Stinson, California is a beach town just north of San Francisco. Andrew and I recently stayed there with friends for a weekend get-a-way. We stayed step away from the beach and really enjoyed ourselves. The town itself is very small and only offers a handful of things to do and places to eat but I think we found all of the best it has to offer!
Matt Davis Loop Trail: Hiking Muir Woods was on the top of my to-do list for our stay in the Stinson Beach area. Muir Woods is the world's most-visited redwood park. The day we planned on hiking it was raining so instead of driving to The Muir Woods Visitor Center we decided to hike a trail right off of the main highway in town. I didn't realize it until I got home and Googled the trail we hiked (Matt Davis Loop) that we were actually in Mt. Tamalpais State Park which is what surrounds Muir Woods. We saw plenty of redwoods, waterfalls, and lush forest. The loop is about seven miles in its entirety. It wasn't the best day for a hike so we walked far enough to get an excellent view and turned around to go back down. We did about a two mile hike. You can access this trail behind the Stinson Beach fire station.
Sand Dollar Cafe: Since 1921, this eatery has been a popular place with locals. The Sand Dollar Cafe is right off of the highway so you can't miss it! We ate there twice: once for a quick appetizer and drinks and the second time we went for dinner. The restaurant is family owned and Stinson beach's oldest establishment. You could tell the staff were a very tight knit group of people and they knew most folks by name as they walked in the door. When we went for appetizer and drinks (around four pm) I asked the bar tender if they had happy hour menu. He looked at me, smiled, and said, "Ma'am when you're the only bar in town, you don't do happy hour."
Parkside Cafe: On the side of the highway, closest to the ocean, is a string of small businesses that assemble The Parkside Cafe. The Snack Bar opened in 1949 and is best known for its burgers, smoothies, ice cream, and fries. I bet this place is hopping in the summer with beach goers! The Parkside Cafe Restaurant serves food all day long with a full menu. They have a quaint outdoor area with a fireplace, patio, and garden. We weren't able to enjoy this space as it was cold and rainy but let me tell you what we did enjoy: food and drinks! The food was amazing and overall, a very healthy menu. Because we did eat well and were happy, we found their motto of "eat well, be happy" to be very appropriate and right on target. We all ordered a morning coffee and enjoyed that very much until we saw the table next to us get orange juice. This wasn't your average looking orange juice, you could tell that it was fresh squeezed! Therefore, we all ordered and enjoyed the orange juice, some of us enjoyed it in a champagne glass (mimosa style), others enjoyed it with vodka, and my pregnant friend enjoyed the OJ just how it was! Parkside Cafe is an integral part of the community and available at all times to satisfy your hunger ad don't forget to order OJ.
Whether you visit Stinson for a day at the beach, go with a group of friends for a weekend stay, or go to explore, you are guaranteed a good time. The people in this quiet beach town were friendly, everyone smiled, and local businesses are thriving.
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!
While in Key West, Andrew and I tried to eat and drink at some of its most famous places; always the food adventurers, we also wanted to try some local "hole in the wall" restaurants as well.
We made the drive from Miami to Key West and had to stop at The Hungry Tarpon on Islamorada Key to eat dinner our first night. You can't miss the Hungry Tarpon as it's in Robbie's Marina and there is a huge sign. The restaurant is directly on the water and offers beautiful views, great food, and a tropical atmosphere. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was so much fun! When you eat here, you're truly getting a taste of the Keys lifestyle. You can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Hungry Tarpon while you watch the boats come in with their fresh catch of the day! We were here in the evening and got to see the sharks and tarpons being fed the leftovers from the days fishing trip. Another reason the Robbie's Marina area is famous is because some of the Netflix original Bloodline was filmed here. This is where the characters of the show spend a lot of time in boats and on docks. We're huge Bloodline fans and sought out as many filming places as possible in the keys (more on that in another post). Our first night in Key West we felt compelled to go check out the world famous Sloppy Joe's Bar. The official beginning of this bar was on December 5, 1993- the day Prohibition was repealed. Sloppy Joe's Bar has been through two name changes and one change of location but it has been at its present location since May of 1937. This Bar sits on the corner of Greene and Duval Street. This place is a staple in Key West and was once the watering hole of Ernest Hemmingway. Sloppy Joe's now also offers a food menu. Andrew and I enjoyed listening to a live band, having a cocktail, and eating a sloppy joe! If you're ever in Key West, even for just a day this is a piece of history you don't want to miss!
After Sloppy Joe's, we ventured over to Willie T's. We were immediately drawn in by all of the one dollar bills hanging up all over the place. There are thousands of them and we had to leave our mark as well! Willie T's had live music and its open air so it is a really fun place to stop.
During our second day in Key West we wanted to have a picnic on the beach so we went to a place called Blue Heaven Restaurant to pick up food to go. A local actually recommended it to us and the food was amazing! I had a huge grilled cheese with bacon and Andrew had a chicken salad sandwich. They even boxed the sandwiches up for us so we'd be able to carry them easily out to the beach. That evening we went and ate at Sara Beth's, which provides both indoor and outdoor dining and its building is a historic 1800s clapboard landmark building. The food here was delicious! We tried the velvety cream of tomato soup, the crispy calamari, and the shrimp and grits! The service was some of the best I'd ever experienced, even the host was top notch! Make a reservation if you'd like to eat here and I've heard brunch is awesome, I wish we would have had time to go back.
Our last night in Key West happened to fall on Christmas Eve. We didn't want to do the traditional Christmas food so we decided to do a traditional Key West spot called Schooner Wharf. This place has been voted Best Local's bar six years in a row. They have really unique nautical decor, live music, great food, and it's open-air. Schooner Wharf is located right on the Historic Harbor Walk. We tried conch fritters here for the first time. Conch fritters are to the Keys what hush-puppies are to the south. You can find fritters on the menu just about any place you go so we decided to give them a try and oh my, they were great! They even came with a Key Lime mustard sauce, it sounds weird but it tasted amazing! For our entree we shared the seared sesame tuna and oh my goodness was it fresh and so good! The entree came with seaweed salad which I have never liked any other time I've tried it but this place had the best seaweed salad ever! This was far from our traditional Christmas Eve dinner but you can't beat fresh seafood at an open-air restaurant, with a sand floor, watching yachts float by.
There are lots of good eateries in Key West. My major regret was that I didn't have time to try other places; however, I was really happy with our choices. I'd give all of the places listed five stars!
I have officially been to Las Vegas, Nevada five times now and I have never left that place disappointed. There is something for everyone to do there and although most of the town thrives on gambling, you don't have to enjoy that to have a great time!
Recently, I went to Vegas for work but I was also able to squeeze several fun things out of the trip! Thankfully, my husband and some very close friends also work for the same company as I do so we get to hang and have a blast while we're still "at work." This will come as no surprise to anyone that knows me well but I had to visit the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens two times on this trip. Once with my husband, Andrew and once with a friend who'd never seen "the gardens." I love a good excuse to go there! The best part about the gardens is that it changes at different times during the year, the display that's happening now (November 2016) is the Fall Harvest. I learned that a team of over 120 horticulturists take care of the gardens; man, that's a lot of people! While at the Bellagio you can't miss the spectacular fountain show! Vegas is all about catching your attention and the fountains definitely do that with their water show, lights, and music! If you've never caught one of the shows before, it's a must see. They go off every 15-30 minutes depending on the time of night. I've never actually stayed at the Bellagio before but it's one of my favorite hotels to visit... oh, and they have an amazing buffet!
For this particular trip, my group stayed at the MGM Grand hotel. The rooms were decently sized, the staff was friendly, the casino was fairly clean (as clean as a casino can be), and the pool was excellent! The downfall to staying there was the location, nothing is really "close" in Vegas but this hotel is too far to the end of the strip. I prefer to stay in the middle of the strip where I can be in the middle of all of the action! The MGM Grand is home to one of the many famous Cirque Du Soleil shows called Kà. Andrew and I went and saw this our first night in Las Vegas, we didn't account for the fact we had traveled and worked all day so by the time we sat down for the show we had been up 18 hours. We were exhausted but this show woke us up! It's an epic production about an entire empire. The stunts and sheer talent of the people that perform during Kà is amazing! The MGM Grand also has several other perks: Top Golf, which is right behind the hotel and a really fun experience, Hakkasan, the night club inside the hotel, and the pool area has a lazy river.
After all of our work events had come to a close for the week, it was time to play! Andrew and I laid at the pool with our friends, Eric and Rachel, and enjoyed a sun shinny day in November! It was even hot enough outside to make you want to get in the pool! After our pool time we got ready for dinner and had an amazing meal at Gordon Ramsay's Pub and Grill in Caesar's Palace. The food there was so good and it wasn't too terribly pricey. My friend Rachel and I shared the beer-braised short rib and it practically melted in our mouths. I'd highly recommend it! Once we were finished eating we had a show to catch! We went and saw Absinthe which is a show right outside of Caesar's Palace. It was one of the funnier and most awesome shows I've ever seen! I do want to say this, if you are easily offended, even in the slightest then this show is not for you. The show is an acro-cabaret variety show and there is truly not a bad seat in the house. This show caught me off guard a bit as I wasn't sure what to expect, it was actually recommended to me by a couple of different friends. The host pulls the audience in and is very entertaining. You really can't take your eyes off of the world-class acrobats, singers, comedians, and dancers!
On our last day in Las Vegas we decided to venture to Fremont Street which is a five-block entertainment district in historic downtown Las Vegas. One of the first things you see when you get there is the Heart Attack Grill. If you weigh over 300 lbs (they have a scale outside) you get to eat there for free. We didn't eat there as we didn't want to have a heart attack so we went to The Smashed Pig Gastropub instead, which was amazing! I had lettuce wraps (which were the best I'd ever eaten) and hand cut French fries. After we ate lunch we walked around to some of the main attractions on Fremont street which included the million dollars at Binion's, the shark tank and the golden nugget at Golden Nugget, Vegas Vic and Vegas Vickie, and several street performers. Let's talk about the street performers for a second... Some were better than others and some weren't even performing but merely standing there in outrageous outfits. Unfortunately, I can't un-see some of the things I saw on Fremont Street. It's worth the cab money to have this experience!
We spent five days in Las Vegas some for play and some for work but in conclusion, it was a trip for the books! When you come home from Las Vegas, always remember to wash all of your clothes, soak your feet in warm water, and use your humidifier. If you don't know why you should do all of these things, then you've never been to Las Vegas!
I don't think there is a better way to spend a weekend other than with good friends and a mini vacation which is exactly what Andrew and i did for the first weekend of October. Our friends, Eric and Rachel, are great and they make amazing hosts; this is our second time visiting them in six months. Madison, WI is only about 6 hours from Omaha so we're able to make the trip for the weekend and still have plenty of time for fun!
This trip, we basically ate our way through Madison. Eric cooked a phenomenal dish one night which consisted of homemade spaghetti and meatballs, yum! The photo below really doesn't do it justice.
Some of the standout food items of the weekend included: amazing sushi from Red, steel pan pizza from Lucille's, and fried cheese curds from The Great Dane. It's an obligation that you have to eat cheese curds while in Wisconsin, I ate them twice.
On Saturday we visited the Wollersheim Winery. We were able to tour their brand new distillery and do some spirit tasting (not my personal favorite). The distillery was really neat but the tour guide was almost overly informative. If you are a brandy drinker, they do have three different types you can try. I also tried licorice absinthe...not my best idea. Let's just say I used the "pour bucket" quite a bit. I wasn't trying to be rude but spirits aren't my thing. The winery itself is absolutely beautiful! It sits on the hillside across from the Wisconsin River about 20 minutes outside of Madison. The winery originally opened in the 1840's but since the 1970's it's been owned and operated by the Wollersheim family. It won "Small Winery of the Year" in 2015 from the San Diego International Wine Festival. We chose to take the wine tour which gave us a bit more background on the property history and a different view of the grounds. We were also permitted to go into the original wine cellar which was very neat! I was surprised that my favorite of their wines were both whites and I'm usually a red wine drinker. The Prairie Fume and the White Riesling both impressed me. The Wollersheim Winery was a fun day trip for us!
Sadly enough, our weekend had to come to an end and we hit the road back home. Thank goodness for audio books! Until next time Madison, Peace!
My mom and step-dad just recently built their dream home in Mountain View, Arkansas. When we visit it's like having a vacation at home, how awesome is that?! I've been going to Mt. View my entire life to camp or stay in a family member's cabin there so I've done just about everything possible in this small river town which is in the Ozark mountain range. It maintains a rich tradition of preserving folk music and is also known for the many outdoor recreation opportunities.
Our family had the best time floating down the North Sylamore Creek!
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!
A southern girl trying to make my dreams come true. My husband and I love to travel and go on new adventures--We love Jesus and the blessings He provides!