Have Heart, Will Travel

Florida

Emerald waters and white sands!

Florida, BeachNancy Powell1 Comment

We are currently camping at Henderson Beach State Park in Destin, Florida. Everything we have heard throughout the years about the emerald waters and the fine powdery white snow is absolutely true.

In fact, being January and all, it was pretty cold last night when Mark took his first stroll on the beach. He said between the cold and the super fine white sand, he could almost convince himself it was snow!

Today we took a long stroll on the beach together. We were out for a couple of hours in very decent winter weather, but got back just before hours of rain came.

 I adore the colors of these waters!

I adore the colors of these waters!

 Our Heart in the white sand.

Our Heart in the white sand.

 I'm not sure what Mark was telling Petunia here, but if it was "See those buildings? We're going there,"...then that would have been true. We did walk down there and back.

I'm not sure what Mark was telling Petunia here, but if it was "See those buildings? We're going there,"...then that would have been true. We did walk down there and back.

We have discovered the secret to having one of the most popular Florida destination beaches virtually all to ourselves: Go in winter the week that school starts back from winter vacation! If utilizing this tip, please note that your swimsuit is not needed. 

 Petunia's personal palm.

Petunia's personal palm.

 Sunshine on the ocean makes me happy.

Sunshine on the ocean makes me happy.

We have been blessed to experience a wide variety of beaches that Florida has to offer, from St. Augustine to Sanibel to the Keys.  The experience would surely not be complete without this stop on the Emerald Coast.

We found Winter in Florida...and she is amazing!

Florida, AnimalsNancy PowellComment

If you have seen the movie Dolphin Tale, you may know the inspiring story of Winter.  Found by a fisherman with rope wrapped around her body and especially tight around her tail, Winter was taken to Clearwater Marine Aquarium to try to save her.  

This aquarium is a rescue, rehabilitation, and release (when safely possible) facility for marine life.  Although they saved her life, she lost her tail and had to persevere against all odds to learn how to swim again.  I recommend you check out the movie for the amazing story.

We had a great time going there with Petunia, her grandparents, and some good friends of ours who live in the area and met us there.  We were so glad to get to see Winter in person, along with her friend Hope, the star of Dolphin Tale 2.  Also spotted:  river otters, which must be among the cutest animals ever; sea turtles, and sting rays which we got to pet!

 Here Petunia is holding one of 20 prosthetic tails that have been custom made for Winter so that she could learn to swim the right way!

Here Petunia is holding one of 20 prosthetic tails that have been custom made for Winter so that she could learn to swim the right way!

 Petunia watchiing Winter and Hope play.  You can see Winter, swimming vertically, is missing her tail. She doesn't have on the prosthetic one all the time.

Petunia watchiing Winter and Hope play.  You can see Winter, swimming vertically, is missing her tail. She doesn't have on the prosthetic one all the time.

 How cute is this creature?  I love the dolphin, too!

How cute is this creature?  I love the dolphin, too!

I am happy we got to see this aquarium on our current journey. We spotted it 4 years ago (when attending the wedding of the friends we went with) but didn't go on that trip. It is worth a visit!

 Dolphins are amazing animals, and Winter is extra special for being such an overcomer.

Dolphins are amazing animals, and Winter is extra special for being such an overcomer.

 Mark and our friend Jimmy are checking out special material formulated to go on Winter as her "sleeve" before the tail is placed on her.

Mark and our friend Jimmy are checking out special material formulated to go on Winter as her "sleeve" before the tail is placed on her.

 They had a pool of sea turtles and yes, they looked just like Crush! Do you know who Crush is? 

They had a pool of sea turtles and yes, they looked just like Crush! Do you know who Crush is? 

 This crazy pelican is a character in the movie.

This crazy pelican is a character in the movie.

Winter and Hope invite you to come see them in Clearwater, Florida.  If that's not in your immediate plans, check out their stories.

3 things you may not know about Disney's Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Disney, FloridaNancy Powell1 Comment

We just (reluctantly) finished another magical trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.  Our family loves Disney World! We all have our favorite things there--the rides, the characters, the unique shopping, and the ambience.  Even when you've been there a few times, there is always something new to see or do!

One thing we got to experience this time that we had never seen before was the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney Hollywood Studios.  

I thought our first post-Disney blog should be about the Osborne Lights, because it is time sensitive, as you will see.  

Here are 3 things you may not know about the Spectacle of Dancing Lights that you want to know if you have plans to see them.

1. First, and most important, this is the last year that Disney will be hosting the Osborne Family lights!

Hollywood Studios has plans for that area of the park. Right now the lights are hosted in the Streets of America section.  Coming soon, supposedly, is a lot more Star Wars-themed attractions.  So, if you want to see the lights, you must get there by January 3, 2016.

 Beautiful!

Beautiful!

2. Even though you may choose to spend a lot of time enjoying the sensory feast of color and sound, you don't have to set aside a large chunk of time to enjoy the spectacle.

The day I got introduced to the lights, we were enjoying the Disney parks and area with a large group of family. We spent the daytime at another park, left and met our parents for dinner at their hotel, and then decided to go catch the lights. By the time we were arriving at the park, it was 30 minutes before closing time.

We headed straight back to the right area of the park and immediately were ensconced in twinkling, jumping, magical lights, Christmas carols, and happy people.  We had plenty of time to walk around, take it all in, take our pictures and video, and exchange smiles with each other as we pointed out "hidden mickeys" and other fun details in the lights.

And 30 minutes later? Well, no one was getting rushed out of the park.  With people in lines for their rides and finishing their dinners at the restaurants, no Disney park closes exactly at closing time. We were well past the official closing time before we even realized it. I think we walked out about 30 minutes "late", having enjoyed the lights spectacle for almost an hour.

The other benefit of doing it this way is that, as we were entering Hollywood Studios and walking back toward the lights, many people were headed the opposite way and streaming out of the park, so the crowds were a little lower by the time we got back there.

 A pink house and a pink hidden Mickey!

A pink house and a pink hidden Mickey!

 Did you notice the Dalmatians in the picture above? Aren't they cute?

Did you notice the Dalmatians in the picture above? Aren't they cute?

Speaking of people streaming out of the park leads me to the 3rd thing you may not know.

3. Even with large crowds, it is easy to enjoy the dancing lights!

Yes, we were happy that the crowd was lessening (who wouldn't be?) but the fact is that the vast majority of what you're enjoying is UP! The lights are above your head, you can hear the music everywhere, and (spoiler alert!) the SNOW COMES FROM ABOVE!  Yes, when you attend this extravaganza, you get snow in Florida!

As you can see in the pictures, there are details all over, so you'll want to look down and around, too. But if you have patience and don't mind either taking your time or staying a little late, you can enjoy all there is to offer, even with a few thousand of your nearest friends.

Clearly, at times when the crowds are highest, like the week after Christmas, I'm sure it's more difficult to maneuver. On those times, please take an extra dose of patience, or enjoy the pictures and video here and other places online instead, if you really don't like large crowds.

 Do you see the hidden Mickey in the tree?

Do you see the hidden Mickey in the tree?

I am happy we got to experience the Osborne Lights on this trip. It's the only time we've seen them in their 20 years, and I know they will be missed by many people. Disney always has wonderful surprises for its guests, though, so here's to a magical future!

Memory Monday: Celebrating with joy!

Disney, Florida, Memory MondayNancy2 Comments

Isn't it awesome when you don't have to tell others you're having a great time because it's just. so. obvious.

Exhibit 1:

Jimmy wedding funThat fun-loving guy between Mark and I is our friend Jimmy, and it was to attend his wedding that we traveled to Florida, the trip which has been the subject of the last few blog posts.  It seemed fitting to wrap up this little series with an actual picture of the celebration!

Every part of that vacation, while a short one, was a blast for our whole family!

You will not be surprised, by now, to hear me say this, but go!  If you are invited to a wedding, a reunion, a celebration and it is within possibility for you to go....do it!  Yes, life is made up of the ordinary, everyday moments for which we're grateful, but these special celebration moments are the icing on the cake that is life!

I never hear of anyone who has regretted traveling.  I know lots of people who have regretted purchases. Many who have regretted not traveling.

If possible, use the trick we did here of adding a day and a half onto a trip we were already making to really add zing! Is there something fun to see or experience within a reasonable drive to where you're going?  Petunia only knew we were going to "Uncle" Jimmy's wedding.  She didn't know that we were going to Disney World until we drove through the gates!

Happy (almost) 4th anniversary to Jimmy and his beautiful bride, Nicole!

Disneyworld Jimmy wedding Oct 2011 672