Dear Holly: The $2.99 Chocolate Puppy Cake from Kroger

1 year, 11 months.

Dear Holly,

Last week, our family managed to make it through all of the 1st season of Nailed It! on Netflix. I had suggested your brother check out the show, after I had spent the week before watching both seasons of Master of None, where the main character who is an aspiring actor, has to settle for being the host of a show called Clash of the Cupcakes.

And yes, Nailed It! was every bit as silly as I imagined it to be, based on the fictional concept of Clash of the Cupcakes and the Internet meme. And yes, your brother genuinely loved the cake competition show as much as I knew he would.

Last weekend, your brother announced to me in the car, as I was taking him hiking while you were home with Mommy:

“Hey Daddy… Mommy said we could look at cakes at Kroger and maybe get one.”

So after our hike, I let Jack look at cakes. To my amazement, there was a chocolate puppy cake for only $2.99. I had no issues paying so little money for a cake so cool; a cake I knew that both you and your brother would enjoy.

As we walked in the door, Jack and I both announced to you,

“Holly, we brought home a puppy cake!”

Your response: “Puppy? Puppy. Puppy!

So after we ate our veggie soup that Mommy had cooking on the crock pot, Mommy cut the puppy cake for dessert for you and your brother.

Jack immediately dived in, as if it were his birthday. (In reality, it’s your birthday and mine that are coming up.)

To my surprise though, you didn’t really care about eating the cake. You just wanted to play with the plastic cover the cake came in.

You had a great time walking around the kitchen and living room with it on your face like a mask. Then you enjoyed stomping on it in the likeness of Justin Timberlake smashing the disco ball on one of his album covers.

Your brother loved the cake. You loved the container it came in. Classic.

Love,

Daddy

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SEO Spotlight Series: Legacy Coffee Co. in Spring Hill, Tennessee Uses Locally Roasted Beans (Featuring a Video Making an Iced Caramel Macchiato)

If you happen to be passing through Spring Hill, Tennessee, a must-stop place is Legacy Coffee Co. As a resident for 3 years now, I am well aware of the buzz about Legacy. It’s quite typical when I am getting coffee there, that I have heard the same reoccurring message from fellow customers:

“I would rather support local business. I want to contribute to our own community. Not to mention, I like the coffee here better anyway!”

I met the owner, Joshua Merrill, a couple of years ago when his coffee joint consisted of a pick-up truck pulling a tiny house that he built himself.

Fortunately, his business saw enough success that last fall, he was able to move in to some extra space at everyone’s favorite pizza place in Spring Hill: Viking Pizza Co.

Something that has become apparent to me when I visit Legacy Coffee Co. is that Joshua apparently knows every single person in town by name. He’s like the modern day equivalent of the owner of the General Store in town.

Except he runs a coffee shop instead.

It is obviously very important to the identity of Legacy Coffee Co. that they locally roast the beans themselves. This is something I quickly learned when I was shooting the 2 minute video promo of Josh explaining how he makes an Iced Caramel Macchiato. Check it out, and you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of Joshua’s passion for the art of making exceptional coffee.

And if you did just watch that video, you’re probably drooling right now for his hand-crafted Iced Caramel Macchiato. That’s what happened to my wife when she saw the video.

It’s no surprise that she actually just informed me we are making our way to Legacy Coffee Co. in the morning. So maybe we’ll see you there.

Want to see your business featured in my SEO Spotlight Series?

I am confident I can help boost your business’s presence online, thanks to hosting a special customized article (like this one) here on my website; which notably has great SEO. Plus, I also will shoot a special video promo for you, to host and share on my YouTube channel.

On top of all this, I am also convinced I can do this at a much cheaper price than any other media company could do for you. As of April 7th, 2018, I am starting out at the introductory price of $350.

Interested? Curious? Email me with the subject line, “SEO Spotlight Series”:

nickshell1983@hotmail

A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

Last week during Spring Break, our family opted not to go somewhere slightly exotic, like Destin, Florida; as usual. Instead, I dropped my wife off at the Nashville International Airport for her flight to Atlanta, then I drove our kids to my parents’ house, in Fort Payne, Alabama; where I grew up.

My wife went to work immediately, as she was there to help represent Vanderbilt University’s Biostatistics Graduate Program in at the ENAR 2018 Spring Meeting. (In case you happen to be out of the loop, ENAR stands for Eastern North American Region of International Biometric Society.)

I spent the first day of Spring Break at Ruby Falls with our son (more on that in the near future, so stay tuned…). But the very next morning, I left early for Atlanta; in the 2018 Mazda CX-5.

This SUV was the perfect size for my 3 hour scenic drive down Lookout Mountain into the Rome, Georgia; and eventually Atlanta. I appreciated not only the great gas mileage it got (25 city, 31 highway), but also how well it handled all those sneaky curves on my route.

As a stay-at-home dad who works from home as a Social Media Specialist and Influencer, I haven’t commuted to an office since last October. So I do admit, it was nice being able go back and forth between The Beatles and Tom Petty for a few hours. There’s a part of me that misses that 2 hour round trip everyday to work, where I could sort of just think about my life as I listened to good music.

Thanks to the trusty GPS, I had arrived at lunch time at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. My wife met me right away at front doors, where I introduced her to our new ride for the week, and from there we drove just about 5 miles away to our favorite vegan restaurant in Atlanta: Cafe Sunflower in Buckhead.

Our lunch every bit as magnificent as we expected; so much so, that we went back again the next day for lunch! Though my wife is an amazing plant-based chef, I love being able to take her somewhere nice where she not only doesn’t have to cook, but a place that is also as committed to our lifestyle as we are. (My wife has been a vegetarian and I have been a vegan, for well over 5 years now.)

Afterwards, we headed back to ENAR 2018, where I took photographs of Vanderbilt’s booth; as I will be writing an article for Vanderbilt’s website to promote their presence at the event. I was proud to see my video series on display on the monitor, as one of my many roles working as a freelance Social Media Specialist is to create promotional videos for companies.

Over the course the past few weeks, I had interviewed several current students and professors from Vanderbilt’s Biostastics Graduate Program, then made a series of short promo videos. Not only were these playing on a loop during the whole event, but I will eventually upload them to a YouTube channel that I will be creating and managing for the department.

I also also very proud to see my wife there in her role, as well; serving as a beautiful model and spokesperson for prospective students. More importantly though, she had helped coordinate the booth for the department, including all the logistics in getting it there, along with other Vanderbilt employees.

After a hard day’s work, we took advantage of a special attraction there at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta: They have a restaurant called Polaris, on top of the hotel. You have to take a special, exclusive, elevator there. And the over the course of an hour, the entire restaurant spins; so you get to see a 360 degree view of Atlanta. We will definitely go there again!

The next day after ENAR came to an end, we headed back to Cafe Sunflower for lunch again, then took a different route back to my parents’ house in Alabama. Our adventures were far from over, as we would be taking a family trip to Rock City the next morning.

I was very grateful to be able to have a “work date” with my wife. Sometimes, or maybe I should say usually, it requires some creativity in being able to plan fun dates when both parents work and have young children.

Perhaps at some point, our lives will be a little less crazy. As for now, we are truly making the most of what we have!

To check out the entire trilogy of blog posts about the cool trips my family took in the 2018 Mazda CX-5, just click the related link below:

A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

My Family’s Road Trip to Rock City in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

My Road Trip with My Son to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

Watch Me on TV! Tuesday, February 27th on The Lifetime Network on the Show, This Time Next Year, Episode 6: “Dudes from Different Latitudes”

It’s now officially showing up on The Lifetime Network’s TV schedule on their website: My episode, “Dudes from Different Latitudes” is premiering in just a few days, on Tuesday February 27th: 10pm Eastern, 9pm Central.

In case you don’t know, a year of my life was documented for this reality TV show, in which my journey was to find and meet my doppelganger; who can promptly be seen on the package of Campbell’s Go Southwest Style Chicken soup.

Are you as excited as I am?! I have been secretly involved with this going back to June 2016. Now finally, I get to see my own episode, and share it with all of you.

Please do not think it was as easy as calling the phone number on the back of the package! No way…

Why would Campbell’s be totally cool with some random crazy guy from the Internet asking for the name and contact info of a model who posed for their product?

Let me assure you… my journey was way more challenging than that.

So please, mark your calendar and plan your night around this. I have so much more to say about my experience, but am forbidden to, until the show airs. I can’t wait for you to see the show, and then hear the behind-the-scenes details that I will have for you afterwards.

I was especially excited to see that, technically, they named the episode thanks to one of my ideas. While there are other people whose stories are featured alongside mine in Episode 6, the title was something I specifically coined.

After you watch, then you’ll understand what I mean; and why I have a beard and I’m wearing this really cool t-shirt with a bear on it.

Tuesday February 27th, 2018: 10pm Eastern, 9pm Central

This Time Next Year, Episode 6, “Dudes from Different Latitudes”

The Lifetime Network

Our Review of the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine for Latte Drinks: 3 Reasons I Love It as Much as My Wife Does!

For three reasons, as the husband, I am very happy we now own a Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine.

First of all, my wife loves this fancy hunk of metal sitting on our kitchen counter, and the expensive-tasting coffee it makes so quickly.

Secondly, it’s saving us the money she used to spend on coffee most days at Starbucks; whether it was from our shared budget or from her own “blow money” (a Dave Ramsey term). I can honestly say this is an investment, for the money it’s comparatively saving us.

And lastly, I am happy we now own the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine because it truly does make amazing coffee. Granted, I’m just an instant black coffee kind of guy. Monday through Friday, twice a day, that’s what I drink. But on the weekends, my wife joyfully makes me a rewarding latte, which is the equivalent to the 6 dollar version you’d find at a local coffee shop; and in my opinion, better than Starbucks anyway.

Yes, it’s true: We are now technically owners of a small coffee shop in our home, in which we are the only customers. We drink up all the profits!

It’s probably no surprise to learn that the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine was my Christmas gift for my wife a couple of months ago. When it comes to us getting each other gifts, we simply directly tell the other person exactly what we want; perhaps with a gentle nudge thanks to an Amazon link.

This isn’t the kind of coffee maker most normal people own. In fact, we may be the only people you’ve heard of who actually own one of these.

But my wife had researched for months, as she wanted to find the most affordable version of the fanciest espresso machine that exists and that definitely makes great coffee. She has a talent for finding the best overall selection that exists.

So if you’re on the look-out for the best deal on an espresso machine that makes expressive-tasting lattes that will impress guests when they drink your coffee, I can already assure you the search is over. Trust me, my wife knows best when it comes to something like this. Trust me.

All you have to do is click this link for the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine. That takes you straight to Amazon, which will help you find the lowest price available. Who knows? You may even find a better deal on it that we did.

Remember, the search is over:

Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: I’m No Longer an Overweight Vegan- I Lost 7.5 Pounds in the Past 30 Days, BMI is Now 24.5

Exactly a month ago, I revealed to the free world that I had officially become an overweight vegan. At 5’9” and 176 pounds, I had a BMI of 26; which put me about 6 pounds past the “normal” or “optimal” BMI range.

Yes, this concept might explode in the face of some out-of-touch people who still assume vegans don’t get enough protein. By the way, I’ve noticed a pattern in which the same people who are the most vocal about the misconception that vegans don’t get enough protein, tend to be overweight men with onset diabetes or who are pre-diabetic. Perhaps that in itself is more ironic that the fact that a vegan can be overweight…

But as the video above proves, I have undeniably lost 7.5 pounds in the past 30 days. I went from 176 pounds to 168.5. I went from a BMI of 26 (overweight) to now a BMI of 24.5 (normal).

How did I do this? Starve myself? Go around hungry? Pay a lot of money to join a program to keep me accountable? Join a gym and slave away to intense cardio 2 hours a day?

Nah, that’s not my style. Instead, here are the changes I have made since a month ago:

I started eating 2 apples or 2 oranges every day; which provides natural sugar and fiber.

I stopped eating vegan ice cream and vegan candy bars at night after the kids are asleep.

Other than one Cliff bar each day as my only “treat”, I stopped eating any snacks that are processed; including whole grain waffles with vegan butter and maple syrup.

I also started drinking unsweetened “slumber” tea before I go to bed each night; to help keep my mind off of consuming any last minute empty calories.

For my salad each night with dinner, I only use balsamic vinegar; no longer any oil-based vegan dressings.

That’s it.

As far as exercise, there was one day the weather was decent enough that I went on a 2 mile run.

Obviously, this new regimen is working for me, so I will continue making this my new norm. My goal is to get down to the mid-150s for my weight; which at this point, is only 13 pounds away.

So a month from now, I will return with the newest update on my journey from overweight vegan to ideal-weight vegan.

In case you missed it, here’s the video from 30 days ago when I proved I was an overweight vegan. I want there to be no doubt in anyone’s mind I was indeed overweight just one month ago.

Despite the 1990s Sitcom Cliche, I Actually Really Like My Mother-in-Law (Featuring the 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring)

I feel like there’s this familiar cliche from family sitcoms of the 90s where the mother-in-law comes from out to town to visit, which inevitably yields 23 minutes of zany frustration for the husband and father of the household; accompanied by laugh tracks, of course.

Maybe that’s true for some men out there, I don’t know.

What I do know is I personally can not relate to this stereotype at all.

My wife and I have been married for nearly 10 years. I can honestly say that I have never once felt frustrated when my mother-in-law comes to visit or when we visit her in California. In fact, she has the opposite effect on me: I feel more relaxed with her around.

I assume I’m the typical American dad in that I am heavily involved not only with the kids, but also with the household chores. The only real free time I have is when everyone else is asleep.

During my waking hours, I’m either taking care of at least one kid or I’m helping clean up a mess. Because with young kids, there’s always a mess to be cleaned.

But when my mother-in-law is in town, I get a break from reality. I actually have pockets of time where I can do things like, you now… learn what it feels like to sit on my own couch for 5 minutes; thanks to my mother-in-law insisting on preparing dinner without my help, telling me, “Now Nick, sit down. I’m taking care of all this over here. You just take a seat and relax.”

This is all especially fresh on my mind, as my mother-in-law is currently staying with our family here here in Tennessee this week.

When the folks at Mazda heard about our special guest flying in from the West Coast, they dropped off a 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring with a full tank of gas, to make the week-long visit extra special.

It’s funny because despite only living about 40 miles south of Nashville, I only see that wondrous and trendy city a few times a year. But knowing we had a fancy car to get us there, we loaded up in the Mazda 6 and took our mother-in-law out for a magnificent lunch.

My wife suggested this cool Lebanese bistro called Epice.

Wow, seriously. It is now officially my favorite restaurant in all of Nashville. It was like being introduced to a whole new world of food. Not to mention, they were easily able to cater to me being a vegan.

The restaurant shares a parking lot with a very swanky “Nashvilley” shop called White Mercantile, which happens to be owned by Holly Williams; the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr.

I admit, the decor there was so cool, I took lots of pictures, made it into a collage, and debuted it as my new Facebook banner picture.

My mother-in-law just loved that store! Despite being born and raised in Oakland, California, she definitely has a fascination with the Southern motif.

After lunch, my wife and mother-in-law decided we would be stopping by an organic grocery store called The Turnip Truck; as it is soon to be a place frequented by Country Music stars.

Apparently, there were no celebrities there at the time, but at least I got a Mexican coffee out of the deal, and my daughter was able to enjoy one of her favorite snacks for the drive back home.

The next day on Saturday, my mother-in-law decided she wanted to take us out for dinner at our town’s official favorite restaurant, Viking Pizza Co. of Spring Hill.

Needless to say, it’s been a very enjoyable week for our entire family with my mother-in-law in town. Especially for me. I have enjoyed being able to remove myself just enough from the household chores, as my mother-in-law has assumed many of my roles this week, so though I could have some moments of sanity.

I don’t care what happened in 90s sitcoms. All I know is, I definitely like having my mother-in-law in town!

If you would like to learn more about the specifics of the 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, check out another article I wrote; which as the title of it implies, will answer many of your immediate questions. Just click on the click below:

2017.5 Mazda 6 Grand Touring: Back Seat Space with 2 Children’s Car Seats, Fuel Door Release, Volume Knob for Stereo, Extra Trunk Space, Gas Mileage, Price

And don’t forget to catch up with me on The Lifetime Network’s “This Time Next Year” on February 20th, at 10 PM Central/9 PM Eastern; as I journey over the course of an entire year in attempt to find and meet my doppelganer!