Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I Run For Wine - The 12 Days of Christmas

I wrote you all a little song. While I am not a song writer (and you never want to hear me sing....ever), you should like the lyrics. Starting on December 2nd through December 19th, I will have giveaways every Monday through Thursday, featuring a few of my favorite brands. Make sure you bookmark this page because I have some great presents for you this year.

Without further ado, I Run For Wine's 12 Days of Christmas:
On the first day of Christmas, I Run For Wine gave to me - A Family Four Pack of Tickets to Busch Gardens Christmas Town, Tampa Bay.

On the second day of Christmas,I Run For Wine gave to me - California Olive Ranch 3 Pack and Analon Cookware Braising Pan.
On the third day of Christmas, I Run For Wine gave to me - 3 Day Juice Cleanse from Suja Juice

On the fourth day of Christmas, I Run For Wine gave to me - A Milestone Jewelry, I Run For Wine Bracelet
On the fifth day of Christmas, I Run For Wine gave to me - A Sodastream Fountain Jet Soda maker with a variety 6-pack of popular sample-size flavors and 3 full-sized flavors of the winner’s choice.
On the sixth day of Christmas, I Run For Wine gave to me - A $75 Sparkle Skirts Gift Card.
On the seventh day of Christmas, I Run For Wine gave to me - A Zoku Slush Maker
On the eighth day of Christmas, I Run For Wine gave to me - A Pair of Boston Bill Athletic Sunglasses
On the ninth day of Christmas, I Run For Wine gave to me - A Halo Headband Product of my choice

On the tenth day of Christmas, I Run For Wine gave to me - A Easy Canvas Print (11x14)

On the eleventh day of Christmas, I Run For Wine gave to me - The Stick, Marathon Stick
On the twelfth day of Christmas, I Run For Wine gave to me - A Rock n Roll Half Marathon Entry of my Choice (in the USA)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday shopping traditions are changing up #MyKindOfHoliday

I am not a big shopper but something I love is spending money to save money. I am one of those people who easily gets lured in by flashy sales, bogos and door buster sales. I always end up buying stuff I don't need because it is 80% off. 
Every Thanksgiving Thursday has been the same for me over the years. Waking up with a cup of coffee, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and going through Black Friday ads. I am meticulous about my Black Friday ads. I write down what deals I want to take advantage of, listing store by store, hours of each sale and location across town. From there, I will map out my day and be home in time for leftovers.
Then everything got mixed up when stores started opening at midnight on Black Friday and it got even crazier when stores started door busters on Thanksgiving night.  For the last two years, Gabe and I have gone out at Midnight to do some shopping. People watching on Black Friday is fun at any hour.

Yet this year, our tradition will change a bit. Target is offering a $100 gift card with the purchase of an iPad Air. I received a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 as a gift but happen to be an Apple girl. All along, I planned on exchanging the Tab for the iPad air at Target and paying the difference. When I saw target offering $100 back starting at 8pm on Thanksgiving, I knew I would have to find my way to a Target store to take advantage of that offer. They are also offering a similar deal on the iPad Mini, a $75 gift card with purchase. Check out the awesome Black Friday deals only @Target! (Content and/or other value provided by our partner, Target)
It's nuts to think that I will be at Target during a time I would normally be drinking a coffee martini and eating pumpkin pie, but my Mom didn't flinch when I mentioned my plans to her.  The funniest thing about this purchase is that it isn't even a holiday gift - it is an upgrade to my current device. There are other items at Target we will be picking up on Thursday night.

Are you planning on shopping prior to Black Friday this year?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Women's Series Half Marathon, St. Pete Recap

Eleven months ago, if you were to tell me I ran one full marathon and two half marathons within a three week period of time, I would have told you that you're mental. Yet here I sit, sore angry legs and all.

On Sunday, I finished my sixth half marathon, the Women's Running Series in St. Petersburg, FL. I finished this race with my best friend Keri who was my original inspiration to start running. She lost 30+ pounds with the help of running,. When she signed up for her first 1/2 marathon - Disney Princess Half in 2012, I decided to sign up for the 5K during princess weekend and the rest is history.............
Keri & I - rundisney Princess 2012
We stayed the night before the race at the Vinoy Renaissance in St. Pete, luckily for us - this is where the expo was being held.
We grabbed our goodie bag and got everything ready before dinner. I was a crazy pink lady for sure.
For dinner, Keri and I decided to split a burger at Vinoy's casual restaurant Alfresco's. Through the past year, we have both gotten smart enough not to overeat the night before a half marathon. This burger happened to be one of the best burgers I have had in the Tampa / St. Pete area. I am a burger snob and good lord this was delicious. The hand cut fries had old bay on them. Sure - a fatty cheeseburger may not be the best pre-race option but we loved it!
The Vinoy was an amazing hotel with super comfortable beds. Not to mention, Aveda body products. I was practically stalking housekeeping! Keri and I watched youtube self help videos on how properly wrap my ankle with KT tape. I can tell you my ankle survived.
Next thing we knew it was time to wake up on Sunday morning. This course started and ended outside the Salvador Dali museum!
This particular day was in the mid 60's with 15-20 mph wind gusts and was overcast. I prefer running on overcast days.
After a pain free few miles, I saw a hot dog in the distance. As a huge Disney fan, I instantly thought of the Hot Dog Song and wanted a photo - as we got closer, I realized the hot dog was a friend of mine - Kat of Sneakers and Fingerpaints. This excited me a great deal! HOT DOG!
I was so happy that the hot dog was a friend of mine that I didn't pay attention to the rest of my surroundings. Kat was dressed as a hot dog for the Best Damn Race and there were others dressed up as well.....dressed up may not be the best word. Keri said we should do this race next year :)
photo: sneakersandfingerpaints.com
As we went along, I was doing shockingly ok. One thing I have not shared on my blog is that I have had bronchitis since we left NYC the first week of November. I pushed through at Wine and Dine, which made it worse. I haven't laced my sneakers up since I crossed the finish line at the Wine and Dine Half Marathon.

Up through mile 8, Keri and I were in great condition. When 8 hit, we both needed a medic tent, one that I didn't see after mile 6. I am certain they were there but we couldn't find one. She needed anti-chafe while I in desperate need for Tylenol.
I pushed through - with an injured foot and a bronchial cough. Keri and I enjoyed our race together. Although we fight like sisters, we think exactly alike when it comes to running races. We were there to have fun and collect the bling & bubbly at the end of the race.
Overall, the race series was amazing and a perfect girls race weekend. I enjoyed Keri's attendance and am looking forward to our next race together!
My outfit:
Halo Headband Visor
Under Armour Women's UA Fly-By Stretch Mesh Tank
Sparkle Skirts DivaPink
CEP Women's Compression Sleeve - Pink
Brooks Women's Glycerin 11 Running Shoes
iFitness Single Pouch Belt

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The #GrainBrain Challenge Recap!

The following post is sponsored by Fitfluential LLC on behalf of Grain Brain

A few days before I headed to New York to run the ING NYC Marathon, I received an opportunity to be part of a four week challenge which focuses on the health of your brain by removing carbohydrates and eating healthy fats. This my friends was "The Grain Brain Challenge"

In the challenge, I started taking supplements (Omega 3 Fish oil, Resvida, DHA). I avoided gluten to my best ability (marathon and traveling hankered that a bit). I kept up with my exercise routine, which has been an interesting month with everything going on. I also made a conscious effort to get a good amount of sleep every night. I am usually a night owl and my sleep routine sucks. I can proudly state I have been getting 8+ hours a night since I started the 4 week challenge.  

Since I did a modified version of this diet, I could really feel the difference when I had to carb load. I honestly felt sluggish and bloated but the carbs got me through that grueling 26.2 miles. On days I followed the diet strict, I felt amazing.

After the NYC Marathon, we returned home and I packed my bags up once again 4 days later to head off to Disney for Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Being on Disney property for 4 days, I did find myself cheating a bit here and there with food. After that was over, I got to business and really followed this diet. I love eggs, avocados, cheese and all green veggies, so I was a very happy person. Plus, I generally don't eat that many carbs and quickly saw my two race carb loading bloat go away. 

Here's a few things I ate while on the diet....

Acorn squash stuffed with turkey sausage & apples
Bruschetta chicken, broccoli and roasted tomatoes
My new favorite lunch - tuna and avocado lettuce wraps
Pan seared salmon
I love that this challenge helps your brain focus and I can say, this is my busiest time of year at work. I didn't find myself pulling my hair out as I usually do from October through December. I found myself focused and attentive instead of my usual ADD state when chaos hits.

I will absolutely keep on a modified version of this diet - as this is how I normally eat. While I cannot kick carbs out of my life entirely due to my Dopey training, I now know how to eat smart carbs.

You can read more about the Grain Brain Challenge in my first post.

Now, Boo-Kitty may need a lesson or two about the Grain Brain challenge - because THIS IS NOT OK!
Check out the #grainbrain and #GBChallenge hashtags to see how others did with the challenge too!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Oxford Exchange Tampa - Holiday Shopping Finds & a Seventh Avenue Apothecary #Giveaway

It's hard to believe that Oxford Exchange in Tampa has been opened for over a year. A year later and they are still going strong, serving delicious food, tea and coffee while offering up a unique shopping experience. If I had Daddy's credit card, I could do some major damage in there. The beauty of Oxford Exchange is what will first grab your attention. You can check out my Oxford Exchange blog post from last year for more interior photos. Oxford Exchange is a book store, gift shop, restaurant, coffee and tea bar, originally built in 1891 as a stable for the Plant Hotel. When Oxford Exchange was built, they kept so much of the history in the building. You get a great feel of modern contemporary to comfortable European elegance.
Last week, a group of bloggers in the Tampa Bay area got a first look at the Holiday's at OE. We learned how to make Party Appetizers in a Pint from OE's Executive Chef Erin Guggino, (Butternut Squash Soup Shooters & Dried Figs with Goat Cheese & Toasted Walnuts). I'm looking forward to trying both of those out this holiday Season. We then sampled on tea & chocolate and coffee & chocolate pairings. This was a first for me! Tebella Tea Company showcased their amazing Peppermint Bark tea paired with Mast Brothers Dark Chocolate with Crown Maple. Meanwhile Buddy Brew paired their coffee with Dandelion Chocolate.
What really grabbed my attention was the OE vendor, Seventh Avenue Apothecary, whose store is located in Ybor City. I had no idea this place existed in my backyard. Seventh Avenue Apothecary is a family owned & operated company pouring small batches of candles in Tampa, FL. They have signature scents which honor the history, culture and culinary legacy of Ybor City. Upon reading their menu, I realized quickly that this was no Yankee Candle Company. They have very unique and amazing scents.

Seventh Avenue Apothecary Candles are well worth their price tag. And one of my lucky readers is going to get one of their very own! I was given a Teak & Cardamom candle, the signature exclusive scent of Oxford Exchange, to giveaway! This candle has a burn time of Approximately 55 hours, made with all natural soy wax, free of dyes, with natural coated cotton wick. Scroll down below to enter on the rafflecopter widget, and make sure you leave a comment letting me know which of the scents you would love to smell in your house. Click here to see their entire lineup.
If you area n the Tampa area on December 1st, OE is hosting their 1st annual Gift Bazaar, where you can get a first hand look of what we experienced. You can also check out OE's entire calendar of events to see what is happening, including their new and very popular, bingo night!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Every Brides Nightmare...... Losing Your Venue #WeddingWednesday

Last Friday I received a call from my Best Friend Keri, who happens to be the Matron of Honor in my wedding and a Bridesmaid in my former roommate Tara's upcoming wedding. Tara got engaged two months after I said yes to Gabe and her wedding is taking place 4 months prior to mine. Tara and her fiance are big water lovers and they are having a beach themed wedding on May 9th, 2014. They chose May since it is the last possible month before the crazy FL summer heat....and she works at an accountants office, unable to take time off from January through Tax Day. May is her only option to get married with a beach themed big day.
Me, Tara & Keri
I am the type of bride who makes rash decisions - Tara on the other hand is one who thinks everything out. Since Tara and her fiance are having a beach themed wedding, they wanted a venue on the water. There is a location in Daytona Beach which Tara had her heart set on and opted for having a Friday night wedding so they could get married there. This is a very well known establishment in Daytona Beach and I have been to a few weddings there - I was excited for them that they got it secured (and within budget!). 

At 5:00 Friday, I received a call from a panicked Keri. She heard a rumor that Tara's venue (which they already put a deposit down on) was shutting it's doors - no wedding's would be taking place after December 31st, 2013. We did a three way call to the venue to verify this information and we were told what Keri heard was true. We asked why Tara hadn't been notified and were informed that up through the end of Friday's business day, all to-be brides up through March had been notified. Since Tara is a May bride, she hadn't received the call yet - Keri broke the bad news to her.

While this post has nothing to do with my wedding, I wanted to share Tara's story. What would you do in this situation? I couldn't even imagine. Thankfully, Tara has not ordered her invitations yet. While it may be a little difficult finding a venue on the water in a limited time frame, she is in a much better position than the poor January and February brides. When you go under contract for a wedding venue, you feel safe and secure. These people are the ones you are paying big bucks to so your perfect day is....well, perfect. While it is scary signing that contract, one would never think that this could happen. One worries about weather and family drama, but not your venue closing it's doors.

I think she should call David Tutera :) Seriously though, I am going to do everything in my power to help Tara figure all of this out. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Disney World in November is Super Magical

We are fortunate enough to live 65 miles from Walt Disney World and even splurged this year for premium passes (entry to all 4 parks with no blackouts, both water parks, golf, Disney Quest and much more). We find ourselves on Disney property at least once a month, even more during the "cooler" Florida season. During the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, we stayed on property for 4 days and got to experience Disney like everyone else who was on vacation vs. coming over on a day trip!

November happens to be my favorite month out of the year at Disney World. If you time it out perfectly, you can experience Epcot Food and Wine Festival and experience Christmas season at Disney! Food and Wine goes through the second weekend of November. The Osborne Family Spectacle of  Dancing Lights starts the second Friday of November, as does Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party so the parks and resorts are decorated for Christmas and Cinderellas Castle is lit up for the season. You can enjoy the final days of Food and Wine while getting to enjoy the holiday's throughout the parks.

I arrived at the hotel on Thursday night, just prior to the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon meetup. The smallest things excite me - like signing my name next to mouse ears vs. signing at the X. Mouse ears towels and an incredible pool that will turn any adult into a child, no pixie dust required.
Yet that wasn't what had me most excited - it was this little pink bracelet.....also known as the Magic Band. A bracelet which is your Disney resort key, your annual pass or daily tickets, fast passes, photo passport and even credit card for purchasing items on property (no worries if you lose it, you have a pin number for all purchases). This thing is literally magic and I took full advantage of it on Sunday with fast passes when our niece and nephew visited...No worries of having to run all over property to obtain fast passes for the kiddos - you can do it all online through My Magic . I also blinged mine out with Piggy and Kermie bandits.  Bandits are ways to personalize your band to express who you are - check out my friend Meghann's Magic Band experience!
Who thought a pink bracelet would make me so happy! After having a great time Thursday night at the meetup with old friends and making new friends, I woke up bright and early Friday, knowing I had a BIG day ahead of me. Two of my best friends (and bridesmaids), Darlynn and Keri were coming to spend the day with me. Darlynn got to the resort super early, so we could witness the daily opening of Magic Kingdom - where guests are welcomed with a train full of Disney characters. This takes place 12 minutes prior to park opening and a randomly selected honoree family along with Mickey, Minnie & friends opens the park with a burst of confetti and Pixie Dust. I can honestly state, I have not seen Darlynn squeal with that level of excitement in a very long time. The magic of Disney officially got to her. I loved strolling through the park checking out the Christmas decorations. I was having a pang of jealousy that we weren't attending Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party that night.
Since we started at the park bright and early, Dar and I literally rode every ride on our list and were done before 10:30. 1 1/2 hours in the park and we had our Magic Kingdom checklist completed. So we headed back to the resort to meet Keri and head off to Epcot Food and Wine Festival.
This was my THIRD trip to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival in 2013 so I felt like a living event guide. I showed the girls all of my favorites and loved watching them experience my favorite Disney event of the year. We drank our fair share of wine and champagne, ate a ton of food and had a grand time. I do have a new favorite at Epcot which will be a tradition - in France, with a glass of Moet Rose and Les Halles macarons. You can have the chocolate as this is my version of Heaven!
The day quickly passed by and it was time for Darlynn to say goodbye. Keri and I jumped back on the monorail so we could head back to the resort and change. I was truly getting spoiled with monorail transportation. We then headed off to Hollywood Studios so I could show Keri the Osborne Family Spectacle of  Dancing Lights - this was the first night of the light display and it was magical as ever. It even snowed on us. You can check out my Osborne Lights recap from last year, including a video of the dancing lights by clicking here.
After a very long and exhausting day, it was time to head back to the resort. I needed to get a decent amount of sleep as the following night was the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon. We started off Saturday morning by attending the runDisney expo, then to Animal Kingdom for lunch. I was in a major state of food confusion and couldn't think of anything to eat - so we ended up at Rainforest Cafe, where Gabe had one of the best burgers we've ever had. I didn't get a photo of it :( Meanwhile, I ordered coconut shrimp which were pretty good but I had some major food jealousy. Normally Coconut Shrimp is not something I would eat prior to running a half marathon. I am still questioning why I ordered this.
We took Keri into Animal Kingdom since she had never been there. She was instantly gravitated to the giant Christmas tree outside of the park.
Gabe and I finally got a decent photo in front of Everest. I swear, every time we have tried to get this photo, it has either been raining, super cloudy or the photo didn't come out well.
After a quick tour of Animal Kingdom, it was time to head back to the hotel and take a nap so I could prepare for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. This was a sad moment for me as I was missing out on my Niece Madison's 1st Birthday. I knew there was no possible way for me to make it to her party and get back without being completely exhausted prior to running the half marathon. I will just have to give her extra hugs and kisses at Thanksgiving :)
The next morning, Gabe and I met Meghann for breakfast at Kona Cafe, my favorite breakfast spot in all of Disney World. We properly hydrated with three beverages, I ordered the Somoan (poached eggs over pulled pork hash) and Meghann ordered the famous stuffed Tonga Toast (without bananas).  And of course Mimosa's!
We decided to continue the Mimosa party after breakfast while icing our sore legs. Meghann ran a Full Iron Man one week prior to Wine and Dine and I was still hurting pretty bad from the NYC Marathon 6 days prior. After we were properly hydrated and iced, Meghann headed to the Magic Kingdom. Gabe and I waited for his parents to come over along with his sister, brother in-law and our niece and nephew. I proudly showed Hailey and Evan (3 & 2 years old) my Wine and Dine medal, both of whom were very excited! Even kept holding it saying "MICKEY!!!".
While at the park, thanks to a suggestion from a friend on Instagram named Pamela (who ironically happens to be my cousin's cousin from the other side - smallllllll world) we tried the Chicken and Waffles at Sleepy Hollow Inn at the Magic Kingdom. A sweet and spicy fried chicken breast with slaw and arugula on top of a fluffy waffle. I WAS IN HEAVEN. I am going out on a limb here and say - this was best thing I have ever ate at Disney.
At nightfall, I hit a wall of exhaustion like I've never felt before and had to leave the park and go back to the hotel. Before I collapsed we left Disney, I insisted upon getting an updated photo of the Magic Kingdom lit up for the holiday's. While the castle may look stunning in the photo, it does not do justice. Cinderellas castle is so amazing this time of year.
 I was so sad to leave but had a truly magical extended weekend at Disney. I cannot wait to go back!

Do you have a favorite time of  year to visit theme parks? If so, when and why?