I wanted to catch everyone up on a few small activities we've taken part in this summer, and I couldn't help but start off with the Great American Pie Festival! We did things a little differently this year. Before the festival began on Sunday, we met up with some new friends, Ray and Melissa, for a little geocaching. I don't remember how many caches we found...less than 10...but we had a great time walking around the beautiful city of Celebration.
As is my luck, I won tickets to the Never Ending Pie Buffet again! The nice folks at AMPlified Culture hooked me up with the tickets in a contest on their website, even though I...like a complete dummy...missed the deadline to respond as the winner. Please, go check out their website and see what's going on in Central Florida's arts, entertainment, and foodie scenes!
We've watched the little Pie Girls grow up, it seems!
And now...the bad news. If you've known me long enough, you know how much I look forward to going to the Pie Fest every year. I start a countdown as soon as we're driving home, and I take part in every contest possible to win buffet tickets. This year, though...well, it feels like it may have been our last. I've come to realize that the fest really is the same thing, year after year. It's so stinking hot, the crowd is like nothing you've ever seen (unless you've been on the Champs-Élysées in Paris for New Year with 250,000 of your closest friends), and the food and entertainment doesn't change. The heat really played a big part in how we all felt, along with the fact that I was fighting a severe sinus infection. But...we left knowing we probably wouldn't be going back. And you know what? That's okay. The Great American Pie Festival is an amazing celebration that has added much joy to our lives the past few years, and I will always...*always*...look upon it with happy memories.
National Pauladay was celebrated this year with a return to a favorite spot, Ichetucknee Springs State Park. We hadn't been tubing in awhile, and I decided that's what I really wanted to do on my birthday. Thankfully we had taken vacation from work and could hit the park during the middle of the week. It gets too busy on weekends. Chris joined us, and we had also 'borrowed' one of Olivia's daycare friends, Drake, so she had a playmate.
Drake gave me a walking stick and a keychain for my birthday. He spends quality time with his Papa, making things like this, and it was a very sweet gesture. And honestly...I had been wanting a walking stick! I was very blessed and honored.
As we pushed off from the launch, it seemed like we were chasing mist down the river. It felt like we were in some magical place on the Amazon, or in an Indiana Jones movie. But no, we were in another beautiful Florida State Park...how did we get so lucky?
Olivia tried floating along on her own, but she ended up terrified. Once we got hold of her tube, things calmed down. Chris taught us a valuable lesson, and one of the day's highlights: Just trust the river. He never paddled himself out of debris or back into the current. He just trusted the river and floated along peacefully. Once, though, he and Olivia got hooked together. We had all been repeating the trust-the-river mantra when they bumped into a fallen tree and got separated. Olivia yelled for him, but Chris came back with, "Olivia, the river wants us to be apart! Just trust the river!" It was hilarious, and yet it was really quite true.
Eventually we finished our float and left the river behind. A brief tram ride led us to our picnic lunch, and a little while later we decided to go swimming in the headspring. I'm not always very comfortable in swimming places like this, but something about this beautiful area set my mind at ease.
Do you know what happens a week after National Pauladay? Why, Robby's Tag, of course! Robby had a milestone birthday this year...$39.95+tax...and wanted to celebrate in style. He picked Sanibel Island as our destination, and we went all out...by our standards, at least! We stayed at the Island Inn Sanibel, sharing a cottage with Chris and Xandra. The only thing between our rooms and the ocean was the pool!
We spent our time on the island doing the things we do best...eating, swimming, drinking, playing, geocaching, having fun, and spending time with our favorite people. Oh, the eating. I honestly thing we all gained weight on this trip, and I learned that next time we'll pack food. Our cottage had a kitchenette and every possible dish and kitchen tool you could possibly need.
One great thing about being on Florida's West Coast is the sunset. There's something about the setting of the sun that calls people out in droves, and on Sanibel Island it's no different than, say, Key West. The sunset means something different to everyone, and for me it's about being thankful for another day with my family in this beautiful state I refuse to take for granted. Enjoy...
All good things must indeed come to an end, both our Sanibel trip and our summer in general. Olivia began third grade, and Girl Scouts started up for another year. Our travel time has become that much more precious since we have other priorities for the time being. We are making the most of it, however, and I'll be updating soon.
So tell me...what did you do this summer?