Friday, June 24, 2011

Celebrating in Florida

My parents will celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, and to mark the occasion, they asked Paul, Steve, Dan & I to reserve a week this summer to spend as a family on the gulf coast of Florida. Um, let me think about that ... YES!!! So right after the Campbell family reunion ended, we all flew to Tampa where we rented a minivan and drove to our condo on Indian Shores, just north of St. Petersburg. We had the most relaxing, fun week! The weather was in the 90s and sunny every day, and we stayed right on the beach and enjoyed swimming in & walking along the ocean every day. I have the best family in the world, and we love spending time together no matter what we're doing. I posted tons of photos below, so you can see for yourself.

There was something magical about waking up to this view every morning.

And the harbor was just across the street from us, with restaurants and shops.
We enjoyed a lot of long walks on the beach.

And gorgeous sunsets

40 years later & still in love!

We like each other alright, too. :)

We played lots of games in the evenings, but once Dan showed Steve how to play "Dominion" online, we just about lost the two of them for the rest of the week. Now that we're all back home, they still find each other online and play.

Most of our breakfasts & lunches were at the condo, but we did a lot of eating out for dinner.

Fact: Dan goes crazy if he's forced to be a passenger. After two days, he decided it was worth it to pay the extra charge to be able to drive our rental van.

We spent an evening in St. Petersburg to see the sights and go to dinner & a movie downtown. Dan & I bought that cute purse for my mom as an early birthday present. The strap on her old one broke mid-week, so it gave us the perfect gift idea.

A beautiful banyan tree near the St. Petersburg bay

Looking across the bay

The St. Petersburg Pier is behind us on the left

Steve's fiancee, Sheila, flew down to spend a couple of days with us, too! It was great to spend time with her, and we went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure while she was with us.

Ready for a day of fun!

I'm glad Dan & I aren't the only cheesy ones in the family. heh.

We rode one of the best rides in the park, the Jurassic Park ride, and got soaking wet! We were wringing our shirts out for the next hour and of course we all looked like we had wet our pants. classy.

Then we moved on to the newest section of the park - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! It was really well done.

Standing in front of Hogwarts! There was an incredible simulator-type ride inside Hogwarts that took you on a virtual adventure with the Harry Potter characters. It was half 3-D movie and half roller coaster - can you say "sensory overload"? It twisted you from side to side nonstop & tipped you onto your back several times. Most of us could hardly walk by the time we got off. My mom had to close her eyes through the whole thing so she wouldn't puke! So fair warning if you get motion sick, but it's a really cool ride otherwise! I'd like to ride it again, but I probably need a year before my stomach can handle it.

After that ride, we did a lot of sitting. :) I think Sheila & Paul handled all the roller coasters okay, but Steve almost had to be carried out.

The Hogwarts Express

How cool is this? I could've just hung out in Hogsmeade village all day.

There was a cute show in Ollivander's wand shop where a kid got to try out all the wrong wands & make magical explosions with them before getting the right one.

Stopping inside the Three Broomsticks tavern

Tasting a butterbeer (it was okay)

Side story where Steve's worst nightmare comes true: For the rest of the day, we were on a quest to find fun things to do that wouldn't unsettle our stomachs again. We watched all the shows, ate dinner, and only rode the kiddie rides. Except our last ride of the day was an innocent-looking Cat in the Hat ride that was actually a teacup ride on a track that you couldn't control! We all hate teacup rides and never saw that coming! You sat in a 3-person car that sped along a track, taking you through a life-sized version of the Cat in the Hat storybook. But every time you got to a new "page" of the story, it would spin you around and around before shooting you off to the next section! Steve spent the whole ride yelling "NOOOOOOOOO!! Let me offfffffff!" like he was being tortured. :)

The next day, while Mom, Dad, Paul, and Steve took Sheila to the airport, Dan and I rented a scooter and visited Fort DeSoto.

We saw the outer walls and cannons

But we couldn't walk across the top of the fort *sad face*

The ranger in the visitor center completely ignored us

An aerial photo of the fort

Our last night in Florida, we took Mom & Dad out to dinner at Crabby Bill's to celebrate Father's Day and Mom's birthday early. There was a little bit of a wait to be seated, but fortunately there was a nasty gator head to entertain us.

We did our hair and wore something besides our bathing suits. Take a picture!

The food was really good! Mostly fried of course, but really good!

And we followed dinner with an ice cream cake to make the celebration official.

Happy Birthday & Happy Father's Day!

Side story where Debby's worst nightmare comes true: Our last afternoon was spent swimming happily in the ocean, when suddenly I saw fins! They were pretty far away, but it is not cool to see fins when you're up to your neck in the ocean. I calmly and quietly (yeah right) directed Dan's attention to them but we saw them again just seconds later and it was clearly a couple of dolphins swimming by. That is beautiful and cool, but there is a rule that if I'm swimming in the ocean, nothing else is allowed to. haha! Relieved, I went back to paddling around until I looked at the people fishing 12 feet from us who had just caught a SHARK. It was small (maybe 8-10 inches long) but WHO CARES. And then, the unthinkable happened and they threw it back in the water. I'm pretty sure my legs moved so fast I was actually skimming across the surface of the water back to the beach. It was a modern day fear-inspired miracle. Thank you, fishermen, for allowing the infant monster an opportunity to grow up and eat your children someday. You only have yourselves to blame.

I kid you not, they caught the half sized version of this. I wouldn't even go in the swimming pool after this, so I'm glad it was our last day!

After we dropped Steve off at the airport the next morning, the rest of us drove to the Greek-influenced town of Tarpon Springs to shop for souvenirs until we needed to be back at the airport.

They have tasty Greek food & cute bakeries

At the end of the week - we were all relaxed, happy, and possibly a little bit tanner (okay, maybe not)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Campbell Family Reunion

I feel extra blessed to have extended families on both sides who love to get together for reunions. It's difficult to schedule a time that works for most of us, and everyone has to deal with the cost & hassle of traveling, but the end result is so much fun! This month, my dad's side of the family met at the Ranch House in TX for a long weekend. The Ranch House was built by my Uncle Brian & Aunt Margaret on my mom's side, and they generously offered to let us use it for the Campbell family get-together (thank you guys!). In the past, we've rented condos from a vacation resort and we all agreed that we LOVED having everyone together in the same house instead of splitting up into different units. This way, we got to eat every meal together and when something fun was going on anywhere in the house, we all knew about it and could join in. The weather was warm and sunny so we spent plenty of time outdoors, too. We also took an excursion to the nearby town of Waxahatchie to eat dinner at a catfish restaurant.

The weekend was full of catching up with each other's lives, playing games, eating good food, and lots of laughter. I love how much we enjoy spending time together despite the fact that we live all over the country. We're planning to have a Campbell family reunion every other summer, and I'm already looking forward to the next one!

When my family got to the area, we visited Waxahatchie to look around and make sure we knew how to get to the Catfish Plantation restaurant.

The courthouse building had an interesting legend of the "Unrequited Love Carvings". To read the story, click here. We walked around the building to see all the carved faces.

We arrived at the Ranch House, and other members of the family quickly followed.

The first night, we taught all the cousins how to play "One Bounce" on the ping pong table. It's a great game that involves everyone who wants to play, and it made for many fun hours.

The lake is filling in nicely, and this year there were paddle boats and some medium-sized fish to go fishing for!

Some of the cousins warming up their baseball arms

There was a cool breeze that made the porch extra relaxing

About 15 of us played a fun game of whiffleball and the rest of the family enjoyed watching from the patio

And of course no Campbell reunion would be complete without the Men vs. Women Trivial Pursuit game! The women won, largely due to our aunts' collective age ... I mean intellect. :)

A dark picture of Table A at the Catfish Plantation, which apparently is a very haunted building. If you look closely at Steve (2nd from the right), I think we *may* have caught the reflection of a ghost in his glasses. (eerie cackle)

Table B waiting patiently for their food.

My cousins' kids, who were infants a minute ago and are now graduating from high school & college.

My cousins (I'm not sure why it chopped us off at the legs)

The requisite family photos, starting with my family (Steve wasn't able to make it this year)

Matt and Aunt Lillie

Uncle David, Aunt Ann, Christina, Ronda, Cal, and Cole

James, Steve, Jillian, Angela, Jordan, Aunt Wanda, Jackson, Uncle Larry, Alyssa, Anne, Emily, and Allan

The Campbell Clan - we missed some cousins and their families this year and we really hope that everyone will be able to come in 2013!