So, about a month ago I had the great fortune to travel to Florida's "Space Coast" for a girl's weekend. Now, if you're not familiar with the Space Coast, let me give you a touch more detail. The region, named because of its proximity to the NASA launch point of Cape Canaveral, is home to some of the finest beaches in Florida, and the closest ones to big time tourist destination Orlando.
I got to spend the weekend with an awesome bunch of girl bloggers on Florida's Space Coast, and here I will tell you about a bunch of the tasty and sweet things I did there. Here's my list of 25 favorite Space Coast moments!
1. Free Tieks shoes!
Before we even departed on our way to Florida, the trip organizer (EXTRAORDINAIRE), Julie, worked some sorcery and somehow got us each a gratis pair of Tieks shoes. I have seen these before, but never thought I would ever own them because they cost $175 a pair - on the low end. But I have to tell you. Having been exposed to the brand, I am super impressed - the quality of their shoes is impeccable, they're well-made and employ good quality leather. They're very comfortable for walking, and they come in super cute colors. These shoes might not be in my all the time budget, but I do think that they are a worthwhile investment. The above is a screen shot of all of us wearing our shoes with the tags showing. Follow all of those people on Instagram!
2. Arriving in lovely Melbourne Beach.
Photo credit: Julie from The Little Kitchen
I drove from Santa Fe to Melbourne Beach, so you can bet your bottom dollar that I was happy to arrive safely (want proof of my happiness? Just look at the photo above, about 10 minutes after I got out of the car). And to meet a whole crew of new friends! I had met a few of the bloggers in attendance before, but most of them were brand new in real life friends. The roster:
- Julie from The Little Kitchen
- Joanne from Fifteen Spatulas
- Lindsay from Love & Olive Oil
- Brenda from A Farmgirl's Dabbles
- Christine from Cook the Story
- Glory from Glorious Treats
- Suzanne from Kokocooks
- Susannah from Feast + West
3. Dinner at Crush Eleven.
Our first dinner in the Space Coast region was spectacular. It was at a place in Cocoa called Crush Eleven, which specializes in kind of creative farm to table fare. I got the fish catch of the day, which was unbelievably fresh--it tasted like it had just been swimming. Which it basically was - it had been caught earlier that day. Sorry little fish, but you were tasty. They also had some really neat culinary things going on here, like the dessert palate cleanser (yep) which included a cocktail and sorbet shimmering atop an ice cap in a martini glass (pictured). We also had a freaking dessert buffet delivered to our table. I really cannot recommend this restaurant enough if you find yourself in the region.
4. Learning the term "Cape Cookies".
During our first dinner, we were regaled with tales of the Space Coast from the tourism team. I need to tell you, though, that my favorite tidbit BY FAR was that during the heyday of NASA's Space program in the 60s, there were, well, astronaut groupies who went by the nickname "Cape Cookies." There's even a book on the subject: The 'Cape Cookie' Chronicles. Look at that cover! It's like Valley of the Dolls, but in Florida! I immediately dubbed our group the Cape Cookies, and got lots of looks like that moment in The Princess Bride when Inigo Montoya says, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." I didn't stop, though.
5. Staying at an ESTATE. OMG.
We stayed at an Estate which in addition to being right on the beach, also had a pool. I capitalized Estate in the last sentence because this is the first time I've ever stayed at one, and it seemed to warrant capitalization. Between you and me, I think I could get used to residing at Estates (and also I could get used to having a full-time housekeeper, but that's beside the point). The place in question was called Azure Estate. If you're headed to the Space Coast, go ahead and stay there. You too deserve to stay at an Estate.
6. GOODY BAGS.
Holy crap! Julie, our organizer, coordinated with vendors and donors including Blue Diamond almonds (have you ever tried their coconut almonds, btw? Awesome.), Shutterfly, Grimaldi Candy Company, Lucy Jane totes, and Sweet Estelle's. All tucked in Mark & Graham tote bags monogrammed with our initials. I was all like, "OMG, this is amazing!" . My roommate, Suzanne, who had already opened hers when I got there, was in agreement. The above illustration is a dramatization. I'm the cupcake, Suzanne is the macaron.
7. These amazing macarons Suzanne made.
Speaking of cape cookies! We enjoyed these cookies by the cape, by a decidedly non-astronaut groupie, Suzanne of Kokocooks, who has gone from dipping her toe in the world of macarons to becoming a Mac Daddy of macaron sorcery. Now, I need to tell you that I cooed over these French Toast Crunch macarons for a very long time.
8. Breakfast at Sand on the Beach.
What looked like a beach shack type restaurant, Sand on the Beach, churned out beautifully fresh breakfast entrees. I got one of the fresh seafood Eggs Benedict varieties (what can I say, I like savory for breakfast!). The sweets looked great too, though, including a sweet-meets-savory waffle with a spicy seafood topping, pancakes and waffles, and French toast.
9. Making Nanaimo bars in the kitchen at the Estate!
We had a potluck dinner on our second night--every blogger made a recipe from her respective site. This was an awesome experience because it was a chance to eat the dish as it was intended to be made, and from the source. And there were some famous bloggers there, people! Well, naturally I was put on dessert duty, and so I whipped up a batch of my favorite bars--Nanaimo bars.
10. Eating little cupcakes from Take a Bite.
I always enjoy eating little cupcakes, but this was my first time enjoying them on the Space Coast of Florida. Well, my mouth was rendered officially happy by these mini cupcakes, which Julie had procured from Take a Bite Cupcakes. I enjoyed best the chocolate chip cookie dough varieties, which had nuggets of cookie dough nestled in the center.
11. Enjoying the pool.
I love a good soak in the pool, but it was even better at the Estate where we stayed, and here's why in three simple words: Doughnut. Inner. Tube. It matched my bathing suit, too!
12. Learning how to paddleboard!
If you've never experienced SUP (stand up paddleboard), can I suggest you learn how to do it with a private lesson from the staff at Ron Jon Surf School? That's what we were treated to--a lesson from the pros. It was great fun and I only fell off once! Dramatization of the moment, above.
13. A Florida wine tasting.
Hey, did you know that you could ferment things other than grapes to make wine? I didn't either. But in Florida, they make wine with key limes, bananas, and even avocado! It was a fascinating tasting hosted by East Coast Winery, and I can't get the memory of their Key Lime wine out of my head!
14. Our amazing dinner all together.
As previously mentioned, we decided to have a potluck dinner on evening two. This meant there were a ton of blogger in the kitchen (hilarity, toes stepped on, and much instagramming ensued).But after all of the kitchen busyness, we were treated to a truly memorable meal, including fried brussels sprouts, homemade buttermilk biscuits, sriracha lobster tails, and short ribs. Oh, and some Magnolia bakery style banana pudding and Nanaimo bars for dessert, of course. The owners of Azure Estate joined us too, so now in addition to being someone who spends time at Estates, I am someone who hangs out with owners of Estates.
Dramatization of the meal, above.
15. Doughnuts for breakfast!
We were treated to pretty-as-a-picture doughnuts from Love Bugs Bakery for breakfast the next day. I showed my doughnut the doughnut shaped pool float. I think it approved.
16. A fun bus ride to Cape Canaveral.
After eating doughnuts, we piled into a bus and took a ride to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. While the ride itself wasn't standout, what was wonderful was the time it permitted us to all talk. We talked about kids, pets, body image issues, food, blogging goals--you name it. Connecting with inspiring women like this is a gift, so this was a highlight for me.
17. Visiting the Kennedy Space Center
I'll be the first to admit it: I'm CakeSpy, not MathSpy or ScienceSpy. But getting to see the actual Atlantis shuttle (the first space shuttle that was able to make return trips) and take in the show documenting its life at the Kennedy Space Center was pretty darned cool and inspiring. Plus, we got a VIP tour, including the chance to meet an astronaut who had been to space during the Space Race era, a customized lunch from the surprisingly great Orbit Cafe (many steps above your typical cafeteria / food court fare) and awesome goody bags, which, yes, included astronaut ice cream.
18. Going down the slide at the Kennedy Space Center.
As part of the exhibit, there was a great big awesome slide to go down. Did I go down it, in spite of the fact that I was wearing a skirt? Yes I did, and everyone got the big treat of being able to see my undies. This fact made me laugh so hard that it made it a highlight.
19. OMG I GOT TO RIDE A HELICOPTER
A few weeks ago, if you talked to me about helicopter rides, I would think "helicopter rides are for News stations and famous people to get from Manhattan to the Hamptons." No longer, though, because now I have been on a helicopter ride. It was glorious to see Florida from up above! So if you've also been in a helicopter and would like to chat with me about your experience, I'd be open to that. We copter-riders have to stick together.
20. Beautiful sunrises and scenery.
My roommate, Suzanne, was wonderful about getting up and seeing the sun rise. Well, that was fine because it left me room to open the window and enjoy it from bed. I am a sucker for a beautiful sunrise or sunset, and the pastel hues that characterized the Florida sunrise were very special.
21. The pride that locals have for their area.
One of the things that impressed me most about the people we met in Florida was their enthusiasm for their home region. Danny and Tom from the tourism office were extremely knowledgable and helpful and proud of their area, but the enthusiasm went beyond the tourism employees. From the Ron Jon Surf School employees to restaurant servers to tour guides, everyone was so proud to showcase their unique part of the world, and I really appreciated that.
22. An awesome dinner at D'Jons.
Owned by the same people as Sand on the Beach, D'Jons provided an extremely different, fine dining experience. I had the shrimp and grits, and I need to tell you how delicious it was. The shrimp were huge, incredibly fresh, and wonderfully seasoned; the grits very rich, and very delicious. It was a memorable meal with fantastic service.
23. Doing yoga by the pool.
Hey! I did a yoga routine by the pool at our Estate. This brings my 50 states of yoga project one step closer to completion, with Florida being filled in on my map! Above, you can see all of the US states where I've done yoga.
24. Doing illustrations inspired by my trip.
I loved re-creating key moments from the trip using pastries. Now, in case you are not sure who is who, I asked each lady what type of pastry they'd like to be portrayed as. So what you have in the illustrations in this post is:
- Julie from The Little Kitchen = heart shaped cookie
- Joanne from Fifteen Spatulas = blueberry muffin
- Lindsay from Love & Olive Oil = kitty cat macaron
- Brenda from A Farmgirl's Dabbles = brownie with fudge icing
- Christine from Cook the Story = piece of cheese
- Glory from Glorious Treats = slice of cake
- Suzanne from Kokocooks = magenta macaron
- Susannah from Feast + West = ice cream with sprinkles
- As for me? The cupcake, obvi.
Maybe I should mention here that if you ever wanted a custom illustration, I'd be happy to do that for you. Check out my online shop here.
25. New friends.
I left this trip feeling like I had eight friends. Some old, some new. But the connection was real, and I am so thankful we were able to share this time by the shores of the Florida Space Coast!
What's the last great trip you took?