Category Archives: cool places

Believe it or Not: Candy Michael Jackson, Tarantula Art, and Robin Williams Immortalized in Toothpaste

*cue dramatic music*

The scene: It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in the Sunshine State.
Moments before the library doors opened to the public,
I strolled up to our customer service desk.

when suddenlyI felt eyes crawling over me. Huge, glassy eyes. Upon the wall hung this dead pop star:

Michael Jackson portrait made entirely of candyYes, it’s Michael Jackson.
Any yes, he’s made entirely of candy.

For once, words fled me. I wasn’t quite sure if I should be amazed or horrified.
I’m still not sure.

My fellow staff members and I used our keen investigative skills to deduce which sweet treats made up this oh so unique piece. While the peppermint background appeared obvious and it wasn’t hard to conclude his hair and suit involved various brands of licorice, figuring out his skin tone was far trickier. After a close examination, we decided that M.J.’s skin was comprised of a mixture of chemicals most closely resembling —gummie bears. Who imagined the legend would end up as sugar and spice and everything nice instead of Botox and silicone? meanwhileWe discovered Candy Michael Jackson wasn’t the only unique artwork installed that day.

To his left hangs:

Spiderman scene painted on a tarantual. Believe it or not. #it'sreal #freakystuff #geekeryYes, that is a tarantula.
And yes, that is a Spiderman scene painted on its cephalothorax.

Did it escape from the Neverland Ranch? Honestly, this dude creeps me out. But it led me to wonder what inspires an artist to paint in miniature on a arthropod corpse? How close must you get to create such details? Do you use a magnifying glass? Force you face to hover over its hairy dead legs for hours?

Spiderman painted on tarantula spider. #geekery #wierdstuffAnd where, for the love of God, did these pieces of art come from?


later on

I noticed an oversized portrait gazing at me from across the building. Over the bowed heads of patrons busily filling out job applications and playing Candy Crush, the dearly missed master of comedy Robin Williams stared soulfully back at me. At first, I believed the melancholy portrait to be  a normal oil paninting, but we know nothing about Robin Williams was ever normal.
(And I mean this in an awesomely amazing and reverent way.)

Robin Williams portrait made of tootpaste  For this Robin Williams was painted entirely with…TOOTHPASTE.

But this work was signed! I had a clue to the mysterious origins of these pieces.
The artist is Cristiam Ramos, and he holds the World Record for the creation of the sculpture of a full size motorcycle made more than 20,000 candies. Who knew?

stay tunedNext time we will explore the world of miniatures painted on dead butterflies:
The Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and even The Last Supper.

I MUST remember to take my camera back to work.



Summer at the Springs—Kelly Park, Orlando

Drifting down the river from the spring head. -Rock Springs, Florida

Drifting down the river from the spring head. -Rock Springs, Florida

Florida is not all about its beautiful beaches. Our enticing waters come in many forms, and hot days locals flock to our crystal-clear springs—even though we may have a perfectly good swimming pool in our own backyard.

Locals know the best way to celebrate the first day of summer is at one of the  more than 900 natural springs scattered across the state. The clear waters remain at a chilly (for us) 72 degrees year round—refreshing enough to make you gasp when the air hovers in the 90s, but cool enough to keep the gators away—most of the time.

gators florida, alligator kelly park, alligator springs

The sign is posted at every Florida body of water, but last year was the first time we actually saw a gator at the springs. This little guy was about 3 feet long, and hung out along the banks all summer. No, he never bothered anyone. Yes, my heart did leap the first time my son snorkeled past him.

Our favorite local spring is Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park and State Reserve. The park is so popular with Central Florida residents in the know that there is always a line of cars trying to get in, and it’s often filled to capacity by 9 a.m. (And holidays. . .forget about it.) Deer sometimes drop by to entertain the throngs of families patiently waiting. Before mid-morning, picnickers fire up every one of the dozens of grills and fill the pavilions, saturating the humid air with the aroma of grilled meat.

But when you arrive early, you can sometimes spot some of the river’s locals.

otter in spring, ottter eating, otter florida, rock springs, kelly park

Not sure if this otter is munching on a fish or a turtle, but I did my best not to disturb his breakfast.

Rock Spring bubbles up from a cleft in the rocks beside a cave that looks like something the Spanish explorers would have believed was the Fountain of Youth. Swimmers jump in at the spring head or awkwardly plop into a tube while it bobs in the swift current. From there the water slows, and its a lazy 25 minute drift down the river, winding under mossy oaks and feather-leaved cypress trees.

SPRINGS HEAD, Kelly park, florida springs

Some try to walk along the rocky bottom, stopping to sift through pebbles for fossilized sharks teeth. Others snorkel down the river, spotting fish and an occasional turtle.  I go for the tube. That water is COLD.

walking the springs

While the river run and the swimming holes are the draw for most, my kid spends the majority of his day along the sandy shore. There’s always a swarm of kids there, and it’s easy to pick up some friends for water blaster fights or sand castle building.

Which means the hubby and I get to spend the day lounging in the shade with a book. HEAVEN.

springs, reading, reading outdoors, reading lake

And I have to admit, one guilty pleasure there is people-watching. Locals didn’t affectionately dub the place the “Redneck Rivera” for nothing. Folks from 8-months to eighty don their bikinis and sunbathe beside the ole swimmin’ hole. Tattoos are the norm, and I don’t mean the funky hipster variety. (Imagine Stewie from The Family Guy tattooed on a middle-aged could be an ex-biker chick’s inner thigh.)  It’s a great place to jot down character studies—I consider it research. But people are friendly, and the real wildlife is usually of the furry, finned, and feathered variety.

florida fish, fish in springs

For five bucks a carload, Kelly Park is an oasis just outside the suburban sprawl, the perfect way to escape from the traffic and tourists. Whether you’re a local wanting to get back to nature or a visitor looking for “Real Florida” this place is the way to go.

If you go:

  • Bring cash for the snack bar—typical concession fare like hot dogs, snow cones, and cold sodas.
  • If you want to claim a grill, get there super early. Pavilions are reserved in advance.
  • Water shoes are strongly suggested. Masks and goggles if you have some.
  • Bring an inner tube or raft (anything less than five feet is okay) or rent a tough tire tube at one of the shops by the park entrance.
  • The park also has Hiking/Nature Trails and a campground that’s supposed to be gorgeous.

The springs at Kelly Park, Orange county parks, florida springsHours of Operation Summer 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Winter 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

Park Fees
Per vehicle: $3 (1-2 people);
$5 (3-8 people);

Rock Springs Run State Reserve

c/o Wekiwa Springs State Park, 1800 Wekiwa Circle
Apopka, Florida 32712
Phone: (407) 884 2008


Happy Summer, y’all!



Mama's Losin' It   Hooking up with Mama Kat to celebrate the first day of summer 😉


Review: Karma Gone Bad: How I Learned to Love Mangos, Bollywood and Water Buffalo by Jenny Feldon

karma gone bad reviewReview: Non-fiction, travel, memoir

Imagine you are a chic Manhattanite, living a Sex in the City-ish (freshly married) life filled with yoga lessons, designer duds, and your daily Starbucks hit. (I know, it’s a far cry from my life. Ever.) Now imagine your new husband’s employer “asks” him to start up a new office in a far-flung local. (Uhm–yay? I get to be a world traveler?) You think London, Paris, maybe even Amsterdam or Istanbul. Instead you get…Hyderabad, India. (Where?)

As Karma Gone Bad opens, our narrator, 27-year-old blogger, writer, and yoga enthusiast Jenny, is worried about having enough time to get a blow-out and which stilettos to pair with the gorgeous Diane von Furstenberg gown she’s wearing to her goingaway party. Though she adores NYC, she’s turned off by the trash in the gutters, rude taxi drivers, and the ‘grit’ of the Big Apple. India will be a jet-setters paradise, right? She ever-so-reluctantly packs her novel-in-progress, designer shoes,  cocktail dresses, and her dog’s teddy bear for the journey of a lifetime. And her beloved dog, Tucker, of course.

Yes, dear readers, at this point I was shaking my head, too.

We know this isn’t going to go smoothly. Someone is ripe for a major wake-up call.

And that call came before she could find any coffee.

You see, coffee isn’t really prevalent in India. Not a Starbucks to be found—at least when Jenny arrives. She endures a (chauffeured) drive through the congested Third-world city only to find overpriced chai tea (costing ten times what it does for natives) —then realizes she left the house with no rupees, only a worthless AmEx card.

It takes Jenny a while to truly awaken to life in India. Her journey is as much internal as learning the lay of this strange land.

She hadn’t planned on finding “help,” but in India, she’s expected to have servants. Her driver, cook, housekeepers, security guard, and water tank watcher (you’ll have to read the book to understand that one) become stifling. She hardly ever sees her overworked husband, and she grows desperately lonely though she’s never alone.

Jenny tries to forge a sense of community through the few other corporate wives and expats who seem to have acclimated to Indian life easier, yet they’re carefully elated when their short times are up and they return to the states. Jenny is in it for the long-haul.

Now, this story could have stalled if our plucky-yet-somewhat-spoiled heroine remained stagnant in this world of frustration, desperation, and denial. But instead of withering in the Hyderabad heat, she grows.

Karma Gone Bad is a well-spun tale about discovery—not only of a foreign culture, but of self. Jenny’s brutal honesty about her decent into travel-induced depression, strained marriage, and inability to grasp her purpose in Indian life endears her to readers, but it’s her humor that keeps us going as we cross our fingers hoping she finds her way.

When I read stories of Upper West Side wives, I often feel as if I’m reading a travel memoir. These women live in a place I’ve never been doing things I can only imagine—the smells, sights, and experiences seem foreign to this suburban Floridian. Jenny’s journey from that NYC world to Hyderabad allowed me to live vicariously through her, as I’m pretty sure now I never want to spend two years in India. Visit—sure. I’ll travel anywhere. But spend two years? ::shaking head::  Though she may not have seemed it in the beginning, that girl was brave.

Karma Gone Bad will sate your travel bug and leave you laughing, worrying, and cheering as you follow Jenny’s humbling and enlightening journey. Thanks for taking us along for your beautiful, bumpy ride, Jenny.


 Jenny’s Blog: Karma Contiued | website | Twitter | Facebook |


Karma Gone Bad: How I Learned to Love Mangos, Bollywood and Water Buffalo
by Jenny Feldon
Sourcebooks (November 5, 2013)
336 pages

Top 10 Thrift Store Tips & Tricks {or how to become a Thrift Store Fashionista}


I have a confession.

I rarely set foot in real stores yet my closets and drawers are stuffed. Last week I bought two packs of hangers and cleared out the guest room closet to handle the overflow. My son owns more clothes than a boy his age cares about, and that’s not counting the next two sizes waiting for him to grow into. And I would rather slit my wrists than pay retail.

I am a thrift store shopaholic.

Having been a savvy clearance shopper for years, I’ve always bee-lined to the back of every store and nailed sale rack scanning down to a science. But that just wasn’t enough for me.

I had to take it to the next level.

I decided to brave a thrift store.

Admittedly, I was nervous the first time. Would it be scary? Nasty? A total wast of time?

Inside, my eyes bugged out behind my designer (flea market) sunglasses as racks of colored and styled clothes stretched as far as I could see. Thousands of items, each one unique, and all begging for a new closet. At first, I flipped through the racks timidly, assuming it would be worn-out discount department store rejects, but after five minutes my arms hung heavy with finds and I went in search of a shopping cart. Cashmere sweaters, preshrunk designer jeans, adorable summer skirts, vintage little black dresses, chic leather jackets, unique accessories–I had died and gone to budget fashionista heaven.

If you want to find you own thrift store treasures, you must understand the method to the madness.  Here are some of the tips I have learned through trial and error:

Learn how you can discover your own vintage treasures | Top 10 tips from a Thrift Store Diva

1. Location, location, location. It’s all about the real estate. The nicer the neighborhood, the better the donations. One Goodwill might consistently stock junk, but one on the other side of town may feature half an Ann Taylor store on the racks. And while I feel perfectly safe and comfortable in my favorite Salvation Army, the sketchy dudes stalking the parking lot of another made me keep on driving by.

2Know the merchandise. A used Walmart t-shirt for $2–not such a deal.  A NWT (new with tag) Banana Republic cashmere sweater set for $3—a steal! Learn how to spot quality fabrics and brands from a distance.

3Ignore sizes. They vary brand to brand anyway. (I own jeans in four sizes, for real.)  Almost everything is pre-washed and preshrunk. If it looks like it might fit, try it on.

4.  Dress for success.  Some stores don’t have fitting rooms. Some fitting rooms have a half-hour wait. If you come prepared in a skinny tank and leggings you can find a mirror and explore your inner exhibitionist. Trust me, everyone does it.

5.  Buy off-season.  If you go looking for warm jackets during a January cold snap you will be sorely out of luck. Look in July and you’ll have dozens to choose from.

6.  Ask if the store runs sales. Many stores discount a particular colored tag each day.  My Salvation Army has 50% off all clothes each Wednesday. It’s an absolute madhouse—but $3.50 Versace jeans are utterly worth it to me.

7.  Carefully check out the goods.  They are “recycled.”  Some stores inspect items thoroughly but others may put out items stained, ripped, or torn.  If it needs to be repaired, it had better be worth the work.

8. Look for what you NEED first.  Dying for a new pair of fitted black pants? Your kid growing out of his shorts? Check those racks first. I’ve watched a woman snatch every pair of pants in my husband’s extremely hard to find size after I’d wasted time browsing through tank tops I didn’t need. Ouch.

9Leave the kids at home. Yeah, I know that’s not always possible, but thrifting takes time and patience. Kids get bored before you can blink. If you do have to drag your munchkins along, make sure to bring something to keep them fully occupied. (i.e. Is your phone fully charged and loaded with games?)

10.  Check back often and don’t get discouraged.  Some days I find 25 steals I simply can’t live without. Some days I find crap. But you never know when some style maven may clean out her closet because she’s bored or changed sizes. Keep checking.

The only time I set foot in the mall now is to claim my free Victoria’s Secret panties (love getting those coupons in the mail!). I’ve nearly stopped making my rounds at Ross and T.J. Maxx because I know if I am patient, persistent, and sometimes just plain lucky I can find whatever I’m looking for (and usually so much more) for practically pennies.

Every Wednesday I’m overwhelmed with the urge to be at my favorite thrift store. The hidden treasures call me, tempt me, like a discount liquor store lures every wino for miles. Luckily my addiction is good for my (gorgeous second-hand Coach) pocketbook and doesn’t fry my liver. To make room for new finds, I often show up at the thrift store with a bag of donations. I’m all for recycling.

Amongst my fellow thrifty friends I gladly brag about how cheap I find my clothes.

(Them: Love your shirt. Me: Thanks!  {whispered} Salvation Army. $1.50!)

I try to convert my friends after each compliment I receive but only if they don’t wear my size.  I don’t need the extra competition.

When complemented by less enlightened folk who may snub their nose at my methods, I simply give a knowing smile and a modest “thanks.”

It’s vintage. It’s recycled. It’s unique. It’s me. large_4904276362

Now if I only had someplace to WEAR all my little black dresses…

Have you ever tried thrifting? Would you? Have any shopping secrets to share?

photo credit: Niccolò Caranti via photopin cc | photo credit: Stewf via photopin cc |  photo credit: Guillaume Lemoine via photopin cc

Currently. The end-of-summer edition.

 florida keys, hammock, dolphins


I’m in a very rare and tough position—I’ve started two books, and I can’t seem to get into either of them. I’ve halfheartedly read the first chapters of AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED twice. Though Khaled Hosseini’s two previous novels left me breathless with their dangerous beauty, I just can’t make the leap into this one. I’ve also picked up one of my favorite women’s fiction author’s summer release, and I seem to be reading it in a daze. I feel horribly guilty. I want to shout to the books and their authors, “It’s not you, it’s ME!” 

I have a list waiting on my kindle, but nothing is grabbing me. Between books is a dangerous time for me. Need help.

Listening to

Ear worm time!


I’ve been singing this song from Grease 2 all morning, now you can, too.

Today is Kiddo’s first day of 4th grade. {gulp} How is this possible? Although he is always up by seven, this morning I had to drag him from between the sheets—literally. I’m not ready for the end of playtime, relaxing, and pressure-free afternoons. I’m not ready to face the homework melt-downs, the drama, the tween angst. Fingers crossed this year will start better than last year. {If you want a clue what I’m talking about, check out my post THE BIGGER HE GETS, THE HARDER I FALL, now up at Kludgy Mom’s Best of the Bonfire series. And vote for me. Please?}

Thinking about

My manuscript’s next step. I’d still love some more beta readers {hint, hint} but I’m not sure how much more I can do with it. Is it ready? Is it good enough? I’m somehow desperate to start the eternally painful querying process and prepping for the requisite months (or years) of nail-biting and rejection. But I don’t think my query letter is perfect. Yes, it must be perfect. Yes, this is an impossible feat. I’m trying to convince myself to cool my heels a bit longer so I can take a Submissions that Sell online class. Patience, right?


Game of Thrones (season 1). I cannot read epic fantasy, but the hubby is in love with acclaimed series. Since a fanatical fantasy lover and fellow book nerd assured me that this TV series is actually almost as good as the books, I’ve been watching, immersing myself in this mythical world. Season 1 has proved that there’s no way I could have read the immense tombs, but I still love a great fantasy movie or TV series. Season 2 DVDs are already waiting by the TV.

At least now I get all the GOT & George R.R. Martin memes going around.

Bummed out on

My eyes. To celebrate my latest birthday, I bought my first pair of reading glasses. Granted, they are weak ones from the dollar store, but I own my first pair of glasses. I feel old. My days are spent immersed in words—on paper, my kindle, or the computer screen—and when they are blurry, my life seems unclear. Night driving and overall brightness have also bothered me lately, and I know I must get my vision checked out. I’m not sure if I’m embarrassed or proud to admit I’ve never had my eyes examined as an adult. Probably the former. Promise not to laugh if I’m caught wearing big honking frames in a few days.


My end-of summer memories. We took our first vacation in AGES. Though hubby has lived in Florida since he was a toddler, he’d never made it down to the Keys. Thanks to some amazing friends (with a timeshare—the BEST kind of friends to have) we spent four nights in paradise. By day we explored pristine beaches, meandered through a sweltering Key West, and glided through turquoise waters. We rented a boat and everyone (even the five-year-old) snorkeled along a shallow coral reef. We surprised a sea turtle, watched a hammerhead chase a stingray in the shallows (I was in the water on the other side of a tiny shoal), and delighted as a pod of curious dolphins surrounded our boat.

Dreamy days followed by stunning tropical sunsets and wonderful company. Perfect.

marathon sunset boat

How’s your summer finishing up?

Authors & Aspirations at the UCF Book Fest

I slogged through cross-town traffic, a torrential thunderstorm, and skipped my Kiddo’s soccer game to attend the University of Central Florida Book Festival. It was totally worth it.  I hadn’t set foot on the college campus since a Tori Amos concert a lifetime ago. I put on my big girl panties and a trendy outfit (so I wouldn’t look like one of the college kids’ mothers, which technically, I could be) and marched into the arena…alone.

Vendors, authors, and makeshift bookstores filled the arena floor.  There were twenty-one author panels spread across four meeting rooms to choose from, and a few times it was a tough call  deciding which session to attend.  In the end, I sat in on:

The Liberal Arts Life: From Jazz to Journalism to Novel to Script: keynote author James McBride

Writing Place: New Fiction form the South:  Nicole Louise Reid, Joshilyn Jackson, and Karen White

Stories From the Ladies of the South: Rachel Hauck, River Jordan, Marybeth Whalen, Lisa Wingate

Killing People in Exotic Places: Nancy J. Cohen, Bob Morris, Neil S. Plakcy

Embracing Imperfections through Young Adult Lit: Ellen Hopkins, Jessica Martinez, Ty Roth

Some of the authors I’ve known and loved for years, some tickled my interest, and some I simply must go out and read their books immediately. Or as soon as I eke out some time.

As a lifetime lit fan, occasional book reviewer,  and aspiring author, I hung on every word spewing from these successful writers’ mouths. I thought I’d be generous and pass along my favorite tidbits gleamed from the wonderful panel discussions.

James McBride (The Color of Water, Miracle at St. Anna,  musician, journalist, and screenplay writer): Learn to fail, and fail better — every successful person has learned to accept his failures and move on.  Since I’m prepping myself for the excruciating process of finding an agent and landing a publisher, I MUST remember this. If The Help was rejected 100 times, I can’t imagine how thick my stack of rejection letters will grow.

Nicole Louise Reid (So There!): A successful writer is someone who is good at lying, not in person, but on paper.  I’d never read any works by her before, but her reading was lovely, her words were lush, lyrical, and from the heart…or at least that’s what she’d like you to believe.

Joshilyn Jackson (A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, Backseat Saints): People should buy your book not because it’s good, but because your whole heart is in it.  And don’t be afraid to let your characters go to dark places.  I’ll admit, Joshilyn was my main draw. I’ve loved her work since I read the first page of Gods in Alabama years ago, and I totally have a writer crush on her now.  I’ve been reading her blog Faster Than Kudzu, for a while, and now that I’ve met her, I understand. Shes whimsical, slightly manic, and funny as hell.

And, as you can see, my new BFF. Or writing partner. In my DREAMS.  I can only hope that by standing so close to her I sucked up a few drops of her writing talent by some type of  author osmosis. (Hey, I could write a story about that…)  (And I look totally horrible in this picture, I blame it totally on the kind old guy behind me who snapped the shot without any time for me to stand up straight or position my arm properly. It’s not that fat, I swear.)

Rachel Hauck (The Wedding Dress) Fiction is hyperbole, life on steroids, so yes, writers always take from real life.  Character inspirations, settings, and scenes are all around you — suck them up.

Marybeth Whalen (The Guest Book, She Makes It Look Easy) If it’s a priority, you can make it happen. Marybeth has six kids, and still can balance the writing life and family life. I have no excuse. We live in a very visual society now; write it like you’d see it.

Neil S. Plakcy (the Mahu mystery series) I don’t get mad at people anymore. I just kill them. (In his books, of course.)

Bob Morris (Baja Florida, Bahamarama) I like to put real peoples’ names in books, just too see if they actually read them.

Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Perfect) Another reason no one should ban books, or consider certain books inappropriate for a certain age: it’s better to let people, especially teens, learn about the bad things in life, the rough patches, through a book. It gives them a frame of reference, a way of coping with a difficult situation.  And every time (I) am told one of my books has been flagged as inappropriate, I send a stack of letters to that person, letters from fans stating how that book saved their life. I fight for it.

I caught author Karen White (who was charming, witty, and wonderful, but I neglected to take notes of any of her sage advice) signing an e-reader cover instead of an actual book. The wave of the paperless future?

 I had a wonderful, enlightening day.  I also managed to get scared out of my mind by my most-likely masochistic career choice.   I can only dream I’ll be invited to attend one year as a published author myself.

And if not, I just discovered I SHOULD have applied to attend as a blogger. I totally missed an awesome Friday night meet and greet with the authors. Lesson learned, failure noted and accepted. I am taking notes.

The Booze Canoes {or it must be St. Paddy’s Day}

If you want to test a relationship, go canoeing.

I’m serious. I see it happen (and live it) every year. That fine line between this is the most lovely, relaxing day with my significant other and I’m going to kill him.

We have a lovely, near pristine piece of old Florida not far from our home. Far enough that I can’t hear the traffic, the constant hum of air conditioners, and the whirl of sirens. Close enough that we still get emergency cell phone service (in case we are eaten by an alligator or bear) and only have a twenty minute drive home.

Each St. Patrick’s Day we gather with a large group of friends from Hubby’s soccer team and our local English pub for the St. Paddy’s Day Paddle.

The jello shots start at 9 a.m.

Yes, I know. But in pre-kid days, it used to start earlier — as in everyone meet at 8 a.m. for a few beers, but most of us are too old for that now.  And it really does help with whole relationship thing. A little liquor tends to tune down the urge to throw your spouse or significant other overboard.

A  pack of 12 to 20 canoes gather annually for this 8 mile river run. From families to single swearing Scotsmen still drunk from the night before, it’s a diverse bunch.  Some paddlers have experience. Some don’t know which end of the paddle goes in the water. Those are the guys who drink the most. And tip the most.  And are the most entertaining to watch.

Steering a flimsy fiberglass boat through alligator-infested waters is enough to make some people nervous. Add in hairpin twists and turns, dark water riddled with underwater obstructions which can snag and dunk you, and swampy shoals where you can easily run aground, and the REAL fun begins.

Someone has to steer. Someone has to navigate and listen. And when do couples ever work in such harmony?

Shouts echo down the river.

Why didn’t you tell me we were going to hit a log?

Steer right, right, no your OTHER right! {crash}

Ackh! Spiderweb, you steered me into a giant spiderweb!

Watch the damn water, and stop trying to catch jello shots!

You DO NOT jump and lean in the boat when we see a gator. 

What do you mean you forgot the toilet paper? Am I supposed to use a leaf?

If you tip us, so help me God, you will be sleeping on the couch until NEXT YEAR’S paddle.

Paddle faster. Paddle faster!  I hear banjos… {Not really, but I did find a teen serenading three girls with an acoustic guitar.}

Usually, if a couple survives the comedy of errors, their relationship is bound to last. Canoeing should be a part of mandatory premarital counseling, a mini-Survivor, where only the strong-willed and strongest relationships will make it off the island and down the isle. Everyone bickers, from couples just dating to those who have persevered through decades of marriage.

During those moments when things are under control, it’s an absolutely lovely day.  No noise but bird calls, frog croaks, and the breeze blowing through towering cypress trees.  Over the years we’ve spotted otters, snakes, alligators, zillions of water birds, wild turkeys, and resting turtles along the Wekiva River. Deer and black bears frequent the area also, but we’ve yet to spot one along the river (I’m guessing the banging boats and wild Englishmen’s swears scare them away).

Our St. Paddy’s Day tradition — booze, canoes, and wilderness. What could possibly go wrong?

22 Things I’ve Never Done

***I’m 37 and I’ve never:

Kissed my husband at the top of the Eiffel tower.

Wandered through a field of sunflowers.

Played in the snow.

Taken a gourmet cooking class (preferably in Italy or France).

Mastered walking in stilettos.

Officially learned how to surf.

Been published in a national magazine.

Built a bonfire on the beach.

Drunk a bottle of wine costing more than $50.

Cruised the Pacific Coast Highway in a sports car or convertible, preferably.

Been pampered with a massage or facial.

Caught dinner and a show on Broadway.

Been inked.

Bought an expensive designer purse.

Learned to like sushi.

Stared a great white shark in the eye (from inside a strong, steel cage, of course).

Watched orcas breech and porpoise in a frigid sound.

Jumped into a pile of crimson and bronze fall leaves (then raked them up again).

Danced at a masked ball.

Savored a twelve course tasting menu.

Snuggled up with my son in a tent in the woods and protected him from things that go bump in the night.

Finished my damn novel.

**Now Mama Kat and the Pioneer Woman came up with this great list. But while I pondered some of the things I someday want to do, I was thinking about all the cool things I HAVE done.

So I’m going to start a meme for that, so we can feel good about what we have achieved in our short lifetimes.

Come back here next Tuesday and link up 22 Things I HAVE Done.  Have you run a marathon? Perfected the snow angel? Eaten octopus? We want to know.

Summer Smashed at the Shore

The prompt:

Your blogging Tribe is visiting you for ONE NIGHT out on the town. Write a post with a pre-game drink recipe (alcoholic or non) and tell us where you’d take your blogging friends for a good time!

The response:

My recipe for a perfect {blogger} friend night on the town is actually more of a night in…

Instead of trying to yell over music and chatter of local restaurants and clubs we are going to take it nice and easy. We are meeting up at the timeshare condo on the beach.

It will be a night to let our hair down, kick off our shoes, and dig our toes in the sand.  No dress code. Swimsuits encouraged. Lounge wear is perfectly acceptable.

We’ll meet down by the pool where some cool mango bellinis will be waiting in chilled glasses.

 Mango Bellinis

1 tbsp fresh mango puree (or mango nectar in a pinch)
4 oz. chilled champagne or proscecco
chilled champagne flute
sliced mango to garnish

Add the mango puree/nectar to the bottom of the flute. Add champagne and stir to combine. Garnish with fruit. Chill out and enjoy.
The second refreshing glass of tropical paradise can be transferred to a plastic cup before we wander down the beach. The balmy ocean breeze blows away all our stresses and we forget about our hectic week, work, and family obligations. Computers are off and the kids are with dad/the sitter. We are officially off duty.

As the sun sets,  tiki torches glow and the pool bar and restaurant start gearing up. We dine poolside, our table overlooking the ocean so close we can nearly dangle our flip-flopped feet in the tide. The reggae band begins to play, a gentle, relaxing groove, and we laugh the night away.

After dinner and perhaps a few more drinks the band starts jamming and it’s time for dancing. Or maybe you may just want to chill in the hot tub. Life is full of tough decisions.

And yes, the indoor/outdoor pool has a swim-up bar (with a rather hunky bartender). This is the good life.

What does every girl’s night need next?  Why some dessert of course. Beside the beach-side fire pit is a buffet set up for grown-up gourmet ‘smores.  Yeah, you read right…

Grown-Up Gourmet ‘Smores go so far beyond just some dry, old graham cracker squares and a Hershey bar.  As we have matured, so have our tastes. Just some ideas to salivate over:

  • Nutella, thinly sliced French bread & marshmallow
  • Sugar cookies, raspberry-filled dark chocolate square, fresh raspberries & marshmallow
  • White chocolate, coconut-covered marshmallow, thin slice of pineapple & shortbread wafers
  • Gingersnaps, marshmallow & caramel-filled chocolate square
  • Peanut butter cookies, dark chocolate & marshmallow
  • Cinnamon graham crackers, Reece’s peanut butter cup & marshmallow
  • Pretzel chips, dark chocolate square with sea salt caramel filling & marshmallow
  • Chocolate wafers, caramel & marshmallow
  • Chocolate wafers, mint filled dark chocolate square & marshmallow
  • Coconut-covered marshmallows, banana, dark-chocolate caramel square & shortbread wafer

Are you drooling yet? Yes, we will be keeping Ghiardelli in business that night. And we will be oh so thankful we are wearing comfy, expandable lounge wear and cover-ups.

We will sit around the fire pit with a marshmallow roasting stick in one hand and an umbrella drink in the other.  After we stuff ourselves with these gourmet delights we can sit back in our Adirondack chairs digesting, watching the moon rise over the ocean, and savoring our escape from our hectic everyday lives.

Since we are hanging by the condo we have a built in crash-pad — no designated drivers and no bedtime. The party will go on until dawn and there is always time for some more dancing…

So when are you coming down to the Sunshine State?

Cheers, Ladies…

Link up at Adventures in Mommyhood or at My Time As Mom now until Sunday, August 28th



An Italian Wedding

My favorite wedding photo…it’s impossible for me to pick just one.  I always considered myself extremely unphotgenic.  More likely, I was just shy and insecure.  But my wedding photos were the first pictures of me I truely loved.

My Hubby and I eloped in Rome.  Yes, Italy.  We had been planning the normal “big” wedding thing — a ceremony by the water followed by buffet and dancing at my MIL’s club —  and planned to honeymoon in Italy. Then I came down with a wicked case of cold feet. Not of marrying my Hubby, I had no worries about that, but the whole wedding biz was chilling me to the bone.

I didn’t want to pay $6,000 (over half my budget) for a decent photographer. I didn’t know over half the people on the guest list (Hubby has a bizarre extend family) and I refused to spend our day schmoozing with people I’ve never met and probably would never see again. Our day was suddenly about pleasing everyone else and I felt like a hired performer only there to make the audience happy.

My parents always encouraged me to elope, so when my Mom was actually concerned about what to emboss on the cocktail napkins (because apparently this is a big deal) I snapped.  I suggested to my (then future) Hubby that we just ditch this whole big wedding thing and get married in Italy.

He said, “let’s do it.”

And then he proceeded to plan almost the entire thing.

How could I not marry him?

It was springtime in Rome. We were married in Santa Maria in Tempulo, a deconsecrated 11th century monastery in the heart of the city.  Our brief nuptials were witnessed by five family members who were “forced” to take a European vacation to share in our moment.  I’m still not sure what I promised to do that day — although our wedding planner, Gabriella,  translated, the Italian matrimonial vows are far different (and much more modern) than the traditional American brand.

After the ceremony we traveled around the city on a photo shoot of a lifetime.  We were posed in front of the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and around Campo di Fiore.  Tourists stared and snapped pictures while the magnificent Gabriella cleared our path.  I was so embarrassed to be the center of attention, truly a bashful, blushing bride.  I can only imagine how many of the ubiquitous Japanese tourists posted their pics of the “Italian bride and groom” all over the internet.  Somehow Pino, our amazing photographer, managed to capture only the brief moments I actually looked up.

Hungry and exhausted, we enjoyed a late lunch (and amazing Italian wine, of course) at a local wine bar before going back to our hotel to nap.  That evening we celebrated at a divine trattoria in Trastevere.

It was small. It was unique. It was seeped in history and culture. It was absolutely perfect.

He’s taking off my garter, but I always thought it looked like Prince Charming sliding on my glass slipper.

It took several months for the thick, padded box covered with Italian air mail stickers to arrive.  The leather album, filled with timeless treasures beyond my wedding day dreams, was worth the wait. 

Now someday I just need to scan the negatives to keep these images alive (and far less blurry) forever.

Cheers or as they say in Italy “Salute!”

This is a part of the Down the Aisle link up over at Mommy of a Monster — check it out!