Link Love April: I’m Sorry to Bother You

Image Credit: The Breeze (breezejmu.org)

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation.

I can’t believe we are roughly a third of the way through the year! With the month of April coming to a close, I’m pleased to share that it will end on a happier note than March did. This month, I:

  • Accepted my university’s 30 Under 30 award for outstanding alumni. (Go Knights!)
  • Spoke to a sold-out crowd of students about my career and my company’s new brand.
  • Experienced my first on-camera media interview — I will see it live on TV tomorrow!
  • Booked flights for an upcoming vacation. (It’s about time!)
  • Had an impactful psychic reading in Cassadaga (read more about the Psychic Capital of the World here).
  • And more!

As always, I’d love to share some interesting links from around the web on this month’s Link Love. Share your own in the comments section below!

What links are you loving lately? Sound off in the comments!

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida

Happy Earth Day, fellow earthlings! With cooler temperatures gracing our area since the weekend, it feels like a crime to spend Earth Day working indoors. Here in Central Florida, we are blessed to live in such a diverse environment, with a variety of wildlife and terrain in every direction. The longer I live here, the more beautiful places I discover and fall in love with, and I consider myself lucky to call this weird and wonderful place my home.

In honor of Earth Day, I’m sharing five unique places to experience nature and wildlife right in your own backyard. Please feel free to share your own local favorites in the comments section below!

Happy Earth Day: 5 Ways to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net1. Audubon Center for Birds of Prey (Maitland, FL)
Nestled just off the main roads in Maitland, the Audubon Center for Birds and Prey is a rehabilitation facility for raptors. The organization brings in hundreds (if not thousands) of hawks, owls, eagles, vultures, and other birds of prey who are sick or injured each year. For $8 per adult and $5 per child, guests can visit about 50 of the center’s permanent residents and learn about each individual bird. Don’t forget to visit the tiny raptors on the back porch, including my favorite: Tony, the eastern screech owl! You can also watch a video inside to learn more about rehabilitation and release efforts, and how the center does its part to protect these amazing species. The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey also hosts various events throughout the year.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

2. Spring-to-Spring Trail from Lake Monroe Park to Gemini Springs Park (DeBary, FL)
Whether you prefer to hike or bike, the Spring-to-Spring Trail is a must-visit on a beautiful day. The trail will eventually span 26 miles out to DeLeon Springs, but in the meantime, you can enjoy a more leisurely stroll from Lake Monroe to Gemini Springs. The route is paved and goes 3.15 miles one way.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

3. Green Springs Park (Enterprise, FL)
True to its name, Green Springs Park is home to one of Florida’s few sulphur springs. The color has to be seen in person to be believed — and yes, it really is that ethereal. You can access Green Springs Park via the Spring-to-Spring Trail from Lake Monroe Park if you’re looking for a longer hike, or simply drive up to the outside of the park and take a walk around to explore the 31 acres of paved and natural trails that comprise Green Springs.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

4. The CARE Foundation (Apopka, FL)
I fell in love with The CARE Foundation a few years back, when the Apopka-based wildlife sanctuary took in Lucious, a sweet young lion who suffered from hypovitamiosis. Although Lucious ultimately passed away from this condition, his story went viral and introduced many to The CARE Foundation, which rescues both exotic and domestic animals. Home to lemurs, foxes, big cats, a bear, blonde raccoons, reptiles, and many other critters, The CARE Foundation offers private tours, as well as open houses throughout the year to welcome the public. I have visited The CARE Foundation for their open houses, but a private tour with a small group is on my list for the future!

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

5. Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour (Winter Park, FL)
Just off Park Avenue, hop on a boat to explore the chain of lakes and canals that make up Winter Park. For just $14 per adult and $7 per child, Scenic Boat Tours take place every hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are the perfect way to cool down as the weather heats up. Throughout your tour, you’ll visit three lakes and two canals, and the guide will share the history of Winter Park while introducing you to the local flora and fauna.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy nature in Central Florida? Sound off in the comments section below!

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

Chinsegut (noun): The Inuit word for “the spirit of things lost and regained.”

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

For all of my Orlando readers who want to make a quick road trip getaway, look no further than Brooksville, Florida. Located in Hernando County in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, Brooksville is hardly more than a hop, skip, and a jump away — about two hours west. I was introduced to the area by the lovely Diane of NatureCoaster, a fellow blogger who had contributed to my Hidden Gems of Central Florida post back in January, and couldn’t wait to visit Florida’s Nature Coast.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

Our first stop was the Chinsegut Hill Manor, a historic home last owned by social activists Raymond Robins and Margaret Dreier Robins until the mid-1900s. In fact, who better to lead our tour than Margaret herself? 🙂 Visitors can receive tours from costumed guides and reenactors, adding even more magic to the Chinsegut grounds. With two wraparound porches, beautiful original furnishings, and a gorgeous landscape, history enthusiasts will love touring the manor house. Tours are just $5 and are offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

After our tour, our group congregated on the porch to sample some of the best wines the Nature Coast has to offer from the Sparacia Witherell Family Winery. Each bottle tells a different story about the family who owns this winery, and in addition to your traditional reds and whites, they also offer blueberry and currant wines. My favorites were the Honeymoon Wine, a muscadine honey wine (not to be confused with mead) infused with grapefruit and apricots, and the Sicilian Punch, a peach/orange sangria and overall crowd pleaser. Take a trip to their tasting room to try all of these delicious flavors! As an added bonus, the winery often houses food trucks and local bands for a fun day or night out.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill RetreatIn the evening, we trekked over to the Chinsegut Conservation Center just down the road for a guided night hike with Gina, the center’s director. During our tour, we learned about the various native wildlife, and had the opportunity to learn about the area’s bat population. Bat houses are located on site, and are home to roughly 250 bats per home. At dusk, we watched the bats fly out of their houses and into the night sky. I had never seen so many bats in my life! The conservation center hosts tour groups almost monthly, as well as various classes and events throughout the year.

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If you’re looking for somewhere to stay during your time in Brooksville, check out the charming cottages at Chinsegut Hill Retreat, on the same grounds as the historic manor house. Each cottage has four bedrooms with two twin beds each, along with their own private bathrooms, a kitchen, and communal living room area. Our group stayed in the cottages and enjoyed s’mores and popcorn by the campfire just outside on the grounds. Take time on the porch in the morning to enjoy the breeze, relax, and restore.Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill RetreatI truly can’t wait for my next trip to Chinsegut and to explore more of the Nature Coast!

What’s on your Florida travel bucket list? Share your adventures in the comments section below!

27 at 27 Bucket List: Let the Adventures Begin!

Hey readers! For those who read last night’s post, you know that my 26 at 26 adventures have officially come to a close. 26 was an amazing year of self-discovery, travel, creativity, and the strengthening of old and new friendships. I have high expectations for age 27, beginning with my 27 at 27 bucket list. These experiences bring me so much joy, and I can’t wait to share my latest with you in the year ahead.

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Feel free to follow along here (under the 27 at 27 tab on my main menu), as I cross off each item and provide links to blog posts throughout the year. 🙂

Happy reading!

27 Things I’d Like to Do While I’m 27

  1. Travel to New Orleans for our annual mother-daughter trip.
  2. Visit the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Lake Nona.
  3. Take a class at Total Wine.
  4. Travel to St. Petersburg to visit the Salvador Dalí Museum.
  5. Visit a salt room to try halotherapy.
  6. Spend the day in Miami.
  7. Take a boat tour of Winter Park.
  8. Hang out with the flamingos at Flamingo Gardens.
  9. Graduate from my MBA program.
  10. Take a bioluminescence tour.
  11. Complete another round of Whole30.
  12. Go on a ghost tour through Downtown Sanford.
  13. Visit New York City.
  14. Host a tea party.
  15. Go kayaking in Wekiwa.
  16. Visit the Maitland Art Center.
  17. Take a post-graduation vacation.
  18. Attend a performing arts show.
  19. Visit the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey.
  20. Pursue public speaking opportunities.
  21. Take a limo cycle tour.
  22. Finish an old writing project.
  23. Get my writing published somewhere new.
  24. Take a DIY class.
  25. Stroll through the Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens.
  26. Tour the Stetson Mansion in Deland.
  27. Visit the Orlando Eye.

What is on your list this year? Share in the comments below!

Adventures in Florida: Bok Tower Gardens

“Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.” – The grandmother of Edward W. Bok

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A few weeks ago, I took a long-awaited mini road trip to Lake Wales. A little more than an hour from Orlando, Lake Wales is home to Bok Tower Gardens, a national historic landmark and one of my 26 at 26 bucket list items.

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For those unfamiliar with Bok Tower Gardens, they are named in honor of their founder, Edward W. Bok, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and the editor of Ladies Home Journal in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He commissioned a landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., to design a “spot of beauty second to none in the country,” and the gardens were even visited by President Calvin Coolidge.

Bok Tower GardensOne of the coolest areas to visit at Bok Tower Gardens was the Singing Tower itself. The tower stands at more than 200 feet and houses carillon bells, which play concerts twice a day. During our visit, we sat in the garden and listened to the bells, all while admiring the intricate Gothic design and the nearby reflecting pool. (I also happened to make friends with many of the koi who were swimming around out there!)

Strolling through the gardens, even in the Florida heat, was a breathtaking experience. Spending the day among nature was tranquil and meditative, and the perfect way to separate oneself from the hustle-and-bustle craziness that we constantly face.

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We also visited the Pinewood Estate, a Mediterranean Revival mansion on the property once owned by the Vice President of Bethlehem Steel. As an architecture enthusiast, I loved touring through the home and learning about the estate’s unique fixtures and furnishings. No two doors in the mansion are exactly alike, and the tiles (while well-coordinated) differ by room. The docents were helpful and extremely knowledgeable about Pinewood, and they shared that the estate is at its very best when decorated for Christmas. I know I’ll be returning in December! 🙂

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I was so in awe of Bok Tower Gardens and all of its natural beauty, but I was also drawn to the gardens’ spirit of kindness and making the world a better place. Edward Bok put it best: “Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.” It is a beautiful sentiment, one that will keep me coming back to the gardens in the years to come. 🙂

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Adventures in Florida: The Seacrest Wolf Preserve

Over the weekend, I experienced the adventure of a lifetime when my dad, sister, and I took a trip to the Seacrest Wolf Preserve. Tucked away in Chipley, Florida, the Seacrest Wolf Preserve was one of those bucket list items I never even knew I had until recently, when I met one of the volunteers at the Blue Springs Manatee Festival. I come from a family of animal lovers (who also happen to be involved in German Shepherd rescue efforts), so visiting the Seacrest Wolf Preserve was the perfect family getaway.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Seacrest Wolf Preserve is a non-profit organization dedicated to wolf conservation. Covering more than 400 acres, the preserve is a safe haven for several wolf packs, as well as foxes, skunks, a coyote, and other wildlife. Seacrest offers both public and private tours, allowing visitors to meet and interact with the wolves and smaller animals.

For our first visit, we decided to check out the Saturday Wolf Encounter Tour. When we arrived, we met Cynthia Watkins, one of Seacrest’s co-founders, and it was easy to see her passion for these beautiful animals. For just $25 admission, we had the chance to tour three wolf habitats and meet the packs who live there, as well as visit the foxes and skunks in the small animal areas.

This experience was life-changing, and I can’t wait to return for another visit. Within the wolf habitats, we were actually able to pet, play, and howl with the wolves– we even received a few wolf kisses! I fell in love with an energetic 10-month-old pup who reminded me a lot of my first German Shepherd, Shana, at that age. 🙂

Throughout the day, we learned about how packs form and how difficult it truly is to be a “lone wolf.” We also learned about why conservation efforts are a necessity, as wolves are incredibly vital to the ecosystem, and how greed and legislation have put their lives in danger.

During the tour, we talked about how important it is to speak for the wolves, because they cannot speak for themselves. Supporting organizations like Seacrest is a great way to give back to these incredible animals and fight against the regulations that have put them in harm’s way. Visiting the preserve gives you a greater appreciation and empathy for an often misunderstood creature, and is a must-do for anyone who wants to get up close and personal with a wolf.

I’m excited to return with my family for a VIP Tour in the near future! I highly recommend Seacrest (learn more about tours here) for all of you animal lovers. It’s an experience you won’t forget.