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Casinos and Oreos and Gators – Oh My!

Merry Christmas Eve!

I’m supposed to be getting ready for holiday festivities and travel.  I’m supposed to be doing laundry so I actually have clean garments to sport in front of family and friends who aren’t accustomed to the grime-encrusted Katie I learned to be comfortable with while living in Costa Rica.  I’m supposed to be cleaning my house because I have this freakish NEED to come home to a clean house after I leave for a bit so I’m less tempted to just dump my crap all over the floor.  (And if someone were to break in while I’m gone, it would be so embarrassing for him to see what slobs we are.  Not that we have anything worth stealing.  Unless you like framed personal photos and broken electronics.)

So what am I doing instead?  Why, perusing Facebook, my favorite blogs, and writing this post, of course.  While sitting in front of the fire.  It’s too cold to work!


I miss Costa Rica.


I miss Florida.

Wine – I mean Whine.

Aside from the first rainy day, the weather was perfect in south Florida.  It was so nice to get out of the house and do some of my favorite things – things having anything to do with socializing with strangers I don’t need to impress, relaxing with an excellent draft while listing to live music (by the way, I definitely found a local Miami band whose sound I really enjoyed – Gluttonous Feast), tasting new kinds of food, and finding new appreciation for nature and the beauty that’s always surrounding us.

Oh, and I got to see Christmas with palm trees.

This is Gluttonous Feast.  Kinda jazzy, chill… pretty much perfect for my mood that night.

Gluttonous Feast

Took this photo with my phone.

We also hit the Hard Rock Casino.  My sister was so excited when she stuck $1 into a machine and $20 came out.  I was less thrilled when I stuck $5 in a machine and $0 came out.

But that didn’t stop me from playing the giant guitar.

I wasn’t as good as Gluttonous Feast.

But I think my favorite part of the entire trip was our visit to the Everglades National Park.

There were lots of turtles…

Everglades Turtle

And some really groovy birds…

And gators.

Oh yes, there were gators.

Grinning, sunbathing, apparently Florida sun-drunk gators who – thank God – were only too happy to pose for pictures without biting my face off.

Did I ever tell you that I used to catch alligators as part of my job when I worked for the Air Force in Georgia?  No?  Well I did.  But I’ll admit I felt a little less comfortable this time without any equipment or the people who did all the actual gator-catching work along with me (Hey guys, I know you read this sometimes!).

We couldn’t have asked for better weather to enjoy the trails and explore the park…

And pose for silly photo-ops.

Even though it was a little cool outside, we still made sure we hit the beach.

The beach had crack.

And we tested our athleticism by going kayaking.

We may or may not have knocked over a directional sign and gotten lost.

The park guide may or may not have had to get on his boat to come find us.

We may or may not have been covered in river muck.

But in the end, we emerged triumphant.

And only a little sore.

Before I left Florida, my sister took me to a bar and forced me to eat fried Oreos.

That’s right – Oreos battered and deep-fried and served with ice cream and a rich chocolate drizzle.  You know, because they weren’t rich enough.

Blurry picture taken with  my phone.

They were so gross.

But so good.

Much like I probably would have tasted to this gator.


HGTV Lies!

This post is about painting.  And Florida.  But not about painting in Florida, because that would be silly.

I’m leaving tomorrow for some much-needed sister love in Miami.  As evidenced by the pasty, translucent skin of my underarm in the above photo, my sister isn’t the only one I’m craving to see.  Oh Sun, how I’ve missed you!  My Costa Rica tan lines are but a faint shadow of their former selves.  I look outside my window and everything is gray.  I need your vibrancy and colors back in my life.

But more on that in a minute.

First, I must dispel a vicious lie – a lie that’s been portrayed to innocent HGTV viewers over, and over and over again.  Even if you don’t watch HGTV, it’s likely you’re still a victim of this heinous untruth, because it’s often unwittingly spread by various self-proclaimed home improvement experts (aka. people who watch HGTV on a regular basis) to their unsuspecting friends and family.

And here it is, the thing you’re likely to hear at least once during any given hour of HGTV viewing:

Painting a room in your home is one of the EASIEST and LEAST EXPENSIVE things you can do to improve its aesthetic and value.  Oh, and don’t worry if you paint the room and hate the color, because guess what?  You can always paint it AGAIN!  Yippee!!

I just have one thing to say:  Clearly, anyone who can speak these words with any type of honest conviction has never painted an entire room by him/herself.

Okay, I have more than one thing to say, so I’m just gonna say it.  Painting takes work, my friends.  It takes foresight, furniture removal, special tools, patience, and often a certain type of meticulous skill for which most people are unprepared because they’re continuously lied to about just how easy it is!

And inexpensive?  Not really.  You need to invest in decent brushes that won’t expel bristles into your paint, paint that properly cooperates with your walls, painter’s tape (if you don’t trust yourself to cleanly cut-in without getting paint on your trim), drop cloths (if you don’t trust yourself not to spill), a roller tray, and rollers.  Depending on the size of your room, all of this can add up.

And unless you have a painting buddy, it takes a bit of time and can be difficult to stay motivated.

Quick note about the above photo:  Clearly, I have no concern about using a drop cloth because that carpet needs to be replaced anyway.  And that weird beige thing my dog is sitting on?  That’s the wingless, legless, headless remains of a rubber chicken.  And the purple bits scattered around the floor?  Let’s just say the rubber duck fared even worse than the chicken.

Have I thoroughly discouraged you from painting yet?  Okay, I’m sorry.  That wasn’t my intention.  If it’s any consolation, I’ve painted most of the rooms in our house (Justin does the ceilings – lucky guy).  It’s totally doable.  I’m just tired of seeing people go into the project with unrealistic expectations.

When I get back from Miami, I’ll write up a nice little post about some of the painting tricks I’ve learned over the past few years.  When you know what you’re doing, the task isn’t terribly daunting.  And with the proper skill, you can save a bit of money on supplies.  BUT, if you’re anything like me, you still wouldn’t exactly call it fun.

What would I call fun?  Visiting my little sister in Miami!

It’s been over a year since I visited Kelly, and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this trip.

Last time I rode a boat.

And looked at Christmas lights.

And almost got in a fight with a feisty Latina.  I don’t care how old you are – cutting in line is simply not cool.  But that’s a story for another time.

Who knows what Miami has in store for me this year?  All I know is there will be drinks.  There will be music.  And there will be CAKE, because my baby sister is turning 24!

Catch ya on the flip-side.