Mercedes GLK: Safety First
by The Car Family for more reviews go to

2013 GLK350 4MATIC

If you would love to own a Mercedes the GLK might be your best choice as it combines the legendary sturdy construction with utility and German engineering to produce a handsome looking vehicle that affords a touch of elegance to its on-task demeanor.
You can choose between a 3.5-liter V6 that develops 302 horsepower or a 2.1-liter four-cylinder diesel engine that makes 200 horsepower both running through a smooth seven-speed automatic. The powerplant provides excellent acceleration and plenty of poke for high speed merging or passing. However, the mileage on the diesel makes it a strong contender for those who travel a great deal as it get an average of 28 mpg versus 21 for the gas version. Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is optional on the GLK350 and standard on the GLK250 Bluetec.
Although this Mercedes is considered a luxury SUV and is equipped as such with standard dual-zone climate control, power front seats, Bluetooth, a six-speaker audio system, antilock brakes, stability control and airbags most everywhere, there are some excellent option packages that need to be added to the GLK even more comforting.
Mom’s view: It is definitely a different looking SUV with its angular exterior and upright stance looking much like an elongated G Class. The GLK has a firm ride that provides an “I Can” attitude when confronted with canyon cornering or emergency maneuvers. I found the front seats comfortable and controls easy to master. Be aware that the seats are “form fitting” so they take a while to get used to, but after a long drive your back doesn’t hurt. The handling is nimble and the steering has a nice feel, but the real plus is its solid build quality. The high quality interior treatment is very well done, but I strongly recommend the optional rear view camera and blind spot monitoring options. The interior is well done and the plastics are soft and and an overall feel of caring comfort. The step-in isn’t too high, but I recommend the automatic tailgate especially if you are on the petite side due to its height. Another feature that you must add is back-up camera because visibility to the rear is limitied. Overall, a classy ride, but one that cradles you in reassurance as well.

2013 GLK350 4MATIC
Dad’s view: Owning a Mercedes is all about the technology and the GLK won’t disappoint. Blind spot and lane departure warnings are available, a lane departure system, the ability to parallel park itself, and an adaptive cruise control (Distronic) system that practically enables the car to drive itself need to be experienced before buying. There is also all-wheel drive. The transmission features both a Sport and Economy setting, but we found the latter setting fine for even mountainous terrain. The suspension is well controlled, but it isn’t over done so you still get the feel of the road. As noted before, the many options make it most necessary to do your homework as they can totally change the nature of the GLK. For example, you can order a navigation, a rearview camera, a power liftgate, and a panoramic sunroof. Tempting, but there is a reason they call this a luxury vehicle with a list price that can escalate into the $50,000 range without caution from a base below $40,000. Either way, the residual value remains good on this model.
Young worker woman’s view: The dash is quite nice with a large screen and an array of buttons that should keep even an eight-year-old entertained. The optional leather upholstery is handsome and easy to clean. Driving the GLK is a pleasure with a reassuring feel to the electric steering and brakes that provide good feel and confidence. Look for real world fuel economy of around 20 mpg, but you can do better using the cruise control. Even in base form, the GLK has an abundance of features that extend to rain sensing wipers to power front seats.  This is one vehicle that you won’t mind your teenagers driving. Safety first appears to be its motto.  Indeed, I was struck by the thought put into this Mercedes. The rears seats fold flat making it easy to load large packages and there are small cubbyholes most everywhere to place small items. There is no doubt this is a real competitor in a field that includes the Lexus RX, the Audi Q5, and the BMW X3. But it is different enough in looks and appeal to make it attractive to those who want to drive in a vehicle that provides that bank vault type security.


2013 GLK350 4MATIC
Young working males’ view: Mercedes does listen and the turn signal and cruise control stalks were finally moved to a position where they were easy to use over their placement in earlier models. The part that intrigued me was what you get even in the base model compared to the competition. It doesn’t make the GLK a bargain, but it puts the price in perspective better especially for those who are more interested in the MSRP. There are some really technical packages, such as for lighting, in which the selection of “auto” means that car will handle the decision making for you. The GLK also offers a service where you can access the news, Google and even Facebook, among others as another option. I thought the monitor could easily be made larger, but it was easy to read. Some of the functions need to be mastered before hitting the highway. Regardless, for me, the bottom line in that in the event of a natural disaster the GLK would be an ideal base unit. In the meantime, it gets noticed and is eager to please.

Family conference: There is plenty of competition, but none have the Mercedes engineering and the solid granite feel. The Attention Assist is especially notable as it can alert a drowsy driver with an audible alert and a warning message on the dash and a coffee cup icon is brightly illuminated on the dash. We believe that attention to safety is what sets the GLK apart.
For more educational materials for all levels go to

April Grants for Teachers
by Alan Haskvitz

for more free resources go to
For high school students.
InvenTeam projects span many fields from assistive devices to environmental technologies and consumer goods. Applicants are encouraged to consider needs of the world’s poorest people (those earning $2/day) when brainstorming invention ideas.

A large link site with rolling deadlines.
Most everything is listed here

Target grants
For everything from field trips to early childhood reading to arts.
Well worth exploring.

Farm to school grants
The purpose of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program is to assist eligible entities in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools.

The Optical Society
A variety of grants for service learning and professional development

A large link for larger grants

Unsung hero grants

Grants for teachers or teams of teachers

Healthy Family grants
This is a large link site and even though some entries have past their deadlines it does not mean that the 2014 ones are not coming online.

Shakespeare for the Classroom: In Honor of His Birthday, Sort of
by Alan Haskvitz
National Teachers Hall of Fame

for more free resources go to

No one knows for certain when William Shakespeare was born, but he was baptized on April 26, 1564 so why not use that date as an excuse to bring his work into the classroom. Here are some exciting ideas that can be used to meet Common Core standards and are useful for classes from upper elementary through high school.

I really like to read a sonnet to my students and have them discuss it. I use this site ( Afterwords they create there own poem about the same subject. Some interesting and creative poetry comes from this, but most importantly when they are done they have to compare and contrast their work to Shakespeare’s and make a case for which one was the best. I let students work in teams based on the sonnets mentioned in the link.

Lots of good ideas for teachers are posted here:
Primary resources and videos of how to teach sonnets and other elements. Excellent.

The New York Times
All sorts of ideas to teach Shakespeare and make it come alive.

A great idea from the New York Times
This printable gives students an opportunity to learn that they may already know something about the bard.

These are quick, video overviews of some of Shakespeare’s work
It deals mainly with the plot.

The PBS offerings
Includes a webquest and more

148 Ideas
Uneven quality, but well worth a look.

98 More Ideas
Lots of good stuff here. I like the Types of Female Characters in Shakespeare to get students interested in reading more. For older students.

Abraham Lincoln: Lessons and Links

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There is nothing difficult about finding information about President Abraham Lincoln. What is a problem is finding appropriate materials for use in classrooms that students can understand. As such, I have tried to locate those sites that offered an array of resources that cover everything from the basic timelines and quotes to literacy encouraging lessons.

Here is a site that has the bones of an excellent lesson. It shows the great strength of Lincoln and the students always enjoyed it trying to figure out how much a barrel of whiskey weighed as written in the article.

Others ideas could include research about his failures and the changes in his face as the stress of the presidency and his personal life had on him. Printing out a series of pictures from the first to the last is quite compelling and clearly show how the war took its toil on him. Here are the locations for that assignment:

Lincoln’s pictures through time are below or you can show the students this video

Early photo

Students should read about the research that went into identifying this photo.

First known photo 1846







1865 for five dollar bill

Last photo taken

The following are additional links to quality resources:

The Lincoln Institute has a site with lesson ideas for teachers

An article from the April 27, 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly features a biography and picture of President Abraham Lincoln, and an incredible description of Mr. Lincoln’s declaration of war on the South..A must see site that fits the Common Core requirements.

Easy to understand story of Lincoln’s Life

Printable script for a game show that asks the audience to pick the real Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln lesson plans and activities

Timeline of Lincoln’s Life

Failures in Lincoln’s life.

A great way to get students to think about overcoming adversity and rejection.

A unique site where the students can watch video clips and answer questions.

A PBS lesson plan site

Large link sites for many grade levels

Audi Q5: Audacious and Loveable


by The Car Family


for more reviews go to



When you test vehicles nearly weekly you become a bit jaded. We put cars through a workout schedule that includes daily commuting, highway travel, and runs up local mountain roads always on alert for the good while acknowledging areas that may concern potential buyers. Seldom do we dwell on a vehicle after an evaluation. That was until the Q5 arrived. A bit dear, yes, but as relaxing and competent a ride that we have found in the $35,000 price range.



The build quality, interior elegance, class leading fuel mileage, technology, ride quality and maneuverability are all exceptional. On the other hand Audi options are never inexpensive making it easy to add another ten grand to the base price. In addition, the interior space is limited, the stereo, information, and climate controls require a longer gestation period to master, and the engine requires premium fuel and, well, that’s it. This is a stellar vehicle for those who want an SUV with all wheel drive.



Mom’s view: You should be prepared for a fairly high step in height when entering the Audi and the area behind the rear seats isn’t that large compared to the competition, although there are a few cubby holes under the cargo cover. You can order the Q5 with a variety of engine combinations, of which the diesel might be the most attractive for those driving long distances. The Audi is easy to park and the rear view camera, with its unique aerial perspective, absolutely marvelous. This feature is a must have for mall hoppers as well as those with small children. The interior lighting is superb and the engine is immediately responsive. The crash rating were excellent. The ride and handling provide that rare combination that enables the Audi to inhale bumps and yet permits emergency maneuvers without the undue lean so apparent in many other luxury SUVs.




Dad’s view: You need to do your homework before looking at this Audi as it is available with a variety of powertrains and options. Regardless, what you get is a premium interior and markedly agile handling. The seats were very comfortable and the suspension is well balanced for those not into serious off-roading. We tested the base model with its 220 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine that drives a world-class eight-speed automatic transmission. It levels mountain passes, but if you need more propulsion there is an optional supercharged 272 horsepower V6. You pay at the pump for this big boy engine as well as at tune-up time. Look for mileage about a ten percent reduction in fuel mileage with the supercharged engine. The turbocharged base engine has plenty of poke for most users and there is also a hybrid version for those who face heavy traffic daily. The mileage rating for the four cylinder engine is 20/28 mpg city/highway, but you can expect about 23 mpg in everyday use. The hybrid improve that figure to 24/30. The standard all-wheel drive works seamlessly, but there isn’t a low range so this vehicle is not meant for extreme trekking. Although the Q 5 comes with leather upholstery, three-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, iPod integration, and a 10-speaker stereo as well as Audi’s MMI infotainment system, you must consider the optional rearview camera, parking sensors, and blind spot monitoring system package. Add to that choosing between the hybrid version, the supercharged option, and the diesel and you have a Rubric’s cube of decisions.



Young woman’s view: Difficult to assess a vehicle that is so comforting to the soul. That feeling is augmented by exceptional braking, a roomy feel that includes the ability to slide the rear seats to assist in loading, and its snappy performance that belies its horsepower rating. I won’t recommend this for a large family, but for others that appreciate the high seating position and are willing to pay for all-wheel drive this is a vehicle not to be ignored. Looks great in black and absolutely no one got in and didn’t complement the interior. Let’s see, if I skip Starbucks….humm.



Young working male’s view: One of the few test vehicles I truly would like to own. The two drawbacks were the ergonomics and the extensive option packages that extends from a panoramic sunroof to running boards. Round-trips of 400 miles are possible without stopping to refuel thanks to the Q5′s nearly 20 gallon fuel tank. In fact, I can’t think of a better SUV to make this trip.



Family conference: This Audi isn’t fore everyone, but if you are making above the average income this Audi a strong vehicle for consideration for those looking for a luxury vehicle. The Lexus RX and the Audi Q5 have been rated as the top two in their segment, but they really appeal to two different users. The Lexus is softer, offers more room, can be ordered with front wheel drive only, and runs on unleaded fuel. The Audi is sportier and more nimble. Both have high resale.


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Mazda’s 5 and CX-5: A Family 10


by The Car Family


For more reviews go to


Mazda should win the best underdog car award for its remarkable creation of economical, fun to drive, and utilitarian vehicles. Typical of these are its updated CX 5 CUV and the its minivan, named the 5. If you love to drive the 5 and the tossable CX-5 are a must to test.


Mazda CX-5

2014 CX-5 (16)


The 2014 CX-5 is a compact CUV that is the most entertaining to drive of any of its competitors. The trade-off is that you don’t get as much interior cargo space, but 65 plus cubic feet is not only ample, but only a few feet under that of the much larger Honda CR-V, and the Mazda gets better fuel mileage and maneuverability is in the CX-5′s favor.



Make sure you or driving the one with the Skyactiv technologies that sharpens the Mazda’s performance and provides increased mileage. We got over 30 mpg in mixed driving with the all wheel drive version, 2.5 version. That makes it superior to the Subaru, the previous best gas mileage champion in the all wheel drive segment. The government has rated the model at 35 mpg on the highway for the base model’s 2.0 engine.



The 2.5-liter Skyactiv 4-cylinder engine standard in Touring and Grand Touring models and is a combination of improvements from weight reduction to better aerodynamic bodies to make this Mazda a heady performer considering its size.

2014 CX-5 rear


The five-passenger CX-5 are two rows of seats which can be upgraded from cloth to leather. There is good leg room in the second row and the cargo hold is generous with over 34 cubic feet of space. The ergonomics are straight forward, but the GPS is slow to respond and the audio outputs are limited.


Sport, Touring and, and Grand Touring are the models, but we recommend you go for the high end models as they have so many features including the larger engine, blind-spot monitoring, Bluetooth with upgraded stereo, a rearview camera, and a larger monitor. The Grand model offers standard safety equipment such as stability/traction control, antilock brakes, and front, side and side-curtain airbags. Worth every penny. As for the all wheel drive option, that would depend on your weather conditions. Safety wise you can also get the Smart City Brake Support, which can automatically stop the car at speeds under 20 mph situations to help avoid a collision. There are many other options, too, but we found the front and rear parking sensors must haves.


The bottom line is that this is a terrific driving machine that look good, drive well, and even run on regular fuel. A bargain, they start just over $20,000 but the Grand Touring models can breach the $30,000. Be prepared as to what you want in terms of options and models and note the dealers are offering some excellent prices.

2014 CX-5 side


Family conference: Cute, comfortable, and affordable, the CX-5 comes with a plethora of features that make is a compelling choice for those who march to that different drummer. The bottom line is that Mazda makes the best handling, affordable, vehicles in the nation and the CX-5 continues that tradition.




Nimble, great visibility, and enough power to make it fun to drive, the 5 is the utility vehicle of the future that caries a price tag from the past with a starting price just over $20,000 and we went 25 mpg in mixed driving. Despite its exterior size the interior is spacious. With the rear seating folded down you have over 44 cubic feet of cargo space and Mazda has incorporated a number of small spaces to provide storage for cell phones, drinks, and much more. The seating is comfortable and the ergonomics are well done. There is room for six by using the third row of seats, but the last row is small as opposed to the more generous front seats. The second row in our test vehicle had captain’s chairs which provided ample leg and head room and slide and recline. There is an abundance of features on the more upscale models, but even the base version has cruise control, automatic climate control, remote key less entry,and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD system with USB and auxiliary inputs and six airbags, traction control and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

2013 Mazda5


The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine offers 157 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque running through a five-speed automatic transmission. For a family of our this Mazda makes sense. If you opt for the much more expensive Honda, Nissan and Toyota models you are going to be carrying around a lot of unneeded and expensive to fix equipment so think carefully if you are looking for minivan at what you are really going to use it for.

2013 Mazda5


Family conference: This Mazda 5 is fun to drive. Really drive. It is easy to park and easy on the environment. Of the three versions, the Sport, Touring and Grand Touring, we advocate you take a look at the best price the dealer is offering of each model as we have found for only a few dollars a month more you can get a lot of extra features. Regardless, you get a handy vehicle that has wide opening side doors and a tight turning radius. Taking with the Mazda CX-5 this pair makes for a commonsense consideration for those who enjoy driving and saving money and aren’t afraid of not having the biggest gas guzzler on the block. Mazda’s Family 10.



Listen to Your Dog: Safety and Travel Ideas

by The Car Family

For more reviews go to


Diary Entry 21000.7

I have asked my care giver for a walk or ride every day this week without luck. I have tried to remind him that the new Persian carpet is tempting, but he has ignored my threats. I have developed new plan: guilt.

Dairy Entry 210001.8

After reading about the Jewish Guilt Syndrome I have decided to give it a try. I think it has a good chance since Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide this year, probably for the last time in a million dog years. I have practiced my beaten dog look in front of the floor length mirror. I just have to remember not to be saucy.

Diary Entry 21000.9

It almost worked. He fetched my leash, checked two websites for good places to walk when suddenly the plan fell apart. Apparently, the Center for Pet Safety researched dog restraints and only one model they tested passed and I didn’t have it. On the other hand, the big guy did promise he would buy one. In the meantime, he grabbed a handful of his fast depleting cache of plastic grocery bags and took me for a walk around the neighborhood.  It felt good to make my marks in and proud to be a quadruped.


Diary Entry 21001.0

Life is good. I saw the big guy looking for ideas where to take me. I decided to help out and suggested he use the Yelp website. I love that name. He typed in the name of our city and asked for dog walks and out came the results with reviews and even photos.

I was pushing for the Cold Creek Trail and he caught my drift and agreed. Better yet, he ordered me the highly rated harness that The Center for Pet Safety mentioned. All I can say is that after looking at the restraint he bought me I was glad to be color blind. Oh, he did mention that since I was pushing a (muscular) 60 pounds that if I was not correctly fastened I could become a 2700 pound projectile if the car was in a crash doing 35 mph. I could have lived without that image. No wonder a thrash my legs when I nap.

Best Dog Friendly Cars

Diary Entry 21011.2

A new scent in the garage. I had noticed that the recycle bin had been especially full of colorful brochures of late and I can recognize images of cars. Good grief, I chased my share of them before I was picked-up by animal control and neutralized. Luckily, my new caretakers rescued me before long and here I am writing this post, which in my case, is a very clever title from a dog’s standpoint. Anyway, he narrowed the decision to three. The Mazda 5 is fairly inexpensive with easy to open slider doors and a low hop over entry height. I also liked the air outlets for the second row and the gas mileage was exceptional. The Mitsubishi Outlander has a third row of seats that can be folded down to provide ample storage space for a dog crate. This bargain priced SUV was another finalist until I advised the big guy that being in a crate wasn’t such a good idea as I could still be tossed around during an accident despite the 30 plus miles per gallon rating and noteworthy pricing. The same could be seen for the underrated Dodge Journey. Great value, plenty of features and room, and surprisingly easy to buckle-up in.  The finalist, much to my delight, was a Subaru Forester. Coincidentally, Subaru has several dog friendly options and sponsors The Center for Pet Safety. The Forester was fun to ride in and the all wheel drive opened up the possibility of reaching more adventurous trails. It also carried a 22/29 mpg rating. The elevated seating made it easier for me to check on what other dogs were cruising. And trust me, there were a lot of dogs, if you get my scent. My keeper loved the hill holder feature that held the car motionless on grades even with a stick shift, enabling the Subaru to start jerk free. And being jerk free is always a good thing. By the way, the local Ontario Subaru dealer refused to let me have my picture taken in at the dealership. We walked around the block and the Mazda dealership was happy to let us there. Thank you Romero Mazda and move Mazda into the top spot for dealer friendliness.

Best People Gift

Diary : Today

I decided to splurge on a gift for my keepers and pointed out the MapMyDogWalk free app to them. It tracks the distance I drag them, locates dog parks and they can even share my deeds with others. In the meantime, I think I’ll go outside and sniff around for Tribbles.

For free teaching materials go to

outlanderside                                             2013 Mazda5

Mitsubishi Outlander                                                         Mazda 5


2013 Dodge Journey

Subaru Forester                                                    Dodge Journey


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