09/28/15

2015 Kia Sedona SXL review!

Last week I had an opportunity to review a 2015 Kia Sedona as part of the blogger outreach program through DriveShop USA

Our family owned  two “mini-vans” when I was a kid. Our first was a maroon beast with no a/c vents in the back, so we had attached one of those portable fans in between the driver and passenger seat so that the people (us children) sitting in the back would get some type of circulation to prevent us from roasting in the Florida heat. When my parents started talking about trading in the van for something else, I remember being completely ecstatic! Continue reading

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)

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! Continue reading

06/29/14

The big 3-5!

It’s Official!
I’m 35!

35 has ALWAYS been my “scary” year. There’s just something about “35” that makes you feel all grown up. And while I’m definitely not in a place I thought I would be as I enter my 35th year of life, it turns out that where I am now is so much better than I could ever have imagined. I’m happy, healthy, strong, educated and loved. What more could I possibly ask for? Continue reading

08/9/13

Nutrition S’mart review

I love supporting smaller stores around the Tampa Bay area. Especially when the managers of theses establishments are near and dear to my heart.

That’s the case with Nutrition S’mart. Currently Rudy and Maruchi manage two locations here in Tampa: Carrollwood and Wesley Chapel and I’ve known them, well let’s say they’ve known me since I was a just a little baby. We lived in the same neighborhood, and we were all the best of friends. I use the word “all” because Rudy and Maruchi have 3 children, and I have the fondest of memories growing up with them. Dozens of play dates, beach trips, fishing adventures, Halloween parties and so much more.

Eventually the family moved away, we grew older, and went off to college leaving those fun adventures in our childhood, however our families never lost contact. In fact, they remained very close to my mom and dad, especially throughout my mom’s illness and passing. They have supported Team Judy and our fundraising endeavors, and even walked by our side at our inaugural Miles for Moffitt, Jogging for Judy event. I’ve also reconnected with their daughter, Lauren, and her fabulous blog Gluten Free with Lauren Marie. She shows you how delicious and satisfying gluten free cooking can be!

Rudy and Maruchi are the real deal. They are genuine, kind, giving and two of the most positive people you’ll ever meet. In my opinion, when you manage a business, qualities like this mirror in an establishment. Walk into one of their stores and you’ll feel that vibe.

970998_513600238706698_1759472447_nNutrition S’mart is staffed with friendly and knowledgeable employees who are willing to help you navigate the over 10,000 natural and organic vitamins, groceries, produce and beauty supplies they carry. Their motto “organic, doesn’t mean expensive” rings true. Their prices are truly amazing, and they offer a variety of weekly BOGO specials. When I was in the store last weekend, the BOGO specials were a-plenty! Everything from Zevia soda and Almond Breeze to coconut water and Alexia frozen potato products! They even featured Kind Bars BOGO! These specials aren’t advertised, so each week you walk into a Nutrition S’mart you will definitely be in for a surprise!
photo 1photo 1 (3) photo 2 (2)photo 1 (5) photo 3 (2) photo 3 (3)They have an extensive and exclusive Gluten Free section of the store, and a vitamin aisle that literally stretches as far as the eye can see!

photo 5 (2)Their 100% organic produce section is impressive, and so are the prices! Each week they feature sales on different items. While I was there organic avocados were $.99 each! That is one of the best prices I’ve seen!

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photo 5 (1) photo 4The Carrollwood location carries vast selection of craft beer and wine, and great variety of dry goods in bulk bins. Even some of their wines were BOGO!

photo 2 photo 4 (1)photo 1 (1)In addition to the awesome BOGO specials sprinkled around the store, I also noticed amazing deals on some of the products I love.

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The shopping experience doesn’t stop at the prices though. Both of the Nutrition S’mart locations in the Bay area offer classes on cooking, and health, in addition to weight loss challenges, product demos, samples and more! Oh, and if you bring your own shopping bag, they’ll give you a nickel off your purchase for every bag you use!

photo 5 (4)If you haven’t visited a Nutrition S’mart, I definitely suggest you stop by and see what it’s all about! Visit their website for more details, store hours, directions and more!

I’m more than happy to support local businesses in the area, especially those who are dedicated to quality, healthy living and are looking out for the customer. Hoping you’ll stop by and visit Rudy and Maruchi! Tell them Steph sent you! 🙂

**WINNERS**

nutritionsmartPlease make sure you contact me so that I can get your gift cards to you! 🙂

03/17/13

Cabbage Soup

Years ago my mom and I were sitting around contemplating our next camping trip. We wanted to go far enough where we could get a change of scenery yet only be gone a few days. I remember grabbing a AAA map of Georgia, and randomly pointing to a spot in north Georgia. Blairsville, GA became a place that we would visit for years to come, and still do. It was one of those random things that turned into a memorable vacation spot! Continue reading

12/8/12

Oh Christmas tree

Today we braved the mountainside, and with a really sharp saw in tow (and an awesome boyfriend who got down onto the cold, wet ground) Mr. KKM did this:

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Can’t wait to get home a decorate our first tree together! Last year at this time we were getting ready to move into our new home and didn’t get a chance to have a tree (Christmas night was our first time sleeping there) so this tree is a very special one! We’re hitting the road back to Tampa (with a freshly chopped tree in the bed of the truck) bright and early tomorrow morning! See you soon, Tampa! We’ll miss you mountains! I’ll blog all about the trip on Monday. 😉

-Steph

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12/6/12

We made it!

We’re here!

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9 hours, 585 miles, 2 gas stops, a pit stop in a sketchy part of town, lots of iTunes, and way too many “we’re in Georgia, The Walking Dead area” comments, we’re finally settled in!
We unpacked a bit then consulted my friend Yelp for some good eats to fill our road weary bellies. This Tampa girl was able to find a Cuban restaurant waaaaay up here in this teeny tiny mountain town that earned rave reviews on Yelp. When we saw the pic of the
not-so-ham-heavy Cuban sandwich at Dan’s Grill (nothing ruins a Cuban like excessive ham) we immediately had a craving for home and decided we would give it a shot.

Delish! Delish! Delish! In fact, better than most Cubans back home. We got to talking to the owners who were Miami transplants that fell in love with the area. They decided to open up shop and bring authentic Cuban food to the
thin-air breathing masses and have had huge success! Speaking of thin air, when I asked Dan where they get their bread from (since it tasted WAY too good to be a french loaf from the local
supermarket) they proudly boasted “from La Segunda Central in
Tampa. We have it shipped every week and freeze it. We tried to bake it but the altitude didn’t work well with the baking process.” Well, you can imagine our surprise when we boasted our trek from the hometown. Such a small world I tell ya!

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Not only was the sandwich satisfying, but their black beans and tostones were as real as it gets.

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As we paid our $20 tab, Dan dared us to try a few of his homemade croqueta de jaiba (devil crabs). Challenged accepted. We’ll be back before Sunday, and might even bring a few
home. 😉 After dinner we headed to the store for some essentials and now we’re cuddled on the couch enjoying our “datingmoon” by the fireplace, awaiting the arrival if my cousins.

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Oh, and one last thing. There may or may not be Walkers hidden in the basement. We don’t have a key to it so we can’t be sure. Stay tuned…

-Steph 😀