I've decided every Christmas must be a vacation! Andrew and I met our families in Key Largo on Christmas day this past year (2016) and it was wonderful! Our families are spread out across the United States which makes it hard to see everyone and spend equal quality time with them. It's crazy when you're trying to get from place to place and the added stresses the holidays bring so a destination Christmas was the solution and I might add totally worth it!
Our first night in Key Largo we ate at the Lazy Lobster. It was one of the only places on the island open on Christmas. The food was excellent and the back yard atmosphere was very nice. It felt great to sit outside in December with short sleeves on. The next day we ventured to John Pennekamp State Park. Everywhere I read and everyone I spoke with said that JP State Park was a must do in Key Largo. I'm sure the park is beautiful and there seems to be a ton to do there but the day we went it was over cast and wasn't warm. We explored the park a bit and decided to go into the visitor's center and see the aquarium which was nice but not worth the money we paid to enter the park. We ended up calling this idea a wash and explored other options for this day. Andrew, his dad, and his brother went fly fishing in some of the mid-keys. Those of us who didn't go fly fishing drove down a few keys to see the pretty water and did some exploring. This day didn't go as planned but it was nice to be with family and not in cold Nebraska!
My favorite activity we did while in Key Largo was rent a boat from Sunshine Watersports. We had eight people in our group so we rented a 19 foot boat. The boat was a great size for us and it was very nice. At first we thought we'd go snorkeling so we headed to the coral reef about five miles off shore. We got half way there when we had to turn back, the waves were bigger than our boat and we were all soaked! It was scary being in the open ocean with swells that large. I was beginning to think this day wasn't going to go as planned either but then we went to Nest Key. Nest Key is absolutely beautiful! It's an island nature reserve right off of the Florida Everglades. When we pulled up to the island, we saw several boats and knew immediately that we found the place! I wish I could describe Nest Key with another word but I think beautiful is perfect! You'll have to go see for yourself! We stayed there all afternoon and waded in the water, laid out on the beach, had a picnic on the boat, swam, played with beach toys, fished, and explored. It was the perfect afternoon! I wish boat rentals weren't so expensive because we would have gone back there every day. We also found a ton of starfish in the water which was really neat! We picked them up for a photo op an promptly put them back in their natural habitat. on our way to Nest Key we saw manatees swimming in the mangroves and while we were on Nest Key a man caught a three foot hammerhead shark. When he let it go, it swam right by my foot! Yikes! While fly fishing this location, Andrew and his dad caught barracudas. This tiny island made for the perfect day!
On our last full day in Key Largo, we enjoyed beach time at the private beach within the community we rented in. We ate dinner at Hobo Cafe which was great (seafood pasta, yum). After dinner we ventured to the Caribbean Club which is a famous hole in the wall bar that's been featured in the movie Key Largo and the Netflix original series Bloodline. We didn't end up spending time at the club, just took a picture and then drove to Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill Sports Bar. We enjoyed the drinks, live music, and great views from this place.
I wish our trip to the Keys with family could have been longer but it was nice to spend a few days together, relax, rest, and unwind! I can't wait to get back to the Florida Keys and explore more!
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to post about Andrew and my Thanksgiving adventures especially because Christmas is just around the corner! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because I get to see my cousins who live all over the United States. This year, my grandparent's hosted Thanksgiving in Branson, Missouri where family members gathered from Arkansas, Tennessee, Utah, Nevada, Missouri, and Nebraska. It was a wonderful week with lotsof great food, board games, wine, conversation, and activities!
Branson offers an abundance of fun things for families to do together. Our activities included riding go-karts, driving through the beautiful Ozark hills to look for wldlife (we saw over 20 deer), shopping, and riding the Mountain Coaster.
The runaway Moutain Coaster was by far my favorite activity that we did this trip to Branson. If you're finding yourself asking "what is a mountain coaster?"... let me tell you! A mountain coaster is exactly as the name implies. It uses the outdoors and natural elevation to provide a really fun ride up and down the mountain! It takes about five minutes to get all the way up to the top and it's a straight shot. Once you're at the top, the carts are released to travel down and the best part is that the driver is in control of how slow or fast you go! You can go down slowly by pulling the break and enjoying the beauty around you or you can do what I did and never touch the breatk! My cousin's girlfriend, Madison, and I road together. We were winding down the hill at lightening speed! It was such a thrill and I'd do it again and again! The total experience lasts about seven minutes and costs $15 to be a driver and $10 to be a rider. I'd highly recommend this adventure if you're ever in the Branson area!
Although we did lots of exciting things the best part of Thanksgiving is spending time with family. I look forward to the holiday season every year! What are some of your favorite places to visit during the holidays?
Remember, always give thanks!
Because it's the holiday season and lots of people are traveling I want to share a recipe that can be enjoyed most anywhere a person travels! In the past few years, I've prepared this recipe in three foreign countries and several states in the U.S. Although the ingredients may be listed in a foreign language, an additional benefit to this dish is that they can be found in grocery stores worldwide.
Italian Chicken Pasta (feeds 4-can double recipe if needed)
What you need:
4 Chicken Breasts
8 Oz Cream Cheese
1 Can Cream of Mushroom
1 Can Cream of Chicken
1 Stick Butter
1 Packet dry Italian dressing mix
Pasta (I prefer bow tie)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
What you do:
Boil chicken until tender, shred
Add all ingredients minus the pasta and cheese to a large pot
Heat on medium until everything is melted, add the shredded chicken
Pour Italian chicken sauce on top of cooked pasta
Top with Parmesan cheese
See how easy this sounds?! If you have a crock pot on hand, it's even easier. This will allow you to add everything (minus pasta and cheese) and cook on low for 6-8 hours. When you get home and are ready to eat, cook the pasta and pour Italian chicken sauce on top.
This is the perfect meal for when you're on vacation. You can come in from your adventures and whip this delicious meal up in no time! This is a no-fail recipe and it always tastes great! I usually add a side salad or some bread to go with it. Can you believe this meal has zero calories? Haha... yeah right, but it tastes good!
Andrew and I traveled back to Arkansas for the weekend of the 4th to visit my family. My Mom and Step Dad are building a house on a bluff over looking the Sylamore Creek in Mt. View, AR. Their property is absolutely gorgeous and how cool is it that they are living their dream?! We stayed for a few days and spent lots of time enjoying everyone's company. We hiked, did some trout fishing, rode the ranger, sat by the fire, and shot fire works.
The state of Arkansas is truly "the Natural State," we love calling it our home state and now going back to visit!
Thank God for our country and our freedom!
At the end of every July Andrew and I travel to South Carolina to do our annual family vacation; Andrew's parents live in South Carolina. They live in a perfect location, they are 3 hours from the beach and 3 hours from the mountains... very nice! We always go a little early and spend time at their house and then travel to Hilton Head Island. It's so fun vacationing with their family because they have traditions they've been doing for years. I think family traditions are so fun and important.
We always leave from their hometown on a Saturday morning. Packing the cars is quite a process luckily, Andrew is an expert packer so he's got it down! We always stop in Columbia, SC and have lunch at Five Guys. Andrew and I treat everyone to lunch. If you have never eaten at a Five Guys, you are sure missing out! After we arrive in Hilton Head we pretty much beach it every day! There are a few other things that we do every time such as: have a "Rita's" (or 2, or 3, or 4), go shopping, do a night bike ride, go to Sea Pines, play games, and cook a Low Country Boil.
Check back soon for more on our trip, these posts will be located under the Hilton Head tab.
XOXO, Sun Kissed Ragan
A southern girl living in the Mid-West. My husband and I love to travel and go on new adventures--We love Jesus and the blessings He provides!