Bean There, Drunk That: Foundation Coffee Co.

To make studying for the MCAT a little more interesting and somewhat bearable, I have decided to go on the hunt for the best skim milk cappuccino in downtown Tampa, FL. (I know I said I gave them up, but with all this studying I need a mid day treat and pick me up). There are so many coffee houses and cafes to check out…this will take a while. I am not a professional coffee taster, but I am a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur. I love all kinds of coffee including, but not limited too, iced, cold brew, black, espresso, flavored….I like it all. However, I love cappuccinos…so, so much.

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It was not until I went to Europe last summer that I truly appreciated a good cappuccino. It is difficult to find a cappuccino comparable to those of the country of origin, Italy, but I am trying and am on the look out. I will be exploring the city trying to discover hidden gems as well as try the chain coffee shops to get my daily afternoon pick me up. I am also looking for a nice place to study. So let’s get started.

Yesterday, I made the almost one mile trek from my condo to Foundation Coffee Co. Located in Tampa Heights, this shop is found in a trendy building., in an area of Tampa that is known to be home to many “millenials” and “twenty somethings” aka people like me. Many hipster looking people walking around outside gives the cafe the vibe of a cafe in Amsterdam (without the weed and canals). Upon entering, the chattering of students and friends fills the room. On the right there is a ceiling high fountain which will immediately capture your eye. With many bar stools, a few tables and some couches, there is room to sit comfortably inside. There is also a large patio.
However, in the midst of a Florida summer, I did not want to be drenched in sweat as I enjoyed my drink.

The crowd is a mix of gym goers coming and going from the local gyms, business men and women stopping in for a quick pick me up, friends catching up and students discussing class work. The atmosphere is friendly and inviting. If you are going to study and you are easily distracted, this may not be your coffee shop because the girls laughing in the corner may take away from your focus. The menu is simple, espresso drinks, cold brew, nitro brew and a few iced teas. The barista will happily discuss the brew of coffee they have that day with you and customize your drink in any way you wish…even with macadamia milk. There are a few options for food and sweets, but not very many. I am a big snacker when I study so I did not find the options they offered appealing to my preferences. If I was not focusing on watching what I was eating, I would have gotten the pineapple pound cake though. It looked amazing!

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Now, for the cappuccino. I ordered a regular cappuccino with skim milk. I then put one packet of natural sugar in the drink, which is normal for me.  The presentation was perfect. A white mug, creamy color and heart made in the foam. It was definitely instagrammable. However, the taste was not preferable to me. I found the coffee to be bitter and have a bit of a harsh after taste. The company brands themselves as a specialty coffee-house who takes pride in the whole process from the bean to the filtered water. To me, the coffee tasted like it was over roasted, over processed or possibly just too finely ground. I am not sure why the flavor was not what I expected. It was not terrible, but I would not order a cappuccino from this coffee shop again.

All in all, the atmosphere and feel of the coffee-house was just right. The seating arrangements, decorations and all were appealing. However, the cappuccino just was not up to par. Here is my rating:

Flavor of Cappuccino: 6/10

Presentation: 9/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

https://www.foundationcoffeeco.com/

The Cheat Days Were Worth It

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Over the past two months I have really taken an interest in my body. I was training for the Miss Florida International pageant and really wanted to look and feel my best. With the help of my amazing boyfriend and supportive family and friends, I was able to achieve this goal.

With a combination of motivation, diet and exercise I was able to transform my body in a short period. I did not try any fad diets or crazy supplements. Everything I did was natural. With the help of UFit meals I was able to keep track of everything I put into my body. I used the Olympian x2 a day plan. This allowed me to keep track of my carbohydrates, calories and sugars. I opted for lunch and dinner on the meal plan. For breakfast, I would usually eat egg whites smoked salmon or turkey.

On weekends or days I was not using the meal plan, I would eat fish or chicken with fresh veggies. I usually opted for salmon because it is easy to cook and can be tastily flavored with just a few spices and lemon. We also had some fresh snook and grilled pineapple one day which was fantastic. I would snack on cucumbers, almonds and my favorite sweet treat, frozen PB2 banana sandwiches. I also would eat rice cakes when I was craving something crunchy. It seems my pup Windsor also liked these cakes.

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Peanut butter banana sandwiches with PB2…freeze after preparation for a tasty cold treat!

I cut out almost all excess sugar. I cut out all dairy and I cut out most carbohydrates. For me, the most difficult part of this whole diet was giving up cheese and bread. Have you ever tried to give up cheese and bread when your boyfriend is constantly eating cheese and bread? It is very hard. I also gave up cappuccinos which I wrote about in my last post. I was using almond milk for about one month but my stomach was not a fan of almond milk. I began drinking black coffee with one teaspoon of sugar. To my surprise, now this is what I prefer (however it is better when made at home then made at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts)

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Before I stopped drinking almond milk I would make iced coffee with 2 tbls of silk unsweetened vanilla almond milk as a substitute for dairy.

First, I upped my time in the gym and my time putting in cardio. I began jogging x3-4 miles a day instead of just 1 or 2 miles. I also added in some treadmill intervals and inclines. Along with that, I added in some time on the bicycle when my boyfriend had time to join me.

A sample just cardio day would be x3 miles of fasted cardio in the morning.

~Later in the day~ 15 minutes of treadmill intervals. 10 minutes on the rowing machine

Possible evening bike ride with babe.

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On days I did weights, I would pair back/biceps, shoulder/triceps, chest, legs, one day of full body and one day off. I am always looking for new workouts and body weight workouts since we are on the road a decent amount. I found the shape magazines to have good workouts in them. When I have access to a gym, I try to make the most of it.

The gym I typically use does not have a squatting rack so I use dumbbells for squatting. I also like to squat with resistance bands. I am a huge fan of lunges and bench jumps on leg day as well. Lunges with the bosu are my new favorite thing to do in the gym.

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To maintain my Zen in the middle of the week, I like to take a hot yoga class when I can. When in Tama, I have been going to Bella Prana yoga for the hot power flow yoga class. This class really makes me sweat and stretches out my whole body. The next day, I am sore in places that I did not know even had muscles. With a nice set up, lululemon yoga mats and complimentary hair ties in the bathroom, this yoga studio is by far the best one I have been to. It is nice too, because I can ride my bike to yoga…living the dream.

I just had three cheat days since the pageant ended, ( I got 1st runner up). I had tacos, tacos and more tacos. My amazing, supportive boyfriend got me macarons, cookie cake and ice cream and we pigged out together. I also had chik fil a and a cappuccino.I spent Mother’s day with my family and we had a smorgasborg of food at Planet Hollywood in Disney Springs. I came home, and my boyfriend and I enjoyed some macarons. Then we went to Publix and stocked up on the good stuff. At home he made me tacos with all the fixings and then at 2am (we love our late night snacks) we had cookie cake with ice cream. The next couple of days I did not indulge as much but I did not shy away from sweets or fried foods (like key lime pie and hush puppies today hehe).

After three days, I am so ready to go back to eating healthy and focusing on being my best self.

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To look my best, I have been paying more attention to my beauty routine. Aside from this, I noticed when I cut out almost all excess sugar and all dairy,  my skin began to look healthier and have a natural glow. To capitalize on this I found a skin care regime that works for me. To learn about my skin care regime stay tuned for the next post. Also, keep an eye out for a post about my weekend at Miss Florida International.  If you have any questions leave a comment or shoot me an email.

I Stopped Drinking Cappuccinos

 

With Miss Florida International approaching I have been paying more attention to my health and fitness regime. With the help of my amazing boyfriend and my sponsors I have shown huge improvement in my health and body. Living in Tampa now, I have access to a lot of fun and exciting ways to exercise and be active. Once you see the changes in your body, it becomes addicting. The first time I looked in the mirror saw a hint of abs popping through and muscular tone to my tone (and increase in my thigh gap :P) I jumped with joy. These are the goals you work for. However, I do not believe these are the days that mean the most. The days that show you have truly progressed are the ones where you are tempted with those sweet treats or pasta dish and resist. They are the days you feel so worn and beaten down but you get active anyways. Those are the days you know you are progressing towards a healthier lifestyle. For me, the day I walked past a coffee shop and did not get my normal cappuccino with one natural sugar and skim milk was the first win for me. I have several since then, but I struggle with this every day. As far as I have come, I deal with little temptations like this daily.

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I have been hitting the gym and trying to eat somewhat healthy for a long time now. Recently, I have been paying attention to what I eat very closely and thanks to UFit Meals I have shown a huge improvement in my overall appearance. Not only have I lost a few stubborn pounds and toned up a lot, but I feel great. I have so much energy and do not feel like I am not getting to eat foods that I love. On their website they have several different meal plans to choose from. Currently, I am using the Olympian meal plan. The Italian spiced meatballs and roasted sweet potatoes are my favorites. With traveling back and forth between Gainesville and Tampa for work and school and having fun at the beach on the weekends with my boyfriend, these meals are so convenient. On Sunday and Wednesdays they are delivered right to your door and when you are ready to eat, you just pop it in the microwave and there you go. Without these, my training and improvement would not have advanced this far.

Along with these meals I have cut out dairy and extra sugar from my diet. This was very hard in the beginning. I began with things like yogurt and cheese. Cheese was especially difficult because my boyfriend loves cheese and always has awesome, tasty cheeses in the fridge. I struggled cutting out dairy in my coffee. I can do without the added sugar, but the milk has always been something difficult for me to cut out. I mean, chocolate and cappuccinos are a staple in my daily life…well, they used to be. Recently I have been using 2 tablespoons of unsweetened almond milk in my coffee. Although it does not taste as delicious as a caramel iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts, it has aided in my progress and I have come to enjoy it very much. Previously, when I wanted a treat I would grab a piece of chocolate or a small container of ice cream. Now, I reach for a frozen banana or a few ounces of that unsweetened almond milk. It satisfies my cravings without catapulting my daily sugar intake.

I am not so rigid with my diet that I miss out on things. I think it is a little ridiculous to not go to dinner with your friends or have a date night every once in a while because you are on such a strict diet. I just try to make healthy decisions when I am out. I always order my sauces on the side and just dip the tip of my fork into them before picking up a bite of food. I use lemon or lime juice on my salads instead of dressing and try to order steamed vegetables for my side. I also ask for them without butter when I can remember. My boyfriend and I go out to the bars a few times a month. I always drink vodka soda with lime. This is so much better than the fruity drinks because it has less calories, less sugar and less of a hangover the next day…especially if you get it with grey goose. We also like to travel, and half the fun of traveling is the food. Since I have been training for the pageant we spent a few days in Cuba and I did not take it easy on the yummy foods or the run while we were there.

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My boyfriend bought us some awesome new bicycles and adding in this extra cardio to my routine has worked wonders. We usually only do about 8 or 9 miles but it is so much fun to ride down Bay shore or just around downtown Tampa. Sometimes we stop off at the convention center and run the stairs…well I run them and he watches me. On the weekends, sometimes we ride around at the beach and do some exploring. Adding in something that is fun and we are able to together make it feel less like exercising and more of just a fun activity. I recently got introduced to hot yoga. In the evenings, I will ride my bike about 2 miles to the yoga studio, practice my flows and sweat it out, then ride home. The extra time on the bike is actually very relaxing and beneficial. Plus, driving in Tampa is not that fun.

As great as all of this sounds, I still have my bad days. Days that I am working are tough because for 10 hours I am stuck inside the hospital. I do not move around a lot and exercising when I get home is not the first thing I want to do. When I work night shifts I find myself wanting to constantly snack to stay awake. This is especially detrimental because there are always snacks around. When it is 3am and someone offers you a doughnut, it is hard to say no (as I am writing this everyone around me is eating doughnuts and it’s hard to resist…but I will ;)) Yesterday, I was extremely tired (it was my fault). When I say extremely tired I mean we went out, stayed out until 4am, I slept for 20 minutes then drove to Gainesville and worked all day. Stupid, I know (but life is short).  When I got off of work I slept for a few hours then got up and went for a run anyways. I almost went to get frozen yogurt then planted myself on the couch to watch Netflix. I contemplated back and forth then pulled out my phone to look at my progress pictures. These pictures motivated me to get up and hit the pavement. When I got home I felt proud and accomplished. These are the days that mean the most. The days you get out of your head and beat yourself are the days that show major progress in your journey towards a healthier self.

 

I will continue to work hard, not only for the pageant but for myself. Sticking to a strict eating plan and workout regime has improved my overall quality of life. I feel better, look better and things in my life are generally better. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions feel free to reach out.

I Was On The Travel Channel

A few months ago I had the wonderful opportunity to film a segment for the Travel Channel. The series is called Top Secret Swimming Holes. The show highlights ten different swimming holes from all around the word on each episode. However, these are not just any normal swimming holes. These are secret swimming holes tucked away, hard to find and sometimes even harder to get to. With places like Hawaii, Guam and Fiji on the list, the places they visit are spectacular. Who would have thought that somewhere like Crystal River would be highlighted on a worldwide show. As a native of Dunnellon, Florida, I have spent many days in Crystal River. Whether I was eating lunch at Crackers with my parents or out on the water with my friends, Crystal River has always been a nice place to go for some fun. As locals, we understand the treasures that hide in our small towns. One of the biggest of those treasures would be, Three Sisters Springs and the manatees it attracts. This is what the segment focuses on.

Even though I had visited Crystal River many times and thought I knew the area pretty well, I had only been to Three Sisters once before I filmed this segment. My parents, sister and I went to the Manatee festival about a month before to enjoy a family day and see the manatees. The festival is a lot of fun! You can find food, drinks and knick-knacks galore. There is a beer garden for those over 21 and a nice area for kids. While at the festival, you can take a shuttle over to Three Sisters to see the gathering of manatees.

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Three Sisters Springs

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Manatees at Three Sisters Springs (as seen from land)

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Three Sisters springs is located off of King’s Bay and is a part of a National Wildlife Refuge. This is the only spring in King’s Bay that is accessible by land. During parts of the year you can swim here and enjoy the wonderful natural area, but from November 15 to March 31 the spring is closed to humans and is a manatee sanctuary. When the springs are closed, you can still view the manatees from a boat or from in the water outside of the sanctuary area. West Indian manatees travel hundreds of miles to find refuge in Crystal River during the winter because there is plenty of vegetation and the water is a nice 72 degrees Fahrenheit all year long.

When I got the call about the segment I was super excited. I had never filmed for a television series before, and I had never gotten the chance to swim with manatees. The call time was 5:30am. We, the cast, cameraman and his assistant, met at The Plantation in Crystal River. The Plantation is a resort located on the water. It has a golf course, bar and grill and also offers boat tours along with manatee tours.

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The cast

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We chartered a boat from The Plantation, got into our wet suits and met our captain. Our captain’s name was John Spann and he was great! Not only was he friendly and helpful, but also he was so knowledgeable. He definitely made the experience a great one. It was an early morning and it was pretty chilly, so on the boat Captain John made us all manatee mochas (coffee mixed with hot cocoa) to enjoy while we searched for the manatees. Since it was still a little dark outside, we had a few false sightings. We would see a log floating or a big rock and get tricked into thinking it was a manatee. It was not.

When we got to Three Sisters, we were not tricked. The manatees there were real and incredible. There was so many of them. Captain John gave us our snorkel gear and briefed us on what to do and what not to do. He told us to stay as still as possible and only use our arms to guide us through the water. The manatees can pick up even the smallest vibrations and will not approach you if you are making too much noise or too many movements. He also told us not to reach out and touch them. If the manatee comes up to you and starts to rub against you that is ok, but you cannot actively try to touch them. When swimming with the manatees, you must be a passive observer. Do not chase the manatees, swim right on top of them or actively pursue them in any way. If the manatee feels comfortable around you, it will come up to you and start loving on you.

Since we got out on the water early, we were the only ones at Three Sisters. It was a quiet morning. As soon as we got in the water, the manatees approached us. They are such large animals that move through the water extremely slowly, partly because they have no natural predators. The manatees graze along the bottom of the river or spring and enjoy themselves. Once in the water, you can see the marks from propellers on the thick, grey skin of the animal. You will also, most likely, see some algae on the manatee.

Even though the manatees are such large creatures, they are gentle and seem to be pretty loving. They will be curious about you, maybe even nuzzle you. I had a manatee come up to me and chew on my snorkel…while it was in my mouth! Then it nuzzled me all along my side and brushed up against me. It was such an incredible experience.

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We saw a mom and calf swimming together and a ton of other manatees just enjoying the water. On manatee played with our anchor rope for about 30 minutes. It was a cute and enchanting site. To see a huge animal playing with a rope…you had to be there. After we spent some time with the manatees, we swam into the springs and enjoyed the scenery. From land, the springs are beautiful, but from under water it is a whole new world. There are small springs where the water bubbles up from the ground, plant life and many fish. In the deepest of the three large springs, there is an area where you can make water rings. If you are a nature lover, you must visit this area.

While we were interacting with the manatees, we had a cameraman following us the entire time. He captured the interactions on his underwater camera and directed us on what to do to make the shot better. We conducted short interviews about our experiences and all had a great time.

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If you want to visit Three Sisters and swim with the manatees, I highly recommend getting a tour from The Plantation. They have been doing this a long time and know exactly where and when to go to spot manatees. If you are interested in kayaking, you can put your kayaks in at the boat ramp and make the 20-25 minute trip to Three Sisters and enjoy the area on your own, same for boaters. I highly recommend getting there early to beat the crowds. The area is so beautiful and completely amazing, especially when you have it all to yourself.

Keep checking in to see what I am up to next!

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