Food & Drink

Food & Drink
Food & Drink

SHOP MY FAVES

SHOP MY FAVES
SHOP MY FAVES

STYLE

STYLE
STYLE

My 3 Favorite BB/CC Creams #BeautyBuzz

I've tried just about every BB and some CC creams on the market. From drug store brands to luxury brands (thanks to department store and Sephora samples), I've made the rounds. As a rosacea suffer, I quickly became a fan of BB and CC creams for their light, overall coverage which was a lot less cakey than foundation. By using an effective coverage cream, I no longer have the need for foundation.

I'm not one to sing the praises of luxury brand cosmetics, but there is a BIG difference between a drug store brand BB or CC cream and the high end choices. I would definitely recommend going more towards the $20+ price range for a great BB or CC cream.

After trying out countless brands over the years, I've finally settled on 3 favorites.


1 / 2 / 3

1. I discovered Dr. Jart BB Cream this month in my Birchbox. I had never heard of the brand and was iffy about trying it as I already had 2 favorites. But one morning I was in a hurry and the small sample tube of Dr. Jart was lying on the bathroom vanity. So, I grabbed it and quickly applied it. I was literally amazed by how well this concealed my redness and looked natural. Plus, it's a pore minimizer too!!

2.  I've been using Boscia BB Cream for about 18 months. I discovered it after being given a few samples at Sephora. In addition to offering phenomenal coverage, this BB cream moisturizes like no other. When I use this BB cream, I often skip my usual moisturizer. A dime size dab is enough coverage for my face, which makes this tube last a long time.

3. Again, I have Birchbox to thank for introducing me to another great brand. I received a sample of Supergoop! CC Cream a few months ago and was anxious to try it as I hadn't really stepped into the CC cream arena just yet. CC creams focus a bit more on color correcting rather than moisturizing and lightening. Supergoop! covered my ruddiness without making me look like a stage actress. I still have to use moisturizer prior to applying this cream, but the the fact that my redness and sometimes blotchy skin were completed covered is worth it.

Be sure to stop by #BeautyBuzz to check out more great beauty finds and product reviews. This week Janise from Mama In Heels is hosting. Don't miss her review of KeraFiber hair products!

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FashionProject.com: Shop Designer Brands For Charity

I love a good shopping spree. Adding a few necessary pieces to my wardrobe is always a plus. But I often wish that I could be doing good with some of the shopping that I do.

Each October, there's an influx of items that can be purchased where a certain percentage of proceeds are donated to various breast cancer charities. You can usually find t-shirts, candles, scarves, and socks among those items.

But what if you could purchase your favorite go-to fashion items by your favorite brands on a regular basis while giving to charity? Well, now you can!

FashionProject.com combines your favorite brands up to 90% off with your favorite charities as the industry leader in online clothing donation. A portion of the purchase price for each item sold is donated to a specific charity as noted on Fashion Project.

For example, this gently-worn signature wrap dress from Diane Von Furstenburg sells for $49 on Fashion Project with almost $16 going towards charity.


Fashion Project specializes in mostly-new, gently worn clothing as well as brand new pieces with tags from your favorite designer brands. They bring the clothes to you at heavily discounted prices and generously offer a portion of the sale price to charities. For a complete list of charities, click here.

I've got my eye on this top from Free People. It would be perfect for our upcoming vacation. I love knowing that with my purchase, $4.95 will be donated to Cure Als.



For every item you purchase, your helping someone in need, whether it's a cancer patient, a hungry child, or a victim of domestic abuse.



How exactly does Fashion Project work? Here's a helpful infographic which explains it all. Whether you want to donate clothing or buy clothing, Fashion Project is your solution.


To check out the full list of brands that Fashion Project carries, to shop for a favorite item, to view a list of charities, or for more information on Fashion Project, click here.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. As always, all opinions are strictly my own.
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Menu Plan Monday :: 9/29/2014

We have a lot going on this week, and I am vowing to make every effort to stick to this week's meal plan. It is a transitional week for us as it's the first week that my girls start gymnastics, cheer, and tumbling at a new gym. This new gym is further away from our house than the previous gym, and the classes require a larger time commitment. So, we will be making adjustments to our schedules this week, and we will see how it goes. It's a big change to our routine, but the girls are committed to making it work.


Without further delay, here's what we will be eating this week:

Monday - Dinner out

Tuesday - Chicken tacos with Mexican rice and a side of black beans.

Wednesday - Angel hair pasta with zucchini and tomatoes

Thursday - Mexican lasagna

Friday - Linguini with oil and garlic and a side salad.

Saturday - Jalapeno popper pizza

Sunday - Hubs is on dinner duty!

What's on your plate this week? For more meal time inspiration, visit I'm An Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday linkup.

To view all of my menu planning posts, click here. Visit my What's For Dinner and Pasta Pinterest boards for even more ideas.


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Friday's Fresh Picks

One of the aspects about blogging that I love the most is that it is ever evolving. That's in part due to changes in technology, but it can also be attributed to the networking and sense of community that comes along with the business of blogging.

For several months, I've been featuring a few of my favorite things from the week in a post called Objects of My Obsession (OOMO). These posts have been big hits with the readers of Pieces of a Mom, and they've been a great way for you to get to know me.

Moving forward, OOMO will now be called Friday's Fresh Picks, and better yet, I'm collaborating with a few blogging friends and local New Jersey girls on this weekly post. So, not only can you see what I am loving, you'll get to see what my friends are crushing on as well!

I'm teaming up with Sarah from Finnegan & The Hughes, Hilary from A Fancy Girl Must, Tina from Life Without Pink, and Erica from No Sleep Til College. Together, we will give you a peek into a few of our favorite things each week. You may find some inspiration or discover something new as so many of you have done with Objects of My Obsession.

Let me give you a few tidbits about my co-hosts.

Sarah is the voice behind Finnegan and The Hughes. She's a doer of all things social good and can be found campaigning to save the lives of children as a vaccine advocate for Shot@Life. While you are checking out Sarah's blog, be sure to visit her Instagram feed for adorable pictures of her children and her pup too!

Hilary immerses herself in all things fancy, frilly, and girly as the mother of 3 gorgeous little girls. Hilary is your one-stop resource for the latest en vogue fashions and accessories for girls.

Tina is our resident expert on boys. As the mother of two precious little guys, Tina can usually be found sporting a super hero costume and holding her own with her boys. She's a cape crusader who just may come to your rescue one day.

Erica is never short on comic relief. When I first met Erica, I was struck by her frankness. I love her confidence in telling it like it is, and her blog posts are a real and honest take on life as a mom of two.

Go visit the others and be sure to come back here to see what I'm crushing on this week. xx

{Comfy Sanuks that are perfect for the girls this winter}


{These geo soap rocks are a pretty addition to any bathroom}


{The first signs of fall}


{A delicious new cookbook sent to me to review}


{A new favorite song I discovered while watching Brothers & Sisters on Netflix}


Friday Fresh Picks are hand-picked favorite items, reviews and highlights from the amazing women you see above.
Visit their websites to learn about other amazing picks from this week!

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Best Online Reads


All the links I am loving this week:

1. Why you should never sass talk your mother via The Powder Room.

2. You might be a parent if... via Scary Mommy.

3. The importance of setting aside quiet, uninterrupted time for reading via The Wall Street Journal.

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Be The Driver You Want Your Child To Be #TeenDrive365

In a few short years, my oldest daughter will start driving. The mere thought fills me with anxiety. Driving is a privilege. Not to be taken lightly by either the experienced driver nor the novice one.

However, so many of us take driving for granted. We hop in our cars each morning and drive to work or to school for the morning drop off. We do it on auto-pilot, sometimes hardly noticing our surroundings.

Most of what I know about driving I've learned from experience. It's practical knowledge that I learned on the road. I learned it driving back and forth to work, to PTO meetings, to the grocery store, to the park with my children in tow. This information can't be found in a book. It's in my head.

And when my daughter learns to drive in less than 4 years, you can bet I'll pass it along to her. And with the help of Toyota, I'll be armed with information to keep my daughter safe behind the wheel as she learns to drive.

For over a decade, Toyota has been committed to finding engaging ways to keep teens safe as they learn to drive. Toyota has created TeenDrive365, a collection of online resources to help parents prepare their teens for a lifetime of safe driving. TeenDrive365 strives to enable parents to keep the lines of communication open with their teens long after they have gotten their driver's licenses.

TeenDrive365 includes a Mutual Driver Agreement, special teen events in cities across the country, and safe driving tips. Toyota believes that safety on the road is about more than just driving a safe and reliable car. It's about driver education, too.

Here is an excerpt from the Mutual Driving Agreement, which Toyota encourages both parents and teens to sign:

Studies show that teens learn good and bad driving habits from their parents. If we set good examples for our teens, they will follow. If they see us eating while we drive, they are likely to do the same. Let's wait until we get home to snack on carrots sticks. If a teen sees you check out that notification you just received while driving home from soccer practice, she is more likely to do the same.

When I was learning to drive, I was so self-focused. I wish someone had given me a few key tips such as:
  • Pay as much attention to other drivers as you are to your own driving.
  • When traveling out of state, know the common road rules.
  • Keep the number of passengers in your car to a minimum. They can be VERY distracting.
  • Know what to do in the event of an emergency or accident.
  • Be aware of changing speed limits, which can occur frequently in small towns.
  • Know where the registration and insurance information is kept in a shared car.
Visit Toyota's TeenDrive365 to learn more about common distractions teen face when driving, how teens imitate their parents when driving, safe driving tips, and to take a quiz with your teen to see who has more safe driving knowledge.


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. As always, all opinions are strictly my own.
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Fall To-Do List

I'm all for an endless summer, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't love fall. The changing colors of the leaves and the nip in the air can be intoxicating. Add to that the fun and never-ending list of activities, and you've got the makings of a season full of memory-making goodness.

This autumn we are going to do a few new things we've never done before as well as a few of our old favorites. It's going to be a great fall!


1. Go apple picking at our favorite orchard.

2. Make mile-high apple pie, apple crostada, apple crisp, and apple chips with all the apples we pick.

3. Decorate and carve pumpkins.

4. Take a nature hike here.

5. Rake and play in an enormous pile of leaves.

6. Go on a hay ride, walk through a corn maze, and pick the perfect pumpkin here.

7. Make spiced hot apple cider and caramel apples.

8. Try a few new pumpkin recipes in addition to the old standbys such as pumpkin pie and bread.

9. Collect acorns and pine cones for a centerpiece.

10. Go on a local fall foliage tour.

What fun do you have planned this fall?
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Beauty Under $25: Bath & Shower

A nice, long hot shower or bath can be so therapeutic. When you include products that smell good and work great, your shower does double duty.



These 5 products, all under $25, are great additions to your bath therapy.

1. Neutrogena Body Oil, $16 (16 fl. oz.)

2.  L'Occitane Bonne Mere Lemon Shower Gel, $14

3. Bic Soleil Bella Disposable Razors, $6.25 (set of 3)

4. Burt's Bees Cranberry & Pomegranate Sugar Scrub, $13

5. Whish Shave Cream, $20

6. Pantene Nature Fusion with Avocado Oil Shampoo and Conditioner, $5/bottle

I'm linking up with #BeautyBuzz, hosted this week by Janise from Mama In Heels.




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My Five Favorite Trays

Whether you are entertaining or storing, a tray is the perfect way to corral everything you need. I love the way they look on a coffee table, a nightstand, a dresser, or on a dining table.




I've selected five of my all time favorite multi-use trays that are perfect for any decor and budget.

1. Lucite Tray
This makes the perfect addition to any coffee table. Place small books, a candle, and a conversation piece on it and your guests will have something nice to look at and something to talk about.


2. Marble and Wood Square Tray
Whether you are serving up cheese and crackers, tea sandwiches, or scones, this beautiful platter suits any occasion. I ordered this item today, and I can't wait to use it at the holidays.


3. Plastic Rectangular Serving Tray
This tray from Zak Designs is available in a variety of eye-popping colors, but the kiwi (shown) is my favorite. This tray would work in a playroom to organize cups of crayons, markers, pencils, and other craft supplies. Or it could be put to use in the kitchen for corralling salt and pepper shakers and frequently used spices.


4. Wood and Metal Tray
I love the rustic look of this tray. It's perfect for serving cheese, crackers, and olives to guests before dinner. Or it can just as easily be used to corral bottles of perfume and trinket dishes for jewelry.



5. Faux Crocodile Tray
I love this tray for a nightstand. Whether you have white or natural or dark wood furniture, this tray would be a fabulous contrast to the color. Use it for stacks of magazines or books and a small vase for reading glasses.


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Menu Plan Monday :: 9.22.2014

Last week's menu plan didn't quite work out as expected. Emma was home sick for 2 days and was in no mood for any of the meals I had planned. Trying to juggle work and a sick child put me in no mood to make two meals, so we strayed quite a bit from the menu plan.


This week, all is back to normal again, although I am now struggling to fight off symptoms of a cough and cold. I'm planning to keep the meals easy this week until I feel well enough to spend more time preparing dinner.

Photo credit: Food Network
Here's what's on the menu this week:

Monday - Chili in the slow cooker

Tuesday - Rigatoni with creamy tomato sauce

Wednesday - Southwestern style stuffed peppers

Thursday - French onion soup

Friday - Roast chicken with mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, and carrots

Saturday - Slow cooker skinny chicken enchiladas

Sunday - Hubs is on dinner duty

What's on your plate this week? For more meal time inspiration, visit I'm An Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday linkup.

To view all of my menu planning posts, click here. Visit my What's For Dinnerand Pasta Pinterest boards for even more ideas.
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Boo at the Boardwalk {Giveaway} #JenksAmbassador *CLOSED*

Take a break from apple and pumpkin picking, raking leaves, and Sunday football to squeeze in some Halloween fun at Jenkinson's Boardwalk.

Jenkinson's will hold its annual, fun-for-the-whole-family Halloween event on October 18-19 and October 25-26. The event runs from 12-4 pm and includes face painting, trick or treating, arts and crafts, games and entertainment and much more!

Jenkinsons Aquarium and Gift Shop, Pavilion Arcade, and Jenkinson's Sweet Shop will be open in addition to Jenkinson's classic boardwalk games. For more information visit jenkinsons.com.





WIN A FAMILY 4-PACK OF TICKETS TO JENKINSON'S AQUARIUM!

While you are enjoying the fun at Boo at the Boardwalk, take a break from the Halloween fun to visit Jenkinson's Aquarium. Jenkinson’s Aquarium has dedicated itself to the education, conservation, and superior care of a diverse collection of life from aquatic habitats. It strives to provide guests with a unique and memorable experience through creative exhibits as well as innovative educational and outreach programs. You can reach more about our most recent visit to the aquarium here.

Jenkinson's is generously offering one (1) Pieces of a Mom reader a family 4-pack of tickets to Jenkinson's Aquarium for the weekend of October 18/19 and October 25/26, 2014. Tickets are valid for these days only. Tickets can be picked up directly at the Aquarium reception area.

Winner must be 18 years of age or older and must reside in the tri-state (PA, NJ, NY) area to be eligible to win. Winner will be chosen on October 4, 2014 and will be notified via email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Fall Flats: How To Pair Them With Jeans

Flats are fall's must-have shoe. From ballet flats to d'Orsay flats to cap toe flats, you can't go wrong with a stylish (and may I add comfortable) pair of flats.

Here are a few of my favorite pairs and how to style them.


1. Ballerina inspired flats + Boyfriend jeans
The cuffed length of the boyfriend jeans makes them a perfect pairing for these ballerina-inspired, blush colored flats. Keep the hem high to be able to see the criss-cross, lattice details of the flats.

2. Cobalt blue flats + Grey denim
The vibrant shade of blue not only pops but it also adds a bit of drama to the neutral colored denim.

3. White Denim + Plaid d'Orsay flats
Forget that "no white after Labor Day" rule. It's archaic. White is perfectly acceptable year round. Pair your favorite white jeans or pants with a pair of plaid d'Orsay flats for a balanced look.

4. Black denim + Animal print cap toe flats
I love the combination of black and red together. This shoe takes it one step further with a splash of animal print, which ties that black denim and the shoes together beautifully.

For more fall fashion inspiration and ideas, visit the Fashion Friday linkup.




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Best Online Reads



All the links I am loving this week:

1. Why you need to move at least 5 times in your life via Elite Daily.

2. The 10 best things about having diabetes via A Sweet Life.

3. Eight things you should do every single day via Good Housekeeping.

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September 2014 Birchbox Deconstructed #Birchbox

My September Birchbox arrived a few days ago, and I have to say, Birchbox really hit it out of the park this month. This box was a grand slam! I was excited to see a few items in this month's box that my sister has gotten in the past in her Birchboxes.


Here's what I received in my September 2014 Birchbox (in no particular order):

1. Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser Starter Kit (Received a sample. Full size, $24.50)
Uses a two-step ritual to purify and exfoliate.
My thoughts: It took me a few times to get used to the fact that no water is used when using this product. The cloth is used to remove the polish rather than washing it off. For some reason, I still had an incredible urge to rinse my face. 

2. Pixi Shea Butter Lip Balm in Honey Nectar (Received a full size, $8)
Dual-purpose lip balm that hydrates while giving lips a pretty hint of color.
My thoughts: I'm into a natural lip these days, and this lip balm was the perfect way to achieve that. I've become a big fan.

3. Dr. Jart+ BB Black Label Detox (Received a sample. Full size, $36)
The Korean brand's tinted cream brightens, blocks UV rays, and calms blemish-prone skin.
My thoughts: I absolutely loved this for my peri menopausal skin which has been incredibly temperamental lately. This is calming and helps reduce redness as well.

4. Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream (Received a sample. Full size, $16)
This all-over hydrator tackles the driest skin from rough heels to chapped lips.
My thoughts: I used this on my feet, which are pretty beat up after a summer spent in flip flops and sandals. It works great, and you need only apply a small amount.

5. Davines Oi Oil Anti-Frizz Hair Serum (Received a sample. Full size, $41)
Lightweight, anti-oxidant-rich serum tames frizz, adds shine, and prevents breakage.
My thoughts: I can't speak for how it controls frizz since the weather conditions were idea the days I used this, but it did add a nice sheen to my hair. As a bonus Birchbox sent samples of Davines shampoo and conditioner, but I haven't tried them yet.

All items available for purchase at www.birchbox.com.

To see all of my Birchbox posts, click here.

To see more of my favorite beauty products, check out my Beauty board on Pinterest
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Essie Introduces Its Fall 2014 Signature Collection #BeautyBuzz

Fall is just around the corner. While you are out and about shopping for some new fall duds, don't forget to update your beauty collection as well, starting with nail polish.

Essie, one of my favorite nail polish brands has introduced its fall collection, and it's nothing short of spectacular...of course.

Take a look at these gorgeous colors.


1. dress to kilt
This juicy, ripe red is perfect for winter's hot plaid prints.

2. take it outside
This fresh, taupe color is perfect for occasions when you want a light shade with a hint of color.

3. fall in line
This jade green is a softer shade of green that compliments fall's popular neutrals such as brown and beige.

4. the perfect cover up
I love shades of gray for nail polish, and this one has the slightest hint of teal to give it a unique and intriguing appearance.

5. style cartel
This inviting shade of blue is just right for a fall nail polish. It's warm with a hint of sexiness.

6. partner in crime
Like milk chocolate in a bottle, this creamy shade of brown with a hint of mahogany is mysterious and magical.

I'm linking up with #BeautyBuzz which is hosted by MomtrendsMama In HeelsMusings of a Housewife, and Sassy Moms in the City.


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Let's Chat: I Want To Be In 7th Grade Again

I attended Emma's back to school night last week. I always find BTS nights informative especially at the middle school level. The night started out in her homeroom where parents receive copies of the children's schedules and then they make their way, in much the way the kids do, from class to class starting at period 1 and ending at period 10.


I like how we experienced a typical day (although on a time constrained schedule) of our child. We spent 10 minutes in each elective class, and 20 minutes for double period classes. Anyway....

Her classes this year sound so interesting. I want to be in 7th grade again! She's taking Italian. It's an introductory class, but there's nothing like learning a new language to give you a little freedom and insight into the world.

In Science, they'll be exploring genetics and doing several dissections. In Social Studies, they will be learning all about ancient cultures and how we've evolved into the society we are today.

In Language Arts, they will read 4 novels, and they'll be doing lots of different types of writing. I've already looked into the 4 novels, and they sound wonderful. I can't wait to read along with her.

And in Math, well, math is math. I'm not a math person. So, excuse me for not getting all excited over number crunching. But Emma loves math. All those fractions, integers, whole numbers, and word problems truly excite her. I can't even.

I wish I had the thirst for knowledge when I was in 7th grade that I now have. I wish I had looked forward to reading the novels as much as I do now. I dreaded science class and was always wondering why I needed to know how to dissect an earthworm. Today, I find it intriguing and interesting.  If only I could go back to 7th grade.

Well, I plan to. I am going to follow along with Emma this year. I'll read her science materials and history book. I've already downloaded her 4 assigned novels to the Kindle. As for math, well, she's on her own there. I'm up for a challenge, but that's not one I can muster the strength to deal with.

I've got to go. I have some science reading to do.


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Menu Plan Monday :: 9.15.2014

It's hard to believe we are half-way through September already. This is likely to be another busy week as I have Harper's back to school night this week, and I'm certain the homework will ramp up this week. I'm hauling out the slow cooker in hopes of making dinner time a bit easier on me. I'd hate to resort to take out because I was over zealous in my meal planning efforts.


Here's what my family will be eating this week:
via

Monday - Cavatelli with broccoli

Tuesday - Chicken noodle soup

Wednesday - Dinner out

Thursday - Cilantro lime chicken with rice

Friday - Southwestern-style stuffed peppers

Saturday - Make our own pizzas

Sunday - Spicy vegetarian chili

What's on your plate this week? For more meal time inspiration, visit I'm An Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday linkup.

To view all of my menu planning posts, click here. Visit my What's For Dinnerand Pasta Pinterest boards for even more ideas.
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Objects of My Obsession

This week was the first full week of school, and boy, did it do me in. I'm still adjusting to early mornings, packing lunches and snacks, and all the other tedious but necessary tasks that go into the school year. On the upside, I do have a bit more time for myself like sneaking out for a coffee or a quick stroll on the beach.

Here are a few of the things that made me happy this week.

{A handmade, personalized gift from my sister proudly hanging on our front door}


{A new phone case with a built in battery charger to, hopefully, stave off a failing battery}


{A new notebook to satisfy my love of list making - found at Marshalls}


{An adorable ring holder}


{Getting back to my usual morning routine}

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Best Online Reads

Lots of good links this week..

1. 10 things working mothers don't want to hear via Scary Mommy.

2. The best jobs for every personality type via Business Insider.

3. Scenes from iconic movies, from 'Annie Hall' to 'Taxi Driver,' inserted into contemporary photos of their shooting locations via Purple Clover.

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Remembering 9/11 :: Reflections of a Fateful Day

**This post is an adaptation of one originally published on 9/11/2011**

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, 13 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, and I was too exhausted.

About a month prior to the tragic day, I decided to head to California for a little R&R for a few days while the Hubs would be in Orlando for his company's annual customer conference. 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 favorite 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 of smoke billowing from the Twin Towers is one that I will never forget. I collapsed on the bed and listened intently to the story. I was shocked and stunned by the story that was unfolding before my eyes. I was immediately filled with fear.

I was traveling 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. I needed to remain calm. But all the unanswered questions and the unknowns were filling me with anxiety.

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 to Malibu to seek solace in the peaceful sounds of the sea. I drove south to Laguna Beach. 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 that dot the coast of California. How could it be that 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 vein. 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 sadness and 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 and to all those who sacrificed on that tragic day to attempt to save those in harm's way. I grieve for those who lost their lives and for the families left behind.

May you be blessed to be surrounded by your loved ones today. The twin towers and those who lost their lives on that fateful day may be gone, but they aren't forgotten.


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5 Tips For Establishing Good Homework Habits

This week is the first full week of school, and that means homework. Homework is an integral part of the school year. Homework, in most cases, reinforces the materials covered in class that day. Not only is it one of the first ways children learn responsibility, but it also teaches children how to follow directions and how to effectively manage their time.

Homework can be challenging for children. In order to make it go smoothly and be less stressful for children, it's important for us as parents to lay some groundwork for our children. I'm sharing a few homework tips that have worked for us year after year.


1. Designate a "homework zone"
This should be a quiet and low-traffic area of your home where your child can go to complete his homework. It should be free of distractions such as talking, the television, and children playing.

2. Set a consistent time each day that children will do their homework
Some children need a break once they arrive home from school. Others prefer to tackle their homework immediately while they are still in "school mode". No matter which your child prefers, it's important to keep homework time the same from day to day. In doing so, children know what to expect, and they know what is expected of them.

3. Set homework rules and guidelines
For those who are easily distracted and tend to make homework a long and drawn-out practice, set rules as incentives for them to complete the work. Something as simple as "No TV or electronics until homework is completed" goes a long way to incenting a child to work smarter and more efficiently.

4. Do not do your child's homework
I know how tempting this can be. Just about every time my girls sit down to do their Language Arts assignments, I want to swoop in and offer my expertise, which often leads to my taking over. Step away. Your child will never learn the subject matter if you are always completing the assignments. Let them think through the problems first, and if help is needed be readily available and willing to assist.

5. Be supportive
If your child is struggling with a particular problem or concept, lend a hand. If they solve a problem incorrectly, don't criticize. Help them understand what they did wrong and encourage them to try solving it again. And always give praise and positive feedback for a job well done.

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Tips For Preparing an Emergency Plan in the Event of a Disaster from Ready.gov

As we approach the two year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, my mind wonders back to the steps we took to prepare for the storm. We scurried around town in an effort to stock pile batteries, cases of water, and non-perishable foods. We hunted down flashlights and coolers at our local hardware stores. We fully charged electronics, and mentally prepared ourselves for the worst. We didn't quite know what "the worst" could be, but we would soon find out.

Hurricane Sandy hit on October 29, 2012. We lost power that day at around 5 pm. It wasn't restored for almost 6 days. We hadn't planned on losing our power for that long. A few months after Sandy, we started to think about ways in which we could be better prepared for a natural disaster from putting together a kit to having in evacuation plan.


September is National Preparedness Month when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urges Americans to be prepared for any type of disaster, natural or otherwise. Having a plan for your family and how you will communicate with others during a disaster will ensure that you are able to deal with the disaster and its aftermath. During emergency situations, quick decisions need to be made. There is no time for long, drawn out thought processes.

Not sure what hazards can befall you? KNOW YOUR HAZARDS. This list will help you
identify possible risks in your geographical location. From earthquakes and hurricanes to tornados and wildfires, you need to know what you are up against in order to effectively prepare.

This video from Ready.gov illustrates the difference between a family that was prepared for an emergency and one that was not. The important takeaway here is to set a meeting place to gather outside your home.



Putting together a plan may seem like a daunting task, but Ready.gov makes it easier for you by supplying you with tools that help you devise a strategy and a plan. Ready.gov offers both evacuation and communication plans for the family and for kids. These forms can be completed online and printed or printed and completed by hand. Once you've completed the forms, sit down as a family and go over each detail, ensuring that every family member understands the importance of them.

Communicating with your friends and family when a disaster occurs is extremely important. Know what you will do, where you will go, and how to find each other if anyone is separated.

For additional resources and more information on ways to prepare during National Preparedness Month, click here.

You can find Ready.gov on Facebook and on Twitter.
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Menu Plan Monday :: 9.8.2014

This is the first full week of school, and the first week of gymnastics. So, I'm sure it will be a bit crazy. Add to that, the Hubs has an overnight trip this week, I'll be filling in as office manager for a day at my neighbor's acupuncture practice, and I'll be attending Emma's back to school night.

In light of our hectic schedules, I'm keeping the menu plan simple this week. I'll be making meals that are quick and easy to assemble and are just as easy to clean up.

Monday - Hubs is on dinner duty since I'll be working late.

Tuesday - Black beans and rice

Wednesday - Zucchini and asparagus pasta with tomatoes and a side salad.

From Cooking Light
Thursday - Loaded nachos

Friday - Dinner out

Saturday - Fettucine alfredo with asparagus

Sunday - Chili (my own recipe)

What's on your plate this week? For more meal time inspiration, visit I'm An Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday linkup.

To view all of my menu planning posts, click here. Visit my What's For Dinner and Pasta Pinterest boards for even more ideas.
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Top 5 Fall Fashion Picks from Sole Society #FashionFriday

I'm a big fan of Sole Society. The quality and the prices are hard to beat. And the selection is fabulous as long as you get in on the action early. Popular items go fast, and you don't want to miss out on something you have your heart set on.

Here are a few of my favorite items from Sole Society for fall. From boots and bags to jewelry and scarves, Sole Society is your one-stop shop for fall accessories.

1. Leopard Print Oversize Scarf - $29.95
This is a great transition piece. You can throw it on over a tank paired with shorts. Keep your denim jacket handy for cooler days and nights. Or wear it with a short-sleeved tee and jeans.


2. Baylen Satchel (available in cognac as shown and black) - $49.95
Structured bags are the must-have bags of fall. This chic satchel can do double duty as the perfect bag to take to the office during the week or out to dinner on the weekends.


3. Valentina Wedge-Heel Boots (available in ash as shown, taupe, and black) - $109.95
I love a heeled boot, but so few offer comfort for prolonged wear. A wedge boot is easier on the feet and much more comfortable for all-day wear. Pair these with a dress or skinny jeans tucked in and a tunic or long sweater.


4. Ellis d'Orsay Pump (available in black as shown, night shade, and aluminum) - $129.95
A great pair of everyday heels is essential in the fall. I fell in love with d'Orsay flats last spring, and these d'Orsay heels are calling my name this fall. Wear them with a slim pencil skirt, a pair of tailored pants, or a dark wash denim, and you are good to go.


5. Leather and Metal Bracelet (available in cognac as shown and navy) - $24.95
Fall is the perfect time to add a little leather back into your wardrobe. When it's too warm for leather boots, pants, or a jacket, try leather accessories instead. I love this leather and metal bracelet. It's versatile enough to pair with a light sweater, a white button-down shirt, or a simple tee.


Friday is the most fashionable day of the week. I'm linking up with Fashion Friday with Musings of a Housewife and others.
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