Category Archives: Fun in Miami

An artisanal ice cream boutique

This week my friend Texas and I took our little cowboys with us on our weekly exploration of Miami (weekly exploration described here).

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We took in a little Cuban culture and visited Azucar Ice Cream Company on the “main street” (8th Street) in Little Havana, less than 10 minutes from my  house.

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Azucar is an artisanal ice cream and sorbet boutique.  Normally I would not indulge an ice cream parlor by repeating their marketing material’s fluffy words, but the creator of Azucar went to Penn State’s Ice Cream University and has her  abuela’s (grandmother’s) passion for creating tropical ice cream flavors “tattooed on her soul”, y’all. These Latino sabores are for real!

The Cafe Con Leche (coffee and Oreo) was to die for and the Elvis(peanut butter and banana) looked fabulous too. My little niños did not venture too far from chocolate and vanilla and honestly, I think both flavors could have received a gold medal for best in their class they were both just perfect (oh the fruity sorbet looked wonderful, but even so I always go for the chocolate, it’s just who I am).

So fellow Miamians if you haven’t been to Little Havana since last July (when they opened), run! Azucar is the ice cream bomb.

And to all the others, when you find yourself in this corner of paradise, Azucar is the sp0t where you can get a little taste of Heaven!

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Find all of the information that you need on Azucar here on their website.

Tuesdays with Texas

I lived closer to my second friend that I met in Miami when I lived in Dallas, than I do now.  Texas moved to Florida, from East Dallas with her family in June. Just like me Texas’s husband was offered a job here in the Magic City that he could not pass-up.

I didn’t know her before I moved, but when a friend that I have known since I was in diapers in the nursery at church facebook messaged me and told me that Texas was moving to Miami I had a feeling we would be tight; those who choose to live in East Dallas have something in common.  I can not pin point exactly what it is, but there is something that made us, and others, choose this more expensive, eclectic, area of Dallas, “inside the loop”

When Texas arrived in June, I didn’t waste anytime.  We went and bought beach towels for her kids and showed up at their new front door.  I welcomed her like I would have loved to have been welcomed to a new city and hoped that my eagerness did not come across as stalkerness.  My gamble paid off.  Texas seemed to appreciate the calls of support and our kids enjoyed playing with each other.

I would have prefered that she moved right next door (I know, I know that might be a little too much togetherness for a new friend, but I’m telling you if my neighbors would talk to me they would really like me. I’m good at neighborly conversation with great instincts for how much is too much), but the promise of excellent public schools, and a well located office building,  took Texas and her family to a great neighborhood about 30 minutes south of mine.  Even though it was not my first choice to have my second friend live so far, the milage between us might have some advantages.  If Texas ends up loving The Falls and reports a much easier time with getting to know the Miamians in her area, there is nothing stopping us from buying a house down there when our Coconut Grove lease expires (except for a little hour+ commute for my hubby but he could get over it right? Well, maybe that is too much too ask, we would miss him).

Thus far at least two of Texas’s neighbors have spoken to her and one even invites her little cowboys to play ANYTIME THE GARAGE IS OPEN, and it sounds like it is open quite a bit.  We have agreed that we will probably decide there is simply a trade-off.  It looks like The Falls might be more friendly like our former home in East Dallas, while “The Grove” is probably one of the more beautiful parts of Miami, the classic brains vs. beauty debate.  It was love at first sight when my husband and I saw the Grove, but we wonder if the size of her coconuts, so to speak,  might not be enough in the long run to make us happy.

Texas is still enjoying the anonymous stage of her move (described here), so there is still a lot to learn about The Falls.  Time will tell.  We look forward to comparing notes.

It would be easy for a married mother of elementary school aged children to find no time to see her friends, that is why Texas and I made a commitment.  We have a date each Tuesday to explore a new part of Miami.  We’re going to kill two flamingos with one stone: we’ll catch-up and get to know this crazy place at the same time.

We started our Together Tuesdays this week and thought there was no better place to begin than the epicenter of the city: South Beach (some locals may not agree with that statement on “epicenter” but us newbys have gotta start somewhere!).    Texas and I went on a walking tour of the Art Deco Historic District that stretches about 10 blocks wide, and maybe 5 blocks deep in the heart of Miami Beach. Trip Advisor rated Christine Micheal’s small group tour as the second best tour of ALL AVAILABLE tours in Miami (it would be hard to compete with a boat on the beautiful bay waters, but she beat all but one).  Not surprisingly in the 90 degree weather and 150% humidity, Texas and I had this delightful tour guide to ourselves.  Christine talked history, architecture and design while she crab-walked through the district.  We just loved it.  We learned so much about both Art Deco and Miami and we promise to share our new knowledge with you when you come visit (I noticed from her recent facebook posts that Texas really listened to my success stories of heavy campaigning for out-of-town guests). Click for a link to the Art Deco Walking Tour here.

And this is just the beginning.  Texas and I have a lot of  places we want to explore and week by week we will start crossing our Miami must see spots off our list.  This is something that you could do in your own city, even if you have lived there your entire life.  It seems like locals of every city do not always take the time to explore or take advantage of their home town’s treasures.  Many Miamians have admitted to rarely going to the beach  and usually say they wish they could find the time (if they only knew what it meant to be land locked I bet that wouldn’t be the case).  But the truth is, you’ve got to make the time: sit-down, carve it out, and make it happen.     Even if you aren’t on a new friend search like me, I am sure there are hidden gems in your town waiting to be uncovered.  Experts say that friendships are based on shared experiences and even if you think you don’t have room in your life for new friends, I bet you have a few bonds that could use strengthening.  So what are you waiting for?   Call a friend, or take a risk and call someone you hope might be your friend, and make a commitment to go see or do something new!  I don’t think you will regret it!

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The Aristocrat: my first friend in Florida

On Saturday I launched a search for the best way to make friends in Miami (see my previous post linked below).

My family and I moved here from Dallas on New Year’s Day, 2012 and thus far I have made 2.5 new friends.

I met my first friend Mary in mid-February. After unpacking boxes and getting my three children settled in school I sat down and emailed the four friends of my friends whose addresses were given to me before I moved (did you follow that? Friend set-ups). I heard back from all but one.

With two of them I played a game of tag. We emailed back and forth until someone forgot we were playing. I am pretty sure it was not me. That left one potential new friend and honestly, I thought a 25% return for my email efforts was not so bad.

I get it. We are all busy and some people just don’t have any white space on their calendars. A dear friend from Dallas, who I vacationed with this summer said something like that: “You know Meredith, I have such a full, busy life, I don’t really want to make any new friends. I can barely keep up with those that I already have.” Why should these new girls work a stranger into their lives if they can barely make time for people they already know?

But Mary had her reasons. In fact, as soon as she read the name Sarah Brown, she said her fingers were flying with a reply (I love this story).

“Dear Meredith,

It was so good to hear from you. I would love to plan a get-together soon. What day will work for you? Sarah Brown was my very first friend at the University of Texas. I went to orientation without knowing a soul and Sarah was assigned the dorm room next to mine. She was from Dallas but seemed to know every Texan at the entire school and I was so thankful that she let me tag along with her for the weekend. When our freshman year began we pledged different sororities but always kept up. If I ever needed clarification on a Texas eccentricity, or really anything at all, Sarah was the first person I called. I would do anything for her.”

Well thank you Sarah. I thought that was a pretty awesome pay-it-forward twenty years after the fact!

We agreed to meet with the kids at Riviera Country Club on a Tuesday after school the next week. When I came home from our date I told my husband if anyone ever used the term aristocracy anymore I would call Mary an aristocrat!

The Junior League, University of Miami Art Board, TWO yacht clubs, never mind the golf club where we were sitting. Have you heard of the fancy resort in Key Largo that every U.S. President has visited? It is called Ocean Reef. Mary and her family are members there too! They take their beautiful 32 foot boat down for the day and sometimes spend the weekend in their condo in the Keys.

I hit the jack pot! Mary is a well of wonderful information, but it gets even better. She is SUPER NICE, but not in that sappy sweet sort-of way. Really nice which made me feel comfortable digging for information about Miami society.

She is also available. Not all the time, but enough. She works, has 2 young children and lots of family and friends in town. Mary and her husband both went to high school in the Gables… well look at me, I am already picking-up the local slang. “The Gables” is short for Coral Gables. Some would argue the Gables is the most beautiful suburb of Miami and I might agree, but I digress…

When I call, Mary always finds time to answer my questions. We have enjoyed dinner at a few Miami hotspots with Mary and her husband and spent a wonderful afternoon on Biscayne Bay with their entire family.

She lives close but our paths rarely cross. Our children go to different schools. If I was in a bind and my husband was out-of-town, I would be comfortable asking Mary or her husband for help. Just knowing that they are there feels nice.

Sometime before Christmas, when I get through my back-to-school to-do list, I will call Mary for a lunch date to hear about her typical Miamian’s summer, which means a summer not spent in Miami (they say it is too hot to stay here… we’ll save that topic for another day) and I know she will make it happen.

And when I am teaching and re-teaching my children the Golden Rule I will tell them the story of Sarah, Mary and me and remind them that you must always do unto others as you would have done unto you because you never know when you will need a recommendation for membership to one of the most exclusive yacht clubs in Florida every action causes a reaction and your simple kindness might brighten someone else’s life 20 years from now, and that is just well, super cool!
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Biscayne Bay

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The opposite of anonymous

The opposite of anonymous: distinctive, named, known.

I like known.

Being known.

For me, the hardest part about moving across country is leaving the place you are known.

In your home town, friends honk when they see you and wave when they run by.

It might not be true, but it feels like an extra set of eyes are watching your children at school, because the principal knows your name.

The clerk at the laundromat has your dry cleaning pulled and ready to go when she sees your car pull into the parking lot.

Your running group never leaves at 1 minute after your designated meet time because they know you might show up in 5.

When you are sick, or recovering from surgery, you never know which friend or neighbor will show up at the door with dinner, or offer to take your children to play so you can have a quiet house.

And maybe, the waiter at your favorite restaurant will keep your glasses in his front pocket for 3 weeks until you return again, because he just knew you would be back soon.

But then all that knowing gets a little overwhelming.

The more people you know, the more people you have to say good-bye too when you leave.

Sometimes the right words don’t come.

You have to say good-bye to your family, your friends and even people you don’t know very well.

How do you say thank you for the organizational help when you were preparing to show the house, because your friend knows that organizing is really not your “thing?” Or to another that invited the neighborhood and everyone you have ever known in the city to a wonderful goodbye party? And then to your parents that came to every one of their 3 grandchildren’s soccer games, dance recitals, and swim meets not out of obligation but because they really wanted to be there.

The packing and planning and partying and packing and planning and… it all becomes so chaotic, there is a huge crescendo and then you are gone!

You move. And, after you unpack the boxes, and get the kids enrolled in school… it stops.

You become anonymous.

Someone hands you a clean slate.

AFter the craziness that moving can bring the silence of anonymity is nice.

You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do because you have no obligation.

Want to try a new church? Do it.

Want to be a faceless parent in the PTA, you can try.

Grown tired of the traditional furnishings in your house? Get rid of them. Your new town is full of contemporary furniture stores, why don’t you give it a go?

How about a belly dancing class at the gym? No risk someone you know will see that your hips don’t move like the rest of the class because you don’t know anyone!

Ever wondered if blondes really DO have more fun? Of if it is the red color, not part of their personality that give your sweet carrot topped friends their extra spunk? Why don’t you check it out?

Adding a little adventure to my life has helped ease the pain of leaving home. It has been fun! Thursday I entered La Bella Salon in Coral Gables a brunette and left like this:

Do reds have more fun?

And I have to tell you, I am feeling a little feisty! With this new color, I need to be careful. It might be hard to remain anonymous with my new flaming head.

Have you taken your children to happy hour?

Does my title remind you of the movie Sweet Home Alabama? Reece Witherspoon’s character had returned home and was not too impressed when she saw her highschool friend toting her baby on her hip in the local hang-out: “you have a baby, in a bar?”

My children didn’t seem to mind being at a local happy hour and if we did get any funny Reece Witherspoon looks I didn’t notice because it was loud, we were sitting outside on a beautiful late afternoon and every little Kallaher was eating a delicious dinner.

It was 5:30, and my kids and I had been running errands in South Miami and we were all hungry. That day it felt too late to deal with the stove and I could not face the golden arches.

We were walking back to the car and passed a restaurant I had always wanted to try. I noticed there was outdoor seating, so we took a seat.

We were at Town Kitchen and Bar at 7301 57th Court, South Miami.

The 3 sprites I treated my kids too might have cost more than our food. Well, not quite now that I think about it but it was not very expensive because Town has a happy hour menu that they serve daily from 4-7 pm. We started our meal with calamari that my son recently realized that he likes ($6). The kids shared a Margherita pizza ($8) and I had a tuna avocado on toast concoction ($7) that was quite good while I sipped on my free glass of champagne (that they offer to all adults over 21). Only $25 for dinner at what some critics say is the best restaurant in South Miami and what made it even better was no dishes for me that night!

Friends from Dallas are vacationing on Miami Beach this week and we will only get to see them for one day before we go on our own trip. I wanted to make sure to leave them with a list of restaurants we’ve enjoyed with the kids, because in our family that honestly does not happen very often (I really wish that wasn’t the case but my kids are usually more interested in exploring the new scenery then enjoying their food and sometimes that makes me lose my appetite).

As I completed this list I realized that it worked out pretty well because each spot is in a different part of Miami. If this were a “fun and delicious spots to eat with your children” guide that you followed daily on your vacation, you would get a great tour!

Big Pink 157 Collins Avenue, 33139 (South Beach)
They had us at pink. From the Volkswagen bug parked out front to the seats inside everything here is pink and my girls loved it! It’s like a 1950’s diner covered in cotton candy. Their typical diner faire was definitely not typical. My kids and I went for breakfast after witnessing our first (and only, thus far) Atlantic sunrise on the beach. The pancakes were stacked high and the eggs were delicious. Even though it was only 8:00 am I let my kids have a homemade milkshake for desert because, truth be told, I knew I would get to finish what they did not drink. Those shakes were as wonderful as I knew they would be.

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Andiamo’s 5600 Biacayne Bay. 33137 (upper East Side)
We sat outside here recently and I’m telling you guys, even in late July we were not that hot. It was about 6 pm, 87 degrees but there was a breeze coming off the ocean (though the restaurant is not right on the ocean) and we felt just fine. Isn’t sitting outside with your children just better? It is for us because we are pretty sure we have the LOUDEST CHILDREN IN THE WORLD (but they are really cute and funny and sweet… just extremely loud!). This pizza was “slap-yo-mamma” good… or I guess whoever’s mama made these pies. The crust was that perfect thickness and the combinations they offered were divine. We were able to order a kids pepperoni and sausage (which my husband tried as well) and then divide a second pie in half trying two of the combinations on the menu. The blank was out of this world.

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The Cocowalk Main Hwy, 33133 (Coconut Grove)
Any of the chain restaurants here would be a great place to take your children but my family’s favorite is Chili’s. The kids and husband love the ribs (I probably need to run that statement by my husband… he is from Memphis so I am not sure how Chili’s ribs rate with him, but I do know that I have never seen him meet a rib that he did not eat). I honestly have been disappointed with Chili’s but the kids beg for it and I’m happy for a walk to dinner (it is half a mile from our new house) and a fun night out. You never know what you will see in Coconut Grove and the kids are always entertained by the street performers. I love the music, especially the kid with the guitar on the corner that I know I am going to see on American Idol soon (note thee are many wonderful, non-chain restaurants in Coconut Grove that are just not in “the Cocowalk”). My husband and my favorite is Jaguar’s but we’ll save that for another post… we have not taken the kids there yet).

The Shake Shack South Dixie Highway (Coral Gables)
This New York born restaurant just opened its largest store yet, and second in Florida, in Coral Gables on July 15th. I haven’t been to this location yet because the lines were so long. I have been to the other Florida location on Lincoln Road on South Beach and it was great. It is simply hot dogs, hamburgers and shakes (and beer!) but the ingredients are top-notch “free of artificial trans fats and cooked with 100 percent Renewable energy.” But more importantly to the kids it IS YUMMY! They have done a few special custards just for Miami (key lime pie) and I understand just for Coral GAbles they are serving the “Smokeshack” (apple-wood smoked bacon with chopped cherry peppers and cheese). Let me know when you are going, and I’ll meet you there!

So Bon Appetite to You and Yours. And if, out of the corner of your eye, you see a Ms Witherspoon type give you a funny look, do not fret. You are in the Magic City, the land where anything goes. Trust me. As you are walking out of that bar with your smiling full children you will wave at the children walking in to begin their family’s evening meal.

I wrote and mailed via U.S. Post a thank you note straight from my iphone

Yesterday, in honor of their recent collaboration with Sanrio Inc., Yogurtland Miami hosted an awesome party! Hello Kitty and Tuxedo (the short round blue penguin whose name I had never known until yesterday) greeted guests on the dance floor and made themselves available for a photo-op with anyone who asked.

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Each guest was treated to as much yogurt and as many toppings as her little heart desired or his mom would allow. My family left with cute Hello Kitty t-shirts, reusable bags, bright balloons, big smiles and full bellies.

It was such a great morning and Yogurtland was so generous I wanted to make sure our family showed our appreciation. As the kids colored a few notes for The Cat I found the “Postagram” Ap in the Apple Store on my Iphone.

It’s so cool! I was able to create a customized thank you note using a picture from the party, that I edited in Instagram. My cute little postcard was then addressed and stamped at the Postagram headquarters and mailed directly, via the U.S. Post, to Yogurtland! There was even a gift with purchase- the picture was perforated! We can’t wait to send postcards from our upcoming trip to grandma, so she can hang them on the refrigerator!

My first Postagram was free (and yours could be as well if you download the application now) but after that they will cost me $1.99 each (that includes postage).

Let me stop right there. Have you heard of Instagram (I mentioned above that I used it to edit the picture in the thank you note). I LOVE INSTAGRAM! It is a photosharing AND photoediting site AND IT IS FREE! It is so easy to edit your photos and then post to your Instagram account or another sharing network you might be a part of, and anyone you are friends with can see your picture. I love it because:

1. The editing is super easy and so is either sharing it on Instagram, twitter or Facebook directly from the application. I can post to all, or just one of those networks, depending on the purpose of each particular photo.
2. It has been so fun to see what all my friends have been up to this summer. OK, maybe not all of my friends I have over 800 Facebook friends and only 40 of them are on Instagram… but I’m working on that… really encouraging everyone to use the application.
3. My mom does not like to spend the money on text messages, but I convinced her to download Instagram on her Iphone so now I can send her pictures of her grandchildren straight to her phone (I had to explain that it was much easier than emailing the shots, and she agreed to give Instagram a try… so far, so good).

Proud that I had actually written, addressed and stamped a thank you note on the same day I attended the related event I was feeling a bit ambitious and ready to conquer a few more photo applications. I did a little research, checked-out a few online recommendations, and found some EASY, FREE photo editing tools that I thought you might enjoy too.

1. Instaframe helps you (a) frame your photos and (b) combine multiple sized photos into one frame, AND (3) easily add words on your photos. When finished you have several options of where you want to post, i.e. Instagram, Facebook, email, your “photo album” Check it out:

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2. PopBooth, by the company Sincerely, Inc. that produced Instaframe will snap 4 shots and create a photo strip that you can, edit, post to one of your networks OR mail in a perforated postcard for $1.99. This would be so fun to use for birthday party thank you notes! The only problem is that it can only be used as a front sided camera. I believe the makers intended you to use it with a kick-stand in a make shift photobooth. I love the result, but wish I could snap the pictures of other without having to “mess” with a kick-stand

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3. From the Top, Photobooth is also free and does have a rear facing camera. It doesn’t allow you to mail them to your friends via the U.S. Post, but you can send via email or post to facebook or twitter AND you can add costumes!! I could play with this all day!

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While writing this blog, and re-reading each AP’s description, I realized I had miss the fact that I could add word bubbles to my photo strips and edit single pictures using the From the Top, Photobooth AP. It wasn’t extremely user friendly.. but once I got the hang of it- I had fun playing with some photos I had stored on my phone:

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4. BeFunky is a free photo editor with no ads, which is nice and A LOT of creative and, well funky, effects. This is not a sharing site, like Instagram, but will post to what seems like any network that you would like it to post. Look at the fun that I had!

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Note: This last picture was taken INSIDE Forever 21 at North Park Mall in Dallas. Did we have you fooled?

I had fun playing with these photo applications today. Did I miss one of your favorites? Let me know and I’ll give it a try.