Latest Blog Entries

5 Easy Tips for Staying Fit While on a Cruise

Cruises get a bad rap when it comes to food and gaining weight. People often joke that you come off weighing more than you did when you went on.

You may be picturing cattle lines to the buffet, but that's an outdated image. You can actually be quite active while on a cruise.

I've gone on 10 and 15-day cruises and have been able to maintain my current weight and still have fun... and eat extremely well by following these five simple rules.

5 Easy Tips for Not Gaining Weight on a Cruise & Still Have Fun


  1. Take the stairs, no matter if you're going up or down one deck or eight. Bonus, you'll avoid the lines and waiting around for an elevator to arrive and get a workout in the process.
  2. Book adventurous shore excursions. From hiking to biking there are more options than just going around on a motor bus. During an Alaskan cruise, we had an amazing tour on kayaks where we spotted bald eagles, saw a salmon hatchery and more. We definitely earned our dinner that day. With Princess Cruises, each shore excursion lists the activity level from easy, moderate to difficult.

    Kayaking in Alaska
  3. Have breakfast in bed and skip the buffet. To avoid temptation, we fill out the breakfast card in our cabin the night before and hang it on our stateroom door for a healthy meal to be delivered to our room in the morning. The choices on the card usually are minimal and include things like yogurt, cereal, and fresh fruit. We also use this delivery as our wakeup call each morning.

    Take advantage of a continental breakfast in bed

    Room service on cruises are typically free, so why not take advantage? You can order a pot of tea or coffee too and have it on your balcony if you have one. Same goes for lunch. Instead of an over the top buffet, we usually go for another lunch option in the cafe, dining room or the grill area if they have it. When we have less options, we tend to not overeat. Plus, the dinner buffet is usually the best, but even then we tend to opt for eating in the dining room for a more luxurious and fine dining experience.
  4. Do a lap or two around the walking track at sunrise or sunset. It's great for breathing in the fresh sea air, taking photos, and can help those feeling seasick

    Take in the views from the walking and jogging track

  5. Go to the gym on at-sea days. The funny thing is that I don't hit the gym when I'm at home, but I do while cruising. It's usually never crowded and peddling on an elliptical that looks over the ocean isn't much of a hardship. 

5 Easy Tips for Not Gaining Weight on a Cruise & Still Have Fun


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5 Simple Ways to add Protein to your Child’s Diet

I don't know about you, but I find it a struggle to get my boys to eat meat. Fortunately, I've found the following five easy to add products to their meals to pick up the slack without much stress on my part. 

Even if your child isn't eating meat, they are likely still getting their daily fix already through alternative options like these below. Many foods contain protein, but the best sources are beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, milk, nuts, seeds, and legumes like black beans and lentils.

Why does protein matter? Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. 

Kids require approximately 1-1.5 grams of protein for every TWO pounds of body weight. Thus, a 40-lb child needs approximately 18 grams protein per day! 

5 Simple Ways to add Protein to Your Child's Diet5 Easy Ways to add Protein to your Child’s Diet


Mini Babybel Cheese


Perfect for on-the-go, adding to a lunch box or as a mid-day snack. Mild, creamy and delicious, Original Mini Babybel snacks are 100% real cheese. It's also a good source of calcium and protein (5g). If you have a picky cheese eater, try pairing it with crackers or pretzels. Bonus, my boys think it's really fun to peel the outer wax layer, so go ahead and let them unwrap it. I'll often give them a Mini Babybel when they get home from school or while they are watching TV and waiting for dinner to be ready. Plus, mommy likes snacking on these as well!


Milk or Chocolate Milk


There's a reason why they say milk does a body good. An 8oz Cup of Milk contains 8g of protein, plus 30% calcium too. I still pour them a glass of milk each morning with breakfast and whenever we dine out, I'll usually order water or chocolate milk only. No juice or sodas. Having chocolate in their milk is a real treat for them and at least I know they are having protein too.

GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ 


My boys already like their applesauce pouches, but now the 100% natural brand offers the goodness of real yogurt and fruit on the go – no refrigeration needed! Even better? YogurtZ has no preservatives, 4g of protein and is a good source of calcium and vitamin D in each shelf-stable pouch. Plus, gluten and nut free too. So far, my boys have liked all four flavors from Banana to Berry.

GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ

Yummy Spoonfuls Nuggets 


These frozen organic Chicken Broccoli Bites are packed with 17g of protein and great for a quick lunch or dinner item for the under 5 set - with just like homemade ingredients. Simply defrost, warm and serve. Also, use them to create mini chicken-burgers, or add to pasta sauce and salads. A healthy finger food for early eaters too. Available at Target.

Yummy Spoonfuls Chicken Broccoli Bites

Peanut Butter Energy Balls 


Typically, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter equal 8 grams of protein, so slather it on bananas, bread, wherever you can. We use Skippy's Natural Peanut Butter.

Also, PB is a key ingredient in these easy, no-bake energy balls, which I've been on a huge kick making for my boys. Each week, I've tried different flavors and cereals to mix in. My boys now wake-up in the morning and help themselves to these in the freezer.

They are super easy to whip up, believe me, I'm not much of a baker. Although mine may not look as nicely rounded as the ones in the Pinterest recipe below, they still taste good. Plus, oats add even more health benefits. Ben even enjoys making them with me... sometimes.
Peanut Butter, No-Bake Energy Balls for Kids to add Protein to their Diets
Peanut Butter, No-Bake Energy Balls

Recipe

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Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Real Moms

Sound familiar? It's 5 a.m., not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. You have another hour of sleep available, but you bolt upright in bed. You forgot to move the damn Elf on the Shelf!

Day 5 and I was already out of ideas for this Mother Elfer. So, I did a search on Pinterest, like you do, and I wanted to cry. I'm a fairly creative person, but apparently, I was on the naughty list, because our Elf never created a winter wonderland or had a spa day for my kids.

I decided to step up my Elf game but vowed that I wasn't going to jump through hoops either. So, here are some actual doable Elf on the Shelf ideas that can easily be done no matter how busy you are.

13 Easy Real Life Elf on the Shelf Ideas Any Parent Can Do

13 Easy Real Life 'Elf on the Shelf' Ideas that Any Parent Can Do


Elf Arrives with an Elf on the Shelf book. Great way to start off the tradition with a reminder about how "the magic" all works. You can simply reuse the book your Elf came with or buy one of these smaller Elf on the Shelf board books.
Elf on the Shelf Scout Elves Present: Hooray! It's Your First "The Elf on the Shelf" Library

Elf on the Shelf LEGO Christmas Tree - Okay I'm pretty proud of this one. Using green Mayka toy block tape, I cut out three strips to form a triangle and stuck it to the wall. Don't worry, the tape really doesn't ruin your surfaces and can be removed easily. I then collected loose LEGO blocks for ornaments and made it look like Buddy made a LEGO Christmas Tree for our kids.

Elf on the Shelf LEGO Christmas Tree using green Mayka toy block tape

Sitting with Other Stuffed Animals. Arrange your elf with other stuffed animals in the house for a magical play date. The balloon he's holding was another fun bonus.


Elf Brings Candy! Your kids have been so good, he's left treats out for them. This was easily their favorite day, even if they had to brush their teeth after! They bragged to everyone who would listen that their elf gave them candy canes and colored marshmallows :)


Playing with Play-Doh. We put him up on top of our water cooler with a few jars of Play-Doh and molded a snowman and a candy cane, which we hooked into his hands.

Elf on the Shelf with Play-Doh

Netflix and Chill. My boys found this very funny that "Buddy" was up late watching holiday movies. Compile some Christmas DVDs and put the remote in between his sewn hands and sit him high up on the couch or on top of your TV stand or cable box. You could throw in a bag of popcorn or other props and watch one of the movies later that day too. We did!

Elf on the Shelf holiday movie night

Elf Delivers Letters To Santa. We drafted letters to Santa and put them in our stockings. The next day the letters were gone, Buddy had delivered them to the North Pole and was so tired he took a nap in our stockings. This really brought home the magic of our Elf.


Our Elf on the Shelf Doesn't Move! My son was having a bad day at school and the teacher even had to tell me that he wasn't being kind to a friend. So, when we got home, I told Buddy and that night he stayed in the same spot. I explained in the morning that his magic only works when the children of the house are good.

Reading in Bed - I tucked our elf under a blanket, propped him up on a pillow and put a book in front of him. Bonus, this reemphasizes that reading is fun!


In the Christmas Tree with a NEW ornament - Every year our elf makes an appearance high up on our X-Mas tree, because let's face it, it's the ultimate if all else fails idea. You can spice it up though by having a new ornament next to him or have him holding tinsel.

Hanging in a Wreath. Another easy fail-safe idea, for a late night where am I putting him Elf scramble.

Flying from the Chandelier, Fan or Ceiling light. For the latter, I used a strand of green Mardi Gras beads to tie him up there. I told the boys he must have been decorating, lol.


In the Fridge Getting a Late Night Snack - Stick him in the fridge. This spot will keep your kids busy looking everywhere for him, so you might want to save this for a weekend day. I got to sleep in an extra 15 minutes thanks to this idea. If you have Elf on the Shelf accessories like a coat or scarf, now is the time to put those on. I bought ours at B&N the day after Christmas last year for 50% off.

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Happy Holidays from BRIO Tuscan Grille


At BRIO Tuscan Grille it’s the season to gather, give, and taste!

This month, BRIO is offering a special festive menu with unique holiday drinks, giveaways, and other extras for the holidays, so dine in now for these great deals and meals.

We celebrated the start of December at the Waterside Shops restaurant in Naples with a lovely date night.

December Instagram/Facebook Contest



BRIO’s “12 Days to Win!” Facebook and Instagram contest gives fans a chance to win various prizes from Monday, Dec. 4–Friday, Dec. 15. They will post a different question regarding the holidays each day on their social channels. Those with winning answers will receive incredible prizes such as gift cards, brunch for six, a chef’s dinner, a Happy Hour party for 12, and BRIO for a year (a $1,200 value)! So, be sure and enter. I will be. Good luck!


Making Spirits Bright


How beautiful are these winter-inspired cocktails? They are essentially a liquid dessert with a kick!

  • Salted Caramel Martini: RumChata, Kahlua, Absolut Vanilla, caramel swirl, salted rim ($9)
  • Bulleit Nog-Chata: Bulleit Rye whiskey, RumChata, simple syrup, crème anglaise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cinnamon sugar rim ($9)

Gift Card Offer, Give $100 Get $25


Or buy a gift card for yourself and give the bonus one as a gift. From Monday, November 13 – Saturday, December 30, BRIO guests will receive a $25 bonus card with every $100 in gift cards purchased. Make your list, and check it twice!

Holiday Menu


The special seasonal two-course menu includes a soup or salad and a selection of entrees. We tried the Grilled Branzino with roasted red & gold beets, farro, Marcona almonds, marinated kale, lemon vinaigrette, feta and Surf & Turf: 14-oz. strip steak, black pepper shrimp, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus. Both were exceptional. The skin on the Branzino fish peeled off easily and was light and fluffy. The beets were also cooked to perfection. The portions are large too, we couldn't finish them.

Grilled Branzino with feta, almonds and beets
Also, they now have a new menu addition the Shrimp Scampi Appetizer with five butterflied jumbo shrimp stuffed with scampi butter, diced tomatoes, lemon butter sauce and basil. It's soooo good. Even after we ate all the shrimp, we sopped up the delicious garlic juice with the accompanying ciabatta bread.


There are 14 BRIO locations in Florida and can be found in 21 states. Find a location nearest you.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary preview of the new holiday menu in exchange for my honest review. I was already a fan of the restaurant though. 
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Holiday Gift Guide for Bros

Are you having trouble finding the perfect gift for the dapper bro in your life?

The following list has your guy covered from head to toe.

Gift Guide Ideas for Bros Under $50


Gift Guide Ideas for Dapper Bros Under $50



Boondocks American Whiskey  - $49.95
2 Bottle Gift Box – 95 Proof American Whiskey and 90 Proof Port Finish Bourbon Crafted in close cooperation with Dave Scheurich, one of the world’s most respected master’s distillers and winner of the Whisky Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award. The Boondocks American Whiskey Cask Strength 127 has an ultra-smooth finish, with distinctive aromas of rich caramel and vanilla. A robust and pleasantly aggressive palate is highlighted by fall spices and oak. This is such a great price for two such good-looking bottles of Whiskey and it comes in an easy to carry case that's perfect for any holiday party. No need to wrap it either, just add a ribbon or bow. They also offer a messenger bag gift pack too. Boondocks Whiskey is available from retailers throughout the country and online as well - boondockswhiskey.com 


Boardshort Bottle Opener  - $48
The days of chipping your tooth, reaching for your dirty slipper or looking for a lighter to open your beverage are over. Simply lift the pocket flap of these fashionable shorts and enjoy! The bottle opener attachment is extremely lightweight and does not affect your surfing, SUP or any other type of beach activities. Taking you from the boat to the beach to the BBQ. It's a fresh and innovative product that is sure to be a conversation starter. Even without the awesome opener, the prints and designs themselves are pretty cool too.


Brush Hero - $34.99
An awesome gift for the car, motorcycle, or bike enthusiast in your life, Brush Hero connects to a regular garden hose and uses water pressure alone to power its turbine and bust the grime in only seconds. It also comes with an array of custom cleaning accessories to tackle cleaning the BBQ, golf clubs, and even lawn mowers to look as good as new again. 
DeadSoxy No-Show Socks - 3 for $35
Every Christmas I get my husband a pair of fashionable dress socks, but now that we live in Florida he's since switched over to wearing only no-show socks.Why? Because they look better with driving shoes and when wearing shorts. Some men even wear them with their suits too. Thus, the perfect sock for the boardroom or gym. We've tried a few, but Dallas based, DeadSoxy produces high-quality, stylish no-show socks for men, in a variety of colors and patterns for the perfect mixture of dapper/gentleman's style and street style. Naturally antimicrobial, these cushioned socks won’t leave his feet feeling wet or foul. Even better, these American made socks are backed with a money back guarantee. Plus, gotta love the name, DeadSoxy, lol.


Personalized Plaid Deer Sherpa Blanket - $49
Give your guy a warm personalized blanket for the holidays. It's available in a variety of colors and sports teams too, but I'm partial to the manly lumberjack pattern. On the other side is a super soft sherpa fabric great for snuggling during Netflix and Chill time together.
Groove Life Silicone Ring - $29.95
Groove Ring is the perfect gift for every adventurer on your list. The Groove Ring is the only breathable silicone ring on the market. Designed with the active user in mind, proving flexible safety, unlike traditional metal bands.Worn by firefighters (doesn't conduct heat like metal) and travelers, the inner arch and infinity loop design keeps air moving in while keeping moisture out, allowing fingers to “breathe.” Backed by a lifetime warranty, these rings are offered in a huge variety of colors, sizes and thickness.
The Half Pint Glass - $12.00 - $19.68
This quirky gift is a great way for guys to grab a small one without anyone challenging their manhood. Just top it up, hold the round side out and sup your brew in comfort. Oh sure, it won’t hold up too much scrutiny, but we can't help marveling at this remarkable piece of design. From the front, the half pint glass looks just like a full pint - the visual deception reveals itself from side-view. Fun conversation piece and addition to any bar too.


Gifts Worth Splurging On For Your Man


Beats Wireless Headphones - $199
With up to 40 hours of battery life, Beats Solo3 Wireless is a perfect everyday headphone. Premium playback and fine-tuned acoustics maximize clarity, breadth, and balance. Adjustable fit with comfort-cushioned ear cups made for everyday use. Take calls, control your music and activate Siri with the multifunction on-ear controls.

More Gift Guide Ideas for the Dapper Man 

Valentine's Day Gift Guide for the Dapper Man & Tech Obsessed Guy. Gift Guide for Him

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Upgrading to a Big Boy Room with City Furniture

My boys are turning five next week! *my mind is blown*

We figured a great way to celebrate the milestone would be to upgrade their bedroom with bigger boy furnishings.

They have been in toddler beds for a while now, but with them sneaking into each other's beds some evenings, it was getting pretty tight in there. We discovered them like this just the other night...
Growing out of their toddler beds
Since my twins share a room, we were really looking for furnishings that did double-duty by providing storage space and grew with them as they continue to get older (NOooo!). However, they are still kids, so we wanted something fun that would get them excited, but wouldn't be an eyesore or cheap and plastic either.

The answer? City Furniture!
Big Boy Beds from City Furniture being delivered

Boys Bedroom Before:


Boys Bedroom After:


City Furniture Loft Bed
We ordered two City Furniture Highlands Dark Tone Loft Beds ($995), which included a loft headboard, footboard, ladder, rails, chest of drawers, bookcase and desk in a very dark brown espresso color.


These loft beds add both more space and storage capacity to their room. Although, my boys already started filling the drawers with toys, so I had to explain that their clothes needed to go there, lol.

Extra storage dressers and desk included.
Since they will be entering Kindergarten next year, we loved that the bottom portion also functioned as a desk for doing homework after school, allowing them their own creative workspaces, while not taking up any additional space either. For now, they are using the area to play and as a reading nook at night.

His and his space
The best part? City Furniture delivered the bedroom sets AND installed them. Phew, because ain't nobody got time for that, lol. Such a relief. It took the professional moving team almost two hours, but they handled everything even taking the boxes and wrappings with them.

Overall, I think the end result looks sophisticated, yet still magical for my boys. It met all my requirements - quality, functionality, and creativity.


Bonus, my boys are eager to go to bed each night now!

What do you think???

Southwest Florida City Furniture Showrooms


There is a City Furniture Showroom in Fort Myers (near Gulf Coast Town Center) and in Naples, as well as throughout Florida. You can also view their collections Online. 

DIY LEGO Wall 

Peel-and-Stick LEGO Baseplates
Like most boys, mine are obsessed with LEGO bricks. So, I ordered Peel-and-Stick Baseplates for my boys' upgraded bedroom. They are so easy to apply too. Instead of lying them on a flat surface, I put them on the sides of their bookshelves for some vertical building, thus allowing their furniture to have more than one purpose. Totally made me look like an expert DIYer to my kids too!

For a more customized and moldable look, we are now adding Mayka Tape for Lego lovers to the sides of their desk, underneath it for upside-down creations and pretty much anywhere they can stick it, lol. Fortunately, it comes off easily too and is non-marking. It's also more flexible than the hard base plates and comes in nine different colors.


Pillow Pets


Besides their love of LEGO bricks, my boys are also obsessed with Disney/Pixar's Cars, which you can probably spot in their bedroom too. To go with their new room, we added these awesome Lightning McQueen Pillow Pets, which are a plush toy and pillow in one.  Great for boys!
They also have an edition that light's up and projects stars.


Disclaimer: I was provided a portion of the City Furniture pieces for free in exchange for my honest review. I paid the overage for the additional loft set, delivery and installation fees and received no other compensation.
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Tieks are NOT worth the price

With all the targeted Pinterest ads, blog posts, and fashionable photos on Instagram featuring Tieks colorful ballet flats, I've long had Tieks envy.

However, the $175 starting price always kept me from ordering. Plus, they never go on sale. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem spending that amount on shoes and other high-end labels, but Tieks still seemed too unknown for that price tag.

I finally bit the bullet though and decided to treat myself with a pair of cobalt blue leather Tieks and was extremely disappointed and underwhelmed.

Believe me, I wanted to love them I really did, but unfortunately, I didn't and can not recommend them either.

What I do NOT LIKE about Tieks:

  • The cost. It's way too much money for what it is.
  • They are NOT comfortable. For almost $200 I expected these to feel amazing. However, only after a day of light use and wear (just walking around the office) I received a blister! I also didn't like how they felt tight clinging to my foot even when I was just sitting at my desk and this is after I went up a size. I constantly knew they were on my feet and not in a good way.

    Tieks are not comfortableTieks are NOT worth the price
  • They make a rubber noise even when walking on carpet. Just walking around my home trying them on for the first time, they kept making a farting noise when I stepped on tile or on the carpet. I believe it was how my skin rubbed against the inside leather and it happened in both a size 5 and size 6. All I could think was, um this is going to be embarrassing out in public! 
  • Sizing - their site recommends that if you're a half size to go a size down since they will stretch. I am a 5.5 narrow, so I ordered a 5 and they were too tight. I was able to easily exchange it for a 6 and while not as tight they still weren't comfortable.
  • I didn't receive any compliments while wearing them. Sounds shallow, but I went into work with a spring in my step expecting everyone to ohh and ahh over my Tieks and it just didn't happen. My Payless wedges the day before received more fanfare.


 What I LIKE about Tieks:

Tieks handwritten note with each pair
  • The array of enticing colors. It was so hard to choose a style as I wanted them all. 
  • Their customer service is personal and responsive - a handwritten note is included with your purchase and when I needed a different size I received an actual human response via email, not just an automated reply. 
  • Each order comes with a reusable nylon tote in their signature teal color along with a Tieks custom pouch to compress folded Tieks for quick and convenient storage during travel.
  • The quality of the leather is indeed fine. 
  • Easy returns and exchanges.


The Verdict is Mixed:


Don't just take my word for it, I received both positive, lukewarm and negative feedback for Tieks over on my Facebook post. Read through the comments:


Alternatives to Tieks:

  • Sanuks are my go-to travel shoe. They are just as compact when traveling and they are like walking on a cloud. The bottom is made from yoga mats.  
  • Tory Burch sandals are fashionable flip-flops and dress up any casual outfit. I have two pairs - a black patent leather and matted silver ones. I have my eye on these gold ones next. 
  • TOMS flats at least go to a good cause.




Are Tieks worth the price? No! An honest review

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