I landed back in Seattle on Thursday night, and though it was hard to bid farewell to my temporary life of leisure, it felt good be greeted at the airport with a giant bear-hug from Shane (I needed his body heat almost as much as his affection – brrrrrr!).  And I’m extremely grateful for my suitcase full of goodies from the Coffee Mill, and my head full of memories of blazing sunsets, sandy beaches, and long chats with my lovely lady relatives.

My time in Florida was every bit the vacation I had hoped it would be.  I fell into an easy routine of a morning jog or walk with my mom; then a visit to the Coffee Mill for a caffeine fix; lunch somewhere outdoors, whether at a restaurant patio or a nearby park; an afternoon full of shopping or pool-side sitting or sipping iced lattes back at the Mill; then dinner with various extended family, followed by a sunset walk on the beach; and finally, a mellow evening at my grandma’s house, spent talking or reading or watching TV.  The weather was perfect while I was there – plenty warm to sport tank tops and sip cold Sangria with my lunch, but not the sticky, humid kind of hot that I remember from my mid-summer visits to Florida as a kid.  It felt so, so good to wake up in the morning, throw on my running clothes, and head outdoors into the fresh, sun-laden air for a jog on palm tree-lined paths.  I hadn’t realized just how much I’ve missed being outdoors until I had the chance to feel the sun on my shoulders, hear the rustle of leaves, see the multitude of greens that make up grass and plants and trees.  I also got a good dose of wildlife, as Florida is rich with all kinds of birds and lizards and turtles and snakes (ok, so seeing a snake shimmy across the path right in front of me inspired more fear than reverence, but still…).

And iced coffee after breakfast – ohhhh…I’d forgotten that coffee could be served cold.  I passed several hours at the Coffee Mill while on vacation, sipping my lattes, browsing their stock of various goodies, reading on the porch out front.  My grandma started this business when she was in her late forties, on her own, and realizing that she needed to find a way to support herself.  Thirty-five years later, through the commitment and hard work of her and my aunt, the Coffee Mill is still going strong.  I remember visiting this place as a kid, standing in front the shelves filled with candy jars, asking Grandma what I could by with the 75 cents in my pocket.  She must have given me an extra-special family discount, because I remember leaving with a good supply of gummy bears, jelly beans, and lemon drops.  This time, I was filling my basket with coffee beans and tins of tea (and maybe a little bag or two of mint chocolates and cinnamon candies).  And it turns out that Grandma still cuts me a pretty good deal.  Score!

Being so close to the water was also an extra-special treat, and I made sure that I experienced the feeling of sand between my toes whenever given the opportunity.  Everything seems more colorful when you’re at the beach, from the paint on the buildings to the color of the sunsets.  And those Gulf sunsets are really somethin’ else.  Every night was different, but they were all equally lovely.  And just when I thought the view couldn’t be more incredible, we looked out one evening and saw a group of dolphins jumping out of the water not far from the shore!  It was like a scene out of a movie.

Sunday night:

Monday night:

Tuesday night:

We spent one perfectly beachy afternoon having lunch with my aunt at John’s Pass, a cute little fishing village with restaurants and a boardwalk.  The seafood was delicious, our table in the sun was ideal for Sangria-sipping, and the pelicans were especially lively as they swooped down each time a fishing boat came in.  After lunch, we drove over to Pass-a-Grille Beach in St Pete for drinks and dessert – more sun, more beach, more mmmmm…

As much as I adored the sun and the water and the coffee, the quality time I was able to spend with family was the thing that made this whole trip worth it.  My mom and I really, really enjoyed the chance to spend so much time together just doing ‘girl stuff’ – talking, shopping, even just sitting together and reading by the pool.  And goodness, if I’d known we be spending so many hours sitting with my grandma in her living room, listening to her memories and stories and ups and downs, I would have brought a tape recorder.  Those late-night talks confirmed what I already suspected – my grandmother is indeed one of the kindest, most faithful people I have ever met.  It was so meaningful to hear her talk about how she found peace after my grandpa left after over 20 years of marriage, to hear her childhood memories of Sunday afternoon dinners shared with dozens of cousins, to see how she has been able to take every sorrow and every joy in her life and lift it up for the glory of God.  It was also nice to catch up with my aunt and my cousins – I hadn’t seen some of these family members for nearly ten years, so a reunion was long overdue.

And so, my Floridian vacation is officially over.  As I type, I am wearing my coziest pajamas and am wrapped up in my warmest blanket – Shane scolded me today for cranking the heat in our house up way too high, but I was just trying to slowly ease back into this chilly Seattle weather.  At least I now have a solid stash of gourmet teas to help keep me toasty.  And plenty of memories of sunny beaches.

One Comment

  1. Aunt Karen says:

    Beautiful photos…you are so gifted. Thanks for the complimentary musings. It was wonderful to see you!