Birthday Weekend Fun

1 02 2016

On Friday, I turned 33. Thirty three is such a weird age/number to me. I like even numbers (my favorite number is 2) or multiples of 5. And 31 isn’t so bad because you’ve survived your first year in your thirties. But thirty three? It’s kinda like your sophomore year: that awkward, in-between year that just isn’t very special.

But, I’m lucky enough to have people in my life who made this birthday extra special and I’m so thankful for that!

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On Friday, my actual birthday, I started off my day with a cup of coffee in my new favorite mug from World Market.

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I don’t think you could drink from this mug and NOT be happy. It was a great way to start my day!

Later in the afternoon, Bill and I went to Ybor to enjoy a late lunch/early dinner at a fantastic Italian restaurant called Bernini’s.

They were serving $2 martinis ’til 7. Yes, please!

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We shared this amazing Caprese salad, made with Burrata cheese (LOVE!) with a white truffle balsamic reduction on top. It was so delicious!

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We topped off the night with a show! We saw the Hellcats Burlesque troupe perform at a bar in town. It was fun to get dressed up and see one of our friends perform!

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On Saturday, I knew Bill had something else planned, but he hadn’t told me what. I picked up on a few clues along the way, but he did a great job of keeping it a secret!

I started my morning with a spin on the trainer- I knew that I’d likely be eating well today (i.e. cake, cheese, wine, etc.) and I didn’t want to feel too badly about it after. I would have gone for a nice long run, but unfortunately, I sprained my ankle last weekend and haven’t been able to run:-( (Side note, looks like BDR will be a DNS for me. Side note #2- Of course I had to include a sweaty selfie in this post).

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In late afternoon, it was time to get ready. Bill and our friend Domenique helped me pick out an appropriate outfit, after finally spilling where our first stop would be: Ciro’s Speakeasy.

It must be noted that this weekend is also Gasparilla weekend in Tampa. Gasparilla is like a pirate-themed Mardi Gras here. I went to the parade last year and though I’m glad I went once, I really don’t have a desire to go again. Huge crowds, lots of traffic, drunk people EVERYWHERE. No thanks.

Well, Ciro’s is just two blocks off the parade route. Though the parade had ended several hours before, the party was still going strong, making it kind of a nightmare to get there. With a crazy stroke of luck, we were actually able to find parking a few blocks away. Seriously, it was like something out of the movies- cue the angels singing and lights glowing. Unfortunately, some of my other friends weren’t so lucky in the parking department and ended up throwing in the towel. I totally don’t blame them- they were there in spirit!

We got into our cozy booth and ordered some cheese fondue and fancy cocktails.

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Bill then gave me the most thoughtful gift anyone has ever given me. He said, “It’s Steph Appreciation Day” and he had asked friends and family to contribute. Basically, he asked them to anonymously write a few words or sentences or a paragraph, about what they appreciate about me. The idea sprung from a conversation we had had months earlier, about how we go through life and never really hear how appreciated we are until it’s too late. Doesn’t it bring you such joy, knowing that someone really thinks your awesome? So why aren’t we spreading that joy all the time? Why aren’t we making people feel special, loved, and important while they’re still here on this earth to bask in that wonderful feeling?

Yup. That’s my boyfriend. He’s pretty amazing.

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I spent the next part of the evening reading each one aloud, with many stops for tears and laughter. It was quite emotional! Anyone and everyone who is reading this: Please replicate this with a loved one in your life. You will not regret it!

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This was after reading the notes. I was happy that most of my makeup stayed put!

After our time at Ciro’s, we went to Edison food + drink lab where we shared an appetizer, salad, entree and dessert. Everything was delicious, but the dessert stole the show! We got the sugar-crusted butter cake with brown butter ice cream, pistachio, orange, and toffee sauce. OMG this was to die for! We cleaned the plate and we all agreed that the ice cream was some of the best we had ever had in our lives.

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Finally, we came home and had second dessert. Because, duh, it’s my birthday and you have to have second dessert on your birthday!

My friend Domenique is an amazing baker and she made a Boston creme pie (cake) from scratch. Chocolate ganache, moist butter cake and that amazing cream filing was the perfect ending to my night.

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Thank you so VERY much to everyone who made my birthday the furthest thing from an awkward, in-between kinda day!

Domenique and Bill- you two are amazing. I am so stinking lucky to have you two in my life!





Gluten Free?

13 10 2011

Last week, one of my colleagues was celebrating a birthday. We like to celebrate birthdays where I work, so one of her team members planned a little party. We were all asked to contribute some kind of snack, but the snack had to be gluten-free.

What was I to bring? I really wanted to bring a cake or brownies, but had no idea of how to make them gluten free, and I didn’t want to go out and buy special flour for the occasion, if I was only going to use a small amount. But then I remember that Sarah had given Chloe some GF cake mixes before she moved to Texas. I texted Chloe and asked if she still had those mixes and if I could use ‘em. She did, so I picked them up after work, glad that I didn’t have to make a stop at the grocery store to make a specialty purchase.

I had two choices, the devil’s food cake or the brownie mix. I decided to go for the brownie mix.

I followed the instructions on the back of the box, adding the eggs and butter and then mixing well.

The biggest difference I noticed in making these brownies was how thick the batter was. Holy cow. I definitely got an arm workout in stirring these babies. As a result, I couldn’t really pour out the batter into the pan, instead I needed to spoon it out.

But, once it was in the pan, I popped it into the oven and let it bake away. It smelled SO good, and SO chocolately while it was baking, that I wanted something chocolate of my own, so I made a hot chocolate. YUM!
The brownie came out looking like a “normal” brownie, and I was looking forward to trying it the next day.

We surprised my colleague with our mini party, and quickly dug into the brownie. The result? Delicious! I couldn’t even tell it was gluten free. Rich and chocolately, with pieces of chocolate throughout. I think it was extra special for my coworker, who said she hadn’t had a brownie in 6 months. WIN!

Though I wouldn’t regularly buy these mixes, if I need to make something GF again, I would definitely use the Betty Crocker mix again.

Thanks Sarah!

Question of the day: Have you ever baked anything gluten free? What did you make?





Today is An Important Day!

25 02 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!

Confession: I am a Daddy’s girl.  I have said this before and I will say it again…I have a cool Dad.  He is funny, smart, curious, understanding, motivated, kind, strong in all sense of the word and most important, a great role model. In a tribute to him, here are some of the most valuable things that I have learned from the guy:

  • Always keep your head up, even when things aren’t going according to plan.
  • If you aren’t up before the sun rises, you are missing the best part of the day.
  • Good-Better-Best, Never Let it Rest, Till the Good is Better, and the Better’s Best.
  • There is ALWAYS a silver lining.
  • If its on sale at the grocery store, buy 10.
  • Really really ridiculously good dance moves.
  • Edy’s Slow Churned Ice Cream is the only way to end the day.
  • Be Curious, not judgmental.
  • How to make really really ridiculously good black bean salsa (its a Spring/Summer dip so recipe to come soon!!!)
  • You can never be too generous.

Happy Birthday Dad! Hope that you are having a great day 🙂