Archive of ‘Photography + Travel’ category

Photography: How to Style Your Family for Photo Sessions


Photo credit: Synthia Therese Photography

Let me start by saying that I am not a style blogger and don’t consider myself a fashion icon.

Most of my outfits come straight from the sale racks at stores like Nordstrom, Zara, and H&M. (Out of principle, I won’t pay full price for something.)

There have been many mornings before work where I’ve worried whether my outfit looked alright and resorted to asking for advice from my husband and two kids.

However, I’ve done a ton of family photo sessions over the years and understand the struggle and stress involved with getting out of the house looking presentable and keeping everyone in a good mood so we are happy in front of the camera. Or at least look happy in front of the camera.

I’ve blogged about the suckiness of family photo sessions here.

Spoiler alert: it ain’t for the faint of heart. On the same token, it gets a lot easier as your kids get older, so moms of really young kids, you’ll be out of the woods soon!

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    Five Best Things About Growing Up in a Small Town


     

    DeLand’s main street, Woodland Boulevard, in the 1960s

    Well I was born in a small town / And I live in a small town / Probably die in a small town / Oh, those small communities. 

    Educated in a small town / Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town / Used to daydream in that small town / Another boring romantic that’s me. 

    No I cannot forget where it is that I come from / I cannot forget the people who love me / Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town / And people let me be just what I want to be. 

    – John Mellencamp, Small Town (1985) 

    I can relate.

    I was born in the small Florida town of Eustis before my family moved to the even smaller town of Palm Coast before finally relocating us to the small town of DeLand, which I consider home.

    Wedged between Daytona Beach and Orlando, DeLand is the county seat of Volusia County. As of the 2010 census, DeLand had a population of 27,031. It was the filming location of the 1999 Adam Sandler movie The Waterboy. Notable DeLand natives include baseball player, Chipper Jones, and singer-songwriter, Terence Trent D’Arby (Wish me, love, a wishing well…).

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      Family Fun for Less: The Tradewinds


      Awesome family beach vacation staycation at The TradeWinds in St. Pete Beach http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2017/02/family-beach-vacation-tradewinds-florida

      Living in Florida and being fortunate enough to have constant access to nearby beaches, my husband and I are always looking for fun new family adventures.

      We live in South Tampa, which is roughly 40 minutes (door-to-door) from decent, kid-friendly beaches on the west coast of Florida, and two and a half hours from the east coast beaches.

      Creatures of habit, when we hit up St. Pete Beach (check out Pass-A-Grille, it’s our numero uno favorite), we would typically stay at the same exact hotel. However, it’s expensive and, while perhaps fine for a romantic vacation for two while the kids are with Grandma and Grandpa, it’s not the most child-friendly. And it’s expensive.

      Dolla dolla bills, yall.

      We’ve had our eye on the TradeWinds in St. Pete Beach for years but, for whatever reason, never stayed here for a family staycation.

      Picture Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman: BIG MISTAKE. HUGE.

      We stayed at the TradeWinds for two weekend nights in early November and had the time of our lives. Not only did we splurge on a suite (and by “splurge,” it was still substantially more cost effective than the place we typically stayed down the beach), but the resort offered so many amenities that were included with the hotel rate.

      These included an amazing outdoor inflatable slide (that my four year old was too chicken to ride, but my two year old wanted to ride over and over and over again- go figure), paddle boats with a river encompassing the entire property, tons of dining options, multiple swimming pools, towel service, miniature golf, inflatable activities on the water, and the grounds were modern and absolutely immaculate.

      Here are some photos from our fun weekend.

      Awesome family beach vacation staycation at The TradeWinds in St. Pete Beach http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2017/02/family-beach-vacation-tradewinds-florida

      The inside of the hotel suite. The girls loved calling the operator. Not pictured: the operator kindly going along with it.

      Awesome family beach vacation staycation at The TradeWinds in St. Pete Beach http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2017/02/family-beach-vacation-tradewinds-florida

      Our greeting package from the staff at The TradeWinds.

      Awesome family beach vacation staycation at The TradeWinds in St. Pete Beach http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2017/02/family-beach-vacation-tradewinds-florida

      The girls having fun feeding the swans and ducks.

      Awesome family beach vacation staycation at The TradeWinds in St. Pete Beach http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2017/02/family-beach-vacation-tradewinds-florida

      My husband and daughter checking out the paddle boaters on the river.

      Awesome family beach vacation staycation at The TradeWinds in St. Pete Beach http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2017/02/family-beach-vacation-tradewinds-florida

      The worst thing about our stay at The TradeWinds? When it came to an end.

      The TradeWinds also offers a full service spa that offers more than 25 treatments- I got the aromatherapy massage.  After my spa service, my husband had “me time” in the fitness center.

      In the process of choosing your summer vacation plans?

      TradeWinds is is now offering a four-night package that includes 4 night discounted room accommodations, a TradeWinds FUNventure card valued at $250, a TradeWinds tropical beach tote containing two souvenir cups that can be used for unlimited $1.50 sodas, and the nightly resort amenity fee. Prices are as follows:

      Guy Harvey Outpost: Hotel Room- $1,164 ; Gulf Front Suite- $1,684

      Island Grand: Hotel Room- $1,164 Gulf Front Suite- $2,004

      If you’re making travel plans and want to have a great time without breaking the bank, I definitely recommend The TradeWinds and am already looking forward to my next trip.

      Cheers!

        La Bamba: Fear of Flying


        Why I motherfreaking hate flying | The Champagne Supernova

        My parents (really, my mother) were always relatively liberal regarding what movies and television shows they let me and my sister watch as children.

        Granted, that was thirty years ago and before the rise of MTV and reality shows, so things are a lot racier now than my Southern Baptist upbringing would have permitted.

        As a young child, my mom let met watch La Bamba. The movie starred Lou Diamond Phillips (a 1980s heartthrob) and was about Ritchie Valens, the Mexican singer who died in a plane crash after hitting it big with his popular song, La Bamba. Buddy Holly and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in the same crash. The movie took place in the late 1950s timeframe and came out in 1987, when I would have been five years old.

        It was pretty much my first introduction to an airplane.

        No bueno. (Pun intended.)

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          Getaway Giveaway | The Vinoy and Some of My Favorite Things


          Win a two-night stay at this beauty courtesy of The Champagne Supernova.

          Win a two-night stay at this beauty courtesy of The Champagne Supernova.

          It might almost be Thanksgiving, but it’s (almost) always summer in sunny Florida. And boy, am I ever thankful!

          I started The Champagne Supernova in December of 2014 and can’t believe how much it’s grown. I’ve connected with so many great people, not just in the Tampa community, but throughout the world.

          I recently reached an Instagram milestone by hitting 30,000 followers and feel honored to have such an engaged community of moms, dads, grandmas, college students, single moms, working moms, professionals, hobbyists, decorators, wine enthusiasts, and friends.

          As a way to show my gratitude, I’ve partnered with some of my favorite brands to create a “Getaway Giveaway” by enjoying two nights at my favorite hotel and giving away some of my favorite things. The winner will receive all of the following:

          (I want so badly to burst out in song: raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… these are a few of my favorite things…)

          To enter:

          1. “Share” this giveaway page on your personal Facebook page; and

          2. Subscribe to my blog.

          You must do both. (Current blog subscribers will already be credited that part of the giveaway entry and all they have to do is share this giveaway page on their personal Facebook pages.)

          The winner will be chosen at random and notified via e-mail at 8 p.m. EST on November 25, 2016. You have until then to enter! Be sure to use the e-mail account that you actually check as the e-mail you are using to subscribe to the blog! (This date was extended due to some technical difficulty precluding people from being able to subscribe to the blog!)

          Me and my tribe on St. Pete Beach.

          Me and my tribe on St. Pete Beach.

          Disclaimer: The two nights at the Vinoy must be consecutive and the winner must notify me of the dates they choose at least four (4) weeks in advance. All dates are available except holidays / holiday weekends (e.g., Martin Luther King, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years). The prize must be used by December 31, 2017. The winner must acknowledge receipt of the prize within 48 hours of being notified; otherwise, it will go to the next person. (Sorry for the crazy lawyer legalese!)

          Thanks for the support, good luck, and Cheers! xo

            Travel: Five Best Places to Vacation with Kids


            The best places to go on vacation with kids | The Champagne SupernovaAs fall is in full swing and people are starting to think about where to spend next summer’s vacations, I wanted to create a post dedicated to family-friendly travel. Not the expert, I enlisted the help of my longtime law school friend and fellow blogger, Anastasia, for tips and pointers. I hope you enjoy her perspective, and scoot on over to her blog for travel tips on a budget.

            Family vacations: where to go, is there anything there to entertain the kids, how much will this cost? I am assuming this is what goes through every parent’s mind when it comes time to plan the family vacation. I bet it feels more like a chore than an adventure, so I am guessing that most people just go back to what they know: Disney.

            Chad and I don’t have kids yet, but I bet a lot of readers of this blog do, and, since the purpose of this blog is to inspire you to incorporate travel into your life, regardless of what stage in life you are in, I put together a list of the 5 best U.S. cities for family travel. Think of this as an alternative to Disney, because, let’s be honest, how many times can you really visit the mouse’s house without wondering if you (or your wallet!) can take it.

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              Family Pictures with Young Children: Not for the Faint of Heart


              Family pictures are the pits- The Champagne Supernova blog | http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/family-pictures/

              Does anyone have any xanax I can borrow? Asking for a friend.

              There are worse things in life than taking family pictures with young children.

              Accidentally hitting someone with your car and killing them.

              Biting into a large piece of gristle when you’re eating steak.

              Stepping on a tack with your bare foot.

              That’s about it.

              From a “big picture” perspective, I know that sucking it up and taking the family photographs will result in a handful of beautiful pictures that will be cherished for a lifetime.

              And when I say handful, you better believe I mean we are fortunate to receive three decent pictures out of twelve thousand terrible ones.

              I have friends with young children who had to literally re-take family photographs after their honest photographers confessed he or she didn’t receive even one good shot during the photo session.

              And in the age of Photoshop, Afterlight, and VSCO Cam, that’s pretty bad. But believable. Because photographing young children is one of the hardest things on the planetEven armed with fancy photo editing tools and applications, photographers are only as good as their subjects.

              Then comes the pressure to jump online and order holiday cards the weekend immediately after Thanksgiving “because that’s when all the good deals are, and you have a coupon code that expires on Sunday, Goshdarnit!”

              And so you order a couple hundred cards to mail to all of your close friends acquaintances.

              Then you freak out as soon as you push the “confirm order” button on your computer, because you realize you chose the “Merry Christmas” card option instead of the “Happy Holidays” one, and you don’t want to insult your buddies who celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Diwali.

              So you seek validation that you made the right choice from your husband.

              And he reminds you that anyone who legitimately gets offended by your card can be removed from next year’s list and, therefore, you’ll save $3.

              Sigh.

              According to our friends at Hallmark, in 1843, Englishman Henry Cole came up with the idea of sending Christmas cards. Too busy to hand write personal greetings, he hired London artist, John Calcott Horsley, to design something he could send to his friends. German immigrant, Louis Prang, is known for bringing the Christmas card concept to the United States. In 1875, he printed a card that showed Killarney roses and the words “Merry Christmas.”

              Family pictures are the pits- The Champagne Supernova blog | http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/family-pictures/

              Early Christmas Card- L. Prang & Co.

              Americans purchase roughly 6.5 billion greeting cards each year. Annual retail sales are estimated between $7 and $8 billion. Christmas cards account for 1.6 billion units of this figure, which includes cards in boxed sets.

              That’s a lotta cards.

              With regard to our personal holiday picture experience, in an effort to be proactive, we had our family pictures taken while we were vacationing in Boca Grande, Florida.

              I envisioned the pictures would be perfect and we would look like a family straight out of a J. Crew catalogue.

              In reality, most of the pictures that “didn’t make the Christmas card cut” look like they came out of a pamphlet for “How to Spot Tortured Children” provided by the Department of Children and Families.

              Like this one:

              Family pictures are the pits- The Champagne Supernova blog | http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/family-pictures/

              And this one:

              Family pictures are the pits- The Champagne Supernova blog | http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/family-pictures/

              Some call it hugging. Others call it a choke hold.

              We also received “cuts” of our children doing goofy things out of boredom, like this one:

              Family pictures are the pits- The Champagne Supernova blog | http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/family-pictures/

              Need to see it closer? Got ya covered:

              Family pictures are the pits- The Champagne Supernova blog | http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/family-pictures/

              To describe taking family pictures as “stressful” is an understatement. A huge one.

              First of all, getting everyone out of the house and looking presentable is a struggle. Our clothes needed to be ironed, my hair needed to be blow dried, and the girls needed to be fed. What was initially a 7pm start time with the photographer ended up being 8pm because my time management, coupled with the unpredictability of children, stinks.

              Just as we’re ready to leave the house: “Mom, I have to go potty!”

              Another mistake was attempting to take outdoor pictures in Florida in July, where being outside in the afternoon feels like walking into the epicenter of Hell.

              My makeup was melting off my face. I was terrified of getting sweat stains on my dress. The girls needed to be hooked up to an IV of cherry Slurpees to maintain their charismatic personalities until the photo shoot was over.

              Worst of all, after ten minutes in the humidity, my blown-out hair looked like something out of a 1980s Tina Turner music video.

              Another struggle was getting all four of us to simultaneously look at the camera and smile. By the time the kids were both looking at the lens, I wasn’t looking. Or I was staring at the ground. Or making that hideous face I subconsciously make when I’m stressed out.

              Family pictures are the pits- The Champagne Supernova blog | http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/family-pictures/

              Hey guys… look at the camera!

              amily pictures are the pits- The Champagne Supernova blog | http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/family-pictures/

              It’s all fun and games until someone is picking their nose on camera…

              Family pictures are the pits- The Champagne Supernova blog | http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/family-pictures/

              … or completely freaking out.

              We were grateful to get one good shot of us standing on the famous Banyan Street, even though Arden has a look on her face like The Spanker Man is standing behind the photographer.

              Gotta take what you can get.

              Family pictures are the pits- The Champagne Supernova blog | http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/family-pictures/

              Complaints aside, I have a confession.

              I love getting the mail in December.

              I love rushing home from work to open my mailbox and receiving cards with my friends’ beautiful faces. I love seeing pictures of my cousins, who were my first true friends, showcasing their growing families. I love reading the funny anecdotes, stories about adopted pets, children starting school, and news of friends starting fresh chapters in different cities. I love holiday cards that double as birth announcements.

              I love it, I love it, I love it.

              Below is the final Christmas card product. It didn’t turn out perfect, but we aren’t perfect, so the picture was a perfect choice for us.

              Special thanks to Synthia at Synthia Therese Photography for her talent, patience, and sense of humor. You are a treasure to our family!

              I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and hope it involves massive amounts of love, family togetherness, peace, memories, chocolates, cheese trays, nut rolls, fruit cakes, and champagne.

              Lots of champagne.

              Cheers!

              Family pictures are the pits- The Champagne Supernova blog | http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/family-pictures/

                If God had a Score Card


                Jennifer Burby and her family in front of the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, North Carolina.

                Jason and me in front of the Biltmore mansion in Asheville, North Carolina. Getting young children to look at the camera is a golden delight, let me tell ya!

                For the last six years since we’ve been married, my husband and I have hosted Thanksgiving at our home. This has included various venues from our wee little rental on Davis Islands after we first got married to the “big kid” home we bought five years ago in a quaint little ‘hood in Tampa.

                Hosting Thanksgiving is exhausting.

                Especially because I don’t cook.

                So what I mean to say is watching my mother cook a Thanksgiving feast is exhausting.

                Phew.

                To change things up this year, my husband wanted to spend Thanksgiving out of town and in the mountains. But this wasn’t just any Thanksgiving. My Dad’s 60th birthday also happened to fall on Thanksgiving day. So we called my sister and my brother in law, got them on board, and rallied our family to rent a home in Maggie Valley. The small city is nestled in the mountains of North Carolina roughly three hours north of Atlanta (depending on your speed) and 35 miles west of Asheville.

                Maggie Valley was the perfect Thanksgiving destination because my Dad’s sister, Aunt Lynda, and some of my cousins and their extended families have cabins in the area, and they were also planning on spending Thanksgiving in the mountains.

                Hot diggity.

                It would be an epic Thanksgiving birthday soiree.

                Instead of flying to North Carolina, my husband and I drove from Tampa with our two young daughters and an SUV full of junque. Essential junque, that is.

                Goldfish crackers. Coloring books. Two packages of diapers. Feather down pillows. Blankets. A stroller. A large Vera Bradley duffel bag (hello- college!) filled exclusively with my cosmetics and hair taming equipment. Twelve pairs of shoes. Ten pairs of jeans. Boogie Wipes. Stuffed Animals. A DVD player. Except ours was broken, so we settled for my husband’s 20-pound old school laptop.

                Fitting even another raisin in the car would have been challenging.

                We were the Beverly Hillbillies Griswolds.

                Articulating the nightmare associated with traveling 10 hours with an eighteen month old and three year old is another blog post in itself.

                Use your imaginations.

                The Champagne Supernova: if God had a Score Card: http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/if-god-had-a-score-card/

                Our cabin in the woods. If I keep telling myself I like to hike, maybe it will eventually be true.

                When we arrived at the cabin at 4 p.m. the day after we left Tampa, we were greeted with three large packages on the front porch. The first contained a bottle of wine (my favorite!) and the second was filled with children’s toys such as crafts, coloring books and crayons, magnets, playing cards, Christmas movies, and a Barbie sing-a-long CD. The third package was The Grand Imperial Poobah. It included gourmet popcorn, a soy candle, Skinny Girl margarita mix, whiskey, maple syrup, pancake mix, assorted teas, hot cocoa, matches, nice-smelling hand soap, and stationery.

                Man, I thought. These home owners went above and beyond welcoming us into their home. They didn’t have to do this. It’s incredible!

                Suddenly, the cheapskate in me hoped the owners wouldn’t take the cost of these goodies out of the security deposit.

                Then I opened a card that was attached to the wine bottle.

                The care packages weren’t from the owners. They were from Aunt Lynda.

                This was so typical of her. Always giving with a generous heart. Giving out of love and the sheer desire of pleasing others without expecting anything in return.

                How many times has someone done something like this for her? It doesn’t matter because Aunt Lynda doesn’t keep a score card.

                A couple weeks ago when I was sitting in the nail salon, I overheard a woman say she wasn’t attending a girlfriend’s bridal shower because that friend didn’t go to hers. Two years ago.

                I also observed a work colleague get angry with another colleague who didn’t cover a court hearing for her after she did her a favor.

                Neighbor A got fed up with Neighbor B for not bringing her dinner when she had a baby, after Neighbor A was the one who organized Neighbor B’s meal train when Neighbor B had her baby last year.

                Guilty over here as well.

                Hate to admit, but there’s been times when I have- or haven’t- done something for another person because I’ve been held hostage by my mental score card of what that person did or didn’t do for me.

                It’s ridiculous, immature, and emotionally taxing. Nonetheless, I’ve occasionally tried to justify myself.

                Then I got to thinking.

                What if God had a score card?

                What if He kept track of all the gifts and blessings He’s given to me, as well as all of the gratitude He received in return?

                What would happen if God made his blessing contingent upon my good deeds?

                I would be screwed.

                Thank God (pun intended) He doesn’t keep a score card.

                Look. I’m not trying to say we should set ourselves on fire to make other people happy. I’m also not saying we should let other people take advantage of us. What I am saying is that we should do kind things for others because we want to do them, and not because that person did or didn’t do something for us in the past.

                On the other hand, if we choose not to do something for someone, it should be because we genuinely don’t want to do it. It shouldn’t be because that person didn’t do something for us, and we know this because our stupid score cards told us so.

                As 2015 closes, can we make an effort to burn those ridiculous score cards?

                Special shout out to Aunt Lynda for her kindness. She will never know how appreciated and special she is in my life.

                Another special shout out to anyone who has traveled, or plans on traveling, with little ones around the holidays. May the force be with all of you.

                And wine. Lots of wine.

                Cheers!

                The Champagne Supernova: if God had a Score Card: http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/if-god-had-a-score-card/

                Me and some of my cousins on Thanksgiving Day. The girl gene is coming on strong!

                The Champagne Supernova: if God had a Score Card: http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/if-god-had-a-score-card/

                When you’re three, what is better than riding the ponies outside the grocery store? Nothing. The answer is nothing.

                The Champagne Supernova: if God had a Score Card: http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/if-god-had-a-score-card/

                Hey, they aren’t arguing. I’ll take it.

                The Champagne Supernova: if God had a Score Card: http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/12/if-god-had-a-score-card/

                  What I Would Have Missed By “Missing Out”


                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out/

                  The Entrance to the Everglades Rod & Gun Club

                  Sometimes in life, we have to do things we don’t necessarily want to do because it’s better for “the collective.” This is true in all relationships: husbands and wives, friends, parents and children, bosses and minions.

                  Bending. Compromising. Being a good sport.

                  Let me share with you a time when sucking it up resulted in one of the singlehanded best memories I’ve ever had.

                  As background, my husband’s been trying to get me to go fishing with him in the Everglades for years. He routinely attempted to talk me into it and, envisioning a landscape chalk full of marshes, tall reeds, and crocodiles [read: Hell], I’ve always dodged the bullet.

                  Arden has gymnastics on Saturdays. She can’t miss it. 

                  It’ll be too hot on the boat in the summer.

                  I need to get my hair cut and colored.

                  I can’t go because I have to stare directly into the sun, gargle razors, and eat a raw cockroach.

                  I didn’t want to go.

                  The time eventually came where I ran out of excuses and was forced to agree to go with him. We decided to head to the Everglades during the recent Labor Day weekend, and the carrot my husband wagged in my face was that our dear friends, Darin and Robin, would share a cottage with us at the Rod and Gun Club, the hotel where we would be staying.

                  Ok, so if anything else, Robin and I can sip cocktails by the pool while the girls swim. 

                  As background, the Florida Everglades are a natural, tropical wetland system that begins at the Kissimmee River (near Orlando) and discharges into Lake Okeechobee which, for all you non-Floridians, is the huge lake in the southern portion of the state when you’re looking at a map. During the wet season, water leaving the lake forms a river that slowly flows southward across a limestone shelf to Florida Bay at the southern end of the state. The Everglades have a wide range of weather patterns and the landscape includes a complex ecosystem including cypress swamps, mangrove forests, pine rockland, hardwood hammocks, and the marine environment of Florida Bay. The nature is beautiful and landscape rich in history, but the area is extremely remote and there aren’t a tons of non-outdoorsey things to do.

                  Let me be clear. It’s not the place for city slickers or people who enjoy the finer things. 

                  My husband is an avid fisherman who’s been driving down to the Everglades to take advantage of the good fishing since he was a youngster. It’s a four hour drive from Everglades City to our home in Tampa. Part of the fishing area is so remote that he had to buy a fancy emergency GPS to wear around his neck in case there was an accident because nobody would otherwise find him.

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  Everglades City, the town where we were staying, is located in Collier County and has a population of roughly 400 people. The nearest city, Naples, is 35 miles northwest. It is the source of 95% of the world’s stone crabs and its annual Seafood Festival is popular among the locals.

                  There are a number of “Mom and Pop” hotels in the area, but perhaps the most notable is the Rod & Gun Club. Barron Collier, an advertising entrepreneur who became the largest landowner and developer in the entire state of Florida, purchased it in 1922 and turned it into a private establishment for his highfalutin friends. The Club’s hosted five presidents- Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, and Richard Nixon- as well as celebrities, to include Mick Jagger, John Wayne, Sally Field, and Ernest Hemingway.

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  The Rod & Gun Club, as it sits today.

                  We arrived on the Friday of Labor Day weekend and the hotel was not what I expected, based on pictures I saw on the internet.

                  I felt like an extra in the movie The Land That Time Forgot.

                  The city was pretty much a ghost town, and because August and September are considered “off season,” many of the restaurants and novelty stores were closed until the beginning of stone crab season (October). There were only three other restaurants open in the entire city, and they served primarily fried food. There was nothing green on any of the menus. I’m by no means a health food nut, but by the end of the weekend, I felt disgusting and never wanted to see another hush puppy in my life.

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  This home across the river from the Rod & Gun Club is rumored to be owned by the Bic (lighter) family.

                  The hotel was also a ghost town, with maybe a handful of other guests the entire weekend. From what I’ve read, a family purchased the Rod & Gun Club in 1972 and, in my opinion, have pretty much let it go. There is no “receptionist” and you’re lucky if someone actually answers the phone when you call. There’s also no answering service, so if you want to make a reservation, you have to repeatedly call until someone answers. This happened to my husband. There is a restaurant on the property, but the hours are strange, and sometimes the owners unilaterally decide to send the staff home if there aren’t enough customers.

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  Interior bar where Teddy Roosevelt would sip drinks and discuss politics. Photo Credit: Peter W. Cross

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  Interior lobby area. Photo Credit: Peter W. Cross

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  The patio door leading to the restaurant.

                  Oh, and they accept only cash.

                  One highlight of the weekend was when my three year old locked us out of the hotel room early one morning. My husband and Darin were fishing, and, of course, the hotel lobby was closed and nobody was answering the “after hours” phone number. Surprise, surprise.

                  Robin spotted a man driving by the dock with a “MAINTENANCE” magnet on the side of his pickup truck. I walked down to the water to speak with him, and he reeked of cigarettes and was sipping a Busch Light.

                  It was 8 o’clock in the morning.

                  Hair of the dog? 

                  The maintenance man couldn’t get ahold of his boss with the skeleton key, so he climbed into the unlocked window of our hotel room and opened the door for us. He then asked me to “put in a good word” about him to his boss. Which I did.  Because I was dang grateful the dude got me and the kids back in the room, where there were diapers and air conditioning.

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  Our cottage. Not pictured: the window where the maintenance man broke into the cottage because my three year old locked us out.

                  In short, I quickly learned that sipping cocktails with Robin by the pool was a pipe dream. While there was a nice pool, there was no poolside beverage service and no pool towels, so we had to use the hotel’s bathroom towels. Which would have been fine, except there was no laundry person available to exchange our wet, chlorine-filled towels for dry ones. Oh, and the pool deck was surrounded by the hottest material- no clue what it was- but it felt like walking across hot coals.

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  The front entrance to the Rod & Gun Club when arriving by boat.

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by “Missing Out”- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  I was initially mad at my husband and had a bad attitude. I’m wasting a three day weekend on this? How will we keep a toddler and three year old busy all day? What. The. Frick? 

                  Then something happened.

                  I ended up having fun. A lot of it. I realized that after the weekend came and went, I’d likely have a pass with my husband for having to return in a long time. I could say I’ve “been there, done that.” And going back to the theme, I decided to suck it up and try to have a fun weekend with the family and our friends, despite Everglades City not being the first place I would have chosen to spend a long holiday weekend.

                  Our last night in Everglades City, we had dinner at a local restaurant and decided to head back to the hotel. On a whim, my husband said “let’s take a late night boat ride, because the sky is so clear you can see the Milky Way.” Ordinarily I would have been apprehensive because it was late, the mosquitos were brutal, and the girls needed to go to bed.

                  What the heck?

                  Ok, let’s do it.

                  So we drove the boat down the Barron River, stared at the stars, and listened to the Yachtrock station on satellite radio. Kenny Loggins’ This is It came on, and the girls danced around the boat, merrily belting out the “words” to the song. They were so happy and their joy was so pure. They were having a blast.

                  I will remember that moment for the rest of my life.

                  If I wouldn’t have agreed to go with my husband to Everglades City, I would have missed that precious moment.

                  If I would have kept my bad attitude, I would have missed that precious moment.

                  If I would have insisted we not take the boat out late because it was past the girls’ bedtimes, I would have missed that precious moment.

                  I would have missed it.

                  This got me thinking. What other great opportunities in my life have I missed because of a bad attitude? What other chances did I miss out on because I was selfishly unwilling to bend from the rut of my own comfort zone? What else was there?

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  The Barron River where moonlight dance magic happened.

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  Arden by the front entrance to the Rod & Gun Club.

                  The Everglades Rod & Gun Club; What I Would Have Missed by "Missing Out"- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/10/what-i-would-have-missed-by-missing-out

                  Sweet little Ellison enjoying herself on the cottage porch.

                  I hope I can use this experience as a reminder to lighten up and enjoy finding the beauty in doing things I don’t necessarily want to do. Otherwise, I’ll lose the opportunity for memorable experiences.

                  Cheers!

                    Summer Reading: 9 Great Books that Don’t Require a Thinking Cap


                    Best Summer Reads that Don't Require a Thinking Cap: http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/06/best-books-for-summer-9-books/ ‎

                    Last year, I made the mistake of trying to get through The Goldfinch during summer vacation. As Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer prize for this novel, I figured toting it around the pool would make me look sophisticated it would be worth the read. It took literally four months to get through all 784 pages of this bad boy, which could have been shortened 500 pages if Ms. Tartt wouldn’t have been trying so hard to impress readers with her verbosity.

                    C’mon… get to the point!

                    While the book had a great story (or three great stories combined into one book), I don’t want to have to put on my thinking cap when I’m doused in sunscreen, drinking a pina colada, and trying to prevent my kids from drowning.

                    I got together with some of my favorite bloggers and entrepreneurs to come up with the best summer reading that doesn’t require you to think too hard.

                    Casey of Fly Away with Me recommends The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. “I couldn’t put this book down one summer. It took me back in time immediately! It’s a historical fiction novel about the building of a cathedral in the town of Kingsbridge. It’s a long but heart-wrenching story about family, love, loss, strength, and the human spirit. It’s also a beautiful story about medieval architecture.”

                    Kristin of Better Together recommends To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. “This classic is an oldie-but-goodie. It is probably my favorite book of all time, a spot it’s held since it was forced summer reading between eighth and ninth grades. I re-read it every few years, and I feel like I glean a little more from the book each time. The theme that resonates most with me is the main character’s innocence and naivety in the face of racial injustice. If only we could all look at certain parts of life through the eyes of a child. In anticipation of the July release of Harper Lee’s long-lost (and unknown until recently) second novel, dust off your old, highlighted copy from high school and dive right in!”

                    Julie of The Bedford Wife chose Little Bitty Lies by Mary Kay Andrews. “I’m only halfway through this one, but like all of her novels. It’s easy to read and hilarious (just don’t be surprised if beachgoers look at you funny if you laugh out loud). The book is written around the life of Mary Bliss McGowan, a southern woman whose husband leaves her and her daughter, without warning- taking all of her wealth with him. To reclaim what’s left, she tells one little lie… that leads to another and another.” Julie’s favorite excerpt is “Mama always said the sign of a lady’s breeding was in her chicken salad. White meat, finely ground or hand shredded, and some good Hellman’s mayonnaise, and I don’t know what all. She used to talk about some woman, from up north, who married into one of the Coca-Cola families. She uses dark meat in her chicken salad. Trailer trash.”

                    Morgan of Pampers and Pearls picked The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. “Set in South Carolina in 1964, the book centers around Lily Melissa Owens, a 14 year old whose life has been shaped around the faint memory of her mother’s death. She lives with her abusive father, and they have an African-American maid, Rosaleen, who is Lily’s best friend and “surrogate mother.” After Rosaleen is arrested for pouring a jar of dip on three white men, Lily breaks Rosaleen out of jail (really a hospital) and they decide to leave town. While hitch-hiking toward Tiburon, South Carolina, Lily begins a journey of learning both about the world and her mother. The Secret Life of Bees is a literary triumph about the search for love and belonging, and is a novel that possesses rare wisdom about life and the power of divinity and the female spirit.”

                    Tracie of Tracie Domino Events recommends When to Rob a Bank… and 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. “This books celebrates the 10th anniversary of their landmark book Freakanomics as a curated collection of their best blog posts over the years. The writing is more casual, more personal, even more outlandish than in their books. They ask and examine a host of typically off-center questions: Why don’t flight attendants get tipped? If you were a terrorist, how would you attack? And why does KFC always run out of fried chicken? I like it because they examine every day life and provide fascinating insights about the surprising ways our world fits together. Each chapter is just a few pages, so you can easily stop reading between pool days.”

                    Carlee of Crown and Ginger chose Tell All by Chuck Palahniuk. “Think Old Hollywood ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ mixed with the comical detail comparable to that of Chelsea Handler. It’s a story about a “seasoned” actress who is taken by a young, preppy buck who may be planning her demise, at least that is what her maid thinks. She narrates the entire story and believes this Gaston has planned many ways for her to fall and then sell her Tell All as his own. I love this book because, with my ADD, I need to read something that will hold my attention and not spend a lot of time in a scene or dragging out a setting. The author sucks you in, and you never have to wait for something to happen. Not to mention the amount of humor is enough to keep you bursting out loud on the beach this summer.”

                    Julie of Everyday Happiness picked two books: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and The Husband’s Secret by Laine Moriarty. “The Nightingale is a heavy beach read, but full of romance and family drama with World War II history and it truly takes you to the place of these characters. I finished the book in two days, tears streaming down my face once it was over. It’s rare you find characters and a story with such depth.” Once you’re finished with The Nightingale and need something lighter, turn to The Husband’s Secret. “It’s a fascinating, engrossing story about Cecilia Fitzpatrick, who thinks she has the perfect life and family until she uncovers a haunting secret. I found myself wanting to be friends with Cecilia and also wanting to yell at her at the same time.”

                    My choice: When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. This collection of the best selling humorist’s [short-ish] essays are purely hilarious. The stories are based on the nuances of everyday life and are Seinfeld-esque. They include anecdotes about trying to make coffee when the water is turned off, having a lozenge fall from your mouth and into the lap of a fellow plane passenger, lancing a boil from someone’s derriere, and moving to Japan to quit smoking cigarettes. When you feel like you are engulfed in flames from basking in hot vacation sunshine, this book goes right along perfectly.

                    Cheers!

                    Disclaimer: some of the links in this post contain clickable affiliate links. This means that if you purchase a product from one of these links, TCS receives a commission. I believe in all of the products featured on this site and would never recommend them if I didn’t believe they were awesome.

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