Thursday, July 30, 2009

Back from FLA: Snorkeling at Key Largo

Hi everybody! We are back from Florida. Yay! I'm still waiting on various family members to e-mail pictures, but I've got underwater pics from Saturday when we went snorkeling.We flew down last Wednesday and came home this Tuesday, spent three days at our Gramma's house and three days at our aunt and uncle's house.
(Just click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.)

We got up on Saturday morning at 5:30a.m. to head out to Key Largo to John Pennecamp Park. Uncle Jack had reservations on the 9:00a.m. boat, and it was a two-hour drive down to the park. Uncle Jack took the two of us and three of our cousins, Janeen, Brian and Kelly, so we loaded up their big van with dry clothes, food and drinks and "headed out"! Of course, we stopped at Dunkin' Donuts on the way. That's the first time that we'd ever been to one --- very cool! I had a fantastic coffee cake muffin . . . anyway, on with the story. :)

We arrived at John Pennecamp four minutes before the park opened, but there was a line all the way down the highway, so we had a bit of a wait once we got inside. Good thing Uncle Jack had reservations! We rented masks and fins and bought some snorkels. Cool. We all loaded up with sunscreen --- Janeen and the two of us covered ourselves in three different kinds of the stuff, just to be sure. ;)

Our boat was called "Endeavor". It was white, had two decks, and a two-man crew. On the way to the reef, Janeen and the two of us rode in the closed bow, but on the way back all six of us rode up on the top deck. Only twelve people were allowed up there at any one time. The reef where we were going to snorkel was five miles out, so it was a nice half-hour boat ride. When we arrived, Janeen and the two of us took the class on the "dos and don'ts" of snorkeling. Uncle Jack, Brian and Kelly had already done this before, so they got in the water.

The three of us girls decided to be each others' snorkeling buddies, so we set out with our underwater camera and started swimming. Uncle Jack took us over to see the statue of Jesus that the park put into the reef years ago. That was cool. There were two scuba divers down there, but unfortunately, we didn't get a picture.

We saw an Eagle Ray almost right off the bat. That is a huge kind of sting ray that has spots all over it. Its tail must have been five or six feet long!

We also saw a baby turtle. It was all spotted too, and just swam along right under us for a long time. Janeen was thrilled, as turtles are her favorite. Here is a picture of the little turtle. We saw a big one just as we were heading back to the boat, but I can't see that we've got a picture of it.

My favorite fish were were the purple tangs! Brian saw a barracuda, but there weren't many of those out that morning. After an hour and a half of snorkeling (which really only seemed like 45 minutes) they called us back to the boat. It had been thundering in the distance for probably half the time, so we had stayed close enough to the boat that it wouldn't take us long to swim back. We all took our gear off and tried to drip-dry a little as we headed up to the top deck for the ride home. What was really cool was that a pod of dolphins came and was jumping all over in the wake of the boat! That was so neat! That was also Elizabeth's favorite part.

Once we were back on shore it was time to turn in our rental gear. They had big troughs of clean water for you to rinse your masks and fins in, then we turned them in at the little rental hut. Uncle Jack headed over to the showers while the five of us went back to the van to get the bags of dry clothes. There were little showers outside where you rinsed off and shampoo-ed in your bathing suit and then dressing rooms where you changed. No problem. So, we all trudge to van, dig out the bags and head back through the parking lot. Suddenly, everything went totally quiet . . . then this really, really, really, really, really loud noise. It sounded like huge fireworks. Then these little round, white lights started dancing in the sky right above us. We were all standing in the middle of the parking lot covering our heads with our hands and bags. Then, we heard it. A huge crack followed the fireworks noise --- it was a gigantic bolt of lightening right above our heads. Our hair was standing up and everybody's eyes were big and round. Kelly took it fine, but the four of us "grown ones" looked at each other and started yelling "run"!!! We took off as fast as we could go in our soaked bathing suits, t-shirts and flip flops as we were carrying our beach bags. Needless to say, nobody took a shower! We practically jumped into our dry clothes, ran to the van and headed home.

All together, it was a really cool experience. We were all pretty quiet on the ride home. We had packed sandwiches and drinks, so we ate and just kind of watched the scenery out the window. It rained the whole time, but after almost being struck by lightening . . . nothing seemed bad!

That night, Mom and the two of us drove to Miami to visit Dad's family, but I'll write about that in another entry. I've got pictures coming from our aunt, so as soon as I've got those, I'll post them. :) 'Til later . . .

Monday, July 20, 2009

That "One Small Step" from 40 Years Ago!

Wow! It's been forty years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the Moon for the first time! I can't believe it. 1969 seems so . . . recent. After all, most of the history that I read about is from 1769. :o Or WWII . . . but the Sixties is so new. :) If you want to know more about the space program, take a look at our "Space" page on Beyond Curricula.

Well, Mom's family has gotten tickets for Mom and the two of us girls to go to Florida for a nice vacation. We're leaving day after tomorrow and I can hardly wait!! Our uncle is going to take a bunch of us cousins snorkeling --- that's a first for the two of us, so I think it will be really fun.

I'm hoping to have a bunch of pictures when we come back. Maybe even some under water ones! We've been doing eveyday kind of things around here. Dad and I were out mowing the lawn this weekend. The weather this Summer has been great, but our grass looks terrible and is hardly growing. It's all weeds and mole hills.

Check out this new video that Elizabeth updated to my youtube channel. It's one of our favorite Bing Crosby songs. She's also been uploading some opera clips to her channel. She's got an opera blog now, so you can check that out HERE.

We went to a fabulous garage sale last weekend that had bins and bins full of baby clothes where everything was $.25/ea. I ended up with two laundry loads of baby things. The little overalls were especially cute when they were hanging on the line! :) We've got a pretty good collection now of both girl and boy things now.

Hope everyone has fun. We'll be in sunny Florida for a week,
so "talk to ya'" later . . .

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Applesauce Spice Cake

Well, I tried a new recipe this week and it turned out so well that I thought I'd share it with all of you. It was actually a recipe from the side of a cake mix box: Old Fashioned Applesauce Spice Cake. It is very rich, so don't cut too large a slice, but it's fantastic! Here are some pics and the recipe.

1 package Spice Cake Mix
3 large eggs (I used three large egg whites)
1-1/4 cups applesauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped nuts

1 container Vanilla or Cream Cheese frosting
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 13x9 inch pan.
Combine cake mix, eggs, applesauce and oil in large bowl.
Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in nuts.
Pour into pan. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Invert onto coolng rack. Turn right-side up. Cool completely.

For frosting, combine frosting and cinnamon (I put in a little extra cinnamon). Stir until blended. Spread over cooled cake.

I added coconut and nuts to the top of the cake and between the two layers --- definitely a nice touch. The cocnut adds a nice flavor. Also, I used about two cups of applesauce instead of the 1-1/4 cups that is called for. Have fun!

Monday, July 6, 2009

What is 'Little Kumquat' up to?

Well, here it is: another entry after a long week. Boy, have we been busy! We've decided to "dig in" to some belated Spring cleaning, so we are working through the house, tearing rooms apart, washing things, dusting and putting everything back together.

Elizabeth and I had our birthday last week, so we spent a nice day visiting a local antique store and digging through old records. Elizabeth has a big collection of 33s and I've got a bunch of 78s, so we love any chance we get to find more. We also went out to Dinner at Panera. That's our favorite restaurant. Gramma gave me a really cool present: her charm bracelet! I'll post a seperate entry about that later (with pictures).

One day last week, I packed up a bunch of baby things that we've collected and put them in the attic. We're pretty set for girl things now, and almost there on boys' things. This is a picture of the box of little boys' clothes. Aren't they the cutest things?! I even got a dinosaur shirt and a dinosaur jacket. Also, there is a really cute outfit with shorts and an alligator t-shirt.

Guys came and buried our Internet cable underground. Yay! Now it shouldn't blow around during storms. We also have five hummingbirds that have adopted our feeder. Wow, are they hungry! They eat all of the syrup that fits in the feeder in one day!

Yesterday, we spent the day with friends and had a great time. We've grown up with them, so we always have fun stuff to talk about. Today we're going grocery shopping as we seem to be out of everything --- just kidding. :) After several late nights, grocery shopping is probably about all we're up to! More later . . .