Little Luxuries

Little LuxuriesFrom Bunco to Paddle Boarding, Find Out What These Emerald Coast Residents Look Forward to Doing on Their Own Time

By Wendy O. Dixon and Ashley Kahn

Money can buy a lot of things – a mansion, a diamond, a fancy car. But taking a walk on the beach at sunset or enjoying an ice cream cone with your grandchild are pleasures no amount of money could replace. More often than not, life’s richest pleasures are those that cost little if any money. Read on to see what some of your Emerald Coast neighbors do to enrich their lives.


Lacey Renteria  |  Seaside Repertory Theatre Company Member and Proud Mom
She played Claire in this past summer’s hit comedy “Fuddy Meers” and will return to the stage on Wednesday, Oct. 8, as Cathleen in Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night.”

Still, Lacey Renteria’s favorite role is that of loving wife to husband Christopher and stay-at-home mom to 19-month-old Max.

The Santa Rosa Beach resident feels fortunate not to have to worry about a 9-to-5 job, allowing her to experience every moment with her son while he’s still young.

“Anyone with a toddler will know there is no such thing as ‘doing what you want to do,’” she says.

Renteria manages to make time for her luxury – the simple act of learning – by reading piles of textbooks, cookbooks and even the odd instruction manual.

Of her unusual habit, Renteria says, “That’s pretty geeky, I guess, but I just love figuring things out and learning how and why things happen.”

Feeling listless upon relocating to the Emerald Coast, Renteria sought inspiration in an art history textbook. She soon took up painting, a talent she continues to develop today. The young mother revels in the challenge of new recipes and foreign languages. Most recently, mom and Max have taken to watching “Baby Einstein” in Spanish.

“I’m not very good at any of these things yet, but that’s not really the point for me,” Renteria says. “It’s more about the process and what I can learn along the way.”

It was her own mother who encouraged a thirst for knowledge, insisting she “look it up!” instead of simply providing an answer.

Of her little luxury, Renteria says, “It makes me a better person and a better mother.”

No doubt Max will receive the same self-guided education and a healthy dose of curiosity.  — Ashley Kahn


Dan and Sally Bailey  |  Owners, Amavida Coffee and Trading Company
What’s in a name?

When it comes to Amavida Coffee, the essence of the owners lies in the name they chose for their business. An amalgamation of the Spanish words amar, meaning love, and vida, signifying life, the name was chosen after Dan and Sally Bailey sought to define who they are and what they value most.

One thing is clear: They love life.

Committed to their mantra, they have created an unparalleled product, lasting relationships with their customers and a strong business ethic.

“We are very busy,” Dan Bailey says. “It always seems like something has to be done. We only have a few spots in our schedule to really relax.”

When they’re not roasting coffee at their Panama City Beach facility, they spend quality time together on the water near their Seagrove Beach home – paddleboarding side by side.

Also known as stand-up paddle surfing, paddleboarding involves standing on a long board close to the shore and propelling forward with a paddle. The Baileys have been hooked since a friend introduced them to the water sport.

Their simple luxury allows them to spend time together, away from the coffee shop.

“It’s a getaway that gives us a great physical and mental break from our routines,” Dan Bailey says.

Living on the Emerald Coast is a luxury itself, one that is enhanced by a shared outdoor activity.

The Baileys paddleboard because “it connects us to why we live here around all of the beautiful water and landscapes,” Dan Bailey says. — Ashley Kahn


Michelle Anchors  |  Attorney, Litigation Group of Anchors Smith Grimsley
Waking up early does not come naturally to Fort Walton Beach resident Michelle Anchors. Most days, with some nudging from her husband, Steve Medina, she begrudgingly gets up early to get in her daily exercise – swimming, walking or lifting weights. 

Then she returns home for her favorite part of the day – snuggling in bed with her two children – Samuel, 6, and daughter Chi, 3.

“Chi helps me get dressed for work,” she says. “Then I head to the office, where I am focused on my clients and the team of litigation attorneys with whom I work.” 

During the day, Anchors sprinkles in some community activities and interests that give so much meaning to her world. 

“Generally, I get to spend all my time doing what I want to do, and for that I am very grateful,” she says. “I may not always be in that situation. I enjoy my job, the people with whom I work, my family, my church, and everything else in between. If I don’t like something, I just generally find a way not to do it!”

Though Anchors gets in her cardio and weight training, she has found that yoga is her favorite physical activity. She was first drawn to yoga because it looked like a peaceful activity. While she admits being quiet is not in her nature, Anchors finds the concentration required from yoga to be rejuvenating.

She quickly discovered that yoga has so many benefits beyond relaxation, such as increased flexibility and muscle tone. She now considers her weekly yoga sessions at Dragonfly Yoga in downtown Fort Walton Beach to be her little luxury.

When asked why yoga makes Anchor’s week better she replies, “Yoga is the one time of the week I can stand on my head and listen to Grateful Dead at the same time.” — Wendy Dixon


James R. ‘Bob’ Richburg  |  President, Northwest Florida State College
During the work week, Niceville is where Bob Richburg calls home. As president of Northwest Florida State College for more than 20 years, Richburg’s work schedule is filled with meetings during the day and events during the evening.

But on the weekends, Richburg tosses the suit and puts on the jeans. Heading out to his farm near Andalusia, Ala., is his little luxury.

Richburg doesn’t just sit on the back porch with a glass of lemonade; his joy comes from days of hard work on his 80 acres of land. He cultivates the food plots, conserves the wooded areas for deer and other wildlife, and cuts brush and grass.

Planning to spend his upcoming winter months converting 30 acres of peanut plots to grow longleaf pines, Richburg admits work on the farm is strenuous. But he also uses these weekends as a time for reflection and planning, and considers time spent toiling away on the farm to be rejuvenating and refreshing.

“I have always enjoyed outside work – I do all of my own yard work,” Richburg says. “I quickly discovered that you can see what work you have accomplished in outside work, whereas in my profession, the rewards are more long-term and not immediate.” — Wendy Dixon


Mike Chouri  |  General Manager, Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
Most of Mike Chouri’s days start well before sunrise, at 4:30 a.m. After walking his dog, Kayla, Chouri leaves the house in gym shorts, carrying a bag with his business clothes. He knows he’s got a full day ahead of him.

“Between meetings with the staff and guests, walking the property, returning calls and our representation in the community, the day is usually gone by 6 p.m.,” Chouri says. “That is when I start my office duties by reading e-mails and messages. Basically, it is the time when I plan and prepare for future working days.”

Chouri figured out that his mood affects his ability to function at peak performance. And what boosts his mood? His little luxury – a tough workout session in the gym.

“I like cardiovascular exercise,” he says. “It relaxes me and allows me to sweat out any stress I may have. I truly feel the difference in how I think and function every time I am engaged in this routine.”

Chouri spends an hour and 20 minutes on weight training, cardio and stretching at the Serenity by the sea Fitness Center in the Hilton Sandestin. And occasionally he fits in a lap around the property, which is 6.2 miles. His fitness regimen would wipe out most people, but he says it gives him better focus and more energy to get through his busy days.

“I am one of those lucky individuals who likes what I do for a living,” he says. “However, since it always feels good when I am exercising, that is my little luxury secret.” — Wendy Dixon


Alan Gieseman  |  CEO, White-Wilson Medical Center
As head of the largest medical group in the area, with more than 70 providers in 19 specialties, Alan Gieseman combines a 60-hour work-week with substantial community involvement, including serving as treasurer of the United Way of Okaloosa/Walton County, chairman-elect of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce, and treasurer of the Mental Health Association of Okaloosa County. You could say his daily schedule is hectic.

But Gieseman isn’t complaining.

“I enjoy trying to make our community – which is a great place to live – an even better place to live,” he says.

One way he manages to do it all is by taking a little time out each day for himself. It has been said that every man needs a cave – a place in their home that is all their own, where they can retreat and work off the daily stresses in life. Gieseman’s little luxury is his cave, which he calls his “spot” in his home on Crystal Beach in Destin.

“Since early on in my career, I have been fortunate to maintain a spot in my home – a study or library where I can withdraw,” Gieseman says. “It is my refuge from life’s stress. Here, surrounded with my favorite books and personal items, I can read and, at times, reflect.”

Gieseman allows no television in the study.

“My spot serves as a vehicle to refocus and refresh me,” he says. “It is part of my daily routine, whether it is only 15 minutes or two hours.” — Wendy Dixon


Rebecca Job  |  Director of Commercial Property Operations, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
For Rebecca Job, life can seem like a full-time J-O-B.

She starts her day around 5:30 a.m. with a morning run three times a week. On alternate days, she breaks a sweat in cycling and kettlebell classes at the gym.

Following her exercise routine, it’s off to the office – and what an office it is. Job manages commercial property operations for the popular Village of Baytowne Wharf and The Market Shops at Sandestin.

Working 9-to-5 in a place that boasts the slogan “Off in Our Own Little World,” it could be easy to get wrapped up in the frenzy of resort life. But Job is determined to make time for herself.

“In my downtime, I love to spend time with my husband and our two boxers,” she says. They enjoy relaxing at the beach, reading good books and splashing around at Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park.

A little dice game called Bunco is what she counts as her luxury, however.

The game, played in teams with three dice, originated in England and gained popularity in America during Prohibition. In recent years, Bunco has swept the nation for its predominantly social nature, requiring 100 percent luck and no strategy.

Having played over the years as a sub, Job decided last October that it was time to start her own group. Now, every third Saturday is Bunco night with the girls. Her circle of friends lives between Navarre and Destin, but Bunco brings them together at Job’s Mary Esther home.

“It’s a great way to catch up, unwind and enjoy each other’s company,” she says. “We talk about kids, husbands, life and anything else you can think of!”

Job proves there’s nothing more luxurious than games, goodies and gossip. — Ashley Kahn