{Product Review} Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF 30

Friday, May 31, 2013
Remember the days of the little Coppertone girl? The puppy tugging endearingly at her bathing suit bottoms revealing a pasty white bottom?

In case you missed the memo, those days are gone. In fact, Child Services might be on your tail if your child is caught with a sunburn these days.

Adult or child, sun protection is a must. There's just no disputing it. If you will be stepping out into the sun, you should be wearing some sort of protection.

Living near the coast, my family spends a lot of time at either the beach or the pool during the summer months. I need a sunscreen that will stand up to a full day of pool or beach time. It needs to be super effective, and it needs to be safe.

I was invited to try Babo Botanicals new 30 SPF Clear Zinc Sunscreen. Babo has recently added the clear zinc sunscreen to its line of "parent quality" suncare products. I was sent a 3 fl. oz. tube to put to the test.

The 2 factors that I look for most in a sunscreen are effective ingredients and safe ingredients. Babo's line of sunscreens offer both. Zinc oxide is a safe, all-natural mineral that will not irritate the skin and is more likely to block harmful UVB and UVA rays.

You may remember zinc oxide as the thick white paste seen on lifeguards at the beach and pool. You could hardly miss it. Thick white streaks down the center of the nose. Hardly attractive.

Memorial Day weekend offered us the perfect chance to give Babo Botanicals a whirl. We headed for the pool and lathered up. I liked that it was easy to rub in. It wasn't greasy or too thick. And it didn't have a strong scent, which many sunscreens do.

Babo's zinc oxide is unique in that it's completely clear. It's non-nanotechnology formulation doesn't penetrate the skin and dissolves quickly so that there is no white gunk to rub in.


  • Non-greasy and easy to rub in.
  • Hypo-allergenic, gluten-free, PABA-free, and paragen-free.
  • Contains organic jojoba to moisturize and protect children's skin from toxic chemicals and sun damage.
  • Goes on white, but rubs in clear.
  • Doesn't contain harsh chemicals that can burn eyes or irritate the skin.


  • It's a bit expensive at $18.95 for a 3 fl. oz. tube. But when you look at the benefits, it's worth the extra cost.

You can find more information at www.babobotanicals.com or on the Facebook page. To find a retailer near you, visit the web site. Online purchasing can also be made through www.drugstore.com and www.dermstore.com.

Disclosure: I was given a complimentary 3 fl. oz. tube of Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Oxide sunscreen to facilitate this review. I was not compensated monetarily. All opinions are my own.


{Cookbook Review & Giveaway} Meals in a Jar: Quick and Easy, Just Add Water

Thursday, May 30, 2013
Summer is here, and for many of us that means less of a desire to be in a hot kitchen.

Summer is the perfect time for ready-made meals. Meals where you can reach in the cabinet, pull out a jar, and add liquid, are perfect for busy and hot summer days.

Meals in a Jar to the rescue! Meals in a Jar is a step-by-step cookbook the includes instructions for preparing 125 natural meals from breakfasts to desserts.

I wasn't completely sure of the concept, so I gladly jumped at the offer to take a look at a complimentary copy of the cookbook for myself. I am not a big fan of the types of pre-packaged meals sold in grocery stores. The fresher the meal, the better. But Meals in a Jar offered the convenience of pre-packaged meals without all the preservatives and high levels of sodium.

Here are my thoughts on the book:


  • I liked the wide variety of recipes in the book. Everything from breakfasts (eggs, breakfast burritos, and granola) to desserts (cookies) was well-represented.
  • The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow.
  • There are tips for where to find many of the items included in the recipes such as powdered eggs and powdered sour cream. (Great! Because I would have no clue where to buy that kind of stuff).
  • The jarred-meals make great gifts and you can have fun with the presentation too.
  • They are easy and healthy alternatives to preparing meals for most occasions.
  • The book also includes tips for canning and vacuum sealing.
  • Most meals will last up to a year if properly canned and sealed.

  • In most cases, specific equipment is needed such as a dehydator or a vacuum sealer.
  • The recipes are for bulk preparation, often requiring that you make 8-12 meals per recipe.
  • Many recipes use ingredients that are not readily available in most household pantries, such as powdered milk, eggs, sour cream.
  • There is an initial time commitment required to prepare the canned/sealed meals. Although time is saved during cooking, you must set aside a huge chunk of time up front to make the meals.
  • One recipe makes anywhere from 8 to 16 meals. My family of 4 would never eat all of those meals in a year.

This is not the cookbook for me. However, if canning and vacuum sealing are your thing, this book would be the perfect addition to your cookbook collection.

The recipes did sound really yummy though. Most had me drooling. White chocolate cranberry cookies. Green beans with bacon. Mexican bean soup. Who wouldn't love those recipes?

If you think you'd like this book, you can enter to win your own copy.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Winner will be chosen at random using Rafflecopter and notified via email. Winner will have 48 hours to respond. If winner fails to do so, an alternate winner will be chosen. Same rules will apply to the alternate winner.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Meals in a Jar to facilitate this review. I did not receive monetary compensation to write this review. All opinions are my own.

Menu Plan Monday: 5.27.2013

Monday, May 27, 2013
This week looks like a promising week for grilling, so I am building the menu around the grill.

MONDAY: Turkey burgers with pasta salad and tomato & avocado salad.

TUESDAY: Thai chicken lettuce wraps (I'll use a rotisserie chicken)

WEDNESDAY: Pasta caprese

THURSDAY: Marinated, grilled chicken breasts with grilled zucchini and roasted potatoes.

FRIDAY: The Hubs is meeting a friend for dinner, so the girls and I will go out.

SATURDAY: Hubs is in charge...something on the grill.

What's on your plate this week? For more meal-time inspiration, see my meal planning posts, and stop by Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday to see what others are munching on.

The Perfect Bloody Mary

Friday, May 24, 2013
Summer is the perfect time to get creative with cocktails. All the fresh, local ingredients are so inspiring.

One of my all-time favorites is the Bloody Mary. It's such a versatile cocktail. You can serve it for brunch or for late afternoon/early evening cocktails on the patio. Whatever time you have it and for whatever occasion, make no mistake, it's a crowd-pleaser.

Believe it or not, my kids love Bloody Marys so I usually make individual drinks using a small martini shaker and add vodka to individual glasses.

The Perfect Bloody Mary

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 to 4 dashes hot sauce (I like Frank's)
2 ounces vodka (adjust to taste)
5 ounces tomato juice
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 2 splashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 pinch of ground cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Optional garnishes:
  • Celery stalks
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Capers
  • Lemon wedges

  • Preparation

  • 1. Add 2 cubes of ice to a high ball glass. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Set aside.

    2. In a martini shaker, combine vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and ground cayenne.

    3. Place the lid on the shaker tightly and vigorously shake.

    4. Pour contents of the shaker over the seasoned ice in the high ball glass. Stir.

    5. Garnish with celery, olives, pickles. and/or lemon wedges.


    Note: This recipe isn't overly spicy but has some kick to it. You can adjust any of the seasonings or sauces listed here to your liking.

    Need a pitcher and some tall glasses for serving this delicious cocktail? Here are a few of my favorites:


    Helping to Build Sandy Castle, The World's Tallest Sand Castle

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013
    Volunteers from all over the Jersey shore are converging on Point Pleasant Beach to take part in a record breaking event.

    The world's largest sand castle is being constructed with the help of faithful volunteers, young and old. Ed Jarrett who currently holds the record for building the largest sand castle at 38 feet has taken on the task of beating his record. By 12 feet. Yes. An astonishing 50 foot tall sand castle will soon grace the shores of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.

    "Sandy Castle" as it is affectionately called will bring visitors to the area who will surely be awestruck and amazed.

    I had the opportunity to be part of this record-breaking event last week when Harper's Daisy/Girl Scout troop volunteered to help build the castle.

    The entire building-process was a well-oiled machine. The assembly line was organized and controlled even with 14 first graders in the mix. The buckets were filled with sand and passed down a line with the utmost precision. All are welcome and encouraged to take part in the building process.

    Each level is expertly crafted using a specially formulated sand and a proven process of making the sand meld together to create a cohesive structure.

    Once the 50 foot structure has been built, the wooden pilings will come down and Jarrett will sculpt a tribute to the Jersey shore on the castle. It will include the Barnegat Lighthouse and the JetStar roller coaster which went down in Seaside Heights during the storm.

    Upon final completion, a small admission fee will be charged to visitors who want to tour the castle. All proceeds will go to Toms River-based charity Hometown Heroes.

    Sandy Castle is located next to Jenkinson's Pavillion in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey and is expected to be completed in June.

    Menu Plan Monday ~ 5.20.2013

    Monday, May 20, 2013
    I am proud to say that we didn't stray from last week's menu plan. Not a single bit. I can safely say that I don't think that's ever happened before.

    Hoping to continue the streak this week!

    MONDAY: Leftovers (not the best way to kick off the week, but we've got so much food from the weekend).

    TUESDAY: Emma's 5th grade band concert is tonight. So, we'll keep it simple with an arugula salad and pasta with tomato sauce.

    WEDNESDAY: Slow-Cooker chicken taco soup.

    THURSDAY: Grilled chicken Caesar salad. I'm actually going to cheat a bit on this one. Buying the salad from a local pizza place which has an unbelievable Caesar salad and grilling the chicken ourselves.

    FRIDAY: Dinner out

    SATURDAY: Pulled Buffalo chicken sliders with sweet potato fries and onion rings.

    SUNDAY: Beef sliders and hot dogs with potato and pasta salads to celebrate the unofficial start of summer.

    What's on your plate this week? For meal inspiration, see my Meal Planning posts and head over to I'm an Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday to see what others are munching on.

    Fashion Friday: What to Wear to the Farmers Market

    Friday, May 17, 2013
    'Tis the season for farmers markets!

    All over the country, vendors will be peddling their yummy goodies at stands, and if you're not in on the action, shame on you. You are missing out on the cream of the crop (no pun intended!).

    Even at the smallest of farmers markets, you want to be comfortable and stylish. At most markets, you'll be exposed to summer's elements, which usually means sun and heat. 

    Here's the perfect outfit to keep you cool, comfortable, and cute while you browse for the best local goodies your area has to offer.

    What to Wear to the Farmer's Market

    Sperry Top-Sider sperry top sider / Michael Kors / Sole Society straw handbag / Tory Burch ring / Straw hat, $29 / Vera Bradley printed sunglasses

    Maxi Dresses are the perfect way to beat the heat. They are light and airy and come in all colors and styles to suit all tastes.

    A flat sandal is a must! Depending on where your local farmers market is held, you may be walking on uneven ground, stones, or a paved surface. Keep your shoes flat to avoid any injuries.

    A large tote is essential. Most vendors do not provide bags for your purchases. Bring an oversized bag to tote all your goodies around.

    A wide-brimmed hat and a pair of sunglasses will protect your hair, skin, and eyes from the blinding sun.

    Simple jewelry, such as a ring or a bracelet, is the icing on the cake. It's a great way to balance a simple maxi dress.

    For more fashion inspiration, be sure to check out the other Fashion Friday participants, including Jo-Lynne from Musings of a Housewife who is featuring 5 Fab Beach Bags Under $50. Any of her featured bags would be perfect for a trip to the farmers market!

    Scenes from the Meridian Momtourage Photo Shoot

    Thursday, May 16, 2013
    I've been writing for Meridian Momtourage for over 2 years now. Momtourage is an interactive website community for mothers in New Jersey, specifically Monmouth and Ocean counties. I signed on a mom blogger to write articles primarily about women's lifestyle and parenting, but I've been focusing more recently on technology in the parenting space.

    Meridian Health re-launched Momtourage last week to offer a more interactive experience for its members. In addition, Momtourage expanded its mom bloggers to include some niche bloggers such as a fashion blogger and a travel blogger.

    Part of the re-launch included updating the mom blogger photos, which, of course, meant a photo shoot. The other mom bloggers and I met up in Asbury Park with the very talented Meridian photographer Jacki.

    As an amateur photographer, I am never comfortable on the other side of the lens. I'm always thinking that my lipstick is bleeding or my mascara is running, that my clothes are wrinkly, or that one piece of hair is out of place.

    Photo shoots drive me crazy. I'm anxious to see the photos. This shoot was a bit different as we were all Instagramming the whole time. We were able to get a  sneak peek at some of the shots. And Jacki is so easy going and fun that it's impossible to be nervous.

    Asbury Park provided the perfect backdrop for an edgy and trendy photo shoot.

    Social media mavens, Chrissy, Cristie, and Carly are busy tweeting, Instagramming, and Facebooking.

    Carly and I are looking as natural as we could. We were instructed to get as close to those doors behind us without actually touching them since they were filthy. They haven't been cleaned since Hurricane Sandy struck. They were so dirty and sandy. My natural inclination was to lean back against them. I was trying so hard not to do that!

    Jacki and Alix, Cristie, and Carly chat between takes.

    The set...

    A group shot of the Meridian Momtourage mom bloggers.

    Be sure to check out Meridian Momtourage on Facebook where you'll find more photos and information.

    Fashion note: I am wearing a color block dress from Old Navy accessorized with slingback heels from Payless and a bracelet from Loft.

    Soft Scrub Introduces NEW 4-In-1 Toilet Care

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013
    How often do you scrub your toilets? Come on, it's a fair question. And if you're a mom, it's one you've probably pondered frequently.

    At one time, I had been scrubbing mine daily. But let's face it, that gets old...and aggravating. We are a household of only 4. Was it really necessary to scour my bathroom on a daily basis? Yes, as it happens, it was actually.

    So, when Purex contacted me to try a new toilet care product it was introducing, I was pretty excited. Lame, I know. But if this product meant that I could cut down my daily toilet bowl scouring to every other day, I want it!

    The Soft Scrub 4-in-1 Toilet Care eliminates the need for a liquid toilet cleaner. This revolutionary toilet bowl cleaner is a toilet bowl rim hanger that stays in place and lasts for up to 4 weeks. The Soft Scrub 4-in-1 Toilet Care is a long-lasting and freshening system that has a unique design and advanced formula that prevents toilet ring and toilet bowl stains.

    Put away your toilet brush and liquid or powder toilet bowl cleaner. Drop in Soft Scrub's 4-in-1 Toilet Care, and you'll see these results:
    • Clean toilets
    • Buildup prevention
    • No more toilet ring
    • Fresh smell for up to 4 weeks
    I put the 4-in-1 Toilet Care hanger in my powder room, which is located on our first floor in a busy hallway. It was the perfect location for it as that particular bathroom sees a lot of traffic.

    It's almost at the end of its 4 week cycle, and it has kept the bowl clean in between major cleanings, which now happen once per week. I was able to eliminate a separate air freshener in the room as the 4-in-1 hanger did that job successfully as well. I will be placing the 4-in-1 Toilet Care in all the bathrooms in our home.

    The Soft Scrub 4-in-1 Toilet Care is available at Walmart for $2.00.

    Lucky you! I am giving away two (2) coupons for a FREE Soft Scrub product of your choice.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Be sure to check out Soft Scrub on Facebook.

    Sign up for email updates from Soft Scrub at www.softscrub.com

    Disclosure: As I previously mentioned in this post, as part of the Purex Insiders Brand Ambassador program, I was provided with a sample of Soft Scrub 4-in-1 Toilet Care to facilitate this review. I received no monetary compensation. All opinions are my own.


    Menu Plan Monday ~ 5.13.2013

    Monday, May 13, 2013
    I've been slacking off. My motivation in the kitchen has taken a hike. I was hoping to be inspired by warmer weather, but we haven't had much of that. And my family is starting to tire of the lame meals I've been throwing together.

    So, it's time to get back on track.

    Monday - Cavatelli with broccoli.

    Tuesday - Chicken kebabs with rice.

    Wednesday - Spicy vegetarian chili.

    Thursday - Sliders with onion rings.

    Friday - Dinner out.

    Saturday - Grilled pizza and arugula salad.

    What's on your plate this week? Can't decide? Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday to see what others are munching on this week.



    Saturday, May 11, 2013
    My big girl is turning 11 today. It hardly seems possible, really.

    I still vividly recall the doctor placing her on my chest just mere moments after she was born. It seems like I can reach my hand into yesterday and pluck those moments out.

    Except they happened 11 years ago, not yesterday.

    As my oldest, Emma has always been the child for which I look forward to the future. I am excited about what lies ahead for her. It isn't often that I have the desire to turn back the clock on her. But recently I find myself wanting to put her in a bubble and freeze time.

    It's the combination of her physical growth and her emotional development. She's almost as tall as I am. Every time she stands in front of me, I have to resist the urge to push her down by her shoulders in an effort to shrink her in size.

    Although she's still a baby in so many ways, she's understanding so much more about how the world operates and how to find her place in it. Her friends are starting to become a large part of her world.

    Our family used to occupy most of her time. Now a small chunk of that time has been broken off and is reserved for her friends.

    It makes me both sad and happy at the same time.

    I am proud of the young woman she is becoming, but I miss the little girl that is buried deep inside her. The occasions that the little girl emerges are becoming fewer and farther between.

    Eleven is bittersweet. She is on the cusp of bigger and better things.

    In a month she will graduate from elementary school and move onto middle school. I know it's time. She's ready. Ready for new challenges. Ready for a new life.

    I'm not convinced that I am as ready as she is.

    But this journey isn't about me. This is her road to travel. Her story to tell. This is her eleventh year to take and run with it.


    Meridian Momtourage Launches Brand New Site Design

    Thursday, May 9, 2013
    Today Meridian Momtourage launched a brand spanking new site design, including interactive features to further engage its audience.

    Meridian Momtourage is a community-based site where local New Jersey moms can learn from each other, share experiences, and grow together to make motherhood a fulfilling and enriching experience.

    The site is owned by Meridian Health, but don't be fooled. Not all topics on the site are health related. You can find everything from health to food to fashion and more on the site.

    Through expert physician articles, member discussions, and in the trenches blog posts from contributors who are actual moms with real-life failures and successes, Meridian Momtourage caters to the expectant, new, and experienced moms.

    Head over, create your profile and start mingling today!

    Disclosure: I am a member of Meridian Momtourage's Mom Blogger team. I was not asked to write this post nor was I compensated for writing it.

    The "Little Things" with Bill and Giuliana Rancic #paintthetownpink

    Tuesday, May 7, 2013
    Twenty months ago, Bill and Giuliana Rancic seemed to have it all. Successful careers in television and business. Bill was working alongside Donald Trump and some of the top names in real estate. Giuliana was interviewing A-list celebs on the red carpet.

    But their lives were missing one key component: a baby. Both wanted to be parents more than anything else. As they embarked on their third series of IVF treatments, Giuliana's fertility specialist recommended that she undergo a mammogram as a precautionary measure. The mammogram that was to be a precautionary measure resulted in a positive diagnosis of early stages of breast cancer for Rancic.

    She was devastated. "Rocked to the core" in her own words. Rancic underwent a double lumpectomy and radiation which were later followed by a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

    Fast forward 18 months and Rancic is cancer-free. But it has hardly been a painless road to travel. There were some very dark days.

    I recently had the tremendous opportunity to sit down with Bill and Giuliana Rancic to chat with them about their experience with and triumph over cancer and about the newest addition to their family, their son Duke.

    The Rancics were at the Jersey shore to participate in Meridian Health's Paint The Town Pink event, a month long celebration that focuses on raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research. The Rancics were the guest speakers at a Cancer Care event sponsored by Meridian Health at the Algonquin Arts Theater in Manasquan.

    The media lounge consisted of about 10 reporters and members of the general media. In round-robin style we went around the room and asked individual questions of the Rancics.

    Q: How did you get through it, the battle with breast cancer?

    GR: You get through it. You get your old life back. My life is better now. It's fuller. It's more meaningful. My diagnosis and fight has really grounded me.

    Q: What is your advice for other men who are supporting women with breast cancer?

    BR: Don't be emotional. Arm yourself with knowledge so that you can make decisions based on facts.

    Q: What is one word you would use to describe each other and one word to describe Duke?
    Describing Duke:
    BR: Lifesaver
    GR: Everything

    Describing each other:
    BR: Survivor
    GR: Superman

    Very powerful words.

    Q: After you [Bill] did a show in Red Bank last year for Paint The Town Pink, what made you decide to do another event with PTTP this year?

    BR: I was incredibly impressed by last year's event. The people were so welcoming and warm. I loved the cause.

    I can't tell you how incredibly down-to-Earth this Hollywood power couple is. If it weren't for time constraints and planned events for later that evening, I think the Rancics would have sat their all evening chatting. They were so sincere in their answers, and they looked directly at the person who asked the question. And they had fun with each other.

    Bill would occasionally joke about Giuliana's Italian heritage. And Giuliana would tease him about his quirks. It was reassuring to see how much they love each other.

    Photo credit: Meridian Momtourage

    Before the media event ended, my fellow Meridian Momtourage bloggers (from left, Carly, Chrissy, and Beth) and I snapped a picture with Bill and Giuliana Rancic.

    After the media event ended, the party continued at Firefly, a hip restaurant in Manasquan, New Jersey.

    There were cocktails, yummy finger foods, and a meet and greet with Bill and Giuliana.

    I didn't miss my chance for another picture!

    After the meet and greet, it was showtime! We headed over to the Algonquin Arts Theater where Bill and Giuliana shared their heartwarming and inspirational story. With some fun banter back and forth followed by tears, and ending with lots of belly laughs, this couple is the BOMB, I tell ya!

    Lou Russo from 94.3 The Point came out to pose some questions from the audience to Bill and Giuliana Rancic. What a fun, informative, and definitely unforgettable evening.

    I want to give thanks to Meridian Health and Meridian Momtourage for making it all possible for me. They generously invited me to participate in the media lounge and the meet and greet. Be sure to check out the Meridian Momtourage Web site for timely articles on parenting, fashion, nutrition, and so much more.

    Check out Bill and Giuliana on the reality TV shows Ready for Love on NBC and Giuliana and Bill on the Style Network. You won't be disappointed!

    Kick Off Summer with Happy Hour at Starbucks!

    Thursday, May 2, 2013
    Time for BOGO at Starbucks! Music to my ears...

    Grab a friend and head to participating Starbucks between May 3 and May 12 from 3-5 pm for the Frappuccino Happy Hour.

    Choose from a Frappuccino on the menu or create you own custom version.


    Try the new Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino. Oh. My. God. I had a sample this morning, and it was DELISH!!

    Whatever suits your fancy. Just be there or be square!