Exploring The Florida Keys: Picnic Island

On one of the first days we were here in the Keys we heard about a place called Picnic Island.  It sounded intriguing to me so we set out to explore it.  It was set off by itself in the middle of the water.  I wasn't sure what we would find there but WOW what an eclectic place it was!

Really now, who doesn't just love a picnic?  Whenever I think of the word it conjures up all of the good feelings of being outside on a red checkered blanket with a picnic basket full of goodies.  Picnic Island was a little different but boy did it ever impress!

 Picnic Island is really quite small but such a great place to go and just...well, have a picnic and relax  on the beach, in the sun.
People from all over have made signs with their names on them and of where they are from and the milage to Picnic Island from their home and nailed them up out there.
I'm not sure if you can see it from here but there is a wooden swing hanging from a tree!  I grew up with tree swings and love them so that was the first thing I went to whenever we got on the island.
We really didn't know anything about the island; how big it was or what was even out there but were happy to see that there were chairs, a picnic table and even a grill.
However, our first visit found us in a rain storm and we took refuge in the mangroves.  See Hubby heading over there to join us?  He and his buddy had just anchored the boat and carried our ice chest while we walked in to begin exploring.  Eventually we went back to the island but decided we needed to head back to the boat because of the rain that day.
            We headed to the Tiki Bar!  And got dried off and ate some really yummy lunch!

These chairs!  They were hanging all around the place and I could SO use one (or two...) of these at my lake house.  I can just see them hanging on the dock.  Yep, I took a picture of the tag on them and will be looking them up whenever I get home.
We actually went back one day to have lunch again and play corn hole toss with our friends!  It was a lot of fun.

As I said, we went back to Picnic Island and even met some other people there who were sailing around for months and even years!  They had their dogs with them that ran around the island, splashing in the water.  And that's when I thought...wow, how awesome is this place.  So peaceful, stuck out here in the middle of the water.  I took this photo so I would always remember it.
      And then one day used it to paint my own rendition of it in my watercolor journal.

I plan to visit Picnic Island just one more time before we leave the Keys.  I'll swing on that swing once more and let the sun shine down on my face.  Breathe in the saltwater air and let the sand slip between my toes.    And maybe even hang a sign with our names on it out there.  But mainly I will think of how fortunate I was to have been there.


Exploring The Florida Keys: Marvin Key

I'm begging time to slow down right about now because we are so loving being in the Florida Keys for the month.  A few days after we arrived some friends came to visit for a week and we had so much fun exploring the Keys.

 The guys enjoyed some fishing!  We girls tried to enjoy it with them one day but the seasickness got us so we decided to visit Key West after that and have a girls' day out with shopping and lunch.

                                              Yep, these are the ones that didn't get away...

On the day that we got seasick, our fishing guide hurriedly got us to somewhat dry land so we could get our legs back underneath us.  He took us to a place called Marvin Key.  When we got there we knew that we would have to return.  It was like the most fun tailgate party on water!
People show up as the tide is beginning to go out and a huge sandbar becomes present.  The water is very shallow all around so people bring their chairs and umbrellas out, along with games for their kids and dogs to play.

We packed up for a day out there with our friends and brought a little grill along to make burgers for lunch...
                                  And yellow fin snapper that the guys caught the day before.
                                        It was so much fun having good friends visit us here!

Our friends are early risers.  I mean REALLY early risers.  Like they got to actually watch the sun rise every morning.  I took some of their photos to share because, hey!  I'm not going to put that kind of pressure on myself.  I sleep in and catch the sun setting.  Both are equally beautiful.
                  Sunset photo that I took on our way to Little Palm Island for dinner one evening.
         And I couldn't resist taking this photo of the "almost Full Moon" just outside our house.
As I mentioned, we had dinner one evening at Little Palm Island.  You get there by boat and leave from Little Torch Key.  I snapped this photo as we were pulling out of the dock there.
And here's our 35th anniversary photo.  Our friends wanted to go to Little Palm Island to eat dinner and we had stayed there a few years back and loved it.  It just happened to be our anniversary and we had so much fun celebrating there.

It's definitely going to be difficult to go back home, to reality after being here in this paradise for a month...

                       ***Click HERE to read about our previous trip to Little Palm Island.***

A Letter To My College Self...

If I had to pen a letter to my college self it would most likely start with:  Why in the world did you wait until you were 30 years old to go back to college?!  Yes, for those of you who know me well, you will remember that I had my four children and then went back to finish my last four years of college.  Earnest, a company that provides student loan financing, inspired me to write a letter to my college self, however,  I was not sure they would be interested in the story of a non-traditional student.  To my surprise, they were.  So...here it is; a reflection of my college years as a wife and mommy.

                                          A LETTER TO MY COLLEGE SELF

     I jumped right into college right after high school and never realized how difficult it would be.  Being a music major I had an unbelievably difficult schedule to adhere to.  Not only was I expected to study for my basic classes, I was also taking piano and music theory classes along with accompanying three voice students.  I was quickly overwhelmed at not being able to manage my time.  It seemed there were not enough hours in the day.  And so I did as most college students do and changed my major.
     I did not think getting married before finishing my degree would be an issue.  Because I always intended to complete college.  And for a while, I continued to take evening classes while I also held a job during the day.  What I didn't account for was getting pregnant.  With four children in the space of six years!  Well, needless to say, that put college on the back burner for quite a while.  But the yearning to complete my education never went away.  I knew that with a college education came empowerment.  It gave me something tangible that no one could ever take away from me.  And I was fortunate enough to have a very supportive spouse who encouraged and helped me along the way.
     If I thought time was difficult to manage as a single girl with no outside demands of a family or job then I soon realized that this task I had before me was definitely not going to be simple.  My schedule went a little like this:  I would get up in the mornings and fix lunches for my children who were either in school or pre-school, drive them to their respective schools and then head to my classes.  At that time we were just living from paycheck to paycheck since my husband had decided to go into business for himself.  Between classes I would sit in my car, eat lunch and try to get ahead on my homework assignments.  After my classes were over, I would pick my children up from school and head home.  Once there, I would tackle their homework assignments with them, cook dinner, give baths and finally start on my studies around 10 pm.  I would then start all over again the next day.  It was a very difficult four years.  I was not sure I could get through them with a college degree at the end,  but I never gave up.
     My children witnessed me constantly with a book in my hand studying and I would always tell them to study hard because their education was so important.  My husband and I had very little money at the time but we had all of our children enrolled in some sort of school.  They were all private institutions so we spent our money on their educations, choosing to do without a few things for ourselves.  As they grew older and got into junior high and high school I began to talk to them about their plans for college and how they could achieve whatever they chose to put their  minds to.  I encouraged them to stay focused and to get their college degrees before their got married because I did not want them taking the same difficult path I had taken; I was the first in my family with a college degree and I wanted to break that cycle for my own newly formed family.  Apparently my constant conversations with them took root because they all four have college degrees.  They all have a bachelor's degree, one also has a master's and two are doctors.  Yep, proud mama here!  We were able to provide financially for all of their bachelor's degrees but for the advanced ones, I told them they would have to get loans and pay for them themselves.  They did just that.  That's why I would encourage any of you out there who are not certain you can afford to go to college to check into Earnest to see what they have to offer in the way of student loans.  Don't put off getting your education and empowering yourself because there IS financial assistance available to all who are willing to pursue their dreams.
     But back to what I would tell my college self...Congratulations!  Because you persevered and never gave up.  It's the end game that matters.  I hope that my college journey as a non-traditional student has somehow encouraged others to go for what they want.

Dressing For a Wedding in the South

Wedding season is upon us.  They say June is the most popular month to be a bride but the "season", I believe, begins a little earlier and ends quite a bit later.  In addition to my own wedding, I have married off four children and although I may not be an "expert" on weddings, I can give you some practical advice when planning or attending one.

Most brides are so exited to plan their wedding that they often times forget their guests who make this event so very special.  First, there are definite difference in planning weddings in different parts of the country.  Know your area and the weather expectations.  An outdoor wedding can be a lovely event, however, if you live in the south like I do, one should plan an outdoor wedding in the very early spring.  Our temperatures begin to rise in May and stay pretty hot and humid well into the end of October.  An outdoor wedding should be remembered as a beautiful event by your guests.  Not a sweaty one where all you can recall is how much you had to fan yourself while slapping at mosquitoes.  And planning what to wear to an outdoor wedding is very different than an indoor one.

                             SUGGESTION FOR A WEDDING IN THE SOUTH

As I mentioned before, the south is very hot and humid about 9 months out of the year so my style tip for men and women alike would be to dress light.  Dressing light does not mean casual though.  We all know that southern women like to dress nice.  Short sleeves or sleeveless dresses are nice.  For an indoor wedding one can layer with a jacket or sweater.  Peep-toe heels, pumps or wedges are great foot attire.

If the wedding is outdoors one should dress nice but also for comfort in the weather.  Personally, I do not like women wearing slacks to a wedding; I prefer a dress or skirt for the occasion.  Remembering that this type of wedding will be a little warmer I would suggest a strappy heel or even a nice flat sandal.  If the wedding is in the afternoon, a hat is always nice; not just for fashion but for shading one's face.  And never forget the umbrella!  I have seen outdoor weddings that get that sudden shower and people who miss out on the ceremony because they forgot to bring an umbrella along.

Now, for the gentleman who is on the wedding guest list (Or in the wedding party...).  Our southern men like to dress well also but often times have trouble knowing what is in fashion or where to purchase it.  That's where a suit and rental company comes in handy.  The Black Tux.com is a premium suit and tuxedo rental company that can assist your man in finding just the perfect attire for a wedding.  The process is actually very simple.  Click on Our Collection to find the type of suit or tuxedo that catches your eye for the event or if you do not have time to put your entire look together let one of their expert stylists do it for you which will give you  a Complete Outfit that will dress you from head to toe with all accessories included.  And the best part?  You never have to leave your home!  That's right; Black Tux.com sends your chosen outfit straight to your home for fitting.  Here's how renting works in four simple steps:
                  1.  Choose a style
                  2.  Get the perfect fit
                  3.  Try it on
                  4.  Prepare for compliments

So, before that next wedding sneaks upon you and you find there is no time in your busy schedule to go back and forth for suit or tuxedo fittings, let The Black Tux.com do all of the work for you and get ready for those compliments!


Mom's Most Embarrassing Moments...

As a mom, I'm sure that you have had some pretty embarrassing moments that have been handed to you by your sweet little ones.  I know I have.  Most likely too many to count.  And as I look back, I can still recall the shock and awe as my little darling did something that made me cringe on the inside while I continued to smile on the outside (Never let them see you sweat...).  But in retrospect, I find those moments some of the funniest memories I have of my children.  That's why, when I was approached by Gifts.com to share one of my most embarrassing moments as a mom I knew exactly which incident it would be!

I was fortunate enough to have my story included with 10 others moms on Gifts.com's Blog; "11 Embarrassing Moments From Real Moms"  I hope you will enjoy reading my post ("Number 2"), along with all of the others.  And thank your mom for not throwing you out with the bath water!


Furniture That Creates a Cozy Space for Living

If you are not currently looking for furniture then I'm sure that you have been in the past and will be in the future.  For me, creating a space that is "you" is so important.  I like warm cozy rooms that make people feel at home when they visit.  The manner in which a home is decorated directly reflects the personality of an individual.  My daughter, after 5 years, is about to move back to the south from Cleveland in less than a month.  They have been selling off their old furniture with the intention to purchase some new pieces whenever they arrive.  This opportunity for me to create a post for Furniture.com could not have come at a better time because I believe it is just what she needs to get her new house feeling like a home.

This online affordable, one-stop furniture store can meet your every need for creating a cozy living space.  Furniture.com is convenient for the busy lifestyle many of us lead.  They provide a great shopping experience for individuals all across the country with their handy local sales finder.  Not sure how you want to decorate that new room or what pieces of furniture will make it perfect?  Click on their Tips and Trends Blog for all sorts of decorating ideas.

 Let Furniture.com inspire you for your next furniture needs.  Who knows, new furniture might be in your very near furniture...There's no place like a creatively decorated home.

Living in the Florida Keys For a Month

Whenever my husband asked me in March if I would like to rent a house and stay in the Florida Keys for the month of May I had to wonder why he was even asking...Ummm, YES I WOULD!  For many years, I have wished for the opportunity to just get away for an entire month.  Work, for my husband, has kept us from being able to do that.  And this year is really no different except for the fact that we decided to just make time to do it.  My oldest son is now taking care of lots of the business and we felt pretty good about getting away for some time to ourselves.

We searched for a while and finally found a house right on the water in Summerland Key.  Now, I must tell you something about the Keys if you are not familiar with them.  First, it's not a fancy place.  It is a place for fishing and creating art and just plain old relaxing.  The pace is so much slower here that it actually takes a little time for one to get used to people never getting in a rush.  But it's oh so peaceful.  And so, we decided that we would drive here.  Yes, you heard me right; drive here from Louisiana.  A little over 20 hours.  Why?  Oh, because we wanted to bring our bay boat for fishing and boating.
                   AND...We went through some pretty bad weather that first day of driving.
But once we hit the Keys and started driving to our new home for a month and saw THIS...Every single mile was worth the drive.  And by the way, this is my view from our house; I get to wake up to it every morning.
I hopped out of the car, took my things upstairs and didn't even bother to unload them.  I threw this swimsuit on and found a chair by the pool.
And as I looked up I saw these coconuts.  Hmmm...I wondered out loud if those things could fall?  I bet they would give you a concussion if they were to fall on your head."  I looked around to see if any were lying on the ground and sure enough they were!  I needed to move my chair over a bit, I thought.
But this guy...He walked over and grabbed one of them, cracked it open and asked if I wanted a bite.
Hubby hired a guide to take him around for a few day so he could learn how to navigate the islands and set his map on his boat.  But the day before the guide arrived we decided to just go out for a boat ride, check things out a bit, get a little sun.  I mentioned that we should pack a lunch and some drinks and did so.  As he was loading the ice chest into the boat I could hear him singing the tune to "Gilligan's Island".  I wondered if I should be concerned...

We made it back from the boating trip just fine and we have enjoyed every day here thus far.  I get up in the morning and watercolor for a while or catch up on blog posts.  He piddles around on his boat and has already had one day with the fishing guide and caught us some fish.  Yes, I can foresee that this is going to be a great get-away for us.


Mother's Day, Nordstrom and Groupon...A Perfect Match!

Mother's Day is almost upon us and as we are all struggling to find that "Perfect" gift for Mom, I was approached by Groupon to write a post.  Giving YOU access to some pretty awesome coupons just in time for Mother's Day!

Who doesn't like a discount?  On anything?  That's what I thought... EVERYBODY likes one!  And for Mother's Day this year, I am so happy to see that Groupon is giving away coupons for one of my  favorite stores; Nordstrom!

If you love Nordstrom like I love Nordstrom then you need to hurry on over to this link where Groupon is giving you a number of codes to help out with your Mother's Day  shopping.  Whether you want to buy her a handbag, beauty products or shoes (My personal favorite...for me!),  Groupon has a coupon for you.  AND there are coupons for both online and in store use.  To make the deal even sweeter, there is a coupon for FREE SHIPPING and RETURN.  This is a win-win situation, ya'll!

And if you are like me, you will use any excuse to shop at Nordstrom.  My daughter says I can spend an entire day perusing the items there.  And I must admit that I can.  And while I'm thinking about that, perhaps I'll drop a hint to MY children that I would like a gift from there myself and they won't have to break the bank getting it with Groupon's coupons.  So if you want to make Mom happy this year it's only a couple of clicks away with Nordstrom and Groupon...The "Perfect" match for Mother's Day!

      Mother's Day is Sunday May 14.  Here are some Mother's Day Gift Ideas From NORDSTROM:

***Although I will be compensated for writing this post I would have gladly written it anyway      
      because of my love for Groupon and Nordstrom.***