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When Tara Met Blog



Celebrating 12 Years Blogging!



Last Build Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2017 16:10:28 +0000

 



What I learned from Irma

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 21:17:00 +0000

The hurricane that is and not my husband’s aunt Irma.As I watched the eye of the storm go over Naples and our community on CNN these are some of the lessons learned from my first hurricane since living in Florida.Get the hell out! Better safe than sorry. I wanted to stay, but Raphael talked me into leaving the Wednesday prior. Keep in mind though at that time all the models were still saying Irma was going to hit the East Coast of Florida, which brings me to my next lesson learned. Models don’t mean shit and meteorologists can guess all they want, but mother nature doesn’t watch the news or take in account the European model vs. the American model, it is going to do what it wants to do. It also keeps changing. Although ... it seems the European model is more accurate than all the other spaghetti lines that were being drawn on the map of Florida. Pack more. You can replace everything but your family and pets. However, since I was dragging my feet when I left, I only brought with us some of my finest pieces of jewelry and minimal clothes. I put our important documents in a ziplock, packed my boys’ clothes, blankets and that was it. I had time though, I should have planned for being gone more than just four days, which we were! Power was off for several days so we weren’t in a rush to head back, plus traffic and gas shortages kept us away longer than expected. Thus, I should have packed smarter, better and for non-Florida weather too. Duh! As we got further away from our home I’d think of something else that was important to me that I didn’t better protect. Like the photo album of my dad and sister, which I haven’t digitized yet. We had room in the van too. Get gas! Fill even the car you’re not taking with gas, so when you get back you’ll have enough until supplies are replenished in your area. Fill up extra gas canisters with fuel too. It’s a shame we are still so dependent on the damn stuff, but we all are! Charge your Kindle so you can have hundreds of books on one device and can still read once all the lights are off. Nothing like escapism. I read the entire Castles Ever After trilogy by Tessa Dare on a single charge with battery to spare. Water is essential. Fill your tubs with water in case the water supply is turned off. We prepared for this but didn’t end up needing it. Power up every battery pack and power brick ahead of time. Fortunately, we did this. Would totally recommend a Mophie case and Pocket Juice. Leave at the right time. Although I’m glad we evacuated even before it became mandatory, I would have preferred to have left closer to the storm's actual date, because after the storm we still couldn't return for several days due to traffic and gas shortages. Leaving sooner was also more costly since it required additional days in a hotel. We also drove through the night instead of the day for less traffic, which seemed to help, plus that meant more time that our kids slept through our total 35hr journey and fewer "are we there yets?" Keep your blessings to yourself. While I do indeed feel thankful that our house was only minimally affected, not everyone was so lucky. So does that make those that suffered more not blessed? You know what I mean? So keep social posts of celebration to a minimum and maybe leave God out of it. Don't overpack your freezer or be better about eating frozen items.  I'm all about Publix BOGO's and freezing the other item. We even have an extra freezer in our garage. It made me ill having to throw it all away when we got back home since we were several days without power. Any other hurricane tips?  My boys appear here in this video I did about the evacuation:  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%2Fhelloswfl%2Fvideos%2F1873494429645498%2F&show_text=0&width=560" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" width="560">[...]



Travel Essentials for Bloggers

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:32:00 +0000

Between blogging here, attending conferences, writing for HuffPost Travel and TravelingMom.com, I obviously find myself traveling quite a bit. Yet, no matter the destination I pack the same essential items.Best Travel Gadgets and AccessoriesBetween using Maps' location services and sharing live updates on SnapChat and Instagram Stories, even a fully charged cell phone is practically dead by midday if not sooner. So, when I travel even my phone gets a new look. Instead of having an external battery bank and worrying about carrying around extra cords in your purse or backpack, I just swap out my regular phone case for a Mophie Juice Pack Battery Case in the uber chic Rose Gold, but they have colors too. I've had other battery cases in the past that were overly bulky and hard to open, but the new iPhone 7 Mophie one is lightweight, sleeker and easy to put on and off.Chargers, chargers and more chargers. Traveling can be rough on cords and cables, especially iPhone cables, which is why I stopped using the standard charger that comes with a device for a more durable one that won't fray, break or stop working while traveling. Kanex Apple Certified Premium Lightning to USB Cable in Rose Gold is my favorite. This premium metal material cable is built to last. It's durable yet flexible and will never fray and never tangle. It also looks really sleek and can help your cable easily stand out from othersA good book, or 100! I always make sure my Kindle Paperwhite is charged and loaded with e-books the night before I leave. While I love taking a book, I hate finishing it mid-trip and having it take up weight and space in my bag. With a Kindle at least it's lightweight, can hold up to several books, including travel guides and with the built-in light, so I can read on the plane without turning on that bright overhead spotlight. 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=B01N1JKVIX&asins=B01N1JKVIX&linkId=49a3bb40e52540e5e2c3b03a6c83749c&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=B01DM8PVS2&asins=B01DM8PVS2&linkId=9200bb378f2b797ec55555daeebe4487&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="https://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=B01BFIBRIE&asins=B01BFIBRIE&linkId=9e83834871166c41491695524b026380&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; text-align: left; width: 120px;">Best Clothing and Gear for Travel Fabletics tights & Sanuk sandalsFabletics Savina tights. I get so many compliments on their peek-a-boo, not your typical yoga pants. They keep me warm on the plane, yet not too hot either. Better yet, you can get two leggings for just $24 here!My favorite shoes for travel are Sanuk Sandals, which are made from yoga mats. They look nice, feel great and are affordable too. I own 3 pairs! My feet have never blistered or hurt from these and I've walked miles in them. And don't just take my word for it, on my last press trip two other travel bloggers were wearing them too! Plus, they are lightweight and easy to pack unlike [...]



Tips & Secrets to Visit Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Thu, 06 Jul 2017 23:29:00 +0000

Pandora – The World of Avatar immerses guests in a mystical world of massive floating mountains and breathtaking rides in the entirely new land found in Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.It's the largest addition in the history of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Pandora carries on the park’s tradition of celebrating the intrinsic value of nature, transformation through adventure and a personal call to action.Based on Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron’s record-breaking box-office hit, AVATAR, the new land welcomes guests to the lush world of Pandora long after the human conflict with the Na’vi has ended.Besides the beauty of the imagined alien world come to life, the highlight is the thrilling new ride, Avatar Flight of Passage, where you can soar over Pandora on the back of a fearsome mountain banshee. It's an amazing 4D ride that really transports all of your senses. It's not a roller coaster, but more like Soarin, but taken up 100 notches. 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%2F10154784654009677%2F&show_text=0&width=560" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" width="560"> 11 Tips & Secrets for Visiting Pandora at Disney's Animal KingdomThe new quick-serve dining option at Satu’li Canteen offers healthy and tasty options like wood-grilled chicken over rice. You pick your protein and then select your base and your sauce. There are kids meal options too. The outside area is thankfully covered providing shade and inside has lots of tables too. I really liked the sustainability aspect with meals being served on real plates and silverware, which are then collected in bins near the garbages and washed and used again.Order Your Meal on Your Phone Avoid the line to order and place your order using the My Disney Experience app on your mobile device. There is a separate line to pick up your mobile order.Alcoholic beverages are served at  Satu’li Canteen too including wine. Order the green beer called "Hawkes Grog," which is definitely Instagram worthy! So is the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mouse for dessert.Hawkes Grog - Green AlePongu Pongu is a drink stand selling colorful drinks. Meaning “Party Party” in the language of the Na’vi, Pongu Pongu welcomes weary travelers to quench their thirst with "bioluminescent" frozen cocktail, indigenous beers and snacks you won’t find elsewhere.The Na’vi River Journey boat ride is great for kids of all ages and there's no height limit, so perfect for little ones. I'd also recommend saving this ride for the middle of the afternoon when it's hot and you're tired because you can sit down and it's nice and cool -- a great way to recharge.Ride Avatar Flight of Passage WITHOUT a FastPass+ Although traveling to the front of the line is convenient, you will, unfortunately, miss a really amazing queue and won't see an incredible looking Avatar floating in hibernation. So, do ride Stand By at least once.Avatar seen while in the standby lineRub the large "Flaska Reclinata" interactive plant near the entrance of Pandora and it will spray a water mist on those walking by.Also, look for the Na’vi-built drum circle, containing instruments and drums playable by all for interactive play for kids with no lines. It's located in the middle before you walk underneath the floating rocks.Be sure and visit Pandora at night too. The grounds and plants light up with bioluminescent lighting. It's a whole different experience and worth checking out.Speak with tour guides from Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) and scientists from the Pandora Conservation Initiative (PCI), or even an eclectic expat or two! These cast members know all there is to know about Pandora!There are brand-new Wilderness Explorers challenges and badges to collect in Pandora too. [...]



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 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=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®ion=US&placement=B01B5AAP08&asins=B01B5AAP08&linkId=518f0d452d58a708d909593abb4f5a5b&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;">[...]



SWFL Dining Review: Burgerfi in Naples & Fort Myers

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 is now open 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 discarded LEGO people loitering [...]