Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Win a free cruise with Carnival #OpenFun

If you're in NYC today or tomorrow, head over to Greeley Square Park to take part in one of the coolest pop ups I have heard of by Carnival Cruise Line (and for a chance to win a free cruise)! If you aren't in NYC, there is also a chance for you to win, read below for more details.

Carnival Cruise Line is giving consumers a “whiff” of their next vacation in a unique and unconventional way, with a one-of-a-kind “scent-sory” experience featuring an immersive heated tropical tent, a steel drum band and a groundbreaking vending machine dispensing air canned directly from the Caribbean.

The “scent-sational” event also provides consumers with a preview of Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Horizon, while offering a chance to win a cruise on the 133,500-ton ship which makes its U.S. debut in New York in May 2018.

The cans feature scents of Carnival Horizon’s Caribbean destinations, including Wild Banana Orchid from Grand Cayman, Puerto Rican Coffee from San Juan, Fresh Guavaberry from St. Maarten, Sugarcane Rum from St. Kitts, Island Coconut from Cozumel and Ocean Breeze from the sea.

Carnival designed this activation following a recent survey, conducted by the cruise line, that found that 95% of Americans agree that scent can trigger vacation memories and 56% agree that a particular scent has motivated them to plan a vacation.

In conjunction with the New York City promotion, Carnival is hosting a national sweepstakes on their social channels (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) from Dec. 12-16, asking people to share what scent inspires them to vacation using the hashtag #OpenFun for a chance to win a cruise.

Visit www.carnival.com/awaywego for more information.

Tuesday Dec. 12, 2017 12pm-6pm
Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017 12pm-6pm

WHERE: Greeley Square Park
Located at Broadway and Avenue of the Americas between 32nd and 33rd Street
or online from Dec. 12 - Dec. 16 Twitter | Instagram | Facebook using hashtag #OpenFun

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Holiday Happenings at Westfield Shopping Center - $100 Gift Card Giveaway #HowDoYouHoliday #WestfieldBrandon

I cannot believe Christmas is 19 days away, nor does it seem like 2017 is about to come to an end. This year has literally flown by and I find myself less than 3 weeks from Christmas with a ton of shopping left to do! Deep breath....
Westfield to the rescue. Earlier this week, I headed over to Westfield Brandon for a little shopping.  I haven't been to this mall in quite some time and was pleased to see many brands I buy available throughout the stores (Apple, Kate Spade, Quay, Ugg, to name a few). I am giving away a $100 gift card to a reader, details at the end of this post.
Within an hour, I finished shopping up for my Mom thanks to the variety of all the fun shops. Check out these Christmas decorations! I want it ALL.

I also made a quick stop into the Disney Store where the Christmas stuff was 25% off. Our Christmas tree is Disney themed and it took everything out of me not to buy that Mickey Mouse cookie jar.
Westfield Brandon has a ton of stuff going on over the next few weeks. Check it out:

Santa, I know him! If you plan on taking your little ones to see Santa in Westfield Brandon, click here to reserve a fast pass. The hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 am – 9 pm, and Sunday, 11 am – 6 pm, with scheduled breaks to feed the reindeer. Located at his Holiday Wonderland between Panera and Red Robin. Visit Westfield.com/Brandon for complete list of hours.

ALSO - if you are a Tampa Bay Lightning Fan, something pretty awesome will be happening tonight. It is Tampa Bay Lightning night with Mr. and Mrs. Claus from 6pm-8pm. They will be dressed in Tampa Bay Lightning Jerseys, plus Thunderbug will be there! I'm trying to figure out how to get my husband convinced we should take a photo with Santa dressed in a Lightning Jersey....

Gift Wrapping and Holiday Lounge: This weekend, December 8 - 10, and for the remainder of the season, December 15 - 24, Westfield Brandon will provide a Holiday Lounge for you to relax while having your holiday gifts wrapped for a minimal donation. The lounge will be located near Dillard's. All proceeds will benefit local charity.

Before you head over to the stores, be sure to download the Westfield app to access holiday shopping discounts and special events.

Westfield Brandon Extended hours shopping:
Mon - Fri 12/4-12/8: 10am-9pm
Sat 12/9: 10am -10pm
Sun 12/10: 11am-7pm
Mon-Thu 12/11-12/14: 10am-9pm
Fri-Sat 12/15-12/16: 10am-10pm
Sun 12/17: 11am-9pm
Mon-Thu 12/18-12/21: 10am-10pm
Fri-Sat 12/22-12/23: 9am-11pm
Sun 12/24: 9am-6pm

$100 Giveaway!
I've got a $100 Westfield American Express Gift Card to give away to one lucky reader. What would you do with $100? Use it for holiday shopping or gift it to yourself? I would purchase two pairs of Quay sunnies, one for a friend and keeping a pair for myself. This gift card is valid for any of the Westfield shopping centers throughout the US! Click here to enter through Instagram.

This is a sponsored post, however all opinions are my own.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Planning for a destination race and currently loving the #WaveRider21

Hi friends! I visited my hometown of Daytona Beach this weekend and realized it had been 3 months since my last visit. Where does time go exactly and how is it December already? My husband Gabe stayed in Tampa to finish our bathroom remodel. That has been quite a journey and will be sharing all the positives and negatives on doing a DIY bathroom remodel soon (let's just say it was supposed to be finished in October).
While visiting home, I took the opportunity to catch up with Keri and Tara, my two friends running the Key West Half Marathon with me. Yesterday marked the official 6 week countdown for the race and we went to brunch to chat about all the things we'd be doing while in town for our girls race weekend. Keri has been my best friend for 31 years and Tara is my former roomate but it is a very rare occurrence that the three of us are together. Needless to say we are all looking forward to spending 5 days together in Key West.

While at brunch, the girls were quick to ask me about my shoes, the new Mizuno Wave Rider 21. This is a neutral shoe with AIRmesh Upper for breathability and Intercool technology, a ventilation system that reduces heat and humidity build-up inside the shoe while running. Both are great perks for Florida runners!
I ran my first full marathon in Mizuno's in 2013 and they also pushed me through 48.6 miles during the Dopey Challenge in 2014. I am excited to take the Wave Rider 21 on a long run this weekend. The enhanced SmoothRide allows for softer heel counter than the previous models which makes me a happy girl. Along with SmoothRide, the U4icX Midsole is lighter than previous models and the Strobel Lasting Board ensures a comfortable underfoot feel.
Tara is training to beat 2 hours at the Key West Half while Keri and I are running for fun (that means more wine & champagne for us!). Aside from running 13.1 miles, we have a packed itinerary. Since the three of us hardly gets together, we are using this time to be carefree, kids at heart and I have planned a ton of activities for us. This is just a sneak peek of our destination race girls trip. Hard to believe we are less than 6 weeks away.
Wednesday: Air Adventure Helicopter Tour
Thursday: Eco Adventure Tour
Friday: Jet Ski Tour & Wine Sunset Cruise
Saturday: Parasailing
Sunday: Key West Half Marathon & Champagne Brunch!
Monday: Go home (and Tara's Birthday!)

If you've been to Key West and have any suggestions on amazing restaurants, please send them over!

Here are some outtakes from taking pictures of the Wave Rider 21....let's just say Tara's daughter is a riot and copied everything I did.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Mizuno. The opinions and text are all mine.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Key West Half Marathon and 5K Giveaway

Do I have an amazing giveaway to share with you! My friends at Key West Half Marathon and 5K have given me an entry to BOTH their Half Marathon and 5K to giveaway to two readers. This is a great opportunity for anyone looking to run one of Runners World Magazine top 10 Destination Races.

I will be running this event with my best friend Keri and former roomate Tara. It will be an epic girls weekend for sure and I look forward to sharing details about our event planning soon. In the meantime, here is some updated information on the event!

The 20th Anniversary 2018 Key West Half Marathon Medal Revealed
I love this medal! When I first signed up for the event, I thought we would get wine bottle medals like the past, however, this one is so much better than I expected. Plus the lighthouse lights up every two seconds. How awesome is that?! Mile ) and the Southern Most Point are also highlighted - and it wouldn't be very Key West without a rooster.

The 5K medal is a smaller version of what you see below - it doesn't light up but is an amazing 5K medal to add to your collection!

Cheap quick flights from FL
As of the date I wrote this post, you can get tickets from Orlando and Tampa to Key West for less than $200 a person. Come party with us! If you aren't one of the lucky readers to win an entry, you can still save 15% on by using Key West Half Marathon Coupon Code: LOVEWINE. Click here to register.

Here's a bit of what to expect from the race weekend:

Key West Half Marathon - 2017 Promo from Vantage Point Aerials on Vimeo.

Race Shirts
All runners who sign up for the 5K and Half Marathon will receive these amazing gender specific dry fit shirts. I have more race shirts than I know what to do with but this is one I will proudly wear! I love that the back has the city directional sign on it and you can vaguely see New Orleans, which is my favorite city in the US!

Guys Long Sleeve Dry Fit Shirt

Ladies Long Sleeve Dry Fit Shirt

Best Spectators EVER!
I have had a few friends run Key West Half Marathon before and have heard stories of spectators handing out beer, mimosas and shots along the course. There will be entertainment and the amazing  volunteers encouraging you along the way. Plus you have all the key west roosters cheering you on with their crowing.

Packet Pickup:
Key West Half Marathon and 5K Expo/Packet Pick-Up:
Outside the Half Shell Raw Bar, 231 Margaret Street
Friday, January 12, 2018 3pm – 6pm
Saturday, January 13, 2018 12pm – 6pm

Start Line:
Corner of Caroline Street & Grinnell Street – Less than a block from Packet Pick Up location
Half Marathon Start Time 7:00am
5K Start Time 7:30am

Finish Line:
Near Margaret Street & Caroline Street – also right near the Half Shell Raw Bar
Awards Party 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM with a concert by Howard Livingston & the Mile Marker 24 Band
Half Shell Raw Bar: $5 Bloody Marys and Mimosas Race Day ONLY starting at 7 AM.

After Party:
Key West Half Marathon is known to have one of the best race after parties ever. I mean, it is Key West - so this should be expected, right? Free beer, food and raffles plus a concert with Howard Livingston and the 24 Mile marker Band! I can guarantee you we will be there partying after our 13.1 miles.

Key West Half Marathon Course Map

Key West 5K Course Map

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

2017 runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Recap

So let's start this post off by saying 2 things: The Wine and Dine Half was my was my 22nd half marathon......and I haven't ran more than 3 miles since March, 2017.

I  am a seasoned idiot. OK now that I got that off my chest, I must say that I do not suggest my lack of training to anyone. I will be honest throughout this long recap in hopes that others don't make my ignorant mistake.
Disney's Wine and Dine Half Marathon is my absolute favorite runDisney event. It is a combination of all my favorite things (Disney, Wine, Food, Running) and it is the only race that runDisney puts on which gives runners access into a park for an after party. When runDisney cancelled the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January, my best friend Keri and I switched our registration to the 2017 Wine Dine Half since it is our favorite race to run together.....well Keri ended up getting into the NYC Marathon so I was tackling on Wine Dine Half alone.
I had full intentions properly training for this event. Well that didn't happen and I am not going to bore you with excuses. My work schedule conflicted with half marathon training and I will leave it at that. I had to take the red-eye in from Portland to get my bib on time. I was Jet lagged and beyond exhausted.

My Outfit:
ASICS Women's Gel-Nimbus 19 Running Shoe (on sale)
ASICS Women's Printed Capri (on sale)
Mary Poppin Bottles tank (similar)

At 3:15am, I was up and ready to go. I read the digital runner guide the night before and I read that the race started at Pocahontas Magic Kingdom Parking Lot. My big mistake for not questioning what I read. I missed an important part - where it said to park at Epcot and take a bus over. I had to turn around, drive back to Epcot, and be one of the final people to board the bus back to where I was just at. This was my mistake, but not having a printed out version of the runner guide really screwed me up and I beg runDisney to bring those back.
By the time my coral (D) started, I was in a foul mood. Nothing was going right, I was tired, I was untrained and everything I love about runDisney was annoying me. Next thing I know, it was time to start. I crossed the start line with the 2:30 minute run walk coral and made the decision to stay with them. Being untrained and used to this run walk ratio, I knew this was something that I could accomplish. Within a few steps, I was in a bad way. The humidity was impacting my breathing. I missed the last 8 weeks of Orange Theory due to work travel and I was starting to mentally doubt myself on all levels.

We passed a "parade bus" at mile 3.1 and I seriously thought about quitting. Then I thought to myself, Keri will have 23.1 miles to go when she reaches this point. Carry on.
I was very excited to run through Pandora, the new Avatar land in Animal Kingdom. I have only been to Pandora once during a media sneak peek. Upon entering Pandora, I left the 2:30 pace group so I could get some photos. This is where my downward spiral became a landslide.
Upon exiting Animal Kingdom, I wanted to quit again....and again...and again. At this point, I had not taken any character photos, so I stopped at the first one I saw which happened to be chef Pluto. I waited in line for a few minutes and when it was time to start running again, I felt positive for the first time all day - OK I can do this.
That is when I decided to stop at all the photo stops along the course. The next one - of course - was the one group of Disney Characters I hate....the Country Bear Jamboree. This is somewhat of an inside joke between my mother and I so I stopped, just for her. Awkward photo much?
Next up was the penguins from Mary Poppins. Given my shirt said "Mary Poppin Bottles", I was really hoping for a photo on the course with her, but penguins I will take.
I believe at this point, we were nearing mile 8-9. I honestly had a mental battle going on at this point. I was pissed off at myself for the lack of training. My ego got a hold of me, knowing how many half's I have completed. I thought no big deal, been there done that - and no ma'am, that is not what happened. Just smile for the cameras....
When I entered Hollywood Studios, I saw Oswald the Rabbit - and was stoked. I have always wanted a photo with him! On to the next character, which was tourist Genie, I skipped him as this photo already belongs in my runDisney collection.
Once leaving Hollywood Studios (which is beautifully decorated for Christmas, already), I found myself with the 3:00 run walk pace group. By the way, I was walking pretty much at this point. Hating life. This group was doing 30:30 which is what saved me during the Inaugural Dopey Challenge. I decided to stay with them through the end - that was until I saw Remy & Emile from Ratatouille which is my runDisney bucket list photo. I was grateful for that pace group as I would've ended up walking the last 2 miles if it weren't for them.
After my photo with Remy & Emile, I ran pretty much the rest of the course. My Mom was at the finish line - and believe it or not, this was her first opportunity to be able to watch me cross the finish line since my first 5K at Princess weekend in 2012.
I found my Mom, she graciously stood in line to get me a corndog (at 8:45am) from the Fantasy Fare Food Truck while I stood in line to get us 2 glasses of Moet Champagne. Cordogs and Champagne yall!
Then we took a couple of photos together. It was a treat having my Mom there at the finish line. Especially considering the mental and physical condition I was in.
This race was not fast. I don't even know (or want to know) my finish time. My accomplishment was only the fact that I finished 13.1 miles totally untrained (although it is an ignorant accomplishment). I learned a huge lesson in terms of training.

Our next race is the Key West Half Marathon in January and you can guarantee I will be training over the next few months!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Visiting Cozumel Occidental Grand Beach Resort, Carnival Conquest

Never in a million years did I think I'd be back in Cozumel this year. When we went in January, I was very sick (and it wasn't from drinking). I had a fever, flu symptoms and didn't want to look at Mexican food or margaritas, which is how you know I'm truly sick. Although I made the best of the day, truth be told I was pretty miserable.
Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria put me on a path to visit Cozumel twice in a year. On our recent cruise on board the Carnival Conquest, we were supposed to stop at Turks and Caicos for our last port - instead we were Mexico bound (in the meantime, Turks is close to reopening their port)! I personally love Cozumel and was excited that Gabe would get to visit it for the first time.
Since this was Gabe's first visit to Mexico, we decided to book an all inclusive. I did quite a bit of research and found the Occidental Grand Beach Resort. Since we had a last minute port change, the only way we were able to book excursions through Carnival was on the ship - so we ended up booking through Shore Excursioneer.
I am usually a little hesitant about all inclusive resorts. They water down the drinks, the food is not great, they're over crowded. NOT the case at Occidental Grand Beach Resort. There were multiple pools to lounge at if the beach wasn't your thing (including an adults only pool).
The food was good!!! There was a wide variety of options including Mexican food, pizza, salad bar, hot dogs, fresh fish and grilled burgers. I was very impressed. We consumed more margaritas than we probably should have. They were delicious and made with premium tequila. Although we both took a 3 hour nap and missed dinner, neither of us woke up with a headache.
We nearly had the beaches to ourselves. We went swimming and could have gone snorkeling - but preferred more margaritas. Overall, Occidental Grand Beach Resort WAS GORGEOUS. The staff was beyond polite and we had a really great time and we would consider coming back and staying for an extended period of time. The only negative, which became a positive, was no wifi. We would have had to pay for a package. This annoyance turned into a blessing as we were able to 100% shut off, something I haven't done in a very long time.
The taxi ride was $20 each way and this isn't a common place for cruisers to visit. We paid $60 a person for the excursion. Considering the amount of margaritas we consumed, we more than got our money back. I strongly suggest Occidental Grand Beach Resort as an all inclusive option while visiting Cozumel!
Once we got back to the Puerta Maya, before we headed back to the boat we made a quick stop to  stopped at Pancho's Backyard for a margarita. I am quite partial to the margarita's at Pancho's, made with fresh lime, cointreau and premium tequila. Their food is pretty decent too. On my first visit here, we were hesitant it was a tourist trap with the proximity of the pier, but it isn't. I suggest a stop in here if you are at the port.
Special thanks goes out to Carnival for hosting me and my husband on this cruise. I was not compensated to write this post and all opinions are my own.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Chefs Table on Carnival Conquest - 3rd Anniversary Dinner

4 years and 6 cruises ago, I first learned of the Chefs Table on Carnival Cruise Lines. The Chef's Table is limited to only 14 patrons and it books up quickly (which is why I've never been able to experience it - I was always too late). When we booked the Carnival Conquest, I instantly sent an email for reservations, and we got in!!!

Even more exciting, we got a letter on the first day at sea telling us which night we would be experiencing Chef's Table and it was the night of our 3rd Wedding Anniversary. This couldn't have been any better.
We each paid $75 for Chef's Table which includes wine. Being it was our anniversary, we would have easily spent that at dinner if we weren't on a cruise.

Our night started with a glass of champagne and visiting the galley. It was a bit mind blowing seeing how people prep for dinner service in mass quantities. We also learned how to make the famed Chocolate Melting Cake, which I will do a separate blog post on when I stop traveling for work!
Once our tour was over, we headed to a private dining room and was offered red or white wine. We both went with the red.

The Multi-course dinner showcases the talents of the chefs on-board. You won't find these amazing appetizers, entrees and desserts on Carnivals regular dining menus. When have you seen the words olive snow, bone marrow souffle, passion caviar or fried popcorn pudding on a cruise ship menu?

I would do this again in a heartbeat. In fact, I will try to get Chefs Table on every cruise we go on. It was an amazing experience, between the incredible food to the experience of going behind the scenes. To my Tampa friends - think Berns Steakhouse tour at sea!

Without further ado, here's a photo recap of what we were enjoyed. Every dish was delicious.

Chef's Table Reception:

Mango Sphere with Rosemary Biscuit

Salmon Tartar Cornets

Beef Carpaccio on Air Pillow with Chocolate Bacon and Apple Ribbons

Double Cooked Lamb with Tapioca

Chef's Table Menu

Beet Blanket with Spiced Grape Tea
Asparagus, Cauliflower, Honey Carrot Tian, Mache, Lemon Streusel

Crab Stack
Corn Custard, Polenta Cracker, Tangerine, Passion Caviar

Duck Textures
Creamy Quinoa, Parmesan Churros, Olive Snow, Port Wine Jus

Bisque Our Way
Two  Tomatoes, Three Basil, Crisped Brioche, Garlic Chip

Sea Bass
Chorizo Crust, Fried Pop Corn Pudding, Lemon Macaroon, Lobster Foam

Bone Marrow Souffle, Scallion & Garlic Panisse, Gremolata Crisp


Pastry Chef
Sea Salt Praline Chocolate, Raspberry Mojito, Key Lime Cake, Apricot Vanilla Gel, Citrus Cream

Special thanks goes out to Carnival for hosting me and my husband on this cruise. I was not compensated to write this post and all opinions are my own.