Friday, March 23, 2012

The Excitement Continues: Part 2 of the Countdown

Photograph by Simply S Photography

Yesterday was merely to whet your appetite.

And the countdown continues...

Top Ten Things I Loved about Florida (Part 2):

5. My Key West Mahi Sandwich at Dexter’s with Janet Oberholtzer- In all the wisdom of a mother and woman, Janet surmised that a certain someone (me) could probably use a little “children- and Willie –free” time during our stay in Orlando. See, Shawn was getting to do all these outrageously wonderful things like spend evenings conversing in poetry over coffee and wine with other writers (and even found himself chumming around with a Mr. Billy Collins). All the while, I sat at home darning socks and milking the cows. Okay, not quite, but might as well. I was breaking up arguments over who got which Lego head and mucking out the stall of my son’s diapers. Hell, I’d rather be sewing and squeezing cow teets. Anyway, Janet saw a need and filled it with a delightful lunch and chat at a gutsy little restaurant called Dexter's. I’ve been on a Mahi Mahi kick since this trip began (totally random) so I caved for a Key West inspired Mahi Sandwich topped with onion rings and Old Bay tartar sauce. When the waitress brought it to the table, I loudly proclaimed that “I could never eat a sandwich that big” and promptly accomplished that very feat. Thank you once again, Janet, for your well-timed invitation.

4. Spanish Moss hanging in the trees- During our wild and wonderful scavenger hunt with Tamara in Gainesville, we visited this sweet little park called Payne’s Prairie. Our children were desperate for the smallest glimpse of a real live alligator, and Payne simply outdid himself. As we walked along the sinkholes and swamps, pointing and shouting (myself included) at each sun-bathing reptile, these gorgeous trees, eerily draped in Spanish Moss, swayed and whispered all around us, like giant Miss Havershams dusting around in ghostly wedding dresses. Hauntingly beautiful.

3. The Sunset on Lido Beach- On the same night that Abra was doing compulsive sand angels, our timing at the beach synced perfectly with an oncoming sunset. As the sun lumbered closer to the western skyline, we talked and laughed beside the lapping sea, like the hundreds of other beach goers that evening. Birds flocked as a giggling and excitable crowd tossed little morsels of food onto the sand. Others walked lazily, sandals hanging from fingers, along the drunken line where the water and beach collide. Some athletic types threw frisbee while most lazy types laid on towels or sat sprawled in beach chairs. The coast was a frenzy of activity until, all at once, as if we were all a part of some subconscious flash mob, every single person on that beach, stood still and watched the sun lie down in the horizon and cover herself with nightfall. I could cry just thinking about it now, the humanness and holiness of that moment.

2. Le Macaron- Centuries ago, way back before we had any children, while Shawn and I were living in England, he surprised me one Valentine’s with a day trip to Paris. Long before dawn on a misty cold Saturday morning, we boarded the Eurostar at Kings Cross station and shuttled our way to the City of Light. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much light leaking through the rain laden clouds that day. It poured all day long, as we walked the café lined streets with my Bon Appetit Restaurant Guide in hand. One restaurant was labeled an “absolute must” on account of their superb macarons. I had no idea what a macaroni was, but when I am told that I simply must eat something, I rarely decline. The restaurant was packed, teeming with lunchtime diners, so I picked a simple chocolate macaron from the gigantic glass display case, and slipped out the front door. What nestled in that brown paper bag was the stuff of dreams, my friends. I won’t attempt to describe one because it is not a verbal experience; it is a physical one. Ever since that day in Paris, my mouth has chased that sublime delicacy. And my journey came to an end at a chic café on St. Armand’s Circle called, simply, Le Macaron. So pleased with myself, I walked out of that shop with a smart little box protecting my bounty: Salted Caramel, Dutch Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Praline, and Pistachio, and I ate every single one (but only after I fawned over them for a day or two, and then Shawn demanded that I “just eat one already!”).

1. Celebrating Abra’s 4th Birthday- As soon as this trip was planned back in December, Abra somehow got wind that her birthday would be taking place in Florida. She proceeded to remind us of this fact every…single…day. So when the day finally arrived, March 5th, we were all worked into a lather about it: the Bigs were eager to shower her with presents, Sammy was eager to open all her presents, and we, the parents, watched, feeling bittersweet towards the vision of our flopsy little girl inching further away from babyhood. With the urging of the Bigs, we got her a Barbie laptop for her birthday, this chintzy hot pink contraption with computer graphics fresh from the eighties. When she opened the present, we squealed with delight, gushing about how fantastic it was; she just stood there and smiled that goofy old smile of hers. I think we could have wrapped up a box of toothpicks and she would have been just as pleased. It was the sheer joy of a birthday that sustained her. “I just love birthdays,” she told Shawn later that day. “Birthdays are the best thing ever!” Well said, Miss Abra; well said.

And there you have it: Florida in a very long nutshell.

Any things I might have missed in the countdown that you simply must add? Please do in the comments below.

Otherwise, back to work all of you!!


  1. This trip is suiting you well Maile!
    Love reading your posts... your writing is excellent!

    And I loved connecting with you... love your honesty about the ups and downs of life and your awareness of finding yourself in the process.

    I look forward to another lunch... someday, somewhere in the world and I hope they have Key West Mahi for you. And maybe a macaron for dessert.

    1. Oh, Janet, you are too kind; I, too, look forward to another lunch sometime, somewhere, without another great round of conversation and food.

  2. we were just there..& oooo...i have loved hearing your reminiscings! such a wonderful retreat in the midst of winter. i adore florida.
    happy travels to you & your family!

  3. Thanks, Ang! I heard rumors that you guys were down as well; wish we could have caught up with you, but so glad you enjoyed your respite as much as we did!

  4. You must visit the local "whole in the wall"....the hob-nob. Kids love the fries & shakes!

    Florida is calling my name. We love it there & it is our home away from home!

  5. Oh, for the adults..."Mediterraeano" is an amazing restaurant in downtown Sarasota. We go every time were there!

    1. Oh, Kara, I should have checked in with you before our trip! It sounds like you have a wealth of information to share! Next time....

  6. Thanks for the shout-out. :) The more I read you, the more I like you, Maile. Every blog post is another reason I want to hang out again.