Friday, February 8, 2013

Jenni's Florida Birthday Surprise!

I'm sure I have mentioned before, my love for and close relationship with my two best friends, Kimberlee and Jenni.  I'll do a quick recap.  We lived together in a house in the FABULOUS Oakwood historic district in downtown Raleigh.  This neighborhood had the best of both worlds, a really close knit neighborhood and within walking distance of downtown.  We absolutely loved it.  The three of us also taught together at the same elementary school, all on the first grade team.  It was so much fun, we learned a lot, and I think being so close and bouncing ideas off of each other made us all better teachers.  Not only did we spend a lot of time at school planning for our own classes but we also participated in pretty much any committee, team, board, workshop, etc. that was going on at the time.  I also have fond memories of planning the first grade team's Black History Month hallway displays at Moe's and staying so late we closed the restaurant down!  When our school didn't have a fall festival we planned our own.  We had face painting, a cake walk, relays, and all kinds of other crafts and games that we planned just the 3 of us.  There are too many other school projects and events to even get into.

I don't know where to begin as far as explaining our social life :)  I will just say that we took full advantage of our close proximity to downtown, quite a number of parties were thrown, and lots of adventures like our trip to the Bonnaroo Music Festival (no showers for days, no electricity, and camping in a tent) and New York City to a Giants game (where we met the BEST tail gating group ever while aimlessly wandering through the parking lot after getting dropped off by a cab, after the game not only were we somehow let back to meet the players but had our picture taken with Brandon Jacobs, gave him Jenni's cell number while hanging in his car window, he called Jenni's phone later that night but we decided we didn't want to make the news the next day so we skipped out on meeting up with him).

We attended more concerts than I could list and plenty of random trips to the beach.  I should do a few "Flashback Friday" posts to elaborate more on the adventures because they are definitely things I don't ever want to forget.

Anyway, I'm getting way off topic.  So you get the picture, as far as best friends go, these girls are it.  I was the first to move away and over the last few years a lot has changed.  Between the three of us there have been weddings, grad school, and a baby...that's just life, change is inevitable.  Its not always easy but we have done a pretty good job of seeing each other regularly and keeping in touch.

In December Jenni and her husband Clay moved to Lake City, Florida for Clay's new job.  I knew with this new baby due in June, my time for travel is ticking away.  So I told Kimberlee that before I get too far along (and before the baby is actually HERE) we should plan a trip and visit Jenni.  This was actually the perfect time because Kellan is big enough for me to leave him and I don't have an infant needing to nurse every few hours.  Well Kimberlee suggested that we go the weekend before Jenni's birthday and we would keep it a surprise.  We filled Clay in on our plans and hoped that he could keep a secret.

This was my first time leaving Kellan overnight and I cried the entire way to the NC line.  Then I pulled myself together, realized that he was going to be OK without me, and I was fine for the rest of the trip.  To be completely honest, I don't even think he noticed that I was gone but he did enjoy helping me pack :)
I left Thursday afternoon, January 31, picked Kimberlee up in Raleigh and we were on our way.  It was about an 8 hour drive so with our trip down there and back up, Kimberlee and I had about 16 hours to catch up.  We stopped once for gas and once for a quick dinner.  Neither of us had ever eaten at a Krystal Burger so we decided to try it out.
It was pretty good but I highly doubt either of us will be going out of our way to eat there again anytime soon.  Nothing special really.

And the best part...the surprise.  We got to their house around midnight and Jenni had been in bed for about an hour.  Clay said we could either wake her up or wait until the next day...of course we woke her up!!  Clay turned on the light and Kimberlee yelled SURPRISE!  Jenni's reaction totally made every hour of the drive worthwhile.  She peeked over the top of the blanket, looked at Clay and said "Is this real life?"  Then she said "This is the best surprise ever!"  Then she got a little teary because Clay had asked her what she wanted to make her birthday the best ever and she had gotten emotional because what she wanted wasn't in Florida.  Then she said when she woke up and we were there she thought she was dreaming!  Another of her first statements was "Do I have to go to work tomorrow?"  Haha...since they moved in the middle of the school year she has taken a long term sub position in a neighboring county.

We made it and the surprise was a success!!
We made plans that night to bring Jenni lunch, see her school, and meet her new class the next day.  She suggested a new restaurant that she had tried and really liked so we picked up lunch and headed to her school.  
Really good food!  I got their Cuban sandwich...mmm...delicious!
To say that Jenni's new class is a "handful" is an understatement.  She has quite a few "attention seekers" and I will just leave it at that.  We were only there for the afternoon and we got to witness quite a bit of some "fun" behaviors.

Teacher Kimberlee had reached her limit and called a "friend" over for a one on one conference.  The three of us brainstormed a few new tactics for Jenni to try and I can't wait to hear how her next few weeks go.
Most girls can bond over shopping but I feel strongly that the three of us can take it to a whole new level.  Jenni has instilled in us a love for TJ Maxx so where else would we head straight for after a difficult day at work?...none other than a TJ Maxx/Home Goods combination store!
First we hit up the one in Gainsville, FL...

and then because that one wasn't enough...we also went to the one in Lake City.
We met Clay back at their house and headed to dinner in a nearby town.  The Great Outdoors Restaurant is right in the middle of this cute little downtown area.

The food was really good and I think all of us got their filet and shrimp special.

Before we left we got a picture in front of the outdoor fireplace (there was an actual fire, we're just blocking it) located in the outdoor bar area where there was a band setting up.  It would have been really nice if it had been just a little bit warmer.
The next day all 4 of us went to brunch at Mike's Cafe, a restaurant that Clay had heard about in Lake City but they had never tried.  All of us were very impressed and everyone loved their food.

Their chicken and wild rice soup was AMAZING!

After lunch we headed to a local cupcake shop, Sugar Cakery.  Clay had sampled one that someone had brought to work and said they were really good.

We decided on a red velvet, a chocolate chip cookie dough, and two inside out peanut butter cups.  I went with the peanut butter one and it was REALLY good.  Peanut butter cake and icing with chocolate on the inside.  I definitely recommend it.

Kimberlee taking a minute to pay some bills :)
Clay took us to a little roadside stand to check out their Florida oranges.

Kimberlee and I shopping for tangerines, oranges, and mangoes...and I got Michael a jar of honey.
Afterwards we lounged around the house for a little while and then we all got ready to drive to Gainesville to eat and go out for Jenni's birthday.  We gave her one of her gifts, a baked tortilla bowl maker, and the other, a necklace of NC with a heart punched out over Raleigh, was delivered the following week.

Birthday girl riding shotgun to Gainesville :)

Jenni and Clay had already decided that they wanted to take us to Satchel's Pizza.  They had gone a couple of weeks before and said that it was just a place that we had to experience...not to mention the food is really good too.  I could have done a whole separate post on just this place...and judging by all of the pictures that I took, I probably should have.

This place has a WHOLE lot to look at!  And we took it all in because we had quite a long wait on a Saturday night.

Right beside the actual restaurant dining room was a big open air bar area.  This is one of the elaborately decorated booths.  The little dangly things at the top are bottle caps strung together.  There were more interesting decorating techniques than I could take pictures of...but I tried...

Plastic bottle cap art....

When you actually got up close to the door you can see that it is decorated with beads, buttons, little plastic figures...all kinds of random objects....

Huge mural/statue/art out front...

This little deer looked thirsty...

and so did this one.

This fun hammock was calling our name so we enlisted our photographer Clay's help.

Well he held the button down for a little too long and we have about 10 pictures of us in the hammock.  The flash just kept going and going...of course Kimberlee took this opportunity to try out some new poses.

We weren't sure that it was ever going to stop...

This was inside the bathroom and I think it is the most brilliant idea ever!  5 toilet rolls!

This was also inside the bathroom.  Randomness. everywhere.

Apparently they have a pine cone contest every year.  These were some of the past years winners.

The band...isn't that just the cutest guitar player?

Key chandelier.

There was even an outdoor play area for kids...Kimberlee took over the chalkboard and wrote Jenni a Happy Birthday message :)

And what restaurant is not complete without outdoor seating inside of a van?  Yep there are tables inside and a waiter/waitress that comes out to serve you.

The Satchel salad...SO good!!  It is full of all kind of goodies with a vinaigrette dressing.  All 4 of us shared it with some left over.

Can you believe that we found a man and his family that lives in Raleigh and were down at their house in Florida for the weekend? We spotted his Sadlack's Heroes shirt, a local bar on Hillsborough St. in Raleigh.

And then the pizza!  Oh it was soooo good!  We each picked a topping and got onions, sun dried tomatoes, pepperoni, and mushrooms.  Not a crumb was left!

And last we stopped at The Swamp, a bar right across the street from the University of Florida. Of course I wanted to capture the happy couple, but I really wanted that gator hanging over their heads.
Sunday morning Kimberlee and I started packing up to get ready for our drive back home.  Before we left we tried one more local restaurant that Clay had heard about.  Shirley's Restaurant is a little hole in the wall diner that definitely doesn't look like anything fancy from the outside but they had a really good breakfast.

I'm pretty sure they will be back.

Before we left, Clay drove us around Lake City to take some pictures that we had been wanting together.  First stop...a picture with a palm tree :)

Second stop...a picture with a tree with Spanish moss....

Not difficult to find.  Spanish moss was everywhere!

Right before Kimberlee chased the ducks into the lake.

And last stop...a picture of us at the lake.

We had so, so much fun and I know that we will be back to visit soon.  The next time I come, I will more than likely have Michael and at least one baby with me but I know that there are more adventures to be had :)  We love and miss Jenni (and Clay) so much and wish them so much luck in their new state!

And one last picture...Kimberlee and I stopped for gas and there just so happened to be a Dairy Queen in the same store.  This double fudge cookie dough blizzard was calling my name.
We made it back to Raleigh around 8:30.  We had dinner together at El Rodeo, I dropped Kimberlee off at her house, and I made it back home around 11:30 pm.  It was a full weekend and a long drive but definitely worth it to see Jenni and Clay!  I can't wait to see what new discoveries they make down in Florida on her blog, One Big Holiday, documenting this new chapter in their lives!


  1. Obviously this is my favorite post you've done :) LOVE you so much!

    1. I went a little overboard with the pictures but I just couldn't leave any of them out! We had so much fun and can't wait for the next adventure! Love you too :)

  2. This looks like so much fun! We left Avery for the first time around that age, and it was hard, but time away makes a better mama. Glad to be seeing you more lately. And it looks like we'll have a few more jewelry parties to enjoy!

    1. It was, although it wasn't as wild and crazy as we used to be, we still had a great time! You are definitely right, we all need regular time away! I've been breaking records this week...gone for the whole weekend, dinner for Leasa's birthday, and then the jewelry party...Kellan has had quite a bit of daddy time. Lucky for me they both enjoy it. I'm hoping we can keep these frequent "get togethers" this point I will look forward to anything to get some "girl time!"