Saturday, April 12, 2014

Amy's Dos and Don'ts for Surviving One Spark | Photos and Tips

I finally made it out to the "Worlds Crowdfunding Festival" One Spark this year and boy did I learn a lot. Last year was the inaugural year and it was also kind of rainy. I was also right in the middle of production of my TV show for an episode on the Florida Theatre and I really didn't have the time I wanted to explore.

With the absolute perfect weather you could ask for seducing me outside, we packed up the whole family and headed downtown.

We had an amazing time, but I did determine a few of my:

Dos and Don'ts for Attending One Spark

Do - Download the One Spark App.
1. Create a Sign in
2. Under Edit Profile all you need to enter is your phone number. You will need to verify a code they will text you.
3. You must check in via the app once you enter the event, before you can vote.
4. You can vote on the app, or you can simply text the creator numbers each booth provides. (text to the same number they verified your phone number through) 904-647-2955

Don't - Take the Skyway if you want to get anywhere quickly.

I was super excited to take munchkin on the skyway for the first time. I didn't count on the lines being so long and only one Skyway track being operational. With 7 minutes between trains people were cramming in that little car like sardines. If there was a/c we didn't feel it, and after two brief unscheduled stops it was getting quite suffocating. If you are claustrophobic this would have been your worst nightmare. Additionally for those with strollers or wheelchairs, there was no obvious handicapped access to get through the turnstiles, meaning we had to heft the big thing over. We ended up just walking back and taking the Main St. Bridge. There are also the water taxis if you decide to park over the river.

The Skyway is not the Quick way

Do - Plan to Attend More than One Day.
There is so much to see and do. This year is so much busier than last year thanks to festival planning improvements and amazing weather. Take each venue as it comes and enjoy them. I realized why this event is 5 days. There is no way you can take everything in on one day.

Don't - Expect it to be easy if you bring kids. 
The foot traffic was huge, and there were plenty of kids (I brought my own), but it is not an easy place to have your kids. With so much to see and do it's easy for you to lose track of them. We had a stroller which was great but its a little tricky to navigate on some of the roads, up and down stairs, and in between the large crowds.

Do - Dress light.
With so many people pressing in on every side, and the Florida sun beating down it started to get a little stuffy. I was grateful for the light skirt and airy top I decided to wear. After walking all the way from Hemming Plaza back across the Main St Bridge though, I was second guessing my choice in footwear.

They are super comfy.... but after 3 miles...ummmm
Don't- Get Impatient
Props to these hard working folk. Brittany has been
 in the top 3 every night for votes in music.
She handed out more than 5,000 cards already
by the time I attended the event.
One Spark is up til late. Be nice to everyone you see because most of the people working the event have been there all day, all week. I was so impressed with the amount of talent and innovation on all levels. Make sure to give them all a pat on the back.

Do - Visit the Food Village and get a glass of wine first thing. 
If you get a little nervous in crowds like I do you might want to plan to take the edge off with a little celebratory happy hour. I mean you should celebrate all the creators success right? Make sure to bring plenty of cash for vendors who don't take cards.

Don't - Don't bring a huge entourage if you really want to learn and explore in depth. 
Every few feet there is something
screaming for your attention.
I loved attending with family, but I'm a curious and inquisitive mind. My party was getting a little bored with my interview each booth and take pictures technique so it definitely made me rethink my strategy for the future to include at least one day of solo discovery so I can go where I please when I please. Another solution would be to divide and conquer allowing all members of the group to go explore and them meeting back up for food, drinks, and great music.

Do - Vote as many times as you want.
After checking in I caught on that the best way to save time would be to gather all the cards of the creators I liked and then text in my votes at the end of the day. The great news is that you can vote for as many creators as you like. In fact if you want to take home the One Spark guide, you could go through every creator and vote for them if you wanted... or at least find your favorites that stuck out to you.

Don't - Be shy.
This is a great event to interact and have fun! Such a great atmosphere and incredible energy. On Day 3 of the event 65,000 people were reported to attend. The spectacles and people you see will grab you attention and engage your mind. Ask questions, get up and dance, try that sample, and most importantly show your encouragement for these innovators going out on a limb for what they believe in.
Go ahead! Pet the alligator!
Do - Check out the schedule online.
Take the extra time to graze over the schedule and see if there are any speakers you want to go out of your way to hear on the pitch deck. The Plaza was set up perfectly to hang out and absorb all these creators and speakers had to share. It's worth your while to take a listen especially to those who may have a field you really relate to. Who knows where some of these guys will end up. They might be the next big thing!

Stay tuned for a recap of some of my favorite creators. 

Until then....

Enjoy the Journey!

xo- Amy West

Since writing this I received a few more tips:
Don't forget your sunscreen and hand sanitizer!
To avoid the largest crowds go on a a Thursday or Friday during the day. 

Fitness Artwork | Stunning Images of the Human Body | Photos by Amy

Some of you know and some of you may not know that for almost a decade now my other half and I have had our own photography company. If you were wondering where all the photos are coming from, now you know. You can find more of our work at and now under construction our commercial site (coming soon).

This past week my friends at Momentum Fitness and Health Studios (whom you have read about before on my blog), commissioned me to do an art series for them. I'm so happy with the stunning results I had to share.

I don't know about you but I'd say that counts as my weekend motivation! 

Until then...

Enjoy the Journey!

xo- Amy West

Friday, April 11, 2014

5 Steps to Get Fierce | Jax Stroller Strength | Review, Photos

After I had my daughter I felt lost. The lifesaver that pulled me out of the "new mom island of isolation" was the support of other moms going through the same overwhelming challenges as me. It is this spirit of community that has propelled Jax Stroller Strength to success, and with so many moms signing up, I thought it was time to go check it out for myself as part of my "Fitness Trends" series.

What I learned is that this isn't your momma's work out. These ladies dig in, are not afraid to sweat, and are serious about meeting their goals. Here are my...

 5 Steps to Becoming a Fierce Momma with 
Jax Stroller Strength

1. Bring Your Baby
That's right my friends, this is a unique style of work out that integrates you and your lil-kins. Some gyms offer child care but only from a certain age up, and if you are a parent, you know that not all kids are into the whole child care scenario. Stroller Strength works with your lifestyle and surrounds you with other moms and kids offering additional moral support, and maybe even a helping hand with Jr while you're trying to execute that grueling side plank.

Fresh air and side planks go well together
2. Enjoy the Sunshine
Jax Stroller Strength group fitness classes are all performed outside in the fresh air at local parks throughout the city. This means ample space to run around for the kiddos while you are working on that beach bod. Play day for everyone hurray!

3. Stroller Optional
This fitness trend is not limited to parents, although it does cater to them. If you have an older kid and don't have a stroller anymore, no worries, all you need is a yoga mat, 5 or 8 lb weights, and water and snacks for your kids.

Enjoy the support of other moms as you meet your goals
4. Find New Friends
Nothing will break the ice like a few pull ups and a set of jump squats. I love that in this large group of diverse ladies, there is no feeling of intimidation. The atmosphere is welcoming, and the energy upbeat as you travel through out the park working on each activity. Many of the ladies I know have been a part of Stroller Strength for several years and with more than one child. It's priceless to have a community that encourages a healthy outlet for friends, fitness, and family. As owner Mary Lauren explains it, this is her passion. It's in her blood to help moms and kids pursue a healthier life emotionally and physically.

Motivation in an non threatening environment

5. Push Yourself
Do you have fun? Yes! Do your kids? Absolutely! Is it easy? No way. I consider myself pretty fit as I've spent many years hitting the gym and pressing my limits, but this class seriously engaged me on all levels. Stroller Strength was designed to give you a full body work out by professional trainers. Not only will you exceed your perceived limits, you won't get bored, and you most certainly will not be lonely.

Professional training for all levels of fitness

Bonus!! In addition to the classes, I love that Stroller Strength performs regular "Challenges" created to motivate you to reach that BIG GOAL you've been striving for, complete with prizes! They also have fun events like Moms Night Out and yoga classes.

I admire their mission of "taking you as you are". Classes are catered to the individual and there is no level of fitness however big or small they can't accommodate. Need more incentive? How about a free class? That is how much owner Mary Lauren and her team are committed to supporting and encouraging new moms to get connected and reach their goals. Classes are held daily during the week. Sign up today, and as they say "Lead by Example. Get fit. Have fun!". What better way to show our young ones that staying healthy is as important as it is fun.

Until then...

Enjoy the Journey!

xo- Amy West

More great images of my Stroller Strength experience can be found here.

Read More About My Fitness Trends Series Below

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bold in Brunch | Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails | Review, Photos, Video

Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails returns to my blog and it's only been a few months!   Recently rolling out their weekend brunch the timing couldn't be more perfect with spring in the air, and out door eating at it's finest. Who wouldn't want to ease on into a seat on the patio and enjoy the comforting refreshment of an all American brunch, so when I was developing the "Best in Brunch" series, I knew it was time to revisit my friends at Moxie.

Here are my....

Top 3 Reasons to visit 
Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails for Brunch

On the menu:
Smoked Salmon
scrambled farm eggs, rye, dill

Sit in Style

As Chef Tom Gray explains it, "Brunch is a time to slow down and relax, a chance to experience time with friends and family in a much more casual atmosphere versus a Monday through Friday business lunch." For this reason it was important to the leadership of this locally owned favorite to create an atmosphere where you can unwind and toss your weekday worries to the wind. With two open air patios stylishly appointed in their signature Moxie fashion, al fresco dining has never been better. Worried about the FL heat, my concerns were eliminated when I discovered the strategically placed ceiling fans keeping guests at the peak of comfort. On the second level patio, I was also pleased with the variety of seating areas from lounging couches to comfy booths, making it that much easier to relax and take your time. 

Moxie has two out door dining areas in addition to it's stunning indoor options.

Cocktail to Cuisine

I'm originally from Kentucky and one thing country folk do best is good old fashioned made from scratch cooking. So you could say I'm a connoisseur of home grown, and home made dishes. Once you experience it, it's hard to accept the pretender. As I've mentioned before in my Date Night Destinations series, Moxie's full circle approach sets the standard in the highest quality ingredients made, you guessed it, completely from scratch. I personally witnessed this on my tour through the kitchen and prep area where there was nothing pre-packaged sitting anywhere. Moxie's kitchen crew takes the time to meticulously prepare every detail of your dish from mincing and chopping, to marinating, and curing. Chef Tom even worked hand in hand with a master coffee roaster to create their signature Moxie cup o joe

On the menu:
A custom brew unique to Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails

The Brunch menu has a well rounded selection of egg dishes, salads, savory selections, and of course the perfect hand crafted cocktails that are sure to be on everyone's brunch wish list. I was impressed by the selection that covered a little something for every palate, yet meshed together perfectly, ultimately staying true to their "Coast to Coast" inspiration.

On the menu:
fried chicken,  waffle pudding, pepper jelly, and maple mousse

As icing on the proverbial cake, Pastry Chef Sylvia Gould and her team prepare fresh made pastries and desserts daily including doughnuts, sticky rolls, and scones for brunch that will have you swooning. Chef Sylvia painted a picture for me of her inspiration saying she draws from, "Childhood memories, and comfort foods... combining flavors from different cultures, fusing sweet and savory to find an interesting wow factor." 

On the menu: Freshly prepared
(Bottom left) Doughnuts, (Top) Scone of the Day, (Right Corner) Pecan Sticky Bun

Feeling of the First Coast

Trendsetters... mountain movers... you could argue are one and the same. In this case owners Chef Tom Gray and Sarah Marie Johnston have certainly moved their fair share of mountains to build a restaurant that makes a powerful statement on the first coast. Their team continues to elevate the culinary atmosphere of the city as they adapt to change and consistently reinvent the definition of "best". 

On the menu:
Moxie Burger + Fries
beef-pork-bacon blend, LTO, Ms Mary's pickles, brioche bun

Brunch has made a triumphant return to the foodie scene as an in demand staple, and Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails rises to the occasion with an idyllic setting that's both hip and coastal cool. It's this influence along with the hard work of so many talented artisans that has Jacksonville rising in notoriety as a culinary destination that must be explored.  

On the menu:
Black + Blueberry Shortcake
sweet corn ice cream, candied jalapeƱo-infused nectarine drizzle

Below: (Left) Mimosa, (Middle) Bloody Mary, (Left) Tequila Sunrise


Get your appetites ready friends, there is so much to taste and see in this ever evolving, and always tantalizing culinary art we so casually call dining.

Until then...

Enjoy the Journey!

xo- Amy West

See more great images from my brunch experience at Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails here.

Fantastic Giveaway Event Coming Soon! Keep checking back!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Do you have a Strong-Willed Child?

Then you might relate to my most recent guest post on Jacksonville Moms Blog.

Click here to read the full blog

If you can relate please share with those you feel it would encourage.

Until then...

Enjoy the Journey!

xo- Amy West

Thursday, April 3, 2014

3 Reasons I Can't Stay Away from Zen Body Yoga Loft | Fitness Trends on the First Coast | Photos and Review

Here's the truth. I'm picky, seriously picky about my work outs. Here's my work out check list:

- must be fun
- must engage my mind
- must provide an escape from my daily stress
- must give me results
- must fit into my schedule
- must kick my a$$
- must not have weird people that bother me

Ok that last one may not be on the list, but it's still true.

Knowing that health and wellness is a hot topic especially on the coast where I live, I've set out to experience and reveal what I consider Fitness Trends on the First Coast.
Zen Body Yoga Loft 
When my friend Heather approached me at our kids school to chat with me about her new yoga studio I did a little happy dance. I love yoga! In fact I had been looking for a studio that fit in my schedule, and that also connected with my inner yogi. What I found in Heather's vision really hit the mark. Since becoming a part of the Zen Body Yoga Loft family, I have now discovered the...

3 Reasons I Can't Stay Away from Zen Body Yoga Loft

 Lovely Loft Location 

Heather's grand design for the Loft was a cool hip getaway. Her goal was to make you feel like you're at your best friend's place. Cozy up, grab a mug of tea and unwind. Equal parts trendy, and spacious... I love the natural eastern light that opens up the floor in the morning, and the splashes of color that draw the eye throughout the lay out. Water, tea, coffee, and snacks are provided should you crave refreshments, and friendships are built as you set your intentions for your practice and invest into creating a healthier you. A variety of classes are offered from a beginner friendly relaxation course (yes please!) to more advance power sessions. Zen Body also offers pre-natal sessions and hybrid yogalates classes for those looking for the best of both worlds. I've been enjoying the relaxation class as I'm a little rusty and I really love that she perfectly blends the technique of the flow and the spiritual aspect of the practice without being overwhelming.

 Get Your Kids some Zen 

As important to me as my own health, is the health and well being of my daughter. Getting her involved in children's yoga seemed like the perfect fit for my athletic and highly energetic munchkin. I welcomed the opportunity to teach her the value of relaxation, strength, focus, and gratitude. What I discovered with Zen Body's kids classes truly inspired me. Engaging their minds and imagination, the classes are highly interactive as they encourage kids to be creative and get involved with their practice. Each session includes a journey through poses, breathing practices, story telling, music, and art. My munchkin never tires of the class as it flows with her attention span to keep her entertained and absolutely captivated by the practice of yoga. Classes are offered for children ages 3 and up.

Kids learn about yoga through play at Zen Body Yoga Loft

Let's all Zen Together

One of the special things Heather offers at Zen Body Yoga Loft is a unique space to have your next event. Whether it be Girls Night Out, Baby Showers, Wedding Parties, or Your Next Big Birthday, wouldn't it be cool and different to have a unique setting that also offers a chance to relax the mind and spirit? They will even come to you if you just want a session in the comfort of your own space. I love her idea of a girls night yoga session and tea party! Use your imagination with how creative you could get with that.

Whatever's on your checklist, Zen Body Yoga Loft probably has something that will meet your needs.  Schedule your visit today to achieve more peace, flexibility, and strength in your life. 

Until then...

Enjoy the Journey!

xo- Amy West

See more pictures of my experience at Zen Body Yoga Loft on my facebook gallery here

Read More about my Fitness Trends Series below.