The Alligator Sanctuary in Athens, MI

Yesterday we spent the entire day at The Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary in Athens, MI. We heard about The Alligator Sanctuary a couple summers ago when we took the kids there. Bella is completely obsessed with alligators and finding out that we didn’t have to travel to Florida for her to see something she loves, was amazing. While we were there two years ago, they told us about how people could come back in the Spring and help get the gators from the warming shed (a greenhouse) and take them to their summer swamp. We were not able to go help last spring, but we went yesterday and Bella had the time of her life!

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Almost immediately upon getting there, Bella had an alligator in her arms. Like dogs, we found that if you gently stroke gator under it’s jaw or even on the top of the head, it will close their eyes and go to sleep. But don’t loosen your grip. This particular gator was storing up it’s energy to try and wiggle out of Bella’s arms! She got whipped by the tail a couple times, but she said it didn’t hurt. I don’t think she would have admitted if it did, though!

Every gator (accept Godzilla…you’ll see him in a bit) is brought out of the greenhouse and set on a table. The kids then take various size brushes and scrub all the dirt off the gators. Once they are clean, the gators are measured (head length, full body/tail length, and tail length). Next they are checked for a microchip. If they don’t have a microchip, one is put in.

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The one gator that Bella has talked about ever since our first visit was Godzilla. He is their largest gator and they’ve also trained him. Eventually they will be doing shows with him (we can’t wait to go back for that). One of the first things Bella and her dad asked was “will we be moving Godzilla?”. Originally they said no. Mainly because there were other gators in the greenhouse habitat with Godzilla and unless Godzilla moved up to the front of the habitat, it would be too dangerous for them to get him out. Around 3:30 in the afternoon, Godzilla moved right up to the front of the habitat! Bella was beside herself. Here’s a picture of Godzilla in his greenhouse habitat:

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Godzilla is estimated to weigh between 350 and 500 lbs. It took seven big guys to carry Godzilla to his summer swamp. I stayed out of the greenhouse when they were moving this gator. The hissing and thought of them dropping this gator, even though his mouth was taped closed, scared me. But it didn’t scare my husband. He climbed into the pen with Godzilla to help lift him out. I made sure to call and up his life insurance policy! Godzilla thrashed around a little bit while they were carrying him and it was quite comical to watch. Even though there were seven big men carrying him, when Godzilla moved, the men were thrown to whichever side Godzilla moved to!

When asked what her favorite part of the entire day was, it was when the owner, Mr. David, handed her a baby gator and told her to walk it over to the elementary pen (this is the area for the smaller, elementary sized/aged gators). Once she got over there, she was able to go into the pen and help release the gator into the water.

Our time at the Alligator Sanctuary was amazing. The staff are all extremely friendly and genuinely care about their gators. They love to share their knowledge about the gators with everyone that is there. They have a lot in the works for the sanctuary and we can’t wait to go back and see it all! Bella even learned about a “Zoo Keeper for a Day” program they will be having and I just know we will be driving back for that real soon!

For more information about The Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary, visit them on Facebook!

Family Day at the Lower Rouge River Trails #OurLand

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Fall is my absolute FAVORITE season. I like everything about it. Especially the fact that I can wear jeans and hooded sweatshirts ALL THE TIME! About a week or so ago, I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon, with my family, outdoors at the Lower Rouge River Recreation Trail. We had the best family day together!

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*This post may contain affiliate links*

It’s been awhile since we had been on these trails or had a family day, which is silly. Part of the trail opens up into our subdivision! So when I had the opportunity to team up with Momdot Media and The Trust for Public Land to spread the word about the #OurLand campaign, I knew we had to pay a visit to these trails and have that family day we’ve been craving! Especially since the campaign talks about protecting public land like neighborhood playgrounds and other places we all love! When I found out that my township was creating this recreation trail, I got excited. I grew up going to different places like this with my parents and I have very fond memories of collecting leaves, finding the biggest “walking” stick and searching for Petoskey stones in Norther Michigan.

Pick up this beginner Geo Caching kit and have even more family fun!

 

Cache Advance Dr. B's Geocaching Beginner KitCache Advance Dr. B’s Geocaching Beginner Kit

 About The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. We protect the places people care about and create close-to-home parks — particularly in and near cities, where 80% of American’s live.

Watch this video to see what everyone loves about the parks and land around them…while you’re at it, think about what YOU love about the parks around you!

We were way overdue for a family day together. With everything that had been going on in our lives for the past few months, walking the trails together was exactly what we needed. The Lower Rouge River Recreation Trail, when it’s finished will be about 4 miles long. I’m not quite sure how long it is right now, but it sure felt like we walked 4 miles with all the times we got turned around or told the kids to stop turning us in circles! But the sound of the leaves crunching beneath our feet and the sound of the water was very soothing.

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It was nice to see other people walking the trails when we were there! In the summer, those trails are packed. On the day we were there, we ran into a couple people walking their dogs and just enjoying the fresh air. One of the things I want to start doing is geocaching with the kids. If you don’t know what geocaching is, it’s basically a real life treasure hunt in the world around you!

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I really liked that there were little signs telling you where you are at, whether it be near the river edge or different mountain bike trails. There are also these really amazing carvings that people did out of fallen trees. We weren’t able to find it this time. I don’t think we went far enough to the east. But we’ll just have to go back again soon and this time go in from the entrance in our subdivision. Apparently that part of the trail is not only where we can find the wood carvings, but also the bridges.

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Projects like The Trust for Public Land are important to support because in this day and age, I think kids spend more time indoors playing video games or watching T.V. and they really need to be outside more. I can remember when I was a kid, we spent all day long outside. We either played cops on our bikes, walked up to the corner store for slurpees, or played 500 in someone’s yard. Regardless of what we were doing, we were outside doing it!

Please take a moment to visit The Trust for Public Land website. Look around and be sure to click on #OurLand and make your own postcard to share why nature matters to you! Here’s one me and the kids made:

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Please leave me a comment and let me know why nature matters to you…do you have a favorite place to have a family day…maybe a park, nature trails or a playground?

family day

*I had the pleasure of partnering with Momdot Media and The Trust for Public Land for this project. I was compensated for my time. All opinions and pictures are my own*

Follow Your Heart and Visit the St. Kitts Marriott Resort!

This post brought to you by St. Kitts Marriott Resort & Royal Beach Casino. All opinions are 100% mine.

One thing I want to do more than anything is take a vacation alone with my husband. A week in the sun, just he and I. No distractions, no obligations, just fruit drinks with umbrellas, swimming and reconnecting.

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The St. Kitts Marriott Resort & Royal Beach Casino looks like a beautiful place to visit and exactly what he and I are looking for. Since I am really getting into golf, one thing I would like to do is go golfing at the Royal St. Kitts Golf Club. Golfing next to the Caribbean Sea would be awesome and a once in a lifetime opportunity! After a round of golf, I would love to eat at the Blu Seafood restaurant. It has a 180 degree, panoramic view of the ocean! How gorgeous would that be?!?

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Valid now through December 20, 2014, you can take advantage of the St. Kitts Marriott Super Sand Dollars offer. This offer includes the following:

  • 5th, 6th and 7th nights free
  • A guide book

You have the following room types to choose from:

  • Garden View
  • Pool View
  • Ocean View
  • One Bedroom Suite
  • One Bedroom Ocean View Suite

I would choose either the Ocean View or the One Bedroom Ocean View Suite. I find the ocean to be extremely relaxing!

Discover St. Kitts Package and other great deals…if you are like me, finding the best deal is very important and more times than not, picking a package is the best way to go!

What would you want to do if you visited St. Kitts Marriott Resort & Royal Beach Casino?

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What are your Sensational Travel Memories?

Six months ago, if someone were to ask me to pick one of the five senses that I could not live without, I would have said, “my eyesight”. However, after starting my journey with essential oils, my answer would be, “I can’t pick just one”. You see, I never realized how powerful our sense of smell really is. It’s so easy to think that our sense of smell doesnt matter…I mean, who wouldn’t want to get rid of all the bad smells (like skunks…I could do without smelling a skunk again), but in reality, our sense of smell can trigger a memory almost instantly.

A few months ago, I met a few friends in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and we decided to have dinner at a super cute restaurant where the tables and chairs were porch swings. It was awesome! We sat outside with a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean and within 2 minutes of being there, I was instantly flooded with one of my first memories of being in Florida. You see, when I was in elementary school, my family and I went to Daytona Beach. I specifically remember smelling the salty air and walking on the beach when the tide had gone out and we were essentially walking out in the ocean. I haven’t ever done that since then, but any time I smell an ocean scented candle or the actual ocean, I instantly think of that vacation.

**This post is brought to you by Arm & Hammer. All stories and opinions are 100% my own**

Arm & Hammer knows just how powerful a scent can be and that’s why they have partnered with the National Park Foundation to create a collection of scents that are inspired by nature. This new line is called Clean Sensations and it gives your the beautiful scents of the outdoors, all while fighting stains with Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. The new scents include:

  • Sun-Kissed Flowers, inspired by Yosemite, California
  • Twilight Sky, inspired by Acadia, Maine
  • Purifying Waters, inspired by Glacier Bay, Alaska

I personally want to try the Twilight Sky!

Do you have a special memory that is triggered by a smell? If you do, be sure to enter the Sensational Memories Contest. You can do so very easily by submitting your story and a photo (if you have one) that describes your favorite memory that can be quickly recalled simply by your sense of smell!! The winner will receive a family vacation to Yosemite National Park with an expert-curated travel itinerary!! That sounds so awesome, doesn’t it?!?

Scholastic is also partnering with Arm & Hammer to help families with 20 great vacation ideas on it’s Smart Family Travel platform. This platform tells you why you should go somewhere, where you should stay and what to do while you are there! My favorite part…they have a printable section for each location so your kids can learn something about where they will be visiting!

So…do you have a favorite sensational memory? Please share it below!!!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Arm & Hammer. The opinions and text are all mine.

How to Plan a Last Minute #PureMichigan Vacation!

Summer is coming to an end and school will be starting soon (43 days, to be exact), but you still have time for a last minute vacation. But where should you go? You want it to be low key, but fun for the whole family. That’s why Northern Michigan is the perfect place for you and your family! I’ve already told you about some of my favorite places, like Sleeping Bear Dunes, but there is so much to see in Northern Michigan. Lucky for you, I’ve outlined some pretty fabulous places for you to visit. You’re welcome!

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**I had the privilege of visiting Northern Michigan as part of a press trip. My food, accommodations and activities were provided, but all opinions are 100% my own**

Northern Michigan Vacation Itinerary

Day One

  • The Music House Museum Tour…two men purchased an old 1909 barn and had a huge vision for what it could become. They renovated and restored the barn from 1979-1982 and in 1983, The Music House Museum was born! I will admit, I am not all that into music, but I found this place to be extremely interesting! I know my kids would love it there.

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  • Friske Orchards Cafe…after spending a couple hours at the Music House Museum, start heading towards Charlevoix, Mi and visit Friske Orchards Cafe. Friske Orchards is open year round and have many different events going on all the time! We had the pleasure of having a tour, tasting some wonderful treats and we ate lunch there. I had a cherry BBQ pulled pork sandwich that was to die for!

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  • Earl Young House walking tour…after eating all the delicious foods at Friske Orchards Cafe, you will want to walk it off. Trust me…you will! A short 20 minute car ride and you will be in downtown Charlevoix where you will see a bunch of unusual, unique and quirky houses designed by Northern Michigan builder, Earl Young. These houses look like something you would see in fairy tales. They are very neat! I especially loved all the stonework!

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  • Check into your hotel. There are a bunch of hotels in the area, I had the pleasure of staying at the Charlevoix Inn and Suites.
  • It’s dinnertime! I highly recommend Terry’s of Charlevoix. This is probably one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at. My steak literally melted in my mouth!

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Day Two

  • Grab a quick breakfast at Simonsen’s Bakery and Cafe. Be sure to try one of their muffins! So delicious!
  • Depending on what you feel like doing, you can either trail hike at Mount McSauba or visit Castle Farms <–my favorite place!
  • Hemingway Tour…you can’t visit Northern Michigan without doing a mini Hemingway tour! A lot of Ernest Hemingway’s work references his summers in Northern Michigan. It was extremely interesting to listen to the history of Hemingway in Northern Michigan and actually standing in front of different places that Ernest Hemingway visited!
  • City Park Grill…formally known as The Annex, Ernest Hemingway would visit this restaurant and sit in the same seat each time, the second seat from the end of the bar. This is where he would write down his ideas for his stories.
  • Check in at Stafford’s Perry Hotel…this is probably one of my favorite hotels I’ve ever stayed in! The beds are insanely comfortable and the rooms are super cute and roomy!
  • Twisted Olive Quattro…lovely place to have dinner! The food is absolutely delicious, but the view literally takes your breath away! I had a chicken dish, but honestly…everything on their menu looked really good! Definitely save room for dessert. You will regret it if you didn’t!

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Day Three

  • Julienne Tomatoes…out of all the different places I tried in Northern Michigan for breakfast, this was my favorite! It is a quaint little place with a homey feel. What I really like is that they participate in the Michigan Land Use Institute’s “Taste the Local Difference” campaign and they support over 20 Michigan companies and 15 local farms! That’s #PureMichigan, alright!
  • Pack a cooler and spend the day at Petoskey State Park and comb the beach looking for Petoskey stones…I bet you’ll find one!
  • Head on over to Boyne City and visit Boyne Water Sports where you can rent jet skies, pontoon boats, ski boats or fishing boats, go parasailing and participate in paddle sports like kayaking or paddle boards!
  • After you work up an appetite paddle boarding, be sure to visit Cafe Sante, located in front of Boyne Water Sports!

As you can see, there are so many things to do in Northern Michigan! If you’ve been to Traverse City, Charlevoix or Petoskey before, what are your favorite places?

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