A couple weeks ago I hosted an Influencer Brunch for some amazing Gainesville bloggers at the Sweetwater Branch Inn, the most beautiful event space in Gainesville. What started out as just an idea a month before turned into one of my favorite things I’ve done this year! It took a lot of planning, tons of emailing and messaging and some serious hustle, but it was so completely worth it!
Fall at Disney World is such a magical time. There are pumpkins everywhere, the summer crowds have died down and best of all the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is in full swing! This was my first time going to Food & Wine as an adult, so I was finally able to try all the food and drinks.
There are so many amazing items at this year’s festival, but after going twice in the past month I think I’ve narrowed down my list of favorites. Here are my top picks for the best items at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival!
Exploring a city doesn’t mean having to spend a lot of money! It’s hard to resist some of the fancy restaurants, paid attractions and shopping when you’re visiting new place or even just enjoying a day around your own town.
So, I put myself to the test: see if I could spend an entire day out and about in Gainesville with only $20. After a day of eating, exploring and learning I discovered that it was actually a lot easier than I thought. Here’s everything I did in one day for less than $20.
I’M ENGAGED! It feels so crazy to say! Two weeks ago my boyfriend Jared got down on one knee and asked me to marry him, and of course I said YES! I wanted to share my proposal story with all of you, so read along to find out how Jared planned a super romantic proposal in Florida’s oldest city, St. Augustine.
I used to be the girl that would go to the gym with just a water and my headphones and call it a day. But ever since I started training at Mat Life Training Center my gym bag has become an essential every morning. It’s loaded up with kickboxing gear, self-care products and my favorite supplements and pre-workout snacks.
Since I workout for at least 1-2 hours every day I always have to make sure I’m prepared for anything (like getting hungry between classes or my deodorant wearing off.) So here’s a sneak peak at what I bring to the gym each day.
Watching a child experience Disney World for the first time is nothing short of magical. But how do you inspire that same magical feeling in an adult? Well, it’s pretty easy if you follow these steps and let Disney do the rest!
One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning here in Gainesville is visit the Haile Farmer’s Market. The tree-lined streets of the Haile Village Center transform into a bustling market, with local vendors selling everything from flowers and vegetables to prepared food to jewelry.
I used to drive 45 minutes on Saturdays just to pick up my favorite items from the farmer’s market, and now that I live just a few minutes away it means I get to go every weekend!
Y’all, something totally amazing happened. I lost 30 pounds in less than two months. Saying it out loud doesn’t even feel real! In six weeks I was able to make a huge lifestyle change that put me on the path towards living a happier, healthier life, and I’m so excited to share the journey with all of you!
How I Got Started
My weight loss journey really started when I discovered Gainesville Combat Fitness. A part of Mat Life Training Center, which also offers self-defense, Ju Jitsu and MMA fighting, Gainesville Combat Fitness offers high-energy workout classes like kickboxing conditioning, combat fitness and barre kickboxing.
I saw an ad on Facebook for a fitness challenge being offered at Gainesville Combat Fitness, and I thought, “This is exactly what I need.” So I signed up! I’ve never done any sort of martial arts/kickboxing training. I decided to step out of my comfort zone because I knew I needed to do something drastic to get myself motivated to lose weight.
I scheduled my orientation for the fitness challenge, and that’s when I met Carly, the founder of Gainesville Combat Fitness. She instantly made me feel comfortable and supported as she outlined what the six-week challenge would entail. She explained the workouts, meal plan, weigh-ins and accountability system that would help me achieve my goal.
The challenge rules were pretty straightforward. The goals were to lose either 25 pounds or 6% body fat in six weeks. Participants can choose to either sign up for a six-month gym membership or pay a deposit. If they opt for the deposit, and meet the challenge goal, they get their money back. The gym also provided participants with the necessary equipment to participate in the classes (boxing gloves and hand wraps), which they could choose to either return or purchase themselves when the challenge was over.
I decided to do the deposit because I knew if I set my mind to it I could meet the weight loss goal. Then it’s basically six free weeks of workouts! I knew it would be worth the money, and trust me, it was!
I had taken a kickboxing class before YEARS ago, but Gainesville Combat Fitness doesn’t offer cookie-cutter classes set to music where you punch the air or kick a bag. They offer real, high-energy classes that combine cardiovascular workouts with real Muay Tai kickboxing techniques.
I have to admit, on my first day of class I was terrified! I told myself I had one goal: don’t throw up. But I had nothing to worry about. The classes at Gainesville Combat Fitness are adjustable for all fitness levels, and the moves and exercises can be modified to accommodate anyone.
I didn’t know how much I was going to like the classes, but I fell totally in love! I loved the high intensity of the cardio workouts, the feeling of punching and kicking during kickboxing class and how strong I felt after every class. I went five days a week every week for the entire duration of the challenge. I went every morning before work, and it made me feel so energized and ready to take on the rest of the day.
I went at the same time every morning (7 a.m.) and eventually made some awesome friends! I also got to work with Presley, the most awesome instructor ever, and he taught me so much during the challenge. He was always there to answer questions and he made the classes so fun.
When I started the fitness classes I could hardly get through the warmup, a series of agility drills on a workout ladder. By the last day I could do the entire warmup without stopping or modifying any of the drills.
The Meal Plan
When I started the fitness challenge I was also given a meal plan. It was pretty flexible, which was great for allowing different options into my diet and ensuring that I didn’t get bored with the food. We also got a recipe book with lots of yummy meal ideas!
The basic outline of the meal was:
Breakfast – Carbohydrate, Protein and Vegetable
Lunch – Carbohydrate, Protein and Vegetable
Dinner – Protein, Fat and Vegetable
I just could not eat vegetables for breakfast, so I doubled up at dinner to make up for it. We were also encouraged to drink two protein shakes a day. I chose to drink Protein2O, a protein water that tastes way better than a shake and has pretty similar nutrition.
This is what a normal week of meal prep looked like for me: lots of veggies, rice and chicken. For breakfast I usually had Greek yogurt and berries or egg whites and potatoes.
I also allowed myself one or two cheat meals a week. It prevented me from bingeing when I had a craving for something, and helped me remember that it’s ok to have treats in moderation.
One big thing I changed besides my diet was the amount of water I was drinking. I went from drinking two or three bottles a day to drinking at least 100 ounces every day!
Our challenge leader, Natalie, made sure to check in with each of us every week to see how we were doing with the challenge. She always cheered me on with every pound lost and was super motivating!
After six long weeks of training hard in the gym and eating right, I felt better than I had in years. In the first week I dropped 10 pounds like that, my body was in a total shock. Every week the pounds were steadily dropping. Then, the final weigh in day came and the results were in…
I lost 26.4 pounds! That amount in such a short amount of time was HUGE! And it was just the start. I’ve lost 30 pounds since I started the challenge and I’m not stopping there!
I’m so excited to continue working with Gainesville Combat Fitness to promote wellness and a healthy lifestyle. Stay tuned for more posts as I continue on my journey towards my happiest, healthiest self!
Join The Challenge!
Are you looking for a sign that’s it time for you to start living healthier or lose some weight?? Well look no further because this is it! Gainesville Combat Fitness is continuing to offer more fitness challenges. To get more information or schedule a tour and get a free week of classes click here! You’ll be so glad you did!
The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is my favorite festival at Epcot! I love the bright flowers, the interactive exhibits and, most of all, the tasty foods and drinks!
But let’s face the facts: dining at Disney can be VERY expensive! That’s no secret. So when my sister and I decided we wanted to explore the Flower and Garden Festival, we knew we had to be smart about what we spent our money on.
With 24 outdoor kitchens offering everything from meat and potatoes to vegan desserts, and beverages ranging from dark beers to light cocktails, there are so many options it’s practically overwhelming. So we knew we had to strategize in order to try the best foods and drinks without spending too much money or missing something we’d want to taste.
Here’s what we did to make sure we had fun and didn’t go broke doing it:
Check Out the Menus Beforehand
We looked online and made a list of everything we wanted to eat and drink at the festival, then went back through it a few times, canceling out items that were similar or that we weren’t in love with until we narrowed it down to only the items we knew we absolutely had to try. It was a bit excessive, but my sister and I are Disney experts (we went every other weekend for the first eight years of our childhood and now we’re both annual passholders), so we knew efficiency was key! That’s how we found our must-try items, like the Frushi (fresh pineapple, strawberry and melon rolled with coconut rice and topped with whipped cream, berry sauce and toasted coconut) from the Hanami booth in Japan ($5.95.)
“Is It Really Worth It?”
For every item you see and think you want to try, ask yourself, “Is it really worth it?” Remember, eating and drinking at the Flower and Garden Festival is an experience! So, if there’s a pricy drink you would love to try that you can’t get anywhere else, like this Watermelon Cucumber Slushy with Gin from the Florida Fresh Booth ($11.75), then it’s more worth it than a $9 glass of wine that you can buy from the grocery store. If the price doesn’t compare to the quality of the product or the experience that comes with it, cross it off the list.
Go With What You Know
I’m all for trying new things, but when it comes to spending money on food I find it best to stick with what you know! Like, if you know you don’t like barbecue, don’t try food at The Smokehouse booth. If you don’t like tequila, don’t try a new margarita. No matter how pretty something looks or how “insta-worthy” it is, it’s not worth wasting you money on something you probably won’t like.
As Italian girls, my sister and I know we love pretty much any form of Italian food, so we made sure to try Primavera Kitchen in Italy. Do yourself a favor: Get the Tri-Colored Cheese Tortellini served with sage butter and chicken veloute ($9) and the Frozen Italian Margarita with Limoncello and Tequila ($10) for the best combo ever! The tortellini were probably the best I’ve ever eaten and the margarita was perfect!
Find The Best Bang For Your Buck
I always try to scope out the food and drinks before I buy them at Epcot because sometimes the descriptions sound amazing, but the food doesn’t live up to the hype. Sometimes the portions are too small to warrant the price or the food just doesn’t look appealing. For example, my sister really wanted to try the Grilled Street Corn from Trowel & Trellis, but when we walked by and saw it didn’t have a lot of seasoning on it, she decided to pass. The best bang for your buck dish we had was the Potato Pancakes from Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market in Germany. They come with two large potato pancakes with either apple sauce ($4.50) or caramelized ham, onions and sour cream ($4.75). Definitely a cheaper food option and they were delicious and filling.
Sharing Is Caring
As far as Disney treats go, my policy has always been Sharing Is Caring! That way you don’t have to spend money on multiples of the same item and you can try more foods and drinks! We got the pineapple soft-serve ice cream with Parrot Bay coconut rum (basically an alcoholic Dole Whip for $10.25) to share and it was such a good choice! Not only was it a huge serving (of both ice cream and rum!) but it was also my favorite drink of the day.
Overall, we spent $56 at Epcot Flower & Garden, which came out to $28 a person! That is SO cheap compared to what it would have been if we went in without a plan and without sharing our treats. Next time you go to Epcot remember these dining and drinking tips so you can treat yourself on the cheap!