Florida 2011

Tami, Sophia, Azia and one really beautiful Florida beach
I haven't found any sand in unexpected places in two or three days and my shoulders are no longer tender from a tad too much sun. Our little vacation already seems too long passed. For the last year I'd been trying to figure out how and when I could visit Tami. I finally figured out how to get away for a couple days and tickets were just a few hundred dollars, so Azia got to come along, too. I figured she would like a few days with just a few girls since she's so often buried in boys. I was right. She loved the girl time.

But, as luck would have it. Tami and Shane live right next to this:

There's not much Azia likes more than the beach.

Having friends in Florida is not a bad deal at all. Especially friends who are amazing hosts who also like to turn a visit into a vacation. They made sure we saw all sorts of cool local places. A few highlights:


checking out the Spanish moss

DeSoto had cool trees, a nice beach and a walking trail. Azia actually read more of the interpretive signs and things than usual since she was collecting information for her report on Florida. So, she learned a little about DeSoto and the first people in the area. (They had life size cutouts of Native people hidden in the trees along the walking path. I don't recommend this approach to historical education and interpretive displays. . . quite freaky, especially the first time you notice one!) She also  admired the seashells and different sorts of plants.

All three of the of the girls really liked the giant tree at the entrance.

They did try to follow the rules at first, and it probably would have been responsible parenting to make them. But, have you ever seen any more perfectly climbable trees?


This is just a few minutes from their house and one of the nicest beaches we went to. It was so close I think we went almost every day. We may have made our hosts exceed their whole month's beach quota in just a few days, but at least Sophia felt like she was on vacation, too.

 She told me it only really felt like Florida when we were there. (Or when her grandma was.) The rest was just old regular life. That darn old regular life. . . it gets to people everywhere. Even in Florida evidently.

I love this little beach-side restaurant on the island,  Cafe on the Beach. 

Tasty food, live music, and a fun atmosphere.

This evening they even had a drum circle and line dancing. My line dancing isn't quite up to the level on display here, so I think I'll practice up and come back. I think I have four to five decades before I'm the right age to join in, so I have some time to perfect my moves. 

This beach does have some insane birds though. So aggressively insane and crazy that they are sort of fascinating to watch in a disturbing sort of way. They flock by the dozens to any scrap of food dropped. Or not dropped. They swarmed Sophia and took her bag of Cheetos while she was sitting own on the beach and had planned to have a couple. It isn't really safe to eat near them.

 This evening we were letting the girls swim until they were ready to go. Apparently, Azia will never be ready to go if she is left to decide that on her own.

She and Sophia were still swimming even after the sun went down. Even then they weren't really ready to go.
It isn't the right time of year for the swamp to be really swampy, but there were still all sorts of cool trees. 

These vines made me believe I could swing through the trees like Tarazan.

But these "strangler" ones may have been my favorite.

There were more than two miles of boardwalk trails through the swamp, which was a really pretty walk.

And, we saw alligators so that was pretty cool.

Although I think the girls liked the inchworm they found more.


This was another beautiful area. It was windy the afternoon we stopped here which made the water rough, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. 

 It just made the waves even better.

 And luckily, it did not interfere with the important work of the baywatch babes.

After we started to get rained on, we left & headed to this restaurant for one of the best meals I've had in a long time.

I should've taken a photo of all our food before we immediately ate it all because it even looked delicious. Shane recommended the grouper & it was a good choice. With some sort of Thai sauce and an orange salsa, it's making me hungry just remembering it.  

Azia claimed my little camera and took photos throughout the trip. The aquarium was one of her favorite spots to photograph.
Sophia loved all the touch tanks. I thought she was going to try to sneak into her pocket one of the sea cucumbers. Azia wasn't real sure why she should be excited about touching sea things. Here she was getting a little more brave.

Sophia & Tami
All the girls digging for shark teeth. They all found a bunch!
Zoe & Azia trying out each other's glasses. Azia was pretty fond of Zoe, too

There is a bird sanctuary / recovery hospital right next door to the aquarium. They have all sorts of birds they are trying to get healthy, but some of the most interesting to me were all these crane that they'd made prosthetic legs for. With all the traffic and flying golf balls, it's dangerous living in Florida if you're a long, legged bird. All the dozen or so birds had different sorts of things attached to their stumps, but they all seemed to be getting around pretty well.


Siesta Key was another great beach. More people but a beautiful area and all sorts of neat little shops and things in the area around the beach.

Of course us showing up on a perfect beach day could also have something to do with everyone else also showing up to enjoy the beach.

I was not actually enjoying the beach naked. Somehow I got there without the strap to my suit.

Me & Azia. It was really fun to have a week just with her. It's harder to get much time with just one of the kids now that everyone is getting older and we have so many crazy schedules.


We got all packed up and ready to go to the waterpark and even drove all the way there and into the parking lot and then decided at the last minute to go Busch Gardens instead. It was a little overcast and cooler (still in the 80s probably, but cooler than it had been!) so it seemed a little cold and windy to spend the day in the water.

Azia wasn't sure she wanted to go to Busch since she wasn't even big enough to go on any of the big roller coasters.

But it worked out anyway because we discovered Azia does not like big roller coasters. She does not even like small ones. She went on one and was done.

Shekra. This was my favorite roller coaster of the day.

Busch Gardens is like half amusement park and half zoo so there were all sorts of animals to check out in addition to all the rides she could do.

Feeding the birds was one of the favorite parts of the day.

We also went to a strange and interesting show with some very bendy people. And a smiley juggling guy dressed as a frog. Also a young boy that was flipped into the air many times.
This was yet another highlight for Azia...a whole store of zebra-patterned things. She is completely obsessed with zebra things at the moment.


It was such a nice break in so many ways. Not really having to be anywhere or have any responsibilities for almost a whole week. Getting to spend so much time with Azia. Just having such a dramatic shift in scenery.

I loved all the water everywhere. And the sand and bright skies and bridges and palm trees.

And instead of trucks full of wood you see things like trucks loaded with oranges.

And the best part: getting to hang out with my friend. My friend who was smart enough to marry an amazing guy who didn't mind that my daughter and I moved into his house for the week and completely disrupted their routine.

We've been friends for well over twenty years now. 

 Ever since we were about the same age as these two. 

I can't wait till we all get to get together again.

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