Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy July ~ Letter From The Editor

Summer is in full swing, and I feel like a lighter, happier person. This kind of weather definitely agrees with me. I do like the structure that the school year brings, but I have to say that I am loving devoting my mornings to myself. I've been waking early and getting to the gym by 6:15 at least 4 days per week, and I've been taking several yoga classes a little later in the afternoon. I have more energy and a much better grasp on my time, being careful not to waste it.

Here at Pieces of a Mom, the editorial calendar for July is filling up quickly! This month, I'll be sharing a review of Vine Vera, a Resveratrol skin care line that's ideal for sensitive skin. We'll be talking about all things jewelry and how Rocksbox let's you sample pieces on a monthly basis. For my foodie friends, I'll be taking a look at MARY's secret ingredients, a gourmet and artisanal subscription box filled with lovely goodies to inspire your cooking. While we are on the topic of food, I have a super easy and tasty pasta salad recipe to pass along that's perfect for taking to a barbecue.

Look for a few family travel stories this month as we head on a few day trips as well as a weekend trip to Hersheypark. There will be an all-new Spotlight on the Jersey Shore, and your regular favorites, such as Best Online Reads and Friday's Fresh Picks will continue.

As you wait for these stories and more to unfold, here are a few favorites from June that you don't want to miss.













Perfect summer recipe - Quick and easy bruschetta








Kick your summer entertaining up a notch with the BEST bloody Mary ever!

JULY MUST-HAVES

A great pair of shorts. 
I love this palm print pair from Old Navy.

A cute pair of sandals
A roomy tote for farmers' market runs
I love this inexpensive and spacious tote from Kate Spade for anything from the farmers market to a quick trip to the beach.

Go "fourth" and celebrate!

Home Cleaning Tips For Busy Moms

Keeping your home spic and span when you have a small child can be very difficult. I have a general rule that I like to follow. I try to keep my home 10 minutes away from being clean for company. What does this mean exactly? Well, it means that if I get a call that someone is stopping by, it will take me less than 10 minutes to get my house guest-ready.

This isn't possible for everyone. However, my children are a bit older and can be partially responsible for helping us keep the house tidy. If you have younger children or a baby, try to sneak in some time to clean while they sleep. There's no need to break a sweat or even to devote hours each day to cleaning when you follow a few simple tips.

Polish It Off
To keep my home clean, I try to dust almost daily. I got into this habit when my girls were babies and were vulnerable to illness. Children don’t have strong immune systems like adults do. So, it’s important to limit their exposure to potentially harmful substances like dust and dirt. I also clean my kitchen counters and bathroom vanities daily to keep them free of dirt as we

Suck It Up
There is no need to haul out an over-sized vacuum on a daily basis. Handheld devices are ideal for cleaning up small spillages and crumbs without having to cover every inch of your space. This website has an excellent breakdown of the best handheld vacuum reviews of 2015. You don't have to spend a ton of money to buy a premium item. Many of the products on this list are reasonably priced and get the job done effectively.

DIY Cleaning Solutions
The last thing you want is for your daily cleaning routine to cost a lot of money. For that reason, it makes sense for you to look online for homemade cleaning products. You most likely already have lots of the recommended ingredients in your home that can be used for cleaning purposes. For instance, baking soda and lemon juice help remove stubborn stains. Using homemade solutions can help you to save money, but you might also get better results, and you'll be doing the environment some good. Perform a quick Google search, and you will find lots of websites that tell you everything you need to know.

Send Them Off
There is nothing worse than trying to clean your home while the kids are around. Mine are masters of undoing all the work I've done. Considering that, find something for them to do while you perform the job at hand. Get them away from their computer screens and encourage them to play outside or ask a family member to watch them for a few hours. If those aren't options, you can hire a mother's helper for a few hours to keep them occupied. Or you can clean while they are asleep. You’ll find that you get things done much more quickly without any distractions.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Turning Digital Photos Into Prints With Pictli

I can clearly recall the moment my mom introduced me to the Kodak Disc Camera. If you were a child of the 80s, you clearly know what I am talking about it. My mom was in love with her disc camera, and I soon followed in her footsteps. I fell in love with taking pictures and capturing memories. The Kodak Disc Camera is long gone, but I still love snapping away and preserving the good times.

In today's digital world, it's easy for photos to become lost in a black hole on our phones and computers. We keep adding to the collection, but if you are anything like I am, you're not doing anything with the photos except for an occasional post on Facebook.

I went in search of a service (preferably online) that could take my favorite photos and frame them for me at a reasonable cost.  I wanted high quality prints in frames that made a statement without breaking the bank. I found sites that printed your photos. I found sites where you could purchase framed prints, and finally I found just what I was looking for when I came across Pictli.

PIctli is an online service that allows you to upload your own pictures from either Facebook, Instagram, or your hard drive, choose a beautiful frame, have them printed, framed, and delivered to your doorstep by Pictli. I had the chance to try the service courtesy of Pictli. I have so many photos on my computer, on Facebook, on Instagram that I would LOVE to have framed. So, this offer from Pictli came at the perfect time.

I chose a photo that I had taken on a trip to San Diego with my husband several years ago. The photo perfectly captures the essence of southern California, and I wanted to have a photo that would always remind me of our getaway as well as one of my favorite places.

The upload and ordering processes were seamless, and you can scroll the frames to see which one looks best when paired with your photo before you make your final decision. Pictli makes it easy to send the framed photo to yourself or you can choose to send it as a gift. Although this time, I chose a print for myself, I will definitely be using Pictli to send gifts. Everyone loves a framed print, no?

Once my order was placed, I waited patiently for the final product to arrive. And when it did, I thought it was almost too cute to open.


But I opened it, because, of course, I couldn't wait to see the finished product! I placed it on a bookshelf in my office where I can gaze at it daily.



Try Pictli for yourself. From now through the end of July, save 20% off your order when you use the code SH1507. To get started creating the perfect framed print, visit Pictli. Each framed photo costs $15 plus shipping.

Disclosure: I received a gift code to purchase a Pictli print. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 2015 Birchbox Deconstructed #Birchbox

I love that Birchbox has created specially formulated boxes for the summer months. With a focus on summer skincare, these boxes include sunscreens, waterproof cosmetics, and hair products to combat dryness that can be a result of chlorinated pool water.

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

1. Paula's Choice RESIST Barrier Repair Moisturizer with Retinol (Received sample. Full size, $29)
I loved the silky smooth texture of this moisturizer. Since I received a sample, it was difficult to determine if the retinol was effective or not. I used it primarily on areas where I have fine lines and wrinkles (forehead, eyes) and used a different moisturizer on the rest of my face.

2. COOLA SPF 50 Sport - Mango (Received sample. Full size, $32)
The problem with most sunscreens is that they smell like sunscreen. This one, however, smells like a fruity, tropical cocktail, and it's divine. I couldn't stop lathering it on my skin just for the smell. It kept my shoulders well protected for a day at the boardwalk.

3. Kerastase Chronologiste Parfum en Huile (Received sample. Full size, $60)
This is hair perfume. Hmmm. Not entirely sure I need something like this, and when I look at the price for a full-size bottle, I'm certain I can do without it. It does have a nice, woodsy scent and didn't weigh down my hair. Still...it's not a necessity for me.

4. Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF 25+ (Received sample. Full size, $32)
You know how I love my BB creams, and this one ranks up there. Dr. Jart+ makes several BB creams that are worth checking out if BB creams are part of your everyday beauty routine.

5. Marcelle Waterproof Eyeliner (Received full size, $11)
If you need an eyeliner with staying power, this one is it. Although this color was a bit dark for me, I liked how smoothly is glides on and how long it lasted without smudging or running.

Bonus item: Emi Jay Hair Tie (Received one. Full size (pack of 5) $13)
This fabric hair tie has proven to be ideal for the gym and for those times when I need to throw my hair up in a pinch.

To see all of my Birchbox posts, click here.

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

Menu Plan Monday :: 6.29.2015

It's hard to believe that the 4th of July is less than a week away. Summer finally feels like it's in full gear, and I'm looking forward to the weeks ahead. This week is the last week before summer camps, sports, and activities start, and we'll be enjoying flexible dinner times this week. Next week, it'll be a different story.
Here's what's on the menu this week:

Monday - Chicken stir-fry with peanut sauce

Tuesday - Grilled black bean and rice stuffed peppers

Wednesday - Greek lettuce wraps

Thursday - Take out

Friday - Quick roasted cherry tomato sauce with spaghetti 

Saturday - We'll be attending barbecue at my niece's house

Sunday - Pulled chicken sandwiches

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, June 26, 2015

Touching Ideas to Welcome a New Baby to the World

The birth of a new baby is a momentous event in anyone's life, and it's one that you want to celebrate and commemorate. Although you'll get to watch your child grow up, you'll want to have keepsakes of when they were tiny and delicate. My daughters are 13 and 9 years old now, but I love to go back through baby books, pictures, and momentos to remember their younger years.


It's fun to have a way to announce the birth to everyone and celebrate the occasion with your friends and family. From unique to creative to traditional birth announcements, you can find any number of ways to let your friends know of your new addition.

If you're looking for a unique way to welcome a baby into the family, there are several ways to create precious and lasting memories.

Plant a Tree
Planting a tree in your new baby's honor is a great way to create a memory that you can watch grow as your child does. You can do it in your own backyard if you want something private, especially if you think you aren't going to move anytime soon. But there are also more public places you can use that you can visit anytime you want. Plus, others will be able to see the tree you planted, and you can include a plaque showing that it's dedicated to your baby. Creating a new life for a new life is a beautiful symbolic action.

Family Photo Shoot
My home is filled with pictures of my children and my family. Photo shoots are a very popular way to capture memories when your baby is only a few days old. You can capture those first precious moments that will soon be gone as your little one starts to grow. You can have some photos of your baby on his/her own, as well as with the parents and with some props. You'll find that many photographers and studios offering modern newborn photography will have creative ideas to help you create unique shots.

Name a Star
Another beautiful thing to do is name a star after your newborn. When Emma was just a baby, my sister-in-law and her family bought Emma a star. There are several services you can use to pick a star and let your little one leave their mark on the universe. As well as getting to name the star, you usually get a pack of goodies or a framed certificate showing the constellation where the star is located. The star's name is registered, and you can get a certificate proving that you've named it. You might also receive things such as an information booklet and even a unique link so you can use Google Earth to view the star whenever you want.

Welcome Messages
If you want to make some unique art with your friends and family, there are lots of ideas you can use. One of the things you can do is get your loved ones to write messages on a canvas or piece of card or paper, welcoming the new baby into the world. You could add your hand prints to the artwork too, including the baby's.  When it's complete, you can frame it and hang it in your home to remind you and your child of the love that surrounds you. At my baby shower, we asked guests to write a small but meaningful message on a matte frame which we later framed with one of Emma's first photographs. It has become a special way for me to remember my baby shower as well as Emma's birth.

You can do many things to celebrate the arrival of your precious bundle of joy. Take the opportunity to spend time as a family and perhaps with friends too to create even more memories for your children to treasure.

Friday's Fresh Picks: Summer Break Begins

This week was a nice balance of down time and fun summer activities. We went to the boardwalk, the pool, took a long walk, and put a dent in our summer reading list. I'd say this summer is off to a great start! I'm looking forward to doing more of the same this weekend. Hope you've got some fun planned also. xx

Here are a few of the things I enjoyed this week.
{A long sunset walk with Harper}


{A bouquet of peonies from my husband}


{The giant swings at Jenkinson's Boardwalk}


{A playful game of hide and seek}


{Early morning at the beach}


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, June 25, 2015

5 Ways To Get Your Kids Off Their Computer Screens

One of the most obvious parenting challenges I've experienced in recent years is dragging my girls away from their screens. TV, video games, mobile phones, tablets, and the Internet are all great things, but there’s a limit. It can be difficult to get your children to realize the benefits of living in an unplugged world, but it is possible with a little creativity.


Here are five ways we plan time off of our phones and computers to help our children appreciate the world around them.

Cook Together
Eating is a crucial staple of human life,and it’s important to teach your child the benefits of a healthy balanced diet. There’s no better way than teaching them to cook at an early age. Making food from scratch will always be healthier than buying the additive soaked store products, and this is also a great way to bond with your child. By cooking a treat like cupcakes, you can also let them use math skills with the measuring and their imaginations with the designs. And at the end you get a tasty end product too.

Throw A Party
Parties form some of the most memorable moments of any young child’s life, and the memories often stay with us forever. Treating your kid to a special afternoon with their friends is a great way to encourage activity and socializing within a controlled environment. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion to treat them. Meanwhile, solutions from www.justpretendkids.com offer an affordable and very easy way to host a party for their friends in the safety of your own home.

Encourage Traditional Learning
Computers are a great tool for education, but children can still gain a lot from learning via the old and trusted methods. This is especially true if you sprinkle a little bit of creativity to the process. Building their own book is a great way to encourage creative thinking as well as practicing important skills like spelling, storytelling and writing. The physical end product can also be kept as a fantastic memento.

Play A Sport
Sporting activities are a fundamental part of life and are a fantastic way to help your child grow physically and mentally. Being part of a sport team gives your child an instant purpose and also encourages them to make new friendships. Moreover, it shows them the benefits of teamwork, striving for a goal, and a whole host of other benefits. With so many sporting options available, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a one that your child loves.

Grow A Garden
If you’ve got a garden, then this is your secret weapon to getting the kids away from their computer screens. The garden is a great place to help them discover the beauty of nature. Also, gardening with them gives them a chance to create a project for them to take care of and maintain responsibility. Start appreciating the garden as a family and you’ll notice their computer time take a dramatic fall.

Best Online Reads

My favorite stories from around the Web this week:

1. The reason why you never hear anyone singing "Happy Birthday" in movies via Business Insider.

2. 101 summer day trips to take in New Jersey via Macaroni Kid Toms River.

3. Eight fun Instagram accounts to follow now via A Cup of Jo.

4. Top 20 Jersey Shore desserts in Monmouth and Ocean counties via Jersey Shore In Motion.

5. The kids will love these Rice Krispies treats sparklers via 5 Minutes For Mom.

6. The social media pause we all have via Finding Joy.

7. Founder of TOMS explains why dads need maternity leave via HuffPost Parents.

8. Books for middle schoolers to read over the summer via Common Sense Media.

9. When the summer day calls for something stronger than lemonade, try a lemon martini via Food Tracker Girl.

10. Tips for growing peonies via Two Twenty One.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Refreshing Summer Cocktail: Grapefruit Bubbly

A scorching hot summer day warrants a refreshing cocktail. This one has the crisp taste of gin combined with pink grapefruit sparkling water. Garnish with lime slices for a pretty contrast of green against the pink.

GRAPEFRUIT BUBBLY COCKTAIL

Ingredients
  • 3 oz.  Pink Grapefruit Sparkling ICE
  • 1.5 oz. Gin
  • ½ oz. elderflower liqueur
  • Lime slices for garnish
Preparation
1. Using a tall Collins glass, pour gin and elderflower liquer, then Pink Grapefruit Sparkling ICE over ice.  Stir gently to mix.

2. Garnish with lime slices.