Healthy Quinoa Salad Recipe

Back to School is starting! You’ve got this. You’re determined to make ahead healthy meals that enable good choices and keep you on track for your busy life. Meals you can grab and go, grab and FEEL GOOD about! When you have healthy foods prepped ahead of time you’re setting yourself, and your family up for success. This healthy quinoa salad is great to make in advance. The flavors only get better as they marinate in the fridge. Feel free to use this recipe as a guide. It’s the perfect chance to experiment in the kitchen. Leave out any ingredients you’re not crazy about or don’t have in your pantry, and add a few of your personal favorites. Except for cooking the quinoa, you don’t even need to measure, unless that’s your savvy style. Go ahead and give yourself the freedom to chop and throw in the pot. While you’re at it cook up a few other soups, grains or salads in a jar. Trust me you’ll be so happy you did. Just think how pretty your fridge will look full of vibrant healthy dishes. You Go Girl! Healthy Quinoa Salad   Yields: 6 servings Ingredients: 1 cup quinoa 2 cups vegetable stock 2 roma tomatoes, diced ½ cup sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla (about ½ an onion) ½ cup pepper, diced (you choose your favorite hot or sweet varieties) 2 cloves garlic, minced 3 Tbsp. parsley, chopped 1/3 cup raw cashews, roughly chopped 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds ¼ cup lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon) ½ tsp. sea salt ¼ tsp. ground pepper   Directions: Rinse quinoa and set aside. Add vegetable stock to a medium size pot and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa to the vegetable stock, stir and cover. Turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove quinoa from heat; leave covered and let sit for 5 minutes. In a large mixing bowl add quinoa and all remaining ingredients, stir. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To Print, Email, or Text recipe click here.   With love, gratitude, and good vibes, Wendy Irene

A Poem on Motherhood - "I Do Mom Things"

The other day, just after I seasoned my chicken wings for stew, a poem popped out of nowhere and landed in my thoughts. The words flooded my emptiness so fast I had to put down my glass of red wine and grab a pen from the kitchen drawer. I ripped two sheets of paper from one of my daughter's marble writing books and set out to bring this poem from the nowhere into the here. I couldn't keep up with the words scrambling for the paper, but I didn't want to lose them so I scribbled as fast as I could. This poem feels real, tangible, and special to me because it expresses my thoughts of motherhood so plainly. Almost too plainly, but nonetheless, it is powerful to me. As with most of my poems they flow out after I think of the first line or title, and this one was no different. I edited the end a little, but for the most part there wasn't much scratching out or rewriting. I didn't change anything while transposing the poem from the paper to the computer screen. Writing about motherhood seems to be threading its way throughout a lot of my poetry these days. It comforts me to combine my love of writing with my love of being a mother. Being a mother and an artist is tantamount to my self-expression these days. I no longer make excuses. I find challenges easy to overcome because I have fallen in love with the different aspects of my personality. I'm not always a confident person or even an artist for that matter, but I know that poetry, and poems like this one in particular, stir things in me that can only be considered a shaking up of the soul. I was a little overcome with emotion as I read this poem out loud and I can't really explain why! The tears welled up in my eyes and settled there without falling. This poem will be one of those poems that I will remember where I was when I wrote it. It will be one of those poems that remind me that I was at a huge turning point in my life. There are times when I feel like a poem is stirring, but today wasn't one of those days so I am a little surprised that I gave birth to this one. I wasn't thinking of writing. I wasn't in a particularly creative mood, but unbeknownst to me, this was a day to write this special poem. An ode to being a mother. An ode to my beautiful little girl. I am grateful for the simplest things in life because they sometimes reveal what is begging to come through from the distant somewhere. I am grateful to the art of writing and the gift of being a poet today. This poem is who I am and represents the place where my trees touch the sky! "I DO MOM THINGS" I give baths and comb hair I clip finger nails and give kisses over eyelids I DO MOM THINGS I play with dolls and drink her emotions when she cries I hold her hand and watch kid movies I warm milk and ride bikes I volunteer at school I DO MOM THINGS I tuck her into bed and listen to her stories of the day I wake just before she does in the middle of the night every single time I watch her adjust to different things and watch her elegantly embrace change I tell her how proud I am of her every day I DO MOM THINGS I wash hair and teach her to read I am learning I pick her up from school and inhale her smile I cook dinner and paint pictures with Crayola paint I clean up messes and give big, fat, warm, hugs I DO MOM THINGS I LOVE THOSE BEAUTIFUL MOM THINGS BECAUSE THOSE BEAUTIFUL MOM THINGS ARE MINE (c)kgr2011 read more articles here: http://karengibsonroc.hubpages.com/

Healthy Ideas for Class Snacks!

Last year, my daughter started preschool and that was when it began: the crossfire of junk food, the inpouring of sugar, the onslaught of cookies and cupcakes and lollipops at every occasion, every celebration... seemingly at every turn. To be fair, it’s not as though I haven’t been part of the problem because let’s face it... who wants to be the mom that kills the bake sale? (Not me.) Then again, I’ve realized that being snack mom is about the bigger picture; it’s about making a statement and having an impact on the foods served in our children’s schools. And more than anything, it’s about demonstrating to kids the idea that healthy foods are every bit as much “fun” as sugary junk - and that cookies and cake do not a celebration make. So in an effort to eliminate the guesswork (since let’s face it, cupcakes are nothing if not a cinch), here are a few ideas for pulling off smart, healthy, playful and nut-free eats for the whole class. Snack time is an opportunity for learning, and this is our chance to teach kids good habits that last for a lifetime. Yogurt Bar with Toppings Like so many adults (ahem), kids LOVE toppings. So set up a yogurt bar! Bring Dixie cups and spoons for scoops of Greek yogurt (high in protein, low in sugar), and fill bowls with blueberries, strawberries, or other fruit. Then... let it rip!  Fruit Kabobs Here’s another chance to put kids in the driver’s seat-- and teach them about eating their colors! Cut up apples, bananas, and seedless grapes, plus any other fruits your kids love. Consider using plastic straws instead of skewers, and have kids design their own kabobs! For a summer-time variation, freeze bananas on sticks - YUM. Veggie Spring Rolls Use rice paper wrappers to roll up cucumber, carrot, and other veggies “egg roll” style. The best. Butterfly Bags Good things come in FUN packages! Keep it simple with fruits and veggies, but get creative with the packaging: use clothes pins on sandwich baggies to cinch the bag in the middle and make “wings”-- a butterfly! Seed and Fruit Mix Mix sunflower seeds and dried fruit for a nut-free trail mix! And go beyond snack mom by organizing a “nature walk” for the class. Each child should find several leaves; then use contact paper to make placemats for kids’ healthy snacks. Edible Jewelry For little ones, string puffs or Cheerios on yarn and make a healthy alternative to the classic “candy” necklace! Rice Cake Face Spread some cream cheese on a rice cake and bring your favorite dried fruits, seeds and veggies. Let the kids decorate their cake and eat it, too! Quick for Parents, Crafty for Kids Let’s be honest: Pinterest is both addictive and terrifying. While the fruit and veggie versions of Ernie and Bert are rad, the chances of whipping up 20 of these for a pack of three year-olds is not, shall we say, on the menu. So let the KIDS get creative instead! Cut up fruits and vegetables, and print out images from Pinterest for inspiration. Give every child a white paper plate for a canvas, and let them use a handful of colorful snacks to make their own shapes and characters! Take a picture of each children’s creation to hang on the wall. Snack Time Patterns Begin with a few different combos - like strawberries, blueberries and grapes. Start a pattern on each child’s plate and provide extra room for them to continue. Bake Sale Refresh Make it a “snack sale!” Round up your spare change, give a few coins to each child, and “charge” them for their healthy snacks. (We love carrots, blueberries, string cheese, and bowls with little price tags attached.) They’ll learn to count money, and you’ll be one step closer to coming up with a fresh take on that tired sugary staple of school. So smart!  

Decorating Your Child's Room with Confidence

What I have found out about being creative whether it be singing, cooking, painting, gardening , decorating or pretty much any artistic endeavor, it is always done better with confidence. When anything is done with confidence the viewer/audience can really feel the positive energy. Even when something goes wrong, it still can be a ‘tour de force’ if done with zeal. It reminds me of the scene in the movie about Julia Child where she says, and I am paraphrasing, “Never make excuses to your guests about the food you serve.”  What she means by this - and I am a firm believer - is to be confident! What you might think is a mistake or you might have done differently, nobody will notice or care. When it comes to decorating your child’s room, the formula is no different. Have courage, be creative, do whatever you want. There are really no rules!  Try to look at the room like a movie set and take it step by step as you layer the room first with paint colors then furniture placement, lighting, art and finally accessories. Color Scheme When I begin decorating a child’s room I usually start with the wall color scheme. I consult with the child, depending on his or her age, then look in a color deck and go for it. My advice here is just be a little careful about colors that are too bright or very dark and always paint the ceiling white. Put sample patches of colors on the walls to try it before you buy it. Maybe you want to paint several colors in the room. Sometimes it’s a good compromise to paint one wall that bright lime color your little girl is begging for with softer tones on the other walls. Maybe choose one wall to be painted with chalkboard paint. Another idea is to drape inexpensive fabric like scrim on one wall. It is so important to inspire your children to be creative. Furniture Arrangement When placing the furniture, try unique arrangements. Usually there are only one or two places the bed will fit. Start with the bed and then go from there placing the side table, dresser, bookcase, desk, etc… Another good idea is placing glass on top of a dresser or desk. This gives your child a place to put photos, art, and anything that is important to him while maintaining a clean look. Most rooms are very angular and because of this, I often like to put bookcases on the diagonal in a corner. This helps break up the monotony of a square room. Also, consider using unique items that are not typically used as furniture for the side tables. I have used small toy pianos, rolling tool bins, earthy tree stumps, upside down galvanized trash cans… have fun! Lighting When it comes to lighting, it is most important to have sufficient overhead lighting, preferably canned lighting, especially over the bed so your child can easily read at night. Next is finding some cool lighting fixtures for the side table lamp and the desk lamp and maybe a chandelier or overhead fixture. My experience tells me that these are all best used for mood lighting. A lot of great inexpensive lighting can be found at flea markets. Look for the fixture that is more art than lamp, something with a fun base and a funky shade or vice versa! Decorative Touches It is important when choosing your art and accessories that you are not “ decorating” with them. Everything you put on the wall should mean something to you and your child. It could be an old photo of Grandpa or Zayda blown up or something you saved from your childhood room, a framed letter or poem that you love. My wife and I just found the list of prospective boy and girl names we made before our first child was born (we decided to name him Emerson). We are framing it right now. The key to loving the room you decorate is loving the things you put in it. I can honestly say everything in our house I love...everywhere I look is something that has meaning to me. Be creative, be confident and be honest in your decorating and you and your child will love the room you end up with for many years to come!

Staying Out of Our Kids' College Applications

I swore I would not be the kind of mom who micro-managed my kids' college applications. No helicoptering for me. No sirree, I was too wise and evolved for that kind of shallow "my kids define me" mentality.My grandparents and my parents went to college. I went to college. My kids work hard and play hard at good schools; all predictors were excellent that my children would go to college too.That was the important thing - not WHERE my kids went to college. That would be their choice.  Neither my self-esteem nor the measure of my success as a parent would ever be wrapped up in a bumper sticker proclaiming my children's college acceptance.This week, my son is beginning his senior year in high school. Time to put my money where my mouth has been for the last 17 years.  And let's just say, it's not as easy as I thought it would be.My son is laid back, confident, and stubborn.  He has told me, in no uncertain terms, that he has heard me brag for 17 years that I would stay out of this process.  He tells me regularly that things are fine. That he is 100% on top of, and in charge of, the tests, applications, teacher recommendations, and deadlines.Funny, this doesn't stop be from bugging him. And worrying. Endlessly.I am a professional writer and editor, I remind my son.  Other parents would pay me good money to read their children's college essays.  Does he want me to look at his? At no charge?"Not really, Mom.  But thanks.  I'll let you know if I need help."And um, did I mention I'm a third generation legacy at Harvard College? You know, that nice school in Cambridge, Mass? Math is one of my son's stronger subjects, so I asked him to calculate what degree of Harvard legacy that makes him.  And did he want to look up the statistics on the improved chances of a fourth generation Harvard legacy getting accepted into, say, Harvard? And I slip in that I have given at least a small amount of money to Harvard every single year since the day I graduated. Which cannot hurt his chances."But Mom, you know, I'm not really interested in the Ivy League."To this, as a parent, I have no answer.Fortunately, even though I seem unable to follow my own advice, I have been able to hear advice from other kids.  Last spring, our school held an evening meeting where high school seniors offered advice to parents of rising seniors.  One particularly eloquent student explained how excruciating all the adult attention can be."Even our mailman asked me where I was applying and what my first choice was," he told us.His (very good) advice: before senior year starts, tell your parents in no uncertain terms who they can tell, and what they can reveal, about your college application process and choices.  Otherwise, he said, they will talk to you and everyone else about nothing else for nine months.  He pointed out that he and his friends were already obsessing about college. Endlessly.  It doesn't help anyone when parents obsess about something kids are trying hard not to obsess about.I am trying to follow his advice.Other pointers for parents: Try to ask about college only once or twice a week, not every day (or several times a day). Go away when early action/early decision results are announced so you don't have to run into other kids and parents who are finding out the emotionally laden news. Ditto for the day when regular acceptances are announced.  Otherwise, it will begin to feel that the point of every 18 year oldo's life is whether or not they got into their first choice.  Accepted or rejected.  A brutal, unnecessary, irrelevant label.I keep reminding myself: neither childhood, nor parenthood, is a competition.  I applied to and have already gone to college. My educational career is over.  My son's is about to start.  My job now is pure back up; doing nothing unless he asks for or obviously needs help.  Which you think might be easy.  But in some ways, for some parents, holding yourself back is harder than charging ahead full speed.

Is Stress Killing Your Diet?

The human body is an amazing machine. It has evolved to develop protective responses to stressors. Sure, the stress we experience today is much different than centuries ago (thank goodness we're not battling traffic and T-Rexes), but our bodies are programmed to respond in the same way. Your body sees fat as energy, and to your body "energy is life." Your body also sees stress of any kind as a threat. It really doesn't know the difference between being chased by a lion or having a fight with your boss. When your body is under attack from a stressor, it protects itself by storing energy as fat.  It does this by releasing the hormone, cortisol. Cortisol not only promotes fat storage, but specifically belly fat storage.  There are two types of stress: emotional and physiological. The stress most of us are familiar with is emotional. Between the phone, traffic and emails, it’s hard to get through any day without some kind of emotional stress. We accept it as part of our busy lives, and it’s our job to cope with it through exercise and healthy escapes like meditation or reading. Most of my clients are surprised to learn about the "silent" physical stressors that sabotage their weight loss efforts. Despite all of their efforts in the gym and eating the correct number of calories, they still can’t seem to lose weight. When they express their frustrations, I always ask about the physiological basics. In addition to oxygen, your body needs food, water, and sleep in order to survive. I ask, "Are you giving it what it needs?"  If not, it’s going to respond like it’s under attack.  Here's my checklist: Food This is for all you breakfast dodgers out there… Yes! You are sabotaging your diet by not eating in the morning. Your body doesn’t know when it’s getting its next meal so, in response, it will slow down your metabolism and store fat. The solution: Give your body something small… and often. I tell clients to take their 3 meals and split them in half. Eat half of your breakfast at 7, the other half at 9, and so on. Make sure you eat lots of lean protein and plenty of colorful fruits and veggies.  Eat more during the first half of the day than the second.  Water Your body needs water to survive. Most of us are dehydrated.  If your urine isn't a pale yellow, you are dehydrated and stressing your body out.  When you are dehydrated, not only will you store more fat, you will also retain water because your body will begin rationing it’s water consumption. Probably one of the quickest ways to see the scale move is to hydrate properly with 8 glasses of water every day. Sleep In addition to slowing down your metabolism, a lack of sleep could actually cause you to overeat. A recent study showed that the hormone, ghrelin, that is responsible for hunger increases with sleep deprivation. Ghrelin also promotes fat storage, specifically abdominal fat storage.  Yikes! Now you know, don't stress out about losing weight!  Once your body feels safe, it will start to let go of those extra pounds. Diets that are about deprivation don’t work. If you think of dieting as a time to take extra good care of yourself, you’ll see results much faster.

Bedtime Tips for Sleep-Deprived Mommies

Keeping our bodies strong, flexible and toned is key to great physical health, but not to be underestimated is the importance of quality sleep. We spend approximately a third of our life sleeping, during which our bodies repair, rejuvenate and reset mental and physical functionality. As a yoga instructor and practitioner, people assume uninterrupted deep sleep comes easily to me. After a long day of balancing teaching with hectic parenting responsibilities, I have no guarantee of a night of restful sleep. Like many people, often my mind continues to bustle with thoughts, and my body sometimes aches from the physical strain. By practicing mindful behaviors and creating a nurturing resting place, I’ve found greater peace and comfort in my sleep, which has benefited my life greatly. Here are a few tips I've found incredibly helpful to achieve the blissful slumber we all deserve. 1. Create a peaceful environment. My husband taught me to wind down the mind and body about 30 minutes to 1 hour before going to bed by shutting off all electronics, dimming the lights in the house, even turning off music. Especially avoid bright screens on computers, iPads, cell phones, which he believes stimulate the brain. 2. Sleep on a hypo-allergenic, firm, organic bed. One of my biggest sleep impediments was allergies, in addition to tossing and turning at night.   When I switched to organic and hypo-allergenic bedding my congestion cleared and the firm spinal support allowed me to sleep more deeply, and I didn’t wake up with the usually soreness and crick in my neck.  My husband (who also practices yoga) and I love our organic coconut fiber mattress. 3. Use meditative/relaxing breathing exercises. Find a comfortable seat, and for 1 to 5 minutes focus on elongating the breath, taking deeper breaths each time. Shift into a meditative breath: inhale for 7 seconds, hold breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds. Repeat this cycle 5 to 10 times. Next, lie down on your bed with butt against headboard, feet up the wall, let the blood circulate down. Stay there at least 60 seconds (maximum 3 minutes). From there, move gently to a savasana position on your back with pillows under your knees. Feel your body is getting lighter and lighter. Loosen your jaw, let go of tension, close your eyes. Don’t worry about your ability to fall asleep. 4. Watch what you eat. Avoid sugar consumption after dinner which includes staying away from fruit. Let your largest meal be breakfast, lunch a power meal that keeps you going, and dinner a “recovery” meal. Drinking lots of water and eating healthy contributes to sounder sleep.

Greek Yogurt - Creative Snack Recipes

Growing up Greek we always had Mom’s homemade yogurt in the fridge, usually eaten with a bit of honey.   Here are some other variations of yogurt snacks, meals and substitutions: Sour Cream Switch Yogurt can be your secret weapon against unnecessary fat and calories.  Substitute yogurt for sour cream, whipped cream, and mayonnaise when you are cooking at home.  You might not even notice the difference it tastes so good! Spicy Dip Mix a couple tablespoons of Greek yogurt, one tablespoon of hummus, a dash or two of cayenne pepper and a tablespoon hot sauce (amounts can vary based on your tolerance).  It is a great dip for cold or hot veggies. Sweet Breakfast Mix a cup of Greek yogurt or skim milk, a cup of oatmeal, a half cup of bran cereal, a tablespoon of ground flax seed, a dash of cinnamon and a little sugar free sweetener or sugar free maple syrup.  It can be a power packed breakfast to start your day or a great dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth. Craving Chocolate? To get your chocolate fix, without all the calories of a candy bar, combine one cup of Greek yogurt with two tablespoons of Hershey’s Cocoa powder (amount can vary to taste), add two teaspoons of sugar free sweetener (amount can very to taste), mix it up well and you have some delicious “chocolate pudding”. Dessert Delight! If you prefer something a little colder for your sweet tooth…try mixing a cup of Greek yogurt, a cup of berries (any berry frozen or fresh), a half cup bran cereal (for some crunch), a little sugar free sweetener.  This will definitely help your ice cream sundae craving! For a slight variation of my last one and to help out on those warm summer days, try mixing some chopped up fresh fruit with Greek yogurt.  Stir it up well, seal the container tight, and put it in your freezer for an hour.  You just made a nice scoop-able treat for you and your family! ENJOY!!!

The Single Mom's Guide to Surviving Back to School Season

Whew! We made it - another summer down as a single mom. You got them to summer camp, play dates, sleep overs and whatever else you could think of to keep them from drawing skull tattoos with permanent markers on each other (oh wait, mine did that) or painting the dogs fingernails (mine did that, too). Well, woo hoo anyway! We aren’t perfect, and they are alive aren’t they?! And so are you, barely… Now it’s back to school and life can go back to normal. This can be a good thing; maybe you’ll finally have time for that yoga class! But not so fast, my little lotus flower mama. When school starts, so does everything else! The ballet classes, t-ball, and school meetings…how do we actually have a peaceful life while driving in rush hour traffic, late for that ballet class or whatever it might be? One thing is for sure, you won’t have time for yoga. Sigh. I’m a single mom and after my divorce everything was tight: money was tight, time was tight, I was going nuts taking kids to school, working full time and then picking them up and driving them to this class or that class, then home for dinner, but not before that rushed, “OMG we don’t have any milk!” stop at the grocery store. Every minute of my day was spent doing things for everyone else. I began to look at my life and ask, “Do I need to be doing all this?” The short answer is no, you don’t.  How can you and your kids have an enriched yet peaceful lives? Here are three things I changed in my life and in doing so, created the peace I was looking for and time for a yoga class: 1. I stopped over-scheduling my kids. You know what? They will survive without doing every sport or type of dance and music. You did, didn’t you? I consulted with them, and we found one thing they wanted to try or loved. They do it and that’s it! One class a week for each of my kids. Less money, less time doing, and more time being something we all needed. Tip: If you can find a class that starts right after school and is part of the after-school program, they can stay. This gives you more time before you have to pick them up and is usually less expensive. 2. I started a monthly Friday night hang out with my kids’ friends and their parents. Most of us have friends with kids and I love to be social but babysitters can be expensive. The grown ups get to have grown up time and the kids entertain themselves. Sometimes we had 10-12 kids at my house! Two parents took care of the kids’ meal and everybody brought something to eat and drink. And when the parents finally got used to the rules, this became a highlight of our month. It’s awesome to have a village. Tip: There is no plan, no crafts or games to manage, just kids figuring it out on their own. This includes arguments. Believe me, if you leave them alone they will work it out. I did have a parent-approved movie picked out so when things got out of hand, I could coral them in living room for some popcorn and chill time. 3. I started a babysitting club. Since I now had a great community of parents around my kids, we started sharing babysitting duties. One Friday night a month, I had upwards of 7 kids at my house. I really enjoyed hanging out with them and I learned a lot about what was going on with my kids. I got to know their friends and what they were like. I usually had an activity or two and a pre-approved movie, but often they just played games on their own. Tip: The babysitting club also meant that I often got two or three Friday nights a month where I could go out, so schedule your hot dates accordingly! The main thing was that I figured out that finding peace started with me. I needed to put me in the equation and my kids needed some peace, too. We all needed some time to just be. I needed to remember I wasn’t alone and I needed to be creative. Think “community” and build one. I took on the “less is more” mentality, and in doing so, I found more time and money, more fun and more love, and a lot less “OMG! Milk!” moments.

Triple F (Fennel, Frisee and Fruit) Salad

I love fennel, cooked or raw!   My French family also uses the stalk to add to a large pitcher of water.  It's beautiful, smells fresh of licorice, and is a great drink for the tummy! Ingredients 3 fennel bulbs 4 heads of frisee (you can substitute endives if you want) 5 tangerines   Directions Thinly slice the fennel bulbs and wash.  Keep the stalks for your water pitcher! Chop the heads of frisee in half. Peel the tangerines.  If you choose to use canned sweet tangerines instead, drain and rinse first to get rid of any added sugar. Toss all ingredients together with my French dijon shallot dressing.  Dress to your liking but do not saturate!  A few tablespoons should do it.

Staying Out of Our Kids' College Applications

I swore I would not be the kind of mom who micro-managed my kids' college applications. No helicoptering for me. No sirree, I was too wise and evolved for that kind of shallow "my kids define me" mentality.My grandparents and my parents went to college. I went to college. My kids work hard and play hard at good schools; all predictors were excellent that my children would go to college too.That was the important thing - not WHERE my kids went to college. That would be their choice.  Neither my self-esteem nor the measure of my success as a parent would ever be wrapped up in a bumper sticker proclaiming my children's college acceptance.This week, my son is beginning his senior year in high school. Time to put my money where my mouth has been for the last 17 years.  And let's just say, it's not as easy as I thought it would be.My son is laid back, confident, and stubborn.  He has told me, in no uncertain terms, that he has heard me brag for 17 years that I would stay out of this process.  He tells me regularly that things are fine. That he is 100% on top of, and in charge of, the tests, applications, teacher recommendations, and deadlines.Funny, this doesn't stop be from bugging him. And worrying. Endlessly.I am a professional writer and editor, I remind my son.  Other parents would pay me good money to read their children's college essays.  Does he want me to look at his? At no charge?"Not really, Mom.  But thanks.  I'll let you know if I need help."And um, did I mention I'm a third generation legacy at Harvard College? You know, that nice school in Cambridge, Mass? Math is one of my son's stronger subjects, so I asked him to calculate what degree of Harvard legacy that makes him.  And did he want to look up the statistics on the improved chances of a fourth generation Harvard legacy getting accepted into, say, Harvard? And I slip in that I have given at least a small amount of money to Harvard every single year since the day I graduated. Which cannot hurt his chances."But Mom, you know, I'm not really interested in the Ivy League."To this, as a parent, I have no answer.Fortunately, even though I seem unable to follow my own advice, I have been able to hear advice from other kids.  Last spring, our school held an evening meeting where high school seniors offered advice to parents of rising seniors.  One particularly eloquent student explained how excruciating all the adult attention can be."Even our mailman asked me where I was applying and what my first choice was," he told us.His (very good) advice: before senior year starts, tell your parents in no uncertain terms who they can tell, and what they can reveal, about your college application process and choices.  Otherwise, he said, they will talk to you and everyone else about nothing else for nine months.  He pointed out that he and his friends were already obsessing about college. Endlessly.  It doesn't help anyone when parents obsess about something kids are trying hard not to obsess about.I am trying to follow his advice.Other pointers for parents: Try to ask about college only once or twice a week, not every day (or several times a day). Go away when early action/early decision results are announced so you don't have to run into other kids and parents who are finding out the emotionally laden news. Ditto for the day when regular acceptances are announced.  Otherwise, it will begin to feel that the point of every 18 year oldo's life is whether or not they got into their first choice.  Accepted or rejected.  A brutal, unnecessary, irrelevant label.I keep reminding myself: neither childhood, nor parenthood, is a competition.  I applied to and have already gone to college. My educational career is over.  My son's is about to start.  My job now is pure back up; doing nothing unless he asks for or obviously needs help.  Which you think might be easy.  But in some ways, for some parents, holding yourself back is harder than charging ahead full speed.

Put a Fresh Spin on Your Labor Day BBQ Menu

Labor Day is the last hurrah before school starts and summer officially ends.  But after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, not to mention all the other summer parties, how can you make your Labor Day barbeque something memorable and unique?   Instead of the usual burgers and hot dogs, try a few of our favorite family recipes.  They’re sure to wow your guests and send them back-to-school with great memories of summer.  Note: each recipe serves six, so halve, double, or triple the recipe as you need. Santa Maria Tri-Tip Barbeque My dad always told me that this was what the poor missileers  at Vandenberg AFB in California would make when they didn’t want to spend a lot of money, but they wanted to feed a lot of people some really good food. Ingredients 2 to 2 ½ lb beef tri-tip roast 1 Tbsp ground black pepper 2 tsp salt ½ Tbsp paprika 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp onion powder 1 tsp dried rosemary ¼ tsp cayenne pepper ½ tsp Dijon mustard 1/3 cup red wine vinegar 1/3 cup vegetable oil 4 medium-sized cloves of crushed garlic   Directions Mix black pepper, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, and cayenne together to create a rub.  Massage it into all surfaces of the beef.  Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours, then remove from the fridge and let it sit for half an hour at room temperature. Blend together the Dijon, vinegar, oil, and crushed garlic until emulsified. Lay the meat on the grill and brush with the basting mixture.  Turn the roast every 3-4 minutes.  With each turn, brush more of the oil and vinegar mixture on.  After about 25-30 minutes, check the internal temperature.  It should be at 135 degrees for a medium-rare roast.  The outside will have a flavorful char that is the signature characteristic of Santa Maria Tri-Tip. Take the tri-tip off of the grill and let it rest for 15 minutes.  This keeps all the juices from gushing out (you’ll have a dry roast if that happens).  Cut into ¼ inch strips going across the grain.  This is enough to serve 6 people.  Serve with tortillas and fresh salsa.  Don’t have the recipe for that… oh look! Fresh Garden Salsa This fresh salsa has lots of flavor with a little kick to enhance your Tri-Tip! Ingredients 8 oz of diced tomatoes, divided 1 garlic cloves, chopped 1 diced Anaheim pepper minced jalapeno, to taste ½ cup diced red onion a handful of chopped fresh cilantro salt, to taste   Directions Blend half of the tomatoes with the garlic until they form a liquid.  Just a quick pulse or two will do it.  In a serving bowl, mix together the Anaheim pepper, jalapeno, red onion, cilantro, and the rest of the tomatoes.  Pour the liquid mixture over the top and toss it together.  Add salt as desired.   If you want a less potent onion flavor, try sweating the onion in a small sauté pan until they are translucent.  Then refrigerate until cool.  Serve over Santa Maria Tri-Tip. Tasty Margaritas This recipe is a “secret family recipe," so I have to leave out our secret ingredient or else Grandma will come get me.  Trust me though, even without, these are the best margaritas you’ll ever have.  Ingredients 1 can of frozen limeade 1/3 can of DeKuyper’s Triple Sec 2/3 can of Jose Cuervo Tequila 1 packet of Splenda Ice   Directions Empty a frozen limeade can into your blender.  If it’s hard as a rock, run warm water along the sides to loosen it up.  Using the can, eyeball 1/3 of the can of Triple Sec.  Fill the can the rest of the way up with tequila.  Empty that into the blender as well.  Sprinkle in one packet of Splenda.  Begin blending.  Remove the center of the blender lid, and drop in ice cubes until your margaritas are the perfect consistency.  Salted rim on your glass is optional. Happy Labor Day!

Skip The Sugar: Sweet Snack Alternatives For Kids

Of course kids love their sugary snacks, but as moms, we know better. If you're tired of saying "no," when your little one begs for candy and treats, don't fret! There are tons of healthy options that will satisfy your child's sweet tooth without all that unhealthy refined white stuff!Here are a few of our favorites:Fruit and Cheese KebabsThis filling combo is great for almost any sweet tooth.  If your kids are old enough to handle skewers, thread strawberries, grapes, and cheese cubes onto wooden skewers.  If they’re not quite old enough for the sharp sticks, just throw the ingredients into a bowl, and toss them so they’re mixed up.  For a dipping sauce, use yogurt and honey with mixed up fruit, or add a little sour cream, too, if it suits your family.Apricot-Almond GranolaThis recipe is great for a little bit of sweet (apricots) and a little bit of crunch to balance out the sweetness of the fruit.  If your kids aren't big on apricots, substitute dried strawberries or bananas.  You can pack this fiber-packed stack in baggies or plastic containers and take it anywhere with you - perfect for those times when the sudden munchies attack. Peanut Butter and Honey Banana PopsFollow the suggestions in this recipe, but take care to substitute the sugary cereals for crunchy, fibrous, and nutritious flakes that can easily be crunched up into the perfect coating.  With this option, you’re providing fruit and fiber to your kids, and they’ll think they’re just getting a great sweet treat!HummusIf you’re under the impression that hummus is boring, think again!  These days you can find hummus in all kinds of flavors, like roasted red pepper and sun-dried tomato.  If your kids are adventurous, you can find spicier flavors, and if they’re looking for something a little sweeter, look for lemony flavors.   Hummus is great with any veggie, so serve it up with slices of red bell peppers or get crispy with some pita chips.  Want to make it a family affair?  Grab the kids and make homemade hummus together! Amazing MuffinsYou can sneak almost anything into something that looks like a cupcake!  Fruits and veggies make amazing batter ingredients for amazing muffins.  Get your kids to eat healthy choices like zucchini, carrots, and bananas without them even knowing!  If your kids are more apt to eat one taste over another, search out recipes that include those ingredients.  Broccoli, apples, bananas, and prune juice can easily find their way into recipes for muffins that will make your little ones jump for joy.Yogurt PopsA little bit of yogurt and frozen berries can make amazing popsicles that your little ones will be more than happy to munch on after dinner or between nutritious meals! If you have tasty alternatives to sugary snacks, we’d love to hear about them!  Share your creative craving stoppers with us at our Rev Fitness Facebook page!

Why It Sucks To Be The Second Child

It sucks to be a second child. Being a first child myself, I always kind of knew this, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve really come to understand just how hard it is. When I was a kid, I used to torture my poor little brother.  My favorite line to use on him was that I was bigger, faster, smarter and stronger, and it made no difference to me whatsoever that I was only conferred those advantages because I’d been born three and a half years before him.  I didn’t care that one day he would most certainly be bigger, faster, stronger, and maybe even smarter than me.  At the time, he wasn’t, and I let him know it whenever I got the chance.   It wasn’t until I took Psych 101 in college that I even thought about the damage I might have done to his self-esteem.  But now that I’m the parent of a big sister/little brother, I’m really starting to see how awful it must have been.  Let me just say here that generally speaking, my daughter is not that mean to my son.  He annoys her, and she yells at him and locks him out of her room sometimes, but she doesn’t overtly put him down, and for that I’m eternally grateful.  And yet, lately, my poor little boy has just been devastated by her.  The fact is, she doesn’t have to put him down or point out to him that she’s bigger or faster or stronger or smarter, because he already knows it all by himself.  He’s not a dumb kid - he can see that she’s bigger.  He knows that when they race each other, she always wins.  He knows that she can swim farther, that she can ice skate better, that she can read longer books, that she can draw prettier pictures, and that she can figure out more complicated math problems.  And no matter how many times I tell him that she couldn’t do all of those things when she was six, it doesn’t change the fact that she can do them now, and he can’t. The other night, my son tried to show us something he learned in science camp this summer; it was that trick where you put water in a cup and spin it around and the water doesn’t fall out.  Except he held the cup the wrong way, and the water spilled everywhere.  So my daughter jumped in and said, no, no, no, this is how you do it, and got it right on the first try, causing my son to instantly melt down to a puddle.  I took him aside to talk to him, and he was just sobbing about how she can do everything and he can’t do anything, and he feels like he’s the dumb one in the family because there’s nothing that he’s the best at.  So I started pointing out all of the things he’s good at, like building Legos and playing soccer and making up crazy stories and using his imagination.  But he shot me down every time.  Everyone builds Legos.  Everyone on my team is better than me at soccer.  Everyone uses their imagination.  Like I said, he’s not a dumb kid.  At that moment, I realized this was just one of those things that I can’t make right for him, no matter how much I want to.  I can keep exposing him to new things, but if he wants to be the best at something - or at least better than his big sister - then he’s going to have to figure out for himself what it is he loves, and he’s going to have to put in the work to get really good at it.   For my brother, it was art.  He’s an incredibly talented artist, while I can barely make stick figures, and I think it always made him feel good to have that over me.  I may have been bigger and faster and stronger and smarter, but he was the gifted artist, and we both knew it.  I would love for my son to have something like that.  I would love for him to be confident that he’s great at something.  But no matter how much it breaks my heart, I can’t hand it to him on a silver platter.  I can love him, and support him and give him all of the encouragement I possibly can, but in the end, he’s the one who’s going to have to get out from under his sister’s long shadow, all by himself.

How to Make Your Own Natural Body Scrub

Let's Craft is a special feature full of great crafts, inspiration and DIY projects that are perfect for any Modern Mom! This project comes from crafty mom Jill Alexander:  "There are plenty of beauty stores where moms can buy exfoliating body scrubs, but we think that homemade is far superior. This delectable smelling body scrub is all natural and made with ingredients that you probably have on hand in the house. There are no chemicals you can't pronounce in here! The only downside to this scrub - you can't eat it :)" Here's how to make a wonderful smelling natural body scrub: Supplies 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup olive oil 1 teaspoon each of extract of your choice (Jill used orange, coconut, strawberry, and lemon) Sea salt   Directions In a mixing bowl, stir together the sugar with the olive oil. You can also try coconut oil which has great skin softening effects, too.  (Always be careful not to get oil in your eyes.) Mix in 1 teaspoon of any extract you wish to use. The scents used in our version were fruity, but you can also pick up floral essential oils for an armotherapeutic effect. Sprinkle in some sea salt, about 3/4 of a teaspoon. Sea salt is a natural preservative and keeps bacteria from forming in your body scrub. Be creative! Decorate a glass jar for your scrub with ribbon and a personal label. This would make a great gift for a friend or a special treat for yourself. Want to watch Jill take you through this project step by step? Check out the video below - and be sure to take a look at all the other great craft videos on the ModernMom YouTube Channel. Planning to try this at home? We'd love to see how it turns out! Send us photos of your crafty efforts and we'll add them to our photo gallery!

Dragons Interactive Story App + Giveaway!

I don't know anyone who didn't love the How To Train Your Dragon movies. So I was so excited to try out the new Dragons' mobile app from DreamWorks Press - Dragons Interactive Story App.  This is an interactive story app that targets fans of three different age groups (and reading levels). I love that children interact with the app differently depending on their development -  Ages 5 and under, 6 to 8 and 9 to 11 years old. There are amazing graphics and all the loveable characters (i.e., Hiccup and Toothless) from the movies. Your kids can train their own dragon (super fun), explore new lands and be a part of brand new Dragon stories. And this is the first installment in a series of apps so new chapters will be launching soon to keep the adventures new and fresh. The app is $4.99 at Apple's iTunes store and future chapters will be only $.99. GIVEAWAY!! Tell us your favorite character in the How to Train Your Dragon movies in the Facebook comments below and you'll be entered to win: -$100 iTunes App Store gift card -Kid Safe headphones (prizes courtesy of DreamWorks Press. Open to US mailing addresses only. Prizing valued at $169.99. Contest ends Sept. 12, 2014 5:00 PST)   

Chocolate Marshmallow Pretzel Bars

We love to sass up old recipes and give them a modern look. This gooey Pretzel Bar is a new twist on a favorite cousin, the Rice Krispie Treat.  It's the perfect treat to serve at your next Back to School event! Ingredients 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter 6 cups mini marshmallows, separated (4 cups / 2 cups) 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 1 (16 ounce) bag of pretzels = 6 cups crushed pretzels 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (optional)   Directions Spray a 13x9x2 baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.  Place 2 cups of pretzels in a food processor and pulse several times until small pieces are formed. Put the pretzels into a strainer to get rid of any “pretzel dust” or crumbs. Place the pretzel pieces into a medium bowl. Repeat two more times until you have 6 cups of pretzel pieces. Set aside. In a large saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter and mini marshmallows. Add the chopped chocolate pieces to the mixture. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the marshmallows are melted. Add the vanilla and continue to stir until well combined. Turn off the heat.  Stir in the pretzel pieces. Just when the pretzels are coated add in the 2 remaining cups of mini marshmallows and mix to combine.  Turn out the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Set aside to cool 30 minutes. Cut and serve. Sugar Mommas’ Tips: Once you have turned out the mixture into the baking dish you can spray your hands with nonstick release spray and pat down the mixture evenly. Or, if you don’t want to mess up your manicure, place each hand into a sandwich size plastic bag. Spray the plastic on one hand with the release spray and then rub your hands together. Pat the mixture evenly. Old School: Instead of a food processor, you can place the pretzels into a large resealable plastic baggie and pound them into pieces with a meat mallet, rolling pin, or other heavy blunt object. Sass it Up! Consider sprinkling the top of the baking dish with sea salt for a sweet/salty sensation. OR, if you don’t want a complete chocolate dunk, melt the chocolate in the microwave and use a pastry brush to slather just the top of the Gooey Pretzel Bars.

Tips for Avoiding School Picture Day Disasters

School picture day is close at hand, just in time to get good pictures of the kids to give out to relatives at Christmas.  Like many people, I have been a victim of terrible school pictures… I’m talking about the images that would have been made into Internet memes if the Internet had been around back then (okay, the Internet was around, but no one knew how to use it). So to help future generations avoid school picture day disasters of their own, I'm here to share my knowledge. With any luck, your kid won’t sneeze or blink, and you’ll have a wonderful image you can frame, share and treasure. Background  First things first, use a neutral background.  Sure, they have the options of all those colors that will match your child’s beautiful eyes, but what do you want to shine more: the background or your kid?  With a neutral brown or gray background, your child will stand out better.  Not to mention, it’s hard to find a place in your beach-themed living room for a photo with a red or purple background.   Clothing  What will they wear?  Thanks to the use of a neutral background, it won't be hard to make sure your little one is dressed in a complementary color.  Let them wear their favorite nice shirt or sweater, something they will be comfortable in.  Learning Experience: One year, my mother wanted me to wear a new wool sweater for my picture.  It was literally so hot and itchy that I was red in the face and sweaty (my bangs were matted to my forehead) and my smile was as fake as fake can be because I was downright uncomfortable. Hair Styling Make sure your child has a good hair day.  Get their hair cut a week or two before school picture day so they look clean cut while still giving it time to grow out a little and look natural.  The night before, have them wash and style their hair.  For the lucky girls with curly hair, it’s a good idea for them to wet their hair the morning off and style it with the help of a diffuser attachment on a hair dryer.  Avoid the ponytail or any slicked back, stuck to the head looks. Learning Experience: I had school pictures right after a great game of P.E. basketball.  My curly hair was frizzed up in all kinds of ways so I soaked it in the sink and put it in a ponytail.  The effect?  I looked bald as the day I was born in my school picture.  Not to mention, my nose was still sweating so my glasses managed to slide down to the tip of my nose… I looked like an old man.  Eeeexcellent! Make-Up  Is your daughter old enough for makeup?  If you have a tween, here's a good plan - convince her to let you do her makeup and go for a natural look. Use a little bit of sheer powder, a hint of shadow and mascara, and maybe some lip gloss.  Learning Experience: I’ve never had an issue with applying too much makeup, but for some reason, I was determined not to have dark circles under my eyes for my sixth grade picture.  I broke into my mom’s makeup and used yellow concealer and highlighter and essentially pasted those on.  Talk about a great look.  Safe Lunch Packing Don't forget to pack a safe lunch.  This is especially important for small children prone to spilling and kids with braces.  Aim for foods that won’t stick in teeth.  Here is my NO WAY list of picture day foods: Broccoli, spinach, celery, orange, corn on the cob, chips, chocolate anything, concord grape juice, popcorn, and black bean soup. Learning Experience: School pictures were right after snack time one year.  My mom had packed me a super healthy orange, and I didn’t think a thing of it until we got the pictures, and there were pieces of orange sticking out from between all of my teeth.  This happened to also be the same day I had on the above mentioned wool sweater.  What a great year… Special Instructions Give your child specific instructions.  Have them remove their glasses so the flash doesn’t obscure their beautiful eyes.  Tell them to smile with their teeth.  You might even give them something funny to think about so you can capture their real smile.  And remind them not to look into the light, which often leads to squinting and sneezing, two common school photo mishaps. Learning Experience: From first grade until fifth grade, I amassed a collection of the most super-cool glasses you could imagine.  I mean, these things practically allowed my cheeks and forehead to see, and they came in great colors like red and hot pink.  I switched it up in fifth grade and got Harry Potter glasses because he was just the coolest.  The first couple years, my school photos were a running record of my stylish eyewear.  Finally, my parents gave me the instructions to take my glasses off so they could see my eyes.  It would have been the best picture ever… except that this happened to be the year of the concealer and highlighter conundrum. The moral of the story? School pictures are stressful but with a little preparation and foresight, you can wind up with a cute snapshot of your little angel. And if not, well there's always next year! Now that I've shared my embarrassing photo stories, it's your turn.  What was the worst school picture you ever took?

Travel Survival Skills for Car Trips With Kids

We've all been there. Cars, trains and airplanes can be quite the match for a parent's patience level. But with a little bit of planning ahead and some critical supplies, you can conquer Are we there yet? syndrome and sit back to enjoy the ride. 1. Entertainment You’ll definitely want to make sure that you have books, games and electronics packed for entertainment during long rides. A trip to the public library with your kids allows them to choose some new books, and most libraries allow you to take books out for up to three weeks at a time, perfect for the entire holiday season. Just make sure you don't leave them behind at a far away relative's house! Tip: Make a list of the titles you're planning to bring or snap a picture of the receipt w/ your phone or mobile device. There are plenty of family-friendly games and apps available for handheld devices. Just throw some fun educational games in for good measure and have yourself a party. Bring a portable DVD player or pop a DVD in your computer. Download movies on your iPad or tablet before you leave. And for kids who tend to get motion sickness, pack an MP3 player to help them pass the time. Don't forget the headphones (you'll thank me later).  2. Rations Packing the right snacks can definitely make for a positive voyage. Keep the options mess-free and healthy to fight off fatigue and grumpiness. Need some inspiration? We've got tons of yummy options on this list of Kid (and Mom) Approved Snacks.  Remember to bring plenty of water - staying properly hydrated while traveling can be hard! If the kids are looking for something with a bit of flavor, Horizon’s Organic Chocolate Milk Boxes really do the trick or try Juicy Juice juice boxes, made from 100% real fruit juice. Tip: If you’re traveling via car, a portable cooler is a good idea. 3. Supplies A makeshift survival kit will help your sanity and keep you and your kids as happy as possible. Here’s our list of must haves:Cleanup wipesQ-TipsHand sanitizer Band-Aids/First-aid kit TylenolSunscreen Safety pins Extra clothes, in case of any accidental spills Portable GPS or maps Empty plastic bags, for any trash 4. Family Games Looking for ways to pass the time? Don't be afraid to unleash your inner child with creative games that are fun for the whole family. You'll probably also end up with a ton of inside jokes.  I Spy somehow never manages to get old and is great for kids of all ages. The license plate game is fun - just make sure you have a printed list of all 50 states so you can cross them off as you see them. If you want to try a tech-savvy version, download a license plate game app for your mobile device to easily keep score. Who says that piling into the car for a long drive can't be fun? With these tips, you might have such a blast that you start planning for a summer road trip!

Triple F (Fennel, Frisee and Fruit) Salad

I love fennel, cooked or raw!   My French family also uses the stalk to add to a large pitcher of water.  It's beautiful, smells fresh of licorice, and is a great drink for the tummy! Ingredients 3 fennel bulbs 4 heads of frisee (you can substitute endives if you want) 5 tangerines   Directions Thinly slice the fennel bulbs and wash.  Keep the stalks for your water pitcher! Chop the heads of frisee in half. Peel the tangerines.  If you choose to use canned sweet tangerines instead, drain and rinse first to get rid of any added sugar. Toss all ingredients together with my French dijon shallot dressing.  Dress to your liking but do not saturate!  A few tablespoons should do it.

Dinner Time Debates: How to Take the Stress out of Supper

People often ask what it is like to feed half dozen kids. Feeding families can be a “thing” and many parents report that dinner time can be the most stressful time of the day. I decided early on that I didn’t want meal time to create anxiety for me or my kids, so here are my few tips for relaxing and enjoying fun family meals. -          I don’t let myself get upset if the kids turn their noses up at what is being served for dinner. There’s enough variety that they’re going to like something on the menu.  As long as they try one bite of what is being served up, they are welcome to fill their bellies with the raw carrots on the table. No one has starved yet. -          We keep meals simple and kid friendly. The Daddy-o works out of town during the week and I’m not a foodie, so this adult is happy to make easy dinner recipes and eat with the kiddos. -          For me, the only thing more annoying than cooking is coming up with fast recipes and meal ideas.  I have a four week meal planner posted in the kitchen for everyone to see. It makes for effective shopping, creates less wasted food and saves me from hearing, “what’s for dinner?” six times a day. Here is an example of my September meal plan filled with quick recipes. I use one of our quick dinner ideas on Wednesdays because the kids have hot lunches at school that day. I also try to have something they all like on a Monday, because let’s face it – Mondays can be tough. On the last Friday of the month, we order in. The menu is based on different children’s preferences and the evening activity schedule. Some meals are faster to prepare and clean up. Those are meals we have on nights where we have to be at music, dance, hockey and taekwondo right after dinner.                    Monday                       Tuesday                       Wednesday                  Thursday                                 Friday Week 1   Fish and Chips/raw veg    Chicken drumsticks/      Breakfast for dinner     Spaghetti & meatballs    Homemade pizza                                                                mashed potato/corn       eggs/bacon Week 2  Salmon/ noodles/veg        Chicken breast/ mashed   Homemade soup         Pasta: pesto                Chicken &  Salad                                                   potato/corn Week 3 Tacos                                Butter chicken/rice          Salad wraps                 chicken schnitzel/          Hot dogs/Hamburgers                                                                                                                           roast potatoes/tomato     Week 4 Cheesy pasta                   Ribs/noodles/corn on cob   Crepes/omelets           Bangers and mash/peas    ORDER IN  Substitutes: curried sausage, chili, perogies, Swedish meatballs and rice, lasagna. How does your family survive the dinner hour? Do you have any quick and easy dinner ideas or meal planner tips that make this time of day less stressful in your house?

5 Best Labor Day Recipes

Having a Labor Day BBQ? Treat your family, friends, and neighbors to classic and simple menu items with a twist. Below is a perfect blend of special dishes - from main attraction to dessert - that will have your loved ones licking their forks clean and begging for second helpings! However-You-Want-It BBQ Burgers Grilled burgers are a surefire hit for kids and adults. But how can you keep your burgers from fading into the background of all the other BBQs going on this season? Allow the guests to personalize them! Buy beef, turkey, veggie, and salmon burgers so there’s something for everyone. Try to ask each guest how they would like their burger cooked - rare, medium, or well done. And that’s it - your part is over. May sure to have an array of toppings laid out so that your guests can dress their burger however they like. Include lettuce, tomato, pickles, cheese slices, sliced red onion, avocado, and whatever else might make the burger more exciting - like grilled mushrooms. Want to give your BBQ a fun twist? Make sliders! We love this delicious recipe for tasty Mini Burger Sliders! Ultimate Vegetable Coleslaw This is a really easy side salad that is just so refreshing on a hot day. To serve 8 to 10 people, thinly grate 1/2 a head of white and 1/2 a head of red cabbage, five carrots, and a big handful of dried cranberries for an extra flavorful kick. In a separate bowl, mix together 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour dressing to coat the veggies and stick in the fridge an hour before guests arrive. Serve cold and watch the salad disappear as people keep coming back for more. Garlic Corn on the Cob Corn on the cob is not just a crowd pleaser, it’s also super easy to make. And now, you can add that extra kick of flavor with garlic.  All you need to do is peel off the corn husks, break the corn in half, smooth on some garlic butter (combine unsalted butter and garlic seasoning - or freshly chopped garlic cloves), add a pinch of salt and pepper, wrap in aluminum foil, and cook on the grill for approximately 20-30 minutes. The garlic butter gives the corn an unbelievable burst of flavor and serves the practical function of keeping the kernels from burning. Perfect! Want another way to cook corn? Try this tasty recipe for bacon wrapped corn on the cob! Berry Guava Lemonade There’s no better way to get people talking than a refreshing signature drink. Add pizzazz to plain old lemonade by adding strawberries and guava. Mash up 10 fresh strawberries with 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of guava juice in a pitcher. Fill with ice and add 3/4 cup lemon juice and water to fill it up. Add lemon slices for the perfect mouth-watering presentation. Fresh Fruit Sorbet Nothing could be a better way to end a BBQ than with some fresh fruit and a light sorbet. This totally beats the traditional tray of fruit that typically signifies the end of a BBQ. Just buy a carton of vanilla sorbet (shhh…we won’t tell anyone that it’s not homemade) and cut up some pineapple, berries, melons, kiwi, and mango to add on top. This will be a refreshing conclusion to a fun and filling Memorial Day celebration. (Another option: Fresh Fruit Freeze Recipe) Make it Memorable Whether you’re serving up burgers or lemonade, the key to making your Memorial Day BBQ memorable is to add just a touch of something unique and surprising. Extra touches like these will ensure that people will leave your house with a smile on their faces! Photo: Funk*n Foodies

5 Ways To Lose Your Baby Weight

Many women are concerned with getting rid of the baby weight. The most important thing to remember is that it took a nine month period to gain that much weight and it is not going to miraculously fall off after the birth of your child. If you are like most, you want to know how to lose that post pregnancy weight gain quickly, but keep in mind it is important to be healthy. Most physicians will tell you to wait several months before trying to lose weight. It is important to allow the body an appropriate period of time to heal. However; once you cross that two month mark, it’s time to shift weight loss into high gear. 1. Put Down The Potato Chips The first thing that a mother trying to lose weight must do is change their eating habits. If you are breastfeeding, you are already burning an additional 400-600 calories per day. It is easy to want to munch on junk food, especially when up for 2 am feedings. Remember rather than grabbing the potato chips or a snack cake, eat a piece of fruit. Those who are breast-feeding need to realize how important it is to have a healthy diet for the baby’s sake and your own. You want to make sure you are eating enough to not affect your milk supply. Eating too little can cause a lactating mother to not produce sufficient milk. Just like with any diet, what a mother eats will contribute to the weight gain or loss. Remember you are no longer eating for two and adjust portions accordingly. 2. Get Off The Couch You are sure to feel like a zombie the first few months of the babies’ arrival. While it is easy to develop a vegetative state to cope with the lack of sleep, moving is important. There are exercise programs that are especially linked to help the mother lose the belly fat. Start slow and ease into a routine. Walking is a great overall workout, but tummy specific crunches and other target exercises may be difficult at first. You don’t want to expel so much energy during the workout session that you don’t have enough strength to care for your child. Gradually build up your exercise routine. Remember, your body has just been through a traumatic experience and it is not going to bounce back overnight. 3. Avoid The 1-800 Number’s You’re groggy, fed up with the weight and awake for a 3 am feeding, normally you are watching television too. Avoid the temptation to start ordering every weight loss product offered. There are numerous supplements that claim to be all natural or to give you energy like you have never had. These supplements can be dangerous for the mother who is breastfeeding or even the mother who is not. Some pills can be dangerous for your heart and cause unnatural highs followed by periods of crashing. You are just going to have to make up your mind to lose the weight and do it the old fashioned way. There is nothing better than dieting and exercises for the new mother. Sure it’s not going to come off quickly, but it will come off and stay off if done properly. 4. Take That Stroller For a Stroll Most mothers get a stroller as a part of their baby needs. One of the easiest ways to work out and include baby is to walk with the stroller. If a child wants to be held often this can make working out difficult. Walking is a great cardio workout and can really burn the fat. It’s hard to do crunches and squats with a child screaming. The motion of the stroller often calms an infant and makes working out a lot easier. Losing weight is never easy, but it can be done. The stomach area may never fully go back to the way it used to be, before baby. Learning to balance diet and exercise and be healthy is not only important to you but also to your baby. 5. Belly Binding Another great way to drop that extra baby weight is with Tauts by Brooke Burke. Tapping into the time-tested practice of post-pregnancy belly wraps, Tauts is designed to be worn for the first 40 days after pregnancy.   As one mom wrote, "My tummy insides had a lot of help from my undying affection for my Tauts Belly Wrap that I wore morning, noon and night 40 days after delivery - and boy did it work!" Tons of celebrities - including Jessica Alba and Kourtney Kardashian - are jumping on the belly binding bandwagon. "I wore a double corset day and night for three months," said Alba. "It was sweaty, but worth it." Learn more about belly wraps by visiting our online store, Baboosh Baby.  

5 Ways to Keep Your Child's Room Organized

She plays Jennifer Knight, mom to Kendall and Katie, on Nickelodeon’s hit musical-comedy Big Time Rush, but Challen Cates is no stranger to real life parenting chaos. The mom of two (son Colton, 7, and daughter Jasper, 5) knows it can be super challenging to keep a clean house with little ones running around!  That's why she's shared five great ways to keep "the kid zone" from taking over your home: 1. Buy a blank white canvas at any art supply store and tape or glue art work or photos for a chic gallery look. 2. Keep one room or area completely toy and clutter free. Enlist your kids in the idea of a toy free zone. Trust me, you will breathe easy when you enter this room. 3. Corkboards are an amazing way to display artwork, certificates, photos, cards, etc in constant evolution. Pick one with a beautiful frame to compliment your décor and incorporate the board into your design. Make sure that you move pieces off as you add new so as to not clutter your space. 4. Learn to love boxes and baskets. As pieces come down off of the cork board or home from school, place keepsakes in decorative boxes. I labeled my boxes with my kids names so I can pop things in their respective keepsake boxes with ease. Tip: ‘The Container Store’ has some great boxes and ‘Pottery Barn’ has adorable liners. 5. Enlist the help of your children in selecting items to donate to charity that they have outgrown. It teaches them the importance of giving and gives them a sense of pride to help those in need. One of our favorite children’s charities is www.baby2baby.org. Challen lives in Los Angeles with her husband, famed acting coach Aaron McPherson (clients include Seth MacFarlane, Dolph Lundgren) their two children (son Colton 7 & daughter Jasper 5) and two dogs (Greta & Judy). You can follow her on Twitter @ChallenCates Image credit: Bobby Quillard

'Twas The Night Before Kindergarten

Guest post by Kristina Cappetta - you can find her at The Mommy Rundown. ‘Twas the night before Kindergarten and all through the house not a child was stirring not even a toy Mickey Mouse. The book bags were hung by the door with care hoping that all of the supplies were packed neatly in there. The children were snuggled all in their beds while dreams of ABC’s danced in their heads. I was in the kitchen checking the snacks deciding which ones would make it in their lunch pack. Now Gogurt! Now Goldfish! On fruit snack! On pudding! So many snacks, which ones to choose? I must pick the ones that won’t receive any “boos”. To the top of the fridge to the bottom cupboard drawer, Gogurt and fruit snack you win the award. Now that the snacks are packed, there’s not much to do. I have everything ready, even your non-light up shoes. The sun will be up, the time is almost here, don’t laugh if mom sheds more than one tear. The bell is ringing, don’t be late. I know you’re going to do better than great. You’ll write your name, you’ll do your numbers, there’s a lot of work to do before you can return to slumber. The big day is here, give a big shout! You’re about to see what Kindergarten is all about!