Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Carrabba's Small Plates Menu #carrabbasnewmenu

This post is part of my partnership with Carrabba's Italian Grill. As always all my opinions are my own.

My favorite way to eat out is family style - ordering a variety of small plates so everyone at the table can try a little bit of everything. I was excited to learn that Carrabba's recently launched a new menu called Carrabba's Small Plates - a meal to be shared with friends.

The Carrabba's Small Plates menu has a variety of 6 dishes, all under $6 and under 600 calories. My husband Gabe and I recently went out to dinner with our friends Ashley and Ryan and were able to try out all of the small plates.

If you plan on trying out the new Carrabba's Small Plates menu (which I strongly suggest) be sure to go on a Tuesday. Carrabba's Tasting Tuesdays is a weekly special where you can choose any 3 small plates for just $12. Plus you have an option to pair the Small Plates with a glass of Carrabba’s house red or white wine for just $5! That's  what I call a delicious and inexpensive night out.
 
As I mentioned, we tried every one of Carrabba's new small plates. Here is a review on each of the six dishes, all 600 calories or less.
The crowd favorite was the Italian Lettuce Wraps. This is my fourth time ordering these so that has to say something. Unlike most lettuce wraps, the filling is cold - so the lettuce stays crisp. I love the flavor of the wood-grilled chicken, mixed with vegetable in a Mediterranean lemon vinaigrette. The ricotta salata cheese is a perfect topping.
Our second favorite dish was Three Cheese & Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms - the mushrooms are stuffed with ricotta, romano, mozzarella, sausage and spinach, served over a delicious tomato cream sauce. These were gone in a blink of an eye.
We all agreed that the Mozzarella Rustica was a delicious choice. These are bite size fried Mozzarella and ricotta balls. They are served with Carrabba's popular marinara sauce and they did not last long on the table.

Instead of a photo of the Meatballs, how about a video of how to make them at home (thank you Carrabbas YouTube!). These are great for those who a perfect meatball without over indulging.

We also tried Grilled Apsaragus with Prosciutto - wood grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and fontina, drizzled with balsamic glaze. This was a very good starter. We also tried the Bruschette Sicilini - Oven baked ciabatta bread served with diced tomatoes, fresh basil, oregano, red onions and kalamata olives. I didn't personally try it but those who did said it was very good.
Carrabba's Small Plates are simply prepared and inexpensive - what more can you ask for?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What to do on a Day at Sea - #CruisingCarnival

I cannot believe it's been over two months since my best friend Keri and I were on our week long girls cruise on board the Carnival Valor. It was a 7 Day Western Caribbean Cruise which ported in Cozumel, Belize, Mahogany Bay Honduras and Costa May. We had two days at sea, the first day and the last day which was the perfect schedule in my opinion.

Over the last few cruises I have been on, I've learned to embrace Sea Days and use them as a day of total relaxation. It's a day where you can either plan it to the minute with various activities happening all around you or plop on a chair and do absolutely nothing.

Here are a few things to do while you are at Sea

Sea Day Brunch
Carnival offers Brunch on days at sea. You can get something very healthy or be completely gluttonous. We enjoyed Sea Day Brunch during both of our days at sea which you can read all about by clicking here.

Mixologist Competition
The last two Carnival Cruises I have been on had Mixologist Competitions. You are offered a variety of liquors and mixers to choose from and the judges pick three people to come up and compete. The winner gets a drink named after them for the entire cruise.

How cool is that! I've always wanted to win this but after witnessing the contest in person, my stage fright would never allow this to happen!

Trivia
You can take part of various trivia challenges throughout the Cruise. My favorites have always happened on days at sea. This year, we did Friends Trivia - and got annihilated. Then all my Carnival dreams were answered and I finally brought home the coveted Ship on a Stick along with curing my above mentioned stage fright. Keri and I entered the 90's music trivia. I knew we had a very strong chance of winning this. I got 100% of the answers right and when they went around judging, they pulled people on stage to sing the song. I got pulled up to sing Ace of Base, All that She Wants. I was mortified. There were people everywhere. I asked for a makeup to sing the final song, which they allowed both Keri and I to do - and we brought down the house, by singing Spice Girls, Wannabe. It was epic and we both brought home our Ships on a Stick.

Carnivals Seaside Theatre
Most nights, Carnival offers Seaside Theater, an outdoor movie on a giant screen overlooking the pool. We enjoyed grabbing our free popcorn watching yet to be released to DVD movies.

Spa Day Specials
Carnival offers a variety of Spa Specials throughout the cruise but on days at sea, expect to find an extra saving. We took advantage of this and had a treatment - a body scrub and massage at a very discounted price. Plus they use Elemis, which is an amazing line of product. I bought the Elemis Musclease active body oil which was used on my massage. This is a great product for any athlete!

Comedy Shows
Comedy Shows are offered nightly on Carnival Cruise Lines. Punchliner Comedy Club is part of their partnership with Celebrity Comedian, George Lopez. We saw quite a few funny acts and are still laughing two months later. A fun fact - on some of the longer cruises, they switch acts. One of the shows we attended had just arrived that day when we were in Honduras. I absolutely suggest at least one show while you are on a cruise.

Take Tons of Fun Pictures
There are so many opportunities to take photos while on a cruise. On Days at Sea, you will find some unique photo opps, such as taking a photo with a giant towel animal! Speaking of Towel animals, we caught an entire parade lineup on one of our last nights at sea.
Dance Classes
Carnival offers a variety of Dance classes on days at sea. We have taken Thriller more than once and I still don't know more than half of it today. It's still a great time to be taught dances by professionals.

Putt-Putt Golf
Many of the Carnival ships offer mini golf which is fun for kids of all ages. Throw in a little competition (winner buys the next cocktail) and it's all out war!

Epic Sunsets
Because you are on the ship all day, I find it much easier to catch amazing sunsets due to not rushing around all day.

And to think, I used to say days at sea were boring. Not anymore!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Girls Day - Spa Evangeline at Epicurean Tampa

This past weekend, my best friend Keri came to Tampa for a visit. We had a chance to visit Epicurean for a girls day and had a delicious pampered afternoon. For those not familiar with Epicurean, it is an upscale boutique hotel with a focus on fine dining. Partnered with the legendary Bern's Steak House, which is located across the street, Epicurean combines a love of great food and wine with an equally strong desire to create lasting memories for all who pass through their doors.
Before our HydraFacial
Spa Evangeline at Epicurean 
Keri and I kicked off our girls day at Epicurean with a visit to Spa Evangeline. Upon entering the doors, we knew this was a spa that spoke our language as the wall was made of wine corks and displays were made from wine barrels. Welcome home girls!
The spa offerings at Evangeline are themed around wine and food. Everything from chocolate, to Cabernet, Spa Evangeline is keeping trend with Epicurean's foodie paradise theme.
Keri and I both received a 30 minute HydraFacial, a procedure that has no down time, leaves your skin glowing and refreshed. It targets the following common skin concerns:
Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Elasticity & Firmness
Skin Tone Evenness & Vibrancy
Skin Texture
Hyperpigmentation/Photo Damage
Oily/Congested Skin
Enlarged Pores
The 4 steps to the HydraFacial are:

Vortex-Exfoliation™Activ-4™ Serum removes dead skin cells to uncover healthy skin.HydraFacial MD Machine
Vortex-Peel™ Glysal serum, a mixture of Glycolic and Salicylic Acids delivers the benefits of a peel without post-peel scaling.
Vortex-Extraction™: Patented, painless vortex-suction cleans out pores with the help of Beta-HD™ serum.
Vortex-Fusion™:Antiox+™ serum is delivered to nourish and protect skin with Antioxidants, Peptides and Hyaluronic Acid.

After our 30 minute procedure, we received a Jane Iredate makeup application before heading to brunch at Elevage. This was an all natural line of cosmetics that helped hide the redness of my skin. Keri and I have completely different skin types, I am fair and dry while she has an olive skin tone and is oily. It was amazing coming out of the same procedure that I turned red and she looked glowing. The makeup hid the redness and my skin was back to normal color after a few hours.
The following day, both Keri and I noticed a major difference in our skin. My skin was noticeably hydrated and Keri got away without having to wear any makeup. 
The one thing at Evangeline was that they offer a Spa Membership. This is a 6 month membership for $100 a month where you get one treatment a month:
Epicurean Signature Massage
Signature Facial
Farm Fresh Body Polish
Classic Manicure & Pedicure

You also get 20% off the full spa menu, access to VIP treatments, use of Epicurean's pool, gym and bicycles on the day of service. 
Lastly, Spa Evangeline offers an Executive Happy Hour, a series of 15-30 minute treatments Monday - Thursday. The prices range $30-$65 with everything from Manicures to Massages. Plus you will receive a complementary glass of wine or champagne, or Makers Mark. 
You can check out Spa Evangeline's full spa menu by clicking here
After HydraFacial
Later that night, Keri and I went across the street and had dinner at Bern's Steakhouse. It is a tradition of ours every time she visits. Whenever we dine at Bern's, we eat at the bar and take our chances of not having reservations. In fact, over the 20+ times I have dined at Bern's, I have only sat in the dining room once! I guess I am a Bern's Bar Fly. Keri and I got to Bern's around 9:00 and only waited 10 minutes for a seat. Our meal and wine were delicious as always! We also got many nice compliments on facebook about how young we looked in the above photo. It must have been the facial!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Rowe Bar at Loews Don CeSar

While visiting The Beach House Suites at Loews Don CeSar a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to check out the brand new Rowe Bar located inside of Loews Don CeSar. The Rowe Bar was part of a $10 million renovation that recently happened at the Pink Palace and I can say, it is a wonderful addition to the resort.
The Rowe Bar, named after the hotel’s developer Thomas Rowe,  specializes in hand-crafted cocktails, craft beer and coastal cuisine. Rowe Bars specialty is three variations of the Julep and we had an opportunity to try two of them - the Gin Julep (Hendricks, St. Germain, Grapefruit and Arugula) and the Tequila Julep (Corazon Blanco, Chartreuse, Bell Pepper, Cilantro). They were served in a traditional Julep glass and were quite delicious.
Many of the cocktails from the Drink Menu were popular in the 1920's, each with a story behind it. We sampled other craft cocktails such as the Anytime Rickey (Beefeater Gin, Aquavit, Orange Marmalade, Lime Juice); Angels on Toast (St. Pete Vodka, Kiwi, Sauvignon Blanc, Lime Juice), Rest & Recuperation (Bulleit Rye, IPA, Lemon Juice). All cocktails were vastly different from the next and were full of flavor.
We witnessed a stunning sunset shortly after receiving our cocktails. The Rowe Bar offers patrons an indoor and outdoor environments. Inside, guests experience a subtle nautical feel. Outside sits a St. Pete Beach sunset lover’s paradise as shown in the video below. The outdoor space is anchored by a long linear fireplace that stretches across the porch, and leads to a raised deck where guests can relax at one of the three raised fire pits.

We also got to try the majority of the Bites Menu during our two night stay. During our first night, we had a cocktail hour and sampled East and West Coast Oysters, Beef Carpacio and a Meat & Cheese plate.
We had dinner later that night at Maritana Grille so we couldn't pig out too much. After seeing the Wagyu Burger on the menu, we quickly made plans to eat dinner at Rowe Bar the following evening. The Wagyu burger featured white cheddar cheese, sriracha bacon, crispy onions and french fries with bleu cheese. Delicious!
Since there were four of us, we ordered a few things and shared which is the way I would suggest trying out Rowe Bars offerings, this way you can try a little bit of everything.
Smoked Fish Spread
Wahoo Crudo
Poached Main Lobster stuffed with Lobster Salad
Peel and Eat Florida Pinks
Loews Hotels retained expert mixologist Eben Klemm to assist in Rowe Bar’s cocktail concept. Klemm, a former biologist, has created cocktail menus for some of the top bars and restaurants in New York City, and for other Loews Hotels including Bank & Bourbon at Loews Philadelphia and Precinct at Loews Boston. He is also the author the book “Cocktail Primer.”

“I set out to create a beverage menu that would complement the history and character of Loews Don CeSar. There were no blender drinks back in the 20’s; everything was made with crushed ice. That’s what we’re doing in Rowe Bar today. Adding the traditional Julep drink that was popular in the 20’s to the menu just makes the Rowe Bar that more attractive and distinctive” said Klemm. “We’re only using fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables in our cocktails. Each one will have its own refreshing personality and character” he continued.

The Rowe Bar is open Sunday - Thursday from 11am-1am and Friday and Saturday from 11am - 2am. Self-parking is available for $10 per car (up to three hours). The Rowe Bar at Loews Don CeSar is located at 3400 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706. Additional information can be found at www.loewshotels.com or call 727-360-1881.

ASICS Beat the Sun Challenge and a chance to win a trip to Mont Blanc France #BeatTheSun

My friends at ASICS have an epic event taking place on June 21st, the longest day of the year - Beat the Sun Challenge. There are two parts to this day, a live event which will offer a select lucky group of runners the opportunity to take part in a relay race around Mont Blanc and a virtual global challenge. Beat the Sun Challenge is a global day of running, conquering our running goals as one team - together we run.
Join the world-wide community with a common mindset: train to achieve a new goal that culminates at sunset on the longest day of the year. Here’s what you can expect from the Beat the Sun program:
An exclusive training program starting late February, developed by elite coaches Andrew Kastor, Benoit Nave and Rosario Rios.
The relay race taking place in Mont Blanc Chamonix, France is a once in a lifetime opportunity. There will be over 50,000 applicants, which only 48 will be selected to make up 8 teams. Americas (2x), Europe (3x), Africa (1x) and Asia-Pacific (2x). These teams are made up of six runners, 3 of these are experts, and 3 of these are amateurs. Click here to enter for your chance to win.



Virtual Option
For those who aren't in Mont Blanc, ASICS is hosting a virtual challenge as well! Be sure to engage with ASICS and the virtual participants by using the hashtag #BeatTheSun on Instagram or Twitter since there will also be Monthly giveaways to random participants who share their goal.

Training 
ASICS Beat the Sun page has training tips, guides, videos, and nutrition tips and recipes on their Beat the Sun training page. Click here to access ASICS YouTube page

Weeks one and two training plan - Building a Foundation




Training Log

Click here to download ASICS beat the sun weeks one and two training log


  • Lengthen your torso as if pulling up on an imaginary cord through the top of your head
  • Pump arms as you run and keep shoulders relaxed
  • Keep head stacked on top of your shoulders to improve your center of gravity
Nutrition
Keeping your nutrition in check is such an important part of training. Check out this super easy breakfast fit for a runner (scroll past the video for the recipes)


Buckwheat Porridge with Fruit
Ingredients:
1 Banana, sliced
127g (1 cup)of buckwheat flakes
240g (1 cup)almond milk

Directions:
Combine buckwheat flakes and almond milk on stovetop.
Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
Add sliced banana to top of buckwheat porridge.

How to Soft-Boil an Egg
Add egg to boiling water.
Boil for 4 minutes, then run under cold water.
Peel and enjoy.

The Prizes!

ASICS will award after the Second Selection Round each of the 24 selected Amateur Participants with an offer to join the team of the continent where his/her current passport is issued as indicated on the online entry form. All 24 Amateur Participants selected in the Second Selection Round will each receive the following prizes (click here to be  taken to the registration page):

Invitation to participate as an official member of their relevant continent team during the Challenge Flight for each participant selected
Accommodation
Meals
All included activities during Challenge for the Amateur Participants
1 x pair of ASICS trail running shoes
1 x pair of ASICS road running shoes
1 x ASICS running t-shirt
1 x base layer (winter training)
1 x packable trail jacket
1 x tights
1 x 2 in 1 short / or similar for female
2 x pair of socks
The maximum total value of all prizes together is 75,000 Euro (Seventy-five Thousand Euro).

Friday, March 18, 2016

runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon The Dark Side - Courses Revealed

We're in the official one month countdown until Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side Challenge at Walt Disney World!
I honestly feel like it was just yesterday that I signed up for the Dark Side Challenge. I wasn't going to sign up for this event and ended up signing up for the challenge. Go figure! With only 4 weeks to go, I better figure out what my running costumes are going to be for this event. 
Star Wars Half Marathon official event guide was released yesterday which shows the Star Wars Half Marathon Course and the Star Wars 10K course. Both of these are new events to runDisney and that means brand new courses! The Star Wars Dark Side Medals were released a while back but in case you missed that - here they are.
As someone who has ran the Marathon Weekend Half and Princess Half course  Marathon a ton of times, I am quite excited for running a new 13.1 course through Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Wide World of Sports. 
Star Wars Half Marathon
Sunday, April 17
Start: Epcot®
Finish: ESPN Wide World of Sports
Runner Start: 5:00 a.m.
Corral Walk Out: 4:00 a.m.
Star Wars Half Marathon Course Description: Jump into hyperspace and take off during the Star Wars™ Half Marathon at Walt Disney World ® Resort. It’s a 13.1 mile intergalactic adventure in the most magical place on Earth. Your course takes you through Epcot ®, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park, and then on to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Follow the path to the Dark Side with your favorite Star Wars™ characters cheering you on your galactic journey. Never underestimate the power of the Dark Side.
Star Wars 10K
Saturday, April 16
Start: Epcot®
Finish: ESPN Wide World of Sports
Runner Start: 5:30 a.m.
Corral Walk Out: 4:30 a.m.
Star Wars 10K Course Description: Feel the power of the force as the Star Wars™ 10K course speeds through Epcot on its way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Your adventure continues on to ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, where a finish fit for Stormtroopers awaits.

Directions to Epcot ® (10K and Half Marathon) on Saturday and Sunday: 
GPS devices or other sources will be inaccurate due to road closures. Please use the provided directions.
Take I-4 to exit 65 (Osceola Parkway West) and follow the signs to Epcot . Guests coming from (192) are strongly encouraged to follow signs to Disney World via the World Drive Exit because there will be SIGNIFICANT DELAYS starting at 3:30 a.m. due to road closures. For Guests driving to Epcot ® on Saturday and Sunday, EXPECT SIGNIFICANT DELAYS! Roads begin to close as early as 10:00 p.m. on the evenings before the 10K and Half Marathon.
Star Wars 5K
Friday, April 15
Epcot ®
Wheelchair Start: 5:59 a.m.
Runner Start: 6:00 a.m.
Star Wars 5K Course Description: It is a Dark Side event for everyone Friday morning for the Star Wars™ 5K. May the force be with you as you make your way into Epcot ® and around World Showcase. After you pass Spaceship Earth, it’s onto a galactic finish worthy of the Sith Lord himself.

Directions to Epcot ® (5K) on Friday:
Take I-4 to exit 64 (192 West) and follow the signs to Epcot ®.
Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Health and Fitness Expo Hours
ESPN Wide World of Sports
Thursday April 14: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Friday April 15: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday April 16: 10:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Star Wars Half Marathon Bib Numbers & Waivers
Click here to download your Star Wars Half Marathon Waiver and to find your Star Wars Half Marathon or Dark Side Challenge Bib number

Click Here for the Dark Side Challenge Corral Assignment
Click Here for the Star Wars Half Marathon Corral Assignment

Packet Pick-Up
All event weekend participants are required to attend Packet Pick-Up in order to receive your race bib, bag check sticker, gEAR bag, and race shirt. Packet Pick-Up will not be available on race morning. A waiver must be completed and signed by each participant. You need your signed waiver and a Photo ID in order to receive your packet. No exceptions. If the participant is under 18 years old, the waiver must be completed and signed by a parent or legal guardian. A link to the waiver will be available at runDisney.com. If you do not have access to the Internet or lose your waiver, onsite waiver printing will be available.

Once you pick up your packet and commemorative items, please proceed pick up your race shirt and gEAR bag in Jostens® Center for the 10K and Half Marathon, and in HP Field House for the Dark Side Challenge and 5K.
runDisney Kids Races
ESPN Wide World of Sports New Balance Track and Field
Friday April 15
11:30 a.m. – Dashes Start
1:00 p.m. – 1-Mile Run Starts
Saturday April 16
11:30 a.m. – Dashes Start
1:00 p.m. – 1-Mile Run Starts

Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK - AVATAR in Tampa

Last night my husband Gabe and I had the opportunity to check out Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK – The First Flight. This touring Cirque du Soleil show is inspired by James Cameron’s record-breaking movie AVATAR and is in Tampa until this Sunday.
Photo: Errisson Lawrence Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK was breathtaking amazing and is a must see performance. It is different than the Cirque's you are used to. Not as much acrobats and more illusion / special effects. It left me breathless at times - especially when you realize the show you are watching is where the Lightning play Hockey. If you don't have tickets yet, I suggest clearing your weekend plans and going to see this show.

Cirque du Soleil TORUK at Amalie Arena (March 17-20, 2016):
Thursday, March 17 at 7:30pm
Friday, March 18 at 4pm and 7:30pm
Saturday, March 19 at 4pm and 7:30pm
Sunday, March 20 at 1:30pm and 5pm
Tickets can be purchased at www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk
Aside from the incredible talent of Cirqe du Soleil's performers, there was added enhancements thanks to SAP. Before we arrived to the arena, we downloaded the TORUK – The First Flight mobile app to receive ticket and show information and immerse themselves into the world of Pandora to learn more about the characters and mythical storyline inspired by James Cameron’s movie AVATAR.
Photo: Errisson Lawrence Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil
Throughout the performance, the SAP HANA platform was able to give us a personalized experience delivered directly to our mobile phones. We let it know where our seats were and with audio visual technology,we were given a ton of TORUK-inspired special effects such as fireflies on our mobile screens that are stimulated by touch, viperwolf eyes illuminated on screen, thunder and lightning effects that push vibrations to the phones and interactive woodsprites that users can take home with them after the show. The app is available now through the Apple Store and Google Play.
Photo: Errisson Lawrence Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil
This live immersive experience also bears the distinct signature of directors and multimedia innovators Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon. It is a living ode to the Na’vi’s symbiotic coexistence with nature and their belief in the basic interconnectedness of all living things. Narrated by a “Na’vi Storyteller” and populated by unforgettable characters, TORUK – The First Flight is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film AVATAR, and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.
Photo: Errisson Lawrence Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil
When a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls, Ralu and Entu, two Omaticaya boys on the brink of adulthood, fearlessly decide to take matters into their own hands. Upon learning that Toruk can help them save the Tree of Souls, they set out, together with their newfound friend Tsyal, on a quest high up in the Floating Mountains to find the mighty red and orange predator that rules the Pandoran sky. Prophecy is fulfilled when a pure soul rises among the clans to ride Toruk for the first time and save the Na’vi from a terrible fate.
Photo: Errisson Lawrence Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil
Tickets can be purchased at www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk