Family Visit Round Two

For week two of visitor season, Tim’s mom Carol came to stay with us. Carol wins the award for being our most frequent family visitor. Since we’ve been on the road she’s visited us in Desert Hot Springs, San Diego, Tucson, Cape Cod, and now the Florida Keys. For some unexplainable reason, every time she visits the weather is always colder than normal. So even though it’s almost always reliably warm down here, we couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous that things would take a turn for the worse when she arrived. Fortunately, after two days of cold (which down here means low 70s) the temperatures jumped back up on the day she arrived, and by mid-week we were basking in the warm Florida sunshine.

Smathers Beach, Key West
Carol & Tim on Smathers Beach in Key West

Much like the previous week when Al & Michele were here, Tim & I had to work for the first few days of the visit. Carol didn’t seem to mind as it gave her plenty of time to soak up the warm weather while relaxing on our porch with a book. After work, we got out for a few walks around the neighborhood and what has become our weekly trip to the Blue Hole to see the alligators. Only a few miles from our house in the National Key Deer Refuge, the Blue Hole is an old quarry that was once used as the source of building material for the overseas railroad. Today, the quarry is one of the few freshwater sources in the Keys and provides habitat for a variety of fish and other reptiles — including two resident alligators.

Blue Hole - Big Pine Key, FL
Sleeping gators

You’re pretty much guaranteed to see the gators at the Blue Hole. Every time we’ve been there (both this year and when we were here two years ago) the smaller gator has been hanging out right next to the elevated viewing platform. There’s a sign that says, No feeding the alligators, but chances are good that he (she?) has tasted people food a time or two and hangs out in this area in case more should appear. Alongside the gators live a number of turtles and fish. They all seem to co-exist nicely even though I’m pretty sure alligators eat both fish & turtles.

Blue Hole - Big Pine Key, FL
Creatures of the Blue Hole

Next to the Blue Hole are a few short trails that weave around a portion of the Key Deer Refuge. In the past, we’ve dismissed them as too short to be worth our time, but it turns out that they make for a nice easy and scenic stroll through an area called Watson’s Hammock. The hammock, the trail, and a nearby road are all named after Jack C. Watson who was the U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent largely responsible for the development of the Key Deer Refuge and efforts to restore the deer population which had diminished to around 50 by the late 1940s.

Key Deer Refuge - Big Pine Key, FL
Walking the Watson & Manillo Trail

After all the work responsibilities were taken care of we were free to enjoy the area with our visitor. First up was a day in Key West that began with hot stone massages! Tim declined to participate (he went to Home Depot instead), but Carol & I both had the most amazing massages with hot smooth stones. Ahhh…I feel relaxed all over again just thinking about it. Reminds me that professional massages need to be a more regular thing in my life. I picked Prana Spa based solely on all the excellent online reviews. It definitely stood up to the 5-star reviews and I wouldn’t hesitate to return there or recommend them to others.

Prana Spa, Key West
Prana Spa in Key West

After our massages, we walked around Key West in search of a place to have lunch. Ended up at Nine One Five where we sat on the covered porch of an old converted house and stuffed ourselves with delicious tacos.

Nine One Five - Key West, FL
Nine One Five has nice outdoor seating and delicious tacos!

I have mixed feelings about Key West. In some ways, it’s far too touristy for my taste. With the main drag (Duval St.) lined with t-shirt shops, outlet stores, and places selling 10 million different versions of the same cheap plastic souvenir, it feels like they are catering exclusively to the hordes of people who come off the cruise ships. On the other hand, if you walk a block or two away from Duval you will find interesting neighborhoods filled with quaint southern architecture and lush tropical landscaping.

Key Wet, Florida
Scenes from Key West
Conch Train - Key West, FL
The Conch Train is a popular way to see and learn about the city
Key West, Florida
Key West architecture, foliage & scrumptious ice cream
Key West, Florida
Why did the rooster cross the street?
South Beach - Key West, FL
South Beach is touted as the “Southernmost Beach” in Florida. Kind of crowded for my taste.
Banana Tree

On our way out of town, we stopped at Smathers Beach for a short walk in the sand.

Smather's Beach - Key West, FL
Smathers Beach is the nicest place to enjoy the sand & water in Key West

While Smathers is nice and all, nothing beats the beach at Bahia Honda.

Bahia Honda State Park, Florida
Bahia Honda is the best beach in the Keys!

Which is why we spent nearly all of Friday lounging on the sand and swimming in the clear turquoise water. Tim and I had not been back to Bahia Honda since the end of December when we left our campsite and moved into the house. As much as we enjoy the beach, it’s rare that we spend time simply lounging on the sand, instead choosing to walk and wade. I will admit that it felt good to simply relax in the sun for a few hours.

Bahia Honda State Park
An unsuccessful attempt at flying the pirate kite

My skin, however, did not agree with the whole sunbathing thing, and despite the fact that I was covered in sunscreen and under the umbrella, I still got some painful red spots in the areas where my sunscreen application was not so good. It was my first sunburn since we go here so there’s that…but it still hurt! So the next day we decided to avoid the hot sun by making a return visit to the Turtle Hospital.

Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys
Turtle Ambulance

Surprisingly, it was even better the second time around. Our tour group was much, much smaller which allowed more people to ask questions, and led to a more intimate experience. It was also cool to see how some of the turtles has progressed in their healing process over the course of just one week. I won’t go into all the details again, but if you missed it, click on over to the post from last week to read all about our first visit.

Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys
More turtle friends

At the end of the week, we had a combination Superbowl/Birthday party at our house. I’m about as far away from a football fan as you can get, but I love any excuse to have people over for a big feast…and if Superbowl doesn’t scream party food I don’t know what does.

Superbowl Food
Superbowl Feast

It also happened to be my dad’s birthday which meant a special cake and presents were in order. I was a little nervous about making the insanely delicious 4-layer coconut cake with key lime icing that my dad has declared his siganture cake, but since no one seemed to have trouble eating their piece (or going back for seconds) I guess I did an okay job.

Birthday celebration

Finally, on the Airstream front we didn’t make any progress while Carol was visiting, but after she left we worked hard to get as much done as possible before our next guests arrive. While we didn’t make our goal of having the bedroom complete and put back together by the end of the weekend, we came very close. The new vinyl walls are all up (minus the thin pieces of aluminum trim that will cover the seams), the upper cabinets painted, the previously gray walls painted a dark blue, and the new floor installed!

Airstream renovations
Painted cabinets – New walls – New floor

That puts us in good shape to enjoy our visitors this week and then go right back to it when they leave. As soon as the bedroom is back together we can start ripping up the front of the Airstream. This has turned out to be one busy winter!

Magnetic Spice Tins

A great way to store spices within reach. Each aluminum container has a magnetic back, a see through lid, and a twist top with sprinkle or pour options. Comes with a magnetic metal strip to hold the spices in place.


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9 Responses to “Family Visit Round Two”


  1. Andrea M Elkins

    How wonderful to be able to show your family the wonderful life you’re living.
    Cake recipe please! :)

    • Amanda

      The recipe was from an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook. I found a version online -
      I made some changes – Added the coconut to the cake batter instead of on top, toasted additional coconut for the top, replaced the cream of coconut in the frosting with key lime juice and zest.

  2. Metamorphosis Lisa

    Looks like the perfect mix of fun, relaxation and work this winter. You certainly can’t get bored with all that’s going on!

  3. Laurel

    I would definitely choose a hot stone massage over Home Depot. :-)) In fact, I think I need to book a massage right now! Your renovations look great—you seem to be balancing a lot of work with a good amount of play. Love seeing that sunshine and beautiful water and beaches.

  4. Gerri & Mike

    You all have to be the most popular friend and/or relative there is anywhere!! What a great place to visit and enjoy!!
    That hot stone message sounds heavenly!!

    • Amanda

      Ha! Yeah, I’m not sure if they’re coming to see us or spend time in the paradise :)

  5. Joanne

    Can’t wait to see the final Airstream redo. It looks fantastic so far!


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