Not Your Typical Unicorns and Leprechauns Network

There are networks everywhere. But no matter how ubiquitous the term seems, each one seems to take on a form of its own. Some are pretty formal and some are so informal you’re pretty sure they don’t even really exist. It has gotten to the point that if someone mentions a “network”, all you’re sure of is that somewhere along the way a group of people got together and decided they should be called something.

In some respects, the Pro Military Business Network is no different. Some smart people in an office one day decided a bunch of businesses should come together and be called something. It’s tangible and it’s intangible. But, here’s the difference: it’s more than just a pretty name that makes you feel good inside. And, even better, it’s adapting, changing, expanding, and becoming something more useful to everyone involved. Because, let’s be honest here, with technology and business moving as it is today, this thing could have been created last week and already be outdated.

Before I go into what’s happening next, you might want to know what has happened already. The Pro Military Business Network (or PMBN as I like to call it… and I’m sure the acronym-centric military would, too) is a group of businesses that really exist, and that support and love our military community. They are of our same belief that without the military, they wouldn’t be here, and that needs to be recognized and celebrated. They have all come together through our super talented graphics department, sales department and marketing department to form a website. Now, I’ll stop boring you.

Let’s say you’re PCSing or TDYing, or you already live here and you’re looking for a salon, or a car repair shop, or a realtor… or anything. And there’s 52 types of the business you’re looking for. So, what do you do? Right now, you probably roll the dice or explore Yelp forever, and 9 times out of 10 end up at a place you really don’t want to be – trying really hard not to lose your temper with the person you feel you just wasted your money with. Maybe their service was sub-par, maybe they gave you that look you hate, or maybe they had an attitude when you asked if they had a military discount. All of those things are awful, and none of us want to deal with it. This is what the PMBN is here to avoid. If a business is a part of the PMBN, it means they have said they appreciate they military. It also means someone from this very company has personally gone to their location and made sure they’re the type of business we think we can stand behind. And it also means you have the convenience of having one place you can learn about them, view their ad, watch their video, and link to their website.

Now, improvements. For those of you not stationed at a base that has Military Media run their guide, have you ever needed a phone number and had a really annoying time of finding it? Of course you have. I’m really super confident of that. Why? Because I had the wonderful, but necessary, task of looking for the phone numbers for EVERY SINGLE BASE in EVERY SINGLE BRANCH in the free country. It took forever, and it was terrible. But now, once we get our update done, you can go to the PMBN, find your state, click on your base, and boom – numbers. You’re welcome. I think I’m allowed to preemptively say that because it’s going to make you’re life wicked easy. I promise. Go get your hair cut with all the time the PMBN just saved you (salons are under Business and Professional Services).

All kidding aside, it’s an awesome resource – to be a part of, or to use. And, we love to hear from you. So if there’s something you want to see (or not see), or if you have a cool idea – sound off below in the comments and tell us! Seriously. We’re small enough that if we like it, there won’t be a mile and a half of red tape and corporate forms to file before it can happen. If we like it, it’s done. Welcome to the PMBN.

Oh, and here’s a link to one of our awesome Pro Military businesses. Check it out! :

pambonadonnacpa.promilitary.net

(6080 views)

Giving Things Away is the Worst Way to Make Money

Yes, I really had to say that. Since the big bang of couponing took over in the late 2000s, the practice has been adored by deal-hunting consumers and demonized by profit-conscious entrepreneurs. And how could it be any different? People love saving money when they go out shopping, and business owners love to (and need to) make a decent profit. But wait – this paradigm seems conflicting! Why?

Because it is.

And this has been especially true since daily deal sites became so popular, requiring deals to be at least 50% off the normal purchase price. And here’s the kicker – that fraction of your typical profit is slashed even further when you give the host site their cut. This may seem ridiculous to some, but in this economy, customers are looking for it and business owners often turn to it to make their doors swing. So what do you do?

You find a better way. And there is one. The good news? You can afford it (I really mean it), it’s trackable, and (when used properly) can really increase your customer base. The bad news? It will require a little marketing savvy on your part to transform them from a one hit wonder to a loyal, repeat customer. But don’t worry – I’m here with my fancy degrees and cheap laptop (cause and effect?) to help you.

First of all, the better way is www.GIsave.com, a coupon-based website geared specifically towards the military communities in the Southeastern U.S. (though there are plans to expand). More than any other demographic, military families need to find ways to stay on budget while finding new favorite places to frequent as they bounce around from base to base. As a future military spouse, I can tell you there is not one time someone has said “military discount” and my head hasn’t turned. And now, there’s a whole website of people screaming just that – and I don’t have to leave my couch or my sweats to hear it. Beautiful.

I know what you’re thinking: Why would you gear your couponing to just this one demographic? That seems silly. Well, because the military community makes up almost TWO THIRDS of the Emerald Coast economy. Scout’s honor – look it up. Not so silly. And even better, it’s not Groupon or Living Social. We’re not asking you to sell your first born child to afford the price slash. We don’t tell you how much to discount. You just come up with something you’re happy with and we make it visually appealing… not to mention able to be comfortably accessed by military families in their favorite obnoxious headbands and scrunchies (it’s OK for the 90s to live on in your own living room, right?).

Now here’s where my free advice to you lovely business owners comes in. DO NOT… I repeat.. DO NOT succumb to the desire to throw the phrase “10% off with ID” on your GI Save coupon. This is not to say that 10% is a bad discount, or that military families do not appreciate it (because trust me, they really, really do). However, doing this works against you in a couple of ways. First of all, you probably honor that discount with the simple mention of it or the flash of an ID card, don’t you? And again, thank you. But how on earth are you supposed to know how impactful your GI Save program is if you don’t make people tell you? And what about your deal makes you stand out from any of the other businesses?

So, pick a dollar amount, or offer a free something with the purchase of another something. Anything that will get that person’s attention and get them to show you their virtual or printed coupon so you have that wonderful peace of mind that what you did is working. Makes sense, right?

Now continuing the free advice, do something AWESOME when we customers make our way into your business. Make us want to come back over and over again. And, I’ll let you in on a little secret here – we’re easy. Awesome can sometimes mean a sticker. That’s right – that little shiny thing that costs a fraction of a penny can make you stick out. Seriously. So, go find something. It could be a little bonus gift, a different coupon to use on another visit, a referral program punch card that gets your new customer free/discounted stuff when they tell their friends… the list goes on and on. It doesn’t have to cost you much of anything; it just needs to be thoughtful enough that Joe around the corner isn’t doing it. Boom – you win.

(550 views)

Beachin’ Ain’t Easy

Ready to have your mind blown? Are you sitting down? Ok, here it goes…

Florida has great beaches.

Actually, that’s an undersell. They’re some of the most beautiful in the world. And yes, I know you’ve heard that. But no matter how common knowledge it is that people come here to lounge on the sand and play in the water, you’d be lying if you said you didn’t want to know more about it. As someone who has spent most of my life on one coast or another, I know just being in a town surrounded by great beaches doesn’t mean you’re going to find that great beach. My all time favorite beach back up where I’m from in Narragansett, RI is one which is off the radar unless someone tells you about it. I promise, you won’t find it on Google.

While I may not be willing to give up that secret, I’ve been compelled to give you the inside scoop on each region’s must-visit beach here in sunny Florida. Some might be hidden gems, some might not be hidden at all. But I promise, take my advice and you won’t leave disappointed that you didn’t find what you’ve spent months imagining in your head. Grab your sunscreen, folks.

North Florida:

James Lee Park

Destin

This beach is about as good as it gets. While you really can’t go wrong with a Destin beach, this one is my favorite. It’s a little ways of a drive from the bridge and down Scenic 98, but it’s well worth it. Trademark of this area, you are almost certain to find crystal clear, blue-green water and powdery, white sand beaches. The beach is kept up very well and seeing trash on the ground is few and far between. There is ample parking, convenient pavilions and picnic tables, and several dune walkovers that allow for a great view. The beach will get busy in the summer months, but I have never seen it to the point that there isn’t hardly any room to move. The water is perfect for surfing, paddle boarding, skim boarding, body surfing, snorkeling, etc. And when you get hungry or could go for a good libation, there is a local seafood restaurant right on the beach with a tiki bar and open-air deck. It is quite literally the perfect beach to lose track of the time on.

Central Florida:

Maximo Park

St. Petersburg

St. Pete is a treat in and of itself, but this beach is really something to talk about. Aside from the beautiful, soft white sand beach characteristic of the Gulf Coast, crystal clear, warm water and litany of water-related activities, this place has it all. First of all, it has seven boat ramps – things which are for some reason shockingly tough to find. Second of all, it has beachside, covered playgrounds for the kids, picnic areas and restrooms. But what makes Maximo Park really unique are all the extras that give you an unexpectedly fun break from basking on the shoreline. Bring a bike along and take advantage of the trails, or talk a walk along the nature trail and enjoy some of life’s simple beauty. For you history buffs, there’s a 70-acre archeological site to take advantage of. I won’t spoil the story for you, but Maximo Park has an intriguing backstory that most won’t find themselves yawning through. And then there’s my personal favorite non-water attraction – the 18-hole disc golf course. For those of you that haven’t played, it’s not necessarily easy, but it’s fun regardless of how terrible you may or may not be. And to finish it all off, take a hike to the top of the 50-foot observation tower that will help you soak in all the beauty and excitement you just experienced.

South Florida

Sombrero Beach

Marathon

This hidden gem on the Florida Keys island of Marathon may not have all the bells and whistles of the other beaches we’ve covered, but it is worth a day of your time. This is one of the most pristine, unspoiled beaches you will find anywhere in the world. Not your usual white sand beach, picking up a handful will reveal to you what makes it unique. You’ll find interestingly shaped grains, shells and characteristics of the special environment that exists in the area’s warm waters. Speaking of the water, it is calm, warm and almost unbelievably relaxing. Lay down on a raft for a bit, and watch in amazement of what is around you. You’ll see dolphins playing, unusual fish swimming the world below and people with a level of enjoyment on their faces you just don’t see anywhere else. There is a playground for the kids and an expansive stretch of land that won’t leave you feeling claustrophobic. Sombrero Beach is not filled with vendors, however, so bring a cooler and plan accordingly. Even if you always need action and to be on-the-go, take a chance on this beach. I promise you won’t regret it.

(387 views)

Ever Get Directed to the Hardware Store When You Wanted an Ice Cream Parlor?

Assuming you’ve moved to a new region or gone on vacation, you’ve probably experienced what I like to call “the head tilt” (you probably just tilted your head there, didn’t you?). This is when you ask a question that seems perfectly simple, but the person you are asking tilts their head and looks confused, as if you’ve just randomly decided to start speaking Russian.

Far more sly than accents that are obvious and well-known, you are a victim of your lingo. If you’ve bounced around a lot, you’re used to this. But if not, there are a few things you should know that are giving you away as an “outsider” and confusing the new people you’re talking to.

You may choose to do what you wish with this information. I, for one, might be a little obnoxious and stuck in my ways, and continue to use my messed up New England vocabulary no matter where I live. What can I say, it’s built in and I love it. But, I know as soon as I say something that I might have to explain it. Or, you can choose to rule it out altogether to be nice and allow people to better understand you. It’s your call. But it might be fun to bring a little culture to wherever you go.

Kicking off this series is your New England translation guide. The first word is what a New Englander would say, the second is what the rest of the English-speaking world would understand. We’ll do a different region next time. Between my lovely co-workers and myself, we’ve lived in just about every part of the country – so I promise, it’ll be accurate (even though the call to mess with you guys is kind of tempting).

Note: For those of you using this to find out what other people have been saying, if any word below ends in “er”, replace the sound with “ah” to pronounce it correctly.

  • Bubbler → Drinking Fountain

I’ll never forget the horror on my eighth grade, Texas teacher’s face when I asked where the bubbler was.

  • Wicked → Very

Pretty commonly known, but this wouldn’t be complete without it.

  • Bureau → Dresser

Try shopping for furniture when you move… it’s an experience

  • Cabinet → Milkshake

Seriously, the housewares shopping thing. Nightmare

  • Downcellar → Basement

More of a directional than a place. If you left something in the cellar (sella), you left it “downsella” (spelling is accounting for the accent). But, you wouldn’t say “My house has a downsella”. That’s just wrong.

  • Grinder → Sandwich/Sub

Also more commonly known, but necessary.

  • I’m all set” → I’m good / I’m fine

This is accepted in some regions, but will get you a lot of weird looks in others.

  • Jimmies → Sprinkles

You gotta get the rainbow jimmies on your ice cream cone.

  • No suh!” → No Way

I really thought this would be self-explanatory when I first started moving around… but it wasn’t

  • Packy → Liquor Store

Another one that is used in a couple of places, but will get confused looks in most others.

  • Regular Coffee → With normal amounts of cream and sugar

If you were hoping this would get you coffee with the perfect amounts of cream and sugar, you’re out of luck. You actually have to say “coffee with cream and sugar”. Black coffee is regular coffee. And if you want your coffee “extra extra”, you actually have to say “with extra cream and extra sugar”. I know… it’s the worst. I’m still trying to train my local Florida coffee shops on the right (New England) ways of ordering.

  • Side by each” → Side by side

Yep, we just like being different

  • Stuffie → A Stuffed Clam

Instead of a beyond delicious appetizer, you will be given a stuffed animal in other parts of the country. Or more likely, you will be given a look telling you you’re crazy if you ask for this in a restaurant, like I imagine you would be.

(424 views)

There Is No Hotel Deal Fairy

It has to be one of the most Googled phrases in recent travel history: how to book the best room for the best rate. And while I wish I could say I hadn’t wasted my time doing this… a lot… I have. And the outcome is almost always one of two things. Either the information is completely useless and makes searching “cheap hotel rooms” seem like a revolutionary, Nobel prize worthy idea; or the results are achieved by nothing short of calling out sick from work for two weeks straight, developing a masterful spreadsheet, and probably getting put on some sort of government watch list. But don’t worry, you’ll get the room five dollars cheaper per night (maybe).

So, in response, I’m going to try to give you my version of it. Part of me thinks this is futile, but the other part of me tells me this: I’m better with technology than your average person, but I’ve also had to teach people how to use it. I work full time and I work on a Master’s degree part time. And I will fight you if you think I’m going to waste time doing anything else when I could be watching football. Why should you care? Because that means I’m not going to suggest something so painfully obvious your great grandmother would know to try it, or something so complicated you need a doctorate in engineering to do it. I’m also not going to suggest things that “ain’t nobody got time for”. I welcome your criticism (or loving praise) after you read this.

  1. It’s already time for the tough love.

No matter how good you are at this, how far in advance or last minute you’re looking, or if it’s a Tuesday and the weather is bad – you are not going to get a stellar deal every time. Sometimes, all your tricks and research just lead you to the sad realization that the cost is what it is. But hey, at least you know you’re not getting ripped off by whatever hotel or site you book through.

  1. Analyze your circumstances.

Ask yourself a few key questions before you start looking. Is your trip soon or in the distance? Do you need a specific neighborhood or will anything in the general area do? Do you have the funds to pay up front, or do you need to be able to pay when you check out? Is your trip flexible enough that you’re comfortable booking something the same day you want to check in? These are all important questions, and I will address them in the “Tips” section at the bottom.

  1. Use more than one website. But don’t go crazy.

I know, there’s websites like Kayak and Priceline, as awesome as they may be, that insist you only need to search their site to find the best price. But only trying the deal sites just tells their marketing departments that they’re as brilliant as they think they are. I generally pick one deal website, and then Google something like “hotel specials February 7-9 in Fort Walton Beach”. Sometimes, a coupon or something will pop up. More often, though, I get a big old list of hotels across the top of the page. And now, I compare. Go through your deal site and try to find a price you like. If you don’t see one, find a hotel you like that might be more money than you’d like to spend, but isn’t so far gone you can’t find a better deal.

  1. Compare Simply.

Baby steps here. Let’s assume you’ve now picked a hotel or two (or three or four) from the deal site. Next, go to the hotel’s website itself and run a search. Sometimes, the deal site is better. Sometimes, it’s the same. But other times, you might find that if you select a AAA rate or military rate (from the search box when you’re typing in your dates and number of people…typically in a drop down menu or under “advanced search”), the price ends up being lower than the deal site. Think about it: the deal site can’t assume everyone booking qualifies for a discount. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Refer to point #1.

  1. Compare Creatively.

Don’t get stuck in a rut. I know you’re probably thinking I’m breaking my time rule here, but the above two steps shouldn’t take you more than five minutes (ten if you’re researching a lot – but you should save that for the end). Quickly skim through and cross reference the deal site’s list with your Google list. Just like Southwest Airlines tickets can only be purchased from their own website, not all hotels allow deal sites to work with them. When you see some on Google that you didn’t on the deal site, do a new search for that hotel. Here’s the best part: quite often, since the hotel is not participating in a deal site, they’ll have some pretty great deals. Especially for multi-night stays.

Tips:

Now that I’ve given you some ideas, back to those questions I asked you to evaluate in point #2. The best way for you to treat the following bullet points is like a matching quiz in school. Figure out what applies to you based on your answers to the questions, and then take my advice accordingly.

  • If you’re in a situation where the deal site and hotel site are the same price, consider this: deal sites require full payment up front and are rarely refundable; direct hotel sites typically do not actually charge you until check out and have pretty lenient cancellation policies
  • Monitoring the price of a hotel you like over a period of time can typically lead to a decreased rate. If you see it drop, grab it.
  • Many hotels have last minute deals. I don’t mean the week before, I mean the same day you want to check in. You can use the hotel site, deal site, or an app like Hotel Tonight
  • Unless you really can’t afford a hotel at the initial price you find it, don’t play the bargain game if it’s going to really put you in a bind to stay anywhere else
  • Pick up the phone after you’ve found a hotel you like. The vast majority of the time, their best deals are online. But some offer secret promotions you’ll never find out about if you don’t call and ask

The bottom line here is establishing your priorities, then doing what you need to do to achieve them. There might be a lot of stuff here, but if you ask those key questions first, you shouldn’t need to spend more than 15-30 minutes finding the best deal possible for you. Any tips or tricks of your own? Post them here and share the wealth!

(478 views)

Truth or Dare (But It’s Really Just Dare): Airport Edition

The idea of traveling is really exciting. That’s because when we are planning a trip, we tend to think of all the great things we’re going to do once we get there: where we’re going to go, how relaxed we’re going to be, how tan we’re going to get… It’s wonderful. So wonderful that we often forget about the necessary evil required to get to that vacation – the airport.

Unless you almost never fly or are the world’s luckiest person ever, you’ve had the misfortune of dealing with a long layover, a delay and/or a cancellation at least once. Or basically every time you’ve flown, if you’re anything like my sister. I’m willing to bet you’ve tried the usual time-passers: Facebook obsessively, live Tweet about your boredom (some lady just sat down next to me…. great she smells funny… awesome she has terrible taste in music and even worse headphones), watch shows or videos on your phone, listen to music, read a magazine, get a drink at the bar, stare into space, strike up a conversation with a stranger you wish you hadn’t…. blah blah blah. And what makes all this worse is that you feel like you’re stuck with these mind-numbing options because, let’s face it, the airport isn’t exactly the place to do daring, out-of-the-box things. Unless you feel like hanging out in interrogation and spending some time on the “no fly” list, that is.

Well, lucky for you, I have spent more time in an airport than I would like to admit – a misfortune that has allowed me to create a pretty reliable list of things to do when you’re bored at the airport. A list which I have decided to share with you. Just remember, like I said, airport officials aren’t big on having a sense of humor in the workplace… so amuse at your own risk.

  • Greet passengers at a random gate as they disembark the plane.

Stand to the side of the door, and be a little creative. Say things like “I knew you could do it”, offer high-fives, or try to start a slow clap and see if it catches on.

  • Become a character.

Grab a seat at the gate or at the bar and start talking to a stranger. But don’t do this like you normally would. Invent a completely different personality and back story for yourself that seems ridiculous. See if they believe you.

  • Make a baggage claim sign.

Use a generic last name, like Johnson or Clark. Then just stand by baggage claim, holding it up and see if someone approaches you.

  • Work out.

This could be a legitimate way to get some circulation going. Or, you could be fun and get really into it. Stretch out, sprint around the moving sidewalk, do crunches, use water bottles as dumbbells – the more ridiculous the better.

  • Go on a scavenger hunt.

You can do this whether you’re alone or traveling with someone. Make a list of things: the most absurd thing for sale in a gift shop, the least practical novelty shot glass, someone dressed like they forgot they were going into public, a pay phone (good luck), etc. Happy hunting!

  • Walk backwards on the moving sidewalk.

This is one of those “do at your own risk” things. Trust me, it’s fun. But not everyone thinks so.

  • Pick up an accent.

Try out your accent skills while talking to a stranger. See if they call you out on it.

  • Try to figure out who the Air Marshal is at each terminal.

It’s harder than you might think.

  • See if you can talk your way into an airline club lounge.

Challenge accepted.

 

We’d love to hear your input! Please comment, like our Facebook pages, follow us on Twitter. And share with your friends! We return the favor!

(5857 views)

Sleep is for Suckers. But so is Powdered Creamer.

Vacations, day trips and long weekends are some of the greatest treats in the world. Way more decadent and exciting than a piece of fudge (I’m not knocking fudge.. I could write a whole story on it. I’m just saying). Going out and having all sorts of adventures that develop into great stories to tell is one of my favorite things to do in life. But, on the contrary, the call to relax while on vacation is loud and clear. So what do I do?

Oh, that’s right – coffee. I am absolutely addicted to coffee.

But here’s the problem on vacation: I don’t know where I am. And while I genuinely enjoy finding local coffee shops with their unique blends and homey touches that combine to make everything just phenomenal, I enjoy doing this AFTER I’ve had my iced coffee I know I can rely on. Because otherwise, who has the energy for that? So, you can imagine my panic when I travel that I’m not going to be able to find a satisfactory cup of coffee to hold me over until I find a fantastic cup of coffee. Just the thought of those places that don’t have iced coffee but think they can trick me by putting hot coffee over ice (worst thing ever) makes me want to stay home and set up shop in the Dunkin drive thru.

While you may find it easy to Google the nearest Dunkin Donuts (no offense to them… I’m a die hard fan), you should live by my rule while you’re on vacation: you can’t go anywhere you can go at home. So, without further adieu, here are a few of the best places to get a coffee when you’re traveling in Florida. Warning: caffeine jitters may occur.

Fort Walton Beach:

Region: North, Panhandle

  • Maas Coffee: This gem in the heart of downtown Fort Walton Beach has a great atmosphere, free WiFi, and truly delicious coffee. Boasting hand-roasted Arabica beans from more than twelve countries, you can really taste the quality and care in your cup. They specialize in everything from regular to snazzy, and even perfected the iced coffee. The only thing that might top the coffee is the gorgeous view of the bay you can get from the relaxation of their outdoor patio. Because as we all know, what good is coffee without something pretty to look at?

Miami:

Region: South, East Coast

  • Eternity Coffee Roasters: If you love social responsibility and great coffee, this is the place to be. Eternity Coffee has some of the highest quality coffee you can find anywhere, and the taste leaves no doubt! The coffee is roasted in house and customers absolutely rave about the divine scent that fills the shop as a result. Get your coffee to go, or decide to enjoy the atmosphere. Eternity is warm, inviting and comfortable – great for some relaxation, studying or meeting business associates. And for those of you wanting to feel a little fancy (but just a little), try ordering a latte and see what cool design you get in the foam.

Tampa Bay:

Region: Central, West Coast

  • Buddy’s Brew House: With an ambiance as friendly and inviting as its name, it comes as no surprise to patrons that this awesome coffee shop started as a hobby of owner, Dave Ward. With passion comes excellence, and this coffee is truly amazing. They even have a cool refill program that allows you to buy a mason jar for $4 (be honest, you would buy a mason jar even if it didn’t have perks attached to it) and get discounted refills every time you bring it in. We love it!

Orlando:

Region: Central, East Coast (ish)

  • Drunken Monkey Coffee: Ok, clearly we’re a little transparent on this one… we explored it for the name. But, come on, they nailed the whole marketing thing. And they didn’t disappoint. This coffee shop has a distinct feel that is welcoming, free-spirited and enjoyable. The coffee is incredible, top shelf and roasted in-house. And if that wasn’t enough, their food rivals in taste and quality. A great spot for everything from chatting with friends to taking advantage of their free stand up comedy night on Fridays.

Jacksonville:

Region: North, East Coast

  • The Coffee Grinder: If a regular old coffee shop bores you no matter how great the coffee is, this place is for you. Not one to be considered boring, The Coffee Grinder jams to live music from local DJ’s five days a week. And if you need some visual appeal to go with the treat your ears get, they have some really cool, intriguing art hanging up. Not that we’re professional art procurers, but we don’t seem to be alone in this thought. Of course, not to be outdone, the coffee is delicious and satisfying. With a coffee of the day keeping things interesting, you’ll never get sick of this place.

What’s your favorite? Leave us your comments, questions or input below. We’d love to hear it!

 

(728 views)

Sandy the Snowman? (Magical Top Hat Not Included)

This could go one of two ways: either you are an absolute weirdo like me and actually like the snow and cold weather… or you hate that stuff, but still secretly want the fun parts of it. I don’t care how you feel about temperatures under 70 and bundling up, but I really think everyone wants to have a snowball fight, build a fort or make a snowman at some point in their life. Am I right?

If I’m wrong, I kindly ask of you to re-assess your version of fun. Building a fort and then using it as a fortress to protect myself from rocketing snowballs is one of my favorite pastimes. It’s seriously awesome no matter how old you are. That being said, if you are reading this because you’re thinking of taking a trip to Florida, you probably think I am out-of-my-tree crazy right now. But I have a point, I promise.

Welcome to ‘Pretending the White, Gulf Coast Beach Sand is Really Snow While Tanning In Your Bathing Suit and Sipping a Pina Colada’ 101. Here, I will teach you all the joys of laughing to your friends and family at home about how warm you are while still texting them pictures of your glorious snowman… with a palm tree in the background.

Step 1: Get yourself a bucket of sand, and a bucket of that emerald green gulf water.

Step 2: Add small amounts of water to the sand until you are able to roll some into a ball

Step 3: Make three balls: Big, Bigger, and Biggest

note: you might not be able to make them quite as large as you can with snow

Step 4: Stack them on top of each other – biggest on the bottom, smallest on the top

Step 5: Decorate! And have a little fun. You can use the traditional materials, or find small seashells for the eyes and mouth, and use one of those long spiraly ones for the nose. Or anything else your creative self comes up with!

Now see, who said you couldn’t have your cake and eat it too? They were clearly wrong. And just to make them more wrong, why don’t you bring some cake and eat it while you look at your snow(sand?)man? Bonus points for sending pictures my way.

(689 views)

So Where’s the Best Lobstah and Chowda Around Here?

We all love going someplace awesome enough that we’re considered a tourist… but we HATE being treated like tourists. It’s a seemingly unavoidable catch 22. Or is it? Get out your notebooks, folks (or just press print), I’m here to rescue you from flagging yourself as the dreaded ‘T-word’. Well, at least when you’re at a Gulf Coast seafood joint, anyway.

Just like you don’t go to Hawaii to snowboard, you don’t come to the Gulf Coast for clam chowda and fresh lobstah – you’re about 1500 miles too far south for that. Different regions have different things they’re known for. And down here, we have some ridiculously amazing seafood. It just might not be the kind you’re expecting. So, here it is – no funny business, no hidden agenda – just a comprehensive guide to our local seafood. Your only job is to go try some, and tell me how astonishingly accurately I described it for you. I dare you.

Popular Preparations:

Fish can be prepared in several different ways. Some fish are great any way, some are better off being single-minded. Here are the most common ones you’ll find on a Gulf Coast sea food menu:

  • Blackened: I promise, the restaurant is not trying to dupe you into buying overcooked fish. This puts a spicy spin on your dish and is my personal favorite. Chefs will create their own blend, typically of butter and Cajun spices, and flavor the fish with it while it cooks to perfection in a cast iron skillet.
  • Grilled: Depending on the restaurant you are at, the method used to grill can create a really diverse number of flavors. If you see the words ‘cedar plank grilled’, try it. It’s phenomenal and just the right amount of smoky. Grilling fish properly locks in juices and will make your mouth water.
  • Broiled: For the health conscious. Broiled is certainly not the most flavorful or interesting way to prepare a fish, but it does not add more fat or sodium, making it ideal for those on a strict diet. But let’s be fair, if you’re on vacation here, live a little!
  • Fried: Quite the contrary of broiled, this is less healthy but absolutely delectable. Each restaurant has their own recipe for breading and/or battering, meaning you’ll get a different flavor everywhere you go. Fried is the way to go for a more casual experience, if you’re getting fish n chips, or if you’re trying a famous po’ boy.

Deliciousness:

  • Black Grouper: A type of reef fish, it’s great for the seafood beginner and the nutrition lover. It has a mild flavor, can be prepared a wide variety of ways, and doesn’t dry out easily. It has a firm, meaty texture, but it’s also flaky.
    • AKA: Grouper
  • Red Snapper: Also a reef fish and plentiful to the Panhandle, it is similar to Black Grouper. This fish has a mild flavor, doesn’t dry out easily, and is a bit sweet. It has a firm, meaty texture, but it’s also flaky.
    • AKA: Pink Snapper, Vermillion Snapper, B-Line Snapper, Jobfish
  • Mahi Mahi: Not to be confused with the porpoises we all know and love, this fish is tasty with a firm texture. Not very fishy tasting, it is best prepared grilled or blackened.
    • AKA: Dolphin Fish, Dorado
  • Amberjack: A mild game fish, it has a fishier taste than reef fish, though it is not overwhelming. It has firm, flaky texture and is prepared in a variety of ways.
    • AKA: Yellowtail Kingfish, Yellowtail, California Yellowtail, Buri, Kahala ‘opio, Racing Tuna
  • Cobia: With a mild flavor, you will find cobia is an extremely tasty fish that is typically served thick like a steak. It is prepared in many different ways and does not taste fishy. Regarded as one of the absolute favorites by locals.
    • AKA: Lemon Fish, Ling, Crabeater
  • Kingfish & Mackerel: Not for beginners, these fish are tender and flavorful, but quite oily. These are best in dips, but can also be tasty if they are fresh (aka caught that day). In this case, they are typically cut thick like a steak and are best prepared grilled or blackened.
    • AKA: King Mackerel
  • Swordfish: With a moderate flavor that is stronger than most listed above, this fish is light and delicious. Typically served in thicker cuts and prepared a variety of ways.
  • Wahoo: With moderate flavor, this fish is very lean and firm. It is cut into thicker steak filets and is commonly used as the meat in some of the most delicious fish tacos.
    • AKA: Robalo
  • Yellowfin Tuna: The most prized and delicious of tunas, this fish is extremely delicious, mildly fishy, and high in protein. It can be eaten raw, like in sushi, or cooked a variety of ways as a larger steak filet.
    • AKA: Ahi
  • Yellowtail Snapper: This mild fish is delicious and slightly tangy. It has a fluffy texture when pan seared or fried properly. Not an adventurous fish, but not for beginners, either.
    • AKA: Flag, Tail, Rabirubi
  • Flounder: Renowned as one of the top three favorites in the Gulf Coast, this fish is delectable. It has a mild flavor, fine texture and is great for beginners and seasoned sea food lovers. This is great prepared any way, and can really handle a hearty sauce like a bearnaise.
    • AKA: Door Mat, Sand Dab, English Sole, Fluke, Plaice
  • Triggerfish: This guy is extremely flavorful with a distinctive taste. It has a mostly shellfish diet, so it has a hint of that flavor. It is light and flaky, and great prepared blackened, fried or grilled.
    • AKA: Fudpucker
  • Redfish: This fish has a moderate flavor and is not oily. It is a firmer fish and is best grilled, but can also be enjoyed blackened.
    • AKA: Reds, Red Drum, Channel Bass

You’re now armed with the names of some of Florida’s most adored seafood – sure to make you blend right in with the locals. Now go out there, have a little adventure, and make your taste buds love you way more than they do right now.

(48274 views)

Covering your world from boots on the ground to toes in the sand