Pensacola, FL – May 24, 2017 – Hello Friends! Life has been great here in the Carey household and Florida lately. We have celebrated a few exciting events since my last post.
– Robert solo’d in the T6, twice! He is now in the instruments phase of primary and on board to select in June. We are so excited to find out what the next step in Rob’s flight career will be…….helicopters, jets, C-130s or Ospreys?….I’ll let ya’ll know as soon as we do!
– We celebrated our first anniversary together as a married couple. Rob treated me to a special dinner downtown at V. Paul’s. We are suckers for Italian food and this place hasn’t disappointed us yet. After dinner, we stopped by my favorite downtown coffee shop Fosko Coffee Barre. Of course I had to chase down my dinner with a shot of espresso. It always makes me wish I lived in NYC.
– I have officially been at my job in downtown Pensacola for a year now. Time sure does fly! For those that don’t know, I work at an awesome advertising agency called E.W. Bullock. Our office is situated right near the Pensacola Bay and if we’re lucky we can see dolphins swimming in the bay from our desks. I love the office and my co-workers. We’re always laughing about something silly or chowing down on free donuts from Milton Quality Bakery. I seriously don’t think I could’ve landed a better job here in Pensacola.
– Rob promoted to 1st Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. I am so proud of him and all of his hard work. It’s surreal to think that two years ago I was flying to Charleston to watch him commission.
Pensacola, Florida – January 25, 2017 – I have always found that the best way to get to know a new town is to Eat your way through it. Try every restaurant and local spot that you can, as long as your budget matches. Robert and I do not eat out much – we normally choose to cook at home in order to save money, but when we do go out we always hit up the local spots in town. Here are a few of my favorite places in this charming Gulf Coast town:
Try some appetizers at the Grand Marlin on Pensacola Beach. I recommend their BBQ shrimp, blue angel chips and lobster fingers. I loved these appetizers so much that I found myself madly searching Pinterest for copycat recipes as soon as we left restaurant. I am not even a fan of blue cheese, but the blue angel chips made me a believer!
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a cupcake from Oh! Snap! When I was living in Washington, D.C., I shamefully hit up Baked & Wired or Sprinkles a few times after work. Oh! Snap definitely satisfies my cupcake cravings here in Pensacola. I recommend the Dalmatian cupcake, a decadent chocolate cupcake with white cream cheese frosting. Yum!
Chow down for some BBQ at Brother’s BBQ on the way to Perdido Key. I’m a Texas girl and Texans take their BBQ seriously, therefore this little joint had a lot to live up to. However the large pit smokers positioned behind the building tipped me off that this would be a good spot. They run a daily special of all-you-can-eat meat, so this place is popular with a lot of flight students in the area.
Schedule a date night at The Global Grill downtown.This beautifully designed restaurant is the #1 rated place on Trip Advisor for Pensacola, need I say more? They serve their food tapas style (Spanish for appetizers). I highly recommend a crowd favorite – the lobster wontons!
Brunch it up at Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille near the yacht club. I’ve been to a few places in Pensacola for brunch, let’s face it there are so many good options, however where else do you get a patio view of the yachts docked in the harbor while you drink $2 mimosas?
Sip some coffee from Keen’s Beans and stroll though the Palafox Market.I am a self-proclaimed coffee fanatic, more specifically an iced coffee fanatic! While I love my Starbs (short for Starbucks), trying out local coffee shops has always been one of my favorite pastimes. Keen’s Beans is special because these folks only have a pop-up stand at the Palafox Farmer’s Market every Saturday. I wish Keen’s Beans had a brick and mortar store but I’ll settle for now. Their coffee beans come straight from family-owned property in Costa Rica which only adds to the quality. Try their creamy iced coffee the next time you’re strolling downtown on a Saturday morning.
Buy fresh fish and shrimp from Joe Patti’s seafood market to make dinner at home.Y’all… Joe Patti’s….is the bomb.com. I read about this place from a few Pensacola bloggers and immediately knew that Rob and I had to try it for ourselves. Joe Patti’s a full-scale seafood market with every type of fresh caught fish, shrimp and crustacean that you can imagine. Remember to look at the selection first before grabbing a number for your place in line. On busy days, the line moves fast so you’ll want to know which products you’re taking home before you get to the counter. We usually pick up some fresh salmon filets and gulf shrimp to make honey baked salmon and shrimp alfredo pasta for dinner.
Gather for a glass of wine at The Wine Bar on Palafox. One of my local friends here in Pensacola tipped me off about this spot. As a wine lover, I can’t resist a glass of Rosé on the patio during summertime. They run happy hour specials throughout the week so it’s the perfect spot to gather with girlfriends and chat about our crazy, fun lives!
I have many more recommendations which I can blog about in future. If you have a question or need suggestions about great restaurants in the area, drop a comment below.
Clayton, North Carolina – December 27, 2016 – Christmas Break! Well such a break does not exist for college graduates – but I love to pretend that it still does. Thankfully Rob was approved for Marine Corps leave at the last minute so that we could go visit his family in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. Plus, a shout-out to the awesome advertising company that I work for, for letting me join him. It was my first Christmas away from my family in Texas, but as a newly married couple with families across the country – we will have to become used to splitting up the holidays. Our new puppy Trigger tagged along for the trip. He was a very “good boy” *hehe* and our family loved him!
Our trip to North Carolina was just what I needed to re-boot for 2017. I realized that one of my shortfalls will always be trying to take on too much in my life. Some days I think I’m super-woman and can do everything for everyone, but it’s just not realistic. This break taught me to let go of things that are not bringing joy in my life and learn that saying “no” to a project is not always a bad thing. Rob took his time to relax, but he is super pumped to get back to Pensacola and start flying. After a long NINE MONTHS, he will finally start flying the T6. Everyone’s experience in flight school differs – but Rob was definitely put on the long track since we arrived in Pensacola. Word to the wise, always be flexible when it comes to the Marine Corps schedule.
In North Carolina, we enjoyed days of eating Grandma’s Spaghetti and Meatballs, Grandpa’s London Broil, pizza nights and endless, endless desserts. On the evening of Christmas day, we lit a bonfire in the backyard of Robert’s grandparents house, gathered round and chatted over a cup of coffee. It may sound simple, but I live for these moments.
We didn’t spend much time exploring Raleigh on this trip and instead focused on spending time with family and friends. We did manage to hit up the Crabtree Valley Mall and Rob let me stop in Pottery Barn and H&M, my two “must-go’s” when I’m out of Pensacola. I love having so much time to spend with Rob while he’s in flight school. Anyone who says “you’ll never see your husband in flight school” is lying. You will see your spouse plenty, trust me! I’m trying to enjoy this time in our life before we start dealing with deployments, etc.
One of the things I’m focusing on going into the new year is having a positive attitude no matter what my situation or location may be. I am convinced that your attitude truly reflects on how much you will enjoy a duty station. You can always make the best of your situation with the right mindset.
We will have some big surprises for 2017 though. Robert will find out which aircraft he will be selected to fly for the Marine Corps (Helicopters, Jets, Ospreys or C-130s) which will be exciting! I will have some new projects in the works for social media management. And…..another move! Surprise – we’re moving to Milton, Fl! Ok. So not so much of a surprise – it is only 25 minutes from our current apartment. I remember saying to Rob, “I’ll never live in Milton…it’s too small…blah blah.” Ha! Never say Never, my friends. Oh how soon I forget that I fell in love with a small college town in East Texas (Nacogdoches) where Walmart was jokingly referred to as “The Mall.” Sure downtown Pensacola is the developed area and has all the “fun things to do.” But I think you have to look at how you, yourself define “fun.” The more I thought about it, we 100% prefer entertaining guests in our own home, rather than bar hopping downtown every weekend. Don’t worry, we still love to get out on occasion. The Wine Bar on Palafox is a personal favorite.
We made this decision together because it will simply fit our lifestyle more. Our new puppy will have more room to play, Rob’s drive to work for 5:00 AM briefs will only be 15 minutes versus 45 minutes and I will be able to host more events for the local spouse group that I’m involved in. We are SO excited! No more dragging eternal boxes of groceries from Sam’s and Costco up those six flights of apartment stairs!
In the coming days, we will be planning our move for the middle of January. Which to be honest, I am dreading – but having moved four times in the past two years, I think I’ll be able to handle it. Have any moving tips? Drop your suggestions in my comment section.
Pensacola, Florida – October 25, 2016 – Hello! It’s been a crazy few months. Hence the no posting. Maybe as the saying goes, when you’re having too much fun – you don’t need to document it? *Smiles*. Our lives have been going at 100 miles per minute since Rob graduated API. He is doing well and now into primary flight school. He is extremely excited to FINALLY be in primary and begin flying the T6-B, which will be a big step up from the Cessna that he flew in IFS. Rob is almost done with his simulators and onto flying! Whoo! (We have only been here for 9 months now, sheesh)
I was particularly excited because he was placed in a great training squadron with a lot of community involvement. Rob’s squadron really tries to include the spouses in numerous events and I love that aspect. I’ll be making a post about the student spouse orientation night here soon, so stay tuned! API was a long month, but I’m thankful he made it through unscathed. I remember hearing so many stories about how API was awful and stressful for spouses – and it is stressful, but I think it’s what you make of the situation. I was completely fine being independent and not having Rob home for dinner every night because he was studying. Sure it’s not ideal, but it is also not the end of the world and API wraps up pretty quickly. At the four week mark in API, there is a big celebration at the Officers club on base where students earn the “right to wear a flight suit”, dubbing it Flight Suit Friday. This night was an absolute blast and made up for those long days and nights when I didn’t see him. I had so much fun meeting all of his classmates and watching them celebrate earning their flight suits. I was the designated driver for the night, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying myself. Besides, Rob and his friends definitely earned those beers! After we celebrated at the Officers Club, we traveled to a friends house in Perdido Key and then ended up at Seville Quarter by the end of the night. The next morning, I made Robert a big breakfast and we just lounged in our pajamas watching our favorite shows.
After Flight Suit Friday, the students have about two weeks of swim testing left in API – where they finish with the dreaded Helo Dunker (see a demonstration here). Once Robert completed that last test, he graduated and was officially assigned to start Primary Flight Training at NAS Whiting.
Pensacola, Fl. — September 5, 2016 – Hello readers! I hope everyone had an amazing Labor Day weekend. Hopefully Hurricane Hermine didn’t cancel too many plans. I had so many friends and family message me with concerns for us since we live on the Gulf Coast of Florida, so thank you! However, the weather in Pensacola was perfect. In fact, my co-workers kept making jokes this past week saying, “Oh, it’s only a Category One hurricane, don’t worry”. I guess that’s my welcome to Florida!
(**pictured above: The Joy of Cooking cookbook, a new cutting board purchased at the Palafox Market and steak rub from Keen’s Beans**)
This weekend was actually pretty laid back. Rob and I didn’t plan anything big because he has now started API (Aviation Preflight Indoctrination). This is said to be the most stressful time in flight school because of the intense academics. Rob has been going to study groups every day and I decided to take it easy and hang out with Shelby. We did manage to sneak in brunch on Sunday with some friends here at La Brisa in Gulf Breeze. I highly recommend the place! ($4 bottomless mimosas!). Whenever Rob gets home from his study groups, I’ll read flashcards with him to help him prepare for his tests. I’m SO glad I’m not a flight student, because I hated Physics and Statistics!
I knew this wasn’t going to be a wild weekend, so I decided to try and read more books. You know, be an adult? I was a certified bookworm when I was little and used to pride myself on how many books I could finish in a day. Well…that has worn off a bit, hence the “trying to read” again. I’ve purchased two new books lately. One is called “The Joy of Cooking”, basically the bible for chefs (I purchased this to enhance my kitchen skills). The other is an audiobook and one that I saw recommended on a military spouse site. This book is titled “This is Where You Belong” by Melody Warnick. This book is about how the author completed a long social and psychological experiment to train herself to love where she lived, even if she didn’t initially like it. Now, I’m not saying I don’t like Pensacola (I love it), but it has been quite an adjustment from the city. Moving here and not knowing a soul besides Robert was a bit daunting at first.
I’ve realized that a lot of being an adult is making choices even when they are contrary to your feelings. Doing the dishes and laundry when I’m tired is a choice. Making an effort to be present and connect with friends is a choice(This is harder for me because I’m a natural introvert). And loving where I am living is a choicetoo. The first two steps that the author recommended were: 1) Walk more and 2) Buy Local.
I tried both of these this weekend.
Not only is walking beneficial for your emotional and physical health, it actually helps you create more of a sense of “belonging” in your city. On Saturday, I needed a few extra things from the grocery, so Rob and I decided to make a 20 minute walk to Publix instead of the three minute drive. The author was right about this step! In short, when you walk places you are more likely to notice buildings that you didn’t before and even run into your neighbors that you wouldn’t have made contact with if you were in your car. On the way to the store, I noticed a few doctors offices along the way that I hadn’t before (might come in handy) and we saw three of our neighbors in that short time span. Plus, I felt good about myself making more of a physical effort. I think I’ll walk more often!
For the second step of learning to “love where you live”, the author recommends trying to set aside $50 a month to buy from local, small businesses. Why? Because buying local keeps your money in the local economy. Local business owners live in the area, are taxed in the area and in turn the shop owners will most likely spend their earnings in your community again. When you buy from a big chain store, your are not keeping your money in the local economy anymore, it’s going elsewhere. You are also more likely to get personalized, attentive customer service at a local shop than a big box store. For this step, Shelby and I headed to one of my favorite places in Pensacola – the Palafox Farmer’s Market! A market held every Saturday from 9 AM – 2 PM in downtown Pensacola.
I love taking Shelby to the market because she’s a huge hit with the crowds. I seriously have so many more interactions with people than I would if I was alone. I’m a pretty introverted person, so Shelby is an easy icebreaker for meeting new people. As we were walking through the crowd, I decided to sit down on bench and hang out for awhile. Here is where the “Buying Local” effect really hit home.
As I was sitting there, a young woman attending a stand of beautiful cedar wood cutting boards, cheese plates, etc. noticed me on the bench and came to sit down, talk and hangout with me and Shelby. We started chatting and she explained that her business was a family business and they admired and supported the military. Since I’m a military wife, I knew right away that I wanted to spend my money with her. It didn’t hurt that I had been looking for a wooden cutting board anyways! I bought one promptly and came away completely satisfied. Now I personally know this shopkeeper and I have a product that I love. The “Buying Local” concept really does work. It made me love Pensacola even more!
I can’t wait to try out some more of this book’s recommendations. I’ll keep my readers posted on any progress. For now, enjoy the rest of your Labor Day weekend! —S
Pensacola, Fl. — August 25, 2016 – I moved to Florida in the beginning of April 2016 for my husband to start his flight school journey. It’s been exciting, new and stressful all at the same time. Now I don’t know everything….obviously – I can only talk about our experience up to this point. But I’ll be able to give readers a small picture of what this flight school life is all about school from a spouse perspective. After all we will learn as we go. My best piece of advice for people new in Pensacola for flight training – is be patient. We waited for almost 4 entire months before Robert was picked up for a class in IFS (Initial Flight School). There are a lot of student pilots going through school right now and it’s pretty backed up. IFS is basically just a school where student pilots get their feet wet and learn to fly an aircraft for the first time. It’s also a good indicator of whether they will actually like being a pilot for their full-time job. An IFS student will have five academic tests, eight flights with an instructor and a solo in a small training plane called a Cessna. Rob loved IFS! He really thinks that he will love being a pilot and he seemed to work well with his instructor. This past Monday, Rob solo’ed in the Cessna at his designated airport in Milton, FL. This was an exciting time because I was able finally able to go watch him fly. P.S. Thank you to his instructor for scheduling an evening flight, because I work in the morning and afternoons.
We arrived at the airfield and Rob was bit discouraged by the dark clouds forming above. He and his instructor decided they would wait to see if it dissipated. A reminder to all military spouses: “Hurry up and wait” is a thing. And I had no idea until I had lived through it. We waited at the airfield for almost two hours before the storm cleared and Rob was able to fly.
He initially completed three traffic patterns with takeoffs and landings with his instructor in the plane before he was cleared to solo. I was actually super nervous, but excited to watch this part. I honestly couldn’t believe my husband was flying that plane by himself! Growing up I had become used to when my Dad would fly (Dad is a former Air Force jet fighter pilot and now a commercial AA pilot), but that didn’t prepare me for this. The instructors and staff were extremely welcoming and reassuring to me. One even took me out in a golf cart to the runway so that I watch Rob takeoff up close!
*The best video quality I could grab in the moment* 🙂
Anyways, Rob did great and passed his solo! The instructors said he did well and cut up his t-shirt in true aviation tradition. Oh yeah, a cool tradition in the aviation community is to cut the “coattails” off when you solo for the first time. This tradition stems from when the very first pilots flew in fancy jackets and they would cut off their coattails when they solo’ed for the first time. Now it’s cutting up a t-shirt.
Now that IFS is over, Rob is getting ready to start API on Tuesday (August 29, 2016). API is probably the hardest part of flight school to get through. HEAVY academics and testing all in a short time period on top of water/land survival. Basically, I will hardly be speaking to Rob during the next month and half because he will be “nose to the books”. I’ll be praying for Rob as he begins this next portion. For now, I’ll keep my readers updated as much as I can.
Pensacola, Fl. —August 24, 2016– How do you raise a service puppy/dog? Well, I didn’t know either until Rob and I embarked on this crazy venture. And it’s crazy at times!
We first found about America’s Vet Dog Program when I went to obtain my very first military ID. Whoo! When we were getting my ID, the gentleman helping us out had photos the service dog he was raising on his wall. He then informed us that there was a prison in Milton, Florida (not far from Pensacola) that trains service puppies during the week and places the pups with families during the weekends to get them socialized for normal life. If you’re accepted into the program, you’ll have a pup placed with you, including all of their vet bills, food, crate, etc paid for!
Every dog in the program is being trained to one day assist a veteran with PTSD. Such a noble cause! Once the puppies reach a year old, they will be flown to New York for their final three weeks of intense training and then put through an exam to see if they qualify as a service dog. We still question whether our pup Shelby will make it. She is VERY high energy and was actually placed with a family before Rob and I, but they couldn’t handle her energy.
If Shelby fails her final exam, Rob and I will get the option of adopting her. I would love this, but I also know Shelby is being trained for a higher purpose right now.
Service Dog Training 101
As a weekend puppy raiser, our job is basically to get the dog used to normal life. Being in a home, seeing other dogs, smelling delicious food being cooked, going into stores, etc. I am asked that I take Shelby on visits 4x per week. A visit is where I will take her to stores with her vest on and everything to simulate what she will be doing once placed with her future owner.
The visits are actually more stressful than fun, believe it or not. Of course I love having her with me, but I am constantly alert. Any bad movement on my part or another individual’s part could permanently affect her training. I felt like such an a**hole telling a sweet young girl in Starbucks that she could not pet my dog. She’s a working dog. Shelby also loves people and kids, so this adds a bit to the stress of keeping my eye on her. She wags her tail and will excitedly approach strangers even on her daily walks with me.
In day-to-day work, we run through a lot of commands with her. Here are some examples:
Walking: She has to walk beside me on the leash and not tug at all. Getting Busy: I have a special word “busy” for her when she needs to go to the bathroom. Shelby also needs to be trained to go on command and on the concrete in order to assist her future handler. The concrete part is in case she lives with a person in New York City and there is hardly any grass in sight.
Entering Doors: I tell her “side” before we enter doors, because she must be on my side when we enter a door. Still working on that. Food: She cannot be eager to eat her food or chew on her toys. This was harder with Shelby because toys are like cocaine for that dog. SHE LOVES TOYS! More than treats!
All in all, this has been a great experience for me and Robert. We’ve learned a lot about dogs and training dogs in the process. Plus, it has been an easy way for us to enjoy the company of a pup without all the hefty bills.
We really want to get our own dogs one day, but this was a better financial decision for us. Rob and I highly recommend this program for couples and families looking for an alternative to owning your own dog. You can find more info here.
Follow Shelby’s progress on Instagram: @servicebyshelbs!