Saturday, April 30, 2011

And, Last But Not Least...

Our last field trip of the field-trip-a-palooza was to Canine Companions for Independence. This was our seventh or eigth field trip/special event in about 3 weeks. It's hard trying to shove all this in a small amount of time, but that's the way it worked. I didn't set this one up, but I was glad we went. Hubby even took the day off to join us. He saves a week of vacation so he can go on field trips with us. If we don't do field trips during the week, or we don't use all of his field trip days, we go to the beach for a long weekend. Either way, I say lucky hubby, but even better, lucky us.

CCI has five offices across the country. The facility we visited covers at least five states and focuses mainly on wheelchair bound recipients. The dogs are completely free to the recipients and the organization runs mainly off donations. The Busch (Seaworld and beer) family and Darden restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster) is a primary sponsor for the location in Orlando. They breed all of their own dogs, and do not accept dogs from the "outside". At any one time, they can have as many as 30 dogs at their facility at one time. That's a lot of clean up, if you know what I mean.

This is the family in front of the donor board. Lots of people give lots of money to keep this place running. I think it's fantastic.

 There is a dorm, complete with kitchen and living areas, for the recipients of the dogs. They MUST come for a very intense 2 week training. Part of what goes on is a matching of dog with recipient and/or family. That is one of the most important steps. Each room is decorated differently, but there is most definitely a canine theme. Can you tell the theme of the two pics above? The recipients stay for free, are educated for free, and get the run of the campus pretty much. Everything is wheelchair accessible. 

 This is one of the trainers, Jen, and she brought Cole III with her. All dogs are given a name by the corporate offices in California. Every dog born in the same litter as Cole that came to this facility has a name that starts with the letter C. Cole is a third, which means there were 2 other Coles before him. They were either retired or they passed away. Jen is not wheelchair bound, but spends a lot of time in one while training the dogs. It helps her see things from the perspective of  the recipient and it helps when training the dogs so they know what to expect.

 This is Cole working on pulling skills. Pulling skills can be used for opening doors, opening freezer doors at the grocery store, bringing a laundry basket, etc. One command can lead to freedom for so many people. Combining two or three comands can mean freedom to shop, go to restaurants or movies, and just a reason to get out in the world.

 This is Cole handing an item to Jen. They teach the dogs several ways to retrieve. That way, depending on the limitations of the recipient, the dogs can be even bigger helpers. Amazing to see the work the dogs and trainers do.

 Since the facilities run mainly on donations, this wall is part of their fundraising. You can purchase a tile, have it engraved, and place it on this wall. Some people have bought tiles for their dogs, their families, and even the trainers.

 Even dogs need to go to the park and play. These are two different playgrounds set up for the dogs. Funny to see big Labs going down the little slide.

 Ths is one of the pics that is put together using other pictures. All of the pics used in this collage is of the recipients and their dogs and families. I think they're neat, but not a project I would want to do.
 Charles Schulz, duh, is a sponsor. Who would have thunk it?

This is on the floor as you walk in. The big girl took the pictures. She liked this so I included it.

They even have a gift shop. Dolls that represent what they do and what they are about fill this place. Some of it's way cool.

It was a great field trip. I am so glad we went. They told us about trainer families. Trainer families get the dogs at about 2-3 months and keep them for a year to 16 months, depending on the dog and the training. Then the dogs go to one of the training facilities to keep up their "schooling" and eventually go to a family. A statistic I thought was pretty weird was that up to 65% of the dogs aren't able to finish training for one reason or another. Those dogs are then adopted out to good homes. Hubby, being the sucker that he is, picked up an adoption form. I am happy to say that he has yet to fill it out and I am ok with that. But, once again, they will match a dog with a family to make sure there is a good fit. I might keep that in mind if the paperwork ever gets turned in.

Our last activity was supposed to be a play yesterday. We didn't go since I have two snotty kids. We were looking forward to it, but I didn't want to interrupt anyone else's play by hacking, coughing, and snotting. So we went to the park instead. It's only a few minutes from the house if we needed to go home and nobody would be bothered by my snotty kids. That worked for us.

Have a great day. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Down on the Farm

Hubby took the kids Saturday to a hydroponic farm. I didn't go, but hubby is going to help me write this blog, so yippee! A guest blogger. I've never done that before. There's a first time for everything, I guess.

The place they visited had a 2,000 sq ft greenhouse. Mercy, that's a lot of vegetables. Everything is grown in the towers that they sell, but theirs are modified a little. The use 5-10% of the water that a normal farm would use. Everything is organic and hydroponic. The screens on the greenhouse are metal and have small holes. The holes are big enough the bees can come pollinate, but the critters can't have a buffet.

This is one of the towers. It's smaller and set up like the home version. We have one. This one has eggplants and an extra frame for support. They are made of food grade PVC and are quite genius. The plants grow faster and are super healthy for you. They did have a snack you could put together of lettuces so you could try before you buy.

This is the family. It was hot and sunny and I'm glad they were smiling!!

The pots that they have set up for their use rotate. The power for that is from this baby. Oh, how hubby and I dream of being off the grid. They are working on some other things running off solar, but for now it's just this.  
 This is our tower going up. Hubby has been researching and looking into hydroponics for many years. This was his opportunity to see a setup that works and try a little hydroponic growing himself. Along with the tower, he brought home seedlings. They were: green leaf lettuce, green kale, romaine, red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squash, watermelons, and red bell peppers. Wait til you see how big our plants are already.
 Up, up, and away it goes. The boy, the big girl, and the baby all helped. As did our friend T. T went with the family on the tour. He was impressed as well with the set up.
 That's most of it. We had seven sections. It comes with five and we bought two more. Quite impressive to watch it go together so easily. Even more impressive when it was done.
So there you go.

The best thing about it- it's American made. I don't get political here very often. I save that for the other blog. But this, I have to say, would have sold me on it. They had me at the sticker. Everything else is just a bonus.

We should be harvesting in a couple of weeks. You can grow a head of lettuce and eat it, from the tower, for up to 2 months. When have you ever had a head of lettuce stay fresh for two months? How often have you gone out and picked veggies and they just kept growing? Hubby said the tour took about 20 minutes and they packed a ton of information into it. You should have seen the sparkle in his eyes. He did get "debriefed" about how to set up the tower and was like a kid with a new toy. I wish it was a motorcycle, but I think I'm gonna like the tower, too

Have a great day.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This and That

I've been so busy posting about our field trips that I haven't done an update blog in awhile. It could also be because all we've done lately is take field trips. We've done school, too, but I'm trying to keep us busy and out of trouble.Good luck with that. Ready?

  • I'm trying to get as much into our days as I can, hence the field trips. We have had some really great ones lately. We have discovered these gems in our area that we probably wouldn't have if it wasn't for the trips. I'm trying to find as many of them as I can before we move (whenever that will be). I could kick myself for not going to the winery sooner. They have great festivals with live music every month. They have a grape stomp twice a year. And it's free. The only thing that would cost us any money would be the wine we buy. I could go broke with that. Since we wouldn't pay for anything else, maybe not. Find the little gems in your area and check them out is my advice to you. I'm just trying to make as many good memories for my kids of their friends and the only place they have ever known as home.
  • Hubby is taking the kids to a hydroponic farm this Saturday. I refuse to go because I don't want to go to jail. So overrated, jail is. I don't like the woman that owns the place. Hubby has been looking into hydroponics for many, many years, but hasn't really done anything about it. He is interested in seeing their set up first hand and getting some new and fresh ideas. He may also come home with a tower of his own. That will be his birthday present. And his Father's Day present. And whatever else I can roll into it.
  • School is going to run a little long for us. I like to start around the beginning of August and run til the beginning of May. Then we have most of May and all of June and July off. As long as we were done by the week of recital, I was good. That week was always so busy, the last thing I needed was more stuff to do. We've taken a little too much time off this year so we are going until the end of June. The kids aren't happy, but I have a feeling they'll get over it. One day. With lots of therapy. Just kidding. Maybe.
  • Easter is almost here. How in the world did that happen? That means it's almost May. May means hubby's birthday, mine a month later, and then it's all down hill until we get to Christmas. Time just will not slow down. Except for my kids that have to school until the end of June. Time will not go fast enough for them. 
  • Hubby and I have decided that wherever we are this summer, we would like to rejoin the YMCA. The baby did such a great job in swim lessons, but we want her to take a refresher course. We really enjoyed last summer. They had a great pool, friendly staff, and I even got to the point I almost had a love/hate relationship with the elliptical instead of a hate/hate. Almost. Zumba was fun, the kids took a yoga class every week, and many of our friends were members as well. 
I tried to warn you that there really wasn't much. Keeping our heads down and our noses clean, and I don't mean by hiding while we pick our noses. On that note, I'm out.

Have a great day.   

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Smell That?

It smells yeasty and yummy. It's homemade bread. And the big girl and I made it. We went to a bread making class that my friend G was having. G even ground the wheat. She taught us the difference in the wheat, which is better for what kind of baking, and we had great discussions about our health and wellness. We had a great time and we brought home two beautiful loaves of homemade deliciousness that was actually, wait for it, good for you. Eeekk! That's all kind of craziness.

 The big girl and G adding ingredients to the bowl. This was during the mixing/kneading stage. G is adding the last three cups of flour. The big girl thinks the dough feels weird.
 These are the big girl's friends, K (turning away so you cannot see her beautiful face) and H (you can see her beautiful face). They giggled and giggled and giggled. I had forgotten that giggle was it's own language.
 The big girl has beautiful long nails. Not good when kneading dough by hand. She did not like the way it felt under her nails. Took her forever to wash her hands when she was done. She did a great job with the kneading, though.
 This is the dough after it rose the first time. Look how gorgeous that is! I told you she did a great job.
 This is my friend C's bread after rising. Our favorite part, I think, is the punch down. Got an issue with someone or something? Imagine that during the punch down. Smile.
 When we got out of the van at the house, I said "Grab the groceries, leave the bread alone." We brought the loaves home to bake since they had to rise a second time. That meant about another hour so it was easier to bring it home to bake. The boy must not have heard me or mixed it up because he grabbed the bread. And jostled it since it was heavier than he thought it was. And it fell. Not much for one, but quite a bit for the other. It baked the same, tastes the same. It's just not as tall as it's sibling loaf. Aren't siblings like that, though? When I introduce Big Sis to people I always end with, "And, yes, we have the same parents." Other than dark eyes and hair, we don't look very much alike. Must work with bread, too.
Here is the end result. Hubby came home to the smell of fresh bread. He said he almost floated into the house like the cartoon characters do, it smelled so good. Can't beat that with a stick. Even if you could, why would you? 

I got out of making bread for a lot of reasons, one of them that I couldn't find a recipe that I liked. It seemed that to make a good healthy bread, it took years to do or the list of ingrdients was longer than my name. I'm Hawaiian. I got a long name. This recipe was easy, simple, and the ingredient list is short. I like the heaviness of the loaves when they are baked. I read somewhere that the healthier the bread is for you, the heavier it will feel. Even though the bread is heavy, it is light in texture. We destroyed half a loaf at dinner last night. So good.

If you get the chance to take a bread making class, do it. It was fun, educational, and we have the beginnings of a tradition that can be handed down to the generation coming behind us. Making memories while we make bread. Very cool.

Have a great day.

Monday, April 18, 2011


The last couple of weeks we have hit the field trips hot and heavy. Today was yet another notch on our belt. We went to a local winery and had a blast. We had 17 kids and 8 adults and a tour guide named Doug. We call him Dougie because that's what his sisters call him. This is Dougie:

 I have to say he was one of the best tour guides we have had at any of our field trips. He was engaging, he was fun, and that man pours a great glass of wine. Lots of knowledge and willing to share it.
 This is some of the fields from the viewing deck. The better fields were on the other side, but we couldn't get to those. This is a family owned winery. It is also the largest winery in the state of Florida. They grow mainly muscadine grapes and they make awesome wine.  
 This is "Big Brother". It's one of the harvesters they have. The have a smaller version, Little Brother, but he is old and slow. He also does not have easy to get replacement parts. They bought Big Brother and can go up the road to the John Deere dealership and get what they need. It is more efficient and faster. Not bad for $200 grand.  
 This is part of the bottling equipment. The storage tanks are able to hold 450,000 gallons of wine. In the immortal words of Dougie, that's a party. The sound of the bottles clanking together was enough to drive me crazy. I cannot imagine having to hear it over and over every day. Now, if I could sip on what's going into the bottle, that might be different.
When I scheduled the tour, I was told that since we had kids coming, we would not be able to participate in a wine tasting. Ok, a little disappointed. One reason we wanted to go was to find a wine that we actually like that doesn't come in a box. The kids got to do a juice tasting. They set up plastic cups of the muscadine grape juice they bottle and gave the kids the whole spiel. Pretty cool. We were able to go downstairs and taste several wines. So, yea, since we didn't think that was going to happen.
And this is just a basket of corks. I liked the way it looked. We all got to keep one for a souvenir.

I like the fact that the winery does not use pesticides on their vines. The only thing keeping them from being organic is the food grade fungicide they spray to keep mold off the grapes. That was interesting. In the pressing process, they keep the skins and seeds, called musk, and use it as compost for the fields. It has to sit for awhile because it is too acidic at first and would burn the soil and the plants.

Another interesting tid bit about the muscadine grapes. There has recently been a study that seems to point to the musk helping to correct Type 2 diabetes. They are doing further studies and the winery has agreed to supply some of their musk for those studies. I thought that was pretty neat.

After the tour, some of us took off to our local park for lunch. It was a beautiful day to take advantage of a great field trip, so we did. Hubby and I came home with an excellent Chablis, which I don't usually care for but really liked theirs, and a bottle of Southern Red.

We have a field trip scheduled for next week to Canine Companions. They train service dogs. That should be fun. And I have ideas for a couple of more that we want to take. We'll see how they work out. You know I'll post about them all.

Have a great day.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Indiana Jones..., In Pics

I finally got the pics off my phone and into my computer. I was having drive issues, but I figured it out. I think. I hope. Anyway, here's some pics:

The kids... 

 I think this is the coolest fire place. There were 6 in the house and they all had different tile work. The green on this one was so beautiful. The picture kind of drains the color.
 This is just a collection of tea pots from that era. Some are from the house, some not. I just thought they were pretty. They had one that looked like a conch shell. If I could have figured out a way to get it out of the case and into my purse...

 These are two of the flight suits they have from the local boys. The top one is the from the man that helped the astronaut, the bottom one is David Walker's.  
And this is the bed that Indiana Jones slept in. That headboard was 9 feet tall. They also had lots of stuff that belonged to him. The rooms are very small and the bed takes up most of this one, so they used the bed to display some of his belongings.

That was a really great field trip. Today we went to a play, "The Rock and The Rabbi". Go see it!! Monday we have a field trip to a winery. I'm working on a brewery and a couple of other things. Car museum didn't want anyone under the age of 14 because of the antiques. I thought history museums were supposed to have antiques for everyone to look at, but ok. Scratch that and fnd something else. I'm thinking something foodish.

Have a great day.

One Man Show, and a Band

A couple of weeks ago at youth, one of our leaders had mentioned a play that was coming to one of our little community centers. Hubby and I decided that we would take the whole family. We were half the group, literally. We went to see "The Rock and The Rabbi". It is a play about Simon's relationship with Christ, from the "I'll make you fishers of men" moment to after the resurrection. It is told in Simon's voice. It was acted out by one man. Like the title says, it was a one man show. Except he had a band. He had a really great band. The songs were sung from the POV of Simon and Jesus.

We weren't sure what to expect since we had never seen the play before. It was awesome!! And really you have to like a band that has an accordion player, a spoons player, and bagpipes. It was moving and powerful. It had tears in my eyes and my toes tapping at the same time. I cannot recommend it enough.

 Afterwards, all the performers do a meet and greet in the lobby. We were able to see most of them and they were very gracious when they signed the program and the CD cover. If  you get the chance to see them, take it.

Pizza buffet was next. We all trouped over to the local pizza joint and made pigs of ourselves. Ok, I made a pig of myself. I'm not sure about anyone else. We made it home with some day light left and the kids wanted to go to the cul-de-sac up the road. There are no houses and no traffic which makes it a great place for this... 
 And this...
Hubby likes the rip stick. It reminds him of surfing. Yes, I married a laid back surfer dude redneck. Go figure that.

Have a great day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chicken Pants, or Really Just Chickens

When we go to the fair, I do not ride the rides. That is not my bag anymore. I like to look at the animals, specifically the chickens. Like me some chickens. These are just a couple I got pics of.

 I just liked the way this one looked. I liked the colors together. It was just a cool looking chickie.

 This one seems like it's the rock star of the roost. This one looked more like it was furry than feathery. I wanted a pic of the one next to it, but I didn't get one.
 I like chickens that wear pants. Or, truth be told, I just like to say chicken pants. This one was wearing a great pair. I wish the pic was better. It just does not do justice to the plumage.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Fair and Deep Fried Goodness

We went to the fair last night. We missed the last couple of years, but since we may not be here much longer (I'm starting to sound like a broken record and I hate it), we decided to go. That and it's just a lot of fun. We all have our different things that we like to do. And it was educational. I have the picture to prove it.

 See, I told you so. We learned about the Ferris Wheel and the man who built the first one, George Washington Ferris. We learned this as my family was going on it.
 They are CRAZY! But we already know that. That bad boy was over 100' tall. Thanks, but no, because that means the darn thing was this high...
 Not for me. I am not a rider. My back and my stomach just cannot take it anymore. I am terrified of heights. That's why I don't wear anything higher than a 4" heel. I am the official photographer and holder of the stuff during our fair outings.
 Here's the boy, the big girl and hubby waiting for The Scorpion to start. I tried to get a pic of the ride in motion, but it didn't quite work. It was really cool. From my side of the fence. Bunch of crazies loved it.
And the Caterpillar Roller Coaster. The big girl offered to go with the baby. Good thing because hubby didn't want to try to squeeze his long legs into the little, bitty cars.

The tradition as we leave the fair is to get a funnel cake and a big bag of kettle corn. This year was different. We got two funnel cakes and a fried Snickers. I did give everyone a bite of the Snickers, but it was against my better judgement. Deep fried melty, gooey chocolate and powdered sugar and I was feeling very selfish.

We had a great time. We considered it field trip number two in a whirlwind of field trips we are about to embark on. We have two more in the next five days and I'm planning three more. We'll see how that goes. I'll post some chicken pics later. Love me some chicken pants.

Have a great day.