Tag Archives: florida

This is Not a Blog Post

Happy Weekend, everyone!

I have absolutely zero content for you today. I created two blog post drafts, both of which ended up in the WordPress trash bin.

I wanted to talk about hot weather workout tips for people who are stubborn…the ideas are in my head and won’t come out on paper on the computer. I brainstormed at least ten other possible ideas (ex: the full moon…

i even snapped a photo to go with the written content!

…my Aunti visit to Toronto yesterday…

three-person self-portrait - zowie! and july coupon-of-the-month - > check!

Badwater Ultra inspirations, the price of tea in China, how I have yet to watch any Tour de France and need to get my fix of Phil Liggett‘s mellifluous voice before it’s too late)…and none of them will allow themselves to flow from my brain to my fingertips.

So, you gotta know when to fold ’em, R E L A X, and call it a day (can you call it a day just after 7 a.m.?!).

See you tomorrow! TGIF!

Have YOU watched any Tour de France coverage this year? I was way more into it and motivated to watch when Lance was a competitor. Kinda like how I only watch golf if Tiger is winning participating…

~*~*~*~*~

On July 15th, in Florida last year, it was HOT! I arrived in Sarasota and went directly to heaven on earth Whole Foods!

What Yesterday Was All About

~ basking in the sunshine of a hot July day [it was 31 degrees Celsius, 35 with the humidex!]:

it's extremely challenging...

...to get an acceptable photo...

...of oneself "basking"

~ sporting new earrings [silver hoops are my signature look; on the weekend, I treated myself when I found this 9-pac of silver earrings on sale for $5!]:

three pairs are in my ears; here are the others i'll be able to swap in

untarnished silver - so much better! fresh look to go with the new haircut!

~ cooling off with Kiki’s Lazy Girl’s Frozen Yogurt as part of a nutritious breakfast:

(objects in photo are larger than they appear!)

Here’s the How To:

Dollop a serving of your favourite regular/plain yogurt (I like President’s Choice) into a freezer-friendly container. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Freeze. Pull out of the freezer, when you’re ready to enjoy. Defrost in the microwave for about 60 seconds, just so that you can dig your spoon right in without breaking your arm or destroying the spoon.

the spoon test: yup, perfect temperature!

Savour the combination of the cold creaminess of the yogurt and the sweet crunchiness of the choco chips!

go ahead! chop it all up!

~ ~ making a return visit to Chapters, with a plan in mind this time.

NOT a file photo!

Beelining to the Children’s Dept! [A certain Baby C has a birthday next month!…].

a lot less busy on a tuesday than on the weekend!

Randomly seeing friend, Brenda (runner + knitter)!

hi brenda! 🙂

~ meeting up with Jillian at Coffee Culture for a hot coffee (delicious even in the heat!) while solving world issues chit-chatting enthusiastically!

can i please have that dress, jillian?!

~ getting beaten up at the gas pumps…

yikes!

it's highway robbery!!

~ …then getting pummelled again (and stretched and kneaded) during a much-welcomed sports massage! [No photos; I’m sure you understand].

~ laughing my a$$ off with VFBF Joanne at a very funny movie! (Movie review will be upcoming, tomorrow, but just let me say that I left the theatre with a sore tummy from laughing so hard!)

On a scale of 1-10, how was your Tuesday? I rate yesterday a solid 9.5/10! It was a great day because of the variety of outings/activities – I doing lots of different things in one day – I find it R E L A X-ing!

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A year ago, on July 13th in Florida, I hit pay dirt at Target, and explored Clearwater!

In a Bandshell

The subtitle for today could be, “The Event That Almost Didn’t Make It Onto The Blog.”

Sunday eve, I went out to Waterloo Park with my parents. Mom had seen a sign saying that at 7 p.m., the New Hamburg Band would be playing a concert at the park bandshell. Mom and Dad invited me to tag along, an invite I gladly accepted, without hesitation. This past weekend was absolutely spectacular in the weather department, so why not spend Sunday eve, outdoors?!

As we were getting settled, Mom asked me if this would be a New Experience for the blog. With a slightly horrified look on my face, I replied, no – this wasn’t even going to go onto the blog!

Why the hesitation to share the eve with you? Well, for some reason, the outing just brought back memories of being an awkward teen. I’m sure you remember that life period, too: where to be seen with your parents is just about the most embarrassing situation you can imagine. I mean, concert band, with my parents, evening outing….yea. Not something to shout from the rooftops.

But after a bit of reflection, I decided what the hay – yes! I’m having fun, and who gives two figs whether it’s an uncool outing or not. [But, I’m not counting it as a New Experience because we used to go to the same type of concert up in Goderich, when we were little. Sunday eves, there’d be outdoor concerts at the Goderich Bandshell, and our family would go quite frequently. My favourite was when Scottish bagpipers were featured].

So, back to this past Sunday eve. Like I said, it was simply a perfect July evening:

i love when i can be comfy in only a tshirt at 7:30 p.m.!

Waterloo Park is such a jewel in the centre of the city. Local readers: did you even know there is a bandshell, back in one corner?

an ampitheathre shape encourages good sound quality - as good as you're going to get out-of-doors!

Promptly at 7 p.m., the concert began:

the view from our spot!

There was a small crowd out – more people assembled as time went by:

BYO...L (lawnchairs!)

mom and dad! (i sat on the ground, in front)

You know who was the star of the show? This young band member, back in the corner:

the youngest in the band, by a long shot

This little guy was the percussionist, and he did it all, I tell ya. Dad and I had a hoot watching him as he switched between cymbals, tambourine, wooden blocks, triangle, maracas, drums…there was nothing the kid couldn’t do! Just great.

The band played a whole mix of musical selections; some examples: Broadway favourites, the Teddy Bear’s Picnic, Bad Bad Leroy Brown, a Mary Poppins medley (my fave! love that movie!), traditional marching band tunes, then they ended with a medley from The Beatles. Some songs were *stronger* than others – the traditional band songs were played confidently and in tune; other numbers….well, they tried. I give the band credit, though – New Hamburg is a really small town, just outside of Waterloo, so for the depth of talent they likely have to draw on, they gave a credible performance.

the woman in the front, very left, used that megaphone to introduce each piece

You know why the eve was a success, too? Because all I did was R E L A X. I didn’t knit, fiddle with my Blackberry, read – nothing. I just sat, appreciated the beautiful evening, and stayed in the moment.

ok, there was a little toe-tapping that went on

These Sunday evening (free!) concerts will be going on regularly for the rest of the summer. Bet we get out there again!

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Wanna read something really cool? Or, really HOT, to be more accurate.

The Badwater 135 ultramarathon started yesterday morning. They’re still running. Or plodding. Or just moving forward. Read about this race, and you’ll either think they’re crazy, or you’ll be inspired – let me know!

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Last year, on July 12th, I was exploring the city of Tampa! That city confused me to pieces – I never did figure it out! But I discovered one of the best malls in the universe, and stayed at my favourite hotel of the trip!

Florida, Florida, Wherefore Art Thou, Florida?

A year ago today by the date (July 11th was actually Sunday, last year) I left for my two week vacation in Florida.

saw lots 'n' lots of my beloved palm trees!

*Le Sigh* as I think back to that trip.

file photo, july 22nd, marco island

Oh, to be back again, this year.

I had just a blast, the entire fourteen days I was down there.

How could I not? Sun, surf, sand, shopping, exploring, relaxing…it was my idea of the perfect vacation.

This blog post, “…And We’re Off,” is the first in the Florida series, in case you’d like a look back at the fun ‘n’ games from Day #1. I blogged every day on that trip, from Tampa thru Sarasota, down to Naples and Marco Island, then back up again to Tampa. My Florida trip was chalk full of New Experiences: first-ever car rental; hotel check-in; Whole Foods hot-bar lunch; Target shopping spree…I bet I had 41 New Experiences in those two weeks, alone!

Good. Times.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Yesterday afternoon, I paid a visit to my nearest Chapters bookstore:

a landmark at king and weber streets!

It had been a while since I’d been up there. I try not to go too often, because I so easily am sucked right in by their displays, marketing techniques, and enticing product:

i'm a pushover for journals, notebooks, bright paper goods...

I ♥ Chapters! I do support my local independent bookstore (Words Worth Books) with most of my book purchases, but nothing beats hanging out in Chapters for a relaxing, bookworm-y experience. I decided that Chapters beats the library in numerous ways:

  • longer hours (the library is closed Sundays in the summer, too)
  • Starbucks right in-store!

...while the library features a water fountain!

  • brand new, latest-issue magazines vs dog-eared, pages-ripped out copies [can’t complain, I am guilty of doing this with library mags – oops!]:

name a magazine, it's here...i didn't even take time to flip through ANY, yesterday!

  • bigger selection of up-to-date running publications:

anyone here read "running on empty?" i want to...

  • You can be louder in Chapters than in the library – and keep your Blackberry turned on!

Chapters was super-busy Sunday aft. Now, I actually do have a couple of gift cards to spend, but I wasn’t in a buying mood. I was in a mosey-ing about mood.

maybe IF I HAD A BEACH TO SIT ON, i would have purchased a couple of trashy romances at 80% off!

Don’t need a yoga mat!

love these bright colours, though

If you haven’t yet read this book…

...bump it to the top of your summer reading list! trust me!

It had been a while since I’d been up to the Children’s Dept…wow, when did Chapters become a veritable toy store? The non-book-related inventory is 1000% larger than last time I was up here!

i mentally spent $600 on little e and baby c....

Now I want to go back soon some evening and read magazines. Or some afternoon…and next time I’ll sit down with a coffee!

What’s your favourite store to chill out at AND/OR what store tempts you to spend too much money? Interestingly, I don’t spend that much time just window-shopping at the mall. Chapters or Michaels are places where I like to wander around and can lose track of time. Although I will HAVE to get up to Conestoga Mall in the next couple weeks to spend my Groupon at Old Navy!

Final Florida Post!

As promised, this will be the last Florida Vacation-related entry. I know, I’m sad, too. 😦 The good news? I am already thinking ahead to possible travels, solo and with B, for the rest of 2010 and into 2011 – will update as warranted!

Geeky, I realize, but I saved every single receipt from my Florida trip. I wanted to be able to complete a comprehensive cost analysis once home again (see, I’m putting my university accounting course and economics course to good use after all!). In lieu of sharing specific numbers (TMI, non?), let’s look at percentages instead:

FLIGHT – 17% of total cost (It was non-negotiable for me that I wanted to fly direct, fly out of Pearson, fly to Tampa, and fly on Sundays. I didn’t get “a deal,” per se, but I was fine with my ticket price).

CAR RENTAL – 13% of total cost (I’m realizing I got a really great deal. I went with Thrifty and I was 100% pleased with the unlimited mileage factor, the customer service, my Black Stealth Machine, and the check-in and check-out procedures).

HOTELS – 44% (This is the biggest share of the money pie by far. As previously detailed, I was not prepared to scrimp on accomodation. Should I have wanted to trim my budget, this is the obvious place to start).

FOOD AND GROCERIES – 12% (This total came in at less than I would have predicted. I chalk it up to not consuming very many restaurant meals, relying on grocery store choices, and not purchasing any pop/coffee/drinks. I guarantee that if I was still drinking Diet Coke, I would have spent about $10 per day just indulging my habit. The food total could have been lower if I had bought less fresh fruit and vegetables, too. And I thank the free breakfast buffets for supplementing my morning meals!).

GAS – 3% (I HAVE to share my total gas bill as it really knocked my socks off. Pre-trip, I would have guessed it would end up totalling a lot more. Keep in mind I drove from Tampa down to Naples – a distance of about 170 miles – and back; I got lost from time to time :); I didn’t try to curtail driving at all – if I wanted to go somewhere, I went. Including the final fill-up so that the rental car was returned with a full gas tank, I spent…$83.01 in US funds or $89.06 CAN. I could tell by the end of the trip I’d be under $100.00, but I am massively impressed).

ENTERTAINMENT – 0% (Yup, I’m a cheap date. I spent $5.48 on my bike rental at Sanibel Island, and $10.50 to see the Joan Rivers movie. That’s it. Helps to not be a fan of museums, historic sites and such. I wasn’t trying to be a cheapskate, either – had I really wanted to see the Dali Museum in St Petersburg, for example, I would have (must save something for next time, you know!) Can’t beat the enjoyment of self-guided walking tours, though!).

GIFTS AND PURCHASES – 10% (Full disclosure – the majority of these receipts are clothes purchases…for me…*le sigh*).

MISCELLANEOUS – 1% (Basically tolls, laundry – which I only did once, can you believe it! Maybe I could be a hiker-camper yet! – and parking. Could have been less had I been more adept at figuring out the various parking meters before they ate my money!).

Et c’est tout! Since this was my first self-financed, solo vacation, I have no other data with which to make comparisons, so this trip will be the trip against which all others are judged. For two weeks of fun, personal-growth, and time away from home, it was worth every penny. I AM happy that the exchange rate was not super-bad like a few years back when we were in Aruba – at that time, I had to take the US price and add on about 50% to get an idea of what the cost in Canadian money would be. So the better exchange rate now worked in my favour. Lastly, I came home with way more cash than I would have anticipated, too. I racked up those PC Points on the Mastercard quite well!

Check it out: I did a little baking today, too – see my Recipes page for the recap :() !!

Tomorrow: weather permitting, and should I so desire, I am off on a bit of a road trip – some place I really hoped to get to this summer for a day. A clue a la Wheel of Fortune: if I go, my #1 stop is at…

W __ __ __ __   F __ __ __ __!!!

Kick-Off to Buyer Be-Aware Mondays!

Here’s a photo of our current peanut butter cupboard:

both b and i luuuv our nut butters

Sadly, you will note that the shelf no longer holds this divine gem:

Naturally More Natural Peanut Butter(source)

BEST. FIND. of my entire Florida trip. Haha: B is now hiking in Colorado…I wrote down the exact name, weight, lid colour, blood type of this peanut butter and begged him to please please PLEASE bring me some home, if at all possible. Fingers crossed although my chances stand at about 5%, I reckon). I’ll let you know!

Anyway: our #1 favourite of the options above is for sure the Kraft All-Natural peanut butter.

b devours it on toast with jam, i inhale it on apples

 We go through a jar about every 10-14 days. We’ve tried other all-natural brands, but love this one the best. Frankly, I was surprised as I was sure a little indie company would knock the socks off a corporate giant, but that’s the way our tastebuds vote!

Love the ingredient list:

100% select roasted peanuts

That’s right – one ingredient. Sodium? 0 mg. no added sugars, zero preservatives. Taste? Fantabulous!

So last week, it was time to purchase yet another jar of our p.b at Valumart.

Whoa-ho! What have we here? My little eye spied this new-to-me product:

let's check this out, said i!...

My initial thoughts were: ok! whipped p.b.! sounds healthy…let’s check the stats:

70 cals/tablespoon, zero trans fat...all good...

BUT!….

let's read through that ingredient list...

First, be aware there is 60 mg of sodium/serving. Not bad – in the States, I honestly was rather dumb-founded by some of the sodium levels in the brands I found (100+/tablespoon in some cases) – but when you can get zero, why do you need 60 mg?…Now sorry for the fuzzy photo, above, but I hope you can at least make out that there is more than one ingredient in that list. In fact, here IS the list: select roasted peanuts, soybean oil, sugar, corn dextrin, hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt, fancy molasses. That’s a lotta extras! (And THIS is cool! Read the link and you’ll find that “…corn dextrin also serves as a glue. In fact, it’s the glue that you find on the back of envelopes.”) Think I’ll stick with the one ingredient p.b., thanks!

This is kind of cool, too. I went to the Kraft website, searched “whipped peanut butter,” and this is what I found: information and nutrition on the whipped p.b. but they provide no list of ingredients!!!

There’s a high probability that the casual shopper will see the product, think “Oh, whipped = healthier, I’m gonna grab this!” without noticing that the ingredient list is not all that pure…

So, welcome to the initial post for Buyer Be-Aware Mondays! I’m genuinely intrigued by the worlds of marketing, advertising, and consumer awareness, and will be examining a product or claim that I come across each week. (For example, remember when I found the Eat Pray Love book in Florida – $1 for the trade paperback with Julia Roberts on the cover as opposed to the trade paperback without).

 I decided to call this Buyer Be-Aware instead of BEWARE because my intent is not to cast judgement or push my opinion on anyone; by being informed, however, we can make choices that best suit our interests and priorities.

Coming up! A Financial Post! (No, not that one, haha!) 🙂

But Does It Have A Pool?!!

When I was little and we’d go on family vacations, hotel pools were of the utmost importance. I really could have cared less if our room had no view whatsoever, if I showered under a cold drip, or slept under a gaudy floral bedspread (actually, I think those all did occur at some time or another!) – but if the place had a pool? Let’s check in!!! Overall, my parents indulged this water fixation, and we enjoyed wonderful splash times from Victoria to PEI. Several March Breaks family get-aways were spent in London (Ont) or Toronto, where we passed many a gleeful hour in the hotel pool.

For my Florida vacation, a pool was on my checklist, but it wasn’t #1 in importance (isn’t the ocean just a huge pool?!). I now value cleanliness, free in-room internet, and a fitness room. And a fair price. Yes, who wouldn’t love to Hyatt-Hilton-Marriott their way, but over-the-top luxe was NOT a priority as I voyaged from Tampa to Naples and back again.

I really lucked out in accomodation choices. I had no bad eggs, nothing where I wished I was in another lodging, and was really fortunate all around. No complaints at all. The only pre-booking I made was for my first night; I had researched options for each city, but just made reservations a few days ahead after arriving in Florida.

I’m ready to play Trip Advisor! Let’s go through my hotel locations, and I’ll give you my overall rating plus a breakdown for specific subtopics.

TownePlace Suites Tampa Westshore/Airport (Sunday July 11, Monday July 12; then Saturday July 24)

Overall: ****

Cleanliness: ***1/2 (one hair on the bathroom floor the first night – I do have a “thing” about finding hairs!)

Internet: *** 1/2

Fitness Room: **** (individual TVs on the top-quality cardio equipment, weights, cool temp, big enough, spotless)

Pool: **** (practically Olympic-sized, warm, clean)

Location: *** (close to the airport, close to two huge malls, but away from downtown/tourist sites)

Comp Breakfast: *1/2 (granola bars, fruit)

One positive: a true mini-apartment feel

One negative: toilet gurgled first two nights – but nothing ear plugs and closing the door did not camouflage

Price: $79.00 US/night

Holiday Inn, Clearwater Beach (Tuesday July 13)

Overall: **

Cleanliness: ****

Internet: ** (very slow and spotty)

Fitness Room: * (didn’t use it! only had two treadmills and tons of weights; was absolutely huge in size, though)

Pool: ** (nice enough, didn’t use it)

Location: **** (right on the beach, in the heart of the action; no beach access from the hotel)

Comp Breakfast: nada

One positive: room was the most luxurious in feel (bedding, decor) of the trip

One negative: most expensive accomodation of the trip, and the amenities that I appreciate were not the greatest

Price: $142.00 US/night

TownePlace Suites St Petersburg Clearwater (Wednesday July 14)

Overall: ***1/2

Cleanliness: **** (absolutely impeccable)

Internet: **** (fastest connection of any hotel)

Fitness Room: 1/2* (terrible! size of a closet, broken stairstepper, old stationary bike, and a treadmill – no weights)

Pool: *** (nicely sized, clean, warm – I swam at 7 pm in the evening!)

Location: **(way the heck in the middle of an industrial area – at least it was quiet!)

Comp Breakfast: *** (a lot of selection of cold options: cereals, hard boiled eggs, fruit, oatmeal, muffins…)

One positive: suite was absolutely HUGE, with high ceilings

One negative: few TV channel options

Price: $99.00 US/night

AmericInn Sarasota (Thursday July 15, Friday July 16, Saturday July 17)

Overall: ***1/2

Cleanliness: ****

Internet: ** (the first night I actually went to Starbucks to blog, the internet was so slow and spotty, but the next two nights were just fine; TV was also fuzzy first night, so maybe there was a tech issue going on)

Fitness Room: *** (huge, well-appointed with an elliptical, stationary bike and recumbent bike, tons of weights)

Pool: *** (good sized, warm, clean)

Location: *** (about 15 minutes from downtown Sarasota, 5 minutes from Starbucks, Publix, Walmart, Super Target)

Comp Breakfast: ****+ (amazing. plus weekdays a manager’s 5 pm reception, hearty enough for a dinner; breakfast – hot and cold options, everything you could imagine from waffles, omelettes and sausage to fruit, cereals, muffins/danish, yogurts…)

One positive: excellent customer service: prompt, polite, and friendly when I thought I had an issue with my shower

One negative: just that slow internet the one night

Price: $94.99 US/night

Holiday Inn Express Ft Myers East (Sunday July 18 & Monday July 19)

Overall: ***1/2

Cleanliness: ****

Internet: **** (consistent and fast)

Fitness Room: **** (huge – top quality elliptical, recumbent bike, a few weights)

Pool: ** (quite small, zero ambiance, but warm water and clean!)

Location: **** (10 minutes from downtown, right across from HUGE bigbox-type mall, close drive to groceries)

Comp Breakfast: **** (FULL hot and cold buffet – tons of options, everything you can imagine)

One positive: hotel built a year ago so practically brand new: flat screen TVs, granite in bathroom etc)

One negative: only hotel where I did not have a fridge and micro and I did miss that

Price: $104.64 US/night

Ramada Inn Naples (Tuesday July 20, Wednesday July 21, Thursday July 22)

Overall: ***

Cleanliness: ***1/2

Internet: *** (reliable)

Fitness Room: *** (elliptical and recumbent bike, cool temp, overlooked the pool)

Pool: **** (surrounded by lush greenery, so resort-ish; huge, warm water, very clean)

Location: **** (5 minutes from downtown Naples, 2 minutes from huge mall)

Comp Breakfast: **** (served in full size restaurant, again – full choice of hot and cold options)

One positive: most friendly and welcoming front-desk staff of the entire trip and I got a free room upgrade to poolside

One negative: a damp-ish smell to the room; also, an almost overpowering sanitizer or cheap perfume scent the first 24 hours)

Price: $75.85 US/night (least expensive of the trip)

Springhill Suites by Marriott Sarasota Bradenton (Friday July 23)

Overall: ***

Cleanliness: ****

Internet: *** (fine)

Fitness Room: *** (smaller, but had elliptical and recumbent bike that worked just fine)

Pool: * (closed for maintenance although you could go across the parking lot Residence Inn by Marriott; rained anyway that night)

Location: ** (right by the Sarasota airport so did hear some planes, but found my Ringling Museum which was 10 minutes away!)

Comp Breakfast: *** (again, wide range of hot and cold options)

One positive: room layout: divided walls between bedroom/sitting area/kitchen/bath

One negative: toilet ran and I had to jiggle the handle til I figured out if I held the handle down a bit longer, it would be fine

Price: $109.00 US/night

There you have it! Could I have saved money on accomodation? You betcha. Do I have regrets with spending approx. $100/night? Not a one. I wanted to be comfortable in my surroundings, feel safe and secure, and enjoy the time I spent in my room, not to mention make use of each hotel’s additional amenities. I would not hesitate to recommend any of these places to other travellers, nor would I hesitate to stay again.

Next on my To-Do List! Become a Marriott Rewards Member! 🙂

PS: If you’d like to check out B’s super-rockin’ photos of his end-to-end hike of the John Muir Trail, check out this link! (His photos are awesome and he has captions, too!). After viewing them, I think you will understand why we did separate va-cays – TOTALLY different scenarios…to put it mildly!