Food & Drink

Food & Drink
Food & Drink

SHOP MY FAVES

SHOP MY FAVES
SHOP MY FAVES

STYLE

STYLE
STYLE

Setting sail...

In the morning I'll be catching a ferry from Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, Delaware for a week-long family vacation in Rehoboth Beach.

I grew up vacationing in Rehoboth Beach. I have many fond memories of my childhood days there. I hope that my daughters will value our vacations in Rehoboth as much as I value my childhood vacations there.

We spend the week with my three sisters, their families and a handful of family friends. It's like a big sorority party. Lots of late night chats, junk food eating, lounging on the beach. Sounds like college, doesn't it?

If you don't hear from me for a few days, you know why. I'll be enjoying this...

Pizza from Grotto's Pizza...

Ice cream from Kohr Brothers...

Boardwalk strolls...

There will be so much more...

Enjoy your week! I know I'll be enjoying mine!!!
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100 Mile Challenge - The Final Week Recap

Is the suspense too much to take? Did I do it? Did I make it to 100 miles? Read on...

Let me begin by saying that this week was tough. After I poured it on last week when I walked close to 30 miles, I just wanted to take it easy this week. But, I walked and walked. By Wednesday morning, I was ready to throw in the towel. I was 8.5 miles from reaching my goal. Isn't that close enough?

No. It's close, but it's not 100 miles. It's 91.5 miles. And so I chugged on.

And this morning, I walked my last 2 miles for a grand total of 100.32 miles!!!!

Although I knew I could do it, I came close to quitting. I had things to do that seemed like more of a priority than exercising. But in the end, I wanted to reach my goal. Had to reach my goal.

And the feeling of accomplishment and self-satisfaction is incredible. Absolutely incredible.
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ecostore USA Review

When I was recently invited to review two products from ecostore, I was over the moon. I am always on the look out for earth- and family-friendly products for household cleaning and personal grooming. Ecostore's wide range of all-natural products, including baby, bath & body, household, hair, and pet care, are exactly what I've been searching for.

Brand Background
ecostore NZ was founded more than 15 years ago by Melanie and Malcolm Rands from their home in an eco village in New Zealand.

All of the families that lived in the farm based eco village shared a commitment to organic growing and healthy living, making this an ideal environment in which a young, environmentally conscious business could thrive. Each household in the village was responsible for their own waste water, which quickly highlighted the problems caused by using regular supermarket cleaning products that relied heavily on cheap, petroleum-based, synthetic ingredients.

Faced with the challenge of protecting the pristine rural waterways of the eco village, Malcolm Rands began to research and seek expert help from scientists to develop household cleaning products using plant-based ingredients that would biodegrade safely and quickly. Achieving his goal, he eliminated the need to use toxic chemicals, leaving the eco villages water pure. His goal was more than accomplished as the product line of this home-based business began to grow, and an exciting future began to unfold.

I was excited to be given my choice of two products, and I must say, it was a difficult decision. Every product appealed to me and would have been put to very good use in my home. However, I finally decided on two of my most frequently used products, the All Purpose Cleaner and the Coconut Vanilla Body Wash.

ALL PURPOSE CLEANER
The Good:
  • Light, refreshing scent with a hint of citrus
  • Incredibly effective at removing wine stains and surface dirt from my counter tops
  • Ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms and any other general household surface
  • Contains no synthetic chemicals but only plant based ingredients, mineral salts, and essential oils
  • Safe for you, your family, your pets and the Earth
  • ecostore does not perform animal testing
  • Made in the USA

The Bad:

  • At $9.00 per 17 fl. oz. bottle, All Purpose Cleaner is a bit pricier than it's conventional counterparts, but my family's health and safety are worth it.
 COCONUT and VANILLA BODY WASH
The Good:

  • Luxurious lathering capabilities

  • Deliciously scented

  • Gently cleanses, nourishes, and conditions your skin leaving it soft and smooth

  • Ideal for use by the whole family

  • Contains no parabens, no lauryl or laureth sulphates, no dyes, and no synthetic perfumes

  • ecostore does not perform animal testing

  • Made in the USA

  • Retails for $8.50 per 13.5 fl. oz. bottle

The Bad:

  • I was at a loss to find anything bad about this product.
Many people think that only products that contain nasty chemicals are effective, but ecostore proves that eco-friendly products are just as effective as conventional ones. The added bonus to using ecostore products is that they are safe for you, your family, your pets and the Earth.

To learn more about ecostore, visit their Web site at www.ecostoreusa.com.

To view their complete line of products,click here.
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Denver - Part III (The Mountains)

One of my must-do in Denver items was to take a drive to the mountains. I really wanted the girls to see the mountains. They've never seen anything like them before.

My sister-in-law, Susan, planned a perfect day for us. We loaded up the car and headed for higher altitudes. Our first stop was Genesse Mountain Park.



Check out the road below...way below.

After the state park, we headed to the town of Evergreen (alt. ~7200 ft.), a small, incredibly picturesque mountain town with a serene lake...

And a quaint town, which on that particular day, featured roadside vendors selling everything from homegrown produce and homemade jams and jellies to clothing.

We stopped for lunch, and this was the view from our stream-side table.

After lunch, we stopped for some coffee (and some posing!)...

We saw a favorite stomping ground of Willie Nelson...

We ended the day with a beautiful mountain sunset...
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100 Mile Challenge - Week 5 Recap

I'm in the home stretch now with only 5 days left to go! I had an incredibly successful week. Each day I pushed myself to do an extra quarter or half mile so that I wasn't slammed my final week.

Here's the Week 5 breakdown:

Total miles walked this week: 27.5  :)   :)

Total miles walked to date: 83.3

Total miles remaining: 16.7

I think I can! I think I can!
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Denver, Part II (16th Street Mall)

I absolutely loved downtown Denver. It had that urban feel but without the sprawling population. It was funky, fun, and incredibly clean.

Prior to going to Denver, I had done some online research as well as consulted my sister-in-law. I saw a few things that interested me including the 16th Street Mall, a mile long pedestrian shopping area, complete with outdoor cafes, historic office buildings, glass-walled skyscrapers, shops, restaurants and department stores. Numerous fountains and plazas offer special events and entertainers. Although I'm not always up for some spending, I am always up for some strolling and people-watching. There was no better place than the 16th Street Mall.

The vibe was totally funky and offbeat...These brightly painted pianos were scattered throughout the mile-long strip. My girls got a kick out of playing them.

The tree-lined streets almost made me feel like I was in a European city.

The girls posed with a stuffed mascot outside of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store.

I love this cow...

You can't walk by a Pinkberry without stopping in for some frozen yogurt.

There's a multitude of outdoor cafes, a perfect spot for doing some serious people watching.

Next time you're in Denver, be sure to check out the 16th Street Mall.
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What's old is new...buying consignment

I can remember finally hitting the 3 month mark in my pregnancy with Emma. I waited to buy anything for her until I was almost sure it was "safe". I couldn't wait to hit the mall and boutiques to shop for clothes, bedding, accessories, ANYTHING!

I look back on it now and see how excessive it was. I bought so many outfits, most at clearance prices, but some at full retail. So. Many. Clothes. Most of them became hand-me-downs for Harper, and many of the items still had tags on them. {Gasp!} So, I didn't feel quite so bad for my excess, but I knew it was over the top.

About 3 years ago, I started taking our outgrown clothes and toys to a local consignment shop. At first, I'd strictly drop off my items. No browsing for me, thank you. The thought of wearing someone else's clothes and playing with their toys was somehow revolting. However, my curiosity got the better of me on one of my visits. I was shocked to find such brands as Lilly Pulitzer, Ralph Lauren, Gap, Roxy and even Burberry! And all of it was in excellent condition. Who knew?

I sure changed my tune in a hurry. I quickly found myself spending the money I earned from the consignment shop in the consignment shop! I loved the unique items that were not a dime a dozen in the local big brand store. I loved that the shop owner was very selective and particular, which meant that I didn't have to spend hours inspecting the merchandise.

I realized that I was saving more than just money. Tons of natural resources go into manufacturing and transporting clothes and toys to the United States. By reusing clothes and toys, I was reducing the use of natural resources, and therefore, reducing the amount of pollution in our environment. Not only was this good for my bank account, it was also good for the planet.

I continue to buy consignment as well as pass Emma's clothes down to Harper. Whenever I find something cool or unique, I stock up the girls' closets. When Harper outgrows her clothing, I pass them onto a close friend, and toys are always donated unless they are broken.

To find a children's consignment shop near you, your best bet is to check you local Yellow Pages listings since many are locally owned and operated. There is a national chain called, Once Upon a Child, with locations throughout the US.
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Denver, Part 1 (The Wedding)

Denver. Wow. It was an amazing trip. I LOVE visiting new cities. Just love it! And to finally see my family in Denver...their home, their city, their favorite places...Could not have been better. And to see my niece get married. Priceless.

So, we started off our 5 days in Denver with the rehearsal dinner. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to take pics at the dinner because I had a four year old asleep in my lap. Hey, we were up before dawn to catch our flight. What more could I expect of her?

My niece was married on a beautiful Friday evening in downtown Denver.

The bride and groom...so happy for them. Congratulations, Rory and Ross!!

A proud moment for the father of the bride...

My family...

The hubs with two of his three sisters (Beverly is on the left and the mother of the bride, Susan, is in the middle)...
My nieces with my daughters...

My girls were ready to get the party started...

The mother of the bride with my nephew (who, btw, was the maid of honor!!!)

Tired, after an incredibly fun night filled with dancing!!!

It was awesome! Emma and Harper danced all night long. I am not kidding. They loved it! We thought we'd had all the fun that could be had, but the entire weekend was in front of us.

Tune in tomorrow for Denver, Part 2 (The City)
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Zucchini Bread

I returned from Denver with 2 monster zucchinis from my sister-in-law's garden. My sister-in-law, Susan, and her husband, Steve, have a fantastic garden at their home in suburban Denver. It's very manageable, with all of my favorite things, including jalapeno peppers.

Look at the size of these!
Since I had never before made zucchini bread, I decided to try it. My mom made it all the time. I always had a hang up...something about zucchini in a sweet bread just didn't seem right. Now was the time for me to break out of the box.
I used a recipe from Paula Deen that my sister-in-law emailed to me. It was delicious. I'm looking for any excuse to make it again. {Hint, hint: If you're growing zucchini in your garden, I'll take some!}


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100 Mile Challenge - Week 4 Recap

Let me start by saying that this was NOT a good week for me. We returned from Denver on Tuesday, and I was exhausted for the rest of the week. I walked once. And for only 3 miles. Yes. Just 3 measly miles. I've got a lot of ground to cover over the next two weeks, and I'm off to a good start with 5.25 miles logged today.

So, here's the breakdown after Week 4:


Total miles walked this week: 3  :(

Total miles walked to date: 55.808

Total miles remaining: 44.192

Come on, Motivation!
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EcoSMART Natural Insect Killer Giveaway

I am thrilled to, once again, be offering a lucky reader several EcoSMART products. When I reviewed the EcoSMART insect killer products two months ago, I immediately knew that I'd never use conventional bug killers again. After a full summer of using these products, especially the natural mosquito repellent, several times per day, I am more pleased with them than I was after my initial review.
EcoSMART was the first company to apply modern science to essential plant oils — creating the first 100% safe pesticides. The products are based on the natural defenses that plants and trees have used for their self protection against insects and pathogens – essential oils.

Since EcoSMART’s proprietary botanical oil blends attack attributes that are specific only to pests, they have no effect on people, pets or the environment. The primary active ingredients in EcoSMART products are approved as Direct Food Additives or classified as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. These oils are commonly used to add flavor and aroma to many cosmetic, beverage and food products, including cake, candy, sweetener, gum, soft drinks, and lipstick. Children and pets are safe. EcoSMART products have no adverse effect on mammals, birds, and fish and also will not contaminate water sources.
EcoSMART offers a wide variety of products including value bundles. I reviewed the Safe Picnic Value Bundle. This bundle included the following:
Home Pest Control - 24 oz. spray bottle
Flying Insect Killer - 14 oz. can
Insect Repellent - Two (2) 6 oz. bottles

PROS:
1. Safe for use around children and pets. I have both, and this is a huge plus for me.

2. Extremely effective. I had my doubts that an all natural bug spray would be effective, but these products are just as effective as conventional bug sprays.

3. Safe for the environment.

4. No overbearing scent of chemicals. The Flying Insect Killer has a very pleasant scent of peppermint. The Insect Repellent has a neutral smell.

CONS:
1. I was not thrilled with the way the Home Pest Control smelled. Although it contains no chemicals, it has a chemical-like scent.

I am happy to offer one lucky reader his/her choice of four (4) EcoSMART products, a $31.00 value. To view the EcoSMART product line, click here.

To enter: leave a comment stating why you would like to win EcoSMART products. Be sure to include your email address in the following format: {piecesofamom at gmail dot com} so that I may contact you if you are the lucky winner.

This giveaway will remain open until 11:59 pm EDT on August 23, 2010. One winner will be chosen using Random.org. and will have 48 hours to respond. Must be a resident of the continental US to participate.

Disclosure: I received a value bundle pack in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed herein are 100% mine.
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100 Mile Challenge - Week 3 Recap

Just as I had suspected, my third week was a flop. While I was in Denver, I had every intention of hopping on the treadmill in the fitness center for at least 2 of the 3 days we were in the hotel. Did it happen? NO! I did, however, manage to squeeze in some walking around the city and at the Denver Zoo. Those miles must count for something, right?

So, here's the breakdown after Week 3:

Total miles walked this week: 12.201

Total miles walked to date: 52.808

Total miles remaining: 47.192

Although I am more than half way there, it's time to kick it up a notch!
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KIDStrong® Hydration Beverage Review & Giveaway

It's summer, and that means plenty of outdoor play for the kids. Summer's heat combined with high activity levels make it difficult for children to stay both hydrated and energized.
KIDStrong® hydration beverages are designed for active children between the ages of 4 and 13. An excellent alternative to caffeine drinks and sugary sports drinks, KIDStrong® is healthy, nutritious and naturally addresses a growing child's need for strength and energy.

I couldn't wait for my girls to try KIDStrong®. Once I received my samples, I promptly refrigerated them as they are best enjoyed cold. The next day, we headed to the park with our KIDStrong®.

PROS
1. Contains all natural ingredients. Unlike most sports drinks, KIDStrong® does not contain high fructose corn syrup, but rather crystalline sugar, which is the natural form of sugar found in fruits.

2. Stresses the physical needs of growing children rather than athletes in training. KIDStrong® offers a balanced blend of vitamins and minerals designed for growing children.

3. Pleasant tasting. Both the orange and grape flavors were true to taste and flavor. My 4 year old loved both flavors. You won't find colors that resemble radioactive waste in KIDStrong®!

4. Nutritionally sound. Per serving, KIDStrong® is loaded with 225 mg of potassium, an important electrolyte that is lost during physical activity when children sweat. One 8 oz. serving contains only 7 grams of sugar and 90 mg of sodium.

CONS
1. My 8 year old wasn't particularly fond of the orange flavor. She said it resembled cough syrup, but she loved the grape flavor.

Need more proof that KIDStrong is® the best hydration beverage for your children? Beginning next month, 60 schools throughout select New York state school systems will offer KIDStrong to the student.

As children prepare to return to school and strart their fall sporting activities, you will want to stock up on KIDStrong® to help them meet their hydration needs. It's perfect for your little sports enthusiasts.

To help you stock your refrigerator, Pieces of a Mom is offering one lucky reader two (2) cases of KIDStrong®, one case each of grape and orange.

To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment stating why you would like to make the switch from a conventional hydration beverage to KIDStrong®, an all-natural one. Please be sure to include your email address in the following format: {piecesofamom at gmail dot com}.

All entries must be submitted by August 22 at 11:59 EDT. Once lucky winner will be chosen via random.org and once notified will have 48 hours to respond. Giveaway is open to residents of the United States (excluding Hawaii and Alaska).

For more information about KIDStrong® hydration beverages, visit the Web site at www.kidstrong.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary samples of KIDStrong® for sampling and reviewing purposes. All opinions expressed herein are strictly mine. Other than complimentary samples, I received no other compensation for this review.
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Our trip to the Philadelphia Zoo

I was invited, along with several other Philly area women, to attend a mom bloggers event last Tuesday, August 3rd, at the Philadelphia Zoo. I was excited. Although we live only an hour or so from the zoo, we had never been there. Always my intention, just never executed it. This invite was the perfect excuse to get my girls there and to mingle with some bloggers!

Emma and Harper were practically jumping out of their skin. "Are we there yet? How much longer?" They couldn't wait to get to the zoo. Once we did, we mapped out our plan and began to wander around.

It was agreed. This was by far our favorite...a two-week old giraffe. Seriously cute.
We stood by the giraffes for at least 25 minutes. It was hard to walk away from the mama and her baby.

The cheetah was the only cat we saw that wasn't sleeping. I'm certain she was hungry.

Hard to believe when they are merely pacing back and forth that they can reach speeds up to 80 mph.

We took a break from animal watching to ride the train.

There were so many different species of monkeys.



To cool off, we headed to The Treehouse, a members-only indoor play area. This was a big hit!




We headed back outside for pony rides.


After pony rides, it was off to the Children's Zoo area where you can pet and feed (or groom!) animals.

Throughout the zoo, there were exhibits of several zoo animals that were constructed completely out of Legos. Our favorite was definitely the polar bear.

For $15 per person, you can enjoy a ride in the zoo balloon. On this particular day, the balloon was grounded due to high winds. Although the balloon is tethered, riders can enjoy spectacular views of the zoo and the city skyline. Definitely next visit!

Disclosure: I received complimentary parking, admission, pony rides, train rides for myself and two children, members-only admission to The Treehouse, and a goody bag.
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