#BeBrave and the Race for the Cure Recap

ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage

What comes to mind when you hear the word “brave?”
A firefighter? Police officer? Soldier? 

We all understand what it means to be brave in those aspects, and appreciate and honor those who dedicate their lives to defend, help and protect us each and every day. They are true heroes and display braveness, above all else, in their daily lives. 

However I’m here to recognize a different form of brave. 
A quiet form that often gets overlooked. 
An internal brave that many people must endure at some point in their lives.
Probably one of the most difficult situations where one may ask you to “be brave”. 

When my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 of an aggressive form of breast cancer, we knew we would need to encourage her to be brave. It was important for her to stay positive; to keep hopeful; to trust her doctors.

When she courageously underwent weeks of chemo, radiation, surgeries, and days where she just could not get out of bed, we would encourage her to be brave. And on that last week, when the outcome was inevitable, we would continue to tell my mother to be brave.

My mother bravely fought for her life until her last breath, and above all else, that is what I remember her for most. My mother was strong and outgoing; fun and positive. She was SCUBA certified, and wasn’t afraid to try new things. She was all about grabbing life and making the most out of it. She was one of the bravest people I had ever met. 

I often think about my mother in moments where I need to find my own braveness, and because of all that she went through, I have adopted this motto for my own life and for #TeamJudy. Because being brave is what makes life worth living. 

Being brave is about fighting against the things that try to take life from us. 
It’s about staying strong and positive; even through the roughest of life’s moments. 
It’s about being there for the ones you love. 
It’ about going for your goals and the things you want. 
Being brave isn’t about being fearless. Being brave is about feeling the fear, and doing it anyway. 

Last weekend we showed our support for #TeamJudy and our #BeBrave campaign by participating in the Race for the Cure  5k in St. Pete. It was an amazing event honoring those who are fighting cancer, the brave survivors and remember the ones we have lost. Here are some snapshots from race day. If you’d like to join us next year, please check back for details as race details are released. 









Judy’s Tales: beef and sliced bananas

I do the most thinking about my mom while I’m in the kitchen.

Like on lazy Sundays when the TV is off, the guy is hanging out with his brother and the only sound heard is the sharp edge of my knife slicing and chop chop chopping against a smooth bamboo cutting board.

I love that sound. Sometimes I will just chop, dice and slice every bit of produce I’ll need for a week all in the same day just so that I can practice the art. You know, just in case I’m ever on Food Network Star or something. 😉

Those moments of solitude and silence are when I relive stories of my mom. Never a day goes by that I don’t try my hardest to remember things. Sometimes I feel as if I don’t make a conscious effort to go through those 32 years of life, year by year, I’ll forget something important that I want to be able to remember and share with my own children.

My mom loved to be in the kitchen, just like I do. She was in her element entertaining, cooking up comfort foods (like her scrumptious chicken parmigiana!), baking for a crowd, or prepping a Thanksgiving feast.

I’ve mentioned before what a picky eater my mom was. My dad was the complete opposite. He’d eat just about anything (and anywhere!). He’s dined at some sketchy establishments that my mother wouldn’t even drive by. Somehow my palette fell somewhere in between.

As I was prepping ingredients for fruit smoothies the other day, I was reminded of something I had forgotten about my mother. As much of a finicky eater that she was, she did possess some very strange eating habits! One of her favorite foods of all time was ropa vieja (old clothes). It’s a Cuban staple of stewed flank steak in a rich tomato sauce cooked for hours until it’s fork tender and served over rice. My grandmother would make it for her all the time, and after she passed, my godmother Laurie took over and made it for my mom.

The strange part about my mom’s love affair with this dish was in the way she ate it. She would start with a base of white or yellow rice, top it with a scoop of the saucy ropa vieja, then top the beef with sliced bananas.

No, not plantains. Bananas. You know, regular bananas that you would make smoothies with? Yup, those. Bright yellow bananas slices right on top. She would then proceed to fork all three into one bite and add more slices if she ran out.

I would have to ask my uncles or my mom’s cousins when and how my mother conjured up this crazy creation. But as far as I can remember, this is how she ate her ropa vieja. It didn’t stop there though. Mom would also add banana slices to her yellow rice and chicken!

I couldn’t help but laugh at loud when I was thinking of this story. I think I’ll have to whip out Clarita’s Cocina next week and try my hand at making ropa vieja. Maybe I’ll through a few banana slices in honor of my mom so that I can taste what all the fuss was about!

photoDo you have any strange eating habits?

Steph 🙂

PS- Don’t forget to enter my giveaway!


Mom’s KitchenAid

It’s amazing to think that I lived in the same house most of my life. My parents bought the house in the early 70’s. They were married right at of high school (at the very young age of 20) and bought the house shortly after that. I was born a few years later and spent my childhood, teenage years and even some of my adulthood living in that house. There were bedroom changes when my brother came along, family room additions, the pitter patter of puppy paws, and decor upgrades, but it has always been a place I’ve called home. The memories are bursting at the seams, and at the moment, they hang like a thick cloud near the ceiling. I know one day these moments will bring me great joy. I need to keep this thought close. Continue reading


Keeping traditions alive

It’s the most wonderful time, of the yearrrrrrrrrr.No seriously. It is. I’m the kind of person that will not TOUCH a single speck of Christmas until turkey is digesting in my belly. I’m all about the food, the togetherness and the lack of presents. It’s a holiday that brings people together before the craziness that December brings and gives you an opportunity to just be with family and friends (and enjoy good food, of course). 😉

I LOVE Thanksgiving!

I knew there would be major milestones to overcome the first year without my mother. I survived Mother’s day, my birthday, my kid brother’s birthday, Halloween and her birthday. I considered all of those events to be practice ones for the major upcoming holidays.

I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to celebrate and remember my mother over the next couple of months. At one point, I almost told myself I would just skip it all, but I knew that wasn’t the right decision. My mom LOVED the holidays; especially Thanksgiving. She had a tried and true favorite turkey recipe and we would get up in the wee hours of the morning to prep and get the birds in the ovens (yes, we usually made two and filled her double ovens with all that gobble-y goodness. When my grandmother passed away in 2005, we knew we’d keep her spirit bright by continuing to make her delicious sausage and sage stuffing. I knew my mother would not want me to skip Thanksgiving. I know she would want me to cook in her honor. Mr. KKM’s family is cooking this year, so we would be going over there to celebrate with them. I had decided that I would go through the motions and prepare a small bird and a dish of Abuelamom’s stuffing for the two of us and my brother and dad at our house, just as a way of keeping my mom’s favorite recipes alive.

Friday morning I got a phone call from my cousin Glenn telling us that he wanted to get as much family together for a Thanksgiving dinner. He purchased a lake house a while back, making it a great location for any kind of get together. He said that his girlfriend and I could divide the cooking and that anyone else that wants to come could bring a covered dish. I didn’t hesitate. I knew that this was important to him, and that it was his attempt at bringing us all together. My mom was always so good at that, and although I try, I’m nowhere near as good at it. Of course, I told Glenn that I would cook the turkey and stuffing, using those same traditional recipes from Thanksgivings past. Suddenly, I had real Thanksgiving plans.

So today I decided to go do some shopping and figure out what I needed for Thursday. I dropped Mr. KKM off at his brother’s house for a day of football (yes, I’m totally an NFL widow), and swung by the new Whole Foods Carrollwood for a quick jaunt. I saw this friendly face as soon as I walked through the door…

It’s Anna! She has been SO busy these past few weeks with the grand opening of the store, and Thanksgiving orders. She’s been a trooper though, and has done SUCH an awesome job making the new store feel welcoming and a fun place to be! We chatted a while, then she got some customers so I decided to peruse around and see what was on sale. I wasn’t planning on buying a turkey that day, but at $2.09/lb for a free range, antibiotic free turkey, with a $10 off coupon, I couldn’t resist!

I also purchased the ingredients to go with the turkey recipe I mentioned above. My mother was a big Barefoot Contessa fan and swore by her perfect roast turkey recipe. It’s DELICIOUS. Moist, flavorful and amazingly simple to prepare. If you’re looking for a new go-to turkey recipe, you have got to give Ina’s a shot!

Walking around the market collecting all of the Thanksgiving necessities wasn’t easy. In fact, I felt very alone knowing that I was the one that was in charge of making my mom’s turkey this year. She wouldn’t be around to clean it and prep it. We wouldn’t be going to the local party store to but pans and supplies. She wouldn’t be up basting it. We wouldn’t have Cuban coffee and crackers in the morning while we watched it brown. I felt very overwhelmed with the whole thing as it would be the first time doing this all on my own. However, I know my mom would be in my own kitchen with me in spirit.

I have so much to be thankful for this year. I have 32 years of memories of my mother. I have the most amazing boyfriend who loves me for me. I have a great network of family, friends, bloggers and co-workers who are supportive and positive influences in my life. I have a job that I look forward to doing each and every day. I have a beautiful home that I share with the man I love (and a pup and two cats) and I have my health. I’m strong, and working on becoming stronger. Although I miss my mom terribly, I can’t forget and overlook all the good that is going on in my life, and if she can see me, I know that she would be thankful for that.

What family Thanksgiving traditions do you hold dear to your heart?