Florida 2015

We are in Florida for our annual family reunion (a.k.a I-can’t-take-another-day-of-Ohio-winter) pilgrimage. This year, we’re staying in Weeki Wachee, home of the semi-famous live mermaids. Our piano teacher bought a house down here last year and is renting it to us for a very reasonable sum. My brother would probably prefer a location closer to the beach, but the house itself is working out very well for us.

There was, of course, quite a lead-up to the whole vacation thing. It all started with our annual nerd family tradition, the Pi Pie. We make one for Pi Day (which has become a thing!) every year.

Pi Pie

Most years, we actually get out pen, paper, and ruler and calculate the area of our pie, and figure out the area of a slice, and talk about angles and such. This year we were in a hurry to get on the road so we just shoved it in our mouths and called it good (which it was). But we thought about Pi. In America, because we write our dates in a ridiculous fashion that no one else in the world follows (Month Day, Year instead of the infinitely more logical Day Month Year), we got to celebrate Super Pi Day: it was 3/14/15, and of course we ate our pie at 9:26, except it was Central Time instead of Eastern Time because they had Music Federation in the morning.

DH took the girls to Federation Saturday morning while I finished packing the van. They had a music theory test at 7:30AM (!!), then each performed two solo recital pieces for adjudication.  S10 plays piano and her pieces this year were Mini Toccata and At The Carnival. She did her solo around 9. O9 is still doing violin, and played Hunter’s Chorus and Long, Long Ago with our piano teacher accompanying. They were done by about 9:45, and headed home for Pi.

Pi for breakfast

We were in such a hurry to eat the pie that even the photo was rushed. It was a good pie. Apple, of course.

The kids and I finished packing and were finally in the van, ready, to go, a little after 11AM. My goal was noon, so that was fabulous.

On our way to FL

We encountered a bit of drizzle, especially through the mountains of West Virginia, which is my absolutely least favorite part of this drive, but it wasn’t terrible.

Light drizzle but it's West Virginia

When we came out of the tunnel between WV and Virginia, the weather cleared up almost immediately, and it was smooth sailing after that.

Both music teachers called in the afternoon to report the girls’ solo scores. They both got Superiors on their theory tests (“A”), and both got Unanimous Superiors on their solos. Top scores. That was very exciting.

O9 took a shot of Charleston, NC as we whizzed by. That’s the half-way point, so it’s always very exciting to get beyond it.

O9's blurry Charleston

As usual, we stayed in Rock Hill, SC. It’s just past Charleston and out of the heavy city traffic, which makes it a good stopping point. This year, we used DH’s points for a free night at Days Inn. The property was older, but well cared-for, and we got a good night’s rest before heading out the next morning. They even had a little breakfast before we hit the road again.

Breakfast in Rock Hill, SC

Sunday’s drive was pretty uneventful. We got through SC, and crossed into GA for a short while. S10 got a good shot of the Georgia welcome sign.

almost there...

Finally we hit FL. I opted to take I-10 west to 75 S instead of the typical 301 cut-off, which makes you go 25mph through a bunch of speed traps. The shorter route is not necessarily the faster route.

Finally, we made it to Weeki Wachee.

we made it

The house is perfect. It even has a little pool, which we plan to enjoy the heck out of these next two weeks.

scoping out the pool

To celebrate, we played a bit of Scrabble on the lanai. Because that’s what you do when you’re in Florida: you do things out on the lanai.

evening game of Scrabble

scrabble requires pretzels

Tomorrow, my brother arrives and O9 and I go shopping for summer clothes.

Kalahari Day 2

Today we hung out at Kalahari with my mom.  In the morning, we made breakfast in our lovely kitchen.  I adore having a kitchen in a hotel like this.  Even though we are not really cooking complicated meals (like, nothing more involved than heating up canned soup), it’s great to be able to keep food in a fridge and have real dishes to eat off of.  Even things like drinks are fabulous.  How many times have you gotten settled in a hotel room and realized you (or someone in your group) is thirsty?  And who wants to drink hotel tap water??  What a luxury, to open the fridge and pull out OJ, or apple cider, or my new favorite:

Limonata

Luxury, indeed.

So, in the AM we made a little breakfast of cereal and toasted bagels with cream cheese, and fruit, and I made coffees for Nana and me. Then we went to the waterpark for a while.

At the waterpark, O6 was grumpy. I don’t think she slept well last night, and for some reason, everything was just wrong today. First she said she really wanted to go on Victoria Falls, so we went on Victoria Falls. When we got to the top of the stairs, she said she was scared and didn’t want to go. I made her go down with us on the raft. She got off of Victoria Falls skipping and happy. But she did the Jekyll and Hyde routine all morning.

We sat in the hot tub outside and caught falling snow on our tongues and hair. That was neat. Then S8 met up with her friend, S6, and they started hanging out in the waves. O7 felt left out and sorry for herself and hung back. I’m sure the girls would have played with her but she just turtled up and became my Velcro baby again. So I took her on the lazy river while Nana kept an eye on S8.

After a few hours, we decided to head back for late lunch and to get ready for the conference. We got cleaned up and ate a little snack in our luxurious kitchen: peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, fruit, soup, and salad with picnic crack.

And then the girls practiced their violins.

Practicing violin

They also practiced Nana’s new iPad.

iPad

At 3, we gathered our 18″ Madame Alexander dolls and their wardrobes and headed down to the registration area.  It just took a few minutes to get our registration stuff and schedules.  I picked up our t-shirts and tote bag.  Then we did a few cartwheels while we looked around for a gathering of 18″ dolls.  We found them hanging out under the stairs at the convention center entrance. There were about 15 kids and dolls and it was really cool.

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They decided to have a talent show. I’m pretty sure this was S8’s idea.

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This little boy had his doll, Rosita, do a little ice skating demonstration.

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S8 and her doll, Samantha, decided to sing. They sang a song that S8 wrote minutes before, called “Sing It Out”. She is in the process of writing down the lyrics and is planning to perform again at the talent show on Thursday. I did record it, but haven’t figured out how to post videos here, plus I’m not sure her adult self will appreciate me posting a video of her 8 year old self holding her doll up to her ear and singing a (let’s just face it) improvised song a capella. So I won’t bother. Let’s just say I think she’s awesome and has guts for getting up there and Singing It Out. Rock on, S8.

O7, of course, did not participate. She is in full-on Shy Mode, though she did sit in the audience and watch the other kids. And then she got bored, and started doing cartwheels, and other gymnasticky stuff.

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The doll meetup kind of petered out anyway when Paxton organized a game of Zombie Tag. Here is S8 getting some clarification on the rules.

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Basically, human kids run. Zombie kids do not run, and they are supposed to hold their arms out in front of themselves as they shuffle.

Every day I’m shufflin’…

O7 did cartwheels while S8 played Zombie Tag.  Nana and I sat on a couch and I worked on weaving in ends on my soon-to-be-born niece’s baby blanket.  It was very relaxing, in spite of the zombies.

Then we went into the ballroom for the family fun night, which was a mini carnival with balloon sculptures and silly games and face painting and lots of loud, fun dance music.  A lot of shufflin and Gangnam-stylin’.

We got in line for balloons.

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Here’s O7 watching this girl make her a puppy dog balloon.

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S8 wanted to get her face painted. She opted for a butterfly.

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She is holding her fairy wand with a heart on the top. Part of the handle came off when she made a particularly vigorous wave of magic. We happened to run into the balloonist on the elevator and she fixed it for us. Sweet!

Before heading up to bed, we stopped at the arcade and played a game of bowling with Nana.

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Back at the room, we called DH and told him about our fun day. Then we all played some assorted electronica (iPad, iPod, tablet, laptop) and went to bed.

Advent Calendar Day 1

We started using our Advent Calendar today and the girls just loved it.  S5 read a little poem I wrote, and O3 placed the star on today’s pocket.  Here’s what she read:

It’s the first of December!
Time to count down
to the day when old Santa
rolls into town.
Each number you see
represents one more day
closer to Christmas
and the big holiday!
So place the gold star
on pocket Number One.
Look inside for a treat,
then the countdown’s begun!

There were two little chocolates in the pocket, which the girls devoured.  They are really excited about tomorrow already.  I may have created a monster here!  How will I come up with 23 more bits of verse?  Better get working…

 

Advent

One of my favorite Christmas memories (and we’ll just ignore the fact that the last blog post was October 1 at the end of CSA season, right?) growing up was doing an Advent calendar with my siblings.  I remember we had a paper calendar, with little doors that you popped open to reveal a cute little holiday-themed picture.  There were, of course, 24 doors, one for each day of December until Christmas.  The last one had a picture of Santa in it.  I can’t remember now if my mom bought a new one every year, if she got them from church or something, or if we reused the same one.  But it sure did heighten the anticipation for Christmas all December long.

I’ve been wanting to make an advent calendar for my girls ever since my artist auntie showed me the one she made for her boys when they were young.  While the paper doors were fun, my aunt’s version was handmade, reusable and incredibly personal.  Into the pockets for each date in December she put little notes and poems, left clues for prizes, stuck in candy or sweets, and generally had a lot of fun helping her sons look forward to the big day.

Well, this year I’ve finally gone and done it.  I feel a tiny bit embarrassed about this project, because I practically copied it verbatum from The Purl Bee’s version.  But my plate is so full with things to do/places to be/ stuff to bake and make for the holidays already that I figured it was better to make someone else’s design and use it than spend all my time daydreaming about what I’d like to make (and never finishing it).

Anyway, here it is hanging up next to where the tree will (soon) (hopefully) be:

Hanging Advent Calendar

And here is some slightly better lighting:

Advent Calendar

The pockets consist of a 2 1/2″ square, embroidered with a number and stitched to a 3″ square of a different color felt.  The larger square is then sewn as a patch pocket onto the felt background.  Fairly straightforward, really.  Actually, my pockets aren’t exactly “straight”.  I wanted it to feel homemade and not in the least bit commercial, so I did all of the placements by eye.  I am noticing that everything sort of slants to the right as a result.   Honestly, it looks much better in person.

24 more days to christmas

Let the anticipation begin!

(By the way: thank you, Purl Bee, for such a cute idea. I didn’t mean to suggest your project was an embarrassment, only that I’m not the type to just blatantly copy someone else’s stuff… even if it is a free pattern!)

Okay, So It Wasn’t ALL Bad

This weekend involved lots of self-pity and wallowing-y moments, but it did have some bright spots. It wasn’t all gloom and horrors, no; not really.

Since Independence Day is our country’s birthday (in a fashion) we celebrated the way we celebrate all birthdays in this house: we had a cake decorating party. And how can one be gloomy when there is cake? It’s hardly possible.

There was frosting:

Frosting

There were toppings, in an appropriate color palette:

Toppings

There was, of course, a cake to be decorated:

Plain Cake

S4 commenced the requisite Taste-Testing of the Frosting (all-important, after my last fiasco with buttercream):

Frosting Check

…and the verdict is….

Licking the Frosting

…we’re good to go!

There aren’t many opportunities to photograph when you’re swishing frosting on a cake AND trying to keep your busy little helpers from swishing frosting on each other, the table, the chairs, the windows, etc. Thus, you must trust me when I tell you that we frosted the cake.

Then came the fun part. Toppings!

Checking the Ingredients

Of course, no amount of admonishing my offspring about saving the toppings for the cake could keep them from sampling the goodies.

Yum

At least they got some on the cake, right?

Taste Testing

Speaking of cake, they did a really nice job.

Fourth Of July Cake

And how could one have a birthday cake without candles on it?

Finished Cake

Yes, those are sparklers on the cake. It’s the Fourth Of July, which might as well be “Fireworks Day” in our neck of the woods. Gotta have the sparklers.

Cake Sparklers

And in case you think we aren’t cool or something, let me just say this:

Lighting the Cake

and this:

Cake On Fire

Yeah, Duff Goldman. Take THAT.

In other happy-picture news, I peeked out at the garden yesterday, and guess what I saw? A baby tomato!! It’s so teeny tiny, but it’s there! And my other tomato plants have flowers! Wooot!

Tomato Flower

And there’s more. Oh, yeah, baby, there’s more. Like, my first nasturtium bloom:

Nasturtium in Bloom

Nevermind that little bit of red lettuce poking up on the right. It was in my salad today.

Meanwhile, we have a wicked cucumber plant doing all sorts of acrobatics on the trellis:

Cuke Plant in Flower

Do you see the little flower near the ground? How exciting is that?!

Cuke Flower

Sigh.  Doesn’t that just make you smile?  It does me.  I can’t wait for all the plant sex to start.  It’s very exciting.

It appears that the secret to happiness- in my case, at least – is to set cakes on fire and film plant pornography.

I must be really, really tired.