Lessons From Vacation Part 1-Enjoying the Detour

You may have noticed the blog posts have been few and far between this summer.  Jules has been down for the count with pneumonia and I have been out of the country for five weeks!  I am home now and Jules has thankfully made a full recovery so hopefully we will be posting more regularly.  The girls and I had the opportunity to travel with my husband to Germany this summer.  We have had so many amazing adventures and created so many special family memories.  I won’t share all 1,200 of my vacation photos with you 🙂 , but I will show you a few of my favorites.  I have been in awe and amazement over and over on this trip with the absolute beauty in this world!
I titled this post “Lessons From Vacation” because on this extended stay out of the country,  I learned some things about myself, my family and people in general that I wanted to share with you.  I have been inspired to live my life a little differently and I hope this series of posts inspires you too.

This trip was different from any I have ever taken.  The Mister was responsible for most of the arrangements and it was very last minute.  I did not have months and months to plan and overthink things.  We basically packed up and left for five weeks without many set plans of what we were going to do.

My first stop when we got here was the local library to check-out some travel books.  We had an idea of the places we wanted to go, so I spent some time a couple of days before we left for the trip and researched the area and made a tentative list of things we might want to see and do. Normally, when we travel, I have planned it out weeks in advance and we have a tight schedule of all the things we want to do and see.  We did hit many of the “hot tourist spots” and I really enjoyed them, but I found some of my most memorable and happy moments of the trip were during the unexpected “detours” or last minute plans.

Below is a picture of the girls during one of our spontaneous stops on our way to another bigger destination.  We found this parking area near the Black Forest and we got out to explore.  We had so much fun running around the forest looking for the “Big Bad Wolf” and taking silly pictures.

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Here is another unplanned outing.  We intended to go an Alpine slide area that afternoon and it was closed because of rain.  We saw this Palace (King Ludwig’s Linderhof Palace) on our way back and decided to stop and check it out.  It was a fabulously beautiful discovery as you can see.  We made it in time for the last tour of the day and there were no crowds because of the late hour and rain.  We had so much fun running around the garden area taking pictures and just having fun!  We didn’t let the rain dampen our spirits.

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(King Ludwig had this grotto built behind the castle, it is a man-made cave hidden at the back of the estate.)

We had visited a lot of castles and climbed a lot of stairs and the girls decided they needed a break so at the last minute we decided to tour this chocolate factory in Cologne, Germany.  We had a blast trying samples from the giant chocolate fountain and learning the history of chocolate and how it is made.

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These are just a few examples of the “detours” we took on this vacation.  Had we been so intent on following a schedule or being a stickler for “the plan”, we would have missed out on these fun, family times.  In fact, I think our family was the happiest and most content during these detours because there were no pre-existing expectations.  We just jumped in and had fun!

I am a planner, organizer and list maker and living this way was so freeing! I definitely want to take this experience from vacation and apply it to my daily life.  It is okay to have plans, but when they don’t work out or there is an opportunity for a detour, I want to embrace it, instead of feeling stressed or disappointed. Who knows what fun could be around the corner.  I want to be more open to the plans God has for my life, which may be very different than my plan.  

How about you?  Are you a planner or do you just see where the road takes you?  I would love to hear how you spend your vacations!

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer!


~Blessings,
Jen

A Family Friendly, Scenic Vacation

A few weeks ago I posted about my Bucket List Day and I wanted to share some more details of our trip to Amelia Island.  This quaint little island is located on the border of Florida and Georgia about 40 minutes north of Jacksonville on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.  The initial draw to this vacation destination was the horseback riding experience, but once we arrived I realized we had discovered a quiet little island gem.

When you arrive on the island, the first thing you notice is the lack of high-rise hotels or condos cluttering the beach.  The shoreline is dotted with lovely little beach houses and cottages.  The hotels and condos tend to be low-rise and do not obstruct the beautiful views. Doesn’t this little place look divine!

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 How cool would it be to live on the corner of Ocean and Dolphin Street!

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Our first night there, we discovered a beach view restaurant called Sliders Seaside Grill.  We dined alfresco and celebrated the Misters birthday!  Notice Little One photo bombing the picture from the slide.  What a concept to provide a playground for the munchkins to let loose in while they wait for their dinner!  Genius!

KyleAfter dinner, we strolled down to the beach and discovered this guy!  Lots of jellyfish and sea life to be found on this beach.

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Next to the horseback riding experience, my favorite thing about this vacation was the spectacular show each morning.  What a blessing to be able to enjoy this gift God gives us each morning!  I woke up early each morning we were there and stole down to the beach to enjoy the sunrise.  Such a stunning, quiet, peaceful way to start the day.

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We had plenty of beach time for shell collecting and exploring.

408One afternoon we explored Fort Clinch State Park.  This is the view as you drive into the park, a tunnel of trees!

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We spent time at the beach building our own fort.

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We lingered a little too long, because we missed touring the fort which closed at 5:00, but we were at least able to get some pictures before they locked the gate.  Pretty impressive!  The fort dates back to 1847 and is 19th century brick fortress begun after the end of the Second Seminole War.

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 If you ever get the opportunity, I would highly recommend visiting Amelia Island. It is a great place to get away with the family to relax and soak up some sunshine and beauty!

~Blessings,

Jen

Bucket List Day!

Do you have a Bucket List?  I have not formally written one, but I have always had a few ideas floating around my head.  Last week, my family traveled to Amelia Island, Florida for Spring Break. (More details on the island to come in another post.)  Amelia Island is one of the few places in the United States where you can horseback ride on the beach.  This particular activity has always been one of my top Bucket List items and I am happy to say I have checked it off my list.  Next to my wedding day and the birth/adoption of my girls, this was one of the happiest days of my life.  I could not stop smiling!

It was a spectacular, sunny, cloudless day with temperatures in the 70’s.  We chose Debbie with Ride The Beaches of Amelia Island and I highly recommend her.  She was friendly and has an obvious love of horses.  The proceeds from the cost of the ride are donated to a horse rescue.

Oldest and Little One enjoyed the ride and even the Mister seemed to have a great time.  Here is a picture collage of our experience:

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So if you love horses and are looking for a once in a lifetime experience, I would highly recommend this!  This whole experience inspired me to sit and write down my Bucket List.  Taking the leap and doing something on my list gave me great joy and a re-newed energy and outlook on my life.  So I started my list and here are my top three:

1.Ride a horse on the beach. (check)

2.Visit Hawaii with my Mom and family.

3. Be a contestant on a game show. (I know this is a weird one, but I love game shows!)

I would love to hear from you in the comments section.  What are your top three Bucket List items?  Maybe I’ll get some good ideas from your list!

~Blessings,

Jen

Hope

For those of you living here in Michigan, I want to offer you hope and a reminder of why we choose to live here!  In my opinion, there is not a more beautiful place than summertime in Michigan.  So hold on, even though it is supposed to snow again tomorrow, summer WILL arrive!  Here are a few of my favorite Michigan destinations.

Sunset at my brother’s cottage.

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Mackinac Island

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Pictured Rocks

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Sunset on the pristine waters of Lake Superior

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My brother’s dog-pure happiness!

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~Blessings,

Jen

Beautiful Beach

The weather has finally turned a little warmer here in Michigan and it is great to see people out walking, jogging or biking, even if we are still surrounded by snow!  Oh the life of a Michigander!  I can’t help but dream of warmer days and often find myself thinking of a vacation we took last February to Destin/Okaloosa Island Florida.  The Mister was there on military training for a month and we joined him for a week.

If you have never been to that area of Florida, I would definitely recommend it.  The white, sandy beaches are filled with shells, sea glass, sand dollars and interesting rocks.  It is a beach combers dream and my girls had a blast walking up and down the beach searching for treasures.  We did a Vacation By Owner Rental whicht had a spectacular ocean view and was just a short walk away from the beach.  The sunsets were breathtaking and one evening as Little One and I were walking and searching for treasure, we looked out to the ocean and saw dolphins frolicking in the waves! It was such a peaceful, family-friendly place.

So if you live here in the north and are tired of looking at the dingy, slushy snow, let your eyes rest on one of God’s beautiful creations.  Here are some of my favorite photos from our trip.

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Now wasn’t that a treat for your winter-weary eyes!

~Blessings,

Jen

 

God’s Handiwork

I want to thank you for your patience with our sparse posts over the past week.  As Jules mentioned, our Mom is in the hospital with some heart issues and we have been very busy taking care of her.  I am so thankful I was able to be with my Mom this week and help her.  In tough times, as Jules said, we have to choose gratitude and count our blessings.  Although this has been a very difficult week, I am thankful that I got to spend so much time with my Mom and my brother and sister.  I am also thankful for the patient and kind nurses, medical professionals and staff that have taken such wonderful care of my Mom.

A week ago, after having a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration with my family, I woke up to this scene:

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It was absolutely breathtaking and I could not stop staring at the beauty all around me.  I was so thankful to be surrounded by family, viewing God’s handiwork and just enjoying one of his special gifts to us!  It is the moments like this which we cherish and hold in our hearts, that help us get through the more challenging days.  God’s gifts to us might not always be as obvious as this beautiful winter wonderland, but they are are there, if we take the time to look closely.

~Blessings,

Jen