Free Streaming on Audible While Schools are Closed

Free Audio Books!

Audible is offering a number of free books for kids of all ages to stream while schools are closed!

Free Audio books

No account is needed, no sign in or sign up – just click and play! here’s a few of their selections…

And Here’s the link: Audible stories.
Thanks Audible!

Kraft Azalea Gardens, Winter Park, Florida

Surprised by owls

This public garden, seated on the shores of Lake Maitland, bursts with old Florida charm. The Kraft Azalea Gardens of Winter Park, established in 1938 by by George and Maud Kraft, is a small 5-acre park open from 8 a.m. until dark for 365 days a year and is free to the public. 

A visit here offers a pleasant shady stroll under enormous cypress trees alongside the famed azalea bushes. You can easily take a seat among one of the many benches overlooking the lake to enjoy the lake breeze and bird song overhead.

This Exedra bench pictured below is a popular photographer’s spot. (FYI an Exedra is a semi-circular Greco-roman bench made for conversational seating).


Out in the distance, you can see the Scenic Boat Tours making their rounds. The boat ride starts on Lake Osceola then rides through the channels that connect the lakes. 

On the day of my trip, I could distincly hear two hoot owls calling to each other from somewhere overhead. Suddenly, a rush of wings flew above me – it was an owl! It swooped up to a high branch in an old oak tree and landed next to it’s partner. I zoomed in with my new camera to catch these two up close.

What a magical surprise – a mated pair of Barred owls ! It was abeautiful afternoon well spent in Winter Park.

Links found in this article:

Kraft Azalea Gardens

City of Winter Park

Scenic Boat Tours

More on Barred Owls

If you’re in the market for a great lightweight digital camera, I recommend the Canon Powershot 740SX with 40X Digital zoom (Amazon affiliate link).

Should Couples Plan Solo Activities On Vacation?

Vacations and dream trips often take up residence in the highlight reels of our lives. We spend months and sometimes years looking forward to them and don’t we love the opportunity to explore new places together? As different people, though, we also take an interest in different things. Should people then plan some solo time while on a trip to explore personal interests that might not be what their significant others are interested in? 

I’m the trip planner and activity organizer in our house and try to include activities I think my husband would enjoy, but where I like shopping, I know he hates it. Where my husband loves a long bike ride, I only have enough stamina for about 10 miles but he would easily prefer to go 30. When on cruises, my husband likes eating breakfast in the dining room in group seating and I don’t. It’s morning and I don’t want to sit next to strangers and chit chat before I even have coffee. Should we just compromise? Most of the time that’s a yes.

After 27 years of marriage and A LOT of compromises (mostly on my husband’s part, I must say), lately, I’ve been trying to put forth an alternative: “you ride your ride, and I’ll ride mine. It’s okay if they’re different because we’re different.”

As individuals, we have distinctive preferences, and maybe they are meant to be enjoyed as individuals. A few separate pursuits can easily be managed on one trip together, can they not?

Solo time can be as simple as an hour apart in a theme park to linger a little longer in places of interest or to go eat what your partner might not enjoy or has to avoid due to allergies. It can also easily be a little time away enjoying separate activities or tours. My husband’s not a big fan of napkin rolling, but I thought it was fun on our last cruise. Obviously you should be considerate and plan ahead though, I don’t suggest just waking up and saying ‘see ya at dinner, today’s my solo day!’

The majority of life is a compromise, that is what life is like together as a couple and a small price we pay to love and be loved. But it’s also healthy to plan mutual time apart to do things our partners either can’t do or aren’t interested much in doing, especially on a trip to a place you may never get to see again. Make memories together and on your own time too. Plan some alone time into your next adventure and pursue some of your unique interests, then bring back your stories to share over dinner.

I think independent time is time well spent. My husband thinks this idea is a trap, LOL. What do you think?

What’s it Like to Eat in a Jailhouse? – Downtown Sanford Dining

The City of Sanford’s central downtown is undergoing a healthy re-development. One benefit being the surge of new eateries that are re-claiming many of the forgotten brick-front buildings. The process of creating the new out of the old has opened up creative experiences for visitors to explore. The Old Sanford Jailhouse is one such establishment (website).

The Jailhouse presents as an upscale restaurant, one where you are enclosed by weathered brick walls and iron grates, are gently lit by cut crystal chandeliers, and welcomed by a casual but well-appointed menu (view menu).

Rustic architectural details allow diners to engage with the building’s storied past.

The building’s successful transformation was the determination of The Sirica Family, owners of The Old Jailhouse. Their well-planned design and their dedication to preserving the original architecture kept the initial intent of the building intact, earning them the Historic Preservation Award by the Sanford Historic Trust.

We visited The Old Jailhouse for dinner on a Wednesday evening. Streetside parking and seating were plentiful.

After dinner, we headed out on foot a few blocks down to the marina (website).

We took in the view and were greeted by sailboats, houseboats, and even a steamboat (website).

We closed the day under the swaying palms at Veteran’s Park (website).

Even though the evening started out in jail, this ordinary Wednesday night turned out to be another day well spent in Florida.

Asian Lantern Festival: Into the Wild

Central Florida Zoo, Sanford, FL

We may have found a New Year’s tradition to continue enjoying the season of lights after the holidays: The Asian Lantern Festival! Our local zoo is running this after hours event from November 20th – January 12th 2020 from 6pm to 10pm nightly.

We weren’t sure what to expect, and were surprised to find giant illuminated ‘lanterns’ which are sculpted wire forms covered with a silk material. They are each lit from inside with many standard sized light bulbs attached to the interior of the wire forms. They were both much bigger and brighter than we had anticipated. We were expecting a large christmas light display, but this was something we had never seen before.

We entered the exhibit throuh a walkway flanked by whimsical crescent moons and stars which looked a lot like bananas. They tower over my 6’3″ husband as you can see in the photo below.

As we followed the winding path, we discovered large scale lanterns representing some of the animals that make their home at the zoo. Music also accomapnies visitors and changes upon entering the different event areas.

Some of the lantern animal exhibits included life sized giraffes and an oversized animated alligator whose jaws open and close. We tried to get a peek at the resident animals but they were mostly sheltering down for the night. We glimpsed a few behind or boarding the festival exhibits, such as the donkey behind the giraffes. Overall, the zoo animal enclosures were dark and most animals were unable to be seen.

The chinese dragon was the largest lantern by far, which seemed to be near as long as a football field. It’s hard to tell the scale from the photo but those are some pine trees on the left bottom corner of the screen on the last two humps of the dragon.

There were food vendors and drink stations, and a small arts and crafts tent. The event was very well manned with numerous volunteers guiding you at every turn, including parking attendants. The event was very popular and slightly crowded even on a Wednesday night after Christmas, I would think a weekend would be extremely crowded. The cost was $50 for 4 tickets or around $18.60 each. It was a magical mesmerizing evening and I plan to go again next year; an unexpected opportunity to carry a little luminary magic into the new year.

Devil’s Den, Williston, Fl

 

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The entrance to the spring head is via these steps which looks more ominous than it really is. You must duck at the bottom depending on your height to get to the platform which is currently submerged due to rain. When we went, it was waist high. We stood there for a few minutes to acclimate to the 72 degree water which at first is cold, but just takes a minute or two. Other people just went right in.

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The spring is crowded on weekends, we went on a holiday weekend, which of course has a few more visitors. They do limit the number of people who are in the den and there is a rotation of people coming in and out. This is about as full as it gets. It’s most crowded on the entry platform pictured below where people are getting in and out.40484276_10156025039589983_6368417742315323392_o

There was still room to explore once you got off the ramp. Some of us lingered on the ramp a little longer than others ; ) It was cold! But I was fine after about 3 minutes, lol. Here is Jeff patiently waiting for me…40600265_10156025039674983_1765943127362764800_oIt really is magical. Felt a bit like a set for an episode of Star Trek. They give you a 2 hour limit and that really is plenty of time for one day.

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The park has a few other diving ponds (see below) however they were closed the day we went.

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They have food trucks, picinic tables, and a few games but other than that, the spring is really the only attraction at this campground which is small and basically just dirt, grass, and trees. So when camping here, you will want to venture out for some fun beyond the spring. 40524679_10156025039214983_1688296677066145792_o

We enjoyed this ice cream shop : )40470627_10156025039379983_6698086353780867072_o40533147_10156025039489983_7012556673713700864_o

We also recommend a day trip to Rainbow Springs State Park to go tubing which is about a half hour drive from Devil’s Den. Here’s a video to get a glimpse of what tubing is like at Rainbow Springs. You need to rise and shine, because the park limits the number of visitors and often fills up by 10 am and you will see lines of cars waiting for people to leave so you can get in. Rainbow Springs does have a nicer campground than Devil’s Den, but it does not have the full hook ups that our rig needs.

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Happy Camping! – Holly

 

Little House Big Backyard

Thankful for the days well spent at Gold Head Branch State Park. We hiked and biked and explored our big backyard all weekend. 

Can’t remember the last time I explored a ravine. Beautiful little brook carving its way out of the Florida sand and scrub pine.Fitbit says I climbed 14 floors! Who knew there were hills in Florida!You never know what you’ll find out there 🤣  Happy trails…