Thrifty and Frugal Living

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Taste the Mediterranean at Kurdi's #EatKurdis #EverythingLocal



I am slightly obsessed with Mediterranean flavors. If I see a gyro or greek salad on a menu, then that is what I am ordering. When I heard that there was an amazing Mediterranean restaurant located in downtown Tampa, I knew that I HAD to go. A few days later, my friends at Never Have I Ever Tampa invited me to a complimentary Eat Up at Kurdi's Fresh Mediterranean Grill. It was fate.

Kurdi's is located on the corner of Polk and Tampa St (the Ashley Dr. address is deceptive). I parked my car and was excited to hear some amazing tunes coming from the direction of Kurdi's. The Bob Hope Band was providing covers of rock and pop favorites. They wowed us all as we took in the gorgeous decor of Kurdi's. I want their light fixtures! 


We were offered our choice of drinks: a pint of draft craft beer, a glass of house made Sangria or a Lychee Sake Martini. I REALLY wanted that Martini, but alas I did not have a DD with me. I settled for water and eagerly awaited the food. While we were waiting we discovered that the ingredients at Kurdi's are all fresh and locally sourced. They are so fresh that Kurdi's does not have a freezer. Awesome!
 
Our first entree was the Fattoush Salad. 


The Fattoush salad contains chopped lettuce, red cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, parsley and radishes. It is tossed with a pomegranate vinaigrette. Fattoush is not only really fun to say, but it tastes as good as it looks. I've never had Fattoush before and I really liked it. There was an immense amount of flavor packed into this crunchy salad. 

Next up was the Mixed Grill Platter. 


The Mixed Grill Platter contains one skewer each of beef tenderloin, chicken breast and kufta. It is served with rice and arugula salad. The kufta is lamb and beef mixed with traditional herbs and spices and then grilled. This entire plate was incredible, but the kufta was to-die-for. We were served family style and I kept sneaking away another piece of the kufta. It was similar to a meatball in taste. Only, this kufta was the best tasting meatball ever. It did not require sauce, but the flavor was even more enhanced by the creamy garlic sauce served on the side.

We were then served a lunch item: Chicken Shawarma Wrap:


The Chicken Shawarma Wrap has thinly marinated chicken breast that is marinated for over 24 hours, tomatoes, pickles and garlic sauce. I would gladly take this dish for lunch any day. Every day. This chicken was my second favorite thing that we tried (after the kufta). It was so incredibly moist and flavorful. Delish. I unfortunately didn't get to try the fries, but they smelled incredible. 

Lastly, we were able to try the Grilled Moroccan Lamb:


The Grilled Moroccan Lamb is spiced lamb served with an arugula salad, grilled scallops and basmati rice. Lamb chops are always fun to eat. Unfortunately, I have learned over the years that I am just not a huge fan of them. The table really seemed to love the lamb chops and said that they packed a lot of flavor. They were certainly gorgeous to look at. 

Our large group contained a few dietary restrictions. We had someone who was Gluten Free, a Vegan and a Pescetarian at our table. Kurdi's was extremely accommodating. They made special dishes from the menu for the Vegan and Gluten Free guests. For the Pescetarian they created a whole new dish from what they had in their pantry! How cool is that? Here was the final creation:


Very impressive. A few people at our table even joked and said they may become Pescetarian to get a special dish like this. I love that Kurdi's is willing to go above and beyond to please their customers. 

I really had a fantastic time and an amazing meal at Kurdi's. Thank You to the wonderful staff, owners and to Never Have I Ever Tampa for the invite. I will be returning to Kurdi's soon. You should too. You can Thank me later. If you are a craft beer fan, they also host craft beer dinners. Visit Kurdi's website for more details: http://www.kurdisgrill.com/



Thursday, February 26, 2015

Zim's #MaxFreeze + Giveaway



*sponsored

I am always searching for new and better products to help me with my pain relief. I have a herniated disc in my lower back and I have had several surgeries including disc replacements in my neck. I rely on a combination of heating pads, topical formulas (like Zim's Max-Freeze), supplements, exercise and devices such as my acupuncture Bed of Nails to get through the work days and live a mostly normal life.

Zim's sent me their Max-Freeze Maximum Muscle and Joint Pain Relief Roll-on to try out. I own about 6-7 different brands of topical roll-on pain relief solutions, but I am always looking for a better one. Some are definitely better than others. How did Zim's compare?

Let's first talk about what Zim's Max-Freeze does and does not have:

It contains Organic Ilex, Aloe and Arnica, Vitamin E and Tea Tree Oil. The active ingredient is natural menthol 3.7%. 

It does not contain any NSAIDS (Aspirin, Ibuprofen, etc), Parabens, Synthetic Fragrance, Sulfates, Paraffins, DEA, Petrolatum, Mineral Oil. They also do NOT test on animals. 


The main reason that I wanted to try Zim's is that it boasts that it is greaseless and has a vanishing scent. I have used greaseless creams before, but never with a vanishing scent. I hate walking around smelling like a max strength cough drop. I think my Husband hates it even more. As I used Zim's I came to the conclusion that it not only has a vanishing scent, but the "cool heat" sensation vanishes after awhile too. You may not be sure if that is a good thing or not, but trust me...it is. There is nothing worse than applying a solution in your back in the morning only to feel a weird sensation as you sweat later that day because you didn't have a shower after the application. Zim's takes care of the pain and then vanishes awhile later so that you can enjoy your day pain free. 

I also love how Zim's Max-Freeze has the cooling heat sensation without it being overwhelming. I have had another brand of roll-on actually burn my skin. That particular solution wouldn't even come off in the shower and I had to use prescription strength burn cream to soothe the inflamed skin. I know that this will not happen with Zim's. It seems to have the perfect amount of menthol to soothe my sore muscles without irritating the skin. 

I highly recommend Zim's Max-Freeze for all of your sore muscles and joints. It has been easing the pain on my lower back and neck with just a few seconds of application and a few minutes of menthol scent. Perfect.
 
GIVEAWAY: 

One lucky reader will win a Zim's Max-Freeze Roll-On. Ends 3/03 at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


*Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Stretch Marks and Scars Defense Cream #BodyMerry


*sponsored

I have mentioned my numerous injuries several times. What you may not realize is that I have six surgical scars. One is on my neck and quite noticeable. Two of the others are on my right leg and are greater than 6 inches each. I have come to terms with them being there, but I wish that they weren't. I especially hate the one on my neck. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to try Body Merry Stretch Marks and Scars Defense Cream.

Body Merry Stretch Marks and Defense Cream is a special blend of organic cocoa butter, shea butter, vitamin E, vitamin C, Vitamin b3, Vitamin b5 and pure plant oils. According to the Amazon page: 

"Heal, Hydrate and Nourish Your Skin: This cream helps in reducing the appearance of existing scars and marks by increasing the moisture content of the skin, so that it has a more even tone and feels smooth and supple to the touch. It also ensures that the moisture seeps deep into your skin and stays locked in. This improves your skin's elasticity, which in turn helps to prevent new tears and marks from forming. In a nutshell, it works great for prevention as well as reduction!"
 
The cream is also made in the US, free of chemicals and it is not tested on Animals. 
 
Here is a collage of some pictures of me over the last few years. You can see my neck scar in all of them. The bottom right picture was at a wedding that was about 2 weeks after surgery. 

Note: click on picture to enlarge and zoom in

My Orthopedic surgeon told me that the scar would not be noticeable at all in a year. My surgery was over 4 years ago and all the pictures above are recent except for the center right and bottom right pictures. Obviously, the scar is still there. Per my Doctor's instructions I just applied coco butter to the scar and tried to keep it out of the sun. 
 
I now know that not all coca butter is equal. I could smell the difference in this cocoa butter when I opened the jar to the Stretch Mark and Scar Defense Cream. It smells like real cocoa. The cream is a thick whipped consistency. It goes on easily and makes your skin feel extremely hydrated. 

It has definitely improved the look of my scar in the few weeks that I have been using it. I tried to photograph my scar up close for a before and after comparison, but the pictures did not come out very well. It is hard to photograph scars when you want to. However, when you don't want them in your pictures they are there. Sigh. The scar looks less bright and red. It is more flesh colored and faded when using this cream. I wish I had owned this cream 4 years ago when I first had the scar. 

Body Merry also sent me two of their other products: 


I received the Age Defense Eye Cream and Hyaluronic Dew Serum:


"This professional grade VEGAN hyaluronic acid serum not only moisturizes and nourishes your skin, but also provides superior anti-aging benefits by tackling wrinkles and fine lines head on. Body Merry's Hyaluronic Dew Serum is the perfect anti-aging moisture rich product - formulated for all skin types, free of any potential irritants."
 
This is the second hyaluronic acid serum that I have tried. I really like this one because the formula is a little thicker almost like a gel. You apply it after washing and drying your face/neck. You then allow it to dry and apply a moisturizer over it. The hyaluronic acid helps the moisturizer soak into your skin. I love this stuff. It gives me a healthy glow and leaves my skin super soft. My skin was really dry from the cooler weather before this serum arrived. Now it is healthy and smooth. 
 

"This lightweight formula is a gentle and effective solution for all your eye woes including Dark Circles, Wrinkles and Puffiness. It is the only eye cream on the market that has over 70 power packed ingredients including: Vitamins C + E + B5, Peptide Complex, Amino Acid Emulsification, Hyaluronic Acid, Retinol, Antioxidants, MSM and many many more!"
 
I am only 31, so I honestly haven't really noticed the benefits of using eye cream yet (maybe that is because they do work and I have prevented the wrinkles so far?). However, I love the way that eye creams feel. This eye cream is nice and moisturizing. I really love the herbal scent that it has from the combination of oils. The scent makes me smell like I just left a spa. I do wish that the cream had a cooling effect. Unfortunately, the cooling sensation is what I like best about eye creams at my age. 
 

Overall, I really like the Body Merry products that I received. My favorite is definitely the Stretch Marks and Scars Defense Cream. I can not wait to see what my scars look like after several months of using the product. 

BUY IT: 

All Body Merry products are available on Amazon:




*Disclaimer: I received free product(s) in exchange for this review. All opinions are completely my own.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

5 Reasons You Should Go See Annie The Musical #AnnieOnTour #BroadwayInTampa



Leapin' Lizards!

I just returned from seeing Annie The Musical with my family and the Tampa Bay Bloggers compliments of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts and it was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. From the excellent cast..to the set..to the music...it lived up to all of my high expectations and then some.

I don't like to give out spoilers and since most of you know the story of Annie, I thought it would be fun to do the top 5 reasons why you should see this production of Annie The Musical.

Reason 1: Positivity + Hope - The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow
 
My week started off rough. Monday morning I received a text that my Mom fell and broke her hip. My Mom has been extremely ill and in a lot of pain most of my life. She is also in Cincinnati. I was devastated. Shortly after this information came in, our power went out for a few hours. Not a great start to the week. I tried to stay positive and prayed and asked for prayers from friends and family. Well, I woke up Monday night to find out that my Mom only fractured her hip and already was recovering from a successful hip surgery. There would be no hip replacement. Thank goodness! Things are generally not as bad as they initially seem. Annie has very little and still remains positive and has big dreams. We can all learn a lot from Annie's optimism and hope. It is a lesson I hope to some day pass on to my kids. 


Photo by Joan Marcus via the Annie the Musical website

Reason 2: The Orphans

I am still in awe of these amazing young ladies. They are so incredibly talented and beautiful. You have to grin from ear to ear when watching them perform. Check out this audition video that includes the very talented Issie Swickle finding out that she is going to be Annie. You can also see the adorable curly haired Lilly Mae Stewart (Molly) in most of this video. She is going to make a fantastic Annie in a few years.



Photo by Joan Marcus via the Annie the Musical website
© JOAN MARCUS

Reason 3: Mrs. Hannigan

Despite how adorable and talented the orphans were, Mrs. Hannigan was probably my favorite character. She was so incredible awful and crazy...and perfect. I am normally not a fan of villains. However, Lynn Andrews knocked this character out of the park and had everyone buzzing about her fantastic performance. Best Mrs. Hannigan ever. It is worth watching Annie to see her.

Photo by Joan Marcus from the Annie the Musical website

Reason 4: Sandy

This adorable rescue dog received "ohhs and ahhs" every single time that she appeared. I can only imagine the hours and hours spent training her. Who doesn't love a ragged, faithful dog? If the adorable orphan girls don't pull at your heartstrings, this furry girl will.

Reason 5: The Music

You didn't honestly think that I was done talking about the music, did you? I can't even begin to explain the range of emotions that I go through when watching Annie. There were literally tears in my eyes when "It's the Hard Knock Life" was being performed. The music of Annie reminds me of my childhood when I first witnessed Annie on Broadway in Cincinnati. The songs were performed flawlessly. There were favorites like "Tomorrow", "I Don't Need Anything But You" and Mrs. Hannigan's perfectly evil rendition of "Little Girls". Every last moment was perfect. There are some videos of the performances on the Annie The Musical website that you can watch including a montage.

Broadway Family Night: 

I shared this on my social media channels, but I wanted to mention it again. For the Wednesday, Feb. 18, performance (tonight!!), kids 12 and under can get 50% OFF their ticket with the purchase of a full-price adult ticket. Come before the show for fun activities and then stay after for a talk-back with company members! Broadway Family Nights are recommended for ages 5+

Metropolitan Ministries School Uniform Clothing Drive:

Sadly, there are children in the Tampa area that can not afford clothes, shoes and even food. At all Tampa performances of Annie, now through Sunday, Feb. 22, donations of primary school uniforms and other children’s clothing will be accepted at the Straz Center. The drive benefits Metropolitan Ministries who serve families in need in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties. 

Annie is here through Sunday, February 22nd. Make sure that you don't miss this fantastic musical! Performances of Annie are now - Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm and Sunday at 1pm and 6pm. Regularly priced tickets are $46-$105 and may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online at www.strazcenter.org.



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Power Theory Credit Card-Sized External Battery Pack #Powercard


*sponsored

 I am a social butterfly. I attend events, dinners and group functions often.  As a result, I often end up at events with a dying (or sometimes dead) cell phone. I always feel uncomfortable without a phone. However, a dead phone is a real issue when I am at a social media event where I agreed to Tweet and Instagram. I own four different external battery packs. All of them are clunky and a pain to use. My best one is almost useless. Not anymore. 

I was sent the Power Theory Credit Card-Sized External Battery Pack to review. This power card is 3.8x2.4x0.26 inches. It has 2500mAh and an input and output of 5V. It will recharge your phone in 3-4 hours.


This power card is my new favorite accessory. It is slightly bigger than a credit card, but not by much. It is also extremely light. Everything you need on the go is contained in this one little card. The cord that charges your phone lays down flat and tucks into the card. If you need to use the iPhone adapter, that plugs into the a hidden spot under the cord when not in use. I don't have to search through my purse for loose cords anymore. It also makes it easier when you are walking around actually charging your phone. This power card easily wraps around and lays flat in your hand with your phone. The only part of this card that is kept separate is the USB charging cable (to charge the power card) and that is something that I would leave at home anyhow.


This power card battery pack really works. I plugged my phone in at 50% and 92 minutes later I noticed that my Samsung Galaxy was fully charged. With my old external battery packs, I was lucky if they charged my phone 30% before they died. As a matter of fact, they had a bad habit of keeping my phone at the same percentage instead of actually charging them...especially while in use. I tested the Power Theory card by surfing Facebook and Twitter while it was plugged in. It took a minute for it to start, but it actually charged my phone while in use.

Another thing that I love about this power card is that there is not an on/off switch. This has been a problem for me when carrying external battery packs in my purse. The Power Theory card automatically charges your phone when it has juice and is plugged in. It turns off when it is unplugged. 

I highly recommend this Power Theory Credit-Card Sized External Battery Pack. As a matter of fact, I purchased a second one today. They are currently on sale at Amazon, so stock up! 

BUY IT:




*Disclaimer: I received a free product in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ulele - Native Inspired Food and Spirits #UleleTBB



Ulele is one of the best new restaurants in Tampa. They have had the food community buzzing since before they even opened last summer. Ulele has been named "One of the Top 100 Restaurants in the U.S. by Open Table",  "One of the Best New Restaurants in Florida by Florida Trend",  "Best Overall Restaurant by Yelp Tampa Bay" and most recently "the #7 spot for Top 50 Restaurants in Tampa Bay" as scored by Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times.
 
Ulele graciously invited Me to a free blogger dinner as a member of the Tampa Bay Bloggers.
 
The first thing I want to mention is that Ulele is absolutely beautiful. From the gorgeous view of the river to the brick building to the stained glass windows to the glass staircase full of wine bottles. If you are curious about the name Ulele, the restaurant is named after a young Tocabaga Princess.

The Ulele story

I do admit that I had very high expectations of Ulele after hearing all the buzz. They absolutely lived up to those expectations! We were treated to several of their favorite dishes. We started off with a buffet that contained their award winning Florida Native Chili and Mac and Cheese with crab, duck bacon, scallions and all of the fixings on the side. We weren't allowed to share pictures of these since they weren't served in the normal restaurant fashion. You are just going to have to trust me and order them both. Then, you can thank me later. 
 
After the buffet, the appetizers started with oysters. We were treated to both raw oysters and charbroiled oysters.



This was my first time trying raw oysters and they were AMAZING. I did not have any issues with texture and these oysters were really fresh and clean. The charbroiled oysters had an incredible smoky charbroiled taste that elevated the oysters and the added cheese was complimentary, not overpowering. Perfect. This is the second time that I have had charbroiled oysters and these were my favorite of the two times. 

We were then treated to Squash Gratin which is one of the Ulele sides you can order. It contains horno roasted squash, zucchini, red onion and tomato with a Manchego crust.


Next we had Alligator Hush Puppies. These contain alligator, country ham, duck bacon, fresh corn, jalapeno, honey datil pepper sauce and fresh-ground horseradish aioli. These were really different and tasty.


Next up is a dish that really shocked me. I did not expect to like this dish, but I LOVED it. I didn't even miss the meat in this Vegetarian dish. The Native Saute is only served at lunch and consists of pan-seared zucchini, squash, carrots, onions, baby spinach, portobello mushroom and green beans with a soy ginger reduction and wild river rice.


We were beginning to feel full at this point and we had no idea what was in store. Then, the entrees started coming. We started off with the Filet Mignon which is wet-aged 28 days. It was served with white cheddar popcorn mashed potatoes and asparagus. I honestly am not a big steak fan. I think Ulele may have changed that with this one piece of meat. It was so tender, juicy and flavorful.


Next we received the Ulele Burger which is only served at lunch. The Ulele Burger is a char-grilled ground short rib, brisket and chuck blend burger topped with house steak sauce, Wisconsin sharp cheddar, portobello mushrooms, fire-roasted red peppers and fried leeks served on a brioche bun. 

Photo courtesy of Calley Pate @ TheEchoChic
Then we received MORE STEAK. Not just more steak, but the "Kilo Porterhouse" which is a 2.2lb steak dry-aged for 24 days and chef-carved off the bone. Wowza. 


Next we received the Florida Pompano which is a pan-seared pompano fillet with a sundried tomato shallot cream and topped with fried carrot ribbons. Those fried carrot ribbons are amazing! I really hope that Ulele considers adding them as a side to the menu. I would order them every-single-time. 


At this point in the meal, I had to get up and walk around a bit. I found the restrooms (which were gorgeous too) and checked out the rest of Ulele. The restaurant was extremely packed even on a Monday night. When I arrived back to the table I had something delicious waiting for me. The candied duck bacon maple fried ice cream is covered in a cinnamon corn flake candied duck bacon crust with Knob Creek creme anglaise, caramel and a sweet potato waffle crisp. 


Crazy good. For the third time of the night, we thought we were done. Then these gorgeous coconut shells full of ice cream arrived. 

Photo courtesy of Calley Pate @ TheEchoChic
We had toasted cocount, Ugandan vanilla bean, Valhrona chocolate, coffee and strawberry ice cream too. These ice creams are all house-made and you can definitely taste the difference. My favorites were the strawberry and toasted coconut.

We were done eating and Ulele offered to give us a tour of their brewery. We gladly accepted and headed down to meet the Ulele Brewer: Tim Shackton. Tim is a very passionate man whom is a minimalist when it comes to brewing beer. He believes in keeping the brewing process simple and clean. The result is very delicious beer. Ulele's spring brewery goes from grain to glass with no additives, preservatives or fillings which is pretty cool. I definitely recommend taking a tour of the brewery if you get the chance. We tried the Magbee's Honey Lager and the Buckhorn Black Lager (named after the Mayor). Both of them were delicious! I was really impressed with the multitude of levels of flavor in the Magbee's. Incredible. 

We were also treated to one last treat. We were able to see Ulele. She will soon become a fountain outside in front of the restaurant. For now, she is well protected. 


Thanks to a Ulele for a fantastic meal and a great night out. The food was incredible. While I liked everything, I definitely have had a few of the items at the front of my mind since this visit. I can't wait to get back to Ulele for the oysters (both of them!), the Native Saute, the Filet Mignon, the Ulele Burger and the Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream. Ohh my, that ice cream. It had little chunks of candied duck bacon in it and let's just say it...it was the best ice cream I have ever had. It's the type of ice cream you dream about. Bring a group of people with you because this ice cream is best when split among friends. 

For reservations at Ulele (highly recommended), visit Ulele online or call 813-999-4952.
 
Ulele
1810 N. Highland Ave.
Tampa, 33602
In Tampa Heights