Latest Blog Entries

Betsy's Best Healthy Granola Recipe

In my quest to have my kids eat healthier, I came across Betsy’s Best Almond Butter and became an immediate fan. Even more so, when I heard Betsy’s story and that she also lives in Southwest Florida.

Registered dietician Betsy Opyt started making nut butters in her home for her daughter, who was a picky eater. She enjoyed experimenting with healthy recipes and started making bigger and bigger batches and giving her nut and seed butters out to friends, family and coworkers. They encouraged her to go wider so she started selling a few hundred jars each weekend at Naples’ Farmers Market on Vanderbilt and Airport Road. Pleased with the response and selling out in four hours, she soon partnered with a friend to make it wider business in 2012.

Now, Betsy’s Best has a line of five spreads available in 2100 stores in 39 states including Whole Foods and Amazon. She has developed many sweet and savory flavors from Cinnamon Almond Butter to Gourmet Cardamom Cashew Butter with Chia Seeds. Even, a more recent Coconut flavor too. Next up, she hopes to move beyond butters.

Meeting up with her, she also shared the following AH-MAZING granola bar recipe that’s easy for parents to whip up.

Healthy Granola Bar Recipe

Yield: 22 bars
  • 1/2 c peanut, almond, or cashew nut butter
  • 1/4 c honey, agave nectar, or coconut nectar
  • 1 egg, or 2 egg whites
  • 2 T canola oil or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 c old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 c rice krispies
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 tsp Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
  • 1/2 c dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c dried fruit, cherries, raisins, cranraisins, or goldenberries
Beat nut butter, honey, eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla. Combine oats, cereal, salt, and chia, in a bowl and then add to the liquid mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, walnuts, and dried fruits. Transfer to a 13×9 in pan and firmly press mixture with the back of spatula or wax paper in baking pan.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake 15-17 minutes.

Nutrition facts per bar: 175 calories, 6 g protein, 25 g carbs, 3.5 g fiber, 7 g fat, 114 mg sodium

Healthy and Easy Granola Bar Recipe from Betsy's Best Nut Butters

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All About Trolls The Experience in NYC

What do you do with kids in New York City when it's raining or a heat advisory is in effect? 

Step inside the world of DreamWorks Trolls of course. Come sing, dance and hug at the all-new interactive experience.

Presented by Feld Entertainment The Trolls Experience, is essentially a colorful, dance party where families can meet Princess Poppy and much more. The experience is designed to take an hour and is conveniently located just above Times Square on 57th Street.

Tickets start at just $24 and unlike going to the movies or seeing a show, this experience allows kids to be kids, as well as interact and play too.

All About Trolls The Experience in New York City #trollstheexperience

Go VIP with a Trolls Makeover

My favorite part was getting troll-ified. You have the option for ordering the Hair We Go VIP ticket package, where you'll get your own Trolls wig or mohawk and have "Glitter Gurus" help you primp, polish and glow for the party with full face paint.

With boys, I don't often get to do such makeover activities, so I was totally all over this. After all, no troll left behind! I'd like to think I earned some extra parent points for playing along too.

If you purchase the General Admission ticket instead, your child will receive a paper hair hat so they can still look the part and some face paint and tattoos as well.

Boogie Down at the Trolls Dance Party

One of the stops on the multi-floor experience allows guests to put on a pair of 3D glasses and dance away with their favorite cartoon characters to heart-pumping music from the movie, complete with laser lights and a disco ball. This was probably my second favorite part of the experience, my boys too.

Benny loved the dance portion

Treasure Hunt and Scrapbooking Fun 

Along the way, guests receive charms and stickers after each activity and are given a bag to put them in for their scrapbook at the end.

The after-party portion allows families to snap post-party pics to print out and send to their phone or email address. Next up, kids get to create their scrapbook of the Best Day Ever. Don't worry though if you miss one or two like we did as the staff provided the stickers we missed so we could complete our pages. My boys continued to color in their pages during dinner after, which kept the occupied as we waited on our meals.

Meet Princess Poppy

Finally, you'll meet and pose with Poppy too!

Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets in exchange for my honest review.

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Saving Zoë film aims to save lives from human trafficking

While in NYC for the summer, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of the new film Saving Zoë, which strikes up an important conversation about online sex trafficking and cyber-exploitation.

Presented by The MOMS & Equality Now the screening took place at the uber-hip 1 Hotel in Brooklyn, which has a rooftop bar that overlooks the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

The MOMS Denise Albert, actresses Laura Marano, Vanessa Marano, producer, author Alyson Noël and MOMS Melissa Gerstein

The indie film stars real-life sisters Laura Marano (Austin & Ally) and Vanessa Marano (Gilmore Girls, Switched at Birth). Based on Alyson Noël's teen novel, Saving Zoe the story takes place one year after the murder of Zoe. A freshman in high school, her sister Echo is still reeling from the tragedy and uncovers the truth about her big sister's secret life by reading Zoe's diary.

Did I like it? Yes! 

Although it started a little slow and at times felt like an after school special or a teen flick, but as the suspense built, I was soon squirming in my seat wondering what would happen next. Also, having real sisters play the two main roles helped make their bond and relationship all that more realistic. Their acting was also quite powerful, especially in the scenes dealing with their grief and sexual victimization.
Me attending The MOMS screening of Saving Zoe
The Marano sisters not only star in the film but produced it too. After reading the YA novel 12 years ago, they bought the film rights option and brought the story to just took awhile. They were repeatedly told that this is not a topic that teen girls would be interested in. Yet, they were teen girls at the time. Ugh. More power to them for persevering to get this film made and for raising awareness of these important issues.

Laura and Vanessa Marano
Confession: I used to watch Switched at Birth on ABC Family now FreeForm :)

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Newbie Guide to Nashville Tennessee & Instagram Hot Spots

I went to Nashville for the first time and OMG I want to go back! I'm not even an avid country music fan and was still totally charmed by Music City. I guarantee the unique, friendly and unpretentious atmosphere will enchant you too. Below are highlights on what to see and do in Nashville, Tennessee. 

What to do in Nashville:

Head to the Nashville Visitor Center 

Located inside the Glass Tower @ Bridgestone Arena (501 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203) Visit Music City has free maps, discounts and they can answer any questions you may have. Plus, I purchased an adorable Nash t-shirt there and took the above photo.

Shop at Draper James

(2608 12th Ave S) Owned by Southern actress Reese Witherspoon this store is darling, both inside and outside. Inside, you can shop the latest fashions and enjoy a complimentary cup of sweet tea (the best I've ever had!).

Outside, be sure and pose in front of its famed blue and white striped walls or this lovely bench. And when you're done, enjoy a walk along the hipster 12th Ave South neighborhood.

Ride the Hop On Hop Off Nashville Trolley

Sure, it's touristy, but also provides a great overview of the history of Nashville. Your pass will allow you to get out of just the immediate downtown area too like out to Centennial Park, a large urban park located approximately two miles west of downtown Nashville, as well as other spots. You can get your tickets on Broadway or at any of their hop on/off locations.

Get a Goo Goo Cluster Bar

The Original Southern Confection. Luscious caramel, smooth creamy marshmallow nougat and fresh roasted peanuts all covered with a thick coating of real milk chocolate. I liked the Pecan version. I made the mistake of eating mine on the plane, once it was too late to go back and get more! Don't be like me, buy as many as you can. It's that good. The retro looking Goo Goo Shop & Dessert Bar also offers cakes, pies, sundaes, milkshakes and floats.

Walk the Pedestrian Bridge 

On my last day before heading to the airport, I accidently discovered the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, formerly the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge, which connects downtown Nashville to the residential suburbs of East Nashville. It was built from 1907-09 and offers great views of the city and waterfront. I was getting last minute souvenirs like the Goo Goo bar when I noticed it on my left and decided to take a detour and am so glad I did.

Drink and Drive a Party Bike

Hop on, pedal, sip! Considering Nashville is a mecca for bachelorette parties, you'll see dozens of party bikes going up and down the street, day and night with music blaring, riders screaming and drinks flowing. While fun to watch, I didn't want to spend the $45 each on this experience. However, if I had a group of friends with me, I'm sure it would be a fun time. Check out Nashville Pedal Tavern or Music City Crawler to book your seat.

Find Your Favorite Honky Tonk

Broadway Street has new and old honky-tonk bars offering live music and drinks all day and night long. It's charming during the day, but at night the neon lights hide the grime and you'll feel like you're in old Vegas even.  At the start of Broadway is Tootsies Orchid Lounge, which is likely the most famous of all the spots with a who's who of past country singers having sung there. Plus, a portion of the Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter was filmed inside. However, I thought it was too crowded and expensive.

I prefered Kid Rock's Big Honky Tonk, which has many levels, each offering a different live performance. Head on up to the rooftop for great views, so does Nudies. If you want to avoid the crowds, but still enjoy live music and the electric atmosphere of Broadway, head to Bootleggers Inn, featuring a moonshine of the day and live music throughout the day and night.

During the two nights spent in Nash, I went to probably a dozen Honky Tonks and really, you can't go wrong with any. Just remember, the bands usually play for tips, so don't forget to throw some $$ in their bucket if you're enjoying what you hear.

Take a Vodka Distillery Tour 

Go on a distillery tour of Big Machine Vodka in the heart of downtown Nashville. Tours are offered on the top of the hour Friday-Sunday. $15 for the "Silver" 45 minute walking tour with a tasting flight and mini cocktail or splurge with the "Platinum" tour which includes bottling your own vodka for $69. 

Start Your Night with a Moonshine & Beer Tasting

I've been to Ole Smoky Moonshine's Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge location and was so excited to see they now have a tasting store in downtown Nashville's SoBro neighborhood in the Yee-Haw Brewing Co. building. For $5 you get to sample 13 flavors of moonshine and whiskey. Seriously, you can't beat this deal and it's a really a fun time. Plus, you get the five bucks back toward a purchase if you should choose to purchase some Moonshine or merch.

For $5 you get to sample 13 flavors of moonshine and whiskey. For $5 you get to sample 13 flavors of moonshine and whiskey.

They also have beer flights to try too. After, hang out in the backyard beer garden for live music, corn hole and tacos.

Tour your Favorite Country Star's Museum 

Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and George Jones all have their own museums that you can tour right near Broadway in Downtown.

Or you can get a taste of every famed country singer at the Country Music Hall of Fame. While I know some classic country from my dad, it's not typically my go-to music of choice. Yet, I was still able to enjoy the modern 3-floor building and its interactive elements.

Pose in Front of an Instagram Photo Wall 

Nashville is an Instagram lovers paradise due to the many murals and street art available to pose in front of.

Here were my favorites:

  • Red Lips Kiss Wall - 1814 21st Avenue South
  • Love Ya'll - 2028C Lindell Ave
  • I Believe in Nashville - Right across from Draper James famed blue and white wall.

Where to Eat in Nashville:

Enjoy classic soul food at Arnold's Country Kitchen Cafeteria (605 8th Ave S). This no-frills lunch spot has country fried steak, yummy pies, and more. Food is made fresh daily from scratch. When you walk in, grab a tray and get in line. Now pick your meat, sides and drink.

Martin’s BBQ joint (410 4th Ave S) The food is so amazing and has a very cool atmosphere in downtown. If the wait for a table is long, you can simply eat at the bar or in their Outdoor Beer Garden

Hattie B's is famous for their mild to very spicy fried chicken, Southern sides & local brews in a casual, counter-service eatery. Expect long lines though. Another popular alternative is Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. If you're staying in Downtown you'll have to Uber or Lyft to these locations.

Nashville's Best Spots for Fried Chicken - Food Network

Newbie Guide to Nashville - What to do, see, eat! Plus, Nashville's Instagramable Hot Spots

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The Developmental Powers of a Playground

This post was sponsored by Landscape Structures as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

Three Oaks Park in Estero, FL designed by Landscape Structures
I can not count the number of playgrounds that we have visited in the last several years with my active twin boys as it's one of their favorite past times by far. They especially love showing off their monkey bar skills to the older kids.

I also can't count the number of gasps from girl moms after seeing my lil tag team waving from the highest points on the play equipment. It was during one of their fearless feats that I decided to just go with it and sign them up for gymnastics, where they could continue to swing, climb and tumble.

My monkeys showing off on the monkey bars

Even now that they are almost seven they never tire of spending an hour at the playground. Fortunately for my boys, we live near two Landscape Structures - Three Oaks Park in Estero, Florida and Lakes Park in Fort Myers, FL. Landscape Structures designs better playgrounds that welcome all ages and abilities. They are the signature gathering spaces for communities and offer the most innovative play experiences.

Giving kids the freedom to play at such fantastic facilities allows children to gain confidence through mastery and self-discovery and can really nurture small psyches and instill lifelong skills.

Plus, it makes me so proud seeing them boldly go up to kids that they don't know and ask, "Do you want to play?" Such innocence and life lessons. I believe it really prepared them for Kindergarten and helped to develop their social skills in general.

The interactive Landscape Structures' dinosaur slide and climbing/discovery equipment at Three Oaks Park

Check out the following Landscape Structures video to learn more about the importance of play:

The Developmental Powers of a Playground

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Where to Eat in Paris

When in Paris, France of course, go see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but let's be real? As a country renowned for its world-famous cuisine, food is one of Paris’ main attractions. The following bites have been tried and tested options that you must eat to believe while in the City of Love.

Where and What to Eat in Paris

When to Eat in Paris

The French enjoy eating small, but delicious snacks and dishes throughout the day. Thus, don’t feel guilty about stopping for a pastry and an hour later for some cheese or macaroon. I didn’t!

Dinner is a slow affair to be enjoyed and while you might like to eat early normally, try you’re best to make a reservation later in the evening to best enjoy the atmosphere and to dine with locals. 8 p.m. or later even.

So, enjoy a pre-dinner drink at Louise's by the Louve and Mon Coco

Sip the Best Hot Chocolate in Paris

Angelina (Est. 1903) So nice we went twice. This dark liquid is pure chocolate heaven. Unlike our watered down options in the U.S. this is rich melted chocolate. It’s how I imagined the water in Willy Wonka in the Chocolate Factory tasted like.

Warning: There will likely be a line out the door, but don’t let it deter you as it moves quickly and the tea room is adorable. However, on our second visit, we passed the line and went through the take-out area to order our Hot Chocolate to go in an adorable pink cup.

Go to a French Brasserie for Dinner

A brasserie is a type of French restaurant with a relaxed setting, which serves single dishes and other meals. It's that typical French restaurant seen in impressionists painting and postcards, usually with red awnings, bottles of wine in the windows and art deco subway tile on the floor.

The space is usually tight and you might have to pull out a table to squeeze in. Be prepared to rub elbows with locals and tourists alike, quite literally.

I'd recommend having your hotel concierge make the reservation for you as they know the staff at the most popular ones and you don't have to worry about speaking French badly either, lol.

We went to several, but my favorite:

Les Deux Magots  6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris, France +33 1 45 48 55 25

Champagne and escargot - oui! 

Shop for a Famed Macaroon Sampler 

Macaroons are on display in many store windows, which will have you gawking at the colorful pastries like you would the latest fashions.

You can't go wrong with any of them, but a popular spot is Ladurée on the famed avenue des Champs Elysées 75008 Paris +33 (0)1 40 75 08 75  This is the shop that created the fame of the macaron and their window displays and mint green facade are adorable and so insta-worthy.

Head to the Latin Quarter for Jazz and Night Life

The cobblestone streets of the Latin Quarter are famous for bars and cabarets and is home to Paradis Latin, one of the oldest cabarets in Paris. Order your show tickets ahead of time Online or have your hotel arrange when you arrive. 

After dinner, find your way to the Caveau de la Huchette. A mythic jazz bar set in a 16th-century building in the Latin Quarter has been attracting music lovers since it first opened in 1949. Find a spot at one of the minuscule tables, buy a carafe of red wine, listen to the sultry jazz music and revel in the sheer Parisian-ness of it all. 

Check out Chez Georges, a tiny basement where dancing on tables can happen over the course of the evening or go to WOS (Wide Open Space) Bar, which is a dive bar with a European twist

Enjoy Fine Dining at the Oldest House in Paris

The Michelin rated Auberge Nicolas Flamel restaurant is located in the oldest house in Paris (1407) and has the absolute best food in town.

Love the house and its history and the atmosphere can't be beaten. Each dish is plated spectacularly too and the desserts are wonderful.

Best Pizza in Paris

A few minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower, just off the Trocadéro Square, Mokus l'Écureuil is the place to eat pizza in Paris. 

Food and Travel Guides for Paris

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