What a crazy 10 days Hurricane Irma put us through. Floridians know that hurricanes are an unfortunate way of life for us in exchange for the amazing months of weather we have from November to May. But as this Washington Post article pointed out in July, the Tampa area has been largely spared from major damage from a hurricane for quite a long time. Perhaps for that reason, many people feared that this was going to be the big one.
Was your experience like mine?
Labor Day Weekend There is a hurricane they're talking about out in the Atlantic. They're saying it's big and strong. Eh, I'll worry about it later. Time to relax and party with friends. I will look more closely after the weekend is over.
Tuesday morning after Labor Day After a Disney trip and a morning at the Florida Aquarium over the weekend, I need gas so I head to Costco. I also plan to pick up a few random grocery items like Cheerios. I arrive to the lot to see that there are no grocery carts, and the gas line is backed up into the parking lot. Apparently people are concerned about this storm and need to buy all. the. things.
Tuesday afternoon Okay, maybe I should go ahead and grab some non-perishables. If we don't need them for this storm, my family will use them soon. I shop for crackers, bread, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, and pasta. Water is already hard to come by so I plan to grab some as soon as I see it. Obviously they will restock.
Wednesday Irma is all over the news. I discover Denis Phillips and Mike the Weather Guy and start watching their coverage because national news makes it look like Florida is a lost cause and we're all done for. My friends who are not from Florida start to look pretty concerned, but I tell them that we can prepare, but it's still early. There is talk of plywood and generators. My dad, who lives on the Gulf in Palm Harbor, doesn't seem concerned yet, so I don't need to worry since we're not even in a flood zone.
Thursday School has been cancelled. We still have not found bottled water and I am starting to formulate a plan that includes a "safe room." I'm glued to the spaghetti models and concerned about my friends on the west coast of Florida. I hate that I know what a "cone of uncertainty" is. I-75 is a parking lot and gas is hard to find. I've never evacuated for a hurricane, and my new mantra is, "Run from water, hide from wind."
Friday morning We never found bottled water so we pulled items such as milk containers from our recycling bin, cleaned them, and decided to fill them with water for cooking if needed. My mother-in-law called me to ask what our plan was. "Still staying put, and we have an emergency plan. All is well. Don't worry about us! The news is making it look worse than it is! We live in a block house!" She's not impressed and I'm confident she questioned my sanity. ;)
Friday afternoon Panic has begun to set in with this Florida native. I watch every update from Denis Phillips, Paul Dellegatto, and Mike the Weather Guy. Then comes the 5 pm update. Irma's projected track puts her at a Cat 4 and aimed directly at Tampa. As in, the eye coming THROUGH Tampa Bay. She's not messing around, and now decisions must be made. My husband comes home from bowling with my two oldest boys, and we labor over the decision. We finally decide that we should pack up the boys, drive overnight, and take advantage of the situation to visit our family in Rochester, NY. We wanted to visit them this fall anyway, so we may as well get out of Irma's path.
Friday night The trip itself was fine - not too much traffic; we didn't have any gas trouble. But the emotional toll was great. I cried for our community, our friends, our family. We were leaving with no idea what we would come home to. We saw full rest stops of families who were leaving Florida, and it was just surreal.
Saturday and Sunday passed in a blur. We were weary travelers, safely away from the storm, but I felt like I left my heart behind with our city. I was grateful to know everyone back home had a plan, including my dad, who in fact did leave his home before the storm. I feel like I am in a unique position where in the past year, I have met so many Tampa business owners, mothers, professionals, citizens, and we were all connected in the uncertainty of this storm. Every shift of the track was felt by us all, and we hoped for a miracle.
Monday morning The Tampa Bay area was the grateful recipient of that miracle. After all of our worrying, many people's prayers, our preparations, everything we did in the week before the storm, we were spared from the wrath of a Category 4 storm.
There exists some guilt after this storm as well. As we watch our neighbors in our own state repair and deal with power outages, devastating flooding, downed trees, and more, we are still relieved that it wasn't worse. We see images of areas that were hit harder and imagine what could have been, what almost was, and we know that Irma spared us.
None of the images featured on this post are my own. Sources unknown.
This week's Fashion Friday features the St. Pete-based online swimsuit shop, First & Oxford. With our tropical climate in the Tampa area, I am excited to showcase the amazing swimsuits available in this shop. I feel it is always a struggle to find quality, well-priced suits, and it is so helpful to have options with our proximity to the beach and year-round sunny weather.
I had the opportunity to speak with the owner, Samantha, and her passion for her shop shines through! She assisted me with choosing a suit of my own, and I can really speak to its quality. The material feels different that the store-brands I am used to, and the cut and print are so unique! Samantha shared some background about herself and the boutique that I know will have you excited to check out her amazing selection of swimwear!
Meet Samantha and First & Oxford
I was born in Michigan, but grew up here in sunny Florida. (I guess you can call me a Floridian!) Like many that live out here, cold weather and I do not get along. I enjoy sunny winters and watching the beautiful Florida sunsets. My background is in marketing and ecommerce, and I have worked with several businesses to help create and expand their online exposure.
First & Oxford was born from the passions of two globetrotters who appreciate and love good quality products and the finer things in life (at an affordable cost, of course). After researching and taking into account what several women look for in a swimsuit, we have found the perfect balance in the products we offer here at First & Oxford. We encourage all women to browse our store and take a dive into tranquility. They won't regret it!
Why Did You Launch First & Oxford?
First & Oxford was launched through passion and with the help of some poorly made swimsuits. In the past, I have personally had issues with swimsuits being too expensive, uncomfortable, and simply not lasting. We knew that I wasn't the only female out there going through these issues, so we've decided to take matters into our own hands and come up with a solution!
What Sets You Apart From Other Boutiques?
Our swimsuits are made with high quality fabrics and materials such as Lycra and OEKO TEX certified fabric. This makes our swimsuits both durable and helps you move more freely. As a bonus, our swimsuits also provide UV protection and SPF 50+. In addition, most of our swimsuits are sourced from exotic places, such as Bali and Brazil - places that are naturally surrounded by beautiful beaches and experience a lot of sun. In terms of pricing, we strive to offer great quality swimwear that is affordable - truly the best of both worlds, right?
Where Do You Look for Inspiration?
We found a lot of inspiration through traveling to exotic places around the world with friends. We've come across lots of different textile patterns and styles, so when stocking products for the shop, I look for their uniqueness. On a more local level, I think of the women here in Florida and what they would look for in a swimsuit. Taking these factors into account, we stock a mix of minimal coverage to fuller coverage products. We truly pride ourselves on quality swimwear made from the world's most exotic places.
How to Find First & Oxford
While all thoughts are my own, this post was done as part of a partnership with First & Oxford.
Looking for a great resort to spend time with your family? We had the immense pleasure of spending a weekend at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra, and we all had an amazing time! The resort is located in Ponte Vedra Beach, between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Florida. Its location off of A1A made it convenient to the beach, local shopping (Publix is just off the property), and of course the famous TPC Sawgrass Golf Course.
This Marriott has recently undergone renovations, and the rooms were fresh, bright, and new! There are not only standard hotel rooms, but the villas on the property provide more space and even kitchenettes. If you are staying for a longer amount of time or want to splurge, the villas are a great option. Traveling as a family of 5, we loved the ability to add an adjoining room. My husband and I shared a king-sized bed, we had a comfortable living area with a couch and chairs, and our boys were able to have their own beds (and bathroom!) in the adjoining room.
My favorite area of the entire villa was our balcony! We had a view of the main hotel and could even see the TPC Sawgrass course!
Fun for the Kids
My initial thought was that my three boys, ages 6, 4, and 10 months, wouldn’t have much to do at a golf and spa resort. I was so wrong! It only took about 3 hours into our stay for our 6 year old to proclaim that he “loves this place!” He and his brothers enjoyed the restaurants, pools, cornhole game, ping pong, putt-putt golf, Surfstream (more on that later!), and the beach. The Marriott even provided a pack n play for our baby to sleep in, complete with fresh sheets.
Marriott has really thought of everything for the children of guests here. They recently added the Mighty Oaks play area where parents can accompany their children for some quiet play time with a great selection of toys and even foosball! There was never a dull moment during our stay!
Sawgrass Marriott has an amazing selection of restaurants with a variety of fare for every desire. We were lucky to sample delicious food ranging from beach casual, brunch buffet, Mediterranean themed dinner, and the fine dining selection at Vernon’s. I loved that our kids felt welcome and had great choices at each of the restaurants, and my husband and I were able to enjoy delicious food as well! Just a few of our favorites include: the swordfish and desserts at Vernon’s, the burrata at 619 Oceanside, the crabcakes at the Sea Porch Bar & Grill, and the chili glazed gator nugget tacos at the American Gator Club!
We all can use some time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The Sawgrass Marriott has a secluded, quiet location that provided comfort and beautiful views! If that’s not enough, you can enjoy time at their spa for a variety of services including facials, massages and body treatments for men, women and couples, and manicures/pedicures.
If you prefer to relax by exercising, the workout studio has a great selection of cardio and strength-training equipment.
Fun in the Sun
I am a beach girl at heart. I hadn’t visited the Atlantic Ocean in about three years, so it was a delightful treat that the resort offered a free shuttle to their Cabana Beach Club for our enjoyment! Our kids played in the sand, enjoyed the surf, and then transitioned right over to the pool at the beach club. The resort had toys on hand, towels by the pool, and clean bathrooms. The Sea Porch Bar & Grill and 619 Oceanside Restaurant are both located at the beach, so you can spend the day here without any problem at all!
The first Surfstream American Wave Machine in the continental US just opened at Sawgrass Marriott, and it was the highlight of my trip! The instructors gave us the safety equipment and training we needed, and were so supportive while we tried out this fun activity! My husband, my 6 year old (height requirement of 42 inches), and I had a blast taking turns riding the waves right at the resort! They had boogie boards and surf boards available so everyone was able to ride a wave without trouble. I was a nervous wreck, but it was such an amazing experience!
You can’t stay near TPC Sawgrass without feeling the influence of the game of golf. Adjacent to Alice and Pete’s Pub is a floating hole challenge. For a small fee, guests can try their luck at hitting a golf ball into the “floating” hole 65 yards away.
A Wonderful Family Getaway
The Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa was a perfect destination for our family. We were able to sample delicious food, have fun, and relax on the property and at the beach club. The Marriott staff all went above and beyond to make our weekend memorable, and we would gladly return! You can find many more details and book accommodations on their website.
We were invited for a media weekend as a guest of Sawgrass Marriott.
As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own!
All photos are my own unless otherwise noted.
Looking for something to do this summer? Check out Summer Movie Express at Citrus Park!
Admission to the Summer Movie Express is only $1, and movies begin at 10 am. I suggest arriving early because you have to purchase at the box office. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Will Rogers Institute.
Check out the schedule below! Each week, both movies play on both days.
USF Pre-College Camps
Do you have a high school student who wants to experience college life? With USF’s Pre-College summer programs, they can!
Teens can now spend their summer break pursuing academic interests, discovering career opportunities and exploring the independence of university life. All of our programs are enriched with experiential learning, select field trips and guest speakers – all of which put theory into practice. Some programs even offer the opportunity to earn college credit.
To learn more about the USF summer camps, visit http://hubs.ly/H071Fgp0
Tampa Music School
Tampa Music School will be rockin' out this summer to 80's themed summer music camps. Learn the piano, guitar, drums, rock band and steel pans to age appropriate 80's themed music for ages 7-13. With three professional musicians on staff, and a cap of 12 students, your musician will enjoy 20 hours of music camp, select weeks June - August 2017 from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Monday - Friday.
Visit http://www.tampamusicschool.com/ for more information.
Wilson Collegiate Tennis Camps
Wilson Collegiate Tennis Camps are the premier camps for young players who strive to learn the game, improve their skills and/or participate in middle school, high school, USTA team tennis or tournaments. Both commuter day camp and overnight camp options are available! They break the campers into small instructional groups of similar age and ability so each child is working in a group that is commensurate with their experience level. They tailor each program to the level of the players.
Barrett School of Music
Come join us for our first ever Brandon Music Summer Camp! Classes will run from 11am - 3pm, Monday through Friday, the week of June 12. Students will choose between a variety of musical ensembles and activities such as drum circles, pop band, choir, guitar ensemble, and songwriting. We will have a talent show on Thursday and group performance on Friday for friends and family. Register here.
Hi! I'm Diana. I love the beach, my family, chocolate, coffee, and meeting new people. I host monthly events in the Tampa area and cannot wait to meet all of you!
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Copyright © 2016, SOCIALLY FUSED LLC
Copyright © 2016, SOCIALLY FUSED LLC