Bonnaroo Is My Neverland (Part One)

(I swear I clicked publish on this the other day, and it didn’t go anywhere! So since this draft is just sitting in my dashboard, I figured I may as well go ahead and share it now…at least the beginning.)

I know, I have been a horrible blogger in recent days, but in my defense I have absolutely been all over the place. So, you know how I’ve gone to several concerts lately? When I was at the Phoenix show back in May in Orlando, I made a new friend. I got his number because he wanted to buy my Postal Service ticket at Hard Rock a month later. We kept in touch over this time, becoming fast friends, an epic long phone conversation etc. One of the first things we talked about at House of Blues with people surrounding us in the crowd was Bonnaroo. At that time it was a distant dream, a someday bucket list check. (Because the original group I knew who wanted to go, then had a wedding to attend and bailed. And you know? I’ve planned all these other quick trips lately, and it didn’t seem as feasible anymore.) So, I would stare at the line-up online and we would discuss hypothetical, if you were going what would you see and compare scenarios. Then I went to Athens, and we were in this cool little bar and all of a sudden Bonnaroo came up. And we were drinking, so of course excitement escalated. One of the guys had been the previous year, so he was completely gung ho, and in joking I was like hey! tickets aren’t sold out yet, we could still go. So he started corralling people, and being like wanna go to Bonnaroo?! Of course, they thought we were crazy. Then a few more weeks passed, and it got closer and closer and the itch got stronger, and I was like hey! we could seriously still do this. I weighed the pros and cons of irresponsibility? How crazy was it, to up and go to Tennessee with like less than 48 hours notice? And some people spend a whole year prepping for this, and I was gonna do it in the window of time after work in two days? But I kept thinking of two Christmas breaks ago when I got invited to the Keys and I turned the offer down, thinking I can’t just run away from work like that (even though I had vacation time.) Then I sat at work with absolutely nothing going on during the holidays and got sent home early and I was kicking myself because I could’ve been on a boat in paradise! So, I vowed I wouldn’t let opportunities like that pass me by again. And here it was staring me right in the face. Plus, then James threw out the:

“You’ll never be in your 20s again! You’ll turn 30 next year if you don’t go to Bonnaroo!”

Which were like the magic words.ย  Hello, he’s right! I’d been saying the whole time, I wanna go while I’m young! The years are going by, and you’re not always at the place in life where you can just throw crap in a bag and road trip hours away on short notice to spend four days camping and concert watching on a farm in the middle of nowhere. (Think of all my married friends with babies?!) So. I posted a Facebook status inquiring about adventure partners, and one of my original adventure partners from growing up responded – Kaela. And she was in. So, she just had to work out the details but since I knew it was a giant possibility, I couldn’t sleep that night. I knew if we were going, we’d have to be prepared in some way so I started scouring the Bonnaroo Survival Blogs for tips and advice, and what to pack. Plus, James started passing on his Veteran knowledge, and a few other friends who’d attended in the past. That night, while I told my roommate there was a chance we’d go, but I didn’t wanna get my heart set on it – she was so super encouraging. So I had James with the you’re only in your twenties once spiel, and I had myself with my encouraging, no day but today story! Then Alex, who pulled out her photo album from the Woodstock anniversary concert, and her tales of awesomeness, and she was like YOU GUYS HAVE TO DO IT! So basically my heart was set on it, so there I was 4am, reading blogs on my phone while I couldn’t sleep. The next day Kae was like yeah, we need to do this – we have to do this. So, we bought tickets. Then that night, they sold out. So obviously, it was meant to be. That night, and the following day were a whirlwind of trying to pack and scrounge up items we would need (and I’ll probably do a blog post on a crash course of how to pack for Bonnaroo in 48 hours,) which included a zillion trips to Walmart/Target/Sams Club, lots of photo text messaging, and pure adrenaline that broke concentration on anything else.

Wednesday night, (I had returned to the house for a Voice watching break, and to scan the inventory) before I ran back out again. I sat surrounded by clothes and miscellaneous camping items, and food scattered throughout the living room, with re-runs of Freaks and Geeks playing in the background because why not? This was too exciting of a situation to be stressed, but there’s always an open door for some giggling in my life, and so what if I know that series by heart? Kae was driving from St.Augustine, and got there late. We hadn’t seen each other since November of 2010, so of course we needed a little catch up time! (Though we were gonna have a 7.5 hour drive to take care of that in a few hours.) But first things first – beast mode with the packing! Successfully threw four days worth of stuff in my car. Then we chatted, then we nodded off for about three hours, and then grabbed some last minute things from the house (including coffee of course,) and hit the road! We had a few stops, gas stations and bathrooms. A random exit in Georgia where we happened upon a Walmart, picked up some supplies, and later we stopped somewhere outside of Atlanta, (I think Marietta maybe who knows) and went to that Willy’s burrito place? One last hot meal in air conditioning! Yeahhh.

We were getting kind of anxious as we followed the live tweeting of #BonnarooTraffic and expecting to be sitting in the lines for hours. We might have played a little chinese fire-drill off some abandoned looking mountainous exit, so we could trade drivers and neither of us would throw up in the high altitude condition swap. Plus, we got mixed directions of driving to Coffee County High School to get our wristbands, or to just go to the tollbooth. I called customer service again, they sent us to the toll booth. We’d both read the warnings of not entering the grounds without a full tank of gas, but we were kind of out of luck on that note, not realizing exit after exit would be closed with cops guarding the ramps! So, all of a sudden there was the flashing sign and it was time to turn off! So, on we went with a half tank. And whoulda thought?

We got in, in like less twenty minutes! Though watching vehicle searches was definitely entertaining. (I have a feeling some of the people wandering the parking lot with vests on and no shirt weren’t actually volunteers, but just wanderers.) When it was our turn not much happened other than them throwing all the tampons out of my glove compartment everywhere, and some koozies from the console? Realll intense search, guys. Then we went to this trailer, got our wristbands and first they didn’t activate so we had to go back, THEN we got sent to park in the GA camping section! Dun dun dun! Since people had gotten there on Wednesday before the gates even opened we were thinking this parking situation could get interesting, but the Bonnaroo Guru was correct in telling us that it kind of works out for the later crowd because they get parked closer to Centeroo. We were thinking we were gonna be out miles away on that 50 minute walk (but next to the $1 grilled cheese.) Literally we were like a ten minute walk away in Pod 6 Camp Zoolander (holla!) right next to an RV lot. Our campsite neighbors were a couple from North Carolina who go to college in Boone, and then a crew of kids from Hudson, Florida (land of the youth soccer tournaments down in Central Florida near Tampa.) And a large group of southern kids behind us who were a constant source of amusement with their stories.

We started setting up our campsite, and of course in came rain. But we were smart and went ahead and got the canopy up, so we could work under it. Good thing Kaela is an expert outdoorswoman (first time setting up a tent,) or I would have been laying on a tarp on the ground with the tent in a pile. We got it all set up in less than thirty minutes, and bam! We were done. So we changed clothes, checked out our surroundings, and went on our way to check out Centeroo (where all the stages and tents are.)

Then the true adventure began. I don’t think we knew what we were in for, (and I mean that in the best way possible.)

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Believe In the Good

Okay, so I know I’ve been silent on the blog this week. Life has been a little bit crazy with some curve balls that got thrown during my trip, and then when I was driving back to Tallahassee I heard about the Boston Marathon bombing on the radio. Throughout the week things have still been a little crazy, and I have been trying to process what’s happened. Of course now as the events just get more wild it’s an even harder thing to comprehend but I have a few things I want to put out there! I will elaborate on my Knoxville and Nashville adventures sometime soon, and I will share pictures. In the meantime, I’ll tell you that Tennessee won me over instantly. I have a special spot in my heart for this state, now.

I was driving on the interstate when I heard the announcement over the radio. Immediately it felt hard to breathe. I kept trying to walk myself through deep breaths, and staying calm. So many thoughts flooded to my mind, between the people that I know were there, the people I know that could be there, but then beyond that – running in general. If you’ve visited this blog before you know how passionate I am about running. There is something incredibly special about races. When I participated in my first 5K in August of last year, I was instantly hooked. I totally felt that sense of camaraderie with the people surrounding me as our feet pounded the paths of the trails. I have never been disappointed about any race I’ve participated in – they’re too fun for that! Between the runners, volunteers, spectators, supporters – I’ve never come across anything quite like it. There is just this overwhelming positive energy that exists every time. These people, essentially strangers, all share one common bond. It doesn’t matter your place in the work world, your gender, race, or age. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been running, or how fast or slow you are. It’s an undeniable thread that connects each of us.

(My friend Lizzi who qualified for Boston 2014 posted this on Facebook this week, and it speaks volumes.)

Then there’s the other side of running. It has saved my sanity. Of that, I am sure. And I turn to running as outlet in times of frustration (that’s how it all began for me, anyway.) So to reek such malicious, cruel, havoc on an event of such celebration? I mean, this is like the Olympics of running. It’s a lifelong dream for many. It’s a big deal for everyone involved, the event organizers, the history behind the marathon, for the runners – their families and supporters. What is wrong with people? Such a heartbreaking thing for everyone involved. Just the attempt to take away something people love in such a dark violent way – it’s just sad and senseless. Thankfully, everyone I knew up there is safe. Because I didn’t have a phone, I wasn’t connected to an instant stream of info through email and Twitter like I normally would be, which probably helped my psyche at the time. But when I checked my email on my mom’s phone in Tallahassee I saw the flood of messages from GWTC list-serv, and wow. I was just floored. This is one of my favorite pieces I’ve read that relate to Monday’s events, and a runner’s heart.

While we have this frustrating situation, what is uplifting about everything is the awesome compassion that has shined such a light on everything – how inspiring it is to see pure intentioned people just helping one another – no questions asked, in whatever way that means. I am sure throughout the week, you’ve probably seen this quote from Mister Rogers (genius!) floating around:

I have to tell you, that I know things like this are scary. This morning I woke up and glanced at Facebook and saw some posts that didn’t make sense so I switched to Twitter and woke up immediately when I saw the news that was transpiring with the suspects. I went out of my room and told my roommate who had already turned on the TV (though it was barely 6am.) I was just blown away by how crazy it all seemed, so what did I do? Lace up my shoes and go for a run. Because that’s what I do. So, I’ll say that yeah I feel like this is just really hard to even mentally grasp (especially with the bombings Monday, the explosion in Texas, then with the lockdown and search…) texting my friend who’s parents live there, hearing it on the radio on my drive to work, and now on the TV while I’m at work and it’s just a lot to take in. BUT but so so so important some things to remember: like Mister Rogers says, look for the helpers. They are there. While the world can be so unpredictable, dark and scary – there is so much good. So much good.

I myself have been overwhelmed with the kindness of people in the past month. It hasn’t even been a month when my engine exploded on the way to Jacksonville, (and look what happened then? Cousin rushed to where I was on the interstate, Jules scooped me up en-route to Jax.) Over the weekend I accidentally left my cell phone in a cab. The manager of the cab company (Brett) was so nice and really tried to help as much as he could. No luck, but that is not worth spoiling a trip over. When I got back to Sanford on Monday (well, after another stranger who had helped me with my bag when I was flying out on Friday AND REMEMBERED ME we chatted about our trips, and he helped me with my bag, again!) I was walking to the parking lot and thought it was odd that my horn didn’t beep when I pressed the key. Come to find out my car battery had died over the weekend. So there I was with no phone and a dead car. A couple across the lot asked if I needed help, and they saved my day in a big way. The husband got out to help me, and let me borrow his phone, while his wife CIRCLED THE PARKING LOT attempting to find someone with jumper cables! She found someone, then that van load came over as well. (Weird coincidence the man was someone I remembered from the airport on Friday because he was also wearing running shoes sitting down the aisle from me.) This man jumped my car, and then looked in his GPS and gave me the address and directions to the nearest Advanced Auto Parts. Then the couple, offered to let me FOLLOW THEM to the store, to make sure I got there alright (not lost, and without breaking down.) Can you believe that? We stopped at a Napa first, and the man got out to go check on the battery so I wouldn’t need to turn off my car. Then we went further up the road to Advanced, and he went in and checked there (the other place didn’t do batter installations.) At that time the woman let me use her phone again to call my mom so she’d know I got somewhere that I could get a battery (She said, if it were my daughter I’d want her to be able to call and tell me.) Then the husband came out again and they did have the battery but he was soo nice in making sure I had the funds to pay for it because they didn’t want me to get stuck there! Then the Advanced Auto Parts guys, Chris & Michael were so kind as well. I was there for a while. They let me use the store phone. I made a plan with my mom. Figured out an exit to meet her at because they wanted me to take my car to a shop they were concerned at the levels it was showing up at on the test even with a new battery. I was there for more than an hour, and at one point it was like I was a fellow employee (they even joked that I should apply for a job there, and about how I should meet Brucey (apparently a grumpy sketchy old man.) They even let me behind the counter to use the phone and helped me with directions (another stranger letting me use their phone.) I was overwhelmed with gratitude towards this constant stream of generous, good spirited people. My “luck” (it’s not luck, it’s like this crazy combination of grace and guidance in this path of sweet people) continued throughout the week. I don’t know much about cars, so really anyone could take advantage of my weakness there, but they don’t. A friend from Inverness gave me her daughter’s old phone, so I didn’t have to buy a new one. I wasn’t charged for getting my car checked out, (when they didn’t find anything wrong with it!), a man at Sam’s had the installation fee waived on some new tires since I’d come in last week too. Then there was this weird thing going on with the windshield and the guy was like hey! this is no problem, I can just snap this little piece here and you’re good. Seriously. Not even kidding you.

My point is, life is crazy, the world is crazy, you never know what’s coming. If all these things came my way when I was in my earlier twenties, I’d have fallen apart some where. These days, I’ve learned to roll with the punches. You gotta take what comes your way and figure out how to keep moving, make a plan of action, do something. If I was sitting in the middle of a parking lot crying, I’d probably still be there. None of these people had any obligation to me, no one had to help, or offer anything but again and again they appeared. One person after another continued to be an example of compassion, love, and sweet-natured kindness. My faith in humanity couldn’t be stronger.

So now what? You continue to look for a helper. You BE a helper. Be nice. Everyone seems surprised at my own weird chain of events this week, but the thing is the nicer you are to people? They have to try really hard to be mean back. It doesn’t always work, but you have to try. And not being nice is stupid. Don’t let fear stop you from living your life. Appreciate where you are, what you have, who you’re surrounded by. For me, this is a year of reunions – a celebration of friendship, and with everything going on it just makes me more thankful for the time I’ve spent with people I love lately. Make the most of life, enjoy all the little moments. Make spontaneous decisions, take the adventures.

Tomorrow morning Tallahassians will take to the streets and run the Palace Saloon 5K wearing blue & yellow ribbons showing support. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll drive over to Orlando for Andrew McMahon’s show at The Beacham, but Sunday I want to be back in time for the 5.2 at 5 for Boston. I am looking forward to pounding the pavement with people I’ll feel connected to, without question.

Keep running, keep loving, keep living. Smile. Believe in the good. I promise, it’s there.

Run for the Redfish

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So, Saturday came and went and I survived! After weeks and weeks of training I can now say that I’ve run a half marathon. Run for the Redfish at Pier Park in Panama City Beach was actually 13.35 miles, oh boy. So many things I learned in just a day, things I would want to do differently next time, etc. but it was definitely an enjoyable experience. It was a slow shuffle across the start when we took off. I had a wave of anxiety as I jogged to the first turn where there were tons of spectators taking photos and videos on the side. Then I tried to remind myself that it was just a run, something I do every weekend and to chill out and enjoy it because it was finally here! The first few miles were smooth and enjoyable, and yeah I alternated the amount of success I had at the hydration stations. A few times they were some perfect sips, no mess but others there was a splash I felt water drip down my leg and was thankful it wasn’t sticky Gatorade, later I accidently splashed myself in the face water droplets covering my eyelashes. The scenery was great though, it was really nice to be able to just turn my head and see the waves rolling in on the beach – teal blue water that looked like it was chemically enhanced to be so pretty, straight out of a cruise catalog of the Caribbean. That’s a long time to be running so my brain goes about a million places. I usually pray a little bit, mindful and thankful that I even have the ability to be participating in such an activity. Then as I was listening to Jack’s Mannequin on Pandora, mentally drafted a little thank you note to Andrew McMahon. I thought about the track meets I used to hang out at during high school. My running friends from over the years who stamina and ability I’d always admired. That’s all going on inside my head you know but then there was plenty to notice around me, too. There was this one person cheering on the side of the road with a “Find Your Happy Pace” sign that made me smile every time I passed it. There were kids with crayon drawings, high-fiving their moms as they passed. A whole family all in matching shirts that kept relocating to different miles to cheer on someone’s significant other. They were so supportive of all of the other runners that passed too, though! Runners of all ages, male and female, different sizes were surrounding me. I felt overwhelmed when I thought about how cool it was that here was this huge group of people all with this one thing in common, though we might have had different goals (some with certain times in mind, others just wanting to complete the race,) it gave me goosebumps to think about how we were all part of one big tribe united in this bond. ย I was so excited for the people leading the pack who I saw as they’d already reached the halfway point and were on their way to the finish. So excited for the one female that was up there with that group. The kid who was under 14, a speedy one! The guy in the Gumby costume who was carrying the head at that point, (and still trucking along.) The guy with team of cheerleaders who glanced over and told me good job around mile four, and when he sped up after a water station, I saw him fist bump the man in front of me. Around mile 5.5 an older gentleman in an Iron Man Finisher November 2012 shirt passed me, and I just thought “wow! How incredible!” The friendly police officer at the turn-around point who made jokes with the guy running behind me. The second half the sun was higher and brighter and felt like it was shining directly one me. The next long race I’ll definitely need to wear a cap. The wind picked up and there wasn’t much shade, and I was feeling it around mile 9, not like tired yet persay just knowing that I was nearing the end. The temperatures were definitely warmer than they’d had been on my runs in months! Nearing the 80s by the end, and I’d grown used to running in the dark, cool temps of early morning and evenings since the sun has been hiding for so long! There were two men running together by me, near the end and it kind of helped that there was someone up ahead so I knew what path to follow to the end. Eventually I reached the point where you cross the street to the median, nearing the finish line! Normally during a race at that point it seems like it’s so close, that time I wondered to myself, why does it feel so far away?! But I’d conserved some energy walking through some of the last hydration stations to give myself little pick me-ups so I pushed myself at the end. It was kind of weird because the runners were all so spaced out so there wasn’t anyone near me when I was coming in to the finish. I distinctly remember a couple sitting on the sidewalk shouting and cheering. A woman in a lime green jacket screaming “You go girl, come on you can do it!” It was just so encouraging in that last bit, ya know? When you crossed over the finish a DJ was playing pumping music, cheerleaders were cheering! It was all pretty encouraging though as I took the water and the medals being handed out, and sought out a shady spot, I don’t think it’d really hit me yet. Afterwards they had an after-party where awards were given and they served free gumbo and Landshark at Margaritaville. We were able to cheer on the last two participants from the front deck, and it was awesome to hear all the clapping and motivating words from the crowd. It was such a positive environment full of encouraging, inspiring people. All of the organizers and volunteers were so nice and helpful! Everything was incredibly organized and made the whole thing so stress-free. I’m so glad I picked this race to be my first half-marathon. I never would have thought that at twenty-five I would have set and accomplished this goal. I’m not normally proud of myself for things, but this one I am. It’s an incredibly feeling to be self-motivated to achieve something, and something that you have to do through discipline, and work hard for. Like my Dad said, “who’d have thought at twenty-five that the same girl from years ago who cried in the backyard when volleyball wasn’t going to work out, would run a half-marathon?” Yeah, I think the same thing…This is coming from the girl who the hardest I ran in my whole life was the time I was walking in Bay Meadows in seventh grade with my best friend Beth, and some dogs got out and started chasing us. She was on the track team, and I definitely was in front of her – I did not want to get bit by one of these dogs! I remember when we got back to her driveway, both pretty breathless, she was like “whoa! You ran faster than me!” That was because something was chasing me, I was trying to get away but now it’s for the fun of it, I run because I enjoy running. So yeah! This has been pretty exciting. And I’m thankful for the friends and family who encouraged and supported me along the way, for not making me feel crazy for wanting to do this. I’m thankful that my parents woke up way too early on a Saturday, drove me to Panama City Beach, cheered for me, helped me feel better after I was exhausted – just such an awesome support system. My friend Lizzi (the one who is a super speedy awesome runner, who made me so inspired watching her become a runner along the way) sent me a card in the mail I got last Thursday, and it was so sweet and I teared up and it welcomed me to the 13.1 club. I am so excited to be a member. Mandy mailed me a tie-dye 13.1 sticker! I need to get my car washed so I can stick it on a clean windshield… In case you’re wondering, the rest of the day involved plenty of Gatorade, Powerade, water, an epson salt bath soak, napping, pretzels and other assorted salty snacks, chicken, and bananas. Later after a stop by my grandma’s house we went and watched some football at Mango Marley’s, and indulged in an Oreo Brownie Sundae. It felt like a pretty long day, and in the middle of it I was pretty exhausted, but by the end of it I was thinking that my body didn’t feel like I imagined it would – completely worn out, (though definitely somewhat sore!) So! Now that this one is under my belt, I’m looking forward to doing another one in the spring. My cousin thinks I should train for a full, but I’d like to get my time down on the half first. I’m thinking about one in Albany, Georgia in March. In the mean time, the holidays are upon us and I’ll be going to Orlando in two weekends for JD and Tony’s Tacky Sweater Christmas party! AND I was browsing yesterday and found a 3-mile fun run through Sea World that Saturday! Yeah, it’s at 715 in the morning, but hello! So worth it! I’m psyched!

In case you’re curious, here are a few photos from Saturday:

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Gorgeous sunrise on the way to Pier Park.

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Waiting to start the race!

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Oh you know, just tying my shoes…

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Rounding the first turn…(note – I don’t keep my arms like that I try to hold them lower, more relaxed…)

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Gumby crossing the finish line!

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Me getting to the finish.

P1070117ย Woohoo!

IMG_5727Me and my medal, sure a little dazed looking at the after-party.

Throwback Thursday: Christmas Break Related

Hello, hello it’s throwback Thursday once again! I kind of just see what strikes my fancy as I browse Facebook albums on Thursday mornings. Here’s what caught my attention today:

Look at my brother’s crazy long hair, and sweet Duke in pretty good health with his giant self hogging the photo. (Christmas 2010)
At the ICE exhibit in Orlando, my birthday weekend (November 2008.)
From that fabulous road trip to North Carolina with my little sister, Kaylynn (December 2007.)
Mandy in our room pre-Christmas break 2007, trying on her gear for her ski-trip. Who would have known she was going to get engaged that break! ๐Ÿ™‚
Lauren and I, Christmas break 2006.
Kinda forgot this picture existed, napping on Christmas break, hanging out with Duke 2006. Miss that sweet dog…
Dad and Ethan taking a walk on the beach in Destin, 2006.
Mom, Ethan and I Christmas 2005. Talk about a throwback, seven years already!

Happy Halloween Friends!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM OUR PUMPKIN “FAMILY!” ๐Ÿ˜‰

Over on Meg Says I shared a few happy-spooky videos for your viewing and listening pleasure today, so you can check those out if you’re interested.

My advice? If someone invites you to a party: go! Even if you think your costume is lame, I doubt it is, and no one cares like you imagine they do. Just go. JD and I went trick or treating in high school. One year Mandy, John, Lizzi, Larry and I went to the Haunted House. I’ve already given y’all the recap of the year I went to Halloween Horror Nights. Some of these experiences were more fun than others, but I’m glad for the memories I made. It’s the times a crush would invite me to costume parties, that I chickened out on that I shake my head at now. Seriously? If you’re in a place in life without a thousand responsibilities, live it up.

Also, what better time to share with you one of my favorite costumes of all time?

MEGASAURUS:

Whatever you end up doing today/tonight, movie time, handing out candy to trick or treaters, going trick or treating yourself or with little ones, costume parties, pumpkin carving, or just hanging out – have a fun and safe time!

Orlando Weekend Fun (Part Uno!)

(I don’t know what WordPress’s problem is, but it screwed up this post twice and deleted most of my photos and captions so I’m getting burnt out and the descriptions probably aren’t as great this time around.)
Ahh! I can’t believe I hadn’t shared any photos from my Orlando weekend extravaganza with you all, yet! As you know, my Orlando weekends are up there in my top favorites of anything. Not just because there’s so much activity, downtown is one of my dearest spots of Florida, and I always have a ton of fun but also because some of greatest hearts I know reside in this great little city. I always leave wishing I had a machine that could freeze my weekend and make each minute last a little longer. I’m going to try and be mindful, and remember that every body who reads this blog doesn’t necessarily want to see every single photo I took to document the weekend, (or else we’d be Facebook friends, or maybe Instagram (cupcakesandfireworks) ?) so I’ll try and keep it on the shorter side.
Friday night (after the worst drive on the interstate to Orlando ever, including the most ridiculous rain I’d ever driven in,) we went to a get together, celebrating some October birthdays that the boys dubbed “Real Housewives of Apopka,” (which I would say is pretty accurate.) Met some cool people, drank some good beer, heard some great stories (seriously great stories.) Also, met my new hero Chris who was participating in a 100mile bike ride that Sunday, as a training ride for the Iron Man competition. We chatted training for a few minutes, but seriously – so inspiring! Also, a party-goer gave us a mixed CD to jam out to on the ride home. That was pretty awesome too!
20121023-105652.jpgOctober birthday crew in their crowns.

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classic

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so handsome!

Tony playing bartender (but really!)

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Reunited, and it feels so right.
Saturday morning we made some breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon, and coffee.) Then got ready for the day. Ashley came over, and then we made a pit-stop and headed to Gatti’s place downtown. We hung out for a little bit,(read: started drinking before noon,) took the house tour, watched some ESPN game day, then we embarked upon the pretty little scenic stroll to Lake Eola. JD was sure the parade was at one, we walked around checked out some booths, got a little sweaty then we ran into some people who were like no way it’s at 4 silly! So, we took a little scenic walk back to the house, dropping off one crew member at the barber shop on the way. It worked out because we just chilled in the air conditioning, ate some pizza, watched some football, had some great conversation, recharged and then headed out again. I finally got to go to Stardust (this awesome bar I’ve heard about all these years, and never experienced until then,) where we hung out a little longer, played some pool (I took pictures,) and then picked a spot across the street to watch the parade. It was super fun because we ran into sooo many people we knew. I don’t get to go to Orlando that often, so it’s extra exciting when I can see so many people who make my day in one place! The parade was a blast.

Lake Eola
Snapped this one on our first walk downtown.

Animated conversation obviously, in their matching Chubbies.

A little intermission

New Ohio friends, it was their 5 year wedding anniversary! (They were in town before they set off on a cruise the next morning!)

Ashley’s like a pool shark, and Tony was playing model.

Group shot at Stardust.

Look who we found! Note that Orin does not have a scar from our NYE incident, and he doesn’t hate me. And I hadn’t seen JD’s old roommate Frank since they moved!

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They had a good spot to watch the parade and eat their ice cream cones.

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Had to document this because everytime I look at it, it cracks me up!

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My favorite float!

so cute!

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The cool radio station in middle school.

Full of parade swag to take home to their son, since everyone gave Gatti like nine million things.

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Ashley and I were backseat buddies on the ride to Publix.

Pretty sky in the parking lot on our Publix run.
After the parade we went back to the boy’s place, ate JD’s awesome pulled chicken sandwiches, and watched some football. Like I said some of these were Ohioans, so we watched the Ohio State game (which they won.) And I wasn’t subjected to our ugly FSU loss, though I did hear and see the painful updates.
The funny thing about the weekend, is that I had just been telling my mom one of my favorite parts of being in Orlando is that I’m around people who have similar thought processes. We get each other, we want some of the same stuff out of life, have similar views on politics and equality rights. I was just saying that the atmosphere makes me so happy even if I’m not having some deep heart to heart. The funny part about it is that it was a great balance of both, I did get to have some deeper conversations, and the entirety of the weekend just filled my heart up with a new zest for life. If it had been waning at all, the battery life just charged right up. (Of course everybody always tries to talk me into moving, and I am so so tempted.)
Be on the lookout for Orlando Weekend Fun Part Dos, which will feature corn maze fun!

Treats and Treehouses

Remember how I was so excited to visit Orlando a few weekends ago, and hang out with some of my favorite people? Well, the trip did not disappoint! I couldn’t have asked for a better time full of fun friends, laughter, treats and tree houses.

I got there in record time on Friday evening (no speeding!) and JD gave me the grand tour. Their home is so lovely and cozy, and they’re like real grown ups ya know? So proud! We ate pizza and watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, and Tony and JD offered a lot of entertaining commentary. Saturday morning we were all up early, finishing touches on snacks for the housewarming, last-minute errands (Total Wine before 10am? sure! ha) and I even had time to squeeze in a run in their adorable neighborhood of Winter Park. We played all day long, so many great conversations, time with some old friends I haven’t gotten to see in a while, and I made some new friends too! I mean what’s better than falling asleep tired and happy after a fabulous day? Sunday (after another morning run – I couldn’t get enough of those endless flat sidewalks, cute dogs, and pretty houses. Plus, a quick little stop by Einstein’s and they had my favorite – blueberry bagel with strawberry smear!) went on a little riding tour of the nearby neighborhoods (English Gardens Wedding Venue?! eek!,) wandered around over by Rollins browsing all the fun home decor stores, and brunched at Dexter’s (which has been on my to-do list forever!) Afterward we lazed around the house a bit, chatting life stuff and savoring our last bit of time together. Hopefully it’s not too long before another visit! It was just the rejuvenating weekend I was in desperate need of.

Since they were such a hit last time I made the chocolate covered coconut macaroons again. (Recipe post here.)

Mmm, Welch’s Guava Pineapple Juice + Champagne = delicious!

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Funfetti fudge! (Recipe here.)

And I tried out this new creation I found in a sweet recipe book from my mom. French toast cupcakes, maple frosting, topped with bacon bits!

While JD helped me frost the cupcakes, and taught me how to make cornbread pudding. Too bad we can’t cook together all the time!

Excited to go greet Ash!

So excited to spend some quality time with Ash!

The awesome hosts!

Jodie Q! (And I love the sunflower in the Cheer Wine bottle – I did the same thing in my bathroom at home. BFFLs think a-like!)

By the pool they were so proud of assembling!

Group shot at the table.

It had been wayyy too long. Love these girls!

And now to one of my favorite parts: the tree house! You could see from the kitchen that the next door neighbors had an awesome tree house in their backyard, with a rock climbing wall, slide, balcony and Alice in Wonderland door. It was kind of a secret mission in my head to check out before the weekend was over, so I was basically ELATED when the neighbor invited us over to play on it! Literally squeals of excitement, and a race to the backyard ensued.

With David, climbing up the sweet rope ladder.

The cool door!

Can you tell how happy we were to be up there?!

With Meg on the balcony!

Someone took this next door, Rochelle and I playing on the balcony.

Tree house love with Rochelle and Drew.

My new favorite British friend, Alex.

Now that Brum gets to explore outside all the time, he’s like a new sweet kitty! (I don’t have to be in fear of his sneak attacks anymore!)

Plaid twins! โค

Sweet giant suitcase desk.

Making himself at home!

YOLO?

Fiiiinally!

Blueberry mimosa!

real laughing.

candid.

wall art I liked.

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Eggs Benedict. Delicious!

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favorite.

Group Love!

Trio! ๐Ÿ™‚