December 2015 Recap
Now that Chedr was closed down for the winter, I finally got to enjoy some time off. I did some painting, some sewing, crafting, holiday cooking, and worked to get all my Christmas presents made and wrapped before I hit the road to Florida. One of the reasons I visit Florida every year is because it's my second hometown. I spent ages 14-30 living in Jacksonville,...high school, college, and my 20's...so I have a lot of friends and family still in Florida (some spread out now).
December 16 I hit the road, stopping in Atlanta to visit briefly with my brother Ryan and his wife Taryn. Traffic was heavy driving down, so I didn't even get in til after 9. We had some good Thai takeout, and caught up until after midnight. The next day I had to go pick up a new batch of Nacho Mama's t-shirts and hoodies that had just been printed, and then I spent an hour or so at IKEA. Had to use of my gift card from the previous Christmas...and I've been needing an IKEA fix, so it was a necessity. After Ikea, I went to say goodbye to my brother down at his studio, and then I hit the road for my next destination.
Dec 17. The next place I was headed was Blufton, South Carolina to visit with my friend Lewie Lee. Lewie is one of my oldest, dearest friends from Jacksonville who plays a mean harmonica, loves his whiskey, and has an infectious laugh. We always have a good time when we get together. I only stayed the one night, and since he had to work the next day, I continued my journey. Our visit was short and sweet, but since I hadn't seen in him in several years, I had to make the detour.
Dec 18 The next day, which was a Friday, I stopped in Fernandina to visit with mama Brenda for a bit. Brenda is Groovy's mom (my best friend who passed away a few years ago) and so it was really good to catch up and see her cute new house. Groovy's family is like family to me, and it helps keep her memory alive for all of us when we have a chance to visit. Especially now that we've had time to grieve and it's not such a sad event for us to get together. Don't get me wrong...there are still teary moments for us, just not as many, and we can reminisce without always crying. I didn't have a chance to see the rest of the family on Friday, but I was returning on Sunday.
Next I headed to Jacksonville to spend the weekend with my old school BFF, Audra. I hadn't gotten to see Audra in 3-4 years, so it was a much needed reunion. We started the weekend Friday night having a cookout at Christopher's house, (Audra's nephew) whom I hadn't seen since he was 12. It was a bit surreal, because I used to babysit this kid, and here he was at 25 drinking a beer with us and cooking me some of the best fresh tuna steak I had ever had. Before I had nieces and nephews, Christopher was like my first nephew. I sure loved that kid, and so even though I haven't known him for the latter part of his life, I knew him well for the first years. Now that he's an adult, he's totally into the same things I was at his age....jam bands, music fests, camping....hippie shit. Gotta love the way of the universe!
Friday night we headed out to Audra's house out in Fleming Island, and there I stayed until Sunday morning. Such a cool house, with an awesome outdoor space. They built a huge fireplace and waterfall that looked out over the woods, and with the chilly temperatures that weekend, it was a perfect outdoor retreat. I spent most of my time outside by the fireplace. Saturday night we had some fresh steamed Florida shrimp....so so good! After Friday nights yummy grilled tuna steak, the shrimp on Saturday was definitely a bonus treat. Saturday I got to hang out with Audra's oldest girl, French braiding her hair and taking her shopping. That was special because I havent really gotten to know her kids much over the years, and her oldest is 12. The other girls were at their Grandmas for the weekend, so I only got to see them briefly, which is usually the case when I've been in town. All in all, it was a good chill weekend with an old friend.
December 20 Sunday I got up early, and headed back to Fernandina to visit with Brenda. It's only about a 45 minute drive, so I decided to take the long scenic route along A1A and Hecksker Drive. I stopped at Big Talbot State Park along the way, which is one of my favorite places in Jacksonville, or anywhere for that matter. It's one of the few places that you can go to the beach and have the whole place to yourself. The coast has become really eroded, so a lot of the beach is inaccessible, but after hiking through the woods for a good half a mile, you are able to find path that can access the beach and isn't too steep. You are then rewarded by a totally surreal and beautiful landscape of overturned sunbleached trees, with roots exposed along he beach. Many a photographer have made a name for themselves from Big Talbot photo shoots. If you are ever in the area, I strongly suggest making the trip to Big Talbot. It's super close to Amelia Island / Fenandina , which is also a must stop along any visit to north Florida. It's got a cute and quaint downtown area right on the waterfront, and has a laid back island vibe. Shrimp Capitol too! Anyway, so once I got to Fernandina I spent the day with Brenda...eating lunch with Shanna, Michelle's sister, then heading to the beach at Fort Clinch to visit the spot where the family scattered Michelle's ashes. In the afternoon, we visited with Trey, Michelle's brother, who was about to head back to Costa Rica. We ended the day chillin in Brenda's backyard around the fire pit roasting vegan marshmallows. Perfect lazy Sunday.
December 21. Monday I left Fernandina and headed to Orlando to visit another BFF, Joyce. Since she was working, I only got to visit with her later in the evening. Both her kids were in town, so it was good to see them too....so crazy that they are all grown up and adults now. Seems like yesterday that they were so little. My visit was short but sweet, a few good hours of seeing your best friend who you only see maybe once a year is always worth the effort. Was supposed to meet up with Joyce again after Christmas, but she wasn't able to make it, so I'm glad we had at least a short visit.
The rest of my trip was spending it with family and friends in Clermont and St. Pete. I could go on and on, but this has gotten a bit long winded, so I will just say that seeing my Florida family..my dad, stepmom, brothers, sister, nieces and nephews...is always precious to me and every moment counts. Holiday meals, traditions, and now holiday karaoke....make each Christmas special. I ended the trip spending my last day with another BFF Sharon, and my brother Jason. We had a great day at the Dali Museum, then spent the afternoon visiting with friends playing banjo, games, etc...then ended the evening seeing Uncle John's Band play live in downtown St. Pete.
So that was the basics of my December! Hope you all got to spend quality time with those you love as well.