Naples, Florida Family Vacation July 2014

07/22/2014

The real reason I didn’t write any blog posts for 2 weeks is because we left for vacation a couple days after Firefly left and there was a lot to catch up on at home and work when we got back. Jason and I love to vacation in Naples, Florida. I think we’ve gone 4 times in the past 5 years. This was the first time Ali has been there, though. She’s been to the beach before but this time she was old enough to really enjoy it and play in the sand and water. She’s a little fish and the Gulf in South Florida is warm, clear and gentle. We stayed in Foxfire Country Club in a condo that happened to have a bunch of really cool mid-century modern teak furniture. The pool was warm and we usually had it all to ourselves. Ali did awesome on the 12-14 hour car ride both ways. She’s a pro traveler. We used our DVD player for the first time. On the way to Florida she watched Frozen 4.5 times! Once there we saw so much native wildlife, mostly found by or spotted by Jason. He caught 5 large 9-point starfish out in the ocean. He also found 2 live sand dollars. We released all of them after admiring them. We also saw dolphins, manatees, sting rays (I stepped on one that didn’t have a tail. Phew!) and tons of little lizards in the wild. We visited the Everglades Wonder Garden and saw captive alligators, parrots, macaws, turtles and tortoises, butterflies, flamingos and lots of other birds and reptiles. We ate so much good seafood, saw gorgeous sunsets and had lots of time to play and have fun together as a family of three. We had our vacation planned long before Firefly joined our family but God must have known that it’s timing would perfect for our family to escape the painful realities at home and reset.

Ready for the photo overload?

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Refreshment

07/15/2013

 

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Jason and I love Naples but since our 10th anniversary was a very special occasion we also wanted to go somewhere new to us. We decided on Key West. The drive was beautiful.

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We stopped at Mangrove Mama’s for lunch on the recommendation of an Instagram friend @bakewithamy. It was delicious.

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And then we saw a box turtle.

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Jason looking very Floridian with his green pants.

 

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Have you ever seen such blue water?

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Jason is a key lime pie connoisseur so we had a lot! Kermit’s was our favorite, followed by Key West Key Lime Pie Co.

 

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It was a very restful, restorative trip for us both. In Key West we walked miles everyday exploring the island. We slept late most days and watched a lot of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and Bob’s Burgers on Netflix. We ate a lot of really good food. Blue Heaven was recommended by multiple people and lived up to it’s reputation. Jason ordered lobster eggs Benedict with bacon and tomato which was the most memorable meal we had in the Keys. We went to Blue Heaven after a morning of snorkeling which was the highlight of our trip. I don’t have any photos of that excursion. It was incredible to see sea creatures in their natural habitat. The most thrilling was when a nurse shark, about 5 feet long, swam right past Jason and me. I’m a little bummed that I didn’t get to see a sea turtle (Jason saw one from the boat but I missed it) but it gives me a reason to go back. Next time we’d like to try scuba diving.


Good Morning from the Sunshine State

07/08/2013

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I had planned to schedule a bunch of posts for this week but with Jason and Buzz sick last week and the holiday, time just got away from me. So know you get to know: Jason and I are in Florida this week. Since before Buzz arrived (at the beginning of May) we had been planning a getaway to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. We’re not big on celebrating milestones with “stuff” like cards or gifts but we always set aside some time for a dinner date. We did that this year too and it was painfully clear that 2 hours away from the toddlers was not enough time to catch up, and definitely not enough time to rest and relax.

A kid-less vacation was what we needed. Four days into our vacation and we already feel like its been SO refreshing! We had dinner at the Columbia in Sarasota, spent the weekend in Naples, Fl (our favorite) and this morning we’re heading to Key West – somewhere new to us.

My mama always told me that the best gift you can give your kids is to love your spouse well.


Mother-Daughter Adventure #1

02/01/2012

Precious and I went on a big adventure last week. Jason was in Florida for 12 days on tour so we decided we’d join him for a few days in the Tampa area. I’ve flown alone with a toddler once (Ladybug) so that probably took the edge off my fears, but it was still a little scary flying into an unfamiliar airport, renting a car and driving to meet Jason all on my own. Thankfully, Precious is an AHHHMAZING traveler! I didn’t really expect anything different since she’s super easy-going and happy in general, but wow. Not bothered by the pressure in the airplane. (She was sleepy and yawning through both flights and had a bottle as we started descending.) Not bothered by sitting in the Florida heat watching me wrestle with the rental car seat for 20 minutes. Not bothered by sleeping on hotel beds, cribs at random churches, or on the floor of the green room. Not bothered by all the strangers ooohing and ahhhing at her. Not bothered by getting shown off from stage in front of hundreds of people. (I was nervous as heck, though!) Not bothered by missing a nap here and there. Ok, maybe that did bother her a little bit… She had a few, “Hey, I’m freakin’ tired over here!” melt-downs but considering all we did, she did awesome. Best tiny travel companion ever.

Oh, and it’s wasn’t JUST a mother-daughter adventure, of course. We had a great time hanging out with Jason and the guys. Precious and I arrived in Tampa on Saturday and flew back to Nashville on Wednesday. The first three days were show days for the guys so us girls just went along with whatever they were doing and tried to stay out of the way. Tuesday and Wednesday were off days, though, so we all headed south to Sarasota and booked a night at Lido Beach Resort. It was gorgeous! The weather was perfect. Highs in the upper 70s to low 80s, sunny, breezy with lower humidity the whole time we were there. Precious had a nasty first experience at the beach. Right after we sat her down and took a picture, she face-planted into the sand. Sand was in her eyes, nose, mouth, ears. Poor baby girl! I took her into the pool to rinse off and she was happy again. It was her first time at the beach and her first time in the pool. I’m determined to get her swimming unassisted by floatation devices next summer (when she’ll be 2). We’ll be in the pool A LOT this summer since we’ll be living at my parents’ house. Knowing how to swim is a life skill and “waterproofing” is not an option in our family—all kids must learn to swim as soon as possible. Anyway, enough about all that. On with the pictures.

Right after we arrived, watching Daddy set up for sound check:

Representin’ Guy Penrod with the onesie my co-worker made for her:

Packed house at this one…lots of Q-tips

Pretty Spanish moss everywhere. It’s so romantic.

And palm trees everywhere too.

We’re happier than we look…the sun was just so bright!

Bare feet!!! I love Precious’ chubby little toes.

Outside the door of our room at Lido Beach Resort:

Lunch poolside:

First time in the sand at the beach…right before “the incident”…

The pool makes it all better

We ate dinner at the nationally reknown Columbia restaurant. It was as fabulous as everyone said it would be. I found it hilarious that all the guys pulled out their cameras to take a picture of our stone crab appetizer before we started eating it.

We stayed out of the sand the second day and everyone was happy

It was a short trip during a very busy season of our lives…but oh so worth it! Thank you, Lord!


Phone Photo Friday

01/27/2012


Smorgasbord

01/16/2012

I have been struggling to keep up with blogging the past week or so. I think this happens to every blogger from time to time. Real life takes priority, but I also aspire to keep up with documenting and sharing. Here’s a little bit of what’s been going on lately:

• Jason finished recording his lullabies album last week. I’ve been working on the album design. We had a little photo session yesterday with Precious, Jason and his guitar. Hopefully I captured something that will work with what’s in my head.

• After being home for a solid month, Jason’s tour schedule starts back up this week. It’s been so great to have him home. But I’m also incredibly thankful that he’ll be back to work soon because he loves it and it’s how he makes a living. That makes us both very happy.

• This month the guys are going on a Florida Snowbird Tour and Precious and I are going to join them in the Tampa area for a few days. I am  SO EXCITED about this mini-vacation that I’m willing to fly with a 6 month old, pick up bags and rent a car all by myself. I’m a little nervous but it’ll be oh-so-worth-it. I flew alone with Ladybug once and it was OK. The first flight was great and the second flight was mix of bad and torture. (It started out with her smacking me in the face when I tried to contain her on my lap after the last passenger to board the plane took the last available seat next to the lady flying alone with a toddler—me—and said “Oh no, this is going to be a long flight!” I wanted to spit back, “You have no idea what this child has been through! We’ve only known each other for 2 weeks!” But I kept my mouth shut. The flight ended with a screaming tantrum. Thanks for the curse, mean old lady sitting next to us…ANYWAY…I’m sure these flights are going to be great because Precious is the most easy-going baby in the world.)

• Our house has been on the market about 6 weeks and we’ve had around 20 showings. Nuts! Showing a house when you have a baby and a dog is not easy and I’m not a fan of the one-hour-notice showings. What the heck, people?! It’s all good though. We pull it off with smiles on our faces and we’re praying for an offer soon. It’s nice to not have any rush, we’re just excited to move forward on our new construction. We’re hoping for breaking ground in March and moving in by the end of summer or early fall but it’s impossible to say at this point.

• On Saturday Jason and I stopped by a new string of shops in East Nashville called the Idea Hatchery. It’s a bunch of small studios for start-up and small businesses with more affordable leases, funded by the art gallery next door called Garage Majal. Cute little area. (Pictures above and below.)


Vacation Via Twitter (Not Really)

09/19/2011

I have a policy about not telling the internet world when we’re out of town so I don’t write much on Twitter during vacation. I did think about tweeting a lot though. Here’s what I would have said:

9/5/11 3:30pm We’re off to Naples! Or at least as far as we can drive tonight.

9/5/11 6:23pm Shared a delicious pot roast dinner at Cracker Barrel. Their service is so fast and good, cheap food, too.

9/5/11 6:59pm Cracker Barrel has more billboards than any other single company in the country. I learned that in an advertising class.

9/6/11 12:05am Cozy home away from home: air mattress in the back of the silver bullet. Yes, that’s right. We’re not paying for a motel to sleep for a few hours.

9/6/11 5:30am The sun is not up yet but we’re wide away thanks to the parking lot cleaner guy and his leaf blower. Back in the Wal-Mart to use the bathroom then we’re off to find a Starbucks.

9/6/11 1:22pm We arrived at our hotel in Naples. I drove the last 2 of 14 hours. Gotta do my part.

9/6/11 1:35pm It’s sunny and humid and beautiful. Straight to the beach we go.

9/6/11 4:47pm Complete relaxation this afternoon. No walking along the beach. No playing in the ocean. Just sitting and absorbing. Peace.

9/6/11 7:04pm Amazingly delicious and HUGE dinner at Cracklin’ Jack’s tonight. Fried Grouper was outta this world. It would have taken us hours to eat all this food. #vittles

9/7/11 We both got our ocean fix today. I got to ride waves and float around in the warm, sparkly salt water while Jason got to play beach explorer and found shells, sand dollars and crabs. I found some half-buried sunglasses.

9/7/11 8:10pm Dinner tonight was a surprise… the most we’ve ever paid for a meal. Surprise! Yelp has just $$ by this restaurant where it definitely should have been $$$. Cloyde’s was super, though. No complaints.

9/7/118:12pm I got the Chilean Sea Bass which was good but Jason got the surf and turf. The filet mignon was ahhmazing.

9/7/11 8:15pm “This filet mignon is so moist and soft it’s like cake. Meat cake.” – me

9/7/11 9:36pm We drove around looking for a good ice cream place and ended up back at the hotel ice cream less. Walked in and out of Reginas because we didn’t have cash. #getacreditcardmachine #youarelosingbusiness

9/18/11 9:04am Best Western Naples has a lovely poolside continental breakfast. We’re surrounded by palm trees, flowers and cute little lizards.

9/8/11 9:45am Checking out the Collier County free museum today. Mostly interested in the native plant garden.

9/8/11 12:11pm There are so many beautiful, modest mid-century modern ranches in Naples. It’s a shame they keep getting bulldozed to build beach mansions.

9/8/11 2:45pm Saw a blackish fin pop up in the water about a 100 yds from me. Moment of panic. Then I saw another fin and realized it was 2 dolphins. #relief #sharkavoidance

9/8/11 4:32pm It was supposed to rain all day but it ended up not raining at all. Another perfect beach day for the one who loves the water and the one who loves the shore.

9/8/11 9:01pm Tasty dinner at Grouper and Chips tonight. Not as good as Cracklin’ Jack’s but cheaper. Sat outside in the romantic neon glow of the OPEN sign.

9/8/11 9:03pm Stopped at Dairy Queen for ice cream just before a storm broke out. We were slightly disturbed by the sight of this shirtless man.

9/9/11 11:11am Hit around 10 thrift and antique stores today and nada. All gaudy, beach condo junk. The Emporium has a few exceptions. Thought seriously about a set of 4 dining chairs (only one w arms) for $350 but passed.

9/9/11 1:43pm Lunch at a delightful British restaurant downtown on 5th St. in Naples called the Jolly Cricket. Filet mignon sliders were awesome.

9/9/11 1:45pm We’re off to Disney World!

9/9/11 5:22pm Checked in to Disney’s Contemporary Resort after being interrogated by the nazi border patrol parking attendant. “Why are you here?”

9/9/11 5:45pm I think this is my favorite hotel room ever!

9/9/11 6:00pm It’s pouring. I’m not going out there.

9/9/11 6:30pm Rain is letting up so we’re hopping on the monorail into Magic Kingdom to meet up with our Disney rep. Ish who will get me up close to all the stages for photos.

9/9/11 1:00am Damp and exhausted but we had fun. Bands I photographed: Francesca Battistelli, Group 1 Crew (awesome stage show!) and Matthew West.

9/10/11 1:05am We also rode It’s A Small World and a handful of other Magic Kingdom attractions.

9/10/11 10:23am Happy Birthday to my sister-in-law Ginger! I hope it’s a great day!

9/10/11 5:15pm Resting at the Contemporary after a long day at Epcot. I think Mission: SPACE is definitely one of my favorites so far.

9/10/11 7:00pm Took the walking trail into Magic Kingdom this time. The plan tonight: Sanctus Real, rides, Kutless, TobyMac, rides.

9/10/11 11:55pm Got soaked in the front row of Splash Mountain. The line was too long for Space Mountain so we gave up. Another fun but exhausting day!

9/11/11 11:30am Today’s agenda: Animal Kingdom and then Hollywood Studios.

9/11/11 3:15pm A Bug’s Life 3D show is definitely another fav! Also the Africa Safari was pretty cool. Heading to Hollywood Studios now.

9/11/11 6:10pm We enjoyed the Star Wars 3D ride so much we went on it twice. Also my roller coaster hating husband LOVED the Rock n Roller Coaster! #adrenalinerush

9/11/11 9:30pm We’re all Disney’d out. Strange, beautiful lightning cloud on our way out. Lightning keeps repeatedly lighting up inside this cloud column…flashes and bolts.

9/11/11 10:55pm Watching the fireworks over Magic Kingdom in my pjs from our balcony at the Contemporary. Perfect end to our Disney World adventure. #ilovefireworks


Back to Reality

09/13/2011

Jason and I had a lovely week away in Florida. We spent the first part of last week in Naples, one of our favorite towns. Then the past weekend was spent in Disney World. I’ll share more about our trip (and other happenings) once I dig myself out of all these piles of email and laundry and find time to buy groceries. Priorities, you know.


Great Grandpa Carl

07/14/2010

The reason we went to Naples for vacation is because Jason has such fond memories of a vacation his family took when he was 7 years old to visit his great-grandfather Carl Ludwig Ahlbrandt.

From his obituary: “Mr. Ahlbrandt was president of the Carpenters Union Local 1641 from 1968 to 1975. He also has the honor of becoming the director of apprenticeship, State of Florida, Division of Labor, Bureau of Apprenticeship. He and his students built the Carl Ahlbrandt Building of the local carpenters apprenticeship school on Enterprise Avenue in Naples. It was designated as the last school built in the United States by an instructor and his students.”

Here’s their mint green ranch the way Jason remembered it circa 1989:

There was a lime tree and a mango tree to the right of the house and pineapples growing on the left side. Coconut and palm trees lined the property. The house was a 0.5 mile walk to the beach. We put his address in the GPS and found the empty lot where his house once stood. It was sad to see it gone.

Jason spent a lot of time walking around the yard remembering. Mourning the house a little bit. The lot is for sale so we called to inquire about it. Way out of reach. But we can dream … Maybe someday we’ll buy up that lot and rebuild a mid-century modern home here.

The mango tree was nothing but a stump in the ground but the unkempt lime tree was still here. Jason picked the one and only lime off of it and took it with him.

Naples still has a large majority of it’s original mid-century homes. That makes it even harder to see that this one is gone.

As an artist, entrepreneur, gardener and go-getter, Jason feels a special connection to his great-grandfather. For me, it was a neat experience to get to know Carl a little bit through photographs and stories and by walking around his former yard.

We tried with no avail to find the building that was named after Carl. Apparently, there are several buildings around Naples and Marco Island that he built or helped build but we didn’t have a list of those addresses. Next trip. Next time.


Naples, Florida Vacation

07/12/2010

Not much to report from the ranch this week because we’ve been on vacation in Naples, Florida! Jason and I had a great week with our dear friends Laren and Jeremy. Jason’s great grandfather lived in Naples and he has wonderful memories of visiting there as a boy. He’s been wanting to go back there for years and we finally made it. It’s a really beautiful little beach town that apparently had a housing boom in the 1950s-70s. More on that later. Today, here are some fun vacation pictures.

Dinner at Kelly’s on our first night

Jeremy and Laren are great travel buddies!

Ice cream at Regina’s

Jason is picking up real estate catalogs … are we too young to own a second home at the beach?

Mini golf at Coral Cay

Jason won. He said he can’t remember a time when he didn’t win a mini golf game!

Leading the processional to the beach

When Jason was a boy he remembers finding hermit crabs and starfish and sand dollars and beautiful seashells in Naples. He turned into a little boy again as he was exploring the shoreline. He’s so cute!

Two conch shells with … clams/mussels/conches? inside

We admired them for a while and then Jason tossed them back out to sea.

Some girl found this starfish and shared it with us. It was neat to flip it over and watch it flip itself back.

Waves aren’t very big in Naples. Just calm, clear and warm.

Jason and I wanted a picture to show how clear the water was but I’m not sure if you can really tell here.

We’re already planning our next trip back to Naples!