Tuesday, August 4, 2015

July Beauty Buys

Last month I was grateful to find some much needed beauty products to combat the effects of summer. From a quick remedy for washing my face when I'm too tired for a proper cleanse to a foot lotion that transforms dry, overexposed feet, July's beauty buys are keepers.

essie spa "feet in the clouds" leg and foot creme $11/bottle
My feet have taken a beating this summer. From going barefoot at the pool and the beach to wearing sandals every day, my skin is dry, crackling, and unattractive. After trying several lotions that promised to fix my feet, I finally decided it was time for essie's "feet in the clouds" lotion. I've never looked back. This lotion will transform your feet in just two applications. I like to apply it at night and put on light socks and again in the morning before I get dressed for the gym.

eyedews under eye gel pads $26/6 pairs
I don't know if it's the extreme heat or perhaps environmental factors, but I've never experienced puffiness under my eyes as I have this summer. Eyedews are collagen-packed under eye gel pads that you apply in the morning. I like to keep mine in the refrigerator. They have a cooling affect on my eyes. Plus, I keep them on for 15 minutes when needed in a quiet room away from all distractions. It's my little oasis!

Hask Argan Oil Intense Deep Conditioning Treatment  $3/treatment
I have been relying on these masks all summer long to repair my daughters' hair. Chlorine-soaked locks that are too dry and knotted to almost brush through require a strong moisturizing treatment. This treatment restores moisture and shine to damaged hair and has become a once-per-week must-do for us.

Simple Cleansing Micellar Water $7.50/bottle
I hate to admit it, but most nights this summer I've been almost too exhausted to properly wash my face. I've been waking at 5:30 am to hit the gym most mornings, and by the time 10:00 pm rolls around, I'm finding it difficult to spend more than 2 minutes in the bathroom at night...and that includes brushing and flossing. I've been reaching for Simple's cleansing water. Dab some on a cotton ball and wipe it all over your face. There's no need for rinsing or cleansing afterwards. You can simply apply your nightly moisturizer and hit the pillow.

To see more of my favorite beauty products, visit my Beauty board on Pinterest.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Menu Plan Monday :: 8.3.2015

We are smack dab in the middle of the summer growing season here in New Jersey. Every farmers' market you hit has the best of the best this time of year. From tomatoes to zucchini to blueberries, it's abundant. This week and in the weeks to come, we'll be incorporating a few of those garden delights into our menu plan.
Here's what we'll be munching on this week:
Grilled shrimp Caesar salad via Cooking Light

Monday - Grilled shrimp Caesar salad

Tuesday - Meatball subs with oven fries

Wednesday - Teriyaki chicken rice bowl

Thursday - Lemon garlic spaghetti with a side salad

Friday - Blackened steak salad

Saturday - We'll be attending a pool party

Sunday - Caprese chicken with roasted broccoli and a side of pasta

What's on your plate this week? For more meal time inspiration, visit I'm An Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday linkup.

To view all of my menu planning posts, click here. Visit my What's For DinnerPasta, and Soups On! Pinterest boards for even more ideas.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Happy August ~ Letter From The Editor

August? Is it really August? How can that be? We are half way through summer vacation and gearing up for a full second half which includes an annual vacation to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. In addition to our vacation, we have a few day trips planned, a visit to Jenkinson's Boardwalk, and of course, shopping for school supplies and clothes.

Here on the blog, we're not letting go of summer just yet. We'll be featuring quick and easy entertaining ideas for happy hour at home, a recipe for pasta salad that's easy to make and take, and light bites that are delicious and perfect to make when the weather is just too darn hot, and I'll be sharing our vacation diary from our trip to Rehoboth Beach.

Of course, on everyone's mind is back to school. You'll find tips for getting organized (both you and the kids), fashions, and our favorite supplies and healthy lunch box ideas. Back to school shopping isn't just for the kiddos. I'll share a few ideas for a back to school version of shopping for grown ups as well.

The most exciting post to date is coming up this month also. It's my big dining room makeover with Raymour & Flanigan! I am beyond thrilled about this project, and the folks at Raymour & Flanigan have been an absolute pleasure to work with. I am bursting at the seams with excitement. This will be a series of three posts starting with the state of my dining room pre-makeover. The second post will be my BIG reveal!! And next month, I'll be sharing our dining room in action.

You'll rely on all your favorite regular posts as well including What We're Reading, Best Online Reads, Friday's Fresh Picks, Best Beauty Buys, and Menu Plan Monday. And of course, if there's a topic you'd love to see covered or featured, I want to know! Please email me at piecesofamom {at} gmail {dot} com with your suggestions.

Enjoy the dog days of summer!

Just in case you missed these popular stories from July.



Scorching days spent at the beach or pool call for a fabulous cover up.

Keep your makeup from melting off your face with Coola makeup setting spray.

A simple gold chain link bracelet dresses up even the simplest of outfits. I wear mine all the time with everything from shorts and a tee to dresses.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Inspire Your Cooking with MARY'S Secret Ingedients

There are monthly box subscriptions for just about any passion. Beauty? Yep. There's one for that. Pets? You got it. Shaving? Oh, yes, you can have shaving products sent to you to sample on a monthly basis.

And now. There's one for foodies. MARY's secret ingredients is a seasonal subscription box designed specifically for foodies. Whether you love cooking or eating, MARY's is for you. The carefully curated boxes come out 4 times per year and are filled with new and exciting food ingredients and products that will spice up your everyday meals.

Each box costs $25.95 and has a total value of at least $30. A portion of the proceeds of each box sold goes towards Feed The Children, an organization that provides nourishing meals to hungry children. With each MARY'S box, you'll feed yourself and a child.

I'm always eager to find innovative ingredients to add to and to switch up our everyday meals. I could spend hours trying to research kitchen and food innovations or I can subscribe to MARY'S secret ingredients.

I had a chance to try the summer 2015 MARY'S secret ingredients box. The box was comprised of six items, none of which I had heard of before. It was a great way for me to be introduced to new food products and brands. With each box comes an explanation of the products and brands to help you become familiar with each of them. Many are family owned and operated businesses that are passionate about food.

Here's what was in my MARY'S secret ingredients box:

Chipz Happen Cinnful Sweet Heat: A dessert tortilla chip with unexpected kick. Great for a snack as is, but I am planning to use these chips in a decadent dessert where I spread the chips out, drizzle them with melted chocolate, and top with vanilla ice cream and sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon.

Delta Blues Rice Grits: This byproduct of the rice milling product makes for a delicious and creamy side dish. Rice grits are actually broken pieces of rice that cook up to create a texture that is perfect for a sauce. These are a great substitute for risotto and are perfectly paired with meats and seafood or as well as eaten alone.

Love Grown Foods Chocolate Power O's: This nutritious cereal leaves the grains behind and is made with navy beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils. They are a great way to power start your day

Rufus Teague Touch O' Heat Barbecue Sauce: A tasty combination of sweet and heat, this barbecue sauce is great as a condiment or a marinade. It's great as a dipping sauce for French fries or when used to make pulled chicken barbecue. There's no mistake that it's got some heat!

Speegee Co. Spatula: The only utensil you need in the kitchen other than a knife, this versatile and multi-tasking spatula does it all and then some more. It can be used for folding, for spreading, for mixing, for tossing and turning and more. Get rid of the clutter in your drawers by adding a Speegee Spatula.

Villa de Patos Maguey Sap: This "live" product will change over time. Initially the light, amber color is ideal to use as a daily all-natural sweetener. Over time as the color darkens and becomes a rich brown, it becomes the perfect addition to sweet and savory dishes.

I added a bit of it to iced tea that I made, and it sweetened it perfectly. It was a delicious concoction.

MARY'S secret ingredient boxes are available 4 times per year (see full schedule here) for $25.95 per box. Quantities are limited each season, so jump on ordering if you are interested in checking it out. Reserve your fall 2015 box now while it's still available. The box will ship out to customers on September 25th. Annual subscriptions are available for $103.80.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary MARY'S secret ingredients box to facilitate this product review. No other compensation was received.

Best Online Reads

1. Vintage photos of 80s supermodels via Huffington Post.

2. Meal planning made easy and done in half the time via Beauty Through Perfection.

3. The most beautiful towns in New Jersey via The Culture Trip.

4. Tips for entertaining overnight guests via Cupcakes and Cashmere.

5. How gluten affects your brain via MindBodyGreen.

6. A guide to camping (and enjoying it) via A Cup of Jo.

7. The proper way to wash workout wear via Lauren Conrad.

8. These 13 daily habits will improve your life via Business Insider.

9. Cards that your anxious friends can seriously appeciate via Buzzfeed.

10. The 34 incredible shows you're not watching on Netflix via SheKnows.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What I Am Currently Watching On Netflix

Netflix has a way of drawing you into its clutches and never letting go. It happened to me about a year ago when I finally subscribed after seeing everyone else gush about it on social media. Ever since, I have watched dozens of documentaries, movies, and TV shows that I wouldn't otherwise have had access to.

From exclusive shows (House of Cards) to shows that have long been cancelled (Brothers & Sisters) to obscure documentaries (Joanna), Netflix has a little something for everyone's binge-watching needs.

Here are the six things I am currently watching on Netflix.
1. Take Me Home
If you are a fan of Parenthood, specifically of Joel (Julia's husband), you'll want to watch this movie. Sam Jaeger stars in and directs this romantic comedy about the road less traveled. When a young woman finds out that her ailing father has taken a turn for the worst, she runs out of her NYC apartment to the first cabbie she finds and asks him to drive her California. An unforgettable trip awaits her.

2. Lions: Spy in the Den
In the wake of the unfortunate and unnecessary death of Cecil the Lion, I've developed an obsession with learning more about these beautiful and fascinating creatures. Get an up close and personal look at the king of the beasts.

3. White Collar
Two words: Matt Bomer. Hello. Why has no one told me about this TV series? An FBI agent and an ex-con team up to stop scheming white collar criminals in NYC. If nothing else, Matt Bomer is certainly a treat for the eyes.

4. Dogs with Jobs
This Canadian documentary television series explores the many ways dogs from all over the world perform extraordinary tasks to come to the aid of those in need every day. Not only do we get a glimpse into how they help others perform their jobs but we also see how these dogs touch the lives of those they serve.

5. Bloodline
This original Netflix series follows the adult siblings of the Rayburn family in Florida. Long-kept secrets are revealed and lives turned upside down when the black sheep of the family returns.

6. Austin to Boston
Satisfy your craving for wanderlust with this documentary about four bands hitting the road to play gigs from Austin to Boston after wrapping up the SXSW festival. It's a mesmerizing look at life on the road and into rural US towns.

Not subscribed to Netflix? What are you waiting for? Sign up now and get your first month of streaming for free!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ThunderShirt™: The Best Solution for Pet Anxiety

Pets experience anxiety just as people do. Unfortunately, pets aren't able to vocalize when they are feeling anxious or to tell us what is causing the anxiety. It could be anything from a loud noise, an unfamiliar person, a car ride, or an unexpected situation.

We have two cats, and luckily for us, they don't get rattled too often or too easily. But when they do, it's a stressful situation for all. Generally it's trips to the vet and fireworks that set them into a tailspin. But we have finally found a solution for alleviating some of their anxiety and a means to put them at ease during stressful situations.

ThunderShirt is designed to apply gentle and constant pressure to cradle your cat in order to reduce and eliminate symptoms of anxiety. ThunderShirt wraps around your cat's body and attaches using velcro for a secure and comfortable fit.

ThunderShirt™ contains no drugs or harmful chemicals. What is does include is an absorbent pheromone patch to use with ThunderSpray. This is an added layer of anti-anxiety protection.

Thundershirt™ reports that there is an 80% success rate among the clients, vets, and animal trainers, and that most cats love to wear ThunderShirts.

I can certainly attest to that. When I first tried it on our cat Sam, he wasn't too sure about it. He needed a little conditioning. We prepared him by placing the ThunderShirt on the floor first so he could approach it at his own pace and convenience. He sat on it. He fell asleep on it. After we were convinced that he was comfortable with the ThunderShirt, we placed it on him. He liked it! He wasn't squirming or flailing trying to shake it off.

We live in a beach town where fireworks are a weekly occurrence. We decided to try out the ThunderShirt during the fourth of July fireworks extravaganza. The ThunderShirt passed the test with flying colors! Sam didn't run and hide under the bed or cower in a corner.

We haven't had a need to go to the vet since receiving the ThunderShirt, but I am most excited to see how our cats deal with the short ride in the car and the subsequent visit with the vet.

But for now, we'll be putting the ThunderShirt to plenty of use at home where it's been a lifesaver so far.

ThunderShirt is available for cats and dogs with prices starting at $39.95. More information can be found on the web site, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

Disclosure: I was provided with a ThunderShirt to facilitate this review. No other monetary compensation was received.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The 7 Things All Big Families Need in Their Home

We recently visited friends who have four children and plenty of space to accommodate everyone in the family. As we spent time at their home, I was able to observe the dynamics of the family and their set up. Here's a given: if you’ve got a big family, your home needs to be practical and large enough to accommodate everyone's needs. Bigger families definitely require a slightly different set up than a smaller family. Here are a few things all big families need in their home:

A Large Seating Area
A large seating area is a must for a large family. Ask yourself, if everybody came home and wanted to sit down, would they be able to? If the answer is no, you need more seating! Pages like www.fombag.com/what-couch-thats-a-bean-bag-sofa_df_51.html can give you a little advice on the best seating to get for your large family. There are plenty of options, you just need to make sure it’s practical enough for all of you!

A Big TV
A big family needs a big TV. You don’t want to be straining your eyes trying to see a small screen in a big room! Big screen TVs are relatively inexpensive these days. While I don’t recommend spending too much time in front of the TV, a good Netflix binge with the fam is a great way to bond every once in a while. Sometimes, as a family, it’s nice to watch a movie or a favorite TV show together. You might even have some home movies you’d all like to watch together!

A Large Dining Table
One of the best things about having a large family is eating dinner together. In order for everyone to sit down and eat a meal with one another from time to time, you need to have a large dining table. You may not always have the opportunity to get everyone around the table at the same time, but when you have the chance, take it! It’s a great way to bond, shut out distractions, and find out what’s going on in each other’s lives.


A 4-Slice Toaster
We finally purchased a 4-slice toaster about two years ago. What took us so long??
Nobody wants to wait around for their toast for too long, and you want to make sure your family can get some breakfast or a snack when they need one. A 4-slice toaster should stop any arguments and save time!

Large Pots and Pans
When making dinner for your family, you want to get the meal on the table quickly and efficiently. A large set of pots and pans will make sure you can do enough to feed the whole family at once.

Multiple Bathrooms
A large family can be a challenge when it comes to showering, washing hands, brushing your teeth, etc. It seems like there’s a never ending cue for the bathroom. Having multiple bathrooms and being sure they are well stocked will put an end to bathroom bottlenecks!

A Pet
It might seem silly to get a pet, but a house isn’t complete without one. Your family could bond and share chores when it comes to feeding, walking, and grooming. A pet is a great way to teach children responsibility from a young age too! The more people to help share the responsibility of caring for a pet, the merrier!

Do you have a large family? Do you have these things in your home? Is there anything missing from the list? Leave a comment below to let me know. I hope you and your big family loved this post!

Menu Plan Monday :: 7.27.2015

It's hard to believe that it's the last week of July already. We still have a summer bucket list of things to accomplish in the next six weeks. We'll be kicking it into high gear and taking advantage of the final weeks of summer vacation. But first, this week's meal plan!
Here's what we'll be munching on this week:

Monday - Linguini with marinara sauce (hubs' own recipe) and an arugula salad

Tuesday - Chicken tacos

Wednesday - Dinner out

Thursday - Coconut chicken tenders with rice and steamed broccoli

Friday - Arugula salad with steak, shaved Parmesan cheese, and lemon vinaigrette

Saturday - Pasta puttanesca

Sunday - Slow-cooker pulled pork sandwiches with homemade onion rings

What's on your plate this week? For more meal time inspiration, visit I'm An Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday linkup.

To view all of my menu planning posts, click here. Visit my What's For DinnerPasta, and Soups On! Pinterest boards for even more ideas.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

July 2015 Birchbox Deconstructed #Birchbox

This month's Birchbox was full of all sorts of goodies. It included products from 3 brands I had never heard of and 2 brands that are long-time favorites of mine. I'll definitely be kicking my beauty routine up a notch after receiving this month's Birchbox.

Here's what was in this month's Birchbox:

1. Juliette Has A Gun, Lady Vengeance Eau De Parfum (Received sample. Full size, $90)
This earthy blend hints of a men's cologne but with a touch of femininity, you know it's meant for a woman. The combination of rose, vanilla, and patchouli is appealing without being overpowering. Even at $90 a bottle, I would definitely consider purchasing this perfume.

2. COOLA SPF 30 Organic Makeup Setting Spray (Received sample. Full size, $36)
I have previously used another brand's makeup setting spray and loved it. Think of it as hairspray for makeup. It keeps it in place throughout the day and is particularly great if you've got a long day ahead of you. I loved that this spray contains an SPF and is organic.

3. Key West Aloe, Save A Tan (Received sample. Full size, $12.50)
This lotion is made with 80% aloe vera, making it perfect for after sun skin care. Whether you've gotten a little too much sun or not much at all, this lotion moisturizes and prevents peeling to preserve your sun-kissed skin. And the scent is absolutely divine.

4. Davines MINU Shampoo (Received sample. Full size, $25)
This shampoo is specifically formulated for color-treated hair. It gently cleanses while protecting your color.  Birchbox threw in a bonus by adding MINU conditioner and hair serum. I have to say, I love all of them. My hair felt great, smelled great, and styled incredibly after use.

5. stila "look at me" liquid lipstick (Received full size, $20)
I'm all about one product that does that job of three. This gloss glides on easily but has true staying power (like, for hours and hours) and works similarly to a stain. I've used it on both my lips and my cheeks. Through cocktails and a full meal, my lips still looked as if I had just applied the product.

To see all of my Birchbox posts, click here.

To see more of my favorite beauty products, check out my Beauty board on Pinterest