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 :)

A travelers best friend - tmobile free data for life with #TabletTrio

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

If you are a frequent reader of this blog and follow me on Instagram, you are aware that I am consistently on the go. This summer alone, I have traveled to the Bahamas, Maine, New Orleans and North Carolina. Constantly being on the road has really impacted my frequency to blog since I no longer travel with my laptop. We own a few tablets but neither of them have built in data, so unless I am connected to someones Wifi, I am unable to connect. This all changed with tmobile free 200mb for life with the T-Mobile Trio AXS 7.85” 4G Tablet.
It seemed too good to be true. An 4G android tablet with 200mb free data FOR LIFE? Plus the tablet only cost $179? Kinda crazy right? I have owned this tablet for a week now and can say first hand, there are no tricks or gimmicks - this deal is legitimate. As long as you own the T-Mobile Trio AXS 7.85” 4G Tablet purchased from Walmart, you will get 200mb of free data each month.
I was equally impressed with the tablet for the price point. The Trio has a a 1.2ghz Quad Core, 5MP camera, a 16GB expandable Micro SD Slot, GPS & FM Radio and bluetooth connectivity and much more. Google Play is a major plus and after I connected my google account, my search history and favorites were already installed on the Trio.
Where we are saying "I Do" in 5 weeks!
This tablet will be perfect for our wedding week in New Orleans. During our last trip, I had major issues uploading photos, tweeting and getting GPS to work. Having a data enabled device will be such a huge bonus. I know from prior experiences in the big easy that access to the internet is not available everywhere you go. Since the size of the Trio is about the same as the iPad Mini, it will fit perfectly fits in all of my purses, giving me access to GPS, email and contacts without draining the battery on my phone.
Check out the photo I snapped with the Trio while at Walt Disney World this past weekend - and instantly uploaded to Instagram. I don't have to worry about Instagram draining my phone anymore. The days of bringing my tablet to the hotel room so I could connect to the internet, just to check my email or post photos online are over.I can even work on the beach!!
Here's a tip not to go over your data on the first day of owning the device - if you are going to download any apps, make sure you are connected to Wifi so you do not waste your data. Downloads will eat up your 200mb fast. Just downloading my day to day apps (instagram, facebook, twitter, kindle and pinterest), I used nearly 2 gigs of data - thank goodness I was connected to Wifi. For those who want more than 200MB per month of Free Data, T-Mobile and Walmart offer affordable, flexible and overage-free tablet data plans for every type of user.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Earn Walgreens Balance Rewards for Making Healthy Choices #shop

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BalanceRewards #CollectiveBias
Beautiful Bayshore Blvd
Prior to living in Tampa, the furthest I had ever ran was a mile. I absolutely hated everything to do with running - sweating, panting, hurting, feeling self defeat. Then something I never thought was possible happened. I became a marathoner. Years prior to that day, my best friend started making healthy choices and began running. She ran her first 13.1, the 2012 runDisney Princess Half Marathon. I went to watch her and also signed up to run the 5K the day before. That day changed my life. Watching her complete 13.1 miles (what I then thought was absolutely insane) was so inspiring that I signed up for a 10 mile run a few months later. Then all craziness broke loose.
2012-2014 medals
2 years later, I have ran two full marathons, 8 half marathons, 1 10 mile race, 2 half marathon relays and countless 5K's. Living in Tampa helped me start running. We have one of the most beautiful running routes in the US, along Bayshore Blvd, the longest uninterrupted sidewalk in the world as seen above.
The proudest two moments I had in my short two years of running was completing my first half marathon, the 2013 NYC Marathon and completing the 2014 runDisney Dopey Challenge, running 48.6 miles during 4 days consecutive days (5K, 10K, 13.1, 26.2). Those are two special days which will always belong to me. If you were to ask me 2 years ago if I thought this was possible, I would have tried to get my fiance to give you a psych evaluation.
I am often asked how I got into running and tips for reaching goals. Running buddies are key - my fiance runs with me and we encourage each other to lace up on days we don't want to. I am not a fast runner and I often run without my garmin so I don't stress myself out. Stress while running is not good and your inner demons will cause you to fail. What I care about is staying healthy and injury free. I make goals which are reachable. Once that goal is met, I am onto the next. Sure I would love to have a PR every time I run - who wouldn't. Yet I know that isn't the case and I gave up caring about PRs (personal records) a long time ago. You cannot let the fact that other people are faster than you bring you down. Unless your name is Shalene Flanagan, there will always be someone out there who is faster than you.
I have a few items which are must haves during marathon training. Sports sunscreen, Aquaphor, Moleskin, 5-hour energy, Epson salt (Village Naturals Therapy aches & pain relief if you can find it), 500mg Tylenol and a sports massage stick are naming just a few. I can easily pick these up at my Tampa Walgreens and they are also frequently on sale.
More important than anything you can buy at a store is being able to keep yourself liable for training. There are multiple ways to do this. Fitness websites are a great way to track progress. For years, I have used Map My Run and My Fitness Pal. Then I learned Walgreens has an activity tracker tied to balance rewards points. Now you can track your activity and earn points, which turn into balance rewards! I am pretty close to my first $5 reward. Click here to link your Balance Rewards account up and start earning money for making healthy choices!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Council Oak at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa

Council Oak Steaks and Seafood is one of seven restaurants located in Seminole Hard Rock Tampa.  We live a few miles away from Hard Rock and this was our first (not last) time dining there. I have heard many great things about Council Oak and the word on the street lived up to the hype. This was hands down one of the best meals we have had since living in Tampa.
For the eighth year in a row, Council Oak Steaks & Seafood has been awarded the prestigious Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator Magazine for its impressive menu of 278 fine wines. Since I was the only one drinking wine at the table, I was happy to see the impressive was the wine by the glass menu. I ordered a glass of Petite Sirah and got ready for our feast.
Gabe and I started off with Blue Point Oysters on the Half Shell.  They were served with horseradish, cocktail sauce and mignonette. We devoured them in a second, wishing for more. Why does this always happen with Oysters!!
Up next was a DELICIOUS appetizer which I strongly encourage anyone visiting Council Oak to try. Filet Mignon Beef Tartare, topped with arugula and quail egg. Words cannot even express how incredible this was. We will be feasting on this dish quite often in a few weeks while visiting Paris, but it will be difficult to compare to Council Oaks.
Now, I am sure by now you have been wondering what my first photo was. That was a hand engraved bone on Gabe's 26oz Long Bone Cowboy Ribeye, the signature steak at Council Oak. This steak was dry aged for 21 days and no photo could truly represent it's size. Typically your initials are presented on the bone. When the chef found out my twitter and instagram handle, it appeared on the steak. Flattery at it's best! The steak was perfect. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly prepared and left you wanting to eat all 26oz. Gabe ate about half of this before he waved the white flag.
Since I am technically on my wedding diet, I went for the healthiest steak option, ordering the 8oz filet mignon. I typically order filets at restaurants and can say with utmost certainty that this filet had more flavor than any other I have ever tried. I love this cut because it melts in your mouth but the filet is not known for it's flavor. If you want flavor, you go for what Gabe ordered. At first bite, my mouth was shocked. I didn't say a word and gave Gabe a bite - only to have him exclaim the same as I was thinking.
Shockingly, the most impressive dish of the evening does not go to a steak.....it goes to a side dish. Prior to entering Council Oak, we were told there was a side dish we couldn't leave without ordering - Lobster Risotto Jambalaya. We love lobster, risotto and jambalaya.....so we decided to go for it and both freaked out. As I am writing this, I am fighting a strong urge to call Council Oak and order this to-go. Living 6 miles from this restaurant is going to be dangerous. The amount of lobster in this "side dish" was no joke. While I do not know the total pound, I am going to guess a minimum of one whole Maine Lobster. Chunk after chunk of perfectly prepared lobster meat, inside of perfectly spiced jambalaya and risotto instead of rice.....I mean, it doesn't get any better than this.
I also ordered a side of wild mushrooms in garlic butter who sadly didn't get much attention. My fork kept finding it's way back to the Risotto.
I had to take a photo to show how perfect my filet was cooked. I probably could have cut it with a plastic knife.
Upon walking in and out of Council Oak, the first thing you will see is the butcher station, where the steaks dry age for 21-28 days. Now this is when things become very exciting for someone who lives 6 miles from the restaurant. The Council Oak Butcher Shop not only cuts the steak on premises daily for the restaurant - but also sells the cuts for those looking to take a nice piece of steak home to prepare themselves! The photo of the long bone cowboy ribeye below shows the magnitude of this beast.
Lastly, the atmosphere of Council Oak was romantic. Beautiful lighting all around, while hearing the sound of live piano in the distance. Our table happened to face the open kitchen, where I watched giant steaks, lobsters and one of the best looking cheeseburgers I have ever seen come out of the kitchen.
We left with full belly's, smiles on our faces and was instantly greeted by the casino. I will write a separate post on our enjoyable experience staying at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa.

The namesake for Council Oak Steaks & Seafood comes from an actual tree located on the Seminole Tribe of Florida (STOF) reservation in Hollywood (Fla.) where ceremonial and official STOF business is conducted.
 Council Oak at The Hard Rock on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Family Reunion in Maine in photos, 2014

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to make it to our family reunion in Winthrop Maine this year. Once every three years, the family gets together and has a hysterical relaxing weekend together. Since the wedding was so close and my bacherlorette party being the weekend prior, I really didn't think there was a chance for me to make it this year. 

My Mom saved the day and I had 4 amazing days on the lake, relaxing and spending time with those I love. I cannot tell you all how much I needed that time. Below are some of my favorite shots from the trip. Three years will not go by fast enough.