Raw spaghetti, lemon spaghetti

Last week I blogged about my cousin Glenn’s wedding to his lovely wife Victoria and all of the awesome times we had during that weekend. I wrote a little bit about my relationship with Glenn and how much fun we had during our childhood years. I mentioned a little something about spaghetti, and how I would save that tale for a separate post, as it deserved its own!

Here is that blog post. Oh, and do not try this at home.

Like I said in the wedding recap, my cousin Glenn and I had an adventurous childhood. Every weekend when we were kids we’d spend the night at our grandparents, Abuelo and Abuelamom’s, house. We’d spend hours upon hours riding our bikes around the neighborhood, catching lizards along the brick fence on the property, playing with Tinker Toys (and fishing for raccoons in the wooded area behind Abuelo’s shop with Tinker Toy fishing rods- I know, I know.), playing Super Mario, wrestling with our WWF stuffed wrestlers, and stealing raw spaghetti strands from my grandmother’s pantry.

I don’t know when it started, but for as long as I can remember, Glenn and I loved to eat raw spaghetti.

Not macaroni. Not ziti. No sheets of lasagna. Just plain Mueller raw spaghetti.

You see, my grandmother loved to make spaghetti. She’d make it at least once a week and always had new boxes of spaghetti ready and waiting in the tall pantry in her kitchen. Any time she’d say she was cooking it, Glenn and I would be ready to pounce on extra strands of raw spaghetti that might fall onto the counter unnoticed. Abuelamom wasn’t thrilled with our habit, and would warn us about “broken teeth”, stomachaches and cagaletta. Look up that last word, or ask a Cuban friend. No matter the dramatic warnings, there was nothing stopping us from munching on those little straws of raw semolina.

Those munchies would come at the strangest of times too. Like super late nights when we’d be up past our bedtime watching TV or playing Nintendo. The craving would hit and we would oh-so-quietly tip toe from the bedroom, past our sleeping grandparents (with their TV still on and oh-so-loud), into the kitchen, slip sliding with our socks across the terrazzo floor, over to the pantry where we’d carefully turn the doorknob, crack open a new box of raw spaghetti, fill our pockets with strands, then high tail it back to the bedroom where we’d sit on top of our trundle bed and devour the straws like sneaky mice on a rooftop. We would do this weekend after weekend until one day, apparently my grandmother had enough. We must have left too much of a trail one on of those tip toe adventures, or maybe we were just dumb enough to think that she would never notice the torn packs of her new spaghetti boxes. Regardless, one day, she lost it.

Glenn and I were outside playing in the driveway. Abuelo was tinkering around in his shop. Suddenly we heard an earth shattering “GodDammit” and we saw our grandmother swing open the turqouise carport door, so hard we thought the jalousie windows would crack into a million pieces. In her hands she held not one, not two, not three, but four slightly opened boxes of Muellers spaghetti. We stared as she walked over to us then watched in awe as Abuelamom threw all four boxes into the air, scattering hundreds of raw spaghetti strands onto the concrete driveway and yard as she screamed “stop eating my damn spaghetti, Goddammit!”

Glenn and I were speechless for a moment. My grandfather never missed a step in his shop and kept welding away on whatever he was making at the moment. As soon as Abuelamom walked back inside, Glenn and I burst out into uncontrollable laughter as we began picking up each one of those strands until the last straw was in the garbage.

I can’t remember if we ever ate my grandmother’s spaghetti after that day. But to THIS day, you’ll still find me cooking spaghetti and sneaking in a few strands to munch on while boiling the others. And if you ask Glenn, I’m almost certain he hasn’t lost the urge to do the same. πŸ˜‰

Here’s a spaghetti recipe in honor of our Abuelamom. And while you make it, sneak a piece and let me know how ya like it. πŸ˜‰

Lemon spaghetti with veggies

1 box brown rice spaghetti (or whatever spaghetti you like!)
2 cups of fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. salt (remember, you have a full lb. of pasta!)
1 tbsp. dried basil
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup sliced black olives
1/2 shallot, minced

Boil the pasta as directed, but try and cook to slightly al dente, just for good measure =) Drain, do NOT rinse, and add back into the original pot. Turn off heat. In a bowl, combine lemon juice, shallot, spices, salt. Whisk together to combine. Continue whisking and add EVOO until the oil has emulsified into the juice mixture. Set aside. Add spinach, tomatoes and olives to the hot pasta. The temperature of the pasta will wilt the spinach just enough to soften it, but leaving the bright green color and flavors intact. Pour the dressing over the pasta and stir until all pasta is coated. Let the pasta sit for 5 minutes, then serve warm. I like to add an extra squeeze of lemon to each individual serving, just for some extra pizazz. Enjoy!

7014What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever enjoyed eating?

Steph πŸ™‚

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Merry Christmas!

From my blog to yours, Merry Christmas! Have a wonderful day with the ones you love! πŸ™‚








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Spiced Sweet Quick Bread

I love recipes like this. No-brainers; but still from scratch. No yeast or rolling; but delicious with a spread of real butter, just like a regular bread. The perfect holiday gift for a housewarming visit or a treat to welcome unexpected guests. This “bread” does it all!

What I like most about this “bread” is that it has a consistency somewhere between a cake and a scone or biscuit. The oatmeal really creates a chewy texture, and the milk and oil in the batter turns the whole loaf into a beautiful, crusty golden color on the outside.


In all of this glorious texture lies just the slightest hit of nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger, mixed into just the faintest tang of sweetness from the sugar.

If you have 5 minutes and an oven, who needs a bread maker?! Here’s the recipe…

2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Quaker old fashioned oats
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup skim milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated Splenda (can substitute white sugar)

In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a mixer, combine eggs, oil, milk and vanilla extract. Mix well. Add eggs and Splenda (sugar) and combine well. Carefully and gradually add the dry ingredients. Mix well, but don’t over mix! Grease mini-sized bread pans and pour in mixture to about 3/4 high. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes, or until fork test proves done. Remove from pan and cool. Serve warm/room temperature with whipped butter or jam.

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Steph’s favorite things 2012

Did you catch Oprah’s favorite things Sunday evening on OWN? Even though she’s done with the talk show gig, she’s decided to keep the tradition of her favorite things show. This year her recipients were all military families, which made for a tear-jerker of an episode. I’m sure they’ll replay it throughout the holiday season, so check your local listings! I love this time of year. Tis’ the season of togetherness, love, friendship and giving. I believe in a good balance of gift giving and receiving, cooking and eating, and savoring every moment the season brings.

There are so many people who I care about that I love to shop for. One of my favorite parts of gift giving is watching them tear open the paper and enjoy that first look. Although I love gift-giving, I don’t believe a holiday gift needs to be expensive or extravagant. The part of shopping for my loved ones that I enjoy the most is choosing something meaningful and special that fit their personalities. Giving shouldn’t be about breaking the bank, even if black Friday commercials tell us otherwise. Homemade gifts like herb infused oils, baked goods, or handmade crafts can light up someone’s day. Check out my Pinterest board showcasing some of my favorite homemade gifts.

My motto is most definitely “it’s the thought that counts“. I thought it would be fun to do my own rendition of Oprah’s Favorite Things by sharing some of MY favorite things this year. If you’re looking for a gift for someone like me (foodie + outdoor enthusiast), you may find some inspiration for your own shopping adventures!

(I think this list could also double as my own Dear Santa wish list, but I won’t advertise that). πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

How great is this hairdryer caddy? It hangs right on your towel rack and neatly keeps everything at arm’s reach. I’m a HUGE fan of these Croc flip flops. They’re so comfortable and I literally wear them everywhere. This style comes in all colors, but I love this new camel/brown combination! One of my favorite color combinations is orange and navy blue. I just love this bedding set from Target. Have a baker in your life? These are my favorite tried and true Airbake cookie sheets. Nothing is better! I must have these reusable grocery bags in my life. Probably the most awesome idea I’ve ever seen. No need for disposable bags! These nesting bowls are great for mixing, prepping or serving just about anything. As a baker, I love my KitchenAid mixer. This scraper attachment would be a great accessory to add to anyone’s collection! I’m a big fan of crockpot cooking. When I saw this triple crockpot, I knew it would make a great gift in anyone’s kitchen! I saw these cell phone wall charger holders a long time ago, and have yet to buy myself one. This is a must-have! (PS- This particular Etsy user has them in a variety of patterns and colors! I’m a sucker for quirky kitchen tools, so when I saw these paring knives, I knew they would have to be on my favorite things list! A friend of mine bought these blue tooth wireless earphones a while back and they’re definitely a great gift for the runner in your life! I’ve been on the lookout for a handheld water bottle and it seems like this one has been a highly suggested one out in in the blog world. I love that it comes in so many colors! It took me a while to find a great pair of running socks. These Asics are so comfortable, dry-wicking and have a back cushion preventing them from sliding down! I’ve been in the market for a Garmin watch to use for running. I’ve heard rave reviews about this cute little forerunner. It’s comes in pink, green (my favorite) and black and it’s the most reasonably priced of all the forerunners. Do you have any quirky, interesting, creative or fun gift ideas that won’t empty your piggy bank? Do share! Steph πŸ™‚

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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™‚

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Know what you have

**Disclaimer** This post covers sensitive medical and wellness related topics involving breast cancer and preventative reproductive screenings. If you feel uncomfortable discussing or reading about these topics, please skip this post. I won’t be offended because I know you’ll be back! Additionally, I am NOT a medical professional. I am simply a patient giving my opinion on how to be proactive with women’s health issues. Please consult your own physician with any individual medical questions or concerns.

If you’re a regular Orangespoken reader, then you know that I lost my mom to breast cancer back in April of 2012 after a year long fight. Today I had an appointment to meet with my OB/GYN for my yearly well woman checkup; the first since her passing.  My priority were to get my annual screening and to discuss my own breast cancer prevention plan.

I had been dreading this conversation. Mostly because of this ridiculous genetic coding that my family carries that I’ve tried to overcome throughout the years. You see, many members of my family have the “no news is good news” mentality, and would even go so far as to not even visit the doctor for fear of facing the worst. So of course, DNA-related worry is a hard thing to shush, but I knew that with my mom’s passing from triple negative carcinoma (the worst case scenario as far as breast cancers are concerned), that I would now be high risk and would need to take a proactive approach to my own prevention, even if it means having a scary and uncomfortable conversation with my OB/GYN.

I’m 33 years old, and have been going to this particular doctor since around the age of 20. Before my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had many reproductive issues and eventually had to endure a full hysterectomy while I was young. So I have been exposed to the importance of reproductive health for a while now, and have never missed my yearly exam. However, I find it shocking when I hear about other women, my age (and sometimes older!) who have never had a pap smear or breast exam. I can even recall conversations with girlfriends who don’t regularly do self breast exams. I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing the ins and outs your body, so that when and if changes occur, they’re noticeable. Listen, whatever the reason, get over it, because there’s nothing more important than your health. If there’s anything positive that came out of my mother’s passing, it’s that realization.

I saw my mother suffer through chemotherapy and its side effects, radiation, drains, losing the ability to walk, speak, and eat on her own. There is no preventative screening or checkup that will ever come close to the pain she felt, and anytime I’m scared to make that appointment, I think of her. If you haven’t built a relationship with a doctor or OB/GYN, put that on your priority list asap.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of these two life-saving checkups. First, the pap-smear, also known as a “well woman exam“. Most primary care physicians will do this exam (which encompasses more than just the pap-smear test), but, depending on your insurance, you can also make an appointment with a OB/GYN outside of your regular doctor’s visits (get with your insurance carrier for details). A regular well woman exam visit only takes 20 minutes at the most, and typically starts off with the removal of all clothes and undergarments (don’t worry, you’ll get a robe), vitals, then a breast exam (which we’ll get back to in a second), then the actual pap smear and vaginal (internal & external) exam. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t exactly a recreational experience, but like I said before, 20 minutes of mild discomfort is worth the information you’ll get about your body from it. If you’re completely new to the pap smear experience, here are some tools you’ll see in the exam room.

Tools used to collect a sample during the pap smear.

Posters that show the inner workings of the woman’s reproductive system and pregnancy.

A light to help the doctor see during the vaginal exam and pap smear.

Stirrups to place your feet on during the vaginal exam and pap smear.

The exam typically starts with the pap smear. A speculum will be inserted into the vagina to open it so that the tissue sample can be gathered using the tools seen on the counter above (long q-tip like tools). The pap smear literally takes under a minute from start to finish if you stay calm and listen to the doctor’s instructions. There is some mild discomfort and a tiny tinge of a temporary pinching feeling (for about 2-3 seconds), then the speculum is removed and the pap smear is over. It really is that simple! Tissue samples will be sent to a lab and if the results come back as abnormal, your doctor will contact you to discuss next steps. Once the pap smear is over, the doctor will examine the inside and outside of the vagina, and other reproductive parts using inserted fingers and pressure applied to the lower stomach area. This exam is painless (unless there is a problem, OR you haven’t emptied your bladder). If after reading this you still have anxiety about this part of the exam, and have put off making your appointment, talk to your doctor about your concerns ahead of time and see what they suggest to help make the situation more comfortable. Remember, it’s a simple and potentially life saving exam that all women should be having annually (or sometimes even bi-annually, at Dr.’s orders).

Now let’s revisit the breast exam. First let me say that if you’re not doing monthly self exams, start now. Get to know the way your breasts feel because believe it or not, you WILL feel bumpy areas, stretch mark textures and the like. Get to know what’s normal for your breasts that way when something changes, you’ll notice it. Here’s a great website that shows you how to do an accurate self breast check up, including the right time of the month to do them and changes to look for. If you’re under the age of 40, your doctor will perform a thorough breast exam that is identical to the one you should be doing at home, so take notice to what they’re doing and ask questions if you don’t understand or want clarification. Nobody should be silent during any medical exam. Ask questions, converse, and become familiar with these procedures so that you’re more educated on both your body and prevention. If you’re over 40, your breast exam will most likely be a mammogram. If you’re younger than 40 and are high risk (like your mother had breast cancer) they may have you do a mammogram earlier than 40 (which may or may not be covered by insurance, so do your homework). Early detection is key, and I plan on being as proactive as possible now that I’m in a high risk situation.

Was my visit a success? Yes. I have an amazing OB/GYN who took the time to listen to my concerns, and show me proper self breast exam tips today. As she probed about my mother’s illness, I got emotional and fortunately she understood my own anxieties about my future. She also spoke to me about options like sonograms and genetic testing (BRCA-see link below) as other ways to maintain and monitor my breast health. She happens to work specifically with the BRCA testing and gave me her cell phone number if and when I was ready to discuss this option. There really are great doctors still left in the world!

Cancer is a killer. It took my mom from me, as well as grandparents, cousins and friends. The only way we can fight this beast is by being as proactive as possible with our own health. Listen to your bodies. Get checked. Don’t procrastinate. Right now you have the control, not the disease. So do what needs to be done.
Need more information? Check out these resources:

The Importance of a Yearly Pap Smear
Pap and HPV Testing
Early Detection of Breast Cancer
Brac Testing Information

Please share your thoughts, tips and stories. Let’s encourage and inspire each other to live our best lives possible.
Steph <3

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Hey Fat Girl

One of the most inspirational bloggers that I’ve come across has been Emmie, from SkinnyEmmie.com. She has lost over 100 pounds and started her journey at 455 pounds! That is an amazing, and VERY brave, feat and I’m so proud to know her through the blogging community. She even completed a 1/2 marathon, which gives me the motivation to know that I can do mine too. 

Yesterday Emmie posted about an article she had come across on another blog. The article seriously blew me away, and I knew that I would have to share it here too.

Hey Fat Girl,                                                                                                                                                                Yes, you. The one feigning to not see me when we cross paths on the running track. The one not even wearing sports gear, breathing heavy. You’re slow, you breathe hard and your efforts at moving forward make you cringe. You cling shyly to the furthest corridor, sometimes making larger loops on the gravel ring by the track just so you’re not on it. You sweat so much that your hair is all wet. You rarely stay for more than 20 minutes at a time, and you look exhausted when you leave to go back home.  You never talk to anyone. I’ve got something I’d like to say to you. You are awesome

(Read the entire post).

I can completely relate to this. 
I am that Fat Girl. 

I was once a Fatter Girl.

 (Here I was at my highest weight).
I started my journey 2 years ago at a shocking 368 pounds. I know what it feels like to be out there at the park, or at the gym as a fat girl. I feel like everyone is staring you down with disgust instead of giving you kudos for doing something about the issue. I understand that most of that is nonsense manifested by my own self-consciousness, but it’s still there nonetheless, and at times it’s crippling.
There have been more than one occasion where I’ve almost turned around and gone home. I’ve cried, I’ve hated myself, I’ve been embarrassed, felt defeated, been harassed by passerbys and have had my share of ripped workout pants, stumbles and falls. I’ve developed rashes because my thighs rub together, making my gait look funny and yes, while I’m running my breathing isn’t as dainty other lady runners. But like Emmie and the writer of this post said: for every negative remark, smirk, eye-roll or horn honk, there have been five times as many people in my life who believe in me. They’re out there watching me on the course, holding signs, taking pictures, and telling me that I CAN finish when I feel like quitting. 

 (Kristin and I at Purplestride 2010)

These people are by my side trying to get healthy right along with me.

 (Mr. KKM and I rockin’ it on Bayshore)

(Lindsey and
I crossing the finish line at Tarpon Springs Triathlon, 2010)

They’re with me in the water, on the pavement and in the gym. They’re commenting on my blog posts and encouraging me to keep it up. They’re family, friends, co-workers, blog friends and sometimes complete strangers contacting me via twitter to tell me how awesome I am. For every idiot out there with something negative to say, there are superstars cheering me across my finish lines and patting my back through my successes, and that’s what keeps me going in spite of those who are waiting for me to fail.

What keeps you going? How do you stay positive?
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Putting My “Feet First”

I have gone through my share of running shoes.
When I first toiled with the idea of “running”, I literally started in a pair of $20 sneakers from Target.
Now while they were super cute, they definitely weren’t cut out for what I was attempting.

I decided to kick things up a notch and got rid of those in exchange for what I thought would be appropriate: the cheapest pair of Nike sneakers at my local sports store.

How did I choose them?
1. They were on sale.
2. They had a size 11.
3. They weren’t hideous.

You know, I don’t even recall actually trying them on. I’m always excited to find shoes in my size (it’s hard having skiis), so back then, before I knew any better, I would just buy.

Now I must say, I did complete my first 5k in these. I did change from walking to running in these. I did earn my first medal in these. But…. it wasn’t easy. In fact I got my first stress fracture from wearing these shoes, and spent a few months off my feet while it healed.

After the Nikes came a pair of New Balance, which again, I do not recall trying on, in fact these were on clearance.
After that was a pair of Reeboks purchased through Amazon.
Then came the whole barefoot/minimalist running movement, so I decided to try my hand at a pair of Nike Free 5.0s which I bought off eBay.
And when I finally completed my first 15k in these, and had blisters on the pads of my feet that lasted almost a month (worst. pain. ever.), I finally decided (and with a little push from a friend) that I would finally take myself over to a real running store and get fitted for a proper shoe.

At the same time, I received a tweet from Feet First on Twitter asking me if I’d like to come in to the shop for a shoe fitting. Well, of course! So on a rainy Sunday I found myself flip flopping my wet feet into the store to see what they had to offer.

When you first walk in, it’s a bit overwhelming. It’s not like other shoes stores where you browse different styles then try on what YOU deem fit. As soon as you arrive you’re greeted by one of their VERY knowledgeable employees who basically ask you about your goals, your history, and if you currently have any pain or discomfort while exercising. I was then asked to take off my shoes and walk across the store. As I walked (and by the way- knowing someone is staring you down as you walk is intimidating! Just walk normally!), I tried to be as natural as possible so they could take notice of my gait. After my little stroll down the catwalk, I plopped myself down and relaxed as he brought me a tower of shoe boxes for me to rummage through. Apparently I’m an underpronator, which means with each step, my ankle and side of my foot rolls outward- falling on my small toes as a run. The shoes he brought me to try on help to correct this, and I could instantly feel the difference with the first pair I tried on. Most of the shoes he brought me were actually men’s. Like I said- I have skiis for feet and typically wear an 11-11.5. (I’m a 9.5 in men’s, in case you were wondering!). As I tried on shoe after shoe, I felt important.  The employees at Feet First never make you feel rushed or criticize you for your (my) indecisiveness. They are extremely patient and want you to find what’s going to make YOU the best runner out there. As a plus sized athlete, I never felt like I wasn’t taken seriously. This is a difficult thing sometimes because there ARE people out there that will make you feel like less of a athlete because of your body size. Not here. I felt like a seasoned runner the entire time.

In the end, I fell completely head over heels in love with these:

This will be my first time running in a pair of Asics, but between the extremely cushiony heel, lots of space in the toe box, and the ankle support for correction, these seem like they will be the perfect shoe for me!
I took them out for a spin last week and although they need breaking in, I already feel faster, shins were feeling fine, and calves weren’t fatigued. I think we have a winner, people!
If you’re looking to find YOUR perfect shoe, head down to Feet First and meet with the amazing people that work there. With locations on both sides of the bay (South Tampa and St. Pete), there’s one close enough. You’ll be glad you did!
**The opinions written are solely my own. I was not monetarily compensated for any of the content in this posting.
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Shrimpin’ ain’t easy

Today was an awesome day.

It started off with an almost 5k on Bayshore with friends, Mr. KKM and Deb, our triathlon trainer. Deb is a plethora of knowledge and gave us some much needed tips on running and walking form, shoes, stretching and more.

After our little jaunt on Bayshore, Mr. KKM and I decided to head to Tampa’s local historic district, Ybor City, for the annual Cuban Sandwich Festival. Tampa is definitely known for it’s Cubans, but everyone claims that they have “the best”. So every year restaurants, cafes, bars and local dives come together for a day of battle offering samples of their version of this ham, pork, salami, Swiss, mustard and pickle Cuban breaded delicacy.

We got to Centennial Park around noon, and let me tell you… we weren’t the only ones that had the idea to check out this festival. The place was PACKED! The line to get into the sampling was over an hour’s wait, and aside from that, there weren’t any vendors actually selling Cubans. We walked around at some of the tents and checked out things for sale, listened to some music, then decided to head across the street and just go buy our own sandwiches at our favorite spot for Cubans- Gaspar’s. We hadn’t eaten anything since our snack of a breakfast before our run, so we were pretty hungry.

So hungry that I failed to take a pic of what we think is the best Cuban until I was almost done with it.

Here’s what we think makes a good Cuban:

  • Chewy and fresh Tampa style Cuban bread (flaky and made with lard).
  • A few slices of ham. Many places pile ham on their Cubans as cheap “fillers”. 
  • Roasted Cuban pork made with mojo (sour oranges + garlic)
  • Swiss cheese
  • Salami (which is optional, but adds a nice wine-y, sour flavor to the sandwich)
  • Pickles (dill, not sweet!)
  • Pressed with a little butter on the bread.

Although the guy orders them without pickles, he still thinks that this version of the Cuban reigns supreme, and I agree. Scrumptious to the last crumb. Oh, and if you try Gaspar’s, opt out of fries and get the cinnamon sugar plantain chips that come with the sandwich. You won’t regret it!

We rested up for a few hours before it was time to go shrimpin’! (which ain’t easy).
I’ve done my share of fishing and crabbing, but shrimping was completely new to me. The guy had it all planned: nets, bait buckets, head lamps and beer.

 We drank beer, smoked cigars and enjoyed the scenery while we waited for the sun to go down. 
And when the sun finally set, we jumped into the gulf and began searching for little reflective-eyed crustaceans. Apparently, wearing a headlamp makes it possible for us to see their little beady eyes glowing in the water. I totally need to invest in a waterproof camera! Their eyes were really cool, and aside from the shrimp, I caught small crabs, fish, and even a few starfish! 
After a few panic attacks (it was quicksand out there!), a pop and squat in the water to pee, avoiding touching them because they flick, a broken bait bucket, and a few falls into the water, I’m proud to say that I caught some!
(See their little glowing eyes?)
Will I do it again? Of course! I had a blast, considering I’m typically deathly afraid of not a fan of water + dark. Now… what to do with the little guys. Shrimp scampi, fried shrimp, grilled shrimp, shrimp pasta. Oh Bubba, the possibilities! 
I can’t believe there are still 2 days left of the weekend! What adventures will we get into tomorrow? Come back and see! πŸ™‚
How was your weekend? What’s your favorite shrimp recipe?
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