Author Archives: allison

Iceland Recap

Happy New Year!

I know this blog has been dismal over the past year or so, and truthfully I have no excuse. But, as I was reflecting over the last 12 (or 14) months, I decided there were some things worth sharing, the first of which being our October trip to Iceland.

Visiting Iceland feels like visiting another planet. The beauty found on the island is truly indescribable. Ray and I were lucky enough to visit this amazing place with some of our favorite people, which made the experience that much more enjoyable.

We started off with a bang, arriving at 6am, and headed straight for the famous Blue Lagoon. Some say the Blue Lagoon is too touristy, but we loved it. The silica enriched, milky-blue warm water paired with the rocky landscape was exactly what we needed after a long flight. The Blue Lagoon is on the pricier side, at about $95 per person, but very worth the cost. Our reservation was early, and we were able to avoid huge crowds.

We spent the rest of the day exploring downtown Reykjavik and settling into our airbnb. The highlight for me was visiting the clock tower at Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland’s largest church. The views from the clock tower are unreal!

The next day we started our journey on the golden circle, an area in south Iceland full of beautiful sights. We visited Kerid crater, Gysyer, Faxi waterfall, and Gullfoss waterfall. We also ate ice cream while watching cows graze.

Our next day started early with some amazing waterfalls, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Skogafoss was our first real view of what Iceland had to offer landscape-wise. Skogafoss is famous for having a path that takes you to the backside of the waterfall. Seljalandsfoss is huge, mighty, and has a (terrifying) staircase to the top. I, being terrified of heights, passed on the staircase, but Ray and Krista climbed to the top and claimed the view was breathtaking.

From there, we made our way to the town of Vik. Vik is on the southernmost point of Iceland and is famous for it’s black sand beach. Right offshore are stacks of basalt rocks, which according to legend, are former trolls. The icelandic people have a rich folklore involving trolls, elves, hidden people, and other mythical beings. This may have been my favorite day of the trip. The sights were indescribably breathtaking. Being from the flat lands of Florida, seeing the literal hundreds of waterfalls, cliffs, mountains, and valleys was a mesmerizing treat.

Our fourth day we took a little easier. We had to switch out one of our rental cars, so a few of the boys went back to Reykjavik to take care of that. Ray, Kristi, Krista, and I went grocery shopping and had famous Icelandic hot dogs. We all spent the afternoon at Thingvellir National Park, where the North American and European tectonic plates meet. We saw a few waterfalls, location shoots from Game of Thrones, and at least 30 rainbows.

Our fifth day was our longest travel day paired with our worst weather. Our first stop was Fjadrargljufur Canyon, which had the most un-Florida like views! Next we made our way to Vatnajokull, Iceland’s largest glacier. This wasn’t something we originally had on our itinerary, but I’m so glad we went!! We were able to hike to the edge of Vatnajokull and taste 1,000 year old ice! We then made our way to diamond beach and the iceberg lagoon. By this point in the day, it was cold and rainy but the dreary weather couldn’t take away from the beauty of the icebergs.

That evening we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights, one of the main sights we were hoping to see while in Iceland. I can’t even describe what an incredible experience it was. We had been checking the forecast all week and were worried we wouldn’t get our chance to see them. I’m so thankful the skies cleared and we saw the Northern Lights dance across the Icelandic sky.

Our last full day was spent searching for breweries, petting Icelandic horses, exploring the countryside, and eating at the famous tomato restaurant. The tomato restaurant is located in one of Iceland’s largest greenhouses. We dined on tomato soup, olive bread, tomato based cocktails, and even tomato ice cream!

Before catching our flight home, we spent our morning in downtown Reykjavik. We spent a few hours checking out museums and shops and bidding Iceland a farewell.

It’s difficult to truly put into words the beauty and magnitude of this trip. Iceland feels like a completely different planet. I encourage everyone to visit this mysterious  and breathtaking island if given the opportunity.

Local Fall Festivals

One thing I love about the south is the abundance of festivals. Down here, we can find any reason for a festival. Holidays, food, animals, civil war battles, you name it! Below, I’ve listed some of the best festivals coming to the north Florida area this fall!

September 14th-16th
Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival
100 James Rd, Jekyll Island, GA
(Free Admission – $10 Parking)
Presented by Southern Living, the Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival combines the classic southern dish with family-friendly entertainment, artists market, live music, craft beer, and more!

October 6th-7th
Datil Pepper Festival
St. Johns County Agricultural Center, 3125 Agricultural Center Drive, St. Augustine, FL
(Free Admission)
Celebrate St. Augustine’s very own datil pepper with pepper cook offs by local chefs, tastings, along with datil pepper products and plants to purchase. It’s a great time for the whole family exploring the local culinary culture of our oldest city.

October 12th-13th
French Country Flea Market Fall Show
Sweet South Cottage and Farms, 6007 Veterans Memorial Dr., Tallahassee, FL
($7 Admission – Free Parking)
Presented by Sweet South Cottage and Farms, the French Country Flea Market showcases antiques, hand painted home goods, shabby-chic style furniture, vintage curiosities, local art, live music, and delicious southern delicacies.

October 13th
ButterflyFest
Florida Museum of Natural History
3215 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL
(Free Admission)
Explore the lives of bats, bees, and butterflies at the 13th annual ButterflyFest! Learn about butterfly gardening, conservation, backyard wildlife, and more! Other fun includes butterfly releases, a “pollinator” parade, and plant sale.

October 13th-14th
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens Plant Sale and Orchid Show
Gainesville, FL
(Free Admission)
In celebration of the gardens’ 32nd birthday, there will be over 50 booths set up selling a wide variety of plants. In addition to the sale, there will also be an orchid show put on by the American Orchid Society.

October 20th
McIntosh 1890’s Festival
Van Ness Park, McIntosh Fl
(Free Admission, both free and paid parking available)
With it’s inaugural event  in 1974, this festival has grown to over 250 vendors and an estimated 35,000 visitors annually. Come and enjoy crafts, food, and a good time!

October 20th
Florida Bat Festival
Lubee Bat Conservancy, 1309 NW 192nd Ave., Gainesville, FL
($8 Admission)
The 14th annual Florida Bat Festival will offer fun for the whole family including games, music, environmental discussions, vendors, crafts, food trucks, a beer garden, and the world’s largest bats with 6’ wingspans.


October 27th-28th
Micanopy Fall Craft Festival
Micanopy, FL
(Free Admission – both free and paid parking available)
In the heart of downtown Micanopy, expect hundreds of booths full of homemade candles, soaps, clothing, planters, jewelry, art, etc. There’s also a large section dedicated to tables full of antique and vintage items.

 

Walt Disney World – Initial Planning Process

Over the last few years I’ve had a number of people ask me for advice on their upcoming Disney World vacations. I’m not an expert in any way, but I’ve been going to the parks since I was a child and I do have quite a bit of experience under my belt. Over the next few weeks I will be talking about my favorite tips and tricks for making your Disney World vacation the best.

Before I start with the planning, I want to encourage any of you who are resisting a Disney Vacation to give it a try. While Walt Disney World isn’t for everyone, it’s truly a magical experience for children and adults alike. The thought and detail within the Disney parks is almost overwhelming. The level of customer service cannot be beat! There’s a little something for everyone on Disney property. Rides, shows, water parks, fine dining, mini golf, shopping, horseback riding, holiday celebrations, guided tours – you name it! Having a good plan can vastly affect your Disney experience.

Today I want to talk about the importance of planning when considering a Disney vacation. Let’s be real, Disney World can be expensive and even stressful for some. Ticket prices, hotel stays, food, souvenirs, etc. will all add up to a pretty penny. I believe that to get the most out of your money, time, and sanity, planning out your trip is essential.

First, consider what’s important to you and your party. Prioritizing is key when planning a trip of this type. Here’s a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you want to come back to a luxurious hotel room with all the bell and whistles after a long day at the park? Or, would you prefer saving on the hotel room and possibly use that savings on souvenirs or an extra day in the parks?
  2. What are your date options? Crowd sizes vary depending on the time of year, festivals within the parks, new ride openings, and race weekends. Weather should also be a factor when deciding dates. Historically, Saturdays are the busiest and Mondays are the least busy.
  3. Which parks will you be visiting and on which days? This will affect your fast passes and  dining options.
  4. How important will dining be to your party? Are you interested in fine dining? Character meals? Will your budget allow you to eat at the parks or will you need to bring your own snacks/packed lunches? Do you or someone in your party have dietary restrictions? Will you be purchasing a Disney Dining package?
  5. What are your park priorities? Are character meet and greets important to you? Do you want to ride as many rides as possible? What fast passes are you interested in? What about parades?
  6. What logistics do you need to consider? Will you be flying or driving to Orlando? Will you be renting a car from the airport or using Disney’s Magical Express buses to get to your hotel? Do you need to rent a stroller or wheelchair?
  7. Are you interested in any of the “Extras” at Disney World, such as appointments at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, races, or guided tours?

Making a list of your priorities will help to weed through some of the planning process. For example, Ray and I are not interested in character meals, so when we’re planning our dining reservations we can automatically eliminate character restaurants.

I’m very passionate about the planning process because I hate to see people fail to plan and end up having a not-so-magical trip. I truly believe that a well thought out plan (with consideration from everyone in your party), can vastly improve your trip. I also believe it’s important to have flexibility within your Disney World plans. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes rides break down. Sometimes it’s 100 degrees with 90% humidity. Sometimes you’re feet are too tired to walk one more step. Always plan for breaks and be flexible!

Do you have any Walt Disney World planning questions? Send them to me! The next post in this series will be on choosing a Walt Disney World hotel.

Spring and Early Summer Faves

Whew, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted about things I’ve been loving… and I’ve been loving so many things lately! Also, I want to make it clear that even though summer weather in Florida starts in mid-april, I don’t consider it summer until after Memorial Day. So, I’m technically not THAT late getting this list out. Right? RIGHT?!

Villa Alena Peach Mascato and Peach from Trader Joe’s – This is basically fizzy alcoholic peach juice and I’m obsessed with it.

Tic Tac Freshmints – These have come in and out of my life since middle school- and right now, they’re definitely in!

Trader Joe’s Rose Water Facial Toner – Hi, I’ll take one of every rose item you have. I love this stuff! It’s light, refreshing, and less expensive than the rose water I used to buy on amazon.

Lilacism by Essie – I’ve been so obsessed with this bright-but-still-light purple polish. I’ve probably reached for this color 6-7 times in the last few months. It’s the perfect shade for spring and summer.

Broad City – I watched season 1-3 in about 5 days. Broad City is a less serious, more enjoyable version of HBO’s Girls. It’s 2 best friends living in New York City being outrageous. Season 1-4 is currently streaming on Hulu.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – It’s taken a few years, but we’ve finally started watching this NYC cop sitcom in April! Andy Samberg is hilarious, but so are all the minor characters as well. The best part is that there are sooooo many available episodes, so it’s a great show to binge. This one is also available on Hulu.

Isle of Dogs – I love Wes Anderson’s storytelling and visual aesthetic, so I was already expecting to love this movie, but it really blew me away. Isle of Dogs is charming, funny, and packed with Hollywood’s best (voices).

Criminology Podcast Season 2 – If you’re not into true crime, this podcast may not be for you. Season 2 of criminology is all about the golden state killer, who has also been dubbed the East Area Rapist and the Visalia Ransacker. The golden state killer terrorized northern California throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Amazingly, through the power of DNA technology, he was caught just weeks ago!