Friday, October 24, 2014

Fun Findings Friday

Inbox by Gmail:
Google released a huge update to its Gmail system this week. Unfortunately it's not a quick rollout, it's "invite only" (you have to request one) to keep anticipation running high. But the update is supposed to help Gmail users better utilize their mail systems, keeping your travel/purchases/promo emails in one place, adding to-do lists, and setting reminders. I haven't received my invite yet, but I'm  looking forward to trying it out!

New Holiday Drink at Starbucks:
Halloween coming up at the end of next week means something extremely exciting is right around the corner - red cups at Starbucks! Our favorite seasonal drinks will be rolling out and for the first time in 5 years, Starbucks is unveiling a new one - the Chestnut Praline Latte. Rumors are already swirling on whether or not this will knock out the PSL (which I just tried for the first time yesterday!) or not, but regardless, I'm excited to give this new one a try!

Photo credit: Flickr 

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On:
It's been a few years since we've heard from the adorable Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, but he's finally back!! Actress Jenny Slate (who voices Marcel) has been popping up everywhere lately in TV shows and movies, and I'm so happy that she didn't forget about everyone's love for Marcel. If you've never seen/heard of the viral video, check out the out the original that came out 3 years ago too! Watch the new video below!

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella at the Straz Center

I love broadway shows and am always very happy when I get to catch one of the big ones that come to Tampa since my trips back up to NYC aren't as often anymore. Fortunately for me (and other Tampa folks), the Straz Center has an incredible lineup for the 2014-2015 season!

As part of the Tampa Bay Bloggers group, I was invited to attend opening night of Rogers + Hammerstein's Cinderella at the Straz Center, and brought my fellow princess-loving friend Kayla along with me.

Photo credit: Straz Center
The show was filled with lots of laughs and great songs - but it wasn't the typical Cinderella story that we know so well from Disney. Yes there's still Prince Charming, the evil stepmother + sisters, and fairy godmother. But it follows more of the storyline in the film Cinderella starring Brandy and Whitney Houston from the late 90s. I found myself humming some of the songs but completely forgot about the Cinderelly remake until we were dissecting the show afterward.

Photo credit: Straz Center
Although I was a little disappointed that there weren't any mice helping Cinderella pull her dress together or the fairy godmother singing "Bippity Boppity Boo," I really enjoyed the show! It was nice to some some elements of surprise since it's been YEARS since I've seen the movie version, and inserting modern day wit into the shows is always awesome to see. If you have a chance to see the show while it's in town (or in your town if you're reading from outside of Tampa), you definitely should!

Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella will be at the Straz Center through this Sunday, October 26. If you're able to make it out for a show, consider bringing along any formal gowns, shoes and accessories you have laying around. The Straz Center and the Belle of the Ball Project will be collecting donations to provide homecoming and prom dresses to girls in need.

*Disclosure: I received two tickets to this show for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Read More - Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella at the Straz Center

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mary Lambert: Heart On My Sleeve Album Review

I've been looking forward to Mary Lambert's album release since the world was first introduced to her in Macklemore's song "Same Love," and more recently when her single "Secrets" was released. So when One2One Network invited me to review a copy of her new album, Heart On My Sleeve, I happily agreed.

Heart On My Sleeve is a very emotional and raw album and touches on a lot of tough subjects in Mary Lambert's personal life. I'll admit at first listen, there were only a couple tracks that I really cared for, but as I listen to the album more, I'm finding that I love more. There are 3 tracks in particular that I really love and recommend downloading (or listening to):
  • "Secrets" - I featured this song on Tuesday Tunes last month. It's an upbeat, quirky song about embracing who you are and not being afraid to flaunt all that you are. 
  • "So Far Away" - Anyone in a long distance relationship can appreciate this track. It's about the sadness of being apart, but being able to pull through anything just thinking 
  • "Heart On My Sleeve" - The title track of the album has THE catchiest chorus and I can't stop jamming to it. It's another upbeat tune about a new relationship/crush developing. I can see this being her next hit for sure.
The album is available for download on iTunes and Amazon. You can also stay up-to-date with the latest Mary Lambert news by connecting on her official site, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channel.

*Disclosure: I participated in the Mary Lambert Heart On My Sleeve album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

Read More - Mary Lambert: Heart On My Sleeve Album Review

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cause of the Month: The Keep A Breast Foundation

We've been seeing a lot of pink this month due to October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To support this, I've decided to spotlight the Keep A Breast Foundation as this month's cause on the blog. I've heard of the organization in passing, but it wasn't until a bundle of items benefitting the cause popped up on my beloved Golden Tote that it really caught my attention.

The Keep A Breast Foundation strives to "eradicate breast cancer for future generations" by educating people about prevention, early detection, and cancer-causing toxins that are around in our everyday environment.

Accounting for approximately 1 in 3 cases of cancers, it's the most common type of cancer diagnosed among women in the U.S., and happens every 3 minutes! Additionally, research has shown that tumors diagnosed in women under 40 are typically more aggressive and less responsive, making it EXTREMELY important to detect any abnormalities early on.

Photo credit: Keep A Breast Foundation
As you can see from the graphic above, about 40% of women and 80% of men (YES, men can get breast cancer too), do NOT have a breast health routine. So how can you check yourself? Follow the steps listed in the graphic below from the Keep A Breast Foundation. If you feel a lump or anything abnormal, take a trip to your doctor right away. Always better to get it checked out, even if it ends up being nothing.

Photo credit: Keep A Breast Foundation
Although there's no specific formula as to who gets diagnosed with breast cancer, there are natural factors that come into play such as aging (the risk increases as women get older), genetics/family history, race, breast tissue density, and periods. But it's not just natural factors that come into play. Some additional factors to keep in mind to help prevent breast cancer and keep your body healthy are refraining from smoking, eating well (high fiber, low fat diet), exercise, and breastfeeding.

Products you purchase can also have an effect on your body and potentially contribute to breast cancer. If possible, avoid products that contain parabens, phthalates, heavy metals, natural cleaning products (use basic ingredients such as lemon, baking soda and vinegar), and refrain from microwaving your food in plastic containers or drinking out of a plastic water bottle that's been sitting in your car burning up.

To support the Keep A Breast Foundation, I ordered the Keep A Breast Bundle from Golden Tote ($25) that I mentioned earlier in this post. There were 3 different color options available, but I opted for the grey one (in case you're interested in ordering but aren't crazy about the colors). You can also donate directly to the Foundation.

Photo credit: Golden Tote
Whether you're able to donate monetarily or not, consider taking action on social media and spreading the word and connecting with the Keep Abreast Foundation on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest!

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Fun Findings Friday

Apple OS X Yosemite:
Attention Apple MacBook and Mac owners: OS X Yosemite, Apple's newest software is now available, and free! There are a number of updates that come with the update, but most notable are the redesigned interface, continuity (you can answer calls to your mobile phone on your computer, use your phone's hotspot as Wi-Fi on another Apple device, etc.), and new apps! Learn more about the update, including a "how to" on Apple's site.

Photo credit: Apple
Kate Spade Friends + Family Sale:
This morning I had a equally fabulous and terrible email in my inbox - an announcement for Kate Spade's 3-day Friends & Family sale, offering 30% off your entire purchase. If you've had your eye on a new bag or some of their adorable accessories, now's the time to bite the bullet! Be sure to use code "F14FFUS" at checkout to apply the discount. Happy shopping!

Taken 3 Trailer
A few weeks ago the Taken 3 trailer starring Liam Neeson was released, and I still can't contain my excitement for it. Any movie with Liam Neeson is at the top of my list, especially his thriller movies. Being the third installment of the movie, you'd think it'd start to get dull, but that's so wrong. Watching this trailer alone has me on edge and I can't wait to see the film in January!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Completing My First Big Race: #runDisney Tower of Terror 10-Miler

I'm not a hardcore fitness person by any means. But one of my big goals for 2014 was to up my fitness. With that at the top of my mind, something possessed/inspired me to sign up for runDisney's Tower of Terror 10-Miler earlier this year and convince my best friend Lisa to do so as well. And let me tell you, 10 miles - MILES (not "10k"), is a lot harder than it sounds.

Both Lisa and I have been taking spin classes for a little over 7-1/2 months and even picked up a few sessions of personal training in the weeks before our race. Adding in that cardio and strength training helped tremendously! Walking my dog a couple times a day definitely wouldn't cut it for training.

The Tower of Terror 10-Miler took place Saturday, 10/3 and didn't start until 10 p.m.! We started the drive from Tampa a little later than we wanted to and rushed over to ESPN Wide World of Sports (the Expo/"hub" for the race weekend) to pick up our race bibs, shirt and information with just a little spare time before the Expo closed at 3 p.m. It was pretty surprising that it closed so early with the race being so late, so if you plan to do a runDisney event in the future, be sure to pay attention to the  times!

Getting over to the race at MGM (now known as Hollywood Studios) was extremely easy but had a bit of a wait from our on-site hotel (Disney's Pop Century), with so many other people participating lined up. Disney lined up a huge fleet of charter buses (think the ones you took on far field trips in school) to run between their hotels and the "drop off point" in the MGM parking lot.

We made it over to the kickoff location with plenty of time to spare and from there it was a waiting game. It was really cool to see so many people dressed up in costume for the race - especially big groups of people. I might consider that next time! But for this race, Lisa and I both rocked the awesome Champion shirts we received with our event registration.

As it got closer to race time, the crowd grew and I couldn't believe how many people were participating! I tried to snap a picture, but this doesn't even come close to showing you how crazy it was in that parking lot. I didn't have a race time to enter since this was my first race ever so I was assigned to corral "J" - the very last one, which was a bit unfortunate. If you're new to the whole "race" thing like I was, the faster you are (with proof of time) the higher up your starting corral and lower your bib number.

The 10-Miler required that a 16-minute mile pace was kept and being in the last corral, that left no time for delays (e.g. stops for pictures, bathroom breaks). After all, if you don't keep up with the required pace, you get picked up and aren't able to finish the race. The goal of the night was to not let that happen.

After what seemed like eternity, we finally started moving, and 30 minutes later our corral made it to  the official starting line! The race took place mainly on the main Disney roads, which was crazy! Of course they were shut down to cars, but as we walked up the spiral ramp, it looked like there was a zombie apocalypse happening!

We started out power walking to ease ourselves into the race and were making pretty good moves the first 10 minutes in and were so excited to be coming up onto mile marker #2.. only it turned out to be mile #1. At that point, we knew it was going to be a longggg night.

About every half mile we stumbled across a Disney villain stop (e.g. Jafar from Aladdin, hyenas from Lion King, Evil Queen/Witch from Snow White) which was so fun! We didn't have time to stop because of the long lines for pictures and our need to stay within the pacing time, but it was nice to see and a good reminder that we were making our way through the course. Additionally, every mile had a water and Powerade pick up, where you could snag a cup while on the go.

Both Lisa and I started to feel a little sluggish toward the end. I made the huge mistake of not wearing thick enough socks (I thought my normal ones would be fine), so I felt blisters forming on the bottom of my feet early on and they were starting to hurt. Not to mention all the walking/running we weren't used to doing started catching up to both of us and we wanted nothing more than to collapse onto the ground and not get up. But we kept trekking.

When we hit mile 8 the craziest thing happened. We ran into our high school journalism teacher who we hadn't seen in at least 7 years! It's a small world after all, indeed! The end of the race was through MGM and we ended up at you guessed it, Tower of Terror. And crossing that finish line was an unbelievable feeling. SUCH an accomplishment!

If you have the opportunity to participate in a runDisney race, I highly recommend it! It's definitely challenging, but highly rewarding (I have my awesome medal to prove it). Plus, what better place to be than Disney through it all!?

Have you done a runDisney race? I'd love to hear about your experience!

Read More - Completing My First Big Race: #runDisney Tower of Terror 10-Miler

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Tunes: You and Me

This week my tune comes from duo You + Me. I had no idea this duo was made up of Pink and singer-songwriter Dallas Green until I heard one of the songs and recognized Pink's voice! It seems like a lot of bigger artists are doing side projects like this with other artists (e.g. Miranda Lambert with Pistol Annies).

Oddly, my song pick holds the same name as the duo - "You and Me." It's such a beautiful folk song about your other half/soulmate and the relationship between two people through good days and bad, flaws and all. Love this one!

Read More - Tuesday Tunes: You and Me

Monday, October 13, 2014

Navigating Open Enrollment With Aflac

Being fairly new to the "real world" (about two and a half years in), there are a lot of things I've learned that no one prepared me for in adulthood, and I'm sure many of you feel the same way. One of these "things" that will be popping up (for the third time for me) is Open Enrollment. There are a number of options available when choosing benefits and it can be a bit overwhelming. The easy thing to do is to just check an option for each category and move on, but doing so could really hurt you down the line.

Aflac's 2014 WorkForces Report found that nearly half of millennials spent 30 minutes or less selecting their benefit choices last year. Even more surprising, only 15% of millennial workers agreed that managing health care expenses is important! Sure, we all like to think that we're invincible and won't get sick, injured, or have to deal with some kind of medical emergency. But the truth is, anything could happen at any moment. With 35% of millennials having less than $500 to pay for out-of-pocket expenses, we're all just one emergency away from financial disaster.

So how can you avoid a disastrous financial situation and choose your benefits smartly?

Consider the following tips from Aflac:
  • Think of health insurance premiums as a monthly budget essential like rent, rather than a discretionary expense, like entertainment. 
  • Educate yourself about how your insurance deductible works. Choosing a plan with a low monthly premium and a high deductible may give you more money in your paycheck, but could also result in unaffordable payments if you need medical care beyond covered preventive services.
  • If your company offers a health savings account as part of a high deductible health plan, contribute as much as the plan allows so you’ll have money set aside to help meet the deductible and other payments.
  • Consider adding voluntary insurance products for more financial protection. Accident and Critical Illness plans work hand-in-hand with major medical plans, providing benefits to help policyholders with health-related costs their primary insurance may not cover. Those policies can also be used to help with out-of-pocket costs and other expenses that continue to roll in even if you’re too ill or injured to work.
How do you prepare for open enrollment?

Disclosure: I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Read More - Navigating Open Enrollment With Aflac

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Movie Review

A few weeks ago I was able to catch an advanced screening of the much anticipated, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day movie, starring Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner and based on the 1970s kids book (with the same title). I'm sure you've seen the commercials- repeatedly showing the same scenes. But don't worry, the scenes we've seen over and over are just as funny when watching the movie. In fact, overall it was even funnier than I had anticipated!

Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures
The film starts our with 11-year old Alexander having the most rotten day ever, with a domino effect of one terrible thing after another happening to him. At the same time, everyone else in his family talks about their "perfect" lives and how everything is going fabulously for them. But things quickly take a turn and the next day, Alexander's entire family experiences a truly terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. 

Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures
Alexander's family is put to the test (and through the ringer) with each of their awful days, but try to find some positivity continuously, as they stick together through the madness.

Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures
We've all had those "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days." But it's always great to surround yourself with your loved ones at the end of them, because being together makes them not so bad. If you're looking for something to do this weekend, I definitely recommend taking the fam to see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Lots of laughter guaranteed!

Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Fun Findings Friday

#BirchboxBookClub Freebie:
It's been a few months since I've placed an order with Birchbox, but there are a few products I've been looking to try and after seeing their #BirchboxBookClub promo, I had just the motivation I needed to hit "place order." With a $35, you can snag a copy of one of best-selling author Gillian Flynn's books - Dark Places, Gone Girl, or Sharp Objects (while supplies last, with promo code BBDarkPlaces, BBGoneGirl, BBSharpObjects). It's been awhile since I've been able to get back into reading, but I'm currently reading Gone Girl and am HOOKED. I opted for Dark Places with this promo, next on my list.

Jimmy Fallon + Official "Ew" Music Video:
A few weeks ago I shared Jimmy Fallon's "Ew" skit with Taylor Swift. Although I don't watch his show regularly, I do enjoy the video clips that pop up, especially of his "Ew" segments. The latest in the series is an official music video with and it's just as awesomely "ew" as you can imagine!

Princess Rap Battle - Snow White vs. Elsa:
I love the rap battle videos between different characters of shows and movies - they're pretty entertaining! Last week a Disney princess rap battle between Snow White and Elsa went viral. Check it out below! (Note: This one isn't for kids to watch).

Read More - Fun Findings Friday