A Beach Vacation! (Part 2)

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On to the rest of my vacation! I have to call this one an extreme beach vacation because it simply was not your typical lay out, catch some waves kind of trip. That’s usually how I roll; just kicking back, no schedule, no “to do” list. Apparently this is not how the rest of my family rolls; not this trip! This my friends, was a trip so intense even extreme doesn’t seem to do it justice. It was more like boot camp! We were up at dawn every day either biking, hiking the beach, or kayaking for hours followed by a power swim in the ocean. There were always a series of afternoon activities ranging from power shopping to sightseeing which finally would lead to ending the day at one of the many laid back beach restaurants where we could just sit outside, relax…enjoy the humidity (yuck) and listen to a band or two. Nonstop but lots of fun, exhaustion, and sheer bliss.

Regarding the beach restaurants, I need to say that although the atmosphere was lovely, eating gluten-free safely was a very stressful task. In restaurants where everything is deep-fried and all of the meals are served in a basket, I didn’t get the feeling that cross-contamination was on anyone’s mind; well except for me that is! I just stuck to the basics, even though it wasn’t very exciting – usually a plain grilled chicken salad since I don’t really like fish. It was a bit brutal to eat that while everyone else was digging into french fries, hush puppies and deep-fried southern bliss, but I didn’t get sick, and that’s what matters. Plus, with the hefty workouts and super clean eating I even lost a few pounds (now that is my kind of vacation, going home smaller than you arrived!).

Rock Shrimp!

Rock Shrimp!

There was one really exciting treat that I hadn’t even heard of before, rock shrimp. These huge shrimp look like mini lobster tails, and they taste like it too…yummm! I ordered mine without seasoning, but they also come coated in what looked like an Old Bay seasoning mix (oh how I love Old Bay and it’s gluten-free too!). You can eat rock shrimp as is or dip them in butter (just like lobster) and they are delicious. Best Florida discovery by far. I am not into fish, but shellfish are my weakness…I blame that on growing up in Maine…lobster…yummm…

rockshrimp2

rockshrimp3

In addition to the scrumptious shrimp there were live dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees…oh my! No sharks thank goodness…well at least none that I actually saw, I had those moments in the water where I felt something slimy graze my legs, ewww. Where are the pictures you ask? Well as you’ve probably noticed, I am not the world’s best photographer, but I give it my all with my iPhone! Trying to get wild dolphins and sea creatures on film is harder than you may think. Every time a dolphin would crest I would grab my phone, but by the time I actually took the picture all you could see was the water! I have a lot of those…. The sea turtle nests were really interesting, we kept checking them but no hatchlings while we were there. Did you know that the only lights safe for checking turtle nests on the beach at night are red LED lights?

Turtle nest on the beach

Turtle nest on the beach

At least these turtles were slow enough for me to photograph!

At least these turtles were slow enough for me to photograph!

Even the manatee’s managed to keep their identities hidden. We kayaked with them and I was sure they were going to tip me over; their little noses would pop up way too close to my unsteady kayak and they would sniff and blow water. But it turns out I was the culprit here, I didn’t need any help falling in, I did it all on my own! It was so gross being thrown into the murky brown bay water; I hoped Flipper would come to rescue me but apparently in real life dolphins don’t care if you drown from your own stupidity! Fortunately, after my initial panic attack I realized that I could touch the bottom, so crisis averted.

What was my favorite animal sighting in Florida you ask? Even at the beach you can’t take the country out of the girl. The cows of course!

Cows by the river

Check this out, only in Florida will you find Egrets hanging out in the cow pastures!

baby cows

Where did you go on your last vacation? Do you find it difficult to eat gluten-free when you’re away from home?

A Beach Vacation! (Part 1)…and a Baggage Claim Rant

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Ahhh vacations! Like the rarest gems on earth, they come much too few and far between. But I took the plunge, I put myself first (for once) and decided to go spend a week in Florida with my family! They drove down from New England, and since Chicago isn’t on the way to Florida no matter what route you take from there, I was on my own in the airport. It isn’t often that I get to travel alone anymore; it was kind of a treat, my solo adventure. Luckily it was a smooth trip, even including both of my encounters with my nemesis; the baggage claim.

empty baggage claim

Don’t you dare look at me so innocently empty baggage claim…

Call it paranoia if you will, maybe irrational fear, but I absolutely hate watching that baggage claim belt snake around the baggage area full of luggage that all looks the same. Every single time I’m terrified that 1). my bag won’t be on that belt; how many times have we all been faced with that horror? Trying desperately to track down your missing bag while in the meantime being forced to live out of your carry-on for what could be days until they finally locate your beloved luggage. Didn’t your mother always warn you about that? Mine did, “now don’t forget to pack some extra underwear in your carry-on just in case they lose your luggage”…that phase literally sends chills down my spine, lose your luggage…where will it go? What will happen to all of my favorite outfits and accessories and worldly possessions specifically combined for this very trip that took me days if not weeks to pull from my closet, shop for, and coordinate. Really?!

The worst experience I ever had was after flying down for spring break years ago (ok, not that many years ago!). I was traveling in from the arctic cold, so naturally I was wearing my winter clothes, only to arrive in balmy Panama City Beach, Florida to find my luggage hadn’t made it. I wasn’t the seasoned traveler I am now (nor nearly as paranoid!), so I was completely unprepared for this, nothing in my carry-on was clothes related…not even an extra pair of underwear (sorry mom!). And of course it was late at night so there were no stores open, I was forced go out partying my very first night of spring break, in my winter travel clothes. Horror of horrors, right? Ok, looking back on it now that I have some perspective and have had more life experience, it’s not so bad, but at the time it felt like the worst moment of my life. Even though after a few beers it really didn’t seem to matter so much (oh, how I miss those times when I could drink beer! Or any alcohol without getting sick for that matter…but I digress) it was still a traumatizing travel moment which taught me to hate baggage claim.

Baggage Claim

Now back to my irrational fears, let’s not forget option 2). that someone is going to carelessly grab my bag without checking the tag, innocently thinking it’s theirs and take it home with them. While in the meantime I’m left, alone and luggage-less (not that this has happened to me yet, but I know deep down that inevitably, my day is coming). Not to mention option 3). where someone actually knows this is not their bag but they are taking it anyway. Most likely they scoped me on the plane, liked my style, they think we wear roughly the same clothing size and want my luggage instead. Now this one has also not yet happened to me, but yes, I have put a lot of thought into this one while stuck on the plane…perhaps stepping into someone else’s potentially more glamorous life for a week would be fun! That’s right, I said it! And don’t act like it hasn’t ever crossed your mind too! Fortunately for all of you stuck in baggage claim with me, your bags are safe…well from me at least. My luggage is just too impeccably packed to specifically meet my needs and crazy tendencies (thank you “type A” personality); there’s no way I’m leaving it behind no matter what potential treasures you might have in yours!

Do you hate baggage claim as much as I do? Even after a smooth trip are you traumatized by memories of luggage handling gone wrong? I would love to hear your thoughts and horror stories!

A Day of Overprotective Moms

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A Family of Geese

Since I don’t have kids, I am always curious about what moms are thinking in different situations. Here’s my story, let me know how you interpret it!

Geese in the Mist

Geese in the Mist

It was gorgeous day; I wanted to take a nice relaxing walk at a nearby park. The loop I like goes in a circle around a pond where there are always Canadian geese. Usually the geese and I don’t have a problem, we stare at each other nervously when the path gets close to where they’re hanging out, trying to decide who’s the predator and who’s prey until we get a little distance from each other, then we’re fine. But today there were goslings, and we all know how protective moms can be. The geese were far enough from the path where I could walk by without getting too close (or so I thought) mother goose did not agree. I stood waiting for them to walk down to the pond so I could pass and she wasn’t having it, she started hissing at me and when I took just one step closer, foolishly thinking we had enough room between us to coexist, she started chasing me! Not just running at me but hissing with her mouth open!

The Chase Begins

The Chase Begins

I’m not well versed on geese, maybe it would have been smarter to stand up to her, but knowing how my mom is when she gets angry, I ran! Then after a sizeable distance was between us, we were fine, she stopped chasing me and went back to the kids. I decided I would just go the opposite way on the loop and by the time I’d circled around again they’d be gone. Well as I was circling around I noticed another jogger had reversed his path and was kind of smirking at me as he ran by – I didn’t think about it until afterwards, but he totally knew the goose was waiting for me – nice heads up guy! Anyway, there is also a playground near this pond and there were some moms and kids playing. I saw another girl walking near where the geese were and she looked a little nervous but fine, so I kept walking. Ok, this is where you are waiting for me to be savagely attacked by a goose – I know you want it, but no, I’m not insane, sorry. When I came up on that momma goose again and she started hissing at me AGAIN I turned around  and decided to backtrack! There happens to be an exit to the park near the playground, so I decided to go out that way only to find a toddler walking out the path too. Not far behind was his very pregnant mother who was chasing him as best as she could, she looked like she could go into labor at any second. I stood and waited for the mom to get behind the toddler before I exited the park and I noticed she was giving me a terrible glare that I could see even through her sunglasses! I smiled at her sympathetically, (if I had a kid it would run away from me too) I don’t like to get too close to random kids with all of that “stranger danger” stuff out there so I kept my distance. She seemed to resent me for that, like I should have jumped in to help, or maybe she really was scared that I was going to abduct her child, I’m not really sure. Either way she reminded me so much of the angry goose mom that it made me laugh (which needless to say, she also didn’t seem to appreciate). Needing to see how this story was going to end, I casually watched as I exited the park and went in the opposite direction  from the now sprinting toddler. This kid ran his mom ragged and finally darted out into the street where he started climbing on what must have been their car (I hope it was their car because thought of a toddler climbing on my car like that gives me chills). At that point his mom finally grabbed him and carried him back to the park, and all the while she’s still giving me that nasty glare!

Now please realize, I have my own issues. If a stranger looks at me funny (or even just plain looks at me at all) I feel like they are judging me and I am immediately insecure. First thought in my head is, they must think I look fat (hey cut me a break, it’s something that I’m working on)!  That being said, I hear all the time about how being a mom can make you feel very insecure, especially when your kid is acting up in public.

Moms out there, it’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” time (please tell me you remember CYOA!). Can you tell me what this mom was thinking? Was she embarrassed that her son was running away from her? Was she judging me and my workout outfit? Was she mad at me for not helping? Or was I too close to the runaway toddler and it was in fact “stranger danger”?

                 I’m really intrigued to hear what you have to say!