adventures

Adventures in Florida: A Trip to the Christmas Tree Forest

Santa's Christmas Tree ForestAs part of my 26 at 26 bucket list, I was dying to visit a pumpkin patch this year. Like most young women between the ages of 18 and 35, I absolutely love autumn and everything that comes with it: the drop in temperature, the cuter clothing options (I live in Florida but somehow have an entire drawer dedicated to scarves), the seasonal flavors, and especially Halloween. In fact, I love this time of the year so much that I redecorated my apartment with fall/Halloween décor back in mid-September. 🙂

In spite of my love for all things autumnal, I haven’t been to a pumpkin patch in years, so this year, I decided it was time to pick out a pumpkin of my own. Of course, I wasn’t going to go to just any old church or high school to do this. Instead, I decided to visit Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest in Eustis.

My sister and I made the trip out to Eustis and were surprised at how much fun we had. Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest had free admission, along with family-friendly activities that required ticket purchases, such as a zip-line, hayrides, and pony rides. We did purchase a pumpkin from their abundant patch, but we actually discovered something better: the petting zoo.

Santa's Christmas Tree Forest

Without a doubt, one of the happiest moments of my whole life!

Anyone who has ever come into contact with me knows about my love for animals, so our trip to the farm was a dream come true. At first, Julie and I visited the goats, my absolute favorite farm animals, and the pigs. We learned the hard way that pigs bite (sorry, Julie!) and that goats can bite a little bit too if they think you have food. Of course, our favorite part of the whole trip was when we had the chance to hold the baby goats!

One of my dreams in the next five years is to adopt a dog, but now I will need to get a baby goat as well. The one that I held was incredibly sweet (even though she loved to gnaw on my hair!) and clearly my favorite animal on the whole farm. I definitely plan to return, if only to play with the baby animals!

Yes, I’m a crazy animal lover, but for those of you who live in Central Florida, I fully recommend Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm for your next weekend excursion. The farm not only hosts events and attractions throughout the year, but is friendly for all ages (families included). I know I’ll be back in the near future!

What’s on your bucket list for this year? Share in the comments section below!

How is my bucket list progressing? Click here for links to recaps and to see what I’ve been up to!

 

26 at 26: My Birthday Bucket List

26at26Hey readers! For those of you who have been keeping up over the past year, I created a bucket list at age 25 to prioritize the fun things in life and to give myself something to look forward before my next birthday. I had a blast putting the list together and trying new things over the next 12 months, as recapped in my previous post, and the list brought me so much joy that I decided to repeat it at age 26. My birthday was just last month, and I’m excited to embark on new adventures in the coming year.

I’ll be crossing off each item over the next year on my 26 at 26 page here, and plan to write a few blogs in the next year about some of these experiences. Happy reading!

Things I’d Like To Do While I’m 26

  1. Take a stroll through the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami.
  2. Visit a fortune teller/psychic.
  3. Take a marshmallow-making class at Wondermade.
  4. Attend a tea party or visit a tea room.
  5. Take a behind-the-scenes Disney tour.
  6. Get my writing published somewhere new.
  7. Watch a Bollywood film.
  8. Play a game of Dungeons & Dragons.
  9. Visit the Plant Street Market in Winter Garden.
  10. Pursue new public speaking opportunities.
  11. Take a mother-daughter trip.
  12. Visit the Orlando Museum of Art.
  13. Finish an old writing project.
  14. Go to a performing arts show.
  15. Complete another round of Whole30.
  16. Take a day trip to Bok Tower Gardens.
  17. Visit my best friend in Omaha, Nebraska.
  18. Practice meditation every day for a month.
  19. Read Gone With The Wind.
  20. Take a candy-making class with my family.
  21. Go to a pumpkin patch.
  22. Visit the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey.
  23. Take an Art Deco Walking Tour in Miami.
  24. Visit the CARE Foundation animal sanctuary.
  25. Tour the Flagler House in West Palm Beach.
  26. Visit the Wynwood Art District in Miami.

What adventures are you looking forward to this year? Share in the comments section below!

Adventures in Florida: Blueberry Picking in Ocoee

Hey there, readers – it’s been a while! A lot has happened since my last post, most notably that I started an MBA program and seem to know more about regression analysis these days than who’s who on The Bachelorette. It has been a wild ride so far, hopefully to be shared in another blog post soon!

Last month, as a much-needed break from studying, I decided to knock another item off my 25 at 25 bucket list. Just days before the season’s end, I took a little road trip out to Ocoee and stopped at the Tom West Blueberries U-Pick Farm.

TomWestBlueberries

I may stumble in and out of the world of paleo living, but one thing is for certain: I will always love my fruits and veggies. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that – as someone who lives in a warm climate hospitable to many types of produce – I would have to go berry picking someday.

In Florida, the peak strawberry and blueberry seasons run in the early springtime from around March to May, depending on your farm and crop of choice. Tom West Blueberries is a family owned and operated farm, offering activities for all ages during the U-Pick season.

TomWestBlueberriesThe process, while simple enough, was a whole lot of fun. Once I arrived, I grabbed a bucket and hopped on a tractor, which dropped me off in the nearby blueberry fields. There I had the opportunity to taste and pick the emerald blueberries, a very large and sweet variety of blueberry that I would highly recommend to anyone who visits in the future.

Tom West Blueberries

By the end of my blueberry-picking adventure, I picked and purchased about 3 pounds of delicious, perfectly blue blueberries, which I shared with friends, classmates and family over the next week. In hindsight, I wish I’d picked more so I could freeze them and enjoy even longer! Not only were the blueberries perfectly in season, but there was something so rewarding about eating something I had personally hand-picked at the farm, rather than in the grocery store. (Sorry, Publix – I still love you!)

tomwestblueberries2

Whether you’re looking for fresh produce or simply a fun way to spend the afternoon, I highly recommend visiting a local U-Pick farm! The experience really does appeal to all age groups, and if I ever have children, this will be a must-visit for them too. I look forward to returning to Tom West next season, and can’t wait to visit other local farms for different U-Pick experiences soon!

What types of U-Pick farms have you visited? Share in the comments section below. 🙂

For recaps of my other bucket list adventures, click here!

Asheville Adventures: A Day at the Biltmore

During my North Carolina vacation last month, my friends and I decided to take a day trip to the beautiful city of Asheville. After a two-hour drive from our hotel, our first stop was the Lexington Avenue Brewery for lunch.

Things To Do in Asheville, NC

Brice’s brother had suggested the brewery prior to the trip as one of the best sandwiches he’d ever had, and the place did not disappoint. I ordered the chicken caesar salad — a safe though seemingly boring choice — and was surprised by how delicious it was! Never will you hear me rave about a caesar salad more than I did that afternoon (and for the rest of the trip). We were excited to learn that a percentage of the proceeds from our meals actually benefited the local humane society. It was nice to enjoy a delicious meal while giving back to a great cause!

After lunch, we meandered around downtown to check out a few of the shops. At one point, we spotted this gem, which I may forever regret not purchasing.

Asheville Take 1 05

Our afternoon continued at the Biltmore Estate, a highly anticipated point in the trip. This mansion was built by the Vanderbilt family and reawakened my dream to someday marry into old money. If the Moses Cone Manor was Charlotte Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, then the Biltmore Estate was definitely Thrushcross Grange.

Things to Do in Asheville, NC | Biltmore Estate

For a single admission price, we had the opportunity to tour the 33-bedroom/43-bathroom mansion. The Biltmore features a bachelors’ wing, an indoor pool, a gymnasium, countless kitchens, a breakfast room, and a Halloween room with bizarrely terrifying artwork. We also strolled through the gardens and the greenhouse. Most of the plant life in the gardens was still dead from the winter, but the greenhouse was in full bloom.

After touring the grounds, we drove over to the Antler Hill Village and stopped in the winery for a wine tasting (also included in our admission). While my palate isn’t exactly sophisticated enough for reds, I enjoyed the Century Sweet White wine that the winery had to offer. Harry, Brice, and I had a lot of fun rating the different wines and filling out our comment cards.

Things To Do in Asheville, NC | Antler Hill Winery

We ended our day with dinner at the Noodle Shop in downtown Asheville. I enjoyed a curry chicken while we listened to live music outdoors with a scenic view of the city. If you’re stopping in Asheville and have any Chinese food cravings, the Noodle Shop is a must-try!

Things To Do in Asheville, NC | Noodle Shop

The verdict: Asheville is a cool, artsy city with great food and beautiful architecture. It is the perfect place to stop during any North Carolina trip!

Cheers Before Mountaineers: Adventures in Boone, NC

Sometimes a change in scenery is exactly what you need to experience before you conquer the world. At least that’s what I told myself earlier this month, as my friend Brice and I jetted off to North Carolina just a week before my graduate school interview and a guest speaking appearance. It was my first time leaving the state of Florida since 2012 (something I made sure to prioritize on my 25 at 25 bucket list this year!), and the perfect opportunity for us to visit Harry, one of our best friends from college.

Harry moved to Boone for graduate school a couple of years ago, so we were excited to visit his new stomping grounds and create brand new memories in such a beautiful place. Of course, the photos and descriptions from all of my Pinterest research didn’t even begin to do this mountain town justice.

Adventures in Boone, NC

We took the roads less traveled as we hiked through the woods and forged new (unpaved, possibly dangerous) paths. We sipped strawberry-flavored imitation moonshine on the side of a mountain. We crossed a mile high bridge, said hello to a bear, and decided that nearly everything is a metaphor when you are in the wilderness. Being with two of my closest friends truly made the trip nothing short of an adventure.

For those of you planning a trip to Boone or the surrounding areas, here’s a quick recap of what we did!

Adventures in Boone, NC

Howard’s Knob.
This mountain has the best view of the town and was the perfect place for us to get our first taste of Boone. Our visit to Howard’s Knob was when it truly hit me that we were in completely new terrain, and that mountains were not just some vague shadows in the distance. (Bonus: There was still snow on the mountain, so a snowball fight just might have taken place.)

Adventures in Boone, NC

Moses Cone Park.
First of all, if your last name is Moses, then you’re basically breaking the law if you don’t visit Moses Cone Park! Though we did not go inside the house (pictured above), we felt completely haunted by its beauty. It reminded us of Wuthering Heights, and we half-expected to see the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw. From the house, we followed the winding trails for a few miles and found ourselves at Bass Lake (all to a very inspiring soundtrack of Taylor Swift and Donnie Darko music), before beginning our treacherous journey back to Moses Cone Manor. There was not a single bad view in sight, and there was something so invigorating about being out in the crisp air among nature.

Adventures in Boone, NC

Linville Falls.
We took the intermediate and advanced trails to various lookout points to see the waterfalls of Linville Falls. Just look at the picture. Do you even need another reason to go?

Adventures in Boone, NC

Grandfather Mountain.
Grandfather Mountain is not named for the many old men who inhabit it, but for its shape — from various angles, the mountain looks a lot like the profile of a man. This stop was nearly an all-day activity. After driving in, we purchased a CD that guided us on our way. We stopped at various lookout points and rock formations, took a tour of the museum, and visited a few animal friends: a bear who came out of hibernation for us, two very happy otters, a mountain lion, and a pair of eagles. Soon, we crossed the Mile-High Swinging Bridge (yes — we were a mile above sea level!) and stood at one of the peaks. It may not have been the smartest decision to do this while wearing Vans (and I swear the wind almost took me!) but it was truly a breathtaking experience that I would recommend to all visiting Boone.

During our time in North Carolina, we also spent a day in Asheville, which I’ll discuss more in a future post. 🙂 For now, I leave you with this quote, which perfectly summarizes our trip:

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, and leading to the most amazing view.” – Edward Abbey

Adventures in Florida: Be a “Resolutionary”

I stopped by the East End Market in Orlando a few weeks back as part of my 25 at 25 Bucket List Challenge. Ever since it opened back in 2013, I have heard great things about the market’s merchants and cool, artsy atmosphere. When I turned 25, I decided that a visit to the market was a must.

East End Market

For my first visit, I decided to check out one of the East End Market’s classes — and my selection did not disappoint. My friend Beth and I attended an expo event called Be A Resolutionary!, which provided free classes throughout the morning and early afternoon. The classes were mainly centered on health and wellness, and were designed for those hoping to stick to their New Year’s resolutions (hence the name “resolutionary”). 🙂

We started with an hour-long barre class. I’m no stranger to yoga or pilates, but this class kicked my butt! I learned that it’s a great way to work out those small muscles you don’t usually focus on, but maybe not the best exercise option if you haven’t worked out in a while. (I could barely walk for the next few days!) Still, it was a fun experience — the energy was upbeat and positive, and there were modifications for all comfort levels. (I just happen to be stubborn and don’t always modify my exercises when I should.)

After the class, we hobbled over to the courtyard for the first presentation of the day. “How To Live, Love and Move” by Nikki Blanton from Our Sole Intent was a great reminder of the importance of movement throughout the day, and she focused on the power of connection through your body, your heart and the Earth. The presentation also piqued my interest in essential oils, which I’ll be attending another seminar on later today!

Skyebird Juice Bar | East End Market

After the presentation, we popped into Skyebird’s Juice Bar for smoothies. I tried Skye’s Fave, a mix of almond milk, kale, banana, blueberries and chia seeds, and it was a delicious pick-me-up! We loved our smoothies and appreciated the Mason jars they came in, which we were able to keep. The juice/smoothie bar is vegetarian and vegan — perfect for those trying to avoid dairy, which can be difficult at a lot of smoothie places.

We visited two other presentations throughout the day as well. “Greening Up Your Home,” hosted by Porch Therapy, focused on the health benefits of having plants in your home. As someone with a lot of allergies and a not-so-great immune system, this was definitely something that appealed to me. I had no idea that there could be so many toxic chemicals like formaldehyde in our homes, or that indoor plants could make you both happier and healthier. A houseplant will be one of my next purchases, and I’m excited to learn how to care for it!

We ended the day with “Resolve to Eat Healthy” with Dr. Samadhi Artemisa. I really enjoyed her food demo (I had never tried a kumquat before!) and learning about heirloom plants and the importance of eating locally. Her presentation definitely encouraged me to start looking for local farmer’s markets to get the most nutritional bang for my buck, and I was excited to learn more about how to keep my body healthy.

Overall, we had a fantastic time at the East End Market, and I’m looking forward to my next visit! 🙂

Readers, have you ever taken a class at the East End Market? What are your bucket list goals for the year? Share in the comments section below!

Adventures in Florida: A Weekend in St. Augustine

When I turned 25 just a few months ago, one of my first orders of business was to plan a trip to St. Augustine in the New Year. When I was a child growing up in South Florida, St. Augustine played a big role in my fourth grade education, as the oldest European-established settlement in the country and the first overnight field trip destination my classmates and I ever visited. I visited the town in passing a few times since, but wanted to spend more time in St. Augustine this winter.

In early January, my mom and I packed our bags and took a short road trip to the nation’s oldest city, where we would stay for the weekend.

LightnerMuseum

Our first stop was the Lightner Museum, which was originally the Hotel Alcazar built by Henry Flagler. Aside from the gorgeous Spanish-inspired architecture and picturesque landscaping, the museum boasts collections of antique musical instruments, sculptures, paintings, the stained glass art of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and several other historical and science exhibits as well.

LightnerMuseum

During our visit, we were also able to see the hotel’s original spa and Turkish bath areas. However, nothing was more festive and exciting than our lunch at the Cafe Alcazar, a restaurant located where the indoor pool used to be. I loved my hummus salad almost as much as the cafe itself, and would highly recommend grabbing a bite there for an elegant and unique dining experience. (After all, how often do you get to eat lunch in a swimming pool?)

Cafe Alcazar

After the Lightner Museum, we walked over to Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Of course, my mom and I drank from the Fountain of Youth, so now I’m hoping to be young and beautiful well into my nineties. If I’m still blogging by then, I’ll let you know how well the fountain really worked. 🙂

Fountain of Youth

We roamed around the park for the afternoon, visited the exhibits, watched a few videos on the discovery of the settlement, and fell asleep during the observatory show (okay, that was just me!). I also made a few unlikely friends.

Fountain of Youth Park

Seriously, these guys were everywhere!

After checking into the hotel and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we ended the night with a Ghosts & Gravestones ghost tour. I have always been a fan of ghost tours, and this one did not disappoint! We stopped at the Lighthouse Park and at the Old Jail, where we were visited by an old (slightly terrifying) prisoner. We had a fantastic time, all while learning about some of the more macabre history of St. Augustine.

Castillo de San Marcos

The next morning, we headed out to the Castillo de San Marcos, the country’s oldest fort that was owned by several nations at different points in history. It was an incredible experience to walk through a place that survived so many wars and attacks, in the footsteps of so many others before us.

Castillo de San Marcos

After the Castillo, we enjoyed a quick lunch in the Old City before heading back home. I had a wonderful weekend with one of my favorite traveling companions, and would recommend St. Augustine to anyone planning a vacation. 🙂

For a recap of my other Bucket List adventures, click here!

Have any of you been to St. Augustine? What were your favorite experiences?

Keeping It Frugal: Fun Ways to Enjoy the Weekend

Keeping it Frugal: Fun Ways to Spend Your WeekendIf you’re anything like me, you marched into 2016 armed with New Year’s Resolutions and high hopes for an incredible year. On this blog, I often discuss my journey to better physical health, but one aspect of wellness that we don’t always talk about is financial health.

If you haven’t set your New Year’s Resolutions yet (hey – we’re only 11 days into 2016 anyway!) and you can’t figure out what areas to improve upon in 2016, your finances are a great start. Nearly everyone I know, regardless of salary and socioeconomic background, admits to eating a few too many meals out at restaurants, spending $150 at Target when they only meant to buy paper towels, and going over budget simply to hang out with friends. Why not work to change that — to save money for the moments that really matter?

Luckily, there are still plenty of ways to maintain a social life without breaking the bank. (For other FREE tools for managing your finances and saving for the future, check out Personal Capital.) 🙂

  • Attend local community events.
    I live close to several expensive tourist attractions, so it can be easy to overlook all of the amazing local events and lesser-known attractions from time to time. That’s why I love to check my county’s convention and visitor’s bureau website for free or cheap upcoming events in the area! From art shows to film festivals, many cities offer an awesome variety of activities that will appeal to multiple age groups and interests. Check Facebook as well for event ideas near where you live.
  • Visit an educational venue.
    Take a trip to the zoo, a museum, the planetarium, or a wildlife sanctuary. Many of these places have a relatively low admission price (I spent $6 last month to attend a planetarium show) and even offer student discounts for those of you who are still in school. This gives you a chance to broaden your horizons and learn about something new, and can be just as fun to do with friends and family! My friends and I had such a great time visiting the planetarium last month that we even decided to attend the (free) Winter Sky Festival they are hosting this weekend.
  • Participate in community service.
    There are few greater feelings than the way you’ll feel by giving back to others less fortunate. You don’t need to write a big check to make a difference in the world — there are a lot of kind things you can do to help others. My parents volunteer for a food pantry and an animal rescue, so when I visit, I often join them to pack food or help out with the rescue dogs. Volunteering your time can be a lot of fun to do with your family and friends, but it can also be enjoyable even if you go alone.
  • Go outside.
    If weather permits, spend some time out enjoying nature. Go to a park or beach, grab a frisbee, have a picnic with friends, go on a hike, or just spend sometime outside together with a refreshing change in scenery. Not only is this an inexpensive way to hang out with friends, but it is also scientifically shown to make you happier and more productive. 🙂 Who knew?

What are your tips for a frugal but fun weekend? Share your suggestions in the comments section below!

Adventures in Florida: A Night at the Planetarium

As some of my readers know, I created a 25 at 25 Bucket List for my 25th birthday back in September, consisting of 25 things I hoped to do over the next year. (Want to know how it’s going so far? Click here!) One of those adventures included a trip to the planetarium – something I hadn’t done since elementary school. I’ve always been interested in astronomy, as well as the mythology used to explain many of the stars in the sky, and I thought that a planetarium visit would be the perfect opportunity to learn something new.

Imagine my excitement when I found out that there was a planetarium just a few miles up the road at Seminole State College! The Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium costs just $6 for an adult ticket (free for SSC students and $4 for seniors, K-12 students and students from other colleges), and offers a variety of public shows to choose from.

Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium

Two weeks ago, my friends and I decided to get into the holiday spirit and attend the planetarium’s Star of Bethlehem show, which we learned is one of the most popular seasonal shows for planetariums worldwide. The show focuses on the story of the Magi and the birth of Jesus, as well as the scientific theories behind what the “star of Bethlehem” could have possibly been.

I enjoyed the mix of science and religious folklore throughout the show, and appreciated that the narration never became too preachy or alienated any of its audience. Instead, the show allowed for viewers to decide for themselves what to believe about the star, and encouraged viewers not to turn science and religion into a mutually exclusive either/or scenario. My friends and I are from different religious backgrounds, but the show appealed to all four of us and we all left having gained new historic, religious and scientific knowledge.

Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium

Based on my experience at the Star of Bethlehem show that night, I will definitely be returning to this planetarium for other shows in the near future! In January, I also hope to attend the free Winter Sky Festival that the planetarium will be hosting. What a perfect way to enjoy a winter night in Florida!

What’s on your bucket list this year? Have you visited the planetarium recently? Share your latest adventures in the comments section below!

Adventures in Florida: Central Florida Zoo

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Squad goals.

My inner child had the time of her life over the weekend when I took my very first trip to the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford. As some of my blog readers know, I’ve been dying to visit this zoo for quite some time — it’s practically in my backyard and it made its way onto my 25 at 25 Bucket List! (To see my progress so far, click here.) I was overcome with excitement when I convinced a few friends to tag along, and I enjoyed every minute of my visit. 🙂

Total disclosure: I’m an unapologetic nerd when it comes to my love for animals. I know there are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to zoos, but there’s no denying that zoos can instill in us an empathy and love for all creatures from a young age. You gain exposure to species you’ve never even heard of from areas of the world you’ve never been. If you live in Florida, a giraffe is probably not going to wander in front of your window one morning, so seeing one in person can be a one-of-a-kind experience.

Of course, as you’ve probably guessed, I had a great time at the zoo. 🙂 It was Lemur Conservation Day, which meant that we learned little factoids about lemurs throughout the day and even observed part of a zookeeper talk on lemurs.

Red Ruffed Lemur at Central Florida Zoo

Aside from lemurs, the Central Florida Zoo features a cheetah, leopard, cougar, dromedary camel and many other animals, as well as a fairly extensive herpetarium and a variety of birds. The adorable otters were swimming when we arrived in their area and were possibly the happiest animals in the entire zoo, followed closely by this boer goat (who just might definitely be my spirit animal).

He seriously might have been my favorite animal of the whole day.

He seriously might have been my favorite animal of the whole day.

I was also enamored with these two Indian rhinos, Jahi and PJ, and compared them to two of our family dogs throughout the visit based on their proximity to one another. 🙂

Rhinos at Central Florida Zoo

For those of you who live in the Orlando area or are making a trip out here, the Central Florida Zoo is well worth the visit. I’m so happy I was able to finally experience it after years of living only a few miles away! It is a relatively small zoo, but it has a good variety of animals and plenty of activities for children as well.

This llama hopes you had a nice day!

This llama hopes you had a nice day!

What’s on your bucket list this year? Share your latest adventures in the comments section below!