Gift Ideas for Dads (No Ties Included!)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017
We all know what our dad's want for their birthday and Father’s Day. Don’t we? Surely they will be more than happy with a new tie, a fresh pair of slippers and a ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ mug. There is surely nothing more a father needs. Provided you don’t ask him, that is. If you were to ask his opinion, he might tell you where to put that new mug you bought him. That’s right, on the shelf, lined up with all the other mugs you have bought him over the years.

image via (not my actual husband!)

This year, try to buy him something that he will appreciate. Stuck for ideas? Here are a few.

For The Tech Head Dad: Amazon Echo Dot.
Perfect for any dad who likes to sit back and take it easy. The Echo Dot will do almost everything, from reading audiobooks, playing music, ordering food and controlling home devices such as the thermostat. Your dad need never leave the house again. Warning: it may make everybody else in the house redundant!


Easy At-Home Smoothies

Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Thanks to SheSpeaks and Rubbermaid® for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.

It's time to take your at-home smoothies to the next level.

There's no easier way to get your daily allowance of fresh fruit and veggies than from a smoothie. Your daily serving of nutrients is quickly and easily served up in a cup for your enjoyment. Easy, peasy.

But when it comes to making smoothies at home, the process couldn't be more difficult or less convenient. I always have good intentions. I eagerly shop for all the ingredients, diligently search for tasty recipes, and plan to make the smoothies for breakfast and after school snacks. But when the time comes to make the smoothies, I don't have the energy or the time to search through the crisper drawers and the freezer for all the ingredients.

When I was invited to try the new Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE leak-proof storage containers, I knew exactly how I would put them to use. It was time to stop spending money on smoothies out and time to start making them at home.

If you plan to start making smoothies at home, it's a good idea to have a simple and effective system for storing fresh produce. Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE containers are the ideaL size for a variety of different types of fruits and veggies.

Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE containers are designed to be 100% leakproof and stain-proof, making them ideal for storing berries such as blueberries and raspberries which are known to stain. The containers are also crystal clear so you can see exactly what's inside without having to open the container. I no longer have to worry about spills in the refrigerator or unsightly stains on the containers.

Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE containers are dishwasher-safe for super easy clean up and feature innovative vents for microwaving with the latches up but lid on to prevent messy splatters. They are created with BPA-free materials for safe microwaving.

100% leakproof
One of my favorite features of the Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE containers is that they stack perfectly. Whether I am putting them in the refrigerator, the freezer, the pantry, or storing them in the cabinet for future use, the containers fit expertly on top of one another to save space. I'm all for any product that helps me keep my refrigerator organized and neat.


SheSpeaks and Rubbermaid are generously offering a 10-pieces set of Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE to one (1) lucky Pieces of a Mom reader. Enter using the widget below to win.

Rubbermaid BRILLIANCE 10-Piece Set

Clever Ideas For Improving Home Lighting

Monday, May 29, 2017
photo via

It's not difficult to spend a small fortune on home decor and furniture. But one of the biggest improvements you can make is something many people don't even consider: lighting in the home. Great lighting can make all the difference to your house, and it can bring out all your favorite pieces, add a serious amount of luster, and even improve your mood. Here are a few simple but smart ideas for improving your home lighting.

The Basics
First of all, there are many different sources of light you can install in your home, and there are some specifics you should try to include in every room. It's a good rule of thumb to have three or four different light sources in every room. General lighting - such as your overhead and main lights - are vital, of course. You should also have specific lightings, such as desk lamps or reading lights. There are ambient lights to consider, too - you can use candles, for example, or decorative lamps. Finally, don’t forget about natural lighting it’s one of the single most important sources of light in your home, and we are going to take a closer look right now.

What We're Reading

Sunday, May 28, 2017

This weekend is the unofficial kick off to summer 2017. For me that means I have an excuse to kick back and read all weekend long. There are so many good books out right now, and I'll be sharing my summer reading list in a few weeks. But for now, here's what we are currently reading as we celebrate Memorial Day.

What I'm Reading: The One & Only by Emily Giffin
I've longed been a fan of Emily Giffin's writing. I especially loved Something Borrowed and Something Blue. When I came across The One & Only last week on, I immediately downloaded it. One of the things I love most about Giffin's novels is the in depth character development. By the end of her books, you really feel as if the characters are your best friends.

What Emma's Reading: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
It's the show every teen is talking about. So, naturally, it's the book everyone is reading.

What Harper's Reading: Hidden Treasure at The Cat-Nip Hotel by Luna Snow.
Not all is as it appears in this mystery full of intrigue and cats. When a famous author dies, she leaves her mansion and her five cats to her great-niece who turns the mansion a cat lovers hotel. An eccentric man rents a room, and the adventure begins.

What are you currently reading? Leave a comment to let me know your recommendations.

What To Buy ~ Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale

Friday, May 26, 2017

Items shown in collage:

The Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale is in full-swing. With discounts up to 40%, now is the time to buy those items you've had on your wish list for a while.

Shop more Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale items here:

Don't see something you like? Click here to shop the Nordstrom sale.

Tips For Creating A Safe Backyard For Children

Thursday, May 25, 2017
photo via

With summer approaching, it is a great time to get your kids outside and playing in the backyard. From giant yard games to sand pits to swing sets, and tree houses, the kids are sure to have an excellent time. However, as many parents know, playing outside can be hazardous. Your kids love to explore, and that is a great thing until they come in with a scuffed knee or worse.
It is time to make your backyard safe, so that it's a pleasant place to play and to give you added peace of mind.

Tidy Up
It’s possible that your garden and walkways have been neglected over the colder months so be sure to head outside and clean up. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, and cut away any nasty weeds and thorny bushes. Look at the condition of the walkways and patio. If there are any loose or broken tiles, it is a health and safety hazard waiting to happen. Think about a concrete patio installation to ensure the ground is safe and good to alleviate any parental stresses.


Best Online Reads

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

1. Eleven places every introvert should go in their lifetime via HuffPost.

2. The unmistakable signs of a bad place to work via Forbes.

3. A smarter way to clean your home via The New York Times.

4. Ten books you have to read this summer via Redbook.

5. How to say yes to the right things via Camilla Styles.

6. Twenty-seven genius recipes for the grill via Food52.

7. Four new and easy ways to go green via Clementine Daily.

8. How to teach kids about consent via A Cup of Jo.

9. An argument for why daytime plans are better than night time ones via Man Repeller.

10. The cutest one-shoulder top for under $27 via Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale.

Splurge vs. Save

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
It's the season for sunnies! Hitting the pool or beach this Memorial Day weekend? Well, then you're going to need a pair of stylish sunglasses for your trip. I've had these Ray-Ban Clubmaster sunnies in my cart for months, but whenever I find a similar and yet less expensive option, I have a hard time justifying the splurge.

By the same token, I love the pair of Ray-Ban Aviators that I own. Ray-Ban is a brand that is synonymous with quality, and you can never truly go wrong when you invest in a pair.

Have a surplus in your bank account this month? Grab the Ray-Ban Clubmaster sunglasses.

Saving to splurge on a new bathing suit? Pick up a pair of A.J. Morgan sunglasses at Nordstrom.

I also love this similar pair at Sole Society.

You might also like this Splurge vs. Save or this one.

Four Ways To Treat Yourself

As a parent, it's important to make time to treat yourself. Many moms just focus on the family, and this can mean that they neglect themselves and their own needs, and that’s never a good thing. I recently wrote about ways I practice self-care. If none of those work for you, here are few more that might be more in line with your wants and needs.

Find a Hobby That Gives You a Break
Sometimes, you just need to get out of the house and away from the stresses that you experience each day. This is a common need for parents, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. No one can be a mother and wife 100% of the time. You need to have some downtime that allows you to relax. Picking up a hobby is the great way to do that. It can be anything from swimming to pottery classes. What matters is that it helps you to relax and gives you a break from the things that often wear you down, so find a hobby that’s good for you.
photo via


Teaching Your Children To Be Environmentally Friendly

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
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As parents, we are responsible for teaching our children how to look after the environment around them. After all, they are the future, and when we have long left the world, we want to leave it in their safe hands. Here are some useful ways to help your family be environmentally friendly and make a difference in the lives of others.

Set An Example
If you don’t take the time to recycle or reduce energy, how can you expect your child to do the same? In all the suggestions listed here, be sure that you are the first in the household to care for the environment. As you do so, explain to your child the importance of what you are doing and how it is helping the world.


From Crunching to Brunching: prAna Helps You Transition

Thank you to prAna for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.

Like most moms, I lead a full, hectic, busy life of juggling events, activities, and priorities. Whether it's the weekend or a weekday, I try to fit as much into my schedule as I can without taxing myself. In the midst of all of that, I try to be more mindful about what I eat, what I wear, who I spend time with, and how I spend my time.

For the past few months I've been meeting up with a few friends on Wednesday mornings for yoga. At first we'd have our weekly practice and small chats before and after class. As the weeks went by, our chats turned into lunch in the gym cafe, and eventually lunch outside the gym and even Saturday morning yoga followed by brunch.

Since I've never been one to wear my yoga clothes all day or as part of a "uniform", I'm always on the lookout for stylish clothes that can double as gym clothes and everyday wear. When I was introduced to prAna, I knew I had found the clothes to fit my chic, active and adventurous lifestyle. They are the perfect clothes to make a smooth transition from gym to breakfast, brunch, or lunch.

prAna offers sustainable, recycled, fair trade-certified and hemp items. In addition to making sustainable, eco-friendly clothes, prAna makes giving back to communities all over the world a priority. As a consumer, I take pride in know that I'm making a positive impact each time I purchase an item from prAna.

My most recent purchase is the Mantra pant and the Petra top. I chose the combination because it's casual enough for the gym but has an element of dressiness for post-gym activities such as lunch, brunch, or shopping. The Mantra pants are made from a combination of soft hemp and stretch fabric and trimmed with organic cotton, and the Petra top is made mostly of organic cotton with pretty lace insets. Many of prAna's clothes also include recycled items. Producing planet-friendly clothing that is stylish and comfortable is of the utmost importance to prAna.

The lace detail on the Petra top is so pretty and is a nice contrast to the soft, casual cotton. I've worn this top to both yoga class and to brunch. It's the perfect anywhere top. It can be worn for city exploring, hiking a mountain, hanging on the beach, or relaxing on your patio.

prAna strives to make its clothing accessible to everyone. It's made with adventure in mind, but also mindfulness. At the heart of prAna's brand is one driving factor: to give back to this world more than it takes. Now that's a brand I can get behind.

SAVE! prAna is generously offering Pieces of a Mom readers a 15% discount on all purchases made through June 16th with code S17PCLUBPM

This is your chance to save on clothes that take you from adventure to relaxation to everything in between. Whether your outdoor activities include the mountains, the beach, or just your backyard, prAna has clothing that fits any adventure.

5 Elements To Keep In Mind When Making Fashion Choices

Monday, May 22, 2017
Fashion plays an important part in all of our lives. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be overly focused on fashion, the clothes that you put on your body each day are a reflection of who you are. There’s no doubt that looking great makes you feel great. Your appearance is the first impression people get of you whether they are friends, colleagues, and complete strangers.

Portrait Woman, Redhead, Portrait, Female, Woman, Young
photo via
I don't consider myself an overly fashion-conscious person. However, I do pay attention to the latest trends and always try to look presentable. To do that, I focus on five elements of fashion that I think are the keys to looking and feeling great no matter what outfit you are sporting.

Tips For Telling Your Kids You're Moving

Saturday, May 20, 2017
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Packing up the family and moving is often unavoidable. Sometimes it's a job transfer, the promise of a more appealing climate, the ability to be closer to family that prompt a move. Moving can be emotional for children, especially if they have to move far away from the people they know and love best.

When we returned from Tucson, we talked of eventually moving there. The climate is ideal and the cost of living is so much more reasonable than New Jersey. If we do ever decide to move, we'll need to prepare ourselves for some tears and tantrums along the way, for sure. However, there are ways to minimize the impact a move has on your kids by telling them about it in the right way.Here are some tips for telling your kids you’re moving:


Friday Fresh Picks: My Favorite Straw Totes

Friday, May 19, 2017

Helloooooo, Friday! This week was either flying by at lightning speed (when I was at the beach with Harper) or crawling at a snail's pace (those 6 miles on the treadmill). But here we are at Friday, and I couldn't be happier. We've been lucky enough to be enjoying summer-like weather here on the east coast. I'm not gonna lie. This weather has me yearning for summer and long, lazy beach days.

Speaking of long, lazy beach days...I'm sharing a few of my favorite straw beach totes in this installment of Friday's Fresh Picks.
Beach Please Tote $49
The cutest! You are going to the beach, right? So why not let everyone know with this tote. Stash a few towels, flip flops, sunblock, and a wristlet into this bag, and you are good to go!

Colorblock Straw and Cotton Tote $29
This oversized tote is a great value for the money. It's super roomy and could even fill in as a weekend bag, if needed.

Mini St. Tropez Tote $59
OK, so maybe this tote is a wee bit small for the beach. But hey, how about those aprés beach cocktails? You need a chic tote for that, amirite?

Web Handle Straw Tote $50
Love the retro vibe of this tote. Plus, the tote is deep...just what I need for my high-maintenance beach life.

Colorful Straw Tote $30
I love the colorful spin on this tote. It really sets it apart from natural straw totes.

Diamond Weave Tote $50
I love a boxy tote for holding a stack of folded towels. They fit perfectly into this space with plenty of room to spare for other beach essentials.

Rio Raffia Tote $139
Pom pom adornments are on everything this season especially straw totes. If you are looking for a bag that's totally on trend, this one is it.

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!


Best Online Reads

Thursday, May 18, 2017

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

1. Fifteen surprising things productive people do differently via Forbes.

2. All 20 La Croix flavors ranked via Thrillist.

3. How to be mindful when taking a shower via The New York Times.

4. The cutest strappy sandal for summer via Macy's.

5. Four women describe what life is like at correctional facility Rikers Island via The Cut.

6. Twenty-five fast-paced thrillers to read this summer via Business Insider.

7. How to be a better listener when catching up with a friend via kitchn.

8. The fastest way to cure a cold via Well and Good.

9. Eleven things to never wear to a wedding via Redbook.

10. Iced coffee from Starbucks is about to get even stronger (!) via Cosmopolitan.

The Benefits of Cooking With Kids

Wednesday, May 17, 2017
image via

Most children will express an interest in cooking at some point in their lives. Usually, they like to get involved in baking sweet treats like cookies, donuts and cupcakes, where they delight in stirring the mix and licking the spoon. Whenever my kids expresses such an interest, I use it as an opportunity to get them into the kitchen to engage them in new learning experiences that will set them up for life.

Here are just some of the wonderful benefits gained when you take the time to cook with your kids and teach them more about food:

Try New Things
It can sometimes be difficult to get kids to try all of the wonderful foods available to us, with vegetables being a particularly difficult sell. But children who have been engaged in the cooking process, who are having fun learning new skills are much more likely to try their creations than they would be if you simply presented them with a plate of broccoli and asparagus. If you have a particularly fussy child, it’s worth trying to engage them in the kitchen if you’re looking for a new approach to change their mind and get them eating a healthier diet.


Tips For Shopping For The Hardest People To Buy Gifts For

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
adult, bags, brick wall
photo via

Buying gifts can be something of a challenge at the best of times and even when you have an in depth knowledge of the recipient. Very few people will put time or money into a gift without really caring about what it is. We've all had those moments where we spend hours trying to figure out how to find that one perfect gift. We have those people in our lives who are simply impossible to purchase gifts for. This might be because they're someone you don't know that well, or it might be someone you love very dearly but who has such a specific set of tastes that the idea of buying them something is enough to fill you with huge amounts of anxiety.

Gift-giving should be a fun and pleasant experience. The look on someone's face when they open your gift and see that it's something they really love is often even better than being given a gift yourself. 'Tis better to give than to receive, no?

With that in mind, here are some of the most difficult people to buy gifts for, with some handy advice to help take some of the worry out of that all-important search for the perfect present.


Self-Care: A Necessity Not A Luxury

Monday, May 15, 2017

Somewhere along the lines of becoming mothers, we stop prioritizing ourselves and focus solely on the care of our children. It's the natural progression of things. Our children and families demand much of our time, and naturally, we put our care last on our long list of to-dos.

That nightly glass of wine? Nope. No time for that. An at-home wine tasting with some girlfriends? Can't do it when you have driving duty for the school dance. An extra hour of sleep? Sleep. What's that?

My oldest daughter celebrated her 15th birthday a few days ago, and when I look back on her early years and the amount of time I dedicated to her versus to myself, I realize there was quite an imbalance. And for good reason.

But over the course of the past few years and as my daughters have gotten older and more independent (they are 15 and 11 now), I've started to devote more time to self-care.

Self-care is a must for our overall well being. If we can't take good care of ourselves, we can't take good care of anyone else. So, it's time to step up and challenge yourself to start taking care of yourself and making time for yourself.

Here are a few of the ways I practice self-care.

1. Exercise Regularly
I used to be a yo-yo exerciser. I could count the number of times I went to the gym each month on one hand and still have a few fingers to spare. But at the beginning of the year, I made a promise to myself to devote more time to regular exercise and finding what I love and making time for it. For me that's yoga and walking. Now, I am at the gym at least 5 times per week splitting my time between the fitness center and yoga classes.

2. Relax and Unwind
As moms we lead busy, hectic, and chaotic lives. From being chefs to chauffeurs and everything in between, who has time to relax? You do! Thursday, May 25th is National Chardonnay Day. If you can't squeeze in some time before then to unwind, block off the evening on your calendar to spend some time by yourself or with a few girlfriends on your patio enjoying a glass of Wente® Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay.

I love heading out to my deck in the early evening before dinner to enjoy a glass of wine. It's so peaceful and gives me just enough time to recover from the day before dinner and bedtime. Another favorite spot is on my front porch. Sometimes I grab a magazine and head for the rocking chair or I'll wait around to catch neighbors who are walking their dogs after dinner.

3. Eat Clean Foods
Somehow when I started consistently working out, I also started consistently eating right. They go hand in hand, and when you start doing one, you automatically start doing the other. As with anything, I allow myself wiggle room and all things in moderation, including wine!

4. Get Plenty of Quality Sleep
This has always been difficult for me. I've never been a good sleeper. I don't particularly like naps, unless I've had an awful night's sleep the night before. However, as I've aged, I am finding that a quality 7-8 hours is necessary for me to perform optimally the following day. Plus, now that I am exercising regularly, it has gone a long way in helping me keep a regular sleep schedule.

What do you do to practice self-care? Do you treat yourself to something special each day, week, or month?

Do you like to enjoy a glass of wine occasionally? And if so, who are you raising your glass to honor?

Wente Vineyards can help you toast someone special. Click here to locate where you can purchase Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay so you can enjoy a glass on National Chardonnay Day.

How To Have a Stress-Free First Family Vacation

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When you’re a new mom, the first family vacation with your new baby can feel like a pretty daunting experience. It can be easy to see why many people don’t choose to do one for quite a while. Our first big trip with Emma came when she was six months old. We went to Captiva, Florida to spend a week at our timeshare. To say I was anxious about traveling with her on an airplane is an understatement. I didn't know what to expect from her. Would she be insufferable on the airplane for three hours or would she sleep like a, well, baby?

You want to feel confident and happy and reduce stress as much as you can when you travel. Isnt' that what a vacation is all about? When planned well, you can have a good family vacation and get a break from your normal routine (which can be very welcomed as a new parent). Here are a few tips I've employed over the years when traveling with my children:


Recommended Summer Read: It's Always The Husband

Sunday, May 14, 2017
This is an advertisement for SheSpeaks/St. Martins Press.

Over the years my approach to reading for leisure has drastically changed. As a busy mom to two, full-time work at home mom, and all around go-getter, I still love to read and always make time for it. But these days if a book doesn't catch my attention within the first 20 pages, I have to move on. I can't devote valuable time to a book that doesn't hold my attention and speak to me.

For the past two years or so, I've been hooked on psychological thrillers. They keep me on the edge of my seat and keep me guessing until the very end. Sometimes it's too much to take, and you feel as if you need to stop reading. But you just. Can't. Stop. That's what I love about psychological thrillers.

When we left for our spring break vacation in Arizona, I started reading It's Always The Husband by Michele Campbell on the airplane. It's Always The Husband is Campbell's debut novel about a three friends who become inseparable shortly after they meet in college and remain friends twenty years later. Jenny, Kate, and Aubrey quickly bond during their freshman year at Carlisle College. However, each has her own set of issues that always seem to get in the way of having an honest friendship.

This addictive story of a tight friendship takes a turn for the worst when lies come to the surface, true identities are discovered, and long-kept secrets are revealed. It's Always The Husband is a grappling tale that kept me guessing until the last word of the book. I love twists and unexpected endings, and It's Always The Husband is filled with both.

When one of the friends is discovered dead, everyone is left asking "who did it?" While anything seems possible and anyone could be the suspect, it also seems nothing is possible and that no one could be a suspect. It's Always The Husband examines to complexities of friendships and how easily betrayal can happen and scornful we can become.

This is one of those thrillers that goes back and forth from past to present, which some readers may find difficult to follow. It's always a tough transition for me to make, but eventually I get acclimated and the reading becomes smooth. At times the character description and development in It's Always The Husband was lengthy and somewhat unnecessary. What took two chapters to convey could have been accomplished in a few succinct paragraphs. But otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the plot twists, the realistic characters (we all knew someone like Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny in college), and the unexpected outcome of the book.

Find a comfy spot and get ready to stay there for a while as you read It's Always The Husband.

You can also read my review on Goodreads.

Win this book!

St. Martin's Press has graciously offered me extra copies to give away. Use the widget below to enter to win one of two (2) copies of Michele Campbell's It's Always The Husband.

Don't want to wait for the giveaway? It's Always The Husband will be released on May 16th. Buy it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Book Giveaway: It's Always The Husband by Michele Campbell