Back to School: 5 Tips for a Smooth Transition on Meridian Momtourage

Thursday, August 30, 2012
Are you one of those people who scrambles at the last minute to get your act together for the back to school rush?

At one point, I was THAT mom. On the day before the first day, I was out shopping for supplies, a lunchbox, a backpack, new sneakers, and a first day outfit. I learned the hard way, but there's no need for you to learn it that way.

My latest contribution on Meridian Momtourage offers 5 tips for making a smooth transition into back to school mode.


Wordless Wednesday: Sunrise {Rehoboth Beach}

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
One of my favorite parts of our annual vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is the sunrise. There is just something about the promise of a new day.

Waiting for the sun to come up...

Sun. Sun. Sun. Here it comes.


We Spent the Afternoon with a Gold Medalist: Christie Rampone

Monday, August 27, 2012
One of the many benefits of being a blogger for Meridian Momtourage is that we are invited to a lot of fun and cool events. One of those events was a victory celebration for the captain of the U.S. women's soccer team, Christie Rampone.

Rampone, a Jersey shore native, was welcomed home by Meridian Health on Friday with a victory celebration. It was full of people who were excited and proud to welcome home their hometown hero. It started out with a throng of people waiting anxiously to see the gold medalist.

In addition to my own young daughters, there were so many young women there to cheer on their role model. It is wonderful to have a gold medalist in our community who can share her experiences with the crowd.

I even had an opportunity to get up on stage and ask a question of Ms. Rampone. She offered some advice on balancing motherhood and a career. Her best tip: to know and accept that you can't do it all. Divide your time as best as you can and whether you are focusing on motherhood or your career at the time, give it your 110%.

The confetti was flying!

I'm always looking for a good excuse to see my fellow Momtourage bloggers. This event was the perfect excuse!

What a fantastic way to spend the afternoon!

Friday Fun: Vacation Bound!!

Friday, August 24, 2012
This week has kicked my ass.

It has been non-stop since the wee hours of Monday morning. Some of it fun. Some of it not so much.

Like the root canal I had at 9:15 on Tuesday morning. Fun? Not so much.

There was one thing and one thing only getting me through this week: a family vacation with my three sisters and their respective families.

After my parents passed away years ago, we vowed to keep our annual vacation tradition alive. We haven't missed a year since.

We are heading to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on Saturday morning. It's a week of bonding, relaxing, laughing, and re-connecting. It's a week we eagerly anticipate all year long.

And for good reason. We love being together. It's just that simple.

Do you take vacations with extended family?


Wordless Wednesday: Amusement Parks

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Every summer should include a trip to the boardwalk or an amusement park.

Night swinging

Paratrooping at night...


The Letter that Landed My Daughter on the Safety Patrol

Monday, August 20, 2012
My soon-to-be fifth grader has been a ball of stress all summer about becoming a safety patrol.

It's serious business. It's serious responsibility. Only about 25 children are invited to become safety patrols. I don't know how many applied, but there are about 120 children in her grade.

Before the end of her 4th grade year, all interested candidates were asked to submit an essay stating why they wanted to be a safety patrol and what qualities they demonstrate that would make them an ideal safety patrol.

Last Saturday, we received a letter from the school's principal and vice-principal inviting Emma to become a safety patrol. She was thrilled! We were proud.

Here is the essay that secured her a spot in the elite group.

I didn't help her write the essay. Both she and I  insisted that she does it on her own, using her own words and ideas.

She must have really "wowed" them!! I think it was the "happy as clowns" part. ;-)

So proud of my big girl.


Friday Fun: Fab Late Summer Finds from Banana Republic & Old Navy

Friday, August 17, 2012
Let's start by saying if you are not on the email lists for Gap, Old Navy, or Banana Republic, you need to get on them. At least once per week, they send an email early in the morning informing you of a Flash Sale, a rapid sale. Flash Sales are very small windows of opportunity for you to pick up merchandise at rock bottom prices.

I scored big at Banana Republic recently when it offered a Flash Sale on a Saturday morning. All clearance items were marked down an additional 40% from opening til 1 pm ... oh, and I just happened to be in NYC that morning just blocks from the Fifth Avenue store. Yeah, I was so there!!

I picked up 2 pairs of light summer pants.
The white pair are the Logan fit. They were $15.99 before the markdown. $11.99 after!!!!! Cuh-Razy!!!

The grey pair are the Sloan fit. Although it's difficult to see in this picture, they have thin white stripes running vertically. I loved the waist band. They were $24.99 before the markdown, and $18.74 after!!!! SCORE!!

I've been looking for a pair of white shorts but haven't had luck finding a pair that I love. I tried this pair on and immediately loved the fit but not the length of the leg. I am taking them to the tailor today to have her make them shorter. I'm thinking a 5" inseam.
They were $26.99 before the markdown and $16.19 after.

How long or short do you prefer to wear your shorts? Join the Facebook discussion. I'd love to know!

I found these 2 cute tank tops. They are cotton, but not ribbed. I loved the way they fit. They were form fitting but not too tight.

And because nautical is so hot this summer, I picked up this striped boat neck top. It was also available in turquoise and yellow.
It was $19.99 before the markdown and $11.99 after.

Lastly, I bought this sun hat. I'll probably never wear it. But it's here just in case. It's was $5.99. How could I not buy it?

Now on to Old Navy...

At least once per week, I pop into Old Navy to check out the clearance section. It truly is hit or miss. Some weeks I find 5 or 6 items that I like. Other weeks I walk out empty-handed. And in most cases, I find something I like but not love. On Wednesday, I found 2 pieces that I L-O-V-E.

There was no additional markdown on clearance items, and I was bummed about that. But I was certain that  if I waited for an additional markdown, these 2 items would be long gone.

The top was $10.97 and the dress was $14.99. Although I didn't get an additional markdown, I did walk out of the store with $10 in Old Navy SUPERCASH to spend later. Woo hoo!!

Have you been scouring the stores for end-of-summer sales? If so, have you found any must-haves?


Wordless Wednesday: Scenes from the PA Countryside

Wednesday, August 15, 2012
I spent last weekend in central Pennsylvania visiting my sister. I was born and raised here, among rolling hills and bucolic farms. I never appreciated it as a kid or a young adult. But now when I return, I am mesmerized by the beauty of this area during the summer months.

I think so much of it has to do with my switch to clean and natural foods and knowing from where my foods come. As a result, I couldn't get enough of admiring the farms.


Zarbee's: Effective and Natural Cold Remedies for Children and Adults

Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Yes. I said adults. I thought Zarbee's products are for children only. I learned differently at BlogHer. This September, Zarbee's will be expanding its product line to include a brand new line of cough products for adults and children 12 and up.

I mentioned in my BlogHer recap that one of the highlights for me was connecting with brands and products about which I am passionate. I was thrilled to meet representatives from Zarbee's, the manufacturer of the #1 drug-free cough remedy for the entire family.

I have been on a quest to rid our medicine cabinet of the medications that contain harmful chemicals, such as conventional cough and cold remedies. When I first learned of Zarbee's several months ago, I was elated to finally have a drug-free option for my children.

Zarbee's was developed by one of the country's top pediatrician's, Zak Zarbock, M.D. In 2008, The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) found it unsafe to give any of the current children's cough syrups to children under the age of four. At the time, I had a 2 year old, and I struggled with what to give her when she suffered from a cough.

Dr. Zarbock, both a pediatrician and a parent, shared my frustration that there was no option for offering any relief to his young patients or his own children for coughs and sore throats. He was determined to create a safe and effective natural remedy that he could recommend to his patients and feel good about it. His research led him to discover that dark honeys were more effective at suppressing and calming coughs and sore throats than drug-based cough syrups. As a result, Zarbee's cough syrups were born, and parents now had a natural alternative to offer their children.


Does not contain drugs - no Dextromethorphan or Pseudoephedrine, no dyes, no alcohol, no artificial preservatives and is both gluten-free and dye-free.

Made from antioxidant-rich dark honeys, which have been shown, through clinical trials, to be the safest and most effective remedy for relieving coughs.

The syrups are appropriate for children 12 months and older. The new line of extra strength products is suited for adults and children 12 years and older.

Includes 100% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C to support the immune system. Also contains Zinc to help shorten the duration of the cough and boost the immune system when it's needed most.

Designed for a wide range of customers including pregnant and nursing moms, people on prescription drugs with contradictions to drug-based cough medicines, and for people with jobs prohibiting the use of drug-based cough remedies (such as pilots, truck drivers, etc.).

Is available in grape, cherry, and honey lemon flavors, and is available at all major retail stores.

You can find Zarbee's on the Web, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Meal Plan Monday ~ 8.13.2012

Monday, August 13, 2012
I spent the last weekend in central Pennsylvania visiting my sister and her family. I came back to NJ with lots of great produce from my brother-in-law's garden, from a farm stand down the road from my sister's house and from a local farmer's market. Most of this week's recipes will make great use of my enormous bounty.

MONDAY - Ravioli and vegetable soup (look for the recipe in next week's Meatless Monday post)

THURSDAY - We will probably grab some takeout since the girls have a final performance for theater/drama camp that evening.

FRIDAY - Tacos, prepared with lean, organic ground beef and homemade taco seasoning (recipe courtesy of Mamavation).

SATURDAY - Grilled chicken and steaks with baked cream corn with red bell peppers and jalapenos

SUNDAY - Grilled chicken kebabs served with tomato salad, grilled zucchini, and corn on the cob.

What's cookin' at your house this week?

To see what others are eating this week, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday

Wordless Wednesday: The Ferris Wheel

Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Every summer should include a trip to the local fair. This past weekend we enjoyed some time at our fair, and of course, it included a ride on the ferris wheel.


"Know Your Food: From Farm to Table" Twitter Party

Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Do you know what’s lurking in your food?

Join Stonyfield and Healthy Child Healthy World on Thursday, August 9 at 6pm PST / 9pm EST for a conversation and call-to-action on knowing what’s in our food: from farm to table. With the rise of concerns around food dyes and California’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act set to be on this November’s ballot, we believe the timing could not be more pertinent. 
The discussion will include panelists representing all facets of food production and consumption, and open up the discussion to talk about buying organic and what resources you use for healthy shopping. 
In addition to great prizes, the evening’s tweeting will also support healthy eating:  @Stonyfield will donate $2 to @FoodCorps for every tweet with the hashtag #organic!

Guest panelists include:  
Hope to tweet you there!

My Thoughts on #BlogHer12

It was my very first BlogHer conference, and I tried to approach it with zero hopes and expectations. I prepared by reading as many advice posts from fellow bloggers as I could.

I knew what to pack. I knew what to wear. I knew who to see. I knew which parties were the best. I knew everything you've ever wanted to know about BlogHer. I just didn't know if I wanted to go.

I had some party commitments for Thursday evening, but otherwise, I just wasn't sold.

And then I got a text from Chrissy. She wanted to know if I'd be there and could we hook up at some point...maybe even share a room.

It didn't take much to convince me. I was in!

I bought my conference ticket, booked a room, and packed my bags.

So, was it worth it? Here's what I thought.

1. It's all about the parties.
There are thousands of attendees, and only a small portion attend the educational sessions. So, where is everyone else? Why, they are at private events and parties, of course.

I was invited to attend a cocktail party hosted by Stonyfield Farm and Healthy Child Healthy World on Thursday evening. It was held at Rouge Tomate. All the food was organic and much of it was prepared with ingredients supplied by Stonyfield Farm.

Gigi, the CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, spoke about the many steps we can take to create healthy and chemical-free environments for our children. Her words were inspiring. I definitely left with renewed enthusiasm for ridding our home of chemicals.

In line with the fast pace of NYC, I left that party and walked straight to another one, the #SweetSuite hosted by The Big Toy Book. The Big Toy Book is THE authority on toys. If you want to know what is the hottest toy for girls or boys, head straight to The Big Toy Book.

The party was held at the Viacom Building. The views from the 7th floor were amazing!

But it was the views inside that were spectacular. Toys, toys, and more far as the eyes could see. My daughters would have been in their glory. Gymnast Dora. Make-Your-Own jewelry, and Blingles.

It seems that many attendees go for the parties and not for the actual conference itself. This was disappointing to learn. As a blogger, I was there to refine the art of blogging. But it appears that not everyone was there for the same reasons.

The follow morning, I returned to NYC in full BlogHer mode. I was ready to dive right in. My first stop was the registration desk. It was uneventful. I was given my badge and sent on my way. I headed into the Expo Hall first.

2. There are lots of opportunities to try products and receive samples and swag.
I had a chance to connect with some of my favorite brands including Jamba Juice, Verizon Wireless, Starbucks, Hershey's, Moo, and CVS Minute Clinic. I picked up so many samples from some of my favorite brands. I was introduced to some new ones too. I was warned to bring some extra totes to carry everything. As it turned out, I didn't need those extra totes after all. I accepted swag from only those brands with whom I have an intention of continuing a relationship or whose product I really wanted to try.

3. Choose your sessions carefully.
There's so much information available to attendees. Since sessions occur simultaneously, you must wisely pick and choose the sessions that you want attend. It's impossible to attend each session. Determine which are most important to you as a blogger and plan to attend those sessions.

I attended 2 sessions, one on working with brands and the other was utilizing Facebook and Twitter to promote my brand. Both of which were incredibly informative. However, they were both over-crowded (not sure if this is typical of BlogHer sessions). And there was a constant stream in and out of the room of attendees, which became very distracting.

The session that I attended on working with brands was so crowded that the spill over attendees were directed to another room where an audio feed was made available, but we couldn't see the panelists. I had a very difficult time listening to the panelists when I couldn't see them. I left the session early a bit frustrated.

For the afternoon session on Facebook and Twitter, I was smart and got to the room early. I had a seat that provided me with a perfect view of the panelists. Plus, I walked away with lots of notes.

The panelists in the sessions that I attended were knowledge experts who were appropriately selected. They seemed to genuinely complement each other.

4. You'll never get to see most of the bloggers in attendance.
I am not kidding when I say that I ran into the same people over and over again. There were some attendees whose paths I never crossed. If you go and have hopes to meet specific people, you need to have a plan in place to do so. You will NEVER run into someone by chance. EVER.

There was one blogger in particular that I planned to meet, Wendy Nielson. Wendy guest posted for me last October during breast cancer awareness month. We've tweeted with each other ever since. Wendy is a breast cancer survivor (Yay!!)  and an all-around fantastic woman. It was my goal to meet her.We did meet, but we certainly didn't spend enough time together.

5. Comfortable shoes are a must!
It sounds incredibly obvious, but as an attendee I was torn between looking good and feeling good. Since it was my first time attending BlogHer, I wasn't sure how much time I'd spend standing versus sitting. I settled on a pair of stylish yet flat sandals. They were perfect after all as I spent much of the day on my feet.

6. Expect little down time.
You will leave the conference EXHAUSTED. There's very little time in between sessions, and although there are breaks built into the schedule, they pass quickly. If you attend off-site parties, there's even less time in between events.

7. You will have fun!
If you walk away with nothing else, you will surely walk away with a few good stories to tell. BlogHer is known for its parties. Every evening, BlogHer hosts a party for conference attendees. These parties are guaranteed to give you and your blogging buddies something to talk about the next morning.

Overall Impressions

Was it worth it?
After all the hemming and hawing that I did, I have to say that I am so glad that I went. I left with all my expectations either met or exceeded.

Would I attend another BlogHer?
When it comes back to NYC, I will definitely be there. I'm not sure if I'll attend next year in Chicago. Certainly cost is a factor for me...unless I secure a sponsor. This year's costs were so low. This trip cost me about $350-$400 including my conference ticket, food, and train costs. I used reward points for the hotel room in order to keep my costs low.

Stay tuned! BlogHer13 will be here before you know it.

Celebrating National Cheesecake Day

Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Did you know July 30th is National Cheesecake Day? If you missed it, mark your calendars for next year!

The Cheesecake Factory offers half-priced slices on this day every year. Now, I'm not a huge fan of cheesecake, but I am a huge fan of discounted slices.

The girls and I had a perfect excuse to indulge!

We don't go to The Cheesecake Factory often. It always seems to cost us a fortune. But on this particular visit, I realized that you can keep it reasonable by choosing a few things from their Small Plates & Snacks menu which includes some of their "SkinnyLicious" items (under 500 calories). Most items are priced at just under $5, are perfect portions, and are tasty and healthy. We ordered the Greek salad, the arugula salad, hummus, and chicken samosas to share. It was a perfectly light lunch for the 3 of us.

But let's not kid ourselves. We were there for dessert, and we were not messing around.
Cheesecakes from l. to r., White Chocolate Raspberry, Kahlua Cocoa Coffee, Oreo Dream Extreme.

Lots of smiling faces once dessert was served!


Wordless Wednesday: Mama and Her Ducklings

Every year around this time, the neighborhood duck gives birth to the most adorable little brood.

I spotted them 2 days ago waddling around.