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Celebrating 12 Years Blogging!



Last Build Date: Mon, 22 May 2017 18:17:03 +0000

 



5 Ways to Save at Dollywood

Fri, 19 May 2017 02:12:00 +0000

As a fan of Dolly Parton’s music and movies as well as being a theme park aficionado, I’ve always wanted to go to Dollywood, but with living up North I never had the opportunity until recently. Now, I know exactly what I’ve been missing – an amazing family friendly experience with thrilling rides and mouth-watering food.My First Time to DollywoodDollywood is NOT hokey or little either. It's charming and quite big. I was actually shocked when I unfolded the theme park map and took in all the offerings.Personally, I also liked learning that 12% of the staff is over 70-years-old and 3 employees are over 90. The experience was very multi-generational and it's no wonder why it won Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Award for Friendliest Park. Be sure and say hi to 90-year-old Johnnie Crawford in the Chasing Rainbows Dolly Parton museum, she has been with the theme park since the beginning.Did you know Dollywood is home to the world's fastest wooden roller coaster? It's called The Lightning Rod and it's awesome. Unlike other wooden roller coasters, it's not wobbly and didn't hurt my neck or box my ears like some coasters do. It was quite smooth. I went on it two times and tried to keep my hands up, but couldn't, lol. So much fun!Yes, the rides were impressive and the people nice, but my favorite part was all the amazing food! Make sure to visit The Grist Mill, home of the world’s best cinnamon bread.5 Ways to $ave at Dollywood Theme Park and Water Park1. Stay at Dollywood's DreamMore Resort - I have this as tip #1 for a reason, because guests and families staying at this affordable, yet upscale hotel, can save in numerous ways! Thre are more perks than you may even know about. Rates depend on seasonality but can be as low as $89 during the off-season (Jan-March). During peak season though, you can expect rates to start at $169, which I would still consider a bargain considering how luxurious the resort is. Basically, that's the same rate of a Disney budget hotel, yet offers the experience of a Disney luxury hotel (not even Disney's moderate range). I would also prefer these accommodations over the chain hotels in the area too. The pool is gorgeous, the beds plush and there is an outdoor playground for the kiddos. Oh, and their dinner buffet with fried chicken was amazing!Perks to staying at Dollywood's DreamMore Resort:FREE TimeSaver Pass for all room occupants.  TimeSaver allows you expedited access to lines at select rides and shows. That is a savings of $35 (plus tax) per person, per day!FREE Parking & Shuttle to Dollywood parks. If you were to park directly at Dollywood fees are $12 a day for a standard sized vehicle. Discounted park tickets. Two days for the price of one is a standing offer at the resort. However, if you’re buying single-day tickets, it’s $5 off the gate price.Discounted tickets to Dollywood dinner attractions such as Dixie Stampede and Dolly’s new dinner theatre show Smoky Mountain Adventures.We also offer a 3-Day, 2-Park ticket and discounted tickets to our dinner attractions.FREE pink lemonade served in the lobby daily between 4-6 p.m.So, for a family of four for, staying for two nights at DreamMore there is the potential savings of over $300!!! allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="315" scrolling="no" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ftarametblog%2Fvideos%2F10154566739349677%2F&show_text=0&width=560" style="border-style: none; border-width: initial; overflow: hidden;" width="560">2. Arrive late and get a free day - I’ve never heard of something like this before, but if you arrive at Dollywood after 3 p.m., the entire next day at the park is free. With this fabulous deal, you can squeeze in at least another half-day of fun at Dollywood without spending any extra money. Or you can even hit the park on your travel day for a bit. Simply save your ticket for re-admission the next day. (Note: During Smoky Mountain Christmas this offer is valid af[...]



Interview with Barry Watson from Date My Dad

Wed, 17 May 2017 02:20:00 +0000

(image) While at the amazing blogging conference Mom 2.0 Summit I had the chance to interview actor Barry Watson.

Known for his roles on 7th Heaven, What About Brian and Samantha Who? Barry is now taking on a new role in the upcoming series Date My Dad where he plays a widower raising three girls who try to fix him up. The heartwarming new family dramedy series premieres June 2 on UP TV.

I've since watched a screener of the pilot episode and it's adorable. Everything I like in a TV movie, but made into a series.

The show also stars Hollywood icon Raquel Welch as Barry's mother-in-law and as revealed in the below interview, Barry's real wife Natasha Gregson Wagner makes an appearance as one of the women he is set up with. How cute is that?

While chatting with him I had to take the opportunity to mention that I was a fan of Samantha Who? and he revealed that he still keeps in touch with his former co-star Christina Applegate as well as other actors from 7th Heaven.

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7 Cool Things to do at Orchard Supply

Thu, 04 May 2017 17:54:00 +0000

I recently attended the Noisiest Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Ever! Instead of snipping a traditional bow, Orchard Supply Hardware sawed a board in half to celebrate the grand opening of their 30,000 square foot store in Naples, Florida (3790 Tamiami Trail North). Video here.The West Coast lifestyle hardware & garden retailer is now available in locations throughout Florida and I'm loving all it has to offer. 7 Cool Things To Do at Orchard Supply Hardware1.  If you buy a plant and a pot at Orchard Supply Nursery they will help pot it for you at their Potting Bench! Love this convenience and my fingernails do too. The nursery has over 100 different plant varieties at any given time to choose from including herbs and spices. I bought some spearmint to plant in my yard. 2.  Get help for sick plants! I had an indoor Jade plant that started shedding it's plump leaves and a white film appeared on the branches. I thought maybe I was watering it too much and then maybe not enough. I moved it into the sun, I moved it out of the sunlight. No matter what I did, nothing helped. Fortunately, I brought my deteriorating plant with me to Orchard Supply and their gardening experts helped identify the real problem. The white fuzz webbing were actually microscopic Mealybugs. Eww! They recommended I spray their insecticide on it, repot it and wipe the pot clean inside and out.3.  The Workbench has neighbors covered on day-to-day maintenance like re-screening, knife sharpening (I need to do this!) and key duplication services.4.  The store also has a retro Sweet Shop with California's Red Vines and other treats and candies for purchase.5.  There is an aisle called What-Cha-Ma-Callits in the Nuts & Bolts section, lol.6.  Snag a FREE green apple 🍏   available for customers from their big wooden casks after checkout!7.  Buy reasonable home furnishings. I fell in love with several decorative pieces and cushions available. I couldn't help but pick up the pineapple candle holder below as I'm mad about all things pineapple. 🍍 I also purchased a garden cat sculpture too.[...]



Tea Subscription Box: Sips by & Giveaway

Tue, 02 May 2017 13:34:00 +0000


I love being introduced to new products with subscription boxes and I love quality loose leaf tea, thus my delight in discovering Sips by.

Sips by boxes feature samples of loose leaf teas from brands all over the world. A startup based in Austin, Texas, Sips by was founded by a small group of tea lovers who want to make the discovering of tea to be fun, personalized, and affordable (only $15/month & free shipping).


The previous tea of the month subscriptions that I tried would send varieties that I didn't drink like Roobios/Herbal teas, which is why I really liked that Sips by matches teas based on your preferences in your tea profile. So, not every box is the same but tailored to the end tea drinker.

Each box includes four tea samples (offering a total of 45+ cups of tea) along with a reusable muslin tea bag and disposable tea bags for making loose leaf tea drinking even easier.

(image)
Reusable cloth bag is provided to brew tea leaves
The sample portions are quite large too. I was also impressed to see big named brands like Harney & Sons along with new brands that I wasn't aware of like Higher Tea certified organic.

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My April box of Sips by samples
For a 10% discount on your subscription, use the following promo code TEALOVER. Great for Mother's Day *hint hint*

Sips by Subscription Tea Giveaway 


Enter below to win a free one-month subscription to Sips by, good luck!

Sips by tea



Valentine's Day Gift Guide for the Dapper Man

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 01:00:00 +0000

I've done the gag gifts, the romantic ones, but now that we're a little older like fine wine, I'm opting for a more refined Valentine's Day gift giving this year.Your guy will love these fashionable and tech-friendly finds to spruce up their professional life -- affordable little splurges they wouldn't get themselves.Lapel Pin - Who says you can't buy your guy flowers on Valentine's Day? Truly unique, I love this microfiber flower pin from Sprezza, which spruces up a tired jacket and also works as a conversational piece too. I first spotted this attractive statement accent on my Instagram feed and especially adored how these two dapper guys boldly wore it (one, two). Best of all, it's only $12! Available in black, red, or gray. I Sprezza Box - Fashion delivered for men! A subscription box curated by Sprezza's personal stylists will bring Valentine's Day joy to your man every month and will keep him looking sharp and trendy. Effortless Style for just $28 a month. Each box is guaranteed to have over $100 in value with 5-6 fashion and lifestyle products, so you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. You can pay upfront $300 for the entire year and save $36  or pay monthly and cancel anytime. Everything sent is his to keep!Cord Keeper - This 3-pack of black/beige/grey leather cord keepers keeps your cords neat and stylish. Perfect for travel and work. $9.99.Echo Dot - Alexa is the only woman I don't mind my husband talking to each morning ;) We are obsessed with our Dot. We have it in our bedroom and we'll tell it to play NPR in the mornings, provide us updates on the weather, give us a flash briefing of the day's news and even play little kid music for our boys. I'm saving up to get another one for my office too and have a feeling my husband wouldn't mind receiving one for his either. $49.99.Wooden Bow Ties - Yes, bow ties and neck ties made out of wood! My husband came back from Vegas purporting that men at the convention he attended were donning them and that they were getting a lot of positive attention for it. Definitely a conversation starter and great for the rugged gentleman in your life. $14.99 and up.  frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=tarablog-20&marketplace=amazon®ion=US&placement=B01DFKC2SO&asins=B01DFKC2SO&linkId=5009d17c2af63ba2ea6a15bb643af417&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=tarablog-20&marketplace=amazon®ion=US&placement=B0186RZ2TW&asins=B0186RZ2TW&linkId=d747e9d174603c3e1dc1d212899aea1e&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=tarablog-20&marketplace=amazon®ion=US&placement=B01I821YGA&asins=B01I821YGA&linkId=14a9b1ba83fa694381c00bba60e6cfd6&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=tarablog-20&marketplace=amazon®[...]



SWFL Dining Review: Burgerfi in Naples

Thu, 26 Jan 2017 21:46:00 +0000

Sometimes you just need a big juicy burger and thanks to BurgerFi in Naples you can eat one that not only tastes great, but is made from 100% all-natural Angus beef patties that are hormone and antibiotic-free with no additives.Established in 2011, BurgerFi is among the nation's fastest-growing better burger concepts with nearly 100 restaurants. Founded by gourmet chefs, Burgerfi is committed to serving fresh food of the highest quality. All recipes are created from natural, fresh ingredients that require team members to cut chop, mix and prepare daily.Allergies? Be advised that peanuts, nuts and other food allergens are present at BURGERFI as they cook with 100% peanut oil because it’s healthier than other oils out there. Peanut oil contains antioxidants and good fats, and is naturally trans fat- and cholesterol-free.I tried The Grilled Cheese Burger Melt, featuring two Natural Angus Patties, Caramelized Onions, Aged Swiss and American Cheese in between three griddled buns! This new menu item though will only be available through January 29.Grilled Cheese Burger MeltAlthough I came for the burgers, I was particularly impressed with their hand cut fries. Seasoned with Parmesan, Herb and Garlic Aioli, these fries are Oh. My. Fantastic! They offer Chili & Cheese or Cajun style toppings too. You can also opt for the Cry + Fry, which loads 3 of their large onion rings on top of your order of fires.Parmesan Garlic Fries and Mexican CokeTIP: Looking for a healthier, lower carb option? Order your burger ‘green style,’ which is a lettuce wrapped burger with no bun.Burgerfi ‘green style’ - lettuce wrapped burgers Need something to wash it down with? We were surprised to see they had local craft beer on tap and bottles of wine for pouring.There is also a kids menu too with reusable plastic cups and hot dogs and other options.Inside, the fast-casual restaurant has a modern setting with exposed light bulbs and aluminum benches and tables.Good news, another Burgerfi location will be opening soon in Ft. Myers / Estero area across from Gulf Coast Town Center.Disclaimer: My meal at Burgerfi was complimentary in exchange for an honest review. [...]



Legoland Florida with Toddlers & Preschoolers

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 03:29:00 +0000

Tips for Going to Legoland Florida with Young KidsMy boys have always been obsessed with building & blocks, but now they are LEGO crazed. Yet, we had stayed away from going to the LEGOLAND Florida theme park when visiting the Orlando area, unsure if they were ready for it. Let me assure you, the 150-acre park is built for little kids (pun intended) offering more than 50 rides, shows and attractions designed for families with children ages 2-12. Located in Winter Haven, Florida, just 45 minutes from Orlando (shuttle busses from the Orlando outlets are available).Unlike other Orlando-area parks, Legoland wasn't as crowded - neither the rides or lines for food. (Note we visited in January and February). Also, if you stay at the hotel or have an annual pass you get to enter the park a half hour earlier. Use the time to go on Ninjago The Ride, their latest attraction.Are They Tall Enough?Yes! Originally, we heard that the majority of the rides had a "42 inch height requirement to ride and with my 4-year-old twins still barely hovering at "39 inches, I wasn't sure there would be enough for them to do to justify buying tickets. However, I was wrong. Yes, I'm sure my husband would love for me to repeat that statement, lol! The 42-inch limit is only for kids to ride alone and does NOT prohibit them from going on the attraction. Thus, as long as we went on the boat, train and safari cart with them, they could experience the same fun as everyone else and even better we could do it as a family.LEGO Bricks EverywhereWe especially appreciated the many Create While you Wait areas. Even when there was a short line for an attraction, EVERY queue has an area where kids can build and play with LEGO bricks while adults hold their spot in line. Wouldn’t life be great if every line had LEGO bricks for children to play with? *sigh* In the Duplo area there are even size appropriate bricks for younger kids.Ford's Driving School Ford's Driving School has two different tracks: Jr which has one simple loop for kids ages 3-6 (not height dependent) and a more curvy track for bigger kids. Kids ride the LEGO looking cars by themselves, by steering and pressing the peddle all by themselves. This was by far their favorite ride, which is towards the back before the water park entrance. There is a ride attendant there though for when kids get stuck to help move the vehicle in the right direction. At the end of the ride, all drivers receive a paper driver's license too, which makes for a great FREE souvenir. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ms6b8GltGfE" style="text-align: -webkit-center;" width="560">4 Ways to Save on Legoland Florida Park TicketsOrder your tickets online at least two days in advance for additional savings. Subscribe to their monthly newsletter to discover their latest promotions as well. Stay on property. For stays between April 17 and May 25 at either the Beach Retreat or Legoland Hotel, KIDS GO FREE! The package includes a free two-day child’s ticket with the purchase of an adult ticket.If you are a Florida resident take advantage of that perk with an annual Florida Residents Awesome Pass ($99+ tax). However, they can only be purchased online and not at the entrance, but proof of a Florida residential address is required for validation at time of live pass redemption.Figurine TradingForget pin trading, I now love figurine trading and I wish I had known about this BEFORE we went to the park for the first time.Model Citizens, or employees, wear colorful badges that display their name and will have little LEGO guys attached to it. If you spot one that you like you can swap a LEGO Minifigure that your kids don't want any more. Thus, you could leave the park with new souvenirs that they can actually play with, so buy one ahead of time or pick up the disca[...]



My Favorite Things Holiday Gift Exchange & Gift Guide for Her

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 17:44:00 +0000

A Few of My Favorite ThingsBesides the office grab for over 10 years now, I have participated in a holiday gift exchange with a bunch of girlfriends scattered across the country. This year, we did something different - a "My Favorite Things" exchange. It's where you think of a favorite thing that you love (lipgloss, best candle you've ever found, fuzzy socks that you adore, chocolates you crave) and then buy multiples of that one thing for everyone in the exchange. So, you then everyone in the group receives multiple presents and everyone's favorite thing.So, I thought, what do I like? Besides books, which are subjective and cats, which I can't very well send in the mail. I then narrowed it down to wine, chocolate and tea! I purchased whole leaf tea bags and individually wrapped dark chocolate mini bars from World Market and placed them inside a Tervis Wine Tumbler along with a note. Sadly, I'm now envious that I didn't make myself one too!Tervis Stemless Wine GlassesI love my Tervis tumbler's for water and their stemless wine glasses are especially great for messy red wine drinkers like me, lol. No fine glass to break or delicate stems to drop. These sturdy, unbreakable cups fit perfectly in your hand and keeps wine at the perfect temperature. I can bring them by the pool or to an outdoor concert or game too and not worry about breaking them. I'll drink to that! They are also  American-made and dishwasher safe for easy party clean-up. Oh, and they have clear, witty wine sayings, monograms, NFL and college team logos and floral design options to choose from. I went with the wine puns like Save Water, Drink Wine and Uncork & Unwind. Cheers! Easy housewarming or teacher gift or present for a coworker too! Price: $19.99 each.Stocking Stuffers for HerWhether I'm tweeting or trying to snap a photo for my blog, I drop my phone a LOT, but now not so much. Why? Because I added a simple Phone Loop to my case, a simple back-strap to help avoid unfortunate and expensive phone drops. It can be added to any case and easy to remove too. I like hooking my finger through it when I'm walking and talking on the phone too. CNET agrees and says it's "the best 6 bucks you can spend on your smartphone." This useful gift is only $4.99. Perfect for the stocking! Softlips CUBE Vanilla Bean Lip Balm (I'm obsessed!) L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream (I also like Crabtree & Evelyn lotion tubes too, I keep them in my desk).essie 2016 holiday mini kit nail polishSoxxy unisex compression socks are the perfect gift for the traveler, athlete, and mom on the go. Soxxys energize your legs, decrease swelling and reduce the risk of DVT. I like their navy ones with a plane on it, very PanAm retro. For 30% off, use coupon code: SOX16.Purse sized hand sanitizers from Bath & Body Works or the yummy holiday smelling Marshmallow Fireside candle in mini size.Gifts for HerStraight and frizz-free hair in just several minutes with a Hair Straightener Brush. I found this to be easier and gentler on my hair than a traditional flat iron, quicker too. Simply brush your hair at a sloewr pace and it leaves behind a smooth finish. I have the version from USpicy that sells on Amazon for under $30 and comes with a glove to protect your hand from the heating tool. frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=tarablog-20&marketplace=amazon®ion=US&placement=B01B4902PI&asins=B01B4902PI&linkId=354db1bd0a709e3dee865236609e2c90&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.c[...]



Holiday Gift Guide for PreSchool Boys

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 13:04:00 +0000

Holiday Gift Guide for PreSchool Boysa.k.a what my 4-year-old twins are getting (shhh!)Hot Wheels 7” Tablet Powered by Nabi The Hot Wheels 7” Tablet Powered by Nabi comes with several Hot Wheels screens and preloaded content, including “Hot Wheels Labs” where kids can watch videos about the science of hot wheels cars - resistance, friction and gravity. In addition, the tablet has over 25 apps and games already loaded onto the device. It runs on the latest Android OS and comes with Google Play, so parents can access over one million additional apps, games, music, movies, books, and more as your child gets older. The tablet comes with a custom orange bumper for protection and durability, so no need to buy an additional case. Besides watching Hot Wheels videos my boys mainly play with the Hot Wheels activity pack featuring a coloring book, a puzzle and a matching game. Oh, and there is a front and back camera that they were posing and taking photos with.Overall, as a parent looking to invest in a kids tablet, this one is affordable and won’t set you back extra with additional app purchases either. Nabi also makes an American Girl, Barbie and a Fisher-Price themed tablet for the same reasonable price. Ages: 3+ Price: $79.90 at Amazon.Disney Mickey Mouse Express Ready-to-Play Train Set What’s a Christmas tree without a holiday train set? And this locomotive is uber adorable. All aboard the Mickey Mouse Express, featuring iconic Disney characters dressed in their holiday best. It’s a perfect set to run under the tree, bringing a dose of holiday cheer and providing families with an annual tradition for holidays to come.The ready-to-play set comes with the train locomotive and cars, easy to connect interlocking tracks with various layout options and a RC remote control with easy-to-use buttons for even preschoolers to get their hands on. The train features a battery-powered general-style car driven by Mickey with accompanying authentic train sounds. Ages: 4+ Price: $79.99 on Amazon.Super Wings World Airport Playset  It's Fly Time! My kids and I enjoy watching the show Super Wings, which is why I was excited to see this airport playset from Auldey Toys. Seen in each episode the airport sets the stage for the ultimate playset for preschool boys and girls. Basically, it's a Barbie dream house for boys. It's large too! The 35-inch scale delivers loads of fun, with electronic sounds and lights plus tons of activities for kids to recreate their favorite Super Wings scenes with mini-transforming characters Jett and Donnie. The figures can attach to the fly-around balance bar and spin them to circle the World Airport before they come in for a landing. Load Jett into the elevator and lift him up to the Control Tower, then launch him down the ramp. Flip open the base compartments to reveal a rotating luggage carousel and a cargo scale too. Batteries are included! Age: 3+ MSRP: $35.99LeapFrog Leaping Letters This interactive game teaches letters and is fun for the whole family to play. Kids race against the clock to put the letters in their proper spots before time runs out otherwise they go POP! The timer can be adjusted to accommodate players of all skill levels and ages to play. The level of difficulty can easily be increased as well with color-coded letter pieces that advance the game to word building and kids can start forming words with add-on activity cards. We aren't there yet, but it's great seeing them race to build the alphabet. This toy also builds matching and fine motor skills too. Surprisingly, no batteries are required and there are no noises except the slight ticking noise the timer makes. Hopefully future editions will include some fun sound effects too, but for now at least this isn[...]



Holiday Entertaining? Say Cheese!

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 19:47:00 +0000

Are you hosting a holiday party this year? We are fortunate to have family visiting this Christmas, so I'm stocking up on some munchy hosting essentials. Nothing like a holiday cheese board and wine pairing to start off the night. Let's be real—every party is a wine-and-cheese party, and the more the merrier.From shredded to crumbled and sharp to sweet, Stella Cheeses found at Publix can satisfy any cravings.  Best of all, it's totally easy to whip up a cheese board and it looks impressive too. For a stress-free appetizer here are 10 easy steps to assembling the perfect cheese platter for entertaining.Tips for Arranging the Perfect Stella Cheese Board for your Next Dinner PartyUse seasonal fruits and local fruits to pair with the cheeses. Thus, if it's blueberry season, put out some blueberries. Dried cranberries or homemade cranberry sauce are great for winter holiday platters. My boys get excited when there are grapes.However, not everything has to be edible, for the holidays add a sprig of holly as decoration or a tropical flower in the summer to complete your board's look.Vary how you cut the different cheeses that you are putting on your plate for both presentation and texture. The same-sized squares will make your spread look pre-packaged and store bought.Go nuts! No, seriously, add nuts like walnuts and almonds. Drizzle honey on or near sliced Stella Asiago Cheese or Stella Crumbled Blue Cheese, which helps to make these stronger cheeses taste sweeter.Not everyone can handle my favorite Stella Blue Cheese, so make sure to also include an easy fan favorite like Stella Italian Sharp Cheese too. Try roasting figs to include with your cheese platter.Champagne is the best drink to complement the eating of cheese along with white wines over red.Purchase a board or cheese plate that you're proud of. A popular trend right now is to use Slate Boards, where you can write on with chalk. A cheaper version, I picked up a roll of black paper from Target's Dollar Spot and a paint pen to label the different cheeses. Adds a personal DIY touch to it.Because they say you can't live on bread and cheese alone (I disagree!) add in some prosciutto, pepperoni or other Italian meats to appease the guys and those that are eagerly awaiting the main course.WIN A TRIP TO WINE COUNTRYWe all know that wine and cheese are a perfect pair. Indulge in both with a trip to Napa Valley courtesy of Stella® brand! Good luck ... and please take me with you!Click to Enter To Win A Trip To Napa Valley With Stella CheeseCheers![...]



Forgo the hassle with Walmart Grocery Pickup

Tue, 15 Nov 2016 16:40:00 +0000

During my twins first year, I depended on my local grocery delivery service in Connecticut. Trying to bundle up two infants and lug two car seats into the store was my nightmare. Never mind the idea of having to make myself presentable to go out in public too. However, sadly the option was not available once I moved to Southwest Florida and I've missed it ... bigly (too soon?).Even now that my boys are older, grocery shopping for any parent can be a struggle. Doubly so when you have multiples since I can't always find a shopping cart for two. Either someone with one child is hogging it or I have to circle the parking lot to find wherever it was last discarded.Thankfully, I just learned about Walmart’s online grocery pickup service and fortunately it's available at the Estero location near my boys' preschool here in Southwest Florida.Designated Walmart Grocery Pickup parking spots in Estero, FloridaNow, I can simply add items to my online shopping cart or through their easy app, provide my credit card and select a time and day that I would like to pick-up my order curbside. And here is the best part -- they bring your order out to your car for you! That's right, my kids can continue watching Cars or Planes (whichever won the battle that morning) in their car seats while all of our groceries magically appear in the trunk of our van. No shopping cart to maneuver, no having to open Goldfish Crackers to keep them happy as I search for some mystery item on an unknown aisle and then backtrack again to pick up their trail of bread crumbs. Instead, I was able to just pull up to the designated sign and voila! 5 minutes later, we were off again.For my first order, I decided to get our grocery shopping for Thanksgiving out of the way by selecting our frozen turkey, fresh cranberries, stuffing, yams and apple cider now. Best of all, no impulse buys, just what is on the list.Worried about the produce and meat selections? Don't be. Even before they load your items into your car they show you the mean and produce options that were chosen, so you can object or not. Oh, but don't make the mistake I did when ordering bananas. I meant to select 4, but it turns out I did 4lbs, lol. No bother though, my boys both have one each morning.Even post holidays, I know I'm going to rely on this convenience again and again. The experience was great! The assistant manager, Eric even came out to greet me and another Grocery Pickup shopper. He was excited we were using the new service and provided us with a little bag of samples as a thank you. So sweet.Grocery delivery! Walmart's grocery pick-up service is FREE to use, but there is a $30 minimum per order. I found an offer valid through the end of the year for $10 off a purchase of $50. With this additional savings, I only spent $45 on our Thanksgiving dinner ingredients! Here is my offer code for $10 off your first order.Not my car, but what a beauty, couldn't resist including it in the shot!Disclaimer: While I paid for the groceries myself, I am being compensated for my time and honest review. However, I jumped at the chance to try this service once I heard online ordering was possible in my area.[...]



Beaches Negril Family Vacation - Yah, Mon!

Mon, 07 Nov 2016 14:04:00 +0000

Just before Halloween my family had the fun treat of heading to Jamaica for the 3rd annual Beaches Moms Social Media on the Sand conference, this time held at Beaches Resorts Negril. It was an amazing experience and I fear we have still not adjusted back to reality. After all, there's no baking with Cookie Monster at my son's preschool, nor are dinners and drinks available 24/7. *sigh*  I know, woe is me, lol. Although we often do Florida road trips with our boys, going international for five days though is a big commitment when you have two unpredictable toddlers. However, from past experiences we knew that Beaches Resorts would make traveling internationally with our twin preschoolers like a day at the beach (pun intended), so it was a no-brainer for all of us to go.  The all-inclusive resort even includes a kids camp, called Camp Sesame, which we would utilize in the mornings so we could hit the beach and go kayaking or paddle boarding (also included) and then we'd all have lunch together and take the boys back to our room for nap time (yes, we still try to observe nap time when we travel). Also, one night we brought the boys to the camp too, so we could have an adult-only dinner at Kimonos hibachi steakhouse, just 1 of 9 included restaurants on the resort.  Enough yada yada, I'll let our vacay photos and video do the rest of the talking:  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EVI3G_taaRo" width="560"> Doesn't this look like a brochure? I promise it's real and I took it - no filter!Like mother like sons! Ordering free drinks at the swim-up bar ;)Toes in the sand!Off to Camp Sesame through this pretty walkway!Making castles in the sand.Brothers gotta build.Sesame Street character breakfast with dad & friends!With fellow Beaches Moms! Tips for Beaches Resorts with Toddlers and Infants:Are you planning on traveling to Beaches with infants or toddlers? Read the following blog posts for more tips for all three Beaches Resorts locations:10 VIP Tips for Beaches Turks & CaicosTips for Traveling to Beaches Turks & Caicos with Infants & ToddlersEvery Tip You Need to Take Toddlers to Beaches Ocho Rios [...]



New Orleans & American Horror Story Coven Tour

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 13:08:00 +0000

Over the weekend, I did a quick trip to The Big Easy to present my Social Media Hacks to authors in the Southern Louisiana Chapter of Romance Writers of America.After the session, my friend and author Farrah Rochon indulged me by taking me around to see the different filming locations of American Horror Story Season 3 Coven, which was one of my favorite seasons. Considering Farrah has never seen the show, she was being a good sport as I rattled off a list of places and addresses to go see around NOLA.First stop, the coven's home Miss Robicheaux’s Academy for exceptional young adults a.k.a. Buckner Mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans at 1410 Jackson Ave. New Orleans, LA 70130.Although it wasn't raining, I borrowed Farrah's black umbrella that she had in her car to mimic this cast shot.The mansion was built in 1856 by a major cotton magnate and served for many years as a school too, but for business studies, thus the education quote on the floor below the gothic gated entrance.The mansion is now privately-owned, but you can rent it out for $20,000. We were not the only tourists taking photos either, which was pretty fun to see and fangirl out over.Oh, but this gate though and the cast iron detail and eerie, ominous spikes, which causes Zoe's temporary demise!Next stop, Lalaurie Mansion (1140 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA 70116) home of Madame Lalaurie’s House of Horrors where Kathy Bate's sinister character lived. However, I was horrified to discover that she was a real person and the home a major stop on French Quarter ghost tours!It's said to be the most haunted house in New Orleans and no wonder. As seen in the show, according to legend one night in 1834 a fire broke out at the house and when rescuers entered the home they found the mutilated remains of slaves who were imprisoned in the attic. A mob ransacked the mansion and Madame Lalaurie presumably fled the city and was never seen nor heard from again. Over the years the building has served as a barber shop, furniture store, girls school and music conservatory. Nicolas Cage even owned the home for a bit, but that part doesn't surprise me.Right next door to Lalaurie's home is Gallier House (1132 Royal St), which served as the exterior for Madame Lalaurie’s Mansion. This is where Nan hears the imprisoned Madame while on the witches walk. The house was built in the 1850s and is a National Historical Landmark.A list of more AHS New Orleans filming locations can be found here.With New Orleans area RWA members and authors, Pamela, Vicky, Farrah Rochon and Stella Barcelona.[...]



Menstrual Cups - Have you dared to try one?

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 13:16:00 +0000

"Menstrual Cups?! Have you dared to try one?" that was the subject line standing out in my inbox last month.I had NOT dared, but it's been something I've been considering for some time now. Challenge accepted!In fact, my first ever Huffington Post article that I wrote five years ago asked, Are your Tampons Green? While writing the piece I learned that rayon and rayon-cotton blends are widely used in the manufacture of tampons and most sanitary pads contain a blend of chlorine-bleached pulp, polypropylene, polyacrylates and plastic. Why is that bad? Cotton is often treated with pesticides and with it being such an intimate product it should be a larger concern for women.The average woman will buy more than 12,000 tampons in her lifetime!That’s a lot of waste and money spent. So, although I had switched to healthier chlorine-free options, I didn't tackle the environmental or cost factor, which is why I finally decided to at least try making the switch to a cup made of 100% medical grade silicone, free from toxins, bleaches and perfumes. Basically, period cups collect your flow and can be emptied into the toilet and then can be cleaned and reused again and again.I simply had to get over my initial ick factor response, but I'm glad that I finally did. Okay so the process is a little gross, but so is inserting and removing tampons. It's just that tampons are more commonplace, but hopefully not for long!Warning: Last chance, if this topic is making you uncomfortable or grossing you out, here is your chance to stop reading.Cost-Savings & Eco-Friendly:You can use a cup for up to 12 hours.   Save yourself some money! One cup costs around $30 and lasts up to 10 years. See pricing options listed below.Buy 1, Give 1Ruby Cup lives by the "Buy One Give One" program, setting themselves apart as the ONLY and FIRST menstrual cup brand to include a donation to a girl in need for every cup sold. Every cup distributed to a girl in need, in countries like Kenya, includes education on the female anatomy, reproductive health and Ruby Cup usage & hygiene too. So, you can feel even better about making the switch on so many levels.My Tips for Making the Transition EasierI'll be honest I was a bit intimidated by the size and durability and stiffness of the medical grade silicone at first, but once I inserted it properly, it didn't hurt.The first two times I tried placing the cup into position, I didn't have it high enough, so it was quite uncomfortable having it expanded by the opening. I couldn't understand how people online would say they could hardly feel the cup inside them. I was ready to give up, but luckily I didn't.I tried one more time and found it best to wet the cup with water first for extra glide. Also, I liked the Tulip, punch down, push down fold best and not the C fold. It was also much easier to apply when I was seated on the toilet and not standing. These three added steps were the only way it finally started to work for me. Now, it was in the right place and I could no longer feel it. Also, after a few minutes the silicon warmed and it got even more malleable. Once I figured it out, I felt liberated not having a pad or dry cotton sitting there!Removing it, um, took a little digging though to relocate the stem, which is kind of awkward. In the beginning, I was also removing it too often when I really didn't need to. I typically have heavy periods, which is why I went on The Pill when I was younger, but found I only had to change the cup twice a day and that in itself was such a relief.  Best of all, it didn't leak and didn't feel as uncomfortable when like a tampon is full.Doesn't sound sanitary? It is! You simply dump the coll[...]



Healthy After School Snacks & Savings

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 19:19:00 +0000

With my boys putting in a full day at preschool an important daily ritual for us after is providing them with a healthy after school snack before dinner to replenish them. They are always so thankful and excited for their treat that it makes me feel like the best mom ever for doing such a simple task. Even better when I can sneak in extra nutrients or protein into their diet too. Win-win.We just stocked up on Gerber Lil’ Beanies at our local Publix because they are currently 2/$4 and you can score an additional 75 cents off with this Ibotta offer. Gerber's new baked snack can be found in the baby aisle and is made with the goodness of navy beans and is naturally flavored.Being twins my boys are on the smaller side too, so I struggle trying to get them to eat more protein. Which is why I love that Lil Beanies has 2 grams of protein per serving. Also, the boys think it's "chips" when obviously it's better for them than potato chips. Another after school healthy snack that we go for is String Cheese or Cheddar Cheese sticks. Right now, there is also an Ibotta rebate for Sargento Cheese Sticks, so go ahead and stock up on both and save even more!Don't forget to download your $0.75 off coupon.[...]



Tips For Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 15:14:00 +0000

When we lived in New England we would go apple picking every fall, but now that we are in Florida we attend Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom as our new autumn family tradition.When it's 90 degrees out it's hard to feel the change of seasons amidst palm trees instead of falling leaves. However, thanks to the decorations and activities at Walt Disney World we are able to get in the harvest spirit, which is why we love the Halloween-themed event held each fall on select nights from 7:00 p.m. to Midnight.Unlike at Disney Land, Mickey's Not So Scary Party requires an additional ticket at WDW outside of general admission or annual passes. Starting at $67 per child and $72 per adult (plus tax) for a one-evening ticket. Reservations are strongly recommended ahead of time especially for dates closer to Halloween.Tips For Attending Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney WorldGet Dressed Up But ... Last year, I wore a Snow White costume, which made for great photos, but this time we all wore Disney Halloween-themed t-shirts, ears and other accessories for added flair while still being comfortable. Before you arrive dressed up for the occasion though, please read the official costume guidelines at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for children and adults.Know Before You Go - Consult the Schedule & MapBesides trick-or-treating and the short queues to rides, there is a LOT to do and only one night to do it all in, so consult the schedule ahead of time. Last year, we missed a few of the shows while caught on the other side of the park. This time though we were determined to see Mickey's "Boo-to-You" Halloween Parade, Celebrate the Magic light show and Happy HalloWishes Fireworks (watch my scope here) and knowing the show times helped us plan accordingly and this time we saw it all and had good spots.TIP: You don't have to watch the Halloween parade just from Main Street or by the castle. In fact, you can see it sooner and first by Adventureland and near Liberty Square before it makes its way past the castle and ends at the entrance to Main Street, U.S.A. The map for the party indicates the parade route, but people tend to all congregate at the center of the park. However, for the fireworks and other shows you will need to be near the castle or have a view of the castle.Eat Dinner Before You Arrive I know it might be early to eat, but not all of the restaurants are open during Mickey's Not So Scary party and the ones that are have longer than usual lines like at Starlight Cafe. Plus, as soon as you enter you're given candy and you're going to want to eat that anyway, so my tip would be to eat dinner ahead of time and get down to partying as soon as you enter. If eating at the park though, keep in mind that Columbia Harbour House closes at 8 p.m., but a few stay open till 10 and 11 p.m., just consult the program, which has a dining list with closing times. Fortunately, Dole Whip at Aloha Isle is open!Pose for Photos AfterAt the start of Main Street there is a great pumpkin display and photo spot that is a must, but the lines in the beginning of the party are quite long and it can be blocked off at times due to the parade or cast members guiding non party guests towards the exit. However, after fireworks the line was less. Love that this photo spot has extra spooky magic too and included the added surprise of ghosts joining our family photo.7 MORE Tips For Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party With Toddlers & Kids Have Fun! [...]