Fun Things to Do In and Around St. Peterburg and Clearwater Florida
For years I have been going to Clearwater at Spring Break. From beaches to Blue Jays the Communities of St Pete-Clearwater Area each have their own unique attractions and things for a family to see and do.
There are lots of beach options in the St. Pete - Clearwater area. Below are a few of my favourites.
Clearwater Beach: Voted #1 on TripAdvisors 2015 list of Top 25 US Beaches. It has lots of white sand, activities and sunshine. Sunset Fun at Pier 60 Clearwater Beach is filled with fun. Buskers and performance artists entertain the crowds, and along the pier merchants sell handcrafted items.
Honeymoon Island State Park: This lovely and quiet undeveloped beach is a perfect location for a family day at the beach, and always a favourite for us when the kids were young.
Fort De Soto Park: "Fort De Soto park consists of 1.136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys). These keys are home to beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, hardwoods, and scores of native plants." Although I have not been here myself I hear if is very nice.
There is no shortage of things to do for all ages and interests when visiting the St Pete Clearwater area. We always divide our time between eating, fishing, shopping, skateboarding and visiting book stores.
Tarpons Springs: I found this to be a lovely destination for lunch and an afternoon of shopping in the unique shops at Tarpon Springs. In this historical village famous for it's sponge beds you can experience Greek culture and cuisine. The Tarpon Springs Aquarium is another family friendly attraction option.
John's Pass Village and Boardwalk: I highly recommend a visit to this quaint village filled with shops and restaurants. It's a free activity to walk the boardwalk and window shop. I found the prices in the shops to be very competitive and perfect to pick up some gifts and keepsakes. In my opinion a visit to John's Pass for lunch, souvenir shopping, and a walk along the boardwalk makes for a perfect afternoon. Pirate Ship at John's Pass: offer another family friendly activity option.
Baseball Spring Training: 15 Major League Baseball teams do their spring training in Florida. The Toronto Blue Jays train in Dunedin. Be warned the fans are just as enthusiastic at spring training as in the regular season.
Jolly Trolley: The Clearwater Beach Jolly Trolley is a very economical option. It was always a favourite with my kids when they were younger, and was almost an attraction in itself.
Some of our favourite restaurants chains to dine at are Panda Express, Chili's and Smokey Bones, but the ones below are particularly family friendly and fun for younger kids.
Chuckie Cheese: This was a must do for years when my kids were younger. My only real issue is having to share my game tokens with my kids. Kids are sooo demanding. Be sure to do some online searches for coupons for extra tokens, or specials and deals. Chuckie Cheese has locations on in Clearwater and in St Petersburg.
CiCi's Pizza: This is one of our favourite budget friendly pizza places.
As you know "What's Good to Watch?" is a common question among my friends and family, and the reason I share movie and show recommendations on Cathy Thinking Out Loud every Wednesday (aka #W2WW). This week's recommendations are NOT for the kiddies, since all but one have an "R" rating. You can find all of these movies currently on Netflix Canada.
Sharing is caring, so do tell...what are you streaming these days?
Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about what to watch.
Note: I have not been compensated for this post, and my #W2WW, What to Watch posts are simply something I like to share with my readers. They are not specifically connected to Netflix, or my involvement in the Netflix Streamteam.
Finding Ways to Include Both Family and Couple Time in Your Life.
It's February which means February 14th is Valentine's Day and February 15th is Family Day.
February 14th - Couple Time
After 23 years of marriage it's easy to let Valentine's Day slip by without making time to express our love and affection for each other. The demands of life and time pressures often take priority. But, being together and loving each other for more than a quarter of a century deserves at least some sort of acknowledgement. Certainly after raising two boys aka Thing 1 and Thing 2 together we deserve some couple without the evil offspring. It doesn't need to be a big deal or something fancy, but it should be a thoughtful specific effort.
Being home-bodies who generally prefer a night in together rather than a night out, ordering take out, a couple of gin and tonics, and watching a movie or show together is a good fit for our Valentine's Day celebrations. Any show in the We Say - Sweet Spot are perfect options and ensure we both equally enjoy what we watch during our time together. Making time for Couple Time was much easier before the kids, aka the "evil offspring", but even so it's important to make time for couple time.
February 15th - Family Time
Evolution of the Family Movie Night: Meet my family: Me, Hubby, and Thing 1 (20 year old) and Thing 2 (18 year old). What the offspring watch and what we watch with them has changed since we first started our family movie night tradition when the kids were toddlers. Now that they're older I worry less about what is age appropriate and more about whether I want to sit through it. Never, I repeat never will I be watching Trailer Park Boys or South Park. Never are they going to agree to watch Korean rom-coms or Bollywood movies (actually my husband won't agree to watch those either). So I like to find movies and shows to watch together as a family that appeal to all of us. Throw in some yummy "snackages" and sodas and we have the makings of a great family night in.
Two genres that seem to work well are Comedies and Action. There are many comedies and action movies that have just enough humour, action and a love interest to make the plot interesting for all of us. I call these the "middle ground", and fall somewhere between South Park and Bollywood. Movies without overly graphic violence (for me) or nudity (Awkward! and best not shared with your Mom) seem to work best for family viewing time. It's not that we don't watch other types of movies we each like, we just don't watch them together. Selective family viewing make for happy family viewing.
Starting February 26th, 2016 you will also be able to stream Fuller House on Netflix. Take a jump forward in time to when the Full House kids are grown and dealing with their own life and parenting challenges, and that is where Fuller House begins. This sequel welcomes many of the Full House characters back, giving us insight into what they've been doing between then and now, and what circumstances lead to an even "fuller house". It's a great show to add to your "Family Fun Night In" streaming list and is perfect for all ages.
Whether as a couple or as a family I hope you find ways
to make time together with loves ones extra special.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Happy Family Day!
Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about time with the ones I love.
Note: As a member of the Netflix Streamteam I receive Netflix and a streaming device free of charge for the purposes of my Netflix Streamteam posts. All opinions are my own.
Also, my weekly #W2WW - What to Watch posts are simply something I like to share with readers, and not related to Netflix and my participation in the Streamteam.
As you all know, "What's Good to Watch?" is a common question amongst my friends and family, and the reason I share movie and show recommendations on Cathy Thinking Out Loud every Wednesday (aka W2WW). Being just days away from Valentine's Day I'm recommending you stream romance by sharing the rom-com movie Valentine's Day with your honey. You can find it on Netflix Canada.
Brands and Blogger Relationships: Dealing With My Disappointment
Hey! Over Here! Remember Me?! I thought we had a thing.
It's not often I question a brand's choices when it comes to who they pick as influencers, ambassadors or to work on a given campaign.Each brand has a vision for their overall branding, specific campaigns, and targets they want to reach. I understand that many factors go into each campaign, and there is no shortage of great bloggers who bring impressive skills to the table. But every now and then I feel disappointment in a brand which I find hard to brush off.
This post is not about a single brand or campaign.I can count on one hand the number of times I have felt this way about a brand in relation to my blog and blogging. It is not a rant, but rather a personal reflection and a statement that "it's just business, and not personal" isn't true for me. It is personal for me with each post, or decision to share content. I find it hard not to feel snubbed, if after willingly supporting a brand, sharing their content, and working with them more than once on a specific campaign I discover by way of social media I have now been overlooked for that campaign. It could be that the brand is looking to a whole new group of bloggers, or influencers in a specific niche. But Nope, that was not the situation in these cases. It could be they didn't think I was a good fit, but I have had nothing but positive feedback about my participation in the past. It could be that a different PR team is handling the campaign, but it's the brand that hires the PR team., surely there is some conversation about who has participated in the past. So I can only assume they have simply failed to see me, or my value. While for the brand this choice may be for a single campaign, my feelings about being included or excluded last much longer.
Realistically the bloggers participating in these campaigns or ambassadorships are successful, with a proven track record, and numbers I only aspire to have, but even so I think my long-term value makes it worth including me in select and specific campaigns. I don't begrudge those chosen to participate. I'm at the same time both happy for the bloggers' success, and disappointed in the brands short sightedness. I'm small but not invisible or insignificant, and besides I thought we had a thing.Wait! Did I just get the brand equivalent of being dumped by text message?! So I respond in the only way I can. I simply stop sharing or engaging with that brand. They won't notice, nor will the PR firm for the brand that has made the decision not to see me. It's unlikely that the brand or the PR firm will ever read this, or know I feel this way, and that's okay. The posts I write aren't about getting something or getting back. Writing it down helps me to take a critical look at what I'm feeling, and gives me a place to file those feelings, and move on. Plus it helps me to better manage expectations for future brand relationships, and these are all good things.
Blogging is similar to being a stay-at-home mom, in that it rarely comes with the clear and easy to interpret feedback regular performance appraisal provide. I do wonder if others feel this way, or am I just being too sensitive. I try not to think out loud about this type of thing because I don't want my expressing these feelings to be misinterpreted as whining or having entitlement issues. Although I'm quite capable of both of those it's not the case today. Well enough of that, time to file this under Blogger Issues and move on, because tomorrow is another day filled with possibility.
Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about my #BloggerIssues
Mom's Perspective: My Teen Is About to Take His First Solo Trip Abroad
In just over a month my youngest and three of his friends will board a flight to Europe.
Actually it's connecting flights in an airport I've never been in (and I've been in many) to a country I've never been to (and I've been to several). What if he gets hurt, or mugged or there is an emergency? It would take at least 24 hours to get to him. So I worry, because Moms do that.
Weighing the Pros and Cons to Each Decision: When he asked I had mixed feelings: Say No you're too young and hold on tight, or say Yes and let go so he has the chance to be part of this adventure with his friends and have his own life experiences.
It doesn't matter that my youngest child is legally an adult, all I see is a kid that's a work in progress on his way to adulthood.
So what if at his age I had gone on two Spring Break trips to Fort Lauderdale with my friends. Like somehow I was more mature and Fort Lauderdale at spring break was in any way about mature activities or experiences. But Thing 2 has always been independent and strong willed. He's not easily dissuaded, persuaded or likely to listen to words of wisdom and parental advice. That kid seems determined to reinvent the wheel at every stage of his life, and that kinda worries me.
The perspective is very different from this side of the parent-child equation.
You may not be here yet, or maybe you've already gone through this and lived to tell the story. For me this trip my youngest child is about to take abroad without me there to guide, help and be the voice of sanity is a first and a big step for both of us.
My job is to love, teach and protect him. His job is to grow, learn and eventually pull away and be independent. So what do I do with all my concerns, or how do I deal with the things parents worry about when their teen goes abroad for the first time. How do I make him understand that the majority of the world did not grow up with the same privileges he has had, and he is not invincible. That sometimes caution and a clear head are good options in a world where some things are out of his control. How do I get him to understand the really important messages and life lessons I have to share with him without being a hover-mother? I tell you it's tough. But I opted for yes, pressed enter on "book ticket now", and his tickets are confirmed. I'm hopeful that he'll have a wonderful time and make some incredible memories, without being arrested, maiming himself, or losing his money or passport. I'll keep you posted.
Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about parenting Thing 2.
I Like It Better When We Netflix Together ... Sometimes.
The secret to a lasting relationship is the ability to be together and still maintain your own identity within the relationship. Same goes for the shows we watch, some are perfect for watching together, and others are best watched separately. There is that sweet spot in the middle of the He Says watch this, and She Says watch this, that is the We Say watch this.
My husband and I have been together a long time, and back in the day long before streaming we learned to share the remote and give and take when it came to what we watched. Not that learning to give and take isn't a good thing, but I like being able to stream the shows we both like together, without the need for me to sit through an episode of Farscape. I'm guessing he's just as happy not to watch a 3 hour Bollywood movie with subtitles. In my opinion Netflix is a relationship saver, and peace keeper. It brings us together, while allowing us to retain our own viewing identities. It really does make me happy that my husband can spend his downtime enjoying a show he really likes, and even happier I don't have to endure it. It's interesting what our show and movie preferences say and reveal about our personalities. Even more interesting is how those preferences might even predict compatibility. I think you'll enjoy this infographic and the interesting stats it reveals. With Valentine's Day right around the corner why not stream a few romantic movies with your honey, or find a show both of you will love watching together. It could be the beginning of a very special showmance.
Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about the Netflix Streaming "Sweet Spot".
Note: I was not compensated for this post, but as a member of the Netflix Steamteam I do receive Netflix free of charge for the purpose of writing my Netflix Streamteam posts and reviews. All opinions are my own.
It's almost Valentine's Day and I'm not feeling all lovey-dovey and romantic.
I'm "Bearly" (pun intended) feeling like-y, and closer to no-likey, take a hikey. I'm seeing red at everything around me - including my husband.
There are rules to a happy marriage:
RULE: Only one at a time.
So I'm feeling grumpy and tired. No big deal right?! It happens to everyone now and then. What's not okay is the fact the my husband of 23 years is also grumpy and tired. The only one at a time rule means only one of us can have a mental breakdown, be overwhelmed or "grumpy" at any given time. I'm pretty sure it's my turn!
Each time he says something to irritate me, or sounds grumpy or rude I'm thinking:
It's My Turn!
Take a number and get in line for grumpy time.
Go have your breakdown on your own time.
Did you say something? I didn't hear you because I'm not listening to you.
Yes I understand I'm feeling the equivalent to a Valentine's Bah Humbug, but knowing that doesn't make it go away for myself or my husband. But I'm not worried. After 23 years and 27 Valentines I know it's okay to just go with the flow sometimes. It has nothing to do with love, or caring, it has to do with acceptance. Accepting that grumpy is not a reflection of how much we love each other. Accepting of each other with all our moods and ups and downs. Accepting that this will happen from time to time, especially if you've been together a long time.
Should I/We Be Worried?
It took me many years of marriage to let the little things slide in my relationship with my husband. If things were not happy in marital bliss-land I felt the need to overanalyze, rehash, and fix it. I had appointed myself keeper of the happiness for every aspect of our lives. Each time my husband was in a bad mood, or grumpy, or angry I assumed it was somehow related to me. He's a man, so it's not like he'd say: "Honey I'm having a bad day, but it has nothing to do with you. Just give me a little space and it will pass". That small but vital piece of information would come out somewhere around the mid-point of the Why are you being so mean to me?-What did I do? argument. (Full Disclosure: I didn't give him the "Honey I'm having a bad day" spiel either, but he just assumed it had nothing to do with him unless otherwise notified.) Turns out he could be angry or upset without being angry or upset at me. Apparently it is possible to just have a bad day or be grumpy and have nothing to do with anything I did or said.
In the first decade with my husband I took it personally.
In the second I was more likely to just ignore it.
RULE: If you laugh you can't be angry at me anymore.
(my husband made up this ridiculous rule - and now the evil offspring use it on my too! Endless efforts are made to make me laugh in order to invoke the rule Grrr...)
In the third decade I tell him "you're a grumpy old man, get some friggin' sleep and chill", which usually leads to an exchange of sarcastic but funny one-liners, laughter, a lightening of the mood and the If You Laugh Rule being invoked.
I think the source of the problem (grumpiness, being irritable) is very important in deciding whether to worry about it or just let it ride itself out. Why am I or my husband grumpy? Is it external reasons impacting a person in a marriage, or is it something within the marriage impacting the person. I'm tired, so is my husband. When I'm tired I'm grumpy. When my husband is tired he is very grumpy. My husband being grumpy to me, can result in me being grumpy too, and vice versa. (Note: in this situation the "only one rule" is immediately invoked, and it's my turn) Sometimes life is a grind. We have two sons, an 18 year old and a 20 year. Need I say more? I think not, because clearly they are 75% of the reason we are tired and grumpy.
I don't feel very lovey but I love my husband and I know he loves me. That is not to say we always like each other, or like each other's actions. We argue over the kids, money, and what to have for dinner, but I can't imagine my life without him in it, and if I had to pick someone to grow old and grumpy with it would be him. So maybe it's just low blood sugar, and all I really need is chocolate.
How about you, are you feeling love for Valentine's Day?
Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about chocolate and sleep.
The Fisher Price Great Adventure CDs (released by The Learning Company) were one of the earliest computer experiences my kids had, and this Wild Western Town CD is the lone survivor of that Great Adventure CD collection that included:
Wild Western Town
The Pirate Ship
Big Action Garage
We had the accompanying Western Town, Pirate Ship, Castle and Big Action Garage toy sets, including the All-In-One Adventures (mini Castle, Pirate, and Western Town). Except for these few characters which I didn't have the heart to let go, I very reluctantly placed the bigger pieces in loving homes, so other kids could have great adventures with them as well.We were big fans of both the CDs and the toys, and they became some of our all time favourites. In my opinion the Great Adventure toy sets and All-In-One toy sets are timeless classics which I sincerely hope Fisher Price brings back. No electronics or bells and whistles, just great toys that provide hours of imaginative fun.
How about you? Did you have any Great Adventure Toys or CDs?
Yep, just me Cathy Thinking Out Loud about great adventures.
As you all know, "What's Good to Watch?" is a common question amongst my friends and family, and the reason I share movie and show recommendations on Cathy Thinking Out Loud every Wednesday (aka W2WW). This week I'm recommending a new sci-fi Netflix Original, called Shadow Hunters.
The series starts on Clary's 18th Birthday, when she finds out some rather startling truths about herself and her mother. After Clary's mother is kidnapped, she turns to a group of newly friended shadow hunters to help find and rescue her missing mother.
New episodes of Shadow Hunters are being added weekly, but while you're waiting for the next one, why not binge-watch one of these series:
For me Disney World is a magical place, where so many memories have been made.
Disney Over the Years
I was in Grade 7 the first time I went to Disney World. It was a big deal, and the first big vacation our family had taken. Back then Magic Kingdom was the only Disney theme park, with Epcot opening a few years later. The trip took place over the Christmas holidays, and Santa brought me and each of my siblings a Mickey Mouse watch. Mine had a clear back so the gears could be seen, my older sister's was a huge wall clock that looked like a watch, my younger sister's was a cute red banded one, and my brother's was a fob or pocket watch.
It was the beginning of a life long love affair with Disney World. We stayed at a resort called Lake Buena Vistathat was one of the three Disney Resorts that existed at the time, the others being the Contemporary and the Polynesian. Each time the mono-rail stopped mid-trip 25 feet above the ground, it provided endless entertainment as we all immediately mimicked the automated announcement "Please take all small children by the hand and watch your step".
On our first trip with the kids Disney's Animal Kingdom had just opened and it turned out be almost as awesome as Magic Kingdom. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, in my opinion a fantastic choice for families with young kids. and had a wonderful time in spite of the fact Thing 2 aka danger boy fractured his collar bone falling off the bed he was jumping on. Not really a big shock when he become a skaterboy just a few years later. While at Animal Kingdom we foolishly bought a large stuffed Tigger, and realized moments after paying we'd have to carry it around the park all day. Before I could even voice my concern we were told it could be delivered to our room. It was posed looking out the window as if watching for us, when we returned to our room later that evening.
I love that everything from the luggage tags, to the waffles are Disney themed. There are perks to staying on-site like extended or early park hours, character meals, Tigger delivery service, and twice when we have gone at the end of August a free meal plan promotion, which was a huge savings.
When we returned a few a few years later I was surprised at how many rides and attractions the kids remembered when we returned a few years later. Thing 2 was only 18 months old on our first trip. The Tiki Hut apparently left quite the impression. This was the trip the Buzz Lightyear ride became an all time favourite. This was also the trip that marked the start of the Downtown Disney Lego store tradition. We visit and buy at least one Lego keychain on each visit to Disney. We stayed at a very nice hotel close to the parks called the Bohemian Hotel Celebration.
For our next trip to Disney World we once again returned to the Caribbean Beach Resort, for another wonderful memory making trip. Both times we stayed at this resort we were extremely happy with the rooms, dining options, service and selection of activities available right at the hotel. I would happily go back, and always check price and availability here before looking for other accommodations. It was on this trip we were introduced to the lanyard and collector Disney pin exchange. We had a riot with the Disney staff both at the parks and the resort exchanging pins and finding out which ones were limited edition or rare.
In keeping with tradition ... we head back again, this time staying off-sight at the Caribe Royale - Orlando, The hotel is very nice, but we were there at Spring Break and traffic getting in or out of the hotel and around this part of Orlando was brutal. We could literally walk faster than the traffic was moving. So if you plan on going out for meals or to theme parks, we found it very frustrating. Also local calls and wi-fi were not included in the cost of the room. In general that is a deal breaker for me, but this trip was planned last minute so our options were somewhat limited.
Yep, back again! This time staying at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace an Official Walt Disney World Hotel located directly across the street from Downtown Disney. The hotel is beautiful and service and room were great, and we loved everything about it except the unexpected resort fee of $22.50 US per night. We were informed about this mandatory resort fee at the time of check-in. I gather this is quite common for Orlando hotels now but multiply that by 7 nights and it adds up. The resort fee included free local calls, internet and park shuttle service, but personally I find fees like that sneaky. If I don't have a choice add it to the price and show me the true cost so I can budget accordingly. We did used the shuttle bus to the parks for the first time ever and that was convenient, easy and included in the cost of the room. Each evening we walked over to Downtown Disney for dinner,a visit to the LEGO store, to shop and take in the many activities and performances. We have been stayed at Disney twice at the end of August, and found that time of year has some of the lowest of the year, and in the past have had free meal plan promotion at this time of year. In my opinion staying on-site at a Disney Resort when the kids are young makes everything easier and worth the paying a bit more. The perks, and promotions they often can make it the same cost overall. Certainly the free meal plan makes for substantial savings My wish is that everyone gets the chance to experience the magic of Disney at least once in their life, because you're never too old for Disney.
Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about the happiest place on earth.
Note: I have not been compensated for this post. The purpose of this post is merely to share my experiences with my readers.