Author: pumpkin + rose (page 1 of 75)

FIVE WAYS TO REFRESH FOR THE NEW YEAR, FOR FREE

I don’t know about you, but I started off this new year sluggish. The mad rush of the holiday season always propels me and despite the trays of cookies to bake, hundreds of tiny construction paper pieces to cut for school crafts and gifts to be wrapped, I seem to run on this Christmas adrenaline for a while. Well, that surge of energy is definitely gone. I woke up to a new year and a really tired body and mind. If you, too, need a little reboot, here are some tips for refreshing and resetting yourself and your home in 2019, and they are all free (or can be)!

1. Lace up a pair of sneakers and get outside. Whether it’s a walk, a jog or a run, slow or fast, get your body moving and your brain will thank you, too. I always find that a little fresh air combined with exercise does so much good for my whole self.

2. Clean out your closets. This task always seems daunting to me, but it also always feels rewarding. Suddenly, there is less clutter, more space, and a seemingly brand new wardrobe for me and my kids.

3. Rearrange furniture or re-style shelves. For us, our home’s floorplan doesn’t really allow us to play around with furniture much, so when I need to switch things up, I head to our built-ins, our bookshelves, the mantel. I love to repurpose decor pieces from different rooms in the house and make them feel new again. For example, a set of blue and white ginger jars sat in a row on top of a bookcase for years and finally I plucked three of them from the group and arranged them in the middle of our dining room table. Every time I walk by the dining room now, it looks updated and I feel good knowing I didn’t have to shell out any money to have it look that way. One of the other blue and white vases from that group moved to a built-in and adds just the right amount of color to the otherwise pretty neutral shelves.

4. Create and stick to a skincare regimen. While this one may require you to purchase products, you might just have a lot of stuff already in your linen closets or bathroom drawers, like me, but haven’t necessarily stuck to anything. I actually did this shortly before the new year, but it has helped my skin so much already. And being a creature of habit, I love the routine. Instead of letting myself be lazy and just use a makeup removing wipe at the end of the night, I am now strict about cleansing (with two cleansers at night) and using just two simple products, which takes all of three minutes. I feel super clean and notice a healthy difference when I wake up in the morning, too. The texture of my skin has already improved and I am breakout-free. Here are my favorite products for morning and night:

Morning:

Night:

5. Volunteer. While it’s great to contribute financially to charities that are meaningful to us when we can, our time is also so valuable and can make the largest difference to the people who really need it. I think my oldest daughter is finally at a good age now to come along with me and volunteer her time, too. I really want to get my kids involved so they can learn the importance of doing good for families in need and for our community. And sometimes, carving out time to help others is the perfect way to put things into perspective, and clear the way for exactly the kind of positive mindset needed to head into the next year.

If you are local to us in NJ, here are some great places to volunteer your services:

Saint John’s Soup Kitchen, Newark, NJ

22 Mulberry Street
Newark, New Jersey 07102

973-623-0822

Bridges Outreach
908-273-0176
    Volunteers deliver bagged lunches, breakfast bags, clothing, toiletries and other necessities weekly to the homeless in New York City, Newark and Irvington and Summit.

Color-A-Smile Program
P.O. Box 1516, Morristown, NJ 07962-1516, 973-540-9222
    Organization collects & distributes children’s drawings to nursing homes, hospitals & meals-on-wheels programs. Volunteers needed to supply drawings. 

Community FoodBank of New Jersey
31 Evans Terminal Rd., Hillside, 908-355-3663, x221
         Open for volunteers to help sort food or work on bulk mailings. Kids Closet distributes new children’s clothing and Kids in Need Resource Center provides free school supplies to teachers and children in low-income school districts. Call for information on volunteer opportunities or to schedule a group tour. 

The Connection
79 Maple St., Summit, 908-273-4242
    Volunteers, ages 15 and up, needed to help run special needs classes or tutor newcomers to the U.S. in English as a second language.

Essex and West Hudson United Way
60 Park Place, Suite 1400, Newark, 973-624-8300
    The United Way of Essex and West Hudson Counties posts volunteer opportunities online.

Fresh Air Fund
800-367-0003
    Become a host family to a New York City youngster ages 6-12 for a 2-week summer vacation. 

Idealist Volunteer Resource Center
Action Without Borders, 646-786-6886
    Search database for jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities around the globe for youth, students, families and adults. 

Jersey Cares
290 West Mount Pleasant Ave. Suite 1320, Livingston, 973-533-1993
         Partners with non-profit agencies to provide volunteer opportunities for individuals, families and corporate and community groups. Search website for volunteer opportunities by zipcode, age and interest.

Kids to Kids
Email: kidstokids.us@gmail.com
    Mentoring program for special needs kids was developed and is run by Morris County high school students. Donations and volunteers welcome. Programs include swimming, art, drama and sports. 

Moms Helping Moms Foundation
Warehouse: 22 Howard St., North Plainfield
    Community-based not-for-profit organization that distributes diapers to babies living in low-wage families in the New Jersey area holds “Volunteer Saturdays” on the second Saturday of every month.

Have a happy, healthy new year!

xo gina

LAST FEW GOOD READS OF 2018

Reading is one of my greatest, most favorite escapes. And at the end of 2018 I finished a handful of good ones. Last month I read eight books, all of which I would recommend for different reasons, each of them so different from the other.

Beautiful Boy by David Sheff

While this one is a great read, it’s difficult to admit that, knowing it’s the actual wrenching and painful events of one family’s account with addiction. It is though, a beautifully written memoir, filled with insights every parent should take note of.

*I was traveling and never got to see the movie that was made about this book in theaters, but hoping to catch it soon.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I felt like this book definitely strayed off the beaten path of my usual reads, but I am so glad I gave this first book of a series of three a go. It was funny and fun and similar to reality shows that give you a peek into the lives of the ultra -rich and famous, this novel sucks you in with its opulence.

*I have heard so much positive praise for this now major motion picture, but I have to be honest and say it was pale in comparison to the book. While the book is almost always better than the movie, I felt this film just left out so many juicy details that it felt sort of rushed, and I missed not being able to indulge in the whole novel.

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

The second book of its series, this one was an even faster read for me and quicker to get into from the beginning because of the relationships that I was already introduced to and familiar with from the first novel. Just as fun and scandalous as its predecessor.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

I liked this book a lot, just as much as the other two in its series. It continued to be a fun look into the lives of the ultra privileged, their families and the lives they all lead.

Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand

I am drawn to this author when I am looking for an easy, light read, a story that isn’t so emotionally draining, but that still manages to keep your interest. And the timing of this one was perfect, just before the holidays. The setting was fesitive and the intricacies of the Quinn family pull you in. Now I have to go back and read the rest of the books in her Winter Street series.

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

Right on the heels of another one of her books, this was also a quick read, filled with drama and romance and deceit.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

This was a great book. It was haunting and suspenseful and the plot twists made me unable to put it down. Seriously, I put my kids to bed one night and three non-stop hours later, I had finished all 356 pages.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

This book was particularly difficult for me to read as a mom of girls, and just as a mother in general. It was the first book I read by this author and I found it to be really well written. The sense of community and friendship was honest and real and the characters believable. A hard, but great read about all sorts of decisions that we are forced to make every single day, which made it so relatable and so emotional.

As always, if you have any good book recommendations, send them my way!

xo gina 

THE BEST SUMMER SALAD

File this under the best summer salad, because it combines salty and sweet and everyone’s favorite summer standard: watermelon.  I love that this side is so simple to put together and perfect for all of the outdoor get togethers this season.  I also love that this can easily turn into a meal with the help of some grilled chicken on top or a plate of grilled skirt steak to accompany it, and a glass of wine, of course, wouldn’t hurt.  I have had similar variations of this recipe over the past few years, but found this exact one to be my favorite.  I saw it in a copy of a local grocery store magazine that you can pick up, complimentary, at checkout.  Homerun.  It was filled with great sides, desserts and entrees that all were fairly quick to create and looked amazing.  If you are on the hunt for a crowd pleaser at your next barbeque, this is the one.  And I guarantee you will be recreating it at home, too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 French or sourdough baguette (I used sourdough because our local bakery was out of French baguettes and it came out great!)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 small red onion (I used a little less)
  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 3 talespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 (8 oz.) container fresh baby mozzarella
  • 1 (4 oz.) package prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Tear the baguette into 1-inch chunks.  Toss with 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper.  Spread in an even layer onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake 10 minutes, until golden and toasted, stirring twice.
  2. Meanwhile, halve the cherry tomatoes.  Chop the cucumber.  Finely chop the onion and cut the watermelon into smaller cubes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 4 tablespoons oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes, cucumber, onion, watermelon, and toasted bread cubes.  Toss to combine and arrange on a large platter or in a large bowl.
  4. Drain the mozzarella balls, tear the prosciutto into ribbons, and slice the basil.  To serve, arrange the mozzarella, prosciutto and basil on top of salad.

Happy summer!

xo gina 

NORDSTROM ANNIVERSARY SALE 2018 PICKS

The Nordstrom Anniversary sales are always all the buzz.  Sometimes it can almost be overkill, seeing so many of the same items posted over again, having your feeds flooded with reminders of the notorious sale, but there is a good reason for the highly anticipated events because you can score some killer deals at hugely discounted prices.  This sale in particular, allows you to purchase brand-new items for next season at a fraction of the cost.  The sale opens to the general public on July 20th and runs through August 5th.

Some of my favorite things to shop for during this sale are staples, like moto jackets by BLANKNYC, all the jeans from Levi’s and coveted ankle boots for cooler temps.  I like to stock up on the pieces that I will be so looking forward to wearing come Fall, after a season full of the same cut-off shorts and one-piece bathing suits.

Here are just a few quick things that caught my eye when I browsed the catalog.

1.   A statement trench in either an unexpected color or a more classic hue never goes out of style.

2.   I also love this printed coat for fall without the bulk and for winter over lots of layers.

3.  I am a huge lover of stripes, so this one would fit nicely in my sweater collection.

4.  Don’t forget the men in your life.  My hubby is a big fan of casual shoes, so I usually like to scoop up a few pairs for him.

5.  It’s also a perfect time to grab essentials for the new school year for your littles.

6.  I am constantly running after three little girls, so sneakers are my jam most days.  And I am loving the black and white Adidas shoes.

7.  Since athletic gear is a go-to (see #6 above), I can never get enough leggings.8.  The easiest way to elevate an outfit in the fall is with a great pair of ankle boots.  They go with anything from denim to floral maxi skirts.

Those are just a few things I have earmarked, but overall, closet staples are the way to go with anniversary sales like this one.

Happy shopping!

xo gina

 

APRIL READING LIST

 

So, March kind of came and went and I picked up two books that I just couldn’t get into, kept picking them up because I hate quitting on a book completely, but neither of them ever gained any speed for me.  And then life happened, as it tends to do, and time slipped away into April.  But my April reads proved to be some of my all-time favorites.  So many good ones, so few weeks in a month.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

This one was a quick read.  What started out as a love story quickly became disturbing.  The terror you felt for the wife Grace, and her disabled sister was enough to keep you reading.  It was definitely twisted, but the story was gripping.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

A romantic love story was just the break I needed in the middle of a handful of psychological thrillers this month and it didn’t disappoint.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

This was another super fast read for me.  The story like that of an unsolved case the news outlets keep reporting and one you can’t stop trying to figure out for yourself.  And with each page, more secrets emerged, leaving you to question whether or not you really ever know the dyamics of other peoples’ relationships, even those you think you know so well.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

I thought this really picked up in the second half and although I liked it at the beginning, in part two, I could not put it down.  All of a sudden the book took a different turn and I found myself up well into the night, so that I could find out more about the assumptions I had made and the truths that were unfolding.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

This was my most beloved read of the month.  And that kind of surprised me since it was the last one I finished in April and so different from the others I had read right before it.  But Kristin Hannah is one of my very favorite authors (for good reason!) and just such a remarkable story-teller.  Which might seem a bit obvious since it’s an author’s job to tell a story after all, but not many can do that quite like her.  She manages to really pull you into the book and the web that she and the characters in the book create.  Hannah is one of those authors that leaves you feeling like you know the people in the story so well and that the stories told within a story are those you have heard passed down before.  It’s believeable and raw.  And her writing is so skilled and flawless.

Some books on my radar:

My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

For some of my other recent reads, check out my February picks HERE.

If you have any good book recommendations, send them my way!

xo gina 

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