Surviving Hurricane Irma With A Grateful Heart

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{#floridastrong Our sweet girl offered to sweep all the leaves and branches off the drive the morning after}

Hurricane Irma.

What a bitch.

To say that we are exceptionally thankful right now is a gross understatement.

  • We have a home
  • We have no damage
  • We have power
  • We have one another

The worst of the worst was predicted for our small Gulf Coast Florida community Sunday night, and it didn’t happen. It did happen to so many people across my home state, but we were spared the worst. It certainly didn’t feel like it as we lay awake all night long Sunday watching the trees bend almost completely over in our yard thanks to the wind.

The howling.

Oh my goodness; the howling.

It’s a sound you cannot describe, and I know it wasn’t anything like what people down south listened to for days while this hurricane barreled down on our state. We were so fortunate. Six long, miserable hours of devastating wind – and we lost one tree. It uprooted, fell on our driveway, and that was that. Everything else remained intact. We never even lost power.

We are so fortunate, and we don’t take that for granted. I touched on the fact that Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on our lives last week before she ever even made landfall in our gorgeous state, and I wanted to update you all after receiving so many emails and Instagram DMs from my readers asking how we fared.

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{The wind blew so hard and long it uprooted this tree and left it leaning about 10 feet further forward than usual before it came down}

Very, very well. It’s hard not to have a grateful heart right now even though things are nowhere near back to normal around here. Many are without power. Our kids will have 6 cancelled days of school before they go back next week (a miserable nightmare for my husband and I considering we both work from home), and few things are open. Gas is still scarce, and we are all suffering extensively from cabin fever.

But we are grateful.

And I want to share a few of the things that have been on my heart and mind this week following the devastation left behind when Irma departed.

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Our Beautiful Sense of Community

We didn’t “wake up” Monday morning. I’m willing to bet most of us were up all night long listening to the wind, watching it, and praying. I know I was listening to it so that I could keep my family safe in our safe room if the worst occurred.

But Monday morning. Oh, Monday morning. We waited for the wind to die down before heading outside to see the damage. We had a major tree down, and that was it. My husband, dad, mother, and mother-in-law had it cut up and moved off our driveway in under half an hour.

There was a tree down across our street making it impassable. One of our neighbors was out by 9 am cutting it up and moving it. I took my trusty broom down the street and did what I could to get the leftover debris off the street just because I didn’t know what else to do. Neighbors helping neighbors, people helping people, people opening their homes.

We were blessed to have power through the storm and after, and we opened our doors to our many friends and family who didn’t. We have hot meals, air conditioning, and we have hot water. But to see how many people on my Facebook feed did the same thing to people they barely know, don’t know, would never have known otherwise touched my heart.

One Nation Under God, Indivisible

I have no actual idea what is happening in the world. For the past two weeks we’ve been cut off from all things reality and focused only on things like the weather. So forgive me if I sound ignorant at the moment. Our world is nowhere near as divided as people believe. We see the worst of the worst. You’re seeing it right now.

You’re seeing people in our beautiful state looting, stealing, being arrested for breaking curfew. Believe me when I tell you this is the small, small minority. We are united. We are indivisible – the media simply chooses not to show this. Ratings, or whatever.

Men and women putting their own lives on hold to help those in need, opening their doors, paying it forward, offering water to those out restoring our power and keeping our street safe, helping those in need clean their damage and restore their sense of peace. People being kind to one another, going out of their own way to help others – that’s what Florida is all about right now. I don’t care what you see on the news; that’s our reality.

We are all frustrated; even me, and I’m not hot, sweaty, miserable, and dying for a shower. Schools are cancelled, stores are kind-of open or entirely closed, and no one has all of anything. The gas supply is still short, so those of us will full tanks are too scared to do any driving for fear of wasting our gas. Grocery stores are empty because they lost their fresh foods and perishable items. Lines at open stores, available gas stations, and restaurants with limited menus of what’s left are long and tedious. Many people are without power. The roads are a mess.

It’s a mess here even though we were so fortunate. And we have no idea when anything will open completely, when gas is something we can get in a second or less anytime we want, and we have no idea when our lives will go back to normal. We are all frustrated – but far more people are being kind, generous, and loving than not.

We are one nation under God, and we are indivisible.

My heart is overwhelmed with all the love and support I’m seeing. I can’t even. I’m emotional and chocked up at so many sweet stories and so many selfless people. My heart is so full I don’t even care that my kids are making me so crazy I can’t even remember why I had them – or that I’ll feel like this for another five days.

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My Perspective Has Shifted

Our grass is so high it makes our yard look trashy. Our mulch washed away so badly you can see the black plastic weed covering stuff under it all the way around our house. Our kids are making such a mess this week while we work and they play that I want to cry. Laundry in our house is never done despite washing three loads a day. We can’t leave the house. It’s hot. And we are bored as hell.

But that’s all right.

I don’t care how high the grass is because I still have a lawn to bitch about. I don’t care how un-mulched our landscaping is right now because my husband thought to get tons of new mulch before the storm, and we get to spend some quality time with our kids outside laying it. The mess makes me twitchy. I’m a little OCD. But at the same time, I’m so glad we still have a home in which our kids can make a mess and make me crazy.

I’m so glad we have power so we can wash 8,000 loads of laundry every week. I can’t even imagine what might happen if we let one day go by without doing those loads. I don’t mind that we can’t leave the house, because we are never home. The break has been nice, and the rest is very welcome. We are bored and I want to go shopping, but watching our kids use their imaginations and have the best time doing it has been amazing.

Perspective in this kind of situation is paramount. We can be unhappy that lines are long, nothing is open, and life is kind-of back to normal yet so weird and uncontrollable at the same time. Or we can remember to be so very, very thankful that we are alive and that no major damage occurred. After the fear in my heart for days this past weekend, I choose to be thankful. That fear was real. It was terrifying, and it was heart-stopping. It made breathing difficult. It made everything difficult. I baked everything in our kitchen over the course of three days to give me something to do that wasn’t panicking, yet I put not one bit of food in my mouth those same three days (don’t worry – I’m making up for lost time now that I have my appetite back!).

I never want to feel that way again, but I always want to feel the way I feel right now. Grateful and thankful and fortunate. I have my husband. I have my kids. I have my home. Nothing else really seems to matter much at this point.

(But if my lawn company is reading this, I’ll double your rate this week if you put me first on your list when you finally have fuel again….just a thought).

To those who did suffer during this hurricane, my heart cries for you. To those complaining about the long lines and the lack of gas as life slowly gets back to normal, well, suck it up. You’re alive and if you’ve got time to bitch, you probably didn’t suffer much during this storm. So I’ll say it again – suck it up and quit being whiny. We all have our kids home this week, and their whining is all we can take. Yours is unnecessary.

To the linemen, the police officers, the doctors, the medics, the ambulance drivers, the firemen and women, and all the other people who are out working to make sure our spoiled lives go back to normal as quickly as possible; THANK YOU.

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Difficult Decisions in Difficult Situations: Family First Always

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It turns out being a grown-up is entirely too overrated. I mean, honestly.

You guys…we are facing some serious problems here in Florida. Serious problems – and this is a serious post. I know you want fashion and lifestyle tips and things like that, but this week things these seem a little less important than what’s happening. Or perhaps that’s what I’m telling myself as I cross off one flight, two flights, hotels, limos, and dinner reservations as cancelled/refunded/rescheduled one at a time. You see, I’m leaving tonight for NYFW. This is my third year going – and it’s my all-time favorite part about what I do for a living.

Except that I’m not leaving. For the first time in three years, I’m missing Fashion Week in New York City. Am I disappointed? Oh, I’m crushed. I love NYFW. I love NYC. It’s my home away from home. My husband and I spend several weekends a year in NYC, and I was certainly looking forward to a weekend of quality time with him. But…our kids, our home, our family. Those things are more important.

Fashion Week happens again in February. I’ll be there. This weekend is all about being safe. It’s about praying and being with my family and hoping Hurricane Irma doesn’t devastate us and our sweet Coastal Florida community. Could we make it Friday and come home Saturday first thing so we don’t miss my most important day of shows and presentations on Friday? Yes, we probably could.

Do we want to take the chance this beast changes track at the last minute, speeds up, or anything else changes and we can’t get home even on a 6 am flight Saturday morning? No. Absolutely not. There’s not a chance in HELL we want to be away from our kids if that happens. We don’t even know about being here as it stands right now. We’re fortunate we both work from home and have the option to pick up and go anytime we want/need. We are also very fortunate my father-in-law lives in North Carolina and has always made it very clear to us his door is always open (I mean, we totally know it’s because we bring all these cute grandkids of his with us, but we’ll take it).

So, we make grown-up decisions this week; all kinds of grown-up decisions. Does it suck? Yep. Absolutely. But, I’ve officially managed to get FULL REFUNDs on every single thing we booked this weekend. I’ve been refunded our flight costs, our hotel costs, our limo costs – all of it. Everyone has been so accommodating and amazing and wonderful and kind and sweet, and I love that. And our parents have been so gracious to offer to keep the kids so we can rebook our trip for the end of the month to celebrate my birthday. No NYFW, but we still get to spend a long weekend away with one another focusing on us and our marriage – and my 34th birthday.

On that note, I want to address a few very serious things.

Be Kind – If you’re not being kind right now in the midst of this storm, change your attitude. Don’t be a miserable bitch at the gas pump because the lines are long. Don’t be an ass because someone else got the last bit of water before you. We ae all scared. We are all worried. We have a Cat 5 hurricane breaking records left and right barreling down on us – some of us worse than others – and we are all terrified. Be kind. The world needs more of that. Offer a helping hand rather than a snide eye-roll. Know there will be more gas. Know there will be more water. Work together to help your neighbors with their window covers. Work with them to communicate when you’re evacuating or staying behind. Be kind, people. Please.

Be Respectful – This is a great time of need for many people. The storm is taking a more Easterly track at the moment (and that’s very good for me and my West Coast Florida address) but it’s not great for any of us. There will be rain. There will be flooding. There will be power outages. Stay home once it begins. Don’t be the jerk driving through flood waters if you aren’t on your way to check on your family, home, or business. Every time you drive through those waters – even slowly – you push the water into homes and businesses more than it’s already in those homes and businesses. The devastation is going to be everywhere – and we must all be respectful.

Be Safe – Have a plan, have a system, and have some common sense. This is not the time to worry about increasing your Instagram following by posting a crazy video of you driving your Golf Cart through the backyard in hurricane-force winds. This storm is a killer. It’s a beast. It’s not a joke, and you’re not doing yourself any favors by treating it as such. If you’re ordered to evacuate, get out. Don’t play games. The governor doesn’t require you do this because he loves to see traffic backed up all over the place. He does this to keep you alive.

Be Welcoming – Do you have an elderly neighbor without a spouse or family? Do you have a single mom living next door with her small baby? Do you know someone who has no one? If you do, consider opening up your home if you’re staying behind. Think about how terrified you are, and now think about how terrified that single mom/child/elderly person is all by him or herself without anyone in the dark, the heat, the damp, the storm. Open your door by opening your heart.

Be Prepared – I know this is tough. Supplies are low (but the wine aisle is FULL, so that’s something to consider). It’s a mess out there. But be prepared. Know where you’ll go in your home if there is a tornado. Have a safe place. For example, my husband’s closet has a door on the back wall that opens up into a room beneath our staircase. We keep blankets, pillows, non-perishable items, shoes, and other things in here for us and our kids if ever there is a tornado or other dangerous situation. We want to be safe – and you should know where you will go in your home if something happens. There is no time in the moment to think about this. Think now. It might save your life.

Be Prepared…Again – Be prepared for what might occur. This is not a Cat 1 or even a Cat 2. This is a Cat 5. Even if this storm loses some of its power, it’s still going to be a strong storm. This storm has 185 mph winds. Even if it loses significant strength, it can still be a powerful storm. Be prepared for what might happen.

Friends, I don’t love this situation. I hate it. I don’t hate, because hate is such a wasted emotion. But I hate thinking of what might happen, but it’s time to for us to do that. Understand and be prepared for the worst. You might lose your home. You might lose your belongings. You might come home after evacuating to a mess unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. You might come home to nothing wrong. You don’t know. But you must prepare yourself. Know how to get in touch with your insurance agency. Take photos and videos of the interior of your home before you go. Take photos and videos of all your belongings. Do this for you and your family.

You guys, this is going to be a very long road for so many of us. I’m praying that this thing doesn’t affect us nearly as much as it could. I’m praying that this storm goes out to the Atlantic and misses the states. I’m praying for all the people in the islands. I’m praying for us. I’m praying.

I’m praying.

Night. Day. I’m praying. Our strength at this time lies in Him. Pray. And be prepared. And be nice. Because honestly, mean people suck. Don’t suck.

Good luck. Stay safe. And may the odds be ever in OUR favor. We are in this together, and we will get through this.

Florida’s Paradise Coast Trip Review: Rest, Relaxation, and Waterfront Perfection

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Rest.

It’s what we all need from time to time. Life is hectic, and it’s not always easy to stop. At home it’s easy to get caught up with all the things on the to-do list, even on days we not only want but need to rest and recharge. My husband and I are guilty of this all the time, especially since we both work from home. We are also the parents of four small kids, and that makes it absolutely impossible a little more difficult for us to recharge.

When Florida’s Paradise Coast reached out to offer me a chance to escape, I couldn’t say no. As a born and raised Florida girl, I summered every year during my childhood in Florida’s Paradise Coast. Memories of white sand beaches, beautiful weather, and a laid-back lifestyle flooded my mind, and I knew my husband and I needed not only a chance to recharge and rest but also a chance to share this overshadowed Florida area with all of you.

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Naples, the Everglades, and all the gorgeous areas that make up Florida’s Paradise Coast invite you to relax, but many people forget to consider them when making vacation plans. Thoughts of mice with big ears, princesses and their castles, and the incredibly popular beaches in areas such as Miami and the Florida Keys often come to mind first. It’s what makes Naples the perfect destination when you want to relax.

A Touch of the Keys

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When we first arrived in Naples for our long weekend of fun in the sun and relaxation, we were greeted warmly by the staff at the Lemon Tree Inn. A quaint boutique hotel hidden beautifully out of sight by it gorgeous landscaping, we were provided a lovely gift bag from Paradise Coast – and it even had sweet gifts in it perfect for our little ones after we forgot to stop and pick up gifts for them – welcoming us to the Paradise Coast.

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We immediately fell in love with this sweet little hotel the moment we were handed a real key. Not a key card, but a real key (no making trips to and from the lobby to have our keys re-keyed a dozen times!). The walk to our room was sweet. A darling little bridge surrounded by lush landscaping, a lovely pool, and guests sitting on the colorful Adirondack chairs outside each room made us feel as if we were back in the Keys.

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Our room had a private terrace with a screened porch so we could sit out front each morning with our coffee while we people-watched, chatted with our neighbors, and just enjoyed the beautiful lemon trees and wildlife that spent so much time hanging out.

Family-Friendly Naples Zoo

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The last time we were at a zoo, we had all four of our kids and don’t remember seeing anything but the potential hazards that might mean band-aids, tears, or bickering for the kids. Part of our weekend in Naples included a visit to the Naples Zoo, and it was spectacular.

We strolled hand-in-hand through the zoo’s naturally covered walkways, took in all the cool animals lazing their way through naptime, and we really got to see the zoo. It was perfect – and we even thought about how much fun our kids would have if they’d been with us. The trees and natural walkways kept us perfectly shaded, and it was the most enjoyable afternoon. There was so much to learn – even for us native Floridians – and a darling little gift shop on the way out.

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We are often so busy with our everyday life we haven’t the time to stroll anywhere, which made our time at the zoo even more enjoyable. We spent a few hours meandering the walkways, speaking to zoo employees about the animals and the gorgeous landscaping – and we learned that all the giraffes here are male – and finally found our way back to where we began. It was a slow, perfect afternoon – and I recommend you do it yourself or with the kids.

Dinner Date

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Following our sweet afternoon date at the lovely Naples Zoo, we spent some time driving around the city to check out the sites before it was time to get ready for our dinner reservations. We loved the Waterside Shops. All of my favorite shops in one place is hard to ignore, and I decided a quick stop in Lilly Pulitzer for a new dinner ensemble was not an option.

Armed with a Venti Blonde Roast from Starbucks and a new dress for dinner, we headed back to our quaint hotel located only two blocks from the infamous Fifth Avenue South in Naples. We dressed for dinner and arrived at Ocean Prime on Fifth Avenue in time to make our 6:30 reservation. The staff greeted us warmly, took us to a lovely table with a perfect view of Fifth Avenue complements of the floor the ceiling windows – it’s helpful to know Complimentary valet is located behind the restaurant off 6th Avenue – and quickly offered us a wine list.

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Extensive and perfect, the wine list featured all of our favorites. Each armed with a glass of our favorite red Malbec, we ordered. It was our first time visiting the Ocean Prime in Naples, but certainly not our first time to visit Ocean Prime. We ordered all of our favorites, including the shrimp cocktail, the filet Mignon – 6 oz. for me and 8 oz. for my husband – with the always perfect loaded baked potato and black truffle mac and cheese.

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My husband loves mac and cheese, and he makes it his mission to find the best mac and cheese anywhere we go. His vote for this mac and cheese beat out others he’s had in Vegas, New York, Hawaii, and LA. It was his favorite moment.

Dessert included the most spectacular carrot cake – perfect for breakfast the next day if you can’t finish it all – and a decadent Berries and Bubbles cocktail. If you’ve never ordered this cocktail, run – don’t walk – to Ocean Prime and order it. You’re welcome.

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Our dinner date was perfect. The location spectacular, the staff friendly and helpful without being intruding, and the atmosphere superb. We hated to say goodbye, but we didn’t have any kids to go home to – so we wanted to make the most of our evening.

Our date night ended with an Uber ride to the Ritz-Carlton where we spent a few hours sitting in the lobby bar with yet another glass of wine. The view was spectacular, and the company even better. It wasn’t quite 11 when we remembered we’re parent to four little kids, and it was way past our bedtime.

Saturday Funday

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Let me tell you about our darling room at the Lemon Tree Inn. With our amazing enclosed porch in front of our windows combined with our plantation shutters, we were able to sleep until well past 9 because our room never turned light. We always rise with the morning light on the weekends – always – and never need an alarm. We slept so late with so much perfect darkness that we almost missed our chance to grab breakfast by the pool. Thankfully, my husband had time to run out and grab a few cups of coffee and some pastries for us to enjoy while we dressed.

In desperate need of another cup of coffee, we decided to take a stroll down Fifth Avenue to enjoy the gorgeous morning. We grabbed coffee at The Brick Coffee & Bar and sat down al fresco to people watch and talk about how we might never go home. With our coffee finished, we decided it was time to visit the Naples Botanical Gardens.

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What an experience. We could begin every morning with a coffee and a walk through the gardens. They are simply breathtaking. We watched a Tai Chi class in the shaded grassy by a lovely lake. We strolled through the gardens taking in the gorgeous smells, the beautiful sights, and discussing how unfair it is we ended up with permanently brown thumbs unable to keep even faux plants alive.

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We never wanted to leave this gorgeous garden, but lunch reservations had other plans for us. We made the short drive down to Tin City with enough time to explore the adorable indoor shops filled with artisans and homemade gifts before being seated at Riverwalk Restaurant at Tin City. The hostess sat us by the water where we were delighted to see a dolphin playing a game of peek-a-boo with passing boats and paddleboarders.

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We see dolphins every single time we are on the water in Florida, yet it never gets old. As we watched the dolphin play, we enjoyed ice cold beers and a cool breeze – and the most insane shrimp nachos you’ve ever had. Blackened fish tacos and peel and eat shrimp rounded out lunch, and it was perfect. There’s nothing more enjoyable than a meal on the water except a meal on the water you want to go home and recreate every day.

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With the rest of the afternoon to ourselves, we made the decision to explore more of downtown Naples. Fifth Avenue is famous for a spectacular reason, but it’s the side streets and other avenues with so much ambiance. We took a stroll down to the beach to see the pier. We walked through neighborhoods with gorgeous homes and more jasmine than you can imagine, and we realize that nowhere in the world smells as good as Naples.

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We did a little shopping – because how can you not with so many spectacular little shops to choose from – and sightseeing before stopping at a few darling locations to try a glass of wine…or two.

Dinner With a View

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We were able to choose our own location for dinner Saturday evening, and we struggled. There were so many amazing options, and we were in firm agreement we could live in Naples and never eat at the same place twice inside of six months. Ultimately, we decided to take the advice of most everyone we spoke to while we were there – Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar. The recommendation came with the same comment over and over again, “You must try the Crispy Mahi-Mahi,” so that’s what we did.

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Since it was a few miles away, we Ubered right over to the Village Shops on Venetian Bay where Bayside is located. We were not disappointed when we were seated on the second floor at a romantic table for two up against a half wall made entirely of glass with the bay immediately beneath us. The sun was setting on the other side of the bay, and it was spectacular.

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And the crispy Mahi? It was everything fresh seafood dreams were made of. Dinner consisted of glasses of Sancerre, gorgeous salads, the crispy Mahi and blackened Mahi with a piccata sauce followed by another glass of wine seated on the plush couches while we listened to live music and enjoyed the company of one another.

Sunday Funday and a Reluctant Goodbye

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Have I mentioned yet how well we slept on our bed at the Lemon Tree Inn? We never sleep well in hotel beds – they just don’t compare to home – but this was a different story. Sunday morning was another late sleep for us, followed by a minor temper tantrum when my husband told me I have to pack, we have to go home, and we can’t stay in Naples forever (what can I say…Naples really spoke to me!).

We once again meandered out to grab a coffee by the pool, stopping to chat with some of our neighbors as we passed. Many of them have been guests of the Lemon Tree as long as they can remember, coming back every year to get that little taste of old-world Florida Keys in the heart of downtown Naples.

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We – reluctantly – loaded our car, but we got over it fast. We decided we wanted to spend the morning on the beach one more time, so we stopped for a Venti Blonde Roast at Starbucks and walked to the beach. It was a cool, quiet morning. We walked along the edge of the surf for a while before turning around. The cool white sand was perfect, and the sound of the soft waves crashing as we spent time walking on the nearly empty beach was the perfect start to a Sunday morning.

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But, nothing compared to the end of our stay. Our final stop was at Riverwalk’s sister restaurant, The Dock. With the most spectacular Bloody Mary Bar you’ve ever seen, we knew we were in for a good time. Of course, I can’t pass up a mimosa with Sunday brunch, so that happened. Our table was right on the water and came equipped with its own perfect morning breeze.

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My husband knew right away he wanted Chicken and Waffles – and he also knew as soon as he took his first bite he’ll never order it anywhere else for fear it just won’t make the cut. It was the perfectly cooked piece of chicken. I ordered the eggs benedict made of crab cake. It’s a perfect twist on a Sunday classic – and it perfectly complemented our seat on the edge of the water.

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The Bloody Mary bar did not disappoint. You get to choose your vodka, make your own drink, and you get to do it your way. Allow me to recommend you use this time to make it as many ways as you can until you find the perfect combination. The staff at The Dock was so much fun, and we had the best time with our waitress. We couldn’t have asked for a better send-off. In fact, we may have meandered a bit more than usual before heading home.

Florida’s Paradise Coast knows how to make you feel right at home in Naples, and it’s so much more than you could ever imagine. Couples, singles, friends, and families alike will enjoy all that Naples has to offer. The simple beauty of such an elegant city makes it the perfect vacation destination. You can’t go wrong, and we’ve already made it our mission to spend a long weekend in Naples to rest, recharge, and live our best lives by the water when we feel life is getting too hectic at home.

Thank you, Florida’s Paradise Coast, for the perfect weekend of rest, relaxation, and the ability to recharge.