We had a fantastic weekend! I’m almost ashamed to write that. Partly because the kids are away visiting their grandparents. All parents need a break sometimes—and this was ours. We slept late, not caring what time it was when our eyes opened. There were no commitments or deadlines to meet. We just flew by the seat of our pants. That is a fabulous feeling. The weekend was ours for the taking; and we took it.
We decided a road trip was on the agenda for Saturday and headed to St. Petersburg. We wanted to do two things, visit an old bookstore, and go to the beach. Our first stop at Lighthouse Books offered us exactly what we were looking for: Ernest Hemingway for him and Edith Wharton for me. This bookstore is unassuming and has been around forty-years. Without the sign in the front, you would assume it was just another house on the block. Inside, the rooms were lined with shelves and every inch of real estate was occupied with books. We stopped at another book store down the street, but it was more like a discount Barnes & Noble. It lacked the charm of Lighthouse and had more new books than old. We decided to head toward the beach for part-two of our journey and stopped at Sloppy Joe’s in Treasure Island for a bite to eat. The bonus—we were dining beachfront at a restaurant whose namesake was inspired by Ernest Hemingway (we embrace our nerdiness.) We sat on the open deck, sipping cocktails and devouring our lunch as the ocean breeze blew, listening to the seagulls cawed, and feeling the sun tanning our skin. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
With full bellies, we drove down the coast through St. Pete Beach. Just past The Don CeSar hotel and all its salmon-colored grandeur, we found a great spot on Pass-A-Grille beach. As our toes touched the sand, that peaceful feeling one finds when near the ocean, swept over us. We love the beach and try to be relaxing on one whenever we can. There was a wedding that had just taken place just past the entrance. We were amazed how anyone would want to have a beach wedding in the heat of a July afternoon, but understand the sensation of vowing to love one another where the land meets the sea. But I must say though, it must be hard to keep your wedding-do upright if your head is melting.
As we threw off our shoes, we were surprised that despite the 95 degree weather, the sand wasn’t at all hot under our feet. Amazingly, and what a lot of people don’t realize, St. Pete beaches are covered with white sand and a deep teal-colored ocean. It’s assumed the Gulf beaches aren’t as beautiful as they are on the Atlantic. They are… so, go! We decided to walk along the shore, talking about anything and everything, laughing along the way. The water was warm, yet inviting, ironically cooling us down. The waves were minimal at best and the water simply disappeared into the horizon. There were people swimming, fishing, building sandcastles, parasailing, and some were just relaxing as they soaked up the sun. We were compelled to take several photos, but Michael is the real photographer—crouching down to catch shots of the tiny waves, making them look large enough to surf on. It’s a gift.
We decided to head back to Orlando not too long after our jaunt on the beach as the heat of the day had taken a toll on our enthusiasm. We already had a list of places to explore on our next trip out to St. Pete and can’t wait. Our road trips offer great conversations, sing-alongs, and opportunities to stop for snacks. This one was no exception, both coming and going. We usually pick a couple of things we don’t normally have and probably haven’t eaten in years—items like Slim Jims, spicy pork skins, and, of course, Icees. Not the diet of champions, but hey, it’s a tradition now. This one provided Boston Baked Beans Candied Peanuts. If you haven’t had tried them, or had them since you were a kid, you must indulge! The peanuts are coated with a rich crunchy shell that is essentially pure sugar. After about three, I was done as the nostalgia was more satisfying than the sugar rush. How I ate a whole bag as a kid is beyond me.
Sunday was a bit lazier, but we took care of our grocery shopping. That may not sound at all fun, but with us two clowns it’s sure to be a blast. We headed to Freshfields Farm to load up on fresh fruits and veggies. This is how we go crazy when the kids are away--fill the dinner table with vegetables they’re unlikely to touch. Michael had never been and it’s been years since I shopped there. I offer no excuses. There are two separate stores within: one laden with farm-fresh vegetables and fruits, and the other is stocked with meat, poultry, and seafood. Our inner chef was inspired the moment we walked through the door, overwhelmed with the rich colors each display was filled with. We were like kids in a candy store (go with me on this.) We picked up the greenest of veggies like beans, and peas. We grabbed brightly colored fruits, like red tomatoes, yellow bananas, and purple grapes. Our basket was filled with pretty much every color of a rainbow and included a dragon fruit. Not a clue what it taste like, but anything with dragon in the name has to be good. We bought a couple of logoed burlap grocery bags to haul our loot, feeling satisfied with purchases considering a lot comes fresh from local farms, and the fact we were being so eco-friendly.
Walking into the other store was a different experience as it was bright with white displays filled with a variety of meats. Every cut of steak you can imagine and then some can be found here. They also have a butcher in the back to offer fresh cuts of meat, in addition to deli selections sliced to your preference. We had a craving for filet mignon, but they had already sold out—which was not surprising given the constant flow of customers. We decided on some Alaskan sockeye salmon that looked like it was caught fresh that morning, and a package of chicken breasts that is sure to last us a month. The amazing thing is that everything costs less than the regular grocery store and no doubt fresher.
We ended up at the regular grocery store as well to pick up all the other items we needed that Freshfields Farm didn’t sell. We skipped the processed and frozen foods given our new-found health kick (road trip snacks don’t count). Together, we’ve already planned the meals this week. It felt good to fill up the fridge with all that we purchased, but had to work it like Tetris to get everything in. I immediately went to work on dinner and had a renewed excitement about cooking. I pan-seared the salmon in olive oil, steamed the green beans, and sliced up the yellow and red tomatoes with some red onion to make a salad. I used a limes and some cilantro in the rice, which accompanied the salmon perfectly. There’s something to be said about fresh ingredients as everything was absolutely delicious. Of course, the chef has a lot to do with it.
Needless to say, we are making plans our final childless weekend and very much looking forward to it. With Orlando perfectly centered in Florida, it offers a smooth segue to everything we want to do. We traveled to the West coast in about two hours, passing and very close to all sorts of hot spots we are planning to visit. Next weekend is the East coast, Palm Beach specifically. Yes, there’s a beach and yes, we are going to a particular antiquarian book store. But, that’s what we love! I know we’ll see other sights, dine in some local restaurants, and stop for artery-clogging junk food along the way. That’s what makes it so special! I do love living in the heart of Florida. Even in Orlando we find new things to do around every corner—it’s not all just theme parks. I will say, Michael and I do have annual passes to Disney, but we’ve gone to several museums and parks, shopped at local businesses, dined a variety of restaurants, attended shows at Plaza LIVE, and much more. There’s always something to do, with or without three teenagers in tow. And believe me, it’s definitely like you’re dragging them sometimes.
I am a woman-child at heart; continuously evolving to find my place in life. I am a mother, a daughter, and a sister. I am a lover and a dreamer--an explorer and a traveler. But it's my passion for writing that allows me to explore my ingenuity. This is something that undoubtedly carries over to the many roles that make up the ever evolving woman I am.