11/29/2019 0 Comments
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. ~
11/25/2019 0 Comments
This past weekend kicked off the Grand Opening of Jax Beach’s Deck The Chairs for 2019! Wahoo! My favorite time of the year is officially here.
While Thanksgiving is just around the corner, Christmas can never really come too early for me. Lights and trees, garlands and bows, ribbons and wreaths galore, popping up in every town along the coast… and it's all beyond beautiful to me.
And throughout all of Jacksonville there is an endless list of holiday adventures for both young and old alike, and all are starting right now.
We have Jacksonville’s Light Boat Parade, the San Marco Festival of Lights, Zoo Lights, lots of turkey trots, and Santa and reindeer runs aplenty. We also have St. Augustine’s 26th Annual Nights Of Lights which began this weekend as well; and it runs all the way through February 2, 2020! And of course much, much more. There’s way too much to ever take it all in - inside of one holiday season alone.
That’s why I’ll try to aim to attend at least roughly one or two new things each Christmas, and I then have some must-do holiday traditions as well. And Jax Beach’s Deck The Chairs is one of those such traditions.
It’s my HOLIDAY MUST DO.
It’s my CAN’T MISS.
And I think most other folks in town feel the same way. Besides all of our local area town tree lightings, if you live in Jax Beach, or close by in one of the other area island communities, Deck The Chairs is THE event of the season… here at the beach.
The iconic symbol of our town - the lifeguard chair - utilized all throughout the year by our brave and all-volunteer lifeguards, are brought over to Seawalk Pavilion by more volunteers, and set into perfect and matching rows in the center of town square. The chairs become uniformed soldiers… just as in March of the Wooden Soldiers - only stationary - no marching needed or wanted.
All of those brightly painted orange and quite distinct and uniform chairs then become completely un-uniform and sculpted to holiday-themed perfection, by even more volunteers. A local area business or organization each sponsors a chair and decorates it to their heart's content. I LOVE the uniqueness each chair takes on. And it’s that uniqueness that excites me annually to witness the many differences from one year to the next, one chair to the next.
While the dancing and classic tree is the same, and now iconic to Deck The Chairs in its own way, the little white church is always there front and center too. And children love getting their pictures taken in front of the dollhouse style church, ringing the loud bell... a line begins to form its so very popular. And while that church and tree are always there... lots of the other chairs change decor each year. So it becomes very fun and surprising to see what everyone’s imaginations come up with.
As an artist who paints every day, I can’t help but think I would have quite a lot of fun decking out a chair myself. Each year I go to the event, I contemplate about how I would come up with a theme and design???
Paint onto canvas = holiday decor onto orange chair!
And this year, it is my opinion that Deck The Chairs brought their A Game to The Beach. I’ve attended 2017 and 2018’s events, and this year by far was the most impressive. They’ve definitely stepped it up a notch or two, and I believe we need to give credit where credit is due. The sponsors and volunteers make this event possible, and you could see the dedication toward community spirit in this year’s chairs.
In both previous year’s attendance of the event I saw some plain chairs and chairs with just a sign of sponsor, and lots of lights not working or even connected. I remember last year a whole section was completely unplugged for a very long time so my hubby tried to plug it in and fix it. But this year, each chair was super! Each chair has a theme, and a theme dedicated to their cause.
K9 Warriors has dogs pulling Santa’s sleigh into the sky. A car wash sponsor has bubbles squirting out, and a toy car being soaped up in the wash under the chair... So adorable. “DUUUVAL” is loudly and proudly out on display by our very own Jaguars. And ‘Beaches Go Green’ has a massive octopus made entirely out of plastic waste from the ocean.
In fact, Beaches Go Green was in a league all their own this year. I would guesstimate their massive display took about one quarter of the town square’s entire display space. In coordination with local area schools, they presented an informative walk-through experience, utilizing all recycled materials or garbage re-purposed as art and holiday decor. While also bringing awareness to how all that trash affects the coastal communities and creatures who inhabit them; it was very educational for the public too.
They had displays and posters made entirely of bottle caps, egg cartons, tooth brushes, and seemingly countless single-use plastic water bottles. And the classic jellyfish was back and still alive… thank goodness! The jellyfish is always my favorite part of Deck The Chairs and is also made entirely of trash and repurposed materials. Thank you to Beaches Go Green for the time and dedication it must have taken to put on such a splendid display.
Auntie Anne's Food Truck was selling very tempting food and drink - meaning lots of sugars and carbohydrates. Volunteers in the main event tent were selling hot chocolate and cotton candy, tees and candy canes, and the year’s traditional DTC ornament.
They had a fabulous holiday soundtrack playing on speaker throughout the entire plaza. And when *NSYNC started singing “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” I was beyond thrilled. Thank you from this nineties teen for adding some good ol’ Justin Timberlake and *NSYNC’s Best Song Ever to your beautiful and festive holiday music lineup.
It was lovely and impressive to see small children running up to the volunteer table by the donation box, and to witness a small child happily donate a dollar bill, etc. to the cause, and then run back to their waiting parents. It is by these most simple of acts that we teach future and up and coming generations to keep community traditions alive, and instill values of sharing and giving in our future adults.
I purchased the 2019 Deck The Chairs ornament for $10.00, plus three candy candles for a dollar for the hubby. I was glad to take home a reminder of this lovely event to hang on my tree this upcoming holiday weekend. But most of all, I was glad to partake in the event and donate to the event by purchasing. Always remember that EVERY BODY can do something. Some volunteer. Some donate. Some attend and spread cheer. Some put a quarter or some pennies in the donation box. Anything anybody can do to bring the holiday spirit to others and their community is a positive thing all around.
Overall, the mood was festive, and the community spirit was alive and well. It’s a fabulous way to kick off the holidays. Deck The Chairs is a most spectacular community event here at the beach. I’m still excited about it today and my experience there this weekend. If you are local to the Beaches communities, I highly recommend it; come on out through December nightly to see the brightly lit, and coastal, festive fun. And if you are farther away, do find your local town holiday event and attend it with that community pride and giving spirit that we all can spread to others in our own and unique ways.
Be sure to have some festive fun and spread holiday cheer. Say thank you to the volunteers, or volunteer yourself. Put some change or a paper bill in the donation box if you can, maybe in place of a coffee run this week. Buy a pretzel from Auntie Annes and eat those carbs if you must. Cause any way you slice it, those simple actions are the ones that mean the most. They all add up.
Small change equals massive action… and never forget that.
Be that change you wish to see in this our very own and shareable world.
Community starts with you. It starts and ends at each individual person.
and who you are,
and what makes you you inside,
we wouldn’t be whole.
While we all may celebrate many different and amazing holidays, and all believe in different things and come from very different backgrounds, there is one thing that we can all share with each other regardless of it all. It is in those differences that we make a community, and within a community then resides the spirit of giving, sharing, and family, and friendship. So go and get out there and attend your holiday must-do, give smiles and thank you’s all around, sing along to some JT and wish you and yours a “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” - and most importantly, don’t forget to leave some goodies out for Santa while you’re at it. ~
*Part of Bean’s Baking Series*
With the holidays fast approaching, I’m here to broadcast a friendly reminder. It seems everyone may be a whole lot better off if we all stopped to smell the roses, even for a bit, during this festive, yet often hectic, time of year.
And while according to commercial advertisements, the holidays have already arrived, and yes, Thanksgiving is coming up quickly… whether we like it or not, Christmas will be over in the blink of an eye.
Snap. Just like that.
It’s always over too fast.
Don’t let it all go by so quick that you don’t get to enjoy those special, slow moments.
So between now and that blink occurring, I highly recommend baking some cookies. Whatever cookie you want, just do it. Because baking takes time. It forces you into your kitchen. It makes the oven come alive with wondrous scents.
But baking also allows you to slow down for a bit. There’s no rushing allowed in the baking process. You have to mix your batter to the correct consistency. You can’t undertake. The dough must rise. All of this takes time. And patience.
So don’t wait for the perfect day…
Just bake away.
Because sometimes, in life, you just have to stop what you’re doing and bake some cookies.
To me, food, baking, and the holidays go together like a ham sandwich. Or an oreo cookie. One part just doesn't happen without the other.
And I LOVE to bake throughout the month of December especially. I’ve got quite a few types of cookies in mind that I want to bake this year, so I figured I’d start now with the chocolate chip. Yes, even if it’s the simplest of simple baking… the classic and undeniably original chocolate chip cookie. Baking, and the scent it releases into the home, reminds me of Christmas… Probably because that’s the cookie we put out for Santa! Those, and some carrots, of course.
And baking cookies really doesn’t have to be an all day project. Never forget that dough can be made in advance and then frozen for later. Or even mix the dough on a Saturday, put the bowl in the fridge, and bake on the Sunday. By doing your prepping ahead of time, when it comes time to turn on the oven, it’s then the easiest and most enjoyable part of the process. Just turn the oven light on and watch ‘em bake.
I suppose I could say that chocolate chip cookies are a staple in our house.
Well, not really.
But I want them to be.
Can’t I enjoy cookies as often as I thoroughly enjoy eating slices of completely boring 100% whole wheat bread??? I guess not on that one either.
But if cookies were an everyday food, they wouldn't be as special when you do go ahead and make them, would they?
So that’s why it’s always important to treat yourself. Have those special foods. Don’t eliminate them from your life altogether. Go ahead and eat a cookie once in a while.
And you know those sayings that start off something like:
“You know you’re getting old when…” ???
Well, that thought temporarily crossed my mind the other day.
My entire life I could always simply walk down the baking aisle at the grocery store and quickly grab a bag of Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chips. It was the perfect bag size too… not too big - not too small. And it corresponded with the cookie recipe perfectly, of course.
Well - everything changed.
And I didn’t get the memo.
Never, did I ever have to look up the recipe for chocolate chip cookies online before. Because in the act of grabbing a bag of chips, the recipe was always printed on the back of the bag. That printed recipe would then direct me on through the rest of the grocery store to grab the sticks of butter, vanilla extract, etc. etc.
So, here I am at the grocery store, in said baking aisle. I grab the bag of original Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chips - not the extra dark, not the mint or other random flavors that have been added to its selection over the years, but the original semi sweet that the classic recipe calls for. And the bag might as well have weighed five hundred pounds.
Let’s just say it was the Costco sized version of chocolate chips. And that’s what was available for me to purchase, no other option. They changed their portion size! Gasp. They messed with the original recipe portion. I could always just slice open the bag in the past and pour the chips into the mixing bowl, no measuring required. But this bag was much, much too big. This meant that I would have to go back and remember how many chocolate chips corresponded to the original recipe and divide it out myself or look it up online. Plus, I had to purchase about four hundred ninety nine extra pounds of chocolate chips that I didn’t need.
Never fear, I thought. I could very easily figure out what the portion size should be... I would just read the recipe on the back of the bag to figure it out, right?
I turn the heaping bag of chips around…
The bag reads something along these lines…
“Visit our website for the cookie recipe...”
We have now reached a point in time when the chocolate chip cookie recipe is found online, not on the back of the bag. Too funny.
I did find it funny, and kind of sad, at the same time. Just for a moment.
So there we stood, both hubby and I - in the baking aisle, on our phones, to pull up Google, find the website, and figure out the ingredients I needed to buy. And actually, I’ve made these cookies so many times in my life that I know the recipe by heart. But I still go through the motions and double check the printed version to make sure that I have everything in my cart. And that printed recipe on the yellow bag of chips was always my reminder. So in one trip to the grocery store… they changed the portion size, and took away the printed recipe. Sad face.
The bag of chips ended up being so big, and so much, that I just decided to wing it, and just poured in a ton of chips into the mix in the bowl. I was done. When we got home, I didn’t want to look up one more thing online in order to make and bake my precious and simple little cookies.
I just wanted to be in the kitchen.
Light a lovely cinnamon spice scented candle.
Turn on a podcast to enjoy.
So we guesstimated on the chips. Those cookies we baked were extra tasty this time around.
In a world now where everything is GOOGLED for an answer to life’s problems, I just wanted to solve this minor little dilemma on my own. Not everything needs to be Googled. Not everything needs to be looked up online in order for the decision-making process in one’s brain to take place. Right?
Sometimes you just need to make a decision on your own. Small or big.
Don’t Google it...
Just Do it...
If it comes between guessing and Googling, go ahead and add some extra chocolate chips into the mixing bowl.
(But for all those bakers out there baking to perfection, I have included the ORIGINAL, CLASSIC, NESTLE TOLLHOUSE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE recipe below for all your baking needs.) Yes, you can read the recipe here, but just know you can’t read it on the bag.
So go ahead and make some cookies. Light a candle and listen to something you love… As you mix, and scoop, and watch the dough rise in the oven.
And next time you are faced with the almighty decision of reaching for your phone and pressing G O O G L E, I encourage and challenge you to S T O P right then and there.
Whatever it is, whether it's the address to a destination you are going to drive to, or the answer to why your arm currently hurts, or what the name of the movie Tom Hanks starred in where his character goes back to college after a twenty year career in the navy? Oh, what’s the name? It’s on the tip of my tongue….?????
Don’t GOOGLE it right away.
CHALLENGE your brain for the answer.
Call up the person on the phone whose house you will be driving to and ask them what their address is? Think about Tom Hanks for a while… Contemplate where he is in the movie… think of the setting. Oh yeah... he has a crush on Julia Roberts in the movie? That’s right! I’m getting close…
Oh yeah again!... Julia Roberts is a college professor in the film.
A young and rising star named Rami Malek is also in the film… sitting in the back of the classroom.
The answer is coming to me….!
Oh yes, it’s from 2011 and takes place after the Great Recession. Before you Google up Tom, or Wikipedia search the list of movies he has been in throughout his long and very successful career, ultimately your brain might remember that the name of the movie I am referring to is Larry Crowne.
And Larry Crowne is WELL WORTH a watch by the way. Without giving away any spoilers, his speech at the end is priceless. And is spoken in such a way that only our dear Tom can deliver.
Yes, I AM in love with him.
But challenge that brain. Just as Tom Hanks’ character did in the movie by going back to school. To change. To grow. To nurture his brain.
The funny thing is Julia Roberts’ character in the film ‘suffers’ through listening to her GPS device while driving the same route from home to work every day. It’s not like she can’t remember the route from her house to the school. But it keeps talking to her and telling her where to turn. She was going crazy. Tom Hanks comes along and helps her turn the device off. It was running on auto-pilot and driving her mad during her commute.
While GPS is quite a perk of modern life, it’s definitely not always necessary.
And nope, not all change is bad. Even if the change is sad for a tiny bit of a moment in time while you are standing in the baking aisle at the Winn Dixie. And think, am I getting old? No, you’re not getting old. The world is just spinning onward a little bit more.
In the movie, Larry Crowne suffers some sadness and heartbreak. But because of those aches, he was also able to change his life most definitely for the better.
I picked up Larry Crowne from the Jacksonville Public Library. I had seen it before, and always remembered it for the speech Larry gives. It was well worth another watch, and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s one of those films that has it all.
Romance. Sadness. Tears.
Action... If you count riding around town on a scooter with a scooter gang - action.
Comedy, and A LOT of laughter.
So next time you’re looking for a film to watch, choose to revisit one from 2011, instead of one from 2019.
Stop and smell the roses once in a while.
Or the radishes.
Order a cup of classic Hot Chocolate. Yes, with the whipped cream on top.
Look up at the stars in the sky. And remember that each one is so very different from the other.
Get up early and watch the sun rise.
Because just as each chocolate chip cookie is unique from the next…
One sun rise
Is never the same
As the other.
Embrace change. Go with it. But challenge it too.
And stop what you’re doing once in a while, bake something delicious, and put some out for Santa. ~
Christine’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (Just slightly amended from the Official Nestle Tollhouse Recipe)
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of butter softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup densely firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 bag of 12 ounce package (2 cups) semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix everything but the chips together slowly into a creamy dough, stir, then by hand or with a spoon as it gets thicker
Add chips last and mix and mix by hand together
Scoop roughly tablespoon drops of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet
Bake roughly 9-11 minutes
Cool on the sheet for about two minutes
Then cool on cooling rack completely
Share & Enjoy! ~~
I’ve dreamed of visiting a Southern Living Idea House for probably as long as I’ve known of the idea itself. Fascinated with their magazine, I always read the Idea House stories, soaked in the advertisements inviting the public to come see, and desperately wanted to attend a tour. And then, this year the Southern Living Idea House was literally right next door to me! How could I not go?
I snagged up tickets in practically the same breath I found out about the events location. I live in on San Pablo Island, and just a few island hops north of me sits Amelia Island. Crane Island is a very small island within Amelia island… Have you ever been to such a place? An island within an island? I have fortunately, many times, and it never gets old.
Hop onto an island… and then hop onto yet another island… that is housed within the confines of and accessed by that larger island. Fascinating, right? Crane Island is its own island on Amelia Island.
To me, Amelia Island’s natural barriers seem like true southern low country. The tides practically touched the exterior of the home we toured, and all the surrounding properties on the quaint island. Breathtaking live oaks surround the islands exterior and draping over the roads leading there, along with nature at its best anywhere you look once upon Crane Island. Crane is a mere tiny little place, located right next door to the Amelia Island Airport. It’s somewhat off the beaten path, and with lots of round-abouts, difficult to find, without GPS.
We booked our tickets through the Eventbrite App - two tickets at $22.00 each, plus fees. It was worth every penny. Of course I took the hubby along - myself, going purely for the interior design and decorating features, and my husband, always interested in the architectural features of a home.
Back in Illinois, and prior to our move down south, we used to live in a home that was dated from 1840. A very old home by my standards, residing in a small strip of a national historic district… and always something wrong with it. So while I called it my very own Green Gables, it was also very much my very own version of The Money Pit. When we moved and sold our Green Gables, I was sick and tired of old. I just wanted new.
I also think that’s why I love the Southern Living Idea House. The whole concept of the Idea House is to showcase and put right out on display, both for tours and in print, the newest of the new ideas out there in architecture and design, appliances, and decor. My roughly 170 year old home in Illinois had definitely taken its toll on me, and us both, and I’m not interested any more in learning how in the strange and backward ways the pipes were set up, or how I couldn't renovate the bathroom into exactly what I wanted because my head already was hitting the roof while standing in the shower - and I wasn’t about to move the roof. That old house was a dream home, an ideal home, for a tiny bit of time. And once all the money kept leaving our wallets and then some just to keep it standing, the gray hairs it gave me were no longer worth it to me. I was glad to say goodbye to our old house, even though we did truly love it, with all its quirks.
And now we live in a small, but very new, apartment. New everything. New pipes. New walls. New electrical sockets. A cable hook up...Sigh... It’s nothing luxurious by any means, but it new might as well be luxury to my brains expectations, based on my brains past experiences.
So going from old house, to small apartments, it was great for my eyes to then feast on yet another way of life… how the other half lives… Ha. The Southern Living Idea House we toured this weekend is for sale… Yes, it’s for sale for a mere $4,300,000.
And with over 4,500 square feet of living space, and a half acre of property, right on the coast, I could never even begin to imagine the life of the future owner. How does anyone afford such a place?... That was sometimes the only question my brain could think and process while touring the massive home. I can’t even fathom how much money a person has to earn to purchase this life, or earn to maintain that said life??? But while I can’t grasp the financial implications of such a property, and nor do I even want to - I can grasp all the design. All the decor. Better yet… All the Christmas decor!
Honestly, that’s really all I was interested in - about the home itself. It was decorated BEAUTIFULLY!!! I can’t emphasize that enough! So tasteful, so modern, but classic at the same time. Nothing - not one thing in the entire home - screamed at me that it was going to be out of style any time soon.
I think that's why I love classic design. It’s classic because it stands the test of time. Some of my favorite pieces of wooden furniture I own in my own home are the oldest ones. The ones with history. The classic ones that match anywhere. I loved the feeling and vibe given off by all the furniture and design throughout the entire Idea House. I love how warm and inviting and cozy it all was. This Idea House had all of that. All of that and then some.
And the holiday decor was the added touch that made the entire home quite special indeed. It was heavenly to tour. I couldn’t help but think my mom would LOVE this outing if she was down here in Florida with me. Just come on down for the weekend and go with me? I thought.
Mom is the one who got me utterly and completely hooked on all things magazine. And while I’ve tried to change and adapt with the times to read digitally if at all possible, there’s just something not the same as holding a paper copy of a magazine to read. Flip through, and glance at all the pictures.
Reading a paper book or magazine to my is literally like that scene in Full House (the original, not the re-make), when little Michelle Tanner hears the ice cream truck driving past the house.
She screams, “Ice cream man,” on repeat.
She takes her piggy bank.
She shakes it. And shakes it.
She screams for money from her piggy bank. “Give me back my money, YOU PIG!”
She yells at her bank, shaking it still. But the bank is ceramic, and she doesn’t yet know how to release her funds from his belly. In the meantime, the ice cream truck is heard driving away and they miss him entirely. Her older sister DJ tells that they have ice cream in the freezer… just go eat THAT ice cream.
But it’s not the same,” says Michelle.
It’s not the same. It's definitely not the same thing as going to get ice cream, out of a truck, on the street, in front of your home. The action can’t be replicated. It’s not the act of eating said ice cream, it’s where the ice cream is coming from before it enters your mouth.
Michelle Tanner understood that much as a very small child. She knew how she wanted to spend her funds from her piggy bank. It was the experience that Michelle really wanted, not necessarily just the ice cream.
And sometimes digitally reading something is not the same as reading it in print… on paper.
Flipping the pages at your leisure.
Bookmarking your spot… and closing the cover.
And then looking at the beautiful cover as the magazine sits and takes a rest break on your coffee table or ottoman. Or putting the hard bound book back on the book shelf after finishing it. To keep the book after reading, add it to your book collection, and gaze upon it and dream of what adventures it holds inside its pages.
Paper is just not the same as digital, even though the content itself can be the same. Reading a paper magazine is the act of eating ice cream out of a truck - not just eating straight from your freezer.
And all my many years of reading about homes and their decor and their paint colors and swatches to match, while flipping the pages, in magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies Home Journal, Woman’s Day, Martha Stewart Living, Coastal Living, and Southern Living - studying home layouts, and countless before and after images - all of that does not compare one bit to seeing one of those described and written about and photographed homes - in person.
It was a simple outing. About just over an hour from home. $22.00 per person. But it was a dream. Realized.
Pulling up to the Idea House, walking in, and opening the door to be wowed by the visualization, was a real dream - come true.
The home was stunning. It did truly WOW me. Visually, the exterior was very natural, and seemed to camouflage into its surroundings. In fact, we walked out onto the slip to view the home from afar, and while the trees covered most of the homes vantage point from that angle all the way out on the water, I knew the home was right there, mostly nestled in and blended into its natural surroundings.
Living in Florida for a few years now, I couldn’t help but notice right away how high the water already was, and how very close to the home the water was sitting. If a hurricane came through, I do fear for the Idea House in that situation. New or not. Quality construction, or not. Newest building codes and hurricane proof windows, etc. etc. notwithstanding. I’ve now lived through a few hurricanes in the south, and that’s more than I ever want to. And all the building codes and 200 mile per hour wind proof this or that, doesn’t really matter to me - once one is bearing down on us. It’s a feeling of doom and gloom, either way, so I honestly didn’t care about how strong the house was, and therefore, didn't pay much attention to those features of the home… I only knew if a hurricane was heading its way, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near its location, baby steps from already high and some choppy waters that day.
But regardless of the homes strength and quality construction, it was a fabulous set up. The home has a lot of stairs, so it’s definitely not for someone who doesn’t like a lot of exercise while hanging out at home. We entered through the foyer stepping directly into the great room - the main living room of the home. To the left is the master bedroom, residing on the same main level. With wrap-around patios and porches all facing the water... Every direction there was water - there was an outdoor porch for viewing and contemplation.
To the right is the kitchen and dining room as well as a massive beast of a laundry room. The laundry facility was so big, to me, it might as well be laundry for a large-scale hotel operation. Almost unimaginable to me, but at the same time, I loved every inch of that room. I do a LOT of laundry, and I actually think that room may have been my favorite part of the Idea House.
There are two set of stairs to second floor sleeping and more living areas - each set of stairs and second story does not connect to the other set of stairs or second level in any way. This leaves two very separate living and sleeping areas from each other. We were told it was set that way so one of the upper areas could be utilized as an in-law living arrangement, complete with its own bathroom, and slightly separated from the remainder of the home.
All of it, the entire home, was quite a set up. Not for me though, ha - much too big. Much too much to keep clean. Just the act of vacuuming all the sets of stairs would probably take me half a day. But of course, someone who can afford all that, can probably afford to hire a housekeeper to keep all of that very clean for them... I heard many people commenting while touring the home. Laugh out loud… I can’t even imagine such a life living in this enormous house.
And while my brain and imagination do have major difficulties visualizing and understanding the cost that goes into this home, its purchase, and its deep maintenance costs living directly next to salty waters and salty air, my brain very much aimed right into the decor.
I really enjoy seeing how a home is decorated, if merely to take some of those ideas, put them into puzzle pieces in the back of my brain, close that lid on that puzzle, and keep them ready for a rainy day. Pinterest in my brain. I’ll then take those ideas out of my brain closet and see how I can work something unique into my own decor. At some later date and well into the future, something will spark a memory, and two puzzle pieces will fit together into a fabulous project for me to complete on my own.
I loved all the holly/berry for the holidays mixed in with their everyday decor. And I was definitely inspired to find some holly of my own. I’m assuming I can find some quite inexpensively, as I have in the past, and make my own small swags for Christmas time to enjoy.
I was inspired by the wallpaper that was hand-etched into backsplashes and as a main accent wall feature. What a neat and modern twist to the old and very messy wallpapers of the past.
I loved the furniture and its placement throughout. Complete feng shui to my brain. Rooms set up to flow together, but defined and separate as well.
I absolutely adored the gingerbread house little accents acting as place settings on the dining room table. I’ve already put that idea directly into the back of my brain for a future project.
I loved basically everything about the home, really. I must say the only real thing I didn’t like about the concept, was of how much such a home and lifestyle would cost someone. That cost is really the only thing that I couldn’t shove into my brain, and wouldn’t want to, and definitely wouldn’t want to take home with me. But I adored everything else about the home.
PROS AND CONS ~~ OF THE EXPERIENCE ITSELF
While everything and them some I mentioned above was a pro, and the cost alone is the big and obvious con to me, I wanted to detail for you some features of the experience itself, in case you want to put the Southern Living Idea House tour onto your to-do list for a future outing, or even ahead to a future years Idea House. You’ll have some details on what to expect about the day itself.
And since any time I’m doing pro and cons I’m a fan of ending on a positive note if at all possible, I’m going to start here with my cons, and I’ll end with my pros:
***NON-TRANSFERRABLE - AND NO REFUNDS***
Rain or shine, your ticket is good only for the day purchased. Non-transferable, if you can’t come that day, there is no transfer or refund available. And earlier this week we had sort of a minor emergency in our household, so we both thought we were going to be out of luck and not get to go to the Idea House on our ticketed date - and we were definitely saddened by that. But alas, God answered my countless prayers this week to end our emergency, and the situation did end up working itself out, all was right in our world, and we could attend this weekend as originally planned. Just know, if you purchase tickets - no transfers - and no refunds.
***NOTE THE STAIRS - AND LACK OF RESTROOMS AVAILABLE FOR THE TOURING PUBLIC***
While I previously stated the cost didn’t break the bank, and I justified the cost in my mind… also in my mind, when someone pays $22.00 per person for something, I basically expected and assumed they would have a restroom available. And I was definitely not the only one under that assumption. Countless times I heard people asking where the restroom was. We traveled by auto ferry across the river, and hopped from island to island, drove over an hour in the car, onto Amelia Island and then onto the smaller Crane Island for this outing. And I’m sure others came from afar as well. I have an extremely healthy lifestyle now, and drink a lot of water, on the regular. When you pay for something like this, they really need to have a bathroom available to the public. And if there wasn’t going to be one, they should have mentioned it in the ticket specifications. I do read the fine print. It wasn’t there.
There were also a lot of older people at the event and I could tell the stairs were a challenge for them. If you’re going, plan for lack of restrooms and lots and lots of stairs. I’m not afraid to ask, so myself and many others had to line up and use the ‘unavailable’ and formal bow-tied toilet during the outing. So expect lack of facilities, or going where you technically aren't supposed to be going. With a whopping 5.5 bathrooms in the house, and charging what they do to get all the way out onto the sparsely populated island upon island, plus the lack of public facilities on Crane Island itself, they really need to have a facility available for the touring public. Note - I did share these opinions in my feedback survey they asked me to complete.
At $22.00 per person, I do consider the cost reasonable. I easily could have seen them charging roughly $40.00 per person, and getting away with it, before it became an unreasonably expensive outing for what you are paying for. And $22.00 is not cheap by any means, but at that price, I was able to really have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, share that experience with my hubby, soak in all of this beauty, and not break the bank too much.
The Southern Living Idea House is open and available to the public for a few months. Basically autumn through about mid-December. There are still tickets available, and many date options to choose from as well. The last available ticket purchase date on Eventbrite is for December 15th, 2019. If you are in the area, or this is something you are very interested in attending, I highly recommend going online now and buying you tickets… only a few weeks left! Plus, they were taking cash at the door, for anybody who just stumbled upon the place, or operates in last-minute mode. And cash at the door, I’m assuming, will alleviate the small fees charged by Eventbrite for booking, as well.
While the Idea House has been open for a few months, earlier this week there was another Grand Opening of the home - in its new holiday attire. The Idea House being decorated for Christmas in the South intrigued me immensely. As soon as I knew there was to be decor for the upcoming holidays, I knew I wanted to book my ticket for after that second grand opening so we could see the home decorated. And it was definitely worth it.
And while none of the frosted, sprinkled, and decorated sugar cookies put out on display throughout the home were for us to eat (yes, they did make a point of telling us that much) the event itself can’t help but get someone in the holiday spirit. Plus, I really can’t wait much longer now in anticipation of baking my own Christmas cookies.
Yes, there’s definitely something a bit extra special during the holidays, anywhere you go. And the holiday decor was in each and every room of the house, including the food pantry - which was stocked with peppermints, cookies, and Santa tins. You just can’t miss the holiday spirit when something is decked out in its finest of apparel.
All in all, it was one fabulous outing. It was a 100% Michelle Tanner eating ice cream directly out of the ice cream truck type of outing for me. One that I’m thrilled I was in the vicinity and location to attend for the first time in my life. I probably wouldn’t do it again though - as I’d probably spend my next $22.00 per person on something completely different altogether. But it was worth it - it was worth the travel and the cost to attend. I do very much highly recommend going if the opportunity presents itself. And if you can’t make it to this years event, watch and read Southern Living Magazine in anticipation for their 2020 location.
Yes, It’s definitely good to eat ice cream directly from an ice cream truck once in a while. After all, not all ice cream is created equal.
I now challenge y’all to get out there and do something similar - whether it’s something small like a delicious ice cream cone from an ice cream shop you don’t normally frequent, or something as big as seeing an IDEA House, or bigger - but either way, get out there and do something that your eyes have only ever seen in print, only gazed upon while flipping through the pages of a book or magazine. Get out there and feast your eyes on something beautiful - in real life. ~
**Editorial Note: All photos in this article are by Christine Pieper (Christine’s Floridian Dreams) and by Bryan Pieper (BEPREADY).
The scene is referring to a bed-bound woman who is being cared for by her neighbors. But the woman is never happy with her level of free care; never satisfied, never pleased. And she’s certainly never grateful of the others who are taking the time out of their lives to care for her. She has come to expect this care, and then still proceeds to complain about it. At some point in the film the people vent their frustrations about her (while still never giving up on her)... They declare and come to a vocal realization about her ongoing complaints and extreme levels of ungratefulness. They call her “cantankerous.”
They realize the most simple of facts… When they are offering her one thing, she wants the complete opposite. Almost as if out of spite. The woman is never able to be satisfied in any way whatsoever.
If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend viewing it. I’ve watched this film repetitively throughout my youth and I’m pretty near confident I have most of the lines memorized. I would say the film is basically about Pollyanna’s affect on those around her… With Pollyanna being introduced to a new home, a completely new way of life, and with that new life, a whole bunch of new people brought into her world.
And she plays ‘The Glad Game’ with all of them. Always finding something to be happy about, no matter the circumstance.
Without giving any spoilers for those who haven’t seen and may be inclined to watch… valuable life lessons are learned throughout the film, especially when things don’t go one's way.
And sometimes that’s just how life really is.
You expect a certain something, but you are thrown a certain something else completely.
Life is about how you handle those things you are thrown.
If you live your life fully and completely and are truly happy, you may understand that life is not about your wants and desires and dreams that haven’t been fulfilled and might never be… life is really about how you react to your certainties, your abilities, your strengths, and your weaknesses.
Life is sorta just like the saying goes…
Life is 10% reality, and 90% your reaction to that reality.
Please re-read that previous sentence. Soak it in. You can do whatever you want in life, merely by your reactions. Your reactions become your reality. With that key - you can unlock the potential to your complete happiness. So if you don’t have the reality you want, react to your reality, and that reaction will become your new reality. Life is your reaction, life is your perspective. PERSPECTIVE. MATTERS.
You can continually sit and complain and wait, and wait, and wait for LIFE to arrive at your doorstep. OR, you can go out there and catch life along the way and enjoy the journey you are on.
I’ll give you a simple and silly example. My hair has never cooperated with me - like, ever. My hair is the stuff of jokes, of classic Florida memes. My hair is the hair in the YouTube joke videos of Florida Woman stepping outside her air-conditioned vehicle, and two seconds later her hair is completely puffed out... along with her sunglasses being fogged up, and she can’t see a thing. It doesn’t matter if I had a salon style blow-dry treatment worth hundreds of dollars or more. When my hair hits that Florida humidity, it turns into its own living creature. Completely wild and untamable.
My hair is the Velociraptor in the first Jurassic Park who eats alive the Newman character from Seinfeld.
And usually, I just roll with it. I go with the flow. I have become really used to it. My hair doesn’t do what I want it to do... Ok…. Whatever… Sigh… And then I throw it in a ponytail and go on with my day.
And keep in mind that yes, I’ve tried all kinds of products and spent a ton of money on all kinds of tools and strategies and types of shampoos, etc. It doesn’t matter, my hair does what IT wants, not what I want.
But I don’t throw a fit. I work around IT.
I buy beautiful and colorful and fun barrettes to help attempt to calm it down. I buy fun and cheapo colored rubber bands to hold it all together, and I go through a million of them, as my hair is also so thick it breaks rubber bands way too frequently.
And so, well over a year ago now while visiting up in Illinois, I was getting my hair cut and styled buy my favorite hair stylist in all of the entire world. Her name is Faith. And she is a living, breathing example of exactly that - FAITH.
If you’re having a bad day… go see Faith. If you want someone to talk to, or listen to, just go see Faith. She’s like a frosted Christmas sugar cookie from a bakery, alive and breathing. You can’t see Faith and NOT have your day brightened in some way. Plus, you’ll have an absolutely gorgeous head of hair when you leave her station.
Faith is a Pollyanna to me. You just can’t go see her and not be glad afterward. She is a living version of Pollyanna’s Glad Game.
And I value Faith’s opinion greatly. Not only is she an absolutely wonderful human being, Faith is the only one on Earth who can work miracles on my hair. I leave her station refreshed, and with hair set for a night on the town - even if I’m only going out for some good ol’ Chicago style pizza afterward.
And the last time I saw Faith, which was much too long ago I might add, I was contemplating all of these above thoughts. I could sit in her chair, with my jaw dropped, watching her in the mirror fix up my hair to perfection. Mesmerized. I’m always in awe of what she is able to do with my wild hair.
I knew as I watched her doing it that I could never replicate it myself. Awestruck, I asked her what brand of straightening product she recommends for at-home use. At the time she mentioned BabylissPro. I had never heard of it, but kept the name in the back of my mind.
Later on, after my visit up in Illinois was complete, and I was back home down in the hot and very humid Sunshine State, I was thinking about BabylissPro, as I gazed upon my completely humidified and wild head of hair in the mirror. I did some research about straighteners, and quality straighteners, and I found the product online at Ulta.
Coincidentally, I had just previously signed up for Ulta’s awesome rewards program. So I researched which one I wanted. I decided that my hair needed the BabylissPro Nano Titanium Ionic Straightening Iron with the ceramic heater and the 1 ¾ inch thick titanium plate. The cost came to a whopping $139.95, before tax and shipping.
With new knowledge of the high price, instead of splurging on yet another hair care purchase, and not even knowing if it would do anything to help or if I was going to be wasting some real legit money, I decided to save up for the straightener with my Ulta Rewards.
I then bought all our soaps and lotions and makeup and shower gels and lip balms, etc. etc. etc. for well over a year. At some point I obtained the coveted Platinum status, and then started earning 1.25 points for every dollar spent.
Every time I needed a skin care product and was at the grocery store, I instead told myself I would order it on Ulta to get the points. Every month we got a box from Ulta in the mail. Every month I earned points. I saved my points and I saved my points. And I finally redeemed 2,100 points just a few weeks ago, ecstatic. My very own BabylissPro was finally on its way to my front door.
Ulta is very, very slow - religiously slow - with their deliveries. I waited and waited for my product to arrive. When it finally got here I couldn't wait to try it out. And I had just washed my hair when it arrived at our door; a full head of long, wet, ridiculous hair. I decided to wait for my hair to be fully dry to try out my BabylissPro for the first time. I patiently waited until the following morning, and then finally, I plugged in for it’s trial run.
First, I used a bottle of dry shampoo on my hair, sprayed it on in bursts, brushed it out, and waited a bit. I repeated that process. I turned on the product for the first time, and rested it on top of my Vera Bradley heat-resistant sleeve I was going to use to store it in. I clipped my hair into sections using some very ancient hair clips that came with an old hair dryer from years ago. I had no idea how to test if my new Baby was hot or not. The box stated that it can reach up to 450 degrees. Well, that sounded pretty hot to me!
It was set for 300 degrees when I plugged it in. I decided to leave it at that temperature for my first use. I envisioned in all of my clumsiness burning off my hair that I have been patiently growing long for a few years now, and starting a fire on top of my head. 300 degrees sounded plenty hot for a test drive.
I was so scared to touch it. I picked it up and touched the heat pad it was resting on to test if it felt hot. I started straightening. And - It worked! Instantly! Well, not instantly, but it started to work right away.
And, Yes! I actually tamed my wild, humid, Florida hair. It was worth all the money in the world. I was so satisfied with the product that I honestly would have paid even more, knowing how well my hair turned out. I felt it was the “fanciest” my hair ever looked by my own handiwork.
And it only took AN HOUR! Ha. No joke. It took me one whole freaking hour and I still could have worked much, much longer on it. I would say I could have spent at least another half hour on it to just maybe get it even near perfect. As you can see from the photo, it was definitely not perfect, but it was so shockingly improved, that I didn’t recognize my own hair. Around fifty minutes into the process I thought to myself…
Wow…. And I haven’t even burned myself yet!
Gosh... I’m so proud of myself… of this miraculous skill and talent I have for straightening my own hair! [Crediting only myself completely in my own mind, and not the expensive and very high quality product, but of course.]
And… of course... that’s right when I burned myself. I grabbed the plate the wrong way for a mere millisecond… And I screamed bloody murder!
300 degrees of heat, smooshed into my pointer finger… I dropped my BabylissPro in agony. I screamed again!
It was at this point I finally decided it might be best to stop straightening for the day. After an hour of hard work, and completely dripping with sweat, I finally decided I probably should just give it a rest. I knew I could keep straightening and straightening - maybe for another hour? How long would it take to fully straighten this wild hair? But after I burned my finger I knew I finally had enough for the day.
And I was absolutely thrilled!!! I honestly didn't expect it to look even half as good as it did. I expected NOTHING. I expected the same wild hair.
But I had the patience to try. I had the patience to wait over a year and earn up the product through reward points. I had the patience to stand in the bathroom mirror for an hour and work on it. I was very pleased with the outcome...
And then I went outside.
Into the Florida air.
And that was the end - of the perfect hair.
Florida heat, and extremely high coastal winds off the shore that day, blew all my hard work into oblivion; and almost immediately. Much as I had expected. A rubber band and ponytail were very much needed later that day. I didn’t care though. And I would do it again.
I am very pleased with the product. I highly recommend it. Yes, I’ve had many types of straighteners in the past, and no, none of them have done this well of a job. Mind you, all the former products I owned were very inexpensive, drug-store type products, costing well under $20.00; or found collecting dust from some random bottom shelf in the shampoo aisle at the grocery store. My BabylissPro was definitely the best, and most high-quality straightener I ever purchased.
I am looking forward to straightening my hair again, very soon. Actually, I need to remind myself that I can do this to my hair every single day if I really wanted to - now that I have my very own BabylissPro! But who wants to spend an hour in front of the mirror? For that? Every day? When there are so many other things I could be doing? No thank you. I’m so glad I own it, I envision using it a lot. But definitely not on the regular.
For now, and today, It’s the usual ponytail for me. It’s a head of hair that’s not cooperating with me in any way whatsoever. A head of hair that has its own mind, and is stubborn as heck, and wants the complete opposite of what I want it to do.
My hair is the CANTANKEROUS neighbor in Pollyanna.
When my hair decides to be curly, I’m trying to straighten it. When I’m trying to curl it, my hair wants to be flat and boring. When I want a thin head of hair, my hair puffs out trying to reach the ends of the Earth... As if it’s been ZAPPED into an electrical socket.
Faith has told me that she sees many clients who would die for my curly, thick hair. Ha! OMG - I think. Who would want this?! I want the absolute opposite of what I’ve been given.
If the hair is naturally straight, they want it curled, if the hair is curled, they want it straightened. Cantankerous, folks!
The people in Pollyanna’s new world are dealt some serious blows. Life knocks them for a loop. In their own small town kind of way, there is drama, sadness, and of course, much happiness. But their lives in the film are merely how they react to what has happened to them. Aunt Polly, who, never been married, no children of her own, no husband or current love in her life, is dealt an orphan child arriving on her doorstep. Pollyanna. To come live with her. How will she raise a child? How will she react to Pollyanna? How will Pollyanna react to her? And the ripple effect of other people throughout the film that have change brought to them because of Pollyanna’s introduction into their lives.
Change happens. Whether we want it or not. It’s coming. There’s no stopping it.
Change is life.
Faith is life.
And Faith is a good thing to have.
If you don’t have a Faith in your life, go out and get one. Maybe Faith will be in the form of your hair stylist. Maybe Faith will be a frosted green and red sprinkled Christmas sugar cookie you pick up at the bakery. Maybe you will make your own Faith. Any way you get it, grab ahold of your Faith, and go.
Whether you want them to or not, the wheels are turning. Nothing stays the same.
How will you react to that change is the biggest question of all?
Life IS change. My hair IS my hair. How I handle it is how I look, and how I appear, and is who I am. I can be all fancy and have a professional style blowout every day, spending hours in front of the mirror, and there's nothing wrong with that! But it’s usually just not for me. Most of the time, I throw my hair into a ponytail, and get out there, and live my life.
Life is your TIME. Life is your REACTION. LIfe is your PERCEPTION. Now get out there, grab a rubber band and put your hair up if you need to… and LIVE. ~
Within “The Beaches” area, as it's commonly known to both locals and tourists alike, reside the small towns of Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach - and the town I now call my home - Jacksonville Beach. These three communities, along with a few more small towns, make up the modest coastal barrier island, that is both officially and unofficially, known as San Pablo Island.
San Pablo Island is located just off the eastern coast of Florida, and nestled next to the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The name of the island itself here is not known to most people… they tend to simply call home - The Beaches. And there’s yet even one other mysterious nickname given to our island home appropriately classifying it as ‘No-Name Island’ - very much reminding me of the funky, quirky, and strange and sometimes hilarious, names of some of the famous Key islands to our south.
But San Pablo Island has a rich and dated history going back hundreds of years, and even much, much longer. A vibrant Native American history lives and breathes here, and the Timucuan Indians lived here in the 1500’s, when a French explorer came upon the area. We now have the Timucuan Reserve named after them.
And while there’s a small and extremely old, weathered and worn, and really just a completely dilapidated sign welcoming you as much as you drive through our town - ‘You Are Now At San Pablo Beach’ it reads, (named after the San Pablo River)... I can only imagine how old that sign really is. And as the sign is so very old and worn, it seems to just camouflage itself to the natural grasses surrounding it. Many pass by daily not even seeing it.
We also locally have San Pablo Road, just off the Island and paralleling the intracoastal, and we have Pablo Avenue, right here at the beach.
A lot goes into a name… when you consider branding, logo, tourism, marketing, publicity, hotels and restaurants and newspapers and any press; history, town pride, changing times and culture, refrigerator magnets, tee-shirts, trinkets and treasures for visitors to take home, etc. Some years ago there was a push and really quite a major effort to help rebrand our area to more “officially” be called San Pablo Island. Hotels and the tourism industry in general liked the idea and I believe they still do. A name helps classify a location and familiarize those traversing to or through. A name slightly broad and confusing as “The Beaches” - plural - is not very brand-worthy it seems, except to those who already know the area and/or reside here.
And as those things tend to do, the effort and move to name-change seemed to stall, and fall apart in meetings and such. As many of those such changes and requests for changes tend to die out... Thus, today, we are still known as “The Beaches” to most, and confusion reigns for the tourism industry here.
In comparison, Amelia Island, located just to the north of us, is known as that - ‘Amelia Island.’ They seem to know their history, are ok with picking a name and staying with it, and they honor it well.
Princess Amelia, daughter of George II of Great Britain, is for whom the Island is named. But Amelia Island has a very rich and fascinating history as well, and they seem to be slightly more proud of it and they do a great job in educating the public of that history.
You absolutely cannot visit Amelia Island without learning upon arrival of the history of the eight flags. Signs will tell you as much and show you as much upon entry to the island. With my father being a huge history buff, I remember thinking at the time of learning about the eight flags that he would find it fascinating.
Amelia Island is famously known as “The Isle of Eight Flags” and is the only location in all of the United States with such a unique history. It simply means that the island has had power transferred through eight different flags before finally obtaining its current and official status as part of these United States. The history of the eight flags is known and proud on the island. When I first found that piece of information out I was utterly fascinated. And standing in great contrast is the tiny old and worn sign welcoming you to San Pablo Beach, here on San Pablo Island. It’s a welcome sign that really seems to get no care or concern, but it does its job every day and welcomes you to our island.
Pablo Avenue lies just a few blocks from our worn and ancient welcome sign, and its therein that lies The Beaches Museum. A Museum that celebrates Culture, History, and Community. And while our dated welcome sign doesn’t have much appeal, the Beaches Museum does. The history of this area is not very well-known to most, and this museum does an absolutely fabulous job of educating the public on our heritage and historical facts thereof. This historical marker and living piece of history is also a place most people drive past every day, and may not even know if its existence. In fact, I’ve lived right here in town just alongside it and had never visited it formally. Well, bring an Art Fest into town and I’ll go anywhere.
Hurray! Another Art Fest. And on yet another absolutely gorgeous autumn day in the South. All the variety of arts and celebration thereof here is actually one of the reasons I fell in love with Jax Beach.
This past weekend, The Beaches Museum hosted the 6th Annual Beaches Art Fest. It was a must-do for me. And while I had just recently attended the Jax Beach Vintage Flea Market some weeks ago, I had eagerly awaited this event all year as well.
This fest to me, supersedes any other fest around. The art on display is full of passion and color and depth. Every booth has the artist directly on hand to talk with as well which I especially love. And now, after being to many of these events, I’m recognizing names of artists that continue to come back and sell there each year.
I really enjoy how merely slowing strolling from one covered outdoor exhibit to the next that the eye immediately catches the difference in an artist's passion. One may specialize or have a passion for florals, and one may enjoy painting the many unique sunrise and sunsets of the coastal region. One booth was composed of entirely Japanese floral paintings. An artist may have blown glass, and one of the final tents I arrived at had on display works of art made entirely from origami paper. There were necklaces all beautifully arranged with tiny and intricately folded colored papers, making flowers, squares, any shape you could imagine, all folded out on her display table. Everyone, who once they understood what they were looking at, was completely wowed by it. It was a definite surprise to see, as I had never seen anything like it in my life, and it is for those reasons I relish with joy attending these fests each time they come around.
And I must admit I regret extremely not purchasing one of her paper origami necklaces. I also failed to obtain her card, thus, not being able to look up where she will be next. She explained the necklace I had my eyes on was only $29.00 and comes with a beautiful chain as well. A chain of length that I could custom choose. I walked on by, to think about it, and instead purchased a ring that I absolutely adore, from La Soucique Studio, of the aforementioned Amelia Island. It was $35.00 and I was so very pleased with my purchase. I know I can’t buy everything, and I reminded myself that money doesn’t grow on trees, but I do really very much regret not purchasing one of the origami necklaces. I can only hope to see her again at a future arts event and make that my purchase for the day.
While slowly we strolled both up and down San Pablo Street taking in the fest in its entirety, we also walked on through the property and grounds of Beaches Museum. It’s set up as a small historic village, spanning the length of the blocks next to the fest.
And as I had never been previously, I thought it an ideal day to check it out since we were already present literally at its location. Supposedly the museum is open 10am-4pm every Saturday, with free admission. We were somewhat disappointed to find many locked buildings. All we could do was take a quick peek inside most of the historic sites through windows, while the main building remained open and available to use the restroom facilities for fest-goers. We very much enjoyed walking the grounds though, and it was a most perfect autumn day in Florida to witness the natural beauty surrounding the facilities. The museum is home to parties, weddings, art exhibitions, the annual famous Polar Express, and many other such fun events for both adults and children alike. It seems The Beaches Museum has something going on year-round. I just highly recommend calling ahead to verify if you’d like to see the actual inside of some of the buildings.
It was an altogether ideal day in the South for me. And afterward, we ate breakfast, for lunch, at Beach Diner in Atlantic Beach. Every time I’ve been there the owner comes over to say a sweet hello. A much older man, whom you can tell genuinely loves his customers, stopped to talk with us as we ate our delicious meal. As we were paying up at the cash register on the way out I could see him still going round from table to table, smiling with and high-fiving each person he met. A most lovely Saturday on my very own Island… San Pablo Island. It made me smile as we walked to our car. ~
I love bakeries. I love everything created and made by hand inside of bakeries. My favorite bakeries are the small ones - the local ones - the ones that aren’t part of any chain - the ones no one’s ever really heard of, except those who live right there in that same town alongside it.
Sure, I seem to always find time and room for Dunkin and Starbucks, etc. In fact, where else do I run to while on a long road trip but for a Dunkin coffee to keep me awake while I’m driving? But what about all those bakeries scattered across the country that don’t have a drive-thru attached? The bakeries you actually have to get out of your car for, and go inside the building to place your order??? Those bakeries... tend to be the best bakeries.
I like to think that my passionate love of bakeries and their heavenly creations runs in my blood... My grandfather was a baker for well over forty years. And when he wasn’t working, both he and my grandmother were at home. They spent hours upon hours in the kitchen. Always cooking. And always baking. Some of my favorite memories with both of them include time well spent in that small kitchen. My sisters and I helped them cook all kinds of food. But my favorite foods they made were their baked goods, of course.
My Papa taught us how to hand-roll the dough to make kolacky cookies. We always started by pouring flour onto the table-top - that was my favorite part - making a purposeful and deliberate mess. We rolled the dough and we put in the jellied fillings. We watched them bake. My grandparents made hundreds of cookies, each and every Christmas, before their health declined and they could no longer do it. It seemed to me that everyone they knew was given a large and heaping full silver aluminum tray of kolackys to take home and enjoy on the holiday. I’ve yet to be able to replicate those amazing cookies. I am continually determined to try though.
I believe my grandparents teaching us these skills in the kitchen has held influence on my life and transformed my love of food, and really just helped me become the person I am today. Foods are tradition. And when my husband and I bake now, not making nearly as much at a time that my grandparents did in their prime, we are always sure to pass some goodies along to a neighbor, a friend, or to whomever we will be seeing in the coming days.
This holiday season I am looking forward to baking chocolate chip cookies, frosted sugar cookies, and Angeletti cookies with my husband. It is now tradition in my home, and someday I’m going to replicate that kolacky as well… maybe even this year.
When I lived in Illinois, there was an abundance of local bakeries. I could go in any suburb surrounding me, living just outside of Chicago, and find a bakery. There was never a shortage of places to pick up special cookies for Easter, a coffee cake to bring to a party, or a cake for a special occasion. And my hubby’s favorite item served at any bakery are always their frosted sugar cookies. Me - I like the chocolate donuts. Simple, basic, and the best ever.
In my hometown, the Orland Park Bakery is one of God’s best creations. I make it a point to stop there at least once, and most likely always much more than once, every time I go up for a visit.
Some years back, I remember one cold December day, my husband and I decided to make the trek all the way out to Chicago just to visit a local bakery and pick up their special St. Nicholas Day gingerbread cookies. My hubby had them in his youth every year, so we wanted to bring the tradition and memories back, and he really wanted me to try them for the first time.
Well, being a self-proclaimed bakery connoisseur by this point in my life, I should have well known that making the very long trek fighting through Chicago holiday traffic and ridiculously sloppy weather to arrive at a bakery around two in the afternoon... is really not the best time to arrive at a bakery.
Bakeries thrive in the mornings. They are the place to be - in the morning. After almost two hours in the car and arriving mid-afternoon, what in the world was I thinking? We definitely should have gone in the morning for this adventure? But that was a different life I lived, and now I am fully awake by five am daily. Anything later - I tend to consider myself sleeping in.
We parked and walked through the icy cold and the busy and festively decorated street to find the bakery, just about to close. The window displays were empty. And once inside, the shelves were near empty as well. Sold out for the day of all product. I was crushed.
We inquired... And somehow, by some miracle of the bakery Gods up above, they still had a few St. Nicholas Day cookies left… We’ll take them! We were ecstatic. We took all that remained. Thrilled. We also snagged up a pre-arranged box of their sprinkle cookies simply because it was all that reminded for sale, sitting on a counter and patiently waiting to go home with someone. It was only after this outing did I learn that I could actually pre-order special product at bakeries to guarantee them available when I arrive to pick up.
So we were on our way out of the bakery to leave them be as they closed up for the day. It would be many more years before I learned my lesson about “sleeping in” and my enrollment in my own 5am Club membership. To me, at the time, we had simply just ‘lucked out’ that’ they had some cookies left for us to purchase.
We then strolled just a short ways down the street from the bakery and dined at a local Bohemian restaurant. It was an old building, and a place beautifully decorated for the upcoming holiday. It was an altogether lovely outing. An outing entirely revolved around bakery as the destination.
When I moved to Florida, it was my definite perception and really became quite hard to find a good bakery. They weren’t nearly as abundant as they were in Illinois. And when we did find a bakery - it didn’t taste the same as up north! I am extremely biased though...Chicago has the best food, and nothing else even comes close. So it’s very difficult for me to compare the delicious food from the north with the different food in the south.
Today, bakeries are still part of my life. I recently lost a lot of weight and made a complete lifestyle change these past few years. I am much healthier than I was during the earlier part of this decade. I had gained weight during a lot of inactivity, and now I have lost it all, and am quite happy to say that I am very healthy. I lost 83 pounds lost to be exact. I go into great detail on my weight loss journey here if you’d like to check out how I lost 77 of those pounds in one year’s time.
How can I be so healthy now and still eat donuts regularly? The answer is simply moderation. And - Discipline. I can eat ALL THE THINGS. Just not ALL THE TIME. I believe that when one fully grasps and understands that simple and basic concept, it can truly be life-changing.
And I love baked goods so much that I currently plan a once-a-month outing to our local bakery - Cinotti’s, located in Jax Beach, FL. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Declared on the top of each box. I lost 83 freaking pounds, while eating treats and breads and pastas and pizza and ice cream - AND - bakery, lots of Cinotti’s Bakery.
By establishing that roughly once-a-month outing, this allows for me to have the tasty treats that I love and never, ever want to give up, but also allows for discipline and patience in between outings. All that discipline and patience make for a stronger person. I don’t eat donuts every day - I eat them roughly once a month. And as I’m sure you’ve probably read in every magazine out there preaching at you on how to get healthy - don’t restrict. Don’t eliminate… Meaning, don’t erase foods from your life to get healthy. Learn to live WITH the foods you love. Because life is too short not to eat donuts. Just don’t eat them all the time. Simple, right?
These outings are so important to me I classify them by name - and time-and-date stamp them into my iPhone calendar as well. I then share the calendar event with my hubby so he knows when we are going out for donuts. Yay!
We have called these visits many things… Fabulous Friday, Wacky Wednesday, Tasty Tuesday, and Terrific Thursday. Whatever we call it isn’t important though; it's simply putting a name to an event on the calendar that is now tradition. Right now, hubby and I are living through our monthly ‘Totally Terrific and Tasty Tuesdays’ - That means we go to Cinotti’s, once a month, on a Tuesday. And my iPhone tells me as much, once a month. So simple, and sooooo delicious.
And for our November visit to the bakery, our furry baby Madeline was officially included in this little tradition of ours…. When I happened to glance down while we were paying, and underneath the cash register area toward all the little holiday trinkets for sale inside the shop... dog bones! Better yet - BAKERY dog bones! I was thrilled once again. How absolutely and utterly adorable. Made with flour and peanut butter and really just a few simple ingredients safe for a doggie’s tummy, and with a label calling them Canine Cookies… I HAD to purchase them! When we got home Madeline had the single best treat she ever had in her life. I know this not because she told me in English, but because she literally cried out loud for more after she was done with her very special bone. Even dogs love bakery.
And now that I know there is life out there at five am, and that is also roughly when bakeries are usually turning on their lights for the day, we would never now show up at the bakery at such a late hour as two in the afternoon. When that time of the month arrives, and my iPhone vibrates and jingles to tell me it’s our Totally Terrific and Tasty Tuesday, we go outside and exercise before the sun rises, and then head right on over to Cinotti’s. We arrive there fairly early in the morning, when they are fully stocked and selection is overflowing. Parents are bringing in their school-aged children up to the counter so they can pick up a special treat on their way to dropping them off at school. I think of my Papa and all his years upon years of hard work in the bakery. I walk outside carrying my taped, cardboard box of goodness, and I miss him terribly. This box of bakery is a special way of remembering him. Yes, life is too short not to eat donuts. And we bring home our box along with some peanut butter baked dog bones to our very happy, little, eight year old puppy. ~
11/4/2019 0 Comments
*Part of Bean’s Coffee Shop Challenge - series*
Have you heard of the newest craze? Cat Cafes? They’re popping up all over the place. And as both a coffee lover and animal lover, they have really peaked my curiosity… You come for the coffee, and you stay for the cats.
I knew such places existed, and being an artist who paints daily, I even heard of cat cafes where you can have coffee, pet kitties, and paint at the same time! How freaking cool! But only recently did I find out that Jax Beach has its very own cat cafe - The Caffeinated Cat. Recently opened in August, I had read an article about it and was very intrigued by the concept. I had heard of such cafes in large cities like Orlando, and Chicago, but never one so close to home.
I needed to go check the place out for myself. And after my experience there, I’d like to share my impressions, my opinions on some aspects that really may need to be worked upon, and what I believe is quite noble about the concept. So here’s specifically my take on the good, the not-so-good, and the noble cause of The Caffeinated Cat:
The cats are from Mayport Cats, and they need to find their forever homes. Run by both employee and volunteer, the cats are fed and seemingly well cared for by staff, and get to be cuddled and petted throughout the day by caffeinated and coffee-sipping customers. The Caffeinated Cat serves coffee, wine, and snacks. And there is a small room in the back that sells merchandise such as tees and cat toys.
There's plenty of outdoor seating on a large wooden patio deck with chairs, benches, and umbrellas. And then once inside, there’s a bar style seating area overlooking a large window into the cat room. The cats are all safely secure inside this second room. This allows for them to roam free comfortably, without staff worrying that they might escape each time someone enters or exits the Cafe.
I believe the main goal of the concept and facility is to help in establishing the human - animal connection. As a very passionate animal lover myself, I was very excited about my impending visit there. Some or most of the cats have special needs on top of also needing to find their forever homes. And when we walked in, the barista was tending to an injured feline at the time as well. And there were quite a few cats in the cat room - many more than I imagined they would have actually.
We came about 1-1:30 in the afternoon. Their hours on Saturday are 10am-8pm. When we were in the cat room, nearly every single one of the cats was sleeping, trying to sleep, or already in a very, very deep sleep. They were all really very tired precious little kitties. I had said as much and one of the staff members mentioned to me that the kitties had already had a very busy morning. A morning of pets and cuddles I’m certain. I can only hope that busy mornings helps transpire into adoptions for the furry creatures.
I ordered the Calico Cappuccino, and my hubby ordered the Persian Latte. We were given our drinks with felt/reusable sleeves; a neat concept to help reduce waste. And when you leave you drop the sleeve in a recycle bin for continued use.
We also took a punch card with nine circles. You need to purchase eight punches worth (eight drinks) and then the ninth drink is free - representing, of course, the nine lives of cats.
The cats had no place to “escape” to. I had a cat for fifteen years. I’ve seen all kinds of cats at homes, shelters, and outside. I’ve been attacked by a cat (a cat I know personally) who ate away at my legs and I then needed a doctor’s visit and antibiotics to prevent disease and infection from setting in. I know from very personal experiences that cats need to feel they have an escape route. They are very sensitive and have strong personalities. They may like cuddles, and they definitely may not. Either way, they need to feel like they have a secure place to go.
There were many, many cats in the cat room. They had little nooks and crannies that they claimed as their own space, but there was no escape for them. If one needed to run away and hide in a corner, there really was no dark corner to hide in. No ‘cat door’ into another room for some privacy. Sure there were toys and tunnels and such, but just thinking back to my own cat in the past, if she felt like she needed her alone time she ran away to the upstairs or the basement where no one bothered her. These cats didn’t have such an escape room at all. And with visitors not possibly knowing their personality in advance, I could definitely see potential visitors needing a doctors visit and antibiotics just like me if something went even slightly wrong for a kitty.
Plus, the hours of operation: Being a coffee shop, they don’t open even one day per week prior to ten am. Most people drink their coffee in the mornings, or right when they wake. The Caffeinated Cat not opening til mid-morning, and on Tuesday’s only being open from 2-7pm - I can foresee the coffee part of the experience not being too enticing for some.
Also, the lack of cleanliness and sanitation was a major factor in my impression that this place needs a lot of work to continue operating and lasting as a mix of both adoptions as well as coffee shop.
When entering, there is a very “dirty” smell. Obviously, many, many kitties living together and sharing litter boxes can create a stench. And it was most definitely a stench, not just a smell. I recommend ventilation. There was none. Fans, whether portable or just some kind of open window even, was desperately needed.
It was small, and very quiet inside. A radio, television, or music on a portable speaker would help add to the “coffee shop” atmosphere, in the area outside of the cat room at a minimum.
And…. the nitty gritty of the sanitation issues… The same person who was tending to an injured kitty when we walked in, happened to then be the same person who rang up our order, made both of our drinks, then went back into the cat room, no hand washing or sanitation at any time during that interaction.
I also happened to ask for a lid so I wouldn’t spill or mix it any more than necessary with the kitties, and that same individual had to then play around with the lids (still no hand washing) to make it fit on the cup. She explained the lids do not fit properly and have to be played around with to work correctly. Without hand-washing between animal and human food interactions, I see major potential for disease and/or food poisoning happening here. After I was served my drink, I desperately tried to swallow a few sips, purely as part of my coffee shop challenge, and it was at that point it became undrinkable to me. I did try it though.
THE NOBLE CAUSE:
I came here to check the place out. I came here knowing cats need their own space. I came here knowing there are an infinite number of God’s precious little innocent and defenseless creatures needing a forever home to go to. I wanted to try to support a local business and organization that really is doing a very, very noble thing by trying to help people become aware of adoption, and get kitties placed into homes. Plus, the kitties are not stuck in cages while awaiting their futures.
The Caffeinated Cat has fabulous potential as an interesting and unique concept. It just needs some work. In the meantime, lots of kitties need lots of forever homes and The Caffeinated Cat in Jax Beach is trying to do its part in helping out some very fabulous felines.
And while the coffee was definitely not the best I’ve ever had - it was machine coffee and really nothing special at all - I didn’t really go there expecting to be served the fanciest drink in the world - I came there to cuddle with kitties. And to help spread the world that there are so very many little creatures in this world that need a loving home. ~
If you’ve been looking for the finest beignets on the island - and not just any random beignets - then look no further than Another Broken Egg Cafe… Because THEY have the best beignets at the Beach!
And, I know, this is definitely not New Orleans… beignets are not plentiful around here. But they really are the best around.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit NOLA three times thus far in my life. The most recent trip being in 2016, which feels like an eternity away from such fabulous memories. Such a very special place and a vibrant city that I could easily move to in two seconds flat.
So it was 2016 the last time I was blessed with the opportunity of being able to dine upon beignets. On that most recent visit, my hubby and I had arrived in NOLA by rail from Chicago; Amtrak specifically. I remember sitting outside at a table at the famous Cafe Du Monde. It was Thanksgiving weekend. The Christmas season was officially starting and beautifully decorated trees were popping up everywhere I looked. Everything we ate and drank that weekend was divine. But the beignets were the best of it all.
We ordered a plate of the traditional beignets, and each a cafe au lait to sip. I remember powdered sugar being everywhere. It’s was draped all over the seat I sat upon. It was layered throughout the entire ground floor of the outdoor patio. It was floating through the surrounding air in swirling motions. It was ghostly and magical at the same time. It had snowed powdered sugar in the city of New Orleans - and it was magic.
Because whether or not it was real snow falling, we were sitting at the very heart and soul of NOLA. We sat there and soaked in all the excitement. All the wonderful sights and smells and sounds. If you ever make it to New Orleans, be sure to plan a stop at the Cafe, and remember to get a table for a more leisurely experience. There is also a quick service line area, which mostly caters to the countless tourists who need to taste the piece of heaven but are in a rush to see everything else too. So if you have the time on you hands, take the seat and sit a while. Because sitting down and observation can sometimes be the most moving and important aspect of your travels. And as for the beignets themselves, they were heaven on this earth.
And the ones I ate this past week were too! And who would have guessed that ‘Another Broken Egg Cafe’ was born in Louisiana?
They really serve up some fabulous southern hospitality at the Broken Egg as well. We had the friendliest server, and the first thing she asked my hubby and I was if we had ever been to the Cafe? No, we said, this was our first visit.
We had attempted to dine there a few times, mostly on the weekends, and the place was always packed - too packed to even find a parking space. Most recently, we had made inside the front door. It was a Sunday morning. And everyone in Jax Beach goes out to breakfast on Sunday mornings. We had somewhere to be that day and thought we could “squeeze in” an outing to the Cafe beforehand. They had a one hour wait; sigh - sad face. We had to leave. We reminded ourselves to try them again, on a weekday.
So just the other day, which happened to be a Wednesday and just after the lunch time rush, we walked into the Cafe. We literally had the place to ourselves! Such a lovely and peaceful time to dine out sometimes.
Since we told our server that this was our first visit, she said she’d be right back. Upon return, she mentioned that an order of beignets had been started for us. It was on the house - it’s their way of welcoming us in, she said, and wanting us to come back again. And as you can tell by the fact that I’m writing about this magnificent food creation, we will most definitely be returning.
I ordered what I had intended to order after I had searched their online menu earlier in the day - the classic French toast, a side of baked bacon, and unsweetened iced tea. We each drank at least two glasses of their fabulous tea.
The beignets were a very unintended surprise, so I hadn’t planned that food into my day. A few months ago I completed a personal weight-loss journey and major transition to a very healthy lifestyle. But one of the commitments I made to myself during that change was that I would always allow myself desserts. I lost a total of 83 pounds, while never giving up desserts. I love treats too much to eliminate them entirely from my life, and I refused to restrict myself in that area. So any weight loss that occurred had to occur while allowing access to treats. The only difference now being continual moderation.
So, with complete confidence - as the completely unplanned powdered beignets were served to me, I was able to sample them. And THAT sample and THIS picture below are the prime reasons that desserts remain a part of my life.
Wow. Amazing. Their ‘biscuit beignets’ were heaven on this earth. No words can accurately describe them - and they should definitely not be missed out on. I highly recommend visiting the Cafe and placing an order. Or, better yet, mention that it is your first visit if it truly is, and you’ll probably be treated to a very special treat. The photo at top shows their “half order” that was served to us, which comes with four beignets. A full order comes as a batch of eight..
After my first bite, I immediately inquired if diners are able to place to-go orders. And during this inquiry I multi-tasked... and I dreamed of picking up a full batch of biscuit beignets on a regular basis and eating them all in front of the tv in the evenings, by candlelight… I can dream, right?
Yes, of course, our server mentioned. She said that she personally was bringing home a batch for her teenage son that afternoon. She wanted him to help her clean up the house, and her son’s response, can you bring me some beignets? Smart kid.
My husband ordered an omelette with a side of baked bacon, and he also drank an unsweetened iced tea.
Both of our meals were much too large for us to finish in one sitting. So we had a second meal for the next day made from our leftovers that we brought home. Second-day breakfasts can be the best. But second-day breakfasts with a beignet on the side IS the very best.
Beyond our doggie bag, we were also each sent away with to-go cups of yet another glass of iced tea. You definitely get your money’s worth there, that’s for sure. And then, after we paid, our server presented us each with a sealed return certificate. Put them in your purse and don’t open them, she mentioned. When you come back, your server will open the sealed envelope for you and each certificate is a winner… maybe even an order of beignets.
After the shock of the beignets wore off, we paid our check and were ready to leave. I made a mental note to myself on the way out the door. We will be back… and while it’s been a very long few years since I made it to NOLA for a visit, something tells me it won’t be nearly that long before I make the trek down A1A for a visit to the Broken Egg Cafe. ~
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