Florida Vacation 2013

IMG_3804A few weeks ago Ryan and I returned home from an incredible vacation in Florida with Aaron and Tracy. My parents took care of our girls for the week, so I got to spend some time catching up on sleep and getting mentally prepared to be a mother of THREE kiddos in a couple more weeks. This little break was just what we needed.IMG_1689IMG_1682

I am so thankful for the close friendship I have with my brother Aaron and my sister-in-law Tracy. Ryan and I truly have so much genuine fun when we get to hang out with Aaron and Tracy.

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I’m glad to be home with my girls again. I missed their little faces and their ongoing commentary of our days. It was such a great week! IMG_1692IMG_1693

In closing, here’s a recap of our entire “Real Florida” vacation. Yay!

Cocoa Beach and Jimmy Hula’s
Kayaking at Wekiva Springs State Park
Scenic Boat Tour and The Lake House
Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park
Boating on the Intracoastal Waterway

Florida Vacation – Boating on the Intracoastal Waterway

IMG_1533 IMG_1536Tracy’s parents let us take their boat (The Mary Lou) out for a day on the Intracoastal Waterway. It was Memorial Day weekend so everyone and their brother were out on the water. It was like a high-class version of what happens on sand bars in Michigan lakes on the 4th of July. Instead of pontoon boats parked out there, they were yachts… but the people on board were just as “Michigan” as you’d see in a Kid Rock video. I loved it.IMG_1539

IMG_1542IMG_1549IMG_1552As the tide went out, Aaron anchored us at a few sand bars where we could take a swim, look for sand dollars and hermit crabs, and run around on the sand. Tracy found this little tide pool on one sand bar. Her own little private oasis.IMG_3790IMG_3793IMG_3803IMG_1543

It was a truly glorious day on to be on the water. The weather was perfect. We packed a cooler and ate our lunch aboard the S.S. Mary Lou.IMG_1544IMG_1559

After hitching up the boat to Aaron’s truck and dropping it back off at Tracy’s parents lake house we picked up some “award-winning” burger meat at Cavallari in Oveido and headed home for a grill out.

Air Boat Extravaganza

If you haven’t been on an air boat, don’t wait any longer! It’s one of the best ways to experience “the real Florida” (or at least that’s what they say). Tracy happened to get a Groupon for air boating, so we booked our ride and arrived at Loughman Lake Lodge 15 minutes before our scheduled departure.

Since our captain was running a bit behind schedule Ryan and Aaron went back to get some stuff out of the truck while Tracy and I headed for the dock. We thought it would be so hilarious if the guys came around back to find us posing behind this sign. We stood back there with silly grins on our faces for a long time before they actually saw us. It was not as funny as I was hoping, but Tracy and I laughed a lot at ourselves. har har har. Our tour was about 75 minutes, starting out with some high-speed cruising down the St. John’s River. About 2 minutes into our trip we saw a glorious bald eagle, which stood up, spread it’s wings, took off and flew over right as we were passing. We couldn’t help but salute. It was beautiful. I was too busy singing the National Anthem into the wind to grab my camera in time… you’ll just have to trust me that it was an awesome sight.                                      Our Captain found hundreds of alligators for us as we glided through the swampy wetlands. Each time we’d zoom around a bend or through a patch of grass a handful of gators would launch themselves into the water. We saw a couple of really big ones (easily 12-feet long) and we saw some newly hatched little buddies chomping away at some minnows in the tall grass as we slowly floated by.

Our air boat ride was exhilarating and full of wildlife. Hooray for fun times!

P.S. if you go to Loughman Lodge, beware that the toilet seat in the restaurant IS NOT attached! Just wanted you to know.

The Beach + Sushi = Ridiculous Happiness

We went to the beach a few times during our vacation – and on one of our beach days, we decided to get Sushi for dinner. Going to the beach and eating sushi all in one day was seriously one of the best things I’ve ever imagined. If I could re-live this day over and over I would. I’m pretty certain my mansion in heaven is a beach house.

Aaron and Ryan found a Portuguese Man O’ War in the surf – of course, Aaron picked it up. He is one with nature.

Our favorite sushi place is Seito Sushi in Baldwin Park. We always try to save some $$ so we can eat at Seito once on every vacation to Aaron and Tracy’s house.

To our surprise, my super-generous parents gifted the 4 of us with a special envelope that said, “OPEN TOGETHER” … So we waited to open it until we got there. Here is Ryan holding the envelope on the plane on the way to FL.

Inside the envelope was a really nice note about how great it is to be together, talk, laugh and encourage each other along the path God has laid out before us as well as some cash to help us enjoy a meal together. This was not a small amount of sushi! YUM! Thanks so much mom and dad!! You guys are the best! We all love how much you love the time we spend together.

Flats Fishing in Florida

My brother Aaron loves to fish. He knows all sorts of things about fish and how to catch them. He told me being out on the flats restores his soul, which pretty much proves he is a true fisherman. The flats are an area of ocean where the water is 3 feet deep or less for miles. In many circles, Mosquito Lagoon (where we were) is referred to as the “Redfish Capital of the World”  Aaron has caught some big ones. He got this 42 inch guy (his personal best) in March. Needless to say, I had high hopes of breaking his record on my first trip out. 

On Tuesday morning we were out the door by 4:30am so we could be on the water before the sun came up. We stopped at a bait store to pick up a bucket of shrimp, the smell reminded me of the years I spent working at a Lunker’s when I was in high school. Aaron and Ryan launched the boat while Tracy and I loaded the gear and we were off to tail some redfish!

When Redfish eat off the bottom, their tails come up out of the water, which is why flats fisherman say they’re “tailing redfish”. You can spot a school of Reds when you see their wake or when you see their tails flipping out of the water… we didn’t see any, I think the sound of Space Shuttle Discovery Flying Over Our Boat might have spooked them.

It was incredible to be in such a serene place as the sun came up over the horizon. I haven’t seen a sunrise on purpose in awhile. (I’ve seen quite a few over the last 2 years from the nursery window while comforting babies… but those were accidental sunrise viewings.)

It was silent, other than the sound of birds chirping and an occasional manatee surfacing and snorting before meandering under the water again. Incredible.

 

Aaron used a paddle to push us around as we fished. After minimal success we moved into the channel and caught a few little tiny pin fish like this one. I would call it a “bluegill” but in Florida they’re called “pin fish”.

Then we caught a couple of sheeps head, which continually fooled me into thinking I was reeling in something massive… but once I got them to the boat they were just pretty little striped buddies. They had freaky teeth that look a tad too much like human teeth, which really weirded me out. Aaron’s phone has an app that tells him what the regulation sizes are for fish you can keep… mine were an inch too small to keep, so we just took pictures then set them free. “Swim home little fishys!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildlife was everywhere! In addition to all the local birds like Blue Heron and Ibis we saw dolphins, gators, turtles, dozens of huge manatees, hundreds of jellyfish, and then a flock of wild pink flamingos flew over! PINK FLAMINGOS! Our day fishing might have been one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in Florida. I got to fish with my brother – something we used to do together all the time growing up. I loved it!

Hiking in Florida

On Monday we hiked at the Little Big Econ State Forest. Hiking in Florida is much lovelier than hiking in Ohio… there are flowers and palm trees, live oaks with moss hanging off and lush greenery as far as the eye can see. The weather could not have been better for hiking – not too hot, a little overcast and warm breezes blowing through the trees.

Aaron and Tracy have a golden retriever named Bailey who came along on the hike. She loves hiking… such a good dog.

Being the good dog owner that he is, Aaron would scan the river for gators before he let Bailey jump in. GATORS! We don’t have those up north.

Later, Aaron found a big ol’ turtle in a hole along the trail – he tried to pull it out but that guy was not budging! One difference between Aaron and myself is that he willingly sticks his hands into animal burrows…

Hiking is the best. Hiking with people I love is more than the best!