Travel Diary: Independence Eve in Apalachicola

This year we started a new family tradition: celebrating 4th of July early during Apalachicola’s Independence Eve Celebration.

Over the last few years we have mostly missed all the spectacular fireworks displays on the 4th because we have a young child who is usually asleep by the time the fireworks begin.

We also haven’t had the holiday land during the weekend where you have the next day to recover. With that in mind, we spontaneously decided to head down to Florida’s Forgotten Coast to a quaint little Oyster Town that celebrates America’s Birthday a day early.

The Town

Apalachicola is an adorable small town about an hour and a half from our home town of Tallahassee. The drive is scenic and fast, which makes it ideal for our family. As you cross the bridge into the town, there’s usually oyster boats on either side. The area is known for its world class oysters.

It’s a small area, but it’s packed with historic buildings, a brewery, raw bars, great restaurants, old time fountain soda shop, galleries, coffee shops and adorable boutiques. There’s a lot to do even outside of the Independence Eve celebration.

The Accommodations

We decided to do this pretty last minute (the week of), so I wasn’t sure what options would be available. Luckily my hubby’s co-worker recommended The Coombs House — a historic Bed & Breakfast.

The B&B ended up being absolutely perfect. Quaint and comfortable with incredible bedding and a delicious homemade breakfast served in the Main House dining room.

After arriving I discovered (proudly displayed on a door plaque), it’s been named one of America’s 33 Luxury Inns by Travel + Leisure. It definitely delivered.

The Celebration

The Apalachicola Independence Eve Celebration is jam packed with family fun. After checking into our historic B&B, we walked a couple of blocks down to Water Street where the majority of the activities were taking place. We brought our lawn chairs and blanket and found a grassy spot near the dock with a perfect eye-line to the fireworks display that would take place over the water. Everyone is super respectful of your claimed spot and we left our chairs for hours with no one moving them. It was such a relief to know our viewing spot was secure and we could enjoy the festivities!

First up, we grabbed some Oyster City (local brewery) beers and headed to the Bounce House, so Westley could jump, while we enjoyed live music. The. It was time for the Parade, which includes locals who decorate golf carts with Americana decor and hand out everything from beads to juice and candy.

Post parade, it’s time for the free ice cream social where you can choose from vanilla or chocolate ice cream and toppings. So we definitely broke the rule and had dessert before dinner 🙂

While there was a food truck court with options from seafood and gourmet tacos to a British food truck serving up fish n chips, we opted to walk around and find a local restaurant to sit down, cool down and grab a bite. We ended up at The Seafood Grill and enjoyed the fried Captain’s Basket with huge Gulf shrimp, bay scallops, fish, crab cake and hush puppies served with an array of sauces. It did not disappoint.

After dinner, we walked back to our spot on the lawn and got ready for the main event!

Fireworks

I’ve seen a lot of fireworks in my life and this display definitely takes first place. Hands down the best fireworks show ever. The choreography, variety of fireworks and length made it a spectacular display! The fireworks over the water felt like a 3D display and we were all in awe!

Once the 30-minute show wrapped, we grabbed our chairs and walked back to our B&B – no traffic or hassles…just a nice walk, hot shower and a super comfy bed.

If you’re looking for a different way to celebrate 4th of July, Apalachicola is a great choice and will be our new go to for one of my favorite holidays! St. George Island is super close, so you can also extend the trip and spend some time at one of the area’s beautiful beaches!

Happy Independence,

Ivette

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Cliquish: Influencer Networking Event

A few weeks ago, a friend and colleague sent me info on a networking event and panel – “So you want to be an Influencer” featuring a variety of veteran and up-and-coming influencers who were going to share their experiences and insights.

I decided it would be fun and interesting to attend and put myself out there in a scenario that was a bit unknown. Not going to lie, I was pretty sure I would be walking into an event where I was the oldest (by a decade plus) and would stick out like a sore thumb. But I decided, in my third decade, to step out of my comfort and just go for it.

Arriving at the event, I was greeted by a variety of faces, women of all ages, interests, race and ethnicity. It was refreshing to talk to so many different women who are passionate about sharing their interests and lives with others in a very public platform.

The panel was a slice of the social world from Ms. Danti, a make-up maven and PhD student, who has been in the game before there was a game to an 18-year old YouTuber, who started blogging in middle school and took off last summer when she made daily relationship challenge videos with her boyfriend. (Apparently this is a huge area of interest for younger girls.)

Loved hearing each of their journeys, tips and perspective. While they were very different, the one common denominator was their desire to connect with people through authentic content and giving others a glimpse into their lives and passion. There’s a lot of power in being vulnerable and opening yourself up to others. And I connected instantly with that part of each of their journeys.

I was reminded that networking is such a powerful tool and got to know a lot of new ladies, and even left with a new friend – a fellow Mama Bear of three, who is also Hispanic and loves sharing her journey of motherhood and passion for fashion.

If nothing else, there is always value in putting yourself out there, meeting new people, talking about common interests and making connections.

This event solidified why I do this. I enjoy having a creative outlet that is all mine, not dictated by others, and the ability to share with people the things I love. If I can make someone smile, try something new or even step out of their own comfort zone, then it’s the cherry on top!

Xo,

Ivette

A Wild West Birthday

Ok I’ll admit I probably enjoy planning Westley’s birthday parties a little too much. I usually lock in next year’s theme the day after his party. Type A extreme? I think so. But also I recognize I only get a finite number of years where I get to be the CBO (Chief Birthday Officer) and I am fully taking advantage.

I was especially thrilled for his third birthday party because he’s now at such a fun age. He’s immensely enjoying everything, fully participating and really into his birthday. From the song and blowing out the candles to the party and of course the presents.

Because W has a January birthday, immediately following the holidays, I want to make sure he feels like his big day is special and not lumped into the Christmas craze. This may be the June baby (celebrations and gifts every six months) in me speaking, but I’ve always felt bad for people who have birthdays around the holidays because so often you hear – “this is your Christmas and Birthday gift.” Or worse, there is no celebration because everyone is holiday-ed out. So this mama has made it her mission to ensure her wild man’s wildest birthday dreams are realized.

Ever since we landed on the name Westley, I’ve been dying to bring to life a “Wild West” themed party. And lucky for me, Westley is absolutely obsessed with horses. He watches Spirit on Netflix repeatedly, rides his rocking horse and loves cowboy boots. So naturally, I decided this was the year for Wild West.

Here are the details on throwing a party that will have guests saying, “howdy partner.”

The Venue

A venue should bring the theme to life and there’s no better place than a horse farm to create your own version of the Wild West. Lucky for us, North Florida provides the perfect backdrop. We landed on Happy Trails Horse Ranch because the birthday party package includes a variety of activities for the kids and the location is roomy and open for the adults attending. Ms. Nikki, the owner and party host, is incredibly sweet and patient with kids!

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The Décor 

Being outdoors, surrounded by pastures, horses and nature, the décor doesn’t have to be too extravagant to create the Wild West feeling. I landed on the traditional red bandana print to pull everything together, ordering table runners for the picnic tables and a table skirt for the cake table from Oriental Trading. I used large mason jars with fresh sunflowers as the centerpieces and voila, the West is born.

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The Goodies

This theme is perfect for maximizing party favors/goodies since they serve a dual purpose as part of the décor. I wanted each child to feel like they’re part of the Wild West, so I ordered cowboy hats, bandana, sheriff stars and mustaches! Oriental Trading has a great party pack that included most of the favors for a really affordable price. The best part, these favors were used as table settings, adding another visual element to my tablescape.

I also wanted to provide some fun propos for photos, so I purchased a giant “Wanted” sign along with a pack of western themed props on a stick. This is a fun and inexpensive way to highlight the party theme and inspire people to capture fun photos!

The Cake

The cake to me is the centerpiece of the party and should really embody the theme. We have an incredibly talented cake artist here in Tally who has been making Westley’s cakes since his first birthday. Her cakes are not only works of art, but they are so delicious. My favorite part of working with her is I trust her vision completely. I usually tell her my theme, send a few inspiration pics and she comes back with a description of the cake creation. Of course, the final product is always ten times better than I imagined.

This year was no exception. This is my favorite cake yet. It captured the Wild West theme perfectly incorporating denim, cow print, a cowboy hat, sheriff’s star and rope. It was absolutely gorgeous! The inside was equally satisfying with red velvet (my favorite) and chocolate cake with buttercream icing. Nom nom.

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The Food

When I think Wild West, I think hot dogs…no clue why, but in my head it made perfect sense. I researched a few options and landed on a hot dog cart called Frankly Delicious. It was a cool visual with the cart and big red umbrella, but it was also a great decision because I did not have to worry about picking up food, setting up, getting plates, etc. The hot dog cart was a one-stop-shop. Party guests could choose from hot dogs, Bradley’s sausage or chicken sausage along with fun toppings including coke onions, chili, cheese and traditional toppings like mustard, ketchup and relish. The meal came complete with chips and drink. This was the perfect meal for both kids and adults! I highly recommend a food option like this because it’s totally hands off for you as the host, kid approved and nostalgic for adults.

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The Fun

The party was kid and adult approved. The kiddos got to meet the horses, feed the horses, go on a hay ride and then ride a horse. It was a perfect mix of activities that kept the kids engaged and entertained. It was an absolute blast! After all the fun, we sang Happy Birthday and wrapped up a very magical and memorable birthday.

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Halloween Style: Recreate Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” Looks

I have always loved dressing up for Halloween. It is after all, the one day a year, you can be whoever you want to be…no judgement.

With Halloween a few days away, I’m sharing super fun and easy looks inspired by Taylor Swift’s smash hit and epic video – Look What You Made Me Do.

These are four unique looks that can be recreated with items you probably already have in your closet plus a few accessories!

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  1. Biker Babe – Channel your inner badass and race into the holiday with this bold look. It’s easy, slimming and hot. Just grab a pair of black leather leggings, bustier or tank, leather jacket and booties and you’re on your way. Spice it up with a biker hat, studded accessories and choker to complete the look. Motorcycle not included 😜 zhalloween17-7424-Edit
  2. Frosted Taylor – This look takes commitment and confidence. If you happen to own a diamond encrusted bra and bottom, then you’re all set. Otherwise, you can use a white or silver sequined dress and fake diamonds to pull this look together. Top it off with a bold red lip. zhalloween17-7375-Edit
  3. Lady in Red – This look is sleek as “snake-y.” You will need a red kimono dress, snake accessories including a long necklace and bracelets, gold heels and pomade to slick hair down. If you’re a brunette like me, you may want to invest in a bottle of Jerome Russell B Blonde to complete the look. zhalloween17-7407-Edit
  4. Naughty Cat – If you’re in a rush or in witness protection, this is the Tay Tay look for you — the ultimate comfort and incognito Halloween costume. You get to wear an oversized sweater and a cat head, so no one will know who you are. Also, no need for hair or makeup. Craft queen? Go ahead and make an amazing paper mache cat head like my friend Jillian. Otherwise, purchase a pre-made cat mask and meow your way to trick or treating. Finally, no one will mess with you – after all you’re an angry feline with a bat! Finish this look off with thigh high colorful boots or sneakers…whatever your heart desires. zhalloween17-7405-Edit

Photos: Brooks Photography

Happy costuming and Happy Halloween!

XO,

Ivette

It Pays To Network

For many people attending an event with the expectation of talking to strangers and making new contacts is not their idea of a good time. I’m one of those people who actually likes networking and have first hand experience enjoying the success that can come from it.

Like it or not, many of us are involved in networking in one way or another. If you are a business owner or in a position to bring new business to the company you work for, then networking is part of your job description. If you’re a young professional looking to break into an industry, networking should be your part-time job. If you serve on a board or are involved in a charitable organization or cause, networking is your middle name.  Either way, knowing how to take advantage of the contacts you make and growing your personal and professional brand in the community is essential and networking plays a huge role in your success.

When I left news reporting and began working in public relations, I wanted to learn more about the industry and meet other professionals in Tallahassee. I decided to join the Florida Public Relations Association Capital Chapter…five years later I’m serving as president of the organization, have attained my accreditation in public relations (APR) and have grown as a professional. This happened because I was able to step out of my comfort zone and into a room of strangers who I now call my colleagues and friends.

I’m also a proud member of the Junior League of Tallahassee. Through my involvement with this wonderful organization, I have received invaluable training, helped make a real, measurable difference in the community and made life-long friends.  When I joined the League I hardly knew anyone. Today I am happy to say that some of my closest friends are fellow Leaguers and I’ve even made business contacts through the JLT.

In Tallahassee, we are very lucky to have a close-knit community and a host of professional groups and associations with which to get involved. From the Chamber to the Network of Young Professionals to the Tallahassee Film Festival and the Business and Professional Women of Tallahassee, there is a group out there for you. So figure out what you’re interested in, find a group of people or an organization that fits the bill and get involved. Who knows, in a few years you may be running the organization! Cheers.