Whole Foods Carrollwood sneak peek!

This is my good friend Anna. I love Anna because over the summer she was hired as the Marketing Director for the brand new Whole Foods that’s opening up in Carollwood next week! Ok, that’s not the ONLY reason why Anna rocks, but as a foodie, I can’t help but be thrilled to know someone with Whole Foods connections. πŸ˜‰ She also writes and manages an amazing blog called Marry Me Tampa Bay. If you’re getting married (or dreaming about getting married like me), you may want to check it out! πŸ˜‰ Anna actually invited a few local bloggers to participate in a focus group back in mid-July to talk about some of the ideas we had for involving Whole Foods with the community and picked our brains as far as what we’d like to see happening in the store, and how we could help her promote all that the new store will offer. The thing about Whole Foods is they’re all about grassroots advertising, and bloggers are the PERFECT way to get the word out there! One of the events that Anna invited the community to was a sneak peek of the store before it opened. I jumped at the chance, as we’d get a behind the scenes tour (complete with tastings and freebies!) of the new location. I spent a wonderful evening with Monica, from Sweetbites perusing around the hustle and bustle of the new (still under construction) Whole Foods store! The new store is located at the corner of Northdale Blvd and North Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood. Because of it’s location, it’s right in the middle of a very large community of families and surrounded by schools, a YMCA and other community centers. Anna has already begun partnerships with many local non-profit organizations prior to the grand opening. Even at tonight’s sneak peek, guests were given the opportunity to donate to the local YMCA branch. I happily donated, knowing that the Y does many great things for the community. The first thing I noticed about the location is how fresh and airy it appears. With floor to ceiling windows, well-lit aisles and bright colors, this is an inviting space where shoppers feel like they’re shopping at an outdoor market. Tour groups were leaving every 15 minutes, and Monica and I were lucky enough to be able to go through the tour in the same group. The tour lasted around an hour and a half and took us through all the departments of the store. At each stop, we were greeted by knowledgeable staff who filled us in on everything from the products to the buying process to the community outreach programs that Whole Foods is involved with. I was very impressed with Whole Trade, which is basically their name for “Fair Trade”, which they actively promote. You can read about here. I was also very interested in learning about their Local Producer Loan Program. You can read about here. Every product is consciously placed on their shelves with a purpose in mind. I love that they give back to their local community and have incorporated best practices when choosing products. We learned about their process for how they choose their meats, fish, and produce. All of their fresh meats abide by the 5 Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards. This ensures fair and humane treatment of all the animals providing meat to all of their stores. We were even “introduced” to two of their farmers, who you will be able to meet if you decide to come out to the grand opening! Whole Foods pulled out all the stops for tonight’s visit. We were greeted with goodie bags that were filled to the rim with freebies as we literally “trick or treated” around the store. We were also spoiled with appetizers. Key lime shrimp, chocolate peanut butter brownies, raspberry cookies, coffee, parmigiano reggiano cheese (amazing!), fresh pineapple, spicy sausage, and pumpkin tortellini. I really enjoyed the coffee. It was rich and smooth- so good that no cream or sweetener was necessary. Oh, and get this. In an effort to keep be as green as possible, if you bring in your own reusable mug or coffee cup, they’ll fill you up with their Whole Foods blend for just $1! That is incredible deal considering a cup of drive thru coffee can be up to $4 a cup! I was very impressed with how knowledgeable each department team leader was. I learned so much about identifying organic vs. non-organic items, including efforts that Whole Foods has ma
de to stock their shelves with truly organic whole body products like shampoos and makeup. (We even got free lip balm that I cannot wait to try tomorrow!). I’m really excited about the new hot foods section that will include BBQ smoked in house! Their maple & cola pulled pork gets a thumbs up from their hot foods team leader. πŸ˜‰ I’m a big fan of Whole Foods’ hot pizza. The Greek (when they have it) is usually my go-to flavor. Although it wasn’t mentioned, I hope they plan on carrying fresh sushi- another one of my t0-go favorites. And if you’re ever planning on eating in (and taking advantage of those $1 cups of coffee), they have a roomy seating area, both inside and out. And don’t forget to recycle! They really make it a no-brainer (and kid friendly!). Here are a few more highlights from the store:

Aren’t those mini potatoes adorable?

Whole Foods can make even a post-it look delicious!

Obviously Monica had MORE than her fill of fun. πŸ˜‰ I’ll be at the Grand Opening come this weekend. If you’re local to the Tampa Bay area, please stop by! Here’s a sneak peek of some of the events happening: Thursday, Nov. 1 8am Free continental breakfast outside on the patio (with entertainment provided by the Gaither High School Marching Band and Cheerleaders!) 9am Bread breaking ceremony and doors open! *The first 500 shoppers will receive a Whole Foods Market reusable bag filled with goodies at checkout *Vendor samples and cooking demos throughout the store. *Grand opening sales and specials *Live music throughout the day *Giveaways including a chance to win a $500 Healthy Eating Pantry makeover *And 1% of net sales will benefit the Hope Children’s Home! Hours are 9am-10pm, 7 days a week Friday, Nov. 2 All events that started at 9am from the previous day will carry over to Friday! *1% of net sales will benefit Meals on Wheels Tampa. 6pm-8pm Healthy Happy Hour on the patio including healthy smoothies, nutritious appetizers and live music. Saturday, Nov. 3 All events that started at 9am from the previous day will carry over to Saturday! *1% of net sales will benefit Quantum Leap Farm 10am Allegro coffee company demonstration at the coffee bar, including a coffee lovers gift basket giveaway! Noon Parmigiano Reggiano wheel cracking and tasting 3pm Cooking with sustainable seafood, including Atlantic Salmon Noon-4pm Kids activities on the patio including how to eat a rainbow, face painting, coloring and a social media photo booth! Sunday, Nov. 4 All events that started at 9am from the previous day will carry over to Sunday! *1% of net sales will benefit Carrollwood Cultural Center 11am Health Starts Here Kalicious Smoothies, including tastings and demos 11am-2pm Kids activities on the patio including crafts. 1pm Whole Meals! Whole Deals! Learn how to make delicious holiday recipes (and get some coupons!) 2pm-4pm Face painting 4pm Sundae Sunday: learn how to make Health Starts Here banana ice cream (including toppings!) 4pm Healthy Holiday Entertaining: demos and tastings for the holiday season Steph πŸ™‚


Camping season

It’s that time of year!

Yup. It’s camping season, kids! It’s the most wonderful timeeeeeeeee of the yearrrrrrrrrr!

Thankfully, Mr. KKM loves to camp just as much as I do.

What I love most about Florida are all of the amazingly beautiful camping spots that are sprinkled throughout the state. From the Florida Keys to Tallahassee, you’ll find hidden gems all over. I absolutely adore Florida Caverns State Park up in the panhandle, Manatee Springs near the nature coast, Johnathan Dickinson State Park in Jupiter, and Bahia Honda State Park in the lower Florida Keys. But if I had to narrow it down to my favorite, it would have to be Tillis Hills Recreational Area in Inverness.

Tillis Hills is nestled snugly in the middle of the 157,479-acre Withlacoochee State Forest in west central Florida.

With hiking trails, limestone caves, muddy rough terrain roads, no light pollution and scattered ponds, the forest is a dense, wild-life packed part of Florida that I love spending time in.

There are actually three campgrounds in the forest, but Tillis Hill is the most picturesque.

Writing this post floods my mind and heart with so many memories. We are a family that definitely camps together. Cousins, parents, aunts, uncles, even grandparents will all get their campers and tents lined up along the campsite and enjoy weekends upon weekends together in the great outdoors.

My mom loved camping. Her camper was her world. She loved to be out there by the campfire, cooking up bacon on the outdoor kitchen, geocaching through hiking trails, and deer shining by the moonlight.

It’s hard to go back to Tillis Hill, knowing my mother isn’t physically there with us anymore. However, I know Mr. KKM and I have a lot of fun times and memories ahead of us. πŸ™‚

Do you camp? What’s your favorite campground?


Race recap: Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k

There really are no words that can sum up this:

And that’s just a shot. All in all 12,000 participants put on their pink bras in celebration of life.

And Team Judy was there all 3.1, pink-filled miles. Except, of course, we donned our orange, Team Judy’s signature color. You really couldn’t miss us sprinkled amongst the massive crowd.

My co-worker (and former 5th grade teacher, gasp!) Mr. Lemery came out to photograph the race for us and although we couldn’t get everyone together all at once, here are two pictures that most of Team Judy are in.

After forming Team Judy for the Miles for Moffitt 5k just a month after her passing, I didn’t think that this would affect me as much as it did. Moffitt was geared at raising awareness for all cancers. Strides was all about Breast Cancer. It was in your face everywhere you looked. Shirts that said “In memory of”, people currently fighting, women who have had mastectomies, men who’ve lost their wives, children like me who were walking “for their mom”, men who were diagnosed and didn’t even know they could get breast cancer, teams who hadn’t been affected by breast cancer, but were walking anyway, and of course the survivors, which hit me the hardest. I know it’s selfish for me to always think these thoughts, but I wish my mom would have been able to call herself a survivor. I always look at these people- young, old, from all walks of life, different races, cultures, levels of health and think why them, and not my mom? It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s a fact I face everyday. I tried to hold back the tears on more than one occasion while we were waiting for the race to start, but it wasn’t easy. I didn’t make a big deal about it, because, after all, this race wasn’t about me. I know I didn’t fool Mr. KKM, nor did I fool my friend Lindsey because she put her hand on my shoulder, even though I know I was probably smiling or cracking a joke at the time. Darn her intuition! πŸ˜‰

All in all it was an amazing day filled with the spirit that is the cure. We all want it, and we’re doing what it takes to bring breast cancer awareness to the forefront so that our children won’t ever have to worry about it. We came together to show that we will never forget our loved ones and I know that those who are no longer with us were walking along Bayshore Boulevard, in the beautiful sunshine, right beside us. Here are some more highlights.

A HUGE thank you to everyone who donated, participated, and helped prep for this race! I appreciate you more than you know! It was an amazing weekend filled with fundraising and love all around! Until next year! πŸ˜€


PS- Stay tuned for a BIG announcement! Team Judy will be at it again very soon! πŸ™‚


Sentimental value

I get giddy over cookbooks.

Especially old ones.

See that shelf behind me? It’s completely filled to the top with treasures. Many of which my mom gave to me, which are now the most priceless possessions, aside from pictures, that I own.

My mom would love to give me cookbooks for any reason.

She’d always write a little message on the inside with the date and sometimes even the holiday when the book was given.

Sometimes I sit in my kitchen looking through all of these books, touching the ink, knowing my mom’s fingerprints are there.

These cookbooks tell a story. They’re books that I can pass on to my children, to hopefully spark their own love for cooking, and to hold a piece of the grandmother they never got to meet.

The last cookbook my mom gave me was the Meatball cookbook I’m holding in the first picture above. It was a Christmas present that she ordered, signed by the authors, and of course, by her.

This was our last Christmas together, and I’m so glad I have this to remember it by.

My mom was the one who inspired me to begin building my own cookbook collection. Although I have many that I buy new, my favorite books are the ones with writing in them. You’ll typically find me perusing through piles and boxes of old cookbooks at garage sales or flea markets, looking for books like this

I always wonder how people can part with something so sentimental. I always wonder how these end up in dusty flea market dollar crates.

I found this one a few years ago at Webster flea market. This tugs at my heart strings.

When my grandmother died, we cleaned out her house and although we couldn’t keep everything, I made sure to hold on to her recipes and cookbooks, as my grandmother loved to jot down notes and hide newspaper clippings and recipe snippets in the nooks and crannies of each book.

Mr. KKM’s grandmother sent me this last year when she found out about my love of cookbooks and sentimental messages

Although I’ve never met her, I feel like a little piece of her is here in our home with this gift.

Before you toss your old cookbooks out, let me know. Those scribble-filled, falling apart, fringed books might be trash to you, but they’re my cupboard’s treasures.

What do you treasure?
Steph πŸ™‚


Happy Birthday Baby Brother part II

“Hey Jason, do you have the best sister in the world?”

Thought so. πŸ˜‰

Sunday was filled with house cleaning (can’t wait for my cousin Sabrina’s visit in a few days!), burger grilling, balloon blowing, cake eating, beer drinking, football and The Walking Dead watching. Which, however, I will no longer watch because they felt the need to kill an owl in the first 5 minutes of tonight’s season premier. There could have been ANY bird in that house- pigeon, hawk, buzzard, canary. But no. It was an owl. My favorite animal. You’re dead to me, AMC.

Ok. I’m done. πŸ™‚ Back to the festivities.

Yes, he’s blowing out a Yankee Candle. We forgot a minor detail.

Ok, so about the card….

I don’t know when I started this, but every card I give to my immediate family (if I did this to anyone else, they’d think I was nuts) I add pictures and funny sayings or situations that poke fun at them. For my dad, it usually involves his lack of hunting skill (seriously- he’s only shot 1 deer in 30 years). For my brother, it usually involves big trucks or muscles. For birthday number 24, I went the muscle route which explains all the flexing in the above “schedule”. (And yes, even at 24 years old, he still calls me “Sister”). Hey, what can I say, cards just aren’t interesting enough these days. πŸ˜‰

I’ve got a busy week ahead of me, so I’m out! I cannot WAIT to share all the fun things I’ve got planned for Team Judy this week! Race day is less than a week away!

How was your weekend? Do you have any silly birthday traditions?
Steph πŸ™‚


Happy birthday baby brother!

Today my kid brother turns 24! Happy Birthday Jason!

Twenty-four years ago today my mom was missing her brother Marty’s wedding (their anniversary is on 10/15) because she had just given birth to this 9lb 4oz BIG bundle of joy. I remember us all going in our party attire to visit her and meet the new baby. Even the bride and groom went in their wedding best to the hospital to celebrate the arrival. I was only 9 when my brother was born (yes, go ahead and do the math!) but I remember his birth very vividly, as it turned out to be quite the wedding/birth event!

And now, some baby pictures, because what else would a big sister do than embarrass her kid brother on her blog? πŸ˜‰

Look at those chubby cheeks!

This is his “scared of the photographer” face.

The birthday boy and his closed eyes!

Not sure why his head is tilted? Oh, and proof my cousin Glenn graduated!

In his baby thuglet days.

Ok, Ok… I’ll stop. That’s enough embarrassing for year 24. (Wait until he turns 30!) πŸ˜‰

I hope you have a fantastic birthday baby brother. I know you miss mom, but she would be proud of you. The first birthday without her is hard, but we’ll get through it (with cake, lots of cake).

Here’s to a great 24th year!

Love, Sister


Judy’s tales: The Waterfall Incident

Today marks the 6 month anniversary of my mom’s passing. I cannot believe it’s been half a year since I’ve spoken to her. I cannot believe how time has flown.

I feel like I’ve spent each month awaiting for the arrival of the 11th day, to declare one more month of time since she passed. I don’t know when I decided to stop, but the idea entered my head not too long ago, and I have been waiting for the 11th day for a different reason this time around.

Today is October 11. Today I begin a story. It’s a story of my mom. Her tales of adventures, fun and hilarity. It’s how I, and everyone else should remember her. On the 11th day of each month I will write and honor my mom’s memory with a story she loved to tell about something that “would only happen to Judy.” I hope you’ll enjoy these tales, and if you were lucky enough to know my mom, I hope they bring a smile to your face whenever you read them.

The Waterfall Incident

In the winter of 2008, we packed up an SUV and a truck with family and neighbors and took an 9 hour road trip up to a little town called Blairsville, Georgia. The four of us (mom, dad, my grandmother and I + 2 dogs) had ventured to this beautiful northern destination just two years prior, and had fallen in love with the area. With it’s mountains, country restaurants, and quaint little markets, it’s a little-known vacation spot that we are so glad we discovered.

We rented two cabins in the tippy top of Blood Mountain, and had so much fun playing in the snow, roasting marshmallows in the fire, and squealing over the field mice who decided to vacation with us. I remember using the bathroom one morning (like sitting on the toilet) when one of these pesky rodents came running through the crack under the door, straight at my pajama pant-covered feet as I sat. I was completely calm, of course.

Each day we had different activities planned, as there is SO much to do up there. Hiking, shopping, scenic drives and horseback riding filled our days. But one particular memory sticks out above the rest: The Waterfall Incident. You see, Blairsville is the highest point in Georgia, and with that comes waterfalls- lots of them. After a half dozen trips up there, I still haven’t seen all of the waterfalls that the lower Appalachian mountains have to offer.

On this particular day, we had planned to take a drive over to Helton Creek Falls. As we pulled into the parking area, we realized there was about a half mile hike down, then back up to get to the top of one part of the falls, then the base of another part of the falls. My neighbor brought her elderly mother on this trip, and she wasn’t able to do the climbing involved, so she stayed in the car to wait for us while we dove into this adventure.

We began the trek down a some steep steps, then up what seemed double the amount to reach the top of the first 45ft. drop. The falls are divided into two sections. Walking up a bit further will take you to the bottom of the 60ft. waterfall, but unfortunately you cannot climb to the top of that part of the falls.

The base of the top falls.

As we reached the top, my mom decided she wanted to “take a closer look”. It was a very cold day, and had snowed the night before. Ice covered the steps and rocks leading up to the falls, so we were all extra cautious as we hiked. As the water rushed passed us over the slick rocks, we stayed on the observation deck…. except for Judy.

Before we knew it, my mom was walking out to the rocks by the roaring river, heading out towards the edge of the waterfall. My mother was never at a loss for crazy ideas (as you’ll soon discover) so when she decided to shimmy her feet over to take a peek, we weren’t surprised. What happened next wasn’t a shocker either. My mom was known for her clumsiness. She was always falling, slipping or tripping over something (usually because her daily movements incorporated some form of dancing), so when we turned our head and saw my mom on her back, slipping closer and closer to the final edge of the falls, we freaked!

You see, Judy was always known for her hair-brained ideas. And this one was no different. Fortunately she was wearing jeans, which prevented her from sliding towards an impending doom. As my father cautiously crept toward the edge to help my mom, I pulled out my camera to document the whole process on film (which I will frantically look for to share with you all!). My mom used to love to reenact the story of how she crawled onto her hands and knees and tried to reach out and grab my father’s hand as he continued to use his other hand to hold onto his precious cigar that he didn’t want to go to waste.

Needless to say, we were able to pull her to safety, and continue to enjoy the remainder of our vacation with little to no additional emergencies. When we returned back to the car, Ophelia, our neighbor commented on the screams she heard from her spot up at the parking area. She figured the falls were so beautiful and we were hooting and hollering in all of it’s glory. She, of course, wasn’t surprised to hear the truth, and from that day on those falls were dubbed “Judy Falls”. Pun intended.


Fight like a girl

Are you ready for the fight?

I cannot believe that the Making Strides 5k is less than 2 weeks away. We have been working SO hard to get Team Judy ready for the event recruiting members, scheduling fundraising events and working on making our bras beautiful.

Yup. This year’s race theme is all about *putting on your pink bras*. When I heard about this theme, I scheduled a Team Judy bra decorating party which I hosted on Sunday. My friend Jennifer works in retail and has been setting aside all things pink for a few months making sure we’d have plenty of bling to add to our brassieres. πŸ˜‰

My pals Monica and Lindsey came over to help decorate. Both of these ladies are two of THE most creative ladies I know, so I was more than happy they came!

Here are the final products:

Which one is your favorite? I personally like the feathered one. πŸ˜‰

The next event coming up is our Team Judy Passion Party fundraiser! Passion Parties are all about feeling sexy, good about yourself, confident and comfortableΒ  in your own skin. My cousin Sabrina is a Passion Party goddess consultant and is driving alllll the way up from Miami to spend the weekend with me and host this special event! I wish all of my darling blog readers were local because I’d invite you ALL to come! I do, however, want to let you know about all the details in case you’d like to order an item from your neck of the woods. If you click on Sabrina’s name, it will direct you to her storefront so you can begin browsing. If you decide to order something, send me an email (kitchenkilometers@gmail.com) and I will send you directions on how to discretely place your order online! It’s as easy as that. Here are some details about the fundraising aspect of the party:

For every order over $75, I will donate $5 to the Making Strides Breast Cancer event. Every order over $100, I will donate $20,Β  anything over $200 I will donate $50 dollars, and every order $500 or more, I will donate $100 and I will give them 2 items at 25% off! I will also give the opportunity to “round up their total sales”. For example if aΒ  total is $ 58.99, they can round up to an even $6o and the difference of $1.01 will be donated.Β 

This is going to be an incredible opportunity to really make a difference in the lives of those fighting breast cancer!

Lastly… Team Judy awareness bracelets are on sale! If you’d like to order one they’re $2 each! Orange is the official Team Judy color because it was my mother’s favorite color. Although she passed away from breast cancer, that did not define her, nor will pink!
Half of the monies from each bracelet sold will be donated to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event.

Thank you ALL for the love and support you’ve given Team Judy and #Judygrams!


A new normal

When someone goes through a major life change, people line up to give advice. What you should do. What you could do. What they did.

And although the past 6 months since my mothers passing have been difficult, I’ve been grateful for those words of wisdom from people who have gone through the parental grieving process. It’s made me feel more normal, and in a world full of chaos, normal is the only emotion that I seek these days.

More than one person has actually told me that when people go through these traumatic experiences, death, divorce, miscarriage, job loss, and the like, they yearn for their lives to return to what they know as the “old normal”. It’s hard to envision life moving forward with this missing piece, but somehow you learn to create a new normal. You never forget the loss, but you learn how to develop a new way of living without it. You find new loves, create new experiences, build new memories. You learn to continue on.

I think this can be said with other aspects of life, not just loss. I think we have to constantly create “new normals” to be able to better ourselves, reach goals, find happiness and achieve successes. If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten, right? If I choose to replay my mother’s dying moments in my head day in and day out, then that’s the only memory I’ll retain of her. If I decide to not work out one week, then I won’t maintain my progress. It’s a simple cause and effect.

I used to think this “new normal” was something very far out of reach. I felt like I would always be stuck in April 2012. But looking back on the past 6 months, I have created new normals, and they’ve enriched my life. They haven’t replaced my mother, but they’ve helped me cope and begin to heal. I am constantly defining new normals. They make me who I am.

Here are some of my new normals.

  • I talk to my mother. Although she can’t respond to me anymore, I still talk to her like I would if she was.
  • I camp with Mr. KKM. Camping was something I did with my mother. Now, it’s our time.
  • I work out consistently. It’s my therapy and time to decompress from the day.
  • I have found self expression through my blog, and make it a goal to write daily.
  • I’m creating new holiday traditions for the upcoming season, my favorite time of the year.
  • I’ve surrounded myself with positive people, friends, bloggers, family and future family who lift me up.
  • I’ve become an advocate for breast cancer and keeping my mother’s memory alive through running events and fundraising.

Have you experienced a difficult moment in your life? How did you create new normals?