Tips for Creating a Stress-Free Home in the New Year

Friday, December 30, 2016
Your home should be your oasis. It should be the place you go at the end of a long, stressful day to unwind and relax. But are you finding comfort and serenity in your home? When you walk through the door does a sense of calm envelope you? If it doesn't, it should.

Stresses around the home can be acute or chronic. What starts as a minor issue can build into something more over time. These stresses, chronic in nature, are more pernicious than we may think. Things you can see at a glance can be fixed in moments, but things that aren't so obvious can gnaw away at you.

It's not a secret that finding time just to relax is important. Having a space where you can relax and finding the right way to relax are just as vital.

Is Your Home Conducive To Letting Go?
We all need to let go once in awhile. By that I don't mean we need to binge, drop all inhibitions and go wild. I mean we need to stop for a period of time, not think about what we have to do next, and just "be". During that time you can think about positive things or not think at all.

To do that, it's important to have clean space in a home. Furniture should be spaced apart proportionately so that the area is not crammed. Clutter should be kept to a minimal. Cramped space in the home leads to cramped space in the mind.

Does Your Furniture Allow You To Relax?
One of life's simplest pleasures is sitting down and either reading, letting time pass, or engaging in meditation. It allows us to clear our minds and have a little serenity for a while. This is hard to achieve if you aren't comfortable where you're sitting.

A massage chair may seem like an extravagance, but we often don't realize that we are carrying physical tension as well as mental tension. Physical stress can quickly take a mental hold, so an appropriate chair is something you might like to try as well as meditation.

Have You Got Your Light Balance Right?
External stimuli, such as harsh lighting, can also be stressful. The invention of the electric light was a marvel and has made life easier in so many ways. So much so that we have only ever really thought of it as positive. But too much artificial light can overload us, stress us out, and cause our eyes to work harder than they need to.

No need to sit around in complete darkness. But dimmable lights, lights with soft bulbs and low wattages can allow you to unwind. Because we have become so used to having lights around us, we often don't realize the impact they have until they're turned off. Most devices now also have apps or pre-installed blue light blockers. These shut out the most harmful kinds of light.

Making your home a stress-free zone may not be possible all the time. We live there and so do our families. So there is always going to be the potential for tension. But finding ways to drive out excess stress is still a worthwhile goal to work towards in 2017.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 25, 2016
As I am finishing up my wrapping and making one last mad dash to the grocery and liquor stores, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you and your families a wonderful holiday season filled with love and laughter.

I will be taking a few days off next week to unplug (but you can still find me on Instagram and Snapchat - piecesofamom), but there won't be any blog posts until I do my annual "Best of" post later next week.

May your holidays be filled with all the joy the season can bring and more.

We'll see you back here soon!! xx


Is Your Home Secure? How Can You Be Sure?

Thursday, December 22, 2016
We all like to think our homes are secure enough to prevent a break in. Or that we live in an area where break-ins just won’t happen. But is that true? My family and I were the victims of a robbery in 2009, and we thought we were safe. But the fact of the matter is that break-ins can occur anywhere. You can live on a gated street in one of the safest and most affluent towns in the world. It doesn’t matter. You could still find yourself with a burglar inside your home. That’s why it’s important for you to know how to protect your property.

Get The Best Locks For Your Doors
Believe it or not, the old locks that used to always be equipped on homes are now not the safest way to protect a property. Instead, you should be looking at installing smart locks on your home. Smart locks are useful because they provide an extra layer of security for your family. Rather than being able to pick the lock, it’s electronic. This means it’s more difficult to break through.

Don’t Be Foolish
One of the main reasons for a break in is that the burglar didn’t have to break in at all. This was the case with our burglary. Ours occurred in the summer when we had windows open. The intruders pulled up a window up that was already partially open. Or, they can slip through a front door that had been left unlocked. The fact is that many of us are too trusting. We need to prepare for the worst and make sure that we are securing our homes.

Get An Alarm System
Unfortunately, alarm systems aren't generally a consideration until after a burglary has occurred. An alarm isn’t just used to alert you or anyone else that someone has broken into your home. It’s to warn the burglar that the break in has been noticed. Hopefully, it will scare them enough to leave the house quickly without having time to take anything. Of course, this is never a guarantee, but it will certainly increase the chances. You can find out more about the benefits of an alarm in the infographic above.

Infographic created by Alarm Reviews

How To Set Up The Perfect Relaxation Zone At Home

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
It's the optimal time of year for stress. With all the activity and chaos that often surrounds the holidays, it's important to create the perfect chill out zone in our homes. When it comes to relaxing, we all have somewhere we go. So, creating the perfect space to relax and unwind can go a long way to helping us chill out with no pretense and no distractions.

One of my favorite yoga instructors strongly encourages us to take our relaxation to the next level in our homes. Here are a few of her expert tips.

Practice Aromatherapy
Chill out zones should be a multi-sensory experience.  They should be comfortable and free of clutter, but there’s also a case for having them smell nice too. Natural smells - especially those from things like incense and candles - have been shown to improve people’s mood. Lavender is particularly effective in relieving stress and reducing symptoms of depression.

How We Are Paying It Forward This Holiday Season

Tuesday, December 20, 2016
This post is sponsored by Stonyfield as part of my ongoing participation in the Stonyfield Yo-Getters ambassador program. All opinions are my own.

I have vivid memories of making a Christmas list with all of my favorite things as a little girl. One year I wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. Another year I wanted a boom box. As a teenager, I wanted nothing more than a pair of Jordache jeans. Hello, 80s!!!

Christmas wasn't an extravagant affair where presents were piled high to the ceiling, but if there was something on my list that I really, really wanted, chances were good that I received it. I understood that the sky wasn't the limited, but I was also fortunate enough to get at least the "most wanted" item on my list.

This year as part of my Santa responsibilities, I'm placing a focus on giving to other children. While it's always fun to receive, part of the joy of the holiday season comes from putting a smile on someone else's face in the form of giving. Whether it's food, a toy, or a much needed hat and scarf set, giving is often more gratifying than receiving.

We are partnering with Toys For Tots to pay it forward this holiday season. In the past, we have joined forces with friends and co-workers to sponsor a family's Christmas. We've also donated to animal rescue organizations by giving toys, treats, and food for the animals to enjoy during the holidays. But this year, it is all about the kiddos.

Stonyfield provided us with a gift card to make a donation and pay it forward to a charity of our choice. I wanted to involve my daughters in our choice of charities. Since they are always appreciative of what they receive, we wanted to brighten the holiday for other little girls.

The girls chose these creative kits where the recipient can make something. A peace sign, a pair of sunglasses, friendship bracelets, and a collage are items that all girls love.

How cute is this peace sign just ready to be decorated with jewels, ribbons, and printed paper?

We gathered up our gifts and delivered them to the nearest Toys For Tots drop-off location (click here to find the drop-off location nearest to you). All gifts are delivered unwrapped so that Toys For Tots can distribute them appropriately. What a great feeling knowing that our donations will put a smile on a child's face on Christmas morning.

Thank you to Stonyfield for sponsoring this post and providing a gift card to facilitate our shopping experience for our Toys For Tots donation.

What's Your Sleep Personality Type?

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It has been theorized that we spend up to a third of our lives asleep. A third! In some ways, I feel like sleeping is a terrible waste of time. But at other times, the times when I am craving a nap, sleep sounds like absolute heaven. All that time spent hitting the snooze button, turning over the cool side of the pillow. Is a third of our lives enough to make sure we're fully enjoying our sleep?

Tips For Getting Fit Without A Gym Membership

Monday, December 19, 2016

It's that time of year. Overindulgent holidays lead to regret and promises of joining a gym in the new year. So many people make excuses for not being able to commit to getting fit, and one of the main excuses out there is the outrageous cost of a gym membership. But getting fit, shedding a few pounds, and sticking to a consistent workout routine do not require a gym. Getting fit without a gym membership is easier than you think!

Here are some tips and tricks that can help you get started:

Download Apps
There are so many apps you can download that will make you feel like you have a personal trainer in your pocket. There are tabata apps, HIIT apps, and even yoga apps that can give you inspiration and tell you exactly what to do if you’re stuck. They’re a great way to get started if you struggle to motivate yourself.


Menu Plan Monday :: 12.19.2016

We are in the holiday home stretch this week! It's both exciting and hectic. I am hoping to stick to a healthy menu this week despite the chaos and overall busyness of the week. As long as I don't succumb to take out every night, I'll call it a success.

Let's do this!!

Monday - Bowtie chicken Caesar salad. This is one of your favorite recipes. You get veggies, protein, and pasta all in one dish. Yes!
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- Fettuccine Alfredo. My kids are totally into fettuccine Alfredo lately. I ordered out on my birthday, and after each of them tasted it, they were hooked. Trying this Olive Garden copycat recipe tonight and will serve it with a side salad and some bread.
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Wednesday - Loaded potato skins. Sometimes you just have to do apps for dinner, and we are going for it tonight. Seriously, who doesn't love loaded potato skins?
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Thursday - Slow cooker Italian wedding soup. I am attending a cookie exchange so I need something that the whole family can grab when they are ready to eat. This soup is perfect!

Friday - Make Your Own Pizza Night. This is a great way to get everyone involved in the kitchen, and it gives everyone free creative reign. Have everyone make two slices and cut one slice into pieces for everyone to sample!

Saturday - Christmas Eve dinner. I'll be making a warm goat cheese salad, chicken cordon bleu and an asparagus and tomato pasta. I use my own recipe for the chicken, but I've linked to the salad and pasta recipes. This has been our traditional Christmas Eve dinner for years.

Sunday - Merry Christmas!!

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.

Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

Friday, December 16, 2016

1. Passport Cover ($24)

2. S'well Water Bottle ($35)

3. Sugarfina Champagne Gummy Bears ($8)

4. Pacifica Body Butter ($15)

5. Amazing Grace Perfume ($18)

6. Rose Gold Pavé Necklace ($232)

7. Adhesive Card Case ($28)

8. Minimergency Kit ($22)

9. Mini Diptyque Candle ($32)

Shop these stocking stuffers here:


Best Online Reads

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The ten stories from around the Web that I am loving this week:

1. Spotify has released its list of the top listened to songs of 2016. Listen here.

2. The evolution of the thank you note via Garance Doré.

3. The most Instagrammed locations in Los Angeles via Curbed LA.

My Favorite Hot Chocolate Recipes

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The tree is up. The stockings are hung. Christmas music is playing softly in the background, and maybe there's even snow falling outside your home. It's the holiday season, and what holiday season wouldn't be complete without steaming hot chocolate?

Today I'm sharing my favorite hot chocolate recipes. From decadent to flavorful to rich and indulgent, hot chocolate warms your insides when the bitter cold sets in your bones. Get the fire roaring in the fireplace, and whip up a batch of one of these delicious hot chocolate recipes.

1. Polar Express Hot Chocolate
There is one, and only one, hot chocolate we make when we settle in to watch The Polar Express, and this is the one. Made with milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream, this hot chocolate is smooth and decadent. Tuck in on a chilly night and curl up with a mug of this hot chocolate for a marathon of Christmas classics.

2. Peppermint White Hot Chocolate
When you want both a change from typical hot chocolate but something reliably tasty and comforting, make this recipe. This time of year I crave peppermint hot chocolate. This recipe switches it up a bit by making it white hot chocolate. Yum!

3. Mexican Hot Chocolate
I love anything spicy! Do I put jalapeños on just about anything? Yep! So, when it comes to hot chocolate, I like a little kick every now and again. Mexican hot chocolate delivers up a little spice in every sip with the addition of chili powder. When combined with cinnamon and just a pinch of nutmeg, it's the perfect amount of spice.

4. Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate
I love anything salted caramel and hot chocolate is no exception. This Starbucks copycat recipe has an incredible likeness to the original and is a much more cost-effective option than buying a cup everyday.

5. Orange Hot Chocolate
When I was young, my dad would take us to a Christmas party held by one of the organizations to which he belonged. Santa would hand out big oranges and large Hershey's chocolate bars. I loved to peel the orange and break off a chunk of chocolate and eat them together. This hot chocolate takes me back to those days. I love the combination of orange and chocolate, and this smooth, rich concoction is a delicious way to enjoy both.

Check out this infographic for more ways to spice up your hot chocolate:

Fun Ideas For Personalized Gifts

Tuesday, December 13, 2016
With Christmas right around the corner, you may have been racking your brains trying to think of good gifts for your friends and family. After so many years of present-giving, it can sometimes be hard to think of innovative gifts each time to keep things interesting. This can turn gift buying into a pretty arduous task - and if it become stressful, it takes all the fun out of it! It's a great feeling to be able to surprise your friends and family with something that shows you really have put thought into their present. With this in mind, why not get creative and surprise them with a unique personalized gift?

Many people give or receive jewelry as a gift around Christmas time. Good quality jewelry is highly sought after and that's why it makes such a special gift. If you have someone in your family with a penchant for beautiful jewelry, why not go one step further and get their gift personalized? Usually most jewelers will be able to engrave your gift for an extra cost, with whatever you like. This could be their name, or both of your initials if it is a loved one you are buying for. Or, it could be their favorite quote or song lyrics. It might be the only gift you give your friend or relative that year, but you can be sure that they will be very moved by it.

Most of us buy at least a couple of practical presents for people at Christmas. But, the festive season is also the one time a year where you can give and receive unique gifts simply because they are fun. If you know someone who appreciates things that are a little different, why not get this particular friend or relative some custom bobbleheads? My sister bought one for my niece a few years ago, and it was a complete hit! These completely individual gifts are essentially mini-me's of the person in question - great for a stocking stuffer or to sit on top of their office shelf. They are created by professional sculptors who create an accurate likeness to the real person that the bobblehead is modeled on. It is guaranteed to be a gift that is loved and remembered for years to come.

One of the great things about the gift market these days is that you can personalize pretty much anything! This is a great option for when you have a run of the mill gift in mind that you want to make a little more interesting. Or, perhaps you and your family just want a good laugh! Get creative with the things you can have personalized. For the chef in your life, a personalized chopping board or kitchen apron is an innovative twist on otherwise dull gifts. For those who love home decor, a personalized pillow or blanket will do the trick. You may also choose to go a little more sentimental and get an art print made up of a special date in your loved one's life - such as their wedding anniversary. The possibilities are endless, and personalized gifts are a great way to bring everyone closer together at Christmas.

Shop these other great personalized gifts:


Menu Plan Monday :: 12.12.2016

Monday, December 12, 2016
First off, I want to wish my sister a happy birthday today. I know she's reading this, so have a happy one, girl!!

Secondly, it's going to get very, very cold here later in the week. So, I am planning to keep my house warm by doing lots of holiday baking. :) Oh, and I'll throw in some cooking in there also!! Here's what will be on our plates this week:

Best Online Reads

Thursday, December 8, 2016

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

1. The 8 friends you meet in the office workplace via The New York Times.

2. The 21 best new restaurants in America via Eater.

3. Ten places to visit in the U.S. in 2017 via Town & Country.

Gift Guide: For The Athlete/Outdoor Enthusiast

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

As a mom to two young athletes, I understand and appreciate the importance of buying a gift that is both appropriate as well as needed for the little athlete in your life. The cost of sporting goods can add up quickly for parents. Giving the gift of sports equipment or apparel can often help parents offset the cost.

Speaking of offsetting the cost, I'm giving away a $25 gift card to DICK'S. Scroll to the end of this post to enter.

DICK'S Sporting Goods makes it super simple to find the perfect gift for any young athlete in any sport. Whether you are on a budget this holiday season or are planning to splurge, DICK'S is offering great deals and promotions through Christmas Day to help you cross everyone off your list. DICK'S also has extended store hours and a variety of ways to shop including in-store, online, and via the DICK'S mobile app.

If you are planning to shop online (my favorite way to shop!), DICK'S offers free shipping on all online orders (no minimum purchase required) through this holiday season.

This holiday season DICK'S can help you buy a "Gift That Matters" for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts on your list. And while you are shopping for that special someone, you can also help support youth athletic programs where funding has been cut or eliminated.

DICK’S believes that sports make people better. As part of the DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation Sports Matter initiative, which helps to ensure that youth athletic programs across the country receive vital funds to keep their sports programs intact, DICK’S and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation are once again helping to support youth athletic teams this holiday season.

As a customer, there are two ways to help:

1. You will be able to donate to The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation when checking-out. All money raised will be donated to raise awareness and to support underfunded youth sports programs, assisting with everything from equipment purchases, facility maintenance cost and more.

2. This holiday season, DICK’S is launching its Green Shoelace movement. Customers can purchase a pair of custom, green Sports Matter shoelaces to show their support of youth sports. Two dollars from every purchase will be donated to The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation and benefit youth teams in need across the country.

A few ideas for the athlete or sports/outdoor enthusiast on your list available at DICK'S.

DICK'S is generously offering one (1) Pieces of a Mom reader the chance to win a $25 gift card to experience DICK'S for yourself. Treat yourself to something you've always wanted or treat someone else.

Here's how to enter:

1. CLICK HERE to check out DICK'S vast selection of sporting goods and equipment.

2. Come back to this post and comment below on what item(s) you would buy as a gift that matters for yourself or for someone else. Commenting will close on December 22nd at 11:59 PT.

3. Winner will be selected at random on December 23rd at 9 am ET and notified via email or a reply to the blog post comment.

4. Winner must be 18 years of age and have a valid US mailing address to be eligible to win.

I splurged and bought a new jacket for myself, a lacrosse stick for my daughter, a pair of running shorts for the other daughter, and a new The North Face fleece to give as a gift (not pictured).

*Buy Online and Pick-up In-Store Purchases: DICK’S offers customers the option to purchase products online and pick-up their items at a nearby DICK’S location.

**Customers will be able to purchase gifts online until 12 p.m. on Christmas Eve (Saturday, December 24th) and pick them up in-store before 6:00 p.m.

Gift Guide: For The Cat Lover

Tuesday, December 6, 2016
We all have a special crazy cat lady in our lives. I am a self-professed one myself. Love anything and everything cat-related, so I chose a few of my favorites to make it easy for you to cross the cat lover off your gift list.

1. Cat Mug ($12)

2. Cat Doormat ($20)

3. Cosmetic Case ($20)

4. Activity Tracker ($98)

5. Cat Bracelet ($58)

6. Cat Socks ($6)

7. Cat Tote Bag ($20)

8. Cat Faces iPhone Case ($20)

9. Cats on Instagram Book ($17)

Shop these gifts here:

Menu Plan Monday :: 12.5.2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

Since the hubs is traveling during the early part of this work week, I am including easy to put together meals since I'll be on carpool duty all week and won't have a ton of time to cook. Hope you find a few meals here that you'll want to include in your next meal plan.

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

Monday - Bacon cheddar potato soup. Today is a chilly, rainy day. It's the perfect day for soup.
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Tuesday - Easy lime chicken. This recipe is a first for us. Since my kids love lime and cilantro, I thought this recipe would be a win.
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Wednesday - Harper is performing in the 5th grade winter band concert tonight. So, we'll be picking up takeout.

Thursday - Stacked chicken enchiladas. This recipe skips the time-consuming task of rolling each enchilada and layer them instead!
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Friday - Cacio e pepe. This classic pasta dish is simple but so delicious and whips up in under 20 minutes! Now that's my kind of meal.
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Saturday - Chicken broccoli divan. This simple one-pot meal takes just minutes to put together when you use either leftover chicken or store-bought rotisserie chicken.
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Sunday - Beef Bourguignon. Trying this new recipe for the slow cooker. If it's as good as the picture looks, it's going to be delicious!
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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.

Gift Guide: For The Lover of Plaid

Friday, December 2, 2016
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

The holiday season and plaid go hand in hand. It's the only time of the year where I really lean into this festive print.

1. Plaid Scarf ($25)
A classic scarf with a trendy update is a perfect way to accessorize a neutral coat this winter.

2. Plaid Initial Blanket ($29)
Light a fire, get the hot cider simmering and snuggle up with a cozy, personalized blanket with a plaid initial.

3. Plaid Crossbody Bag ($69.30 + 30% off)
When you want to wear the plaid trend in a subtle way, a bag is a great way to do that.

4. Plaid Belt ($49.50 + 30% off)
Paired with dark wash jeans and a crisp white shirt, this belt would be perfect. Add in some brown riding boots or flats, and you've got yourself an outfit.

5. Plaid Coaster Set ($39.50 + 30% off)
Give as a gift or save it for your own entertaining needs. These gold-rimmed plaid coasters make a pretty addition to any coffee table this holiday season.

6. Watch ($55)
Timex's timeless classic but with a plaid strap.

7. Plaid Mug ($6.36/mug)
Enjoy your favorite tea, coffee, or hot chocolate from a pretty plaid mug. Don't forget the whipped cream and sprinkles!

8. Plaid Button Earrings ($6)
Plaid earrings will add a festive touch to a red dress, sweater, or top on Christmas Day.

9. Scalloped Block Heels ($248)
There are some shoes that are just so pretty you can't imagine wearing them. These scalloped plaid heels are that shoe. They look like they belong on display on a shelf.

Happy December ~ Letter From The Editor

Thursday, December 1, 2016

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Depends on who you are talking to. This year I have vowed not to fall behind on Christmas shopping, prepping, etc. I'm already ahead of the game. I ordered our Christmas cards last night, which is two weeks earlier than I ordered them last year. Yay, me!

As I put together my personal calendar for December, I am also putting together the editorial calendar for Pieces of a Mom. December is a very busy month in the blogosphere. Between gift guides, sponsored content, and organic posts, December can be daunting for most bloggers. I am going to make every attempt to bring you great content without overachieving and stressing out.

This month on the blog, you can expect to see a few more gift guides. If there's a particular theme you'd like to see, please let me know (send an email to I never know whether the gift guides are helpful or just clutter on the blog, so I'd love to give you want you want to see.

This time of year is made for parties and entertaining. I'll be posting a few cocktail recipes and entertaining ideas and short cuts to save you time, money, and effort this holiday season. We could all use a little help anywhere we can get it!

And after Christmas, we'll be taking a few days off to enjoy the holidays with family and friends. In the meantime, enjoy these popular stories from November.

It's party season, and that means you'll find yourself hopping from house to house. Don't show up empty handed! Check out my hostess gift ideas for inexpensive but meaningful gifts to give.

On a budget? I've got the solution and a bunch of gifts under $25 for everyone on your list.

Long gone are the days where I had what seemed like an endless amount of time to do my makeup. My 5-minute face is the way I roll these days.

One of winter's hottest colors is oxblood. Not sure what the color is or how to wear it? Here are my suggestions for the best ways to try the oxblood trend.

Last month we enjoyed a family vacation at South Seas Island Resort in Captiva, Florida. If you are planning a family getaway and are looking for a great place to take the fam, check out SSIR and my 7 reasons to visit.


Hats are the best way to trap your body heat. A pompom beanie that is both cute and functional is a must for December.

'Tis the season for festive clothes. But if you're anything like me, the closest I get to festive is a toned down plaid. But I do love a good red shoe once in a while. This red pointed toe ballet flat is fun and festive...and only $20!!!

Speaking of plaid. It definitely isn't for everyone, but it wouldn't be the holiday season without it. But If you want to jump on the plaid bandwagon in a subtle way, this plaid scarf is for you.

Remember when I talked about saving time and effort this holiday season? There's no better way to do that than with a cookie press. After years of wanting one, I finally bought one last year, and it had revolutionized my holiday baking. Seriously, treat yo self!


Are you following along on Snapchat? It's been my social media channel of choice lately where I post my day-to-day happenings. Scan the photo or add me: "piecesofamom".
Be sure to follow along on Instagram and Pinterest too!

May your holidays be merry and bright and filled with love and laughter. xx