Friday's Fresh Picks: This Week's Favorites

Friday, February 27, 2015
This week I discovered a fun photo editing app, a fabulous collection of girls' clothing, and more. Take a look at what I am loving this week, and don't forget to visit my fellow Friday Fresh Picks participants to see what they are gushing over this week.

Current Favorite App:

{Waterlogue - adds a water color painting filter to any photo}

Current Favorite Miniature Sweet Treat:

Current Favorite Coffee Table Book:

Current Favorite Collection of Girls' Clothing: Kate Spade

Current Favorite Cutest Thing Ever:

Current Room Crush:

Current Favorite Piece of Wall Art:
{This hello, sunshine print for my home office. Found at Marshall's}

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.

Ooey, Gooey Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Thursday, February 26, 2015
If you are craving comfort food, there really isn't anything more satisfying than macaroni and cheese. The combination of pasta, creamy cheese, and a crunchy bread crumb topping is heaven in your mouth.


4 oz. elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2 TBS. + 2 tsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
2-1/4 cups milk
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Topping (optional)
2 TBS. butter, melted
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

3. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, mustard, and salt until combined.

4. Gradually whisk in the milk and heat until it thickens and slightly boils, being sure to continually whisk it.

5. Turn heat to low and add the cheese. Stir until completely melted.

6. Remove from heat and add the pasta to the cheese mixture. Stir to combine.

7. If using, combine the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl.

8. Spoon into a greased baking dish or individual baking dishes. Sprinkle topping mixture on the pasta. Bake for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.

*Note: For a crusty topping, broil for 30 seconds after baking.


Best Online Reads

All the links I am loving this week:

1. US presidents in order of hotness via Hottest Heads of State.

2. A 'Fifty Shades of Grey' trailer ('Fifty Shades of Bricks') recreated using Legos via Business Insider.

3. Sick of pizza? Try these tomato and mozzarella tarts instead via Skinnytaste.


Quick Fixes For the Winter Blues

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Around this time of year, the dreaded winter blues have deeply embedded themselves, and it's often difficult to snap out of them.

The cold weather, the snow covered ground, and ten extra pounds I've gained since Halloween make me want to crawl into bed and stay there until May. As tempting as that sounds, it's not going to do me any good nor will it brighten my mood. It will most likely make it worse.

Lately, I've been making a solid effort to snap out of the winter doldrums which often envelope me this time of year. I have a tendency to stay cooped up inside to avoid the cold weather. There's no place like a warm home, right? Well, not always. So, I thought I'd share some of my quick fixes with you in case you're in the same boat as I.


1. Get out and get moving!
This is so hard for me. I despise the cold temperatures. Walking from my house to my car is a monumental effort much less getting me to hit the pavement for a stroll around my neighborhood in sub-freezing temperatures. However, I've been getting out several times per week and taking a quick walk on the beach. I am surprised by how invigorating and satisfying the brisk stroll can be. Plus, it's a nice way to break up my work day at home.

I often bring my camera and snap a few pictures for Instagram or for the blog (see above photo). Two birds. One stone.

2. Make a date with a friend
Whether it's early morning coffee, a quick lunch, or drinks after work, getting out and connecting with a friend will do you some good. I am always inspired by socializing with a friend and hearing her stories and what's been going on in her life. It just may work for you too!

3. Treat yourself to something for summer
What better way to look forward to spring or summer than by buying yourself a little something for the upcoming season. Whether it's a new pair of sandals, a fun nail polish color, a cute pair of shorts, or a fabulous new maxi dress, you'll be excited to start counting the days until you can wear it.

I'd love to know what you do to break out of your winter funk!

One Year With Type 1 Diabetes

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Meeting major milestones is a rite of passage for childhood. We look forward to a first smile, a first tooth, a first step, and so many more. We blissfully record them in a baby book and look forward to the day we share those memories with our children.

It was one year ago today that Harper was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Not exactly your typical childhood milestone, but it is one never the less. It's a day that I'll never forget.

There isn't one detail about that day that doesn't still hold a vivid place in my memory. From the slight appearance of Harper's malnourished body that morning to the hesitation in the pediatrician's voice when she gave us the news to the hope in the endocrinologist's voice when we arrived at the hospital.

The wave of emotions I felt from the beginning of the day to the day's end are coming crashing back at me today as I recall the events of the day. From sadness to nervousness to anxiousness to fright to eventual relief, it was, to say the least, a roller coaster kind of day.

Today, we celebrate. Yes, I use the word celebrate because it is cause for celebration. Diabetes is not an easy disease to manage. It requires constant attention and a daily, hour by hour commitment, sometimes minute by minute.

Over the past year, Harper has attended countless birthday parties, two sleepovers, played sports, gone to amusement parks, celebrated Easter and Halloween all while successfully managing her diabetes.

I'm not going to lie. It hasn't always been a picnic. There have been days when both she and I were burned out. The finger pricking, carb counting, and insulin injections can get really old really fast. But for as many bad days, there are even more good ones where her blood sugar levels are almost too good to be true. There are days when she wakes up and happily takes her blood sugar without my having to nag ask.

There are days where the stars align and numbers fall into place. There are also days where I am pulling my hair out in frustration because we can't seem to get her numbers into her target range. It's not black and white. Diabetes is filled with gray areas. What may work one day may not the next. It's very challenging.

I've gone to bed in tears some evenings wondering why this has happened to Harper. As much as I try not to ask myself that question, it's hard not to think about it from time to time. But I have to believe that she is destined to do great things because of her diabetes. Whether she becomes an advocate for research or becomes a health care provider, I know she'll use her diabetes to help others.

And so, today, we will celebrate with cake (and a few extra units of insulin!) and hugs, and a wish for another successful year with diabetes. And of course, we will celebrate the support of our family and friends who have been by our side as we navigate the ever-changing path that is type 1 diabetes.


My Picks For Best Dressed at the 2015 Oscars

Monday, February 23, 2015
The Academy Awards are a star-studded occasion. Most likely the biggest night of the year in Hollywood.

With everyone vying for a spot on every fashion critic's "Best Dressed" list, all eyes are on the starlets as they walk the red carpet for all to see.

While I'm no fashion critic, I do like to think that I have an eye for classic and elegant fashion, the kind that reigns supreme at the Oscars.

While there was no shortage of absolutely stunning dresses, jewels, and hairstyles, these were by far my favorites of the night.

My favorite look of the evening was Reese Witherspoon's clean, streamlined black and white dress. She is the picture of elegance.

One for almost always choosing a back gown, Jennifer Aniston opted for this nude number, and she couldn't have looked any lovlier.

Rosamund Pike certainly redeemed herself at the Oscars. Her Golden Globes dress wasn't the best choice, but this red, textured gown is flaming hot.

The dress, the body, the hair, the makeup. It's all flawless. Jennifer Lopez wows in this ornately embellished gown.

Bradley Cooper was looking yummy, but that's par for the course.

Gorgeous couple alert! Chrissy Teigen and John Legend are well, legendary. Sorry, I had to go there.

Whose look did you love? Were there any looks that you didn't like at all? Please do tell!


Menu Plan Monday :: 2.23.2015

Big menu planning fail last week. I forgot it was the start of Lent, and I put a meat on our menu for Ash Wednesday. So, I am adding that menu item back on to the plan this week. Hopefully, I'll remember meatless Fridays as I put the meal plan together each week.

This is what we'll be eating this week:

Monday - Smoky rice and beans

Tuesday - Chicken, tortilla, and lime soup

WednesdaySkinny taco stuffed peppers

Thursday - White chicken chili

Friday - Tortellini vegetable soup

Saturday - Take out or dinner out

Sunday - Meatballs and sauce (the hubs' recipes, but this one is a good one).

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.


Friday's Fresh Picks: There's Something About Navy

Friday, February 20, 2015
There's something very refreshing about the color navy. Although many think of it as black's inferior cousin, I happen to love the color navy. It's warm, fresh, and I almost always associate it with all things nautical.

For this week's installment of Friday's Fresh Picks, I've got thoughts of summer swirling around my head, which, of course, has me obsessing over all things navy. Here are a few of my favorite picks.

{Catch A Lobster sweater is perfect for those chilly, seaside nights}

{A lightweight and pretty cover up that's perfect for lounging poolside}

{You'll look forward to rainy days when you've got a pair of Hunter wellies}

{This braided bracelet will look just as good with a dress as it will with shorts}

{The Converse Chuck Taylor is the ultimate in stylish yet low-key sneakers}

{How cute and chic are these anchor earrings?}

{A large tote is a must for lugging all the essentials}

{You can never have too many navy and white striped shirts}
{Add some fun to your office wardrobe with this flirty, floral skirt}

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!

If you like what you see here,  click here to view all of my Friday Fresh Picks posts.

Great Italian Food Begins With Red Pack Tomatoes {Giveaway} *CLOSED*

Thursday, February 19, 2015
It's the middle of winter, and I can think of nothing better than sitting down to the table for a comforting meal.

For me, the ultimate comfort food is a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. Nothing warms the soul more on a cold Sunday evening than the Hubs' homemade gravy and meatballs. It's a meal that our whole family looks forward to almost every Sunday. It's simple, but oh so delicious.

I'm partnering with Redpack Tomatoes to help spread the word about its "Redpack Carnevale" promotion that is currently running through March 4th on the Facebook page. One of 1,000 Redpack followers will win a Redpack branded apron each week! One grand prize winner will receive a pasta stock pot, pasta-related serve-ware and Redpack products.

During the promotion period, Redpack will also share some fun Italian recipes featuring its own tomato products, including Tuscan Tomato Bruschetta, Antipasto Salad, and Authentic Italian Gravy. Be sure to hurry over and like the Redpack Facebook page.
Tuscan Tomato Bruschetta prepared with Redpack Diced Tomatoes
As part of the "Redpack Carnevale" promotion, Redpack is offering one lucky Pieces of a Mom reader a chance to win a Redpack Prize Pack to make any of the above recipes and more. Create lifelong memories of family dinners with Redpack Tomatoes.

The prize pack includes:
  • 1-28 oz. can of Redpack Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1-28 oz. can of Redpack Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  • 1-28 oz. can of Redpack Diced Tomatoes
  • 1-6 oz. can of Redpack Tomato Paste
  • Six featured recipes, included those mentioned above as well as Pizza Stromboli, Baked Ziti, and Chicken Parmesan.

Best Online Reads

All the links I am loving this week:

2. The secret behind IKEA's catalog photos via House Beautiful.

3. Fifteen totally useless but awesome facts you need to know via Distractify.


Beauty Buzz: Essie's Cashmere Matte Collection

Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Soft and luxurious just like cashmere, Essie's latest nail polish collection includes velvety nudes and shimmery mauves. These colors are perfect for transitioning from winter to spring.

From left to right:

comfy in cashmere - a luxurious pearlized neutral color with a touch of mauve.

wrap me up - a whisper soft pink color with a touch of pearl.

just stitched - a warm pearly light blush color.

all eyes on nudes - a light camel-hued, neutral tone.

coat couture - a sultry satin grey/beige combo with a slight purple finish.

spun in luxe - a sophisticated black-blue combination.

* Note: For best results, essie recommends skipping the top coat with the cashmere matte collection.

Fun Projects For Kids To Do At Home to Beat Boredom

Monday, February 16, 2015
The weather is awful, but that doesn’t mean that you have to sit in the house with the kids, wishing the time away. There are some great home projects that you can undertake to ensure that you don’t have to hear the most dreaded of phrases, “I’m bored”. When it comes to devising a list of activities, it can irk on the side of dull. But, being armed with some fun projects is an excellent way to beat the winter boredom and to ensure that you have lots of fun and laughs in the process.

Here are some great things that you can do when the weather isn't cooperating on the weekends or during school breaks.

Movie Marathon Madness
A movie marathon is a must on a rainy day. But, that doesn’t mean you have to be glued to the box. You can make your own snacks for your movie marathon. Popcorn is simple to make and is a fun activity all-round. Watching the popcorn form in the saucepan is sure to keep your kids enthralled. You can even make milkshakes or healthy smoothies too. It’s a great way to get your kids in the kitchen, and you'll save money too.

Become a Nature Detective
The weather may be awful, but you don’t want to keep the kids cooped up all day. Give them a notepad and a pen and send them outside in the yard to do some observing. Ask them to jot down animals and plants that they see. Ask them to make note of the sky and the weather. You can even get them to draw things that they find. Encourage them to collect rocks, leaves and pine cones and make a fun collage when the nature hunt has ended.

Baking and Cooking: Getting Messy in the Kitchen
Baking is an excellent way to keep your kids riveted this half term. But, you don’t have to stick to cupcakes. There are lots of fun ways that you can cook up a storm. You can make jam tarts, scones and other tea time treats. Kids will love the messy element of baking, but they will also be learning some valuable life skills in the process. Everyone is a winner!

photo credit

Revamp Old Clothes: It’s Time to Tie Dye
Tie dye has long been an easy way to revamp old clothes. You can even pick up some plain white t-shirts from a local thrift store. The great thing about tie dye is that it’s not messy. It’s a great way for your kids to unleash their inner fashion designer too. All you need is an old bucket, different colored dyes, or a pre-made tie dye kit. and some string or rubber bands to make the patterns. It’s fun and effortless. Plus, the kids will love making their own unique designs.

Sewing Projects
Sewing projects can be a great way to beat the boredom. Make sure that you have a starter sewing machine or a starter sewing kit that is suitable for kids. You can make your own sock puppets, stuffed toys or patchwork quilts. Unleash your creativity and make your own toys and home decor projects that kids are sure to love for years to come. You can even decorate your new toys with buttons, ribbon and googly eyes.

Menu Plan Monday :: 2.16.2015

I am finally making use of my slow cooker this week. I have two evening events, so I'll be using it to set the family up with dinner while I am out.

Monday - Chili in the slow cooker (my own recipe)

Tuesday - Beef stir-fry

WednesdaySkinny taco stuffed peppers

Thursday - Tuscan pasta with tomato-basil cream sauce

Friday - Dinner out

Saturday - Jalapeno popper pizza with a side salad

Sunday - Cheese fondue for the Oscars!

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.

Sole Society President's Day Sale

Sunday, February 15, 2015
Sole SocietySole Society has easily become one of my favorite places to shop for shoes. Not only does Sole Society have its own brand of fabulous shoes, but it also carries reputable brands such as Vince Camuto and Lucky Brand.

Right now, Sole Society has deeply slashed prices for President's Day. You don't want to miss this sale!

Here are a few of my favorite picks.

DIANNA Pointed Toe Pump - $41.97

Dimpled Wide Brim Wool Hat - $23.98

KALISTA Leopard Flat - $38.97

AGNES Faux Croc Satchel - $38.97

Layering Tassel Necklace - $17.97

UMBER Suede Boot - $44.99

Thick Stripe Infinity Scarf - $15.98

VINCE CAMUTO Fancle - $79.48

TAMRA Suede Mid Heel - $41.97