TBT: Beach Bumming in the Florida Panhandle

Exactly one month from now, Andrew, Ellie and I will be sitting on a Florida Beach, watching the waves roll in with my family, and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s been over three years since I’ve been to the Gulf Coast and I miss it terribly. It’s where my family used to vacation when my siblings and I were younger, where I took my senior trip, spring break, and many vacations since. When Andrew and I lived in Montgomery, the beach was close enough to drive down for a weekend or even a day trip if we were feeling particularly adventurous. Florida’s Panhandle beaches are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The white sand reflects blue-green water that is unique to the area, giving it the name Emerald Coast. Here are a few pictures of our favorite beaches.

Panama City Beach

PCB has a reputation for being a party beach, which may be true during times like spring break and right after students get out of school for the year, but it’s mostly family oriented with lots of activities for kids like Shipwreck Island Waterpark, Gulf World Marine Park, and the Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise to keep them busy. This is where we’ll be with my family next month and I’m really looking forward to sharing these experiences with Ellie for the first time. Andrew and I tended to stay on the beach and not do too many activities, so some of them we’ll be doing for the first time too. These pics are of our last trip to PCB.

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Destin

Destin is where my family usually vacationed when we were kids and had the chance to go. It is probably the most popular Panhandle destination, with tons of restaurants and activities for all ages. One of the last times Andrew and I went was during winter, so it was too cold to swim, but we had a romantic weekend at the Inn on Destin Harbor, a hotel overlooking a marina that had the most beautiful sunsets. LostFile_JPG_1479527577

The hotel didn’t have a great beach so we decided to check out Henderson Beach State Park. It was beautiful, even during the middle of winter, although there were jellyfish lining the water that looked like Portuguese man-o-war. Whatever kind they were, we made sure to steer clear of them.

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Pensacola Beach

Our day trip to Pensacola was our last trip to the Panhandle before we moved to Ohio. Of all the areas we’ve been to, this one may be my favorite because it is home to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a 10-mile stretch of beach with no hotels, condos or shops–just you and the ocean. Because there is so much space, it’s easy to have a section of beach all to yourself.

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Seeing these pictures again after so long has me even more excited about our upcoming trip. I’ve bought so many swimsuits, flip flops and sundresses for Ellie, I’m going to have to do a baby fashion blog when we get back!

TBT: Cayman Honeymoon

My co-work friend, Lisa, just got back from an amazing trip to Grand Cayman and talking to her about it brought back so many good memories from the two times Andrew and I have been to what has become our favorite vacation destination. Honestly, I’m pretty much always fantasizing about our next trip there, even if we don’t actually have one planned.

The first time we went was on our honeymoon in May 2010. It was BEAUTIFUL. We fell in love with the peacefulness of the East Side and stayed there both times we visited. We spent a lot of time snorkeling, drinking daiquiris at Rum Point, petting sting rays at Sting Ray City, and eating delicious seafood at Kaibo Beach Bar. We took a jet ski tour through the mangroves and saw Starfish Beach, the Botanical gardens, the lighthouse, the Blowholes, Pedro St. James and Georgetown. It’s just such a nice island–I definitely recommend it.

Our second visit was with my parents in January 2015 and we got to do a whole different set of activities like visit the auto museum, make an appearance in “Hell” and spend a little more time in West Bay. We even chartered a boat to take us around the island and to Sting Ray City again. It was very early in the morning and no one was out yet. It was wonderful! Now excuse me while I daydream about our next visit.

TBT: Seeing America’s Castles

I didn’t realize until last week that historic mansions like Meadow Brook Hall are considered to be “America’s castles” and there is an entire list of them to see within the U.S. I also didn’t realize that Andrew and I have already been to a few of them, so I started looking back at the ones we’ve visited.

Our first American castle was the Biltmore House in March 2009. There was a period of time when Andrew and I dated long-distance and were always looking for interesting towns to meet up in–Asheville, North Carolina was one of them. The Biltmore is the largest house in America at 135,000 square feet. We spent two days touring the house, the conservatory, the grounds, and did some wine tasting at the on-site winery. They must not allow pictures inside the house because all of these were taken outside or at the winery.

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Our second American castle was Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California in May 2012. Andrew and I used to take a big trip every year for our anniversary in May, and that year we road-tripped the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles over eight days. Hearst Castle was one of our many stops along the way.

It was built by William Randolph Hearst and ranks #11 on the list of largest historic homes. I remember the drive up to the house being very beautiful with lots of hills and horses roaming around. Pictures were allowed inside this house and I remember being enamored with the tile work on indoor pool and the view of the ocean from the house was spectacular.

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Our third American castle is an honorable mention because it’s technically not a real castle. Belvedere Castle in New York City was designed as a decorative structure in Central Park that is now used as an observation deck and weather station. Still, I would include it on my list of top sites to see in NYC.

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Our fourth castle was Meadow Brook Hall last weekend, and I talked about it in this blog. This weekend, we’re planning to see our fifth castle right here in Ohio. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog about it.

Click here for Wikipedia’s complete list of castles in the United States.

 

TBT: Our First House

3709 Dresden Court in Brentwood Estates, Montgomery, AL 36111

Photo credit: Sherry Watkins, go2reassistant.com

Andrew and I moved to Northeast Ohio from Montgomery, Alabama just over 2.5 years ago. Since then we’ve bought a house, settled into a community and started a family. We love living here and experiencing all that the Midwest has to offer, but sometimes I do get homesick for the South. It’s where we met, where we got married, and where we bought our first house.

Our first house was a project. It needed quite a bit of work when we bought it, so we figured if we were going to have to make changes anyway, we should make the house our own. I’ll admit we made some changes to this house that we both agree we wouldn’t do in future homes.

The floors in the living/dining room areas were vinyl when we moved in, so we replaced them with wood floors, repainted and did an accent wall on the far wall in the dining room.

The house also had a den that we mostly used as a sitting room when we had company. I loved opening the french doors on both sides to let fresh air in.

The kitchen was definitely the room that needed the most work. I remember calling it the McDonald’s kitchen because of the red and yellow colors it was painted when we moved in.

The kitchen had a breakfast area with a huge window that looked into the backyard and let in so much light. It was one of my favorite things about the house.

My absolute favorite thing about the house was the back yard. This picture was taken in February, so the trees are bare and no flowers are blooming, but in the spring and summer it was like a garden, with roses, magnolias, irises, daisies, and so many other flowers. The back yard was very private and perfect for enjoying time out on the patio.

3709 Dresden Court in Brentwood Estates, Montgomery, AL 36111

Back Yard

This link has additional pictures of the house. There are few pictures sprinkled in of the house before we bought it, but most of them are from when we sold it.