September 24, 2014

There is something oh so wonderful coming to my neck of the woods. It’s opening today. I would be referring to the brand spanking new Whole Foods Market Clearwater. For me, the excitement is palpable. I have been anxiously awaiting the completion of the construction process for many months. I watched like a hawk to see when the opening date would be announced, and it has finally arrived. Whole Foods Market Clearwater, I have a feeling we are about to become the best of friends.

Whole Foods Market Clearwater fresh produce

I was so fortunate to be invited in early to the store to take a sneak peek tour behind the scenes. Which only increased my excitement, because there are some amazing elements included in this location…

Whole Foods Market Clearwater pizza program

For instance: PIZZA! The Clearwater Whole Foods Market location is the first to have a pizza program, and I have a feeling I will be ordering up a slice (or a whole pie) to take home with a bottle of wine on a Friday night when I want a relaxing no-cooking evening.  I love that you can watch the pizzas cooking in their oven; the crust has a nice crisp crunch to it, and the toppings are amazing. I could go on forever about pizza, but I’ll move along.

Whole Foods Market Clearwater Greek Salad

Along with the pizza, the Whole Foods Clearwater prepared foods section is going to have a plethora of options to choose from. Rotisserie chickens (flavors changing daily), wings by the bucket, fresh donuts, cookies, an international food bar (the cuisine changes – in past stores they’ve offered Ethiopian, Jamaican, and more), an organic salad bar, and a regular salad bar. And because the Clearwater area is big for Greek cuisine, there is a Greek station available as well! Pita sandwiches with lamb kabobs, falafel, hummus, and more!

Whole Foods Market Clearwater beer wine cheese bar

Whole Foods Market Clearwater cheese case

Around the corner from the prepared foods section is where you will probably be able to find me: the beer, wine, and cheese bar! You can actually pull up a stool,  have a glass poured, and order up a cheese and charcuterie board of your choosing. And these cheese boards aren’t ordinary cheese boards, by the way. One of the biggest reasons I’m so excited to see this store in my area is for their amazing selection of unique and interesting cheeses. The fact that you can chat with staff who are knowledgeable about the selections is going to be such a treat. As for the beer, there will be local craft beer selections available, which is fantastic!

Whole Foods Market Clearwater cheese boards

If that wasn’t enough…there are $8 bar specials on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Sundays. Mondays are Beer and Burgers, Tuesdays are Beer and Pizza, and Sundays are Beer and Wings. If that doesn’t get your significant other (who doesn’t enjoy shopping) to be convinced to come along with you to the market, I don’t know what will.

Whole Foods Market Clearwater produce

I am really looking forward to shopping around the store to see what is available in Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value line. They have both natural and organic selections, and are priced to not break the bank. I know there are certain items I will be able to procure from Whole Foods that I just am not able to elsewhere (such as my favorite ginger beer that I can’t seem to find anywhere else – HOORAY! Moscow Mules for all!). I do love that Whole Foods’ products are free of artificial flavorings, colorings, sweeteners, preservatives, and hydrogenated fats. I’ve really been trying my best to rid my house of processed foods in general, and I think having Whole Foods nearby will really help me with the final transition.

Whole Foods Market Clearwater local vendors

Another thing to love about Whole Foods Market: they try to buy local whenever possible. They are highlighting local products throughout the store, either by placing them on endcaps like this one, or they mark them on the shelves. It’s great to see they are interested in supporting businesses near to the store. I can’t wait to discover some new local products from vendors I may not have experienced before!

Whole Foods Market Clearwater bulk food bins

I am also absolutely loving the bulk section in the back corner of Whole Foods Clearwater. From nuts, to grains, to dried fruits, you can fill up by the pound. I may or may not have made my plans to visit this section as soon as possible.

So – with the grand opening happening this morning, who is ready to shop? I know I’ll be a frequent visitor to Whole Foods Market Clearwater; I can’t wait to see what happens in the store!

Do you have a Whole Foods Market near you? What do you like to shop for when you’re there?

 

September 11, 2014

I almost can’t believe I am able to say this: I have kicked my caffeine habit. Hopefully once and for all.

It’s been two weeks and 5 days since I’ve had a “regular” caffeinated beverage. For years I was proud of the fact I’d never grown to enjoy coffee or tea. I drink the occasional latte or Frappuccino, but it’s usually once a month or less. I don’t have a morning coffee/tea – neither does Justin. I always laugh because I am convinced I found the one man in the world who doesn’t want to drink coffee in the morning. We don’t even have a coffee maker in our home. So sorry, anyone who comes to visit us…

Diet Coke kicking the caffeine habit

My one vice: a soda at lunch time. I admit, I became addicted to it over the years. Although I never needed caffeine to wake myself up in the morning, I would hit the midday slump and required a Diet Coke or another beverage to give me that boost for the second half of the day. I knew it was a bad habit, but I justified it daily because it was the ONLY caffeine I was having regularly. Everyone else has morning coffee: why can’t I have my daily Diet Coke? It has been the one beverage other than water I’ve enjoyed over the years. I’ve never been a fan of sports drinks, energy drinks, smoothies, fruit punch, or other beverages.

Ay yi yi. Since I’ve been working from home I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to break myself of this addiction. I knew it wouldn’t come easy; I’d attempted in the past with poor results. But I was determined this time, and I think it just might stick this go-round.

I’m not going to lie: the first week with no caffeine was brutal. Like any addiction, I was going through withdrawal. I started my first day on a Saturday so I wouldn’t notice quite so much. We were busy and running around – I didn’t even notice. Sunday was much the same. Then, on Monday when I went back to my work routine it hit me like a freight train. I would make it through the lunch hour, but at around 3pm Monday through Wednesday I would hit a wall. A wall so hard it rendered me unable to do work and I had to lay down for a 20 minute power nap.  Afterward, I’d feel much better. The rest of the week was a bit better, and the weekend went as usual. The second week that wall never did come around to smacking me in the face. Relief! I’m now almost all the way through week three and I don’t have any hints of an afternoon slump occurring. I’m back to regular functionality.

I will admit though: I am still craving a Diet Coke. A lot. We still have cans in our refrigerator (talk about a lesson in self control. Do I win an award for this?), and I look at them longingly at lunch time. But I know I have to go cold turkey for a few weeks to get myself into good habits before starting the “occasional” Diet Coke routine. I’m going to be honest: I’m not giving it up completely. I know I’ll still want to enjoy a soda every once in a while, and I’m totally fine with that happening. Once a week, perhaps? Everything in moderation, right? I am just happy to say I am not reliant on a daily dose of caffeine to to get me through, and that I’m not ingesting whatever chemicals are involved in the soda on a regular basis. I am calling that a huge success!

Have you tried to give up caffeinated drinks? How did you do?

July 31, 2014

It’s been a while since I featured a favorite wine of mine. But guess what: I’m baaaaack. Today I wanted to share a few thoughts on Chateau de Nages Buti Nages Nimes Blanc: a wine that won’t break the bank! Also – the name is a bit of a mouthful, eh?

Chateau de Nages Buti Nages Nimes Blanc

This vibrant bottle of French white wine has very quickly become a staple in my wine rack. It is a pretty little crowd pleaser, especially during these hot summer days when all you want is something refreshing in your glass. There are notes of fresh citrus, apricots, and apple. It is so crisp and bright: I definitely am a big fan of this one. I have found it pretty darn versatile for pairing, but alongside a light white fish dish is fabulous, as well as some stir fry with a bit of a kick.

Chateau de Nages Buti Nages Nimes Blanc

The price of the Chateau de Nages Buti Nages Nimes Blanc is really what has me reaching for this bottle time and again when I hit the store. $10.99 – I mean, you really can’t go wrong with this one! And I have to admit: I am a sucker for a pretty label on a bottle of wine. I know that I shouldn’t “judge a book by the cover,” but I am always drawn to a beautiful label on a bottle of wine. I love the elegant green label with the gold hummingbird gracing the side. Fun fact: Buti Nages means “to gather nectar,” and that is just what this little guy is doing if you look closely at the label! It’s oh so pretty to look at, and oh so nice to drink!

Do you have a favorite summer wine to fill your glass with?

July 30, 2014

So, I mentioned in my post on Monday how life for me became pretty busy in the past month. Exciting, but busy! When the Food and Wine Conference ended a few weeks ago, the craziness did not stop there. This past weekend I hopped on an airplane to take a trip to Madison to #ChooseDreams with American Family Insurance!

First of all – for those of you who didn’t already know, I lived in Wisconsin two different times in the past. I had not been back to visit since I was a freshman in high school when my family moved down to Florida. If I was going to go back for a visit, I could not have asked for a better time of the year to do so! So, Isabel, Denise, and I took off from Tampa and had a short layover in Detroit, where we met up with Jennifer before heading on to Madison. Oh my goodness…from the moment we stepped off the airplane I knew our trip was going to be glorious. The weather was perfect…the city of Madison was perfect….the company was fabulous….I couldn’t ask for much more!

Cheeseheads

Of course, as soon as we walked into the Madison airport, we were met with cheese hats. Oh, I’d missed seeing those! Posing for a picture seemed like the right thing to do. We checked in to our hotel (HotelRed – pretty cool place, if I say so), then quickly went out to gather supplies for our demo the next day! We knew we had plans of hitting up the farmer’s market on Saturday morning, but there were some essentials we needed beforehand.

#ChooseDreams wine toast

After some prep work, chatting, and dinner, it was time to hit the hay in preparation for the following day’s activities!

#ChooseDreams Madison

Before our demo, we HAD to visit the farmer’s market. Isabel had been telling us over and over how amazing the Dane County Farmer’s Market is, but seeing and experiencing it in person was pretty much epic. I had to resist the urge to cry every ten seconds as we walked through all of the stands. I wanted to take EVERYTHING home with me, and knowing I couldn’t stuff my suitcase full of produce was a very sad realization.

Squash Blossoms

Everything was locally grown/made and FRESH. And AFFORDABLE. What an amazing place. If I lived in Madison, I would absolutely be at the market every single Saturday.

After the market, it was time for our live event! American Family Insurance has a DreamBank right next to the capital, and it is an absolutely awesome space. The building itself used to be a bank, but they converted it into a DREAM bank. People can visit the bank for interactive events, experts, and tools to help them discover their dreams. You guys – every Sunday they host a Pinterest party! They make a craft based on something discovered on Pinterest. I don’t know about you, but I totally want to be a part of one of those parties….

#ChooseDreams avocado caprese

strawberry salad

#ChooseDreams AmFam demo

#ChooseDreams caprese

Anyway, our demo was all about Fit and Healthy Family Living. Our presentation included four different recipes – all of them were fresh, bright, and delicious! We started with a more traditional caprese salad, followed by a panzanella style caprese salad, and I then did a demo on another caprese twist, involving avocado and cilantro. We also announced the winner of our social media contest and did a demo of her fabulous Bacon chopped salad with strawberry poppyseed dressing recipe. In addition, we shared some tips and tricks on how to get involved in the garden, make healthy twists on family favorites, and how to get your family members active! The entire demo is available to view now!

#ChooseDreams Isabel and Katie

Sometimes taking a trip to a new place, meeting new people, and experiencing things outside of the norm really allows you to get inspired and invigorated. I have to say, looking around the DreamBank, it was amazing to catch glimpses of what others aspire to. The bank has collections of small keys with tags attached to them – you can write your personal goals/dreams down and they hang them. To see the rows of cascading dream keys definitely put a smile on my face. Whether they are large or small, it is so great to be able to #ChooseDreams and empower ourselves to achieve them!

#ChooseDreams demo group

Thanks again to American Family Insurance for such an awesome #ChooseDreams campaign and for inviting us all to be a part of it. Now…when can I come back to Madison????