Friday, September 14, 2012

Cowgirl Kitchen in Seagrove

I just love trying new restaurants and eating good food.  It is pure entertainment for our family.  I'm  not saying that it is always good for the figure or the checkbook, but it sure is fun.  I blame my dad Joe for this. There are 3 things I would like you to know about him. 1-He is the smartest man I know and an incredible attorney.  2-He is a great provider for his family.  3-He is an amazing cook! The man is a genius in the kitchen. I've learned so much from him, and even though he is not my biological father, I am a lot like him in many ways.  Yes, that's right, I'm blessed with a mother, a father and a step-father in this life, all great ones!  My dad Joe has taken us on many amazing trips and to countless fabulous restaurants over the years.  I have expensive taste, and I'm a tough food critic.  It is all his fault!  He did this to me, but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Cowgirl Kitchen in Seagrove
Everybody loves the cow!
Since moving to Seagrove Beach, we have been so excited to try out new places and frequent some of our favorite ones as well.  The food tastes even better knowing that I live here now!  Yesterday morning we rode our bikes about a mile up the road to a local hot spot called Cowgirl Kitchen.  CK is new to this Seagrove location but definitely not new to 30A.  We have eaten many times at CK in Rosemary, but we were first timers at the Seagrove location.  First of all the location is just cool.  I mean look at the building.  I have always loved these old huts in Seagrove. The side of the building has a giant cow painting, and my kids love it.  Speaking of kids, they are very kid friendly.  It has a fun inviting atmosphere. They have a small market inside complete with take home items and ready to eat dishes.  CK offers a breakfast and lunch menu. During the season they remain open until 6 p.m., but this time of the year, they close up around 3 p.m.  We went for breakfast, and boy oh boy was it yummy to my tummy! My kids had their "Eggs in a Boat" for $5, and it was plenty for them to share, with 2 pieces of toast plus a side of their famous praline bacon.  Jason had breakfast tacos of course, with chorizos and cheddar.  I'm not normally one to mix my tacos with my breakfast, but I must admit that these were delish.  I chose the cheddar cheese sausage biscuit, which was just great.  But what I really want to focus on is the praline bacon!  I have always been a big fan of praline bacon, but CK takes praline bacon to an all new level.  When these people say praline bacon, they really mean it.  This stuff is addicting! It costs $5, and trust me, it is worth every penny. You will only share it once.  After that first time, it is praline bacon for everyone because you want yours all to yourself.  I'm serious.  If ever you find yourself near Seagrove Beach in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, you gotta "getty up" on over to Cowgirl Kitchen for their praline bacon.  And remember to never squat with your spurs on! 

Something about this place made me want an ice cold Coke in a bottle.

Praline Bacon at its best!

Love their menu!

A Good Day Indeed

This morning was one of those really great mornings.  It was beautiful outside, not too hot. I made Lucy a cool lunch for school, and I felt pretty good about that.  She wore a beautiful dress that twirls really well, which rates pretty high on the Lucy scale, meaning I got an extra big hug.  Jason and I managed to eat breakfast together at a new local favorite place of ours, Cowgirl Kitchen, that I will be blogging about pretty soon!  We met a new friend, Shannon, who has the cutest little boy with one dimple in only one cheek, who happens to be the same age as Jack. We traded baby stories, and I LOVE talking about babies!  Jason, Jack and I went on a nice bike ride and even stopped to look at the ocean and feel the wind in our faces.  I felt like I was having a fairly good hair day.  Since moving to the beach, the hair situation can be sketchy at times.  Plus, I got all my work done at the shop on schedule, which always makes for a good day. 

While on my way to the shop in my nice air conditioned vehicle, I saw something that got my attention.  I was stopped at a red light on Hwy 98 and could see an elderly couple at the Tom Thumb curb, sitting in lawn chairs on the side of the road, next to their old beat up pick up truck that was attached to an even older outdated very used RV.  (for all of you Breaking Bad fans, yes, it looked like that RV, and you know what my first thought was) All sorts of items were gathered around them.  I saw a mini fridge, microwave, blender, toaster, and other various used appliances and tools.  There was a sign that read, "Broke Down Sale."  I read the sign as I passed them by.  I quickly looked in my rear view mirror.  My heart began pounding.  I felt kinda jittery, with a cold sweat forming.  I looked ahead to see a place where I could turn around.  Do I turn or keep going? Do I turn or keep going?  Do I turn or keep going?

I turned around.  As I pulled up, I pulled the cash from my wallet, which was not much, but it was cash.  I carefully and quietly approached the couple. Keep in mind, I was by myself.  I am a very cautious person.  No, that was an understatement.  I am an extremely cautious person.  O.K. well if we are being honest here, I am an overly cautious, play it by the rules, always have an escape route, organized, prepared, obsessive compulsive kind of girl!  It was at a public gas station on a major highway during the day, so I felt pretty safe.  As I walked up, the elderly woman sitting with her legs crossed looked up at me.  I smiled and handed the man my money.  He was sweaty, dirty, and his skin was tan from the sun.  I said, "I don't have much, but I wanted to help."  He sat there just looking at me.  He reached for the money, and asked, "What do you want to buy from our sale?" I told him I didn't need anything, but I just wanted to help if I could.  I asked him what was wrong.  He shrugged his shoulders and let out a big sigh.  With a shake of his head, he began explaining that they had a blow out on the RV, and that it caused some damage.  He said he just spent all the money he had on getting the truck fixed.  He asked again what I wanted to buy.  I said again that I didn't need anything.  He asked, "Are you sure?"  With what I really believe to be tears in his eyes, he said, "God Bless You." The woman was clean. She spoke slowly and nodded her head while also saying, "God Bless You." I walked back to my car. 

Now, I know what some of you are thinking . . . They probably spent it on booze or something else.

Many years ago, I was driving my brother Sam and my baby brother Alex, who is 20 years younger than me, down County Line Road in Jackson, MS.  Alex was 5.  We saw what appeared to be a homeless man in old raggedy clothing holding a sign asking for food and money.  Alex wanted me to turn around and help the man by giving him money.  This sparked a conversation about when we should help people.  He asked, "How do you know when you are supposed to help them or not?"  I said, "You just have to be led to do so."  He asked what it meant to "be led?"  I explained that it meant to follow you heart.  If your heart speaks to you to help them, then do it.  He got very quiet, and I thought he was trying to see if his heart still wanted to help the man.  He then shouted aloud, "I feel led to go to Bops."  For anyone that doesn't know, Bops is a wonderful frozen custard place in Jackson, MS, owned and operated by some of the greatest people I know!  Needless to say, I took Alex to get Bops. I will always remember that.  In fact every time I face a similar situation, I think of this story.

Well, I guess I will never know if the elderly couple today was legit or not.  I will never know exactly what they spent the money on either.  What I do know is that I followed my heart. What I also know is that when I was on my way home this afternoon, they were still sitting by the side of the road in their lawn chairs, and most of the items were gone.  I hope they are legit.  I hope they make it to their next destination.  I hope they made lots of money.  I prayed for them.  Jesus loves them.  I love them.  

We had a good night.  We rode bikes as a family to Seaside.  Lucy ran, played and rolled down the hill in the bowl area.  Jack walked straight to the mud and sat down.  We rode bikes to Publix in Watercolor and did some grocery shopping.  After baths and bedtime, I sat down and told Jason about the elderly couple today.  I can't stop thinking about them.  I see their faces in my mind.  I see the woman bouncing her crossed leg on her knee.  It doesn't seem like they had a good morning, day, or night. It got me thinking about all the people in our own back yards that aren't having good days.  So many times we base our good days on things that are so small and unimportant in the grand scheme of survival.  There are people who woke up hungry this morning.  There are kids that went to school in dirty old clothes that might not have even gotten baths or supper tonight.  I know it is so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives with busy schedules, work, school, kids and even church.  I'm not saying we shouldn't enjoy life.  We are supposed to enjoy life!  I love life.  I hope you enjoy life. 

We send our money and people on much needed mission trips to far away countries to help people in need.  I have been on those trips.  They are life changing.  They are amazing, and they are so important.   I have also been to places here in the U.S. and have seen people here that need our love and help.  For instance there are places in Madison County, MS, where some families' living quarters are worse than those I've seen in 3rd world countries.  I would never have believed it until I met two very special ladies, Karen and Judy, that work for MadCAAP, which stands for Madisonians Allied Against Poverty.  They educated me on the needs of the people in my own county where I was raised and lived such a privileged and blessed life.  If you live in Madison County, MS and do not know about this organization, get to know them!  They need help.  They not only feed and help people in need in Madison County, but they offer education programs and more.  I cannot say enough good things about this place.  You can connect with them on facebook too by going to the MadCAAP facebook page.  No donation is too small.  The little donations add up quickly.  I learned tonight that they desperately need help stocking their pantry right now. 

Here in my new community of Santa Rosa Beach, FL, there is an organization called Food For Thought Outreach.  They provide backpacks full of "healthy, easy to prepare food weekly to elementary aged children who might not otherwise have enough food." They held food drives all summer at local businesses and restaurants. I am so excited to start helping in my new community.  Visit the Food for Thought facebook page.  Can you imagine your child going to school hungry because there wasn't enough money at the end of the paycheck for food?  I cannot even imagine.  It is very real though.

If there is not an organization in your area, start one or hold a food drive. Get creative with it.  Our friends Drew and Sarah Naska of Savannah, GA, carry around bags of clothes in their car to give out to homeless people when they see them.  That is cool! 

Wherever you live, I know there are similar organizations and programs that need help.  Help out.  You will feel so good when you do.

I had a good day indeed!

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” - Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dreams Can Come True

"Dreams can come true...if we have the courage to pursue them." ~ Walt Disney

I dream.  I am a dreamer.  I always have been.  I heard a really wise man by the name of Rob Carman say something like this, "We can sit around and talk about doing things forever, but let's just go for it.  Do it.  If we fail, then at least we tried.  At least we got up and did something."  Well, I'm with him on that one.  I dream big.  I try big.  I succeed big, and yes, sometimes I fail big.  At least I tried.  I did something.

I want to live life "full out."  When I was a cheerleader in high school, as we would practice for competition, we would do our routines over and over.  To keep from getting too exhausted or hurt, sometimes we would just do the motions of the jumps, stunts and tumbling, but not do it full out every time.  But then, when it was time, our beloved Becky Nolan would say, "O.K. here we go. Let's do it full out."  That meant give it your all.  Do your best.  Push through the pain.  Smile and bop those heads like never before.  Well, I want to live life "full out."  I don't want each day to be a dress rehearsal for the big day or practice for when it counts.  I want everyday to count. I want everyday to be the big day.

I thought everyone felt this way, but I was wrong.  The older I get, the more people I see just living life scared of trying, scared of failing, or just plain miserable.  I don't want to be like that.  I don't want to wake up one day and wonder what if or what could have been. 

In case you do not already know, the Jones family of four has moved from our home in Madison, Mississippi to our new home in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida!  We did it!  Jason and I have dreamed of living here for quite some time.  We honeymooned in Sandestin, and since then have vacationed with my family in Seaside, Grayton Beach, Watercolor and Seagrove.  Somewhere in between, we fell in love with Seagrove, and it became our dream to live here.  I remember exactly when it happened.  We were driving along 30A a few years ago, and I looked out over at the sun setting along the ocean line.  I said to Jason, "Look at that.  Why not look at that everyday?  Why not live where we are so happy?" He replied, "You are right.  Why not?  Let's do it." My response was "Do it Big!"  (That is an inside joke between the two of us. Anytime one of us says "let's do it," the other says "do it big" in a funny voice.)  We laughed and kept on dreaming.  Please understand that we love Madison, MS, but we also love the beach. Life is too short not to try! Every time we would vacation here with my family, we would drive around and look at houses, just dreaming of making a home here, raising our kids and living life to the fullest.  I would come up with all kinds of odd jobs and business ideas to get us here.  I wanted to open a Bops, open a clothing store, take an event planning job, and I even sent Jason's application in at the new airport without him knowing.  Sorry, sugar.  I love you! (I guess he just found out.)  The timing was just never right.  But, we kept the dream alive. 

After the birth of Lucy, our first child, I had some major medical issues.  I had an infection leftover from childbirth that went untreated for 14 months.  I spent those months very sick and in a lot of pain.  Most days I did not even want to get out of bed, much less work or deal with medical bills.  I felt very overwhelmed.  After seeing a doctor here in Seagrove actually, while on vacation, he encouraged me to find a new doctor at home that would help me figure out what was going on with my body.  I took his advice and did just that.  The rest is a story for another day, but to sum it up, my new doctor, Dr. Tameka Johnson at East Lakeland OBGYN is amazing!  She is a hero in my book.  She did not stop until she found the infection, treated it and got it out of my uterus and my body for good.  I thank God for wisdom and smart doctors!  I said all of that to say, that I got us in debt with medical bills and credit cards.  It was bad. 

While at Victory Church in Madison one night, I knelt at the altar and cried out to God to help us. I prayed for a God inspired idea to help us get out of debt.  Within a very short time, our business, Jonesy Works was established.  It was our God inspired idea, and yes, it got us out of debt!  (We also took a Dave Ramsey class, which I highly suggest!  It works.)  If you do not know about Jonesy Works, look us up.  We are a wholesale company.  We make picture frames and furniture.  We wholesale to stores all over the U.S. and parts of Canada.  Jason builds it, and I paint it.  Everything is handmade and hand painted with much love!  Over a 4 year process, Jonesy Works went from being our part time job in our garage to our full time job in an actual warehouse.  I went full time with Jonesy Works 2 years ago this November.  Jason went full time last January.  Once Jason was full time, we knew that we could support our family and run our business from anywhere.  Here was our chance, our chance to actually go for our dream of living at the beach! 

At times we were scared or unsure, but we followed our heart.  We put our Madison home on the market with a fantastic realtor, Nancy Lehman.  She is honest and great at what she does.  She loves being a realtor, and it shows.  She gave us a honey do list.  We trusted her and made the changes.  She put our house on the market at 1:30 on a Tuesday.  By 6:30, the house had been shown 3 times.  We received 2 offers from those showings.  Within 24 hours, our house was sold.  We got within $500 of what we were asking for it.  We had 25 days to find a place in Florida, pack up our personal belongings, pack up our business and move out.  The next 25 days were a whirlwind. 

We went to Florida and drove around for 2 days.  It was too soon to buy a house.  We had to find a long term rental . . . in May . . .  at the beach, which is the start of their busiest season.  Every where we looked and everyone we talked to said it was going to be impossible to find.  We did not give up.  We kept driving, calling and looking.  We began to get discouraged.  At one point, we pulled the car over, held hands and spoke out loud to God saying, "We know we are supposed to move here. Thank you, Jesus, for helping us find a place to live." Within 5 minutes, my phone rang.  It was a man that we had left several messages with about his Craigslist ad for a long term rental.  It was still available.  It was right on 30A, and it was in our price range!  We had to wait 4 hours to go see it.  I could hardly stand it.  During those 4 hours, I was decorating the place in my mind.  I was dreaming of birthdays, Christmases, and other family traditions being held there.  I could see the love and happiness going on in our new place, without even stepping foot in the door yet.  When we pulled up, we got so excited.  The minute we walked through the door, I squeezed Jason's arm and said, "This is it!"  We knew immediately.  It was perfect.  It was home.  Lucy loved it.  She did her twirls and leaps in the bedroom that she and Jack now share.  Jack crawled around laughing at his big sister.  Jason held his arm around me as we looked at the sun setting over the water.  This was our dream. 

Our last week in MS was bitter sweet.  We were so busy.  We packed and cleaned out.  We sold stuff, gave away stuff, and threw away stuff.  We laughed and cried a lot.  If it were not for our friends and family, we would have never have gotten moved out of that house.  How one acquires so much junk in 10 years, I will never know.  To this day, I do not know where it all came from, and there was more in our attic than there was in our house.  I think every friend that came by to help or rummage through the stuff, then went home to clean out their house.  I kept a clean organized house too!  I do not know where it was all stored?!  I like to give credit where credit is due.  So, here it goes.  My friends that came and helped us are AMAZING!  Sarah, Tammy and Angela, you are my girls for life!  Sarah, you are the meaning of a true best friend.  I am honored to call you my best friend.  I love you, girl! My sister in law, Amy, came and cleaned that house from top to bottom.  At one point, I saw her on all fours, scrubbing the grout in the tiles with a toothbrush in one hand and her Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in the other (a product that every household should not be without).  Everyone that came to our sale, thank you for covering the cost of our moving expenses.  Thank you to my baby sister Liz for helping with the kiddos, even though you were sad to see us move. Liz just graduated college, so it was really hard to be moving at the same time that she was moving home. Anyone that knows me well, knows that my family is super close, and my mom is my absolute best friend in the world. It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make, moving away from her.  The ONLY way I was able to do it is because thankfully, they have a vacation home less than a mile from me. I get to see her very often, along with my sister and the rest of my family! I still miss her though, and it is still tough not living close. If you see my mom around town, give her a big hug and tell her how amazing she is! She is my hero too!

After packing our Uhaul truck, trailer, my car and our personal trailer we were ready to go.  We did one last walk through and turned off all the lights.  Jason and I stood in the driveway with his arm around my waist and just stood for a minute to breathe.  Jason and I both got teary eyed.  It was  a sweet home. . . a happy home.  We left our driveway at 2:00 in the morning.  Our plan was to drive as far as we could and then get a hotel room.  We drove to Magee, MS.  We will forever laugh about that.  We were just too tired to drive.  We got a good night's sleep and spent the next day driving to Florida.  Going through the tunnel in Mobile never felt so good.  We could not wait to get there.  Crossing the Florida line was exciting.  Seeing all the Tom Thumbs was exciting.  Looking at all the places I grew up vacationing in Destin was fun.  I just couldn't wait to get there.  We finally made it.  Thankfully my family was in town to help us move in our new place. My mom brought us Pizza By the Sea, our favorite pizza joint in town, and we had a move in party!  It was a great night.   Jason called me out to the balcony.  He put his arm around my waist and pointed to the sun setting over the ocean, and said, "We did it.  We get to see this every night."  The next morning, I woke up really early and looked out our bedroom glass doors, overlooking a sea of tin roofs and colorful beach houses.  I smiled and thought, even the roof tops are beautiful. 

Our first picture when we arrived at our new front door.
So, here we are.  We followed our dreams.  We moved to Florida!  We are so blessed and so very thankful.  Lucy has started dance class and preschool. We have our first birthday party to go to this Saturday.  I don't know who is more excited, Lucy or me.  We are making friends and establishing our home here.  We have had friends visit, and Jason's family came last week! We all celebrated Jack's 1st birthday party at our new place. It was just how I had imagined it. Our business is up and running.  We are completely out of debt, and words can't describe that feeling.   We are still dreaming though.  We have big dreams for this place.  Not only are we excited to live and work here, but we are excited to make a difference in our community. We are not completely sure yet how that part will play out.  It is still in the dreaming process.  We know God has big plans for us.  We have a heart to love and help people in need, and I know big things are ahead.  We are excited!

We moved here in hopes of a simpler life. We want to raise our children in this small beach community.  We want to teach them to love, give and live life "full out."  People who know me know I go all out for events, birthdays, parties, and even school lunches.  That is me living life full out. That is me living out my dreams.  That is me making every day count.  That is me being thankful for the amazing life that I do not in any way deserve.  I have bad days.  I have days where I don't get much done.  I don't focus on those days.  I focus on the good ones.  I try to be a positive person.  Positivity goes a long way.  I try to be sweet and funny.  I try to give and love everyday.  Love is the ticket to everything.  You can't hate someone if you love them.  You can't be mean to someone if you are sweet to them.  You can't hurt someone if you encourage them.  A younger friend of mine yesterday, after seeing a picture of Lucy's lunch said, "You make me so excited to become a mom one day."  That is so encouraging to me.  It made my day! Who's day can I make today?  LOVE GIVE LIVE like never before! DREAM Big!

"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." -John Wesley