Florida native Robin Draper, creator of the website AuthenticFlorida.com, received both the “Best Travel Blog” and the top overall honor “Blog of the Year” in the Sunshine Bogger Awards, a competition recognizing excellence in social media throughout Florida. Winners were announced on Sunday, February 15, at an annual bloggers conference in Orlando.
Draper’s Authentic Florida.com is a second year award recipient having received the trophy for “Best Food Blog” at last year’s event.
AuthenticFlorida.com is a travel and lifestyle blog devoted to the simple and delightful pleasures for Florida living. Draper covers many topics but the focus is always on what she calls “real” Florida travel, lifestyle and food.
“It is a huge honor to be recognized at this event, especially since winners were selected by votes from readers and peers,” remarked Draper. “This recognition inspires me to continue doing what I love.”
The Sunshine Awards were the highlight of Forum 2015, produced by Gotta Get Blogging, formerly known as FlBlogCon, or the Florida Blogger and Social Media Conference. Each year the very best bloggers, tweeters, instagrammers, pinners, and facebookers in the state of Florida gather to discuss the latest industry trends, hone writing and photography skills, and share information about the world of social media.
More than 600 nominations were cast, then a ballot of three nominees in each of the 10 chosen categories were put up for vote. A vote was conducted via the Gotta Get Blogging website in 2014 and winners were announced at the recent Central Florida Conference January 15th.
A Florida native, Draper began her award-winning website, AuthenticFlorida.com, four years ago. Her purpose is to share with her readers a deep and abiding love for her home state. The website and blogs are intended to inspire discovery of the accessible, yet under-appreciated reaches of the state. And the blog also invites readers to simplify – whether traveling, cooking, gardening, enjoying nature, recreation, art and authors, while discovering uncomplicated ideas for living in our homes and neighborhoods.
Draper is a columnist and writer for Florida newspapers and magazines, a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. She has been a featured speaker at conferences and event speaking about topics such as Branding Your Blog, Travel Writing, and Following Your Passion. In 2014 Draper received five Excellence-in-Craft Awards from the Florida Outdoor Writers Association.
Learn more about Robin and what she is up to by visiting authenticflorida.com, or by following Authentic Florida on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ or YouTube. Draper also has a popular weekly on-line ENEWS that features special travels, food and living topics.
I love the New Year. There’s something about new beginnings that inspire me. I don’t mean just a new diet or exercise regimen. For me, a new year is a time of renewal, providing a fresh start to living authentically.
When I think of renewing myself, I think of several things:
I think about exploring “real” Florida. Whether finding a new park, walking a new trail, trying a new kayak adventure or just being outdoors in Florida’s glorious nature finding places that have always been there, but are new to me. In Florida, we are so fortunate to have weather that gives us the opportunity to be outdoors year-round. Taking advantage of it is truly a gift, and an opportunity for new growth.
I think about exploring the back roads of Florida. I love getting in the car, or even riding my bike, and taking "the road less traveled” and off-the-beaten path. There’s so much to see and find in rural Florida and there’s plenty to discover once you set your “intentional” compass.
I think about cooking with fresh Florida ingredients. While wandering around the state, I get a thrill in finding fresh ingredients. Fresh Florida citrus, honey, fruit and vegetables from Florida’s local farms are such a delight. I love knowing where my food is coming from and I love meeting Florida farmers. If you don’t have time to visit nearby farms, consider your local farmer’s market where fresh products come to you.
I think about discovering a new Florida book, art or museum to remind myself about the talent of our creative writers and artists while enjoying the state’s vast cultural heritage.
I think about taking time to be quiet. Reflecting on the New Year allows me to become centered. I can do that anywhere, in my back yard, on my bike, on a walk or on a swing. I know I can’t renew myself unless I re-nourish my total being - mind, body and spirit.
Finally, I need to be grateful for all that I have and appreciate another glorious year passing. I also have to remind myself about what is truly important: kindness, love and compassion for others, authentically.
May you have a delightful year ahead. My best to you in 2015.
Gratitude gives me a joy for living. I am grateful and passionate about living an authentic Florida life. I am also grateful for my loyal Authentic Florida readers and friends. You give me inspiration and wonderful ideas for travel and living.
My short gratitude list is: faith, family, friends and Florida. My other list is really long, so I won't bore you. Like most of us, I have a lot to be grateful for. It’s about a joy for living, appreciating what we have and sharing our blessings with others.
When it comes to Authentic Florida I am grateful for
- Florida’s top quality state parks, preserves and wildlife which are so precious to our circle of life
- Florida’s locally grown produce, seafood and fresh products
- Native flora & fauna, especially food bearing plants, trees and herbs, creating a connection from the Florida soil to my home and kitchen
- The Florida outdoors and the ability to exercise year around whether hiking, biking, paddle boarding, kayaking, horseback riding or yoga on the beach
- Florida artists and authors who inspire us with their creativity
- Authentic Florida homes and decor – bringing the outside beauty into everyday living
All these deepen my passion for Florida living, while appreciating our beautiful and delicate state.
Thank you for sharing the good life in Florida. From my family to yours, have a delightful Thanksgiving.
Fall is in the air. In most areas of the country, there is an obvious change of seasons as leaves begin to change colors and drop from trees, the air becomes crisper and cooler, and sweaters come out of the closets. But in Florida, fall arrives in much more subtle, less obvious ways.
You really have to know what to look for to observe the seasonal change.
At some point in late September or more likely mid October an early season cool front will push through, bringing drier air and cooler, if only slightly, temperatures. The rainy season comes to a close and the skies take on a richer, more intense bluish color. The days grow shorter as the sun heads south, the angle of the light changes and shadows lengthen. It is time to get outdoors.
The biggest change will be the lower humidity. If you want to go outside to play this is an ideal time of year – swimming, tennis, golf, running, biking, walking, equestrian riding – you name it. It’s time to take full advantage of the shift in seasons.
Go Bird Watching
Birds from the north are beginning to fly to Florida, and points south, for the winter. Now is an especially good time to begin looking for hawks and other birds of prey as they return to build their nests. And they are just one species of many birds arriving.
Butterflies, Wildflowers and Beautyberries
As the heat subsides and you get outdoors, you will notice butterflies popping out amongst the flowers flitting around in the fall blooms. Florida is blessed with many fall wildflowers. The best place to see wildflowers is along the hiking trails of our local and state parks. Purple muhly grass begins to blanket the area, especially on back roads, adding color to the grasslands that have begun to transform from lush green to vibrant amber. Also adding a touch of purple, and a sure sign of fall, are the bright purple beautyberries growing under shady trees along the roadsides and trails.
Get Fresh at the Farmers Market
Mild weather in Florida allows two growing seasons for produce, fall and spring. While it is too cool up north, local farms here are bringing in fresh juicy tomatoes and harvesting our fall vegetables. Beautiful crops of broccoli, lettuces, peppers, herbs, and other delicious fresh produce begin to fill the tables at local markets.
The Fish are Biting
During hot summer months, fish can be lethargic, just like humans. But as the milder weather moves in, fish activity increases. Knowledgeable charter captains are always ready to take you out. Fall is the best time for the prized saltwater red fish. Big schools will push onto the shallow flats by the hundreds.
Get Out There
It’s time to open the windows and let the fresh air in. Whether enjoying a milder morning on the lanai or going outside to play, let us remind ourselves how wonderful it is to enjoy our authentic Florida.
I always try to keep things simple. Why complicate life? I have learned that by keeping ideas, concepts and routines simple, my life doesn’t get sidetracked with unnecessary clutter that makes me feel overwhelmed. Simplicity helps me feel grounded. And that's good.
So that’s why Authentic Florida is dedicated to sharing simple and delightful pleasures for Florida living. Through it, I celebrate and share simple joys for enjoying Florida, and the result is that everything becomes so much more meaningful - at least for me. And another thing I have found is that the simple joys can be really affordable.
As a Florida native, I love to discover the “hidden gems” of my home state. I also like to share basic ideas and “tips” for authentic Florida living. The following are some of my favorite ideas to help you find more ways to love life in our wonderful state.
Tip #1: Travel Florida
I believe Florida’s state parks are some of the best bargains anywhere. Just recently, I was visiting Central Florida’s Rainbow Springs State Park. We kayaked, swam, saw waterfalls, luscious gardens and learned Florida history – all for $2. Now that’s a deal.
Do yourself a favor. Google your nearest state park and go. Take a lunch. Take a friend or family and just go. You won’t be disappointed. There’s so much to do. Read a little about what the park offers and consider a hike, a bike ride, kayak trip or picnic, or just do nothing – it will still be an opportunity to take in Florida’s natural beauty.
Tip #2: Cook Florida
Visit your nearest farmers market, produce stand, or even a locally owned grocery store. Look for fresh ingredients from Florida. What’s in season? Unlike other states, Florida has two major growing seasons, Fall/Winter and Winter/Spring, so there’s plenty to enjoy from October all the way through mid-June. Florida seafood, fruit and vegetables, would be a good place to start.
By using what’s fresh and in season, you’ll find yourself in good company. The greatest chefs in the world always start with fresh ingredients, especially when they can source them locally.
Tip #3: Garden Florida
A year ago, I didn’t know how to plant a tomato. Now I’m a certified Master Gardener! Even if you don’t have a back yard, consider growing fresh herbs in a pot or planter. The freshness of homegrown herbs makes any meal better.
Tip #4: Exercise Florida
When it cools down this Fall, take advantage of enjoying a new sport that gets you out – paddle boarding, yoga on the beach, horseback riding in the pine flatwoods, canoeing or kayaking in the Florida mangroves or springs, or biking in one of the state’s 160 state parks. Trying something new will give you a new perspective on Florida!
Tip #5: Read Florida
If you read nothing else when it comes to Florida literature, do read A Land Remembered, an Authentic Florida favorite. You’ll fall in love with this endearing Florida tale by Patrick Smith. You can usually find it on the “Local Interest” shelf in your favorite bookstore, or check it out at just about any public library.
Tip #6: Enjoy Florida Art
Look around you. Find your community’s art center. Go to an art show, visit a gallery. There are Florida artists everywhere who create art reflective of our Florida environment. Local art is unique and special, and purchasing it supports our creative artisans.
Tip #7: Use Florida Decor
Does your home reflect your Florida surroundings? Does it bring in the light? Florida is special because we have lots of sunshine year around. Your home is your castle and creates your mood. Lighten it up!
And finally: Love Florida
I suppose living an Authentic Florida life has always been my passion. The joys of discovering “real” Florida allows me the opportunity to discover new things and practice what I love in all areas of my life – from travel to cooking, books to gardening, art to decorating my home. Even better is sharing my passion with all of you, my Authentic Florida readers and friends.
So, it really doesn’t matter whether you were born here, or came south to escape colder weather, came for a vacation and never left, or even moved here from another country. Anyone can live an authentic Florida life.
Are you living yours?
Robin Draper, Siesta Key
As a native Floridian, Robin grew up on the barrier island of Siesta Key, off the Gulf Coast of Sarasota. Blessed to have had a unique upbringing, Robin fondly remembers spending countless days on the beach, in the sun and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.
Once Robin graduated from high school and college, she joined the Peace Corps and found herself assigned to an island in the Pacific Ocean – Ifaluk in Micronesia, a remote culture without electricity or modern conveniences. Outrigger canoes were the primary mode of transportation, and home was a thatched hut. Bathing was in the ocean and rain provided the drinking water. Children went to school if there was an abundance of food, otherwise they were a part of the subsistence culture of fishing and gathering.
After two years overseas, Robin returned to the United States, married and moved to California. California was another treasure in her life, but she was homesick for Florida for 20 years. She and her family finally moved back to Florida only to rediscover the land she longed. Her childhood memories are of days gone by - but continue to inspire new and renewed discoveries. This website is an homage to Florida, the home her heart has never left.