Brave By Design.

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Brave.

brave
brāv/
adjective
  1. 1.
    ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

Bravery takes on a different meaning for everyone, it’s one of those terms that you define on your own. I feel like everyone does something brave every single day.. rather it be walking into a room full of strangers, talking to a stranger, going outside of their comfort zone, starting a new business, running the yellow (OH WAIT IS IT RED?!) light, whatever it is to you, you are brave. Our bravery often defines us, it molds us and creates us, teaches us and sometimes, knocks us on our ass. 

This time however, my definition of brave is defined by my 21 year old Autistic daughter.   She is so brave. There was a time when we wondered if she would ever leave home.. then we thought she would never leave this town or be too far…

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Christmas at the Biltmore

Christmas at the Biltmore 

For Christmas my mom and stepfather gave us all a destination Christmas to North Carolina, part of that trip included Christmas at the Biltmore for 2 days, staying on the estate, and attending the candlelight tour of the Biltmore house. I think we can all agree that Christmas time at The Biltmore is absolutely stunning, from the towering Norway Spruce on the front lawn to the details inside the home, everything is spectacular.

We purchased the “Candlelight Christmas Evenings Package” which was approx. $469.00 per night for four people per room to include:

•Guest room accommodations

•Breakfast daily at Village Social

•Biltmore Christmas gift

•One night admission to Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore House

•Complimentary estate daytime admission valid for the length of your stay

•Audio Guides to Biltmore House; daytime or evening

•Complimentary estate shuttle service

The Biltmore has 3 properties you can stay on within the estate, 2 are “Luxury” and one is “Moderate” We stayed in the moderate resort “The Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate”  which was not only absolutely beautiful but way more convenient to walk into Antler Village and winery.

Lets talk about the room, its every shabby chic girls dream complete with the barn doors to the bathroom. The hotel is 2 years young and the decorating style shows the shabby chic fad that Im not sure will never completely go away (and that makes me happy) Our room had 2 double beds that were very comfy, a window seat, a desk, a coffee bar including a bottle of wine if you would so choose to partake for a price of course.. a vanity, and bathroom with a very spacious shower with a seat. The room was very roomy, not like your typical 2 double bed room where your cramped for space, we had plenty of room for the 4 of us to move around.

We literally walked out the side door of our hotel and we were right in the center of Antler Hill Village ready to shop and drink wine! When checking out “The Inn” It was quite a steep walk down and back up a hill if you wanted to get into the village, so I think I would stick with the Moderate 😉

Breakfast! We were so excited about the breakfast being included in our package, and it was not like your Holiday Inn Express powdered egg buffet, this breakfast was top notch! As a chef, Im pretty damn picky about the quality of my food, and this food was DELISH! Theres one problem.. it was practically impossible to get to the food.  The first morning we get down there and have a 30 min wait.. the next morning it was 2 hours… yes HOURS!! I think they missed the mark here.. if you offer people breakfast with their package maybe you should also offer them a reservation time so they can actually eat :/

Our Biltmore Christmas Gift was this years 2017 Christmas ornament, absolutely beautiful, and from what I could gather in the shop probably a good $30.00 value.

Our package also included getting into the Biltmore anytime to walk around and do the self guided tour or the Audio tour for free, but also going into the Candlelight Christmas Evenings tour one night at a reserved day and time. I will suggest this.. If you are going to the candlelight Christmas Evening, don’t also do your own tour earlier in the day, thats a lot of walking and a lot of steps, and truly the only difference was musicians playing around the house, some fake candles, and some (not all) of the fireplaces were lit. In the future, I would do the candlelight and skip it during the day.

The shuttle service was a great addition as well so we didn’t have to drive all over the estate, but there was some confusion on the times for the shuttle as it was supposed to come earlier on the days we were there but didn’t. Otherwise it starts at 8:30am and runs about every 15 min to and from the house and gardens etc.

Overall I think the package was a truly great deal for everything we got, even though we didn’t get a good breakfast one morning.

NOTE: a couple of years ago when we came to the Biltmore to visit there was a very strict no pictures policy, this time pictures were allowed! As long as you use no flash and take no video you could take as many pictures as you wanted.. Im not sure if this was a new thing or if it was just for Christmas, but we were pretty shutter happy regardless 😉

Wanna go? GO! What are you waiting for? Oh well, you might need to wait until next Christmas, but it does run through January 6th!

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Go Fund Who Part Two!

So I made a post about why I refuse to support GoFundMe and the various accounts created through that website.

Recently I have been inundated with emails and posts asking me to once again give to these accounts, heres more reasons why you are denied.

  1. GoFundMe has become a knee-jerk reaction. Someone lost a loved one, start a GoFundme, someone has lime disease, start a gofundme, someone’s house burned down, starts gofundme, wrecked a car? Star a gofundme..  people naturally want to help, but instead of taking the time and effort to actually figure out how they can truly help, they think this is helping. 90% of the time its not. Often times the person has car insurance, they have home owners insurance, life insurance, whatever the tragedy is, many times people have coverage for it. Even in a case of Health Insurance, if the person has a good job that usually means they have decent insurance (Although not always) so even if they have to put out of pocket for many of their medical costs, once that out of pocket maximum is met, insurance kicks in paying 100% of their medical for the rest of the year. Yup.. true story. Secondly, Medical is a great thing, its actually illegal to put your medical bills on your credit report. So you can literally pay then $5 a month and other than annoy you, theirs not a damn thing they can do about it. I could go on and on about insurances and coverage most people have but.. you get the idea. Now that being said, I realize not everyone has such a good case, and truly need help but I lead you into my #2.
  2. GoFundMe takes 8% EIGHT PERCENT of every donation from every single person that has cared enough to give you their hard and in many cases I mean HARD earned money. EIGHT PERCENT. That may not seem like a lot to you, but when your talking thousands of dollars as most of these campaigns are, thats a lot of money. Basically your funding some Millennials porn fund.
  3. As I said in my previous rant most of this money gets filtered through someones personal bank account, sooner or later big brother and uncle sam will become conjoined twins and figure out how your evading the taxes on that mess. Not to mention, everyone thinks they are doing someone good by raising all of this money for someone but #taxesarelife did you think of the tax implications this will cause the person? ouch.
  4. There are SO many organizations out there to help.. if you want to raise money for someone for a specific need, thats awesome, find an organization that can help you without tax implications for you, and without 8%

Pandora.

Yesterday we were able to go to the preview for Pandora- The World of Avatar. The preview was something we were invited to as a pass holder for Walt Disney World. The world opens to the public on May 27th 2017.

If you are attending a preview, here are some things we wish we knew when attending:

  • There are 2 rides in the world of Pandora, Avatar Flight of Passage and The Na’Vi River JourneyWhen attending the preview you are permitted to do the River Journey as many times as you like, the line was pretty non existent, so we got off the ride and right back in line, might as well get the most of it while you can! For the Flight of Passage you will be given one fast pass per person in your party. You only get to ride this once, but before you leave, walk through the standby line to see some cool stuff you may not see if you plan on never standbying again like us lol. Tip: Get in line early, they only give out so many fast passes for the Flight of Passage ride.
  • If you get in line early, you may be sitting in the shade in the beginning, nice and cozy, but beware, they move the line forward and you will be in the hot blazing Florida sun. Bring water, and possibly an umbrella to prove you some shade. We stood at the front of the line in the sun for almost 40 min waiting to get in :/
  • There is a walk up service restaurant in Pandora, Satu’li allows you to create your own bowls with beef, chicken, fish or tofu. They have other menu items as well, and the food was pretty decent for a walk up service, I tried the Black Bean sauce which really seemed like a Sesame dressing, and the Caramelized Onion Chimmachuri, which I struggled to figure out where the onions came into that mix was. IF you weren’t aware, you can now order your food via My Disney Experience so its ready when you get there.
  • Walking through the Valley of Mo’ara was pretty spectacular, the attention to detail was in true Disney form. I did however wonder why I saw purple drainage type grates everywhere in the middle of the otherwise spectacular views. Weird.
  • There is also Pongu Pongu where you can get some fun and unique drinks. I did not get the chance to try any, but looking forward to it next time!
  • Be sure to stop in the beginning and “pet” The Flaska Reclinata, it growls and smokes and mists to create the air so its breathable for us humans.
  • We planned on staying until Pandora closed on our night since we were the last time slot, we wanted to see it all lit up, in all its glory. Sadly, that didn’t happen. We stayed till 8:30pm and other than the glowing on the walkways, it wasn’t lit up at all :/ We were so sad and disappointed. According to 2 employees they haven’t even seen it lit up yet as Disney isn’t giving that feature away so easily. Boo.
  • If your kids are into getting the Wilderness Explorer Badges, there is a new book, with 2 Pandora stops to learn about the world.
  • The gift shop has some cool stuff, and you can guarantee your kid will want a Banshee, and they can have one for $49.95

I have to say, Disney could still take a few tips from the book of Harry Potter at Universal when it comes to immersing you into a world, but Pandora did not disappoint, its the best immersion Disney has done to date, and it was pretty spectacular! We can’t wait to go back when it opens!

Turtle Mound

I joined a challenge to get #365miles in #365days of self propelled miles. My favorite self propelled activities are kayaking and hiking. So far, I’ve mostly done hiking.

A couple weeks ago, I got the family, my mom and my friend Cheryl together and chose to go hike at Turtle Mound. Turtle Mound is a prehistoric archaeological site in New Smyrna, Fl. At almost 45 feet in height, Turtle Mound is one of the tallest shell middens in Florida.

The first trail was short 1/2 mile hike on a boardwalk that overlooks Mosquito Lagoon, as you ascend, you are on top of  1.5 million bushels of oyster shells that the Timucua dropped on this spot. On the lower side of turtle mound you can add another .02 to your hike along the water.

 

We then got back in our cars and drove further into the park and headed to Castle Windy Trail which is 1/2 mile long. This beautiful trail, winds through the preserve and ends at Mosquito Lagoon. Walking back makes the trail a Mile in length.

You can’t leave Turtle Mound before heading to the historic Eldora House. It has many artifacts from the area, as well as great stories of the people who lived in this little community. Be sure to take the extra time to watch the 0 min video of the area. Hiking to the Eldora House was another 1/8 of a mile, it loops back to the parking lot where we saw a little armadillo friend!

Overall this was an enjoyable day of hiking and history! Next time Ill bring a picnic 😉

Note: This area has a park fee of $10.00 per vehicle.

 

Surprises at Wal-Mart

I’ve always wanted to do this, and this was the second year I was able too with my Foundation. Super hyped! Love seeing peoples reactions! Check out the video

3 days before Christmas 2016, Foundation 37 headed to Wal-Mart in Port Orange and surprised 13 people at the registers by paying their bill at check out. What an amazing blessing it was not only for the people who’s bill we paid, but also to everyone around us that witnessed this Christmas blessing. We saw smiles and heard laughter as person after person came up to us and told us we brought the Christmas Spirit to them when they saw what we were doing. We heard amazing stories as we paid peoples bills, from a couple who had moved here from Texas 3 days prior and used all their income on the move, a woman who was trying to get through her first Christmas without her mom, to a couple who didn’t pay their electric bill just so they could afford to get some Christmas presents for their kids in hopes their power wouldn’t be turned off. Not everyone we paid for needed help, or had bad circumstances, but everyone had a story, and everyone was extremely thankful.There were ear to ear smiles, and tears of joy as well as some tears of relief, but we brought Christmas Cheer to all of Wal-Mart that night, and we loved every minute of it! #payitforward #Christmas2016 #Christmasblessings #atthecheckout#WalMart #Portorange #PortOrangePride #Community

On the road to no where

Our Spring Break Road Trip 2016

I have always wanted to road trip with no specific destination in mind. The kids were on Spring Break a couple of weeks ago, my husband had to work, so my mom and I decided to load up the car and take the kids on a road trip to no where! We only had four days so we couldn’t go TOO far, but we made the most of it and saw lots of fun stuff along the way. We were only on an interstate for 1 hour the entire 4 days, the rest of the trip was all back roads and old State Roads etc. You will find along this road trip that I am slightly obsessed with Abandoned Buildings and I actually have an Instagram Abandoned_in_America and an Abandoned in America Facebook page because of it, but Ill show you some beauties in this post as well.

We started out on A1A in Daytona Beach Shores, and headed north. The plan was to go as far as A1A Would take us, then figure it out from there.

Our First Stop was Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. There are 2 sides to this park, we went only to the beach side (Rock Beach) Since its a state park, the other side has a fee to enter, the beach side had a sign for a fee, but there was no where to pay, and there was some remodeling going on for the walkway. It was Chilly and windy, but we loved climbing all over the rocks!

 

After  Rock Beach we continued on A1A north towards St. Augustine. We figured we could eat lunch there but it was mobbed due to spring break, so we just drove through, caught a few sites we had not really seen before, and saw but didn’t catch a close up pic, of the tallest cross thats listed in Weird Florida.  CROSS

Back on A1A north, we were headed towards Jacksonville, Florida and on the lookout for another Weird Florida sighting I knew was on the trail, Castle Otttis (Yes 3 T’s) (Page 140 in the Weird Florida Book) The castle was built in the 1980’s believe it or not, without any plans, and rumor has it, without a permit. Years ago my husband and I discovered this beauty just driving down A1A and you could walk up to it, and the bushes were not as high as they are today so you could see it really well. Not sure if ownership has changed or what the deal is but now there are do not enter signs (Although I entered a little just down the path 😛 ) and the bushes are really high so the view is hindered, which is a shame.

Onward on A1A North, where we literally were stopped at Mayport, Boarding the St. Johns River Ferry is the only way to get across, it connects the north and south ends of A1A. All my life in Florida, I had no idea thats how A1A went! So cool, and my kids nor I had ever been on a car ferry before. It was 850 yards across the water. Along the way we spotted a Carnival Cruise Ship going by, and the Atlantis 2; Owned by Robert Ballard, it was the first boat that discovered and took pictures of the sunken Titanic. My kids sincerely thought we were nuts for doing this but they absolutely loved it!

We continue down A1A and ran into some nice abandoned buildings. An old motel that Im sure was fabulous in its hay day (we ran into a lot of those on our backroads tour) This motel and souvenir shop should be in the Weird Florida book! There was a Welcome to Florida sign less than a mile from it, just like the one in the Weird Florida Book but I am pretty sure it wasn’t the same place.

We took A1A to SR17 and decided to go towards Savannah, Georgia, which we didn’t intend, but thats how it ended up, thats how a road trip to no where rolls! Along our backroads to Savannah, we saw quite a few abandoned buildings, but this one we actually got around and walked into.. Ive also saw a Spirit.. I took the picture on the left side of the inside of the building, then took another picture in that same area and there was a spirit! I took a couple other pictures, it was still there, then it disappeared in my last couple of pictures..  Check it out yourself.. The kids naturally flipped out lol My oldest son thought I was fool of crap and played with the lighting somehow. I didn’t, but it was weird none the less! (The pictures of the spirit I took with my phone from the preview on the camera, so sorry they aren’t the best, once I upload the originals Ill post those) Tell me what you think!

 

ABANDONED2
First picture
ABANDONED4
Bottom left

 

It took us 11 hours from Daytona Beach, Florida to Savannah, Georgia with all our fun stops! (Normally thats about a 3 1/2-4 hour drive on the interstate) We settled into Savannah for the night, and the next day ate at The Old Pink House. If your ever in the area, it seriously has some of the best food in Savannah! We love Savannah, its like our second home, So while I love to be there, I didn’t want to spend too much time so we could continue our adventure of things we had not experienced. However, I wanna give you a little food porn 😉

Their Fred Green Tomato Salad is famous, and for good reason, absolutely delicious! I had the shrimp and grits which was amazing and different than anything Ive had before.. presentation included. The Fried Chicken I would ALMOST, ALMOST.. say was better than mine! YUM!

We headed out of Savannah on 17 south towards Midway and then hit US 84 West to Valdosta. We weren’t far out of the main area of Savannah when we spotted this hot chick! Her tag read “I Love Fleas” Guess you can’t miss driving by Kellers FleaMarket with her at the helm.

We saw lots of abandoned buildings along the way on 17 and 84 which turns into 221 at Valdosta, beautiful barns, farm land, etc. We turned the corner at one point and ran right into this beauty, wow. It was like the angels sang. I would love to know the history of this house. The property was big and just beautiful. The steps were missing leading up to the house, it was just stunning.

HOUSEHOUSE2

More abandonment along the way. Im always curious how places get to this point, every so often you’ll find one with a For Sale Sign, but for the most part theres not, its just a piece of land with a building thats rotting away, totally forgotten, left behind, and withered. I don’t get it.

This  one place we actually walked around looked like an Old Gas Station and Store, it had an abandoned Hairline 500 in the back, I bet someone was proud to own that car back in the day!

We continued on our journey taking the scenic route all the way to Tallahassee, Florida where we finally stopped for the night to catch some ZzZZz’s

The next morning we woke up and headed to Panama City! My intent was much like we did on A1A up the East Coast, we could go back down the West Coast along the beach, I kinda screwed up, but hey, who cares? Its a road trip to nowhere right? We took 20 from Tallahassee into Panama. Trailing down 20 we spotted this metal sign that said Cemetery, well my mom and I are a little weird so we headed down this dirt road in search of the cemetery! We found it, back in the woods, all by itself, nothing else around.. It was fairly well taken care of, had some weird markers in the ground, maybe someone can tell me what they are for or why they are there. We found some information on the cemetery on the internet but nothing about the wooden markers.

Once We reached Panama City, We had lunch at Dusty’s Oyster Bar. The food was good, and the place was pretty cool with dollar bills hanging everywhere! I had grilled crab claws which were delicious, but the butter they used was kind of weird.. it had good flavor but it was really thick, cold, and just.. weird lol. Our waitress was awesome and very aware of my moms lemon allergy and took every precaution to make sure she was safe. Eating in a seafood restaurant is tough with a lemon allergy!

After Dusty’s we discovered the Pier Park, with restaurants, shopping etc. so we walked through their and went in a couple of shops, my son found  Marble Slab so we had to get some! We intended to go on the pier, but it costs $3.00 per person to go out on the pier and we weren’t going to be there long enough to make it worth wild. So, we went down to play on the beach for a little bit. The water was FREEZING, but it was so beautiful!

After Panama City, we headed back towards Tallahassee and stayed in a different area for the night so the next morning we could start out on 19 towards home.

We went through several small towns including Perry, Florida where we spotted some campaign signs for someone we used to know. More abandoned stuff too along the way!

We stopped in Cedar Key and had lunch at Carlins Steak House & Waterfront Pub The food was pretty good, the service was awful.  Remember my moms lemon allergy? Ya, they put lemon on every single plate, including plates she was eating from despite us telling the waitress several times of her allergy.

We drove around this cute little beach town and took in the sites, saw beautiful Homes AND abandoned houses, and just took our time strolling through.

After Cedar Key it was 19 to Mount Dora where we FINALLY Spotted a Starbucks to grab coffee for the rest of the way home down 44 through Ocala!

We discovered something on this road trip, well.. we discovered a lot, but other than seeing things we had never seen, going places we had never been, and not really caring where we ended up.. we realized that every back road has a Zaxbys and a Dollar General. I guess everyone needs some fried chicken and junk eh?