6 Ways to Balance Life and Work This Summer

Saturday, May 30, 2015
Summer is practically upon us, and for me, this time of year, although a ton of fun, can be stressful due to the fact that I have a home-based business. Just the thought of the kids being out of school for 81 days invokes a sort of panic in me that I don't feel any other time of the year. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get it all done and to do it well during these summer months. Late nights to make up for afternoons spent at the beach or pool are my summer norm. But this summer I plan to have a set schedule that will lend itself to some semblance of sanity.

In order to make that sanity a reality, I plan to employ these 6 ways to balance life and work this summer.

1. Let go of perfectionism
A lot of overachievers, myself included, develop perfectionist tendencies at a young age when demands on their time are limited to school, hobbies and maybe an after-school job. It's easier to maintain that perfectionist habit as a kid, but as you grow up, life gets more complicated. As your career advances and as you start a family, your responsibilities grow. Perfectionism becomes harder to attain, and if that habit is left unchecked, it can become destructive. The healthier option is to strive not for perfection, but for excellence and to know that you are doing the best that you can.

2. Unplug
From telecommuting to programs that make work easier, technology has helped our lives in many ways. But it has also created expectations of constant accessibility. The work day never seems to end. There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment. Phone notifications interrupt your off time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system. So don't text at your kid's soccer game and don't send work emails while you're hanging out with family. Make quality time true quality time. By not reacting to the updates from work, you will developing a stronger habit of resilience.

3. Exercise and meditate
Even when we're busy, we make time for the crucial things in life. We eat. We sleep. And yet one of our most crucial needs - exercise - is often the first thing to go when our calendars fill up. Exercise is an effective stress reducer. It pumps endorphin's through your body. It helps lift your mood and can even serve a one-two punch by also putting you in a meditative state. I recently re-joined my gym and this summer I will dedicate a few chunks of time each week to self-care, whether it's exercise, yoga or meditation. But if you're really pressed for time, start small with deep breathing exercises during your commute, a quick five minute meditation session morning and night, or replacing drinking alcohol with a healthier form of stress reduction.

4. Limit time-wasting activities and people
These are the things that can really suck the life out of us. First, identify what's most important in your life. This list will differ for everyone, so make sure it truly reflects your priorities, not someone else's, especially those of your children. Next, draw firm boundaries so you can devote quality time to these high-priority people and activities. From there, it will be easier to determine what needs to be trimmed from the schedule. Focus on the people and activities that reward you the most.

5. Change the structure of your life
Sometimes we fall into a rut and assume our habits are set in stone. It's always a good idea to take a step back and evaluate your life and ask yourself: What changes could make life easier? Instead of trying to do it all, focus on activities you specialize in and value most. Delegate or outsource everything else. Delegating can be a win-win situation. Find out what you can do to let go in ways that benefit other people by giving them opportunities to grow. This will give them a chance to learn something new and free you up so you may devote attention to your higher priorities. I've started doing this with my daughters, and they are learning to do more for themselves and are feeling empowered in the process.

6. Start small. Build from there.
We've all been there: crash diets that fizzle out, New Year's resolutions we forget by February. It's the same with work-life balance when we take on too much too quickly. As my husband likes to say, "Crawl. Walk. Run." Start small and experience some success, and build from there until you are at a comfortable pace and accomplishing what you set out to do while maintaining your happiness.

Tips appear courtesy of Cindy Lane Ross. Text has been personalized by me.


Friday's Fresh Picks: This Week's Favorites

Friday, May 29, 2015
This week seemed to be a blur. Just as I had suspected, as soon as the warm weather hits, the time flies. The weeks have been busy as I've been trying to squeeze every ounce of work into them in order to free up my weekends. This weekend we are heading to Pennsylvania for a graduation party and hitting up our swim club on Sunday before the rain comes in on Monday.

Hope your weekend is full of sunshine and lots of laughs. Here are a few of the things that made this week a good one. xx

{The fresh salsa bar at Surf Taco}

{A mid-week ice cream treat}

{Perfectly roasted marshmallows for s'mores}

{A relaxing night spent at home with a new favorite read}

{Gorgeous, fluffy white ranunculus from my favorite flower shop}

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.

Best Online Reads

Thursday, May 28, 2015

All the stories around the Web worth reading this week:

1. How successful people work less and get more done via Entrepreneur.

2. A watermelon salad that is perfect for summer gatherings via A Cup of Jo.

3. Do you have the right personality to work from home via Fast Company.


Fabulous Shopping at the All-New The Mills at Jersey Gardens

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
I've never been one to turn down a fabulous shopping experience. So when I was invited to a mom's night out event at the all-new The Mills at Jersey Gardens, I happily said "I'll be there!". I met up with blogging friends Corine and Lori, and we literally shopped til we dropped.

I had never been to The Mills at Jersey GardensNew Jersey’s largest outlet and value retail center with over 200 stores all under one roof. It opened in 1999 but has recently undergone a complete transformation. It's bright, clean, and features tax-free shopping (gotta love that!), and an amazing selection of stores.

Most outlet centers in New Jersey are outdoor malls, but The Mills at Jersey Gardens is completely enclosed, similar to a traditional retail shopping mall. It features a food court, restaurants, and plenty of convenient parking located near major mall entrances. I pulled into a spot and within 20 seconds I was inside and about to get my shopping on.

The mall is laid out nicely with escalators located throughout. I liked the way the big department store outlets were located in close proximity to one another. Since I had planned to spend most of my time in stores like Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th and Neiman Marcus Last Call, I was happy that they were side by side.

Now let's talk about the deals. I've been known to find deeper discounts at retails stores than outlets, but that wasn't the case at The Mills at Jersey Gardens. The sales were stellar! I picked up a Rebecca Minkoff tote for just $127 at Saks Off 5th. It was discounted from its original price, and it was on sale for 40% off. As soon as I got home, I transferred everything to my new bag, and it hasn't left my side since.

I also picked up this shorts romper at the Gap Outlet for a steal. It was $12!!! How could I not? It's super comfy and has a wide elastic waistband. I've worn it with flip flops for a casual look and with wedges for a dressier look when we've gone out to dinner. 

The last fabulous find is my pair of Ray-Ban aviators. I scored these at Century 21 for $85. I'm not one to splurge on sunglasses, but I have long wanted a pair of Ray-Ban aviators, and these fit perfectly. No buyer's remorse here.

The Mills at Jersey Gardens boasts over 200 stores including Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Century 21, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshall’s and Bed Bath & Beyond, Michael Kors, Coach, True Religion, Nautica, GAP Outlet, and many more. For a full list of stores, click here.

The Mills at Jersey Gardens is conveniently located just off exit 13A of the Garden State Parkway, making it easily accessible from north or south Jersey, and New York City. Grab a girlfriend and make a day of it!

Disclosure: I received gift cards to facilitate my shopping experience and review of The Mills at Jersey Gardens.

What We're Reading

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
As each summer approaches, I have a hankering to read. Lazy afternoons spent at the pool, beach, or on my deck or front porch are the perfect opportunities to curl up with a good book. I have always loved to read, but I haven't done much of it lately. I blame it on not having enough time to read, but honestly, I haven't found the right book, and I need to make more of an effort to tear myself away from the computer.
This summer, we have lots of reading planned. From entertaining to educational, the girls and I have our bases covered. Every few weeks I will be sharing what each of us is reading at that particular moment. From the mom to the teen to the tween, you'll get a glimpse into our bookshelf and the books that we are currently loving. Hopefully you'll get some inspiration for some summer reading.
What I'm Reading: Shopaholic To The Stars by Sophie Kinsella
I have long loved Kinsella's Shopaholic series. They are light, easy, and witty reads that will have you falling in love with the lead character Becky Bloomwood almost immediately.

What Emma's Reading: 
The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante
This is a tale of triumph and healing and how one family pulls itself back together after a horrible accident.

What Harper's Reading: 
Game Time, Mallory! by Laurie Friedman
Harper's been loving the Mallory series. She's already read three of the books in the series and has been eager to keep going.

What are you reading?

Menu Plan Monday :: 5.25.2015

Monday, May 25, 2015
I'm waking up this Memorial Day to a quiet house and gorgeous weather. Everyone is still asleep, so I thought I'd get a jump on the week while I can and put my weekly meal plan together. The countdown (19 days) to the end of the school year has begun. I'm starting to stress over how I will get it all done this summer. In the meantime, I've got 4 weeks to devise a plan. At least these meal plans have been successful for me.
Here's what's on the menu this week:
Photo source

Monday - Memorial Day barbecue

Tuesday - Chicken taco French bread pizza with a side salad

Wednesday - Stuffed peppers

Thursday - Lemon ricotta Parmesan pasta with spinach and chicken

Friday - Pizza stuffed pasta shells with arugula salad

Saturday - We will be attending a graduation party in Pennsylvania.

Sunday - Grilled Italian sausage, pasta salad, and Mexican corn.

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.

Kick Off Summer with Beach Essentials

Saturday, May 23, 2015
After a loooooong winter (did we ever think it would end?), summer is finally here. Well, unofficially anyway. Here at the Jersey shore, Memorial Day weekend signals the start of summer. And here at Pieces of a Mom, we are kicking it off by sharing a few beach essentials. Whether you are making a day of it or just hitting the beach for an hour, these are must-haves for your trip.

Turkish Towels - If you don't have a Turkish towel, now is the time to buy one. Imagine a day when it is scorching hot, and you want something cool for lounging on the beach. A Turkish towel is your answer. They are lightweight and refreshing and are incredibly versatile. Not only can they be used as towels, you can use it as a sarong or a shawl.

Sunglasses - Sunnies are a definite must for the beach. Protect your eyes from that blazing sun with a chic pair of sunglasses. I recently bought a pair of Ray Ban Aviators, and I am loving them. However, I'm not going to retire my cheap sunnies any time soon. They are the perfect way to change up my look and accessorize my beach wear.

Beach/Pool Coverup - I have a slight obsession with beach coverups. With so many different styles and colors, it's hard not to want to collect them. My favorite cover ups are those that can take you from beach to boardwalk. Whether you are leaving the beach to head out to lunch, dinner, or cocktails, you want to be able to do it seamlessly, and the right cover up will allow you to do it.

Sunscreen - Nothing puts a damper on a great beach day more than a sunburn. Protect yourself with a long wearing sunblock with at least a 30 SPF. I love Sun Bum (I used it non-stop when we went to Captiva, Florida). Sun Bum comes in tons of varieties and has an amazing scent. Get yourself some.

Beach Tote - You are going to need someplace to stow all your beach stuff, and a roomy tote is the perfect choice. This one isn't too beachy, so it's perfect if you plan to continue the party beyond the beach at, perhaps, a boardwalk bar.

Bathing Suit - Obviously, you'll need this one. Make sure it's a suit that you are comfortable wearing and that fits well. Not too small and not too large. You don't want to spend your time fidgeting with a suit that is ill-fitting.

Lip Balm with SPF - Just as we protect our skin, our lips deserve the same TLC when we are in the sun. I bought this balm from Shiseido last summer, and it is FABULOUS! It's not cheap as far as lip balms go, but trust me on this one. You want this in your beach tote.

Beach Hat - Not only is a beach hat stylish and a great accessory to your outfit, but it is functional too. In addition to shielding your face from the sun, it also serves to protect your hair. Since I have highlights, I rely on a hat to keep the sun from destroying my color.

Sandals - Yeah, bare feet are pretty much the sign of the ultimate beachcomber, but seriously, in the dead of summer, do you really want to be prancing around on boiling sand and concrete with nothing on your feet? I didn't think so. An inexpensive pair of sandals will serve you well.

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Friday's Fresh Picks: Nordstrom Half Yearly Sale

Friday, May 22, 2015
It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Now is the time to grab at item (or two) that you've been eyeing up for months. Or if you are looking to replenish your summer wardrobe, the Nordstrom Half Yearly Sale is the best time to do it.
With up to 40% off the best styles for Womens, Mens, Home, & Kids, you can look great without breaking the bank.

These sales can be daunting. Lots of great stuff and not enough time to sift through it all. So, I'm giving you some help today.

For this week's Friday's Fresh Picks, I am sharing my favorite finds from the sale.








Grab the goods fast! This sale ends May 31, 2015.
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.

Best Online Reads

Thursday, May 21, 2015
My favorite stories around the web this week:

1. Amazing travel experiences to have before you die via My Domaine.

2. The nineteen best drugstore beauty products via Marie Claire.

3. Ten things you didn't know about The Cheesecake Factory via The Daily Meal.


May 2015 Birchbox Deconstructed #Birchbox

The highly anticipated Birchbox curated by Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere arrived over the weekend. I don't think I've ever been more excited about a Birchbox, and this one certainly didn't disappoint. 

Here's what was in this month's Birchbox:

1. Miracle Skin Transformer FACE Broad Spectrum SPF (Received sample. Full size, $48)
This is tinted moisturizer that color corrects and leaves an almost airbrushed appearance. I am a big fan of tinted moisturizers, and this is definitely one of the best ones I've tried to date. I'm not too thrilled by the price tag though.

2. Kerastase Fondant Chroma Captiva (Received sample. Full size, $26)
This conditioner is a super hydrator and also locks in color for 40 days. I can attest to the hydration but the sample obviously didn't provide enough conditioner to confirm that it extends color for 40 days. I did like the way it helped my dry ends.

3. Kerastase Bain Chroma Captiva (Received sample. Full size, $21)
This sulfate-free shampoo restores hair and preserves color up to 40 days. Again, I can't confirm the 40 days with a sample, but I did like the overall effect this shampoo had on my hair. It felt healthier and more voluminous.

4. Beauty Protector Beauty Cream Body Lotion (Received sample. Full size, $16)
This lotion smells AMAZING. It's a light, floral scent and a smooth, silky finish that is quickly absorbed into the skin. I really like this lotion. Definitely going to buy a bottle.

5. W3LL PEOPLE Expressionist Bio Extreme Mascara (Received full size, $25)
Finally an all-natural mascara without chemicals or dyes. I've been waiting for this! This mascara is further proof that you don't need harsh chemicals for an effective mascara. Love the brush too.

Bonus item: Miracle Revival Mud Mask (Received sample. Full size, $38)
This mask unclogs pores and firms up skin for a fresh, youthful appearance.
All items available for purchase through the links above.

To see all of my Birchbox posts, click here.

To see more of my favorite beauty products, check out my Beauty board on Pinterest

Top Techniques For Making Your Home Unique

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Not everyone wants to put in the time and effort to decorating their house extravagantly. But if you're one of the people who do, you probably don't want your home to look like everyone else's. It's not hard to accidentally make your home look unique when you're a mom. After all, no one has the same pattern of food stains and scattered toys as you do.

But if you want a home that's unique in a more deliberate way, you need to put some thought into injecting your personality, and that of your family. The following methods will help you transform your home into something that suits you from the inside out.


Embellish the Exterior
A lot of people start to decorate their home inside but don't give much thought to the outside. If you pay attention to the exterior too, you can stand out among your neighbors. You might have to be careful about upsetting neighbors who have to look at your house every day, but you can usually get away with most things. If you want to make some small changes, install a weathervane like the ones from Cuckooland, paint your front door an eye-catching color, or install some new porch lights. Or you can make more significant changes too, like putting on new siding or painting the exterior a different color.

Add Some Color
Often when you move into a new house, it's done in neutral colors. One of the fastest ways to turn a house into a home is by injecting some color into all the rooms. Your might decide to paint or put up wallpaper, but you don't have to make permanent changes. You can concentrate your splashes of color in your furniture and accessories, from sofas and curtains to picture frames and pillows.

Display Memories and Experiences
How can you avoid your home looking like just anyone could live there? You need to show objects that are personal to you, so you and your family fill all the spaces in your house. You could hang photos of your family or display items that you've collected on your travels. Whenever you visit somewhere or experience something new, you could bring something back to remind you of the fantastic time you had.

Look for Unique Items
When you buy things for your house, don't just buy things from the same stores and catalogs as everyone else. Instead, go searching for unique items that aren't mass-produced. Find independent artists and people who make furniture by hand, instead of buying from chain stores. You can rifle through markets, thrift shops, and other places where you can pick up unique finds. If you want something that you can guarantee no one has, you could commission something to be made too. It could be a family portrait, a hand-blown glass vase or even a pair of curtains.

Make sure your home is a true reflection of who you are. Let your personality shine through with these easy changes!

Tom and Teddy Swimwear Featured in the Movie "Adult Beginners" {iTunes Giftcard Giveaway}

Tuesday, May 19, 2015
When I first saw the trailer for Adult Beginners, I thought it looked like a hilarious movie. I loved Rose Byrne in both Bridesmaids and Annie, and I just knew I had to see her in Adult Beginners too. Plus, Bobby Carnavale was smashing in Boardwalk Empire, so he had to be equally as good in this movie.

What I didn't expect was to fall head over heels with the other main characters: the little boy Teddy and his "manny" and uncle Jake. After Jake falls on tough times in Manhattan, he moves in with his sister, played by Rose Byrne, and her family. With no job and no prospects on the horizon, Jake agrees to play the part of Teddy's manny. What we don't expect is the evolution of Jake's love for his newfound role as Teddy's caregiver.

Part of Jake's responsibilities include taking Teddy to his weekly swimming lessons. Jake makes no bones about the fact that he is less than thrilled to take on this task. But he puts on his big boy swimming trunks and takes Teddy for his first lesson. Although the swimming lessons aren't a smashing success, Jake and Teddy do manage to look absolutely adorable in their matching swimming trunks.

After seeing the movie, I was on a quest to discover who made the oh-so-cute matching swimming trunks. Several Google searches later, and I had found my answer. Tom & Teddy is the swimwear brand featured in the movie. Tom & Teddy is an Australian brand which makes matching adult men's and boy's swimsuits. With Father's Day coming up, they make the perfect gifts for special fathers, grandfathers and uncles.

The red and blue octopus trunks were featured in Adult Beginners. In addition to printed shorts, there are also solid colored trunks to choose from. But I have to say, I love the octopus trunks. The colors and the print are too cute.


If you want to get a look at these trunks in play, you must see the movie. One lucky Pieces of a Mom winner will win a $25 iTunes gift card to download the movie via iTunes. It costs $9.99 to purchase or $6.99 to rent it. The balance of the gift card can be used any way you wish!

Adult Beginners is also currently playing in theaters nationwide.

Use the widget below to enter to win the iTunes gift card.

Win a $25 iTunes Gift Card

Disclosure: I received a complimentary iTunes gift card to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Style Alert: JORD Wood Watches {Giveaway}

Monday, May 18, 2015
For as long as I can remember, I've been regularly wearing a watch. Even today when most people are relying on their phones to give them the time, I still prefer a watch. I'm not going to lie, part of what I love about watches is that they make great fashion accessories. When paired with a few
stacked bracelets, a watch can make a great statement.

When I first heard of JORD wood watches, I was intrigued. A wooden watch? The only thing I could think of was the myth of George Washington's wooden teeth. But trust me, the JORD wood watches are much more aesthetically pleasing than wooden teeth.

All JORD watches are made from natural material and sustainably sourced wood from across the globe. Depending on the design and type of watch, some may include more than one type of wood. JORD uses bamboo, maple, sandalwood, blackwood, cherry, zebrawood, and koa in its watches.

I received the Fieldcrest Black JORD watch. This watch is a mid-size watch. I like my watches a bit on the larger size, so I went for this model. I wanted a neutral face so that it would complement any color that I am wearing. The black face turned out to be the perfect choice. I received so many compliments on this watch. Seriously, people I don't know stopped me on the street to inquire about my watch.

I love the uniqueness of JORD watches. And while they stand out in a crowd, they won't break the bank. The Fieldcrest Black watch featured on me costs only $120.

Each JORD watch is designed to be splash-proof but not necessarily waterproof. It is recommended that you not submerge the watch directly in water.

JORD watches can be easily cleaned with a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice applied to a soft cotton cloth.

ALL JORD watches  are delivered to customers in a standard size. Links can easily be removed by using a push pin or a small screwdriver. Or it can be taken to a jeweler to re-size.

For answers to commonly asked questions regarding JORD watches, please see the FAQ.


JORD is generously offering one lucky Pieces of a Mom reader the chance to wear a beautiful JORD watch on your wrist. One winner will receive a $120 gift certificate to JORD to choose a watch of his/her choice.

Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. This giveaway is open to readers worldwide. To see the full collection of JORD watches, click here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received a complimentary JORD watch to facililate this review and giveaway. As always, all opinions are my own.

Menu Plan Monday :: 5.18.2015

The weather has finally turned warmer, and I hope it's here to stay. We grilled and ate on the deck both evenings over the weekend, and it was glorious! I love the ease of healthy summer meals and am looking forward to incorporating some Jersey fresh ingredients into our summer meals.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Monday - Crispy chicken cutlets with Romaine salad

Tuesday - Fajita chicken kebabs with Mexican rice

Wednesday - Classic minestrone soup with a side salad

Thursday - Grilled lemon Dijon chicken with roasted potatoes and broccoli

Friday - Dinner out

Saturday - Grilled shrimp scampi, rice, and steamed green beans (Hubs will grill a steak)

Sunday - Capellini with vegetables 

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: Perfect Bags for Weekend Getaways

Friday, May 15, 2015
The summer travel season is just around the corner, and if you're like I am, you've got some weekend trips planned.

Weekend getaways call for a specific sized bag that's just right for a few days worth of clothes, shoes, toiletries, and accessories. You don't need a bag that's too big, and you definitely don't want one that's too small.

In this week's Friday's Fresh Picks, I am sharing a few of my favorite (and perfectly proportioned) bags for quick weekend jaunts.

H&M Weekend Bag, $99
This canvas bag is not only functional but it's chic as well. With double handles, leather details, and raw edges at the top, this weekender features a fold-over flap with a magnetic enclosure. Its interior is lined and features a zippered inner compartment.

Vera Bradley Weekender Travel Bag, $98 (on sale now!)
Five inner pockets and an exterior zip pocket will keep all your must-haves organized and in their place. There are 2 back pockets that are ideal for passports, boarding passes, and ID cards. This roomy, carry-on compliant bag is roomy enough to hold all your weekend necessities and then some. And...it's machine washable!

Sole Society LACIE Oversized Vegan Weekender, $85
This ultra-roomy weekender looks expensive but doesn't have a matching price tag. For under $100, you get a gorgeous soft vegan leather bag that will take you and all of your essentials through a weekend.

Herschel Novel Duffle Natural Hemp, $130
Got an active weekend planned? This sporty tote is perfect for the occasion. Features a lightweight design and a crossbody strap for easy lugging. And it's available in 31 different colors.

Canvas Weekender Satchel, $80
This bag had me at "Hello". I mean, seriously, look at the size of it and the classic red and white combination I'm pretty sure I need this bag in my life, and then I need to schedule a few more weekend getaways so I can put it to good use.

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.

Happy Hour at Home

Thursday, May 14, 2015
On Friday afternoons when the clock strikes 5 o'clock, I imagine I look a lot like Fred Flintstone sliding down a dinosaur's tail at quitting time. Nothing excites me more than the promise of a summer weekend ahead, and that weekend usually starts with happy hour.

However, here at the Jersey shore, the bars become mob scenes on Friday evenings. Nothing puts a damper on my spirits faster than an overcrowded bar with overpriced drinks and over zealous twenty-somethings jockeying for a space at the bar to order the next round. No thanks. I'll pass.

I've managed to do a good job of re-creating happy hour at home, complete with yummy drinks, tasty food, and good music. At my happy hours, you wont fight the crowds for a spot at the bar, and you certainly won't encounter a long wait for the women's restroom!

It's really very simple once you have the key components for a great happy hour at home.

1. Start with a signature cocktail
Whether it's a happy hour or a party I am hosting, I mix up a signature cocktail for my guests to enjoy. It cuts down on chaos in the kitchen and you avoid having to mix customized drinks for guests. Whether you mix a pitcher of gin and tonics, margaritas, sangria, or Champagne cocktails, choose one universally appealing drink for your guests.

2. Serve cocktails with conversation napkins
Allow your cocktail napkins to serve as conversation pieces. When I use the napkins shown in the collage above, I ask my guests what their favorite drink is and how it came to be. There are so many great stories behind my friends' favorite drinks!

3. Use appropriate stemware and glassware
There's no need to buy expensive crystal, but it is important to have the appropriate glasses for serving drinks. You don't want to serve Champagne cocktails in tumbler glasses, for example.

4. Serve light bites
Serve a few carefully selected hors d'oeuvres that pair well with the signature cocktail. For added fun, offer guests fun plates for their fun food. Serve the light fare on serving platters and trays.

5. Set the mood
Place flowers in the center of the table and lanterns throughout your entertaining area for ambience.

And don't forget the most important components of happy hour at home: kick back, relax, and enjoy!