Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas, yesterday! Mine was filled with Christmas music…

“Christmas Shoes” gets me every time!

This song gets me every time… #christmas #music #christmasShoes #funny

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And animals at Sun City Stables

Teach me how to ostrich… #dance #farmlife

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Good times. @lindaellen27

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Baby goat abuse…

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Can’t believe Christmas is over already, but only 364 days until Christmas 2014! Too soon to start a countdown? nah… So who’s having a bonfire for New Years? And where’s my invite?

 

Non-Beach, Beach Sunsets

While I love watching the sunset ( or sunrise ) on the regular beach like every other person…

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…there are some great places around the Bradenton/Anna Maria area that have some pretty spectacular alternatives, and they’re pet friendly too! Skip the crowds and watch the clouds change colors with views that stretch all the way from Anna Maria to St. Pete and the Skyway Bridge.

First there is De Soto National Memorial Park. I go here all the time with Keen…

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There are often other dogs running around, so he gets a little social time (Not that he really cares for it. He’s kind of a snob.) It’s much safer than the causeway, because you are nowhere near any roads, just the bay! Plus there’s a lovely boardwalk…

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And plenty of places to catch a beautiful sunset..

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Best sunset watching spot in De Soto goes to the built up embankment near the visitors center. There are several benches so you can comfortably watch the show….

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The major perk that this park has over the others: History. There are several monuments, a visitors center and events/reenactments, from various time periods, held here all year.

Next up is Robinson Preserve. Robinson is surprisingly large. You wouldn’t think there was enough space in Northwest Bradenton for a park this big, but apparently there is since it totals 637 acres. You can rent kayaks or a canoe and there are extensive running and biking trails…

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Boardwalks…

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… and some of the best birdwatching in Bradenton. I’ve seen everything from Spoonbills to Bald Eagles…

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Best spot to watch the sunset in Robinson goes to the watch tower…

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Robinsons best perk is it’s size. You can spend hours walking and not cover the same trail twice.

Lastly, is a tiny park on Anna Maria called “Leffis Key.” I’ve lived in this area my entire life, but I didn’t know this place existed until I signed up for a beach cleaning group. This park is definitely the smallest of the three, but still has a boardwalk…

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and great bird watching…

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(I know it’s just a pigeon, but I still love that picture)

What really makes this place special is the hill in the center of the park. By Florida standards it could almost be a mountain..

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From this spot, and a second peak on the same hill, you can get a 360 degree panoramic view of the best sunsets and sunrises that Florida has to offer. Definitely the best spot in the park.

6X0A5331This park is easy to miss, so what little Leffis Key holds over the others, is privacy. You will almost always be the only one taking advantage of the views that the hill baby Florida mountain provides.

I couldn’t pick a favorite, because they all have their perks, so you should really just check them all out. Let me know what you think!

2013 International Coastal Cleanup Day (sort of)

Apparently, September 21th was 2013’s International Coastal Cleanup Day. I missed that memo, so I say International Coastal Cleanup Day is whatever day you want it to be. Be a rebel, do what you want.

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There are several benefits to volunteering, like awesome free t-shirts or catching a glorious sunrise.

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Apart from the gorgeous scenery, I got exercise that didn’t make me feel like I was exercising. Isn’t that the best kind?

I also recommend keeping a list of what you find. We kept a sheet that totaled all of our haul and seeing everything we picked up was really satisfying.

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If you don’t have an official sheet, just make your own! Instagram, Facebook or Tweet a picture of it and maybe it’ll give others the motivation to get out and do some cleanup too. Anyone done any volunteering lately? I’d love to hear about it!

Key West: Where To Stay

There are so many options for accommodations in Key West. My recommendation, if you’re going to be there more than a day or two, is to do a vacation rental. Hotels are so expensive! Houses are more comfortable, about the same price and you’ll have a full kitchen which saves you on food costs. I’ve done vacation rentals in the Keys 4 times, and every time I’ve used Bone Island Vacation Rentals. Each stay was fantastic! They have several house options for all group sizes. This last time, we had ten people so we used the Seaport Suit which sleeps up to 12. (Take a closer look at it in my video) The house has three huge bedrooms with comfy king size beds. This makes for easy bunking with a friend, without having to spoon them all night to keep from falling off the bed.

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There’s a fourth bedroom that’s a bit smaller, but that just makes it cozy!

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The living room is huge! The pictures don’t do it justice. It’s got 2 couches and at least one is a foldout. The TV is great too, but c’mon… you’re in Key West! Don’t watch TV!

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I absolutely love the decor, perfect beach house feel. Other amenities include two bathrooms, hot tub, all stainless steal kitchen, a balcony that has a great view of Simonton and finally…

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A table in the hallway that’s perfect for a round of beer (or juice!) pong…

6X0A5149My interaction with the company has been nothing but positive. They have great specials in the off seasons and will give a decent discount for repeat customers. You should check them out!

Skunk Apes Eat Bigfoot for Breakfast

You’re driving through the the Everglades and you see a sign that says, “Skunk Ape Research Facility.” Do you stop, or do you keep going thinking, “What kind of person goes there?” The answer to that question is, “I do!!!” You are missing out if you don’t. The research facility is on hwy 41 in the middle of the Everglades. If you’re road-tripping down to the Keys, it’s the perfect place to stop for some leg stretching.

For those that don’t know, which is most of us, the Skunk Ape is the Everglades version of Bigfoot. It’s a large primate type thing, that allegedly lives up in the trees, feasting on deer liver and beans. I can promise you that I’m not advising you to stop to see a bunch of hazy pictures of grown men running around in ape suits. What you will see, though, is a lot of really cool animals and exceptionally helpful staff.

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That nice gentleman is the main caretaker for all of the animals. He will happily stand there and tell you about each individual creature’s personalities, quirks and preferences. He will also feed many of those large birds dozens of cashews right out of his mouth. His immune system must be impressive.

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We went through the whole animal tour without even a slight mention of the Skunk Ape. That was until I walked outside and asked a group of locals, “So who knows about the Skunk Ape?” Apparently, the world’s leading skunk ape expert was one of the men standing there when I asked. I got the full skunk ape tour complete with YouTube video clips, a book, personal stories of encounters from the man himself and more information than I could have ever wanted about a creature that almost certainly doesn’t exist. It was an adventure. I would recommend the stop 100%. Admission is only $5 and it’s worth every penny!