The Naples Florida List – 2017

Adult vacation – woohoo! The first real one since our honeymoon. When I found out we were able to go, I was beyond excited. An entire weekend of sun and relaxation and friends. I mean, I was giddy.

Plus, I’ve never been to Florida! Which is a big deal because everyone here has been at least once, and many people have homes/condos there, where they escape to during colder months. I remember all my New York relatives driving down to Florida each each, wondering what it was like.

1)  We took a really early flight (woke up at 5:30am), which was harsh, but once we got going, not too bad. Plus, thanks to Delta miles, we flew first class. As soon as we got on the plane, my husband ordered a vodka soda because 1. adult weekend 2. rockstar. That’s my plain hot water next to his big boy drink.

2)  Even though I need to be medicated to fly, I love looking down at the landscape on takeoff and landing. It was neat seeing the little channels/outlets (don’t even school me on the terms, I will not remember) and it reminded me of all the books and movies set in the Florida everglades (which I’d love to explore on another trip).

3)  My girlfriend invited eight of us (including her and husband) to stay at her parents’ condo in Naples. Long story short – water damage, mold – we ended up staying in another condo in that same building, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that we stayed in Naples, in a condo along the beach. The weather was hot hot hot and I welcomed it with arms wide open.

4)  First stop: a leisurely lunch across the street. I can’t remember what I had but I was hungry and finished it and also finished off my friend’s pizza (“are you going to eat that?” classy.), so it must have been delicious.

5)  After that, we hung out on the beach for several hours. The Gulf was probably the warmest water I have been in. I hate being cold and I hate being in cold water, but I love being in warm water, so it was a nice surprise for me because I could get in and enjoy it right away!

6)  I spent some time alone, walking along the shore, looking at and collecting shells for the girls. The sand was powdery white.

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Not my photo – grabbed off Pinterest.

7)  We went to the best Italian restaurant for dinner – Campiello – in the very quaint downtown area. They had homemade pasta, which I of course ordered and loved. I think I was one of the youngest people there which was awesome.

Apparently Naples is pretty fancy and also (and probably also because it’s fancy) there’s a large population of retired folks who have homes there. Also, it was the off-season which meant that many people were not in town. Whatever the reason, I actually felt young, which has not happened in a while.

8)  Naples sunsets are gorgeous.

9)  The next day was my friend’s birthday. The night before, we (by we I mean everyone but me because I was asleep) decorated the condo to surprise her in the morning. It was really cute.

 

9)  The guys went golfing (it was in the 90s – eek! Not sure how they survived, but they did) while the girls went to yoga, then brunch downtown and window shopped and grabbed coffee. It was so nice to be leisurely and not have any plans.

10)  Before pre-dinner cocktails, I popped in to the condo’s free library/book exchange and spent way more time there than I’d planned. I found three books that I had to have. One that I’ve been wanting to read – Dead Wake by Erik Larson about the Lusitania. Love, love, loved his book Devil in the White City. Read it if you haven’t.

Speaking of cocktails, because 1. adult weekend and 2. rockstar, my girlfriend packed a whole suitcase filled with drink supplies. I thought she was joking when she posted something on Instagram, but as it turns out, she bubble wrapped simple syrup, fresh lime juice from Farms Market, and a plethora of other things. Hysterical. But also amazing.

11) On our last full day, we rented a boat and took it I don’t even know where…to a little spot that is usually not as busy as it was (Memorial Day weekend), but we found a spot and docked.

I loved seeing the birds’ nests on the signs as we drove along. Oh and we saw dolphins!! Oh my gosh, it was…so fun to see the pair of them playing. One of the highlights for sure.

I also liked seeing a lot of plant life that was new and different to me. Some of them reminded me of Hawaii plants.

We saw a bunch of pelicans on our boat trip. I so love pelicans. They’re so prehistoric-looking. Kind of goofy up close, but when they are in flight, they look really cool

12)  Seven hours later, we pull up for dinner at a Mexian place called Mr. Tequila. A bunch of people ordered their signature drink, which is a margarita with an upside-down Corona in it. Ay carumba. I did not partake, thankfully.

13)  I was so relaxed and happy that I didn’t even take my mediation on the flight home. Big mistake. The screen showed two minutes to landing and 3000 feet (or something like that), then all of a sudden, lots of turbulence and a quick ascent into the sky and a big turn and more turbulence and I was freaking. OUT.

I know stuff like this happens all the time and of course it was the pilot being safe and not landing in a storm, but still. The only saving grace (besides the fact that we landed with our lives intact) was the phenomenal view of the storm over downtown Detroit. Photos do not capture the powerful beauty of that view. I had to muster all my inner strength to bend down and fish around for my camera and snap a pic. All the while, digging my nails into my husband’s arm.

Except for those last few minutes of the plane ride back, our trip went by in a flash. If your friend ever invites you to Florida, please say yes!

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Hawaii Vacation – A Reflection

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There’s a lot I could say about our Hawaii vacation. That it was so many things to be home. Amazing, heartbreaking, nostalgic, relaxing, invigorating, disappointing, delicious, fun.

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In Hawaii I settle into myself differently than here, or even compared to San Francisco, a place that I consider to be my heart’s home. There’s something about the islands that makes you take it down a notch – makes you not care about wearing the same outfit three days in a row, or not think twice about that second helping of dessert, or not worry about whether you should end an email with “Very Best” or simply, “Best,”.

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Mom’s neighbor’s house. She lives in Kalihi Valley with my aunt and grandma. It’s very lush, which means it’s also very buggy!

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I think Hawaii does that for everyone, tourists and residents alike. But for me there is a “coming home” element to it that somehow takes it to a different level. And it’s not just because my family is here (which of course plays a big part though).

My whole perspective on who I am changes. For example, I can walk into a store and feel comfortable chatting it up with the sales reps (which I do NOT do). Or when I’m with people who’ve known me forever (I went to a high-school reunion while I was there) – it’s all so….easy. To just be. It’s hard to explain.

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Class of ’90 (eek!)

They say Hawaii is full of ancient magic (it is no joke, you guys – the ghost stories I could tell you  – many from the mouths of people who don’t, or who used to not, believe in spirits).

But it’s magical in other ways, too. Its beauty, that I appreciate more and more each time I visit, its ability to make me slow down (even when I don’t want to) and its powerful reminder of where I came from, where my mother came from, where her mother came from and back and back and back.

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Mom with our little girl, making leis from her stephanotis flowers.

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Easter, Hawaiian style.

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My trip was hardly deep or spiritual. We did a lot of beach time, family time, eating, lazing around. The usual vacation stuff. But then, when trying to explain the trip and looking at all the photos and really thinking about what Hawaii means to me. There’s a lot there. And the beauty of it is that it will all still be there when I return. Until we meet again. A hui hou.

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Hawaii – Early Mornings

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There’s a six-hour time difference between Michigan to Hawaii. Even though we stopped in San Francisco for a few days, our little one never quite acclimated to the time change. She normally woke up around 4:00am, wide awake and ready to take on the day.

Me, not so much.

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But her early wake-ups did give me the opportunity to go running at Ala Moana beach park before it got too crowded or too hot. Twice I arrived before the sun came up. It was peaceful, seeing the moon quietly hovering over the water and later, exhilarating to watch the changes in the sky as the sun announced daybreak.

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There are surprisingly a lot of people at the beach at this time of day. Mostly senior citizen walking in pairs, but there were one or two boot camp-style exercise groups and people like me, out for a morning run to jumpstart their day. The surfers were up, of course, and the fishermen, doing what they do.

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I spent the early mornings of Good Friday and Easter Sunday at the beach, reflecting on spiritual things, life things and just getting my Zen on.

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If it weren’t for the four-year-old’s internal clock, I wouldn’t have had these great soul-cleansing moments. Usually I’m not very good at going with the flow, but this time I relented and was able to reap all the benefits of giving in to what you can’t control…

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..which is much easier to do in Hawaii while on vacation.

First Stop, San Francisco

We were only in San Francisco for two and a half days, but we were able to make to several of our favorite spots. I was hoping for sun, but we got the typical cold and fog of early spring (and summer and winter and often fall). I miss seeing the fog, so it was just as well.

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The March List

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March, at least the end of it, was a whirlwind of Spring Break fun. In fact, I’m still living vicariously through myself on vacation. The Grosse Pointe weather report on my phone is showing three snowflake symbols this week.

1)  Dear Michigan: So you probably heard me telling all my friends in California and Hawaii that Michigan winters “really aren’t that bad.” You’ve made your point. Please, please, please move along so Spring can arrive.

2) Our neighborhood pheasant has been very noisy lately. I think he is also annoyed that Old Man Winter has been lingering. We hear him (and sometimes see him) every day now. Mostly I see him in Shirley’s yard (they haven’t come back from Florida yet. Can’t blame them). In fact, I can see him there now, pecking at the ground.

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3) Our living room curtains finally arrived. For the second time. Oh my word. The whole curtain thing has been such a ridiculous fiasco from the beginning. I won’t tell you how much we spent on them because I’ll start feeling nauseous and I just ate. I’ll detail the whole story in another post.

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4)  My four-year-old’s drawing of an elephant. Hearts.

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5)  One day in early March we got some unusual morning fog. After dropping the kids off at school, I headed to the Pier Park to pick up my park passes (city parks here are private and open only to residents). I walked around the docks for a bit because it was so beautiful and made me think of home, I was the only one there. Serene and magical.

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6)  There’s a strip of silver maples down Kenwood Road that were planted when the Convent of the Sacred Heart on Lake Shore was still in operation. It’s called the nun’s walk, as they are said to have been planted as a pathway for the nuns who lived there. Many of the trees have fallen, but this section of Kenwood is still intact.

I snapped this photo on one of my walks with Sam. It is lovely, but not nearly as lovely as it is in the spring and summer, so I will have to remember to take another shot in a couple months to show you.

7)  Our book this month was Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. It was a perfect beach read (and although I did finish it on vacation, I never actually read it at the beach. We have two non-swimmers). Not deep, but the plot held enough interest and the characters were fun and the mystery aspect was mostly exciting.

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8)  We stopped in San Francisco for two days on our way to Hawaii. It was nice to take the girls to some of our old spots – Golden Gate Park, Baker Beach, Ocean Beach (although the trash. nasty), eateries on Fillmore Street, the playground at Alta Plaza.

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9)  I got to see a handful of girlfriends, which always lifts my spirit and fills my heart. There’s nothing like spending time with old friends.

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10) A new Fillmore spot (although I’d been to their Hayes Valley location before) was Smitten ice cream. I initially resisted having some since we’d just got done eating next door at Pizzeria Delfina, but after ordering for the girls, I got back in line to order some for myself. They had sea salt caramel. Ice cream always wins.

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11)  I’m already on number ten and I haven’t even touched on Hawaii ! Let me just say it was just what the doctor ordered – a fantastic trip! So wonderful to see family (and the sun!) and have the girls bond with their Hawaii family.

Aside from the two flying cockroaches (pronounced cock-a-roach by the locals) that got into our bedroom two days before we left. One on the wall above our bed, so I slept the rest of the night with the covers over my head, which was very stifling because no air conditioning (this was after my husband smashed it and pronounced it dead).  The other was in the bathtub – GAH! So I of course showered in the other bathroom, even after my husband killed it. I mean, you guys. Deathly afraid. Obviously.

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12) Easter in Hawaii was really fun. The girls colored eggs and went on an Easter egg hunt in my mom’s front garden.  On Easter morning, my littlest woke up at 4am, her usual wake-up time on our trip (I know!) and I was able to spend the morning at the beach, reflecting on the day. Later we all went to my former church (still my mom’s) and it was great to worship with some of my old church family.

I hope all of you had a blessed Easter. I know some of you are already enjoying Spring. I know it’s on its way to Grosse Pointe. It’s just so hard be patient, especially after a warm-weather trip. Wishing you a very happy April!

Small Town USA – Lowville, New York

IMG_2566 (1024x1024)The closest town to Chase Lake (see, I’m writing it like the locals now) is Lowville. Wikipedia says that it has about 5000 residents. It has the usual – a few restaurants, movie theater, some shops, post office and library within a couple blocks of each other.

IMG_1917 (1024x1024)IMG_1915 (1024x1024)IMG_2301The restaurants were what one might expect. For example, I ordered an “authentic Caesar salad” and got romaine lettuce, sliced onions and Wish-Bone Italian dressing on top (I used the stuff in college. I know the taste).

The girls and I did visit a nice cafe called Z Cafe, that was charming and welcoming. The coffee was surprisingly decent and the best thing I can say about the scones and muffin is that they were edible. BUT…we weren’t in town for the food.

IMG_2345 (768x1024) IMG_2388 (1024x1024) (1024x1024) IMG_2565 (1024x1024)I did love that the area is not a destination point. Which is to say that if you don’t have a reason to be there, you’d never go there. It’s not a tourist spot. The girls and I walked around town one day and we all enjoyed the quaint buildings and farmhouse-style homes. We took pictures in old doorways and played in gravel lots.

IMG_2643When heading back to my Dad’s place, I took a wrong turn and found this gem. A true treehouse. She’s a beauty.

I don’t think I can describe myself as a wanderer. I like home (whatever that is, nowadays) and all of its comforts. But I do enjoy exploring new places and being an observer. Figuring out what makes a place tick.

There’s something about a small town that’s so vulnerable. And I love that. I appreciate that. And there’s also an element of take it or leave it. No apologies. I wish I were more like that…. This is me. I’ve got nothing to prove. You want a Caesar? Here’s some Wish-Bone Italian. It’s so bad, but it’s also so awesome. Rock on, Lowville. See you next time.