Weekend Visit

My in-laws spent last week in Naples, Florida with Karl’s sister, Joanne. So on the way home, they stopped in Jacksonville to spend the weekend with us. It just so happened that Friday night was our regularly scheduled Card Night with friends from church (we get together once a month and play a different game each time, rotating houses) so Sue and Karl were able to join in on the fun.

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We played our new favorite card game, called 4 Up-4 Down, that Pat and Don taught us previously and we just so happened to have already taught Sue and Karl during our family cruise over Christmas.

Pat also made an amazing dessert and since we have a running joke about how much whipped cream the guys always use, she presented each one with their own can.

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On Saturday night, Carl and I had a pre-cruise planning session with Dee and Eddy (in April, there will be 20 of us from church going to celebrate Dee and Eddy’s 50th wedding anniversary…what fun!). So Sue and Karl took Zack out for dinner.

Other than that, there was lots of hanging out of the lanai enjoying the beautiful weather, watching the new tv out there* and playing games.

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It was a short and sweet visit but we are always grateful to spend time together when we can. Thanks for stopping by, Sue and Karl!

*Since I haven’t shown a photo on my blog, here’s out new addition to the lanai, which I initially resisted but am now in love with! Thanks, Carl!

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If I am going to lay around watching tv, I can’t think of a better place to do it!

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Safety Harbor Weekend Away

Last year around this time, Carl and I were invited to St. Petersburg, FL for the weekend for the Ted Williams Museum and (Baseball) Hitters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This year, we were again invited, although the event was moved to Safety Harbor, FL and the organization put us up in the historic Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.

ESPIRITU SANTO SPRINGS
Where Healing Waters Flow
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On May 18, 1539, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto reached the shores of what is now Tampa Bay, landing near these mineral springs used by the native population for nearly 10,000 years.  Believing he had found the legendary Fountain of Youth somehow missed by Ponce de Leon, de Soto established a camp here, naming its crystal-clear waters Espiritu Santo Springs–“Springs of the Holy Spirit.”  Each of the five springs on this site was identified and said to cure certain ailments, a claim drawing thousands of visitors yearly to the “Health Giving City” of Safety Harbor.  In the twentieth century, Espiritu Santo water was bottled and sold commercially, and later a health spa and hotel were built over the springs. The Safety Harbor Sanitorium opened its doors here in 1926, offering porcelain bath tubs and a large swimming pool for “taking the waters.” The Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, as it is now known, continues to be a prominent visitor attraction in Pinellas County.

I couldn’t help but wonder as we wandered the halls of this historic hotel noted for it’s healing powers and health retreats if my grandma Donna had been a visitor here. It seems like just the type of place she might have come to.

We decided to make a whole weekend of it (as opposed to just one night like last year) and went down on Friday.

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On Friday, we took a long walk around the cute harbor city with small shops, plentiful restaurants and quaint houses.

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The town boasts this massive 300-500 year old Live Oak tree.

It was fun to walk to dinner just a few blocks from the hotel and enjoy the beautiful night.

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We laughed a lot at this sign. Why is this even necessary??

On Saturday, we enjoyed an even longer walk, going a full 5-1/2 miles down the waterfront and around the city. After going back to the Spa and hanging out at the pool for a while, we refreshed ourselves with a well-deserved nap. Then it was time to get ourselves ready and head to Spectrum Field (the Phillies training facility in Clearwater) for the big event.

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The main attraction is the autograph signing session where fans wait in really long lines to spend about 30-seconds with many baseball greats. Carl and I were just there for the food, sampling all the items at the different food stations.

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Then the main program took place, with several baseball legends, including Richie “Dick” Allen and Tony Perez being inducted into the Hitters Hall of Fame.

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Tony Perez, Dick Allen, Ron Guidry, JR Richard

The evening ended with a fireworks display over the field.

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It couldn’t have been a more perfect night, weather-wise. Not too hot and not too cool….it was just right!

On Sunday, we met up with my cousin, Kim, and her daughter, Kassie, at her church since it was on the way home. We thought it was interesting how after the worship portion, the stage went dark and then the lights came back on and there was a large screen. As the pastor started talking, it took us a few seconds to realize that he was not actually there but it was an almost 3-D like video of him speaking! Freaky!

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Afterwards, we took Kim and Kassie for brunch to visit and catch up before heading home.

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It was great to spend some time with them and we are grateful it worked out it everyone’s schedule. It was a nice weekend away and when it’s mostly free, it’s even better! I love these fun opportunities that Carl and I have to spend time together.

My 53rd Birthday

We returned from our cruise on my 53rd birthday. I was so happy to have Kelly and Avram return to our house to spend one more night together before heading back to the tundra of Minnesota. We got in one more afternoon of games.

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Then we ordered Chinese food for dinner but failed to get any photos of that. The kids gave me some cards and chocolates, which was very sweet, especially my hand-made card from Anthony. I think he was trying to make up for the whole dinner-ware fiasco on the cruise ship :).

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Then we ended the evening with a fire in the fire pit.

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Anthony even serenaded us with a song on his ukulele.

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It was a great day to celebrate me!

HG Christmas Party

On Saturday evening, Carl and I hosted the annual Christmas party for our home group that we are blessed to be a part of. It was a mild evening so the men gathered together outside.

David, Carl, Jeff, Ed and Lawrence (just missing John)

The women mingled in the kitchen and around the fire.

Me, Brenda, Claudia, Jeannine, Melissa (missing Michelle and Beth)

The children were all over but I gathered them together for a photo and somebody was apparently not happy about it.

Caroline, Emma, Maddy, Victoria, Jonathan and Andrew

We enjoyed a meal together before the highlight of the evening, a white elephant gift exchange.

In the version we played, each person rolled two dice to determine whether to open the gift you were holding, pass the gifts left or right, switch gifts with another person or have someone open their gift. This sweet couple ended up with these cute Santa hats.

I ended up with this cute scarf (that I wrote to church the next day) made by this sweet friend.

We ended the evening with some Christmas carols, led by our home group leader, Ed.

We are so grateful for these friends to share in life together. It was a great evening of fun, food and fellowship.

Time with Friends

In addition to our time with family, we also enjoyed some time with friends. On Friday, Carl’s best friend from high school, Bobby, invited us to his brother’s house for their annual gingerbread house making contest. This annual contest involves the mothers against the teenage children, while the men watch football in the other room.

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Each team comes prepared with their idea and supplies for a one-of-a-kind creation. Being from Florida, I was first put in charge of making palm trees, while Bobby’s wife, Jessica, created a rainbow.

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When I was done with my trees, then put me to work wrapping animal crackers with fondant.

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When all was said and done, here was our team with our amazing creation….

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Bobby’s sister-in-law, Lisa; me; Bobby’s sister, Wendy; Bobby’s sister, Janice; Bobby’s wife, Jessica

I thought that we deserved first place with our “Noah’s Ark.”

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However, the teenagers snagged the sentimental vote by creating a “Village” with houses for each family group.

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Oh well, it was a really fun evening and I’m glad that we were able to share in the fun.

For the drive home, instead of driving 12-hours straight through, we stopped in Atlanta for the night to visit Carl’s other friends from high school.

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Steve, Jeff and Carl

This gave us two 6-hour driving days with some fun in-between. Waaaay better!

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Steve’s wife, Anne, couldn’t make it but Jeff’s wife, Waverly is shown

We arrived at Jeff and Waverly’s house in the afternoon, visited for a few hours and then met up with Steve for dinner. We slept in Jeff and Waverly’s amazing guest cottage and after coffee and breakfast in the morning, hit the road back home. We will make this our tradition when going to Memphis from now on because it was so much easier with the two shorter driving days. Plus it’s always more fun visiting friends!

We are grateful for all that we packed into our week and for the time spent with family and friends. Now it’s time to gear up for the Christmas season!

Time with Family

In addition to celebrating Karl’s birthday and Thanksgiving, we enjoyed just hanging out with the family in Memphis last week.

Ever the dutiful son (or dootyful, in this case…ha!), Carl installed new toilets in his parent’s house, replacing the 40-year old commodes with new, higher, sleeker thrones.

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Carl also spent some time working at his sister, Leslie’s house, as well. He’s such a good brother!

We spent time playing cards, including Camp Cards and our new favorite card game taught to us by friend’s at church, 4 Up-4 Down.

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We went to an exhibit at the Dixon Art Gallery.

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The exhibit was a collection of dresses, entirely made out of paper!

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Can you believe this is all paper?

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It was pretty cool, especially for a paper crafting enthusiast like myself.

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We went to Sue’s friend, Marilyn’s house for authentic Memphis BBQ ribs and coleslaw. I first met Marilyn at my baby shower for Kelly…so that was over 27 years ago!

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Sue brought Brandy Ice for dessert…yum!

It was a fantastic time spent with family in Memphis and we are grateful! We look forward to seeing Sue and Karl again in just under a month for our annual Christmas visit. Leslie will be missed but will be with us in our hearts.

Santa Rosa Beach 2017

I’m so grateful for my Tuesday boss and the great working relationship that we have. And I’m especially grateful that he has a lovely beach vacation home that he shares with family and favored employees for free. This year, Carl and I invited our good friends, John and Michelle to join us for a week of fun and sun at the beach. We drove over one day prior to our friends to get settled in, get some groceries and enjoy our first walk on the beach at sunset.

The next afternoon, John and Michelle joined us.

While waiting for the sunset, Carl and John played bocce ball at the beach.

Our first full day together began with Carl, John and Michelle taking a long walk. Yes, I was the only lazy one. What of it? I’m on vacation. When they got back, Michelle made us her amazing quinoa power breakfast.

Yum! Carl and John watched the Jaguar game on the IPad since it wasn’t playing on local tv while Michelle and I went out for more groceries.

After the game was over, with a Jaguar victory, we drove down Highway 30a to explore some of the cute coastal cities. Our first stop was Seaside.

After wandering around the residential area, we came upon a field with a badminton court so we had to stop and play.

John and Michelle won, which did not make me happy. Plus I broke out in a sweat. Again, not happy. Oh well. At least we had fun! We finally made our way to the town square where they had a series of cute Airstream trailer food trucks so we stopped for some delicious BBQ pork for lunch.

And then to top it off, we all split a giant Sea Salt Chocolate 100 layer cronut (fried croissant) stuffed with chocolate filling.

What an incredible way to blow our carb count for the day! We then made our way further down Hwy 30a, ending at Rosemary Beach.

After taking a coffee/tea break, and sending the above photo to our pastor, who vacations there each year with his family, we walked around this area too for a while.

We finally made our way back home where John and Michelle prepared our awesome dinner of rib eye steaks, veggies and cucumber/tomato salad.

Then it was time for some games. Our first choice was Sequence.

By the end of the night, the women beat the men three games to two.

Losers.

It was a super fun day spent with friends. We are so happy to be spending our vacation with them. More fun to come!