01/24/15

My workout essentials and a *Giveaway!*

As many of you know, I’m in the middle of a 14 week training plan for my very first half marathon! I had 8 miles lined up for Saturday morning, but alas, the previous day’s Orangetheory workout did a number on my muscles and I was just too sore to push through. I ended up doing 2 miles and shelving 6 for Sunday. 

Time for some Ibuprofen and foam rolling! ;)

While I’m enjoying some downtime this Saturday, I thought I would share some of my workout and running essentials. Whether I’m powering through a session at OTF, or adding miles to my shoes, here are some of my favorite things to take with me!

Old Navy Compression Capris

I love everything about these capris. They come in regular and plus sizes, they’re almost always on sale or on clearance (especially online), they don’t ride up, they don’t fold down. They just work, and in the end, not having to pick or adjust constantly is the #1 thing I look for in workout bottoms. (Pictured below in black paisley print). 

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Old Navy Active Dri-fit short sleeved tees

I love the length of these tees, the fact that they’re moisture wicking, and come in a variety of colors. Plus, like the capris, they’re usually on sale or clearance!

Women's Old Navy Active Space-Dye Tees - UP IN AIR POLYESTER

Elite Light Cushion Feetures! socks

Socks that prevent blisters, won’t slip down your shoe, and provide just the right amount of padding and arch support? Heck yes! elite-lcnst-fireyred

Jam Transit wireless earbuds

Brian bought me these for Christmas last year and I just love them! Amazing sound quality, ear hooks to help them stay in place, and no long wire to get tangled up in my arms as I run. jam_transit_hp_and_eb_images_r6_3

Nathan Quickdraw water bottle with carrying pouch

This was another gift this past Christmas. I love that it’s light enough to carry during long runs, and has a pouch that fits my phone and keys inside it perfectly. 

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Fitbit Flex

I love my Fitbit Flex. It tracks daily steps, sleep patterns, calories burned, and just recently (with the help of some of my friends) I was introduced to it’s GPS tracking! I had no idea the FitBit could do the same thing as MapMyRun or the like. I fell in love with the FitBit all over again! :)

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Foam Roller

My favorite post-workout tool <after iced coffees>. ;) I learned to love to hate the foam roller from a fitness friend of mine, Chris Kelly. And although I may say bad words while using this, I know that it’s doing my muscles a world of good! Click here to learn all the benefits of getting your roll on. 

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Music

There’s probably nothing more important that music during a workout. At OTF, coaches bring out the jams to help keep you motivated and pumped up. On long runs, I love to create playlists of my favorites to keep me going. Right now my favorite song to run to is Sugar by Maroon 5! Such a great beat! 

And speaking of tunes…. I’ve got a little something special for you guys! 

Just leave me a comment below telling me one of YOUR favorite workout essentials and be entered to win a $25 iTunes gift card!

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You’ll have until Wednesday 1/28/15 to enter, and I’ll pick a random comment on Thursday, 1/29/15! Good luck! :)
Steph

01/20/15

Half Marathon Training Update: Week 6

Can you believe it’s already the MIDDLE of January?

Studies have shown that THIS is the time when people throw in the towels on their “new year’s goals”. Just 2 short weeks is enough for people to give up. What are YOU doing to stay strong with your goals? 

I’m into week 6 of my half marathon training and still going strong. This weekend I knocked out 8 miles and loved every second! A friend of mine came a long with me and through conversations and lots of laughs, 2 hours flew by in a blink. My friend Maura has offered to ride bike along with me for my long runs which may make that time go by quickly as well. And of course I still have my main man with me on my shorter runs throughout the week. I love that he’s on board with helping me train. In fact he loves me SO much that he did 4 miles with me in the pouring rain last week!

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So what did my 6th week of training bring me?
Week 6 miles: 18.7
Total training miles: 64.2
Longest distance: 8 miles
Fastest mile: 14:11
Injuries: none, just soreness
Attitude: Positive, accomplished, excited, motivated
Pre-run fuel: Kind bars, sweet potatoes, or eggs
Fuel during run: None at the moment, just water. Any suggestions?
Post-run fuel: Eggs, avocado toast, lots of iced coffees, strawberries
Favorite run location: Al Lopez Park 
Shoe of choice?: Brooks Purecadence 3
Favorite run jam: Sugar by Maroon 5

Are you training for anything? How are you doing with your 2015 goals so far? Do share!
Steph :)

01/14/15

So you wanna do a 5k?

As many of you know I’m currently training for my very first half marathon! I’m SUPER excited about the idea of crossing the finish line after 13.1 miles. Although I may not be fast, and it may take me a while to finish, I love races!

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I got into doing these races as someone who is “bigger”. And honestly, I’m cool with that. I’m not a small lady (and we’re not just talking about booties and thighs- I stand at almost 5’10″!). I know being “overweight” or “plus sized” can be a challenge. But those things should never come between you and a goal. And if your goal is to do a race, then go for it. Don’t wait until you’re “skinny”or “fit” or for when you’ve “lost those last 30lbs” or for when you can “run a 12 minute mile”. Do it now.

I don’t know what initially inspired me to sign up for my first 5k, but I wanted to give others an opportunity to be inspired to sign up for their own by writing this post. I know there are people out there who feel like they “can’t” because they’re scared that other people will laugh or scowl at them, making them feel out of place or unwelcome. They feel that they “can’t” because it will be hard, or painful, or that they will get injured. They feel that they “can’t” because they’ll give up when failures arise (and they will).

Well I’m here to tell you that you CAN.
Before you start working towards an athletic goal like completing your first 5k race, you’ve got to get your head in the right mindset:

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1. Me vs. old me. I have been blessed to have found a sport where participants, spectators and volunteers are on YOUR side. Races, no matter what size, are filled with positive, encouraging, and motivating participants that WANT you to succeed. You see, the thing with runners is that when they see another runner (no matter how slow) they instantly become proud just because another runner was born. Being a runner isn’t defined by how far you can go, how long you’ve been doing it, or how many times you have to stop to walk or take a break in between miles (which, by the way, is perfectly ok). The first time you run, you’re a runner. You don’t know how often I have shuffled passed a seasoned runner- huffing, puffing, out of breath and sweating so much you would have thought I had just stepped out of a pool- and heard phrases like “looking good, keep it up”. Believe me. There are NO feelings of sarcasm, jealously or negativity towards newbies. Everyone is welcome and that simple mentality has given me courage and will continue to give me courage to try longer distances, different races and challenge myself because, after all, we’re all in a race against no one other than our past selves.

2. Know your body. Many new runners envision The Boston Marathon when they begin toiling with the idea of running a race. I know, because I did that when I got into triathlons. I pictured Kona Ironman in my head, completely oblivious to the fact that triathlons came in a variety of distances and ability levels. Believe me when I say I’m SO glad I didn’t give up prior becoming educated on all things tri. Let’s get one thing squared away first: a 5k is not the same as a marathon. So when you begin training for your first 5k, refer to it just as that: a 5k. Let’s look at some common race distances and their mile equivalents.

5k= 3.1miles
10k= 6.2 miles
15k= 9.3 miles
½ marathon= 13.1 miles
Marathon= 26.2 miles

If you can go back to your high school days, you’ll remember having to do the “mile test” at PE. Picture a typical high school track. 4 times around that track = 1 mile. So to complete a 5k using a track would equal 12 times around, just to put things into perspective. Now, back to talking about your body. At about 345lbs I completed my first 5k. I jogged (slowly) the entire thing with no injury. I knew my body, I knew what it was capable of, and I knew which distance was best for me at the time. Before you start training for a race of any distance, make sure you’ve had an honest conversation with your doctor, and pay attention to any changes (especially pain) you start to feel as you begin to train.There’s a difference between muscle aches and injury pain. Start listening to your body ASAP.

3. It’s all in the footwear. It doesn’t matter if you weigh 100lbs or 500lbs; if you’re 80 years old or 20; if you’ve been running 25 years or a week. If you don’t invest in a good (and I mean really good) pair of walking or running shoes, you will not be successful. I know this sounds brutal, but I speak from experience. When I first began running, I was working out in a pair of sneakers from Target. I hated running. It wasn’t enjoyable. It was painful. It was tiring. I blamed it on my weight. My second pair of running shoes was a pair of Nikes from the clearance section of Sports Authority. I still hated running. My third pair was another pair of Nikes from another sale rack. Running was getting a bit more enjoyable, but I was still having issues. Three years (and 6 pairs of shoes) later, after multiple suggestions from friends and training partners, I decided it was time for me to get a proper shoe fitting and invest in a pair of shoes that are appropriate for the shape of my foot, my gait (the way I step on the ground as I run), and ability level. If you have never visited a running store like Feet First or Fit 2 Run, make a plan to go there for a fitting and analysis and let them suggest a shoe for you. They will even help you find something in your price range! I’m currently running in a pair of Brooks Pureflow 3 and they are hands down the best thing that has ever happened to my feet. 

4. H20. Water. Water. and More water. If you’re going to be training (especially in Florida) you’ve got to start a solid 8-10 8oz glasses of water (at least) a day rule. It’s going to take time, at first, for your bladder and body to adjust if you’re currently not a regular water drinker, so keep in mind that if you decide to start the day of your first walk or run training, you’d better make sure there is a bathroom (or port-a-potty) nearby!

5. Register for a race. If you’re going to make a commitment to completing a 5k race, then it starts with actually choosing and signing up for one. The training part you go through after registration is nowhere near as difficult as actually registering for a race is. There are SO many races to choose from, leaving you wondering what’s going to best for a beginner (most 5k races ARE beginner friendly!), and many times just merely looking through the organizer’s website at course maps, feedback from past racers, even race photos can be enough to put you in freak out mode, leaving your registration unfinished. The best advice I can give? Ask around. I’m a firm believer in NOT doing your first (any distance) race alone, as I feel that the inspiration, motivation and camaraderie you get from training and race partners provide you with the mental and moral support that many first time racers need. Join a running club for beginners like, ask neighbors, friends or family members if they’ve ever done a race and see if they’d be willing to partner up with you. Ask co-workers and community members about the best local 5ks and what they suggest. Word of mouth is a great tool for not only picking a race, but finding people who will cheer, support and help train with you all along the way. And if need be, have someone physically sitting there next to you as you sign up for your first race. They’ll be there to help you remember your name when your mind goes blank, and pick your credit card off the floor when you “accidentally drop it”.

6. Find a good training plan. There are thousands upon thousands of training plans floating around out there. I trained for my first 5k (and many 5ks after that!) by using the Couch to 5k app. It’s simple, no non-sense, and an easy way to get into the swing of things. I also LOVE Jeff Galloway and his run/walk programs. Check out his website for lots of doable beginner training plans. 

I hope this post has inspired at least one of you to set a race goal and start a chapter in your life that I promise you won’t regret.

-Steph ;)

01/13/15

Half marathon training update: week 5

Hey guys! Hope the 2nd week of 2015 is treating you well!

I’m into week 5 (FIVE!) of my half marathon training and feeling F-I-N-E (knock on wood for me please!). No really, I’ve been having a lot of fun challenging myself each week, and appreciating the growth each new run brings. 

I’ve even been lucky enough to have a buddy for a few of my training runs! ;) 
Love that man. 

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Week 5 also brought me my longest run since 2012… 7 miles! I won’t say it was easy, but I surprised myself, no doubt. I only wanted to quit at mile 5, but kept pushing through!

10922429_10153079054082474_7870330530514889827_nSo what did my fifth week of training bring me?
Week 5 miles: 16.5
Total training miles: 45.5
Longest distance: 7 miles
Fastest mile: 14:14
Injuries: none, just soreness
Attitude: Positive, accomplished, excited (especially after those 7 miles!)
Pre-run fuel: Kind bars, sweet potatoes, or eggs
Fuel during run: None at the moment, just water. Any suggestions?
Post-run fuel: Eggs, avocado toast, lots of iced coffees, winter melon or smoothies
Favorite run location: Al Lopez Park (mostly because it’s predictable!)
Shoe of choice?: Brooks Pureflow 2
Favorite run jams: Every Teardrop is a Waterfall- Coldplay, Moment 4 Life- Nicki Minaj, Your English is Good- Tokyo Police Club, Livin’ on a Prayer- Bon Jovi, Trippin’ Billies- Dave Matthews Band, Sweet Child O’ Mine- Guns and Roses

Are you training for anything? How are you doing with your 2015 goals so far? Do share!
Steph :)

01/7/15

13.1 training & being a plus-sized “runner”

I wanted to start writing training posts when I originally signed up for the Sarasota half marathon in early December (especially a post about signing up because we all know that’s the hardest part and deserves its own post!), but I just haven’t dedicated the time to actually sit down and plan it all out.

Until now!

And even though I signed up for this race over a month ago, and I’m already into week 4 of the training plan, this whole idea of completing my first half marathon became very real to me once I put it in writing in last week’s 2015 goals post

Maybe it’s because writing that post made it real to EVERYONE, not just Brian and my close friends. Now the world knew that I was planning on completing my first 13.1 miles and would keep me in check if I tried to bail!

At least I hope you guys will…. ;)

Either way I’m here to share my experience with you and fill you in on the details <all of them> because I just know some of you might be thinking about signing up for YOUR first race too (whether it be a 5k or longer). And I know that many of you are also curvy athletes overwhelmed with the thought of being able to complete a race. After all, being plus sized comes with additional barriers that other distance runners/joggers/walkers may not understand.  So I will do my best to put things in perspective during these posts, share any tips I’ve come across or tried, and maybe, just maybe inspire you to register for an event!

Since I started participating in races back in 2010 (I started with walking 5ks, then completed a slow 15k, a couple of sprint triathlons, then “Galloway-ed” my way through a couple of mud/obstacle runs), I’ve loved every second of it. 

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After my first 5k- 2010

I love the thrill of signing up for a race (not all race entry fees will break your bank).
I love the excitement of getting up early on race day and standing at the start line with all the other participants. 
I love the adventure that every race brings: spectators, words of encouragement, scenery, funny signs.
I love love love the feeling of crossing a finish line; and if there’s a medal, even better! 
I love eating breakfast after races (hello Cracker Barrel bacon!)
And I love taking those sweaty post-race photos that become social media profile pictures for weeks to come (what can I say, I’m a product of the “new-age”) ;)

But I can say with the utmost certainty that it’s not all shiny medals and pancakes. Sure training for a race is a challenge for anyone. It takes dedication, time, and <temporary> sacrifice. But add in extra pounds and you’ve got a whole ‘nother box of challenges. 

Things like extra chafing, lack of confidence, fear of being laughed at, embarrassment from the fact that you think you’re “breathing too loudly and someone might think that you’re going to have a heart attack at any moment”, difficulty finding plus-sized workout clothing that doesn’t ride up or roll down, taking extra care of your knees, feet, and any other body part working extra hard to carry you across those miles. And let us not forget the naysayers who love to tell you the 492,571,823 reasons they have for why “people your size” shouldn’t be doing races in the first place. 

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During my first mud run- 2012

I promise you I have heard them all- and then some. But 27 races later, I’m still JUST as excited to complete each race I sign up for. And I STILL love all of those things I mentioned above. Because completing races is about ME. It’s something I do for myself. I don’t do it to prove the naysayers wrong (although that IS an added bonus lol!), I do it because it makes me happy. Even through all the chafing, the sore muscles, the fear, the annoying clothing malfunctions, I truly enjoy every second. Crossing finish lines makes me feel like my body just accomplished something important. I feel like I was able to do something that many people aren’t able to do. Whether it’s 3.1 miles or a half marathon, any distance is an accomplishment. It’s a goal. It’s minutes of my life I spent pushing my body to do something out of the norm. And it’s awesome. 

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Iron Girl 5k- 2013

Trot through the terrace 5k- 2014

Trot through the terrace 5k- 2014

I’m sure you’ve heard the quote “life starts at the edge of your comfort zone.” Well, 5ks are my comfort zone. So signing up for my first half was definitely out of the norm. 

And I know what I’ve gotten myself into. I know that it’s going to be a hard 14 10 weeks of training. I know problems will arise, profane words will be muttered, challenges will need to be tackled and temporary regret may set in, but I’m not giving up that feeling of crossing that finish line for anything in the world. 

The best part? I’ve got an amazing support group of people who believe in me. That don’t have a naysaying bone in their bodies. That are willing to ride their bikes alongside me for long runs, sprinkle my mind with words of encouragement, and push me when I’m feeling doubtful. That is the key to success, my friends. If there’s any 1 solution to the challenges I listed above it’s postivity. A positive mindset and support from your loved ones can help you climb mountains. 

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Gasparilla 15k- 2012

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Turkey Trot 5k- 2014

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Dirty Girl mud run 5k- 2012

So what did my first four weeks of training bring me?

Total miles: 29
Longest distance: 6 miles
Fastest mile: 14:22
Injuries: none, just soreness
Attitude: Positive, accomplished (especially after those 6 miles!)
Pre-run fuel: Kind bars, sweet potatoes, or eggs
Fuel during run: None at the moment, just water. 
Post-run fuel: Eggs, avocado toast, lots of iced coffees, grapes, or smoothies
Favorite run location: Al Lopez Park (mostly because it’s predictable!)
Favorite run jams: Every Teardrop is a Waterfall- Coldplay, Moment 4 Life- Nicki Minaj, Your English is Good- Tokyo Police Club, Livin’ on a Prayer- Bon Jovi, Trippin’ Billies- Dave Matthews Band, Sweet Child O’ Mine- Guns and Roses

10906372_10153039990672474_6601877042226963155_nStay tuned for additional half marathon posts sharing what I wear for long runs, some products I’ve just discovered to help with those “challenges”, and other tips along the way! And if you use any running apps, I’d love to add you as a friend! 

MapMyRun user name: orangespoken or search the email orangespoken@gmail.com
DailyMile user name: orangespoken or search the email orangespoken@gmail.com
I’m also on MyFitnessPal with the same user name if you’d like to be friends there! :)

Looking forward to connecting! 

Are you curvy athlete? What challenges do you face? What would you like to see addressed in these posts? Do share! 
Steph :)

01/3/15

Life in 2015

It’s already January 3rd and I haven’t written anything about resolutions, goals or the like here at Orangespoken. 
Mostly because I’ve been working on my new little project, The Sly Pie (check it out, pretty please!). 

So what do I wish for in 2015? What are some things I hope for in the next 365 362 days?

1. Complete my first half marathon. I started training for the Sarasota Half on 3/15 a few weeks ago and I’m already up to 6 miles in the training plan. I’ve avoided longer distance races since my experience with the Gasparilla 15k That race was hard. Really hard. Harder than the triathlons. So I figured I’d be sticking with sprint tris and 5ks for the rest of my life. Fast forward a few years later (and lots of pounds less) and here I am training for 13.1 glorious miles. I blame my friend Nanci for this bit of insanity inspiration. ;) 

10906372_10153039990672474_6601877042226963155_n2. Continue with workouts at Orangetheory. What can I say. OTF is still where it’s at and has helped me be stronger and more confident (um, hello 13.1!) since joining. 

3. Eat more. Most people have “eat less” as a goal for the new year, but for me, I vow to “eat more”. Eat more home-cooked meals. Eat more fresh, local produce. Eat more bleu cheese (I really don’t have enough of that in my life). Eat more foods I’ve never tried (and no, NOT Brussels sprouts you fools!). Eat more fish. Eat  more of the things that I love by revamping those recipes to be more nutrient packed and satisfying (The Sly Pie’s mission!). 

4. Drink more. (Heh). I plan to host monthly whine/wine and cheese nights with my chicas! I cherish time with them, and what better way than to dish over good bottles of wine. ;)

5. Volunteer. I plan to give back at least once a month with organizations like the Ronald McDonald house, Metropolitan Ministries and Meals on Wheels. 

6. Strengthen our work with #TeamJudy. I’ll be representing our team by fundraising throughout 5ks, Co-op for A Cure, and other events for breast cancer awareness. 

7. Camp more. Travel more. Fun more. (can you “fun more?“) ;) Starting with a trip to Ft. Desoto campground in T-5 minutes! 

8. Get flexy. I still battle with the whole flexible thing. Mostly because I don’t practice enough! This year I plan to foam roll consistently, do PiYo a couple of times a week, and maybe, just maybe try a yoga class (finally). Who wants to come sit at the back row with me at Yoga in the Park downtown? 

So that’s it! My vision and hopes for 2015. What about you? What do you see for yourself in the new year? I’d love to hear! :)

Steph 

12/31/14

Happy New Year!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind?
5Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne.
4For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne
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We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, For auld lang syne
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2014 was filled with laughter, health, friendship, success and love. Here’s to a 2015 of so much more.
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Wishing you and yours the most wonderful New Year you can heart can wish for! 
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Love, Steph :) 
12/23/14

Holiday cheer (and recipes!!!)

Happy Holidays!!!!
Can you believe Christmas eve is TOMORROW!

Are you stockings hung?
Is your hall decked?
Are the presents perfectly wrapped under the tree?
Is your holiday meal planned and now your’e just sitting on the couch sipping hot cocoa?

Of course you answered YES to all of those, right? I mean the holidays are supposed to be “all is calm, all is bright”, right? ;)

I got most of my holiday shopping done while we were up in Blairsville, so it was just a matter tackling the project of wrapping it all!

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Mission accomplished!

In all of the craziness the holiday brings, I hope you have found a way to savor the beauty of the season. The lights, the togetherness, the spirit of giving, and the joy in the eyes of those who receive- especially those in need. The sweet thoughts of our loved ones who are here with us in spirit, the hopes and goals of a brand new year right around the corner.

I’ve always loved the holidays, so much that once they were over, I would dissolve into an awful sadness, yearning for just one more sprinkle of glitter, or one more Hallmark Christmas movie. Luckily in the past few years I’ve learned to appreciate every single day. Understanding that every day is special- not just the ones covered holiday cheer.

Living a full life is such a gift. A gift so large it could never fit under a tree, or be stuffed into a stocking. And that is the type of gift I have learned to cherish all year long. 

In the spirit of giving, and togetherness I have spent some time with my nearest and dearest celebrating the season. 

My chicas and I got together last week for our annual holiday dinner. 

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And on Sunday I hosted our annual cookie swap! 

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10882200_10152997303897474_1175828563132902648_nThe smell wafting out of my house was enough to induce a sugar high, for real! It was SUCH a blast, as usual! In between the bites of sweet treats we also had some savory snacks to munch on including this delicious a cheesy squash dip that was to die for (recipe below)!

And while I tasted ALL of the goodies (those Jamaican Plantain tarts were ridic!), I was really saving up my sweet tooth for something in the fridge I had made earlier that morning:

10385570_10152996388057474_6052073305451556421_nOn the last day of school my co-teacher presented us with beautiful mini-trays of her signature dessert: tiramisu. I had been hearing about this concoction, but had never tried it. She got the recipe from her host mom when she studied abroad in Siena. Let me tell you- it was SOOOOO good. So of course, I needed to play with the recipe to see if I could whip up a reduced carb, grain free, refined sugar free version that was JUST as delicious and satisfying.

And I did. And it’s amazing. And I need you to make this ASAP. And it would be perfect to take to your holiday dinner. And it’s awesome. And make an extra tray to hide in the back of your fridge so at midnight when you’re craving a slice and it’s all gone, you’ll thank me when you realize that you have an untouched tray all for yourself. 

You’re welcome. I love you too.

Tiramisu
Serves 8
Made with almond and coconut flour lady fingers, and sweetened with raw honey, this tiramisu will NOT disappoint!
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. For the filling
  2. 4 egg yolks
  3. 4 egg whites
  4. 16oz marscapone cheese
  5. 1/2 cup raw honey
  6. bowl of brewed espresso (I used TJ's coffee concentrate)
For the ladyfingers
  1. 3 large eggs (divided)
  2. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  3. 1 cup almond flour (
  4. 2 tbsp. coconut flour
  5. 1/4 cup raw honey
  6. 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
  7. Topping
  8. 1/2 cup Enjoy life chocolate chips
  9. 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa flour
For the filling
  1. Beat egg whites until they form and hold stiff peaks. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl stir egg yolks and honey until well combined.
  3. By hand, mix in room temperature marscapone cheese into the egg and honey mixture until smooth.
  4. Carefully fold the egg whites into the marscapone mixture until just combined.
For the ladyfingers
  1. Pre-heat oven 375 degrees.
  2. Divide eggs into 2 separate bowls. Beat egg whites until egg whites form stiff peaks. Set aside. 3. In a separate bowl, beat yolks with the honey. Mix in vanilla.
  3. Fold almond flour and baking powder into the bowl containing the creamed egg yolks.
  4. Add coconut flour 1 tbsp. at a time
  5. Carefully fold in the egg whites. Make sure to not over-mix.
  6. Put the batter into a gallon zipper bag. Using scissors, snip off one corner of the bag and pipe the batter onto a greased baking sheet into cookies the shape of lady fingers.
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown.
Building the tiramisu
  1. Spread a layer of filling on the bottom of an 8in x 8in sized tray (or 9 x 9).
  2. Dip cooled lady fingers into the espresso and gently place them side by side on top of the layer of filling.*the cookies will be a bit dense. I soaked mine in the espresso for a minute or so to get a stronger coffee flavor in my tiramisu.
  3. Repeat this process until all of the filling is gone, making sure to end with a layer of filling, not cookies.
  4. Sprinkle with a dusting of cocoa powder and chocolate chips. Refrigerate and enjoy later- the longer it sits, the better it gets!
Orangespoken http://orangespoken.com/
 And about that cheesy squash dip….unnamed

Hot cheesy squash dip
Warm, gooey, cheesy- what could be better?
Print
Cook Time
35 min
Cook Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 roasted acorn squashes (seeded and diced)
  2. 8oz marscapone cheese at room temperature
  3. 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1 tsp. salt
  6. 1 tsp. black pepper
  7. 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  8. 1 tsp. smoked paprika
Instructions
  1. Combine cooled roasted acorn squash with the other ingredients. Mix until smooth (I used my Kitchen Aid with a paddle attachment).
  2. Place into a greased pie dish or pan and smooth to even.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until brown and bubbly.
  4. Serve with veggie sticks, crackers or anything you'd like!
Orangespoken http://orangespoken.com/
Wishing you a joyous (and fun!) holiday season! 

Love, Steph 

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)

11/23/14

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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