08/18/14

Dear Teachers,

Dear Teachers,

As we approach the start of a brand new school year, I can feel the excitement in the air. I hope that everyone has had a restful summer, and that you are all prepared, motivated and excited to make this the BEST year yet!

My wish for all of you this year is to remember what inspired you to go into this profession when you first decided to take this path. Did you want to make a difference? Did you want to be a role model? Did you want to play a part in developing the future of our country?

Whether this is your first year or your 40th, as the new school year begins, I encourage you to dig deeply and remember those first moments of deciding to become an educator.

It takes love and courage to be a teacher. No matter what is thrown at us each year, we pick ourselves up and return; thinking of ways we can learn from the challenges of the past. We go to sleep brainstorming ideas to motivate, inspire and create learning environments that help our population. We wake up with headaches, runny noses, and personal problems. Yet we get dressed, get in our cars and drive to school. And on the days when life becomes too much and we must take a “mental health day,” we spend time preparing plans and activities to ensure that our students are productive while we’re out. We are constantly thinking, planning, worrying, and wanting the best for our students, as if they were our own family.

And even on the most frustrating of days… even when dealing with the most frustrating of students… even when stressing about the most frustrating of policies… we return each year, because we love this profession, and have the courage to continue to try and make a difference.

The courage we carry helps to support students who are overlooked and undervalued. We will face children with the odds stacked up against them. They might live in poverty. They might have gone to bed hungry the night before. They might not have a place to call home. And although these factors may impact how they interact and deal with their world, our willingness to be there for them, go the extra mile for them, and provide a structured, safe, comforting, and meaningful learning environment for them, day after day, is something they really do appreciate; even if they don’t express it in a conventional way.  As teachers we must have the courage and faith to believe that the long hours, meticulous planning, and effort that we put into our profession is truly making a difference in the lives of our students.

No matter what our students walk through the door with this school year, we must show each and every one of them that we care. We want them to feel empowered. We want them to feel like they’re someone important.  

This year I challenge you to greet each and every one of your students as they walk through your classroom door. To laugh and have fun with them. To reach out to someone if you need help. To know that it’s ok to have a “bad” day. To have the courage to love them, because you may be the only one who does.

To be that teacher that your students will always remember.

Best wishes for an amazing 2014-2015 school year,
Stephanie

teacher quote

08/10/14

Key West Inspiration

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow I will have my alarm set bright and early for the start of another exciting school year! 

And although this summer has been BUSY, to say the least, there were some fun moments sprinkled in between trainings, leadership retreats and back to school planning meetings. 

There was that little getaway my gentleman and I took back in June. 

Birthday and 3rd anniversary adventures

Lots of trips to the beach and the pool. 

And just last week, we drove down to the Florida Keys for our annual Key West lobstering trip!

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A big group of us rounded up all of our families to share a house on Stock Island (the last Key before Key West) for a week at the end of July. 

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And it’s a good thing we all get along, because with 20 of us in the house (+ baby Addy!), it was tight quarters!

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In fact, you might just call it “air mattress city.” ;)

We even had air mattresses tucked above the entrance landing in what my uncle Marty dubbed “the Penthouse”. 

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Our week was filled with fun times out on the boat, TONS of lobsters, adventures out on Duval street, IV drips of strong cafe con leche, Key Lime EVERYTHING, Scrabble until the wee hours of the morning, and other crazy moments that I won’t disclose here on the blog. 

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What happens in Key West, stays in Key West, right? ;)
We had SUCH a good time and cannot wait to return to paradise!

On the way home we made some stops at a few road side markets and picked up some beautiful produce. I’ve been using up some of the most delicious Key limes, mangos, young coconuts and and avocados all week long. 

I made a scrumptious Key lime tart using this recipe
A delicious mango pico de gallo (think regular pico with added mango chunks and lots of fresh Key lime juice!)
Lots of chicken/fish/lobster marinades and salad dressings with fresh Key lime and garlic. 
And two more recipes that I’m about to share with you! 

The first one is a simple hot sauce/marinade using some habanero peppers my cousin gave me over the weekend and the remaining mangos and Key limes from our trip. 

The second is a grain-free jam dot cookie with shredded coconut, pecans and Key lime zest in the dough, filled with a blackberry jam! 

Enjoy!

-Steph :)

08/10/14

Summer of RUM!

Oh yes, you heard me right.

RUM. Sweet, delicious RUM. 

And it’s going to be ALL ours come this Saturday (National Rum Day!) as the Summer of Rum festival rolls through the Cuban Club in Ybor City, August 16th, from 2pm-11pm. 

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Drink a variety of rum drinks from a variety of rum brands.  Whether its Frozen Daiquiris, Pina Coladas, Rum Runner, Cuba Libre, Black & Stormy, or a Rum-a-Rita; the Summer of Rum Festival will have all your favorite summer time drinks! 

Oh yea, not to mention the awesome island themed entertainment that will keep you dancing all day! (from the website). 

You can have your rum 2 ways- as a VIP or as a general admission-er. The VIP experience will keep your cups filled and flowing with never-ending amounts of lovely rum concoctions. So if you’re planning to party hard (and responsibly), VIP’s the way to go!

And there will be PLENTY of drinks to choose from. The list is endless (just like your VIP cup!). 

Want to know more? Check out the FAQ’s. 

Want to win a FREE pair of GA tickets? Leave me a comment below telling me which drink you’re excited to try, and you’ll be entered to win a free pair! (I’ll email them to you for easy printing at home!). 

Good luck and see you on Saturday! :)

Steph

 

 

08/9/14

Grainfree coconut pecan and lime jam dot cookies

These grainfree cookies are BURSTING with flavor.
The melt-in-your-mouth cookie dough is sprinkled with hints of coconut, pecan and Key lime zest. 
The center is juicy and tart, giving the perfect contrast of flavors and textures. 
I dare you to eat just one!

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Grainfree coconut pecan and lime jam dot cookies

1 3/4 cups grain free flour mix (click here for the recipe)
3/4 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup raw unfiltered honey
1 tsp. sea salt
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flake
1 tbsp. Key lime zest (you can use regular limes)
1 jar of your favorite jam (I used unsweetened blackberry jam from Trader Joe’s)

Directions
1. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. 
2. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sea salt and honey together.
3. Add egg yolks and combine well.
4. Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix just until all the flour is combined.
5. Using a spatula, fold in the coconut, lime zest and pecans. 
6. Refrigerate for an hour, then drop rolled balls of dough onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Using your thumb, press down onto the center of each cookie, and fill the “thumbprint” with a teaspoon of jam.
7. Bake at 375 degrees for 9 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet, then transfer to a plate. These will be very delicate, so it’s important that you let the cookies set prior to moving them. 

Enjoy! :) unnamed

08/9/14

Mango Habanero Hot Sauce/Marinade

This hot sauce can be easily used as a marinade or a sauce!  The mango and honey give it just enough sweetness to balance out the spice, and the cilantro gives it a bit of freshness to really liven up the flavor of the sauce!

You can kick up the heat by leaving some of the seeds/ribs of the habanero peppers in, or milder by removing all of them. 

Mango Habanero Hot Sauce

4 habanero peppers, stemmed, halved, seeds and ribs removed
4 garlic cloves
2 carrots, diced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 tbsp. white vinegar
the juice of 2 Key limes (you can use regular limes) ;)
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (rinsed well)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Directions
1. Saute carrots and onions in a bit of olive oil on medium low heat until soft. Let cool.
2. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor, and mix until a sauce has formed. If it’s on the thicker side, add a bit of water or extra lime juice to thin it out. 
Refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Enjoy! 

*I used the hot sauce as a marinade for some shrimp! I poured 1 cup of the hot sauce over 25 raw shrimp and refrigerated it for 30 minutes. I then placed the shrimp onto soaked skewers and grilled 2 minutes on each side, until the shrimp were pink and tender. 

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08/8/14

The Confidence Bucket List

One of my favorite bloggers, Emmie, From Authentically Emmie has recently brought up this topic: The Confidence Bucket List. She got the idea from another blogger, Brittany, from Brittany Herself.  We’ve all heard of the infamous “bucket list”, but this is a neat little spin on the concept. 

What are 10 things you hope to one day have the confidence to do?

Interesting topic, eh?
I’ve never really compiled a bucket list, but I’m constantly setting new (non-weightloss) goals for myself. I think life without a challenge is boring, and I’m always trying to find new ways to make life fun and interesting. 
For example, just this week I tried boxing for the first time!

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I won a giveaway last week from my blog friends over at Never Have I Ever to try out 2 free weeks at Title Boxing in South Tampa. I had an absolute blast! I have never felt so strong (and so badass) as I did in those 60 minutes!  Would I have had the confidence to have tried this on my own? Maybe not, so I’m grateful for winning and even more grateful to my two buddies who came along with me to try a free class! 

So WHAT ELSE would I love to cross off my confidence bucket list? Honestly, this was a bit tough for me! Coming up with 10 things I’d love to try someday, without any worries or inhibitions, took a bit of self-reflection and deep thinking. But I did it, and hopefully someday soon these 10 items will be crossed off and replaced with new challenges as life goes on. 

Without further ado, here are 10 things I’d love to have the confidence to someday try! 

 1. Sing karaoke. My mom LOVED to sing. And I do too- in my car. In the shower. In front of Brian who won’t judge me. However in front of a group of people? Hell no. So on the list it goes! Maybe someday I’ll have the confidence to get up in front of a crowd (with a glass of wine) and belt out some tunes. 

2. Praise myself without apology. Over the summer I participated in a leadership retreat for my job as an instructional coach. I want to do a full post on it, but I had to bring this up for the bucket list, as this was a recurring theme throughout my experience. We were able to receive anonymous feedback from our peers and bosses at work, and this was what the majority of my raters had brought up. I do things without giving myself credit for them, and therefore my efforts (and abilities) sometimes get overlooked or undervalued. My goal for this school year is to find ways to be my own cheerleader, without coming across as a know-it-all snob (my biggest fear!). 

3. Run. And I mean JUST run. Not run while thinking of my flab or big boobs. Or run while thinking about how loud my breathing is. Or run while thinking about what other people could be saying about me. I just want to be able to throw on my running shoes and just RUN with a clear mind. 

4. Stop worrying so much. I am a worrier extraordinaire (it’s a paternal grandmother trait, no doubt!). Life would be so much easier if I would muster up the confidence to believe in myself, my abilities, my circle. I need to learn to trust the process, focus on the present, and plan for, not worry about the future. 

5. Go sleeveless. This is a goal in progress. I’ll bare arms when I’m swimming or at the beach, but on a day to day basis, those babies are covered up. I AM learning to love my arms as they become more toned and muscular, and hope to someday have the confidence to wear cute sleeveless tanks and blouses more often. 

6. Swim in deep water without freaking out. I am a good swimmer. I’ve done triathlons. Yet deep, deep inside me there is still a deep water fear that takes over my swimming confidence. One day I’ll punch it in the face, feel the fear, and do it anyway. 

7. Speak in front of adults as well as I speak in front of my students. When I’m teaching, I’m on fire. Confident, witty, “with-it”. When I’m in front of a group of adults, that confidence runs away, and because of that, I feel as though I am a less effective presenter. I am continually working on finding my comfort zone in front of adults so that I can really be of value to them. 

8. Feel beautiful. This is a hard one for me. I see myself as tall, chubby and awkward most times. I hope to one day shake those perceptions and have the confidence to truly appreciate the qualities and characteristics that make me beautiful. 

9. Be social in a crowd. My circle might raise an eyebrow at this, as usually I’m a social butterfly when it comes to my close friends. However, stick me in a crowd or party where I don’t know anyone, and you’ll find me in a corner looking at my phone, or on the sofa petting the cat. 

10. Write a cookbook. This is the dream. The BIG one. I’ve been toiling with it for years and it’s time that I just find the confidence to believe in myself and do it. 

What would be on your confidence bucket list? -Steph :)

08/7/14

Budget friendly workout wear: and a GIVEAWAY!

You shouldn’t feel the need to take out a second mortgage on your house in order to afford workout wear. There are endless options out there for clothing that is breathable, comfortable, appropriate…and cute! ;) 

And although there are plenty of options to choose from, there are a few things you do need to consider before swiping that credit card.  Continue reading

08/6/14

#TeamJudy is Racing for the Cure!

This year #TeamJudy is Racing for the Cure!

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My mom Judy passed away in early April of 2012 from breast cancer. Since her passing, I have made every attempt to continue her memory and legacy through fundraisers and races around the Tampa Bay Area. Continue reading

07/21/14

Bacon wrapped shrimp tacos

Way back in once upon a time time, I learned about a new Mexican dive that was sooo good, it could bring the coldest of assholes to tears.

Soooo good that it was worth the 30 minute drive from Tampa.
Soooo good that it would make you come back for breakfast, lunch and dinner… multiple times a week. 
Soooo good that it would make you stop cooking at home altogether.
Soooo good that eating just 1 thing off this diverse menu might make you punch someone that speaks of “the Bell”. 
Soooo good that someone needs to call Guy from triple D. 
Soooo good that it would make my friend Kristen ask us to go there 351,882 times within the past 6 months.  Continue reading