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Monday, December 15th, 2014
By social-media demand, M&M has brought back M&M’s Crispy to satisfy your holiday chocolate cravings. Parents caught up with Vanessa Williams—singer, actress, former Miss America, mom to four kids, plus the voice of M&M’s Ms. Brown—about her family’s holiday traditions, what she wishes she knew when her kids were younger, and raising confident daughters.
P: M&M’s Crispy are a great holiday snack. What’s your holiday snack to make with your kids?
VW: I love Christmas cookies no matter what they are—sugar or Linzer Torte or chocolate. My parents were both music teachers so they’d always get cookies from their students. It’s one of the things that always makes me feel like I’m in the Christmas spirit.
P: You’ve had an illustrious career in acting and singing and now your daughter, Jillian, is a singer. Is Christmas a super musical holiday in your house?
VW: We listen to a lot and I’ve been lucky enough to do two Christmas CDs. I’ve done Christmas on Broadway and specials and always am delighted to have the music component. But Christmas starts too early now. It’s so commercialized. You barely make it through Halloween and then it’s the tunes. It’s nice to concentrate and focus on what the time should really be about: how thankful and blessed you are to have family and friends and to appreciate what’s happened through the year. The music for me is more reverential than commercial and that’s what we try to do with playing the music in the house and singing as a family.
P: Of your four children only Sasha is still at home. Is there any tradition that brings everyone back with childhood memories?
VW: We have a Christmas Eve pageant. When the kids were young they would each get a part depending on what class—second graders could be angels and if you were Mary and Joseph you were the stars. We still go to the children’s mass because we love seeing the kids. It also reminds us of how long we’ve been together and the roles they had. Then we come back to the house and I make a lasagna and the kids open one gift. Christmas Eve is the one we try to make consistent every year.
P: Your kids are growing up quickly, but is there anything about parenthood that still baffles you?
VW: I think it’s just the adolescent years. It’s a mixed bag every day. You don’t know what the mood’s going to be, the hormones are raging, their bodies are changing and their attitudes change as well. The biggest thing is to not take it personally. You have to be there and be consistent and set limits and [give] advice, but be steady.
P: What do you know now about being a parent that you wish you had known about those early years?
VW: I know so many parents are hyper-focused on achievement and test scores. It’s almost like you’re in competition with other parents, and the kids are overwhelmed and stressed out. Life will turn out the way it’s supposed to turn out. I think it puts too much pressure on the parents who micromanage their kids. It’s anxiety-causing. Within [kids who have the] same parents you’re going to get four different personalities, four different studying types, four different skill levels, and you have to tailor your energy toward each child. If you get a bad test score in 7th grade, guess what? You can still be the CEO of a company because if that’s what you’re good at and you work hard and life happens to bring you that opportunity, they’re not gonna know what you got on your 8th grade geometry test.
P: You have three daughters and there is a prominent dialogue today about raising women who are not defined by their appearance, yet we cannot deny that how you present yourself matters. How do you navigate this challenge as a mom?
VW: I think it’s getting worse, particularly when you have social media and the opportunity to take images of yourself and correct them. You’re presenting a perfection constantly and you’re always trying to live up to the perfect example on a day-to-day basis. Luckily for me and luckily for my kids I emphasize what they do, which is talent.
I’ve also had the luxury of taking my kids all over the world so they see the different body types and the different genetics that are different in Brazil than they are in Egypt than they are in Austria. Instead of trying to squeeze yourself into a box where you don’t fit, that’s the great thing about traveling the world. They can appreciate [differences] and I think it really helps in term of self-esteem and really feeling comfortable.
If cookies aren’t your favorite, find enough cupcake recipes for a year here!
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Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Whether you love Elf on the Shelf or just cringe at the thought, there’s no doubt that the jolly elf’s popularity is not waning anytime soon. Now joining the other variations of Elf on the Shelf (like the cheeky Dwarf in the Drawer and Hanukkah’s Mensch on the Bench) is a Halloween version called The Switch Witch.
The Switch Witch is a mythological witch (shhh, keep this a secret!) who visits children while they sleep to switch Halloween candy with prizes. Think of the Switch Witch as a Tooth Fairy who only visits on Halloween to protect trick-or-treaters from candy overload and cavities, while also ensuring healthy choices.
“Switchcrafted: The Story of the Switch Witches of Halloween” is a new book-and-doll set (a black trick-or-treat bag is also included) that shares the story of the Switch Witches and their need for different types of candy to fuel broomsticks, homes, and baths. And similar to Santa, a Switch Witch watches over kids during the month of October to note those who are naughty and nice. Of course, nice kids get their candy exchanged for a toy (though keeping the candy doesn’t seem like such a raw deal, either). And in case you’re wondering, “Switchrafted” is the brainchild of three women and moms, Audrey Kinsman, Pam Hatcher, and Milena Kirkova.
If your kids can’t get enough of Elf on the Shelf, or if you just want a slightly non-traditional version of it, the Switch Witch (which kids can also personalize with a name) is a fun way to welcome the fall season and buoy everyone’s spirit. Since Halloween is right around the corner, pick up the “Switchcrafted” set and read the book at the start of the month. Then place your Switch Witch doll in different places around the house to watch over the kids!
Get in the Halloween spirit by downloading these free Halloween printables!
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Friday, May 2nd, 2014
Chef Tino Feliciano with his family.
Monday is Cinco de Mayo, and while moms and dads might not be able to indulge with multiple margaritas (like we used to) we can still celebrate with our kids. This special occasion drink recipe from Chef Tino Feliciano is a perfect treat with a Latin-style supper.
Kids’ Coconut Mojito
• 10 mint leaves
• 2 limes, cut into wedges
• 4 Tbs. sugar
• 16 oz. lemon-lime soda (regular or diet for a lower-sugar version)
• 4 oz. sweet cream of coconut
• 2 Tbs. grated coconut
Place the mint leaves, lime wedges, and sugar in a large pitcher. Using the handle end of a wooden spoon, lightly mash the ingredients together until they are roughly incorporated. Add the soda and cream of coconut and mix well. Serve in glasses with ice and garnish with the grated coconut.
Find easy Mexican dishes to make for dinner tonight.
The father of two girls and one boy, Chef Tino is a restaurant-owner in Puerto Rico. On Cinco de Mayo he brings his culinary (and people) skills to the mainland in the premiere of his Cooking Channel special The Fixer with Chef Tino at 9 PM (check local listings). Tino’s mission: to turn around a family-run Mexican restaurant in New Jersey. I had the pleasure of working with Tino and the production company on Monday’s night special, and one thing’s for sure—watch and you will crave Mexican food! Tino’s creamy cocktail will be the perfect accompaniment. And once the kids go to bed feel free to add a drop of two of rum. I won’t tell.
Click to find fun activities your family can play at home tonight.
Image courtesy Engel Entertainment
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Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
A few weeks back, Gisele looked fabulous. She was basking in her full glory while her glam squad coiffed her curls and primped her luscious lips, as she simultaneously breasted her 1-year-old daughter, Vivian. But the truth is, we don’t all have a glam squad waiting in the wings to put us back together after a long flight, too much egg nog or one too many sweet potatoes at the family get together. Plus, there is no team of nannies at the ready, waiting to whisk our children off to exciting endeavors as we get our butts kicked by a fabulous fitness trainer, like Tracey Anderson. What’s more, when we fly, we don’t fly private. So yes, we have to keep our screaming children seated and belted while onlookers judge us.
Despite our best wishes for turning over a new leaf in the coming New Year, when January 1st hits, we are often just as overwhelmed as we were on December 31st, but with the addition of a few more pounds thanks to all the holiday feasts and festivities! How can we get back in shape for the New Year and feel good about the way we look, all the while juggling the millions of things we constantly juggle?
To help, I’ve devised 10 calorie-saving, fat-burning rituals to work into your day so you too can be your very own Gisele:
1. Use portion control. Try serving yourself the same portion sizes as you would your kids, and eat small, regular meals just like they do. I promise I haven’t gone bonkers; returning to fist-sized portions is actually a great way to shed those extra pounds.
2. Combine your afternoon lull with excercise-packed TV time. How? In my house, we like to have a “Dance Storm.” I choose a music-packed DVD, like The Wiggles‘ “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” or The Gigglebellies, which are my family’s favorites. Then, we all get up (kids included!) and dance for the entire length of the DVD. It might feel like it will never end, but trust me, you can do it!
3. Get the single, double or tripple stroller out, and pile everyone in for some hill walks (or a run if you’re feeling particularly daring). A brisk 20-30 minute outing while pushing around all those extra pounds of children will work miracles.
4. Try to see clean-up time not as an oppressively annoying chore that never, ever ends, but rather as a chance to add in some extra cardio. Set goals for how quickly you’d like each task accomplished and time yourself. All that squatting is golden.
5. Eat with your kids. This will mean you’ll eat earlier than usual, which is far better than falling asleep right after gorging on late night burrito!
6. Treat your body like you treat your kids’ bodies! Just like we wouldn’t let our children eat excessive amounts of candy and unhealthy foods, apply the same good common sense and care taking skills to yourself. Remember, it’s not just for you. They need you to be healthy, too.
7. If you don’t have child care but are the type of person who needs an exercise class to kick your sweet derriere into action, consider the following: There are many strollercise groups that meet in local parks that you could join. And if there isn’t one near you, get some of your favorite moms together and organize your own so you can split the cost of a trainer who can lead the class. Alternatively, look for gyms that have child-care options so your wee one gets to play while you crunch.
8. Just as kids’ bedtimes often slip during the holiday season, so do ours. We need adequate amounts of sleep to be able to make good choices when it comes to food and exercise, so bump your bedtime forward just as you have theirs.
9. Reconnect with your partner. Not only does it burn calories, but it benefits your relationship, too. Make it a part of your new regime—a healthy relationship means a healthier you.
10. Don’t beat yourself up. I often find I get so hard on myself for not working out enough or being healthy enough that I become so overwhelmed I don’t do anything at all. Give yourself praise for small achievements. Even 20 minutes of exercise here and there or cutting a few late-night snacks from your weekly norm is a step in the right direction.
And if all else fails, strip down to a white robe, fly on your private jet and have your glam squad ready in the wings each morning to beautify you as you roll out of bed. Ahhh, at least we can dream! (Ahem, Gisele.)
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Friday, December 20th, 2013
Can you believe that the last weekend before Christmas is here already? Whether you’re spending it traveling, shopping, or just snuggling up at home, chances are the kids will want to watch a movie at some point. Luckily, Netflix recently released a list of holiday titles available for streaming, and we’ve narrowed it down to some suggestions of specials you probably still haven’t seen (that way you don’t have to watch the same classic you’ve already watched dozens of times!)
So pick a movie, gather up the family and get cozy. Enjoy!
What are your favorite holiday specials? Let us know in the comments!
Image courtesy of Netflix
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Monday, December 16th, 2013
With the holiday season comes the gift-giving spirit, and I, for one, have always been a fan of gifts that “give back.”
It all started with a proverb my mother told me as a child: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Ever since then, I’ve favored what I like to call “experiential gifts,” those that you can do or share with someone, or charitable gifts, which in some way support a cause I value.
This year, I’m going the charitable route. (Sometimes, the giving of an “experiential gift” feels like I’m selfishly giving myself a present, too. Anyone else ever feel that way when you buy two tickets for your special someone to a concert you’re both dying to see?) Fortunately, I was introduced to Pikolinos’ Maasai Collection, a line of shoes and bags featuring traditional beadwork embroidery. The brand partnered with over 1,600 women from the Maasai tribe of Kenya, one of the most threatened on the planet according to the UN, to design the collection. This sustainable collaboration wins my vote for the fashion-forward gift that gives back this year because 100% of the proceeds from this line go directly back into the Maasai Community in the form of fair wages. Thanks to this unique partnership, more than 1,600 families have a stable source of income that allows them to obtain basic needs items, like food and medicines.
As I browsed the collection, I thought, now here’s a gift I can feel good about giving—with comfort and style that’s so worth receiving.
Image: Olivia Palermo wears Pikoloinos via stylist.ca
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Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
The Elf on the Shelf
has quickly become a beloved Christmas tradition, but it might already be time for something new. For those feeling elf fatigue
, another little creature could offer a fun alternative to the ubiquitous holiday spy.
Author L. van King pokes fun at elf mania with the cheeky parody The Dwarf in the Drawer
. The Dwarf in the Drawer doesn’t do much, which might be refreshing for some parents who have run out of creative places
to perch their sneaky elves. This lovable drawer-dweller is more of a sloth than his enemy, preferring to snooze among socks and watch Colbert rather than report back to the big guy up North. As he laments,
For most of the year, things at home were real peachy.
Then in came that usurper, acting all preachy.
Who died and made that elf king?
That creep who made Christmas a terrible thing?
Based on the sheer number of Pinterest pins
alone, The Elf on the Shelf is a huge hit, but the little guy isn’t for everyone. Maybe you and your family have overdosed on good holiday cheer, and can commiserate with this grumpy counterpart. Here’s to new (and slightly sassy) holiday traditions!
Are you an Elf on the Shelf enthusiast, or are you more of a Dwarf in the Drawer dissenter? Tell us in the comments!
Find the best toys and games for your little ones here.
Image courtesy of Macmillan Publishers
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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.”
Serves: 6 to 8
Total time: 85 minutes
• 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
• 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
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.
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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