Live in the Sunshine, Swim the Sea, Drink the Wild Air

I just spent the last week and a half back home in Florida. Before I headed down South, I went salsa dancing with a bunch of friends. Although I’ve never “salsa-ed” before, we had a great time. On Saturday, we took a mini roadtrip to New Jersey to shop at Garden State Plaza, stop by Target, and finish off with dinner at Chili’s. Can you tell we miss suburban life? On Sunday morning, I met some girlfriends for the most amazing Cuban brunch at Calle Ocho inside the Excelsior Hotel. Along with the spicy food comes the unlimited sangria bar- the pineapple banana coconut sangria was to die for! That evening I headed to my friend Dana’s apartment down the street for an Oscars girl’s night. I baked some chocolate cupcakes and we munched on appetizers while oohing and awing over all of the stunning red carpet attire.

On my first day back in the Sunshine State, I met up with Mariah for lunch at Moe’s, a little local shopping then some quality time at the pool. The sun felt amazing on my pale skin and the mudslides we blended up sure hit the spot! That evening, we went to dinner at the Columbia on Clearwater Beach’s Sand Key. It’s one of the oldest restaurants in the area and serves absolutely delicious Spanish food. I thought it would be the perfect spot to celebrate my birthday dinner with family.

As soon as I get home, I head out to the ocean. My mom and I went to Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs for a nice afternoon at the beach. Mother Nature obviously had it out for us. The wind began blowing and the sand felt like tiny needles against our skin. Needless to say, we had to leave the beach and retreat to the pool where we wouldn’t be pelted with sand. It ended up being a relaxing afternoon at home. I made white chicken enchiladas and homemade salsa for dinner and we topped off the evening with a round of Scrabble. Plus, I got to spend some quality time with Roxy and Rugby.

During the week, I took advantage of my abundance of free time to visit with friends and family. I had lunch at a great restaurant in South Tampa called Datz. It’s a trendy, upscale deli. They served these pretzel bites with truffle oil and Parmesan cheese that were truly life changing. The Cuban sandwich was good but nothing topped these pretzels. I discovered a pier not too far from my house and took an afternoon stroll out on the Gulf. It’s funny how I’ve driven by this spot hundreds of time in my life but never noticed what a beautiful spot it was!

I spent the day before my birthday with my friend Lindsey getting facials at the spa. On Friday, I celebrated my 24th birthday! I woke up to a beautiful necklace from my mom and a slice of red velvet cake (which I ate for breakfast). I met her for lunch at Bahama Breeze where we spent the afternoon reminiscing and overlooking the ocean. After a little (but completely necessary) shopping at International Plaza, I got ready for the night out with friends. We spent almost 3 hours having a fantastic dinner at Casa Tina’s in Downtown Dunedin. It’s such a fun, festive birthday spot. After dinner, we headed over to a local tiki bar to have drinks on the water. I had an amazing birthday and am so happy I got to celebrate with everyone back home!

As my time came to a close in Florida, I spent one of my last nights out on Crystal Beach watching the sunset. It’s one of the most peaceful spots I know and always reminds me of the setting in a Nicholas Spark’s novel.

On Sunday after church, my mom and I met Tyler and Mariah in Tampa for a rooftop brunch at The Refinery. Mario Batali just traveled to this restaurant last week to meet with the chefs and sample the food. All of their ingredients are grown locally and the menu changes weekly. It ended up being a lovely sunny afternoon with my family.

After a great trip to Florida, I’m back in the city. I can’t complain because it’s been 70 degrees these last 2 days. Hard to believe spring is coming so early this year! I’m looking forward to celebrating my birthday this weekend with all of my friends up here. I like to consider the whole month of March a birthday celebration. Just another excuse to eat cupcakes and dress up.

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