Sunday, January 29, 2012

Happy Hour at the Zukas

We love a good Happy Hour and we really love them when they are hosted by someone as fun as John and Shelly.  They threw the first Happy Hour of 2012 at their place, which was conveniently located right in front of the pickleball courts.

As usual, there was tons of food and lots of fun friends.  John entertained us by teaching us a game that started with "the moon is round".
Some of us tried to figure out the trick behind this unique game.
You can see the crowd trying to figure it out too:
After that, John and Julia entertained us with a joke each.

Since we were right there, some of us headed over to play some pickleball.  I didn't get any pictures but you can see them on Rich and Donna's Blog.  It was a great night!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Birthday to the former Boy Boy

When Austin was little, Nathan called him "my boy".  That somehow then changed into "the boy".  Usually that name was used in this sentence: Guess what the boy did now!  At some point Austin decided he wanted more and started to call himself the boy boy.  So the boy boy it was.  

Seventeen years ago, this boy boy came into our family and I can think of very few things that have altered the family quite like it.  To say he made things more interesting is an understatement.  It has been an honor and joy to have him in our lives.  Today as I shared with him what his birth and life with us has meant to me personally, I had to also admit that he is no longer our boy boy.  He is almost a man now.  A young man at the very least.  And we most likely have very little time left with him sharing a home with us.  So I'm savoring the time left.

We squeezed in a birthday lunch at the Chinese Buffet because he had to work tonight.  We bought him a red velvet cake that we then promptly ate 1/4 of.  And I promised him a trip where he can cash in his birthday gift money and do something he wants to.  It was not the big party I would have loved to have thrown for him but we still celebrated how special the day was.  It was good.

Happy Birthday, Austin.  There is a part of me that will always see the little boy in you.  And the other part of me sees the wonderful young man you are also.

Hedy and Art Treat Us to Dinner

 We have Happy Hours fairly often.  We go out to eat with friends.  We have enjoyed both since we went full time.  What we don't do is have sit down dinners at each other's homes, unless we count eating at the picnic table.  So you can imagine what a rare and precious thing it is to have a nice dinner together at a table.

Last night Hedy and Art treated four couples to their house and did all the cooking for it.  We were treated to Chicken Cordon Blue, Salad, Peas, Baked Potatoes, Rolls and yummy punch.  It was fabulous.  We enjoyed great conversation while we shared the meal.  We talked about how we are not only friends, but also family.  And if that wasn't great enough, we had Hedy's cheesecake for dessert.   It was the best cheesecake that I've ever had.  It was just a great night, all the way around.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Wedding Celebration Happy Hour

 Buddy is one of our favorite pickleball people.  He is pure sunshine and has a permanent smile on his face.  He partnered with an equally sweet lady named Diane last year.  I didn't really get to know Diane until this year.  I could see why he fell for her after I did spend time with her.  They are both musical, so they share a common love in that area.  She doesn't play pickleball, but she will come down and visit with us when Buddy plays.

 They were married during the holidays and we decided to throw them a celebration party-Pickleball style, meaning with a Happy Hour.  Rich and Donna helped us pull off a great party for them.

 Here is the honored couple.  Don't they look miserable together?!?
 They are so cute together.  They walk through the park, hand in hand, with those big grins on their faces.  They remind me of what honeymooners look like every time I see them.

 Since we have that great shared space, we had tons of room for this party!
 Donna got a guest book for people to sign.  Vicki and Mira coordinated a huge pot of spaghetti sauce and meatballs and everyone else brought goodies.  We had three tables for food for this feast! We were discussing Happy Hour food when going through the line and saying how everything we have ever had at a Happy Hour is great.

 We had a great crowd, milling around the fire chatting with each other and giving the couple hugs and happy wishes for their shared life together.

 Here is the guest list, copied from Donna's blog:
The Guest List:
Nate and Krystal
Bob and Vicky
Vick and Judy
Rene and Mira
Tom and Karen
Art and Hedy
John and Carla
Earl and Cindy
Garth and Rosemary
Paul and Carla
Jim and Patti
Jim and Judy
Nick and Tonya
Rich and Donna

Here is a shot I captured before it was too dark to take pictures and before most of the crowd showed up:

 It was a great night.  Best wishes Buddy and Diane!  We will throw you that baby shower we talked about, if you do end up needing it!

Living the life in friend filled Florida!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Center for Great Apes Tour

  When we were doing volunteer work for Reach the World, I wrote about a sanctuary that is nearby that houses a famous chimp.  Michael Jackson's chimp, Bubbles, lives there now.  The kids really got a kick out of that and asked me lots of questions about him.  Unfortunately at the time, I couldn't really answer because I hadn't been to the place he lived so I couldn't tell them.

  This past week that changed because we not only visited his home, we saw him in person and saw he is doing well.  I can't even describe how excited I was to visit where he does live, The Center for Great Apes.  It is very close by where we are this winter, but because it is not open to the public, you would never know it was there.  It is very discrete and on land that allows a beautiful place for the animals to live in a peaceful environment.

The center was started when it's founder agreed to take in an orangutan and it grew from there.  You can read the story here: History of the Center for Great Apes. In short, it is now a sanctuary for orangutans and chimpanzees. 
 We had a very small group with us from Thousand Trails that went for a private tour.  We rode over with new pickleball friends, Garth and Rosemary.  Since our group was so small, it made the visit feel very intimate.
 We were allowed to take pictures, but they asked that we not share them on the internet so I won't post them here.

 I can share that this was one of my top favorite things to do since we hit the road full time.  It was so much better than I ever expected.  So many times when we visit places where animals are housed, I have conflicting emotions.  I am glad they are safe, but at times it doesn't seem to be a way of life that I'd think is truly enjoyable for an animal.  That was not the case here at all.  This was the most impressive sanctuary we have ever visited as far as the thoughtfulness they put into the environment for the animals.

 On top of all that, we were able to get much closer to the animals than I had expected.  So close that it was overwhelming to me at times, because of the emotions that welled up inside of me.  I didn't even edit my pictures for a few days because of the swell of emotions that I was still feeling from the visit.  If you are in the area, get a group together and GO visit this place!  You won't regret it!

 We have been enjoying gorgeous weather here this winter which makes things like this even more enjoyable.  Living the life in Sunny Florida!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Riverview Site

 One of the advantages of having an annual site is that you can pick any spot in the park to plunk down on.  One of the advantages to doing lottery and driving the park is when a great spot opens up, you see it right away.  Which was the case a few weeks ago.  As I drove through the park, looking for empty sites, I saw something that shocked me.  One of my favorite spots that had been occupied by an annual site member, was now opened up.  I drove back to the office and asked for permission to move to it.  Then I went home and asked Nathan if he was ok with moving to it.  Normally I would do that in reverse, but I knew if I waited then the site would be gone!

 We are now on the end of a dead end road.  Our side only has two spots, counting us.  We are fortunate to have Rich and Donna behind us.  Two of the spots on the other side of the road are annual sites with friendly neighbors also.  And the site one away from Rich and Donna is the same way.  So we are surrounded by great people that will remain neighbors for longer than two weeks at a time.

 As great as they all are, the real draw is that this is now our "front yard".
More of the front yard view:
Most of the side yard is the part that joins with Rich and Donna's yard.  Some of it empties into a hiking trail.
We are loving it here so far.  It is so peaceful and we have a bit of space to spread out in, especially if we have company.  The beautiful weather has meant that Nathan can work outside in the tent, and enjoy working without people walking by all day long.  It helps him to not feel so cooped up inside and it gives me some space to get away from "work" when I am at home.  We are already toying with the idea of renewing the site for next year!
Living the life in gorgeous Florida!