Highlights from a week in Florida for my birthday and Christmas 2016

Well, hello, my friends! It’s been a while! I hope you’ve had a nice holiday and some time off of work. Dave, Rudy and I returned to the Bay Area today after a week away, and it was awesome to get out of our routines and responsibilities to play for a bit. Today, I’m going to catch you up on our trip to the Sunshine State, but first a picture from Dave’s work holiday party, which we attended right before we left …

Ashley and Dave at Christmas party by A Lady Goes West

Sadly, this year, I only made it to Florida one time. In the four years that I’ve been living out west, I’ve managed to get back to Florida three to four times per year, but not this year, due to my (newish) job I started in January with limited vacation time and availability. While it’s unfortunate that that’s how circumstances played out this year, I can assure you that the week that Dave, Rudy and I just experienced at “home” was a very good one. We loved it!

Over the seven days, we spent a lot of time relaxing at my parents’ house in Port Charlotte, hung out with my family (Dad, Mom and Brother), got some sun (because it was super hot and humid the entire time we were there), ate good food and caught up with a ton of our friends in a few different cities. I had my phone away for a lot of the time and didn’t capture all that many pictures, but let’s go ahead and do some visit highlights …

Overview of Christmas week …

A cup of lemon water every day after I woke up (just like I told you to do in this post about staying vital during the holiday season), followed up by a healthy breakfast bowl. Lunches, snacks and meals were mostly healthy too, while a big dessert was a staple each night as was w-i-n-e. I ate a lot of veggies, but also had pizza twice and more white bread than I care to recount. Balance! My workouts were basically not. I went on two long walks while listening to a podcast and did gentle yoga. Although I was moving around, I left official sweat sessions off the agenda, knowing I’ll be back at them soon.

Yogurt breakfast bowl by A Lady Goes West

Dinner at my friend Kristen’s new house. Kristen is one of my oldest friends and was one of my bridesmaids. She and her husband built a brand new house a few months ago in Deep Creek, and it was so good to see it and her and their fabulous new place. My Mom and I went over there for appetizers and pizza, and it was really nice to catch up. 

My birthday. It was a perfect day! In the morning, Dave, my Mom and I went to yoga on Englewood Beach, which was super gentle and full of positive mantras, light stretching, breathing and a great final meditation.

Beach yoga in Florida by A Lady Goes West

Englewood Beach Yoga by A Lady Goes West

That day, we also had lunch with my long-time friend Melissa (another bridesmaid) and her husband Neal at First Watch, which is actually where we met up with them last year as well. And my avocado toast was on point …

Avocado toast at First Watch by A Lady Goes West

Birthday group at First Watch by A Lady Goes West

That evening, we had a delicious dinner prepared by my Mom, played games and opened presents at home, before my older brother had to return to Atlanta for the remainder of the holiday break. I also snuck in a manicure and pedicure and a matcha green tea latte from Starbucks. Oh and my birthday cake? It was beyond amazing. Have you ever heard of a hummingbird cake? It’s like carrot cake, but with pineapple instead, and that’s what kind of cake I had, mixed with red velvet. It was perhaps the tastiest dessert of my entire life!

Ashley, Rudy and flowers by A Lady Goes West

Birthday cake by A Lady Goes West

Sunny Christmas Day. After opening presents (so many good ones I’ll share about soon) with my parents, we did our annual Boca Grande beach picnic, which included bringing two dogs to play in the sand. My parents got an adorable new puppy a few weeks ago, (Bentley, a cockapoo) and while he is already bigger than Rudy, the two of them were so cute playing together the whole visit. That night we also had a nice dinner and went back for more board games.

Boca Grande Christmas picnic by A Lady Goes West

Dogs at Boca Grande by A Lady Goes West

A road-trip. The day after Christmas, Dave, Rudy and my Mom and I headed up to St. Pete to have lunch with my friend Yolanda at a delicious place called Fresh Kitchen. Yolanda was my college roommate and also one of my bridesmaids and seeing her was wonderful. Our meal was delish, and so was the company. We love Yolanda! From there, we continued on to Orlando. But first, here’s a shot of my lunch bowl of Brussels, sweet potato noodles, kale, shrimp and more …
 Shrimp bowl at Fresh Kitchen by A Lady Goes West

Return to Ceviche and the Amway Center. Dave and I also had dinner at Ceviche in downtown Orlando on Church Street (where we had our wedding’s rehearsal dinner years ago) with two of our friends, Chris and Allison, and then went to an Orlando Magic basketball game. While at the game, we got to see a bunch of other familiar and friendly faces, but didn’t really watch very much basketball. After the game, we tried to visit my favorite old frozen yogurt place in downtown and it was closed. So sad.

Friends at Orlando Magic game by A Lady Goes West

Hotel stay. That night, we stayed in the new downtown Aloft hotel with my Mom so we could soak up some more time with her before she left us off. And it was pet friendly and quite perfect for a short visit, because we were able to walk to all of our destinations.

Aloft hotel in Orlando by A Lady Goes West

Lunching al fresco. The next day, we met up with Judy (who you may remember visited me earlier this year for one heck of a weekend!), and had an outdoor lunch on Park Avenue in Winter Park, which was really fun, but once again, super hot. I love Judy so much and we spent nearly the entire lunch laughing about something. She’s the best! And a quick shot of my tasty Mediterranean salad …

Salad on Park Avenue by A Lady Goes West

Ladies on Park Avenue by A Lady Goes West

Pajama party. Finally, that night, Dave and I arrived at our friends, Jess and Amanda’s, house for the remainder of the visit. We sat around, met their new sweet baby boy Jack (who is beyond adorable), ordered pizza for dinner and caught up on all things. They always host us when we come through Orlando and it wouldn’t be a good visit without them! They are the sweetest people ever!

Travel. I really can’t complain about our travel. We flew out of Oakland on the first flight and left Orlando on the first flight out as well, all on time. While we didn’t have any delays on our four incredibly full flights, someone did run over the back of my ankle with a wheelchair and left me with a huge bloody gash and bruise (a few tears in the Houston airport were shed). So that was crappy, but everything else went fine. Rudy was mostly a good boy on the plane too, with only a little whimpering at times under the seat.

During the trip, we had the chance to hang out in person with so many of our dear friends whom we don’t get to see very often, and that’s a great feeling to reconnect face to face. While I always want to stay in Florida longer, this time I left feeling so happy that I’ve kept up strong friendships with people that live across the country from me for the more than four years we’ve been gone. They are good people! And I love them all! It’s never easy to say goodbye, especially to my family, but until next time, Florida!

Holiday fun in the Sunshine State! Share on X

Questions of the day

How was your Christmas holiday?

What was the best present you gave or received this year?



  1. What a FABULOUS trip home. It sounds like you had the best time, caught up with so many of your friends, and, of course, ate some truly delicious food. Yay for hummingbird cake! A true southern staple (as is red velvet). But that Fresh Kitchen bowl–YUM. So glad that you had such a great week, stellar birthday, and happy holidays. And now, happy new year, Ashley!

    1. I just recently learned about the hummingbird cake, and it could be topping my list of dessert favorites from here on out. It was a lovely Christmas, and I hope yours was too, lady! 🙂

  2. What a wonderful trip home! I love going home to visit old friends and spend time with family and so nice you were with them all to celebrate your birthday. And I am always drooling over your meal pics. So nice you were able to find so many places with fresh foods! YUM! I was so excited to give my husband a smoker for Christmas this year. Now all he can talk about is all the ribs and chicken he’s going to cook later this week when it stops raining, lol.

    1. Hi Patricia! What an awesome gift. Is it a green egg? Because we’d LOVE to have one of those one day when we have a bigger outdoor area. Hope you had a WONDERFUL Christmas, lady! 🙂

  3. I’m so happy to hear you had a restful and relaxing trip with your family! That sucks about your ankle- hopefully it’s on it’s way to healing by now. People really need to learn to be aware of their surroundings.

    Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!!

  4. My Xmas was just home alone as usual. No tree, no presents, no celebration no special dinner, its just another day. Glad you had a nice trip with your beautiful Mum !

  5. Ouch girl; I’m so sorry about your ankle. Thankfully our bodies were made to heal pretty quickly.

    And that vacation looks like just what you needed to refresh and restart. I love how gentle you were with your body; I am NOT good at that on vacation, but this is encouragement to be better at it.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY (Belated)! Getting to spend it with beloved friends and family is the best.

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