Friday, August 29, 2014

Banana Pudding Poke Cake #AddCoolWhip delicious recipes

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

I am not a big baker but anytime I break out the cake pans, I think of my Grandma. She had 13 Grandchildren and anytime we visited her house, there would always be a homemade dessert. The one item she was most famous for was her Banana Pudding. She not only left this world in 2008, she also never passed down her delicious recipes.
Both my Mother and I have tried to recreate Grandma's banana pudding with no luck. Something about recipes from Grandparents always seem to taste better. I found a simple recipe on pinterest a while back - Banana Pudding Poke Cake. Even non-bakers like myself could create this recipe with success.
Me, Mom, Grandma
It's called Poke Cake because you poke holes in a sheet cake after it has baked and cooled. Afterwards, you pour in pudding of your choice, which fills in the wholes. After cooling the cake for 20 minutes, you top it with cool-whip.
Banana Pudding Poke Cake
Ingredients
1 box of yellow cake mix
2 boxes instant banana pudding (I used banana cream), mixed with 4 cups of milk
1 container of cool-whip, thawed
Vanilla wafers
Bananas
Instructions
Make the cake according to directions on the box. After it has cooled, use the end of a chopstick and poke holes all over the cake (make sure you go all the way to the bottom). Pour the pudding/milk mixture  over the cake. Place in refrigerator for 2 hours. Spread the cool-whip over the pudding layer. Top with crumbled vanilla wafers and sliced bananas.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Spa, Beach and Brunch at the Loews Don Cesar, St. Pete Beach #GirlsDayAtTheDon

Friends, I cannot tell you how stressed out I am right now. Everything about this wedding has been very easy and stress free, until last week happened. Then one after another, things I thought were taken care of due to my type A personality weren't going as planned. I had two mini crisis last week and one nearly crucial crisis. Those three items made my week extremely stressful but I was able to end it with a relaxing day in paradise - also known as the Loews Don Cesar. I will admit that there were a few times this trip wishing we got married locally at The Don vs. going to New Orleans.
If you remember, I have written about "The Don" a few times already. This trip was a little different as it we were going just for the day, for some sun and fun. My best friend Keri and I woke up early on Sunday and were one of the first people on the famous Loews Don CeSar beach. We rented two chairs and a beach umbrella and started relaxing. One of the things I love about the lounge chairs at Don CeSar is the flag on the back. You lift it up and a server promptly appears to take your food or beverage orders.

The rental prices for Chaise lounges are $10 a chair for a full day. They also have half day rates. This was not a bad price at all. Other options are Beach Cabana's ($30), Luxury Day Bed ($100) and Sand Chairs ($8). I loved not having to lug my chair down to the water!
After a few hours in the sun, we headed up to Spa Oceana. I had the chance to check out the spa earlier this summer, you can read about that experience here.  We arrived a half hour early to spend some time in the whisper room, glass of rose sparkling wine in hand. Talk about the perfect way to start unwinding.
Next thing we knew, it was time for our 60 minute aromastone massage. We had multiple options to choose from for the aromatherpay. Keri went with an oil for working out and I chose the lemongrass scented unwind. Perfect for what I wanted. There is one thing for certain, this was the most spectacular, perfect spa day. The massage was amazing, I was so relaxed and tranquil that I fell asleep for about 5 minutes which is rare. Sometimes going to the spa can further stress me out as there are times I cannot turn my mind off....and trust me - there is a lot going on up there right now. Thankfully, this was not one of those times.
Following our spa treatment, we headed up to Spa Oceana's rooftop where a group of ladies were celebrating a birthday. Note to self for the future - what a killer location for a bday party. We enjoyed the last of our champagne and headed down to Sea Porch for a late Brunch.
This was my second time dining at Sea Porch. After a spectacular dining experience in May, I knew going in that I would love their brunch. Keri and I have completely different taste palates. She prefers sweets and salads, where I prefer savory and burgers. However, the Sea Porch Brunch menu was something we could agree on. We each picked out a few dishes that both of us would enjoy so we could get more out of our meal. First up was Monkey Bread ($6). Good Golly Miss Molly. It was warm, covered in cinnamon sugar and covered in a warm toffee sauce. It was delicious. We ate all but one piece. Wedding diet who?
Speaking of breaking wedding diets, I went off the deep end and ordered a Bacon, Egg & Cheeseburger ($16) with Nueski bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, arugula, chipotle mayo and a sunny up egg. Cheating on my diet was worth every bite for this burger plus Keri split it with me so I didn't fee too guilty.
While we both really wanted the Chicken and Waffle at Sea Porch, we decided that would be a bit much with the other two dishes we consumed. Instead, we ordered Hand Made Burrata "BLT" ($14). Literally anytime I see Burrata on a menu, I cave. It is my favorite cheese on earth. The deconstructed salad came with a nice piece of burrata (which looks like a poached egg), fried green tomatos over arugula with peppered bacon and balsamic syrup. This was a perfect brunch option.
Finally, we ended with a glass of Save Me Sangria ($8) with merlot, gin, agave nectar, fresh lime juice, cranberry, pineapple and orange juice. The sangria was fruity and refreshing. We quickly poured it into a plastic glass and went back to the beach.
We couldn't have asked for a better day. The weather, spa treatment and brunch really were amazing. It's also great to know this gem is a 30 minute drive from Tampa. There will be plenty more girls day's at the Don in our future. Spa Oceana has a great Labor Day special this Saturday and Sunday ONLY! Book Any 60 or 90 minute Massage, Facial or Manicure/Pedicure Combo and Take $25 Off! Call (727) 363-5029 to book today!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Swimming with Tigers at Dade City Wildthings

This weekend, my best friend Keri and I had the chance to play and swim with a baby tiger named Tora at Dade City's Wildthings.
Dade City's Wild Things (in conjunction with Stearns Zoological Rescue & Rehab Center, Inc.) is a 22-acre zoo located in Dade City, Florida. We arrived at the gift shop and received a token for a trolley ride to the property. From there, we waited for our tiger swim to begin.
The reaction I got from family and friends prior to the swim was interesting. The funniest was from My Mom, who was concerned about me being scratched or bit 4 weeks prior to my wedding. Prior to animal interaction, we were told where we could pet Lola (everywhere below her collar).
After we fed and played with Tora, it was time for the swim. We received our next set of instructions,  to swim behind her so. This was so she wouldn't get confused and swim to us vs. the trainer.
Tora weighed 35lbs on the day we swam with her. We were told that we were one of the last people to swim with her, since the state cuts off human interaction with tigers when they reach 40lbs. 
This was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. I've swam with both dolphins and sea lions multiple times, but swimming with a tiger is something I never imagined doing.
The entire time we were with Tora, she chuffed. Chuffing is how tigers say hello and you could tell she was happy.
After the tiger swim, we went on a walking tour of the zoo where we met over 200 rescued and adopted animals and the property is located on an ancient sinkhole. There were a few stories on animals who resided at Dade City's Wildthings that captured my heart. There is a Jaguar who was kept in a contained space while growing up and was unable to grow his ligaments properly. Dade City's Wildthings rescued him and he now has a girlfriend.
Photo from Dade City Wildthings Facebook
We also met a Florida Panther who is a cancer survivor.
photo from Dade City Wildthings Facebook
And we met a buck, who I do not have a photo of - who was hit by a car. His jaw shattered and he has neurological damage. This animal had no chance of survival if it weren't for his new family who gave him a safe home.
Here is where my heart breaks. Upon going on facebook this morning to get some photos of the animals from the walking tour, I learned that Dade City Wildthings was severely damaged by a storm (2 days after we visited). The brunt of the damage went to Roy's habitat, a 1,000 pound Siberian tiger, who is the largest animal at Dade City's Wild Things. His special fence was damaged - this fence can hold the weight of a 2,000-pound cow. My heart goes out to Dade City Wildthings and they have an emergency relief fund set up for those who can help.

You can learn more about Dade City Wildthings on their website and on Facebook.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A weekend full of wedding sparkle and Canada Dry Flavored Sparkling Water Coupon

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

My weekend was full of sparkle. We are officially in the 4 week countdown on the wedding and to be honest, I am starting to freak out a little. Just writing that sentence made my heart skip a few beats. My best friend visited me this weekend and while she was here, I was able to wrap up a few to-do's and everything we accomplished. Speaking of sparkle, I was also introduced to my latest obsession, Canada Dry Flavored Sparkling Water. More on that in a bit.
Hair piece purchased!! (excuse the awkward selfie). I am not wearing a veil. I am literally broke out in hives both times I tried a veil on. I felt constraint and couldn't breathe. I wanted to do an elegant but not too flashy hair piece. After going to lunch, Keri and I stopped in Davids Bridal so I could try on a Petticoat. I ended up walking out without said Petticoat but spent far too much money on a hair piece. Oops. However, it is the look I wanted and it doesn't give me a headache. I justified the price because I found someone in Tampa selling the exact petticoat I needed, in my size, for 90% off of the retail price. It was meant to be. I love the sparkle of this hair piece.
Flower girl shoes purchased! Lord was this task a complete headache. My flower girls dresses are cream while my wedding colors are plum, silver and burgundy. I had such a hard time finding shoes that would match their dress and I couldn't use silver or gold since it would clash. My Mom really wanted me to find purple sparkle shoes but that was nearly impossible. Then, as if it were meant to be, I found their shoes at Nordstrom Rack for $25. They match my Tory Burch's and I couldn't be happier. Plus the girls shoes have a sneaker bottom so I know they will be comfortable.
Wedding bands purchased! We finally got our wedding bands. We got Gabe's from International Diamond Center and purchased mine from Craigslist for $300. Much better than the $1,500 price online. My band is a 1/4ctw platinum and diamond band. Gabe opted for white titanium since he has never owned a piece of jewelry and didn't want to lose it. We will upgrade him to white gold later down the road.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I have become obsessed with Canada Dry Sparkling Water. I have a hard time drinking my daily water and with marathon training, it is imperative to stay hydrated. I tend to get bored with drinking 8 glasses of plain water and most flavored waters are too sweet for me. I found the sparkling water helps me get my daily water in and it is a nice treat. Especially when you add frozen berries to it! I found my Canada Dry Sparkling Water in Walmart, located near other enhanced waters.

I also saved $1.75 on the 6 pack by sharing the link on twitter. You can save $0.75 if you prefer not to share the deal. Don’t forget to print a coupon before you head out!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Asics Gel Nimbus 16 liteshow review

Asics provided me with a pair of Asics Gel Nimbus 16 for review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Do you remember your first pair of real running shoes? Mine were Asics Gel Nimbus 13 and I was madly in love with them. I still own them and they live at my Mom's house so I do not have to take shoes with me when I visit. I ran my first 5K & my first half marathon in them. Those shoes are my babies. I look back to 3 years ago when I started running and the only thing I knew about running shoes is what my friends were wearing. My best friend Keri wore Asics Gel Kayanos so naturally when I was fitted for the first time and Asics Gel Nimbus was one of the three choices presented to me, I went with them.

When it came time to replace my Nimbus 13's, I promptly purchased the Nimbus 14. I lasted about 3 months in that shoe before handing them over to a friend - the new design did not work with my foot. Since then, I have worn nearly every other brand, never finding a shoe which was my sole-mate like the Nimbus 13 were.
So when Asics contacted me (!!!) last month to review any of their shoes, I gladly accepted and said a little prayer that the Nimbus would once again work for me. The Asics Gel Nimbus 16 are offered in 3 color selections and is also available on their lite-show, glow in the dark line. I struggled hard between hot pink / green and the yellow lite-show's.

After debating for hours and consulting multiple friends, I ended up with the yellow lite-show Asics Gel Nimbus and can honestly say, photos do not do this shoe justice. We primarily run at night and after day lite savings, we end up running in the dark. The fact that the gel glows in the dark was the deciding factor.
To date, I have ran nearly 50 miles in this shoe and have not gotten one blister! I even brought them with me to Maine during our family reunion and did some unplanned hill training. I am so happy to be back in Asics and that the Nimbus 16 was made for my foot.
In case you were wondering, this is what the Asics Gel Nimbus 16 lite-show looks like in the dark. I love the safety factor of these shoes.  Asics is also the sponsor of the 2014 TCS NYC Marathon. The 2013 NYC Marathon was my very first full marathon and the biggest accomplishment of my life. I hope to have the chance at running it again.
Asics Gel Nimbus 16 Specs:
Shoe Stats: weight 9.4 oz / heel height: 25 mm / forefoot height: 12 mm

FluidFit™ ASICS FluidFit™ upper technology combines multi-directional stretch mesh with stretch reinforcements that adapt to the athlete's foot, creating a truly customized glove-like fit.

FluidRide™ The latest evolution in ASICS midsole technology, FluidRide™ provides the ultimate combination of bounce back and cushioning properties with reduced weight and exceptional durability.

Rearfoot and Forefoot GEL® Cushioning Systems Attenuates shock during impact and toe-off phases, and allows movement in multiple planes as the foot transitions through the gait cycle.

Guidance Trusstic System® This Trusstic System® integrates Guidance Line® construction for enhanced gait efficiency while providing midfoot structural integrity.

Guidance Line® Vertical flex groove decouples the tooling along the line of progression for enhanced gait efficiency.

Heel Clutching System™ Exoskeletal heel counter provides improved support and creates improved heel fitting environment.

Discrete Eyelets Independently placed eyelets disburse lace tension, creating a customized fitting environment and enhanced upper comfort.

Gender-Specific Cushioning Women's models feature a lower-density top layer in the midsole, allowing female athletes to better enjoy the benefits of midsole compression.

Plus 3® 3mm of additional height on women's models helps relieve achilles tension.

Follow Asics: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#WeddingWednesday Bacherlorette Cruise Part 2 - Nassau

Last week I posted about my fabulous Bacherlorette Cruise aboard the Carnival Sensation. Today, I want to tell you all about what we did in Nassau. I have been to the Bahamas more times than I can count on my fingers and toes. The company I used to work for had a development on Grand Bahama Island and I visited frequently for work. I also go on a girls cruise every year and the Bahamas is always on our itinerary. I feel like I know the Island of Nassau by heart and have done everything one could possibly do while there. Yet this trip was different.
There were 6 of us girls on this cruise. After getting off the ship, we walked down to the British Colonial Hilton and attempted to pay $60 a person for a beach day which in my mind was very expensive, even with getting $40 back for food and beverage.
Upon walking inside, we were turned down due to day passes being sold out. Their loss - our gain. This was the best thing that could have happened to us. We were told there was a public beach a short walk down the road and we ventured off and found Fat Tuesdays which happened to be adjacent to the Junkanoo Beach.

We ordered a few cocktails, marveled over how clear the water was and headed out to spend time at the beach. This was a much different experience than any other I have had in Nassau. This was a public beach, there were tons of shacks selling food and renting water sports. However, there was a ton of broken glass and you had to watch everywhere you stepped.

We rented a paddle board for $30, spent sometime in the water and I got a fresh coconut spiced rum drink for $7. If only I could transport myself back there right now, coconut drink and all.

Everyone was getting hungry and we found out we were very close to the famous Arawak Cay Fish Fry. I have heard so many great things about Fish Fry but have never been in my million trips to Nassau.
We ate at Twin Brothers Seafood and Steakhouse which has been on multiple shows including Top Chef. I was super excited. The food was good but it was far from cheap. Keri and I decided to split the most expensive item on the menu - the mixed Seafood Platter for $40. The batter was light and airy but I wouldn't spend $40 on this dish again.

After our belly's were full of fried fish and Kalik Gold beer, we headed out to continue our adventure. We found ourselves another beach, this one without any broken glass. We laid out, spent sometime in the perfect water and truly relaxed.

We had to be back on the boat by 4:30 and we couldn't pass up an opportunity to visit Sr. Frogs for a cocktail and obligatory chair photo. I literally have 10 different versions over the years sitting in this chair.
Sadly it was time to leave Nassau. I wish we had more time on the island because this day was absolute perfection. We walked a total of 3 miles this day on our adventure. It helped with the amount of fried food and adult beverages we consumed :)