The making of Mrs. Padilly

The Spring of 2011 was a pivotal time in my life. In a few months, I would be retiring early from a long and successful teaching career and was busy making plans for the future. And to be honest, I was a bit anxious, too. My life has been so busy for the last two decades due to a fast-paced and ever-changing technology-driven career. I worried about what was I going to do with all my time!

2008, when the State of Texas recognized me (left) and a colleague for having the first Visual Communication – Graphic Design Track TSSB approved program in the State.

One thing I knew I had to do was keep one foot into creating content and designs for the internet. I needed to practice what I taught, or I’d quickly become a dinosaur in the field of visual communication – especially online.

That is where Mrs. Padilly came in when, in February 2012, I launched

Mrs. Padillys Logo
Original Texas Logo

But here is a secret, Mrs. Padilly was actually created during the spring of 2011 as a character in a children’s book I am working on. How I came up with the name was totally inspired and an unusual story, but one I must save for another day.

I blogged about Texas travel for the next two years and got to know a great blogging community. Blogging was very different back then. It was very hands-on, with a more significant learning curve, even using platforms like WordPress. It also felt more like a community. Maybe because, compared to today, not as many people were doing it. But I was happy and content with my new use of time and talents.

Then, in 2014, I made a purchase that would change everything. I became the owner of a used 2006 Casita travel trailer that I wanted to makeover into a Glamper. I also started my first self-hosted travel/camping blog,, to share this makeover. Little did I know how popular this makeover series would become when I began.

Free Range, my Casita Travel Trailer. My first Glamper Camper.

At the series’ peak in 2016 (only nine articles in total) and pinning links to my articles on Pinterest, my pins on my Casita Makeover Series were the bulk of an incredible 1,932,931 Pinterest repins I received that year! That same year over 100,000 readers visited my blog to get inspired by my Casita makeover! It was the highlight of my blogging career as a Texas travel writer/blogger.

The pin I received from Pinterest on my 1,932,931 viewers of Mrs. Padilly’s Pinterest page in 2016

Donna Marie had entirely morphed into Mrs. Padilly, the glamping/travel blogger after four years.

“The Times They Are a-Changin’…”

Then, in 2019, I made a decision I never imagined I would make. After 40 years as a Texan, we moved to Central Florida.

Mrs. Padilly Logo
New Sunshine State Logo

Just as we were comfortable in our new surroundings and meeting new people, we soon found ourselves hunkering down in this new world of COVID-2020.

My Shasta Arflyte Reissue in her pasture back in Texas.

By the time 2021 rolled around, things had to change, so I sold my Shasta (a camper I purchased after selling my Casita while still in Texas), and we bought a Class A motorhome.

We wanted a “mobile home” to travel with our pets for longer distances/weeks — tired of being cocooned in our home from the “dreaded” disease.

Unintentionally, this purchase also began my slide away from trailer makeovers and glamping. I also started falling out of blogging as changes in the industry caused me to lose interest. I also wanted to make my circle smaller.

So Many NEW THINGS to Discover…

During the COVID lockdowns, we would escape to the coast and go boating. Being in our little boat became our safe place. Our “Island in the Sun.”

Roxie the Schnoxie – the BEST Boat Dog.

As life slowly began to return to normal, we realized we wanted to live near the coast, so, during the summer of 2021, we decided to build a new house near Bradenton, Florida. Along Florida’s Central Gulf Coast.

I have built several homes during my life, but this has literally been the build from hell, thanks to COVID’s impact and supply shortages. It will be almost a year since signing a contract till we can move into our new home in late July 2022.

I also spent the five months preceding the completion of our home living in our motorhome full-time, eager to begin experiencing our new community. During this time, I discovered living full-time in a motorhome vs. vacationing in one are two very different experiences. I prefer vacationing.

I was getting major cabin fever as I monitored the slow construction of our new home until I realized I needed to begin looking at my new surroundings as a vacation. It was time to play tourist.

Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island, Florida

Locals refer to this area as “Old Florida.” However, Old Florida is getting harder to find with the growth occurring here. But “Old Florida” and its secret places are exactly what I’ve set out to discover.

It didn’t take long to realize I had moved to paradise: quaint coastal towns, walks along pristine beaches, boating in sea-green waters, countless museums to explore, and the arts!

Looking at my new surroundings from a tourist’s eye has put a sparkle back into my travels and writings — and blogging.

Welcome to my island in the sun.