Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fort Jefferson {Dry Torguas National Park}

Quite possibly one of the most amazing experiences we had during our trip to Key West was getting to visit Ft. Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas National Park.  It is located 70 miles off the shore of Key
West and that is a long boat ride, but so worth it to get to see the amazing views and learn all of the history that goes along with it.

There are chartered boats and a ferry you can take to the island, but we were lucky enough to be on a private boat with a captain who was very familiar with the area. It was unreal to be out in the middle of the ocean on our drive over and then to look up and see this huge brick fort covering the entire island.

 Ft. Jefferson is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere and the fort is made up of over 16 million bricks.  That just blew our mind knowing that this was built in the middle of the ocean in the 1800's, with no easy access to mainland.

The architecture was amazing and walking through the fort gave us all a sense of what it would have been like years ago.  The arched windows and passageways, along with the brick details were so fascinating and we all loved seeing the moat and learning how it helped to protect the fort.

The views from the top of the fort were breathtaking.  Seriously the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

If you ever get the opportunity to go visit this amazing place I would say jump on it in a heartbeat.  It is something I will remember forever and an experience like none other!

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Key West {Best Restaurants}

One of the greatest things about our trip was all of the amazing food we ate.  Being able to sit and enjoy a restaurant is a rare treat for most parents, including us!  Appetizers, wine, main courses and desserts were tasted, savored, and enjoyed during our trip.  I do not think we had a bad meal the entire week and for anyone that might be heading to Key West anytime soon, I wanted to share some of our very favorites!

This restaurant came as a recommendation on our first night in town from the bellmen at our hotel, Casa Marina.  They told us it was a "hole-in-the-wall" kind of place, but as we walked up this was the view we saw.

Really?  I mean, it was seriously like paradise.  And with porch seating available this was our view for our entire dinner.  We feasted on appetizers, wine, Seafood and Italian main dishes, and flavorful desserts.  This whole in the wall place was very unassuming and was absolutely delicious!  I would highly recommend it!

Mangia Mangia
This Italian restaurant is a little off the beaten path, but came recommended by the locals, so we knew it would be good.  They make all of they own pasta and offer seafood, meats and sauces galore.  Everyone enjoyed the bread and appetizers and I don't think anyone could finish their meals because of the large portions.  We sipped on wine, sat outside under the pretty lit courtyard, and dined on dishes that were delicious.

Prime Steakhouse
We took a break from our pasta and seafood meals to try out a steakhouse that had been recommended by frequent travelers to the area.  This place was situated in a tucked away location, but a quick and easy walk from the heart of Key West and well worth those extra steps.  It was probably the nicest meal we had during our stay and 6 out of 8 of us had the fillet.  It was amazing!!!  I'm kind of picky about how my steak is cooked, but mine came out perfectly and I savored every last bite.  The table shared several large sides and there was not one I could pick out as my favorite.  If you are looking to get out of our swimsuit and get a little dressed up for nice meal, this is the place!

Conch Republic Seafood Company 
Located right at the docks of the Key West marina, this casual restaurant has the freshest of the fresh seafood.  From coconut shrimp and crab cake appetizers to fresh fish sandwiches and lobster bisque soup, the food is plentiful and definitely fresh.  The views cannot be beat and seeing the boats coming and going never gets old.

Each evening they offer live music and 2-for-1 happy hour specials making this a great spot to grab lunch, a quick appetizer and drinks, or a casual dinner.

Pepe's Cafe
Another off the beaten path spot that holds lots of Key West history, this cafe is one with the most eclectic feel and the most history.  They offer lunch and dinner, but are most well-known for their breakfast and brunch, which is what we had. Whether it be french toast piled high with fresh fruit, made-to-order omelets and breakfast wraps or fresh squeezed orange juice and homemade signature breads, this place will offer something for everyone.  There was a steady line of people trying to get a seat for brunch the day we visited and the scent of Coconut - Key Lime bread that tasted more like pound cake was filling the the restaurant with it's heavenly scent.

Kermit's Key Lime Pie Shoppe
You cannot go to Key West without tasting some Key Lime Pie.  Every restaurant has it on the dessert menu and most bars have signature drink boasting the famous flavor.  However, if you want the real-deal stuff, Kermit's is the place to go.  With it's original location in "Old Key West" and a newer location on Duval Street, no matter where you are their sweet goodness is accessible.  You can buy it by the slice or buy a whole pie and it is so sweet and rich that for me who doesn't really put key lime pie at the top of my dessert favorites, a bite is more than enough.  And don't walk in there thinking you are only going to taste some pie.  They have key lime flavored everything.  From BBQ sauces and salsas to cookies and flavored peanuts, there are tons of options to take home and enjoy.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Key West Getaway

Last week was Fall Break for our kids and although most of our friends were headed out of town on family vacations to Disney and similar places, the Mr. and I had an adult only vacation planned.  I did feel guilty about leaving the kids at home, but I knew they would be having lots of fun with grandparents so I tried to put my guilt aside and enjoy the alone time.

We did all of the touristy things like visiting the Southern Most Point, strolling down Duval Street, eating key lime pie and seeing the roosters all over town.

Our first night in town we stayed at the Casa Marina resort.  They boast an "Old Key West ambiance and a contemporary luxury" and I couldn't agree more.

The historical feel to the lobby area and main part of the hotel were so interesting to see and the courtyard, pool and beach area were amazing.  Where else can you see sandcastles like these?!?!

Or gorgeous, luxurious areas to relax?  And when we were spending time by the pool they were passing fresh watermelon and offering samples of their signature drink of the day.

The rest of the week we spent at a house right in the heart of Old Key West.  We could walk to the marina, walk to restaurants, and walk to Duval Street.  It had a tropical feel and was perfect for a group of friends to share.

We were lucky enough to be with some fun friends on this trip and we also had access to a private boat which really made our trip lots of fun.  We had gorgeous views over the water, saw lots of sea life like manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and fish, and the guys caught enough lobster for us to bring some home to enjoy.

One rainy day we came back off the boat early which meant the girls got some time to go shopping.  We all found souvenirs for our kids and then the Lilly store was calling my name.

I was excited to FINALLY get a romper I've been eying all summer long.  I wore it that night and knew my purchase was a well thought out one. I love it!
This trip really was a once in a life-time kind of thing.  We were pampered, enjoyed delicious meals (more on that tomorrow), saw amazing views and had so much fun.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Apple Caramel Dip & Gift {plus printable}

As we mentioned last week, we are seriously digging some fall vibes around the deep south and that means all things crisp and apple flavored. This ridiculously yummy caramel sauce is the perfect pairing with your latest batch of crispy juicy apples.

We are sharing this yummy recipe, and a gift idea with a free printable over on Savvy Sassy Moms today. Pop over and check it out HERE.

Stay tuned for more apple fun over the next few weeks! 

Do you have apple fever? What are some of your favorite apple recipes? 

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

4 Ways To Make Reading Exciting for Kids {Guest Blogger}

Today we have a fun treat for you guys. We are going to hand the reigns over to our friends over at Bookroo for a fun guest post on how to make reading excited for your children (and you!). It's a known fact that we love to read to our kids, and have emphasized on how important that is to facilitate learning in those precious little minds. Over the last year we have shared some of our favorites through the children's book series, but are always looking for new fun reads to share with our children. Bookroo is such a unique site with an awesome message, and we are glad to have Jane, a co-founder of Bookroo, share with us some of her thoughts.

Of all the things you can do for your children, one of the more important (after meeting basic needs of food, shelter, and safety) is imbuing a love of reading in them. Children who are read to from a young age, and develop into good readers themselves, do better in every facet of their formal education (including math!), are less likely to go to jail, make more money, and (possibly even more importantly) develop confidence in themselves and their potential. Even with all of the benefits of reading, there are far too many children for whom reading is a chore rather than a precious gift. While some children are naturally more inclined to be bookworms, there are a few things that you can do to help your child be more excited about reading, and we’d like to share four of them with you today.


1. Make reading together a special bonding time
From birth babies find the sound of their parents’ voices soothing. Reading aloud to them can help calm them, make them more accustomed to the sound of your voice, and start that special bonding process. Bonds between parents and children are strengthened as they spend quality one-on-one time together, and having quiet time where you are sitting close together, both focused on the same thing (the story) is definitely one of those bonding moments. We adults aren’t the only ones who think so either--studies have shown that children frequently site reading as a special bonding time with their parents. As an added bonus, you’re accumulating even more shared experiences and understanding of the world you can draw on later!

2. Lead by example
If you hate reading (and convey that to your children) you’re going to have a significantly harder time convincing them that THEY should be excited about reading. Let them catch you sneaking in a couple pages of your favorite book in quiet moments. Have books around the house. Tell them about what you’re reading and ask them about what they’re reading in turn!

3. Jazz up your reading routine
Especially with young children, having a routine for reading is a great idea. It helps you read together consistently (by setting aside a regular time and/or a place), and makes reading a part of each day that can be anticipated. That being said, jazzing up the routine a little can help build your child’s feelings of excitement surrounding reading. Have a read-a-thon. Do an activity based on a book you’ve read together recently (for example, create a treasure map if you’re reading about pirates, or make a crown if you’ve just read a princess book). This helps children use their imagination to bring the story to life! You can also introduce other activities that require reading that have nothing to do with books, like creating menus for dinner!

4. Perfect the art of book giving
Here at Bookroo, our favorite way to help kids be excited about reading is to perfect the art of book giving. By gifting books, you’re subconsciously associating the excitement inherent in getting a wrapped, surprise gift with reading and books! What could be better than that? Let your children know that you consider books worthy of gifting!

If you want to regularly gift books to your children, consider using Bookroo! Each month we send your child 2-3 curated board or picture books (your choice!), each individually wrapped, and with a handwritten note to your child. We believe in creating an experience that is memorable for children, and affordable and convenient for parents. As Sir Conan Doyle said: “It is a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own.” All this because reading is an investment in their future.

A huge thank you to Jane and Bookroo for guest blogging today!! And because they are so sweet they wanted to share a coupon with our readers.


To learn more about Bookroo:

How do you make reading exciting for your little one?

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall Wardrobe Wish-List {Part 2}

On Monday I shared the first part of my fall wardrobe wish-list and today I'm wrapping up that list with the second half of the list.

These days I'm all about comfort.  When I'm not wearing my running shoes or boots in the fall I often have on my Toms.  This year though, I'd love to switch it up a bit and add a pair of Converse to my closet.  I feel like they are cute, a perfect fall transition shoe and would look super cute with cuffed denim.  They come in just about any color you could want!  (Click pictures for links and details.)

Leopard Belt 
A quick search on Pinterest and you can easily see how leopard print is a fun neutral that adds just a bit of sass to any outfit.  With jeans or even dressed up, I feel like I'd get plenty of wear out of one these belts.  The one on the bottom left is actually from Target so I might have to check on that next time I'm there!  (Click pictures for links and details.) 

Fur Vest 
When I say fur vest, I guess I should really say faux fur vest. ;-)  This is something I've wanted for a few years now and every time I came across one, they would be sold out of my size!  I found some cute options at great prices this year though!  

Buffalo Check Vest 
I do love a great vest.  I wear the ones I have all the time and it's such a fun way to layer and add to any outfit. Last year J. Crew had a really great red buffalo check vest that sold out quickly and left me wishing I had ordered it. This year they have a different version that is still really cute (just different colors).  I love it, but it is so, so, so expensive.  So I found a much more affordable option at Old Navy that just went onto my Christmas list! 

So there you have it!  All of the items on my fall fashion wish-list.  I'm sure I might come up with some others here and there before the season is over, but if I got even a few of these for my birthday or that I splurged on myself I'd be a happy girl!

What items are y'all hoping for this fall?  Anything specific you want to add to your closets?

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