Tuesday, February 20, 2018

First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon - New distance, Updated Course and a Giveaway

One of our favorite races in Florida is taking place in less than four weeks - the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon and Relay. We ran this race for the first time in 2013 and this year will mark our 4th time running this beautiful and fun race.

There is a new distance to the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon - a 10K! 
There is a new, dedicated 10K course route to this year’s race. The 10K runners will start with the rest of the field and follow the course up and over the John Ringling Bridge, around St. Armand’s Circle and then back to the start/finish line. Registration for the 10K, with special pricing to the first registrants is now open at www.sarasotahalfmarathon.com.
Special 10K Pricing
$50 – first 150 registrants
$60 – 151-250
$65 – 251-350
$70 – 351-1500
We love the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon for many reasons. It is super runner friendly and the course is amazing. You start off running over the John Ringling Causeway then through St Armands Circle and loop back over the Ringling Causeway. During this time, the sun rises and you find yourself with the most amazing scenery Florida has to offer.
The First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon medals are the largest half marathon medals in the state of Florida. They are GIANT.
Check out the size of last years medal if you don't believe me!
The course support is one of the best I have seen, with aid stations every mile/mile and a half with water, Gatorade Endurance and restrooms. Runners get FREE photos, which is amazing - thanks to Athlinks (which also has an amazing real time gps runner tracker app).

There is on course entertainment throughout the 13.1 miles including live music, dj’s and more. Let's talk about the after party, which is sponsored by First Watch. This is the best post race breakfasts and finisher parties I have been to. Bacon, pancakes, fruit....and beer. Only thing that would make it better is mimosas (hint hint).


I am giving away an entry to either the Half Marathon or a two person relay. Click here to enter on Instagram. I hope to see you there!

Register for the First Watch Half Marathon and Relay here
Follow the First Watch Half Marathon and Relay for updates!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Rez Grill at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa

I cannot remember the last time I dined at a restaurant twice within 5 days. Especially one that takes 30+ minutes to drive to. Well, this week exactly that happened. On Friday night, my husband Gabe and I went to The Rez Grill, the new restaurant located inside Seminole Hard Rock Tampa. We were expecting a good meal but what we got was beyond that. It just so happens, that just today, Tampa Bay Times named The Rez Grill one of Tampa's top 50 restaurants.
During our two visits over the past week, each item we ordered was vastly different from each other but equally as good. Last night, Gabe said it was the best restaurant in Tampa and that the only restaurants that rivaled it are in New Orleans. He later told me it was his favorite restaurant. On Friday night, he stated that the Benton's Ham dish was the best thing he has ever ate in his life (go to Rez Grill and order this, you're welcome). Those comments say it all, coming from a guy who isn't vocal about food the way I am.
Benton's Ham with house biscuits, cherry-pepper jam, red eye aioli
The Rez Grill is fine dining in a casual atmosphere - think elevated comfort food favorites. The Rez Grill menu has a variety of different entrees without being overwhelming in choices. You will find Shrimp and Grits, Lobster Rolls, Fried Chicken, Veal Milanese. Hand Made Pasta, King Crab, Lobster Thermador, Maryland Crab Cakes, and so much more. We tried one of the steaks on the menu - the Ribeye Cap. It was delicious! They also have Wagyu on the menu!!
Ribeye Cap with turnips, broccolini, shallots, chive, béarnaise, demi
One of the awesome things about The Rez Grill is their table service style dining options. There are 4 items on the menu meant for sharing family style: Whole Fried Chicken served with Waffles; St Louis Ribs served with Fries & Texas Toast; Veal Chop Milanese; Lobster Thermador. The table shared prices range from $34-$55. We were going to split the Whole Fried Chicken last night but changed our minds when we arrived. Gabe ordered the Shrimp and Grits and I am here to say, this is the BEST either of us have ever had in Savannah, Charleston and New Orleans.
Shrip and Grits congaree and penn farm grits, country ham, soft egg (you can add caviar) 
I went meat free for the month of February (more on that later) and decided to make my final meat meal a cheeseburger. Seminole Hard Rock Tampa is well known for their burgers. From the Council Oak burger to the massive selection at Hard Rock Cafe, you will always find a great burger dining here. I always order mine Medium Rare, so when our server mentioned that the burger was served well done, I was shocked but trusted the talented kitchen. I was beyond impressed - how could something cooked Well could still be so juicy!?
The Rez Burger - cheddar, american, tomato, caramelized onion, magic sauce
The cocktail menu and wine list are equally as good as the food. Innovative is what comes to mind with their skilled mixologists who create made-to-order drinks using house-made syrups and juices. They have drinks that change color, drinks that come in a lightbulb, drinks that are an adult version of a capri sun.
Nacho Libre - prickly pear vodka, house-made sour mix, hibiscus & mezcal ice
Oh and the best espresso martini I have ever had, made with Lavazza espresso. I am wanting one of these right now!!! The wine list is also impressive and you can choose between a regular pour, 12oz or bottle.
Machiatto - vanilla vodka, patr´n xo, lavazza, chocolate soil
Seminole Hard Rock Tampa's new Creative Culinary Director, Frank Anderson's talent shines on every dish. His pedigree includes running the kitchens at James Beard-awarded, Los Angeles-based restaurants, Animal and Son of a Gun. Let's talk about his desserts for a second. I do not have a sweet tooth and dessert isn't something I would normally order. However, after seeing the Lemon Curd on instagram a few weeks ago, I knew I needed to order it and I would order it on every trip. We also tried the Chocolate Bundino which was excellent!
Lemon Curd - burnt meringue, blueberry purée, crumble
The Rez Grill is exactly what Tampa needed. Affordable fine dining in a wonderful atmosphere. It goes without saying we will be back.

The Rez Grill is open Wednesday - Sunday for dinner starting at 5pm. Reservations can be made through Open Table (I suggest making them, it was pretty busy both of the nights we dined at The Rez Grill).  Here are some photos of the restaurant!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Key West Wind & Wine Sunset Sail - Danger Charters

I had an incredible time during my girls trip to Key West. Keri, Tara and I had a relaxing (and fun) long weekend while in town running the Key West Half Marathon. It had been nearly 10 years since our last trip down there together and it was interesting to see how much we've changed in that span. We didn't find ourselves running to Duval Street to bar hop and we were in bed every night before midnight. #Adulting.
My favorite experience while in Key West was the Key West Wind & Wine Sunset Sail by Danger Charters. We did a bit of research on the various Key West sunset sailings that are offered and Danger Charters came out on top due to the fact that they served upscale wines and had amazing reviews.
We tried to find out which wines were served prior to boarding but later found out they frequently switch them up. Our particular sailing offered varietals of Brut, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Cabernet. If you aren't in the mood to do a wine tasting (they give you as much as you want), you can opt to drink your favorite, like I did - Grenache for the entire sailing.
From the moment we boarded the historic Key West Schooner to the time we stepped off, it was an incredible experience. From the wines to the staff, everything was top notch. They serve small bites on the sailing (crudites, caprese, etc) along with 3 reds, 3 whites, 1 sparkling and craft beer. For those who don't drink alcohol, they had soda and water. Although I was there for the wine, I was very impressed by the selections of craft beer offered.
The two hour sunset cruise sails around the harbor waiting for the sun to go down. There is nothing like experiencing a Key West sunset - except for being in the middle of the ocean while experiencing it. We passed yachts, parasailers, cruise ships and even a few dolphins.
If you are prone to getting seasick, don't be too concerned. I usually cannot go on a boat without taking Dramamine or an entire bottle of ginger pills. However, I went on this sailing without being medicated and didn't feel sick once.
I would do this sailing again in a heartbeat. In fact, I made my family book a sailing later that week. It was truly a magical experience. It's no wonder that this sailing has been rated the #1 Thing To Do in Florida on TripAdvisor.com for three years running. It was also named one of the top two Sunset Sails in North America by Coastal Living Magazine

I received complimentary sailings through The Florida Keys. As Always, all opinions are my own. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Key West Half Marathon Recap

Hello from freezing cold Florida. Seriously, it was in the 20's when we woke up this morning. I am back from a recent girls trip to Key West. It was an amazing 5 days and we did not want to come home. During the girls trip, we ran the Key West Half Marathon. I will share all the other amazing activities we did while on the trip but first, let's talk about the race!

The girls trip included by best friend Keri and my former roomate Tara. We have been friends for over 20 years and know how to have a great time together. This was Tara's first half marathon since she had her daughter and being the 20th anniversary of the Key West Half Marathon fell on her birthday weekend, we decided to make a girls trip out of it.
My Outfit: 
Shirt: Help Me I'm Sober by Buy Me Brunch - Similar

FL has been hit with a few crazy cold fronts over the past month (including what I'm experiencing right now). While I realize it's nothing like my friends up north are experiencing, this is not weather Floridians are used to. On Sunday morning, we woke up with 20mph winds with temps in the 50's. I will take 50's all day for running but not the headwinds. We rode our bikes to the start line and we were freezing. 
We did not bring throw away clothes so Keri and I ran our first few miles of the course with our race finisher shirts on. I will NEVER again give anyone a look for wearing their race shirt before they finish a race. Being the first part of the race was on Duval St, we were luckily able to ditch our shirts at our hotel!

Keri and I were running the 13.1 miles for fun. We did a 1:1 and took a ton of pictures, enjoyed the beautiful scenery and had a great time together. We chose the 1:1 over other intervals because we've had success with it in the past with not being tired or sore following the race. Since we were on vacation, that was important to us. Tara came with another plan as she wanted to leave the island with a PR. 
The first few miles were on Duval Street and brought us out to A1A. We passed The Southernmost Point, South Beach, and other popular spots. Those headwinds decided to join the party and we had them until the turnaround point at mile 7.
Around our mile 5, we saw Tara who was with the 2 hour pace group. She needed to finish under 2:04 to PR and I knew at that point, she was going to do it!
Oh this shirt......we had an average of at least one person a minute commenting on our shirts. I will say, this shirt brought more attention than any other we've worn during a race.
Between miles 9-10, we got the text from Tara that she had finished with 2:03! She did it!! We ended up running down White Street Pier for mile 10, ran back to the Southernmost poinnt and found ourselves on Whitehead St. Keri wanted to grab our shirts from the house and made another detour. I told you we were in this for fun!
Before we knew it, we were at Mile 0 with a mile left to run. We ran into my Mom and Aunt who had located Tara. Tara crossed the finish line twice so we could get at least a few race pics together (which all came out god awful lol).
Overall, I have nothing but amazing things to say about the Key West Half Marathon. The course was gorgeous and flat. The course had a ton of entertainment on it and the volunteers were incredible. I would 100% come back and do this race again.
If this race is on your bucket list (which if it isn't, it needs to be), I suggest signing up for 2019 as they have a limited time race registration discount for only $73.99! Next years race day is Sunday, January 20th. Click here to head over to the 2019 Key West Half Marathon registration page.

Disclosure: I received a free entry into the Key West Half Marathon. As always, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Carnival Cruise Lines announces four new craft beers for Carnival Horizon

On Sunday my husband and I boarded the Carnival Vista for a few hours to check out four new beers that will debut exclusively on the brand new Carnival Horizon in April 2018.
photo rights: carnival.com
These beers were created by Caranival's Master Brewmaster Colin Presby (who has the coolest job of anyone I've ever met) and will be featured at a new concept restaurant, Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse|Brewhouse by Food Network Star Guy Fieri.
photo rights: carnival.com
The Carnival Horizon is Carnival Vista's sister ship and it will set sail in Europe on April 2, 2018. Ironically, I found myself back onboard the Vista exactly a year after I sailed her with my best friend Keri for our annual girls cruise. I was excited to show Gabe the Vista and it seemed like just yesterday that I was a passenger myself....I seriously did not want to get off that ship on Sunday.
photo rights: carnival.com
After a quick tour of the Vista, we headed over to Red Frog Pub where the beers would be unveiled in a traditional keg-tapping. When I sailed the Vista last year, the Red Frog Pub quickly became one of my favorite watering holes on the ship. Aside from being home to the first brewery at sea, this popular pub features popular pub games, table kegs and you can even go on a brewery tour. I laughed knowing if Gabe and I were to ever sail on the Vista, this would be where you would find him at all times.
Time for the beer! First a little about how and why the beers were developed. Colin Presby created these new four beers exclusively for Carnival Horizon’s Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse|Brewhouse. This will be a new dining concept that combines the best of both worlds – an onboard brewery and a full-service restaurant featuring BBQ favorites and sides developed by Food Network star Guy Fieri, who is a member of the American Royal National Barbecue Hall of Fame.
The beers names are a playful take on the line’s popular ThirstyFrog brews that debuted on Carnival Vista – are inspired by the varied barbecue offerings at Smokehouse|Brewhouse. The four new beers on Carnival Horizon include:

ParchedPig Smoked Porter brewed with in-house smoked malt, this robust, full-bodied beer offers big and bold flavors and notes of molasses and hickory smoke, providing the perfect complement to Smokehouse|Brewhouse’s BBQ favorites

ParchedPig Farmhouse Ale this lightly hopped beer is distinguished by its blond color, fruity and complex character with mild spice notes that balance the brew’s dry finish

ParchedPig Toasted Amber Ale highlighted by its rich amber color and notes of toasted caramel and biscuit, this beer is well balanced, smooth and highly drinkable

ParchedPig West Coast IPA the embodiment of a traditional West Coast India Pale Ale, this hoppy, intense beer is loaded with bitterness with a bright flavor profile and distinctive aroma of citrus and pine

“Smokehouse|Brewhouse is a unique culinary concept and we’ve created four fantastic brewed-on-board craft beers that not only showcase different tastes and brewing styles but also serve as the ideal accompaniment to the venue’s delicious array of barbecue offerings,” said Presby.
The brewery takes center stage at Smokehouse|Brewhouse, which, in addition to delicious craft beers and custom cocktails, will offer a rustic, down-home décor as well as a variety of Fieri-designed favorites, all smoked “low and slow” using the chef’s signature rubs and spices. The offerings include smoked-on-board brisket, Memphis-style back ribs, dry-rubbed chicken, pulled pork, and cedar-smoked salmon, along with the chef’s own take on traditional sides and his signature sauces. Dinner menu items are offered on an a la carte basis with a free-of-charge self-service BBQ lunch buffet available on embarkation day and sea days.
Bonsai Teppanyaki - photo rights: carnival.com
A host of other dining venues aboard Carnival Horizon are also available, including the line’s first teppanyaki restaurant Bonsai Teppanyaki, Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant, Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, the Mexican-themed BlueIguana Cantina eatery, the 24-hour Pizzeria del Capitano, and the New England-inspired Seafood Shack.
Other features include the groundbreaking bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called SkyRide, an IMAX Theatre, and the first Dr. Seuss-themed water park at sea.
Dr. Seuss Waterworks, photo rights: carnival.com
A wide range of accommodations – from spa cabins with exclusive privileges at the luxurious Cloud 9 Spa, extra-roomy staterooms in Family Harbor to tropics-inspired Havana staterooms and suites with exclusive daytime access to a Cuban-themed bar and pool – will also be offered.
Carnival Horizon Havana Stateroom, photo rights: carnival.com
Carnival Horizon is scheduled to make its maiden voyage April 2, 2018, with a 13-day Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona – the first of four round-trip departures from that port. Carnival Horizon will reposition to the U.S. with a 14-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Barcelona to New York May 9-23, 2018.

Following its summer schedule of four-day Bermuda and eight-day Caribbean departures from the Big Apple, Carnival Horizon will shift to Miami and kick off a year-round schedule of six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises beginning Sept. 22, 2018 (which happens to be sailing during our wedding anniversary....hmmmm). Carnival Horizon will also offer a special two-day cruise to Nassau from Miami Sept. 20-22, 2018. Click here to view the Carnival Horizon sailings.

I personally cannot wait for the Horizon to set sail and check her out personally!

Thanks to Carnival for hosting my husband and I in Miami. As always, all opinions are my own.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 my year in review

Although I am currently cooking something to bring to a New Years Eve party this evening, I find it impossible that we will be closing out 2017 at midnight. I say it every year, but this year has flown by. Although I didn't blog nearly as often in 2017 as previous years, my life was insanely busy. With that said, it is time for my annual year in review!

I said hello to 2017 with The Cancelled Walt Disney World Half Marathon that lived on. For the first time ever, I faced a cancelled race due to weather. Along with a few hundred other runners and volunteers, we made up 13.1 miles around various Disney resorts on race day (we were at Pop Century and had plenty of photo opps). It was amazing to see encouragement from visitors, made up water stations and an describable energy. It was one of my best running moments.

Following the cancelled half marathon, my best friend Keri and I headed down to Miami to board the latest Carnival fleet, the Vista on our annual girls cruise. The Vista was without a doubt the nicest cruise ship I have stepped foot on and I am itching for another cruise soon!


February was when my work madness kicked in. In 2016, I took a new position in a new department within my company for events. Honestly, if someone was to ask me years ago to form my dream job, this is it. It also comes with travel, which I am perfectly fine with - but my blog had to take backseat. In the month of February, I went to NYC, Houston, Seattle and Atlanta. In between my work travel, I found time to run my first Gasparilla Half Marathon in Tampa.

March kicked off with back to back work weeks in Atlanta. I spent the entire month of March in Atlanta and got promoted during one of the visits! I also ran the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon Relay with my husband during one of my weekends home. This is one of my favorite races in Florida and we have participated in it 3 times now.

We went to New Orleans for Easter Weekend with my husbands family. It was a busy weekend full of parades and activities and we had an amazing time.
I ended April with a press trip to Disney for a photo workshop called Capture the Bite. I spent 3 days with talented photographers where we were taught new skills. This was a great workshop where we put away our smart phones and brought out our cameras for some incredible photo opportunities - and of course great food, all while meeting new friends.

May started my crazy work schedule again with trips to Atlanta, Nashville and Ponte Vedra. Somehow I was able to keep everything in line and have some free time to do fun stuff. The day I got home from Capture the Bite, I received a text from my friend and neighbor Heather who invited me to be her plus one for a Disney press trip. I couldn't believe it - two Disney press trips in a week?! As Heathers plus one, I got to experience The World of Pandora, the new Avatar land inside Disney's Animal Kingdom prior to it opening. We rode all the rides, took plenty of photos and had a relaxing time in this beautiful world before all madness set in when it opened.

June was chaos upon an already chaotic year with work trips to New York, Atlanta and Hollywood (FL) - and my birthday of course. In fact, I didn't blog once during the whole month of June - and recapped everything here. We had an unexpected loss in our little family. We had to suddenly and unexpectedly put down our beloved 13 year old cat Boo. He started breathing funny and after taking him into the vet, we learned he had an advanced stage of cancer. We made the hard life decision to make him comfortable and say goodbye. June, a very eventful month, was very tragic for us.

Not to broadcast my age - my 20th High School Reunion was in July. How in the hell did that happen?! I swear we were just at our 10th Reunion. It was great to see so many people we spent a big chunk of our lives with. It was fascinating - one thinks they know everything going on in everyone's lives because of social media - but interacting on Social Media is far different than catching up in person. We almost didn't go, and booked our tickets a few weeks prior to the reunion. It was a great memory and I encourage anyone who is on the fence about attending their reunion to book your ticket and go!
After shedding far too many tears, we decided  it was time to rescue another cat and give him/her the life that we gave Boo. Enter Baloo! We found Baloo through a local foster group and after a week of back and forth, we finally got the approval to bring him home! He is a perfect fit to our little family. This crazy kitten loves to play fetch and is the biggest snuggler I have ever encountered. We are madly in love with this little guy!

August is the month that I named "the calm before the storm". We took Baloo on his first road trip to St. Augustine Beach and found out he is a wonderful traveler. My Cousin got married in St. Pete Beach and we got to spend the weekend with my parents. August also kicked off the craziest 4 months of work I could ever imagine. The craziness started with a Florida based roadshow, then I headed back to Atlanta. We were also finalizing a 9 city, 2 country roadshow that began in September. Hold on tight, here we go....

Although I knew September was going to be VERY busy, we were not expecting Hurricane Irma to be part of it. Luckily, our house was damage free in Tampa but we did evacuate last minute to my parents in Daytona (only to lose power there). The hurricane had potential impacts on all of my September events and honestly, this was not something I had done a crisis plan for. Once Irma came and went, I found myself in Nashville for a client event, then flew directly from Nashville to Orlando to kick off our 9 city road show. This was a first for our company and between me and my counterpart, we each went to 8 of the 9 locations (I skipped London, she skipped Orlando). Following the Orlando event, my husband and I headed to Fort Lauderdale to go on a Carnival Conquest celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary. I did something on this cruise I had never done before - I left my work computer at home and only checked my work email once. Baby steps!

Oh October........ Nashville, Charlotte, Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Portland - or as I nicknamed it, the tour of city skylines. Although I was gone the entire month, we did have an opportunity to check out some pretty great restaurants and I crossed one off my bucket list - Girl and the Goat! I have a ton of blog posts to write about my city adventures, I just need to find the time to do so!

My Portland trip ended the road show and I took a red eye so I could make it to packet pickup in time for runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon. I'm not going to sugar coat it, this was one of the hardest races ever. Between being totally exhausted from being on the road for 6 weeks straight and not having much time to train, my 13.1 miles were a total disaster. I did push through and finish but it wasn't pretty.

December was a very nice, much needed slow month. Gabe and I went back to New Orleans. This was a trip rewarding myself for all the work craziness over the past few months. We spent 5 days in the city, eating a ton of delicious food and enjoyed all the Christmas decorations. We even saw snow in the French Quarter!!! We closed out 2017 with a trip back home for Christmas and enjoyed quality time with our families.

Overall, 2017 was a good year. It surely had it's ups and downs but looking back, I would say far more ups. I hope everyone has a wonderful New Years eve and that 2018 is the best year ever.