7 Things to Do in Panama City

7 Things to do in Panama City

Yesterday I pulled out my journal and wrote down every place Pai and I have traveled to since December. In the 7 months we’ve been married, we’ve traveled to 9 different cities and 7 states together. That’s a city for every month and then some! I’m excited to start a mini travel series on my blog to document our travels and tell you about all the fun things to do in the Eastern United States. You can expect to find a different travel post on the 3rd Wednesday of the month for the next few months.

Today I’m sharing all about what you should do in Panama City Beach, Florida. 

When we first started thinking about honeymooning in PCB, I was hesitant because all I only knew it as the spring break capitol of the South. Fun fact: I used to think Panama City Beach was in Panama below Texas. Clearly those private school geography classes didn’t help. Panama City is in Florida, and Panama is below Mexico, not Texas. Woops.

My first advice to couples for their honeymooning adventures is DON’T GO ANYWHERE SUPER BUSY. We received this excellent advice from our friends who went to Disney and while they had fun at Disney, they said they were exhausted. Pai and I threw a party for 350 people, so a quiet and relaxing week was exactly what we needed.

We went to Panama City in December, so most of the fun things to do were closed. I wanted to swim with dolphins and go snorkling, but both attractions were closed for the winter, so we had to find other fun things to do.

7 Things to do in Panama City

Explore Panama City

On the first day of the honeymoon, we ventured off the beach front and into the heart of Panama City. The city is rich with history and has a great little downtown area to walk around. We found a little place called Willows Tea Room where we went for high tea and enjoyed an English Breakfast Tea and scones. But let me tell you – this little place was delicious but the scones were teeny and the staff wasn’t very friendly. Pai tried to get another scone since it was our honeymoon and the lady wouldn’t let us. Clearly she didn’t believe in young love. . .

7 Things to Do in Panama City

Eat all the Seafood

Neither Pai nor I grew up eating a lot of fish, but being right on the ocean, we knew we had to take advantage of the fresh fish around us. One of my favorite restaurants we ate at was Runaway Island right on the beach. We went for a late dinner and even though we couldn’t see the ocean, we could hear the waves lapping on the sand as we enjoyed our crab cakes and blackened snapper. The food was absolutely amazing and we received excellent service from the waitstaff. While it was a long wait because there was an entire (drunken) party, we enjoyed the ambiance of stringed lights on the back porch of the restaurant.

Go on a Food Tour

Pai and I have noticed a theme when we go places. We may do some fun activities, but we mostly eat. I think we’re slowly turning Pai into a foodie. We signed up to do a walking food tour and it was one of our favorite days of the week. Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the area and loved food as much as we did. On the tour with us was a family from Missouri who loved to laugh a lot, so we had an excellent time. While on our food tour, we visited four places in Panama City.

Our first stop was at the Capt’s Table. At the Capt’s Table we tried she crab soup – which I absolutely LOVED, a smoked tuna dip – ALSO AMAZING, and the good old fashioned shrimp n’ grits. This was the day I discovered that I liked hush puppies. Yum.

7 Things to Do in Panama City

7 Things to Do in Panama City

7 Things to Do in Panama City

The only non-food stop on our food tour was at a local publishing company. I, of course, was in awe of the whole thing. The printing press was still in use and we were able to see the employees making stamped Christmas cards for a Christmas party someone was having. We learned all about the history of the printing press and the captain who founded the place, but of course I can remember none of it because that was seven months ago.

7 Things to Do in Panama City

Probably my very favorite food stop was this hippie hole in the wall called Little Village/Finn’s Island Style Grub. This place had outdoor seating with flaps for when it rains and there were tons of hipsters sitting around enjoying a nice brew. We ate quesadillas and this amazing black bean rice cilantro mix that I’ve never quite been able to get out my head. With our meal we were given a blood orange cider that – oh my word – made me fall in love with blood oranges.

7 Things to Do in Panama City

7 Things to Do in Panama City

After the Capt’s Table, we ventured on over to Uncle Ernie’s Bayfront Grill and Brewhouse for dessert as the sun set over the water. The views were gorgeous and the keylime pie was divine. Unfortunately for Pai, he didn’t pace himself very well, so by the time we arrived at Uncle Ernie’s he was rather full which meant, fortunately for me, I got more of the keylime pie.

7 Things to Do in Panama City

7 Things to Do in Panama City

7 Things to Do in Panama City

The tour took about two hours and left us fat and happy, so we didn’t need to eat again until about 10pm when it was time for a midnight snack. If you’re ever in Panama, I would highly recommend. You can sign up for the Beck Avenue Food Tour here.

Do Nothing

Hello? You’re on a beach with white sands and clear blue water. Lay on that beach and do absolutely nothing! OK so I really wanted to get a cupcake one day and take a picture with the cupcake and the ocean and the background and caption it, “Cake by the Ocean” since that song was oh-so popular last year. Pai thought I was absolutely ridiculous so we didn’t buy cake just for the picture. Maybe next time, though. . . Fun fact about the seagull below – this guy kept trying to eat our food. Pai had run back to the condo to get something and while he was gone, this seagull called all its other seagull friends and I was absolutely surrounded. They wanted the Cheetos and I didn’t want to share. It was a terrifying experience.

7 Things to Do in Panama City

See the Dunes

We adventured out to a highly recommended restaurant called The Donut Hole one morning and had an amazing breakfast. We got protein packed breakfasts and donuts for the road. I’m never going to say no to a recommended donut. On our way back to our condo, though, we drove on Hwy 98 and took the scenic route home. While taking the scenic route, we came upon a state park with gorgeous sand dunes, so we moseyed on over and walked on the quietest, whitest beach with these gorgeous sand dunes we were explicitly told not to climb on. Bummer.

7 Things to Do in Panama City

7 Things to Do in Panama City


Go to Seaside

Remember the Truman Show? Well the Truman Show was filmed in Seaside, FL – the most perfect little town you ever did see. The beach houses in this little place sell for millions of dollars, or you can air bnb one for a couple grand for a night. We decided to just go with biking around the place for the afternoon. We found the house that Truman lived in, but weren’t able to take a picture because there was a car behind us so we couldn’t stop. It was our favorite day of the honeymoon. We biked around the town, stopped for ice cream, perused a book shop (you know me) and walked along the beach.

7 Things to Do in Panama City

7 Things to Do in Panama City

7 Things to Do in Panama City

*Note: Husband’s don’t appreciate taking ice cream pics before eating said ice cream.

A Few Other Things. . . 

Although we spent most of our time exploring, eating, and hanging out in the condo, there was still a lot to do that we didn’t get to. Panama City has a Dave & Buster’s, an Imax movie theater, and Destin is only an hour away. Fudpuckers in Destin, FL is SO much fun and would highly recommend. There is one in particular that has alligators in a moat like thing surrounding the restaurant, so you basically get to eat with the alligators. One night, Fudpuckers had a karaoke contest that I was super tempted to try, but we didn’t drive the hour at 9pm because we were too exhausted.

7 Things to Do in Panama City

Have you been to Panama City before? What is your favorite thing to do?

Be Prepared to Fail

Be Prepared to Fail

My summer goal is to make a loaf of bread. Homemade. I’ve been diligently researching the best Pinterest recipes . . . and the easiest. Saturday evening I took my KitchenAid on its maiden voyage and baked my first loaf of  bread. It was an “Easy Crusty French Bread” I found on Pinterest that I will not link for you here because I did the author such a disservice by making the most difficult, crustiest French bread there ever was. It was like a communion cracker.

Like any millennial these days, I walked confidently and in faith that my first bread would not be as terrible as everyone said there first bread making experiences would be. But it was terrible and hilarious and I found that even though I failed, I wasn’t all too disappointed in myself.

I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, and when things spiral out of control, I find that I hold on even more to what I can and do the very best at what I have at hand. I recently had an instance where someone went to my boss to discuss the way I handled something. I was devastated to discover that doing the best I could in an uncontrollable circumstance still left someone unsatisfied. Failing bread is one thing. Failing a person is another. This got me to thinking about all the ways I failed this month.

Be Prepared to Fail

Ways I Failed This Month

I tried to wake surf at the lake. I managed to stand up in the wake, but quickly fell over.

I tried to make bread and it went disastrously.

I went to the grocery store 3 times this weekend and still failed to remember to pick up a couple items.

I failed at a couple of things at work.

I failed baking a lemon blueberry yogurt bread.

 Fear of Failure

I was recently reading Unrivaled by Lisa Brevere. In one of her chapters, she mentions that she wishes she risked more when she was younger. So many opportunities come our way but we are stifled by fear and by fear of failing that we turn back into our comfort zone where it’s cozy and safe.

Good things may happen in our comfort zone, but extravagant things happen in No-Man’s Land. (Wonder Woman reference, anyone?)

As I’m taking this online Jane Austen seminar, I am seeing how much I am out of my league. I get onto these discussion boards with college students and realize that in two years, I’ve already become rusty in my close reading skills. I feel as if I’m typing out fluff while these other students are creating intriguing and thoughtful content. Some days I feel like I am failing. . . and that is okay. We have to let go of our fear of failure.

We have to let go of our fear of failure.

Be Prepared, and Be Proud to Fail

Failing is not something we are generally proud of, but it is something that happens to everyone. For perfectionists, failure is particularly scary because perfectionism is not just a way that we handle things, but it is a part of our identity. It doesn’t help that fail is attached to shame in our society.

It’s good to recognize that you aren’t good at something. And then it is good to continue in that something. And while we continue, we do the best that we can, and if we fail, then we fail.

For instance, I am a shame to English majors and want to be English teachers everywhere because I am horrid at Words with Friends. I would like to blame the tile distribution, but games like Words with Friends, Bananagrams, and Scrabble frustrate me. I can never think of words that earn me more than 10 points. As someone who has studied the English language her entire life, Scrabble is something I should be good at. But I’m not. And my husband beats me into smithereens every. single. time. I used to just ignore my Words with Friends notifications until the timer ran out and I would lose. But this time, I’m playing. And losing. Maybe I’ll get better at it, maybe I wont.

If I succeed, hoorah. But if I continue to fail, well then I’ve learned to fail gracefully.

Rather than hide under the cover of shameful failures, celebrate that you stepped out, were brave, and tried something new. Everyone fails, but the ones who make it are the ones who got up again.

So Tell Me, Readers. . .

What is one thing you tried and failed at?


The Benefits of Joining a Book Club

Benefits of Joining a Book Club

I strongly believe in literature. The best way to pass time is with an iced coffee in the summer/hot latte in the winter, and a great book in your hand. When I was 5, I sat on the couch with my mom – who valiantly homeschooled me for two years before my dad begged her to give up homeschooling and ship my social butterfly self off to a public school – practicing phonics and learning to read. As soon as I started, I was “hooked on phonics.” Ha. Get it? Anyway, I love reading and can spend many an hour submerged in an alternate universe. In fact, I would get in trouble as a child for reading too much. If I was supposed to clean my room, maybe I would clean for a little bit, but then I would get distracted by reading. Whoops.

There was a time or two I legitimately was grounded from reading. Now that I’m an adult and married, I can read all I want – as long as I feed and water my husband daily.

Two years ago, I graduated with a B.A in English with an emphasis in creative writing. It is my lifelong dream to get paid to drink coffee, read, and discuss literature. Ever since I graduated, I wanted to start a book club. So as soon as life settled down (aka I wasn’t wedding planning anymore) I started the book club, A Novel Idea. I can’t take credit for the name; I googled clever titles.

Once a month/once every six weeks, between 6-10 women meet up at a local coffee shop, book in hand, caffeinated, ready to discuss our most recent pick.

I knew I needed intellectual discussion to enlighten my life, and I must say I leave quite invigorated from our book club meetings.

The Benefits of Joining a Book Club

The benefits of a book club are immense.

First of all, you discover new genres you didn’t know you liked.

Book clubs are a great way to pull you out of your literary comfort zone. While I love a good poet, I’m not one to pick out a collection of poems for a book club. But as some of the ladies in our group were going through finals week, we picked Milk and Honey one month and I found it to be one of our favorite reads. Each of us came armed with a poem and our analysis of it, and I was in awe of how we each picked apart our respective poems.

You see the world through multiple lenses.  

One of my favorite things about getting together in groups is the discussion that lights a fire under our idealogies. Because I come from a liberal arts background, I prefer to learn through engaging in discussion rather than a lecture based atmosphere. An aspect I enjoy about book clubs is that we see something one way, and someone else comes at it from a different perspective. Our personal stories shade the way we view the world, and the way which we view literature. We get to grow and honor each other as we learn to see through someone else’s lense.

Likewise, books open our eyes to see the world a different way. We recently finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I absolutely adore her writing style, but even more so, I appreciate that she speaks so vulnerably about something like immigration and the cultural nuances between the American and Non-American Black. As a white lady in the South, if I’m not surrounded by diversity,  I’m not going to know or understand immigration or the cultures associated without opening a book (or a journal article, etc.)

Your vocabulary expands. 

For instance, I can now identify when a Coquette. Of course, I could always identify when a lady was particularly flirty, but if I had not read “Lady Susan” recently, I would not associate “coquette” with a flirt because I didn’t even know the word “coquette” existed until yesterday. Had I not taken the moment to look up this new word, I would have assumed “coquette” was the same as “etiquette” because they sound similar. Thank goodness for smart phones, because now we have a dictionary at the flash of a few typed letters. Back in the olden days, I had to get off my couch, pick up the dictionary and thumb through an actual hard copy of a dictionary.

(I am now envisioning Rory Gilmore’s dismay at the smart phone; no one appreciates the old OED anymore! Remember when her dad tried to buy her the entire Oxford English Dictionary set? I kind of drooled at that scene.)

You form deeper relationships. 

There are friends, and then there are book club friends. When you have traipsed through the emotional roller coaster of an intense 600 page novel, you emerge finding yourself in a deeper community. I loved all the ladies in my book club, but now that we have been together for going on six months, exploring the depths of our society, femininity, and racial tensions through the written word, I am acknowledging a relationship that can only come from sharing a love for literature and discussion of novels and the world around us.

Benefits of Joining a Book Club

I am, of course, feeling slightly romantic as I type because I signed up to audit a Jane Austen seminar for the next month. It will be like a book club on steroids and give me the nostalgia for my collegiate days. I set up in our dining room last night surrounded by notebooks, books, pens, high lighters, and of course potato chips, and coffee, and fell in love with learning all over again (much like I do each time I open a good book.)

I will do my darndest to be consistent with posting in this little corner that I love so much, but if you find that I’ve fallen off the earth, never fear, I’ve fallen into the arms of Mr. Darcy. (Mr. Darcy, consequently, being my super supportive husband who encourages me to chase my dreams and is very appreciative of this course I’m auditing because it means I will be holed up in our dining room, allowing him more FIFA time.)

Until then, I bid you adieu.

Have you ever participated in a book club?
What are your top 3 favorite reads?

5 Ways to Fight Loneliness

5 Ways to Fight Loneliness

I spent Friday getting my nails done with my friend, Saturday with my husband at a nice dinner and at a bonfire with friends, Sunday with my family and grandparents, and Monday with my Zim family and spiritual parents. I celebrated quite the birthday weekend filled with non-stop action, laughter, and a whole lot of cheesin’.

On Tuesday night, after spending quality time with quality girls studying our God, I got into my bathtub and waited for Pai to come home. I was feeling slightly anxious and sad. But why? After some introspection, I pinpointed the feeling of loneliness. But loneliness? That makes no sense. I just spent an entire weekend surrounded by the people I loved and who loved me. I just spent 3-4 hours being vulnerable with ladies who have a common goal as me – to find out who God is. So why, after they left and I was by myself, was I feeling lonely?

I remember being a senior in high school, on my couch with my dad holding me, crying because I hadn’t been invited to something (I honestly don’t even remember) and feeling lonely. I had people to talk to at school, but only my family to hang out with on the weekends. Granted, my family is awesome, but as a teenager, we all desire that acceptance from our peers.

Do we ever outgrow that desire for acceptance? I don’t think so. And I think that striving for that acceptance leaves us lonely at times. I always say, as an ESFJ, I need affirmation. I’ll make a decision and then say, “What do you think?” It drives Pai nuts, which cracks me up. He says, “Just make the decision!” But as an ESFJ, I say, but I need you to affirm this is the right decision!

Relationships require vulnerability

This is not just an ESFJ thing. It’s a human thing. We all were created with the desire for relationship, and part of being in relationship is being vulnerable, mirroring conversation/feelings, opening yourself up to constructive criticism, and opening yourself up to positive affirmation. Some days it feels like we have opened ourselves up and been left on the operation table. The vulnerability door has been opened, but no positive affirmation has stepped in. It’s in these moments when we start to question ourselves: Am I worth it? Do I have any friends who love me enough? Do I have any friends? 

On being left behind

Some days loneliness doesn’t stem from a lack of affirmation, but instead from a feeling that everyone is moving on without you.

I always felt slightly stressed in elementary school when my best friends were placed in a different class than me. When my friends graduated and went to college before me – stress. As an adult it’s a little different. We’re not in different classes, but we are in different stages of life. Everyone is married and you’re single. Everyone has a baby and you and your spouse do not. Someone achieved their dream job and you are still in the waiting room.

Being in our 20s is like the teenage years of adulthood. We had time as a teen to figure out who we were, and then we hit our 20s and our bodies started changing again, relationship dynamics change, and you find yourself liking things you never thought you would (like broccoli, and salad, and vegetables.) Everyone is in a different stage even though we are all relatively the same age, and it’s hard to measure up.

A disconnect in communication

Another stream of loneliness is feeling like there is a disconnect between our head and our mouth. It can be incredibly lonely to know in your head what you are wanting to say, trying to communicate it through your mouth to someone else, and they are not understanding you. Why do you think there is so much teen angst?

So how do we fight loneliness?

First, we don’t fight loneliness.

Loneliness is a part of life – always has, and always will be. See above: I was feeling lonely even though I spent so much time with all the people I loved. I’m secure in my friendships, but I still feel lonely at times.

Learning to live with loneliness in a healthy way will help us to learn to love ourselves in a different way. When we wallow in loneliness, rather, we wallow in self-pity. And no one wants to hang out in your pity party.

Find something to do when you are feeling lonely. Go for a walk, read poetry, take a bubble bath.

Help someone else feel less lonely.

One day I have this dream of starting a ministry that just goes and hangs out with people in the nursing home. I imagine how lonely they must be – sometimes the only physical touch they receive is the nurse coming to change their bed sheets or help them to the restroom.

I have found that on days when I am feeling lonely, if I do something to get out of my head, I then find I am no longer lonely and immensely blessed.

Write a letter to a loved one, ask a friend out for coffee, check with your elderly neighbor to see if they need help grocery shopping, weeding their garden, etc.

Get off your phone.

How easy it is to be lonely when you are by yourself, in your house, eating ice cream out of the carton and you’re scrolling through Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and see that everyone is hanging out. Perhaps without you. Let’s reality check for a second: what if those people just put up that picture reminiscing about the weekend while they are in their house, by themselves, eating ice cream out of the carton and scrolling through Instagram. You’ve done it and I’ve done it, too. We’re all guilty of making our lives seem cooler than they actually are.

So get off your phone, and put your nose in a book, or an adult coloring book, or something else that will remove you from the world of social media.

Because that’s what it is. Media. And we all know that the media is slant – even your social media.

Get creative.

They say that Emily Dickinson was a recluse, likely one of the loneliest people. Her art was underappreciated at its time. Maybe you’re the next Emily Dickinson. Loneliness is OK. It gives us a chance to explore ourselves, explore nature, and explore our creativity. I find that my best poetry comes when I am a) all alone b) feelin’ some type of way and c) not feeling like I can express myself to anyone else in a way they would understand.

When you are feeling lonely, grab your pen, grab your paper, and write. Even if you’re not great at writing! Draw – even if you don’t think you can draw! Dance – even if that means you have to Youtube some dance instructional videos!

Know you’re not alone.

The thing about loneliness is that it isolates our experiences. We are feeling lonely, therefore we are alone and no one else in the world ever feels lonely. Except that everyone experiences loneliness. Even Chrissy Tiegen. Accepting that loneliness is a reality in life allows us to take it in stride with the good times, too. Because after all, if we didn’t have the lonely days, we wouldn’t appreciate the full of friendship days as much either.

Have you experienced loneliness?
What is something you do to occupy yourself when you feel lonely?

PS – sometimes if I’m feeling lonely, I like to treat myself. So treat yo’self with an entry to win this opal gemstone lariat!

24 Notes of Encouragement

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24 Ways to be Encouraged (+ a giveaway!)

24 ways to be encouraged

Year 23 was quite a full year. When I look back to this day last year, I’m astounded at how much God did this past 365 days. Yesterday we celebrated Father’s Day and my birthday in my hometown with my parents. We spent the afternoon by the pool and the evening by a bonfire. I looked around at all my siblings, my husband in the mix, my parents and grandparents and realized how incredibly blessed I am. God gave me the privilege to be the daughter of two amazing parents who daily show their affection and commitment to each other, the older sister to five siblings who make me laugh and make my heart burst with joy, and wife to an incredible husband who is my number one encourager and dream pusher.

So you know those papers people put on bulletin boards where you can tear a piece off and carry it with you all day? That’s kinda what we are going to do today. Except, because you can’t tear a piece off the screen of your mobile device or computer, you can just pick out an encouragement below and carry it with you throughout your day. One of my favorite things to do is write little poems or encouraging thoughts in my journal, daily planner, and post-its. Even if I don’t need it that day, it will get filed away into my rainy day pile.

24 ways to be encouraged

24 Encouraging Notes

1 – The sparkling passion in your eyes ignites those around you to change the world.

2 – The way you chase your dreams and goals shows a resilient strength.

3 – You make the best chocolate chip cookies this side of the Mississippi.

4 – Your laugh is a joyful noise.

5 – You’re having a really great hair day.

6 – You love people in a fierce, genuine way.

7 – You are beautiful.

8 – You are incredibly loved.

9 – Your smile invites others into your world.

10 – People think you are awesome.

11 – You give the best hugs.

12 – By loving yourself, you are encouraging other women to love themselves, too. Go you.

13 – You always smell like sunshine and flowers.

14 – You have the intelligence and wit to command an army.

15 – You are someone’s favorite person.

16 – Today is the day you are going to do something amazing.

17 – People believe in you, you got this.

18 – The way you sing at karaoke makes other people jealous.

19 – Your eyebrows are on fleek today. (Or are they lit? I can’t keep up.)

20 – You are brave.

21 – Other women believe in themselves because they have you.

22 – You’re a great encouragement to the hurting around you.

23 – Bonfires wish they were as hot as you, because girl, you be smokin’.

24 – You are a phenomenal human being.

Now for a birthday giveaway. . . 

24 ways to be encouraged

I am stoked to partner with GingerandPearl to give away an adorable necklace to one lucky winner in honor of my birthday week! Grace from GingerandPearl is a new mom (and sometimes she shows her adorable son on the Instagram.) She is not only a fantastic jewelry artist, but also a wonderful lady herself!

Entries will be counted from June 19 – June 26.
Winner will be contacted on June 27 via Instagram Direct Message for mailing address.
Entries open to U.S. residents.

24 Notes of Encouragement

a Rafflecopter giveaway