Hilton Head, SC

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This year, our Hilton Head trip held no agendas of any kind. The only expectation we really had was that we expected it to be relaxing and refreshing. We brought books with us (that we never opened) and face masks (that we never did), because we were already relaxed enough. We watched Food Network Christmas specials and took naps when we were inside. We went to the beach and rode bikes when we were outside. It was warmer than we’ve ever experienced it - but that just meant that we spent even more time inside lounging and recharging.

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We drive home tomorrow, and we are scared to look at our work schedules because we are scared that they won’t overlap as much as we’d like for them to. I’m beyond grateful for Trey and for the time together that these trips give us. I love him. I love him. I love him.

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When we get home, it’s time for Christmas. We’ve talked about how if we get a live tree and decorate it, there’s a chance that we might be taking everything down and moving it if we are able to find a house before Christmas. We’ve also talked about how we have no idea what George is going to do when he’s locked in a teensy living room with a bright and shiny Christmas tree all day long. So, this has potential to be an eventful Christmas season, and I’m up for anything and everything. Let’s GET.IT.GOING.

The Three Caballeros

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We're back from Disney, and I love these travel buddies of mine. The three of us have been to Disney together countless times, but this time: it rained nearly the entire trip, Trey's Chaco's broke, we each had a turn trekking around in far-too-soggy shorts, we all had some wicked blisters, we took turns feeling under the weather, and it still ended up being my favorite Disney trip thus far. When one of us is low, the others are high and patient until the low one finds their way back up. There's empathy and kindness here, making them the very best travel companions. 

Home, Home

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I went to Florence last weekend for a visit that lifted me up and left me feeling a million times better. It's always hard to go home, because I know that I won't want to leave when my visit is over - especially during the holidays. I've always been a homebody, meaning that so much of my years were spent right at home. My mom and I would have "spa nights" together while all of my friends were at the movies or out getting ice cream. She and I would order our favorite salads, put on face masks, and curl up on the couch with movies that are now woven into every fiber of my being. This is why I can quote Notting Hill, You've Got Mail, Chocolat, Sabrina, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, One Fine Day, Two Weeks Notice, Pretty Woman, French Kiss, and many other 80's and 90's chick flicks backwards and forwards. We would bake together, and she and I would decorate for holidays as a team. At the very beginning of October, she would let me bring out the Halloween decorations, and I'd string faux spiderwebs down the banister. I'd bring out her vintage Santa collection, and arrange them just so for Christmas. We never missed decorating the Christmas tree together as a family. But, time passed, college happened, I moved away, my brother moved out, he traveled the world, and things slipped through the cracks. Now, she gets a tree whenever she has a chance, and we hope we are able to come help her decorate it. These are the bitter things about being home. I remember all of the things that I miss out on, and I know that I'm never around for things to be like they were.

But, the sweet things about being home are the new memories that we make. My dad moved into a new, beautiful house that is perfect for them. My mom and I make lists of everything we want to accomplish, and are doing a pretty good job so far of checking things off of it. My brother bought a house that I know is going to be a perfect home base for all of his travels to come to an end.

I've found that I'm making new, sweet memories every time I drive through the city of Florence and remember this parking lot where all of my friends piled in the back of Hope's SUV. I pass the spot where I had my first kiss, and the park where I would take Jon to throw rocks in the river. I take the back roads that I would drive in high school, just for fun. I pass the church that used to be the movie theater where I met my first boyfriend. I pass the coffee shop that I've been going to since before it was Rivertown, near the park where I once saw a stranger wait with a red rose for someone who never showed up. I pass the cemetery where I attended a policeman's funeral. I pass the park where I rode a tandem bicycle with my friend Samantha. I pass County Rd. 42, where I said something funny, which resulted in Hope making me a cd of songs, with my quote written in Sharpie as the album art. I pass the store where my mom used to buy soy milk for Jon, because all other milk made him sick. I pass the fairgrounds where I first saw my Wybie - my pup that my dad and stepmother have made their pup *grumble grumble*. I pass the clothing shop where my mom and I would get those little mini cheesecake bites during the Christmas parade. I remember feeling so fancy next to her, with her lipstick, and her wool coat, and her perfume floating along with her. I pass the ballpark where we would watch Andy play little league baseball. I pass the gas station where my dad met me after I walked up on my mom's house after someone had just broken in. I was panicking and I couldn't find my mom, but my dad rushed over to save the day. Oh, and my mom was at ballroom dance lessons the whole time *grumble grumble*. I pass Stagg's, where my dad and I would get hamburgers when I worked in the chemical plant with him that summer. I pass the place where he and I bought my steel-toed boots, and I remember thinking that I felt so badass, and that the old men in the shop couldn't handle my badassery. I pass the Indian Mound, that I visited once, and the restaurant that used to be Tourway, that I went to countless times. I pass Trowbridges, the ice-cream shop that I would walk to with my grandmother when I was very small, and then later as an adult with all of my friends. I still remember the pansies that were planted all around her apartment complex, and pansies always make me think of her. I have memories tied into every inch of my lovely hometown, and when I go home, they flood my heart and send me swimming.

Seeing things through a new, matured lens makes me want to hug my younger self, even if I'm sometimes embarrassed for her. I want to hug all of these memories close and never let them go.

Just Missing Things

I miss Disney World. I miss the walking, and the occasional blisters, and the blinding sun, and the hot dogs and lemonade at Casey’s Corner. I miss the smell of the Main Street Confectionery. I miss the Christmas decorations, and the Halloween parades. I miss casually seeing Peter Pan, strolling down the street. I miss the Disney hotels, and the fireworks at night. I miss the roller coasters, and the daily thunderstorms. I miss walking around the world in Epcot, and I miss the massive parking lots. I miss e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

I miss the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I miss the butterbeer. Oh, boy, do I miss the butterbeer. I miss the shops, and the magic of it all. I miss Moaning Myrtle in the girls’ bathroom. I miss the turkey legs, and the potatoes. I miss the pumpkin pasties. I miss the rides and the art that’s everywhere. I miss the dragon that breathes fire (that almost never works). I miss the breakfasts and the lunches and the dinners. I miss Universal hotels, and I miss Seuss Landing. I miss the Jurassic Park ride. I miss all of it.

Take me baaaack.

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Life Lately

I had my twenty-fifth birthday the other day, and it was pretty perfect. We spent the first part of the day in Disney World, and then ended it with some shopping and Sprinkles cupcakes. I’ve had chocolate covered strawberries in lieu of a birthday cake for the last seven years, and this year was no different. We bought the ingredients and whipped up a few to keep that tradition alive. But, JENA, my sweet fairy of a sister, surprised me with a birthday cake which brought on the singing of “Happy Birthday to You”, thus completing my birthday.

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We are hitting up our favorite restaurants before we move back HOME TO BIRMINGHAM, so we made sure to work Bar Taco into our rounds. I want to always always always eat by candle light.

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Yesterday, we scouted out some antique stores and flea markets on the way to Disney World, and stumbled upon State Theatre, a theatre from 1939 that has been turned into an antique store.

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We stayed at Coronado Springs Resort last night, and I may have said before that I love heavy theming. If not, you need to know that I love heavy theming. My thirteenth(?) birthday party was luau themed with grass skirts and leis and Hawaiian art deco posters on the wall. My eleventh or twelfth birthday was lime green themed. The color, lime green, was the theme of my birthday party and I loved it. It was my favorite color, and I got so many bottles of bubble bath, “body splash”, probably a t-shirt or two from Limited Too, and a set of leopard print duffle bags with a matching toiletry case. I love heavily themed restaurants, parties, kitchens, beach houses, cabins, whole cities, etc.. There’s a coffee shop in Birmingham that is space themed, and it’s the coolest. They play movies like Star Wars and E.T., and I’ve even seen episodes of The Jetsons being played there. It’s the greatest. But, I digress… last night we went to Coronado Springs Resort, which is decorated like Spanish Colonial Mexico. The cacti, the brightly colored buildings and the Mayan pyramid in one of the swimming pools are just a couple of this place’s gems. We swam in the beautiful pool, sipped our fancy drinks, and had a phenomenal time. Later, we headed out for the evening so that we could watch the fireworks show at Magic Kingdom one last time, since they’ll be starting a new one in May!

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I’ll miss being able to go to Disney whenever I want. This morning we ordered Mickey Mouse waffles in bed, and then headed out for a day of heavily themed fun.

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I love these cotton trees! I have no idea what they are, and the only place I’ve ever seen them is in Disney World by the Swiss Family Robinson’s tree house.

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I love my life with this guy. I love talking about the future and the babies we will have years down the road. I love that he isn’t a planner, but he tries for me. I love that he listens to me and loves me so hard that it hurts him, and I love how much I love him. We are sickeningly cute together, and I LOVE it.

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To whoever is reading this: I hope that you find someone who loves you the way that this guy loves me. If you aren’t the type to marry, I hope that you at least find them, and keep them forever. If you aren’t the type to keep someone forever, I hope that at the very least, you acknowledge their love for you, and let it teach you all sorts of things that you didn’t know you needed to learn.

What I'll Miss

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Things I'll Miss About Living in Florida (in no particular order)

This is a long list. Prepare yourself.

  1. Living close to the beach.
  2. The pelicans. I love watching them glide through the air and swoop down to snatch up their dinner. They’re such strange birds, and I absolutely love them.
  3. The flora and foliage! It’s like walking through a botanical garden every single day. So much Monstera, agave, bird of paradise, etc. I never get tired of seeing all of it. OH, and the crape myrtle trees. Anytime I see one, I think of my grandparents’ house and the way that these trees line their driveway. When they are in bloom, it’s like my grandmother is throwing a hot pink party, and it’s really special.
  4. The clouds. It’s normal for them to look exactly like the wallpaper in Toy Story. Huge, puffy, spread out across the sky. Completely different from Alabama skies.
  5. The summer rainstorms. It rains daily in the summer, and I like the consistency of that.
  6. The smell of the orange blossoms. It was my dream to live on an orange grove (a kind of unachievable dream), but that didn’t work out. But, our absolute favorite taco place is right beside one. We strolled through it the other evening and the smell was intoxicating. Even despite all of the ants, I could have stayed there for hours.
  7. The lizards. Lizards are everywhere! Big, small, black, rainbow, spotted, tail-less, leg-less, all sorts.
  8. Being so, so close to Disney World. We spend quite a bit of time at Disney’s parks, and we have the best time there. Even if it’s my last off day before a lengthy stretch of work, I never regret spending a day in Disney World.
  9. Animal Kingdom Lodge. I’ve stayed there twice in my life and it’s a world of its own. It’s kind of as if you’re on vacation while on vacation. You can look out your window at any time and see giraffes and zebras snacking in the sun. There are little fire pits scattered through the resort and out by the animals, and the smell of the wood burning is so comforting. Everyone is warm and friendly. Parks are just a bus ride away. The resort restaurant, BOMA, is INSANE. All sorts of foods, and it’s all amazing. The breakfast is phenomenal. Ok. I think you get the picture. It’s great. Go.
  10. Disney Springs. I’m not a big shopper. I don’t love to shop unless it’s for homey things, sweaters, or sun dresses. But, Disney Springs is so fun for me. Sprinkles, Anthropologie, Uniqlo, Savannah Bee Co., Kiehl’s, The Candy Cauldron and Goofy’s Candy Co. (you can get Disney sweets without having to go to the parks), Ghirardelli (I have a vivid memory of eating a huge chocolate ice-cream cone with my dad here when I was small), The World of Disney, Morimoto, etc..
  11. Oxford Exchange. I honestly can’t say enough about this place. If you were to just hear about it, you might scoff and think that it sounded terribly pretentious and sickeningly on-trend. But, when you walk in, you get it. It’s beautiful. Wifi costs $15 a day because they want you to stay off of your devices and actually have conversations. People talk here. There’s Warby Parker, Aesop, a precious book store, delicious coffee across from nice tea, a supposedly fantastic restaurant, a large array of coffee table books, homewares, cards, gifts, knickknacks, goodies for littles, etc. It’s just gorgeous. The tile, the floor, the light, the walls, the ceilings, the couches, the rugs, the everything. Their sea salt chocolate chip cookie is exquisite, as well as their cold brew. I had a heavenly affogato here last summer right before we moved here, and I’ve never been disappointed by anything that I’ve ordered. It’s perfection. All of it. The whole thing. I wish I could bundle the entire place up and give it to someone I love as a gift. It’s that good.
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  13. St. Petersburg. If I were to ever want to live in Florida again, St. Petersburg is where I would want to live. Still close to beaches, still close to Disney, but there’s more of a sense of community in St. Pete than I ever noticed in Tampa. Oh, and the murals and my favorite Cuban restaurant are there.
  14. The palm trees. I love hearing their heavy leaves slap against each other in the wind. Palm trees have always felt special to me. To me, they meant “almost there” during every road trip to the beach. But now, as I’m older, I’m blown away by their strength and their height.
  15. The sunshine. Summers are HOT here. I think that I’ve forgotten just how hot it in is in the summer here, but I remember thinking that it was hotter than Alabama (which is the opposite of what everyone told me). Despite the heat, I love the sunshine and the good that it does for me.
  16. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Trey and I have so many magical memories here. I think he has lost count of how many times he has been, and I love seeing him turn into a kid every time we go. The frozen butter beer is our favorite, and we always get some sweets before we leave.
  17. Capital Tacos gets all the thumbs up and all of the gold stars. We come here biweekly, I think, and it’s our absolute favorite restaurant in or around Tampa. I always get the Peacemaker taco, and the Beef Fajita taco, both without sour cream. Trey always gets the Federale taco and the Cattawampus taco or Double Mesa taco all without pico de gallo or sour cream. If you’re ever near Tampa, go. These are not your authentic tacos, but these are party tacos and you’ll cherish the memory of them. P.S. They always have local, craft beers that are mega tasty.
  18. The friends I’ve made. I am so lucky to have been able to work with some special people who I can call “friends”.
  19. That Cuban restaurant I mentioned earlier, Bodega on Central. The Cuban is amazing, and I love their soda fresca.
  20. Buddy Brew Coffee This is what they serve at Oxford Exchange, but they have several different locations around Tampa and its very good. Their Hyde Park location is perfect for nesting in.
  21. Bandit Coffee Co. I think that this is my favorite coffee here. It’s in St. Petersburg so it’s not convenient, which is why I don’t go every single day of my life. The atmosphere is perfect, and the baristas are so friendly. They sell nifty gifties that I want to buy for myself, and I love everything about this place.
  22. Locale Market. It’s in St. Petersburg, but I love it here. Definitely going to stock up on all sorts of things before we move. The cheese monger is so friendly, and has helped me with cheese on multiple occasions.
  23. The Florida breeze. Everyone said that there is always a breeze, which is not true. BUT, when you do feel it, it’s nice, and it’s idyllic. It’s the kind of breeze that kicks up the hem of your sundress when you’re on a picnic in a flourishing meadow while deer graze nearby. It’s the kind of breeze that tangles the locks of little strawberry-blonde boys eating ice-cream cones with their grandfather. It’s the kind of breeze that sends the wildflowers into a swirly twirly dance. That kind of breeze.
  24. Being near to bodies of water. In Florence, I would go to McFarland Park anytime I wanted to be alone, and I find that sitting near rivers, lakes, ponds, oceans, etc., and watching boats go by just lifts my spirits and sets me straight. Tampa is on a bay, and it’s easy to find a pier to sit next to.
  25. Cassis, a little French cafe. Perfect for brunch. French music in the background. Street side tables near a pier. There is also a little bakery that’s lovely.
  26. Indie Flea Market, a market where local artists, bakers, makers, canners, non-profits, etc., can come together and sell their goods. I’ve found some treasures here, and it’s so much fun for everyone to come together.

 

I will also be making a list entitled: Things I Won’t Miss About Florida