Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Happy Days : When Friends Visit Florida

Life has been a little lonely since we moved across the country to Florida. We have no family or friends (yet) here in St. Pete, so it’s just me, GT and the dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hubs and the pooches, but it’s nice to see people from our old life showing up in our new life. That’s a bit melodramatic, I admit, but it’s just reassuring to know that it is possible to stay connected with those we love no matter how many miles away or wherever we get moved to next.

Which is why I was thrilled to have my good friend Brittany—who I met during our junior year of college at Pepperdine University and who was a bridesmaid in my wedding—visit for a few days last week with her adorable 1½-year-old daughter Simone in tow. She lives in Seattle and has family in Florida, but she scheduled to spend the first leg of her trip out east in St. Pete with me.

We had about three days to hangout and catch up, and it was so wonderful to see how much Simone has grown, as well as Brittany who is pregnant with baby No. 2. As a bonus, their visit forced me to get out of my apartment bubble and explore more of my new city—the family-friendly places, at least.

All the details (and photos!) of our adventures, after the jump...

We checked out the Sunken Gardens, a beautiful 100-year-old botanical paradise hidden within the midst of downtown St. Pete. It was so relaxing to stroll aimlessly through the meandering pathways, surrounded by lush, vibrant exotic plants. We felt transported to a tropical hideaway. I’m fairly certain it was while walking through this oasis that my legs got eaten alive by mosquitos (too many bug bites to count!), and the afternoon sun was blistering hot that day BUT we had fun nonetheless. Simone loved looking at and touching the flowers and watching lizards of all kinds scurry across the sidewalk.

No doubt about it though—escaping the extreme heat and walking back into an air-conditioned building was a heavenly feeling. Fortunately, the Great Explorations Children’s Museum is right next door to the gardens. Simone had a blast and I continued my role of paparazzi, snapping photos as she gleefully explored the colorful space.

After all that walking and playing, we had worked up an appetite, so we headed over to Z Grille for lunch. I ordered the house chopped salad, which was full of all sorts of delicious things: shaved romaine, watermelon radish, corn salsa, pico de gallo, garbanzo beans, olives, avocado ranch dressing, avocado lime vinaigrette and tortilla strips. 

Simone enjoyed bites of Brittany’s burger and fries while playing with mommy’s makeup. (She's a girl after my own heart.)

That evening, GT and I decided to make dinner. Knowing we’d have plenty of extra filling, we just bought a couple more red bell peppers and made one of our Blue Apron recipes: Southwestern-Style Beef-Stuffed Peppers with Chipotle Peppers and Monterey Jack Cheese.

The next day, us girls journeyed to downtown Tampa to check out The Florida Aquarium. I’ve been to plenty of aquariums, and The Florida Aquarium is a great one, but it’s so much more fun to experience it with a child. Everything is new and amazing through the eyes of a child. Simone is still very young, so her attention span isn’t long, but you could tell she enjoyed looking at the otters, fishes, sharks, birds, and more that call the aquarium home.

On our last evening together, we hung out at our apartment pool and grilled—until a storm rolled in! Gotta love that Florida weather. It can change from sunshine to thunderstorms in an instant. So we went back to the apartment to eat dinner and then, as Simone slept, we played The Game of Life. Funny enough, even though GT got to retirement first, Brittany and I tied for the win with $4,020,000. She was a lawyer and I was a teacher. Yeah, that game is true to life.

We got in a bit more pool time the next day before Brittany and Simone had to leave. Simone absolutely loves to swim and my heart swelled every time she asked for me to spin and bounce her around in the water. I don’t have much experience with children—I never babysat growing up—so I can be a little nervous around them, not sure what to do or say. But I definitely got more practice last week! You know what also makes my heart swell? Seeing GT with Simone. He is such a natural with kids. He’s going to make a great dad someday.

I’m so glad my dear friend could come visit for a few days. It made Florida seem a little less lonely. Hopefully more California friends will be able to come visit soon! (hint hint, wink wink)

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