My First Taste of the Nation

On Saturday, I attended Taste of the Nation Orlando, an event that takes place in a giant ballroom at the World Center Marriott.

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Like I mentioned before, Taste of the Nation is a fundraising event to eradicate childhood hunger. Tons of items are donated (like spa treatments, concert tickets, dinner at various restaurants, etc.) and silent-auctioned off. This year, for the first time, you could bid from your phone which made it an incredibly dangerous thing for me since that is basically shopping online – my fave thing ever. Even the leftover food from the event is given to those in need.

I arrived at 5:30pm and checked in. When I explained who I was looking for to the checker-inners, they were like, “oh, you’re with the media” and I felt very fancy and important.

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I met up with Maria who gave me a short tour. Then she set me free in the land of food and drink.

I invited Michelle to be my date for the evening, but since she couldn’t make it until 6:30, I thought I would walk around, check out the food, and take mental notes of what I wanted first. I figured if I waited to eat, I wouldn’t spend the entire four hours shoving everything in my mouth and being uncomfortably stuffed.

That plan didn’t work out so well because I saw things I wanted and then when I went back to try them, they were gone. Like these:

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I’m sorry you are not in my belly giant nacho.

I was very excited when Michelle arrived because my willpower to not eat only lasts for so long.

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While we were there, we also ran into some other lovely ladies, Jackie and Christine (and Katy, but she evaded my camera). Let’s not forget the pizza guy (not a lady).

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That dude stood there the whole night smiling and greeting people with his dough. That is some serious patience. But really, the most important part of that picture is, for the first time, I am the second shortest woman. Never happens. If I can just nudge Jackie out of that picture, I will win shortest. I’ll work on that for next time.

The girls had other ideas before eating.

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And well, I’m not going to say no to sangria. I’m also not going to say no to stealing that picture from Jackie. There was a standard sangria and a Moscato sangria. Both amazing. We spent a lot of time at that booth.

After we were sufficiently wined, beered, and sangria-ed, we started making the rounds and the food started flowing. I wish I could tell you everything I ate and where it was from but without a pen and paper, that wasn’t going to happen.

My first stop was at Cask and Larder, a new restaurant in Orlando that everyone and their brother raves about incessantly.

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This isn’t something I would normally choose to eat but I just had to try it. (I don’t like pork or anything that remotely resembles BBQ – I know, I know.) The cheese grits on the bottom were really good but I gave my meat to Michelle. She loved my meat. So this dish was a hit with the pork/BBQ lovers of the world. Oh, that blackberry was pickled. Did not expect that.

After Cask and Larder, the food became a blur. Everything was beautifully presented and there was something for everyone.

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By far, my favorite of the night was this white fish with spinach gnocchi from Mama Melrose’s Ristorante. It was also the biggest portion, which I always appreciate.

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Mama Melrose’s is located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so I guess I have a reason to go there again. When I Googled them, I was hoping they’d be a little closer to home.

I held out on trying any desserts until late in the night because once that train gets going, it doesn’t stop. Avoiding this rotating dessert carousel for two hours was hard.

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You don’t even have to go to the desserts. They come to you. That is a thing of beauty right there.

It was getting late and I was still hungry somehow and I became worried I wouldn’t get everything I wanted. So I panicked and ran to the S’mores.

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And then I ran to the other side of the room for the cupcakes, lemon tarts, and strawberry balls on the carousel.

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That was plate one of two, lest you think I restrained myself. The lemon tart with a graham cracker crust and strawberry ball were so amazing, I got seconds. That tart tasted better than everything chocolate that I tried that night and I do not speak against chocolate lightly. I looks so perfectly plastic, but it was amazing.

After walking around for hours, our feet were hurting and we were getting tired because we’re old ladies and can’t hang like the young kids anymore. So, I grabbed one more picture with Michelle and headed home.

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I had a really good time hanging out with some of my favorite ladies and getting to try so many different foods. It was a fun night and not something you get to experience often, so I’m very grateful I was allowed the opportunity to be a part of it. Plus, it’s for a good cause and getting the word out is what really matters.

 

Sunday Bunday

I had a moment of weakness at the pet rescue today. Meet Henry.

Henry is a Teddy Bear hamster, not a rat, KARA. He did not appreciate your rude rat comment.

He came with the name – that wasn’t my doing. I’m pretty sure the pet store names all their rescues Henry. They had two hamsters and a guinea pig named Henry. There can’t possibly be that many Henry’s concentrated in one area.

I’ve been wanting to get Pants a guinea pig friend for awhile, but I’m afraid she’ll rip its face off with her Hulk-like rage, so I thought I’d start smaller with a hamster. They’re easier to take care of and don’t need as much play space. So, if she hates him, she doesn’t need to see him.

I gotta admit, I thought he was kinda ugly when I got him home. Also, he has big balls. Why is that even necessary for such a small animal? It’s so disconcerting to look at. Now I know why I prefer female animals. I can’t deal with all the balls.

Anyway, I don’t know how old he is and hamsters only live for about two years, so that’s kinda sad. I hope he’s around for awhile. All I know is that he’ll be loved for the rest of his big-balled life and will hopefully find a new friend in Pants because she seriously looks bored like she needs someone to play with.

What I’m Reading

I don’t think I’ve read this much since I was in college. I feel like a real grown up. Maybe I’ll even graduate to reading actual adult books at some point, but no promises. Here’s what I read to kill time walking on the treadmill while I was patiently waiting to be able to run again.

1. Reached by Ally Condie

You can find the summary here.

Reached is book 3 of the Matched series. I had no interest in reading another dystopian novel but somehow I managed to plow through all of them quickly. I thought the whole series was really good and I like how the writing seemed to mature in each book as the characters matured and got stronger. If you liked The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner series, you’re going to like these.

2. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.

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You can find the summary here.

I.loved.this.book. A friend of mine posted about it on Facebook so I thought I would give it a try since I loved the movie. Well, the book is so different from the movie. I want to watch it again after reading but I’m afraid I won’t like it now in comparison. While reading, I had a hard time not picturing Will Smith, when the lead character was more like an alcoholic Chris Hemsworth that doesn’t work out. The end is amazing, has interesting social undertones, and makes the title make sense unlike the movie. It’s a short read (maybe 200 pages), and if you like vampire stories, you’ll like this one.

3. Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

You can find the summary here. Unrelated, I’d like to go drinking with whomever designs those covers. I think it would be a good time.

This is book 10 in the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series. I read the first nine books back-to-back several years ago, bought this one right after I read book nine, and then let it sit on my Nook for three years for no particular reason.

I love the series but this was probably one of the least interesting of the books. Half way through I thought, I’m never going to read another one of these. By the end of the book, I was ready to buy the next one. Even though it wasn’t as good as most of the others, it still sucks you in and reminds you how different they are from the series.

4.  Master Your Metabolism by Jillian Michaels

You can find the summary here.

I read most of this book. I skipped some of the long tables and hormone descriptions that got repetitive after awhile. What I did read I thought was really informative. My take away was that everything is poisoning us and wreaking havoc on our metabolisms. Sometimes I felt like the book had too much information to take in at once and it also seemed impossible to follow all the rules she suggests without making it your 24-hour job to rid your life of artificial foods and products. If you want to worry about everything you’re doing to your body even more than you already do…read this.

5. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

You can find the summary here.

I read this book on Michelle’s recommendation. It’s about a girl who is unwillingly sent to live at a leper colony in Hawai’i. The summary doesn’t sound like anything I would normally want to read, but man am I glad I did. I even almost stopped reading 20 pages in because I thought I couldn’t get into it, but I would have really missed out. This book is amazing. It’s sweet and sad and emotional and uplifting and heartwarming and just so, so, so good. I highly recommend it. It’s up at  the top of my list with my other fave of the year, The Fault in our Stars.

First Run

The second gif in this post is mildly NSFW, so make sure your boss isn’t standing behind you. Unless you’re into that.

I ran, ya’ll!

I’ve been grounded from running for six weeks but I can’t say I hated it or even missed it. Every time I thought about running, I thought:

While I was in Texas, I decided to run a half mile during one of my normal walks after my recovery period was over. That was mostly because my walks were taking so long and I just wanted off the treadmill faster but also because I just had to know how this running thing was going to go down now that I’m toting a new pair of ladies.

Ok, so here’s the deal. It was a little awkward at first. During the first quarter mile I thought, “heyyyyy now, what’s going on down there.”

Picked that gif because of the incredible likeness to how I look running. I look just. like. that.

I decided to start slow and see how I felt from there. That half mile turned into 3.5 miles of pure awesome that I did not expect. After the first couple minutes of awkwardness where I kept thinking, “my God I am hyper-aware I have boobs and nipples,” I didn’t feel any different from pre-boob running and I starting kicking running’s ass in normal fashion.

I started around an 11:30 pace and ended up running a 9:15 toward the end. I felt pretty great. I took two walk breaks but still, that was a lot faster and longer than I had intended and…probably not the best idea.

My hamstrings were so, so sore the next day. Note to self: If you haven’t run in six weeks, do not run 3.5 miles at your normal pace idiot.

I guess those running endorphins lasted awhile because they clouded my judgement enough that I added a few races to my fall schedule.

I’ll be running all four of those with my long lost running lover, Michelle. Reunited and it feels so good. Now I suppose I’ll have to start training for those races at some point…

Taste of the Nation Orlando

Have you guys heard of Taste of the Nation?

I’m not big on promoting events but this one raises money for the Share our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger. I thought that was a really good cause, so I’m helping promote the Orlando fundraiser. (I should mention that I get a discounted ticket price for doing so, but I was going to promote the it whether I was able to attend or not.)

Anyway, the event basically gathers all the delightful restaurants and chefs around central Florida and puts them in one room and let’s you face plant in their deliciousness. The cause sold me, but let’s face it, so did pictures like this:

I guess they have other foods that are not desserts too but we know where I’ll be spending most of my time.

This is the first year I’ve had a chance to attend this event. I’m looking forward to dressing up, eating some good food, drinking some good drinks, spilling that good food and drink on my nice dress, and doing it all for a good cause.

If you’d like to attend, you can buy tickets here. I hear it’s so worth the ticket price. Plus, I’ll be there which is basically priceless anyway. Winking smile

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2013 TASTE OF THE NATION ORLANDO
WHEN:
Saturday, August 10, 2013
6:45 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

WHERE:
Orlando World Center Marriott
8701 World Center Dr., Orlando

Let me know if you’re going so I know to look for you!

The Last Supper

I made it back to Orlando in one piece but I have one more Texas post for you. It’s hard to believe, but I did not eat all the things while I was there per usual. This made the buttons on my jeans happy, but it made me sad. Very, very sad. So on the second to last day, I had dinner with all five of my co-workers at Johnny’s Steaks and BBQ.

Johnny’s is in Salado (about a half hour from Killeen) and everyone and their brother recommended this place. It was nice to finally eat somewhere local. And by local, I mean it was in the middle of nowhere, all the parking was on dirt or grass, and there were deer heads mounted all over the walls. The place was super busy, so I didn’t want to take all sorts of pictures of the restaurant like a tourist, so just picture those deer staring straight at you while you eat. Watching. Judging.

My co-workers who had been to Johnny’s before told me they served life-changing steaks. Obviously, I wanted my life to change. So I ordered steak. But first came the side salad served on top of 20 packages of Saltines.

They served the salad on top of a basket of saltines. Is this a thing? I’ve never had Saltines served with a salad before. Croutons, sure. Saltines, no. So this made me laugh. It made me laugh hard. My co-worker – we’ll just call him “Ron” – said that I laughed so hard that I made the poor, hot, waitress feel uncomfortable (his words). I disagree. But whatever, “Ron,” if that is your real name.

Anyway, the salad wasn’t nearly as funny as the dressing I asked to be served on the side.

They gave me the entire bottle of ranch. This was the point in which I knew I loved Johnny’s.

To get my steak on, I ordered the 8oz sirloin with a side of green beans. I’m pretty sure that is more than 8oz. I mean, I’m not measurement expert, but that’s a large ass steak.

The green beans were ok. I wouldn’t get them again. But, the steak was juicy and delicious and it only cost something like, $12.00. I asked for it to be cooked medium and it was more medium rare (I don’t like my meat mooing) but it was still really good so that says something. I got sad that I’ve been to Killeen so many times and haven’t been there yet and then I was sad I was leaving the next day because I wanted to go back. So basically, next time I’m in Killeen, I plan to sleep there instead of in a hotel.

The food didn’t stop at the giant steak. Oh no. They had blackberry cobbler. Paula does not say no to blackberry cobbler.

I dominated that thing. So, so good. More importantly, it didn’t have the annoying seeds that get stuck in your teeth so that dessert only brought me happiness. They also had peach cobbler and pecan cobbler, which I’m imagining tastes like pecan pie (the only way I’ll eat pecans) so now I have to try it next time I’m in town. Eat all the cobblers!

So even though I brought my lunch to work every day like a good girl and only ate out four times in the two weeks I was there, I made the last time worth it. :-)

Pictures I Forgot About

I take a lot of pictures with my phone and most of them never make the blog. (Mostly food pictures. Why do I take so many food pictures?) Usually, I look back and wonder why the hell I took the picture in the first place. In the boredom of my own hotel room, I decided to go through them and delete the ones I don’t want, but some of them I thought were worth sharing before deleting.

1. I took this one at Wal-Mart last week. Good news ladies, there’s a bra that eliminates that pesky back fat on 90 pound women.

Now you can look like your 80 pounds!

2.  One of the weirdest ingredients I have ever seen on a menu.

3. This one is from my last work trip. Texas is so fancy, they have a special brand of water at concerts.

4. I don’t even know what to say about this. It’s like the dickey for this century.

For those of you thinking, “Hey! I could use one of those!” please know they sell cute cami bras that serve the same function and will not embarrass your boobs.

5. Is that Pure Green Coffee Bean craze still a thing? I never mentioned this, but I tried it out for six weeks awhile back.

I was going to talk about it, but it didn’t work so I didn’t think it was worth mentioning. Although, I must have had high hopes since I took a picture of the bottle when I got it in the mail.

6. A t-shirt I found in New Orleans that I must have found funny at the time (yep, I was drinking).

7. I wore the color off the tread on my running shoes for the first time ever. It’s a proud day.

I’m guessing they have around 800 miles with all the walking I’ve been doing lately. I stopped counting somewhere around 650.

8.  I found my biography on a shelf at an airport store.

Alright, that’s it for today. I have one last day of work and then I get to go home tomorrow morning. Although, I have a feeling I’ll be traveling again pretty soon. Oh, and I ran for the first time in six weeks yesterday! I’ll tell you about that next week.

Hope you all have a good weekend and I’ll talk to you again when I’m back in Orlando. Smile

Gone Batty

I had a really good weekend. I mean, I’m super ready to go home, but my weekend was great and now I just need to get through one more week of work and then I fly back to the hubs Saturday morning. I kinda miss the guy.

The weekend started out Friday night when I had dinner with Megan at Bostons. I forgot to take pictures, but that is probably because I was too busy drinking booze and eating Megan’s dessert for her. If you don’t remember, this is her.

That was taken the last time I was in town. I’m so excited to have an official friend in Killeen!

Megan suggested Bostons because they have a drink that mixes sweet tea vodka and Blue Moon. I said yes right when I heard that. Bostons could have specialized in banana and mayonnaise sandwiches and I wouldn’t have cared. It’s a chain, because that’s all there is in Killeen, but I really liked it. It’s in the Cheddars tier of delicious restaurant chains for me.

Saturday afternoon, my co-workers and I drove into Austin and walked around the capitol a bit.

There was a Trayvon Martin rally going on with lots of guys with hoodies on walking around in 97 degree heat. I didn’t even think about the symbolism of that until my co-worker mentioned it.

Then we made our way down 6th Street where I’m pretty sure someone tried to show me their junk. I always thought junk showing was a nightly thing, but no, it happens during the day as well.

I am absolutely sure if I lived in Austin, I would be a full blown alcoholic because all the bars were open and pretty happening at 1:00pm.

We decided to have lunch at 1886 Café and Bakery, which is inside The Driskill, a hotel built in 1886 that is said to be haunted. I knew tacos were in my near future, so I went light with the Almond Goat Cheese salad.

There are few salads that I would describe as amazing. This is one of them. There were fresh strawberries under all that too. Super yum.

After lunch, we walked around until we were I was too hot and cranky. I scored one of the best slurpees of my life at 7-11, and then my co-workers dropped me off at Melissa and Brad’s house for a sleepover. We decided to keep it cheap since we tend to go out downtown and spend all the money, so our cheap night started out with this six dollar thing of beauty.

Torchy’s Tacos. You complete me.

I’ve been wanting to see the bats take off at the Congress Avenue bridge for awhile now. So, Melissa found this one hour tour on the Lone Star River Boat where you can see the bats from under the bridge. Best $10 bucks you can spend. Seriously. Besides being super cheap, the only thing you need to know is that the boat tour is BYOB.

B-Y-O-B!

You can bet Melissa packed a case of beer and proceeded to hone her delicate, simultaneous beer and phone balancing skills.

Anyway, we got to see some beautiful views of the city from the water.

(Brad pointed out that the building right behind me is Silicone Laboratories. And there were two of them. Ahh yes. The boob jokes are starting, my friends.)

Closer to the time the bats take off, tons of people gather on, around, and under the bridge. I was so surprised by how many people came out.

Then it was time for the bats.

Just in case that doesn’t embed, here’s a link.

Close to a million bats take off every night during bat season (April – September, I think) in Austin. It’s the largest urban bat colony in North America. Really cool to see even when you’re getting pooped on.

After bat watching, we just chilled at the house while Melissa made me delicious drinks all night.

That’s Three Olives Loopy, with sparkling water and blended strawberries, lemon, and mint. Fancy stuff. I could get used to this personal bartender thing.

Short Term Goal Time

While I’m out here getting my Lone Star State on, I figured I should have a workout goal since it keeps me away from …other things.

Last time I was here, I worked on running a fast mile (started at 9:00 and got down to 7:34 – suppah fast for me). Since I can’t run for a little over a week still, my trainer gave me a great goal idea so I don’t lose anymore Crossfit fitness than I already have. This is the daily plan:

  • 50 squats
  • 50 lunges
  • 50 sit-ups
  • 50 leg lifts

I didn’t think that sounded too hard or too easy, so I thought it was a perfect everyday goal. Then I thought that once I was able to do all 50 reps in a row without short pauses for rest, I’d up the reps to 75 and go from there. Ideally, I’d like to get to 100, but I’m not sure that can happen in just two weeks.

Well, that was the plan in my head at least. Then I started to do them. I’m on Day 4 and I’m already tired.

I cannot stop watching that gif. I’m certain if I had a cat, it would be that cat.

I’ve also been walking between 5 and 6 miles a day so that might have something to do with the tiredness. My goal is to do three miles a day. Three very stylish miles.

Once I get back to Orlando, I’ll be at six weeks recovery so I’ll be released to do chest and arm exercises again. That will hurt to get back into, but my bat wings have been neglected for too long.

Oh, I finished a couple more books since I’ve been walking so much. One in particular that I love, love, loved. So I’ll probably have another book post soon. I’m trying to read as much as I can now, because once I’m released to run, the only thing I’ll be reading is cereal boxes.

The Beginning of the Food

So, a few of you commented on my last post that you couldn’t wait to hear about all the food I’ll be inhaling while in Texas. I just wanted to thank you for remembering that I have no self control. That means a lot. So far, I’ve been a good girl. The only bad thing I’ve eaten is one giant double chocolate muffin from the hotel breakfast bar.

Ok. Not that one. That’s the second one and I swear I just got it for the picture.

It’s taken all my will power not to get one of those every morning, because OMG. Just, OMG. That’s all I can say. Also, for those of you thinking, “one muffin for breakfast isn’t bad,” just know that I already had breakfast. Then I ate the muffin.

I don’t want to leave anyone disappointed in my eating adventures, so I should mention that the day before I left, my in-laws took me out for a (very belated) birthday lunch at Hash House a Go-Go.

I’ve had my eye on this place for awhile since I always hear about the locations in Vegas and San Diego from others. Once I heard one opened in Orlando, I knew what I had to do. Then, when I saw this on the menu, I was pretty sure it was fate.

I didn’t get that only because I pretty much have that every morning.

The portions are ridiculously huge and we seemed to choose the smaller plates compared to what we were seeing served around us. I got the a corned beef sandwich with Swiss (the only time I will go near Swiss cheese is if it’s on top of corned beef) on rye but a rye bread that’s more like Texas toast. < — oh hey! Preparation for Texas? Plus, it had a weed growing in the middle of it!

It was delicious but the bread could have used less butter and the sandwich could have used more mustard. The fries were amazing. Really, really good. I love me some crispy fries. If they aren’t crispy, they get the Fry Thumbs Down (FTD) from me (aka, Wendy’s and Five Guys = FTD).

Hubs and the MIL both got the same grilled chicken and brie sandwich, which looked normal in comparison to my FIL’s hammered pork sandwich.

I don’t even know what to say about that thing. My FIL didn’t even make it to the bread and he had leftovers for the first time in his life. (Not joking. The man is a champ at clearing his plate. That’s probably where I inherited it from.)

We all left feeling so full and disgusting. None of us could eat another bite. But, we did anyway at a Brazilian bakery down the street. I’m not a fan of pastries. Brazilian desserts are very pastry heavy and weird (but your waxes are cool, I hear, so at least you have that). I like normal stuff like frozen yogurt and cupcakes. So, it was an interesting dessert experience.

My MIL had a piece of peach/mango cake that would have been delicious if it wasn’t for my hatred of mango. My FIL had some mini-bundt cake thick gelatiny orange looking thing that I couldn’t bring myself to try.

(source)

I had what can only be described as a “chewy condensed milk ball thing covered in rainbow sprinkles.” No clue what it was called, so I hope you are visually enraptured by that description. It was good, but not something I would get again. Hubs had some giant coconut cluster that was so sweet, it hurt my teeth to chew. So obviously I liked that one the best and ate it for him. I didn’t get a picture of any of the desserts because even mediocre desserts are inhaled too fast to be captured by modern photography.

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I found out yesterday that my co-worker’s favorite sandwich is peanut butter and spinach. (wtf?) My other co-worker then said he used to eat banana and mayonnaise on Wonder bread as a kid. (Just, no.) I am learning things I’d rather not know on this trip.

Which sandwich would you rather eat? (You have to pick one. Don’t be a baby. I’m going with spinach and PB.)