Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rollin' on the River

Since we live in the canoe capital of Florida (seriously, it's on the signs), we of course had to take advantage of this fact. So Saturday we headed out to the river. We signed on for a four hour river trip, and after a short drive and a scramble into the canoe, we were on our way!

I started out in the front of the canoe. But after five minutes it was painfully clear that Anton had no idea how to steer a canoe and there were lots of logs and trees in the water.

So we stopped briefly at one of the numerous beaches along the way and then made the crucial driver change. I sat in the back now. All those canoe trips at girls camp have finally paid off! The first hour or so was a constant game of dodge the fallen tree. There were alot of places where the only clear spot through was barely wider than our canoe. It was a bit nerve racking. But the river eventually widened out and things were much smoother then.

Alex didn't think canoeing was much fun. He cried for about the first hour. He wanted to get out and play on the beaches and in the water. Our brief stop to change boat positions didn't help. But we didn't have time to stop and play since he dumped out the majority of our drinking water five minutes into the trip. So it was now a race against the heat.

After a while Alex finally calmed down and went up front to help out daddy.

He loved helping him paddle and doing his best to fall overboard. It's a good thing daddy was right there. There was nothing we could do to entice Alex to sit down. He had to be up rocking the boat.

He especially liked perching up on the very tip of the canoe. Not a mother's favorite place for her child.

We let Ella and Alex have the front seat together for a bit.

Then Ella came back and helped me row. You can also see a big speed boat in the background. People like to water ski on this river, among other boating pastimes. I think it's strange to use the river when there is a huge bay and gulf right down the river, but to each their own, I guess. But back to the boats. As a courtesy they are supposed to slow down when passing smaller craft, aka canoes. Well not everyone was very courteous. There were a few times I was convinced we were going to be swamped. Stupid boats. Maybe I needed one of those tacky "Baby on Board" signs. Oh well.

We made it back to the boat dock safe and sound, if not a bit hot and thirsty. We did manage to collect a little souvenir of our river trip. There were yellow flowers growing out of the river all along the way, and we made sure to pick a few.

Their stems were really long, like 2+ feet. I think that was Alex's favorite part of the whole thing, picking the flowers. Ella really liked that her life vest had a built in pillow so she could lay down and take a nap. And mom and dad were just really glad that no kids ended up in the river. We had lots of fun, but probably won't do it again until the kids are a bit older.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pickin' Blueberries

So I know I promised a post about when my sister was in town, but somehow it just keeps getting pushed farther down the blog list. Maybe it's because it is going to be a long post. But anyway, you can always go over to her blog and read about it there. But I may get to it after this one if nothing exciting happens in the meantime. Not that her visit wasn't exciting. I feel like I'm digging a hole here. Moving on.

Yesterday at church a bunch of the ladies let spill about a pick-your-own blueberry farm that is just down the road. I love pick-your-own farms. I think it somehow makes me feel better about not being capable of growing anything myself. I get the joys of the harvest without the pains of weeding, debugging, watering, etc.

Yum. Blueberries. We actually don't eat them very often because they are just too expensive to buy. But at $1.50 a pound, the price was right.

We headed out as early as we could to try and avoid the heat. And by heat I mean the 90's rather than the "cool" 80's.

Alex didn't put a single berry in his bucket. They all went in his mouth. If you look closely you can see he has purple teeth. Though he seemed to show a partiality to the unripe ones.

Ella did really good at first. Then she just kept whining about wanting to go back to the car, or needing a drink of water, or wanting to sit down. She just wasn't getting the idea that this was supposed to be FUN!

Anton just went along his quiet way. He picked a lot, but I picked more.

Another picture of me!! You guys are going to get far too used to seeing me. I'll be sure to cut back. I was raking in the beautiful blueberry bounty when a small, evil creature decided I'd had enough.

A wasp attacked me as I was going for his favorite bunch of berries. It hurt like the dickens. And since I'm still not sure what manner of winged stinging insect sent me to the hospital in high school, we decided we'd better call it quits, just in case. So we paid for our 4.5 pounds of blue goodness and headed home. (And don't worry, it must not have been a wasp those many years ago. No hospital trip this time.)

We wasted no time in putting those blueberries to work.

Alex had berry measuring and washing duty.

Daddy helped a little bit. We made sure to measure out extras since we knew we would lose a few on the way to the mixing bowl.

Task #1, blueberry muffins. The recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook is the absolute best. Foolproof and it has a crumbly streusel topping.

And as in all baking, there was bowl licking.

I don't know where she gets it from.

Once the muffins were in the oven it was time for Task #2, blueberry jam.

Did you know the insides of blueberries are white? I discovered that while mashing them for the jam.

Some water, sugar, and fruit pectin later, and we had ourselves some yummy blueberry jam.

No jars for me. Plastic leftover containers are about as far as I go in preserving food.

And then with perfect timing, the muffins were done.

Don't those look fabulous? We let them cool down just enough so we wouldn't scald ourselves, and then dug in. Let me tell you, they were divine.

And they make your tongue turn blue.

It's a little bit freakish when your tongue matches your eyes!

In addition to polishing off all 12 muffins today, we also had peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwiches for lunch, and have been eating fresh blueberries all day long. Do you think there is such a thing as blueberry overdose? Because if there is, I'm sure I've got it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Greatest Show on Earth

As if we hadn't spoiled our kids enough last week with my sister being here (which I promise to blog about after this), yesterday we decided to take the kids to the circus. And not just any circus, but the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Have you been to a circus recently? Well, let me tell you, they are a bit pricey nowadays. Thankfully Alex was free, because we might not have gone otherwise.

And then, as if the ticket prices weren't bad enough, Anton decided we needed to get some cotton candy.

See that bag there and the funky hat? They came together. You know how much they cost? $12!!!!! I think that's worse than any ballpark hotdog I've ever gotten. Don't get me wrong, it was really good cotton candy, but $12? Really?

Anyways, on to the fun circus stuff. The kids were entirely entranced by the whole thing. You would never have guessed it was after their bedtime with the way they were sitting so still and watching so intently.

Look at him. So totally enraptured. And you'll have to forgive me for the quality of photos. I didn't feel like lugging the SLR in there so I was using the point and shoot, in the dark.

Everyone had their favorite part of the show. Ella loved the ponies:

Alex loved the elephants.

I wish I had been able to get a picture of it, but 2 of the elephants has stars shaved onto their butts. Very cool. Elephant tattoos.

Ella liked the elephants too, just not as much as the ponies.

Anton's favorite was the tigers.

They were pretty cool. I loved the white ones. The trainer was giving them all kisses when they finished performing. It was cute.

My favorite was the Chinese Acrobats.

I secretly wish I could be one of them. I would kill to be able to wear a spandex outfit like that and look good in it. We learned all about them when we went to Disneyworld last year. They go to special schools to become acrobats and it's very serious and hard training.

We also got to see trapeze artists (though I think the PC term nowadays is aerial athletes) and tightrope walkers,

clowns, and even people getting shot out of a canon.

I got a picture of the canon a split second before the people came out. Oh well.

And we all took turns wearing the silly hat.

Look! A picture of me!! We also spent more money on popcorn and drinks and a circus coloring book. You know those fancy spinny lights you can get at the circus? $20. Yep. $20. What has this world come to?

But besides my children's fledgling college fund going out the window, we had an awesome time.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Ella!!

Ella's birthday was the other day. She turned the ripe old age of 4. Such a big girl. We had quite the birthday celebration. My sister Andrea and her kids are in town, so they helped us throw a rocking party. And we partied hard, so just be warned. There are a lot of pictures ahead.

It all started the night before when us adults busted out the decorations and turned the house into an enchanted fairy princess castle. Ella had chosen to had a princess themed party.

Everything was pink and yellow and purple, the very colors for a royal princess party.

We even decorated the royal princess throne.

Every princess needs a royal crown and wand.

Daddy "helped out" with the decorations too.

I put the strip across the top to hide the decorative masking tape and ripped streamer edges.

After a late night of decorating we all headed off for a night of royal beauty sleep. In the morning be piled in the car and headed over to the local water park.

It's a really cool park with slides and kiddie pools and our favorite, the lazy river.

We'd been practicing with Ella on how to answer the question, "How old are you?"

"Four!" She's got it down.

We all got wet and had loads of fun. We got home just in time for me to assemble the princess cake. You knew there had to be a cake. And I know you are dying to see it. So here it is:

This was a multi-day project, and a really fun one. The bottom was chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, and the top was strawberry cake with vanilla buttercream. This cake had towers:

And flowers:

And drawbridges with birthday wishes:

I'm rather pleased with how it turned out.

But it wasn't time to eat it yet. We had dinner of spaghetti and bread. Ella is a big noodle fan. Probably not the most royal meal ever. I asked her if Cinderella ever eats noodles and she said no. Oh well.

After dinner I took Ella upstairs and gave her a royal makeover. I did her hair and put makeup on her and decked her out in her fanciest princess clothing. Then we announced Princess Ella at the party.

I couldn't resist taking her outside for a princess photoshoot.

She looked so beautiful and all grown up.

Isn't she gorgeous?

Then it was time for the presents. Ella was actually fairly calm while opening her gifts. I think her cousins were far more excited than she was. But she did get a little bit excited.

She got all sorts of girly, pink princess themed presents. She really wanted ponies for her birthday and Aunt Andrea got her a giant princess pony with a princess carriage behind.

It came in a really big box.

It didn't take her long to rip them all open and start losing pieces to everything.

But before the kids could get too engrossed in all the toys, we dragged them over for cake.

Four silver candles for my not so baby girl.

Make a wish!!

She almost got them out before I could snap a picture. She must not have made a long wish.

Then it was time for cake destruction. I let Anton have the honors.

It was kindof sad to see it disappear not 2 hours after I had put it all together.

And it didn't take long at all for it to not look much like a castle any more.

And that brought us to the end of our birthday festivities.

Happy birthday to my favorite little girl in the entire world!!!