Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Boo-Kitty's story and why he lives the GOODLIFE™

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for #Collective Bias and its advertiser.

Hi! My name is Boo-Kitty. I am the fur-baby of the human's blog you are reading. I am 10 years old, grey, have a built in tuxedo for black tie affairs. Today, I wanted to tell you all about my story, talk about my Mommy and tell you about the best dry cat food I've ever tried!
I came into this world in October of 2003. Someone placed me, my brothers and sisters inside a car engine and left us there. Luckily, a firefighter heard me meowing and rescued us.Thank goodness I am vocal, however my Mom doesn't have the same reaction at 4am when I want cat food! I ended up in a shelter and we were too young to be adopted. October was also a really bad month for both me and my Mom. She was traveling a lot for work and had a 10 month old dog at home. She made the best decision ever very hard decision to give my Grandparents her puppy, also known as my evil cousin, a dachshund named Deezyl who barks at me and wears shirts that say "I hate Cats". Then my Grandpa passed away at the age of 52. Mommy was very depressed so my Aunt Darlynn suggested she adopt a cat. That's where I come into this story!!
Mommy named me Boo because I was afraid of everything (I still am) and we both secretly wish my birthday was on Halloween. Since neither of us know my actual birthday, this is the day we celebrate it. Well, at least it is the day I wake up to new toys and treats, then spend the evening hiding under the bed because miniature humans with stuff on their face ring the doorbell for candy and say trick or treat. Silly humans. I will forgive these silly humans since mine put me on their wedding save the date coasters. This proves how important I really am. I really do love my Mommy and Daddy!
These days, my Mom works from home and I keep her company all day long! I love to lay on the device she calls a remote which somehow changes the color of that big noisy screen on the wall. She sometimes cry's while looking at it so I try to hide the remote from her. I also love to lay on the square thing she talks to. I think she calls it a phone since she is constantly going around the house saying "Where's my phone", but I think she is going crazy talking to herself. Bad enough she talks to me, then pretends to talk back for me.
Mom keeps telling me I need to go on a diet. Le-Sigh. Then she comes home from the Tampa Walmart today with a delicious new kind of food for me! I really liked it and I am claiming it is the best dry food for cats! This is where you can find it on the shelves!
The bag says it is called GOODLIFE™ pet food. I read on the label that it is really healthy for me. It contains real chicken & salmon, fruits & veggies, no corn, soy or wheat and has no artificial flavors or preservatives! While my Mommy likes to exaggerate, I only speak the truth - read for yourself!
Great news for all of the other kitty's out there -right now, your humans can find a $1 off GOODLIFE™ petfood coupon on their website! That means extra catnip for all. It's great to be a #goodlifepet! It was nice speaking with you, however, this will not become a habit. I have no idea how my Mom does this writing thing all the time, it's time for a cat nap!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cooking with Wine, 14 Hands Vineyards Beef Bourguignon Recipe

Ever since I read Julie and Julia, I had a desire to cook Julia Childs famous Beef Bourguignon. That was many years ago and my Julia Childs Mastering the Art of French Cooking plays as a book end for my massive cookbook collection. Call me intimated if you will, but 6 hours of cooking scares me half to death. Four hours is my limit.
This weekend, I made a simplified version of  Beef Bourguignon thanks Ina Garten and Food Network. This came into my brain after a Saturday visit to Epcot with my Mom. While in the France world showcase, my Mom showed me Julia Childs cookbook, which Disney has for sale. She didn't realize I already owned the book. When she asked if I had made anything out of it, I became very embarrassed (still haven't - put this task in my May goals).
The one thing about Beef Bourguignon is that it calls for A LOT of dry red wine, a bottle in fact. I had the recent award winning 14 Hands Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon on hand and let it do it's job (I halved the recipe so I could have some of this bottle to myself).
This was a delicious and hearty meal. I had to add some extra spice as I found the wine overpowered all other flavors. With a few dashes here and there from my seasoning cabinet, the meal ended up perfect.

The Cab I used from 14 Hands Vineyards was named a "Hot Brand" for the 5th consecutive year by Impact magazine. In total, 26 domestic wine brands earned Hot Brands honors for 2013, and 25 of them are from California. Notably, 14 Hands Winery is the list’s sole non-California honoree. I am a huge fan of 14 Hands Vineyards  and at their taste and price point, you cannot go wrong.

Beef Bourguignon (adapted from Ina Garten)
I made half of this recipe which is perfect for 4
Ingredients
1 tablespoon good olive oil
8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes I used Beef Short Ribs
Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/2 cup Cognac I did not have Cognac and used Port. Not the same thing at all but I improvised.
1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine
1 can (2 cups) beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound frozen whole onions
1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
For serving: Country bread or Sour Dough, toasted or grilled and rubbed with garlic clove

Directions
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

To serve, toast the bread in the toaster or oven. Rub each slice on 1 side with a cut clove of garlic. For each serving, spoon the stew over a slice of bread.

Monday, April 28, 2014

New Image Youth Center - Day of Giving Back 2014, North Highland

This is a long post but I urge you to finish reading until the end. This Saturday, I met someone who truly impacted my life: Shanta Barton-Stubbs of Orlando, FL. At age 21 while in college, Shanta was visiting her father, a minister at a church in the Parramore community of Orlando. During this trip, her life suddenly changed. She saw a few kids playing in the middle of the road with shopping carts, weaving in and out of traffic. After stopping them, they told her they had nothing else to do. So she brought them to the church and played Monopoly with them. The next day, Shanta's father called - the kids were back looking for their friend and New Image Youth Center was born.
With $1,500 in her bank account, the 21 year old college student started the New Image Youth Center. Shanta now helps mentor over 50 children a day in the Parramore Community. She went on to obtain her graduate degree in Mental Health but put her PHD dreams on hold to run the center. It came down to her doctorate degree vs. the children's future.
On Saturday, North Highland of Central Florida hosted a community day for New Image Youth Center as part of Day of Giving Back, a day where each of our offices give back to the community we live and work in. Prior to Saturday, we held a clothing drive for the community of Parramore. After encouraging our co-workers to clean out their closets, we hosted a community day - where kids were encouraged to come out and enjoy a beautiful day outside with us. There was a bounce house, a cookout, gardening, basketball, we even built and painted birdhouses with the kids. We also handed out clothing to the Parramore community.
In most recent studies, 73% of Parramores 2,000 children lived in poverty and 84 percent were in single parent households. 47% of Parramore adults had neither a high school diploma nor GED and the median household income was $13,613. Parramore had the City's highest rate of reported child abuse and neglect, a juvenile arrest rate 2½ times that of Orlando's citywide rate and a teen birth rate nearly six times the rate of the surrounding county.
Thanks to New Image Youth Center, their students graduating high school is at 100%. Six of whom have gone onto college. None of the kids who attend New Image Youth Center have been in the juvenile system and teenage pregnancy is down. They help in the community and have grown up to become amazing young adults.
During our time at New Image Youth Center, the North Highland team also did a bit of maintenance. From painting to mulching, we did whatever was needed to assist the center.
The bounce house was by far a big hit of the day!
Although we had an office of 35+ bring clothes for all ages, it was not enough. By the end of the day all of the clothing was gone with the exception of some winter gear. If you are in the city of Orlando, please think of donating your unwanted clothing directly to New Image Youth Center - I saw first hand our old clothing go into the hands of those desperately in need.
The Youth Center is a location which is a positive place for kids to go after school. Shanta helps students who face academic and life changes. Shanta is a licensed mental health counselor and after a day of seeing her clients, she heads to the center to assist the kids with personal and professional character building activities that are applicable in their daily lives.
Shanta has been recognized by the city of Orlando including the Bank of America Local hero award in 2007, the 2008 Magic Maker Award given by the NBAs Orlando Magic, and winning the national title of Ms Corporate America 2009. Shanta became the first African American women to win this title coveted title.
The kids even have their own community garden. We learned that some people in the neighborhood vandalize the garden at night. Sometimes taking the vegetables and sometimes destroying what the kids have grown. This broke my heart. I found my mother (pictured above in the middle) in the garden the entire 4 hours we were at New Image Youth Center (I did not get her green thumb). While at the center, we were able to temporarily fix a broken sprinkler to their garden, which someone broke the night before we got there. 
We had an unexpected visitor, Orlando's newly appointed Chief of Police John Mina. It was great for a local hero to make an unexpected visit to this amazing foundation.
How to Help! So here is where I need the voices from those all over the country. In a few short months, New Image Youth Center will be forced to move due to new landlords raising their rent by $1,000 a month. They have found a new location but are currently paying double rent (on top of the currently hiked rent). If you have ever been in Parramore, you know that New Image is one of the most up-kept and respected properties in the community, all thanks to Shanta and her team. The new location will need improvements and renovation. Click here to contact Shanta today!

Friday, April 25, 2014

#Giveaway - Los Lonely Boys to Headline the 2014 Tampa Bay Margarita Festival

The very popular Margarita Festival in Tampa is returning in 2014 with a Grammy winning artist slated for the festivities - the Los Lonely Boys. The 2014 Tampa Bay Margarita Festival is scheduled for Saturday, May 24th, 2014 from 2pm to 10pm at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in Downtown Tampa. I have four tickets to give away! Read below :)

In addition to Los Lonely Boys, the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival will feature live bands throughout the day. Where else can you ride a giant mechanical Corona bottle? There will be margaritas in all flavors and varieties, from traditional to exotic flavors, along with a variety of craft margaritas. 
Tequila brands participating include Sauza, Hornitos, Camarena, Don Julio, Dobel, Margaritaville, and more to be announced. Other brands include Corona Light and Bud Lime-A-Ritas. 

A Grand Tequila Tasting event is also scheduled for Friday, May 23rd, 2014 at the Epicurean Hotel, where attendees can sample 40+ tequilas, including ultra-premium and rare ones. Food pairings will also be provided by chefs at the Epicurean Hotel.

We all know Tampanians love their festivals but the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival will be the only large festival to occur in Downtown Tampa during the 2014 Memorial Day weekend. In 2013, the event sold out at over 5,000 attendees. 

Ending the tequila filled evening, the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival will close with the largest fireworks show in the area with the Downtown Tampa Skyline as a background. 
GA Tickets to the festival is only $10 until 4/30, $15 after, $20 at door (if available). VIP tickets include unlimited Margaritas as the Grand Marnier VIP Cantina for only $75 until 4/30, $85 after, $100 Door (If Available) 

I have 4 General Admission tickets for the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival to giveaway to two Tampa readers! Let me know in a comment below what your favorite margarita is. Also - be sure to enter through the rafflecopter below as this is how I select my winners at random!

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For more information, visit www.TampaMargaritaFest.com

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ghost the Musical at Straz Center, Tampa

On Tuesday night, we had the opportunity to check out opening night of Ghost The Musical at Straz Center in Tampa. Leading up to the show, we heard "I wonder what they will do with the pottery scene" and "Ghost? As in Patrick Swasey Ghost??" from tons of people.
Just like the Oscar winning movie, Ghost The Musical follows Sam and Molly, a young couple whose connection takes a shocking turn after Sam’s untimely death. Trapped between two worlds, Sam refuses to leave Molly when he learns she is in grave danger. Desperate to communicate with her, he turns to a storefront psychic who helps him protect Molly and avenge his death.
What surprised us the most was the special effects. It was truly unlike anything I've seen on stage before. I forgot at times that I was at a show vs. watching a movie. As you can see from the photo above, Sam truly had a ghost look to him. One thing that was really neat was how they were able to graphically make Sam walk through solid doors.
Ghost will be at the Straz Center from April 22 - 27, 2014 at Carol Morsani Hall. Click here to purchase tickets. The show last 2:25 with an intermission and tickets range from $46.50 to $81.50.

Show Dates & Times 
Tues. 7:30 p.m.
Wed. 7:30 p.m.
Thurs. 7:30 p.m.
Fri. 8 p.m.
Sat. 2 and 8 p.m.
Sun. 2 and 7:30 p.m.

Ghost the Musical is recommended for ages 13+. Please be advised that there is mild violence, mature themes and dialogue.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Register for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Today!

Today's the big day where thousands of runDisney enthusiast will be sitting by their computer, waiting for it to strike 12:00pm est. when Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend registration opens! If you follow this blog, you know that I participated in the runDisney Dopey Challenge last year, where along with 7,000 fellow crazy runners, we seeked out for a 4 day, 48.6 mile challenge (5K, 10K, 1/2 Marathon, Full Marathon).

If you are interested in running any of the runDisney events during Marathon weekend, make sure you register today at Noon - with Goofy's anniversary medal, the events are likely to sell out very fast. Click here to be taken to the registration page.

While I will not be participating in the Dopey challenge in 2015, I will be there for the 10K and to watch a few friends tackle Dopey for the second consecutive year. To honor registration day, here are some of my favorite photos from the 4 day event!

My Mom ran her first 5K and 10K with me for the first 2 days of the Dopey Challenge. It was great being able to experience the excitement of her accomplishments. Plus, there is nothing better than having your Mommy with you during the 4 day, 48.6 mile journey.
I ran alone for the half marathon and full marathon. Prior to running the NYC Marathon in November, I had never ran a long distance by myself. When you have no one to complain to but yourself, you find yourself pushing harder. Running alone has become my preference.
The best part about competing in the Dopey Challenge is that you are surrounded around runners of all levels, sizes and ages. I was in the same corral as the flamingo boys, two men who were dressed up as flamingos for all 4 races. They even made cackaw sounds while running and truly made my day on each of the 4 events - they were out there having fun. Having fun, taking photos and sharing the love of Disney with others is why I run Disney.
Overall, the Dopey Challenge was the biggest athletic accomplishment of my life. One I am not sure I can top. While this wasn't a walk in the park, it was an amazing experience. I ran with a severe injury on the final leg of the Dopey challenge, one I haven't fully recovered from 3 months later. Yet I finished with one of the biggest smiles on my face. No one will ever be able to take  that moment away from me.
The only reason I am not entering the Dopey challenge in 2015 is because of the wedding and honeymoon. My only regret from the 2014 challenge was my lack of training. With the wedding and honeymoon so close to Marathon Weekend, there is no way I can commit to a full time training regimen and I will never make that mistake again.

So best of luck to all of you Dopey runners registering this afternoon! I plan on volunteering at the Half Marathon and cheering everyone on during the full marathon.

Here is the initial pricing for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend events. I am sure each will sell out before the price increase so I didn't bother posting anything more than the initial pricing. Click here to register and be sure to set a calendar reminder for 12:00pm est - sign up first thing if you are interested in completing this challenge!

Dopey Challenge $530 by June 24, 2014
Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge $360 by June 24, 2014
2014 Walt Disney World® Marathon $170 by June 24, 2014
2014 Walt Disney World® Half Marathon $170 by June 24, 2014
2014 Walt Disney World® 10K $105 by June 24, 2014
2014 Disney Family Fun Run 5K $60 per participant by September 23, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ice Plant Bar - St. Augustine.

I had a jealous restaurant experience the other night while in St. Augustine. A moment where I wished I could pick up a historic building and relocate it to Tampa.

On Saturday night, my friend Darlynn and I had an hour to spare prior to the Corey Smith and Darius Rucker concert. We decided to give the Ice Plant in St. Augustine a try. Magical doesn't even begin to describe this place.
 Upon sitting down at the bar, I knew we were in a special place. We received our menus and one of the pages showcased 6 different shapes of ice they use in their drinks. Talk about craft cocktail heaven.
Our first drink choice was the Florida Mule - a Moscow Mule made with Saint Augustine Vodka. This was hands down the best Mule I have ever had. It was made with fresh ginger and a lot of love.
We started off with an order of Devils on Horseback - Bacon wrapped dates, buttermilk blue cheese puree. This is one of my favorite appetizers to make for a gathering. In fact, we served it at Easter dinner. Ice Plant nailed it.
While I wanted to stick with the Florida Mule as cocktail of choice, it would have been a crime to do so with Ice Plant's bar menu. So we decided on the Bell Jar for drink number two. The recipe called for Uncle Val’s Gin. Both Darlynn and I asked to switch this to Vodka. Made with strawberry rhubarb jam, lemon and cucumber, this was a very earthy yet delicious drink.
Since we arrived at Ice Plant at 4:45, we weren't exactly starving and decided to split a burger. This wasn't just any burger - a juicy grass-fed Georgia beef patty with bacon-chive aioli, l.t.o., adding cheddar cheese, mushrooms and bacon. Served with a house made pickle and hand cut fries - wholly WOW.
It was amazing watching the bartenders in action and talk about a busy bar. Check out the cubes of ice in the photo above. The device on the right was used to shave ice while the smaller device to the left was use to make sphere's of ice for cocktails. Many of the ice offerings were cut to order for various cocktails.
photo from iceplantbar.com
The restaurants decor was perfect. It reminded me of being in New Orleans.
The Ice Plant Bar offered a wide array of choices which would make any drink snob a happy content person. Their cocktails are made with fresh and local ingredients and the menu was many pages long.
photo from iceplantbar.com
I look forward to our next visit to St. Augustine and the Ice Plant will become a staple in our frequent trips to this beloved city.

The Ice Plant on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 18, 2014

Eco Friendly Wine for Earth Day - Snoqualmie

With Earth Day right around the corner, I wanted to highlight an ECO friendly wine label called Snoqualmie from Columbia Valley. Their wines are made using sustainable and organic techniques, crafted from certified originally grown grapes. Snoqualmie wines are fruit-forward, and offer classic varietal flavors that are immediately enjoyable. The price point on these wines start around $10.

Snoqualmie has new ECO glass bottles which are among the lightest in the industry (397g). This results in a 13% reduction in carbon emissions. White wine labels now use EarthLabel™ by Smart Planet Technologies, Inc., an adhesive label system that provides improved barrier performance while reducing plastic content. Labels and other printed materials are on 100% post-consumer waste materials stock. Corks and labels are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council; guaranteeing sustainable practices at the source of origin. The corks are also certified by the Rainforest Alliance, an international group committed to conserving biodiversity through sustainability.
Here are a few comments on amazing Eco Friendly Wines from Joy Andersen, Snoqualmie Winemaker

Snoqualmie 2012 Chardonnay, “Crafted with no oak, this wine is a refreshing experience of true Chardonnay varietal characters. Pear and apple nuances accent the nose leading to clean fruit flavors on the palate.”

Snoqualmie 2013 Sauvignon Blanc,“This Sauvignon Blanc displays bright aromas of citrus and sweet apple, followed by fresh flavors of lime, passion fruit and white peach with a crisp, clean finish. This is a great wine to enjoy with shellfish.”

Snoqualmie 2012 Gew├╝rztraminer, “Made from organically grown fruit, this wine is a pure expression of Gew├╝rztraminer grape characters. Spicy, fruity aromas are coupled with crisp and juicy fruit flavors that will pair well with spicy ethnic dishes.”

Snoqualmie 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, “The 2011 ECO Cab displays aromas of currant and ripe red cherries with spicy tones and ample juicy structure on the palate.”.

Snoqualmie 2010 Whistle Stop Red Blend, “Rich aromas of black berries and cherries are accented by hints of herb in this Bordeaux-style blend. The palate is full of the same black fruit flavors complemented by soft supple tannins and rich, sweet oak.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Apera Bags Performance Duffel Review, Giveaway and Spring Sale

Have you ever had a stinky gym bag? They're the worst. I recently had the opportunity to check out Apera athletic bags, "a healthier bag". They have built-in antimicrobial product protection to inhibit the growth of bacterial odors, pockets to separate your wet stinky and sweaty sports clothes from your clean clothing. My first thought was what am I going to do with another gym bag.
That thought got swept away the moment I received the Apera Performance Duffle Bag. I knew my former weekend travel bag was replaced for good. Having two runners in the house means constant stinky clothes in suitcases when we travel.
I have used this bag 3 times over the past 3 weeks, for a mix of business and pleasure: My former roommates bacherlorette party, a weekend home for Gabe & I (we shared the bag) and a work related trip where I had to pack corporate, casual and workout gear. Each time, I had room to spare - even when we shared the bag. Other than the space, I love that there is a pocket which keeps my iPad (and Gabe's iPad mini) secure.
The Apera Performance Duffle Bag will be a perfect carry on bag during our trip to Europe. We can fit more than a days worth of clothing along with important items we do not want to store in our check-in baggage. Plus it is lightweight and comfortable to carry. A gym bag which seconds as a travel bag - double score.


Right now, Apera is having a HUGE sale, 40% OFF their entire line of Blue bags - so any style bag which is blue will be 40% off, including the Performance Duffel. This makes my bag only $74.40, marked down from $124. I am highly considering purchasing a second Apera bag for our trip to Europe.

There is also a Duffel Pack sale, the backpack version of my bag - any color of your choice is 40% OFF too. Jump on this right away!
Apera Duffle Packs - 40% off in April
Along with the sale, there is a giveaway through Apera called "Show Us Your Worn Out Fitness Bag" - one winner has a chance to win a bag of their choice, just by sending them a picture and 1-sentence description of why your current fitness bag stinks (literally or figuratively). Click here for more info!

GIVEAWAY!
Apera Sprint Bag - #giveaway on I Run For Wine
Finally - it is time for my giveaway! I am giving away one Apera Sprint Pack, the same bag they donate to Special Olympics athletes for every three bags they sell. This bag is the perfect size for a quick trip to the gym.There is a panel inside of the bag which divides the main compartment and keeps things organized in two separate areas. A large zippered pocket on the front of the bag gives you even more storage along with a large opening which allows you to pack your stuff quickly. For easy cleaning, wipe by hand with soap and water.

Leave a comment below letting me know what you currently use as a gym bag. Make sure you log your entries in the rafflecopter widget below as this is how I select my winner at random!
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