North Highlands Day of Giving Back

Sunday, April 29, 2012
I am not one to blog about work, but I felt like I should share this. I work for a international professional consulting company called North Highland. I work for their Central Florida offices, Tampa (where I am based), Orlando and Jacksonville. Our VP asked me if I would take on becoming a coordinator for our three offices for our first ever global Day of Giving Back. On April 28th, all of the North Highland offices around the world spent time in their home locations to give back to the community with the theme "Investing in Human Potential".

I was honored to take on such a task and with the help of my peers, we had three very successful days of giving back in Central Florida.The stories below are for our three offices. It was amazing to see the entire organization of North Highland pull together on this one day. The photos were pouring in on the North Highland in the Community's facebook fan page.

The Tampa office volunteered at Metropolitan Ministries, The reason we selected this organization is because the per capita rate of homelessness in Tampa Bay is the Nation’s highest.  One new family each week reports sleeping in their car. This is a major problem and they are in dire need each day of volunteers to help in their kitchen. Prior to our Day of Giving Back, we hosted a food drive with the tenants of Towers at Westshore and collected 200 pounds of food! We spent the Day of Giving Back prepping zucchini, rolling silverware and assisting in their dish room. What got to me the most is when one of our team stated "what we are doing now is only enough to support one meal for one day". I urge anyone who has the time in Tampa to spend a few hours assisting at Metropolitan Ministries.

The Orlando office spent their Day of Giving Back at Harbor House of Central Florida. Harbor House provides safe shelter, a 24-hour crisis hotline, counseling, and emotional support, and legal advocacy for thousands of domestic violence survivors and their children each year. Prior to our Day of Giving Back, our team collected 5 bins of non-perishable foods for their pantry, created 50 binders of resume and interview guides, over a dozen old cell phones (to be converted to 911 phones) and 4 suitcases. On the actual Day of Giving Back, we deep cleaned and reorganized their play areas, painted, did maintenance work and spent time with the children that live at Harbor House
The Jacksonville office adopted a room at Community Connections a program which provides transitional housing and essential support services to help women, children and families become self-sufficient, move away from publi assistance and reach their full potential. The room we received was for a mother and her 7 year old daughter. When we got there, the room was bare bones. We painted the room, provided the family with the interior necessities and decorations. It was amazing seeing the before and after photos.


New England Style Hot Dog Buns in Florida!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
We fell in love with Lobster Rolls while visiting Maine last summer and even did our own Lobster Roll tour. I cannot believe it. I think the people at Sweetbay may have called the insane asylum when they saw me scream and do a little dance when I spotted New England Style Hot Dog Buns at Sweetbay today. They call them Coney Island Hot Dog Rolls.

I bought a pack and immediately went to Sanwa where they had Lobster for $5.49 a lb. I grabbed 2 bottles of cheap champagne and let Gabe be a Lobster Killer. I then broke down the lobster in large chunks, added the following ingredients, little at a time: room temp butter, mayo (olive oil based) and salt & pepper. Toasted the bun and voila!

The second time around, I used previously frozen lobster tails from Publix, with the same ingredients as above. It cost the same and was just as good, without the stress of driving around with Lobsters in your car, who you have named Curly and Moe, knowing you'd be eating them a few hours later.

Here is the recipe for my Lobster Rolls
  1. New England Style Hot Dog Buns, this is a must. ask your bakery if they can make them if they don't carry them
  2. 2 live lobsters or 3 medium lobster tails for 2 people
  3. Olive Oil based Mayonaise
  4. Room Temperature Butter, for buttering the rolls and for making the mix
  5. Salt and Pepper to Taste
 If you are using Live lobster, You can cook them in straight water. I like using a few bottles of champagne (Rich Lobster!), some onion, lemon, garlic cloves and seasonings for my water base. Boil them for 12 minutes.

If you are using the lobster tails, broil them according to the direction on package from the seafood dept.

Chop up the lobster in large chunks, add the mayo and butter to taste, don't use too much.

Serve on a toasted bun!

Shrimp & Co Ybor Groupon!!

Monday, April 23, 2012
Reason #1001 I love living in Ybor - Shrimp & Co. is within walking distance of our Condo. Living in FL and growing up on the beach makes one a very picky seafood eater. So when we first moved to Tampa, I will be the first to say that I was a little cautious of this cute beach shack looking restaurant located at the end of 7th Ave (across from The Columbia).

Well one night, we gave it a shot and LOVE it! My favorite is their fried FL pink shrimp. It has the perfect batter. Also, their appetizer sampler is pretty amazing. I wish I knew their secret of fried batter. We have also tried their steamed crawfish, which was the best we've had in FL. SO when Groupon sent out an email today that they had half off Shrimp & Co., we each bought one. I know where we are going for dinner tomorrow night! YAY! Here is a photo of the amazing Pink Shrimp.


Tower of Terror 10 miler?! What was I thinking?

Friday, April 20, 2012
What was wrong with me last night? I keep asking myself this question. Over and over again. I got home from work, had a few glasses of wine and while playing around on facebook, Run Disney popped up stating that the Inaugural Tower of Terror 10 miler was 94% full. I am obsessed with Halloween, Run Disney and medals, especially Inaugural medals. I really want to do this race. I am just afraid of the word TEN MILES. I say that, yet I am training to run the Princess half next February (my New Years resolution!). So I asked Gabe if he would train with me to do this and he said YES.

Before I had the chance to chicken out, I signed us up. I also notified Gabe's Aunt Karen, who just completed the Boston Marathon and she signed up with us. I am freaking out.....but I keep looking at this photo of my future lovely medal, which helps me calm down (It is glow in the dark!!!):


Surfing at Typhoon Lagoon

Monday, April 16, 2012
After spending another weekend at Disney, we are definitely getting our use out of our annual passes! Saturday was a unique experience that we will be doing again. Gabe's cousin, Dylan, set up a private surf session at Typhoon Lagoon on Saturday night. A group of 10 guys got to surf the wave pool! I got to come in for a short time to watch them. It was pretty awesome to say the least. They chose how to split up 100 waves anyway they wanted. The first 50 were split up by individual waves and here is a photo of one Gabe got a good ride on.
The next set of 50 waves were split  waves, groups of two going at once. Gabe and his brother-in-law, Ian, were paired up together. I left shortly after this round started and was told they caught some great waves. This is a pretty good shot of their split:
For anyone that surfs who has the opportunity to do this, it was a pretty cool experience. The cost for the rental was $1400 (split by 10 was $140 each for 3 hours of surf). You can get more people to come, the $1400 gets you 100 waves, you decide how you want to split it up.

Eating and Drinking my way through NOLA

Sunday, April 8, 2012
Wow what a trip that was! Eating, drinking, going to gallery exhibits, ghost tours, mini bus tours, cemetery visits. We needed more time! I wanted to put together some of my favorite moments of the trip - the food & drinks that I suggest you to visit and try out. Do not be afraid of the Turtle Soup.

One tip I would give to a New Orleans newbie is to make a list of the foods you must try. Go to those restaurants in the afternoon for lunch, as prices are cheaper than dinner. You may not always go along with your plan, but this way you can make sure you get to try that one special thing. Mine this trip was surely the Crabmeat Au Gratin at Bon Ton Cafe.

Start your trip out with Beignets & Cafe Au Lait at Cafe Du Monde
Grab a Pisco Sour at The Carousel Bar on The Monteleone - it was actually a moving carousel!

Don't be afraid, it is excellent - Turtle Soup at Cafe Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar

A New Orleans Classic - Chargrilled Oysters at Acme Oyster House

Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager - my new FAVORITE BEER
The Original Muffuletta at Central Grocery. Go early, lines are crazy long.
The infamous Hand Grenade at Tropical Isle - be careful, they are WICKED.
Crawfish at French Market Restaurant & Bar - Of all the paces we had Crawfish in Nola, these were our favorite
Hurricane at Lafiette's Blacksmith Shop - the oldest bar in America & a very strong drink
Chicken & Waffles at Emeril's New Orleans - BAM!
Crabmeat Au Gratin at Bon Ton Cafe
Hurricane at Pat O'Briens
Cajun Bloody Mary at Royal Sonesta Hotel. I needed one of these every morning!


Bon Ton Cafe's Crabmeat Au Gratin - The Best thing I've EVER ate

Thursday, April 5, 2012
Years ago, prior to my first visit to New Orleans, I saw an episode of Food Networks "Best Thing I've Ever Ate - Cheesy".  John Besh went on and on about Crab-meat Au Gratin at Bon Ton Cafe in NOLA. I didn't get a chance to try it out in 2009, so I made it my goal to get it this trip.


Bon Ton Cafe reminded me of going to the Elks club with my grandma and grandpa back in the day. The decor will throw you off. It doesn't have fancy interior. They serve crackers and relish trays.Very reminiscent of going out to eat as a child.

I don't usually freak out over food like this. I can't explain how great this dish was. It was rich, decadent, cheesy, sweet, savory, just seriously beyond words. I suggest anyone that goes to New Orleans to try this dish. It is very rich so be prepared, but worth every moment of culinary bliss! Keep in mind, they are only open Monday - Friday.

Gabe tried the Crawfish Etouffee and loved it. I tried it but my mind was blocked by the greatness of the crabmeant Au Gratin.It was dark in there and my photos didn't turn out the best.

I scoured the internet looking for the recipe to make Crab Meat Au Gratin. The closest thing I found was from another blogger, A Culinary Pilgrimage, who endured the same experience as I. Click here to check it out!

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