Heat turned down – check! All lights are off – check! Stove and oven are off – check! Plants watered – check! Mail delivery stopped – check! Doors locked – check! Everything we need is packed – hopefully!

In February we escaped from the cold and snow for (only) a week to visit family in Florida. Unfortunately, we were still home when the thermometer dipped to over 40 below, but we did avoid the many large snowfalls during the week that we basked in the sun with temperatures in the low 80s with very little humidity. Having family in Florida is a good reason for winter vacations.

Since our flight left at 7 a.m., we went to the Cities the night before to stay at a hotel where we were able to leave our car while we were gone. Hotels advertise it as “park, sleep and fly.”

The only negative point was that the parking lot was not on hotel property and was across a busy street. Unloading our suitcases on to the cart, my husband was about to drive the car to the parking lot, but stopped to asked for my jacket I had over my arm. I told him that I was taking it, and it would fit into the suitcase. He told me that it would not fit into the suitcase, and I said it would, so he left. Pushing the cart, I went up to our hotel room. Once in the room with the suitcases, I glanced in the full-length mirror to see that I still had my winter jacket on with a fur-lined hood. My mouth dropped open as I finally realized that Ron meant the jacket I was wearing, not the light-weight one. For the billionth time, I felt so dumb! No way would the heavy jacket fit into a suitcase!

He returned to the room in his spring jacket complaining how icy and cold the walk was. I immediately apologized to him that I didn’t realize he was referring to my winter jacket. And so my dear, sweet man battled the cold and ice back to the parking lot where he left my jacket in the car. Apologizing and thanking him again when he returned to the room, I confessed that it must be terrible living with a blonde, to which he replied, “There’s never a dull moment.” That’s good, right?

We were up at 4 a.m. in order to catch the 5 a.m. shuttle to the airport. Arriving in Tampa, we picked up our rental car and set the GPS to see the three granddaughters, ages 4 and 2, and of course, their parents, too. We helped the twins celebrate their second birthday. We were amazed how the three girls had grown, and we enjoyed playing, taking walks, and spoiling them like grandparents are supposed to do.

A banana tree in their back yard yielded several bunches of small green bananas, the first harvest since squirrels devoured them in past years. The bananas were hung in a dark closet to ripen. They didn’t ripen while we were there, but the granddaughters devoured the yellow fruit after we were back to the cold weather.

Another highlight of our trip was visiting our friends who winter in Fort Meyers Beach, Fla. We toured the 13,000-acre Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples. Due to the heavy traffic, it took us one hour to drive 21 miles to the sanctuary that is part of the Western Everglades. Walking along the over two-mile boardwalk, we saw the oldest bald cypress tree forest in the world that is also the largest nesting site for the endangered wood stork. The sanctuary is a haven for a large variety of birds, and many of the visitors are birders who capture photos of their winged friends. We only saw one alligator in the wild, and thanks to a volunteer ranger, we saw a water moccasin curled up below the walking bridge about 5 feet away – yikes!

The week went by too fast. With all the snow that had fallen, our car was covered by over a foot of the white stuff. The shuttle driver was very kind to help clear the snow off. However, due to unplowed roads near our home, we stayed with family in Sartell. I love living in the land of four seasons but it seems that winter is trying to stretch itself out. So please, Mother Nature, enough of winter! May April be a beautiful spring!