Best Online Reads

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ten stories from around the web that I am loving this week:

1. How to use fillers such as "um" and "ah" better via Quartz.

2. Ways to motivate yourself to finally get organized via Real Simple.

3. How to get dinner on the table quickly during the week via Bon Appetit.

4. These Oreo black cat cookies are the cutest for a kids' Halloween party via Party Pinching.

5. How to easily remove a gel manicure at home via Fashionista.

6. Seven career mistakes even savvy women make via Cupcakes and Cashmere.

7. What to say to your stylist before your haircut so that you don't leave pissed off and crying via Man Repeller.

8. This one-minute motivational speech by Oprah will have you wanting to move mountains via Goalcast.

9. This is what guests notice most about your home via Huffington Post.

10. How to beat post-summer blues via MindBodyGreen.

Fall To-Do List

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It's fall, y'all!

Fall is finally here, and well, it's feeling like it too. There's a chill in the air. The sun is rising later and setting earlier. And there's the slightest hint of color change on some of the trees. Before the season completely escapes me (which it has a tendency to do), I wanted to put together a to-do for my second favorite season.
Try a panic room experience to get in a scary Halloween mood.

Go apple and pumpkin picking at our favorite orchard.

Visit Paterson Great Falls during peak leaf-changing season.

Try out different pumpkin pie recipes to discover a new one to love.

Create and paint a Star Wars-themed pumpkin, such as this one.

Do a house purge, tackling a different closet every few days.

I'm curious to know. What are some things you love to do in the fall?

Menu Plan Monday :: 9.26.2016

Monday, September 26, 2016
It's finally feeling like fall here in New Jersey. Not quite sure how I feel about that, but for now, I'll embrace the slightly cooler temps and the excuse to make soup and slow cooker meals for dinner!

Here's what's on our plates this week:

Monday - Taco stuffed peppers. I love stuffed peppers, and these taco stuffed ones are a tasty variation of traditional stuffed peppers. Swap out black beans for pinto if you prefer. I like to use Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn, and I always top with sliced fresh jalapenos.
Photo credit: Wine and Glue

Tuesday - Sesame chicken stir fry. Stir fry is one of my favorite dinners to make because everyone in our family loves it. Plus, it's easily customizable by using the veggies that your family loves the most. This recipe includes bok choy, peppers, and celery. I always add broccoli as well because my kids love it.
Photo credit: Family Circle

Wednesday - Copycat Panera broccoli cheese soup and a side salad. This is the best copycat recipe ever! If you love Panera's broccoli cheese soup, you MUST try this recipe. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.
Photo credit: Jo-Lynne Shane

Thursday - Sesame noodle salad. I love noodle salads, but many have too much dressing or ingredients that I could do without. When you make it yourself, you can make it exactly as you wish. This recipe is perfect as it, but if you want to add protein, grab a rotisserie chicken and shred it.
Photo credit: What's Gaby Cooking

Friday - Takeout

Saturday - Slow cooker garlic Parmesan chicken and potatoes. I love slow cooker meals any day of the week but especially on the weekends. While some people love to spend hours in the kitchen on the weekends, I'd rather be enjoying myself other ways (exercising, binge-watching Netflix, shopping). So slow cooker meals are my best friends on Saturdays and Sundays.
Photo credit: Damn Delicious

Sunday - Pasta and white beans with garlic-rosemary oil. Sometimes a light pasta dish is exactly what you need. This one is light but satisfying. You'll never miss the red sauce.
Photo credit: Smitten Kitchen
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 Fresh Picks: Leopard Prints For Fall

Friday, September 23, 2016
Now that fall has officially arrived, I'm itching to swap out the clothes and shoes in my closet and make way for clothes that are more appropriate for chilly weather.

I love leopard print, but it always seems too heavy a print for summer. Even a lightweight silk leopard print blouse is difficult to pull off in the summer months. But now that fall is here, I'm seeing spots.

In this week's Friday Fresh Picks, I'm sharing a few fabulous fall finds in leopard print that won't break that bank but will have a big impact.

If you like leopard print but want to wear the trend in a subtle way, a belt is a great alternative.

5 Tips for Successfully Dealing With Bedwetting

Thursday, September 22, 2016

When I was a little girl, I had a serious bedwetting issue. I wet the bed until I was 10 years old. Eventually I grew out of bedwetting, but at the time, it was very confusing and incredibly embarrassing for me, and I am sure, very frustrating for my parents.

If you are dealing with your own child's bedwetting problems, it's important to keep a few things in mind as you navigate this emotional and very sensitive issue with your child and your family.

1. Don't scold or shame your child
It's important to be sensitive to your child's bedwetting. It's likely that they are hyperaware of it and know that you are as well. Don't scold your child or make her feel shameful when it happens. They already feel shameful enough. By adding to it, you could reverse whatever progress you've made since shaming will only result in trauma.

What I'm Watching on Netflix

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I realized as I was adding this post to my editorial calendar that I haven't watched network television all summer long. I've been subsisting on Netflix for months now, and I couldn't be happier. From original series to some of my long forgotten favorite sitcoms and movies, Netflix has it all. Netflix is everything!

Here's what I am currently watching and loving!

Menu Plan Monday :: 9.19.2016

Monday, September 19, 2016
If you had asked me a few weeks ago if we'd settle into a routine once school started, I would have said "Never!". But I have to say, I am totally impressed with my girls, and how well they have been waking for school. It certainly makes the mornings go smoother and helps to set a positive tone for the day.

Speaking of making things easy, I'm all about easy with the meal plan these days. One pot meals are my best friends this week. Take a look:

Monday - Skillet nachos. Yum! This recipes looks super easy and super delicious. Just what I need to kick off the week on a Monday.
Photo credit: A Taste of Home

Tuesday - One pot pizza pasta bake. This is the first time I'll be making this recipe. Honestly, I was searching for kid friendly weeknight meals, and this one came up. Looks like a winner to me!
Photo credit: Damn Delicious

Wednesday - Chicken cutlets with deconstructed guacamole. Two of my faves in one delicious dish, and leftovers for lunch on Thursday. Bonus!
Photo credit: Skinnytaste

Thursday - 12-minute chicken and broccoli. I have back to school night at Harper's school. This quick meal will be perfect and healthy too!
Photo credit: Gimme Some Oven

Friday - Take out

Saturday - Tortilla-crusted chicken. I have 3 bags of tortilla chips, and one can eat only so much chips and salsa. This recipes looks like the perfect way to use tortilla chips in a creative way.
Photo credit: Delish

Sunday - Cavatelli with broccoli and a side salad. This is one of our favorite meatless pasta dishes. It's simple to make and everyone in the family devours it. Serve it with crunchy garlic bread too.

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.


Best Online Reads

Friday, September 16, 2016

1. A millennial's guide to email etiquette that anyone can benefit from via Vogue.

2. The best bottled waters via Thrillist.

3. What life is like behind bars for O.J. Simpson via Los Angeles Times.

4. Thirty interview questions you should know by heart via Refinery 29.

5. The 50 hottest dads on TV via Redbook.

6. A world map that's also a scratch off the show where you've been via Landmass.

7. Why I am all in favor of binge-watching via Quartz.

8. Why well done icebreakers, although awkward, work incredibly well via The Science of Us.

9. How and why you should be keeping a travel journal on your next vacation via Amateur Traveler.

10. How to conceal a bobby pin in your hair via The Beauty Department.


5 Must-Sees At The National Zoo

Thursday, September 15, 2016
Last month, we took an impromptu road trip to Washington, D.C. One of the must visits on our list was Smithsonian's National Zoo. Harper has been wanting to go for years to see the pandas, and we were finally doing it!

The zoo is vast. We had no idea how sprawling it is. The exhibits are spaced apart, and there is lots of walking involved. National Zoo offers many amazing exhibits. Upon entry, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the zoo map, decide what you want to see, and go see it!

Here are my recommendations for the 5 must-sees at the National Zoo:

National Zoo is one of only 4 zoos in the United States that offers a panda exhibit. So, if you are at National Zoo, make it a point to see the pandas. But be patient. We had to linger for almost an hour to get a good sighting of one panda. There are 4 pandas in total, two adult and two cubs. Cub sightings are somewhat rare. If you get a glimpse of one, you are lucky!

Check out the live giant panda webcam here to get a sneak peek.

It's no surprise that I love the big cat exhibits, and the lions are always one of my favorites. They are so regal and generally look so peaceful, which is a sharp contrast to their personalities when they are on the hunt for prey or protecting their young.

Check out the live lion webcam here to get a sneak peek.

It's easy to see why this exhibit was one of the most crowded. Gorillas are absolutely fascinating to observe. With mannerisms nearly identical to humans, gorillas are as close to humans as any animal will ever get. I stood in front of the exhibit mesmerized for at least 20 minutes while I closely watched this gorilla meticulously pick at a piece of fruit it was eating.

These gentle giants never cease to amaze me with their extreme intelligence and incredibly social behaviors. National Zoo boasts 6 elephants. During our visit, we saw 4 and were able to catch a close up of these two. The Asian Elephant exhibit is accessible from two directions, so you are able to get a better look at them.

National Zoo is home to special exhibits that are continually changing. During our visit the impressive Washed Ashore exhibit was on full display. The exhibit was a larger-than-life exhibit of 17 marine wildlife sculptures—from jellyfish to sharks—made entirely of plastic pollution directly recovered from oceans. I was astounded by how much trash and waste ends up in our oceans and how this trash becomes the ocean's most deadly predator.

Check the National Zoo's website for information on current special exhibits.

Miscellaneou Notes:
We stayed at the Marriott Wardman Park (which was a hop, skip, and a jump from the zoo) and ate here and here.

Fab Find of the Week: Silicone Ice Cube Trays

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
I'll admit that I'm a little late to the silicone ice cube tray party. But now that I am here, I can't get enough. A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a silicone ice cube tray at Target when I was randomly browsing the housewares section, as I am known to do quite often.

I found this tray, and it's been a game changer. The pieces of ice fit perfectly into the mouthes of water bottles, especially S'well bottles. One of my biggest pet peeves has always been that you can't get ice cubes into reusable water bottles because the opening is too small. Well, not any more!

Buy this ice cube tray here.

p.s. This is the water bottle featured above.

Menu Plan Monday :: 9.12.2016

Monday, September 12, 2016
Not only is this the first full week of school, but it's also the first week of after school (and before school) activities. There really is no easing back into it. We are being thrown to the lions, and we'd better be ready!

I'm keeping it simple and again this week and taking advantage of some leftovers from the weekend. The Hubs grilled a big batch of chicken on Saturday, and yesterday he made a huge slow cooker full of meatballs and sauce. Both of which will come in super handy this week.

Here's what's on our plates this week:

Monday - Oven baked chicken parmigiana. This is one of the Hubs' all time favorite meals, and it's a great way to use leftover sauce. You can pan-fry the chicken if you prefer, but baking it is a bit healthier.
Photo source: Ragu

3-Cheese Tomato Bacon Mac & Cheese

Thursday, September 8, 2016

My grandmother made a mean macaroni and cheese dish that I still crave to this day. After she passed away in the mid-1980s, my mother tried to replicate her recipe. And although she came close, my mother's version was never the same. I'm fairly certain that my grandmother didn't follow an exact recipe but rather pinched, and eyeballed the ingredients to perfection. She nailed that dish each and every time. It was a basic mac & cheese base, and she added bacon and stewed or plum tomatoes to it.

Rather than try to replicate my grandmother's recipe, I decided to put a spin on it. I always loved the flavor that the tomatoes added to the mac & cheese, but I was never fond of the chunky tomatoes. When I recently discovered RAGÚ® Homestyle sauces,  I knew the Thick & Hearty Traditional sauce would be perfect for my adaptation of my grandmother's recipe. And the bacon? Well, bacon is bacon, so the more the better!

RAGÚ® Homestyle sauces have the same delicious and robust flavor as homemade sauces. The bold flavors are unmistakeable and the thick texture sticks to the pasta to ensure each piece is fully coated in flavor. There are 5 mouthwatering varieties to choose including meat and  mushroom flavors.

Three Cheese Tomato Mac & Cheese With Bacon

1/2 lb. bacon, cooked to desired doneness and crumbled (save 2-3 slices for topping)
8 oz. small shells or any small macaroni, such as elbows
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 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar
1/2 cup shredded mozzerella cheese
1/2 cup RAGÚ® Homestyle sauces Thick & Hearty Traditional

Topping (optional)
2-3 slices of cooked bacon from
2 TBS. butter, melted
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Place bacon on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper and bake for 20-30 minutes or until desired crispness is reached. Remove and drain on a paper towel.

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

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

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

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

7. Remove from heat and add the pasta and 6 slices of crumbled bacon to the cheese mixture. Stir to combine.

8. Add the Thick and Hearty Traditional RAGÚ® Homestyle sauce and stir to combine.

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

10. 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.

If you like this recipe, check out more Ragu recipes HERE (including pasta, meats, salads, soups, and appetizers).

To see the full line of RAGÚ® Homestyle sauces, click HERE.