What We're Reading

Monday, July 31, 2017

We are half way through summer break, and I'm making a nice dent in my summer reading list (and getting slightly distracted by books that aren't on my reading list as well). There are so many good books out right now that it seems to take me as long to make a decision on what to read next as it does to read the actual book!

Here's what's currently in our beach bags each day:

What I'm Reading: Miss You by Kate Eberlen
After seeing this book on a list of recommended reads, I downloaded it immediately. It was less than $2 to download on to my Nook (although the Kindle edition is significantly more expensive). This is the fateful love story that follows two people over a 16+ year time period. Chance meetings keep bringing them together, and life keeps tearing them apart. Until...

What Emma's Reading: Life & Style magazine
Keeping it real and honest here. Just about the only thing Emma's been reading since school ended are celebrity gossip magazines.

What Harper's Reading: The It Girl by Katy Birchall
This book tells the story of a painfully shy girl who is thrust into the spotlight when her father becomes engaged to one of the world's most beautiful and recognizable actresses. Anna must figure out how to navigate the paparazzi and how to weed out real friends from the fake ones who only want her for her fame. Kindle edition (linked above) is $0.99!!!

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

5 Ways To Rock Your Teenager's Birthday Party

Saturday, July 29, 2017

If you are the parent of a teenager, you know how difficult it can be to plan a birthday party for your teen. When children hit teenage years, they start to grow out of all the childish things they used to love. They begin to develop their own tastes in sports, music and movies and what you thought they once loved, no longer applies.

When your prince or princess was little, it was easy to make them happy with a cake, balloons and a a few toys. It was also a lot easier to plan their birthday party – everyone loves to play pin the tail on the donkey, right? Well, your teenager is coming into their own now, so birthdays are changing. They need to be cool and fit in with their friends. Teenagers have a lot of pressure upon them to do well at school while maintaining their social circle, so it’s only fair that they have a birthday that they will be high-fived for!

If you have a son, it’s time to look at the best gift ideas for men, as he’s not a little boy anymore. If you’re looking for a gift for a girl, hunt for the best experience for her, a visit for her and friends to a nail salon, a favorite restaurant, or a movie, show, or concert. Race cars, ballet slippers, and electronic gadgets won’t have the same effect as adrenaline-fueled and high energy experiences

Here are a few ideas for a birthday party your teenager will never forget.

Friday Fresh Picks: Lemon Love!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Maybe because it's summer, and I crave tall glasses of icy lemonade. Or maybe I'm loving the vibrant yellows and fun prints. Whatever it is, lemons have me excited lately. I can't get enough of wearing them and decorating with them.

In this installment of Friday Fresh Picks, I'm sharing my favorite lemon-themed items.

Lemon Espadrilles

This classic summer shoe sports embroidered zesty yellow lemons. You cannot go wrong with espadrilles since they are the ultimate comfort shoe. If lemons aren't quite your thing, this shoe is also available with flamingos on them.

Cotton Shell Sweater
I own several of these shell sweaters from J. Crew and they are everything! Wear them alone or thrown a sweater on over it for chilly days and night.

Lemon Spatula
What better place is there for lemons than in the kitchen? This spatula is super cute...and functional. Gotta love that. The best part is that there's more of where the spatula came from! There's an apron, a spoon rest, a dish towel, a pot holder, and an oven mitt. Buy them all!

Off-The-Shoulder Dress (currently 60% off)
This casual dress doubles as a beach and pool coverup too!

Lemon Spiral Notebook
You know how much I love making lists and collecting notebooks. As if I need another, but this one is just too cute to resist! I also love this notebook.

Lemon Print Chino Shorts (currently on sale!)
Whether you are hitting the golf course or meeting girlfriends for lunch or cocktails al fresco, these adorable shorts will get the job done. They would look great with this top or this one.

Lemon Coin Purse
The most refreshing accessory out there is here! These are great when you're on vacation and just stepping out to grab a coffee or a green smoothie.

Off-The-Shoulder Top

This playful top gets becomes even more fun with a charming lemon print. Pair it with white or black for a crisp, summer look.


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, July 27, 2017

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

1. TV series finales we are still confused about via Bustle.

2. Common phrases to avoid in conversation via Real Simple.

3. The reason behind Starbucks' own drink sizes via Insider.

Tips For Making Exercise Part of Your Daily Routine

Wednesday, July 26, 2017
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For many of us, starting and sticking to an exercise routine can be a monumental task. We have time constraints as well as other commitments that we prioritize over exercise and fitness. But I have never found it harder to stick to an exercise routine than since becoming a mom. In the early days, how can you find time to workout when you can’t even go to the bathroom without someone tagging along? Plus, there are always a million things to do instead of working out.

There are so many benefits to exercise, both mental and physical, and since I've been consistently exercising since the beginning of the year, I've seen firsthand those benefits. Making time to exercise is really important to your overall well-being. If you struggle to find the time, as I did for many, many years, here are a few of the ways that have helped me make exercise part of my daily routine.

3 Tips For Combating Back-To-School Craziness

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

With a little more than half of July wrapped up and in the bag, dare I say that it's time to start chatting about back to school? I know. I know. You're thinking it's way too early to be thinking about back to school right now, but hear me out.

Every year families face challenges when the new school year rolls around. With schedules and priorities shifting, school bells and alarm clocks ringing, and papers piling up, it's time to get serious about preparing (and organizing!) for back to school and squeezing in some smile-worthy moments as well.

Here are 3 tips to help take the chaos out of and bring the smile back to back-to-school season.

1. Plan and Prepare Snacks and Meals
I don't know about yours, but my kids' taste buds seem to be forever changing. The snack I buy this week will be yesterday's news next week. But one snack is tried and true. My girls love Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® crackers. The back to school season can be stressful and intimidating. So, whenever I can give my girls something familiar and comforting, I do. Goldfish® crackers are the comfort in the back to school season that they crave. Whether it's in their lunch box or for an after school snack, Goldfish® crackers ease their anxiety.

2. Schedule Downtime
The back-to-school season can be chaotic. Families tend to become overwhelmed easily. To combat the anxiety and chaos, be sure to schedule downtime. We love family game nights and movie nights, but you can do whatever works for your family. It might be a stroll through your neighborhood or a family dinner out.

In addition to our favorite games and movies, snacks are a must! We pull out our favorite games and pour a big bowl of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® crackers for everyone to munch on while we get down and dirty with the card games. I mean, who doesn't love a good competitive game of Old Maid?

Our favorite games are card games. We've got a few card sharks in the family, and playing cards always means a lot of competitive fun.

Leaving the chaos of a new school year behind for a few hours to unwind with family helps to alleviate a lot of the anxiety that accompanies this time of year. Sometimes children are under pressure that parents are oblivious to. It helps to put those pressures out of mind for a bit and have fun with friends and family. A favorite game and a favorite snack such as Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® crackers are sure to put a smile on everyone's face.

3. Keep It Simple
Your kids have enough to worry about during the hectic back to school season. Keeping everything from routines to snacks easy will help them make a quick adjustment. We love the Goldfish® crackers that are baked with whole grain and are available in a resealable bag. The bag makes accessing the snack super easy and a lot less messy. I don't have to worry about the bag opening up if it falls in the pantry. It can also be easily stowed in a tote bag for easy on-the-go road trips. Goldfish® crackers belong in mouths not all over the floor of my pantry and my car.

The back-to-school season doesn't have to be stressful when balanced with plenty of fun activities and smile worthy moments. Let Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® help you make it happen. Whether you make them part of the school experience or you save them for special moments at home, Goldfish® crackers will bring smiles to the faces of your children.

How will you make Pepperidge Farm Goldfish® part of your back-to-school arsenal?

Check out this video to see how we love to unwind during the hectic back-to-school season.


Splurge vs. Save

Monday, July 24, 2017

Scroll through your Instagram your feed, and you are bound to see this cult favorite bag. It's become the bag that all the "it" Instagrammers are photographing. The Japanese-style bamboo wicker bag has quickly become a fashion-girl favorite. So, if you are feeling a little left out of the fun, you can have one too. But, it will cost you. Even the save version is a bit steep but still less than the original bag.

Treat yourself. You deserve it! Buy the Cult Gaia Ark Bag ($138).

Girl, pinch your pennies and go with the knock off ark bag instead ($80)!

Moving: Making A Smooth Transition With Children

Sunday, July 23, 2017
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I spent my entire childhood and teenage years living in the same home. It wasn't until I left for college that I moved somewhere new. In most cases, families rarely spend 18+ years in the same home. Sooner or later, you are going to think about moving. Whatever your reasons may be, you want to make sure the whole family is in on the decision and that no one feels left out. Moving is an experience that’s laden with both excitement and stress, and it’s often the children who feel the most stressed and confused about the unknown.

Young children are especially attached to the home they live in, sometimes even more so than their parents. The memories of their first home will stay with them forever, just like you remember the house you grew up in and the yard you spent years playing in.

Here are a two ways we've handled moving and helping our kids through the process.

How To Strike The Perfect Balance Between Chic and Comfort In Your Home

Saturday, July 22, 2017
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One of the hardest parts about sharing a home with someone is striking the right balance between what you both want. I like a modernist ‘adult’ feel, while my husband wants a comfortable vibe. Since we share the same space, it's important that each of us gets what we want, but that requires a bit of compromise. 

Here's how we strike a balance between comfort and chic.


3 Innovative Ways To Use The Internet

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We all know what a fantastic and useful tool the Internet is. Since its inception, it has evolved in a number of ways and seems to always be on the verge of something new. There seems to be no limit to what you can find on the Internet. I am constantly surprised by what you can do with a little help from the Internet, ranging from mundane everyday things to incredibly complex and serious life matters. 

Here are 3 of my most recent Internet discoveries:

Five Ways To Have A More Productive Day

Friday, July 21, 2017

We are always wishing for more hours in a day. With busy lives that are full of juggling and stretching ourselves in many directions, it’s hard to accomplish everything in a day and feel satisfied that you did it well.

What if it’s not about the amount of time you have but more about how wisely you use the allotted amount of time that you have available to you? I’ve been actively fine-tuning how I use my time throughout the days to accomplish more and have more time to spend doing what I enjoy rather than laboring over the tasks I dread.

Here are 5 ways I set myself up to have a productive day.

1. Wake Early
Waking early sets the tone for the entire day. You’ll feel as if you’ve been given the gift of a few extra hours. When you wake early, your day is longer. There’s something oddly satisfying about waking up before everyone in the house. I like to head downstairs to the kitchen and pop a K-Cup of MAX by MAXWELL HOUSE into my Keurig. MAX by MAXWELL HOUSE isn’t your ordinary cup of coffee. It has more than the normal amount of caffeine as traditional coffees and gives me the boost I need to kick start my day.

MAX by MAXWELL HOUSE has an extra dose of natural caffeine for those times when you need an extra boost. With three caffeine options to choose from (1.25x, 1.50x, and 1.75x more caffeine), you have the flexibility to customize your perfect cup of coffee.


You can find all three varieties at your local Walmart at an unbeatable price.


2. Immediately Accomplish a Task
Before you do anything else, set out to accomplish one, small task. For me it’s usually means tackling the small but dreaded, menial but necessary tasks such as making the bed, folding and putting away a load of laundry, and emptying the dishwasher. Doing so makes me feel a small but significant sense of accomplish that puts me on track to accomplish larger, more complex tasks throughout the day.


3. Make a List
I am a girl of a hundred lists. In order to function and be productive, I absolutely must adhere to some sort of list. Every morning I like to sit down at my kitchen island with my cup of MAX by MAXWELL HOUSE to put together my lists for the day. Anything from to-do lists, grocery lists, wishlists, and more get written that morning, and once I’ve had my coffee to make me my best self, I immediately start executing the list.

If I have a particularly busy day, I opt for the MAX with a higher amount of caffeine. For days where I know I’ll have more time to relax and unwind, I love that I have the option to keep the caffeine to a minimum.


4. Take a Break to Reassess and Recharge
You can’t go full speed ahead all day long. There’s always a point in the day where I start to drag. It’s usually around 2 pm. When I start to feel sluggish, I step away from what I am doing and take a break. I make a cup of coffee and assess where I am in my day. I review my to-do list to see how I am progressing and how I can tweak it to stay on task.

At this point in my day, the three options for caffeine customization in the MAX by Maxwell House really come in handy. Depending on how much sleep I was able to get the night before, how busy or idle I’ve been throughout the day, and generally how energized I feel (the foods I’ve eaten have a big impact on my energy levels). I grab the MAX K-Cup that I need to most and within 2 minutes, I have the ideal cup of coffee to put me at my best performance and power me through the rest of my work day.

5. Prepare the Night Before
I am a big believer that preparing whatever you can the night before goes a long way to ensuring a smooth morning. Pick out your clothes, pack your gym bag or work bag so that you aren’t scurrying the next morning to get everything completed within a very small time frame. Put your MAX by Maxwell House K-Cup in the Keurig machine and place your mug on the machine so that you simply have to press a button the following morning.

It’s ridiculously difficult to enjoy your morning coffee when you are hurrying around the house trying collect your belongings while taking quick sips that you hardly taste or enjoy.

Do you have any tips that help to make your day more productive? Do you start each day with a cup of coffee to help ignite you and make you your best self ever?


How To Create A Functional and Pleasing Outdoor Space

Thursday, July 20, 2017
adult, architecture, candlesticks
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Making the most of an outdoor space can often be very challenging. Most of us don't know much about landscaping or gardening. Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of yards lacking the special touches we want from them, unless you can hire a landscape designer. You can’t use your outdoor space to entertain guests when it’s out of control. Here's what you'll need to transform your yard into the best social spot to hang this summer.


Best Online Reads

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

1. Sixteen surreal landscapes found on Earth via Mother Nature Network.

2. Twenty essential truths that women over 50 want to share with younger women via Huffington Post.

3. The cities with the best quality of life in the world via Business Insider.

Sporty Gift Ideas For Sporty Kids

Wednesday, July 19, 2017
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There are all kinds of gifts out there that for the sports lovers and sports players in your kid's life. They’re bound to love just about anything that's sports-related. Here are some of our go-to gifts when we are buying for sporty kids.

3 Tips For Moving Into A New Home

Tuesday, July 18, 2017
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Moving is a monumental task. There are so many complex things to consider such as location, price and commute distance to take into account when you’re going to be moving. If everything isn’t right, you could end up moving to a town or city you don't like or you could end up overspending. Here are 3 things to consider when moving.

How I Make The Most of My Kitchen Space

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I don't have a sprawling kitchen. At the same time, it's not a small, cramped space either. But there are definitely times when I feel I could use some additional space whether it's for meal prep or for storage. When everything is in it's place, I feel as though I effortlessly execute meals. On the flip side, a few things out of place causes me to stress, and that's when things don't go as planned.
Since the kitchen is the hub of the household, it's important to get the design and aesthetics right the first time around.

Vital Ways to Make Your Home as Safe as Possible

Monday, July 17, 2017
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The list of things you want your home to be is never that long: safe, warm, and comfortable are probably the most important. Having a safe house is a pretty easy thing to achieve, but there are some extra precautions to take, especially if there are children in the home!

Fun Outdoor Summer Party Ideas For Kids

Sunday, July 16, 2017
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Everybody loves a good summer party, and if your child is lucky enough to be born in the summer, you havw the ideal situation for an outdoor party. Although intended to be a good time with family and friends with great food and lovely gifts, planning and executing birthday parties can be stressful. Particularly for the parent who is responsible for throwing the party as well as making sure all of the guests are safe and entertained.

The more you prepare for the party, the less stress you’ll experience. Here are a few ideas for throwing the perfect outdoor party and feeling confident about it enough to relax with the other parents.

3 Amazing Freezable Dishes To Serve This Summer

Saturday, July 15, 2017
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There is no better time to throw a dinner party than in the summer. There is something about the long, warm days that seem to encourage people to get together, share a few stories and laughs, and enjoy a great meal together. Whether you plan to entertain during the day or at night; all it takes is a great meal that comes together quickly and doesn't require a full day of preparation. So great ready to put a few little decorations out, press play on Spotify, and enjoy a soiree with good friends.

Of course, it isn’t that simple. We like to pretend it is but, come on, who are we kidding. Playing hostess with the mostess comes with its very own unique trials and tribulations; two of which include cooking dishes you have never attempted before and making sure everything is ready on time. Get these two right, and you’ll be infinitely more available for a great time.

The key to enjoying yourself at your own party is to prepare a few amazing dishes well in advance, freeze them, and then reheat on the day of the party. Just make sure you have a professional freezer repair service on standby. After all, nothing could ruin your dinner party more than a freezer malfunction and a call for take-out.

How To Make The Most Of Minimal Kitchen Space

Friday, July 14, 2017
Are you feeling the heat in a cramped kitchen that doesn’t seem to have enough space for you? Well, it might be time to look at it from a different point of view. Even a small kitchen can be the little heart of the home. You just have to be smart about the space you have, realistic about what you can put in there, and ways you might even be able to use spaces outside the kitchen to improve your life inside it.

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Make better use of your current space
When dealing with a small kitchen, you’re looking at measuring the resourcefulness of that space very carefully. Nowadays, however, there are a lot of options that fit much better to a small space. Instead of installing a huge overhead fan, you can get a portable kitchen fan, for instance. For countertop ovens, the most comprehensive review is here, showing you alternatives that allow you to downsize your kitchen unit without having to take up the majority of your available space. There are even space-saving dishwashers available, such as integrated models no bigger than 18-inches wide that only take up a little drawer space.

Friday Fresh Picks: Fab Finds Under $50

I'm not ready to buy sweaters, coats, and boots just yet. Especially not when there are some epic sales on summer merchandise going on. In this week's Friday Fresh Picks, I've rounded up 11 items, all of which are under $50!!!

I'm not ready to buy sweaters, coats, and boots just yet. Especially not when there are some epic sales on summer merchandise going on. In this week's Friday Fresh Picks, I've rounded up 11 items, all of which are under $50!!!

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!


Upgrades That Will Increase Your Home's Efficiency

Thursday, July 13, 2017
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Modern technology has come a long way. And no where is it more obvious than in our homes. It doesn't take long to realize when appliances and systems need to be upgraded. Inefficient systems and appliances can be costly and generally don't work as effectively as new and upgraded ones. Whether you've been in your home for many years or you are new to your home, here are few of the ways to enhance your home for maximum comfort and efficiency.

Best Online Reads

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

1. Why 2-week vacations are actually a waste via Yahoo! Finance.

2. Eleven places every introvert should go in their lifetime via Huffpost.

3. The easiest way to paint the fingernails on your non-dominant hand via Real Simple.

5 Reasons Why Your Home Isn't Selling

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
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Moving is one of the most stressful times of your life. Add to that the fact that you can't sell your home, and you've got yourself a dreaded situation. There are many reasons a property isn't attracting potential buyers and why it's scaring away those that are interested.

Here are some of the most common reasons why you can't sell your home.

Summer Must Read: The Breakdown

This is an advertisement for SheSpeaks/St. Martin's Press.

A few weeks ago, I posted my summer reading list. The first book on my list was The Breakdown by B.A. Paris. Last summer I read B. A. Paris' Behind Closed Doors and loved it. It was an absolute page turner. You can read my full review here. Don't worry...there are no spoilers in the review if you haven't read it yet.

When I heard that B. A. Paris had another book out, I was excited to get my hands on The Breakdown and start reading it. I just can't seem to get enough of psychological thrillers of late, and The Breakdown sounded like a gripping tale.

The book begins innocently enough when the main character Cass Anderson, a teacher, is celebrating the end of the term with colleagues at a bar in a small, quaint English town. Things take a sinister turn when Cass has to endure a grueling drive home in a raging thunderstorm. Against her husband's recommendation, Cass takes a turn down a small, winding road and encounters a car parked along the side of the road. She pulls in front of the car and briefly considers getting out to help, but the raging storm and the unknown about who is in the car and what may be wrong stop her. Quickly, she pulls away and heads home to safety.

The following day Cass learns that the woman in the car was murdered. Cass also learns her identity and realizes that she had briefly met Jane on one occasion. Overwhelmed by guilt, Cass can't stop pondering what could have been if she has only offered help.

Plagued by guilt, Cass soon begins receiving silent calls and she immediately assumes someone saw her that rainy evening when she abandoned Jane. Her paranoia begins to spiral out of control and soon Cass is second guessing herself and her memory. She begins forgetting appointments, where she has placed items, and how to use everyday household appliances. Cass rapidly declines mentally, and cannot seem to function physically, and her husband, Matthew, is left picking up the pieces for her while trying to be supportive.

Just as you begin to think Cass' luck will never turn around. She is given a cell phone that belongs to her friend Rachel after some pranksters took it from her while she and Cass were enjoying a chat in the pub. Cass doesn't recognize the cell phone as Rachel's despite the fact that one of the pranksters insists it was taken from Rachel's purse. So Cass opens the phone to take a look, and the course of the book and Cass' life change.

You will have to read the book to find out how it ends. But be patient once you start. A little too much time is spent detailing Cass' very rapid decline before the book comes to a turning point. But once that turning point is reached, the action moves very fast and excitedly. There were parts that were predictable and other parts that were totally unexpected.

Overall, The Breakdown was an enjoyable way to pass some time. In my opinion, it wasn't as thrilling as Behind Closed Doors, but it wasn't a complete waste of my time either. It was good while I was reading it, but it didn't leave an indelible impression on me. That being said, I am looking forward to what comes next from B. A. Paris as she is a very talented writer. In the meantime, grab a copy of The Breakdown to take on your next beach trip.

The Breakdown hits shelves on July 18th. It's currently available online to preorder. Grab your copy and join SheSpeaks for a Twitter party on July 18th at 1:00 PM ET to chat with B. A. Paris and have a chance to win prizes. Head over to SheSpeaks to RSVP.

How To Keep Your Home Cool During A Heatwave

Tuesday, July 11, 2017
When a heatwave hits, you'd better be prepared to avoid prolonged misery. Temperatures during this meteorological phenomenon rise sharply and remain high for a longer than average period of time. Heatwaves are not like an average spate of weather, because it’s also accompanied by high humidity, and due to this combination, the temperatures can rise 10-15 degrees above normal.

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Heatwaves are caused when high pressure cells develops over an area, which is directly caused by the lack of clouds, and the lack of moisture in the air traveling as it normally does around a geological region or country. It can drive many people to drastic measures as we become increasingly uncomfortable in the high heat and humidity. But with a few simple rules to follow, your can keep your home cool during even the most scathing bouts of heat.