Thursday, February 28, 2013

Just Add Water

Hubs had a meeting in Tampa on Monday-Tuesday, and a bit last minute we decided to make it a long weekend and I'd tag along.  Someone has to occupy that lounge chair on the beach while he works, right?

It felt a little hectic getting out of town since you may remember I had just returned from a long weekend trek to Tennessee late Monday night. Basically I unpacked, collected the dog from the kennel, grabbed some grocery essentials, did laundry, repacked, redeposited the dog at the kennel, and we were off.  

Hubs nearly always gets bumped to first because hello, United Airlines sees him as much as I do, but I booked late and was in the center seat, last row of the plane. Next to the restroom. Ugh. Naturally the flight was 100% full, but somehow hubs was able to get my seat moved up to a window over the wing. Much better.

Know what's even better better?  He gave me his seat in first and scrunched himself into that seat over the wing. The flight attendants were impressed, and said that doesn't happen very often. That's kind of sad I think, but I guess I'm old fashioned. Hubs will probably think it's silly I even mentioned it, but I want you to know that in marriage, as in much of life, little things are sometimes big.

Look-four paragraphs in and we're still on the ground in NJ.  Moving on...

We stayed in the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay because that's where hubs needed to be for work, which was after all, the whole point of us going to Florida in the first place. Pesky detail.

The Hyatt sits on the Bay so there's not a true beach, but they've created a little one which was lovely.  The property is expansive and built around a 35-acre wildlife preserve for something different. They've constructed an elevated boardwalk from one end to the other with a tentacle reaching out over the Bay to a gazebo.

The walkway crosses a marshy area thick with banyan trees, beautiful birds, and other sorts of wildlife too. Hubs liked to make me nervous by telling me to keep an eye out for panthers.  It's possible I've watched a little too much CSI Miami, but I also kept an eye out for dead bodies. I'm telling you, that marsh was thick.  

Every morning we'd get up, put on our work out clothes, grab coffee, and walk out to the end of the boardwalk to watch the birds in the tidal pool.  I took a lot of pictures with my phone so the quality is something less than the usual mediocre, but its hard to ever completely ruin a photo of the sea.  

After our coffee and our walk we'd hit the gym. I really enjoyed this little routine and wish we could start every day like that. Sadly, no boardwalk to the bay in my backyard.

I feel quite certain there will be Gulf Coast sunsets in heaven.  

Friday evening we had a delicious seafood dinner at a restaurant called Oystercatchers. In fact we had fabulous dinners every night, including the room service I ordered in my pjs on Monday while hubs was at a business dinner.  I don't know why, but room service always feels like such a treat. 

On Saturday we took a little thirty minute road trip to the town of Treasure Island, because when hubs was a little boy his family vacationed there.  He hasn't been back in over 40 years but he still remembers bits and pieces, specifically a giant Pirate greeting them as they came across the bridge....

Whew!  He's still there. You don't want progress to mess too much with precious childhood memories. I do believe he's had a fresh coat of paint or twenty in the decades since hubs last laid eyes on him, but I was happy to see him still standing. This pirate was very exciting stuff to a five year old and his brother.

The hotel his family stayed in is now condos, but we strolled along the beach where he swam and called his parents so they could get in on the nostalgia too.  Memory is a funny thing.  The hotel was nothing fancy, but he has such happy memories of those with his dad, seafood dinners, playing shuffleboard, swimming in the surf in the bright orange life vest his mama made him wear. I think with every family holiday we've taken he's tried to recapture for his own children, the essence of those long ago trips.  I feel certain they'd tell you he succeeded.

We drove on into St. Pete's Beach and had lunch sitting beach side at the Don Cesar. I'm going to have to come back here...what a lovely hotel. We spent the rest of the afternoon soaking up the sun at our own hotel pool before heading out to a fun dinner at a Tampa institution-The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. 

The Columbia was founded in 1905 by a Cuban immigrant and according to their website, is Florida's oldest restaurant. It is fun and it is fabulous. We were seated near the three piece band (piano, bass, bongos) and they were just right.  Great music played at the perfect volume to accompany our delicious meal.  The service was better than excellent as was our dessert.  

That's a guava turnover "Carmita"-guava and melted sweet cream cheese baked in a soft crisp pastry, dusted with sugar and drizzled with vanilla bean syrup.  Heavenly!

Seems like an appropriate spot to end this post.  I realized in paragraph four I was going to have to make this a two-parter. I know some people would throw up a few pictures and call it a day, but I am not one of those people.

Now it's off to the gym, because seeing that guava turnover Carmita reminds me that a treadmill calls my name.

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Farewell To February Hodgepodge

Welcome to this week's edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge. I've had a crazy busy fun few days, and I'm always happy to have the Hodgepodge to remind me what day of the week it is. Add your link to the bottom of my post, and then 'March' on over to some of the other blogs participating. Here we go-

1. When were you last facing an ocean?  In ONE word describe how you felt when you faced that ocean.

When did I last face an ocean?  Yesterday.

If you follow me on Instagram (Daleyshots) or Twitter (Daleyjoy) or Facebook, then you know I spent a long weekend in Florida.  

Are there pictures?  Silly question, of course there are pictures. And words! You can relax though, because I'm saving all that for another day. 

One word to describe it?


2. What are three sounds you hate to hear?

Angry words, breaking glass, a mosquito buzzing in my ear

3. This question comes to you courtesy of some real life friends. Hi real life friends! When you shop for clothes do you try everything on in the store or do you buy, try on at home, and then return what you don't like or what doesn't fit?

This topic came up when I was out to lunch with friends recently, and I was surprised at how many people said they never try anything on in the stores. I never buy without trying on. I feel like I'd constantly be returning things otherwise. I do order online occasionally, but not often mostly because I like to try things on before I buy.

4. February 26th is National Pistachio Day...are you a fan of the little green nut?  Do you use them in cooking and baking or prefer to eat them right out of the shell?

I love pistachios any old way. I love them right out of the shell, but baked into something is good too. Last Easter daughter2 made pistachio cupcakes for dessert. 

They were yummy, and really pretty too. She used pistachio pudding in the batter and then sprinkled real nuts on top.

5. When did you last have to compromise with someone? Were you happy to reach a compromise or slightly irritated it came to that?

Well.  I'm married. Ha.

I can't remember a specific compromise, but it was likely with my hubs.

I think in marriage compromise needs to happen on a regular basis. I like to have my way, because who doesn't, but I value peace more so its not often I refuse to compromise.  I will say its less irritating when you know your spouse is willing to do the same.

6. Have you ever written a letter to an elected official?  Did you get a response?

Yes and no. That was annoying. I think when possible correspondence should be acknowledged, especially when you consider we are their employers.  An automated email sent in return at least acknowledges receipt.  

7. We 'March' into a new month at the end of the week...what is something on your March calendar guaranteed to make you smile?

My girls will be home for Easter and that is always guaranteed to make me smile. We are also hoping to have hub's brother and sister in law visit for a weekend and I'm really looking forward to that.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Okay, one picture-

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Question Time-Vol 115

Welcome to the Hodgepodge! Hop back here tomorrow (Wednesday) to add your link and share answers. Here are the questions-

1.  When were you last facing an ocean? Using just ONE word, describe how you felt as you faced that ocean.

2. What are three sounds you hate to hear?

3. This question comes to you courtesy of some real life friends. Hi real life friends! When you shop for yourself, do you try everything on in the store before buying or do you buy, try on at home, and then return what you don't like or what doesn't fit?

4. February 26th is National Pistachio Day...are you a fan of the little green nut? Do you use them in cooking and baking or prefer to eat them right out of the shell?

5. When did you last have to compromise with someone?  Were you happy to reach the compromise or slightly irritated it was necessary? 

6.  Have you ever written a letter to an elected official? Did you get a response?

7. We 'March' into a new month at the end of this week...what's something on your March calendar guaranteed to make you smile?

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Years Teach Much

Several weeks ago I shared this quote in the Wednesday Hodgepodge-

"The years teach much which the days never knew."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

People weighed in on how this quote had played out in their own lives, and I said at the time that my answer was turning into a blog post so I'd save it for another day.  

Today's another day. 

The first thing that sprang to mind as I read the quote was raising children. Mothering is so labor're chugging along changing diapers and reading books, tying shoes and helping with homework, and keeping track of piano lessons and orthodontist appointments. In a blink you find yourself gently nagging to complete college applications, settle on a prom dress, and to please slow down when they see the light is turning red. You're making seventeen thousand trips up and down dorm steps and moving the same bins and boxes in and out of storage units until all of a sudden, you look around and find yourself discussing the meaning of life with adults.

Your children are adults.

Your head knows how you got here, but your heart wonders when it was exactly that those precious minutes spent doing the mundane, the repetitive, the important but not glamorous job of mothering, became years.

You know you marked birthdays and lots of firsts.  Steps and words and school years and lost teeth. They were days, that's all, and you were caught up in the days. Caught up in counting the minutes til Daddy came home or the hours til a teenager's key turned in the lock. It was not possible to see the years when you were living them.

It is only possible now.

You see how the pieces fit together, how the things you said yes to and the things you said no to really did matter. The  home you kept, the tone you set, the expectations you established, the kisses you planted on a tear stained cheek, the encouragement you gave out loud and the private cheering you did on the inside, the prayers and the pleas and the day upon day of loving these remarkable creatures have all come together to help them become the people they are now. In the doing you became someone too.

You think about the days you wished would never end and the days you thought would never end.  Both blur together when you look back at the years. You told yourself you'd miss the baby, the toddler, the toothless 2nd grader, but in the presence of your grown up daughters you realize you don't, at least not in the way you thought you would.

You sometimes felt a little anxious at all that lay ahead...that maybe parenting a teenager would not feel quite so magical as parenting a chubby legged toddler with the jelly on her face. As the days pile into years you discover it is necessary to walk through each and every season in order to fully feel the sweetness of the one you left behind.

The years teach you what the days cannot.

They teach you love grows exponentially in a way you cannot fathom.

They teach you there is no need to miss the baby who stared back at you in wide eyed wonder or the little girl full of mischief, whose smile lit up your world.  When you look at your grown up girl she's in there still.  Older, wiser, more articulate and less dependent, but the essence of who she has always been remains. Its that indefinable something the heart recognizes that connects parent to child at age two or twenty-two or fifty-two.

The years teach us that for every season of a child's life there is a corresponding season in the life of a parent.  In the same way God made you ready to care for a helpless newborn every minute of every hour of every day, He makes you ready to step back and let these children you've raised be the people you raised them to be.

I thought there would never be a season so sweet as those early years of parenting, but I was wrong.

The years teach much.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Five on a Friday

I'm not sure I have five fragments, but five on Friday has a nice ring to it, so I'll come up with something.

1.  Our fox-

Okay, so he's not really 'our' fox, but we call her ours because she has a den in the woods on our side hill.  I took these pictures from inside the house so they're a little blurry. She has a way of staring me down that is off-putting, so I wasn't going out there.

Every spring kits are born in the den and they are adorable, but her?  Not so much. She looks a little mangy and kind of hungry to me. I watched her run up my next door neighbor's driveway on Wednesday morning and then cross into our front yard. She looked right at me and then hopped up on the big rock close to the house.

Groundhogs live in this wall, but she didn't need me to tell her that. When we first moved into this house we watched a fox snatch a groundhog from a hole in the ground and kill it with one swift snap of the jaw. Nothing says welcome to your new home quite like that.

She stood on the rock a while, but I guess the groundhog has grown wise and he never made a peep. The fox moved on up into her den and then off into the forest to snag some unsuspecting chipmunk or fieldmouse or other woodland creature. I try not to think too hard about these things.

2. I had a manicure yesterday because my hands were beginning to look like my great-grandpa's. Does anyone else feel like every drop of moisture is sucked out of their skin during the winter months? Ugh.  Anyway, while I was in the salon I had a chance to perform a random and anonymous act of kindness that absolutely made my day.

Yes, my day.

That's the thing about kindness...the giver often gets back more than was given.

3. Speaking of random kindnesses...Daughter1 surprised daughter2 and I with presents when we were all together in the mountains last weekend.  She even fancied up the edges of the tissue paper with her snazzy cutter.

Apparently she'd had these gifts in her possession for quite a while, and it took every single ounce of self control for her not to spill the beans a long time ago. Let's just say secret keeping is not her forte. Ha.

3.  She is awfully cute though, don't you think?

Here's what was inside the bags-

All the ingredients to make the cutest little Lent bunting I have ever seen. Actually I've never seen a Lent bunting before, but this one is really special.

4.  Forty cards for forty days, plus one more for Easter Day.

I strung it in front of my dining room window so I could take a picture because forty cards, even small ones, take up a good amount of space. I haven't quite decided where I want to hang it.

Some of the cards have bible verses on them and others have thoughts and quotes relating to the Easter season. The colors and artwork are so lovely. She got the set from Naptime Diaries.

5.  Here's today's card-

Okay, that's my five.

Who was I kidding?
I think we can all agree when it comes to fragments I have a never ending supply.

For more Friday frags or to add your own link, click the button below. Have a great weekend everyone!

Mommy's Idea

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sweet Southern Comfort

My blogging is off kilter. Getting sick right after the New Year rolled in really threw me off, both here and in real life. Mostly in real life of course, but my blog is a reflection of that so its all felt like a mess.  I am really hoping I can pull it together before the April A-Z challenge, and will begin by catching up on what we did six days ago. Hey ya gotta start somewhere, right?  

We spent last weekend in Tennessee. Hubs and I had plans to visit his parents over the long weekend and daughter2 said she'd love to drive over from South Carolina. She asked if it would be okay if her boyfriend came too, because they are living many states apart and Tennessee is sort of the middle. Daughter1 was supposed to have a friend coming to DC for the weekend, but when that fell through she decided to take a vacation day on Friday and meet us there too.    

Be still my heart.

We rented a cabin in a favorite spot in the Smokies, and I absolutely fell in love with the house. Oftentimes rental properties have 'livable' furniture, but this one was furnished so beautifully I was ready to move right in.  The view was not bad either.

We had every kind of weather while we were there, but Friday afternoon was glorious. Sunny skies and not too cold so we spent some time sitting right here-

Mountain air. 
There is nothing like it.  

Temperatures dropped and a few flakes fell on Saturday, but we could still enjoy the breathtaking views from inside the comfort of our cozy cabin.

I had daughter2 and her boyfriend step outside for a picture in the snow.  It's possible I overwhelmed him with my photography, but he was polite and didn't let on.  

I promise the Smokies are still there, right behind them in fact.  The mountains begged all weekend to have their picture taken. I love that they are ever changing depending on the light and weather, and what's the point of having beautiful daughters with you in a magnificent setting if you can't snap a picture or ten?

The girls really enjoyed spending some time with their grandparents while we were in town.  fyi-Grandparents don't mind at all if you take a thousand pictures.

We also played some Dominoes-

...and we gabbed more than a little bit. You might say we have the gift.  

Saturday we relaxed, napped, read, played games, and grilled steaks for dinner.  A cabin in the Smokies with a stunning view does not require much activity on your part.

It's a place to breathe deeply, put your feet up, and count your blessings.

On Sunday we bundled up and headed just a few miles down the road to the Y.  This is one of our favorite spots in all of Tennessee, and it's here the river splits to form what looks like a 'y'. A little slice of heaven on earth, made for skipping stones and clearing the cobwebs from your head.

Some of us get super excited when the rock actually skips instead of kerplunks...

We went a little further into the park and rode around the Cades Cove loop.

The deer were out in herds and we stopped several times for a closer look.

He wanted his picture taken.  
Just sayin'.  

As always Monday morning came too soon, too fast.  We were greeted with a watercolor sunrise  which made leaving all the more bittersweet.  As your children grow up it becomes something of a challenge to land all of you in the same place at the same time. When you succeed- is a very precious thing.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Road Trip Through the Hodgedpodge

Welcome to this week's edition of the Hodgepodge.  I'm glad you joined the fun sure to add your link to the end of my post, then go see what some of the other players had to say. I have a busy week, but will do my best to visit everyone.

1. When were you last on a 'mountaintop'?  You may answer in the literal or figurative sense of the word.

As it happens, I was on a literal mountaintop this past weekend-the Smokies. We made the long drive to Tennessee to visit my in-laws and as an added bonus our girls, along with daughter2's boyfriend, were able to join us.

Nothing makes me happier than having my little family all together on the same soil, so I suppose you could say I was on a figurative 'mountaintop' too. 

2. Do you establish and maintain a strict budget in your household?  What is one piece of financial advice you would offer someone just starting out on their own?

We have a budget. More or less.  Ha-is it possible to sort of have a budget?  We save, we pay our bills on time, we have money earmarked for emergencies, we give, we have insurance, and we plan for and discuss large purchases, travel, and our future retirement so yes, it's a budget.  More or less.  

I think the biggest and best thing someone just starting out on their own can do, financially speaking, is to create and keep a budget. Besides the normal day to day expenses include a category for building your savings every single pay period. Economically speaking, we are living in very unpredictable times.  

3. Cherries-yay or nay?  Cherry pie-cherry cola-black forest cake-or a scoop of Ben and Jerry's Cherries Garcia...pick one.

Cherries-yay!  I love real cherries, but am not a big fan of 'cherry flavoring'.  I'll take a scoop of Ben and Jerry's Cherries Garcia please.  Chunks of real cherries and chunks of real chocolate...what's not to love?

4. Should you ever discuss religion or politics with people you don't know?

This is a loaded question, isn't it?  If I answer I'm discussing religion and politics with people I don't know.  

I'm going to address them separately, starting with politics.  Frankly, I find it nearly impossible to  discuss politics with anyone these days, so it's not a topic I'd likely bring up with perfect strangers.  I don't mind discussing the issues, but only if the person I'm talking to is civil.  Politics gets ugly pretty quickly.  

As for religion, I guess it depends on what is meant by 'religion'.  I talk about my faith when I feel prompted, when a situation calls for it, or when the opportunity naturally presents itself.  I'm also happy to talk about it if someone asks, but that doesn't happen often with people I don't know.  I hope people see my faith lived out in my life, and sometimes that prompts discussion.

I do love to talk religion and politics as long as all parties are willing to listen, and refrain from being nasty in word or tone.  

5. When you take a road trip do you prefer to be the driver or the passenger?  Where were you headed on your last road trip?

If hubs is with me then I'd definitely prefer to be the passenger.  Let's just say he makes a better driver than he does a passenger.  I enjoy a road trip by myself too.  I love to play my music loud, clear my head, and listen to books on tape.

Last road trip?  Here-

See question #1.  

6. If we peeked inside your closet, what color would we say is most prevalent?

Probably blue, in pretty much every shade.  I have blue eyes, so I gravitate toward shades of blue and green in my wardrobe.  

7. Who's your favorite senior citizen and why are they special?

My mama.  

Why is she special?  

Because she's my mama.  

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I was in a public restroom over the weekend, and the woman in the stall beside me proceeded to phone her pharmacy to check on a prescription, ask questions, give her maiden and married name, and her insurance information, account and all. 


From the bathroom stall! 

Seriously's okay to take 30 seconds to pee without being on your phone! 

Now pass the Purell.  Shudder.