daytona beach (and i don’t mean spring break)

After Sasha’s wedding I flew back to Florida the evening of March 6th and visited with my Mom’s side of the fam (including my little sister) until March 10th.   My Mom, my Sister Anna, my Aunt Sheila and Uncle Tim, their kids (my cousins) Justin and Nicole, and my Unlce’s dad, “Grandpa Lyle” (aka: Pop Pop) – all live in Volusia County, near trashy classy Daytona Beach, Florida.   I got there just in time for Bike Week, and the beginnings of Spring Break. Fab.

Sunday Night

My sister picked me up for the Orlando airport Sunday night and she brought her doggie with her!  Puppy, my sister’s dog, is so sweet.  I was starting to really miss my pooch – so I was glad to have a little furry friend to be in the car with me.

puppy singing, "come on and jump in my car, i wanna take you home."

We had a nice amount of time in the car to chit chat and catch up.  I hadn’t seen her since she came to Hawaii to visit me last September.  My sis and I are really close, so being with her is just so nice.  We also stopped at POLLO TROPICAL.  I got a pork tropichop and covered it in guava BBQ sauce and it was amazing.  It was the first of much food-related happiness I’d enjoy during my Daytona time.

We got home and decided we wanted to watch a movie.   My sister thought it would be a great idea to try and disconnect then reconnect any and every DVD-playing device in the house to every TV and hope that one combination would eventually work.  To help motivate my sister to work more efficiently, I thought it would be nice to play “Stereo Love.”  On repeat.  And I couldn’t stop dancing.  (Have you heard that song?  Have I already mentioned in an earlier entry how contagious and great that song is?  The accordion, and the trance and the awesomeness. Ahhh.)

Anyways, so I just danced a bunch while she made a mess of wires and DVD players and what-not and after an hour or so we realized we were SOL.  Then… her roomie Isaac came home from work and saved the day.  Yay!   No doubt used to coming home and finding such situations, Isaac quietly and quickly fixed the technology in my sister’s room and movie time was on.

We watching “Bringing Down The House.”  And even though its pretty funny, I found it to be too much.  Like too insulting with the yuck yuck jokes about different stereotypes.   It was just too over the top for me.  I fell asleep during it anyways.


So we slept in a bit, and then we went to a little place for brekky, Lake View Diner and that place is heaven on earth!  Best.  Food.  Ever.  They have scrapple on the menu!  SCRAPPLE!   Who does that in Florida?!?!?

i ate all that. biscuits and gravy, eggs and fried potatoes, and SCRAPPLE. the best breakfast meat of all time.

Chilling out around my sister’s casa is nice.  Her roomies are friendly and crack me up.  Cesar made me some coffee, which was MUCH appreciated.  And Isaac pretty much does everything around that place.  He’s so great.

zoey the cat totally communicates with the ducks and squirrels out back.

the backyard friends. (is that like a "backyardigan?" what is a "backyardigan?")

so cute she likes her outside pals.

So after that breakfast of epic proportions, I totally had to do some lounging and relaxing.  Whew.

Mid-afternoon we went over to Aunt Sheila and Uncle’s Tim’s house.  They live like 15-ish minutes away from sister, kinda in New Smyrna.   Their kids, my two cousins Justin and Nicole, are super close with my sister and me.  Living so far away from them in Hawaii has been a total bummer and I was super stoked to see them!!

Justin, who is 14 now, is almost as tall as my sister. Which isn't saying much.

my cousin nicky cole and me. she made me the tie dye shirt i'm wearing, LOVE!

i look way skinnier in that blurry pic i just posted. time to lay off the scrapple.

We ate a bunch of Italian sausage, and some hot dogs.  And we talked a lot.  I think that’s what all Italian fams do, eat and chat.  There was some booze imbibed by some; I did not, however, partake.  I’m off the sauce again, thankfully.    It was nice to just hang out and catch up and talk story and laugh.

Notice I just said talk story.  I’m so Hawaiian now!!!!!

here are nicole's silly bands. she wanted to show me them. they're pretty sweet! i wish i had that many. instead i have like 7. dommie (one of my bffs) bought me a military-themed pack and then i have a couple others i've picked up here and there.

everybody get up, its time to slam now. we got the real jam goin' down.

justin's room has been re-done, and hanging up is all of his sweet manchester united gear. my friend dickie who lives in london sent my cousin a care pack of merch a while ago, and now its all on display in the new room. yay!

Anyways, it was a night night spent with the fam and I loved just being able to hang out and catch up and enjoy their company.

Tuesday: The Secret, Publix, and a family BBQ (these are a few of my favorite things)

I spent Monday night at my sister’s house again.  Wednesday morning we woke up, made some coffee (have you deduced that I’m addicted to coffee yet?) and decided to watch the movie version of “The Secret.”  If you’ve never read it, heard the audio tape, or seen the movie – you just have to (“the Secret,” by Rhonda Byrne – it was made really famous by Oprah).  Its one of my top five life-changers, hands down.  Its probably number two, second only to The Bible.  Seriously, look into this:  THE SECRET.

The power of positive thinking is incredible, and it’s a great tool that spells out the easy steps one can take to turning any frown upside down. I feel like whenever you’re having a difficult time in life, or getting stuck in a negative rut, there’s no shame in reaching into your toolbox and using whatever you can to ratchet up your quality of life, tweak things a little.  My sister was unfamiliar with “The Secret,” and I just really wanted her to see it.  So we watched a few minutes of the movie version.  At least she knows about it and has access to it now, so she could always check it out when she has more time or feels personally motivated to learn the skills of positive thinking.

After my soapbox on thinking happy thoughts was done, we decided to grab some grub.  Time to go to Mecca: PUBLIX!!

i'm all dolled up for publix. my cousin justin made this tie dye shirt for me, awesome!

the most beautiful grocery store in the world

I love Publix.  Their motto is, “where shopping is a pleasure,” and it surely is.  The Publix bakery is divine, the deli has the world’s tastiest, bestest subs.   All of their stores are so clean and nice and bright and just… I just miss Publix so much.

We got subs for lunch and I was happy as a clam!

sammich time!

So we got the subs, went back to my sister’s crib and ate them there.

my sister's neighbors

Anna’s boyfriend Steven got off work early and met up with us.  At some point around like three or four o’clock, the three of us headed over to my Aunt’s house for a family BBQ.    My Mom was coming to my Aunt’s house too, and it was my first time getting to see my Mama since the 4th of July!  I was really looking forward to seeing her, for sure.

My Aunt marinated chicken in Chiavetta’s overnight, and then my Uncle grilled it.  (Don’t know what Chiavetta’s is? Its the world’s best marinade.  Seriously, the best.  My Mom’s whole fam is from Western New York, and Chiavetta’s is totally a Buffalo thing.  Get you some, you will not be sad: Chiavetta’s.  If you’ve ever had Spiedie’s State Fair sauce (which is more from Syracuse), its similar.  But Chiavetta’s > Spiedie’s, just sayin.

this actually isn't from the bbq we had - but this is a photo my aunt took in feb of a bbq they had, and the chicken was all done in chiavetta's. seriously, i dream of that chicken. its just the best. ever.

photo courtesy of - chiavetta's chicken. how amazing crazy delicious does that look? oh yeah.


We also had leftover sausage from the night before, beans and slaw (that I picked up at the Dustin’s BBQ in Port Orange), fresh cut strawberries, and my mom made pasta salad.  Well, we asked mom to make pasta salad and she showed up with macaroni that had pepperoni, salami, ham, artichokes and olives in it, LOL.   Who knew we were THAT Italian?   It’s one stereotype after the other sometimes.  I love it.

nicole and i cutting up the strawberries. 3 x 16oz. packs for $5.00 at publix. that's crazy amazing, 30% the price of strawberries in hawaii right now.

cold winter = amazing strawberries. this year ain't no exception.

Even though we bought perfect and amazing sugar cookies from the Publix Bakery (yes, with sprinkles!), my sister decided to bake cookies while we were at my Aunt’s house.  She made some kind of pumpkin cookies with white chocolate chips in there.  I don’t know.  I don’t really like chocolate that much, so I wasn’t in the mood for them.  But the batter was tasty and the kids had fun helping.  And everyone else seemed to really love them. Hooray!  My sister is a great cook and baker, so I’m very sure they were awesome – I just wasn’t in the mood really.

anna and nicole baking cookies

my favorite part of any baked good = batter. and i am all about eating batter with the raw eggs. i'm 27 and it hasn't killed me so far.

busted! this is why nicole is my clone. seriously caught in the act of dippin into the batter. i love her.

justin and steven hanging out

my mom aka kanye

The BBQ was fun, and once again we had a nice time just breaking bread together as a family and talking and hanging out and being silly, relaxing, etc.  Its just nice to be with family!  Once it was the kids’ bedtime, we decided to peace out and go home too.


Wednesday – going to my Mom’s house in Ormond!

So I promised my Mom that while I was in Florida I’d make sure to help her out with a few things around her house.   So Anna and I got up Wednesday morning, I packed up all my junk into my big ole hiking sack and we headed out to Ormond.   On the way we swung by DD.  Yes, DD as in DUNKIN DONUTS.  I WENT TO DUNKIN DONUTS!!

be still my beating heart


Being the generous gals that we are (and the fact that we had coupons) – we decided to bring Steven some donuts.  He was at work, so we got to surprise him.  How nice of us!

this "art" hangs over steven's desk at work. doesn't it totally look like the crap they hang up in a nail salon?

steven + anna

me and steven, in his office

Donuts delivered, it was finally time to go say hey to my Ma!

on the way to mom's: beachside ormond, coming over the granada bridge

So the first project we did at my mom’s house was to move her computer.  She was keeping her whole computer, printer, etc., all downstairs by her bedroom – and because of the inconvenient location she wasn’t spending any time online.  Unsat!  She has a really nicely sized desk built-in to her kitchen, so we cleared that off and moved all of her technology stuff up to the kitchen.  We set her up real good.  Now she has an awesome workspace with her computer, printer, landline phone, everything – all right in the hub of her house.  (Her kitchen is totally her hub where she cooks, watches tv, she by far spends the most time in that room, so this worked out perfectly).

The next project was going through the upstairs bedroom that used to be my sister’s.   My sister owns, or has owned, so much stuff its CRAZY.  So this vacated room that she hasn’t lived in for years is still totally full of a random assortment of left behind treasures and garbage.  Clothes, nicknacks, mementoes, just so many things.  We spent a nice amount of time sorting through the junk in there and deciding what was worth holding on to and what needed to get pitched.  I won’t call anyone out by name, but hoarding is totally in our gene pool – so I’m all about busting up that habit before we end up on that Buried Alive show.  (btw, that show makes me vomm – the hoarding show.  I cannot even handle it; hoarding is so sad and awful and gross.  next topic!).

I didn’t really take any pics during project time because, well, I was busy doing stuff.  But – I did get some great pics of my mom’s pooches before and after we were doing work!

Layla is her dalmatian, and Max is her mutt.  Layla is totally deaf, and Max is amazing and takes care of her.  When my mom gets home – if Layla is sleeping and can’t hear her come in, Max will go and gently nudge Layla and lick her ’till she wakes up.  When both doggies are outside, if my mom calls them in, Max will make sure Layla gets the memo.  My mom’s house has a pool and they LOVE to go swimming.

There’s also a cat, Mina.  Her real name is some Italian name that I don’t remember or know how to spell.  But her nickname is “Mina.”  She’s beautiful and feisty and loves to mess with the doggies.  She gets on top of her cat tower and sneakily swats those fools when the walk by.  Its hilarious.  Okay, okay, enough build up.  Here I present you, a bunch of animal photos:

layla running the pool deck

swimming times


la-lee (that's how you say her nickname. almost like lolly).


time to dry off and come inside

anna gets a pooch smooch

mom and max. i put this in here so y'all can see how HUGE max is. according do the humane society, when he was a puppy, he was "part chihuahua." oh how they lie to get you take a dog! hahaha. he was a really tiny puppy though, and it shocked the heck out of everyone when he grew into his ginormous size. he's a gentle giant though, a total sweetheart.

close up. so handsome, that max!

you were JUST out there.

mama and mina

cats never want to be held. its so annoying. its so cat of them.

After doing projects all day, my noggin started to really hurt.  My trigeminal neuralgia stuff has been fluctuating; thank God it was manageable for most of my trip.  But starting this day (this Wednesday, second-to-last day of my travels) it just got really really bad. Debilitating bad.  So I had to take a break and chill out for a little while.  I even made a rice pack to get some nice, moise heat going on.

i look grouchy because i don't feel well. but i fastened the hot sock to my noggin with my bandanna so i could go hands free. (i fill a clean sock with rice and then nuke it in the micro, works amazingly well! and i'm a freak about going handsfree - i love handsfree anything! fanny packs ftw.)

and just to be really obscene and obnoxious, i have to display this photo of my mom's toilet. how florida is this? a fishie potty seat? omg, way too florida. way too amazing.

jack and rose, my maternal grandparents - may they rest in heaven now. i saw this pic on my mom's desk, and i had to take a pic of a pic. rose here is my namesake, and even though i never met her i love her so much. and i'm so sorry to put their photo next to a toilet photo. ugh, sorries. no disrespect!!

After relaxing and getting my noggin to feel better, Mom and I went out to dinner at her place of work: Betty’s A1A Cafe.  I love Betty’s!  The food is seriously so good.  Its about a mile away from where my mom lives, and its right across from the beach (there are no beachfront buildings in that part of Ormond-by-the-Sea, so its actually as close to the ocean as you can get).  We ordered a whole fried seafood feast, and it was delicious.  (It was Ash Wednesday, so mom was insistent on going meat-free, and I obliged).  We ordered two dinners and split them: fried lobster and the fired seafood platter.  I know, I know – fried?  But I’m still on vacay, I have gotta live it up.  And besides, their batter is light and heavenly.  Fried lobster? Dunked in drawn butter?  Why would I ever NOT order that?  Oh, and sweet potato fries. Holycrap it doesn’t get more tastier.

betty's! (some random pic i found on google image search, no idea who these people are- but that's out front of betty's alright).

One of our family friends, Joyce, met up with us and it was lovely to see her!  Joyce’s daughter, Mary, is my oldest BFF.  Mary and I grew up together, having been babies at the same time.  And my mom and Joyce have been pals just as long.  Mary lives several hours away from my mom/my hometown, so I wasn’t able to see her on this trip.  But seeing Joyce and catching up was great!  A nice time was had by all.

After Betty’s for dinner we went home and just chilled out.

its almost bed time for this little girl

i'm using max as a leg rest. he was surprisingly cooperative.

Before bed, Ma and I watched some tv together with the doggies.  And I made her a friendship bracelet.  Bracelet making is a big hobby of mine, LOVE making the bracelets.  You may have noticed from recent photos of me I have a whole wrist-full of colorful decor, that’s them. My mom and I needed matching ones, so I made them while we watched “19 Kids and Counting” on DVR.  I love the Duggars.  They make me happy.  So do doggies, making bracelets, my mom, and just being with her.  So as you can surmise, I had a lovely evening at my Mom’s house – I love you Mommy!

the bracelet i made for mommy

our matching bracelets, so cool and cute.

Now, its bed time.  We have to be up at 0500 for me to fly back towards Hawaii.  Sadtimes to leave my fam, but I was also missing my pooch and the beaches and my Hawaiian friends, so it was a mixed bag of feelings.

mina came up to my room to snuggle with me for the whole night

pretty mina

my last mina pic - i just keep posting 'em because i think her coloring is so pretty!

layla is ready to snuggle! so cute, and she is a durn good cuddler. i was sandwiched in between her and the cat all night. so cozy!

FInally, the alarm went off bright and early and it was time to get going!  Right as I was throwing my giant pack over my shoulders I went to pick up my sweatshirt, and I saw the tag.  After the nickname I’d gotten all trip long, it cracked me up.

i'm such a sherpa, carrying around that big ole pack. love it!

Next stop: Seattle!!!!!

UPDATE: I talked to my Mommy tonight, and “Mina” is named after Taormina, a beautiful Sicilian city overlooking the sea.   She said when she first adopted Mina, something about her poise and beauty reminded my mom of her most favorite place in Sicily.  The way Mina climbs up on top of her cat tower and looks out over the house – just like the stately city that peers out on the Ionian Sea.


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