Friday, March 18, 2011

Time with a Treasured Friend

Having moved to Florida 23 years ago from my home state of New York, I am always thrilled when an old friend or family member comes to vacation in Florida. Recently, my college sorority sister, Marla, and her lovely daughter Livia (who I had only seen on Facebook), and I rendezvoused at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples.

The beach was beautiful and the skies were sunny and bright blue. We sat for hours, talking and reconnecting while Liv played in the Gulf and collected shell after shell. I came to learn that Marla’s parents (Massachusetts snowbirds) are regulars to this state park. In fact, her dad had a camera the size of a beach ball!

While we spent the day catching up, her parents were up the way at Wiggins Pass, photographing the birds, wildlife and fisherman. His images can be seen on his Flickr site,

I cherish the time I spent with my friend, and the fact that Florida has so many treasured parks to share with the world.

Footnote: I am a Board Member of Friends of Florida State Parks, a non profit citizen support organization formed to support the state park system in Florida. To share your own state park story and show your support for Florida State Parks, go to and share!

Tailgating Done Right

This is what tailgating looks like in Gainesville. Orange and Blue and red cup craziness starting most weekends at 8am! Lucky for the Cushings, my friends the Spiros have been loyal tailgaters for more years than they probably care to admit. With a longtime reserved "spot" and a gang of fellow Gators, they are die hard fans. Have game will travel. Thanks Chris and Rach for making our first season memorable. Who is it that's in college, our kids or us? ;)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beyond Gator Nation

Is there anything beyond Gator Nation, you might ask? It’s hard to see past the orange and blue of the University of Florida, but if you dare, you will find a charming, hip, cultural and natural Florida town. After more than a half dozen trips to the 352 since my daughter has become a Gator, I have ventured to explore this enduring city. Upon some research, I learned that Gainesville has survived more than its share of tragedies. Struck in 1851 by a fire, 1903 by a cyclone, and 1936 by a tornado, this thriving college town has sustenance.

Hosted by
Visit Gainesville, the County’s official tourism organization, this year’s FACVB Annual Meeting (Florida Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus) was a downtown treat. With our meetings held at the Hampton Inn & Suites on First Street, the pavered playground of restaurants, nightclubs, boutiques, government buildings and historical architecture was a delight. The first night of my arrival for the welcome reception at Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille was met with the weekly Wednesday afternoon Farmers Market in the town plaza. From there, lunch at Ti Amo! and dinner at Mark’s Prime Steakhouse caused the group to venture out beyond the conference room walls.

Inspired by this resurgent downtown, I further visited
Dragonfly for some amazing sushi, a few of the boutiques and the historic Hippodrome Theater, the 1909 classical revival building originating as Gainesville’s Post Office. During my stay the downtown culture came alive, hosting the Gay Pride Festival in the city’s Bo Diddley Community Plaza. All in all, I find this city to be a mix of old Florida history meets high intelligence meets hip culturalism. Honestly, I love college towns!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Katie Koo Ties the Knot

I remember talking a walk with my little cousin Katie Beth around her block like it was yesterday. She held my hand and looked up at me with those precious dimples and deep set smile. Everytime I look into her little Bryana's face, I see Katie as she was back then. Today, Katie still dons those dimples and her smile will still light up a room, but she is a grown woman with 2 beautiful daughters and a great hubby named Bryan, whom she recently wed.

Memorial Day girls trip turned out to be such a great time. Katie got married at Arbor Ridge, which used to be the Knollwood Motor Inn. Back in the day, it was more of a rent by the hour kinda motel ;). Nowadays it's a popular reception site with a new banquet hall sitting adjacent to the completely restored inn. I didn't even recognize it, with its facade of graceful columns.

Cousin Katie is my first cousin Cheryl's half sistah, daughter of my uncle and his wife Paula. Their family is a big, diverse melting pot of kids, including Cheryl and Denise (my first cousins), Katie, her sisters Amanda and Michelle, and brothers Bret and Richie. Don't ask me to explain it, just go with it. When this crew gets together, it's gonna be a wild and crazy ride!

My sister Karen came up from Jersey and Cheryl's bff Annie came from Manhattan, and we all bunked up at the inn. After the agonizing shoe shopping experience with my other cousin, Sue, we polished ourselves up and headed to St Mary's in Fishkill. A flashback to my Catholic upbringing and our childhood church. I cringed a bit as we entered the parking lot, flooded with memories of CCD and vicious nuns (just kidding).

It didn't take long for the Happy Hour to get happy... the cosmo's were aflowin and the dancing was never ending. You can see in the pictures that Cheryl and Annie had a splendid time. I think Annie has a total intolerance for alcohol. She must not be a Pilla. ;)

Everyone looked gorgeous and the pasta was yummy too. Katie and Bryan are the cutest couple. Oh, and the gal in the pink shoes? We don't know her, but LOVED her shoes.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Class of 2010

This Spring has been centrally focused on our awesome daughter, Taryn. It has been a bittersweet time in our household as her high school graduation approached and passed, and the countdown to our empty nest has ensued. As I've watched other parents this year going through the same emotions, I've noticed a slightly more intense variety in those of us with an only child. There are no more children to follow, so the feeling of finality looms over us. We are happy yet anxious. Proud yet worried. Excited yet cautious. Relieved yet saddened.

The last couple months have been filled with good times and special celebrations. Senior Prom. Senior Inspiration Celebration. Graduation. Graduation parties. A new job. College preview. Apartment shopping. Our dearest friends and family have come to join and celebrate with us. There have been many "lasts" and just as many "firsts". The last prom, the last exams, the last day of school, the last grad party. The first job (outside of being supported by her Aunt and Uncle 30acre ;), the first apartment, the first college schedule, the first college ID, the first roommate, and the first... umm, tattoo.

We are at 19 days and counting until we move Taryn into her apartment in Gainesville, Florida. Flashbacks to my days at Syracuse are now commonplace. Many parallels, from the orange and blue to the 4 hour drive. I will admit, Taryn's roommate's mother and I have fantasized of the two of us going to live in their place and leaving them here. Gene and I have preplanned Fall football games and weekends as Gators.

College is such a promising time, full of hope and change and new experiences and fear and trepidation. I cannot think of a time, aside from perhaps my pregnancy, when I had such emotions. I am beyond excited for Taryn and all that her life can become. I have a feeling, as I'm sure many of you are thinking as well, that I am not going to handle this well. Taryn and I are connected. Really connected. And I will miss the heck out of her. I wish her joy and happiness and fun times... but...parting is such sweet sorrow. :'(