Friday, September 19, 2014

Second Line Parade Umbrellas and Hankies

After 15 months of planning a destination wedding, I am finally watching everything come together the week before the big day. I purchased a lot of items and had them shipped directly to the hotel so we wouldn't have to worry about transporting. The downfall of this is that I do not get to see everything in person until next week. I am looking forward to seeing our Second Line Parade items the most!

We decided to have a New Orleans tradition at the wedding - a Second Line Parade. This is is a processional which will take us from the ceremony to the reception. The Second Line is something that originated from a New Orleans Jazz funeral, where a jazz band would play and parade in honor of a deceased person. Now the celebration of life, grand openings, births and weddings have added the second line parade to display the joy of social event.

The second line is the group dancing or walking just behind the band. Many in the parade either have parasols and handkerchiefs to add to the spirit of the procession. Gabe and I will each have a personalized parasol while the rest of the party will have personalized hankies!
First up: Our Second Line Hankies from Etsy Store Roxygs. We had so many options to choose from to use on the hankie. We decided on the second line parade, names and our wedding date! These are so much fun - I love them!
We got the umbrella's from Etsy store Gris Gris Art. We opted for a black and cream parasol, mine with feathers and Gabe's with tassels. Each has our initials, wedding dates and a Fleur de Lis. This is my first item owned with my new initials!
Lastly, we had personalized plastic mason jars made from Pinnacle Promotions (ask for Ashley) for everyone to have with them during their weekend! I initially bought them for the parade but logistically it became a nightmare. Now we are doing canned Abita beer and plastic single serving sized wine bottles. These cups will be part of the welcome package and those who choose to bring them to the ceremony can pour the beer and wine into these fun cups!

Here is a video of a Second Line Parade in the French Quarter. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Get a statue of yourself at the TCS NYC Marathon #ASICS


My friends at ASICS have a pretty awesome (and FREE) promotion going on for those running the 2014 TCS NYC Marathon. If you log into through the Asics facebook page, you can have your chance at your very own mini marathoner statue.

ASICS is providing 2014 NYC Marathon participants with a chance to see themselves in marathon form with their Mini Marathoner program. A select group of marathoners will have a miniature statue of themselves made. Supplies are very, very limited. So the sooner you sign up, the better chance you have at getting one of your very own! Click here for more information. ASICS will track your marathon timing, posting your live progress to your friends.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Another chance to sign up for the 2015 runDisney Marathon or Half Marathon

Are you one of the runners who didn't register for the 2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon or the 2015 Walt Disney World Full Marathon before they sold out? I am - and have been depressed since April. I did not register for any of the Marathon weekend events next year because of the wedding. Also, I was still recovering mentally from doing the 2014 Dopey Challenge (48.6 miles over 4 days). Things have changed since then and I have been on the fence to sign up for Goofy's 39.3 mile Challenge but didn't want to do it alone. My best friend Keri really wanted to do the Full Marathon but didn't want to sign up for Goofy. I really wanted to run the full with Keri but she couldn't sign up without doing the Goofy challenge. What to do?
photos from 2014 Walt Disney World Full Marathon
Then the powers of Disney answered our marathon prayers yesterday. An announcement was made for Goofy Giveback - where runDisney is splitting up a limited amount of Goofy Challenge registrations, which opened up spaces for the sold out 2015 Walt Disney World® Half Marathon and Marathon. From September 16th through October 24th, you are able to register for either of these events. Keep in mind, space is available until they have sold out (each are currently at 90% capacity). You can read my 2014 Walt Disney World Full Marathon Recap here and my 2014 Walt Disney World Half Marathon recap here.

Goofy Give Back was inspired by ABC's hit summer series Extreme Weight Loss when millions of viewers throughout the country watched as father-daughter team Jeff and Juliana Macht of Colorado completed the 2014 Walt Disney World® Half Marathon in January. Social media went crazy and runDisney received so many responses from people inspired by the family and wanting to register for the sold out 2015 event. Goofy saved the day! In total Jeff lost more than 200 pounds and Juliana more than 90 pounds.

SEE YOU IN JANUARY RUNDISNEY!!! Both Keri and I thank you beyond words for opening up these races.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Get your seasonal flu shot and help a child at Walgreens #GetAShot

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

My fiance Gabe and I get our seasonal flu shot every year. Getting our immunizations is very important for both of our careers. I travel a lot and he works with children. I have gotten the flu shot every year since 2009 and this year was even more important to do so since we are getting married next week! We leave right after the wedding for a 2 week long European honeymoon and I do not want to get sick. In honor of our upcoming wedding, here are a few of my favorite engagement photos!
Engagement Shoot at Oak Alley Plantation, LA
Engagement Shoot, Busch Gardens Howl-o-Scream
When I heard about Walgreens Get a Shot. Give a Shot.® program, I knew this was something that needed to be shared. Walgreens partnered up with the United Nation Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign. You can provide a life-saving vaccine to a child in a developing country if you get your flu shot or other immunization at Walgreens from September 2nd through October 13th.
It's hard to imagine that while immunizations is one of the world's biggest public health success stories but  in 5 children around the globe lack access to the lifesaving immunizations. The coordinated worldwide efforts have made significant progress, particularly in reducing cases of measles and polio. Click here to make your pledge today!
So please go to Walgreens before October 13th for your flu shot. If you do not have health insurance or are unable to afford one, Walgreens donated $10 million worth of free flu shot vouchers through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help drive immunization rates among underserved populations throughout the country.

Monday, September 15, 2014

#SkinnyGirlSnacks Popcorn Sriracha Lime Popcorn Recipe

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

I remember when Skinnygirl products came on the market. At the time, I was a fan of The Real Housewives series and became instantly intrigued with Bethenny Frankel. Over the years, I have watched her empire grow. I became a huge fan of the brand and was beyond impressed when she sold her business for $100 million dollars (women entrepreneurs rock!). I have been amazed at the amount of products Skinnygirl has come out with over the years, and am impressed with the balanced lifestyle the brand proudly represents.
There are a few products I was hoping Skinnygirl would come out with and popcorn was one of them. I don't snack much but when I do - it is all about the salty savory products. Popcorn is a weakness of mine but I am very aware how many of options out there are beyond unhealthy. Most of the healthier options on the market taste like cardboard so in the past, I only treated myself to unhealthy popcorn every once in a while. Then a small foodie prayer was answered and Skinnygirl changed the day with their popcorn line that's not only delicious and healthy but also only 25 calories per serving.
There are many reasons I love the Skinnygirl brand. Did you know that every one of their products offers at least a 20% calorie savings vs. it’s competitors? They are all made with no artificial flavors, no artificial colors, no artificial sweeteners, no high fructose corn syrup. You can still enjoy life without compromising your diet.

I took the Skinnygirl Lime & Salt flavor and brought it to a whole new level by adding Sriracha to it. Seriously to die for.
Sriracha Lime Popcorn Recipe
This is a super easy recipe and a way to make your popcorn zing! For each bag of Skinnygirl Popcorn, take a 1/2 tablespoon of butter substitute and 1 teaspoon of sriracha, Place in the microwave for 30 seconds on low until melted. Pour into a bag of popped Skinnygirl Lime and Sea Salt popcorn, shake vigorously and enjoy!
Oh - and remember when I said I was a huge fan of Bethenny? I had the privilege to meet Bethenny during her Calling all my Girls tour last year, then became one of the few select honored bloggers to attend her live premier in NYC last Fall. My bestie Darlynn and I may have twisted our ankles from jumping with joy upon receiving that email!
If you were wondering where to find Skinnygirl popcorn, I found the Original and Lime & Salt flavors at the snack aisle at Walmart in Tampa.

I've accepted the Exaltria 30 day better skin challenge #30Days2BetterSkin

This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #30Days2BetterSkin

Growing up, I was always that lucky kid who never broke out. I would maybe get one pimple a year and this was due to having dry skin. As I have gotten older, that luck turned on me. I was the first one of my friends to get wrinkles, starting around 27 years old and I am super self conscious over my forehead. This lead to me to cave in and get botox. Now that I am officially in my mid-thirties, skin care is more important than ever which is very expensive. I also use filters on instagram to hide my wrinkles....case in point on the photo below, getting rid of forehead creases was more important than having blue skies.

I was invited to be part of a 30 day better skin regimen with Exaltria. Over the next 30 days, I am committing to the following as part of this challenge:
Washing my face twice a day (which I already do)
Wearing sunblock (which I already do - hello redhead living in FL)
Drinking 8 glasses of water (what I try to do)
Sweating for 20 minutes daily (absolutley doing with my marathon training)
Taking Exaltria daily

What is Exaltria you ask? It is an all natural dietary supplement which claims to give you beauty from the inside out. Things start turning when you get older and at the young age of 25 (when you don't care about wrinkles) your body can stop producing molecular acid, which slows down or even stops your skin's ability to restore elasticity. Exaltria helps solve that problem and helps you maintain young healthy looking skin, among other benefits.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Exciting News!!! I am running the 2014 New York City Marathon with Asics!

2013 NYC Marathon
So things have been a little crazy over here friends. I found out on Labor Day weekend that I was one of 5 bloggers selected for the 2014 Asics Editors Challenge at the TCS New York City Marathon!!!!! I literally couldn't breathe the day the email came over and I am beyond blessed to be part of this group. This will also be my second consecutive New York City Marathon. I never dreamed I would run this race and I am running it two years in a row.

So guess what this means! Marathon training during our destination wedding and honeymoon. Gabe and I were already planning on running a bit through Italy and Paris and I cannot wait to share photos of this when we get home.

I will share more about my journey with Asics and the New York City Marathon over the next two months. Until them, I want to introduce you to the other bloggers who will be part of this amazing group!

Chris from runrunlive.com based out of Boston, MA
Megan L. from runlikeagrl.com based out of Brooklyn, NY
Gregg from nycsweat.com based out of New York, NY
Grace from leangirlsclub.com based out of New York, NY

Have you seen the new Asics Gel Kayano 21, the lightest Kayano ever? They're beautiful!! Click here for more information and color selections!!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Irish 31 Tampa, South Tampa's Neighborhood Pub

I recently got the chance to check out Tampa's Irish 31 at a tweetup with my friends Never Have I Ever Tampa Bay. The food and drink we sampled were amazing, so when they invited me back for a dinner for two, I jumped on it. We also made this one of our last cheat meals before starting the Advocare 10 day Cleanse (currently on day 7). I literally want to lick the screen right now.
Although this is not what we started out with,, I wanted to highlight it first - talk about some of the best fish and chips I have ever tried in my life. The batter (made with black and tan beer) was perfectly crispy. This would be worth cheating on your diet everyday.
Going backwards to our starter, Gabe and I ordered the Shepherd's Pie Boxty - a Boxty is a stuffed mashed potato ball rolled and fried. It was delicious and huge. I couldn't finish all three of these for an entree.
Gabe and I were one of the first people in town to try the new drink menu - without doubt, I had to order 31 Mule, made with New Amsterdam Vodka, ginger beer, lime and simple syrup. I would kill for one of these right this second.
Gabe ordered the Shrimp Po-Boy, which at first, you would think that is a surprising thing to find at a Irish Pub. While Irish 31 has the typical Irish staples, they are not a typical Irish Pub - they are a neighborhood pub and you will find multiple items on their menu from all over. The jumbo tiger shrimp were perfectly fried and had a ton of flavor.
Irish 31 has an extensive cocktail menu and a great happy hour. The Hyde Park Cosmo has a splash of champagne in it - something I would never think of trying but it was a refreshing twist to the standard.

We also had a slice of peanut butter pie - not shown. We took it home and devoured it!

Thanks Nicholas, Ryan & Allison for introducing Irish 31 to me! Gabe and I were both equally impressed and I am surprised it took us so long to check it out. Their outdoor patio is perfect for catching football games and I must check out their chicken wings once I am off this diet. We will be back!

Back to carrot sticks, celery and water I go.....le sigh.....I MISS WINE!!!
Irish 31 on Urbanspoon

It's finally here - The Sims™ 4 Launch #TheSims4

This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TheSims4

I would not consider myself a gamer but there is one video game that holds a place in my heart - The Sims series. The Sims was one of the first games I ever bought myself when I was a young 21 and still living at home with the parents. I have owned nearly every version of it to date. I was very excited to hear that The Sims™ 4 was coming out in September.

We leave in 2 weeks for the wedding and right after for a 2 week long Europe honeymoon. Not to mention, I have been beyond busy for the weeks leading up to the big day which is why I haven't been posting much. However, when I had the opportunity to check out The Sims™ 4, I jumped on it. Even cooler - Sims has a “SIMify Yourself” contest with lots of amazing prizes up for grabs and no purchase necessary. Click here to see official rules.
mixing drinks
Speaking of SIMifying, I think I did a pretty good job on mine. Just like the years prior, you start the game by creating your Sim. There are soooo many options while creating each character. The Sims™ 4 took personality traits to a whole new level. Not only do you select a main interest, you also have three side ambitions. Your Sims mood will affect everything you do in the game.
Bar hopping on day 1
You also customize 5 outfits - daily, formal, sleep, workout and party. If you know me, you will not be surprised to hear my Sim is wearing a blue and white striped dress. She's a foodie with a high interest in mixology, loves going to the bar and running on the treadmill. I literally created a mini me.
making brunch (in PJs!)
I also made Gabe into a character! He told me I couldn't make this post go live without creating him first. Just like real life, his Sim went straight for the television. I remember in prior versions of the game, the clothing options were very limited. Many of the outfit choices for both male and female reminded me of outfits we have in our closet.
When we went to purchase the game at Tampa Walmart, we first thought they were sold out (as seen on the left photo). Luckily, we found another stash. It's no surprise The Sims™ 4 was this popular on week one. You can show your Sim off and share creativity with friends. There is a new Gallery function where you can upload and download creations.

I look forward to having some real downtime next month and spending some time with this game!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tampa Bay Wine and Food Festival, 2014 #TBWFF


Drink wine, eat great food while giving back to local charities - that's what the Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival is all about. This event is hosted annually at the Straz Center with more than 40 wine suppliers and restaurants waiting to make your evening magical. This event funds The Brandon Foundation,which in turns provides financial assistance to over 50 Tampa Bay area charities.

Taking place September 12 & 13, 2014, the Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival is a weekend full of fun and delicious times. I am very excited to be attending this event - Gabe and I are completing our pre-wedding diet cleanse on Friday the 12th, so the Gala will be my first sip of wine in 2 weeks!

September 12th: Southern Charm Wine & Food Gala and Auction
The Gala is a black-tie optional event with an expected 900 guests who will enjoy Tampa Bay's finest wines and foods which is located on the three floors of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Along with amazing food and wine, this event will also feature live entertainment, games and an auction.

September 13th: Grand Tasting
The Grand Tasting is a casual wine and food event with wines from all over the world. Along with amazing wine, food will be provided from Tampa Bay's top restaurants.

INDIVIDUAL TICKETS
Southern Charm Gala, Friday, Sept. 12
VIP starts at 7 p.m.
General Admission starts at 8 p.m.
$100 per person $125 per person VIP

Grand Tasting. Saturday, Sept. 13
1 - 5 p.m.
$75 per person

COMBO TICKETS
VIP Gala and Grand Tasting $175
General Admission Gala and Grand Tasting $150

Follow Tampa Bay Wine and Food Festival on Twitter and Facebook for current promotions. Save 15% off your Tampa Bay Wine and Food Festicval tickets through Monday with promo code 15tbwff2014

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 left this world in 2008 without leaving us 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. However, I will never be able to recreate those gems. Sometimes, I feel like she is looking down laughing at us! 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. Easy right?!
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.