6 Ways To Cheer Yourself Up

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
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We all have days that get us down. Whether it’s a problem at work or a struggle at home, life has a way of making us feel self-conscious, insecure, and unhappy. When I'm having a bad day, I don't wait for it to pass. I take matters into my own hands and make every attempt to boost my mood. Here are some of the ways I use to cheer myself up when life is throwing me lemons.

5 Favorites: Podcasts

Monday, October 30, 2017

Although I've been listening to podcasts for years, it's only recently that I've gotten seriously addicted to them. Whether you want to be educated or entertained, there's a podcast about anything for anyone. From food to sports to politics to movies and TV to fashion and beauty, there's a podcast for that.

In this week's installment of 5 Favorites, I'm sharing my current 5 favorite podcasts (and few honorable mentions, too!).

1. The Daily
I want to keep up with current events, but I don't have time to pore over newspapers, websites, or watch daily news shows to stay up to date. The Daily offers a daily podcast, 20 minutes long, with a brief synopsis of all the need-to-know news stories to keep you informed and educated. It's brought to you by The New York Times and expertly hosted by Michael Barbaro. Since I subscribe to this particular podcast, I get a notification each morning when it's available (generally by 6:30 am). Once I get to the gym, I listen to that day's episode.

2. Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
This weekly, hour-long podcast from NPR is a sort of quiz show. The podcast features a host and generally a celebrity co-host and a group of panelists. You can test your knowledge of pop culture and politics as the co-hosts quiz the panelists to see what they know (and don't know) and how well they discern truth from fiction. This is one of my all-time favorite episodes.

3. Call Your Girlfriend
This podcast is for long distance besties everywhere. But it's so much more than that. Who doesn't love eavesdropping on a good conversation? This podcast is exactly that. It's like listening in on the conversation between two best friends, tech expert Aminatou Sow and journalist Ann Friedman, who met at a Gossip Girl viewing party in DC, but whose lives took them across the country from each other.

4. Burnt Toast
Food is a part of our everyday lives so it's only natural that we should know as much about it as we can. I love this podcast because it delves deep into food origins, popularity, and cultural trends and favorites. It will give you plenty of fodder for your next cocktail or dinner party and plenty of inspiration for your next meal.

5. Tiny Leaps, Big Changes
This podcast offers insightful advice but doesn't require a huge time commitment. Each podcast is just a few minutes long but offers actionable personal development advice. Whether your vice is procrastination, anxiety, stress, or lack of motivation, you'll walk away from this podcast feeling renewed with a sense of purpose and an immediate list of to-dos.


Best Online Reads

Thursday, October 26, 2017

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

1. How to build a skincare routine via The New York Times.

2. Fifteen health benefits of apple cider vinegar via Balance Me Beautiful.

3. The 8 most affectionate cat breeds via PetMD.

5 Tips For Staying Motivated To Workout

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

This post was written in partnership with prAna.

I have a bit of a reputation for being a yo-yo exerciser, but in January of this year, I made a pact with myself to regularly use my (rather expensive, but worth it) gym membership. After a few months, I had accidentally happened upon a consistent workout routine and was hooked. Today, almost a year later, I am regularly hitting the the gym, sometimes 5 times per week, and have let go of my fear that everyone else there is better, fitter, thinner, stronger than I am.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have days where I am dragging my feet up until the moment I step foot on the Stairmaster, but for the most part, I look forward to my daily workouts. Building on the mistakes I've made in the past and what I hope to accomplish in the future, I've put together this list of easy tips for establishing a love-love relationship with your workouts.

It's time to stop thinking of exercise as a chore and as another binary task to cross of your list. Exercise doesn't have to be boring or rigorous. Make a goal to do something active each day (a short brisk walk, light weight training). Some days will be more taxing than others, but the point is that if you are doing what you like, you'll begin to look forward to it and stop seeing it as a chore.

Establishing a workout routine is a marathon, not a sprint. One of the biggest mistakes I make is being too enthusiastic at the start of an exercise program. I tend to be over the top, wanting to work out every day and constantly checking the mirror for results. The key to having any success is to do it slowly and steadily and with consistency. Set a reasonable goal for yourself at the onset. Start out small and work up to bigger and better things.

Where's the fun in working out if you can't wear cute clothes? Forget the oversized t-shirts and baggy sweats. Invest in a few new pieces of active wear, and I promise, you'll be motivated to work out. One of my favorite lines of workout wear is from prAna. prAna makes sustainable, fair-trade certified clothes that are ideal for yoga, exercise, or adventure.

prAna's mission is to give people the option of reaching into their closet and dressing in items that reflect who they are. The versatile but classy clothing design makes for outfits that can be worn to work or on an adventure. 

Whether you are looking for clothes you can wear everyday or for exercise-specific clothing, prAna's clothes are for you. If you are a yogi, and adventurer, or a traveler, prAna can outfit you.

I've recently gotten back into doing yoga regularly (for me that's 3-4 times per week). I wanted a pair of pants and a new workout tank to reward myself. The Caraway Tight is a high-compression performance pant that's perfect for yoga. They are super comfortable with a wide waistband and a hidden mesh pocket.

SAVE! prAna is generously offering Pieces of a Mom readers a 15% discount on all purchases made through November 24th with code MBCSHF17

Fitness trackers are great tools for helping you achieve your goals. Not only do they track your daily fitness, but many also offer groups which can provide inspiration and support when you need it most. I love my fitness tracker because it keeps me on target and it provides friendly competition in the form of friends and our daily steps.

Many fitness trackers also provide free tips and training information as well as ways to monitor your sleep, diet, and water intake.

I've tried working out at all times of the day, and the only time that truly works for me is first thing in the morning. I get my workout clothes ready and pack my gym bag the night before so that I am ready to go (no excuses!) in the morning. I drop my daughters off at school at 7:20 and 7:50 respectively. As soon as I do that, I head straight for the gym before I can think of all the reasons I shouldn't go. I am home, showered, and sitting at my desk by 10:30. Working out first thing in the morning not only allows me to get it out of the way but it also sets the tone for a productive day.

Not only will doing the same activity over and over again yield zero results, it will also become terribly monotonous. In order to keep workouts interesting and fun, you need to constantly switch up what you're doing. I like to change up days where I workout on cardio equipment with days that I take a class or do strength training.  It keeps me from getting bored while giving my muscle groups time to recover. 

Another way to get stuck in a rut is to force yourself to love something you loathe. For the longest time, I tried to convince myself that I enjoyed running. Eventually I started to dread my workouts because I despised running. Discover what you love and pursue that passion. For me, hot yoga, a good, strenuous walking workout, and light strength training are my therapy.

See you on the trail!

What We're Reading

Monday, October 23, 2017

What I'm Reading: The Woman Next Door by Cass Green
This was a bargain book I found in Kindle's under $2.99 section, so I downloaded it. It sounded interesting enough, and I've been obsessed with psychological thrillers for a few years now. It started out a bit slow, but I've found that all these types of books always do. They reach a point where they pick up pace, and then you absolutely cannot put the book down. I'm not quite there yet, but I can feel it coming. It's about two neighbors who have grown apart over time, but one is determined to bring them back together. Both women have dark secrets, some you see coming, and others hit you out of nowhere.

What Emma's Reading: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is the first literary classic that Emma has read, and surprisingly she likes it. It's required reading for her English class, but she says she genuinely likes the book. It's one of my all-time favorites and is so exquisitely written that you feel as if you are living in the Jazz Age. You'll become so entangled in the life of Jay Gatsby and his deep love for Daisy Buchanan that you'll never want the book to end. Bonus: follow up the book with the Leo DiCaprio movie!

What Harper's Reading: Freak The Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Harper is reading this book for her 6th grade language arts class. It's not a book she'd choose for her own leisure reading, but she doesn't necessarily dislike it. It's an inspiring story of two boys, one is a slow learner stuck in the body of a teenage giant and the other is a tiny Einstein in leg braces. Together they forge an unlikely and unique friendship when they pair up to create one formidable human force.

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

Best Online Reads

Friday, October 20, 2017

1. The best airports in the U.S. via Condé Nast Traveler.

2. Restaurant red flags that scream 'Don't eat here!" via Thrillist.

3. How young is too young to get married via The New York Times.

4 Easy and Healthy After School Snacks

Thursday, October 19, 2017
This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Rubbermaid®.

As soon as my daughters walk in the door after school, they are starving. They both eat lunch rather early in the day, so by the time the afternoon rolls around, they are primed and ready for food. While they'd prefer to grab a bag of pretzels or chips from the pantry and munch away until the bag is empty, I'd rather they opt for a snack that's slightly more nutritious.

The problem with food that's healthy and nutritious is that it also has a very short shelf life due to having no preservatives. I love to have fresh produce on hand for snacks and meals, but if I don't use it within a day or two, it spoils, and it's often difficult to justify that kind of monetary waste. When I discovered that Rubbermaid® recently released a line of storage containers that extend the shelf life of your produce, I couldn't wait to try it. FreshWorks from Rubbermaid® solves the dilemma of keeping your produce fresher for longer.

Rubbermaid's FreshWorks line of produce saver storage containers have a patented FreshVent technology to keep produce fresh up to 80% longer* than store packaging. Unless you buy your produce from a farmer, the produce you purchase in a grocery store could have been picked up to a week prior to your purchasing it. That means that once you get it home, you'll want to prolong the freshness as long as you can. FreshWorks helps you do just that.

Thanks to FreshWorks, my after school snack game is strong. Here are 4 easy and healthy after school snacks that are made easier when you use FreshWorks produce saver containers.
Prepared hummus makes this snack super easy to pull together on hectic days after school. Just scoop it out of the container and add some carrots, celery, and crackers or any other items for dipping. There's nothing worse than reaching for the celery and finding that it's limp. Keep it crisp and crunchy by using Rubbermaid's FreshWorks produce savers.

In addition to being an excellent after school snack, this yogurt parfait makes a great dessert too and a healthier alternative to cakes and cookies. You can either buy packaged granola or make your own. I've done both, and I find many packaged varieties to be just as delicious as homemade. For an added boost of protein, try Greek yogurt.

FreshWorks produce saver containers features a FreshVent lid which regulates the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide to create an optimal environment so produce stays farm fresh. Each container is sized to keep produce fresher, longer.

The beauty of a cheese plate is that it can be anything you want. You can add different types of cheeses and different fruits and crackers to suit your needs. My kids love a basic cheese plate with a dried fruit and nut mixture and grapes. Grapes are one of those fruits that spoils quickly. Since I've been using FreshWorks for grapes, they've been lasting at least an additional week. I've been making fewer trips to the grocery store to shop, and I've been wasting a lot less fruit.

There's no easier way to get your daily allowance of fresh fruit and veggies than from a smoothie. But I've always opted to buy them rather than make them at home, primarily because my produce spoils quickly. But with FreshWorks, I've started making smoothies for breakfast, when I come home from the gym, and as after school snacks. Not only am I saving money by making them at home, I am also saving money on wasted produce by using the FreshWorks produce savers.

Included in each FreshWorks container is a CrispTray™ which works by elevating the produce away from the bottom of the container where moisture collects. The tray also promotes proper airflow to help prevent spoilage.

To learn more about Rubbermaid FreshWorks containers and other tips for preserving your produce, click HERE.

*Based on strawberries in FreshWorks™ containers vs. store packaging. Results may vary depending upon produce and use.

Weekend Dispatch

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Hubs is heading to Florida for a long weekend of golfing with some friends. So that can mean only one thing: GIRLS WEEKEND!!!!!! We'll be watching lots of movies and eating lots of heavily buttered popcorn. But that's not all we'll be doing. Here's a snapshot of how we plan to spend the weekend.


5 Fab Finds Under $50

I'm always on the lookout for fun, inexpensive items that add flair to my home, my outfit, or my life. I've tracked down five items that you need in your life right now. From entertaining to your office to your outfit of the day, any one of these items is a welcome addition to your life.


Tips For Planning For A Secure Future

Monday, October 16, 2017
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No matter who you are, or what your life looks like, it’s highly likely that you’re thinking ahead to a better future. We all want the best for our families, especially our children. Whether you’re currently struggling to get by, or you’re doing okay but you know you could do more, then you may not be able to get over the idea that you want to make a positive change for a better future.

And that’s an incredible feeling to have. If you’re at the stage where you’re itching to go, there may be just one thing missing to help get you started. And that’s the confidence to do it. If you’re serious about creating a better future for your family, then use these ideas that fit into four areas of life to inspire you to get started today.


A-Grade Gifts For A-Grade Students

Sunday, October 15, 2017
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Now that our youngest is in middle school, we've been stressing more than ever the importance of good grades and study habits. Now is the time to establish good homework and study habits that will carry over to high school.

Every parent wants to celebrate when their kids come home with straight As on their report cards. Getting a high score on an exam is a cause for celebration, especially for the child. There are various ways you can treat your child after these successes, such as rewarding them or buying them a small token to praise them. Here are some examples of gifts for A-grade students that you might want to think about next time the kids bring their report cards home!

Tips For Budgeting and Saving During The Holidays

Saturday, October 14, 2017
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Winter, it's the season of Christmas, snow, eggnog, of singing carols and fairy lights. Unfortunately, it's also the season of increased expenses and bills, which can cause a lot of stress and difficulty. And when the kids have Christmas list as long as your arm, and you are trying to make ends meet while making sure they have a memorable holiday season, juggling everything can be tricky. Luckily, there are some clever ways you can save money during the holiday season and winter months.


Jazz Up Your Walls With Modern Map Art

Friday, October 13, 2017
This post was written in partnership with Modern Map Art.

A person's choice of wall art speaks volumes about them. Whether someone chooses to display nothing at all or has every square inch of wall space practically covered, you can glean quite a bit of information from what is hanging on the walls.

I take a lot of pride in selectively choosing the photos, prints, and paintings that hang on the walls of my home. If you don't know me very well, and I invite you to my home, I want you to get a sense of who I am from my wall art.

But every once in a while, I want something that's unique and different. When I discovered Modern Map Art, I found exactly what I had been searching for. Modern Map Art specializes in posters which feature grids cities (domestic and international), countries, and ski mountains. With over 580 cities, 7 countries, 90 mountains, and 10 skylines to choose from, you are sure to find a poster that perfect for you. But in the event that you can't find what you are looking for, Modern Map Art features an easy-to-use custom map tool where you can search for your city and create a poster.


Best Online Reads

Thursday, October 12, 2017

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

1. Fall vacations to take right now via Condè Nast Traveler.

2. The single most important thing a true friend can do via The Girlfriend.

3. This is what happens to your body during a flight via Business Insider.

The Best Booties For Fall

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Booties are a fall wardrobe staple and the perfect transition shoe from summer to fall and from fall to winter. They are versatile and can be worn with dresses, jeans, skirts, and even shorts. They are available in an array of styles, colors, finishes, and price points. Booties are truly the ideal shoe. So, why not add a few pairs to you shoe collection this fall?

Here are a few of my favorite styles this fall.


Add Tucson To Your Travel Bucket List

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Last year when we were discussing destinations for a spring break family trip, the Hubs suggested Tucson, Arizona. Hmmm. When I think of spring break, I think of lounging on a quiet beach, sipping tropical cocktails garnished with colorful paper umbrellas, and frolicking in crystal blue oceans. Not exactly the mental picture you get when you think of Tucson. But when it comes to travel, I am game for anything, especially when exploring a city I've never before visited. We booked our flights and hotel and happily counted the days until our trip to the desert.

When we first arrived (btw, we visited at the end of April, which was an ideal time weather-wise), I was overwhelmed by how beautiful the mountains are. They are majestic and breathtaking.

Our hotel was located at the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, and the views were nothing short of stunning. Our balcony overlooked a golf course and faced west, so we had stunning views of the setting sun each evening as well as the city lights of Tucson at night.

I was worried that we'd be at a loss for things to do in Tucson, but I was completely wrong about that. On our first day, we had a full day planned at the Sonora Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park, so we needed a hearty breakfast. My nephew (who attended University of Arizona) recommended Bobo's. When we pulled up to the restaurant, it reminded me of a place you'd see on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. If you like pancakes, this is the place to get them. They are enormous and incredibly delicious. 

The Sonora Desert Museum is the place to go if you want to get a glimpse of the local landscape. The museum is a world-renowned zoo, botanical garden, and natural history museum, and it just happened to be the perfect place to become educated on all things plants and animals that are native to the Tucson area.

We saw this majestic mountain lion at the museum, just peeking out long enough for me to snap a picture. We also caught a quick glimpse of a roadrunner before it swiftly ran off.

I thought we'd end up spending most of our time at the hotel pool, but Tucson offers so many outdoor activities from hiking in the mountains to exploring downtown Tucson and the area surrounding the University of Arizona.

My favorite activity was hiking in Saguaro National Park. The sweeping views of the mountains and the cactii were spectacular.

Whether you want to relax and unplug for a few days or be active, Tucson offers it all. After exploring all morning, we were only too happy to return to our resort to spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool.

One thing I always make a point of doing while on vacation is experiencing the local food culture. Whether it's deep dish pizza in Chicago, tacos in San Diego, or bagels in New York City, sampling the foods that are native to an area is always a travel priority.

As soon as we booked our trip to Tucson, I knew I wanted to get a good taste of the local food scene. I knew Mexican/Southwestern food and fresh margaritas would be at the top of my list, but what surprised me was all the other good food we ate along the way.

Are you ready to start planning your trip to Tucson? Check out visittucson.org to start planning your trip to Tucson today and to get ideas for what to do, where to stay and eat, and how to make the most of your time in this dynamic city.

How I Deal With Stressful Times and Situations

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

This week has been a particularly rough one. Heck, this year hasn't been a picnic. But with this week's mass shooting in Las Vegas and the destructive hurricanes that have hit over the past few weeks, I've been left feeling sad and helpless.

At times like these I tend to unravel and quickly fall into a downward spiral. The fact that I dwell on the negative aspects of bad events certainly doesn't help either. I've been making an effort to catch myself before that downward spiral happens, and it has helped to keep my mood more positive and less doom and gloom.

Here are a few of the ways I deal with stressful time and situations.


The Health Benefits of Owning A Cat

Monday, October 2, 2017

Our family has two adorable and pesky cats. Jade is a gorgeous black cat, and Sam is our rambunctious striped tabby. Our lives have never been the same since we decided to adopt them. They both are little bundles of furry joy and a huge part of our family. But, owning a cat is so much more than having something to cuddle. Aside from the unconditional love, there are a myriad of health benefits when it comes to owning a cat. Cats make a perfect pet in any home. Put aside their playful personalities, the health benefits of cats are seemingly endless.

Here is what I have found to be the most beneficial health aspects of cat ownership.

Cats are Perfect Stress Busters
Did you know that stress can be reduced when you own a cat? Having a sweet little face to come home to is enough to make your heart melt. But, if you have had a long day in the office or out at work, cats can help you de-stress from the day. Their purrs can actually help soothe you if you have had a bad day. Plus, the feeling of stroking and grooming your cat is said to be good for your mental health.

Combating Loneliness
Those who own cats are often less lonely than those who live on their own. Loneliness can be bad for our emotional well being and overall health. So, if you live alone, having a cat can help you combat these feelings. They can be a positive boost to your mental health and your self-esteem.

Your Heart's Health is Increased
Cats are a great way to improve your cardiovascular health. Just the act of petting a cat can lower your blood pressure which is beneficial to your cardiovascular health. And playtime with your cat means that you are often getting light exercise.

But in order for you to benefit from your cat, your cat needs to be healthy. Feeding your cat a healthy diet is a must for optimal health. We choose only the best food, Hill's Science Diet®, for our cats. Hill's Science Diet is the #1 recommended brand of cat food by veterinarians.

Pet nutritionists scrutinize every recipe to ensure that your cat is getting the healthiest diet possible. Whether you have a cat with special dietary needs (weight control, urinary issues, hairball control, or something specific), Hill's makes a recipe to address your cat's specific needs.

When our cat Sam had urinary issues two months ago, our veterinarian recommended Hill's immediately. It's a special diet that he'll be on for life, and the veterinarian had the most confidence in a Hill's urinary formula to address Sam's specific needs.

Purchasing Hill's Science Diet formulas is easy with Amazon's Subscribe and Save program. When you join, you'll receive a coupon to save 20% off your first order and up to 15% off subsequent orders. You'll also receive free shipping on all orders. Get more information HERE. For this busy mom who doesn't always have time to trek to a specialty pet store, Amazon's Subscribe and Save is a true lifesaver. Just a few clicks, and cat food is delivered to my door within a few days.

Pets have the ability to transform our lives, so should we transform theirs by taking the absolute best care of them, starting with their diet? Cats are not just lovable companions; they are the best at keeping you healthy. There are physical, mental and general health benefits to owning a cat. They are the best companions to have, and they can truly make your family and you feel complete.

Don't have a cat? Hill's Science Diet offers recipes for dogs too.

Every little time saver counts. Will you use Amazon's Subscribe and Save program for ordering Hill's Science Diet pet foods? Check out how to join here.