Food & Drink

Food & Drink
Food & Drink

SHOP MY FAVES

SHOP MY FAVES
SHOP MY FAVES

STYLE

STYLE
STYLE

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Wear Your Pink in Style

Breast cancer awareness month kicks off in 2 days. We'll soon be swimming in a sea of pink everywhere we go. I just love that! We can all do our part without breaking the bank. A small donation here and there makes all the difference to a survivor or a sufferer.

Each year I show my support in a number of different ways. I've walked in the American Cancer Society's "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" 5-mile walk. I've made monetary donations to several charitable organizations including the Susan G. Komen, the Kelly Rooney Foundation, and the American Cancer Society. I've worn my fair share of pink!

This year I'll be showing my support in style when I sport one of 3 t-shirts being sold by the Loft. How cute are these? I walked out of the store empty-handed yesterday because I just couldn't make a decision. But I've got to make it fast. Otherwise, all the shirts will be gone.

For $39.95, you can purchase one of these adorable tees from Loft. The Loft will donate $5 of each purchase to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. These t-shirts are a limited collection and will be available during October only and while supplies last.

If you are looking for more ways to contribute, Loft is offering it's Loft Cares card for $25.  Loft will donate 90% of the proceeds of the card to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Your card entitles you to 20% off every Loft purchase you make through November 15, 2011 and can be used online and in stores.

Join the cause that unites us all. Support Loft's efforts to eradicate breast cancer.

Visit http://www.loft.com/ to find a store near you or to make an online purchase.


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Wordless Wednesday: From Ducklings to Ducks

In the blink of an eye, they've gone from ducklings to almost-ducks.

BEFORE (photos taken on 8/20/2011


AFTER (photos taken on 9/28/2011)


What a difference a month makes! The babies are hardly distinguishable from their mother.




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Win It!: A pair of tickets to see Shawn Colvin in Philadelphia

After all these years, I'm still a big fan of the music of the 90's. And it was during the 90's that I discovered the incredibly talented singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin. I've seen her perform live only once. It was at The Mann Center in Philadelphia during the mid-90's. She's a phenomenal storyteller through her music, and her voice will have you mesmerized. She's still making wonderful music today and entertaining audiences all over the world.

In a few weeks, I'll be lucky enough to see Grammy Award winner Shawn Colvin perform live yet again!!! And what's even better? I've got 2 tickets to give away to a lucky reader compliments of Stonyfield Farm. But that's not all there is. Yes! There's more to this giveaway!
Photo credit: www.shawncolvin.com

DETAILS:
SHAWN COLVIN will be performing on Friday, October 21, 2011 at World Cafe Live as part of the Rock the Ribbon event presented by Stonyfield Farm and BreastCancer.org.

Included with the tickets:

6:30 p.m. Complimentary Valet Parking at Walnut Street entrance. World Cafe Live is located at 3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Sponsors’ Reception including cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, food stations, interactive games and entertainment throughout World CafĂ© Live

8:00 p.m. Stonyfield guests will enter the Main Stage area for Breastcancer.org Presentation

8:25 p.m. Featured Artist, Shawn Colvin will perform

9:45 p.m. Stonyfield guests will attend a private Meet & Greet with Shawn Colvin

10:00 p.m. – 12:00 midnight Dancing to the sounds of The Philadelphia Funk Authority
 
To view the official site for the evening's festivities, click HERE.
 
TO ENTER:
 
1. Required: Please comment and share which Shawn Colvin song is your favorite. Be sure to include your email address so that I may easily contact you if you are the winner. BTW, mine is "Orion In the Sky".

2. {Optional} Follow Pieces of a Mom on Google Friend Connect. Leave a comment stating that you do so.

3. {Optional} Follow Pieces of a Mom on Twitter. Leave a comment stating that you do so.

4. {Optional} Like Pieces of a Mom on Facebook. Leave a comment stating that you do so.

5. {Optional} Tweet this message: “Hope I win tickets to see Shawn Colvin perform live in #Philly from @PiecesofaMom. http://bit.ly/qbqxQw #contest #giveaway #concert”. Leave a comment stating that you tweeted. Include your Twitter handle.

Disclosure: In addition to receiving complimentary tickets to attend the concert, I was provided with 2 tickets to give away to a reader by Stonyfield Farm. All opinions expressed herein are strictly my own and were not influenced by my relationship with Stonyfield Farm.
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Menu Plan Monday

YES! I'm finally doing this!

Every Monday, I'm envious of my many blogging friends who post their meal plans for the week. Every Monday, I say, "This is the week that I will absolutely, without fail, do my menu plan."

Yep, every Monday. Every Monday comes. Every Monday goes. And guess what? No meal plan.

So, today I woke up and vowed to plan it and blog it. Now that fall is here and our schedules are predictable, this whole meal planning thing should be a piece of cake. Should be. But probably won't be.

This is what's on tap for the week:

Monday: Leftovers (I know. It's a lame way to start the week, but the Hubs made lasagna on Saturday, and I made chili yesterday for the Jets game. So, we've got to get through the leftovers.)

Tuesday: Take out (Emma has CCD until 7. I'll stop to pick up something after I pick her up.)

Wednesday: Beef Tacos (kid's choice, and they are great helpers with taco night).

Thursday: Caprese Pasta (I'll post the recipe next Tuesday for Tuesday's Tasty Treat.)

Friday: Chicken in the Crock-Pot (Tina from Life Without Pink posted the recipe here. It's super easy and ultra yummy!)

Saturday: The Hubs is on dinner duty.

Sunday: Sausage and peppers. It's game-day friendly.

Planning is 3/4s of the battle. Executing is the other 1/4. Here's to a great week and to executing the meal plan!


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Is homework dreaded in your home? Read my latest post on Meridian Momtourage

Back to school means back to schoolwork and homework. The start of another school year can often be overwhelming for both children and parents. Making the transition from a carefree summer to a structured school routine proves difficult for everyone. The combination of more complex academic topics and additional hours of homework can lead to anxiety for children of any age. This fall I sent my youngest off to kindergarten and my oldest to the 4th grade.

Read More...

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Wordless Wednesday: To the beach

There is no better place in September than the beach. The crowds are gone, and the weather is ideal. This beach path is just beckoning visitors to see what is on the other side...


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CD Review: Mat Kearney's "Young Love"

If you are a fan of Mat Kearney, you are going to want to pick up or download his latest release, "Young Love".  "Young Love" is Kearney's third full length release since he made his debut on the music scene in early 2006.


I first heard the debut single "Hey Mama" and immediately loved it. It is upbeat and has one of those hummable tunes that sticks with you all day (but not in an annoying way).

What pleasantly surprised me about this CD was the vast diversity of the tracks. There are songs that are classicly Mat Kearney such as "Hey Mama" and "Learning to Love Again". On "She's Got the Honey", Kearney mixes reggae with rock in a tune that's eerily similar to the music of Michael Franti. On "Young Dumb and in Love", Kearney mixes genres by fusing rock with contemporary country. It works, and this song will have you on your feet within seconds. The percussion-heavy "Count on Me" is sure to be a hit with the kiddos. With children aiding Kearney on vocals, this song makes me want to grab a few jump ropes and get Double Dutch-ing!

The CD wraps up with "Rochester", a song heavy in lyrical content and meaning. While I understand Kearney's desire to inject a personal anecdote into his music, "Rochester" weighs down an otherwise upbeat and fun CD.

Disclosure: I am writing this review as part of a campaign sponsored by One2One Network. I received a complimentarty copy of Mat Kearney's CD "Young Love" to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation. All opinions expressed herein are solely mine.
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Enjoy wine? Read my latest post on Jersey Bites!

I am by no means a wine expert, but I like to think that I drink enough of it to know a thing or two about it. People travel the world in search of great wines, crossing the globe and touching down in France, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and here in the United States. But you don’t have to trek around the world or across the country to savor the perfect glass of wine.


Read More...


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Hug Your Kids

I have days where my kids make me want to pull my hair out. I've been known to want to crack the wine open at 3:46 pm (a mere five minutes after the kids have stepped off the bus). We've all had days like this. We're parents, after all.

Last week while I was doing a normal perusal of Facebook, I noticed that a friend "liked" a page. The profile photo was of a little girl who looked similar to Harper, and the name of the page implied that the child was ill. This friend is an influential blogger and a friend. I wanted to know more about the page since she was liking it. I value her opinion, and I wanted to learn more.

Within minutes of reading about the subject of the page, a 5 year old little girl who was suffering massive, multiple brain tumors, I "liked" the page too. How could I not? The entire time I was reading the Wall and the Info of the page, I kept thinking this could be my little Harper. They are the same age. Plus, they resemble each other. Round faces, blond hair, sweet eyes. It was heartbreaking to read her story, her struggle. Instead of starting Kindergarten, she was in a hospital bed having chemotherapy. Her parents and her siblings were hopeful. They prayed each day for a miracle. They wanted what we all want: to watch our children grow, to see our children become the people we've always hoped they would be.

Days after liking the page, I logged on to Facebook and scanned the updates as I always do. People complained about the weather, their mothers-in-law, their bosses. And then there was the news: this little girl had lost her battle. She was gone. All hope was lost. Her parents, defeated and deflated, were trying to keep it together for the rest of their family.

I can't imagine what it is like to lose a child. The excruciating pain. The emptiness. The knowing that life will never be the same. How do you ever recover from something like that. How? And why? Why this little girl? Why this family?

I can't answer these questions. Life is unfair. And it is unexpected. What you have today may be gone tomorrow. It's not a cliche. It's life. A lesson I learned when my father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly 3 years ago.

What I did the day I learned of this little girl's passing surprised my kids. As they got off the bus, I hugged them furiously. Right there. On the shoulder of the road by the door of the bus. I couldn't let go. All I could think was what would I do without them? We devoted that night to them. I unplugged. We went out for dinner. We reveled in the girls. We listened intently to their tales (tall as they may be).

The Hubs and I know how blessed we are to have two healthy and thriving daughters. We also know that all that can change without warning.

If you are lucky enough to be with your children as you are reading this, go grab them and hug them. If you are not with them at this moment, hug them when they come home from school or from wherever they are.

And know just how lucky you are.

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What I'm Crushing On This Week: iPhone Apps

The primary reason I converted from BlackBerry to iPhone was for the apps. The apps for the iPhone are to die for. Especially the photography apps. I was extremely disappointed in the BlackBerry photo quality and the basic photography apps available. I use my phone as a camera more than I use it as a phone. For reals. So, I really wanted the iPhone just for picture taking purposes.

But once I started poking around the App Store, I found more than just photography apps. Here are a few of my faves...

1) Shazam
Have you ever been somewhere when you hear a song that you like but don't know the name of it, and you soooo want to know the artist and title? Yeah, well, that would be me all day, everyday, everywhere. Enter Shazam. Launch Shazam to discover the artist and title at the touch of the screen. I am hooked on this app. I use it at least 15 times per day. It's especially useful if you have Sirius radio or if you shop a lot, because stores are always playing really cool music.

There's a free download or Shazam Encore is available for $5.99 (includes unlimited Shazaming, lyrics, and ability to play in Spotify).

2) SocialGrapes
Discover new wines and share your favorites with friends. Here's how it works. Download SocialGrapes and create a login/profile. Buy a bottle of wine and scan the bar code into SocialGrapes from your iPhone. Once you scan the code, you check-in the wine to your profile. Connect your account with other uses (i.e., Facebook and Twitter friends) and begin sharing and discovering wines.

I love this app as I am always looking to try new wines. If you join, add me as a friend. My username is PiecesofaMom.

3) Instagram
Instagram is a photography app. The concept is quite simple. You take pictures. You use various filters to add dimension and interest to your photo. You share your photo with your followers. Be warned: you can literally spend hours perusing photos in Instagram. There are so many wonderful and incredibly interesting shots. And all are taken with the iPhone.

4) Crazy Photo Booth
You will laugh until you cry. Take a picture. Using various an array of filters (from artsy to totally wacky), you transform yourself. You'll be rolling on the floor laughing. This app is even more fun on the iPad. Cost: Free.

5) Camera+
If the basic camera on the iPhone is the standard point-and-shoot, Camera+ is like a digital SLR lens. The app includes a timer for self-photos, a burst mode, and an image stabilizer. However, all the fun happens after the picture is taken. You can crop it, frame it, and apply color tints and retro effects. Cost: $1.99 (and it's money well spent).

For the kiddos:
These apps have saved me more times than I can count. Waiting in long lines, in the exam room at the pediatrician's office or at the orthodontist. Whenever the little ones get cranky, hand over your iPhone, and I guarantee that you'll get silence. Or in my case, each of my girls has an iPod Touch, usually attached to their hands.

5) Doodle Jump
This game can be insanely addicting for adults too. You guide a four-legged, long snouted creature known as "Doodler" up an unending series of platforms without falling in an attempt to gain a high score. The character is controlled by tilting the phone in the desired direction. The greater the angle, the greater speed. Trust me, your kids will love it. Cost: $.99.

6) Restaurant Story
Design a unique restaurant and menu. The object is to make sure your customers are well-fed and happy. Customer satisfaction is based on quality of food, ambiance of the restaurant, and service. My girls love this, and they often play it side by side on their iPod Touches. Keeps them entertained for a good hour. Cost: Free.

What are you crushing on this week? Please share.
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Happy 4th Birthday to Jersey Bites

A few months ago, I started writing for Jersey Bites. Editors from counties all over the state write for Jersey Bites. I had met only one in real life (IRL). On Saturday, Deborah Smith, the founder and executive editor of Jersey Bites, hosted a party to celebrate the 4th birthday of Jersey Bites.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. There is nothing like meeting someone IRL. I've been reading the material from these editors for months. I've admired their writing and have been envious of their creativity in the kitchen. On Saturday, I finally got to meet so many of them. Everyone brought food. The food at this party was Out. Of. This. World.

The JB photographer took some publicity shots. Here we are totally hamming (pun intended) it up for the camera!



HAPPY 4TH BIRTHDAY, JERSEY BITES!
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Have Your Coffee or Tea and Cookies Too!

I am not a big fan of cold weather. Not at all. But I must admit that one of the few things I enjoy about the cold is cuddling up with a cup of hot tea in the late afternoon. It's so calming, so soothing, and a perfect precursor to the witching hour.

While I was browsing Etsy recently, I happened upon this mug and just had to have it. It was love at first sight.

Don't you just want one for yourself? You can get it here.

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Remembering 9/11: Where Were You?

It's hard to talk about 9/11 without telling our own story. Recalling where we were when we heard and remembering our initial reaction and the minutes, hours, days, months and years that followed.

We'll never forget the events of that horrific day, and we'll never forget our own story. Still, 10 years later, the events that unfolded that morning and the weeks following are as fresh in my mind as they were 2 days after 9/11/2001.

It was a stereotypical day in southern California. The bright September sun was coming up, and I had a full day of sightseeing planned. I had just flown into Orange County the day before, Monday, September 10, 2001. I had spent so much time in southern California as a software consultant but never had time to truly enjoy free time there. I absolutely adored the area and always wanted to explore it, but by the time I had gotten out of the office at the end of the day, it was just too late, too dark.

About a month prior, I decided to head to Cali for a little R&R for a few days while the Hubs would be in Orlando for a corporate meeting/event. We agreed to meet up in Las Vegas after our respective trips for a few days of fun together. We had no idea how much our travel plans would change...

As I always did, I woke and looked out the window of my hotel in Newport Beach, California. Yep. Another fabulous day was dawning, and I was ready for it. I turned on the TV and immediately tuned in to Good Morning America, my fave morning show. It was 7:10 am, local time. It was 10:10 NY time. The image on the television screen was horrifying, terrifying. The image was of smoke billowing from the Twin Towers. I collapsed on the bed and listened intently to get the story. I was immediately filled with fear.

I was travelling alone. Alone. Diane Sawyer had just told viewers that all air travel was being suspended indefinitely. I was stuck. In California. Alone. I had always wanted to be stuck in California, but not under these circumstances. I was scared. I was shaking. I was crying. I tried to call the Hubs, but couldn't get through to his cell phone. I called my mom on her land line. She answered. I cried to her for 15 minutes. I don't remember what I said to her. I don't remember what she said to me. But she calmed me down and helped me get my wits about me. We hung up and promised to talk in a few hours.

Finally, after trying relentlessly for 45 minutes to reach the Hubs, the call finally went through. He answered amidst complete chaos in Orlando. As I was sitting in a quiet hotel room, he was dealing with a polar opposite situation. Employees were in a panic and going completely crazy. He had a huge situation on his hands. We talked briefly. He assured me that I'd be OK. It was just too soon to know how it would play out.

Over the course of the next day, I walked around in a haze. Everything was closed. I made the best of my situation. I hopped in my rental car and drove. And drove. And drove. I drove north. I drove south. I had to revise my entire sightseeing itinerary. All the places I had planned to visit were on lock down. So, I did the next best thing: I took in all the beautiful California scenery. I drove up and down Pacific Coast Highway, visiting the gorgeous beach downs the dot the coast of California. But it just wasn't the same. I was surrounded by such natural beauty but struggling with the cruel and ugly events of the day.

I worried. How would I get back to New Jersey? Would I get back to New Jersey? Would LA be the next city to suffer an attack? Days passed in this vain. Slowly businesses opened and I was beginning to see some semblance of normalcy, whatever that was. Would anything ever be normal again?

On Thursday, September 13, I was on the first post-9/11 flight out of John Wayne airport. My short, 45-minute flight, would land in Vegas at about 10 pm. As excited as I was to fly to Vegas to be reunited with the Hubs, I worried about flying. It was hard not to be worried about it. I landed in Vegas, took a cab to the hotel, and waited for the Hubs to arrive. Finally, he walked into the hotel room at about 2 am. We clutched each other for 20 minutes, refusing to let go.

During that weekend in Vegas, we learned that we were pregnant with our first child. It was a blessing in the midst of madness.

We returned to New Jersey six days after the attack. We learned of victims in our town, in surrounding towns. We were shielded from the personal stories while out west, but now that we were back home, a mere 50 miles from Lower Manhattan, it was hitting home. Every day brought another story of a neighbor, or a friend, or an acquaintance, who lost a husband, wife, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, child in the senseless attacks.

So, it is with a heavy heart that today I reflect on the events of that day. I pay tribute to all the service men and women who have sacrificed to keep this country safe. I grieve for those who lost their lives and for the families left behind.

May you be blessed to be surrounded by your family today and everyday.



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When Devastation Hits Your Hometown

I was born and raised just minutes from picturesque Hershey, Pennsylvania. I'd wake to the rich smell of chocolate, and I'd fall asleep under a sky filled with stars so bright that you'd swear they were close enough to touch.

Summers were spent at Hershey Park riding roller coasters again and again until we couldn't see straight. We'd take country drives that ended in visits to a creamery that sold ice cream produced with milk from local dairy farms. They were the best of times.

But yesterday, my hometown fell upon the worst of times. The beautiful countryside of central Pennsylvania was ravaged by torrential downpours which resulted in massive flooding when Mother Nature unleashed her fury in the form of Tropical Storm Lee.

Devastation. Destruction. Despair.

People who have spent their entire lives in the small towns surrounding Hershey admitted to having never seen anything like it. It was an horrific storm of monumental proportions. It will take weeks to assess the damage. The full extent won't be known until the water recedes.

Roads were impassable. People reported being completely surrounded by water as if on an island.

The house in the foreground used to belong to my sister and brother-in-law. They moved into a bigger home 2 years ago. They spoke with the current owners who informed them that water filled the entire basement and half of the first floor. Can you imagine?

Rescues were happening everywhere. Here a boat easily clears the second story of a home.

This is the main entrance to Hershey Park. Two bison from Hershey Park's Zoo America had to be euthanized when they were spotted drowning in rushing waters.

As waters begin to recede, buckled roads are becoming a familiar scene.
*all photos are from the Inside Hershey Facebook page

I feel so helpless knowing that friends and family are suffering the devastating effects of the flooding, and I can do nothing to help. As upsetting as these pictures are to me, I can stop looking at them. I've been checking Facebook all day today and yesterday for pictures.

I haven't lived permanently in central PA for over 20 years, but so much of my life's memories are there. When such a storm hits so close to "home", it becomes personal. Even being hundreds of miles away, I can't help but to feel affected by the flooding. To see these familiar places and landmarks covered in water is utterly upsetting.

Mother Nature has not been kind. Here's to hoping she snaps out of her funk.

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The First Day of School

Ahhhh, the first day of school. Something to be celebrated for children and parents, alike.

Today, I sent my oldest to fourth grade and my youngest to Kindergarten. I shed some tears, and I also rejoiced. Little H was so excited. Her excitement was infectious. I just know she'll have a great day!

Their faces show their excitement.

Doling out some big sisterly advice.

I couldn't be more proud.

My excited Kindergartner...I'd be lying if I said it was easy to say goodbye to this sweet face this morning.

Here comes the bus. While they were smiling, I was taking deep breaths.

It's showtime!

And there she goes...without a tear or a whine.

New beginnings. I need to adjust to them. There will be plenty ahead of me for years and years to come.




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