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With the weather finally cooling off, many of you are digging out your trusty slow cookers. A slow cooker can be a mom's best friend when it comes to set-it-and-forget-it meals, food prep, and easy overnight cooking for a no-mess breakfast. Browsing Pinterest for new recipes can be time consuming. Once you pick a recipe, how can you trust that it is one your family will actually enjoy? The following recipes are husband and toddler approved!

Food Prep

Make shredded chicken in your slow cooker to easily add into salads or add to broth with noodles and vegetables for a quick and easy homemade soup. Place one or two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in your slow cooker. Add one cup of chicken broth and your desired seasonings. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Shred chicken with two forks, and enjoy!

You can also use your slow cooker for an easy way to cook a spaghetti squash. Place the squash in your slow cooker on low for 8 hours. If the squash prevents the lid from closing,...

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Are you getting ready for your big summer vacation and in need of a new book to read? Maybe you are looking for a naptime read, or something to relax with before bed. Whatever your literary need, we have the book for you.

Mother, Can You Not?. by Kate Siegel, humorous Instagram account turned book, is a quick, easy summer read. The perfect beach read, each chapter is an amusing story from Siegel’s life courtesy of her overprotective Jewish mother. From cross-country birth surprises, college admissions officer stalking, to crazy relationship advice and oversharing-there is a comical anecdote for every situation. It was easy to laugh at Siegel’s stories while simultaneously being thankful that none of my own mother’s antics were anywhere near as wild as what the author routinely experiences.

Jen Mann’s...

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With warmer weather brings the desire to eat fresh, healthy, foods. What better place to go for those items than your local farmers' market? While it is easy to get all of your grocery shopping done in one stop at your local grocery store, there are many benefits to shopping at a farmers' market.

  • Shop in-season fruits and vegetables
  • Support your local economy
  • It’s a fun way to get kids involved in the kitchen by letting them pick a new item to try
  • Fresher fruits and vegetables-locally grown items have shorter distances to travel so they spend little time sitting on a shelf.

Are you ready to check out a farmer’s market near you?

Downers Grove hosts a farmers' market at the Main Street Train Station, open May 7-October 15 from 7:00am-12:30pm. The market offers a variety of potted plants for sale, fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables, specialty food items and more.

Visit the...

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Meet Miki, and find out why not one, but two, instructors nominated her for Mom of the Month!

Big thanks to our local reps from Thirty-One Gifts, Rodan and Fields, and Usborne Gifts for donating goodies to reward her.

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Spring has Sprung!

Shake off those winter blues-the weather is finally warming up! We’ve been trapped inside for so long, you may have forgotten all of the great things that spring has to offer! Whether you stay home or get out in your community, grab this spring bucket list and get to work!

· Fly a kite

· Try a new smoothie recipe, like this one:

  • 4-5 strawberries, stems removed
  • ½ cup light coconut milk
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 ½ frozen bananas
  • ½ mango
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Puree strawberries until smooth. Pour into a glass (or divide between two glasses). Rinse blender, and then fill with remaining smoothie ingredients. Puree until smooth. Pour the smoothie gently on top of the strawberry puree. Serve immediately.

· Feed the ducks

· Check out Eldridge Adventure Day, June 12, in Elmhurst to enjoy bug hunts, carnival games, a petting zoo and more!

· Go to the...

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Vibrant colors coupled with cooler temperatures make fall the most popular season for family portraits in the Chicago area. But when you have young kids, it’s easy to stress about everything that could go wrong during your family photo session – toddler meltdowns, crabby babies, uncooperative kiddos… to name a few.

Western suburbs photographers (and moms) Lauren Enright Photography, Cheryl Lynn Milan of Cheryllynn Photography and Leslie Campins of Tiny Bubbles Photography are here to help. Use their pro tips to ensure a great photo session and check out their top spots for gorgeous family photos in the western suburbs.

7 Tips for a Fabulous Family Photo Session

1. Stick to your routine.

For a smooth session with a professional photographer, it’s important for kids, especially young ones, to stay on their normal schedule, says Milan. That means getting a good night’s sleep, eating regular...

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Tired of hearing that your kids are bored during summer vacation? Or maybe you’re just overwhelmed with the options available? With splash pads, pools, parks, festivals, concerts and special events happening nearly every day of summer, it’s hard to know which ones are worthwhile. Here are our top picks for must-do family activities in the Chicago western suburbs this summer.

A Fun-filled 4th

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The Fourth of July is right around the corner, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate America in the western suburbs. But the Eyes to the Sky Festival in Lisle has been a family favorite for more than 30 years. The five-day fest begins July 1 and features food, music, children’s activities, a carnival, fireworks (on July 2, 3 and 4), a Fourth of July parade, and hot air balloons that will keep your little one’s (and your) eyes to the sky.

Go for a Ride

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  • Summer in Chicagoland means it’s time to get outside and explore everything the western suburbs have to offer. So pack a lunch, pack up your kiddos and head out to these perfect picnic spots that offer a lot more than just a great place to eat.
  • Graue Mill and Fullersburg Woods, Oak Brook
  • On the east side of Fullersburg Woods is Graue Mill, the only working waterwheel gristmill in Chicagoland. The grounds of Graue Mill include a handful of picnic tables overlooking Salt Creek. While you’re there, you also can check out the Graue Mill Museum and explore Fullersburg Woods, part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. Additional picnic spots are available along the Fullersburg Woods trail.
  • McCollum Park, Downers Grove
  • This massive park truly has something for everyone — miniature golf, volleyball,
  • horseshoes, a playground, tennis courts, and more. The picnic shelter is located in a grassy, tree-covered area and is a great option for folks looking to picnic with a crowd. Concessions are also...
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8 great trails & paths to run with your stroller in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Spring has sprung and that means it’s time to break out the jogging stroller and take our workouts (and our kids) outside. These running paths and trails in the western suburbs of Chicago offer the perfect antidote to a long winter cooped up in the house. So grab your baby and your running buddy, and check out some of these options for stroller-friendly running in the western suburbs.

Read FIT4MOM's guest post on Go West, Young Mom.

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8 tips and tricks for make-ahead freezer meals

Busy moms know how hard it is to get a healthy, home-cooked dinner on the table each night. Despite our best efforts and intentions, we often find ourselves reaching for a prepackaged meal or picking up the phone and calling for delivery. But there is another way. Make-ahead freezer meals save time and money and will help you stay on track with your healthy eating goals.

Not sure where to start when it comes to freezer meals? We talked to Cindy Bielik, owner of The Dinner Club in La Grange, who shared her secrets for successful freezer meals. Cindy would know. Her business takes all the guesswork out of planning, shopping for and assembling freezer meals. With The Dinner Club, you can choose 8-12 meals from their monthly menu, then sign up for a two-hour session where you’ll prepare your meals in their kitchen. (Bonus: You don't have to clean up.) And, if you’re too busy to visit The Dinner Club and prep the meals yourself, they can do it for you.

But if you’re ready to tackle the process at home, Cindy has given us her top...

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More indoor places to play in the Chicago western suburbs! Perfect for cold or rainy days.

It’s official: The harsh reality of winter in Chicagoland has arrived. If you’re willing to bundle up the kids and make a dash for the car, we’ve rounded up even more indoor play options to discover and enjoy in the western suburbs.

Bonus: Three of our Stroller Strides locations offer open play times for toddlers and young children! Be sure to check these out:

  • Open Bounce at The MAX, McCook, IL

Come for Stroller Strides, stay for Open Bounce at The MAX. A fun way to burn off energy for ages 2 and up, your child can bounce in three different inflatables, Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

  • Toddler Time at Sky Zone, Elmhurst, IL

Let your toddler take a turn on the trampolines at Sky Zone....

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7 Indoor Play Spaces for Babies and Toddlers in the Western Suburbs

We know the weather gets frightful during Chicago’s winter months—and that options for getting little ones out of the house shrink with each temperature drop. So when you and your kiddo need a change of scenery, check out these indoor play spaces for babies and toddlers in Chicago's western suburbs.

Peekaboo Playroom in Oak Park is one of our favorite indoor play spaces in the near western suburbs. Perfect for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, Peekaboo has several playhouse structures, a fleet of Cozy Coups, tons of toys, an area for reading and a separate section for crawlers. The open space makes it perfect for independent play. Grab some coffee and your iPad (free wi-fi!), and keep an eye on your kid from a comfy spot on the couch.

Further west, you’ll find another great play space at Café n Play in Naperville. Café n Play caters to crawlers and up, but we think it’s especially great for toddlers and preschoolers who really need to let loose—kids can burn off energy on the climbing structure complete...

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Tips to Stay on Track with Your Healthy Eating and Fitness Goals During the Holidays

The holiday season is officially upon us: Five weeks of parties, big meals, cocktails and sweets starting with Thanksgiving and culminating with our resolutions to eat better and exercise more on January 1. While it’s easy to succumb to the food free-for-all, it is possible to celebrate the season without undoing all of your hard work.

We asked the Fit4Mom instructors for their best advice when it comes to staying on track with your health and fitness goals during this time of year. Here’s what they had to say.

8 Tips for Staying on Track During the Holidays

1. Write down your goals for the holiday season. These goals should be realistic and measurable. Plan to work out five days a week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, or commit to avoiding sweets (or eating just one dessert) at holiday parties.

2. Stick to your healthy routines, especially during the week. When your Fridays and Saturdays are packed with parties, make an effort to plan your meals, avoid eating out and limit sugar Sunday through Thursday.

3. Skip the...

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8 tips for moms who want to fit fitness into their busy lives

As a mom, making a commitment to a regular fitness routine and healthier lifestyle is not easy. You’re already juggling multiple priorities, and adding another one can feel daunting, even impossible.

But while it takes some shifting—for you and your family—it is possible for moms to make their fitness goals a priority. In our Body Back program, moms who have a lot on their plates are finding ways to step up to the challenge, so we asked them how they do it. These tips come directly from our Body Back moms, who are all at different points in their fitness journeys and have made the commitment to themselves and their health.

Tips for Moms: How to Fit Fitness into Your Busy Life

1. Get support from your family.

Without the support of their families, most moms wouldn’t have the time or the energy to make their health and fitness a priority. Our moms have found that talking to their significant others before taking the plunge with a new fitness routine is critical. Be specific about the kind of support you need—whether it’s emotional support, a commitment to...

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Get fit with your stroller!

When you become a mom, your daily routine gets complicated, to say the least. I remember thinking, “How hard could it be?” Or rather, I don’t remember thinking at all because the first six months of motherhood are pretty much a blur for me. Between feedings, diaper changes, swaddling, laundry and an influx of visitors, you’re exhausted.

Oh, and did we forget to mention sleep deprivation? Needless to say, your personal well-being comes in dead last on the priority list. But then you remember your pre-maternity clothes no longer fit, so you resolve to eat healthy and get some exercise. I’m tired just remembering that period in my life.

The good news is that you already have a fitness tool right under your nose – your stroller. Most moms get out daily with their strollers, but few realize that it can be a great workout. Increase your stroll into a power walk or light jog and you’ll get a cardio workout. Do exercises like stroller squats or lunges for your strength workout. You can even create your own gym outdoors, using benches and fences at your local park.

Try...

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