Our two weeks in Florida consisted of snorkeling over the abundant coral reefs right off Clearwater Beach, wrestling alligators in the Hillsborough river and riding wild boar through the pan handle. Okay…okay…just kidding. Reality is that none of this happened. But, you know what did? A lot of eat-drink-and-be-merry with family and friends, many bubble baths, yoga out the yin yang and the best weather the sunshine state has to offer (cool mornings with sun and 70s during the day).
Our first stop was Adrian’s parent’s beautiful home in Lithia, FL. We squeezed the fam, including Mama (Ade’s grandma) and Aunt Melinda and we were all off to the Latin Cafe for mofongo! I dream about this stuff. Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish made of smashed plantains, garlic, onions and crispy pieces of pork. The Latin Cafe’s version sits in a vinegar-based broth, which sends my tastebuds through the roof! We also got to make pastelillos (empanadas) and Puerto Rican spaghetti with Mama. Mmmm. All this eating was followed with morning yoga in the sunny lanai, a beautiful setting to practice.
After a few nights in Lithia, Adrian was off to Poza Rica, Mexico for the Cumbre Tajin music festival where Primus opened for Tool and I went to Clearwater to stay with my best friend Bri and visit with her fam. I taught yoga by the pool to Bri and her 4-year old son, Kai and attended a class at a local studio. We played in the park, ran errands and prepared delicious meals. After five months of eating out for every meal, it’s a real treat to prepare and eat fresh, healthy meals. I also got to see little Kai play in his soccer game and witnessed his first goal! Goal or no goal, Aunt Jenny was proud and beaming with joy.
While all this was going on, Adrian had a full day of travel, one day of work at the festival and a full day of travel back with a trip to the Tajin pyramids squeezed in. An exhausted Adrian met me at Bri’s and rolled into bed. Before we knew it, we were up and at ‘em for an early morning paddle practice with Bri and her hubby, Jean. They run the Kai Aniani canoe club with about 30 members that practice multiple times a week and compete in outrigger canoe competitions around the country. Basically, they are bad a$$es. Then a trip to Frenchie’s for she-crab soup and a grouper sandwich followed by a tasty crableg dinner prepared by Bri’s mom (my second mom), Bridget. We were in a food coma fit for kings.
An hour drive to Bradenton and we were standing face to face with the man, the myth, the legend, Val Sawhill and his lovely, ever-so-patient wife, Deb. Val and Deb are my longtime friend Nikki’s parents whom used to live in Akron, Ohio, but now go back and forth from Ohio to Florida. More accurately, I think the term to describe this behavior is snow birdism. Val, a seasoned SE Asian adventurer, was a huge help to us as we prepared for our trip. Many emails were sent and filled with much-needed advice and he even created a little treasure hunt for us in Bangkok. Val and Deb took Adrian and I to their favorite Thai restaurant and to be honest I was a bit nervous after growing accustomed to eating the real deal in Thailand, but this place did not disappoint. The penang curry with duck was insane! The best duck we’ve ever had. No joke. Publix’ keylime pie and Deb’s homemade clementine cake awaited back home. Have I mentioned how much I love to eat and talk about food?! We loved the discussions, laughs and company, but after a night’s stay, us gypsies were on the move.
An hour drive and we arrived to Ingo and Lindsey (Loo Hoo’s) home in Tampa. We were greeted by the new parents and their 7-month old baby boy, Falko. Finally, we got to meet the little butter ball! Ingo asked if we wanted his homemade spaetzle with creamy, herbalicious mushroom sauce for dinner. Like he really needed to ask! I think we all know what the answer was. The next morning, yoga on the back deck with the chickens in a brisk 47 degrees. It eventually warmed up and more yoga with our friend, Bernie who came over for a yoga session during his lunch break. Bernie is Malay and insanely flexible, which adds evidence to my theory that all Asians are naturally flexible. If you’ve ever seen how Asians sit AKA squat then you know what I mean.
That evening we went to my fave Tampa bar, Fly (Adrian and I’s first date spot), for a bite, couple of drinks and to meet up with some old friends. We got to visit with Bonnie, her hubby Gary and their super cute 1-year old son. Natalie and Melissa (Melisun), my ye olde copy shoppe bias (former coworkers) met us out and we talked and laughed for hours. Twas a magical evening.
The next day we were back to Lithia to spend the weekend with Adrian’s fam and of course, copious amounts of food were indulged. Something happened in the Sanchez household about a year ago. Adrian’s dad, Jose, started cooking. And, I like it. Jose said he’s become a Renaissance man. Well, he must have picked up some tips from Mama after all these years, because his bacalao (salted cod with plantains, avocados, tomatoes, onions and potatoes all drenched in EVOO), sautéed skirt steak with onions and vinegar, and octopus salad delighted every single one of my tastebuds. When we weren’t stuffing our faces, we were taking salsa lessons and peaceful walks along the nearby forest preserve with Adrian’s parents, watching movies with the fam and I taught a Sunday morning yoga class in the living room. Sanchez fam = future yogis! We even managed to get healthcare through the marketplace prior to the March 31 deadline and I filed my taxes. Starting to feel more like an American human.
A 7-hour drive and we were in the pan handle of the state, Pensacola. It’s here where Adrian’s friend, Kevin owns a machine shop, Electrical Guitar Company, where he builds custom aluminum guitars for big-name musicians. This guy is doing the damn thing. A few hours in the shop, din with Kevin and his wife, Hillary at the famous Maguires Irish Pub and a night’s stay at our first western hotel (a crummy Day’s Inn that somewhat feels like a 5-star hotel) since we’ve been back in the states and now we’re on the road again.
Big thanks to Aleida, Jose, Mama, Melinda, Bri, Jean, Kai, Bridget, Mark, Val, Deb, Loo Hoo, Ingo, Bernie, Bonnie, Gary, Dean, Melisun, Natalie, Kevin and Hillary for making these past two weeks simply amazing. We are blessed to have such amazing family and friends to surround ourselves with.
Next stop: New Orleans!