I hope that you all had a very blessed Resurrection Sunday and know the love and sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus. He died so that we may live. Rejoice in Him!
After bringing Zack to church with us, we returned home to welcome our friends from church, Michelle and John.
After enjoying some appetizers on the lanai, I put some sirloin steaks in the smoker.
While they cooked, we played some Camp Cards.
When the steaks were ready, we enjoyed a delicious low-carb feast with steak, mushrooms, cauliflower potatoes, brussel sprouts and salad.
Then John took a nap in the hammock :).
He eventually joined Carl for a dip in the pool.
Actually, that was about as far as they got. Water’s still a little brisk!
We played a few more rounds of Camp Cards while the food settled and we made room for dessert. It was a very relaxing day spent with good friends, good food, conversation and cards.
We are very blessed!
Thanks to the very generous Christmas bonus from my favorite client/boss (that I work for on a weekly basis), Carl and I just returned from a 5-night Royal Caribbean cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas.
We did the usual things that we do on a cruise ship….we relaxed on lounge chairs and read books.
We dressed up and had lovely, relaxing dinners every night in the main dining room. All but one night we sat at shared tables and made many new friends.
We even ate carbs this week!
Although for the most part, we were very good with healthy eating choices, we did enjoy ourselves with special treats this week.
We were visited by towel animals in our stateroom.
We explored the ship, watched great evening shows, took part in some trivia contests and listened to some really bad karaoke.
It was a great mini-vacation and we were very blessed with this fun time away. Tomorrow I’ll share a little about our two ports-of-call.
…for Anthony that is!
If you recall, Anthony was blessed with an amazing opportunity to be a camp counselor at Camp Homelani on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii last summer. This week he was again offered a position with the camp for this coming summer. However, instead of being a camp counselor, Anthony will be the “Surfer Lead.” This position does not mean that he will be in charge of surfing but that he will be in charge of a cleaning/maintenance crew. It will give him more free time (that’s where the surfing will come into play) and a slightly larger stipend each week. Hooray for Anthony!
He will be finishing up his sophomore year of college in about a month and then heading to a friend’s house in Seattle, Washington for a week. From there, he will leave for Hawaii for the summer for more visiting with friends before camp begins. At the end of the summer he will return to Jacksonville to visit us before Anthony and I get to bond during our 3-day road trip back to Phoenix with his pickup truck. Good times!
We are very proud of Anthony and excited for his second summer in paradise.
(Photos “borrowed” from Anthony’s Instagram account from last summer.)
I forgot to mention here that Zack got a new job after the new year.
After a full year at Chick-fil-A, he has moved on to Lowe’s Home Improvement Center. He is working every Monday through Friday from 4pm until 10pm each night unloading the delivery truck.
He is enjoying his hefty paychecks and not having to deal with the public. It’s good, hard manual labor at it’s finest!
As far as what comes next after his high school graduation in May, he has no idea...looks like he may be working at Lowe’s full-time until he makes a decision.
Congratulations on the new job, Zack!
In July, 2015, on my previous blog, I told you about my score with Secret Dining. At that time, in my first year as a secret diner, I had dined out 12 times for a total of $945 in free dining.
Since that time, between July, 2015 and the present, I have dined out 23 more times for an additional total of $1500 in free dining!
There have been a few other people that have dined with me on occasion (Zack went to Sweet Frog with me, my neighbor Susan went with me to Painting with a Twist, I took Leslie to Famous Toastery during her visit and I took Anthony to lunch at Miller’s Ale House this week) but for the most part, Carl has been my dining companion.
We have had some amazing meals…Seasons 52, Capital Grill and J. Alexander are our favorites and not places that we would typically dine at if it weren’t for free. Miller’s Ale House is a great, casual place and with so many locations we can eat there often for free (since you have to wait 7 months between visits at each location). It’s still a lot of work to complete the dining report but it’s worth it to me to have these great FREE experiences.
I am grateful for this fun opportunity. Thanks A Closer Look!
For New Year’s Eve, Carl and I volunteered at the St. Augustine Beach Blast.
We got there early, parked in a distant parking lot and took the free shuttle to the pier. Since we had never seen the St. Augustine pier, we walked down to the beach to check it out.
It is a really nice beach and we look forward to going back in the summer. After eating our free volunteer meal, it was time check in for our shift. We spent 4 hours in the ticket booth. It was steady busy which made time pass quickly.
Halfway through our shift, we had a perfect view of the pier for the 20-minute firework show.
It was one of the best we’ve seen!
We were also right by the bandstand, where we got to hear three live bands. Unfortunately, two out of three of them were pretty bad and along the “screamo” line. The other bad part was trying to get the shuttle back to our car. With at least a hundred people in line ahead of us, we decided to just walk the 2.5 miles back to the car. It was a beautiful, pleasant evening and we were glad to get some exercise so it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
In addition to our free meal, we received a t-shirt, drawstring bag and 10 tickets for drinks for volunteering. It was a fun event and we would do it again.
I wish you all a blessed year filled with God’s love, peace and grace. Happy New Year!
Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like going to a football game on Christmas Eve…especially when it’s 80 degrees out!
Prior to the game, Carl provided us with lunch and we were able to eat in the Club level.
We stopped by to visit Zack working hard as always during home games.
Then we went to our seats and watched the game for the first quarter. But with the sun beating down on us and a general lack of interest in football by all, we decided to call it an afternoon and head back home. I know Carl was aggravated that we didn’t stay longer but Anthony was thrilled with a few hours to go surf, Kelly and Avram enjoyed laying by the pool (Avram even jumped into the pool once) and I watched Christmas movies. So it was a good afternoon for all. And it was a Christmas miracle but the Jaguars finally won another game! Hooray!
At 6pm, we all went to the Christmas Eve service held by our very own church this year.
Although instead of our regular church location, we met at the Ramada Inn, which was a pretty un-Christmasy setting, except for the beautiful tree in the lobby.
But we were just happy to all be together to hear a Christmas message by Pastor Aaron.
Afterwards, we went to our neighbor’s house for their annual open house (but I didn’t take any photos…boo!).
It was a lovely Christmas Eve being together as a family, although Sue and Karl were greatly missed by all.
It’s temperatures like that that make me grateful to be living in Florida now.
Instead of breaking records for the number of below zero days in a season or the amount of snowfall in one day, Jacksonville is breaking records for warmest December days on record.
While my Minnesota friends are posting about bitter cold, I am sitting by the pool reading a good book or walking along the ocean with my husband. And I could not be happier!
I am so excited that Kelly gets to escape from the MN winter to join us in Jacksonville starting tomorrow. We can’t wait to see you, Kelly!
On Friday, Carl’s sister flew in to visit us in our new home for the first time.
Friday was just a relaxing afternoon/evening at home (since Carl was working). After dinner, we enjoyed some hot chocolate/coffee spiked with Bailey’s for our inaugural bonfire on our new firepit patio (we just used the metal firebowl…Carl’s getting to the stone firepit soon).
After discussing movie musicals, I tortured Carl and Leslie by ending our evening with a viewing of 16-year-old-Kristy’s favorite movie, The Idolmaker. It was awesome…and I know they agree!
On Saturday, I had a Secret Diner assignment at a breakfast place by the beach and Leslie was chosen as my dining companion. Afterwards, we walked down to see the ocean and the still-damaged-from-Hurricane-Matthew pier.
Later that day, Carl, Leslie and I all headed down to see St. Augustine.
We stayed until after dark and had intended to ride the trolley to see the Christmas Lights, but with waits of over an hour, we just walked instead.
We then took Leslie to our favorite St. Augustine restaurant, Aunt Kate’s, since it was a beautiful night for seafood while sitting outside on the waterfront.
It was a really busy, fun day exploring the Jacksonville area. We are so glad that Leslie came to visit!
Our last full day in Memphis was spent celebrating Thanksgiving with Carl’s family.
Carl’s Aunt Joanne; cousin Susie and her husband, Pete; and family friend, Pat all joined us.
I ate a lot of carbs and I don’t even feel bad about it. Holiday carbs don’t count, do they??
I am thankful for how richly God has blessed me and my family.
I hope your day was filled with family, food and fun as well.
Now let the Christmas decorating begin!! (Actually that won’t be happening until Saturday for me since as you probably read this, we are making the long drive back home to Jacksonville.)