Tag Archives: family

Playground of the Week – Philippe Park

Philippe Park (2525 Philippe Parkway, Safety Harbor 34695) is a Pinellas County Park located on Old Tampa Bay and shaded by gloriously large oak trees draped with Spanish moss. This combination makes the park particularly lovely for family photos, if you’re looking for a picturesque, Pinellas location.


The main playground (I haven’t made it to the climbing one) is mostly shaded and overlooks the water from a distance on a hill. It has many of the same features as the other county parks, most noticeably, the rideable green and purple dinosaurs. There are 2 infant/toddler swings in one section and at least 4 regular swings in a different area.
 
Henry liked the variety of slides to climb up (& then slide down) on the older kid (5 to 12) set, and both generally liked the equipment. We spent the most time accumulating sticks and climbing the centipede, which Henry mastered the art of dangling by our second trip. He still needed a touch of help climbing down the centipede after he rapidly ascended.
 

Dislikes for us include the distance to the park (it takes us about 30 minutes from Seminole), especially since there are closer county parks to us, and the lack of kids playing on a weekday morning. My boys love playmates, and often immediately judge a playground as lame if no one else is there.

History

Around 1,000 years ago, Tocabaga Indians feasted on clams and oysters, leaving the remaining shells which comprise the still-visible Indian Mound that is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. You can climb to the top of the Mound for a fantastic view of the Bay.
 
This 122-acre park is the oldest county park in Pinellas, having been acquired in 1948! Named after Count Odet Philippe, the man who introduced grapefruit to Florida, it covers the site of his citrus plantation (St. Helena). Philippe has the distinction of being the first permanent, non-native settler of Pinellas County (he took the land in 1862), and is an ancestor to the prominent McMullen and Booth families. His grave site is located somewhere within the park.

Amenities

  • 9 picnic shelters
  • Restrooms
  • 2 playgrounds (one is a rock climbing playground)
  • Boat launch ($6 with trailer, $2 without)
  • Tocabaga Indian Mound
  • Softball field
  • Fishing (saltwater permit may be required)

Playground of the Week – Seminole City Park

Since my Playground of the Week posts have essentially been sporadic park posts whenever I get around to it, I’m going to do a few playground posts in a row to make up for it, starting with one of my favorites. Seminole City Park (7464 Ridge Rd, Seminole 33772) has long been a top park for our family, but the playground has been closed all summer for a complete renovation (I think its last major renovation was in 2001.) The ribbon cutting for the new playground was supposed to occur last Friday, September 8th, but a little hurricane named Irma (haha, just kidding – it was a monster) cancelled the event. Despite the hurricane on the horizon, the City of Seminole kept the park open up until the day before the storm, so we had to stop by to play beforehand. After the storm, public works’ employees worked hard and cleared the debris from the park so the littles could quickly enjoy the playspace when so many of us were displaced or had no power.

My boys LOVE the playground! Henry said, “It’s my new favorite; I could play here for six hours!” Their shared favorite is the seesaw swing (for lack of a better name) – Elliot joyfully rode in the toddler side while Henry did the leg-pumping work on the other. Henry liked standing on it to swing and alternatively, sitting. I’m going to try to find a similar one for our swing set; it was that awesome.
 

There are two playground structures, aspects of which are similar to Lake Seminole Park, the Sunshine Playground, and Largo Central Park, but this playground makes them feel unique. On the smaller structure, Henry created an obstacle course route while Elliot jammed out to music on the drums and bells. On the larger one, Henry searched for the hidden animals, finding 8 out of 10 – we have to do better next time!
 



He loved being the Flash and running around the climbing merry-go-round, and hanging upside down while spinning. We all practiced our climbing on the spider web-orb structure, feeling the wind blow through our hair. There’s also a small zip line, but Henry was too small (at 4, he will grow into it) to hang on the whole time.

Finally, I love the turf instead of the small rubber pieces as the groundcover. I don’t have to worry about Elliot trying to eat the rubber, or it getting stuck in my kids shoes, and I feel better about it when my kids inevitably remove their shoes to play. My only complaint with the playground is the lack of shade covering the equipment. It’s Florida and it’s HOT at least 6 months of the year. The surrounding trees provide some shade, but a tent overhead would help immensely.

The official ribbon cutting is going down this Friday, September 15th at 6:30pm before the kickoff of the City’s Music in the Park series at 7pm. This week’s concert is Voice of Jazz, a Dunedin-based big band featuring classic jazz and swing music plus modern arrangements of popular tunes. I’ve never been to the concerts before, but I’ve heard they are fun for the whole family and free so we are going to try to make at least one this fall.
 

Amenities

  • 2 playground areas, including swings 
  • Band shell
  • Right on the Pinellas Trail
  • Trailside Restrooms
  • 3 picnic shelters
  • Mear Lake (where you can feed the birds, which I try not to do because being surrounded by birds terrifies the crap out of me)

Upcoming Music in the Park

  • September 22nd – Gloria West and the Gents
  • September 29th – Charlie Souza and Titewad Band
  • October 6th – Ellie Lee and Blues Fury
  • October 13th – Sounds of Soul

Father’s Day and Elliot’s First Rays Game

So it has been nearly three months since Father’s Day, and I honestly cannot remember what we did to celebrate Keith’s awesomeness. I took obligatorily adorable photos of Keith with the boys after church (I got one when all three were looking), and Keith got mega-Meyer-nap snuggles at naptime. Other than that, I’m sure we spent the day giving him our love, but the specifics just aren’t ringing a bell. Oops.



Later that week, we made our way to the Trop to see the Rays take on the Orioles. Elliot loved his first game, but I wouldn’t really know because I spent the majority of my time hanging with Henry around the stadium. Our main goal was visiting the touch tank so Henry could touch a stingray. That grosses me out, but he likes it and was willing to wait in line so we waited it out. He drank his free blue slurpee in line (before he dropped it and made a giant mess and freaked out over not getting to finish it), and we were in the last group to touch the stingrays. Except the stingrays were totally over people trying to touch them, so it didn’t work out. Luckily, the view of the game looks fantastic from the tank area so we watched the game for a bit.




Next up, we rushed down to a kid dance party/game that Henry LOVED. It combined his two favorite things, so I just let him dance and play for as long as he wished. I sat in a corner and zoned out; it was bliss. We tried to head back to our seats, but Henry found the coloring area so of course we had to spend some time there. He meticulously colored a DJ Kitty page and started a Raymond one before realizing he hadn’t made it to the kids block area and the game was winding down. We packed up Raymond to finish him at home and set off to play. Henry had so much fun; we never made it back to our seats. We eventually caught up with Keith, Elliot, Tom, and Margo after a game of tag (we couldn’t figure out where they were in relation to where we were). The Rays lost, but the gang had fun.

Going Home to Jacksonville Part 3 – Arlington

In college, whenever I told someone I met I hailed from Jacksonville, and they also came from there, they would become interested and ask me, “What part?” Jacksonville is the biggest land area city in the country, so your neighborhood served as an identifier. When I responded, “Arlington,” mostly they looked shocked. Unless they have been there, Arlington is portrayed on local news as a decaying neighborhood whose heyday in the 1950s through the early 80s is long past.
 
Arlington became the first automobile-dependent suburb and flourished following the construction of the Matthews Bridge in 1953. My parents’ home in the Fort Caroline Club Estates was built in the late 60s, and they’ve been its owner since 1977. It’s always been a nice, middle class neighborhood within walking distance of the St. John’s River.
 
To me, it’s home. I spent entire summer days swimming at the Fort Caroline Club pool. I rode bikes around the neighborhood without a helmet. I played softball at Arlington Little League. I snuck into my first R-rated movie (There’s Something About Mary) at the Gazebo theater. I attended the local (non-Magnet) schools and received a great education thanks to committed teachers and my involvement in after-school activities.
 
I’m feeling nostalgic about Arlington lately because my parents are preparing their house to sell within the next year and move closer to my brother in Kissimmee. We’ve been trying for years to convince them to move closer to me or Scott and now they are actively moving forward in their process. And it kinda scares me. I’m not entirely sure why; I rarely visit Jacksonville because (a) my kids do NOT sleep when we aren’t at home and (b) my parents visit us on a monthly basis. It’s the change that’s intimidating…my parents will be moving from the place where I grew up, the only one, and all its familiar idiosyncrasies. I have to make sure to get back at least one more time before they move, sleep be damned!

Back to our visit…my kids had a blast at Grandma and Grandpop’s house – playing with new (but seriously old, like my dad’s old) toys, splashing in the sprinklers, and walking to and terrorizing Gerrie’s Park, just like my brother and I used to. It’s a small, neighborhood park with a few climbing areas, some swings, and space to run around. They boys’ favorite was helping Grandpop pick up tree debris from a recent storm. Who needs an actual playground when there are sticks bigger than your body? It was the best!



Going Home to Jacksonville Part 2 – Mandarin

My parents wanted to take us to Clark’s Fish Camp on our visit because it has delicious seafood and stuffed animals. I thought they meant weird looking Care Bears, but they meant taxidermy stuffed animals in a “lovely room of death” (to quote Ace Ventura). Actually multiple rooms of death, I felt totally creeped out and saddened by the dead animals. The seafood was on point, though. Shrimp for days, plus tasty sides (I brought my Grandma my shrimp since she wasn’t feeling well enough to come out with us. She actually smiled, she was so stoked. 


But backing up a bit to before we went to the restaurant, we hit up Mandarin Park first. Keith couldn’t believe we were still in Jacksonville after driving for one hour to get to the park. Oh, but we were – Jacksonville is the largest land area city in the United States. It’s freaking huge! And also explains why I have no idea where things are outside of Arlington and some of the Beaches, Riverside, and Southside areas.
 
Mandarin Park is beautifully shaded right on Julington Creek. Keith and I watched the boats sail and motor down the river, taking off from a small dock on the property. Henry napped in the car (watched over by my Mom), and Elliot played on the shaded playground with my Dad. We sat on a bench in blissful silence, enjoying every moment. It was like a date (if by date I mean it was a break from parental responsibility for all of 20 minutes before the littlest came looking for us.)

The playground had swings, slides, and things to climb – all in the shade! Elliot liked the swings the best, but we couldn’t rouse Henry to get him to play. His sleep schedule was all out of whack being out of town and all. If we lived in Mandarin, I would definitely return to this park often. 

Going Home to Jacksonville Part 1 – Downtown

Keith had a church thing at the Lutheran church closest to my parents’ house in Jacksonville (St Matthew’s) so we took a mini-vacay because it’s summertime and the living is easy (even if travel with littles isn’t so easy). Our first evening there we headed downtown to see the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp play baseball. I hadn’t been in the new stadium (it opened in 2003; I’m slow) and I definitely hadn’t seen a game since the team changed names from the Suns to the Jumbo Shrimp. 


The name change suits the team (because Florida), and the stadium is awesome! We had third baseline seats, and could see everything. The beer was cheap and cold ($1 beer night), and the game was short in length thanks to a rainout the day before (only a 7 inning game). Henry liked dancing in the grass seating berm and sliding down the inflatable slide (bring money if you want to do this or play the other outfield games). I think even my mom had fun (and she’s an indifferent sports-ball watcher).


 
The next morning we checked out the Dinosaurs in Motion Exhibit at the Museum of Science and History for free since we have a MOSI annual pass. We even got my parents in for free (something they always like) since our pass is for five people! We controlled the dinosaur bones’ movement and sound via levers, wheels, and game controllers – Henry’s dream! Other parts we enjoyed were seeing the live animals from Florida, building structures, and zooming through Jacksonville’s history (not so interesting for a little).


 
My favorite activity of the day, however, was taking the monorail to and from the museum. It’s just so cool to ride above the road and see the city and river from a different perspective. Henry was all about it, too!

Hiking Black Balsam Knob With The Littles

We spent our last day in North Carolina hiking up a mountain. You may be thinking, they have two kids not even school-age – they must be crazy! Naysayers be damned – the kiddos did splendidly!
 
Keith selected Black Balsam Knob (via the Art Loeb Trail) in the Pisgah National Forest (Mile 420 off the Blue Ridge Parkway) as the location. It’s the second highest mountain in the Great Balsam Mountains at 6,214 feet tall! The weather was freezing for us Floridians – in the 40s! It was quite a shock from the temperature in Asheville, so I took Henry’s hat for myself because he had a hooded coat. 


Henry has been preparing his whole life for hiking. He has an abundance of energy, climbs everything in sight, and has been doing trail walks since he took his first steps. Up on the mountain, he acted like a little mountain goat hopping from rock to rock and sprinting the straight-aways. We have a great backpack carrier that Elliot rode in since his walking skills weren’t up to snuff for a mile and half hike. He could look out and see over Keith’s shoulders, and looked quite relaxed so long as we didn’t stop moving.


After the one mile hike to the peak, we took a break for snacks and water, reclining on the grass while enjoying the beautiful view. On a clear day, you can see Shining Rock, Looking Glass Rock, Mt. Pisgah, Cold Mountain, and occasionally Mt. Mitchell (the highest point in the Eastern United States). In other words, the view is pristinely lovely. Henry only needed the tiniest bit of help going down the mountain when the rocks were slippery. We didn’t see any bears (thank goodness!), but ran into a few hiking dogs (much to the Hen’s dismay). 


We stopped for ice cream at Dolly’s Dairy Bar (Lutheridge is a special flavor!) on the way back to Amber’s (kids were sleeping so we got to enjoy a mini-date), and ended the day with an evening stroll and playground adventure in her neighborhood. It was such a great visit; I hope we return soon!

Birthday Beer is the Best!

Keith asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and my request was simple: spend some time with the family and some non-kid time with Amber, but all of it should include beer. Asheville has a fantastic craft beer scene, and I wanted to partake!

After worshipping at Amber’s church where I wasn’t solely responsible for two littles (meaning I got to enjoy most of worship!), we headed to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company for lunch. Amber and Chris had told us that it was like the Disney World of breweries and they did not lie. We could have spent the entire afternoon there, if we didn’t have to get the boys home to nap. Lunch consisted of shareable small plates and everyone was licking their fingers. We headed out back afterwards and enjoyed live music while relaxing around a fire pit (it was chilly for us Floridians!) A sand table area was set up for kids, and Henry had too much fun digging and laughing (as usual). We also walked through their garden where edible plants are grown for their brewpub. The brewery offers tours, too, but we didn’t have time for that.




Because after dropping Keith and the boys off at Amber’s, us ladies headed to downtown Asheville for more fun (and drinky-drinks)! Our first stop was Catawba Brewing Company in South Slope. This was our favorite tasting room – lots of tables, great beer, and a beautiful warehouse. There’s a smaller room for private events, and I’m sure it is a cool place for wedding receptions. It also has food trucks outside for food, and there’s a donut shop next door that looked delicious.
 


Next up was Green Man Brewery, which turned out to be our least favorite. I liked the Yoda, Slimer, and other green decor, but the beer I had was just so-so. Finally, we visited Hi-Wire Brewing, and the beer there was yummy. We sat at the bar, there was a nice breeze, and great service. By that point, I was full of beer and super hungry and there was no line for the French Broad Chocolates. So of course we had to get some sweet treats! I had the most delicious Mexican hot chocolate, Amber snagged a tasty cookie, and I picked up a mint chocolate brownie to take back to Henry.
 



Back at Amber’s, we had burgers on the grill and sides before chowing down on birthday pie from a Hendersonville bakery. It was decadent and a perfect birthday treat. The best part of my birthday was spending it with people I love: Keith, my kids, and best friends. That evening, I told Keith my birthday priority in the future would be spending it with best friends who I don’t get to see all the time, because it was so lovely. What a fantastic start to 35!

Asheville Adventuring with the Littles

Let me first start by saying that everyone needs a friend like Amber in their lives. She’s one of the best, and we are lucky to have been friends with her since college. It’s one of those friendships that can pick up after not keeping in touch well (on my part, she’s always the one reaching out to say hi) and it seems like no time has passed. Additionally, she was kind enough to invite all four of us to stay with her for a week while Keith was at his conference and she was teaching. Adding our four-person level of craziness to her quiet home was probably an adventure in itself, but then we ventured out!


She recommended a playground in Asheville called Carrier Park which was incredible! A velodrome surrounded the playground area so we had fun watching bicycle racing before playing. The playground itself was a wooden castle, with climbing tunnels, swings, slides, and an airplane! In two sections – one for older kids and one for the smaller ones – we spent equal time in both. Henry loved playing hide and go seek against me and Elliot because there were so many spots to hide. We also took a walk alongside the French Broad River to relax before heading back for lunch and a nap.


The next day we headed into downtown Asheville to get awesome books from Malaprops, the local bookstore. The kid’s selection was on point – we got four excellent books. Then we attempted to go to the Western North Carolina Nature Center. Unfortunately, all the schools and everyone with kids (at least that’s how the crowded  parking situation seemed) had the same idea, so we didn’t even make it past the parking lot. There was a playground nearby so we hung out there until lunchtime. Are you sensing a theme? When all else fails, a playground always makes things better.


The final day of Keith’s conference occurred on Saturday, so Amber had the day off to play with us! We visited the Hands On! Children’s Gallery in nearby Hendersonville and had lots of rainy day fun. Henry loved creating energy by peddling a bike, selling ice cream in the ice cream shop, making lego cars and racing them, and rapidly running from exhibit to exhibit. I think everyone took naps after this.

Boating Adventures

Our boat plan was pretty simple:

  1. Get a SUP,
  2. Get a Kayak, and
  3. Get a Sailboat.

We love being outdoors, especially with the boys, and wanted to take our adventures out on the water. Back in December, we had the opportunity to put our plan into action. Suncoast Surf Shop ran a sale on its stand-up paddleboards so we took advantage and bought our first one (perhaps another to be purchased once the boys are older). We quickly thereafter bought a tandem kayak from Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure because all four of us would be able to use it immediately.
 



Since then, we’ve put in our SUP at a few locations in Pinellas County – War Veterans Memorial Park, Redington Shores, and Cooper’s Bayou Park. Henry does a great job of sitting on the front of the board while we paddle, and I think he loves the special attention since Elliot can’t go yet.
All four of us have kayaked from Boca Ciega Millennium Park and Weedon Island Preserve. One of us holds the baby while the other paddles in the back. Henry sits in the middle and plays in the water. I loved paddling to Weedon Island this weekend, mostly because of us getting to splash in the water at a shoal, but also because it was my first time steering a kayak. Ever. Usually I sit in front and do my part to paddle, but never doing the hard work. This time, I did the work for everyone since Keith was Elliot-wrangling. I made the comment that paddling was really hard. Henry’s response, “Yeah, even for a girl.” At four years old, he already knows that girls can do everything boys can do. He’s such a smart kid.




Back to Step 3 of our boat plan. Keith had been scouring Craigslist for sailboats for months. He found this gem of a boat that was like new, the previous owner mostly kept it in his garage and was selling it because he never used it. It’s a West Wight Potter 15, if you know anything about boats (which I don’t). Keith is just so excited to own a sailboat that he watches YouTube videos to learn how to be a better sailor and has joined up with a group of like-minded small sailboaters. He took Henry on an adventure to Lake Tarpon for a meet up and they had a blast (next time, Henry requires his sunglasses, however.) Keith’s exuberance for sailing is contagious. I can’t wait to see what he has planned next for us!