Decoding Your Produce: What Those Little Stickers Mean

Monday, July 30, 2012
Think those stickers on produce are just for the check-out staff? Think again.

The next time you reach for an apple, be sure to pay close attention to the sticker {PLU}. Those numbers hold a wealth of information and are intended to benefit you, the consumer. Since produce doesn't come with nutrition labels, they are given stickers to help consumers identify pertinent nutrition information.

If a PLU (price look up) sticker has 4 digits and begins with either the numbers "3" or "4", the produce has been conventionally grown and treated with weed killers and chemical pesticides.

If a PLU sticker has 5 digits and begins with the number "9", the produce has been organically grown and has not been treated with toxic chemicals.

If a PLU sticker has 5 digits and begins with the number "8", the produce contains a genetically modified organism {GMO}. GMOs are introduced into produce when a farmer intervenes by manipulating the genes of the produce in order to grow a larger or brighter colored produce). Think steroids for your produce. This produce may or may not have also been treated with chemical pesticides.

These codes were first introduced in the 1990s, around the same time that GMOs were first introduced into our food stream. PLU stickers are used by grocery stores and supermarkets to simplify check out and inventory control processes. PLU stickers are affixed to produce using small stickers. While the sticker itself is not edible, the adhesive is.

The next time you are at the supermarket, be sure to look at the stickers. Those numbers are trying to tell you something.

Be sure to check out the "dirty" dozen (a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that you should buy organic).

Wordless Wednesday: East Coast Sunset

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
I know...a true sunset occurs on the left coast, but we've been having amazing sunrises and sunsets here on the right coast all summer long.

I'm not sure if the extreme heat is to blame for the marvelous colors, but if so, that's one good thing we can attribute to the 95 degree days.

Last night the girls and I took a walk by the Manasquan Inlet after dinner. The views were spectacular.

I love how the pinks and oranges are reflected in the water.

The picture below was taken facing east as the sun was setting.


We Have a Right to Know What's in Our Food

Do you remember the saying "You are what you eat"?

I can remember that good ol' saying being thrown around constantly in my childhood years. But no one ever really explained to me what it meant. All the grown ups just liked saying it.

If you are what you eat, do you know what you are?

Do you know what you are eating? Do you really know what is in the food that you are eating?

For most of us, ignorance is bliss. The less we know, the better off we are. I certainly adopted that way of thinking for years. I know now that it was less about ignorance and more about lack of knowledge. I wasn't turning a blind eye. I was just clueless.

Like so many others, I thought that if a product is on my grocery store shelf, it's okay to eat it.

It wasn't until my now 6 year old would complain of a bellyache after each meal that it occurred to me that the food she was consuming could be the culprit.

Shortly after the bellyaches began, I was invited to attend this luncheon. The information I received at the luncheon would transform the way I approached food.

What I learned at this luncheon was astonishing. Did you know that most of the food on the shelves of our grocery stores contain some sort of toxic ingredients? Yep. Scary. From food dyes to artificial sweeteners to preservatives. You can bet that if it's in a box (with the exception of dried pasta and organic foods), it contains a chemical preservative. But it's all right there on the label for you to see.

Except for genetically engineered foods.

What is a genetically engineered food?

A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Because this involves the transfer of genes, GMOs are also known as “transgenic” organisms.

It’s estimated that 70% of our food on grocery shelves contains GMOs, compared to only 5% in Europe. The early 1990s the FDA allowed all sorts of things into our food supply such as additives, preservatives, and GMOs. Since then we’ve had some significant changes to the health of our children. According to Healthy Child Healthy World these are stats about differences in illness in children since early 1990s.
There's been a 400% increase in food allergies in children. Do you recall attending elementary school with children who had food allergies? My guess is no. We never had peanut-free tables in the cafeteria. No one had allergies. But that was before the 1990s.
Asthma rates in children have increased 300%. ADHD rates have increased 400%, and autism rates have increased a staggering 1500%.
The prospect of understanding our food is overwhelming and intimidating. Many adopt a mantra of ignorance is bliss. But we have a right to know what's in our food. I certainly want to know what's in my food. Labeling is an issue we can all stand behind. Everyone has to eat. We should at least know what we are eating. Surprisingly, both Republicans and Democrats are equal supporters of labeling GMOs.
Currently California has an initiative on the ballot to label genetically engineered foods in packages. It’s Prop 37. #Yeson37 means that companies manufacturing packaged foods have till January of 2014 to re-label everything on grocery store shelves. Never before have the people had a chance to vote on this issue. Until today, it’s only been the legislature. BUT the opposition is spending in between $60-100 million to confuse the voters about what this is about. And we have a an uphill from now till November.

I have recently become part of the Evangelist Team supporting Prop. 37. This team is dedicated to reaching all Californians by November and eventually bringing this legislation to all 50 states. Don't you want to know what's in your food?

Would you like to join the Evangelist Team? Prop. 37 is enlisting the help of bloggers all over the United States and Canada to help educate everyone about the opportunity we have RIGHT NOW in November. If we can change the labeling laws in California we may be changing labeling all over the United States in the process. If everyone talks about the Prop. 37 online, we WILL reach most Californians.
We all have a right to know what is in our food. And supporting this proposition and reaching California voters is also a vote for the rest of the nation. Throwing some of your influence at this issue can really make a difference because it’s very likely that if this is passed in California, it will get rolled out nationwide by most companies. It would be cost prohibitive not to.
Here are some additional ways you can help.
1. Talk about this issue as much as you can from now till November. Use both hashtags #yeson37 & #labelgmos when doing so.
2. Help us get some celebrities on board. Tweet at who you think could really help us and ask them where they stand on the issue.
3. Help us recruit other Evangelists. You can tweet this message:
Passionate about labeling #GMOs? Join #CARighttoknow Evangelist Team to make a difference! #yeson37
4. Join our twitter chat on August 10th from 10-11pm EST/7-8pm PST. SAVE THE DATE. (Post to come)
5. Write a post for us about Labeling GMOs the week of August 10th and let your audience know about our twitter chat
6. Share this post on Facebook.

Additional Resources:


Meatless Monday: Caprese Salad with Avocado

Monday, July 23, 2012
I can never figure out what to have for lunch. I'm usually craving a yummy sandwich or a salad, but I end up making a disgusting pb & j that is hardly fit for a 4 year old. Yuck.

But in the spring and summer months, I am completely inspired. The variety of fresh and local ingredients make it so simple and quick to whip up a light, delicious, and nutritious lunch.

Last week, I threw together a caprese salad with a twist. I added sliced avocado, and let me tell you, it was amazeballs! It was so yummy that I didn't want to share it.

Caprese Salad with Avocado

This salad is simple to prepare.

Ingredients (use as much or a little as you like)
Tomatoes (I used a yellow one. You can use a red, heirloom, roma, or cherry or any combination).
Fresh mozzarella
Olive oil for drizzling
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Basil for garnish, optional

1. Slice the tomatoes, mozzarella, and avocado. (For instructions on pitting an avocado, click here).

2. Arrange on a platter, alternating between the three ingredients.

3. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Top with basil, if using.

What Losing a Parent Will Teach You

Sunday, July 22, 2012
It is 5 years ago today that I lost my mother. Five long yet short years. At the time, I never thought the grieving would end.

At the time, I felt so much sadness that I never thought that I'd see her death as an opportunity to learn and re-evaluate my own life. But eventually as the months and even the years passed, I allowed myself the chance to move beyond the grief to get to a place where I could learn from the experience.

Here are a few of my discoveries.

1. It's so cliche, but it's also very true: life is short. The days are long. The years are short. Time moves at lightning speed. Take advantage of every moment you get to spend with your parents.

2. No matter how many loving and supporting women you have in your life, no one will ever take the place of your mother.

3. I've become painfully aware of my own mortality. There's nothing like the death of a parent to remind you that one day you will die as well. Live your life to its fullest. Do the things you've always wanted to do. Live with a purpose and without fear.

4. It is so important to take care of yourself and pay attention to your body. Call it women's intuition. Call it what you will. We know our bodies the best, and we know when something is just not right. Since my mother's death, I visit my primary care physician yearly. I've learned that I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol as a result of my mother's death. I see a cardiologist yearly as well. Don't ignore warning signs!!!

5. Leave a legacy. It's when we die that we are most spoken of. Give people only good things to say about you.

Starbucks Introduces Refreshers™

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Last Friday, Starbucks rolled out it's newest coffee invention to its loyal masses. Refreshers™ are intended to be a delight for your taste buds as well as the ultimate thirst quencher and natural energy booster.

Photo credit: Starbucks

Unlike Starbucks' traditional coffee drinks, Refreshers™ contain green coffee extract, a natural source of energy that doesn't taste like coffee. Green coffee extract is essentially un-roasted Arabica coffee beans. Coffee gets its taste from the roasting process. Since the beans used in Refreshers™ aren't roasted, there's no coffee taste, but the energizing powers of coffee are still there.

Refreshers™ are iced beverages that are available in 2 flavors: Cool Lime (with real lime) and Very Berry Hibiscus (with whole blackberries). They are light and are perfect for hot summer days when you want something that will both quench your thirst and taste good.

I love the teas and non-coffee based drinks that Starbucks offers. So I was excited to try Refreshers™. Available in 3 forms (see image above), Refreshers™ are easy to grab on the go or to prepare in your own kitchen.

I loved the Very Berry Hibiscus. I enjoyed the whole blackberries, and the flavor was fruity but not overbearing. However, the Cool Lime tasted like watered down cough syrup with a bad aftertaste of spicy Indian food. Yeah, strange.

I was lucky to find a few samples out at my local Starbucks, and I'm glad that I did. I would've been disappointed to have spent money on a drink that I didn't like. I have since returned to purchase a tall Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher. I would recommend sticking with a tall rather than larger size. The drinks are potent in terms of taste. Anything larger than a tall is too much flavor.

But overall, I have to say that Starbucks got it right yet again. No big surprise there.

Wordless Wednesday: Documenting a Train Ride

The Hubs and I were lucky enough to enjoy an overnight stay in NYC over the weekend WITHOUT the kids. We took the train in on Friday afternoon and returned to New Jersey on Saturday.

As much I should have been reading or doing something productive, I was in no mood. Without the distraction of the kids, I just wanted to look out the window. Don't you ever feel like doing that? All I wanted to do was observe my surroundings. To drink in the beauty of the urban landscape.

Just as our train was leaving the station on our return trip, I decided to document the journey through photos.

{Leaving Penn Station}

Now, as I look back at these pictures, I am so glad that I took the time to capture the ride home.

Note: All photos were taken with the iPhone.


WINNER: $50 Whole Foods Gift Card

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

She is the lucky winner of a $50 gift card to Whole Food Market and a prize pack from Stonyfield Farm.

Didn't win this time? Don't fret. Another giveaway will be posted by the end of the week.


A Welcome Change: Unplugging on the Weekends

Monday, July 16, 2012
At the beginning of the summer, I decided to take back my weekends. The writing, blogging, and tweeting would stop on the weekends, and Facebook-ing would be kept to a minimum.

Some of you are reading this now with jaws to the floor asking yourselves, "Why would she want to do that?"

Here's why:
  • I want to spend time with my children and husband without distraction. I don't want my daughter yelling at me from the end of a diving board insisting that I look at her rather than at my phone.
  • I want to live in the moment and for the moment. I don't want to hear about the missed moments hours later from my family...with snarky commentary about how I missed the moment because my face was in my phone or in my laptop.
  • My children are a much larger investment for me than my blog. This is not to say that a decision anyone else is making is any less noble. We all do what is right for us. If I had larger readership, advertising, etc., my choice may be very different.
  • It will be there on Monday morning.
I've actually felt a huge relief since deciding to fully commit myself to my weekends. I don't have the feelings of guilt that I once had. I don't question where I should be spending my time. I've created work hours and family hours, and I'm sticking to them.

Not only has it been liberating, but it has also helped me to manage my priorities and my time.

It's been a win-win!

Wordless Wednesday: Frog Pond

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Tranquil and serene.


WINNER: Adora Calcium Supplements Giveaway

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

She is the lucky winner of 2 bags of Adora calcium supplements.

Didn't win this time? Don't fret. Enter our current giveaway to win a $50 gift card to Whole Foods Market.

Menu Plan Monday ~ 7.9.12

Monday, July 9, 2012
It's going to be a bizeeeeee week here. Camps are in full swing. We have plans to meet some new friends at the beach tomorrow. I've got a blogger event at the boardwalk on Wednesday. Thursday is filled with camp, tennis, speech therapy, and errands. Friday is camp and play dates, and the Hubs and are off to NYC to meet friends for dinner (yay!) in the evening. Plus, we'll be staying overnight (without the kids!!!). Yeah, there will be lots of woo hoos coming from me on Friday.

So let's get on with this week's meal plan.

{Monday} London Broil on the grill with store bought pasta salad and sliced tomatoes. 

{Tuesday} Cavatelli with broccoli with an arugula salad

{Wednesday} Slow cooker chicken tacos (recipe here)

{Thursday} Dinner at the park. Harper's kindergarten class is reuniting for some summer fun including pizza, play, and the Point Pleasant Beach fireworks!!

{Friday} The Hubs and I are meeting friends in NYC for dinner. My sister is watching the girls overnight, so she's in charge of feeding them!!

{Saturday} Chicken and steak kebabs on the grill, pasta salad (homemade), and corn on the cob.

{Sunday} Beef sliders - Contest. We top our own and judge who made it the best!! Fun! We'll serve them with potato salad.


Weekend Fun: Mother-Daughter Date

Sunday, July 8, 2012
I don't often get the opportunity to spend the day with just one of my girls. A few hours here and there maybe, but an entire day? No. Rarely happens.

But yesterday was an exception. Emma was off to Girl Scout camp for the day, and so Harper and I decided to have a Mommy/Daughter date day. We had a day of fun planned.

It started with breakfast and some girl chat at Starbucks. Harper had her favorite, the morning bun (a yummy, flaky roll covered in cinnamon sugar ~ although it looks like a hamburger in this picture).

We went back home where I played manicurist for an hour. Oh, be patient. You'll get a gander at my handiwork in the last picture in this post. We ventured out again. This time, we hit the movies. We saw Brave, but much of the time Harper's face was buried in my chest. It was scarier than I thought it was going to be. Big scary bears. But we did get a good laugh at these little guys running around bottomless!

Why is it necessary for a movie theater to have arcade games? Really? Isn't the movie entertainment enough?? Nothing but concentration on that face.

We ended our afternoon with some frozen yogurt. I love these places that are popping up all over where you can make your own...from serving it to the toppings. She loaded her cup with a little yogurt and lots of sprinkles and gummi bears. 
And how about those nails??? Special days call for special nails. :)

Hope you had a great weekend too!

Fashion Friday: Printed Pants

Friday, July 6, 2012
Move over colored jeans. It's time for printed pants to take center stage.

Printed pants are having their day in the sun. From skinny to wide-leg and soft, subtle prints to bright, floral and geometric prints, printed pants are are everywhere, and they are not going away any time soon.

They are some styling tricks though. Be sure to opt for a bold colored blouse rather than a printed one so that the pants do all the talking. If you are just not ready to take the plunge into bold colors, opt for a pale print such as the pair below from Free People.

Here are a few of my faves:
Feather Printed Cropped Skinny by Free People (available here for  $50)

Scarf Printed Pant by River Island (available here for $35)

Mixed Media Printed Trousers by Lucca (available here for $64)

Be sure to check out what others are raving about this week in fashion. You won't want to miss Jo-Lynne's jaunt to NYC for a photo shoot for Cosmopolitan Magazine!!!


Be a Food Superhero & $50 Whole Foods Gift Card Giveaway

Thursday, July 5, 2012
Do you know your food? I mean, do you really know what you are putting into your body?

Do you know if it is whole or processed? Do you understand the difference between the two?

It's never too late to know your food. The best way to get started is to become a Stonyfield Food Superhero!! What's a Food Superhero? Food Superheroes know their food and make food choices that protect their health, family farmers, animals, and the planet.

For each Food Superhero that is created, Stonyfield will donate $1 to FoodCorpsa national nonprofit organization that addresses childhood health through food by working directly in schools in limited-resource communities. 

I've been working closely with Stonyfield Farm as a Yo-Getter brand ambassador over the past year to help educate Pieces of a Mom readers on the importance of making the switch to organic foods, especially dairy products.

But now, we are taking it one step further to encourage you to really get to know the food that you are eating, to know the good, the bad, and the ugly and to do so for a good cause.

Stonyfield is generously giving ONE lucky Pieces of a Mom reader a $50 gift card to WHOLE FOODS MARKET in order to purchase foods that make you a Stonyfield Food Superhero, a Stonyfield "Food Superhero" cape, a FREE 6oz Stonyfield coupon, and some temporary tattoos.

You have several options, and each will count as one entry (as long as you've followed the specific instructions listed below). This giveaway is limited to US residents 18 years old and above only. All entries must be submitted by 11:59 pm EDT, July 16, 2012. One winner will be chosen via and notified by email. Winner will have 24 hours to respond to claim the prize. If winner fails to do so within the allotted time frame, a new winner will be chosen.

1. Required entry: Create a Food Superhero profile at Come back to this post and leave a comment with your Food Superhero name. Please be sure to include your email address in the required entry.

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

3. {Optional}: Tweet the following "Create a @Stonyfield Food Superhero and be entered to win a $50 gift card to @WholeFoods from @PiecesofaMom Pls RT". Leave a comment stating that you tweeted. Include a link to the tweet.

4. {Optional}: Follow Stonyfield Organic on TwitterLeave a comment stating that you do so.

5. {Optional}: Follow Whole Foods Market on TwitterLeave a comment stating that you do so.


For more information about Stonyfield Organic, visit the Facebook page.

For more information about Whole Foods Market, visit the Facebook page.

To stay in the loop of Pieces of Mom's giveaways, please "like" our Facebook page.

*Per Facebook rules, you do not receive giveaway entries for "liking" Facebook pages.

Disclosure: I am participating in the "Food Superhero" campaign as part of Stonyfield's Yo-Getter brand ambassador program. I was not compensated to write this post. All opinions are my own.

By entering this giveaway, you agree to the rules and regulations noted above.

Wordless Wednesday: Fireworks

Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Happy 4th of July!!! What's the holiday without fireworks? Last night we saw a great show in a neighboring beach town. I was finally able to take some good shots (after many unsuccessful attempts).


Meal Plan Monday 7.2.12

Monday, July 2, 2012
Everything seems to run smoother when I have a meal plan in place. So it always surprises me that I don't meal plan more often. Now, with summer in full swing, and camp and activities starting this week and next week, it's optimal that I have a plan for dinner each evening.

My goal is to use both my slow cooker and outdoor grill as often as possible. The slow cooker is perfect for busy days of running errands, chauffering the kids and long afternoons spent at the beach or pool.

{Monday}  Newman's Own Margherita frozen pizza with a mixed greens salad.

{Tuesday}  Slow Cooker Taco Soup (recipe here)

{Wednesday}  We'll be attending a 4th of July party.

{Thursday}  Shrimp Tacos (recipe courtesy of Right Hand Mom}

{Friday}  Dinner out

{Saturday}  Grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts, roasted corn and tomato salad, and grilled zucchini

{Sunday}  Pulled Buffalo Chicken Sliders (recipe courtesy of Family Circle) served on King's Hawaiian Slider Rolls and Orzo Salad with Feta and Cucumbers (recipe courtesy of Kings Food Markets)

For more menu planning inspiration, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what other will be munching on this week.