Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday's Fresh Picks: 4 Great Birthday or Holiday Gifts for Girls

Just in case you are a master procrastinator, I'm sharing one last list of suggestions for holiday gifts. As the mom of two girls, I feel like I am constantly on the lookout for great gifts for girls. From year round birthday parties to holiday gifts, I can never have too many ideas at the ready. My kids spend their fair share of time on their electronics, so when I am choosing gifts, I like those that are hands-on, interactive, and encourage play.

In today's Friday's Fresh Picks, I'm sharing a few of my favorite gifts for girls. I always have a few of these (except for the Electra Cruiser) on hand for those times when I just can't get out shopping before a birthday party.

1. Lottie Dolls $20 from Lottie.com or Diapers.com
Lottie Dolls are a new, innovative doll for children aged 3- 9. They feature bodies based on the average proportions of a 9 year old girl. Lottie Dolls are all about doing many of the activities a real child her age would do, and is not in a hurry to grow up too quickly. Lottie Dolls doesn’t wear make-up, high-heels or jewelry.

There are 14 different dolls, each unique with a theme to which young girls can relate. We received the Pandora's Box Lottie. She comes complete with a cat who has her own bed and accessories. You can see the full selection of Lottie Dolls here.


2. WisdomWithin by Allison Morgan $15 from Amazon
In the busy world in which we live, it's often easy to get so bogged down on the day to day chaos that we often forget the basics. This book does an engaging job of illustrating the importance of recognizing the role nature plays in our everyday lives and how it it is essentially the route of our existence. At the end of the book, there are yoga poses and mindful meditations for both adults and children. Snuggle and read this book together or make it more interactive by practicing the suggested yoga positions and meditation exercises with your child.


3. Bo The Rainbow Creature Kit $18 from uncommongoods
Little hands can create their very own mini fleece monster. Since each kit is handmade, each monster is unique. Let them unleash their creativity by allowing them to create their own color scheme and design.

THE ULTIMATE SPLURGE!
4. Beach Cruiser Bike starting at $ from Electra
I have fond memories of all the time spent on my bike as a kid. Riding our bikes to our local swim club was a rite of passage as a teenager. I want my girls to know the freedom that comes with riding a bike. The Electra Beach Cruiser is a classic. These bikes aren't cheap. They are definitely an investment. But like a car, an Electra cruiser will last you for years and years.


Friday Fresh Picks are hand-picked favorite items, reviews and highlights from the amazing women you see above.

Visit their websites to learn about other amazing picks from this week!


To view all of my Friday Fresh Picks posts, click here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How To Dress for Christmas on a Budget

When it comes to outfits for Christmas, it can be easy to assume that you need to spend a fortune. This is especially true if you have a family that you need to dress for the holidays. This time of year tends to bring a whole host of social occasions with it. This is great but it can be hard to know what to wear for these occasions.


The first thing to remember is that even if you have next to no budget, there will be something to suit you. This time of year is about spending time with our loved ones and appreciating our friends and family. If you have to do this in an old dress or something bought on a budget, then so be it!

Shop Consignment Shops
Whether you are shopping for yourself or for someone in your family, make sure you don't rule out buying second hand. Remember that the overall trend for clothing over the past few year includes vintage and retro clothing. This gives you the perfect excuse to buy clothes that have been pre-owned and gently worn by someone else.


Shop on a Budget
We are in a lucky position to have plenty of cut-price retailers to choose from. Make sure you check all of these and see what is being offered that might suit you and your family.  There are also loads of sales to keep an eye on which can also help to save you money. If you are shopping online, then make sure you search for online discount vouchers. You can Google these easily and see what is offered first. Cashback websites are also great ways to spend a little less on your Christmas clothing.

Shop Your Closet
We tend to put rules upon ourselves which means that we have to buy new clothes to attend a social occasion. I am guilty of this. I usually use any opportunity to buy a new top or a new accessory. While this is nice, it is important to remember that it's not essential. Take a look through your closet (and those of any family members) to see what you have that may be suitable. Chances are that you have something you haven't worn very much at all that can be used for a Christmas party without any hassle at all.

If you are partying in clothes you have worn before and you are worried about what you are wearing, you can easily change up an item. Dig through your accessories drawer and you are sure to find something that will help. You'll be surprised at just how different an outfit can look if you just style it a little differently.
However the most important thing to remember is that you need to wear something you are comfortable and happy with. If this means wearing a brand new dress or something that you have worn before, don't worry. Either way, as long as you are partying with the people you are closest to, you can be sure you'll have a good time.
Happy Holidays, friends!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide: Pretty, Feminine Lingerie {Giveaway}

Sometimes it's the pretty little undergarments we often forget. They make us feel sexy and special, but we don't always devote a whole lot of thought to them unless it's a special occasion.

This holiday season, treat your bestie, your sister, your mom, or even yourself to something pretty. I recently received a few new Lily of France bras and Vanity Fair panties, and they are making me feel like a million bucks!


Bras:


Pajamas:
WIN IT!

One lucky winner will have her choice of one of the following bras (depending on bra size):

Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for Good Causes

This time of year when budgets are tight, it's tough for many households to justify making a charitable donation. However, there are a plethora of gifts that allow you to give to your favorite people as well as to your favorite charities.


Counterclockwise from top left:

1. Stand Up To Cancer has been supporting cancer research since 2008. Help make a difference in the lives of the 4,563 people who are diagnosed with cancer each day by purchasing an item from their shop. SU2C has something for everyone in the family including your furry friends.

Items shown: women's logo t-shirt and Alex and Ani bracelet.

2. FEED was created in 2007 by Lauren Bush Lauren with the mission of "Creating Good Products That Help FEED the World." This is accomplished through the sale of FEED bags, accessories, and apparel by building a set donation into the cost of each product.

Item shown: FEED (RED) LOVE 30 Bag

3. Best Friends Animal Society is an animal welfare society that helped pioneer the no-kill movement. Through various programs including spay/neuter initiatives, Best Friends helps to save more than 4 million unnecessary animal deaths each year.

Item shown: squeaky bone

4. Every year since 1999 Build-A-Bear Workshop has supported WWF in the U.S. and Canada through their CollectifriendTM make-your-own plush animal series by donating $1 to WWF for each plush animal purchased.

Item shown: WWF red panda

5. Product (RED) joins forces with iconic brands to provide great (RED) products, events, and new ways to fight AIDS.

Item shown: Beats by Dre (PRODUCT)RED Solo2 Headphones
6. TOMSOne for One Movement matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes for a child in need.  In 2011, the One for One model was expanded and TOMS Eyewear was launched. With every pair purchased, TOMS helps restore sight to a person in need.

Item shown: Red woven plaid women's classic slip-ons

7. Susan G. Komen helps to save lives through breast cancer research and awareness. Susan G. Komen also offers emotional support and online resources.

Item shown: breast cancer awareness necklace

For more ways to support good causes, refer to this list of 10 non-profit ways to shop good.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Experience the All-New Infinity Climber at Liberty Science Center {Giveaway}

It's less than 2 weeks until winter break. Cold days outdoors can mean long days indoors.

Take a break from the ordinary with a visit to Liberty Science Center. From December 20 through January 1, 2015, Liberty Science Center is celebrating 12 Days of Science. During this time, guests will have the opportunity to try the all-new Infinity Climberbuild and display a huge snowflake, meet a penguin, taste ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, and see special live shows. Most activities are included in the price of admission.

My family and I had the opportunity to experience the Infinity Climber over the weekend. Liberty Science Center invited a few New Jersey bloggers to meet Melissa Gorga from The Real Housewives of New Jersey and to take a spin on the Infinity Climber. We are big fans of LSC and welcome any opportunity to see a new exhibit, especially a completely hands-on one such as the Infinity Climber.

The Infinity Climber is a multi-story play structure suspended in the atrium of the LSC for guests of all ages to enjoy. Whether you choose to climb, crawl, or delicately balance yourself as high as 35 feet above the atrium floor, you'll have a thrill of a time in this modern day climbing gym.


Photo credit: Liberty Science Center
Melissa Gorga and her children were the first thrill seekers to explore the Infinity Climber.

The Infinity Climber is the world’s first suspended climbing play space of its kind. With 64 petal-like platforms anchored to curved steel pipes, Infinity Climber is cantilevered to the wall of LSC’s three-story atrium. Although it looks like a mesh netting, it is actually hand-threaded wire that protects and surrounds the Infinity Climber to prevent climbers from falling to the ground below.





WIN A 4-PACK OF PASSES TO LIBERTY SCIENCE CENTER!

Experience the awesomeness of the Infinity Climber for yourself. Enter to win a 4-pack of tickets to the Liberty Science Center. You'll have the chance to explore the Infinity Climber and other attractions offered by LSC.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: My family and I received complimentary admission to LSC for the purpose of a review of the Infinity Climber. All opinions are my own. 

Menu Plan Monday :: 12.15.2014

It's hard to believe that it's December 15th already. The month is flying by. This week is the last "normal" week before winter break, Christmas, and all the other good stuff that follows. This is likely to be my last meal planning post for the year. I hope you've gotten some inspiration from these posts. If nothing else, they have certainly helped to keep me sane and organized during the week.


Here's what we'll be eating this week.

Monday - Slow cooker minestrone soup (never made it last week).

Tuesday - Meatball parmagiana sandwiches

Wednesday - Vegetarian stuffed peppers

Thursday - Chicken stir fry with rice

Friday - Dinner out

Saturday - Homemade pizza

Sunday - Green chile chili

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.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Buffalo Chicken Dip

This is the time of year for unannounced drop-ins. Neighbors and friends stopping by to drop off gifts or just visit to spread holiday cheer. There's no better way to make a lasting impression on your guests this holiday season than with great food. Be prepared with a quick and delicious dip.

This creamy dip tastes like Buffalo chicken wings but without the mess!



BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP

Ingredients
1 (8 oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened 
1/2 cup FRANK'S® RedHot® Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce or FRANK'S® RedHot® Buffalo Wings Sauce 
1/2 cup bleu cheese or ranch dressing 
2 cups shredded cooked chicken 
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese or your favorite shredded cheese 


Preparation
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine all ingredients in a 1-quart baking dish.
Bake for 20 minutes or until mixture is heated through; stir. Garnish as desired. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, and/or vegetables.

Makes 4 cups.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How To Pull Off Rose Gold Medal

Rose gold is a beautiful metal, but many people don’t want to wear it because they worry they won’t pull it off right. It’s fairly new in the fashion world when you compare it to gold and silver. Rose gold is basically gold mixed with copper to create a pink-gold look. The more copper mixed with the gold the more pink it will be. If you like rose gold, you shouldn’t worry about not being able to pull it off. This post will help you!


Wear With Pink and Nude
As rose gold is like a reddy/pinky gold, it looks fabulous when paired with nude and pink accessories and clothing. Try wearing your rose gold with a nude outfit to really show it off. You could even paint your nails a nude or pink color to enhance the rose gold. Just make sure you stay away from sparkles on your nails, as you want your jewelry to do all the talking.


Go for Copper Jewelry
Rose gold can be pricey, just like any other precious metal. If you’re worried about having something to wear with it, you can easily purchase copper jewelry to throw on with your expensive bits. Copper jewelry will look great with rose gold, and it’s much cheaper. This means you don’t need to go over your budget!


Don’t Be Afraid to Mix and Match
While copper jewelry can look great with rose gold, you shouldn’t be afraid to mix and match it with different pieces. I love mixing all kinds of jewelry metals to create a unique look. Some people will tell you that you can’t mix metals, but don’t listen to them; they have no imagination.


Pair With Diamonds and Precious Stones
Rose gold enhances the beauty of diamonds and precious stones. Don’t be afraid to pair rose gold watches with sparkly gems and colorful precious stones to add interest to your look. If you’re creating an arm party, for instance, you should let the watch be the foundation of your look. You can then build on it with copper bracelets, diamonds, semi precious stones, and other elements that tie in nicely.


Search Instagram and Pinterest for Inspiration
If you’re seriously stuck and need some inspiration, don’t panic. Sites like Instagram and Pinterest were designed to help you. Simply type in ‘rose gold’ for example, and they should come up with plenty of beautiful pictures to give you ideas. You can take inspiration from these images to make a look that’s all your own that really works. Who knows; your own idea may get tons of shares and likes on social media if you take a high quality picture! This means you could be helping other people like you to wear rose gold.

3319319305_0ff2d1d418_z.jpg


Experiment with your rose gold and come up with some great styles. Take photos and you could help other people by sharing them on social media too! Use your imagination and have fun with your look. Thanks for reading!

Best Online Reads

1. How to tie the perfect bow via Lia Griffith's YouTube channel.

2. A handy trick when making sugar cookies via the kitchn.

3. Mix up this Christmas sangria for you guests during the holiday season via Cooking Stoned.

4. Twenty-two weird but fun stocking stuffers via Mashable.

5. The 20 best places to work in 2015 via Business Insider.

6. The ultimate cookie swap via Williams-Sonoma blog.

7. Achieve a better work-life balance with these 5 steps via Purple Clover.

8. Ten ways to make a lasting impression via Inc.com.

9. Creative and fun Elf on the Shelf ideas via A Grande Life.

10. Spoil your pets this holiday season with these gifts via Real Simple.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

November 2014 Birchbox Deconstructed #Birchbox

I'm late getting this post up. When we returned from vacation last month, my Birchbox was among the accumulated mail. I finally had a chance to open the box over the weekend. Unfortunately, the fun mail wasn't a priority. But, it was worth the wait. Lots of good little beauties this month.

I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I will continue my Birchbox subscription into the new year. It has afforded me introductions to many products that I may not otherwise know, but I'm just not sure it's right for me. I may try another type of beauty box subscription instead. If you have a favorite, please leave a comment and let me know.


In this month's box were the following products:

1. Gilchrist & Soames Spa Therapy Body Wash (Received sample. Full size, $15)
For me, shower gel is all about the scent, and this one is lovely. It's infused with marine extracts for a soothing and refreshing scent. It lathers well and hydrates too.

2. theBalm cosmetics Cindy-Lou Manizer Highlighter (Received sample. Full size, $24)
This shimmery, soft pink highlighter is perfect for cheekbones, eyelids, or forehead. Dust on gently for a luminous appearance.

3. Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Starter Kit (Received sample. Full size, $34)
This lightweight cream calms skin and packs a punch in hydration.

4. Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Sensitive (Received sample. Full size, $39)
This effective and gentle peel quickly dissolves dead skin to leave the skin smooth and squeaky clean.

5. amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo (Received sample. Full size, $21)
I love dry shampoo. Since I've cut back on daily washes, I've relied on it heavily. This one has a nice clean scent and leaves behind no powdery residue.

Bonus: Justin's Chocolate Almond Butter (Received sample. Full size, $13).