Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas from Naples!

With all of our Christmas shopping and shipping done, and me off work for the rest of the year, we had some time to get out and about around Naples to enjoy some of the holiday decorations and festivities.

Last Friday was a beautiful day, so with the top down on the Jeep, we headed out along the beach to Naples.

It was pretty windy, but there was still a good crowd at Vanderbilt Beach.

We stopped in at the Ritz-Carlton Vanderbilt Beach to check out the gingerbread house in the lobby.

It was very elaborate, with tons of gingerbread and candy decorations.

It must have been “Breakfast with Santa” day, because there were lots of kids around at the dining tables, all dressed in their fancy Christmas outfits – very cute!

Lots of bears lounging around on the couches, too!

Continuing into Naples, we drove down 5th Avenue, but didn’t stop to do any more shopping.  We stopped at several of the beach access spots in the residential area along the coast.  They all look pretty much the same – and were definitely less busy than the public beach up at Vanderbilt Beach.

We had found ourselves in a very upscale neighborhood, and just drove around for a while with my app open on the phone, checking out prices on houses for sale . . . the highest we came across was $66M, and there was nothing under $1.5M . . . definitely not our market!

We ended up by the marina and stopped in at Tin City to take a walk through the shops.  We were getting hungry by then, so headed out in search of something to eat.

Santa standing outside this little Italian restaurant on 41 got our attention,

and we stopped in for our favorite dinner – pizza and salad!

YUM – it was good, and as typical, we took half of it home for another dinner later in the week!

On Saturday after mass, we took a drive through a neighborhood we had heard about that puts on quite a light show.

It was as good as promised – every house in the neighborhood had lights  – some of the displays were extremely elaborate.

Many of the streets had themes – trees, snowmen, candles, snowflakes . . .

and one street had even built archways over the road.

All of the lightposts and mailboxes were decorated in the theme of the street, too.  It was raining lightly while we drove around, and it looked like if the weather were better, there might have been more people out in the yards – most of them had firepits and chairs set up in the front yards.

There was one house where they had a snow-making machine, and they had a good part of the yard covered in the fluffy white stuff.  You don’t see that often in Florida!

Lots of inflatable displays!

We spent about an hour hour driving through the neighborhood streets, and lots of other people had the same idea – we even saw a few trolleys driving through, and trucks pulling trailers full of kids (they were getting a little wet, though!)

It was an enjoyable evening!

The park we’re at has a catered dinner on Christmas, so I did my cooking on Christmas Eve – I made spaghetti with meatballs and pork tenderloin; it was Tom’s Mom’s traditional Christmas meal.  Mmmm – very good!

French Silk Pie for dessert after “Midnight” Mass (at 9pm!)

Mass at St. Leo’s was very nice . . . the girl who sings there is very good – we could listen to her all night.

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of our friends around the country!  We hope everyone had a nice Christmas like we did!  We missed having the boys with us, but we’ll be seeing both of them soon . . . and that is the evolution of life!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Back in southwest Florida

We spent Thanksgiving Day cooking with our friends at their house – and enjoyed a thoroughly filling and delicious meal!

It was a really nice day spent with great friends!

After the holiday, it was time for us to pack up the motorhome and move south for a while.  Our first destination was the Lake San Marino RV Resort in Naples.

We got a good deal for December – a concrete site, with a shed too.  The sites are pretty close together (typical), but the site on our patio side has been vacant most of the time we’ve been here so far, so it’s like having a big yard.  The roads are pretty narrow, too, so backing in was a little tricky, but Tom did a really impressive job of getting the MH backed in on the first try!  I guess he’s getting pretty good at it, and I’m getting better at giving direction!

The park is nice – lots of activities, a nice pool and amenities, and even a produce truck that comes to the park every Tuesday morning.

We’re somewhat familiar with the area – we volunteered at Lovers Key State Park on Fort Myers Beach our very first year on the road, which is just a few miles away, and we spent another winter in Fort Myers, near downtown.

The weather has been great since we’ve been here, so we’ve enjoyed plenty of time at the pool and Tom has found a group of guys to ride bikes with a couple mornings each week while I’m working.  I’m almost done working for the year, and it’s supposed to cool down a little (back into the 70s), so we’re hoping to do some more biking on our own in our last two weeks here.

We did get to the beach one weekend.  Delnor-Wiggins State Park is just down the road, so we packed up our chairs and a lunch and headed to the beach for the afternoon.

It was a beautiful day!

It was very quiet when we arrived, and with several miles of shoreline, there was plenty of room for people to spread out.

As the day went on, more people arrived, and we took a couple of walks along the shoreline.  Further down, there was a large collection of driftwood, probably washed up during a hurricane.

We reached Wiggins Pass,

where there were quite a few people fishing, boats going through (including this interesting one),

and lots of pelicans!

We followed this little guy back to our chairs.  After we’d had enough sun and salt for the day, we went back to the RV Resort – and to the pool for a cooling swim!

Yeah, I’m still not much of an ocean person!

This past weekend, we needed to finish up a little Christmas shopping so we could get our packages to the boys in the mail.  We had several stops to make around Fort Myers, and ended up at Fort Myers Beach in the afternoon – it was a cloudy day, and still early in the season, so it wasn't too crowded at the beach.

We walked out on the pier and through the shops around Times Square.

That’ll make a nice Christmas photo!

Interesting sights around the beach . . . that’s quite a vehicle for getting around on the sand . . .

and anybody need a boat motor??

On Sunday, we heard about an outdoor Christmas concert in Bonita Springs, performed by the Bonita Springs Concert Band.

It was a beautiful afternoon, and the band was very good!  Santa was even there with an elf, passing out candy canes to the crowd!

Looking forward to Christmas and New Years celebrations here, and doing some more exploring of the area during my time off from work!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

We did it–we’re homeowners again!

For the last year or so, we’ve been “thinking” about slowing down and putting down some roots in a tax-friendly location by the time I retire . . . and really did plan on taking a couple years to check out locations and research houses.  In the back of our minds, though, we were definitely favoring The Villages in Florida.  We have several friends who have settled here, and they love it . . . and we love what we see of the lifestyle!

Our goal for this first 6 weeks was to research . . . decide on an area that we like, narrow down to a few floorplans that suit us, and have some criteria in place to watch sales for the next year or so before making any moves.

Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?

For several days, we looked at some pre-owned homes in various models and neighborhoods . . . and were getting a little discouraged at what we were seeing . . . so many of them just looked OLD, and there were multiple things that we would want to update. 

Talking to a Realtor at an open house one day, we mentioned that we assumed that new homes were probably more expensive than pre-owned, and were shocked when we were told that the opposite was true – you could actually get the same model, new, for less money than the pre-owned.

Hmmm . . . we told our Realtor that we’d like to look at a few new homes, so she took us to Monarch Grove – where the developer is currently building spec homes.  Tom had seen one home on the Villages website that we wanted to see, and it wasn’t on her list yet, but she took us to look at it.  It had pretty much everything we were looking for at a very good price . . . and we found ourselves comparing every house we looked at after that, to it, and they all came up short in some way.

Our Realtor was able to hold the house for us to give us some time to think it over, and the next day she took us to a few more comparable houses so we were seeing everything that was available.

And so it happened . . . 10 days after arriving in the Villages, we had signed a contract on a new home!  Actually, compared to a lot of people, that was a long time! LOL

Let’s take a tour . . . in the front door,

and into the front entryway.  

The floor is tile that looks like wood planks.  I thought we wanted wood laminate floors, but the tile looks much nicer . . . just need to get used to standing on it!

The living room and dining room are straight ahead and wide open . . . we love this open floorplan!

The view from the kitchen . . .

and into the lanai off the great room.

Off the front entry, there’s a guest area – with a bathroom,

and two bedrooms – although the front room is going to be my sewing room.

On the other side of the house is the master bedroom,

his and her walk-in closets, and a large bathroom with a walk-in roman shower.

Then there’s the kitchen . . .

nice cabinets, Samsung stainless appliances . . . it’s going to be nice to have a big kitchen again!

There’s a nook area in that front window – plenty of room for a small table & chairs, but I think we’re just going to have the one eating area, and I’m going to put a desk in the nook area.

The laundry room is around the corner,

between the kitchen and garage, and just a few steps from the master bedroom . . . definitely a well thought out floorplan.

We definitely wanted a 2 car plus golf cart garage . . .

plenty of room for vehicles and extra depth for storage, too.

The houses are close together . . . but we’re not here to maintain a yard!

Just enough space, and with some carefully placed shrubs and trees, we can get a little privacy, too.

The neighbors next door and the one across the street both closed on their homes the same day as us, so we’ve met them already . . . and the remaining homes on the street are in the process of being sold.

The 30 days between signing the contract and our closing last Friday passed very quickly . . . we’ve been very busy!  We did manage to find a few pieces of furniture, and the bulk of it was delivered yesterday.

We have some living room furniture,

and a table and chairs that’s going to be delivered on Friday (and a cow picture that I bought back in Missouri!)

My decorating theme is urban farmhouse (very popular right now), and we’ve been really lucky to find some furniture that fits right in to the style!  We’ve been shopping exclusively at thrift and consignment shops, and all of this furniture came from a thrift shop that supports veterans in their post-military careers.  He had nice furniture, at very nice prices! 

We filled our first house with very high-end, brand new furniture . . . and saw how much we got for it when we sold it . . . we were not going to do that again!

We’ve always had a queen bed – at home and in the RV – but the shop had a bedroom set still on the truck that looked very much like what I wanted – and it turned out to be a king set.  We weren’t going to buy it at first, but for $400, we couldn’t pass it up.

I am so glad we didn’t – it’s perfect!

Of course, none of my quilts are big enough . . . but I already have one in mind to make . . . and I’ll just make it a king!

He threw in a queen bed for the spare room for $20 . . . nice!  This one will get the new quilt I made at the RV Quilters Rally last spring.

We also picked up a bench and table for the front entry – I’m going to refinish the bench – I’ve got a whole plan for that area.

Am I enjoying decorating a house again?  Yeah, I think so!

That’s going to be it for now, though.  We’ve taken care of everything we need to for now, and we’re going to close up the house and spend the next few months in the RV . . . we weren’t supposed to buy this quick, remember?  We have RV reservations for Dec – Feb!

We’ll be back towards the end of February, though, and then we can continue outfitting the house . . . and maybe even spend some time enjoying the lifestyle of The Villages!

Monday, November 18, 2019

A surprise visitor

With his deployment getting closer, Nicolas was encouraged to take some more leave while he could, so I coordinated with him to find a flight to Florida so he could visit with us and Grandpa for a few days.  We kept the secret from Grandpa, so he was very surprised and happy when Nicolas showed up  one afternoon!

We used our friend’s golf cart to show him around The Villages, enjoying the beautiful afternoon.

We stopped by the Eisenhower Regional Recreation Center – dedicated to veterans and almost a museum of military history, with plenty of memorabilia of President Eisenhower, who also happens to be the namesake of Nicolas’ ship.

From there, we continued on to the town square at Brownwood Paddock for dinner at Cody’s Roadhouse.

Nicolas enjoyed his 2 for 1 beer, and the tower of onion rings!

After dinner, we listened to the music and watched the dancers in the square for a while.  We didn’t stay long though – Nicolas’ flight had left Norfolk at 5am, so he was pretty tired.

The next day was the Grand Opening of the Everglades Regional Recreation Center, so the 4 of us went to check it out.  Each recreation center has a unique theme, and this one is the National Parks.  It’s beautifully done, and all of the photography in the building is the work of a former National Park Photographer.

It’s a beautiful facility, and they had an Expo set up inside to highlight many of the clubs that will meet in the recreation center – there’s a pottery group, a glass group (with kilns for each of them in the craft room), a chapter of the Villages Quilt Guild, and many, many more – too many to count!

The Quilt Guild had a room set up, along with pottery and glass.

There were tons of people there for the Grand Opening, and proceeded outside to check out the outdoor recreation options – where there were people doing demonstrations of most of the sports.  You could participate in any of them, but we just walked around and checked it out.

We saw the sports pool,

the outdoor fitness equipment,

R/C boats and cars,

as well as all the outdoor sports you can think of – shuffleboard, bocci ball, pickleball, platform tennis, tennis, basketball,

softball fields, and an 18-mile walking/biking path.  Definitely no shortage of things to do!

On Saturday, we drove down to Old Town in Kissimmee for the Saturday night Classic Car Cruise-In.  Tom and I have been to it before, and we knew that Nicolas and Grandpa would enjoy it.

We walked through all the cars lined up in the parking lots – admiring the shiny metal, and people-watching!

VW Bugs for Bryce!

A whole line of Ford Econoline Vans – that’s something we don’t often see!

There was even a Ford Pinto that looked pretty nice!

There were plenty that caught the attention of three generations of Gimmarro car guy!

A couple of big trucks, too!

Nicolas said this would be a good one for the dunes!  It reminded Tom and I of the old “Cookie Monster” blue truck that we had while we were building our house – even as a baby, Nicolas loved riding in that truck!

It was a beautiful evening to be be out!

This guy cracked us up – I didn’t think the dog was real at first!  We walked by several times, and he was just laying there everytime!

The cars started lining up for the cruise a little after 8pm, and we walked over to find a spot on the sidewalk to watch.

We got another look at all the cars as they cruised past us!

I think they enjoyed the evening!

When Veterans Day rolled around, we enjoyed a nice dinner out with our veteran and our Sailor,

and then attended the Veterans Day celebration at the town square at Brownwood Paddock.  It was packed, and after walking around the square – checking out the Model A Club that had their cars parked along one side of the square,

and then we managed to find a few chairs where we could sit and listen to the music and watch the dancers. 

We had been in contact with our RV-Dreams friends, Howard & Linda, so they met us at the square, and we had a wonderful time getting caught up on all that is going on for all of us!  They hadn’t seen Nicolas in many years (we decided it was at the 2011 Sevierville Rally, since he wasn’t able to attend the reunion rally), so it was really nice to catch up.  We stayed until the music ended . . . and never ran out of things to talk about!  We’ll be getting together again while we’re here, but we were glad they were able to see Nick.

We took Grandpa back to the house where he’s been staying, it was his last night there, and he said good-bye to Nicolas since we would be taking him to the airport early the next morning.  He really enjoyed spending these last few days with him, and we were glad they had this time together before Nick’s deployment.

The next morning, we had a beautiful sunrise as the fog lifted on our way to the Orlando airport.

We were also really glad to have these last few days with Nick, but we’ll see him again when we go up to Virginia to help him get his trailer closed up before his deployment.  Thanks for coming to Florida, Nicolas!

Meanwhile up in Michigan . . . the Spartans kicked off the basketball season, and Bryce is busy again.  We couldn’t watch the first home game because it was on Big10 Network, which we don’t have down here, but I did spot him in a picture on facebook,

and Hannah’s Mom sent me a couple pictures that she snapped off the TV.

He looks very professional!

We had a little bit of a cool down the last few days – although nothing like they’ve had up north – and no SNOW! 

We’ve been keeping busy, though – still exploring The Villages, we attended another retirement seminar, and even took a trip up to Citra to visit the Orange Shop – coming home with some delicious oranges and grapefruit!

Yep, Florida is pretty nice in November!