St. Paddy’s Week at Raglan Road

After church on Sunday, we stopped in at Raglan Road for Brunch. They were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all week long. Due to spring break busy ness this time of year, we made ressies for 10:45 (the only other available time was 1:30).

Rich was happy to see that the Salmon Waffling thingie was on the menu – when he had it before they were just testing it. So he had to have that, of course. I had my usual Hash, which was amazing! How do they make potatoes so delicious? Wow!

They also serve some fruity drinkie thingie and Irish Soda bread with some sort of Guinness dipping sauce – YUM!!

Salmon Prone to Waffling Grilled salmon topped with smoked salmon, house made waffles, poached eggs with a maple butter sauce

Pork Hash Tagged Braised pork belly, scallions and potato hash topped with two fried eggs

Fresh Brown Soda Bread, chewy with the addition of oatmeal with Guinness Glaze and Olive Oil Combo.

This time we each had “The Cure” – house made Bloody Mary.  It was pretty delicious! Live music started at 11 a.m. which added to the fun day! Church followed by Disney Springs may just become a regular or semi-regular thing.

After all that yummy food, we decided to walk a bit and headed over to World of Disney. We stopped in at the kitchen section and found a couple of Mickey champagne glasses we couldn’t resist. At the checkout, when the CM asked if we had an AP, I knew right then Rich was going to hate it at Disneyland this summer when they ask that question and he has to say no. 🙂

So I suggested we cancel the cruises and get a Premier Pass instead and make at least two trips out there. Rich agreed. We’ll see what we do. Our WDW AP expires the end of May and we don’t make final cruise payment until August with a trip in July so we have some time to make our final decision.

Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ at Disney Springs Feels Like Coming Home

Let’s be honest – when you make a bold change, you turn your life upside down. And I’ve done this more than a few times through marriage, divorce, religious conversion, a quest to find dad, inter state moves, cross country moves, and moves across town. They’re all stressful no matter how much you want or don’t want them.

Art Smith’s Homecomin’ at Disney Springs was exactly what was needed after 16 weeks of living in temporary housing after leaving our home in Las Vegas, no matter how fancy or resort-like this place may be. Along about now, we need a little dose of home.

We arrived early for our 7:40 reservation but as soon as we sat down at an outside table with our beeper, it went off and we were seated on the screened porch at our request. Right away we were immersed in the down home southern hospitality feeling as if we were visiting family.

The Screened Porch Bar

David introduced himself and he was an excellent server, attentive, and genuinely likeable. He told us something about Art Smith, although we were already quite familiar with him, made his recommendations, and took our order.

For our meal, we chose to share a few appetizers and drinks, fully aware of budget and calories, as we must be with frequent trips to Disney as locals.

Rich started with the Bootlegger and I had the Moonshine Margarita, which were tasty twists on a classic Rum Runner and Margarita.

We then shared the Church Lady Deviled Eggs, Fried Green Tomatoes, and the Thigh High Chicken (with Cheddar) Biscuits. All were delicious but the biscuits were our favorite.

It was a fabulous night with great food, drink, atmosphere and company with a nice dose of home, taking me back to my childhood and a southern grandma’s cooking, where you’re always welcome, greeted with hugs and love and good food.

Looking back at the porch, saying our good nights.

We’ll be back, though, because there is just so much more deliciousness to be tasted. But, for now, we’re going to take a break from catching up with these new restaurants and focus on the house build. Oh, yeah, and the Food & Wine Festival, too. 🙂

Good-bye Universe of Energy, Hello Frozen

We secured a FP+ for Frozen last Friday night (our first time), and while we were there, we rode Universe of Energy for the last time. I have nostalgic feelings for it, remembering when Epcot first opened in October of 1982 – I was there the first week in December. But I do believe it is time for it to go – so dated and long and boring – lol!

Good-bye Universe of Energy

From there we stopped in at Mexico and got a couple of Cucumber Margaritas on the rocks at a new stand we hadn’t seen before. And a Margarita on the Rocks is new for us, too. Before they only had frozen and we prefer the rocks.

Feeling at home, like we’d never left

We also noticed the Food & Wine Festival booths were in place, although still in progress. We were thinking 2 days before Labor Day weekend was too early to start the festival but now we can’t wait.

Food & Wine Festival booth in progress

We sipped and walked around the Lagoon, stopped in at the Caramel shop in Germany and Rich picked up a little dessert for us and then peeked into Spice Road Table in Morocco – definitely on our “must do” list. Then we headed back to Norway to ride Frozen. We’d thought that Frozen was overly-hyped but we were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed the ride – definitely an improvement over the former Norway ride, at least to us.

Same boat, new ride

Olaf was so cute, we had to bring him home and he sits proudly next to our disco light next to the stereo – lol! Well, we had to do something to add some charm to this place. Ha!

Olaf loves disco

Which reminds me, did we post a pic of Mr. & Mrs. Quack?

Mr. & Mrs. Quack from the BoatHouse gift shop

After that, we headed out to the parking lot before the Illuminations crowd but stopped in at Mouse Gear to pick up a new set of “Love is Magical” champagne glasses for our upcoming anniversary. We chatted with the friendly CMs – they knew from our AP and I.D. that we were locals so we talked about favorite booths at the F&W Festival.

This last move to Florida was the first time we’d left California after we’d enjoyed Cars Land so much. I was quite concerned that I’d miss Cars Land and DCA too much. But I’m happy to report that World Showcase at Epcot continues to top that. It’s always been our favorite park and continues to be so.

What an amazing evening at Epcot! It didn’t rain on us, wasn’t too terribly hot, and the crowds were down – a much better experience than my last MK day trip. And now the F&W Festival is coming up – pretty awesome!

 

The BoatHouse

We made ressies at the BoatHouse at Disney Springs for after church late Sunday morning. We planned carefully what we’d order so that we weren’t splurging too much financially and calorically. We decided against drinks and dessert, although the Chocolate Bundt Cake we saw on the Mouse Steps video was quite tempting.

By the time we got there, we ended up ordering drinks and dessert – lol! At least we shared the dessert. I don’t usually go for dessert but Rich says a meal isn’t finished until you have dessert so he asked for two spoons. So clever of him – it was worth every calorie. Oh, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

We noticed a group sitting in the boat as soon as you enter the restaurant. We were seated in dining room #3 in the back, which was a bit quieter, although we had to ask to be reseated by the window – she was rather lame, especially since Mouse Steps raved about the service here. Our server was fine but nothing special.

We ordered a couple of Margaritas and then Rich ordered the Amberjack Tacos for him and the Shrimp Po’ Boy for me – delish!! I mostly ignored the fries that came with so I could “help” Rich with dessert – Chocolate Bundt Cake with Valrhona Fudge Sauce – oh yeah!

We noticed the Dockside Margarita Bar and the Hangar Bar – hope to catch up with them soon.

On the way out, we stopped in at the gift shop and purchased a little Rubber Ducky with Captain’s Hat and boat – so cute!

Overall, we had a great time – the perfect setting for us – and we hope to be back.

 

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 6, Part 2: Thanksgiving

Originally, we had reservations at Columbia on Clearwater Beach for Thanksgiving. But we really didn’t want to be tied down and it seemed a bit formal for our taste. We just wanted to pop into a beach bar for Thanksgiving. But when we called around, most places were closed. In fact, every place we called was closed. But we’d seen a sign about somebody being open earlier in the week so we thought we’d just fake it.

We had our usual nap and when we awake, we figured it was time to head out to see where we could eat. We figured if all else failed, we’d pop into Walgreen’s and get some pasta – I was really craving that.

So we headed out and passed by this place called Toucan’s. People were sitting outside having a drink and the hostess standing in the open door asked if we’d like a seat. We thanked her and walked on by. And then we both realized at the same time how fun that looked so we walked back and asked if we could get some take-out. She said, “Sure. Just order at the bar.”

Well, the bar looked so fun, we decided to sit down and have a drink. Rich ordered up a Margarita for each of us, and we hung out there and enjoyed hanging out with families and couples and singles all having a great time eating, drinking, and watch sports on TV.

Eventually, we asked the bartender for a menu and the Linguini with Clams really stood out for us, so we ordered some takeout. On the way out, we stopped to enjoy our last sunset in Margaritaville. It was so gorgeous. We knew how much we’d be missing this.

We headed back to the resort, weak in the knees by the amazing aromas coming from that takeout box. We couldn’t wait to dig in. I poured us each a glass of wine and we had the most amazing Thanksgiving dinner. From the morning sunrise to the morning walk on the beach to the morning swimming in the pool to the Thanksgiving cocktails and seafood past, it was the perfect day! This is how we like to spend Thanksgiving.

Originally, we got the idea for this trip because we were reminiscing about that first Thanksgiving in Florida when we’d just arrived in Tampa Bay. That restaurant is no longer there in Dunedin, but we’d had such a fabulous time eating seafood on Thanksgiving that we wanted to make it our tradition. It’s been 10 years since that Thanksgiving, but we never forgot it and thought it would be such fun to try to re-create it in Florida one more time.

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Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 6, Part 1: Thanksgiving

I woke up at dawn feeling compelled to open the door, inhale the fresh Florida air, and watch the sun rise over the Bay. The emotional roller coaster ride continued each day and Florida wasn’t feeling quite as much like home as I’d hoped. In Tampa, we held out hope that maybe Orlando was our place. But in Orlando, I couldn’t wait to get back to Tampa. Does that mean the door is shut on living in Florida again?

And then that morning I woke up thinking, “I don’t think I can choose to never feel this again.”

So I quickly got dressed and walked over to the dock. A couple passed me and the woman said, “Happy Thanksgiving”, which was nice. I sat down and watched the sun rise and breathed in the wonderful Florida air that I had missed. The weather had been warming each day and it was feeling like the Florida I remembered.

I scurried back to the room to see if Rich was up because I didn’t want him to miss this. He was a little slower going but he did get up, made us some coffee, and we took it and a banana nut muffin back to the dock. We saw there enjoying the view, taking more pics and video.

After a while, we returned to the cottage to shower and get dressed and then walked to the beach. We walked all the way to the pier, down the pier, and then back down the beach. Along the way, I dipped my feet in the water – very nice! I love this!!

It was a glorious morning. The beach was absolutely gorgeous. I do think it’s a bit more stunning than my southern California beaches but it lacks that feeling of home that Newport and Huntington Beach give me. I think the California vs. Florida choice is the choice between adventure and home. I want both.

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The day was really warming up so we returned to the resort and decided to sit out by the pool. One woman was out there when we arrived but she soon left. Well, here it was Thanksgiving morning and it was so nice out, we decided to change into our swimsuits. I think it reached close to 80 that day.

So, Rich went back first to change and when he returned, I changed. It was simply glorious outside! The pool was fabulous! This is the life!!

By Thanksgiving, it starts to get cold in Las Vegas, cold, meaning about 50 degrees during the day and maybe 39 or so overnight. We’d had a pretty warm fall late this year but on travel day, we had our first cold day. When we arrived in Florida, it was unusually cold but after a couple of days of that, it began to warm up and felt more like the Florida we know and love.

Another couple joined us out by the pool and we swam and enjoyed the sun and the warmth and the music. We sat out for awhile and then got back in for a final swim. Eventually, it was time for lunch. Rich remembers us having Beach Eats leftovers (and he has a very good memory), but I wrote that down for last night. I’m wondering if this was the day we had the Stouffer’s pizza we’d picked up at CVS – anyway, one or the other last night and one or the other today for lunch.

 

 

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 5: Wild Night in Orlando and Frenchy’s on Dunedin Causeway

We punched the address of the Residence Inn in our GPS and as soon as we turned right onto 535, I knew where we were. This was the route we took when we lived in Windermere. And something about that really freaked me out. So when we checked into the Residence Inn, I was already having a bad feeling about this choice. Maybe we’ve stayed in to many Residence Inns on our cross-country moves, but they now remind me of what all of that entails. What had happened to my Margaritaville vacation?

To compound all of that, we had nothing with us – no meds, no toothbrush, no sleepwear, nothing for our cold. It suddenly seemed like a bad idea. But Rich was exhausted and he quickly got into bed. That’s when I became wide awake. I tried to sleep in the bed. I tried to sleep on the couch. But something about all of this discomfort was keeping me awake. Eventually, around 2 a.m. Rich awoke, too, and we decided to hid the road. He said he’d slept enough to feel able to drive us back to Clearwater Beach.

It was a very quiet drive and really quite beautiful when we approached Tampa all lit up night. It was a very familiar feeling after living there for a few years. What a relief to return to our beach cottage, though. Disney property is fabulous and we would have been much better off if we’d stayed on-property if we could have found something available. But we did keep our Elite status for next year so maybe it was worth staying over, especially since that’s what allowed Rich to rest up enough to drive us. I really don’t think I could have.

We arrived back at the cottage at 4 a.m. and slept until 8 a.m. Then we had coffee and cereal. We showered and dressed. I really didn’t think we’d get up and go anywhere again this day. But we decided to drive to the Dunedin Causeway and have lunch at the Frenchy’s Outpost there. We put our name in and the wait was short. It was a beautiful day and people were sitting inside and outside enjoying lunch on a weekday.

We chose to sit inside – it was just too bright outside and we liked the atmosphere inside. Rich ordered some kind of frosty drink in a bucket – lol! I ordered my usual Margarita. It was clam basket for Rich and my usual shrimp basket – what’s Florida without that?

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Doesn’t look like a bucket, does it?img_7643

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Then we drove onto the Causeway. First, we parked on the shady side, got out and took pics and video of the Causeway and then sat there enjoying the beautiful water. Then we switched to the sunny side and stayed in the car and watched the activity on the Gulf. It was just too bright and sunny out and we were still a bit tired from the night’s adventures.

Eventually, we headed back to the cottage and took a nap. We awoke around sunset, took some photos from the dock, returned to the cottage, ate the leftovers from Pearly’s Beach Eats, sipped wine, talked, and went to bed early.

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Thanksgiving in Margaritaville: Day 4, Part 2: Disney Springs and Wilderness Lodge

At around 2 pm we left the island via 60 on to 275 to 4 to Orlando. We were anxious to get our first look at Disney Springs. Honestly, we weren’t that impressed from all the videos we’d watched. It just seemed like a lot of chain restaurants from elsewhere stuck in a new outdoor mall on Disney property. But in person, well, we kept saying “Wow!” Surprisingly we were impressed.

The garage parking wasn’t as bad as we feared, but we were disappointed that the Marketplace area parking was now valet only at $20 a pop. But the Christmas decorations and music really added to the atmosphere. Finally, “Downtown Disney World” had a vibe similar to Downtown Disneyland.

We crossed over the new bridge and bought a McQueen ornament at the Christmas store and walked around the new Springs area. Tempted to try some of the new snack options but had. 5:40 ressie at Artist Point.

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We retrieved the rental car, drove past the MK gates, and on to Wilderness Lodge. We parked with the regular people (no Tables in Wonderland/no Valet) – lol. We admired the Christmas trees and music and outside grounds and had to stop for a glass of something at the Trout Pass Bar.

We so wanted a cocktail but ended up getting a glass of Cab because it was getting close to our dinner ressie and was conscious of having to drive all the way back to Clearwater Beach that night. We had a blast talking and laughing with the CMs and other guests. What a moment! It was all very exciting! We both had big grins on our faces.

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It was soon time for our reservation and we were seated along the side at a table for two in an area we’d never sat in before. We really liked it – it was quiet and private. The meal was delicious, of course, and Rich will write up a separate post about that. But here are some pics. We also took video and I’ll try to upload some of those later.

Then we walked out to the boat dock and boarded a boat to Ft. Wilderness via the Contemporary. Beautiful night!

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We walked around Ft. Wilderness a bit and I did my usual tetherball thing. But we were a bit disappointed that our regular stops at the gift shops were a bit of a bust. What happened to all the merchandise? It just seems like it’s mostly kid stuff and not much as much there. We felt the same way about the Wilderness Lodge gift shop, formerly a huge favorite of ours.

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It had been a long day and a long drive, especially with Rich having a cold. He really didn’t want to have to turn around and drive all the way back to our island resort on Clearwater Beach. We ended up making a bad choice, but I’ll save that story for the next post.

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 3: Sea Critters and the Beach

This morning we had breakfast in the room: coffee and donuts for Kathy and coffee and banana nut muffin for Rich. It was cold but we bundled up and walked over to dock to take pics and video.

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Originally, this was going to be Orlando day with dinner at Artist Point but we realized we needed a beach day before we took off for Orlando so we rescheduled it for the next day.

We then showered and dressed and drove to John’s Pass for lunch but changed our minds and continued on to Sea Critters. It was a beautiful day, but had a bit of a detour on the way due to some road construction.

We sat outside and took pics and video of the beautiful day in Tampa Bay and the people arriving/leaving Sea Critters by boat.

And then we  ordered drinks and lunch – Mai Tai for Rich and Margarita for Kathy. Rich ordered the Blackened Grouper with rice and beans and Kathy ordered her traditional Florida Shrimp basket with fries. We shared a slice of Key Lime Pie with caramel sauce, which was delicious.

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We then drove back to the resort for a nap with our daily stop at Walgreens for more snacks and mouth wash and Halls for Rich’s cold. When we woke up, we revived ourselves with a soda and chocolate squares. Then we drove to the beach to see the sunset and took some pics and video.

It was really freezing out and by now it was totally dark. My light Princess Cruises sweatshirt was not enough to keep me warm so we popped into a gift shop and I got a thicker sweatshirt with hood that said, “Clearwater Beach” on it. We also picked up a postcard for Rich’s parents. They used to come down to Clearwater Beach every winter when they were living in Massachusetts.

We stopped in at Ron Jon’s and Rich got a T-shirt. We passed a musician and he was playing his guitar and singing his heart out in the cold. I asked Rich to offer something for his tip jar and when he did, the guy’s face lit up in a huge way. He started talking to us about how tonight seemed even colder. I told him to “keep warm” and he thanked me for reminding him of that. It may seem like a simple encounter but there was something very spiritual about it that’s hard to explain. But now I think I know what Father Philip means when he says that you “see Christ in the poor.” Before I just thought it was those crazy Catholics (we’re now Byzantine Catholic – lol!). But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since then.

Then we stopped by this walk-up place that said “Beach Eats” and grabbed a menu for lunch the next day.

When we drove back to the resort. Once the weather warms a bit, we hope to walk to the beach because it really is only a couple of blocks away from our resort.

Rich had leftover pizza and Kathy had crackers and cheese with our wine.

We stopped to check in with each other’s reactions to being in Florida again. It was fun but freaky at the same time. Some parts felt like home and other parts didn’t feel like home at all. We knew this week would be a roller coaster ride and we probably wouldn’t really know how we felt until about a week after we were home. Still, it was fun to talk about.

We were looking forward to Orlando the next day. Maybe Orlando feels more like home because we’ve lived there twice and the most recent.

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 2, Part 2: Tampa

After touring our old neighborhood of Grand Oaks, we then drove back on 54 to 41 and up to Connerton. This was the newest community being built and we wanted to see a “New Jersey” plan Lennar was building up there. William Ryan Homes also had a Juno plan we were interested in. We feared this location would be way too far north and it was just as bad as we expected. It was a very nice community but located in the boonies. And the goofy salesman didn’t have a model of the plan we wanted and tried to sell us one we did not want.

Then we drove down 41 to Dale Mabry, right on Linebaugh to Westchase where we had lunch at Tijuana Flats, one of our favorite standbys in Central Florida. As soon as we walked in the door we heard “Viva Las Vegas” playing on the sound system. Isn’t that wild?

Kathy stopped in at the restroom and Rich ordered Dos Tacos, beef and bean, for Kathy and Carnitas Burrito for him. Coke and Diet Coke to drink. We sat outside and enjoyed the Tampa weather.

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After lunch, we headed back to our beach cottage via Tampa Road, pass our Palm Harbor apartment to get back to 19 and 60 to Clearwater Beach. It was so much fun visiting our previous homes – we’d so longed to see them again. But it did feel a bit like watching a movie – something from the past and not the present or future.

After a nap, we drove to the beach and watched the sunset. It was quite chilly so we had to bundle up but it was a beautiful evening.

Next we stopped at Walgreen’s for more snacks and supplies. Dinner was crab sushi with siracha for Kathy and a beef and cheese sandwich for Rich. We enjoyed sipping our Cupcake wine and talking deep into the night.

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 2, Part 1: Tampa

Today was the day I’d been looking forward to: driving to New Tampa to see the brand new home we’d built in Grand Oaks. We’d found the house on the internet when it was recently for sale and were shocked to see it was now painted blue. We were sure that color was against the HOA back then but maybe they eased up on the restrictions. The worst part wasn’t the blue because it really was a light blue but the dark blue stripes on the house. We wanted to see it for ourselves. This would be the first time we’d been back since we sold it 10 years ago!!!

Rich made us some coffee and we ate some pinwheels for breakfast and then told Susan about our backs and the bad bed. Thankfully, she was able to accommodate us in a different room, even moving another person around to make it happen for us. This resort is the second highest rated in Clearwater Beach and people rave about the management. Susan is terrific! So we moved our stuff to the new room before heading north for our day’s outing.

We drove 60 to 19 to 54, past the Suncoast on to the Grand Oaks turnoff just east of 75. What really occurred to us is how far everything was. We’d remembered it differently. It was all so rural! Guess we’re used to being close in with desert surrounding us now. We then recalled how far shopping was. It was around 5 miles to the closest grocery store, restaurants, church, and gas station. Here we have shopping right outside our gated community, yet it’s not crowded.

We were very excited to drive around Grand Oaks. It all looks amazing still. We loved that community and could never find one quite like it in the Orlando area. If we had, maybe we would have stayed back then.

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The house with the new blue trim – ick!

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We couldn’t believe how tall the palm tree had grown.
We remember decorating it for Christmas that first year and Rich trimming it every now and then.

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Neighbors added a front screen to the entryway.

We walked around hoping to see our neighbors out so we could say hi but it was a bit cold and windy the first two days we were in Florida. We took pictures and video and I could see us living there again, even if in a different house.