Carnival Cruise Lines partners with Carrie Underwood and Operation Homefront

Friday, January 29, 2016
There was a big announcement from Carnival Cruise Line yesterday and I am excited to tell you all about it. Carnival announced a new initiative called Honor. Family. Fun which was designed to support U.S. military families alongside seven-time GRAMMY-award winning superstar Carrie Underwood and representatives of Operation Homefront,  the national nonprofit that builds strong, stable, and secure military families.
Photo Credit: Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise LineLeft: Gen. Jon Pray, President & CEO Operation Homefront; Right: Carrie Underwood. 
Honor. Family. Fun. is a year long program that will help raise funds for Operation Homefront. On November 4th, Carrie Underwood will be performing a special private pier-side concert for service men and women and their families on the Carnival Vista when the vessel makes its U.S. debut in New York City!

“Military families represent a cornerstone of our country and we are honored by the opportunity to partner with Carrie and Operation Homefront to bring much needed awareness and aid to our troops and their loved ones,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “The partnership will bring to life many of the heartwarming stories our troops have to share while in turn bringing them some fun along the way.”
Photo Credit: Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line
Left: Christine Duffy, President of Carnival Cruise Line; Middle: Gen. Jon Pray, President & CEO Operation Homefront; Right: Carrie Underwood. 
Carrie Underwood's The Storyteller Tour kicks off this weekend in Jacksonville. In 10 cities along the course of the tour, select military families, chosen in partnership with Operation Homefront, will be treated to a personal meet-and-greet with Underwood before her concerts.
Photo Credit: Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line
Carrie Underwood and a Operation Homefront Family
“I’m honored to be able to join Carnival Cruise Line and Operation Homefront to lift up these soldiers and their families,” said Underwood. “I am really looking forward to meeting them on my tour and for the opportunity to personally thank them for all they do for our freedom.”
Carnival will also drive the effort to raise funds for Operation Homefront on their website. There is a “Donate Now” button on so those who are not at sea can still contribute to this amazing cause. 
Commemorative dog tags will also be available for purchase at merchandise stands at all Storyteller Tour stops as well as on board the fleet of Carnival ships with all proceeds going to Operation Homefront. These dog tags are two sided, one with the Honor. Family. Fun. logo on it and the other side with Carrie Underwood's The Story Teller Tour logo.
“Carnival Cruise Line really knows what it means to support our men and women in uniform and their families,” said retired Brigadier General John I. Pray, Jr., president and CEO of Operation Homefront. “We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with the Carnival team and superstar Carrie Underwood to focus on the challenges our military families face as they work tirelessly to protect the freedoms we enjoy daily.”

At the press event, it was also announced that Carrie Underwood will join the Carnival LIVE! roster of artists in early 2017!

The Par4Miler at the Valspar Championship #Giveaway

Thursday, January 28, 2016
While everyone knows how much I love running, many don't know my love for PGA tournaments. In my former job, we hosted LPGA and Senior tour events and golf tournaments became one of my life. Fast forward many years later, I still work with the PGA in my current job. It's my favorite  event to throw over the year.
So when I was contacted about The Par4Miler during the Valspar Championship, I was pretty excited. This four mile timed race is taking place on  March 6th at Innisbrook Golf Resort. The four mile run will take place on the roads of Innisbrook and the turf of the Copperhead tournament course! If that's not cool enough, the 18th Green is the finish and there will be a Post-Race Party in the Hospitality Suites.
I don't want to sound like an infomercial by saying that's not all - but that's not all!!!
With your Par4Miler registration, you get a lot of fun perks!  I have a giveaway for one bib so be sure to enter at the end of this post. 
Free Ticket to the Valspar Championship
Each race entrant will get a Grounds Badge good for admission to one Round of the Valspar Championship (Friday March 11 thru Sunday March 13; Thursday March 10 not included) --- a $39 value!

Free Paint
Every Runner will receive a certificate for a free gallon of Valspar Premium Interior paint courtesy of Valspar --- a $31 value!

Post Race Party
Join us in the Suites around 18th Hole Finish area for a great recovery from your race with food and beverage included!

Free Race Pictures
The Valspar Championship is pleased to offer FREE race pictures from your race day! You will get 3-4 pictures from various points on the course and at the 18th hole Finish Line!

Participant T-Shirt
In true Valspar fashion, you will receive your choice of six shirt colors. You also have your choice of tech tee or fashion cotton tee! Finally, a race shirt you will want to keep!

Valspar Par4Miler Participant Medal
Every Finisher gets a fantastic 3--inch medal with finisher ribbon for your collection!

I am so excited to be part of this inaugural event. My husband and I will be running the 4 miler together

Click Here to Register TODAY!
Registration is limited to 1700 runners so sign up early!

Schedule of Events
The Par4Miler at the Valspar Championship is a unique event to engage the Tampa area running community and help raise funds for various charities!

Offsite Packet Pick-Up
Friday March 4th
3-7 pm

Onsite Packet Pick-Up
Saturday March 5th
12-5 pm

Sunday March 6th
2 pm Packet Pick-Up
4 pm Race Start
4:30-7 pm Post-Race Party on 18th Green

Race Course
Runners of all skill levels (walkers too) are invited to experience a "backstage look" at the tournament prep as they traverse the 4 mile route through the Copperhead Tournament Course. Participants will run through the famous Snake Pit and finish on the stadium-like 18th Green the night before the tournament gets underway!

Click here to register today - there are only 1700 entries available for this event!

Entry Fees
Individual (until 2/1/16)
Individual (until 3/1/16)

I am giving away one entry to the Par4Miler at the Valspar Championship. Let me know in a comment below why you want to win this race bib - Free Paint, Free Ticket, Experience, Shirt, 3" Medal? I hope to see you there!


Carnival Cosmo Recipe

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Today I want to share my favorite cocktail recipe with you, The Carnival Cosmo. What sets this cosmo apart from the others is that it is made with Limoncello and lime juice is not used. We love this cocktail so much that it was one of the signature cocktails at my bridal shower and at my best friend Keri's Martini party. 
Before I share the recipe with you, I take you back in time to our girls cruise in January 2013. My best friend Keri and I had just finished the Walt Disney World Half Marathon the day prior and this started what would become our ritual, running a half or full marathon, followed by a girls cruise.
We were on a 5 night cruise on board the Carnival Ecstasy in 2013.We quickly located the martini bar and met a bartender named Kelvin. We instantly loved her energy and her Cosmo's were the greatest thing we have ever had. We visited Kelvin's bar multiple times throughout the 5 nights and would not stop unless she was there.
Our first Carnival Cosmo, 1/2013
Every cruise we have been on since, we look for Kelvin, knowing the chances of her being on the ship were slim. We even asked all the bartenders we met if they knew her. Although we've encountered many Carnival Cosmo's since that trip in 2013, none were ever as good as Kelvin's.
On the first night our recent night Carnival Valor voyage, Keri and I were sitting at the martini bar (Jeanne's Wine Bar) and our bartender said "I am taking a quick break, let me introduce you ladies to Kelvin". I am quite certain we screamed.
Jeanne's Wine Bar

I know Kelvin probably didn't remember us from 2013 but she quickly made us her friends. She had no idea I was on board to write about my experiences and I kept it that way. Kelvin was truly the star of our trip. Three years later, she is still the best bartender and still makes the best Cosmo's.

Today I am sharing the Carnival Cosmo recipe with you to make at home!

The Carnival Cosmo
2 oz Vodka (I prefer Tito's)
1 oz limoncello
1/2 oz cranberry juice

Add all ingredients to a shaker full of ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Pour into a chilled martini glass.

Clearwater Beach Uncorked Food and Wine Festival

In a little over a week, Clearwater Beach will have their 5th annual food and wine festival, Clearwater Beach Uncorked! This will be our 4th year attending the event and I am looking forward to a weekend of fun in the sun and of course, wine.
Clearwater Beach Uncorked is a weekend full of world-class food, wine and microbrews. Enjoy all of that while taking in the beautiful sights of Clearwater Beach - what more can one ask for?!
There are two types of daily tickets: General Admission for $65 and VIP for $95. Both will grant you unlimited food, wine and craft beer. VIP ticket holders get an exclusive tent to enjoy a variety of reserve wines, bubbles and restaurants. You will also have full access to the Grand Tasting tent. This year, VIP ticket holders will also be able to attend the Beach Brunch for one hour before the event opens which will include Mimosas, Muffins, Munchies, and More!
Cooking Demonstrations:
Clearwater Beach Uncorked offers multiple cooking demonstrations throughout the two days with Chefs of all caliber. If you're a Food Network fan, you may recognize one of the names, Emily Ellyn who has appeared on Next Food Network Star, Cupcake Wars and Cutthroat Kitchen. Click here to learn more about this years Chefs!

If you are planning on attending, be sure to read the 2016 Clearwater Beach Uncorked Parking information or use the map below.


Salsa Salsa and Margarita, Cozumel #CruisingCarnival

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Cozumel Mexico was the first port we visited during our Carnival Valor girls cruise.  I visited Cozumel on my first cruise in 2003 and was excited to go back. The one thing that clearly stuck in my mind was how gorgeous the water and beaches were.
My best friend Keri and I spent a lot of time figuring out where we would go on each of our stops. We had purchased an all inclusive beach day and in our minds, it was the perfect way to celebrate finishing the runDisney Half Marathon 2 days prior. Then this happened....
Our first souvenir on the trip was two Carnival  rain ponchos. We had a 100% chance of rain on the day we were in Cozumel. Luckily we had the wifi package on Carnival so we were able to view the weather channel the night before and cancel our beach day. We headed to Carnival's excursion desk and asked for an indoor excursion. They found us an activity called Salsa & Salsa and Margaritas. We paid $70 per person for this excursion. They picked us up and dropped us off at a waterfront resort where the event took place. It was an unexpected fantastic experience and I would suggest it to anyone visiting Cozumel. 
We spent a few hours learning how to make 6 kinds of Salsa, two margaritas and after everyone was feeling good - Salsa dancing. The table was full of all the ingredients needed and we were given quesadillas and taquitos to go with our creations. we started off with traditional and frozen strawberry margaritas. I have tried perfecting the margarita for years and it never works. This is where my life changed - the traditional margarita has only 3 ingredients. It's equal parts of tequila and Cointreau with a splash of lime. It was perfect. 
 Classic Margarita
1 shot good tequila (I like Anejo)
1 shot Cointreau
Juice from 1/2 lime

Salt your glass, squeeze the lime juice in your glass. Add two shots of alcohol over ice and stir.

Frozen Strawberry Margarita
4 shots of good tequila
4 shots of Cointreau
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup fresh strawberries
2 cups of ice

Add all ingredients in a blender and puree. Be sure to sugar your glass before serving!

Then we started on the Salsa & Guacamole.
Fiery Red Salsa
1-3 clove roasted garlic
1/4 white onion roasted and chopped 
1/2-2 roasted jalapeno or serrano chiles (depending on how hot you want it)
2 roasted roma tomatoes
Pinch of cilantro, lime juice and salt to taste

Grind garlic in molcajete until pureed to nothing. Add chile, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, salt and lime juice. Continue mashing until well blended.
Tangy Salsa Verde
1-3 cloves roasted garlic
1/4 roasted and chopped white onion
1/2-1 serrano chiles
4 roasted tomatillos
Pinch of cilantro, lime juice and salt

Grind garlic in molcajete until pureed to nothing. Add chile, onions, tomatillos, cilantro, salt and lime juice. Continue mashing until well blended.
Oaxacan Guacamole
1/4 cup of green salsa verde (recipe above)
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 ripe avocado
salt to taste

Place all ingredients into molcajete and blend until smooth
Pico de Gallo & Tropical Salsa
(because after 5 margaritas, you forget to take pictures)

Pico (left photo, almost all eaten) 
2 Roma tomatoes
1/2 white onion diced
1/2 jalapeno de-seeded and diced
Pinch of Cilantro, lime juice and salt (notice the word pinch - I think we went cilantro happy)

Mix tomatoes, onion and jalapeno together then separate into two bowls. The first bowl, add lime juice, cilantro and salt. In the second bowl, make Tropical Salsa

Tropical Salsa (right photo)
1-3 tablespoons of fresh chopped pineapple

Using the other half of the Pico de Gallo, add 1 tablespoon of chopped pineapple or your favorite tropical fruit.
Rompope Dessert Salsa
1/2 mango, melon or pineapple chopped. 
1 tablespoon chopped apples
1-2 tablespoons Rompope (Vanilla liqueur)
1 tablespoon coconut
Mix and chill. Serve over ice-cream of your choice
Notice Keri didn't put her drink down to salsa. Keeping it classy.
Lela the Pig
One great thing the Salsa and Salsa ladies do is give back to the community. Lela the Pig raises money for those in need. Each month, they choose a new cause to donate to. 

Overall this excursion blew me away. I wasn't expecting much and went into it a little sad over the weather. We couldn't be happier with the decision to book Salsa & Salsa. It was an unexpected amazing experience and we give it 5 stars.

We love tequila.
Naturally, what does one do after drinking margaritas all day - find the closest bar and drink shots of tequila. Our friends back home would literally say "who are these girls". However, we learned we LOVED tequila and it made us very happy people. In fact, I purchased $100 worth of tequila at the port. Yikes. 
Fish Pedicures
After a lot of tequila, Keri and I braved the waters and got a fish pedicure at the Port. For $25, we had fish eat the dead skin off of our feet. It didn't hurt or tickle and was overall a neat experience. Both of our feet were smooth and all the callouses from running were gone. They also had booths set up for massages. 

Cozumel Port
We didn't have much time to explore all the shops in Cozumel. We noticed a lot of the standard port stores along with local novelties. There were tons of bars offering tequila and Mexican food. After I spent $100 on tequila, I wanted to get back on the ship before I did anymore damage. 

ASICS fuzeX™ Contest - Where would you run if you won? #FuzeXplore

Monday, January 25, 2016
Straight off the shoe press - ASICS is releasing a new shoe called the fuzeX™. This versatile shoe are retailed at $110 and provides optimal cushioning with a contemporary appeal. They have ASICS newest midsole technology, fuzeGEL™, a fusion of GEL® property and foam for the ultimate rearfoot shock absorption that transfers to the forefoot during takeoff.
The fuzeX is a “shoe for any distance”. Runners can run long, short, and anywhere in between with the with the fuzeGel™ technology.” fuzeX™ shoes are for underpronator and neutral runners. I am loving the color schemes of this shoe. I've already received a few compliments and look forward to taking them out for a run!
To celebrate the launch of the fuzeX, ASICS is hosting an amazing #fuzeXplore contest. You can win a pair of fuzeX and a chance to win a dream destination running trip.
For the shoes contest, take a shoefie, post on instagram and/or twitter and hashtag #fuzeXplore from now through February 1st. Be sure to include ASICS on the pic.

Destination Running Trip
For the running destination contest, all you have to do is find a participating retailer (click here), try on a pair of ASICS fuzeX, step on the mat and take a shoefie! Post it on twitter and instagram letting the world know where you want the ASICS fuzeX to take you. Be sure you hashtag #fuzeXplore to be entered into the contest.

ASICS FuzeX features include:
  • -Fusion Foam
    • fuzeGEL™: ASICS newest GEL® cushion technology creates a lightweight adaptable comfortLightweight
  • Lightweight
    • Men's: 10.4 oz (size 10); Women's: 8.4oz (size 7)
  • Adaptive Comfort and Fit
  • Seamless Construction
    • The user of seamless materials reduces the potential for irritation and friction caused by traditional stitches and seams.
Here are more details on how to win a pair of fuzeX and a chance at that dream running destination trip.

ASICS fuzeX Shoe Giveaway
  1. Take a shoefie and share it! Tell us where fuzeX™ shoes will take you:
    • Upload your photo or “shoefie” to Instagram or Twitter and include the #FuzeXplore hashtag.
Running Trip:
  1. Click here to find a participating ASICS fuzeX retailer near you
  2. Try on fuzeX™ shoes at one of the participating locations from February 1st-February 15.
  3. Take a shoefie and share it! Tell us where fuzeX™ shoes will take you:
    • In the try-on area at the store, find the floor mat featuring the fuzeX™ shoes arrows.
    • Place your foot wearing the ASICS fuzeX™ shoes onto the floor mat
    • Upload your photo or “shoefie” to Instagram or Twitter and complete the caption shoes will take me____” paired with the #FuzeXplore hashtag.
So my question is, where is your dream running destination? I had the awesome opportunity of running the Dublin Marathon with ASICS a few months back and had to take a Shoefie of my Gel Nimbus 17 at the Cliffs of Moher. If I were to win, I would love to run the ASICS Vine Body and Sole Half Marathon in Napa or the Florence Marathon in Italy.

Cilantro Lime Salmon with Spinach Farro Recipe #RebelFishPro #salmon

I never thought I would be writing about  microwavable Salmon that. That was until I was introduced to Rebel Salmon.
Rebel Salmon is FRESH, unfrozen salmon that comes with seasoning and a cooking tray, allowing you to go from fresh to finished in 90 seconds. Even upon receiving Rebel Fish, I was still a little hesitant. When I opened the packet up, I instantly noticed the freshness of the filet.
I decided to use leftover Farro and make a Farro Spinach salad to go along with the Cilantro Lime rubbed Rebel Fish. I had an amazingly delicious and healthy lunch in less than 5 minutes from start to finish. I was shocked as to how amazing this 90 second Salmon tasted. For those who don't use microwaves, there are also oven directions.

Cilantro Lime Salmon and Spinach Farro Recipe
2 Rebel Salmon Cilantro Lime Filets (follow directions on packet)
1 Cup cooked Farro
2 Cups fresh spinach
2 tablespoons Cilantro
Jalapeno hot sauce to taste

Add your spinach to a sautee pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook for one minute, add your leftover cooked Farro, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Sautee for 5 minutes or until Spinach is cooked through.
Cook Rebel Fish Salmon  (90 seconds in microwave).
Add jalapeno hot sauce if you want to add a little heat!

Rebel Fish comes in a variety of rubs. Along with the Cilantro Lime featured in this recipe, the other rubs are: Lemon Pepper Herb, Barbecue, Maple mesquite smoked sea salt, Cajun blackened, Thai chili.  You can find Rebel Fish retailers on their website, click here to find one closest to you.

Running a Half Marathon then going on a cruise #CruisingCarnival

Last week my best friend Keri and I had a whirlwind 8 night girls trip. We started by staying at Hilton Bonnet Creek and running the runDisney Half Marathon. The minute we finished the race, we hopped in our cars and headed to Port Canaveral to board the Carnival Valor for 7 nights!

Going on a cruise following a race is the way to go. While we "only did the half" this time around, you could easily leave Disney World and head to the port after running any race distance. Port Canaveral is 1 hour from Disney and a very easy trip via 417 (this is a toll road so keep that in mind). After we grabbed our medals, we headed home to change and head off to the ship.
This was the only time in my 13 cruise career where I entered an empty port. We were close to being the last group on board but we got on board and headed straight for the Muster Station. I will be honest and say that the entire day, all through the race and even the trip to the port, we were nervous wrecks about not getting on the ship. Once we were on, it felt like 10,000 pounds of tension were off our shoulders! After the Muster Station, we grabbed our first Cosmo of the trip and headed to the deck for the sailing party. We even ran into a few other runners who ran the half marathon!
It was a whirlwind. We were off before we could mentally accept we were on a ship. However, I wouldn't take any of that back. It was such an amazing experience knowing we were on a cruise the same day we finished running 13.1 miles. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Obviously night one we were very tired and had an early night to bed. Since day 2 was a sea day, the only thing we had scheduled was pigging out at Sea Day Brunch.
The Carnival Valor is a beautiful ship. It holds close to 3,000 passengers and is nearly 1,000 feet. The Valor will be dry docked this spring to get the 2.0 funship makeover. However, we really enjoyed exploring the ship in its current state. It has an American theme so all of the bars, lounges and dining rooms are named after historical figures and landmarks. I was so excited to see a mural of Jackson Square (where my husband and I got married) in the lobby.
One thing I have to applaud the Valor on is their staff. I have been on 13 cruises and the Valor exceeded all of my expectations. Our Maitre d Ramesh made us feel like we were guests visiting his 1,000 foot home. I never wanted to leave. One night we dined at Scarlett's Steakhouse and they went above and beyond to ensure we had a fabulous dining experience. Our room attendant Elana (I think?) was incredible. She was on top of it the entire cruise, making sure we had fresh ice to chill our wine, politely put up with two messy girls and always left us a cute towel animal. Lastly, we were reunited with our favorite bartender named Kelvin who we met 3 years ago. Stay tuned later this week for the Carnival Cosmo recipe!
During our trip, we had two days at sea and visited four ports. I am looking forward to sharing the experience with you. In the meantime, here are highlight photos from each day.

Day 1 at Sea
(our shirts say: I like big boats and I cannot lie.....I mean, how can we not get those)

Due to the weather we had to change our excursion from an all inclusive beach day to an indoor activity. It was the best excursion I have done. Stay tuned to hear about Salsa & Salsa and Margarita and my new love affair for tequila.
Where Keri started her love affair with rum filled coconuts following our Zipline and Cave Tubing experience. Yes, that sign says with as much rum as you want.......
It was our one beautiful day - and I would love to go back to Honduras for a week. We spent our time at the Mayan Princess. A full review to come!
Costa Maya
I shall call this day "Day at sea 2.5". Clouds, rain and a hangover don't mix well. Stupid tequila.
Day 2 at Sea
Hi Ma - we got a ship on a stick........
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