Follow Your Passion: Meet Chelsea McMillan, founder of Sunshine State apparel line

4 Aug

It’s funny how life works. You ask for signs to make sure you are headed down the right path, that you are making the right decisions in your life, and most of the time, if you’re paying attention, you’ll find those signs. A few months back, I was looking for signs around career, and my path crossed with Chelsea McMillan. I was so inspired by her story that I wanted to share it with you all as well. Chelsea’s resume reads like a fairytale … at least this writer’s career fairytale. She is a former producer for O-P-R-A-H (the one, the only, all-powerful Oprah; I hear music when I say that name out loud), and worked on various projects for Pinterest in Los Angeles, but Chelsea was still hungry for something more. She wanted to do something she was passionate about that she could make a living at as well. She pushed herself, searching for answers.

“On Pinterest, you pin what you love, and so I started looking at my pins and I saw the ocean, the beach, beautiful waves,” Chelsea, born and raised in Clearwater Beach, says. And with that, the idea of starting her own Florida-inspired clothing line was born. Let me introduce you to Sunshine State, a line of apparel and home goods with beautiful Floridian designs and fashions at affordable prices.

Chelsea herself has designed a few styles, but she also has Florida artists contribute their work to the bunch to really bring a unique quality to her line. And she takes it one step further: Her mission is to spread the sunshine philosophy while preserving what we all love most about the lucky Florida lifestyle. She supports wildlife conservation efforts in Florida and donates a part of her proceeds to the to help #KeepFloridaWild.

“I realized there was a need for a modern apparel brand that represents the way I feel about my home state,” Chelsea says. Chelsea’s line is available in several Tampa Bay shops as well as her website. I’m in love with the cork-billed hats and the wine glasses, but I’d rock literally everything on the site.

Anyway, meeting Chelsea when I did reminded me that it is okay to take a chance on a new career path, and I decided to do just that. It is okay to be happy at what you are doing for a living but still seek out more. And it’s okay to not have every little bit figured out except for your faith in the future. And that’s life in a nutshell.

Check out the full line at


Magic Hands: My first massage at Fitness360 WestChase

6 Feb

olga_back2“So let me get this straight … ” I said on the phone with my locally owned gym. Fitness360 WestChase, a full fitness gym with beautiful rooms for group fitness, a separate personal-training consultation area and so much more, recently opened off W. Hillsborough Ave., and their manager was calling to ask me to try their new massage amenity.

Now, I still had to pay for the massage, but they know I have a big mouth and will tell everyone I know about it IF I like it, so they wanted me to come check it out exclusively first.

“So let me get this straight …” I said, as my brain danced in delight. “You want me to come to MY gym, right down the road, and get a massage while my three-year-old toddler is in kids care?” A massage with FREE daycare provided? This can’t be real. BUT IT IS!

I headed into the gym just before my 5:30 appointment, and Olga greeted me warmly. She explained the 30-minute Swedish massage, mainly focused on my neck, shoulders and back. “YES!” I screamed in my head. “My mommy knots can try to hide but I have a feeling Olga will find them.” (Mommy knots are those sore back muscles from lugging around your child, their gear, your gear and more, all while balancing a coffee between two fingers in utter desperation. It’s your badge of honor as a mom, but it leaves you walking around like Frankenstein most days.)

The massage room, lined with black curtains and rich with soft lavender scents, instantly relaxed my strained eyes and tense shoulders. I slipped under the sheet, and Olga began loosening up my back while I let my mind drift off to the room’s soothing music. Those 30 minutes flew by as I traced Olga’s warm hands in relaxation. Here’s what I learned:

  • This massage did more for me in five minutes than most massages do in 1 hour!
  • Olga did indeed find those knots and she made them her ____ (I’m trying to keep this post clean).
  • I now have a nickname for Olga: The Knot Destroyer!
  • I have the best gym ever with tons of amenities — now including massage — and FREE daycare during staffed hours.

Five stars and two-thumbs up don’t even come close to how thrilled I was with this service. This is a must-try! And that’s life in a nutshell.


Just a Small-Town Girl: Oldsmar’s Centennial Cookbook Challenge   

2 May

I always have and will always be a small-town girl. Once upon a time, I dreamed of moving to NYC to work as a fashion-magazine editor, and then I saw Times Square. Amazing and beautiful, yes, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea full-time. Originally from Granger, Indiana, I left that small town for another small town (Bloomington, Indiana) and eventually another small town (Oldsmar, Florida).

There’s just something magical about living in a small town. (Is John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” playing in your head yet?) I love knowing my neighbors, I love that my community feels more like a group of friends than strangers, and I love that we all wave to each other when we pass by.

And I particularly love living in Oldsmar — close enough to Tampa, Clearwater and Orlando so you get all the big-city fun but far enough of way that you retain the small-town charm in your everyday life. I love that I can walk to the library or to the water any afternoon, and I absolutely love the rich history of this area. Ransom E. Olds, the automobile pioneer, purchased nearly 38,000 acres of land in April 1916 to establish Oldsmar, and this year marks the city’s Centennial Celebration!

As part of that celebration, Oldsmar has been hosting themed concert events every fifth Friday of the month —and it was at one such event that I found an absolute gem: the Oldsmar Centennial Cookbook, featuring nearly 120 recipes from local residents just like me. The Friends of the Oldsmar Library put together this collection of treats, and I had to have one. $15 dollar later, I snatched up my copy and tucked it under my arm for safe-keeping until I could get home.


On Sunday afternoon, I read the cookbook cover to cover, soaking in not only the recipes but a lot of wonderful history on Oldsmar and its residents. Each recipes has a notes area, filled with the lovely stories about the background of each dish, like the one Grace Kinane shared with the Stuffed Olives entry: “Longtime teacher at Oldsmar Elementary, Helen Scott, shared this after we swooned over them!” Or Bette Rae Maltinos’ submission for Brown Bread, “I have made this since my sons were very small and they could not wait to cut it and eat. I still make this for them even though they are now men.”

The cookbook is also filled with old photos documenting Oldsmar’s history like the town’s very first library and Mr. Olds and President Roosevelt in our streets among others. Who knew that Oldsmar hosted beach parties in the 1920s? Looks like quite a fun time from the photo! I wondered if they served any of these recipes there.


The cookbook inspired me to start a challenge. I’m going to cook my way through each and every entry, starting with the very first one: Joan Wallace’s Bacon-Shrimp Bites. And so I did! Jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon with a drizzle of barbecue sauce and honey make Sunday just that much sweeter. And with that first bite, I thought, “Yes, Joan. You were right. I should’ve planned for leftovers, because this was delicious!” Thank goodness for those notes.


And as I continued read through the pages, I stopped thinking of this as a cookbook all together. It was so much more than a cookbook in my eyes. It was a book, filled with amazing stories. And it reminded me what recipes actually do — they let you gather as a family and make memories over some delicious meals. And within those note sections and among the old photos, there lied our real truth … we are neighbors who share, we are families that love, and we are a community with a treasured past. And that’s why I love being a small-town girl right here in Oldsmar. And that’s life in a nutshell.

Joan Wallace’s Bacon-Shrimp Bites

Jumbo Shrimp: As many as needed

Bacon Slices: Half the amount as shrimp

I cup barbecure sauce

1 drizzle of honey per shrimp


Cut bacon in half and wrap around the shrimp. Secure with a toothpick. Place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Broil 6 inches from heat for 5 minutes on each side or until bacon is crisp (we actually grilled these instead on foil). Drizzle with barbecue sauce and honey, and serve.

Note from Joan: I have been serving this for years. It is very quick to make and is low calorie (30 calories per shrimp). I love to have leftovers of this. Keep them in the fridge until the next day and have a few as a tasty lunch.

To purchase your own copy of the cookbook, visit the Oldsmar Public Library at 400 St. Petersburg Drive East in Oldsmar. You can also read more about it here.



Welcome to Two: Kids Say the Sweetest Things

29 Apr

So, my title is probably confusing to you. “In her last post, she was celebrating her son’s first birthday, and now he can already talk?” And you’re not that too far off, because my child is the smartest child alive, but no, he didn’t go from one to talking overnight. I took a year away from blogging because life kinda got in the way.

But today, Facebook reminded me of a post I wrote some time ago, all about those early maternity-leave days, and it made me miss my writing moments. So here I sit, ready to pick the digital pen back up and put my thoughts to screen. But where do I begin capturing all that’s happened in the last year …

I could write about the time Reece pooped in the tub … and then did it again two days later because who doesn’t love that surprise?? Or what about the time he repeated the F word in public? There was that time I took him to Publix with me at 8 a.m. and let him get a cookie just to keep him happy, much to the disappointment of the bakery lady and every other person I passed. P.S. My son looks adorable at 8:15 a.m. with sprinkles speared all over his face and eyes wide open with a sugar rush.

Let’s just say, this boy has given me some stories. But the sweetest memory in the whole world came to mind, so I’ll share that to start.

It was a warm day, and PoppaNut, Reece and I were hanging out on the back patio just taking in the fresh air. PoppaNut was preparing the grill for a delicious dinner, and of course, Reece wanted to do the same. He wheeled out his plastic Weber and started to “turn on” the burners.

“Mommy, do you like corn?”

“Yes, Reece. Mommy likes corn.”

“You want carrots, Mommy?”


IMG_4334With each fake food item Reece dug out from his grill cabinet, we’d discuss it, and pretend to gobble it up. “Oh, yummy,” we’d both squeal. And the game continued.

After some time, he was busy playing away on his own, grilling things up, serving them and cleaning it all up again.

As the sun started to set, a warm glow filled the backyard. Reece’s wild excitement had changed to a soft, sweet tone.

I said, “Reece, what are you going to make Mommy next?”

And he said, in the sweetest voice ever with such honesty, “Happy.”

And in that moment, my heart filled with overwhelming love.

And I wanted to say, “My sweet boy, I’m already happy. I’m over-the-moon, beyond-my-wildest-dreams happy. You and Daddy make me SO happy and I love you so much!”

But my throat closed up while I held back the tears … and all I could get out was a smile and a twinkle in my eye. And that’s life in a nutshell.


It’s a Great Pumpkin: Organizing a Charlie Brown Birthday Party

25 Nov

I love a theme! Once you finalize any party theme, you can just let your imagination run wild. And that’s exactly what happened as PoppaNut and I planned Reece’s very first birthday!

Plus, this party was not only a celebration of Reece turning one. It was a celebration for us as parents. WE MADE IT THROUGH THE FIRST YEAR WITHOUT KILLING EACH OTHER OR KILLING REECE! In fact, we are thriving as a family and getting cozy in our new status of three.

So, with our theme decided — It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown — it was time to get planning.

Invitations and Signage: Our friend owns Black Tie Creative, and he’s been gracious enough to design our wedding invitations, Reece’s birth announcements and various other odds and ends. So, he was the perfect man to bring our Charlie Brown theme to life. He created the invites, birthday signs, food signs and more.

Cake: His equally talented wife designed and baked a matching cake! And we ate every last bite. Plus, we had a cheap Publix smash cake made in the shape of a pumpkin just for Reece to destroy.

Decor: The Charlie Brown decorations online looked girly to me, so I bought several orange and yellow banners and plastic tablecloths. Then, I simply used a black marker to draw Charlie Brown’s zigzag along the bottom. Boom! We also added some cozy elements to bring in more of the fall theme like hay stacks.

Entertainment: This was the first time our house was seeing so many children, so it was important to have lots of fun activities. We hired a face painter and put up a bounce house. I also put together a pumpkin-decorating station (fake pumpkins, washable markers, Snoopy stickers). We also had the “It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” movie playing on the TV, and cornhole boards out for the adults.

Gift Bags: I got yellow gift bags and used a black marker to add Charlie Brown’s zigzag to them. I filled the inside with Halloween treats, noise makers, rings and stickers. Then, I printed off a Charlie Brown coloring sheet (there’s a ton online), rolled it up and secured with a decorative ribbon.

Details: Then, we added in some final details. I placed a Snoopy stuffed animal in the cake chair, and we put a basket of blankets — courtesy of Linus — nearby.

We asked everyone to wear costumes, which really added to the fun! Reece wore a Charlie Brown onesie … and he loved every minute of it. Thank you to everyone who joined in on the fun! It feels so wonderful to be surrounded with so many family and friends to celebrate! And that’s life in a nutshell.


Happy First Birthday: Reece Turns One

29 Oct

Dear, Reece.

Today, you are one year old, and I can’t help but reflect on what this year has meant to both me and your proud dad. I wrote you letters while I was pregnant with you, dreaming of the little boy I would one day hold in my arms. I wrote that I knew two things about you: You’d love the Yankees and we’d love you more than anything in the world. I wrote about all the fun things we’d teach you: How to ride a bike, how to tie your shoes, how to catch a lizard with your bare hands. I imagined you running up and hugging me after a long day at school, I dreamt of us baking holiday cookies together, I pictured taking your Prom photos on the front stairs. And I made of list of all the places we’d take you: to the zoo, to Grandma’s house, to the splash park, to a baseball game.

But today, I’m not thinking about all the things we’ve done, all the places we’ve gone and all the things we’ve taught you. I’m actually grateful for the things you’ve taught me, lessons I didn’t even know I needed to learn.

You’ve taught me how to be patient. You’ve reminded me to be curious and to continue to learn something new every day. You’ve taught me to trust in myself, because even though I had no idea what I was doing as a Mommy, we figured it out as a family. You taught me to trust my gut — Daddy and I fought a few doctors to figure you out. You taught me that while schedules are certainly important, there are a few good reasons to break them every now and then. You showed me that hearing one of your big belly laughs could cure the hardest of days. You taught me that every day is a reason to dance.

You’ve taught me to loosen up … have fun … life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. You’ve reminded me of all the fun I had as a child, all the games I played, where my imagination took me. You’ve allowed me to rediscover the world through your eyes.

Having you in our lives allowed me to see a whole new side of Daddy, a softer, gentler and stronger man than I ever knew before. Daddy’s eyes lit up the second he saw you, and he was by your side right from the start, keeping you company in the NICU until I could see you. Daddy became the ultimate protector of both of us in that hospital room. And watching the two of you together fills my heart with overwhelming joy! You’d reach up to Daddy and you could just see his heart melt.

But when I look through the photos in this last year, it’s the quiet, everyday moments that I’ll cherish forever. Some of my favorite memories are the first time I felt you breathe on my chest. I loved looking down at your long beautiful eyelashes. I loved the way you would snuggle with your lambie in your crib. You loved sleeping on your left side when you were little. I was so scared to dress you in the beginning because I’d never dressed a baby before — so you stayed pretty much naked for the first week.

Me, you and Daddy used to take LONG car rides, because it was the only way you’d fall asleep, so we spent many afternoon touring the Tampa Bay area. In fact, you blew the engine in Daddy’s Commander with all the trips to the Skyway Bridge.

You loved to be bounced, so I’d spend days literally walking in circles with you, just bouncing and bouncing. I’d even bounce when I wasn’t holding you, just out of pure habit. Your favorite toys were your giraffe rattle, your keys and lambie. You’d play with your shadow and you loved looking in the mirror. When you’d fuss, I’d sing to you in the car, and you’d just watch and listen. You thought Peanut and Cashew were hysterical, and you’d crack up whenever they came around.

But today, I’m supposed to see you as a big boy now that you’re one, but I still see my sweet baby boy. I’ll always see your little ringlets and dimples when I see your smiling face, no matter how big you get. I’ll always remember your tiny fingers wrapped around mine. And I’ll always be honored that you decided to make me your mommy.

I love you, son.


Here are just a few of the highlights in the last year.
• October 29, 2013: Reece is born at 8:24 p.m. weighing 7 pounds and 20 inches long
• October 30, 2013: First time getting your wild hair washed
• October 31, 2013: First time trick-or-treating and you cleaned up at the nurses’ station (Kit-Kat) while wearing Frankenstein pants
• Rolled over in the first month
• November 28, 2013: First Thanksgiving at Grandpa Orlando’s, wore a turkey butt outfit
• Went picking out a Christmas tree together and you had one in your room
• You hated bath time with Mommy but LOVED it with Daddy
• You loved your bouncer, you’d swing your leg up and down just to bounce more
• Wore an elf outfit on Christmas morning and a tux on New Year’s Eve
• February 2, 2014: Superbowl, first time sleeping through the night
• February 14, 2014: You and Daddy surprised me at work on Valentine’s Day, dressed in your “Most Eligible Bachelor” shirt
• March 30, 2014: Went to Oldsmar Days, and you were mesmerized by the fair rides
• April 20, 2014: Easter at Aunt Steph’s house, wore bunny ears
• April 21, 2014: First time at the park, went on the slide and swings
• April 26, 2014: First time in the pool at Grandma Tam’s house and you LOVE it
• May 4, 2014: You get the jumper
• May 4, 2014: First time eating food (peas). You loved corn, squash and pears. You hate sweet potatoes.
• May 16, 2014: First time flying on a plane to Nan and Pop Pop’s house
• May 21, 2014: First time putting your toes in the sand in Delaware, but you hated the cold ocean water
• May 24, 2014: You met my Grandpa Tam for the first and only time, but you brought such joy to him in his last days and he loved looking at your photos.
• May 31, 2014: Attended Mason’s graduation party
• June 1, 2014: Now you love sweet potatoes
• June 29, 2014: First tooth pops through (bottom left) and sat up unassisted for the first time
• July 4, 2014: Work the cutest “Mommy’s Firecracker” outfit and Lady Liberty crown
• July 10, 2014: First time dressing like a big boy (no onesie) and heading to sushi with Mommy and Daddy
• June 19, 2014: First time crawling
• July 25, 2014: You say your first word (“Da Da”) and started climbing up on things at Aunt Stacy’s annual Pig Roast in CT
• August 3, 2014: Became an outlaw at Madison’s birthday party
• August 16, 2014: First Yankees game. Daddy was SO proud to take you there.
• August 27, 2014: Reached expert cruiser status
• August 30, 2014: First time seeing mermaids at Weeki Wachee and going to the splash park!
• September 17, 2014: Said “Momma” for the first time
• September 26, 2014: Leaned how to wave goodbye
• October 22, 2014: You’ve turned into a break-dancing fool over night!
• October 26, 2014: First time at the Oldsmar Fall Festival/Pumpkin Patch
• October 27, 2014: First time with whole milk in your bottle
• October 29, 2014: First time carving pumpkins

Retailing at Home: Organizing a Community Garage Sale

24 Oct

I live in a community that is not deed-restricted, which can be a good and a bad thing. While I can paint my house any color I want, the community does not host a collective garage sale, and I happen to LOVE garage sales.

With a renovation in the works and a little boy growing like crazy, I have my share of retired items in search of a good home. And yes, I could just load up the truck and take all the items to a donation center, but I love a good garage sale.

I’ve never hosted a garage sale as an adult, but I have plenty of memories of my mom’s garage sales over the years. We also didn’t live in a deed-restricted community then, so she’d post signs around the neighborhood to get the word out. She’d string wire up in the garage, from one of my dad’s dusty toolboxes to the corner of the garage-door tracks to hang up clothes. She’d wear an old “Big C Lumber” pouch to have change easily accessible. And I’d help bag items bought for all of our “customers.” It was fun!

So, I decided to host a community garage sale. While we were small in numbers (only a few houses joined in this time), I learned some great stuff that I want to pass along.

Get Social: I created a flyer and started posting it around online, asking others to join in on the community sale and telling customers when and where it would take place. I posted to my friends and I also posted within relevant groups.

Find a Sponsor: Find a great non-profit or community group that can help support your cause. I partnered with the Salvation Army, and I encouraged all those participating to donate anything that didn’t sell right to the Salvation Army as well. Plus, the charity can help spread the word.

Make Signs: Find the brightest posters, get some markers and get creative! Then, buy stakes at Lowe’s and attach them to your posters with a staple gun. Be sure to include your location and hours for the sale. Then, put them up the day before to start spreading the word!


Get Change: You are going to need a lot of $1s and quarters during the sale so I suggest getting cash the day before. I got $90 in $1s and $10 in quarters, and I had plenty!

Have Bags/Boxes Available: Some people might buy A LOT and they’ll want something to carry it all in. I saved all my diaper boxes and grocery-store bags for this exact occasion!

Prepare for Rain: Yeah, it happens. And I wasn’t prepared. Learn from me, and have large black trash bags on hand to quickly cover up items so you don’t have to rush them in and out.

photo 4

Set Up Refreshments: Take a tip from the grocery stores and try to upsell. My sweet second cousin set up a station with soda and water for $1 each. Plus, she makes really amazing duct-tape accessories and clay keychain, so she set up a display for her items as well!

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Nearly $300 later, I’d say the garage sale was a success. Plus, I got to know some of my neighbors a little bit better, and I had some fun bonding time with my aunt and cousin! And that’s life in a nutshell.


The Master Plan: Renovating Your Master Bedroom

21 Oct

PoppaNut happens to be extremely handy, and he’s usually pretty game for a renovation project. I’m also lucky enough to have two amazing contractors in my life that also happen to be family — my dad and my father-in-law, so it can quickly turn into a family affair when the hammers start swinging in this crazy nuthouse.

Prior to the renovation, our tiny master bedroom featured pocket doors to a shared office space. And the closet was a pain point each time I put away laundry because closet racks were actually linen-closet shelves, which means you could not slide the hangers whatsoever. Total frustration! The room was always just fine for what we needed, but we dreamt of something amazing.

Original Bedroom/Office

Original Bedroom/Office


Enter PoppaNut. Determined to turn our Ok bedroom into a showstopper, the renovation began! First, we emptied the room and all the contents of our closet (where am I going to put all these shoes??).

I Will Not Get Rid of Shoes!

I Will Not Get Rid of Shoes!

Then, the wall between the master bedroom and the office came down. We moved our mattresses to a spare room, and hunkered down for nearly a month while saw dust and drywall took residence in our soon-to-be master suite!





I spent the time surfing Pinterest for the perfect DIY projects to keep costs moderately low, and I shopped for my few luxury items! Our Vision: Key West style with modern sensibility and vintage touches. Here’s how we brought it together:
-I traded my standard comfortable for a modern quilt. The quilt gave the room that vintage touch, but the pattern put a modern twist on it.
-We purchased a new king-size mattress from Mattress Firm, and we wanted it to make a grand statement. We picked out this dark-gray fabric headboard to do just that! I purchased it when there was a free-shipping offer and combined that with a coupon. Major savings!
-Nightstands can be super expensive, so I found a really fun DIY project that used an IKEA hamper frame with fresh wood tops. I used gray stain for the tops of mine, and they look really nice in the room.
-With several modern touches already in place, I needed to add some beach inspiration. So, I started searching for fillable lamps. Once found (I found mine at but they’re no longer available), I bought shells and sand for Michael’s, and I started spray painting with leftover silver and turquoise paint I had at home. Once dried, I added the sand and shells to each lamp and placed a Target shade on top! I also picked up some beachy frames and filled them with photos we took on vacation.
-We found the dresser on Craigslist, and I went to town sanding and repainting this hefty piece. I just used leftover paint at home (Quicksilver from Sherman Williams). The flooring is a Mohawk laminate from Bob’s Carpet Mart, and the TV is a Sony Bravia from Best Buy.
-Then, we accessories with items we already had, like the IKEA white rocker, picture frames, candles and more!

photo 1

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I’m over-the-moon happy with my beachside retreat! We finally have a space all our own, which we will enjoy for many years to come. And that’s life in a nutshell.


Turning 33: Living it up in the Keys

6 Oct

I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a birthday more than my 33rd birthday, which took place last month. It’s not because I was thrilled to be turning another year older, but this birthday would mark the first time PoppaNut and I had a vacation sans baby since his birth — and we needed it! And so my amazing hubby planned a surprise trip to KEY WEST!!

Woohoo! We packed our bags, lovingly dropped off Reece at his grandparents’ home, removed the “parent” title from our vocabulary and proceeded to the Ft. Myers’ Key West Express dock to kick off the weekend.

My Mission: To reclaim my former, no-baby self. No schedules. No backup plans. No searching for reviews and recommendations. No judgment. And for the love of god, no Cheerios in my purse!

Here’s a look back at some of the highlights of our Key West vacation.

Key West Express
This is the only way to get the Keys. After boarding in Ft. Myers, you have three blissful hours to enjoy the beautiful breeze and ocean views while sipping Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s to your heart’s content. If it happens to rain, there might be a group of wild yet inviting travelers who befriend you and insist you do shots of straight vodka for the next two hours — which they may or may not have smuggled onto the boat in the first place. It will kick your trip off right, so just do it.

And We're Off!

And We’re Off!

Sloppy Joe’s
Live music, unbelievable sloppy joe’s and one rowdy crowd equals one of the best spots in Key West! Plus, this place is filled with rich history, considering it’s been located at the corner of Greene and Duval streets since 1937. Beginning at just 9 a.m. (again, no judgment), customers can enjoy their favorite beverage!

Time for Lunch and Some Live Music.

Time for Lunch and Some Live Music.

Ocean Key Resort & Spa
Step into paradise. Spacious rooms with large Jacuzzi tubs and panoramic views of both the Gulf of Mexico and Duval Street just melt all your cares away. The modern green-and-white pool area features first-come, first-serve cabanas and the most friendly staff — they delivered frozen towels, fresh drink samples and even frozen fruit to make the sun just a bit more tolerable. In fact, the entire staff made us feel right at home … if our home was a luxury waterfront mansion! I can’t wait to return.

Most Captivating Views!

Most Captivating Views!

Time for a Frozen Towel!

Time for a Frozen Towel!

Harpoon Harry’s
Authentic breakfast diner and a full liquor store in one? This urban myth is certainly true in Key West! While they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’m recommending breakfast. They’re known for their Bloody Harry (a spicy Bloody Mary) and the Heapin’ Harry breakfast platter: 2 eggs any style with cheese atop potatoes sittin’ on ham, smothered in sausage gravy and served with toast. Yummy!

Booze and Breakfast

Booze and Breakfast

Some Interesting Decor Around These Parts!

Some Interesting Decor Around These Parts!

Mallory Square
This quaint shopping square has anything and everything you might want to buy for those friends and family who are angrily reviewing your Facebook feed updates while they sit at work. Plus, the nightly sunset celebration includes amazing street performers and talent acts.

Time for Shopping

Time for Shopping

Smallest Bar
Don’t blink or you might just miss this one. This is LITERALLY the smallest bar in the world, with just a small yellow awning documenting its existence. It’s a great pit stop as you make your way down Duval Street and all the patrons are super friendly!

Their Not Kidding About This Being a Pretty Small Bar!

Their Not Kidding About This Being a Pretty Small Bar!

Rick’s Bar
PoppaNut and I spent a few beers’ time here, mainly people watching from the front stools. It happened to be raining this evening, and this was the perfect, down-home joint to quench our thirsts. Rick’s Bar is actually one of eight bars in a larger entertainment complex so they truly have a spot for everyone!

Perfect Spot for People Watching

Perfect Spot for People Watching

With my liver barely functioning on the ferry ride home from the Keys, I’d say “Mission Accomplished.” I think we just might make this an annual trip for my birthday. Where should we stop the next time we head down to Key West?

And that’s life in a nutshell.


Mommy Meltdowns: When Your Baby Isn’t a Baby Anymore

30 Sep

I’m completely in love with my IKEA rocker. In preparing the nursery, I ran across a blog combining an IKEA chair with a rocker attachment, and I just had to have it! I loved this rocker from the first time I sat in it, and I knew this is the spot I’d rock our sweet son to sleep at night.

Waiting for Baby to Arrive for the First Rock

Waiting for Baby to Arrive for the First Rock

But when Reece was born with acid reflux, the rocker saw more screaming than sleeping, from both me and Reece! PoppaNut found me there a time or two when he came home from work, and I’d be crying in frustrating not knowing how to soothe our little one who was obviously fighting his own pain.

But as we figured out the cure to Reece’s aliment, the rocker turned into a place of peace. I’d rock with Reece just before bed, using this quiet time to say our prayers and cuddle. I’d watch as he played with his little curls, wrapping his tiny finger around each ringlet as he finished his bottle. I’d feel his warm breath on my hand, completely in amazement that we made this amazing child. PoppaNut would stand beside us, giving us each kisses and saying goodnight. And on hard days, this would be the place where Reece and I would find happiness again, each forgiving each other for whatever “mistakes” we’d made and we’d promise to do better tomorrow.

Falling in Love With Reece's Tiny Fingers While We Rock One Night

Falling in Love With Reece’s Tiny Fingers While We Rock One Night

As Reece has gotten older, things have changed. Our 11-month-old no longer has the most perfect whale mobile above his crib, which also now resides in the lowest position available. In fact, Reece ripped the mobile down himself in an “I’m not a baby anymore, Mom … Get this freakin’ whale deal out of here” rage of defiance. We are also now greeted by a standing toddler each morning, rather than a burrito-wrapped infant.

Now, We Are Greeting With a Standing Baby

Now, We Are Greeting With a Standing Baby

The onesies have been replaced with 18-month “real” T-shirts and the footie pajamas have been swapped for matching two-pieces. The rattles and teethers that used to make Reece so happy are collecting dust wherever he last threw them. Instead, matchbox cars and shape sorters keep him entertained. His whale tub is on the verge of retirement (probably should’ve happened a month or so ago but I can’t bear to send that to storage, too) and now rides to daycare in a “big boy” seat.

I’ve packed up Reece’s most iconic baby clothes — his first Frankenstein Halloween PJs he wore in the hospital, his baby-blue going-home outfit, his turkey butt pants from Thanksgiving, his elf costume from Christmas, his Yankee hat — and I’ve lined his closet with his upcoming sizes in preparation for the next growth spurt.

PoppaNut Holding Reece in His Halloween Jammies

PoppaNut Holding Reece in His Halloween Jammies

But in all this changes, one thing in the room has remained constant: the rocker. The rocker is there each night, ready to snuggle us together once again. It caps off the end of our day together before we get to spend the rest of our evening with some much-needed alone time.

And The Rocker Remains ...

And The Rocker Remains …

PoppaNut knows this chair is important. So, on an unassuming weeknight, PoppaNut and I are discussing the latest details in our master-bedroom renovation (more to come in a later post), and he points to an empty corner: “I was thinking this would be a perfect place for your rocker … I know how much you love that chair so I thought we could add it into our bedroom.”

Tears are probably not the most anticipated response from such an innocent idea, but that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t even have time to really digest the idea … the tears just flowed like running water with a babbling of words: “But that means Reece doesn’t need me anymore and he’s not a baby anymore and that’s our snuggle time. I’ve already packed up his baby clothes and did you see him rip down the mobile? I know we are supposed to teach him and watch him grow wings but, he’s only 11 months old and I’m not ready to start letting go …”

PoppaNut’s face went completely white … and I imagine his internal dialogue went something like this: “What the heck is happening?? I didn’t ask her to give Reece up for adoption, did I? No, I think I was just talking about moving the chair. Yes, I’m sure of it. I mean, I thought she loved the chair and I thought she would love having it in the room. I didn’t know the waterworks were going to pour out. What do I do? Ok, I need to say something here because she’s still crying and babbling incoherently at this point.”

PoppaNut wrapped his arms around me, letting me cry a little longer just to get the emotions out, before gently saying, “You can rock him as long as you want to, baby. You can leave the rocker just where it is for as long as you want. But if you do want the chair in our bedroom, you can still rock Reece before bed in there. There’s no rush.” And with a few more hugs and kisses, this crazy momma finally settled down.

Our Big Boy

Our Big Boy

And now a few days later, I can laugh at myself. Did I need to have a full mommy breakdown over a rocking chair? No. Now that I’ve cried it out, can I move the rocker into our bedroom? Maybe. I know eventually I’ll need to put on my “big girl” pants and let our little one turn into the boy he’s meant to be. But until he’s in his “big boy” pants — which I’m defining as size 2T — I’ll just let us both be babies for a little while longer. And that’s life in a nutshell.


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