Banana Pudding Poke Cake #AddCoolWhip delicious recipes

Friday, August 29, 2014
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
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
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.

Spa, Beach and Brunch at the Loews Don Cesar, St. Pete Beach #GirlsDayAtTheDon

Thursday, August 28, 2014
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!

A weekend full of wedding sparkle and Canada Dry Flavored Sparkling Water Coupon

Monday, August 25, 2014
This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AddSparkle

My weekend was full of sparkle. We are officially in the 4 week countdown on the wedding and to be honest, I am starting to freak out a little. Just writing that sentence made my heart skip a few beats. My best friend visited me this weekend and while she was here, I was able to wrap up a few to-do's and everything we accomplished. Speaking of sparkle, I was also introduced to my latest obsession, Canada Dry Flavored Sparkling Water. More on that in a bit.
Hair piece purchased!! (excuse the awkward selfie). I am not wearing a veil. I am literally broke out in hives both times I tried a veil on. I felt constraint and couldn't breathe. I wanted to do an elegant but not too flashy hair piece. After going to lunch, Keri and I stopped in Davids Bridal so I could try on a Petticoat. I ended up walking out without said Petticoat but spent far too much money on a hair piece. Oops. However, it is the look I wanted and it doesn't give me a headache. I justified the price because I found someone in Tampa selling the exact petticoat I needed, in my size, for 90% off of the retail price. It was meant to be. I love the sparkle of this hair piece.
Flower girl shoes purchased! Lord was this task a complete headache. My flower girls dresses are cream while my wedding colors are plum, silver and burgundy. I had such a hard time finding shoes that would match their dress and I couldn't use silver or gold since it would clash. My Mom really wanted me to find purple sparkle shoes but that was nearly impossible. Then, as if it were meant to be, I found their shoes at Nordstrom Rack for $25. They match my Tory Burch's and I couldn't be happier. Plus the girls shoes have a sneaker bottom so I know they will be comfortable.
Wedding bands purchased! We finally got our wedding bands. We got Gabe's from International Diamond Center and purchased mine from Craigslist for $300. Much better than the $1,500 price online. My band is a 1/4ctw platinum and diamond band. Gabe opted for white titanium since he has never owned a piece of jewelry and didn't want to lose it. We will upgrade him to white gold later down the road.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I have become obsessed with Canada Dry Sparkling Water. I have a hard time drinking my daily water and with marathon training, it is imperative to stay hydrated. I tend to get bored with drinking 8 glasses of plain water and most flavored waters are too sweet for me. I found the sparkling water helps me get my daily water in and it is a nice treat. Especially when you add frozen berries to it! I found my Canada Dry Sparkling Water in Walmart, located near other enhanced waters.

I also saved $1.75 on the 6 pack by sharing the link on twitter. You can save $0.75 if you prefer not to share the deal. Don’t forget to print a coupon before you head out!

Asics Gel Nimbus 16 liteshow review

Sunday, August 24, 2014
Asics provided me with a pair of Asics Gel Nimbus 16 for review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Do you remember your first pair of real running shoes? Mine were Asics Gel Nimbus 13 and I was madly in love with them. I still own them and they live at my Mom's house so I do not have to take shoes with me when I visit. I ran my first 5K & my first half marathon in them. Those shoes are my babies. I look back to 3 years ago when I started running and the only thing I knew about running shoes is what my friends were wearing. My best friend Keri wore Asics Gel Kayanos so naturally when I was fitted for the first time and Asics Gel Nimbus was one of the three choices presented to me, I went with them.

When it came time to replace my Nimbus 13's, I promptly purchased the Nimbus 14. I lasted about 3 months in that shoe before handing them over to a friend - the new design did not work with my foot. Since then, I have worn nearly every other brand, never finding a shoe which was my sole-mate like the Nimbus 13 were.
So when Asics contacted me (!!!) last month to review any of their shoes, I gladly accepted and said a little prayer that the Nimbus would once again work for me. The Asics Gel Nimbus 16 are offered in 3 color selections and is also available on their lite-show, glow in the dark line. I struggled hard between hot pink / green and the yellow lite-show's.

After debating for hours and consulting multiple friends, I ended up with the yellow lite-show Asics Gel Nimbus and can honestly say, photos do not do this shoe justice. We primarily run at night and after day lite savings, we end up running in the dark. The fact that the gel glows in the dark was the deciding factor.
To date, I have ran nearly 50 miles in this shoe and have not gotten one blister! I even brought them with me to Maine during our family reunion and did some unplanned hill training. I am so happy to be back in Asics and that the Nimbus 16 was made for my foot.
In case you were wondering, this is what the Asics Gel Nimbus 16 lite-show looks like in the dark. I love the safety factor of these shoes.  Asics is also the sponsor of the 2014 TCS NYC Marathon. The 2013 NYC Marathon was my very first full marathon and the biggest accomplishment of my life. I hope to have the chance at running it again.
Asics Gel Nimbus 16 Specs:
Shoe Stats: weight 9.4 oz / heel height: 25 mm / forefoot height: 12 mm

FluidFit™ ASICS FluidFit™ upper technology combines multi-directional stretch mesh with stretch reinforcements that adapt to the athlete's foot, creating a truly customized glove-like fit.

FluidRide™ The latest evolution in ASICS midsole technology, FluidRide™ provides the ultimate combination of bounce back and cushioning properties with reduced weight and exceptional durability.

Rearfoot and Forefoot GEL® Cushioning Systems Attenuates shock during impact and toe-off phases, and allows movement in multiple planes as the foot transitions through the gait cycle.

Guidance Trusstic System® This Trusstic System® integrates Guidance Line® construction for enhanced gait efficiency while providing midfoot structural integrity.

Guidance Line® Vertical flex groove decouples the tooling along the line of progression for enhanced gait efficiency.

Heel Clutching System™ Exoskeletal heel counter provides improved support and creates improved heel fitting environment.

Discrete Eyelets Independently placed eyelets disburse lace tension, creating a customized fitting environment and enhanced upper comfort.

Gender-Specific Cushioning Women's models feature a lower-density top layer in the midsole, allowing female athletes to better enjoy the benefits of midsole compression.

Plus 3® 3mm of additional height on women's models helps relieve achilles tension.

Follow Asics: Website | Twitter | Facebook

#WeddingWednesday Bacherlorette Cruise Part 2 - Nassau

Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Last week I posted about my fabulous Bacherlorette Cruise aboard the Carnival Sensation. Today, I want to tell you all about what we did in Nassau. I have been to the Bahamas more times than I can count on my fingers and toes. The company I used to work for had a development on Grand Bahama Island and I visited frequently for work. I also go on a girls cruise every year and the Bahamas is always on our itinerary. I feel like I know the Island of Nassau by heart and have done everything one could possibly do while there. Yet this trip was different.
There were 6 of us girls on this cruise. After getting off the ship, we walked down to the British Colonial Hilton and attempted to pay $60 a person for a beach day which in my mind was very expensive, even with getting $40 back for food and beverage.
Upon walking inside, we were turned down due to day passes being sold out. Their loss - our gain. This was the best thing that could have happened to us. We were told there was a public beach a short walk down the road and we ventured off and found Fat Tuesdays which happened to be adjacent to the Junkanoo Beach.

We ordered a few cocktails, marveled over how clear the water was and headed out to spend time at the beach. This was a much different experience than any other I have had in Nassau. This was a public beach, there were tons of shacks selling food and renting water sports. However, there was a ton of broken glass and you had to watch everywhere you stepped.

We rented a paddle board for $30, spent sometime in the water and I got a fresh coconut spiced rum drink for $7. If only I could transport myself back there right now, coconut drink and all.

Everyone was getting hungry and we found out we were very close to the famous Arawak Cay Fish Fry. I have heard so many great things about Fish Fry but have never been in my million trips to Nassau.
We ate at Twin Brothers Seafood and Steakhouse which has been on multiple shows including Top Chef. I was super excited. The food was good but it was far from cheap. Keri and I decided to split the most expensive item on the menu - the mixed Seafood Platter for $40. The batter was light and airy but I wouldn't spend $40 on this dish again.

After our belly's were full of fried fish and Kalik Gold beer, we headed out to continue our adventure. We found ourselves another beach, this one without any broken glass. We laid out, spent sometime in the perfect water and truly relaxed.

We had to be back on the boat by 4:30 and we couldn't pass up an opportunity to visit Sr. Frogs for a cocktail and obligatory chair photo. I literally have 10 different versions over the years sitting in this chair.
Sadly it was time to leave Nassau. I wish we had more time on the island because this day was absolute perfection. We walked a total of 3 miles this day on our adventure. It helped with the amount of fried food and adult beverages we consumed :)

A travelers best friend - tmobile free data for life with #TabletTrio

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

If you are a frequent reader of this blog and follow me on Instagram, you are aware that I am consistently on the go. This summer alone, I have traveled to the Bahamas, Maine, New Orleans and North Carolina. Constantly being on the road has really impacted my frequency to blog since I no longer travel with my laptop. We own a few tablets but neither of them have built in data, so unless I am connected to someones Wifi, I am unable to connect. This all changed with tmobile free 200mb for life with the T-Mobile Trio AXS 7.85” 4G Tablet.
It seemed too good to be true. An 4G android tablet with 200mb free data FOR LIFE? Plus the tablet only cost $179? Kinda crazy right? I have owned this tablet for a week now and can say first hand, there are no tricks or gimmicks - this deal is legitimate. As long as you own the T-Mobile Trio AXS 7.85” 4G Tablet purchased from Walmart, you will get 200mb of free data each month. My soon to be sister in law ordered this a few days after I bought mine. It is great not only for her being on the road but also for those times when the kids need wifi on the go now that they are back to school.
I was equally impressed with the tablet for the price point. The Trio has a a 1.2ghz Quad Core, 5MP camera, a 16GB expandable Micro SD Slot, GPS & FM Radio and bluetooth connectivity and much more. Google Play is a major plus and after I connected my google account, my search history and favorites were already installed on the Trio.
Where we are saying "I Do" in 5 weeks!
This tablet will be perfect for our wedding week in New Orleans. During our last trip, I had major issues uploading photos, tweeting and getting GPS to work. Having a data enabled device will be such a huge bonus. I know from prior experiences in the big easy that access to the internet is not available everywhere you go. Since the size of the Trio is about the same as the iPad Mini, it will fit perfectly fits in all of my purses, giving me access to GPS, email and contacts without draining the battery on my phone.
Check out the photo I snapped with the Trio while at Walt Disney World this past weekend - and instantly uploaded to Instagram. I don't have to worry about Instagram draining my phone anymore. The days of bringing my tablet to the hotel room so I could connect to the internet, just to check my email or post photos online are over. I can even work on the beach!!
Here's a tip not to go over your data on the first day of owning the device - if you are going to download any apps, make sure you are connected to Wifi so you do not waste your data. Downloads will eat up your 200mb fast. Just downloading my day to day apps (instagram, facebook, twitter, kindle and pinterest), I used nearly 2 gigs of data - thank goodness I was connected to Wifi. For those who want more than 200MB per month of Free Data, T-Mobile and Walmart offer affordable, flexible and overage-free tablet data plans for every type of user.

Earn Walgreens Balance Rewards for making healthy choices #shop

Tuesday, August 19, 2014
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BalanceRewards #CollectiveBias
Beautiful Bayshore Blvd
Prior to living in Tampa, the furthest I had ever ran was a mile. I absolutely hated everything to do with running - sweating, panting, hurting, feeling self defeat. Then something I never thought was possible happened. I became a marathoner. Years prior to that day, my best friend started making healthy choices and began running. She ran her first 13.1, the 2012 runDisney Princess Half Marathon. I went to watch her and also signed up to run the 5K the day before. That day changed my life. Watching her complete 13.1 miles (what I then thought was absolutely insane) was so inspiring that I signed up for a 10 mile run a few months later. Then all craziness broke loose.
2012-2014 medals
2 years later, I have ran two full marathons, 8 half marathons, 1 10 mile race, 2 half marathon relays and countless 5K's. Living in Tampa helped me start running. We have one of the most beautiful running routes in the US, along Bayshore Blvd, the longest uninterrupted sidewalk in the world as seen above.
The proudest two moments I had in my short two years of running was completing my first half marathon, the 2013 NYC Marathon and completing the 2014 runDisney Dopey Challenge, running 48.6 miles during 4 days consecutive days (5K, 10K, 13.1, 26.2). Those are two special days which will always belong to me. If you were to ask me 2 years ago if I thought this was possible, I would have tried to get my fiance to give you a psych evaluation.
I am often asked how I got into running and tips for reaching goals. Running buddies are key - my fiance runs with me and we encourage each other to lace up on days we don't want to. I am not a fast runner and I often run without my garmin so I don't stress myself out. Stress while running is not good and your inner demons will cause you to fail. What I care about is staying healthy and injury free. I make goals which are reachable. Once that goal is met, I am onto the next. Sure I would love to have a PR every time I run - who wouldn't. Yet I know that isn't the case and I gave up caring about PRs (personal records) a long time ago. You cannot let the fact that other people are faster than you bring you down. Unless your name is Shalene Flanagan, there will always be someone out there who is faster than you.
I have a few items which are must haves during marathon training. Sports sunscreen, Aquaphor, Moleskin, 5-hour energy, Epson salt (Village Naturals Therapy aches & pain relief if you can find it), 500mg Tylenol and a sports massage stick are naming just a few. I can easily pick these up at my Tampa Walgreens and they are also frequently on sale.
More important than anything you can buy at a store is being able to keep yourself liable for training. There are multiple ways to do this. Fitness websites are a great way to track progress. For years, I have used Map My Run and My Fitness Pal. Then I learned Walgreens has a healthy choices activity tracker which is tied to your Balance Rewards membership. Now you can track your fitness activity and earn points, which turn into Balance Rewards! I am pretty close to my first $5 reward. Click here to link your Balance Rewards account up and start earning money for making healthy choices!
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