hey tampa bae


travelStacey OswaldComment

Paul and I purchased the Tampa CityPASS last weekend at the Florida Aquarium, in the hopes of hitting five major attractions within nine days. The pass is a steal at $99, especially if you can manage to hit all five. But even if you go to only three, like us, you're still getting good bang for your buck. Tickets to Busch Gardens are $79, and the zoo is priced at $27.95, so even if you go to only those two, you're saving money with the CityPASS. Cool, right? 

On the topic of Busch Gardens... DEFINITELY splurge on the Quick Queue passes once you have your admission tickets. They are beyond worth it. Skipping lines is the most gratifying activity in the world, and it allows you to hit all the rides in a shorter period of time. Just don't bother adding on the extra $10 to skip the line for Cobra's Curse (see later section in post regarding this ride). 

The roller coasters at Busch Gardens are INSANE. My favorite is Cheetah Hunt- it accelerates 3 times throughout the course of the ride, and it takes you on a really scenic path through running water and greenery. Plus it's fast, as every roller coaster should be. 

Montu is consistently one of my favorites. Your feet dangle, it does a ton of loops, and it has a long ride time so it's always worth the wait. Can't beat a classic! 

Kumba is consistently rated one of the best roller coasters in the country, for good reason, and it's one of Paul's favorites. It beats you up with lots of quick turns and loops- I always walk off of this one with a slight headache. But worth it if you like big coasters! 

Falcon's Fury is legitimately terrifying. It takes you really really high, flips you sideways so you're looking at the ground (like a falcon- get it???), holds you there for FAR too long, and drops you. I was screaming bloody murder, and I typically don't get scared on roller coasters. So beware, if you're one who gets freaked out easily. 

SheiKra is great, but definitely try to get the front row. It's a ride with an almost 90 degree drop, and you don't get as big of a thrill if your view is blocked by people's heads. Cobra's Curse, BG's newest ride, is cool but not worth the extra $10, as previously stated. It's pretty slow in comparison to the other rides, and it doesn't do all that much. Just speed over there right when the park opens so you can skip the line without the added premium, as it is worth experiencing. 

I loved/hated seeing the animals. Loved because they were super close and extremely beautiful, hated because I despise the idea of putting animals in cages. Are any of y'all torn about zoos? I want to appreciate them for their conservation efforts, but I can never tell if organizations are being honest about their practices. And if I hate Sea World, shouldn't I hate other forms of animal captivity, too? #conflicted

On the topic of food- we happened to go to Busch Gardens the day after embarking on our lil vegan challenge, so it was definitely more difficult to eat there than I anticipated. But we totally made it work! Serengeti Overlook offered a great buffet with several vegan options: potato salad, green salad, quinoa salad, and fruit salad! SALAD FOR DAYSSSS. The chef even came out to walk us through the buffet and point out specifically which items were vegan. I 100% recommend this restaurant- for the food, and its amazing view! 

I already can't wait to go back to Busch Gardens! Howl-O-Scream, anyone? 

PS- If anyone has happened to notice an increased level of photo quality... blame Paul. He's officially the blog photographer, so from here on out, he'll be taking most of the pictures I post. Except food pictures (ie. the ones on my Instagram and even the DSLR ones on the blog), which I will always take. I also do all of my own photo editing. 

road trip RECAP

Stacey OswaldComment

I consider myself an expert Yelper, not because of the reviews I leave (truthfully, I don't post many) but because of my ability to weed through the BS and find the best possible restaurants in any location. To be honest, I'd be more uncomfortable without Yelp while traveling than my map app. I'm not sure what that says about me/my priorities, but oh well that's life. 


On my road trip, I found tons of amazing restaurants, workout studios, and activities, courtesy of Yelp and a few particularly helpful travel blogs. I thought I'd share a little road trip recap here, because Charleston is my favorite, Richmond is surprisingly awesome, and St. Augustine was on the Bachelorette this season so now EVERYONE will be going there. You're welcome for the travel forecast. 


Hot Yoga Barre- This actually might be my favorite workout studio to date. It's a gorgeous space, with brick abound and string lights scattered about. Their merchandise wall is lined with S'well bottles (as if I needed another reason to fall in love), and their staff is incredibly friendly. I was running a little behind, and they were extremely patient with me, which definitely isn't always the case. The class itself was SO wonderful- hot and sweaty, with an invigorating combination of true yoga, true barre, and cardio intervals. After two days sitting in a car, HYB was the perfect choice. If I end up going to William and Mary for grad school (which is a super real possibility btw), I'll be making the drive into Richmond often just for this studio! 

Ellwood Thompson's- The selection at this healthy, local grocery store was more expansive than Yelp let on. They had a wide variety of vegan snacks, paleo jerky for Paul, dairy-free ice cream (I ALWAYS check to see if a grocery store carries solid vegan ice creams, even when I can't buy them), and drool-worthy bakery items. Everything a girl could ask for, right? I was a little disappointed by the juice bar- fairly boring smoothies and subpar taste. BUT... still an amazing grocery store. And they have ginger shots! 

CHARLESTON (AKA I have an eating problem) 

Edmund's Oast- Coolest brunch place in Charleston. They have 41 beers on draft, and they make many of their own beers in-house, so if you like a brew with brunch, you'll be beyond pleased. But for those who don't like beer (=me), the food will more than make up for any alcohol envy. Our table's favorites were the pickled shrimp (just trust me), the cornbread with honey butter, and, for a lighter option, the summer fruits. 


 Mira Winery Tasting Room- Mira's wine tasting  was easily the best I've ever experienced- hefty pours, great explanations of the wines, and true quality from start to finish. Sorry Arrington, but I'm a Mira convert. Their Rosé of Syrah is top notch (even the men on the trip loved it), and their Chardonnay is wonderfully oaky. Don't even get me started on their actual Syrah... 

The Ordinary- This trendy seafood restaurant was one of my favorites in Charleston. I only wish I'd had one less cocktail at Prohibition so I could have taken a good picture! Their shellfish tower was a great choice for a party of four, but we equally enjoyed the snapper ceviche and the buratta with grilled peaches and cherry tomatoes. Would 100% come back, probably just for the shellfish, though- I don't think I could afford much more on my student budget. 

Bakehouse Charleston- Their lattes doe. I got a couple while I was in town, but my favorite was probably the cinnamon bun, with s'mores coming in a close second. They offer non-dairy milk as an option, which was awesome for my lactose-sensitive tummy. My family is also very snobby when it comes to key lime pie, but the slice we got from Bakehouse exceeded expectations. The crust was thick, and the pie itself had the perfect level of tartness. I wish Tampa had a place like this! 

Shopping on King Street- I love to shop. So it's not a surprise that I spent the majority of my non-eating time walking around and exploring the amazing shops in Charleston. I got to create my own charm bracelet at Moon & Lola, an adorable store that has a vibe similar to that of ban.do. I got to sample different flavors of honey, from whipped cinnamon to lavender, at Savannah Bee Company. And best of all, I got to smell countless candles and pick my perfect scent at the candle library at Candlefish. Next time I come to Charleston, I'm totally taking a candle making lesson! 

Huriyali Gardens- Finally, a juice bar. I found this place on my last day, and while it's in the sketchiest neighborhood ever, it's worth the drive. I got the green bowl, which was super filling and delicious. But I couldn't stop myself from sipping my mom's choco-brew smoothie, which had cold brew, cacao, chocolate, banana, and dates. NOMZ. Only other downside- long wait times. So don't come here if you're in a hurry! 

John Rutledge House Inn- Where we stayed while in Charleston, and where I will probably stay every time I come back. The location was very centralized, and the staff was almost alarmingly competent. We were treated like individuals, and every person we came into contact with went out of their way to make our stay better. Plus, the rooms were gorgeous, and they were dog friendly, which I needed for little Milo! 

Hall's Chophouse- I have never had a better dinner experience than the one I had at Hall's. The owners greet you at the door with hugs and smiles, and they treat you like royalty, from start to finish. We got complimentary champagne, because it was my parents' anniversary. Plus, the steaks.... and the lobster mac and cheese......... They even sent me a postcard in the mail, hand-written, thanking me for coming by. If you have a special occasion to celebrate in Charleston, CELEBRATE IT HERE. 

Other places I'd recommend... 
Poogan's Porch (quality Southern food), Bin 152 (amazing wine selection, perfect for a snack/drink before dinner), The Darling (amazing oysters, fun cocktails, great atmosphere), Carmella's (dessert bar from heaven), The Grocery (small plates, slightly healthier/more vegetarian-friendly than other places), Prohibition (swing dancing lessons with a 20's style ambiance and great food/cocktails), The Gin Joint (AMAZING cocktails, fantastic place to go post-dinner) 


Whetstone Chocolates- Cool chocolate shop in St. Augustine that also serves as an activity- they do tours of their factory! We didn't have time to do a tour, but I loved walking around the gift shop. Paul surprised me with a selection of truffles and a sign that says "Actually, chocolate does taste as good as skinny feels." It is displayed prominently in our kitchen! 

Likit- The fact that Dole Whip exists in St. Augustine says enough. This dairy-free soft serve is basically impossible to find, so you can best believe I freaked out when I saw it. And it didn't disappoint, because duh, it's Dole Whip.  

The Kookaburra- Super cute coffee shop with Australian flair. We fell in love with their Aussie Pies, and the Honey Badger coffee drink blew my mind. Of course, I like my coffee sweet, so don't go for their flavored beverages if you prefer yours black. They also offer dairy-free milk! 

The Floridian- Our first dinner in Florida as Florida residents obviously had to be at The Floridian. We loved their healthy dinner options- even their drinks were on the healthy side! I got the Southern Belle Salad, and I would probably get it weekly if I lived by this restaurant. Can't beat shrimp, sweet potatoes, peaches, and pecans!  

Other things to see:
Castillo de San Marcos (don't bother going inside, it's $$ and the outside is just as cool),  Basilica Cathedral (super old Catholic church, amazing architecture and stained glass), Anastasia Island (because it's my name and also because it's beautiful), Flagler College (gorgeous college campus) 

moving SUCKS. here's why

Stacey Oswald2 Comments


Me, before move #2 (September 2015): I just can't wait to move back to Nashville and start my new job and move into my new condo! Seriously, bury me in Twelve Twelve, because I'm never leaving!!! 

Me, before move #3 (June 2016): Well... here goes nothing. 

It's no secret at this point- I'm sick of moving. I thrive on routine, and when I'm forced to change everything and live out of a suitcase, I get thrown majorly out of whack. Plus, there's the whole omg-what-if-I-made-the-wrong-choice anxiety that graces me with its presence at least once a day. In case any of y'all are about to move, whether you're changing cities or changing states, here are some issues to prepare for, along with some coping strategies that might help: 

Issue #1- Does Publix have a rewards program? 
In other words, most of my money recently has been spent on alcohol and food. I have a stress eating problem, okay??? Plus, living on the road for two weeks meant limited access to green smoothie breakfasts and homemade vegan dinners. Thank God for yoga pants.
How to cope: Yelp. While on the road, I used Yelp to find healthy restaurants and juice bars so I could confirm that at least one meal a day would be healthy. I also used Yelp to find workout studios, which gave me an excuse to get my sweat on and afford myself some personal time.  

One of my fave workout stops along the way- hot yoga barre in Richmond! 

One of my fave workout stops along the way- hot yoga barre in Richmond! 

Issue #2- Why is everyone so ANNOYING?
If I don't consistently make time for myself, I will inevitably become a raging bitch to everyone around me. My family, friends, and the people at Brighthouse can attest to this fact. Sorry guys. 
How to cope: Good communication and a lot of apologizing. Contrary to popular belief, being a bitch doesn't make you a bitch. As long as I recognized that I was acting out of line, I was able to maintain my relationships through apologies and good deeds. But pro tip, while I'm at it? Make time for yourself so you don't have to get to the apology stage. I recommend exercise, because happy people don't kill their husbands duhhh. 

Issue #3- The nostalgia is real. 
I miss Nashville... a lot. It was my home for almost five years, and I hate how out-of-place I've felt since leaving. I worry that I'll never find a home base like it again. Plus, I really miss my cowboy boots. 
How to cope: A lil dose of reality. When I first moved to Nashville, I hated it. Even after five years there, I still hated the winters and the traffic and the lack of ocean access. The grass ALWAYS looks greener, no matter where you move, and I've found that making a list with a place's downsides can really help when you're feeling nostalgic. This same strategy works when coping with a break-up. Just sayin. 

Issue #4- I'm lonely af. 
Even though I moved here with Paul and live by family, I've still found it difficult to be in a place without pre-established female friendships. I've dabbled in the world of Bumble BFF, but it can feel like Tinder sometimes which is awk. And is there really any way to make friends at the gym or the grocery store without seeming like a lesbian? 
How to cope: Get outside. I'm an introvert, and even I get sick of being by myself after a while. I've learned to really appreciate a nice walk outside or a quick jaunt to the mall. Surrounding yourself with people, even when you're not hanging out with them, can be super helpful for curing loneliness. 

Issue #5- Seriously though... what if I shouldn't have moved? 
This will inevitably come up as you adjust to a new location. Maybe you'll hit really bad traffic and miss the days where knew where the eff you were going. Or maybe you'll just find yourself missing your favorite restaurant/juice bar/fitness studio. It's natural to feel nostalgic and it's natural to wonder if you made the wrong choice. But unless you're legitimately miserable (ie. depressed 7/7 days a week), you might want to try sticking it out. As I mentioned before, it's helpful to write down the things you didn't like about your past home, but it's even more helpful to write down things you love about your new home. Basically, pro-con lists are the secret to life. 


There you have it, folks! Hopefully you'll learn from my moving mistakes. And if not... at least pick some good wine for your drunken pathetic nights alone. I recommend Slow Press Chardonnay.