Is Christmas Really Over?

Hey friends! I hope you all had a WONDERFUL Christmas week! Although Christmas has again come and gone, I am really enjoying celebrating the season in any way that I can. In addition to celebrating with my family all week, my celebrations  included a Christmas get-together with several high school friends of mine. I may or may not have mentioned this before, but I attended an all-girl high school, and it was one of the best experiences of all my life. I’m still very close with almost all of my high school friends (several are in my wedding party!)  and a  couple of weeks ago, we all realized we would all be in town and available on the same night (a rare occasion). Obviously, we decided to have a little Christmas party and gift exchange! We all brought appetizers and drinks, gifts for a gift exchange, and hungry stomachs! photo 2 (16)

For the party, I prepared a couple of appetizers: one was a no-cook appetizer, featuring gorgonzola cheese and a fig jam Derek picked up for me at a farmer’s stand in Alabama a couple of weeks back. The easy no-cook appetizer came together like this:

Ingredients

24 pieces of crostini (I bought mine from Publix Bakery)

1/2 cup of fig jam

6 oz.  gorgonzola cheese

Directions

Spread fig jam on each crostino. Next, spread gorgonzola (or just top with gorgonzola if using crumbled cheese) on top of fig jam. Serve at room temperature.

Easy enough, right?

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Because the get-together was being held at Derek’s house, I wanted to make use of the oven and prepare something a little heartier than crackers and cheese for all of my friends. I found the following recipe on Food Network and prepared my flatbread with  the homemade dough we use for pizza, instead of store purchased.

Directions
On a floured surface, roll out 1 pound refrigerated pizza dough into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle; press into an oiled rimmed baking sheet. Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary and/or oregano, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and a big pinch of sea salt. Brush half of the herb oil over the dough, then set aside until puffy, about 1 hour. Make dimples in the dough with your fingers and top with thin onion slices and shaved parmesan. Bake at 400 until golden, about 20 minutes. Brush with the remaining herb oil.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/onion-herb-focaccia-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

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I couldn’t get enough of any of the dishes that the girls brought, including my fair share of cheese and jam, artichoke dip, stuffed mushrooms, and a delicious rosemary + fruit Sangria!
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After we ate at the house and exchanged gifts, the only appropriate thing to do next was go get the best dessert in town. We ended our night with chocolate and drinks at Harry Waugh Dessert Room at Bern’s Steakhouse. If you are ever in Tampa, you have to check this place out. The Dessert Room is on the 2nd floor of the steakhouse, and guests are seated at tables in massive redwood wine barrels. It sounds weird, but it’s perfect. photo 3 (16)

This holiday break has also given me plenty of time to attend some group fitness classes (ahem, Bodypump) go on long runs with Derek, and just veg around the house. Some of my favorite things to do!

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And I really hope to be able to spend some more time in the kitchen while life is a little more slow-paced than usual!

Nutty Pimiento Cheese Balls because I’m a Nut!

G’day fellow cheese lovers! Remember how I told you how excited I was to attend a “Friendsgiving”  the other weekend? Well, obviously there was no way I was showing up empty handed to the party, and when the hostess with the mostess asked me to bring an appetizer, I had NO idea what I wanted to bring!

A couple of google searches led me to the following Nutty Pimiento Cheese Balls appetizer from Eating Well. This featured recipe on Eating Well is actually a recipe from Jamie and Bobby Deen, and it came together like this:

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Ingredients

  • 2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened (generous 1/4 cup)
  • 8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons drained chopped pimientos
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped toasted pecans

Directions

Process cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, pimientos, onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Toast pecans at 350 in oven about 7 minutes, or until fragrant, stirring once during the baking period.

Place pecans in a medium bowl. Roll the cheese mixture into 1-inch balls and coat each ball evenly with pecans.

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Serve the cheese balls at room temperature or chilled!

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I’m glad to say that there were hardly any pimiento cheese balls left when the party was over! Thanks Jamie and Bobby ; )

P.S. – How cute are the Ritz snowflake crackers I served with the cheese? I am obsessed.

Happy Hump Day!

A Hungry Girl’s Favorite Week + Photo Share 11/25

Hi strangers! I have missed you all so much the past few days! How has everyone been? I am SO excited that Thanksgiving is almost here – I can barely control myself! Does it get any better than an entire day filled with food, family, and a little bit of football? The special traditions every family has during the holidays is probably my favorite part of it all. My dad and I always run a Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning, and then go home and watch the Macy’s Day Parade with my mom. It’s one of my favorite mornings of the year, and I’m excited Derek will be spending it with us this year!

This weekend was a wonderful kick-off to the holidays, and I’m grateful to have spent so much time with family and friends the past few days. 

As usual, I’m going to share my weekend with you guys in my favorite fashion – through pictures, of course!

Friday evening after work, Derek and I kicked off the weekend with a short 3 mile run. Derek has been crazy busy working the past few weeks, and our runs have been a great time for us to catch up and have some time to do nothing but talk to each other. One of my favorite parts of running is the time I get to spend with the people I’m running with – whether it is Derek, my dad, or a friend, it’s always great to share that special time with someone!

After our run, when we were having the typical “I don’t care – you pick where we go to dinner” conversations, our indecisive struggle was put to an end when we got a call from Derek’s mom inviting us over for Mexican Soup! I know I’ve said it a million times before, but I love her cooking and could never turn it down. We quickly cleaned up and headed over to spend the evening over there.

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Dinner was DEEELISH as usual, and I spent the rest of the night cuddling on Sam…
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And enjoying way too much Yogurtology. Is that even a thing? Too much Yogurtology? Probably not. aaaa

We also had fun watching Ben watch the Season 2 finale of Homeland (the best show in the history of television). If you’ve never watched Homeland, I cannot recommend that show enough. Please, do yourself a favor, get Showtime, and go watch it!! aaaaaa

After a 30 minute elliptical sesh (I really don’t love that thing), and a CXWorx class, I spent the day with my parents and Louie on Saturday! I helped them decorate the house for Christmas, and they returned the favor by helping me at Derek’s house! I’m feeling super thankful for my parents this week (and every week, for that matter)!
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We spent Saturday evening with Derek’s parents and neighborhood friends at a neighborhood shrimp boil! This was only my second shrimp boil (remember my first?) and it really made me wonder why we don’t do shrimp boils more often. We had such a fun night eating too much shrimp + cornbread muffins and drinking way too much wine.
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Speaking of wine.. I was pretty worried that I shouldn’t have had those few glasses of wine the night before the longest run of my life so far. But, surprisingly, our 12 mile training run on Sunday was my most enjoyable long run yet. I’m amazed at what a real training plan can do for you. Each week my body feels more and more comfortable with longer distances – I never thought I would be someone to run 12 miles and enjoy it, but I’m really glad it’s developed that way! Our half marathon is in 12 days, and I’m so excited for the day to finally get here.
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Don’t worry, Louie only came with me the last 1/2 mile – which probably was the most distracting half mile of my life.

I was so excited on Sunday when I got an invite to come to a “Friendsgiving” at our friends’ Gabby and Maggie’s house. The party was a hit, and it was such a lovely way to get in the mood for Thanksgiving. We all love spending the holidays with family, but I’m so happy the “Friendsgiving” tradition has started, because I love that I get to celebrate being thankful for all my awesome friends!bb

The food. was. so. good. I’m going to need a couple of recovery days for my stomach to shrink back to normal size from all the delicious appetizers, turkey, stuffing, potatoes, mac n cheese, delicious salad and corn casserole we ate. Oh and then came dessert. It was really a hungry girl’s dream come true.food food2

I brought a new-to-me dish to the party – pimento cheese balls rolled in toasted pecans. I can’t wait to share the recipe with you guys! bbbbbbbbb

And one of my favorite parts of the party was the “what I’m thankful for” props to take pictures with. Please note: Will Ferrell, Natty Lite, Jameis Winston, Chick Fil A… Not pictured: DVR, Publix BOGO (THE GREATEST). These girls hit the nail on the head with what I’m grateful for!bbb

Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone! I hope you all have a blessed week with your families, eat plenty of food, and take some time to consider all the wonderful things we can all be thankful for this year and every year!freeendz

Sweet Home Alabama + Photo Share 11/18

Hey guys, happy Monday! It feels nice to wake up in Tampa this morning for the first time in a while! We spent our weekend in Dothan, Alabama, where Derek was a groomsman in one of his best friends’ weddings! Spencer and Derek met on their football recruiting visit to Auburn when they were seniors in highschool, and lived together through Derek’s whole Auburn career.  It was such an honor to be with Spencer and Amanda as they officially started their life together, and we can’t wait to see this beautiful couple again soon!

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As you can tell, the evening was picture perfect and the ideal southern affair. I was taken aback with the décor and all the beautiful little southern touches. But the decorations weren’t nearly as beautiful as the couple of the night!

The food went perfectly with the scene – some good ole’ comfort food that included fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, fried okra and corn bread. It hit the spot and made me wish  all weddings included this kind of eatin’.

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And the cakes were a delicious yellow cake with buttercream icing, staged perfectly on a rustic blue dresser

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Rewinding a little earlier in the day – Derek and I found a running trail surrounding a park in Dothan, and got a good 7.5 miles in before 9 a.m. Although our training plan called for a 10 mile run, we made sure to get that distance in last week since we weren’t sure we’d find a 10 mile route in Dothan. Next week we have a 12 miler in store, and it’s our last long run before our half marathon on December 7th! I can’t pinpoint whether I’m more nervous or more excited – anyone else feel this way for their first half marathon??

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This was my first long run sans iPod and Garmin watch (I noticed both were dead as soon as I got dressed for the run). It was much easier than I thought it would be, and enjoyed running with no gadgets and a clear head!

Still rewinding backwards – on our way up to Dothan Friday night, I was so excited when the dinner hour rolled around about the same time that we were passing through Tallahassee. We hopped off the interstate and grabbed dinner at one of my favorite spots – Po’ Boys – all of our mouths were on fire with the Cajun seasonings that Po’ Boys uses, but we left feeling happy and full!

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Before we hit the road on Friday, I made a little time for a fast paced and quick 25 minute HIIT running session, which included the following treadmill intervals:

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I really loved this interval run because it kept me busy and made the time fly by so quickly. Before I knew it, it was time to hop off and call it a day.

And MOST IMPORTANTLY, I also had a little time to whip up a batch of some pumpkin granola, which I promise to share a recipe shortly!

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I hope you guys have a lovely week ahead! I plan to begin my week with some night time Power Yoga. This will be my first time at the class, and I can’t wait to give it a go!

I Made Friends + Light Cajun Chicken Pasta

Hi, friends ! How goes it? I hope everyone is recovering from the Monday blues! My Monday was an easy one, and for that I am thankful! My day of training got out unexpectedly early, and I was able to head to the gym for a nice sweat sesh after work. My original plan for the week was to take Monday off after my 8 mile run on Sunday, but how could I pass up working out after finishing my day at 4:30 p.m.? I just couldn’t.

I completed the following interval run and weight session before calling it quits.

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(Repeat 3 times)

After the gym, some new work friends from North Carolina and Tennessee invited me to dinner and to hang for the night. One of my favorite parts about training is meeting people from all over the U.S., and staying in contact throughout our careers. We had a great night at Ormsby’s in Atlanta – a tavern with delicious food and drinks. I had a killer cup of sweet chili, along with an arugula salad loaded with beets.

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I loaded up on sleep and am ready to rock and roll today, but not until I share this new recipe with you all!

Last week after a trip to the farmer’s market, I returned with arms full of fresh peppers, onions, and scallions (all for under $5 – benefits of eliminating the middle man aka Publix). I wanted to incorporate all the veggies, as well as some chicken breasts I had on hand, into a filling and nutrient-rich meal. I haven’t incorporated pasta into my meals lately, and I thought this meal would be a good time to do it. I came up with a healthy spicy Cajun chicken pasta recipe, that came together like this.

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Ingredients: (Serves 4-6)

  • 1 box uncooked whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 pound chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1-2 tsp Cajun seasoning (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 3 tbsp light cream cheese
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • Cooking Spray

Directions:

Cook pasta  in a very deep pot according to package instructions, strain and set aside.

In a large sauté pan prepared with cooking spray, cook chicken breasts for 6-8 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine onion, bell pepper strips, garlic clove, Cajun seasoning, pepper and olive oil in a large bowl. Coat vegetables completely.  Saute onions and peppers over high heat on stove for 8-10 minutes, until vegetables have softened.

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Reduce heat to low, and add in tomatoes, 1 cup chicken broth, 1/3 cup almond milk, and 3 tbsp light cream cheese. Cook for 2 minutes more.

Add chicken strips and pepper and onion mixture to the pot of pasta, and stir to combine. Top with chopped scallions and serve immediately.

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Like always, keep smiling and enjoy this recipe if you try it!

Photo Share 11/4

Hey party people, happy Monday and happy November to you all! I am writing this post 30,000 ft. in the air (does that estimation sound right? I hope I’m not seriously off on that), as I know as soon as this plane lands and I get to my hotel this evening I will be far too tired to turn on this computer of mine and begin typing.

The good news about this week? I’m headed for some more audit training, and will be able to dine out very well the next several days. They feed us like it’s the Last Supper over here. The bad news? I’m out of the kitchen until Saturday, and won’t be able to whip up a darn thing while I’m gone. In addition to that sad fact, I’m also without my treasured running buddy, and will have to settle for hotel gyms for any runs/workouts I have on tap.

Luckily for me, the past several days, which I will OBVIOUSLY detail to you all with a plethora of pictures, included plenty of gym time, running, cooking, and baking. What more could a gal like me ask for?

Halloween was far from frightful in our household – instead, we’ll say it was pretty hoppy. Ben, Derek and I were treated to a fall-inspired beer tasting, planned and prepared by the one and only, Megan! Megan purchased several different fall beers, which included a couple of pumpkin beers, as well as some interesting Oktoberfest brewskis. While I am far from a beer connoisseur (give me a Mich Ultra and I’m all set), I really enjoyed tasting and rating all the beers she served us. I felt like the night was perfectly planned, and right up my alley as a great way to celebrate Halloween with friends!

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I probably should have cooked something pumpkin or winter-squash related on this fall holiday, but instead I prepared a spicy Cajun chicken pasta dish – I promise to share with you guys later this week!

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I woke up Friday morning and headed to the gym for a bright and early barre class. This class was the same I attended last Friday, but much more enjoyable this time around. I feel like the success of group fitness really depends on the energy in the room, and this last class was full of energy. It started my Friday off with a bang, and was a fun way to add some variety to my usual fitness routine.

On Friday evening, Derek and I took my parents to a wine bar we’ve been enjoying lately – Cru Cellars. Cru is a relatively small winery and eatery, and we’re always impressed by the dishes and wine flights we are served whenever we dine at Cru. We all ordered a few plates and shared them all, including a fig and prosciutto flatbread, a smoked whitefish dip, and a burger on a pretzel bun. Derek and I resisted stuffing ourselves to the brim, so that we could hop on over to Yogurtology and get our froyo fix for the night.

On our agenda for Saturday morning was a long training run for our upcoming half marathon, but Mother Nature put her foot down in the form of all-day long thunderstorms. Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow, so I made my way to the gym for a 3 mile treadmill run and a Bodypump class instead. My friend Sara agreed to join me, which made the class 10x better, as it seems I’m always that girl in class with no one to talk to.

AND THEN IT WAS TIME TO CELEBRATE LOUIE! I feel awful admitting this to you all, but I forgot Louie’s “fake” birthday twice this year. We aren’t really sure when his date of birth is, so we designated 10/15 as the day we would celebrate. 10/15 came and went, and we completely forgot about the little guy! So what did we do?  We decided his birthday would be Halloween, because who could forget that birthday? We would never forget his birthday if it was Halloween. Then rolled around November 1st, and we realized we forgot to celebrate his birthday once again. WE. ARE. AWFUL. PEOPLE. That was it, no questions asked, Louie’s birthday would be the very next day, November 2nd. So November 2nd  began with a frosty paw, followed by a trip to Petco where Lou went crazy at the treat bar, and ended with a whole lot of Lou lovin’! And the best part about it all? I don’t even think he was made at me for forgetting his special day!

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Louie was extra excited to spend part of his birthday at his friend Sam’s house, as you can tell.

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Derek’s mom taught me how to bake a delectable Pumpkin Roll, and I spent Saturday afternoon covered in powdered sugar. I can’t wait to share this recipe with you guys!

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We spent Saturday evening with great friends at The Lodge, watching our ‘Noles beat Miami – the celebration may or may not have helped with our 8 mile run that took place Sunday morning.

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But at least the run happened, and we checked another distance off of our list. Our long run mileage gets longer and longer the next few weeks, and we’re enjoying running around new parts of town, as we have lots of ground to cover.

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The rest of my Sunday included a trip to the Hyde Park Fresh market with friends and Louie, and an evening on a jet plane for work travel.

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My goal for this new week is to take advantage of my hotel stay by getting to bed early (less distractions than at home) and getting in at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Any of you have healthy goals planned for this week?

Happy Monday – Keep Smiling!

Photo Share 10/28

Hey there party people, Happy Monday! While I’d love to lie and pretend that I love Mondays sooo much, it really is a wee bit sad turning off my TV Sunday night after watching Homeland, and saying farewell to my lovely weekend. I’ve never treasured two days so much as I do Saturdays and Sundays, and my adoration for said days has grown exponentially since I’ve begun working. But, after Monday is over, we will have just 4 days left until our next weekend, and that is certainly something to smile about.

I do want to address the fact that my posts have been few and far between lately, and unfortunately, I think they may remain this way. In trying to find balance between my work and personal life, I’ve found that if I’m able to make time to cook, it’s hard for me to find time to blog about my recipes, and the same goes for my workouts. But I love sharing my culinary experiments and daily happenings with you all, so my plan is to post 2-3 times every week and keep up a routine with it. I’ll try my best to make all of those posts interesting, and hopefully filled with yummy recipes or fun new workouts!

That being said, I’m going to segue into my normal Monday morning post, a photo re-cap of my weekend!

This weekend was the most fun I’ve had in so so long, and it began with a Thursday evening Bucs game with Derek and his dad.

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It’s hard being a Bucs fan –  we are the opposite of undefeated.

Friday morning kicked off with a  barre conditioning class before I went to work. Aren’t I cute at 6am? Had to snap this beauty real quick so no one saw my weirdness!

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I’d never attended a barre class at my gym before, and went into the class with somewhat low expectations, as I’m more accustomed to the formal and structured Pure Barre setting for barre classes. I’m happy to report my expectations were surpassed, and although I miss my cardio/heart rate fill when attending any barre class, I did feel like I got a great toning workout from the session.

After barre and an exciting morning participating in recruiting events with my firm, I attended a delicious lunch atop one of Tampa’s tallest buildings. This week has been FILLED with delicious food at some of my favorite local steakhouses – I only wish I could have taken pics to show you all, but it didn’t seem too appropriate at business dinners. Let’s just say I am filet mignon’ed out for a while.

The best part of the weekend began after work on Friday, when Derek and I made the drive to Tallahassee for our first football weekend since we graduated. We stayed with one of our best friends, Alissa, and of course Megan and Ben (we don’t go many places without those 2). Alissa is in her second year of law school at FSU and was sweet enough to open her adorable home to us for the weekend.

We had a blast listening to bands and celebrating the noles at Downtown Getdown on Friday night, and it felt so good being back at FSU. I couldn’t have asked for a better college experience, and returning to my roots made me super nostalgic.

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Derek and I woke up early on Saturday morning/Gameday to make sure we were able to get in our long run.  I immediately checked the weather on my phone and realized my ears would freeze off of my head if I didn’t cover them on the run – off to Target we went for a super thick headband that covered my ears. It seems this always happens to me when I’m running out of town in cold weather – this wasn’t our first emergency ear-muff trip. I got this headband and it kept my ears perfectly warm!

On the training agenda this week was 7 miles, and my feelings going into the run were completely different than most pre-long run feelings. Instead of a little nervous-ness about getting through the run and maintain pace, I was thrilled to be running around campus and the stadium, and that thrill stayed with me the entire 7 miles. I swear I even teared up a bit when we ran around the stadium – I was covered in goosebumps, and not just because it was 40 degrees outside.

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When we got back to Alissa’s after our run, we were all ready to get our breakfast on, and grabbed some bagels/sandwiches from Megan and Ben’s favorite college breakfast spot – Bagelheads. I’d never had Bagelheads while at FSU, but I was impressed.

We spent the day meeting up and tailgating with some great friends and family, watching Bobby Bowden’s first return to FSU, and crying when Bobby took over the tradition of planting Chief Osceola’s spear into midfield during the pre-game festivities. Did I mention I was nostalgic about this weekend?

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The rest of the weekend included dinner at my absolute favorite pizza place on earth, Momo’s

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Yes, that sign says Momo’s and yes I have mad photography skills.

Also included in my weekend was one last 3 mile run around campus, brunch at my sorority house, and an evening of making some halloween treats, which I will share more about later!

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I hope you all have a fabulous week ahead of you, and enjoy some serious treats this Halloween!