Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cruising Carnival - Visiting Grand Lucayan, Freeport Bahamas

I was first introduced to Grand Lucayan two years ago while our cruise ship was in port at Freeport Bahamas. When Keri and I picked the itinerary of our post marathon cruise and saw Freeport was on the agenda, we both instantly agreed a return trip to Grand Lucayan was in store for us.
Grand Lucayan is a 15 minute cab ride when you get off your cruise ship. There are plenty of taxi's to take you to the resort and they charge $10 a person, round trip. Grand Lucayan charges you $15 a day to use their resort and it is well worth every penny.
There are a ton of pools to lounge at Grand Lucayan along with white sand beaches. Make sure you bring a towel because there is a towel fee to use one of theirs. The first thing we did was grab a cocktail and head to the poolside bar.
That's when "it's a small world" happened. We were laying on our beach chairs, reading our gossip magazines and there was a group of 6 women next to us. I heard one of them say "Daytona Beach" and we instantly asked if they were from Daytona. One of the six lived there while the others had relatives residing in the area. We chatted for about 10 minutes and the conversation turned to a family friend. From there, we realized that one of them (Terri) is a friend of my Mom's and used to work with her. In fact, she was with my Mom the day she announced to her office that she was pregnant with me. They were on a girls cruise as well and happened to be on our ship! We spent quite a bit of time with them over the following days gambling and drinking cocktails. You never know who will be on your cruise ship!
After we took a million photos of the beach, Keri and I decided to go grab a bite to eat. During our last cruise to Freeport, we Billy Joe's Fish Fry was right outside of the gates. It was one of the best meals Keri and I have had in the islands. Our return visit didn't let us down - we split the platter ($25) plus two very strong drinks. Our lunch set us back around $50 after tip.

With full bellies and strong drinks, Keri and I headed back to check out the resort. This place is massive. On almost every angle, you will find coconut palms. Both visits there, we have had a very relaxed time with no crowds. It's truly the definition of the Bahamian culture. They have an amazing fitness center, spa, plenty of dining options and a casino. 




DIY Taco Bar and easy fish taco recipe #GameDayFavorites

This is a sponsored post from Old El Paso. As always, all opinions are my own. #GameDayFavorites #OEPGameDay

Superbowl Sunday is upon us and I have no clue what we are doing or where we will be watching the game! 2015 has started off hectic with travel, both professional and personal. We haven't been home on a weekend since New Years Eve! We typically have huge Super Bowl parties and I love trying out new Game Day Recipes. If we were having a Superbowl Party this year, I would have a DIY taco bar for my guests. I was introduced to this concept at a work function I threw a few months ago.
Taco Bar Essentials:
Filling (ground beef, ground turkey, pulled chicken, blackened fish)
Cheese (cheddar, cojita)
Tomatoes
Onions (white, pickled red)
Cilantro
Guacamole
Sour Cream
Crunchy Taco Shells
Tortillas
Cabbage Slaw
Limes
Salsa

You can prepare all of your fillings the night prior to the game. This way all you have to do is reheat and lay out day of. Put all of the toppings in individual bowls, allowing your guests to choose what they want to put in their tacos and you don't have to worry about the prep work!

I recently made a very simple yet delicious Fish Taco Recipe, using the Old El Paso Stand n Stuff Dinner Kit. These are by far my favorite taco shells since you can stuff them full of goodness without worrying about them falling apart in your hands.
Simple Fish Taco Recipe:
Old El Paso Stand n Stuff Dinner Kit
1 lb white fish without skin (I used cod)
Creamy Guacamole (recipe below)
Cabbage Slaw
Juice of 1 lime
Fresh Cilantro
2 tablespoons or more olive oil
Pickled Red Onions

Directions:
If you don't already have pickled red onions, make those first. You can make these up to two weeks in advance.
Season both sides of your fish with the enclosed taco seasoning packet.
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan
Cook your fish on med heat, 4 minutes each side. Remove from pan, set aside to cool enough to pull apart.
While fish is cooling, toss your cabbage slaw with lime juice and fresh cilantro
Place fish in each stand n stuff taco shell. Top with slaw, guacamole and pickled red onions.

Creamy Guacamole
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbl olive oil
3 ripe Avocados from Mexico
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 jalapeno

Directions
Combine all of the ingredients into a blender. I use the Blendtec and pulse for 7 seconds, or until creamy.

COUPON!
You can save $1 when you buy one package Old El Paso dinner kit, tortillas or taco shells and 2 Avocados From Mexico at Publix by clicking this Coupon link!

GIVEAWAY!
I am giving away a $15 digital PayPal giftcard to one reader. Head over to Old El Paso or Avocados from Mexico and let me know in a comment below which recipe you would like to make. I will use Rafflecopter to select the winner at random.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 Rock n Roll New Orleans Half Marathon Recap

On Sunday, I completed my 11th 13.1 - the Rock n Roll New Orleans Half Marathon. I am here to tell you that no matter how many half marathons or marathons you do, they do not always become easier. This was a rough one for me physically but thanks to beautiful sights on course, I pushed through it.
The Rock n Roll races start at 7:30, much different than the 2:30am wake-up call at runDisney. Gabe and I set our alarm clocks for 6:30, snoozed until 7:00, changed - grabbed coffee from across the street and leisurely made our way to the start line. We were in corral 7 and waited for our turn. I knew going in that this would be a tough 13.1 miles. Gabe was under trained and I was coming off of cruise sickness (or a severe hangover which lasted 4 days - your call).
Mile 1-3 was my roughest start of any race. It was cold and windy. I was having a very hard time breathing and felt like I was having an asthma attack.  I knew the Rock n Roll New Orleans course and was looking forward to getting into the Garden District, so I could mentally trick myself into thinking I was doing a running tour with 7,700 friends. It was a gorgeous day and I made sure we took some photos of the beautiful surroundings.
In the garden district, I saw my favorite sign to date. Just head over to my Rock n Blog profile if you want to see why I love this sign so much. I don't know you girlie but we could be besties!
When we made it to the turn around at mile 4.5 outside of Audobon Park, I was feeling great with a huge smile on my face. We were running through our favorite city in the US and couldn't wait to be done so I could eat everything in sight. Speaking of food, people were handing out King Cake to the runners! Gabe and I were just discussing King Cake with our friends Heather and Bobby the night before. I think this will be my first and last bite of the sugary madness.
Right after mile 5 is when all hell broke loose. The pavement in the Garden District is pretty bad. I am used to this running in poor street conditions in Ybor City but this was worse than I recall....uneven, broken and pot holes everywhere. When my right foot struck the pavement, I heard my knee pop and felt a sharp pain through my entire leg. For the record, this is the same leg that I have ankle issues with. I screamed out and knew something wasn't right. However, I pushed on, slowing us down to a much slower pace. Prior to this, we had a 10:30 pace on a 2/1 run walk.
I cried the entire time from mile 5-7. At one point, I almost fell because I couldn't put any pressure on my knee. I thought we were going to have our first DNF. I didn't wear a water belt and I desperately wanted to take my tylenol. If only this had happened a few minutes prior, I could have grabbed water at mile 5. We finally made it to the medic tent and got my knee wrapped. So I took random photos and cried a little more.
The knee wrapping helped significantly, as I know without the wrap, I would have never finished. However, I was miserable - photo above is proof of that. If looks could kill.....MEAN RUNNER!
Between miles 9-10, we found ourselves at Jackson Square, where we got married 4 months prior. This is when things got better for me since we were at our happy place. I knew we only had a little more than a 5K to go. I mentally broke down those 3 miles down and related them to the course we run at home . I knew we could finish, even with the pain I was going through. Hard to believe that 2 weeks prior, I finished my 4th full marathon with no pain and here I was mentally tricking myself to finish a half.
Once we got onto Esplanade, I knew it was a straight shoot to City Park. We rented a house off of Esplanade a few years ago when we came up for cake tasting and other wedding related duties. This area is where Frenchman Street is, one of our favorite hangouts in NOLA.
Right before we got into City Park, we passed St. Louis Cemetery #3 and I had to get a photo. It clearly defined how I felt at that point in time.
Then finally, we made it to the finish line with a smile on our faces. If it weren't for my knee, this race would have been amazing. It was not our best finish but wasn't our worst finish either. We pushed on and my husband was there to support my 1,000 hissy fits on the course.

I love the Rock n Roll series and look forward to running many more events in 2015 with them. Our next race up is Rock n Roll DC on March 14th.

Knee update: My knee is still tender and bothers me a little throughout the day but I do not feel it is severe enough to see a Dr. I have had knee issues since my teenage years, thanks to playing Catcher in Softball for over 10 years #kneeabuse. I am going to take off a week from running and do a few short runs next week. If it bothers me then, I will make a Dr. Appt. Keep your fingers crossed!

2015 Gasparilla Community Fund Charity Dinner at Council Oak, Seminole Hard Rock

It's Gasparilla time!! For those who don't live in Tampa are likely not aware of what Gasparilla is. You can read up on it by clicking here. We take our pirates very seriously here in Tampa Bay. Gasparilla is a month long celebration which celebrates the legend of Jose Gaspar. We have multiple events throughout January and February including the Gasparilla parade and Gasparilla night parade. In other words - it's a month long excuse to party like a pirate.

There is much more to Gasparilla than street parties. The city of Tampa raises money for multiple charities, giving back to our community. Last week, I had the honor to attend the 2015 Gasparilla Community Fund Charity Dinner at Council Oak, Seminole Hard Rock. The photos in my post were provided by Seminole Hard Rock but I took plenty, which you can check out on my Instagram account.
The evening was hosted by Sissy Biggers from the CBS Early Show and had a packed house. Funds from the dinner benefited Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla's Community Fund, established to benefit our community in times of need.  Each of the 4 courses had a wine pairing, hand selected by Chalone Estates winemaker Robert Cook. Special guests included Ye Mystic Krewe Captain of the parade Rex Farrior, Chicago Cubs Head Coach (former Tampa Bay Rays) Joe Maddon, Wine expert from Chalone Vineyard Estates Robert Cook and Sgt. Faris, Gasparilla parades Co-Grand Marshal. The Chefs of the evening were: Seminole Hard Rock Tampa Executive Chef Bill Gideon, Council Oak Steaks & eafood Head Chef Michael Balles and Seminole Hard Rock Tampa Pastry Chef Alon Gontowski.
Sissy Biggers with Executive Chef Bill Gideon
Our first course was Rustic Terrine of Lobster with Tapenade Boursin. When I saw this on the menu, my curiosity was intrigued. Boursin with Lobster? Who would have ever thought! The flavors worked excellent together.
Rustic Terrine of Lobster
Our second course was Pasta Carbonara but it was unlike any pasta carbonara I've ever seen. Homemade pasta over a pork cheek cake, fried quail egg and shaved black truffle. I inhaled this dish without breathing.
Pasta Carbonara
The third and main course was a massive Pastrami Spiced Bone in Prime Rib. Council Oak dry ages all of their beef in house and it is our favorite restaurant in all of Tampa. You can read about our first visit there by clicking here. My husband Gabe literally ate his entire steak in the matter of 5 minutes and sat there staring at mine like he was a caveman. The pastrami rub on this steak was stellar.
Pastrami Rubbed Prime Rib
When it was time for the dessert course, we learned that Food Network Sweet Genius 2012 winner Alon Gontowski was Seminole Hard Rock Tampa Pastry Chef. When we were presented with the Dark Chocolate Crunch Bar garnished with Mocha meringue and cherry compote, our jaws dropped. I've never ate something this beautiful - and it was equally as delicious.
Dark Chocolate Crunch Bar
It was an incredible night for an amazing benefit. Make sure you follow Seminole Hard Rock Tampa on Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Online for upcoming events and activities.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wedding Registry Ideas For the Home Cook #TargetWedding

Content and/or other value provided by our partner, Target. All opinions are my own.

It's crazy to think my husband and I have been married for over 4 months. We keep getting asked the same two questions "how does it feel to be married" and "when are you having children". I really wish people would stop asking the second question but that's a whole different blog post.

So how does it feel to be married? Exactly the same but yet a little different. Although we have been together for over 5 years, I get butterflies when Gabe refers to me as "his wife". Nothing has changed much, except our work schedules and we hardly see one another. When we do date night at home, the one thing we love to make is homemade pasta.

Ever since we got back from our honeymoon in Italy, Gabe has been obsessed with fresh pasta. He also drinks my wine (prior to Italy he was not a wine drinker). We love cooking together when we have the opportunity and the one item that we couldn't live without is our  KitchenAid Ultra Power 4.5 Qt Stand Mixer. We registered for the pasta attachments and I strongly suggest this trio to any bride to be.


Kitchenaid Pasta Must Haves

Kitchenaid Pasta Must Haves

Since receiving the KitchenAid Pasta Roller and Pasta Press, we have found ourselves making delicious messes in the kitchen on a weekly basis. I will be the first to tell you, it is a lot of trial and error but it is a great way to become partners in the kitchen!

Of the multiple pasta dough recipes I have found, we really like this one by The Little Kitchen.

So far, we have made:
Homemade linguine with Short Rib Ragu (amazing)
Homemade Penne Ala Vodka (total disaster but the sauce was amazing)
Homemade Lasagna (very labor intensive)
 
Registering at Target is easy and engaging and they will give you an inspirational starter lists. You can get 15% off completion offer - the week of your event, you’ll receive a coupon for saving 15% on remaining registry items in store and online.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Crusing Carnival - Post Marathon Relaxation

This past few weeks have been insane. It's hard to imagine that two weeks ago, my best friend and I were in Orlando for the runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon. It was Keri's first full marathon and we needed to celebrate in style, so a week after we crossed the finish line we boarded the Carnival Sensation for a Bahamas cruise! The week was a blur, just like most of our girls cruises are.

I will talk about what we ate and what we did on the two ports we visited in another post. Today, I wanted to discuss the benefits of going on a cruise post running a race. Weather you ran 26.2 miles or a 5K, you have trained hard for a goal and there is no better way to reward yourself than days at sea with no worries.
RELAXATION! You just put your body and mind through months of stress with training. It's time for a break. I always have a hard time relaxing and during this trip, sitting on the balcony with nothing to do was my favorite part of the trip. Keri and I had a balcony room on the Carnival Sensation. This was my 10th cruise and I am now balcony spoiled. The first time I had a balcony room was during my Bacherlorette Cruise a few months ago but we didn't spend much time in the room. Since Carnival allows you to bring on one bottle of wine per person, we had nightly sunsets with very nice bottles of Chardonnay. I mean - this view, seriously!?
TIP-WAIT A WEEK TO CRUISE! If you are looking to book a cruise after running, my first piece of advice is to put a week between the day you cross the finish line to day you board the ship. Keri and I made this mistake a few years ago, cruising the day after we finished a half marathon. We hobbled all over the ship, refusing to take the stairs and spent our first two days in pain. A week is the perfect amount of time to reward yourself and be able to walk like a human.
NO STRESS! One of the best things about going on a cruise is convenience and the one thing you want after running a long distance is to be pampered by everyone. From the moment you board the ship, everything is planned out for you. Your level of participation is up to you. Everyday, you receive a daily activity guide letting you know everything from the weather to what is going on around the ship and even at port. Also wear a race shirt on the ship - it is a conversation starter. One thing runners love to do is talk about running!
FOOD AND DRINK! You don't have to cook or clean for days! Plus there are bars at every corner. The Carnival Cosmo is hands down our favorite Cosmo on earth - they make it with limoncello. We aren't going to discuss how many of these Keri and I consumed on this trip. If cosmo's aren't your thing, not to worry - whatever you want to eat or drink is at your fingertips. Plus you just ran off a lot of calories off so you owe yourself that extra trip to the ice cream machine or pizza at 4am.
BEING LAZY! You trained for months for this and at times, you wanted to quit. It's time to pay back those muscles of yours by being lazy. There are plenty of lounge chairs (on the ship and off the ship) to fall asleep in the sun on - just make sure you're wearing sunscreen! Nothing is better than mending marathon legs like laying on a beach chair with this view. Plus in January, the water is still cool - not ice bath cool but cool enough for your muscles to say thank you.
photo from carnival.com
MASSAGES! You can book a massage at the Carnival Spa to work out your lactic acid. On our day at sea, they had a limited time $59 massage for the first 15 people to visit the spa. That's a deal I've never heard of before so it may have been a one time thing but Carnival does offer daily spa specials including hot stone massages. Trust me, your muscles will thank you.

Keri and I always cruise the month of January. It is very affordable to cruise in January and we have always had wonderful weather. This trip was perfect!

How do you celebrate your races?

 This post was created as part of my affiliation with Carnival Cruise Lines. As always, all opinions are my own.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Rock n Roll New Orleans Tweet Up - Cafe du Monde #RNRTweetUp


Hi! We are traveling to New Orleans for the Rock n Roll Half Marathon this Sunday! If you are in the area, come join us tomorrow morning at 10:30, Cafe du Monde for a tweet up full of beignets, beads and fellow Rock n Bloggers!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

We're Running Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon! #RNRDC

I am so excited to announce that my husband and I are running the Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon in March! We get to see one of my best friends and spend time in a city that means a lot to me. You can save $10 off Rock n Roll DC registration with discount code IRun4Wine!

35 years ago, I took my first trip to DC. I had no hair, I was chunky and I had an awful sense of style. My parents took me to every historic site and I was happy to be pushed around everywhere in my stroller. That is until one day in front of the Nations Capitol Building, I decided to take my very first step and my father caught it on camera.


It is going to be epic running a half marathon and passing the location I took my first step! The course is amazing - we will be running by so many historical monuments. We start on Constitution Ave., surrounded by the sights of the White House, Smithsonian Libraries and Washington Monument.


All participants will receive the Rock n Roll DC tech shirt!


I look forward to adding this medal to my collection! 2015 is my year of running in new locations and DC was at the top of my list. 


After Rock n Roll DC, both Gabe and I will receive our first Heavy Medal of the year - the Double Beat medal for completing two Rock n Roll races in the same year.  In 2015, I will also receive the Rock Trio & Groupie medals since I will complete at least 4 Rock n Roll events this year!


Both the Half Marathon and Marathon courses have strict course time limits per the rules and regulations of the District of Columbia. The Half Marathon has a time limit of 4 hours, and the Marathon has a time limit of 5.5 hours. The race will utilize a wave start, and the time limits will begin when the last runner crosses the start line. If you are falling behind pace prior to the marathon course cutoff locations below, you will be asked to get in the tail vehicle and be transported forward so the roads may be reopened in a timely fashion

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rock n Roll New Orleans Marathon Weekend - what to do and see

We are SO excited to head back to New Orleans this weekend for the Rock n Roll New Orleans Half Marathon. This will be our first trip back to the Big Easy since we said I do there a few months ago!
New Orleans is our favorite city and we travel there at least twice a year. We love the city for the culture, food, drinks, architecture and history. If you are visiting New Orleans this weekend for the Rock n Roll Marathon Series, here are a few places to check out!

Eating:
Root New Orleans
Two years after our first visit to Root, my entire family is still talking about it.  To date, I have never had a meal like it. The entire dining experience was magical and delicious.

Willie Mae's Scotch House
I don't suggest eating fried chicken the day before any race, but if you have time - make sure you check out this gem. Without a doubt, the best fried chicken we have ever had. I always try to plan a visit while in New Orleans. Plus, red beans and rice is totally carb loading!

Muffulatta's 
You will find muffulatta's all over New Orleans but I have two favorites. The non-traditional at Cochon Butcher and traditional at Central Grocery. Both places always have lines out the door. If we go to Cafe du Monde for breakfast, we typically walk across the street to Central Grocery to get a muffulatta to go, saving it for lunch or dinner later that night. Cochon Butcher serves their sandwich hot, which takes on a whole different flavor.

Seafood
You cannot go to NOLA without getting seafood. I have a ton of favorite places to get seafood at in NOLA. J's Seafood Dock, Acme Oyster House, Tableau, Red Fish Grill just to name a few. I strongly suggest getting crawfish and oysters while in town.

Beignets

Do not think about coming to NOLA without getting Beignets at Cafe du Monde. Light fluffy deep fried pillows covered with powdered sugar - enough said.

Tours
There are plenty of tours available in NOLA. Ghost tours, culinary tours, cemetery tours, voodoo tours, garden district tours, vampire tours - you name it, they got it. This is a great way to hear stories about the big easy. Check out New Orleans official guide for more info.

Plantation Tours
There are plenty of plantation tours available but Oak Alley Plantation holds a special place for us, as we had our engagement photos done there.  They also have an amazing restaurant and mean mint juleps. I have a cookbook from their restaurant and I love making their signature dishes!

Steamboat
A few years ago, we dined on the Steamboat Natchez. It was a great experience, amazing food and live jazz.
The Rock n Roll New Orleans is still open for registration! You can save $10 off of the half and full marathon with the code RUN4WINE. You can also save $5 off the 10K with code RUN4WINE10K.