A Christmas Dash around Florida

I grew up very close to my first cousins Rob and Carlyle, spending many days at their house and more at our grandparents lake house.  We are close in age, and all remember Christmas as a major family gathering.  Adulthood and our scattered locations meant seeing them rarely, and almost never with the three of us and our families together.  Three years ago I finagled their dad into hosting a Christmas season event that saw us all united, and I managed to host one in Central Florida two years back as well.  Last year it just didn’t come together, but for 2018 cousin Carlyle volunteered to host at her house on the Gulf Coast on the Sunday before Christmas, allowing all those with jobs to attend.

How “cousins” work: First cousins share a grand parent.  Second cousins share a great grand parent.  Third cousins share a great great grandparent.  If the cousins are separated by a generation, i.e., the child of a first cousin, then they are “once removed.”  E.g., this is my son with my first cousin Rob’s twin children.  That makes the girls my first cousins, once removed, and makes them the second cousins to my son.  Got it?

We pulled chocks from Sanibel and drove up to Inverness in time for me to cook a whole turkey (brined overnight, spatchcocked, of course) while Carlyle’s daughter Allie prepped most of the side dishes and other options.  The gathering itself was great, really great.  We had a full house with Carlyle’s husband Alex and their daughters Allie and Haylie, Cousin Rob, his wife Colleen, and their twins Maeve and Nola, my dad and step Mom Marcia, son Jackson and daughter in law Andrea, and Rob and Carlyle’s mom, Chris.  Alex let the top quality tequila and rum flow freely, and we all had a great time, especially with stories of our misspent youth. 

PKM meeting her first horses.  Five feet was OK. Four was not.

We stayed at Carlyle and Alex’ farmhouse for two nights, allowing Alex time to take us on a boat ride along the canal and inland waterways with a stop at one of the small islands where he is building a cabin retreat, and by “he is building” I mean he is physically doing it himself, up on telephone stilts to account for storm surge.

The island getaway cabin Alex is building.

They took us to The Freezer, a dockside shrimp and seafood place that was just fantastic.  We can highly recommend the steamed shrimp and the spicy smoked mullet dip.   We finished the boat trip with a spin around Monkey Island, a sort of monkey refuge for the former escape artists of a 40 year old wildlife exhibit. 

On Christmas morning we headed out quite a bit earlier than our usual start time in order to make Aunt Judy’s annual Christmas morning brunch.  She always puts on a great spread, which means we always eat too much.  She had a moderate sized gathering of eleven this year.  We kept the actual mimosa’s to a minimum since upon departing we had to make the nearly four hour drive down to Coral Springs. 

Xavier and Joy had a full house with two of Rosemarie’s sisters in from out of town, so we ended up sleeping in the RV since the bedrooms were all taken.  The advantage of having our house wherever we go; in the right situation we can be less of a house guest burden, at least if you don’t count the huge rig taking up most or your driveway and connected to your electrical outlet.

That house with the three sisters and niece Tamiry can get loud, but it was great fun to have everyone together for the holiday season.  We had a big afternoon party with Dolores’ god father, Uncle Mario and his wife Ena and mother Mrs P, and friends of the sisters were frequently swinging by.  I got introduced to the Lemongrass Hot Pot, a very interesting dining experience that is sort of a Chinese/foodie take on fondue with a magnetic conveyor track cycling vegetables and noodles around every table.

The Sisters

Rosemarie took a full day trip back to the Gulf Coast (Naples beaches) with the sisters and niece (her shelling fever hasn’t broke yet) while I went all in on geocaching in order to meet my “1000 finds by the end of the year” goal.  We both had excellent luck.

We broke up our ride to Key West with a one day stop at the Nieves house.  They moved into a new home in the same neighborhood, and this one has a much bigger drive way that require just a bit of maneuvering to fit.  It was a long fun evening of stories, pizza, a few cocktails, and me decimating everyone in a game of “Five Second Rule.”  We look forward to hosting them in The Keys if they can make it down this winter.

Rosemarie’s God Daughter, Kai

On New years Eve morning we made the drive south, registered with the camp host on duty, and got settled in to dry camp site one row back from water front.  It is good to be back in paradise to start off 2019!

We will soon put out or December fulltiming report followed by a “2018 in review” post with our statistics, favorites and not so favorites of the year.  Since we are still in Key West this will sort of catch us up on the blog.

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