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About the author  ⁄ Angela Amman

Long ago, in a world before iPads, Angela attempted to convince middle school students that writing workshops were just as exciting as perfecting the art of texting through your pocket. She blogs at Angela Amman, where she reviews books and captures the craziness and beauty that weave together in our lives to create something extraordinary. After reading in Listen to Your Mother 2013, Angela is thrilled to be one of a trio of women bring Listen to Your Mother to Metro Detroit in 2014, for Michigan's first LTYM performance.You are always welcome to hang out with her at Write on Edge, where she's the managing editor of a fabulous writing community. Her writing has been featured at AllParenting, Moonfrye and BlogHer. Her short stories have appeared in her collection Nothing Goes Away and in the anthologies Metaphysical Gravity, Echoes in Darkness and Precipice, Volume 2.

At the beginning of every new year, we seem to focus on wellness. For some of us, it’s working out more, and for others it is losing a few unnecessary pounds. Almost everyone plans on eating healthier.

Burts Bees Haylie Duff recipes

New mom Haylie Duff is just like the rest of us. She struggles with finding the perfect balance between work and life. She tries to make sure be the one to put her daughter to bed and get up with her in the middle of the night.

Haylie struggles with mom guilt as well. Guilt leaves very little time for prioritizing herself, but she talked about wanting to incorporate more wellness into her 2017 daily routine. When she previously tried to incorporate more wellness and health into her routine, it called for a huge lifestyle change. According to Haylie, that inconvenience might keep us from integrating more wellness into our lives.

Haylie also talked about how most protein powders feel like you should drink them post workout, which can be very tough when you’re as busy as Haylie — another added piece to her mom guilt. So when Burt’s Bees came to her with a protein powder line that focused more on holistic health, she wanted to learn all about it.

Burt’s Bees stated that so many of their fans are becoming increasingly more conscious of what they are putting into their bodies — not just on their bodies. They’re seeing an upswing in health trends and people looking for an easy way to integrate healthy fats and proteins.

They created a protein powder line that was 70% non-GMO, organic and vegetarian — not vegan since it is sweetened with honey. The plant based protein powders (pea, rice, flaxseed, sunflower seed, and oat protein) contain no fillers and stay conscious of the salt and sugar. Every product in their healthy nutrition line is free of dairy, gluten and and soy.

All three of Burt’s Bees’ protein powders offer 15 grams of protein as well as vitamins and minerals. Protein + Gut Health supports digestive health as part of a balanced diet, and Protein + Healthy Radiance gives your skin a healthy glow. I love the part of their movement that beauty truly does come within and radiate externally.

Moms will appreciate that these protein powders also come in “on the go” packs. Stash them in your bag and mix with a milk of your choice while running errands or traveling.

One of my favorite parts of the partnership between Haylie and Burts Bees is the four amazing recipes Haylie developed. Her tasty recipes make it easy to add more plant-based protein and vitamins into your life without it feeling like it’s a huge lifestyle change. My little guy taste tested these recipes and declared them kid approved!

Learn more about Burts Bees new nutritional line and purchase products here.

Recipes via Haylie Duff’s, The Real Girl’s Kitchen website

cherry chia smoothie

Chia Cherry Chocolate Smoothie

Serves 1

Blend together:

1 scoop Burt’s Bees™ Plant-Based Protein Shakes – Chocolate
1 cup Almond Milk
1 cup frozen cherries (pitted)
1 tablespoon Chia Seeds
1/2 cup blackberries
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1/2 cup ice

green smoothie

Green Vanilla Mint Smoothie

Serves 1

Blend together:

1 scoop Burt’s Bees™ Plant-Based Protein Shakes – Vanilla
1 cup baby spinach
1 cup kale
1/2 cup Almond Milk
1/2 cup filtered water
2-3 tablespoon avocado
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
6 fresh mint leaves
1 cup ice

chia pudding

Banana Chai Steel Cut Oats

Serves 2-3
1 scoop Burt’s Bees™ Plant-Based Protein Shakes – Vanilla
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup coconut milk
3 cup filtered water
3/4 Chai Tea bag (contents)
1 small banana, sliced
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon
Maple Syrup to taste
1-2 tablespoons water

Instructions:
Bring coconut milk, 2 cups of water and banana to a boil in a medium size pot.
In a separate skillet, slightly toast steel cut oats with the coconut oil.
Once milk mixture is boiling, add oats, a pinch of kosher salt and let bubble for 1 minute.
Reduce heat to low and add Chai contents, maple syrup and cinnamon.
Let simmer on lowest heat stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and add 1 scoop protein powder (Add 1-2 tablespoons of warm water if needed.)
Enjoy Immediately

This post was contributed by Veena Crownholm. Veena was Miss California 2004 and forth runner-up to Miss America. Since then, she has worked extensively in the non­-profit industry specializing in special event fundraising and program development. After giving birth to her son in late 2010, Veena began contributing to lifestyle media outlets. She has made appearances on national television programs including HLN, Raising America, Inside Edition, The Insider, CBS/KCAL9 and Huffington Post Live, as well as being featured in the Los Angeles Times, Kids in the House and Randi Zuckerberg’s Dot Complicated. You can find Veena on Instagram and Twitter.

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Our kids spend a lot of their lives in their classrooms, and each day teachers work with their students to maximize learning. Those teachers often work tirelessly, and with limited resources, to create an engaging learning environment. To know a teacher is to know someone who makes personal sacrifices to help make their classroom a better place for their students. Grants Available to California Schools

Scholar Dollars gives classrooms a boost

The California State Treasurer, John Chiang, recently announced the Scholar Dollars program, administered by ScholarShare, California’s 529 college savings plan. Scholar Dollars will award 20 grants of up to $25,000 each to eligible K-8 public and charter schools in California. Grant amounts depend on school size, and recipients enjoy a great deal of flexibility regarding use of grant funds. Schools can spend their grant money on musical instruments, computers, library books, sports equipment, or support enrichment programs such as tutoring labs, student counseling, science and technology and many other activities

Scholar Dollars

Details about Scholar Dollars

First, during the Scholar Dollars registration period, school administrators can register for the program and apply for grants. All registered schools will appear on an online ballot, along with respective details on how each plans to use the funds if they are selected.

Then, during March, parents, relatives, boosters, and community supporters can vote for their school. Top vote-getters in each category will receive an award, and grant recipients will be announced in early April.

How to get Scholar Dollars into your school

If you happen to be a school administrator, you can register your own school. If you’re a parent or community member, contact school administration about registering your school. Let your school know about the grant program and encourage them to register. Then get to work rallying votes for your school.

Since most of us aren’t school administrators, we did some brainstorming. We hope you’ll consider our ideas about how to spread the word about Scholar Dollars. Remember, eligible schools in your California community have until February 22 to register.

  • Contact your school administrators directly
  • Get in touch with your PTA/PTO
  • Share the Scholar Dollars information on social media
  • Talk to your child’s teacher

Lastly, don’t forget to thank your teachers for all the work they do in the classroom. Just think of the additional programs your students will benefit from with a Scholar Dollars grant in place.

Learn more about the Scholar Dollars program

Do you know of a school that could benefit from the Scholar Dollars program?

This post was developed in partnership with Scholar Share. All ideas are our own.

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With the new year in full swing, we’re starting to talk about book club meetings again. We don’t judge if your friends meet to dive into bestsellers or into everyone’s favorite bottle of bubbly. Either way, we have eight book recommendations you won’t want to miss.

2017 Winter Book Club Picks

If you worry about the pressures of competitive sports

Megan Abbott explored the world of glittering, competitive cheerleading in Dare Me. She returned this summer to stare down the explosive ambition behind Olympic-caliber gymnastics. You Will Know Me tells the story of Olympic-hopeful Devon Knox, whose icy eyes and powerhouse vaults catapulted her into the darling of her gym. In addition, the novel explores the effect of prodigal talent on a family — and the lengths to which ambition will stretch in the face of unthinkable circumstances.

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

If you’re looking for a heartstring-pulling love story

A story beginning with a romantic dinner doesn’t promise to end with the same. Kailey Crain feels like the luckiest woman alive when she hands her doggie bag to a homeless man on the sidewalk, coming face-to-face with someone from her past. Suddenly, Kailey’s present and future don’t seem as certain as she expected. Always: A novel by Sarah Jio gifts Kailey Crain with two great romances — and the gripping decision about how much she’s willing to sacrifice for true love.

Always by Sarah Jio

If you’re a little suspicious about that perfect marriage

Newlyweds Grace and Jack live a charmed life. Wealth, good looks, impeccable manners promise a future that’s sure to be the envy of all their friends. Getting to know Grace, though, is harder than it seems. She and Jack live inseparable lives, which seems incredibly romantic — until it doesn’t. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris will make you glad for the imperfections that make your life exactly your own.

Winter Book Club Recommendations

If you need to escape the cold

Reading a book seeped in sunshine during the winter months is either torture or the best sort of escape. The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand deals with the way gossip spreads in a sleepy, buzzing beach town and how those rumors test the bonds of previously unshakeable friendship. Though perhaps not her strongest novel to date (we loved The Island!), this queen of romance again spins a tale that will take you off your couch and onto a sandy beach.

Books to Read to Get You Through Winter

If you’re trying to understand your teenager

The minds of teenage girls can be mysterious land mines of secrets and unrealized longings. Navigating the space between childhood and adulthood means trying to figure out who you are, and trying to extricate yourself from the people who want to define you. The Girls by Emma Cline chronicles how one girl, Evie Boyd, becomes entangled in a 1960s cult marked by free love, freedom from parental expectations and the specter of an unfathomable crime.

Best Books to Read in 2017

If you like to sleep with the lights on

Travel writer Lo Blacklock accepts her latest assignment in a heartbeat. After all, what could go wrong during a vacation on an exclusive, luxury cruise ship? The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware answers that question. Ware keeps you turning pages until you find out exactly what happened the night Lo sees a woman being thrown overboard.

Mystery Novels for Readers Who Love to Travel

If you read in bits and pieces

What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi gifts readers with a series of stories about keys. Her figurative and literal keys unlock doors between parallel realities while keeping others locked — for good reason. The stories can be read consecutively or in bits and pieces over time, the perfect reading experience for busy moms.

Short Stories for Book Clubs

If you can’t get enough memoir

Most of us have time to grow into parenting an eight-year old. College senior Dave Eggers inherits his younger brother after his parents both die of cancer in a five-week span. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius unfurls true events through fantastic scenes that highlight Eggers’ vast storytelling ability.

Memoirs to Read this Winter

Do you have a favorite book you think we should add to our list?
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I’ve tried more planners than I can count. I adore each of them for a while but just can’t find one that does everything I need. I’m tired of losing my lists, goal statements and meal plans. Maybe you feel the same — or maybe you’re just dying to exercise your artistic side a little more.

No matter why you’ve decided to give bullet journaling a try this year, we curated some tips and tricks to help you get started — and to stick with it. You don’t need a bunch of fancy materials to get started with your bullet journal — and you don’t need to be a budding artist. Sure, you can layer up colored pens and pencils, stickers and washi tape if that’s your thing, but you can also choose an empty notebook leftover from your latest school-supply run and make that your journal.

Start with a blank journal

New notebooks make me swoon, so I purchased one just for my bullet journal adventure. After checking out several online resources, I chose a Leuchtturn1917 Notebook with a dotted layout. I felt it offered the most options for different page and layout options. Something to keep in mind with the dotted layout: you might need a ruler nearby when you’re doing layouts. If you don’t want to worry about that, a Moleskine Grid Notebook or even one with regular lines, like this adorable Kate Spade Initial Notebook, might be a better option. If you have a super steady hand? A blank MUJI Sketchbook could work, too.Bullet Journal Tips - Pick a Layout That Works for You

 
Choose your layouts

Layouts can take you down the rabbit hole of bullet journaling, never to return. Remember, creating a journal that works for you means embracing what you need and shedding the rest. When I began researching bullet journals, layout options overwhelmed me. I looked through Pinterest, made lists and fretted about it all. In the end, I chose the things I felt I needed — a year at a glance, monthly layout, weekly layouts, a section for goals, a reading layout, and a few other pages. I figured I could add things later if I found I needed them, rather than trying to cram everything in the world into my journal, just because something caught my eye in someone else’s.

 

Photo credits:

The Best Bullet Journal Pens

Pick your pens

Like the rest of bullet journaling, you can use pens you have in your drawer at home or choose a rainbow of colors to color-code and decorate every spare inch of your journal. Colored pens make me happy, and I chose this Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pen Set. I found the colors don’t bleed through the pages in my journal — and the triangular case keeps everything I need together. However, they do create a “shadow” on the next page. If that bothers you, you might want to use pens with regular ink, like these classic Bic Ballpoints in fun colors. If you prefer colored pencils, try this InnoArt Colored Pencil Set with all the colors of the rainbow.

Number one rule of bullet journaling

Your bullet journal only needs to work for you! Don’t let the options and possibilities overwhelm you, or you’ll stuff the journal in the back of a junk drawer before the beginning of spring. Remember, you can change layouts, change pens, and cross out things you don’t need. You’ll make mistakes, and that’s OK. No two bullet journals look or function in exactly the same way, which is why they appeal to so many people. So, grab your supplies and get started. You’ll love having all of your information at your fingertips.

Fantastic bullet journal resources
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Holiday Travel Gear for Parents

Traveling during the holiday season can be a total drag or merry and bright, depending on what sort of gear you’ve got in your travel toolbox. There’s so much to organize during the holidays, so it can be tempting to skip a packing list and just toss everything you own into your bags. Since your kids have their own travel essentials, you need to pack smarter, not more, or you’ll be lugging oversized luggage around the country. From layers to help you stay warm to can’t-miss electronics accessories, we have your must-have travel gear for winter.
Holiday Travel Gear Moms Will Love

Babymoov City Bag, $110

A sleek bag that looks fabulous and holds everything you need is key, whether you’re traveling by car or stowing away your personal items under an airline seat. We love the zinc color because it’s a beautiful neutral that pairs beautifully with anything you’re wearing while keeping all your baby changing essentials under wraps.

S’Well Sparkling Champagne Stainless Steel Water Bottle, $25 and up

Staying hydrated while traveling helps us feel alert and refreshed, and insulated stainless steel means your water stays icy cold for up to 24 hours. The metallic bottle fits perfectly into your holiday style, and we won’t tell if you actually fill this festive bottle with the Champagne it’s named for!

Kate Spade Glitter Slim Portable Charger

Besides a delayed flight, a dying battery on a phone or tablet might be the holiday traveler’s greatest nightmare. Keep your favorite electronics charged with a portable charger. We love this one both for its slim profile — easy to slide into any luggage pockets — and it’s a sparkly reminder that the holidays are all about magic and excitement.

Mermaid Maternity Polka Dot Rashguard, $58

Even if your travel destination boasts sky high temperatures normally, holiday weather can change at a moment’s notice. Toss this adorable rashguard into your luggage for a little extra warmth over your suit or just a little more coverage. The drawstring design means you can use this before, during, and after pregnancy, which means you’ll be packing it this holiday season and for future vacations.

Smythson Live Laugh Love Panama Pocket Notebook, $60

Jotting down a few memories each evening helps keep your favorite parts of your holiday travels fresh in your mind. Keeping a travel journal all year long will remind you of what you enjoyed, what you didn’t, and which memories you’ll share with your family for years to come. You’ll love the special touch of the pale blue paper in this simple notebook.

Samsonite Omni PC 20” Spinner Luggage, $79

Traveling with kids means juggling more pieces of luggage than you can really handle. A spinner bag can save you from getting frustrated with your bags, because the turning wheels go exactly where you need them to go, even when you’re navigating tight spaces or abruptly changing direction to chase down a toddler. The radiant pink doesn’t function any better than basic black, but it absolutely cheers us up whenever we see it.

Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Cami, $55

Pregnant and nursing mamas alike will love this layering piece from Bravado. You can nurse discreetly, because a Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra is knitted into this smooth, comfortable layering piece.

Belabumbum Before + After 3-Piece Bundle, $126

Your comfiest jammies work just fine at home, but when you’re traveling it’s lovely to have loungewear that lets you feel comfortable and put together. The 3-Piece Bundle includes a cozy robe, nursing-friendly nightie, and the cutest headband to keep your bedhead under control.

Red Twist Cashmere Wrap, $195

The Red Twist wrap is luxuriously soft and lightweight, so you can use it like a small blanket on planes, a nursing cover if necessary, or a wrap to keep warm in overly air-conditioned restaurants. In addition to being the perfect travel essential, Red Twist makes a donation to Room to Read with every purchase, helping Asian girls receive an education.

ZAQ Mini Essential Oil Diffuser, $15

Sleeping away from home can be elusive, but your favorite essential oils help any room feel more familiar and relaxing. This mini diffuser fits easily into your luggage and runs on batteries, so you don’t have to worry about finding an extra outlet when you’re ready for bed.

Find more holiday must-haves, including our list of holiday travel gear for kids, in our 2016 Holiday Guide.

Portions of our 2016 Holiday Guide are sponsored and contains affliate links. Thank you for shopping with the brands that support Savvy Sassy Moms.

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Disclosure: Post sponsored by Sunbeam Products, Inc. but all opinions are my own. 

Last spring I began going to a local barre studio and discovered how much I love working out in group classes. For years I spent my workout time in solo pursuits, running on the treadmill, ducking into the small weight room at the gym running through our neighborhood or on nearby trails, and I was a little surprised by how much inspiration I found by surrounding myself with strong, enthusiastic women. Their energy and support make getting up well before dawn worth it, and the classes are a part of my morning that set the tone for my day. I can’t imagine giving them up.

How Heat Therapy Can Help With Your Workout

Adding workouts meant adding muscle soreness

I missed running, though. I missed checking off miles for a training schedule, seeing the sun rise over the horizon and matching the pounding of my feet to the beating of my heart and the music in my earbuds. Slowly, I began adding runs after my classes and on the weekends. The combination of classes and running provide the balance I crave in my days, but they also push my body to limits I haven’t felt in many years. As I contemplate training for a half-marathon, I know I’ll be adding more and more miles to my schedule, and my muscles are already complaining a bit. 

Heat therapy for pain relief

My foam roller and I are developing a close, personal relationship, but I also find heat to be a huge relief, especially on my lower back. Heat has been found as an effective, fast and natural way of helping to alleviate muscle pain and soreness, and for that same reason, Sunbeam® pain relief products use heat as a solution to assist with pain and discomfort, helping increase blood flow to sore areas for muscle relaxation and faster healing. Sunbeam® heat therapy will help you “feel the ahh,” and you can combat your aches and pain in a quick, non-invasive and drug free way. Like me, you might discover heat therapy will be the key to #FindYourAhh. 

Sunbeam_Wellness&Mom_Asset1[1]

The benefits of the Sunbeam® King Size XpressHeat™ Heating Pad

The Sunbeam® King Size XpressHeat™ Heating Pad now lives next to my couch, because the XpressHeat™ Heating Pad technology helps provide fast heat in 30 seconds for quick relief. The heat-therapy helps increase blood flow to sore areas for muscle relaxation and faster healing. I don’t always know when I’ll have time to sit with the heating pad, and the super quick heat time means I can turn it on and grab a few minutes of relief without waiting much time at all for the pad to get warm. In addition, I appreciate the following qualities of the Sunbeam® King Size XpressHeat™ Heating Pad:

  • Soft microplush, fully washable pad
  • Can be used with dry or moist heat
  • Digital controller with LCD display
  • 6 heat-settings
  • Select hour auto-off
  • XL size for more coverage
  • Measures 12″ x 24″
  • 5-year limited warranty

Are you interested in trying heat therapy for any aches and pains you’re experiencing? Use the code SASSYMOM to receive 20% off Sunbeam products through 10/10/16. We’re also giving away a Sunbeam Heating Pad to one lucky reader. Enter for your chance to win. Official rules can be found here.

Sunbeam

Post sponsored by Sunbeam Products, Inc. Opinions are 100% my own.

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Money matters seemed simple — before kids

Before we had kids, I was pretty sure my husband and I had our financial ducks in an impressive row. Of course our ducks were bolstered by a double income household, a starter home mortgage and one partner who finds spreadsheets, budgets and the stock market to be interesting pastimes.

kids and finances

Having kids complicated matters.

We didn’t start our family without thinking about the financial aspect of it, at least a little bit. Maybe we thought about it a lot, since both of us are planners. Reading about the potential costs of raising kids gave us an idea of how things would change, but reading about something and living it are totally different things.

How kids changed our financial planning strategy

We were prepared for the increase in food costs, but we hadn’t thought too much about how much more important organic food would become to us once our little ones started eating. We’d thought about college funds, but extracurricular activities began to add up more quickly than we thought.

You can calculate the cost of diapers, but it’s hard to figure out how to budget for the mid-week take-out you finally ordered because your potty-training toddler went through sixteen pairs of underwear and your favorite rug in a single day. All of a sudden, what we thought we knew about budgeting, saving and planning for our financial future seemed a little hazy.

Wescom Credit Union

Financial education with Wescom Credit Union

Thankfully, we came across Wescom Credit Union and we were happy to find some great tools to help families take charge of their finances. The Southern California Credit Union is approaching finances from different angles than that of traditional banks, including mobile banking events, complimentary financial consulting and even a newly launched Did You Know? Financial Education Portal on their site with helpful information for everyone from millennials to boomers.

Wescom Credit Union

The Big Blue Mobile Branch might be in your Southern California neighborhood soon, simplifying the banking world one person at a time. Wescom is committed to taking the intimidation out of banking and helping people in all stages of life find their own comfort zone with their finances. Learning banking basics has lifelong benefits, and it’s never too late — or early! — to become money-smart.

Wescom helps families plan for their futures

In addition to increased take-out orders, having kids changed our parenting finances in a way we hadn’t anticipated. As a middle school teacher, we calculated my family leave and thought about formula costs in case pumping didn’t work for me. However, after having our daughter and planning for our second child, we talked about the possibility of me staying home with our kids for a while.

Wescom has a tool that would have helped us quickly see how our finances would look without my income. Though I’ve already made that particular decision, there are several resources on their website, including budget tools like this Household Cash Flow Tracker, savings resources and a retirement section.

Families obviously aren’t the only ones who can benefit from learning about budgeting, saving and how to manage debt, and Wescom has something for everyone!

How did having kids change your financial comfort zone?
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Easy dinner ideas

By the end of the week, the last thing I want to do is make dinner — especially during the summer. If you try one of these amazing recipes each Friday this summer, you’ll be set until it’s time to go back to school in the fall! We know you’re going to love these easy dinner ideas!

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Caprese-Avocado-Toast
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Light summer meals

On hot summer nights you might not be in the mood for a heavy dinner, or you might feel like putting together several lighter dishes for your own little tapas night.

Caprese Avocado Toast from With Salt and Wit is easy enough to be a snack and filling enough to be a meal. If you have a garden, you can use some of your own ingredients in this one, which makes the dinner just a little more special.

Call Me PMC took the classic flavors of a Cuban sandwich and reimagined the sandwich as an appetizer. Cuban Sandwich on a Stick is adorable — and filled with protein. Kids will love the little pickles, and eating finger foods for dinner is always a hit at our house.

The Berry Basil Salad from Jeanie and Lulu’s Kitchen takes full advantage of summer’s berry abundance. The homemade dressing really brings out the flavors of the berries while keeping the fruit salad light and fresh tasting.

The Easy Steak and Vegetable Flatbread Pizza from Cotter Crunch is gluten-free, making it a fabulous option if you keep a gluten-free kitchen. Summer’s fresh veggies truly make this pizza a nutritious, flavorful meal.

Food Fanatic offers a Quinoa Chicken Salad that will quickly become one of your favorite dishes — and maybe the most versatile. You can make it with leftover chicken from a meal earlier in the week, or you can make a double batch and use the leftovers for lunches. The recipe lets you tweak the ingredients to meet your food preferences, which is wonderful for exploring the variety of summer produce available.

Easy dinners from the grill

Not only is grilling a simple way to pack a punch of flavor into your meal, spending time outside while you’re cooking makes the most of summer weather.

Grilled Hawaiian Chicken Pizza is quick and delicious. It uses chicken instead of ham, and grilled pineapple is one of the tastiest ways to serve the fruit. You’ll love the added sweetness offered in this simple pizza, courtesy of Real Food by Dad‘s secret ingredient.

Natalie’s Food & Health suggests a Turkey burger with greek yogurt topping that’s both beautiful and packed with healthy flavors like dill. Even her husband approves of this one, making it perfect for grilling for friends who are hesitant to try a healthier burger.

Put a twist on taco night

Taco night stays on our dinner menu all year; it’s one of the meals each of us can customize to our liking and leave the dinner table happy. Changing the ingredients and flavors slightly this summer will keep things fresh without abandoning a favorite meal.

Living Sweet Moments makes Baked Chicken Taquitos that might take the place of traditional tacos at our house. Salsa verde is a fresh taste for summer, and the avocado crema is an amazing addition you’ll want to use on everything in your refrigerator.

The Buffalo Chicken Tacos from Spiced incorporate the ever-popular buffalo chicken flavor with the ease of tacos. Cook the chicken in your slow cooker and make dinner time even easier. We think the blue cheese crumbles are a perfect topping, but offering shredded cheddar to kids never hurts.

Taco night isn’t complete with guacamole, and i heart eating offers a flavorful treat in her Roasted Garlic Guacamole. Let’s be honest, on some summer evenings, a hearty guacamole, chips — and our favorite Champagne Margaritas — can be an entire dinner.

Add international flavor to start your weekend

Whether you’re mimicking your family’s favorite takeout location or trying something new, sampling new cuisine is a fun way to change up your meal plan.

Once you try the Sesame Chicken from It’s a Sparkly Life, you might never go back to take out again. You can create this in under 30 minutes, which will actually save you time unless you have a lightning fast delivery service in your area.

A Duck’s Oven tempts your tastebuds with her Slow Cooker Haitian Pork. This amazing dish does take a little prep time earlier in your week, but once it’s ready to go, the slow cooker does the rest of the work for you.

Stir fry is definitely one of our go-to meals for simple dinners. The Quick Chicken Stir Fry with Roasted Broccoli from Foolproof Living will quickly become part of your weekly meal rotation. The peanuts are optional, so you can easily adapt the recipe if you’re working with a food allergy.

What’s your favorite Friday night dinner?
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Show your love of the red, white and blue with these Memorial Day crafts

Memorial Day Crafts

Memorial Day kicks off summer, which can conjure images of cookouts and tasty treats. The holiday honoring those who have died in active military service also gives parents the opportunity to talk to kids about the ultimate sacrifice made by some military families. While talking to kids about Memorial Day, you can keep it simple and highlight the patriotic nature of the holiday. We’ve rounded up some DIY projects that let your American pride shine brightly — and many of them can pull double duty later in the summer when you’re decorating for the 4th of July.

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Patriotic-wreath
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Memorial-Day-Goodie-Bags

The Easy DIY Patriotic Wreath from is gorgeous — and durable. The wreath will hold up for years, meaning the simple craft wreath can become a staple in your family’s Memorial Day decor. My Frugal Adventures has several patriotic crafts you can check out, including a reclaimed wood American Flag that we’re crushing on.

For a quick and easy centerpiece, try the Patriotic Rug Balls from Craft Create Cook. This new sew craft is a simple way to work with little ones to create something colorful and fun for your holiday table.

At the Lolly Jane Blog, we fell in love with the Stars + Stripes Patriotic Flower Pots. The pots are a perfect way to add a bit of patriotism to your porch or deck — and you could deliver a few to your favorite neighbors to spread some red, white and blue love.

Craftiments created the adorable Patriotic Wood Shim and Starfish Flag. It’s the perfect way to adorn your door, and we’re absolutely picturing it at a cottage or beach house with the starfish standing in for the 50 stars on a traditional American Flag.

The Bandana Placesetting from Celebrating Everyday Life at Uncommon Designs will dress up your table this Memorial Day. The napkin ring is so simple, you’ll be able to whip it together in a snap, and it will tie together red, white and blue utensils and plates — from paper goods to fine china.

The DIY Red, White and Blue Flip Flops from Everyday Dishes will get your feet in on the patriotic action this Memorial Day. The sparkly flips will bring a touch of the holiday to even the simplest outfit, and you can wear them all summer to show your American pride.

The Patriotic USA Map Wooden Door Hanger will show your patriotic spirit from Memorial Day to the 4th of July — and beyond. In addition to the door hanger, Where the Smiles Have Been has 20 other patriotic crafts to crave — including an adorable t-shirt.

Keep your hands busy while the kids play at the park with these Crocheted Patriotic Mason Jar Utensil Holders from Petals to Picots. If you find yourself with leftover red, white and blue yarn, you can try one of the other — free — patterns she offers.

I Should Be Mopping the Floor created the festive — and free — Patriotic Banner Printable, and it’s a fabulous way to decorate for Memorial Day. Whether you’re spending the day with friends or simply want to dress up your mantle with the red, white and blue banner, you’ll love how this one looks.

If you’re hosting a Memorial Day barbecue, send your guests home with these adorable Memorial Day Goodie Bags from The Sweetest Occasion. They’re perfect for snacks like popcorn or potato chips, or you can make a bunch and use them for napkins and plastic utensils at your party.

Do you decorate for Memorial Day?
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Spring brings warmer weather, of course, but it also brings rainy weather. We know all those spring showers turn the grass a little greener and help fill our yards with flowers, but they still keep us inside. What’s a mom to do but pick up one of these must-read spring 2016 books? (Laundry? No, thanks, that can wait until later.)

spring book recommendations

Books to read before you see the movie

Me Before You  is decidedly not a new release this spring, but the uber-popular Jojo Moyes book will soon be in theaters, and you don’t want to miss your chance to read the book before sliding into your seat at the movies. Will and Louisa couldn’t be a more unlikely pair — a risk-taker now confined to a wheelchair and a women who always plays it safe. When she becomes his caretaker, a limited engagement due to Will’s future plans, they find they have more to learn from each other than they ever could have expected.

Me Before You

The movie version of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children isn’t due in theaters until the fall, but we’re already excited to see Tim Burton’s take on Ransom Rigg’s fantastical novel. The young adult book is a quick and compelling read, opening a conversation about what normal means — and how far your imagination can take you.

Miss Peregrine

To discuss with your girlfriends over wine

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss introduces three transplants living in New York, before HIV, before cell phones and before SoHo even thought about gentrification. Prentiss writes with a beautiful urgency about the nature of art and the importance of community — and perhaps that’s a message we need now, more than ever.

Tuesday Nights in 1980

Inevitably, our conversations turn to our families, so who doesn’t love a book about a family so dysfunctional we suddenly feel grateful for our own? The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney explores how relationships change when money is involved. The Plumb siblings are all counting on “the nest” for their own personal purposes, and when their financial future is put at risk, they are faced with the countless ways families support and disappoint each other.

Get a head start on a hot new trilogy

Maestra

Set in the world of the super rich, Maestra by L.S. Hinton tantalizingly twists the nail-biting tension of Gone Girl with steamy scenes that make 50 Shades of Grey a distant memory. In Maestra, Judith is ripe to discover just how far she’s willing to go to become the person she used to only dream of being. This is the first book in a trilogy, and the film rights have already been optioned, so get your hands on this one — your friends will thank you later.

What are you reading this spring?
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