Thanksgiving Weekend 2017

We heard some great stories, improved our chess game, ate delicious food, made connections, and bonded with friends and family. 

Oh my. Where do I even begin?

The day before Thanksgiving, we made the “quick” drive down to Miami, Florida. After being told not to use our GPS, we were treated to the longest 1.5 hour drive of my life (the GPS later confirmed my suspicions that it was, in fact, a four hour drive). We did eventually make it and spent the next two nights with friends of the family and 19 other dinner guests.

I had the pleasure of witnessing all of the pre-dinner fun. I ate my first Cuban meal, watched my first turkey deep-fry, played with the cutest puppies in Miami, and helped Josh to invent a new cocktail (Crystal Light, pineapple juice, coconut rum, and spiced rum).

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Dinner was amazing with all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, including two deep-fried turkeys, home-made cranberry sauce, and whole artichokes. I particularly enjoyed my host’s rendition of stuffing which included mushrooms and nuts.

After a few days in Miami, we traveled back up north to Boynton Beach, Florida to stay with another family friend. She has a beautiful home on the river, a slew of delightful friends, charming birds, and dogs I fell deeply in love with.

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I was particularly fond of her large, secret garden-like back yard, which had a quiet dock on a slow-moving river. It was the perfect place to spend each morning drinking coffee and watching the wildlife. I spotted two new ducks, a bald eagle, and several large iguanas.

Although the town offers plenty of entertainment, Josh and I opted for quieter mini-adventures, like a short hike through what I can only assume was a spider sanctuary, and a 2-stop pub crawl. Back at the house, we were provided with delicious meals, great conversation, and games of chess filled with advice for both the game and for life.

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We met so many interesting new people over the holiday weekend. Being introverts, this was a little stressful for us, but it was a nice reminder of why we are out here. We heard some great stories, improved our chess game, ate delicious food, made connections, and bonded with friends and family.

Florida Birding – November 2017

Bird list from my month on the Atlantic Coast of Florida.

The birding here in Florida is wonderful! Most of the birds listed here are ones I found pretty regularly, either on the beach, the backyard, or at the numerous nature parks. My favorites were the Wood Storks; they were listed as being a rare find, but I saw quite a few of them and they were not particularly afraid of people. Their attitudes reminded me a lot of chickens.

The Anhingas were another enjoyable find. They were everywhere, but I mostly saw their silhouette during flight or just their heads poking out of water, and therefore mistook them for Cormorants for quite some time. It wasn’t until I saw one up close, with their distinctive coloring, that I realized I had made the mistake. It was an exciting moment.

I’m still having trouble identifying differences in common birds like doves/pigeons, sand pipers, terns, and seagulls. There are just so many of them! My goal for the trip was to identify two different types of seagulls. I saved the identification guide and brought it to the beach with me each day. I learned a lot, but I still have a ways to go. I did, however, make some good strides in my dove identification thanks to the open windows of my bedroom each night. The sound of the various doves are pretty distinct and really helped to boost my identification confidence.


Birding Update – November 2017

Identified: 15

New: 6

Life List: 89


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  • Anhinga
  • Bald Eagle
  • Black-bellied Plover 
  • Black Vulture
  • Brown Pelican
  • Common Gallinule
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove
  • Great Egret
  • Muscovy Duck
  • Osprey
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Sanderling
  • White Ibis
  • Wood Stork

 

Florida Brews – November 2017

14 new beers from four different breweries. Yum!

Florida has a better beer scene than I expected. The breweries looked very similar to the ones I have visited elsewhere, but with the added perk of actually being able to sit comfortably outside on the adorable patio (maybe it’s just my luck, but the weather almost always keeps me from sitting outside). All of the ones we attended did not provide food in-house, but did have a food truck or two in the parking lot that proved to be quite delicious.

I think my favorite brew of the month was the Florida Beer Company’s Conchtoberfest and Copperpoint Brewing Company’s Copperpoint Lager. They were both very fresh and provided the perfect warm-weather reprieve.

My favorite brewery was Due South. It was under renovation, so not at it’s best, but I could really see the potential. It had a clean look with a picnic vibe. However, my favorite brewer was Copperpoint. I didn’t enjoy all of their beers, but I liked that each flavor was unique and purposeful.

[Josh’s take: I wasn’t a fan of Due South, either the feel of the taproom or the beers. The beers all had the same body, which shouldn’t be the case; there’s should be a difference between a lager and an IPA. Copperpoint had better decor, friendlier staff, and delicious beers that were well crafted and stood out. I’d highly recommend visiting Copperpoint Brewing Co.]

I only got a taste for the flavors around me. Please share your favorite Florida beers in the comments!


Brew Update – November 2017

New Flavors: 14

 New Breweries: 4

Flavor Life List: 14


 

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Due South Brewing Company

  • Ginger Snap Imperial Brown
  • Kevin’s Bacon (Cream Ale)
  • Oktoberfest
  • Craft American Lager

Copperpoint Brewing Company

  • Slick Shoes (IPA)
  • Das Pilsner
  • Pumpkin Queen Ale
  • Copperpoint Lager

Florida Beer Company

  • Florida Lager
  • Conchtoberfest

Intracoastal Brewing Company

  • Dry Hopped Lager
  • Belgian Pale Ale
  • Eau Gallie Weiss
  • Intracoastal Lager

 

Vacation Rental – Melbourne, Florida

Review of a vacation rental in Melbourne, Florida.

Obnoxiously Long Note: If you read my “I’m a Travel Blogger” post, you know that I spent the early part of this week boosting my “exposure” in the social media marketing world. I contacted a few vacation rental owners in the area and asked to tour their properties to feature on my blog. I had a great time and learned a lot. Today’s post and my next one are practice posts. Today’s post is about my favorite condo I visited and the next post is the food tour I would suggest if you were staying at said condo (or anywhere in the Melbourne area, really). 

I call it a practice because we did not actually stay at the featured condo. I would have loved to, but we already have a place here in town and I was too afraid to ask for a comped room for my very first feature. So, all of the pictures and opinions are my own, I was not paid nor rewarded, but my experiences are based soley off of a short walk-through and chat with the owner.


If I weren’t already staying at Mom’s, I would be staying at Tammy’s condo here in Melbourne, Florida.

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Location

This whole area of Florida is just lovely and full of opportunities, so my map radius was quite large. I included the whole town of Indialantic, which is an island snuggled between the river and the ocean, and the southern portion of Melbourne, where there is a lively Old Town area. This condo in Melbourne perfectly placed. Old Town is just a few blocks away, within easy walking distance. There is a fancy pier just a short walk the opposite direction, allowing access to the water. And the causeway into Indialantic is nearby, so that a beach trip is merely a five minute drive away.

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The only side of the complex that is less-than-perfect faces a busy street that is decently loud. I was nervous about this as we approached the apartment, but was very pleased to find that the road sounds did not follow me into the condo or down to the relaxing park and pier.

Room Type

The prices are low enough in this part of Florida that I felt pretty comfortable limiting my search to Entire Home. This particular rental is a large, one bedroom condo with a large bathroom, living room, dining area, and patio that faces the pier.

Amenities

The condo had all of the amenities I require including WiFi, washing machine, dish washer, and television. It had a couple of fun perks, too, including an updated kitchen with nice appliances, a walk in closet, a nicely decorated living area, and an amazing view.

Another amenity I always wish for, but can’t be sure I’ll get until I arrive, is a nice apartment host. The best vacation rentals I have stayed at were ones where I was greeted personally by the host, taken on a quick tour of the property, and given suggestions on nearby restaurants, shops, and activities (in Barcelona, our host sent us to a restaurant off the beaten path that was hands-down one of our favorite stops). I had the pleasure of meeting our host in person during this visit. Tammy was very approachable, friendly, and knowledgeable about the area. She gave us a rundown on the nearby attractions, local lifestyle, and let us know about some of her other amazing properties (including a large home near the Kentucky Derby *dream trip!*).

Price

The property we toured was a brand new one that hasn’t even been listed yet (that’s right, I’m VIP now). However, she did say that she was planning on setting the price at $100 or less per night. Her other condos in the same building were going for about $80 and although the fixtures were slightly more dated, the views from the higher floors were stunning. 3-Star hotels in the same map radius are going for $120 to $200 per night.

Overall, I was very pleased with the condo we toured, and would not hesitate to stay here if we were booking a trip to the Melbourne area. If you are planning such a trip, I suggest you click the link to Tammy’s profile and give one of her properties a try!

Florida Adventures

A diary-style blog of last week’s adventures in Florida, USA.

How is it that we only moved out a week ago and I’m already behind on my blogging? I feel like that shouldn’t be a thing yet. Here’s a quick rundown of last week on the East coast of Florida:


Erna Nixon Park

We have been walking nearly every day, either to the store (which is a little over a mile away) or along the beach, but on Friday we decided to mix it up and get out into nature. Erna Nixon Park was a little bit of a drive, but offered a nice walk on a raised path through a natural Florida forest. It was short, so we did a couple laps. The internets promised me plenty of flora, fauna, and at least 12 species of birds. We counted: bees, black ants, red ants, dragonflies, black spiders, yellow spiders, and an armadillo. I was disappointed that we didn’t see any birds, but we did see some wild coffee plants. That was kind of cool.


Full Moon Drum Circle

We’re at Mom’s house, so we do what Mom wants, and what Mom wanted was an evening at the drum circle.

Thankfully, spending nearly ten years in a city ranked as the number one hippy town in America had me pretty well prepared for this adventure. We headed out to the main beach in town just after sunset, set up some chairs, pulled out our drums, and waited for the fun to begin. It was way more popular than I had expected. There were at least 30 people in attendance, a fire pit, and a beautiful view of the full moon over the ocean. Not a horrible way to spend an evening, I guess.

Above: Documented proof of the ever elusive “Drummer face”

Sunday Church

Josh and Jen, the conservative, secular scientists, spent the evening at a drum circle. Why not also spend half a day at church?

Mom took us to her favorite church in town. She was raised Catholic, but has been enjoying the local Unitarian church that her neighbor attends. Although atheists, Josh and I enjoy the occasional opportunity to speak with spiritual people. The church was comfortable, music was delightful, and the service didn’t immediately put me to sleep. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves and would even consider attending again… but no, we did not change our minds.

So we survived a morning of church, why not more church?! Without any warning, Mom drove us directly from one church to the next. Our second (and thankfully, final) stop was a Thai Buddhist Temple. It was tucked away on a large plot of land and was decorated beautifully with lots of color. At first it felt like we were crashing a potluck, but eventually we found the area where they were selling Thai food to non-Thai people, and felt a little better about being there. It was a cute little covered area with picnic benches, a courtyard, and Thai karaoke. There were also a number of outdoor food stalls selling desserts next to a Buddhist monk preaching over a small PA system. It was certainly strange, but the food was great and good way to wrap up an afternoon of attempted spirituality.

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Much of the rest of the week was spent walking along the beach, cooking and eating, watching “The Good Place,” and doing small chores around the house. We didn’t have a ton of luck sticking to our routines, but I’m hoping this week will be an improvement. I have a feeling that this will be a long and challenging learning curve.

Interested in the day-to-day? Follow me @Jenistheman on Snapchat or @ThePlacesWeLive on Twitter for daily (sometimes hourly) updates.