Archive for the ‘ Your Life ’ Category

Hilarious Mom Blogs About Quirky Challenges

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Most parents’ New Years resolutions tend to be similar: spend more time with your kids, turn off electronics at night, eat healthier as a family. Would you ever consider making your goals for the new year more unusual? One Seattle mom of two, Beautiful Existence — yes, that is really her given name — does just that. Each year Beautiful surprises her followers with a completely random-sounding challenge for herself. In 2013, she promised that she would eat at Starbucks for every meal. Every single meal all year. And, the year before that, she vowed to follow Parents magazine’s advice all year long. She made crafts, used our parenting tips, and even took the opportunity to make fun of our ads. (We’re flattered!)

For her Starbucks challenge, Beautiful had to get creative, especially around the holidays. On Passover, she made an impressive-looking Seder plate and, on Thanksgiving, she had her own little feast out of Starbucks offerings. She even gave herself a Starbucks Coffee Facial Scrub. (For the record, according to Beautiful, it worked great.) She was able to stay on the Starbucks-only diet all year, though she was, of course, eager to eat somewhere else on January 1.

What will Beautiful be doing this year? She’ll be learning every recreational sport — there are over 80 on her list. Now that’s a dedicated and healthy goal.

Beautiful’s hilarious blog is not only an entertaining look at her daily trips to the popular coffee chain, but also an example of a mom who had an offbeat, awesome idea and went with it. It’s exciting that one person can create such a following through blogging.

If you’re feeling creative, try this fun and easy craft with your kids.

Kid Craft: Cute Paper Animal Heads
Kid Craft: Cute Paper Animal Heads
Kid Craft: Cute Paper Animal Heads

See which health stories will be big in 2014 and sign up for our daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on parenting news.

Image via Shutterstock

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Postnatal Yoga Tips from Rockstar Teachers

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

** Guest-edited by Kristen Kemp, yoga instructor

My last baby popped out 6 years ago, but I vividly remember the feeling that everything—my strength, energy, muscle tone and stamina—had been completely zapped. Where I was once able to run two miles up and down steep hills for exercise, all of a sudden, walking up and down the stairs to the laundry room was as strenuous as running a marathon. I reassured my latest yoga student—her adorable baby is 6 weeks old—to start slowly and steadily. All of our muscles remember what they used to do and luckily, our minds are even stronger than our bodies. We can think ourselves back into fitness.

I learned all of this at the amazing Yoga Journal Conference I attended in November. For yoga geeks, it was a dream come true. I spent two days in an intensive anatomy workshop with the brilliant celebrity teacher Jason Crandell. He taught me about muscles and bones—and how to make them strong. Another famous yogi, Kathryn Budig, taught arm balances (these are post-post natal moves you’ll love working up to). I did some crazy 8-point pose (see photo) where my arms were bent and my legs were parallel in the air about a foot off the ground. I thought, ‘I’ve come a long, long way since my kids were born.” I was so proud of myself. As Kathryn had said earlier, “getting stronger is amazing and empowering.”

For the holidays and New Year, I, of course, recommend yoga. In the wise words of the great teacher and sage Cyndi Lee, sometimes you have to put you first. “Take care of yourself so you can be a better mom, business partner, whatever. You can take better care of other people when you take care of yourself first. Only then will you have a little extra to give.”

If you’re interested, the next Yoga Journal Live conference is in San Fran on January 16 through 20. I’ll be at the YJ Live in New York City in April. Message me if you’ll be there, and we can meet up. I’ll definitely post new-mom moves I get from there, so stay tuned.

So go ahead and get started now. I’ve posted one of my favorite beginner videos by Jason. He’s a super-safe and inspiring teacher who offers this cool and relaxing 15-minute beginner yoga sequence. I’m taking this to my postnatal client on Friday.

 

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My Best Holiday Tradition

Monday, December 16th, 2013

When I said, in a Parents.com post on holiday traditions, that my favorite is taking a one-on-one holiday date with each of my kids, some people complained that my kids need more than one day a year of my attention. But of course, those two get my attention all day, every day. Here’s what makes a holiday time-out so special:
* They get me all to themselves with no sibling, no daddy, and no friends around. You’d think this would happen more often than it does, but I, like most mommies, have to work to be completely alone with any member of my family (the exception being my firstborn’s babyhood…we had plenty of alone time together!) Being with one kid usually means doing homework, walking to a playdate, shopping, or any number of mundane things, as opposed to just enjoying each other.
* I don’t cheat and do anything I “have” to do. That includes running by a bank or post office, etc., because then it wouldn’t feel like a date, right? 
* They get to skip school! At least as long as they are in preschool or elementary school. I try to keep our holiday date off of Saturday or Sunday, when we’re already off-duty. I take a vacation day from work, I excuse them from school, and we both take a break from responsibilities. On a weekday! It feels a little scandalous.
* I follow each kid’s lead. Joe is a nut about penguins, so this year’s date was to the Central Park Zoo where we spent maybe 45 minutes in the penguin room. After, I started to make an argument for seeing other animals (to make that entrance fee worth it!), but Joe wanted to eat a hot dog and then go look at Christmas decorations. So that’s what we did.
* Each kid gets something special, and I don’t fret about making  things even. Grace is now in middle school so, for the first time, I chickened out about taking her out all day. Her special mama date was a sleepover at the Conrad Hotel in lower Manhattan. (It’s not as pricey as it looks, at least by Manhattan-hotel standards, and it’s kid-friendly.) In the morning Grace ordered room-service breakfast, which to her represents the pinnacle of luxury. The fact that I didn’t have to fix breakfast, make the bed, or launder the towels was my own pinnacle of luxury. Joe didn’t get a hotel stay, and Grace didn’t get to miss an entire day of school, but they accept that they can have things that are different and equally special.
* Obviously, we do holiday things. When the kids were preschoolers I took them to St Patrick’s Cathedral a few years in a row, where they have a beautiful nativity scene with a crib that stays empty until Christmas. It felt more meaningful to discuss what Christmas is, mama-to-child, outside of church service (and outside of some lecture about asking for too many gifts, lol). Now that they get it, we more often view the Rockefeller Center Tree, or join activities like the cookie-decorating that the Conrad Hotel puts on. (Happening this Saturday, December 21st, from 3pm to 5pm, if you happen to be in NYC!)
Maybe I am just getting old, but it feels like the world is spinning so fast these days that taking a time-out with these little people is the best tradition I’ve ever come up with. I hope you all get a real rest and respite with loved ones in the next few weeks, before we’re on to new-year resolutions and a busy 2014. Happy Holidays!
We’ve put together a helpful email full of our best holiday projects, recipes, and more! To get your copy click here.

Tabletop Tree
Tabletop Tree
Tabletop Tree

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Spread Cheer, Get Some in Return!

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

With the food riches of Thanksgiving behind us, Christmas is looming just around the corner (about three weeks to be exact). Though many get caught up trying to find the perfect gifts for family and friends, it’s easy to forget that presents don’t always need to come in shiny packages. 

Today’s #GivingTuesday, a national movement that started just last year. The goal: create a national day of giving where people can pay it forward. Whether that means donating to a favorite charity or volunteering at your local shelter, being charitable is all about finding the causes that matter to you.

One toy company is taking that mentality and spreading the joy throughout December. Tegu, known for its award-winning magnetic blocks, recently introduced a new member to the family: the Tegu Elf. And he’s on a mission to give back this holiday season.

From now until December 20, he will be tracking the hashtag #TeguElf across social media–Tegu’s Facebook wall, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Once he finds a person in need, he’ll send a special present your way, anything from free Tegu products to a restaurant gift card.

To get the elf’s attention, just send out a message with the hashtag and the thing you’d like most this Christmas. Don’t forget to look outside your immediate family, too. The elf is on the lookout for charities to donate to as well.

In the weeks to come, be sure to track his movements and announcements on Tegu’s Facebook page. Each day, he offers something new (such as free cubes placed in every fifth order on the site). In the meantime, if you have your own plans to give back today, share a picture explaining your good deeds using the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #UNselfie.

The time it takes you to do something for others will feel so much better than battling a sea of frenzied shoppers.

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Family Favorites for Feeding America

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Just like many others, my family’s holiday season is all about tradition. Though Thanksgiving is a couple days away, I already know we’ll be having my aunt’s garlic “smashed” potatoes and my gram’s pimento-stuffed celery (even though she’s the only one who likes it). We keep these recipes in the rotation because they’re near and dear to us. But this year, sharing them with others gives bigger benefits to those in need.

Go to Dish Up the Love to submit your favorite recipe and $1 will be donated to Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks leading the fight against hunger. Each dollar provides nine meals for families who need them.

Partnering with the program is Top Chef alum and mom Antonia Lofaso, whose first book The Busy Mom’s Cookbook was recently released in paperback. A single parent, Antonia relishes her time at home with her daughter, Xea, making memories through food.

“For me the holidays are about making memories with family and friends around the kitchen table and giving back. Dish Up the Love celebrates these special holiday moments,” Antonia says. “I shared the recipe for my grandma’s lasagna because it’s served at all Lofaso family holidays. At Thanksgiving, we have turkey, but there’s always lasagna and tons of other Italian food.”

Grandma’s Lasagna

Serves: 6 to 8
Total time: 85 minutes

SAUCE INGREDIENTS
• ¼ cup olive oil
• ¼ cup chopped garlic (about 8 cloves)
• 3 (16-ounce) cans of peeled, whole plum tomatoes
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar

LASAGNA INGREDIENTS
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 ½ pounds ground turkey
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning, or 4 teaspoons fresh marjoram or oregano
• 1 (9-ounce) package of no-boil, oven-ready lasagna noodles
• Sauce (from above)
• ½ cup shredded or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
• 4 cups shredded whole-milk, mozzarella cheese
• 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 6 to 8 slices each
• 12 medium to large fresh basil leaves

DIRECTIONS

1. For the sauce, head the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and just as it starts to brown around the edges, throw in the canned tomatoes. You don’t want the garlic to burn, so have the cans open and ready to go beforehand.

2. Add the salt and sugar and whisk it all together. Let the sauce simmer on medium-low for 40 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. If any foam rises to the top of the sauce, skim it off. That’s the acid from the tomatoes, and your sauce will taste better without it. Using a hand blender or counter top blender, blend on medium until smooth.

3. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a 10-inch sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the ground turkey and the salt. Cook the turkey for about 5 minutes, until it’s browned throughout. Just as it’s finishing the cooking process, stir in the Italian seasoning. Drain any excess fat or liquid from the pan.

4. Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with 3 sheets of pasta. Ladle 1 cup of sauce over the noodles. You don’t want the sauce to soak through, so you don’t need to overdo it. Layer on half of the meat, followed by half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and half of the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle on one-third of the mozzarella and arrange one-third of the fresh tomatoes on top of it. Top with one-third of the basil.

5. Repeat the process for the next layer: 3 sheets of pasta, a cup of sauce, the rest of the meat, the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the remaining ricotta, a third of the mozzarella, a third of the fresh tomatoes, and another third of the basil. The last layer is your presentation layer, so make it pretty. Add three more sheets of pasta.

6. Top the noodles with the last of the sauce, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The top should be a crispy golden brown when the lasagna is done, and the pasta sauce around the sides of the dish should be thick, not runny. Let the lasagna stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. If you cut into it while it is still piping hot, it will fall apart.

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For more information and to share your favorite family recipe, visit worldkitchen.com/dishupthelove. After submitting a recipe, you’ll be entered for weekly sweepstakes to win Pyrex, Baker’s Secret, and CorningWare products.

Get more kid-friendly recipes from Antonia Lofaso.

Recipe and image reprinted from The Busy Mom’s Cookbook with permission from Avery, an imprint of Penguin Group.

Image of Antonia and Xea by Alex Martinez.

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4 Maternity Looks for the Holidays

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

** guest-edited by Amy Tara Koch,  style expert and author of the pregnancy-style bible Bump It Up

To the pregnant woman, there’s one aspect of this season that triggers anxiety: shopping for dressy maternity clothes. From mid-November until January, women must step up their style to express the celebratory verve of the holidays. But with a watermelon in the belly, dressing for the parade of parties can be stressful.

Here’s the deal: you don’t need to invest in an entirely new wardrobe to create festive and flattering outfits. The secret is having key maternity basics (namely a great dress or tunic) that can be layered into holiday-worthy ensembles. Dramatic accessories are the difference between ho-hum and high wattage. By pairing a flattering silhouette with glammy statement jewelry, fashionable footwear and a great bag, you can pack away your holiday-dressing jitters. Here are four standout looks based on maternity fashion finds from our Parents.com shop.

ON THE EDGE 

This starts with one of the ASOS Maternity Swing Dresses on our site for between $26 and $80. Forever 21 accessories kick it up, including Sleek Long Fringe Earrings ($5.80) and a Paneled Clutch ($19.80). The stack of bracelets might be something you already own, or you can consider these from Baublebar for $52. Pull on booties instead of heels for the added edge. These Nine West Junia Booties are $139.

GRAPHIC GODDESS 

Here we begin with our store’s ASOS Maternity Midi Tulip Dress with Wrap Front for $62. It gets an instant cool factor with the  DKNY Jeans Chunky ZigZag Long Cardigan, a splurge at $91 but something you’ll use all winter and, because it’s not maternity, you can wear forever. The chain bracelet is $7.80 at Forever 21 and the Merona Satchel is $35 at Target. Add your own jewelry and booties or try this necklace is One by Dallas + Carlos for $98 and the Marana booties from DV by Dolce Vita for $129.

POISED & POLISHED 

This cheery look starts at our shop with A Pea in the Pod’s ¾ Sleeve Drape Front Maternity Dress for $60. Add a gold skinny belt like this $10 number from BDG. The $50 H&M Boucle Jacket, which isn’t maternity and will serve you after pregnancy, too, looks professional and gives you coverage if you’re self-concious about your shape. Add your own gold hoops (these are $25 Sequin NYC Studded Hoops from Nordsrom) and wedge pumps (these are $80 Calvin Klein pumps from DSW). The $144 Heather Belle & Co. wristlet is cool; Vegan Leather!

SHEER STYLE 

If you’re more comfy in pants, grab a dressy tunic like our shop’s Jessica Simpson for Destination Maternity Long Sleeve Lace Trim Maternity Tunic for $59 and put them over the AG Jeans Secret Belly Fit Corduroy Pants for $210 (worth it because you’ll wear those suckers twice a week for all nine months, trust us!). Forever 21 has the Rock & Roll Faux Leather Clutch for $21.80, and H&M has the $6 20 Pack of Bracelets and $8 ring. A scarf gives added color; it doesn’t have to be fancy but we do love this Yarnz Geo Eye Scarf for $145. Enzo Angiolini’s Zeric Riding Boots finish things off at $100.

For more pregnancy style tips follow Amy on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Also browse our maternity store; we add new items every day!

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Sunday Saver: How to Reduce Food Waste and Slash Grocery Bills

Friday, November 8th, 2013

“When my daughter wakes up, she opens her eyes and asks ‘What’s for dinner?’”

“I wish I was kidding,” Alex Guarnaschelli laughs. ”By the time she’s eating breakfast, I better have an answer for her.”

Like moms everywhere, this Food Network star faces The Dinner Question. (And thus, trips to the market and food storage tasks.)

Alex, the author of Old-School Comfort Food and mother to a 6-year-old, is the executive chef at Butter in New York City. Last year, she became one of Food Network’s Iron Chefs, and she is a regular judge on Chopped.

Every morning Alex goes to the kitchen to plan her entire day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.

Making a plan of attack on your groceries will save time, money, and cut back on waste, she says, which is why she partnered with Glad for the Save It Sunday campaign. The movement, which encourages participants to protect and preserve food, centers on the Sunday ritual of grocery shopping.

“It’s the one day of the week when you can commit to setting aside time: for shopping, cooking ahead meals, and storing other items—it’s about starting the week on the right foot,” she says.

Alex does a lot of her cooking on Sunday, which is why the pledge really speaks to her. But it also goes a step further.

“Ironically, the last thing I want to do when I get home is cook—because I’m doing it all day everyday and by mid-week I’m fried,” she says. “Taking that time on Sunday, and getting joy from it, is wonderful.”

A proponent of reducing waste, Alex is extremely conscious of the issue both at work and at home.

“When I talk to my team about how to prep and store 100 pounds of beans for the restaurant, the same thing applies when I go home and make braised short ribs for my daughter,” she says. “You have to be very proactive.”

According to a 2012 study by the National Resources Defense Council, the average American household throws out 25 percent of the food purchased—roughly $1,500 worth each year.

 

Try Alex’s tips for saving time, money, and reducing food waste:
• Make a meal plan.

“Figure out what you are going to do with everything you buy,” she says. “It’s a pleasure to have an agenda—you’ll feel like you’re pulling a fast one on everybody because it’s so easy!”

Read the Parents meal-plan guide to get started.

 

• Stop thinking about leftovers as, well, leftovers.

“Instead of looking at packaging as something that lets you recycle and throw back in the scraps no one ate, think about it as a new beginning,” she says. “And, by making a plan, you’re actually ensuring there aren’t any leftovers.”

Plus, “leftovers” can be better than the first time around: “Growing up my mom would make a big batch of meatballs and sauce and, to me, the sauce tasted better two days later,” she says. “It’s not a leftover—it’s something you created that got better with age or other ingredients.”

 

• Don’t be hard on yourself.

“Some weeks, I don’t have my act together,” she says. “As a busy working mom, there are nights when I have to say, ‘Guess what kid, it’s fried eggs tonight.’ And that’s okay.”

 

• Reorganize your fridge.

“The crisper can be the kiss of death. Don’t put your fruits and veggies in there,” she says. “Instead, fill it with club soda and put your produce on display. My favorite thing to do is put herbs in a jar of water on the top shelf, or sometimes right on the kitchen table.”

 

• Buy different ingredients.

“Challenge yourself to use new items—like a bunch of thyme or mint—by taking one little step each day for a week. In order to use it up, you’ll find creative ways to add the ingredient to dishes.”

 

To join the #SaveItSunday movement, visit glad.com. If you pledge, you’ll be entered to win a meal prepared by a personal chef.

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How to Decorate the BEST Nursery

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Cribs, rompers, and blankies, oh my! When it comes to furnishing the perfect room for Baby, sometimes there’s just too much décor. Take it from the lifestyle department at American Baby; we conceive a new nursery theme each month for our “Nesting” page.

So how do we manage to scout a set of items that mesh? You’d be surprised where we find inspiration.


1. It’s not about matching.
Yes, ideally you want your nursery to flow well. But that doesn’t mean it has to match to the point where all creativity is drained. The best ideas come when you make unexpected choices, like using a spotted orange crib sheet to mimic bedrock pebbles for a dinosaur theme. Definitely beats the traditional creature-filled bedding.

2. It can start with one product.
Despite how put together our layouts seem, it doesn’t take long to develop a theme. It can be sparked by anything really at a moment’s notice. When we came across this brigade of dolls, they inspired a Japanese-centered nursery that would go on to include florals and the cutest wrap dress for November–subscribers look out for your issue soon!

 

 

3. Practicality outweighs design.
Don’t just choose décor because it looks nice. Think about longevity and the drain on your wallet, too. A $300 diaper pail may match your coveted color scheme, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth it in the long run. Be sure to research multiple sources and consider timeless pieces that will last beyond your child’s early years, like cool mirrors or sophisticated lamp bases.

Before you know it, you’ll want to sleep in Baby’s room instead of your own!

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