20 Minute Dinners to Rock Your Weeknight!

Weeknights can be busy! With practices, lessons, after-school activities and more, you can take dinner OFF the worry list for good with these 20-minute recipes!
Courtesy of hitchedmag.com

Garlicky Orecchiette with Swiss Chard and Fontina

Courtesy of delish.com, we love this light italian dish–it’s big on on flavor but takes it easy on time! Here’s what you need…

 

-Kosher Salt
-Orecchiette Pasta (a cute variety of pasta originating in southern Italy–if you can’t find it, small shell pasta will do)
-2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-1 LB Swiss Chard, Chopped
-3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
-2 Tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
-3 C. Grated Fontina (plus a little extra for garnish)
-¼ C Fresh Parsley

 

That’s a super short list, right? You’re eight ingredients and twenty minutes away from a new family favorite you’ll be making every week! Here’s how to pull it off…

 

1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions; drain the pasta, reserving ¼ C of the starchy pasta water for later.

 

2) At the same time, heat the olive oil in the bottom of a nonstick pan (large with high sides, if you’ve got one) and cook the garlic, swiss chard and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and cook until the greens are wilted.

 

3) Add in your cooked pasta and the reserved water, stirring to make a sauce. Add fontina and stir until melted.

 

4) Dish and top with additional fontina and parsley–then serve!

 

Easy and delicious, even the pickiest kids can’t resist this gorgeous Italian favorite! (Serves 4)Peach and Prosciutto Flatbread

 

Also from delish.com! This one may alarm you a little…peaches with prosciutto…on a pizza? Most parents wouldn’t dare attempt something so wild with their weeknight dinner–but Super Moms aren’t most parents. Give this one a try! We promise it’ll be delicious. Here’s what you need.

 

-4 Whole-Wheat Naan Flatbreads (unless you’d like to make your own, go store bought!)
-2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-8 oz Fresh Mozzarella (sliced nice and thin)
-2 Fresh Peaches (also sliced thin–we recommend a mandolin if you’ve got one)
-4 oz Prosciutto (thin and torn or cut into bite-sized pieces)
-½ C Fresh Basil (thinly sliced)
-Kosher salt
-Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

 

1) Preheat your oven to 450 F.

2) Place flatbreads on two baking sheets and drizzle with ½ olive oil (each). Top with the mozzarella, peaches, prosciutto and half the fresh basil; season to taste.

3) Bake until golden brown and the cheese is melted (about 8 minutes).

4) Remove and sprinkle with the remaining basil–cut into quarters and serve!

We love this one, because the whole family can make these amazing flatbreads together! Letting your kids help cook and place toppings will encourage them to eat it when it comes out the oven! This dinner is quick, easy and sure to wow! (Serves 4)Lemon Crab Rolls

We’re taking things to the seashore for our next dinner–this one is ready in fifteen minutes and pleases your seafaring crowd! Not only is this meal amazing, but it’s so simple, you could make it every day.

-1/2 C Real Mayonnaise
-2 Tsp Lemon Zest
-1 Lemon’s Worth of Juice
-1 ½ Tsp Old Bay Seasoning (plus more for garnish)
-¼ C Green Onions (sliced thin)
-Salt and Pepper (to taste)
-1 LB Lump Crab Meat
-4 Top-Split Buns
-2 TBS Butter (melted)
-4 Leaves Bibb Lettuce
-Lemon Wedges (for serving)

We’re already getting excited! Here’s how to do it…

1) Whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, green onions, salt, pepper and old bay in a medium bowl (preferably glass or plastic).

2) Gently fold in crabmeat until just combined. Chill while completing the next steps.

3) Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; brush your buns with butter on all sides, and toast in the pan until golden (2 minutes per side).

4) Line each of your rolls with a leaf of Bibb Lettuce; spoon in crab mixture and sprinkle with additional seasonings to taste.

Courtesy of delish.com; serves 4. Dijon Grilled Pork

Juicy, delicious pork chops paired with a sweet and tangy chilled salad make the perfect spring or summer weeknight dinner–it’s a fan favorite and great for your family or a whole crowd! Here’s what you need!

-4 8 oz Bone-In Pork Chops
-¼ C Ground Dijon Mustard
-¼ C plus 2 TBS Red Wine Vinegar
-2 TBS Honey
-8 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-2 Large Heirloom Tomatoes (cut into 1 inch chunks)
-3 Large, Fresh Peaches (sliced)
-¼ C Fresh Basil (torn, plus more for garnish)
-Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

It’s so easy, you won’t believe it…check it out!

1) Preheat oven to 375 F.

2) Place your pork chops in a shallow glass baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, red wine vinegar (minus the 2 TBS) honey and 4 tablespoons of oil. Pour over pork and turn to coat, letting sit while you complete the next step.

3) Place tomatoes and peaches and basil into a large bowl. Whisk together the remaining oil and and vinegar and drizzle over top. Toss, season, and chill until ready to serve.

4) Heat a wrought iron grill pan (if you’ve got one) over medium-high heat. Grill your pork chops 3 minutes per side, then transfer whole pan to the oven for another 6-8 minutes. Let rest.

5) Serve with salad and fresh basil garnish.

NOTE: If you don’t have a fancy-shmancy grill pan, feel free to use your actual grill, or pan fry your pork chops on the stove top. Just be sure that the internal temperature of your meat hits 145 F. Serves four; courtesy of delish.com. Skirt Steak Salad

In all the excitement, we couldn’t decide whether to add a beef dish or a salad…so we decided to add both! You and your kiddos will go crazy for this hearty salad that not only sates your appetite for protein, but also fills your daily requirement of greens!

-6 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-1 Small Red Onion (thinly sliced)
-1 Tsp Balsamic Vinegar
-1 Tsp Brown Sugar
-Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
-1 LB Skirt Steak
-2 TBS Red Wine Vinegar
-5 oz Baby Arugula
-½ Pint Grape Tomatoes (halved lengthwise)
-½ Pint Yellow Grape Tomatoes (halved lengthwise)
-2 oz Feta Cheese (crumbled)

Here’s how…

1) Heat 1 TBS oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat; cook onion until soft and add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Cook for 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside in a bowl.

2) To the already hot pan, add another tablespoon of oil and cook your skirt steak three minutes per side, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Move steak to cutting board and let rest.

3) Whisk together red wine vinegar with the remaining olive oil and season. Add tomatoes and arugula, tossing to coat.

4) Slice steak thinly, across the grain.

5) Divide salad into four bowls; top with onions, feta and steak. Serve immediately!

Serves four; courtesy of delish.com

Rock Your Child’s Locker!

The school year can be a long haul, but you can make it a little less troublesome by making sure your child’s locker is organized, well-equipped and ready for anything!

 

A child’s locker is their own space–their zen zone in the middle of school chaos. They visit it every period, they keep everything in there, and it’s darn near one of the most important places they’ll visit all day. Don’t believe us? Watch what happens when a locker gets out of hand–it ain’t pretty.
Just imagine that your child’s locker is their room-away-from-home–when it gets messy, they suffer. It takes too long to find basic items, and before you know it…things go wrong.

And we’re here for you when things go wrong.

 

The Purge

Not just a ridiculous movie franchise! Purging your child’s locker a few times a year is imperative–but especially before you start a large-scale renovation! Arrange a time with the school (normally after-school) when you can come in and help your child clean out their locker. Bring Clorox wipes, paper towels and at least one trash bag.
You’ll thank us later.
(Disinfect everything; be prepared to say “WHAT” when you first see the carnage; purge any papers that are three weeks old, trash any wrappers, water bottles, food containers; bring something to take home clothes, lunch boxes, thermoses, etc…)

 

The Planning

Courtesy of everyday-families.com

Take your kiddo to the store (any dollar store will do, but also consider Target and Walmart)–you might find a locker decoration section, but if not, look for things you can hack into locker decor–pencil cups, mirrors, battery-powered light fixtures, makeup holders…plan out where everything will go. Hopefully you took measurements of your locker so you know what you have to work with, and the surface area you’d need to cover with funky shag carpet and wallpaper!
Have a basic idea of what you’re looking for in the way of style and organization!

 

The Remodeling

Let’s do this! Early one morning, head in with your kiddo with all your new stuff and start decorating! Installing lights, carpet and wallpaper (nothing permanent, please!) can really make your child’s locker their own! You might add in containers on the walls or even a shelf! Stock it with your child’s books and new supplies.
Keeping it clean just got easier–make a deal with your child that they can keep these fun things if they keep the locker clean!

 

Style Guide

Check out these awesome style tips and clever hacks to personalize your child’s space…for less!

 

Lights, Camera, Action!

Check out this epic locker door! Perfect for a middle and high schooler, there’s tons of room for makeup, hair ties, feminine products and more…there’s even a mirror! You can buy the set or you can cover cheap dollar tree containers and mirrors with washi tape and spray paint, and glue on super powerful magnets! Battery-operated lights turn a standard mirror into an awesome locker vanity!

 

Clean Contemporary

We love this one, and it works for anyone–highschoolers especially! Adding a command hook can give your kiddo a place to hang darn near anything (a hat in this case); mesh baskets with super magnets make for an organized locker door, but the real crowning glory here isn’t the the frills! It’s the clean metal locker shelf that’s barely even there! It doubles the useable storage space with ease, and is strong enough to hold even the heaviest textbooks!

 

Whiteboard Wonders

Courtesy of gurl.com
You can snap up a super cheap whiteboard, stick on some magnets and make this one-of-a-kind whiteboard for your kiddo’s locker! It can help them keep track of their class schedule, yes…but also practices, lessons, assignments, pickup times, buses, emergency numbers and more!

 

Stacks on Stacks

Courtesy of diyhomedecorguide.com

This thing is so cool–a heavy duty plastic stacking device to keep everything in it’s own adorable bin! It’s sure to keep your kiddo organized (and can be made from stacking desk organizers if you don’t feel like shelling out the bucks to snag one!).

 

Roll Out

Courtesy of lockerdog.com

If your child has a full-length locker, consider one of these roll-up organizers. You can find them at Target and Walmart, but can also re-use closet organizers or rolling makeup caddies! We love this to bits, since it allows students to utilize not only their locker interior, but the door as well! Double the space, double the style.

Uh Oh–Is Your Child A Bully?

Put an end to bullying–it could save a life.

A while back, we provided you and your child with tips and tricks for handling bullies–in that article were harrowing statistics, like the skyrocketing statistics of teens that have experienced bullying and abuse before they graduate.The problem doesn’t stop with fielding the fallout of bullies–the only true way to ensure a livable world for every child is to keep an eye out for signs of bully behavior in our kids. Nobody wants to think that their sweet child may be mistreating others, but that’s a slippery slope–ignoring signs of bullying in your child may be paving the way for dangerous behavior down the line.

A Bit About Bullying

Courtesy of Shaw Global News
Bullying is an odd thing, and can change shape from child to child depending on so many things. Boys tend to exhibit physical aggression toward both male and female targets, while girls tend to opt for social and psychological abuse toward predominantly female victims. This is, of course, painting with an extremely broad and general brush, as your child’s particular case can be wholly unique.
It’s important to note that there’s a fine line between being outgoing and being a bully–what you’re looking for is the tiny differences that we’ll outline here today.
Outgoing or Dominant?

Courtesy of mommyish.com
Today’s article is brought to you by the letter E–E for extrovert, that is. Kids are either naturally introverted and extroverted, and that can determine a lot about how they view the world and other kids around them. While it’s possible for your introverted child to bully others, it’s far more likely that your outgoing and extroverted child will exhibit some bullying in their lifetime. BUT once again, it’s important to note that your loud and excitable child who never knew a stranger isn’t necessarily bullying others–plenty of kids exhibit kindness and a willingness to help others. What you need to watch out for is when the tone changes–if you hear your child telling another kid to shut up, if your child is excluding one or two other kids, things like that. While parents tend to consider a strong personality a sign of leadership, it can just as quickly become bullying.
What To Do:
Remind your child that they have potential to do great things–people like them make good leaders, but also make it very clear that a real leader doesn’t abuse and hurt people. They listen kindly and care about those around them. Keep an eye out for repeat behaviors like this, and be willing to enforce punishments to ensure your child doesn’t get used to pushing others around. Groundings and removal from the park/playground/team or what have you are all appropriate here.

Friendly Teasing or Something Worse?

Courtesy of mamamia.com
Friends tease each other–boys and girls do this equally and frequently. Normally it’s all in good fun–I’m sure most folks can remember the friendly teasing they both dished and received during middle school and high school. You might hear kids say some fairly appalling things to one another, then laugh their heads off–it happens! Where we start to see red flags popping up is when your child (maybe along with several other children) continuously teases and abuses one or two other kids (usually the same ones, on multiple occasions). Watch also to see if the other children are responding well or decidedly negatively–it’s a sure sign that your child isn’t teasing a friend, but abusing a victim.
What To Do:
It’s time for your child to apologize to their victim and begin making strides to keep themselves in check. Ask them to watch their behavior when you aren’t around by encouraging them to think. Ask them what it would be like if they were in their victim’s position, and had unkind things said to and about them all day. If you witness repeat situations, it’s time to take away some favorite things–game consoles and cell phones, for starters.

Cyber Bullying

Courtesy of screenretriever.com
This is a new and disturbing trend among teens that is also on the rise. This is the use of social media to defame, humiliate and intimidate people–and it happens a lot. Since upwards of 70% of parents claim to have no idea what their child does online, it’s rampant and dangerous. This one is a big one, and shouldn't’ be taken lightly. Keeping an eye on your child’s phone and social media are great ways to combat this one. That may seem like an invasion of privacy, but it is an important step to ensure that your child isn’t using their social media to hurt others.
What To Do:
Plain and simple–if you discover your child is texting or posting inappropriate things in an effort to hurt other children, it’s time to deactivate social media until your child can be trusted to use it wisely.

Your Child’s First Sleepover–Sleep Soundly Knowing Your Child is Safe!

Hack that sleepover!

First thing’s first, know that there is no “one-size-fits-all” age for kids to have a sleepover–sometimes you may get an invite from some brave parent offering to host a sleepovers for kids as young as five and six, while others hold off till their child begins asking about sleepovers, in the early teens. There’s a lot to consider, but you basically are faced with two options:
You can agree to send your child to someone else’s home for a sleepover, or…
…you can host one yourself.
No matter what you choose to do, we’ve got all the tips and tricks you need to pull this thing off.

Be Our Guest

So it finally happened–you were minding your own business when your child rushes through the door, a sleepover invitation in hand. Right away, you need to assess the situation, and how ready you judge your child to be.
Do You Know The Host?
This is the number-one question–if you don’t know the host family very well, it may not be the right time to send your child to their home for a night. But if this is a family member, trusted friend or someone you’ve met a few times at birthday parties and other school/church events, consider allowing your child to go. Make sure that you, as a parent, are 100% comfortable with the people who are going to be in charge of your child.
Remember in this instance that a little harmless research is not a bad thing–checking out the hosts can help you big time. You can give them a call and friend them on social media to get your answers. Do they engage in activities you don’t approve of? Do they live somewhere you’re comfortable with? Do they have an animal your is allergic to or afraid of? These are all valid questions you shouldn’t be afraid to ask before sending your kid to their home for a sleepover.

Is Your Child Interested In Going?
Truth moment–your kid might not even want to go. If your child is afraid, or considerably introverted, or just “busy that day”, don’t stress. If they’re not into it, don’t force them to go to this sleepover. We know it’s good for kids to try new things and step outside their comfort zone, but there may be something about the host or other guests that you aren’t aware of–someone may have bullied your children or pressured them in some way. Trust your kid’s judgement here–we know it sounds weird, but they tend to know their schoolmates better than you do.

Is Your Child Mature Enough?
Considering your child’s maturity level is huge in deciding if it’s a good time for a sleep over–if they are fairly independent, have a history of making good choices and have managed to keep your trust relatively well, they might be ready to go. But if your child has trouble with authority and tends to break your rules…consider holding off.

So You Said Yes

Courtesy of The Huffington Post
If you’ve decided to let your child sleep over somewhere, you can arm them with everything they need to have a happy, safe, awesome time–while also granting you some peace of mind. We’ve got a comprehensive list here that you should check twice before sending them off!

1) Toiletries
For a sleepover, you’re going to want your child to have their toothbrush and paste, floss, deodorant and any other age-appropriate bits and pieces for the bathroom. That means extra hair ties, feminine products, makeup (if that’s your child’s thing) any specialized or medicated face wash and a brush or comb. Odds are your child won’t be needing a full on shower while they’re at the host’s house, but if the situation demands it (pool party, etc…) give your child some travel-sized body wash, hair care products and a towel also.
NOTE: If your child takes regular medications, leave them with an adult host with specific instructions–this is for your child’s safety, as well as that of the other attendees.

2) Bedtime Stuff
Pajamas and slippers are a great place to start, but also make sure your kiddo has a sleeping bag, pillow, and security blanket or animal (if they need one). This is an important part, as it is a sleepover.

3) Tomorrow’s Clothes
They’re going to need something to wear when they wake up! Be sure to pack an extra pair of underwear and socks–better they have it and don’t need it than need it and have to go without.
NOTE: Also include activity-appropriate shoes!

4) Phone/Phone Numbers
If your child is old enough to have a cellphone (and you can decide that with our awesome article on teens and cell phone readiness), make sure they have it with them, as well as a charger. Set specific boundaries and times when they need to call and check in. If they aren’t, exchange contact number(s) with the host, and ask if you can call them.

Remember to pack with your child so they know where to find everything!

If You Choose To Host

You brave, brave soul.
Opening your home to a bunch of kids is a huge undertaking. The pros are, of course, you can give your child the sleepover experience without sending them away…
…the cons are “Holy cow, what have I done?”
Keep a few things in mind to hold onto your sanity during the single longest night ever.

1) Remember that there are parents out there just as nervous as you would be/have been in their place. Be sure to reassure them in all the ways you would like to be reassured–give out your number, make note of food allergies, agree to their terms for administering prescriptions, etc… treat their kids like they were your kids.
NOTE: It’s also super important to be clear and concise with your terms and conditions. Make it clear on the invitation what your plan to do, what meals will be provided, when drop-off and pick-up times are, and everything that their child will need to bring.

2) Keep a small guest list.
Instead of inviting the entirety of Mrs. So-and-So’s class, maybe pick a few close friends to have over. Limiting your guest list to three or four children isn’t a bad thing! Parents often feel pressure to invite everyone, but don’t worry–as long as you’re not excluding one or two children, creating a small party is 100% acceptable.

3) Various activities are a nice thing to offer, but don’t force anyone to make a craft or play a game if they don’t want to. Keep your sleepover loosely structured instead of rigidly scheduled–that way you don’t have to stress!

Good luck Super Mom!

January/February Movie Releases

Pick the perfect movies for your family!

We love reviewing movies for you and yours, just so that you know what’s what before ever buying a ticket! January 2017 seems to be painfully short on family films, so we’ve tossed in February as an added bonus! Happy viewing!

Hidden Figures
Rating: PG
Release Date: January 6th, 2017
Based on a true story, Hidden Figures is blowing audiences away from coast to coast–in this dramatic film, we are introduced to three stunning and brilliant African-American women who break down walls (and all the rules) in the socially and racially torn world of 1960’s America. Starring the incredibly talented Taraji P. Henson (as Katherine Johnson), Janelle Monáe (playing Mary Jackson) and the beloved, hilarious Octavia Spencer (appearing in this film as Dorothy Vaughan), we enjoy a heart-wrenching story of grit, determination and grace under pressure–all to achieve one of the nation’s greatest victories.
Katherine Johnson, the main focus of the film, finally has her incredible story brought to the silver screen and shared with millions–even in a segregated, male-dominated field, Johnson made life-saving calculations for John Glenn’s historic 1969 flight, and was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for her endless contributions to NASA.
These women are true American heroes, and their stories serve as inspiration to all kids hoping to do something amazing with their lives–some organizations, bent on empowering women and children of color, are sending kids to see this movie, as it delivers such powerful messages and inspiring kids to dream big. It’s a must-see for kids and parents of all ages.

Monster Trucks
Rating: PG
Release Date: January 13, 2017
Tripp is just an average high schooler in a small town, and he’s looking for something more. His one escape is building–in his spare time, he recycles parts from old, scrapped cars, turning them into his own cutting-edge monster truck.
But when an accident rocks a nearby oil-drilling site, something amazing happens!
One of three huge subterranean creatures, dislodged and homeless, finds its way to Tripp’s backyard–and into Tripp’s beloved truck! Now not only does Tripp have a running, wall-climbing “off-road” vehicle, but a true Monster Truck in every sense of the word!
Tripp and his friend–a bookish tutor named Meredith–risk it all to rescue “Creech” from the oil company that displaced him. They wind up on the run, risking their lives and fighting for their newfound, tentacled friend–all to a happy end.
Monster Trucks may have tanked in a historic way opening weekend, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a heartwarming story of fun and friend. Kids ten and under will love this one–it’s very mild on violence, has no sexual content to speak of, and no profanity. While they’ll exploit some considerably silly elements for a laugh, it’ll be worth it to take your little one!
Bottom line–don’t expect Monster Trucks to wow you, but it’s sure to make your kiddo smile.

Rock Dog
Rated: PG
Release Date: February 24, 2017
This sweet and quirky animated film follows the story of a Tibetan Mastiff named Bodi (given voice in this film by Luke Wilson) who receives some guidance from above–that is, when a radio falls straight out of the sky! Bodi takes this as a sign, and makes the bold choice to go after his longtime dream of becoming a musician. He strikes out on his own, leaving his beloved mountaintop home (and his no-nonsense dad) for the big city, where he meets hilarious rockstar cat Angus (voiced flawlessly by british comedian Eddie Izzard). Together, Angus and Bodi, along with a colorful cast, take the stage to wow their adoring fans! Bodi learns the value of never giving up, and encourages audiences to chase their dreams no matter what!
We recommend this film for kids ten and under, as it’s a silly, feel-good adventure with plenty of brand new, all-original tunes to keep them entertained!

If you think this is some serious slim pickings, you’d be right–especially if none of these films work for your family! But don’t worry–we’ll be back in no time to bring you all the newest films making their debut in March! The emotional final chapter of Hugh Jackman’s career as Wolverine, Logan, explodes into theatres in early March, followed by Leap, a whimsical animated film centered around a Parisian ballet school. Mid-month ushers in the long-awaited, live-action Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson, Luke Evans, Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor and many more, and is sure to be the blockbuster of the year! March is closed out with a heavy-hitting Power Rangers reboot, and The Boss Baby, a must-see animated comedy starring none other than Alec Baldwin as…a baby.
We seriously cannot wait for March.

Top Five YouTube Channels For Moms–Diets, DIYs and More!

YouTube has everything–and often more than is typically necessary. But in between all those prank videos, gaming personalities and nonsensical rambling there really is a treasure trove of amazing DIYs and how-tos…if you know where to look. And, just for you, we’ve put together the best of the best–talented bakers, home DIYers and much more.

My Cupcake Addiction

Courtesy of frankihobson.com
When it comes to baking, sweets and everything in between, this fiery australian mama has the final word! Elise Strachan has been a YouTube personality for several years now, and with every episode blows away her three million plus subscribers! Elise’s over-the-top cakes, creative cupcakes and devilishly decadent desserts will keep you coming back for more. You can check out her amazing themed cakes (like her Tinker Bell fairy house cake, Moana hula cake, Willy Wonka candy shop cake and her Inside Out cake), but the awesome doesn’t stop there! Elise is queen of confections and takes that title seriously–from cupcakes, cake pops, no-bake treats, and massive candy bars, she does it all. This is great for moms who want easy-to-make treats for schools, birthdays, holidays and more! Elise gives you all the tools and step-by-step instructions you need to make the basics (her “Perfectly Pipeable Buttercream” and “Super Sugar Cookies”) plus all her amazing desserts and cakes. Check her out at MyCupcakeAddiction!

AmandaMuse

This YouTuber takes your typical beauty blogging and puts a whole new spin on it! This talented mama, living in malaysia, is the go-to gal for all your beauty tips, tricks and hacks! One visit to her awesome channel will arm you with all sorts of effortless beauty tutorials and the best products on the market! We know that moms are busy, and that when things get crazy, the first thing to go out the window is personal grooming. But no more–let AmandaMuse show you how to do it up right with your limited time and with almost no effort! If you’re hungry for some easy, fast makeup tutorials perfect for everyday wear, look no further than this fun, quirky gal! We just love her style, and she makes it accessible to everyone, no matter what! You can find her channel on YouTube at AmandaMuse.

BDoubleOLive

John Booko, better known as the YouTube personality BDoubleO100, has been making gaming videos for several years–devoted fans subscribe for his Minecraft know-how, his bromance with fellow YouTuber GenerikB, and experiments with all the brand-new games hitting the market! We were thrilled when good ole BDubs decided to launch BDoubleOLive–a day-to-day look at his family, life in the midwest and so much more. We tearfully followed John and his beautiful wife Nicole through not one, but two pregnancies, laughed alongside John’s antics and cooked along with Nicole as she shared her incredible recipes. John and Nicole offer organization, relationship advice and house hacks; John is the ultimate handyman and Nicole is the queen of snagging deals at all your favorite stores. Check out John and Nicole, and their two little cuties Ari and Eden, for a new heartwarming adventure every week!

MADE Everyday

Courtesy of madeeveryday.com
Dana, the lovely lady on the left, is simply amazing! This YouTube girl has a TV-worthy personality and some serious sewing skills. We’ve watched in awe as she walked us through making clothes for kids, incredible home items and even party decorations! It’s seriously like magic, this girl is so talented.
What’s so great about Dana is she makes these incredible crafts so easy to understand and replicate. Using inexpensive materials (and even upcycling old clothes!) you can follow her lead into making a brand new wardrobe for you and your kiddos.
By the way, we adore her no-sew pillows with a passion.

FitMenCook

Fit Men Cook is one of our favorite clean-eating YouTube channels ever! Host Kevin leads his viewers from start to finish, from the grocery store visit to the step-by-step cooking! His episodes are jam-packed full of tips for saving money, eating well and staying healthy. His recipes are the perfect balance of hearty, filling, healthy and delicious, so they’re great for for any family looking to change their diet and lifestyle in a big way! Even kids who might be a bit on the picky side will love his black bean brownies, creamy squash mac and cheese and other amazing favorites!

Happy Watching, Super Mom!

Top Five Family Vacations!

1) ORLANDO, FLORIDA

Courtesy of parents.com
Of course, the vacation destination king heads our list–Orlando Florida is home so several world-class theme parks that you need to see!
We’ll start at Universal Studios–this massive park, which is a film buff’s paradise, is actually two parks in one! Islands of Adventure, the left side of the park, has everything from superheroes to your kid’s favorite cartoons, and a full-sized Jurassic Park experience! The Universal Studio’s side boasts amazing television and film-themed rides, shops and attractions! This includes the whimsical and colorful Seuss Landing, which welcomes visitors into their favorite Dr. Seuss books! Visit the massive candy store and grab a jawbreaker the size of your fist! (We’re dead serious.)
But the obvious crowning jewel is the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter–you can start your journey at King’s Cross Station and visit Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade Village and the gorgeous Hogwarts castle itself!
And, of course, not far away, is the magic of Disney World.
Walt Disney’s masterpiece spans twenty-seven thousand acres and is, without a doubt the more impressive of the two Disney parks! With the breathtaking and iconic castle and multiple distinct parks (Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and many more) it’s like a bunch of vacations in one!
Even better, both of these awesome theme parks offer awesome discounts and affordable hotels, so you can vacation for less!

2) ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Courtesy of foundtheworld.com
Atlanta is awesome! It’s a big city with plenty to do, but also slow-moving enough to be enjoyed. It’s the perfect combination of quirky, high-end entertainment and southern hospitality rolled into one.You can spend a few days in the city visiting amazing attractions, like the High Museum of art (a spacious, sunny gallery full of incredible works of art), the World Of Coke, the Atlanta Underground, and the birth home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr! An old favorite is, of course, the Georgia aquarium–a state-of-the-art facility that’s home to millions of fish, four majestic whale sharks and so much more. Atlanta is also home to some amazing food–the best barbecue,awesome down-home cooking and even some wild fusion cuisine. With beautiful parks and affordable lodging (both inside the city, and in the surrounding suburbs), it’s a perfect place to kick back for a weekend, week, or however long your heart desires.

3) CLEVELAND, OHIO

Courtesy of cityhub.com
Did we just say Cleveland? The “mistake on the lake”?
Absolutely–allow us to woo you.
Ohio’s prized city, home to the NBA champs and the worst football team on planet earth, Cleveland is a gritty, no-nonsense place, but with a lot of heart! It’s on the Up-and-Coming American cities list and for good reason–in the past five years Cleveland has grown in changed in amazing new ways. Public Square, the famed park right smack dab in the middle, has undergone a luxurious overhaul and is definitely worth a visit–but only if you’re passing through to head to Tower City, one of Cleveland’s best shopping locations! You can spend a whole day exploring the Great Lakes Science Center, home to hands-on exhibits and shows, and then hit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the next day! This huge, rather unique-looking building contains hundreds of artifacts from the greatest musicians of all time–including Michael Jackson’s decked-out glove and the couch Jimi Hendrix wrote his best work on! From there head to the Cleveland Zoo and enjoy one of the best zoological parks in the USA! They have it all, including an incredible rainforest experience with real rain!
Throw in an aquarium, theatres, art museum, the beloved Christmas Story House and some of the best (and weirdest) food you’ve ever had, it’s worth the trip!

4) YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, (WYOMING, MONTANA, IDAHO)

Go west, Super Mom! Yellowstone, one of the top ten largest parks at a whopping 3,500 square miles, isn’t your average park! Yellowstone spans three states and at every turn delights visitors from around the world. For your nature girls and guys, Yellowstone is the right call–there are hiking trails, serene lakes, dense forests and majestic mountains for you to explore! Start of course, at Old Faithful, which even after thousands of years, still erupts every 45-125 minutes without fail. Makes one wonder if that’s where they got the name…
But don’t stop there! Check out Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, Grand Prismatic Spring (it’s just as awesome as it sounds), and so much more! If you’re lucky, you might even spot some of Yellowstone’s famous wildlife–moose, elk, bison, friendly otters and mysterious grey wolves…you may see a grizzly, or Yellowstone’s most illusive residents–lynx.
So go get lost in Yellowstone!
But not really.

5) WASHINGTON D.C

Courtesy of Rozanne Hakala
Our nation’s capital is chock full of things to see and do! You can, of course, tour the most famous landmarks in the county–the Capitol Building, Arlington Cemetery, Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Memorial and much more–but also, the Smithsonian. This amazing institution consists of nineteen separate museums and galleries throughout D.C. and if that doesn’t give you enough to do right there, then you’re doing it wrong!

Our Year of Crafting Concludes! Fall Edition

Fall DIY’s to treasure all year!

Fall is such a romantic and special time–the leaves change, the days get shorter, the air gets that special chill that only happens in the fall. It’s perfect for crafting, and we’ve got the perfect crafts!

Back-To-School Apple Pots
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-OBLZySa6oTc/T7LHWE47PBI/AAAAAAAACLs/-QVEaxqk3WQ/s1600/Clay_pot_jar_lid_fun_kids_craft_7.JPG
Courtesy of craftymoods.com
We adore these cute little clay apple pots–they’re a perfect gift for teachers, which you can pack full of sweets, and they can be used to hold pens, pencils, paperclips and much more! If you love these (and we know you do), here’s how to make them happen…
First, of course, you’ll need some terra cotta pots from the hardware store–the sizes are up to you, but we recommend keeping them small: about the size of a real apple! You’ll need a pot, and the small saucer they’re set on. What’s great, is you can grab these for sooo cheap–a few bucks at the most.
You’ll also need red, brown and green acrylic paint and brushes, sprayable polyurethane, a glass marble, hot glue and air-dry clay!
That saucer will become the lid when inverted, so make sure that your saucer will fit! Then paint everything–the inside and outside of both pieces. You can paint the outsides red and the insides like an apple if you want, or you can just paint them all red–just make sure that you can’t see any of the terra cotta from the outside!
Hot glue a marble to the top of the “lid” to make a handle so the lid can be easily removed!
Use your air-dry clay to make an apple stem over the marble, hiding it completely–make sure that the stem is smoothed onto the top of the apple, for added strength. Also, at this point, use your air-dry clay to make a leaf.
Let everything dry thoroughly–paint the leaf green and glue it onto the apple next to the stem, which you should paint brown. Then seal everything red with the sprayable polyurethane and you’re done!
NOTE: if you want the bottom to be closed, smooth air-dry clay into the tiny hole and paint as you would the rest.
You’re going to love these so much, you’ll fill your house with them in no time!

Monster Footprint Fun!

Okay, so you don’t have to stop at frankenstein, but it’s a darn good place to start! Make some adorable keepsake wall art with just a few supplies–they’re super cute and you can make some every year to track your kiddo’s growth!
You’ll need acrylic paint in a wide variety of colors–green, black, white, orange…any colors you want, really! You’ll also need cardstock in a variety of colors, some orange and black yarn, and of course, some simple tools–a hole punch,scissors and brushes!
Optional: googly eyes, glitter, stickers, pompoms and tacky glue.
Here’s how.
Frankenstein–paint your child’s foot green, and their toes black. Have them step carefully onto a piece of paper on the floor. The black is Frankenstein’s hair, and the green is his face! Once the paint is dry (and the foot is clean), it’s time to decorate with neck bolts, googly eyes, and whatever else!
Ghosts–these are even easier! Paint your child’s whole foot white and have them step onto paper. Once dry, draw a spooky face on the heel (which is the ghost’s head). Just like that, you’ve got some great ghosts!
Bats–very similar to the ghosts, and just as easy. Paint your kiddo’s foot black and repeat–once dry, add wings and a happy face!
Candy Corn–paint the top part of your child’s foot yellow, the middle orange, and the heel white!
Witch–paint your child’s whole foot green–once dry, add arms, legs, a funny hat and hair, and a sweet face on the heel! (the toes are the end of her dress!)
Dracula–this one is the hardest one of all. Paint your child’s foot mostly black, but paint the heel white. Once dry, draw a face and dracula hair on the heel, add a red cape and arms!
Then punch holes in the top of your paper creations, string through matching yarn and hang them up!

Paper Cup Turkeys

Courtesy of parenting.com
These are adorable! You definitely need them on your thanksgiving table, and with them being sooo unbelievably easy to make, you can make up a mess of them in no time! Some people even write the names of their guests on the turkey’s tummy, making them awesome place cards!
Here’s what you need…
Brown paper cups (if you can’t find them, grab some in any color and brown acrylic paint!); large brown pompoms and googly eyes, different colors of construction paper (try to keep it to yellow, orange, red and brown, but if you want some really “wild turkeys” you could use pinks, purples, or whatever else you’d like!). You’ll also need scissors and tacky glue.
First, flip your cup upside down and paint them brown (if you couldn’t find brown cups!). Glue a brown pompom on top for the head, and add on the cute little googly eyes!
From your construction paper, cut out a bunch of feathers, feet, and a beak–glue them on the appropriate parts of the turkey, and you’re done!

We hope you’ve enjoyed your year of crafting as much as we enjoyed assembling it for you!

Harmony in the Home–How to Get Those Kids to Get Along!

Do you have siblings? If you do, you probably only got closer to them as you got older–but as kids…well, there was chaos. Some of us have stories repeated at holiday dinners “the tooth”, “the broom javelin”, “the roller skates”…all the best fights from when you were kids. It happens to the best of us.
We know that children have a million reasons to not get along–from arguing over TV shows to swearing their favorite toy has been stolen. And while the occasional spat here and there isn’t a big deal, constant upheaval under your roof makes for more than just unhappy kiddos–it puts mom and dad on edge too! If you’re looking to make your home life better and get some peace and quiet, let us help you out.

Building Relationships

The best way to solve a problem of contention between your kids is actually to help them build a relationship while things are good. Preventative, right? While they’re on good terms, ask them to help each other with chores. Now, you’re probably thinking that pushing your kids together to do a chore is going to cause fights, but let’s consider this–while they’re on good terms with each other, they’re open to learning. Learning how to work with each other, learning how to cooperate and learning how the other person behaves. A little snarl may arise, but since things are good, it’s going to be a better learning environment!

Consider Your Role

Courtesy of the Huffington Post
Even if it doesn’t seem like it, your kids watch you. All the time, closely. They learn key behaviors from you, and that means they watch how you handle hard situations and conflict. If you and your partner find yourselves arguing with each other in front of the kids, they’re going to take that cue and run with it. When your kids are around, strive to conduct yourself with grace and understanding–and they’ll follow your lead when push comes to shove.

Praising Problem Solving

Courtesy of parentingskillsblog.com
Watch closely–your kids might just surprise you! They don’t need constant mediation–kids need to learn to solve their problems on their own, and with time, they can. If you hear them yelling at each other in the next room, wait, watch and listen closely. You might be surprised with the creative and wonderful ways your children figure things out, and the solutions they come up with! And when they do arrive at a solution, be sure to praise their willingness to work things out–rewarding problem solving will lead to more of it in the future.
Of course, this goes out the window when things get physical, so make sure you keep an eye on the situation!

Restitution

Courtesy of scholastic.com
This isn’t easy, but when one child harms another, or destroys something that doesn’t belong to them, there needs to be consequences. Making sure that your child does something to make right their transgression not only ensures justice for the wronged party, but also teaches your child that wrongdoing leads to some un-fun things. One mother had her child do all of her brother’s chores for the day after hitting him; another took a fraction of his allowance to replace a doll he’d destroyed. Find what works for you and be consistent with your punishment/restitution.

Communication is Key

Courtesy of clickinmoms.com
Help your children understand that communicating effectively is the best way to accomplish big things. Teach them to express their feelings instead of placing blame; teach them to explain their situation rather than yelling over the other person. This one is super important because it’s going to make a lot of things easier as your child grows up! Open dialogue in your home is going to take out the guesswork, but also it’ll help avoid problems before they even arise.

Remember that it’s going to take time and effort to retrain your kiddos, but trust us, it’s worth it! You can restore some peace in your house and keep your kids from being sour and mean to each other. Your home can be a “calamity-free zone” in no time at all–and everyone will be the better for it!

Tips for Picking the Best School For Your Kids!

Pick the right school the first time around!

Making sure your child has the best shot in life starts in the classroom, and picking the best school is imperative–we can walk you through the steps so you and your kiddos can be successful!

Learning Styles

Courtesy of payposter.com
Most people recognize that children fall (usually) into one of seven distinct learning styles. Identifying which your child relates with more will help you choose the best educational environment you should be seeking out.

Visual Learners: these learners need images to help absorb information–graphs, charts…visual learners are often fond of screens and retain the information they get from them, making learning on the computer through games and apps a great move.
You can identify a visual learner pretty easily–a vivid imagination, an interest in art and illustrations, a solid sense of direction and understanding of maps and advanced facial recognition are all signs of a textbook visual learner.

Aural Learners: kids who are aural learners gain and hold information most effectively through hearing. They understand music and spoken word, making a standard classroom setting (one teacher addressing a class, or open forum) the best for them.
You can identify an aural learner by looking for an aptitude in music and singing, the ability to listen well and follow directions and a solid verbal ability (an above-average vocabulary, etc…)

Linguistic Learners: these kiddos are very similar to aural learners, but with one distinct difference–they hold onto and learn best from written information. That good old fashioned book-learnin’ is best for these learners, and a love of books, literature and reading are the best ways to spot these learners!

Kinesthetic Learners: this type of learner isn’t just your typical sporty kid! Sure, kinesthetic learners thrive in sports and physical activity, but the real key here is that kinesthetic learners are hands-on, and need to touch things to learn effectively. Engaging experiments, projects and other three-dimensional classroom activities are best here. You can easily pick a kinesthetic learner from a crowd by looking for early development (early to crawl, walk and run), sharp hand-eye coordination, a tendency to build and use objects, drawings and gestures in explaining things.

Logical Learners: sometimes known as mathematical learners, these kiddos tend to follow rules, processes and solves their problems using basic steps. You’ll have to watch closely for a logical learner–they’ll often think through a problem before ever acting; they’ll make lists and prefer to discuss options.

Social Learners versus Solitary Learners: your child will fall under one of the five categories above, but the final two will also play a part in picking the best school for your child. Does your child function better in a group or on their own? Do they do their best studying when they can bounce ideas off other students, or when they’re up in their room with no distractions? Deciding which your child is can be tricky, but watch how they do in a crowd–if your child is energized by a lot of people, then they’re probably a social learner. If your child doesn’t do well in a crowd, then you may just have a solitary learner on your hands. Neither is better or worse than the other–just different.

Knowing Your Child

Courtesy of ParentMap
Obviously taking steps to understand your child and how they operate is the only way to know what direction to take when it comes to picking schools. And the good news is, getting to know your child is fun. It means trips to the art gallery and movies; it means hitting family parties and amusement parks. Spending time with your child will help you really, truly understand them.

Choosing a School

Courtesy of schoolfamily.com
The big moment! We recommend shopping around and talking to school staff before school begins–you can get a real feel for a school by talking to teachers and principals! Make sure you visit the school in person, so you can determine if you like building and the layout (it may not seem like a big thing, but when two hundred parents are there for drop-off and pickup or a school production, it’s going to make a difference).

Best Schools For Visual Learners:
Schools that have plenty of posters and maps on the walls are typically good for visual learners. Your child’s teacher would ideally use visual aids and use imagery in their lessons, so look for SmartBoards! Also, schools with a strong art program and a school that utilizes technology (online classes, computer courses, etc) is best for your visual learner.

Best Schools for Aural and Linguistic Learners:
The classic school setting is great for these types of learners–where teachers can address a class and assign bookwork. Ideally the school would encourage open forum and discussion in the classroom, as well as assign engaging reading assignments.

Best Schools for Kinesthetic and Logical Learners:
STEM schools are great for kids who are hands-on tinkerers. While some STEM schools may not offer a strong physical education element, that can be supplemented with after-school lessons. If you have a logical, mathematically-minded child who has a knack for building, sculpting and thinking through their problems, choose a STEM school.