Category Archives: Blog

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 –

Super Bowl Snacks Part 2

Super Bowl 2018 is fast approaching! Yesterday I posted 29 snacks perfect for game day, and today I’m back with part two of my recipe round up from my bloggy friends. They just have the best food ideas EVER, don’t you agree? Check them out below, and then let me know your favorite Game Day bites!

Super Bowl Snacks – Part 2

Bacon Wrapped Apricots
Smoked Salmon Crostini
Ricotta and Prosciutto Cracker Appetizer
Baba Ganoush Recipe | What To Buy, Cook, Use
Cucumber Salmon Appetizer | Healthy And Delicious Recipes
Game Day Fried Deviled Eggs with Chow Chow Relish
Cajun Red Beans and Andouille Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
Cheesy Pumpkin Beer Soft Pretzel Twists | Feast In Thyme
The Best Tex-Mex Arrachera Fajita Recipe | Foodal
Eat Cochinita Pibil Once and You’ll Never Make Regular Pulled Pork Again
Oven Fried Garlic Parmesan Shrimp | Beauty and the Foodie
Oven Fried Chicken Taquitos
Bacon bites recipe
Sloppy joe bread bowls
Methi Jeera Puffs | Cumin Fenugreek Puffs – LET’S COOK HEALTHY…
Ultimate Slow Cooker Cocktail Sausages – The Weary Chef
Bacon-Wrapped Teriyaki Pork Bites – The Weary Chef
Quick Mexican Tuna Salad & Avocado Bowl Recipe {GF, DF}
21 Day Fix Mole Chicken Chili | The Foodie and The Fix
How To Make Your Own Microwave Popcorn {5 Ways}! | The Foodie and…
Game Day Recipes: Nacho Bites
Fried Pickles with Sriracha Ketchup
Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Nachos
Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites Recipe- Auntie Anne’s Pretzel Bites Copycat Recipe
Taco Salad With Doritos
Chili Cheese Cups — A Leftover Chili Recipe!
(ad) Tyson® Game Day Recipes at Sam’s Club
Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Cornbread Cups
30-Minute Pressure Cooker Chili Recipe
Pull-Apart Garlic Bread Recipe

Game Day Snacks with Veggies

I just love getting together with friends to watch the big game. The trouble is that with the big game comes a lot of calorie laden snacks. The good news is you can still have yummy snacks without the fatty punch with the additions of – veggies! If you’re anything like me, you want to have all the fun without feeling guilty afterward. That’s why I’m thrilled to share this roundup of more than two dozen game day snacks where veggies are the star! Enjoy!

Game Day Snacks with Veggies – Perfect for Super Bowl Sunday

Marinated Cheese Peppers and Olives
Red Beet Eggs (Pickled Eggs)
Cream Cheese Wrapped Olives
Cheesy Jalapeno Wonton Poppers
Gluten-Free Baked Jalapeño Poppers
Lentil Nachos with Grated Avocado
Smokey “Mac” and Cheese Bites Made with Cauliflower
Oven Roasted Eggplant Cubes with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Prosciutto Wrapped Roasted Asparagus
Baked Cheesy Salami Wrapped Jalapeños
Dill Pickle Bites
Eggplant Stacks With Goat Cheese And Tomatoes | Healthy And Delicious…
Easy Fried Pickles Recipe – 5 Ingredients (Low Carb, Gluten-free)
Cream Cheese Jalapeno Poppers with Bacon (Low Carb, Gluten-Free)
Healthy Zucchini Nachos Baked with Chili – Low Carb Keto
Garlic Stuffed Mushrooms
Spinach & Artichoke Pastry Swirls | A Bite-Size Appetizer for Any Occasion |…
Stuffed portobello mushrooms with bacon and cheddar – savory tooth
Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Poppers
Chicken Pesto Tomato Bites Low Carb | Beauty and the Foodie
Easy Cheesy Gluten Free Stuffed Mushrooms – Fearless Dining
Artichoke Spinach Dip Stuffed Mushrooms – The Weary Chef
Bacon wrapped jalapeño peppers stuffed with cream cheese – savory tooth
Paneer and Spinach Swirls – LET’S COOK HEALTHY TONIGHT!
Buffalo Cauliflower Bites Appetizer Recipe
Easy Stuffed Mushrooms – Only Three Ingredients!

Meatballs 10 Ways – Just in Time for Super Bowl

I LOVE meatballs! Like a LOT! It’s by far my favorite party food, and the first thing I look for at any get together because:
1. They are hard to screw up and
2. There are so many different flavors you can create with them!

That’s why I was stoked to find these 10 meatball recipes. Enjoy!

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Virtual Basket – A Piece of Business Advice

Got an email today that put something in perspective for me, and confirmed a thought I’ve had for a while….you can’t rely on a SINGLE source for your business to succeed AND maintain success.

The email I got was from a lady I’ve been following for a bit…her Youtube channel was randomly deleted by Google and she is fighting to get it back. There was nothing she did that caused it, it was a legitimate glitch that caused it to be deleted. And, the reality is it may be gone forever with no recourse, or anything she can actually do about it.

This happened with a website of mine years ago – I didn’t own it completely and it randomly got deleted after a hack from a hacker in a foreign county. Still hurts thinking about that loss honestly, but back to the Youtube gal.

The problem? She has built a significant portion of her business via Youtube. She receives most of her leads and hence makes most of her business income thanks to Youtube.

Where are your promotions at online?

This is similar to something I’ve seen other business owners doing – building nearly all of their business on Facebook, or Twitter or Linkedin.

Building your brand across multiple platforms is great, but you must make sure that no matter how you’re promoting yourself that you’re not relying on JUST ONE platform. If at any given moment it vanishes, it could cripple your business.

Now, this lady is pretty resourceful, and I’m sure she’s collected many email addresses and will ultimately be fine. However, the difference is she has been doing this 6 years and may be able to recover faster than other people who are still new in business.

I’m not 100% sure what will happen for her, but obviously I’m wishing her the very best.

Don’t focus all your promo efforts on one platform!

The bottom line is, don’t rest all your business plans on one platform. Especially one you don’t own. You must realize that when you do that if the platform ever vanishes or your account is randomly deleted, it can cripple you.

In all honesty, this is why I’m a huge fan of cross posting. I’ll take the same piece of content and use it in multiple ways so that no single platform is ever getting all of the focus. Some people have called me crazy for doing this and have said I could build my business faster if I would just focus on ONE.

But to them I say this – if Facebook vanishes tomorrow, I’ve still got Twitter. If Twitter vanishes, I’ve still got Linkedin, and if they all vanish, I’ve still got my website and my personal database of contacts. I won’t quit, and hopefully it means I won’t fail.

I felt compelled to share this, and I hope it gets you thinking about how you’re promoting yourself. I also hope that you avoid focusing all of your energy on a single platform you don’t own. Happy Monday my fellow entrepreneurs!

How Not to End a Musical – A Love Never Dies Review

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 Love Never Dies. This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
“Only For You” – Mary Michael Patterson (“Meg Giry”) and the Ensemble of Love Never Dies. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Okay so look. I LOVE musicals. Like, wish I was the one singing and dancing on stage kind of love for musicals. M’kay? So, please go into this post knowing that first and foremost so you don’t just think I’m hatin’.

I want to start by saying that the cast, the sets, the singing, the overall production of Love Never Dies – they were all absolutely stunning. I loved the set so much, it was just gorgeous! And, the singing gave me goosebumps in the best way. Just awesome. Everything was going great. At intermission I was on cloud nine. I even tweeted this:

Gardar Thor Cortes (“The Phantom”) and Meghan Picerno (“Christine Daaé”) star in Love Never Dies. Photo by Joan Marcus.

And then…the last frikkin number came, and what happened after ruined EVERYTHING!!! I won’t spoil it in case you’re going to go see it. BUT!!! Love Never Dies ended in the worst way of EVER!!! I hated it. I was fuming. I was crying like a blubbering frikkin’ mess, and then I was pissed off the entire way home. I thought musicals were supposed to have a happy ending dammit! This one did not, and it made me mad. Like so mad I couldn’t even tweet about how I was feeling about it for more than an hour.

Meghan Picerno (“Christine Daaé”) stars in Love Never Dies. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Here’s the thing – if you want to believe the end is happy, leave after you see the peacock. Let Christine sing for you, and as soon as the song ends and the peacock goes away – LEAVE. THE. THEATER!!! Then, pretend the ending was a lovely, sweet one, and you’ll walk away feeling like it was one of the greatest musicals perhaps of all time. BUT, if you want to get mad, sad, heartbroken or any other array of negative emotions…stick around for the horrible conclusion that left me wanting to punch someone.

This is one time I wish somebody had warned me about the ending. It’s the one time I wish someone had said, Ashley LEAVE after the song in front of the peacock. If I had known and walked away, I would have ended the evening feeling that it was a fabulous night out, and simply an amazing production.

I want to reiterate at this point that I LOVED all of the rest of the show. It kept me on my toes, and falling hard for some of the characters. Maybe that’s why the ending made me so upset. Or maybe it’s my own life experiences that made the last moments of the production ruin the entire show for me. I’m not 100% sure. What I do know is this though – that to me was how NOT to end a musical.

Love Never Dies is playing at the Straz Center in Tampa through December 17, 2017. To see all of the shows playing at the Center, click here.

Photo by Rob-Harris

 

 

The Book of Mormon – A Review

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 the Book of Mormon. This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.


The Book of Mormon – My Review

I confess that upon entering the theater for The Book of Mormon I didn’t know what to expect. But, by the end of the show I was incredibly grateful that I didn’t know what to expect. Every single song, every single act, thrilled and excited me and away I couldn’t have imagined. Because of that fact, I will intentionally not share a single spoiler in this review. (If you want spoilers, however, I recommend you read Run DMT’s review).

Instead, I will focus on telling you why you should or should not see the show. If you are a very religious person who is easily offended by jokes about religion – don’t see this show. If you’re a person who is easily offended by curse words, crude humor, and incredibly explicit content – don’t see this show. If you’re a person who believes that the show South Park was invented by the seed of Satan – don’t see this show. However, if your fan of inappropriate humor, religious puns and jokes, and clever musical numbers that poke fun at religion at every turn –  GO SEE THE SHOW!

The Book of Mormon Company – The Book of Mormon (c) Julieta Cervantes 2017

I have to say that I am recovering churchgoer. I became disheartened by the business of “the church,” and I’ve got to say that that is part of the reason I liked this show so much. There were some very clever statements made throughout the show that actually speak to how religion can in fact make a person feel better about whatever situation they’re dealing with in their life may be.

By that same token, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that it felt to me as though the people who wrote this show do not exactly have respect for religion. That doesn’t change the fact though, that I laughed harder in those two hours watching The Book of Mormon than I have laughed in a very long time.

From the very first musical number to the last hilarious dig at the religion of Mormonism, and all of the terribly non-politically correct humor in between, I thoroughly enjoyed every single bit of it. I must admit I thought for sure there would be at least one or two jokes about Scientology somewhere in the play. But, maybe reading between the lines to find those jokes for myself was what the playwrights “were going for.” (<- that’s a joke from the show and the closest I’ll get to a spoiler!)

The Book of Mormon Company – The Book of Mormon (c) Julieta Cervantes 2017

I will warn you that if you’re like me, and have a lot of friends who have very religious views, you will find it incredibly difficult to tell them about the show you just watched if you go and see Book of Mormon. I personally went with a girlfriend of mine to watch this, and after it ended we both looked at each other and kind of knew that we would not be able to tell many of the people in our lives about what we had just witnessed. What’s funny though is now that gives us something to bond over, and laugh about at events we’ll attend in the future.

Kim Exum, Conner Peirson – The Book of Mormon (c) Julieta Cervantes 2017

I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed the show, and just how funny I found it to be. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a Southern Baptist Christian home, but I could see extra humor that was unique to myself. Then again, I think it’s safe to say anyone who saw this that has any kind of religious background probably interpreted some jokes in their own way that made the show that much funnier than it may be to other people witnessing the same material.

Kevin Clay – The Book of Mormon (c) Julieta Cervantes 2017
Conner Peirson – The Book of Mormon (c) Julieta Cervantes 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottom line – I would see the show again in a heartbeat. And, I have a funny feeling that if I were to watch it again I would laugh that much harder the second time around even though now I know what to expect. I can now completely understand why critics have raved about the show, and I concur wholeheartedly with every positive review that I have read about it.

The Book of Mormon is playing at the Straz Center through December 10. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE!

Udderly Smooth Gift Pack Giveaway – Ends 12/18/17

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Today is a Gift – That’s Why it’s Called The Present

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.

His bed was next to the room’s only window

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end.

They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation..

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.

Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats.. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks and months passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.

She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside.
He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, ‘Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.’

Epilogue:

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.

Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.

If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy.

‘Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present .’

I don’t know the origin of this story, but I felt compelled to share it with you. If you too were moved by this, share it too! May your days be filled with an abundance of love, joy, hope, wealth, good health and happiness.

Finding the Right Pet-Sitter or Dog-Walker for Your Fur Babies

FTC Disclosure: I’m an affiliate for Rover.com, and I will receive compensation for anyone who books through my unique link. 

A lot of folks don’t know this, but I used to be a pet sitter and a dog walker. Yep! True story. It’s one of the many side hustles I had throughout grade school and college. I always took care to make sure that the pets I walked and watched were healthy, happy and felt loved.

When I got my own dogs, I confess I was afraid to let anyone but my husband watch them or walk them while I was away at blogger conferences and other getaways. That has meant that with every trip with my hubby, we had to bring the dogs along. Now, as we’re discussing a trip where we can’t feasibly bring the dogs, we’re talking a lot about dog walkers and pet sitters.

I’ve teamed up with Rover.com to bring you these important tips on how to find your perfect sitter or walker.  After talking with them, I’ve learned that there’s no better place to turn than Rover.com, a community of people who are dog lovers to the core. (Side note – Special thanks to Nat Smith, a Rover.com community member, for helping me with this post.)

Finding a Pet-Sitter

Look for someone who can sync up with your pet’s daily rhythms. Get clear about what your pet needs: Can the sitter provide enough exercise and playtime? Will they be around during the day, or do they work a 9-5 job? Does your dog have any medical concerns or physical limitations to keep in mind?

Figure out what’s most important: lots of experience, a training background, a person who’s really active, someone with a flexible schedule, and so on.

Personality matters, too. Most sitters will say in their profiles what kinds of dogs they get along with best, so that’s a great clue as to whether or not they can get along with your fur baby!

No matter who you find, make sure they’re great with communication. They should be responsive, friendly, and open. And it’s important that they understand your dog’s body language, too. Do a Meet & Greet before the stay to be sure you’ve found a good match!

Finding a Dog-Walker

Reliability and efficiency are especially important when you’re looking for a daily dog-walker. They should be able to show up at the same time every day, follow all your instructions, and give lots of one-on-one attention.

Walk training is an important way to keep your pup on track, especially if you’re actively working on impulse control or other training issues. Look for walkers who enjoy walk training and use lots of positive reinforcement, like treats and praise.

Most importantly, you’ll want a dog-walker who can come back again and again. Their schedule should be predictable, so they can commit for weeks or months at a time.

A great walker can become a great sitter, and vice-versa. But don’t sweat having two helpers! They can often become pinch-hitters for each other. It takes a village, right?

Special offer

Rover.com is so sure that you will LOVE them, that they are giving everyone who signs up through my unique link a $25 credit to try them out. Simply head to http://famousashleygrant.com/Rover to sign up today!