Chili Cook-Off 2019!

Cheers to another successful Chili Cook-Off! This year marks the 13th year of this fun-filled event at Sawgrass. Members came out in their best western wear to support their favorite chili chef in the competition of the century! Not really, but the competition was fierce!

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

There was more than just chili…..delicious appetizers, western-themed drinks, live music, a mechanical bull, a hot chili eating contest, and FRIENDS made this a fun evening!

Chili Cook-Off

The main event was the chili contest. I was so excited to try my hand at chili as a contestant. I’m absolutely NOT surprised that I didn’t win! It might have won a soup contest, but it wasn’t thick enough to be a chili. On to the better chilis…. There were so many different flavors of chili. Some were very “tomato-y,” others had a sweetness to them. One of my favorites was one with black beans. My 5-year-old, Wyatt, asked for more of that one, too!

The winning chili was made by Ron Heller, and Best in Show went to Tommy Turrentine and Sarah Cook. Both chilis were excellent!

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

Hot Chili Eating Contest

Just watching this set my mouth on fire. The chefs prepared 8 courses, and the contestants made it through 6 of them!

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

There were a surprising amount of brave young members who signed up. Four contestants were knocked out by round one, Thai Chili Noodles. Other rounds included fiery items like Hell’s Graveyard Wings, Carolina Reaper Candied Bacon, Jalapeno Popper filled with a Ghost Pepper & Serrano Cream Cheese, and Espresso Ghost Pepper Chipotle Truffle. In round five, Madison Schemitz dropped out leaving two members, Mike O’Malley and Chelsea Karol, left to test their taste buds.

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

Mike finally threw in the towel in round 6 and Chelsea won! If you see her around the club, be sure to offer her congrats!

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

Food and Entertainment

The appetizers were so amazing! From the corn cakes and cowboy cocktail to the mini steak biscuits and chili dogs, the chefs at Sawgrass put so much effort into the menu and the eating experience. My favorite appetizer was the mini herbed biscuits with chicken fried steak. The biscuit was soft and flaky while the steak was tender and full of flavor. My boys liked the chili dogs the best, and they were just the right size. Sawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off   

What they really liked was the mechanical bull! I bet they rode it 20 times! The guy running it was great, he was easy on the kiddos. It was a popular attraction for the kids, and I think they did better balancing than the adults I saw! 

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

The entertainment and atmosphere were great. The decorations were top notch, and live musicians, Mountain Brew, played country classics for members to dance the night away. I ran into members that I play tennis with and members I see around the fitness center. And I even made a few new friends!

Sawgrass Chili Cook-offSawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

Cheers y’all! See you at next year’s chili cook-off!

Pub Crawling Through Christmas Lights

Christmas in St. Augustine is magical. The lights, the people, and the general atmosphere makes tourists and locals alike giddy!

Pub Crawl in St. Augustine

Me and Cory were excited to sign up for this year’s pub crawl in St Augustine for a few reasons – we haven’t spent time in St. Augustine without the kids, we were anxious to see the lights, and we knew several couples that signed up to go.

We had a great time – even in the rain! It just makes for an adventure, right?!?!

Pub Crawl in St. Augustine Brittany Darling

All 21 of us loaded on the bus with rain jackets, umbrellas, and smiles! Perry (Club Manager) and Meghan (Lead Bartender) were our fearless leaders starting us off with wine/beer and snacks for the drive down to St. Augustine. We sat across the aisle from Amanda and John Relihan…they are a hoot. I’ve played tennis with Amanda, and John is an attorney and does something at a bank. He told me, but it sounded complicated…haha!

John & Amanda Relihan

The loose schedule was the best part. We all met at 6:00 and rode down together. But, once we got to St. Augustine, we were free to go wherever. Some couples stuck together and others meandered where they wanted to go. We all were under strict orders to make it back to the bus by 9:45. Perry swears he’s never left anyone behind, but he said it with a mischievous grin, so who knows! 🙂

Bars we visited in St. Augustine

Here’s a recap of the bars we visited:

Prohibition Kitchen – If you like a modern industrial vibe, this is your bar. It felt like I was in an old warehouse with the mix of wood and metals and the openness of the space. They had a solo guitarist playing live music on a stage. A few couples from the group ordered pretzels and wings, and they came out looking amazing!

Meehan’s – We’ve been to Meehan’s before, so we knew this HAD to be a stop on this crawl. Did you know they make their own Irish Cream (it’s the empty glass behind the Guiness!). Try it if you go, it’s fantastic. The bar has an old feel with rich woods, stained glass, and close quarters. We loved it so much, we ended up ordering dinner there with Meghan! She is so interesting, but anyone who frequents the golf club probably knows that already! I loved getting to know her, and it just confirms that Sawgrass really does hire great people who genuinely care about the members and know how to have a good time!

Pub Crawl in St. Augustine Guiness at Meehan's

Scarlett O’Hara’s – We didn’t spend too much time here, but I’ll definitely go back next time. They also had live music, and there was a group from Sawgrass dancing.

Dos Gatos – This bar had a cool vibe as well! We were really impressed with the quality of the cocktails we ordered. The bartender really knew what he was doing, and we saw him joking and laughing with patrons making this a very friendly place as well!

Pub Crawl in St. Augustine

I would totally recommend a night out on one of Sawgrass’s pub crawls, specifically St. Augustine. It’s fun to feel like a tourist in a historic town that is SO CLOSE! Look for the next pub crawl on Foretees, and sign up – rain or shine!

Experience Winterfest at Sawgrass

“First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie-dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle.”
-Buddy the Elf

I’m sure you guys have seen the movie Elf. This quote from the movie seems to sum up the season pretty well for our family – Let’s do all the things, and then let’s snuggle. In the craziness of the holidays, don’t forget to take time out and just snuggle. Enjoy each other’s company and be together as a family.

Darling family Santa picture

Today’s post is focused on a fun tradition at Sawgrass called Winterfest. I’m so thankful for a club that promotes family time by organizing events like this. I’m not sure how many years they’ve been hosting this event, but I know I’ve been asked about a thousand times over the last month if we’re going! So, I went into it thinking it was going to be amazing, and it lived up to the hype! From the food to the activities to Santa, it was well-planned and enjoyed by all.

Food

I don’t need to tell you that Sawgrass creates spectacular dishes. They had prime rib, omelet, and pancake stations (eggs benedict was here, too) as well as chilled shrimp, cheeses and fruit, biscuits and gravy plus bacon and sausage, and their famous shrimp and grits! On top of that, they put together the best dessert station with cupcakes, pies, and cookies!

Perry and Chef Mike

My husband’s favorite dish was the eggs benedict (he went back for seconds), and he also commented on how good the sausage was! My boys just HAD to have chocolate chip pancakes. Of course I had to test them, and they were really good! My personal favorite was the shrimp and grits. The grits were cheesy, the shrimp was cooked perfectly, and the sauce was creamy and flavorful.

Omelet station

pancake station

Cupcakes

Activities

If your kiddos need to stay occupied like mine, Winterfest is the perfect place. They had a ball! Here’s what we did:

Magic show – The magician was so good at keeping the kids engaged! She was constantly recruiting volunteers from the audience to do different tasks. She even managed to recruit a reluctant teenager to be Santa for one of the tricks! This one turned out to be the favorite…she literally made a cute fluffy black rabbit come out of a box. It was adorable, and that poor rabbit had to endure every child petting it. Will asked me later that night if we could get a pet rabbit…I told him to ask his Mimi. (haha!) Even the dads got in on the action. My boys had fun competing with the other kids and dads to see who did the best job of wrapping dad up like a snowman.

snowman game

Snow, real snow – Yes, it happened to be 80 degrees on Sunday. Yes, the snow was melting about as fast as they could spray it out. But apparently that’s a Florida Christmas! They managed to get a decent amount of snow for throwing and sledding, so it worked out! All in all, I saw some pretty happy kids playing in the fake snow!

Colleen and Madeline

fake snow

Face painting – If you’ve been to any event in the past year, you have seen the amazing face painting masterpieces that Heather Aquilera creates. Will chose The Grinch, and Wyatt chose a tiger. I saw all kinds of characters from butterflies to unicorns! She truly does an amazing job!

Will Darling

Wyatt Darling

Mallory & Elise

Horse drawn carriage rides – What?!?!? How exciting! Nothing says Christmas like a horse drawn carriage. The ride took about 5 minutes, and the boys had a great time!

Horse and carriage

Santa

Let’s be real, Santa was the real star of Winterfest for the boys. The chocolate chip pancakes were a close second! They each took a few minutes to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. Will asked for more Pokemon cards, and Wyatt asked for PJ Mask toys. Can you see the excitement on their faces? I wish they were this happy when I put dinner on the table, or when I fold their laundry…am I right, moms?

Will & Wyatt Darling

Santa

Wouldn’t it be great if Christmas was that easy for us adults? What if Santa could bring things like better health or the healing of a broken relationship? I recognize that this season of joy also brings sadness for some. Know that I’m thinking of you and wishing you peace, comfort, and hope for the season and the new year. Whatever your personal circumstance, I encourage you to be a light to those around you this Christmas – your friends, Sawgrass members around you, the random person at Publix. You never know when a kind word or action can bring hope and meaning.

After all, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”
-Buddy the Elf

Meet Brittany Darling. Mom, Tennis Novice, and Sawgrass Member

Be adventurous, and embrace change. That’s been my motto as far back as I can remember. It’s not easy, but it’s oh so rewarding!

Brittany Darling & Wyatt Darling

Hi, I’m Brittany Darling. I am a married mom of two crazy little boys, Will (8) and Wyatt (5). They are my pack, and they bring limitless joy (and frustration!) to our lives. My husband, Cory, and I moved to Ponte Vedra from Nashville, TN in December of 2017 four days before Christmas. It’s not the first time we’ve moved right before Christmas…call us crazy!

Our time in Nashville was wonderful. It truly is Music City. If you’re planning a trip there, let me know. I can give you the scoop on venues, restaurants, and places to stay. While in Nashville, I worked at a media agency as a blog strategist part time, and my husband worked as a hospital administrator. When we found out Florida was our next stop, the adventure seeker in me said, “Let’s go!” Our boys were all in, too. They were excited to be near the beach and to meet new friends at their school, which turned out to be Ocean Palms Elementary.

Cory Darling & Will Darling

We joined Sawgrass in March of this year. It has been the best decision we’ve made since moving here. We have loved every minute! From the beach, golf, tennis, and social events, our family has embraced the club and dived into activities. Meeting new people is one of my favorite things. That person who starts a random conversation at the pool? Yep, that’s me. I believe in building a village in the place where you land, whether it’s Ponte Vedra, FL or Nashville, TN. I believe in investing in others and helping them how I can. I know what it’s like to move to a new community and not know anyone, so I have a tender place in my heart for welcoming new neighbors to our street and new members to the club.

Brittany Darling & Wyatt Darling

Here’s some other interesting facts about me and my family:

Why have you guys moved so much? What’s your favorite place so far?
My husband now works for Memorial Hospital as their Chief Operating Officer. It’s owned by HCA, and we’ve moved around to different HCA hospitals over the years. I love moving to new places, meeting new people, and discovering new activities. So far, this is our favorite place. We feel like we’re on vacation all the time!

What do you all like to do in your spare time?
We all like to play tennis! I play on the D-Team at Sawgrass, and Cory plays singles and doubles when he has time. He’s also a golfer! Our kids love the beach, pool, and they participate in tennis and golf clinics as time allows. My little guy, Wyatt, also plays soccer. When we’re not enjoying the club, you’ll find us fishing, kayaking, or exploring a new area of town!

What do you like most about Sawgrass?
I love how friendly Sawgrass is, and I love that there are so many families with young children like ours. Every week, I meet a new family! I appreciate all the women I’ve met (of all ages). There is something special about the wisdom from women who were in your shoes at one time.

Do you have any skills or talents that most people don’t know about?
I am really good at frying okra. Growing up in Alabama, we fried everything, but fried okra is my favorite! I’m good at putting together workout routines, too. I’m always looking for someone to workout with, so call me up if your headed to the fitness center!

Flashback to when you were 10 years old. What do you want to be when you grow up?
I always wanted to do something with math, my favorite subject. As I got older I decided that I wanted to be a financial planner, but that didn’t work out! But my love of numbers eventually collided with marketing and writing. I love the numbers side of marketing! Creative is important, but you have to know if what you’re doing is working, and numbers tell you that.

If you see me around the club, say hi! Each month, I’ll be experiencing new activities around the club and giving members an inside scoop!