June 2012

Golden Doodle and LabraDoodle: Could these be the Perfect Family Pet?

by The Car Family

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We can’t help but be amazed at Man’s creativity when it comes to canines. Dogs were the first animals domesticated and with that came the ability for Man to control cattle, goats, sheep, as well as being warned of potential dangers. Since all dogs come from the much maligned wolf, one has to wonder how this transformation from wild animal started. Research done in Russia on foxes showed that there were some that showed more inclination to interact with humans. These were bred and the result was a less dominant animal that wagged its tail and showed changes in its smell among other things. It was an amazing study, especially when it is known that nearly all domesticated animals have drooping ears a trait not shared by wild foxes and wolves.

With a life span of about ten years for some breeds there was the possibility to experiment with various traits and come up with canines for various purposes. Some were breed to hunt rodents, others to protect livestock and lapdogs were even used to attract fleas away from humans.

Today, the world’s largest dogs weigh over 300 pounds and the smallest just a few pounds and yet they are from the same wolf stock. Indeed, Man is still at it and within the last couple of decades a new breed has emerged that combines the traits of three of the most popular and intelligent dogs. The new breed can be called a Labradoodle or a Goldendoodle, depending on whether a Labrador Retriever or a Golden Retriever was bred with a poodle. Making this pet even more unique is the fact they come in three sizes; Miniature, Small Standard, and Large Standard. The smaller versions weigh up to 35 pounds and the larger ones can exceed 100 pounds, but are usually weigh around 50 pounds. In other words, there is one size Doodle for nearly every household. No other breed has this range of sizes.

They are very affectionate and gentle dog and are usually highly social and get along well with everyone. They can be good good watchdogs, but usually are into tail wagging rather than barking. Another valuable aspect if the fact the Goldendoodle is a non-to light shedders and thus may do well with families that have allergies as they have less dander.


The Doodles are called designer dogs or hybrids because you never know which characteristics from the two parent dogs will be exhibited. Those variables includes coat color, type of hair, and size. The two traits they appear to all have is that of an exceptional intelligence and being family friendly. They also need exercise and are very light on their paws. The Goldendoodle are easily to train and respond well to positive reinforcement. They usually love to swim, and they are good retrievers to the point that you may end up with a dead gopher or bird on your doorstep. Good dog.

The Goldendoodle coat can be wavy or curly or both and they need to be have their hair trimmed regularly. Cost collars can be caramel, white, red, black or a combination and they need to be brushed often. The cost of trimming and maintenance can average over $50, but if you aren’t fussy, you can do it yourself once the dog has been gotten used to the process and doesn’t mind being laughed at on visits to the dog park.

So why consider a Doodle? Well there are a great many dogs at shelters and we have rescued five of them. However, the non-allergenic hair, intelligence, cheerful nature, and their ability to get along with other animals, including young children, and availability in various sizes make it attractive. However, this is a breed-in-progress and, as such every dog in every litter may be different. It is not like buying a pure breed dog that have been created over the the centuries for certain traits. As such, it is best to buy from a reputation breeder or institution.

Here are some other facts that might bring this place this breed on your radar: There are backcross puppies that means that the dog can be 1/4 Golden Retriever and 3/4 Poodle, for example. A F2 is the result of a Goldendoodle bred to a Goldendoodle. Before you consider a Doodle, do your homework. The Doodle has a tremendous number of positives going for it, but it all depends on its parents and the reliability of the breeder.

Doodle Rescues


Doodle website


Golden Doodle Video on Animal Planet


Kia vs. Hyundai: Looks are Everything


The Car Family

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Forget what your mother told you, looks are everything. At least that is the case when it comes to comparing these two Korean built hybrids. Although there are small differences in features, interior appointments, and cost, they both have the same DNA. The result is a win-win for buyers who just might want to ignore outward appearances and go for the best deal. We liked the handling of the Kia and the ride of the Hyundai, but there were only minor differences.

As for real world driving, both cars have the same powertrain, the same hesitancy when shifting between electric and gasoline power, and abundance of standard features. These cars can easily take you to Las Vegas and back and still have enough fuel for a trip or two to Angel Stadium. They are rated at 40 mpg on the highway, but expect 35 mpg if you don’t stick to the posted speed limits.

The sedans use a 2.4-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine, complemented by an electric drive system using a 34-kilowatt lithium polymer battery pack that weighs just 96 pounds. The combined 204 horsepower is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The real surprise is that the Sonata’s battery pack has been given a lifetime warranty, according to Hyundai. That is remarkable as most battery packs cost several thousand dollars and another thousand to install.

As a full hybrids these cars can use either the gas engine, the electric motor, or both, and don’t require plug-in charging. They have a fairly tidy turning radius and visibility is good to the front and sides. The rear vision is more limited. There is an abundance of standard equipment, which has become the hallmark of this manufacture. Our test vehicle had the optional traffic data system that provides suggestions for detours when traffic is blocked. You can even get voice command. There is a lot of technology here that rivals the much more expensive Ford products, the these cars have superior warranties.

Mom’s view: I didn’t like the hick-up I felt when the computer software didn’t seem to know which gear and which mode, electric or gas or both, to use when freeway driving. It doesn’t take long to get become acclimatized to it, but the Toyota’s are smoother. Interestingly, the car could revert to electric only mode even when cruising on the freeway. The interiors are very different and I liked the Sonata’s better. However, it is a matter of taste and the fit and finish were excellent for the price for the Kia and the Hyundai. You lose some trunk room because of the battery placement,but that is the only negative (pun intended). Roomy, family friendly, and with an excellent warranty, it is difficult to resist especially with the Kia/Hyundai legendary warranty. A worthy effort.

Dad’s view: The Kia wants to play, the Hyundai would prefer you stayed on the freeway and enjoyed the ride. Simply pressing a button puts the car into “Blue Drive” which means the software is doing all it can to increase miles per gallon. The accelerator pedal felt a little softer in this mode, but I didn’t notice much difference other than that. Lithium polymer battery packs are expensive, we know, we have been into electric powered vehicles for nearly a decade now. That Hyundai warranty takes a lot of the fear out of hybrid ownership. Although we like Toyota’s hybrid line-up better, it does not offer the unique options these sedans offer or the trendy styling. These cars should be on test drive list if you need a one car does it all sedan.


Young working man’s view: The electronics are first rate and the Infiniti audio system and the Bluetooth capabilities are going to tax your teenager’s patience as they provide such an array of choices from phone to music to traffic. Now which one gets the priority? I think we know. I like the Kia best. The looks grab you, and the interior is a little, ah, more youthful. The 4.3-inch color LC D touch screen, rear view camera and voice recognition are all worthwhile. These are truly unique hybrids.

Working woman’s view: I like the ouch sensitive screen and the fact you can get five adults in without much hassle. The Eco scoring system must be seen. It sort of makes driving the car efficiently like a computer game. The seats are a bit thin on padding, but easy to adjust. The ergonomics are first rate. These cars made you feel comfortable when you are driving. Almost everywhere you look there are thoughtful touches such as an abundance of storage nooks. They even have an engine sound system that lets pedestrians know you are coming when the car is running in its siletn electric mode. I also liked the heated and cooled seats, excellent crash scores, and the many standard safety features. A feel good car.

Family conference: There are alternatives, such as the Toyota Prius and the newly redone Camry hybrid, but for fuel economy and standard features the Kia and Hyundia should be on anyone’s short list of family oriented hybrids. Before you drive on check out the manufacture websites so that you can see the option packages. However, in the end, as always, it will probably be the looks that seals the decision. Sorry, Mom.

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Infiniti’s M35 Hybrid: You Can Have it All

by The Car Family

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This sedan flies and no one notices. After all, it is a hybrid that yielded 33 mpg in daily driving. The reality is you can get to 60 mph in just over five seconds while sitting on heated and cooled seats, surrounded by a stunning leather and wood trimmed interior, and getting traffic and weather reports.

Expensive, yes, at $53,700, but worth it if you love to drive, need room for five, don’t like refueling costs, and enjoy understatement.

At first blush, we weren’t impressed. This car looked like an M 35 Infiniti and that model cost less. Sure the seats were comfortable, and the fit and finish similar to other luxury cars, but nothing really engaged the love at first site mode. We spent a full ten minutes trying to figure out what all the buttons, gauges, and other controls were before the urge to push the start button overcame our better judgment. The rpm and speedometer pointers swung up and down. The instrument panel lighted-up and that was it. Just silence. Unnoticed at first was a small readout informing us the car was ready. So, with some hesitation, we put the car in reverse and the huge monitor flashed an image of what was behind the Infiniti. Very nice.

Under electric power, we drove away. It was an eerie feeling, but it didn’t last. When we turned on the air-conditioning the gas engine came to life. From that moment on it was play time. The information system provides a plethora of data and you can even adjust the accelerator pedal feel. The heated and cooled seats were the best we’ve tested and there was always that feeling of luxury. Overall, this was one of the few cars we have tested that we would not mind keeping. The M 35 hybrid does it all.

Mom’s view: I had a difficult time trying to squeeze my hand between the seat and door to adjust the rake, lumbar and height settings. Good thing my husband didn’t buy me a large diamond ring. (Marry a teacher and those things happen.) The front and side visibility were good, crash scores excellent, and it was easy to park. The exterior does not draw attention to itself, but the interior is gorgeous. There was nothing not to like in this car. The acceleration is exhilarating, the ride firm, but not harsh, and there are plenty of storage. Among the unique safety features were blind spot and lane departure warning and intervention systems, and excellent headlights and interior lighting. My only concern was the smallish trunk due to the the battery pack. The best thing I can say it that it made me feel good, and that makes it worth every penny.

Dad’s view: The Infiniti has a heavy feel, but the suspension has a sporty nature. It is an excellent combination for most drivers. Brake feel is a bit different as the Infiniti uses regenerative brakes to help recharge its batteries. One thing for certain, the car can stop in a hurry. I came upon a texting driver who, without warning, decided my lane was better. I hit the brakes hard and the Infiniti was magnificent. Very little front end dip and the ABS enabled me to steer clear. Driving into the San Bernardino mountains brought out the best in the Infiniti. The instant power made passing slowing traffic safe. Truly a sedan for those who are looking for some fun, some substance, and good fuel economy in a safe package.

Young working woman’s view: The price may appear a little dear, but the standard equipment is abundant. Outside of the sophisticated hybrid system Infiniti offers iPod slots, USB integration, Bluetooth speakerphone, a six speaker stereo system, single in dash CD player and XM satellite radio. If you opt for the premium packages you own a high resolution 8-inch monitor, a Bose 5.1 audio package with speakers in the seat, and voice controls among other goodies. The system provides you with traffic conditions around your location and alerts you to extreme weather conditions. The price is too much for me, I prefer the smaller G37 model, but when I marry right this would be on my gift list.

Young working male’s view: It is all about numbers. Infiniti’s hybrid system uses a seven-speed automatic transmission and a the drivetrain produces 360 hp at 6,500 rpm. The EPA grants it ratings of 29 mpg combined. We always got better fuel numbers.The M can use the electric only mode for up to 50 percent of the time. The Infiniti has a 1.4-kwh lithium-ion battery pack that can provide acceleration up to 60 mph and be engaged up to 50 percent of driving time. There’s more numbers, but the best one may be that it is a Guinness record holder for the world’s fastest hybrid in a quarter mile at just over 13 seconds.

Family conference: Not many cars offer you understated elegance, performance, and the ability to get over 30 mpg while it keeping you informed of world events. If that isn’t enough, the Infiniti offers XM Radio, a Zagat restaurant guide, and a 9.3GB Music Box hard drive. You can have it all.

The Low Down on Hybrids

by The Car Family

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There are over 35 hybrids on the market from the new Toyota Prius C for under $20,000 to the Lexus and BMW hybrids at over $100,000. Gas mileage varies all hybrid models can vary from  over 50 to 21 mpg depending on the size of the vehicle and its use of the electric motors. What they promise is more power for less petroleum dollar. They aren’t offering a free lunch, but a healthier one. Most of these vehicles are capable of a 500 round-trip without even looking at the gas gauge. In town they are even more fuel friendly in daily commutes with 40 mpg and up figures common.

As usual, there is a trade-off and that is the fact the battery packs wear out and can be expensive to replace. Toyota charges about $2500 plus installation, but that expense could go down over time. Kia and Hyundai have announced a limited life time warranty on its’ batteries. Regardless, with gas around $4 a gallon and high resale values on used hybrids, it is financially well worth your time to consider a hybrid.

Kia’s Optima and Hyundai’s Sonata hybrids combine a 2.4-liter engine with a six-speed automatic transmission, a 30-kw electric motor and lightweight lithium polymer batteries to provide 206 horsepower and 35 city /40 highway and 37 mpg combined figures. Both have lots of features but the trunk space is limited.

If you need a tough SUV, Volkswagen’s new Touareg hybrid is an option worth considering. It is expensive, but very fast, especially considering it is rated at 20 mpg city and 24 highway and has a 7700 pound towing rating.

Toyota’s gas savers are the Prius and the plug-in Prius. Both are gas misers with 50 mpg ratings. We were able to get over 60 mpg with the new plug-in version. Easy to love, but if you need more room the Prius V is a larger version with a station wagon design. It will cost you ten miles per gallon, but may be worth it for those who need to haul those Mastiffs to the vet.

The Chevrolet Malibu Eco assist has 25/27/37 ratings. The Malibu is am excellent family sedan and the interior and ride are exception for a vehicle priced around $26,000. General Motors calls this a soft hybrid because the battery pack alone cannot power the sedan. The interior is grand and the ride exceptional. This is perhaps the best family sedan Chevrolet has ever made for the price.

At the other end of the family hauler hybrid category is the Infiniti M35h Hybrid with a MSRP north of $50,000 and fuel economy ratings of 27/29/32 mpg city/highway. The rear wheel drive Infiniti is another very fast hybrid and can use its battery power for long periods of time in traffic. It handles well and the leather-wrapped interior is very smart. Perhaps the best of the luxury hybrid sedans and certainly one of the fastest ever with 0 to 60 times in a little over five seconds. Wow. And we got 32 mpg in mixed driving. A wonder car.

Mom:s view: With all new Toyota Camry hybrid raises the bar for family hybrids with a starting price around $26,000 and room for five adults. It clearly is better than the Ford products at this moment. I didn’t like the Kia or Hyundai as much as the Prius plug-in and the Chevrolet. If I just wanted to save on gas I would get the Prius, if I wanted more comfort the Chevrolet would be my choice.The Kia and Hyundai are good looking, easy to use, but not as smooth as the others. No doubt the non-hybrid versions are nearly as frugal and less expensive.

Dad’s view: The Touareg was a wonder. It is very powerful and handles any conditions you can throw at it with ease. This Volkswagen is loaded with special features that makes it ideas for those with homes in the the mountains or who like off-roading. It has a very large fuel tank which can make most weekend trips fill-up free. However, my favorite was the Toyota Prius plug-in. If you stick with the base model it is $33,000, but you lose your spare tire as the extra battery pack goes there. We drove one to Santa Barbara and back and had over 100 miles left and the gas tank only holds 10.6 gallons.

Young working woman’s view: Call me stuffy, but I love the Infiniti and its glorious interior and peppy ride. This car is luxurious with just the right touch of dignity and economy to justify the expense. The reality is that the Kia or Hyundai are more in my price range. I really like the Hyundai best in looks and feel. The transmission was a bit hesitant at times, but the exterior, ride, and cost make it well worth the payments. If I had a family the Chevrolet would easily be my choice. It is the only one that really makes it easy to put in a car seat outside of the mundane Camry and expensive Infiniti. However, if I had the means the glorious interior and jet like performance of the Infiniti would be in under my car port and a lucky girl I would be.

Infiniti Interior

Young working male’s view: I like the look of the Kia, but the handy nature of the Chevrolet makes it my choice in terms of pricing, mileage and interior space. Before you go car hunting I would spend some time getting a fix on what options you want because these hybrids are pretty well loaded and so spending extra may not be necessary.

Family conference: The average commute for readers is over 40 miles and with weekend trips to the beach putting 20,000 miles a year on a vehicle is not uncommon. If that is the case these hybrids could save you a couple of thousand dollars a year on fuel.

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Ideas for students who finish early

by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz


One of the most consistent problems for teachers is the decision of what to offer students who finish their work early. In could be as simple and unrewarding as more work or as motivating as solving problems that are related to the assignment or what has been studied in class. Regardless, the work that has been completed needs to be checked for accuracy to make sure the objectives of the lesson were reached. Another area of concern is that the activity does not disturb other students and is not so attractive that students rush through their work to participate. Also be aware that students who don’t finish rapidly may resent those that do and so the activities should not be considered “fun” but provide more depth to the lesson.

A little bit more time intensive is to offer the students a chance to write a letter for information to a state or national travel agency or even a sports team and ask for a decal or other item. The teacher needs to proofread the letter, but they can be sent be email or regular mail. Here is a list of sports teams:

Have an appropriate jigsaw for them to work on individually or as a team. When these are completed they can be glued together and framed and given to the students as gifts at the end of the year.

Depending on he grade level, have appropriate reading books. In each book is a card and the students need to answer the questions on the card and give it to you when they have finished. The questions should include fact based questions, but just as importantly, they should have opinion questions such as , “What do you think the heroes most important decision was?” They hand the card to the teacher who keeps it in a file. At the end of the year the teacher hands back the cards to the students so that can add to their reading file in subsequent years.

Another good approach is to have the students work on word games or puzzles. There are a great many and here are some links to such printables. Students can also create crossword puzzles for other students as well using the subject matter being covered in class.

Allowing students time to finish homework is a frequently used option, but

Working on breaking a code. For younger learners: http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/braingames/codebreaking/codebreaking.htm

click on Chiefs of State. Use search engine word “codes” and when the list comes up click on code one. The site has five codes and answers.

File games are another good activity. Here is an abundant listing of ideas:

Some bulletin board ideas


Create an online book

They can use provided artwork and write their own stories and keep them online. Preview work first.


Have the students listen to stories done by professional readers. Have students use headphones and write a summary


Write and post a book review on a bulletin board is another idea that works for all grade levels. But,  read them first.

List of ideas for early finishers


Sites for students who finish early

For younger students