Latest Blog Entries

An Elegant Date Night at Ocean Prime in Naples

On date nights, Raphael and I like to head to Downtown Naples' 5th Avenue, which has many luxury restaurants, but not all are worth the prices or withstand the hype. Fortunately, the recently opened Ocean Prime Naples is the real deal.

Ocean Prime is an upscale chain known for its sophisticated decor, long wine list, and classic steak and seafood menu. Yet, we had not been to any of their 14 locations before from renowned restaurateur Cameron Mitchell. Their Naples location just opened last December.

When you enter, your eyes are drawn immediately to the modern lighting fixtures and clear glass walls filled with various wine bottles from wall-to-ceiling.


Speaking of drinks, they boast an inventive signature cocktail list as well. Berries & Bubbles is a champagne cocktail/cosmopolitan that is both a tasty drink and a show. Poured over dry ice and into a chilled glass, the drink comes to life bubbling to the surface and leaving a trail of water smoke. Definitely Instagram worthy. This looks like we sped up the video, but no, that is how quickly the drink was percolating.

Once you place your drink order, your biggest problem will be deciding on limiting your order to just a few options. For appetizers, the Scallops with Short Ribs came recommended as did the Tuna Tartare. We went with the tuna, which was great, but now I can't wait to go back and try the former too. We also split a Burrata Salad.


For entrees, you can go either surf or turf. We went with an off-menu Halibut option, which was a special of the day but should be appearing on the menu this summer; and the Chilean Sea Bass. Both white fishes melted in our mouths like butter.

Chilean Sea Bass
Don't forget sides! I immediately knew that I wanted the black truffle macaroni and cheese and Raphael wanted lobster mashed potatoes, so we got both and loved each. I want to go back and eat two orders of the mac, lol! Raphael would have to agree considering he didn't want to order it, but then ended up fighting over the last bite.


Save room for dessert too. Although we didn't have much space in our bellies left at this point, we had heard amazing things about their Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake and Warm Butter Cake. We took what we couldn't finish home.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary dinner to experience Ocean Prime, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.  
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5 Ways to Save at Dollywood

As a fan of Dolly Parton’s music and movies as well as being a theme park aficionado, I’ve always wanted to go to Dollywood, but with living up North I never had the opportunity until recently. Now, I know exactly what I’ve been missing – an amazing family friendly experience with thrilling rides and mouth-watering food.

Savings at Dollywood Theme Park

My First Time to Dollywood


Dollywood home of the world’s best cinnamon bread. Dollywood is NOT hokey or little either. It's charming and quite big. I was actually shocked when I unfolded the theme park map and took in all the offerings.

Personally, I also liked learning that 12% of the staff is over 70-years-old and 3 employees are over 90. The experience was very multi-generational and it's no wonder why it won Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Award for Friendliest Park. Be sure and say hi to 90-year-old Johnnie Crawford in the Chasing Rainbows Dolly Parton museum, she has been with the theme park since the beginning.

Did you know Dollywood is home to the world's fastest wooden roller coaster? It's called Lightning Rod and it's awesome. Unlike other wooden roller coasters, it's not wobbly and didn't hurt my neck or box my ears like some coasters do. It was quite smooth. I went on it two times and tried to keep my hands up, but couldn't, lol. So much fun!

Yes, the rides were impressive and the people nice, but my favorite part was all the amazing food! Make sure to visit The Grist Mill, home of the world’s best cinnamon bread.


5 Ways to $ave at Dollywood Theme Park and Water Park


5 Ways to Save Money at Dollywood Theme Parks

1. Stay at Dollywood's DreamMore Resort - I have this as tip #1 for a reason, because guests and families staying at this affordable, yet upscale hotel, can save in numerous ways! Thre are more perks than you may even know about. Rates depend on seasonality but can be as low as $89 during the off-season (Jan-March). During peak season though, you can expect rates to start at $169, which I would still consider a bargain considering how luxurious the resort is. Basically, that's the same rate of a Disney budget hotel, yet offers the experience of a Disney luxury hotel (not even Disney's moderate range). I would also prefer these accommodations over the chain hotels in the area too. The pool is gorgeous, the beds plush and there is an outdoor playground for the kiddos. Oh, and their dinner buffet with fried chicken was amazing!

Perks to staying at Dollywood's DreamMore Resort:
  • FREE TimeSaver Pass for all room occupants.  TimeSaver allows you expedited access to lines at select rides and shows. That is a savings of $35 (plus tax) per person, per day!
  • FREE Parking & Shuttle to Dollywood parks. If you were to park directly at Dollywood fees are $12 a day for a standard sized vehicle. 
  • Discounted park tickets. Two days for the price of one is a standing offer at the resort. However, if you’re buying single-day tickets, it’s $5 off the gate price.
  • Discounted tickets to Dollywood dinner attractions such as Dixie Stampede and Dolly’s new dinner theatre show Smoky Mountain Adventures.
  • FREE pink lemonade served in the lobby daily between 4-6 p.m.
  • So, a family of four, staying for two nights at DreamMore can potentially save over $300!!!

2. Arrive late and get a free day - I’ve never heard of something like this before, but if you arrive at Dollywood after 3 p.m., the entire next day at the park is free. With this fabulous deal, you can squeeze in at least another half-day of fun at Dollywood without spending any extra money. Or you can even hit the park on your travel day for a bit. Simply save your ticket for re-admission the next day. (Note: During Smoky Mountain Christmas this offer is valid after 6 p.m.).

3. Free Water & Soda Refill Options- Spending the day at any theme park will wear you out, especially at Dollywood since the terrain is hilly, after all, it is literally set in the beautiful Smoky Mountains. Luckily, Dollywood offers water—for free! Available at any food or beverage stand throughout the park. If you're a soda fan, the refillable soda mugs offer additional savings for families. The container costs $14.99 and is good for unlimited beverage purchases of $.99 fountain drink refills and $1.99 refills on all hot or frozen beverages for the entire season. Plus, it doubles as a nice souvenir.

4. Sign-up for the Mailing List & Look for Offers - Those in the Dollywood database are offered discounts and specials first and sometimes, exclusively. A subscribe form can be found at the bottom of the Dollywood website. Also, be sure and check out the Special Offers page for the latest deals.

5. Join the Founders Club Premier program - Premier members get exclusive benefits in the hotel and a whole lot of free! Like FREE nights, FREE upgrades and a FREE park ticket to Dollywood or Dollywood’s Splash Country. This is obviously great for repeat visitors. Details can be found here.

Bonus: Once you enter the park TXT Dollywood to 41411 and receive a special offer good that day. I discovered this tip on a sign at the Dollywood Express railroad station waiting area.



Tips for Going to Dollywood With Kids


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Interview with Barry Watson from Date My Dad

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

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

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

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

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



Barry Watson interview on new UP TV show DATE MY DAD

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7 Cool Things to do at Orchard Supply

I recently attended the Noisiest Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Ever! Instead of snipping a traditional bow, Orchard Supply Hardware sawed a board in half to celebrate the grand opening of their 30,000 square foot store in Naples, Florida (3790 Tamiami Trail North). Video here.

The West Coast lifestyle hardware & garden retailer is now available in locations throughout Florida and I'm loving all it has to offer.

7 Cool Things To Do at Orchard Supply Hardware


1.  If you buy a plant and a pot at Orchard Supply Nursery they will help pot it for you at their Potting Bench! Love this convenience and my fingernails do too. The nursery has over 100 different plant varieties at any given time to choose from including herbs and spices. I bought some spearmint to plant in my yard.

2.  Get help for sick plants! I had an indoor Jade plant that started shedding it's plump leaves and a white film appeared on the branches. I thought maybe I was watering it too much and then maybe not enough. I moved it into the sun, I moved it out of the sunlight. No matter what I did, nothing helped. Fortunately, I brought my deteriorating plant with me to Orchard Supply and their gardening experts helped identify the real problem. The white fuzz webbing were actually microscopic Mealybugs. Eww! They recommended I spray their insecticide on it, repot it and wipe the pot clean inside and out.


3.  The Workbench has neighbors covered on day-to-day maintenance like re-screening, knife sharpening (I need to do this!) and key duplication services.

4.  The store also has a retro Sweet Shop with California's Red Vines and other treats and candies for purchase.


5.  There is an aisle called What-Cha-Ma-Callits in the Nuts & Bolts section, lol.

6.  Snag a FREE green apple 🍏   available for customers from their big wooden casks after checkout!

7.  Buy reasonable home furnishings. I fell in love with several decorative pieces and cushions available. I couldn't help but pick up the pineapple candle holder below as I'm mad about all things pineapple. 🍍 I also purchased a garden cat sculpture too.


7 Cool Things to do at Orchard Supply Hardware

7 Cool Things to do at Orchard Supply Hardware


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Tea Subscription Box: Sips by & Giveaway


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

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


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

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

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

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

Sips by Subscription Tea Giveaway 


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

Sips by tea

Sips by monthly tea subscription box review - $15/month

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Techlicious Smart Tech Product Preview


Heading over to the other coast of Florida for a Lunch & Learn event in Miami with Techlicious and Consumer Tech Association, a group of 25 bloggers and I gathered to discuss how technology is helping make our lives and our homes better. I love tricking out my home with smart home tech, so this was right up my alley.

All attendees received a TP-Link Smart Home LED Light Bulb to control your lighting from anywhere via an app. I'm proud to say that I installed it myself and it took not much more effort than screwing in a standard light bulb. I just had to take the additional step of downloading the free Kasa app first and connecting the unit to my home Wi-Fi.

From the app I could turn the color of the light from a cool to warm setting. I preferred the soft warm yellow light over the clear, crisp white coloring for the living room where I put it in. You can also control the brightness from 5%, 50% to 100% intensity. As well as set schedules to turn on and off, which is great for when I'm traveling and want to appear at home. You can track power too and monitor real-time energy used to stay better informed on usage.

However, it's supposed to work with Amazon's Alexa too, but although I was able to add the skill, my Alexa device did not discover or recognize the smart home device :( Overall though, I've very happy with the product, especially considering that it lasts for up to 22 years and the reasonable price of only $19.99-$34.99 depending on which model you purchase.

   

The big scene stealer though were the fashionable tech bags on display from Knomo, especially their Beauchamp Backpack great for the everyday commuter toting gadgets. Sleek and durable, this backpack is splash-resistant, made of finely woven premium nylon, complemented by leather trimmings. Inside, a padded laptop section fits up to a 14-inch laptop, keeping your computer safe and separate from your other possessions. In front, there is an easy-access pocket with two zippers; the right has an anti-RFID lining, perfect for protecting you from digital theft. A second hidden pocket in front is perfect for storing cables and cards. The inner lining is also red!! LOVE!


Another new product that I was introduced to were AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Bone conduction Bluetooth headphones, which delivers music through your cheekbones, ensuring ears remain completely open to hearing ambient sounds too. Great for joggers to hear tunes, but to stay safe too. It sits in front of your ear and not in it or on it, resting just below your temples and no strings. The technology delivers six hours of continuous music and phone calls on a single charge.


Disclaimer: I attended the event and received a complimentary lunch and gift bag, which included the TP Link light bulb mentioned above. As always, all opinions are my own. It is my blog after all ;)
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Mama's Got A Brand New Gig

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

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:




What do you think?

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


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5 Must Have Potty Training Tools

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 Seat
The 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.


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 nicely designed. It's affordable and available in other colors too.

 


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