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An Afternoon at Sarasota Bayfront Park Florida

I recently spent an afternoon at the Sarasota Bayfront Park with great friends thanks. Sarasota Bayfront Park is a fun afternoon destination with your family, or on your own.

sarasota-bayfront-park

An Afternoon at Sarasota Bayfront Park

Many thanks to #DriveMitsubishi who loaned me a 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage so I could get to Sarasota to see my lovely friends!

From tiki bars to playgrounds, Sarasota Bayfront Park is a lot of fun to visit. It’s got great views of the city, million dollar yachts to drool over and dream about, and a fun lunch destination. Almost every time we go to Sarasota, we spent an hour or more hanging out at this park.

Sarasota Marina at Bayfront Park

Bayfront Park is a great place to oogle the yachts at the Marina. There are always some for sale and it’s fun to guess how much they might cost and day dream about what we could do if we were rich enough to actually own one.

walking-around-bayfront-park-in-sarasota

It’s also a great place to hunt for sea-life creatures. There’s always something fun to see – a school of fish, fun shells, and birds.

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The kids love to walk on the edge which makes me a little nervous. I walked right off a pier when I was 9 or 10 and plunged into the North Sea between Germany and Denmark because I wanted a better look at the yacht at the end. Luckily, a grown-up friend was nearby and he was able to yank me out after jumping in to save me. I still get a little worked up over that memory.

sarasota-bay-sailboats

olympic-wannabees-at-sarasota-bayfront-park

dolphin-fountain-at-bayfront-park

The sailboats are beautiful to watch and it’s relaxing to walk around the loop looking at the fountains and sculptures. The bronze “Olympic Wannabees” Sculpture and Dolphin Fountain are so pretty. There’s also a fun park for the kids to play on.

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No kid can stay out of the fun trees. 🙂 They are irresistible.

olearys-tiki-bar-grill

And of course, I highly recommend heading to this park when you’re hungry. O’Leary’s Tiki Bar is the perfect spot to grab a drink and a bite to eat. We enjoyed listening to live music and watching the water. Super fun!

Unconditional Surrender Sculpture

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Not directly at Bayfront Park, but nearby, is the “Unconditional Surrender Sculpture – which is definitely something you’ll want to gawk at for a few minutes if you find yourself in Sarasota.  I’m sure you recognize it, right?!

#DriveMitsubishi

One of the really fun things about being a blogger is the neat opportunities I get! To make this trip possible, I was excited to test drive the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage. Since it’s a compact car, it wouldn’t work well for my large 6 person family, but it was a lot of fun to drive from Orlando to Bradenton so I could make this trip. My kids and husband were very jealous that I got to visit with our family friends for a quick visit. It’s not often that entire families like each other as well as we all do, but in this case everyone likes everyone. All eight kids and four adults get along famously. And I’m so thankful that Drive Mitsubishi made our quick visit possible.

The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage

#DriveMitsubishi Sarasota Bayfront

  • Starting at $12,995, the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is an amazingly affordable new car! An average of 40 mpg on the highway make it very fuel efficient for a non-hybrid vehicle and affordable to drive as well as buy.

drivemitsubishi

  • The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage has received multiple awards in the mini-compact class: “Best All-Around Performance” and “Best Environmental Performance,” and provides excellent safety features, a great amount space for passengers, and a lot of cargo space in the back. And I can tell you from experience that the cell phone charger is located in the glove box. 🙂

The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage

Many thanks to #DriveMitsubishi and our great friends for a fun day wandering around Sarasota Bayfront Park. It was quite a nice change enjoying the day with someone else’s kids, instead of my own. If you’re heading to Sarasota, make sure to head out to the Bayfront Park for an entertaining afternoon.

Sarasota Bayfront Park & Marina - fun place to spend the afternoon with your family or on your on.

5 Things You Need to Know About Iowa Pork Farms

Many thanks to the Iowa Pork Producers for taking me on an Iowa Pork Farms Trip in July!  I went on this trip because I think it’s important that we all know where our food comes from and I wanted to see a production pig farm first hand. 43 million hogs annually are raised in Iowa – the nation’s top pork producing state, and my own father-in-law was a pig farmer until the late 1990s. Pig farming is a pretty big deal here and it was time I learned more about it.

5 Things you need to know about Iowa Pork Farms5 Things You Need to Know About Iowa Pork Farms

While I see the outside of pig barns almost every single day, I hadn’t been inside one since when I was 20 years old.  In 1994 I took a quick tour of my future father-in-law’s pig operation. The buildings I saw on my recent #IowaTourDePork trip were not all that different from his, and I was interested to learn similarities and differences between his 1996 farm and the pig farm of 2016.

Today’s pig farms come in all shapes and sizes.

A large portion of Iowa pig farms (94%) are family owned farms and 39% of these farms raise 1,000 or fewer pigs. The Gent Family Farm that we toured supports three families by producing 35,000 pigs and growing 700 acres of soybeans and corn each year. Iowa pork farms use one-third of all the corn and soy beans that are grown in Iowa, which means the Gent Family Farm also buys crops from other Iowa farmers to feed their pigs.

#iowatourdepork finishing pigs

My father-in-law raised about 4,000 pigs a year until 1996 in a farrow-to-finish farm, which was a large pig farm in the 1990s.  I thought 35,000 pigs was an enormous farm, but we also met another pig farming family on our trip, the Brennemans, whose farms are even larger. The Brennemans have 25,000 mama sows at four different farms. You will find mama sows giving birth to 800-900 piglets every single day on three of their farms (so 2400-2700 total piglets born per day), and around 3,000 piglets are born per month at a smaller fourth farm. They finish some of their pigs themselves, and also hire contract farmers to finish their pigs as well. I can’t even fathom the scale of their operation, but I really enjoyed talking to them and learning about their farms!

salad at Pullman Diner in Iowa City

We were also treated to a delicious meal at the Pullman Diner in Iowa City. This restaurant sources  pasture-raised pork from Heartland Fresh Family Farms – a different type of pork production at the opposite end of the spectrum. We didn’t get to visit that farm unfortunately, but it’s on my list of things to do because I prefer to buy pasture-raised pork.

There are several different types of pork farms.

Nursery Barn - Gent Family Farms #IowaTourDePork

Not all pig farmers raise the same age pigs or even use the same raising methods. We toured two different types of pig barns owned by the Gent family on our trip. The first was called a nursery barn and the inside is pictured above. Piglets arrive at nursery barns when they’re between three to four weeks old, after they’ve been weaned. They stay in the nursery barn until they’re about eight weeks old.

The pigs in the nursery barn we visited were moving to a larger finishing barn the very next day after we saw them. So, we saw them at their most crowded. They live in the finishing barn until they’re around six months old and ready to go to the processor to become bacon, sausage, pork chops, ham etc. In addition to the nursery barn, we also saw two finishing barns that house 1,200 pigs each, pictured below. These barns are similar to the ones my father-in-law has. In fact, one of his finishing barns is rented and still has pigs in it.

Gent Family Farms #IowaTourDePork

Other types of pig farming include farrow/breeding farms  – where mama sows birth piglets. Some Iowa pig farmers are contract finishers which means they are hired by breeders to feed out babies but don’t really own them. We were told that being a contract pig farmer is a good way for young farmers to start their businesses because start up costs are a lot less.

This means, some Iowa pig farmers have all age pigs, some have only baby pigs, some have nursery pigs, some don’t get pigs at all until they’re eight weeks old. Most Iowa pig farmers raise their pigs indoors, but there are niche pig farmers as well. Niche farmers might pasture raise pigs or raise indoor pigs that are fed a non-gmo or organic diet.

Pig farmers are making positive changes to reduce antibiotic usage.

One big concern about pork is often the amount of antibiotics that it takes to keep the pigs healthy. I was very interested to listen to Erin Brenneman of Brenneman Pork, describe how her farms have been able to reduce antibiotics by providing around-the-clock care to the mama sows and baby piggies. Just as human babies need colostrum and breast milk to get off to the best start, piglets do too.

Erin told us that they have 25 people working three different shifts every single day to make sure all of the piglets get colostrum soon after birth. She said more piglets are born around 8 pm than any other time, and simply by having people assist the pigs born overnight, they’ve been able to drastically improve the health of their piggies and reduce antibiotic usage by 30%.

bio security during the pig farm visit #IowaTourDePork

Other changes that have deceased antibiotic usage include improved indoor air quality in the barns as well as increased bio-security measures. I was surprised to learn that farmers shower IN and OUT of their pig barns and wear only barn clothes and shoes in the barns {which they do NOT wear anywhere else).

We did not have to shower in and out during our tour, but we did have to wear two layers of booties and protective coveralls while we were in the nursery barn. We also were not allowed to have had contact with other pigs for several days before our tour. And finally, we learned that the pork industry faces big changes in 2017 when farmers will be required to work more closely with veterinarians for antibiotic prescriptions to reduce usage even further.

Patrick Gent - #iowatourdepork

Pig Farms don’t smell as bad as you might think.

Okay, pig farms definitely don’t smell like roses, but they don’t smell as bad as you might think, either. One of our gracious hosts was Patrick Gent. We sat outside his parents’ home for about an hour learning about their farms, and were very close to two barns and 2,400 pigs. Honestly, we couldn’t smell a thing. I’m sure they get a nice whiff of pig poo every now and again when the wind blows in the right direction, but not on this day.

This super family lives with 2,400 pigs in their backyard and for the most part, we couldn’t tell. By the way, I really liked this family a lot. We met mom, dad, kids, grandparents, and cousins. They let us in their homes, fed us lunch, and joked with us. The Gents reminded me a lot of my husband’s family and I really enjoyed the time we spent with them.

What happens to Mama Sow?

My pressing questions had to do with the mamas. As a mother of four myself, I feel for pregnant and nursing mamas, and I wanted to know about the mama pig’s life. So I asked. We were supposed to have visited one of the Brenneman’s farrowing barns to see the baby piglets and the mamas, but because of a death in the family, we weren’t able to at the last minute. We still met Erin, though, and she told me what I wanted to know.

Mama Pig gestates for three months, three weeks, and three days. She give birth to her piglets in a gestation crate so she can’t roll over and kill her babies, and she lives in this gestation crate until the pigs are weaned at around three to four weeks of age. Mama pig is ready to breed again via artificial insemination five days after the piglets are removed. Mama Pig has on average two and half litters of about 14 piglets per year. After about five litters, her production decreases and she’s turned into less desirable meat products like sausage and bratwurst. And that’s the life of Mama Pig. {I’m glad I’m not a mama pig.}

Food safety recommendations regarding pork have changed.

The last thing I wanted to tell you about pig farming is that the the safety recommendations regarding cooking have changed. In 2011, the USDA decreased the cooking temperature recommendation by 15 degrees. It’s safe to enjoy medium-rare pork and cook pork to 145 degrees followed by a three minute rest. That’s great news for those of us who want to enjoy juicer and more flavorful pork!

Many thanks to Iowa Pork for this opportunity. I’m glad I learned so much about pork production in my state and I hope this information benefits you as well. 

What You Need to Know about Flying Air Choice One Airlines

If you’re considering flying on Air Choice One Airlines or any other small, regional airline, here’s what you’ll need to know before your trip!What you need to know about flying Air Choice One Airlines

I recently had the experience of flying to Chicago with the North Iowa Bloggers courtesy of the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce and Air Choice One Regional Airlines. My husband is actually a private pilot, and in our previous life before children, we used to fly in little two seater Cessnas quite often. We lived in Okinawa, Japan when he got his license and enjoyed island hopping, whale watching from the air, and once we even went camping via airplane with two awesome friends of ours.

Mississippi River from the Air onboard an Air Choice One Airlines flight

The Mississippi River From the Air

I loved the views from the plane so much – it’s pretty amazing to see where you live from the air. I enjoyed looking out for the Mississippi River on our trip to Chicago. Some other bloggers on our trip were even able to find their homes! I tell you what though. Having kids turned me into the biggest weeny there is regarding all things potentially scary and / or dangerous. I’m not sure what happened, but I used to love reading Stephen King. Not anymore. I used to love watching Law & Order. Not anymore. And I even used to love flying. Not anymore – not on little planes. Not on big planes. Not really on any plane… I always feel like I’ve cheated death when I finally land, even though I know that driving is statistically more dangerous than flying.
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Buddy Holly Crash Site Directions in Clear Lake, Iowa

Are you looking for Buddy Holly Crash Site Directions? Located at 22728 Gull Avenue Clear Lake, Iowa, off a gravel road and in the middle of corn fields, you’ll find the Buddy Holly Crash Site, a memorial that marks the spot where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson died in a plane crash on February 3, 1959.

Buddy Holly Crash Site in Clear Lake, Iowa

Buddy Holly Crash Site Directions from Clear Lake, Iowa

I decided to check out this memorial after a recent trip with the North Iowa Bloggers to Chicago. Once our plane landed safely at the Mason City Airport, the same airport that Ritchie Valens’ plane took off from, I googled up the address and drove the 15 minutes to the shrine.

The Buddy Holly Crash Site Address

22728 Gull Avenue in Clear Lake, Iowa

But you’ll need more than the address to find the spot so keep reading for insider info on finding the post where the ill fated plan went down in 1959.

To get to the Buddy Holly Crash Site from Clear Lake, Iowa, you have two choices. You can hop on I-35 and head north, or you can head north on North 8th Street (which turns into Grouse Avenue). If you take I-35, exit on 300th street and head West, then turn North on Grouse Ave.

Buddy Holly Crash Site, Clear Lake Iowa

You’re looking for 310th Street off Grouse, a gravel road that jogs to the right. Turn on 310th Street, then turn North on Gull Avenue. Now start looking for the glasses that will be on the left side of the road. They’re easy to miss, as they aren’t that big!

I knew to look for these glasses – which you’d think would have been pretty obvious, yet I still missed the spot and had to turn around. When I saw the pictures of the glasses on the internet I thought they were much bigger and taller than they actually are.

Side of the road at the Buddy Holly Crash Site
Park your car on the side of the road and get out by the glasses. Now you start walking through the fields! The only reason I started walking was because Sara from Travel with Sara told me I’d have to walk quite a ways down the field to see the actual memorial site. Nothing near the glasses indicated I needed to walk or even where I was. I texted my husband a picture of my car on the side of the gravel road and joked with them that I was at the Buddy Holly Crash Site in case I didn’t return. It was a bit of a hike down a worn path to get to the actual crash site and memorial and a couple times before I got to the shrine, I thought about turning around!

Buddy Holly Crash Site Shrine

This is what I found at the memorial: guitar picks, quarters, a cigarette, and a small shrine honoring the three musicians who lost their lives that cold, fateful day in February. According to a very interesting article by Katherine Rodeghier in the free 2016 Official Clear Lake Visitor’s Guide (which you can request here), Buddy Holly chartered the plane to take him and his band mates Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup to Fargo after the heat went out on their tour bus. Ritchie Valens won a coin toss with Tommy Allsup and took his seat. JP Richardson apparently had the flu, so Jennings gave him his seat. Apparently Holly and Jennings joked with each other, Holly hoping the bus would freeze up and Jennings hoping the plan would crash, a comment he said haunted him badly.

I honestly never heard the song American Pie by Don McLean until I went to college. Or if I did, I sure don’t remember. But I have vivid memories of dancing to American Pie at the college parties I frequented with my friends and this song was always a staple. After visiting the crash site shrine, I listen to this song with a different mindset. Next time you got to Clear Lake, Iowa, you’ll want to head out there too. It’s a surreal experience for sure.

Clear Lake Iowa from the air

For more things to do in Clear Lake, Iowa head over to these awesome posts!

Also, request your free visitor’s guide here!

Sea Wall Clear Lake

Summertime Fun Kicks off in Clear Lake, Iowa by Sara at Travel with Sara

Clear Lake

Clear Lake, Iowa – Your Summer Destination by Joy at livinglifejoyfully

inked and educated mom

Clear Lake, Iowa – A Destination for Modern Day Hippies by Shari at Inked & Educated Mom

Have you been to Clear Lake or the Buddy Holly Crash Site? I’d love to hear. And many  thanks to the Clear Lake, Iowa Area Chamber of Commerce for organizing our trip to Chicago.