Thanksgiving 2012

26 11 2012

My first Thanksgiving was a success!

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and were able to spend time with friends and family. I sure did!

A few days before Thanksgiving I decided that I was going to take the plunge and roast a whole turkey. We were planning on having 5 for dinner: me, Bill, and our friends Steve, Rebecca, and Rebecca’s bf Ben. Five people + the desire for leftovers + wanting a new culinary experience pushed me take the plunge and roast a whole bird. I’ll share the details of my experience in another post, but for now, here’s a little recap of my Turkey day.

The day started off with a little Turkey Trot in downtown Orlando. When we had picked up our packets the day before, the woman told us to get there early so that we could find a parking spot. Bill and I got up nice and early, braved the “cold” and headed to Lake Eola. We arrived around 6:35, easily found parking, and waited a few minutes before heading to the start. As we approached the starting line, Bill commented about how few people were there. Confused, I did a quick Google search for the race website and discovered the race actually stared at 8, not at 7 like I had thought. Whoops…Back to the car for a 45 minute nap!

After the race, we headed home to take a nap before the cooking began!

We were having a late dinner, so I started my cooking around 3. I pulled the turkey out of the refrigerator and let it rest while I prepared the stuffing.

I stuffed the bird and then put it in the oven at 425°F for 30 minutes, and then lowered the temperature to 350°F for the remainder of the 3 hours it cooked.

Meanwhile, I got started on the brussels sprouts. Bacon + caramelized onions + brussels sprouts = deliciousness.

I also prepared my sweet potato rolls for their 3rd rising.

Bill was in charge of the sweet potatoes, and took his spin on his grandmother’s recipe.

Cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes, brown sugar, butter, and a splash of tequila for good measure.

Topped with marshmallows, and popped in the oven at 350° for about 30 minutes.

A few hours later, our guests arrived with some yummy sides to add to the spread. Rebecca brought broccoli rabe with almonds, cranberry sauce, and wild rice with cranberries.

The only thing left to do was to carve the turkey! Since none of us were really all that experienced in the art of carving a turkey, we watched a YouTube video on how to do it…

We were apparently really nervous about carving the turkey, because we watched it 3 times, just to make sure we got it right. Finally, Rebecca took charge and carved the turkey.

By the way, Rebecca’s kind of a rock star. Not only because she did a killer job at carving the turkey, but she’s the friend Bill and I went and saw perform in Cirque Dreams. She recently appeared on MTV’s Made, as the coach for the girl who wanted to be “made.” Oh yeah, and in 2010, she was the US Pole Dance Federation East Coast Champion. No big deal. 🙂

Once the turkey was carved, it was time to eat!

Nom Nom Nom!!!

All the food was so tasty! I think we all stuffed ourselves pretty good. While we waited for Ben to arrive (he was at work) and for our food to settle, we made an army of rice krispie treat turkeys. What better thing to do when you’re full than to make more food?

 

 

 

A little after 11, we were finally ready for dessert. I had made a pumpkin pie the night before, and Ben had baked a pumpkin cheesecake. This wasn’t just any cheesecake, it was Wild Turkey 101 pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust.

This baby really stole the show!  I didn’t really get a great photo of it, but believe me, it was tasty!

 

SWOON!

My pie was pretty good too, but I definitely was looking forward to leftover cheesecake the day after 🙂

What a wonderful day! All of the food turned out so well, and I was so happy to spend the holiday with Bill and our friends. I can’t wait to do it again!

Question of the day: How was your Thanksgiving? Any funny stories to report?





Central Florida Blogger’s Conference 2012 (the afternoon)

19 09 2012

Where did I leave off?

Oh, that’s right. It was lunchtime at CFLBlogCon, and lunch was provided by Bahama Breeze. I piled my plate with lots of delicious food. I had their mashed sweet potatoes, paella, a crispbread, fresh salad, some spinach dip (hidden under the salad) and some glazed chicken. What a tasty meal! Everything was delicious, and I can’t wait to use the $10 coupon they were handing out! And can we talk about dessert?

Individual cups of their dulce de leche dessert. The chocolate brownie, the caramelly mousse, the chocolate sauce, the fresh whipped cream. SO GOOD!

Happy Bloggers! From the left front going clockwise: Paula, Jackie, Caroline, Rachel, I’m so sorry I don’t remember your name!, Christine, Theresa, Michelle.

After lunch, there was a short yoga session, but I was so full from lunch, I opted to hang out with some of my blogging buddies in the Recharge Room.

By “so full from lunch” I mean that I still had enough room to squeeze in a strawberry cookie from Parksdale Farm Market.

YUM-O. We all kept asking Xiomara for the top secret recipe, but she wouldn’t budge. I did ask her about how she got them to be so red. After my whoopie pie experiment, I was convinced she had to have used jello or something to flavor and color them. Nope. They are made with strawberries and strawberry seeds, plain and simple! Now I want to go back and experiment!!

Before heading to the next session, the Tampa Bay Lady Bloggers in attendance gathered for a group pic. Macbeth Photography was the photographer for the day, and he and his team did a great job capturing the event. They were set up to take headshots (which I totally regret not taking advantage of!), but he made accommodations for a group shot.

Check out some of Macbeth’s other photos from the conference. 🙂

“Tweet Your Way to Success” with Rachelle Lucas was my next session and I kinda want to be her. She gets to travel the world and tweet/blog about it. Next up for her: South Africa. Jealous!! Anywho-she had loads of interesting Twitter tips. She should know- she as over 40K followers!

Here’s a summary of her presentation (my version of her handout):

Be Genuine: Use a photo (of you!) for your avatar.  Tweet things that interest you.
Twitbacks.com
QuoteGarden.com

Be Consistent: Create lists and schedule tweets.
Hootsuite.com
Tweetdeck.com
SocialOomph.com

Be Resourceful: See who is tweeting about your site or brand.
Twilert.com
Backtweets.com
Twubs.com

Be Friendly: Follow tweets with similar interests and delete inactives and spammers.  Find chats and conversations. Use first names when you respond to a tweet.
Tweetspinner.com
Tweepi.com
Twellow.com
SaltyWaffle.com/4-answers-to-twitter-hashtag-mania/

Be Efficient: Measure the reach of a hashtag campaign, share articles, videos and photos with your social networks.  Track your time.
Bufferapp.com
Hashtracking.com
EasySurf.cc/mtimer.htm

Lot’s of resources! After hearing about HootSuite and TweetDeck yet again, I figured it was time to check it out.

I got to my next session, “Working With Brands” with Julie Deily (The Little Kitchen), and opened up my computer to take notes and experiment with TweetDeck. I’ll be honest, I was sitting in the back of the room near some of my Tampa Bay Lady Blogger friends, exploring TweetDeck so I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have. But, one of the big takeaways from Julie’s presentation was to work with brands that you actually want to work with. Don’t just work with a brand because they are giving you some super sweet new gadget thing that you could care less about. Be genuine, and work with brands that you and your audience will use.

Think Specialized would work with me? I ❤ Snowball.

Or maybe a nut butter company…

From there, I moved on to Mark Baratelli’s session: “Finding (and Sharing) Content that Leads to a Passionate Following.” I plopped on the floor in the back of the room with Kat, Beka, Rachel, and Marcia so we could all charge up our computers and phones. The combination of sitting way in the back, surrounded by new friends, and the overstimulation of TweetDeck and HootSuite resulted in a lack of attention to Mark’s talk. However, I did catch some of his jokes- he was definitely the funniest speaker I saw all day- and I caught some of his comments that were a bit controversial: “Don’t go to blogger meet ups” (Uh, isn’t this conference really one big blogger meet up?) and “Don’t be a niche blogger” (Uh, aren’t we breaking into niche groups later this afternoon?) Regardless, his points were well made, and he is making blogging work for him! I’m definitely going to start checking out The Daily City more often.

Ok, last formal session of the day! By now, I was getting a bit tired. My brain was so full of information! I went to “Storytelling & Problem Solving: The Keys to the Infectious Blog” by Justice Mitchell. Yet another great session with some great tips. He recommended setting up blog posts like myth busters: start with a “story seed,” then define the problem, then apply science, then test the theory and then there’s a conclusion. At the end of the day, write a story that is easy to retell, and one that is worth retelling. Even as I write this post, I realize I’m not applying Justice’s tips…

The next two things on my agenda didn’t require as much brain power as the rest of my day. First, an informal breakout session with all of the Central Florida bloggers who would consider themselves bloggers about health/fitness. There I got to meet up with some pretty amazing women.

Photo courtesy of Caroline

In no particular order:

Better Sleep Coach
Running for Cupcakes
Run Eat Date Sleep
You Me Fit
Fit To Flex
Runners Tales
Core Connection Lifestyle
Fanatchicks
PB Fingers
Cuban Running Crisis
Sneakers and Fingerpaints
Crazy Running Legs
Eat Watch Run
My Fascinating Life
Danielle Dillard
321delish (Me)
Rebecca Roams
Margarita Cambest (new twitter friend!)

(Another “to do:” Make business cards!)

And last but not least, the Yelp after party!

T-rex was excited that the party was moved indoors!

Yelp hosted a great after party, with food, drinks and entertainment.

Drinks by Tito’s Vodka

Pita and Hummus from CRAVE Orlando.

Swag from Yelp.

Vegetarian Jambalaya from Qdoba

I paid for a Florida Roll from Sushi 101 Orlando,

and at the end of the night, they were giving away these potsticker bowls so I snagged one of those as well:-)
I left the conference with a full belly, a full mind, and a huge smile on my face. I’d say that’s a sign of a great day. Who’s ready to do it all over again?

 





Tampa Friends

10 09 2012

Howdy! Is it really Monday already? I’ve had a whirlwind of a weekend, but I got to spend it with my wonderful Tampa friends!

On Friday night, Courtney invited the Team XPers over for a Mexican dinner party! Despite showing up a lil’ late to the party, I  didn’t miss out on any of the spectacular food that Courtney had prepared!

(I was too hungry to snap photos, so I grabbed these from Meghann 🙂 )

She went all out, preparing chicken enchiladas, beef fajitas with all the fixins, homemade salsa, a yummy salad, fried plantains, and rice and beans. Court covered all the mains, Jess brought some sangria, I brought some margarita mix + tequila, and Meghann brought some churro cupcakes. YUM. It was quite the feast, and I left feeling very full!

Love this group so much!

I was a little worried on Friday night that someone was going to spill the beans about a little surprise that Mary had been planning for Meghann, but thankfully no one did! What’s the surprise you ask? Well, Mary had planned a super secret surprise bridal shower for Meghann!

I’d say we got her good!

Mary orchestrated the whole shabang (with Meghann’s fiancee Derek’s help of course), and opened up her home for the party. Check out Meghann’s post for the full recap. Man, was that fun!

I brought pumpkin cupcakes to the party, and while I was baking I was SO TEMPTED to tweet pictures. I mean, how cute is this?

I knew I couldn’t just in case Meghann saw one of my tweets. (I ended up tweeting it after the party:-) )

To make the cupcakes, I followed the Brown Eyed Baker’s recipe, and they were AWESOME. Man, I’m glad it is pumpkin season (even though it doesn’t really feel like it down here).

The cupcakes were topped with some cream cheese icing, homemade snowflakes and/or clear sugar crystals. Meghann’s wedding has a snowflake theme, hence my cupcake toppers:-)

Those snowflakes were TOUGH to make. I melted some candy melts in the double boiler a small saucepan on top of a lager saucepan, and filled a pastry bag with a small decorating tip. The melted chocolate kept solidifying in the tip, and I was constantly trying to unclog it with a paper clip. I tried dipping the metal tip in  some hot water to see if that would help, but it was a no go. So, I just had to take it one line at a time.

When it was all said and done, I was quite pleased with the final product.

Immediately following the shower, I headed home for a quick change before meeting up with my friend Jennica and heading over to St. Pete. Jennica had texted me on Friday asking if I wanted to go with she and her hubby to see the Marshall Tucker Band concert. I didn’t really know the band, but I was happy to hang out with them:-) So, on Saturday night, we headed over the bridge to a biker bar called Screwie Louie’s Porpoise Pub.

Yes, that’s a wicker Harley hanging from the ceiling.

And biker bar this was! I’m talking leather vests, guys with long pony tails and even longer beards, tight jeans, and lots of tattoos. This bar was definitely not my usual crowd, but y’know what, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. It was definitely not the pretentious crowd that you get in South Tampa. It was a “come as you are” kinda place, which I appreciated.

They also had an assortment of crane games, including this one, where you could try to nab a live lobster. $2 a try! I didn’t see anyone playing 😉

Y’know what else I enjoyed? The people watching! Hoo boy! I think the funniest thing I spotted all night was a woman wearing jeans, and one of the back pockets was COMPLETELY ripped off. I’m talking like a 6 inch by 3 inch hole on her butt. We got a clear view of her lacy white underwear! The woman was either completely oblivious or had intentionally chosen these jeans to wear out to the bar. (I think it was the latter.)

Sunday was the first day of NFL football, so I had to find a place to watch my beloved Eagles. I did a quick Google search before the game and found out that there’s a large group of Philly fans in Tampa. The Tampadelphia group meets at the DoubleTree hotel on Westshore at their sports bar, the Player’s Club. The place was packed out, and I happily sang the Eagle’s fight song along with my fellow fans, as we cheered them on to victory! I will definitely be back.

And, one more friend related thing. Last weekend, I met up with a few other bloggers and Tampa area triathletes for an open water swim. The same group that organized that training meet up has also been emailing about the Miles For Hope event, happening in Clearwater on September 22nd. Miles for Hope is putting on a ‘Moving Towards a Cure’ Brain Tumor Awareness Event. The event includes walking, running, and cycling events. Pete, our fearless leader, sent out the link a few weeks ago, asking if anyone was interested. His mother has survived and fought the side effects of a brain tumor for over 22 years, and he is organizing a team in her honor. Recently, I have learned that a family member of one of my nearest and dearest childhood friends was diagnosed with brain cancer. Lisa is a mother of two, and the cousin of my best friend Gina. I’ve been wanting to do something, because I know how special Lisa is to Gina and her mom. So, I decided to join the fight and ride 100K (~60 miles) on September 22nd.

Although the event doesn’t require fundraising to participate, it is encouraged since the money goes towards research and finding a cure. Will you help me as I ride for Lisa? If you feel so inclined, please stop by my fundraising page and donate. I thank you, and so do the thousands of individuals suffering with brain tumors.

Have a great Monday everyone!