Win and Relaxation

nana-with-sign sunset-nana-and-papa nana-and-papa-fishing bird-and-nana-on-pier tree-growing-from-bridge sunset papa-and-trey-kayaking sunset-nell-and-nana nell-hammock-chair nana-and-trey-fish steve-and-trey-chess nell-paddleboarding hammock-chair-biew tropical-path trey-and-papa-chess sunset-with-pier

The place we stayed in the keys was absolutely perfect.  It was located directly on the Gulf and lined with palm trees and hammocks; the perfect location for doing absolutely nothing; exactly what this family needed.  The sunsets never cease to amaze me.  I stand there in awe every time taking a ridiculous number of pictures as the colors evolve every few seconds.  I don’t think I will ever get tired of watching them.

The real reason we went to the keys was for our annual showdown with Key West High School.  This year was a bit different than last.  This year we won (yay!), but unfortunately my son got a fever just an hour before the game started.  The win was great, but a bit bittersweet night for us since he was feeling so bad.  We spent the weekend in the keys relaxing with family as planned.  As soon as we got home on Sunday, I took him to the urgent care and sure enough he had bronchitis.  They gave us an antibiotic and we are hoping for a quick recovery.

All is well that ends well.

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January

Nell Walking to Waves Nell Walking to Waves 2

Going to the beach in January is unheard of.  Well, this is the reason I live in south Florida.  Typically, January and February are the coldest months that we see.  Cold for south Florida is a low in the 50’s and a high in the 60’s to 70’s.  Well up until a week ago it was was still very much summer weather with high’s in the mid 80’s.  While everyone was screaming for cold weather, I was at the beach riding the waves and soaking up the sun.

This past week the weather has adjusted itself to the typical January chill.  I have worn closed toe shoes for over a week now and I’m totally over it.  Bring back summer!

A Christmas Celebration

I first want to acknowledge that it has been quite a while since I’ve posted here.  As you all can probably understand, this season has been quite busy.  But more importantly, I’ve been spending time focusing on the things that truly matter most; my family and the multitudes of blessings in my life.

This Christmas was quite a bit better than last.  Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t have taken a whole lot of good things to be better than last year.  Last year was spent in a trauma ICU room with my mom fighting for her life.  I am happy to say that this Christmas wasn’t just a little bit better than last Christmas; it was leaps and bounds better than last year.  My mom’s amazing recovery resulting from miracle after miracle (see the one year update here) which meant that she was with us this Christmas celebrating the birth of Jesus, opening many presents and eating delicious food.  My daughter was home from college and we enjoyed some great family time with her and with my husband and with my son watching movies, shopping, opening presents, laughing and enjoying life.  And if that wasn’t enough, we had some very exciting Christmas news that was icing on the cake.  My brother proposed to his girlfriend!  I helped him pick out the ring weeks earlier.  He proposed on Christmas morning but my parents had no idea.  He surprised them on Christmas day with the proposal.  We absolutely love her and are beyond excited that she will be joining the family.  I am finally getting a sister!

So this Christmas was a celebration of life; recovered life, renewed life, and new life to come.  It was a Christmas of hopes and dreams and pure joy and happiness.  We are truly blessed!

Merry Christmas to you and yours during this wonderful season!

Nell and Steve RestaurantBanana with Bow Candelight Christmas Service Earl and Joanna  Nana and Papa on Boat Nana Many Presents Nana Papa Earl Bunny Ears Nell and Joanna Nell Dee Trey Restaurant Papa Hammock Papa Leezo  Papp Driving Boat Steve Fried TurkeTrey on the Boat

I’m on a Boat

Boat - Mom and NellBoat - SteveBoat - Trey DrivingBoat - Mom BundledBoat - PapaBoat - Joanna and KonaBoat - Steve 2Boat - Mom and DadBoat - Nell and SteveBoat - Earl Cast NetBoat - Trey DrivingBoat - Nell Lighthouse

My dad has worked so very hard for over 40 years; selflessly, tirelessly and wholeheartedly giving everything he has. The only thing that he’s ever wanted is a nice salt water fishing boat. Because of my mom’s accident (11 months ago today!), he had to retire suddenly and much earlier than he expected.  Because of this, he didn’t think he would be able to ever have his dream boat. Well, I’m excited to say that after all his hard work and the horrible year that he’s had (that none of us can ever imagine) he got his dream boat this past weekend. The entire family went out on the boat on Sunday. Dad’s favorite thing is to have all of his family together, but this time he had all of his family on his dream boat. He was in heaven. I cry tears of joy every time I tell this story. He so greatly deserves this gift. He is the most amazing man and I am beyond excited for him. I foresee many more days with family in the boat enjoying the water and each other. God is totally in the process of taking something that was a tragic and absolutely horrific situation and right before our eyes is turning it into something good. Just to be a part of this story has been so amazing; a true privilege. You just never know how things are going to turn out in any situation. Life is certainly not easy for mom and dad. But we are starting to see so much positivity and blessing in their lives. I can’t think of any two people more deserving of a blessed life.  Now, let’s hit the water!

Tropical End to Friday Night Lights

After lots of hard work my sons football team made it to the playoffs which landed us in Key West. Unfortunately that is where the season ended. I am so incredibly proud of him. He has given his all and put in lots of blood, sweat and tears since June. Proud, proud, proud; I couldn’t be more proud. I already cannot wait until next football season. There’s just nothing like the Friday Night Lights!

Plus, hey, we got to hang out in the Florida keys for a couple of days. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Nell Under PalmTrey Pier (1) Tropical Hotel View Trey Feeding Fish Tiki Underneath Tarpon Huge Robbies Price Board Robbies Dollar Bills Robbies Beach Number 47 Nell Beach Chair Nell and Tre Pier Nell and Steve Pier Laughing Key West Football Game Hotel Dusk Beach View Football Field Selfie Nell and Steve Beach Chair Line

Colorado :: Day Four

ATV Path Bend ATV Path Straight Coffee Shop Deero Path ATV View Steve Driving ATV Wagon Wheel
We Become What We Think VW Van

This was the fourth day and the last day of our fun adventure in Colorado. I booked the red eye so we could spend the entire day playing.

After packing up and leaving our little apartment in Boulder, I went across the street to a local coffee shop. Since Boulder was full of local spots all offering gluten-free options, I don’t know why I was so surprised that this local coffee spot had gluten-free coffee cake. I have been gluten-free for six years now. So, I literally haven’t had a coffee cake in over six years.

My face lit up like a kid on Christmas morning when I saw that gluten-free caramel coffee cake looking at me through the glass counter. I immediately told the barista that I’d like one coffee cake to go. I grabbed my cake and latte and headed for the apartment to have one last meal on the patio. I ate that coffee cake savoring each bite like it was the last one on earth while enjoying the cool Colorado morning.

On our last day in Colorado, Steve wanted to go white water rafting most of all but we missed the season for it. So, instead he decided we would rent an ATV and ride trails in the Rockies. We drove though big trails, small trails, dirt trails and very rocky trails all while taking in the beauty of the changing leaves and wildlife. It was a blast even when the temperature dropped to 40 degrees and it started raining. Well, maybe it wasn’t a blast at that point but still fun. We did turn the ATV in early at the point that our hands were completely numb.

Colorado you were awesome! Your beauty amazed me at every turn. It was a great celebration. Happy 40th once again to my wonderful husband. I can’t wait to spend many more celebrations with you.

Colorado :: Day Three

Nell and Steve Overlook Nell at Overlook Nell Balancing on Rock at Creek Nell in Rain Over Waterfall Nell Large Rock Overlook Nell on Trail Nell Over Boulder Nell Sitting on Rock at Creek 2 Nell Sitting on Rock at Creek Nell Sitting on Very Large Rock Nell Standing on Very Large Rock Overlook Panorama Overlook Steve at the Creek Steve on a Bench Steve on Rock at Creek Steve on the Trail Steve Overlook Trail Mtn View Creek Flatirons Florida Hikers

This was by far the best picture day of all.  The views we saw were epic.

We went to Eldorado Canyon right outside of Boulder. After we got there, I realized that I didn’t do enough research (which is very unlike me).  I assumed that we would drive through the sightseeing area just as we’d done the day before in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  That was definitely not the case. Steve was wearing flip flops and I was wearing sandals, but we didn’t let that stop us.  We figured that we could bring a little Florida to Colorado.  We hiked the trail and climbed the rocks all without losing our shoes.

We’d also planned to go see the Flatirons, which are massive rock formations that look like slanted slabs.  We followed the directions but wound up winding up a tiny road to the top of a mountain.  When we stopped, we were completely amazed.  I felt like we were on top of the world and at that location, I guess we were; on top of all the other surrounding mountains at least (check out the first pic).  The views were breathtaking.  I certainly had never experienced anything like it before.  We walked out onto the overlook rock formation and just looked at the views for the longest time.  I simply could not get enough.  Honestly, I really wanted to stay longer.  I could have easily stayed until the sun went down.  Looking back, Steve and I both regretted not staying to watch the sunset.  Oh, well.  It will be on our list for next time.  After winding back down the mountain, we realized that we had driven right past the Flatirons.  We stopped to take one quick pic.  After seeing the spectacular views from the top of the mountain, the Flatirons just didn’t look all that fascinating.  Plus, we were exhausted.

Whew, what a day!  Colorado, you are amazing!

Colorado :: Day Two

Nell Walking through Grass RMNP Panorama RMNP Sign Nell on top of the Rock Nell Sitting on Wall Over Mtns Green Mountain Side Mountians with Multiple Lakes Nell Climbing Down Rocks Nell on Small Rock Nell on top of Mtn Estes Park Sign Estes Park Sign Nell Elk Elevation 11K Colorful Trees Rocky Mtn Road View Rocky Mtn View 2 Rocky Mtn View Stairs at Shining Hotel Steve and Nell on Wall over Rockies The Shining Hotel Steve Walking to Big Rock Steve the Thinker Steve on Top of the Rock Steve on top of Mtn

Day two was spent exploring Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park. In the national park we were wowed and amazed by the beautiful views at every turn. I took picture after picture but just kept saying to Steve, “there’s no way we will be able to capture the vastness of these mountains in a picture.” Now looking back at my pictures I can say that I was right. These pictures are beautiful but do the Rocky Mountains no justice. Taking turn after turn being surrounded by huge mountains, I couldn’t help but feel like an ant. With the mountains all around; so big and so vast, I felt extremely tiny.

We traveled up to nearly 12,000 feet. Since I had been sick the day before due to the change in altitude, I was a bit nervous about going up to the peak. I felt pressure on my head and could definitely feel the lack of oxygen, but thank goodness there was no sickness involved.

We ended the day at Estes Park. Estes Park is a little town right at the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a small and quaint little mountain town perfect for walking and sightseeing. One of the coolest stops we made in Estes Park was to see the Stanley Hotel. If you’re not familiar with the name you’ll know it from the movie The Shining. It’s the isolated hotel where Jack Nicholson goes to write. It was a little but creepy but very cool.

Colorado :: Day One

Boulder Apt View Nell and Steve Creek Selfie Nell Looking at Creek 2 Nell Looking at Creek Nell on a Rock Pearl Street View Steve Looking at Creek 2 Steve Looking at Creek 3 Steve Looking at Creek Steve Testing Waters Steve Walking Down Pearl Street

The first day of the trip was spent getting settled into our Airbnb rental apartment in Boulder. We chose a cozy little place on the west end of Pearl Street. Since biking is huge in Boulder, and most all of Colorado, we decided to rent a couple of bikes and tour around town. We biked down Pearl Street, went through the college area of town and did Boulder Creek Path.

The one thing that I noticed right away was the great selection of gluten-free food options. It is very rare for me to go to a sandwich shop and eat a sandwich much less going to a coffee shop and being able to eat a coffee cake. I was able to do both of these things and as silly as that sounds, it was extremely exciting. I had a coffee cake for the first time in over six years. I guess it really is all about the little things right?

You hear so much about how difficult it is to adjust to the Colorado altitude especially when doing activities. I found out really quick what that was like especially when biking through the hills in Boulder. In no time, I was gasping for air with a massive headache settling in and feeling exhausted and dizzy. Of course Steve was totally fine. I pushed through and went to bed early hoping that I would feel much better the next day because we had big plans of going to Estes Park and into the Rocky Mountain National Park up to the peak at over 12,000 feet.

Vacation Location

Beach-Mountains

When I think of vacation spots, usually two types come to mind; beach and mountains. At the core, I am a beach person. I have lived near the water almost my entire life and grew up on boats. It was our Sunday family tradition to go to church then pack up the boat and head out on the water the rest of the day. I love the water especially the beach. I have always considered the beach my one true happy place. Nothing else can melt away the stress for me like the beach does.

On the flip side, I am a nature and scenery addict. I would live outside if I could. I simply cannot get enough beautiful landscape views in my life. I like the mountains but really haven’t spent much time in any mountain locations. My parents lived in the Tennessee Smokey Mountains for many years after I moved away from home so most of my mountain experiences have come from there.

Steve and I will be leaving in a couple of days to celebrate his 40th birthday in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I’ve been told that the Rocky Mountains is the Smokies on steroids. I cannot wait! As I sit on this side of our adventure, I wonder if this mountain experience will change my one true love of the beach. I really do believe that I will always love the beach. It is simply who I am, but the older I get  the more I see that pendulum swing further to the other side of the spectrum. Age certainly changes your likes, dislikes and tastes. Don’t you just love that? It enables you to try new things and have great new life experiences. I cannot wait to see how this mountain experience changes me.

Let’s be honest the only real issue with the mountains is the cold weather.