Remember when it was somebody’s birthday? Ohhhh, so very, very long ago…
Candles would be lit. A song would be sung. And the birthday boy, or birthday girl, would take in a big breath - with their lungs - and blow out all the candles.
And then everybody would clap.
The cake would be sliced. Every piece passed around - a plate of deliciousness for all at the party. Everybody sharing, in an act of celebration. Another person a year older - another piece of cake to commemorate the occasion.
A fork in one hand. A plate of frosted, sugary goodness in the other.
And without giving it a second thought, everyone would bite into their slice of dessert, even though somebody had just previously breathed upon said cake?
Those moments are now gone.
But a girl can dream - right?
No one will look at a birthday cake the same way again now.
Because, while we all still may eat the cake, the sentiment just isn’t the same. And while we all still may sing a song… and candles can still be blown out… the world has once again changed.
And I miss that corresponding sentiment.
I miss a whole lot more than just that though.
I miss it all...
I miss coffee shops.
I miss restaurants.
I miss saying, “Table for two.” - Instead of “Two dinners to go, please.”
I miss smiles on unhidden faces.
I miss laughter.
I miss jokes.
I miss friends.
I miss family.
I miss parties.
I miss the library.
I miss fairs, carnivals, rides, cotton candy, and sno cones.
I miss Art Shows, Art Walks, Art Festivals, craft shows, and concerts.
And I still don’t miss nfl football.
I miss my once a year and very boring visit to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Department. Otherwise known as the FLHSMV. In fact, I miss that a whole heck of a lot more than football.
And I missed out on the opportunity to see Hamilton - right here in Jacksonville, back in March. My tickets - sadly, refunded to my credit card.
I miss the smell of a book, just picked up from the library, as I crack open the spine.
I miss handshakes.
I miss milk shakes.
I miss hugs.
I miss kisses on the cheek.
I miss the darn dentist.
I miss joy and good cheer.
I miss good will to all people.
I miss Christmas.
I miss Walt Disney World.
I miss All-You-Can-Eat Buffets.
I miss unlimited scoops of ice cream, from large tubs, on the dessert line of the above-mentioned buffet. Where I can pick up my own cup, take the cold steel scoop, push it with my own hands into the milky cream, releasing chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry into my own cup. My very own ice cream mountain - as high as I want to make it.
I miss simple get togethers - large and small. I miss people’s faces when I communicate with them. I miss the act of meeting up with those fellow humans - in person. In real life.
I miss being able to hear that fellow human being, clearly, when they speak to me - their unmuffled voice carrying into my ears, and the sound of it not being blocked by a cloth mask.
I miss people treating one another as fellow human beings - and not treating others as the walking plague.
I miss closeness.
I miss happiness all around us.
I miss people leaving their house like it was just another day.
I miss life… I miss seeing other people living their lives.
I miss faith over fear.
But just because I miss all these very simple things, doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing them, and living them, myself.
In fact, I’ve been the busiest in my entire life - during the long and drawn out and quite dramatic duration of this entire, never-ending plague.
Regardless of life outside my own front door. I am breathing. I am communicating. I am celebrating. I am being responsible for myself. I am making my own life decisions. I am sucking it up. I am dealing. I am not only surviving. I am proud and happy to be fully alive. I am living.
I am reading. I am planning. I am dreaming. I am pursuing. I am working hard. I am exercising. I am writing. I am painting. I am utilizing this time to become stronger. To learn. To grow. To try new things.
And most importantly, I am persevering.
And I am coming home from work - and I’m stepping right in the shower, washing the invisible and mysterious and confusing plague off me each night.
And, I’ve learned a lot. And I’ve learned what I already always knew - how imperative each breath we take really is.
So let’s all inhale.
Breathe in - In the face of fear.
Exhale - and keep going, my friends. Exhale and continue onward. Exhale and push forward. Exhale and persevere.
And if it happens to be your birthday, go ahead and exhale a big breath straight onto your very own birthday cake candles...
Yes, I know that’s exactly what we will be doing this weekend.
As we celebrate my hubby’s birthday, we will dine out, along the water’s edge, for our First Supper since the plague began. We will sit at tables, amongst other human beings. All partaking in the common and essential act of breathing, and eating.
And I will pick up the special cupcake creations I ordered from Cinotti’s Bakery. And I will slap some candles on top of the frosted red velvety goodness. I will light the flame.
And I will sing “Happy Birthday!”
And my furry baby will probably sing a lot louder than me.
And most importantly, my hubby will then inhale with his own set of two lungs, and exhale hard on top of all the frosting, extinguishing that flame. And then we will eat all the darn sugar. ~
*How have you been living through this plague? Are you persevering? Are you experimenting with new ideas? Are you at home brewing up new talents? Are you getting fresh air? I’d so love to know. Drop me a comment down below:
Also, if you’re enjoying my Floridian daydreams, then check out some of my others, right here:
71] My 69 Week Break From Social Media ~ Why I Left & Why I Came Back
68] A Sunday Stroll
65] The Sea Life ~ Happy Easter
64] Stay-At-Home Sunday ~ Palm Sunday
63] Mercy & Comfort
62] PERSPECTIVE @ Seaside Sculpture Park
61] Bean’s Idea List ~ 15 Daily Activities For Well Beyond 15 Days
59] REACTION ~ To World War 19
55] The Shamrock
51] Life Is Full Of Pasta-Bilities ~ Bean’s Red Sauce Recipe
49] A Picture Worth A Thousand Words ~ Happy Valentine’s Day, World
44] Nothing Finer Than Coffee In The Keys ~ The Coffee Plantation Cafe
42] Where Does The Chicken Cross The Road?
39] The Very Official & Quite Serious Donut Debate Of 2020
18] Sea & Sky Jax Weekend ~ Fun In The Florida Sun, Sea, Sky & Sand
*Part of - Bean’s Baking - series
Attention Bakers: You will get TWO completely different desserts out of this recipe!
I absolutely LOVE making my very own peanut butter balls. They are such a quick and easy no-bake dessert - perfect to go along with a large family gathering. Or a fabulous dish to bring along to a party, a holiday cookie exchange, as well as simply a little treat at home, that may, or may not, last all week long.
And as y’all know what kind of crazy time period we have been living throughout the global pandemic. Plus the 24 hour news cycle endlessly discussing all things coronavirus… being in the kitchen, and making a homemade dessert, can be a thoroughly needed and recommended distraction with the current state of affairs throughout the globe. Honestly, I can’t remember enjoying the entire process of making homemade food as much I did with this dish. These peanut butter bubbles were a sincere and absolute joy to make.
But, there’s one more thing that I enjoyed even more than making them. And that was giving them all away. For the past few years of baking, I’ve tended to follow an informal rule that I imposed upon myself when making homemade desserts. And that is if I am going to bake, I am also going to share. So every time I now create a doughy and delicious treat, I make a point of passing along to neighbors, friends, co-workers, and lots of others who I am connected with in some way. For this batch of delicious treats, I brought them to work with me.
I made the treats at home on Holy Thursday, and they came to work with me on Good Friday. They were my Easter Goodies to share with everyone. And I think they went over well… At the end of my shift I went to grab my Tupperware to take home with me and every last Bubble was gone. Sooo happy indeed.
The highest compliment any baker can receive is a completely empty serving platter.
I also brought along to work the painting I’ve attached below, as a gift to a coworker. A few days prior she had brought in little Easter goodie bags for every employee, complete with the traditional green grass, candy, and plastic egg. It immediately inspired me to paint this for her in return.
I hope you enjoy making your very own batch of peanut butter bubbles. If you have little ones around the house, get them involved in the process. They can easily become dough rollers, chocolate dippers, or sprinkle spreaders. And in return, they’ll learn to love and appreciate the process of making homemade goodies.
As for me, I don’t have little ones in the house, but my little baker’s assistant diligently managed the entire process for me from the sidelines.
So next time you are looking to turn off the news, and turn up the sweet fun, go ahead and position yourself in the kitchen. Open your pantry and pull out your jar of peanut butter, turn off the news - and turn on a podcast, and get baking. And don’t forget to share! ~
2 sticks of butter - your choice - salted or unsalted.
6 cups of confectioners sugar - powdered sugar.
I full jar of peanut butter - we mostly use Peter Pan Creamy.
1 large bag of Nestle Tollhouse semi-sweet chocolate chips. For me, the chips melt quicker, easier and more thoroughly than full bars of chocolate.
1 tsp canola oil - or a bit more if needed, to help melt the chocolate.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
1/4 tsp salt.
Sprinkles - the miniature dot sprinkles work well here since the finished product is pretty small.
1 bag of pretzels - any shape - we used stick pretzels.
Mix the peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt in a large mixing bowl. I mix by hand. The dough will take a while to get the stickier consistency. Add ingredients in slowly.
Add butter - melt in the microwave if needed for roughly 20 seconds.
Place a large sheet of parchment paper onto a large baking tray.
Rolls into balls by hand.
Place peanut butter balls on the covered baking tray.
Keep balls separated.
After all balls are rolled, go ahead and slide the tray into the refrigerator. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper. Cool for roughly an hour or so.
Once dough is cooled, proceed with the final chocolate dipping stage of the process.
-Dipping In Chocolate-
Put 2 cups of chocolate chips in the microwave - for 20 seconds.
Remove and stir.
Add canola oil to the chocolate.
Microwave again for 20 seconds.
Remove and stir.
Potentially microwave again for another 20 seconds - a third time repeating the process. Stir again. Until you get a liquidy, chocolate consistency.
Wait a few minutes for the chocolate to cool ever so slightly.
Start dipping each peanut butter ball into chocolate. Use a fork if necessary. Use a toothpick to slide the chocolate covered ball off the fork and back onto the parchment paper lined tray.
Sprinkle each ball immediately after coating in chocolate so that the sprinkles glue themselves on.
Place the completed Peanut Butter Bubbles back in the refrigerator for about an hour to cool off and solidify.
Share and enjoy!
Chocolate Covered Pretzels:
You will most likely have leftover melted chocolate after you are finished with the above process. While all the ingredients are still out, and all the dishes are already dirty, now’s the time to pull out that bag of pretzels sitting in your pantry. Dip each pretzel into the chocolate - sprinkle if you want - and line up each dipped pretzel on a piece of parchment paper, same process as above.
Cool and enjoy this easy sweet and savory treat!
Share with the world - and enjoy. ~
*Do you have a favorite go-to, quick dessert recipe that you use to bring along and share at parties? I’d love to know. Also, let me know if you make this recipe? Drop me a comment down below:
Plus - Here’s a few of my other dessert recipes to go ahead and check out:
30] Bean’s Sugar Cookie Recipe ~
25] Don’t Google It, Just Do It ~ Christine’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
And if you’re a big fan of spending time at home, and cooking homemade meals from scratch in the kitchen - I’ve got some fabulously delicious recipes for at-home dinners, right here:
58] Bean’s Corona Kickin’ Chicken
51] Life Is Full Of Pasta-Bilities ~ Bean’s Red Sauce Recipe
47] Bean’s Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnut Recipe ~ A Super Food For A Super Sunday
43] Bean’s Bold Beef Stew Recipe ~
38] The Year Of The Sweater ~ Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
10] Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili
Easter Morning: 2020.
It will be very, very different this year.
Most years past, after our move down south to Florida, Easter Morning has become a wonderful and tropical tradition… and always, at the beach.
We’d wake early - as usual.
Make a fresh pot of coffee - as usual.
But then, not, as usual…
I’d pop a tube of highly processed, cinnamony, and sugary goodness into the oven. As the rolls of spiced dough rise in the heat we’d get ourselves ready for a day in the sand. Surf and turf. And pure fun.
As the heavenly scent of cinnamon wafts throughout the apartment in windy swirls, combined with the fresh, salty, ocean breeze floating through the patio door. And coffee beans - doing their thing. We then ready our beach bag and grab our umbrella. When all is packed up and ready to go, and the buzzer finally decides to ding, I then proceed to slide the Easter Morning breakfast treat out of the oven. Something that costs a mere couple of dollars, but brings forth great and priceless joy.
In the final step of preparation, I then glide the spatula over the cinnamon rolls and spread the most delicious frosting atop. Standing in the kitchen, I watch as the ice cold frosting melts over the slope of a doughy mountain. And then, finally, the frosting completely melted, meeting in its final descent, gently hitting the baking tray. And with that act, it is our que to leave.
It’s then off to the beach for our Easter Morning. To sit and gaze at the ocean. To take in all the beauty of the sea directly in front of us. Stretching all the way out to the horizon. No end in sight. What’s past that line nobody really knows.
Going to the beach is something we do all the time. But on a holiday - it’s just all the more special. And all the more peaceful.
Hubby plants the umbrella into the sandy floor. We lay out our beach towels. And our doggie sitting between us nestled in the shade. And we swim. And read. And listen to podcasts and music. And mostly, we just drink coffee.
But Easter in Florida will definitely be very, very different this year.
The beaches here are closed to the public. Wrapped up with police tape. Barricaded. Coned off. Caution and warning signs abound. Parking not allowed. To help stop the Coronavirus spread, of course.
So, while there may be coffee, and while there may be cinnamon rolls, and while there may be frosting. There will be no surf and turf.
But knowing all that, one thing is still very, very certain. While they can most certainly close the beach, and can do so fairly easily I might add. There is no front door to the ocean. There is no window they can shutter and latch to prevent us from taking a look. And they certainly can’t throw away the key.
So while it may be in everyone’s best interest that the beaches remain closed this spring, the sea is still sitting out there - doing it’s own thing - very much alive and breathing - and it will be there still, on Easter Morning.
In fact, I tend to think the Sea and all the life within it, are kinda, sorta, wondering, at this point, where all the humans went? I think, maybe, the ocean is getting a little lonely? The dolphins that swim alongside us… what are they up to right about now? Either that - or the sea is laughing at us and saying, “Good riddance! They’re finally letting me take a nap!”
And it is with that thought in mind that we have been regularly going for our morning walks, still, throughout global chaos. As usual, throughout this pandemic, we take a peak, and glance out toward the ocean - from afar. As we get our cardio in, doggy included, we take a look outward toward the gorgeous and colorful and ever-changing skyline. And the forever distant horizon. While never, ever, crossing over the strategically placed yellow and black police tape. Of course.
And that is what life at the beach is all about, Charlie Brown.
Life. And The Sea.
Life surrounding the sea. On the sea. In the sea. And… looking at the sea. Gazing at the sea. And dreaming of The Sea.
Yes - I’ve lived The Sea Life for a few years now. It’s been over three years since I moved to Florida from the Midwest. Dreaming of the sea, ultimately, brought me to the beach. To San Pablo Island.
And with that milestone, there’s another kind of Sea Life that I’ve been living since my move to Florida. It has also been nearly three years since I was discharged from the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Clinic - located in Jacksonville.
There is a cognitive behavioral therapy tool that all of us patients learned as we went through the long and detailed and rigorous rehabilitation program.
It divides our life - the life of an individual living with chronic pain - into three very distinct phases…
The A Life.
The B Life.
The C Life.
And while my C Life is ultimately why you are reading this right now, I wanted to provide you a brief explanation as to how the A and B life have to be lived - in order for a participant in the program to EVER even obtain the opportunity to have a C Life. Their own C Life.
First up is The A Life. And The A Life is just that. It’s LIFE.
The A Life is everything and anything and anybody that came before chronic pain took over the body. The A Life, for me, and for hundreds of other patients, was growing up… it was going to school… it was sports, it was college, it was marriage, it was graduate school… it was first jobs, or many jobs. Full careers. Family. Friends. Parties. Travel. Success. The A Life - was life, itself.
And then, all of a sudden, that darn, no good, very bad day of a B Life came along - and that was a very, very Bad Life indeed.
The B Life enters into a person’s life as chronic pain takes them over. A patient's body succumbs in almost every single way to unrelenting pain. Marriages are lost. Jobs are most definitely lost. Whole careers upended. Some patients even get fired from their life-long career on the very day they choose to take back their own life. To be admitted to hospital.
Money = gone. Even responsible and diligent financial penny pinchers and savers - their financial statuses, quickly changed.
Debts add up. Lots and lots of bills. Bills that can’t be paid. Bills on payment plan. Bills leaving one drowning in paperwork and dollar signs. A feeling that they will never be able catch up. Financial ruin….
All as the patient, and sometimes their family as well, spends every single penny at their disposal on doctors appointments, tests, experimental treatment, lots of travel to specialists, surgeries, injections, miracle creams, potions, lotions, powders, herbs, capsules and tablets. In search of a cure.
Daily life is abruptly changed. All the little things that make up a life. Hobbies are gone. Forgotten in nearly every way. Sports are not even an option. Cooking - gone. Reading - gone. Books sit closed and their bindings collect dust.
Parties - gone. Friends - lost forever. Mental strength. Physical abilities. Exercise. Self care. As chronic pain sets in, as chronic pain takes over… everything else is lost.
And The B Life can be a very long life. The B Life can leave a young 39 year old with a whole lot of gray hair on top of her head.
After the patient has done nearly everything, and lost nearly everything, that tends to be when they find out about Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehabilitation Clinic. Some kind soul usually refers them. A friend, family member, doctor, or maybe even a quick Google search - a quiet whisper in their ear - informs them of Pain Rehab at Mayo.
And yeah - lots of people really do not even find out about the program I am discussing with you today until they’ve lived The B Life for a very, very long time. And a lot of pain has already been experienced. To the point that it’s all sheer madness of a life to live.
But then… That’s when PRC comes along. The C Life comes along. And The C Life - is a brand new life.
The C Life - is being reborn.
Think of it kinda like a cat…. Just as a cat has nine lives… graduates of the PRC Program at Mayo Clinic have three lives.
Like - no joke. I WAS reborn - at Mayo Clinic. My life WAS saved - at Mayo Clinic. I WAS transformed - at Mayo Clinic.
But it wasn’t a light bulb moment. No one flipped the switch. I wasn’t injected with a shot, vaccinating me into a different realm.
No, nope, nope, nope. That’s not how any of this works.
I had to earn my C Life. Through a lot of hard work on my part.
The C LIfe is a lifestyle choice.
But The C LIfe is, once again, Life itself.
The C Life is about acceptance. The C life is about making peace. The C Life is about discipline. Diligence. Routine. Adaptation. Moderation. Forgiveness. Patience.
The C Life is about faith.
The C Life IS hope.
And, maybe most importantly, the C Life helps a patient to say goodbye… To say goodbye to their nightmare, of a B Life.
And then, to take it even one step further - To say goodbye - for good - even to their A Life.
Yes, that’s correct. The A Life is tossed out the window too.
It is then and really only then that the C Life can become a real and new Life.
We do not look backward in The C Life. We don’t try to meet up with our old selves. We do not try to re-obtain our A Life. We accept that it is gone forever. And we simply accept the new selves we have become. Accepting of our past, and working toward a better future. And work - each day - to build a life around that knowledge.
If a patient fully believes and practices the program… all knowing the C Life Is a lifestyle - and not a magical lotion, potion, prescription, or pill - the C Life can really become a brand new life. A real rebirth. An Easter Resurrection.
The C Life, for me, has been truly life-changing. Just as it was meant to be. Just as I allowed it to be. And. Just as I continue to allow it to be every single day.
I’ve been practicing The C Life for nearly three years… It’s lifestyle - not a cure. It’s hard work - and not the waving of a magic wand.
And, The C Life is not perfect. In fact, there may be newer, stranger, or more horrible nightmares of problems that crop up in The C Life. Maybe even more so than in either The A Life, or The B Life. And I say that to be honest. But with great confidence. Because even with pandemics, massive contagions, and disruption of the entire world order, The C Life - can still be a fabulous life.
And anything, anything at all, can be accomplished living The C Life.
Despite all obstacle.
Despite any challenge.
Despite a roadblock, clearly sitting directly in front of a person.
The world is at the fingertips of the discharged patient - from the very first day they exit the Program and walk out the hospital doors for the final time. Life - is waiting for them as they enter their third life. Their new life.
The C Life has brought me more joy and happiness than I ever thought possible.
The C Life has stopped me from waiting… Waiting….. To LIVE.
I now am fully alive. Even today. In the midst of the world’s largest global crisis of our lifetimes. Yes, amidst the apocalypse of this plague. This global pandemic. Every day is still special to me. Every day I am grateful. And every day I am truly alive.
As we all continue in this, our strange and new kind of life. As everyone on Earth, right now, is also going through a transition of life. And, as Easter Sunday arrives on our doorstep.
Churches, for the most part, remain closed. Family and friends will not be meeting up, from afar, to celebrate the special Sunday. Most of us, throughout the entire world, will be having our Easter dinners with only the members who reside in our immediate households.
And while we cannot have the beach, and we cannot look out at the beautiful sea - as we sit in the warm sand - we can all still have each other. While we are all far apart.
Yes, there will be no beach on Easter Sunday this year... That is - Unless Dr. Fauci goes on television sometime between when Christ dies and when Christ has risen - and then proceeds to tell us that it is all now safe, let’s open up the world again! But something tells me he won’t be saying that any time soon.
Yes, Easter Sunday will be very different this year.
And with some supply chain disruption, there may not even be those highly coveted cinnamon rolls.
But there will be people sacrificing. For the good of humanity. And for the continuation of life itself.
I saw in the local Jacksonville news the other day that an administrator at Mayo Clinic Jax is now accepting letters, words of encouragement, drawings, images, etc. They will be sent onward - to all the doctors, nurses, and hundreds of other staff members who make up the Clinic. To thank them. We, the general public, have been asked to pass along our best wishes and support. As Mayo plays a prime role on the front lines of this global war on disease.
Mayo will no doubt be on the front lines of research, studies, testing, and treatment of patients - all in the CoVid19 fight.
It’s basically like this - As one of the most amazing humans on Earth always says, “We’re number one!”
All kidding aside though - They really are number one.
And yes - they saved my life. They brought me back into the world. And they lifted me up when I needed it the most.
My experience at Mayo Clinic has given me my C Life...
As I started my first job outside the home in a decade. As I’ve now completed road races, a half marathon, traveled, met countless amazing people, and various other opportunities I never thought humanly possible. Countless milestones and achievements I never thought would be available to me, merely a few short years ago.
But the most important part of what Mayo gave me really is my overall brand new life. The different life. The one that is in no way at all part of my A Life or my B Life. All the countless new doors that have opened. All the boats I’ve hopped on board - to float on out toward that distant horizon line in the vast and open sea.
As I volunteered.
As I fell completely and madly in love with Art.
As I started my own Etsy Shop, Website, Lifestyle Blog, and Art Studio. As I fell in love with writing.
As nothing is impossible to me now. As there is no limit to where all my dreams may take me next.
As Christine’s Floridian Dreams was dreamed up - because of them - because of Mayo.
Doing all things new. With confidence. Doing what was never completed in the A or B Life. Yes, I am truly living The C Life. Even amidst a global pandemic.
In fact, I actually tend to think that it is because of Mayo Clinic that I am simply plugging along, no big deal, throughout this sci-fi, apocalyptic life we all now find ourselves within.
When I graduated from the Program. I had a whole lifeline of tools at my disposal. Tools I have diligently utilized each day of my C Life. Tools I am continuing to use - right now - through crisis.
Life is good. Yes, life is still good. And while there may be crisis. And while there may be death, and horror, and evil, and destruction. There will always be hope.
So, to answer the call from the local news stations. These words of thanks are now my words of encouragement to all the doctors, nurses, and staff - as they fight on the front lines. As they battle the evil virus. As they fight for humanity. As they give hope to countless others. As they change lives each and every day. And as they continue to - right in the middle of a plague.
As they give countless patients a new life. With each deed, word, and action:
You’ve got this. And we are all here with you.
Yes, this may be a very different Easter.
All throughout the world. And even right here in Jacksonville, Florida.
And, rightfully so - There may not be the beach. There may not be surf to ride upon. There may not be men with metal detectors walking up and down the shoreline - looking for shiny coastal treasures. There may not be little children collecting shells, and building sand castles next to the tide pools. There may not be a grown woman with graying hair sitting out on the beach with cinnamon rolls, hot coffee, and a doggie sitting beside her in the sand.
But there will always be life. There will always be hope. There will always be faith. And, there will always be good people doing God’s work - each and every day. And maybe, and most importantly, floating out there on the horizon line… with a door that never closes and most certainly never locks, just waiting for that next someone to step out and push themselves off the sandy floor, onward and outward toward their next high and mighty adventure… forever unknowing of what truly lies ahead… The Sea Life. ~
*Happy Easter to Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Florida.
Thank you - for everything.*
*This painting, titled - “The Sea Life” - is being donated to the Pain Rehabilitation Center at Mayo Clinic Jax - and will be hand delivered, in person… Whenever we can all see each other, once again - In real life.*
[Editorial Note]: I am not a doctor. And I don’t pretend to play one on TV either. This article and personal story is not medical advice or a prescription in any way. But - if this post reaches you because you are living in chronic pain. If you found this article because someone thought it may be screaming YOU. If you were referred here by others who thought you might benefit from this story. Let this reading be that whisper in your ear - informing you of possibility. Know there is always hope. There are people everywhere - on all corners of this globe - who know how to help you. Never give up. The people and place that helped me are referenced within this publication. The main phone number to Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida is 904.953.2000. Go ahead and pick up that phone of yours. Punch in the numbers. And help yourself - by getting help from others.
Hey - you - over there. If you’re looking for more stories of hope, inspiration, faith and optimism, check out the links below:
64] Stay-At-Home Sunday ~ Palm Sunday
63] Mercy & Comfort
62] PERSPECTIVE @ Seaside Sculpture Park
61] Bean’s Idea List ~ 15 Daily Activities For Well Beyond 15 Days
59] REACTION ~ To World War 19
55] The Shamrock
51] Life Is Full Of Pasta-Bilities ~ Bean’s Red Sauce Recipe
49] A Picture Worth A Thousand Words ~ Happy Valentine’s Day, World
48] Love & Donuts In The Air @ Beaches For Australia
42] Where Does The Chicken Cross The Road?
41] Minnie The Daschund Mouse & Her Birthday Wish
39] The Very Official &. Quite Serious Donut Debate Of 2020
38] The Year Of The Sweater ~ Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
36] The End Of A Decade & My New Year’s Wish To You ~
34] Merry Christmas ~ And How To Buy For That Person On Your List Who Saved Your Life ~
27] Thanksgiving & Pete’s Bar ~ Not All Resolutions Need Be Fulfilled On January First
26] Deck The Chairs ~ BE THAT CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THIS OUR VERY OWN AND SHAREABLE WORLD
24] In Real Life ~ My First Visit To A Southern Living Idea House
23] Faith ~ And Life Lessons Learned Living With Wild & Untamable Hair
21] Cinotti’s ~ And Why Life Is Too Short To Not Eat Donuts
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Or, maybe, a picture is worth just a few more words than that….
Happy Valentine’s Day y'all.
I want you to think of love.
I post to you each Monday and each Friday.
And today is Friday.
And as I do each and every week, I had been working all week on a post for today.
Sometimes, I write to you immediately after an experience - such as right after the Key West Half Marathon, or after Sea & Sky Jax Weekend, or Beaches for Australia, or my visit to the Southern Living Idea House, or lots of other events I attend and write about immediately thereafter...
And sometimes, what you receive from me is something else entirely. It’s something that I work at for a very long time. And it’s something that builds into what you eventually receive for publication when I deem it complete and ready.
Just like paint brought to a canvas…
I paint two ways. Sometimes, I paint long, and slow, and detailed, in many layers. And the painting builds and builds and builds over time. Over time equals hours, days, weeks, or months. Many, many months. Until I have a complete story displayed on canvas and ready for eyes to view it. To read the story of the painting itself.
But, sometimes, this idea, my story - my painting - comes to me immediately, in the blink of an eye. Literally. And I paint it, immediately. Quickly. Fast. I have to get it onto the canvas or my brain will burst from the passion coming forth.
Today, your post was going to be a completely different post than the one you are receiving and now reading. I had been diligently working and preparing the post as I always do over a matter of time. And then…
THEN, Valentine’s Day EVE came. Valentine's Day very late night EVE actually arrived.
And everything about that EVE - that YESTERDAY, and that TODAY - changed.
And EVERYTHING - means EVERYTHING.
In the blink of an eye. In the click of the camera. In the sight of a photo. Everything changed. And I had a new story to tell. A new story to write. Quick! Need to get the paint onto canvas. Brain is bursting and overflowing! Right. Now.
So today’s post that you are now reading is completely different - world’s away from the one I had planned to publish today for your reading pleasure and enjoyment.
On Valentine’s Eve, after coming home and entering my very cozy, and my very small, and my very basic, and my very, very perfect little apartment, I instantly changed once again. Merely because the LOVE I feel inside me grew bigger in that one second. That one moment in time.
I came home and received love and happiness. Something I am met with every night, the only difference is last night we took a photo of it.
I came home to my own Valentine love nest, and received love in return.
Valentine love nest.
Are you picturing two cute little feathery birdies yet? If you are not imagining birdies. Go ahead right now and queue up bird imagery in your head..
Will now proceed.
Imagine a nest.
A nest with cute little adorable birdies sitting inside it.
Maybe some red birdies? Or brown birdies? Maybe those birdies are sitting in an evergreen tree? They are sitting in their nest on a branch, and they are looking down on the world right now.
Or maybe that soft and cute and cuddly and quite feathery little birdie isn’t even an actual bird by the way.
Maybe the birdie is really a doggie.
Or maybe our little, figurative, and way too cute birdie is your spouse.
Your significant other.
Your furry critter.
Your friend - who lives many states away. Your friend you just had to say goodbye to. Your friend who hopped on a train to ride the rails to a far off land. That friend - who just visited you at work. Your workplace being her final stop. Her final stop on a very important visit to a very important place. And she came to your work to say goodbye to you upon her departure. And as you hugged each other. As you took one last selfie. And as she walked away to go drive to the train station…. you both yelled out “I LOVE YOU!” In front of a million strangers. But neither of you cared. Because your love for each other and the experiences you’ve shared together matter more than what any stranger could ever think of you shouting out your expression of love. Of one another. And of life itself.
Maybe, you came home last night from work, and you were met with love. That love from your turtle. Your guinea pig. That love from your critter. The love from another. The love from yourself. The love from God himself.
Love in all its forms.
Maybe, the love from our dearly departed filled your home. Maybe they were watching you eat dinner. And you felt their presence inside your warm house. Knowing full well they are always with you.
Maybe you came home to your dog who missed you dearly while you were away for nine hours.
Maybe you sat down with your doggie and hubby and you watched Blue Bloods and ate a quick late night dinner from Wendys. A burger with no mayo at 510 calories. Maybe you watched Danny Reagan kick a few butts. And maybe you watched Jamie Reagan change the word in 42 minutes and 30 seconds flat, as he tends to do every episode. Maybe you watched Danny Reagan eat his Sunday dinner while you ate your Thursday night dinner.
Maybe Danny Reagan had to say goodbye to his eldest son, who was leaving to go off to college in Season 9.
Maybe the Reagan family opened their home to the newest member of the family.
Maybe while the Reagan’s had to say goodbye to Jack, they said hello to Eddie. And Eddie now eats dinner with the Reagan’s each Sunday. An empty seat is filled by another. Love all around. Love in the air.
So, getting back to our love nest. And the cute birdies sitting in the tree in their own nest.
Because that’s what happened to me last night. I went home. And I was met by my own birdies in my own nest.
I came home, after a long and wonderful and blessed day, and I was met with the birdies who share that nest with me.
My birdie was brown!
It was a SHE!
Oh wait… and a HE!
My birdies in my very own nest were my very own brown doggie. And my husband.
I came home to them both - and it was Valentine's EVE.
I had a great, and a long, and a fabulous day yesterday. As I do each and every day. I told you each day is the best day of my life, right?
I worked all day. Then. My husband picked me up. He had a load of groceries in the back seat, by the way.
And we went home.
And at this home, it had been a very long day for a little doggie to be parted from her Mama as usual.
Upon walking in the door, my precious little doggie greeted me as she always does.
But one thing was different about that greeting last night. That one thing is the reason you are now reading this story instead of another one.
I sat down on the kitchen floor.
To receive the love from my dog straight on. And at her height level.
And we cuddled as usual.
But it was just so very cute.
And I became so very curious?........
I asked my husband to take a photo of my doggie.
My doggie was giving me a big hug. And I always wonder. How does my little birdie in her nest look out at the world beyond me when she is hugging me? I can’t see behind me, of course. I want to know what all that love she gives me looks like from behind?
And my husband was standing in our kitchen with me and our little birdie angel. He was unloading the groceries he had brought home. Loading them onto the counter top, behind Me…. And I said to my husband… What does our little doggie angel look like when she hugs me? Here - take a photo for me would you please?
I reached into my stuffed pockets. From my heavy and thick and full and very dirty work pants.
I grabbed my iPhone out of the big pocket. And handed my phone to my hubby to take a photo.
And he did just that.
And that photo is why you are receiving this post today instead of something that’s been since erased.
Happy Valentine’s Day WORLD.
Today, I want you to love yourself. I want you to love others. I want you to love your Valentine. Love those who live in your love nest with you. Better yet, love those who live in other love nests that surround yours - all the nests sitting in the very same tree, but just sitting and resting upon different branches. Or merely different twigs.
And, maybe your nest has more than one birdie sitting inside it. Just like mine does.
After I got home. And after I received the unconditional love from a dog hug. After my husband snapped a digital picture. And after a story came to me in a flash. In the blink of an eye. There was one more surprise waiting for me at the end of the night last night.
I was gone from home yesterday all day. I was very messy and I was very dirty. I felt love and life and God himself inside me though.
So as I sat on the kitchen floor.
And as my brown doggie greeted me and hugged me.
And after husband took that photo that I requested… He said...
“Happy Valentine’s Day”
And, all three of us turned to face each other. Me. Husband. Dog.
And Hubby handed me a bouquet of beautiful pink tulips.
Flowers for HIS own Valentine Birdie. I guess I’m a bird too? I instantly grabbed the flowers. And I cried of happiness.
So there we all sat.
On the kitchen floor, of the nest, in our second story tree house villa.
Brown Birdie was hugging Mama Birdie.
Husband Birdie was handing Mama Birdie some flowers.
Mama Birdie was very hot, very messy, and very sweaty. Spills and stains and hours of that sweat all over her dirty clothes. With hugs and flowers. And lots of happiness. And lots of endless love.
And Husband Birdie took the picture.
The picture worth a thousand words… Or, 1661 words to be exact.
Happy Valentine’s Day, from my nest, to your nest. And to all birdies, and all the eggs, in all the nests, resting on all the branches, in all the trees, in all the World.~
What do you love the most about Valentines Day? I’d love to know. Tell me with a comment down below:
And. By the way… Here’s some more STUFF for y’all:
2] 3 Wow’s Plus 1 Piece Of Magic I Experienced At Jacksonville, Florida’s Cummer Museum Of Art & Gardens
11] Eleven South Bistro & Bar ~~ Supper Club Of The South
18] Sea & Sky Jax Weekend ~ Fun In The Florida Sun, Sea, Sky & Sand
21] Cinotti’s ~ And Why Life Is Too Short To Not Eat Donuts
23] Faith ~ And Life Lessons Learned Living With Wild & Untamable Hair
24] In Real Life ~ My First Visit To A Southern Living Idea House
26] Deck The Chairs ~ BE THAT CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THIS OUR VERY OWN AND SHAREABLE WORLD
28] The Scent of Christmas in the Air
34] Merry Christmas ~ And How To Buy For That Person On Your List Who Saved Your Life ~
36] The End Of A Decade & My New Year’s Wish To You ~
48] Love & Donuts In The Air @ Beaches For Australia
2/6/2020 2 Comments
If you’ve never had bacon wrapped water chestnuts in your life, I suggest adding them into your life - as soon as humanly possible.
There’s a reason I continually make this delicious dish on special occasions. These terrifically tooth-picked creations are most definitely a quintessential party food… A happy food. A celebratory food. They are such a delicious treat that the dish garners a special occasion to quite naturally go along with it.
So, I tend to make this dish on the Christmas Eve holiday, on a night of casual and easy and most importantly, tasty, appetizers in my home. I also recently decided to make this on Super Bowl Sunday. A day which is Holiday in America - Holiday with a capital H.
And, although I don’t even watch the game…
I know, I know. I am one of those people who don’t even watch. Or should I say, I just don’t pay attention. I only watch the Puppy Bowl - if that. And the National Anthem. But - it’s Super Bowl Sunday in America - and I have to celebrate along with the rest of the country. If I must - I must.
I’m forced into it by tradition, whether I like the game of football or not. I’m just there for the puppies. And the commercials.
With that in mind, I’d highly recommend this dish if you need something to bring to a Super Bowl party, or any fun party really. It’s a great take-along dish. Something you can either prep entirely in advance and bring, hot, to a party that’s close to your home. Or, you can prep all the steps in advance except the final one. And then, once you arrive at your destination, bake the final step at the home you are bringing it to for the party. The chestnuts can then be served fresh and hot at your party location.
Either way, this dish is easy, quick, and a fabulous party food.
And guess what else, I absolutely promise you that your dish will be the highlight of the party. No other dish will bring such praise… The bacon alone will create quite a stir, but add in all the other flavors, and you are the hit of the party - guaranteed.
So prepare for this dish to go fast, whether you want it to or not, I promise.
For more of Bean’s Best Recipes, go ahead and check out these creations below:
10] Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili
38] The Year Of The Sweater ~ Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
43] Bean’s Bold Beef Stew Recipe
Do you love incorporating bacon into your recipes? Go ahead and step foot in your kitchen and make this dish; then - tell me how you like it? I’m so curious - go ahead and share with me in the comments down below.
As we reach the very end of yet another year, and the grande finale of a wild and crazy decade, we are all closing a very big and heavy and quite bulky hardcover chapter book, and we’re placing it safely onto our bookshelves. That story is now over.
And while the pages inside might be worn, or old and tired and wrinkled pieces of paper - after ten years of daily shipping and handling - those pages are also quite wonderful indeed.
The Book Of 2010:2019.
This book will now sit and rest, nestled high up on its shelf, beside all of our James Patterson novels, our John Grisham novels, our Ernest Hemingway novels. It might also rest against our journals and diaries or daily planners… planners full of possibility, and dreams yet to come true. Planners with lots of post-its in a rainbow assortment of colors sticking out the tops of its pages.
And now all the history books will be written. All that has happened between 2010 and 2019. To me, the world looks almost nothing like it did ten years ago, and yet, I can’t help but think, and hope, that it still looks very much the same. We still celebrate the end of a year, we still dream for the future, we still have optimism in our hearts. And we still wish our fellow humans well. A Happy New Year Wish is not just a heartfelt greeting, it is a way of life. Or it can be a way of life...
So to you, my dear and fellow humans, I wish you Well. I wish you Good Tidings and Cheer. I wish for you... The World:
I wish for you to notice each flower petal as it blooms.
I wish for you to fully see and appreciate every blade of green grass, every bold and bright green leaf on a tree, every flowing frond on a palm.
I wish for you to take the road less traveled…. Yes, even if it’s not straight and narrow. With lots of stops and curves and bumps along that route.
Because that road will make you who you are… Especially come another ten years.
I wish for you that your cup runneth over. With joy. And love. And mostly with good will toward your fellow human beings.
I wish for you to blend in… to live harmoniously.
And I wish for you to stand out… and be yourself in a vast sea of people.
I wish for you to be YOU. Whoever that may be. Light your fire and become hot and flaming.
Don’t let anyone extinguish it.
I wish for you to never take your freedoms for granted.
I wish for you to eat that slice of pie…and to taste the best donuts on this Earth - after all, you only live once.
I wish for YOU to be the one to forgive.
I wish for you to understand - and know - and realize - and believe - that forgiveness begins with you, and you alone.
I wish for you to treat others as you would like to be treated... That one’s simple - right?
I wish for you a better world ten years from now.
I wish for you to see all the GOOD that is in the world of TODAY.
I wish for you Peace On Earth.
I wish for you to love one another.
I wish for you to remember your past, your family members and friends departed...
I wish for you to know that their memory is alive and well, living deep inside you - Right. Now.
I wish for you to see your wonderful and unknowing future. Envision it. And then live that vision.
I wish for your to keep the holiday spirit alive and well… All the year through.
While the tree may come down…
And the snow may stop falling…
And the music might change its tune…
The spirit and the sparkle that are alive and breathing during all the many unique and wonderful and amazing holidays, can stay in your heart... all the year through - if you let it, and welcome it in.
But most of all…
I wish for you ADVENTURE…
I wish for you to Dream A Dream.
And I wish for YOU to make that dream come true.
I wish for you to visit a different state.
I wish for you to travel to a different country.
I wish for you to see the world from a different point of view.
I wish for you to stand on this Earth from a different vantage point.
I wish for you to see something in real life, that you only ever saw buried deep inside the worn pages of a book, or a magazine.
I wish for you to take a road trip. And to eat yummy and wickedly greasy food inside your four wheel drive Ford Explorer, while you’re on cruise control through various cities and states, looking out your window, passing by rows of cotton, or corn, or soybean, on the side of the road. And to drop a hot french fry under your car seat, and let it fall deep into a Black Hole, never to be seen from again. And to drink delicious and very strong espresso or coffee from Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts to help keep you awake on the road. And then to spill some hot and sticky drips onto your nice leather center console, and to not worry even once what these spills will do to your car’s interior.
I wish for you to take a plane ride. And to let it take you around the curvature of the Earth.
I wish for you to board a bus and take a ride driven by someone else. Yes, that red and white and black Disney Transport Bus does count.
I wish for you a carriage ride.
A sleigh ride.
A trolley ride.
A ride in an Airstream, traveling high up into the mountains. To stand up there and look down upon the Earth’s ground floor. And to stand at the bottom of the mountain and look up toward the top floor.
I wish for you a train ride… yes, even that ride you may not want to go on.
I wish for you to travel long and far and wide, all the way through to a vast and faraway desert, and walk toward a mirage, and head onward to the horizon if you must - to find what you are looking for.
I wish for you to challenge your soul.
I wish for you to look back on this next and upcoming decade…
The Book Of 2020:2029.
Ten more whole years of life… And to reflect on your actions. Reflect on your vision.
To really see what is right in front of you.
And to see what is beyond you. Envision what is on your future horizon line.
See what your reflection looks like when it bounces back at you from the water. What will YOU give back to the world… in all of that long time?
I wish for you to be present and aware a decade from now…
And to look back, and to think to yourself, that you did everything you possibly could to live… To Be Fully And Completely Alive. In your heart and in your soul. Over the next ten years. To look back another whole decade from now... And to send out a Tweet, post an Insta, put a Pin on your Pinterest Board… Or to do whatever it is we all will be doing ten years from now? Send out a letter, draft up an email, write a blog post, type up a whole book… Or maybe, just simply put something down on pen and paper, write a note inside your journal, or draft some scribble onto a bright yellow post-it that you then tuck inside of your daily planner, with a wish for that next decade...
Then close the book.
And Live that wish…
All the days of your life. ~
12/23/2019 0 Comments
During the opening scene of the holiday film classic, White Christmas, Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) saves Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby’s) life. It’s World War II. Bombs flying overhead. Rubble and lots of blown up, destroyed buildings half-standing all around. Davis pulls Wallace out of the path of a swaying and then falling, crumbling, and collapsing red brick building wall. He saves Wallace’s life - and injures his own arm in the process.
While in the hospital tent recovering, Wallace goes to visit Davis. To check on him. To thank him. For saving his life.
“It was a life worth saving,” Davis proudly proclaims. And simple, matter-of-fact like. He might as well of said,
“No big deal.”
“I do that sorta thing all the time!”
You see, Davis lived a happy, silly, and very innocent existence. Cheerful all the time, even on the lowest of days, he would find the bright spot, he would always be the jokester. Any scene he was in, it was a scene filled with joy and laughs.
Wallace had always been much more serious. Even in show business, the entertainment business, he was always focused on the Business side of any Show. Wallace and Davis became business partners after the War ended. Wallace - watching the finances - Davis following the dream.
Despite all cost. Money didn’t matter. He had a vision. And he was set to do it.
To convince Wallace to go along with any of his pricey and elaborate schemes, Davis simply pointed to that arm of his. A constant reminder to Wallace that he had saved Wallace’s life…
After all, it was a life worth saving.
Those constant and nagging reminders given by Davis are imperative scenes in the films plot. From that point forward of Davis saving Wallace’s life, every time Davis needed or wanted anything… anything at all, he just points to that arm of his.
So, ever and always hounded by Davis, Wallace repeatedly complied. Following Davis’s every whim, every desire, every dream. Even running to catch a train, and take a long, dreamy, and leisurely and quite lovely ride on the rails up north to Vermont. A trip he originally didn’t want to go on… and sleep in a drafty old club car - with no nice, warm bed? Wallace owed Davis. Big time.
He’d do anything to appease Davis. After all, how do you repay someone who saved your life?
It’s constant, right? For the rest of your life?
There is no amount that can suffice such a reciprocal payment for services rendered.
Wallace understood this. He knew no amount of money could repay Davis for the life he saved under the falling red brick building back during the War.
How much does it cost to save a life? How much would a person pay to be saved? How much does Wallace owe Davis for his act of selflessness and heroism? It was a near-impossible equation to solve. Unless, maybe, getting some insurance adjusters and lawyers, or mediators or other adjudicators, and judges and juries involved to finally solve the problem of Davis constantly pointing to his arm???
No, Wallace would never do that… that would cost more MONEY! Just keep on appeasing him. Just keep on humoring Davis… for the rest of his life. It was worth it. He was ALIVE after all.
In the end, they remain forever friends... And forever grateful of their drastically changed lives and all they had gone through together. War, and horror, death and destruction - to brand new post-war lives, the entertainment business, and finding the loves of their lives, together.
Their happily ever afters.
So, the question remains today in lots of people’s lives… How do you repay the person who saved you? If your life was utterly and literally saved by someone else, how can you possibly repay them? Is there is price tag on that action?
AND FURTHER - when the holidays come around each year, how do you give a gift...what do you buy… for that person on your list who saved your life?
The answer is simple.
I’ve watched White Christmas an infinite number of times. I have it memorized. I can taste the frothy and magical and very appealing drinks in the dining car scene onboard that infamous train ride up to Vermont... “Snow… Snow… Snow... Snow!” I can direct the remake if you’d like me to. I’m an expert.
But, I always used to question Bing Crosby’s character in the film. Wallace never told Davis to SHUT UP, to STOP WITH THIS LIFE SAVING BUSINESS! He never gave in or gave up on him. He never yelled - Stop pointing to your arm! Stop reminding me you saved my life! Stop bothering me!
Well, wait… maybe he did.
“Sometimes I wish the wall had fallen on me…” Wallace complains to Davis.
Awhhhh moans Davis, you don’t mean that!
Maybe Wallace did tell Davis to schedadle. Go away. But in an innocent manner. He never really meant it. That’s why they remained life-long friends. They helped each other through a dark time. That never goes away. Even as life changes in the future. He will be forever grateful that Davis saved his life.
You CANNOT put a price on a life. All life is precious. A life saved cannot be repaid. There is no amount. No check you can write. No card all-encompassing.
When stuffing the envelopes for your holiday cards and you get to the person who saved your life… do you add some extra glitter in their card? After all, they need something extra from everyone else, right?
Sure, every day, in trials and settlements, financial figures are calculated to affix and satisfy lawsuits etc. Insurance companies and attorneys calculate cost-of-life and benefits, etc. etc. etc. Money owed someone over the course of a lifetime - a calculated financial equivalent to compute what a life is worth with a dollar sign. But the money does not make a person whole. And life is not about the money. Which really explains why there is no suitable Christmas gift to give to the person who saved your life.
There is only one way to repay the person who saved you. One Christmas gift you can give them. It is by living your life. A life of gratefulness. Of service. Of thanks and gratitude. Of giving and generosity. Living the amazing and completely priceless life you were given - by that person who saved you...
By living your very best life - each and every day. Only someone who has been saved and pulled from the darkness can potentially even understand this. It just doesn’t happen all the time. That’s why there isn’t a section in the Hallmark card aisle devoted to it. We have - Merry Christmas to Mom & Dad, Happy Holiday’s To My Co-Worker, Dear Grandma, To My Dog Groomer - at Christmas… But where’s the card for - At Christmas… For Saving My LIfe??? I need that card. To give to someone I owe. But it doesn’t exist.
And that’s ok.
The person who saved you understands as much. They just want you to live your life. They don’t want a big thank you.
I know this.
I know this because my life was saved.
Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida saved my life. Both literally and figuratively... Physically and mentally. Three years ago. This will be my third Christmas since my life changed forever.
How can I possibly repay them for what they did for me?
I volunteered at the hospital for a years time. I donate. Etc. Etc. Etc. None of it adds up to how much they helped me. I could hand them the moon - because that’s what I want to do. I owe them everything. I cannot possibly repay them though.
My first holiday season post-treatment at the Clinic, I wanted to do something for them to thank them. Nothing matched my gratefulness. I wracked my brain. There was no money. There was no Hallmark card?!....
I’ve got it!
I’ll bake cookies!
Frosted Christmas Sugar Cookies - to be exact.
So during the holidays of 2017, my husband and I spent an entire weekend in the kitchen. Baking. It was wonderful. After many years of marriage, it was our first time really taking some quality time together to simply do some solid and legitimate baking. And our first real slow-down during any Christmas, ever.
And now, three years later, it is tradition. One weekend a holiday season, we stop everything. We don’t go see any Zoo Lights that weekend, we don’t go see the St. Augustine Nights of Lights that weekend, no Deck The Chairs, no Luminaria, no Christmas Pop-Up Bar, no Beaches Town Center Christmas Tree and lights, and no gingerbread house at One Ocean, we don’t shop at Rockaway Gardens or buy any Christmas greenery that weekend… we simply bake.
I light festive and dreamy scented candles. We turn on Christmas movies in the background. Our apartment becomes a pine and fir and balsam and sugar and dough scented Heaven on Earth. And we bake.
And frost… of course.
By Monday, the day of my follow-up care each December, I go off to Mayo, with a box of sugary and holiday goodness in hand. I check in to my appointment, and drop the box off at the Pain Rehab Clinic. And then go on my way, to meet with everyone else who comes to these sessions, everyone else who has had their lives changed forever by the Pain Rehabilitation Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
We meet. We attend our sessions. We listen. We learn. We talk. We snack. We dine. We say goodbye. We go on with our lives afterward.
Another two months go by.
We all meet every other month. Coming from places near and far. Driving, flying, and yes, by train ride also. In the interim, we all keep in touch via a private Facebook Group for “Graduates” of the amazing program. We are not merely just patients who have been discharged. We are graduates of a program designed to give us life again.
And we have access to the benefits of the Rehab Clinic for the rest of our lives afterward.
After two months, we do it all again...
But it’s that December session, during the holidays, when I always bring the cookies.
By the end of all the baking and frosting during that wonderful weekend, I have a delicious box of cookies, all wrapped up and ready to go. I try to ‘up my game’ every year. Maybe better-shapes. Maybe better overall presentation. This year, we tried to master the difference between border frosting and flood frosting. I certainly did not “master” it by any means, but it was a great start, and hopefully my cookies will improve even more next year. A great article about border frosting and flood frosting can be found here - one that even a lazy baker can follow.
When I drop off my cookies, I’m proud of myself for just a small milli-second. For “stopping my life” for 48 hours. For dropping everything. To give something to someone else. Something so very simple. But something to show and express my gratefulness. Gratitude goes a very long way. But cookies go even longer.
This post is utterly and sincerely dedicated to all of the staff at the Mayo Pain Rehab Clinic. The doctors. The nurses. The occupational therapists. The physical therapists. Nutritionists. Pain Psychologists. Any and all other staff. The invisible and unnamed hard workers. The ones who stuff envelopes reminding us of our appointments. The awesome woman who always answers the phone. The people who keep all the amazing facilities clean and tidy and safe so that patients and doctors and nurses and other staff can do the life-saving work they need to do to get back out and into the world. The ones who are currently working very hard on building construction to renovate and add to the facility to make room for a whole additional team of patients, who will be able to partake in the program in the near future. Everyone. Thank you.
There are no words.
There is no amount of money.
There is no Hallmark card I can buy.
I can never repay you.
I can bring you cookies. But I can never repay you.
You saved my life.
You brought me back to life.
I know I helped just a little bit. And God did too. And I do give God all the credit here.
But right now, this one’s for you. YOU deserve A LOT of the credit.
I do the hard work it takes each and every day to continue to survive after my discharge and graduation. I know that.
But y’all work so hard too. You deserve everything. You deserve the moon.
You pulled me out from the bombs flying by overheard. You dragged me away from the heavy red brick wall collapsing on top of me. You lifted me out of the rubble and mess. You saved me from war and death and all the destruction it brings with it. All your hard work. All the efforts. Oh, the broken arms all the Phil Davis’s have endured to help save us patients. It can never be repaid. I can never thank you enough.
But you know what? I think you know that.
I think you know… that graduates living our very best lives, and doing our very best work to live a healthy, productive, generous and giving life ourselves, is our way of repaying you… each and every day. And I try to do just that.
It’s a lifetime of work.
Yes, it is for the rest of my life.
As one of the most amazing humans the world has ever known always says and reminds us... this is a lifetime commitment. There is no end date. This lifestyle is a commitment we make with ourselves until we draw our very last breath upon this Earth.
I completely understand what he means in every sense of those words.
So thank you. Thank you for those words. Thank you for your help. Thank you for saving me. But it was a life worth saving. I try my best. I thank you forever. But my life and my life’s work ahead of me is my real thank you to you. I cannot repay you with money. I cannot even explain it in these words here and now.
You know that...
So Sugar Cookies will have to do in the interim.
Thank you Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
God Bless the Pain Rehabilitation Center and staff.
This is my Christmas gift to you.
And Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my very dear readers and subscribers. ~
This personal story is my Christmas gift to you (or someone you know) who can benefit from it in any way. If you, or someone you know, is in pain. If you are struggling. If you feel hopeless. If you are in chronic pain. If you are suffering severe depression. There is always light. There is always hope. I am not a doctor. I cannot save you. My hope with this blog is for you to use me simply as one example. To read about others, and their stories. Learn from them. Seek help. In this article is the physical facility I personally recommend. While everybody's experience will be different and unique to them, I am sharing my experience for others to benefit in any way. In my story, I am specifically referencing the Jacksonville, Florida branch of Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic has three branches - they are located in Rochester, MN, Jacksonville, FL, and Phoenix, AZ. In my own personal experience and my own personal opinion and not referring to anyone else’s, they are very different from one another. This article is referring specifically to the Jacksonville, Florida location. Their main phone number is 904.953.2000. Use my story and my example as a push to get you or that someone you know the help they need. YOU are your own best advocate. No one else will ever be able to advocate for you - better than you, yourself, and YOU. Don’t wait for someone else to come along and save you… save yourself… just maybe by letting someone else save you. But anywhere you are, there is help. Get out there… it’s YOUR JOB to get out there... and FIND IT.*
While I both love and live in Jacksonville Beach, FL, there’s only one other town around I love just as very much…well, two towns actually - it’s where Atlantic Boulevard meets the ocean - it’s Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach… its Beaches Town Center.
Beaches Town Center is all-encompassing of the downtown areas of both Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach. The two downtowns meet together for one, central, and grand downtown area on the Beaches - with Atlantic Beach to the north, and Neptune Beach to the south - and Atlantic Boulevard as the border line. It is there that the two towns touch and meet, becoming one. If you weren’t familiar with the area, you wouldn’t really even know that they are two separate towns. They really blend well aesthetically and flow and function nicely as one downton. And while the two towns share this single and lovely downtown, they share a whole lot more as well… including Christmas!
Beaches Town Center comes together for one official Christmas tree area at the center of town, and just steps off the beach. Where Atlantic Boulevard ends and the ocean begins. At the roundabout. The trees - including evergreen, and palm, of course - are lit up beautifully. Signature candy cane stripes going up the trunks of the palms, with green tip lit leaves. And this year they added another evergreen to the display, having two total, one on each side of the palms. With a large red seating area, positioned perfectly for Santa Claus to sit, there is never a dull moment in the round-a-bout. With children and families both coming up to get their photo taken sitting in the enormous chair. Sometimes even a line of people waiting.
And with the palm trees lit all up and down the sidewalks on 1st Street and beyond, in a rainbow of holiday colors, the setting is a beautiful, beachy holiday, instantly.
If you find yourself in town, and checking out all things holiday while you’re here, there’s a few other not to be missed seasonal and very festive events which I highly recommend. Check out the St. Augustine Nights of Lights if you have time for a short drive. And be sure to visit Deck The Chairs, just one town south, in my very own Jax Beach. Deck The Chairs is free, it’s walk-through, and open to the public nightly through the end of the month. And only a couple miles south of Beaches Town Center, it’s a quick hop on over if you are out exploring all the lights and all the beautiful sights around Jacksonville.
Our first Christmas living in Florida, back in 2017, we were browsing around Beaches Town Center. It was wonderful - we knew it would become an instant new tradition added to our list of holiday festivities. And while strolling through town that first Floridian holiday, we came upon One Ocean at the center of town, and decided we needed to check it out.
We walked into their grand lobby, for the first time. Fountain in the center, just inside the door. Well, the inside is just gorgeous. And it turns out that every year, for Christmas and the entire holiday season, they put a large gingerbread house on display just off to the side in the lobby area. Naturally stumbling onto this find was so exciting. And it’s those finds, that I didn’t know about in advance of a visit somewhere, completely unplanned, and spur-of-the-moment, that are sometimes the very best moments. And we’ve been back every year.
I’ve included photos of this year’s 2019 gingerbread house. And let me tell you, that lobby smelled of gingerbread - and smelled of heaven. It was fabulous to see, and to breathe in. It’s a quick stop in to check out, and puts one in the holiday spirit right away. The baked house is different every year, and all of it - the sign - the house itself, and all the details presented, reminded me immediately of my many travels to Walt Disney World at Christmastime and doing some Resort Hopping...checking out all the resort lobby gingerbread houses - each themed to that specific Disney resort. So I definitely recommend stopping in One Ocean on your Beaches Town Center holiday adventure. They’ve got a bar and restaurant on site too - it’s on the pricey side so we haven’t been there to eat just yet, but we have been to the lounge a few times and it’s just lovely. The ocean views are priceless.
And a visit to Beaches Town Center is never, ever complete without a visit to Southern Grounds Coffee Shop. I love coffee almost as much as life itself. So we strolled on down to Southern Grounds to get a hot drink on a cool Florida evening. but to our surprise it was the one night ever that I’ve come across them closed. Usually open until 9pm, we went on a Monday night, and there was a sign on the door apologizing for the closure. They were out celebrating for the staff holiday party. No, I’m not complaining… the fact that we were so very sad that they were closed is only a compliment to them - as their shop simply rocks. So no Southern Grounds for us that particular evening, but soooo very glad for their employees that they had a night out away from work to celebrate.
Beaches Town Center knows how to throw a Beachy Christmas… On a Monday night, or any night of the week. I’d highly recommend stopping by for a visit, short or long. Coffee or no coffee. It’s a wonderful sight, with a lot of wonderful lights. ~
On the second Tuesday of every month here in the small coastal town of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, local artists set up shop along First Street in downtown for the monthly Jax Beach Art Walk.
This monthly Walk is actually one of the very many reasons my husband and I originally fell in love with our little beach town. It’s a small event, but a wonderful one. And we’ve always enjoyed seeing the unique pieces out on display. The event takes place from 5pm to 9pm; and I LOVE the December event the very best of them all... Because - Christmas - of course.
It’s an absolutely LOVELY way to spend a Tuesday evening. We had an early dinner - well, we always eat dinner early now - not really many exceptions to that. With my very healthy lifestyle comes a very early dinner - no late night eating or snacking - ever. So after we dined and feasted upon our very healthy and delicious homemade Taco Tuesday entree, we ventured out and proceeded to slowly walk and browse through the entire length of downtown Jax Beach.
And while the Jax Beach Art Walk takes place in the darkness of the night sky during this exciting and festive time of year, this December event it was not so dark after all while walking through the streets and past all the various shops and restaurants.
During the summer months, while the artists are still out at their booths as usual until 9pm, the sun is out nearly just as late to light the way. But during these Walks occurring during the cooler winter season, a stroll through the Art Walk in the dark is met by many kinds of unique ways artists try to light up their booths and displays. Lots of rope lights, holiday lights, twinkle lights, led candles, and icicle lights, etc. And let’s not forget all the iPhone flashlights showcasing lots of art while glancing up close. With the darkness of the December Art Walk, always comes these simple yet fun lighting displays.
And as a lovely added bonus, along with the beautiful sunset this Tuesday, we also had a breathtaking moon following us above in the night sky. Keeping watch over our quaint little town and providing additional light for shoppers and diners and tourists.
I met an artist who was selling at a large table set up with all kinds of various shaped little topiaries. The topiaries themselves were each lit with tiny, miniature pixie lights set as Christmas lights. He pointed to one of the topiaries for me and I noticed it was an AT-AT holiday topiary... That’s an All Terrain Armored Transport Star Wars vehicle topiary decorated for the holiday’s… but of course. I was very amused, it was adorable. And all the various creativity on display such as this was quite inspiring.
And then at the very center of town, sitting proudly on display for all, sits the Deck The Chairs holiday lights adventure. The Chairs were definitely all decked out in their holiday finest for the occasion, and many artists and shoppers commingled amongst all the exciting holiday festivities taking place. Lots of people were out to check out both the Chairs, as well as the Art Walk, so I highly recommend the December Walk if you are short on time and want to see two things at once.
I made one purchase that evening - a rose gold hematite ring from Artist Olivia Shore, who can be found at @livshoreart online. I haven't been able to wear my wedding rings in well over a year or really actually much longer now, as since my massive weight loss the rings no longer fit - and are quite pricey to be resized down. Someday I will get around to it though. So lately, and especially desiring some rings to wear, I’ve been very inspired by all the local artists selling various types of rings for some very reasonable prices. And the price from Olivia was definitely right for me. She was offering this ring for $12.00. But she mentioned that since I was buying directly from her and not from the shops she sells her merchandise in, she brought the price down to $7.00. Always happy to support an artist, but I cannot deny, mostly quite happy for the new jewelry too.
Most of the artists on the Walk sell in lots of local shops throughout town or the greater Jacksonville area. So as an added bonus to Art Walk patrons, if you purchase directly from the artist, instead of through their shops outside of this event, they tend to offer decreased pricing. This was offered to me without my asking… they simply offer better deals at the walk and state as much. So get on out to the next Art Walk, and support your local artists directly. But - still go to the shops as well, as they are magnificent in their very own and lovely ways of course.
I saw lots and lots of beautiful homemade Christmas ornaments for sale, delicate and burnt glass, some for only $3.00 a piece, lots of holiday paintings with lovely winter scenery, and tons of other unique and fun holiday decor. I especially loved the table selling the copper shaped coastal creations and was very tempted to make a purchase. I have a spot in my kitchen absolutely perfect for one of those pieces, and I love copper. They were all pretty expensive for me though so I held back and simply admired the pieces from afar.
Any of the art being offered at the monthly Walk would make a fabulous holiday gift. If you are still doing your shopping, and missed out on the Art Walk, consider one of the few remaining local upcoming holiday markets: including the Beaches Green Market, taking place at Jarboe Park in Neptune Beach this Saturday from 2-5pm, as well as the mid-week Atlantic Beach Holiday Market next week on Wednesday, December 18th from 3pm-6pm at Bull Memorial Park. You’ll be supporting local creativity, and getting your shopping done all at once.
Overall, any day - or evening - strolling up and down through town is a fabulous outing indeed. The moonlit sky, the sound of the rough and choppy, high surf from that next windy and wild Nor’easter that we experienced this week, including the holiday lights of Deck The Chairs, the art on display of all kinds, shapes, and sizes, talking with everyone, it’s all a fabulous and peaceful way to end a day along the coast. Even if you don’t buy a thing, still get out there and check out all the beauty on display, and don't forget to look up at that moon, lighting and guiding your way through our amazing world. ~
This December marks my third holiday season living in the South. And while I’ve already enjoyed seemingly countless new, exciting, and very different holiday traditions each winter here, there’s always something else I want to try, or add to my must-do list. Many of these events and outings are completely unique to Florida, Florida’s history, and, unlike Chicago - with the fact that bodies of water are not frozen solid, or on their way to be, down here in December - it means a whole lot of those holiday traditions involve the water in some way or manner.
St. Augustine’s 26th Annual Nights of Lights is one such event that I’ve incorporated into my holiday traditions here on the First Coast. And this year I planned my outing to be centered entirely around the coastal and inlet waters of Vilano Beach, Matanzas River, Anastasia Island, and the very historic city of St. Augustine itself.
I’ve seen the St. Augustine Lights each year here thus far. But mostly I’ve gazed at the lights just quickly touring or driving through, so this year I wanted to do things a little bit different.
Red Boat Water Tours - docked at the Vilano Beach Pier - hosts a nightly boat tour of the coastal waters which reflect the lights surrounding all the beauty in the city.
We booked our boat ride months in advance. The tour is so very popular it sells out way ahead of time for each evening they take on customers during the entire holiday season.
We had been on this exact boat tour during the day time with my family when they were in town for a visit about a year and a half ago now. We witnessed lots of dolphins swimming about during that ride, as we listened to the captain tell us many stories about the great history of St. Augustine. So I was pretty excited about gaining a different perspective of the city this year, at night, once the waters were completely dark, and with the lighthouse acting as a true beacon surrounding our entire ride, and all the magnificence of the lights display bordering the entire shore line.
Tours start at $40.00 per person, plus fees, and our original total came to over $90.00. However, since we had been customers in the past, they had offered us a repeat rider discount specifically for the Nights of Lights Tour, with fairly significant savings - it nearly halved our total cost. This repeat customer deal was better than any other sales/codes/online deals offered.
Honestly, the large discount is the only reason I booked the tour. I personally think we would never have paid this much to go back on the same boat we had already been on - as I tend to try different things each year, especially those that cost significant money. While tending to keep the traditions that cost next to nothing or are completely free. Sugar cookies, anyone?
I also planned for us to have dinner at Beaches at Vilano in advance of the tour. It makes sense to me to try a restaurant we’ve never been especially when we’re right there in the vicinity.
Our ride started at 7:15pm going through 8:30. Red Boat asks in the fine print for us to arrive about 15-20 minutes ahead of time. The restaurant is just opposite the pier and basically shares the same parking. So I planned our dinner for 5:30. That gave us enough time to work a full day, drive down, eat a leisurely meal, including time for a quick dessert, then head on over to our awaiting horse-drawn open sleigh upon the warm waters.
Dinner was just fine. I say that meaning there was absolutely nothing wrong with it, while at the same time it wasn’t the best meal of my life. It ended up being roughly half the cost as our anniversary meal at The Reef, which is located just down the street a bit… so the lesser cost was fabulous. And despite it not being the absolute best, I do recommend stopping in Beaches if you get a chance.
The atmosphere and the views are worth it alone. You will be transported instantly into vacation mode there - whether you’re on vacation, or not. And there are no complaints here about vacation mode.
At 5:30pm on a Tuesday, in December, they were quite busy. They had some very large parties already seated, mostly corporate and holiday parties going on, but each table was filled. They were busy enough that we were lucky to get seated right away, have our meal, with just enough time remaining for getting out to our boat tour immediately after. We had tried for reservations - but they do not accept. Make sure to allot for enough time if you are planning the same holiday outing.
I ordered a plain iced tea, skipped the soup, salads and appetizers, and had the flat iron steak with a side of broccoli - extra broccoli - skip the plantains, for my main course.
This is how I stay healthy or even somewhat healthy while dining out. I researched the menu in advance online. I logged into MyFitnessPal in the morning to plot out my calories for the day. And I knew exactly what I was ordering for dinner. After massive weight loss, I’m not about to go back to where I was. While I receive lots of questions asking me how I maintain the loss...it's a daily plan just like it was during the loss. Even more so afterward, I’d say, than during, sometimes.
Healthy decisions have to be part of the new and changed lifestyle. Wherever I am. Whatever options are available to me. And most especially when coming face to face with the almighty and highly coveted FRENCH FRY.
No, I never met a potato I didn’t like.
Don’t get me wrong, I still eat burgers and fries, just infrequently. The meal I selected for this outing is loaded with nutrients from the broccoli and is heavy on the protein from the steak. And nothing fried.
The protein helps the tummy feel full, and takes longer to digest, upping the metabolism. The harder the body has to work to process the food, the more calories it burns in the process. That’s why protein is a major perk to weight loss. And, the broccoli’s many and countless benefits will basically go without saying for right now and the purposes of this post, as the perks of eating it should be self-explanatory for most. Hence, the large plate of broccoli.
My only critique of this dish, at this restaurant, is that I would recommend the steak and broccoli be served on separate plates. The juices/sauces/butters/etc. from both dishes were already mixed together by the time my plate was served to me, and it didn’t take long for the entire dish to taste all the same. And when everything tastes the same, it’s becomes increasingly less appealing. Leading to less enjoyment from me, leading to my hubby’s meal becoming more and more appealing and quite tempting to me by the second.
Here is the hubby’s meal.
He ordered the burger with fries, and a side of grilled shrimp. He loved the shrimp, and everything else was exceptional. His margarita was just right.
We ordered the volcano cake with vanilla ice cream, berries, and topped with a berry sauce to split for dessert. This allowed us to still have a treat for the night, a special treat since we were out, but splitting saved on calories immensely as well as cost.
We received our volcano cake - minus the volcano. Sad face.
My husband didn’t know what a volcano cake was, so I was excited to split it open to show how the chocolate should pour out like lava, but, sadly, that did not happen. It was very, very dry. But while the cake was not as it should have been - it was still edible - it was C H O C O L A T E…. after all. No problem there - not a drop of it left by the end of the meal - we had the plate clean for them and ready to pop in the dishwasher, no pre-rinse needed.
After our dinner at Beaches was complete, we walked right on out to the very lonely looking pier.
It was dark. And desolate.
I instantly thought we had the wrong day.
I was just about to check my phone for information. But alas, we kept walking down toward the dock, and I could see red lights.Our Rudolph.
Our boat was there. Our Red Boat. It was just near empty and no one else was around - within an area that us usually fairly populated - any time of day.
Apparently, right before our arrival there was a miscommunication between tour boat companies and all the riders standing out on the dock waiting to board their respective boats.
Another tour company out of the same dock had some problems with their boat, sent everyone away, and when those people left, nearly all of the customers for our Red Boat left as well. So we were riding on a sold-out boat ride, and had most of the boat to ourselves. If you book this outing, don’t be afraid to call to verify if something’s up upon your arrival. And know there are many boating companies out in the area touring customers around. If one sends people away, confirm it’s your ride before leaving.
It was a lovely ride. A chilly ride. A dark ride.
With the sun long ago set, we were riding past all the low and tidal areas in the dark, with the lighthouse as a breathtaking backdrop in the black skies. Our boat captain told us some stories along the way. We learned of the ancient history surrounding Nights of Lights - something I had never heard before.
I knew there were many reasons floating around online of how the Lights came to be an annual tradition within the town 26 years ago. And that the story of the light in the window tradition had potentially dated back to ancient times. But I knew no real specifics.
Our boat captain told us his version… He said it all started with Jesus.
Jesus. As a refugee baby. No room at the Inn. In need of safe passage. Safe housing for the night. When the Spanish settled here on the historic First Coast hundreds of years ago, they put lights in their windows at night during the holiday season. To act as a beacon.
A beacon for weary travelers.
A light to welcome Jesus.
Jesus has room at their Inns.
A beacon of hope to the world.
Of all the stories I heard about the Lights, and why they exist, and why people still put candles in their windows to this day, I like the Jesus version. Baby Jesus… sleeping in the hay.
I’ll choose Jesus.
But regardless of why lights are put in the window displays, and which version and which stories are true, and which are legend in town… as the town itself has countless legends - the lights themselves are absolutely fabulous. You can choose which story you like. Which fits your reason as to why you light your way and what you choose to light your way with.
Just always choose the light - over the darkness - and you’ll be good to go.
They offered us heavy wool blankets onboard. They came in handy. We absolutely froze. I wore a turtleneck, the only long pair of pants I own, and one of the only closed-toe shoes I own, my new winter puffy down coat, plus ear muffs, gloves, hood, and brought two blankets of our own, as they served us hot chocolate. It was 53 degrees outside.
We both froze near to death. It had just been in the mid 80’s a second ago, this was an ice age. We laughed at ourselves as if we were delirious. 53 degrees in Chicago in December is a heat wave. Break out the ice cream and sit on the front lawn with it. Open the windows!
Now we were Floridian Fools covered in blankets. Not allowing our fingers and cheeks to feel the air if we can at all help it. I can already picture myself next year..., I’ll have the big Ugg boots to match. I already know it. How else can I get through another Florida winter? Either that, or we are moving to the Equator.
No other sensible or reasonable or sane-minded options exist.
I mentioned the cold makes us delirious now, right?
If you’re a local and booking this ride, dress appropriately. Bring blankets. Pack for summiting Mount Everest.
If you’re a tourist and here on vacation from anywhere up North, never fear, you’ll feel like you’re in the tropical paradise of your dreams as your boat captain plays ‘Pontoon’ from Little Big Town as you race off toward the lights of the night.
Know that if you are looking to obtain quality photos, they will be hard to come by. With all the movement, added into the darkness, even with my hubby’s better camera, we couldn’t really capture the moment digitally with any great detail. Our best photo remains at the top of this post. If the boat had come to a complete stop, plus a tripod, then, maybe, we’re talking. But some things can’t be caught on camera I guess. You know, like Santa Claus. I tend to never capture a great full quality image of him, but I know he’s out there.
If you are in the area, definitely check it out. It’s a holiday tradition and celebration in a beautifully historic town, for all to enjoy, regardless of background, beliefs, and a lovely addition to a family holiday tradition as well. After all, in constant learning about different beliefs and traditions and reasons why others might put candles in the window each December, we are reminded that while we are all different, we are also all the same. Everybody wants Hope. Everyone wants Light.
I’ll choose not to do the ride again as it was costly. But, next year, I plan to view the Lights on foot, in town… off from the water's edge... and on solid ground.
I’ll travel up close and personal.
I want to see the fire lamps.
I want to see the Christmas trees in the window displays. I want to walk the town and see the lights as close as possible. I want to listen for the sound of reindeer hooves on roof tops. And most importantly, I want to look for Santa Claus… I tend to believe he might be hanging around all the dreamy chocolate shops and gift shops and restaurants… blended in amongst the gorgeous and magical Lights of St. Augustine. Yes, those shops seem like a good place to start on my hunt for the big SC. But for now, I’ll enjoy my memory of a coastal Christmas holiday on the water’s edge. ~
What a most lovely of lovely and long, holiday weekends. Everywhere we went, everything we did, everything we saw, was surrounded by the feeling of Christmas in the air. And while I am one who does not partake in the Black Friday festivities that so many Amerian’s do count as part of their holiday traditions - because, as one of my friends posted on her Facebook that day with what I deem to be the utmost accurate declaration ever regarding the day that is so very Black:
“It’s too PEOPLY out there!”
In fact, besides the accuracy of that comment, it also might have been the funniest thing I read in a very long time.
My concurrence with that statement led me to be busy doing many other fun and festive things - instead of shopping.
Black Friday came and went for us, without purchase of any material goods. A most wise decision if I do say so myself. I have no interest in waiting in long lines for something that I can purchase any other day of the year, without such a line. Free snow globe included? No thank you; not worth it.
Instead - we went to Jimmy Johns.
How simple and basic and quite boring of an outing indeed. And boring was just what we were looking for. I decided that any store that would most likely have the biggest crowds and the most ridiculous lines would be all the ones we would skip… And that most restaurants would also most likely be quite busy - due to needing to feed food to hungry shoppers - so those would all be the restaurants we would skip as well. That eliminated basically everywhere on the face of the planet from my list… Where would be open - but completely and utterly EMPTY???
And guess what? I was right.
We drove our car into the parking lot. Not a car around. We walked in. We were their only customers. It was fabulous. We ate at the window counter, bar style seating, as we always do. I’m a regular there. And we watched the traffic go on by up and down Beach Boulevard. Slowly. Yes, it was crowded out there, even in our flat and sandy and salty little corner of the world.
But not so at Jimmy’s place.
In fact, it was so slow inside Jimmy Johns, as we listened to tunes blaring from their speaker with today’s best hits - i.e. music of this very own decade we are currently living in. I mention this because almost everywhere else plays music from the 80’s? Why? Universe… why?
Yes, it was so slow the staff member said something along the lines of, I knew it was going to be slow today, but jeazzzz…. I never imagined it being this slow.
Yes, we picked the most perfect place to eat a sandwich in the entire United States of America on Black Friday. I tended to be of the opinion that not many American’s have an interest in lining up outside the front doors of a sandwich shop at four in the morning, fighting to get in when the doors are opened, just to buy some deli meat?
My opinion tended to be correct, at least from where we sat. No, they were out buying expensive and fancy and enormous TVs, and iPads, and clothing, and more clothing, and appliances, and more appliances. Everything I didn’t feel like waiting in a line for on this Black day.
Yes, we made a great decision. It was a simple and pleasant and peaceful outing. Next time you’re looking for a quick - and healthy - lunch on Black Friday, stop in Jimmy Johns, and avoid the crowded everywhere else of this world.
Right next door to Jimmy Johns and across the small and narrow street, I could see from the window we were watching the world go by from… Is a place called Rockaway. A greenhouse.. A garden center... A Christmas tree lot.
We go to Jimmy John’s a lot. We see Rockaway a lot, sitting from the window of the sandwich shop. I had never ventured over there to date however.
But that blackest of clear blue sky days was different from any other. Something told me that day was the day to visit.
I tend to think my nose told me it was time.
We witnessed car after car pulling up and loading one live tree after another onto the roofs of their vehicles. I had always wanted to venture over there and check it out. They were busy, yes, but they were not busy at all compared to the big box stores everywhere else in the nation.
We finished our simple lunch and walked across the street to the greenhouse.
Instantly! - I smelled Christmas!
If you’ve never smelled yourself some Christmas before, I highly recommend finding some, and put it up to your nose, and smell it.
I could smell the scent of pine and balsam and fraser fir from the road. And the scent only intensified as we got closer and walked into the garden, feet on top of gravel, dirt, and pebbles.
I was in a dream. I had found a slice of heaven. I wanted to bottle it all up, take it home, and keep it forever. Never out of my sight - or away from my nose - again.
We walked through the entire greenhouse and its property. It’s quite a large place! From the exterior, it appears that Rockaway is just a small, single story red farmhouse. A small house, with a vast plot of land surrounding it, all surrounded with various greenery for sale.
But once you traverse inside its quarters, it’s quite larger than its tiny exterior makes it out to be.
I was immediately met with rows and rows of flowers of all kinds. Grasses of all kinds. Greenery of all kinds. Ceramic pots and wall trinkets and other such decor for sale intermixed.
But I went there for the Christmas. So the Christmas I was going to find.
Never fear, my nose led the way.
My nose led me to the far back area of the greenhouse. You know, it’s just like when you need a dozen eggs or gallon of milk or tub of chocolate ice cream from the grocer… The simplest and most basic and most necessary of items needed at the time, they always put in the back of the store.
Silly us, they think we don’t know what they’re doing… It’s all strategic? In order to get to that gallon of milk, that dozen eggs, those tubs of chocolatey and icy goodness, we all have to traverse past every other item in the store first in order to find our basic essentials in life.
To get to all the good stuff, you have to pass up anything else that might tempt your eyes. Ohh, I need that bag of chips. I really could use a loaf of bread… since I’m here. Are we out of juice at home? We better grab some bananas... while we’re at it. And toilet paper. We can’t forget that, heaven forbid.
Yes, it’s Black Friday every day at the grocer. They always know how to make a sale. Have you ever seen anyone leave a grocer empty-handed? Certainly not in my lifetime?! Just put that toilet paper display out prominently on the end cap, where it can’t be missed, slap a yellow sign over it referencing something along the lines of a sale… or even better… 12 = 36… ???... and we’re gold. Jack Pot.
Hence again, why would I ever shop on Black Friday? When I’m buying all that bread and all those eggs and all those tubs of ice cream, and carts loaded FULL of rolls upon rolls of toilet paper, on sale, every other day of the year, anyway?
So my nose led me all the way to the back of the greenhouse. I was met with the most intense fragrance of Christmas. It was naturally the most fragrant standing amongst all the various trees for sale. And I never wanted to leave.
Maybe my husband would have to drag me out of there kicking and screaming all the way?
Ha - maybe I am ready for Black Friday… Fighting for a chance - screaming to be the one. Can I stay here forever? And never part with the dreamy aroma surrounding me. Can I win the prize? Where are all the doorbusters? I’m NOT going home.
We checked out all the trees. Standing there, I immediately imagined myself in Michigan. Years and years ago. Happy memories; very happy memories. I was quite young, so the memories are somewhat fuzzy. But there I stood; on a Christmas tree farm. With all the family - moms and dads, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. We took a hay ride (don’t remember if pulled by horse, but my dreams say yes, there were horses present). The ride took us out onto the farm, to pick out our very own living tree. It was beautiful. It was farm country. It was quiet. It was peaceful. Nature everywhere. It was the best day. It was Pure Michigan.
Looking back, I’m so grateful for my family. All the things we did growing up. All those memories. It doesn’t matter if I can’t remember if it was horses who dragged me out to the tree farm or not. Maybe a tractor was pulling us? Either way, I know I was there. I know I was with my entire family. I am grateful for the time we all spent together. I am grateful for that outing. A lovely outing, that I can remember all these years later. I’m grateful that they, as adults, spent their time, with us, very young children. So that we could have these memories, as adults, today.
I’m grateful and thankful… So much so that as I stood in a small red farmhouse barn, far removed from the farm country of Michigan, three blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, in sunny and hot coastal Florida, on San Pablo Island, in Jacksonville Beach, kiddy corner from Jimmy John’s and opposite the local Publix, living a completely different life, and after meeting God himself, on Black Friday, in Rockaway Gardens... roughly thirty years after that family Christmas tree outing, standing there within and amongst that dreamy scent of Christmas… which evoked such happy memories of my Christmas’s past.
Only because of that past am I standing right there, right then.
Only because of that past, am I capable of smelling Christmas in the air, right there, right then, and with that scent also evoke all those happy memories.
We toured the entire greenhouse, inside, and out. We saw various styles of holiday wreaths and swags. The swags are my favorite. Oh wait, scratch that. The wreaths shaped into candy canes are my favorite. Oh wait…
I can’t make up my mind.
If it’s green, smells of pine, balsam, fir, is reminiscent of Christmas - that one is my favorite.
What did you say? You asked if I particularly like the Hallmark Channel this time of year? Yes, I’m a fan. We still don’t have cable, or streaming, though. I can dream.
We turned a corner and were met face to face with an entire room of poinsettias. Just poinsettias. All looking very poinsettia-like. White and red. And one type I never before saw in my entire life. A white, red, and pinkish, mixed and beautifully blended color poinsettia.
I love that one the most.
I thought of my grandma right then, in that room.
Every Christmas she was alive and I knew her, she always gave everyone a poinsettia. I was given one when I still lived at home with my family growing up. I put it on my dresser in my bedroom.
I got married, and hubby and I were given a poinsettia each Christmas. We were also given more poinsettias to pass on to others for her.
She’s been gone for some years now already. Time does fly. But I can’t see a poinsettia, without seeing Grandma.
Moving on, there was an entire area of succulents. Orange trees. Lime trees. Palms. Etc. If it was alive and growing, and taking our carbon dioxide away from our lungs, it was at Rockaway.
And since we were in Florida. And since it was hot outside. Most all of these beauties were all just sitting there soaking in the outdoor sun. Some in the actual greenhouse, some under netting. But mostly, I toured and browsed and strolled through a beautiful outdoor piece of winding garden property; a garden much larger than I expected. After thirty some years of Christmas’s up in the Chicago area, my brain still has a difficult time grasping and understanding the concept that I am still outside, wearing flip flops, shorts and tank, big sunglasses, hot and sweaty, and it’s Christmas time? Where’s the snow?!
I’m not complaining though.
We were nearing the end of our tour. Our informal browsing. We came upon tables set for an upcoming event. I wondered what was going on? There were drink cups out. Many. They were expecting lots of people. At some point in the very near future? Table clothes spread and draped over the tables. Something was happening? I looked up. At the clear blue sky. At the bright and blinding hot sun. I saw the dark evergreen cloud in the sky from the corner of my eye…. Wait. There were no dark green clouds on such a clear blue sky day. My fuzzy vision faded in and out from the bright sun laser-beaming into my eyes.
I was looking up at a large Christmas tree - on the rooftop! Yes, they put a tree up on the roof. I could tell it had lights strung all about it. My memory snapped to attention. I knew what was going on! They were setting up for a party. Rockaway has their own tree lighting, each year… a tree, up on the roof!
Oh rats! We went there during the day! Not at night. We could always come back that evening to see the festivities. Oh wait. Maybe it would be too peoply out there. It was still Black Friday after all. I wasn’t supposed to be out shopping today. I was just out to grab a number sixteen with no mayo and a cup of unsweetened iced tea at Jimmy Johns...
I lost 86 pounds eating that exact sandwich - roughly once a week. It was my weekly “carb” treat. No I did not do a carb-restricted diet to lose the weight. I ate everything, in moderation. But I do tend to consider white bread a treat, so I only ate it about once a week. And somehow throughout my weight loss journey that has since turned into weight maintenance, I started going to Jimmy John’s once a week... You could say my nose led me there. Not out of routine, not out of desperation or a feeling as if because I lost the weight eating Jimmy’s sandwiches then I must keep doing it to keep the weight off? Not that at all. I just like it. That’s all. Someday I might tire of good ol’ Jimmy, but not yet. To be fair, it is kind of hard to tire of fresh white dough raised into fresh white perfect bread.
So yeah, we were out for lunch. We were NOT out to witness a tree lighting. Box shaped stores, or anything else that day. It was the dreamy scent of Christmas that led me to Rockaway. But it was also the thoughts and dreams of my own Christmas which told me to now go home. After all, it was Black Friday. Yes, it definitely was very peoply out there. I’ll go home and put an ol’ Yule Log… on the ol’ You Tube, and trim my own tree.
No, I didn’t buy anything at Rockaway that day. Pennies are tight sometimes. Pennies are watched. I do consider myself a professional shopper and there were many things I wanted to buy there, including swags and candy cane wreaths and poinsettias galore, but I resisted all temptation... I reminded myself that after losing 86 freaking pounds, my wardrobe is still a cluster of nothing that fits me because it was long ago donated to charity, and what remains are only a few quite simple repeating new and fresh outfits that do now fit. I’ll save all the pennies I can for new clothes. 86 pounds of work reminded me I’d rather buy clothes that last a long longer and will come in very handy for me, than a piece of clipped greenery that will surely die by season’s end.
So all purchasing temptations were managed! ‘Tis a rare day indeed for such a pro of a shopper!
But I didn’t leave Rockaway empty-handed. No. The scent of Christmas came home with me. It was all over my hands, inside my very light and empty and missing shopping bags, steamed into my wild hair, and mostly, it was in my nose. In fact, the scent was so strong, I still smelled it on me and on all those new clothes that I had been wearing, later that evening when I got ready for bed.
Yes, it’s very important to surround oneself with such a magnificent and dreamy scent.
Don’t let this beautiful and festive and happy and difficult and challenging and magical season go by without smelling some Christmas into your nose. Don’t waste a moment to catch a breath of fresh pine-scented air. Whether you are standing on a vast and beautiful and picturesque farm up in Michigan cutting down a green tree for your living room, or standing on a coastal barrier island in the south while eating a number sixteen with no mayo… be sure to breathe it all in. Remember all the good times and all the good people in your life that come into your brain when you inhale that special aroma. Then - bottle it up, keep it forever, store it somewhere special where you keep all your treasures, and never remember where you put it. ~
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).
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. ~
7/4/2019 0 Comments
July 4, 2019
It’s Independence Day!
Go ahead... run that race you’ve been wanting to run. Eat that slice of pie you’ve had your eye on. Wear that red, white, and blue hanging in your closet. Or, better yet, wear that perfectly 'instagramable' and completely pre-planned spirit wear you knew for months was going to be your Independence Day apparel. Celebrate! Live free! And do everything you please, and nothing you don’t.
The 4th of July can be an easy holiday to celebrate, or a hard one, just like any other holiday. It’s you and your mindset that make all the difference. You could work all day in the kitchen, serve a bbq to a hundred people in your backyard, and never sit down once all day. Which is great! - - If that’s your cup of tea. Or you can do a slightly different version, which I’m calling the Easy Americana 4th. Don’t get me wrong, I’m calling it easy, but I don’t necessarily want it too easy... or lazy. I like a challenge, I like to be busy, and I like constant improvement. But after so many very busy and chaotic holidays celebrated in the past traveling to multiple locations in a single day, I found that it’s the simplicity of a holiday that will make it the best one ever. Living in Florida has done that for me. And every single holiday I spend in this great state is my best holiday ever.
Yes, I did wake up at my usual five am before sunrise hour. I got a great workout in by running a race, I walked the dog, got ready, made coffee, and l wore my favorite new spirit wear from Old Navy’s 2019 Americana clothing line. As well as going out to lunch and work in my studio. We also ate my completely fabulous dinner, all Americana food themed, yet utterly simplified. I can accomplish all that while at the same time absolutely NOTHING about the day is chaotic, and nothing about the day is anything but celebrating the reason for the day and chilling out of course.
1) Choose ONE Event To Attend:
First, choose one event, ok, maybe two, that you want to or need to attend. Then, bypass everything else and make some time to yourself. No is the answer to every other invite you get. For example, I planned that I would run my local 5K at 7:30 in the morning. I knew after that the rest of my morning was open. I ran in the Celebration Run 5K which routed through the quite streets of the Baymeadows neighborhood in Jacksonville. I then was able to go home, walk the pooch, get ready, and get a bit of work done. The one other thing I knew I wanted to do was go out to lunch - and go somewhere fun. I left the place wide open, to have some spontaneity and for my hubby and I to pick the place when we left the house, no reservation needed or wanted. We chose Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers, a local restaurant at the beach with a very casual vibe, has multiple locations, and headquartered in Georgia. We had never been so that was part of the fun, trying somewhere new. And we ate lunch in a bus!
2) Make Time For Yourself:
Then, make some down time. Holiday or no holiday, it’s really important to have time to focus on what you love to do. The remainder of the afternoon I worked in my art studio. I finished off an 8x10 red, white, and blue themed piece while my puppy sat right next to me. She was terrified of the brief afternoon lighting and thunder that came through as usual on a steamy hot Florida summer afternoon. And whenever it storms she becomes my shadow and looks up at me and says with those precious eyes, ‘Is everything going to be ok?” Yes, I say. We’re all good here, no worries. Eventually, even she settles in, falling asleep by my feet, and took a long nap... Dogs are natural pros at making time for themselves.
3) Have Dinner - Simplified:
When dinner time came around, I was all ready for my quick and Easy Americana meal. I chose the time in my studio today over cooking from scratch. So on July 3rd, along with every other person in town, I went to Winn Dixie and bought my holiday meal, working mostly the perimeter of the store. First, the bakery = because dessert is imperative. I grabbed a Winn Dixie Bin Apple Pie from a display very near the front of the store. Next, the deli - I grabbed a tub of potato salad. I walked past the meat fridge and grabbed the hot dogs. We use 100% wheat bread as our buns so then I grabbed a loaf of bread. Two more quick aisles in to grab frozen steamable corn and a can of Bush’s Baked Beans. All we had to do when dinner time came on the 4th was to quickly heat things up and our meal was set.
4) End the Evening with some Relaxation:
And as we quickly prepped our meal and binged watched some Scandal on dvd, I decided to call this evening my how-to-get-dinner-done-in-two-minutes-flat plan. I’ll choose this holiday meal any day if it means doing what I want all day long before the meal. Because I got to spend the morning with my hubby at a road race, the afternoon with my puppy in my studio, and an evening at home with both - all together, no stress. I watched the local town fireworks show literally from bed, looking out my bedroom window, which granted me the perfect end to my Fabulously Simple Florida 4th.
*****Now get out there and have YOUR best 4th - ever. Easy as pie.*****
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