Tuesday, 15 December 2009

St Augustine

Not far from Jacksonville is St Augustine  the USA's oldest city. Which was settled by the Spanish. Although the weather on the Wednesday morning was horrendeous we still decided to venture out in the afternoon after Nathan and Mick had been for a run.
 Nathan and I took quite a few touristy snaps in St Augustine. It was fun to look round but quite different at this time of year compared to when I have been there in the summer and it is so busy. I really enjoyed our nose around but was sad to see that a lot of the shops have become tacky tourist stores.
Lightner Museum:  The former Hotel Alcazar, built in 1887 in the Spanish Renaissance style.

The lobby of the museum has recently been restored to the opulence of its early days as the Alcazar Hotel.

 I loved this car- it looks so retro!
 Fishes in the pond inside the museum.
Trying to take a nice self portrait but laughing too much. I think this actually works better than the posed photo we were trying for.
Flagler college is named for Henry Morrison Flagler, a Gilded Age industrialist, railroad pioneer and partner with John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil. In 1888, Flagler built the Hotel Ponce de Leon, his first in a series of luxury resorts along Florida’s east coast. A masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance architecture and the first major poured-in-place concrete building in the United States is now known as Ponce de Leon Hall. This National Historic Landmark serves as the centerpiece for the Flagler College.
Nathan was trying to take a photo of me sitting on this Spanish cannon but do you think I could jump up there! So instead he kindly took lots of shots of my pathetic attempts to jump up there!! 
 I give up! After lots of giggles I decided just to stand by the cannon instead!
Tourist shot number 55!! 
 One shop that is still going strong is the candy store where we bought a toffee apple and Nathan got a praline and pecan snapper! Talk about chocolate, nuts and toffee overload!
 So tasty!
All the Christmas decorations were up around the town. At night they had thousands of fairy lights up on all the buildings which looked stunning! An entire town covered in twinkly lights!
Mick recommended we go to the Conch House just outside St Augustine. It was lovely and I can imagine when it is warm it is a delight to sit outside on the deck.

We ate an appetizer and had a drink. The highlight was the Gator Tails and Hush Puppies that we ate. Gator just tastes like chewy chicken but with a slight fishy flavour!
Pretty lights outside the Conch House.

After our early evening snack we drove back up the road and went to Target (I LOVE TARGET!) Where I bought lots of cheap Christmas baking materials and a few little pieces. I could have bought SO SO much more if I had the room in my luggage- Christmas tree skirts, picture frames etc.

We then went to the beach and picked up BBQ at Sticky Fingers to take it back to the house to enjoy with the McDaniels family. Maybe not the most traditional thing to do the night before Thanksgiving- stuffing your face with pulled pork but it was SO tasty!!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Twighlight Party

The Stansbury ladies- Heidi, Hillary, Holly and Vicki
Hillary, Heidi, Kyrsten, Holly and Paige (one of Heidi's daughters) 
 Trish and Vicki. Trish has been a long time friend of Vicki's and I have known her since I lived with the Stansburys. It was wonderful to see pictures of her Granddaughter who is the child of her son Andrew- who Heidi and I went to school with. The sweetest guy. It was great seeing Trish- she is as fun as ever!
 Tanya, Heidi and I. Tanya and Heidi were best friends at school and Tanya and I had a class together our senior year. She was on great form and was filling us on the news of other people in our year.
 Holly, Me, Tanya, Heidi and Hillary.

After the dinner party we went to the movies to see Twilight. We went to the old Regency mall that I used to go to ALL the time when I lived there. It was a blast from the past and only $5! Bargain!

It was some girls 2nd viewing and I am sure they will go again! We had to laugh though as we all took our candy bags that Heidi had given us at the party to the cinema to induldge whilst we watched the movie but we hadn't thought about the fact that all the glitter from the bags would go all over us! When we came out the cinema we looked like we were covered in glitter!- We honestly weren't trying to be vampires!

The Stansbury Girls- New Moon Dinner Party.

Walking into the Stansburys household is like coming home for me. This family were kind enough to open their home to me when I was taking part in a study year abroad in an American high school. When the lady I was staying with turned out to be slightly unhinged they took me in and made me feel part of their family. They have this wonderful gift to make everyone feel welcome and included. I am eternally grateful for all they did for me and I cherish our continuing relationship. 

Heidi is the Stansbury's middle daughter and it was her and I's friendship that meant I stayed in her family home for the rest of my study abroad year. She even gave up a bedroom to herself to allow me to move in with them (and for those of you that know how untidy I can be that is a big ask!!)

I follow Heidi's blog on a daily basis (it is my escapism at lunch time!) and she continually inspires me with her creativity and home ideas. She loves to plan a party and walking into her Parent's house for the Twilight party they had planned was like stepping into a live blog post! I couldn't help but smile ear to ear!!

 A gorgeous silver and red sweetie/ candy bar.
 Some eye candy!! ;-) As well as beautiful roses which is a big Twilight theme.
 They had gone to a huge effort to make the house look in keeping with the theme! I LOVED it!
 Every corner was decorated with lanterns, red, roses, candies etc.
We had a very delicious bean soup followed by a tasty salad- I loved the dressing and of course the garlic bread!!

Shop till you drop!

Nathan and I never go shopping together. Usually because in the last 2 years we have been paying of things and anything we do buy tends to be a necessity!

Well after saving up our pennies and being given lots of Birthday money (in my case) and Christmas money we went to Jacksonville's St John's Town Centre.... wow! I was amazed! Jax got trendier since I have been away! They even have an Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Kate Spade, Urban Outfitters, J Crew, Barnes and Noble, Bannana Republic- all the stores I had on my list!!I also loved Dicks Sporting Goods and we both could have spent forever in there but we were running out of time!

We shopped for 6 hours! I was amazed that we lasted that long.

We really enjoyed ourselves and were really pleased with our purchses... I only bought things from my pre planned list (so I wouldn't go crazy!)

My purchases included:

- a long winter duck down jacket from J Crew (I have wanted one for AGES and it was 30% off!)
- a black North Face fleece for under my cycling jacket, Nike ear warmer headband, nike cycling gloves
- a Gap black t-shirt with bow
- a Gap grey cardigan/wrap
- Cardboard deer from Urban Outfitters
- hairbands from Urban Outfitters
- Pottery Barn Christmas napkin rings and Christmas table decorations.

 I loved these letters in Urban Outfitters but I think I was getting a little too overexcited!
I LOVE pottery barn and Crate and Barrell. As they don't do UK shipping I can't kit my house out in their decor from top to bottom (not that I could afford it anyhow!) but I LOVED looking round Pottery Barn. 
 The Pottery Barn store was all done up for Christmas.
 I loved all the candles and glassware- if only it would travel well in economy class back to Scotland!
 This was my favourite store in St John's town centre- Swoozies- they sell all things to do with parties- stationary, tablewear etc... i love love loved it!
 They had a whole section on wedding stationary which was a delight to look round!
 Nathan liked these- She said Yes cocktail napkins!
I loved this shop. Check it out here... sadly they don't ship to the UK! 

 I loved the Anthropologie store- it was so well designed and layed out with such thought.... there was an inspiration in every corner!! See their UK website here.
I had such a fun day with Nathan and was so pleased that we both managed to get loads of items that we really wanted. Although as Nathan liked to remind me everything he bought was in the sale/ reduced (but I guess that is the advantage of being a giant- not everyone is buying your size!) 
Nathan walking back to the car with some of our shopping! We def did it the right way round by shopping in Florida as with the car it meant we didn't have to carry everything around all day and all the shops we wanted to go to were chain stores which would have charged us more state tax in New York!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Monday night!

On Monday night the boys went to the beach to Sneakers Sports Bar to watch Monday night football and Lauren, San and I stayed in and looked after Sadie. After she had gone down we had a wee celebratory drink and caught up on each others news.

It was so lovely to sit round and talk with these ladies. They are always so good at listening, giving advice and tell the funniest stories. There is nothing I love more than telling and listening to stories about each others lives. 

Feeding the Turtles & Ducks

On Monday after all the excitment of the weekend we chilled out and took it easy. Later in the morning Lauren, Mick, Nathan and I took Sadie to the pond and feed the ducks and turtles bread... very cool! 
 Sadie and Lauren sitting on the dock.
 Nathan looking like a goof ball with his Movember Moustache still growing!
The lovely lake beside Lauren's parents house. The weather wasn't that warm but it was nicer than home.

Surprise, Surprise!!

Before I start this post I want to say sorry Lauren- I know you weren't overly keen about your photos being put on facebook or the likes but as this was the main reason for our trip to the States I couldn't not blog about your priceless facial expressions as we gave you the surprise of your life. I think you look radiant and beautiful as always! These photos just make my heart smile! I am so happy that we did this!

To give everyone a bit of background these girls are part of the fab five, who meant so much to me in my senior year at American High School. I love them with all my heart and share a strong bond that has continued to strengthen over the last 12 years.

We last got together in New York 3 years ago and I miss them all so much. (I have a great photo of the 5 of us in New York that I will post)

Back in April/ May of this year my friend Lauren's wonderful husband Mick sent us girls an e-mail asking if we would consider suprising Lauren for her birthday. There was never any doubt we would make it happen. Nathan and I's festival rental money went towards our flights and I have been putting money aside to make sure that this trip was the best ever!

4 of us- Lauren, San, Heidi and I all turn 30 within the two months of each other so this was a wonderful way for us all to mark this milestone! San travelled down with her boyfriend Nelson from New York. Heidi came down with her children from North Carolina (sadly her husband, Matt couldn't be there till later in the week) and Lauren and Mick were visiting her parents from Colorado.

It has been so hard keeping quiet and not saying anything on my blog or on facebook but when I see these pictures all of that is worthwhile. She had no idea!!

San bought a giant bunch of balloons for us to hide behind as we walked through Lauren's parents garage and up through their hallway. Lauren couldn't see us all behind the balloons but when she did her face was priceless.....

 We were all so happy to be together and Lauren was in shock for quite a while!

 Lauren's beautiful daughter Sadie loved all the balloons and we had a wee crown for Lauren too!
Mick- who is hiding behind the balloons made all this happen and I am so grateful to him for getting the plans in motion! I will forever take this memory with me as one of the best feelings in the world- sitting on the floor of Lauren's parent's livingroom with 3 of my very best friends sharing in each others joy- meeting Lauren's daughter Sadie, telling them of my engagement and just being together!! The BEST feeling ever!!

 San, Heidi and I
 Nathan and I
 San and Nelson
 Lauren reading my card- I managed to find a Happy Birthday card from Cath Kidston with a tartan background and a tennis player on it! Lauren and I were tennis doubles partners in our Senior year and have some brilliant memories from that time!

 Lauren and her husband Mick
   Lauren telling us her age!
Mick cutting the tasty, tasty cake that he organized.

I gave each of the girls a cook book that I had created. I drew the illustrations and my Dad helped me bind it together. Heidi and I with the recipe book. 

I love this cute photos of San and Nelson having a wee dance!

 San, Heidi, Me and Lauren.

This photo alone is worth the work it took to get us to the States. I love these ladies with all my heart and can't wait for them to come over to Scotland for Nathan and I's wedding!