A Tropical Florida Christmas

On one Christmas cruise before we moved to Florida, we found ourselves on St. Thomas on Christmas Day. The hilarious thing was when our van drove by and we saw Santa stumbling out of a bar. He waved, we waved, and our whole group laughed uproariously. Nothing like a tropical Christmas – lol!

When we first moved to Tampa Bay in November, 2002, we were surprised by the lack of Christmas decorations that were up around town. Of course, we were living in an apartment in Palm Harbor in Pinellas County and it retained the tropical beachy feel. We embraced it. For that true Christmas feeling, we visited Disney World. But for Thanksgiving, we dined at a waterfront restaurant, eating fresh seafood, and had a blast, celebrating so untraditionally.

So when we moved back to Central Florida the last time, we were living in a pool home about halfway between Disney and the beach (Atlantic Ocean side). We arrived in November, 2011 and so for our first Christmas, we decorated tropical style.

Here are a few pics of that time (including some of WDW).



A Disney Christmas

I’m in a nostalgic mood – for Florida, WDW, and especially Christmas. The first two because our friends were just at WDW and the latter because the stores and the commercials and the Disney parks have already begun celebrating. I get notifications on a daily basis of yet another Youtube video of one more Disney Christmas event – like this one:

We haven’t started decorating yet but we have started shopping for this year’s decorations. We got a red Christmas tree (my first red tree – isn’t that perfect?) for my upstairs office in the the front of the house and a small white tree for the dining room table. We’ll also decorate our usual green Christmas tree for the living room. I can’t wait to get started!

Our kickoff will be our pre-cruise stop at Disneyland. We plan to soak up the decorations and do some Christmas shopping and imbibing – can’t wait for that.

So, of course, I couldn’t help but remember our last Christmas when we lived in Orlando and we visited Ft. Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge on Christmas Day, which is the perfect place to celebrate Christmas.

I’m sad about Osborne Lights closing but, truth be told, we got to experience it as a private dessert party when it was closed to the general public and only about 50-100 people were strolling the streets. We could never top that so it’s just as well because we were never going to be able to return.

We do miss being able to drop in on WDW at Christmas – it all started with the Christmas at the Contemporary, 2003 report.

Here are a few pics of our last Christmas at WDW when we lived in the Orlando area.



“Adorable Grand Oaks”

After posting yesterday’s blog post, Rich looked up our Tampa real estate agent (also a member of our church) and noticed she keeps closed listings on her web site. He searched for our home and, sure enough, there it was under “Adorable Grand Oaks.” And the photos of our home were still there.

These photos were different than the building/move-in “before” photos, so to speak, that I posted. Different because they were the “after” photos of having lived in the house. Looking at them, I felt so drawn in and could feel like I could just walk back into each photo and pick up our life there again.

I remember sitting down at the dining room table with Dee as we signed the papers to put our home up for sale. And then she walked through the house and took photos. Later, the for sale sign was placed in the front yard and so we took a photo of that.

Naturally, knowing these photos were still around and on Dee’s web site, well, I had to save them off and post the thumbnails here (click on each for larger photo).

I don’t know how we left our adorable little house except that we did it so we could live just 2 miles behind Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World and I even worked for Team Disney. Now that was an experience!

Like many houses in Las Vegas, that house took a hit during the recession and the people we sold it to had to short sale it. But wouldn’t it be interesting if it would come back on the market if/when we arrive? But either way, should we find ourselves househunting in Tampa Bay, we will definitely call on Dee.

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What If…

I’m still so stunned by the news that a close friend of ours has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s that I didn’t sleep well last night and can’t really focus on anything today. So maybe it’s time to have a little fun and play the “What if we moved back to Tampa” game.

Readers of this blog might remember the last time I played that game – only it was the “What if we moved back to our Vegas home” game. When we lost our first renter, we tried to move back into our house but Rich’s boss’s boss wouldn’t play along. Telecommuting was quite common but another employee had requested to telecommute from Las Vegas and she’d said no. So she couldn’t let Rich work from Las Vegas. So, enter renter #2.

Still, I didn’t give up hope. I started the “wine down” in the sidebar, set a date, and began counting down the weeks with Bay Area adventures. I imagined moving our furniture back into the house. I also remember telling myself that it may all be a pipe dream and maybe this was my way of letting go. But when renter #2 requested a second roommate, we decided it was time to take back control of our house. We cut a deal with his boss’ boss and moved back home just in time for Christmas.

For some reason, we’ve started the Margaritaville Countdown. Tampa keeps coming to mind. I’m even imagining moving back into our house. We watched it being built and we loved that house. There have been a few times in my life when I wondered, “What if we’d never moved from that house.” Tampa is on the short list.

So I’m arranging the furniture in my head. We’ll need to add a few things in the family room overlooking the woods behind the house but our living room/dining furniture will go nicely in the front living room/dining room. But we have completely different stuff now – from the bed/dressers/nightstands/bedding to the living/dining room furniture to office furniture to TV and TV stands to wall hangings/decorations. I don’t think anything is the same.

Of course, next year it’ll be 10 years since we lived there. And, unlike Vegas, we don’t still own the Tampa house. So how/why would we move back? Oh well, it’s a fun idea to toss around in my head.

But I suppose we wouldn’t mind too much getting a different house. I remember being disappointed that our house didn’t have the typical dramatic Florida entry I love so much. Kinda like this vacation home we stayed in during our 2010 Orlando visit – stunning!


But we did love our little house and the lot was spectacular. Here are a few pics of the building/moving process of our Tampa house:





The Margaritaville Countdown Continues

This has been quite a week of reminders that we’re counting down to something… so we celebrated by having lunch at Chevy’s – our “goto” place when we lived in Orlando and San Francisco.

Having been on multiple journeys, we recognize the signs and while we don’t know the details, we’re keeping our eyes peeled. Let’s see if Margaritas or May have anything to do with what we’re feeling.

There’s one less margarita in the sidebar – Saturday’s margarita was a Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita – so delicious and refreshing. Rich is a big cucumber fan and I have my cravings now and then so it was the perfect choice, especially since we’d both been craving them lately.


Looks like I cut off half the glass when I took the shot so I tried again by moving the glass for its solo close-up.


We’re looking forward to our regular Habanero Margarita in Hearthstone Lounge at the GC on our pre-cruise stop coming soon.


The Trout Pass Bar and other Central Florida Memories…

troutpassbarA couple of dear friends are at Disney World this week and one posted something like this on Facebook, “I expect to see you and Rich sitting at the Trout Pass Bar.” Now that made me smile and even brought a few tears of mostly joy” (moments like this are what make FB a keeper, in spite of its issues).

I remember our first time at the Trout Pass Bar. We were living in Tampa then and were staying at Wilderness Lodge for the weekend. We sat up at the bar and the woman next to us said she was from Tampa, too. She worked at a Cancer Center and WDW provided a great getaway from her serious job. She even handed the bartender the recipe for the “Pink Monorail” drink they used to serve at the top of the Contemporary back in the day.

So, of course, the “Pink Monorail” made it into my third novel, Real Women Wear Red, which attracted a literary agent back when we were living in Tampa Bay. Ah… talk about emotion flooding my body – just remembering those heady days of Tampa Bay. That’s where we were living when we first met these Disney friends.

We’d only been living in Florida a few months and hadn’t even bought our house yet so we were living in an apartment in Palm Harbor. While Rich was at work, I got a surprise phone call form the Boardwalk concierge asking for any special requests. The thing is, we’d booked a water view without concierge but, we’d been upgraded to concierge because they needed the water view room. What a fun surprise!

That night was the first night we met these friends at Flying Fish – that was also our first time eating at the Flying Fish. What a memorable evening and we’ve been friends ever since – getting together at WDW whenever we’re both there. And they’ve introduced us to their other Disney friends. This is what I miss so much.

I also miss Tampa Bay – building that new house, trips to WDW, the beach, and my early days of writing fiction. In that apartment I wrote my second novel and by the time we moved into our brand new house, I wrote Real Women Wear Red, sitting out on the Lanai, listening to Jimmy Buffet and getting in the mood for a Caribbean cruise, where the book is set. I can still remember the kitchen phone when a literary agent called after I signed with her. I was also offered a publishing contract but was thankful for self-publishing when that publisher folded.

I also remember dropping Rich off at work and having coffee and catching up with some writing at Panera. I miss those days so maybe it’s time to get back to writing or at least work it in with my songwriting. I don’t know – the market has changed so much since those days and it just feels pointless. But if it brings me pleasure, then, I should continue writing, no matter what. Especially if it connects me to those Tampa Bay days…

The Ricardo y Catalina Bar Hopping/Dancing in Mexico Pre Trip Report

Bar Hopping Tour in Ensenada - M jpgIt’s Salsa time! I love to dance so on the days I’m not out walking I’m doing a Zumba class. Also, it’s time to refresh my Salsa moves before our next cruise to Mexico. We’ve signed up for the bar hopping excursion, which will include some dancing. Such fun. Love, love, love Mexico. The place, the people, the dance, the food, the drink, the music… did I say the people?

Yes, my first Mexican “boyfriend” was in the third grade. His name was Philip something. He called me “Mrs. Something.” lol!

In the sixth grade, my square dancing partner was Guillermo (William) – in high school, he went by “Willie.”

My next Mexican “friend” Tom and I were classmates at that blessed year at Los Amigos. When my family moved to Oregon, we began to write to each other and I saw him a few times – he drove up to Oregon – I drove down to SoCal. He addressed his letters “To Kitten” and signed them “Love TomKat.” They made my mother very nervous. :)

We’d planned to meet in San Francisco but he broke it off because he was becoming exclusive with somebody. I later saw him stag in the “35th High School Reunion” video but by then I was married – the first time around.

In my twenties, my Mexican friend Ray used to take me out dancing. He was an excellent dancer and taught me a few moves. What a blast we had!

Truth be told, back in the day, my mother was afraid I’d marry a Mexican (no problem for me) and the first time she saw a picture of Rich, she thought he was Mexican – lol! So now I call him Ricardo and he calls me Catalina and we dance and get to Mexico as often as we can. And when we’re at Disney World, the Mexico Pavilion in Epcot is our favorite place to hang out.

If we don’t retire in Florida, we might just retire in Mexico – a lot of expats are doing it.

(Btw, my short stories Dear Kitten and Cougars in Cabo and my novella Raining Men were inspired by those days.)