*Part of - Bean’s Coffee Shop Challenge - series
Is it me, or does everyone debate EVERYTHING nowadays?
Flip or Flop
Who wore it better?
Kate vs. Meghan
Netflix vs. Hulu
Disney vs. Universal
Coke vs. Pepsi
What came first… the chicken or the egg?
Who played the best James Bond ever?
Jelly vs. Jam
Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
Paleo vs. Keto
Do plants have feelings?
Blake or Miranda?
N’SYNC v. NKOTB (wow, that’s a tough one)....
Oh wait, I think I’m starting to date myself over here… Moving onwards… pay no attention to me sitting in front of a square box tv watching NKOTB. Wait, they are still really together!
Yes, the list could go on forever… Because, guess what? Everyone does seem to debate everything nowadays. Ha, would who have thought?
We even debate on Twitter if an award show was totally awesome? Or was it horrible and the worst award show that ever aired on network television? In fact, now we debate not only who the host of the award show should or should not be, but if there should be a host at all? Huh?
And we have all this before even mentioning politics. The dreaded word. Lest we all forget the upcoming presidential debates ahead of us this year - yes, an official presidential election year. It looms ahead of us, taunting us all. Ahhhmmm… whether we like it or not, it’s all coming, and it’s all coming for us.
Yes, we are alive during a very interesting time… Or wait, is this time period actually interesting? Maybe we’re not even really alive? Maybe we live in a simulation. You’ve heard about that one, right? Or maybe we’re living and breathing inside an alternative universe - right now. And yep, you can easily fall into a YouTube rabbit hole on that one… Do we live in a UNIverse or do we live in a MULTIverse? THAT - is the question. Or do I have too much time on my hands? That - might be the question also.
But any way you shake it, if you are in need of a debate topic for a school project, the list is nearly endless. NO ONE should fail debate class nowadays. It should be a minute and mere impossibility.
Or should it?
So with most everything and anything up for debate today, I’m throwing my hat in the ring.
With all the seriousness going on everywhere, how’s about a good old-fashioned and silly and completely useless and utter waste of time and ridiculous debate. A debate that no matter who wins and who loses, the world won’t end. The loser won’t cry. And the winner didn’t actually even win anything? Cause, guess what else? I Don’t even have a trophy to present.
So to the loser, I say here and now: No hard feelings. It’s all just for laughs… Well - and to give me something to do...
So earlier this week I decided to go on a couple of outings, all involving donuts... I wanted to conduct a taste test and experiment of my very own. So, my husband and I played out my first ridiculous challenge of 2020. And I am hereby calling it:
“The Very Official And Quite Serious Donut Debate of 2020”
Nope, I’m not here to talk politics. Nor the Golden Globes. Nor the Oscars. Nor the Twitterverse. Nor even the Universe V. Multiverse theory. I’m simply here to talk about donuts.
And to make matters even more nonsensical and useless and to waste even more of everybody's time and efforts - I was completely biased going in, and I had many preconceived notions... How dare I?
I thought I knew who was gonna win, and I was overly confident in who I thought would lose. Yes, I was completely biased. And bias is allowed. Cause guess what? It’s all for F.U.N.
I mention my bias, my preconceived notions, etc. because at the end of the day the winner actually surprised me. Honestly. Yes, I was wowed by one, and I was under-wowed by the other. And the winner was NOT at all who I thought it was going to be.
Here’s my bias:
First of all, I LOVE donuts. Yes, I love donuts so much that people have made fun of me about it many times in the past. I am the donut girl. Long story. Not relevant. No big deal.
But, anyways, I love donuts. So, naturally, I love Dunkin Donuts. Or, ‘Dunkin’ as they are calling themselves nowadays. I know and love their coffee, and I know and love their donuts. I know how many calories are in their donuts and how to plan their donuts into my day no problem without gaining a bit of weight. Cause since we’re talking scientific theories today, weight maintenance is all about the Calories IN V. Calories OUT theory.
And, here’s my preconceived notions:
I always assumed Krispy Kreme was THE BEST. And I have NEVER ever, once ever, been to a Krispy Kreme. Did I mention never?
I know, I know…. How does someone who loves donuts not once have stepped their feet inside a Krispy Kreme?
It’s possible. Because I have never been to a Krispy Kreme until this week, for this challenge.
And, again, I just assumed through my preconceived notions and probably through their very good marketing strategy throughout the years that reflected upon me a highly sought-after and nothing-like-it-on-this-Earth quality donut.
So, I decided that I wanted to finally try Krispy Kreme, and see if they measured up to my beloved Dunkin. My forever faithful, my forever reliable, my delicious, and my heavenly, Dunkin.
So, naturally, step one of my challenge meant that I needed to go to Dunkin. Because it all starts at Dunkin. I needed to purchase their plain original glazed Dunkin Donut to try before trying the exact same at Krispy Kreme.
And yes, we ate a lot of donuts this week, and all for the sake of the written word, or for science. My tummy thanks you for the opportunity to present this completely educational and very scientific information to you.
So off we went to Dunkin. One large hot latte for myself at 130 calories (my favorite drink of the moment), and one large iced latte for the hubby - who doesn’t need to count a single calorie... so none will be listed here.
We each tried one original glazed, which clock in at 260 calories per donut. Good. Great. The best ever. According to me.
Hubby thinks they are just fine - he is not at all passionate about donuts like I am, so this answer was exactly what I expected from him.
Dunkin is busy. Always. Very busy. We always wait in a line - during the morning commuter rush. No complaints, just mentioning because they seem to have a large fan base. There are always customers. And, most all of the tables are taken inside the small shop on Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. As just as many people sit and linger, and talk, or work on the WiFi, as they do take their orders and run out the door with them. After all, American Runs On Dunkin, right?
Up next - Krispy Kreme. The next morning - same time of day. To finally try my first original glazed, fresh out of the fryer. The original. The classic. Since 1937.
So there we off and went, and actually left the island… “Over the Ditch” as the locals say.
So over the river and through the woods we went. Or over the Intracoastal and through the swamps. Same thing. Until I had finally arrived for the first time in my entire life at a Krispy Kreme. Specifically, the Krispy Kreme in the city of Jacksonville, Florida - the one on Atlantic Boulevard.
They were busy but not too busy. There was always someone placing an order, but only one table out of all the many was actually taken. Almost the entire dining room area was empty. Most everyone took their orders to go, and no one stayed, or lingered, or worked or conversed, even for a second. It was buy and run. And most ordered a box of a dozen - Just as we did.
We asked for two coffees and a dozen original glazed @ 190 calories per specimen placed atop the Bunsen Burner.
They immediately proceeded to inform us their coffee machines were broken and they could not serve us any coffees, lattes, espresso, or even any of their delicious and temptation-filled-looking frozen drinks - etc.
I was crushed. I can’t even tell you how crushed. If there’s anything I love more than donuts - it’s coffee. My laboratory might have well just exploded in my face. Ouch!
So, minus our coffee, we proceeded to sit at the counter overlooking the bright and sunny day outside the window. And we took our dozen shiny specimens and tried them hot and fresh, straight out of the fryer, and straight off the belt.
They were good. But that’s just it. They didn’t wow me! They were simply good. Immediately I was completely shocked at myself. I was expecting to be blown away. I was expecting to tell myself that these were the best donuts I ever ate and that I would be needing them in my life, every single day. For the rest of my life. But, Nope. They were just “fine” to me.
And not only were they just fine, they had a strange aftertaste. In each bite. I naturally attributed this taste to the donut coming straight off the conveyor belt? And I thought I’d wait it out before trying another one. To see if that taste went away?
So after I ate one whole donut very, very hot, and had this realization, I immediately decided I would try my next one well after they were cooled off. To taste the difference based on the temperature of the donut. All for research purposes, of course.
So we went home, and I placed the donuts delicately on top the kitchen counter.
And there they sat… thumbing their fingers at me... just waiting… yep, begging to be devoured. And still fresher-than-fresh mind you. They were just letting off some steam, I guess.
So, later that day I succumbed to all temptation and tried my next specimen, my room-temperature Krispy Kreme original glazed donut. And to my sincere shock and great surprise, that donut utterly and completely WOW - ed me. It really tasted a literal THOUSAND times better than the first one!
Ok…..? So, I just don’t like HOT donuts? I asked myself. I guess I like ‘normal’ temperature donuts?
And without even mentioning as much to the hubby… he then came along and tried his second donut. And he said the same exact thing. Wow! They are much better cooled off.
So, there ya go. We were both in agreement as to the fact that we did not care for the hot donuts. But we both loved them cooled off, after they had a chance to breathe fresh air before consumption.
Turn the page, will you?
The very next day came along.
And we both tried ‘day-old’ donuts...
Even better, yet again. 1000% better than the previous 1000% upgrade! Wow!
So basically, I came to the conclusion that the hot ones tasted like fried dough, from a carnival booth, which I love, but also with some strange and funky aftertaste. And the older ones tasted like a real, normal donut. A really good donut, an amazingly good and delicately frosted donut. And the older the donut got, the farther away that aftertaste was in my mouth.
So after all that, I really was genuinely surprised. I challenged myself to try Krispy Kreme for the first time. I sincerely thought that after one bite I would fall in love and tumble into and under a terrible spell and never to be awakened. But alas, that was not the case.
I still loved Dunkin better. Yes, even though Krispy Kreme did WOW me. I guess it’s all because they didn’t WOW me right away. I went all the way there to truly be wowed by their donuts. But that didn’t happen till much later on. And let’s not forget about the coffee - although I understand they can’t help that their machines were down. But Dunkin - omg - I love their every donut, I love their coffee selection. And I love that they are just about anywhere and everywhere you need them to be. And I love that their coffee machines have never been down on me once. I just - LOVE them.
And even though I loved the Krispy Kreme better the older it got, I still favored Dunkin after all that. After all said and done. And eaten.
Of course, I’m being completely biased, and to be completely fair I totally understand that I may have arrived at a Krispy Kreme for the first time in my life on the very day their coffee machines went down, and much to my detriment. However, the donuts just weren’t that ‘special’ to me. They were normal. They were not “leveled up” as I sometimes say. They did not wow me in any way - except - in the act of comparison to itself as it changed temperature - the thing that did WOW me was the difference in taste between a hot donut and a room temperature donut. That was the only real and true wow Krispy Kreme gave me.
I did like them enough that I will go back though. In fact, we purchased the dozen this week on a coupon they sent us in the mail for $5.99 per dozen. And our receipt revealed that deal gave us $3.00 off. And then, so ironically and only one day later after our scientific experiment concluded, and after never receiving Krispy Kreme coupons in my life until just this past month, yet another coupon arrived in the mail. Giving us a few dollars off a future dozen.
So, I’ll be back. And I’ll get that coffee I missed out on too. And I’ll be sure to try some other flavors in that dozen… like some frosted, and some sprinkled. And I’ll fill you in, if you want to be filled in on my future findings? After all, what’s a scientific experiment without repeat trials?
But for now, I’m sticking with my reliable and consistent Dunkin Donuts.
Dunkin - who is never far away from me.
Donuts - that always wow me with every bite.
Latte - that is my drink of choice for the time being.
All in all, and to summarize my findings, I hereby present and give to ‘Dunkin’ the award for best glazed original donut - over Krispy Kreme, coming in a not-far-behind second place, with a very doughy taste. Both were wonderful. But Dunkin is my go-to, and like I said... I guess I’m just completely biased.
I went into it all thinking Krispy Kreme was going to win, hands down. Thinking I’d be awestruck by them. To go over the moon for them. But that did not happen. And Dunkin it was for me, and still is. And that shocked me too.
So while this was all for fun, and our tummies consumed much deliciousness and many calories all for nothing really except this herein stated conclusion, maybe we all can take something away from this today.
Maybe we all can just laugh at ourselves more… and hate ourselves less. Maybe we all can be nicer to one another… and more forgiving of one another... Maybe we can all sit atop the counter for a while… and let off some steam before taking our next bites. After all, things might taste very different after some time has passed.
And so to conclude today’s task at hand, while I can tell you which donut I like better - please, please, PLEASE - don’t ask me to choose between Kate and Meghan. I’m begging you. That’s much too serious a topic; and I just can't do it. I love them both equally... There are some things in this world that just aren’t up for debate. ~
Hey! You there -
For more stories like this one above, check these out while you’re at it, why don’t ya:
21) Cinottis ~ And Why Life Is Too Short To Not Eat Donuts
17) Fall Flavors ~ Six Simple Steps I’m Taking This Fall To Maintain My Massive Weight Loss
7) My ‘Before & After’ ~~ How A Single Act Of Kindness, Lime Bubly, And MyFitnessPal Helped Me Lose 77 Pounds In One Year
Two words to sum up this total and complete gem of a place: Go. There.
I personally have zero bad things to say about this place - ever. It’s fabulous. End of story.
Well, not end of story. But it can be that simple. Hawkers is - simply - amazing.
Hawkers was born in Florida. In 2011 their first restaurant opened in Orlando. And since its early successes, this sit-down, yet casual, eatery has now spread to a variety of other locations throughout the state. Plus a few openings in other locales within the country as well, such as North Carolina and Georgia, with both a Tennessee and Maryland location opening very soon.
And while any night of the week is a good night indeed to visit Hawkers, I had the pleasure of dining there most recently on the same evening my husband and I browsed all around Beaches Town Center to take in all the holiday goodness out on display. Walking around town, seeing the gingerbread house at One Ocean Resort, visiting the Holiday Palms where Atlantic Boulevard meets the ocean, all of it, after a delicious meal at Hawkers.
Walking inside Hawkers, I always immediately take notice of the Edison style lighting throughout the large dining room and bar area. I absolutely adore any Edison lighting whatsoever, and I desperately dream of it placed throughout every room in my entire apartment. To me, the lighting gives off a warm and very inviting and homey atmosphere. Not too bright, and perfect for an evening dining establishment.
And while the restaurant is a sit-down eatery, and a great place for a leisurely and peaceful meal, it never feels too formal either.
The menu at Hawkers is set up similar to tapas style. Smaller sized dishes that are meant for sharing around the table. And this works exceptionally well the larger the party one has with them. While it’s usually just my husband and I dining out, we had the opportunity to dine at Hawkers with my in-laws well over a year and a half ago now. And at that meal having a party of eight, we were able to try and share amongst us a large variety of dishes from the menu. Much more choice than our usual table for two can reasonable order.
While sometimes hubby and I do tapas and share a few things, this time I simply ordered my own entree and so did he. And I had no problem devouring my entire bowl.
To drink I had club soda with lime, which they kindly kept refilling for me. And hubby had the ‘Margari-Thai’ to start. The drinks were swell. Not watered down at all, and made just right.
We split the pork skewers as an appetizer, which comes as a set of three skewers. They were delicious. Flavorful, and yet not too over-seasoned. And the perfect amount for sharing amongst two people. Just. Perfect.
For my entree, I ordered the same dish the I ALWAYS order. The Beef Haw Fun. A noodle dish. It’s a fabulous dish for anyone who is currently counting calories or trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. At 687 calories, it’s the perfect size entree for me. Anything else would have been simply too many calories, or needing a box for leftovers.
Hubby ordered from the rice bowl section of the menu - choosing the Kimchi Fried Rice. Served with steak, eggs, and onions. Both our dishes were excellent.
The atmosphere at Hawkers is very casual. Which is another reason I love it so much. It’s loud, but it’s not too loud by any means - it’s good loud. It’s family friendly, birthday-dinner-outing-loud, and kid-friendly loud. And the large indoor dining room and combined bar area are set up very open and easy-flowing, with lots of large windows letting in all that fabulous natural sunlight during the day. And with views out to Atlantic Boulevard into both Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach during the evenings, it’s a lovely location for dinner out right on the coast. Plus, when the weather is right the windows and doors are open so that you feel you are eating outside, even if you’re dining inside.
And if you do want to eat directly outside, you can do just that as well. Hawkers offers two different areas of outdoor seating. There’s an absolutely beautiful little courtyard area, tucked away from all the hustle and bustle of Atlantic Boulevard, and nestled between the Surf Shop next door. The other outdoor seating is set directly in front of the restaurant on the sidewalk area, and is a great vantage point for lots of people-watching as you dine. This time of year they also have heat lamps out on the patios, so it’s almost never really too cold to dine outside at Hawkers.
The other great thing I love about Hawkers is the menu selection. Besides tapas style dishes, they also have a variety of dishes for both vegans and vegetarians. When I try to eat vegan, this place makes it super easy for me. I order the Edamame, and/or the Spring Rolls.
And I’ve saved the best for last… even though it’s traditionally served first. The Roti Canai... I can’t even express to you how good the Roti Canai really is. The Roti Canai is on the appetizer portion of the menu - it’s a Malaysian flatbread, and is a savory break-apart-piece of heaven, a type of hot bread. Calling all dough lovers. This is the dough for you. What a treat.
And it is just that, a treat. Which is why we didn’t get it on this particular visit... But I can’t talk about Hawkers without talking about the Roti Canai. It’s a must-do, a must-try. Especially on your first visit. One bite, and you’ll be in love with Hawkers and want to come back whenever you can. On our first visit, when we were very unfamiliar with Hawkers and the menu offerings, our server recommended this dish. I’m so glad she did, because we’ve been ordering it ever since and every time it is pure perfection on a plate.
The reason we don’t order the Roti Canai all the time though is that I know for a fact this dish is a calorie-counting nightmare. Well, maybe not a nightmare, I just know it has too many calories for my tummy to process all at once. With one small piece clocking in at roughly 318 calories, that’s about half a dinner for me. All in a single slice of bread. And I’d personally rather spend my calories on protein - and anything that will keep me fuller, longer. And thus I treat this bread as the deserving treat that it is. It’s just such a TREAT that we don’t need to get it every time. So even though it’s my very favorite item on the entire menu, I resist all temptation and I don't order it every visit. But every time we do get it, it's absolutely divine.
I do highly recommend trying the Roti Canai. If you are looking for something a little bit different, a little bit out of the norm when eating the standard American diet every day. This is THE dish to try. The curry dips that are served alongside it gives one a sampling of some flavors that I personally don’t have all the time. And I love trying different things. So get the bread. You won’t be sorry.
And one more quick piece of good news at Hawkers - they have a new menu item that I am VERY excited to try on my next visit. On that next visit I can then plan the needed and many allotted calories into my day so that I can try this dish with zero guilt. It’s a dessert…. And yes, it’s DONUTS! Yummm. They sound fantastic. And fried. The Jo-He Bag of Donuts. Next Time, My Friends, Next Time.
I’m fairly certain there will be a photo of fried donuts showing up on my Instagram sometime in the near future.
Overall, Hawkers is super. Simple as that. If you have a Hawkers by you, definitely give it a try. And if you don’t have a Hawkers by you, maybe, and hopefully, one will be on its way to you soon. ~
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. ~
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. ~
If you’ve been looking for the finest beignets on the island - and not just any random beignets - then look no further than Another Broken Egg Cafe… Because THEY have the best beignets at the Beach!
And, I know, this is definitely not New Orleans… beignets are not plentiful around here. But they really are the best around.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit NOLA three times thus far in my life. The most recent trip being in 2016, which feels like an eternity away from such fabulous memories. Such a very special place and a vibrant city that I could easily move to in two seconds flat.
So it was 2016 the last time I was blessed with the opportunity of being able to dine upon beignets. On that most recent visit, my hubby and I had arrived in NOLA by rail from Chicago; Amtrak specifically. I remember sitting outside at a table at the famous Cafe Du Monde. It was Thanksgiving weekend. The Christmas season was officially starting and beautifully decorated trees were popping up everywhere I looked. Everything we ate and drank that weekend was divine. But the beignets were the best of it all.
We ordered a plate of the traditional beignets, and each a cafe au lait to sip. I remember powdered sugar being everywhere. It’s was draped all over the seat I sat upon. It was layered throughout the entire ground floor of the outdoor patio. It was floating through the surrounding air in swirling motions. It was ghostly and magical at the same time. It had snowed powdered sugar in the city of New Orleans - and it was magic.
Because whether or not it was real snow falling, we were sitting at the very heart and soul of NOLA. We sat there and soaked in all the excitement. All the wonderful sights and smells and sounds. If you ever make it to New Orleans, be sure to plan a stop at the Cafe, and remember to get a table for a more leisurely experience. There is also a quick service line area, which mostly caters to the countless tourists who need to taste the piece of heaven but are in a rush to see everything else too. So if you have the time on you hands, take the seat and sit a while. Because sitting down and observation can sometimes be the most moving and important aspect of your travels. And as for the beignets themselves, they were heaven on this earth.
And the ones I ate this past week were too! And who would have guessed that ‘Another Broken Egg Cafe’ was born in Louisiana?
They really serve up some fabulous southern hospitality at the Broken Egg as well. We had the friendliest server, and the first thing she asked my hubby and I was if we had ever been to the Cafe? No, we said, this was our first visit.
We had attempted to dine there a few times, mostly on the weekends, and the place was always packed - too packed to even find a parking space. Most recently, we had made inside the front door. It was a Sunday morning. And everyone in Jax Beach goes out to breakfast on Sunday mornings. We had somewhere to be that day and thought we could “squeeze in” an outing to the Cafe beforehand. They had a one hour wait; sigh - sad face. We had to leave. We reminded ourselves to try them again, on a weekday.
So just the other day, which happened to be a Wednesday and just after the lunch time rush, we walked into the Cafe. We literally had the place to ourselves! Such a lovely and peaceful time to dine out sometimes.
Since we told our server that this was our first visit, she said she’d be right back. Upon return, she mentioned that an order of beignets had been started for us. It was on the house - it’s their way of welcoming us in, she said, and wanting us to come back again. And as you can tell by the fact that I’m writing about this magnificent food creation, we will most definitely be returning.
I ordered what I had intended to order after I had searched their online menu earlier in the day - the classic French toast, a side of baked bacon, and unsweetened iced tea. We each drank at least two glasses of their fabulous tea.
The beignets were a very unintended surprise, so I hadn’t planned that food into my day. A few months ago I completed a personal weight-loss journey and major transition to a very healthy lifestyle. But one of the commitments I made to myself during that change was that I would always allow myself desserts. I lost a total of 83 pounds, while never giving up desserts. I love treats too much to eliminate them entirely from my life, and I refused to restrict myself in that area. So any weight loss that occurred had to occur while allowing access to treats. The only difference now being continual moderation.
So, with complete confidence - as the completely unplanned powdered beignets were served to me, I was able to sample them. And THAT sample and THIS picture below are the prime reasons that desserts remain a part of my life.
Wow. Amazing. Their ‘biscuit beignets’ were heaven on this earth. No words can accurately describe them - and they should definitely not be missed out on. I highly recommend visiting the Cafe and placing an order. Or, better yet, mention that it is your first visit if it truly is, and you’ll probably be treated to a very special treat. The photo at top shows their “half order” that was served to us, which comes with four beignets. A full order comes as a batch of eight..
After my first bite, I immediately inquired if diners are able to place to-go orders. And during this inquiry I multi-tasked... and I dreamed of picking up a full batch of biscuit beignets on a regular basis and eating them all in front of the tv in the evenings, by candlelight… I can dream, right?
Yes, of course, our server mentioned. She said that she personally was bringing home a batch for her teenage son that afternoon. She wanted him to help her clean up the house, and her son’s response, can you bring me some beignets? Smart kid.
My husband ordered an omelette with a side of baked bacon, and he also drank an unsweetened iced tea.
Both of our meals were much too large for us to finish in one sitting. So we had a second meal for the next day made from our leftovers that we brought home. Second-day breakfasts can be the best. But second-day breakfasts with a beignet on the side IS the very best.
Beyond our doggie bag, we were also each sent away with to-go cups of yet another glass of iced tea. You definitely get your money’s worth there, that’s for sure. And then, after we paid, our server presented us each with a sealed return certificate. Put them in your purse and don’t open them, she mentioned. When you come back, your server will open the sealed envelope for you and each certificate is a winner… maybe even an order of beignets.
After the shock of the beignets wore off, we paid our check and were ready to leave. I made a mental note to myself on the way out the door. We will be back… and while it’s been a very long few years since I made it to NOLA for a visit, something tells me it won’t be nearly that long before I make the trek down A1A for a visit to the Broken Egg Cafe. ~
10/25/2019 0 Comments
Living in Florida, it can be hard to notice the changing of the seasons. I sometimes need to use the drink menu at coffee shops to gauge where we are at on the calendar.
And right now, whether we know it or not, it’s still Autumn.
And besides driving past a set-up pumpkin patch display in front of a local church the other day, the only change I’ve seen in all the weeks since fall has officially started, is with the drink menu offering all those special, seasonal additions at coffee shops and grocery stores. The most famous of those seasonal drinks being, of course, the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks, McDonalds, and Dunkin Donuts (Dunkin makes a delicious pumpkin donut by the way).
The only other seasonal change I notice here is specifically in Orlando - where Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has been taking place at the Magic Kingdom now - since August… Yes - you read that right - August. Visitors dressed in their Halloween costumes, trick-or-treating down the festively decorated Main Street USA, since the middle of our hot and Endless Summer.
Considering I lost massive weight this past year and am extremely interested and determined to maintain that healthy lifestyle, when all the seasonal pumpkin drinks started to appear on the coffee shop menus, I really wanted to know how many calories are floating around inside those highly-flavored drinks. Well, the news is not so good:
***380 calories for a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks (!)
***310 calories for a medium Pumpkin Spice Latte at McDonald’s (!)
***420 calories for a medium whole milk Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Signature Latte at Dunkin Donuts (!!!)
The amount of calories in just a single one of those drinks is now an entire meals worth of calories for me. I absolutely cannot even imagine drinking that much sweetness at once anymore. So, to help me maintain weight loss, I have been sticking with my usual unsweetened iced tea, or plain, black coffee this season.
It took me a little while, over a year ago now, but I am very used to ‘plain’ drinks now. Just the thought of ordering one of those lattes makes my stomach turn around. It’s definitely a good thing for my overall health that I don’t even really want or desire those drinks anymore, and I have also learned and acquired a few other wonderful and simple ways of feeling and enjoying the scents of fall without all the extra calories that can go along with it.
Below I’ll explain a variety of ways I’m acknowledging and enjoying the change of season while watching my calorie intake. These are just a few simple ways I am enjoying all that the Autumn season has to offer, without gaining weight, maintaining my weight loss, and not overindulging at all.
Specifically, here are six simple ways I’m enjoying Autumn 2019:
Yes, they come first! Because as they say - candles set the mood. And indeed they do. I went out and purchased a few pumpkin scented candles (room sprays work well for this too) and the scent in my home reminds me of all at fall has to offer. I think of hay rides, picking pumpkins, carving those pumpkins, and the scent of homemade pumpkin pie. And the bonus is that breathing in that heavenly scent doesn’t put one extra calorie into my mouth!
And since I’ve personally been staying away from Bath & Body Works for a few years now, I shopped around for the best autumn scented candles I could find. I enjoyed browsing around my local Pier 1, admiring all the adorable seasonal decor. And I purchased two three-wick pumpkin spice candles on sale for ten dollars each. I thought that was a reasonable price and keeps me away from Bath & Body Works where I used to spend too much money. And because I love candles so much, we picked out some autumn-scented candles at Target as well.
2 ~ I Avoid ALL The Seasonal Drinks - ALL THE TIME
This one is a no-brainer for me. For me - myself - and I - I’ve personally been staying absolutely away from all those high-calorie drinks that happen to be advertised everywhere I look.
I stick with my usual drink order. I do NOT indulge in drinks that have calories attached. My usuals are plain water, water with lemon or lime, always ice cold; plus, plain hot coffee, and hot or iced tea. Club soda or sparkling water. Period. Zero calories drinks. I do not indulge in that department. It works for me. It’s become a lifestyle for me and once something is lifestyle it’s easier to maintain. I do recommend trying it out.
Plus, in place of all those high calorie drinks, I purchased myself an Alex & Ani ‘Pumpkin Spice’ spice bracelet that I’ve had my eye on since last autumn - and I wear it every day. I enjoy IT - and not the extra calories it implies.
3 ~ Get A Real Pumpkin
So simple, right? By purchasing a real pumpkin, which can go for under ten dollars, and small ones, just a couple dollars at the grocery store, you get to enjoy the purest symbol of autumn, every single day. And if you get yours by visiting a pumpkin patch, all the better!
And, pumpkins always look fabulous sitting on the front porch, balcony, or lounging in front of a fireplace mantel.
Plus, you can turn the pumpkin into a project by then painting it or carving it out.
4 ~ Bake Pumpkin Seeds At Home
After we purchase our chosen pumpkin and enjoy the sight of it, on Halloween we carve the pumpkin and scoop it out. Then we bake the seeds in the oven. I always enjoy the scent that is released when carving open the pumpkin… Always so fresh, and smells like a pumpkin patch.
I first clean and rinse the seeds, then lay them on a baking sheet on top of non-stick foil with some sea salt sprinkled on top, and bake the pumpkin seeds in the oven. After they are finished being toasted, the seeds have a taste that cannot be replicated by any store-bought seeds. There is always something most refreshing about toasting the seeds on my own. It tastes better, fresher, and it really is. Plus, pumpkin seeds are one of those autumn delights that are very healthy! No weight gain on this one - in fact, eating nuts and seeds is a fantastic way of maintaining my weight loss.
5 ~ Eat the Seasonal Chicken Pot Pie - Just NOT The One Costco Sells
With fall comes an abundance of warm and seasonal recipes, like chili… and chicken pot pie. Every autumn I used to look forward to the seasonal changes at Costco by picking up one of their chicken pot pies. We would cook it for dinner and use the leftovers for lunches and dinners throughout the week. But most store-bought chicken pot pies, including Costco’s extremely large pie, are loaded with tons of calories that I do not need or intake anymore after weight loss. The chicken may be healthy, the veggies inside the pie may also be healthy - but the rest of that pie is definitely NOT healthy. And at 525 calories per ⅙ slice, the pie is extremely high in calories.
So, I’ve decided that with fall, I can still enjoy the seasonal meal of chicken pot pie. I’m just NOT purchasing the Costco version. I don’t need to give up the food. I just need to enjoy it in a more healthy manner. I’m also staying away from the easy-bake Marie Callender's version - which has a whopping 600 calories - in the smaller version!
Instead, on a busy week, we now grab Blake’s Pot Pie. It’s in the freezer section, has 370 calories per pie, and tastes just as good as any other store-bought version. I serve it with a side of steamed green beans, and an easy, healthy, and low-calorie dinner is ready in a flash.
I haven’t had the time this season to make a healthy and homemade version though, so if you have a chicken pot pie recipe that you make I’d absolutely love for you to share it with me in the comments below - please!
6 ~ Indulge - Without Overindulging
Yes, I still eat the pie. I just don’t eat ALL the pie. We bought a pumpkin pie two times this season from the local Winn Dixie. I can enjoy a slice, or two, even including whip cream on the side. But I don’t eat pie all the time, and don’t worry at all if we don’t finish the whole pie before it goes bad. And yes, I absolutely have thrown out the leftover pie, and more than once. I’m not ashamed.
I try not to waste food, but a part of weight loss and weight maintenance is knowing that some food WILL GO TO WASTE. I freeze what I can, I portion out for other meals what I can, I plan ahead like crazy. But there are still some times that food will be thrown away. And part of this pumpkin pie that we purchased did make it to the garbage can. Without my feeling any guilt or feeling bad that food was wasted. If you are looking to lose weight, or to maintain massive weight loss like I am maintaining, you will likely run into having to throw some food away. I have accepted this and do the very best I can not to, but with treats it does happen.
I have learned how to indulge - without overindulging. That means some food waste, some times. Part of my weight loss is allowing myself to continue to have all the treats that I love. In moderation. How can I let autumn pass me by without a piece or two of pumpkin pie? I can’t. I have to be able to eat the “normal” seasonal foods that I love without overindulging. Without - missing out. As they say, yes - everything in moderation.
Although, as I mentioned above, I do not drink all the fancy and high-calorie coffee drinks anymore. The difference there is lifestyle. I have removed any and all high calorie drinks from my entire lifestyle. So I am used to not having them anymore. To the point that the thought makes me ill just thinking about having one of them. I have very successfully removed those drinks from my life. That’s a choice I made. But I love desserts and treats too much to give them up entirely. I WILL continue to eat desserts - a choice by me to keep them IN my lifestyle. Desserts and treats remain. Which is why I moderate, and why I still eat pumpkin pie, and why I am ok with and understand that some of that dessert will end up in the garbage.
And yes, as the saying goes... “Better in the trash, than sitting on my *ss.”
Here are a few other ways I’m enjoying the season…
So even though I don’t drink all those amazingly fun and delicious autumn-themed drinks anymore, I do watch for their arrival onto the menu each autumn as a way to gauge what season I am currently living in. And then, I go about my usual routine. Adding in the flavors of fall in a very healthy, and very sustainable way. ~
There’s nothing like a warm and delicious pot of chili to help mark the transition to the fall season. Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili will take you into autumn and boost your enjoyment of this festive and colorful time of year.
Food was such a large part of my family traditions while growing up. Whether we were making by hand homemade Italian rice balls or cookies at Christmas time, German kolaches, PaPa’s pound cake at Easter (always shaped into a lamb, of course), I learned that each food meant a season, and each season was meant to be celebrated. And celebration meant food!
These homemade meals and many more remain a large part of my family traditions today. And as I now find reason to celebrate most anything and everything in life, there is always a food or dish that I can easily match up to help mark any occasion. Whether celebrating a milestone or accomplishment, a season, birthday, or holiday, these events in life go hand-in-hand with appetizing food that’s good for the soul.
And with good food comes... Chili! Plus, to make it even better - Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili is part of my healthy lifestyle. I’m a firm believer that any food, dish or recipe can be made in a healthy and satisfying way. My husband and I cooked this chili recipe many times during the year of my weight loss journey and we continue to cook it today. Protein and fiber were my best friends while losing weight, and they remain my best friends now that I am maintaining weight loss. And this recipe is loaded with both protein and fiber. Check. Check. Hooray!
Why do protein and fiber make me so very happy? I believe both are key ingredients to help me maintain a healthy weight. Both help my stomach feel full - and feel full longer, and both take time and energy to digest. And the feeling of fullness and not overeating to feel that sensation of being full is key; making both protein and fiber crucial components to not overeating, and thus, not gaining weight.
After losing weight I’m very aware that when I’m very hungry now my goal and focus is not to eat more than I should be eating to maintain my weight. If I did eat too much in order to feel that full feeling it can lead to weight gain, even a tiny bit of weight at a time. That seemingly tiny amount of weight gain can add up fast when multiplied meal by meal - real fast; meaning just one meal at a time can lead to weight gain down the road. So, I believe it’s vital to feel satisfied after a meal. Consistently eating a meal and feeling satisfied is important with each meal, every day, and that consistency is key to weight maintenance. And this recipe is well balanced and will help to counteract all those hunger signs. One bowl of this chili for dinner, with a small and sensible dessert, and my stomach is not hungry all evening.
How is Chili a part of my family and food traditions throughout the year? I make this chili recipe guaranteed on three specific dates, plus any other time of year we simply have a taste for it. But these three dates have become a food tradition in my home. I make Chili on the first day of autumn, and I always make chili every year on Halloween, as well as every New Year’s Day. Some of these days are times when we tend to be home… chilling out, reading a book and burning a pumpkin scented candle, or watching a good film. It’s just an absolutely lovely feeling to know that a good and healthy dinner is simmering on the stove top, with not much prep work at all, and helps boost relaxation. So go ahead and make a nice hot pot of chili and sit down with a good book while it simmers.
1.5 LBS lean ground beef
1 sweet onion - chopped
1 large 28 OZ can Cento tomato purée
1 15 OZ can tomato sauce
1 15.5 OZ can dark red kidney beans
1 15.5 OZ can light red kidney beans
1 15.5 OZ can navy kidney beans
1 tsp McCormick Chili Seasoning
1 tsp Peppercorn from a freshly ground peppercorn grinder
1 tsp olive oil
Pinch of sea salt to taste
*Pour olive oil into large pot.
*Put ground beef in pot and start simmering.
*While ground beef is simmering chop onion.
*Add peppercorn and sea salt while simmering.
*Continue cooking beef low to medium heat and as simmering ground the meat with wooden spoon into smaller chunks - not too fine, just small chunks.
*Pour chopped onion into the simmering beef and continue simmering low to medium.
*When ground beef is browned, add all cans of beans, then tomato purée and tomato sauce.
*Add chili powder seasoning.
*Add about one 15 OZ can of water.
*Put lid on pot and simmer on low about an hour, stirring about every 15 minutes.
**Optional: Serve over pasta shells and/or add Parmesan cheese on top.
Now it’s time to feed your soul! ~~
For more of Beans’s recipes, click below:
Beans’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
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