Thursday, March 28, 2013

2013 St. Augustine Celtic Music and Heritage Festival

For my birthday (it was in February) Momma took my sister and me to the Celtic Music and Heritage Festival in St. Augustine.  We drove up on Friday afternoon, and checked into our hotel right near historic downtown.  The location was great, because everything was within easy walking distance.
Friday evening was a little hectic.  I'd made arrangements to meet up with some old friends for dinner, and Mom had made arrangements to meet up with my aunts for dinner, but it all worked out.  We first met Corinnea and Jess and their family at the Tini Martini just across from the Bridge of Lions.  We sat and visited there for a little while, then all of us together went to meet Aunt Tine and her family at Borillo's (when we first drove by it, Momma thought that is said "Bordello's") for dinner.  It was wonderful. Not because the food was all that great (it was good, but nothing to write home about), but because of the company.

  I got to sit and chat with Corinnea (my Germany mom) and Jess (her actual daughter) all through dinner.  This was the first time I'd seen Corinnea since she left Germany (a few months before we did), and only the second time that I'd seen Jess in person.  It was just so nice to be able to catch up!  I did feel a little guilty for ignoring my family (Alanna was the only one at the table with us) but Christine, Cathleen and Andrew went with us back to the hotel to sit and visit for a little while, so I feel like I kind of made up for it.

The next morning, we headed over to the fair grounds in time for the official kick-off parade.  I didn't really know what to expect from this parade.  Most of it made sense, because it was all about St. Patrick's Day, Celtic culture, local history, local attractions, or some combination of the three.

The best part about the horses?  The pot o'gold that came behind them.

The local marching band made me feel a bit nostalgic, both for the dance team and the drum line.  (Those were always the 2 best parts, anyway.)

And this one was just plain hilarious, even if the muskets were absurdly loud.

Even the pirates with their giant balloon squid seemed appropriate.

But this took me completely by surprise:

Darth Vader.  Storm Troopers.  Imperial gunners.  Sand people.  Jawas.  A Celtic Leia Organa.  Wait, what?  It was the 501st and apparently, they do a lot of appearances at events ranging from movie premieres to local Celtic parades.  It was totally unexpected--and totally awesome.  Vader was even pretending to force-choke people as he walked by, but no one played along and pretended to be choked.   Too bad he didn't try to force-choke me.
There was a lot more to the parade, but there's only room for so much silliness in a single post.  If you really want to see more, and you happen to be friends with me on facebook, you can browse through the pictures I posted there.
After the parade, the actual festival grounds opened up.  The first thing we did was to make the rounds of all of the vendors.  I'd hoped to find a pair of malachite earrings to go with my necklace:

 but no dice.  (I later found some simple malachite studs on Etsy; I think I'll just order those.)  We did find lots of other neat stuff, including dresses for me and the girls, a t-shirt for Brandon, and some yummy mango Italian ice.

Some of the stuff we saw in the main row of vendors was hand-made, but most of it was not.  There was, however, an area set aside for the artisans.  One of these artisans not only offered fused glass plates and baubles, but had a station set up where people could make their own fused glass pendants!

I didn't take any other pictures of all of the lovely hand made treasures.  I think I had gotten tired of the camera for a little while.  Now I wish that I had.  There were lovely hand-carved wooden boxes and hand-thrown and -painted urns and vases and blown glass and I don't even remember what else.  That's what I get for being lazy.

Over the course of the day, there were a number of different bands on the stage, but this is the only one we paid any attention to.Their music was all pipes and drums, and they were obviously having a lot of fun making it.  The guy with the big drum on the far left was especially into it, and anytime he wasn't playing, he was rousing the audience.  The Storm Troopers didn't hurt.  :)

We skipped the haggis and pasties in favor of  fish & chips (me), coconut shrimp (Alanna), and fried chicken (mom).  I think all three of regretted our choices, but what can you do?  It's fair food.  I think it's probably universally mediocre.  Then again, what was I thinking, getting fish at a fair?  Not my best decision making ever.

Christine and Cathleen met us there right after lunch, and shortly before we were ready to leave the festival and mosey on over to St. George Street.  We ended up walking back up toward the hotel first, to drop stuff off at the car and to check out a few shops that we'd seen the night before.  Alanna was particularly interested in a nautical shop, so we stopped there first.

It had a little bit of everything.  Outdated equipment, spyglasses, driftwood, buoys, art, model ships, historical curiosities, you name it.  Alanna loved it.  We also visited a bead shop, where I found a few things that I just had to have, and what we'd thought was a second hand shop, but turned out to be an over-priced boutique.  Then we headed to St George St to browse through the shops and such there.

I'd say the only notable stops were the Irish store, which was notable only in its absence; and a novel little fudge shop called Fudge Buckets who sold all of their fudge in individual little containers with snap-on lids.  By the time we were done, we were all exhausted.  We headed back to the cars, purchases in tow, and took ourselves off to Outback for dinner with Christine and Cathleen before heading back down to Titusville.

It was a great birthday present, Momma...thank you!

Visiting Gramma Honey

Let's back up a bit.  While Brandon was in Tampa on Friday, hunting his friends with a paintball gun, I took the girls to Orlando to see my grandmother.

I love going to see her; she's sweet and plucky and eccentric. (Who wouldn't be eccentric at 90 years old?)  And I know she loves to see her great-grand babies, even if they do wear her out within the first 20 minutes.  I really wish we could go visit more often.

We used my new tripod and the timer on the camera to get a picture of all of us together.  Kaylie wasn't interested in cooperating, and had to be wrangled.

We went back twice more while we were in town, but I didn't take any more pictures.  I just wanted to enjoy being with her (and my dad!) without being stuck behind the camera.  I know we probably don't have much time left with her, so I want to enjoy it and I want to store up as many good memories as possible!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Play Date!

By the time we got back to Titusville on Tuesday afternoon, it had been days since I'd spent much time with the girls and I'd missed them terribly, no matter how much fun I'd had.  So it worked out well that we'd planned a play date for that afternoon.  We met our friends (and my mom and my niece) at Sand Point Park and proceeded to spend the next few hours just playing.

We took a break in the middle to get a snack and blow some bubbles.

But it didn't last long.

IT was a good way to spend the afternoon.  :)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Free Day in Tampa

Brandon and I spent the day after the wedding in Tampa.  James and Carrie were living there (they'd had their apartment for less than a week at that point) and had the day off, Sam and Tony weren't leaving until the following day, John was still around and the girls were playing happily at Gigi's house.  After cleaning up the house where we'd spent the weekend, it was a lazy day.  There was a lot of this:

And quite a bit of this:

We ended up heading over to James and Carrie's new place, then more or less repeated the process.  We spent a few hours there, just chillin'.  It felt really very good to do nothing for a while, after the traveling and the chaos.

I did get some pictures of Sam, Tony, James and John in the shirts that we'd made for them, which was really cool.  Carrie and I went for a walk, too.

There's a small lake in their new community, with a path leading to it.  She hadn't walked out there yet, so we were exploring.  The lake is quite pretty, with a playground and picnic area nearby.

That night, we went to a Greek restaurant called the Acropolis for appetizers and drinks.  As we were walking in, Brandon took the camera from me and took about a zillion pictures all at once.  He does that from time to time, because I sometimes complain about never being in any of the photos.  It's kind of a joke with us, at this point.  James's photo bomb made it even better.  :)
There was a German place a few doors down from the Acropolis, and the plan was to move down there for the main meal, but the food was so good, and we were having such a good time that we never left the Acropolis.  We discovered that they had hookahs, moved out to the porch, and camped.  We got there around 5, and didn't leave until after 10.  If it felt good to do nothing for a while, it felt even better to go out with my friends and be an adult.  Don't get me wrong, I love being a mother---but it was fantastic that I didn't have to be a mother for the night. I got quite tipsy, cursed a blue streak, and freely discussed things not suitable for a child's ears, safe in the knowledge that my children were well taken care of for the night.  Oh, it was wonderful.  We all had a good time that night, even if the guys (except for John, who was driving) did get a little obnoxious later.  

Everyone left the next day.  John went back to Gainesville, Sam and Tony went back to San Francisco, and Brandon and I drove back to Titusville.  All in all, it was a great weekend.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Matt & Robin Tie the Knot

Has it really been a month and a half since my last post?  Good grief.  And now I have all of our trip to Florida to post.  Hm.  The wedding first, I think.

The whole trip was planned around Matt and Robin's wedding (and since we were going down anyway, there was no reason not to make it a full-blown visit).  Matt is someone that Brandon and I have both known  since forever, though they didn't get to be good friends until after high school.  We met Robin through Matt, and in the year or two since then, I've gotten to be friends with her, as well.  I even got to help her plan the wedding and make her jewelry, which I love.  Anyway, there was never any question about us going down for the wedding, especially since Brandon and Elora were both in the wedding party.

We drove down on February 28, a Thursday, and Brandon went over to Tampa (home base for all things wedding) that evening.  On Friday, they all got up and went paint-balling for the bachelor party, which I think is pretty cool.  They had to stop after only a few hours and take an extended break because John fell and dislocated his shoulder, and had to head to the ER to have it put black in place.  

Before and after.  Can you guess which is John?

I can't say that I precisely approved of all the bruises he ended up with, but they had fun.  Matt was in much worse shape.  At the end of their game, he had the dubious pleasure of playing open target to all of his groomsmen, and came away from the experience looking rather like a leopard.

Brandon's bruises were just as nasty, but he didn't have nearly as many of them.  Silly boys.

Anyway, I left the girls with Papa and Gigi and drove over to Tampa on Saturday, along with Kaitlin, the long-time girlfriend of another of the groomsmen.  We left Titusville around noon, but didn't end up making it to Tampa until about 5 o'clock.  We stopped for a late lunch, got caught in traffic on I-4, and then got stuck in the Plant City Strawberry Festival traffic when we tried to reroute.  We had a good time with it, and acquired a huge case of strawberries too.
When we got to the house we were all staying at, Sam was the only one around.  Carrie was at work, Tony was asleep, and the guys had all gone fishing.  Sam was busy putting together the flower arrangements for the wedding.

She and Robin had bought the burlap back in the fall, the last time that we'd all been in Florida, and had made the burlap flowers in the intervening time.  (If you're interested in how she did that, I'll soon be posting all about it on the craft blog.)  Paired as they were with the real flowers that they'd chosen, they looked incredible.  

I'm totally not surprised.  Sam did the flowers for her wedding as well, and they were nothing short of stunning.   This time, she did only the floral arrangements for the ceremony and the reception, while Robin made the ladies' bouquets.

The wedding took place on a converted farm in Lakeland, complete with a large loft for the use of the bride, a smaller room below for the guys, a reception hall with kitchen, and a gazebo with a seating area beyond for the ceremony.  It was perfect for an outdoor ceremony--except that it was unseasonably cold that day.  At it warmest, it only got up to about 58, and it was breezy and often overcast.  Everyone but Robin wore sweaters and jackets.

Staria and Jimmy brought the girls over to the house the morning of the wedding, then stayed there to get ready while I took the girls to the farm to get ready there.  Elora was the ring bearer princess.  She loved everything about it--the dress, the boots, the bit about being a princess--right up until the time for her to actually do it.  I'd forgotten, as I often do, that she doesn't like big groups of people that she doesn't know, and unfortunately, while she knew most of the guys in the wedding party, she didn't know any of the ladies.  She was shy and clingy that day, and had to be coaxed through all of it.  It took the threat of giving her job to Kaylie to even get her into the dress.  Carrie was a huge help in getting her ready.  It was talk of the baby in Carrie's tummy that finally got her to relax.

Kaylie was perfectly happy--so long as I was holding her.  Otherwise, she was every bit as fractious as her sister, and less easily diverted.  I finally had to call Brandon up to the loft where the ladies were getting ready to take her, just so I could finish Elora's hair, and get myself ready.  Even then, the bridal party had already gone to line up for the ceremony before I'd had a chance to put on my dress.  I got down there just as the procession began.  By that time, Staria and Jimmy had arrived, and Kaylie was with her Gigi, happily munching on a cake pop pilfered from the reception.

Poor Elora was still feeling overwhelmed and rather bewildered.  Rather than following several paces behind Ainsley, the flower girl, as she was supposed to, Elora simply walked beside her.  They stopped together at the beginning of the aisle, where Ainsley just stood in place and flung the flowers in front of her by the handful.  Everyone was telling her to keep going, to drop the petals as she went, but she stayed put until Matt came to get them, and Elora stayed with her.

  .Robin made her entrance with her father in a horse-drawn carriage, which drove in a circle all the way around us before stopping at the beginning of the aisle.  

She looked so lovely, and so incredibly happy!  

And of course her jewelry was awesome.  :)

The ceremony itself was beautiful.

Unfortunately, Kaylie decided to pitch another fit about halfway through, and I wasn't able to get any more pictures, but I think this one captures it pretty well.  :)  Actually, I didn't take many more pictures at all that day.  I stayed pretty busy, even after Staria and Jimmy left to take the girls back to Titusville.  I did get this one of the serving staff, who were almost comically glum:

And this one, of the guys all chatting outside toward the end of the reception:

Do guys "chat"?  Whatever.  That's enough for one post, I think.  :)