By: Shanna | October 18, 2016

I am addicted to cruises. I love cruises. It's just the best vacation for the money. 

You literally cannot beat it.

But this year, my sister-in-law asked us to join her family on vacation for a change. They love Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast of Florida and wanted to visit there again. It was our first time going to this particular island so we didn't really know what to expect. It was beautiful (as most gulf beaches are...more on that later) and we had a wonderful time with our family, but I'll probably always be a cruise addict. I could go on and on about why that is, but that's another post for another day. Besides photos and details, I'll try to also share a few of my opinions of this little island just in case you ever want to visit. 

Visiting Gia, Toni, and Tiffany in West Palm :)

We had rented a house on Anna Maria Island for Sunday-Saturday, but me and Jonathan wanted a full week vacation so we decided to start our vacation a little earlier. We left on Friday night after we got off work to drive down to West Palm Beach, Florida to visit some good friends. We stopped halfway down and drove the rest of the trip on Saturday. (P.S. We stopped in Forsyth, Georgia for the night and decided to stay at what looked like a new La Quinta hotel. Little did we know until we were checking in... it had only been open for 16 days! Brand. Spanking. New. If you ever need to stay somewhere outside of Atlanta, go there! lol!)  We met up with Toni and Gia for dinner at a super neat restaurant called Guanabanas on Saturday night... and decided to eat breakfast (at a yummy cafe!) and spend the day visiting them all of them on Sunday before we headed over to Anna Maria that night. We really enjoyed getting to visit with them. They're a lot of fun. We had actually met Gia and her daughter Tiffany on a cruise back in 2013 that we went on with my in-laws. We all became fast friends and actually all planned our 2015 cruise together, except with her daughter Toni instead of Tiffany. We love these guys! (P.S.S. Toni's dog, Turks - the black and white dog, is my new boyfriend ;) lol, and the cute little white puppy was a puppy she had found recently that I fell in love with. She was a sweetie!) 

& then there was Anna Maria

Good Morning

We rented a cute little house in the middle of the Island, complete with a heated pool. If you're going to rent a house, DEFINITELY make sure it has a pool. It was in an awesome location... just a short bike ride to anything: the beach on one side of the island, the pier on the other side of the island, good restaurants, and to all kinds of shopping. We actually ended up renting 3 bikes and got an electric golf cart half-price. That's how to do it. I'm dead serious. The golf carts are street legal on the island and we were able to just drive it anywhere we wanted to go... so we never had to get gas! If you're considering visiting Anna Maria, that's the first 2 tips I'll share with you.

  • Rent a house with a heated pool in the middle of the island. You won't be disappointed. 
  • Rent a golf cart, and bikes, to drive anywhere on the island. I recommend 'Beach Bums' just because that's who we used and we got an excellent deal. We rented two bikes and got the golf cart half-price. We really enjoyed it. :) 

The Lone Fisherman

Of course, we did your basic beach routine... laid on the beach, hung out in our pool, went to eat, went shopping, and took beach pictures. Our first day on the island, we basically went and rented our bikes and golf cart and then packed up to go to the beach. This is where a pro/con comes into play: renting a house gives you certain luxuries such as your own private pool and typical house amenities (feels like home), but you have to pack up everything and drag it to the beach every time you want to go. There are no chairs and umbrellas already waiting for you. This can be a hassle so I wanted to throw that out there. :) 

Tuesday, we packed up and went to the beach again for the day and then while they napped in the afternoon... me and Jonathan went to find the mini-golf place so that I could play a little mini-golf. I lost.. but, I LOVE mini golf. I was a little disappointed that there was only one mini-golf place and it was further on down the island, but at least there was one! I will say this:

    ♥     If you like to have a lot of options of things to do and see, then Anna Maria is probably not the place for you unless you're okay with doing a little more driving to get there. Anna Maria is definitely more for those that plan to go to just sit back and relax instead of being on the go.

Breakfast of Champions

Wednesday, us girls got up to go watch the sunrise while the guys went fishing. We did a little exploring, a little shopping, and a little sunbathing by the pool. They ended up catching us a little dinner that Lesa fixed and it was so good! I'm not even a fish eater so that's big coming from me! :) On Thursday, we headed back to the beach for the day and then went to get some sunset pictures in before we went to dinner. Friday, the guys went fishing again and Jonathan got a huge one! Instead of cooking again, we were able to take it to a restaurant where they cooked it FOR US! We had no idea that there were places that did that... and it was so nice not to have a big mess to clean up. :) Us girls just did our own thing. I did some shopping and laid out by the pool. I just wanted to relax in the sun on my last day there. :) 

We ate at some pretty good restaurants while we were there. I'm NOT a seafood person at all, but I can tell you what my family thinks about each one: 

  • Lobstahs - They had amazing mozzarella sticks, but I heard that the seafood wasn't their favorite. My chicken dish was pretty good though :)
  • Sandbar - My dish wasn't the greatest (but again, I'm not a seafood person), but everyone else LOVED this place. The best part was being able to sit out on the patio and watch the sun set. They even ask each table for your guess at what the exact sunset time will be (has to be down to the SECOND!) and if you guess right, you get a free bottle of champagne! I loved it there, and if we ever go back - I'll just choose something different to eat, lol.
  • Waterfront - This was on the other side of the island by the pier. I LOVED the food. I think we all did, in fact! Me & Lesa loved it so much that we decided to go for dessert.. and oh my, I'm so glad we did! It was so good! 
  • Swordfish Grill - This is where the guy's fishing captain referred us to take the fish to get it cooked. He even gave us free drink tickets. I really enjoyed the atmosphere. It was the only place we went to that had live music playing on the patio... I love those places! I enjoyed my last evening there :)

Also, can I mention... if you're craving some ice cream, head over to Two Scoops and grab some Gator Tracks... because it's delicious! ♥ 

Overall, we had an excellent time with the family. I'm not too happy about fall coming to Kentucky,and I'm really not looking forward to winter. On a happier note, we have already started thinking about a cruise for next year with Gia and the girls! It'll be a good one! :) 

By: Shanna | August 17, 2016

It takes a long time to grow an old friend.

- John Leonard

I learned one lesson growing up: quality over quantity. 

Ever heard the saying, 'I'd rather have one close friend than a million acquaintances'? It's the truth. I've had many different groups of friends, but friends tend to come and go. That's why I appreciate the ones that stay. They mean more to me. They matter more to me. 

I've been extremely blessed with two women who were once just strangers that I now consider to be my 'best friends'. I met my best friend, Kourtniee, in 7th grade. I had been out of my original school district for a couple of years and had finally moved back. We had both became friends with a girl named Krystal and she invited the two of us (we didn't have any classes together so we didn't know each other yet) to her house for a halloween slumber party. Kourtniee & I immediately hit it off. It was like we had known each other our entire lives! Over the next year, we became the best of friends. She moved to another school for a year in 8th grade, but we stayed tight. She would come spend weekends at my house, or her mom would pick me up and we'd jam out to the 'Gap Band' on the drive to her new house in Oklahoma. She moved back for high school and we stayed the best of friends all the way up until I moved to Kentucky the summer before our senior year. We went through all your normal teenage drama - boys, friends, parents - and survived. 

But, could we survive my move? It was tough at first. We had a few disagreements, but we worked everything out. She asked me to be her maid of honor when she got married in 2007, and she served as mine when I got married in 2010. We talk just about every day (in fact, I just texted her back about 5 minutes ago, lol). This year at Halloween, we will celebrate 18 years of friendship. That's a rarity in this world and I treasure it with all my heart. 

Then there is my other best friend, Mallory (pictured). When I moved to Kentucky, I didn't know anybody. Starting my senior year at a new high school with no friends is very scary. I had no idea who to sit with at lunch or who to talk to in between classes. I was basically like a zombie, until a couple of girls decided to bring me into their little world by asking me to come hang out with them one weekend. That weekend was EPIC. They invited a couple of other girls over as well and we were all having a big slumber party. Somehow we ran into Mallory while running around town and they asked her to come as well. She did, and that was how the 'Sexy Six' was born. I was SO blessed to find these girls at such a scary time in my life. They came into my life at the exact time that I needed them. I needed at least one person, but I gained 5! The rest of our senior year was full of sleepovers, movie nights, and eating LOTS of cookie dough. 

The next summer, 'Sexy Six' went on to college (several of us went different ways) and the group just slowly dissipated over the next few years. We all tried so hard to stay close, but sadly found that as life moves on, things change and sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can fall together. 

13 years later and Mallory is still here. Unlike me and Kourtniee, me and Mallory are quite different in many, many different ways. But, it works. We've definitely had some hiccups over the years, but we've overcame the obstacles. There was even a time she REALLY didn't like me (she likes telling that story, but I'll tell you this - I was just trying to help her! When she looks back now, she knows I was right....), but I think over the years she found that I was honestly a 'true' friend to her. I may not see her every day, or even talk to her as often as we'd like, but when we get together - it's like nothing has changed! I so deeply treasure our sillyness and all the laughter we've had over the years. There's never a dull moment with the two of us. 

Good friends are hard to find. Good friends that you can truly trust are even harder to find. I'm not saying I don't have other good friends, because I do. I'm just saying that these two ladies are just the perfect example that quality matters more than quantity. They are my longest and truest friends. They've stuck it out by my side for all these years, even when things got hard, and I know that they'll be there for me anytime I need them. Friendship isn't one sided though. You can't expect to 'grow an old friend' by constantly letting them do all the work or you doing all the work. It's a two way street and both friends have to put the effort into it. They say that if a friendship lasts 7 years, it will last a lifetime. I truly believe that. I don't think either of these girls are going anywhere any time soon. At least, I hope not. :)

My best tip for 'growing an old friend'? 

Do not judge. - Matthew 7:1

Always remember that everyone is fighting a different battle and even though you may not understand the battle they are fighting, you can always lend an ear to listen. It may just help you grow your own 'old friend.' :)