6 Must-Read Books You’re Sure to Love This Summer

Summer Reading

Summer is all about rest and relaxation. It's also a great time to catch up on some essential reading. Reading is not only a good way to entertain yourself on a lazy afternoon, it also educates and enlightens you at the same time. Whether you're planning a trip to the beach this summer or are just trying to expand your literary horizons, here are a few books I'm really into that might interest you as well. Hopefully, you agree!

1. Save Me the Plums

Gourmet had the distinction to be the very first U.S. magazine solely dedicated to amazing food and wine. While it ceased operation in 2009, Save Me the Plums describes editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl's experiences during her time there. Reichl began her start as a professional food quite inauspiciously but soon found herself in a corporate world very much unlike her own. This is a great read if you're interested in the inner workings of the restaurant industry or if you have a genuine love for cooking. Even better, Save Me the Plumbs also includes recipes you can try out on your own.


2. In the FLO

If you find yourself feeling blah or out-of-sorts on a regular basis, the problem could be your hormones. Hormone levels fluctuate as you age, but author Alisa Vitti has a solution. In the FLO gives you a crash course in hormones and what you can do to naturally quell the rising tides. By adopting a holistic approach to health and wellness, you can overcome things like fatigue, irritation, and PMS symptoms with ease.

3. Woman on the Edge

If you're into thrillers, Samantha M. Bailey has a real doozy for you. A woman, Morgan Kincaid, is suddenly approached by a young mother, babe in arms, on a subway platform. Just before jumping in front of an oncoming train, the young mother gives her baby to Morgan, who is then thrust into a complex situation filled with intrigue and drama. Along with trying to determine why the young mother was pushed to the limit, Morgan must also defend herself against accusations of foul play. This is a real page-turner and you'll probably find yourself finishing it off in an afternoon.

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4. Motherhood

While the subject matter is rather broad, author Sheila Heti imbues her novel Motherhood with amazing insights sure to hit a nerve with moms everywhere. There is a tendency to gloss over certain aspects of motherhood, but Heti is fearless in her description of common issues we've all faced. At the center of the story is an experience many women have; how does one reconcile their motherly duties with their personal autonomy? While there are no easy answers, Heti forges the way with her thoughtful novel.

Woman Reading

5. The Blue Zones Kitchen

Blue zones are areas of the world where people tend to live the longest and have the greatest degree of health. While there are many factors in increased longevity, diet is thought to play a significant role. This is the basis behind The Blue Zones Kitchen, which includes research on the blue zone phenomenon conducted by Dan Buettner. Not only is this book informative, it's also insightful. Be sure to check out more than 100 delicious and wholesome recipes from around the world, including tasty fare from Greece and Japan.

6. The Stone Sky

There is simply not enough sci-fi oriented towards women out there. The Stone Sky, which is authored by New York Times Best Seller N.K. Jemisin, attempts to rectify that. In the conclusion to a three-book Broken Earth series, a socially segregated society on a supercontinent is subject to recurring cataclysmic events that cause devastating volcanic ash to cover the whole world. Humanity's survival is only possible through magical beings, who must navigate the fear and prejudice of others to ensure their work is completed. Be sure to pick up all three books to complete the trilogy.

Keeping Your Dog Healthy after the Quarantine for a Happy and Long Relationship

Dog in car

Who doesn't love their little fur baby? Dogs are the best, but keeping them healthy is crucial to sustaining a long-lasting bond. While the current pandemic has made it easy to spend time with your best friend indoors, what happens now that things are reopening? How do you keep your furry companion happy and healthy? Dog's can experience anxiety and depression, just like people, so making sure they are OK is a significant concern for many pet parents, especially as the world returns to normal. To make sure your favorite pooch stays happy and healthy, focus on five key lifestyle areas.

1. Diet

A dog's diet is not the same as a human diet. Dogs are carnivores, which means they need meat in their food. Granted, people feed their pets vegan and vegetarian diets, but to keep your pup as healthy as possible, mimic what they would eat naturally. If you want to switch to a specialty diet, talk to a veterinarian first, making sure your dog receives all the essential nutrients they need to live a healthy life.

Dog running

2. Socialization

Dogs are social creatures, and they absolutely love to be around other dogs. However, they need to learn how to be around other pooches first. When a dog is a puppy, take them around all kinds of dogs, so they learn about natural behaviors. There are several ways to socialize your pup.

  • Dog Parks
  • Walks
  • Playdates

Proper socialization ensures that your pup is comfortable around other animals and people. During walks, you are also familiarizing the animal with the sites and sounds of the city, their habitat. It's a great time to get back out there with your pup, but make sure your leash is long enough to help you keep that 6 foot distance from other owners.

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3. Training and Interactive Play

Dogs can get bored. Unfortunately, when your pup gets bored, they can become restless and misbehave. Some common misbehaviors include chewing, barking, aggression and other nuisance habits. The best way to cure boredom is with interactive play and daily training. You can buy and make toys and games, like puzzle balls, that will keep your dog busy for hours. Beyond toys, train your dog every day. Helping your furry friend learn new tricks through repetitive practice and commands will strengthen your bond and keep their brains healthy.

4. Outdoor Activities

Think about how bored and depressed you can get in the cold winter months when you are stuck inside. The sun does wonders for energy and health. Dogs need time outside. They need to breathe the fresh air and feel the sun against their backs. Honestly, most people need fresh air, too, especially now.

Sleeping Dog

5. Vet Visits

The primary way to ensure that your dog remains healthy for a long, carefree life is to commit to routine veterinary visits. According to Dr. Barry Kipperman, a veterinarian working with PETA, dogs under 10 years of age need to go to the vet at least once per year, and senior dogs over 10 should go twice or every six months. However, depending on any underlying conditions your dog may have, you may need to go more frequently. Talk to a veterinary professional to discuss specifics.
Pets, especially dogs, offer incredible companionship during uncertain times, but they are also excellent allies even when all is right with the world. It is only fair that dog owners reciprocate affection by providing a well-balanced life, including lots of cuddles, but don't forget about you in the animal health equation. Your dog depends on you and loves you, so while you may pour your heart and soul into creating a beautiful life for your furry buddy, make sure you are prioritizing yourself. You need to stay happy and healthy to keep your dog happy and healthy, so take the time to understand your own diet and needs.

Recharge Your Batteries With These 5 Safe Outdoor Activities During COVID-19

Great Outdoors

So, here’s a fun fact I discovered: “Quarantining” is what someone who is contagious does to avoid getting other people sick with COVID-19. What the rest of us are doing is called “sheltering in place.”
Unless you’re actually sick, there’s no reason to completely seal yourself inside the home. It’s perfectly possible to practice social distancing and still get some fresh air (not to mention let your kids burn off some of their built-up energy before they drive you insane). Let me share a few of my favorite outdoor activities in this age of “sheltering in place.”

1. Eat Dinner Outside As a Family

If you have a nice backyard, you can actually eat ALL of your meals outside. This is what my family has started to do, and I can’t believe the difference it makes. For 30 minutes, we all feel FREE.
As we’re laughing and eating delicious food and talking, I keep think to myself, “I'm so blessed.” These positive experiences give me the energy to keep going. Every day, we have memorable family moments where it’s like the coronavirus doesn’t even exist.

Eating outside

2. Organize a Lawn Games Tournament

Now’s the perfect time to show your family members why you’re the undefeated champion of bocce, cornhole, badminton, volleyball or cricket. These outside activities are healthier for you than watching back-to-back movies on TV. What if your family isn’t big on competitions? Just tossing a baseball, football or Frisbee around keeps kids entertained and does your heart good.

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3. Enjoy Breakfast on the Patio

Don’t forget to take some time for yourself, too. Getting some peace and quiet is important for moms. It lets us recharge our batteries. Treat yourself to a calming cup of coffee or tea, munch on some homemade (healthy) scones, eat some fruit and watch the beautiful sunrise in complete serenity. Our house has some birds that wake up as early as I do, and hearing their little chirps is like healing for my soul.

4. Do Some Gardening

Working with plants can be an amazing stress reliever. Even better, it gives people who are temporarily out of work a sense of purpose. Instead of feeling “lost,” you can have real satisfaction with this rewarding hobby. By the way, if bending over makes your back hurt, you can always get a gardening table that lets you care for your plants standing up.

5. Go for a Walk (Social-Distancing Style)

Family Walking

Some states have declared public places such as parks and beaches off limits. Others let people walk around as long as they stick to social distancing. If it’s allowed in your area, you may want to don your mask, grab a small bottle of antiseptic gel and slide on your walking shoes.
Here are a few things to remember:

  • Stay at least 6–10 feet away from other people
  • Avoid any crowded areas
  • Wash your hands thoroughly when you get home
  • Don’t touch your face or your mask
  • Don’t touch things at the park — benches, fountains or handles
  • Don’t use public restrooms if possible

Blue skies, fresh air and gorgeous hills have a calming effect on your emotions. And the less stressed you are, the better your immune system works! Try to come up with your own outdoor adventures for the backyard. Picnics, fashion shows and tenting under the stars are all great possibilities.

The 10 Best Family Films To Watch During Quarantine (That You Haven’t Seen a Billion Times)

Normally, I would feel guilty about letting my kids watch so much TV, but honestly I’m way too tired to think of other things to do. So, I chose the next best thing. I decided to plop down on the couch and watch a movie with them.

It was surprisingly relaxing. By the end, everyone’s mood was better, we were hugging and laughing, and my stress had vanished. I highly recommend having your own family movie night. Here are my top 10 family-friendly movies for this quarantine:

1. The Incredibles 2

This is one of my personal favorite movies of all time and my kids love it, too. A family of superheroes has to save the world from crazy villains (twice), and they get closer together in the process.

2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

This modern Spider-Man cartoon features mind-blowing animation, hilarious jokes and lovable characters. A new Spider-Man named Miles Morales teams up with various spider heroes from alternate dimensions to, you guessed it, save the world. There’s even a spider version of Porky Pig (Spider Ham) that made me giggle like crazy.

3. Jumanji: The Next Level

I guarantee you’ll be surprised by how much this “lost in a video game” movie makes you laugh. I went in with low expectations and got more than my money’s worth. I guess that’s what happens with Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and The Rock.

4. The Rocketeer

Who doesn’t want to watch a rocket-powered hero save his girlfriend (a young Jennifer Connelly) from evil Nazi spies? Think Indiana Jones but with less violence.

5. School of Rock

If your kids have musical inclinations, School of Rock is a must-see movie. Rock anthems meet classic Jack Black humor. Prep-school students get Black as their (pretend) substitute teacher, who educates them in the ways of rock and sticking it to The Man.

6. The Princess Bride

Isn’t it time to introduce your kids to unforgettable lines from The Princess Bride? Not sharing this family classic is simply inconceivable. It’s got a pirate, a princess, a giant and a man with six fingers!

7. Blended

This movie wasn’t the biggest hit, but I think it’s one of Adam Sandler’s funniest family films. The story is about two single-parent families (like Yours, Mine & Ours) who end up taking a trip to Africa together.

8. Ever After

In Ever After, Drew Barrymore plays Danielle de Barbarac, a sweet girl raised by her stepmother. It’s a superb modern version of Cinderella, minus the magic pumpkin and talking mice. If you’re looking for a coming-of-age film to watch together, this is it.

9. Julie & Julia

This film is more appropriate for teens than little kids (there are sexual situations and language but no nudity). I included it because it’s my family’s favorite movie ever. I love cooking with my kids, and this love story/homage to Julia Child is funny, touching and romantic.

10. The Adventures of Tintin

I had no idea that Stephen Spielberg directed this animated film, but that would explain why it was so awesome. Parents will love the excitement just as much as kids. Tintin is a globe-travelling young detective who has all the skills of Indiana Jones for getting into and out of trouble.

These movies will make you smile from start to finish. That’s exactly what you and your kids need right now. Don’t forget to make some healthy snacks to enjoy together at the same time.

10 Ways To Keep Your Spirits Up During the Quarantine

I’m not going to tell you to smile and act like the world isn’t completely crazy right now. Pretending that everything is perfect won’t make you feel better, but there are things you can do to keep your spirits up. So, here are 10 REALISTIC tips that have helped me enjoy some sunshine within my little plastic bubble:

1. Peel Yourself Away From the News

Constantly bombarding yourself with bad news isn’t the best way to stay happy. I finally decided to limit myself to two “news nights” a week. Doing crossword puzzles makes me happier than doomsday scenarios.

2. Set Reasonable Goals

Setting specific goals every morning is a big help in staying positive. After reaching each goal, you’ll feel like you scaled Mount Everest (my laundry pile looks that way some days). Now I feel like a wonderful wife and mother again. I recommend keeping goals small (like washing laundry) so you don’t get stressed.

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3. Cut Yourself Some Slack

Don’t expect perfection of yourself right now. You’re a human being, remember? Humans have emotions and fear is one of them. Just do the best you can. Your kids aren’t going to starve because you accidentally burned the chicken.

4. Forget About Things You Can’t Control

Recognize that you can’t do anything about what’s going on across town, let alone halfway across the country. What you can do is keep yourself healthy. Do your best to take care of your family and let the rest slide.

5. Focus on Giving

Helping other people makes you happy and brings purpose to life. You don’t have to do something huge. A beautiful note or phone call can make a major difference for friends and family. Every time you bring sunshine to a loved one, you should feel proud.

6. Smell the Roses

You may not be able to literally smell roses through a cloth mask, but there are good things to celebrate. Notice little things around you every day. You may love favorite melodies, certain foods (mine’s Greek yogurt), old photographs, love letters or the way fluffy carpet feels on bare feet.

7. Spend Time on Things That Mean Something

Watching TV all day was fun for a week. Now it just makes me feel like a pajama-covered bowl of Jell-O. Recently, I’ve discovered how awesome checking things off my to-do list is. You’re looking at the proud owner of a cute home office (formerly guest bedroom/box storage area).

8. Eat Three Meals a Day

Get up at the same time every morning and EAT BREAKFAST. This helps your body and mind to enjoy a semblance of routine. As creatures of habit, humans feel way better emotionally when life has structure.

9. Try Cooking New Recipes

Take advantage of a freer schedule to dust off great cookbooks and make recipes you haven’t tried before. A delicious menu with fresh fruit and veggies, proteins rich in Omega-3 and mood-enhancing spices such as ginger is just what the doctor ordered.

10. Connect With One Person a Day

With everyone sharing humorous videos constantly, feeling pressured to respond to messages instantly can stress instead of help. Instead, call or text one person a day. Laugh together, cry and really talk. That’s what friends are about.

Don't forget how important healthy nutrition is right now. Eating right increases levels of serotonin and dopamine — your brain’s happiness hormones. Salmon, poultry, spinach, eggs, milk and nuts are natural depression-fighting superfoods.

5 Fun Facemasks That Your Kids Will Love

Do you find yourself wondering how in the world you’re going to get your kids to wear face masks every day when it’s hard enough to get them to put on regular clothes in the morning? It’s important to wear face masks to prevent infection and slow the spread of COVID-19, but actually putting it into practice is another matter entirely.

Before you throw up your hands and decide it’s easier to force your kids to stay inside all day, I have some good news for you! I’ve figured out a way to make mask wearing not only less dreadful, but—dare I say it?—fun! The key is to make it seem like you’re playing a game. Here are five fun face masks that your kids will actually love to wear. You can thank me later.

1. Character Fabrics

This first mask can be made by following any online DIY mask pattern for kids. The only thing special about it is the fabric it’s made from. Go out of your way to choose a fabric that features your child’s favorite cartoon character or animal. Better yet, let your child choose the fabric! That way he or she will feel personally attached to the mask and will be more likely to wear it without complaint. Win/win!

2. Cat or Dog Mask

For this cute little face adornment, make a mask from white fabric using a DIY kid’s mask pattern you can easily find on the internet. Once you’ve made it, take a black marker and draw a cute little cat or dog nose on the mask, right over your child’s nose. Add some whiskers and a mouth, and voila! What your kid once viewed as a torture device has now become his or her favorite accessory. Add a dog or cat ear headband to finish off the look.

3. Star Wars Fun

Do you have a little Star Wars fan on your hands? Capitalize on that interest by buying a few simple white children’s face masks and drawing Darth Vader’s mask on them using black marker. Or, you can turn your little cutie into an Ewok, R2-D2 or a storm trooper. Permanent marker may not be the best choice, because the fumes can make it unpleasant to wear the mask. Refer to online drawings of these characters to give you inspiration as you create your kids’ face masks.

4. I Mustache You a Question

Do you have a little dude who would love to look like his dad? Make a kid’s mask out of black fabric and sew a cute little white mustache onto it. You’ll be amazed how much easier it will be to get him to wear a mask when it makes him look like a grown up. Even little girls are likely to find mustache masks hilarious to wear.

5. Coloring Party

Have you ever noticed how possessive kids are about the things they create? They’re so possessive, in fact, that you have to sneak out at night to tuck old scribbled-on papers into the bottom of the garbage can where they can’t see them. You can use this natural possessiveness to your advantage by letting your kiddo color his or her own mask. Use markers for best results. You can even provide stencils for kids who don’t have a lot of natural artistic talent. Glittery glues, stickers and jewels create further opportunities for full customization. Your kids will have so much fun decorating and then displaying their favorite DIY masks!

There you have it. Five creative and (best of all) easy ways to create masks that your kids will love to wear. Give one or all five a try today and see for yourself how effective they can be!

DIY Arts and Crafts to Entertain Kids

Let’s get real, parents. When your kids are bored, they’re more likely to drive you up the wall. Since summer is right around the corner, you should start figuring out how you're all going to survive. For the sake of your sanity, it’s well worth your time to brainstorm things to do that will keep your kids absorbed. That way they won’t constantly bicker, bug you, or getting into trouble. It’s a win/win situation! Here are a few simple DIY arts and crafts that can keep your kids entertained for hours. (you’re welcome).

Fairy Jar

This fairy jar is the stuff kids’ dreams are made of. Here’s how to make it.

  1. Round up the following items;
  • One or more mason jars
  • Glow sticks
  • Glitter (for extra pizazz, choose diamond glitter)
  • Serrated knife

 2. Cut off the bottom of a glow stick. Place a towel beneath it to catch any spills.

 3. Dump the glow stick contents into the jar. Be very careful. Glow sticks have glass inside!

 4. Dump your glitter of choice into the jar. Put in as much as you want.

 5. To make sure the glow stick fluid spreads freely, break the glass glow stick component with the end of a knife while it’s in your jar.

 6. Put the lid on and shake things up like crazy!

You now have a beautiful fairy jar that will last up to 8 hours. For best results, create this craft at night.

Mini Lid Banjos

These banjos are not only adorable, but they can keep your kids enthralled for hours on end. Here’s how to make them:

  1. Gather your supplies. You’ll need:
  • Washi tape
  • Duct tape
  • Jumbo craft sticks
  • Craft glue
  • Loom bands
  • Sequins
  • Jar lids

 2. Place four loom bands around each jar lid. There should be a small gap between each band.

 3. Secure the bands in place with a piece of duct tape on the top side of the lid.

 4. Cut the end of a jumbo craft stick off (just about 1”).

 5. Wrap washi tape around the remaining craft stick to decorate it.

 6. Attach the lid (with the bands on it) to the flat end of the craft stick using another piece of duct tape.

 7. On the opposite, rounded end of the craft stick, place four small dabs of glue.

 8. Stick your plastic gems to the glue.

 9. Voila! You have the cutest little banjo there ever was.

Have your kids create many more so they can start a neighborhood band!

DIY Racetrack

This fun little activity will bring out the kid in anyone. It also exercises creativity, which is a great thing to do in a world of mindless electronic entertainment. Here’s how to create this fun activity.

  1. Gather your supplies. You’ll need:
  • Washi tape
  • A pencil with an eraser
  • Toy cars

 2. Find a corner in your home that doesn’t get used too frequently. This project works best on hardwood floor, but it will work on low-pile carpet as well.

 3. Envision how the room would look if it were a racetrack. Use light pencil lines to create your road outlines, if desired.

 4. Place washi tape down in strips to create roads.

 5. Use the washi tape to form buildings and parking lots wherever you want.

6. Get the cars out and play!

You can make your track as large or as small as you want. Keep in mind that larger tracks tend to keep kids entertained for longer periods of time.