Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cheers to New Orleans - Why we love NOLA

"Why do you love New Orleans" - this is a question that we've been asked more than any other. Today is the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and I felt writing a post about our love for this city today only seemed right.
Why we love New Orleans: New Orleans is a city unlike any other. You will find culture, architecture, history and the best food in the US. It is both a family friendly and a party town. You can spend a day antique shopping or go bar hopping. Watch a Superbowl champion play football or go to the casino. The city is full of romance and intrigue. New Orleans is so much more than Bourbon St. New Orleans is our favorite city in the US.
Our first visit to New Orleans as a couple took place in April 2012. I had been there once before for a College football bowl game and instantly fell in love with the city. My husband and I decided to go for his 30th birthday (we were only dating at the time). Although I had been to New Orleans once before, this was truly my introductory to the city.
We went back to New Orleans in January 2013 with both sets of our parents. We were there to run the Rock n Roll New Orleans Half Marathon. I was certain Gabe was going to propose on that trip (he didn't). Our parents loved the city and this would not be their last visit to the Big Easy. This was the first time we went outside of the French Quarter and visited Oak Alley Plantation.
June 17, 2013 we got engaged. The following day we told our parents we were getting married in New Orleans. We then got asked "why New Orleans" on a daily basis. Simple - we wanted to introduce our favorite city in the US with our family and friends. We headed back in August 2013 for an engagement shoot at Oak Alley Plantation and to view venues. We ended up signing at Hotel Mazarin.
After our summer visit in 2013, we went back up two more times to do wedding stuff. It was a valid excuse for a trip ;). On September 27, 2014 we got married in Jackson Square with St. Patricks Cathedral as our backdrop. 85 people came into town for the wedding, only 6 of whom had been to New Orleans before. Everyone had a fantastic time and now knows why our heart is in NOLA.
We try to visit New Orleans twice a year, using the Rock n Roll New Orleans Half Marathon weekend as an annual excuse to go up. The 2016 medal is Jackson Square! You know we will be there for sure.
Second Line Parade's are always a lot of fun to watch. They're even more fun to be in. One of my favorite details of our perfect wedding was parading down the French Quarter. Everyone stopped to watch and say congrats. It was surreal.
There is something magical about New Orleans at sunset. Walking down the streets, gas lanterns lit. Bourbon Street at sunset is magical too - in a different way.
Just a short street car trip away you will find yourself in the Garden District, home of some of the most beautiful houses I have ever seen. A few blocks outside of the French Quarter will place you on Frenchman St., where you will hear some of the best Jazz in the city.
I mentioned architecture earlier. Cottages, shotgun houses, bungalows and Colonial mansions adorn the streets of New Orleans, some of which are over 300 years old.
New Orleans is a place you cannot miss out on visiting at least once. This is a place where there is truly something for everyone. A place that will always be our second home. When's the best time to visit New Orleans? There really isn't a bad time. This city always has something going on so be sure to check out New Orleans Visitors Bureau to  see what festival or event is taking place.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Bacon Lettuce Avocado Tomato and Egg Salad #EBeggsfit

One of my favorite sandwiches is a BLT no T. My friend Darlynn and I order this together and always get comments or strange looks - yes we eat bacon and lettuce sandwiches, don't judge. Over time, I have taken this sandwich and elevated it to adding Avocado instead of tomatoes and sometimes an egg which makes a perfect breakfast sandwich.
One day with an empty fridge, I decided to make my favorite sandwich and turn it into a salad. This has become a go to meal for me on any day of the week. While I am not a fan of raw tomatoes, I LOVE roasted cherry tomatoes and eat them like candy. Adding them to a salad with arugula, bacon, avocado and a soft boiled egg equals delicious perfection.

Ingredients:
Arugula
1 soft boiled egg (directions below)
Oven roasted Bacon
Oven roasted Cherry tomatoes
Diced Avocado
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Balsamic & Olive Oil

This salad is super easy to make and you will be eating it in less than 20 minutes after prep.

Make your roasted Bacon and roasted tomatoes at the same time.
Preheat oven to 400
Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Place on a foil lined pan.
On another foil lined pan, lay out your bacon slices
Bake for 15 minutes, turning bacon once

Place arugula on a plate, top with diced avocado, Parmesan cheese, bacon, roasted tomatoes and soft boiled egg. Drizzle balsamic and oil for a salad dressing if wanted.
Soft Boiled Egg
When your water is boiling, prick the wide end of an egg with a egg prick (I used a needle). Boil for 4-5 minutes and place in cold water. Gently peel.
We only use Eggland's Best eggs in our house.

Compared to ordinary eggs, each Eggland’s Best large egg contains:
25% less saturated fat
10 times more vitamin E
3 times more vitamin B12
4 times more vitamin D
Double the Omega 3s
Good source of vitamins B2 and B5
38% more lutein

Plus they stay fresher longer! Although that is never a problem in our house :)

This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Eggland's Best.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tired eyes no more - Phonetic Eyewear #giveaway and discount code

I've got a great giveaway for you today! But first.....I was in 4th grade when my parents took me to the eye doctor. I left with glasses, the second kid in class to have them. Fast forward many many years later, in January 2012 with my first bonus check in hand from work, I made the decision to get LASIK. This was the best money ever spent and nearly 4 years later, I still have perfect vision. So why am I wearing glasses in the photo below? I'm protecting my eyes with Phonetic Eyewear!
Phonetic Eyewear is a company who developed a line of lenses that are designed to combat the effects of Digital Eyestrain. On a slow day, I find myself on the computer at least 10 hours a day between my job and this full time blog. When I am in busy season, I am literally on the computer from 8am - 10pm.
Phonetic Eyewear was designed to alleviate the symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome. The lenses have a coating that are able to reflect and absorb a portion of potentially harmful blue light that is emitted from computers and other backlit devices.

I have worn the Phonetic glasses for over a month now and can say that they make a huge difference. I wear the Blair model in tortoise from the premium collection. They are lightweight and do not give me a headache. Since I don't need corrective lenses, I wear the no power version. If I needed reading correction or prescription, you're in luck - both are offered.

There are a variety of frame options available in both men and ladies. Here are 4 of my favorite Phonetic guy frames:
Here are my 4 favorite Phonetic ladies frames (not including the Blair, which was obviously my favorite of all).
Now it's time for a GIVEAWAY!

Phonetic is giving one of my readers a pair of their amazing computer eyewear. Head over to their website: https://phoneticeyewear.com and let me know in a comment below which you would choose if you won. Be sure to log your entry in through the rafflecopter widget below for your chance to get additional entries.

I also have a Phonetic Eyewear discount code for my readers! Use WINE10 for 10% off your purchase!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

runDisney announces Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World

I've sensed this announcement coming for a long long time now and I'm feel a bit like Yoda. The Power of Darth Vader Meets the Magic of Disney.......runDisney announced  yesterday that Walt Disney World is joining Disneyland by adding Star Wars themed running weekend - The Dark Side April 14-17 in Florida. This weekend will feature a brand new Kessel Run Challenge and Dark Side Challenge! While I am not a Star Wars junkie, I will be signing up next month for this challenge to add this medal collection to my lineup! Oh and check out the finish ares: IT IS A BRAND NEW HALF MARATHON COURSE.  It will begin at Epcot, run through Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios and finishes at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex!
Registration for Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend will begin on September 22nd and passholder registration typically happens 2 weeks prior.  Being this is an inaugural race weekend, it will sell out so be sure to sign up for email alerts and set a calendar reminder on registration day.

The weekend will look a bit like this.
Star Wars 5K
Friday, April 15, 2016 6:00 am
Start/Finish: Epcot®

Star Wars 10K
Saturday, April 16, 2016 5:30 a.m.
Start: Epcot®
Finish: ESPN Wide World of Sports

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side
Sunday, April 17, 2016 5:00 a.m.
Start: Epcot® Resort
Finish: ESPN Wide World of Sports
From the official press release: 
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL (Aug. 25, 2015) – runDisney is summoning the Force today to announce another Star Wars-inspired intergalactic journey, this time to the dark side.

The “Star Wars Half Marathon – the Dark Side” enters the galaxy April 14-17, 2016, at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and pays homage to the dark side forces of the Star Wars universe. This new race follows the debut of the popular Star Wars-themed race at Disneyland Resort, which will return in January as the “Star Wars Half Marathon – the Light Side”.
“Ever since we launched the Star Wars race at Disneyland Resort, runners have been clamoring for more, so we’re thrilled to bring the Star Wars franchise together with the runDisney brand to Walt Disney World Resort,’’ said Maribeth Bisienere, senior vice president of Disney Sports Enterprises. “If the inaugural Star Wars race at Disneyland Resort is any indication, this new running adventure to the dark side is sure to be the out-of-this-world experience that runners have come to expect at runDisney events.’’

The new Star Wars race at Walt Disney World Resort will be a journey of personal achievement all its own, involving kids’ races, a 5K and a 10K in addition to the half marathon, plus a variety of Star Wars experiences, medals, events and merchandise inspired by a galaxy far, far away. Among its many features will be a unique 13.1-mile course that propels runners through Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios and finishes at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. There will also be a Star Wars Dark Side Challenge — running the 10K and the half marathon on consecutive days – that offers each finisher a Death Star-themed medal.

Jedi and Sith Lords who dare to experience both Star Wars races will have the chance to take on the Kessel Run Challenge — completing the Star Wars half marathon missions on both coasts. Kessel Run Challenge runners can earn a commemorative “Coast to Coast” medal inspired by the Millennium Falcon starship. Race registration opens Sept. 22 at www.runDisney.com.

The addition of this second Star Wars race continues the recent wave of significant growth and popularity of runDisney events domestically and internationally. This is the second new runDisney race announced for 2016, joining the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend (Sept. 23-25 at Disneyland Paris), and the fourth addition to the runDisney series in the last two years (Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland Jan. 2015 and Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend Nov. 2014).

Each year more than 200,000 runners sign up for runDisney events, which often sell out in record time.

“We are committed to creating extraordinary experiences and events that appeal to runners of all ages and attract even more fans of our various brands and franchises to the sport of running, creating opportunities for them to live a healthier and more active lifestyle,’’ said Bisienere.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Original Cocktail Tour New Orleans

When you've been to the same city 9 times in 3 years, you begin to feel like a local. This is the case for my husband and I in New Orleans. We have a routine, we go to the same restaurants and are almost in a rut (a rut we love). We decided to do a few things different this trip. We went on a tour, museums and had a wonderful experience.
We went on New Orleans Original Cocktail Tour and had no idea what to expect. The last thing either of us wanted was a booze fest bar hop and thankfully this tour was far from that. We did not visit Bourbon Street but instead, 4 of New Orleans classic Bars. This 2 1/2 hour walking tour is full of culture and history of the city. Our tour guide was very informative and we learned so much about the city we have been to 9 times already. There are multiple bars they choose from and on this tour, we visited Tujague's, Pirates Alley, Court of Two Sisters and Antoine's - we had only been to one of those 4 locations in our past.
Tujague's was established in 1856 and is full of history. This is the oldest stand up bar (no bar stools) in America. The grasshopper was invented here and the word Brunch was started here! This restaurant has a guest book which goes on for days. I had a Pimm's Cup and Gabe had a Grasshopper to start off our Cocktail Tour.
Tony Seville's Pirate's Alley Cafe was our second stop. This was the one location we have visited before - on our first trip to New Orleans together. It was a stop on a ghost tour and this alley is said to be very haunted. This is also one of New Orleans Absinthe houses. Absinthe  was banned in 1912 in the United States but made legal again in 2007 in 8 states, Louisiana being one of them.
I wasn't a fan of the green fairy drink the first time I had it and I stand firm on that the second time around. Luckily, we learned our lesson the first time and split one vs. getting two. Very cool bar though - and they do have much more than Absinthe. I strongly suggest anyone going to NOLA to have at least one cocktail here (it is cash only).
The Court of Two Sisters was our third stop of the tour. While I've never dined here, I am very familiar with their famous Sunday brunch. We typically leave on Sunday's and have yet to experience the Jazz brunch but I was excited to see the inside of this gorgeous restaurant. Around 1886, this property was bought and turned into a dress shop called The Shop of the Two Sisters. It was the finest shop in the town and specialized in formal gowns and Mardi Gras costumes. Over time, the property was passed through multiple ownership's, eventually turned into The Court of Two Sisters in 1963 and has been a popular New Orleans establishment ever since.
We tried two different drinks at The Court of Two Sisters - their signature cocktail, the Bayou Bash and the Golden Coconut. It is also believed to have the best mint julep in town. Mint Juleps are very strong and we had one last stop to go.
Our final stop was Antoine's Restaurant, the country's oldest family-run restaurant. Antoine's is a massive establishment, with multiple dining rooms and private dining areas. Multiple presidents have dined here and there is even a Mystery room, which came from the prohibition era. All the dining rooms are adorned with photographs and memorabilia from it's famous diners.
We arrived at Antoine's during happy hour and I was delighted to learn that champagne was $5 a glass. Gabe went with the Side Car. We were both hungry and learned of an appetizer which cannot be missed here. The Souffle Potatoes, a fried puff potato. While it may not sound special - it truly is. Antoine's is one of 3 places in the world who can make this dish. It's a deep fried potato, double fried at 800 degrees, which makes the insides explode. It's essentially a hollow potato puff and out of this world delicious.
Other fun facts from the tour: it is said New Orleans invented the cocktail! The Sazerac was the pioneer, where an apothecary by the name of Peychaud (of bitters fame) served a mixed brandy drink in a French eggcup. Eventually the drink was named coquetier, the French term for an eggcup. Peychaud's guests shortened the name to “cocktay,” and eventually it became “cocktail.
If you are in New Orleans and looking to mix fun with culture and history, I strongly suggest the Original Cocktail Tour New Orleans. It is $29 a person and drinks are not included. However, you learn so much about the city. Both my husband and I would do this tour again in a heart beat.

Disclaimer: New Orleans CVB provided me with comped tickets to this tour. You can find tours like this and others on their website, facebook, twitter and instagram. As always, all opinions are my own.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hyatt Regency New Orleans

What a weekend! My husband and I got back LATE last night from a 3 day quick trip to our favorite city, New Orleans. According to Time Hop, we were there exactly 2 years ago for our engagement shoot at Oak Alley Plantation and securing our wedding Venue at Hotel Mazarin. Normally those reminders would have made me depressed but reliving the steps was really neat! Exactly two years later, we found ourselves in the city we got married at one month away from our one year wedding anniversary!
We drove from Tampa to New Orleans which takes about 9 hours (plus you get an hour back on the way up!) if you don't stop too many times. It's an easy drive with no traffic so we downloaded an audio book (The Girl on the Train) and headed off. Instead of driving straight through (which in hindsight, I wish we did), we stopped overnight in Mobile and headed off first thing Friday morning, arriving in NOLA at 9:30am. It was an amazing short trip and I have so much to write about, but first - let's talk about Hyatt Regency New Orleans.
WOW. That is the first thing I will say about Hyatt Regency New Orleans. My breath was taken away when we walked through the doors. This downtown New Orleans hotel is massive, with nearly 1,200 rooms and stunning views of the city. Located next door to the Super Dome and Smoothie King Center, you are also a few blocks away from all the popular New Orleans attractions (French Quarter, Convention Center, Mississippi Riverfront) and the Loyola Avenue Streetcar passes directly in front of the hotel. You get the convenience of the city without being in hustle and bustle of the French Quarter.
The expansive lobby had multiple areas for sitting. This is when I started to notice how contemporary this hotel was, which lead me to ask about renovations. I found out that the Hyatt Regency New Orleans only reopened in 2011 due to Hurricane Katrina. It took them 6 years to rebuild. Normally I wouldn't bring something like this up in a hotel review but this week is the 10 year anniversary of Katrina. Although we have been to New Orleans 9 times, this was the first time we have stayed somewhere that was impacted to this extreme by the storm. It is hard to believe the photo below was the same hotel we stayed in this weekend.
Hyatt Regency New Orleans Katrina Damage
When we checked in, I was told that we were upgraded to a suite. There is a great promotion going on through December 31st called the Suite Escape where you can get a room upgrade. I have had the great opportunity to stay in a few Hyatt suites before - but NOTHING like this one. I could have lived here. Actually, my husband and I were trying to figure out how to stay there forever.
We had a Superior Suite with panoramic views of New Orleans. The room boasted two full bathrooms, a separate king bedroom, a huge living room with a pullout sleeper sofa and two couches, a high top table with chairs and two TV's.
The interactive TV's welcomed me by name. You can order room service, browse the internet, order entertainment, see what is going on in the city and more. The room service feature was amazing and unlike anything I have seen in other hotels.
The separate king room was very comfortable. We had problems getting up in the morning - I swear this has nothing to do with going out the night before ;) 
Sadly, my Cannon decided to stop working on this trip and I had to get the majority of my photos with my iPhone. However, the views are still breathtaking looking back on them now.

I had a scheduled 13.1 mile run during this trip. Instead of doing it all in one day, I split it up over multiple days and added on walking mileage. We ended up walking over 10 miles on both Friday and Saturday and then I hit the treadmill Sunday prior to leaving, we headed to the gym. While it wasn't 13.1 consecutive miles, we still got in a total of 27 miles over 3 days.
 The StayFit Gym at Hyatt Regency New Orleans is open 24 hours and had spin bikes, free weights, elliptical machines, treadmills and more.. I normally hate running on the treadmills but with views overlooking the city and being able to choose an interactive running course (I chose New Zealand), I was pretty content and broke a 5K PR!!!! That says a lot after 2 straight days of eating and drinking heavily.
After leaving the gym, we hit up Starbuck's which is located inside of the hotel. for the 10,000th time in my life, I was thankful for the Starbuck's app!
There are multiple dining options at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. We had a few cocktails at the Vitascope Hall and also brunch at 8 Block Kitchen & Bar Saturday morning (more on that later). Vitascope Hall just won best sushi in New Orleans and they have daily specials. They also have really cool interactive iPhone and Android app that allows you to control the music - being the DJ.
We decided to sample some of Vitascope's cocktails - Hollygrove Key Lime, Street Car Named Loyola, Picante Mango Yaya and Ponchatoula Strawberry Mint Shrub Cocktail. Their entire line of hand crafted cocktails would impress any mixologist snob.
Overall, we were extremely impressed by Hyatt Regency New Orleans and we will be back. For those looking to run the Rock n Roll New Orleans race in 2016, the start line is very close to Hyatt Regency (if they keep the same course). It is the perfect place to stay if you want to be a few blocks away from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter. There is even complimentary Jazz every Friday and Saturday at 8 Block Bar.
See ya next time Hyatt Regency New Orleans!

Disclaimer: I paid for the hotel out of my own pocket and did not receive any monetary compensation for this post.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Train with Coach Kastor for your next Marathon - ASICS 12 week Marathon Training Plan

One of the many things I am blessed by my partnership with ASICS America is being coached by professional Marathon Coach Andrew Kastor. He helped me achieve the impossible at 2014 with the TCS NYC Marathon. I only had two months to train and within those two months, my destination wedding and two week long honeymoon. I still managed to pull of a 35 minute PR with non favorable weather conditions. Moving forward to 2015, Coach Kastor is currently working to get me ready for the Dublin Marathon (10 weeks from today!).
Now Coach Kastor can help achieve your Marathon goals too! He worked with ASICS to create a 12 week marathon training guide which you can use along with the MyASICS app (which I strongly suggest) to personalize with your age, gender and specific race goals.
2014 #TeamASICS NYC Marathon team with Coach Andrew Kastor & his wife, Olympic Medalist & American Record Holder Deena Kastor
Click here to be taken to ASICS 12 Week Marathon Training Guide if you are having problems reading the one below. This is a fantastic 12 week plan that will help you achieve your specific goals. Along with the plan, Coach Kastor also gave 10 Marathon training tips below.


PROFESSIONAL MARATHON COACH KASTOR’S TRAINING TIPS

1. Train on the right surface
Coach Kastor explains that during most of your training, it’s important to run on a surface that is similar to the one that you will encounter on race day. This surface is typically pavement, which causes the mid-sole of your shoe to breakdown, so make sure to replace your training shoes every 250-300 miles if training mainly on pavement.

2. Mix up your surfaces
Change up your surfaces (dirt or trail) during mid-week training sessions to diffuse the impact on your body. Running on grass, wet sand, dirt trails or tracks will activate and strengthen different muscles, helping prevent injury and fatigue. Also train for hills to practice running down them softly, which reduces the impact on your body.

3. Train at a variety of speeds
Focus most of your marathon training at a comfortable, steady pace, but add quick, short distance strides (gentle sprints) into your various sessions. Incorporating strides improves speed development, muscular power, stride length and flexibility, helping to keep you injury free.

4. Test your performance to reach your goal
Calculate your goal marathon race pace with MyASICS and evaluate if this pace is too difficult to maintain during your Goal Marathon Race Pace Runs (GMRP). Your pace should be comfortable, so if you can’t maintain this pace, add 10-15 seconds per mile the next week to your GMRP run and reevaluate your goal pace for the marathon.

5. Eat and drink like you would on race day
Practice drinking the same fluids (electrolyte-replacement drinks), gels, blocks or beans that you will be taking on race day to teach your body to process and digest comfortably before race day. You should also try eating the exact meal that you will ingest the morning of the race during your final runs.

6. Break in your race day shoes
Log 50-100 miles in your race day shoes prior to running the marathon. Train in your planned race day shoe/sock combination during the last few weeks leading up to your race. This will help ensure that you have happy feet for all 26.2 miles!

7. Get out of your sweaty clothes
Sitting around in your sweaty clothes tends to rapidly cool down your body and causes your muscles to tighten or seize up, leading to injuries. Slip into some dry workout gear to keep you dry and injury free.

8. Make time and arrangements to adequately recover
Massage therapy, cool baths, sleep and nutrition are critical to helping your body rebuild itself during your rigorous marathon training schedule. If you don’t have the budget for professional massages, soaking in cool (50-55 degree) water for 10-15 minutes and then elevating your feet will help reduce inflammation and speed the recovery any damaged tissues.

9. Mentally prepare yourself for race day
If you’ve been keeping a training log, revisit it to remind yourself of the dedication and hard work you’ve put forth to come this far. Knowing how much you have prepared will boost your confidence going into the race.

10. Make the most out of last days leading up to race
Rest, relax, eat well, stay hydrated, sleep, and participate in activities that help you take your mind of the big task ahead.