Playing Favorites

Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Playing Favorites is a monthly series where I share my latest obsessions, favorite finds, and any kind of entertainment (books, movies, TV, podcasts, and magazines) that I am loving.

1. Bose® SoundLink® Mini II Bluetooth® Speaker
My husband bought me this speaker for Christmas because he despises the acoustics on my Macbook. I didn't really realize how bad they were until I fired up the speaker. Wow! It delivers incredible sound whether you're listening in your home office, while you shower, or even in the car.

Menu Plan Monday :: 1.30.2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

We were supposed to be waking up to a blanket of snow on the ground this morning. It's been a mild winter so far, and I'm certainly not complaining about that. But it is nice to see a little white stuff strewn about once in a while. I like when it's just enough to look pretty but doesn't hinder your plans or driving.

Anyway, enough about the weather. Let's get to this week's meal plan, shall we?

Monday - Baked potato soup. Harper is getting her spacers put in today in preparation for her braces next week, which means we need something that's easy for her to eat. This soup requires little chewing and when it does, it's small chunks of soft potatoes. Plus, the heat from the soup will alleviate some of her soreness.
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Inexpensive Ways To Add Value To Your Home

Saturday, January 28, 2017
Our homes are our biggest investments. Whether you plan to stay in yours for years to come or you are planning to sell in the near future, adding value to your home in small ways will only benefit you in the long run.


Here are a few simple and cost-effective ways to add value to your home.

Weekend Dispatch

Friday, January 27, 2017
One of my blog goals for 2017 is to introduce a few more series-types of posts. Readers love the current series posts such as Best Online Reads, Life Lately, and Friday Fresh Picks, but you've been asking for a more in-depth glimpse into my personal life. I thought the best place to start is by giving you a birds eye view of my weekend. Because of work commitments and shuffling my kids around after school during the week, I plan most of my activities for the weekends.

I've found that the best way to get anything accomplished is to break the "want to-dos" into categories such as what I want to watch, or eat, or read, or see, etc.

So, let's do this! Cheers to my very first weekend dispatch. Hope you enjoy it. And if you have any suggestions for things I should do, send them my way at Thanks!!

Tonight Harper and I are finally going to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I am ashamed to say that, as a die-hard Star Wars fan, I still have not seen this movie. Shame on me. Movie theaters have come a long way. The one we are hitting up tonight has posh, reclining seats. I am definitely taking a blanket, grabbing an extra large bag of popcorn smothered with butter, maybe some nachos too, and settling in for, what I have heard is, an excellent movie.

Best Online Reads

Thursday, January 26, 2017

1. The ten baby names you'll see again and again in 2017 via The Zoe Report.

2. If you are a procrastinator, you'll want to listen to this 7 minute podcast to understand why you do it and to break the habit via WBUR.

3. Small, genius ways to save money each week via Self.

Valentine's Day Gift Guide For Him

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

When it comes to Valentine's Day, my husband and I definitely don't go big. Since our youngest daughter's birthday is February 13th, we reserve that day for celebrating big. But whether you support the "holiday" or not, buying a small gift to show your appreciation is always a good idea.

Here are some of my favorite Valentine's Day gifts for the guys.

Menu Plan Monday :: 1.23.2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

I am so ready to begin a new week. Last week did not turn out the way I expected. Both of my daughters were home sick on two separate days, and whenever that happens, it's hard to get work done from home. So, I ended up playing catch up late at night and over the weekend. Excited for a new week and a fresh start today.

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

MondayBuccatini puttanesca. This recipe such is always such a hit that I always have requests to make it again and again. Plus, it's a one-pot meal which means easy cleanup!

Photo credit: Cooking Light

Friday Fresh Picks: 6 Shows To Watch On Netflix NOW

Friday, January 20, 2017
No matter what genre of television you like, you can find something to please you on Netflix. Lucky for me, I like a little bit of everything from documentaries to comedy to drama to true story to horror. On any given day, I can find at least 5 or 6 shows or movies to watch depending on my mood.

In this installment of Friday Fresh Picks, I'm sharing the 6 things I've been devouring on Netflix lately.

1. The Fall - This has got to be one of the most disturbing shows I've ever watched, but it's also a very fascinating, mesmerizing look into the human psyche. Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson give phenomenal performances as The Belfast Strangler and the law enforcement official trying to track him down respectively. At times you'll want to both look away and keep watching so as to not miss a single second.

Best Online Reads

Thursday, January 19, 2017

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

1. Another reason to want to move to France via The New York Times.

2. How to get the lingering smell of food out of your kitchen via Woman's Day.

3. Healthy smoothie recipes to kick off the new year via Self.

Spending = Stressing ~ Tips To Manage Your Money

Tuesday, January 17, 2017
One of my goals for 2017 is to be smarter about my purchases. My motto is fewer, better things. This means I want to buy fewer items, but the ones I buy are better quality. There was a time when I'd walk into a store and purchase eight $10 items from the sale rack, only to be bored with each item within three weeks. What that boils down to is $80 wasted. $80 that could have been put towards some other expense.

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed recently by finances and unnecessary purchases, you’re not alone. Running low on money can cause problems in your home and your life. Here is a list of the ways you can keep on top of your finances, track your spending, and start saving.

Natural Products for Eco-Conscious Moms

Monday, January 16, 2017
I'm a mom who cares about the environment and the materials I use in my everyday life and how they will ultimately affect my family's health. It all started when I began recycling over twenty years ago. But it wasn't until I attended this event that I became fully aware of all the dangers lurking in the products we ingest, use, and wear everyday.

Have you ever wondered exactly what all those ingredients are that go into many baby and children's skincare products or what exactly is in those jars of baby food? If you're uncertain about some of the things you buy, there are healthier and more natural alternatives. Making the switch to more natural products for baby, kids, and even you is a way to be responsible about the environment and make parenting decisions that make you happier and healthier.

Here are some of the things you might want to think about.

Menu Plan Monday :: 1.16.2017

We are kicking off the week with a drive back from visiting my sister in Pennsylvania. Heading back to New Jersey with a full week ahead starting with my cardiologist appointment on our way home. I'm hoping to have enough motivation to pull something together for dinner tonight. I'm just not sure how likely that it to happen.

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

Monday - Loaded baked potato skins. After a 3-hour drive and an appointment at the cardiologist, I am going to need something easy to throw together for dinner. These loaded baked potato skins are the best ever, and everyone can top them as they wish. Everyone wins!
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What We're Reading

Friday, January 13, 2017
One of my goals for 2017 is to do more reading. I studied literature in college, and books have always been my first love. But with the advent of Netflix and podcasts, I veered off the reading path and got sucked into a binge-watching, binge-listening black hole last year. Although I certainly don't see Netflix and my favorite podcasts going away anytime soon, I do intend to make reading a priority this year.

Here's what we are currently reading on these cold winter days and nights.

Best Online Reads

Thursday, January 12, 2017

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

1. The unspoken rules kids create for Instagram via The New York Times.

2. How to get a better night's sleep via The Atlantic.

3. The last words of 9 famous people via Business Insider.

4 Family Fun Night Ideas For Winter

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

It's difficult to get motivated to go out as a family when the temperatures are hovering around freezing, and the house is warm and cozy. Sometimes the best plan is the one where you stay inside away from the frigid weather and crowds.

Here are 4 ideas for family fun night that are inexpensive and provide hours of entertainment.

1. Family Movie Night
Forget the crowded movie theater and the overpriced concessions. Host your own family movie night in the comfort of your living/family room. Choose 1 or 2 movies that everyone in the family will enjoy and be entertained by. Prepare finger friendly snacks to munch on while you enjoy the movie. Some of our favorites are popcorn (of course) and Pepperidge Farm® Goldfish® crackers. We make movie night even more fun by setting up a mock ticket sales counter and concession stand.

2. Make Dinner As A Family
One of your favorite family activities is our pizza nights. We buy store-made dough, roll it out, and quarter it so that each of us has a section to top as we please. After the pizza is baked, we pass a slice around for everyone to take a bite out of, and then we rank them and choose a winner. It's so much fun, and we've had a lot of laughs from some of the pizza combinations that have been made. For extra fun, make a salad for pre-dinner and a chocolate pizza for dessert.

3. Family Game Night
If a little friendly competition is your thing, family game night is up your alley. You can choose from card, board, or video games or any combination of them. Don't forget the snacks! No game night is complete without fun snacks such as fresh veggies and dip, cheese and Pepperidge Farm® Goldfish® crackers, chips and dip, and brownie bites. You can even get creative by using the Goldfish® crackers as game pieces in a game of Tic Tac Toe. Fun!

This is a fun twist on traditional cheese and crackers. Instead of placing a piece of cheese on a cracker, we place the Goldfish® cracker on the cheese. How fun is that?

4. Dance Party or Home Concert
Crank up the music and get moving! We love live music and have amassed quite a collection of DVDs over the years. We love to pop one in and totally rock out. Agreeing on the music selection may not come easily, but all the fun you'll have dancing and jamming will be well worth it.

Looking for more ways to enjoy family fun night? Help your kids create a creative and fun stop-motion video that features Goldfish® crackers for a chance to win $5,000!! Have no idea how to make a stop-animation video. Get the instructions here, and find some inspiration here. Once it's finished, you can submit your full video here. For complete contest details and rules, check out

Escape To Kalahari Resorts This Winter

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The holidays are over. Your Christmas tree is down, and the decorations all neatly (well, maybe) packed away until next year. Now what? It's the time of year when winter is just beginning to dig its heels in and spring seems so far away that it's hardly something to look forward to.

How can we boost our spirits when the weather is dull, dreary, and cold? How about a getaway?

One of the best ways to recharge is to escape daily life for a long weekend. Since I am most likely still reeling from the Christmas expenses, I try to keep the getaway local so that we can drive or take the train to cut costs.

Menu Plan Monday :: 1.9.2016

Monday, January 9, 2017

As I put together this meal plan, I can think of nothing other than hot soups and chili...because it is FREEZING here. And when there is snow on the ground, I swear it feels at least 10 degrees colder. Anyway, here we go with this week's meal plan. I hope you find some inspiration or, at the very least, a new recipe to try.

Monday - Cavatelli with broccoli, a side salad, and garlic bread. This is one of my go-to meatless Monday recipes. It's super easy and quick to make and disappears right before your very eyes.

Tuesday - Chicken and black bean tostadas. Each week we have at least one Mexican meal on the menu. This recipe is a new one to the rotation, and I'm excited to try it. Definitely going to buy extra avocados for this one!
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Wednesday - Lasagna soup. I'm not a fan of lasagna. It's usually too heavy and too rich, but this soup
is a wonderful balance of pasta, broth, meat, and cheese.
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Thursday - Mexican stuffed peppers. My husband and I love stuffed peppers, so I try to find different recipes to try. Lately, the girls are actually eating the stuffing...although they aren't quite liking the texture of the peppers just yet. I'm happy because it means I don't have to make two different meals!
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Friday, Saturday, and Sunday - We'll be in Pennsylvania for the holiday weekend.

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: My 5 Best Buys of 2016

Friday, January 6, 2017
After reading Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last year, I've been making an effort to evaluate each purchase I make and every item I bring into our home. I've focused on making purchases that will truly add value to my life in the short term and long term.
In this installment of Friday Fresh Picks, I'm sharing my best buys of 2016 and why they made such a lasting impression.

1. S'well Water Bottle
When I drink water, I like it to be ice cold. But with most cups the ice melts quickly, leaving me with lukewarm water. After reading all the positive reviews about the S'well bottle and hearing constant raves from Harper who loves her S'well, I finally bought one. The thermal lining keeps cold beverages cold for 24 hours and hot ones hot for 12 hours. I've definitely been drinking so much more water since I bought it and having a lot less dehydration headaches.

2. Mario Badescu Almond & Honey Face Scrub
I have long been a devotee to the Mario Badescu skin care line of products. Although they are great for any type of skin at any age, they have been doing wonders for my 40-something skin for years, especially more recently as I've been experiencing peri menopausal breakouts. A few months ago, I purchase the Almond & Honey Face Scrub and have been using it nightly since. It's non-abrasive yet does an amazing job of exfoliating my skin. It leaves me skin so smooth, soft, and hydrated that I often feel no need to follow up with a moisturizer (even though I always do).

3. Oneida Large Round Spatula
I don't know what took me so long to purchase this. I had finally had it with trying to flip pancakes and hash browns with a small rectangular spatula. This spatula is a lifesaver (and a food saver). No more hash browns that come out in clumps. I know how perfectly round hash browns and pancakes.

4. Rockland 3-Piece Luggage Set
When I started to think about packing for our trip to Florida back in October, I dreaded the thought. Mostly because our luggage was old, had broken zippers and wheels, and torn pockets. It was hardly functional or pretty. I started into buying a new set of luggage. I had no idea there were so many choices. It had been at least 15 years since I purchased luggage. I finally found this set at Target for a great price. I wanted a hard shell set, and this one got us through the trip in style and function.

5. A Subscription to Book of the Month Club
I knew that one of my goals for 2017 would be to do more reading. So in an effort to make that happen, I joined Book of the Month Club for $10/month. Oh, and I discovered BOMC through an ad on Instagram of all places. Anyway, here's how it works. At the start of each month, you'll get an email with 5 titles to choose from. You make your selection, and the book is then delivered to you with a note with my name handwritten on the envelope (a very much appreciated personal touch). You can't be the price for a hard cover book each month, plus I'm discovering new books and authors.

Thanks for checking out this week's Friday Fresh Picks. Swing by the rest of the FFP gals to see what they are loving this week.
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, January 5, 2017

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

1. Ten things to give up in the new year via Huffington Post.

2. A must-read on the emotional side of excess via GQ.

3. An awesome video which shows the popularity of baby names from early 1900's to 2014 via YouTube.

Our Weekend Breakfast Routine

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Our weekday mornings are busy and full. With everyone scurrying around to get ready for work or school, there just isn't time to linger over a leisurely breakfast. Some mornings it's grab and go, and others we may have just enough time to sit down for a piece of toast with butter and honey or a bowl of cereal.

But on the weekends, breakfast is a totally different ball game. We don't necessarily go all out on both Saturday and Sunday, but on at least one of the weekend days, we are good for whipping up a breakfast that rivals one you'd find at the best diner in New Jersey.

My Word For 2017: Focus

Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Do you ever have the feeling that you are completely coming apart at the seams? Stitches unraveling and everything falling apart before your very eyes?

Towards the last quarter of 2016 I started to feel all over the place. My body would be in one place, but my mind would be somewhere else entirely. I was always juggling too many balls. Rather than focusing on doing each task effectively and successfully, I was trying to do many tasks at one time for the sake of finishing as much as I could in as little time as possible. Not quite a recipe for success.
In 2017 I truly want to focus. Period. Whether I am sitting at my desk working, spending time with my family, or enjoying an evening with friends, I want to be focused. When I am combing my Inbox each morning, I don't want to be thinking about what I'll make for dinner that evening or who I want to invite to coffee that week.

When I'm reading a book before I fall asleep, I don't want to be mentally going through my to-do list for the following day. When I am enjoying dinner with my family, I don't want to be thinking about the mess that will inevitably need to be cleaned up afterwards.

I want to stop wasting time and wasting energy. I've become aware of how easily we can fall into the trap of being distracting and wandering away from where we initially wanted to be.

When you are focused, you are present. Your mind isn't wandering, it's obvious to those who are with you that you are with them, in mind and body, not somewhere else entirely. When you focus on yourself, it makes focusing on others and the tasks ahead of you so much easier and a lot less overwhelming.

That's where I want to be in 2017.

Menu Plan Monday :: 1.2.2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year! After a nice long break, we are back in the menu planning game once again. The holidays were absolutely fantastic, but I am ready to get back to a routine and making dinner regularly...actually getting back on a regular eating schedule would be nice!

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

Monday - Ham and green beans soup. This is a soup my mom occasionally made when I was a child. Emma loves it, and since I have a leftover ham from New Year's Eve, I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to make it. I've linked to a recipe that is similar to my own, but I add a can of light red kidney beans.

Tuesday - Seared tilapia with a side salad. One of my goals for 2017 is to eat more fish. The Hubs doesn't like it, so it's always impossible for me to put it on the meal plan. However, when I know he won't be home for dinner, I'm going to make every attempt to try a new recipe that I know the kids will like also.
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- One pot taco rigatoni. Hellooooo one pot meals! One pot meals always mean easy prep and easy clean up. I'm all about both of those.
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Thursday - Italian chicken noodle soup. We love soup during the cold weather months, and since I've been trying to use some new soup recipes in the meal plan rotation, this one looked like a good one. Rounding out the meal with a salad and some crusty rolls.
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- Dinner out here.

Saturday - Cilantro lime chicken tacos. Who doesn't love tacos? These take 10 minutes to pull together and a lot less than that to devour!
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Sunday - Chili. I'll be making my own recipe, but the recipe that I linked is a good one. I always make it in the slow cooker so that I can spend the day doing other things or nothing at all!

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.

Happy January ~ Letter From The Editor

Sunday, January 1, 2017

It's 2017! Let's do this. While 2016 wasn't a particularly bad year, it wasn't all that great either. So when the clock stuck midnight this morning, I was ready to put 2016 behind me and move on.

Whether you are starting over, fine tuning what you've already got, or staying with the status quo, a new year is a chance for all of us to do some reflecting and re-prioritizing. This month on the blog, I'll be doing a lot of that with posts that focus on setting you up for an enjoyable and successful year. We'll also focus on positive changes in the new year including exercise, clean eating, and getting (and staying) organized.

I certainly don't love the weather in January, but I love how it brings a clean slate and a fresh start. Lots of good things to come this year on Pieces of a Mom including a few new series, and my daughters are going to be taking on a larger role on the blog, sharing a few stories from the tween and teen trenches each month.

In the meantime, enjoy these popular stories from December that you may have missed in all the chaos of the holiday season.

If you're mad about plaid, here are a few of my favorite plaid picks.

Looking to get fit in the new year, but a full gym membership isn't in the budget? Check out these ways to exercise without the gym.

It's hot chocolate weather. There's no need to be plain Jane when you kick it up a notch with these twists on traditional hot chocolate.

Do you know your sleep personality? Find it here.


This is the time of year that I crave comfort. Comfort food, a warm blanket, a cup of hot tea. Anything that warms me and keeps me comfortable. This throw blanket from Crate & Barrel is cozy but still light enough to toss over you as you lounge in front of the fire watching Netflix.

Speaking of comfort food, you can never have enough this time of year. What's better than comfort food that basically cooks itself? Nothing! The Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook will have you enjoying your comfort food and relying on your slow cooker a little too much this winter.

The harsh winter can do some serious damage to our skin. Get ahead of the game by moisturizing your face with Clinique's Moisture Surge Intense.

In the winter, I practically live in comfy cardigans. They are just so perfect to throw on when it's chilly or take off when it's a little too warm inside. This one from Gap is super soft and cozy. Perfect for layering over a tee, tank, or cami.

Don't forget to follow along on Instagram.

And Pinterest too!

Now go have a fabulous January!!