Thursday, October 8, 2015

Best Online Reads

The ten stories from around the web that I am loving this week:

1. The 10 things in your house that are making you tired via Country Living.

2. The most popular slang word in each state via Business Insider.

3. Halloween costumes that absolutely anyone can make via Buzzfeed.

4. If you love yoga and TV, this yoga-centric web series is for you via Yoganonyous.

5. Everyone's obsessing over this disturbingly neat cookie jar via Delish.

6. Thirty small gestures that mean a lot to children via Parents.

7. A touching story from a writer whose cat recently passed away via HuffPost United Kingdom.

8. The 20 most iconic buildings in Los Angeles via Curbed LA.

9. Find your twin via Twin Strangers.

10. How fun are these Halloween-themed cupcakes via Sugar and Charm?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

My 5 Favorite Soup Recipes

My favorite comfort meal is a piping hot bowl of soup with a crusty roll or hunk of bread. There's just something about soup that warms your insides down to your soul. If I am ever having a bad day (or a busy one, for that fact), I make a batch of soup. A steaming hot bowl of soup always melts the troubles away.

Now that the colder weather is approaching, I thought it was the perfect time to round up my favorite soup recipes. Here are the five soup recipes that I make time and time again, and they never disappoint.

Meatball tortellini soup
This is a heartier take on Italian wedding soup with larger meatballs and plump cheese tortellini. A perfect substitute for spaghetti and meatballs.

Lasagna soup
I'm not a big fan of lasagna, so I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this soup so much. The broth helps to break up the thickness of the pasta and meat. Top it off with a dollop of ricotta cheese, and you'll never go back to traditional lasagna.

Lemon chicken orzo soup
When I want something other than traditional chicken noodles soup, I make this chicken orzo soup. The lemon juice adds a dimension to the soup that you don't find in chicken noodle soup.

Chicken, tortilla, and lime soup
This soup is hearty despite the fact that there is not pasta component to it. But the addition of the tortilla strips adequately takes the place of pasta. No time to make the tortilla strips? Just add some crushed store-bought tortilla chips instead.

Light loaded baked potato soup
Although I'm not a big fan of cream-based soups, I'm a sucker for this baked potato soup. The combination of chicken broth and low-fat milk gives it a light consistency while keeping the taste rich.
To see more of my favorite soup recipes, visit my Soups On! board on Pinterest.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Benefits of Building Your Own Home

I've always thought it would be an amazing experience to build our own home. Well, not actually with our own hands, but in conjunction with a contractor who can take our vision and execute it. Have you ever considered building your own home?

I recently had the chance to chat with my friend Ally who is both an interior designer and a realtor and specializes in selling plots of land to those who want to build a custom home. She shared the top reasons why people choose to build a new home rather than buy buy a pre-owned home.


You Get The House You Want
Building your own home allows you the opportunity to have the exact house you want. You can specify the number of bedrooms and dimensions of the rooms. There are virtually no limits to what you can do. You choose everything from the shape of the property to the floor plan. In my town, many of the newer homes are built on narrow lots. The homes are narrow but long. You can find companies that provide narrow lot house plans or ranch house plans. Whatever your dream home is, there’s a plan to fit it.

When you start designing the plan of the home, you may decide to hire an architect. They’re experts at designing homes and will be able to provide you with the level of professionalism you need.

You Have More Flexibility In Choosing A Location
There are plots of land in all kinds of different locations. You have lots of options, so you can build your home pretty much anywhere you want to. Have you ever found the perfect home but it’s not in the right location? Maybe it's on a busy street or it's too far away from a major highway or a school. You won’t have that problem when you build your own home.

While you can draw up your plans, and spend time getting them exactly how you want them, you can hunt around until you find the location and plot of land that will be just right for you. It’s the perfect way of getting the best of both worlds.

You Can Incorporate Eco Features
Most homes that you’ll find on the market are older and inefficient. That’s not a good thing if you’re worried about the impact you have on the environment and your bottom line. Building your own howe allows you to include all the green and eco-friendly features you want to.

You could use certified wood from sustainable forests, cellulose wall insulation and satellite controlled sprinkler systems. These are all very environmentally friendly. But the main things you should use are solar panels to produce all your own electricity.

You’ll Feel Huge Sense of Satisfaction When It’s Done
One of the best things about building your own home is the satisfaction you get once the project is complete. Seeing a project come to fruition is one of the greatest accomplishments there is. There’s no feeling quite like moving into the home that you’ve designed and built for the past few months from the ground up, literally. It’s simply not the same when you buy a home that’s already built!

You can’t buy that feeling. And because you’ve designed the home to your specifications, you’ll be more likely to stay there for a very long time.

Menu Plan Monday :: 10.5.2015

I'm looking forward to an uneventful week before my family rolls into town next weekend for the JDRF One Walk in Avon-By-The-Sea, New Jersey. This is our second year participating in the walk, and it's always a special day for Harper. She also has a field trip on Thursday and picture day on Wednesday, so she's excited for a fun week ahead.

Here's what we'll be munching on this week:

MondayMinestrone soup with arugula salad

Tuesday Mexican stuffed peppers

WednesdayPizza stuffed pasta shells with a side salad

Thursday French onion soup

Friday - Chicken cutlets with penne vodka and Caesar salad

Saturday - Take out

Sunday Broccoli cheese soup with a side salad and rolls

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, October 3, 2015

What I Dread About The Teenage Years

One of my girls is a teenager, and the other is fast-approaching her teenage years. I must confess, I’m a little anxious about these teenage years. There are plenty of things to be scared of when they are babies and small children, of course. But it’s this one final push towards adulthood that beats all of that hands down.

Why is this such a difficult time? These small children have developed into independent young ladies. They have already started making their own choices - which is a truly beautiful thing to see as a parent. But if we all think back to our teen years, most of us will admit that we all had issues to deal with. And, of course, that it was the one point in our lives when plenty of us felt further apart from our parents than we have before or since.

We all like to think we've raised our children well, but when those hormones kick in? All bets are off. Deep down, I suspect it's a combination of skill and a lot of luck, too.

Here are five things I am dreading abut the teenage years.

Parental relationships
My two girls are my best buddies - we have all done almost everything together in the past, but I know that during this period, things are going to change. As a parent, you’re going to have to start dealing with a lot more rejection - simply because you are a parent. Kids want to be with their friends not with their parents, no matter how close you are. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but eventually they will come back to us.

Peer relationships
I love the gentle comfort of having children in middle school. It’s a genuine community environment and a great place for them to be in their formative years. But, when they take the step up into high school, it’s a different kind of atmosphere altogether. They become more influenced by their friends and peers - regardless of how successful they are at school. I worry that the girls might fall in with the wrong crowd, or get bullied, or, perish the thought, end up as the bully. You just don’t know - and all you can do is be the best parent you can and hope for the best.

Kids make mistakes - it’s part of the learning process. Adults make mistakes. I like to think that those mistakes will often lead to a better understanding of life as a whole. However, sometimes bad things happen to good people, and having a theft attorney or a juvenile lawyer lined up is not always a bad idea. It’s not just your kids you have to worry about. It's other kids who are often the problem causers. What happens when they are the victims of crime?

At Emma's Back-To-School night, her health instructor warned us. "Your children will be taught sex education this year." Uh. Yeah. I'm so not ready for this. Yep, it’s a big one. No matter how you play this, it's happening. Whether I see my daughter as a little girl or not, the fact is she's a teenager and it's time she learns the basics of life. The best we can do is help to educate and be as open as possible. I’d like to think that we have raised our girls to be sensible - but senses can go out the door quickly. What if one night they make a mistake? How will we react?

We plan to keep the lines of communication open so that our girls always feel comfortable talking to us about sensitive subjects. Just remember...these conversations are just as difficult for them as they are for us as parents. But if you convey to your children that you are willing to talk about the topics that are important to them, they will open up to you.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Fresh Picks: Fall Fashion Picks from Sole Society

I thought Friday would never get here! It's been a long week, and our dreary weather has made it all the longer. Although the weekend's weather isn't promising to be much better, at least I'll can justify Netflix binge-watching all weekend due to the rain. ;-)

Whatever your plans, make it a great weekend! xx

In this week's Friday Fresh Picks, I'm sharing a few of my favorite fall fashion picks from Sole Society.

Wool Plaid Scarf
If there is one fashion accessory that you purchase this season make it a plaid scarf. These blanket-style scarves are versatile (can be worn as a scarf or a wrap or even used as a blanket at an outdoor event) and super cute.

Ferris Block Heel Sandal Bootie
For those warmer fall days when you don't quite need a bootie but its a bit too chilly for a sandal, this bootie is the ideal solution.

Greek Printed Wrap
Fall weather is anything but predictable. This wrap is stylish and functional and offers all the warmth you'll need in this transitional season.

Double Layer Bar Necklace
I am loving layered bar necklaces lately. They make a huge statement without being overly large statement necklaces.

Jennings Tassel Clutch
I love a structured clutch with character, and this tassel adds the right amount of character. 

Andie OTK (over the knee) Tall Boot
If you are looking to add a riding boot to your collection, this one combines classic design with the season's hot over-the-knee trend.

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, October 1, 2015

Happy October ~ Letter From The Editor

Well, hello, October! Where did you come from?

I had September in my grasp, and just like that it's gone. Like it or not, October is here. As I sit at my desk typing this month's letter, we are also prepping for a hurricane. Joaquin is sweeping its way up the east coast and heading straight towards New Jersey. I'm having flashbacks to Hurricane Sandy and hoping Joaquin spares us this time around.

Let's just push that little detail out of our minds and turn our focus towards the blog, ok? This month is a busy one on the blog. I'll be sharing lots of good beauty finds for both us ladies and for little girls. I'm also doing a fun project with Stonyfield and Shutterfly as well as sharing an online shopping experience at The Stationery Studio and the goodies I purchased.

An all-new Spotlight on the Jersey Shore will hit the blog later this month, and I have a few fall recipes that I'll be sharing including a Halloween-inspired cocktail and a sweet treat. All this talk about food makes me want to entertain! I'll be showcasing our new Raymour & Flanigan furnished dining room in action, and I'll be sharing a few easy ways to decorate for the holidays without going overboard.

Stay tuned! There are lots of good things on the way this month, and of course, if there is anything specific you want to see covered, send me an email at piecesofamom {at} gmail {dot} com.

In the meantime, sit back, relax, and enjoy these popular stories from September.



Waffle Knit Turtleneck Sweater from Forever 21 - Perfect for fall's transitional weather.

Reyes Bootie from Sam Edelman - Every girl needs a great looking bootie for the fall.

Campfire Soy Candle - It's candle weather, friends!

Pumpkin Carving Kit - We could all use a little help when it comes to this messy task!
Check out what I'm pinning on Pinterest!

Have a great October! xx

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Stonyfield Introduces Healthy and Delicious Organic Fruit Snacks

I love a brand that thinks outside the box. This time that brand is Stonyfield, and this time it's going beyond the organic dairy aisle to offer a kid's snack that's just as healthy and delicious as any of it's organic dairy offerings.

Stonyfield organic fruit snacks have hit grocery store shelves, and moms and kids alike are jumping for joy. Finally there's a fruit snack that kids love and moms can feel good about giving their children.
Stonyfield Organic Fruit Snacks:
  • Have 70 calories per pouch
  • Are made with real organic fruit and vegetable juices
  • Contain no artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Are USDA-certified organic
  • Are available in two delicious flavors: Mixed Berry and Strawberry
  • Are gluten-free and fat-free
  • Provide 100% of the recommended daily requirement of Vitamin C
  • Are free of pesticides and GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

These adorable, cow-shaped fruit snacks have saved us from episodes of low blood sugars, from post-gymnastics workouts, and sugar cravings. I'm ashamed to say that the adults in this house may just be enjoying the Stonyfield Organic Fruit Snacks more than the kids are. At first we didn't realize that they were in the shape of cows. We just tore the packages open and started snacking, oblivious to what shape the snacks were.

They make the perfect addition to any lunchbox. Or you can throw a few packs into your purse, briefcase, carry-on, or beach bag for a quick and satisfying snack on the go.

For our family these fruit snacks are a lifesaver. Harper relies on fruit snacks when her blood sugar is low. They are a quick way to raise her blood sugar effectively with sugar-laden sodas and fruit juices.

For more information about Stonyfield, check out Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

As a Stonyfield Ambassador, I received complimentary fruit snacks and monetary compensation to facilitate this post. As always, all opinions are my own based on my use of the products.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fall Bucket List

I have a soft spot in my heart for summer, but fall doesn't fall {pun intended!} too far behind. The crisp air, the rich, robust colors, and the culinary delights are just a few of my fall favorites. I like to consider it our last hurrah before winter hits. That means lots of time spent outdoors partaking in all the fall activities.
This autumn we are going to do a few new things we've never done before as well as our old favorites. I have a feeling it's going to be a great fall!

1. Go apple picking and pumpkin picking at our favorite orchard.

2. Make mile-high apple pie, apple crostada, apple crisp, and apple cider donuts with all the apples we pick.

3. Paint and carve pumpkins.

4. Take a nature hike here.

5. Rake and play in an enormous pile of leaves.

6. Go on a hay ride, walk through a corn maze, and pick the perfect pumpkin here.

7. Make spiced hot apple cider and a spiked version for the adults.

8. Try a few new pumpkin recipes (this one, this one, and this one) in addition to the old standbys such as pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread.

9. Attend Boo at the Boardwalk at Jenkinson's Boardwalk.

10. Watch a scary movie. This one is one of my favorites. 

11. Enjoy pumpkin ice cream and mini pumpkin tarts from Delicious Orchards.

What's on your to-do list this fall?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tips For Making Your Home More Comfortable and Relaxing

The cold weather months are approaching, and for most of us that means more time spent indoors, specifically in our homes. The perfect family home should make you feel comfortable and happy, and promote family enjoyment.

A little comfort goes a long way when creating a happy home. If your home makes you feel comfortable and safe, you’ll always have peace of mind.

Here are a few simple tips to bring some extra comfort to your home this fall and winter. The whole family will reap the rewards.

Personalize Your Home
Your home is probably the most important financial investment you will make. Although it's your greatest asset, it's also an emotional investment. As a homeowner, it’s difficult not to have at least one eye on the financial aspects of the property. After all, this is probably the most expensive asset you possess. However, it’s imperative that you try to think about it as a family home rather than an investment.

Ultimately, you should be making the decision based on what will enhance your family’s life. It doesn’t matter if you’re redesigning the bathroom or making over your dining room (check out my recent dining room renovation), your personality should shine through. It's the small personal touches that make a home your own.

Create A Relaxing Environment
Modern life is hectic. After a long day of work and then shuffling the kids to and from sports and activities, I want to come home and chill.

Nothing is worse than walking in to a home that's either too hot or too cold. To achieve a comfortable temperature, install an HVAC system. HVAC systems provide optimal indoor air quality as well as control thermal temperature to create a relaxing and comfortable environment. If you can’t enjoy a little relaxation at home, where can you?

Enhance Your Outdoor Space
The one location that often gets overlooked by homeowners is the yard, patio, or deck areas. However, giving your outdoor areas the love and attention they deserve could be the key to unlocking a whole new level of happiness. In the spring, summer, and fall, our deck serves as another room in our home. We have comfortable seating and a table for dining, creating a second family room.

Encouraging increased outdoor time isn’t difficult. Add a few flowers or start growing fruit and vegetables with the children to ensure that you all get better use of your yard. Invest in fun yard games, such as a bean bag toss, and you'll soon discover that it's much better than sitting indoors in front of electronic devices.

Creating a patio area would give you a great venue for hosting small parties or recharging on weekend afternoons.

Ensure Everything's In Working Order
There’s nothing more frustrating than being unable to complete daily tasks due to faulty products and appliances. The home should be there to make life easier, not add extra challenges. Ensuring that your appliances work is a must.

A faulty item can put a huge dent into your happiness around the home. You’d be surprised at the difference simple process like boosting the water pressure can make. We had poor water pressure in our kitchen for months before we finally addressed it. The difference was unbelievable.

It’s easy to become obsessed with big televisions and fancy tech items. But if the home doesn’t fulfill its basic purposes, those luxury items are obsolete.