Day 348: In the Holiday Spirit

Friday, December 15th

This year we kept one family holiday tradition alive.

We saw my sister perform in The Nutcracker ballet on Friday and it was just as beautiful as I remembered. Even though I have seen the Nutcracker maybe a bazillion times since I was kid, I still find the story, music, and dancing so magical. It is definitely a holiday season favorite!

This Nutcracker performance was also bittersweet as it was my sister’s last performance in Gainesville. She is leaving UF  to attend the University of Tampa for nursing next semester. My parents and I drove up to Gainesville to support her for her final performance as a UF student.

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Before the show, my parents and I took the chance to wander the nature trails by a lake on University grounds. Gainesville is actually very beautiful in the winter. The air was chilly and the lake was incredibly calm.

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We enjoyed the breathtaking views as I found myself falling in love with Florida all over again. Although I love the ocean, the swamp is surprisingly beautiful in all its wild vegetation. Though beware of alligators!

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I seized the opportunity to take pictures with my parents. I won’t be seeing them very much after the new year. I think we all appreciated the time together on this spur of the moment day trip.

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The best part about winter in Florida is that it actually starts looking like fall! The trees turn a golden brown and the air becomes just crisp enough for a warm sweater. It is a beautiful time for nature walks and spending time outdoors without sweating!

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The scenery also reminded me of my beloved Maine. Sometimes it is strange thinking back to my college days when life was so different. So many things have changed. It is exciting but also a little sad.

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After our walk we found our way to the largest bat colony in the Southeastern United States! We saw a couple people sitting and waiting on benches and realized they were waiting for the bats to come out! Of course, we had to stay and wait too. It was almost dusk anyway.

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Over the next hour we waited and listened to the increasingly loud high-pitched noises from inside the bat barns. Then out flew the bats! It was so dark that we could only see small dark forms swooping in front of us and over our heads. It was scary! I managed to snap a picture of one of the little guys. Thank god they didn’t hit us in the face! So many times they were merely inches away from us.

DSC_1882edit  After that bizarre experience, it was time for The Nutcracker. See, we are best friends. Just like last year.

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The ballet was beautiful and so many moments left me in happy tears. Morgan did a great job as an adult party person, snowflake, Chinese person, and flower. I thought it was awesome that she was in the Chinese dance. My family loves China!

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We are so proud of our little dancer! No matter how many times I see the Nutcracker, I am happy if I can watch my sister doing something that she loves. Also, I am definitely in the holiday spirit. It’s time to drink hot toddies, wrap presents, and hug Christmas trees.

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Happy Holidays! 

Day 347: Missing China

Thursday, December 14th

Are you in the holiday spirit yet? I am! I am! A cold front has finally graced our presence here in Florida and I am jumping for joy (and warmth). Although it looks tropical and green outside, it feels otherwise.

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Yesterday I worked most of the day and attended a business luncheon. The speaker at the luncheon is the president of the East-West Shriners Game which is coming to Tropicana this January. It is an college football all-star game that raises money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. The president told amazing stories about his career coaching football and got us all excited for the 2nd annual game!

At 5:30pm I headed to the gym to meet Peter’s mom for a workout. My lower back was crazy sore from deadlifts so I worked on shoulder presses for strength. Still lifting those 30lb. dumbbells and feeling good!

Strength

Shoulder Press- 5×5, 30 lb. dumbbells

Then I modified a WOD from The Traveling WOD website. There’s no running for this girl!

WOD

4 Push Press (30lb. dumbbells)

8 Pull Up (kipping)

12 Dive Bomber

16 Jump Squat

20 Plate Pull Over (25lbs.)

5RFT

My upper body was really challenged with the combination of push presses, pull ups, and dive bombers. By round 2 I was shaking like a leaf. I finished in 21.17 and felt a little nauseous at the end. I had to sit down for a bit and let the dizziness pass. At this time it was 7:30pm and I hadn’t eaten since 3pm. It was time to chow down!

Peter’s mom and I went to our favorite Thai restaurant and talked for hours. When our waitress brought out tea I was *this close* to saying “xie xie”. Whoops! She was Asian but definitely not Chinese! I guess my mind is still in China. I even used chopsticks to eat. It felt so natural!

Maybe I miss China. Just a little bit.

Day 344: Office Style

Monday, December 10th

It was back in the office Monday for this girl. And let me tell you, it was as if nothing had changed. I was back in my office with the dying orchid formatting emails and maneuvering paperwork. It was also back to fashion pictures in the bathroom.

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I can’t help myself!

I wore blue cropped pants, white button up shirt, black sandals, and a new gold layered necklace from Target! Only 10 bucks.

Although it was great to see my coworkers again and actually talk in person about some projects, eventually I got bored and tired. I definitely do not miss the office environment. At all.

Thankfully I have been able to continue working part-time for the company while living abroad. However this is only temporary until my personal training and nutritional counseling business is up and running. There have been a few setbacks to this endeavor so for now I am grateful for the work. A couple boring months in the office can’t be too bad.

Daily Workout

After work my dad and I headed to the gym at 7pm. I was feeling super sore and unmotivated so I kind of wandered around the weight room doing random sets of heavy lifts.

Upright Cable Rows- 3×15, 32lbs.

Bench Press- 4×8, 30 lb. dumbbells 

Lateral Shoulder Raise – 4×8, 15 lb. dumbbells

Plank-2x1min. hold

Wall Sit- 2min. hold

It felt good to get in a good muscle burn without going crazy. Sometimes it’s good to just take it easy. Next time I’ll be ready for a heart pumping Crossfit WOD. Can’t wait!

 

Day 343: Coming Home

Sorry for the long post last night. I meant to write something short about Holly’s passing but the words and tears just kept on flowing. Writing about my little dog and how much she meant to me really helped me express my grief and put her death into perspective. Although other people have lost parents, grandparents, and children, Holly was the first big loss in my life. Sometimes we need to remember and weep before we can move on.

Thank you everybody for listening.

Sunday, December 9th

I left Orlando at 1pm after a lovely morning watching the first half of Funny Girl with Carina. Back in St. Pete it was beautiful outside but I felt more like lounging on the floor, reading trashy magazines. Around 5pm I finally motivated myself to take advantage of the dwindling light and bike to the gym.

It felt so good to get back on my bike and take my old path along the waterfront. The weather was perfect and slightly cool as the sun sunk slowly beneath the horizon.

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At the gym, I concentrated on my upper body since my legs, lower back, and lats were still very sore from Friday’s workout. To start I worked my way up to 5 sets of 5 shoulder presses with 30 lb. dumbbells. I felt pretty badass. The last time I was in this gym I using 15 lb. dumbbells! I doubled the weight!

Strength

Shoulder Press

5,5,5,5,5 – 60 lbs. 

After shoulder presses, I attempted kipping pull ups and managed 15. I then grabbed a 25 lb. dumbbells and did 30 OH alternating lunges. Inspired by the lunges I created a quick WOD on the spot with a goal to be done in 10 minutes. I didn’t want to ride my bike in the dark!

WOD

10 Burpees

15 Pull Ups (kipping)

30 OH Lunges (25lb. plate)

2RFT

My time was 10.22 so I was right on track! This workout was short but had me huffing and puffing. My deltoids were burning from the overhead lunges! Those are fun.

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Being back in St. Pete is so weird. It almost feels like I never left. Two months away is not very long! However, this time I am just a visitor. Even though I am already falling into my old routine from the last 2 years, I am so grateful and happy. Being here no longer feels like a rut but a welcome break. I can finally rest and enjoy everything in this little city for a while.

No matter where I live in the world, this will always be my home. 

Day 341 and 342: O Christmas Trees

Friday, December 7th

I really can’t get over how beautiful it is here in Florida. I always forget when I am here for long periods of time. But whenever I come back, the beauty floors me. Even though it is not really cold here (at all), I am enjoying the warmth and blue skies.

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This weekend I decided to visit Carina in Orlando for her last weekend off work till Christmas. But first I had to get a few things done on Friday. First up? A workout! Oh my, it was so nice to be back in the gym! I started with a 20 minute warm-up on the stationary bike then completed a few strength exercises.

Strength

Deadlifts- 5 sets of 5, 120lbs.

Lat Pull Downs- 3 sets of 8, 90lbs.

Tricep Cable Pull Downs- 3 sets of 8, 32 lbs.

Unfortunately my gym doesn’t have barbells so dumbbells had to suffice. Although I can deadlift 180lbs. (booyah), grabbing two 90 lb. dumbbells seemed ridiculous and hard. I don’t know why! So instead I used 60lb. dumbbells which felt good. Then I made up my own WOD on the spot and got to it!

WOD

10 Pull Ups (jumping)

20 Sit Ups

30 Air Squats

4RFT

I completed this is 12.45 and it was a good workout for my first time in a gym in 3 weeks. I look forward to incorporating more Crossfit into my regular workout regimen!

After working out, my mom and I picked out our Christmas tree! As soon as it was up in our living room, we got to work decorating the tree. Our tradition is white lights and a random assortment of ornaments that represent my family history. Some are from my grandparents, others are from my parents first Christmas together, my first Christmas as a baby, etc. We also have ornaments from various trips and even our Christmas card pictures! My favorite ornaments are the Disney ones.

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Now we just need my sisters to come home and put the angel on top!

With the tree decorated, I started the 2 hour drive to Orlando. I didn’t arrive till almost 9pm so Carina and I just hung out at her home and watched Reality Bites with Winona Ryder. Nothing beats weird 90’s movies on a Friday night.

Saturday, December 8th 

When we woke up it was warm and sunny so we decided to head to Winter Garden for the farmers market. It was a beautiful day! I indulged in lots of green juice, local honey, flax chips, and plentiful sunshine which I sorely missed in China.

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After an hour or two we headed to Carina’s mom’s house for another Christmas tree decorating party! Two trees in two days. Whew. With some wine drinking and Christmas music playing in the background we created a beautiful tree. 

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So classy. I love Christmas.

For dinner we went to my favorite restaurant in Windermere for the most amazing sandwich in the history of the world. Remember the Holy Crap Sandwich?? Yeah, it was just as awesome as I remembered.

Then it was time for the main event… Pitch Perfect! Whahooo!!! Thankfully it was still playing at Universal Theaters at City Walk next to the Universal theme parks. Omg, I loved this movie!! It was absolutely hilarious and the music rocked! I freakin’ love a cappella. I mean I was in an a cappella group called Bella(mafia) so this movie was right on point. I just downloaded the soundtrack. And am listening to it on repeat.

Aca-awesome.

Go see this movie. You will laugh so hard. Even if you aren’t an aca-freak like me.

What a great weekend. I am officially in the Christmas spirit.

Day 340: 10 Things I Love About America

Thursday, December 6th 

When I used to come home from college for the holidays or summer vacation my mom always planned a day of pampering for me. This included facials (to heal my skin from the brutal Maine weather), haircuts and highlights (it’s tough to stay blonde in Maine!), pedicures (needed when going from boots to sandals), and massages (to fix that study induced shoulder shrug).

Well coming home from China has been no different. Yesterday my mom scheduled a haircut and facial and I feel like a new person! I’m still scrubbing away the last of that China pollution. Too bad the Florida weather has been a little less than sunny.

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But the air is clean and cool and everything is quiet. Now here’s a list of what I’m loving now in the United States.

10 Things I Love About America

1. I can hop in my car and drive whenever I want, wherever I want

2. No crowds!

3. Everybody is so polite!

4. No need to maneuver around spit on the streets

5. People actually wait in line. Say what?

6. It is easy to understand labels, ingredients, and signs in grocery stores

7. Nighttime is actually quiet and dark

8. I can breathe! Hello fresh air…

9. I can drink from the tap! (and it doesn’t taste like toilet water)

10. No censorship! I now have unlimited access to Youtube, Twitter, Hulu, Netflix, WordPress, and news articles from across the world!

I have to say that suddenly having all these luxuries in America makes me so incredibly grateful for what we have in this great country. Living in China makes me appreciate it so much more. But while it is nice and easy in America, I actually look forward to the challenge of living in South East Asia once again. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and makes me appreciate life!

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.” – Woodrow Wilson

Well said. When living abroad, you definitely go beyond simply “making a living”. Everyday you meet unique challenges that change your perspective, engage your mind, and enrich your inner self.

By enriching your self, you enrich the world you live in.

Day 339: University of Tampa and Maxi Dress Extravaganza

Hey guys I’m jumping ahead in posting or else I’m going to fall way behind! This project ends in less than a month and I want it all posted by then! So hopefully I will be posting at least the current photo of the day and a photo of the day from China every day. Hopefully my counting will be correct. Eh, that is highly unlikely…

Wednesday, December 5th

My first day back in the United States was surprisingly fun and extremely exhausting. I couldn’t fall asleep till 2:30am, woke up at 8:30am then was wide awake. I figured I should try and sleep just a little bit more and ended up passing out till noon. I honestly could have slept longer but my sister Morgan started hitting me awake. It was time to go!

My mom, Morgan, and I drove to University of Tampa where Morgan is starting nursing school this January. The campus is gorgeous and the main building, Plant Hall, was originally the Tampa Bay Hotel built in 1891.

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You can see the spires glowing in the distance under the Florida sun and I always assumed it was a Russian church. It is a beautiful building with a grand interior that looks straight out of The Shining. It really feels like you are walking back in time. I kept expecting to see 19th century gentlemen and ladies in rocking chairs on the massive wrap around veranda. Instead young students in sweatshirts and shorts lounge out on velvet cushions and wooden tables, their heads deep in textbooks and cellphones.

Times have certainly changed.

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The campus is gorgeous as well with pathways shrouded in oak trees and Spanish moss. My sister gets to go to school here??

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After walking around the campus, we headed across the street to a new restaurant in town called the Oxford Exchange. But it’s not just a restaurant. It is also an interior design shop, bookstore, and separate coffee and tea bar. The building was historically a horse stable and dates to about 1910. Recently renovated, the interior is chic and homey with high ceilings, checkered floors, antique furniture, and vintage knicknacks. I want to live there.

We had lunch, drank some Chinese green tea, and explored all the Oxford Exchange had to offer. It was really tough to leave!

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At the end of the meal, we received the Quote of the Day printed on a crisp white notecard. Such a neat idea! Also, the wall by the bathrooms is full of old pictures, newspaper articles, and framed quotes. I think I found my favorite quote:

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“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien. This is so true. Traveling around the world has truly helped me find myself. When you don’t belong to a certain place, your self is the only constant.

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In honor of China, my mom cozied up to a terracotta soldier. They look cute together right?

After lunch, Morgan headed back to Gainesville so my mom and I headed to Hyde Park for some shopping. We went to Tommy Bahama for some Christmas presents for my dad and Peter. Then somehow I ended up buying some tropical weather clothes for myself. You’ll see why I need them very soon. I bought a red and brown stripped maxi skirt and this blue and white stripped maxi dress. Do you like it?

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The pattern is pretty intense for me but the material is so comfy. I love it!

We then checked out Lululemon and I see some gift cards in my future! Hooray! We finished our Hyde Park excursion with Anthropologie for some tops and then a couple cute clothing/interior design shops. These shops make me want to furnish a home, like right now. Although that probably won’t happen for a looong time.

Finally we drove over to Westshore Mall to hit up Old Navy for some cardigans and t-shirts. Somehow I bought another maxi dress!! I’ll be living large and breezy!

What do you think of maxi dresses? Yay or nay? 

We made it home by 7pm and I was wiped. Shopping is actually a great jetlag activity. You get to walk everywhere and drain excess fluid from your ankles (hello cankles!). It is just enough activity to leave you tired enough for the night. Plus you are in such a jetlag daze that shopping is actually quite enjoyable.

Shopping and maxi dresses for the win!

Day 249: People, Spinning, and Photography

So last night I kind of exploded all over the Twitter-sphere. I promised I wouldn’t get all political but there I go, retweeting like there’s no tomorrow. I stayed up till 1am reading over tweets from the DNC convention and got all riled up. Ugh. It won’t happen again!!

(But if you want to watch a hilarious video from The Daily Show click here. Can’t even handle it hahaha)

But enough about politics!

Let get to a better topic. How about people, spinning, and photography!

Yesterday I finally scheduled lunch with my mom and Peter’s mom (both named Linda :-)). We’ve been meaning to do this for probably a year haha. It’s interesting how having less time makes you do more! The Lindas and I had a lovely and long lunch and I hope they will continue to get together after I leave.

Also Peter’s dad and I had lunch today. Just doing the rounds! Sometimes I feel like Peter’s St. Pete representative. But who will take my place now??

Daily Workout

Last night was spin class! I will really miss my instructors here in Florida. I cannot believe it has been almost a year since I started spinning. I was always too afraid to try! Now it’s one of my favorite cardio workouts. There was a point when I was definitely doing too much spin back when I did it twice a week. It really hurt my knees. Now I try to go once every two weeks or so which is perfect.

Remember, sometimes too much of a good thing is not very good for you at all :-).

After class I took Holly for a walk. Thankfully the storms that plagued us all day dissipated for a bit. It also set the stage for a crazy sunset!

After big thunderstorms, the sky is full of towering clouds that light up in fantastic ways when the sun sets. Unfortunately I missed the best part but was able to capture some pretty cool shots.

Sometimes I wonder if I am actually a good photographer or if I am just surrounded by beauty and can’t help myself ;-). What do you think? How much does good photography belong to the skill or eye of the photographer or to the beauty of their subject?

Maybe it’s a little bit of both.

Ok Carina is about to arrive and hopefully I will recap today ASAP. We have a big weekend ahead of us (last weekend in town ah!) so I might get a tad behind. Happy Friday everybody! Have fun and realize how blessed you are to live in the United States of America (except for my international readers obviously. Holla!).

Day 247: Quiz for the Crazies

Today is my last day in the office! It feels like a dream. Like a crazy dream where I decide to leave my home behind and move to one of the biggest cities in China. Oh wait… that’s reality.

Awesome.

Yesterday I wore my new blue blouse to work and am now obsessed with this color. You know what else I am obsessed with? My arms!! Since changing up my eating schedule to 3 square meals a day, I can actually see my muscles! It’s so fun. There’s nothing better than defined delts. Am I right?!?

Since we’ve already established that yes I am in fact crazy, I decided to participate in a little quiz by Lindsay for the crazies. Perfect! Let’s do this (or that).

Chocolate or Vanilla?

I was definitely a vanilla kid but now gimme some chocolate. The darker the better. However, sometimes simple vanilla bean ice cream is the best.

Innie or Outtie?

Inbetweenie! No seriously. My belly button sticks out like an outtie but it nestled in my belly like an innie. It’s weird.

Hot Hot Summer or Snowy Winter?

As much as I love the sun as a Florida girl, I prefer cold snowy winters. You can always bundle up in warm sweaters and cute mittens. Plus, I love to ski!

Save or Spend?

Definitely a saver. I hate spending money on useless and pointless things and am working on building my 401K. However, I have my moments of spending a lot at once, usually for the necessities. Take my latest shopping excursion as an example!

Elliptical or Treadmill?

Um neither. I hate running and I hate the elliptical. Stationary bike it is.

Banana or Apple?

 Apple! I finally started liking bananas but will always go for a big juicy apple instead.

Morning or Night?

There is something so calming about a peaceful morning full of opportunities. Now I just need to tame my inner night owl and go to bed earlier!

Love or Money?

Love. Duh. I am moving to China with Peter in lieu of a cushy corporate job. Bam.

Lipbalm or Lipstick?

Lipbalm. My Carmex chapstick is with me at all times.

Butt or Boobs?

I am very well endowed in the bosom area (thanks mom) but love my butt. Thanks to heavy lifting, I finally have a butt! Hooray for squats!

Accoustic or Electric?

I like the sound of electric guitars better. Much cleaner sound.

Coffee or Tea?

COFFEE. With coconut milk. No sweetener. Love it. But will probably drink more tea in China.

Straight or Curly?

Curly! I hate doing anything to my hair and love letting my natural waves flow free.

Three Squares or Graze All Day?

I used to be a hardcore grazer. But recently I am all about 3 square meals a day. I did this as a child so it fits me perfectly.

Right handed or left handed?

Righty

Beach or Mountains?

Mountains. Probably because I have always lived by the beach and therefore do not yearn for it as much. Mountains are so majestic and you can climb them! Plus I love the rustic vibe of mountain towns. Someday I will have a cabin in the woods.

Mac or PC?

I’m a Mac girl. Macs are great for visual people like me and are great for my photography endeavors.

Shy or Outgoing?

Shy! I was the shiest kid around till college. Now that I’ve grown into myself I seem much more outgoing with close friends and acquaintances. But most of the time I feel shy and want to hide under a rock haha. The good thing about being an introvert is that I am 100% content being by myself. It gives me space to think and recharge.

Well! That was a fun quiz. Thanks Lindsay!

And to close, I leave you with another Florida sunset. In just a week, these will be a lovely and not so distant memory.

Sometimes being crazy is good.

Day 246: I workout to eat ice cream {Labor Day Photos}

So it finally happened.

Yesterday I had an amazing workout! It was about time! After reviewing my calendar, I realized I took it pretty easy this last week.  3 rest days and one day of just yoga! I am not upset by any means. In fact, I am ecstatic! I feel great!

Last year if you had told me I would take 3 days off working out in one week I would have freaked out! But finally I have my priorities straight. Working out takes second place to LIVING and spending time with others.

Because if you think about it, we should workout to live, not live to workout. 

Instead of heading to the gym, I walked around the mall with my mom, spent the day swimming in the ocean, and got my zen on with some downward dog. Hitting the gym hard and staying in shape allows me to do activities like this with tons of energy and peace.

By Monday morning I was ready and raring to workout hard. Why? Because my family had an hour to spare before heading to the beach for lunch and ice cream. So yeah, I also workout to eat ice cream. Because eating ice cream is one of my favorite parts of life.

Now let’s get to the photos!

We had a late lunch at Dockside Dave’s on St. Pete Beach with Morgan, David, my parents, and my grandma. We went there specifically for their famous blackened grouper sandwich.

It was well worth the Labor Day traffic.

Then I somehow convinced everybody to get ice cream at Twistee Treat, an icon of St. Pete Beach.

Sometimes you got to roll with the classics. Vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles.

What a perfect ending to an amazing summer in Florida. Sunshine, family time, and ice cream.

What more could you ask for?