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You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom: 4/3/11 - 4/10/11

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Florida Discoveries 9: Akers of Strawberries!

Love that name!  It's the name of our nearby you-pick strawberry farm.

This post will be about our strawberry picking experience, which wasn't quite as nice as The Vollmer Farm in North Carolina, but it has the Bellevue Berry Farm in Nebraska beat, hands down!

My next post will cover the strawberry jam I made out of about 3/4 of the berries we got!

If you're east of the Mississippi, chances are you've had a chance to enjoy some Florida strawberries.  Plant City, Florida is the "winter strawberry capital of the United States", shipping about 3/4 of the nation's berries throughout the country in the midwinter months.

Right about now the Florida harvest is wrapping up and folks are getting less Florida berries and more California berries.  I personally think there's a HUGE difference!  Florida berries are bigger, redder and tastier!

Can't you tell here?

I can't believe how beautiful these are!  Sorry, no smell-o-blog.
One of the neighborhood moms put out a Facebook invitation over the weekend to meet at the local Publix parking lot, and then car pool up to the berry farm. Akers of Strawberries is about 40 minutes northeast of Navarre, and it was a fun trip. I took a couple of the older kids in my truck along with Jacob and Timmy, and they enjoyed watching Return of the Jedi on the ride.

There was a Navarre area Moms group also up at the farm and we were invited to join in on their group rate, which was $5 per child to fill a small microscopic container with berries and then get a small frozen strawberry yogurt.  Here's Timmy showing the container the kids were given:

The berries were so big, you couldn't fit that many into the pint-sized container.

This wasn't as great a deal as it sounded.  At $1.50 per pound, and $2 for the frozen yogurt, this was more like $3.50 worth of product for $5.  Many of us put down the money without realizing what we were getting into.  Oh well, the kids were happy and that's what counted, right?


So...we picked out about 9-10 lbs. of berries total.  Jacob and Timmy, despite not really liking strawberries unless it's in Go-Gurt form, really enjoy looking for that perfect berry.

I was attempting to recapture a picture I took of the boys in 2007 in North Carolina.  
Good thing I was wearing a red t-shirt!

MANY of the berries had this siamese-twin thing going on.  Made the berries much bigger, however.... were left with this gaping hole that seemed like it would be a breeding ground for mold, bugs and other yuckies.

Jacob couldn't help but laugh at the "funny berries"

We filled up the two small microscopic containers and part of a cardboard flat with some HUGE berries, enjoyed our picnic lunch we brought, and then had the frozen yogurt.  I had mine on top of a strawberry shortcake (homemade shortcake) and it was one of the best I'd ever had.  I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of it.

Here's our stash of berries, about 1/3 of which were made into jam 6 hours later!  But that's for another post!

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Florida Discoveries 8: Kayaking!

How many of you remember this video from Sesame Street?

For years and years and years this was my perception of kayaking.  Being sealed into this fiberglass tube-thingy as if you have no legs and navigating river rapids.  And of course being able to flip around like this guy (allegedly Jim Henson) does at the end.

Last week as a surprise for my sister and nephews, we borrowed a 2+ man ocean kayak from our friend/neighbor/former commander Mike D.  This is different than the traditional, competition kayak that I was more familiar with (but had never done).

I'd been canoeing many times -- Girl Scouting, in college, in Louisiana on the Sabine River -- but kayaking is somewhat different, and in many cases it was easier.

The first day we took the kayak out to Navarre Beach, we were mortified at how tall the waves were in the Gulf (it was chilly and windy), so we packed everything up and ran about 500' across the parking lot to the Santa Rosa Sound side where things were much calmer!  We all took turns taking short trips out.

After my sister's family left last weekend, we took a trip to the beach again, this time so Dave and the kids could try out the kayak.  The gulf side was nice and calm, and we all got a chance to paddle out towards the dolphins!

Here are pictures from our two kayaking trips.

I believe it was a 130" long kayak (just under 11').  So here's how it looked packed into our suddenly-small-looking SUV.  Luckily we were only transporting it about 5 miles, or 10 minutes drive.

My oldest nephew, who was a champ helping us carry this thing around.  It's about 80 lbs. so two people can lift it easily enough, but it's so large it wasn't as easy as we thought.

Our first trip out.  My oldest nephew and me.  Thanks to my sister's awesome camera, it looks like she was in the water with us!

My sister showing a little leg, with her two oldest sons.  A younger kid could sit between two adults.  That's the Navarre Bridge behind them.

I think this is a great picture suitable for framing!  (Hint Hint Margaret!)

But THIS is my favorite in the bunch.  When I asked her to "SMILE", we got this smile that reminds me so much of our Dad's smile!
This is Dave and Jacob taking a trip out about 5 days later.  With just the four of us, we had to take turns with one of the adults staying ashore.  

This was out in the gulf, so there were more significant waves.  When Timmy and I went out next, Timmy LOVED when the boat would crash head-on into a wave.  Unfortunately, when we went out several hundred feet, where it gets really QUIET, Timmy got nervous and asked to go back to shore.

When Dave and Jacob were first heading out, Timmy wanted to chase after them.  This is about the point where Timmy realized that wasn't such a good idea.  For some reason, I just feel the defeat in this picture.

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Pretty Camellias

Today I was in downtown Fort Walton Beach to pay a visit to the local running store. Between the parking lot and the store you walk through a pretty camellia garden. These variegated ones caught my attention.

Enjoy!  Click the picture to see it in better detail.

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Florida Discoveries 7: Emerald Coast Science Center, Fort Walton Beach

My sister Margaret and her 3 sons were in town most of last week.  It's always really wonderful when my sister's family visits.  All 5 of our boys are almost like a pack of wolves, they rarely fight, and Margaret and I can talk talk talk talk talk talk talk.....

Did I mention we talk?  We were up till 1-2am every night they were here...

Ironically, the weather was fabulous for the 5-6 days prior to their arrival, and on the day they left, it was once again sunny and warm.  They were greeted with windy, cloudy days, complete with a severe weather outbreak on one of the days!

But that didn't stop us.  I'll write about our chilly kayaking trip in my next post, but for now I'll discuss the activity we did on the one day I took the boys out of school.  It thunderstormed most of the day, so we visited the Emerald Coast Science Center in Fort Walton Beach, which is about 30 minutes east of us.

It's a small operation, probably about 2 hours total to see the whole thing.  And that was with 5 very curious, geeky boys.  They enjoyed it just the same, they were especially interested in the hands-on activities, such as the bubble tables and the interactive health and anatomy areas.

Enjoy some pictures from our afternoon.  After we visited the museum, we met up with our friend Lisa who lived nearby.  By then, the rain had stopped and the boys enjoyed a couple more hours at Fort Walton Landing park.

Just off Highway 98 in old historic Fort Walton Beach.

The kids didn't seem to care that this "Hot Hands" exhibit didn't really work anymore.

Playing with the Van De Graff machine.

This was open/close the mirrors to make the mice multiply.

Timmy trying to figure out how the color lights work for this exhibit.

The bubble room was by far the most popular area!

Quite a face, huh?

The boys were having contests to see who could make the longest bubble!

This had the makings of a really great picture, except for the little ones having their eyes closed....

So we suggested they shade their eyes and this is what we got....

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