My first trip of 2016 wasn’t somewhere new. I headed back home to South Florida last weekend, where I grew up and lived until I went to the University of Maryland, to visit my grandmother since AJ and I spent the holidays in South Carolina this year. I talk to my Nana on the phone all the time, but hadn’t seen her in over a year. She is in great health and it’s sometimes easy to think she will be around forever, but realistically, that’s not the case, so I’ve resolved to make visiting her more often a priority. I ended up getting a 3-for-1 deal! My parents recently sold my childhood home and the process went a lot faster than they expected. Although they spend half the year in their house in North Carolina, they hate “cold” weather and spend the winters in Florida. This year, they’re crashing with my grandma at her house until they find a new spot in Florida. So it was one big happy family for the weekend!

My parents’ dog has the crazy eye. And the crazy body. And the crazy behavior.

For reasons I definitely do not understand, no family gathering at my house is complete without a friendly game of cards or a board game. I say this because, despite the fact that my family is super enthusiastic about breaking out the old Phase 10, the situation inevitably devolves into accusations of cheating, meltdowns over the unfair distribution of wild cards, and general pandemonium, like pretty much any family game night. Still, this is the preferred activity for hours every night and despite being alive on this earth for 30 years, I have yet to figure out a way to get out of it. And by that I obviously mean I love my family and I love card games.

My dad takes terrible selfies #familybonding

The next day, my mom and I were heading out to paddle board. I had found a pretty sweet Groupon deal for Island Water Sports in Deerfield Beach, just a few miles from my grandmother’s house. Although we thought the paddle boarding would take place on the intercoastal, it turned out that we were headed out to the ocean, instead. My first thought was obviously that the waves for a better core workout, and I was not disappointed.

You know what else makes a really good core workout? Planking on a paddle board in the ocean.

It was a really beautiful day, and although the occasional wave made a little bit of a challenge, we had a blast. We even saw a sea turtle and got to paddle alongside it for a little while! That’s the kind of experience that’s hard to find in mid-January, and although I have no desire to move back to Florida ever, I do always enjoy being home when I go visit. It’s a pretty unique place!

Bonus workout – getting to carry the boards back to the store �?

Another great part about being home is the food – especially Cuban food. My dad’s stepmother is Cuban and I have a lot of Cuban family that we saw regularly when I was growing up. The thing I miss most about home, besides my family, is Cuban food. When my mom asked me what I wanted for dinner, that was a pretty easy question to answer. I took a huge container of moros back home with me, too.

Sangria, plantanos, moros, y camarones al ajillo – Sangria, plantains, black beans and rice, and shrimp in garlic butter. GET IN MY BELLY

I knew I wanted to do something special with my grandmother on the last day I was in town. I remembered that she used to love to make pottery when I was a kid and she lived out in Arizona, so I thought it might be fun to go paint some pottery. Admittedly, she was skeptical about the idea, but it’s hard for her to say no to me, and I quickly won her over.


Those things might not look like much right now, but they had to spend a few days in the kiln first. My grandma and I got a few hours together just the two of us, with her telling me all sorts of stories about when she was growing up and her community out in Arizona. Although she’s lived in Florida for 21 years, she really misses it out there. I love hearing her stories, and the whole day made me wish she lived closer to me so I could see her more often for things like dinner and of course, card games.

Nana’s snowflake bowl and my wine glass (of course)

I’ll be the first person to admit that I didn’t really love where I lived when I was growing up. I often felt like I didn’t fit in and that I didn’t “belong” in South Florida, despite spending my whole life there. It wasn’t until I moved away and experienced the culture shock of living elsewhere that I developed an appreciation for it and realized just how much of an impact the place had had on my life and how I look at the world. And you know what? It’s not so bad. For better or worse, it shaped who I am today and gave me a thorough appreciation of diversity, Cuban food, Seinfeld, and every Jewish holiday. Home is where the heart is…and the moros.


T-Rex Mom, T-Rex Nana, and T-Rex Runner a few years ago

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