Christmas in Florida

P1050938

It seems like every year for Christmas I set the intention to give handmade gifts, and most recent years that hasn’t panned out for one reason or another. Lack of time, or more honestly, lack of planning, is usually the culprit. But this year, I had so much fun making all-natural rosemary soy candles for gifts that it might become a regular hobby. I know, I know, routine and regularity are not often in my vocabulary, but the fun I had with these might just make these an exception to my battle with predictability.

Tommy and I flew down to Florida for the holidays to see my family. We got to spend time with my spunky-as-ever 97-year-old grandma, an avid antiques lover and trader, who has taught me, among countless other life lessons, to honor the life of every timeworn piece. I grew up in her backyard (literally, in a tiny house my father built there), so her home holds layers of my childhood memories, like the yard stick glued to the door jamb that has my brother’s and my growth chronicled in penciled inches; or the towering grandfather clock that used to chime on the hour (and now chimes, it seems, whenever it wants to, sometimes for minutes at a time).

P1060038

P1060056

In the lazy days that followed our Christmas celebrations, we indulged in catching up on reading and drinking lots of coffee.

P1060168

And for us, Florida vacations, no matter the season, mean that holy trinity of sun, sand and water, where Tommy and I have both discovered that we feel most clarity and calm. In Sarasota with my dad, we kayaked through mangrove tunnels, walked in the surf, bird-watched, and of course, ate fish and chips.

Back at home for New Year’s Eve, we wrapped up our year quietly, at home, with a bottle of wine andย Holiday Inn (one of my favorite holiday movies to date). We’ve got adventures planned for 2013, which I’ll share as they take shape, and I’m so excited the year has begun!

P1060274

P1060286

P1060291

P1060319

Our Port City Vacation

This was our second visit to Wilmington, so we knew we’d already started to fall for this small coastal town. We made it our mission this time to discover more of the area, to try more places and things. Originally, we had considered Wilmington because of UNCW’s MFA program, which I go back and forth about applying to. I figured it was time for a visit to the campus, and I’m so glad I did. How inspiring! It’s one of the few in the country that has a non-fiction track, and I noticed one of the faculty members had been published in Orion, my all-time favorite magazine. A small thing, maybe, but it made me smile and edge a little closer to truly considering going back to school. In no particular order, here are some highlights from our relaxing and inspiring Carolina Beach vacation.

Carolina Beach

Cape Fear river, downtown

Carolina Beach

Sea Oats

1. Riding a tandem beach cruiser bike. Once we got the hang of it (1,2,3, pedal!) it was a blast.

Tommy with the tandem

2. Staying at Carolina Beach, population 6,000, less than two blocks from the water.

3. The organic Mighty Muscadine grape smoothie at Port City Java, made with NC’s state fruit! (I ordered one each day we were downtown, every sip yearning for it to be mountain ย Muscadine season back home in WNC).

Port City Java on Front St

4. Eating at Indochine. I challenge anyone to show me a more beautifully designed and delicious Thaiย restaurant. Anywhere.

Indochine indoors

Indochine outdoor seating

5. Taking a ferry ride to a quaint coastal town called Southport, where they happened to be filming Safe Haven (to be released in early 2013, an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name)

6. ย Eating (alright, we’re a little obsessed with finding great food anywhere we go) crab cakes and potato salad at Provisions, a real-deal fresh seafood joint. It’s a hole in the wall with a waterfront deck that has gorgeous views of the Cape Fear river.

Tommy on the dock

Provisions Door

Pelicans in flight

On the dock, post-amazing-meal daze

Provisions

7. Stumbling on a town council meeting on the local tv station. Several locals stood up to request the council move ahead on adopting a ban on smoking at Carolina Beach. Alright!

8. The Tiki Bar! A straight shot from our apartment, this little gem is attached to a hotel and built on what is left of a pier that was destroyed by a hurricane. Tommy could watch pelicans coasting and preening to his heart’s content, while we drank margaritas and even my current favorite beer, Firstย Amendment’sย Hell or High Watermelon!

Tiki Bar

Tiki Bar

8. Having a kitchenette in our beach apartment, so we could do some of our own cooking. From home, we brought fresh fruit (blueberries from the garden, peaches from the farmers market), local eggs, waffle mix, and heavy cream, so we could whip up this decadent breakfast one morning.

Homemade breakfast in our beach apartment!

9. Folks Cafe (Thanks, Martha!). We didn’t get to try their purportedly delicious South American cuisine (we were about to go to Indochine), but we did experience their super friendly service, order some tasty iced coffee (with coffee cubes!) and buy a pound of their small batch Peruvian roast to take back home with us.

10. The sunsets.

Sunset by our beach apartment

11. Running into our good Asheville friend, Taylor, because as history suggests, ย if you’re anywhere in the world, you’re probably going to run into a friend from Asheville. He used his sweet photography skills to take a few pictures of us on the streets on downtown Wilmington. Here is my favorite.

Happy on Front St