Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Introducing Caffeinated Club Soda - Soda Water with a twist

I will be the first to admit, I am a monster if I do not have caffeine. When Gabe and I did our wedding diet cleanse a few months ago, I thought the hardest thing to let go would be sugar and wine - was caffeine. On a daily basis, I do not consume a ton of caffeine. I drink a cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of tea in the afternoon. Sometimes I go wild child and drink TWO cups of tea in a day! While I am far from an 8 cup of coffee a day person, caffeine is something that I must have on a daily basis.
There have been mornings when I wake up and do not want coffee, opting for something more refreshing. I am not a soda drinker so that limits my options and I try to avoid overly sugary products. Another problem I have with coffee is that it is inconvenient. Waiting for it to brew, not being able to drink right away because of the temperature and of course, the dreaded coffee breath.

When Caffeinated Club Soda asked me to try out their line of club soda infused with caffeine, I knew I would fall in love.  Caffeinated Club Soda has about the same caffeine as an equivalent serving of Coca Cola. Here is what you will not find in Caffeinated Club Soda: Calories, sugars, colors and artificial sweeteners.

This drink comes in multiple flavors: Caffeinated Club® Clear Club Soda Caffeinated Club® Lemon Club Soda Caffeinated Club® Orange Grapefruit Club Soda Caffeinated Club® Raspberry Club Soda. Wile I didn't get a chance to try this one - Caffeinated Club® just came out with Super Tonic!
Another thing Caffeinated Club® is the perfect for - mixing with vodka. For years now, my go to drink of choice is vodka, soda water and a splash of cranberry. I hope one day that Caffeinated Club Soda will create a cranberry flavor! Talk about the best of both worlds!! Plus caffeinated club uses only triple filtered water for a crisper beverage with a cleaner aftertaste.

I was fortunate to receive two cases of Caffeinated Club Soda for this review. I am going to give one case to my parents since they go through club soda like it's nobody's business. You can order Caffeinated Club Soda online and shipping is FREE anywhere in the continental US.

You can follow Caffeinated Club Soda Twitter | Facebook Instagram

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What's on your holiday playlist and shopping list - Bluetooth JBL Flip 2 Speakers #giveaway #GiftingAudio

This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GiftingAudio

It's hard to believe Thanksgiving will be here in two days. This year has FLOWN by and it's time to start thinking about holiday shopping. This girl will not be among the crowds on Friday - I prefer online shopping over going to the store any day. If you know me, or follow this blog, you are aware that we are always on the go. If I were to guess, I would say we spend one weekend at home out of every two months. Gabe and I always seem to find ourselves in situations where we wished we had a Portable audio device that played high quality music. Enter  JBL Flip 2 Speakers.

This powerful portable device hooks up to your phone via bluetooth and is perfect for trips to the beach, impromptu dinner parties, poolside, and BBQ's. It's also great for conference calls - the JBL Flip 2 Speakers has a built-in microphone which allows you to answer calls through it's speakerphone! Super convenient for me since I work from home and spend half of my week on conference calls.

Our JBL Flip 2 Speakers will be coming along with us on our Thanksgiving trip this week. It even comes with a hard-shell carrying case, perfect for those on the go like us. These speakers are currently sold via online shopping through for only $99.95 with FREE Ground Shipping and returns. Way more convenient than shopping at midnight on Friday, spending your holiday standing in line with cranky people rather than home with your family.

We are hosting a JBL Flip 2 Speakers Giveaway! THIRTY lucky readers will receive one of these amazing speakers. Let me know what is on your holiday playlist and make sure you enter the contest through the widget below. Ours holiday playlist is listed below! Enjoy :) #GiftingAudio Sweepstakes

The Copello Holiday Playlist
Carol of the Bells; Mannheim Steamroller
Little Drummer Boy; Michael Buble
Winter Wonderland; James Taylor
Santa Baby; Colbie Calillat
A Mad Russian's Christmas; Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Baby it's cold outside; James Taylor (featuring Natalie King Cole)
Please Come Home For Christmas; Aaron Neville
Happy Xmas (War is Over); John Lennon
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire); Aaron Neville
All I Want For Christmas Is You; Mariah Carey
Christmas is Starting Now; Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Jingle Bells; Michael Buble (featuring Puppini Sisters)
Santa Claus is Coming to Town; Michael Buble
Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer; Jack Johnson
Let it Snow; Straight no Chaser
Last Christmas; Diana Krall
Silver Bells; Tony Bennett
Blue Christmas; Michael Buble

Want to run Rock n Roll NOLA and help a child in need?

My 2015 race calendar consists of two races (for now). One of which is Rock n Roll New Orleans Half Marathon, taking place on January 25. Are you looking to run this event with us? Here is your chance to make your miles meaningful.

Feed the Children wants every child to feel the joy of running and playing and just being a kid. They aligned with Rock n Roll Marathon Series to end child hunger - and here's how you can help. Run or walk on Jan. 25 with Team Feed the Children and you'll be partnering in their vision: Creating a world where no child goes to bed hungry.
If you are familiar with other charity marathon groups (upwards of thousands), this is a super easy fundraising goal of only $350 for the 10K and $650 for the 1/2 Marathon. Not only will you help a child in need, you will get some perks as a thank you!

  • Complimentary entry into the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, or 10K benefiting Feed the Children 
  • Professional coaching to get you walking or running to the finish line with a smile 
  • Personal online fundraising page to help you raise money for the cause 
  • Access to exclusive social events, pre-race celebration, and more 
  • The pride of making a real and lasting change in the lives of children in your community 
* Team Feed the Children encourages fundraising goals, although participants can be a part of the Team by raising what they can.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Caramel Pumpkin Pie Shooters Recipe #ThankfullySweet

This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ThankfullySweet

I don't know about you but I cannot wait for Thanksgiving. We rented a house in Orlando with Gabe's family. This will be our first Thanksgiving as Husband and Wife and I will be cooking up a storm!! I am responsible for 4 side dishes, a ham and dessert! Wednesday night is going to be a busy one for me. Our meal is planned for 1pm so we can head to the Magic Kingdom afterwards and walk off the Turkey. 
I normally don't have a sweet tooth but Thanksgiving is one of those times I will eat anything put in front of me. While I love pies, I have a texture issue with piecrust. If a pie is in front of me, I only eat the filling which makes pumpkin pie difficult. That's when I thought to make Pumpkin Pie shooters thanks to the influence of pinterest. Instead of using pie crust, I used caramel corn over Cool Whip giving it a salted caramel flavor.
This wasn't my original plan for my deconstructed pumpkin pie recipe. I had a grand idea to make pumpkin pie pops. I don't want to discuss the ending results or the amount of Mrs. Smith's pies I went through over the past three days. Back to my shooters!!!
This was a super easy dessert to deconstruct once I got the hang of it. I took the pumpkin pie mixture, placed it on the bottom of my dessert glass, topped with cool whip, followed with crushed caramel corn. Not only are they cute, they are delicious. The caramel corn was perfect with the pumpkin pie.
Caramel Pumpkin Pie Shooters Recipe:
Mrs. Smiths Pumpkin Pie
Heavy Whipping Cream
Cool Whip
Caramel Corn

Cook pie according to directions. Let cool all the way. Puree the filling with a tablespoon at a time of heavy whipping cream, until you get a pudding like consistency. You can also substitute with a cream based liquor for an adult version (Bailey's makes a salted caramel).
Fill each shooter 2/3 with the pumpkin mixture
Top with Cool Whip
Crush Caramel Corn and place on top. Serve immediately
While purchasing these items at Walmart in Tampa, I learned about a great website called Cooking Up Good. They have recipes, sweepstakes, loyalty programs, coupons and more! What's not to love? If you're looking for a new dinner idea or a chance to win some awesome prizes, be sure to check it out!

From now through December 10th, you can save $1 when you purchase both Mrs. Smith's Pie and Cool Whip. Click here for more information. 

Giving Back - Community Connections during the Holiday Season #SimplyHealthy

This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SimplyHealthy

Something I do not talk enough about on this blog is my personal and professional involvement with the communities I work and live in. I co-lead an initiative at work to promote and encourage volunteerism among our co-workers. I also project manage an international day where all of our offices throughout the world give back to their community. Volunteerism is something I am passionate about and my goal in 2015 is to become even more involved.
I was first introduced to the New Image Youth Center through our annual Day of Giving Back at work. It was one of two charities our Orlando office volunteered at.  New Image Youth Center aims to improve the lives of youth by providing an environment where students feel safe to dream, and to support the realization of dreams through programs designed to foster academic, social, and physical well-being.
New Image is located in Parramore, one of the worst communities in Orlando. In most recent studies, of the 73% of Parramores 2,000 children lived in poverty and 84% were in single parent households. 47% of Parramore adults had neither a high school diploma nor GED and the median household income was $13,613. Parramore had the City's highest rate of reported child abuse and neglect, a juvenile arrest rate 2½ times that of Orlando's citywide rate and a teen birth rate nearly six times the rate of the surrounding county.
Since the new Image Youth Center was founded, they have had a 100% success rate with their students graduating high school Six of whom have gone onto college. None of the kids who attend New Image Youth Center have been in the juvenile system and teenage pregnancy is down. They help in the community and have grown up to become amazing young adults.
While doing my bi-weekly Sam's shopping trip, I found myself picking up a few extra items after reading the Healthy Living Made Simple article on volunteering. You can download the interactive magazine by clicking here. We decided to do a two month food and clothing drive at work for New Image. The items below are what I purchased from Sam's.

During this trip, I grabbed multiple canned vegetables, canned soup, 12 boxes of macaroni and cheese and 3 boxes of cereal.  If you are able to pick up one item during every shopping trip to donate to a local food bank or shelter, it would really help. 
How do you give back to your community?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Savory and Spice pairing at Maritana Grille at Lowes Don CeSar and a Cyber Monday deal

When two foodie mecca's in St. Petersburg partner up, you better be prepared to be wowed.  Maritana Grille at Loews Don CeSar teamed up with Savory Spice Shop of St. Pete and created a spectacular tasting menu which features four-courses. The "Savory and Spice" tasting highlights exotic spices and offers a diverse selection of both seafood and beef.  Each diner has an option of two items for the four courses. There is also a wine pairing option available. Gabe and I had a chance to check out the new "Savory and Spice" menu the other night and we couldn't have been more impressed.

Savory & Spice First Course
Jamon Iberico or Marlin
marlin sashimi
The Marlin Sashimi was as delicious as it was stunning in presentation. Topped with lotus root and a pomegranate sorbet. The flavors complemented each other well. The spices used from Savory Spice Shop were thai chilies and coconut oil. This dish was paired with Vincent Delaporte Sauvignon Blanc 2012.
jamon iberico
Don't let looks fool you - the Jamon Iberico was one of the highlights of our meal. Ibérico Jamón from Spain is valued at $100 a lb and is considered by many to be the finest cured ham in the world. The spices used from Savory Spice Shop were Melina international Organic Olive Oil and Lemon Grass. It was truly amazing. This dish was paired with Champalou Chenin Blanc, 2011.

Savory & Spice Second Course
Diver Scallop & Palmetto Creek Pork
diver scallop & ox tail ravioli
When I first received the tasting menu, this was the dish that excited me the most. A seared diver scallop over a deconstructed ox tail “ravioli” with shaved truffle. The spices used from Savory Spice Shop were Italian Black truffle sea salt and Porcini Mushroom. This dish lasted all about 3 seconds on our plate. It was every bit amazing as I imagined it would be. This dish was paired with Crabby Range Proprietary Blend, 2011.
palmetto creek pork with pumpkin gnocchi
The locally raised Palmetto Creek Pork with Pumpkin Gnocchi was also a home run. This dish had Quince, Pumpkin Spice and Star Anise in it and was full of flavor. The spices used from Savory Spice Shop were pumpkin spice and star anise. One thing that impressed me was that the dish wasn't overly pumpkin. So many times, pumpkin will overtake all the other flavors but not the case here, it had just the right amount. This dish was paired with Joel Gott Zinfandel, 2011.

Savory & Spice Third Course
Anderson Ranch Lamb Rack & Sea Bass
sea bass with rice grits
This dish. WOW. Perfectly seared sea bass over anson mills "rice grits" with saffron, asparagus, chard tomato and a lemon verbena sauce. The spices used from Savory Spice Shop were saffron and maldon sea salt. Every bite was better than the next and we found ourselves fighting over the last bite. Of all the dishes we had this night, the Sea Bass was my favorite. This dish was paired with Antica Chardonnay, 2009.
anderson ranch lamb rack
Our last entree course of the night was an Anderson Ranch Lamb Rack with fiji apple, foraged mushrooms, glace onions and a sherry sauce. The spices used from Savory Spice Shop were fennel pollen and maldon sea salt. I loved the addition of the apples to this dish. This dish was paired with Orogeny Pinot Noir, 2011.

Savory & Spice Third Course
Artisan Cheese & Frozen Espresso Parfait
frozen espresso parfait
The Frozen espresso parfait was pretty amazing. I was pretty full at this time and only had one bite but the spiced hot chocolate was the perfect touch to this dish. The spices used from Savory Spice Shop were hot chile cocoa and coffee extract. This dish was paired with Broadbent Maderia. 
artisan cheese
When we were in Europe a few months ago, I noticed many restaurants offered a cheese plate for dessert. It didn't make sense to me, until now. Cheese at the end of a meal is very satisfying. Especially if you don't have a sweet tooth like me. The almonds were coated in a truffle glaze - oh my wow. The four cheeses were accompanied by a rose petal jam. Although we were full, this dish got cleaned. The spices used from Savory Spice Shop were rose petal and wild flower honey.

The new tasting menu is just the start of a long-term partnership between Loews Don CeSar and Savory Spice Shop St. Pete. The two are planning to host a series of specialty dinners in Maritana Grille in 2015, as well as cooking demonstrations, culinary tours and more. When you book your table, ask to be seated with CeSar, Maritana Grille's famous Eel.
CeSar the EEL at Maritana Grill
Cyber Monday Sale & book directly through Facebook!

Loews is offering 20% off stays throughout 2015 on Monday, the biggest e-shopping day of the year. Starting December 1st, you can book your hotel stay directly through Facebook and twitter! This year’s Cyber Monday offer is available for 24 hours only on December 1, 2014, and applies to all hotel stays in 2015, based on availability. You can book this deal through, the Loews Reservations Center (855-74-LOEWS), Twitter and Facebook.

Follow Loews Don CeSar on Facebook | Twitter 
Follow Savory Spice Shop on Facebook | Twitter

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Visiting The Colosseum, Rome Italy - Honeymoon

Rome was the second to last destination on our European honeymoon. We arrived to our hotel and instantly headed for the Colosseum. We bought our Colosseum tickets in advance which and did not have to wait in line. Our ticket included touring the Colosseum, the roman forum and the palatine.
While Rome wasn't my favorite city during our honeymoon, being inside the Colosseum was unlike anything I've ever experienced. It's hard to conceptualize the amount of history that lied inside the walls and being inside a structure that was built in the first century honestly leaves you speechless.
The Colosseum was giant - much larger than I anticipated. It held between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests, public spectacles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology.
After we left the Colosseum, we ventured over to the neighboring Roman Forum. At this point, I wished we did a guided tour so we would know what everything was. However, after fighting through multiple tour group after multiple tour group, I quickly changed my min.

After we were finished at the Roman Forum, we headed to Palatine Hill. Being able to walk in remains of homes that belonged to gardens of Imperial Rulers was truly enchanting. 

The Colosseum was my favorite part of Rome. If we were to do it all over again, we would have taken the train into Rome and stayed in Florence (it's only an hour train ride). In a weird way, the area of Rome we were in reminded me of times square. Not my cup of tea, but you can't miss seeing it if you are in the area.

Rock Marathon Series 2015 tour announced and a one day sale

The 2015 Rock n Roll Marathon tour was officially announced with the return of Rock n Roll Brooklyn! Today only, you can register to run Rock n Roll marathon series with the lowest prices of the season. Races start as low as $59! Click here to see all of the cities and one day prices.

As part of the Rock n Roll Blogger team, I will receive a 3 day "tour pass". This pass (retailed at $199) allows me to run any 3 Rock n Roll races in the US. We are already committed to New Orleans in January but I have no idea what the other two races will be. Rock n Roll created a virtual running calendar which lets you create your tour stops. Here are the two options I am thinking of:
The ending results could very well be a mix of those two. However, those are the 5 I am torn between. Decisions Decisions......

What #MYRNRTOUR are you running this year?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Trio of Party Dips, Delicious Party Food #SeasonedGreetings

This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SeasonedGreetings

It's hard to believe November is almost over. I am in full Thanksgiving mode, googling holiday party recipes all day long. This year we are doing things a little different for the big turkey day, renting a large house in Orlando with Gabe's family. I am looking forward to spending time with our family, going shopping, watching college football and of course, going to Disney.
One thing I love about Thanksgiving is being able to cook all day. Cooking is my way of relieving stress and nothing makes me happier than spending all day in the kitchen. While our Thanksgiving menu is well underway, our Saturday menu is lacking delicious party food ideas. Saturday after Thanksgiving is a BIG day in our household - the Florida vs. Florida State game. We are a split household..... I'm the Gator fan and Gabe is the Seminole. Let's just say I am not so pleased with how the past few years have gone, so I will be spending quite a bit of time in the kitchen so I don't throw things at the TV. Here are three flavorful party dips that would please everyone and you can use throughout the Holiday season.

Corn Guacamole
This is a delicious concoction I came up with one day due to lack of ripe avocados. I only had one avocado and we needed guacamole. So I added corn, jalapenos, red peppers, cilantro and lime juice. It's delicious with chips and also on salads. Combine the ingredients below and serve immediately.
  • 1 Avocado, diced
  • 1 Red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon or more of TABASCO Jalapeno Green Pepper Sauce
  • 1/8 cup fresh Cilantro
  • Juice of one lime
Peanut Hummus with a Twist
This is what I call an accident gone right. I found a recipe on Tabasco's website for Peppery Peanut Hummus. I followed right along and accidentally grabbed my ground ginger instead of ground cumin. I realized too late and decided to continue with both ginger and cumin. The flavor ended up reminding me of Thai food. I loved it!! Combine all the ingredients below in a blender (I used my blendtec) or food processor and blend for 1 minute or until smooth.
  • 1 can of chick peas, undrained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon TABASCO original red sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
  • Optional 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Chipotle Black Bean Dip

I created this delicious dip from another one of TABASCO's recipes I found online for Smoky black bean dip. Theirs calls for cheese which I left out to keep it healthy. This was delicious and leftovers would be amazing in a steak burrito!
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 diced white onion (I used vidalia)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans black beans, one drained, the other with the juice
  • 1 can diced green chilies
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons TABASCO Chipotle Pepper Sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Optional 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Heat oil in a skillet, add onion and cook until softened (5 min), add garlic, cook another minute. Add green chilies and cook 1 minute, then add both cans of black beans, salt and water. Simmer for 5 minutes.  If you are using cheese, add at this step. I poured the mixture into my blendtec and hit pulse for a few minutes, so I would have a creamy dip. TABASCO's website suggests using a potato masher but it was too chunky for my taste.

I purchased my TABASCO products at Publix in Tampa, FL. I was surprised to see the multiple sizes and flavors that TABASCO comes in these days. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why you should do a first look wedding shoot

I will be honest, when it was first suggested for us to do a first look wedding shoot, I was very apprehensive. Having having a second line parade between the ceremony and reception practically forced us to do our wedding portraits before we got married. That meant Gabe would see me hours before we said "I Do" and I thought that would take some of the magic out of the day.

Boy was I wrong. Having a first look was by far one of the best decisions we made on our wedding. I strongly encourage any brides to be to have a first look. Here are my top 5 reasons why a first look is a great idea.

  1. You have intimate photos of the first time you see each other
  2. It's just the two of you and your photographer(s) - it felt like the calmness before the storm
  3. You can have your family photos directly after the first look, allowing more time to spend with guests at the reception
  4. You have less of a chance of crying at the ceremony
  5. You can enjoy cocktail hour with your guests vs. taking wedding portraits.

The girls and I had just gotten back from getting our hair and makeup done while the guys were downstairs doing their photos. I was instructed to go on the balcony/veranda of our suite at Hotel Mazarin because Gabe was on his way up. I was SO SO SO nervous. Here was the first times we saw each other......

This is when Gabe told me I was beautiful and I almost started to cry. At this point, I was super thankful we did the first look because I knew I had less of a chance crying at the ceremony.
Same shot, opposite angle - and it cracks me up - why is he grabbing my arm so hard!?
I have no words for this photo. Apparently I said something really funny.

After the first look, we did our family photos and our wedding party photos in the courtyard of Hotel Mazarin. They were setting up for our cocktail party and the only thing I would have changed was for the tables to not be in the photos.

Would you do a first look photo shoot?