Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park

This Labor Day weekend, Matt, my sister, and I spent two nights camping at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. It’s about an hour west of Jacksonville in White Springs, right by Big Shoals State Park. It’s also on the Suwannee river, hence the park’s tribute to Stephen Foster and folk music.

I absolutely love camping, and was so excited to go. I haven’t been camping since Matt and I first started hanging out in junior year. We packed up our tents, sleeping bags, food, bug spray, and firewood and went!

I had a blast. This park is DEFINITELY my favorite out of the Florida State Parks I have visited. They had a primitive camping, tent camping, and RV camping, and bathrooms/showers. The Florida Trail comes through the park as well. The Suwannee River also gives very nice scenery, but the park itself is very unique.
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The park has a fantastic gift shop, filled with crafts, food, and more made by locals. There is also a little “town square” of little buildings that demonstrate quilting, pottery making, jewelry making, and blacksmithing. There is also a small herb garden. Additionally, there is a bell tower that plays Stephen Foster songs! The base of the bell tower is a small museum about Foster’s music. There is also a separate museum close by in the park that has dioramas, classic pianos, and more.
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We camped for two nights and thoroughly enjoyed this park and all it had to offer. I definitely recommend visiting and can’t wait to go back!

Motivational Monday

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This quote by Aristotle is one I always try to remember, especially anytime I am trying to develop a new skill or learn something unfamiliar to me. Those who are truly great at a craft tend to have refined their abilities over time. People aren’t just born excellent, but cultivate excellence over time.

Image Source: http://www.inspirationluv.com/top-40-best-inspiring-motivational-quotes/

Currently

Loving: lemon water. I literally drink it every day. It’s my absolute favorite thing to drink.

Enjoying: gardening! I have started to get into gardening and it’s so much fun. I’ve also been volunteering at the Brevard Botanical Garden! It’s an addictive hobby! My lemon tree, cayenne pepper plant, and marigolds are below.

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Reading: so many different books, still! The two main ones I am currently reading are “The Martian Race” by Gregory Benford and J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy”. Both are really awesome books! “The Martian Race” was written in 1999, and is very reminiscent of my current favorite, Andy Weir’s “The Martian”.

Watching: the usuals, 30 Rock, Nikita, Scandal, and The Astronaut Wives Club.

Anticipating: going to Denver! I’ll be going for a free days for work. I’m very excited to see the city and to visit the main HQ for Lockheed Martin Space Systems!

Wanting: a large bookshelf. I have a very small one, and more books than I know what to do with!

What about you all? What has been going on in your life? Feel free to comment or make your own post and link it in the comments!

Exploration Tower

My family came down and spent this past weekend exploring Brevard County with me. We went visited Cocoa Beach pier, Cocoa Village, Satellite Beach and Viera.

One of the coolest places we went was Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral.

When I was interning at KSC, the tower was under construction. It’s an incredible looking building and it surely stands out among the boats and cruise ships in the marina and port. It’s a seven-floor building, with each floor dedicated to something related to the local area.

We started from the very top floor and worked our way down. The top floor was an outdoor observation deck. It gave incredible views of the port and outgoing cruise ships, as well as a great view of KSC. The Vehicle Assembly Building and a few launch pads were visible as well. There were also binoculars all along the top deck to get closer views! Behind the main observation deck, a few “Florida natives” were hanging out.

The sixth floor was, admittedly, my favorite. It was dedicated to space! Pictures and quotes were on the walls. Space relics and models were in cases, and in the center of the room, three curved TVs sat, playing a short video honoring past, present, and future spaceflight. It started with the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts, then highlighted the space shuttle, before ending with Boeing’s CST-100, SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule, and finally, Lockheed Martin’s Orion Capsule. It was so awesome seeing Orion, and I swear, the music and the images brought tears of pride and happiness to my eyes.

We descended another floor dedicated to the history of the port and surrounding waters. The coolest part, though, was a large port simulation, that allowed people to navigate through the port during various conditions.

We then went down to the fourth floor, which was actually a private floor. A party was being hosted at the time- oops!– so we went down to the third floor.

The third floor had a theater that played a brief video on the history of the Cape Canaveral area, including histories of the port and space program. It also had information about local and popular pastimes, including surfing, golf, and water sports.

The second floor was the largest, excluding the ground floor gift shop and cafe. It was split into two main areas- history of the Brevard County area and the “Fragile Environment”. The Fragile Environment was awesome; it had a huge hanging art display of sea creatures, made from recycled items.

Overall, Exploration Tower was a great place to check out. It was a neat place to take an hour or so to explore. I definitely recommend visiting!

Happy birthday Matt!

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Happy birthday to my other half, Matt. Have a wonderful birthday ❤

Currently

Loving: my new sofa. I got a gorgeous vintage green couch to go in my study. It’s perfect to lay out on while reading a book.

Enjoying: having free time! My schedule is completely different from when I was at school. Although I am at work more than I was in classes, I have more flexibility to spend my time how I want to. It’s an amazing feeling.

Reading: so many different books! My two favorites at the moment are “Ender’s Game” and “The Sherlockian”, which I’m reading with my mom. But I’m still reading “Love Walked In”, and the original Sherlock Holmes stories. If that wasn’t enough, I’m also reading “The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, “Girls of Atomic City”, and “Sky Walking: An Astronaut’s Memoir” by Tom Jones. I have also pre-ordered Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman”, which will be a fun read!

Watching: Nikita!!! I absolutely love this show. I have been watching it, plus season 4 of Scandal. I’ve also been watching The Astronaut Wives Club, based off of the amazing book by Lilly Koppel.

Working on: getting everything at the new house squared away. I’ve unpacked everything (except a box my sister just brought when she came down this weekend). I’m now working on hanging stuff on the walls and getting some shelves for my books. I have one small bookshelf that’s full of books, but many more books that need a shelf!

Wanting: more books! I am already reading several books, and am in desperate need of shelves for my books, but I have a huge list of more books that I want to read. I guess I am catching up for my lack of “fun” reading during college!

Learning: fluids + languages. At work, I’m learning a lot about fluids and test engineering. There is a incredible amount of really amazing things to learn. On my free time, I’ve been working on learning Italian and relearning Spanish.

What about you all? What has been going on in your life? Feel free to comment or make your own post and link it in the comments!

Port St. Lucie and the Banyan Tree

A few weekends ago, Matt and I went on a somewhat spontaneous adventure. Matt was visiting and our best friend Jalieel was temporarily working a few hours south. We decided to hop in the car and get dinner with Jalieel, but we took the “scenic” route down A1A.

We saw lots of big houses and lots of pretty views of the water, but one of the coolest things we found was a….tree.

We had stopped at a few parks along the way, including one in Port St. Lucie. It was a gorgeous area, right on the intercoastal, and while walking around, we found a Banyan tree! Isn’t it incredible?

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After finding the tree, we had a very different adventure with Jalieel. Overall, it was really fun!

Fourth of July Weekend

To those who celebrate America’s Independence Day, I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

I had a fantastic Fourth of July weekend with Matt. I stayed in town and was able to explore my new home more. Each day was a different adventure as we explored different areas nearby.

On Friday, we explored Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We took a couple of hours to drive Wilderness Road, a 7-mile paved road through the Refuge. It showed different wetlands and environments and had stops along the way to highlight the local area and wildlife. There were a few trails and observation towers as well. We saw lots of birds, turtles, fish, and alligators. That evening, we went to dinner and saw fireworks in Cocoa Beach.

Saturday was a fantastically packed day. We geocached in Fay Wilderness Park in the morning, then grilled out in the afternoon. It was my first time grilling out since becoming vegetarian. I made some vegetarian hot dogs, vegetarian baked beans, corn, and fries. It was absolutely delicious!

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After cooking out, we went mini-golfing in Cape Canaveral. We tied on the first 18 holes, and Matt just barely beat me on the next 18.

After golfing, we went straight to Titusville to watch the fireworks. The weather had been troublesome throughout the day but had cleared up in enough time for a great fireworks show!

Sunday was another day of geocaching before Matt had to leave to go back to Jacksonville. We found two geocaches by nearby ranches. I had no idea there were ranches so close to home! One of the ranches was a horse ranch, and they were very accommodating to geocachers. They even let us on their property to see their horses!

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It was a fantastic holiday weekend! I can’t wait to go out and make more memories in my new home.
How was your holiday weekend? Let me know in the comments!

The Secret

Have you ever had a secret? Perhaps secret isn’t the best word…but you may know the feeling. There’s some thing that you do or love that, if asked, you may own up to, either freely or in some sort of roundabout way but are kinda afraid to tell people, because you don’t want to be judged? It’s usually something that isn’t “normal”, but is a little wrinkle in the smooth, social fabric.

I have one of those “secrets”.

It’s something that I have gone back and forth on over the past few years. It wasn’t something that, as a child, I thought I would do. But as I have gotten older, I’ve experimented and thought intensely about this “thing”. I talked to my friends, and my family, and finally decided to dive right in. Even then, I have been scared to tell people, out of nervousness of being judged, of being thought of as snobby or difficult. Most of the people I have told have been so positive and awesome, and have made me think my nervousness was misplaced. Perhaps people won’t really judge or care. It’s also something that I am proud of, something that I love, and I am going to come out about it.

I am a vegetarian.
(Life shattering, no?)
((No animal-life pun intended))

I’ll be totally open and honest as I blog about this change. The notion of forsaking Philly cheese steaks and beef tacos was not quite radical or planned. As I grew older, I found myself liking meat less and less. When I first became aware that it was a transition I may want to make, it wasn’t because of the animals or anything like that. I just didn’t really like meat. Sure, there was still some meat-based dishes that I loved, but there was almost no appeal whatsoever in a hunk of meat on a plate for me.

Then the entire animal-loving thing slowly came in, especially after I first met a cow. I have always been a HUGE animal lover, as is most of my family, but there was always a divide in my brain about “food” animals and pets. Then I met a cow and that divide started becoming fuzzy. I had seen cows before and been close to a couple, but I had never sat down and actually pet one or really thought about cows as an emotional being. Then, my beef tacos and beloved peppered beef jerky starting having a face, and it kinda gnawed on me. (Again, no pun intended).

I had started experimenting with vegetarianism at this point, trying to develop dishes and foods that I liked that were meat-free. Then, a few “incidents” involving animals just shattered the wall and I couldn’t eat meat anymore. I was already slowly transitioning as is, but I wasn’t expecting to jump in so quickly and for the reasons I did.

And no, I’m not perfect. I haven’t entirely quit “cold turkey” (that pun was intended) and have cheated a couple of times, but I’ll talk in detail about my exact diet and transition so far in another post.

There is soooo much more I want to blog about as far as the vegetarian transition goes, so I think I will make a few posts about it. If anyone wants to talk about it, or ask questions of any sort, please feel free to drop them in the comment section. Flame posts or trolling isn’t as welcome, but I would love to encourage an open dialogue.

Currently

Loving: my new job! I have just finished my first week and I love the job already. I haven’t done much other than training, but the work I will be doing is awesome. The team I am on is pretty amazing so far, well. It’s an easy going, fun group of people and I just love everything already.

Anticipating: getting into the swing of adult life and taking advantage of the good things. I’m really looking forward to going on some fun adventures!

Enjoying: my recent transition to a healthier lifestyle! The last two years of  college was a wreck on my body. I gained more weight than I am willing to admit to, as my exercise and eating habits went down the drain. Now I’ve been eating a lot healthier (lots of colorful salads and fruit), and starting to exercise! I’m starting to attend a local zumba class, and just joined the space center’s gym today!

Reading: lots! I’ve been reading a few books since graduating. I’ve been reading a little bit of two different books: “Love Walked In” by Marisa De Los Santos, and the original Sherlock Holmes short stories. I haven’t read much this week since I’ve been getting used to my new work schedule but my goal is to read a little every other day or so.

Watching: 30 Rock! This has been my new show obsession. It all started with “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, which is one of the best shows ever. It’s written by Tina Fey and Jane Krakowski is one of the stars. “30 Rock” was a natural next choice after finishing the first season of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”.

Working on: a paper from my NASA research at UNF for publication. It’s a work on progress!

What about you all? What has been going on in your life? Feel free to comment or make your own post and link it in the comments!