Archives for December 2017

Episode 1: Goal Setting Strategies You May Not Want To Hear (But Will Work!)

Episode 1  of my new podcast is fitting for the new year, goal setting. In this episode I talk about the biggest reason you aren’t reaching your goals, and we have a little chat about not making excuses (all said in love!)

I give some calls to action to get your 2018 off on the right foot.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Average Girl’s Guide to Living an Above Average Life Ebook

 

My 7 Favorite Things About the Carnival Vista

Disclosure: I sailed for free on the Carnival Vista, however all opinions are my own.

I have been on several cruises, and really enjoy being out on the water, and having the ability to visit several destinations in one trip. Another things I really enjoy about cruises is exploring what basically amounts to a floating city.

As soon as I heard about Carnival’s newest ship, the Vista, I couldn’t wait to get on her and explore. After spending six nights on this beauty, I came up with seven of my favorite (there were many more though!) things about the ship to share with you.

1.) Anytime Dining: There are some days when you are out in a port, having a blast, and you just aren’t ready to go back to the ship to make your early dining time. Never fear, anytime dining is here! Just show up at the podium on the ship when you are ready to eat, and you are given a ticket and sent down to the dining room when your table is ready. We always ate between 6:00-7:00, and never had to wait. We could take our time getting dressed, no rushing around, and no stress. It was a great way to enjoy dinner and we loved the option! You could even request a certain server or section if you wanted to do so.

2.) Fahrenheit 55 Steakhouse: I have heard people rave about this restaurant, so I was pumped to try it out on our first night. (Bonus: if you dine there the first night you get a FREE bottle of house wine, or 50% off any bottle of wine!) It’s beautifully decorated, the staff was amazing, the food is plentiful, and it’s a very peaceful relaxed place. It was a top notch experience I recommend to everyone who sails. If you are looking for a fun “date night” or a little extra pampering with delicious food, don’t miss this one.

3.) Friendly Staff: With anything in life, dealing with staff anywhere you go can be hit or miss. It can be especially frustrating when you are going to be dealing with the same people over and over again, like on a cruise. I was SO pleasantly surprised with the staff, and in particular our stateroom hostess. She showed up the day we got on the ship and introduced herself to us, asked if we needed anything (I asked for an extra blanket which was delivered immediately) and she also noticed that we had a cord running across the floor for my husbands fan. She didn’t want us to trip so she brought an extension cord and taped it down to the floor for us. Seriously above and beyond, she could have just not done anything. We always had ice in our room, and I loved coming back at night to the turn down service and a fun towel animal. She always spoke to us when we saw her int he hallway, and was just generally a sweet pleasant person (as were all the staff we encountered!)

 4.) Cloud 9 Spa: We were fortunate to be in a spa stateroom on the ship, so our room was literally a hope skip and a jump from the Cloud 9 spa. We really enjoyed using the thermal suite, the heated tile lounge chairs, and we also visited the gym numerous times and found it to be spacious with lots of equipment. While we did not get any spa services while on board, there was a huge menu to choose from and always something going on.

Carnival Vista

5.) Serenity Adults Only Area: Aaahhh. Now you are speaking my language. Our room happened to also be super close to the adults only area which has two hot tubs, a bar, salad bar, and lots of comfy lounge chairs and what amounts to some private clam shell bed complete with throw pillows. This was a great, quiet escape form the hustle and bustle of the main parts of the ship, and we spent part of a port day and literally all day of our last sea day on this deck. If you want to nap or read a good book, this is definitely the place to do it. A couple of things to note though: The salad bar is only open on sea days, and the “clam shell beds” I mentioned (pictured below) get scooped up VERY quickly on sea days. I went out at 7:45 am to snag one and it was the last one, but totally worth it!

Carnival Vista

6.) Ship Water: I know this sounds bizarre, but I CAN’T be the only person who has thought about this, so I had to add it in to my favorites. Confession, I’m really weird about water. Like, really weird. I do not like lukewarm water or water the has a taste. I have been on other cruise lines and at restaurants where the tap water tastes awful, and so I was super nervous about being dehydrated during the cruise. So much in fact, that we ordered THREE cases of water to be delivered to our room so we wouldn’t die of thirst (dramatic, I know.) It ended up being a totally unfounded fear because the water on the ship tasted delicious and we only ended up using one case of water (for port days).

7.) Hand Washing: My husband and I are a bit of germaphobes (hey, we have a very germ-y three year old so it’s a necessity). I have heard awful stories of sickness sweeping through cruise ships and I for one did not want to be sick on my vacation. We boarded armed with hand sanitizer and Lysol spray. I found one of my favorite ship things in buffet. Not only do they have hand sanitizing stations everywhere, but they had hand washing stations. You just put your hands in the holes, not touching anything, and water and soap sprays out and washes your hands for you. It takes about 15 seconds, but it’s pretty cool and made me feel super clean. Kudos to Carnival for having different options and for keeping everyone safe from the spread of germs!

Carnival Vista

The Carnival Vista has so many great things about it that it was hard to narrow down to just seven, so be sure to check it out for yourself and find your favorites!

Merry Christmas 2017

From my family to yours, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas with those you love.

Luke 2 New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus

 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 

Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2017

This was my first time running the Wine and Dine Half in the daytime, and my first time participating in the two course challenge. Being tired and having my leg hurting me from the 10k the day before I was not feeling optimistic, but had no goals other than to have fun, and that’s what I did!

Keep in mind I was very under trained, I had run a 10k a few weeks prior and did a 9 mile run/walk (more walk than run) training run on a very hot day, but that was the extent of my training.

I was running solo again, and knew the first few miles would be dark and kind of boring, but I was ok with it. After my coral was set to go, I just got into a good rhythm and stuck with it. My leg started bothering me right from the start, but I pushed through, and am glad I did, because I ended up having a good race! I didn’t take any photos on the course because it was so. humid. My entire body was covered in sweat most of the race (and in the beginning before I was too sweaty, it was too dark!) and my fingers wouldn’t unlock my phone, but thankfully I got a ton of great photopass shots! (great as in I’m smiling and still running, not as in I look cute, because I don’t. I look like a sweaty mess.)

Running through Animal Kingdom was really fun because we were the first race to run through Pandora. I was kind of bummed that there were no photographers taking running shots of people in Pandora, just one if you wanted to stop and take a photo. Oh well, moving on.

So my quad and knee were really tight and hurt, but then honestly they just kind of went numb and were just a dull pain from mile 7 or so on. The only walk breaks I took were from stopping at water stops for about ten seconds each, and I stopped at every single one. Check out the photo below. The bottom left of my shirt is the color it’s “supposed” to be.

Running through Hollywood Studios was also fun because they had up their Christmas decorations. Once I got into this park I knew I would make it to the finish because the rest of the scenery was at least interesting after getting off the main roads.

I exited Hollywood Studios and headed towards the Boardwalk. OH! A total runner #fail I forgot to mention was fuel. Typically, runDisney races have GU packets which is what I take when I train anyway. However, this race handed out sport beans, which totally threw me off. Make sure to read all the info so you know what to expect. Do as I say, not as I do.

So I kept plugging along and realized I was keeping a pretty good clip despite my under trained status and the awful weather. I decided to keep pushing and see what I could do without absolutely killing myself. After all, I did want to end with a smile on my face and continue to enjoy the run.

Wwweeeeee!

I made it into EPCOT and knew I was in the home stretch. I was not anticipating turning RIGHT into EPCOT and going all the way around World Showcase (again, runner fail. I’m sure the map was in the runner guide). My GPS is always off so I thought we would be turning left and going around the “short side” so that kind of knocked the wind out of my sails, but I knew we were still close.

I love running around the World Showcase, lots of room, pretty scenery, and it also means you are almost done!

So up until this point I had stopped for zero characters and the only time I walked was for water stops. As I approached this little guy, he had NO ONE in line and I felt bad for him so I jumped in, took a picture and kept going. What a cute little guy. He just needed a friend.

I passed Spaceship Earth and headed “back stage” the old familiar way I have run so many times before. I made the last corner and heard cheering and decided to give everything I had left, which turned out to be a lot! I sprinted to the end and crossed the finish line.

I did it! Another runDisney race in the books. I got my half medal, my challenge medal, and then had to document with a photo since no one was there to take one for me. I was back at the hotel, showered and in bed for a nap before most people were headed into the parks for the day, and I had a great feeling of accomplishment.

I was reminded I am so much stronger than I think, and after all these years of running, even when I don’t actually train, my body knows what to do. I ended up finishing the half in 2:17, which is just a few minutes off my PR, and that’s with running a hard 10k the day before. My mile pace was actually FASTER at the half than the 10k! It just goes to show you every day and every race is different, and this one was fun. I’m so glad I was able to run and have such a fun runDisney weekend.

 

Holiday Like This at Universal Orlando Resort

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Universal Orlando Resort, however all opinions are my own.

It’s always fun to Visit Universal Orlando Resort, but if you want a little “extra” something, be sure visit for the holidays. There are so many fun decorative touches throughout the parks as well as special shows and events you won’t want to miss. It’s just the perfect thing to get you in the holiday spirit!

1.) Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s: If you have any Mischievous Minion fans in your house, this parade is not to be missed. There are adorable floats with your favorite Despicable Me characters as well as those from Shrek and Madagascar. Don’t forget about the Macy’s balloons flying high in the sky! There’s singing, their’s dancing, and a lot of smiling (trust me on this one!) Be sure to catch the action
Dec. 18 – Jan. 6 at 8 pm.

2.) The parks all decked out for the holidays: Going from attraction to attraction at a Universal Orlando Resort theme park is a blast, but it’s even better when there is Christmas music in the background, beautiful lights, and garland everywhere you look. That little bit of extra magic was really fun to see and kept us smiling all day long.

3.) Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular at Islands of Adventure:

Seuss landing was adorably decorated and full of whimsy. I could have just walked around looking at the decorations all day! But, there is even more to see with a live retelling of the classic tale “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” featuring music recorded by Mannheim Steamroller.

You can even meet the green guy himself after the show. There is also a character breakfast with the Grinch, but it’s a separate ticketed event.

4.) Christmas at Hogwarts: This was definitely a highlight of our trip, and I’m so glad we went back into Islands of Adventure to see it. Walking through Hogsmeade all decorated for the holidays was cute, but the projection show took the cake.

Shows are done every few minutes, and the projection on the castle is breathtaking. Seriously, the pictures don’t do it justice. Trust me, you do NOT want to miss this!

Universal Orlando Resort

5.) On Site Hotel Decorations: 

We had the privilege of staying at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, which was also very much in the holiday spirit. There was a huge tree in the lobby as well as an adorable village make of candy and desserts. They will also be having Christmas character meals, so be sure to call for more information if you will be there over Christmas. The other in site hotels have their own decorations as well. It would make for a fun evening to go visit them all!

These special holiday events and happenings are going on now through January 6th at Universal Orlando Resort. Which one are you most excited about?

 

 

Tips for a Healthier Holiday

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Purell, however all opinions are my own.

I will be hosting Christmas Eve at my house this year, which means a lot of planning, organizing, and making lists, as well as lots and lots of cleaning. When you have family members flying in from different states that are just coming from the airport, it’s even more important to make sure your house is clean and organized to keep germs at bay.

No one wants to be sick for the holidays, right? Here are five of my best tips for preparing for having a healthier holiday:

1.) Get exercise: The holidays are extra busy, which can make it tough to fit in your regular workouts, but this is something you really shouldn’t skimp on! Exercise can help boost your immune system and in turn may cut down on the amount of colds you get this year.

2.) Get enough sleep: Another tempting thing to skip out on is sleep. With late holiday parties and staying up past your bedtime getting your kids costume ready for the Christmas play, you may find yourself reaching for the snooze (and the coffee!) more often. Aim for 7-8 hours a night to keep your immune system up. Also, infection-fighting antibodies are reduced when you don’t get enough sleep.

3.) Wash your hands/sanitize when often: PURELL® Hand Sanitizer is the #1 selling sanitizer, and they also make soap, too! While washing with soap and water is best, sometimes it’s not possible to get near a sink, so make sure you have PURELL pocket sanitizer in your purse, car, and we like to keep a pump of it by the back door as we come in and out of the house. When you sanitize, make sure to leave your hands wet for 15 seconds!

4.) Disinfect and clean your house: The PURELL® brand has an amazing new Multi Surface Disinfecting spray that I am obsessed with. It kills 99.99% of bacteria and viruses in 30 seconds, is worry free around kids, pets, and food, and there is no water rinse required! It cleans with the power of bleach without harmful chemicals. Here are some common things to make sure you sanitize with your disinfectant spray: Highchairs, soft surfaces you can’t wash, your refrigerator, doorknobs, remotes, counters, light switches, handles on kitchen appliances, computer keyboards, and toys. (YES it’s safe on all of those things!)

5.) Sanitize your kitchen before meal prep: When cooking and preparing in the kitchen, it’s easy to forget about wiping down counters, cutting boards, and water faucets. Make sure to use the PURELL Multi-Surface Disinfectant for meal prep! Don’t worry, it won’t stain clothes or fabric, and is designed to quickly kill the cold and flu viruses.

healthier holiday

It comes in 3 scents: fragrance free, citrus, and fresh (my favorite!) and is available for purchase online at Amazon.com, Jet.com and Walmart.com. In addition, it is available at select grocers: Publix, H-E-B, and Shoprite and at Harris Teeter in January 2018.

The 8 Best Tips for Beginner Runners

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure on the bottom right sidebar for more details.

Running is a great way to stay in shape or even lose weight if you wish, but a lot of people just don’t know where to start. I have been distance running for eight years, and while not the fastest person ever, I do have some words of wisdom to share for beginners. Check out my eight very best tips below.

 

1.) Start slow: One of the reasons people think running is such a daunting task is they feel the pressure to run a marathon–like tomorrow. First of all, that would be crazy, and second of all, you may never run a marathon, and that’s totally fine! Starting out slow will give your body a chance to adjust and help you avoid burnout. I don’t suggest running every day to start (or ever really!) Try once or twice a week and see how you feel. The last thing you want is to get injured, so a gradual go is best!

2.) Go for distance first, then speed: I am a huge fan of the Jeff Galloway run walk run program, as well as the Couch to 5k program. Both will get you going but in a safe way. So many people think they aren’t truly a “runner” if you aren’t running the whole time, and that is simply just not true. Starting out with a run/walk is not only safer for your body, but will enable you to go further distances and build up your confidence.

 

3.) Get some gear: When I first started running, I ran in cotton t-shirts and socks, which was not a pretty site in the hot and humid south. I chafed, got blisters, and was generally a miserable person to be around until I discovered the magic of running gear that fit well and helped wick sweat away from my body. Game changer! If you are comfy (and think you look awesome, too) you are more likely to stick with it! Here are a couple of my current favorites: Mizuno shorts , Mizuno top, Mizuno socks.

 

4.) Plan for before and after: Keep in mind that as a runner, there is more to it than just the run itself (say what?) you need to plan for your before and after, meaning what are you fueling your body with before you run, during, and after. I always eat before I run, but I give my body time to digest. I personally prefer these protein bars or a banana and peanut butter (depending on the distance I’m running I may eat more). If I’m running over five miles I always carry hydration, and typically fuel like a GU as well. Also, you will need to warm up properly before you run, cool down after your run, and stretch/foam roll.

5.) Hydrate: I already mentioned hydrating before a run, but also make sure you are drinking enough before and after your run. Especially if you live in a hot or dry climate, if you are dehydrated you won’t be able to run as far or as fast. I personally get headaches when I’m dehydrated, which isn’t fun when running. If you need to carry water on a run, consider a hydration belt or handheld water bottle.

6.) Find an accountability partner/group: Fun fact: I actually started this blog when I wanted to train for my first half marathon. I wanted an accountability journal of sorts, and knew if I started blogging and people saw it, then I would HAVE to follow through. (Psssst. If you want to start a blog too, I have a free email course that can get you started!) Anyway, look around locally for a running group to join, or ask a friend to hold you accountable at work.

 

7.) get fitted for proper shoes: When I first started running, I wanted to wear whatever shoes I thought looked the prettiest on the shelf in the store. I knew nothing about my gait, what size I should get or the specific needs of my feet. I am much wiser now and know there are certain brands that just don’t work well for me. Currently I am loving Mizuno, and more specifically the new Wave Rider 21. They have a premium sock liner, a re-designed mesh upper, and a softer heel counter than previous versions. I hate tight fitting middles and toe boxes, and I feel like I have plenty of room in these shoes. They are breathable and great for the neutral runner. (If you don’t know if you are a neutral runner or not, I highly recommend going to a local running shoe store and getting a gait analysis). These are my new favorites, not to mention they come in several cute colors!

8.) Don’t quit! It’s tempting to give up when you are tired, sore, and not seeing progress as quickly as you would like. This is where a lot of people will give up and say they hated running or that it was too hard. What’s sad is if they would have held on just a bit longer they probably would have been happy with their results. We live in such an instant society everyone wants things to happen RIGHT NOW but becoming a runner takes time. I can attest to the fact that it may not always be fun, it is however, totally worth it, so don’t give up just because you are one of the beginner runners!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Mizuno. The opinions and text are all mine.

#OpenFun With the New Carnival Horizon

If you haven’t heard, the all new Carnival Horizon, the sister ship to the Vista (which we just sailed on) will be ready for you to step foot on her in 2018. In anticipation of the new ship, Carnival wanted to get everyone excited in these dreary winter months by sharing scents from the ports the Horizon will be visiting. They created adorable soda cans fulled with scents from around the Caribbean, and trust me, they really DO smell like the tropical paradises from which they came, and will make you want to take a cruise asap!

 

Did you know that scent is very much tied to your memories, specifically vacation memories? That’s why Carnival is having a fun event in NYC where you can get a whiff of the Caribbean in a can today and tomorrow in Greely Square Park!

Don’t live in NYC but want to join in the excitement of the new Carnival Horizon? Carnival is hosting a sweepstakes on it’s social channels from December 12-16 where you could WIN A FREE CRUISE on board the Horizon! 

All you have to do is share what scent inspires you to vacation with the hashtag #OpenFun. The Horizon may still be under construction at a shipyard in Italy, but the fun starts now!

Did you know that the Horizon will offer the first ever Dr. Seuss-themed water park? It will also be home to the new Smokehouse Brewhouse with BBQ favorites from Guy Fieri, and the line’s first teppanyaki restaurant.

The Horizon will begin in Europe, then make her way over to the USA for a summer tour including stops in Bermuda and eight day cruises our of NYC before moving down to Miami in September of 2018. Start the fun now by searching the #OpenFun hashtag and share you favorite vacation scents!

Clearwater Uncorked 2017 Review

Disclosure: I attended the festival free of charge, however all opinions are my own.

The Clearwater Beach Uncorked festival takes place right on the beach next to Clearwater’s famous Pier 60. It’s a fabulous time to enjoy amazing food, drinks, and weather (December in central Florida is the best!) I had the opportunity to attend the festival for the first time, and it did not disappoint. 

Bobby and I checked in and were given media passes as well as some goodies before meeting up for a special presentation. The weather was PERFECT and I couldn’t wait to see all the fun things this day would bring.

The way the festival works is there are general admission passes and VIP passes for purchase. VIP’s get access to the tasting village at noon, while everyone else waits until 1:00. VIP’s also had access to an outdoor lounge by the pool at the Wyndham across the street. The lounge was open from 1:00-5:00, and the tasting village was open until 4:00. Media got to sneak in early before the madness and take some photos and here all about chocolates and desserts.

We toasted to the festival with the most adorable bottles of champagne.

And were treated to the most delicious chocolates I have ever tasted from Norman Love. (My favorite was the almond and chocolate one, I’m trying to figure out how to get my hands on more as we speak!)

We also heard from Norman himself.

Cake pops were also had by all (red velvet was delicious!)

After the dessert indulgence, it was time for us to work backwards and start tasting all the food and beverages in the tent.

There were so many options we really didn’t know where to start! Everyone was so friendly and answered all of our questions.

When I saw someone handing these bad boys out, I was so pumped. What a perfect invention! It was hard to eat and hold your drink at the same time, so, problem solved!

After awhile we decided to head over to the outdoor VIP lounge at the Wyndham across the street.

Patron popsicles? Yes please! I may have had more than one…

Again, so many options, and generous portions and as many seconds (or thirds) as you wanted!

Again, the weather was so perfect and the location was on point, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day with great food and great (and some new!) friends.

My only wish would be that it was open longer! I didn’t get a chance to visit all the booths because there were just too many and we only had four hours. I vote for opening an hour early next year. That would be my only criticism. 🙂

If you have the chance to go to Clearwater Uncorked next year, I would highly recommend it, totally worth the money. I have gone to a lot of events in the short year I have been in Tampa, but this one is near, if not at the top of the list!

To see more photos from the event search hashtags #UncorkedWeekend and #CLBU17. Fair warning, it will make you hungry!

Residence Inn Clearwater Beach

Over the weekend, Bobby and I were in Clearwater for a local beach festival, and were invited to stay at the new Residence Inn Clearwater Beach. If you follow me on social media, you may remember we attended the ribbon cutting for this gorgeous property last month. I was so excited to get to stay here after seeing the spacious rooms and pool at the ribbon cutting!

Our studio king room did not disappoint. It was HUGE and had a full kitchen plus living room and sleeping area with a very modern but cozy vibe. Plenty of room for a family to spread out.

Residence inn

The kitchen had a stove, microwave, dishwasher, and refrigerator. There were even bar stools at the counter if you wanted to sit and enjoy a meal.

Residence inn Clearwater

There was plenty of space going into the bedroom area, and the television swiveled so you could view it from the living room or bed. (Not going to lie, we may have eaten dinner in bed while watching football!)

Residence Inn Clearwater

My favorite has got to be the modern bathroom. It has a huge shower and ample space for storing your things. There is even a little hallway going into the bathroom with drawers and a counter to put your things (or your suitcase) on, as well as a closet. it was nice and bright and we had plenty of towels, which is always a bonus.

The best part about this property is the proximity to the beach. We were a block away from the sugar white sands, and we could even see it from our room! No need to use your car, it’s so walkable here to everything from shops to restaurants to of course, the famous Pier 60.

Residence inn clearwater

Something special that this hotel offers is a gorgeous rooftop infinity pool overlooking the bay. What a set up!

I could stay here all day.Residence inn

There is also a free breakfast, a fitness room, conference rooms, and valet parking. Everyone we encountered was so friendly, and we had a great stay. I hope to come back and visit this hotel soon, so I can enjoy it and all that Clearwater Beach has to offer.

Disclosure: I received a free night stay for my review, however all opinions are my own.