5/26/2021 0 Comments
#109) So - How Old Are You Now?
Mezza Luna Ristorante - Dining Review
“So… How old are you now?” I asked the hubby, as we sat down to dinner.
We had just been seated at our lovely outdoor table at Mezza Luna Ristorante - for a special Saturday night - a birthday celebration - dinner out.
“29,” he says.
“No, really?” I question him.
“35,” he then says.
“No... I seriously don’t know,” I say. Now resorting to begging for his age. “I literally do not remember your age, and I only remember that I am 40 because I am, right now, at this moment, the big four o.”
“35,” he says, again. “And I’m not getting any older.” That’s it. It’s been authoritatively decided. Discussion over.
Well - I simply knew that wasn’t true. But we proceeded to dine upon some fabulous food, all the time with me not knowing the real number. The age for which we were celebrating this fine night.
Because, you see, I don’t really know if it's a “covid thing” or what, but time is just flying by.
One breath, and a day has passed.
One blink, and a whole week flutters past us.
One sip of water, and a whole month is swallowed up whole.
In fact, by the time we finish eating this very meal, we will be 65 years old.
And the pandemic itself - well that flew by too. I tend to think it’s all because I’m the busiest I’ve ever been, and not because of a global plague that seemingly altered time itself. But, who knows?
Either way, I can barely remember my own age, let alone the age and/or birthdates of anybody else I know and love, including my own husband - and maybe that is not a covid thing? I think I’m just really, really bad at ages... and birthdays... and numbers.
I guess I always have been. But the older I get, it apparently shows more now… As I sit across from the hubby, proceeding to ask my own husband for his age on his own birthday during this very special night out.
Our server comes over. We start with water for both.
Gulp, and another month disappears. Hooray!
I then ask for lemonade, and Bryan requests an old fashioned.
By the time our meal was perfectly prepared, cooked, seasoned, and served to us, we were flying well into the year 2022. But that all hasn’t happened just yet.
Eventually, we settled on 43 (???) Our take on his real age this evening. On this beautiful day in the month of May, in this grand and fabulous year of life on Earth: 2021.
“Are you sure?” I ask. Doubting even the truth, simply because I have no idea or grasp on reality any longer… Ages and time blown apart. The Earth, to me, might as well be spinning around the sun at a rate of 365 rotations an hour instead of 365 rotations a year. No concept of time any longer, not even a smidge, even left in my brain at this point in my life. And that, I finally have come to believe, has something to do with Covid.
And maybe that’s all simply because, when people are asked to stop living their lives - living - becomes increasingly more important. In my head, that is.
It’s a beautiful evening at the beach. We are seated on the outdoor patio of Mezza. Located at 110 First Street in the Beaches Town Center area of Neptune Beach, this local Floridian establishment has always seemed upscale and expensive in my mind, and seemingly a bit out of reach for an everyday occasion. But for birthdays, anything goes, right? So, while I expected quite an expensive dining experience, Mezza Luna ended up being nothing like what I thought and perceived it to be - In a good way. It wasn’t nearly as pricey as I was predicting, and it was a much more casual atmosphere as well - also, in a very good way.
With today’s hits playing loudly on the stereo speakers, intermixed with some oldies and goodies, the vibe was upbeat, happy, and not at all stuffy or too fancy. Our entire dining experience ended up being an absolutely and utterly perfect atmosphere for the type of dinner we were going for that evening.
It’s now May. So at dinnertime - the sun - it’s still out. And, gosh, it was a hot one. There were seats on the back patio - straight in the sun - and I knew we could never last out there. Not even five minutes. I would have easily melted away. I had just finished a shift working outside in the heat all day, and sitting straight in the hot sun was never, ever going to happen that night.
But the whole front end of the restaurant has another outdoor area that is completely covered in shade. It’s actually set up really, very quaint. You’re “inside” the restaurant, with the feel and coziness of being inside and away from the elements, but the front wall is open to the outdoors and fresh air. So we were technically seated outside - per my request placed on my OpenTable dining reservation app. Also, the mask mandate in the local Jacksonville area had just been recently lifted, so for those looking to enter without a mask, no mask was needed. Every single staff member of the restaurant still had masks on though.
If you don’t have OpenTable, and you enjoy dining out, I highly recommend it. The process of booking takes a mere few seconds, it’s free, and it’s easier than a phone call. Plus - all your reservations add up to monetary rewards. I’m a big fan.
Our drinks arrived, and ice cold lemonade never tasted so good. I downed my drink, and another was brought immediately over to me.
We then ordered the meatball appetizer to split, and Bryan ordered a wedge blue cheese salad as well.
The meatballs were seasoned wonderfully, with a creamy sauce of something or other underneath. I didn’t really bother to look at the menu, I really just devoured it as quickly as I did my lemonade; noting later - however, that it was served with creamy polenta, tomato, mint, and piave cheese at $11.00.
And Bryan’s iceberg salad was served with crispy shallots, bacon, sun dried tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing, at $9.00.
Our server asked if we wanted fresh bread, and of course, because we are merely human, we said - Yes.
Dinner was fabulous. And I couldn't remember the last time I had such a marvelous meal, seated that close to the ocean, and so close to home.
We both ordered steaks for the main course. I had the filet (at $35.00), my usual go to, and Bryan had the grilled flat iron steak frites (at $27.00), any steak - his guaranteed usual.
The bordelaise sauce drizzled over my filet was superb. And I immediately commented to Bryan… “How come we can’t replicate this at home?” I kept eating and I don’t remember what we decided our answer to that deep question was.
Being that it was Bryan’s birthday, dessert was a must. So, we ordered two, of course. And that way we could each try each other’s and share.
I loved the affogato. To death. I would go back to Mezza just to order it once again. At $6.00 it was worth every penny, and a cool treat on this hot night.
And, then there was the cheesecake. Oh, is there anything so good in all this miraculous world as a slice of cheesecake?
Well, maybe the next best thing is taking the leftovers home. At $8.00, and heaven on Earth, I asked for the seasonal sauce to be left off. I just wanted the slice served plain. And as we were too stuffed to eat anymore, I asked for my remaining cheesecake to be boxed up. To be feasted upon later that evening back home of course…. And therein lies the only ‘problem’ of the magnificent evening. And I dare say it was really even a problem. I actually just asked for a box…
Meaning, I would box up the cheesecake myself. But, the server wanted to bring the dish back to the kitchen and box it up. And that’s when I realized he did the same with my steak.
This was the very first time since covid began, that a server wanted to take my meal away from me, that I had already touched, and bring it back into the kitchen. That act seemed to go away, nearly one hundred percent of the time, since the beginning of the pandemic.
As soon as the plague began, everything and anything was all about contact. Touch points were focused upon. And the less touching the better. Along with cross contamination, and risk of cross contamination. So, I naturally thought it was swell when seemingly every single restaurant started bringing the box out to the table, instead of taking the touched plate back into the kitchen to box up there, thus risking more germ spread back onto everyone’s food unnecessarily.
So, I did think it very, very strange that the server wanted to take my slice of cheesecake, that I had already feasted upon, and bring it back into the kitchen to box up. I didn’t say anything, but I did ponder this, deeply.
And as I pondered, my cheesecake was making its untimely transition.
When my lovely piece of food was brought back out to me... it looked like this:
A fine meal. A lovely evening. Everything - perfection. Down to the sights and sounds.
And then - sad face. :(
Or, should I say smoosh face.
My cheesecake went through the ringer back in the kitchen. My cheesecake died a slow death. It transformed from a slice of cake... To cheese mush inside a plastic see through box. Sealed for transport into space. Or somewhere else very far away.
But who am I kidding?! I did not really care one bit. As we learned growing up, it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, it’s what’s inside that really important.
It’s not the gift that matters, it's the thought that counts.
Never judge a book by its cover.
Contents may have shifted during transport.
Wait - none of that is what I was going for here.
Anyway, I could care freaking less what my cheesecake looked like as I carried it out the door. And yes, it got eaten less than two hours later in less than two seconds flat. Presentation be forgotten that night, my dear friends. No, I did not care what it looked like on the outside. I didn’t care. It all certainly did not really matter to me.
Because, if I’m so busy loving my life, so very freaking much, to the point that I cannot remember how old I am, or how old my husband really is, because life is too much fun to stop and think about it. Then I certainly could care less about the doggie bag presentation at a fine dining establishment with today’s hits blasting on the radio overhead as we freely inhaled the salt life.
All I cared about was the birthday that was being celebrated. And the fun time we were having. And the very fresh and very salty air that we were breathing in on that beautiful patio. As we watched tourists and locals pass by on the adjacent sidewalk. And we ate our fresh bread, and slapped on way too much butter.
And scooping up whatever that creamy mush was underneath our meatball appetizer, while enjoying a steak that I could never replicate in my own kitchen. And bringing home with me a cheesy slice of heaven. It all didn’t matter what it looked like. And how it was presented to me. And as I pondered the state of my flattened and battered and weathered and worn and completely beat up cheesecake seated in front of me, sealed tightly for transport across great oceans on a big container ship for a long haul journey… I decided to ask my husband, once again.
I stared at my smooshed cake. And I pondered the physics of time and space once again. “44?” I questioned him.
Desperately aching to know and confirm his real age, yet again. And too lazy to pull out my calculator to simply subtract 2021 from his year of birth, to find the correct number in a matter of seconds.
“NO!” he desperately bellowed back at me. “I am NOT 44 today.”
So we settled, once again, on 43.
He was 43 years old. And yes, I am 40.
We had that confirmed. Leaving no room for doubt.
And so we continued our evening. And we both knew each other’s real ages. At least for that one night. Until I proceeded to forget it all once again. When the day transitioned from Saturday to Sunday and I didn’t even know what universe I was living in, once again.
So, yeah, we knew we were in our forties. We knew we loved our steak dinner. And we certainly knew covid was in the rear view mirror. And life kept moving on. But, the funny thing is, life never really stopped. That’s the amazing thing. Covid never stopped our lives. As we celebrated the transition from 42 to 43… life was still happening. And life would continue to go on. Whether we knew our ages at the time or not. Under a mezza luna moon… life was continuing to happen all around us.~
**Bean’s Battle For Best @ The Beaches ~ Award Winner 2020!**
It’s a hard job - but somebody’s gotta eat all the chocolate. And for the sake of the written word - that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Besides, with hard work, comes great reward… And chocolate may be the ultimate reward, my dear friends.
I’ve been popping into Peterbrooke Chocolatier since I discovered it a few years back.
Located at 363 Atlantic Boulevard in Atlantic Beach, Florida, Peterbrooke is situated directly in the heart of Beaches Town Center. As soon as I discovered Peterbrooke, I absolutely had to go inside.
So I did, and I ate the best chocolate - ever.
Fast forward to today, in 2020, and Peterbrooke STILL has the best chocolate I ever ate. I’m just grateful I live so close to their shop so that I can visit whenever I want.
And recently, with all this stay-at-home madness upending civil society… and with World War 19 causing Civil War 2.0 - chocolate was subtly calling my name. It may have been just a whisper, but it was calling, nonetheless.
Then, with all restaurants still being closed - and take-out, curbside, and delivery being the only way to dine “out” - a chocolatier, to-go sort of shop was out loud screaming my name.
So after work the other day, I decided it was time to take action on the chocolate front of this global war… I’ll call it - Bean’s Battle For Best @ The Beaches.
Either that, or… The Battle Of The Bulge.
Stepping back into this heavenly chocolate shop after a long parting of at least a year or so, I was simply excited that the OPEN sign flashing in the upper right corner window, actually meant that they were really open. Because as more businesses close by the day, that sign doesn’t usually mean much any more.
Walking in, we were met with another sign - the power was out. But, yes, they were open. Come on in.
We were then met with another sign, and a basket of gloves for us to use, per their request. We both put on the gloves.
I knew just what I wanted. Eyes right on my target.
The Jag Paws - the Jax version of Turtles.
And like I said, for the sake of the written word, I simply had to buy a few more things. I couldn’t buy just a bag of Jag Paws, that’s simply not enough chocolate for a girl! So, I figured since I always purchase a darker chocolate, that my other purchases would be in the white chocolate family. I then grabbed a bag of white chocolate covered pretzels, and a white chocolate lollipop.
I spoke with the cashier as we paid. I had just missed Peterbrooke’s biggest holiday of the year: Easter. Because chocolate and bunnies go together perfectly, of course.
I mentioned how glad I was that they were open. She mentioned that they were not even certain how much longer they would be.
I hoped to see them again.
‘Tis the way of today. I suppose.
I would not be telling you the truth if I said there was a better chocolate shop in Jax. They absolutely are the winner. Peterbrooke is more than deserving of Bean’s Battle For Best @ The Beaches - Chocolate - 2020.
The cost is high. And I’m not gonna lie about that either. But there’s a reason. You just can’t buy the best chocolate of your life and not pay the most you’ve ever spent on chocolate.
So, while $27.02 looks high, sounds high, and is - very - high, it was all worth it, my dear friends. And if you go, you’ll probably agree. You’ll take one bite of the best of the best, and the next thought out of your brain will be - When are we coming back for more?
As we said goodbye, we sat in the little blue chairs and table set up outside the front door, for a mere moment. Our last stop and duty before heading home for the night.
It was Saturday night at the beach. The traditional “Opening Of The Beaches” Weekend in Jacksonville. A yearly celebration, a weekend parade - a tradition in town going back 73 years.
Even though normally, the beaches are open year round here in Jax, the town comes together each spring to officiate a ceremonial opening of the beaches. Think - Gilmore Girls - town square style event - only a bit more wild. And more ceremonial in nature than anything else, the Beaches opening parade is as much of a party here in Jax as Pete’s Bar is on Thanksgiving morning. Just another reason to party. To celebrate life. Life at the beach. On an island. Living next to the sea.
And 2020 would have been year 74 of the parade - before it was canceled due to the coronavirus.
Yes, we were sitting outside, and it was Saturday night at the beach. 2020.
Hubby picking me up from work. Off early on a Saturday. The sun still out. A normal Saturday night in town would have meant the entire area would be hopping. Endless parties. Endless fun. Bike riders everywhere. Music. Talking. Laughter.
But instead, we sat down in front of the chocolatier, and stared at a visibly and noticeably vacant parking lot. A lot that is usually never empty. Diners from Poe’s. From other restaurants. Shops. And on a Saturday, the lot would be even more packed. Cars waiting for spots to open up.
But not on this Saturday night. Empty. Looking around. Soaking in the quiet surroundings.
It was just sooo sad.
When will Poe’s open back up? When will the other restaurants open for dine in? Shops? When will people not be scared to leave their houses? When will life return to this little corner of Beaches Town Center?
I don’t know. And I do care.
In the interim, however, there is always chocolate.
And the world still keeps on turning. And awards still must be handed out.
So, plague or no plague… civil war or no civil war, life as we know it, or life as we know it not, the chocolate must be eaten.
And Peterbrooke Chocolatier is hereby officially awarded Bean’s Battle For Best @ The Beaches 2020.
Congratulations, my dear and chocolatey friends. You’ve won The Battle Of The Bulge.
Thank you for the sunshine you add to the sky.
In a vast sea - of open parking spots… Thank you for being open.
Thank you for still fighting to survive, and sticking it out this long.
And mostly, thank you for the best chocolate I ever feasted upon. ~
*Have you been to Peterbrooke Chocolatier? Where did you eat the best chocolate you ever had? I’d so love to know. Drop me a comment down below:
Also, for Bean’s Best Award Winner of 2019, be sure to check out V Pizza, below:
15] V Pizza ~ The Very Best Pizza In Jax Beach!
Plus - for some further fun in the Florida sun, and lots of sweet treats in Jax and beyond, check out the links below:
52] Keeping Cool - And Creamy - In Key West
45] Dessert First, My Friends ~ Cantina Louie
40] Visiting The Florida Cracker Kitchen ~ Jacksonville
39] The Very Official & Quite Serious Donut Debate Of 2020
31] Tuesday’s On First Street ~ The Jax Beach Art Walk ~
21] Cinotti’s ~ And Why Life Is Too Short To Not Eat Donuts
14] Finding Trinkets & Treasures @ The Jax Beach Vintage Flea Market
11] Eleven South Bistro & Bar ~~ Supper Club Of The South
3] The Dog Days Of Endless Summer
2] 3 Wows Plus 1 Piece Of Magic I Experienced At Jacksonville, Florida’s Cummer Museum Of Art & Gardens
1] Happy Birthday America ~ 4 Simple Steps To Help You Have An Easy Americana 4th:
How can you walk into a place decked out like this and not have a good time?
Folks, you’ve got to get yourselves on down to Cantina Louie. Located on Atlantic Boulevard in the small coastal town of Atlantic Beach, Florida, Cantina Louie is consistently one of my favorite and quick go-to restaurants around, any time. But whenever we have a taste for Mexican, we usually end up here.
The food is always good, and the atmosphere is always fun. Really, I personally enjoy all the murals on the wall and the fun lighting and decor flowing throughout. But then again, I do like the food just as much as the art within.
So if you’re looking for a friendly and casual place to dine while in The Beaches area of Jacksonville, this is the place.
Besides, any day is a good day for Mexican food… says anyone and everyone who is put face to face with a platter of tortilla chips and salsa - right? And this place is generous with their chips and salsa. My goodness… it’s the best around, always fresh, and the salsa is absolutely nothing other than addicting. And did I mention that it’s endless? All I can say is - Arrive. Hungry.
And then, after you’ve munched away on the best chips and salsa in town, you’ll need to look down at your stomach, and give it a fair warning.
Says you to your tummy.
Because here comes your entree!
I hope your tummy heard you.
For $9.99 I was presented with all of this darn good food!
I almost always order the combo platter, hardly ever deviating from that selection. With a choice of chicken or ground beef, the platter comes with two tacos and a side of rice and beans.
And this is where the tummy really needs that fair warning. Have you ever seen a ‘side’ of retried beans and rice like this? It’s enormous. It’s huge. It’s beans and rice.
Any time you’re sitting at home and quietly contemplating where you should go out to dinner that weekend… just ask your stomach. He or she will remind you of Cantina Louie and my guess is you’ll be back for another go round.
Hubby got the chicken fajitas with a steak taco. He usually also orders a regular margarita with salt while we’re there. And I always go for the pink lemonade.
So yeah, um… Who else here is a pink lemonade fan? I can’t be the only one, right? Cantina Louie is one of the only places around I can find pink lemonade. Metro Diner has it, and I always order it there, but the list of places is short - very short. So any time I am at Cantina Louie the pink lemonade is a must for me. Such a treat.
And speaking of treats, the answer here is no. I have never had dessert here for the very simple reason that we are always just too full after our meal, every single time. So the meal is the treat. The chips and salsa are the treat... It’s goes sorta like this:
As a wise woman once said,
“Dessert first - my friends.”
Spoken by that wise woman.
If it was up to me where you decide to go to dinner I’d say go wherever you darn well please, but if you ask my tummy for its recommendation, I’d say, get yourself on down to Cantina Louie. Sit outside and play bags on the outdoor patio. Or sit inside under the blowing air conditioning when it’s 105 degrees and you want to cool off with a margarita and some freshly made crunchy chips. Just come; and sit. And have a pink lemonade for me while you’re there, if merely to help keep the supply and demand going for the next time I visit.~
Check out some of my visits to other Jax Beaches area restaurants here!
5] The Reef On SR A1A: Worth Pulling Over For
11] Eleven South Bistro & Bar ~~ Supper Club Of The South
15] V Pizza ~ The Very Best Pizza In Jax Beach!
*Part of ~ Bean’s Best ~ Award Winner 2019
35] Happiest Of Holidays @ Hawkers Asian Street Fare
40] Visiting The Florida Cracker Kitchen ~ Jacksonville
Have you been to Cantina Louie in Atlantic Beach? Do you love pink lemonade as much as I do? What other restaurants serve pink lemonade that I need to know of? Let me know in the comments down below:
Two words to sum up this total and complete gem of a place: Go. There.
I personally have zero bad things to say about this place - ever. It’s fabulous. End of story.
Well, not end of story. But it can be that simple. Hawkers is - simply - amazing.
Hawkers was born in Florida. In 2011 their first restaurant opened in Orlando. And since its early successes, this sit-down, yet casual, eatery has now spread to a variety of other locations throughout the state. Plus a few openings in other locales within the country as well, such as North Carolina and Georgia, with both a Tennessee and Maryland location opening very soon.
And while any night of the week is a good night indeed to visit Hawkers, I had the pleasure of dining there most recently on the same evening my husband and I browsed all around Beaches Town Center to take in all the holiday goodness out on display. Walking around town, seeing the gingerbread house at One Ocean Resort, visiting the Holiday Palms where Atlantic Boulevard meets the ocean, all of it, after a delicious meal at Hawkers.
Walking inside Hawkers, I always immediately take notice of the Edison style lighting throughout the large dining room and bar area. I absolutely adore any Edison lighting whatsoever, and I desperately dream of it placed throughout every room in my entire apartment. To me, the lighting gives off a warm and very inviting and homey atmosphere. Not too bright, and perfect for an evening dining establishment.
And while the restaurant is a sit-down eatery, and a great place for a leisurely and peaceful meal, it never feels too formal either.
The menu at Hawkers is set up similar to tapas style. Smaller sized dishes that are meant for sharing around the table. And this works exceptionally well the larger the party one has with them. While it’s usually just my husband and I dining out, we had the opportunity to dine at Hawkers with my in-laws well over a year and a half ago now. And at that meal having a party of eight, we were able to try and share amongst us a large variety of dishes from the menu. Much more choice than our usual table for two can reasonable order.
While sometimes hubby and I do tapas and share a few things, this time I simply ordered my own entree and so did he. And I had no problem devouring my entire bowl.
To drink I had club soda with lime, which they kindly kept refilling for me. And hubby had the ‘Margari-Thai’ to start. The drinks were swell. Not watered down at all, and made just right.
We split the pork skewers as an appetizer, which comes as a set of three skewers. They were delicious. Flavorful, and yet not too over-seasoned. And the perfect amount for sharing amongst two people. Just. Perfect.
For my entree, I ordered the same dish the I ALWAYS order. The Beef Haw Fun. A noodle dish. It’s a fabulous dish for anyone who is currently counting calories or trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. At 687 calories, it’s the perfect size entree for me. Anything else would have been simply too many calories, or needing a box for leftovers.
Hubby ordered from the rice bowl section of the menu - choosing the Kimchi Fried Rice. Served with steak, eggs, and onions. Both our dishes were excellent.
The atmosphere at Hawkers is very casual. Which is another reason I love it so much. It’s loud, but it’s not too loud by any means - it’s good loud. It’s family friendly, birthday-dinner-outing-loud, and kid-friendly loud. And the large indoor dining room and combined bar area are set up very open and easy-flowing, with lots of large windows letting in all that fabulous natural sunlight during the day. And with views out to Atlantic Boulevard into both Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach during the evenings, it’s a lovely location for dinner out right on the coast. Plus, when the weather is right the windows and doors are open so that you feel you are eating outside, even if you’re dining inside.
And if you do want to eat directly outside, you can do just that as well. Hawkers offers two different areas of outdoor seating. There’s an absolutely beautiful little courtyard area, tucked away from all the hustle and bustle of Atlantic Boulevard, and nestled between the Surf Shop next door. The other outdoor seating is set directly in front of the restaurant on the sidewalk area, and is a great vantage point for lots of people-watching as you dine. This time of year they also have heat lamps out on the patios, so it’s almost never really too cold to dine outside at Hawkers.
The other great thing I love about Hawkers is the menu selection. Besides tapas style dishes, they also have a variety of dishes for both vegans and vegetarians. When I try to eat vegan, this place makes it super easy for me. I order the Edamame, and/or the Spring Rolls.
And I’ve saved the best for last… even though it’s traditionally served first. The Roti Canai... I can’t even express to you how good the Roti Canai really is. The Roti Canai is on the appetizer portion of the menu - it’s a Malaysian flatbread, and is a savory break-apart-piece of heaven, a type of hot bread. Calling all dough lovers. This is the dough for you. What a treat.
And it is just that, a treat. Which is why we didn’t get it on this particular visit... But I can’t talk about Hawkers without talking about the Roti Canai. It’s a must-do, a must-try. Especially on your first visit. One bite, and you’ll be in love with Hawkers and want to come back whenever you can. On our first visit, when we were very unfamiliar with Hawkers and the menu offerings, our server recommended this dish. I’m so glad she did, because we’ve been ordering it ever since and every time it is pure perfection on a plate.
The reason we don’t order the Roti Canai all the time though is that I know for a fact this dish is a calorie-counting nightmare. Well, maybe not a nightmare, I just know it has too many calories for my tummy to process all at once. With one small piece clocking in at roughly 318 calories, that’s about half a dinner for me. All in a single slice of bread. And I’d personally rather spend my calories on protein - and anything that will keep me fuller, longer. And thus I treat this bread as the deserving treat that it is. It’s just such a TREAT that we don’t need to get it every time. So even though it’s my very favorite item on the entire menu, I resist all temptation and I don't order it every visit. But every time we do get it, it's absolutely divine.
I do highly recommend trying the Roti Canai. If you are looking for something a little bit different, a little bit out of the norm when eating the standard American diet every day. This is THE dish to try. The curry dips that are served alongside it gives one a sampling of some flavors that I personally don’t have all the time. And I love trying different things. So get the bread. You won’t be sorry.
And one more quick piece of good news at Hawkers - they have a new menu item that I am VERY excited to try on my next visit. On that next visit I can then plan the needed and many allotted calories into my day so that I can try this dish with zero guilt. It’s a dessert…. And yes, it’s DONUTS! Yummm. They sound fantastic. And fried. The Jo-He Bag of Donuts. Next Time, My Friends, Next Time.
I’m fairly certain there will be a photo of fried donuts showing up on my Instagram sometime in the near future.
Overall, Hawkers is super. Simple as that. If you have a Hawkers by you, definitely give it a try. And if you don’t have a Hawkers by you, maybe, and hopefully, one will be on its way to you soon. ~
While I both love and live in Jacksonville Beach, FL, there’s only one other town around I love just as very much…well, two towns actually - it’s where Atlantic Boulevard meets the ocean - it’s Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach… its Beaches Town Center.
Beaches Town Center is all-encompassing of the downtown areas of both Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach. The two downtowns meet together for one, central, and grand downtown area on the Beaches - with Atlantic Beach to the north, and Neptune Beach to the south - and Atlantic Boulevard as the border line. It is there that the two towns touch and meet, becoming one. If you weren’t familiar with the area, you wouldn’t really even know that they are two separate towns. They really blend well aesthetically and flow and function nicely as one downton. And while the two towns share this single and lovely downtown, they share a whole lot more as well… including Christmas!
Beaches Town Center comes together for one official Christmas tree area at the center of town, and just steps off the beach. Where Atlantic Boulevard ends and the ocean begins. At the roundabout. The trees - including evergreen, and palm, of course - are lit up beautifully. Signature candy cane stripes going up the trunks of the palms, with green tip lit leaves. And this year they added another evergreen to the display, having two total, one on each side of the palms. With a large red seating area, positioned perfectly for Santa Claus to sit, there is never a dull moment in the round-a-bout. With children and families both coming up to get their photo taken sitting in the enormous chair. Sometimes even a line of people waiting.
And with the palm trees lit all up and down the sidewalks on 1st Street and beyond, in a rainbow of holiday colors, the setting is a beautiful, beachy holiday, instantly.
If you find yourself in town, and checking out all things holiday while you’re here, there’s a few other not to be missed seasonal and very festive events which I highly recommend. Check out the St. Augustine Nights of Lights if you have time for a short drive. And be sure to visit Deck The Chairs, just one town south, in my very own Jax Beach. Deck The Chairs is free, it’s walk-through, and open to the public nightly through the end of the month. And only a couple miles south of Beaches Town Center, it’s a quick hop on over if you are out exploring all the lights and all the beautiful sights around Jacksonville.
Our first Christmas living in Florida, back in 2017, we were browsing around Beaches Town Center. It was wonderful - we knew it would become an instant new tradition added to our list of holiday festivities. And while strolling through town that first Floridian holiday, we came upon One Ocean at the center of town, and decided we needed to check it out.
We walked into their grand lobby, for the first time. Fountain in the center, just inside the door. Well, the inside is just gorgeous. And it turns out that every year, for Christmas and the entire holiday season, they put a large gingerbread house on display just off to the side in the lobby area. Naturally stumbling onto this find was so exciting. And it’s those finds, that I didn’t know about in advance of a visit somewhere, completely unplanned, and spur-of-the-moment, that are sometimes the very best moments. And we’ve been back every year.
I’ve included photos of this year’s 2019 gingerbread house. And let me tell you, that lobby smelled of gingerbread - and smelled of heaven. It was fabulous to see, and to breathe in. It’s a quick stop in to check out, and puts one in the holiday spirit right away. The baked house is different every year, and all of it - the sign - the house itself, and all the details presented, reminded me immediately of my many travels to Walt Disney World at Christmastime and doing some Resort Hopping...checking out all the resort lobby gingerbread houses - each themed to that specific Disney resort. So I definitely recommend stopping in One Ocean on your Beaches Town Center holiday adventure. They’ve got a bar and restaurant on site too - it’s on the pricey side so we haven’t been there to eat just yet, but we have been to the lounge a few times and it’s just lovely. The ocean views are priceless.
And a visit to Beaches Town Center is never, ever complete without a visit to Southern Grounds Coffee Shop. I love coffee almost as much as life itself. So we strolled on down to Southern Grounds to get a hot drink on a cool Florida evening. but to our surprise it was the one night ever that I’ve come across them closed. Usually open until 9pm, we went on a Monday night, and there was a sign on the door apologizing for the closure. They were out celebrating for the staff holiday party. No, I’m not complaining… the fact that we were so very sad that they were closed is only a compliment to them - as their shop simply rocks. So no Southern Grounds for us that particular evening, but soooo very glad for their employees that they had a night out away from work to celebrate.
Beaches Town Center knows how to throw a Beachy Christmas… On a Monday night, or any night of the week. I’d highly recommend stopping by for a visit, short or long. Coffee or no coffee. It’s a wonderful sight, with a lot of wonderful lights. ~
11/29/2019 0 Comments
#27) Thanksgiving & Pete’s Bar ~ Not All Resolutions Need Be Fulfilled On January First
At the beginning of every January I write a list of goals for the upcoming year. I don’t classify them as resolutions… I tend to dislike the term. There’s something about the word ‘resolve’ that’s so formal and ‘contract-binding’ like. “We hereby resolve to…” It’s as if you didn’t solve the resolve that you have failed? The contract and agreement you made with yourself was a disappointment, a let-down. You then become further discouraged. And you then give up on the whole idea that sparked the resolution in the first place.
So I like to use the word ‘goal’ better. A goal is less formal. And reaching that goal then becomes a little less formal too; giving you more leeway as to how to get there, and when to accomplish said goal. It becomes about the doing, and less about the deadline, due date, and resolution itself. Just do - don’t resolve to do.
So yeah, I write down goals for the year, each year in January. And it doesn't have to be January 1 - it can still be December, it can be mid January. But roughly around that time of year, I plot out some goals for the upcoming year. I write it all down on actual paper...wood from a tree. Not in my iPhone - but on paper.
Did you know that the act of handwriting your goal instead of merely typing it out produces inside of you a whopping 40% higher chance of accomplishing that goal? Who said paper is dead? Right? Get a journal. It can be a cheapo one, a fancy one, a very expensive one…Just get one YOU enjoy looking at every day. Any way, get a journal and start writing down your goals.
Then follow up with those goals.
About half way through the year, roughly June, or somewhere into July, I follow up with the goals I wrote down on paper in January. It’s a reminder and a refresher for my brain. Oh yeah! I forgot about that one! Oooh… wahoo, I did that one! Or, oh yeah, that one’s still coming up!
Pete’s Bar was one of those such goals. One coming up. One I had to wait all year for. It was the act of attending a Thanksgiving morning party that could not be achieved or solved on January 1.
Thanksgiving 2019, I finally accomplished that bucket list of a goal. And it was such a good time that it goes without me even having to tell my brain I already know this is going to be a new tradition - an obvious must-do for next year.
In 2017, just after moving down here from Illinois, I found out about the Pete’s Bar tradition. I intended to go that year.
And it was that year in 2017 we had a Florida rainstorm of rainstorms early Thanksgiving morning. We did our turkey trot, and ran straight to the car. It was a summer rainstorm, in November. It might as well have been a hurricane. It was quite a rain. And we skipped Pete’s Bar entirely that year so hubby and I so we could reach dryer grounds. After all, we had been standing on pavement that had inches of water sitting on it, and cold and soaking wet gym shoes and feet, from doing our turkey trot in a flood.
In 2018. we had driven up to Illinois to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family. But that meant yet again, Pete’s Bar was missed by us. And knowing even more about the tradition last year, I told myself - next year, for sure!
So then 2019 came along. January was here, and I wrote down my goals for the year. I tend to think broadly and brainstorm broadly. It allows for more creativity and flexibility in all my goals that I aim for.
I put down some really fabulous ideas… like starting my Etsy Shop, making my first and very own set of business cards, creating a few wave paintings, attend some more painting workshops, etc. And really a whole page in my journal of purely business goals. I have accomplished ALL. OF. IT. Not one thing left undone for 2019 for Christine’s Floridian Dreams’ small business venture. So I continue working onward.
My personal goals are quite different. They are more detailed. Specific books I wanted to read this year, restaurants I wanted to try, towns I wanted to visit. Maybe a specific ice cream shop to try or a new coffee shop I want to visit.
And my list is long. Very long. And that’s ok! I write down so many varied and quite unique goals for myself that I know I might not accomplish them all. And that’s ok too! That goes back to GOALS - not resolutions.
We all know that the gym is alive and well, breathing, and packed on January 1. Every year. And we all know that by the end of that very month, and onward into February, gym attendance rates drop significantly. Every year. Without fail. People RESOLVE to hit the gym on January 1. And by February they are discouraged and give up.
I tend to think they give up because they only thought BIG on January 1. And they forgot to think SMALL as well.
It’s those small and incremental changes that work best in life.
Don't start BIG on January 1!
Start small… And start today.
Why not start today? Why not start on November 29. Who said you can’t? Who said you have to wait until January to change your life? If you think of something you want to do, just go ahead and do it, now - get started - now!
My goals are broad, and many. I don’t mind one bit that I don’t accomplish all of my goals. I pick and choose the ones that inspire me at the time. I pick the ones that make the most sense to me throughout that year and at that moment. I pick the ones that speak back to me. It’s God’s hand in my goal-setting and it’s God’s hand in my action-taking. Only through what he tells me do I know what I’m going to do next. He leads me.
Well, fate and the Lord above, did lead me to Pete’s Bar on Thanksgiving morning of 2019.
So this weekend finally arrived, and watching on the news all the absolute crazy winter storms raging all across the country and stranding travelers everywhere, made me relieved and filled with great and deep gratitude that we did not attempt to make the drive up to Illinois.
Finally, and after two years of missing it, I wasn’t about to let Thanksgiving 2019 head out the door, before I walked in the door - of Pete’s Bar. And I did just that.
It was the BEST DAY EVER. As I've told my family and friends and the internet world and social media. So thank you Pete’s Bar, for a fabulous community gathering like nothing I’ve ever seen.
No, not all resolutions, goals, dreams and aspirations, are fulfilled on January 1. Some are resolved or completed on that holiday Thursday of November that comes round each year. And that’s A O K.
If you think small, and detailed,, instead of resolving big and broad, you are goal-aiming. Your aspiring. You’re ON THE WAY to getting to where you want to be. You’re deep in the knitty gritty. You. Are. Working. The journey counts too.
If I was in purely resolution-mode, instead of goal-mode, when I didn’t reach one of my first resolutions in January, it would have started a downward decline of potentially giving up on my next resolutions. Failure-mode. If one is in failure-mode, it’s that much harder to get where you want to be. It might have led to a completely different year. It may have been more negative than positive. Instead, I live each day in the positive, no matter what happens. No matter what is going on, today is a great day!
So go into it all thinking positive. Thinking about the journey. Thinking about flexibility. And thinking each day is a new beginning. SO WHAT!... If you didn’t reach your five pound per month weight loss goal last month. Nobody says that means you have to stop altogether. Maybe you lost 4 pounds instead of five. Maybe you lost one pound. Guess what? You’re still one pound lighter for it. You’re still on the journey.
Maybe you gained weight instead of losing? Gasppp… Guess what?... So what! Suck it up - and keep going. Then, GASP again, because of all that breathing and movement you are continuing to do.
***The only difference between those you don’t reach their goals, and those who do, is that fact that achievers just don’t give up! Period. They just keep going. So, just keep going! So what if it takes a month longer. So what if you gained weight and want to lose a huge chunk of it. In failure mode, you’ve already given up. In goal mode, you keep going, no matter what. Eventually, because you are not giving up, you will get there.
Well, what if it takes you eight more months to lose the weight? What if you wanted the weight loss done by six months, or a year? If, five years from now, the weight is lost, and you are on your way to doing other new and exciting things… are you really going to care that today, all those years back in the past, that it took you eighteen months to lose the weight, instead of twelve months? Or if the weight loss took three years of the next five? So what? Who cares? Five years from now the weight is off and you are living a different life and you are grateful for the time it took, because the TIME is what made you into who you are five years from now!
Don’t hate on time. Don’t complain about time. Use time - to your advantage.
Pete’s Bar was a different kind of goal to have. It was one that had to take place on Thanksgiving for me. It wasn’t one I could do during the year. Well, actually, I could walk in Pete’s and visit there, yes, any time. But it was the act of attending ‘Pete’s Bar Thanksgiving Morning Gathering’ that I officially wanted to accomplish.
So yeah, this year I did do just that. I pursued all my other goals every other day of the year, browsing and picking and choosing which ones I wanted to work on. Then when Thanksgiving came up to the calendar, I told myself, yes, we’re doing it. No matter what.
And that’s exactly what we did. We raced our turkey trot. And went over to Pete’s.
The tradition is this: Pete’s is the place to be at the beach on Thanksgiving morning.
And there’s nowhere else I would have wanted to be!
And it ended up being goal-day all around.
I raced the 3.1 mile Tony’s Turkey Trot. Without training and without any prep workreally. My body is now resilient enough to handle the task. That’s something a few years ago would have NEVER worked for me. Hence why it was a great goal accomplished that I merely even went out there and winged it.
And then, I took a fall during the race, got back up, and kept going. I tell you this because, a fall such as this one, in the past, is something that would have been devastating to me. It would have destroyed me. It would have turned the dial on me into failure-mode… Leading to further failures.
Yes, this Thanksgiving I took a hard, and quite ridiculous fall onto the pavement. And only about a quarter mile into the race. I tripped on one of those huge yellow reflective strips in the middle of the road. It was sticking out of the ground about an inch. It stopped me dead. I fell forward from my momentum and to my left side, pushed my arms out to catch myself. Landing on the glass screen of my Apple Watch of my left arm, my phone and right hand of my other arm sliding and burning onto payment, My left knee hit the road hard and slid and burned my skin from from the scraping as I skidded. And my left shoulder and neck area took the brunt of the fall slamming the pavement with more bruises from that.
The fall felt like it took ten minutes. I might as well have been tumbling down the road for a mile. Life went in slow motion. Just like in a movie. I couldn’t stop and couldn’t believe what was happening to me. It was surreal, and a strange feeling. I lost all control, and down I went.
I haven’t hit the payment that hard in an athletic event or workout in years upon years. I have fallen so many times in the ancient past, have already had many bruised knees, that the scabbed up and burned left knee I have today from yesterday is merely a fresh coat of paint added onto layers and layers of art from endurance activity of the past.
But you wanna know what? The fall did NOT last ten minutes. It lasted maybe a second. And as soon as I was face down on the ground people came by and literally picked me up off the road floor! It all happened faster than I could even believe. And then I just kept running! The very next breath and the very next thing I did was JUST KEEP GOING.
I knew I was gonna hurt later. I knew I was hurt right then. But I also knew I didn’t break anything either. And I felt that in that moment as I stood up that I was FINALLY resilient enough to withstand the fall that just happened - hitting the pavement, bruises and blood and all. It was because of the past, all the hard work throughout the recent years, all the resiliency I built up, that led me to having the ability to stand up straight, continue onward, finish the race, and head on down to Pete’s Bar. Ahead right toward a goal I set in January, and meet it with confidence in November.
That’s why you KEEP GOING. Because, all those days of movement, all those days when it’s tough, you don’t feel like it, but you do it anyway, even if it's the tiniest action ever, you just keep going. And one day, when you really need it, your body will be strong enough to withstand the pain. The incident. The accident. The heartache. The sadness. Whatever it is that hurts you in that moment. You will be able to bounce back from with a resiliency that you never knew you had. And it will be utilized right then and there, 100% when you need it the most - which is the most important thing to know.
And the kindest of kind thank you’s all around to the people who stopped their Thanksgiving Turkey Trot goals themselves, to help me get off the ground. When you feel it’s time to lose faith in all of humanity, all the chaos of the world, don’t.
Be that person who stops, for even a second, to help someone else. I honestly didn’t expect to be picked up. In the long ten minute twenty four hour one second that my face was eye to eye with the hard and black roads of Atlantic Beach, I thought how can I possibly pick myself up?! But faster than I could even complete that thought bubble, I had been picked up by others! So beyond my resiliency, it was other humans who helped me initially.
We are a team, world.
And thank you, from a fellow teammate, for helping me out on Thanksgiving morning.
Because you helped me carry on, that act helped me finish my race. And go on to continue to have the best day ever.
After my race was over, they ran out of water! And with still tons of people coming in to the finish, and another one mile fun run to go, that wasn’t good news for lots of people who needed a drink. That usually doesn’t happen at the countless running events I’ve participated in during my life. And not even counting my fall as bad, it was the lack of water that was the only real bad thing that happened that day. But I’m assuming they already learned their mistake and will be recalculating their water purchase for next year. Luckily, living in Florida heat, we don’t go anywhere without water in our car. So we walked back to the car to grab my water bottle, I chugged it down. And then we headed back on out to the party I had patiently waited all year for.
It was the only race I’ve ever been to where people weren’t filing out to their cars afterward to get on back home quickly to cook their Thanksgiving meal. More people were coming in. By the time we left the party, there were more cars on the streets of Neptune Beach that even the 4th of July. And the 4th tends to be the biggest event in town, or so I thought.
I’ve never been to a party like this one. And yes, it really was the best day ever.
It reminded me of college spring break in New Orleans. LOL. It reminded me of Key West. It reminded me of VACATION. It reminded me of the best of the best and most fun memories of my life. It reminded me why I’m so very glad I call the beach my home.
Thank you to Pete’s Bar for literally throwing the event of the year, here at The Beaches.
We purchased two drinks from one of the street tents. Made with champagne and orange juice, and champagne with cranberry juice. I told hubby to order two… not just so he could drink them both, but so we could both stand in front of Pete’s Bar sign, and take a selfie holding our drinks. Mission Accomplished. I am that dork, yes.
And yes, we were photo-bombed. It officially ranks as my best photo-bomb to date.
And then we went in Pete’s. It was awesome. No other word for it. And it was just as they all said it would be.
There were literally rows and rows of premade Bloody Mary’s and such. Get on up to the bar, take your drinks, and pay, fast. They had countless people coming in and out. All leaving to go stand in the street with drinks in their hands, going to talk and drink in front of Pete’s. There were pool tables set up with mixers and garnishes on top. There was another table covered with funny tee shirts and hats for sale. An embroidered turkey holding a Bloody Mary hat. We bought two at $15.00 a piece. They will get used.
We left Pete’s so we could let the countless others waiting in line to come in and get their Thanksgiving morning cocktails. We stood outside. We walked all around. The weather was perfect. It was quite a holiday morning indeed.
We walked up and down the entire barricaded-off streets. No cars needed or wanted in Beaches Town Center this festive Thanksgiving morning. More people kept coming.
I then heard the strangest screeching sound. First, I thought someone was just having a little too much fun… you know, from all the Bloody Mary’s, Mimosa’s, beer, and countless bottles of champagne sitting in buckets of ice under tents, tended to by the local area businesses.
But then I heard the screech again. Much louder, and much closer to me. I had to stop and look around. What was that strangest of strange sounds?
It was a parrot. Two actually.
And meeting my new parrot friends and holding a parrot for the first time in my life, was another reason all kinds of life goals were achieved Thanksgiving morning of 2019. It wasn't’ the turkey trot, the 5k distance, the act of falling onto pavement, the getting back up and trying once again, not all of that. Been there done that. It was holding a parrot for the first time ever, that really sealed the deal. Yes, it was the best day ever.
The man tending to the parrots told me to just hold my arm out. That he won’t bite me. That I shouldn’t be scared. How could I be scared? The person in front of me was a mere small child holding the parrot, if she could do it, I could do it! The blue one came gently onto my forearm. He slowly inched his way up my arm.
He kept getting closer.
Hello, he said.
Hello! I said to him.
The parrot keeper said this parrot I was holding was 37 years old! I was in shock at that age for a bird, knowing very little about them. I said, oh hello again, I’m 38 years old!
He spoke back to me some more. We were conversing on how good we both look for our similar ages. Sadly, I’m not very sure what he was trying to tell me after that point, though, he kept talking. But yes, we bonded. We’re now friends for life. I miss him already. I tend to think he wished me a Happy Thanksgiving.
So moving onward to walk up and down all of Town Center, there was a stage set up by the beach entryway between One Ocean Resort and The Lemon Bar. There were photo booths. There were food trucks serving Atlantic Beach BBQ, and Cuban sandwiches. And walking beyond all the tents of various alcohol for sale, Southern Grounds was open for business! Southern Grounds is one of my favorite places on this earth. And to see them open on this holiday made my day even that much better.
The Courtyard was packed! There was a singer and guitar player there as well. We walked in and waited in line for coffee. I’ve been there countless times. It was definitely this busiest I’ve ever seen Southern Grounds. The line for coffees and various tempting pastries was wrapped around the store and to the door. Thank you for being open on Thanksgiving and serving fabulous coffee drinks to the post turkey trot racers and the local community.
We sat outside there for a while with our coffees, enjoying the live music.
We walked to the end of the street, by the Bookmark. And leaned by the Neptune Beach police cruisers who help make this friendly and casual street party possible. We stood there and looked down the street and took it all in. We said, THIS is a new tradition.
And it was at that moment, late into the morning, the sun high in the sky, that a thought came through my head. I realized that had I been home right now, I would have been tending to my turkey by this point. It was then at that exact moment yet another thought bubble popped above my head. Yes, there I stood at the far end of the block party, watching all the fun, the easily thousands of people, thinking it was the best day ever; and my thought bubble informed me that my turkey was still sitting patiently in our freezer.
Ha. I finally did it. I am 38 years old after all. I had forgotten to defrost our turkey this year! That never happened to me before. It was bound to happen; after all, I am as old as a blue and yellow parrot.
It was either my old-age, or maybe I could attribute that act of forgetting about my turkey to all those above-mentioned goals that I’ve been working on. But, never fear, when we got home we put our turkey in a sink of hot water... That helped do the trick. Two big thumbs up to us.
We hung out on the street some more and laughed. When it was time for us to leave, We walked back through the crowds, sipping our coffee, taking it all in, saying goodbye to Pete’s Bar. I will definitely be back. I texted my family and said they really should be considering spending Thanksgiving in the South with us next year. It was the day of days. And we hadn’t even cooked yet. I still had tons of good food to look forward to! Yeah, it really was the best day ever.
Now, it’s your turn to have your best day ever. Stop resolving. Stop waiting. Stop being patient for January 1 to come rolling on by. January 1 is NOT your start date. TODAY is your start date. Whatever it is you are wanting. Whatever you are dreaming up inside your head. Whatever throughout bubble forms in the clouds in the sky above your brain. Stop waiting. And start doing. Listen to those bubbles. They may be delicate but they tend to be the thoughts that shine the most.
And when you fall, and you fall hard, let others pick you up if need be. Know that you will fall at some point. It’s guaranteed actually. Because you cannot achieve without failure.
There is always darkness before the dawn. So accept your fall on the hard ground for what it is. A moment. Get up once again. Let others help. Dust yourself off. And keep going. Cause no matter what day it is, It’s ALWAYS a good day for doing something you’ve always dreamed.
So get started today. Set a goal today.
Get out there and make this day, this very Black and very random of Friday’s, the very best day of your life. ~
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