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Spring Offerings at BRAVO Cucina Italiana

BRAVO Cucina Italiana is a “polished casual” restaurant offering classic Italian food 

The Perfect Girl's Night Out or Date Night

Spring is the ideal time to try something new, and BRAVO Cucina Italiana at the Mercato in Naples, Florida is offering a “you pick two” promotion now thru Sunday, June 17, 2018.

Pick Two Meal: Pasta Bravo & Mama’s Lasagna Bolognese

Can’t Decide What to Order? Have Both!

Picky and indecisive guests like me will have the opportunity to choose two of BRAVO’s classic Italian dishes and receive a half portion of each. It's a twofer! And although it's only a half portion, I couldn't finish either dish, so still had leftovers to spare. This deal includes a choice of soup or salad too starting at $14.99 during lunch and only $17.99 during dinner. Such an affordable, yummy and classy night out! 
  • Pasta Woozie: Grilled chicken, fettuccine, alfredo, spinach
  • Pasta BRAVO: Grilled chicken, mushrooms, rigatoni, roasted red pepper cream
  • Shrimp Fra Diavolo: Spicy tomato cream sauce, campanelle pasta, shrimp
  • Chicken Parmesan: Pomodoro, mozzarella, herb linguine
  • Mama’s Lasagna Bolognese: BRAVO’s signature meat sauce, alfredo, ricotta, mozzarella

Don't Forget Drinks & Dessert

The new seasonal dessert features, a Warm Berry Cake; as well as seasonal cocktails, including the Strawberry Fizz, Strawberry Mango Cosmo, and Strawberry Basil Smash. Um, we might have tried all of the above. Sorry, not sorry!

Seasonal Cocktails at BRAVO Cucina

Get $25 Offer

There is also BRAVO’s spring gift card promotion offering an ideal and easy gift for moms, dads and grads! For every $100 in gift cards purchased, guests will receive a free $25 bonus card. The spring gift card promotion is available for purchase in BRAVO restaurants and online.  

Girl's Night Out at BRAVO Cucina

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Afternoon Tea in Southwest Florida

High Tea Rooms in SWFL

Wisteria Tea Room, Fort Myers

A charming tea room in downtown Ft. Myers housed in a 1919 bungalow offers afternoon tea from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily except Sundays. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during season (Jan-April). What I really enjoyed is the tea selection and the fact that it's bottomless tea, so that you can try different flavors and not stick with just one tea choice. 2512 Second St, Fort Myers, FL 33901

Enjoying afternoon tea at Wisteria Tea Room in Fort Myers

Brambles Tea Room, Naples

Named after a teddy bear, this English Tea Room and Gift Shop on 5th Avenue South in Downtown Naples was established in 1995 and has become an enduring local tradition. This hidden gem is tucked down a landscaped passageway called “Rue de Fleur” with a Lion water fountain, flowered window boxes and beautiful ornamental garden accents between Fidelity Investments and English Traditions. Their afternoon tea is served daily Monday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Reservations are not required, but during the months of January through March, it is highly suggested to make one just in case. 340 5th Ave S, Naples, FL 34102

Audrey's Tea Room, Naples

Alongside Audrey's Attic, a high-end thrift store in Naples, there is also a sweet tea shop -- "Tea With Me at Audrey's." Here you can enjoy a traditional English afternoon tea, a light lunch, coffee, cakes, and scones in an unpretentious setting. Audrey's is closed during the summer. 985 5th Ave N, Naples, FL 34102

Afternoon tea break in Naples, FL at Tea With Me At Audrey's

Norman Love Confections, Fort Myers

The famous chocolatier Norman Love recently introduced a traditional afternoon tea at his Norman Love Confections’ McGregor Chocolate and Dessert Salon location (13261 McGregor Blvd., Suite 105, Ft. Myers, FL). Available on Friday and Saturday afternoons by appointment only (call 239-672-8797), guests can choose the Afternoon Tea Special featuring bottomless cups of Tea Forte tea and a three-tiered array of tea sandwiches and tea breads, pastries, tartlets and a fresh scone with fruit preserves and Devonshire cream, available for $32 per person. Or you can splurge and go with the Royal Tea Special, which features all of the above as well as a glass of champagne, offered for $38 per person. Space is limited.

Afternoon Tea in Southwest Florida - Guide to Naples and Fort Myers, FL tea shops
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Hooked on Seafood at BRIO Tuscan Grille this Spring

Love seafood? Me too! Celebrate the greatness of fish at one of my favorite restaurants, BRIO Tuscan Grille this spring for lunch and dinner and experience their new Seafood Celebration menu, from Tuesday, April 3–Sunday, June 17.

I got to sample the new menu (tough life!) and it was even more delightful than I was expecting. Made from scratch, the dishes include the finest and freshest ingredients.

Lunch (Salad & Seafood Celebration):

Strawberry Balsamic Salmon Salad

  • Strawberry Balsamic Salmon Salad: Mixed greens, salmon, grapes, spicy pecans, Gorgonzola, herb vinaigrette. The portion is more than generous, easily enough for a full meal and not a starter as I pictured. I plan on going back just for this! It's light, refreshing and filling, but not overly so. The salmon melts in your mouth too.
  • Grilled Salmon Fresca: Grilled asparagus, sweet potatoes, spinach, red peppers, pesto vinaigrette, Feta, tomatoes, balsamic glaze.  
  • Shrimp Mediterranean: Spicy grilled shrimp, orzo, farro, broccoli, asparagus, grape tomatoes, spinach, Feta, pesto vinaigrette
  • Lobster & Shrimp Ravioli: Spicy black pepper cream, spinach, grape tomatoes
  • Grilled Salmon Fresca: Grilled asparagus, sweet potatoes, spinach, red peppers, pesto vinaigrette, Feta, tomatoes, balsamic
  • Shrimp Mediterranean: Spicy grilled shrimp, orzo, farro, broccoli, asparagus, grape tomatoes, spinach, Feta, pesto vinaigrette
  • Lobster & Shrimp Ravioli: Spicy black pepper cream, spinach, grape tomatoes 
BRIO Lobster and Shrimp Ravioli
Grilled Salmon Fresca

Dinner (Seafood Celebration):

  • Grilled Salmon Fresca: Grilled asparagus, sweet potatoes, spinach, red peppers, pesto vinaigrette, Feta, tomatoes, balsamic My mother especially liked this dish and she isn't even that big of a salmon fan! 

  • Shrimp Mediterranean: Spicy grilled shrimp, orzo, farro, broccoli, asparagus, grape tomatoes, spinach, Feta, pesto vinaigrette
  • Lobster & Shrimp Ravioli: Spicy black pepper cream, spinach, grape tomatoes. Seriously, how can you go wrong with this? I was at first scared about the 'spicy' descriptor, but I'm a wimp when it comes to that and found that it was just right and flavorful. 

$25 Gift Card Savings

Right now, BRIO is celebrating moms, dads and grads with a gift card savings promotion, from Monday, April 9–Sunday, June 17. For every $100 in gift cards purchased, guests will receive a free $25 bonus card. This spring savings gift card promotion is available for purchase in BRIO restaurants and online. I'm going to buy one for my mother (hopefully she's not reading this post, lol).

New Spring Seafood Celebration Menu at BRIO Tuscan Grille

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary preview of the new holiday menu in exchange for my honest review. But I was already a fan of the restaurant prior to this tasting. 
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Pie Five Brings Personalized Pizza To Estero

Custom-built Pie Five Pizzas
Picky pizza lovers in the Fort Myers-Naples area are in luck! Dallas-based Pie Five Pizza Co., known for its customizable craft pizzas, is now available in Estero, Florida across from Coconut Point Mall. It is the second Pie Five location in the Sunshine State. 

Similar to a Subway sandwich line concept or Chipotle-type setup, you build out your order how you'd like it and see it assembled right in front of you for a handcrafted individual pizza made to order in less than five minutes. 
The fast-casual Pie Five Pizza Co restaurant in Estero, FL
You start by picking your type of crust (crispy artisan thin, classic pan, traditional Italian, gluten-free and cauliflower crust), and then between seven sauces. Next, select from more than 40 fresh, hand-cut veggies and artisan toppings, followed by a fresh finish seasoning like basil, red pepper or Magic Dust, which is parmesan, provolone, romano and Italian seasoning. I had magic dust put on each!

They also have suggested combos available too. I really liked the Chicken Carbonara (alfredo sauce) and the meat-lovers High-Five (marinara sauce) pizzas.

I ordered their Cauliflower Crust option with the Chicken Carbonara style, just try it out and be healthy, but it ended up being my favorite of the three. Best of all, it's lower in carbs, has 1/2 the sodium and is gluten-free
Gluten-Free Cauliflower Crust at Pie Five Pizza Co.
Gluten-Free Cauliflower Crust at Pie Five Piza Co. 
Allergies: Pie Five also accommodates dietary restrictions by offering gluten-free crust and vegan cheese options.

As for drinks, we were happy to see brewed ice teas and Blue Sky Soda, which is made with real cane sugar instead of corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. The black cherry flavor is awesome.

$avings TIP: Join their Circle of Crust rewards program to earn points for every purchase of pizza or large salad. Members even get a free pizza on their half birthday!

Have you been to a Pie Five Pizza? What's your favorite style of pizza to order?

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Celebrate Mother’s Day with Breakfast in Bed & Chance to Win a Spa Gift Card

Hopefully, you are preparing Mother's Day ideas for every superwoman on your list: your mom, maybe your daughter who’s also a mom, your mother-in-law, your grandma, your neighbor who’s a new mom and more.

Make Mom feel special all day long. Start the day with Breakfast in Bed and there’s no better partner than Bays® English Muffins. Whether it’s simply toasting ‘em up with her favorite spreads or creating a special recipe like the ones below, Mom will appreciate the effort.

Mother's Day Breakfast in Bed with Bays English Muffins

Personally, whenever I have an English Muffin I think of my own mother because she loves them. When we'd go on vacation she'd stock our rental fridge with English Muffins so we'd have them for breakfast and Bays are actually her favorite too.

A Mother’s Day Sweepstakes 

To make Mother’s Day a little brighter, you can enter for a chance to win a $200 Spa gift card every day during the What Moms Want Bays English Muffin event. No purchase necessary. Enter the sweepstakes from April 24 to May 13, 2018 on Bays Facebook page. Official rules are at Good luck! And, don’t forget to ‘LIKE’ Bays’ Facebook page, to share your Bays creations and pick up some new ideas.

Breakfast in Bed Recipes for Mom 

Start things off right and treat the Moms in your life to Breakfast in Bed on Mother’s Day. Start cookin’ something new and tasty…Bays delicious Mother’s Day recipes.

  • Bays Classic French Toast– Boring bread for French Toast? Try English muffins instead 
  • Mattina Toscana – Egg sandwiches are all the rage right now 
  • Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake Spread – A sweet “treat” for breakfast 
  • Strawberry Ricotta Balsamic Bites – “Toast” Mom with seasonal strawberries 
  • Lemon Berry French Toast Casserole – Elegant and makes enough to feed the whole family 

To tempt your taste buds, you can watch this video of Bays Classic French Toast, too!

TIP: Don't forget to add a flower and love note on the serving tray! :)

Bays® English Muffins 

There are four different varieties of Bays English Muffins to use in your recipes or with your favorite spreads: Original (seen in my photos!), Sourdough, Multi-Grain and Honey Wheat. Stock up on them to make your Mother’s Day special with some awesome new recipes! TIP: Find them in your grocer’s refrigerated case next to the eggs – not in the bread aisle.

Easy and Delicious Mother's Day Breakfast in Bed Recipes with Bays English Muffins

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored blog; while the views expressed here were genuinely mine, consideration was paid to me by Bays English Muffins to review this product.
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Do you have any regrets? Pursuing your passion project

passion project is something you work on (often outside of your chosen career path) that gives you satisfaction, happiness and puts you into a state of flow. It's what you do to escape it all. 

Do you have any regrets?

I was asked this at a conference two years ago and I cockily answered, "No." Anything I've wanted I've gone out and gotten... or at least tried. And the setbacks I wouldn't change either as it made me who I am today. So, with a smug smile, I sat there for a few blissful minutes telling myself that I had no regrets.

But inner voice inside me, kind of bitchy in tone, shouted "Liar! What about your book?" *pop* and just like that, my peaceful bubble burst.

Now let me confess my regret. I had started an untitled romance story back in high school. I would pick it up off and on over the years, but then I dropped it. I told myself it wasn't any good and that it was just too hard. I would often say if only I could wake up and everything inside my head could all be written out for me. Yup, lazy! I still wanted to write but figured short form like blogging was probably better for me and that's why I went into journalism.

After the conference got my wheels turning, I went home and did a search on my blog. Even back in 2004 when I started this blog I had completing my book as one of many New Year's resolutions. Yet, at the end of that year in my follow-up post, I had accomplished or put to rest most of my humorous goals except that one. Below is an excerpt from my list, so you can see what I'm talking about (for a blast from the past, check out that full post and the terrible Tripod platform that I used to publish on before technology 2.0, lol).
  • Will let my office crush know how I feel -- Nope, didn't do that, but the point is moot now and there were several other crushes along the way ;) 
  • Stop answering you know who's calls and being his bitch. --Done, see ya!
  • Go to Magnolia less frequently and to Thai restaurants more often. --I think I did that, well at least the Thai part.
  • See more Broadway plays/musicals. Yes, I saw eight shows!
  • Write an ending to the book I've been writing for 5 years so I can move on to the hundreds of other stories that are in my head. Nope, too chicken and no time. Hopefully, now that I'm done with my extra studies I can.  
Chicken!? Ugh there's that catty bitch talking smack again. I guess she's always been with me jeering me on.

14 years later I'm hoping to finally check that resolution off my list and shut down that inner negativity. No regrets baby!

Pursuing My Passion Project

So, I put on my big girl pants and got to work. I spent three straight weeks into the wee hours of the night writing a new story, Jesse's Girl. Followed by two years of editing it. I've learned that writing is the easy part, crafting it and ripping it apart is the hard part.

Yes, my inner taunter has been well fed the last few years of self-doubt and brutal feedback. I've attended conferences, taken classes and joined a local writer's group all in pursuit of passion. My passion project, which at times feels more like a masochistic project.

During the annual Romance Writers of America conference last year, I pitched Jesse's Girl to Simon and Schuster's digital arm Crimson Romance and my full manuscript was requested. However, the division just closed down :( I'm shopping it around, but my published friends are encouraging me to self-publish since I'm digitally savvy and will know how to market it. We will see. Either way, I'm hoping to have that out later this year.

I also wrote a short story, It Might Be You, which was accepted into an anthology of Florida Romance Writers - From Florida With Love: Moonlight & Steamy Nights. My 7,000-word tale is about 25 pages and although it was easy to come up with the plot it took months of rewrites and several edits still.

In order to be considered, my submission had to include the Everglades, the glitz of downtown Naples, FL and a moonlight scene. From there I pulled upon actual real-life experiences and daydreams. Published by Satin Romance, an imprint of Melange Books, LLC, the e-book is available now and releases in paperback at Amazon and B&N on May 1, 2018.

Good for you, but what about the story from high school??? 
Good point. Well, it wasn't any good. LOL! I since revamped it and it did come in 2nd place in the 2017 Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest. I have it entered in a bunch more that I'm waiting for the results of. I also just got feedback from a developmental editor and have to work on the ending. I finally got a title for it though, Mine to Five, an office romance. I wanted it out for the holidays since it has a Christmas sub-plot, but honestly, this is looking more like 2019.

But you have a blog, kids, and several jobs - aren't those your passion projects? Like you needed more?
Oh how you crack me up and yes, you're so right. I definitely didn't have the free time to take on such a time-consuming hobby, but it has made me happier and fulfilled. We'll see how the eventual reviews make me feel, but will cross that bridge when we get to it.

Feel better now?
Phew! Yes, I feel like I've kept this secret from all of you the last couple of years and it feels good to put it all out there. To finally be doing something about my regret. I know a few readers and friends have seen my Tara September social channels pop-up on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, but I've been in stealth mode till now. I'm coming out!

I can't wait to keep you all posted on the aforementioned books too. Stay tuned!

Oh, and why September and not Settembre? 
Well, it's a direct translation of my Italian last name and I figured it would be easier for people to spell, remember and overall less confusing. Also, if you search my real name this blog would come up and I want my future books to come up easier. Do you like it?

Words of Wisdom:

If you're thinking about pursuing your passion project, here's what I figured out along the way and found helpful:

Your dreams won't work unless you do! This was hard for me to accept, but once I did, I was able to at least complete my goal. I don't expect to be the next Nora Roberts, but at least now I can honestly say that I don't have any regrets!

While I was getting my master's back when-you-don't-need-to-know-how-many years ago, I had written on the inside cover of my notebook: "Think back to those dreams you had and applaud yourself for coming so far so quickly." Along with a taped up fortune cookie slip that read, "Even when you can't see them, the stars appear every night, all is well." I'd repeat these two things every day back then and now I'm finding comfort in them again :)

And speaking of Nora... "If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it." - Nora Roberts

10 Reasons To Find Your Passion Project

Tips for Pursuing Your Passion Project and Words of Wisdom

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Disney's A Wrinkle In Time Movie Pass Giveaway

During this year's Disney's Social Media Mom's Celebration and Conference, we saw an extended sneak peek of Disney's A Wrinkle in Time. I didn't read the book, so I wasn't familiar with this family-friendly fantasy already.

Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time is an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic that takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light, good versus evil and, ultimately, the triumph of love. Through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides, we discover that strength comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.

I was first struck with how visually stunning the film is as it leapt from Earth to different worlds. I've always been a fan of Reese Witherspoon too, so it was fun seeing her in this mystical role...and of course hottie Chris Pine appears too ;)

A Wrinkle in Time is now playing in theatres everywhere!

A Wrinkle in Time Movie Giveaway

A Wrinkle in Time Movie Giveaway

Enter below to win two movie passes to see A Wrinkle in Time, as well as receive a hardcover copy of Disney's A Wrinkle in Time: A Guide to the Universe book. Good luck!

Wrinkle In Time Movie Passes & Book
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It's Okay to Just Be OK - Mom Life

Two steps forward, two steps back.

Making some headway and then a road block. No matter how much I do or try, it doesn't seem to be enough. Good enough, sure, but not enough.

Just when I'm feeling in my groove online and offline in my life, I go to a social media conference or see someone else's immaculate desk on Instagram or parents who remembered it was Dr. Suess' birthday. Then, I look at my blog's growth, my desk with piles and piles of papers stacked on it or my crock pot cheat meal and it's like ugh, F' it!

This blog will never be the "business" that other mom bloggers have made theirs, but you know what? I've been working and typing it for 13 years now (yup, 13 freakin years) and I'm still here and it's all good.

I've always been a confident person, whether warranted or not, but it's a whole new uncharted world when it comes to being a mom and a woman post-kids. I'm not as confident and it shakes me. Especially now with my career not being the main focus anymore and how that defines me.

Surprisingly, it was truly embracing the motto on this "World's Okayest Mom" mug that I have on my desk. The dose of reality it serves makes me feel better about being the mom, wife, writer and blogger that I am.
It's been healthier for me and my family to simply own being the best at being Okay
I'm not the best and that's fine. Booyah! 

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