Life with Alexa

by Jennifer Thai

*Disclosure: Through a partnership with AT&T, I was provided with an Amazon Echo to use and test for two weeks. The opinions expressed within this review are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of AT&T or Amazon.

When we were preparing our wish lists for the holidays, the Amazon Echo was something that pH had mentioned wanting. This two-week trial period gave us the chance to see whether we'd use the Amazon Echo as much as he thought we would, and gauge whether or not our use of it would be worth the price. 

I won't lie - having Alexa around was pretty nifty. We used her to request daily news updates and play holiday jazz music on Pandora. But, as much as it was cool, I don't think we're a tech-y, connected couple enough to use the Amazon Echo to its fullest potential, like controlling the lights, switches and thermostats. After this test run, I think the Amazon Echo Dot may be a little bit more up our alley - the price is a bit more on par with our expected usage of the device.

What are your thoughts when it comes to smart home technology? I'd love to hear your personal insight!

Local Bites: Cask Social Kitchen

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Last Friday marked my final day at HSN before heading into my new role as social media specialist at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital - to say a proper farewell and celebrate a wonderful year full of memories and learning opportunities, I had colleagues meet me for one final hurrah at one of my favorite spots in Tampa: Cask Social Kitchen.

Without a doubt, the Loft Lounge at Cask Social is my go-to spot for hosting private parties. Last year, I hosted both pH's 30th birthday surprise party and my oldest sister's baby shower in the intimate upstairs space at Cask Social. A $100 bartender's fee gets you access to the bar upstairs and a personal bartender for your party; you can opt to have your guests pay for their own tabs, or there are appetizer platters and brunch/dinner menus that can be arranged for your party. For pH's 30th, I booked the bar and opted for multiple appetizer platters for our friends to enjoy. For my sister's baby shower, we had a custom brunch menu for her guests.

This time around, I reserved the bar space and shared light bites with friends. Our bartender, Hana, is the best. I remember as I was setting up for pH's birthday party last year, I'd mentioned that I was starting to get hit with a cold, and she made me antioxidant-rich mocktails to sip on. Holy moly, were they the best freakin' mocktails I've ever tasted. Let me let you in on a little secret about me: if I want to have a really good time while out with friends, I won't drink - because the truth is, I get lethargic when I drink, which leads to me being a really boring compadre. So, on Friday, I asked her to once again shake me up some of her delicious, non-alcoholic creations, and they were just as amazing as I remembered.

Of course, she doesn't just specialize in non-alcoholic drinks - she's amazing at creating the boozy ones, too. pH is such a snob when it comes to drinking - he's a bourbon/whisky fella, and tends to turn his nose at most cocktails in the area. He loved the Vieux Carre that Hana made him - other favorites included the Whiskey Smash and the Paper Plane, included on Cask's Specialty Drinks Menu.

My delicious grapefruit-garnished mocktail.

pH's Vieux Carre

We ordered our favorite appetizers, Buffalo Cauliflower and Tuna Tartare (not pictured, because I ran into the common issue of excitedly eating prior to taking photos). But, I'm pretty darn sure that the highlight of my evening was the Chef's Seafood platter that pH ordered for me - out came a mound of stone crab claws, jumbo shrimp and freshly-shucked oysters. I cried.

Overall, it was an amazing evening filled with great people and equally great food and drinks. If you plan on hosting a large get-together, I highly recommend considering Cask Social Kitchen - you can reach out to Allison Gorrell via email at to get the planning process underway. All three of the events I've had at Cask Social have been absolutely wonderful, and I will continue to make it my number one option for parties!

New Year, New Make-Up Brushes {The Brush Guard + GIVEAWAY!}

by Jennifer Thai in

One of my favorite (if not the favorite) beauty finds in 2016 was The Brush Guard. Early last year, my friends at The Brush Guard sent me a few packages of their polyester mesh tubes to protect my precious makeup brushes with, and since then, my beauty routine has never looked so good - e.l.f make-up brushes will always have my heart, but I admittedly used to treat them like crap, going through them on a bi-monthly basis, and never cleaning them. 

I love how these Brush Guards protect my make-up brushes without distorting their bristles or shape, and I've kissed the common problem of broken and shedding bristles goodbye. The Brush Guard recently released its line of graphite brush guards, which make my make-up brushes look even sleeker than the original, clear ones.

Thanks to my Brush Guard friends, I'm giving you a chance to win a deluxe package of The Brush Guard Graphite guards! Head over to my Instagram page and look for the below image for instructions on how to enter. Good luck!

*Disclosure: The product featured in this post was provided by The Brush Guard for editorial consideration. This post was written on my own accord, and opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of The Brush Guard.

Local Bites: Florida Strawberries

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Strawberry harvesting season is here and I am looking forward to the next four-ish months of having ripe, juicy strawberries easily accessible in my life! Earlier this month, Datz Restaurant Group invited me to join them on a tour of Strawberry Station, a strawberry farm located in Plant City, to meet the farmers and pick some juicy berries.

We were greeted by the Florida Strawberry Grower's association and rows and rows of strawberries ready for picking.

Andy, Strawberry Sue and Mark from the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.

I got a lesson in the proper way of picking strawberries - it's a swift twist in the wrist!

Gorgeous bright red strawberries - they were both juicy and sweet!

Look at how tiny I am in this huge tractor!

After we participated in a friendly competition of which team could fill up six clamshells with strawberries the quickest, we left Strawberry Station and headed over to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA) headquarters, where we met the Executive Director of FSGA, Kenneth Parker and were treated to a beautiful strawberry picnic.

Kenneth Parker, Executive Director of FSGA.

It was such a wonderful day, learning all about Florida Strawberries and getting to fully appreciate the strawberry goodness that we are so lucky to have right in our backyard. You can join Florida Strawberries in celebrating strawberry season, by following along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Foodies, you are in for a treat - come January, Datz, Datz Dough and Roux Tampa will all roll out new dishes featuring fresh-from-Florida strawberries. My tummy cannot wait!

Local Bites: Bartaco in Hyde Park - Seventh Bartaco Secret

by Jennifer Thai in ,

Taco Tuesday is a thing, but let's get real - I personally celebrate tacos every day. Earlier this month, my foodie and blogger friend Jen joined me on a trip to Bartaco in Hyde Park Village to check out the seventh and latest #bartacosecret.

My beautiful friend Jen, blogger at

Bartaco Secret: Ancho Ahi Tuna Bibb Lettuce Taco

Sesame Ribeye Taco and Baja Fish Taco

Spiced Chocolate Pudding with a crunchy hazelnut topping

You might called it the anti-taco, being that it's wrapped in lettuce, but the Ancho Ahi Tuna Bibb Lettuce Taco is so far from that, and is still full of both texture and flavor. In fact, I can totally appreciate its low-carb self, considering pH's low-carb keto diet that we often have to take into consideration when going out for food. Check it out for yourself, by writing in 'Secret Taco' on your ordering sheet the next time you head to Bartaco for a bite!

In addition to these fresh and tasty Ancho Ahi Tuna tacos, we also ordered chips and guacamole to share, a Sesame Ribeye taco for Jen and my favorite Baja Fish taco for me, and finished off the meal with a delicious Spiced Chocolate Pudding. As always, Bartaco delivers a great experience and fantastic meal - we'll be back soon!

Bartaco Hyde Park is located at 1601 West Snow Avenue in Hyde Park Village in Tampa. It is open Sunday through Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Thursday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. You can check out the menu here. For the latest updates from Bartaco Hyde Park, follow along on Facebook.

*Disclosure: The meal featured in this post was provided by Bartaco for editorial consideration. This post was written on my own accord, and opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Bartaco or Barteca Restaurant Group.

Best of Holiday Gifting 2016

by Jennifer Thai in , ,

As I've barely been able to keep on track with my own holiday shopping, I'm sorry to say that I'll only be providing you with one single gift guide this year, which is more a round-up of my favorite items of 2016. Throughout the year, I've been exposed to so many different products, from beauty to home and from fashion to food. I've rounded up some of my top favorite items that I believe that are not only worth the price point, but will also leave a lasting impression on the recipient, based on quality and longevity.

  1. North by Northeast offers custom coordinate glassware, including Riedel stemless wine glasses and Stolzle crystal rocks glasses. It's the perfect way to preserve and display a precious moment or place in time. // Set of 4 Captain's Claret Glass for $120
  2. I've fallen in love with Pixi Beauty products this year - especially the Glow Tonic and Endless Silky Eye Pen, almost every product I've tried has been on point with lasting effectiveness. Fill up a box with The Best of Bright and a mixture of lip and eye favorites - she won't be disappointed! // Best of Bright Discovery Kit, $22
  3. Monica Vinader has some of the most beautiful, delicate jewelry pieces. I love that each piece can be custom engraved to reflect a special message, which makes it the perfect gift option for anyone in your life. // Rose Gold 'Fiji' Chain Bracelet, $295
  4. For the person in your life who loves crafting the newest dishes to try, Mary's Secret Ingredients delivers four boxes a year (one each season) containing the latest, new-to-market brands and kitchen tools. // $108 for a one-year subscription
  5. Help her get ready to rock 2017 with a gorgeous piece from Dalia MacPhee. Dalia MacPhee focuses on fashion that is wearable and affordable for all sizes (most pieces are available up to size 24W). // 3/4 Sleeve Sequin Dress, $119
  6. Comfortable sleep and great hair/skin? Yes, it exists. The NIGHT Pillow features a TriSilk™ moisturizing pillowcase, self-adjusting memory foam and a signature black hue that negates light. // $150
  7. Blemishes are one of life's greatest disappointments, so it makes sense to give the gift that keeps on giving clearer skin. Clear Rayz from Baby Quasar delivers light therapy that kills acne-causing bacteria and reduces the inflammation associated with breakouts. // $249
  8. I live for chic, comfortable fashion, and French Sole NY does not disappoint when it comes to work-ready ballet flats that are not only extremely stylish, but also extremely comfortable. Because, not every day was made for living in heels. // Peppy Herringbone flats, $190