Winter Style: 8 Favorite Celebs

Saturday, November 29, 2014
Celebrities nearly always get it right with their winter style. Whether this is because they have a stylist or a genuine eye for fashion, I don’t know. Regardless, I love to use their outfits as the starting point for many of my own winter ensembles. Here are 8 of the best celeb winter outfits to date (in my opinion)..

1. Olivia Palermo
This lady is the queen of layering! I love the way she recently wore a pair of over the knee boots, jeans, a scarf, and a fur stole with a cardigan. She even tucked the scarf into her belt to keep the look shapely. I love her! Here she looks effortlessly stylish in a soft pink v-neck sweater. You can see more of her must-have style on my Pinterest board Enviable Style.


2. Gwen Stefani
I love the way Gwen Stefani just wears whatever the heck she wants and still looks spectacular. My favorite winter outfit of hers is a colorful leather jogger look that other people might find hard to pull off. She wore red and blue heeled shoes, leather joggers, a white jumper, colorful scarf, and a beanie hat. All with her trademark red lipstick of course.

3. FKA Twigs
FKA has the coolest winter style. She had the chic, punky style of Londoner down pat. I’m not sure I’d wear it, but she looks so hip and makes me feel so old. Her winter style is all about Dr Martens, rolled up boyfriend jeans, bomber jackets, and statement accessories. I wouldn’t wear the bejeweled green backpack she was spotted out with recently, but I'm certain one of my daughters would!

4. Katie Holmes
Now here’s some celebrity fashion would try to pull off myself, but maybe with some nice flat pumps rather than the heels these celebrities wear day in day out. Katie wears a plain pair of jeans, cowl neck jumper, and leather jacket in style. 

5. Christina Hendricks
The gorgeous curvy lady has got quirky winter style down to a T. With her furry bag, wrap dress that shows off her curves, and fedora hat she looks just spectacular. I love her little dog too (who matches the color of her hair nicely).

6. Taylor Swift
Taylor looks classy and cute in her winter outfits, usually opting for brown boots and a navy colored duffle coat. I love how she pulls her fedora off too.

7. Christina Ricci

Christina Ricci’s bright blue duffle coat suits her down to a T, but she doesn’t even need to dress it up to look fab. Simple jeans and black boots make her coat the centre of attention. 

8. Jessica Alba

Jessica Alba knows that all black outfits are far from boring. She does it the right way, and makes sure that she pairs lots of textures to keep the look interesting. Over the knee boots, studs on her jeans, leather, and fur around her neck. Her look is a winner for me!

These 8 winter outfits are some of my favorite to date. Looking to celebrities for inspiration is always helpful, even if I wouldn’t dare to wear some of the things that they do. Leave a comment to let me know which your favorite look is!


Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 27, 2014
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There is so much I love about this holiday from watching the Macy's parade to eating delicious food to the laziness that ensues after a big, fulfilling meal.

But the holiday is about much more than that, and often that meaning is lost in the hectic rush of the holiday preparations.

Our year started off on a rough note when Harper was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in February. Although it's a daily struggle, diabetes can be managed and controlled, and I am so very thankful for that. Many diseases that afflict children aren't as easily managed. Today she's healthy and thriving, and we've been lucky to have a wonderful support system of family and friends who help make our daily struggles a lot less stressful.

And of course, I am thankful for you, the readers of Pieces of a Mom. There are often days when I wonder if all this blogging is worth it, and then I receive an email from a reader saying that a post struck a chord with her and inspired her. There are many blogs out there, so when you come here daily to check in, please know it's very much appreciated.

On that note, I'm signing off to enjoy the day with my family. I hope you will do the same with yours or with whomever you are spending the holiday. xx

Finding Fun Activities and Events for Kids and Families with Yuggler

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Not long after moving to the Jersey shore, my husband and I had our first child. I was still considerably new to the area and trying to find my way around all the little beach towns. It seemed I'd never know the ins and outs of all the places to go and things to do.

There was no go-to resource to find activities or local events. You either had to know someone who knew of them or you had to stumble upon them. As a new mom, I wasn't likely to stumble upon very much as I was hesitant to venture out often with a newborn.

Even today, 13 years after I first moved here, I am still discovering new places for my kids to enjoy. But this time, I am doing it with the help of Yuggler, a free iPhone app that allows parents to discover fun, new activities for kids.

Yuggler includes reviews, photos, and opinions about activities and local happenings from parents just like us. Yuggler allows you to research ideas, browse photos, and read tips from other parents, making it super easy and convenient to find just the type of outing you are looking for.

Once you download the app, you simply create a profile and get started. I found it easiest to create a profile using my Facebook login. When you are logged in via Facebook, adding new places to Yuggler is super fast and easy since Yuggler can pull pics from the places or activities on the Facebook page.

Yuggler uses Location Services to determine your geographical location and offers events and activities closest to you. Yuggler locates activities near you and numbers and categorizes them accordingly (art, amusement park, sports, etc.)

I chose the "Best Rated" activities in my area, specifically Jenkinson's, a local amusement  attraction on the boardwalk.

Yuggler showed me other attractions in the area including arcades, miniature golf, an aquarium, and a local italian ice/ice cream shop.

We have spent many summers enjoying days at Jenkinson's Amusements. From morning to night, Jenkinson's offers a full day of entertainment from the mornings at the beach to evening fireworks.

If you're looking for an activity that's a bit more low-key, Yuggler allows you to search for a specific activity, event, or a place such as a park. Allaire State Park is a favorite place of mine when I am in the mood to take pictures. For a family outing, it offers plenty of historical events that are both fun and educational for children and adults.

And here's the best part of Yuggler. You discover new places in your surrounding communities. Just when I thought I knew of just about every place my daughters would enjoy, I discovered Girlz Day. I selected it to read reviews, see pictures, and get more information.

Yuggler offers the address and a description of the activity.

Yuggler users can easily add activities that are not currently included in the app. Yuggler is easy to use and navigate. Once downloaded and your profile is created, you can jump right in and search for activities.

I loved the variety of places included. From restaurants to parks to bowling alleys to party venues, Yuggler has a little bit of everything kids and families love.

The following video shows Yuggler in action.

Yuggler, the community for family fun: things to do for kids from Yuggler, LLC

Click here to download Yuggler on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod.

You can find Yuggler on all your favorite social media hot spots such as Facebook, Twitter, PinterestGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Disclosure: This post was written in conjunction with Yuggler. I received compensation for sharing my review. As always, all opinions are my own.

What To Wear: Black Friday Shopping

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Comfort is key on Black Friday. As much as you may be tempted to wear that new pair of shoes or your chunky knit sweater, this is not the occasion for either of them.

Keep your outfit simple. If you are going to layer, wear thin, light layers. You'll be doing a lot of walking, so keep your shoes comfortable.

I've put together two outfit ideas that are perfect for this occasion.

This is the ultimate comfort outfit. All the pieces are easily movable. You won't be fidgeting to fix a scarf or pull your pants up.

Shop this look: Vest || Tee || Yoga Pants || Crossbody Bag || Sneakers || Earrings

If heading anywhere but the gym in activewear isn't your thing, then opt for a stylishly casual outfit that features light layers, comfortable jeans, and flats.

Shop this look: Tank || Sweater || Jeans || Crossbody Bag || Shoes || Earrings

And don't miss my post on Black Friday Shopping Tips. Remember, be prepared!

8 Fabulous Gifts for Moms

Monday, November 24, 2014
Christmas is coming, and we’re all trying to get ready for it earlier and earlier. One person who deserves a treat more than most is your mom. Think about it; they’ve taken care of us, treated us, and made us into the person we are today. Christmas is the perfect excuse to treat her and make her feel special! The following 8 gifts are all mom appropriate and suited to all kinds of budgets.

1. Lounge Wear

If there’s something moms need to do more, it’s lounge around the house without a care in the world. Encourage your mom to do this with the help of some cozy lounge wear! All you need to know is her size and you can take your pick. Perfect for the cold nights.

2. Fancy Candles

Women have been developing a strange obsession with candles over the last few years; I blame the popularity of Yankee candles. You can find pretty much any scent you can dream up in their extensive range of candles, from clean cotton to fresh cut grass. You must know a scent that your mom loves, so take a look and see if you can find it in candle form.

3. Diamond Jewelry

If you have a big budget set aside for your mom, some diamond jewelry might be a nice idea. If she likes sparkly pieces, some diamonds in the form of earrings or a necklace could be a wonderful idea. Houston Jewelers Whiteflash get a lot of orders for special presents for moms at this time of year.

4. Clothes

If you have an idea of your mom’s style, why not treat her to a brand new outfit? This could be something special to wear to a Christmas gathering, or even a New Year’s party. This can be tricky though, so you might be better off buying her a gift card to her favorite clothes store to let her choose for herself.

5. Expensive Wine

Everybody loves a tipple around this time of year, so treat your mom to something luxurious to drink. It doesn’t need to be an expensive wine; buy her whatever she likes to drink. You could even find a cocktail making kit if she prefers more exotic drinks. One of my favorite sites from which to order wine is Uncorked Ventures.

6. Beauty Products

There are a ton of beauty products out around this time of year; face creams, body lotions, and even electric nail buffers. Products like this encourage moms to feel good about themselves, and give them an incentive to take some time out for pampering.

7. Premium Chocolates

If you can’t eat luxury chocolates at Christmas time, when can you? Treat your mom to some premium chocolates to enjoy over the holiday period. You could even take the time to make them yourself!

8. A Personalized Picture

Most moms are house proud, so what better gift to give than a personalized picture? You can find all kinds of styles to suit any taste. Simply input some details and you should be able to see a preview of the finished product!

Go on, treat your mom to something from this list this year!


Menu Plan Monday :: 11.24.2014

I'm looking forward to the short holiday week. I'll be keeping the meal plan pretty simple this week since it's a busy work week and my oldest has early dismissal 3 days this week, and we'll be doing some baking together in the evenings.

Here's what we'll be eating this week.

Monday - Cheeseburger soup with a side salad

Tuesday - Pasta with tomatoes, basil, zucchini, and garlic

Wednesday - Stuffed peppers

Thursday - Thanksgiving!!

Friday - Take out

Saturday - Make your own pizzas (this is one of my favorites)

Sunday - Cheese fondue

What's on your plate this week? For more meal time inspiration, visit I'm An Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday linkup.

To view all of my menu planning posts, click here. Visit my What's For DinnerPasta, and Soups On! Pinterest boards for even more ideas.


Positive Parenting Tips for Raising Children

Sunday, November 23, 2014
Parenting, though very difficult most of the time, is the most rewarding job any person can have.  As parents, we often spend sleepless nights wondering if we made the right decision or worrying about what our child will do next. Or perhaps you’re on the other side, praising your child to no end knowing they can do no wrong, until one day…

The truth is, there is no magic formula or rulebook, no foolproof guarantee that we are always going to get it right. Parenting takes on a new form each day and with each new child. We make mistakes and learn as we go.

Just as we wish our teachers would recognize our child is different from the next, we must also do the same. Every situation and every child calls for a different set of “rules,” but there are also some avenues we must all take because, after all, what we do have in common is that we are raising little human beings to be able to take care of themselves one day.

This week was a tough one for me. We were fresh off of an 11-day vacation. The kids didn't want to return to school. In addition to returning to work, I was up to my eyeballs in laundry and odds and ends around the house. Add to that one of my daughters had early dismissal all week. Needless to say, we were all a little cranky this week.

I short circuited twice, had a mini meltdown of sorts and excused myself from the room for a time out. As a result, I took a step back and evaluated how we were feeling and dealing with all of the responsibilities that we left behind during our vacation that we, once again, had no option but to deal with.
Here are a few tips to help you deal with every day parenting. Though not comprehensive for every child, every child will benefit from these tips.

Set realistic boundaries. Be consistent and follow through. As a child, I always knew I could get to the 3rd or 4th threat before my parents would actually follow through with the punishment, because that’s what they always gave me: threats. There was rarely a consequence. In fact, I think I was only grounded 2 or 3 times.

Setting boundaries and following through with the consequences outlined is one of the most fundamental aspects of being a parent. Let your children know the rules and what will happen if they break them. When they do, because they most likely will at least once per rule, follow through with the consequence. They will know you mean business and they will understand the value of a boundary.

Give choices. Often times children don’t like what we have to offer. Especially once you hit the twos through the teens (OK, maybe all of their lives) you will find they often want to do the exact opposite of what you ask. So, give them choices—perhaps even with punishments. Come up with two choices in which you can live with the outcome. Have them choose one. You win and they win.

Make time for your children. Spending time with your children is one of the most important things you can do for them. This lets them know you are interested in who they are and allows you to get to know them. They change each day and want to know you care. Talk to them in the car. Set aside time at dinner. Set aside a time before bed. Create a consistent, protected time during each day to be sure they get your attention.

Prove that you love them unconditionally. They are going to make mistakes. So are you. Proving that you love them no matter what will go a long way in their book. Issuing consequences doesn’t have to come from a cold place. Tell them you’re disappointed you have to issue the consequence, but that you love them and care about them. Be sure they know the consequence isn’t a punishment because you’re mad, but because you love them.

Be brave. Allow yourself to be uncomfortable. They are going to fall. They are going to skin their knees trying to ride their bike. They are going to tell an innocent lie to get to walk around the mall with their friends alone. They are going to make mistakes. Let them! In a safe way of course, but allow them to make mistakes. The truth is, we learn best when we have to learn for ourselves. 

Parenting is uncomfortable a lot of the time, but making it too comfortable for your children can be detrimental to your child’s future. Allow them to fall and be there to pick them up when they do.
Don’t teach them to brush their teeth by doing it for them. Show them how to brush their teeth and let them learn themselves.

Tips for Black Friday Shopping

Friday, November 21, 2014
Do you brave the crowds on Black Friday or do you stay safely tucked inside your house until the crazies have long left the mall?

I am part of the crowd that includes the crazies! Yes! I wholeheartedly shop on Black Friday, and I love it!

For the past 5 years, Emma and I have been waking at 3:30 to hit the mall. This is going to sound totally crazy, but I love that she loves shopping on Black Friday. I know, right??? What sort of little monster am I creating?

We've learned quite a few things in our years of Black Friday shopping, and today I'm sharing them with you.


1) Have a game plan
Photo credit

Walking into the mall at 4:00 am aimlessly will get you NO WHERE. Make a list of the stores you want to hit and any appropriate sale times and items that fall into the sale time frame. For example, last year Gap was offering 40% off everything in the store between the hours of 4 am and 10 am. We put that sale at the top of our list. Scour the ads in the Thanksgiving Day newspaper and put together a list of stores you want to visit and people you need to buy for.

2) Be prepared for crowds and long lines...and cranky people
All are simple facts of life on Black Friday. There is nothing normal about shopping between the hours of midnight and 7 am. Those who do so will short-circuit. AND...the lines at Starbucks are outrageously long. People who have forgone sleep in favor of shopping + lack of caffeine = disaster. Bring your patience pills and a bottle of water because you'll be popping them all morning.

3) Create a budget and stick to it
It is easy to be swayed by all the SALE signs and stores promising "great deals", but your spending will quickly spiral out of control unless you create a budget and a shopping list and remain loyal to both.

4) Dress comfortably
Black Friday is not the day to break in your brand new 3 inch heeled boots. Comfortable and functional clothes and shoes are the key here. Leave your coat in the car as you DO NOT want to be stuck lugging it around.

5) Park at a convenient location
If you're planning on a big haul at the mall, you'll need to make frequent trips to your car to drop off your bags. This is the one and only time I advocate driving around to jones for the best parking spot possible.

6) Have fun with it!
Don't take the shopping too seriously. If an item is out of stock, make a note of it and move on to the next item. Don't fret, just keep an eye out for it at another location or save it for another shopping trip. Take the crowds with a grain of salt and keep in mind that aside from Black Friday, there will still be 29 days to accomplish your holiday shopping. Use the outing as an excuse to go out for lunch at your favorite restaurant or to buy yourself a little treat. Go on! You'll deserve it after your morning.

Friday's Fresh Picks: Favorite Cookbooks Right Now

When the weather starts to turn cold, I just want to hunker down in my kitchen to cook and bake. This kind of weather just begs for satisfying comfort foods that fill the house with sweet aromas.

This week I headed to the book store to stock up on a few new books for the upcoming months. There are so many great cookbooks out there, and I especially love how many of them are written by fellow bloggers.

Here are a few of the cookbooks I am loving lately. I have a few recipes picked out, and I plan to make them this weekend. Do you have a favorite cookbook you turn to over and over again for tried and true recipes?

{Southern California comfort food recipes from the modern cafeteria Lemonade now available in this pretty and mouth watering book}

{When it comes to simple and comforting food and baked goods, Joy the Baker NEVER disappoints}

{My favorite celebrity chef is Ina Garten. I have all of her cookbooks, but Barefoot Contessa at Homeis by far my favorite}

{I met blogger and cookbook author Gina a few years ago at a conference. We sat next to each other at lunch and chatted about our blogs. Her Skinnytasterecipes are amazingly healthy and incredibly tasty}

{When Harper was diagnosed with diabetes in February, her endocrinolgist gave us a copy of Dishing It up Disney Style - A Cookbook for Families with Type 1 Diabetes. I have turned to this cookbook time and time again for healthy, reliable, and delicious recipes that our entire family enjoys.}

{Oh, c'mon. You can't expect me to get through the holidays without a few fun Candy Cocktails}

Friday Fresh Picks are hand-picked favorite items, reviews and highlights from the amazing women you see above.

Visit their websites to learn about other amazing picks from this week!

To view all of my Friday Fresh Picks posts, click here.

Four Holiday Outfits for Girls #FashionFriday

The holiday season offers plenty of occasions to don our best looks. Little girls get especially excited about dressing up for school events and family parties. My girls go crazy for fancy dresses and fun graphic tees.

Whether it's a casual, dressy, or a fun occasion, I've created four different looks that any girl will love this holiday season.

TRADITIONAL - You'll never go wrong in plaid for the holidays. Little girls will love this plaid dress adorned with a satin red bow. A red sweater, ballet flats, and a purse with lots of bling round out the outfit.

TRENDY DRESSY - For the more daring little fashionista, this lace dress is a perfect choice for holiday parties. She'll be the belle of the ball!

DRESSY CASUAL - This outfit is perfect for a party hosted in someone's home. It's casual yet dressy. It's pretty without being too fancy.

AROUND THE HOUSE - Who needs a party as an occasion to wear festive clothes? Sometimes just lounging around the house and kicking back calls for comfy yet festive clothing.

I'm linking up with #FashionFriday. For all the latest in fashion, be sure to check out the other participants.


Best Online Reads

Thursday, November 20, 2014

All the links I'm loving this week:

1. 6 uses for your mascara brush via SheKnows.

2. How to make ooey, gooey macaroni and cheese via Food & Wine.

3. The sexiest man alive is... via Redbook.


Great Gifts For Starbucks Lovers

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
We all know how much I love Starbucks, both the drinks and the merchandise. Starbucks recently introduced its holiday collection, and of course, it's fabulous. If you've got a coffee lover or a Starbucks fan on your list, any one of these items is sure to do the trick!

1. Advent Calendar ($29.95) - How cute is this? It sure beats most that I have seen.

2. Peppermint Bark ($3.95/3-count pack) - No explanation needed! A holiday must-have.

3. Peppermint Hot Chocolate ($6.49/box) - Grab your favorite blanket and cozy up to the fire with a mug of steaming hot chocolate.

4. 7. Floral Cold Cup Tumbler ($16.95) - I take my cold cup with me everywhere. If you've a gym buff on your list, it's the perfect workout accessory!

5. Bike Mug ($10.95) - The perfect mug for your favorite tea or coffee.

6. Heritage 1971 Pike Place Mug and Coffee Gift Set ($24.95) - Pike Place Roast is a customer favorite. This gift set complete with an ornament is sure to please!

7. Stainless Steel Ceramic Tumbler, Berry and White ($ 12.49) - Saturday morning soccer game and you want your coffee? You got it! This vibrant tumbler is perfect for the sidelines.

8. Swarovski Ornament ($49.95) - A luxe gift for the ultimate Starbucks fan!


Unique and Special Gifts for Children

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The holiday season isn't the only time of the year to focus on gift-giving for children. There are plenty of meaningful occasions that warrant a celebration and a call for gifts.

When your family starts to grow, it is a time for a celebration such as a baby shower. Having a new baby is a wonderful gift and should be celebrated with friends and family. This welcomes your child into the world, and into the community.
Pirate Pig Organic Farm Gift Set

Some families like to give the parents gifts as well as celebrate the new baby. New mommy and new daddy gifts and cards have been commonplace for many years. Bouquets of flowers, novelty T-shirts, and photo frames are popular gifts to give when a couple has a new baby. If this isn’t the first baby, then sometimes gifts are bought for the older siblings. This celebrates their new role in the family as their baby brother or sister’s protector and mentor.

Gifts are also bought for the baby to commemorate special milestones. Traditionally, christening gifts were given after a formal church christening ceremony. This welcomes the baby into the church and gifts traditionally made of silver symbolize the icons of Christianity. Today, naming ceremonies, and small family gatherings are just as common. The tradition of silver gifts remains popular too.

Gifts for children that are very popular include silver piggy banks, silver napkin rings, and silver baby bracelets. As children get older, silver jewelry such as necklaces, rings and earrings keep the girls happy. When Emma was born, she received silver rattles, jewelry boxes, and a pretty silver bank from Tiffany & Co. Ornamental silver footballs, medals and sculptures of favorite TV characters are great for boys. Receiving a special gift in silver is great for kids who are ready for some responsibility.
Kids don’t always need silver gifts to have a special gift. Customized soft toys, such as teddy bears, wearing special items of clothing have become very trendy. Toys are great fun, and many can be educational. However, at special times in a child’s life, silver makes a solid statement that will last forever, and can be easily displayed.

Many jewelry stores now carry children’s gifts in silver such as Disney characters and other popular children’s figurines. Rather than cheaper, plastic bedside clocks with digital displays, parents prefer to buy traditional silver clocks that will eventually become a keepsake for a child. These come with hands, to aid with their kids learning to read the time. Money banks in all shapes can be found now as well, although the traditional piggy remains the most popular choice.
Silver jewelry remains a popular choice for both kids and adults. It's always been my favorite. It's reasonably priced, and I like its durability. With so much adult jewelry now in white gold instead of yellow gold, parents are looking to silver for cheaper alternatives. Silver and white gold look very similar, and kids are happy to wear silver. I prefer this too, in case of damage or loss. Silver is cheaper than white gold and comes in far more styles and designs.

Photo credit: Flickr
For the ultimate gift for older children, silver smithing courses are available from most community colleges or art centers. These fun activity classes teach children how to make jewelry and trinkets in silver. It is a great, hands-on course for creative minds to develop an understanding and skill in this historic art. It is also a skill that can be continued in a home workshop environment. Furthermore, items made can be sold on to raise money for charity or to support their higher education.

We recently learned that some friends took a silversmithing course as a family in New York City and had a fabulous time. I love the idea of such a creative and hands-on gift for older children.

What's your favorite gift to give for a child's special occasion?