Food & Drink

Food & Drink
Food & Drink

SHOP MY FAVES

SHOP MY FAVES
SHOP MY FAVES

STYLE

STYLE
STYLE

Top Posts of 2013

Whether you are a new POAM reader or you've been sticking around for a while, this year was a good one for the ole blog. I had the most visitors this year than any other year since I started this venture 5 years ago!

Here are some of the best of the best of 2013.

1. The Perfect Bloody Mary - I won't lie. I love a good bloody Mary, and this one if pure perfection.

2. Taking Green Jeans From Day to Night - I love my green jeans, and often I'll wear them during the day to run errands, work from home, etc. Often, I want to wear them out that same evening for cocktails or dinner.

3. The "Little Things" with Bill and Giuliana Rancic - I had the pleasure of meeting this fabulous couple back in May during a breast cancer awareness campaign. They were beyond amazing.

4. Gluten-Free Orange Brownies - Last spring while I was experimenting with a gluten-free lifestyle, I made these brownies for our Easter celebration. They were a crowd pleaser!

5. Miracle Blur Product Review - See how this revolutionary primer tackled my most pesky skin conditions.

6. Six Months Post-Hurricane Sandy - Residents of the Jersey shore were still adjusting to life after Hurricane Sandy. This post shows just how far (or not) that we have come.

7. National Martini Day {recipes} - I celebrated National Martini Day with a cake batter martini. Yum!

8. Warm Goat Cheese Salad - This is one of my all-time favorite salads. It's restaurant quality but so easy to make at home.

9. Cheese Fondue - If you are looking for a fun meal for the kids or for an adult gathering, try cheese fondue. It's easy to prepare and is a great conversation starter!

10. 4 Hair Care Products Every Woman Needs To Own - If you are not using these products, you should be. Enough said!

And here are my top 10 all-time most popular posts since I started blogging in 2008.

1. Best App for Beginning Runners: Couch to 5K - I discovered this app when I took on running. It is the best app for working up to running from zero miles to 3.2 miles.

2. Death by Chocolate dessert - I serve this on Christmas every year and no one has ever requested anything but this dessert. It's that fabulous!

3. The Letter That Landed My Daughter on the Safety Patrol - It never ceases to amaze me how popular this post is. I'm not sure if people actually find it helpful or are amused by it.

4. Black Beans and Rice {recipe} - This is one of my favorite recipes. For a twist, add some sliced avocado to the top.

5. 25 Days of Christmas - Day 11: Cookies - My favorite part of the holidays: cookies. Here are a few of my favorites.

6. White Sangria {recipe} - This is a summer cocktail staple. Perfect for after the beach or as a pre-dinner cocktail when barbecuing with friends.

7. Theraderm Skin Renewal System {Product Review} - You'll be amazed by my "Before" and "After" pictures.

8. The Bubble Room Desserts - During our annual vacation to Captiva Island, Florida, we never miss a stop at The Bubble Room. The desserts are To. Die. For.

9. How To Wear a Chambray Shirt - Who could have guessed that the 90's most popular shirt would come skipping back onto the fashion scene?

10. Breast Cancer: A Young Mother's Story - When I put a call out for survivor's stories, I never imagined that I'd be so moved by any of them. This particular one touched my heart, and I was lucky enough to meet Wendy at a blogging conference years later.

And there you have it, folks. The best of the best. I hope you've enjoyed walking down memory lane with me.

Here's to a great 2014!

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Festive Cocktails to Celebrate the New Year

Whether you are hosting a holiday New Year's Eve gathering or just want to be prepared for drop-in visitors, having a great cocktail recipe in your back pocket is a must.

I'm sharing a few that are as delicious as they are festive.

The Frosty Grape
  • 1 part Three Olives® Grape Vodka
  • 1 part sparkling wine (such as Prosecco or Champagne)
  • Mix vodka and sparkling wine into a chilled Champagne flute.




The Winter Classic Martini
  • 1 part Three Olives® Vodka
  • 1 part Triple Sec
  • 1 part orange juice
  • 1 part lemon-lime soda
  • Pour first 3 ingredients into a martini shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Stain into a chilled martini glass and top off with lemon lime soda. Garnish with an orange slice.





The Winter Wonderland Martini

  • 2 oz. Three Olives® Cake Vodka
  • 2 oz. White Chocolate Liquer
  • 1 oz. White Crème de Cacao
  • 1 oz. heavy cream
  • Coconut flakes
  • Combine in a martini shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Stain into a martini glass, sprinkle with coconut flakes and stir. Garnish with a white chocolate wafer (optional but highly recommended!). 

Enjoy these delicious concoctions responsibly!

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Using Bing's "Smart Search" Capabilities for Windows 8.1 #ThisIsBing

In September, the Hubs surprised me with a new laptop. It had all the latest and greatest including Windows 8.

I was excited to dive right in! When I first starting using Windows 8, there was a bit of a learning curve. It's vastly different from any other Windows operating system. But all the differences are good ones. Windows 8 is much more intuitive once you learn the basics of the operating system.

Not long after I started using Windows 8.1, I stumbled upon Bing's Smart Search capabilities. It was purely by accident that I discovered the Smart Search, but I was glad I did.

In Windows 8, as you move your mouse cursor to the far right of the screen, several icons appear. At the top is a magnifying glass. From your browser, click the magnifying glass, and Bing's Smart Search is launched. There's no need to launch a browser or switch apps to perform a search using

Take a look at how Bing search can help you save time when searching online. This is an informative video showing you exactly how easy and efficient Bing Smart Search is.

This holiday season Bing Smart Search helped me located a much needed recipe. I was invited to participate in two cookie exchanges this Christmas. For one, I knew exactly the cookie I would make. But for the second one that I attended I was on the fence. I wanted try to to make something new, but I wanted a tried and true cookie that had a twist.

So, what did I do? I used Microsoft Bing Search to hunt down a recipe. Anyone using a PC or a tablet running Windows 8.1 can use Bing's Smart Search.

I started by searching on "salted oatmeal cookies".

A popular search engine gives you a list of sites that qualify for your search. Microsoft Bing Search gives you a snapshot of the sites that qualify, complete with pictures. Hello! This is fantastic. As I scrolled through the "list" of qualifying sites (as seen above), I found the exact recipe that I wanted.

I clicked on the link to the Smitten Kitchen where there was a recipe for crisp salted oatmeal white chocolate cookies posted.


I decided that this was exactly the kind of cookie that I wanted to make for my second cookie swap. I printed the recipe and wrote down my ingredients.

The next day I did my shopping and made the cookies.

Oh. My. Goodness. They were so yummy. I'm not even a big fan of oatmeal cookies, and I loved these! I loved the combination of sweet and salty. It was perfect. Not too sweet and not too savory.

And it was a success that can be credited to new Bing search. If you are using Windows 8.1 why aren't you using Microsoft Bing Search? You should be.

Thank you to Bing for sponsoring this post and inspiring me to find a super yummy cookie recipe this holiday season! #ThisIsBing
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Merry Christmas

From our home to yours, best wishes for a glorious holiday season!


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Celebrating Birthdays, Growing Older ... And Being OK With Both

Yesterday on Instagram, I shared a photo of myself. I don't do this very often...share photos of myself. I'm not a "selfie" kind of gal.

But a few days ago, Emma snapped a picture of me and when I looked at the picture, I found myself all of a sudden studying the photo. Like really, really examining it.

Something funny happened in those moments that I looked at my picture. I began to really see myself. See myself for who I am and what I have become.

At 46, I am finally at ease with myself. Finally comfortable in my own skin.

This famous quote (which, by the way, is often incorrectly attributed to Dr. Seuss) pretty much sums up how I feel right now in my life.

“Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” — Bernard Baruch


It took me a long time to get to this point. I spent years worrying about pleasing everyone, those who matter the most and those who matter the least. I worried about what people thought of my hair, my clothes, etc. 

I spent years nurturing friendships and relationships that were going no where.

With age and experience comes wisdom. The wisdom to know what you want and what you like. The wisdom to set yourself free of all that has weighed you down in the past.

Now, if I like it, it doesn't matter what others think.

I have friends who aren't judgmental. I have friends who are real. No pretenses. They tell it like it is, and I know I can do the same. The same goes for my husband and my sisters.

With age comes a knowledge that I am not perfect and that no one is. With age comes an acceptance that I am not perfect and no one is. And I'm perfectly OK with that.

At 46, I am perfectly OK with me.

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A New Kitten To Love

It was with a lot of thought and consideration that we allowed our youngest daughter to add another cat to our family.

After Harper suffered a broken arm and bravely had surgery, wore a cast for 8 weeks, including during a vacation in Florida, we wanted to give her something special for being a model patient.

Little did we know that she'd ask to adopt a kitten. But we indulged her.

It was with some trepidation though. We already have a 1 year old cat and the Hubs has been known to suffer from allergies to cats. Although he is generally ok with domestic short hairs.

We picked up the little bundle 2 weeks ago, and he has totally turned our house upside down and has found a special place in all of our hearts, including that of our other cat.

Presenting Sammy...


He loves to play "hide-and-seek".

The girls adore him.

And he adores the girls.

Even Jade is warming up to the idea of having a little brother.

There's always the question, "Who rescued who?"

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The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. We've been going since before Emma was born. We missed the show last year, so this year we were beyond excited to see the one and only show.

If you have never been, I highly recommend it. It is truly a spectacle for children and adults.

The day started off with a train ride into NYC. Can you tell that the girls were beyond thrilled?

10 minutes into our train ride the snow began to fall. And it kept falling. And falling. And falling. Although it was beautiful, I did not want to traipse around the city in snow.

By the time we arrived in New York, the snow has just about stopped. There were still a few flakes falling, and it was C-O-L-D! We headed straight to Starbucks to grab some warm drinks.

We walked a few short blocks to our lunch destination, Rosa Mexicano. We skipped breakfast because we were rushing to get to the train station. We were starving and couldn't wait to have our guacamole and chips. The guac is prepared table-side and is prepared to your liking (spicy, extra cilantro, etc.). And it's totally delicious.

After lunch we took a cab to Radio City Music Hall.

We headed inside and took our seats. We were in the 2nd row...up close and personal with the Rockettes!

I turned around and looked at the venue from our seats. Look at all those people! I'm telling you. There's a reason why this show is wildly popular.

It was showtime! My favorite part of the show is the parade of the wooden soldiers. The sheer precision never ceases to amaze me.



Another favorite part of the show is the live nativity scene, complete with live sheep and camels.

Put this show on your bucket list if you've never seen it!

After the show we walked around Rockefeller Center for a bit and then went to American Girl Place and Sephora, two of our favorite places.

I love NYC at Christmas. The decorations, the shopping, the department store windows, the people bustling about. It's so festive!
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What To Wear To Casual Holiday Gatherings #FashionFriday

'Tis the season to party! But not all holiday parties are black-tie affairs.  We've been invited to several small, informal and open house-type of gatherings this holiday season.

And, well, all those invitations have gotten me to thinking about what I will wear!

Before I rush out and make a quick decision on an outfit, I decided to do some homework and put together a few outfits that are perfect for casual holiday gatherings.

Dress Up a Pair of Jeans



Casual Holiday Gathering



Lola red shirt, $130 / Etro blouse / Ted Baker jeans / Rihanna For River Island black sandals / Calvin Klein Collection suede boots / Moyna clutch / Black purse / Sara Designs wrap bracelet / Eddie Borgo dangle earrings, $270 / KENNETH JAY LANE bracelet / La Vie Parisienne crystal earrings / Hunter green nail polish / Bobbi Brown Cosmetics nail polish

The key to dressing up denim is the shoes. Add heels and you've stepped up your game (no pun intended!)

And here are a few more blouses that would pair perfectly with dark denim.


Black Pants Are Always A Good Choice

Black Pants for a Casual Holiday Gathering


Dresses for Casual Gatherings

You can't go wrong with a wrap dress. They are perfect for just about any occasion, especially a casual, chic one. Here are a few festive ones.


What will you wear to your next holiday gathering?

Are you still in the throes of holiday shopping? Check out Mommies With Style's fashionable gift suggestions from Lands' End.



I'm joining in on the Fashion Friday link up this week! Be sure to visit other participants for fashion inspiration.
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The Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play ~ Honoring the 26 Victims of the Newtown, CT Shootings

Almost 365 days ago, a madman opened fire on innocent children, administrators, and teachers at a school in bucolic Newtown, Connecticut. I can remember running out to do an errand that morning and coming home to the horrific news on TV.

20 first graders and 6 adult staff members were killed that morning. It was the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history.

As a result of the shootings, gun control debates have been waged, parents have debated the safety of their children's schools, and schools have beefed up security measures in an effort to prevent future attacks.

But what could be done to memorialize the innocent victims of such senseless killings?

One group, the foundation that created The Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play stepped up to the challenge. The Sandy Ground began by building playgrounds for children who lost their favorite places to play during Hurricane Katrina.


Last fall when Hurricane Sandy struck the coastal areas of New York and New Jersey, the foundation once again set out to raise money to replace playgrounds that were destroyed by Sandy.

Today, the foundation has a goal of building 26 playgrounds, one to honor each victim of the Newtown, CT shootings and to breathe life back into communities devastated by Sandy. The foundation in conjunction with local communities and the help of volunteers has completed construction on 13 playgrounds along the coasts of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.

This video tells the inspiring story behind The Sandy Ground.



It's easy to feel helpless at times like these, but there are ways you can help. For information on any of the below initiatives, visit http://www.thesandygroundproject.org/

  • Volunteer at one of the playground sites.
  • Make a monetary donation.
  • Support the Sandy Store (a gold bell holiday ornament is available for purchase for $5).
  • Attend a fundraiser or organize one of your own.
In my neighboring town of Manasquan, Sandy hit hard. She wiped out homes in the coastal community and destroyed the beautiful beach. Thanks to the generosity of volunteers and The Sandy Ground, the beach where we spend our summer days has a new playground in memory of Olivia Engel, one of the 20 first graders who were killed on December 14, 2013 in Newtown.




At the time of the shootings, I was a parent of a first grader. I couldn't help but to identify with the grieving parents of the victims. And at the same time, I couldn't imagine what they were going through.

The playgrounds built by The Sandy Ground are a way for these communities to rebuild and remember.

For more information, you can find The Sandy Ground on the Web and on Facebook.

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Menu Plan Monday :: 12.2.2013

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Did you cook? Did you shop? Or did you sit back and relax? I did a little of all of the above.

I did hit a few stores late Friday afternoon and was surprised to find that there were no crowds or long lines, but there were lots of bargains to be found.

It's hard to believe that in just a few short weeks, we'll be celebrating Christmas. I've been slowly pulling out my decorations. I have so many but decided that this year I am going with a minimalistic approach to decorating. Less is more! And it gives me more time to focus on our weekly meals.


Here's what I've got planned this week:

MONDAY - Homemade chicken noodle soup (minus the chicken) and arugula salad.

TUESDAY - Meatball Parmesan sandwiches. Pasta for the girls.

WEDNESDAY - Dinner out. It's my BIRTHDAY!!!

THURSDAY - Chicken stir-fry with rice

FRIDAY - Pizza takeout.

SATURDAY - I'll be doing a local cook's tour with my girlfriends. Hubs is in charge of dinner.

SUNDAY - Mexican lasagna

If you are struggling with a menu plan, visit I'm An Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday to see what everyone else is eating.

To view my Meal Plan Monday posts, click here.
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Cyber Monday ~ The Deals You Need to Know

Can't bear the thought of heading to the mall today? No worries! That's what Cyber Monday is all about. Keep your PJs on and start shopping from the comfort of your sofa.

Here are some of the best deals of Cyber Monday.

Old Navy
Save 30% online with code CYBER. Ends 12/2.

Gap
Save 40% online with code CYBER. Ends 12/2.

Banana Republic
Save 40% online with code CYBER. Ends 12/2.

London Times
$30 dresses and up to 50% off select items. Ends 12/2.

Living Social
Save an extra 25% off with code CYBERMONDAY. Ends 12/2.

Christmas Tree Shops
Save 15% off everything + free shipping on orders over $65. Enter code CYBERDAY.  Ends 12/2.

Target
Cyber Week sales including buy one, get one 50% off (shoes, home decor). Sale ends 12/7.

Starbucks
Cyber Monday! Save $25 on any $60+ purchase and receive Free Shipping on $35+ orders. 12/2 only! *Discount and Shipping applied at checkout. Offer excludes purchases of Verismo™ System or Espresso Refill Tumbler.

Too Faced Cosmetics
Too Faced Cyber Monday Sale: 50% off Sale items with code: BF2013 + get a Mystery Grab bag for just $25! Valid 12/2/13.

BedHead Pajamas
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2013 Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Gifts for Little Girls

If you are looking for the perfect gift for a little girl, you've come to the right place! With 2 of them running around this house, I've become adept at knowing exactly what they want and more importantly, what they need.

Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories

I've spent a lot of time choosing the perfect gifts for my girls. From accessories to jeans to shoes, girls like what they like. There is no room for negotiating. Any one of these items is perfect the little diva in your life.


American Girl Dolls

The doll of the year is always a safe bet. This year it's Saige.

The basic package includes a doll and a book. $110.

Other outfits and accessories are available at www.americangirl.com.






Books

My daughters share my love of reading. They love a trip to the library or the book store. Here are some of their current favorite books.






Jewelry

Little girls love jewelry. Let her sparkle and shine with a new necklace or charm bracelet. Top it off with a special jewelry box for her new treasures.
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Black Friday Sales and Deals {online offers} #blackfriday

Didn't have time to make it out today? Stuck at work all day with no reprieve? No worries!

Hop online and grab some of these hot offers before the day is over!

OFFERS FROM AMAZON.COM



Too Faced Cosmetics

A FEW OF MY FAVES:

GAP - Save 50% entire store and site wide. Some exclusions apply. Use code BLKFRIDAY at checkout.

J.CREW - 30% off site wide. Some exclusions apply. Use code HOLIDAY.


SO MANY MORE GREAT OFFERS...

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2013 Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Toys from Melissa & Doug

For over 25 years Melissa & Doug® has created toys, games, and more with an emphasis on value, quality, and design.


From puzzles to puppets, plush toys to play food, magnetic activities, music, wooden toys, and much more, Melissa & Doug® has a product to please even the most discerning child. In fact, Melissa & Doug offers over 2,000 unique and exciting products that are designed to both engage and educate children of all ages. Melissa & Doug offers classic toys, and value-priced arts and craft kits as well as the exclusive Sunny Patch collection. MelissaAndDoug.com customers will always find the perfect gift that’s fun and educational, too!

My girls have always been big fans of Melissa & Doug. What we have loved most is the mix of learning and play that are synonymous with Melissa & Doug products.

GIANT GIRAFFE STUFFED ANIMAL

One of our all-time favorites is the Giant Giraffe Stuffed Animal. Emma's godfather and his wife bought this giraffe for their daughter several years ago, and my girls have had it on their wish list ever since then.

Giant Giraffe - $99.99

TRAIN TABLE (includes 2 free trains for a limited time)

Harper developed a love for Thomas the Train by the time she was two. For her third birthday, we bought her a huge Thomas train set. What we didn't realize at the time was that we needed a table too. A train table like the Melissa & Doug one is a must-have for any locomotive lover.

Train Table with Two Free Trains - $149.99


Deluxe Puppet Theater

When we were on vacation last week at South Seas Island Resort, the children's play and activity center had one of these puppet theaters. My girls had hours of fun with it. It truly fosters creativity, and I loved that about this product.

The girls were incredibly imaginative and entertained us with play after play. They improvised and did some script planning as well. This is a perfect gift for an actor in the making.

Deluxe Puppet Theater with Free Chef Puppet - $89.99

Deluxe Kitchen with FREE Cutting Food Box

Make your mini chef's dreams come true with this durable wooden kitchen set. Kitchen includes a stove, refrigerator/freezer, sink, oven and microwave with a turntable. Colorful and functional, your little ones will enjoy hours of play in this kitchen.

My girls have always loved their kitchen sets. Even now that they are a bit older, they still occasionally play with it. Kitchen sets encourage creativity in the kitchen, and they are a great place for kids to practice math skills. And no! They are not for girls only!


Art Easel with 2 FREE Paper Rolls

No room for an art studio? No Worries! Any room becomes an art studio when you have the Melissa & Doug Art Easel.

The easel includes a dry-erase board, a chalkboard, a paper roll holder, plastic trays on each side to hold supplies, and a child-safe paper cutter.

Let your kiddos unleash their creativity and imaginations with this sturdy art easel. Folds up for easy storage. Art supplies are not included.

And a few more favorites...




3. Shape sorting clock - $12.99

Don't miss other holiday offers from Melissa & Doug:
MelissaAndDoug.com- Over 2,000 Unique and Exciting Toys for Children of All Ages! Click here!
MelissaAndDoug.com- Over 2,000 Unique and Exciting Toys for Children of All Ages! Click here!
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