Weekend Getaway to Charlotte, North Carolina

I love living in Florida…except when it’s Fall. Fall is the season I miss the most…the leaves changing, the crisp air…no matter how many pumpkin flavored things I treat myself to, Fall is just not the same in Florida.

So when my friend Ashley said she was planning a weekend trip to visit friends in Charlotte, North Carolina, I unabashedly asked if I could tag along. It’s been awhile since my last vacation and I was yearning for a getaway. And to get a taste of real Fall!

We got up super early on a Thursday morning (like 5 a.m.) to catch an early flight. We were in Charlotte by 9 a.m. and after a nap we were ready to explore.

Our first order of business? FOOD. Ashley had gone to this place called Chopt during her last visit that she raved about so we hit that up.

Chopt

Oh…my…goodness…Chopt needs a location in St. Pete, like, yesterday. It is SO good you guys!

Chopt

So think salad bowls Chipotle style. They have about a million different salads and bowls you can choose from. Or you can create your own. I went with the Smoky Spanish Cesar, which was one of their featured salads.

Chopt

They mix in all the ingredients in a big bowl (everything is super fresh and there’s a focus on all-natural). The bowl moves down the line to the person who…you guessed it…chops everything up.

Chopt

After that they bring the bowl up to your eye level and you watch them squeeze the dressing on top so you can have as much or as little as you’d like. Then it gets tossed again and is ready for devouring!

Chopt

After our bellies were full we walked around a bit in search of coffee. I spotted a juice place and picked up a yummy juice with beets and ginger. Made me feel like a new person after the plane ride!

img_2532

We explored downtown Charlotte, which reminded me of downtown Tampa…mostly businesses. Not a lot to do or see, but I did get to hug a cute bear.

Charlotte, NC

We also popped into 7th Street Public Market, which I was excited to check out. However, we were a little disappointed. Not nearly as big and grand as we pictured it. But still a cool place to check out. They had a nice variety of wines, cheese, imported Italian foods and local goodies.

7th Street Public Market

7th Street Public Market

7th Street Public Market

For dinner that night our friend, Corinna, took us to a local Italian restaurant, Mama Ricotta’s. It was perfect weather to dine outside and we enjoyed good wine and pasta. I went with their Rigatoni and Meat Sauce, which was topped with a dollop of ricotta.

Mama Ricotta's

Day 2 our friend Morgan drove up from Columbia to spend the day with us. 

After a late morning shopping trip we grabbed lunch at The Mayobird, which was easily my favorite spot from the whole trip.

The Mayobird

Their specialty is different variations of chicken salad. Doesn’t it all look amazing?

The Mayobird

And they had the cutest atmosphere.

The Mayobird

The Mayobird

The Mayobird

The Mayobird

We took our orders to go and walked a few blocks down to Freedom Park to have a scenic picnic.

Freedom Park

Freedom Park

The Mayobird

I ended up with the Italian, which had pesto and sundried tomatoes (yum!). The broccoli salad on the side had a light mayo dressing with red onion, bacon and golden raisins. I want it all day, everyday.

After lunch we tapped into our inner child and had fun around the park.

Freedom Park

Really wanted to climb on this, but the pegs were way too small. 

Freedom Park

Swings!

Freedom Park

Train!

Freedom Park

Ducks!

Later that night we had a lovely girl’s dinner at Block & Grinder, a local farm to table restaurant.

Block and Grinder

Block and Grinder

Block and Grinder

We started with the Deviled Eggs as an appetizer and they were the best deviled eggs of my life. The piece of prosciutto on top was a perfect addition!

Block and Grinder

And for my entree I had the Chicken Confit, which was served with smoked cabbage and cornbread stuffing. The chicken was some of the most perfect chicken I’ve had at a restaurant. The meat was super moist and fell off the bone. It was also really flavorful. The gravy on top was light and I wish there had been more to swirl the stuffing through. The stuffing was not too dry, not too moist and had great flavors of sweet pepper and herbs. The cabbage was almost too smokey for me, but went with the dish very well.

Block and Grinder

After dinner, Corinna took us to the spot for dessert, Amelie’s Bakery. This place was packed! 

Amelie's Bakery

They offer a wide variety of pastries and desserts, as well as sandwiches, soups and salads. They’re open 24 hours and even serve wine and beer!

Amelie's Bakery

Loved their funky French chic decor.

Amelie's Bakery

The line moved fast and I didn’t really have a lot of time to look at everything. I pointed to this lovely looking specimen and asked what it was. I heard “caramel, apple and pecan” and was sold. It was quite tasty! Baked apples lay in the middle and the cake was very light and fluffy.

Amelie's Bakery

Stay tuned for Part 2!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Fare Tour And *Giveaway*

I’ll say it…part of what makes you a true foodie is if you get excited to go to the grocery store. When time allows, I love going up and down each aisle, seeing what new products pop out at me and take the opportunity to educate myself on different brand’s nutritional labels and ingredient lists. 

What? Am I the only one?

Being not only a foodie, but a health conscious foodie, I have found myself doing my weekly grocery shopping at stores that carry more health conscious items. Trader Joe’s and Rollin’ Oats are usually my go to stores.

When I heard Earth Fare was opening a location in Seminole I was immediately intrigued. You can never have enough health food stores!

earth fare

Luckily, I got to join the Tampa Bay Bloggers for a pre-opening sneak peak and tour of the new Earth Fare and learned what they’re all about.

earth fare

 

Earth Fare is based in Asheville, NC, where the first store opened in 1975. This is the 4th Earth Fare to open in Florida (the 1st in the Tampa Bay area) and the 38th store nationally. They expect to grow more in the Tampa Bay area over the next few years (squee!) 

So what makes Earth Fare different? It all started with their founder, Roger Derrough, who wanted to give patrons a safe place to shop for their food. A place free of added hormones, artificial fats and trans-fats, artificial sweeteners, bleached or bromated flour, antibiotics, high fructose corn syrup, artificial preservatives and artificial colors and flavors. This is what became Earth Fare’s Food Philosophy. You won’t find any of these ingredients in any food sold at Earth Fare. And if you do? It’s added to the Boot List, which they also post on their website. How’s that for commitment?

earth fare

These days many health food stores abide by a similar philosophy, but Earth Fare was the trailblazer. They were one of the first stores to ban high fructose corn syrup and one of the first to offer cage free eggs. They’re more worried about the health of their customers rather than the next big food trend or fad. And that’s awesome.

earth fare

Earth Fare also has a commitment to local and you’ll see a lot of local products in their stores. Their craft beer section, for example, represents 18 local breweries. 

Some cool features of Earth Fare…

Grind your own nut butters!

earth fare

Photo by Raffi Darrow

Oils and syrups on tap! Including olive oil, coconut oil, maple syrup and honey.

earth fare

Photo by Raffi Darrow

Scoop your own pasta.

earth fare

Photo by Raffi Darrow

Their Heirloom juice bar, where you can buy freshly made juice or grab one from the grab and go section.

earth fare

Like most supermarkets they have a seafood, meat, cheese and wine section. 

earth fare

 

There’s a bakery where they make everything on site. And a prepared foods section, where you can take home tasty meals!

They also have a nicely sized wellness section where you can find cruelty free beauty products.

One thing I was really curious about was their prices. Not all of the pricing was up when we took our tour, but I did my weekly shopping there this past Saturday and got a better feel. Most things are pretty standard pricing…they have some great deals on some things and then there are some items that I think are a bit overpriced. I definitely recommend joining their Tomato Bank, which is their reward card. You get to take advantage of specials throughout the store and there’s a new special for members every week!

So, who’s excited to go shopping? Lucky you, I have a $25 gift card to giveaway for your next shopping trip. Just comment below on what you’re most excited about for the new Earth Fare and I will choose a random winner this Sunday, October 9. Giveaway will close at 10 a.m. that day.

 

My Little Sunshine Baby Shower

One of my best friends is expecting a baby boy next month! We had her baby shower this past weekend, where she got showered with love. It was great fun and I wanted to share my planning process in the hopes it may help you in your own shower/party planning!

My Little Sunshine baby shower

Photo by Raffi Darrow.

I’ll say this right up front…I have never planned a baby shower before. Luckily, I have some event planning experience under my belt so I at least knew the basic logistics. First things first…we needed a venue! 

I exhausted many venue options before coming across Pasadena Yacht and Country Club in Gulfport, FL. I met with the Catering Manager, who showed me their main room for having events, and it was perfect. Spacious and surrounded by windows with beautiful views of an inlet. Signed, sealed, delivered.

Next, we needed a theme. My lovely Lora can be described as bubbly, energetic and kind. She is very, as you might say, sunny! A My Little Sunshine theme seemed perfect. I loved the idea of cute little suns everywhere and having yellow be the main color with pops of blue.

With a date, a venue and a theme it was time for invitations. I found these invites on Etsy through INVITEDbyAudriana. I also did a custom order with her for a Books for Baby card. We asked guests to bring baby a book instead of a card so we could build up baby boy’s library! 

My Little Sunshine baby shower

It took a LOT of Pinterest and Etsy browsing, and many trips to Michaels, before I finally settled on decorations. In the end I was so happy with the vendors I chose from Etsy. They truly made the vision come alive!

I did a custom order with Craftytude for the main “Welcome Sunshine” banner.

My Little Sunshine baby shower

Photo by Raffi Darrow.

Accent banners were from Michaels.

My Little Sunshine baby shower

Photo by Raffi Darrow.

Craftytude also custom made these adorable centerpiece sticks. I bought the fence base at Michaels and painted it white. Green styrofoam went on the bottom so I could stick the sticks in and they’d be secure. Green paper filler went on top to give the look of grass.

My Little Sunshine baby shower

Photo by Raffi Darrow.

I made signs for the gift table, activity table and favor table. For an added pop of color I got flowers from Michaels, placed them in cute bottles (also from Michaels) and filled them with blue paper filler.

My Little Sunshine baby shower

Photo by Raffi Darrow.

For activities, we did Onesie Decorating (stencils by QueenCityCrafty). QueenCityCrafty sent great detailed instructions with the stencils, including what brand of fabric paint worked best (I bought Tulip) and what brushes to get!

baby shower

My Little Sunshine baby shower

My Little Sunshine baby shower

Photo by Raffi Darrow.

And Scrapbook Making.

My Little Sunshine baby shower

My Little Sunshine baby shower

My mom got me a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 for my birthday and planted the seed for this activity. Guests took a photo with mama-to-be and created their own page in her baby shower scrapbook. I bought colorful paper and stickers at Michaels to use as decorations. Everyone got really creative! And it was a great alternative to a guestbook. 

baby shower

We also played the Name That Baby Song game. Snippets of ten songs that had the word “baby” in the title were played and guests had to guess the song. Winner received a Starbucks gift card!

baby shower

Photo by Raffi Darrow.

On their way out, guests picked up their favor and dessert; these cute little sunshine cookies made by megzcookies.

My Little Sunshine baby shower

Photo by Raffi Darrow.

My Little Sunshine baby shower

Photo by Raffi Darrow.

It was a great day filled with love, laughs, and of course, sunshine!

baby shower

Here are a few key tips I recommend when planning: 

Baby Shower Planning Tips

  1. Nail down a date and venue first.
  2. Use Etsy to find cute and affordable decorations. Or DIY and hit up a craft store!
  3. Stay organized. Create an outline for your event that includes all of your ideas, day-of specifics, guest list, menu, timeline and a to-do list.
  4. Use checklists to make sure you don’t forget anything!
  5. Keep a loose day-of timeline in your head. Have an idea of how long you’d like for people to mingle/do activities, how long you’ll need for games and how long you’ll need for gifts. I judged about an hour for people to arrive/mingle/do activities, an hour to play a game and open gifts, and then another hour for people to mingle more.
  6. Have fun!

 

Summer Hot Dog Recipes Featuring Applegate

Here in Florida we are in the midst of the dog days of Summer. 95 degree days make it hard to believe that in less than a month it will be September and we’ll be trading pumpkin recipes and craving Fall flavors. But for now I’m still savoring fresh Summer flavors, as well as some of my favorite Summer comfort foods.

Applegate is currently running a Get Out On Grass campaign, where they’re encouraging people to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, just like their cows! In celebration of this campaign I received their Get Out On Grass kit, which included packs of their 100% grass-fed beef hot dogs, Vermont bread potato hot dog buns, Sir Kensington’s ketchup and mustard, and some Applegate goodies. I’m always excited to receive an Applegate package. I love that their products are made with minimal ingredients and taste great to boot!

Applegate

When I received Applegate’s hot dogs I wanted to go beyond the usual suspects when it came to toppings. So I experimented a bit and came up with two fun (and yummy!) recipes. 

Applegate

The first is what I call the Spicy Southern

Applegate

Pimento cheese and pickled okra give a nice bite and kick.

Applegate

The second is a Bacon BBQ dog.

Applegate

Smokey bacon jam, crispy fried onions and a drizzle of sweet BBQ sauce give the dog a pow of flavor and crunch.

Applegate

What kind of fun toppings do you put on your hot dogs? I hope if it’s not 95 degrees where you are that you’re enjoying this last month of Summer and that you Get Out On Grass!

 

Cobb Luxury 10 Theatre Opens At Tyrone Square Mall

After having gone to college in St. Pete and living here for the past 8 years I have become very passionate about this city. So whenever something big happens in it it makes me beam with pride and my heart flutters with excitement. There have been a lot of wonderful additions to St. Pete and the newest one is one of the biggest. 

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Cobb Luxury 10 Theatre at Tyrone Square Mall opened to the public on Friday, but the Wednesday before I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak at their ribbon cutting.

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Tyrone Square Mall has been yearning for a place like Cobb. Over the past few years Tyrone has been given a bit of a facelift and has done some reinventing with new stores and restaurants. Having Cobb open is the icing on the cake.

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Cobb Luxury 10 is a unique movie going experience. The most noted difference between Cobb Luxury 10 and other theatres is that there is a full restaurant and bar. Dinner and a movie has never been so easy (and delicious)! If you’d rather take food to your seat and enjoy it while watching the movie, the concession stand is like nothing you’ve ever seen. They have everything your taste buds desire from tacos to pizza…there’s even a frozen yogurt bar!

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

The theatres themselves are beautiful. Each seat electronically reclines! Talk about comfort. 

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Cobb Luxury 10 is the perfect place for a date night, girls night out or taking the whole family out. They even have a party room for kid’s birthdays!

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

One of my favorite features of the theatre is that they have Sensory Friendly Films on select dates. During these showings the volume is turned down and the lights are turned up. Kids are welcome to sing, dance and talk back to the movie without any worry of disturbing those around them. I think this is such a great idea and a very thoughtful thing to offer so that all families can enjoy themselves.

Cobb Theatre Tyrone

Thank you Tampa Bay Bloggers and Cobb Theatres for making my attendance at the Cobb Luxury 10 ribbon cutting possible!

 

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