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Weston mothers offer cook book for families

 Theresa Luu and Mirela Marku authored “Mother & Son Kitchen Book Club: Stories and Recipes for Hungry Minds.”

Theresa Luu and Mirela Marku authored “Mother & Son Kitchen Book Club: Stories and Recipes for Hungry Minds.”

KITCHEN NUTRITION: Between her two sons' school, homework, activities, play dates, and social gatherings, Theresa Luu of Weston said home-cooked meals haven't always been a priority. It gave her pause, however, when her second grader answered in school that his favorite meal was chicken nuggets with ketchup.

“I was so worried about academics that I didn't give enough thought to nutrition,” Luu said of the quickly assembled meals, grocery store-prepared foods, and restaurant takeout upon which her family had been relying. “I was more concerned with getting something on the table than teaching them the value of food basics and cooking.’’

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Luu shared her frustration with her friend, engineer Mirela Marku of Weston, who in turn expressed her wish that her three boys would read more.

The conversation sparked the idea for their new activity book, “Mother & Son Kitchen Book Club: Stories and Recipes for Hungry Minds.”

The book incorporates the strengths of Luu, a former elementary school teacher, reading specialist, and school administrator, and Marku, a creative and passionate cook. For example, a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs is accompanied by a science lesson on the digestive system. The process of making homemade bread is compared with the lesson in the story The Tortoise and the Hare that “slow and steady wins the race.’’

Luu said her goal is for families to spend more quality time together while developing healthy eating and life habits. She also hopes they will keep the book as a keepsake journal. It features plenty of recipes, but also has room for notes, sketches, and photographs.

“The transformation in our family has been amazing," she said. “It can happen to you, too!’’

Luu and Marku will host a free cooking workshop for parents and children age 5 and older on Friday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Wellesley Free Library (530 Washington St.), and on June 5, from 2:30 to 4 p.m., at the Newton Free Library (330 Homer St.). For more information, visit motherandsonkitchenbookclub.com.

WIN WIN: As director of the Opportunities and Visions program at Charles River Center in Needham and Natick, Patrick Palmaccio said he is always looking for volunteer opportunities to broaden the experiences of the nonprofit social service organization's adult clients with developmental disabilities.

Currently, 65 participants in the integrated work and community inclusion program divide their time among 16 sites. At Greyhound Friends Inc. in Hopkinton, for example, volunteers clean food dishes and water bowls, tidy blankets and bedding, and feed, walk, and play with the dogs waiting for adoption.

Palmacchio said volunteers gain job training skills and new social connections while giving back to the community. Louise Coleman, executive director at Greyhound Friends, also sees benefits on both sides.

“The Charles River volunteers seem to really enjoy interacting with the dogs at Greyhound Friends and giving the dogs treats and fresh water,’’ she said. “The dogs benefit because they meet new people and like the attention the volunteers give them.’’

Activities at other sites include delivering Meals on Wheels, stocking shelves at a food pantry, preparing food at a senior center, assisting with a high school recycling program, assembling donated items in back-to-school backpacks, sorting clothing at thrift stores, and helping senior citizens with their shopping.

For more information, call the Charles River Center at 781-972-1000cq or visit charlesrivercenter.org.

FROM THE TOP DOWN: Antibullying specialists Stephanie Jones , and Richard Weissbourd , both of Cambridge, will address the next Walden Forum at 7:30 p.m. on Monday in the 1815 First Parish Meetinghouse, located at the intersection of routes 20 and 27 in Wayland center.

In their presentation, “Preventing Bullying Begins With Us ­— Continued,’’ they will discuss the actions of bullies, the reasons behind them, the effects of bullying, ways to prevent it, and possible responses for taking a stand.

On Feb. 29, Jones and Weissbourd helped orchestrate the Harvard Graduate School of Education's launch of Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation to create a culture of kindness, bravery, acceptance, and empowerment.

Jones is an assistant professor in the Prevention Science and Practice Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Weissbourd is a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he directs the Human Development and Psychology Program, and is a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

The Walden Forum is a free public lecture series. For more information, e-mail info@waldenforum.org or visit waldenforum.org.

HEAD OF THE CLASS: Middlesex Community College student Mark Valentine of Maynard earned a bevy of honors and scholarships from a nationwide competition honoring two-year college students in the April 23 edition of USA Today.

Valentine was named to the annual All-USA Community College Academic Team for outstanding intellectual achievement and leadership, earning a $2,500 cash award. As the highest scoring student in Massachusetts, he was named a Coca-Cola New Century Scholar, earning a $2,000 scholarship.

Valentine was also named to the All-Massachusetts Academic Team, along with Kerri Lynne Sullivan of North Andover and Lowell residents Joseph Assenza and Rebekah Dufrene. In addition, he was named a Guistwhite Scholar by Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for two-year colleges, which comes with a $5,000 award for completion of baccalaureate studies.

A professional chef and caterer, 49-year-old Valentine will graduate in May with an associate degree in Liberal Arts Sciences. He plans to transfer to a bachelor's degree program this fall and major in education.

FIRST ANNIVERSARY: The Hopkinton Center for the Arts recently celebrated its first birthday with a cake and look back at its accomplishments.

A multimedia facility supporting visual and performing arts, arts education, and special events, the center assembled a board of directors, appointed staff, increased program offerings by 30 percent, and raised more than $600,000 through a capital campaign.

Additionally, the organization now hosts two festivals: the Spring Arts Festival on Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 98 Hayden Rowe St. in Hopkinton; and the Summer Music Fest, which will feature local musical artists in a community festival.

“This has been a very exciting and momentous year for the HCA, and we couldn't be more pleased with all that we've accomplished,’’ said executive director Kelly Grill.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@globe.com.
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