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Friday, June 17, 2016

Why I started using fabric softener, are you?

Before the boys came into the picture, I would only do our laundry once a week ... if that, now every other day. Ugh!

Since I always used dryer sheets, I figured liquid fabric softener was redundant. However, I've now learned with the simple filling of a cap, you can say goodbye to stretching, fading, and pilling, giving your clothes a longer, happier life. Okay, no one told me this before.

Downy Fabric Conditioner also keeps your clothes fresher longer and reduces wrinkles better than using detergent alone. All via a simple pour into every load of laundry.

Apparently, during a ride around the washing machine, garments pull stretch and rub together. Downy conditions, strengthens, and lubricates each fiber to protect clothing from the friction and agitation of a typical washing cycle.

I'm also loving the fresh fragrance that it leaves behind on our clothes, especially on our towels and boys bathing trunks after a day spent at the beach or pool since it successfully rids the strong smells of salt water and chlorine. The boy enjoy sniffing the flowery soap scent right from the bottle too.

Planning on saving your child's clothes for possibly your next baby or planning to resell them?
Downy extends the life of fabric by keeping your clothes looking and feeling like you just picked then up from the store!

TIP: In addition to the protection Downy fabric conditioner offers, turning garments inside out, and washing soft fabrics like cotton on the gentle cycle will keep your clothes looking the best.

Downy Fabric Conditioner is available at Walmart and for everyday low prices. Learn more and shop for it here.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/P&G. I already owned the other Downy products seen in my laundry room.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Applebee's New Hand-Cut Wood Fired Grill Menu

Applebee’s recently unveiled its new American-made, wood-fired grills as the centerpiece of nearly 2,000 U.S. locations, inviting guests to follow the enticing aroma of American Oak smoke into their neighborhood Applebee’s to try a new Hand-Cut, Wood Fired Grill item. These restaurants have renovated kitchens, revamped menus and selected trained chefs to be official in-house Meat Cutters to evaluate and then cut each steak or chop.

The head chef here at the Applebee's location in Estero, FL said in his 15 years of working with the company, he has never seen a kitchen overhaul of its kind and touts the upgraded beef selection.

Now their menu includes hand-cut wood fired offerings include USDA Choice Top Sirloin Steaks and Bone-in Pork Chops.

The new certified USDA Choice Hand-Cut Wood Fired Steaks and Bone-In Pork Chops are also hand-cut by trained meat cutters through a comprehensive process to ensure the highest quality, freshness and optimal thickness. Intrigued? I was.

8 oz USDA Choice Top Sirloin Steaks, Mac and Cheese and Garlic Green Beans

The Wood Fired menu includes: 

  • • 8 oz. and 6 oz. Hand-cut USDA Choice Top Sirloin Steaks (I went with the 8oz rear and it was delicious, cooked to my liking, thick and not too tough or fatty)
  • • Hand-cut Bone-in Pork Chops with Honey Apple Chutney (Raphael tried this item and loved the spicy seasoning) 
  • • Cedar-grilled Salmon with Maple Mustard Glaze 
  • • Grilled chicken breast

Hand-cut Bone-in Pork Chop, Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Broccoli
We typically dine at our neighborhood Applebee's on Sunday nights when kids eat for $1.99 with the purchase of an adult meal and now I'm excited to be able to have these delicious options for us adults! More Kids Eat Free Restaurant Listings in Lee & Collier Counties.

The new Wood Fired menu items are available at Applebee’s locations owned and operated by Doherty Enterprises in New Jersey, Long Island and 44 restaurants in Florida and Georgia.

Outside of the Wood Fired menu though, we also really enjoyed their Cheeseburger Egg Rolls appetizer with ground beef, cheddar, onion, pickles and signature sauce. It was sinfully cheesy and delicious!

Yummy Cheeseburger Eggrolls
Disclosure: We were skeptical, but really enjoyed our complimentary meal as stated above. No other compensation was exchanged. I eat what and blog about what I like.
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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Mommy, Movie & Me Thursdays at Silverspot Cinema in Naples

Silverspot Cinema at the Mercato in Naples has launched “Mommy’s Morning Movies,” a special program geared to moms with babies and tots to enjoy a discounted movie together every Thursday for the first show of the day.

Tickets are discounted to $7 compared to normal pricing which is $12.50 and $14.50. Children ages one and under are free though, so definitely bring little brother or sister while your older child takes in a flick.
“This fun program will provide moms with the opportunity to watch a film amongst other moms and young children,” said Randi Emerman, vice president of marketing for Silverspot. “Moms can enjoy a first run film they’ve been wanting to see or a fun film for the little ones.”

I was already a fan of the high-end theater, so am excited to be able to take our family and experience a movie out together without worrying if my boys get fidgety and so forth since I'm sure we'll all be in the same boat. Will be fun to chat with other moms too. Also, with summer heating up, a day in the AC with other kids and a movie will be a diverting respite from the sun.

Join Me June 23 for Finding Dory

They are actually allowing me to host an upcoming show and pick the movie on Thursday, June 23 @ 10:15 a.m. I selected Finding Dory as I know my boys and I can't wait to see it, especially for half the price! I hope you can join us! :)

Silverspot Cinema is located at 9118 Strada Place in Naples, Florida.

Just keep swimming!
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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Easy Donut Trifle in a Jar - National Donut Day

National Donut Day is Friday, June 3, but I got to celebrate the sweet occasion a little early thanks to Dunkin’ Donuts of Southwest Florida, which invited local Ft. Myers area bloggers and I to sample their newest breakfast sandwiches, frozen beverages and of course - donuts! Twist my arm, right?

They also showed us how to make and easy donut trifle. Check out their new offerings and recipe below!

Summer Treats at Dunkin Donuts 

    Dunkin Donuts Summer coffeesDunkin Donuts summer breakfast sandwiches and donuts
  • The summer try the new Bacon Supreme Omelet Sandwich - This breakfast sandwich comes on a croissant but you can customize the bread from any of their other options like an English muffin, etc. It's topped with bacon, American cheese, and an omelet filled with red and green bell peppers, potatoes and green onions. Eat up!
  • Almond Joy Iced Coffee - sweet and refreshing!
  • Frozen Hot Chocolate -  It's yum! My boys would love this treat in the summer too and it's not as heavy as a milkshake either.
  • Caramel Latte Square - this is the new seasonal square donut this summer
  • Blueberry Cobbler Croissant Donut - this cronut with blueberry filling is fluffy and decadent.
  • Sweet Tea Lemonade - it's a refreshing Arnold Palmer with sweet tea.
  • This summer the Coolatta's are brighter than ever! Try a Blue Raspberry, Watermelon or New Sour Apple Coolatta on a hot day. I liked the Watermelon the best. 

Easy Donut Trifle in a Jar

Easy Donut Trifle in a Jar

Have donuts to spare? Make yummy individual trifles for your family. It's super easy and fun to do. 


  • 6 Dunkin' Donuts Classic Donuts, ripped apart. We used Chocolate Glazed, but you can use any doughnutsyou like! 
  • 1 Can of whipped cream 
  • 1 Box of chocolate pudding prepared according to package instructions or you can cheat further and buy the pre-packaged pudding cups. 
  • 20 Pieces of candy, preferably something chocolatey! We used crumbled Heath bars. 
  • Optional: You can add mini marshmallows into the mix too.


In mason jars or cups, layer the ingredients in the following order: donuts, whipped cream, pudding then candy. 

Heath Candy & Donut Trifle in a Mason Jar

Repeat to fill the mason jars. 

Top with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish with more candy. 


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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Discovering Zaxby's in Fort Myers

The other night I was invited to a media dinner at the brand new Zaxby's location in Ft. Myers by FGCU and Gulf Coast Town Center.

Having been around for 25 years and with almost 800 locations open, you would think I would have already been familiar with the chain eatery serving up fried chicken fingers, wings, sandwiches and salads. However, since they are mostly in the southern states and originating from Georgia, it was the first time this Yankee had ever eaten at a Zaxby's.

I was delighted to discover that everything is made to order, so not the typical fast food experience.

From their appetizers I enjoyed their Tater Chips with blue cheese crumbles on top and paired with a variety of dipping sauces.

Speaking of their sauces, I was too chicken (pun intended) to try their "Insane" hot sauce with their boneless chicken wings, but I did enjoy their Sweet and Sour dip.

ft. myers zaxby's

We were told that this summer, Fried Pickles will return to their menu as a seasonal item. I will need to go back for that!

I was really impressed with their "Zalads," especially The Cobb, which had large pieces of egg, fresh cut grilled chicken and super red tomatoes. A filling, healthy fast food option. 

zaxby zalad cobb salad

I was also a fan of their Nibblerz Chicken Sliders with Zax sauce. They were super juicy and filling. 

Although I was beyond full, I couldn't help buy eye their unique milkshakes - Banana Pudding, Chocolate Cookie and Birthday Cake. For me, the Birthday Cake shake took the cake though (Yes, another corny pun)! Not going to deny leaving with a cup, which are reusable and dishwasher safe by the way.

Unlike other quick service restaurants in the area, this establishment will be open until Midnight each night, so perfect on the way home from the airport, which is right down the road too. 

Also, this summer they will be having Kids Nights with a balloon artist and other fun kid activities. Stay tuned for that. Every day though, there are kids menu options as well.

Oh, and I took it as a good sign (I'm full of puns today!) that along with the roadside signs up on the walls, my two favorite actresses - Katharine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall - photos were in framed photographs inside the restaurant along with some other local area flair. Random, but this classic movie buff delighted in seeing them! :)

One of the franchise owner's Rusti (a former teacher) says they will be opening 3 more locations in Lee County eventually for a total of 5 restaurants here in Southwest Florida.

Have you been to a Zaxby's? What do you like to order there?
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Monday, May 23, 2016

Are you using environmentally harmful microbeads?

At the beginning of the year, President Barack Obama signed into law a Microbead-Free ban prohibiting microbeads in US beauty products.

What is a Microbead?

A microbead is any solid plastic particle that is less than 5 millimeters and is used for the purpose of exfoliating or cleansing. These tiny plastic beads can be found in hundreds of household products ranging from body scrubs to toothpastes.

Why are Microbeads bad?

These beads while not harmful to humans, wash down our drains and because they are made of plastic, they do not dissolve and are too small to be caught by waste water treatment facilities. Instead, they are flushed directly into our lakes, rivers and streams. Besides the waste in our waterways, fish then consume the beads thinking it's food and then we eat the fish and plastic too.

Unfortunately, the ban will not come into effect until July 1, 2017. Thus, plastic unnatural microbeads continue to pollute our oceans enough to coat the surface of 300 tennis courts every day!

Microbeads in your beauty products ...

I immediately consulted a list to see what beauty products contained microbeads and was shocked that I've been using two of them regularly and continue see them still being sold in stores.
  • Clean & Clear Morning Burst
  • Crest 3D White toothpaste

Keep in mind though that the list is not comprehensive and I discovered three more products in my home that contain microbeads, so you should always check a cleanser's ingredient list for polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polymethyl methacrylate, polylactic acid, or nylon— since these are the most common plastics that make up microbeads. Most of the time though you can simply see the plastic beads floating in the mixture and can spot them visually.
  • Murad Essential C-cleanser 
  • Bliss fabulous foaming face wash
  • Bath & Body Works Deep Cleansing Hand Soap (will stick to their foaming ones instead of the gel)
  • RoC MAX Resurfacing Facial Cleanser
  • Simple Smoothing Facial Scrub

Have YOU been using environmentally harmful microbeads in your beauty routine?
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Monday, May 16, 2016

New steep by Bigelow organic tea

America’s own Bigelow Tea since 1945 (now under third-generation family leadership) is adding to its vast repertoire of teas with the launch of a new line of premium craft-blend teas – steep by Bigelow, which I was excited to learn is USDA Certified organic.

But why should you buy organic tea? Aren’t tea leaves organic already?
There have been studies that found traces of pesticides in some tea bags, thus, steeping straight into your brew and you! For example, dangerously high levels of pesticides were recently found in Celestial Seasonings and Lipton tea. After learning this, I have since looked for organic teas to ensure I was sipping only the healthy goodness of tea. It's not often easy to find organic tea in tea bag form either, so steep makes it super convenient to have wholesome tea on-the-go. Fortunately, for Bigelow tea fans in general though, you’ll be happy to learn that they test all of their teas extensively, both Organic and Non-Organic, for over 300 different types pesticides using two independent testing labs. Their test results continually confirm that there are no pesticides in a brewed cup of Bigelow tea. Thus, all of their teas are 100% safe for your consumption. The same can't be said for other popular tea bag brands though.

Inspired by the popularity of the craft beer movement, the steep by Bigelow signature series connects with the passionate tea consumer by supporting everyone’s personal and individual palate. In addition to being Certified USDA Organic, the line has the added benefits of being non-GMO and gluten free.

First Watch restaurants here in SWFL are already serving the line as their tea of choice.

Their 13 creatively blended teas each deliver a unique flavor:

  1. Oolong & Jasmine Green Tea – My favorite of the group, but I’m partial to oolongs and green teas. Slightly nutty oolong with delicate floral Jasmine notes 
  2. Dandelion & Peach Rooibos & Green Tea – smooth tea with sweet, fruity peach notes and earthy dandelion finish 
  3. Pure Green Tea – a delicate green tea with subtle astringency 
  4. Green Tea with Pomegranate – smooth green tea with pomegranate and a pleasantly tart finish 
  5. Pure Green Decaffeinated Tea – a delicate green tea with subtle astringency 
  6. Earl Grey – a smooth, bold black tea with a crisp, authentically citrusy rich flavor of real bergamot 
  7. English Breakfast Certified Fair Trade Tea –smooth, malty with flowery top notes and a pleasantly astringent finish 
  8. Mint caffeine free Herbal Tea – a smooth & soothing blend of spearmint & peppermint 
  9. Rooibos Hibiscus caffeine free Herbal Tea – tart and delicious rooibos red tea with subtle delicate hibiscus 
  10. Sweet Cinnamon – a smooth, black tea distinctively balanced with sweet, spicy cinnamon 
  11. Chai – a perfectly balanced blend of rich black tea and exotic spices 
  12. Lemon Ginger caffeine free Herbal Tea – a clean citrus herb tea pleasantly spiced with ginger
  13. Chamomile Citrus caffeine free Herbal Tea – full bodied sweet chamomile with a bright, citrus complement 

steep by Bigelow teas are now available online and at grocery stores nationwide for the suggested price of $4.49 for a 20 count box, thus only 22 cents a tea bag!

Disclaimer: I was NOT paid to do this post, but did receive tea bag samples to facilitate my review. 
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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Before & After: My Dream Book Nook

The Dream: 

Being an avid reader, I have always dreamed of an at-home library. Nothing grand like in Beauty in the Beast (I wish!), but a sunny reading area with built-in bookshelves.

When we moved into our Florida home I couldn't help but notice that our master bedroom had a random alcove and picture window that we didn't know quite what to do with. Well, that's not true. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it! ;) So, I quickly provided a few carpenters with the following mock-up sketch, directions and inspirational images found on Pinterest and in magazines. See below for the result.

The Inspiration:


The Project:

Ideally, I wanted there to be shelving above the window too for mass paperback books and a bench built as well for sitting, plus additional cubbyholes below for more books to go underneath the window seat.

You wouldn't believe the expensive price quotes that I got, they were astronomical. I had to be a bit more flexible in terms of materials, etc. Even then, it was still an arm and a leg, but I was able to keep the main attributions that I wanted. I also picked up a outdoor lounge cushion from World Market that fit the bench. I need to add more padding underneath it though.
Almost done!

The Result: My Reading Nook

In the afternoon light 
At night

I think it really adds value and dimension to the room too. What do you think?

What's your must-have feature for your home or future home? 

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