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Friday, November 28, 2014

#DisneyKids Preschool Playdate

Show Your Disney SideMy boys love Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and dancing to the hot dog theme song, so when I was selected to host a Show Your Disney Side, pre-school playdate we were all very excited. While I've hosted at-home blogger parties before, this was the first time that I ever hosted one for kids. Having recently moved, It was also a great opportunity to socialize with other parents and their kids in the area.

Dressing Up:

For the big day, my boys wore matching red Mickey Mouse & Pluto tees (this is the third size that I've bought these shirts in since it's a favorite of theirs) from The Children's Place and also found on-sale at Zulily.

I also assembled free Mickey and Minnie Ear Print Outs, which were super easy to do and allowed everyone attending to dress up too and feel special in their Mickey Ear hats. Tip: Use stronger paper stock.

At first Logan was not liking his ears and I couldn't help but laugh and take photos of his protests. Yet surprisingly, after the initial complaints he ended up keeping his ears on the whole time, longer than anyone else, even his twin.

The Food: 
I filled bowls with Crunchmaster Cheezy and Grammy Crisps. I also had bags of Doc McStuffins themed fruit gummies and Clif Kid Organic Chocolate Chip ZBars with protein (my boys need more protein) available. Plus, I toasted up some Mickey Mouse chicken nuggets from Costco.

For dessert, I baked Mickey Mouse Cinnamon buns, by arranging Pillsbury Cinnamon Grands in the shape of Mickey Ears.

We had matching Mickey Mouse party supplies like napkins, plates, cups and table cloths and hung fun spiral Mickey Mouse Swirls with Cutouts from our arch way.
Playing off of the lines said in every episode and in the theme song of the Disney Junior show, I printed up signs for the ear hat station and a welcome sign for the door using these Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Free Party Sign Printables! There are a bunch of other personalized options available for purchase on Etsy too.

Playtime & Activities: 
We already had the fun Mickey Mouse play tent and tunnel seen above, which I also found on Zulily, so we put it out in our den and filled it with foam blocks for the toddlers to play in.

Mickey coloring pages were also a big hit with the younger guests like my two-year-olds. You can easily print your own from home here for free. I also like to print out a bunch and keep them in my car with a box of crayons for when we dine out with the boys.

We also played Disney Side Bingo with the help of the other parents and the two winners received fun play sets from Mega Bloks.  Plus, don't forget to play the hot dog song on loop, although be warned it's still in my head, lol.

Along with some favors, everyone walked away with a Free Disney Vacation Planning DVD too. You can plan your own Disney Side Celebration and download a free party kit to get you started.

Disclaimer: I have received free products in order to host the Disney Kids Preschool Playdate. The opinions expressed here are my own. There was no further compensation for this post
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday Gift Ideas & Stocking Stuffers for Her

Here are my annual fun & fabulous holiday gift guide suggestions for your girlfriend, coworker, friend, mom, sister, aunt, mother-in-law, etc. For all the great ladies in your life or maybe some new wish list shopping suggestions for yourself ;) all for under $75 too.

8 Holiday Gifts For Her 
  1. Personalized Cityline Note Cards - $45.00 - at PaperFinch. This set of 5 x 3.5 inch folded note cards are useful gifts and the perfect way to say hello while also showing off your hometown. Available in a dozen different city skylines including Austin, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit and more.  You can also tailor it further with your gifttee's name (this one just happened to have Tara on it! :) and select a sunburst color from the color chart. You could also have it simply read 'Thank You' or 'Hello!' too, it's up to you! I also like their color-blocking Thank You notes for $25. I already have a personalized Florida print framed from PaperFinch that is up in my boys' playroom. 
  2. Crabtree & Evelyn Ornament Tin & Hand Therapy Cream - $14 for each ornament tin, which contains two ultra-moisturizing Hand Therapy creams, infused with macadamia nut oil and shea butter to nourish and fragrance hands. The decorative tin with velvet loop on top is so pretty you don't even have to wrap this gift. I like to keep a tube of their lotion at my desk to ensure my hands are kept soft and conditioned, thus an ideal gift for coworkers. Available in three botanical formulations including Avocado, Olive & Basil; Citron, Honey & Coriander (this is the one I have) and Pomegranate, Argan & Grapeseed,  blending the very best of nature and science.
  3. Three-Stack Tower of Memo Pads - $9.99 - These lovely notes from the Northpole Hallmark collection add northpole magic to your office or home. Great for brief notes and lists and are easy reminders of your friendship long after the holiday, but each time your giftee writes a note. Available in Blue Snowflakes or Red Stitchery at Hallmark stores nationwide and online
  4. Royal Albert Vintage Teacup & Saucer Set In Cheeky Pink - $24.99 -  I have this earmarked for a friend who prefers drinking her coffee in delicate cups like these, plus I just might need to snag one for me too. Lighthearted and dainty, the Cheeky Pink pattern is a charming addition to the Royal Albert New Country Rose collection. Classically rendered roses are paired with modern dots and scrolls and splashes of beguiling pink all rendered in fine bone china with a 22 carat gold trim. It makes me smile just looking at it. Also, available in a larger modern mug shape to hold a bigger cup o' joe or tea, yet still delicate. Available online only at Bed, Bath & Beyond
  5. Marvelous Red Blend 2011 - $14.99 and knee socks. It's always time for wine and this spicy, bold red is marvelous, literally. From MarvelousWines- a brand new, collaborative line coming from South Africa. Winemaker Adam Mason (Mulderbosch Wines) has teamed up with award winning Chef Peter Tempelhoff to create a line of multi-varietal blends designed specifically with the intention to pair effortlessly with food. A Rhone-style blend, the Marvelous Red 2011 is all about spice, red fruit flavors and freshness. Makes for a great hostess gift for any holiday parties too. But why the socks? I was inspired by this pin where you can gift wrap a bottle of wine with cute knee socks for a fun extra gift that can make giving a bottle as a gift a bit more personal. 
  6. Coach Cosmetic Case - $75 - I have a similar leather embossed Coach travel bag for my toiletries and I love displaying it in hotel bathrooms. This chic splurge is great for a work trip, romantic getaway or traveling with girlfriends. Available in 7 vibrant colors including purple & orange, in-store or online.
  7. Kiva Gift Credit - $25 - In this season of giving, share the gift of, a nonprofit organization that allows individuals to make loans as small as $25 to a business of their choice around the world, empowering individuals across the globe to start or grow a business, improve their home and more. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Perfect for the girl that has everything and likes to give back. 
  8. -$25-$75 -  When you send someone a Sugar Wish, they then receive an e-card that guides your gift recipient to select their favorite candies from over 80 fun finds. Their candy is then packaged in darling Tiffany blue box, tied with a ribbon, and shipped right to their door. I was lucky enough to get a  Petite Sugar Wish (1lb of candy) this summer and it was so much fun selecting my candy choices and yummy too. I especially liked their coconut jelly beans. Great for client gifts too.
Stocking Stuffers 
  • Softlips Cube Seasonal Edition lip balm - At $3.49, this is an ideal stocking stuffer perfect for throwing in a purse, desk or car. I actually have one in all three places as I’m addicted to this round lip balm. This glass-like, cube-shaped balm in a special edition Pomegranate Blueberry flavor provides unprecedented, 5 in 1 lip care to hydrate, replenish, smooth, protect with SPF 15 and add a subtle sheen. Conveniently available at mass retailers, the cheerful-looking holiday packaging is available just for a limited time. I'm also partial to the Vanilla flavor. 
  • Esse Nail Polish - There's the bright Jingle Hi, Jingle Lo from the holiday collection, but I'm also still loving the Summer collection of bright colors, especially Roarrrrange and Haute in the Heat. Any should delight. 
  • Coupon Organizer Wallet - $6.99 - For frugal deal-loving friends, this coupon organizer from Bed, Bath & Beyond will be a welcome and useful gift. I always carry mine in my purse as I also use it to hold gift cards too. 
  • Beauty Blender - $19.99 - These pointed ball-like sponges are used by makeup artists to apply makeup flawlessly. I've been using it for the last year and it's amazing what a difference it makes. Available at Sephora or
  • Harney & Sons Tagalong Tea Tins - $3.75 - Each tagalong tin contains 5 sachets of their amazing whole leaf teas. Perfect for traveling. Their special Holiday Tea Blend tagalong is a black tea spiced with citrus, almond, clove and cinnamon. Wonderful for a cold winter morning.
  • Ugly Sweater iPhone Case - $9.99 - This fun hardshell case for your iPhone is tacky chic. Available at Charming Charlie for iPhone 5/5S and 4S models. 
  • Christmas Glitter Hair Tie Set - $5.99 for a 10-pack of stretch ribbon bands with metallic glitter, chevron stripes, polka dots and silky solids at Charming Charlie. I love how they don't pull hair either.
  • Kindle Books - Yes, I know they are digital, but that doesn't mean you can't print out the book cover and slip into a stocking. I also like that I can easily send a Kindle e-book to a friend out-of-state as a gift without having to go to the post office. Instead of adding to your cart, just click on "Give as a Gift." For a fun romantic holiday romp that's only $2.99 check out The Billionaire's Christmas (A Sinclair Novella) or my friend Farrah Rochan's multicultural holiday novel - A Mistletoe Affair
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Friday, November 21, 2014

Holiday Reminder: Batteries Not Included...

This holiday season as you buy gifts for your children or friends, don't forget the batteries!

I've always thought that it was super considerate when someone not only buys an electronic gift for my boys, but also wraps up a package of batteries to accompany it. It avoids meltdowns and saves mom the trip to the store. Plus, even when toys come with batteries already they never seem to last too long.

I plan to return the favor and 'gift it forward' this year by including batteries with any electronics that I give. In fact, the packaging on the Furby Boom that is going to my step-niece recommends on the packaging to power up with Duracell, but batteries are not included, so I'm wrapping up a Duracell 4-pack from Walmart as well.

TIP: Duracell recommends storing batteries in a dry place at normal room temperature. Despite what people say, do not refrigerate Duracell batteries; this will NOT make them last longer. Good to know once and for all. More usage tips here and on their Facebook page.

So, remember to power the holidays this year with Duracell the "#1 long-lasting battery."

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Duracell
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Peanuts Movie & Snoppy Sno-Cone Giveaway

Ready for the latest Peanuts news? For this month's Charlie Brown Christmas interview I got to speak with Ron Smith of Technicolor. He gave me and fellow Peanuts Ambassadors' exclusive insights into the cutting-edge technology—4k scanning and finishing—that’s making the beloved 50-year-old classic look as fresh and clean as the day it was created.

Basically, viewers will see a richer image that’s closer to the original film than any previous digital version of the special. There are more pixels per inch, so the picture quality is better than ever before on any television screen.

Beyond the classic TV special airing during the holidays there is more news for fans to look forward to. Next year, THE PEANUTS MOVIE hits theaters everywhere on November 6, 2015! In the new 3D, CGI animated comedic adventure, Snoopy, the world’s most lovable beagle – and flying ace! – embark upon his greatest mission as he and his team take to the skies to pursue their arch-nemesis, while his best pal Charlie Brown begins his own epic quest back home.

To extend the Peanuts magic this holiday, we are giving away a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine for classic, delicious fun for the whole family. This nostalgic toy lets children create a refreshingly icy treat with just one cube and a few turns of the handle. You’ll love this updated version of The Original Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine from the 1970s, which both Time magazine and VH-1 named as one of the 100 best toys of all time. You can enter via the form below (my first time using Gleam and not Rafflecopter, let me know what you think), good luck!

Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lalaloopsy’s World’s Largest Pajama Party!

Over the weekend, we headed to the Nickelodeon Hotel in Orlando to take part in Lalaloopsy’s World’s Largest Pajama Party! The event included activities and craft stations, photo booth, dance lessons, yummy treats, and a screening of the Girls Movie. The event was live streamed on social media channels world wide.

Here are our fun moving photo booth pics from the party:
Logan especially loved the beanbags and the soft Lalaloopsy blankets that were set up to watch the movie, what a perfect way to take in a flick.
If you plan to do your own Lalaloopsy Pajama Party, definitely make these Sew Cute Button cookies:
The Nickelodeon Suites Resort meanwhile is a kids dream and perfect for large families. This was the view from our suite of  just one of their two pool areas.
We only spent one night in their 2-bedroom suite, but would definitely come back especially since their suites have enough room for all of us with space to spare. We didn't even make it to any of the nearby resorts this trip as we kept plenty busy at the hotel's water park, playground and even did a character dinner with The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Disclaimer: I received a discounted media rate for booking our hotel room.  
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Monday, November 3, 2014

A Berry Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Now that Halloween is behind us, Thanksgiving is already looming. I was challenged by the #FebrezeHoliday scentspiration kit that I received to switch out my pumpkin centerpieces a little early in prep for the next holiday and I'm glad I did.

The Febreze Home for the Holidays Collection available for a limited time at Walmart can help welcome the upcoming holidays with the scents of Frosted Pine, Apple Tart, Toasted Almond, Vanilla Latte, and Sugared Cranberry. I was especially taken with the Sugared Cranberry scent since every Turkey Day I make homemade cranberry sauce (Tip: after I boil the cranberries with a splash of orange juice, I mix in a can of crushed pineapple to sweeten the sometimes tart dish).

This year, I thought I'd also decorate my Thanksgiving table with cranberries, which can be as easy as filling a clear vase or bowl with loose cranberries or slipping a branch of bittersweet, holly or fall favorite into a ceramic pitcher. I didn't know where to locate real fall branches down here in Florida, so I purchased artificial red berry holly and cranberry branches, which will definitely last longer anyway.

My favorite color is red, so I am really loving this bright home decoration on my table and I can't wait for my family to gather around it at Thanksgiving time (I'm hosting this year!).
While I've already been enjoying the Febreze NOTICEables Sugared Cranberry Air Freshener plugged in, I
plan on getting the Febreze Fabric Refresher spray also in Sugared Cranberry to spritz directly on to the faux berries to add a subtle but festive fragrance to the display.
Febreze Sugared Cranberry Fabric Refresher, 16.9 fl oz
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks and Febreze, but all opinions and above statements are naturally my own. 
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Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Guide to Fall and Winter Weather Essentials for Kids

This is a partnered post 

Enjoying the outdoors whatever the weather throws at us is good for kids' development and great for preserving Mom's sanity as well. As the saying has it, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. If kids are comfortably dressed in weatherproof winter clothes they can enjoy splashing in puddles or making snow angels all winter long.

Outerwear for kids can be quite expensive: however, the benefits of good-quality winter wear for kids are appreciated by their wearers. High-tech fabrics are soft, light and breathable and the most sensitive toddlers should not complain at wearing them. Factors to bear in mind when shopping for kids' cold weather gear are comfort, insulation and flexibility, allowing the freedom to walk, run and jump about whatever the weather.

If your budget is feeling the pinch, try asking around among family and friends for hand-me-downs, as these items are usually outgrown before being worn out. Goodwill stores and second-hand sites are other excellent resources to explore. I also like visiting children specific consignment shops like Once Upon a Child.

For winter weather outfits, layers are a good choice. A padded waterproof jacket or snowsuit overalls worn over pants are flexible and easier to get on and take off than an all-in-one snowsuit - an important consideration if your child is learning to get dressed. Make sure to get your kids outdoorweather garments that fit well. Little kids find running around in snow pants or walking clothes that are slightly too long and bulky a frustrating business!

If you prefer an all-in-one for your toddler, look for a zip that runs right down to the ankle like in the photo above of my boys to allow for easy toilet trips or diaper changes. Cuffs at wrist and ankle should be adjustable with velcro tabs or fully elasticated, to keep out chilly breezes.

Underneath, cotton layers are kind to the most sensitive skin. Synthetic blends that wick moisture away from the skin are also very comfortable. In the coldest weather, a soft woolen knit adds an extra layer of warmth. Long thermal underwear or tights worn under pants will keep little legs cozy.

Thick socks are comforting, but make sure that boots are big enough to fit easily over the top. Socks made from a mix of angora and wool feel especially soft, and can be worn over cotton socks for extra warmth. Kids need two pairs of boots to see them through the winter weather, fleece-lined snow boots and waterproof boots for rainy days.

Mittens are both warmer than gloves and easier for little ones to put on and take off. If your kids tend to lose their mitts, try fastening them to a string that can be threaded through the sleeves of their jacket. Mittens made from water-resistant fabric are an excellent choice for both snowy and wet weather.

To top it all off, a hat is essential to keep little heads warm in cold weather. The best hats have ear-flaps, and are made from fleece or wool. Hats should fasten with Velcro tabs under the chin as tie fastenings can pose a risk to young kids.

Also, come Spring don't forget to take advantage of winter coats and accessory sales and stock up for next season!
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

10 Year Blogaversary!

This month, this year, When Tara Met Blog turned 10-years-old.

Est. in October 2004, I have been blogging for a decade!

That's longer than my marriage, careers or any other accomplishment that I've had. Older than my boys ages combined.

I guess it's not a fad after all ;) booyah skeptics

When I tell people I have a blog, I'll often get asked about how I got started. I definitely didn't expect that I'd still be blogging 10 years later that's for sure. There is also the misconceived notion that I was out for free stuff, but back then people were hardly even aware of blogs and there wasn't the swag or attention that I get now.

I actually started it as dare/project from my graduate professor at NYU J-School who encouraged his class to start "weblogging" to develop our voices and to take part in the new technology. He saw it as the future and 10 years later I think in many ways we can say he was right.  My fellow classmates chose meaty topics for their blogs ranging from politics to some guy saying his was going to be about "different schools of thought," which still sounds vague and pompous to me. When they saw my pink colored blog where I wrote about bad dates, resolutions, office crushes and riding on the subway with Lucky Charms, I received a lot of eye rolls to say the least. Yet, what made mine work and why theirs didn't is that I was having fun with it and I was developing my personal voice. I would get home from work and I couldn't wait to write a new entry. I miss those eager days of sharing into the void with Manhattan as my muse.

My blog started out on Tripod with a long URL and looked terrible with a rotating banner and often broken images. This was before fancy plugins I did most of the CSS coding and graphic design too, which made it all look very childish. Check out my blog from 2005 via the Wayback Machine.
Did you know my blog was even included in a Japanese book about blogging? Its also been mentioned in The New York Times and LA Times, but my first review I ever received was in The Weblog Review, which read: "easy, light, and a refreshing voice in the over populated blogging world... my guess is Tara will have a long list of loyal readers." I still get excited reading that :)

However, there were many times I thought about not blogging, but after a decade it's become a part of who I am.

For 10 years, I have shared stories about being single, finding the love of my life, moving across the country and then back again, my PR career changes and challenges and now motherhood. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

My favorite post: The Company I Keep
My most popular post: Sex and The City Bridal Shower
2nd most popular post: Hair Extensions Take LA
Most popular pin: Tips for Traveling with Twins
1,221 posts on Blogger
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