Adventures: This one in Florida

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We ran away to sunshine and spanish moss over winter break last month with our kids. Everything in me inhales deeper at the base of a live oak trunk with it’s arms swaying above me dressed in spanish moss and salty air.

I. Love. Florida.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Our destination was Amelia Island and we stayed at the Omni Plantation Resort.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We were able to find an incredible deal on priceline.com for the rooms and a rental car, and bought our plane tickets through a deal site that kicks back to our tuition bill, which is always helpful. When we checked in to the hotel we had no idea that it would be this amazing. I had researched and googled and planned an itinerary but seeing it in person and getting an ocean front room was another story entirely.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

In my “House Keeping” series I talked about budgets (you can read that here) and one of the things I don’t think I mentioned was that we set aside a bit of each paycheck for vacations. It’s a separate savings account and the amount we budget for just gets automatically deducted from our paycheck and directly deposited each time we get paid. Lickety split. This is how I budget, actually, I have separate accounts for a number of different things.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

I would absolutely go back to Amelia Island. It’s just inside of the Florida state line from Georgia so the southern charm is heavy. The history of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach was rich and fun to explore.

A few things I really wanted to do were unavailable when we got there – but here’s our tips for a weekend getaway:

We flew into Jacksonville which is about 35-45 minutes away from the hotel we stayed at. So renting a car was the best option for us to get from the airport to the hotel. It was also nice to have a way to get around outside of the resort, where food was cheaper and being a tourist was more available. Inside the resort is beautiful, and I would recommend renting a golf cart (if you rent at the end of the day you get to keep it overnight for the cost of 2 hours, win!) to really be able to see the vastness of the estate. It is amazing, full of beautiful pockets, parks, lakes, neighborhoods, beaches and pools. Plus restaurants, shopping villages, a spa and more.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Definitely look for shark teeth on the beach, we came home with 3. We think. They might be shark teeth or they might be suspiciously shaped shells. Either way, the hunt was fun. This is the beach our hotel was sitting on. Gorgeous.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We had our own pool at the complex we stayed in but the main hotel had a larger, warmer pool that we spent most of our lounge time at.

The hotel also has a great calendar of events, some of them free to guests. We took advantage of all the things that sounded fun to us. A fire one night with s’mores, a tour of their apiary and Seelings Project with the head Sous Chef for the property, partaking in the donut wall for the holiday weekend.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Food:

Resort food is very expensive, but buying 4 adult meals every meal is too. We tried to eat at great local places that wouldn’t break the bank and we tried a couple of the restaurants in the resort as well. I think our favorite was The Patio Place on Sunday morning. A local brunch spot with good coffee, savory crepes, and amazing atmosphere.

The cheapest meal we ate was a $5 hot and ready pizza from Little Caesars on Saturday night. It was magnificent.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We walked around the historic part of Old Town after breakfast, just taking in the shops and scenery. We like to find a local book store every where we travel so we waited for their shop to open so we could browse.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Fort Clinch State Park:

For the next few hours we explored Fort Clinch State Park but we didn’t pay the entry fee for the actual fort. We walked to the beach and saw the fort from the outside, watched the tide change, looked for shells and watched fishermen. We also spent some time exploring the woods and climbing trees before we took a small hike to look for alligators.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

The hike we did was The Willow Pond Trail and we spotted 5 alligators. Which means I think there were probably like 12. And you know, they’re just laying in wait in the water about 5 feet from my sandaled toes.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Oliver was very interested in keeping us all safe. šŸ˜‰

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

There’s only one in the photo above, can you spot him?

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

And there are 4 in this above photo. Probably more that we didn’t see. Tricky!

After some more time at the pool and our only “resort” experience with poolside pina coladas (omg, so yummy) we decided to try to rent bikes and see more of the complex. When we got to rental place we noticed that it would actually be cheaper to rent a golf cart than to rent 4 bikes – and because we were so close to closing time, the 2 hour minimum rental for a golf cart turned into an overnight rental as long as we had it back by the time they opened the following morning (which was 9 am).

If you know my son, you know that this spoke his love language more than anything else all weekend.

BEHOLD!

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We were able to see so much more this way – it was one of our highlights.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Monday morning we had the golf cart back by 9 am, grabbed breakfast at the resorts “market style” morning deli for the second time, went to the beach one last time, checked out the nature center and helped the kids shop for their souvenirs with their money.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We checked out at 11, drove back to their airport, and came home.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

A perfect amount of time for a getaway in the sun in the middle of February in Michigan.

Until the next adventure.

šŸ˜‰

Adventures: This one in Arizona

December 2015 we surprised the kids with a trip to Arizona. This was a working trip for Aaron but with both of his brothers and both of mine living in the Grand Canyon state it was a nice trip to tag along with.

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

We did plenty of hiking, a day trip to Sedona, sightseeing, off-roading, and visiting close by parks and state parks.

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

I’m feeling a little but of the wanderlust this season … ready for another adventure. A flight, an open road, a few minutes beneath the sun. With our kids being the ages they are (12 and 8) we’re starting to think about some different destinations. Where have you been (with or without kids) and what should we do/see/experience? I grew up globe trotting so over-seas itineraries don’t bother me at all. I have my eye on London, but weirdly also Ireland and Sweden. Or closer to home trips are fine too. I’m not really bothered by distance or lack thereof. Let’s just get going.

Where have you been?

Homemade kitchen: apple cider donuts

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my kids are off school today, and it’s raining. They were up late last night and early to rise today which calls for homemade donuts.

Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts
Homemade donuts

I tore this page out of a magazine and bought apple butter specifically for this task over the school break. I couldn’t wait to be in the kitchen with my kids. You can find the recipe here, it’s from Southern Living Magazine.

I knew they turned out when Oliver kept sneaking upstairs and all I would see is his hand come around the corner by the stove to steal another donut hole fresh out of the oil. I’ve made donuts before but this recipe with the apple and the cider – it was moist (I said it) and dense and flavorful. I went with the Maple Glaze and can never get my frostings to set up like they do in photos, maybe I don’t wait long enough for the donut to cool or don’t add enough sugar to the frosting to thicken … either way it was still delicious.

If you’re surrounded by family and in the kitchen all day today: you still have time to make these for breakfast tomorrow (or snacks this afternoon). Enjoy your weekends! Eat something deep-fried and dipped in sugar. Just carve out a few minutes this weekend to stretch and breathe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cooking Club Up North 2016

This past weekend I was in Nothern Michigan with my Cooking Club. We get together once a month for dinner at someones house (we rotate hosting). The rules are: you make food you wouldn’t normally make for your family or your family wouldn’t really appreciate (most of us have young families, so throwing carrots is the main event at dinner. Not always eating, or even enjoying dinner together). Also read Shauna Neiquests book “Bread and Wine” for more inspiration to start your own.

The host comes up with a theme for dinner ei: “green,” “mexican,” “PB&J,” or “soup” and the like, then each member claims a course. Appetizers, drinks, the host does the main dish, a starch, salad, dessert. You all bring tupperware for the leftovers and share the recipes once dinner is over via a private pinterest page. We keep a record of the themes, who brought what, and who hosted last; as well as a list of ideas/dreams to one day do together. We just crossed off “Wine tasting/Cook together weekend.” Every month we merrily abandon our duties of the table to our spouses and children while we shop, prepare, and make one exquisite course to share among ourselves. For just one night a month – we share a table with enthusiasm, toast to good fortune, and get to know each other a little bit more without distraction.

We very much want you to have a cooking club so if you need permission for one more thing to fit into your month: this one is worth it. Gather a few friends or folks you’d love to get to know and invite them to the table. It’s been a beautiful rhythm in my life, and I owe it all to my friend Jeannette for getting it off the ground.

We spent the weekend wine tasting, cooking together, laughing and singing, watching the Olympics, driving all over Northern Michigan, eating, paddle boarding and kayaking, sleeping, and hiking/walking/yoga-ing. There were a few squats in there, some leg lifts. A posture demonstration. And lots of discussion about our kids, oily skin, and hair care (ps, don’t wash your hair every day). I may have fallen down some slippery steps in the rain as we were packing up to go home. It’s possible I have a blue leg to prove it.

Worth it.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

Our first menu of the weekend included: A cheese plate with homemade hummus, (Tahini from Jerusalem? Yes.) all the cheeses, fruits, veggies, crackers and breads. Moscow Mules for appetizers, white wine with dinner which was Lobster Alfredo, caprese salad, roasted asparagus, crusty/rustic bread, and homemade strawberry sour cream ice cream with biscuits and whipped cream.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

It took us a good 6 hours to prep, make, and actually eat this feast.

The next day we woke up and did not wash our hair. Drank coffee while we got ready and packed up snacks for the day on the road. We had a plan and we were off to conquer it. First stop? The cheese shanty in Leland – their pretzel bread sells out fast and we needed that bread. Then a hike to the Empire Bluff to eat those coveted sandwiches and sweat, on to our wine tasting tour beginning with Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor (please go to Glen Arbor, every body. Just go. It’s my favorite.) and then meandering around the peninsula stopping at various wineries ending up at Tandem Ciders before toasting the day complete at the original Moomers for an ice cream dinner.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
From the left: Kara, Beth, me, Laura, Jeannette, Stacey
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

We worked out when we got back to the cottage for the night. And then we ate some more cheese.

Sunday morning we woke up and took our time drinking coffee, and then more coffee. We all made our way on to the dock to paddle board and kayak before getting back in the kitchen together to prep brunch, toast bloody mary’s, and eventually eat our last meal of the weekend together. We planned on walking after brunch (before heading home) when it started raining. So we cleaned up and closed up the cottage to the cadence of the water falling outside and then piled back in to the van to head home. Slowly. With deliberate stops to drive down main-streets with our windows open and the music blasting. We were those people. I love those people.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

Our brunch menu on Sunday was frittata, parfaits, french toast, dry rubbed bacon, the green well salad from Shauna’s book, and Mimosa’s.

And I returned home full in a way I hadn’t expected.

Sailing

A friend of mine has a sail boat and I sort of imposed a ride on it this week. In my mind it was a dingy, 4 people might be too many on it but I wanted to know what sailing was all about. You guys. It’s a legit 25 foot sail boat. That my dear friend captains on her own only after learning how to sail just recently.

You know what this means, right?

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

It means we can do anything.

Just try.