Summer of Rum Festival – Flash Giveaway!

Are you still on the fence about attending Tampa’s Summer of Rum Festival?

Maybe I can help sway you! I have 2 General Admission tickets to give away, and better yet – I’ll be there so you can hang with me and the other Tampa Bay Bloggers who are attending (#TBBloggers).

Here’s the scoop:

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On Saturday, August 24th from 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM at The Heights Waterfront (1910 N. Ola Ave. in Downtown Tampa) there will be rum themed festival. It is indoor/outdoor – utilizing both the outside waterfront area and inside the historical Tampa Armarture Works Building also known as the “Trolley Barn” – so it will be held rain or shine! Ages 21 and over only may attend – don’t forget to bring your I.D.!

The 2 GA Admission tickets you might win give you access to the Summer of Rum with all day re-entry privileges. Enjoy live entertainment on a main-stage, each unique rum zone, rum shacks, and more while you sip on your rum drinks. Once inside, your rum drinks are ALL ONLY $5 (full 12 oz. drinks, not those little tasting sized cups).

Headlining Band:

The Landsharks are part of Beach Music History. They have played with Jimmy Buffett and also opened up for The Beach Boys; and have played at The Super Bowl several times, as well as playing overseas for the troops! [see the entertainment schedule here]

To win, visit the page listing their drink selection and tell me what you are most looking forward to trying! I’ll pick someone at random to win 2 GA tickets TONIGHT before 10pm. I’m hoping for some brain freeze at the Cruzan Daiquiri Deck, but there will also be an Appleton Rum Shack, and one Jamaican rum drink usually holds me for a week or so!! 🙂 #truestory

They’ve thought of everything, even bicycle valet. Please drink responsibly and remember not to drink- or bike- and drive!

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Sushi giveaway winners!

Our random comment winner was #9… which you might think by reading was chosen for most creative, but it wasn’t.

Bstone said:

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And for my personal pick, I choose Jen, who admitted she hasn’t tried sushi yet! Some wouldn’t enter a contest they don’t feel qualified for, but she decided to throw her hat in the ring anyway and I applaud that. Plus, I want her to TRY EATING SUSHI from some of the best around at Takara! I hope you try the Jabadahut!!

JabadahutRoll

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Sushi for me, sushi for you – giveaway!

Takara Sushi & Sake LoungeI am thrilled to say that members of the Tampa Bay Bloggers were treated to a night of yummy goodness when Takara Sushi and Saki Lounge revealed their new spring menu. Read on, because there is a GIVEAWAY for you at the bottom!

Takara is a Tampa area restaurant near Bearss and Bruce B. Downs. It’s not huge, but is nicely broken down into a front lounge / waiting area with sofas, a bar area, booths, and tables that can be slid together for large groups. They decor has pretty, aquatic details – and I loved the gold flecks in the ladies’ room wallpaper.

I drove to Takara with Caroline and (her +1) Kelly. Caroline and I live near each other, and it was nice to have someone to carpool with. It was horrible timing to be driving through Tampa, but after you see the treats we devoured, you’ll understand why it’s so worth it to drive to Takara!

Our long blogger table had a special menu for the evening. Some of our items were sample portion sizes, and some were full menu sizes. I’m allergic to cucumbers (weird, I know) and every one of their sushi rolls contains cucumber. I was given my own Jabadahut roll (say that one out loud! Ha!), made specially without cucumber, but could not try the other sushi rolls. This was our menu for the night:

Starters

Ceviche

Ceviche:  White fish marinated in lime juice, tossed with celery, red pepper, red onion & cilantro. I’m not sure what ceviche was doing in a sushi place, but the raw fish concept makes sense and the flavor was wonderful! We had 2 large slices of white fish, not chopped fish like you would see if it had Spanish flair.

Avocado&TofuSaladAvocado & Tofu Salad: Chopped tofu, avocado, cherry tomatoes tossed in a honey miso dressing. I don’t usually like miso, but the honey offered a perfect balance. This was light, fresh vegetarian fair with a sweet touch from the sauce.

Crab Cake: Lump crab with a panko crunch over wilted spinach, topped with alfalfa sprouts, served with mustard aioli. Delicious!

DynamiteMusselsDynamite Mussel: Baked mussel with mayo, scallions, smelt roe & wasabi. I’ve only had mussels at Carrabbas in garlicy broth. This was a delicious alternative.

Spicy Tuna Spoon: Spicy Tuna, avocado, mango, smelt roe & scallions tossed in a spicy sesame sauce, served over mixed greens. These flavors were totally up my alley and I could eat a martini glass full of this any day.

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Sambuca Shrimp: Shrimp sautéd with fennel, shallots & red pepper, tossed in a Sambuca red curry coconut milk with cayenne seasoning. I don’t like fennel, so this was not for me. But I ate the veggies under the shrimp and loved the red curry coconut milk with cayenne seasoning!

Main

MisoSeabassMiso Seabass: This light white fish was grilled to perfection with sweet sesame soy, served with asparagus and white rice. A wonderful meal choice if you bring that friend who likes cooked fish but won’t eat sushi.

Gal Be: The chef used his family recipe for these Korean barbecue short ribs with onions, carrots & green onions. The flavor was great, but my meat was tough and hard to chew.

JabadahutRollJabadahut Roll: My specially made sushi roll had tempura grouper and crab salad with avocado and red onion rolled in seaweed & rice, topped with tuna – then sliced into sushi bites served in a circle with a delectable topping of – surprisingly – little tempura scallop balls & a little scoop of crab salad. All of this was decorated with eel sauce, yum yum sauce & sweet chili sauce. This honestly could have been a meal unto itself, so most of it came home in a box with me. My daughter gobbled it up before I had even put my purse down by the sofa.

And more sushi I could not try that looked so pretty on the tray

DJ Roll:  Crab salad, avocado, cucumber & cream cheese, wrapped in soy paper & rice, served panko style with eel sauce & yum yum sauce

Naruto Roll:  Tuna or salmon, crab delight, asparagus, wrapped in cucumber, served with ponzu or vinaigrette sauce

LEFTSurf&TurfRollSurf & Turf:  Shrimp & crab salad, red onion & cucumber, rolled in seaweed & rice, topped with torched thinly sliced beef, cilantro, smelt roe, scallion & tempura onion, served with house special sauce & cilantro aioli

Salmon Delight Roll:  Spicy salmon, cucumber, avocado & scallion, rolled in rice & seaweed, topped with salmon, lemon slices & smelt roe

Yummy Sumo Roll:  Tempura shrimp, crab mix, avocado, asparagus & cucumber, wrapped in seaweed & rice, topped with tuna & salmon, served with eel sauce & spicy mayo

White Dragon Roll:  Eel, crab, cream cheese & cucumber, rolled in seaweed & rice, topped with escolar & avocado, served with spicy mayo, eel sauce & yum yum sauce

Tiger Eye Roll:  Salmon, cream cheese, crab, asparagus, cucumber, smelt roe, scallion, shrimp, wrapped in seaweed & whitefish, topped with spicy mayo, baked, served with eels sauce & spicy mayo

Torched Salmon Roll:  Tempura shrimp, crab delight, avocado & cucumber, rolled in seaweed & rice, topped with torched salmon, tempura jalapeno, served with eel sauce & spicy mayo.

Dessert

TempuraFriedIceCreamTempura Fried Ice-cream: Vanilla ice-cream wrapped in pound cake & a tempura batter served on a plate decorated with almost-too-pretty-to-eat chocolate, blackberry & raspberry sauces. There was also whipped cream that blended with the sauces and ice cream as soon as I dipped my spoon in. A delightful, sugary treat!

Next to me, Jenny had her 3 kids and they had a larger dessert to share: The Banana Bomb! 3-4 bananas wrapped in spring roll skin and deep fried. These were standing up and then topped with & dark chocolate slivers. Hidden inside was vanilla ice-cream topped with sliced almonds, whipped cream & it was all decorated with assorted sauces. The sauces looked just as pretty as mine, and I wanted to swipe my finger through them and lick it – so badly!

mochiThey also had mochi ice cream, which is new to me. Picture something like those little French macaron cookies that are so popular right now, but instead it is pounded rice on the outside and ice cream on the inside.

Her children ordered their meals off the kids menu, which I was surprised to see includes french fries. Each item on the kids menu is under $7.

We also had drinks! Their new flavor infused sakis have fun, fruity flavors. I tried a mini shot-glass sized strawberry which was NOT too sweet, a common complaint of mine. Caroline tried a few of the flavors after I offered to drive home. They paired the sushi portion of our dinner with a sweet saki almost like a rose champagne. I hear that if you check in on Facebook while you are there and leave a post on their wall, you can show the post to your server to receive either a free shot of infused sake or a free Mochi ice cream!

Thank you so much to Takara Sushi and Carlos of Carlos Eats who helped me sneak in with 2 hours to spare – for a delicious evening. Caroline almost had to roll me home! I will definitely be making the drive from St. Pete to New Tampa again with my whole family in tow. Eugenia, the owner, was so sweet. It’s not often you get treated to dinner, and a gift card, and photos to show off the food perfectly!

Would you like to try this Asian sensation? I have two $20 gift cards to give away to two of my readers! Please follow them on Twitter www.twitter.com/takarasushifl AND leave a comment on this post telling me your best sushi memory, and I will pick two winners on April 7. One random drawing, and one story that I like the most.

You can also learn more about Takara Sushi here:  www.TakaraSushiTampa.com

My best sushi memory was in NYC in 2011. I was at a small blogger conference, and had dinner at Sushi Samba with Natalie from She Takes on the World. We had just met, and used dinner to shoot the breeze, and used the server’s knowledge to determine what to order. I recommend their Shishito appetizer – small, sweet green peppers grilled and sprinkled with lemon juice – and the Green Envy sushi roll – which instead of seaweed had a wasabi pea crust filled with tuna, salmon, asparagus, and aji amarillo-key lime mayo.

Enough about me – go order some Takara sushi and then tell me your favorite sushi memory below!

{Disclosure: I was invited to this event by Takara Sushi and provided with food for free. I was also given a gift card to use on my next visit, and two gift cards to give away on my blog. All opinions are my own.}

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Boxes in the Mail

I’ve received a bunch of stuff in the mail and email recently to tell you about.

1. I got an email from the American Cancer Society. They are starting their largest long-term Cancer Prevention study ever. They are looking for people between the ages of 30-65 who have never had cancer. On your first visit you donate about 7 tsp of blood and fill out a 20 min survey online. They measure your waist. That’s all. But you agree to let them follow up with you with written surveys for years.

I agreed to be a study volunteer. I did all the survey/paperwork online stuff in advance, and scheduled a time to be at the hospital for the rest of the study.

Sun in my eyes at the hospital

Sun in my eyes at the hospital

I got a snazzy new paper bracelet...FREE! :)

I got a snazzy new paper bracelet…FREE! 🙂

I filled out some forms, they drew my blood, they measured my waist, and they gave me a postage-paid card to send in with the date of the start of my next period written on it.

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measuring my waist, hard to get a photo of that.

measuring my waist, hard to get a photo of that.

They wanted to know where in my cycle I was when I gave blood for some reason. Then I sat and had a little coffee and 4 strawberries to make sure I was fine to drive to work. And that was it. In and out in an hour.

Everyone in my family who has died in the last 30 years has died from cancer – all different kinds. Both of my parents and both of my inlaws are cancer survivors, as are numerous aunts and uncles. I’ve already had a breast biopsy and started mammograms at 27 because my mom and her sister are breast cancer survivors (negative BRCA gene test). So I will help how I can.

I also help with cancer study when my daughter captains a Relay For Life team each year at school. I’m the parent who steps up and manages everything. Lots of emails, poster making, schedule creation, delegating… and luckily there are a few parents on the team who have the money to back my organizational skills, and we usually spend about $400 to raise about $8000. At their school, Relay For Life is primarily run by high school students with parent back-up. But the school starts at 3 years old and goes up through high school, so the younger kids watch what they high schoolers are doing, and start freshman year informed and ready to help out. This past week was a pre-Relay food fundraiser day during lunch break, and we sold 100 smoothies like they were crack! I think it took 12 minutes. We received them at cost for $1/ea and sold them for $3/ea, and we totally could have raised the price to $5 or $6 when we got down to our last box of 25 on ice. The kids were scrambling for them, and I think we were the only healthy option available.

Ok, back to things in the mail…

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2. Through Twitter I won a box from Premier Protein. It had bars and drink boxes in it. The bars are a bit too phony for me and bothered my tummy. I eat lots of whole foods, and these were just too chemically for me. But the drink boxes have been nice for smoothies, and I was drinking them when I was home sick with a horrible cold and food didn’t sound good.

Premier Protein, spinach, banana, peanut butter

Premier Protein, spinach, banana, peanut butter smoothie

3. I won a Kalorie Box from MetamorFit. It had a variety of odds and ends inside: dried fruit crunchies – these were sweet and declicious, dried corn crunchies (???), sugar free maple flavored syrup (I’m going to donate this because I only use real maple syrup), cheddar Pirate Booty – which my kids love and Wendy claimed, a small almond milk carton which received a new life as a fruit smoothie last week and a chocolate protein bar which I have hidden for myself.

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4. I also won a necklace! Milestone Sports Jewelry had a contest and I can’t tell you what I won yet because it is going to be a gift to someone. I will post photos after she receives it! If you need a gift for an athletic girlfriend, check their site! They even have special race collection jewelry – like Iron Girl charms and beads, Tinkerbell belly button rings, burnout tanks, and more.

5. On Leslie Loves Veggies, I won a bracelet right around the holidays. I asked the beading company if I could delay receiving it until Feb. because I had someone special in mind I wanted it made for. I will post photos after she receives it! I will say it came so beautifully wrapped and packaged! I was stunned. I thought it would be in a little organza bag with a bow, but no. Real hinged jewelry box, inside a cardboard box, pretty silver bow, and instructions on how to care for it… very great impression!

6. I got a yummy box from CLICK Espresso Protein Drink this week too. I’ve only tried one shake so far because I had a cold and wanted to wait until I had my tastebuds back. YUM!! But they will get a full review on a separate post. If you NEED your morning coffee, but would like to get some breakfast nutrients at the same time, this could be the perfect drink for you!

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It also came with a Blender Bottle, which I have been wanting to try. It’s like a sports bottle with a whisking ball inside so you can shake up your powders and such on the go.

7. Pacific Foods sent 2 pasta boxes to try. I’m supposed to let picky kids review them, but my husband is the boxed mac & cheese eater who needs to convert to something healthier, so he’ll get that. Alice at the O’s in red sauce and enjoyed them. It was a much bigger portion than it looked like in that bowl!

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I love surprises in the mail! And I enter blog contests if I have time because someone has to win, so why not throw my hat in the ring?!

Do you like surprise packages?

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