Practice Hike

27 06 2013

This weekend, Bill and I headed over to the Little Manatee River State Park to go for a hike in preparation for next month’s trip.

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We packed our kits the night before with most of the things we’ll be taking to Alaska, but wouldn’t necessarily need for a day hike. Things like our tent, sleeping bags, sleeping mat, and cookware were all packed in so we could get an idea of how heavy our packs would be. Lucky for me, Bill carried the tent and the cookware. With my basic pack, minus food, I’d say I was running about 15 pounds on my back. IMG_7628

 

We arrived around 10:30am, a little late for a summer hike in Florida, but the expected temperatures weren’t too outrageous. The first lesson we learned was bug spray is an absolute necessity! We were immediately attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes so we scrambled to find the our bug repellent wipes in our packs. Luckily they were easy enough to find, so we covered ourselves as fast as we could and hit the trail. 

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Hiking in central Florida is…well…kinda boring. The land is flat, there’s lots of scrub lining the trail, and the scenery pretty much never changes. IMG_7630

 

Luckily this trail got a little more exciting as we got further into it-but not by much! We crossed over some water-rivers, streams, creeks, not sure what to call them, and we stopped a few times to look and listen for wildlife. I was hoping for some gators, but unfortunately we only saw more insects flying around.

IMG_7631Water was tinted-I think it was cedar water…

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About halfway into our hike, we came across a very large pool of water. It was about 10 feet by 7 feet of murky water, and we weren’t sure how deep it was. The only way to continue on the trail was to cross it. Thankfully, there was a downed tree that we could walk across. Bill stepped onto the tree and reached back to grab my hand and help me across. I put one foot on the log, grabbed his hand with my right hand, and reached for the tree off to my left for balance. My hand was inches from the tree when I spotted this:

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EEK! I later found out this was a harmless gardener snake, but it definitely freaked me out. However, this was the most exciting part of our hike and it gave us something to joke about 🙂

We laughed about how I nearly strangled the snake, which distracted us from the swarms of mosquitoes pestering us more incessantly now that our bug repellent had started to wear off. About a mile and a half from the trail’s end, we decided it was absolutely necessary to reapply. Since we had already used up the wipes we had put in Bill’s bag, he rummaged through my bag for the others. My bag is only top loading, so Bill took out the different things we had packed in search of the bug repellent. Meanwhile, I had been good about staying hydrated on our hike, so I was a little uh, distracted.  I mindlessly took what he was handing me, and when he found the wipes, I started repacking my backpack so I could run off to relieve myself. I clearly was not paying attention, because when I came back, Bill asked me where the bug repellent was. Uh, I thought I had left it on the bench…Lesson number 2: When Steph has to pee, she becomes a total ditz and repacks what was intended to stay out of the bag. Lesson number 3: pack the bug spray on the outside of the backpack! We were getting eaten alive while looking for the wipes a second time, so we threw in the towel and decided to hike the last bit of trail at a good clip to avoid the bugs as best we could.

After about three hours, we finished our nearly six mile hike. This is about half of what we’ll need to do per day when we’re in Alaska- and that will be on much more challenging terrain. I’m a little nervous about it, but I think we’ll be able to tough it out. The trip is only 3 weeks away now- it’s creeping up on me, faster than I expected! I’ve got a a few more details to get all planned out so I better hop to it!

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Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cherry Pancakes

16 06 2013

So, I have a problem. Well, maybe its not so much a problem as it is an obsession.

pancakescollagePancakes. Every weekend. I love playing around with different batter recipes and deciding what toppings or flavors will get mixed in.

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Strawberry, mango, coconut anyone?

This weekend I went a little overboard. In a good way of course!

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That my friends, is a stack of chocolate-chocolate chip cherry pancakes! HOLY DECADENCE! I felt like I was eating cake for breakfast. The pancakes came out perfectly fluffy with melty chocolate chips and warm fresh cherries inside. Step aside boring pancake batter, there’s a new girl in town!

These are perfect “special occasion” pancakes-they just take a bit of prep time. I wasn’t celebrating anything when I made them, I just had the ingredients and the idea!

black forest pancakes

If you like black forest cake, these pancakes are for you!

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cherry Pancakes
Makes 8 pancakes

Ingredients:

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup milk (I used almond-coconut)
~1/2 cup fresh brewed coffee (or instant)
2 TBS coconut oil (liquid)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS agave nectar
~ 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used one handful)
~1 lb fresh cherries

Topping:

chocolate chips
cherries
coconut whipped cream 

How to:

First, the painfully slow process of depitting and chopping the cherries. I don’t have a pitter, so I used a paring knife to cut up the cherries. By the time I was done, I filled a 1 qt pyrex bowl of the chopped cherries.

Put about half of the cherries in a saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally to allow the cherries to reduce to a sauce.

Meanwhile, prepare your batter:

Combine all of the dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder) in a large bowl. Stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine the milk, coffee, oil, egg, vanilla and agave nectar. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips and about 1/2 cup chopped cherries. Let the batter sit 5-10 minutes. It will be thick!

On a hot greased griddle, pour 1/4 cup of the batter and spread to create your pancake. Flip after several minutes, when bubbles have formed and the sides of the pancake are starting to cook.

Serve with cherry sauce, chocolate chips, coconut whipped cream and any remaining cherries. Enjoy!

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The Spirit Of The Marathon II

13 06 2013

Nothing like a little blogger get together to get me back on the blogging bandwagon;-)

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Last night I met up with a few of my fellow Tampa bloggers at CineBistro in Hyde Park to watch The Spirit of the Marathon II. I actually never saw the first one, but I couldn’t turn down a night with some of my favorite ladies in Tampa to watch a movie about one of our favorite things: running!

This was my first time at a CineBistro, and I definitely enjoyed myself. CineBistro has a much different feel than the only other meal + movie theater I’ve been to, The Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. The Drafthouse is very chill, the kind of place you’d grab a beer and some nachos and watch the latest comedy. CineBistro on the other hand, tries to be a bit more upscale, but not too stuffy- there’s a sparkling bar just beyond the entrance, a waitstaff that greets you as you walk in the theater and takes you to your seat, and menu options like Pan Seared Alaskan Salmon and Lavender and Black Pepper Filet. Some may say the theater’s atmosphere is a little pretentious (maybe just because it is in South Tampa), but I enjoyed the more mature feel-it’s 21+ so you’re never interrupted by a screaming child or an angry adolescents. It also probably helped that the theater was full kooky individuals who think it is fun to put themselves through 4+ months of pounding the pavement to feel the accomplishment of crossing the finish line after running 26.2 miles (just like me!).

Exhibit A:

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Exhibit B:

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Exhibit C:

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The Spirit of the Marathon II follows 7 individuals on their journey to run the Maratona di Roma. From a Ukranian trying to qualify for the Olympics to the former cross country coach and marathon-newbie from New Jersey to a 72 year old Italian man who has run more marathons than you can count on two hands, each runner had their own unique path to get to the starting line in Rome. They shared stories that touched your heart and others that made you chuckle. When the one runner talked about the marathon only beginning at mile 20 you could almost hear the collective nodding of heads from the audience. Yup, we’ve been there.

The movie touched on the history of marathoning and women in marathons, but it also highlighted that running is providing opportunities for runners in developing countries. In one of the most moving parts of the movie, the Rwandan runner tells how her church was destroyed during the genocide, how it was burned down with people inside. She relies on her faith in God as she runs, and her faith remains strong despite all of the challenges she’s faced. Powerful.

Some may say that this is just another movie about runners, yadda yadda. But I found it to be an inspiring story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The running community is one of the most accepting, supportive, and encouraging groups out there- and this movie showed that as well.

Although I’m not quite ready to run another marathon just yet, the thought of running an international marathon- maybe through the streets of Rome, or Athens, or Barcelona is awfully enticing. Maybe sometime in the next few years, after I’ve had some time to save up:-)

Question of the Day: Did you go see Spirit of the Marathon II? What did you think?