It's the last day of March, and we're finally seeing signs of spring around here. I've been working on commissions this month and haven't been all that motivated to write, so here's a chatty recap for you with lots of photos.
Last weekend Jeff and I visited our friends Kevin and Natalie and their little daughter Victoria. Jeff used to work with Kevin--they produced educational software over a decade ago. By the time I entered Jeff's life, Kevin and Natalie were living in Chicago, and we'd stop by when we were in town. Natalie was a veterinarian at the Brookfield zoo, and a few years ago she was offered a job at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando. So our friends had moved to Florida, bought a house, and had a baby since the last time we'd seen them, and we were eager to stay with them for a long weekend during the tail-end of our lousy Smarch weather.
Last Thursday morning we flew out of Indianapolis, which is an easy, 90-minute drive along I-74. I had never seen this new airport and was impressed.
The atmosphere was that of a medium-sized mall on let's say a Tuesday morning--surprisingly quiet and laid back and with jovial workers. We killed some time sitting beneath an art installation of dangling blue shapes that seemed to suggest planes in the sky. I asked Jeff what he thought they were. "I don't know, clouds?" I said they reminded me of an illustration I had seen in a book from my childhood of a Portuguese man of war. It looked sort of like this, only much more ominous, and I remember being intrigued by its weird name and aura of pure evil.
Anyway, that's what that installation brought to mind.
We flew down to Florida on Southwest. About an hour before we took off, a woman approached us and asked if we would keep an eye on her teenage daughter, who was on our flight and flying for the first time. No problem! The girl (Emily) was quiet and just the right amount of nervous. She sat behind us on the plane, and I answered her questions and looked over my shoulder every once in a while to make sure she was okay. The flight was uneventful but, predictably, loaded with kids and babies, one of whom wailed nonstop for thirty minutes before we landed. I felt bad for the little guy, but it was excruciating. Once we landed and came to a slow crawl on the runway, the exasperated-sounding flight attendant announced with perfect comedic timing, "Well we're HERE." Big laughs. We helped Emily find her family once we were in the airport, and then we rented a car. Public transportation: not an option on this trip.
But oh, the green and the warm and the SPRING and the humid! The non-bumpy toll roads and the palm trees and the smell of cut grass! What a difference. Wind in our hair, we GPSed our way to Kevin and Natalie's house. Kevin was there to meet us and gave us a tour.
Kevin and Natalie are wonderful gardeners and, in the short time that they had lived in Florida, had transformed their yard into a thing of beauty. I could not get over this giant tree festooned with Spanish moss.
This is their impressive koi pond--did I ever write about our koi pond incident late last fall? A (supercute) mink ate amost all of our fish. We noticed him swimming around in there, otter-style, and were delighted until we realized our fish were gone. Kevin and Natalie have some robust koi that we coveted, but they were hiding near the bottom from some predator birds when I took this photo.
They even have a pool and a lanai! With deck chairs and a hammock! Jeff and I were looking forward to putting in some serious lounge time out there. The interior of the house was lovely, but I didn't think to get lots of photos. Instead I was hypnotized by plants like these.
Jeff and I played with pets Molpe and Leile, whose names I am undoubtedly misspeling. Please correct me in the comments, Kevin. [EDIT: their pup's name is Líle Altaithedóttir, because of course it is. Thank you for chiming in, Kevin!]
Molpe is just fantastic.
And Leile [EDIT: Líle Altaithedóttir] is a big bundle of doggie love and joy.
Soon Natalie and Victoria arrived, and we had a fabulous fondue dinner/dessert.
Victoria is into Disney princesses--we concluded that no matter how cool the parents are, this has become a non-negotiable rite of passage for little girls. There's just no getting around it. Victoria entertained us with many, many costume changes over the next couple of days.
Kevin takes care of Victoria on assorted weekdays while Natalie is at work, and on Friday we accompanied them to a small playground followed by a great little indie BBQ spot called Yellow Dog Eats (above), where we ate THIS:
It's a pulled-pork barbeque sandwich with brie and a cranberry drizzle of some kind. Jeff and I lost our minds. It was absolutely delicious. I've shown that photo to Jeff several random times this week, and it's like a punch to the gut.
Later we had some ice cream because who can resist the lure of a building shaped like an ice cream cone?
I loved Victoria's expression here.
Back at Kevin and Natalie's house, Jeff and I lounged poolside for about an hour while Victoria napped and Kevin got dinner going. And this dinner was something special.
Looks like we've got some red sauce...
...homemade pasta (Natalie also worked on this)...
...and how about a giant loaf of homemade bread?
By the way, this is what part of their pantry looks like:
I took a crazy number of photos. STORAGE LUST.
Natalie came home early after working on a lion (imagine!) and made some cookies with Victoria. Around this time I checked the weather forecast for Illinois, and guess what? A named storm--Virgil--was set to hit with 5-8 inches of snow on Sunday, the day we were set to return home. Not wanting to experience a repeat of this, Jeff and I did some scrambling. He arranged for us to fly back on Saturday, and I informed my folks that we wouldn't need them to cat-sit for us that day.
Disappointed that we couldn't spend Saturday at Animal Kingdom (where Natalie would be able to show us cool behind-the-scenes stuff), we made the best of the situation. I got in a lot of playtime with Victoria, who fell in love with me and started calling me Mama Kelly because I am really really good at make believe. I also helped Natalie bread and fry slices of eggplant for what was to be a truly spectacular meal:
We ended up going to Epcot to watch end-of-the-night fireworks. Natalie was able to get us in for free, so why not? I had never been to Disney before, and this was just about all the Disney I needed. Sorry no photos--Victoria was in her stroller and flat-out demanded that I and only I would be the one to wheel her around. At one point she glanced back and was highly annoyed to see that Jeff was helping me push. So I had my hands full, but honestly, you've all seen photos of Disneyworld. The fireworks were impressive, and thankfully it stopped raining. We were home by around 10:00, and I was amazed to see how quickly we were able to exit the parking lot. Clearly that place knows how to handle crowds.
We thanked Kevin and Natalie very much for their hospitality and left late the next morning--we had an easy, smooth flight and drive back from Indy--and the next day, this happened:
And also this:
We had received a foot of snow by the time it was all over on Monday.
But that snow was basically gone on Friday, and Bun enjoyed some time outside.
She's licking her chops on the Lion King rock.
That little badass is glad we're back.
At least I think she is.