Working Traveling Mom

Mixing Business with Pleasure

Oatmeal in a Jar Recipe for a Grab-and-Go Breakfast

grab and go jar of oatmealMorning are nothing short of hectic around here, as most parents can understand. And when it comes time for breakfast, my school-age kids are suddenly become the pickiest of eaters; they want a little of one cereal in their bowl, and some peanuts, and raisins – but not those raisins, the other ones! – and maybe just a little milk…. Well, you get the idea.

oatmeal in a jar with milkSo I started thinking about grab-and-go breakfast ideas for them – something that they can get for themselves without needing help from my husband or me to pour the milk or make sure the right number of raisins make it into their bowls.

Oatmeal‘s always a popular choice for them, although most mornings I just don’t like to fuss with it. Oatmeal in a jar that they can grab and eat themselves? Done! Here’s my recipe for oatmeal in a jar,grab and go oatmeal in a jar-pin which can be customized to taste with mix-ins like raisins, seeds, peanuts or other goodies.

In a pint jar, combine 1/3 cup rolled oats with 2/3 cup milk of your choice (we use coconut milk, but cow’s milk or nut milk would work). Place lids on jars (we love these Ball Wide-Mouth Storage Caps from Ball that can be reused and washed in the dishwasher).

Let the jars sit in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, eat as prepared or add mix-ins. We like to use a combination of freeze-dried fruit, seeds and peanuts. Peanuts and chocolate chips are also a good combination.

Note: Mix-ins can also be added the night before, but will turn soft and/or soggy overnight. If that sort of thing bothers you, too, it’s best to wait to add the goodies until mealtime.

Also try: No-Bake Oatmeal Energy Bars and Homemade Granola.

Post contains affiliate links.

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Is Hard-Shell Luggage Right for You? A Review of Ricardo Beverly Hills Luggage

Review of Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury 2.0 21 Inch Luggage

Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury hard shell luggage.

I wasn’t in the market for a new suitcase. Sure, I’d browse the luggage section in the department store every now and then, casting my gaze at the shiny new suitcases and then remembering I had perfectly good luggage at home.

Then I attended the TravelingMom writers’ retreat at Walt Disney World and was given a Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury 2.0 21-inch suitcase to review.

Meet the suitcase that’s going to make my other luggage jealous.

The Roxbury 2.0 is a lightweight, hard-shell suitcase with reinforced corners for extra protection at critical stress points. The dual spinner wheels can rotate 360° when the suitcase is pushed or pulled.

The suitcase is expandable and has two inner compartments, great for keeping your clothes separate from other items or for organizing your belongings.

What I like about the Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury 2.0 suitcase

Size: At 23 in. high x 16 in. wide x 9.5 in. deep, the suitcase fits easily in an airplane’s overhead compartment – and in the trunk of the car.

Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury 2.0 21 Inch Luggage inside

There are two interior sections inside the Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury, making it easy to organize clothes or separate dirty clothes from clean ones.

Roomy interior: There’s enough room inside to pack several days’ worth of clothes. I recently used it for a three-day trip and could have actually packed more into it – without even using the expandible zipper.

Hard shell: The hard shell luggage protects belongings and is easy to wipe clean.

Spinny wheels: The wheels really can turn on a dime – in fact, the suitcase rolls so well you can walk alongside it without having to tip it – saving your arms and back from doing all the work.

TSA lock: The built-in TSA lock allows you to lock your bag with a four-digit numerical code; if the TSA needs to access the interior of the bag, they use a special key to get in – and can then re-lock your bag.

Separate compartments inside: There are two interior sections, making it easy to organize clothes or separate dirty clothes from clean ones.

TSA-compliant toiletry bag: A durable, clear plastic toiletry bag is included, meaning you can finally replace the sad little quart-sized Ziplocs you reuse way too many times (admit it, we all do that!).

Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury 2.0 21 Inch Luggage TSA lock

The built-in TSA lock in the Ricardo Beverly Hills hard shell luggage.

The price: On sale for $150 on Ricardo’s site right now, the Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury 2.0 21-inch suitcase is an affordable carry on bag.

What I don’t like about the Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury 2.0 suitcase

The hard shell maintains one size and shape, and doesn’t grow like soft-sided luggage can (although it can be expanded an inch or so). It also shows minor scratches and wear sooner than a soft-sided suitcase would.

No outside pocket: I like to use the outside pockets to stash my laptop, magazines, boarding passes, and other smaller items for easy access; can’t do that with this suitcase.

Spinny wheels can be a little too spinny: The wheels spin a little too quickly when you step on an escalator – I had to make sure to keep control of the bag when I stepped on or it would have easily flown down the stairs.

TSA lock is a little tricky to figure out: Here’s a good video explaining how to work it.

Final thoughts

The Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury 2.0 21-inch suitcase is a sturdy and sleek carry-on-sized suitcase. I like Ricardo Beverly Hills 2.0 Suitcase-pinhow the hard shell protects the contents inside, and the spinning wheels make pulling a suitcase around the airport much easier. While I might need a larger bag for longer trips, the Ricardo suitcase lends itself well to airplane travel. On the other hand, for business travel I would probably use a suitcase with an outside pocket so I can get to my laptop computer without having to open the bag.


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Do You Need a Home Surveillance System?

Many of us travel to get away from home, but what do you do when you need to keep an eye on your home but can’t because you’re far away? About a month ago, while my family and I were out of state, I learned that a package was being delivered to my house. I didn’t have the exact delivery date, though, and had no way to check on it myself.

What to do?

I would have loved to be able to look at some sort of video channel to see if there was a package on the porch; alas, I couldn’t. And the neighbors were – of course – also out of town at the time. I had to resort to the next-best thing: calling my parents to check up on it.

I sent my dad over to my house twice, and on his second trip he was able to retrieve the package off the porch and bring it inside.

It’s frustrating being out of town and having to rely on someone else to check on your home. Ironically, that package I was waiting for was actually the solution to this dilemma: a home surveillance system from Panasonic.

Why You Should Use a Home Surveillance System

What I like about the Panasonic Home Surveillance System:

  • Smartphone or computer access to cameras
  • Can record video and take still photos from that
  • The two cameras can be moved around, indoors or out, and don’t have to be mounted
  • Night vision feature
  • Microphone and speaker feature allows you to talk back and forth through the camera
  • No monthly fee

What I don’t like

  • The system is limited to a total of four cameras (can purchase two more to use with this system)
  • Alerts can’t be customized per camera (eg, the same sound goes off when there’s activity from either camera)
  • Smartphone access can be buggy – my husband and I both downloaded the app to our phones, but found that we’d kick each other off if both of us tried to access the same camera
  • The app can be confusing – to set recording on and off and turn alerts on and off you have to go into two different areas of the app; it seemed more intuitive to be able to access both in the same area

Final thoughts

Overall, the Panasonic system delivers – it provides two cameras for indoor or outdoor monitoring. I found the picture to be crisp for both indoor and outdoor use, and the ability to access the cameras from a location other than home was handy. I would recommend the system to people who travel and want to keep an eye on their home, or who have children they want to be able to check in on.

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Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Kale Quesadillas Recipe

black bean sweet potato quesadillas1

I used to hate sweet potatoes. They were too sweet to be a vegetable, yet not a sweetness that was very appealing. But I’ve discovered that, when cooked with other foods, they become a base flavor that actually complements other ingredients – the peanut butter to chocolate, or the raisins to oatmeal.

Sweet potatoes are quickly becoming my go-to vegetable. I put them in nearly everything — from my black bean soup to vegetable stir fries.

Use fresh sweet potatoes for this, or – if you have leftover mashed sweet potatoes – skip the first step and use already cooked sweet potatoes.

black bean sweet potato quesadillas1

Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Kale Quesadillas

Yield: 4-6 servings


2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced ½ inch thick

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon oregano

1-2 tablespoons vegetable broth

3 cups chopped kale

3 green onions or chives, chopped

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

4-6 large flour tortillas

1 cup shredded cheddar cheeseSweet Potato Quesadillas-pin-3

Place the sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add salt to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Drain potatoes and place in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes, then add cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Stir until well combined.

In a medium skillet, heat the vegetable broth over medium heat. Next, add in the kale and green onions to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the greens are bright green. Add greens to the mashed potatoes, then add the black beans to the bowl and stir until combined. Set aside to use for the filled tortillas.

Prepare tortillas one at a time on a work surface or plate. Spread about a half-cup of the filling (approximately 1/5 of the mixture) on half of the tortilla. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the cheese on top if desired. Fold the tortilla over to close. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Use a paper towel to wipe out the skillet, then heat over medium heat. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray, then place one filled quesadilla in the pan and cook, turning over after a few minutes to lightly brown both sides. Cut each quesadilla into triangles and serve with salsa or guacamole. Garnish with green onions if desired.

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Discovering the Forest with Kids #ForestChat

discover the forest park ann arborI’m not an outdoorsy person – but my kids are. They love exploring the local parks, following animal tracks and picking up leaves and sticks along the path. It’s also a great way to sneak in a little exercise; the kids don’t realize that they’re getting exercise when they’re busy following a trail or tracking a bird in the woods.

If you’re like me and need a little nudge to get back to nature, is a great tool. Search the site to find parks in your hometown or on vacation, filtered by activity or zip code. There are also free download- and print-able outdoor activities that you can bring with you on your next outdoor adventure.

There are even interactive activities to get the kids excited about nature before even leaving the house. My 7-year-old daughter loves taking photos of birds, and the forest snapshot game is great to get her thinking about the photos she can take at the park or nearby arboretum. Then, when we get home, we can upload her photos right to the site’s photo gallery.

Looking for more ways to get back to nature? Join @Cheecker and @kimorlando for a fun #ForestChat Twitter party all about the great outdoors with the U.S. Forest Service at 1 p.m ET on June 26th.

About Discover the Forest

Discover the Forest is a public-service campaign that aims to inspire tweens (aged 8-12) and their parents to re-connect with nature, experiencing it first-hand. The campaign brings to life the joy and excitement kids have when they discover the wonders of nature, helping create interest in their environment and a lifelong relationship with it. Find out more on the campaign website,, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.



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Cornbread Blueberry Muffin Recipe

blueberry cornbread muffinsWeekends are for long, leisurely breakfasts, lounging in pajamas and taking your time rather than trying to rush the kids out the door so they’re not late for school once again. I often spend my Saturday mornings in the kitchen, baking recipes that I don’t have time to make during the week. Like these muffins. They’re great any day of the week, but Saturday mornings are the easiest time for me to spend baking them.

The recipe makes about 15 muffins (more or less depending on how full you fill the muffin cups), so there are enough to last through the beginning of the next week. They’re right around 100 calories each, lightened up with applesauce instead of oil and coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.

blueberry cornbread muffin recipe

Cornbread Blueberry Muffin Recipe

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup + 1 tbsp. whole-wheat flourCornbread Blueberry Muffin Recipe
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp. lemon juice (or juice of half a lemon)
1 tsp. lemon zest (zest of half a lemon)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin cups with papers and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the first six ingredients (through salt). In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, brown sugar and applesauce until combined. Add the milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Pour into the large bowl and mix until combined. Stir in the blueberries.

Spoon or ladle batter into the muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minute, or until the muffins are form and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool, then enjoy!

(Note: the muffins will stick to the papers until they are completely cooled.)




Hotel Review: Mystic Dunes Resort in Orlando, Florida (+ A Giveaway!)

There is no shortage of hotels and resorts in and around the Orlando area. Many of them are located in and around Disney World, which is fine if you’re visiting the area to see the mouse house. But in case you aren’t – or you just want a break from the theme park theme – consider a hotel away from the crowds.

I recently had a chance to stay a night at Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club, courtesy of Diamond Resorts International, during the annual TravelingMom writers’ retreat. Located in Celebration, Fla., the resort is about a 15 minute drive from Walt Disney World and has one, two- and three-bedroom villas. I stayed in a one-bedroom villa, which was much more like an apartment or condo than the traditional hotel room – big, spacious living area; full kitchen with a dishwasher, full-sized refrigerator, and an oven perfect for cooking up a meal or two – and had plenty of room for me to stretch out.

Mystic Dunes Resort Villa Kitchen

Mystic Dunes Resort Villa One Bedroom
I almost wished I had brought some work with me just so that I could sit in the screened-in balcony and enjoy the Florida weather while I worked. For a small family or couple, the one-bedroom villa would be just the right amount of space so that everyone can spread out without feeling like you’re too close to someone else.

Mystic Dunes Resort Living Area -Indoor

Mystic Dunes Resort Outdoor patio

After checking into my room, I did have one small issue with it – I called the front desk and, while they were not able to switch me to a different room, a maintenance person was sent up and promptly fixed the problem.

Dining at Mystic Dunes Resort

I only stayed one night, and checked in well after dinnertime and checked out early the next day to catch a flight, so I did not have a chance to try out the on-site restaurant, Kenzie’s. The resort also offers delivery to your room of Maui Pizza Express, as well as grocery delivery – great for travelers like me who didn’t have a car at the resort and couldn’t just go out to grab a meal off property.

Things to Do at the Resort

A number of amenities and activities are available at the resort. In addition to a championship golf course designed by Gary Koch and rated a 4 1/2 Star course by Golf Digest magazine, the resort has four pools and offers bike rentals and family and supervised children’s activities. Since I checked out early I wasn’t able to experience any of these firsthand, but another TravelingMom who stayed there with her family said her girls really enjoyed the pool.

What to Know Before Staying at Mystic Dunes Resort

The resort property is large – more than 600 acres – and the accommodations are spread out around the property. A complimentary golf cart shuttle service is available to guests to get from one spot on the property to another, but having a car might help save some time and get you there sooner. A complimentary shuttle to and from the airport, and to nearby theme parks.

Also, the property is a time share. I wasn’t interested in finding out about becoming an owner and was never pressured to do so. There is a sales office near the front desk where interested individuals can learn more about the property and ownership.

My one-night stay at Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club was hosted, courtesy of Diamond Resorts International. All opinions are my own.

All photos taken by myself with the Panasonic Lumix ZS40 camera.

Win a Free Family Vacation #GiveawayGiveaway Time!

Ready to try it out for yourself? TravelingMom has teamed up with Diamond Resorts to give one randomly selected winner a one-week (six nights/seven consecutive days) vacation accommodation for up to four (4) people at one of the following Diamond Resorts International® resort locations:

  • Florida
  • Las Vegas
  • Hawaii
  • Cabo

For all the terms and conditions for this sweepstakes, click here.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Low-Carb Spaghetti (Squash) and Meatballs Recipe

low carb spaghetti squashWe’re always trying to find ways to get more vegetables into our diets (and trick encourage the kids into eating more veggies). To that end, we’ve turned spaghetti night into spaghetti squash night: all the taste and feel of spaghetti, but without the carbs or extra calories. Plus, it’s easy enough to make on a weeknight. I sometimes leave out the meatballs to save a few more calories.

Low-Carb Spaghetti (Squash) and MeatballsLow carb gluten free spaghetti squash

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
1 1/2 cups marinara
6 fully cooked meatballs
1/4 cup mozzarella or parmesan cheese
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pre-cook the squash in the microwave: with a sharp knife, pierce the center of the squash on all sides. Microwave on a plate on high for 1 minute, then flip once and microwave for another minute. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with nonstick spray (I love my Misto Olive Oil Sprayer), and place the two halves cut-side-up on the tray. Brush or spray the squash with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast the squash uncovered for about 40 minutes, or until a fork can be easily inserted into the thickest part. Let cool for 5-10 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, heat the meatballs if using and marinara in a saucepan.

When the squash has cooled enough to touch, scrape the insides with a fork to loosen the strands. Add half the sauce and 3 meatballs to each half, then top with cheese. Place back in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
Serves 2.

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VegaSport Recovery Accelerator Review

 Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator product review

How do you recover from a long workout? While I’d prefer to recover with a day at the spa, getting a full-body massage, most days my recovery involves a glass of chocolate milk, followed by lots of stretching and foam rolling. I’ve read a lot of research on the effects of chocolate milk post-workout, but had always wondered if there might be something better out there.

So when I saw that Fit Approach/Sweatpink was offering the chance to try a new plant-based recovery accelerator, I was eager to try it. The product is simple – stir a packet of the powder into a 12-oz glass of cold water, then drink.

I sampled the tropical flavor of the Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator, which I found to be similar to the orange flavor of Gatorade – nothing special, but nothing offensive either. The Vega product had a much less chemical taste than Gatorade, though, thanks to its plant-based ingredients. It took some vigorous stirring to get the powder to dissolve, but eventually it did and I was left with a very tangerine-colored drink.

Chocolate milk is usually my recovery drink of choice – I use whole milk and whichever chocolate flavor we have in the house, either chocolate syrup or sometimes Nestle’s Quik if that’s all I can find. The milk goes down easily and leaves me feeling full until lunchtime.

I’ve used the Vega recovery drink after several workouts now, and there is a difference in my muscle soreness after drinking the product. I’m not as sore as I usually am after a hard training run, and my legs feel much more recovered than before.

Disclosure: I was given samples of the Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

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Visiting Disney World Without the Kids (This Time)

Visiting Disney World Without the KidsMy kids don’t know that I recently visited Walt Disney World without them – and that I plan on doing it again. Does that make me the meanest mom in the world? Not really. You see, I was there for the annual TravelingMom writers’ retreat, which was hosted by Disney and spent the majority of my time there working – in educational sessions learning about social media and content creation, attending media events in the parks, exploring better ways to take and share photos from sponsor Panasonic (stay tuned for a post about their new Lumix ZS40 – it’s quickly becoming my go-to camera) and learning about new family-friendly features of the vehicles that transportation sponsor Chevy provided to the retreat. We even had a chance to take the cars for a spin in an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt around Orlando, sponsored by Chevy and navigated by OnStar.

In short, I was busy. So busy that I wouldn’t have had much of a chance to even see them during the day, and so Visiting Disney World Without the Kidstired at the end of the day that I wouldn’t want to do more than crawl into bed and snooze or watch TV.

Next year will be a different story; my husband and I are hoping that we can all make the trip down to Orlando. But the part about taking them to Disney World will still be a secret – for a while. We have family about an hour away from Orlando, so we would plan to drop me off at the retreat to stay in an Orlando hotel, where I can work while my husband and the kids visit family. Then, after the work part of the trip is over, we’d rejoin and spend a few days in the park. It’d be their first visit to see the Mouse, and neither my husband or I would want them to experience that without all of us together.

Combining a business trip with a family vacation is nothing new for me; however, having it happen in Orlando is a little more challenging.

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