One Year Later

On June 23, 2010 the oil washed up on the shores of Pensacola Beach.  When tragedy stuck and the oil rig exploded, it seemed as if the entire Gulf Coast watched BP struggle to plug the leak.  We spent all day at the beach picking up shell fragments and trash so that when the oil finally washed up…because it would wash up…sand clean up would supposedly be easier.  When the oil hit the shore, it came up in big ugly balls of tar and layers of oil.  It stuck to the powdery white sand and buried beneath it everytime a wave crashed on the shore.  The beaches were closed while cleanup crews did their work.  We avoided the beach and only visited to support our favorite local restaurants.  Tourism suffered and the beach sat quietly.

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Six months later we went camping at Ft. Pickens, a campground on the Gulf Islands National Seashore.  We avoided the beach because it was too cold but as we drove along the beach road we could still see cleanup crews.  

oil spill cleanup

A few days ago we spent the afternoon splashing in the waves, digging in the sand, and watching the sand plovers nest.  We spotted several seas turtle nests blocked off by the rangers for the turtles’ protection.  We saw many families playing nearby, the restaurants were packed and the fishermen were reeling in their catch. 



Do you have any plans to visit the Gulf Coast this summer?

Three Days in Pensacola with Your Family

I am going to try to share some of our favorite itineraries here.  I get asked about what our days are like when we travel so I thought that I would share them!  These itineraries are what worked (or didn’t work) for us but hopefully it might help when you are planning your trips!  What better place to start with but my hometown city!  Today I am Monday Dreaming with Mother of All Trips.  I am dreaming of visitors coming to Pensacola, a city I know and love, and falling in love with it themselves.  I am dreaming that they make their own Pensacola memories with their families!


Day One – Breakfast, the beach, pre-Civil war fort, and a walk on the pier

Begin your day with breakfast at one of our favorite local bagel shops, Bagelheads.  My favorite is a Create Your Own with a garlic bagel, plain cream cheese and pastrami and my husband always gets the Double Smoke.  Both of the kids split a huge cinnamon roll.  After you have had your fill of bagel sandwiches, it is time to head to the beach!  Drive out to Pensacola Beach to explore.  You will need a dollar to pay the toll to get on the beach.  We usually skip the place to see and be seen, Casino Beach, and head to the Gulf Islands National Seashore where you will not only find gorgeous white sandy beaches but you will always be able to mark another national park off your list!  It costs $8 to enter Gulf Islands National Seashore but the pass is good for a week.  Once you are in the Gulf Islands National Seashore (GINS), pull into one of the first two parking lots on the left.  This is a great spot to be because the crowds are minimal, the sea life is plentiful and it is a great place to park it while the kids splash in the water.

Know Before You Go: THERE ARE NO LIFEGUARDS here and riptides can come in quickly.  Tragedies occur at the beaches every year because swimmers do not know what to do in a riptide and they do not heed the warning flags.  Pay attention to the warning flags as you arrive on the beach and heed the warnings.  SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK.  Also, there are no bathrooms in this area.  If you prefer a spot with bathrooms, you can park in the parking lot right before the entrance to the GINS.  You will find relatively clean restrooms and I believe that there is a lifeguard station here.

After playing in the sand, looking for shells, and splashing in the water, drive further into the GINS and visit Ft. Pickens.  You can take a guided tour or self-guided tour.  See the canons, get a bird’s eye view of the ocean and learn more about this fort built before the Civil War to guard the Pensacola Bay.  It was completed in 1834 and was prison to Geronimo.

ft pickens

When you have finished exploring the fort, exit the Gulf Islands National Seashore and head to Peg Leg Pete’s for a late lunch or early dinner.  There may be a lengthy wait but we think it is worth it.  Grab a drink from the bar and head downstairs to let the kids play on the playground while you wait for a table.  The food from the kid’s menu comes in their signature teal sand bucket with a pirate eye patch.  The oysters, grouper sandwich and peel and eat shrimp are great but, truly, order whatever looks good because we haven’t had a bad meal there yet.

If you aren’t ready for your day at the beach to end, drive down to Casino Beach and take a walk along the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier.  You will see fishermen bringing up their catch and if you are lucky you might spy a shark or a turtle in the water.

Day Two – Airplanes, a Lighthouse, State Parks, Dinner on the Deck

If you like doughnuts, stop by Krispy Kreme if you see that Hot Doughnuts Now sign flashing.  The kids will love to see the doughnuts come out of the oven and get covered with that famous glaze.  Day two is all about helicopters, planes, and space capsules.  Drive out to the Pensacola Naval Air Station and tell the gate guard that you are going to the National Naval Aviation Museum.  They will need to see your driver’s license, give you a parking pass and can also send you in the right direction of the museum.

Know Before You Go: Check the Blue Angels practice schedule before you head out to the museum.  If they are practicing be sure to arrive early enough in the morning to catch the aerial acrobatics.  The practices are sight to see.  There are bleachers to sit on but you can bring a blanket and chairs if you wish.  Bring earplugs for the children because it gets very loud but if you can sit near one of the volunteers you might hear the pilots through the volunteers’ walkie talkies!   After the Wednesday practices, often the pilots head into the museum for an autograph signing.

blue angels

Spend a few hours wandering around the museum where you will see many restored aircrafts, uniforms, mementoes, and Blue Angels hanging from the ceiling!  Both of my children could spend an hour on the second floor climbing in and out…and in and out…of the cockpit trainers.  They can push the buttons, pull the levers, and pretend to be pilots.  If you have smaller children, stop by the USS Kiddie Hawk, a play structure set up to resemble an aircraft carrier.  There is also an IMAX, guided tours, and more at the Naval Aviation Museum!  If you are hungry, grab a snack or lunch at the Cubi Bar before you make your way back to your car.

After the museum, drive down the road to the Pensacola Lighthouse, supposedly one of the most haunted lighthouses in the United States!  The Pensacola Lighthouse offers tours, ghost hunts, and Light of the Moon tours (spooky!).

Know Before You Go: Children must be at least seven years old and at least 44 inches to tour the lighthouse.  No flip flops or spike heeled shoes are allowed in the lighthouse.

After being inside most of the morning, the kids will be itching to get outside.  Drive to Big Lagoon State Park where you can walk along a pretty boardwalk and spy birds or other wildlife.  There are guided walks and ranger programs available throughout the year.  The cost to enter the park is $6 per vehicle.

At dinner time, take the drive to the Oar House where you can eat outside overlooking Bayou Chico while you watch the sun set.  The fish sandwiches are delicious but if you would like to order a burger you can!

Day Three – A History Lesson

Pensacola is rich in history.  It claims to be America’s first settlement but unfortunately it wasn’t continuous.  Take it easy on day three and spend the day wandering around our beautiful downtown area and Historic Pensacola.  Take a guided tour of historic Pensacola and then head to the TT Wentworth Museum where you can head to the top floor and let the kids play with the interactive exhibits in the Discovery Gallery.


When the children are done pretending to be colonists take a walk to the Pensacola Museum of Art where the current exhibit (until September 4, 2011) is Chagall for Children on loan from the Kohl Children’s Museum.

PMA front

Are you hungry yet?  Stop by one of the many delis (my favorite is Norma’s!) downtown to pick up lunch and head to Bayview Park to have a picnic lunch.  The children will love to climb on the playground equipment and you will enjoy the breeze coming off of the water.

We finish off our day with an early dinner at Atlas Oyster House.  The deck is beautiful and very family friendly.  The kid’s menu includes the typical items like chicken tenders but they also different choices like sushi, crab cakes and fish.  Watch the sunset over the water while you enjoy a delicious meal with your children.  If you have had your fill of seafood, head over to Five Sister Blues Café where they cook up true Southern soul food.  The fried chicken is mouth watering but be sure to save room for some bread pudding!

If you are downtown on a Thursday, head to Plaza de Luna and visit the splash pad, listen to a band play and watch the sun set at Sunsets in the Plaza.  You can go to Evenings in Olde Seville and listen to a band as well.

Pensacola, Florida is such a wonderful place to take the family.  Even though this is just a three day itinerary you could spend two weeks and not see everything Pensacola has to offer!  Have you been to Pensacola?  What is your favorite family friendly activity?

Pensacola Family Vacation on raveable

An Article in Southern Child Magazine

It has been over two months since I wrote my 33 Things I Want to See and Do the Year I Turn 33 post and I haven’t done a single update.  I have actually already checked a few things off my list and I will write about those things in the next few weeks (I have been such a blogging slacker!) but today I want to share with you the completion of a HUGE goal!

I have an article in the latest issue of Southern Child Magazine, an online publication.  EEEEEEEEKKKKKK! 

Southern Child screenshot

A screenshot of my article!

When I started this site three years ago, I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go with it.  Deep down inside, I knew that one of my goals was to get published in some format…book, magazine, pamphlet, other online sites.  As I have continued this journey, I have learned a lot and met some amazing writers, editors, and publishers.  Amazing men and women who have given me opportunities that I would never have had.  Amazing men and women who are quick to offer advice to help me become a better writer.  I still have a LONG way to go, but I am so honored that my first published article is in such a great magazine.

I love Southern Child Magazine and their mission.  Not only do they provide information about many topics to help educate parents, they also provide affordable advertising.  If you have a product that would be a good fit with Southern Child Magazine, drop them a line.  They wonderful to work with! 

That isn’t all they do though.  Their main mission to help place foster children with their forever, or permanent, families.  They share photos and bios of children who are waiting to connect with families. 

I would be grateful if you stopped by to check out my article titled Pensacola with Kids in the Seeing the South section.  You can find it on page 113-115.  While you are there, take some time to read those bios as well as some of the other great articles.  There is a Savvy Stroller Guide where they reviewed a ton of strollers so you don’t have to go nuts trying to find the perfect stroller.  There are articles about Easter crafts and treats, and teaching children about sustainability.

Five Sisters Blues Cafe – Pensacola, Florida

five sisters

On Friday night, my husband and I went on a much needed date night.  We wanted to try a restaurant we hadn’t been to yet so we chose Five Sisters Blues Cafe located in the downtown area.  When you step into Five Sisters it will remind you of dining in New Orleans or another city equally influenced by blues and jazz music.  The food is true Southern Soul Food but there is some lighter fare available as well.  Five Sisters Blues Cafe will be open one year in May.  It is named in honor of his mother and her four sisters. 

I originally planned on getting a salad but when I spotted the shrimp po’ boy, pineapple coleslaw and macaroni and cheese, I had to go with that.  My husband got the chicken tender basket.  When the meal was served, my husband took one bite of chicken and then cut off a piece for me.

“You have got to try this.”

“No…that is ok.  I have plenty to eat.”

“No, really.  You have to try this.”

My husband knows that I would eat homecooked Southern fried chicken every day if it came without calories or fat.  I took that bite and could not believe how delicious it was.  This wasn’t your typical chicken tender basket from a chain restaurant.  This was juicy, perfectly seasoned, melt in your mouth fried chicken. 

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Though we ate at Five Sisters during our date night, we did see plenty of families eating as well.  If you are in the Pensacola area, I hope you decide to stop by Five Sisters Blues Cafe for lunch or dinner (or a good ole Sunday brunch).  Hopefully, you won’t be disappointed.

Be sure to visit Wanderfood Wednesday over at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

Happy Mardi Gras!

I read an article in our local paper where the writertalked about how they didn’t like parades but it turned out they just didn’t like bad parades.  After attending a Mardi Gras parade in true Southern style, I think even the truest parade hater will fall in love with the revelers throwing beads, moon pies, and Frisbees at you!

In honor of Fat Tuesday, here are a few pictures from the Pensacola Grand Mardi Gras parade.  This parade is very family friendly and my two kids loved every minute of it.  I loved the time we spend together as a family laughing and dancing to the music!

Waiting so patiently for the parade to begin…

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Oops! Right before the parade began, we found out what happens when you don’t follow directions or read the street signs!

mardi gras

The front of the line!

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Heading back to the car with bags full of loot!

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Have you visited your Welcome Center?

Please give a big welcome to Mandy, my friend and fellow blogger.  Mandy blogs about all sorts of stuff (family, being a mom, cooking, and much more) over at Mandy’s Life After 30.  I love hanging out with Mandy because she has a great outlook on life, a sense of adventure, and she is absolutely hilarious!  I have to apologize to Mandy for not getting this post up in a timely manner.  I am sorry!  Today Mandy is talking about her love of the Welcome Center!


Do you need tips on places of interest and attractions to see when you visit a new city?  Are you looking for more things to do within your own hometown?  The best place to start your adventure is the local convention and visitors information center.

Even the smallest cities typically have a welcome center with stacks of brochures highlighting nearby marvels, restaurants and more.   I love to frequent these places while on the road or even in my hometown.  


What’s not to love about these hubs?  Welcome centers generally offer free maps to visitors.  Most even have a list of annual events and festivals.  The volunteers or part-time personnel who work there are typically some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet.  I always ask these people for “local” restaurants to try and for family-friendly activities that mine would enjoy.  You may find the most obscure, interesting sights to visit just from picking up a flier or brochure sitting inside a welcome center.    


Pensacola, Florida’s information center has walls and walls of literature arranged by category – from dining to diving, from historic tours to nature trail guides and much more.   The building is quite impressive compared to other centers I’ve visited.  It boasts larger than life statues highlighting the city’s mascot and several attractions.  This center has a puzzle for visitors to piece together in addition to snacks for patrons to enjoy. 


During my last visit to this particular facility, I obtained details regarding an upcoming art and wine festival, picked up a copy of free newsletter and took a free map of birding trails.   I also received a two-page sheet of every festival and known event taking place in Pensacola, signed up for a travel guide and became entered into a contest where a friend of mine could win a free trip to the area.  So, you never know what good things may come just from visiting the local information shop!  

Changing cities receive new businesses and excursions frequently so be sure to check out your local visitor center for fresh ideas.   Or if you know of an event or business that should be listed in an area, inform the local city officials so they can include it their collection.   

The best place to play tour guide is right in your own hometown.  Start there for fun things to do then branch out as you travel.  Happy trails to you!  May you feel welcomed and inspired in each center you visit!

Stop by Spotlight Thursdays over at Trekaroo!

Cross on the Beach – Pensacola Beach, Florida


I have lived in Pensacola for 14 years and not once have I taken the time to find out the meaning behind the large 10 foot tall white cross that sits at the top of a sand dune on Pensacola Beach.  I have seen it in pictures and during the summer I drive by it at least twice a week.  I have always wondered about it but that area is a popular surf spot and there is usually nowhere to park.  When we were driving home from our Ft. Pickens camping trip at the early hour of 7am, I hollered at my husband to pull over. 


Much to my surprise there was a sign stating that the marker commemorates the first religious service in the Pensacola area.  It was originally on the other side of the road, but was moved to its current location.  The most facsinating thing about this cross is that it has been standing in this spot through a number of major storms and hurricanes.  When Hurricane Ivan blew through, it flattened virtually all of the surrounding sand dunes on the Gulf but this cross continues to stand on this dune with no specific scientific explanation according to Visit Pensacola Beach


Be sure to stop by Delicious Baby to see where everyone is traveling this week!

Hot Boiled Peanuts, Y’all!

Down here, we like our peanuts hot and boiled.  Well, I am not a fan of boiled peanuts, but my husband is.  He would have loved to come to Holland Farms, a peanut farm, with me and Little S.  Upon arrival you are handed a cup of piping hot boiled peanuts.  Take those peanuts out to the front porch and sit for a spell in a rocking chair!

boiled peanuts

If boiled peanuts aren’t your thing, they have them green, roasted, shelled, and in brittle.  For the month of October, you can even pick a pumpkin in their pumpkin patch.  You can wander around the grounds on the hiking trails.  There is also a lengthy hay ride included with your pumpkin patch admission.

Stop by Wanderfood Wednesday to see what everyone else is eating!

Milton Family Vacation on raveable

Fall Family Fun in Northwest Florida

We have been enjoying the lovely reprieve from the hot and humid weather.  It seems like the humidity might have gone to her home to hibernate for the winter and we are thrilled.  Yesterday, we went through the winter clothes to see what fits and what doesn’t.  The weather cooling off a bit can mean only one thing…time to find fall family fun in Northwest Florida!

Corn and Hay – There are several corn and hay mazes that vary in cost and activities available.  The activities range from shooting corn out of a cannon, riding a cow train, and, of course, running through the maze!

corn maze

Pumpkins – Holland Farms has a real pumpkin patch where you can go out and pick a pumpkin.  Many of the churches and organizations around town will start bringing out their own pumpkin patches soon!


Festivals – Festivals abound in Northwest Florida in the fall time.  Recently, we were able to eat fish at the Seafood Festival and boiled peanuts at the Jay Peanut Festival.  Soon, I will be eating spanakopita at the Greek Festival and walking through the booths at the Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival.

We also like to get out of the house.  The weather is so beautiful that it just calls our name.  It is the perfect time of year for a nature walk, a stroll on the beach, or to stargaze.  Please visit Go Explore Nature to see my Favorite Places to Explore Nature in Pensacola

What do you do for family fun in the fall?

This post is part of the Trekaroo Spotlight.  Be sure to visit Trekaroo to see where other bloggers are spotlighting!

Beach Pollution


This oil spill is not just destroying a way of life for beach goers and condo owners right now (despite what many people seem to think), but it is affecting the tourism industry, the restaurant industry, the seafood industry, marine life…the list goes on.  I am not going to pretend to know or understand all of the politics or the workings of this catastrophic event.  Instead, I will share my sadness for all involved through these pictures.  Please keep all those affected in your thoughts.  If you are looking for ways to help, do a quick Internet search and locate a reputable organization.







This was then:


This is now:


Here is a video by pcolagregg of the beach covered in pools of oil:


Stop by DeliciousBaby to see where other travelers are talking about!