A winter getaway to Anna Maria Island

22 February 2018

Here is something you should know about my husband: he strongly dislikes cold weather. Like, gets a very mild case of SAD in the winter. (Hence our daughter’s name, in part!) For years he has dreamed about taking a warm-weather vacation in the depths of January or February, but the opportunity always snuck up on us after the holidays.

Anna Maria Pier

That is, until this year. After a tough 2017, where, among other things, our surprise 30th birthday/fifth wedding anniversary trips fell through, we decided on a whim to finally make a snowbird getaway happen. The deciding factor was a fall Southwest Airlines sale, where we snapped up tickets to Tampa. With a destination in hand, John began researching where, exactly, we wanted to go once we landed. The criteria: warm (obviously), clear water, somewhere within driving distance of the Tampa airport, somewhere with an “Old Florida” feel, somewhere with a relaxed and laid-back vibe, and somewhere we could walk most places. Anna Maria Island checked all of those boxes and then some.

beach vacation

Anna Maria is a tiny, white-sand sliver of a barrier island known for its beautiful beaches and quaint vibe. There are no high-rise condos or obnoxious chains. The island-wide speed limit is 35 MPH :) We stayed at the even quieter north end of the island (the Anna Maria section), and it’s so narrow that you can see the Gulf at one end of the street and turn around to see Tampa Bay at the other. We stayed at the Sunrise Garden Resort, which is really the only “hotel” at that end – it’s surrounded by colorful houses (many of them rentals), cute shops, and restaurants. We were very happy there and would absolutely recommend it over the more commercial south end of the island.

Sunrise Garden Resort

fancy beach house

Here’s how we really knew this was the perfect destination for us: I could probably count on two hands the number of people we saw under 40. Ha! That’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but if a place is good enough for retirees, it’s good enough for us! Those people know how to relax, I tell you what :)

colorful beach houses

This vacation was quite possibly the least-planned out adventure we have ever had. We didn’t make any reservations or an itinerary in advance, and that worked out fine! We arrived Wednesday afternoon and left Saturday afternoon, and here were a few highlights:

Ginny’s and Jane E’s for breakfast sandwiches and smoothies
The Waterfront Restaurant for dinner (twice!)
— Bean Point, the beach on the north tip of the island, for long walks, shell collecting, and nature sightings
— Renting chairs from Beach Bums and reading on the Tampa Bay-side beach
— Browsing the many adorable shops on Pine Street
The General Store for yummy deli sandwiches, salads, and ice cream (twice!)
Poppo’s Taqueria for burrito bowls and quesadillas
The Donut Experiment for a design-your-own morning treat

Poppo's Tacos

We walked to all of these spots from our hotel easily, which was so nice! We also enjoyed watching the Olympics from bed in the evenings and lounging by (and taking a dip in) Sunrise’s heated pool.

Sunrise Garden pool

The only real off-island adventure we had was kayaking in Robinson Preserve, launching from nearby Bradenton — the perfect active counterpoint to our generally lazy schedule. We rented a tandem from Kayak Jacks for a two hour or so self-guided paddle (through a mangrove tunnel and out to a sandbar!) and it was a seamless experience.

mangrove tunnel

sand dollar

My favorite part? Aside from the flights themselves, which felt absurdly luxurious without wrangling a two-year-old, my favorite part of the trip was our last morning. After checking out of our hotel, we brought our beach chairs back to the water’s edge and chatted through the famous 36 Questions That Lead to Love. We had never done them before, and though of course we knew many of each other’s answers, it was such a treat to just sit there, enjoy each other’s company, and be reminded of all the ways we are similar and all the reasons we are a perfect match for each other.

beach reading

Which really, was the whole point. I’m not the first one to say it, but time away together is a joy and a priority if you have kids. Yes, we generally like to prioritize trips that include the whole family (and love traveling together dearly!), but John and I plan to be best friends long after kiddos are off to college, and best friends need love and attention and special memories all along the way, not just after the kids have officially turned out alright. We’re grateful we got to to take this trip (our first multi-night stay away) and especially thankful to my Mom for watching June! They had a great time, too :)

beach vacation photos

Anna Maria was the perfectly relaxing winter getaway we were hoping for, and we couldn’t recommend it more!!

I’d love to hear: Do y’all have a favorite winter getaway? And, if you have kids, have you gotten away yet with just your spouse?

P.S. Clearly I am a big fan of this hat – perfect for such a sunny location!

Affiliate links are used in this post!

How We Do It: Organizing Our Relationships

20 February 2018

Hi friends! Today in our How We Do It series we’re talking about relationships! I know what you all really want to know is how I maintain friendships without text messaging or getting together with girlfriends, so let’s start there! :)

To catch up any new folks: Nancy Ray and I are writing an eight-part series every Tuesday in January and February covering “how we do it” in eight different areas: the rhythms, habits, and routines that help us get things done and make the space and time for what matters most. You can read more of the backstory here.

How We Do It: Relationships

To be clear, as I clarified on the first post in this series, I do both text and get together with girlfriends – just on a more limited basis than I perceive my peers do. First off, I always reply to texts sent to me :) In general, though, texting just doesn’t seem to be the main way my friends communicate (I’m more likely to send longer-form emails). And, as much as it gets a bad rap, one of my favorite ways to keep in touch with faraway friends is through Instagram! I think it can be an amazing way to be a part of the mundane parts of each other’s lives that we wouldn’t normally think to discuss on, say, a phone call.

A few years ago, I started two practices that made a huge difference in some of my closest relationships. Every Monday on my drive home from work, I call my Mom. We’ll talk or FaceTime at other times throughout the week, but even if we don’t, I always know we’ll connect then! Similarly, every Tuesday I have a Google Hangout with my two sisters. We’ll occasionally miss a week, but having the standing date on the calendar means we chat more weeks than not. Both have been easy habits that have paid dividends in these relationships!

On the girlfriends (and really, friends in general) front, I’ll say this: I am a major quality over quantity person. I don’t really have that many, but the ones I do have are a treasure to me and get extra doses of my love and affection! Our close couple friends we try to see at least once a month. Most of the remainder of my girlfriends live in my neighborhood or on my street, so I get together with them casually just being outside without organizing specific “nights out,” etc. I do have two structured get-togethers each month, which are easy for me to plan for and organize: Articles Club (of course!) and a neighborhood book club.

Here’s one thing that can be a bit difficult, both organizationally and emotionally: getting more than one couple together. For example, we wanted to have three husband and wife pairs over for a game night for my upcoming birthday. I swear, it took no fewer than 25 text messages between the four ladies to figure out a mutually agreeable date from the eight options I originally proposed. Since we don’t have a million close friends, we can’t just throw out a general invitation for something like this and expect anyone to show up, but feeling so dependent on so few people can leave me feeling self-conscious or inadequate, especially around special occasions. In the end, though, that’s just the type of people John and I are, and these friends are worth it :)

A tool that I sometimes use for gauging the best date for larger gatherings: Doodle! I’ve mentioned it before, but it can be a great timesaver when organizing with a bunch of busy folks.

perpetual calendar

I keep track of birthdays in a pretty perpetual calendar, which I keep out on our counter and reference during my prep days. MY PREP DAYS! They are another key to keeping things organized in my personal life. When I thought about what had stopped me in the past from doing kind and fun things for the people I love, it wasn’t a lack of money or time, it was a lack of preparation. Starting last year, I designated one day a month (the last Sunday of each month, usually) my prep day, and I take about two hours to walk through a few steps to prepare for birthdays, holidays, events, date nights, etc. You can read more about them here.

On those prep days, I always have blank floral cards on hand from Rifle to use for birthdays, anniversaries, congratulations, or condolences. I usually buy a few packs on Black Friday, which cuts down on having to run out and buy a card for every occasion!

A few final tips around holidays: I keep all of my mailing addresses in a Google Doc (I know a lot of people use and love Postable, too!). I keep track of past Christmas and birthday presents (only for John and June) in other Google Docs. Future present ideas go in my Notes app so I can update it on the fly!

As always, I feel like there was so much more I could cover under the very general “relationships” heading, so if there’s something you’d like for me to tackle in a future post, please let me know! Can’t wait to see what Nancy has to share today, too! :)

P.S. I didn’t really touch on tending to my marriage in this post because I feel like I talk about it fairly often – for more on that topic, check out this category!

Where we’ve been and what’s coming up:
Time: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Finances: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Home: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Personal Lives: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Work: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
February 27: Spiritual Life
March 6: Kids

A few things we did for Valentine’s Day

16 February 2018

Friends, thank you so much for sharing in our excitement earlier this week!! It was an extra sweet Valentine’s Day due to your love. Two kiddos — it’s a whole new world here at Em for Marvelous! :)

Our Valentine’s Day was otherwise low-key. I started celebrating a bit early with a Galentine’s Day edition of Articles Club on Tuesday night. We kept the pink and red table decor for our family dinner on Wednesday, where the menu was beef ragu (our go-to celebratory meal!), cheesy garlic bread, sparkling cider, and surprise Girl Scout cookies John brought home from work! Samoas for me and Thin Mints for him :)

Inspired by Lara, I wrapped up a Walk in Love tee at each place setting to remind us that the greatest love comes not from each other but from the one who first loved us. So happy they’re offering kids tees again!!

In preparation, June and I had a little crafting party last weekend: she did some free-form painting for cousins and grandparents while I worked on her class valentines. I originally was going to help her make thumbprint hearts and add a punny “thumb-body loves you” line, but her thumbs were a bit too small to make recognizable hearts! So, swirls and circles it was. Next year I want to try Valerie’s celery heart idea!

This was our first year making class valentines, and we only had to make 10 (whew!). I was planning to use Lay Baby Lay’s printable but couldn’t get it to save to my computer, and so ended up designing my own inspired by hers. Here’s the file if you’d like to try it yourself! We ordered the plastic cats from Amazon – considering how in love June is with the animal figurines she got for Christmas, I’m hoping these were a big hit with her classmates. They turned out pretty cute, if I do say so myself! And easy easy easy.

cats meow valentine

We ended the night cuddled on the sofa watching our 45-minute wedding video, a tradition that started the first Valentine’s Day after we were married when our full-length film was delivered to us just a few days before the holiday. June was definitely into it this year, calling out the names of each family member along the way. Nothing like listening to your wedding vows to bring back the warm fuzzies :)

Next year I think we might add more of a festive breakfast or something like pink milk – betting she would get a kick out of that. Did y’all do anything fun to celebrate?

Affiliate links used in this post!

Happy news to share

14 February 2018

Friends, on this day of love, I’m so happy to share that our hearts are growing and growing!

We are overjoyed that another little baby will be joining our family in August! YAY, indeed!!

It seems like it might be easier to take a second baby in stride, but knowing how precious our sweet girl is to us makes me even more grateful for and awestruck by this blessing. It was hard to imagine what our love for a child would feel like before we had June, and certainly how much fun it would be to be a mama — but now I know!! This time around, I’ve loved anticipating all of the good stuff that’s coming (like movement soon!), and it’s been nice to feel a little more prepared for the hard stuff, too.

That being said, keeping my expectations low has been my biggest challenge so far with baby number two. Y’all know how I feel about expectations – I live and die by them, as there are few things that more strongly affect my happiness and overall life satisfaction.

Last time around, pregnancy and life with a newborn was pretty much a gigantic blank slate. Specifically, I never had illusions about how wonderful the newborn phase would be. In fact, I expected it to be hard, frustrating, and exhausting, with a steep learning curve. I wasn’t depressed about this; I just figured it would be something we’d have to get through, and it would get better every day.

And then, we got a dream angel baby who did all the things. And it was SO WONDERFUL! Because I had low expectations, every good thing felt like a revelation. Even the smallest victories and happy moments were a delight.

For me, the key to repeat this experience again is not to have another dream angel baby (though I wouldn’t be mad about that!), it’s to again have truly low expectations. Easier said than done, but I am committed to experiencing this pregnancy and new little for just who he or she is!

Alright — on to the things you really want to know! :)

How do you feel? At 15 weeks, I am feeling good, though still tired in the evenings especially! The week we found out was truly awful – I had terrible back pain (something I’d never even heard of as a pregnancy malady!) and spent pretty much the whole week moaning and nauseous on the coach. John made an emergency run to Target for ginger tea, an extra heating pad, sea-bands, chicken noodle soup, and all the rest — we joked that the cashiers surely must have thought we were first-time expecting parents :) Since that week, though, it has been smooth sailing, with very little queasiness or anything else to complain about!

Are you going to find out whether it’s a boy or a girl? Yes! Yes yes yes. We can’t wait to find out in just a few weeks! My very favorite consignment sale is actually at 19 weeks and 3 days, and I’m considering using my one-time pregnancy diva card to schedule our ultrasound appointment a bit early, ha! My shopping needs will be very different based on the results, so I feel like this is justified :)

Does June know? We have talked about the baby in front of her, but haven’t really had a sit-down chat, and she’s never brought up the subject independently. I don’t think she understands much at this point. I’m sure we will be discussing her big sister status more intentionally as my due date gets closer and there is a belly to point to!

I’ll end the same way I did my first pregnancy announcement. We are grateful. We are trusting in God, who has equipped us with everything we need and has chosen us uniquely for this baby. We are trusting in each other, as we have for the last thirteen years. And we are trusting that all that is to come is the continuation of a beautiful story. Looking forward to sharing it, friends!! Happy Valentine’s Day :)

Biggest thank yous to our dear friend Graham of Anagram Photo for these sweet photos of our growing family!! He snapped them in his backyard a few weeks ago and then Sam served us the most delicious lo mein for lunch, so all around it was a blue ribbon day :)