Sand In The Shoes…and the Empty Bedroom

Winter seems to prefer the days to go by like molasses on a cold, winter day….whereas Summer, well, it seems she prefers the days to go by so fast you can barely get the lid off of the sunscreen.  I’m not a fan of this time deal they have apparently worked out without my permission….but that’s a topic that probably needs to be left on the shelf…as Thumper’s Momma told him..if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.

I seriously must be one blessed gal this summer though…I mean..TWO trips to my favorite spot in the entire Universe-the beaches of South Walton.  I’ve got sand in my shoes! Y’all know the first trip was with my two favorite guys, but I just returned from the second trip after my favorite middle sis offered me a bed on their beach vacation!  (Y’all know this gesture puts her in the sister hall of fame..right?  I mean, seriously, that’s like telling a house dog they can go roll in whatever the choose to without any consequences…hearts a leapin’ for joy!!!)  Getting to hang out with my sis, her spouse and my most beautiful niece in the entire world…well…as the Discover commercial says…Awesomesauce!

South Walton Beach....I love you!

South Walton Beach….I love you!

I did nothing while on the beach…seriously…I have perfected the beach pose.  Sunscreen on, towel placed strategically on the chair so that it won’t inch down or fall off, sunglasses perched perfectly on the bridge of the nose, water bottle secured in the sand, sit…extend extremities, chair in the next to the lowest head position….and exhale.  Toss in the occasional fifteen step adventure mid-calf into the ocean…and well…that’s heaven on earth folks.  (Mid-Calf is my line in the sand where the ocean is concerned…I love her, I could watch her for hours…but y’all, one foot in and we become part of the food chain and I kinda like all my fingers and toes. Those of you who venture out deeper…hats off to your bravery!)  Once again, SWB did not disappoint.  Beautiful emerald green water, soft white sand, the sounds of the waves coming ashore…aaaahhhhhh…..BUT…..SWB….I did not care for the PURPLE flag on our last full day….nope…didn’t care for it…and folks, why is that TINY flag placed in a spot no veteran beach goer will even look?  I mean seriously….you have your tote on one arm….you are scouting out where your beach set-up is….and the ocean is calling your name over and over…and you are expected to look the opposite way towards the back of the beach for the flags for that day??  Nope..ain’t happening.  May I suggest folks walking the beach passing out flyers?  We could have died from a jellyfish!  A no brain creature of the sea…could have taken us all out!  Kinda hard to prevent certain calamity if the first time you see the flag is when you are packing up for the day!  Flyers people…or all those crazy planes and helicopters that fly across the shore could carry a banner reading, “DEATH UPON ENTERING WATER…DANGER.”  Really…cause how many of us are going to avoid the water with the wording “Dangerous Marine Life?”  You are so sitting there right now saying, “I laugh in the face of danger.”  My point exactly!

Before your eyes could blink, the beach was over…time to pack the bags and leave.  I do believe I enter a clinical state of depression each time I leave the beach.  Hmm…wonder if BCBS would pay for monthly beach trips if I could convince them that it was the only “drug” that would work to lift my mood? I do breathe better…..Hmm…..another blog for another day.  Anyhow….a trip over to Seaside/Watercolor/Seagrove to get a few t-shirts…..and..well….maybe a Lily Pulitzer dress…..hey..it was on sale…it fit..who am I to tell a dress she can’t come home with me when she’s so adorable???  And it was over….bye Florida….iPhone in hand on my Home-Away app seeing what the prices were for October.  Ok, maybe I have a problem.  Maybe I need an intervention…BUT…have you see that water?  Walked on that sand?

So, I land in Chicago..all depressed and all because I’m told you can’t live in a tent on the beach forever….walk up to my baggage claim and look up…NO JOKE…a sign for 30A and the Beaches of South Walton….I felt like Charlie Brown as Lucy pulled the football from him once again….clearly God was sending me a sign that I should just hop a plane and go right back.  Right?  That sign was for me….right?  Or was Chicago taunting me with my love, because I had been talking so poorly at her pitiful attempt at summer????  We may never know.

Today, I wake up in Chicagoland….to what I have put off for a week….the empty bedroom.  See, smart Kim was able to somehow go on a trip the same day her baby boy left for the Aspen Music Festival…not to be seen again until move in day at college….and not to be seen in Chicagoland until Thanksgiving.  I feel like Eeyore.  Left the beach….empty room…ugh.  Empty-nest joy obviously is just for birds…..cause I am not feeling it.  Don’t get me wrong..I am thrilled my baby boy has wings….thrilled…but I could have used another eighteen or so  years…just saying.  Our five week summer was not long enough…and well..next summer is the big “move to grad school” summer…and I’m just not wanting any part of this whole party.  I think I went wrong that day I let him take his first step…see…what are we thinking????  We teach them to walk and talk and be all independent and that’s what they go and do…and poof….they are off into the world.  Empty room.  I keep thinking I will change it out to my long dreamed about floral shabby chic oasis….but I wonder if that would be an obstacle to get him to return for visits????  Would a shabby chic room be enough of a reason for him to say..”Umm…I think I’m hanging at campus this break?”  He reads this blog, so I must insert the I LOVE YOU to the moon and back and I am so proud of you at this time.

My J with David from the CSO and one of J's teachers this summer....cool kid.

My J with David from the CSO and one of J’s teachers this summer….cool kid.

Life marches on……….now excuse me while I go look at Florida condo rates for well….can I leave today?  (PS…I love you Leebo and you know I can’t control myself where the beach is concerned.)

My Happy Place 2015

Where’s the place you can go to that almost instantly brings a smile and a sigh of relief from the hustle and bustle of daily life?  Is it the beach, the mountains, your private oasis in your own backyard?  Is it sitting in a chair eating your favorite food?  For me, it’s the place where I can put my toes in the sand, walk along the shore of the ocean, and where I can simply sit and tune out the world for just a few days…..my happy place is the stretch of ocean between Miramar Beach and along 30A in Florida.

We recently returned from a week of much needed rest and relaxation and even after going for years……it never ceases to amaze me how magnificent the ocean is.  Maybe it’s how it forces you to sit and take in its power.  Maybe its how it invites you in to play.  Whatever it is, I sure do pray God has a few beautiful ocean beaches for me in Heaven.  Think about it….the world is covered in oceans…and each one knows where to begin…where to stop.  That is simply an amazing example of God’s power in creation.  The United States is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  From the beaches of Hawaii, to the rocky coastline of the Northwest to the soft, white sand that I call my happy place.

This year, with the move and then the uncertainty surrounding some medical issues, this trip was much needed.  The only problem every single year….leaving.

Here’s a little peak into my happy place and some of the 2015 memories from the visit.  Enjoy.

You just cannot go wrong with soft, white sand and emerald green water with hints of blue scattered throughout.

What does a Mom do when she is beating her men in putt-putt, why she brags, of course.

Each year, we make a visit to Cantina Laredo for dinner.  This year, it was especially tasty.  Finding Mexican food in Chicagoland has been difficult.

There’s just something awesome about being a Mom to a boy.  This college kid hit the jackpot on an arcade game at the Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin.  In his shopping spree, a Scooby-Doo was acquired.

Another tradition we have, is one morning we trek over to Another Broken Egg, Sandestin for breakfast.  Such good food.

Sadly, I didn’t capture a picture of one of the highlights of the week.  We ventured over to Seaside one day to eat lunch at The Great Southern Cafe.  First, we ordered the crab cakes with fried green tomatoes.  Then…I ordered the Grits a Ya Ya.  Oh my goodness.  I was certainly saying Ya-Ya!  Then..upon a recommendation from a fellow Florida fan, we ordered the Key Lime Pie.  This is NOT your traditional Key Lime Pie.  It’s Key Lime Pie taken to a whole new dimension.  I have been searching for the recipe from the moment I took my first bite.  Since I can’t share a picture of this heavenly treasure, I hope you enjoy the fabulous shot my son shared with me of our happy place.

This is a shot from our table at Dewey’s Destin, Harborside.  It’s one of our “traditions” and seems to be our last meal of the week each year.

On the way back to Chicagoland, we were able to make a stop in Athens, Alabama so that I could visit with one of my dearest, “for life” friends.  We met as locker mates back at Southaven Junior High and over the years formed one of my most cherished friendships.  Sherry Lunneal Clutter Raines, I adore you.  She is a cancer survivor and one of the most amazing women that I know.  Her story is simply amazing.  (And y’all know that’s a Cracker Barrel!  My favorite chain!)

Thanks for letting me share a peek into our happy place with you.  It’s time for my second cup of coffee on this “cleaning house” day…..

Vacation Review-Sandestin 2014

I love the ocean.  I love the beach.  I simply love everything about it-the sand, the water, the smell of the salt air, the way the waves roll up the back of your leg…all of it-well, minus the whole I am part of the food chain once I enter the water part.)  If I could figure out a way to pop a tent and call it home for the rest of my life, I would.  (With indoor plumbing, of course.)  I love the New England coast as much as I do the beautiful beaches of the Florida Panhandle.  From what I hear, I think I would say the same thing about the west coast.

IMG_3585

Growing up in Mississippi, going to the Florida panhandle is just what folks did.  The idea of possibly going to another part of the country to another beach area, just didn’t come up in conversation.  Some may call it the “Redneck Riviera”, but I simply see it as the closest thing we have to the Caribbean here in the United States.  Over my lifetime, I have visited the coast of Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and even the Atlantic side of Florida, but my heart belongs to that stretch called 30A.  Reaching from just outside Panama City and going west to the edges of Destin, it’s paradise.  “The Truman Show” was actually filmed in Seaside, which is on 30A.  Sandestin has been our “go to” choice now since our oldest was in early high school.  Nestled on Miramar Beach, just east of Destin, this resort has grown into almost a small town with the addition of shopping/restaurants, and everything you need to make a vacation comfortable.  We have been to the coast in May, June, July and August and this year we added October to that list….and it did not disappoint.

A glimpse into Sandestin

A glimpse into Sandestin

A Village Peek

A Village Peek

One of the biggest questions you have to answer before you book a trip to Sandestin is “Beach side or Bay side?”  We have done both.  We have stayed steps away from the beautiful turquoise water and we have stayed steps away from the bay and all the fun the Baytowne Village brings just steps away.

We love the ease of going to the “Village” when we stay on the bay-side in the village and we also love the ease of grabbing out beach gear and making the three minute walk to the beach.  One is not better than the other.  This year, the condo we enjoyed on the beach-side was undergoing some October construction, so we opted to trek across Highway 98 and stay in the Village on the bay-side.  It was a great choice for the October trip!  We were able to get to the beach in less than five minutes and in the evening were able to be in the Village after a short two minute walk.  The pool for our condo this year is my favorite pool of the entire resort, so that was an added perk!  (It’s a zero entry pool that at its deepest point is only four feet deep.  It’s a beautiful pool for kiddos, parents and adults who just want to enjoy the tranquility of the water without the cannonballs in the background.)  We were directly on the bay as well, so we had the beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay glistening between the tall pine trees that line the bay.

On the Bay

Beautiful

Beautiful Sunset

Evenings could be spent walking along the piers by the bay or biking the resort or walking in the soft, white sand of the most beautiful beaches in America.  Tennis and golf your thing?  More than you can possibly ask for….grass courts, clay courts…..several golf courses….all located in a gated, secure resort.  Dining, playing, kid/teen activities…all right there. This is not where college kids go for spring break…..winner, winner, chicken dinner!   We are huge Sandestin fans….now…we will be the first to tell you that if you go during high season-expect crowds.  That’s just the nature of the coast of Florida in the summer.  It’s never been intolerable, but I have to admit…October has been our all-time favorite visit.

The water did not have a speck of sea grass in it.  Probably the clearest I have ever seen the water.  Just beautiful.  Temps were perfect.  Warm enough to enjoy the water, the beach, the pools, but cool enough not to worry about heat danger.  (Take sunscreen!)

Beautiful Clear Water

Beautiful Clear Water

We did have one “rain day”, but even that was a fun day.  Two treks over to Seaside were both met with gully-washers and we finally got the message we were not meant to spend the day at Seaside.  Back to the Sandestin/Destin area for a little outlet shopping at Silver Sands (hello North Face, Kate Spade and Vera Bradley outlets!) and that was followed by deciding if it was a movie evening or dinner out.  (We opted for food, of course!)

It’s funny how you can spend an entire day sitting on a beach and look down and realize it’s six hours later than when you first sat down.  Beach life was how we spent our Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and most of Thursday.  Toss in some time spent at the Destin Harborwalk to view the weigh-ins for the Destin Fishing Rodeo and food excursions…and that’s pretty much our week.  One of the biggest highlights of our visits to the coast each time is that I get to see my beautiful cousin, Jan and her adorable family.  Our second trip to Cantina Laredo with another snapshot of us all together.  Granny Page would love that we are able to see one another…even if it’s just once a year or so. Jan’s son, James, has to be one of the most gregarious kids I have ever met! Imagine a twenty year old bottled up in the body of a first grader!

It was so wonderful having our Josh come in for a few days (Fall Break) and this Momma heart just overflows with how much I enjoy time with this kid and enjoy feeding him!  One of the great things about staying in a condo is that you get a full kitchen and that kitchen made my baby boy his favorite sausage gravy and biscuits!  Speaking of our condo, we did have one HUGE issue during our stay……a tree frog.  I am so afraid of frogs it’s almost silly.  I had picked out my spot for coffee on day one and that spot was my friend…until…the frog spotting.  That frog took up residence.  Finally, in desperation to have my coffee spot back, I had my hero, Lee, bag the frog and set it free in the lawn area downstairs.  (I may have looked daily for the frog after that….afraid he would return.)

The FROG!

The FROG!

As with every trip to Florida, the day the week ends always brings me such sadness.  I’m confident I am a walking billboard on that day for “pity party 101” and how not to act when it’s time to go home.  Not only do I just enjoy the coastal world and all it offers, but my health does too!  I keep wondering if I can get a RX for beach relocation and have it covered by my insurance.  Pity party aside, I am so grateful for the time we did have on the coast and am already counting down the days until our next visit.  Sometimes, the best vacations are the ones where you go and simply sit and listen and watch….the vacations that restore your joy and force you to stop for a few days.  That’s Florida for this coffee girl.

Yes, this happened.

Yes, this happened.

Now to get you up to speed on some of our favorites of the week!

Tradition is that we eat at Pompano Joes for our first meal of the week.  It’s directly on the beach and you can sit and enjoy the waves and good food at the same time!  Some of our favorites there are the crab claws, fish tacos and fried shrimp and pineapple slaw.  (For shrimp folks out there, gulf shrimp simply put every other shrimp in the world to shame!  So sweet and wonderful!)

For those night we want to cook in the condo, a trip to Sexton’s is in order.  This is our favorite seafood store!  Such fresh seafood and so clean and you won’t walk in and be knocked down by the smell of fish. (Ya’ll know what I mean!)  We were so fortunate to be able to take Royal Reds home two different nights!  Three minutes with some Old Bay and just watch how quickly they disappear!  If fish is your thing, expect some of the best grouper and flounder around.  Several other options are there too, but I am a shrimp girl and just gravitate directly to those!  The folks there are so nice and will answer all your questions!  It’s a little bit of a drive from Sandestin as it’s close to the Destin Harbor, but it’s worth the drive!  Open until dark!

Dewey Destin is our next go to place to eat.  The fried oysters, shrimp and fish (grouper) are the best we have found.  Hushpuppies are tasty too, as is the slaw!  This is not “fine dining” and they don’t pretend to be.  It’s just well cooked seafood that is fresh off the boats.  The key lime pie-oh my.  Don’t share….you won’t want to!  Harbor side seating is available.

Louisiana Lagniappe  is the place to go for sure.  It’s pricey, but oh my goodness.  Make this your “special” meal of the week.  Yes, you will think you are lost when you pull into a residential area on the bay, but you are not!  They don’t take reservations and there will be a wait during high season.

Another Broken Egg in Sandestin at the Village.  We try to eat breakfast there once or twice during our stay. Most mornings we eat in the condo before we trek to the beach.  (Huge money saver there and bring a cooler and pack your lunch!)  Some personal favorites are the Grits with gouda, bacon, tomato and green onions, the French Toast with bananas foster topping, any of the scrambles and just a word of warning-portions are HUGE!  The steel cut oatmeal is tasty too and comes with real Tupelo Honey.

Sweet Bread French Toast with Bananas Foster Topping

Sweet Bread French Toast with Bananas Foster Topping

Those are our “go to” places near Sandestin to eat, but as long as you stay away from the super touristy spots, good food is not hard to find.  (If you like seafood!)  Chains are chains and we typically stay away from any chain that isn’t a local chain.  (I can get that food anywhere!)

When planning the trip to Sandestin you also have to decide if you want to rent via Sandestin (pricey) or an outside management company or owner.  We have found VRBO to be a great rental resource and My Vacation Haven has wonderful properties and quiet often has a coupon code.

Just no words for the beauty of the ocean

Just no words for the beauty of the ocean

So, pack your bags, grab the sunscreen, and leave your cares in the driveway and head on down to the beautiful Florida gulf-coast.

My Joy.....

My Joy…..

Dreaming of Florida……

Footprints....

Footprints….