My Exercise in Self-Control, Self-Discipline, and...

Monday, April 30, 2012
self-loathing. There. I said it. I'm pretty much cursing myself right about now.

Last week, on a whim, I decided that it would be fun, yes, I said fun, to challenge myself to an exercise in self-control. Little did I know just how much I would hate myself for making that decision.

How often do we really deny ourselves anything? I don't do it very often. When I want to eat something, I eat it. When I want to drink something, I drink it. All in moderation, of course. But the point is that when I want it, I have it. With this challenge, I cannot, under any circumstances, have what I want at the exact moment that I want it. I am training myself to delay my gratification.

My challenge began last Friday. For the next 3 weeks from Friday through Thursday, I will abstain from eating or drinking a favorite food or guilty indulgence.

WEEK 1 (April 27 - May 3) - No pasta or breads. It's Monday night, and I'm about ready to rip some one's head off. What on Earth was I thinking? I don't eat a whole lot of meat. I live on pasta and bread. I'm going crazy here!!!! Seriously, how much yogurt, salads, and nuts can one person eat??? Plus, I'm almost certain that eating my body weight in grilled chicken is not a good thing.

WEEK 2 (May 4 - 10) No sweets. OK, so when I am not eating pasta and bread, I am eating sweets. No candy, no licorice (my fave!), no Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate (another fave!), no dessert when we go out to dinner. My sweet tooth is going to be aching after this week.

WEEK 3 (May 11 - 17) No Starbucks or any other coffee shop, for that matter. I do not go to Starbucks on a daily basis. If I did, I'd probably be divorced by now. But there are times (several per week) when I am craving Starbucks. When I do, I beeline for the closest one and order up a Venti anything.

I had originally planned for my challenge to continue for 4 weeks. My final week was going to be a no alcohol week. It's not like I hit the bottle hard or anything, but I could do without the extra calories. Then I quickly realized that the weekend of May 18th is the GLO Cocktail Party, Bloggy Bootcamp, and we've just been invited to a graduation party in suburban Philly on Sunday. There is NO WAY that I can abstain from alcohol during that weekend.

So, follow along with me on Twitter so that you can stay up to date on my progress and also hear me rant about how miserable I am. ;-)

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.


Meet Me at Starbucks for Happy Hour

Saturday, April 28, 2012
You know how I love my Starbucks! You know how I love a good deal!

Well, coming this May, I'll enjoy both! You can't see it right now, but I am jumping up and down.
, o
Starbucks will celebrate Happy Hour or as I like to call it, "Frappy Hour" beginning Friday, May 4th and continuing through Sunday, May 13 between the hours of 3 pm and 5 pm. All frappuccinos are half-priced during this time frame. Grab a friend. Grab a neighbor or enjoy some quite time by yourself. Whatever you do, don't miss Starbucks' Happy Hour!

And because my girlfriend Nancy was the first to alert me to the upcoming happy hour, she'll get a free frappuccino (or two!!) on me. So, Nancy, let's make a date!! :)

Fabulous Finds at Payless

Friday, April 27, 2012
Payless Shoe Source is currently running its BOGO promotion. Buy one item, get the second for 50% off. Who doesn't love a good BOGO sale??

I stopped in the other day and picked up 2 pairs of wedges. Combined, both pairs cost me only $35!! Did I mention that my feet are really, really small and that Payless is one of the only places where I can find a size 5?

I needed a pair of navy shoes, so I went with these wedges. They are also available in black, white, and pink. This pair was $26.99.

I originally bought this pair in white, but after trying them on a million times with a million different outfits, I decided that the white wasn't doing it for me. I exchanged them for the black. It's hard to see, but there's a bow on the top by the open-toe. This pair was also $26.99.

So, all in I spent $35.53 on 2 pairs of shoes.

Here's the breakdown: 26.99 + 12.49 = $39.48 - 10% coupon = $35.53

The Payless BOGO sale continues through April 30th.

Fashion Friday: Beach Chic

Like it or not, summer is around the corner. In fact, Memorial Day weekend is a mere 29 days away. GASP!

This week I'm joining in on Fashion Friday with some recommendations for looking your chicest the moment your toes hit the sand.

Don't let all that time spent at the gym getting bikini-ready be overshadowed by bland accessories. Every bathing suit should be accompanied by knock-out accessories.

The Cover Up

Crocheted Cover Up - $88

Drawstring Cotton Tunic Cover Up - $88

You need a great pair of beach friendly sandals to complement that fresh pedicure! Find a waterproof pair so that sand easily washes off.
Plastic Thong Sandal from Call It Spring, $20

Rubber Sandal from French Connection, $60. Available here.

Tote Bags
What's a trip to the beach without a little baggage? Stow your beach gear in style with one of these bags.

Straw Market Tote Bag, $150 from Lands' End.

These colorful beach totes (designed for kids) can be used by adults as well, $50 Pottery Barn Kids.

Face protection is an absolute must! Plus, no one likes a sunburned scalp. :(

Jeanne Simmons Tan Wide Brimmed Straw Beach Hat, $27. Sears. GREAT DEAL!

Floppy Striped Hat from San Diego Hat Company. $58. Available in yellow, black, and coral. Available here.

Don't forget to protect your eyes, too!  Be sure to choose a pair that provides protection from ultraviolet radiation.

Channel Jackie O in these chic specs from Ray-Ban. $145.

Aviators are insanely popular right now, and these interchangeable sunglasses from Ray-Ban are a great deal at $155. Available here.

Hit the beach this summer by putting your best perfectly pedicured feet forward! 

Be sure to stop by the other Fashion Friday participants especially All Things Chic which is featuring some fun shoes by Sorel.

Wordless Wednesday: A Cloudy Beach Day

Wednesday, April 25, 2012
I am drawn to the beach on cloudy days. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it is about a gray day, the sand, the waves, the people, but I love it.

On Monday, I spent my lunch "break" at the beach taking pictures and people watching. It's the die-hard beach lovers who venture out on a brisk, windy day.

A fishing boat heading out to sea...

The walkway to the beach.

The waves were a surfer's delight.

A favorite greasy spoon.


My Athlete Crush: Barry Zito

Monday, April 23, 2012
Oh, come on! You know you have one too.

Let's be honest here. If it weren't for athlete crushes, women would have absolutely no reason to watch sports.

Find yourself a hottie to ogle, and your sports watching experience will be tolerable, even pleasurable.

I discovered my athlete crush about 10 years ago, shortly after Emma was born. The Hubs did the night time feedings. I'd crash into bed by 9:00 pm, and he'd stay up until 2:00 am and cover the baby feedings during that time. To keep him company, he ordered the MLB (Major League Baseball) channels on DirectTV so that he could watch the west coast games.

During one particular game, I woke and came into the room to check on things. The Hubs was watching an Oakland As game. I glanced at the TV, and did a double take when I saw the pitcher. Whoa!

Me: "Who's that guy?"

Hubs: "Why?"

Me: "No reason. Just curious."

Hubs: "You think he's good looking. Don't you?"

Me: "No. Please." Trying to muster my most serious tone.

Hubs: "You totally think he's hot. I know you!"

Me: "I mean, he's OK."

Hubs: "His name is Barry Zito, and just admit that you think he's good looking."

Me: "Fine." I said in my most casual tone. And back to bed I went.

And so, for the 10 years following that late night conversation, I've had a crush on Barry Zito. It hasn't been full-on, heavy panting for 10 years. But I've admired from afar, watched him during games, sometimes stalked him via Google and

What's not to like, right?

Do you have an athlete crush?


Rainy Day Play: Making a Hypnotizing Video

Sunday, April 22, 2012
Today was a rainy day, the first rainy day we've had here in the northeast in about 3 weeks. My kids were like fish out of water. They had no idea how to handle this type of weather. It's been beautiful and unseasonably warm for weeks. But they didn't fret. It wasn't long before they found something to occupy themselves.

They found my Flip lying around, and they went to work. This is a classic. I revel in their vivid and creative imaginations.


Top 5 "Pin" Picks of the Week

Friday, April 20, 2012
I have to admit...I haven't been on Pinterest much lately. Too many people trying to drive traffic to their blogs has kind of soured me a bit. Plus, my kids have had half days 4 out of 5 days this week and spring break last week. My "fun" time online has been very limited.

But I did manage to sneak in some time this week to pin a few goodies.

Here are my top 5 "pins" of the week.

1. We'd all like to be thought of in this manner.

2. My mind is on outdoor entertaining. These aluminum can luminaries are perfect for adding a glow to your evening.

3. Speaking of about a little Tradewind Punch? Pour me a glass, please!

4. If you are lacking outdoor space for gardening, here is a great alternative for growing herbs. This seriously rocks!

5. Lastly, this is hilarious. I turn to Web MD every time I have the slightest sniffle. And yes, I've walked away from the computer ranting to the Hubs that I have the worst kidney infection, gall stones, etc. I can completely relate.

Are you on Pinterest? Leave your user name in the comments so that I can follow you! You can find me here.

Is a Visit to London in Your Future?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
I can recall the first time I visited London. I LOVED it. So much so that I wanted to move there. But that's pretty typical of me. Every time I go somewhere for the first time, I usually want to move there. There are so many great things to see and do in London, including the trademark tourist traps such as Big Ben and the London Eye.
Photo belongs to Pieces of a Mom

I was in London, for the first time, for business about 12 years ago. I fell in love immediately. There was just one problem: the hotel room was small. Too small. I love to travel, but I hate leaving the comforts of home to stay in a hotel.

I know. I know. Everyone says, "You're not in the hotel that much. Deal with it." But seriously, I want the comforts of home when I travel, especially in a foreign city.

Would you like to visit London? Planning on making a trip there this summer for the Summer 2012 Olympic games? If so, you can find comfortable, reasonably priced London Apartments rather than hotels for your accommodations. For stays that last up to 5 or more nights, you can find reasonable rates at some of London's hottest and most central locations.

While you're in London, be sure to check out Westminster Abbey. It is stunning.
Photo belongs to Pieces of a Mom

And Buckingham Palace.
Photo belongs to Pieces of a Mom

Robert and Polly Arnold have 22 years of expertise in London apartments. They have lived their entire lives in London and have raised their 3 children in London taking in all the sights and activities that central London offers. Not only can they help you find a comfortable apartment, but they can also set you out on a sightseeing path in London.

Stay in hot spots such as Kensington, Notting Hill, Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Circus. Enjoy London hassle-free. Spend the day sightseeing and the evening relaxing in your very own apartment.  Don't leave the luxuries of home behind. Now, you can have them when you visit London.

Of course, no trip to London would be complete without the obligatory photo next to a telephone booth.
Photo belongs to Pieces of a Mom

Can you guess what was a must-see on my list? Yep, Shakespeare's Globe Theater. Oh, the drama that has taken place here!
Photo belongs to Pieces of a Mom

Are you a business traveler? Even better! If long-term business brings you to London, let Robert and Polly Arnold's expertise help you find London Apartments and settle into the London lifestyle. You may be a tourist or a business traveler, but you don't have to live like one while you're there.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed herein are my own. All photos are my own.

Meatless Monday: Black Bean, Spinach and Cheese Quesadillas

Monday, April 16, 2012
If you need a quick meal or snack, these black bean and spinach quesadillas will fit the bill perfectly. The beans provide protein. The spinach provides irons and minerals, and the cheese is loaded with calcium.


1-15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
8 oz. fresh spinach leaves, chopped
8 oz. bag shredded, part-skim cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
5 flour tortillas
Sour cream
Sliced avocado

1. Pour the black beans into a bowl and lightly smash with a potato masher. This will prevent them from rolling around on the tortilla.

2. Heat a grill pan or saute pan over medium heat. I use a grill pan since I like the grill marks that it makes on the quesadillas.

3. Place one tortilla in the pan. Spread about 2 tablespoons of beans evenly on half of the tortilla. Top with the chopped spinach. You can use a sprinkling or whatever amount you wish. Top about a tablespoon or so of shredded cheese.

4. Close the empty half of tortilla over the filled tortilla so that the contents heat through and the cheese melts.

5. In order to get the grill marks on the tortilla, I place a plate on top of the folded tortilla and place a small can on top to weigh it down.

6. After about 2 minutes, remove the can and plate (if using), and turn the tortilla. Replace the plate and can and cook for about another minutes.

7. Cut the tortilla into thirds and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with your favorite salsa, sour cream, and sliced avocado.


Fashion Friday ~ The Color of Summer: Tangerine

Friday, April 13, 2012
Bright, bold colors will be all the rage this summer, and you won't find a hotter color than tangerine.

This week, I am linking up with Fashion Friday and some of my favorite ladies including Whitney from Mommies With Style. Be sure to check out Whitney's Fashion Friday post this week where you could win a $100 Kohl's gift card.

But be careful. A little color goes a long way. So, while I certainly wouldn't advocate mixing all of these items into one look, you can stay on trend by adding a burst of tangerine to your look by incorporating one of these items into your complete outfit.

Lots of color. This dress from Old Navy will give you great overall color. Pair it with either neutral wedges or sandals and a bag in a similar hue, and you'll be good to go. Dress #30

If a dress is too much color for you, stick to either a pair of shorts or a top. I love these chino shorts from J. Crew. They would be perfect paired with a striped boat neck top. $45
I have no problem splurging on a bag, and this one is perfect for summer. It's roomy and you can fit everything you need for a day in the city, country, or the beach in it. Michael Kors Hamilton Large North South Tote $348.

If you suffer from chromophobia (fear of colors), stick to simple accessories that add a dash of color without being overwhelming.

These sandals, belt, and bracelet are the perfect choices for accents that are bold but not overbearing.
Sandals, Nine West, "wewantit" $79

Belt, Michael Kors, $35

Bracelet, Wide Orange Boho Style Flower Bangle, $39

And don't forget your makeup. Your face will be the one that stands out in the crowd when you add this pop of color to your lips.

Revlon Color Burst Lip Butter in Tutti Fruitt, $7, drug stores or


Fifty Shades of Grey: Everybody Else Is Reading It, So Why Aren't You?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I downloaded the first book last Tuesday. Within a week, I had finished reading the entire trilogy. I'm not going to lie. There were piles of laundry, dishes in the sink, and dust bunnies in the corners. Once you pick up the first book, be prepared to ignore everyone and everything in your path.

Why was I so obsessed? Why is every woman obsessed with the steamy trilogy from newcomer E.L. James?

Here's my take on the literary obsession. I must give full disclosure here. I have an English degree and have read and dissected the classics. Having said that, here we go...

The writing is fair at best. James draws us in with the subject matter not the writing. For most readers, the world portrayed in the trilogy is not one in which we inhabit. It's disturbing yet fascinating, and that makes for an obsessive novel indeed. It's like a train wreck. You can't watch and yet you can't turn away. The trilogy will never go down in history as a literary classic, but then again, I don't think that was James' intent. She wrote to appeal to the masses, and she exceeded her goal in doing so. I did enjoy that every so often she threw a word in that required the use of a dictionary.

James does an excellent job of character development throughout the trilogy. The transformations of both Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele are well done. In 'Fifty Shades of Grey' we meet a very troubled young man, Christian Grey, who hides behind his well-groomed exterior. The revelations about Grey are shocking and continue throughout the trilogy. Anastasia Steele is an inexperienced young woman who oscillates between rebellion and submission as if her life depends on it. Her emotional struggle in book 1 is heartbreaking. She is proof that we truly tread a fine line between pleasure and pain.

Greys' revelations in 'Fifty Shades Darker" give us hope that there is hope for this troubled young man. We see a man who slowly begins to come into his own and accept and understand the past. It is with Steele's unfaltering love, affection, and devotion that Grey finally makes some emotional progress. Steele makes progress in finally accepting that this beautiful, troubled man may genuinely love her. She sheds some of her insecurities and backs off from relentlessly badgering Grey about his past sexual indiscretions.

In Fifty Shades Freed, James takes a departure from the salacious sex scenes and adds some drama and suspense to a plot line that was generally lacking them. In this book we see Anastasia's transformation from a timid young woman to a determined, self-confident woman, who ultimately becomes the heroine despite Christian's efforts to be the gallant one throughout the 3 books.

As troubled and disturbed as we find Grey to be, it's impossible not to like this guy. He's sexy. He will melt you with both his soft, whispering words as well as his forceful, demanding ones. And let's admit, his sexual preferences are intriguing. And Anastasia's pleasurable responses make us even more curious.

Why do we love these books? Well, for starters, I think most women want to be taken care of on some level, and Grey satisfies that need. Many of today's moms, have a "do it all" attitude. It can become tiring being the strong one day in and day out. Having someone else make the decisions and take the initiative are part of the appeal of these books. Also, let's not kid ourselves. We've all got sexual fantasies. In this book, we can explore them vicariously through Grey and Steele. It's raunchy, and let's face it, most women don't get that in the bedroom. It's a novelty, and it's mindless entertainment. It's also taboo and twisted, and who doesn't love that in a book every once in a blue moon? Plus, I'd guess that the trilogy has ignited a spark or two in bedrooms of readers.

Whether you love or hate the books, they have definitely been a topic of discussion at play dates and school pickup lines. I've been guilty of texting girlfriends and commenting on Facebook status' pertaining to the book.

As full of sex as these books are, they are not about sex. They are about the metamorphoses of two appealing characters who we cheer on from the moment they meet. We feel their excruciating pain and their overwhelming joy. We hold out hope for a happy ending.

But, alas, you must read the books to discover if that happy ending ever comes.

Budding Chefs: Garden Cookies

Monday, April 9, 2012
Our local libraries have some really cute programs and activities for children. Since starting kindergarten, Harper hasn't had a chance to take advantage of the programs since they occur during the day. But since it's spring break this week, her Daisy troop leader registered the girls for a fun "cooking" activity today. What a fun idea!

They made garden cookies: little boxes with carrots. How cute is this?

It's a bit messy, but the kids had a ton of fun making the mess!

4 vanilla sugar wafer cookies
A generous tablespoon of chocolate icing
2 chocolate wafer cookies
Sandwich size plastic bag
3 orange Mike & Ike candies
3 green Mike & Ike candies

Assemble the garden box by gluing 3 vanilla sugar wafers together. Break the last wafer into w pieces and glue the pieces to the ends of the box using the chocolate icing as glue.

Place the chocolate sugar wafers in the plastic bag and crush them. Add the crushed wafers to the remaining chocolate icing. Mix well. This will be the soil.

Spoon the chocolate wafer and icing mixture into the garden box.

Using your thumb, smash the green candies to flatten them. Using a paring knife, cut 3 slits in the top of the candies to form leaves.

Using the knife, split each orange candy in half lengthwise about half-way.

Place the green "leaves" into the orange candies to form carrots. Gently close the orange candy around the green one.

"Plant" the carrots into the soil.

My proud little gardener showing off the fruits of her labor!


Dying Eggs = Express Train to Stressville

Friday, April 6, 2012
Just the thought of dying Easter eggs fills me with dread. The nasty smell of the eggs, the dye, the vinegar, the water, the practically overflowing cups. It's a huge mess waiting to happen, and I don't do messes well.

Today, I sucked it up and dyed eggs with Emma and Harper. Weeks ago, we bought the dye kit, and ever since, Harper has been begging to dye the eggs. I was able to put her off for weeks, saying that the eggs would spoil before Easter. But I promised that today would be the day, and sure enough, she held me to that promise.

From the moment I laid the first piece of newspaper until the moment I washed the last cup, I was a bundle of nerves. Surely, it's for times like these that Xanax was created. Too bad I didn't have any.

Before we started, I ran out to Starbucks to get a drink. I needed something to get me through this. Wine would have been my first choice, but it was 3:30 in the afternoon.

The anxiety-inducing eggs...

Why do they insist on playing with the eggs? Really? Why can't they just let them be?

That drink that was supposed to help calm my nerves? Yeah, I didn't get to drink much of it.

But then, I see the smiling face of a happy little girl, and all the anxieties melt away. And I know that it's worth all the stress.

So, tell me. Is egg dying stressful or a walk in the park for you?

Wordless Wednesday: Springtime Friends

Wednesday, April 4, 2012
My neighbors have arrived for the season...looking for food.


Convert Coins using #NOFEECoinstar at Stop & Shop {#CBias}

Monday, April 2, 2012
Do you remember the days when you had to roll your coins in wrappers and take them to the bank for redemption?

I do!

It was a tedious and time-consuming process.

Thank goodness those days are long gone. Thanks to Coinstar's coin conversion kiosks, converting coins is simple and convenient. Depending on which option you choose for redemption, you can avoid the steep 9.8% conversion fee.

We've been collecting coins in a bucket for quite some time. The coins usually don't last long, as my daughters don't have a whole lot of patience to wait for the collection to grow. In the past, we've gone to a local bank to use the conversion machine, but unless you are an account holder, you pay a service fee. The service fee has steadily been climbing over the years, and is now a whopping 9.5%. Yikes.

I recently learned that Coinstar now offers other options for redemption other than cash, which is assessed a service fee of 9.8%. Did you know that Coinstar kiosks in Stop & Shop stores offer you the option of converting your coins to a Stop & Shop gift card with no fee? Yep! That's right. I love this idea. We all shop for groceries. So what better way to use our coins than for a Stop & Shop gift card??

The #NOFEECoinstar kiosks are located in the front of the Stop & Shop stores. You can miss them!

I loved the clever signage!

We gathered our change and headed to Stop & Shop.

There are 3 options for conversion: cash, gift cards or eCertificates or donate to charity.

The service fee applies only to the cash voucher. There are several options for gift card or eCerts:

How fabulous is this? Seriously. I had absolutely no idea that this type of conversion existed. I thought it was cash voucher only, and a service fee would apply. Those service fees are a real bummer. I loved learning that there are options other than the cash.

It was showtime! We loaded our first batch of coins.

If you choose a Stop & Shop gift card or an eCertificate, both are issued directly by the Coinstar kiosk. There is no need to take a voucher to Customer Service to redeem it. I love this! There is a little bit of a wait time for your card or eCert to come out of the machine, but it's worth it if it means I'm not paying a fee.

Voila! There's my Stop & Shop gift card!!

I retrieved my card and headed back into the main shopping area of Stop & Shop. There's a Stop & Shop around the corner from my home, so I frequently pop in there to pick up items throughout the week. On this particular trip, I needed a few items for the school lunches and snacks throughout the week.

I was quickly sidetracked by magazines.

We headed for the Lunchables. We don't normally buy these, but the kids like the pizza and the chips & salsa Lunchables. I allow those, and the prices at Stop & Shop this week were great!

It's always good to have a little help when shopping.

We will definitely be back to use the Coinstar kiosk again. Saving those coins really pays off!

For more information about Coinstar, visit the Web site at "Like" Coinstar on Facebook and follow Coinstar on Twitter.

To find a Stop & Shop near you, visit the Web site at "Like" Stop & Shop on Facebook to stay up to date on all the sales and in-store promotions.

To see my full Coinstar experience, please visit my Google+ story.

Disclosure: I have been paid (at Coinstar's request) to try and blog about Coinstar's products/services as part of a Collective Bias shopper insight's study. All opinions are my own.