Snow Angels on the Gulf Coast

I know that most of you are seeing hints of spring and probably don’t want to be reminded of winter at all but I just had to share our Gulf Coast version of a snow angel…the sand angel!

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Laniakea Beach – Oahu

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When I think of all of the amazing things that we did and saw in Oahu, Laniakea Beach ranks up there in the number one spot.  Laniakea Beach is the home to the sea turtles, or honu, and if you are lucky, you might be able to spot them.

The beach is not difficult to find.  It is on the way to the North Shore and once you get near the spot on the map all you have to do is look for the rows of cars parked along the side of the road.  Pull over, make sure your car is locked and take all your valuables with you.  We stood around for about ten minutes and didn’t see anything.  It wasn’t very crowded when we first got there so we visited with the local volunteer, who was a font of information, and learned more about turtles, their behavior, and history of the area.

The volunteer told us to head down the beach a little bit and we might be able to see the turtles out in the water.  We spent about twenty minutes wandering down the beach and watching one turtle’s little head bob in and out of the waves.  As we were walking back to the main part of “Turtle Beach” to head to the car, our patience was rewarded as one of the turtles decided to come up on the beach and catch a little sun.

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The volunteer waited until the turtle chose its spot (this took about 20 minutes) and then she dropped a bright red rope around it so that people would know not to get close to it.  I took most of my pictures with a 75-300 lens, which is why it looks like we were sitting on top of the turtle–I was nowhere near it.  Even though it looks peaceful on the beach for the turtle, this is what it really looks like:

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I am a Southern Transplant.

I was a military brat for many years.  I was lucky enough to complete the last three years of high school in the same school located in the suburban town of Irvine, California.  When I walked across that stage, I was a California girl ready to embark on an adventure.  A few weeks later, I packed up my little 1980s Toyota Corolla and drove across country to Pensacola, Florida where four years later I walked across a different stage at the University of West Florida as a California girl turned Southern transplant. 

When I first arrived in Pensacola, this California girl was shocked by the polite (and very good looking!) Southern gentlemen who opened doors, offered to carry your bags, wore their baseball hats properly turned to the front and said yes ma’am to your mother.  I fell in love with the South immediately.  That was in 1996.

I didn’t just fall in love with the Gulf Coast, I fell in love with one of those Southern gentlemen.  When my friends were caught up with quick romances, this man slowly courted me at various functions and school activities, before we went out together officially.  We married shortly after college in 2000 and have been here in Pensacola ever since.  We contemplate leaving and, someday, jobs or other circumstances might take us away from the Gulf Coast, but for now we are satisfied with where we are and appreciate what we have. 

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We travel all over the place and when we return to the Gulf Coast, as we get closer, we can feel ourselves slowing down a bit more, looking for the first sign of tea that is already sweet, and the humidity that quickly heals dried skin and chapped lips.  Pensacola is rich with culture.  We claim to be the oldest city (though not continuously inhabited).  We are the home of the Blue Angels.  We celebrate things like mullet (the fish, not the hair do) by throwing them back and forth over the Alabama/Florida state line, crawfish with a low country boil complete with corn and potatoes spread over this morning’s newspaper, and we throw beads and moon pies to celebrate Mardi Gras.  We are also one of those cities that has been through a hurricane. 

Every summer we make sure that our hurricane kit is stocked with items that are not near expiration, plenty of water bottles, canned goods and batteries.  Then we sit back and watch and wait hoping that it is not us this time but praying that it isn’t our Gulf Coast neighbors either.             

We had been through minor storms before.  Since we have lived in Pensacola, we had storms that escalated to tropical storms and then to hurricanes.  They always veered off or were categorized as 1’s in the Saffir Simpson scale.  Minor storms that were cause for a party because the next day it was beautiful, school was cancelled, and we got to spend the day on the beach.  In 2004, we watched the news and listened to the radio as Hurricane Ivan barreled right towards us knowing that this time it would be different.  My 4 week old son, oblivious to what was going on, spent the night in the hall closet where I curled around him hoping that our roof would hold and that we would get power quickly afterwards.  Finally we all fell asleep so exhausted we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. 

The next day, I met my neighbors.  We lived in this house for two years and were friendly with our neighbors but we were wrapped up in our own lives so there was never more than a wave hello and a how are ya.  The morning after Hurricane Ivan hit, we were outside helping several other people move trees out of the street, checking to make sure no one needed help, saying hello to people coming to help us, patching roofs and fences, and passing out food that we couldn’t possibly eat before it spoiled.  Once it was done, we turned and reintroduced ourselves. 

In 2005, we watched our New Orleans neighbors devastated by Hurricane Katrina.  At the time I was teaching at a high school where we welcomed student upon student.  Students who lost everything in Katrina and were coming to live with a relative or family friend so they could attend school.  I was so impressed by our students welcoming them with open arms.  They had been there last year, after all. 

After Hurricane Ivan, a few of our friends and acquaintances gave up and moved out.  But we stay.  Right now, I can’t think of any better place to be.  A place where I live less than 20 minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world (and believe me I have been to lots of different beaches!).  When most of you are still trying to dig out of your snow covered driveways, my family is sitting at the beach watching the little waves roll in.  In October when you are looking for long sleeves and pants sewn into a Halloween costume, I am looking for tank tops.  A place where I get to start working on my flip flop tan in March.  I can set my watch by the 2:00 rainstorms that bring lightning and thunder like no other place I have seen.  The Southern Magnolias are only around for a short time but these dinner plate size flowers make me giddy with excitement when I see the giant bulbs ready to bloom.  The fried chicken in the school cafeterias is some of the best you will ever try because it is made with love.  Restaurants will give you take out cups for your soda and the sweet tea is divine and made perfectly no matter where you are dining. 

A place that has become as much a part of me as it would have been had I been born and raised here.  That is why this Southern Transplant remains.

This post was submitted to the Hope Remains carnival at Storybleed.  Be sure to visit and read the beautiful stories written by others who love the Gulf Coast.

Goodbye, Summer!

In summer, the song sings itself.

~William Carlos Williams

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Today marks the last day of summer.  Big S is back in school bright and early Monday morning (we aren’t counting the weekend because, well, weekends don’t count!).  He is so very excited.  We met his teacher and saw his new classroom this morning and he can’t wait for school to start.  Sending him to first grade is much easier than sending him to Kindergarten last year.  He is such a big guy and seems ready to navigate his little world.  It is time to get back into a daily routine, plan weekend adventures and start deciding where we will go for Fall break!

So today we say goodbye to summer.  Summer–you have been very good to us and we can’t wait to see you again next year!

The following pictures were taken on our road trip to Chincoteague Island, Virginia.  The kids were so excited to put their toes in the Atlantic and weren’t the least bit discouraged when they discovered the Atlantic Ocean is many degrees colder than our cozy, warm, bathwater-esque Gulf Coast.  I just love these pictures of them playing at the beach on the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

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Of all the pictures taken of my husband and I this summer, this my favorite:

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A Romantic Getaway to St. Augustine, Florida

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of St Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, Florida. All opinions are 100% mine.

The last time we were in St. Augustine , my husband and I had only been married for a few years and we were sans kids.  Since then, we have been to Jacksonville many times but haven’t made that extra thirty or forty minute drive to St. Augustine.  My husband and I will be celebrating our ten year anniversary this summer and while our big anniversary trip is planned for October, we are heading to St. Augustine in July for a quick weekend to celebrate.  It is perfect for us because we can be there in less than six hours and we can drop the kids off with family in Panama City on the way there!

ponteVedraBecause we are not the Bed and Breakfast type couple (but there are some amazing ones right in the middle of the historic district), we would love to stay in an oceanfront room at the Ponte Vedra Beach Resorts. 

After a morning walk on the beach with our coffee in hand, we would get ready to explore the sites.  For my history buff husband, we would first head to the Castillo de San Marcos and the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the USA.  After exploring this area, I would want to find somewhere to eat lunch.  One thing I remember most about my trip is that we had the best bread pudding at this amazing restaurant.  The BEST bread pudding.  Ever.  I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but can vaguely remember a bit about it.  We were seated on the second floor and it was off of a main square.  I hope to locate this restaurant and engorge myself on the bread pudding. 

After lunch, we will head to Flagler College to wander the campus and take pictures.  I have been reading about architecture photography and I would like to put some of my newly acquired skills to use.   Before nightfall, I would want to head to the St. Augustine Lighthouse to take some pictures of the sun setting around it!

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(photo by Dave in the Triad)

Have you been to St. Augustine?  Please leave a comment in this post if you have because I would love any recommendations of things that we should do or see!  Plan your own St. Augustine romantic weekend away.

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