paper or empty Styrofoam meat tray. Continue the process until you have a nice design of colored spaghetti. If desired, add some natural oils used for cooking like peppermint, orange, lemon, almond, and/or food coloring. Have them identify the fragrance to you. When dry, tie a piece of yarn or ribbon to the top and hang as a mobile.

Pam Laughlin is owner and chief crafter at For more fun craft ideas and detailed instructions make sure to check out Kraftykid’s selection of free toddler craft projects .

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5 Easy to Make Art and Craft Supplies

Have you ever started to make a craft project and found that you didn’t have the necessary supplies on hand? Here are some art and crafts supplies you can make at home with these easy to follow recipes. Not only will you save money but it will give your children a chance to be even more creative. Kids are so proud of their artistic endeavors when they make their own supplies to use in their craft projects.

Here are some of our favorites to make at home:

Play dough – There are lots of play dough recipes online but ones that don’t require baking are much easier to make and the results are great. Here’s one that fits the bill: Mix 3 cups of flour and 1/3 cup of salt with 2 tablespoons of oil (vegetable or olive oil work well.) Add approximately 7 drops of food coloring to 1 cup of water and mix together. Add the water to the flour/salt/oil mixture slowly – about 1/4 cup at a time. Mix with a spoon. Knead the dough with your hands until it is entirely mixed. For added benefit, add essential oils, like lavender, lemon, and orange and encourage children to smell the fragrant play clays. Store in zip lock bags to keep moist.

Milk Paint – This recipe creates a nice batch of very bright, shiny paint and works well with lots of different craft projects. Mix one cup of condensed milk with a few drops of food coloring. This makes a very bright, glossy colored paint and can be used in a variety of unique craft projects.

Chalk – Mix 1 cup of plaster of Paris with 2 -3 tablespoons of tempera paint. Add ½ cup of water and mix well. Pour into candy or candle molds and let dry for 24 hours. You can also use muffin tins, plastic tubs, food containers, or other empty containers you have on hand.

Crayons – Do you have broken crayons around the house? Don’t throw them out. Instead, teach your children how to make crayons. This also makes a great recycling project. Peel off the paper from the broken crayons and dump the broken crayons into a foil lined muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes or until crayons are completely melted into a solid, rainbow block. Let the melted crayons cool and remove from liners.

Finger Paints – All children love to finger paint. Here’s an easy to make finger paint recipe. Mix 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/3 cup of cornstarch together. Slowly add 2 cups of cold water. Cook over low heat until the mixture looks like a gel (this is a step for parents.) Let cool and then stir in ¼ cup of clear liquid soap. Add food coloring for specific colors.

For more Kraftykid DIY craft supply ideas

Written by Pam Laughlin from

Kraftykid offers children’s 3, 6, 9, and 12 month subscriptions to craft of the month clubs. Fun and educational craft kits delivered directly to the lucky child’s home each month. Fun facts sheets and kid-tested instructions included.

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5 Easy Superhero Crafts Help Create Your Own Superhero Identity

Kids love their superheroes making superhero craft ideas and projects ranking as one of their top favorites. Children love the idea of possessing extraordinary or superhuman powers and fighting to protect the public from evildoers. Creating a superhero identity of their own by making superhero inspired crafts including colorful, bold capes and masks make for imaginative and creative playtime. Here are five easy crafts to make with your child to create their own superhero identities:

  1. Create a Superhero Persona – Ask them questions about the type of superhero they want to be. What are their special superhero powers? Do they have a sidekick? If so, what’s their sidekick’s name? What type of costume and cape do they wear? How did they become a superhero? Do they have a secret, special hideaway? Do they use special gadgets to fight crime? If so, what are they? Do they have an evil villain that they fight? If so, how do they fight this villain and why? Answering these questions will help your child determine the type of superhero that they want to be.
  2. Cape – Make a cape out of an old white towel and use fabric markers or paint to decorate it. Cut two holes along the top and insert ribbon or cord so that they can tie the cape securely around their neck. Alternatively, you can use a disposable white paper tablecloth or purchase a superhero cape craft kit that has all the supplies.
  3. Mask – Purchase a store bought mask that you can embelish with glitter, feathers or sequins. Alternatively, you can download an online mask template and print on cardstock and paint or color.
  4. Cuff bands – Superhero cuff bands are really easy to make and can really spruce up the outfit with little effort. Make them from paper or craft foam into a two inch wide strip that is long enough to fit around your child’s wrists. Decorate with paint, sequins or markers.
  5. Emblem or Crest – Draw an emblem or crest for you superhero or find an online template or design that you like. Then, add some pictures and text that gives voice to your superhero. You can put it on a superhero cape, mask, or even use for the cover of a shield. Having a hard time, coming up with an emblem or crest to decorate?

Written by Pam Laughlin from

Kraftykid offers children’s 3, 6, 9, and 12 month subscriptions to craft of the month clubs. Fun and educational craft kits delivered directly to the lucky child’s home each month. Fun facts sheets and kid-tested instructions included.

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5 Quick and Easy Puppet Ideas for Children

Children love to make puppets! Puppetry allows children to use their imagination to create puppet masterpieces and then use their masterpieces during dramatic play in the classroom, children’s theatre groups, and storytelling.

Puppet play is a great way for children to verbalize their feelings and to practice performing in front of an audience. Children who have difficulty expressing themselves can often immerse themselves into the character of the puppet and verbalize feelings that they might otherwise have difficulty expressing when using puppets during dramatic play.

Here are five easy to make puppet ideas for children:

  1. Craft Stick Puppets– Cut out a picture of a person or animal from a magazine, download an image from a computer program or the Internet, or draw your own. Glue it onto a craft stick for an instant puppet.
  2. Paper Plate Puppet – Glue or draw a face onto a paper plate. Use markers, paints, or crayons to decorate your puppet. It’s fun to add details to your puppets by using embellishments like yarn for hair, ribbons for eyebrows, pompoms for noses, pipe cleaners for animal whiskers, and buttons for eyes. Glue them onto the paper plate. When dry, tape a wooden paint stick (available at Home Depot and paint and hardware stores) to the back of the plate. An internet search on ‘Paper Plate Craft Ideas for Kids’ will turn up tons of ideas to jump start your imagination.
  3. Two Finger Card Stock Puppets – These are fun puppets to make because children will cut two holes at the bottom of the puppet and use their fingers to make them walk, dance, and move around. Find a picture of a person or animal, draw your own, or use a template and glue onto some card stock. Then, color, paint or decorate your two-finger puppet. Simply cut two holes at the trunk of the puppet and use your fingers as legs.
  4. Cardboard Roll Puppet People – Cover a cardboard roll with white paper and tape it around the roll. Add features with crayons, markers or paint. Alternatively, you can cut out a picture from a magazine or old greeting card. You can add a paper baking cup skirt by cutting out the bottom of the cup and gluing it to the roll or design costumes and hats from construction paper and glue them to the front of the cardboard roll. A search on ‘Cardboard Roll Puppets’ will yield lots of free, printable templates that you can print out, color, and simply glue around the cardboard tube. To make your puppet perform, insert two fingers in the bottom of the roll and move up and down or tape a craft stick inside the bottom of the roll and use as a handle.
  5. Paper Bag Puppets – Lunch-sized paper bags are easily transformed into fun-to-use puppets. You can draw a mouth on the edge of the paper bag fold and add facial features. Slide your hand inside the bag and bend four fingers to fit inside the folded flap. When you move your fingers slightly, it makes the puppet’s mouth move and looks like he’s speaking. Optionally, you can add arms or wings from construction paper and tape to the side of the bag. Bags come in a variety of colors and make good choices for animal puppets, such as green for a frog, yellow for a duck, or pink for a pig puppet.

Written by Pam Laughlin from

Kraftykid offers children’s 3, 6, 9, and 12 month subscriptions to craft of the month clubs. Fun and educational craft kits delivered directly to the lucky child’s home each month. Fun facts sheets and kid-tested instructions included.

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Make Your Own Worry Dolls to Help Ease Childrens Fears

All children experience some anxiety in the form of worry, apprehension, dread or fear. These fears can often occur when a child is faced with unfamiliar experiences or situations, like starting preschool or meeting new friends. In Guatemala, these fears are relieved through the use of Worry or Trouble Dolls. Worry Dolls are tiny, hand-crafted dolls that are used to help relieve troublesome thoughts for children. These colorful, little dolls stand about one half to one inch tall and are made on tiny wooden or twisted wire frames.

These frames are then decorated using colorful scraps of brightly colored Mayan woven fabric, string, and yarn which are woven around the doll’s frame to create the body. Finally, faces are painted on the doll and about 6 – 8 dolls are placed in small, colorful bags or a trinket box.

The bag or box is set next to the bed and before going to bed you tell one worry per worry doll and place them under your pillow before you go to sleep. Legend has it that when you wake up in the morning the worry doll will be gone along with your troubles.

You can easily adapt this handiwork project into a craft for children by using a two prong clothespins as the frame and pipe cleaners as the arms. You can decorate the frame with embroidery floss and yarn. To make a Worry Doll, twist a pipe cleaner around the clothespin to form two arms. Tie one end of a long piece of yarn or floss around the center of the doll, and wrap the yarn around the body down one leg. Then wind the yarn back up the other leg. Wind down and up the other leg, and tie off the ends. Secure with glue. Then, wrap the chest and arms the same way that the legs were wrapped. Glue yarn to the head for hair. Faces can be drawn using a black permanent marker.

For smaller children, you can print a picture of a paper doll and have them color them with bold, brightly colored markers or crayons. Glue pieces of colorful fabric for clothing and glue yarn for hair. Place your Worry Doll in a decorated envelope. Have your child decorate the envelope with crayons and markers and write, “No Worries” on the front of the envelope.

Now you have a Worry Doll to help wash away your child’s fears! Isn’t it nice to say goodbye to your worries and send them on their away?

Written by Pam Laughlin from

Kraftykid offers children’s 3, 6, 9, and 12 month subscriptions to craft of the month clubs. Fun and educational craft kits delivered directly to the lucky child’s home each month. Fun facts sheets and kid-tested instructions included.

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