Thursday, December 30, 2010

12 Days of Prudhomme Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, blog reader(s)! Jeff and I just got home from a 12-day vacation to Florida to visit his parents. They have a 43-ft power catamaran that they use to cruise all around the east coast, so we joined them for a little Christmas cruising. Almost nothing went according to plan...naturally...but we managed to have some fun times anyway. Here are the 12 Days of Prudhomme Christmas:

1. On the first day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a nose-picking neighbor on the flight to Florida. Seriously...two fingers, both nostrils...and he wasn't even a child. He was an old guy, who at one point asked me some odd questions in heavily accented English. Pretty sure he said "Do you work on the airplane?" and then "Are you in the United States Air Force?" Well, this creeped me the heck out, because I immediately started thinking...why is he asking me these things? Is he about to hijack this plane or stab me in the neck with a drinking straw?! Flying can be just miserable.

2. On the second day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: FOOD POISONING.

My hospital bracelet.

Seriously, Santa, what the hell?! If I've been bad, would a lump of coal not have been sufficient? On our first night in Florida, we went out to eat with Jeff's folks at a nice Spanish restaurant in St. Petersburg. We all ordered a big plate of paella to share. I suppose I got the lucky bite from our shared meal, because the next morning I found myself deathly ill. I have never felt this horrid in my entire life. After a few hours of being incredibly sick on the boat, we decided that the ER was the best place for me. So I spent the remainder of my day in the hospital, replenishing my fluids with an IV and getting doped up on anti-nausea meds. Merry Christmas to me!

3. On the third day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: the worst heartburn EVER, as a result of all the acidity in my stomach from the previous day. Lovely. On the bright side, we finally got to get out on the water in the boat, and we saw a ton of dolphins. One playfully swam up to the boat and got in between the catamaran's pontoons, then proceeded to swim there for a while and let us watch him playing in front of the boat. That was really cool...I could watch dolphins all day long!

4. On the fourth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a safety drill because the boat was taking on water from a leaky seal! Oh if the food poisoning didn't kill me, going down with the ship off the Florida coast might finish me off! No, actually, it wasn't a close call or anything, but Jeff's dad did get out the life jackets and gave us instructions on what to do in case of emergency. As it turns out, the boat never took on enough water to do anything more than thoroughly annoy Jeff's dad, since they'd never had problems with any leaks prior to this trip. Jeff and I are such good luck charms!

5. On the fifth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a long drive across some of the Florida Keys on our way to Key West. Although long car rides are never the most fun things, at least we did have good scenery. The bridges connecting the Keys provide some great views - clear blue ocean on either side of the road, punctuated by small mangrove-lined islands, many with extravagant vacation homes we liked to drool over.

6. On the sixth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a Christmas Eve spa day at Prana Spa in Key West!

After feeling like crud for the past few days, a nice spa treatment was just what I needed. Jeff and my MIL, Nicole, got deep tissue massages while I got the Raj treatment - an exfoliating facial scrub, body scrub, full body massage, then a nourishing oil treatment for the hair and scalp along with a scalp/head massage. It was blissful.

7. On the seventh day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a Christmas night drag show with my mother-in-law. After hanging out by the pool for a couple hours on a very sunny Christmas, we decided to have a very non-traditional Christmas night and go to a drag show at the 801 Club on Duval in Key West. My MIL really wanted to do this since she'd never seen one before. We decided to un-invite the men because we were afraid they would not exactly love it. So Jeff and his dad went out for drinks while we attended the show. While it was funny, it was possibly one of the most awkward hours I've ever spent in my entire life. The main host(ess) was extremely vulgar, and the performers loved to torment the straight men in the audience by going over to them and gyrating madly or shoving their crotch into someone's face. Luckily we were never on the receiving end of any of that, and we were both SO GLAD that Jeff & Les didn't come. In all, it was fun, just a bit uncomfortable!

8. On the eighth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a bunch of alligators! On our drive back to Naples from Key West, we got to drive through a strip of highway known as Alligator Alley. It cuts through the Everglades, and along the banks off the roadside (separated from the traffic by a tall chain-link fence) are the alligators of the Everglades. We counted at least 40 on this particular trip - they are such interesting creatures! Not really a place I'd like my car to break down at night...yikes!

9. On the ninth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a trip to a real-deal Skyline Chili parlor.

Skyline Chili is a Cincinnati thing and also Jeff's favorite childhood meal. He has told me countless times about how much he loved going to the Skyline restaurants and loading up on the strangely thin, beanless, cinnamon-y chili. He hasn't eaten Skyline in a restaurant since he was a kid in Ohio. So he was pumped, to say the least, when we randomly drove by a Skyline parlor in Naples, Florida. After spending an afternoon exploring a cold and windy state park beach, we went to Skyline for lunch, and Jeff was in heaven. I think it was his favorite part of our entire trip! At first I didn't know what to think about the chili, which can also be purchased at Kroger in cans, but now I really enjoy it. It's traditionally served over spaghetti with finely shredded cheddar on top. Yum!

10. On the tenth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a sightseeing trip through the canals of Tween Waters in a tiny dingy.

Oh captain, my dingy captain!

We were trying to salvage any hope we'd had of doing outdoorsy stuff on this trip...between my food poisoning and the cold weather, we hadn't done much at all outside. So we pulled into a marina in a place called Tween Waters, where Jeff's parents often stop. (For the record, I hate the name Tween Waters...I know it's supposed to be an abbreviation of BEtween, since it's a strip of water between parts of the island...but it just sounds wrong)! It's off of Captiva Island, and the beaches there would have been beautiful had it not been so cold! Rather than walk along another chilly beach, we dropped the dingy off the back of Jeff's dad's boat and took it out on an exploration of the little waterways and canals through the mangrove islands. Even though the wind was chilling and we couldn't ever find a good place to take the boat ashore to explore the little islands, we still had fun on our little mini-adventure. We saw lots of beautiful birds, and I wished my expert bird-watcher Aunt Carol had been there to identify them all for me! Apparently the tiny wake from the dingy was stirring up fish, because some seagulls decided it would be fun to follow us around.

It was a little cold on the dingy!

A few of the seagulls that were stalking us!

11. On the eleventh day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: a visit to some of Jeff's family I've never met before. Jeff and his cousin, Brent, were always really close when they were kids, kind of like my cousin, Ashley, and I. Now that Brent and his wife, Denise, live in Florida, Jeff rarely ever sees him anymore. So after getting back to the marina in St. Petersburg on our last night in Florida, we drove out to their house to visit them and see their adorable baby girl, Riley Kate, who is 2 months old. It was great to finally meet them. I really wish we lived closer together, because I could really see us doing lots of things together.

12. On the twelfth day of Christmas, Santa gave to me: home sweet home. Our flight back to Dallas was uneventful - no nose-picking neighbor, and the kids sitting directly behind us were actually quiet and calm. We popped a Harry Potter movie in the portable DVD player and were home in no time. It's always a mix of feelings getting home after a long vacation like this one: I was glad to be back on my own turf, sleeping in my own bed, at my own house where I have my car and my freedom to do my own thing. But I was also dismayed at the incredible mess we'd left our house in and all the unpacking, laundry, and cleaning that needed (still needs) to get done. Ugh.

In all, we had a very fun, very non-traditional Christmas. We wish it would have been a bit warmer so we could have enjoyed a typical Florida winter, but oh well. Jeff's parents really did make everything so nice for us, and it was great to just get away and not have to worry about all the trivial little things that consume our daily lives back home. It was great!

Hope you had a very Merry Christmas, too, with just as many fun and interesting tales as we had (but, hopefully, featuring less vomiting and hospital visits)!

Here are some other random pics from our vacay:

Here we are getting a Cheeseburger in Paradise on Cabbage Key. I was still feeling quite under the weather at this point, and I think this was my first real meal since the "shellfish incident."

On Cabbage Key outside the restaurant that inspired the Buffett song "Cheeseburger in Paradise."

Our "Christmas Tree" in the condo on Key about a Charlie Brown tree!

Our Christmas Eve dinner at Louie's Backyard - absolutely delicious food!

Jeff's Christmas drink.

My very merry Christmas pina colada - on the warmest day of our trip. At least we got to spend Christmas day by the water!

Hemingway's favorite bar in Key West. More on that later.

I forced everyone to take the tour of the Hemingway House.

A pretty banana plant at Hemingway's house.

Hemingway's writing study.

The house from the outside.

Many of the Hemingway cats are polydactyls - having extra toes on their feet!

Jeff trying to befriend one of the Hemingway cats.

Close-up on a polydactyl's foot.

The Hemingway cat drinking fountain. The bottom part is actually a piece of a urinal from Hemingway's favorite Key West bar...when the bar closed down for a while, Hemingway took this urinal to proudly display in his yard (nobody said he was normal)!

Jeff and I on the Southernmost Point marker - touted as the southernmost point in the U.S.; but supposedly there is a point on a nearby military air station that is further south. Oh well...good enough!

A beautiful sunset at Mallory Square in Key West.

Another beautiful sunset, this time in Naples, FL.

I was a fan of this boat, docked at the marina we stayed at in Naples. (It says Mischief Managed). Nice Harry Potter reference!