12/17/14

Our weekend getaway to Blairsville, GA

Last week was FABULOUS.

1488679_628562840599773_8688649441795156692_nA few months ago a group of my nearest and dearest got together and planned a long weekend trip up in the North Georgia mountains. Back in 2004 my mom and I were looking for a place to go camping during our winter school break (both my parents worked for the school system, so we always had the same time off!). I can vividly remember sitting at the kitchen counter at my parent’s house scanning a map of the southeastern United States looking for a place that would be a) A day’s worth of driving distance and b) A change of scenery from our regular beachy Florida views. 

We ended up putting our finger smack on a city called Blairsville; in the Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia. After a quick Google search we learned that this town was only an 8 hour ride from Tampa, boasted beautiful views, wasn’t commercialized and “touristy” like other mountain towns (i.e. what Pigeon Forge has become) and was home to Brasstown Bald Mountain- the highest peak in Georgia.

SOLD. So much that we’ve returned almost every year since. 

When my mom passed away, I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to return to the area, but in 2012, Brian and I did just that. And it was an amazing time, especially being able to visit spots I had visited with my mom just years earlier. We didn’t make it out there in 2013, but knew we would not miss another year. 

This past September I began searching for the perfect cabin for a long weekend getaway with friends. I wanted to find a cabin with mountain views, one that was dog friendly (one of my girlfriends was bringing her pup), close to all of our favorite places and restaurants, and one that had lots of room to stretch and play- both indoors and out. I started searching Craigslist rentals of Northeast Georgia, then moved on to looking through Vacation Rentals By Owner (vrbo.com). There wasn’t much listed on Craigslist, but as soon as I began scouring VRBO, I knew I would be booking something that day. There are SO many beautiful cabins for rent in the area, but just 1 caught my eye. 

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This lovely cabin checked off all of our boxes AND came complete with breathtaking views of Brasstown Bald and other surrounding mountains. When I contacted the owner she informed me that it was available for the days we were looking at. So we promptly sent in our deposit and locked in the dates! Throughout the next few months we made our plans, solidified check-in procedures with the oh-so-accomodating (and patient!) owners and built up a LOT of excitement! 

After waiting, and waiting, and waiting, the weekend had FINALLY arrived! We packed up all of the necessary items we’d need for a (COLD!) four days in the mountains and hit the road. We arrived early on Wednesday morning and were just blown away by the incredible views of the sunrise as we walked in the house. 

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IMG_1441And while the views were my favorite part of the house, the rest of the cabin did not disappoint! Between the comfortable beds, a kitchen with all the essentials, spotless accommodations, fireplaces, wrap around porches, wi-fi and so many other comforts of home, we were on cloud 9!

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IMG_1458We spent the next four days relaxing, hiking, sight seeing, eating (biscuits and gravy!), stargazing, roasting marshmallows by the fire, enjoying the cold weather (and ice and snow!) connecting and just being in the moment. It was everything I could have hoped for and more. 

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And I may or may not have spent a bit *too* much time in these 2 positions:

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IMG_1533When I read the reviews for the cabin, and was thumbing through the guestbook at the house, everyone mentioned how lovely it was to watch the deer eat in the backyard. And after 3 not-so-patient days of feeding, using deer calling apps, and having binoculars on my face way more often than I would have liked to, we FINALLY saw deer on Saturday morning, which I may or may not have scared away from my cries of excitement. 

IMG_1768And on that same day, before we prepared to pack up and head south, we ended our vacation by chopping down our third Christmas tree together at a local tree farm just down the road. 

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We were sad to say our goodbyes, but excited to get back home to hug our cats and decorate our fresh mountain tree. 

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We had such a fun time and would recommend visiting Blairsville if you’re looking for a wonderful and relaxing getaway. If you’d like to rent this cabin, click here for more details. The owners, Mike and Jaynee, will answer all of your questions and help to make sure you have the time of your lives! 

And while you’re planning your trip to the North Georgia Mountains and Blairsville, keep these places in mind!

Helton Creek Falls (just a short hike from the road!)

Desoto Falls (1.50 miles round trip to see the upper falls; .50 miles round trip to see the lower falls- both easy hikes)

Vogel State Park (camping, wildlife, holiday events, horseback riding)

Trackrock Stables and Campground (camping, wildlife, hiking, horseback riding)

The Sawmill Place (Farm to table, best biscuits and gravy in town!)

Dan’s Grill (Great Cuban food from Miami transplants)

Jim’s BBQ (only open Th-Sat- great bbq!)

Alexander’s (Blairsville’s “mall”) ;)

Muffy’s (quick bites, sandwiches, burgers and more)

Brasstown Bald Mountain (highest peak in Georgia, gorgeous views, hiking, geocaching)

Pappy’s Trading Post (shops, tubing, fudge, restaurant, outdoor fireplace, riverside)

Sunrise Grocery (local treats, gas, fresh eggs)

Logan’s Turnpike Mill (freshly ground grits, pancake mix, jams, jellies, baked goods)

Hiawassee Antique Mall (just a short drive from Blairsville- HUGE!)

Victoria’s Mall (antiques, hobby shop, thrift store, coffee shop)

Cook’s Country Kitchen (cheap and great breakfast!)

Historic Courthouse (museum, beautifully decorated around Christmas)

Sundance Gallery (unique gifts, art, local crafts, pottery, decor)

Southern Tree Plantation (chop your own Christmas tree, hayrides, petting farm, pumpkins in the fall)

Anna Ruby Falls (just a short drive from Blairsville in Helen)

11/29/14

oh Fudge!

I hope you had a fabulous (and filling!) Thanksgiving Holiday!

And no matter how hard I tried to fight it, I was listening to Christmas tunes way before a slice of turkey entered my mouth. And decoration boxes may or may not be pulled out of the closet already. 

Hey, what can I say… I’m feeling festive! 
With feelings of joy and cheer, I bring you this: FUDGE. 

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11/23/14

Steph’s Favorite Things 2014!

Can you BELIEVE it’s that time of year? 
Wasn’t it JUST September like a second ago?

Although I feel like I never really embraced the Halloween spirit this year (aside from passing out tricks and treats- that’s ALWAYS a blast), I can FEEL the holiday cheer building up inside me; bubbling up like a glass of sparkling champagne on New Year’s eve. 
And with Thanksgiving just a few days away, and temps getting cooler here in Florida, I am feeling festive and ready for a fun and memorable holiday season!

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10/5/14

Sometimes you just need to shake things up

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been on this weight loss journey my entire life. 
Well, honestly, it HAS been. 

As many of you have learned already, I have been “overweight” as long as I can remember. 
Being heavier than the average child, teenager, and young adult had far more disadvantages than the health concerns carrying extra weight brings. As most of the world knows, there is a certain stigma attached to the overweight. And because of that, I never really had a lot of friends as a child. Being overweight made me VERY shy, and embarrassed, and so I just kept to myself. I opened up a bit more in Junior High and High School, and although I was able to grow my circle of friends, as people began to date and pair off, I never even went on so much as a date in high school. 

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10/3/14

Healthy cooking for beginners

Out of all the searches that drive readers to my blog, the top search phrase has always been “healthy cooking for beginners”. I get a LOT of questions about how to meal plan, how to shop and how to cook. I’ve had people tell me that their eating habits are horrible because they “can’t cook”, and resort to pre-packaged foods, fast food and dining out. I’ve heard this on the blog, social media and even in person. 

Well, I’m here to tell you that healthy cooking is EASY. No seriously, I promise! Here are my tips for getting started in a healthy meal prep routine… and making a habit of it!  Continue reading