Life's Sweet Journey

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Words for Wednesday: The Silent Pull

I found this gem a few months ago and I loved it the moment I saw it. At that point in time my dream of Flo (our new RV) was just that, a pull that was silently drawing me further. I had never pictured myself ever wanting an RV, but with a new found thirst for adventure mixed with the chance for quiet moments, where we could pull away from the world for a bit, a dream started to grow. It grew slowly at first, silently, and then with more passion and voice. And now that dream has become a reality and Flo is currently sitting in my driveway. I leave her each morning with a smile, thinking about all the places we will go and the moments Babe and I will share together. And then when I come home, especially after a long day, she gives me an afternoon burst of excitement and I remember the dream and the journey to make it real. 

Today my hope for you is that you let yourself take a moment to be pulled by what you really love, by the things that bring you joy and renewal. I pray that that silent draw can grow and that you share it with someone and let it tug you onward and that soon you find yourself dreaming of where that love will take you! 

Our first morning with Flo, waiting for her to be serviced at the dealership. 
So what's pulling you currently? 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Welcome Flo!! And our {Current} Top 5 Florida Adventures!!

I think this is now the third post where I mention Flo, but this is her first formal introduction. If you don’t know yet, we bought an RV!! I am in love and all things happy!! Babe has been about ready to tape my mouth shut from all the random song bust-outs (yes she has her own songs) and squeals of delight and anticipation that seem to escape my lips without prompting! We are actually in the car en route to pick her up as we "speak". We get to stay the night, learning all the ins and outs of all things travel trailers, before we bring her home.

Flo is short for FloRida ReVa. She was originally going to just be FloRida, but then I was reminded that this is a rappers name and I wanted to her to be her own true “person”, so I gave her a last name. ReVa is for R.V., but I like that it also sounded like Reba (McEntire), which yes is just another singer, but I have now decided to embrace it. So Flo is a little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll and apparently a little bit rapper too! She'll grow into it! Can’t wait for you all to get to know her more right along with me!!

Until then I thought I would use this 5 on Friday to share the adventures that spurred in me a love for exploring and ultimately to a desire to hit the open road, which let to Flo.

There will be plenty more adventures to come now that we have her, but here are our
 top 5 budget friendly gas tanks adventures from Orlando 
(most at around1/1.5 hours away).

1). Spooky , Swampy Adventures!

(most suitable for able adults; cost: gas and $5 park fee)
Babe and I are both in agreement that our absolute favorite so far was our very first big Florida adventure. I had planned a little Florida surprises adventure for us and Oliver and Kerri (the bro-in-law and his girlfriend) and so I was the only one who knew where we were going. Our main destination was Spook Hill. It’s a little tourist pit stop destination where you try to park on the road and then your car moves by itself. It’s a little corny, but it works and it’s fun! From Orlando you take the Haines City (Highway 27) exit off of I-4. Following Spook Hill, we explored the orange groves down an old clay road and then looked for a place to go hiking. 
We settled on Lake Kissimmee State Park. There are tons of trails to take and we settled on the 6.7 miles loop. It was quite the adventure that’s for sure! The trail description did mention that there might be spots of standing water. That was a “slight” exaggeration, but I loved the water!! It just made the adventure grander in my opinion. At the first spot of water, the four of us (ok, who am I kidding it was mostly us girls) tried to keep our feet dry by building bridges out of logs. And while we did succeed, this was a futile endeavor. Further into the hike we hit a trail of nothing but mid-calf water which we hiked through for about a half a mile. Let’s just say, if you do decide to take this trail (which I would highly recommend) you should be prepared with shoes you do not care about getting wet. Overall it was a great hike, with a lot of different landscapes, and we loved it!

2.) Lake Apopka Adventures!
(suitable for any age or ability depending on what you do; drive is great for families with small kiddos or elder folks looking for an adventure with AC; cost- gas only)
After reading about the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, in an article through the Orlando Sentinel, I planned a full day of exploring for Babe and me. We began the day at the Oakland Nature Preserve, which is really neat because it borders an animal sanctuary and, depending on the day, you might see anything from ostrich to zebra hanging out by the fence along one of the trails. My history buff also enjoyed taking the boardwalk to Lake Apopka, where you read about its history. We then ate lunch at the new brewery in Winter Garden before continuing our explorations. We drove from Winter Garden to the Ferndale Preserve, which had a nice trail, but if you are going to skip any part of this adventure this would probably be the one I would skip. The trail wasn’t well covered and it was hot, plus -though it did offer great views of the lake from up high- you couldn’t get right near the water. There is a really awesome playground though if you have kiddos! There was also a roadside stop we stumbled upon called the Green Mountain Overlook (yup Florida mountains haha) with a great look out tower. We were only there about 5 minutes, but it was a nice little stop (it’s the start to a bike trail for any avid mountain bike riders out there). We then drove from there to our ultimate destination, the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. This is a one way drive through a water management system that they are using to try to clean up Lake Apopka. It’s a slow drive, but there are a lot of spots to get out, see things and search for gators! To start our adventure we took the 408 West towards Clermont, but once we reached the Oakland Nature Preserve we spent the entire day on back roads, taking the Florida Scenic Highway and that too added to the charm of the day!

3.) Merritt Island Adventures!!

(great for all ages, something for everyone; cost- gas and $5 park fee per car)
We spent one afternoon exploring the National Seashore at Cape Canaveral/ Merritt Island. There is a lot to do out there that we didn’t know about. They have a great visitors center where a ranger will give you a map and tell you about all there is to see around the area. Our main points of interest were the wildlife drive and the beaches. The drive was nice, though we did see a lot more wildlife on Lake Apopka. We got out a few spots, but mostly just enjoyed the drive together. We opted for the Black Point Wildlife Drive, which is a maintained gravel road and is included in your $5 park fee. There is a free wildlife drive, however that drive is not maintained so there will be more potholes. We can’t wait to go back and try that one! We also went to the manatee area (which is basically the boat ramp) and there were tons of cute “little” sea cows!! We ended our day with a swim in the ocean! I had never been to the beaches there at the National Seashore and it was nice to be in a place with no hotels for as far as the eye could see.

4.) Back to Nature Adventures!
(great for all ages, cost: $5 donation fee per person to see the animals)
While out hunting down more hiking fun Babe and I stumbled upon a place called the Back To Nature Wildlife Refuge, unfortunately it was a Monday and they weren’t open. But we did get to hike at the trails that are on the same road. It is the Split Oak Forest trail at Eagle’s Roost Preserve. It was a really nice hike, but I was most excited to get back the next day with my bestie and peek around the refuge. Back to Nature rescues animals that have either been hurt in nature or by people who think they can turn wild animals into pets. They house them and release them if possible, but it is also home to some sweet friends who will not be able to be released back into the wild. We had a great morning visiting with the critters and taking the short trail out to the lake!

5.) Pancake Adventures!!

(Something for all ages; cost: $5 entrance per car, extra possibilities: pancake house, canoe rentals)
De Leon Springs has a lot to offer, from a playground to a swimming hole, hiking and canoeing, there is something for everyone. But the biggest drawl for me was the pancake house. I had not been since I was a kid and was really excited to try it again and take Babe, Ol and Kerri. While it was a fun experience I doubt we will go back (at least not for the pancakes). There was a long wait (over 1.5 hours), which was perfect because we were able to hike while we waited. The hike was nice, but very buggy (a few ticks too).  The pancakes were a nice treat after a long hike (though there was no ac and it was very warm), but I think we are more of ‘BBQ-after-a-hike’ type people and the pancakes just weren’t cutting it. One major perk was getting to explore the old run down orange factory that sits right outside the entrance to the springs. I do love some old Florida exploring!! 

Bonus: Only cheap with a birthday buddy!!
While these are our top 5 options for being really budget friendly, with most only costing the half a tank of gas it takes to get there and back, I do want to give an honorable mention to Boggy Creek Airboat Rides. I had always wanted to go and recently did and while it was not as thrill seeking as I had thought it would be, it was still a really cool experience. We did the 30 minute ride which was, in my opinion, the perfect amount of time. We got to see a lot and the ride was fun AND a huge perk is that if you go on your birthday it is ABSOLUTELY FREE (for the birthday person)!! Otherwise it's a little less than $30 per person. Great for any age as it's a super safe ride. 

Have a fabulous weekend and I hope you get to spend a little time getting lost!! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Words for Wednesday: Magic of Beginnings!

If you read the last post, then you know we finally did it! We bought an RV. Just a  little pull behind travel trailer and she (her name is Flo) is my newest love (introductions to come soon). I had been dreaming of her, hoping Babe would finally just say, "ok, let's live a little dream" and planning all kinds of wonderful adventures 

And then the day came, the purchase went through and I was ecstatic... but, I was also scared! 

This dream is something I have held onto for a while. One that I hadn't let go of like I tend to do with others. But then the reality of a dream fulfilled sunk in and I was nervous- I AM nervous. Nervous that it was stupid, worried that it wasn't good timing, that maybe it was an impulse decision. But as this weekend approaches (the weekend that we get to actually go pick her up, stay in it for the first night and bring her home) I am trusting in our decision to follow a dream! 

I am excited for the magic of this new beginning, doing something completely new to us and doing it together. I read somewhere that once a dream is fulfilled it's gone, that that dream no longer exists, but I don't believe that. I believe that the dream only grows, that now the dream of hitting the open road has traction. I believe that the dream doesn't die, it just morphs and changes shape. That dream now holds within it thousands of tiny little dreams; dreams of all the places that the we will go, all the adventures we will have and all the new things we will learn about each other and ourselves. 

And so I am trusting in that;
 I am trusting in the magic of new beginnings! 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

August Currently

I can not believe August is actually here! Figured I would join in on the Currently August fun for a little catch up of what has been going on in my world!

I haven’t been creating much lately, though soon I will be putting some finishing touches on some pre-created pieces that will be going in our kitchen!! Yay for a handy father-in-law and awesome antique finds in Georgia. However, while on vacation we did do a little shopping for a backpack drive and created some back-to-school encouragement signs to add to the backpack. You can read more about that here.

Big news folks!!! We finally bit the bullet and purchased an R.V.!  I could not be more ecstatic about our new “baby”! I will share more info about Flo (short for FloRida ReVa) once we pick her up from the shop, but for now I have been Pinterest crazy putting together a wish list of all the best Florida adventures to take! Any good ones I should add to my list?!

I am hoping to get the house organized this week. Which means more so that I am hoping a little organization fairy just miraculously shows up at my house. Either that or I hope to somehow acquire some organizational skills between now and Monday! Here’s to hoping…

We spent a lot of time eating on vacation. I don’t often cook at home anymore. With just the two of us, plus our busy schedules, we just tend to stick to our usual meals that don’t require a lot of prep (tacos and popcorn are staples on our weekly menu; we’re super healthy I know). Being on vacation with two kids in tow means popcorn and tacos just won’t cut it and the eating out bill gets a lot higher. So, I had the chance to cook and I realized I miss it. I think my favorite this week was Frogmore Stew. It’s simple, only one pot and very little clean up!

1.) Set a large pot to boil. Throw in some Old Bay seasoning (I don’t really measure this anymore, just however much I feel comfortable with that day).
2.) While water boils, rinse and cut up medium red potatoes (leaving skin on). I then sprinkle those with garlic salt and a little more Old Bay and place them in the pot. Boil for 10 minutes.
3.) While tatoes boil, split ears of corn in half (I usually do a half an ear per person) and cut up smoked sausage (we prefer Kielbasa, but it just depends on the heat you want). I salt the corn with garlic salt and more Old Bay and then throw both the corn and sausage in the pot. Boil another 10 minutes.
4.) After 10 minutes is up, put peel-and-eat shrimp (deveined and cleaned, but still in the shell) into the pot and boil until the shrimp is pink (usually 3 minutes).
Voila!! You are finished! Enjoy!

Oh bless, this week it has been nothing but Toy Story and Rugrats and American Girl movies. Thankfully we were able to throw The Sandlot into the mix or I might have gone bonkers! Maybe watching those once would have been fine, but hearing two American Girl movies play on repeat three times in a row (each!) was enough to have me dreaming of it at night! Excited to get home and finish watching me some Once Upon a Time haha! That and I checked Alien out from the library and Babe and I plan to watch it this week. Shockingly enough for someone who loves old scary movies, I have never seen it.

One other sweet piece of news is my newest little nephew, Ryker, who was just born this morning (post written previous to birth)!! I'm off to go upload some pictures of his sweet little face so that my sister can see them all. 

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!!

Linking up with these lovely ladies for August Currently: Jenna and Anne
And Five of Friday: April

Saturday, August 1, 2015

More Than a Backpack

Our church is hosting a backpack drive. It is something we do every year. Last year my husband packed a backpack for a middle/high school student. This year I was really excited to get my niece involved. So Saturday morning, while on our yearly trip to Big Canoe, Ga. we packed up and after making a quick stop for some produce at the local farmers market, we pulled into the Dollar General.

I let Makaylin know that this was a special day, that we weren't shopping for her, but for another child. She was curious and so we talked about why. We talked about how when kids start kindergarten, like she will in a year, the school asks for them to have a backpack and all kinds of school supplies. We discussed how school supplies cost money and how sometimes there are kids whose families have a hard time affording those supplies. I may be biased, but she's a pretty bright little 4 year old and this seemed to make sense to her.

We rolled into the store and I will be honest, I was nervous. Dollar General is a kids dream! There was so much for her to see, so much for her to say, "I want that." But we headed straight for the school supplies and got cracking. The first thing she saw was a Frozen backpack and next thing I know she was fast at work. Her own little personal mission to make another little girls day a happy one. It was so neat to see her smile and see her little brain work through what she wanted to get. Everything she picked she picked with love.

"Oh she will love this Aunt Mel!!" 
"Oh this is the best! Here let me put it in the cart." 
"The flower folders are so beautiful (giving them a hug). She will think they're perfect (putting them in the cart)." 

If Uncle Andrew accidentally slipped something in the cart, he would get a "remember Uncle Andrew give it to me first." This was big business she was attending to and she had to make sure every item passed her little hand inspection. 

It was a wonderful experience! 

One I am so glad we got to do together. But, it was what came after that made this story not only so much more than a backpack for the general experience, but also so much more than a backpack for our car ride back to the cabin. You see, as we were checking out, Makaylin was telling the lady that the backpack wasn't for her but another little girl. The lady, being sweet and trying to encourage her, said, "your mommy and daddy must be so proud of you." We get this often, people thinking that she (or my other niece and nephew or the kids I nanny for) is our child. It just happens. Most of the time she just says, "that's my Aunt Mel." But this was different. On this day she chose to say, "My daddy is in heaven." 

Now this was probably because we had already been talking about him on the way to the farmers market. She heard his name in a song Babe and I were discussing and said, "don't talk about my daddy." I let her know it was someone else named John, but that she could talk about her daddy whenever she wanted to. And from there the questions came... "Why does he have to stay in heaven? Does God love daddy more than me and that's why he had to go to heaven? When can I go to heaven? I want my daddy to come down." 

It's those questions that wrench at the heart, but it's also those questions and more importantly the answers to them that set us all free... "He stays there because God made heaven so wonderful that we want to stay with Him, but daddy's always watching over you. No, baby, God's heart is so big he loves everyone equally, no matter what we do, God's love is big enough to love all His people. It's not time for you to go to Heaven now, God wants you here with us, we live life here on Earth for a while to learn to love well and to teach other people about Jesus. And I want to see your daddy too sweet girl, but someday we will get to see him again and all be together in Heaven forever, that's how Heaven works we get to live with God and Jesus in a real, never die, forever." 

She had changed the subject after that. Quickly switching from the deep questions of life to thoughts on pool swimming and rock sliding as only kids can. 

So it was there on the surface when that sweet lady mentioned her daddy. You could see the look on the woman's face, but we assured her that yes, we are a very proud aunt and uncle, that Makaylin's parents were proud of her, thanked her and walked out. And then it opened sweet conversation about what her attitude that day revealed. We told Makaylin that we were so proud of her. We asked her who else would be proud of how happy she was to be giving to someone else. She replied, "My mommy." And we asked who else, "My daddy!" To which we replied, "Yes, baby, even in Heaven your daddy can still be so proud of you." And we asked who else, "God!!" "Yes, big girl, God is so proud of you. Did you know that what you did today helped you have a heart like Jesus. You gave to someone else without thinking of yourself. You loved and cared for someone who needed help and that's how Jesus loves us. And God is very proud of you!" 

God is proud of her and I am proud of her.
I am thankful for her sweet heart. 
I am thankful for the chance to have heart talks about her daddy. 
I hope it helped her heart, but I know it helped mine. 
I am thankful for backpacks for a sweet little girl somewhere in Orlando. 
And I am thankful that a Frozen backpack has the ability to be so much more than a backpack.