A Ripped Bathing Suit and More at Florida’s Ichetucknee Springs State Park

We had a busy summer, but we wanted to squeeze one more trip in before school started for our ninth grader and college freshman. We wanted a short drive, and a destination that didn’t cost a lot.  Also, we wanted a destination that my parents would enjoy, so we decided on Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

Fort White is the nearest city to the park.  It is about a five-hour drive from Naples, where we live, and isn’t too far from the Florida/ Georgia line.  The springs are in the middle of the state, so there is no quick drive to the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico beaches.

Ichetucknee Springs is a 2,241 acre Florida State Park and National Natural Landmark. The six-mile stretch of the Ichetucknee River is fed by seven natural springs which rise to the surface from the aquifer.  What does this mean?  Well, the water is crystal clear, and very cold.  The river’s year round temperature is 72 degrees.

The entrance fees to the park are $6 per vehicle, 2-8 people, $4 single occupant vehicle, $4 motorcycle fee, 1-2 people, and $2 for pedestrians and bicyclist. The tram service is $5 per person.

First Things First

We moved to Florida from the Chicagoland area one year ago.  The one thing almost all transplanted Chicagoans miss is Portillo’s, an American restaurant chain serving hot dogs, Italian Beef, sausage, etc.  It is so good that my sweet in-laws mailed Italian beef from Portillo’s to us for Christmas.  How sweet!

We knew Portillo’s recently built a restaurant in Tampa, so we had to make it one or our stops.

My mom is wondering why I am taking so long:)



We stayed at the Home2 Suites by Hilton, in Lake City.  We chose this hotel based on its ratings, so it wasn’t the closest hotel.  Actually, it was about 30 minutes away from the springs.  We were glad we stayed there because it was well-appointed with a separate t.v. area, kitchenette, and desk.  The beds were very comfortable.  Also, there were plenty of amenities close by, such as a variety of restaurants, and STARBUCKS!  It isn’t civilization without Starbucks.  Is it?

Ichetucknee Springs State Park

When we arrived at the park I was surprised how much the area reminded me of northern Wisconsin. The area is rural with a lot of pine and oak trees. I kept saying “Where are the palm trees?”  There were slight hills, and streets named CR105.

We tried to go tubing when we arrived at the park, but they stopped renting tubes at 5:00, however, the park is open 8am until sundown. Our next option was the Blue Hole Spring and Head Spring located at the North park entrance.  Both can be accessed from the same parking lot.

Blue Hole Spring

About 1/2 mile from the parking lot, through a trail in the woods, you will find the Blue Hole Spring.  The spring forms a round pool that is crystal clear and shines blue in the sunlight. The hole is about forty feet deep, and there is roughly 500 feet of cave at the bottom. It’s a great spot to snorkel, or to scuba, if you are licensed.

found this image on Pinterest, but there are a lot more amazing pictures to see online.

This was our first experience in the 72 degree water.  Let’s just say we did not jump in, but took one step at a time.  Brrr!

This is my daughter, Kaitlyn. She wasn’t too sure about getting in:)

I thought this picture captured the feeling of the cold water🤣 Look closely and you can see my foot.

From the deck, the water looks dark, but that is due to the grasses on the bottom. After we got somewhat acclimated to the water temperature, we did notice how clear the water was.

We had to fight a slight current as we swam to the Blue Hole. It was pretty awesome, but once I saw it, I swam quickly back to the steps. There is just something about being above a forty-foot hole with a current:)

Mr. V and our daughter Natalie (their heads are above water) are just below the blue hole. Doesn’t the water look mysterious?

Head Spring

The next stop was at the Head Spring, which was just a short walk from the parking lot. This was my favorite spot.  It didn’t have a lot of grasses, so you could see to the bottom. However, it did have a lot of rocks, so you had to be careful.  It was fun watching everyone tip toe in, or being encouraged to get in.  I just love the pictures from this spring. Amazing!

Mr. V and Natalie


Tubing the Ichetucknee River

The next day we had rain.  No blue sky to be seen.  We prayed that the Lord would stop the rain, so our last day wasn’t a bust.  The Lord was faithful!  By the time we went tubing, the skies cleared, and we had beautiful weather.  In fact, we had beautiful weather the rest of the day.

We went to the South main entrance to rent our tubes. My parents decided this was something they could do. Something about not having to get in the water? We rented our tubes at the general store, and took the tram to the north part of the river. We took the 1 3/4 hour float tour.

The park has a variety of tubes, inflatable boats, kayaks, and canoes to rent at the South park entrance.  You can also choose a1 3/4 hour tour, like we did, or a 45 minute float time. If you want to save some money, bring your own vessel.

You can launch at the North end with your own tubes.  You will need to follow instructions on-line for this option.  The float time is about 3 1/2 hours.

We chose two tubes with headrests, and two 3 passenger boats. Realistically, it was a two person boat with room for some gear, like snorkels, snacks, towels, etc.

Mr. V did some research, so he was prepared with rope to tie our tubes together, and a dry bag for towels, snacks, cameras, phones, etc.  We bought the dry bags at Walmart.

Our Journey Down the River

The river runs trough woods dappled with Spanish moss, turtles, birds, and more. It was so beautiful!  I do have to mention that alligators have been seen there😳. Yes, even in that cold water!

My family decided to get in the water, because it was getting hot. Some snorkeled, while others held on to the floats, and floated down the river.

We all thought the water in the river was warmer than in the springs. However, it was still cold.

I must caution that the river moves at a good pace. There were rocks and logs that you can’t see unless you were snorkeling. I came home with a few bruises, and a ripped swim skirt. One rock was determined to take it off me😳

My Dad was enjoying the ride!

The girls getting situated.

We did go back to the Head Spring for a little snorkeling, and then headed home. Guess where we stopped on the way back?  You guessed it, Portillo’s. This time we left with their famous chocolate cake!

Does anyone else eat their cake like this?  My dad says it’s a southern thing, but my mom says “no way!”


Tell me what you think.  Is this a getaway you would like to take, or maybe you have been there before.  Let me know.  I always enjoy hearing from you!

Where will the next Florida adventure be?  We are thinking about taking a trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park or the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo.

Until next time, May your Nest be Blessed!









Something is Shady: A Window Treatment for the Piano Room

My shade for the piano room came in, but first let me tell you about my inspiration. I saw the following Veranda cover, and I knew it was the look I wanted.

I wanted to block some of the ultra violet rays, but not all of the light or view. Also, I wasn’t too concerned with the privacy from this window, because it is located on the side of the house. That is why this treatment caught my eye.

You will see that my neighbor is quite close. I have a Magnolia tree that should block some of their house, when it gets bigger. When the tree is bigger, I want to see it!  Therefore, this shade fits the bill.

The shade I chose is from the Hunter Douglas Provenance collection. It is called Maritime Oyster Shell. It is considered a semi-sheer woven wood blind.

Here it is!

To give you an idea of what shade looks like closed..

Sorry these pictures are so dark, but they show the view outside.

These shades don’t offer the most in energy efficiency, but they are better than nothing.  If I ever decide I want more energy efficiency or privacy, I can add a liner to it.

It isn’t finished, yet. I will be adding stationary drapery panels to each side. As always, I will keep you posted!

May your Nest be Blessed!


Inspiration: Magazines

Where do you look for decorating inspiration?  I have a few go-tos, but today I will be sharing about magazines.

Why Magazines?

I am somewhat addicted to decorating magazines. Which means I spend too much money on them.  (Don’t tell Mr. V:). Some of my favorites are House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Magnolia and Veranda. You will notice some magazines cost almost as much as a book. Well, often times they are like a book. They are chockfull of beautiful pictures, and very little adds.  An example of this would be The Cottage Home for $12.99.

Check Costco for decorating magazines. They are usually up to 30% off.

Now you may be wondering why you need to buy a magazine while there is so much to see online.  There is something to be said for having the image in your hand.  Is that like someone who prefers a newspaper to internet?  Does that make me sound old?  Anyway, it is just one of the many ways I get inspired.

For me, I have decided anything over one year to a year and a half, needs to be donated or thrown away.  So much changes in that time. You can always file individual pages that “speak to you” for reference.


I was recently enamored with the cover of Veranda.  What caught my eye was the window, which will be my inspiration for the window in my piano room.  I can’t wait to show you the result, and to read what you think.  Be on the lookout!


Here is a picture of my piano room.

The Magazine in My Cart

Today, I picked up Country French.   It’s one of those “books” I was telling you about.  Here is a sneak peek:

Isn’t it beautiful?!

Be careful that you check these magazines for “Back by Popular Demand.”  Take it from me, you may have bought it last year😳

Tell me what your favorite magazines are, and why. You may encourage me to add a new one to my list:)

May your Nest be Blessed!


Update: Oops!

Mistakes happen to all of us, but wouldn’t it be nice to learn from someone else’s mistakes than our own?  You don’t often hear about failures in decorating, who wants to share those, but I hope by sharing some of my “Oops!”,  I will help you make wiser decisions that will save you time and money.

When you move into a new home, I believe that you should take your time to get a feel for your new surroundings. Take time to know how you will use each room, and decide what you need to buy, donate, or throw away.

Don’t be so quick to buy something, especially, if it can’t be returned. Case in point: I had a large coir doormat, personalized with my last initial, at the entrance of my last home.  I loved it, but it wasn’t in good enough shape to move to my new home.  At my new home I measured my front door area for size, customized the rug with a “V”, and waited patiently for it to arrive.

What could have been the problem?  Well, the entrance doors open to the outside instead of the inside.  This is the opposite of how my doors operated at my last home.  This means the rug has to be lower than the door when it swings open.  It wouldn’t be a problem if you stepped up into the house, but no, this is not how my entrance was designed.  There is a step to the covered entry, and that is all.

This wasn’t the most costly mistake, but who wants to waste money?  If I had waited a little longer to get familiar with my home, I would have noticed that the rug would never work in that location.  This is true for buying a reclining chair that can’t be reclined because it hits the wall, or buying a piece of furniture that is just too small for the storage you need, etc.  It is alright to take your time.

So what did I do with the rug?  It is on the lanai, and I kind of like that it takes the sand off of your feet that can be picked up from the pavers around the pool.  It isn’t ideal, but at least it is being used.

I have been using this rug from Costco. (You can buy it on sale through August 27th) I also have one in the garage, and one on the lanai.

After one year, I decided to add a more decorative rug.  I found the following rug on sale at Frontgate, and it is 3/8 inch thick. I think it blends nicely with the pavers, and adds a pop of color.

Door Mats

What do you think?

I hope I have given you some helpful advice.  Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or you just want to share a mistake that you had to correct.

May your Nest be Blessed!



Let the Sun Shine In: Shutters

One of the things that was important in my new home was that it had to be filled with natural light.  It had to have a lot of windows. Now I have to find window treatments.  Oh, my!  What I loved about my home is going to bankrupt me! From paper shades to shutters, I will share with you what I have learned.

Phase 1: Temporary Paper Shades

I decided to tackle this job in phases.  Phase 1 was temporary paper shades for the bedrooms and master bathroom, as seen in the following picture.  They are very inexpensive, and easy to install. You can buy these at your local hardware store.  You just cut them to the size of your windows, and attach with the tape strip.  Easy Peasy!

Temporary paper shade in master bathroom.

This is a good time to point out that when you move into a new home, use the paper shades until you have a good idea of how you will be decorating and using each room.  You will need to determine if you want black out, privacy, semi-private, sheer, or no coverage at all.

Not wanting to live with temporary paper shades forever, like the one I had in my former master bathroom for 15 years!, I decided it was time for something more permanent.  Now I would like to tell you it was an agonizing decision, but it wasn’t.  Mr. V really wanted plantation shutters, and I liked them too.  For continuity sake, I decided to use the shutters in all of the bedrooms and master bathroom.

Phase 2: Plantation Shutters

After the initial price shock, I decided to implement the three quote rule.  I received three price quotes, and checked the warranties.  The winner was the company that offered the same price for wood as a composite.  Usually, wood costs much more.

I chose Naples Shutter. They use poplar wood, and have a 5 step paint and finish process. I liked that the shutters were locally made.

Plantation Shutter Details

There were a couple of considerations when choosing the shutters.  The louvers come in different sizes. A more traditional louver is about 2 1/2″, but they are now being made as big as 5 1/2 inches.  I don’t think the size is just a personal choice.  The smaller size would be good in homes with average height ceilings, or for someone who wants a very traditional look.  The ceilings in my bedrooms and bathroom range from 10 to 12 feet, so the rooms could accommodate larger louvers.  I decided on the 4 1/2″ size.  What I liked most about this size was that when the shutters were open, the view was less restricted.  When your view is of palm trees, who wants to block it?  Also, it gives a very clean look.

Plantation Shutter Louver Size
What to do about those transoms in the master bedroom?  I decided to put the mid rail, the divider that separates the louver sections, at the bottom of the transom so that I could operate it separately from the rest of the shutter.  This way I could leave the top open, and close the rest. I could have had a second mid rail on each window, but the louvre size prevented it from being placed in the middle of each window. The horizontal black rail wouldn’t be covered.

Plantation Shutter

Plantation Shutters

In the girls’ rooms, the mid rails are in the middle of the windows, covering the horizontal black rail.

How many doors per window?  Depending on window size, you may need two or more doors. I wanted as few doors as possible to have a less obstructed view, but the largest window in the master bedroom needed two because of the width. One door on that window would have caused the louvers to sag. The pole on the left is used to operate the top louvers.  I am tall, but not tall enough:)


Another new feature of shutters today is that you can hide the tilt rod. The tilt rod used to always be on the front in the middle, but now can be hidden behind the shutters on a side. Once again, this added to the clean look, and less obstruction to the view. All I have to do to open my shutters is to tilt a louver.


The hidden tilt rod.


The door got a shutter treatment too.  I could have had a section trimmed out for the handle, but I didn’t care for the look. Thankfully, the handle did not have to be replaced. Sophie decided to say “Hi!”

The following is an example of the cutouts that can be added for handles.  What do you think?


Now the depressing part. For a cohesive look, I wanted the shutters to match the color of the trim. For some reason, I thought I knew what the color was, and gave the color to the salesman. Big mistake!  Once installed, I could tell that the whites didn’t match.  I have learned my lesson. When you are 49, don’t rely on your memory:)

Phases 3 & 4

Well, I am thinking about Phase 3.  When my budget allows, I will tackle Mr. V’s office, front doors, powder bath, and the girls’ office space.  Phase 4 will include all of the pretty, stationary draperies.  Fun!

I did order something different for the large window in my piano room, but it will be covered at another time.  Be on the look out for my post on woven wood shades:)

May your nest be blessed, and your shutters match your trim!:)





Celebrations: My Mom’s 75th Birthday Party

June was a busy month!  My daughter, Natalie, graduated 8th grade, my in-laws celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary (which meant a trip to Illinois), my mom turned 75, Father’s Day, and I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary.  Phew!  Also, my sister and her two children were in town for a month, which meant I needed to put a lot of things on the back burner so my family and I  could “vacation” with her and the kids.  Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of time to plan my mom’s birthday party, but in just a few days, my sister and I pulled off a fun party that my mom said was one of her favorites.

When throwing a party, remember your guest of honor.  What does he/she like?  Well, my mom loves mystery novels and movies that are not gory.  (We are always saying we should write a book together, because we have a mischievousness about us.  More about that another time:)  Also, my mom is very creative and loves to be with friends.

So what did we come up with for her party?  We decided on a movie night featuring “The Rear Window” with Jimmy Stewart. Jimmy Stewart is one of her favorite actors, and the movie came out when she was young.

Even though we didn’t have a lot of time to plan the party, we had a great start.  We just needed to build on the theme.  For ease, we decided to serve appetizers.  We made things that would have been served during the time the movie was released, such as punch, cheese ball with crackers, fresh fruit, veggies, cheese straws, cocktail meatballs, mixed nuts, and shrimp cocktail.  There are many recipe ideas online, like a jello mold with shrimp and things made with Spam!, but these were easily made which helped with our schedule, AND they tasted good.

I have to mention these great cups my sister found at the party store.  They are Two-Part Shot Glasses (plastic), but they were not used for alcohol.  She had the great idea to use them for cut veggies and dip.  They worked out great!  Isn’t it fun when you can find new ways to use things?

I am always a sucker for props to help create the mood.  I created little vignettes from the movie, and spread them around the house.  I left a fake engagement ring in the powder room, a wine glass with pearls, binoculars, camera, fake cigarette on the piano with sheet music and a pencil, just to name a few.  My favorite was a suitcase with an arm hanging out of it, and a machete (toy sword) attached.  My sister found the realistic cigarettes and sword at the party store.  I did borrow the arm from my mom.  I told you she was mischievous!  The rest was from my home.

We decided to have everyone dress as a character from the movie.  This was very easy because you could find what you needed in your own closet.  Also, this was a great way to make everyone feel that they were contributing to my mom’s special night. I was the neighbor with the dog.  All I needed was a dress and a dog in a basket.  My sister won best costume.  She bought fake glasses, silver hairspray, and borrowed the rest.  She looked killer!

We had a few L.B. Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart), Lisa Fremonts (Grace Kelly), Ms. Torsos, and one invalid wife, neighbor with a dog (me), and Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr.)

You can’t have a party without music.  We played music from the 50’s.  Another great way to get into character.

We did have one game.  The guests had to guess how many props we had out, and what scene Alfred Hitchcock was in.   No one guessed how many props, but we did have a winner for the Alfred Hitchcock scene.  The gift wasn’t period appropriate, but a gift card to Starbucks will get you coffee 🙂

Well, as my mom said “It was one of the most fun birthdays she has had.”  That is all that matters.  The next time you need to throw together a party fast, I hope you will remember it doesn’t take a lot of time to create a fun and memorable party for you and your guests.


You’ve Got Mail!

A few weeks ago I found the cutest art print at my local Barnes & Noble. It was a fun map of the city of Naples. It was right before Father’s Day, so I decided Mr. V needed some art in his home office as a gift.  I would definitely get the home decorated quicker if he asked for gifts for our home for special occasions. I do!  Do you?

I have only had a few things framed, and I have never been overly thrilled. Could It be that I only looked at the discount frames?

After some research, I discovered Framebridge. This is an online company that will frame an uploaded file or physical piece.  I had my print, so I mailed it to them in a prepaid tube they sent to me. Also, they have flat mailers for your piece that can’t be rolled up.

First you need to choose your frame.  There are many attractive options, and they offer a designer for free to help you choose your frame. What I liked the most was I was able to upload a photo of my art, and then I could see what the print looked like with each frame. Loved that!  I chose the gold, bamboo frame.

After I made my selection, I ordered the frame, and waited for the tube to arrive. Well, the tube arrived promptly, but I still had to send it back.  I might have been a little late sending my print to them:)  (June was a crazy month. More on that next time.)  So….. his gift was a little late.  I like to think of it as celebrating him for a month.

Finally, his framed print arrived!  (Nicholas seemed pretty excited.)  It was packaged very neatly, and securely.

The back of the frame is covered with a pretty paper and a label.   Do you notice the hooks on the frame?  Mr. V said they are pretty “slick.”

The package includes a cute burlap bag with my note to my husband, an information card, and some coupons.  Are you my friend?  Well, it looks like you can use the 15% off coupon by using FRIEND 15 at checkout.  Just so you know, I am not affiliated with this company.

Rule of Thumb:  The “correct” height to hang artwork is 57″ from the floor.  Why this height?  It is about the average sight line for people.  There are different rules depending on how you will be viewing your art, but for this installation, it is right were it needs to be so it can be enjoyed.

I love that my husband chose this location to hang his art, because it can be viewed from the foyer when you first come in our home.

Well, what do you think?  Do you think you are  brave enough to order a frame online?  I am sure happy I did.

May your Nest be Blessed!


Decorating for the Senses: Smell

I remember when my friend, Lisa, told me she loved the smell of my home, and that it had a signature scent. I had never thought about my home being recognized by a particular smell, and then I realized that smell is as much a part of decorating a home as choosing the right colors.  My go to was Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin Wallflowers from Bath & Bodyworks, all year-long. I loved them!

A few years ago I had to stop using Wallflowers because my daughter, Kaitlyn, was diagnosed with a chemical allergy, and the allergist highly recommended not using them. When I removed them from my home, she began to feel better.

I began researching healthy alternatives. I ended up buying aromatherapy essential oil diffusers.  The essential oils are therapeutic and have been known to relieve stress, reduce headaches, aid in sleep and more. They are a great alternative, and Kaitlyn doesn’t have any negative reactions to them. I am currently using NOW lavender, mint, and lemon.  Also, I like the Pure SpaEssential Oil Diffusers.

img_7655    img_7658       img_7659

Now, I didn’t want to set up the diffusers with water and essential oils every day, so I looked into reed diffusers.  I came across Antica Farmacista reed diffusers. The fragrances are a combination of quality natural and synthetic ingredients. The diffusers are beautifully packaged, long-lasting, and smell wonderful. You can use several different fragrances to layer the scent throughout your home. My favorite is Santorini. It has a light clean smell that reminds me of the beach.  It is the only one I use. I gave one to my mother-in-law for Christmas because she told me how much she liked the smell.  Even Mr. V. wanted one for his office bathroom. That is high praise

ALERT:  At the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, through August 6th, you can purchase a set of 2 Prosecco or 2 Vaniglia, Bourban & Mandarino for the price of one. Buy one for yourself, and give the other as a gift. Great deal, but while supplies last.

What about candles?  I love the Voluspa. This company uses coconut wax, which burns cleaner than soy, and cotton wicks. I love that these candles have a high level of fragrance. The beautiful aroma will last approximately 100 hours for a 16 oz. jar. Well worth the price, and it is beautifully packaged. My favorite is Baltic Amber, but there are plenty of choices available.

I bought all of the products from Nordstrom, love the free shipping, except for the essential oils and diffusers.  I bought the oils from Whole Foods, and the diffusers from Amazon.  All of the products can easily be found online from a variety of sellers.

If you don’t already have a signature scent, go out and explore the possibilities.  This is just another way to make your home uniquely yours.  Happy hunting!



My First Blog Post

Welcome to my very first post on my very first blog.  I am excited you found me, and I hope I inspire you to love your home.

My family and I moved from Oswego, Illinois to Naples, Florida last year.  It has been quite the change.  Let me just tell you, the weather in the winter can’t be beat! Don’t trust anyone who tells you we don’t have seasons.  Our seasons consist of when the snowbirds are in town and when they are not. What are snowbirds? They are people who come from colder climates to sunny Florida.  It’s like spring break for seniors:) People come from all over the world, and you can tell by the traffic and not getting in to your favorite restaurant without a reservation.

Our new home is very different from the last in style, layout and yard.  We knew we wanted a ranch, well, because we never had one. We toured all of the model homes we could, and we looked at homes on the market too. We chose to build a home while we still lived in Illinois.  Not for the faint of heart.  It was a full-time job, but I loved it. Fortunately for us, my parents lived close by and could check on the progress and take a lot of pictures.

We designed the exterior of our home to some degree.  We were greatly restricted by the HOA on our home design.  WARNING! The HOA’s in Florida can be a major headache.  We had to choose from a color package, which meant the roof color, trim, and base color were a package deal.  We chose Kilim Beige for the base color, therefor,  no choice on the trim and roof colors. I wish I had understood that before I spent hours looking at pictures of roofs:( Our new HOA is so strict that we couldn’t add brackets to our exterior shutters because “no one else had them.”  The president of the HOA even told us that shutters shouldn’t be allowed because they did not go with a European aesthetic, the look of our neighborhood. What? Take a look at my shutters.  What do you think?  I am getting a headache, so I am moving on.

My blog will mostly consist of interiors, because I don’t have any control on the outside. I am excited to share my successes and my blunders with you so that you can create a home that you love and that you love to share. Also, I will be giving you ideas for ways to make your life easier, more beautiful and fun.

Thank you for taking this journey with me, and I pray it will be a blessing to you.