Of all the places life has taken me there is nowhere I would rather be than at the beach

Class Reunion: 2016

The decision to return to the past vis a vis your semi decadal class reunion is sometimes a mixed one.  Personally I went to my 25th, had a phenomenal time along with closure but have no desire for another.  I have however been to eight of my husband’s reunions.  Yes, you read that right eight of them.  And I have had a blast at each and every one.

My first experience was his 20th back in 1986; we had been dating about a year and I was very excited to go.  That reunion (as most all of them have been) was a three  day affair at the beach.  The 20th was both a blast and a blur as we partied the entire weekend.  I was 26 and he was 37.

We missed the 25th but returned to the 30th, 35th, 40th and 45th.  Since classmates were growing older and sadly some were passing the decision was made that this grand old time should be held more often so there was a 46th and a 48th. We recently came back from the big one — his 50th class reunion.  While there was much less partying going on and the weekend is clearly remembered it was just as much fun as the first one 30 years ago…

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The great thing about being from Jacksonville is that you are really close to the beach and the Terry Parker class of 1966 has many fond memories from summers long ago when the development was non existent compared to the hustle bustle of the area today. This one was held at Ponte Vedra beach.  We were among some of the first to arrive.

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I always enjoy the first night of an event weekend since it’s usually a smaller crowd and more time for one on one conversations.  We headed out to a local Italian favorite Caffe Andiamo and the dinner was beyond compare both company and culinary.

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The “pan seared sea scallops wrapped in prosciutto with sauteed spinach, a truffle butter cream sauce and Italian fries” was heavenly.  And uh the creme brulee I shouldn’t have had for dessert was perfectly caramelized.

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Enough about my passion for food.  By Friday morning more of his buds had arrived and plans were made for the start of the day.

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Not everyone was game for a day at the beach but I headed out with Rick and one of his closest buds Ben for a fun afternoon.  Pretty cool to see 2 dudes who’ve been good friends since 1955 still surfing and then getting a game of paddle ball in on the beach.  Not bad for 67 years old.

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That night we headed out to the Beach Diner for dinner and dancing.  We even had a DJ; Ronnie — a classmate that puts on quite the array of music for every reunion.  He takes requests and played mine for ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’ with a gentle reminder “that’s not from the 60’s”.

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Saturday we spent the morning and afternoon at the beach with another fun filled and action packed day.  Then we styled out and got ready for the big night.  Held at the Sawgrass Beach Club dinner was al fresco overlooking the Atlantic.  The evening was rounded out with socializing down memory lane, reconnecting and of course more music and dancing.

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All good things must come to an end but every reunion is finished off with an ‘until the we meet again’ leisurely breakfast. Terry Parker class of 66′ I feel like I belong.  Been a lot of fun over a lot of years — thanks for making me feel like an honorary member.  See y’all at the 52nd!

The Adventures of Dog Island

While it’s important to face reality on a daily basis the mind needs an escape if only for an hour a day in order to refresh, renew and overcome the challenges and reach our goals. We all escape in different ways. Vacations are an ideal way but not practical for a daily or weekly basis.

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As out of character and corny as it may sound I enjoy reading historical romance books. Generally for fifteen to thirty minutes in the evening will help me unwind from the day and drift blissfully off to sleep. Why historical romance? Well, you know how the story goes. . . girl meets man. Man is handsome, rugged, muscular, usually rich and full of integrity and courage. Girl is young, feisty and independent yet needs rescued from something. They meet, clash wills for most of the book and have wild sex. Man is usually a type of wounded hero from which girl in turn rescues him. He saves her, she saves him and they live happily every after. Perfect. Escape from reality.

My husband, the pragmatic realist typically makes fun of my books. Is he my hero? After 30 years together, many clashes of will and yes, rescues too he is. Just in a much less dramatic fashion than the typical storybook. What’s this got to do with vacations? Well another fantasy of mine has been to go back in time (the historical part). I realize it’s not possible but. . .

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When I discovered Dog Island – the “island that time forgot” a mere 4 1/2 hour drive from Tampa and ‘affordable’ I was determined to go there. Alone on a relatively deserted island for 7 days – my romance novel come to life,” NO” said the Jag. The debate started June of 2013. We were in the process of relocating our business so the trip got cancelled. 2014 came and he adamantly refused. I let it go. 2015, I am determined.

I’m more of a let’s pitch a tent under the stars kind of girl and he’s an AC and colored TV kind of guy. The biggest obstacle I faced with him was the place I chose to stay; an old dilapidated rustic hotel, which simulated indoor camping (8 aging rooms). When I called to inquire availability I found it had been sold and is closed. Hmmm, only other option was to rent a private home. I found a lovely 3 bedroom, 2 bath, AC, colored TV and all the modern appliances he cannot live without for a week. Even a blender for his margaritas. Takes me about a week of fairly civil debating and I won. Book it Dano! And off we went. . .

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Saturday, May 16: Left Tampa at 8:19 am.  Arrived in Carabelle 1:00 pm

First stop was Carabelle, Florida a small nostalgic coastal town; population 2778. We stayed at the Moorings, the ‘bustling’ marina and hub of all action and were treated to down home southern hospitality and much needed peace and quiet.  It was the perfect layover before going to Dog Island the next day. Room rate: $72 a night. A 7# bag of ice was $1 and fresh caught grouper at Millender’s seafood mart was $16.95 a pound. We truly felt like it was 1975 not 2015.

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We began unwinding from the 24/7 pace of life in Tampa; lunch at CJ’s grill was superb with hubby getting his fill of fried shrimp while I had the largest pound of u peels ever for a mere $9.99. We toured the town, did a little shopping and dined at Fathoms, a neat little restaurant and marina with a local band for nightly entertainment. Capped off the evening watching the boats in the marina yard. Blissfully quiet.

Sunday, May 17:

We were up early the next morning with the excitement of finally getting to Dog Island; no roads, no restaurants, no hotels, a few private homes and only 7 year round residents. Much of the island (1100/1800 acres) is protected by the Jeff Lewis Wilderness Preserve against development. We re iced the coolers (for the third time) and reloaded the Jeep.

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We meet Captain Rusty at the marina and load up the boat with out food and supplies; away we go on our six mile trip to Dog Island leaving the world behind. Once docking, we had wheelbarrows to put out stuff in and traverse up the dock to our waiting pick up truck.

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Once again, we reloaded. The Jag remarked “PJ this is as close to camping with me as you will ever get”.

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A short drive to our “home” for the week took us by the local ‘airport’.  “It’s an airstrip PJ, not an airport” hubby ‘corrected’.  I thought it was basic, functional and more than adequate.

Upon arriving it was time to unpack, again. Up the stairs with suitcases, about 17 boxes/coolers and other gear. The Jag had a completely sweat soaked shirt; for some reason I really enjoyed watching him do all that functional work. It reminded me of a CrossFit wod. He saw no humor but was a good sport.

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Upon walking into the house I was immediately taken aback by the panoramic view the layout provided; it was spectacular surrounded by water and nature on all sides. A beautiful three bedroom house with all the comforts of home. We get everything unloaded and I begin to unpack and organize everything.

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The Jag immediately turns on the TV and I hear an “F” bomb. What? I ask. “The satellite dish is on the ground.” Huh? “It’s rusted through, fell on the ground, and snapped the cable right off — no reception.

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He immediately calls the owner who is in Atlanta and promptly returns the call. Not really much he can do at this time. I doubt it very seriously if a Satellite repair man in Carabelle will jump on a boat and haul ass out here to fix it just so he can watch the hockey finals. Everything happens for a reason dear, look at the view. You watch TV all the time, you’ll live. He pouts for about 3 hours. It takes him the rest of the day and half of the next to come to terms with it.

Wifi was very very sketchy and worked only intermittently every few days despite the hot spot I brought. Another blessing from above, we came here to disconnect. The first evening was relaxing and both our minds and bodies began to slow down. Fresh grilled snapper for dinner followed by a calm, peace and serenity not found in hustling Tampa bay. We went to bed around 9:45 in the most pitch black room I have had the pleasure of sleeping in in decades. Not one damned LCD or outside light glaring at me. I awoke at 6:37 to the most splendid sunrise. Life has never looked this good. . .

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Monday, May 18

I enjoyed my coffee while watching the sunrise, then breakfast, workout and cool down to the sound of the sea. Off to explore one direction of the island with hubby for a nice 1 hour 15 minute walk. “I think we need to lock the house” he says before we embark. There’s hardly anyone on the island, I doubt the crime rate is high. “You never know”. Ok, make sure we can get back in. The key we have would only fit the front door, not any of the back doors on the porch. He checked all doors, locked the front and away we went.

Upon returning I am waiting on the porch for him to unlock the front door and let me in. It seems to be taking quite some time so he finally comes back and says “I forgot to unlock the deadbolt on the screen door”. Uh, so that means we can’t get in? “Oh, I’ll get us in”. Don’t break anything we’ll have to pay for it. Fortunately we had left the tool shed open and he gets a screwdriver and within 5 minutes has ‘broken’ into the house. Not literally, he merely managed to open the lock, quite easily I might add. Now I feel like I’m on an episode of survivor or maybe one of my books where the hero gets them out of distress?

Lo and behold Blake (the owner) and excellent host called and walked Rick through how to hook up the super sonic antennae; he now has TV and at least a few channels. He is back into full island mode.

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The rest of the day was spent relaxing, looking at the ocean and just breathing, distressing from our hectic pace of life. Everything tastes better on Dog Island. That night we grilled barbecued chicken, duck fat fries and green beans.

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I love my little (not) island kitchen.

Tuesday – Saturday:

Sundaywhen the TV wouldn’t work it was “PJ this is the last time”, Monday it was “it’s beautiful but this just isn’t my cup of tea”, “we will go to my pick next vacation – it’s about compromise” and by Tuesday morning it’s “you know, the place grows on you”. “Perhaps Capt Rusty needs an assistant. We could live in Carabelle”. Always takes him longer than me to see what is best.

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The beautiful days in paradise continued; beach workouts, sunrises, peaceful evenings, long walks on the beach and trails, fishing from the shore, sunbathing, reading, a few crossword puzzles, lounging in the hammock, zero technology and yes romance. We had thirty minutes of rain one afternoon and sunshine the rest, who could have asked for more.

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Sunday, May 24: time to go:(

Much quicker to pack up since we had ate and drank most of the food and water. Was I bored? Not one second. We both had the best vacation we have ever had in our 30 years together. Not one argument all week. As we packed up the pick up Rick said “I can’t wait to return”.  And neither can I.

The ride back was smooth, the box ran well without me in the capable hands of our staff. I had an extra day (Memorial day) to gradually shift back into reality. Tuesday morning found me back at work with a Zen like state of mind.  And feeling once again like I’m headed towards a happy ever aftering.

Date Day!

Getaways.  We all need them and even though I rarely leave the state it makes it no less refreshing.  This trip was to Neptune beach for the Jag’s class reunion but we left a day early to have a date day.

The end of September this year found Neptune Beach, chilly, windy and rainy.  That didn’t dampen our spirits at all as just being at the beach has a calming and wonderful effect.   Day 1 saw a smooth drive up and an early check in for the first night at our favorite hotel–the Sea Horse Oceanfront Inn, old Florida style


The Jag and I had Thursday all to ourselves before moving to the Marriott on Friday and the start of the reunion.

Arriving just before noon it was definitely time for lunch


We headed across the street to one of our favorites, the North Beach Fish Camp


For my favorite dish Mayport Shrimp n’ Grits.  Yes, I ate it all.  And that pretty much laid me out for the afternoon.  We did go for a 3 mile walk on the beach but I still had the “heavies”.


Since it was early and I was still full it was either a nap or the 5:30 pm class at M Body Yoga. It would either revive me or put me down.  The former prevailed.


A quick shower, a little black dress and off to some fine dining and romance with hubby.


I enjoy my food and Ocean 60 serves up the finest culinary delights and an ambiance to match.  I had one of the nightly specials “pecan crusted pan seared trigger and butter poached bay scallops topped with a roasted peach, arugula and red onion salad served over basmati jeweled rice pilaf with toasted almonds, dried cherries, cranberries and citrus zest finished with a lemon buerre blanc”.  Wow.  Again, no leftovers.  Hubby had “Tuscan grilled pork with wild mushrooms and bacon served over whipped potatoes and topped with a Marsala demi”.

Dessert was disappointing.  Creme brulee was not on the menu that night so being in the mood for a custard we opted to try out Whit’s.  It sounded promising.


I can’t quite put my finger on it but it just didn’t taste like the frozen custard I make.  For starters it was too “white”.  Cream isn’t white and if there really were some egg yolks in it would have been an off white color.  Taste — better than most but it tasted “fake” mostly likely due to the pasteurization of the cream.  As a rule I never eat ice cream out; when you make your own from raw cream, pastured egg yolks and maple syrup you’re not going to find that quality and taste at most places.

The evening was still young so back to the beach for a starlit walk along the ocean and then a solid night’s sleep.


The next morning we enjoyed our coffee on the the beach as the sun began to rise


The balmy breeze gave way to quite reflections


followed by an amazing hot power yoga class with my favorite instructor Denise at M Body yoga.  Denise has perfected the fine art of restoring one’s mind and body yet taking you to the brink.  Great way to start the day.  Now, on to the reunion. . .