Category Archives: Reviews

The Straz Was Alive with The Sound of Music

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center, I received complimentary tickets for the purposes of review to "The Sound of Music". This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria Rainer and the von Trapp children. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Have you seen the Sound of Music Musical? I had the amazing opportunity last night to watch it at Straz Center. It did not disappoint!

The Sound of MusicWhat Straz Said About it

The hills are alive! The brand new production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC is returning to Tampa. The beloved musical story of Maria and the von Trapp Family will once again thrill audiences with its Tony®, Grammy® and Academy Award®-winning Best Score, including “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and the title song.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC enjoyed extraordinary success as a live television production when The Sound of Music Live! aired on NBC in December 2013 and was seen by over 44 million people. 2015 marked the 50TH anniversary of the film version, which continues to be the most successful movie musical in history.

The Sound of Music – My Review (Spoilers ahead!)

Even though I’ve never seen the movie (Gasp! I know!), I knew almost all the songs from my days in chorus, and therefore enjoyed every bit of it that much more. I even sang one of the songs in my second grade talent show! I’ll give you a hint as to which one:

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings….

Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria Rainer. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The sets were not extravagant, but in truth they didn’t need to be. The wow factor truly was within the music itself. The way that the cast members were able to hit those high notes, and even the low ones, they gripped you, and entertained you, and simply left you wanting more. The STAGE was alive with the Sound of Music!!!

Personally for me, I couldn’t keep myself from singing along to some. And I was amused by how many others in the crowd suffered the same issue. LoL

The story itself began innocently enough. A tale of a girl, Maria, trying to find her way, and a widowed man, Captain von Trapp, with several children looking for a new mother to raise them. He’s courting a pretentious gal that only cares about money, and is willing to sell her soul to keep her life of luxury.

Maria comes to be the governess caring for the von Trapp children, and she is contemplating becoming a nun. She can’t help but sing every chance see gets. Music has been with her all her life, and she finds that it is music that helps her connect with the children, and helps her to feel alive.

Then, the Captain and Maria find love in the most unexpected place – with each other. All the while throughout the show we have the background story of the Nazis trying to take over Austria. The story culminates with the decision the von Trapp family must make to avoid living under Nazi rule.

Bottom line – I say go watch this show!

Mike McLean as Captain von Trapp and Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria. Photo by Matthew Murphy

I’m so glad I attended the show. Despite the sadness of a family leaving their possessions and everything they know behind to ensure their freedom, it was ultimately a feel good tale of people finding love, and then doing all they must to protect those they care most about.

I would HIGHLY recommend this show to everyone.  It’s family-friendly, and a wonderful production. Now, I’m off to find a copy of the movie! 

The Sound of Music is playing at The Straz Center now through June 10, 2018. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE!

Check out two more of my recent posts:

Tampa Bay Margarita Festival Review and Why VIP is the ONLY Way to Party

 

Thanks to BigCityEvents FL I was given two sponsor tickets to the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival in exchange for this review and social media love. Though my tickets were free, this has not impacted this review. All opinions below are my own.


VIP is the ONLY Way to Party at the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival

Once you’ve been VIP, it’s hard to ever imagine general admission ever again. You see, when VIP tickets are done right you typically receive better drinks, more drinks, better seating options, and shorter lines for bathrooms and beverages for one all-inclusive price.

All this and more is exactly what I experienced during my day at the festival. Not only was there a separate entrance allowing my date and I to get in faster, we had:

– comfy couches to lounge on
– a large tent to protect from the elements (hugely beneficial due to the fact the day and time I was there it is was raining buckets!)
– short lines at the bar with premium liquor for our margaritas
– swag to take home including a shirt and margarita shaker (pictured above)
– our own set of restrooms (so pretty much no lines when we had to go)
– plenty of water to drink between cocktails to stay hydrated and
– all the margaritas we could have ever wanted to enjoy

Now. I fully understand why people debate about the cost of VIP, but here’s the thing – the time savings and comfort are HUGE factors that make it worth the added cost to me. I’m the type of person who gets frustrated waiting in a long line, and I want somewhere to sit after I have my drink in hand. This isn’t as easy to achieve in general admission at ANY festival in Tampa, or probably any event anywhere.

And when you consider the fact that the drinks are going to be $6-$7 a piece and require standing in what will likely be a long line each time you want another you’re wasting valuable festival resources. Besides, if I’m being a little TMI in the honesty department….for me, the bathroom line alone makes VIP worth every additional penny!!!

Weather be Damned in VIP

Okay, so let’s talk about the elephant in in the room. There was a pesky rainstorm raining on our margaritas parade Saturday. Welp, that didn’t bother me much because we had a large tent protecting us in VIP.

In fact, I loved being in the VIP tent while the rain was coming down because it was soothing and comfy. I know some people were bothered by the weather, but I rather liked it. Am I the only one who enjoys sitting outside with a covered lounge area when it’s raining? Leave me a comment and tell me if you like this too!

Sure, walking to and from the festival was a little wet, and walking to and from the bathrooms was also a little wet. But, I wore clothes that weren’t going to melt from the weather, brought ponchos and an umbrella, and was just fine with how the day turned out. Had I been in general admission, sure I might be singing a different tune. BUT, this just speaks even more to why I HIGHLY recommend VIP over general admission to any and all events when possible. Perhaps this makes me sound snobby, but according to my money mentor it actually means I just know what I want, and prefer to go for it. Go big or go home!

On another note…You won’t catch me complaining about the cancellation Sunday because
#1 that wasn’t their call. It was the city’s decision
#2 BigCityEvents has been nothing but professional in my opinion in terms of how they about are handling refunds.

I feel awful BigCityEvents had to cancel Sunday, and I’m personally sending the employees/staff and vendors all the positive vibes!!! I’m very anxious for their next event, and if I do get the chance to attend, I hope it’s VIP again!

All in all, I had a wonderful day at the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival. Did I get a little damp? Yep! Did I have a fabulous time while I was there anyway? You bet! Remember folks- life is 10% what happens, and 90% how you react to it. So, choose to make every day as amazing as humanly possible. Thanks for reading! Until next time…may your days be filled with joy, and your hearts filled with love!

Sugar Butter and Flour Makes for a Sweet Musical in Waitress

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center, I received two complimentary tickets for the purposes of review to "Waitress The Musical". This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
Desi Oakley and Bryan Fenkart in the National Tour of WAITRESS – Photo Credit Joan Marcus
Desi Oakley (Jenna) and Bryan Fenkart (Dr. Pomatter) in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

A couple of nights ago I watched a show about

  • passion
  • dreams
  • love
  • sex
  • betrayal
  • pursuing happiness
  • sadness
  • heartbreak
  • defeat
  • excitement, and
  • desire.

In other words, I feel like I watched a show about life. Oh yeah, and there were pies. Of course, by now you probably know I’m talking about Waitress the Musical. What gave it away? The post title or the pies comment? (I crack myself up) 

This production gave me a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed. I cried. I got mad. I got excited. I had a whole host of emotions y’all –  basically I experienced most if not all of the emotions one has in life.

Want to know more about my feelings towards the show overall? Keep reading…

Desi Oakley in Waitress
Desi Oakley as Jenna in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

Waitress The MusicalWhat Straz Said About it (spoilers ahead)

Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, this irresistible new hit features original music and lyrics by five-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland). “It’s an empowering musical of the highest order!” raves the Chicago Tribune.

Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, WAITRESS tells the story of Jenna – a waitress and expert pie maker, Jenna dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.

“WAITRESS is a little slice of heaven!” says Entertainment Weekly and “a monumental contribution to Broadway!” according to Marie Claire. Don’t miss this uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood and the magic of a well-made pie.

Waitress The Musical – My Review (again spoilers ahead! Sorry not sorry)

When the show opened, I didn’t fully know what to expect. The only thing I did know is that I was in for a romantic comedy based on a book that turned into a movie, that then turned into a musical, with great music and a happy ending.

At least, that’s was what I heard. And, Waitress totally served up all of that and more.

Though the plot wasn’t exactly surprising, and the outcome wasn’t shocking either, it was it’s simplicity that made it so easy to follow. But, what made it exceptionally sweet was the characters, the dialogue and that music!!!

By intermission I knew that I had to have the soundtrack. Oh, and that I couldn’t wait to find out the conclusion of the show. Hurry up and get to the happy ending already!!!

From left: Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of Waitress. Credit Joan Marcus
From left: Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

One of my favorite things about the musical over all, was that I got to enjoy it with my mother by my side. She and I have been through a lot over the years, and many of the elements of the plot hit a little too close to home for us.

Watching everything work out in the end was very inspirational for us. I think that’s what makes this production such a feel-good show. It’s a depiction of a life completely turned upside down, with twists and turns, that ends up being okay.

There were several songs in the show I just loved, but one particular song that got me thinking was I Didn’t Plan It. Becky sings it to Jenna, and the following lines in it really struck me:

“I needed saving
And a good mistake needed making
Maybe you need the same thing

Something to feel
To race through your blood
And remind you you’re here
To open your eyes and look around
And see the sky when you’re underground

I didn’t plan it
But that’s life
And I’m finally feeling alive”

I’ve been pondering those lyrics today, and I feel it speaks to why people do things they know they might later regret. Whether it’s risking a business move, getting up the courage to ask for a divorce, quitting a job, or having an affair- we all just want to feel alive.

Life may not always go as planned, or even be planned out at all, but really living life (mistakes and all) is better than just letting it pass us by.

We all have secrets, and many of us do dumb or silly things, but it’s all part of life. In many cases, we didn’t plan it, but sometimes we have to make mistakes to save ourselves.

Not to get too deep here, but I think the biggest mistakes are the ones we make but don’t learn anything from. For me, I often have to do something all the wrong ways to learn how to do it right.

Can you relate? I’ll bet you can, at least on some level. Perhaps that’s why I ultimately loved the show. Jenna does all the wrong things to finally figure out how to do life right – for her.

Bottom line – I say go watch this show!

Desi Oakley, Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of WAITRESS – Photo Credit Joan Marcus
Desi Oakley, Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

I highly recommend you buy tickets to the show while it’s playing at the Straz Center here in Tampa! You won’t be disappointed. And, you probably won’t be able to get the soundtrack out of your head either. 

Cue the SUGAR – BUTTER – FLOUR melody that I can’t quite shake. 

Waitress The Musical is playing at The Straz Center now through April 29, 2018. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE!

And, fair warning – Waitress The Musical contains some adult language, and mature situations.

I’m personally gonna be watching the movie this weekend, and I’ve got to get that soundtrack too! Click the images to grab your own copy of each. And yes, these are affiliate links so that I can grab some pie to go with my watching experience!

waitress movie image

Waitress - Original Broadway Cast Recording

 

Check out two more of my recent posts:

Book Recommendation – The Suitcase Entrepreneur by Natalie Sisson

Need a FABULOUS book to read? I highly recommend The Suitcase Entrepreneur by Natalie Sisson. Y’all, I’m not just blowing smoke when I say this, but this book FUNDAMENTALLY changed the course of my career when I first picked up the 2014 edition of the book on March 12, 2014.

I knew I was happy working for myself, but this book made me commit full force to not working a 9 to 5 ever again. Sure, I had a stint where I had to take a full time gig temporarily, but this book showed me that I could have a business that I run anywhere with WiFi.

Anti 9 to 5 , all about the WiFi

Although anywhere with WiFi for me usually means I’m at home in yoga pants and a t-shirt, the point is that this book gave me a glimpse into what is possible. The year I bought this book I not only quit that 9 to 5 stint for good, but I went to Thailand & got more clients than I’d ever had before as a freelance writer.

Have there been ups and downs along the way? Yes, of course. However, I’d choose to be my version of a suitcase entrepreneur over a rat in a race any day! I love knowing that I have a business that I can run from nearly anywhere in the world. .

I’m not where I want to be in my career (YET!), but without the tools and information in this amazing book, it would have taken me sooooooooo much longer. I’m so incredibly grateful I stumbled upon this book 4 years ago. I can’t say enough about how good it is.

Thinking about a business? You NEED this book!

If you are thinking about starting a freedom based business, you simply HAVE to get a copy of it. Natalie has updated it, and there’s a bunch more fabulous information just waiting for you to unlock. Grab a copy HERE.

I am definitely a freedomist for life, and I have a feeling after you read this book – you will be too. Do you want to “create freedom in business and adventure in life?” Then, you MUST snap up a copy of this killer book today.


And, check out Natalie’s website. She has some of the best podcast episodes that will teach you even more. Never stop learning my friends!

Do you have a book you want me to read, a drink you want me to try or a product you want me to review? 

Contact me HERE! I’m PR friendly 😉

This post contains links to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

A Beautiful Musical – er I Mean a Review of Beautiful the Musical

 

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center, I received two complimentary tickets for the purposes of review to "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical". This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
Carnegie Hall. Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”)
Carnegie Hall. Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”)

I was thrilled when the opportunity to watch Beautiful: The Carole King Musical was offered to me. Although I admit, I wasn’t completely familiar with the Carole King story, I recognized many of the songs that were listed in the production’s descriptions. I had also heard so many wonderful things about the show, and I’m a sucker for good music and acting performed live on a stage. Something about knowing  that they can’t yell “CUT!” and/or “take it from the top,” just gives me an excitement like no other form of entertainment ever has. Can you relate?

Knowing that my mom would want to hear those songs of yesteryear once more, performed live, I invited her to be my date, and I’m so glad I did. One of my favorite moments in the middle of the show was when she lit up at the song Loco Motion. She leaned over and told me that her and a friend had choreographed a dance to that song while they were growing up. It was so fun watching her re-live happy times from childhood. Want to know how I felt about the show overall? Keep reading…

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical – What Straz Said About it (spoilers ahead)

Long before she was Carole King, chart-topping music legend, she was Carol Klein, Brooklyn girl with passion and chutzpah. She fought her way into the record business as a teenager and, by the time she reached her twenties, had the husband of her dreams and a flourishing career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll. But it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally managed to find her true voice.

BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Along the way, she made more than beautiful music, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation.

Featuring a stunning array of beloved songs written by Gerry Goffin/Carole King and Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil, including “I Feel The Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got A Friend” and the title song, BEAUTIFUL has a book by Tony Award® nominee and Academy Award®-nominated writer Douglas McGrath, direction by Marc Bruni, choreography by Josh Prince and took home two 2014 Tony Awards® and the 2015 Grammy® for Best Musical Theater Album. BEAUTIFUL is currently playing to sold out crowds at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on Broadway.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical – My Review

When the show opened, I was met with a vibrant red head sitting at a piano confessing she never planned to be a singer. Then, the audience is brought back in time to how she ended up at that piano singing for a crowd. We learn about her desire to be a songwriter, and the way she met her first husband and long time writing partner Gerry Goffin. This marriage and the songs they would go on to create are the ultimate focus of the production.

Fast forward a little bit and Carole and Gerry have a baby, are married, are finally working as full time song writers, but you can see throughout all of it that Gerry has itchy feet. I was getting angry as this was all taking place because I knew what was coming. There was trouble in paradise, and I just wanted to focus on the happiness that was the music.

I also got antsy as I watched the characters of Barry Man and Cynthia Weil in their competitive nature with Gerry and Carole. Two teams of songwriters and musicians constantly trying to out-do each other on the Billboard music charts. I can’t even imagine how stressful that would be. But the couples were friends nonetheless, and I loved them and was rooting for everyone to succeed.

As I watched though, I couldn’t help but reflect on how good songwriters have to be going through all the feels so that they can put amazing lyrics and music on the page, and ultimately on the record.  I confess, it was even exciting to watch the super high-highs, and the troubling lows of excited love, wild success, depressing defeats, and so on…

Four Friends - Beautiful the Carole King Musical
Four Friends. (l to r) James Clow (“Don Kirshner”), Andrew Brewer (“Gerry Goffin”), Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”), Jacob Heimer (“Barry Mann”) and Sarah Goeke (“Cynthia Weil”).

By intermission I knew that Carol and Gerry would be divorcing, but I still didn’t like that this was confirmed by all the spoiler laden conversations going on in the line for the ladies restroom. Am I the only one who didn’t know the end of this show? Haha! It seemed like everyone that was there had either watched it before or at least knew the story. (side note: to me a testament to how good a musical is, is how many repeat watchers are in attendance. I encountered people who were seeing it for the second, third, and fourth time.)

I was amused in that same restroom line when a lady that was older than me, asked if someone as young as I am could possibly even be enjoying the show so far. I replied, absolutely! And, we shared a chuckle when I said I was diggin’ it, and that the songs were neato, and really swell.

Ensemble from Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Ensemble from Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

One of my favorite things about the musical over all, was watching how these songs that began as “simple” words and notes on a page seemed to magically transform into hits thanks to the musical acts that performed them. How exciting it must have been for these writers to witness their work coming to life in that way for all to enjoy and be entertained by.

I also particularly loved the costumes, and how they along with the sets and props made you really feel like you were stepping back in time to the era in which all of those amazing songs were created.

My favorite part is that after all of the crap with Gerry,  we’re presented at the end with Carole King coming out on top. She is the amazing powerhouse that drives this entire show. She pulls you in, giving you a raw look into the good, the bad and the ugly of the music industry.

Grant it, we didn’t see the knock-down, drag-out ugly one might expect if this had been about the music business today. But, that’s what makes the show that much nicer to watch. Even though there’s heartache in the production, it truly made me yearn for a feeling of what may have been a simpler time.

Bottom line – I say go watch this show!

I would  recommend this musical to anyone who loves those songs from yesteryear. I would also recommend it to enthusiasts of the entertainment industry. I would recommend it to people who crave a simpler time. To put it simply, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to witness an overall feel good story come to life on stage. All in, this production was in fact, a beautiful musical. 

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is playing at The Straz Center now through April 1, 2018. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE!

And, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical contains some adult language, and mature situations.

 

So Many Things to See and Do at the Florida State Fair!

Thanks to Cox Media Group Tampa I was given a family four pack to the Florida State Fair in exchange for this post and social media love. Although my tickets, some meals and rides were free, this has not affected my review. All opinions are my own.

Every year I look forward to The Florida State Fair. The food, the rides, the people watching. It’s something my husband and I thoroughly enjoy going to. There are so many things to do at the fair, and this year we decided to enjoy some of our favorite activities AND check out a few of the things we’ve never done before.

Our old faithfuls at The Florida State Fair

  • The food – We always end up with a corn dog upon arrival, and the past couple of years we end with a cheeseburger. Hubby always goes for the traditional barbecue bacon burger, and I either get the doughnut burger or the mac and cheese burger from Carousel Foods. Such yumminess! And seriously – you have to try the doughnut burger once in your life. I think you will be as surprised as I was at how delicious this darn thing actually is!
  • The arts – We LOVE seeing the entries in the arts and crafts contest held every year at the fair. The paintings and the sculptures, and the photos – this year they were just over the top. And, I was exceptionally giddy because I actually recognized some of the names of the winners in the art contests. I’ve decided next year I want to add a contribution of my own. I’ll share what I’m entering when it comes time.
  • The people watching – Dude! This is far and away my FAVORITE thing to do at the fair. You never know what outfits you will see, who you will bump into or what fun you will witness.  One of the crazy things we witnessed this year while people watching was a cell phone FLYING off of a ride. That was nuts. It almost hit someone!! Funny and scary all at the same time. And the craziest part? Their cell phone protector actually protected it. NO DAMAGE! Not even a single crack. That’s crazy right?!?
  • The Sky Ride – I love this because it takes you from one end of the fair to the other and gives you incredible views along the way. Resting our feet while getting a bird’s eye view? Winning!
  • The Ferris Wheel – it’s tradition. We always ride the Ferris Wheel. What was extra exciting about this year’s ride though was the wheel was bigger and we rode at sunset. We got some of the most epic views from the top. Seriously. Check this out:

The new things we saw/did in 2018 at the fair:

  • We went and visited with the drivers of the mini monster trucks. I had no idea this was a thing for kids! Youngins driving mini trucks?!? WOWZA! Pretty wild seeing these littles with those big trucks.
  • We also checked out the Farm to School Fun arcade hosted by The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). There were free games, educational opportunities, and we got to try some roasted peanuts from the Florida farmers that grow them. I also learned a lot about vegetables, bees, spiders, butterflies, and fish in this room.
  • For a few moments as we took a rest from the sun we stopped in and watched some baton twirling competitors. That was so cool and made me realize JUST how uncoordinated I really am. haha! We also darted over in the same hall and checked out the arts and crafts vendors selling their goods. It is truly amazing how talented some people are. While they we also got our fill of fudge, more peanuts, dip samples and more. So much deliciousness!!!
  • One thing we did that we’ve never done was juice our own oranges in the agriculture area. This covered areas also had some chickens in it which prompted a humorous conversation between me and the hubs about why we need to own chickens when we get a house.

Things we skipped or missed that I wish we’d seen:

  • We missed the Extreme Illusions & Escapes show, the BMX/FMX Freestyle Madness displays, Circus Hollywood, and the Laser Light shows. Mind you we didn’t skip them because we wanted to. We should have made the fair visit a multi-day event because we just didn’t have time for everything. The timing was off for us to see things at their scheduled hours, and/or we weren’t in the area when it was happening.
  • We skipped Cracker Country this year. Forgive me y’all, but I just wasn’t excited about this – perhaps because we’ve seen it sooooooooo many times over the years. I do regret not going over at least long enough to get some kettle corn though. It’s never better anywhere than it is there IMHO.
  • We missed events that were only happening on specific days. For example, we’ll miss the demolition derby because another trip to the fair before they close this year probably won’t be feasible with our work schedules.  Same for the Trashy Flashy Fashion Show. We were there the day after this occurred. I have to say I was super bummed about missing this because I LOVE trashy fashion shows. The way the artists can turn garbage into wearable art never ceases to amaze me.

Our 2018 fair visit was a success in my book

All in all, I loved my day at the fair, and sincerely hope that in 2019 I can afford more time to be there. I’d like to go multiple days and check out more events and things I haven’t seen yet, or that I’ve not seen in awhile. I will say that for the cost of the fair ticket, there is certainly a LOT of entertainment and enjoyment to be had. It’s not JUST about the rides and the food. I can’t wait to visit again. In the meantime, I’m hoping to check out many other events our fair city has to offer. <- see what I did there? LOL! I crack me up!

Check out all the images I snapped at The Florida State Fair this year –

Thirsty Thursdays – Summer Spiked PJ with Touch Vodka

Touch Vodka did send me a few bottles of their vodka for the purposes of review. While the vodka was free, this did not affect my review. All opinions are my own.

Summer is here, and with it, refreshing drinks are all the rage. Today I thought I’d share a yummy one that just tastes like summer in a glass. Perfect for those hot days by the pool! Or, ya know, on the patio after a rough day’s work. This is the Summer Spiked PJ and it’s damn tasty! Enjoy!!

Summer Spiked PJ

Ingredients:

Prep:

Super simple, super refreshing – I’ll have another please! Stay tuned for additional drink recipes with Touch Vodka 🙂

Have a drink you want me to try or a product you want me to review? 
Contact me HERE! I’m PR friendly 😉

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Recapping My Experience at The Grand Beauty Spa AND a Giveaway!

Thanks to my partnership with The Grand Beauty Spa and Seven Marketing PR,  I received a complimentary massage in exchange for a review, and some social media love. Although the massage was free, this has not affected my review in any way. All opinions below are my own.

When I first walked in to The Grand Beauty Spa, the staff greeted me and offered me a beverage. I was pleasantly surprised that one of the beverage options was wine. Although I’ve been living a semi-dry lifestyle lately, something about slipping into a state of comfort that day made me want a glass of wine. After all as Nanci from This Crazy Life Designs says “wine is a hug in a glass”. So I gave myself permission to have one glass, and I gotta say, it felt so nice to be drinking in the middle of a work day, just getting pampered.

I was also given a tour of the facility, and the serenity areas inside and outside easily helped me to forget that I was on a busy street on Kennedy!

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I was feeling all zen like.  At last minute I was told that I would be having a male masseuse, and I must say I was a little taken aback by that because I went in expecting that I was going to be massaged by a female. I’ve never had a man massage me before. So, to be honest I really didn’t know what to expect.

One of the things that calmed my nerves right off the bat though, was that my masseuse whose name was Bruce told me he had a couple of rules in his room – I don’t remember exactly what all of them were, but I do remember him saying that one of the most important rules was for me to give myself permission to leave the outside world outside of his room and just relax. I know it might sound silly but this actually really helped me to do exactly that – Bruce says RELAX!

Another thing he said was that if he was too rough with his pressure to let him know because he wanted this to be an enjoyable experience, not a painful one. And somehow that reassured me too … The 80 minutes went by really quickly, and I must confess I kept repeating Bruce’s words in my head “just give yourself permission to relax.”

One of the problems that I often have with getting massages, is that by the end of it I haven’t actually fully relaxed. This one however, completely did the job. I can honestly say that I completely forgot that I was sitting on the middle of a very busy street in downtown Tampa. Who knew that a spa on Kennedy Boulevard could give you this level of peace, comfort, and total zen? I would highly recommend getting a massage at The Grand Beauty Spa.

Because I’m all about full disclosure, I do have to say I did have one complaint about my experience at the spa – but only one. When I went to rinse off the lotion from the massage in the ladies locker room, I lost all hot water in the shower after only about 5 minutes. For the life of me I could not get that hot water back 🙁 I twisted that knob every which way I could think of, but basically had to end my rinse with cold water.

Luckily, there’s nothing else I can think of that was negative about my experience at The Grand Beauty Spa. It certainly makes me look forward to the day that my blog is making me enough money so that I can regularly get massages like that one. Because let’s be honest ladies, self-care and self-pampering just makes us nicer people!

Learn more about #howtograndspa with their offerings here:

Use promotion code: TAMPABLOGGER and mention Famous Ashley Grant to score 10% off the services available at The Grand Spa

MEMBERSHIP AT THE GRAND SPA- Join our Community

The Grand awaits to “Teach You How to Spa” in a Grand way!

The Grand understands the importance of a consistent beauty regime and offers special pricing for Grand Spa Members’ monthly visits and treatments with exclusive pricing and exceptional members only events.

All Grand Spa Memberships Include:

  • Unlimited use of Infra-Red Sauna, team Room and Relaxation areas
  • Monthly applications of customized Keratase
  • Shu Uemura Hair Masque with Complimentary Detoxifying Peloid Mud in our Steam Room
  • Membership pricing on select services
  • 10% discount for Med Spa, Salon and Retail
  • Monthly Yoga Classes and Grand Goddess Ceremony

MASSAGES

  • Couples Massage
  • Hot Stone Massage Grand Spa Wrap, Scrubs and Bath
  • Deep Tissue Massage
  • Pre-and post Natal Massage
  • A shiatsu Oriental bar Therapy
  • Grand Thai Table Massage
  • Grand Classic Marine Algae Wrap Detox Treatments

MED SPA

  • Botox
  • Fillers
  • Vitamin B Injections
  • PRP

BEAUTY SALON

  • Custom Couture Blow dry & Style
  • Custom Hair Cut and Style
  • Special Occasion Hairstyling
  • Custom Highlights
  • Hair Color Retouch
  • Gloss Toner

BRIDAL BEAUTY

  • Bridal Trial UpDo & Bridal UpDo
  • Bridal Makeup
  • Bridal on Location
  • Grand Manicure & Pedicures
  • Eyelash Extensions
  • Grand Make-up Application

SERVICES

Facials

  • Featuring THALGO the anti-aging specialists offering facials for different ages and anti-aging concerns, all renowned for their incredible results.
  • For a radiant firmer complexion, our selection of customized facials are perfect for every age. Grand Beauty Spa specialty facials enhance the look of your skin, encourage rejuvenation and reduce the appearance of fine lines.
  • Innovative masques and serums are used to exfoliate, tighten and revitalize your skin. The Grand offers a comprehensive range of advanced therapies specifically geared to reverse the signs of aging caused by environment, pollution and sun exposure.

MASSAGES

The Grand Massage

Few experiences in life can compare to the benefits of receiving an outstanding massage under the trained hands of a professional massage therapist. While all of our massages help relieve tension, allowing your body to relax and rejuvenate. We offer a therapeutic synergy of Swedish, Thai and Shiatsu massage technologies are tailored to renew and revitalize mind and body-A Grand Exclusive.

Enjoy our elegant and beautifully appointed spa facility including our infrared sauna, steam room and Zen Gardens as part of your Spa experience.

Don't forget! Use promotion code: TAMPABLOGGER and mention Famous Ashley Grant to score 10% off the services available at The Grand Spa

ABOUT GRAND BEAUTY SPA

In the tradition of the finest five-star European spas and salons, the Grand offers spa and salon services from head to toe under one roof. Now celebrating its ten-year anniversary, the Grand has redefined the beauty salon/spa experience taking it to a new level.

At the Grand the latest techniques, treatments, European-trained stylists and skin care specialists provide clients with an unparalleled salon/spa experience. The Grand’s team of elite professionals join to provide clients with the ultimate experience. Carmen Sargeant owner of the Grand, has designed The Grand to be an oasis of peace and tranquility, offering cutting-edge beauty and wellness services in a personalized, relaxed and beautiful setting.

ABOUT THE OWNER

Carmen Lee Sargeant

With over 20 years of experience, Carmen not only leads and inspires her salon team, she trains stylists around the country. Carmen teaches and tours with America’s top stylists during New York’s Spring and Fall Fashion Week. Carmen enjoys sharing her knowledge as an artist with top international teams including Kerastase and the Shu Uemura Artistic teams in New York and LA. (@kerastase_official , @shuartofhair)

Carmen received her training form top celebrity stylists including Martin Parsons, Beth Miniardi, Trevor Sorbie and Kattria Solano. She has also studied with SoHO Academy, Redken 5th Avenue and Shu Uemura Atelier.

Carmen is deeply committed to giving back to her community and volunteers with her husband and three children for numerous charity causes. Carmen’s family also enjoys doing pet therapy with their dog visiting local hospitals.

The Grand Promise- Customization

The Grand Beauty Spa recognizes that every guest’s face and body are unique. We customize and continually update treatments to meet client’s needs and deliver the benefits they seek. No luxury is spared in our quest to create unparalleled results.

Update: The Giveaway has ended

And now, A GIVEAWAY!!!!

This giveaway is being hosted directly by The Grand Beauty Spa. Check out the details they sent me below to learn how you could win a spa day for you and your mom by following their instructions 🙂

GRAND BEAUTY SPA’S #MYHEROMOM

PRESENTED BY

TAMPA BAY PARENTING

Some people don’t believe in Heroes but they haven’t met my Mom”

Nominate your #MYHEROMOM and WIN a Grand Spa Day for Two!

Moms come in many shapes and sizes. There are step-moms, foster moms, adopted moms, grand-moms, teacher-moms and of course Moms. This Mother’s Day, we want to celebrate our Hero Moms. 

Tell us about your hero mom and why she inspires you: Is it her kind-heartedness? Her bravery? Her selflessness? Her sacrifices? It could be your mom or someone else’s mother. Tell us why your #myheromom is so special and you could win a Spa Day for Two from Grand Beauty Spa and Tampa Bay Parenting.

We’re certainly not looking for the perfect mom (because none of us are) but we’d love to hear about it! We’ll share some of our favorite entries around Mother’s Day.  

Details:

Answer the questions below and enter an optional story in 300 words or less.

Our panel of judges will pick three winners. The winning Moms and guest will be treated to a Spa day on Saturday, May 13th.  The 2 runners-up will each receive a $100 gift card to Grand Beauty Spa. So make it an extra-happy Mother’s Day in your house this year, and send in your entry! All five winners will be published on www.grandbeautyspa.com

Please include a photo of yourself and/or your hero mom.

The contest begins April 17th and will run until Monday, May 1st at 10 p.m. (EST). YOU CAN ENTER THE CONTEST DIRECTLY HERE!!!

We will contact the winner(s) by noon on May 5th.

AGAIN – YOU CAN ENTER THE CONTEST DIRECTLY HERE!!!

 

 

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CLR Products – PERFECT for Spring Cleaning

 Thanks to my relationship with the CLR Family of Jelmar, I did receive complimentary bottles of cleaner for the purposes of review. This has not affected my review
All opinions below are my own.

I was so excited when my CLR Products arrived in the mail because they are PERFECT for Spring Cleaning. I had several projects that needed to be taken care of, and thanks to this mail fairy delivery I was able to make quick work of them.

First, I used the mold and mildew remover. What I LOVED about this product is its foaming action feature. I shot it on the area that needed it, I let it sit for 10 minutes, and the gunk came off with ease. Check out the before and after shots:

Before:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After:

 

This gunk would have taken a lot longer to clean with other brands of cleaners. The foaming action did all the heavy lifting for me.

Have a product you want me to review? 

Contact me HERE! I’m PR friendly 😉

Here's more about the CLR Brands Mold & Mildew Stain Remover directly from the company's website: CLR Brands Mold & Mildew Stain Remover is a powerful, bleach-free formula designed to remove tough mold and mildew stains from a variety of surfaces.  The foam sprayer allows for a more direct application, preventing splash back and spores from spreading in the air.  You can use CLR Brands Mold & Mildew Stain Remover in bathrooms, kitchens and basements on painted walls, ceramic tile, hardwood floors and baseboards as well as fabrics.  CLR Brands Mold & Mildew Stain Remover will eliminate stains from glass, metal, brick, concrete, marble, laminated countertops, fully cured and oil-based painted surfaces, hard plastics, automobile tires, wood, grout and fiberglass.  CLR Brands Mold & Mildew Stain Remover is part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice Program recognizing the product as a safer alternative to chemicals.

Next, I used the CLR Bath & Kitchen Cleaner, and although there were some burns marks on the inside of the stove I was cleaning that couldn’t be changed, I think this cleaner did a darn good job. Again, this one was a foaming action cleaner, so all I needed to do was spray it, let it sit and then wipe it off. I did need a “little” elbow grease because the gunk was so stubborn, but for the most part, this cleaner again did most of the work for me!

Before:

 

 

 

 

After

 

 

 

 

Here's more about CLR Brands Bath & Kitchen Cleaner directly from their site:  CLR Brands Bath & Kitchen Cleanercontains no phosphates, ammonia or bleach and is the perfect cleaner for most surfaces in your kitchen and bathroom.  CLR Brands Bath & Kitchen Cleaner is a multipurpose, multi-surface cleaner that quickly cuts through calcium, lime, soap buildup and dirt on your sink, chrome fixtures, stainless steel as well as the sliding door to your shower.  You can use CLR Brands Bath & Kitchen Cleaner on ceramic tile, bathtubs, white grout & caulk, toilet bowls, fiberglass and kitchen countertops.  CLR Brands Bath & Kitchen Cleaner will not remove rust and make sure you do not use our cleaner on vinyl, marble, mirrors, plastic laminates, wood, fabrics, painted surfaces, colored grout or wall coverings. Always spot test in an inconspicuous area first before cleaning the entire item.

Then, I used the original CLR Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover for my shower head and my toilet.  I have to confess I already knew how amazing this stuff was before I “reviewed” it as I’ve used it several times in the past. Nonetheless, I will show you the horrendous before and after photos of what I cleaned (even though my husband is having a fit over me sharing the before picture). I have VERY hard water in my apartment, and hard water stains seem to be a constant in my toilet and on my shower head. If you don’t believe this stuff is amazing, just check this out:

Before

After

How frikkin amazing is that? As for the shower head, I removed it from the shower and placed it into a cup filled with just enough CLR to cover the face like so:

Unfortunately, you can’t see it too well, and you can’t really tell the difference in my before and after images because they came out so dark. What I will tell you is this – my shower head before CLR didn’t work so well. There were several spots so crudded up with the hard water stuff that when you turned on the shower, the water was blocked from shooting out of all the holes of the head.

Now, after the treatment, it’s like a whole new shower head with every hole clear and free to dispense water. My husband actually wondered if I bought a new one because it’s coming out so much stronger than it was before!

Here's more about the original CLR Brands Calcium, Lime & Rust Remover directly from their site: CLR Brands Calcium, Lime & Rust Remover is a powerful formula for dissolving tough calcium and lime deposits as well as surface rust stains on outdoor faucets, rusty siding and the hard water stains left from the sprinkler system on your outdoor windows.  CLR Brands Calcium, Lime & Rust Remover is effective on porcelain, chrome, glassware, fiberglass, and stainless steel.  When cleaning, use a mixture of equal parts of CLR Brands Calcium, Lime & Rust Remover and warm water.  Let the solution sit on the spot test area for no longer than two to five minutes, then rinse promptly and thoroughly with cold water.  If there are no adverse reactions, then it’s safe to use on the other affected areas of the item.  Using a soft scouring pad is recommended to assist in removal of the deposits.  If the stain does not completely disappear, repeat the process.  CLR Brands Calcium, Lime & Rust Remover has been scientifically proven to dissolve mineral deposits within the first two to five minutes, one layer at a time.

The only product that I received that I haven’t had a chance to use yet is the Tarn-X Tarnish Remover seen below. This stuff is great for sterling silver, silver plate, platinum, copper, gold and diamonds. I’m planning on cleaning my jewelry with it very soon, and I’ll share my thoughts on it afterwards!

I would definitely recommend all of the CLR products I tried for this write up. They are just awesome cleaners! They aren’t overly “chemically” in smell, and I don’t want to run out of the room when I’m using them. They get the job done, and they do their job well. I’m a fan, and I’ll bet if you use CLR products for your Spring Cleaning, you will be too!
 

Have a drink you want me to try or a product you want me to review? 
Contact me HERE! I’m PR friendly 😉

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

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Get Stuffed Like a Turkey at Piquant and Love Every Minute!

piquant_1003 So, recently I had the AHHHHHMAZING opportunity to have dinner at Piquant. For those of you who don’t know, this is a restaurant located in Hyde Park Village. They are an American spin on French cuisine, and although I was treated to a meal here for their preview of a new menu thanks to my affiliation with the Tampa Bay Bloggers, all opinions below are my own.

When we first arrived, we were treated to the cocktail you see above. It’s a blend of equal parts Deep Eddy Peach Vodka and Rumchata, a squeeze of lime and a pinch of cinnamon. They said it tastes like Peach Cobbler. For me, it was a little too sweet, but the other bloggers seemed to enjoy it. For some reason, the older I get the less I like sweet drinks. Anywho…moving on…

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Our first course was Octopus Provencal featuring chorizo-rubbed seared Octopus, Spanish evoo, potatoes, Provencal sauce. I keep it real on this blog, so I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I loved this dish. It was my first time having octopus and I’m NOT a fan. Bleh! The potatoes though- those were delicious!!! Love me some potatoes ya’ll!!!

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Next we had the Pork Belly Benedict featuring crispy pork belly, lemon-thyme scone, beefsteak tomato, poached egg, avocado Hollandaise. Ya’ll!!! This dish was pretty darn tasty. I love me some porkt belly, and the scone was surprisingly moist. Most scones I’ve eaten are far too dry. This? This was good! I would eat this again if given the chance for sure.

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For our first salad sampling we tried the Vertical (Uriah’s Farm) Salad featuring a mix of Bibb, Frisee & Arugula, roasted Red & Golden beets, toasted almonds, goat cheese and passion fruit vinaigrette. The cool thing about this salad is that it’s as farm-to-table as you can get at a restaurant. They grow the stuff vertically nearby, and then Piquant gets the goods at the peak of freshness. I didn’t like the beets so much, but the greens, almonds and dressing – YUM!

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We were supposed to have another salad sample after the beets, but to our surprise the chef had other plans. EXCITING ones! He created this delicious croissant loaf. Yep, bread that is just as fluffy and flaky as a croissant, but in loaf form to make a sammich!!! So, naturally chef sliced the bread, toasted it and made the best turkey club sandwich I think I’ve ever had. It was so delicious I wasn’t even mad they cut the turkey sandwich from our scheduled samplings!

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Our other salad sampling was a Salmon Salad featuring seared fresh salmon, golden lentils, heirloom Spring, beefsteak tomatoes, crispy Brussels sprouts and passion fruit vinaigrette. I REALLY didn’t like the Brussels sprouts, but the rest of the salad was pretty tasty. This could totes be a lunch I would eat one day! I’d just ask for mine sprout free. Ha!

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As we waited for our first signature entree sampling, we were treated to a swig of Impatience wine. This was delicious! Paired perfectly with the salmon too.

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Our first signature entree sampling was Duck Confit featuring leg of house-made crispy Duck Confit, golden lentil ragu and duck Demi glace. The duck was good, the rest? Not so much! I’m very finicky I guess. But, I did enjoy the duck leg quite a bit.

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Our other signature entree sampling was Salmon Napoleon with layers of pate brisee, ratatouille, seared salmon, hollandaise and fresh dill. This is TOTALLY a dish my husband would have liked. I ate it and enjoyed it for the most part, but I wish my hubby could have been there because I suspect he would have been begging for more.

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Taking a slight break from ALL. THE. FOOD. we were treated to another cocktail that rocked my world. Equal parts Pumpkin Spice Baileys and Crown Royal Vanilla shaken and poured over ice. What’s not to love? This drink was so frikkin good I considered asking for another. Going to have to nab me some of those bottles before they sell out since the Pumpkin Spice is limited edition!!!!

Finally, it was dessert time. And holy crap did Piquant go all out. I’ll share them in order from my least favorite to my most favorite because after all, you should save the best for last. Am I right?

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This dessert was the JBF Passian Fruit Ganache Gateau which consists of chocolate cake, passion fruit ganache, almond croquantine, passion fruit curd and milk chocolate buttercream. I had one bite and quickly moved on. FAR too sweet for me!

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This is the Chocolate Cherry Croissant Bread Pudding which consists of warm croissant bread pudding with European Chocolate wafers and cherries. Served with vanilla gelato and caramel sauce. The gelato and the caramel sauce – I was all over the deliciousness!!! But, I sadly was not a fan of the bread pudding itself.

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Now, my favorite!!!! Oh my GAWD you guys!!! These are the Croissant Donut Beignets. Yep – I said CROISSANT DONUT!!! Omg! These warm, crunchy Croissant Donut Beignets accompanied with signature dipping sauces makes for an interactive dessert that will tickle your taste buds and have you foodgasming something fierce. I loved these little suckers so much I wished I had saved more room for them, because DAYUM, they were good! HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!

Well folks, there you have it. Your sneak peek at the new items on the Piquant menu, and how I felt about them. Overall I had a VERY pleasant experience, and would love to munch on a few of the items again and again and again. If nothing else I’ll take more beignets and Pumpkin Baileys with Vanilla Crown please! So good!

Now, I want to hear from you!!! Have you eaten at Piquant? What did you think of the place?