An Overnight Getaway in St. Augustine, Florida

Last year, I wrote about the importance of vacation without kids. Now that our kids are elementary school-age, we’ve been keeping our non-kid getaways limited to overnights and weekend trips because we’d rather take them on our big trips! So when my parents offered to watch the kids for a night while we were visiting Amelia Island a few months ago, Clay and I jumped at the chance to sneak away. We chose St. Augustine, Florida because it is a short drive from Amelia Island and it has a completely different vibe than the surrounding area.

Casa Monica Resort and Spa

We decided to stay in a hotel that we wouldn’t have chosen if the kids were with us. We’re big Marriott fans so we booked the Casa Monica Resort and Spa, which is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. It was built in 1888 and served as a hotel until the owner abandoned the property when the stock market fell – it officially closed in 1932. From 1968 until the 1970s, it served as a county courthouse. In the 1990s, it was sold again and officially re-opened as a boutique hotel in 1999. It’s in the heart of the St. Augustine historic district so it was the perfect location for our little getaway.

We arrived at the hotel mid-morning and we were able to check in early. We dropped our bags and set off in search of coffee and to explore the cobblestone streets. Founded in 1565, St. Augustine lays claim to the oldest city in the United States and boasts the nickname The Ancient City. The brick-lined streets have a distinct European flavor and there is no shortage of centuries-old buildings, hidden courtyards, or vibrant fountains.

We popped into some shops and enjoyed strolling through the alleyways – the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Soon after, the pool was calling our name so we headed back to the hotel. We sat in a cabana, ordered drinks, and enjoyed reading our books without children demanding our attention.

While in the cabana, we researched places to eat dinner and made a reservation. After getting our fill of sun, we changed and set off to explore some more and grab drinks and appetizers since our dinner reservation wasn’t until much later that night.

The Casa Monica lobby is filled with Moorish-Spanish decor, frescoed fountains and ornate chandeliers. The hotel is beautiful and full of the charming quirks that often accompany historic hotels – a maze of hallways, tons of scones, and unique pieces of art scattered across the property.

Super close to the hotel is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, which is our country’s first parish and the oldest Catholic Church in St. Augustine. We visited the sanctuary and admired the exquisite murals and beautiful stained glass. We then set off to stroll the cobblestone streets yet again.

The live music at Mi Casa Cafe drew us in so we ordered draft beer and enjoyed the shaded patio and eclectic crowd.

We then had chips and guacamole and another round of drinks at Taberna del Caballo. Pictured is the caipirinha I ordered, which is one of my favorite drinks to order when at the beach. Made with cachaça, a rum-like spirit from Brazil, lime, and muddled sugar, the caipirinha is a simple and refreshing cocktail perfect for a sunny afternoon.

We explored for another hour or so before heading back to our hotel to change for dinner. It was amazing to leisurely walk around at our own pace (we’re fast walkers!) and not have to take into account the needs of our children.

The sun was setting as we set off for dinner so we decided to walk along the water. St. Augustine is located on the Mantanzas Bay, which feeds into the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Augustine Inlet.

We also walked along the exterior of Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest and largest masonry fort in the continental United States. We watched dolphins frolic in the Mantanzas Bay and the sun set to the west.

We had dinner at Collage, which is up there as one of the best meals we’ve had in a long time. We were not disappointed and enjoyed the award-winning experience of dining there. We can’t recommend it enough!

If you do find yourself in St. Augustine and dining at Collage, do not hesitate to order the Bougainvillea dessert. It is a perfect combination of fresh strawberries, fresh vanilla ice cream, phyllo dough, cracked pepper, and mint.

The next morning was filled with more exploring and walks along the water. We decided to head back up to Amelia Island a little sooner than expected in order to squeeze in as much beach time as we could with the kids because the weather forecasted later that week wasn’t greatest. We had an absolute blast in St. Augustine and can’t wait to go back with the kids when we’re back in the area.

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52 Things I’ve Learned in 52 Days {in no particular order}

  1. I missed blogging.
  2. But not enough to actually blog until day 52.
  3. I enjoyed working outside of the home.
  4. However, I dearly missed the flexibility of working from home.
  5. Early education teachers should be eligible for sainthood.
  6. Vitamin C face serum is life-changing.
  7. I have the ability able to say no and not feel guilty. Sorry, not sorry.
  8. Having a plan for everything is extremely overrated.
  9. The Frank Sinatra station on Amazon Music is my favorite dinner prep music. I feel so classy chopping onions as Fly Me to the Moon floats throughout the kitchen.
  10. How I feel is directly related to how much water I consume.
  11. I am incapable of relaxing at home – there is just too much that needs to be done!
  12. It is possible to document life and not it interfere with the actual process of making memories.
  13. I haven’t highlighted my hair since March and I’m kind of digging the darker roots (and random grays!).
  14. Every day counts.
  15. New York City is still one of my favorite places.
  16. It took me 36 years but I love a good straight-up martini (no olive, please).
  17. Walking in the rain is invigorating.
  18. An afternoon at the ball park is nostalgic, entertaining, and good old fashioned family fun. Go Nats!
  19. Seemingly lame things can actually be amazing.
  20. I’m prettier when I smile.
  21. Hearing Jon Meachum talk about his newest book with Tim McGraw at a gorgeous venue made me want to attend more book tours.
  22. If it feels like someone is trying to sell you something, they probably are.
  23. Coffee tastes better in an ironic mug.
  24. Spending time outdoors with Clay is not only one of my favorite things to do but something that is necessary for my well-being.
  25. The Frank Sinatra station on Amazon Music is my favorite dinner prep music. I feel so classy chopping onions as Fly Me to the Moon floats throughout the kitchen.
  26. How I feel is directly related to how much water I consume.
  27. I am incapable of relaxing at home – there is just too much that needs to be done!
  28. Small town parades are better.
  29. It is possible to document life and not have the process interfere with the actual process of making memories.
  30. I haven’t highlighted my hair since March and I’m kind of digging the darker roots (and random grays!).
  31. Pho is healing.
  32. New York City is still one of my favorite places.
  33. It took me 36 years but I love a good straight-up martini (no olive, please).
  34. I’m not meant to appear effortless.
  35. Walking in the rain is invigorating.
  36. Things that make me happy are worthwhile pursuits.
  37. I’m prettier when I smile.
  38. Hearing Jon Meachum talk about his newest book with Tim McGraw at a gorgeous venue makes me want to attend more book tours.
  39. I am reaffirmed in my decision not to publicly post about my kids’ grades and/or standardized test performance – no one cares.
  40. Doing one load of laundry a day is the easiest way to stay on top of it.
  41. Speaking of which, separating light and dark loads is for the birds.
  42. I’m still bitter about not PCSing overseas.
  43. Striving for perfection is not only futile, it’s boring.
  44. The little things really do matter.
  45. Wine tastes even better with a sunset view.
  46. I love being in my 30s. I’m really digging this phase of life.
  47. Change is good.
  48. Trader Joe’s Organic Jalapeño Limeade makes the best margaritas.
  49. I can’t no longer handle roller coasters with loops. Super high drop, though? Bring.it.on.
  50. My kids aren’t me.
  51. Life’s too short to worry about what I look like in a swimsuit.
  52. Writing is therapy.

Scenes from the past 52 days {in no particular order}…

Colonial Williamsburg
Japapeno Margarita
The Anthem
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Winery at Bull Run
Nats Park
Girls Trip
Pho
Kennett Square Memorial Day Parade

Where to go from here?

A quick glance at this space and it’s evident that I’m at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to this space. I let my ‘business’ plan lapse because I’m attempting to get back to the bones of writing, which explains the temporarily janky layout. I’ve been growing increasingly disillusioned with social media, the lack of authenticity, and the alarming number of booty pops on Instagram. Coupled with my new job, baseball season, and volunteer commitments – I’ve not only struggling to find the time to write but what exactly to write about.

According to blogging experts on podcasts, I am doing everything wrong. I am not monetizing, I am not seeking out collaborations, and my blog currently does not have a defined purpose. I do not have a writing schedule, I don’t attend blogging conferences, and I refuse to refer to myself as a blogger.

Hello. I am Karen. And I happen to blog. Occasionally.

At one point, I envisioned this space as a lifestyle blog, which is quite humorous because gallivanting around town or constantly curating scenes in attempt to capture the perfect shot isn’t exactly how I want to spend my time. While I consider myself a pretty good cook – I am not great at sharing recipes. Apparently people want more than “Eh – just throw a handful of that in the pot and if you have this on hand, add that too. If not – no big deal.” My outfits are not enviable nor am I particularly photogenic so for the sake of humanity, I shy away from most fashion-related posts. I don’t like to write about my kids in great detail so I am not onboard the mommy blogger train. I am not an influencer nor do I desire to be one. I love to travel but our budget only allows for one or two big trips each year so it seems silly to jump in the travel blogger pond during this season of my life. And yes – my husband is in the Army but I don’t want my role as a military spouse to define this space because it is only one of the many pieces that makes me whole.

I’m not going to stop writing. But I am going to stop worrying about whether I am doing it right or not. So if you’re interested in following a woman in her mid-thirties attempting to chase her purpose, please do so. And if not – no hard feelings. It’s all cool.

Career Chronicles – I Said Yes

The first week at my new job was quite the humbling experience. While I’ve spent the last few years accepting part-time content development contracts and substituting at various schools, this past week marked my first time working in a full-time capacity since having children. As much as I loved the flexibility my remote work has provided, I was itching to go back to a collaborative in-person working environment. Admittedly, I was picky with my job search. But when I was offered a position at my children’s school, I knew I had to jump at the opportunity, despite the majority of my instruction experience being geared toward adolescents and adults. I am looking forward to learning more about elementary curriculum and I am hopeful that the experience of working in an elementary school will make me more well-rounded in my future content development endeavors.

I meant to write this post earlier but as mentioned, my first week working outside of the home was a learning experience. Toss in a TDY husband, two baseball schedules, piano lessons, volunteer commitments, and a flat tire – there were moments when I wondered if I made the right choice. I had so much that I wanted to write about this week but my fingers never managed to find their way to the keyboard. So instead I am logging my thoughts into this virtual space while sitting in traffic on I-95 in South Carolina (no worries – my better half is driving) and playing the license plate game with the kids. We’ve spotted our first Quebec plate of the trip and I’m sure we will spot the ever-elusive Hawaii plate as we near the Fort Stewart exit and make our way to Amelia Island, Florida.

This part of the country is known for the Southern Live Oak, which are famous for their sweeping limbs that descend to the ground before shooting upward. They’re also known for their strength and ability to grow well into old age. I like to fancy my career as one of the topsy turvy branches of the Southern Live Oak. There are a lot of hard turns and ups and downs but when you step back and look at the tree as a whole, it is quite beautiful and purposeful.