Stay Safe!

I am praying for all those in the path of Isaac.  Thinking about my favorite places and many friends and family in the South, as they batten down the hatches and prepare for severe weather. 

Till We Meet Again

Waking up to a bright, cheerful day always makes things better…..waking up to a bright, cheerful day in a beautiful condo with a gorgeous view of the Gulf of Mexico makes things best!!

Ahhhhhhhh

I knew, when I heard my sister already up and making noises, that she had made her decision about staying, and it was probably for the best that we stuck to our schedule and started home that day after all.  We had families to get back to and responsibilities that depended on us.  We all three scurried around and packed our things into our cars and tidied up the condo before “checking out”.  Checking out of this place required closing the locked door behind us.  That’s it!

After hugs all around, Leanne got in her car and headed West toward her home in San Antonio while Pam and I decided we weren’t quite ready to head North toward Indiana and Illinois.  Instead we got in our car and drove East to Seaside!!  We enjoyed a leisurely drive and by the time we parked and walked over to the line of Airstream vendors it was lunch time!

Seaside, FL line of Airstreams on 30A

We both got delicious grilled cheese sandwiches from Meltdown on 30A.  Sooooooo good!!  We did a little people-watching from our table in the shade and took some photos inside the iconic post office in the middle of it all.

Three Cheese grilled sandwich

We visited the shops across the street and just really savored the sights and sounds and smells of this cute beach community.

Shells for sale!!

What a great place to kick back and take a deep breath.  The Emerald Coast is by far my favorite place to visit.  The memories my family and I have made here over the years are so very precious to me.  I love a good road trip but getting home is always a good feeling.  When things start getting crazy in my busy life back home I tend to recall those memories, more than any other, to calm me and bring a smile to my face.  Right now I’m happy to say my heart is full.

Last days are always bittersweet….

I wish we could just skip the “leaving” part and blink our eyes and go from having a great vacation to being home and unpacked.  The anticipation of leaving puts a slight damper on enjoying my last day of vacation.  I know, it doesn’t make a lick of sense but it happens every time!  This last day makes me realize how much I didn’t get to do yet!

In order for our last day in paradise to be full of activity, we needed to try to end the suffering of one of our own.  My sister and I made “milk poultices” for our burned sister’s legs and she felt relief as the cold milk pulled out the heat and conditioned her skin!  It worked!  Dipping paper towels in cold milk, squeezing out the excess liquid, then laying over the burned area (remedy found online and suggested by a family member) really does do wonders.  Repeat as necessary.

We started our day by browsing the boutique shops of Gulf Place.  The SOHO shops stock very trendy leisure and beach attire for women.  The pricing is a bit high for this frugal lady so I just let my eyes caress the lovely fabrics and styles of  clothing I picture a carefree, confident woman wearing.  We also HAD to go through the cute little artists’ kiosks in the courtyard.  The Artists at Gulf Place is a wonderful collection of art made by local talent including my favorite Chastane.  I could spend hours taking it all in!  I have a secret dream that I might join them some day with my own creations.  I would so love to be a local and sell my handiwork at this adorable community of shops.

My favorite artists kiosk. Chastane

After a while we started thinking about lunch.  A girl’s gotta eat you know!!  We loaded up and headed East on 30A toward Grayton Beach.  Sister Leanne wanted to take us to The Red Bar to experience the unique atmosphere and decor.  We entered what did not look like much of a building but on the other side of the door we found a dark, quirky bar and grill with more character than you’ll find in any high class five star restaurant!  We had a table in the main room but they also have seating around the bar, in a back room and on a side patio.  If you need to go potty you will have to look close…..the doors are kind of hidden in the wall where the bar is.   And the bathroom itself is quirky as well!

Womens restroom in the Red Bar.

The menus are brought to you on a large chalkboard, carried by the waiter.  Not a big selection but I found more than a couple of things I wanted.  Without realizing it all three of us sisters chose the special that day which was fried Grouper and French fries.  I’m telling you what, that was some awesome fish and chips!!  Portions were huge as well.  We were lucky enough to be dining on a day that live entertainment was setting up and the trio soon began to play and sing.  It was a very nice experience and we could have stayed all day except there was so much more to do before packing up for the trip home!

We jotted across the street to The Zoo Gallery and found cute little bracelets that we could take home to our granddaughters and Sister Pam bought her own bottle of Solar Recover.  Next stop was a wonderful shop down near the Grayton Beach/30A intersection called Lily Pads.  Lily Pads is full of wonderful beach-themed furnishings and decor.  We almost didn’t want to leave, it felt so calming and delightful browsing the aisles and dreaming of how we’d decorate “our” beach house if we had one.

Lily Pads

One last stop before heading back to rest, was the cute little gift/souvenir shop under the Abacos condo development immediately East of Gulf Pace.  We’d met the owner of Coastal Treasures a few years ago and she hasn’t changed at all.  Every bit a people-person, this woman can’t help but pull you in and make you feel like a guest in her home.  She even read a children’s book to my sister when she mentioned shopping for her grandsons!!  She also saw how red Pam was and sprayed her down with her sample bottle of Solar Recover that she sells in the store.

We made it back to the condo for a couple of hours before dinner.  We had appetizers and wine , enjoying the view.  Just writing about it makes my heart happy.  This was also the night of the Super Moon and we had a perfect view from our balcony.  We sat quietly together, breaking the silence now and then with deep thoughts.  We shared our dreams, our hopes for the future, our worries of the moment…..but with our eyes on the Gulf waters, we felt peace……God’s presence was evident.  We have so much to be thankful for and family is at the top of that list.

Super Moon rising over Gulf Place, Santa Rosa Beach, FL

Not wanting to drive (and with no dependable taxi service) we decided to walk over to Amore Pizzeria again.  We watched the moon rise higher into the night sky from the second floor outdoor deck dining.  We were unusually quiet during our dinner…..contemplating the last few days and what was ahead of us when we started home the next morning.  We were already making plans and setting dates to meet again in this magical place.

We recognized the new owner of Miss Lucille’s Gossip Parlor at the bar and asked him to join us for a drink.  What a nice young man.  It was refreshing to hear from someone who knew exactly what he wanted and made his dream come true…living and working in his favorite vacation spot.  He’s so young to have followed his heart and I truly hope it works out wonderfully for him. It gave me new determination not to let my own dreams die, even though I am twice his age.

We sisters ended the evening in the comfort of the living room in our pjs, and discussed staying another day since the condo owner gave us a deal for an extra night.  We went to sleep that night, hoping to extend our visit “just one more day” if we could work out our schedules.  Maybe it’s best that way…..we had eliminated the anticipation of leaving and replaced it with hope for another day.

A Friday in May at Santa Rosa Beach

This being our first visit to the area in May, we weren’t sure what to expect with weather and crowds.  I’m happy to say it is very much like our October visits.  The temperature is not too hot, the crowds not too thick, and the view every bit as beautiful!!

With a good night’s rest we were up and at ‘em and raring to go!  The first place we went was Publix, conveniently located about three miles away, on Highway 98.  We didn’t plan to cook any meals ourselves even though our condo was equipped with a full kitchen and had all you’d need to whip up a full meal and serve to a large family.  We did, however, need to restock our wine supply and pick up some cheese and crackers, crab dip and fruit.  With that large corner balcony we knew we’d spend plenty of time relaxing and taking in the beautiful view.

After putting away our groceries we headed down to Miss Lucille’s Gossip Parlor for lunch on the patio.  My Beach Burger was delicious!  The seasoned fries were tasty and plentiful.  And watching the activity at the intersection was entertaining without being intrusive.  Prices were very reasonable and the service from the brand new owner (Sam) was excellent!  This shop/grill has been a favorite of ours and I think the new owner will only improve it!

Beach Burger and fries

This day was not looking too bad, weather-wise, so after lunch we all three packed up our matching Thirty-One Gifts beach bags and hit the sand.  We parked our beach chairs next to one another facing the water and simply enjoyed being there together.  The sand is soft and white, the sound of the surf was soothing, and we occasionally broke the silence with conversation.  As sisters we are very close.  As friends we are even closer.  We can talk about anything with no fear of judgement or criticism.  We are there for each other through the ups and downs and there is no better feeling than knowing they’ve got my back no matter what.  Oh goodness, we also know how to laugh!!!

About Town Blanket, Tote-Ally Awesome Tote, Zipper Pouch, Picnic Thermal

And these are just MINE!! (About Town Blanket, Tote-Ally Awesome Tote, Zipper Pouch, Picnic Thermal)

The worst part of our time on the beach was that a couple of us didn’t get as much sunscreen on as we should have!  That was made apparent after we walked back up to our condo and discussed where we’d have dinner.  We shared cheese and crackers and a glass of wine on the balcony.  My poor sister Pam was getting redder with each passing minute but she was a trooper and dressed for a night out.

As we had found out the first night of our stay, taxis are HARD to come by in this area.  One told us they closed at 5 and opened at 11 am the next day.  Another told us a trip to Destin would cost us $48 ONE WAY!!!  So we decided that I would be the designated driver and we’d stay close, and went just a mile down the road to Stinky’s Fish Camp.

Now I warned you in last fall’s blog not to let that name throw you.  Stinky’s food is excellent and they have valet parking service and outdoor waiting with a buzzer.  We had a lovely chat with a couple from Louisiana and even discovered a hometown connection!  We didn’t have too long of a wait before being seated on a screened balcony that overlooked a pond.  We were glad to sit outside because the indoor seating felt like we were walking through a refrigerator!

Grilled Amberjack with roasted potatoes and peppers

We had delicious meals but didn’t linger long.  We got our car and headed back to the condo to see if we could relieve some of the pain my burned sister was in.  After some online research my sister Leanne found that milk-soaked paper towels took the heat out of a burn.  We just so happened to have picked up milk that morning at Publix!  We weren’t able to get anywhere near her with those towels though!  She did keep spraying her skin with Solar Recover which gave her immediate relief, smelled awesome and helped in hydrating her skin.

OUCH!

We shared some microwave popcorn and stayed up late talking.  Nothing like a little girl talk to distract you from your pain!!  That and the sound of those techno-tree frogs!!!

Seaside……even in the rain it’s all good.

First full day of our sister trip:  Waking up from a deep slumber and walking down the hallway to the view of my dreams…..doesn’t get much better than that.

Hallway to heaven

My sisters and I got up within an hour of each other and we congregated in the living room to plan our day.  We didn’t have a time limit or set schedule…we were carefree and under no pressure.

We were hungry for lunch by the time we all got ready so we headed for Seaside pretty quickly.  We found good parking and walked through a couple of restaurants to look at menus (and wine lists).  We settled on Bud and Alley’s and asked for top deck seating.  We took our “buzzer” and bellied up to the bar.  Well, at least one of us did.  That place was packed for a weekday lunch in May!!  We got drinks and chatted while we waited for a table.  The morning had been cloudy and rainy but it wasn’t too bad by the time we were seated.

We had a few rain sprinkles decorate our clothes and hair but had a glorious lunch watching the waves crashing on shore and we had some awesome fried crab claws for an appetizer.   I had THE best grilled Amberjack sandwich with yummy Remoulade sauce.

Fried Crab Claws

Grilled Amberjack

After our lovely lunch we browsed through the shops of Seaside and got matching aqua colored Seaside tshirts….even though we are not triplets :)   We stopped for a glass of wine at Crush Wine Bar (very hip and cool atmosphere inside) then headed East on 30A.

We shopped around some boutiques just North of Grayton Beach and saw some amazing work from local artists but soon felt the pull of the beach.  While one sister decided to nap, we “younger” ones changed into our sunnin’ clothes and hit the sand through Gulf Place’s private access to the beach.

I cannot stress enough how much the sight and sound of the waves and the smell and feel of the sand calm my soul.  It’s like I’m that much closer to God.  I just KNOW everything will be alright.  Even with thick cloud cover, just being there is enough to lift my spirits.

Toes in the sand

For dinner that evening we stayed close by…….we walked to Amore Pizzeria in the Gulf Place Town Center.  Sitting on the outside upper deck we enjoyed an appetizer of Crostini Mozzarella followed by Pepperoni Pizza and my delicious Italiano Pannini sandwich with Caesar Salad.

Italiano Pannini

The atmosphere in this little complex is laid back and friendly.  You may not BE a local, but you can always pretend.  :)

Santa Rosa Beach in May

There’s just something about seeing the open water ahead of  me as I drive up to that intersection at Ed Walline Park at Santa Rosa Beach, Florida that touches me to the core.  Seriously, I don’t know of any other view or landscape that moves me as much as this stretch of coastline.  When I caught sight of it once again last Wednesday, I felt content, at peace…..relaxed…..and it was a welcome feeling after the tough winter my family had just experienced, and I’m not talking about the weather.

Although we’d never visited the area in May (our families usually stay in October or November) my Texan sister thought we three sisters needed a getaway just to “be together” and the first place that came to mind was Santa Rosa Beach which holds such warm family memories for us.  But this trip was to be different.  No husbands.  No kids.  No mother.  No responsibilities except making sure we ate two fabulous meals a day.  We had many deep conversations, a few laughs, some quiet reflection and lots of love.  Oh and wine.

Our traditional first dinner in Santa Rosa Beach (our family has been vacationing here for over a decade) was at Goatfeathers, just down 30A from Gulf Place where we rented a fourth floor, two bedroom condo in the Caribbean building.   The food was great as usual.  I had shrimp alfredo and it was scrumptious!  The sauce was flavorful but not too heavy and had plenty of plump juicy shrimp.  Our waiter took great care of us and we were happy and full when we left.

Back at the condo we ended the evening on the large balcony that faced the Gulf waters and listened to what sounded like millions of little “techno” speaking tree frogs.  We had one more glass of wine and retired for the night so we could get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of our favorite beach communities the next day.

Preparing for a Sister Trip!!

I haven’t been able to finish writing about my fall visit to the Emerald Coast. My life got busy with work, health problems and then my mom and husband had major medical events that required my nursing them back to health. I am happy to say that everyone is doing much better!

I am also happy to say that my sisters and I are planning a much needed girls’ getaway to the beach! Simply planning the trip makes my spirits soar. I can’t get enough of researching current happenings and photos, mostly on facebook.

I’ll take lots of pictures and write reviews of all the places we visit, shop and dine. Until then, I will dream of the sea and the beautiful beach.

We sisters know how to have a great time!!

Seaside on 30A

The second day of our trip was all about the sale.  My son and I awoke before dawn to prepare.  We watched the sun rise from our balcony before heading down Highway 30A from Santa Rosa Beach to Seaside.  With a little chill in the air we were able to unload and set up within less than an hour.  People were milling about even before the official opening of 8 am.  EVERYONE was in great spirits.  And why not?  With all the beauty of the town square and the beach across the street, it is impossible to be anything but jolly.

For lunch I had my son get me a Grilled Ham and Gouda from the Airstream sidewalk cafe Meltdown on 30A.  Folks, if you think grilled cheese sandwiches are good you have got to try these gourmet grilled sandwiches…..even their most simple grilled cheese is better than any I have had before!!

My son, sisters and brother-in-law ate lunch on the top deck of Bud & Alley’s Restaurant.  The view and food are exactly what you would want on a beach visit……great burgers and the beach right in front of you!   With their bellies full they did a little shopping in the boutiques along the beach and made the rounds of the yard sale tables.  My daughter’s family and her in-laws came down for a week-long vacation and arrived in time to shop at the yard sale too!!

After a very successful day of selling Just Jewelry we packed up and headed back to Gulf Place, our headquarters for this adventure, then landed on the beach.  It was fun to visit with my daughter’s family and watch my grandkids “in their element” in the sand and the sea and of course there’s never much silence when my sisters and I are together.  I love my beach time more than anything but after so long you tend to get hungry.  We watched the sun set from the shore before heading west down the road to Stinky’s Fish Camp.  Now, I understand your hesitation…with that name it sounds like a risk whether you will get good food or stinky fish.  Fortunately you get good food!  Oysters Gratin, Fried Shrimp and all the fixin’s were very tasty and very filling.

Back at Gulf Place we scanned the local restaurants still open, looking for my sisters’ wine of preference – White Zinfandel.  Although Fire and Naked Grape were lovely and had plenty of happy patrons, they, alas, did not carry this wine!!  Oh but the Smiling Fish Cafe had a bottle…..the last one until their next delivery in two days.  Whew, now our evening was complete.  Sitting on the outdoor patio, toasting our sisterhood with the last glasses of White Zin, I couldn’t get the smile off my face (and I’m not even a fish!).

Oh how I have missed you…..

I’ve decided one visit to the beach each year just isn’t enough.  I feel so at home on the beach, at peace when I hear the waves lapping at the shore and there is no better sunrise and sunset than when viewed over the sea.  My mellowing soul now requires at least two visits per year in order to survive the bleak Midwest winters…..one visit to store up the goodness for the coming cold weather months, and another to look forward to as a reward for living through it.

Ah but let’s talk about my recent trip to my version of paradise.  Because it was a short visit, and only three of us sharing space, we rented a one bedroom condo in Gulf Place in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  I narrowed it down to two condos in the large complex, both very different in layout and decor.  My son made the final decision and I am so glad he did.  We arrived to find a lovely, bright, beachy corner unit on the fourth floor above our favorite coffee/gift shop, Miss Lucille’s Gossip Parlor.

Walking into this place was like being part of a “big reveal” on a home makeover reality show.  And the designers nailed my personality in every inch of space!!  I think I even screamed I was so happy!!  My sister and I shared the King sized bed and my son slept on the pull-out couch.  My other sister and her husband met us for the weekend and their condo in an adjacent building was beautiful as well, but in a very different way.  Ours was bright and beachy, theirs was sophisticated and luxurious.  Both had superior views from south-facing balconies but ours also had an east facing balcony!  What a bonus!

Our first afternoon was spent on the beach that is as white as snow and as soft as silk.  Because we didn’t take time to stop for lunch in our hurry to get to the beach, we went up to the second floor deck of Amore Pizzeria (in the Gulf Place Town Center) for a snack to tide us over until dinner.  We had delicious Crostini Mozarella and  Bruschetta.  After more beach time we freshened up and gathered on my sister’s balcony to watch the sunset and it did not disappoint.  For dinner we drove one mile down Highway 30-A to Goatfeathers Seafood Restaurant.  I had some great fried Triggerfish, hush puppies and baked potato.

Returning to the complex, my sisters and brother-in-law had a glass of wine on the patio of the Smiling Fish Cafe which just so happened to be right below our east facing balcony!  I bid them goodnight from my perch on the top floor and went right to sleep, knowing that I would awake refreshed and ready to experience an exciting day in nearby Seaside.

Road Trip!!

I have the rental car packed up…..and shockingly there is still room for my sister’s bags.  Well, unless she has become a movie star diva.  As soon as my son gets off work, we three are heading south!

This time around the trip will be short and sweet.  We plan to stop somewhere in Alabama for the night, then arrive at the beach Friday afternoon.  We’ll spend three nights there before heading home early Monday morning.  I’ll take what I can get.

We started using rental cars for any trip that takes more than four hours.  It seems like a good and logical option.  It doesn’t put miles on our vehicle, the rental is always newer than our vehicle, it’s fun to drive something different, it gets better gas mileage than our SUV, and well, it smells good!  I don’t know how they do it but every car I pick up from the agency smells like it is new!  This one has 12,000+ miles on it and I know others have driven it but somehow it still smells new and I LOVE that new-car smell.

My sister has volunteered to be the back seat rider on this trip so I sat in her spot to make sure she’d have enough leg room and be comfortable.  I was surprised at how nice it was back there.  Plenty of cubby holes, cup holders, back of seat pocket, and a pass through to the trunk above the middle arm rest.  Who knows what she might stuff in there.

The other backseat passenger is my lovely new dress form/mannequin.  Poor girl doesn’t have a head though so I think I’ll make her one, just to keep from frightening others on the road. I am participating in a large sale with my jewelry and acquired this gal at a deep discount from Hobby Lobby and can’t wait to test her out.  She’s eye catching and I hope she grabs lots of attention…..at the sale, not on the road.

I can’t wait to get back and tell you all about our adventure and any new shops, restaurants or attractions.  I’ll take lots of pictures of our condo too!  The next time I blog I may have some fresh, soft, sugar-white sand in my luggage.  And I won’t dump it out :)

Isnt she pretty?

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