Family Circle

Good Reads: Four Books for Pet Lovers

Written on April 1, 2014 at 4:09 pm , by

By Cristina Corvino

Raise a paw to these clever new canine and feline books. From an addictive game of I Spy to an irresistibly catchy tune come to life, these are sure to satisfy your Internet pet craving for the day.














Cat vs. Human: Another Dose of Catnip by Yasmine Surovec

Explore the unique and unconditionally loving relationship that only cat parents understand best. Yasmine Surovec, author of the successful blog, debuts 21 brand-new comics for your enjoyment.













Find Momo by Andrew Knapp

We spy…a black-and-white border collie. Based on designer and photographer Andrew Knapp’s addictive blog ( and Instagram account (@andrewknapp), Find Momo includes images of his dog camouflaged in unusual landscapes. Warning: Once you start searching, it’s hard to stop.
















Downton Tabby by Chris Kelly

Felines sit atop their aristocratic thrones in this amusing storybook parody of the PBS television hit Downton Abbey. Among the lessons you’ll learn: “How to Argue with Lord Grimalkin About His Most Deeply Held Beliefs.”
















What Does the Fox Say? by Ylvis, Christian Løchstøer and Svein Nyhus

Sing along to the viral hit song (over 380 million views and counting on YouTube!) by Ylvis as you read the entertaining lyrics and get lost in the charming illustrations. What do you say to that?

Chew on This: Talking Breakfast with Teens and Tweens

Written on March 31, 2014 at 2:28 pm , by

By Danielle Blundell

The ironic thing about breakfast is that we’ve been hearing it’s the most important meal of the day for years, yet many of us skip it anyway. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become better about eating in the morning. But for teens, staying up late watching TV or texting with friends, then hitting the snooze button repeatedly in the a.m. sometimes makes breakfast a luxury reserved for the weekends. A good analogy to illustrate the importance of breakfast for kids—and even ourselves—might be sports. Performing like an athlete requires the proper fuel, and it all starts with breakfast.

To that end we asked the New York Giants’ colorful running back Victor Cruz and The Chew’s Carla Hall, who’ve partnered up with Fuel Up to Play 60 to increase school breakfast participation across the country, for their tips on getting tweens and teens excited about breakfast. And who better than skeleton silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace, fresh off the Sochi podium and now spokesperson for Kellogg’s Give a Great Start Program, for additional ideas, since she’s mom to—and chief breakfast maker for—children Traycen and Lacee.

1. Convenience is key. 

Kids are always on the go, so breakfast options should be flexible too. Stock up on breakfast bars and instant oatmeal, or prepare baggies of dry cereal ahead of time, like Pikus-Pace does, for kids to grab fast from the pantry. Cruz remembers, “Even if I was running late, I always fit breakfast in because of my mom. She’d say, ‘At least eat some cereal,’ or she’d have a granola bar ready for me to eat in the car on the way to school.”

2. Splurge once in a while.

Sure, a well-balanced, healthy breakfast is ideal, but sometimes kids form good habits faster when you let them indulge in their favorites from time to time. For Cruz, it’s French toast. “I’d eat that every day if I could,” he says. Hall favors pancakes. Make it a point to get the family together and enjoy a splurge breakfast at least once a month.

3. Go pro athlete with your menu.

“On game days, I’ll have a vegetable omelet for protein, oatmeal for extra energy and a glass of orange juice,” says Cruz. Before your athlete’s big game or on a test day, give that combo a try. You don’t even have to bust out a pan or skillet if you don’t have the time. Hall uses an on-the-go omelet recipe made with eggs, a little bit of milk, cheese and veggies or meat that she shakes up in a microwave-safe Mason jar and microwaves for 2 minutes.

4. Make breakfast a group effort when you can.

“Today’s kids are more little foodies than we think,” says Hall. “Getting them involved is key, and it starts with taking kids to the store to pick items out. Or ask them for a list.” Let kids customize their own jar omelets or pick out the fruits they want to top their cereal, oatmeal or yogurt. And remind them that not everybody has it so easy when it comes to breakfast. “Everyone deserves a great start, but every day one in five kids don’t get breakfast,” says Pikus-Pace. You and your teen or tween can help. Watch her video and share it with the hashtag #greatstart on Twitter or Facebook, and you’ll provide a meal to a child in need through Kellogg’s.

You Make It, We Post It!

Written on March 31, 2014 at 9:30 am , by

Now serving: pie for dinner! Instagram user @mobraves expertly made and styled our take on a savory meal switch-up—Broccoli Onion Pies. The simple recipe takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, perfect for busy weeknights. Click here for more quick and easy meals.

Want to be featured here as next week’s chef? 

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

Fool Me Once…

Written on March 25, 2014 at 2:31 pm , by

By JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom

It’s that time of year again, when I peruse the Internet for ideas for April Fools’ Day pranks I can play on the kids that won’t require either a trip to the emergency room or some intervention from the authorities.

You get a glimpse into the deep psyche of the prank-posters when you do this. They reveal a great deal about their daily routines, how they keep house and how they raise children. I feel like I’m creeping through their bushes and peeking in their windows at dinnertime.

Gretchen Rubin’s Facebook page is great for prank ideas. If you don’t know her, you should definitely check out this author of The Happiness Project. I do love her, even though her suggestions and those of her like-minded fans (read: more organized than merely being able to consistently leave the house wearing pants) are for a seemingly different species of mom than I am. I find a ton of great ideas that simply won’t work in my house.

Dye the milk green. My kids would reach for that gallon in the fridge, notice that it was green, and walk away without realizing it was a prank, or thinking to tell an adult there was something wrong with the milk. Someone finally revealed that you have to have a cardboard carton for the element of surprise, i.e., something smaller than a gallon. The only reason we don’t buy milk in containers larger than a gallon is because it only comes in Cow after that, and I’m not going there.

Glue their toilet paper together.
 They regularly are without toilet paper for days at a time in their bathroom before telling me. I do not know what they use instead. I refuse to go in that room.

Put towels in the sleeves of the jackets so they can’t get their hands through. I could pull this off if I knew which sweatshirt of their dad’s they would swipe that morning when forced to wear a jacket, and if I could use dirty towels. I can never find a clean hand towel, but I know exactly where 17 used-only-once hand towels are: on their bathroom counter. I dearly hope the hand towels are not related to my previous observations regarding toilet paper.

Fold the top sheet of their bed in two and put the cover on as usual. They will not be able to get into bed. This implies that we make the beds and that they have both a sheet and a cover of some sort.

Crumble a biscuit into their bed. Wouldn’t notice (see above).

Mix up all their morning ritual stuff: toothbrush in the shower, shampoo where the blow-dryer belongs, etc. This assumes that these items actually have a place that they are regularly returned to. In my house, this will likely lead to the blow-dryer going in the shower and electrocuting somebody.

Superglue coins to the sidewalk.
 This could work if my sidewalk were made of wood, and the kids hadn’t stolen all my change and let the dog eat the superglue.

Wake the kids up 45 minutes early and tell them the time changed again and they’re late. Did I mention I work nights?

Tell your kids the lawn mower is broken and the homeowners’ association is about to fine you and you need them to cut the lawn. Give them each a pair of scissors and a ruler and tell them to cut it to an inch and a half. Let them go for about 5 minutes before you call out “April Fools!” The woman who submitted this is my hero. Her little boys were quite enthusiastic about the task and her daughter was mortified that her friends would see her. Unfortunately, my “lawn” is so small you actually could cut it with a pair of scissors, in about 10 minutes. To pull this off, I would first have to find one of our six pairs of Magically Vanishing scissors. I would then set the kids on task, pour myself a cup of tea and, due to the peace and quiet, completely forget I was in the middle of an April Fools’ prank. They would be done cutting the lawn before I finished my tea. Also, we don’t have a homeowners’ association, which is truly for the best. If we did, they would have mandated martial law on our property by now.

What are your best April Fools’ pranks?


JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand, and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at


You Make It, We Post It!

Written on March 24, 2014 at 10:46 am , by

Instagram user @aforkineachhand beautifully made our Bombay Chicken Salad—with her own tweak. She subbed in quinoa for the recipe’s couscous, making the dish even more protein-packed. Head over to her blog, A Fork In Each Hand, to read more about her step-by-step re-creation of this meal.

Want to be featured here as next week’s chef? 

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

You Make It, We Post It!

Written on March 17, 2014 at 10:29 am , by

Instagram user @erriiinnnns perfectly cooked and plated our Chicken, Apple and Spinach Empanadas. Not only does folate (found in the spinach) fight cardiovascular disease, but baking instead of frying the empanadas makes them an all-around better-for-you meal. Click here for more Healthy Family Dinners.


Want to be featured here as next week’s chef? 

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

7 Ways to Survive a Sleepless Night

Written on March 17, 2014 at 8:30 am , by

By Jessica Girdwain


What do you do when you’re lying awake staring at the alarm clock? Try these expert tips on how to survive a sleepless night.


1. Practice mindful breathing

Sit quietly and focus on taking deep breaths. When your mind wanders, return your focus to your inhales and exhales. Research shows this helps stop your mind from racing and lessens insomnia symptoms.

2. Try self-massage

Twice-weekly rubdowns helped the women in a Brazilian study drift off quicker, improve their sleep quality and wake up feeling more refreshed.

3. Read

Using as dim a light as possible, pick up a paper book or magazine (avoid e-readers, which emit blue light). Aim for a relaxing read, not a page-turner that keeps you wide-eyed.

4. Tidy up

Some light, monotonous cleaning (like dusting or straightening up your desk, not rearranging the fridge or scrubbing baseboards) can be soothing, making you rest-ready.

5. Do yoga

The relaxing practice is associated with better-quality sleep, according to new research. Get up and perform a few gentle stances, like the child’s pose or corpse pose, to unwind.

6. Relax your muscles

Starting at your toes, tense and release your muscles, working your way up to your face. This method, called progressive muscle relaxation, helped lull insomniacs to sleep in a study in the Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies.

7. Turn on tunes

In a Dutch study review, music helped participants relax enough to improve sleep quality. Light tunes before bed (think smooth jazz) cue your body to wind down.

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Doing the Dirty Work: My Approach to Cleaning Messy Rooms

Written on March 10, 2014 at 2:09 pm , by

By JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom

The same sense of self-preservation that keeps me from shouldering the responsibility for regularly cleaning the kids’ rooms mandates that, eventually, I do have to go in. Go in as in, “Cover me, I’m going in.”

There will inevitably come a moment when I can’t ignore it anymore—usually because the door won’t shut. There will have been a blowup over a critical piece of sports gear or homework that has been unlocatable due to the mess. By this point, the room makes Hogwarts’ Room of Requirement look positively organized, and I am convinced there’s a camera crew from Hoarders lurking outside in the bushes.

There are two ways to approach Going In: with the kid and without the kid. Both have merits. There are some things that you truly need the child for—clothing, for instance. Does this still fit? Are you ever going to wear this without me forcing you to?

That leads to its own battles: If it takes you five minutes of contortions to get the pants on, they don’t fit anymore. There are more holes in your favorite shirt than there are in my favorite dust rag—how about we swap?

When you get the boo-boo face for throwing out jeans that are held together only by the belt loops and one pocket, take the opportunity to remind the children they are welcome to do this themselves without help. Leave out the part about how you’ll never let them leave the house wearing that.

With an overly sentimental child, or one with pack-ratting tendencies, you’re better off making some of these decisions on your own.

When #5 went to scouting camp this summer, I took the opportunity to Go In to his room. He had created two piles the size of furniture as high as his desk. I lost count of the trash bags full of actual trash that I sifted out of them, including the remnants of his lunch from the last day of school, approximately four weeks earlier.

He’s the youngest of five, the only boy. He’s also the youngest in his class, and on the cusp of everything changing at age 11 and the sixth grade. I know if I ask him, he will never let go of a contractor-size bag full of Webkinz that have long since met their electronic demise from neglect; I also know he’ll forget about them if they are no longer in his room. The big plastic fire truck with the electronic siren he got for Christmas when he was 4, tucked under the far corner of the bed? It’s going to bring a lot more joy to some younger boy who comes by it through donation. Broken toys from Happy Meals? Don’t get me started. Shoe box full of rocks collected one afternoon two summers ago? Perhaps it’s time to set them free.

It took me an entire day and night to get his room in order. Through it all, I second-guessed everything.

In the end, I felt happy to clear his space for him. He’d be able to find things and have room to breathe. I kept the Lincoln Logs and Legos; I kept the Matchboxes and exactly one bed-perimeter’s worth of stuffed animals. I rearranged the furniture.

When we picked him up from scout camp, his dad told him we had a surprise for him at home, and that he owed me. Now, I don’t operate under the illusion that a clean room qualifies as a “surprise” for an 11-year-old boy, but it was definitely noticeable, different and an unpleasant task he didn’t have to do.

By the time we got home, he’d forgotten there was supposed to be a surprise. He dropped his stuff in the living room and immediately went for the TV remote. When we redirected him to put his gear away, he picked up his backpack and went into his room. Ten minutes later he wandered out and went again for the TV remote. I peeked into his room and saw the contents of the backpack scattered all over the floor.

His dad asked, “So what did you think of your room?”

He replied, “What about it?”


JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at

You Make It, We Post It!

Written on March 10, 2014 at 11:14 am , by





Bacon + Chocolate? Yes, please. Instagram user @sarahluvsjoy did an amazing job recreating our Bacon Chocolate Cupcakes for a birthday party—and even came up with the perfect caption for them! Get more creative recipe ideas here.

Want to be featured here as next week’s chef? 

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

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You Make It, We Post It!

Written on March 3, 2014 at 8:07 am , by


Instagram user @hilaryfrye’s husband, Dave, nailed the Creamy Lemon Chicken with Bacon recipe on our March cover. The delicious skillet supper was inspired by spring—something we’re all dreaming of right about now. And with only six ingredients, it’s super quick to fix. For more of our cover recipes, click here.

Want to be featured here as next week’s chef? 

Here’s how: Make a Family Circle recipe, take a photo and share it on Instagram by tagging @FamilyCircleMag and #FCMADEIT.

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Are You Cut Out to Care for an Elderly Parent?

Written on February 28, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Sometimes the role of caregiver is one we plan to take on. Other times, it’s unexpectedly thrust upon us when a family member falls ill or can no longer care for herself. It’s a noble endeavor, but not one we’re all good at. Take our quiz to test your skills and read what guest blogger Molly Carpenter, a caregiver advocate at Home Instead Senior Care and author of Confidence to Care, says are the four secrets of what it takes to excel.

Just as a good teacher must be extraordinarily patient and an artist has to channel deep creativity, there are a few characteristics every caregiver needs to care compassionately and effectively for others. Knowing what it takes to be a strong caregiver will allow you to decide if you are the best person for the job–or if you need to look for support. Here are a few things to consider.

Temperament. Do you handle unexpected changes well? Are you able to adjust calmly when others are uncooperative? No? That’s perfectly okay. Patience, empathy and flexibility are some of the most difficult personality traits to cultivate, but they’re also the most important for successful caregiving.

Being a caregiver means giving selflessly, always taking the high road, having a solution-focused attitude and constantly maintaining positive body language. It might take some time to get comfortable embracing these traits. Or you may realize that you can best support your loved one by staying true to your original role, whether that is daughter or granddaughter, and enlisting the help of a professional caregiver.

Training. No matter your natural predisposition for being a caregiver, there are many aspects of eldercare that nobody innately understands. The many physical and mental difficulties people face as they age are challenging and require unique ways to address them. A variety of training classes exist to help you improve your understanding of the caregiving process. Explore what resources are available for family caregivers in your area or look online.

Time. Caregiving is a 24/7 job because even when you aren’t with the person you’re caring for, you’re thinking of them. Having the ability to manage emotions is critical, as is giving yourself breaks to recharge. You’re a better caregiver if you are rested, physically and mentally. The most successful caregivers take time for themselves. This may mean bringing in someone to help periodically so you can get a much-needed break.

Trustworthiness. A good caregiver is honest and accountable. You can create the strongest relationship with the person for whom you are caring by showing him or her that you can be trusted and relied upon in every situation. Trust is built over time, so if you are bringing in someone new to care for a loved one, provide an opportunity for the trust between your loved one and that person to grow. Time can be invaluable to the development of a rewarding caring relationship.

What are some important lessons you’ve learned as a caregiver? Post a comment and share below. 

Molly Carpenter, MA, is an author, speaker, trainer and family caregiver. She currently works at Home Instead Senior Care, where she is part of a team devoted to providing resources and training to Home Instead’s 65,000 CAREGivers™. Carpenter was instrumental in developing a person-centered approach to Alzheimer’s care that has since been adopted globally by the company. She is the author of Confidence to Care, an essential handbook to help caregivers provide the best care for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. All profits from Confidence to Care go to the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation and are distributed to dementia-related organizations and causes.

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Written on February 25, 2014 at 11:03 am , by

By JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom

There was a time it snowed while I was at home and my husband was at work. I did all the shoveling myself and did not ask the kids for help. It was not a dream, though it certainly doesn’t sound like me. I must have really needed to get out of the house.

Much like how my children are THE ONLY kids in town who don’t have iPhones, they say they are THE ONLY children with expected snow-shoveling duties. I wish these were merely exaggerations from a teen’s perspective, but observation has shown both counts to be somewhat valid.

I must confess that I never shoveled snow as a teen. I make that confession in the safety of knowing that my kids will never read this. The only thing they are less interested in than reading-in-general is reading anything I write specifically (I could tape a chore list to each of their foreheads and none of them would notice), so I am confident they will never find out my secret: By the time I was old enough to properly wield a shovel, we had moved to an apartment where we were not responsible for snow removal.

Most of my kids’ friends do not have chores at home. They don’t do their own laundry, their parents still clean their rooms, and they certainly don’t have to help dig out the cars or clear the walk. My kids groan and whine about the unfairness of having to shovel, but they suit up and head out to our driveway. They know no matter how badly they perform the job, they’re not getting out of it.

At the risk of being reported to DYFS, I should make my other confession: We expect our kids to help shovel and we don’t pay them for it. Shoveling the driveway so that we can continue functioning as a family is a necessary part of running a household. Like laundry, like dishes, like walking the dogs, like grocery shopping. We all do all of these things. I don’t think it’s wrong to pay a kid for helping out; the main reason we don’t pay for these necessary chores is the sheer size of our household and the fact that we’d go broke doing it.

However, this doesn’t mean other people won’t pay them to help. My kids have not yet connected their desire for cash and the gold mine that lies before them in a shed full of shovels, mountains of snow and a town populated by busy parents with kids who don’t know a handle from a blade.

Why should they? The oldest girls discovered they can make money babysitting without nearly as much physical exertion. The youngest girl resents having to expend the effort to move her own body off the couch in order to direct it to bed. The boy has decided that he doesn’t need to make money that badly, yet somehow he has managed to save up $54 and still gets our babysitters to buy him doughnuts.

Last week’s barrage of storms gave us our own Seinfeld episode. For the hundredth time (it seemed to them) the kids were out shoveling. Our neighbor is a retired lady who lives alone. Everyone in the neighborhood pitches in to help clear her drive. The kids had done it the day before when she wasn’t home, and we talked about how it’s important to help your neighbors even if they never know it was you.

When they went over to help this second day in a row, one stayed behind. Whether to more thoroughly scrape our own driveway or to avoid the heavy lifting across the street is known only to her. What is known is that the lady was home that day, and came out and expressed her deep gratitude by handing every kid a 10-dollar bill. Every kid in her driveway, that is.


JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at