Category Tampa Local

Whole Foods to the Rescue – Valentine’s Day 2013

* Alright. I’m going to start by saying that locking myself into five posts a week with specific topics just won’t work. I have a busy, active life and the moment this project becomes too much of a job I disappear for weeks at a time. I’d rather post 2-3 times a week with solid material than show you photos, events or recipes I don’t care about.

So in the spirit of being as true to myself as possible here is how I spent the weekend before Valentine’s Day with Jason. We went to Whole Foods for a Chocolate, Wine and Beer Extravaganza. They had many tables set up with tons of tastings. In the spirit of being accommodating and wonderful store they are they were sure to pull out a box of vegan chocolates for me to have with the pairings- it really was a lot of fun. We made sure to sign up for an upcoming beer class too.

I am still getting used to having my new camera. I absolutely love it but there is a large adjustment period from the XTi I used to have and the 5D Mark II. Bear with me while I get back on my feet. :)

olives blog

table 1 blog

roses table blog

spread blog

sushi blog

living blog


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Sample Thursdays – Mellow Mushroom!

What can I say about Mellow Mushroom- except that they’re awesome! When I lived in Brandon I used to go here when I could, but that was pre-vegan days. It’s only recently (as in the last six months or so) that I realized they serve Daiya cheese! With the addition of a vegan cheesey topping I have found a safe haven for my pizza cravings. Not to mention they make one of the best spicy bloody marys, with extra olives, that I’ve ever had.

Honestly, I’d love to write a long, drawn out review of this place, tell you some ins and outs, etc. but there’s not much more to say than: they are effin’ amazing and you should check them out!

bloody mary blog

pizza blog

slice blog

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Weekly Wednesday – Attending High Tea

*Well, ladies and gentlemen, it has finally happened.


Whew. I have been waiting to blog that ever since last Friday when I made the purchase. I have been waiting for this update for nearly four years. I have been ready as a photographer but too poor to make it happen. This year is different for me. I am seeing the fourth year of my maintained weight loss, I have made my debt manageable, switched to a new (higher paying) job, etc. It was time- especially since I heard Canon is discontinuing this model.

I could go into the details of how and why but they’re boring and ultimately the important part is that it happened! I am still getting used to all the new settings (and reading (and re-reading) the manual). I could not wait to take photos though, so Saturday morning Erika and I headed to Empress Tea Room for some high tea and photos. It was a blast.

I’m not one hundred percent thrilled with all the photos and like I said, the settings are new to me. I had Dante (my old XTi) for going on six or seven years. This is a big change for me. One I couldn’t be happier about, but it’ll take some getting used to. Look forward to sharing my progress and enjoy the view of our tea time. :)












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Sample Thursdays – Why I love Whole Foods Market

* Sometimes a company does things really wrong, so wrong that you hold it against them for for days, weeks, maybe even years. These transgressions could be justified or ridiculous (I mean come on, you know you get a little excitable sometimes, it happens to the best of us). You tell everyone about this awful experience and you run their name as far into the ground, down into the dirt, as you possibly can. You attack the service, the employees, the cleanliness, the timeliness, etc. Somehow, that little problem you had that one time has now morphed into a huge ordeal. And now, with the jump forward in technology, it’s not just the few people you have face-to-face contact with. No. Instead it’s the whole world wide web. Yelp, Google reviews, and a whole slew of others, are just waiting to hear about that experience and sink that business even lower than before.

This is not one of those stories.

This is the story of a triumph. In the face of critical, untrained reviewers who believe their opinion and their experience should be held up in the highest regard, Whole Foods Market stands tall. From the products they carry, the people they employ and the atmosphere of love and compassion I am constantly and consistently stunned by what a great business they are. Are they perfect? No. Is one location better than another? Perhaps. Do I believe they are without sin in all regard? Certainly not. But what I do believe with my whole heart and with every dollar in my pocket, is that they are working to be the best they can.

Jason and I went in on Tuesday evening for dinner. I felt lazy and he likes the food. Additionally I needed a few items for my vegan bake swap that Meg is hosting. I decided to go for a sandwich. Just a sandwich. Nothing fancy or exciting. The following (and this is word for word how I sent my customer review via their website) is how my experience went down:

I have been shopping at this  location for nearly two years. In the last year I have gone vegan and rely heavily on your products ranging from sweets to your hot bar on the nights I don’t feel like cooking.

Well, last night was one of those lazy nights. My boyfriend and I stopped in for a hot, delicious, veg meal. I opted for your sandwich counter (which I do fairly regularly with the addition of the Gardein chick’n patty). I rolled through my order until we came to the dreaded, “Do you want any cheese?”

I sighed, sadly, as usual. “No, thank you,” I said, “I don’t eat dairy.”

The gentleman behind the counter glanced up surprised and said, “You do know we offer vegan cheese…right?”

I seriously caught my breath and my eyes went huge. I have been eating these sandwiches forever and no one has told me that- and I said so! “What?!” I exclaimed- “How did I not know this and how has no one said so?!”

He smiled and laughed saying, “I guess because I’ve never made your sandwich before.”

I know this seems like kind of a dramatic reenactment of how it happened, but it’s truly not. ****, the guy that was working, laughed through it with me. Instead of giving me weird looks or shrinking away (like people tend to do with my huge personality) he simply said, “Indeed we do have a vegan cheese- and now you know! So the next time you come in, whether it’s me or someone else here, you can definitely ask and not miss out!”

Now, I have worked in sales for most of my life and often have found that it’s the mistakes that get remembered, but I want you to know that this experience (like so many that I have there) was superb. The staff is always friendly and helpful, but last night was one of those times that I felt truly appreciated and respected as a consumer. I was treated like a friend rather than a dollar sign.

So please keep up the great work. You continue to be my go-to health store, I participate in your charity donations and do all of my national/international vegan-swap shopping inside your doors.

I will sing your praises via every social networking site I’m on and will also be blogging this particular event.

Thank you for being the great business you are, it is truly, truly appreciated.

It’s a little hard for me to explain exactly how it felt. I am an exceptionally animated person. More than words can ever say on a computer screen. You kind of have to see me in action. When I say things like “my eyes went huge” I mean it. I get bug eyed and make loud gasping sounds. I am used to people being a little put off or surprised, but this guy took it all in stride. Not only that, but he laughed with me! Often, when someone thinks you should know something, people get a little condescending. I know this from experience, but not in this case. He was happy to share with me, he was happy to help me and he was happy to assure me that in the future it would be no problem for anyone to accommodate my request.

Honestly, I felt like a friend, not a customer. He was looking at me and interacting with me like I was a real person, there were no dollar signs in his eyes as I am so used to dealing with in this product driven environment. He saw me there with my boyfriend so don’t even try the, “I bet he just wanted to sleep with you,” line, I see where your mind is, haha.

But more than all of this, and the recount of this single (though there are many) great experience Whole Foods is just a good company. Supporting and promoting healthy lifestyles, compassionate charities and an all around better way to live. I will continue to shop here and I will use every ounce of social networking juice I have to let people know that they’re a company worth being a part of.

Additional perk, if you have one in your area, take a look at their cooking class schedules and other events- like I said- healthy lifestyle! ;)

The first photo below is the sandwich in question for the other night. I also added two photos of other meals I’ve had there for lunches and dinners. Enjoy!

the sandwich in question

foods gar

hot bar

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Weekly Wednesday – Beer Me!

* In this week’s get-to-know-me edition we have the final installment of Jason’s birthday events! Just a quick note, I do want to preface this post with the following: it’s only in the last two years or so that I have developed a taste for beer and Jason has liked it for an even shorter time than that. So this entire post, this whole excursion, was going out on a limb. It was a risk to be sure, but it’s a risk that’s paid off. So onward! Into the heart of things.

For the last of Jason’s birthday outings I got him (read: us) passes to a beer making instruction class at the local Booth’s Brewing. We had an absolutely fantastic time. I was surprised by how much fun it really was to be honest. I mean, instructional courses never seem like they should be really enjoyable. If you’re teaching me to do something I should have the ability to actually do whatever it is you want me to learn, but with a group of nearly forty people that’s not really possible.

Even through all of that I did get some great photos, we tasted some delicious home brewed samples, against all odds we actually did learn how to make beer and thanks to Erika and Jared we already have a home brew kit! We have one or two more pieces of equipment that will be necessary to start but hopefully by next weekend we will be able to start the brewing process. The fermenting does take about two weeks (and in many cases much longer!) so it might be a while before you hear about this project again, but I am so excited. When you calculate the costs it’s a billion times cheaper to make your own (okay, that’s an exaggeration) and Booth’s offers clone kits in some of my favorite flavors (including Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and Punkin Ale!). Overall it should be a fun thing to do and I look forward to sharing the results!

Photos 8, 9, & 12 taken by Jason
Photo 11 taken by Erika
Photos on Flickr and Google+


grain sock

grain sock

liquid malt


dry malt

dry malt

me making beer


e and j

j and i

photo bomb



sierra nevada clone

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