Tag Archives: florida

Sarah Palin Book Tour in Pensacola, Florida

19 Nov

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Guess who has two thumbs and got Sarah Palin’s autograph… IN PERSON?!?! Yeeeeah, that’s right. THIS GIRL!

The gorgeous Governor of Alaska was in Pensacola, Florida yesterday on her book tour for her newest work, “Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas”. I finished reading it just in time for the autograph signing event. I don’t think you guys understand the importance of that. One of my biggest, biggest and I mean BIGGEST pet peeves is getting into the Christmas spirit before Thanksgiving. DON’T YOU ENCROACH ON MY FALL TIME SANTA.

So reading a book that is just chock full of warm and fuzzies for the holidays shows just how much I adore Sarah Palin.

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My husband had duty on the base and it looked like he wasn’t going to be able to make it.. buuuut! He asked for permission to ditch out long enough to get the book signed, and against all odds the big wigs on the base said okay! So I picked him up from work at the very last minute, we ran to Books a Million, and we joined the 1000+ people crowding the building to meet the lovely lady herself (along with her family – Todd, Piper and Bristol).

I’m told she signed 894 books last night! And we’re but one itty bitty stop on her massive tour. Poor lady better have a hot bath and a masseuse on hand, amiright?!

So. There we were, a young mother, a young man in military uniform and a tiny newborn baby in a tiny little sailor suit, mingling among a crowd of what I’m willing to bet were 99.9% Christian conservatives. Jonathan was stopped and thanked for his service countless times. And the reaction to a Navy man with a tiny baby in his arms? PRICELESS. It was like a constant surround sound track of oooohhhs and ahhhhhs and “how old?” and “whats her name?” and “she’s so precious!”

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They made us leave our phones and cameras outside of the autograph area, but Palin had her own photography crew there taking pictures. When Jonathan approached the table with tiny Tessa in tow, we just KNEW we’d be seeing that image again soon. And lo and behold, the very next morning, what do we find on Sarah Palin’s personal Facebook page:

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Awwww yeah. That’s my sexy family. I am such a proud mommy and wife. I wasn’t in the picture because they were pushing us along single file and after my book was signed, they ushered me away. I turned around to see Jonathan chatting it up with Palin. I tried to walk back to the table but the Books a Million gal stopped me like I was some crazed wacko trying to go back to lick the pretty lady. (In her defense, the thought had crossed my mind. I’VE GOT SUCH A CRUSH ON HER!)

Anyhoo, I’ll follow up with a book review soon enough. MERRY CHRISTMAS YA’LL!!

Hiking Along the Gulf Islands National Seashore

17 Nov

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When Jonathan and I had just met, the one event that launched us from “just friends” to “future mother / father of my baby” was a three day, 22 mile backpacking trip along the High Sierra Trail in the Sequoia National Forest in California. We went into those woods all prettied up, looking our best, full of energy and secretly crushing on one another, and came out rugged, dirty, exhausted and madly in love.

I love hiking. And backbacking. And camping. So so so much. So does my handsome husband. It’s one of our many “things” we share, made even more special by our earliest memories forged together – trudging mile after excruciating mile over rocks, rivers and meadows, savoring campfire coffee while laying out under breathtaking starry night skies, talking about God and grace and cosplay and fantasy novels and everything in between. Sparks flew as we chopped firewood, dried out socks, purified alpine spring waters to fill our canteens, tended to blisters and hoisted 80 pound packs in the towering trees so the bears couldn’t reach them. We fell in love with our hiking boots on.

So now that baby Tessa is here with us, and I’m finally feeling up to being active again, I’ve decided to hike on one new hiking trail (or two) every week. I am a sucker for National Parks, and since we’re an easy 30 minute drive from the Gulf Islands National Shoreline, I’m making it a fun challenge to hike as much of the 80 miles of Florida District trails as I can while we’re stationed here in Pensacola.

I so want my little girl growing up feeling at ease and a fondness for nature and the outdoors. I don’t want her to be a stranger to the beauty of God’s creation, from the macro to the micro. And I figure, she’s never too young to start, eh? Wrapped up snug and warm on my chest with our ring sling, my baby girl has seen more of the world than most two month olds! It’s a habit I don’t want to break.

I started this little challenge just four weeks ago, and have had the joy of hiking with my tiny baby girl on the Trench Trail, the Woodland Nature Trail, the Brackenridge Trail and the Fishing Trail. That’s 5.9 miles down! Can I get a w00t w00t?!

These trails are far different from the giant redwood, majestic sequoia, waterfall lined, mountain vista views I’m used to. While part of me longs for the crisp alpine air of the John Muir meadows, I must say I am quickly growing fond of these new sights and smells on my outdoor treks.

The air is humid and salty, with the sound of ocean waves mingling with the sounds of tropic insects and palms fronds swaying in the gentle breezes. Exotic seashell fragments and stark white sands line the trails underfoot. Spanish moss and tropic vines hang from oak and hickory trees overhead, and every once in a while you can catch glimpses of brightly colored lizards and vibrant green tree frogs in the foliage. Everything is so tropic here (it is a stones throw from the Caribbean, after all) that I often find myself exclaiming asinine geeky things like, “That tree with the mushrooms on it looks like something out of Ferngully!” or “The moon over the waters looks like Pirates of the Caribbean!” or, most often, “OMG, this looks just like Jurassic Park. I keep expecting a dilophosaurus to jump out and spit at me!”

This park is chock full of history and mystery – more than 80 percent of the park is submerged lands teeming with marine life. It’s America’s largest National Seashore and one of the oldest “discovered” portions of America.

Europeans first visited the northern Gulf of Mexico in the early 1500s. Spain, in 1559, established a settlement in Florida on Pensacola Bay, but the place was abandoned soon afterward. Spaniards revived the settlement in 1698, surrendered it to the French in 1719, regained it by treaty in 1722, ceded it to the English in 1763, and repossessed it by force in 1781. The park is cluttered with historic forts, buildings, relics, and historic points of interest. I mean, how could it not be?!

The Gulf Islands are vibrant and fascinating in a very energetic way… far from the serenity and absorbing nature of the Sequoias. They’re two different beasts, and each appeals to my sense of adventure. (Though in my heart of hearts, I am a mountain girl through and through.)

I’m excited for the many more miles to hike before the Navy whisks us away to who-knows-where. And I’ll keep posting our adventures here on my blog. But in the meantime, here are some snapshots of the trails we’ve trekked thus far:

The Woodland Nature Trail by Fort Barrancas:

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The Trench Trail by Fort Barrancas:

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The Brackenridge Trail by Naval Live Oaks:

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The Fishing Trail by Naval Live Oaks:

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The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Cosplay Photoshoot

4 Nov

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I took to the beach with some new friends from the Pensacola Costumers Guild for a mini cosplay photoshoot this morning!

The beach we were at was called Chicken Bone Beach in Gulf Breeze, here in Pensacola. It was freezing cold, there were jellyfish EVERYWHERE and I stepped on a bunch of evil devil stickers that I STILL have in my feet. (First I mash my finger with a screwdriver, then this? I’m a rugged man-woman… lady. Or something.)

Anyway, we had a lot of fun taking pictures of their characters from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Aren’t these gals LOVELY?!?!

By the way, I just learned that the name Chicken Bone Beach is derived from the practice of Pensacola’s black peoples inability to pick up their chicken, but instead leave the bones spread around the sand in a most ignominious tomb. However, prior to knowing this interesting and highly racist factoid, I had the song Chicken Bone from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack stuck in my head. Still do, as a matter of fact.

Dreamin’, dreamin’, dreamin’ of the chicken bone…. happy, happy, happy with the chicken bone….

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Pumpkin Patch at Holland Farms

27 Oct

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Since this was baby girls first Halloween, I wanted to make sure the traditional picking out of pumpkins was a special one. Yes, yes, I know that she is but a wee thing, and won’t be picking out her own pumpkin and blah blah blah… BUT! It’s oh so important to start family traditions out right. And this is a family tradition we want to stick. Not to mention, my beautiful best friend Shauna was visiting us from California and just picking up pumpkins to carve from the grocery store just wouldn’t do. So!

I did some rummaging around the ol’ Google machine for some local pumpkin patches. Apparently, Pensacola’s idea of a patch of pumpkins consists of carting a bunch of tiny gourds to a church parking lot and charging ungodly amounts of cash for them. (Who has two thumbs, was raised in an agricultural community and has been spoiled for fresh produce and country hijinks? THIS GIRL!)

After asking among the Emerald Coast Crunchy Moms on Facebook, I finally found Holland Farms in Milton, Florida. This place is a peanut farm that has a genuine pick your pumpkin from the patch field. Here’s our visit in photos!

First, this is my best friend Shauna! We worked together at Disneyland, were roommates, and we were the maid of honors at each others weddings! She’s amazing and filled with happiness and pixie dust. While I was unable to convince her to move out to Pensacola with me, I was somehow able to persuade her to come and visit for a week!

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I’ve been to plenty of farms in my day, being raised in the Central Valley of California and all. That’s pretty much cow and crop country. But I’ve never been to a southern farm. Or a peanut farm. So a southern peanut farm was quite the treat. The laid back, down home, leisurely quality of the place was relaxing and fun. We took some cutesy photos on the front porch rocking chairs before embarking on our journey. See? I am particularly smitten with the photos of my handsome husband and beautiful baby girl.

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Once we paid for our wrist bands, (which covered the hayride to the pumpkin patch, one pumpkin per person, a corn maze and access to tons of other things that would have been awesome were we all five – corn kernel playpen, miniature zip line, swings, petting zoo, etc.) they handed us a cup of boiled peanuts and sent us on our way. Now, I’ve never had boiled peanuts before. And we spent a good 15 minutes or so eating our cups of mushy legumes and trying to decide if they were delicious or disgusting. After finishing off the lot of them, we still don’t know.

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Since we were at a peanut farm handing out bucket loads of boiled peanuts to visitors, the ground looked like this:

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After munching our peanuts, we boarded the tractor pulled hayride and took a really fun 10 minute trip through sunflower fields, corn fields, wooded areas, and peanut farmland. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the southern countryside was gorgeous!

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Baby girl fell asleep on the hayride. That bumpy road must’ve felt sooooo good!

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Finally, we arrived at the pumpkin patch! I was kind of hoping that I could go all barbaric Christmas tree farm on these gourds, and pick the healthy, living, vine-attached pumpkin I wanted and then chop it off myself. But they had already cut the ripe ones from the vine, so it was essentially the same as the church pumpkin patches back in Pensacola, only minus the parking lot in the middle of the city. Regardless, it was a heck of a lot more fun and scenic! Anyhoo, one of my pumpkins is pictured below. I’ll give you a million dollars if you guess which one.

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These are the pumpkins that Shauna and Jonathan picked!

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After picking our pumpkins, we headed back to the farm on the hayride. Baby girl fell asleep on the return trip too.

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When we got back to the farm, we decided to run through the corn maze really quickly. It was small, but I still somehow managed to get lost / turned around. Shauna got nervous but kept her bearings. Jonathan was a rugged outdoorsman and fearlessly led us through the tiny maze and back to civilization.

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And that was our trip to the pumpkin patch at Holland Farms in Milton, Florida! Happy Halloween ya’ll!

Tessa Meets Grandpa

5 Oct

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Okay, so I was about to post this blog, and then my comp deleted it. Erased it. Chomped it. Nommed it. Made it swim with da fishies. Whatever. And my nerves are so, freaking, raw right now. I’ve got such a short temper at the moment that I feel like I need to isolate myself for the sake of everyone else around me. So I’m going to retype this out, quickly and half-heartedly, and then go pout in my room.

So! My dad flew in from California a couple of days ago to see his very first grandbaby for the very first time! My dad has been bugging me since I was childbearing age to “give him grandbabies”. He’s become the creepy old man at grocery stores that goo-goo and ga-ga’s over strangers infants and toddlers. He’s baby crazy in a way that I have seldom ever seen a human being without ovaries be. So giving my daddy his longed for granddaughter was a happy moment for me. In fact, when I found out I was pregnant the first time, he was the very first person we told.

While the whole purpose of his visit was to play with Tessa – bouncing her on his knee, singing all the old bedtime songs he used to sing to me, and FaceTiming with the rest of the family – it kind of sucks that my dads week in Pensacola has been plagued by the government shutdown, and an impending hurricane warning. Everything he wanted to see / do was shut down or unavailable. So he’s mostly been helping me run errands and watching the baby while I get chores done. Which has been AWESOME, let me tell you.

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Me, my dad and my handsome husband, enjoying the porch at Cracker Barrel.

But we did get a chance to visit the Pensacola Lighthouse again. Last time I climbed it I was 8 months pregnant. This trip Tessa had to wait downstairs with Jonathan while my dad and I made the climb, since no children could be carried up or down the steps. And we did get to go on a short hike along the Trench Trail near Fort Barrancas. So there were some things we got to go do instead of just sitting in my apartment twiddling our thumbs. Oh, because I forgot to mention, our PS3 / DVD player quit working. Yeah, this has been the ultimate week of nothing going right. So anyway, before I start clouding up this blog with ever increasing amounts of frustration, I’ll just post some pix from my dads trip and say despite my current short temper, it’s been a fun week:

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Creepy Spiders In Our Yard

4 Oct

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We’d been warned about storms, flash floods, alligators and water moccasins while living in Florida, but no one – NO ONE – warned us about the creepy spiders that seem to be lurking around and oozing from every crevice of our apartment complex in Pensacola.

Here’s what happened last week while my mom was visiting and Jonathan came back from walking the dog:

Jonathan – “Come downstairs and see this huge spider. It’s huge! Giant”

Me – “Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure honey. I don’t feel like going downstairs.”

Jonathan – “But it’s giant! Remember that huge spider at our old apartment that was bigger than a quarter? It’s bigger than that. It’s.. it’s…” *grabs a tennis ball* “It’s as big as this! It’s legs are longer than this!”

Me – “Okay, sure sweetie, whatever. Let me grab my shoes.” *a few minutes later while downstairs* “OMG, is that one of those spiders that eat birds?!?!”

Turns out it’s a Banana Spider, aka a Golden Silk Orb-Weaver. They are known for their giant golden colored silk webs (this web is large enough to catch my golden retriever) and yes, these spiders HAVE been known to eat small birds, and even small snakes. I Google searched this shiz, and it looks like the bite of this spider is potent, but not lethal to humans. It’s bite has a neurotoxic effect about equivalent to that of a black widow spider, though the venom itself is not as powerful.

Jonathan and I wanted to hold a leaf up to it for size reference, and when we tossed the leaf up there that sucker RAN to attack it. Seriously, it moved faster than a blink. I think I screamed and ran like a little girl. This thing is FIERCE.

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And so naturally I’ve named it Shelob, and I’ve taken to bringing it insect offerings to garner goodwill and avoid being eaten in my sleep. My dad is in town visiting from California at the moment and we brought it a cockroach last night. It attacked and bit the roach with an audible crunch, and then carried it in its mandibles to the top of its lair. It looked like something from The X-Files. Or, ya know, probably something from Animal Planet, if I ever watched that channel.

THEN!! After discovering the Banana Spider, the very next day, Jonathan walks back into the apartment.

Jonathan – “Okay, come see this creepy spider in the yard.”

Me – “A new one?!”

Jonathan – “A new one. And this one is like.. a crab. Thing. With spikes.”

And lo and behold:

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Creepier still, we pointed the spider out to Stephanie, one of our local breast milk donors, and she said she had never seen either of these spiders. And she has been a Pensacola, Florida native her whole life. I guess we’re just lucky??

After some Googling we found this one is called a Star Spider, aka a Spiny-Backed Orb Weaver. These guys are sad because they apparently live only to reproduce. The gals die after ovulating, and the guys die after sperm induction into a female. Ouch. Anyway, those spiky guys are relatively harmless as well.

Needless to say, Jonathan and I are steering clear of the trees outside of our apartment on future dog walks. It’s been fun, but two creepy spiders are enough fun for me.

Casino Beach in Gulf Breeze, Pensacola

28 Sep

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This is another blog post I’d intended to post looooong ago. My “things I want to blog about” list is very very very backed up. (Speaking of backed up, my toiled is clogged and instead of calling maintenance, I went out and bought a plunger, and unplugged my very first toilet. It was rank and awful and filled with delightful things that only a woman who has experienced the two weeks post pregnancy could fathom. Now I feel powerful and commanding, and the plunger is my mighty scepter. But I digress.)

These photos were taken about a week before I gave birth. My doctor had just released me from the majority of my bed rest restrictions, so we decided to hit Casino Beach at Gulf Breeze, the beach that everyone raves about as the iconic white sand / blue water beach of Pensacola. The plan was that Jonathan and his mum would go swimming and I would sit in one of the overpriced chair / umbrella rentals and play with my phone and camera and people watch and get bitter over all the bikini bodies.

Speaking of, this was my FIRST TIME baring my preggo belly in public. I was slightly extremely uncomfortable doing so. Now before everyone jumps on me for being anti-woman or some drivel like that, let me clarify – I think the pregnant form is beautiful, mysterious and nigh sacred. Everyone else’s but mine, that is. In addition to chunking me up all over, pregnancy caused my belly button to veer off at a crooked angle, and gave me lovely purple stretch marks streaking up my sides like some retarded finger painting tiger mauled me.

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So anyway, off we trotted to the beach. It had been storming off and on for the past month, so the water was, shall we say, less than blue. In fact, it was so churned up with seaweed and algae that it looked slightly like we were stepping into the Mississippi River. I am NOT fond of seaweed while swimming in the ocean (that’s kind of why I tend to avoid the ocean… that, and things LIVE in there) so I ventured out to my waist (the water is so warm!), looked around at the sludge trying to worm its way into my swimming trunks, then said, “Yup, done now.”

The sand, however, WAS sparkling white. Tropical, beautiful, and the texture of sugar. It felt like getting a foot massage just walking over it.

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After my adventure into the sea, I snuggled down into the beach chairs just as a storm rolled overhead. I mean, one half of the sky was bright blue, the other was dark black / grey. The weather here in Pensacola is kind of bipolar like that. Jonathan and his mom raced out to jump into the water, splashed maybe a couple of steps in, and then the whistle was blown to clear the beach. Which was slightly lame.

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So that was our first beachy adventure in Pensacola! Hopefully the next one will look a bit more like the postcard imagery that Pensacola plasters on their tourism websites, with clear blue water and perfect weather. And next time, we’ll have little Tessa to join us!!