Tag Archives: Tampa Bay

When Lightning Strikes, Build A Sense Of Community

Let’s get one thing very straight…I am not a sports fan.

sports-fan

I sort of want to blame my father for my overall lack of interest even though he actually loves sports. I know, it’s Father’s Day on Sunday and I do wish him a very happy one, but as a child, if there was a University of Michigan football game that conflicted with a special event there was a lot of discussion about whether he would be there.

I may never live down the fact that I decided to get married to my first husband on the day of the Michigan-Ohio State football game in November 1988.  My mother, the ever so smart woman that she was, threw my father a tailgate party at the hotel where all of our guests were staying in lieu of him possibly following through on the idea of chartering a plane to go to the game in Columbus and thinking he could still make it back in time for the wedding. So much for the day being all about me.2012_12_29_08_48_230699

He was also very involved for many years in our community’s Little League…VERY INVOLVED !

And if there was a sporting event on Sunday afternoon that ran late, we couldn’t go out to dinner until it was over.

Side note: My mom had a general rule about the kitchen being closed most Sunday nights..have I mentioned she was really smart?

Don’t get me wrong, my father did a lot of stuff with us as kids and until we became teenagers with the typical teenage angst and attitudes, he set aside at least one afternoon a month to take me and my siblings separately to an activity of our choice. We joke about his sports’ obsessions now, however, at the time I really didn’t get it. It’s amazing what years of therapy can do to help, right?

So call me crazy but…I resented sports by the age of 6. I suppose it also didn’t help that I was not the most coordinated child and still have terrible depth perception. I blame that on being born cross-eyed and to all the boys that teased me about it in elementary school, sorry if karma has paid you a visit but you kind of brought it on yourselves.

Yeah, sports weren’t, aren’t and probably never will be my thing.

Well, that’s not 100% true but I will get to that in a minute.

It is true that I don’t like watching sports and I really don’t understand most of the rules.

Seriously!

I mentioned in a recent blog my inability after 14 years of watching my son play soccer both at school and on competitive teams that I still don’t know how to tell when a player is off sides.

In addition…
I think baseball is like watching paint dry…
I have no clue where the puck is through most of a hockey game…
I don’t get spending 4 or 5 hours trying to put a little ball in 18 holes or watching a car go round and round a track (I do, however, think horse racing is beautiful and my friend Laura will appreciate me saying that especially since today is her birthday)…
I don’t like the idea that a lot of athletes use their status to feel entitled or it gives them the right to be above common decency and the law…
And I will never be able to justify in my head why athletes make more than teachers and nurses.

All that being said, I live in Tampa Bay and all three of the major sports teams…Lightning, Buccaneers and Rays…work very hard these days at raising the profile of our region especially when you have them involved in initiatives like Give And Grub, a fantastic non-profit food truck with a mission to fight hunger.  

When I moved here almost 20 years ago, the Bucs were by no means a winning team (ok, no need to talk about whether or not they have been the past few years), the Lightning were toddlers (the franchise was only 3 years old although holding their own by making it to the playoffs in 1996) and the Rays were still just a twinkle in some soon to be owner’s eyes (their first season was 1998).

This was not a diehard sports town/region…yet.

Slowly but surely, Tampa Bay has put itself on the map as a legitimate place for fans to be, well, fans. And after watching the Stanley Cup playoffs and finals over the past several weeks unfold in the national spotlight, it does seem they are finally taking us seriously.

Yes, I said us.

I watched more minutes of hockey in the past month or so than I previously watched in my entire life. I grew up in Detroit and lived in New York for many years so I know about hockey towns. I just went and read a book when my father or now ex-husband were watching a particular game.

Another side note: My first date with the ex? A U of M – Notre Dame hockey game. Yeah, it was a sign, I know.

I’m thinking the biggest reason I willingly sat through all of the recent games was because I understand now more than ever how important it all is to the future of the place I now call home. Before I owned my baked goods company for the years I did and now work as the Director of Strategic Relationships for OJ Mortgage, I guess I wasn’t really invested in Tampa Bay. I volunteered at my kids’ schools and engaged in a lot of fundraising for our local Jewish Community Center but I would be kidding myself if I said any of that helped the overall region grow.

Truth be told, I never thought I was here for the long haul. When my first husband moved us here in 1995, I thought we’d stay 10 years tops. After he made the money he thought he would in Real Estate development, I figured we would move to Northern California and open a cute little bed and breakfast where I would cook fabulous food with local ingredients and he would manage the finances and wine cellar.

I think I still cook fabulous food, do a pretty good job at managing the finances in my second marriage and keep enough wine on hand should a group of friends come for dinner at the last minute. But it is unlikely I will ever own a B&B in Napa or Sonoma. It’s all good, though, I have plenty of other dreams to work on.

As I watched the final minutes of Game 6 the other night knowing the Chicago Black Hawks were likely going to win 2-0 and claim the Stanley Cup title, I also watched Tampa Bay’s pride swell on social media. “Great effort”, “Intense series”, “Way to go Bolts”, “Here’s to next season”, “Always The Thunder” and many other very positive comments filled my news feed.

There didn’t seem to be any bitterness or blame. I’m guessing it’s because we still won a lot of recognition and credibility, that is, with the exception it seems from Suntrust Bank that didn’t feel it was necessary to light up the top of their very prominent downtown building in Lightning colors during the games. Boo Suntrust

Topher Morrison is the Managing Director of Key Person of Influence USA and definitely understands a thing or two about raising your profile in your community and, more importantly, supporting your community. Kudos to him for displaying the photo above the way he did…I am sure Sykes Enterprises appreciated the Tweet, Suntrust not so much.

My husband, of course, the fierce independent mortgage broker that he is said it’s just one more reason not to trust big banks for your mortgage needs. Gotta love the big guy for always finding his own silver lining.

And besides, who needs Suntrust when Wallet Hub recently ranked Tampa Bay as #4 in the nation for hockey fans … #GoBolts !

Sports may not be my “thing”, but a sense of community definitely is and will remain one whether I stay in Tampa Bay or not. I just needed about two decades to figure it out.

So here’s to Lightning striking, Buccaneers invading and Rays…ummmm…stinging????….again and again. And here’s to all of our communities getting bigger, stronger, better.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

58 Comments

Filed under Call Me Crazy, Community Building, Tampa Bay

Technology IS The Devil…And The Reason For Vodka!

In the past few weeks I have gone through a technology meltdown. And that means I drank a lot of vodka. Hey, don’t judge…we all have our vices. Mine just happens to be something with a splash of cranberry juice.

So what drove me to drink? My computer, cell phone and two tablets all acting wonky, not to mention the Bluetooth in my car for whatever reason pairing my cell phone for calls but not media. I know, that’s not an end of the world problem but I use my time in the car to catch up on podcasts about business related stuff. (My favorite you ask? Biz Women Rock)

Fortunately, I have a great computer guy who got my laptop back to “I can tolerate this” status. I don’t expect miracles, but I do think it still deserves a shoutout for Carlos and Ivonne at Fix My Computer On Site here in Tampa. Contact them…seriously, they will not disappoint. They didn’t pay me for this endorsement, I just think they are really awesome.thumbs up

My phone carrier and car dealership…well, that’s a different story. No reason to even mention any names…the last time I did that I got banned from an entire cruise line.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not afraid to name names, I just feel like what’s the point? When it comes to technology, all manufacturers and service providers, in my opinion, are the devil and we have all sold our souls to them by constantly buying their products and signing up for their services.

technology devil

So call me crazy but…I hate technology. That said, I know it is a necessary evil in our lives and we’ll never be able to turn back the hands of Steve Jobs time on this earth… may he RIP. But when things seem to be temporarily (fingers crossed) hurting more than helping, I have to stop and rant take a breath.

Easier said than done especially after spending 3 hours at the dealership and 5 hours at the phone carrier tech support center over the span of 2 days plus about 2 hours back and forth on the phone with customer service calls. Oh and everyone was pointing the finger at each other so, yeah, that is always fun.

Truth be told, I have no one to blame but myself. I am way too reliant on all of this stuff and I think I want out

…as I sit here typing this blog

…on my laptop

…that I’ll then upload to my website

…using Wifi

…and disseminate across social media channels

…undoubtedly via mobile devices

Meh…

Honestly, what’s a girl mature woman person to do? I mean is it really too much to ask that if I spend hundreds of dollars on a device or thousands of dollars on a car that they work properly?

#rhetoricalquestion

I haven’t resolved my tablets issues…more than likely I will have to bite the bullet and get another one. I can understand, sort of, replacing the one that’s 3 1/2 years old. It’s slow, painfully slow, and although I am relatively certain that the powers that be in Silicon Valley and across Asia are laughing their corporate tushies off all the way to the bank, I guess this is the price I will have to pay for going down the technology rabbit hole again and again and again.

The other tablet? That was kind of a freebie when I switched carriers last year so I’m trying not to stress about that one. But still…I need to “wipe the cache partition” whatever that means. I tried following the instructions for doing it via a Google search but pressing MENU+VOLUME UP+POWER all at the same time requires, as one of my friends commented, #octopushands.#octopushands

Meanwhile, the phone – Bluetooth pairing issue? Well, that all started because I thought my former phone screen had cracked and I replaced it using my insurance policy.

Note to self: If your phone has a protective hard plastic clear cover it will, believe it or not, actually protect your phone screen. Good idea to check that’s what cracked before paying the $100 deductible for a new phone.

#IAmAnIdiot

Anyway, the new phone was an upgrade so bigger, faster, better, right?

Sure, but apparently only if you get a new car to go with it…or maybe the user just doesn’t know what she is doing???

I stopped at the dealership and asked if they could just pair it back up. There must be a step I was forgetting.

The old phone Bluetooth pairing worked just fine but the car dealership guy said it had to be a new phone issue and sent me to the phone carrier tech support center. They supposedly tried everything and deduced that the car’s Bluetooth software needed an update and sent me back to the dealership.

Ugh…

The car dealership looked at me like I had 8 heads when I walked in again and told them what the phone carrier said.  Hey, I already need 8 arms so maybe 8 heads will be the answer to my technology woes?

They took the keys and about 2 hours later had me go out to the area where 100 other cars were being serviced, lowered my car down on the lift thingy, told me to get in the driver’s seat and the car tech got into the passenger seat. He wanted to show me that his phone paired fine.

Ummmm…so how exactly does that help me?

After sitting out in a very hot garage for about 45 minutes with the guy pushing a bunch of buttons,  nothing was coming out of my phone through the car speakers. My makeup was melting off my face and I was sweating through my carefully chosen dress for an event that I was attending that afternoon. I was done, reminding myself that my car lease is up this summer and this problem will hopefully resolve itself when I do, in fact, spend thousands getting a new car. Crazy Lady v Goliaths

I left the dealership and about a mile later there was sound coming from my car speakers via my phone Bluetooth connection.

Don’t know how, don’t really care. I just went home and poured myself a vodka on the rocks to celebrate a small success for the day and maybe earning 1 or 2 points on the scoreboard of #firstworldproblems.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut !

35 Comments

Filed under Call Me Crazy, Random Stuff, Technology and Social Media

Did You Hear The One About A Vegetarian Walking Into A Bacon Festival?

I am a vegetarian…well, sort of. I eat any fish or seafood so I guess that makes me a pescetarian, but meat and poultry products haven’t graced my lips since I was 15.

So why would a person who hasn’t touched the stuff in over 30 years want to go to a bacon festival?America Loves Bacon   4.11.15   Tampa FL

Call me crazy but…curiosity mostly…I thought it would be interesting to see who shows up both as attendees and vendors.

And I have to say, I was not disappointed. What can I say, I am easily amused.

Besides, I wanted to pay homage to the Spanish settlers who introduced America to bacon back in the 1500s. I made mention of this particular fact in my blog last week. By the way, did you know there are actually 5 ways to say bacon in Spanish?…

Uno…Tocino
Dos…Tocineta
Tres…Panceta
Quatro…Beicon
Cinco…Bacón

Hmmm…I guess we adopted #5 in English.  And suffice it to say, if you ever travel to a Spanish speaking country you can now feel pretty confident in ordering bacon properly…You’re welcome.

Full disclosure: This is where I have to insert the standard blogger’s thing that this is technically considered a “sponsored post”. I did receive 2 complimentary passes to the America Loves Bacon Festival  this past weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds (thanks to a fellow member of Tampa Bay Bloggers, Carlos Hernandez of Carlos Eats)  in exchange for writing this, but anything to help promote things happening in the Tampa Bay community and satisfy my curiosity  I will happily sell my soul…ok, maybe not my soul…but you know what I mean. Carry on…

I obviously needed a sidekick of sorts to do all the sampling. I figured my 18 year old son or my husband would happily come along for the ride but they didn’t seem to share my curiosity for this particular field trip.

Their loss and my friend Ellen’s gain. I think her response when I asked her whether she wanted to go was “Shut up!”

I took that as a yes.

We actually had been at the Walk For Wishes that morning supporting another friend who has a son with neuroblastoma and had been a Make a Wish Foundation “wish” recipient last year.

Pediatric cancer survivors helping grant the next "wish"

Pediatric cancer survivors helping grant the next “wish”…     Our friend’s son is the second from the left

The actual walk took place along the just completed (but 40 years in the making) Tampa Riverwalk

Awesome photo opp along the Riverwalk

Awesome photo opp along the Riverwalk

…and then walked an extra 3 miles to and from the Tampa Convention Center to watch yet another friend’s daughter for a little while in a volleyball tournament. Ellen decided that she needed a little extra pre bacon festival prep so she ran up and down the steps outside the convention center just for good measure. She’s the one with her arms up in the air in case you can’t tell.

My friend Ellen during her best impression of Rocky before the bacon festival

Ellen doing her best impression of “Rocky”

By the time we got to the bacon festival, we were really hungry so we made a bee line for the first food truck we saw. Lucky for me it was The Maine Thang, a “pescetarian” based truck and we shared a lobster roll that hit the spot, albeit a very expensive one… $11. Yeah, as usual, I found the most expensive thing to eat in the whole place.

Good friends share lobster rolls

Good friends share lobster rolls

Worth $11? Does it really matter when you are hungry???

Worth $11? Does it really matter when you are hungry???

Onward and upward…

Ellen eyed the booth for Datz Dough, a South Tampa foodie mecca, where she claimed their bacon brownie “ridiculous”…as in ridiculously amazing.

Datz Dough Bacon Brownie

Before I could get a decent photo of the bacon brownie it went into Ellen’s mouth so that means I had no choice but to post this photo…sorry Ellen

Their bacon mac ‘n cheese, though…apparently not so amazing. She took one bite and asked for her sample ticket back. Fortunately, they didn’t argue with her and we moved on to The Madison Chocolatiers West and their bacon donut. Ellen claimed she was only going to take one bite so she could pace herself, but it seemed to have disappeared rather quickly.  I assume that means she liked it.

Madison Chocolatiers West Bacon Donut

This time I got a photo before a bite was taken.

As we meandered around to the various booths and food trucks, the lines were getting longer by the minute. Ellen, however, was clearly struggling with what to get with the precious remaining sample tickets. Then she stopped suddenly, looking intensely at the menu on the side of one of the food trucks and screamed…

"Shut the front door...deep fried bacon wrapped twinkies?"

“SHUT THE FRONT DOOR…DEEP FRIED       BACON WRAPPED TWINKIES?…           NO FREAKING WAY!”

Yes, all caps do emphasize just how excited she got, don’t they? I waited in line for almost 30 minutes for this…

20150411_141555

Is there anything they won’t deep fry or wrap in bacon?

 

while Ellen sampled these…

Bacon and onion perogies

Bacon and onion perogies

For the record, there were lots of people sporting some interesting articles of bacon inspired clothing/costumes including these guys dressed as slices of the stuff…

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Can’t imagine it really would have tasted very good Ellen!

and this one…

20150411_134653

Hehe…his shirt says boobies

but I kind of liked this one the best for it’s creative extension of the word “exercise”…

This is one giant stretch!

This is one giant stretch

Did I mention it was hot?

Like stupid hot…as in why are we walking around in the middle of the day when it is so freakin’ hot!

This is Florida in April after all and, yes, you literally could have fried the bacon on the pavement.

073de768932bedfa436cb2a02708cde3

But that didn’t seem to deter the thousands of people who showed up and, yes, that included a few protesters stationed right at the entrance/exit to the fairgrounds. I have to question if they thought there was any possibility they were going to convert a single bacon loving soul on their way in or out, but I definitely give them major props for trying.

What exactly is their end game at a bacon festival?

What exactly is their end game at a bacon festival?

When all was said and done, Ellen sampled 8 different things, claimed she was officially “over” bacon and was going home to have celery sticks for dinner.

The next morning she set me a text with the message “Look what Dave (aka her husband) is doing” and this photo…

So much for being "over" bacon

So much for being “over” bacon

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut !

Bacon Fact

30 Comments

Filed under Call Me Crazy, Food, Great Causes, Tampa Bay

History Lessons…Tampa Bay Style

I consider myself a person who really likes history and whenever I travel I love finding tours, museums, whatever to visit. But in my own community, Tampa Bay, I’ve kind of taken it for granted. Then I spent a recent Friday afternoon at the Tampa Bay History Center  as well as the following day at The Ringling Museum in Sarasota and realized there is nothing about our region’s history that should ever be taken for granted.

So let’s start with the History Center…I was invited on a VIP tour with several other Ambassadors for Tampa Bay Business Owners thanks to Timothy Bennett of Armon Events . Our tour guide was Rodney Kite-Powell, who started out working for the center one summer during college when it was essentially a storefront on Harbour Island, an area adjacent to Downtown Tampa, and never really left.

Tampa_History_Center_(3486924401)

That was about 20 years and several paid grades ago. He is now the Curator of History and we were so fortunate to get his take on all of the museums exhibits and artifacts.  In other words, he was awesome…and so is the museum. Seriously, I know many of you are rolling your eyes, thinking what could possibly be so interesting about Tampa Bay’s history.

Honestly, I used to roll my eyes too. I mean, I never really thought Tampa Bay or Florida, in general, had done much in terms of contributing to our nation’s history and culture other than becoming a mecca for senior citizens and Disney fans.

When  I was working for a research and marketing company almost 15 years ago and the president of the company was very much behind the development of and fundraising for what is now the Center’s permanent home…behind Amalie Arena in the Channelside District of Downtown Tampa and part of the ever expanding Tampa Riverwalk  …I just didn’t get it despite how much I happen to really like American history. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that 15 years ago I still looked upon Tampa as a whackadoodle place, but as I’ve mentioned many times before, because of how much I have connected with the business community here in recent years I have grown to appreciate all that it has to offer more than I could have ever imagined.

So here’s my history lesson of Tampa Bay in a nutshell…#BlackerStyle of course…

  • Spanish explorers came to the region in the early 1500s in search of gold and encountered the native Tocabaga Indians. They never found gold but in the process, they essentially drove the tribe to extinction because of the fighting that ensued and the disease they spread.  No bueno, Espana, no bueno. At least there are a few remnants remaining including the canoe pictured below made from a tree trunk. Not sure I’d trust it today but back then, it definitely was a clever mode of transportation for the Tocabagans.dug out canoe
  • There is, however, one thing the Spanish did bring to this region first that we kind of can’t be too mad at them about…bacon! You’re welcome Estados Unidos. (Sidenote: The America Loves Bacon Festival is this weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds …I’m not sure the early explorers ever anticipated a festival around “jamón” but I assume you’ll thank me later  if you go)
  • Did you know that the Seminole Tribe was originally from Georgia and Alabama and known as the Creek Indians?  Sorry Creeks but FSU Seminoles does have a better ring to it.  Meanwhile, the United States government is still technically at war with the Seminoles since there was never a treaty signed after the last war between them ended in 1858. Something tells me the Seminoles aren’t too worried about it today given the success of the Hard Rock Casino here.Standing ground
  • Henry Plant was, of course, the gentleman who brought the railroad to the region after the discovery of rich phosphate deposits, giving a huge boost to the local economy. He built the Tampa Bay Hotel , the signature building on the present day  University of Tampa campus and now a National Historic Landmark, as well as several other hotels along the railroad route from the north, encouraging the growth of our tourism industry.  I’m guessing those weren’t exactly of the Motel 6 variety either.Tampa Bay Hotel
  • There is no disputing the role the cigar industry has played in our history. There is only one factory left today but in the 1920s there were 120 and more cigars were being made here than anywhere else in the world. Over 400 million a year to be exact. A few of the older Cubans in our community today apparently joke that their mothers, who worked in the factories, were “strippers”. They are, of course, referring to the fact that their mothers were responsible for stripping the tobacco leaves from the stems and not some of the first employees of a particularly famous Tampa landmark on Dale Mabry Highway.Cigars
  • And last, but certainly not least, Jose Gaspar, the pirate who we “celebrate” every year at the Gasparilla Festival (sorry, hard for me to understand why we celebrate pirates who were essentially rapists and thieves) …Totally made up. Yep, sorry, kids but Jose was part of a marketing campaign in the early 1900s that started the whole Gasparilla parade thing.  Hey, I’m just the messenger…if you want to debate it, you definitely need to hook up with Rodney at the Center.

Oh and two more things…1) Definitely do a docent tour if you go. I think you always get more out of these type of places when you have someone guiding you and 2) If you are looking for a very cool event space, you really do need to put the Center on your short list of possible venues. It has a fabulous 3 story atrium housing a Columbia Restaurant outpost and an outdoor patio overlooking the Garrison Channel.

Tampa History Center entrance 3

I think that’s enough of a history lesson for today. I’ll report on my visit to The Ringling Museum another time. But if you can’t wait, go see for yourself. I promise it will be just an equally amazing  immersion into Tampa Bay’s history.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut !

 

 

 

 

 

38 Comments

Filed under Call Me Crazy, Florida Life, Tampa Bay, Travel

Give And Grub…Sticking It To Hunger…One Meal At A Time

Full disclosure: This is where I have to insert the standard blogger’s thing that this is technically considered a “sponsored post”. I did receive 3 complimentary meals and two t-shirts in exchange for writing this, but anything for a great cause I will happily sell my soul…ok, maybe not my soul…but you know what I mean. Carry on…

If you happen to be on my email list or follow me on social media, you may have seen…and even entered…the contest I was running a few weeks ago for a chance to have lunch with me.

Ok, look, I am not that full of myself to think anyone in Tampa Bay would enter a contest just to break bread with me. I mean, I like food, know food, create some pretty awesome food for family and friends, spent many years working in the food industry plus I do believe I have great table manners and can carry a conversation, but there’s no reason anyone would enter a contest for a free meal with me “just because”.

So what was the hook? Give And Grub, a joint project between Laser Spine Institute, Metropolitan Ministries, Feeding America Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay Lightning. This non-profit food truck hit the roads of Tampa Bay last fall with a mission and passion to help fight hunger with every meal purchased or even with a simple share of the hashtag #GiveAndGrub.

GiveandGrub_Badge_Blue

How smart is that?

Call me crazy but…most of us are on social media anyway so would it really hurt any of us to share this hashtag?

And we’ve all gotta eat! So if the food is good (and in this case it’s great…trust me) and the truck happens to show up right outside your office at lunch time, at a Thursday or Saturday Lightning home game, numerous events on any given night or weekend or maybe even the next wedding you attend (yep, they’ll do that), it’s kind of a no-brainer right?

And so far, this no-brainer has amounted to over 30,000 meals delivered to children in need.

I was originally supposed to experience Give And Grub as part of a Tampa Bay Bloggers event, a group I had only recently gotten involved with online. I was really looking forward to meeting some of my fellow bloggers in person before a Lightning game at the beginning of March to sample all of the truck’s amazing offerings, in exchange, as mentioned in my disclosure above, for us all to write a blog about it.

But that was unfortunately during my week or two of being out of focus and the email invite got lost in a sea of a bazillion other emails.

When I realized I had missed it, I reached out to the Give And Grub advocate that had arranged the blogger event, begged for forgiveness and a chance to meet up with the truck sometime in the near future. My wish was granted…and I could bring a guest to boot…woo hoo!

So last week I met up with the truck behind a large office building on Kennedy Avenue at the foot of the Howard Frankland Bridge. This is when I should probably mention the lucky winner who got a free meal (but we didn’t actually eat it together…more on that later) was Kim Kindle, a fellow Tampa Bay Blogger, who also didn’t make to the Lightning game a few weeks before, pictured below with me and some t-shirts we were given.

Crazy Maybe But Gets Give And Grub Tshirts

Tina Rose Hunt, the social media manager for Laser Spine Institute, was also on hand to give us a little background about Give And Grub. Suffice it to say, I was blown away by the information she provided including the fact that every Friday, Metropolitan Ministries delivers a package of 5 meals to every child (to consume at home over the weekend) at two area schools on behalf of the Give And Grub initiative.

They choose the schools based on the demographics provided through Hillsborough County’s Student Nutrition Services Free and Reduced Lunch Program, part of the National School Lunch Program which guarantees every school-aged child meals and snacks during any school day.

nslp (1)

Source: NSLP

Unfortunately, for many of the children who receive subsidized meals during school, once they get home dinner may not happen…or at least not one with significant substance. And while it is bad enough for them to have little promise of a balanced meal at home during the week, can you imagine going an entire weekend?

I asked Tina if they have instituted a cap on the number of free meals they are willing and able to give away and while the initial goal was set at 150,000 over the course of a year, they are considering making this a permanent project. In fact, they are looking to expand the concept to the locations around the country where Laser Spine Institute has other facilities. Obviously, the logical partnership would be if each of those markets has a hockey team so they can carry the branding of their Stick It To Hunger campaign but I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to come up with another clever tagline for any potential partner in those communities.

Anyway, before I knew it, I realized we had been talking to Tina for almost an hour. And after smelling the various foods being prepared and watching customers walk by with their meals that entire time, yeah, I was hungry. I was thrilled to find out I could order 3 meals to sample and, while I love me some good eats, clearly I wasn’t planning to eat it all nor was I about to let any it go to waste.

And by “it”, I mean the Bishop Bowl consisting of blackened shrimp wasabi caramel, saffron red beans, mango and plantains on a bed of cilantro rice…

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the Callahan’s Mac Slam, a combination of seared Kielbasa and caramelized peppers and onions on top of cavatappi pasta with a creamy boursin cheese sauce…

BvZOFFZWWxiS2vsoi_kYmN8v_SikheSeFJgRdPQcujU4=w1007-h553-no

the Hedman’s Steak Tacos loaded with marinated skirt steak and served with a roasted corn pico de gallo, chipotle ranch dressing and Tijuana rice…

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and finally the Cross-Check Sweet Potato Fries with not one, but two dipping sauces…marshmallow and caramel.

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I took it all to go and headed to Centre Club Tampa for, believe it or not, the monthly Food and Wine committee meeting. Yep, I strategically planned it so I could share my bounty and help spread the word to the various committee members. Sure enough, in the blink of an eye the food was gone! My work there…and now here…I believe is done.

Well, that’s not true because I want to make sure that if you are interested in having the Give And Grub Truck come to your office or event, please click here and fill out the request form. And don’t forget, simply sharing the #GiveAndGrub hashtag is the easiest way you can help support this incredible effort to fight hunger.

Ok, that’s really it for now…#BlackerOut !

P.S. In case you are wondering what my companion Kim on this mission ordered, here she is in all of her food glory with the Chicken Parmkos (named after the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos) which,of course, is a breaded chicken cutlet with house-made marinara and aged parmesan chese on a fresh Italian roll.

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FYI…I forgot to mention above that all of the menu items are named after Lightning players and others involved with the team. Seriously, now I am really done!

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Filed under Great Causes

It’s Just Another #ManicMonday…Making Networking and Relationship Building Part Of Every Day

Yep, it is just another manic Monday around here. And as I look at my calendar, my head is spinning. But it’s all good, I can keep it under control like I always do with the help of a bazillion reminders popping up on my phone and computer.  That assumes, of course, I put all of the events on my calendar in the first place. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

I’m actually heading to LA on Tuesday to spend a few days with some childhood friends that are sprinkled around the metropolitan area and then celebrate my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah over the weekend. I worked all weekend writing a few blogs, planning out some social media content and, yes, even went into Quickbooks to balance my accounts. Seriously, hasn’t anyone created a way for that to happen automatically?

Oh wait, it’s called outsourcing….

hire a va

Hopefully after a few meetings and running a bunch of errands, I will be home at a reasonable time to pack and be out the door at the crack of OMG o’thirty tomorrow morning. Somebody please promise me one day there will be a way to transport ourselves across the country in the blink of an eye and we no longer need to take early am flights!!!

Anyway, when I first started all of this current craziness (this website and Facebook community page),  I wanted to continue my passion for helping other businesses and organizations grow and succeed, something I had cultivated through my previous craziness while running my baked goods company, tcP! Sweets.

My "Killer" Brownie Bites

My “Killer” Brownie Bites

Many of you who followed me on that journey (or maybe even read the About page on this website) know that I networked my tushy off over the past 3 years building up a lot of recognition and credibility. And you may be surprised to hear I was able to do it by introducing myself a lot of times as a “networking slut”.

Did I mention you can call me crazy?

What can I say, I love connecting with people and I fully embrace every opportunity online and face to face. And I always want people to know that what they see is exactly what they get with me. I don’t think I ever go over the line by being offensive, I just like to keep it real.

In social media expert Kim Garst’s  new book, Will The Real You Please Stand Up, she focuses on how we all need to recognize in the world today how important it is to be authentic or, using her now trending hashtag, #BeYou.  I  happen to be a big fan of Kim so I may be a little biased when I say that she totally nails the whole “being real” thing in this book.

I choose to believe I live by her words in the image above every day. I am extremely enthusiastic about my message and truly hope that whatever it is I do throughout the days, weeks, months and years will inspire and influence others. Probably not in a Mother Teresa or Gloria Steinem way but hopefully still have some degree of an impact in my spheres of influence.

I touched on my, dare I say, obsession with networking and relationship building in a lot of tcP! blogs especially this one about my local “tribe”.

Hanging with my "tribe"

Hanging with my TBBO “tribe” at a piano bar on a marketing cruise in 2014…we totally rocked it!

At the risk of repeating myself from the past, let me just say I am very fortunate to have met some pretty incredible people here in Tampa Bay as well as around the world via all of the social media connections I’ve made but, trust me, it took a lot of work. The rewards, however, have been tremendous.

Most importantly, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now transitioning relatively seamlessly to my new venture as a Business Ambassador.

A what??????

Well, for those that don’t have the time, inclination or wherewithal to network  in a way that truly gains and maintains clients, I will be that person for a handful of small business owners in Tampa Bay.  Yep, more networking my tushy off 🙂 But my role as their ambassador, envoy, emissary, advocate, whatever you want to call it will go well beyond handing out a bunch of business cards at events.

Call Me Crazy Calling Card

It will be about cultivating relationships that will translate to business. And maybe not even with the other business owner I am sitting across the table from having coffee with. Let’s face it…not every business owner you meet will need to do business with you, but you never know who they know that will, right?

So yes, call me crazy, but despite all of the SEO, lead generation, social media, blogging, podcasting, webinars, emails and, yes, direct mail marketing small business owners do to get their name out there, there is always going to be a need to sit down face to face and have a conversation. My recommendation? Always make those conversations more about each other than about your businesses, especially in the beginning of building a relationship. People want to do business with the real you. If they don’t, then do you really want to do business with them?

That’s all for now…#BlackerOut !

 

 

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Filed under Business Development, Networking

Happy Valentine’s Day Blacker Style

I’ll keep this very short…and, of course, sweet being that today is somewhat about chocolate.

In our house we believe every day should be Valentine’s Day. I know, very sappy, but true. So we forego the flowers and chocolates as well as the overpriced dinner out and stick with a tradition that goes back to when my husband and I were dating.

Beth Blacker Valentine Menagerie

Our Valentine’s Day menagerie … please disregard the pots and pans in the background

Every year we each go out in search of the perfect new addition to what we call our Valentine menagerie. Surprisingly, we’ve never bought the same one for each other. They all play a song, some more current than others and each one has a somewhat unique movement…a lion opening and closing a cloak to Kool and The Gang’s “Ladies Night” or a gorilla jiggling to Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me”.

For 360 days out the year they all reside on the plant shelf above the guest room closet, no doubt collecting a ton of dust. But for the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, they make their home on our kitchen counter and whenever we walk by them we inevitably push at least one of the buttons and do a little dance ourselves. What can I say?…We are easily amused and, I suppose, a little crazy.

So without further adieu, please help me welcome the 2015 additions to our menagerie…

Three guesses what the fox sings and the first two don’t count 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day however you choose to celebrate, but hopefully with a little skip in your step and a song in your heart.

That’s it for now… #Blackerout

P.S. Feel free to leave a comment below and share any of your Valentine’s Day traditions or favorite, maybe even crazy, memories.

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Filed under Call Me Crazy, Holidays