Thursday, February 27, 2014

Florida Getaway!

It has been such a long winter around here!  We were blessed to have a week in Florida during the second week of February...what a treat!   
The first couple days we were able to spend time with my grandparents and they almost wore us out! 

They lead us to a fabulous grow-here, buy-here, pay-here orange grove to collect some of these beauties to take back home.  It was a toss up between the plump navel oranges or smaller, sweeter juicing oranges; in the end we picked both and shared.  

As we left my grandpa grumpa grumbled, "I hate those big oranges...too pilly no flavor!" 

(would've been good to know 5 mins ago when we were choosing them=)  

Then we headed to a beautiful state park called Rainbow Springs.  

The flowers were starting to bloom and it was so nice to see all the greens and pinks outside with the bright blue clear waters...lovely!  

The next day we headed to a flea market and bealls outlet (two must haves for any Florida trip). 

Kayaking with the manatees is perfect that time of year in Crystal River. As the waters of the gulf cool, the gentle giants seek out the naturally warm waters of the springs.

It is an amazing thing to see such a large creature swimming right beside you, and they take gulps or air every few minutes so that wretched breath comes floating your way...
Oh! I could do without that part!

Just look at that tail, can you make it out in the sand?  You can image how that might seem like a mermaid if you've been out at sea with only men for months at a time, can't you?

We made our way out to what we call "bird island" can you see why?  Who'd want to live with all that poo?!

The vulchers waved goodbye as we paddled away.

Grandma made delicious home cooking at least once a day (my favorite was the pork tenderloin with spiced pickled asparagus, homemade sauerkraut, cornbread and biscuits)
Homecooking at its finest!
We played BINGO, Euchre, did a puzzle and just relaxed and enjoyed the company of those older and wiser than ourselves.  It really is so nice to be so welcomed to visit and meet and greet all the friends they've made in the south. After two short days we ventured on down to Tampa in perfect time for the dog tracks.

This was a springbreak tradition for Eric; growing up every year the would come down to visit his grandparents and Grandma Thomas would give each of the kiddos money for three bets of their choosing. 

A young Eric would decide his dogs by looking to see which had the best legs!  It was my first time watching a dog race (really we stayed for 10) and I was entertained by all of it: the parade of the dogs before the race, 

the racing of their handlers before the dogs took off,

the screechy rabbit as it made its way around the track, and the speed, the SPEED!  My goodness those are some fast animals!  

We didn't walk away with any monetary earnings, but a fun day with the our grandparents makes us winners every time!  It really rained up some thunderstorms that night but we still had a beach day planned the following day and come hell or high water, we planned to go!  So, we got up early and Grandma showed us how to make the beef for the beef and noodles we'd have later that night.

Before they left for Florida, she came to our house and we had a thorough in-home hands on tutorial on how to make the noodles from scratch. (Looks like Grandpa was honing in on the lesson!)

They are Eric's absolute favorite, none compare to him, so we were lucky to learn from the master herself...doesn't get any better than that!

Then we headed off to Manasota Beach if search of sand, sun and sharks teeth.

The waves were really kicking up and with rip currents the waters were closed, but the wind was a plus for us and our mission! 

We were delighted with what we found...

tiny but beautiful, in-tact, prehistoric shark's teeth (check that off the old bucket list!)  

We came home in time to finish up our beef and noodles lesson and gobble up more home cooking and play a little 31 (a Thomas family favorite!)  The two days passed to quickly and it was time to scoot on to Daytona, but not before Grandma and Grandpa Thomas filled our bellies with more delicious home cooked breakfast
 (tough time for a gal to try and shed some winter lbs with all the wonderful home cooking.) 

It was so nice to visit with both sets of our grandparents.  We couldn't stop talking about that on our drive to the Atlantic Ocean. 

Daytona is one of the few places where you can still drive on the beach and you don't need 4-wheel drive as the beach is hard after the tide recedes. 

There were lots of these washed up with the tide too!  

Then off the lunch as a New York style deli

(can you tell how good those samis tasted?)

and we followed it up with ice cream because it was Valentines. And we could. We finished the day up with some time in Downtown Disney.  

Can you BELIEVE these Lego creations?!

It gave me warm fuzzies to have all this time with my Eric (mostly) all to myself.  With his work schedule it's a rarity to have that kind of time together.  For me, that was the best Valentine; the whole day together just hanging out and snacking our way through this blessed life we've been given.  

I just love that man so much. 
 Grandpa Thomas told me when we were visiting, "You know you are lucky to have him, he's a good one!" 

And I am.

For our Florida grand finale, we decided to do what Florida does best...a theme park! 

We chose Universal Studios...I'd never been and it'd been a LONG time for Eric.  We loved it! 

So many great rides.  The themes were excellent in all the areas. 

I must say,

while I'm not at huge fan of the show, 

I did love the Simpsons area....

well done Universal!  

Eric had to try the Duff beer...and then he found his twin!  

We watched some great parades (who doesn't love a minion?!)

and lots of movie-themed rides

and characters milling about

(Scooby Do and Shaggie with their Mystery Mobile were our favorites)

The highlight of the day was when Eric starred as the hero in a Disaster movie with The Rock as Christopher Walken directed. 

Pretty impressive!  It was such an action packed day. 

We rode every possible ride of the older Universal section of the park...what a thrill!  Then we crashed in our hotel room, packed up the next morning made one quick stop at this tourist trap: 

and wondered why we ever returned home to this:  

(Because it's home and we actually love it here, warts and all)  
What a nice chance to get away. 
 I know the saying goes "if there were no winter spring would not be as pleasant," but spring is just around the corner, right?