animals

Adventures in Florida: The Seacrest Wolf Preserve

Over the weekend, I experienced the adventure of a lifetime when my dad, sister, and I took a trip to the Seacrest Wolf Preserve. Tucked away in Chipley, Florida, the Seacrest Wolf Preserve was one of those bucket list items I never even knew I had until recently, when I met one of the volunteers at the Blue Springs Manatee Festival. I come from a family of animal lovers (who also happen to be involved in German Shepherd rescue efforts), so visiting the Seacrest Wolf Preserve was the perfect family getaway.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Seacrest Wolf Preserve is a non-profit organization dedicated to wolf conservation. Covering more than 400 acres, the preserve is a safe haven for several wolf packs, as well as foxes, skunks, a coyote, and other wildlife. Seacrest offers both public and private tours, allowing visitors to meet and interact with the wolves and smaller animals.

For our first visit, we decided to check out the Saturday Wolf Encounter Tour. When we arrived, we met Cynthia Watkins, one of Seacrest’s co-founders, and it was easy to see her passion for these beautiful animals. For just $25 admission, we had the chance to tour three wolf habitats and meet the packs who live there, as well as visit the foxes and skunks in the small animal areas.

This experience was life-changing, and I can’t wait to return for another visit. Within the wolf habitats, we were actually able to pet, play, and howl with the wolves– we even received a few wolf kisses! I fell in love with an energetic 10-month-old pup who reminded me a lot of my first German Shepherd, Shana, at that age. 🙂

Throughout the day, we learned about how packs form and how difficult it truly is to be a “lone wolf.” We also learned about why conservation efforts are a necessity, as wolves are incredibly vital to the ecosystem, and how greed and legislation have put their lives in danger.

During the tour, we talked about how important it is to speak for the wolves, because they cannot speak for themselves. Supporting organizations like Seacrest is a great way to give back to these incredible animals and fight against the regulations that have put them in harm’s way. Visiting the preserve gives you a greater appreciation and empathy for an often misunderstood creature, and is a must-do for anyone who wants to get up close and personal with a wolf.

I’m excited to return with my family for a VIP Tour in the near future! I highly recommend Seacrest (learn more about tours here) for all of you animal lovers. It’s an experience you won’t forget.

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!

Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All Friends

Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsNow that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday shopping season has officially begun. Hopefully all of you have survived Black Friday! Even I managed to brave the mall and come home with a few goodies this weekend. Of course, as Hanukkah and Christmas loom near, it’s important to start shopping for our friends and loved ones as well.

I absolutely love gift-giving. With so many cool and customizable products out there, I enjoy putting thought into the presents I buy rather than slapping a bow on something really generic and calling it a day.

This week, I’d like to share my holiday gift guide for all types of friends. Most of these products are ones that I either personally own, have sampled, or have purchased for someone else in the past. The best part? You can purchase any of these online in the comfort of your own home! No need to start any fist-fights at the mall this year. 🙂

  • Unique Holiday Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Animal Lover: A custom-made shirt from Pop Your Pup!
    Pop Your Pup creates graphic T-shirts featuring pop art designs of your pets. Choose a shirt style and background color, submit a photo of your/your friend’s pet, and the graphic artists at Pop Your Pup will work their magic to make a one-of-a-kind shirt that really does look like your pet. The turn-around time is awesome, and 10% of proceeds are donated to local Humane Societies. I’ve ordered two of these shirts for birthday presents already, and they were a huge hit!
  • The Friend with School Spirit: A bottle of his or her school’s Masik Collegiate Fragrance.
    Masik Collegiate Fragrances is the brainchild of Katie Masik, who wanted to create perfumes and colognes that evoked memories of certain colleges and universities. Last year, I reviewed their University of Florida perfume and their Florida State University cologne, and even though I’m not a Gator fan, I still sometimes wear the UF perfume! The scents are inspired by the buildings, traditions and local plant-life of each university. Click here for a list of all schools represented so far to see if your friend’s school is listed!
  • Unique Gift Guide for All FriendsThe Sweet Tooth: A box of Wondermade‘s handcrafted marshmallows.
    (Paleo readers: You may want to shield your eyes for this one!) I stumbled into Wondermade one afternoon on one of my walks through downtown Sanford. The café is a local one, where patrons can buy marshmallow skewers and s’mores of all flavors that they can pair with coffee or hot chocolate. Wondermade also has an online store, where consumers from near and far can buy boxes of marshmallows in Christmas and fall flavors, as well as other unique flavors. I love to support local businesses, especially ones with such delicious products!
  • The Healthy Chick: A piece of (totally inedible) Organic Fruit Jewelry.
    Okay, paleo friends, you can start reading again. 🙂 Organic Fruit Jewelry is exactly what it sounds like — real fruit dried and preserved into jewelry! This is an eclectic and fun gift, and no two necklaces/earring sets are exactly alike. I’m obsessed with the lemon slice necklace and will definitely be investing in mine soon!
  • The Single Friend: A copy of The Mathematics of Love by Hannah Fry.
    I’m a nerd at heart, so reading a book that relates mathematical concepts to dating and marriage was obviously right up my alley. This is a great read for anyone — single or not — who wants to see just how applicable these theories and formulas are to our lives. I was never a math lover in school, but I really enjoyed this book! (Check out the related TED Talk if you’re curious.)
  • il_570xN.436081413_kwxfThe Sports Fan: A personalized highway distance sign to your friend’s favorite team’s stadium/arena.
    I absolutely love these stadium signs as a way to support your favorite team! You choose your team’s venue from the Travelsigns Etsy shop, and plug in the number of miles between there and your home. This a great gift for that guy in your life who still hasn’t put anything up on his wall.
  • The Harry Potter Nerd: This Golden Snitch bracelet from Ashley Bridget.
    Seriously, have you seen anything prettier? The Ashley Bridget website features other Harry Potter jewelry as well, along with other gorgeous pieces from their NFL, collegiate, sorority, fairy tale and other collections. 🙂
  • The Career Guy or Girl: A customized business card case.
    You can find these anywhere, depending on your friend’s preferences, but I purchased mine from the ChicMonogram store on Etsy. This is a great gift for someone who recently graduated from college and is just starting a new job. For nearly my entire first year at my current job, I didn’t have a business card case, and instead found myself carrying the cards around at networking events like the unpolished peasant I was. With my personalized business card case (featuring my full name, not just my monogram), I have something to store my business cards and it makes for a great conversation piece!
  • The Fancy Friend: Anything from the Downton Abbey collection at World Market.
    I am in love with this collection’s 2-tiered serving stand and tea spoons, and I don’t even watch Downton Abbey! Buy a few items from this set for your tea-loving friends who like to entertain.

How are you shopping for the holidays? Share your favorite finds in the comments section below!

Link Love Wednesday: David Beckham and Old Hollywood

026-ginger-rogers-and-fred-astaire-theredlistGood evening and happy Friday to all of my lovely readers! I hope everyone is having a wonderful month of November and getting excited for Thanksgiving next week. 🙂 I’m fighting a sinus infection, but I’ve still had my share of adventures lately — some community service projects, a local jazz festival, and even a couple of items crossed off of my bucket list! What have you been up to?

As always, enjoy this week’s roundup of link love, and share your own favorites in the comments below!

Things I’m Loving Lately

What links are you loving lately? Share your favorites 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!

Link Love Wednesday: Christmas Dinner at Hogwarts

85fcbf058d017908542b481c196b3daf32c7d45244d2a52e65a5c29acabf7ffb_1Happy Wednesday, readers! It’s almost October and you may have noticed that my posts dropped off quite a bit for the month of September. In that time, I launched my very own fantasy football league, turned 25, taught Junior Achievement classes at a local high school, started a new fitness program, spoke on a business career panel at a local community college, spent lots of time with friends and family, and hung around the mall much more than I’d care to admit. September was a busy month! 🙂

October isn’t slowing down, but I hope to have more posts for you as we make our way into fall. In the meantime, take a look at this week’s Link Love, and feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section below!

Things I’m Loving Lately

  • Getting my morning news updates from The Skimm each day.
  • Why Not Me?the latest book release from Mindy Kaling. Fantastic read!
  • Fantasy football — in particular, the impossibly handsome Julian Edelman.
  • The Mathematics of Love, by Hannah Fry, which relates mathematical theories to dating and relationships. It’s a fascinating read and I’m tearing through it!
  • Kate Spade online flash sales.
  • Community. Why didn’t anyone tell me over the past six years how great it was?

What are your favorite links and articles from the week? Sound off in the comments below!

The Weekend Five: Awesome Things That Happened Last Week

funny-dinosaurUnless you were living under a rock for the last week, you probably saw the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair cover reveal on social media. Caitlyn’s very public transition has been extremely educational for many who have never met someone in the transgender community before, and in turn, I feel that this will inspire more widespread kindness and acceptance in the future.

However, amidst all the latest media coverage of Caitlyn’s transition (both positive and negative), many of us have missed out on other important events in the news lately. This edition of The Weekend Five will bring you up to speed on some of the other awesome things happening in the world in the last week or so.

The Weekend Five: Awesome Things That Happened Last Week

1. A brand new dinosaur was discovered.
The “Hellboy” dinosaur, as scientists have nicknamed it, was recently discovered and is related to the triceratops we all know and love. What is especially cool about this discovery is that, according to researchers, “it’s the first example of evolutionary convergence in horned dinosaurs.” On a romantic note, one of the lead researchers actually proposed to his girlfriend in the paper he published about the dinosaur. How sweet!

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DNA Analysis.

DNA Analysis.

2. A new DNA test has been developed to determine the history of viruses in a patient.
This test, called VirScan, will tell you what viruses you have had throughout your lifetime and could lead to early detection of other medical conditions. Scientists also believe that this could give us better insight into what triggers other diseases, such as cancer.

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3. Guam became the first U.S. territory to legalize gay marriage.
I honestly don’t understand why this isn’t legal everywhere, but this is still an important step toward equality.

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4. Orange County, NY signed an animal abuse registry into law.
What this means is that convicted animal abusers will be logged into an animal abuse registry, which will prevent them from being able to own animals. As an animal lover and member of a dog-rescuing family, I think this needs to happen everywhere! The law is very tough, especially on two-time offenders, and hopefully will protect a lot of animals from abuse and neglect in the future.

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5. Researchers were able to restore lost memories in mice.
This is a huge breakthrough because it could ultimately help to treat patients with amnesia. Researchers are hopeful that this treatment could restore memories for patients with early stage Alzheimer’s, head trauma and other brain disorders.

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What are some awesome news stories you picked up throughout the week? Share your favorites in the comments section below!

Link Love Wednesday: Elephants, Barbies and ‘The Room’

Elephant-elephants-28788754-1024-768Now that everyone is winding down from their Valentine’s Day sugar highs, it is time for another round of link love! Below are some of the latest Internet highlights (according to me) – as always, feel free to add your own in the comments section!

What are some of the great links you’ve seen on the web today?

The Weekend Five: Things To Do Instead Of Arguing On The Internet

The Internet is a place that allows for freedom of expression and the communication of ideas. However, while it provides us with opportunities to share our opinions and speak to a much larger audience than we could otherwise, it sometimes gets a little more heated than necessary. People get into nasty e-screaming matches on message boards and berate each other through social media based on their differences, and soon a website that you visited to de-stress becomes a place that raises your blood pressure and requires you to fight back.

I see it all too often – people forming very personal arguments on each other’s tweets and Facebook statuses, and in some cases, with virtual strangers. While I believe it is important to stand up for your opinion and have a safe place to express yourself, I also think that there are times to let an argument go and just take a deep breath. The Internet enables us to make attacks we might not otherwise because we are not seeing the person we’re arguing with face-to-face, and we can become downright mean.

The next time you’re thinking about starting an argument online, consider these alternatives instead!Tweet this!

The Weekend Five: Things To Do Instead of Arguing On The Internet

1. Avoid the message boards and comments section of articles.
As I’ve mentioned before, people on the Internet aren’t always the nicest. So, when you’re reading your favorite newspaper online, skip the comments section because there will be offensive comments, regardless of how seemingly benign the article topic may be. Your first instinct may be to retaliate, but it’s very likely that no matter how eloquent an argument you make, you still won’t be able to change the person’s mind. Instead of getting angry, don’t read them. Even on IMDB (Internet Movie Database) message boards, people belittle each other for the smallest details regarding movies, television shows and celebrities. If it’s going to get you angry, why even bother?

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2. Look at pictures of cute animals.
How can you look into this puppy’s eyes and possibly be in a bad mood after that (assuming, of course, that you have a soul)? If you’re feeling the urge to argue with someone, just log on to Cute Overload and browse through photos and videos of adorable cats, dogs, farm animals and everyone else under the sun.

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3. Hug somebody.
It’s okay… we all know that your anger toward Mitt Romney/Barack Obama/Newt Gingrich/Ryan Seacrest/The Hamburglar is really just a cry for love and affection. (Well, maybe not entirely.) Either way, unless you’re anti-human contact, a hug from a friend or loved one certainly won’t hurt.

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4. Get some exercise.
It’s hard to be angry when your endorphins are flowing! Instead of reading through a long thread of outraged comments about something absolutely ridiculous but still infuriating, go for a walk or a run or a swim. Clear your head by moving around and taking in new scenery.

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5. Get out of the house!
Turn off the computer and go somewhere else. Hang out with friends, see a movie, or go to the park. Staying away from the Internet for a few hours and focusing on something else is definitely an ideal alternative to fighting on the Internet.

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What do you like to do instead of fighting online?