Hand-written 30th birthday surprises and dining outdoors

Greetings from sunny Florida!

I’ve been here a few days and already celebrated my 30th birthday, Christmas Eve and Christmas.

The travel

On Sunday morning, Dave and I flew out of San Francisco airport.  Now that we live a little further from the BART station (the way we used to get to the airport) we took an Uber, so we didn’t have to trampse through the City with luggage in tow.  It was pretty nice to begin the trip without the hassles of public transport.

We only encountered one delay, which occurred on the second leg of our trip.  We’re very glad the delay happened, because it meant we were able to have a chance encounter upon arrival with our long-lost friends from Orlando, who we haven’t talked to since they relocated to Oklahoma a couple years ago.  We were shocked to lay eyes on familiar faces after midnight in the tiny Fort Myers airport, but enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with them and meet their cute little baby boy.  (They didn’t recognize me with my blonde hair at first from afar!)

We were talking to them for so long we totally missed our baggage on the carousel and had to retrieve it outside the Southwest Airlines office. During that time, my Mom arrived and got to visit with them too.  As the airport cleared out, we said goodbye and headed for the car just as my Mom was getting a ticket for leaving her car unattended in the drop-off line.  (Luckily, the officer was in the Christmas spirit and ended up giving her a verbal warning rather than a fine.)

My Mom brought some treats and snacks in the car for us, and within an hour and fifteen minutes, we arrived home at my parent’s house in Port Charlotte.  We could feel the humidity the second we walked outdoors, and it was glorious.

My birthday

All I wanted for my birthday was to eat seafood, sit outside, hang out with my family and relax.  My Mom planned out the day, and had the usual family birthday banner hung in the kitchen to greet me when I awoke on Monday morning.  After breakfast and a little laying around, my Mom, Dave and I went to a lovely outdoor lunch in Old Englewood at a little place called Mango Bistro.  We each had a tasty meal, and yes, mine included seafood.  Two things already checked off the birthday to-do list.

Mango Bistro

After lunch my Mom and I went to Silhouettes Day Spa for some indulgences.  I got a massage, while my Mom had a spa pedicure.

From there we went home to change and relax. While we were out my Brother arrived into town, shortly thereafter, my Dad came home from work. Finally, we were all together!

That’s when we got to the good stuff.

Awesome birthday surprise gifts

My Mom wanted to do something really special for my birthday.  Knowing it’s hard for me to see a lot of people during my visits and wanting to take me on a trip down memory lane, she contacted people from throughout my 30 years of life who either played a significant role or were significant to me.  She asked them to send me a letter to open on my birthday.  When I sat down to open my presents, I had a basket full of hand-written cards, letters and photos from so many wonderful people I’ve known forever.  Many that I am no longer in touch with.  Many that I am in touch with.  Many offered a little pledge on something that they plan to do in the new year.  My Brother is going to send me 30 emails in the next year so we stay in touch better, and I’m going to hold him to it!  Woohoo!

Birthday presents

Birthday presents

I had absolutely no idea she was doing it and couldn’t have been more surprised and delighted with the results.  That gorgeous hand-made birthday banner above is compliments of my crafty and beautiful friend and bridesmaid Stefanie, who also sent me a photo collage detailing some good times in our life starting from high school.  Stefanie is a busy working mom who always seems to make time for clever DIY crafts.  Love her!

It was incredible to read the words of wisdom from my elementary school principal, top 30 moments of life from my childhood best friend Kristen, photo collages and thoughts from some of my college pals, a card from two former bosses, notes from family friends and so much more.  Not only do I love hand-written letters, but I love surprises as well.  This was a way to look back on some major players in my life, who reminded me of stories and funny occassions from our times together throughout the years.

To all of you out there who sent me letters to open that day, I cannot thank you enough.  I love you all!  Here’s a snapshot of some of what I received …

Birthday letters

In addition to the letters and cards, I had some other presents to open that night.  Dave gave me a gorgeous gold and silver Movado watch, which hasn’t left my wrist since, and my parents gave me a monogrammed pouch purse (sooooo hot right now) and a sweater, and my Brother gave me a Nordstrom’s gift certificate.  Wowsers!

Once gifts were done, we piled in the car and headed to Punta Gorda.

We went out to dinner at Laishley Crab House, where we took in another great outdoor dining experience above the harbor.  Some of the boats and yachts even had Christmas lights, adding to the setting.

Birthday dinner

Yes, my Mom brought birthday hats and the two of us kept them on during most of the time.  This meal marked my second time eating seafood and dining outdoors on my birthday.  Check and check!

After dinner we went just down the road to a local bar called Ice House to meet some friends.

They all arrived on time, with smiles and good stories.  No matter how much time passes, it’s like yesterday I was sitting across from each of them in good ole’ Charlotte County.

In fact, it’s usually these same faces that appear at all of my birthdays, events and activities every year.

Birthday fun at bar

We were a little more tame than usual, and my family and I headed home pretty early.  Once we got home, we did birthday cake and kicked around the 30 colorful balloons that Dave had blown up and hid in the bathroom before we went out that night.  All festivities were complete before midnight.

Birthday cake

When the clock struck midnight, it was Christmas Eve and we officially switched gears into holiday mode.

Birthdays are fun.  I loved spending mine here in Port Charlotte with my family and Dave and friends.  And I loved reading the surprise letters from so many people, who took me on a little journey into my past and offered thoughts about the future — all thanks to a thoughtful project by my Mom.

In fact, it’s such a good idea, I’d suggest it to others.  Are you looking for a unique and thoughtful gift for someone?  Take a page from my Mom’s playbook and collect hand-written notes from friends.  It’s an unforgettable surprise.

More holiday recaps to come …

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