Food & Drink

Food & Drink
Food & Drink

SHOP MY FAVES

SHOP MY FAVES
SHOP MY FAVES

STYLE

STYLE
STYLE

Kiddie Academy ~ Case Study: Wendy Barry

Wendy Barry opened her Kiddie Academy franchise on March 15, 1993 at 100 Kiddie Lane, Elkton, MD, at the age of 35. Wendy’s tenure with the company is a true testament to her dedication to superior child care and success within the local community. Her focus on education has proven that the Kiddie Academy’s child care model is not a typical day care.
Background: As its first franchisee, Wendy Barry has a long, rich history with Kiddie Academy. Prior to becoming a franchisee, she spent 10 years as a special education teacher at Elkton High School in Elkton, MD. Wendy began looking into a child care franchise after the birth of her daughter, Taylor. After reading an article in her local paper about the Millers, who were looking to begin franchising their child care company, Wendy arranged a meeting to discuss the possibility of becoming a franchisee. The Millers’ educational philosophy matched hers, and she was impressed by the overall business. She automatically knew Kiddie Academy was the right fit for her -- both professionally and personally.

Goals: With a strong background in education, Wendy is continually focused on achieving the highest educational standards. She has just become MSDE approved for her four-year-old program and is currently working to achieve the MSDE (Maryland State Department of Education) Early Childhood Accreditation. As a successful franchisee, Wendy also looks to continually build her enrollment and rapport with her current families and the local community.

Challenges: Being the first Kiddie Academy franchisee has its advantages, but it also presented a challenge for Wendy when opening her location. With no other academies in the area, she was faced with a lack of brand awareness and peer support that future franchisees would benefit from. However, her status as the only franchisee offered her the ability to have the corporate staff’s undivided attention and assistance. With that, and her hard work and dedication, she was able to overcome all challenges.

Results: Wendy is thrilled at how her business has grown and progressed. For the last 17 years, she has provided a safe environment for children to learn and a place that parents can rely on for the care of their children. She receives positive feedback from her families and enjoys a terrific reputation within the community. Wendy and her academy have won numerous awards and accolades, including: Brand Champion Award, #1 Child Care in Cecil County for 2009 and 2010, and the 2010 Director of the Year Award. She also takes pride in knowing she has offered her employees a work place that has helped achieve their career goals.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are solely mine and have, in no way, been influenced by the advertiser.
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Girls' Lunch Out Comes to Red Bank, NJ!!

Imagine this: a room full of women who barely know each other. Most are meeting for the very first time. And guess what? It's as loud as can be, and you'd think these women had known each other forever!

That was the scene at the very first Girls' Lunch Out {GLO}, New Jersey event which was held on Saturday at Gaetano's Restaurant. I was honored to co-host this event with Chrissy MacCarrick from Life as a CEO. Chrissy and I joined forces with the GLO co-founders, Tina and Erica, to bring GLO to central New Jersey.


Chrissy and I greeted attendees as they arrived. I loved meeting so many women from the Garden State!

One Hope Wine was our generous wine sponsor. Please check them out. Not only were they generous to GLO, they are generous all around, donating 50% of profits to various charities.

We were very lucky to have some fabulous sponsors including Kings Food Markets, Meridian Health's Meridian Momtourage, Danielle Sepulveres, and Lucille Roberts.


Each {GLO} luncheon has a purpose such as learn, network, etc. Since so many women in the New Jersey market are just beginning to meet one another, the purpose of this event was to network. And network we did! We played a fun networking BINGO game that really got the attendees out of their seats and mingling.

There was lots of fun swag!

There's one thing I stress about when I attend these events: What To Wear! I just never know exactly how to dress. I don't want to be too casual and yet, I don't want to overdress either. ThirtySomethingFashion gave us tips for dressing for social media success and turning our day outfits into night outfits.

Girls' Lunch Out events are a great way to connect with women in your area. I was thrilled with the turnout at our Red Bank event, and I know many attendees went home having made many new friends. And that is what GLO is all about!

I feel so fortunate to have forged such a wonderful professional relationship with Chrissy, Tina, and Erica as well as a friendship. These passionate women are an inspiration to me.

Be on the lookout! Girls' Lunch Out is expanding!! Who knows? You just may be lucky enough to attend an event in your city soon!

Girls' Lunch Out currently serves the Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Chicago markets. For more information about GLO or to inquire about starting a chapter in your city, visit www.girlslunchout.com.


*All photos are the property of Pieces of a Mom unless otherwise noted.*
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Twitter Party: Tuesday #GNO with Mom It Forward and Stonyfield

Every Tuesday evening, Mom It Forward (@momitforward) hosts a girls night out (#gno) Twitter party featuring a different theme. This week's party is co-hosted by Stonyfield Farm, and the theme is organic living.  Stonyfield, the world’s leading organic yogurt maker, has been providing people with organic yogurt for years. They have been committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Stonyfield recently introduced the first organic Greek yogurt specially crafted for kids’ choosy palates, YoKids Greek. As the only organic Greek yogurt for kids, YoKids Greek provides families a quality product produced without the use of toxic persistent pesticides, antibiotics, artificial growth hormones, genetically engineered ingredients, or artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners.


Party Details

  • What: Girls’ Night Out (#gno) Twitter party (Click here to learn about #gno!)
  • When: Tuesday, March 27 from 9-10 p.m. EST (8 CT, 7 MT, & 6 PT)
  • Where: Party with Mom It Forward on a Custom Tweetgrid! (Use hashtags #gno and #Stonyfield)
  • Topic: Organic Living
  • Who: Brand Panelist: @Stonyfield, Community Panelists: TBD, Moderators: @jylmomIF @Dadventurous @troypattee @MomItForward
  • Party Favors: Click here to enter the giveaway.
  • RSVP: Please RSVP by heading over to Mom It Forward and leaving a comment on this post.
Help spread the word by retweeting the following:

Disclosure: I am a Yo Getter (brand ambassador) for Stonyfield. I was not obligated or compensated to write this post. All opinions are mine.

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Cheesecake.com: An Epic Cheesecake Experience

Cheesecakes are impossibly difficult to bake to perfection. I've tried...and failed many times. The top cracks. The middle falls. I never seem to get it right.

Cheesecake.com to the rescue.

The. Perfect. Cheesecake. Every single time.

Cheesecake.com has been delivering delicious cheesecakes to homes and businesses since 2002. Cheesecake.com offers a variety of 9" cheesecakes including a sampler, a traditional New York cheesecake, a raspberry swirl cheesecake, and a white chocolate cheesecake. All cheesecakes retail for $39.99. They are perfect to serve for dessert for Easter brunch or dinner.


Cheesecake.com isn't all about Cheesecake. You can also order cakes, brownies, cookies, and whoopie pies from Cheesecake.com. They are delivered fresh and are perfect for any occasion, and they make the perfect gift for someone special.

If you'd rather make your own Cheesecake, Cheesecake.com offers recipes for those adventurous bakers who would rather do it themselves. With over 20 recipes for cheesecakes, you can find everything from a simple cheesecake to one with more complex flavors.

Cheesecake.com stands behind each and every cheesecake it sends. They guarantee satisfaction or will refund your money.

Hurry! Easter is less than 2 weeks away. Order your cheesecake today!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed herein are strictly mine and have not been influenced by the advertiser in any way.
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Kiddie Academy: Case Study ~ Bill and Marina

We've all heard stories about corporate burn-out. Perhaps you've got one of your own to share. Grueling hours. Tedious work. Little personal time. It can get really old, really fast. I've been there. Bill and Marina Schmidt have been there as well. It was their time spent in corporate environments and their dissatisfaction with their respective corporate jobs that led them to open their own Kiddie Academy franchise. in 2008.


Bill and Marina Schmidt opened their Kiddie Academy franchise on March 31, 2008 at 4225 Concept Court, Bradenton, Florida, while in their mid-40's. The Schmidts have a passion for the business and believe whole-heartedly in “Community Begins Here.” With their dedication to superior customer service, commitment to education and focus on creating a warm, nurturing environment, the Schmidts have shown local families why Kiddie Academy stands apart from their competitors.

Background: With the birth of their daughter, Bill and Marina began looking for quality child care in their area, which turned out to be quite a challenge. As a Vice President of Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company, with a Master’s degree in early childhood education, Marina became dissatisfied with the corporate world and saw this as an opportunity to use her skills in an educational aspect. For Bill, a manufacturing engineer, opening a Kiddie Academy location meant bringing a much needed service to the area. The Schmidts were looking at child care franchise options for a little over a year before they decided upon Kiddie Academy. They found Kiddie Academy’s dedication to education and warm, welcoming approach to be the perfect combination.

Goals: Coming from the human resources field, having excellent customer service has always been a goal for Marina. Developing a staff that can provide the level of service the families deserve is important. They host new hire orientations, service trainings and monthly staff meetings, which include role playing. Both Marina and Bill continue to look for ways to go above and beyond for the families they serve, including help with resumes or locating jobs in the area.

Challenges: Like many new business owners, the Schmidts faced challenges. At the time of their opening, the economic market conditions were the worst in many years. Homes throughout Florida and the rest of the country were being foreclosed on and unemployment rates were at an all-time high. Nevertheless, the Schmidts persevered -- benefiting from an abundant work force, the fact that many previous stay-at-home moms were re-entering the workforce, and a supportive franchisor with a proven business model. Despite those issues, the Schmidts have become extremely successful.

Results: The couple’s passion and attention to customer service and community outreach has earned them a stellar reputation in the area, along with tremendous community and parent support. They have received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback that has complimented their passion, service and programs. The Schmidts focus on grassroots marketing and initiatives, including events such as book readings, parent date nights and local partnerships have helped them achieve the success they are enjoying today.


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed herein are mine and have not be influenced by Kiddie Academy.
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#f2fphilly Event with Therapon Skin Health

On Saturday I headed out to my old stomping grounds in the western suburbs of Philly to attend a skincare/spa event sponsored by Therapon Skin Health at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern, PA. If you recall, I've been using Therapon's Theraderm Skin Renewal System for about 6 months now and with great success. You can see my original product review post here.


It was an afternoon of pampering that started with a much needed manicure by Spring Nails. It had been a while since my last professional manicure. I was a bit of a trendsetter that afternoon. I chose Essie's "Smokin' Hot" for my nails, and it was a big hit with many of the other women in attendance. My manicure was followed by an upper back and neck massage. Timing couldn't have been better. The evening prior, I threw my upper back out. I felt so much more relaxed after the massage.

After my massage, it was time for my facial. Christina Stumbaugh, the social media marketing manager for Therapon attended the event and was on hand to give facials. Christina used the Therapon products that I use on a daily basis for our facials, but oh my goodness, it was so luxurious to have someone else do this for me.

Of course, every facial should be followed up with a professional make-up application. Ulta Beauty. I loved the natural makeup that my makeup artist used. She gave me some tips on products to use to get that dewy look.

After everyone was pampered and primped, we posed for a group shot. Don't we look lovely?

One of the aspects I love most about these events is connecting with other women. This was a small, intimate group, and it was the perfect setting for sharing. We talked about our respective skin dilemmas, our nails and the nail polishes we like, our blogs, and just general girl-chat. And I was finally able to meet Christina. We've emailed, tweeted, and Facebook-ed for months. So fun to finally meet her IRL!

Every great event includes some great swag!
These fabulous Lands' End tote bags were filled with goodies from Therapon Skin HealthLunch Skins, Payless Shoes, Happy Baby, Heartwork Organizing, Dawgs Bendables, and Divalicious Chocolate Dessert.

Many thanks to Jo-Lynne and Christina for being gracious hostesses!

Disclosure: I received complimentary services at this event. I received no monetary compensation, and was in no way obligated to write this post.
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Wordless Wednesday: Spring

Enjoying the early and beautiful onset of spring.
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Spa Week is Back!

It's time to open up your calendars to the week of April 16. Pick a day. Any day, and carve out an hour or so just for yourself.

Why, you ask?

Well, because it's Spa Week. That's why. And YOU deserve to be pampered!
During Spa Week, spas and salons all over the country deeply discount selected services by offering them at $50 each!!! There is no better excuse for enjoying some much deserved "me" time.

Visit www.SpaWeek.com to find a participating spa near you.
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Friends for Life

Friends.

You can't live a fulfulling life without them.

A good friend can pick you up from the depths of despair when you are down.

A good friend knows just what you need. Whether near or far, a good friend is always there for you.

I've been watching the movie "Something Borrowed" obsessively lately. In the movie an almost lifelong friendship is put to the test. The movie has made me think about the friendships that I've had over the years.

There are people who will be in your life for, well, your entire life. We all know who they are. I have friends that I've known (and loved) since being in Mrs. Bachman's kindergarten class. I may not see these friends frequently, but we have an understanding that we'll always be friends. These are our "coming of age" friends. They've cried with us when our first loves broke up with us. They've cried with us when it was time to part for college. They stood by us at our weddings. They've held us up at funerals.

There are friends who are with us for a reason, a season, and a lifetime.

Not every friend will remain in your life forever. Not every friend should. Recognize when a friend is with you for a season and embrace and let go of that friendship when it is time.

Friendships ebb and flow, and many just stop.

There are many reasons for this. Don't dwell on why the friendship ended, but rather be thankful that you shared yourself for a reason, for a season.

As I get older, I'm learning valuable lessons about friendship. Not everyone will like you. Don't be upset. I can tell within the first 15 minutes of meeting someone if we will click. If we don't, I know there is someone with whom I will. It's that simple. I don't force a friendship.

Friendships should be easy. We shouldn't have to work at them. We are busy enough with work, home, kids. We shouldn't have to add friends to the mix.

Friends should be an escape from the stressors of life.

They shouldn't be the stressors of life. Ever. If they are, they aren't friends.

Friends don't question us. They "get" us.

And we "get" them.

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The "Pin" That Went Viral

Today I pinned an outfit to my "To Wear" board on Pinterest. Nothing unusual about that...I pin several outfits per day to that board. Also, there was nothing unusual (or spectacular) about the outfit. It was a casual outfit, but super cute.

Within a minute, it had been repinned 33 times. What??? I don't have any pins that have been repinned 33 times. By tonight at 10:30 pm, the outfit had been repinned over 75 times. Crazy, right?

Who would have thought that so many people would go ga-ga over this outfit? It is nice, though, right?


Are you on Pinterest? Follow me here, and I'll be sure to follow you back.
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Thirsty Thursday: 5 Perfect Warm Weather Cocktails

I don't know about you, but when the warm weather hits, my inner mixologist comes out. I grab the nearest cocktail shaker and I get shakin'.

With an abundance of local, fresh ingredients such as blueberries, strawberries, and melons, the drinks are tastier and healthier than any other time of the year.

I've been scouring Pinterest for some of the most colorful and tasty mom beverages that I can find.

Here are 5 of my favorites:

1. Indian Summer Cocktail (mango, peach schnapps, and champagne)

2. Blueberry Pom Paradise (Stoli Blueberi Vodka, fresh blueberries and blackberries, Pom juice)

3.  Vodka-Thyme Lemonade (Vodka, lemonade, and thyme)
 

4.  Blood Orange Margaritas (freshly squeezed blood orange juice, lime juice, tequila, orange liqueur, and  simple syrup)


5. Red Sangria (make a big pitcher and the neighbors will come!)

You can thank me by inviting me over for a cocktail! ;-)

Do you have a favorite cocktail recipe for warm summer evenings?

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Tips for a Seamless Morning Routine

Mornings can be tough. There's lots to do and little time to accomplish everything. Whether you've got one child or 4 children, mornings can pose a challenge for even the most organized parents.

Here are 4 tips for making the mornings go smoother:

1. Plan ahead.
Organize anything and everything that can be done so the evening prior. Make sure books, binders, folders, and papers are in backpacks.

Pack whatever you can for lunches and snacks. Place refrigerated items in the front of the refrigerated so that you can grab and pack the following morning.

2. Divide and conquer.
If you are lucky enough to be able to share the morning responsibilities with your spouse, play upon both of your strengths and divide the tasks accordingly. The Hubs is willing to do a lot in the A.M.s, but one thing he cannot do is style hair. While he makes breakfast for the girls, I do the hair and help my youngest tie her sneakers.

3. Pick out outfits the night before.
I'm not going to promise you that there won't be mind-changing in the mornings. In fact, if you have girls, expect it more often than not. I'm just sayin'. You can save time and aggravation if the outfits are chosen the night before. Once the kids are out of bed, they can immediately dress themselves without the added effort of making a decision.

4. Get on the same page.
Mornings can be filled with requests. For us, it is often requests for play dates. Make sure you and your spouse present a united front by agreeing to any impromptu after school activities. Set expectations with your children for after school play dates, etc. We have 2 days each week when after school play dates are put on hold because of other commitments. The girls know that they are not to plan anything for those afternoons, and the Hubs and I agree that there are no exceptions.


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Kiddie Academy: Case Study ~ Gauds and Sahejpals

It's not uncommon for friends to go into business together. For many, combining skill sets and pooling resources is the perfect recipe for success. Such is the case with 2 couples who joined forces to open two thriving Kiddie Academy franchises.

Pramod and Ravinder Gaud and Neeraj and Bala Sahejpal opened their Kiddie Academy franchise in April 2006 at 521 West Capital Expressway, San Jose, California, while in their early 30's. Though the Kiddie Academy brand was new to the area, the Gauds and Sahejpals succeeded in building bonds in the community and setting themselves apart from local competitors. Charged by their success, the Sahejpals acquired another academy, located at 205 E. Middlefield Road in Mountain View, California.

Background: With a background in early childhood education, Ravinder began looking at the opportunity to start her own child care business. After she and her husband Pramod decided to explore franchising as opposed to a home-based, independent business, they soon discovered Kiddie Academy. Pramod and Ravinder asked their good friends, Neeraj and Bala to join them in their business venture. Having a background in business and marketing, Neeraj saw it as a terrific investment and was interested in the business endeavor. Bala, who has a Master’s degree in Computer Applications, was pregnant with the couple’s second child and was excited for the opportunity for her children to be able to reap the benefits of quality child care.

Goals: The Gauds and Sahejpals are continuing to build momentum at their two locations by focusing on community outreach projects, staff development and emerging trends in technology. They have set these goals in motion by facilitating several fundraising activities to support local causes and opened an academy computer lab featuring eight computers. With enrollment at both their academies growing, plans are in the works to open additional academies in the broader San Jose area.

Challenges: The Gauds and Sahejpals found the two biggest challenges to be establishing themselves as a leading child care provider in an area where no other Kiddie Academy locations existed, and learning to balance the day-to-day activities with the responsibility of running a business. Despite those challenges, they have continued to persevere and build enrollments.

Results: The couples’ commitment to success has resulted in continued enrollments and an established presence within their community. Parents are continually impressed with Kiddie Academy’s exceptional curriculum and safety features. The Gauds and Sahejpals find satisfaction in being at their academy and seeing their children attend. They have been dedicated to making their academy a home away from home for not only themselves but the Kiddie Academy families they serve as well.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. However, all opinions expressed herein are solely mine.

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Get Your Free 7-Day Trial Supply of Fish Oil

Viva Labs, Inc. introduced Omega Select, a superior fish oil with 90% concentrate of Omega-3s this week.  For a limited time, Viva Labs is offering consumers a free 7-day trial supply of Omega Select.

Studies have shown fish oil to have numerous health benefits including promoting heart health and circulation, immune function, mental clarity, joint ease, and cholesterol balance. In recent years, fish oil supplements have become a staple for Americans  who are taking positive steps towards improving their health and quality of life. I have suffered from high cholesterol for years. Fish oil has been the secret ingredient to bringing my lipid levels into normal ranges and for keeping my overall cholesterol in balance.

Through a patented extraction process, Viva Labs preserves the Omega-3 molecules. Each tiny soft gel capsule provides 900 mgs of Omega-3s compared to between 30% and 60$ for other leading brands.

For a limited time, you can order a free 7-day trial supply, visit www.fishoil.com and complete the form on the right hand side of the page.

And be on your way to a healthier you!
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Loving and Losing a Pet

Today we were faced with the painful and agonizing decision to euthanize our beloved 19 year old cat. Although heart wrenching, our decision was a necessary and humane one.

The loss of a pet is devastating. And being faced with the decision to end your pet's life is even more so. Guilt can overcome you, and emotional attachment can blur rational thinking.

We weighed the quality of life our cat was experiencing in the end and combined it with the options from the vet, and decided that it was time for our precious Pep to cross The Rainbow Bridge.

I was lucky enough to enjoy almost 20 years with him. Not many pet owners can say that. We have so many wonderful memories that will comfort us in the days, weeks, months, and even years ahead. He will never be forgotten, and he'll be forever missed.

This post is dedicated to his memory to all those pets we've loved and lost.
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Easter Baskets from GourmetGiftBaskets.com

Doesn't it always seem that holidays just sneak up on you? I have good intentions with every holiday, every year. I really do, but somehow, before I know it, it's the eleventh hour and I've got nothing.

I hate running out and buying one of those cheesy pre-made Easter baskets. They are generally filled with lots of junky plastic toys and icky candy. If I can't assemble my own Easter basket, I want one that compares to one I would assemble.

I was lucky enough to find such baskets at GourmetGiftBaskets.com. The selection of Easter Baskets varies in price ($30 - $150 ) and selection. The Easter Basket you are looking for can be found at GourmetGiftBaskets.com. There are baskets filled with candy only and baskets filled with candy and plush bunnies. GourmetGiftBaskets.com is the perfect solution for sending Easter wishes to a child in another state. 

The web site offers the ability to shop by category, recipient, price, occasion, or theme. If you have little time or inspiration this Easter season, you must check out GourmetGiftBaskets.com.


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. However, all opinions are mine. 
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Celebrating Dr. Seuss

Yesterday marked Dr. Seuss' birthday, and there was plenty to celebrate. The most famous author of children's books would have been 109 years old.

As a child, I loved reading Dr. Seuss' books. The rhyming and the creative and imaginative words and people captivated me. As an adult, nothing has changed. In fact, I love his books even more. I can appreciate the fine art of creative writing much more as an adult than I did as a child.

On Thursday and Friday mornings, I spent a few hours with Harper's classroom visiting other kindergarten classrooms for a Dr. Seuss round robin. OMGosh! I felt like a kid again. It was so much fun listening to the teachers read their favorite Dr. Seuss books, and the fun projects were a perfect complement.

Harper's favorite project was the fish bowl she made for "one fish two fish red fish blue fish".



Do you have a favorite Dr. Seuss book? What is it? I love "Oh, the Places You'll Go!".
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