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Celebrating 12 Years Blogging!



Last Build Date: Tue, 06 Dec 2016 09:56:22 +0000

 



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 Trip & 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 Ruby Cup costs $32.59 USD; 28.95 EUR and lasts up to 10 years. Other cost effective options are listed below as well, but they don't have the giveback element. 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 collected contents and rinse with water after each use. Then, once a month you can boil the cup for a full sanitizing.In fact, it's fresher! There is no smell[...]



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! [...]



BRAVO! Introduces New 2-Course Dinner Menu at Mercato

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 17:15:00 +0000

Even before we moved down to Naples full-time we would dine at BRAVO! Cucina Italiana! in the Mercato when we would come to visit. Their outdoor dining and happy hour menu (weekdays from 3:30-6:30 in the bar) is especially inviting.Following BRAVO!’s hugely successful new menu debut this summer, the restaurant is now introducing a 2-Course Dinner Menu starting at $12.99 and showcasing a selection of five entrées paired with one of three salads, now through Friday, Sept. 30, 2016.The 2-Course Dinner Menu features dishes from fresh, cut-from-the-sheet pasta to premium quality meats, chicken and seafood with three always-fresh, high-quality Italian salads. Following are the dishes offered on the 2-Course Dinner Menu:Salads (Choice of one)BRAVO! Chopped Salad with chopped greens, cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes, olives, Feta cheese and red wine vinaigrette Insalata Della Casa with chopped greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, bacon, crispy pasta and Parmesan dressing (I ordered this one and it was really light, fresh and tasty. In fact, I ate more than i had expected to)Antipasti Salad with romaine, sopressata, Provolone, peperoncini, red onion, black olives, marinated red peppers, basil, oregano and red wine vinaigretteEntree: Baked Chicken Parm with RigatoniEntrées (Choice of one)Grilled Chicken with Sun Dried Tomato Goat CheesePizza BRAVO!: Bursting with Italian flavors, Pizza BRAVO! is topped with spicy sopressata and peperoncinis, smooth mozzarella/provolone, crushed red pepper and parmesan, and finished with fresh basil and a drizzle of lemon aioli. Baked Chicken Parmesan: An Italian classic with BRAVO!'S delicious hand-breaded chicken covered in Pomodoro and mozzarella/provolone cheeses and baked to perfection. Served on top of a bed of fresh herb linguine. (I substituted linguine with rigatoni pasta instead)Linguine Carbonara: A classic pasta dish made with fresh linguine, Alfredo, garlic, Applewood smoked bacon, fresh peas and a creamy white wine and parmesan sauce. Garnished with fresh black pepper. Grilled Chicken with Sun Dried Tomato Goat Cheese: Herb-marinated chicken breast, topped with a sun dried tomato goat cheese garnished with lemon butter sauce, pesto bread crumbs and fresh basil. Served with delicious mashed potatoes and perfectly seasoned haricot vert. Shrimp Scampi Pasta: BRAVO!’s fresh capellini with an abundance of sautéed shrimp, garlic, diced tomatoes, dash of lemon juice in white wine sauce topped with pesto breadcrumbs and a garlic crostini. If you're up for it, also order the Crispy Shrimp Napoli appetizer. It was juicy and great for sharing. The creamy red sauce with tomatoes was so yummy we kept dipping our bread in it even after we ate all the shrimp. I would come back just for this dish alone!Crispy Shrimp Napoli appAlso, while I already knew I liked their meals, I was surprised at how amazing their desserts were too since it was our first time ordering them. Go for the Dessert Trio which has three individual petite desserts including Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee, Cannoli Crumble and Warm Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie for $9.99. We sadly couldn't finish it all. The creme Brulee was rich and superb and I don't even like Brulee normally. Raphael though loved the Peanut Butter mousee. Overall: Bravo! We will be back and now not just for happy hour thanks to affordable promotions like these.  Disclaimer: Our dinner was hosted by Bravo, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. I only share what I truly like. [...]



Chuze is Giving $5 free to Everyone

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 16:39:00 +0000

Last Fall, I eagerly blogged about an amazing new app that was still in beta called Chuze, a free shopping list app that rewards users with coupons and organizes your shopping list by aisle tailored to a grocery store near you.They currently have a great offer going on that I just had to share, because who doesn't like getting free stuff?Right now, every new person that downloads Chuze and prints & redeems a coupon is being rewarded with $5 being mailed right to their door! This offer is for a limited time only so get claiming!Plus, there is ALSO the potential of additional savings when you add coupons to your mobile digital shopping list. Chuze shopping list of dealsCoupons currently being offered in the Chuze app include:$.50 off any 1 Jar of STAR Olives, STAR Vinegar or STAR Olive Oil$.50 off any 2 Gravy Train dog treats$.75 off any #Baby Mum-Mum or Toddler Mum-Mum product$1 off Any Jar of Farmers Garden by Vlasic pickles$1 off 1 bottle of C&H Organic Light Agave Nectar Liquid Sweetener$1 off any Trident Seafoods Product$2 off IcyHot with Lidocaine$2 off 1 bag of #Dole Fruit N’ Spice Frozen Fruit$3 off any 1 trusource protein productTo download and print the coupons, simply add the products to your shopping list and click on the clipping button on the bottom of your list and a PDF with coupons are emailed to you. I like that you don't have to download a coupon printer or any additional driver.Free Candy for the Neighborhood! If you buy your costume or holiday supplies at Party City you can score a giant bag of free candy with the following Chuze coupon bundle available for printing. Expires 9/25Free $9.99 Bag - 115 piece Wonka Candy Bag with any purchase of $60+Free $14.99 Bag - 200 piece Wonka Candy Bag OR 160 piece Mars Chocolate Minis Bag with any purchase of $80+Free $19.99 Bag - 270 piece Wonka Candy Bag OR 240 piece Mars Chocolate Bag with any purchase of $100+They have some other BIG coupon partners coming up too, so stay tuned for more![...]



3 Simple Tips to Improve Your Home's Air Quality

Wed, 07 Sep 2016 13:36:00 +0000

Did you know indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoor air, even in the most polluted cities?! You can improve your home’s air quality by removing harmful toxins with these three simple tricks and tips.Add Indoor HouseplantsBranch out your home decor with actual branches of the plant variety that is. Plants remove toxins from air – up to 87% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours, according to NASA research."VOCs are something a lot of us don’t tend to think much about, but the more energy-efficient our buildings become, the more they’re trapped," says Costa Farms horticulturist Justin HancockAlso, a study by the University of Agriculture in Norway found that indoor plants can also help fight colds.Fortunately, you can add oxygen and ‘fresh air’ to your home with Exotic Angel houseplant varieties, which make the best indoor and office plants, ideal for sprucing up your space because of their hardy nature and varying lighting needs. Houseplants are also a great way to change the look of your home seasonally, especially if you treat containers and pots as accessories.I recently redecorated the windowsill in my kitchen, converting a red polka dot teapot that I already had into a planter for a succulent. I think it's darling, no?Succelents double as trendy decor and natural air purifiersI then found matching polka dot pots and planted a Jade plant, Croton and Dracaena all delivered to my door from Costa Farms exotic indoor houseplants.TIP: Two of the best easy-care, low-maintenance plants for anyone just starting out with plants are snake plant and ZZ plant says Hancock. He adds, "I sometimes joke that you have to try to kill this houseplant duo with total neglect or consistently over water them."Change Your Air FiltersTypically, your air conditioner's air filters should be changed every 3 months depending on your home, climate, and situation – yet the average is over 6 months – and that’s for people who remember to change them at all! This means you are wasting energy, losing money on HVAC repairs and energy bills, and families are breathing unclean air. Also, regular filter changes save 5-10% on energy bills.Changing your filters removes allergens, pet dander, and bacteria from the air keepingyour home clean and your family healthy. Filters clean best when they are new and do aprogressively worse job as they get dirty. This is especially important here in Florida where we run our AC units constantly.Yet, I'll admit I have been guilty of not changing our filters nearly enough and it has caused a disagreement or two between me and my husband, seriously, lol. Fortunately, I've since discovered Filter Easy to keep us on track and never forget again.FilterEasy is a convenient subscription service that delivers your filters right to your door when they need to be changed - so you will never forget again or have to bother going to the store and picking them up again either and delaying the change time further. Simply select your exact filter sizes and preferred filter grade (they have lots of sizes available). Schedule the your frequency and they will automatically arrive at your door in time for changing. I expected the convenience to be expensive, but shipping is free and the filters cost the same as my local hardware store, so I'm never going back.TIP: Get Your First Filter FREEGet Free $20 to spend on FilterEasy.com, so that's like getting one air filter for FREE, plus free shipping (although, shipping is always free), and you can cancel anytime. No membership fees. No commitment. Nothing to lose, but your dirty old filters. ;)Buy A Himalayan Salt Lamp & Charcoal BagWhen the 200-million-year-old crystallized salt is heated by the small bulb inside, it releases negative ions which are known to neutralize p[...]



Cruising on Disney Dream with Preschoolers

Thu, 25 Aug 2016 13:27:00 +0000

Our first Disney Cruise and cruising with toddlers / prek kids on Disney Dream.Disney Cruise with Toddlers & PreschoolersGrowing up I had went on three memorable cruise ships with my father. We even sailed on Disney's The Big Red Boat when I was a little girl. During these vacations together, just the two of us, we made memories I'll forever cherish. These trips are even more poignant now that he has passed away.Now, over 25 years later, I was able to travel with my own children on a magical Disney Cruise voyaging on the Disney Dream for a 3-night sailing to the Bahamas and Disney’s private island Castaway Cay. The cruise exceeded our expectations and was an unforgettable family experience that I know I will always treasure too.While Raphael and I have gone on several cruises as a couple, this was the first time we took our almost four-year-old twins aboard and our first time experiencing Disney Cruise Line. While we always planned to take our boys eventually, we had assumed they were still too young to enjoy and appreciate it, but evidently we were wrong.During the week's leading up to our trip, our boys kept telling everyone they met that they were going on Mickey's boat. Their excitement was almost palpable and turned into pure joy once aboard. Yet, I still worried how it would go once at sea, would they get seasick, would they be able to sleep in bunk beds, what about the dangers of the balconies would they be okay being left at the Kids Club for awhile when we dined alone one night?In the end, I had stressed for nothing. I had failed to realize that Disney would have parent's backs. The same care, focus on families and attention to detail that I love at Disney Parks carries seamlessly over to their ships too. Merrily things rowed along without incident. In fact, it was all effortless, we could simply have fun without a care in the world. It really is a dream, see why: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zkviPEyNz3M" width="560">Child Safety On Disney CruisesDuring our sail, we learned that the ship was built specifically in mind for children and families. All openings and railings were double-checked to make sure a child's head couldn't fit through them. Even our stateroom's balcony had glass slats in between the bars for extra protection and security. Such wonderful peace of mind for parents.Disney Cruise Line is also the only cruise ship that has lifeguards on duty at their pools, as well as on the beaches of Castaway Cay. I observed first hand how diligent these aquatic guardians were in their watching when they quickly came to the rescue of a fatigued 8-year-old girl within seconds even before her parents who were standing nearby had realized what had happened.I was especially floored to learn that the 5th floor, where the kids club can be found on the Disney Dream, has lower ceilings to make children feel more comfortable. It's touches like that which assured me they were in good hands.Disney's Oceaneer Kids Club & Small World NurseryDisney’s Oceaneer Club and Lab are open to 3-to-12-year-old children and transports kids to the magical lands of Disney fairies, friendly monsters, adventuresome toys and undersea exploration. The space is large, but well staffed and full of entertainment.I feared our boys would be overwhelmed by it, but there was so much for them to see and do they were too busy exploring and playing to think about it. They primarily played in the toddler friendly Andy's Room and colored in Pixie Hollow. Meanwhile, seeing a Star Wars Millennium Falcon replica had this mommy tripping! It was all I could do not to sit in the captain chairs and press warp speed myself.During our trip we checked them into this area after breakfast, but before lunch for two hours while Raphae[...]



Duffy's Sports Grill Debuts Best of Land + Sea Menu

Thu, 11 Aug 2016 01:56:00 +0000

A fun thing about moving to Florida has been discovering the different state chains that aren't offered up North. Since moving down here, we have been enjoying Duffy’s Sports Grill, Florida’s premier sports-themed restaurant concept with 33 locations in Florida. Fortunately for us, one such grill is only right down the street from us in Estero at Stoneybrook. There is also two more nearby in Ft. Myers and Cape Coral too.We typically go on Wednesdays on Kids Eat Free night with our boys or on Sunday's for the NFL Ticket (Go Broncos!). Best of all, it's a place we can take the kids to and are welcomed. They have crayons, highchairs and on Wednesdays a balloon artist too. The TVs also keep our boys entertained while the food arrives.Last week we were able to catch the Olympics as we ate. As you can see, they have plenty of screens to choose from. They even have a television playing in the bathrooms. Their menu changes seasonally, offering new options every few months to keep things interesting. This summer for a limited time only, they are celebrating the best of land and sea with the launch of their new seasonal Surf or Turf specials such as Lobster Street Tacos, USDA Prime Steak Salad, 24 oz. Prime New York Strip served with herb butter on top and Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl-sushi-grade yellowfin tuna, hand cut and tossed in a signature poke sauce, served over cilantro-lime rice and topped with avocado, scallions and toasted sesame seeds.12 oz Prime NY Strip with maitre d' butter Go in hungry, because we particularly enjoyed their starters. Take a look:Hand-cut and beer battered to order Mozzarella Sticks and Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna appetizers @DuffysMVP in #Estero pic.twitter.com/P7aauRTD7f— Tara Settembre (@tarametblog) August 5, 2016Besides the food, we LOVE their drink deals, which include BOGO specials all day, every day. Currently, their handcrafted  2-for-1 seasonal cocktails include – an Apple Tart-ini or Pear…fect Martini, featuring hand-muddled pear, fresh sour mix, and St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, garnished with a slice of pear. During our recent visit, we ordered the Guavatini and a Gummy Bear Mojito that's dangerously easy to drink and garnished with real gummy bears. Since gummy bears are my favorite candy, I was in sweet tooth heaven![...]



National Chicken Tender Day at PDQ

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 13:45:00 +0000

Source: PDQYou might think it's just another Wednesday, but today is also National Chicken Tender Day (July 27).In honor of this very delicious day, PDQ, which stands for People Dedicated to Quality, is providing codes for FREE chicken tenders. Anyone who signs up now for the PDQ Fan Club at PDQ before Sunday, July 31 will receive a coupon for 3 Free Chicken Tenders and other offers.PDQ, which has 55 locations nationwide and counting, is a fast casual restaurant specializing in fresh hand-battered chicken tenders, made-to-order sandwiches, daily cut fries, hand-spun milkshakes and fresh salads made in store, everyday.The location by me at Gulf Coast Town Center in Ft. Myers is very kid-friendly and immaculate. Inside there are TVs playing sports programming and by the Coke machine there is a sink that is operated with your foot via a peddle, which kids can reach. Mine enjoyed washing their hands before eating for a change. Yay! Also, by the cash register they have crayons and coloring paper available, which was a hit with my boys too. Outside meanwhile they have two corn hole bean bag toss boards set up, which they also played with before going inside to eat.PDQ Gift Card Giveaway:To help When Tara Met Blog readers celebrate National Chicken Tender Day properly, PDQ is providing the chance to win a $25 gift card to sample some of their yummy tenders. Enter below:a Rafflecopter giveaway 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=B01CXSZRHM&asins=B01CXSZRHM&linkId=027d248c80644b6d738aef2114442cd0&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=B010NMTJA6&asins=B010NMTJA6&linkId=45f9c711915c04c2b695272895b0ced4&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> As a LeapFrog Mom Ambassador I receive products, promotional items and educational material to use and share as I see fit. However, any opinions expressed by me are honest and reflect my actual experience. Links may be affiliate.[...]



Blogger Bash Recap 2016

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 17:38:00 +0000

For the last three years, I have been attending the annual Blogger Bash conference in Manhattan. This summer however, it was on a boat! Check out the highlights below from the celebrities that joined us to cool new products and blogging tools.Celebrities on BoardGinger Zee at Blogger BashGinger Zee the Good Morning American weather anchor came on board to introduce the child voice actors of the new Peanuts vignettes on Boomerang network. I really enjoyed hearing about her honest experience as a new mom. I was especially sad to hear that she was attacked online for pumping and not spending enough time with her baby while being on Dancing with the Stars. As a mom, I know how terrible mom guilt is and that's mostly the guilt I put on myself, so I can't imagine how difficult it would be to have outsiders being negative and making me feel worse. Terrible. I also teared up at the video she shared of how she informed her husband Ben that she was pregnant thorough an edited video to him, so sweet.Met the amazing Noah Galloway too, while the combat Army Veteran and Dancing with the Stars finalist was over at the Armitron Watches booth. I was a fan of his on DWTS where I was dazzled by his handsomeness and strength.DWTS Noah GallowayI then felt even shorter than I normally do while hanging out with NFL Lineman for the Baltimore Ravens John Urschel 🏈 who was over at the Texas Instruments booth to discuss their STEM Behind Sports program to get kids interested in math and excited for back-to-school. Besides being a cool sports star John is an MIT Mathematics PhD Student. Thus, showing kids that it can be cool to learn math.With NFL's John UrschelOh, and I was excited to send the following pic back home to my boys of me with Jet from the favorite show Super Wings on the Sprout Channel. Also got to preview Auldey Toys' new Super Wings-inspired toys, which I have now added to my boys' future birthday gift list!Super Wings! Products that Stood Out: While we met dozens of brands during the two day conference and received demos and samples of new products, some of which I'll go into more detail at a later point, but for now here are some that I found particularly interesting.So yeah, while on the boat, I ate a cricket! Yes, you read that right. A dead, dried insect. Why? Because apparently they are a high-protein, nutrient rich, environmentally friendly, alternative to meat. Surprisingly, covered in salt and spices, it tasted like a crunchy pumpkin seed. Aketta produces cricket flour and dried roasted crickets in a bag. My boys are in need of protein so I brought back some for them to try. Hopefully they find the idea disgustingly fun and will try it. Boys!Hello PeanutDid you know you should be introducing your infant to peanuts before six months of age? Scientific research shows EARLY introduction of peanuts to infants helps prevent peanut allergies from developing. Hello Peanut is a new way to gradually introduce peanuts to infants! Made of an all-natural USDA certified organic blend of peanut and sprouted oats, the introductory system includes seven packets that are mixed into stage one foods over the course of seven days. The amount of peanut in each packet gradually increases each day.Four Roses BourbonFour Roses Bourbon - As you may know, I'm a whiskey drinker and while I normally prefer single malt Scotch, I really enjoyed the Small Batch bottle of Four Roses, which was surprisingly smooth. I also thought the bottles were lovely with their wooden tops and etched roses on the glass bottles.Since we aren't coffee drinkers, we only keep a single serve Keurig machine in the house and K-Cups for when guests visit and need thei[...]



Making Cleanup Fun for Kids - Swiffer Sweeper Hockey

Fri, 08 Jul 2016 14:05:00 +0000

This post was sponsored by P&G as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review. Thanks for the fun! P&G Household Needs Available at CostcoLike most families, we seem to head to Costco weekly to buy milk, eggs and everyday P&G Household Needs products from Costco. I'm also grateful that all the shopping carts at Costco allow for two children to ride up front, without having to search for an extra-large wagon type cart like we have to do at other stores. As a mom of multiples, this makes my life so much easier.Speaking of making life easier, I'm all about life hacks, especially when it comes to cleaning, which is my least favorite part of adulthood. We long ago ditched our mop for a Swiffer WetJet. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/m4ZK3vwXEBQ" width="560">Cleaning Hack: Kids Swiffer Hockey I don't know about your kiddos, but mine like to mimic adults. Early on I noticed that when I would vacuum, they would go grab their toy vacuum and pretend to clean up behind me. Same thing when I would use a broom. This got me thinking...instead of pretending to clean with me, why not actually have them help more. Thus, Swiffer Hockey was invented for added Sunday fun in our household.Materials Needed:Swiffer Sweeper or Swiffer WetJet (in our case both)Swiffer Sweeper Dry Pad Refills or Swiffer Sweeper Wet Mopping Pad Refills from CostcoFrisbee or if you're in a bind you can use a soda cap or other puck-like material. Net or some sort of goal. You could even use the legs of a chair. Silly active kids  Directions:I think you can see where I am going with this.  Start in one area of your floor, arm your kids with Swiffer Sweepers and accompanying pad for hockey sticks, throw down a Frisbee, set up a goal and get out of the way. Remember to keep moving the goal around so they can cover more ground.It's a win-win -- they have fun, while also helping to clean. Skeptical? You'd be surprised what these pads can pick up, even after you already swept or cleaned. Designed with thick, dirt grabbing ridges and grooves the Swiffer Sweeper dry pads grabs dirt, dust AND hair! We have two cats, so this is especially helpful when they are shedding. Swiffer Sweeper Dry Pad Refills have 3X the cleaning action (common inanimate allergens from cat and dog dander and dust mite matter) and are safe on wood floors, tile, laminate, concrete. So, while they are busy going after the puck, they are also collecting dirt, dust and hair.Meanwhile, Swiffer Sweeper Wet Mopping Pad Refills are loaded with thirsty little dirt-dissolving cleaners to pull away dirt and grime effortlessly while gliding across your floors.Also, while they are busy "playing hockey" you can focus on other clean-up tasks that little kids can't help with. Unfortunately. I'm making it sound like I run a sweat shop or something, lol, More Fun Tips to Get Kids Involved with ChoresLike P&G's campaign, "details matter" especially to kids, so whenever possible, make cleanup fun. Thus, the hockey example above. Take your children shopping with you for cleaning supplies. During our Costco run my boys enjoyed helping to load supplies into the cart, making them more eager to use them later.Play the Clean Up Song or Whistle While You Work to make mundane toy pick-up and other cleaning choirs more fun for kids. Sing along too. This can also function as a timer or countdown for how long they need to be putting away their stuff before the song stops. If you have more than one child. Make it a friendly competition. Most children are much[...]



Why I started using fabric softener, are you?

Fri, 17 Jun 2016 14:37:00 +0000

Before the boys came into the picture, I would only do our laundry once a week ... if that, now every other day. Ugh!

Since I always used dryer sheets, I figured liquid fabric softener was redundant. However, I've now learned with the simple filling of a cap, you can say goodbye to stretching, fading, and pilling, giving your clothes a longer, happier life. Okay, no one told me this before.

Downy Fabric Conditioner also keeps your clothes fresher longer and reduces wrinkles better than using detergent alone. All via a simple pour into every load of laundry.

Apparently, during a ride around the washing machine, garments pull stretch and rub together. Downy conditions, strengthens, and lubricates each fiber to protect clothing from the friction and agitation of a typical washing cycle.

I'm also loving the fresh fragrance that it leaves behind on our clothes, especially on our towels and boys bathing trunks after a day spent at the beach or pool since it successfully rids the strong smells of salt water and chlorine. The boy enjoy sniffing the flowery soap scent right from the bottle too.


Planning on saving your child's clothes for possibly your next baby or planning to resell them?
Downy extends the life of fabric by keeping your clothes looking and feeling like you just picked then up from the store!

TIP: In addition to the protection Downy fabric conditioner offers, turning garments inside out, and washing soft fabrics like cotton on the gentle cycle will keep your clothes looking the best.



Downy Fabric Conditioner is available at Walmart and Walmart.com for everyday low prices. Learn more and shop for it here.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/P&G. I already owned the other Downy products seen in my laundry room.



Applebee's New Hand-Cut Wood Fired Grill Menu

Wed, 15 Jun 2016 15:46:00 +0000

Applebee’s recently unveiled its new American-made, wood-fired grills as the centerpiece of nearly 2,000 U.S. locations, inviting guests to follow the enticing aroma of American Oak smoke into their neighborhood Applebee’s to try a new Hand-Cut, Wood Fired Grill item. These restaurants have renovated kitchens, revamped menus and selected trained chefs to be official in-house Meat Cutters to evaluate and then cut each steak or chop.The head chef here at the Applebee's location in Estero, FL said in his 15 years of working with the company, he has never seen a kitchen overhaul of its kind and touts the upgraded beef selection.Now their menu includes hand-cut wood fired offerings include USDA Choice Top Sirloin Steaks and Bone-in Pork Chops.The new certified USDA Choice Hand-Cut Wood Fired Steaks and Bone-In Pork Chops are also hand-cut by trained meat cutters through a comprehensive process to ensure the highest quality, freshness and optimal thickness. Intrigued? I was.8 oz USDA Choice Top Sirloin Steaks, Mac and Cheese and Garlic Green BeansThe Wood Fired menu includes: • 8 oz. and 6 oz. Hand-cut USDA Choice Top Sirloin Steaks (I went with the 8oz rear and it was delicious, cooked to my liking, thick and not too tough or fatty)• Hand-cut Bone-in Pork Chops with Honey Apple Chutney (Raphael tried this item and loved the spicy seasoning) • Cedar-grilled Salmon with Maple Mustard Glaze • Grilled chicken breastHand-cut Bone-in Pork Chop, Garlic Mashed Potatoes & BroccoliWe typically dine at our neighborhood Applebee's on Sunday nights when kids eat for $1.99 with the purchase of an adult meal and now I'm excited to be able to have these delicious options for us adults! More Kids Eat Free Restaurant Listings in Lee & Collier Counties.The new Wood Fired menu items are available at Applebee’s locations owned and operated by Doherty Enterprises in New Jersey, Long Island and 44 restaurants in Florida and Georgia. Outside of the Wood Fired menu though, we also really enjoyed their Cheeseburger Egg Rolls appetizer with ground beef, cheddar, onion, pickles and signature sauce. It was sinfully cheesy and delicious!Yummy Cheeseburger EggrollsDisclosure: We were skeptical, but really enjoyed our complimentary meal as stated above. No other compensation was exchanged. I eat what and blog about what I like.[...]



Mommy, Movie & Me Thursdays at Silverspot Cinema in Naples

Tue, 07 Jun 2016 14:03:00 +0000

Silverspot Cinema at the Mercato in Naples has launched “Mommy’s Morning Movies,” a special program geared to moms with babies and tots to enjoy a discounted movie together every Thursday for the first show of the day.

Tickets are discounted to $7 compared to normal pricing which is $12.50 and $14.50. Children ages one and under are free though, so definitely bring little brother or sister while your older child takes in a flick.
“This fun program will provide moms with the opportunity to watch a film amongst other moms and young children,” said Randi Emerman, vice president of marketing for Silverspot. “Moms can enjoy a first run film they’ve been wanting to see or a fun film for the little ones.”

I was already a fan of the high-end theater, so am excited to be able to take our family and experience a movie out together without worrying if my boys get fidgety and so forth since I'm sure we'll all be in the same boat. Will be fun to chat with other moms too. Also, with summer heating up, a day in the AC with other kids and a movie will be a diverting respite from the sun.

Join Me June 23 for Finding Dory


They are actually allowing me to host an upcoming show and pick the movie on Thursday, June 23 @ 10:15 a.m. I selected Finding Dory as I know my boys and I can't wait to see it, especially for half the price! I hope you can join us! :)

Silverspot Cinema is located at 9118 Strada Place in Naples, Florida.

Just keep swimming!



Easy Donut Trifle in a Jar - National Donut Day

Wed, 01 Jun 2016 15:39:00 +0000

National Donut Day is Friday, June 3, but I got to celebrate the sweet occasion a little early thanks to Dunkin’ Donuts of Southwest Florida, which invited local Ft. Myers area bloggers and I to sample their newest breakfast sandwiches, frozen beverages and of course - donuts! Twist my arm, right?They also showed us how to make and easy donut trifle. Check out their new offerings and recipe below!Summer Treats at Dunkin Donuts The summer try the new Bacon Supreme Omelet Sandwich - This breakfast sandwich comes on a croissant but you can customize the bread from any of their other options like an English muffin, etc. It's topped with bacon, American cheese, and an omelet filled with red and green bell peppers, potatoes and green onions. Eat up!Almond Joy Iced Coffee - sweet and refreshing!Frozen Hot Chocolate -  It's yum! My boys would love this treat in the summer too and it's not as heavy as a milkshake either.Caramel Latte Square - this is the new seasonal square donut this summerBlueberry Cobbler Croissant Donut - this cronut with blueberry filling is fluffy and decadent.Sweet Tea Lemonade - it's a refreshing Arnold Palmer with sweet tea.This summer the Coolatta's are brighter than ever! Try a Blue Raspberry, Watermelon or New Sour Apple Coolatta on a hot day. I liked the Watermelon the best. Easy Donut Trifle in a JarHave donuts to spare? Make yummy individual trifles for your family. It's super easy and fun to do. Ingredients: 6 Dunkin' Donuts Classic Donuts, ripped apart. We used Chocolate Glazed, but you can use any doughnutsyou like! 1 Can of whipped cream 1 Box of chocolate pudding prepared according to package instructions or you can cheat further and buy the pre-packaged pudding cups. 20 Pieces of candy, preferably something chocolatey! We used crumbled Heath bars. Optional: You can add mini marshmallows into the mix too.Instructions: In mason jars or cups, layer the ingredients in the following order: donuts, whipped cream, pudding then candy. Repeat to fill the mason jars. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish with more candy. Enjoy![...]



Discovering Zaxby's in Fort Myers

Thu, 26 May 2016 00:53:00 +0000

The other night I was invited to a media dinner at the brand new Zaxby's location in Ft. Myers by FGCU and Gulf Coast Town Center.Having been around for 25 years and with almost 800 locations open, you would think I would have already been familiar with the chain eatery serving up fried chicken fingers, wings, sandwiches and salads. However, since they are mostly in the southern states and originating from Georgia, it was the first time this Yankee had ever eaten at a Zaxby's.I was delighted to discover that everything is made to order, so not the typical fast food experience.From their appetizers I enjoyed their Tater Chips with blue cheese crumbles on top and paired with a variety of dipping sauces.Speaking of their sauces, I was too chicken (pun intended) to try their "Insane" hot sauce with their boneless chicken wings, but I did enjoy their Sweet and Sour dip.We were told that this summer, Fried Pickles will return to their menu as a seasonal item. I will need to go back for that!I was really impressed with their "Zalads," especially The Cobb, which had large pieces of egg, fresh cut grilled chicken and super red tomatoes. A filling, healthy fast food option. I was also a fan of their Nibblerz Chicken Sliders with Zax sauce. They were super juicy and filling. Although I was beyond full, I couldn't help buy eye their unique milkshakes - Banana Pudding, Chocolate Cookie and Birthday Cake. For me, the Birthday Cake shake took the cake though (Yes, another corny pun)! Not going to deny leaving with a cup, which are reusable and dishwasher safe by the way.Unlike other quick service restaurants in the area, this establishment will be open until Midnight each night, so perfect on the way home from the airport, which is right down the road too. Also, this summer they will be having Kids Nights with a balloon artist and other fun kid activities. Stay tuned for that. Every day though, there are kids menu options as well.Oh, and I took it as a good sign (I'm full of puns today!) that along with the roadside signs up on the walls, my two favorite actresses - Katharine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall - photos were in framed photographs inside the restaurant along with some other local area flair. Random, but this classic movie buff delighted in seeing them! :)One of the franchise owner's Rusti (a former teacher) says they will be opening 3 more locations in Lee County eventually for a total of 5 restaurants here in Southwest Florida.Have you been to a Zaxby's? What do you like to order there?[...]



Are you using environmentally harmful microbeads?

Mon, 23 May 2016 19:08:00 +0000

At the beginning of the year, President Barack Obama signed into law a Microbead-Free ban prohibiting microbeads in US beauty products.What is a Microbead?A microbead is any solid plastic particle that is less than 5 millimeters and is used for the purpose of exfoliating or cleansing. These tiny plastic beads can be found in hundreds of household products ranging from body scrubs to toothpastes.Why are Microbeads bad?These beads while not harmful to humans, wash down our drains and because they are made of plastic, they do not dissolve and are too small to be caught by waste water treatment facilities. Instead, they are flushed directly into our lakes, rivers and streams. Besides the waste in our waterways, fish then consume the beads thinking it's food and then we eat the fish and plastic too.Unfortunately, the ban will not come into effect until July 1, 2017. Thus, plastic unnatural microbeads continue to pollute our oceans enough to coat the surface of 300 tennis courts every day!Microbeads in your beauty products ...I immediately consulted a list to see what beauty products contained microbeads and was shocked that I've been using two of them regularly and continue see them still being sold in stores.Clean & Clear Morning BurstCrest 3D White toothpasteKeep in mind though that the list is not comprehensive and I discovered three more products in my home that contain microbeads, so you should always check a cleanser's ingredient list for polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polymethyl methacrylate, polylactic acid, or nylon— since these are the most common plastics that make up microbeads. Most of the time though you can simply see the plastic beads floating in the mixture and can spot them visually.Murad Essential C-cleanser Bliss fabulous foaming face washBath & Body Works Deep Cleansing Hand Soap (will stick to their foaming ones instead of the gel)RoC MAX Resurfacing Facial CleanserSimple Smoothing Facial ScrubNeutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash - Pink Grapefruit Foaming ScrubNeutrogena Deep Clean Invigorating Foaming ScrubHave YOU been using environmentally harmful microbeads in your beauty routine?[...]



New steep by Bigelow organic tea

Mon, 16 May 2016 16:10:00 +0000

America’s own Bigelow Tea since 1945 (now under third-generation family leadership) is adding to its vast repertoire of teas with the launch of a new line of premium craft-blend teas – steep by Bigelow, which I was excited to learn is USDA Certified organic.But why should you buy organic tea? Aren’t tea leaves organic already?There have been studies that found traces of pesticides in some tea bags, thus, steeping straight into your brew and you! For example, dangerously high levels of pesticides were recently found in Celestial Seasonings and Lipton tea. After learning this, I have since looked for organic teas to ensure I was sipping only the healthy goodness of tea. It's not often easy to find organic tea in tea bag form either, so steep makes it super convenient to have wholesome tea on-the-go. Fortunately, for Bigelow tea fans in general though, you’ll be happy to learn that they test all of their teas extensively, both Organic and Non-Organic, for over 300 different types pesticides using two independent testing labs. Their test results continually confirm that there are no pesticides in a brewed cup of Bigelow tea. Thus, all of their teas are 100% safe for your consumption. The same can't be said for other popular tea bag brands though.Inspired by the popularity of the craft beer movement, the steep by Bigelow signature series connects with the passionate tea consumer by supporting everyone’s personal and individual palate. In addition to being Certified USDA Organic, the line has the added benefits of being non-GMO and gluten free.First Watch restaurants here in SWFL are already serving the line as their tea of choice.Their 13 creatively blended teas each deliver a unique flavor:Oolong & Jasmine Green Tea – My favorite of the group, but I’m partial to oolongs and green teas. Slightly nutty oolong with delicate floral Jasmine notes Dandelion & Peach Rooibos & Green Tea – smooth tea with sweet, fruity peach notes and earthy dandelion finish Pure Green Tea – a delicate green tea with subtle astringency Green Tea with Pomegranate – smooth green tea with pomegranate and a pleasantly tart finish Pure Green Decaffeinated Tea – a delicate green tea with subtle astringency Earl Grey – a smooth, bold black tea with a crisp, authentically citrusy rich flavor of real bergamot English Breakfast Certified Fair Trade Tea –smooth, malty with flowery top notes and a pleasantly astringent finish Mint caffeine free Herbal Tea – a smooth & soothing blend of spearmint & peppermint Rooibos Hibiscus caffeine free Herbal Tea – tart and delicious rooibos red tea with subtle delicate hibiscus Sweet Cinnamon – a smooth, black tea distinctively balanced with sweet, spicy cinnamon Chai – a perfectly balanced blend of rich black tea and exotic spices Lemon Ginger caffeine free Herbal Tea – a clean citrus herb tea pleasantly spiced with gingerChamomile Citrus caffeine free Herbal Tea – full bodied sweet chamomile with a bright, citrus complement steep by Bigelow teas are now available online and at grocery stores nationwide for the suggested price of $4.49 for a 20 count box, thus only 22 cents a tea bag!Disclaimer: I was NOT paid to do this post, but did receive tea bag samples to facilitate my review. [...]



Before & After: My Dream Book Nook

Tue, 10 May 2016 14:09:00 +0000

The Dream:Being an avid reader, I have always dreamed of an at-home library. Nothing grand like in Beauty in the Beast (I wish!), but a sunny reading area with built-in bookshelves.When we moved into our Florida home I couldn't help but notice that our master bedroom had a random alcove and picture window that we didn't know quite what to do with. Well, that's not true. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it! ;) So, I quickly provided a few carpenters with the following mock-up sketch, directions and inspirational images found on Pinterest and in magazines. See below for the result.The Inspiration: The Project:Ideally, I wanted there to be shelving above the window too for mass paperback books and a bench built as well for sitting, plus additional cubbyholes below for more books to go underneath the window seat.You wouldn't believe the expensive price quotes that I got, they were astronomical. I had to be a bit more flexible in terms of materials, etc. Even then, it was still an arm and a leg, but I was able to keep the main attributions that I wanted. I also picked up a outdoor lounge cushion from World Market that fit the bench. I need to add more padding underneath it though.Almost done!The Result: My Reading NookIn the afternoon light At nightI think it really adds value and dimension to the room too. What do you think?What's your must-have feature for your home or future home? Pin it[...]



Exploring the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum

Mon, 25 Apr 2016 14:00:00 +0000

For our three hour road trip to Orlando for the annual Traveling Mom retreat, I was given the chance to test-drive and review the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum.I am by no means a car expert, but since having our boys we have gone through three SUVs in search for the right fit for us. So, from a parent's perspective here is my take. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Fiu-5Mz94Bc" width="560">Overall, we were blown away by the luxury of this vehicle and all of it's amazing features that made driving a pleasure, safer and easier for our family. It's definitely a great alternative and more stylish than a mini-van, yet still functional for large families too.Ford Explorer Features We Loved:Dual-panel moonroof allowed the boys to see out from their car seats in the second row for a change. They enjoyed the novelty of it and made for a fun road trip for them. Heating and Cooling leather seats. The former is great for traveling up north and the latter was heavenly here in Florida. If only my car had this for the summer months down here when I'm sticking to the seats. 2nd row heated seats. Not that we used this feature, but I still thought it was a cool feature to have and one I would have loved having in our vehicle growing up in New England. Massaging seats for both the passenger and driver side. I seriously had mine on the entire trip. Why every vehicle doesn't have this is beyond me. Foot-activated lift gate allows you to close the trunk by simply kicking the air under the rear bumper. I can't tell you how many times I'm unloading groceries, just to have to put the bags back down in order to hit the button up top to close the trunk after. AC power outlet, great for charging a laptop or other devices.Multiple USB outlets, allowed us to forgo using the cigarette lighter piece.Blind Spot Information System (BLIS® with cross-traffic alert). A light would appear in my side view mirrors, alerting me if someone was in my blind spot. Twice this saved me from changing lanes when I shouldn't have. A capless fuel tank made for easy fueling, eliminating the need to put the gas cap back on after fueling. After you remove the nozzle from the fuel tank, the seal shuts automatically. Standard on all models.Easy bluetooth setup. The car audibly directs you through the steps.Memory seating - since Raphael and I are often swapping cars and I am a foot shorter than he is, this feature makes switching drivers effortless. We are already missing this feature in our minivan.Power folding with the push of a button for the 2nd and 3rd row seating. So amazing! I wish my minivan had this. However, my curious son hit the button and almost got folded up into the seat. Thus, be sure to have the child safety lock button on, but this doesn't help in regards to the 3rd row.Adaptive cruise control. The cruise control was way more intuitive than I am used to. Although I had it set for a certain speed, it would sense when I was going to have to break due to an approaching car and would decrease speed before I even had to move my foot over to the break. It was like the car was driving itself! Stylish - loved the wood trim steering wheel and quilted leather accents. Plus, the cool looking grill on the exterior. Seats 7[...]