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Archive for May, 2016

Extraordinary Woman: Dr. Tracey DeLucia

Posted on: May 29th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Tracey DeLucia, M.D., Ph.D., is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. When she walks through the halls of her office and visits patients in the hospital, faces light up. Although her work is busy and often comes with long hours, she still manages to raise her sons to be responsible and kind. She is a woman who wears many titles with pride. Among those titles is wife, mother, and pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

She grew up in Chicago and graduated from Loyola University, Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Illinois. From there she completed orthopedic surgery residencies at the University of Illinois and the University of New Mexico, and her pediatric orthopedic surgery fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

DeLucia has been married to her husband, Joe, for 15 years and has two sons, 6-year-old Jackson and 9-year-old Joey.

She moved to Tampa in 2014 to begin her career at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. DeLucia has been practicing pediatric orthopedics since 2010, and her desire to work with children and her love of sports inspired her to go into this field of medicine.

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

Teamwork. We run our family like a team. Everyone has a position and they each have to do their part in order for our team to succeed. Even my 6-year-old has a position on the team; he helps out by washing dishes.

What is your biggest fear?

I worry that when I finally send my kids off to college they won’t be ready for the world. This fear definitely has a part in how I am raising them. I try to look at it like I’m training little husbands.
What advice would you give to other women?

Never compare yourself to others. There is always going to be someone smarter, busier or wealthier than you. Just focus on being the best you that you can be. Also, never consider yourself as less than a man. I try not to ever see myself different than a man in regards to what I can achieve in life.
What is your proudest moment?

When a Little League baseball player that I performed surgery on let me sign his All-Star Championship trophy. He fractured his humerus bone and even after undergoing surgery we weren’t sure if he would ever be able to play baseball again.
What is your biggest achievement?

Balancing a full-time surgical practice with a busy family schedule while also keeping my husband happy.
What makes you happy?

Sitting on my porch and drinking coffee after a long run.
How do you relax and take time for yourself?

Going for a run, exercising and trying out new sports are some of my favorite ways to unwind. However, like most moms, I need to be better at taking time for myself.
What is the greatest challenge you face as a mother?

Giving each child the undivided attention that they need between the hours of 6-8 p.m. each evening, in addition to all the routine of school nights. Also, trying to be a “normal” mother who shows up to daytime activities at the school, is in charge of bringing snacks to the sporting events or even has time to go out with other mothers and share experiences.
Does being a doctor effect how you view parenting?

Yes, definitely. On a daily basis I treat broken limbs in children the same age as my own. I’m probably the most cautious mother I know. I never leave my children unattended in the pool or at the playground. Trampolines and bouncy houses no longer exist in our playtime routine. We do own bunk beds; however, we have a house rule that bunk beds are for sleeping and not playing. I also encourage my children to be very active based on the significant rise in the number of obese children across the nation.
Do you have any advice on how to keep your relationship with your spouse strong with so much on your plate?

Before you give a gripe or complaint, always start with “I love you very much.” I also actively remind myself that my husband is the most important person in my world and none of the other things would exist without him. I cannot manage a household, take care of my children, or have companionship without him. Also, I think it is also important to say thank you every day. When I have nothing left to give at the end of a long work day, I still do my best to find time to focus on my spouse. Our most valuable time together is not going on a date but instead the daily belly laughs we get from the good old routine.

What else would you like to share with our readers about being a mom or about your work?

We are lucky to live in such a great community and in a place with big-city resources like a children’s hospital. I’m proud to work at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and I’m inspired every day by the many caregivers here who have dedicated their lives to healing Tampa’s kids.

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in Tampa Bay?

We love to take family bike rides along Bayshore Boulevard. We also enjoy watching the Tampa Yankees play.

What is your biggest inspiration?

My grandmother. She taught me how to balance having a family and running a household while also having a full-time career. She did a great job of caring for her four boys and for my wheelchair-bound grandfather, while also working outside of the home. She told me once that I should never worry about how much dust is on the floor, but instead find a rug to sit down on and play.

Behind the Scenes: May Extraordinary Woman Photo Shoot

Posted on: May 18th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Every month, we showcase the extraordinary women in Tampa Bay that make a difference in not only the lives of their families, but the lives of those in the community. In May, we met an incredible woman named Katharine Eagan. She is not only the CEO of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), but she is also a loving mother and wife.

We met up with her at the HART office in Ybor City for Tampa Bay Parenting’s May Extraordinary Woman photoshoot with our photographer Jeanine McLeod of Cloud 9 Studios.

May Extraordinary Woman Photo Shoot
HART transports thousands of people a day through buses and streetcars.

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Eagan modeled some of her favorite scarves while we waited for the streetcar.

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The driver of the streetcar was nice enough to let us jump on-board and snap some photos.

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Eagan was cracking jokes with the streetcar riders and making everyone smile while Jeanine snapped her photos.

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Jeanine snapped a picture of us before the streetcar departed.

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Before we finished, we made a stop at the Jose Marti park in Ybor City.

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I snapped a photo by the Cuba wall in the park.

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Jeanine took a few last photos of Eagan.

To read Katharine Eagan’s Extraordinary Woman feature, click here. For more exclusive photos, visit

Grow an Organic Pizza Garden!

Posted on: May 18th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Grow an Organic Pizza Garden!

What kid doesn’t love pizza?  The gooey cheese, chunky tomato sauce, bits of oregano, parsley and basil all combined and spread onto an oven-baked flat bread. Usually on pizza nights, parents might call their local pizza restaurant and get delivery or grab a DiGiorno pizza from the fridge. But by taking this option it’s not easy to know what’s really in the food you are eating.

There is a safer solution: growing all these ingredients in your garden. For one, you won’t have to worry about pesticides and hidden chemicals in your food. The dangers of ingesting pesticides can cause damage to the nervous system and live in your kids intestines for years. 

An easy way to get your kids to start gardening is by creating an organic pizza garden with herbs and veggies that are commonly found on pizza. The most commonly used pizza herbs and veggies are basil, parsley, oregano, onions, tomatoes, and peppers which we will be sticking with. So grab your little one and get ready to get messy!

Before you start growing, it’s important to find the perfect seeds. I recommend using High Mowing Organic seeds, which are 100 % organic.

It’s important to think about what soil you want to use. Stay away from soils enriched with chemicals and to opt for healthy soil and compost. I have found healthy soils and fertilizers from Worm’s Way are a great solution.

Bugs can become a problem with growing an organic garden put you can plant a few flowers that beneficial insects will love– they will help keep the pesky bugs away.

Also, pay attention to the amount of water and sunlight that your seeds will need to grow.

Basil is one of the easier herbs to grow and is relatively low-maintenance. For instructions on how to grow basil visit the link above.

For tomatoes if you can stick with organic Roma tomatoes as they tend to be ripe all at one time. This can be better for kids who tend to be impatient for results. Gardening Know How mentions that these tomatoes are easier to grow because they are resistant to funguses like fusarium and verticillium wilt.

Before planting make sure you leave two feet between each plant to allow them to grow. Make sure buy or make your own tomato cage which are made from chicken wire or concrete reinforcement wire. Prune away any non-flowering stems to help the plant focus its energy on fruit production. Once the Roma tomatoes are 6-12 inches off the ground start staking the tomatoes. Once the tomato is completely red it is ready to be picked.

The next ingredient you need for your garden is parsley, which is great on pizzas as a decorative garnish. It generally take 70 to 90 days for planting and growing parsley to take place so make sure to remind your kids to be patient with this herb. It is recommended that you plant it near a tree so it can receive 6 to 8 hours of full sun and can receive shade during the hottest times of the day. Once the plants reach 4 to 6 inches tall they are ready to be harvested.

Plant oregano in light, well-drained soil. Spacing is very important too, make sure to plant 8 to 10 inches apart. This herb needs to get lots of sunshine as the flavors will intensify when it receives a full day of sun light. Also don’t overwater oregano. Instead water only when the soil is dry to the touch. The good thing about oregano is its tick foliage provides humidity which supports peppers growth, according to The Kitchn. When it reaches eight inches tall, cut back up to 2/3 of the plant as it encourages new growth. Once harvested dehydrating is a good way to preserve oregano which can also be done by hanging up your oregano to dry.

For the last ingredient peppers it’s best to soak your seeds as the peppers will be less stressed allowing them to grow bigger according to On the Green Farms. When the seed is planted, water them with at least an inch of water once a week. Peppers generally need a minimum of 10 hours of light. Try to keep this herb farther from tomatoes as they are prone to the same diseases as peppers.

You can also make your garden look like a pizza by creating a garden in a circular shape and dividing each section into a slice of pizza. If you do this make sure the peppers and tomatoes farther apart. Show off your garden when your friends and family come to visit. Your child will be proud to show off their hard work. Also the attention given to the garden will be the best motivator to keep them continuously involved in gardening.

For additional information on organic food visit

DIY Beautiful Basil

Guide to Organics in the Bay

Organic Products:

Happy Family Pouches

Water Garden  

8 Smart College Grad Money Moves

Posted on: May 16th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments


Student loan debt is a stressful financial reality for the millions of young adults who are graduating this year, and it keeps getting worse. In fact, this year’s  college graduates will leave school with an average of $37,172 in debt — a new record high, according to a recent report

The standard repayment plan for bachelor degree student loans is 10 years, but it takes the average person twice that due to the life events that typically occur  over the course of a decade. While these stats are discouraging, it’s ultimately within each graduate’s control to pay off their student debt faster by adopting the  following eight smart money moves after college.

1. Don’t ignore your debt.
Wishing you didn’t have debt is understandable, but ignoring it will only cause bigger problems. Late payments can devastate your credit score and make it very difficult  to obtain loans. If you can’t afford payments, you may qualify for a financial hardship deferment (available only for federal loans). Call your loan provider to explain  your situation so that he or she can help set up a repayment plan that works for you. You may even qualify for a student loan forgiveness program, so check out more  details at The College Investor

2. Limit lifestyle inflation.
Upon landing your first job out of school, you may feel tempted to “treat yo’self” and go on a spending binge. After all, you spent years eating ramen noodles and living  in tight quarters, so you’ve earned the right to splurge, right? The trick to getting out of debt faster and paving a secure financial future is to keep costs low for  now, however, so rein in the desire to upgrade everything you purchase.  

3. Create an emergency fund.
An emergency fund will ensure you have liquid cash to pay for unexpected issues, like a car accident or dental procedure, which could otherwise increase your credit card  debt and further reduce your ability to make additional payments toward student loans. Cash is a popular graduation gift with 2015 graduates estimated to receive a  collective $4.77 billion in money, gift cards and other tokens of congratulations. Stash that cash into an emergency fund to create the cushion you need to focus your  funds on other debts.

4. Work on the side.
Add to your income by taking on side hustles. If you’re skilled at writing, consider freelancing for websites or content creators, or starting your own blog with  affiliate links. Sites like offer a wide range of side gigs for extra cash, while is perfect for dog lovers who have space for boarding.  Making extra money long-term requires time and commitment, but your hard work will pay off when you save tens of thousands of dollars in student loan interest and pay  off your debt in half the time.  

5. Shop smarter.
Reducing your spending completely isn’t an option; after all, you still need to eat, pay bills and get to work. However, you can shop and spend smarter to avoid wasting  money. Compare prices using tools like or the ShopSavvy app to ensure you’re not overpaying for a purchase. Consider buying second-hand as often as  possible for savings of up to 75 percent. And use mobile tools to make saving money easier, like the popular coupon app Coupon Sherpa which offers deals on everything  from apparel to haircuts to auto repair services. 

6. Trim your take out habit.
Eating out every meal will take a huge bite out of your monthly budget. While the occasional happy hour and restaurant outing with friends is okay, make sure you don’t  fall into the trap of dining out several times per week. People who bring their lunch to work can save over $2,700 annually, according to a VISA survey conducted in 2015.  Just think how much debt you can pay with that money!

7. Sign up for retirement savings.
Even though retirement feels like a lifetime away, it’s imperative to start saving now so you can take advantage of compound interest. If your employer offers to match  your retirement savings up to a certain percentage (typically between 1 and 3 percent), plan to deduct at least that amount from your paycheck so you’re not leaving  money on the table. Otherwise, open an IRA account that works best for your situation and include monthly contributions in your budget.

8. Stop letting FOMO rule your finances.
FOMO, or the “fear of missing out,” is often the scapegoat for overspending. From expensive vacations to dining out frequently to partying on the weekends, giving in to  FOMO will hinder your ability to stay on budget and pay down debt. While it’s okay to take part in the occasional party or weekend getaway, just make sure it’s in your  budget. Keep in mind, there will always be opportunities and the sooner you get your finances in order, the sooner you’ll be able to enjoy a lifestyle with less monetary  restrictions.  

Teens and Summer Jobs

Posted on: May 10th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Teens and Summer Jobs

Summertime is the perfect time to introduce your older teens into the workforce and teach them about financial responsibility. While the unemployment rate for teens ages 16-19 in our country stands at 19.2% in the month of May compared to the national rate of 6.3%, your teen should not be discouraged. There are jobs in the Tampa Bay community and it’s going to take some work. By the end of summer break your teen will not only have gained extra income, but valuable life lessons.


1. Develop interview skills. As they say, practice makes perfect. The more interviews your teen goes on, the better he or she will become at the interview process. This will not only help them in the short term, but in the long term as they interview for college admission or full-time work in the future. Prepare your teen by sharing your own interview experiences. Remind your child to dress the part and bring a smile.

2. Better cope with rejection. No one likes to be turned down, but it’s a part of life.Your teen may not get the job. We’ve all been there. This is a valuable life lesson for you teen as they learn to cope with the rejection and learn to move on.

3. Learn something new about yourself. From new skills to new interests, your teen will LEARN! Encourage them to set a goal, whether it’s learning a new skill or setting a financial goal for college or a new car. This will give them a sense of accomplishment and boost self-esteem. Becoming a camp counselor is a great way for kids to ease into the job market while learning new things about themselves. Maybe your teen will discover starting his or her OWN business is more suited for them.

4. Push the limits of your comfort zone. It’s not always easy, no matter how old you are, to put yourself out there and push for the job you want. It’s a competitive world out there. Encourage your teen to approach the manager at their favorite store or theme park and inquire about employment opportunities. The more they do it, the easier it will become. Talk about a confidence booster!  

5. You’ll face less competition as your resume grows. It’s not always going to be easy to find that first job. Many teens may give up on trying to find a job, which will only help your teen if they keep on searching. If they cannot find a paying job, encourage your child to volunteer with a favorite charity organization. Volunteering is another great way to gain valuable work experience and it’s practically a must on a college application nowadays.


Babysitting, dog walking, get creative and start your own Etsy store, tutor …or start a MAGIC SHOW LIKE ME! Your teen can start small and work their way to making more money, and it will teach them about entrepreneurship. We have seen so many kids and teens coming up with great ideas for businesses and really pursuing them lately that the sky is the limit when it comes to your teen starting a business.

For more information on teens and summer jobs visit

by Angela Ardolino of Tampa Bay Parenting and Parenting with Angela, 

Prehistoric Projects

Posted on: May 10th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Learning about dinosaurs with your family can be as fun as it is educational. Tampa Bay Parenting contributor Grayson Kamm is here from MOSI to talk about dinosaurs! We have some fun prehistoric projects that anybody can do around the house.

And, since we’re MOSI, the idea is that we’re learning along with the fun.

The first thing I’m gonna show you is how to make your own dinosaur tooth fossil! You need a cup, some sand, and some plaster of Paris – which you can get at a craft store or Walmart.

Now, I have a model of a *real* dinosaur tooth that we made with a 3-D printer at MOSI. We actually demonstrate 3-D printing every day if you come visit us.

But if you don’t have a 3-D printed tooth? No problem at all! A carrot will do nicely! You can use a peeler to shape it to just the shape you want. Get together with your kids and look up pictures of dinosaur teeth online – you’ll see that plant eaters and meat eaters had different-shaped teeth.

Decide which one you want to make out of your carrot, press it in the sand – the pour the plaster into the impression. It’ll harden to create your own cool grey dinosaur tooth. You could even put a paperclip in there as it dries to make a pendant.

Next up, you have a prehistoric pizza

You can get whole buckets of plastic dinosaurs for just a few dollars. But here’s what you do with them – you take a pizza box and you make it into a piece of the prehistoric world!

Use Play Doh or clay, then sticks you find in the yard, sand, and some blue markers or paint for water – and you can create an entire ancient landscape! Then encourage your kids to tell you the story of why their dinosaurs are doing what they’re doing – are they eating over by the trees because they’re plant eaters? Are they chasing other dinosaurs because they’re meat eaters?

Now, if your kids are big dinosaur fans – you have got to get them to MOSI by the end of the day Sunday. That’s the end of our amazing exhibit called Dinosaurs in Motion — where you can take control of life-sized metal skeletons of dinosaurs. We have a 44 foot long T Rex – and you can snap its jaws. It’s pretty incredible. And MOSI is offering free admission to mothers with a paid child admission on both Saturday and Sunday.

Last up, you’ve been laying out footprints all over the place.

This is a great one for a rainy day. With your child, look for images of dinosaur footprints online. Each dinosaur had it’s own unique footprint. Along with your kids, pick out your favorites – and draw them and cut them out using construction paper. Stack two or four sheets of paper, and you cut two or four at one time.

And this is key — then you lay them across the floor in a way that tells a story! Paleontologists have found tracks where you can tell a plant eater was peeing secretly followed by a meat eater! They’ve also found tracks that are spaced far apart, where you can see a dinosaur was running – and others that are heading to get water or food.

Lay them out and mix them around and have your child tell the story that they’re seeing in their prehistoric world.

For more information on dinosaurs, visit and plan your trip. You can also visit for more exciting projects. 

Decoding Food Labels

Posted on: May 10th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Feeding your family healthy foods seems easy, right? But what if, lurking on all of those food labels, are chemicals and harmful additives hiding in plain site? Learning how to decode food labels can be the easiest way to know what your family is eating and to find the healthiest options for everyone in your family.

Diet can have a huge effect on your child’s behavior. It can cause worsening ADHD, it can lead to restlessness and mood swings, and can cause your child to act in ways they normally wouldn’t. Some of the easiest ways to fix these common problems are through food, and decoding food labels is the first step to getting your kids back on track.

What is on a Food Label?

Looking at a food label might seem like a whole other language, and it may involve a little bit of math on your part, but reading the labels can be a huge factor in staying healthy. Each label has a serving size and number of servings, a column of information — “% Daily Value” — that shows what portion of the amount of daily recommended nutrients the product provides, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, and information about total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, fiber, and other nutrients. It also includes a list of ingredients and health claims.

The first step in reading the food label should be to note the calories and calories from fat. Remember, these are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which may not be the amount of calories that a child needs. According to, dietitians generally recommend that adults consume no more than 30% of calories come from fat over the course of the day. That means that if the food you eat over the course of a day contains 2,000 calories total, no more than 600 of these should come from fat. Children 1-3 years old should get 30%-40% of calories from fat; kids and teens 4-18 years old should get 25%-30% of calories from fat.

The FDA has recently approved a new nutrition panel that highlights the level of sugar in each food as well. The new labeling is part of an overhaul on food labeling and will show how many added sugars are in each food as well as the percent of sugars that you should consume in a day. Making sure to keep added sugar intake down and to keep low sugar percentages is another important thing to look for on the label before you put the food into your cart. 

How Many Nutrients are Actually Good?
According to the FDA, it is important to limit total fat including saturated and trans fat, cholestoral, and sodium. Americans generally eat in adequate amounts, or even too much of these. Eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease, some cancers, or high blood pressure.

Most Americans don’t get enough dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron in their diets. Eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions. For example, getting enough calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that results in brittle bones as one ages. Eating a diet high in dietary fiber promotes healthy bowel function. Additionally, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.

You will also notice the letters DV and %DV on the label. The DV is the actual daily value of the product based on a 2,000 calorie diet. For example, the label may say “Saturated Fat DV 65g” which means that there are 65 grams of saturated fat in the food. However, %DV is the percentage of your daily allotted value per 2000 calories. For example, if the %DV for saturated fat is 40%, it is very high in saturated fat and you should limit your intake for the rest of the day.

To start teaching your kids how to read food labels, the FDA has a website with quizzes to help you learn what each value stands for, and they also have formulas you can use if you need to figure out values on the go. It is always a good idea to start teaching your kids to read the labels with you so that they also know what to look for when they are choosing healthy foods.

Beware of “Diet” and “Low-Fat” Labeling
We have all been guilty of it. We pick up a back of “low-fat” potato chips or “fat free” ice cream and we feel pretty good about our choice to do so. But, according to, even if a food is low in fat, the food may not necessarily be low in calories or nutritious. Even a low-fat food can be high in sugar. Food companies also may make claims such as “no cholesterol,” but that does not necessarily mean the product is low in fat.

It is also important when looking at low-fat or diet options, to consider the serving size. At the top of each food label is an amount listing for serving size. These are determined by the food manufacturer, and they’re based on the amount that people generally eat. All of the information about the nutritional value of the food that is listed on the label is given according to the serving size. So if a serving size is 2 crackers and you eat 4 crackers — which would be two servings — you need to double all of the nutrition information. The number of servings per container tells you how many serving sizes are in the whole package.

There are many instances where something seems healthier because the serving size is much smaller than most people would eat, so it is especially important to pay attention to the serving size on everything you eat.

As a rule of thumb, I try to stay away from anything on a label that I can’t pronounce. There are tons of dyes and chemicals you will see listed in the ingredients sections, and, while we do live in the age of Google where you can find out what each thing is, most of us simply don’t have time for that. So rather than trying to decode some of the more cryptic ingredients I always recommend eating whole foods like fruits and vegetables and the types of things that don’t need a label at all.

For more information on keeping your kids healthy, visit

Mother’s Day Events in Tampa Bay

Posted on: May 6th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Mother's Day Events in Tampa Bay

Not sure what to do for Mother’s Day? Not a problem! Check out these great Mother’s Day events taking place around the Bay Area and do something special for the mothers in your life. 

Marvelous Mothers at Great Explorations Children’s Museum
May 7, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Walk through Great Explorations and make Mom feel like royalty by making her a crown, necklace, or bouquet. All activities are included with the cost of admission. Mothers get in free with one paid child admission.; 1925 4th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33704

The Great Mother’s Day 5K Race at Al Lopez Park
May 8, 8 a.m.
Want to make Mom proud and get the family moving? Register your family online to take part in a 5K run/walk focused on health and wellness.; 4810 N Himes Ave, Tampa, FL 33614

Mother’s Day at the Florida Aquarium
May 7-8, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Make a sea of Mother’s Day memories at the Florida Aquarium! Introduce Mom to the playful otters and other 20,000 sea creatures the aquarium has to offer. Moms enjoy free admission with the purchase of one full paid admission. Tickets must be purchased onsite at the ticket booth.; 701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602

Mother’s Day at the Tampa Bay History Center
May 8, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Spend Mother’s Day learning about Tampa Bay’s unique history. Moms get in free with one paid adult admission. The History Center will offer arts and crafts in the Lykes Atrium and a 15 percent discount in the museum store on select items.; 801 Old Water St, Tampa, FL 33602

Mother’s Day Concert at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
May 8, 7:30 p.m.
Come out to the park for a waterfront picnic and listen to the Florida Orchestra perform music as stunning as the rousing fireworks finale at the end of the show. Admission is free, but guests are encouraged to bring canned goods for Tampa Bay Harvest’s annual food drive.; 600 N Ashley Dr, Tampa, FL 33602

DIY Beautiful Basil

Posted on: May 4th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Food is the key to good health. It affects everything that our body does– it can make your life better or it can turn small problems into big problems. Pesticides and hidden chemicals in your foods can cause damage to the nervous system, upset stomach and can live in your children’s intestines for years.

Rather than relying on what a label tells me is in my food, I decided six years ago to start an organic garden at home so that I would know exactly what I am ingesting and to give my body a chance to enjoy good health. Plus, nothing tastes better than veggies grown in your own backyard.


One of the things I grow in my organic garden is organic basil. Basil packs a punch greater than just its delightful smell– it provides blood-clotting Vitamin K and magnesium and is also an antioxidant with antibacterial properties. It can be used in a variety of recipes and in some cultures is even used for medicinal purposes.


With all of the benefits of basil, I knew it was something I wanted to grow in my own garden. I planted my basil seeds two months ago, and this week I sold two pounds of fresh delicious basil to my friends at Cater Me Fit for them to use in their pesto recipe and on sandwiches.  


Growing your own basil doesn’t have to be difficult and can be pretty fun to do with the kids. It will get everyone outside and will give you and your family a chance to learn something new together. I know that I am still learning new things every day with my organic garden.

Before you start growing, it is important to start with the seeds. I use High Mowing Organic Seeds, which are 100% organic.

Next, think about the soil that you are going to use. Stay away from soils enriched with chemicals and opt for healthy soil and compost. I have found healthy soils and fertilizers from Worm’s Way are a great solution.


If you are concerned with bugs and pests getting into your garden, consider planting a few flowers that beneficial insects will love– they will help keep the pesky bugs away.

Make sure to pay attention to the amount of water and sunlight that your seeds will need to grow. Growing basil and other herbs are often an easy way to start with organic gardening because they are relatively low-maintenance and yield wonderful results.

The basil you grow will be more fragrant than anything you can find in the supermarket and far more tasty.


My basil was about one foot tall when I harvested, and I cut them at about three inches. The cuttings will all grow back as well. Make sure you have a good pair of shears when it is time to harvest your basil.

After the basil is harvested, you might be tempted to put it in a zip-lock baggie or you might stick it right in the fridge. However, you will be sending your beautiful basil to a quick and untimely death if you store it in bags or in the fridge– while other herbs can be stored in the fridge covered with a plastic bag, basil cannot. Instead, rinse and dry the basil completely using a salad spinner. Then, fill a glass or jar with water and put the basil in the glass just like a bouquet of flowers. Not only will it keep your basil fresh for longer, but it is also lovely and smells divine.

More information on clean eating: 

Guide to Organics in the Bay Area

Posted on: May 2nd, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

“I’m eating pesticides,” I thought as I bit into my apple. Not exactly a thought that makes you say “yum!”

Pesticides are often so common that we don’t even realize that we are ingesting them. But, the same chemicals used to protect our produce from getting insects may also cause health risks. The pesticides that fruits and veggies are coated with have been linked to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system disruption and IQ defects in children, according to Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) spokesman Alex Formuzis.

However, one way that we can stay away from the harmful chemicals on our fruits and veggies it to go truly organic.

Last year it was reported there are 21,000 certified organic operations in the United States found by the Agricultural Marketing Service. That’s a 12 percent increase in organic farms between 2014 and 2015.  

“We have shown that consumers who buy organic fruits and vegetables are exposed to just one-third as many residues as they’d eat in conventionally-grown foods, and the residues
are usually lower as well,” says Edward Groth III, senior scientist at
Consumers Union.

To keep consumers aware of the most pesticide-covered foods, EWG has developed a “dirty” list of produce. They are often called the “Dirty Dozen” and include strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.

So, how do farmers avoid pests from invading plants if they don’t use pesticides? Chris Seal, professor of food and human nutrition at Newcastle University in the U.K. gives an example of a carrot being attacked by a fly. The carrot produces compounds known as polyacteylenes, which taste bitter to the fly and can help drive the fly away.

Guide to Organics 1
Photo courtesy of Berry Kingdom Inc. FB page
Berry Kingdom getting ready for u-pick berry season beginning in early June and ending in July.

Organic Food Delivered to Your Door

Josh Kinser co-owner of Tampa Bay Organics, an organic delivery company that receives produce from certified organic farmers, says there is a reason that organic food costs more.

“It takes longer for it to grow,” says Kinser. “With conventional farming they add hormones which makes it grow faster.”

In addition, organic fruits and veggies tends to look and taste differently than conventional produce. Organic produce tends to look physically imperfect while non-organic produce tends to look relatively the same. This is because regular fruit is treated with a variety of growth enhancing substances. For example, apples and oranges might appear to be coated in wax and you might notice a slight sheen to cucumbers and lettuce.

At Tampa Bay Organics, to keep the produce fresh before it is shipped the team puts them in a huge walk in cooler that contains a few Ecoroq’s — a filter that removes toxins from the air and helps double the shelf life of produce.

Since organic fruit doesn’t last as long as conventional Kinser decided to see how long organic fruit could last using the new filter system. Shockingly enough, after three weeks the fruit still looked good enough to eat.

Once the produce is packed with a Temperatsure — a re-useable gel ice pack — the package is ready to be shipped. Tampa Bay Organics gets its produce from Jordan Farms (FL), Uncle Matt’s (FL), Bryson Family Farms (FL), Lady Moon Farms (FL), BlumenBerry Farms (FL), and Southern Belle Organics (NC).

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Photo courtesy of A Land of Delight Natural Farm
Shoppers can choose from a wide assortment of USDA approved organic fruits and veggies.

The Guinea Pig Project

After reading some of these statistics about how unhealthy conventional fruit is I decided to go organic for a week. Trying to find restaurants that serve organic food on days that I wanted to eat out was nearly impossible. 

From the various fruit I received from Tampa Bay Organics I noticed a slight difference in the taste. In comparison the organic pink lady apples, ataulfo mangos, breaker bananas, and pears tasted slightly sweeter and juicer than the non-organic fruits.

Use of organic produce lowers the overall exposure to pesticides in our environment, this may be especially important for women who are pregnant or nursing, according to BayCare. A study performed by Stephen A. Rauch published on Environmental Health Perspectives showed that expectant mothers who have elevated pesticide levels in their bodies have shown to give birth to smaller, earlier babies. Some studies suggest that eating meat from animals treated with antibiotics may contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Organic is also better for the environment. Organically, managed soil holds more carbon dioxide which helps lower greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

How can you tell if fruits and veggies are organic? 73 percent of grocery stores sell organic food, according to BayCare, With so many stores claiming to be organic, it can be hard to tell which products are truly organic.

First, look at the product label. If the 5-digit number does not start with a 9 it is not certified organic by the government. Those that have a 5-digits beginning with an 8 contain GMO’s or genetically modified organisms and those with a 4-digit code mean it’s conventionally grown.

Guide to Organics 3
Photo courtesy of Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Facebook Page
Sweetwater Organic Farm located in Town N’ Country offers locally prepared organic veggies and shoppers can jam out to their Sunday music series.

Organic Stores:

 Rollin Oats
1021 N. MacDill Ave. Tampa FL 33607
Hours: Monday-Friday: 8 am- 9 pm
Sunday 10 am- 7pm

Trader Joe’s
3808 W Swann Ave Tampa FL 33609
Monday-Sunday: 8 am-9 pm

Whole Foods
1548 North Dale Mabry Highway Tampa FL 33607
Monday to Sunday: 8 am- 10 pm

Publix GreenWise
Various Locations
Monday through Sunday

Local Organic Co-Ops:

  1.  DiVita Organics
    323 Meadow Brook Court, Oldsmar
    Buying club for organic produce and local dairy


  2.  Lutz Local Food Club
    Tampa Metro, North Tampa, New Tampa, South Pasco
    Locally produced dairy, eggs, and organic produce


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Food is kept fresh at Tampa Bay Organics in a large walk in fridge.

Organic Farms and Markets

Hillsborough County:

A Land of Delight 
2514 Leaning Pine Lane Plant City
Saturday: 8 am to 5 pm
Various fruits and veggies

Balm Farm
14519 Balm Riverview Road, Riverview
Organic fruits and vegetables.

Big Bear Farms
7606 Kinard Rd, Plant City
813 986-1152
Monday-Sunday: 9 am to 5 pm
U-Pick blueberry season: starts 4/21 open every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

4321 Needle Palm Road, Plant City
Provides fruits and vegetables to Plant City Green Market and other local businesses

Florida Urban Organics
11010 Riverview Dr., Riverview
(813) 279-8849
Monday- Saturday: 10 am- 4 pm
Strawberries are available for u-pick.

My Mother’s Garden Farm
3819 County Road 579 South, Wimauma
Family-owned, certified organic farm and pasture that supplies Mabry’s Market in Wimauma.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm
6942 W Comanche Ave, Tampa
Sunday: 12 pm -4 pm
Various fruits, veggies and organic coffee.

Tampa Downtown Market
400 and 500 block of Franklin Street and 200-300 Madison Street, Tampa
Mid-October through Mid-May, Fridays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Organic fruits and vegetables and homemade gifts

Tampa Wholesale Produce Market
2801 E. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, FL,
Year-round, Monday through Saturday, 3 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Locally grown organic fruits, vegetables and meats

Ybor City Saturday Market
8th Ave. and 19th Street, Ybor City, FL
Phone: 813-241-2442
Year-round, Saturdays 9 a.m.- 3 p.m.
Organic foods, entertainment, shopping

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Photo courtesy of
Chemically Free vegetables grown at Rabbits Etc using an upscale growing system.

Pinellas County:

Downtown Clearwater Farmers’ Market Clearwater City Hall, 112 S. Osceola, Clearwater
Sept. – March; Wednesdays 8 a.m. -1 p.m. Fruits, veggies, specialty products

1    Dunedin Downtown Market
Douglas and Main Street, Dunedin, FL
Friday and Saturday, 9 am. – 2 p.m.


Gateway Organic Farm
6000 150th Ave. N, Clearwater
727-492-0010; 727-244-0724 Provides locally grown, organic food delivering 6-8 vegetables and herbs a week to members during the growing season. 


Saturday Summer Market
400 First St. S., St. Petersburg
June- Sept., Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Fruits, veggies, specialty items, kids activities

Hernando County:

Berry Kingdom Inc.
26596 Ernest Lee Rd.  Brooksville, FL. 34602
U-Pick Season starts late May thru Mid-July
Crops available now: Red Russian Kale, ready by appointment
June 1-July: Berry tomatoes and black berries

Rabbits, Etc.
16362 Wilson Blvd. Masaryktown, FL 34604-7335
Monday-Saturday: 10 am.-5 pm
Tours: Saturday 3 pm
Chemical free carrots, and strawberries. 

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Tampa Bay Organics team prepares to ship veggies from local organic farms.

Delivery Options:

Cater Me Fit
205 Marlborough St, Oldsmar
Delivers between 5 and 9 p.m. Office open 9-5
Healthy meals delivered right to your door including the Paleo diet and specialized options. All food is freshly cooked and prepared and grown locally. Delivers on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Lower prices for monthly plans!  

Tampa Bay Organics
21137 Leonard Rd, Lutz FL 33558
Monday- Thursday 9 am to 5 pm
Friday 9 am to 4 pm
Has different fruit available every week
Delivers to Gulfport, New Port Richey, Plant City and Dade City.
Delivers 3 days a week but delivery depends on what area you live in.

Lancaster’s Hydro Farm Organic Home Delivery Club
5329 Lithia Pinecrest Road, Lithia
813-482-2008 Local hydroponic farm offering the Tampa Bay area and surrounding communities the opportunity to experience the freshest vegetables and fruits available, delivered right to your door!

Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm
5416 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa
813-239-3276 Organic seasonal favorites and staples for delivery as well as grower’s supplies.

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Photo courtesy of Big Bear Farms Inc.
Big Bear Farms Inc. has been organic since 2004 and meets all the USDA National Organic Programs regulations by using no synthetic herbicides, fungicides, miticides, insecticides or any other synthetic pesticides on crops. Blueberries are now available for u-pick.

Growing Organic at Home
One way to make sure that you are getting organic fruits and vegetables is to grow them yourself. Not only does growing fruits and veggies give you peace of mind that you are truly keeping the chemicals away, but it also gives you a fun family activity to do with the kids. Growing organic fruits and vegetables is simple: start by choosing the seeds that are in season and that will work for the type of light on your garden. If you live in an apartment, green boxes work perfectly for small vegetables.

To stay organic, make sure to buy soil that doesn’t come infused with chemicals. Shops like Grace’s Hydro Hydroponic Organic Garden Center are great places to get your organic garden started.

Remember, your garden may take a little longer to grow good fruits and veggies since you aren’t using chemicals, but it is well worth the wait.  

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Photo courtesy of
Florida Urban Organics uses bio-organics to ensure no chemicals and pesticides get onto the crops

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