isee me - personalized Book Gifts. Kids love these things!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Last year I got Sagan a personalized book from a similar company as this, and he LOVED it. I highly reccomend these kind of books for kids. They love to see their names in the pages. I see me is a great company that has lots of options. I think my favorite is "The World According to Your Child" featuring your child's own artwork. there are also some really nice Christmas themed things on there..... So, if you are looking for a last minute Christmas gift like I was, A Christmas Bear for Me is a beautiful, heart-warming, personalized story about a child’s Christmas wish for a special Teddy Bear friend. Each copy of the book comes with an adorable plush Gund® bear with the child’s name on the tag and a personalized letter to the child from Santa. Written by Jennifer Dewing and illustrated by the nationally renowned artist Wilson Ong, A Christmas Bear for Me follows the child’s journey from longing and wishing to the magic of Christmas morning, when the child finds his or her special bear along with a personalized note from Santa under the tree.

This high-quality, hard cover, 26-page book includes wonderfully hand-painted, personalized illustrations that capture the magic of the season through a child’s eyes. The child’s and siblings’ names are woven into the rhyming copy and are also incorporated into the intricate illustrations of stockings hung across the mantle, ornaments on the tree, Santa’s list of the children who have been nice this year, and more. The entire A Christmas Bear for Me gift set, including the book, bear and letter from Santa, retails for $34.95. It is available only through the holiday gift-giving season for any child ages 0-10 at

You can take a virtual tour of the book at

My first bubble cool!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ok, Im just getting the hang of tweeting, but this is a cool little add on for when you have just a little more to say. And when don't I have more to say? Click here!

Giveaway: King Arthur's Flour now has k.a.f kids!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The holidays are coming, which means my annual cookie baking marathon is fast approaching. Years ago, my mother let me in on a little secret - only use King Arthur's Unbleached Flour for your baking needs, real butter, sour cream , (never flavored or reduced fat), and for the lightest, fluffiest pie crusts, use vegetable shortening. And if anyone has ever tasted my mother baking, you would know why I listen to her. So I went to the King Arthur Flour site perusing for coupons as I usually do around the holidays, and came upon one of the most visually delicious and well done commercial websites I have seen yet. So I wrote them to tell them how much I love their flour, and learned they are SO MUCH MORE than just flour. Just look at this comprehensive selection to suit every baking need. You will want to jump into the computer and eat your circuit boards when you see their baked goods.
Now, King Arthur offers something for the whole family, k.a.f kids baking line. It is, simply put, delicious, all natural goodies to bake with your children! When I received the sample, Sophia and I ripped open the box and started in on our project. We had a blast baking together.
As you can see she is quite a little ham. Here she is pretending to eat them right off the box. You would think I don't feed her. K.A.F. Kids mixes are fast, easy, and just plain yummy. Made of the best all-natural and organic ingredients, they feature the mild flavors and softer texture kids love. Add the expertise of the King Arthur test-baker moms who developed and perfected these mixes, and you’ve got a guaranteed recipe for fun in the kitchen.

The cookies are crisp around the edges, soft in the center, and sensational all the way through. We tried out the Snickerdoodle mix. You could never, in a million years, tell these cookies were from a box. You use your own egg and your own melted butter for a delicious home baked taste - ZERO chemically after taste like with some boxed mixes.
King Arthur is so much more than flour, and I am seriously considering their kids baking kit for Sophia. I think it would make a great Christmas gift for any kid who likes to bake. She actually did most of the baking herself on this test run, and was my little taste tester. Of course, as usual, she has to taste the raw batter right out of the bowl. Even that was good.
Is your mouth watering yet? Well lucky for us, the cool people over at King Arthur Flour have sent me one (1) box of their super delicious k.a.f Snicker Doodle Mix kit. And it can be yours. Here's how to get yourself in the running for this contest. Comment on this post and tell me what your favorite thing to bake at Christmas is, that would use King Arthur's Unbleached All Purpose Flour. OR visit the King Arthur website and tell me an item on your wishlist. For an extra entry, become a fan of Sagan's Universe on Facebook and comment that you did it. For an additional entry, subscribe to this website OR follow it in some way.

Remember to leave some way for me to get a hold of you on your comment, preferably, an email! Contest ends Dec. 16th!
Also, King Arthurs website has free shipping on orders over $60 dollars right now, so get your orders in!

Come and get em, Santa!

FINE PRINT: I solicited King Arthur for this product and they sent me a sample. I, in no way, was asked for anything but my honest opinion. I was not paid for this review.

Part IV: Summing up Time to Talk day

Monday, December 7, 2009

There are a few other people and organizations I wanted to talk about before I close this educational and incredibly inspirational chapter of my blog.

I was lucky enough to get more than a few minutes with someone I have great respect for, Dr. Jill Murray. Dr. Murray has become the leading expert on the subject of teen dating abuse in the U.S. and Canada. She has appeared on more than 350 television shows—including twice on Oprah, 20/20, and Montel, Dr. Phil, Good Morning America, and several CNN shows—speaking as the guest expert in the field, as well as more than 300 radio talk shows. She has been interviewed by more than 250 newspapers and national magazines. I've seen her on TV a few times, so when I heard I had a chance to talk to her, I jumped on it. When she walked over, she instantly had a calming effect on me. She literally radiates positivity. You feel like Dr. Jill knows you the second she opens her mouth. I can see why she is the relationship expert! Dr. Jill and I talked about the foundations of abuse; the role parenting plays in raising kids up into good adults, and taking control of out of control relationships, and learning to say enough.
"Abusers justify what they do. 'I had to do this because you did that.' Thats how they live. Abusers are entitled. They are self serving. They live in denial, " she explains when I asked why abuse goes on in homes for years and years before anything changes. " I believe all abusers come from some sort of abuse. Whether there was abuse in their household, drug and alcohol abuse, or someone who was telling the kid, you are stupid, you are nothing.... it comes from somewhere. I think its a conscious decision. I think they know what they are doing. They transfer their anger onto other people. Where does the entitlement come from? Where does someone think its ok to smack a girl? Its that sense of entitlement."
We went on to discuss what is accepted and not accepted in households, and why. Dr. Murray is a huge proponent of being your child's PARENT and not their buddy, something I am also a huge advocate for. The relationships your children grow up to have with other people are modeled on your behavior as a parent. very interesting stuff.
Dr. Jill Murray has a great book out called BUT I LOVE HIM—Protecting Your Teen Daughter From Controlling, Abusive, Dating Relationships which came out in 2001, but still pertains to parenting today. Also a good read on this subject, Dr. Jill is the author of the more recent But He Never Hit Me: The Devastating Cost of Non-Physical Abuse to Girls and Women. These are both books I would recommend putting in your parenting library especially if you have girls in your household. to learn more about Jill Murray and where you may get in touch with her or hear her speak, check out her website at

This event was in conjunction with MADE. As part of their ongoing efforts to combat domestic violence, Liz Claiborne Inc. launched MADE: Moms and Dads for Education to Stop Teen Dating Abuse. MADE is a growing coalition of parents, teachers and ANYONE who is advocating for teen dating abuse education in every middle school and high school in the country. MADE was inspired by dedicated and courageous parents whose children were victims of teen dating abuse and violence, and who want to ensure that no one else’s child becomes a victim.

Liz Claiborne Inc. recognized the role of parents in teen relationships, and the importance of education and resources made available to our youth. MADE was launched in December, 2008 to ensure a teen dating violence curriculum is mandated in every middle and high school in the country. To date, thousands of dedicated people have joined this growing national grassroots movement.

MADE has partnered with the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) and the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL) to introduce legislation for teen dating violence education in middle and high schools across the country. Both associations have passed national resolutions and continue to work with Liz Claiborne Inc. and MADE members on their efforts.

How YOU Can Help:

Anyone who cares about teen dating violence can join MADE. Join MADE by simply going online at Once you become a MADE member you can help end teen dating abuse by:

· Recruiting as many MADE members as you can in your community. Contact your local officials and prominent community members, as well other parents, friends, colleagues and neighbors who can get involved in building the MADE movement.
· Contacting your local middle and high schools to engage teachers, principals, and school administrators in MADE’s education efforts. Encourage them to introduce teen dating violence education, such as the Love Is Not Abuse curriculum, provided by Liz Claiborne Inc. free-of-charge.
· Utilizing the MADE tool kit, available on the MADE website to send letters to your local policymakers supporting legislation on teen dating abuse education.

To learn more about MADE, visit:
DISCLAIMER: “I received a $50 Juicy Couture gift card in conjunction with participating in Liz Claiborne’s “It’s Time To Talk” day.”

Part III of Time to Talk, sitting down with Loribeth Weinstein, Executive Director of Jewish Women International

Saturday, December 5, 2009

While it was very moving to talk to the Mitchells and very exciting to talk to Tim Gunn, I was there to participate in Time to Talk for a full three hours, so I did get to talk to a few other amazing people. During my time there I got to talk to Loribeth Weinstein, Executive Director of Jewish Women International. JWI is the leading Jewish organization dedicated to empowering women and girls – through economic literacy, community training, healthy relationship education, and the proliferation of women’s leadership.

4 years ago, JWI founded the National Alliance to End Domestic Abuse, which provides training to professionals who often work in under resourced organizations. Their curriculum on teen dating abuse is soon to be distributed to United Synagogue Youth and JYOs through out the country. According to Loribeth, this curriculum will reach more than 14,000 Jewish teens across the country. Think about that – 14,000 more teens that will go into relationships aware of the warning signs of relationship abuse, or learn to recognize the subtle signs of a unsafe relationship.
JWI is a more than century old organization that is dedicated to service and philanthropy initially, but especially the very razor sharp mission of ending violence against women. We have about 50 thousand members around the United States.” Loribeth explained. “We work here in the states, and we are also the catalyst for domestic violence resources in Jewish communities around the world. We strengthen women’s lives through economic literacy, financial security, and work to build an empowered new generation of girls.”

So Loribeth and I chatted a while about the topic of teen dating violence. I asked her to explain what approach JWI takes when it comes to this issue. “ After doing a decade’s worth of work centering around domestic violence and serving the Jewish and secular communities with education and resources, we stepped back and said, (about seven years ago), what is it going to take to create a world where we are less about saving lives, and more about preventing the abuse in the first place? So, we identified working with teens as really important, doing preventative education and healthy relationship training in schools and religious institutions… it’s kids coming together to talk about domestic violence. Because when kids are not familiar with the language, you have a hard time taking it on. You just don’t know how to talk about it. We found that young people didn’t have a voice for expressing how they felt about power in relationships, about equity in relationships, or what truth is in a relationship.”

As my conversation with Loribeth went on, the enormity of the job this woman has taken on as the director of such a substantial institution started to come into focus. There are so many aspects of domestic abuse, from physical, to emotional, to financial, that when you throw cultural definitions in there, you really have a complex problem with no concrete solution. A patriarchal culture, like that of Judaism has both positives and negatives. “That attachment, that patriarchy, can be very dis empowering to women,” Loribeth states, “a man who takes care of his daughter, and says, ‘Honey, you will never have to worry about money, I'm going to take care of you and someday your husband is going to take care of you’ is a problem - Imagine a young woman, who is academically accomplished, because the Jewish culture is very much about education for our daughters, but she’s economically illiterate. Which means that, they do themselves a disservice just entering work life, but also in a relationship, because they are expected to be taken care of financially. And money is power. Resources are an exit strategy to anything in life. You want to change a job, you want to get out of a bad relationship, with out money and resources of your own, you can not do that. We see women who are going through terrible divorces, who have no money of their own, their husbands are substantial bread winners and the money is in their husband accounts. So, disentangling yourself from a relationship that may not be physically abusive, but rather emotionally and financially debilitating, requires significant resources.”

So what is to be done about this? “We’ve developed teen programming, and a very lengthy program for girls on dating violence and healthy relationships, and because its geared toward younger girls, it’s based on the foundations of friendship, self esteem and healthy relationships. Later, as they build their relationships with members of the opposite sex, or get into romantic relationships with members of their own gender, they are modeling those relationships on things they have seen in the friendship world they have grown up in. This also ties in to the epidemic of bullying in middle schools. This is important because all of this ties in to the building blocks of healthy relationships. We have a Strong Girls program as well as a Good Guys program that works with young boys and builds on the same kind of conversation training and role playing that really helps in those first stages of transforming relationships. We bring this curriculum into the youth serving organizations of the Jewish communities. The topics change year to year. This year the topic of collaboration is healthy relationships. We plan to unveil this to about 14,000 young people starting this December. This is one of the largest target groups on this subject, ever. Imagine those 14,000 kids talking to their friends and families about what they are learning about healthy relationships. Think about how many people that will reach. ”

Overall, I enjoyed talking to Loribeth emensely and learning more about the JWI. I always say knowlege is power, and I am very impressed with the efforts of JWI in the fight against domestic violence. For more information on JWI and their programs visit

Part II of Time to Talk, my sit down with Tim Gunn, a Visually Stunning and all around Fabulous Planetary Citizen

Friday, December 4, 2009

“At Liz Claiborne…Our primary constituency… is women” Tim Gunn said as I began to come back to my senses. “And while we can help dress them, we know that at the very core of someone feeling great about themselves is self esteem. You can look as fabulous as possible but if there is something in the way, inside, it’s going to impact the way you navigate the world. We know domestic violence is something that is pervasive and something that is often talked about in a whisper behind closed doors; and it frequently starts with teens”.

And at that point, I opened my big mouth and interrupted him out of pure nerves. Ok, strike one, someone needs to come over here and stuff a baffle in my mouth so I stop INTERUPTING TIM GUNN. Kthanks.

“I’ll tell you about my method,” He continued, completely unaware that I am about fourteen seconds away from breaking into the opening number from “Hair” and asking him to join in from just sheer, palpable nerves alone, “Navigate the world with respect for yourself, respect for your fellow human beings, and be a good citizen of the planet.”

Words to live by, uttered by one of the most identifiable fashion icons of our time.

Tim went on to explain a little bit more about what the day is about “Its important that we all receive education about the signs of being a victim, as well as identifying the signs of being an abuser because they can be subtle. So frequently people go right to the most obvious and iconic signs of abuse… physical abuse... but the signs of domestic abuse are much more subtle… think about the cyber aspect of abuse. Texting for example ‘you didn’t get back to me you didn’t get back to me you didn’t get back to me, then your response is, ‘ I’m in class!!’" He exclaimed. "the intent is not always to be abusive, but that persistence… it sets up the possibility. This is not acceptable to do, and to those on the receiving end, they need to realize, it’s not acceptable either.”

“It’s important that parents play a pivotal roll in this” he continued, and just as my nerveous habit of breaking into show tunes started to dissipate, Strike two, I interrupt THE GUNN AGAIN. Oh my heavens, I think, shut up Stacy.

“Where does it start then?” I ask, maybe a little too obnoxiously, though Tim never once made me feel like I am anything but fabulous. “Why are some teenage boys respectful, and other’s go down the path of abuse?”

“ I don’t have children, “ Tim explains, “but I have taught for 27 years. And it is learned. I have to add also, as an observer of the world, I am concerned about a lot of the things on television that kids are exposed to. It puts bad behavior on a pedestal, and glorifies aggressive behavior. Im not saying no TV, no internet, no facebook by any means, but I am concerned with the types of things young people are viewing… it says to them, ‘Its ok to act this way.’ "

Tim and I went on to have a two way conversation about where the prevention starts. I am profoundly curious, when it come to the cycle of violence in families, how nature and nurture play a part in crafting the mind of an abuser. I mean, besides the obvious things like watching your father abuse your mother, or having alcohol abuse or neglect in the home, what other red flags are there in a modern family that would trigger the negative-energy rollercoaster that makes a child grow into a person who believes its ok to abuse? “I don’t want to blame it all on the media,” Tim says, “ But it does seem to glorify bad, and negative behavior. I mean, just look at the White House crashers.”

“ I… kind of thought that was cool, “ I say, and instantly want to shove a nearby prototype handbag into my mouth to ebb the spew of verbal diarrhea “ I think it’s going to make the White House safer. Tell the secret service to step up their game a bit. I mean it's the secret service, not Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”

Tim bursts out laughing, and my goodness, it is genuine, and I feel at ease with him. I instantly develop an urge to invite him over, take all my clothing out back, and set them on fire. To say Tim Gunn is just a regular guy is not accurate. He is not a regular guy, and I think blogs that say "he is just a regular person and so nice” are missing the point that he is so much more than this. Tim is a philanthropist, he is a character, and he is kind, witty, and caring, with a quick tounge, soft tone, and a gentle nature. In person his appearance is perfection personified. The way he presents himself tells the world how he feels about himself, another point him and I touched on. When you feel good about the way you look, you command proper treatment. This actually ties in with preventing domestic violence, because when you feel good about yourself you know you deserve respect. The men and women in your life won’t have an opportunity to start the cycle of abuse.

For the next 15 minutes, I talked with Tim about other topics, like his lunch with Michelle Obama, ( apparently she is all about portion control) his experiences as a teacher with a very ungrateful and disrespectful student ( he had me in stitches) and by the time it was all over I was devastated to see him walk away. But I was profoundly affected by my short time with Tim Gunn, and it’s not because I’m “star struck” or impressed by his fame. I am completely taken with the man based on how committed he is to stopping domestic violence, and how he has a real desire to make people feel good about themselves. And if you are wondering if Tim offered me clothes, or a make-over, no, he didn't and do you know why? Because I don't need it. I know I am fabulous just the way I am. Overall, I am greatful that I got to sit down and talk with Tim about the incredibly pressing issue of dating violence. And just as importantly, I’m glad he liked my outfit.

Part I of My Day of Talking about Domestic Violence

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I don’t think anything sticks to one’s psyche like sitting across the table from a mother who has lost their 21 year old daughter. No amount of research can prepare you to talk to a family of four who is now a family of three. The Mitchell’s from Maryland, who lost their beautiful daughter Kristin (right) to dating violence, is such a family. As I sat today in Liz Clairborne’s Time to Talk press room learning about and discussing domestic violence, it was extremely difficult for me to process the large amount of information that was coming at me. I kept going back to Bill and Michelle Michell in my mind. Their daughter had just graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in Philly when the tragedy happened. She had her entire life ahead of her. Think about when you graduated, and you stood there looking forward down the long road called life. The possibilities are endless. In the few short weeks after graduation, Kristin’s life choices were robbed from her by a jealous, controlling and mentally unstable boyfriend. The last text she sent to her boyfriend was “ you are being ridiculous why cant I do something with my friends”. Hours later, he murdered her. Powerful stuff. It seriously rocked me to my core.

So I asked the family, “ Were there warning signs?” There had to be right? I mean, he must have beat her regularly and threatened her constantly. But no....That’s the scariest part. The warning signs with domestic violence, especially with young adults, are subtle. His extremely controlling behavior through texts were a classic warning sign of potential dating violence, but as young adults embark on their lives, the safety net of mom and dad is pulled slowly from under them, and warning signs can easily be overlooked. Children grow into adults and become more independent, but warning signs are difficult to pick up on, especially if you are young and haven't been educated as to what an unhealthy relationship is. Michelle and Bill told me they did not see this coming. The weekend before the tragedy Michelle and Kristin were at the beach and the boyfriend was texting Kristin constantly, in a very controlling manner. This in itself should be a wake up call to mothers of young adults. Learn to recognize the signs that something is terribly wrong.

The Mitchells’ were asked by Liz Clairborne to testify before the Maryland Ways and Means Committee in March 2009. Their efforts lead to the passing of a bill that would allow education about teen dating violence in schools in Maryland.

Moving forward the best they can, The Mitchell’s are raising funds for the Kristin Mitchell Foundation, to ensure that this doesn’t happen to other young girls. The foundation is able to provide education about dating violence, award grants to local organizations, and offer a scholarship in Kristin’s name. The Kristin’s Krusade is a 5k run/walk held at St. Joseph’s University to raise money and awareness to Kristin’s cause. If you are in the Philly area and would like more information about Kristin’s Krusade, please visit

The name Liz Clairborne may be synonymous with stylish, high quality clothing for real women, but what I learned recently about what they do for the cause of domestic violence blew my mind. Every year, Liz Clairborne hosts a national day of dialogue to promote awareness of domestic violence and teen dating abuse. Throughout the day today, talk radio hosts from around the country participated in a “Talk Radio Row” on domestic violence. I was lucky enough to be asked by MomCentral to join them as a blogger, thus taking advantage of the internet’s viral nature to spread the word. My visit to Liz Clairborne headquarter’s in New York City was much more than I expected it would be. Before meeting with the Mitchells I was sitting at my table awaiting my first interview to get the ball rolling, and Tim Gunn himself walks on over and parks himself right down next to me. Shazam! Like the proverbial trial by fire, I have mere seconds to pull myself together and start talking to him about the topic of the day, which is incredibly close to his heart: Domestic violence. After all “ It’s time to talk”, and talk we did.

Check in tomorrow for Part II of my day of interviews, and to learn more ways you can help stop the violence.

Dec. 3rd is Time to Talk about Domestic Violence

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Listen up readers!! Tomorrow, Sagan's Universe is participating in Liz Claiborne Inc’s sixth annual It’s Time to Talk Day a day dedicated to ensuring that Americans speak-up about a subject that most people simply prefer not to discuss — domestic violence. It’s Time to Talk Day events will be held nationwide, including at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC with Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. I will be participating in a “Talk Radio Row” on domestic violence at Liz Claiborne headquarters in New York. Major partners for this year’s event include The Department of Justice, CBS Evening News, REDBOOK, Seventeen,, one, MTV, the Joyful Heart Foundation, Talkers Magazine and Talk Radio News Service. For more information visit