Mama Rapin In The House

Like, my house. My mom. In my house.

Pretty much the best thing ever to happen to Florida happened last week: my mom came to visit. Sweet little Mama Rapin hopped off a plane late Tuesday night to finally see what my new life is like, and it was pretty much the only thing I ever could have asked for. Homesickness is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I think I’ve mentioned before that one of the weirdest things about moving across the country is that I still chat with my friends and family all the time, BUT… I can talk and talk and talk and tell them that I went here and I hung out there and I saw this person and I went to the market and yoga and the weather is hot and know one really knows what I’m talking about. Even when I say I’m in my kitchen or about to go to bed or I’m sitting on the couch watching Orange is the New Black, they can’t possibly picture it. I can only describe so far, and it feels very lonely. 

So believe me when I say I was a whole mess of excitement and nerves and energy as I scrambled around our new house unpacking the last few boxes, finishing the guest room, and making sure everything was better than perfect. If I’m going to live this far away, I was determined to make Mom’s stay as nice as possible to ensure that she will want to come back quite frequently. I started a list of things to do weeks in advance, since she and I would be exploring together. I ran to Publix to get her Honey Maid cinnamon graham crackers for breakfast, her favorite Cheddar Munchies for the car, and her Chips Ahoy for a late night snack. I was determined to give her a great vacation and was seriously worried about everything. She had to love it here.

Well, she did. And there was no need for me to freak out. Obviously.

In fact, I can’t think of a time that my mom and I haven’t had best days ever when visiting each other. It just kind of happens. So let me let you into my world a little bit, just like I did for my mom touring her around Florida.

Here is our airport, and here is my mom being a great mom with a priceless face.

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I wasn’t the only one excited to see her.IMG_6329

The first day she was here, I took her down to Fort Myers Beach, which is about 10-15 minutes from my house. Since I was in awe the first time I put my feet into the warm bath waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I knew she would be too.IMG_6328

Bill had time for a nice dinner with us, so I also showed her the sunset from our little downtown River District, which overlooks the Caloosahatchee River and the bridges to Cape Coral and North Fort Myers. Although this area seems to be pretty dead in terms of people out and about, the view is always alive and well.
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One of the biggest planned events we had in mind was a trip down to Naples, which is one of the wealthiest resort and retirement communities in Florida. We, of course, were going all the way to Naples to get in a workout, as you can see below. If you’re wearing your brand new Fitbit, it’s not shopping… It’s exercise.IMG_63320

After so much exertion, we had to stop to recharge. Brio in the Waterside Shops offered tasty flatbread for Mom and a salmon salad for me off of their – wait for it – gluten-free menu. I have to admit, we mistakenly thought that we were a little beneath this place, but the great food was matched with the most welcoming service, and Naples demolished any uppity stereotype we might have brought along for the ride.IMG_6324

Well, except for the stereotype that we were going to be tempted to spend a shit-ton of money. Anthropologie was the demon of the day, gladly draining of us the most time and money. Why the photo of the multi-colored dish towels below? Because I’m a ninja, that’s why. My mom had pointed out that she had always wanted these but would never buy them for herself, and with one set left I wasn’t about to let a prime gift-giving opportunity pass me by. Let’s just say that I felt compelled to go up to the sales girl at the register to explain that she relay the message that the shiesty girl performing covert moves on the security camera was not, in fact, stealing their merchandise. Rather, she was simply buying surprise kitchen paraphernalia for her adorable little mom innocently studying a sweater to the left of the cashwrap.IMG_6323

Friday was a bit more relaxing, and it gave my mom a chance to familiarize me with the gallons of essential oils she brought. She has found her calling healing people through Young Living, and it makes her so happy to help everyone (including her daughter) with all that she has learned.IMG_6306

That afternoon we headed off to the Gulf Coast Town Center, and I took her to HomeGoods for the first time ever (for shame!). We then lazily retired to the lanai to watch the sudden downpour from the safety of a covered patio.IMG_6326

But the highlight of this day was by far the best example of just exactly how my mother and I roll. Before heading home we stopped at Grace and Shelly’s Cupcakes (and mayyyyybe Saks Fifth Avenue) at our funky little Bell Tower Shops for a sweet treat. Of course we couldn’t decide on a flavor (although the decision for me to cheat on my eating habits was easy), so we came home with twelve minis to split while parked on the couch watching HGTV. No, we didn’t eat them all in one sitting, but we might have in three.IMG_6242

Saturday was a big day, since Bill was finally off work to hang out with us. My mom couldn’t wait to go to Sanibel and spend more time at the beach, so we got going as quickly as we could. But before we could take off, I had to marinate the london broil for dinner that night, and I was caught in a rare poised moment that might fool you into thinking I have it together…
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…only to set the record straight immediately. I wouldn’t dare cook my mother a meal without making sure all the ingredients are of the highest quality and up to strict standards. Including the wine.IMG_6321

After all of that red meat marinating, we all realized we were starving. When our original plan of Sanibel’s Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille fell through with a sign on the front door declaring they were closed for lunch (the nerve), we headed to Captiva Island toward the highly recommended Bubble Room. Best change of plans ever. This place is a must-see.IMG_6315

The outside was a candy-colored explosion, which made my rainbow-loving mom beyond happy.IMG_6319

The inside wasn’t any less bizarre, with five dining rooms draped in Christmas lights, chandeliers, antiques, toys, and animatronics. Not to mention that my honey and pineapple-glazed salmon was delicious.IMG_6318

With full tummies, it was on to the main event of the day: shell-hunting on Sanibel. Knowing my mom would squeal with joy (at least on the inside) at the mounds of seashells piling the shores, I was looking forward showing her how gorgeous our new home in Florida could be.
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Don’t mind the overdue pedicure.
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I was right, of course, that my mom would truly appreciate the area. With her inner peace on overdrive, I think I may have convinced her to move…IMG_6310

And if I actually hadn’t persuaded her already, I think I may have hammered it home with views of the working lighthouse from the white sand beaches at the end of the island.IMG_6308

And so we headed back home, where Bill blended up some piña coladas…

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I whipped up a little dinner…IMG_6341

And Mom ended her little vacation with a fruity drink with an umbrella in it, as promised.IMG_6343

We went to bed happy for the days we got to spend together, but sad for the goodbyes of the next morning. Mom finally got to see my new world, which surprisingly makes it easier to be here knowing that someone understands what I mean when I talk about my daily life. It makes everything a little more real, a little more doable, and little more like… home. 

Just a little. But that’s something.

Weekending: Bienvenido A Miami!

Instead of getting each other gifts for our first anniversary, Bill and I decided to take a page from my friends Laura and Christian’s book and treat each other to a mini vacation. (I, of course, still got Bill a present – a custom photo book chronicling our roadtrip out to Florida.) Since our bank accounts were pretty wiped out from the move and we only had a Saturday and Sunday since Bill works until midnight on Fridays, we needed to choose somewhere close. Well, lo and behold… MIAMI IS TWO HOURS AWAY.

If you couldn’t tell by all the caps, I still cannot wrap my head around this. I had never been to Miami, I had never even seen that Atlantic Ocean, except from a plane, and now this amazing city is close enough to just go shopping for a day and take a little jaunt home that night. (Actually, that sounds more dangerous than anything else…) So off we were to experience a new city together and celebrate making it through a whole year of marriage, which anyone out there who is married can agree is a bigger feat than it would appear. 

We drove out to I-75, which took us down through Naples and veers east across the state through what’s called Alligator Alley. Now I, of course, knew that this road was named for a reason, and I was both exhilarated and terrified that we were finally going to see an alligator. I spent a good amount of time obsessing over the fact that this state is full of them while trying to make the decision between staying in California and moving to Florida. And I mean, a GOOD amount of time. I kept picturing them invading our backyard and climbing fences and coming after Indy and coming after ME. Well, one month in and I have yet to see one of the stupid things. (But I wouldn’t be complaining if it stayed that way.)

So I had pictured something called Alligator Alley as full of, well, alligators. Fail. Long story short, even though I made Bill stare diligently out the window looking for one for over an hour while I drove and proceeded to yell at him to KEEP LOOKING every time he looked away for even a second, we didn’t see a single gator. Boo. Kind of.

Upon arriving in Miami, we dropped Indy off at her spa weekend at a boarding facility and headed over to South Beach in search of our hotel. The views over the bridge from the main city to South Beach were spectacular, with Star Island to the left, the marina to the right, and the cityscape all around us. We finally ended up at our quirky art deco hotel The Kent.IMG_6018I was pleasantly surprised by the timewarp feel in the lobby. Not too pleasantly surprising was a dirty, paint-peeling, half-furnished room, and I found myself hoping that next year our accommodations might include regular vacuuming and a repair or two every couple of decades. In that aspect, I wouldn’t recommend this place. However, when we threw our stuff down and headed out to explore, we realized we were one block from the beach and the club scene, both of which were already well on their way at 4:30 in the afternoon.

Between our growling stomachs and a hostess offering free shots, it wasn’t long before we were coerced into a sidewalk table and starting our own party. 

IMG_6003And obviously free shots lead to this.

IMG_5910Don’t worry, I shared.IMG_6004 After our quick, er, snack, we made our way back to the hotel to get cleaned up, dressed up, and fired up to go out. In Miami. At 8 p.m. I was in a dress and heels, and everyone else on South Beach was still in a bikini. Luckily, the first place we went was Palace, and I was no longer the most obviously fabulous lady there. Miss Tiffany Taylor Fantasia was. IMG_6006 This is what owning it looks like. On both sides.IMG_6007Every queen needs a palace.
IMG_6009 And it’s funny how after two drag shows, I was owning it too. Even just sitting at a table at the Clevelander eating a cobb salad.IMG_6010

After our second dinner and more drinks, we headed up to the rooftop of the Clevelander. We didn’t have too much of a plan, but apparently the guys operating the elevator like tall women in little black dresses. On a run to the ladies’ room, they coaxed me over and told me to go get my man and head upstairs, no cover. Yes, we will take that.IMG_6012While the view from the top was gorgeous, the drink prices were not. I received the well Tequila Sunrise below accompanied by a bill for $18, and nearly spit my first sip on the bartender. IMG_6014 Being the (financially strapped) grandma and grandpa we’ve become in a full year of marriage, we headed back to the hotel a little earlier than expected. But that meant we were up early enough to celebrate our actual anniversary with brunch at News Cafe. I will forever be filling my omelets with smoked salmon and a slab of cream cheese from now on.IMG_6015Cheers to the year!
Miami ChampagneLeaving the cafe, we found the perfect spot to commemorate the occasion, marking our date, time, and location in unabashed tourist fashion.IMG_6016Once back at the hotel, we suited up for the beach…IMG_6022…which was amazing. I have yet to find beaches to parallel Florida’s (except Hawaii’s, of course). IMG_6023IMG_6024One of the highlights of the trip was that time that I tried to wash the sand off my feet at the shower and accidentally hit the top button instead of the bottom one. Guess where the water came out? Not on my feet. Noob.IMG_6026But that’s alright, because my husband in the only person on the face of the planet that consistently wears tennis shoes to the beach. Double noob.
IMG_6027 So with the right side of my head clean and Bill’s laces tied, we said goodbye to South Beach.IMG_6021We called for the car and headed back to get Indy from her dog resort. On the way, however, I made a great case for Cuban food.  And not just any Cuban food. I mentioned before that Bill and I had seen the movie Chef, in which they take a roadtrip from Miami to Los Angeles. In it, there is a scene where Jon Favreau and Sophia Vergara take her father to one of the most famous Cuban Restaurants ever, Versailles. I was absolutely not leaving without it. So we went out of our way for our first taste of a Cubano and a Classic Cuban Taste Plate at a place that can only be called heaven.

IMG_6030 IMG_6031 The second best part? It looked exactly like it did in the movie.IMG_6029In the end, I found a new favorite food culture. Apparently, if you are going to try Cuban food for the first time in your life, this is the place to do it.
IMG_6034With our full tummies we grabbed our pup and whisked back to Fort Myers, just two hours away. Two. Hours. 

Happy anniversary, babe! Who would’ve ever thought we would have spent it… here?