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Shelling on Sanibel

on
Friday, April 29, 2016
Sanibel Island is famous for seashells. In fact, there’s an official name for the practice of picking up shells on the beach there – the Sanibel Stoop, or, if you’re on Captiva, the Captiva Crouch. The beaches are covered in shells all the time. It’s such a great place for families to vacation because mom and dad can hang on the beach with their adult beverage and book, while the kids can search for seashells for hours.
The beaches are literally covered with seashells. 

 If you want the really good shells, you need to check the low tide times and get up early, or in the middle of the night. Before our trip, Mike bought a handy little tactical flashlight for shelling on Sanibel. Our resort provided a great netted shell shoulder bag in our room, and we remembered to pack our water shoes, so we were fully 
prepared.
Looking for the perfect shell.

 Low tide was around 2 a.m. when we were there, which didn’t sound too appealing on vacation. But I did make Mike get up early on two mornings to go scour the beach. He was a great sport about getting up early on vacation. I think after close to nine years of being together, he knows when I'm excited about something it's hard to stop me. Thank you, Mike!

Good morning from Sanibel!

 I’m a natural early bird, and a huge seashell fan, so getting up to spend time on the beach, collect shells, and watch the sunrise light up the sky in tropical tones of pink, orange, and blue, made me oh-so-happy. The sea is truly my happy place – especially at sunrise. There’s nothing like it.

Couples who shell together...

Researchers say that adult coloring books are good for us because they force us to focus on a task while relaxing at the same time; giving the artist a feeling of mindfulness. I feel like shelling does the same thing to me. I was totally zoned out, but at the same time so focused on my collecting tasks.  It was oddly rewarding and relaxing at the same time. I completely lost track of time and location. Thankfully, I had my handy dandy flashlight. 

A few of the beautiful shells we found. 

Of course, when you search for shells you need to check for critters. It is illegal to take any ‘live’ shells. If there’s a guy squirming around in your shell, you need to put him back where you found him. A lot of the big pretty Florida Fighting Conch shells we found were inhabited but every so often we’d find a beautiful vacant one to place in our bag. Mike discovered a large white whelk- but it had an owner already, so we put him back in the water. Darn!

Mike even got into shelling!

We ended up bringing home lots of beautiful shells, and our living room is now filled with wonderful memories of beach combing in Sanibel.

Take me to the sea! 

 If you want to know what kind of shells you found on your trip the island has an incredible shell museum, the Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum. It’s fun to identify all your beach finds! 

Lighthouse Cafe

on
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
If you’re on Sanibel Island, you MUST have breakfast at the Lighthouse Café. When “World’s Best Breakfast” is printed on the outside of their building, they’re not lying – it really is. I had read and heard from friends that having breakfast at the Lighthouse Café was a must-do while on the island, and as a girl who could live off of omelets and frittatas, I knew it would be added to our list.

We decided it would be a great thing to do our final morning in Sanibel since we had a late afternoon flight out. As we were packing up our bags Thursday morning, I had the brief thought, “Do we really want to go over there for breakfast, or should we just grab something quick from our resort?” I’m so glad we didn’t go with that thought.


Greeted by the words, “World’s Best Breakfast” we stepped into the Lighthouse Café to see a packed, bustling, sunny restaurant. The inside is rustic, nautical, and nothing fancy – lots of lighthouses and lighthouse photos are crammed on the walls, and plenty of menu options drawn out on chalkboards.



Once we had our menus, my eyes quickly found the Bloody Mary, which is made with sake. I’ve never had sake (this is where Mike makes a comment about how I made it through college without doing a sake bomb) so I was hesitant but I gave it a try. It was delicious. Every Bloody Mary needs some sake.


Determined to consume as much seafood as I could before being landlocked again, I went with the Ocean Frittata. This delectable dish consisted of shrimp, scallops, crab, broccoli, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts. It was then drizzled with an alfredo-type sauce. It was heaven on a plate! It came with toast and breakfast potatoes which were just as amazing.  A nice little surprise was the side of homemade strawberry jam – so flavorful! You can even purchase the jam to take home with you.



Mike went with one of his breakfast favs – eggs benedict – but he kicked it up a notch by ordering it “Lighthouse Style” which swapped the English muffin for a grilled croissant. Talk about an upgrade. 


It was all very affordable and so delicious we literally licked our plates clean. I can’t believe we almost skipped it! It was honestly one of the highlights of the trip.

If you’re on the island, definitely stop by the Lighthouse Café to experience the ‘World’s Best Breakfast’ for yourself.



Sanibel Island

on
Monday, April 25, 2016
I first visited Sanibel Island when I was a junior in high school in 2004. I have always loved the beach and the ocean and my parents decided it would be a fun Spring Break trip. They had heard great things about this laid back little island that just happens to be the best shelling location in North America. 

I loved that trip so much. The shells, the ocean, the bicycles, the blackened Grouper! I didn't want our visit to end, and I promised myself I would go back someday. Well, fast forward about twelve years, and I was lucky enough to go back to the island with my husband.

Mike and I flew into Fort Myers on Monday, April 11 ready for some Florida sunshine. Everything went so smoothly when we arrived. Our bag was literally waiting for us and our cute little VW Jetta was ready to go. We stocked up on sunscreen, bug spray, wine and beer  in Fort Myers (what else do you need?) and headed for the causeway to Sanibel.

We named our cute VW rental 'Chile Pepper.' 

Our first afternoon on the beach!

We stayed at Sundial Beach Resort in Sanibel, and I'd highly recommend it. It exceeded my expectations. Beautiful resort with five pools, wonderful beach, complimentary bicycles, and our room was HUGE. I could've stay for another week. And, lucky for us, their tiki bar served the cheapest and tastiest Pina Coladas on the island.

The room was decorated like a charming little beach house!

Our room was the size of an apartment! I was tempted to just move in permanently.

Why can't palm trees grow in Kansas? 


We spent our first afternoon reading our books and sipping Pina Coladas on the beach with the wonderful sound of the ocean lulling us into relaxation.

Can every Monday be like this? 

Tuesday morning we took advantage of the complimentary bicycles at our resort. Bicycles are the best transportation on Sanibel. The island is filled with great bike paths that wind in and out of jungle-like scenery and by beautiful beach homes. It's so much better than being in a car. You breathe in the salty air, soak up the sun, and really get to take in the beauty of the island.

What a cute biker dude.

Adventure ready!

This bougainvillea was GORGEOUS.

Our trip was so relaxing and so fun - we spent a lot of time on the beach, explored the island,  and ate at some really great places which I will expand on in future blog posts this week. Our four days on Sanibel were too wonderful to recount in just one post.... so watch for more Sanibel fun to come! And now can someone bring me a Pina Colada?

Snow & Slivovitz - Easter 2016

on
Friday, April 1, 2016
Mike and I were able to celebrate with both sets of parents this Easter. Ron and Judy are back in Kansas through May after a warm winter spent in Florida, and my parents drove down from North Central Kansas on Saturday.

I always feel so lucky to have such fun, loving parents and in-laws. We all get along so well, and it’s always an evening of wine, good stories, and laughter when we get together. 

Wine time with my mother and mother-in-law! 

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, so we had everyone over to our house for happy hour and grilling before watching the Jayhawks play in the Elite Eight. 

My dad with his essentials – his iPad and Chardonnay.

We drank wine and visited over appetizers while Mike prepped the burgers. I made Bonnie Aeschliman’s Mediterranean dip from her cookbook, “Cooking with Bonnie: From Farm to France.”  I love this recipe because it’s easy (besides some chopping), tasty, and healthy.  I love having an appetizer with wine while visiting, but sometimes the appetizers are so heavy, it’s difficult to save room for the main course. Bonnie’s Mediterranean dip is perfect. Satisfying, delicious, and just healthy and light enough you’re still craving that juicy burger on the grill. And, how pretty and springy does it look?

This Mediterranean dip makes a great spring appetizer.  

Ron’s mother and father came to the United States from the Czech Republic and Poland , and many of his family members still lived there (and still do today!) when he was a little boy. We always love hearing Ron tell stories about when his family would come to New York for Christmas. He tells of his aunt smuggling in Slivovitz, a very strong plum brandy from eastern Europe, by strapping it to her leg underneath her full skirts. I love hearing these stories – they make me smile and remind me of the many wonderful cultures that make up America. 

This is potent stuff- 80 proof! My dad ordered it for my father-in-law from Croatia. 

My dad found a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about Slivovitz. He decided to order a bottle, and surprised Ron with it. We all wondered how long it had been since he had seen a bottle or tasted some!

Ron loved his Slivovitz surprise and said it looked just as he remembered. Later on Sunday after the Syracuse win, Ron emailed my dad to let him know that he and Judy had a shot of it. Yikes! Makes my throat burn thinking about it! 

Ron still smiling about his Slivovitz surprise!

We grilled burgers, and I made my favorite broccoli salad (here’s a similar recipe from allrecipes.com – except I use golden raisins) and Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Potato salad to go with our laid-back dinner. If you’ve never tried P-dub’s Perfect Potato Salad, you’re really missing out. Try it and it will quickly become a summer staple. 

Despite having a great time watching the game together, the Jayhawks broke our hearts again this March. This loss was particularly hard because they were such a talented team, and a team of really good guys we loved to watch. But that’s how March Madness goes, isn’t it?  We turned off the TV with heavy hearts, took our flag down, and cleared our schedules of anymore watch parties. Tomorrow was another day – Easter, in fact!

Pre-Elite Eight loss before my face was covered with smeared mascara and tears of disappointment. Kidding. Sort of.


As if Mother Nature understood how we were feeling after a loss on Saturday, we awoke to a very strange scene Easter morning – a blanket of snow. I looked out the window, groaned, and decided against my open toe Easter shoes. It was a really beautiful snow, but come on, it’s Easter. I want sunshine and daffodils.


Ready for church on Sunday morning. 

We bundled up and went to church – which was packed. I always enjoy when my parents are in town and able to go to church with us. After the service we drove to Terredyne Country Club in Andover to meet Ron and Judy for Easter brunch at the Hereford House. One of my favorite things about eating at the Hereford House is that guys zoom around on golf carts to take you from the parking lot to the front door. I love a golf cart ride. It’s really the small things. 

Hereford House put on a fantastic Easter brunch full of so many delicious options that we made several trips through the buffet. We definitely left full and happy.

I never would have guessed we'd be wearing our winter coats on Easter! 

By afternoon the snow had melted, and the green grass reappeared. From snow to Slivovitz, and brunch and basketball, it was a wonderful Easter weekend spent with our parents. Easter blessings for sure! 




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