Pumpkin Pie Popcorn

By: Amy Dienta

Fall is here, which means it’s officially pumpkin season! Try this new take on classic popcorn for a festive treat the whole family will love.

PumpkinPumpkin Pie Popcorn


- 1 cup popped popcorn (I pop it in a pan on the stove)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 5-ounce package glazed pecans
- I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray butter.


1. Put popcorn into large bowl.
2. Stir sugar and pumpkin pie spice together in a separate small bowl.
3. Spray popcorn liberally with butter spray and toss to coat evenly. Add pecans.
4. Sprinkle popcorn and pecans with sugar and spice mixture, and toss until popcorn is well coated.

What are your favorite pumpkin-flavored treats?


We’ve Got a New Look!

Welcome to the new Merrimack Valley Moms Blog!

The Merrimack Valley Moms Blog is now part of our new online family health community, “Our Circle of Moms.” This new community is a valuable resource for parents, featuring expert advice from physicians at Lowell General Hospital and Floating Hospital for Children, popular family heath topics, and a way to connect with other parents in the community.

Just as before, you can read blog posts from our Merrimack Valley Mom Bloggers and comment on their posts. But on Our Circle of Moms, you can also get even more involved in the conversation. Here you can find and participate in relevant discussion threads, or start a new one; discover local events in the community; be entered into weekly prize giveaways for those who comment and share, and more. To join the conversation, visit our forum!

We’d love to hear your feedback on our new website! Let us know what topics you would like to see covered on the forum or in physician blog posts. We’d also love to hear if you have questions about how to use the site or have ideas about additional features you’d like to see.

Thanks for visiting. We look forward to becoming part of your circle!


By: Sue Anganes

homeschoolingSummer melts away and September slowly emerges; cooler, with clear blue skies, and the smell of wood smoke in the air. Schoolbooks are open and it’s time to buckle down and get back to work at the dining room table. This year I am entering my twenty-fifth year of homeschooling. My two youngest sons, Ray and Ted, are my last students. They are in eleventh and eighth grade this year.

My style of teaching has evolved over the years; I am more relaxed and less stressed now. I have learned how to draw out strengths from each of my children. I enjoy seeing their interests and helping them move toward their future goals in life. To me, homeschooling has been much more of a process of developing human character rather than pressure towards academic excellence. Thankfully, my oldest kids have all excelled in their college studies, but I attribute that to their work ethic rather than my teaching. I have always enjoyed having my children home with me during the school year, and I would never trade the time I had with my oldest four while they lived and studied at home.

This September, I am excited about my school year. I’m going to treasure these last few important years with my boys. I hope all of you have time to treasure with your little ones this fall, whether it is helping them with homework, reading a story before bedtime, or taking time to play in the park together. The simple day- to-day things of life are of great importance and make an enormous impact in their future.

Becoming Empty Nesters

By: Abigail Ancherico, Guest Contributor

Empty nestDid you recently send your kids off to college or help them move into their very own apartment? After 18 (or more) years of parenting, it can be hard to let go. Getting used to a house with no kids can be an emotional roller coaster. Hopefully these tips will help you navigate the ups and downs letting your kids move on.

1. Talking to other parents:

When looking for advice and comfort, it can be helpful to reach out to parents who recently sent a child off to school. Being able to relate to other families with similar experiences will put you at ease to ask questions that any worried parent may have.

2. Understanding your child’s anxiety:

Your child is in the middle of letting go of the past and moving on to an exciting future. During this confusing transition, it is important to understand your child may anxious and nervous for what’s ahead. This could also explain their short temper or desire for independence.

3. Fulfilling your to-do list:

Once your child moves out, you may feel lost and unsure of how to fill the time. Redirect the focus onto yourself and your hobbies that you didn’t have time for when your kids lived at home. Make a list of hobbies, books, trips or house projects that will keep you busy.

4. Out of sight but not out of mind:

Maintaining balanced communication is key for the transitional period. Don’t be upset if your child doesn’t want to talk every day. New friends, demanding college course loads and the excitement of a new environment will keep them busy. But no matter how busy they are, all new college kids appreciate a care package or a letter to show they are missed.

How have you gotten used to an empty house? Share your favorite tips in the comment section below.

What’s in a Name?

By: Sue Anganes

Family immigration recordsOn August 28, 1909, my husband’s grandfather, Anastasios Andrew Anganes, arrived at Ellis Island, on the ship The SS Patris.  He emigrated from a little Greek village called Loganikos, and had set sail from Kalamata, Greece on August 13. It took him fifteen days to cross the Atlantic, reach New York City, and to make America his new home.

Anastasios settled in Lowell, married, and had a son. Following Greek tradition, he named his son after himself, only switching the first and middle name. His son (my husband’s father) was named Andrew Anastasios. When my husband was born, he was christened, Anastasios Andrew. Our oldest son was then named Andrew Anastasios. There are four generations of Anganes men (that I am aware of) that carried on this tradition of having the same first and middle names. I am not sure if my son, Andrew Anastasios, and his wife will continue with the tradition if they are blessed with a boy, but it would be nice. Of course, it is entirely their decision. (No pressure, Andrew and Amanda!)

My son, Andrew Anastasios, and his great grandfather, Anastasios Andrew also share something else in common. Andrew was married exactly one hundred-one years to the day after his great grandfather arrived on Ellis Island from Greece. This year, August 28, is the 105th anniversary of his arrival, and my son and his wife’s fourth wedding anniversary.

Ship Manifest Documents Hanging in our LivingroomNaming our children was always very important to us. We wanted to give our children names that would connect them to their family and their family’s history in a special and unique way. My mom was named Barbara Jean. I am Susan Jean, my daughter is Cassandra Jean, and her daughter (my granddaughter) is Amelia Jean. My second son was named Charles Raymond, after his great grandfather, Charles Raymond. My daughter, Anastasia Eleni, was named after my husband. Anastasia is the feminine form of Anastasios. Her middle name, Eleni, is the Greek form of the name Helen, which was her grandmother’s name. My son, Raymond, was named after my father, Raymond, and my youngest son, Theodore, was named after his Great Uncle Theodore, who served our country in WWII and paid the ultimate price for his service.

We have framed copies of the SS Patris’ manifest hanging on the wall of our living room. I gave them to my husband as a gift on Father’s Day a few years ago. They are a continual reminder of how one man’s journey across the ocean brought us to where we are today as a family. Our names and the names of our children carry the legacy of our family on to the next generation. Hopefully our legacy brings honor to those who came before us and offers an example to those who are after us.

Stay Organized During the Back-to-School Transition

By: Abigail Ancherico, Guest Contributor

school-busAs the lazy days of summer start winding down, it will soon be time to put away the beach towels and grab the book bags for school. This can be a challenging transition for the family but with these helpful tips you will feel organized and stress-free during the busy months ahead.

1. Have a positive attitude:

Talk about the fun and excitement of seeing old friends and making new ones. Transitioning from a carefree summer into a routine can be challenging but helping your kids get excited for a new year will make the process much easier.

2. Schedule a physical:

Visit the pediatrician to ensure vaccinations and physicals are completed and updated for the new school year. Not having medical requirements up-to-date may prevent your child from enrolling in school or participating in sports.

3. Establish a “get ready the night before” policy:

Getting everyone ready before school in the morning is a rushed process. It is important to establish a routine the night before for a smooth morning ahead. Pick out clothes, establish a bedtime, and determine a deadline when homework must be completed. This will prevent any last minute surprises when it’s time to head out the door.

4. Adjust sleep schedules:

Your kids will already be restless the night before school starts so making sure they are back to a normal bedtime routine a few days before is key for a well-rested start. If the summer has been filled with late nights and lazy mornings, make sure your kids are ready for an early to bed and early to rise routine.

5. Establish rules & schedules:

Determine wake up times, who will make lunches, when to shower and when to leave and pick up from school. If your child is riding the bus or in a carpool, make sure to establish schedules and safety rules beforehand for a smooth transition.

6. Organize school information:

From the start of the first day of school, you will be bombarded with papers your kids bring home. Go ahead and make a folder for school newsletters and other papers from teachers so they all stay in one place for quick reference.

7. Update the fall calendar:

With sports and school activities, your calendar will fill up fast. It’s important to put important dates on the calendar to prevent scheduling conflicts. School holidays, parent-teacher conferences, and sporting events are all dates sent out early so that your family can plan ahead.

Meet Our Soon-To-Be Merrimack Valley Moms Bloggers!


The results are in! After reviewing all of our outstanding contest entries, we have selected five local moms to join Sue Anganes, Amy Dienta, Sandy Egan and Dawn Thompson as featured bloggers on the Merrimack Valley Moms Blog. Congratulations to all of the women who have been selected to become Merrimack Valley Moms Bloggers! We can’t wait for our readers to get to know our new bloggers.

Below is a sneak peak at the women who will join our amazing group of Merrimack Valley Moms Bloggers:

  • Kate Henderson: A busy mom juggling studying for a second college degree, parenting two kids, and training for a marathon.
  • Michaelene Gaudet Koskela: Michaelene left her corporate job to care for her sons and is exploring a new life as a stay-at-home mom.
  • Jacqueline Koutsoufis: As mom of five, there’s never a dull moment in Jacqueline’s house!
  • Danielle McFaddon: A mom balancing life with a baby and working full time as the President of the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce.
  • Vallery Schofield-Miller: A Merrimack Valley native who loves sharing her parenting challenges and successes with her peers.

Each mom will write one to two posts per month, beginning in September. The topics will vary greatly, depending on the personalities of the bloggers and their range of daily experiences in the community. Please be sure to stay tuned and to learn more about our new Merrimack Valley Moms bloggers in the coming weeks! Congratulations to our new bloggers and thank you to everyone who entered!



Southwest Style Egg Cups

By: Amy Dienta


Looking for a creative breakfast that your family will love? Try out these Southwest Style Egg Cups! As an added bonus, you can freeze the egg cups in ziplock bags and reheat them in microwave for 30 seconds – perfect for mornings when you’re in a rush!


  • 1 carton of southwest style egg whites
  • 1 wheat English muffin, toasted
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut up the toasted English muffin in to cubes.
  3. Mix all 3 ingredients together.
  4. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.
  5. Ladle mixture into muffin tins.
  6. Cook at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until the eggs are brown on top.

Makes 6 egg cups. You can freeze in ziplock bags and reheat in microwave for 30 seconds