Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - My Year in Review

Where exactly did 2014 go? Thanks to wedding planning, traveling and a lot of running, this year literally flew past us and it is hard to believe we will be welcoming in the new year in just a few hours. I had an amazing year, one that will standout above all others, for the rest of my life.

January
One word comes to mind when I think of January 2014 and that is Dopey. I completed the inaugural runDisney Dopey Challenge, running 48.6 miles over 4 consecutive days (5K, 10K, 13.1, 26.2). I still don't know how I completed it and sit back 11 months later in awe of myself. My Mom ran the first two legs of the race with me, which were her first official 5K & 10K. It was amazing to experience that with her.

February
Back to Disney we go. In February, I completed the runDisney Glass Slipper Challenge, running 19.3 miles over 2 days (10K, 13.1) along with adding on a 5K the day before (total miles in 3 days, 22.4). I did Princess weekend with my Best Friend Keri and running buddy Nicole. I will be honest - participating in this challenge so close to finishing Dopey wasn't a smart move on my part. I nearly quit running after this weekend. However, it was an amazing experience with my best friend!

March
I was on live TV! I was lucky to be invited by my friend Jennifer to #HSNCooks. Out of the audience, I was selected to be on live TV to do a chopping competition with Curtis Stone. We also met Scot Conant and Donatella Arpaia. Click here to see my 5 seconds of fame on HSN.
March part II
April was a boring month so you get two highlights from March! Gabe and I completed our second Sarasota Half Marathon Relay. This was the last race I participated in until the NYC Marathon in November. I truly needed some time off from races and I needed to listen to my body instead of chasing medals.

May
A lot happened in May. I got a new car after owning my previous one for 11 years. We went on vacation to Brevard, NC. My bridesmaids threw me an amazing honeymoon themed bridal shower.

June
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon came to Universal Orlando and my friend Darlynn was lucky enough to get tickets on my birthday!! So I crossed off a bucket list item on my 35th bday - seeing The Tonight Show. Gabe and I also went to New Orleans for our final trip prior to the wedding to finalize contracts.

July
July was a fun month - it was my bacherlorette party month! We went on the Carnival Sensation for a 3 night cruise to the Bahamas. It was a complete blast. Keri and I are going back in 3 weeks and I cannot wait! I also received an email from ASICS asking me if I wanted to try out any of their shoes. This was the start of something amazing.....

August
August started out with a trip to Maine for our family reunion! We do this once every 3 years and it was just what I needed since wedding stress was really starting to get to me.
Once back in Tampa, I swam with a baby tiger!!! My best friend and I went to Dade City Wildthings and spent the day with a baby tiger. It was an amazing experience!
Remember when I said that email from ASICS lead into something huge? I closed out August by learning I was invited to be part of ASICS TCS New York City Marathon ASICS blogger team!!!

September
Oh September!!!! Talk about the month of my life. I literally found out about the New York City Marathon the last day of August so coming into September, I had kick up my training, finalize honeymoon plans and have a destination wedding. While September was beyond frenzy - it was perfect. I married my best friend.

October
One word: HONEYMOON! Wow what a trip that was. To date, I am not finished writing recaps of all of our adventures! We visited Paris, Venice, Florence, Chianti, Cinque Terre, Rome and London. The trip was one of our dreams and the perfect way to start our official life together.

November
New York New York! I never in a million years thought I would have the opportunity of being part of Team ASICS. Let alone, for the NYC Marathon. It truly was a dream come true. It was truly amazing how ASICS picked a team of virtual strangers, who got along so well. We are are all friends today in real life and we will be working together in the future as part of #TeamASICS! It's truly an honor.

December
As the year comes to an end, I happily accepted to be part of the Rock n Roll Marathon series blogger team. This is my third year being part of their Rock n Blog group and I look forward to the exciting changes 2015 brings!

So phew - what a year. I have no idea what 2015 will bring but I doubt it can top 2014. I am blessed to have all of these wonderful experiences and wouldn't be where I am today without my readers. So a huge virtual hug for sticking with me over the last few years. Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

runDisney Marathon Weekend packing list spreadsheet

runDisney Marathon weekend is less than two weeks away. Nerves are at a high and I am here to help. I have seen multiple people ask online what they should pack for this weekend and the most common response I have seen is "everything". While that is somewhat true, I have broken it down for you.

The runDisney Marathon weekend takes place the second weekend of January in Florida which means weather can be anywhere from the 40's to the 80's (sometimes cooler or warmer!). Welcome to FL! My first tip - bring a carry-on bag specifically for ALL of your running necessities. If you are running Goofy or Dopey, rubber band each day's outfits together, this way it is easily accessible and you don't have to go around scrimmaging the night before.

Excel Spreadsheets are key. Break down your outfits by day, rubber-band them together as mentioned above and check off items as you have packed them. Here is a copy of my list from 2014 which also includes the items my husband had to pack since he came up a few days after me. Email me at irun4wine@gmail.com if you want the template!
My list has some modifications for 2015. I am happily "just running the full" this year but I learned a lot of lessons from my experiences in 2014.
  • Outfit modifications in case it is cold (I always plan my base outfit for warm and build on it - layers are key)
    • CEP sleeves and arm sleeves
    • Throw away Sweatshirt and Sweatpants - you will need them while waiting in the coral
    • Throw away long sleeve thin shirt if it is too cold to start with a tank and shorts
    • Throw away gloves found at the dollar store
    • Throw away beanies
  • Running sunglasses, hat or visor - it's bright out there
  • Shoes and socks (a pair for each race - label them so you know which to wear each day)
  • Running Headband
  • Running belt to hold your race day of necessities
  • Portable External Battery Phone Charger that fits in your running belt with a cable
  • Nutrition supplements (whatever you trained with). I stuff my belt with: 
  • Biofreeze Travel Packets - while I know they have this at med stations, they do run out. 
  • Pre-race fuel and nutrition. I always bring a plain bagel and eat it slowly while waiting for the Corals to open. Pack whatever you are accustom to and bring it w/ you to the start line.
  • I bring a water bottle with Cellucor C4 which I drink 15 minutes before my group starts.
  • Gum! It helps me with dry mouth
  • Salt tabs (if you trained with it)
  • Sunscreen
  • Arm band for phone if needed
  • Camera if you aren't bringing a phone
  • Tissues (for nose and portapotties) 
  • Chapstick
  • Headphones (I wear in only 1 ear so I can enjoy everything runDisney is all about)
  • Foam Roller / Muscle Stick
  • Epson Salt
  • Mole Skin & Band-aids in case of blisters. It happens - and with 25,000 runners in town, it is hard to find mole skin at the drug stores surrounding Disney.
  • $$ or a checkcard. Once inside of open parks, I found myself wishing I had money for food.
  • Your smile
Remember to have fun out there. You put yourself through months of grueling training and the last thing you want is a negative experience. runDisney is all about having fun while achieving goals. I never go into a runDisney race with time expectations. Take tons of photos, meat new friends and enjoy this time.

Marathon Weekends at Hilton Bonnet Creek

It is hard to believe runDisney Marathon weekend is less than 2 weeks away! GAH. I say gah but this is the first time I have not been terribly petrified about an upcoming race weekend and I look forward to a quick girls trip to Orlando with my best friend Keri!
photo from hilton.com
This year, we are staying at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek - Walt Disney World Good Neighbor® Hotel. If you are familiar with the Disney property, Bonnet Creek is located just outside of Epcot and is located inside of the Disney Parks property. 

Gabe and I stayed at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek for my company holiday party earlier in the month and I cannot wait to go back. This time around, Keri and I will be staying at the neighboring Waldorf Astoria Orlando which happens to share amenities with the Hilton. This pool will be our ice bath post marathon!
photo from hilton.com
Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Marathon Weekends offers a special experience for those participating during runDisney events. Not only do you get discounted rooms but tons of amenities geared towards race weekend, including transportation!!

Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Marathon Weekends:

  • Complimentary bus transportation to and from the race venue
  • Carb-Load Paster Dinner options
  • 10% off food & beverage during your stay
  • Personalized assistance from our Runner’s Concierge
  • Complimentary snacks and beverages before the races
  • Encouragement & recognition from our Marathon cheerleaders ... even at 2:30 am!
  • A Special Marathon Rate For Runners
  • A Runners welcome amenity 
Rooms are still available for both the upcoming Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend (January 7-11, 2015) and Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend (February 19-22, 2015). I just peeked at the rates and you can get Marathon Weekend starting at $142 a night (+ tax & resort fees)!!! To book, go to Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and select Special Offers - Marathon Weekends.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Annual Girls Night Out Christmas Dinner at Carrabba's and a #WineWednesday #Giveaway

Carrabba's Italian Grill provided dinner and transportation in exchange for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

A few fun facts about my love for Carrabba's Italian Grill:
  • My first job at a restaurant was Carrabba's in Daytona Beach when I was 18
  • Starting at age 23, every Wednesday my friends and I would go to Carrabba's for Girls Night Out. Present day, we try to go there whenever I am home visiting.
  • My former roomate met her now husband at Carrabba's in Daytona Beach while we were at one of the above mentioned GNO (they are expecting their first baby in 5 weeks!)
  • My first date with my husband was at Carrabba's Daytona Beach
  • 4 years later, I almost got engaged at Carrabba's. He showed up with a ring in his pocket but nerves caused him to misunderstand where we were (Stonewoods & Carrabba's do not sound the same but he got an A for effort!)
  • Every year for Christmas, we have an annual Girls Christmas Dinner at Carrabba's. This has been a 10+ year long tradition. 
To say Carrabba's has a special place in my heart is an understatement. Prior to working there, I was such a picky eater. Working with so many people in the restaurant industry grew my palate. I also got my first learning of wine while working there (in FL, you can serve alcohol if you are 18+). 
While in town for the holiday's, my friends and I met up at Carrabba's for our annual Girls Night Out Christmas Dinner. We strategically planned for this evening to be on a Wednesday night so we could take advantage of Carrabba's #WineWednesday, saving us $10 off of every bottle of wine. They have a really nice wine selection and we ended up going with a delicious bottle of  Folie a Deux Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, thanks to a suggestion from our server Troy. With the $10 off, this bottle cost us a little over $30 a bottle. Can't beat that!
Only 3 of the 5 of us were drinking that night and while waiting for the wine to breathe, we decided to start off with a Cosmo which was on happy hour for half off. Plus Keri would have never forgiven us if we broke tradition by going to Carrabba's and not ordering a Cosmo :)
We began the night with two appetizers - the first was Brick-Oven Baked Fontina Bruchette - Brick oven baked fontina and marinara served bubbling in a hot cast iron dish with oven-baked ciabatta bread. This starter was so good - it did not last long. 
The second appetizer we had was a Meatball and Ricotta Flatbread - a crisp flatbreat topped with housemade meatballs, ricotta, mozzarella and romano cheese. I  think we all have a new obsession at Carrabba's and I see myself ordering this on our next girls night out! 
Then this happened......thanks Troy for the amazing wine selection! Apparently, we LOVED it! We also didn't have to drive home thanks to UBER picking us up, so we had a little more fun than normal.
Back to the entree's. Keri, Tara and Darlynn all ordered a version of sirloin marsala, so I will not bore you with three nearly identical photos. Keri decided on the Sirloin Marasala  Spiedino. This is a tried and true dish at Carrabba's for us, one we typically share on our Girls Night Out. We did learn about Carrabba's Marsala sauce on this trip. Their Lombardo Marsala comes from Italy and is specially bottled for Carrabba's. I have tried to copycat this at home multiple times and it never turns out as good. Now we know why! I need to get my hands on a bottle of that Lombardo Wine!
I made up my own entree - a Filet Fiorentina with Lobster Ravioli as my side dish. This was the exact meal Gabe and I had on our first date at Carrabba's nearly 5 years ago in January. On our first date, I had the filet, a 9oz USDA Choice center-cut wood-grilled tenderloin and Gabe had the Lobster Ravioli in a white wine cream sauce. So I combined our two first date meals into one amazing meal. 
At this point, the 5 of us could have literally been rolled out in a wheel barrow. However, that didn't stop the desserts from coming out. While I am not a huge chocolate fan, Carrabba's Sogno di Cioccolata "Chocolate Dream", a rich fudge brownie with chocolate mousse, fresh whipped cream and housemade chocolate sauce, holds a special place as I ate this on a daily basis while working at Carrabba's. Luckily for me, I had a wicked metabolism at 18. If you've never tried it, I suggest a trip to Carrabba's stat. We also got the John Cole, Vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce and roasted cinnamon rum pecans along with Tiramisu, Lady fingers dipped in liqueur laced espresso, layered with sweetened mascarpone, Myer's Rum and chocolate shavings. Luckily, I ran 6 miles earlier that day.
I couldn't have asked for a better Girls Night Out on #WineWednesday at Carrabba's. It was great catching up with my friends from back home, in a restaurant that holds so many precious memories.
I am giving away a #WineWednesday experience for 2 people (up to $50) to any Carrabba's in the US. Let me know in a comment below who you would take on a #WineWednesday night out and why. Make sure you log your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below. If you don't see it at first, refresh the page. Good luck!
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Friday, December 26, 2014

New Years Champagne bar ideas #LiveGloriously

Gloria Ferrer provided champagne and entertaining essentials for my review. As always, all opinions are my own.

In October of 2013, I had the opportunity to go on a press trip to Omni Amelia Island and was introduced to the concept of Champagne bars. This is where you give your guests various mixers to bring out the flavor of champagne. It was brilliant and my bridesmaids even used this as an idea for my bridal shower in May!
This had me thinking of fun champagne cocktails to offer guests on New Years Eve this year. Champagne/Sparkling wine is my favorite holiday cocktail and I drink my fair share of it in the month of December. I was very fortunate that Gloria Ferrer sent me a few bottles of bubbly for holiday entertaining.
Champagne/Sparkling Wine Bar Ideas
Puree's 
Raspberry puree
Peach puree
Strawberry puree
Fresh Fruit
Frozen melon balls
Pomegranate seeds
Strawberry slices
Sliced Peaches
Raspberries
Juices 
Orange Juice
Cranberry Juice
Pomegranate Juice
Raspberry Lemonade (trust me)
Miscellaneous Garnishes 
Hibiscus flowers in syryup
Ginger syrup
We drank Gloria Ferrer Blanc De Noirs on Thanksgiving and it paired excellent with our Turkey and ham dinner. Blanc De Norris is made with 92% Pinot Noir and 8% Chardonnay so it's of  no surprise that this is my favorite go-to sparkling wine. 
Gloria Ferrer has an amazing lineup of sparkling wines perfect for any holiday dinner, brunch or party. 
Blanc De Noirs $22 - Pairs well with crab, Thai cuisine, pork, desserts, cheese
Royal Cuvee $37 - Pairs well with everything!
Sonoma Brut $22 - Pairs well with shellfish, chicken, sushi, cheese
Blanc de Blanc $40 - Pairs well with seafood; oysters, scallops, halibut, lobster

Speaking of holiday's and sparkling wine, I want to share my absolute favorite holiday drink with you......
Champagne Hibiscus Royale
This is my favorite cocktail to serve. It's beautiful, is a conversation starter and is elegant. I first learned about this drink in 2012 at David Burke's Townhouse, NYC (don't judge me on those photos...it's amazing to look back at how awful cell phone photos were back then - which you know we will be saying again in 2 years)! The hibiscus flowers are edible and come in syrup, usually found in specialty food sections. I used Gloria Ferrer 2006 Royal Cuvee to make this cocktail with and it was hands down the hit of the holidays. The great thing about the Royal Cuvee is that it is a versatile and pairs well with everything. Regardless if you are having the feast of seven fishes, a standing rib roast or even turkey for the holiday's, this is the sparkling wine to use.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Holiday's! Looking into 2015

Happy Holiday's from our family to yours! We are currently in Daytona Beach with our families and for the next two days, I will be a cooking machine! We are spending Christmas Eve at my husband Gabe's parents, where we are cooking surf and turf. The following morning, we will head to my parents for Christmas where we will have standing rib roast with all the fixin's. Sometime next week, I will post the recipe for the rib roast. This is the only time of year that you will hear me say I am thankful for marathon training. All those miles = being able to eat and drink whatever you want. Bring it on Macaroni and Cheese.
Speaking of marathon training, my best friend and I went out for an easy 12 mile run this weekend. I never thought the words "easy 12" would come out of my mouth. Keri and I reflected on the days when we used to think anything more than 6 miles was a nightmare. It's truly amazing what your body can do when you commit to a challenge. Walt Disney World Marathon weekend is a little more than 2 weeks away and my 4th full marathon will be in the books.....now that's cray.
One week after marathon weekend, Keri and I will head on a 4 night girls cruise on the Carnival Sensation. We go on a cruise together every January but had to modify it this year because of my bacherlorette party.  We are using this annual cruise as a celebration of Keri's first marathon and we are looking forward to some fun and relaxation. I know many people are heading on a cruise right after marathon weekend is over - but I know what it is like the day post marathon. This girl does not want to introduce marathon legs to sea legs. Plus the rates are ridiculously low right now, starting at $159 a person.
The day I get back from the cruise, Gabe and I will be heading back to New Orleans where we will run the Rock n Roll NOLA half marathon. This will be our second time running this race and we are looking forward to another visit to our favorite city. This brings me to the official announcement that I will once again be part of the Rock n Roll Marathon Series Rock n Blog team! This will be my 3rd year representing this amazing corporation and it's even bigger and better this year with 50 amazing bloggers. As part of the program, I will receive a 3 race tour pass pack, where I can run any of the RNR races in the US.

Now - which races do I run?
Chicago - If I run this one, I will get to see and meetup with a few of my fellow #teamasics crew
Nashville - Possible girls trip with Pavement Princess
Las Vegas - Like I need a valid reason to justify running Vegas
DC - One of my childhood best friends just had a baby and lives in DC. I can make this a dual trip

My 2015 Goal - Speed
I only have one goal in 2015. If you've read this blog for any period of time, you know that I don't care about my speed. While I will never be the person who obsesses over my splits or complains about my finishing time, I do have to start picking up my pace. I know our marathon in 2 weeks will be sloooooow as we will be taking a ton of photos and having fun. However, if I find myself in another position to run 26.2 miles again, I want to sub 5 hours. Now - you may be thinking - Megan, you have only ran a 5:50 marathon. Truth. Yet, that 5:50 was in bad weather conditions and me not being trained. With proper training, I know I can get under that 5 hour mark.

I hope each and everyone of you have a wonderful Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Phantom of the Opera - Straz Center Tampa

I received tickets to Phantom of the Opera from my partnership at Tampa Bay Bloggers for this review. As Always, all opinions are my own.

On Friday night, my husband and I had a chance to check out The Phantom of the Opera at Straz Center in Tampa. The Phantom of the Opera was one of the very first shows I saw on broadway when I was in High School. This show is the reason I fell in love with broadway productions and I couldn't wait to see it once again as an adult. We had high expectations going into this show and left beyond satisfied.
Tampa welcomes Cameron Mackintosh's new production of Anderw Lloyd Webber's North America tour of The Phantom of the Opera from December 17-January 4th.  The Phantom of the Opera was stunning and I have never seen a show with such incredible stage design. I found myself at many times thinking we were watching a movie vs. being at a broadway production.
There were so many special effects including the dropping of show’s legendary chandelier, which hung over the audience. What amazed me most was the scenery changes right in front of your eyes without you realizing it was happening. There was an orchestra of 52 who played all of the recognizable songs from the production, including Music of the Night, All I Ask Of You and Masquerade.
The Phantom of the Opera, North America tour is overseen by Matthew Bourne and Cameron Mackintosh along with:
Scenic design by Paul Brown
Tony Award®-winning original costume design by Maria Bj√∂rnson
Lighting design by Tony Award®-winner Paule Constable
New choreography by Scott Ambler
New staging by director Laurence Connor

You can follow along online at @StrazCenter and @PhantomOnTour # PhantononTour



The Phantom of the Opera, Straz Center Tampa
Show Dates & Times
click here for tickets
Dec. 17 - 7:30pm
Dec. 18 - 2pm and 7:30pm
Dec. 19 - 8pm
Dec. 20 - 2pm and 8pm
Dec. 21 - 2pm and 7:30pm
Dec. 22 - 7:30pm
Dec. 23 – 7:30pm
Dec. 24 - 2pm
Dec. 26 - 8pm
Dec. 27 - 2pm and 8pm
Dec. 28 - 2pm and 7:30pm
Dec. 30 - 7:30pm
Dec. 31 - 8pm
Jan. 1 – 7:30pm
Jan. 2 - 8pm
Jan. 3 - 2pm and 8pm
Jan. 4 – 2pm and 7:30pm

Friday, December 19, 2014

Korres Skincare - Day 12 Giveaway

Hi, my name is Megan....and I am a beauty product junkie. I have a few staples but other than that, I love to experiment with the latest brands, making my bathroom cabinets look like Sephora threw up in them. Recently, I was introduced to a line of products called KORRES from my friend Ryan of Never Have I Ever Tampa Bay.

KORRES is  a Greek skincare and colour brand, founded in 1996 by George Korres out of Athens’ oldest homeopathic pharmacy.  KORRES offers a wide range natural or certified organic products. with advanced natural formulations that deliver maximum results.
From the second Ryan told me about KORRES, I knew the Greek Yoghurt Advanced Nourishing Sleeping Facial had to be part of my life. This is my favorite product of the year and I have seen my fair share of products in 2014. A weightless soufflé powered by super-charged proteins that melts into skin while you are sleeping - working overnight for intense, immediate moisturization

KORRES Wild Rose Face and Eye Serum is a product which I am now using on a daily basis. I love that it is a serum which you can use for both undereye and full face. It is an ultra-concentrated vitamin C face and eye serum that is clinically proven to brighten skin, smooth the look of fine lines, and improve skin texture .
Speaking of eyes - KORRES Wild Rose Instant Brightening Eye Treatment is another incredible product. It instantly brightens the undereye area while diminishing the appearance of dark circles and fine lines. I went a little crazy the first time using it - you only need a small amount.
KORRES Yoghurt Body Butter is an incredible extra smoothing moisturizer which helps improve your skin. It is a luxurious cream that is enriched with shea butter so it easily absorbs into your skin.
I love anything with the scent of basil and lemon. So KORRES basil lemon shower gel is my new favorite. It Provides a moisturizing effect and helps maintain the natural moisture level of the skin Feel: Invigorating Scent: Fresh, citrus KEY FEATURES & BENEFITS Creamy-foam showergel with hydrating ingredients that provides a lasting moisturizing effect and helps to maintain natural moisture level of the skin. Has a green spice of dazzling freshness with a vibrant lemon zest touch.

KORRES GIVEAWAY!
For my final day of Giveaways - I am giving one very lucky reader a 3 pack of KORRES body products.
Greek Yoghurt Body Butter ($29)
Basil Lemon Shower Gel (19.50)
Basil Lemon Body Butter ($29)

Let me know in a comment below what your New Years Resolution is. You should see a Rafflecopter Widget below this - after you comment, go through the widget to gain your first entry and unlock more chances to win. If it doesn't appear right away, please give it a few minutes and refresh.
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I Run For Wine 12 Days of Christmas - Week 3
Apera Sports Duffle (December 15th)
Hyatt Regency Orlando Stay (December 16th)
Coobie Sports Bras (December 17th)
Korres Skincare (December 18th)