Creating custom household decor at Aerie Lane

Thursday, August 9, 2018
It's been a very long time since I've had a girls night out in Tampa so when the opportunity through Tampa Bay Bloggers to attend a DIY workshop at Aerie Lane, I jumped on it. Aerie Lane is a DIY studio which offers workshops where you can create custom household decor.
I met up with my friend Corey to get our craft on. When we arrived, I was very excited to see so many other friends from Tampa Bay Bloggers. It's been a while since I've seen many of these pretty faces! We were given options to choose from and I selected to make a Monogram Round Serving Tray. I decided to make my platter grey, red and black to match my kitchen. Here is the final product and I will walk you through the process of making it.
I am not crafty whatsoever. I was a little nervous about all the detail on this platter but the owners were very helpful throughout the night. I started off by painting my platter a light grey. I was very happy when I got home to see that I chose the right color to match my cabinets.
Next was time to adhere the stencil and paint a light coating of modge podge over the cut outs. Then it was time to start painting the design! It was so easy and a lot of fun.
After you remove the stencil, you could use tweezers to pull the spots that didn't pull off.
Here's a closeup of my final platter! I am really obsessed with it.
Corey decided to make a platter for her parents with a Halloween theme - she is blow drying her black painted platter below. Corey and I are both crazy Halloween fans! Now that she is living in Tampa, we will for sure be going to Howl-)-Scream this year together.
My friend Haley (who I haven't seen since the Key West Half Marathon) made a planter box that turned out so cute!
Everyone's projects turned out great! I was really impressed overall how easy it was to make these great custom projects.
Aside from Girls night out, you can do a variety of custom parties at Aerie Lane such as birthdays, bridal showers, and baby shower to name a few. You can bring in your own snacks and drinks. This was truly a wonderful night out and I am looking forward to going back! Here are a few of the things you can make at Aerie Lane.

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Thank you Aerie Lane for hosting a Girls Night Out event for the Tampa Bay Bloggers. As always, all opinions are my own.

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Preview

Wednesday, August 1, 2018
My favorite time of year is right around the corner - Epcot Food and Wine Festival! This years festival will run from August 30th - November 12th and will have over 30 marketplaces with food, wine, beer and spirits.
Epcot Food and Wine Festival - ©Disney
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to check out a media preview for the festival on behalf of #teamdroolius I am now more excited about this years festival!

There are over 30 marketplaces this year. including one all about Mimosas (Epcot heaven). Other new additions to 2018 include Character Dance Party, new Food & Beverage Pairings, Sunday Brunch with the Chef, a Junior Chef Kitchen, and more!

Speaking of Sunday Brunch with a Chef, this may be the most exciting thing I've heard about for Food and Wine Festival. Sunday brunch with the Chef has a large variety of different Chef's to brunch with, to the likes of Richard Blais, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Geoffrey Zakarian and Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. My husband and I are both crazy food network fans and I am stalking the Disney site everyday to see if any availability opens for these brunches.

Here's a sneak peek of what you will find on the menu. A lot of favorites are returning this year, along with some new exciting dishes.  I've included photos of some of the dishes I got to try over the weekend. Wines that are in bold purple are a few I suggest giving a try. My favorite dish from the sneak peek was from the Flavors from Fire marketplace: Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak on a Smoked Corn Cake.

(GF) indicates Gluten/wheat-friendly
(KA) indicates Kid-approved (Dishes designed with kids in mind.)
(V) indicates Vegetarian
Select dishes featuring Melissa's Produce

Active Eats
Active Eats - Energy Bar Bites (these are Vegan)
Loaded Mac ‘n' Cheese with Nueske's® Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions (KA)
Spice-crusted Verlasso® Salmon with Warm Lentil Power Salad, Crushed Avocado and Sherry Vinegar (GF)
Active Eats Energy Bar Bites: a mixture of Chocolate, Nuts, Dried Fruit and Dates (V) (KA)
M.I.A. Beer Company HRD WTR Pineapple Coconut Hard Sparkling Water, Doral, FL
L’Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc Old Vines, Columbia Valley, WA
Evolution by Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR

Berbere-style Beef Tenderloin Tips with Onions, Jalapeños, Tomato and Pap (GF)
Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew with Vegan Yogurt and Quinoa (V)
Cederberg Chenin Blanc
Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz
Groot Constantia Pinotage

The Almond Orchard hosted by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze® 
(All food items are made with Almond Breeze Almond Milk.)
Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Pulled Chicken, Toasted Blue Diamond Almonds and Parmesan Cheese served with Nut Thins® Crackers
Fire-roasted Tomato Hummus topped with Blue Diamond Lightly Salted Roasted Almonds and served with Blue Diamond Artisan Nut Thins® Multi-seeds Crackers
Banana Almond Soft-serve Sundae with Fresh Berries and Chocolate Almond Streusel (KA) (V)
Almond Breeze Strawberry Smoothie (Non-alcoholic) (KA)
Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut Champagne
Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Rosé Champagne

Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion and Snap Peas (GF)
Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies (GF)
Lamington: Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut (V)
Coopers Brewery Original Pale Ale
Hope Estate “Wollombi Brook” Semillon, Hunter Valley
Franklin Tate Estates Chardonnay, Margaret River
Yangarra Shiraz, McLaren Vale

Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes
Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream (V) (KA)
Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream (V) (KA)
Leffe Blonde Belgian Pale Ale (Flight)
St. Bernardus Witbier (Flight)
St. Bernardus Abt 12 (Flight)
Stella Artois Hard Cider
Chilled Coffee featuring Godiva Chocolate Liqueur

Moqueca: Brazilian Seafood Stew featuring Scallops, Shrimp and White Fish with Coconut-lime Sauce and Steamed Rice
Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Tomato and Onions (GF)
Pão de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread (GF) (V) (KA)
M.I.A. Beer Company Barbossa Black Beer, Doral, FL
Casa Valduga Brut Rosé
Quinta do Crasto Duoro Red
Frozen Caipirinha featuring LeBlon Cachaça

Brewer's Collection
Radeberger Zwickel Pilsner (Unfiltered)
Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse Naturtrüb
Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen Pomegranate Beer

Canadian Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Soup served with a Pretzel Roll
Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce (GF)
Moosehead Radler: Lager infused with Grapefruit, Grape and Lemon Juices, New Brunswick
Château Des Charmes Equuleus Red Blend, St. David’s Bench
Château Des Charmes Vidal Icewine, Niagara-on-the-Lake

The Cheese Studio hosted by Boursin® Cheese
Maple  Bourbon Boursin Cheesecake
Braised Beef Stroganoff with Tiny Egg Noodles, Wild Mushroom and Boursin Garlic with Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce (KA)
Cheese Trio: Profiterole topped with Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese and Orange Apricot Jam; Smoked Salmon
Pinwheel with Boursin Shallot and Chive Cheese and Everything Seasoning; Strawberry Macaron with Boursin Pepper Cheese
Maple Bourbon Boursin Cheesecake with Maple Bourbon Cream, Caramel and Pecan Crunch (V)
Florida Orange Groves Winery Sparkling Blueberry Wine, St. Petersburg, FL
La Crema Pinot Gris, Monterey
Domaine Saint André de Figuière Rosé, Côtes de Provence
Alta Vista Estate Malbec, Mendoza

Xi’an Pancake with Beef
Chicken Dumplings with Chinese Slaw (KA)
Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce
Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles
Mango Bubble Tea with Assam Black Tea and Milk (Non-alcoholic)
Jasmine Draft Beer
Happy Peach: Peach Liqueur and Dark Rum
Kung Fu Punch: Vodka and Triple Sec
Byejoe Punch: Chinese Bai Jiu Spirit, Lychee, Coconut and Pineapple Juice
Honeydew Bai Jiu Cocktail: Chinese Bai Jiu Spirit and Honeydew Syrup

The Chocolate Stuido
Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey-Caramel (GF) (KA)
Sweet Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart with Whipped Cream (V)
Twinings® Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea and Chocolate Shake (Non-alcoholic) (KA)
Banfi Rosa Regale Sparkling Red, Piedmont
Daou Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles
Croft 10 Year Tawny
Twinings® Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Frozen Cocktail with Caramel Vodka

Coastal Eats
Lump Crab Cake with Napa Cabbage Slaw and Avocado-lemongrass Cream
Baked Shrimp Scampi Dip with Sourdough Baguette
Seared Scallops with Roasted Corn, Butterbean Succotash and Chili-chipotle Butter Sauce
A to Z Wineworks Pinot Gris, Oregon
ROCO Gravel Road Pinot Noir, Oregon

Craft Drafts
Your choice of 2 distinctive Beer Flights
Beverages: Central 28 Beer Company Waff-Ale, DeBary, FL (Flight 1)
Bold City Brewing 1901 Roasted Red Ale, Jacksonville, FL (Flight 1)
Florida Beer Company Passport Triple Chocolate Milk Stout, Cape Canaveral, FL (Flight 1)
First Magnitude Brewing Co. Lemongrass Saison, Gainesville, FL (Flight 2)
JDub’s Brewing Company Honeydew Melon Kölsch, Sarasota, FL (Flight 2)
Shipyard Brewing Company Monkey Fist IPA, Clearwater, FL (Flight 2)

Earth Eats
The Steakhouse Blended Burger
The Steakhouse Blended Burger: Blended Beef and Wild Mushroom Slider with Brie Cheese Fondue, Arugula, Truffle and Blue Cheese Potato Chip on a Brioche Bun
The IMPOSSIBLE™ Burger Slider with Wasabi Cream and Spicy Asian Slaw on a Sesame Seed Bun (V)
Health-Ade Kombucha Pink Lady Apple
Health-Ade Kombucha Pomegranate
Health-Ade Kombucha Beet-Lime
Kombucha Flight

The Festival Center Wine Shop
Charcuterie Plate: Chefs Selection of Artisanal Meats and Accompaniments
La Bottega di BelGioioso® Cheese Plate: Crescenza-Stracchino®, CreamyGorg® Gorgonzola Dolce, and Artigiano® Vino Rosso Cheeses
Bloody Mary Seafood Cocktail: Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Mussels, Olive Salad and Crisp Lettuce in a Bloody Mary Vinaigrette
Fess Parker Riesling, Santa Barbara County (White Flight)
MacMurray Estate Vineyards Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley (White Flight)
Silverado Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley (White Flight)
Silverado Vineyards Chardonnay, Carneros
Kurt Russell’s Gogi Wines “Goldie” Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills
MacMurray Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley (Pinot Noir Flight)
Kurt Russell’s Gogi Wines “Birdie” Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills (Pinot Noir Flight)
Skywalker Vineyards Sommita Pinot Noir, Marin County (Pinot Noir Flight)
Silverado Vineyards Fantasia Sangiovese Blend, Napa Valley (Red Flight)
Chappellet Mountain Cuvée Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley (Red Flight)
Fess Parker Rodney’s Vineyard Syrah, Santa Barbara County (Red Flight)
Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Flavors from Fire
Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak
Chocolate Picante
Piggy Wings: Roasted Pork Wings with Korean BBQ Sauce and Sesame Seeds (KA)
Smoked Corned Beef with Warm Crispy Potatoes, Pickled Onions and Blonde Ale Beer Fondue featuring BelGioioso® Romano and American Grana Cheeses
Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak on a Smoked Corn Cake with Pickled Vegetable Slaw and Cilantro Aïoli
Chocolate Picante: Dark Chocolate Mousse with Cayenne Pepper, Chili Powder and Mango
Orlando Brewery Smokin’ Blackwater Porter
Michael David Winery 7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel, Lodi
Swine Brine featuring Jim Beam Bourbon

Croissant aux Escargots: Escargot Croissant with Garlic and Parsley
Carbonade de Boeuf, Purée de Pommes de Terre: Beer-braised Beef with Bacon, Onion and Mashed Potatoes
Crème Brûlée à la Confiture de Framboises: Crème Brûlée with House-made Raspberry Jam (V) (GF) (KA)
La Passion Martini Slush: Vodka, Grey Goose Le Citron, Cranberry and Passion Fruit Juice
Chardonnay, Le Vieux Manoir
Cabernet Sauvignon, Village la Tourelle, Bordeaux
St-Germain Sparkling Kir: Sparkling Wine and St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Kronenbourg Blanc 1664 Pale Lager

Schinkennudeln: Pasta Gratin with Ham, Onions and Cheese (KA)
Roast Bratwurst in a Pretzel Roll (KA)
Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce (V) (KA)
Radeberger Zwickel Pilsner (Unfiltered)
Carl Graff Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese, Mosel (Flight)
J&H Selbach Bernkasteler Kurfürstlay Riesling Kabinett, Mosel (Flight)
Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken, Mosel (Flight)
Villa Wolf Pinot Noir, Pfalz

Loaded Greek “Nachos”: Pita Chips, Meatless Sausage Crumbles and Vegan Tzatziki (V) (KA)
Taste of Greece: Chicken Souvlaki, Feta Cheese Dip with Warm Pita and Lamb Sausage with a Dill Tomato Ragu
Spanakopita: Greek Spinach Pie (V)
Bougatsa: Warm Phyllo Dough Strudel with Sweet Vanilla Custard, Lemon Honey Syrup and Cinnamon (V) (KA)
Domaine Skouras Moscofilero, Peloponnese (flight)
Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko, Santorini (flight)
Argyros Atlantis Red Blend, Santorini (flight)

Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour DOLE® Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise (KA)
Grilled Tuna Tataki with Seaweed Salad, Pickled Cucumbers and Wasabi Cream
Teriyaki-glazed SPAM® Hash with Potatoes, Peppers, Onions and Spicy Mayonnaise
Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Toasted Macadamia Nuts (V)
Maui Brewing Company Bikini Blonde Lager
Florida Orange Groves Sparkling Pineapple Wine, St. Petersburg, FL
Mai Tai with Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and DOLE Pineapple Juice

Hops and Barley
New Brunswick Slider
New England Lobster Roll: Warm Lobster with Fresh Herb Mayonnaise and Griddled Roll
New Brunswick Slider: Slow-braised Beef Brisket “Pot Roast Style” with Horseradish Cream and Crispy Fried Onions on a Potato Roll with Pickled Vegetables on the side
Freshly Baked Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Icing (V) (KA)
North Coast Bewing Co. Blue Star Wheat, Fort Bragg, CA (Flight)
3 Daughters Brewing A Wake Coffee Blonde Ale, St. Petersburg, FL (Flight)
Heavy Seas AmeriCannon APA, Baltimore, MD (Flight)
Angry Orchard Rosé Hard Cider, Walden, NY
Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands
Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles

Warm Indian Bread with Pickled Garlic, Mango Salsa and Coriander Pesto Dips (V) (KA)
Madras Red Curry with Roasted Cauliflower, Baby Carrots, Chickpeas and Basmati Rice (V) (GF)
Korma Chicken with Cucumber Tomato Salad, Almonds, Cashews and Warm Naan Bread
Mango Lassi (Non-alcoholic) (KA)
Godfather Lager
Sula Chenin Blanc, Nashik
Sula Shiraz, Nashik
Mango Lassi with Sōmrus Indian Cream Liqueur

Guinness Baileys Shake
Roasted Irish Sausage with Colcannon Potatoes and Onion Gravy
Warm Irish Cheddar Cheese and Stout Dip with Irish Brown Bread (V)
Warm Chocolate Pudding with Irish Cream Liqueur Custard
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
Bunratty Meade Honey Wine
Guinness Baileys Shake

Islands of the Caribbean 
Jerk-spiced Chicken Lollipop
Ropa Vieja Empanada with Tomato Aïoli (KA)
Jerk-spiced Chicken Lollipop with Roasted Sweet Plantain Salad and Mango Chutney Yogurt
Quesito: Puff Pastry with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Guava Sauce (V) (KA)
Red Stripe Lager
Caribbean White Sangria
Frozen Mojito

Fritto Misto: Crispy Shrimp, Zucchini and Sweet Potatoes with a Spicy Sauce
Pollo Alla Cacciatora: Braised Chicken Thigh, Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Parmesan Polenta
Mezzi Rigatoni: Vodka Sauce, Crispy Pancetta and Parmesan Cheese (KA)
Cannoli: Cannoli filled with Sweet Ricotta, Chocolate and Candied Fruit (KA)
Moretti Lager
Moretti La Rossa Double Malt
Placido Pinot Grigio
Placido Chianti
Villa Sandi Prosecco
Montegrande Corbinello Spumante Dolce
Fior d’Arancio Montegrande Moscato
Frozen Margarita with Limoncello and Tequila

Teriyaki Chicken Bun: Steamed bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables and a Sweet Teriyaki Sauce (KA)
Beef Nigiri topped with Shrimp Sauce and Diced Pickled Jalapeños (GF)
Spicy Roll: Tuna and Salmon topped with Volcano Sauce
Kirin Ichiban Lager
Ozeki Rai Sake
Fuji Apple Cocktail: Sake, Peach Schnapps and Green Apple Syrup

Light Lab
RGB Beer Flight
Phosphorescent Phreeze (KA)
InfraRED (KA)
Bleu Spectrum: Blanc de Bleu Cuvée Mousseux with Boba Pearls
Original Sin Dry Rosé Hard Cider, New York, NY (Cider Flight)
3 Daughters Brewing Blueberry Peppercorn Hard Cider, St. Petersburg, FL (Cider Flight)
Ciderboys Zen Berry Hard Cider, Stevens Point, WI (Cider Flight)
Playalinda Brewing Co. Red Cherry Tart, Titusville, FL (RGB Flight)
GrassLands Brewing Company Green Kiwi Blonde, Tallahassee, FL (RGB Flight)
M.I.A. Beer Company Blue-berry Golden Ale, Doral, FL (RGB Flight)
Cider Flight
RGB Flight

Short Rib Tostada: Corn Tortilla topped with Short Ribs, Black Beans, Salsa Verde and Spring Onion
Shrimp Quesadilla: Corn Tortilla with Shrimp, Oaxaca Cheese and topped with Spicy Guajillo Sauce and Sesame Seeds
Coconut Rice Pudding served with Mango Coulis (GF) (V)
Cerveza Por Favor: Dos Equis Draft Beer with a hint of Almond
Mariachi Loco: Margarita with Libelula Tequila Joven, Mango Purée and Chamoy
Ay Caramba: Smoky Margarita with Gracias A Dios Mezcal, Lime Juice and Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur
La Chancla: Red Wine Sangria mixed with Fruit Juice
El Padrino: Blackberry Mexican Punch with Velo Blanco Tequila

Kefta Pocket: Seasoned Ground Beef in a Pita Pocket (KA)
Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions and Tzatziki Sauce (V)
Chocolate Baklava: Rolled Phyllo Dough with Toasted Almonds and Dark Chocolate Sauce
Casa Pale Lager
Kasbah Prestige Red Wine
Mimosa Royale: Sparkling Wine and Orange Juice topped with Orange Liqueur
Red Organic Sangria

New Zeland
Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs
Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney
Seared Venison Sausage with Kumara Purée and Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Antmoore Wineworks MOKOblack Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Frozen Wine Cocktail featuring Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

Shimmering Sips Mimosa Bar
Madras Mimosa with Cranberry Sparkling Wine and Orange Juice
Chocolate Croissant: Flaky Croissant stuffed with Chocolate
Almond Croissant: Flaky Croissant topped with Toasted Almonds
Jumbo Blueberry Muffin with Streusel Topping
Cheese Danish with Sweet Icing
Frozen Apple Pie (Non-alcoholic) (KA)
Tropical Mimosa with Sparkling Wine and Pomegranate, Orange and Grapefruit Juices
Key Lime Mimosa with Key Lime Sparkling Wine and Cranberry Juice
Blood Orange Mimosa with Sparkling Wine and Blood Orange Juice
Madras Mimosa with Cranberry Sparkling Wine and Orange Juice
Fromosa: Frozen Mimosa featuring White Claw Lime Hard Seltzer
Joffrey’s Cold Brew Coffee

Charcuterie in a Cone with imported Spanish Meats, Cheeses and Olives with an Herb Vinaigrette
Spanish-style Paella with Chorizo and Roasted Chicken
Seafood Salad with Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Mussels, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, White Balsamic Vinegar and Smoked Paprika (GF)
Lagar de Bouza Albariño, Rías Baixas
Casa Castillo Monastrell, Jumilla
Espelt Garnacha Old Vines, Catalonia

Marinated Chicken with Peanut Sauce and Stir-fried Vegetables (KA)
Seared Shrimp and Scallop Cake with Cold Noodle Salad
Red Hot Spicy Thai Curry Beef with Steamed Rice
Singha Lager
Maison Willm Gewürztraminer, Alsace

Wine & Dine Studio
Butternut Squash Ravioli
Seared Scallops, Truffled Celery Root Purée, Brussels Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms featuring Melissa’s Produce
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Vinaigrette, Parmesan Cheese and Pumpkin Seeds (V) (KA)
Trio of Artisan Cheese featuring La Bottega di BelGioioso® Cheeses (V)
La Bottega di BelGioioso Crescenza-Stracchino®
La Bottega di BelGioioso CreamyGorg® Gorgonzola Dolce
La Bottega di BelGioioso Artigiano® Vino Rosso
Artist Palette of Wine and Cheese
Trio of Artisan Cheese paired with Rainstorm Silver Linings Pinot Noir Rosé, Reata Chardonnay and Spellbound Petite Sirah
Reata Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
Rainstorm Silver Linings Pinot Noir Rosé, Oregon
Spellbound Petite Sirah, California

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Event Details

August 30 to November 12, 2018
Marketplaces are open daily during regular park hours
Epcot admission is required
Marketplace food and beverage samples require a separate purchase
Alcohol will only be served to Guests 21 and older
Availability for some marketplace offerings may be limited
Marketplaces subject to closure at any time
All menu items are subject to change without notice

Railay Beach Thailand

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
We stayed on Railay Beach during our trip to Thailand. I'll be honest by saying this was the one location I was most tentative about. It was where we booked our cheapest hotel and what we thought as the most complicating to get to. We prepaid for our rooms with no refund, or we likely would have ended up elsewhere. I actually considered losing the money we paid on the room - luckily for us, that wasn't the case.
Railay West Beach
Railay Beach is a large peninsula between the city of Krabi and Ao Nang in Thailand. It is accessible only by boat due to high limestone cliffs cutting off mainland access. We came from Phuket and could have taken a Ferry directly to Railay Beach, instead we went by car (big mistake, read about it here at the end of the post). Our van dropped off at the Ao Nang pier, where we purchased a ticket for a longtail boat to take us to Railay West. The cost for this is 100 baht a person but they will only leave the pier when you have 8 or more people in the boat. We didn't want to wait for four additional people and we were able to pay double.
Railay West Beach
The boat ride is short, about 10 minutes. Railay West does not have a pier so you will likely get wet getting out of the boat. Railay East has a pier and it is easy to walk from there to West. Not only did we get soaked, but our luggage also got wet. You can bring trash bags to keep your stuff from getting wet.
Railay West Walking Street
Once we arrived at Railay West, we snagged a few pictures of the sunset (amazing!) and walked through the walking street where the restaurants, bars and shops were located. Both Railay West and Railay East have a walking street but there are more things to do on West. Railay West has a beach, where Railay East has mangroves.
We stayed at Railay Phutawan Resort. Gabe and I paid $60 USD a night for a deluxe double room with sea view. It was a huge room with a stunning view over their infinity pool. The staff met us at the end of walking street to get our luggage. It is a uphill walk to the resort but we had no issues with it (except when it rained, the street flooded a bit).
Railay Phutawan Resort
Overall, I was very impressed with Railay Phutawan Resort and would recommend staying there. You can also send your clothes off to be washed for 60 baht per kilo. The food was decent and we enjoyed many frozen drinks by the pool. However beware - if you have a balcony room, the warning about monkeys breaking into rooms for the mini-bar are not a joke! We witnessed it (and luckily locked our doors)!
Railay has something for everyone. You can go rock climbing, cliff diving, kayaking, SUP, take a private longtail to the Krabi 4 Islands, visit Phi Phi islands and much more. It's very easy to rent any of the non-motorized watersports. There are vendors on the beach and they will negotiate pricing so be sure to ask!
Maya Bay, Phi Phi Islands
On our first day in Railay, we did an organized early bird Phi Phi Islands tour. It was magical and the top highlight of our entire trip.

Longtail Boat or Uber Eats?
On our second day in Railay, we took a longtail boat over to Ao Nang and had lunch. We planned on buying beer and wine while over there to bring back to Railay but unfortunately were there during the no sale of alcohol time frame (1pm-5pm). The prices for buy beer and wine in Railay are higher than the mainland (and the mainland had a much better selection). After we took the longtail back to Railay, we decided to go stand up paddle boarding. We went over to Phra Nang Beach which was on the other side of the Railay West cliff. Here you will find more vendors, but nothing like Railay West. They even had a longtail food truck! 
Phra Nang Cave
Phra Nang Beach has a cave (AKA Princess Cave) where fishermen, before going out to sea, have made offerings to the symbolic Phallus of Shiva (known as the Siwaleung or Palad Khik in Thai). The fishermen believed the cave is the home of a mythical sea princess and that their offerings will bring them success and protect from danger. Well......... that gift is a wooden carved - yeah those carvings are what is looks like.
Railay Beach
Our third day in Railay, we rented Kayaks for 2 hours. We easily could have had them for the whole day. We went back over to Phra Nang Beach and explored various cliffs and islands. It was very relaxing and we had a great time.
That night, we did the Railay Cooking Class. Each couple selected our own starters, side, main and desert. This was a neat experience and we all took home skills. The only negative I have on this night was that they allowed another group to jump in (after we pre-paid for our reservations the day before which was a requirement) - it was supposed to be reservation only and this caused our cooking lesson to last nearly 3 hours.
Railay Cooking Class
We learned to make the following dishes:
Tom Ka Gai (chicken coconut soup)
Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad)
Yum Woon Sen (Glass Noodle Salad)
Deep Fried Shrimp Dumplings
Massaman Curry
Pad See Ew
Mango with Coconut Sticky Rice
If I were to plan another trip to Thailand, I would surely allow for more nights in Railay. I loved the relaxed vyb to the island and it was magically beautiful. If you are planning a trip to Thailand, I strongly suggest spending a few nights here.

The Rez Grill Happy Hour at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa

Friday, July 6, 2018
Seminole Hard Rock Tampa recently added an amazing Social Hour (AKA Happy Hour) at The Rez Grill. They have a large selection of small bites, craft cocktails and wines for $7, Wednesday - Sunday from 3pm-6pm! Good happy hours are hard to find on the weekends so seeing the hours made me very happy! My husband Gabe and I were invited to sampling of their offerings and as always, I left very full and impressed with The Rez Grill.
$7 Craft Cocktails, Rez Grill Social Hour
Read about my first dining experience at The Rez Grill Tampa here.  

We have been a huge fans of The Rez Grill since it opened which specializes in elevated comfort food. We are frequent patrons because they are home of my favorite appetizer, Bentons Ham plate. Gabe and I love eating at the bar, splitting a plate of Bentons Ham and a few craft cocktails. So we were pretty ecstatic to learn our favorite appetizer was on the Social Hour menu for $7 vs $17.
Bentons Ham
Another thing I love about The Rez Grill is their innovative cocktails. You'll find everything from drinks served in gnomes to sangria in juice pouches. Gabe is a huge fan of their New Fashioned, where I always like to try a different drink on every visit.
When We Were Young

KHALESSI: house-infused cucumber vodka, pear, sparkling wine
IMPROVED G&T: gin, elderflower, tonic water, b’lure ice
WHEN WE WERE YOUNG: house-made sangria blend, fresh fruit
NEW FASHIONED: dark rum, chocolate bitters, dehydrated orange, filthy cherry
1944 MAI TAI: dark rum, house-made curaçao, frank's orgeat, lime
REZ SMASH: house-infused cucumber vodka, macerated fruit, thyme syrup, soda
BELLINI: sparkling wine, peach purée

riesling | fess parker | santa barbara ‘16
pinot grigio | camelot | california | tapped
chardonnay | chateau st.jean | north coast | tapped
rosé | malene | central coast | tapped
pinot noir | lange | willamette valley ‘16
merlot | kendall-jackson vintner’s reserve | sonoma county ‘13
cabernet sauvignon | heritage | columbia valley ‘16

Rez Grill Banh Mi
Aside from the Bentons Ham dish, which is safe to say I love - one of the best dishes I had from The Rez Grill's Social Hour menu was the Banh Mi. It was a decent size, I could easily have this for dinner and very good.

SMOKED FISH DIP: poblano-corn vinaigrette, tortilla chips, cilantro
YUKON GOLD POTATO TOTS: dill crème fraîche
DEVILED EGGS: b&b pickles, bacon, chives
PEEL & EAT SHRIMP: rez spice, gringo blanco, lime
BENTON’S HAM: house biscuits, cherry-pepper jam, red eye aioli
BANH MI: pork, pickled carrots, jalapeño, cilantro, mint
CHOPPED SALAD: radicchio, salami, provolone, garbanzo beans, red wine vinaigrette
Peel & Eat Shrimp
Another favorite of ours was the peel & eat shrimp. This is something by title I would never order. However, this isn't your ordinary peel & eat shrimp! The flavor was incredible and it's my new goal to get the spice recipe from Chef Frank.
Smoked Fish Dip
The Rez Grill Social Hours menu includes so many great dishes to choose from. Luckily at $7 a pop, you can order many and not feel guilty! But please, whatever you do - even if you don't like ham, order the Bentons Ham!
Potato Tots
Have you made it to The Rez Grill yet? If not, I urge you to. The Social Hour menu is the perfect example to check out one of my favorite restaurants in Tampa!

The Rez Grill is open Wednesday - Sunday and Social Hour is available from 3pm-6pm. They also have a new Sunday Brunch (which I have yet to check out) from 11am-7pm.

Carnival Cruise Lines Dr. Seuss Word Challenge

Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Carnival Inspiration Hosts Kick-Off Event for Dr. Seuss Word Challenge With Book Reading  by Los Angeles Dodgers Player Kike Hernandez to Kids from Boys & Girls Club.
Continuing its longstanding partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Carnival Cruise Line kicked off its seagoing version of the Dr. Seuss Word Challenge with a fun book reading to local children by Los Angeles Dodgers player Kike Hernandez aboard the Carnival Inspiration in Long Beach.
Donning Dr. Seuss’s signature striped hat, Hernandez read the author’s classic “What Pet Should I Get” to more than 100 children from the Long Beach Boys & Girls Club who also enjoyed a delicious Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast featuring none other than with The Cat in the Hat and Friends and Thing 1 and Thing 2, part of Carnival’s exclusive Seuss at Sea program, available on all 26 of its ships. The festivities included in a $10,000 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of Long Beach.
Launched in 2014, Seuss at Sea is a fleetwide program featuring exciting youth, family, dining and entertainment experiences inspired by the amazing world and words of Dr. Seuss. The program includes such fun activities as the Seuss-a-palooza Parade and Story Time, as well as character interactions, Dr. Seuss toys and games and popular movies.

Phi Phi Islands Early Bird Tour

Monday, July 2, 2018
If I were to ask you what your favorite vacation memory was, would you have an answer? Prior to our trip to Thailand, I would have given 5 answers to that question. Now I have 1 answer, and I honestly don't think it will ever be topped.
Maya Bay, Phi Phi Islands
In 2001, I saw The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio. In the movie, he went to Thailand and visited a "secret" beach which in real life is called Maya Bay, located in Phi Phi Islands. This movie put Thailand at the top of my bucket list and when we decided to go, Maya Bay was at the top of my list of must visit locations.
Pileh Lagoon
We booked an early bird phi phi island tour so we could arrive to Maya Bay before thousands of other tourists. It was the best decision we made on the entire trip. We booked through a company called Trip Store Krabi and paid just under $100 a person for the day trip on a speed boat. This included our entry fees into all the National Parks, breakfast and lunch. We were picked up at 7am from Railay West Beach which was where we stayed while in Krabi.
When we arrived at Maya Bay, I was overcome with emotions. I know it sounds ridiculous but this was the most beautiful place I have ever seen and I couldn't believe my eyes. There were a few boats who made it to the bay before us but the beach was primarily empty. We had an hour to explore Maya Bay and we had this gorgeous beach pretty much to ourselves.
After we left Maya Bay, we spent some time snorkeling in Pileh Lagoon. There were fish everywhere. I had a good time playing with my go-pro, snapping shots and swimming in crystal clear water. It was truly heaven.
We also had the chance to jump off the boat while in the lagoon. The water was electric blue and didn't seem real. It was very salty, allowing us to lay back and float.
We then took a trip over to Monkey Island and fed them bananas!! This was wild and a bit scary to be honest! I think Monkey's are adorable but I am not a fan of monkey jumping towards your boat to get bananas.
Monkey swimming at Monkey Island
Our next stop was a visit to Koh Phi Phi Don, which is where the resorts are. I had major buyers remorse while there, wishing we didn't stay 5 nights in Patong Beach and knew we should have stayed here a few nights instead. We had time to shop or do whatever else we wanted.
Koh Phi Phi Don
Once back on the boat, we headed to Ao Por, a private beach where we enjoyed a Thai buffet lunch in the beach front restaurant. We had time to swim and explore the beach. There were also Monkeys at this beach and we had to secure our belongings as they steal your belongings!
Ao Por
Following lunch, we went to the 4 Islands in Krabi. This came to a major surprise to me as apparently I didn't read the full tour description. We had planned on taking a private boat the next day to the 4 islands and didn't have to!
Chicken Island
We visited Chicken Island and walked along the sandbar at Thale Waek (Separated Sea). This is a unique occurance that happens each day during low tide and connects the offshore islands of Koh Kai, Koh Tup, and Koh Mor.
Poda Island
We ended the day at Poda Island, where we spent time exploring and swimming.
Poda Island
This was a perfect day that I will never forget. The staff aboard the Sea Eagle far exceeded our expectations. It was our most memorable experience from our entire trip to Thailand. If you book one tour while in Thailand, make it this one. Not only was it the top excursion of our trip, it was the top excursion of my life.
Poda Island
FYI, Maya Bay is closed through October 2018. We fortunately made it 1 week before the closing. When a destination becomes wildly popular like Maya Bay, you end up with thousands of visitors each day. Due to the popularity from the movie, over time Maya Bay has suffered from the tourism and this is the first time it has ever closed down.
Maya Bay
I'm ending this blog post with my favorite photo I've ever taken on vacation. I hope to one day find myself back in the Phi Phi Islands.
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