POM Best of 2012 - Top 10 Posts {Readers' Choice}

Sunday, December 30, 2012
I thought I'd put together a compilation of readers' favorite posts from 2012. These are the top 10 posts according to traffic stats from Google Analytics. Some actually surprised me while others were a given.

1. Best App for Beginning Runners: Couch-to-5K from Active.com
Who would have thought that writing about an app would garner so much traffic? I guess I need to write about apps more frequently.

2. Theraderm Skin Renewal System - Product Review
When I first tried the Theraderm Skin Renewal System, I had no idea how it would transform my skin. If you suffer from rosacea or any incurable skin condition, you need to read this review.

3. Fashion Friday: Beach Chic
Options for looking your chicest when you hit the beach.

4. My Athlete Crush: Barry Zito
Be still my beating heart.

5. A Mother's Day Special: You Know You're a Mom of Girls When...
I had always wanted daughters. Little did I know that little girls come with little idiosyncrasies.

Tangerine was the color of summer, and it looks as if the citrus colors are here to stay. Summer 2013 fashions are popping up in stores in bright shades of orange, yellow, and green.

Just another example of the innocence of childhood.

8. Fifty Shades of Grey: Everybody Else Is Reading It, So Why Aren't You?
Oh, Mr. Grey, and his twitchy palm...

9. Thirsty Thursday: 5 Perfect Warm Weather Cocktails
Unleash your inner mixologist with these fun and tasty cocktails.

10. How to Host a Wine Tasting Party
After having attended a blind wine tasting, I put together this post. It is a great way to get the girlfriends together and learn about wine!

Do you have a favorite Pieces of a Mom post that isn't included here? I'd love to know what it is!

Scenes from Christmas 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

As quickly as it came, Christmas was gone again. Poof! Just like that the presents were opened, faraway friends and family were telephoned, and the dinner was devoured.

The day was spent playing with new toys and electronics. An iPad for one and a laptop for the other. Oh, how times have changed! But there were lots of Barbie toys including a townhouse, a beach house, a cruise ship, and extraneous dolls and furniture. I loved Barbies as a kid. I was never lucky enough to have the Barbie townhouse. I do recall having a Barbie RV of some sort. I spent hours and hours playing with it over Christmas break.

We are spending lazy days lounging around and enjoying each other's company. Because all too soon, we'll be back to work and back to school, and the holidays will long be forgotten...

Hope you had a fantastic Christmas if you were celebrating!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012
From our family to yours, best wishes for a very Merry Christmas!
Pieces of a Mom Christmas card


{How To} Making Gingerbread Houses with the First Grade

Saturday, December 22, 2012
Even during the busy holiday season, it's important to take time out for some lighthearted fun. On Thursday I had a chance to take a break from my hectic holiday schedule to build and decorate a gingerbread house with Harper and about 100 other first graders.

It was good, messy fun!

This kind of thing requires the utmost precision and concentration!

This gingerbread house was simple (easy for little hands) and fun to make.

What You Need:
Paper plate
Plastic knife or spreader
(1) 14 oz. orange juice container, rinsed and dried
(1) box graham crackers
(1) container of white icing (whipped variety is not recommended)
Various decorations {small round cereals, small pastas, goldfish crackers, pretzel sticks, small candies, shredded coconut, ice cream cones (sugar)}

How To Build:
1. Place a dab of icing on the bottom of the orange juice carton. Adhere it to the paper plate.
2. Spread the carton generously with icing. Break apart graham crackers at their perforations and "glue" them to the house.
3. Decorate the house using the cereals, pastas, etc., using the icing as glue.
4. Spread icing on the outside of the ice cream cone (a tree). Turn it upside down and "glue" it to the place. Decorate the tree.
5. Spread icing on the plate and sprinkle the shredded coconut for snow.

A Christmas Favorite: Peanut Butter Cookies

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Every year at Christmas, I make a baking list. It includes all the cookies that I plan hope to bake. Although I always envy the fancily decorated cookies that people bake, I am just as disappointed that people don't bake the classics at Christmas. Rarely do people bake chocolate chip, peanut butter, or snickerdoodle cookies. I suppose it's because Christmas is a special occasion which calls for special cookies rather than the  old standbys. But I happen to be a big fan of the old standbys, and so last night I made a batch of peanut butter cookies.
peanut butter cookies
A Christmas Favorite: Peanut Butter Cookies


1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup peanut butter (smooth and creamy or crunchy) If you like more texture in your cookies, go with crunchy)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Beat in eggs one at a time. Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl and incorporate into wet ingredients.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix with wet ingredients until well blended. Refrigerate batter for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten each ball with a fork, making a criss-cross pattern. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown. Be careful to not over-bake.

There Are No Guarantees

Monday, December 17, 2012
This is the picture of a six year old. My six year old. The one I couldn't stop thinking about on Friday when I first heard the horrifying details about the massacre at a Newtown, CT elementary school.

In a matter of minutes, twenty first graders, just like her, were gunned down. Their sweet, innocent lives stripped from them and their loving families. They were simply babies.

There are no guarantees in this life. What is here today may be gone tomorrow. When I look at her sweet face and into her loving eyes, it is hard to imagine the evil that exists in this world, but it is there.

I can't help but imagine the grief and unspeakable sorrow that the parents of these 20 angels are experiencing right now. My heart breaks for them, and my mind struggles to wrap itself around the horror.

There has to be a better way to protect our children.

Until there is, I will enjoy every moment I have with my two daughters. I will tell them how much they are loved and that we will do whatever we can to keep them safe. I won't take the seconds, minutes, weeks, months, and years for granted.

I'll enjoy the laughter and the cries. Because I can...

{Product Review} Panasonic Toaster Oven, Model NB-G110P

It seems as far as toaster ovens go, you either love them or hate them. I am probably one of the only in-between, on the fence kind of people. If I have one, I'll use it, but I'm not knocking down any doors to buy one.

Before receiving the NB-G110P to review as part of the Viewpoints Blogger Panel, we were not owners of a toaster oven. We donated the one we previously owned a few years ago and never replaced it. I was happy to give a newer model with updated features and functionality a test drive.

Right out of the box I was a little concerned. The NB-G110P seemed too lightweight for a toaster oven. I was worried that if I dropped it, it might break into a million pieces. The toaster ovens of yesteryear were big, bulky, and heavy. The Panasonic NB-G110P is lightweight and compact. It's taller and narrower than toaster ovens I've seen before, but I was still a bit concerned about counter space. In most homes, counter space is rare and storage space is even more so. We don't have the extra space for either.

Although the handle was heat-resistant, the window became very hot and gave off a lot of residual heat. The appliance itself was flimsy and reminded me of the children's Easy-Bake oven due to it's being so compact and lightweight. The infrared light is a hazard also. It's dangerous to stare directly at it, and it's best to keep children away from the oven while in use.

Because this toaster oven uses infra-red light for heating, the items heat very quickly. There is also no need to preheat the toaster oven. Once you turn it on and set the temperature, you can put the food into the oven immediately. I loved the heating capabilities of this toaster oven. The fact that you don't have to wait for preheating is a huge plus.

Ease of Cleaning
Spills and stains wiped up easily. I used the oven tray on every occasion because it keeps the oven cleaner. Since toaster ovens do not have self-cleaning features, it's important to be able to easily clean them after each use. This one was easy to wipe clean.

Toaster Oven Design
I liked the size of it. It was small enough to either store easily or leave on the counter top. I loved the push buttons rather than dials. I loved the automatic cooking keys for the frequently cooked foods, such as toast, waffles, and pizza.

I did not like the pre-set temperature settings. As you can see in the picture above, you can set the temperatures for only what is shown on the oven.

I learned later that the infrared light is meant to go off and on during cooking. This light was so annoying. It kept coming on and going off repeatedly. I kept wondering, "What is going on with the light?" I had a hard time getting past the light. I had to step out of the kitchen during cooking because the light was too annoying for me.

If you are in the market for a toaster oven, this is a good one to consider. It's small, heats quickly and evenly, and has nice touch buttons rather than dials. However, I couldn't get passed the infrared light. It was just one of those things that's a blessing and a curse. The infrared light enables the oven to heat food quickly and evenly but it's constant on and off is bothersome.

The Panasonic NB-G110P retails for $133.

To read my review on Viewpoints, click here.

Disclosure: I received a Panasonic NB-G110P toaster oven via Viewpoints for the purpose of facilitating this review. All opinions are my own. The toaster oven I received will be donated to a charity of my choosing.

Online Shopping at CookiesKids.com #cookieskids

At the beginning of every season, I make every effort to purge the clothes that no longer fit or aren't suitable for wearing. The feeling I have when I clear out the closets and drawers is liberating. When I see the piles of clothes that will be donated to someone who can fit into them fills me with relief. But with purging comes replacing. Replacing means shopping, and sometimes shopping for kids clothes with 2 daughters who have very different tastes in clothes and stores can be challenging.

Since most of my day is spent online, I see A LOT of online advertisements throughout the course of the day. One that I've been seeing frequently is for CookiesKids.com, an online children's department store, which also happens to have 7 retail locations throughout the greater NYC area including Brooklyn, Bronx, and Jamaica. In 1972, a young man named Cookie and his brother Marvin went into business together. They rented a 1600 square foot store in Jamaica, Queens, fixed it up, bought inventory and Summer and Fall, and opened a day after Thanksgiving with a full stock of holiday toys. The toys were a success and they put the extra money toward buying children's clothing for the next season. When that did well, they bought more clothing. The business was on it's way.

As the brothers Cookie, Marvin and Sonny, who had come in as a third partner in the business, began to open new stores in new locations, inventory expanded. Besides the latest fashions, our customers wanted shoes, toys, backpacks and accessories and we were prepared to deliver.By the late 1990's there were six superstores throughout the NYC area, and though they previously had different names, by that time they were all named Cookie's Kids. Also in the late '90s came an important addition to Cookie's Kids' inventory: school uniforms. It was the steady success in uniform sales that paved the way for founding CookiesKids.com in 2007, which originally sold uniforms and soon after the entire Cookie's Kids Inventory.

Rather than venture out to the mall, I decided to check out CookiesKids.com as an alternative to conventional, mall-style shopping for kids clothes. Not only can I shop Cookie's Kids from the convenience of my home, but I can shop at the convenience of my schedule and my children's schedule. Shopping at Cookie's Kids doesn't require me to set aside a full day to browse several stores and spend countless hours in the fitting rooms.

Shopping at CookiesKids.com couldn't be easier. The site is organized primarily by gender and type of item. Cookie's Kids carries clothes from infants through size 16.  They also offer school uniforms, Shoes, and Toys. On this particular "shopping trip", we were in search of some winter basics. My 6 year old daughter wanted a new winter hat, and my 10 year old daughter wanted some fancy skirts for the upcoming holiday season.

We went straight to the "Girls Dept" from the navigation bar. Once you choose the department that you want to shop, you are presented with a list of categories within that specific department and the brands that qualify for that category. We clicked on Hats & Gloves, and we were on our way to finding the perfect hat.

There was a wide variety of hats ranging from fun to functional. Most items were under $10 with the exception of some of the higher end brands such as The North Face. Once my daughter located the fun hat that she wanted, we added it to the cart. She chose the Critter Collection "Owlette" Knit Hat for $6.99.

Cookie's Kids details the product and if reviews are available, you can read what other's have to say. Cookie's Kids also offer recommendations for other products based on the product that you are currently viewing. I love when retailers do that since it's not always easy to see the similar products when shopping online the way it is when you are shopping in-store.

Here's one of the best things about shopping online at CookiesKids.com, I can stop shopping at any point and save what's in my cart. Since my daughter was finished shopping for hats, it was time for my 10 year old to browse skirts. However, she was at an after school activity and was unavailable at that very moment. So, I saved the item in my cart and logged off.

A few hours later, I returned to continue shopping for skirts with Emma. We headed straight for the Girls Dept. and clicked "Bottoms/Skirts". We chose her size category. and I let her loose to look around. My 10 year old was shopping by herself in the Girls Department of Cookie's Kids from our kitchen!!

She had a difficult time making a decision. She found many skirts that she liked, and she loved every color choice. Cookie's Kids had short skirts, long skirts, slim skirts, full skirts and many options in jeans too including colored jeans and traditional denim. Finally, she narrowed it down to 2 skirts, and one was very festive, perfect for Christmas!

You can see why her decision was difficult to make. The skirt is available in 6 colors, all of which were super cute. Because the holidays are upon us, she chose the "Red".

I am always hesitant to order online because you can't use a fitting room. You're flying blind when it comes to choosing particular sizes. I usually wing it and hope for the best. What Cookie's Kids does differently than many other online retailers is they offer the Alva Kids sizing chart. It's simple to use, and accurately sized both of my daughters. When you select a particular item to view details, available colors, or read the reviews, you will see a small, square icon that says "Alva Kids" next to the size selector. When you click the icon, you will be asked to create an account or you can proceed with sizing without creating an account. You simply add the requested information about each of your children. Alva Kids will suggest a size as it applies to this specific item.
I love that the sizing is item-specific and not generic based on the child's general size. I found this feature to be extremely helpful in determining sizes for my girls who are tall and thin with long legs.

We had chosen our items, and now it was time to checkout. Check out always seems to take more time online than it should. It's not as easy as swiping your card in the register. There's always so much information to type in. And I generally forget something or mis-type a number. I was hoping all would go smoothly on CookiesKids.com.
Cookie's Kids offers $5.95 shipping on every order, every day. No exceptions. I love that shipping isn't calculated based on number of items or the amount of your transaction. I don't have to estimate what my shipping will be. I know immediately what it will cost when I start shopping.

We placed our order and within a few days our merchandise had arrived. I don't know how it goes in your house, but my girls can't wait to wear their new clothes.

The Owlette hat was a big hit! These hats look so cute on little heads!

Here's a close up of the Owlette hat from #cookieskids. How cute!

Unto the skirts. Both skirts were so pretty. I worry about the quality when shopping online. You can't touch or see the fabric or stitching so it's hard to know exactly what you are going to get. But these skirts are adorable and a great value for the money.

I adore this Pink Angel Heather Knit Skirt. It was $7.99. $7.99!!!! So cute, and you cannot beat that price. It would be super cute with a black turtleneck or a cami and a sweater. It is also available in red and black.

Every fancy girl should have a fancy skirt! This is the "Pleaded Pretty" Taffeta Bubble Skirt in red. It's perfect for this time of year. You can dress it down by pairing it with a simple tee or you can dress it up with a much fancier top. This skirt was $12.99.

How seriously cute are those skirts? If you have a daughter, you'll want to pick up a few for her. At those prices, you can't refuse. And now until 12/21/2012 Cookie's Kids is offering Pieces of a Mom readers a 10% discount sitewide!! Orders must be placed by 12/21/2012. 

Enter code: piecesofamom at checkout.

Hurry!! Hurry!! Start shopping now! Visit www.cookieskids.com to get started.

Be sure to review the holiday shipping policies if you are ordering for delivery by Christmas. http://www.cookieskids.com/HolShipGuide_POPUP.htm

You can also find Cookie's Kids on Facebook and on Twitter.

Be sure to check out my Cookie's Kids path to purchase story on Google+.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Cookie’s Kids. #CBias #CookiesKids #SocialFabric


My Songstress and the 5th Grade Chorus

Thursday, December 13, 2012
Tonight was the winter performance of our elementary school's 5th grade chorus. For as long as I can remember, Emma has wanted to join the chorus when she became a 5th grader. In the fall when signups began, I think she was the first one to return her form. ;-)

Tonight, after months and months of rehearsals, was the holiday concert. Yesterday, in preparation for tonight's performance, the chorus performed two shows for the children of the school. And tonight, it was showtime!

Emma stepped off the bus, and immediately felt sick to her stomach. Oh, wait. I recognize that feeling. It was nerves. She was nervous. She began to cry. I knew I had to tread lightly. The wrong words could push her over the edge. She was scared, and I had to put myself in her shoes. I've been there. Nervous. Worried about failure. We talked about being nervous. We talked about conquering our fears. We talked about the sense of satisfaction one feels when they've accomplished a feat of insurmountable proportions. I got through to her. She was ready to sing.

Her solo was during the very last song. She stepped forward and took the microphone into her hands. The music began, and she started to sing.

I know it wasn't easy for her, but she did a fantastic job, and she made us proud!


My Sweet Angel in her Christmas Pageant

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
On Sunday, our church's first grade CCD classes had their annual Christmas pageant. Harper played the part of an angel. It was so cute. The angels, the kings, shepherds, the innkeeper and his wife, and of course, Joseph and Mary, and a baby doll as Jesus.

My angel is dressed and ready for showtime!

Watching over baby Jesus.

She's so proud of her performance.

I am so proud of her performance!

The little ones were so cute, and this pageant is so special. They work hard for weeks to prepare, and it was obvious. They were such fantastic performers!

CLOSED {Giveaway} Green Kid Crafts Food Adventures Discovery Box Craft Kit

Monday, December 10, 2012
Green Kid Crafts is the maker of the original kids craft subscription box. For $19.95 per month, you receive a Discovery Box each month with 3 different and original crafts for children ages 3-8. Or each kit can be purchased individually without the purchase of a subscription.

Green Kid Crafts is a mom-owned, green company that provides sustainable crafts for kids. With Green Kid Crafts, both parents and kids can enjoy crafts and activities for children that spark creativity and cultivate respect and love for the environment. I love them because as a busy, working mom, I want the time that I have to spend with my children to be quality time filled with quality activities. Green Kid Crafts allows me that opportunity while providing my children with safe and eco-friendly craft items ad materials.

It's difficult to find green craft materials in most craft stores. Many craft materials are made with toxic materials. The earth friendly ones are available online, but who wants to go through the trouble of ordering individual items and waiting for them to arrive? That’s where Green Kid Crafts comes in.

One subscription. One new Discovery Box each month. No scrambling or scurrying on my part. And I've got 2 happy kiddos in the end.

Would you like to see for yourself how fun and unique these kits are? Pieces of a Mom is giving away one (1) Food Adventures Discovery Box to a lucky reader.

To create this very special Food Adventures Discovery Box, Green Kid Crafts partnered with Purple Asparagus, a nonprofit educating children about eating that's good for the body and the planet. The result is tons of (wholesome) fun: four fun craft projects, kid-friendly recipes, and over $20 in natural food samples and savings from our friends at Mambo SproutsAnnie'sStonyfieldHonest Tea Kids and more! 

The craft projects* include:
  1. Create a fishing game
  2. Grow an organic basil garden
  3. Create your own tile coaster
  4. Grow a sprout garden
The Food Adventures Discovery Box has a retail value of $25.50.

*All projects meet the Healthy and Happy Child Criteria and are earth friendly.

(4 possible entries permitted per person):

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 residents of the United States, 18 years of age and older. All entries must be submitted by December 17, 2012. One winner will be chosen via Random.org 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} Leave a comment stating why the child(ren) in your life would enjoy this kit.

2. {Optional} Follow Pieces of a Mom on Twitter. Leave a comment stating that you do and include your Twitter handle.

3. {Optional} Follow Green Kid Crafts on Twitter. Leave a comment stating that you do and include your Twitter handle.

4. {Optional} Tweet the following: "Enter to win @PiecesofaMom's #giveaway: @greenkidcrafts Food Adventures Discovery Box (4 eco-friendly crafts): http://bit.ly/UtodIm"

You can find Green Kid Crafts on Facebook

Disclosure: As part of the Stonyfield Farm Yo-Getter brand ambassador program, I received a complimentary Green Kid Crafts Food Adventures Discovery Box.

I'm Guest Posting at Fabulous After 40

Sunday, December 9, 2012
After having recently celebrated a birthday, I have a heightened awareness of my aging skin. My wrinkles are suddenly magnified in the mirror. What used to appear as a fine line, now looks like a dried up river. I'm sure I'm exaggerating a bit. We are our worst enemies after all.

But still...

I'm on the lookout for a breakthrough skin care system. One that will refresh and renew my skin. When I was invited to do a guest review for Fabulous After 40, I jumped at the offer. Deborah and JoJami are The Glam Gals behind Fabulous After 40, and they are all about looking fabulous and flaunting it! They kindly asked if I would be test the Nuvosa Anti-Aging Skincare Regimen. I couldn't wait to see some results. And fast.

Hop on over to Fabulous After 40 to read my review. This might be the product for you!

Find the Perfect Holiday Gifts at Starbucks

Friday, December 7, 2012
Stop searching high and low for the perfect gift for that person who has everything and needs nothing. Start looking at Starbucks. Did you know that Starbucks isn't only about coffee? In addition to coffee, Starbucks has something for everyone on your gift list. And you can order all of it from the comfort of your home at the Starbucks Store.

I love just about EVERYTHING at Starbucks, but here are a few of my favorite gifts for others {OK, OK, or for me ;-)}.

For the true coffee connoisseur, any blend of Starbucks coffee will be a hit.
The Holiday Blend is especially popular this time of year.

The Christmas Blend Blonde Roast is another holiday favorite.

Starbucks caters to the kiddos too!

One can never have too many mugs!

How cute is this Snow Day mug?

Did you know Starbucks makes logo gear such as hoodies, tees, and totes? They make the perfect gifts for the brand loyalist.

Canvas Tote (the perfect accessory for the farmer's market)

How about a gift set for a variety of goodies?

Last, but certainly not least is the underrated Starbucks Gift Card. Let the special people in your life choose what they want to drink.

Happy Shopping! Be sure to let me know what you buy!