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When Tara Met Blog

Celebrating 12 Years Blogging!

Last Build Date: Sat, 22 Apr 2017 06:07:44 +0000


Mama's Got A Brand New Gig

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:32:00 +0000

I'm excited to share that I now have a part-time gig as a Multimedia Journalist for the new E.W. Scripps publication :)

I'll be covering the parenting beat for the local Southwest Florida area and am doing a lot of on-camera work, as well as blogging and behind the scenes producing too.

It's only been a month, but I'm enjoying being part of a newsroom again, especially one willing to experiment. I also like that it's given me the opportunity to better explore the communities around me and to discover new spots and activities while sharing my experiences with visitors.

Take a look:

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What do you think?

Besides HelloSWFL and blogging here, you can also catch my adventures at TravelingMom and Huffington Post.

5 Must Have Potty Training Tools

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:00:00 +0000

Looking back on when we were potty training our twins these were the items that we found to be the most helpful. I would highly recommend these to other parents, some we still use even now that they are four.Snap Power Guide Light and Built-In Potty SeatThe SnapPower Guidelight can safely and easily transform a regular outlet coverplate into a convenient night light, which automatically turns on in the dark and off during the daytime by a sensor. It's equipped with energy-efficient LED lighting for perfect nighttime illumination. Installation was as simple as switching out our regular cover plate over an AC outlet. No wiring required! This has been our favorite product since it's helpful even past potty training even as kids get older. I've since ordered one for our guest room bathroom so visitors can find their way at night too. Also, this way you don't have to worry about forgetting to turn off a nightlight switch in the morning, which I was always failed to do.Built-in Potty Seat - Forget the cartoon potty seats! After buying several other seats that my boys would put on wrong, which would then slip off, we went with this built in seat that can be pulled down as easy as a toilet lid. Best of all, it's not bright, bulky or embarrassing to have in your bathroom when guests are over.Potty Stool - We put one of these potty step stools at the base of every toilet in our house. Like above, we still use these stools for by the bathroom sinks now for easy hand washing and brushing teeth. You could also get a squatty potty stool as a twofer.Potty Books - I don't mean books to read while on the bowl, but books that encourage potty learning and explain the process to your little one, so they know all kids make the transition and what the end goal is. We bought three different books, one with Caillou, one with Elmo and a general potty one, all were great. It also helped my boys understand the different terms and vocab we were using too. frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="®ion=US&placement=2894508409&asins=2894508409&linkId=ea8bee22783e01ff0499a98b7cae70ed&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="®ion=US&placement=038538369X&asins=038538369X&linkId=448373c1164ece5b5601c47b43cf84c9&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="®ion=US&placement=1554072840&asins=1554072840&linkId=6d0f460009526f5330e3a66369688b68&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;">Portable Potty - The toilet can be intimidating and out of the way when a child has to go and doesn't want to break from playing. For the first couple of months and would move it around the house to wherever our boys were, by the TV, in their playroom, etc. If going on a driving road trip we would even pack it and bring to the hotel with us. We had a different brand that we used at first, but found that this Summer Infant design was the best for keeping boys from spraying outside the bowl. It's also easy to clean, lightweight and nic[...]

Another grief milestone

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 13:45:00 +0000

Today, my dad would have turned 63, yet he never saw his 46th. This year though marks another milestone. And I think it deserves its own line. Wait for it ...
I have now lived the same amount of time without my dad as I did with him alive. 
*boom* mind blown. At least mine has been since the ball dropped and revealed the year 2017. I just can't wrap my head around the idea that I had the first 17 years of my life with him and now 17 years without him.

When I think about those first few years of raw grief after he passed, I know I could never have fathomed that this day would actually come and yet here it is. And wouldn't you know, the sun is still shining and life has ruthlessly gone on.

Thankfully, his blood runs in the veins of my boys, yet he is not here and hasn't been in 17 years. You'd think that amount of time would feel like forever and in some ways it does, but it also doesn't. Thinking of him can still make me feel like the little girl he helped mold. In fact, my poignant post only two years ago, To the 15 years ago Me still rings true as ever. I cried re-reading it this morning and going through the paltry few photos that I have of him.

My sister and my dad.
I guess the next milestone (not rushing it!) will eventually be turning 45 and outliving him.

Related: My Boys Are Now The Age When My Sister Died

SWFL Dining Review: BRIO Tuscan Grille

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 02:13:00 +0000

Whenever I have a friend visiting me, I love taking them over to the high-end Waterside Shops in Naples to ogle the Louis Vuitton purses in the store window and have lunch al fresco at BRIO Tuscan Grille. Their outdoor bar is very chic, Floridian and bonus, the food is yummy and the cocktails refreshing.BRIO Tuscan Grille at Waterside Shops in Naples, FloridaMy mother and I went for a girls brunch to try out their new lunch menu available now through Saturday, April 15. After many visits though, this was our first time dining inside BRIO's elegant dining room with dome-like chandeliers overhead. The service meanwhile was impeccable and compliments the high-quality food nicely.The new ‘A Variety of Flavors’ lunch menu offers unique tastes with a Tuscan twist, including mouthwatering seafood dishes, for a limited time. The menu also presents two exciting new appetizers, three entrées (including two mouthwatering seafood dishes), a divine dessert, and delightful wine options.Appetizers: • Calamari Fritto Misto: Peperoncini, aioli, Pomodoro; $10.75 (I liked the two dipping sauce options, especially the creamy garlic in addition to the standard marinara sauce.)Calamari Fritto Misto• Spicy Shrimp & Eggplant: Pan seared shrimp, Romano crusted eggplant, black pepper cream; $11.50Entrées:• Peroni Beer-Battered Fish & Chips: North Atlantic cod, fries, Brussels sprout slaw; $17.95• Lobster & Black Pepper Shrimp Ravioli: Spicy black pepper cream, spinach, grape tomatoes; $19.95 (has more of creole spice influence than Italian)Lobster & Black Pepper Shrimp Ravioli• Braised Beef Pappardelle: Rosemary pappardelle, crimini mushrooms, roasted carrots, red onions, tomato porcini sauce; $21.95Dessert:• Butterscotch Budino: Italian for “pudding,” Marcona almonds, caramel, vanilla whipped cream; $3.95TIP: I'd also recommend trying their Bruschetta Sampler appetizer, which is as almost as filling as a meal and great for sharing. My favorite was the procuitto with burrata cheese.BRIO Bruschetta SamplerMeanwhile, if you have the chance, see if you can say hello to Ahmed El the Executive Chef of BRIO in Naples he is super sweet and new to the area, but he has worked for Bravo Brio Restaurant Group for over 11 years in New Jersey, Tampa, and all over.Ahmed El the Executive ChefDisclaimer: I received a complimentary preview of the new lunch menu, but as stated have dined numerous times at Brio and have always enjoyed it. [...]

3 New Shades of Earl Grey Twinings Tea

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 15:08:00 +0000

Forget 50 Shades of Grey, Twinings now offers 3 new steaming hot flavors of Earl Grey tea that are sure to satisfy. Sorry, couldn’t help but play with the innuendos there ;)It’s no secret that I’m a tea fanatic, tea aficionado, tea obsessed, whatever you want to call it, which is why I was delighted to test out the three new flavors of Earl Grey tea from Twinings.Three New Twinings Earl Grey Tea Flavors Twinings Earl Grey teas are now available in Lavender, Extra Bold and Jasmine flavors.Jasmine Earl Grey is an exclusive blend in the market, mixing an intoxicating scent and a slightly sweet taste. Lavender Earl Grey has a floral and fresh aroma with a very soothing taste. This blend is perfect for when you want to unwind and relax. Extra Bold Earl Grey is an intensified bergamot blend enhanced with natural citrus flavors, which provides an uplifting and vibrant rich taste. I love Jasmine tea to begin with, so it’s not surprising that was my favorite of the three new varieties, but Lavender was nice and relaxing too and tasted like a spa in a tea cup. The extra bold, meanwhile, was a powerful way to start off my day though since it provided a strong wake-up call and extra pep. In fact, I feel like I was more productive the mornings that I sipped it. Best of all, the three new flavors come in 20 count boxes for only $2.99!Brewing Tip To savor the full flavor of these teas, bring water to boil, and pour over the tea as soon as it reaches boiling. Over-boiling will cause oxygen to be reduced, making the tea taste “flat.” Remove tea bag after 3 minutes to avoid over brewing. I also like to reuse the tea bag for a second cup at a lighter steeping.The Fascinating Backstory of Earl Grey Tea Twinings classic Earl Grey tea was first blended by Richard Twining in 1831, when Prime Minister Charles Grey asked him to replicate a tea he once received by a Chinese Mandarin. The Prime Minister gave his royal approval, which resulted in the creation of the first Earl Grey blend. To this day Twinings Earl Grey boxes are signed by descendants of Mr. Charles Grey. Right now each pack is signed by the current 7th Earl Grey and one of Twinings’ nine Master Blenders. How cool is that?What gives Earl Grey its unique spicy taste? It is flavored with bergamot, a Mediterranean citrus fruit. A post shared by Tara (@tarametblog) on Feb 27, 2017 at 7:04am PST[...]

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, 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 pollutants in the air. Probably the most well-known benefit – and why the majority of people use them [...]

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="" 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 Raphael went to the gym and I went off to explore the ship and take photos. We also utilized this free convenience [...]

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— 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![...]