Must Have Jeep Accessory For Summer

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[“The item linked is proviced by Husky. All reviews and opinions are my own.”]

Officially A Jeep Family

Jeep’s are the perfect vehicle for coastal living! I am conviced that Jeep has made the best built vehicle for the beach! Jeep’s are fun and can go anywhere your adventurous life will take you! The off road capabilty with four wheel drive will get us places that our other vehicles can not go! I am enjoying all of the hidden and locking storage to keep valuables safe while our family is out having fun in the sun! Our next step was purchasing Jeep accessories!

Husky Weather Beater Cargo Liner

As the summer months approach and if you are a new Jeep owner like myself, you are probably wondering what types of accessories are needed for your Jeep or may be you need to replace your Jeep accessories for the warmer months.  One of the first items I noticed that I would need for or Jeep is a cargo liner. We go to the beach, several times a week, along with swim lessons and our fur babies ride with us too! I knew I would need a durable, rugged cargo liner and Husky was the perfect fit for our Jeep! 

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Husky Weather Beater Cargo Liners are made from a material that is sporty and rugged! Super easy to install, remove and clean. Husky’s FormFit Design™ contours to each specific ride. It even comes with a LIFETIME GUARANTEE plus it”s made in the USA! Cleaning is a breeze, as you can just pull out, rinse and its good as new! One of my favorite features about the Husky Weather Cargo Liner is that it does not shift around!

Final Thoughts

Our Huskey Weather Beater Cargo Liner is our first accessory for our new Jeep! It is a must have in our active lives! So nice to keep out the water, sand and dog hair! When I get ready to clean it, I just remove, clean and pop it back in! Head on over to Husky and grab yours today! Their website will naviagte you to the cargo liner to fit your Jeep!

THE BILTMORE AT CHRISTMAS

THE BILTMORE AT CHRISTMAS

We all dream of that perfect holiday season. The one filled with family togetherness, Christmas trees with lights, homemade hot cocoa and Christmas movies. Often times, the reality of the Christmas holidays can bring on endless busyness. I believe that in order to fully appreciate the holidays, taking a family Christmas vacation can really help set our sights, in perspective of a truly beautiful family holiday. This helps us to step away from the day-to-day and set it in another light.

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Christmas at the Biltmore

The weekend after my fourthieth birthday, we packed the car and had our eyes set for the stunning Asheville, North Carolina, the backdrop of George Vanderbilt’s famous estate.

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This is the Biltmore’s 125 year of welcoming guests into the estate. The Biltmore begins decorating in November with more than 60 Christmas trees, 13,000 ornaments, thousands of lights, beautiful poinsettias and ribbons all adorn the majestic estate.

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On the front lawn of the Biltmore House, a breathtaking, 55-foot-tall Norway spruce with 45,000 plus lights and is lit for the candlelight evenings.

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In the Banquet Hall of the Biltmore House, a 35-foot Fraser fir Christmas tree is brought in by 50 helpers! It is even replaced mid holiday season to ensure a fresh tree. The replacement tree arrives to the house by 4 AM and decorated by the time the first guests arrive by 9 AM. The tree is decorated with 500 ornament, 500 lights and 500 packages, as George Vanderbilt decorated the tree.

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History of Christmas at the Biltmore

George Vanderbilt and his wife, Edith along with their daughter, Cornelia, spent many Christmases together in the Biltmore House, creating many traditions that continue today. George Vanderbilt’s descendant s, the Cecil family, now the estate’s owners and caretakers, host the annual employee holiday party, just like the Vanderbilt’s did. The Vanderbilt’s also made sure that each employee’s child had a Christmas gift and the Cecil family continues this tradition today. Records even show that Edith Vanderbilt kept notes on what gift each child received every year to avoid repeating gift in the years to follow. The lists still exist, as well as receipts from FAO Schwartz detailing some of the toys and games she purchased. 

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The Biltmore at Christmas

Throughout the house and other buildings on the estate, you will find 55 plus decorated Christmas trees, each created by Biltmore designers, all with different themes each year.

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Every detail of the estate is covered in Christmas cheer and almost every room in the home has it’s own Christmas tree.

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Not only is the home absolutely stunning with Christmas decor, the exquisite details of the estate will wow just about anyone!

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From the medieval tapestries, some dating back to the 1500’s, the detailed wood prints, exquisite paintings, 70-foot ceilings to the 10,000 rare volume priceless library!

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Estate Shops: Carriage House Shop

After touring the Biltmore House, we walked over to the Carriage House to find our keepsake ornament of the trip. We found many beautiful ornaments such as handpainted glass, wood and porcelain.  We also picked up a book about the Biltmore and I have enjoyed reading the history of the Vanderbilts.

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Estate Shops: Toymaker’s

My youngest daughter was jumping at the chance to head to the Toymaker’s toy shop! She chose a stuffed Cedric dog, which was the family dog of the Vanderbilts! I also picked up a couple pencils and a pen as souvineers.

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Estate Shops: Confectionery

Why not induldge yourself with an array of treats at the Confectionery candy shop!

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Our family chose several chocolate treats and they were worth waiting in line! From cookies to truffles, our family enjoyed grabbing a few of these before heading home!

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TIPS FOR VISITING THE BILTMORE

I did not wear tennis shoes but I would definitely recommend it! Purchase your tickets before you go! Purchase an audio for your visit. Allow time to get park and ride the bus to the estate.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

The Biltmore is a stunning place! We loved Asheville and will definitely be back! We may even make it a yearly tradition!  

Love, Shae 

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Staycation with Vulcan Park and Museum

[This post contains sponsored links. The items featured and linked, in this post is provided by Vulcan Park and Museum; opinions and reviews are my own.]

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Staycation with Vulcan Park and Museum

When I think of a fun activity with a little history in Birmingham, Alabama, I think of Vulcan! I can remember going here as a child on field trips and sometimes with my childhood best friend. Vulcan definitely holds some nostalgia for me! Our oldest two daughters, who are now adults, grew up visiting Vulcan. We were excited to have the  opportunity to take our youngest two daughters, recently!

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Vulcan History

Vulcan is Birmingham, Alabama’s statue and is the world’s largest cast iron statue. It is also considered one of the most memorable works of civic art in the United States. Vulcan was designed by an Italian artist, Giuseppe Moretti. Vulcan was cast in 1904 and has overlooked Birmingham from atop Red Mountain since the 1930’s.  The photo below was from 1906-1935 when Vulcan was located at the Alabama State Fairgrounds. 

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In 1999, Vulcan was in need of repair. The 10 acre park that surrounds Vulcan was closed and Vulcan was removed from its pedestal. City leaders sought public support for its restoration, forming the non-profit Vulcan Park Foundation., which would oversee the plan to restore the statue to his 1904 grandeur. They also created a educational park complex to interpret Alabama’s industrial history. 

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Vulcan Today

Today, public-private partnerships and a $15.5 million campaign, our city’s beloved statue, stands rehabilitaed, along with the expanded park, now  referred to as Vulcan Park and Museum. 

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Our Visit to Vulcan Park and Museum

Our family was so excited to have a staycation here in Birmingham and to be able to visit Vulcan Park and Museum! It is  a beautiful park overlooking the cityscape. We decided to check out the museum first! The museum has many different exhibits about the history of making Vulcan! Our favorite exhibit was the Furnace Room, where you can see raw materials needed for iron production. We also enjoyed reading about the  Women’s Suffrage Centennial on their fight to have rights to vote. We finished the museum quickly, as our littles were chomping at the bit to go up top of Vulcan! 
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Vulcan

The elavator ride to the top of Vulcan offers breathtaking  views of the Birmingham region. You can see Red Mountain as it stretches to the east and west.

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Facing north, you can see Jones Valley, one of Birmingham’s earliest business districts. To the south, you can see Shades Valley and even further south lies Oak Mountain.  

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We had a few people in our family that were a little nervous of heights but hey, that did not stop us from being atop of Vulcan! Absolutely one of our favorite spots here in Birmingham to have a staycation! 

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Final Thoughts

Vulcan Park and Museum is absolutely one of our favorite spots here in Birmingham to have a staycation!

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Grab your tickets here!  I would love to know if you and your family have come to Vulcan Park and Museum, here in Birmingham? Please let me know in the comments!

Love~Shae

Exploring St. Augustine, Florida: History and Culture

Exploring St. Augustine, Florida: History and Culture

This post contains sponsored links. The item featured and linked, in this post is provided by St. Augustine Lighthouse (six admission tickets); all opinions and reviews are my own.]

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St. Augustine: History 

In June of this year, we had the pleasure of visiting St. Augustine, on the Atlantic cost of northeastern Florida. St. Augustine is a gem situated neatly along the shores of the Matanzas River and holds heavy historical significance! The Southern and Spanish-influenced St. Augustine, Florida was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and it is the oldest inhabited European-established settlement in the United States. When you are walking around on its centuries-old cobblestone streets, you will instantly feel like you are either in Europe or Old Florida, depending on which street you’re on! It’s a charming escape for anyone wanting to take a vacation!

Bridge of Lions; St Augustine, FL; Plate Girder; Painted, Metali

 

St. Augustine: Arrival

The Bridge of Lions will take you across the Matanzas River to the heart of the historic old town. Once across the bridge you have the choice of turning left on Avenida Menendez to the marina and sight-seeing cruises or right to the Castillo de San Marcos. You can also continue straight ahead on Cathedral Street into the heart of downtown.

 

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St. Augustine: Beaches 

One of the reasons we wanted to travel to St. Augustine was for the beaches! The beaches are so pretty! With a historic city being one of its main attractions, don’t forget about the  beaches near St. Augustine! From their sunrises to sunsets, they are stunning!

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Located on Anastasia Island, a barrier island off the mainland, St Augustine Beach has a natural feel with a wide beach and lots of good surf and shorebirds!

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St. Augustine: Lighthouse & Museum 

While traveling, one of our family goals is to visit every lighthouse we come by! The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum was a highlight for our entire vacation! When we arrived at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum  , we were greeted by Daniel Lee, who  took us on a tour of the property and we learned quite a bit of history about the lighthouse. He was very welcoming and informative on the history of the lighthouse.

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History: Pre-1862 

The story of the the current lighthouse in St. Augustine is not the original St. Augustine Lighthouse. The Spanish constructed the tower that became the first lighthouse in 1737. They used a naturally occurring stone called coquina to construct the original tower. The coquina tower replaced wooden watchtowers the Spanish built dating back to the beginnings of Spanish Florida.

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A map of Francis Drake’s 1586 raid on St. Augustine reveals the presence of a small tower on Anastasia Island. The map refers to the tower as “a Beacon or high scaffold standing on the sand hills, wherein the Spaniards did use to discover the ships at sea.” In 1823, John Rodman, Collector of St. Augustine, wrote to Stephen Pleasonton, Fifth Auditor of the U.S. Treasury, that despite the tower’s presence, “…it was never built for a lighthouse or used as one, but merely a look-out-house. The location is well suited…but a great proportion of the tower, nearly one half, is not sufficiently strong to bear any greater elevation either if wood or stone work.” 

John (Juan) Andreu became first keeper of Florida’s first official U.S. lighthouse in St. Augustine. Not only is he one of the first, he also holds the distinction of being the first Hispanic-American to serve in the Coast Guard and the first to oversee a federal installation of any kind.

Juan Andreu served as keeper until 1845 and the records are unclear as to who took over and served as lighthouse keeper from 1845 to 1849. John (Juan) Carrera served as keeper from 1849 until his death in 1853. Joseph took care of the lighthouse until his death, which he fell, while painting the lighthouse.

Joseph’s wife Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu was appointed keeper in place of her deceased husband. The Coast Guard recognizes Maria Andreu as the first Hispanic-American woman to serve in the Coast Guard. Maria was the lighthouse keeper from 1859-1862.

History: Current 

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The current St. Augustine Lighthouse is nestled among live oaks and beautiful Spanish moss making a stunning nautical canopy. Also located on the property is Maritime Museum, along with the light keepers house.

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There is also the Maritime Hammock which is a natural area that the coastline formed when it receded, creating stabilized beach dunes that allowed for larger growth trees.

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There is even a cute gift shop located on the property as well!

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St. Augustine Lighthouse: Climbing the lighthouse

To climb the lighthouse, you will need to climb 219 stairs! Trust me when I say that is is worth it! There are eight landings and even one with a bench. Plenty of space for others to walk past you and if needed, space for a break!

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When you walk into the lighthouse, walk to the first set of stairs, go to the very middle and look up! This is the view that you will see!

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The view from the top is amazing! We had a couple that were a little nervous to be up so high, yet is not our first time on the top of a lighthouse either!

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Amazing view of St. Augustine from the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse!! If you decide to come to visit St. Augustine, don’t forget to stop by the lighthouse!

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St. Augustine: Downtown Old City Gates & St. George Street 

The Old City Gates are a site to behold toward the north end of St. George Street. The Old City Gates were at one time the only entrance into St. Augustine. The two ancient columns made of coquina were built in 1808 as a line of defense for the city.

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After visiting the Old City Gates, walk through to enter St. George Street, which is a historic street, that is filled with galleries, shops, restaurants and popular St. Augustine attractions.

 

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St. Augustine: Castillo de San Marcos

The Castillo de San Marcos is the largest masonry fort in the continental United States and was built to protect Spain’s claim to the New World!

Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the fort was closed on the inside. We did walk around the exterior of the fort!

St. Augustine: The Fountain of Youth  

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The Fountain of Youth was believed that anyone who drank from the fountain would have their youth restored. In 2,400 BC, the Native Americans, a tribe known as, Timucua, were amount the first to inhibit the land. Ponce de Leon was the first Spanish explorer to find the Fountain of Youth. The grounds at the Fountain of Youth are beautiful and you will also find several peacocks throughout the property!

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Drinking from the Fountain of Youth is wonderful experience that our family will never forget!

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I could honestly go on and talk about St. Augustine for a long time! We love this city so much!  It is such a pleasure to visit the historical St. Augustine and we know we will definitely be back!

❤️~Shae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disney Vacation-Budget Friendly with a large family

Disney Vacation-Budget Friendly with a large family

Hey friends! I always like to have total transparency! This blog post includes an affiliate link and we collaborated with Disney World on two, one-day park hopper passes. My opinions are always my own and I would never share anything with y’all that I don’t truly love. Thank you for your support friends!

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Disney World is a place where dreams come true! I understand it can be a challenge,  if your traveling as a large family. Planning is crucial but you can create the vacation of your family’s dreams! Today, I am going to share with you how our large family of 6 can go to Disney on a budget! Here are our tips.

1) Purchasing Disney World Tickets.

You will need to decide if you will be visiting all four parks, may be just one park and if you will purchase the park hopper option. For this trip, we decided to go with one park per day and not use the park hopper option. We have used the park hopper option in the past.

The best place that I have found to purchase Disney World tickets is Undercover Tourist . Let me show you  breakdown of the two options we chose from for this trip. We are a family of 6, needing four adult tickets, since ages 10 and above are considered adult tickets for Disney and two child tickets, ages 3-9. Don’t forget that kids under 3 can go to Disney for free!

Our first option is a four day base ticket with no park hopper for $406.47 per adult and $388.90 per child. Those prices include tax, no hidden fees and free shipping. Total=$2,569.36, with a savings of $271.00!

Our second option was a 2 day ticket with park hopper option for $323.64 per adult and $313.06 per child. Prices include tax, no hidden fees and free shipping. Total=$1,920.68, with a savings of $234.00!

For this trip, we chose the four day base ticket with no park hopper option. The reason we chose this option is because we did the two day park hopper option, on our last trip and we really wanted to have one day to spend at each park. If you do chose the two day park hopper option, it is doable but remember it is a lot of walking! We did Magic Kingdom on one day then Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot, all in one day! If you do decide to park hop, don’t forget to use Disney’s transportation via the bus, monorail or the new Skyliner!

2) Decide on your lodging.

Since we have larger family, it is cheaper for us to stay off site, than in a Disney resort, due to needing two resort rooms. Plus, we travel with our family pet and she stays with us in our rental house. We like to use VRBO and can stay for around $65 per night. For this trip, we decided to stay for 6 nights and 7 days, which included a $30 pet fee and a $65 cleaning fee for the week. Our total lodging cost was $491.00. Another option is to  stay for 4 nights and 5 days with the two-day park hopper option, making your trip $325 lodging and  $1,920.68 tickets!

One option to staying on site with a larger family is
Disney’s Fort Wilderness . Depending on the time of year, you can stay here in your tent or camper for around $100 a night.

Disney resorts are magical!! We had the opportunity to visit the Grand Floridian on this trip, to attend the Disney Princess Perfectly Princess Tea Party.

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The Grand Floridian is a Victorian-style resort, decorated with Victorian Christmas decor, grandiose tree and a life size gingerbread house with a sweet shop inside of the gingerbread house!

3) Food: Cooking meals while on vacation.

One of the reasons we like to stay off site, is so that we can cook in our rental home and bring our own food into the parks. This essentially is huge money saver for us!  I will take our grocery budget for the week and meal plan every meal that we will have while on our vacation. For example, the day before we leave, we will pre-make several food items. For this trip, I made banana nut bread, orange rolls, speghetti sauce, chili and grilled chicken. I decided to freeze the speghetti sauce and chili. I baked the orange rolls for breakfast the morning we left, then had grilled chicken salads for lunch on our drive to Orlando. For dinner we had grilled chicken with rice and creamed spinach.

On our first day at the parks, I got up and made brioche french toast with berries and sausage links. For our lunch, we made sandwiches or spinach wraps and brought a bag of sweet potato chips with fruit. We also bring our Brita filtered water bottles for our drinks. For dinner that night, we heated our homemade chili on the stove! We did choose to have a couple Disney dining options for this trip.

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We went to the Disney Princess Perfectly Princess Tea Party , along with breakfast at The Plaza , where Chef Ken did a fabulous of taking care of all of my food intolerances!

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We also had dinner at The Crystal Palace and were able to catch the Magic Kingdom Fireworks show.

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The reason we chose to have two park meals is because we wanted to stay in Magic Kingdom all day to see the fireworks show that night. These meals are extra and will not be included in my finally total.

4) Disney Parks parking fees.

It will cost $25 per day to park in the standard parking lot. If you arrive early enough, you will actually be parking right next to the preferred parking area. We usually arrive in the parking lot about 30 minutes to an hour before the park opens, you will grab the best parking spot, right next to the preferred parking.

5) Souvenirs and deciding on spending limits.

How do we handle the souvenir money? We suggest to our kids to save their Christmas and birthday money received throughout the year from family members. My husband and I also do the same.

6) Our “chill day” at Disney Springs.

One other thing that we like to do while in Disney World is to have what we call our “chill day”. We will break up one of our park days to go to Disney Springs .

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You can visit their Trail of Christmas Trees which is 22-themed, Disney related trees.

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You can also visit with Santa at Disney Springs.

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Just check in at the Marketplace, head to the podium, give them your phone number and they will text you when it is your turn for Santa!

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You can also make an appointment for your little princess or prince for a royal transformation at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique  .

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Our two youngest little princesses enjoyed the royal treatment, at BBB, while at Disney Springs.

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One of the souvenirs that my husband and I like to purchase is a caricature, each time we visit Disney. The Art Corner has artists that can create beautiful caricature’s that can be hand-drawn or digitally created, along with Christmas ornaments.

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We love our newest caricature drawn by the artist, Keelan Parham . One of my favorite traditions when vacationing is purchasing an ornament to help remember our trip.

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Disney Days of Christmas  literally has hundreds of ornaments to choose from! We also enjoy looking around at the unique retail stores at Disney Springs.

Total Cost of Disney Vacation:

Our total cost for tickets, lodging and parking fees was $3,160.36. Our family loves going to Disney! There is something there for all ages, the parks are always clean, the cast members are always friendly and go out of their way to give you that special Disney magic! We can’t wait for our next Disney family vacation! I hope this information will help you when planning for your Disney vacation!

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“If you can dream it, you can do it.”-Walt Disney

❤️-Melia Shae

 

 

Exploring Egmont Key in Florida: Wildlife and History

Exploring Egmont Key in Florida: Wildlife and History

In June of this year, we had the pleasure of visiting Egmont Key, located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, Florida. It lies southwest of Fort De Soto and can only be reached by boat or ferry. The Egmont Key Lighthouse and the ruins of Fort Dade, a Spanish-American War era fort, are also located on Egmont Key. Egmont Key extends along the Tampa Port Shipping Channel. The nearest city is St. Petersburg, Florida. We took the Tampa Bay Ferry from Fort De Soto to Egmont Key and on the way over to the island, I couldn’t help but notice the Caribbean-like blue green waters of Tampa Bay.

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When we had almost arrived to the island, we had the pleasure of seeing three manatees!! This was the first time our family had ever been this up close to manatees before and I am almost at a loss of words by how amazing they were!

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Two of the manatees were kissing and they were such gentle animals!

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Arriving on Egmont Key!

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Once we arrived on the island, we walked along the pathways lined with palm trees and flowers. The flowers and palm trees were so beautiful!

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One of the first sight’s to see is the lighthouse!

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We continued walking along the pathway to the beach and decided to go exploring for sea shells! We walked along the beach and found all different types of sea shells.

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After shell searching, we worked up an appetite for lunch! We ate our lunch on the beach and decided to explore the forts on the island from the Spanish-American War.

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The picture below is Battery McIntosh, one of five gun batteries on Fort Dade.

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Fort Dade was built on the island in 1898 during the Spanish-American War and remained active until 1923.

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During this time, there was about 300 people living on the island with a small hospital, bakery, movie theater, bowling alley and tennis courts. While exploring the island, you will come across several of the remnants. The picture below is remnants of Fire Command Control Tower.

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We stumbled upon several gopher tortoises!

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We even got to feed one! Be careful though, they think brightly colored nail polish is food!

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Our family enjoyed seeing the lighthouse that was built in 1858, while being maintained by the Coast Guard for ships and boats.

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Picture below is of my husband and I!

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When we got back to the other side of the island, we headed straight to the water to cool off! It is very hot and humid, so please make sure to bring lots of water!

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On the ferry ride back to Fort De Soto, we saw dolphins!

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The dolphins were stealing all the fisherman’s bait fish off of their poles!

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Definitely a unique island to visit and explore!

Tips from our family:

*Pack food and plenty of water

*Bring sunscreen

*There are no restrooms on the island, so be prepared.

*Wear clothing and shoes that you don’t mind getting wet/sandy.

Absolutely a wonderful experience that we will treasure for a lifetime and it could possibly be one of my most favorite places to visit in the world!

Love~Shae