Friday, December 1, 2017

Christmas at Pinewood Estate

Pinewood Estate Holiday Home Tour

Since Mama was in town for Thanksgiving weekend, we decided to take a drive out to Lake Wales to visit Bok Tower Gardens and take the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate. Each year the estate, a 1932 Mediterranean-style mansion built by Charles Austin Buck as a winter retreat, is beautifully decorated for Christmas. Mama had never been to the Pinewood Estate before and even though Ron and I were there a couple of years ago, I was excited to see it again. A historic home plus Christmas decorations – two of my favorite things put together. :-)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Go Fly a Kite

Veterans Day Fall Fly Kite Festival

November - my favorite month of the year. The weather is cooler and drier, and there seems to be at least one festival or fair (sometimes three or four) every weekend. Ron had to work on Saturday but I took advantage of the sunny, breezy weather and drove down to Treasure Island Beach for the Veterans Day Fall Fly Kite Festival. It was a perfect day for kite-flying. I got to see a couple of the show kites being launched, which was very cool. Several spectators brought their own kites or purchased one from the small kite shop set up by the sponsors. The sweetest was a dad showing his little boy how to fly. What a glorious day to be at the beach!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Giraffes and More at Giraffe Ranch

Giraffe Ranch in Dade City

I thought giraffes were fascinating long before I spent two months waiting for April the giraffe to give birth. :-)  When I found out last year that Safari Wilderness had a sister property in Dade City that offered giraffe feedings, I knew we’d have to pay a visit. With the weather finally turning cooler, it seemed like the perfect time to go.

Giraffe Ranch is a family-owned exotic game farm that runs guided tours twice a day. We had signed up for the 11 o’clock Safari Vehicle Tour and were lucky enough to have both owners, Lex and his wife Elena, for our guides. Elena started off the tour with a 10-minute educational talk about the giraffes and other animals at the ranch. Did you know that a giraffe’s neck has seven vertebrae, the same number as a human? It’s just that each vertebra is much longer! Also, animals whose hooves are split into an even number of toes have no top front teeth while animals with an odd number, like zebras and horses, do. That was why we’d be feeding the giraffes but not the zebras. We were much less likely to lose a finger. :-)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Live Aqua Cancun

Live Aqua Cancun

After having to cancel our vacation twice this year, I don’t think either of us believed we were really going to Cancun until we were on the plane. We landed in clouds and drizzling rain. What happened to the beautiful weather I’d been seeing on the webcam all week?? I hoped it would clear up soon. I really needed a few days in the sunshine.

Our transfer driver met us outside the airport terminal and whisked us off to Live Aqua, an adults-only all-inclusive resort in Cancun’s Hotel Zone. The building was large and U-shaped, with a tropical garden and restaurants tucked inside the “U”. Past the garden there were several pools, including an infinity pool and a swim-up bar pool, more restaurants, and a bar with swing chairs. And beyond that was the amazing, endless beach. When we checked in, I was disappointed with our room because we’d booked an ocean front room with a king bed and somehow we ended up with two double beds. But the room did have a lot of nice amenities – robes and slippers, mini-fridge, handmade soaps, a beach bag for use while at the resort. There was even an aromatherapy oil warmer with a menu of oils to choose from. The best part of the room, of course, was the view of the ocean. That's what keeps us coming back to Cancun.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Art of the Brick Tampa

"Art can be anything."
Nathan Sawaya
The Art of the Brick Tampa

Last weekend, Ron and I drove to downtown Tampa to see The Art of the Brick, a first-of-its-kind exhibit of sculptures by artist Nathan Sawaya, made entirely out of LEGO bricks. The exhibit, which began June 23 and runs through September 4, has been very popular and even though we got there just a few minutes after it opened, there was already a line of people waiting to get inside. Fortunately, the staff were handing out umbrellas to use for shade while we waited. Even at 10 o’clock in the morning, it was already blazing hot.

The wait wasn't too long, and we were inside in less than 20 minutes. The Art of the Brick opened with a biographical video presentation by Sawaya. Sawaya was a corporate lawyer who left his law career to pursue art. Why did he choose LEGOs for his medium? Because they are fun, and because no one had done it before.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Key West Getaway

flying over the Florida Keys

When we landed in Key West at 1 o’clock, it was sunny and beautiful and about a million degrees. Surprise – it’s hot in Key West in July! :-)  We immediately headed to the taxi line but unfortunately, I gave the taxi driver the wrong street address and we ended up on the opposite side of the cemetery from Chris’s house. It wasn’t that big a deal, all we had to do was drive around to the other side, but the driver was not amused and practically threw our suitcases out of the van. Yeesh, what a grouch! No wonder everyone was excited that Uber had finally made it to Key West. We decided we would definitely be checking out that option on the way back to the airport.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Carnival Liberty

Carnival Liberty towel animals

Port Canaveral

We were supposed to be in Cancun for Cinco de Mayo, not the Bahamas. But between all the doctor appointments and not knowing how I was going to feel on any given day, I didn’t think I was up for the logistics of airports, layovers and a week away from work. So we cancelled our trip to Mexico and booked something simpler - a 3-day cruise on Carnival Liberty out of Port Canaveral.

We checked in at the cruise terminal just before boarding started at 11:45 and didn’t have to wait long before we were on the ship. First stop was the aft bar on Lido Deck to purchase the soda package for Ron and a “welcome aboard” mojito for me. Vacation starts when I have my first mojito. :-)  Now what was for lunch? Liberty had plenty of options. In addition to the usual buffet, there was a Blue Iguana Cantina, which served tacos and burritos, and a Guy’s Burger Joint. We’d never been on a ship with either a Blue Iguana or a Guy’s Burger so I was looking forward to trying them both. We decided on Guy’s Burger first. Ron had the “Straight Up” burger (with lots of jalapeno peppers from the toppings bar) and I had the “Chilius Maximus”. Yummy!  Click here for the Guy's Burger Joint Menu

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Sugar Sand Festival on Clearwater Beach

Sugar Sand Festival 2017

Clearwater Beach is famous for its soft, sparkling white sand. But the sand isn’t just beautiful; it packs easily and holds moisture, which makes it perfect for building sand castles!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas Royal Promenade

Fort Lauderdale

It’s been a long time since we’ve been on a cruise ship with “Wow Factor”. We mainly take 3- and 4-day cruises and, let’s face it, the cruise lines save their oldest and smallest ships for the short itineraries. So I was really excited when we found a 4-day cruise over President’s Day weekend on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas. At 154,000 gross tons, it was much larger than any ship we’d been on. Plus it had a FlowRider and an ice skating rink, as well as a Royal Promenade, an indoor boardwalk with shops, bars and a 24-hour cafe. Lots of new things to do and see.

The ship was supposed to leave out of Fort Lauderdale at 4:30 but the day before sailing we got an email saying that “due to important maintenance work”, we would not be departing until 7:30. Ron and I speculated that the delay had something to do with Majesty of the Seas’ life jacket fiasco. A few days earlier, the Coast Guard had found some faulty life jackets on Majesty, and the ship was stuck in port an extra day while they inspected and replaced all the life jackets. Fortunately, our email didn’t say anything about boarding being delayed, so we decided to stick with our original plan of getting to port around noon to enjoy the ship as early as possible.