Friday, July 1, 2011

Jungle Adventures

Interesting roadside attractions aren't as common as they used to be.  We're lucky to have one less than an hour from our house: Jungle Adventures Nature Park.  Papa Kevin and I took Bren for her first visit a couple weeks ago.

For a small park, they pack in a ton of entertainment and education!  Their website, , gives a great description of what they offer:

"Real Real as it Gets!
Jungle Adventures Nature Animal Park is the natural habitat jungle home of our famous 200 foot long roadside wonder, Swampy, the World's Largest Alligator. Come and experience Live Guided Wildlife Encounters with Rare Florida Panthers, Black Bears, Gray Wolves, White-Tailed Deer, Tropical Birds, Reptiles and Mammals. Take a Jungle Swamp Cruise and be surrounded by more than Two Hundred Alligators. They'll come chompin' and you'll come stompin' to our Jumpin' Gator Jamboree Gator Feeding. See how Spanish Conquistadores lived in the 16th Century at our Replica Spanish Fort and go on a Live Guided Exploration of our Native American Indian Village Replica. It's all so close to civilization...yet still a world apart."

We began our tour at the Indian Village Replica.  Safari Todd was our guide and I'm pretty sure he's a walking encyclopedia of all things Florida.

His lecture was fast paced and entertaining.  I love when Bren is having fun and learning, but doesn't even realize education is involved. (you will be surprised when you find out the height of our native population!)

After our tour of the Indian village, Safari Todd went to get lunch ready for the alligators and we went to look at some of their other animals. 

I really like their system for feeding the animals.  There is a tube from the railing where you are standing that runs into the animal's cage.  You're actually feeding them instead of throwing things at them!  Bren's favorite was the macaque.  It had a great personality and seemed to enjoy the interaction with people.

Soon it was time to see the alligator feeding.  Having spent most of my life in Florida, this was something I'd seen before.  I'd just never seen it like this: He gets in the water with them!!!!!  He promised us some good pictures if it went well, and some even better ones if it didn't!

After we watched Safari Todd not get eaten, we took a boat ride around the park.  The views were beautiful.

During our last show of the day, we got some hands on time with the animals.  Each person gets to hold a baby alligator and have their picture taken.  They turn your pictures into a magnet that you can purchase.  The proceeds go to fund their educational programs.  Ours made a lovely addition to the picture collection on the refrigerator.  After the alligator, you can take as many pictures as you'd like.

I even (in the spirit of education and not wanting to look like a sissy in front of my child) held a tarantula!

Safari Todd told us about the non-native animals living wild in Florida and the negative impact they have on our ecosystem.  I was a little nervous to learn that he had helped remove a very large python about 2 miles from our house!  (I now look for little & big snakes in the yard)

Bren's favorite activity of the day was feeding the baby alligators.  She loves fishing, so this version was right up her alley.  You put pieces of hot dog on a "fishing rod", lower them into the water and watch the little guys go. 

We really enjoyed our day at Jungle Adventures.  Safari Todd was an excellent guide (Bren loves meeting people who can answer all her questions).  I would definitely recommend a visit to any locals who haven't been yet (or like me since elementary school)and those visiting the sunshine state.  I'm planning on fitting a return visit into our home school curriculum next year.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

I love canning. 

Not because it's a family tradition or that we live somewhere that requires huge stocks of food for the winter. 

I taught myself and we live in Florida. 

There are only a few weeks a year that are too chilly to wear flip flops to the grocery store.

What I love is the combination of cooking and magic that can turn this:

into beautiful preserves, pie filling or like I did today, strawberry lemonade concentrate.

This is the first time I have ever used this recipe.  I found it on the Ball (a brand of jars) website. (

We don't drink alot of sweetened juice so I decided to cut the recipe by half.  I think this would be a good starting project for anyone wanting to try out their canning skills.  With only 3 ingredients and no pectin required, it's the easiest one I've seen.

First gather your ingredients.  You will need strawberries, lemons and sugar.

Heat your jars and lids in simmering (not boiling water) to steralize them. 

I put mine on a clean dishtowel until I'm ready for them.

Now squeeze enough lemons until you have 2 cups of juice.

Wash your strawberries and remove their tops.  Place 3 cups of strawberries in your blender.

Blend until nice and smooth.

Pour your liquid stawberries into a large pot.  Add your lemon juice and 3 cups of sugar.  Turn on the heat and stir.  Continue on medium-high until your mixture reaches 190 degrees.

Remove from the stove and skim the foam off the top with a large spoon.  I put my foam directly into a cup for a taste test.

Now it's time to ladel your concentrate into jars.  Because I made 1/2 a recipe, I used 6 half pint jars.  Covering your work area with a piece of foil will make any sugary liquid that might spill much easier to clean up. 

Fill your jars until the liquid is about 1/4 inch from the top.

Wipe any liquid off the rim of the jar and place a lid on top.  Add a band and turn until finger tight.  Fill and seal the rest of your jars and put your utensils and pot in hot soapy water.   This will make clean up easier.

Add a clean towel to your pot of boiling water.  This will cushion your jars and help prevent breakage.

Place all your jars into the pot and process (boil) for 15 minutes.

Remove your jars and place on the counter.  You should hear them make a hissing noise and maybe a pop.  This means that they are sealing properly. You should not be able to press the the tops down.  Don't worry if one doesn't seal, it can be the first one you use.  Just put it in the refrigerator.

Now you're ready for a drink.  Mix your concentrate with water and ice to taste.  I think this would be great added to club soda.  Or maybe as a mimosa or margarita.....

For more summer and picnic ideas, check out

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


While searching for Spring Break activities online last night, I found a site that lists you-pick-it fruit and vegetable farms all across the United States. ( )  Just click on your state and then your area and it will give you a list of your local farms.

I was surprised to see one just ten minutes from our house.  I was even more surprised to see it was owned by someone I knew!  My husband had done work for him several years ago when we owned our own company.

We found Sledd's Strawberries and Produce at the end of a dirt road very close to the Indian River.  After being greeted by Mr Sledd and given strawberry picking instructions we set off into the field.

If you've never seen strawberries in their natural habitat, they're usually grown in mounded rows.  They begin as cute little flowers and you will see several stages of growth on one plant

The farm provided these handy PVC frames to hold the cardboard flats.  Each box will hold about 10 lbs of strawberries.

The strawberries were beautiful!

It only took walking two rows for my baby to fill our flat.

As my baby was carrying our harvest back to be weighed, she stopped to pick one more giant strawberry.

"Now it's ten pounds" she told me.  She must have inherited daddy's laser eyes.  When Mr Sledd weighed our strawberries, we had exactly ten pounds.  At $2 a pound, we got a great deal. 

We also bought a gallon of fresh squeezed Navel orange juice.  It's a hundred times better than anything you can buy in the store.

Now off to search for yummy recipes for all these strawberries.....

P.S.  If you're going to be in the North Brevard area,  you can contact Mr Sledd at to see if he has any strawberries ready for picking.  Don't forget to pick up some juice and maybe some cabbage or onions.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Maybe she does listen!

I try to practice a "talk early, talk often" parenting style.  I'm hoping if I say the same thing several times in different ways, some of it might stick.

I think it might be working!  This is what I found on my nine year old's hand after school today:

I'm not trying to create a male hating little person. (eventually, a long long time from now, I would like grandchildren)  I just want her to focus on education and to save her from some of the heart ache I experienced in school.  

I've explained that the reason to date is to find someone to marry, and until your ready to get married there is no reason to date.  I didn't think she'd really listen.  I was just hoping for a few extra years before we were dealing with boys.

When I asked about her hand she gave me this explanation: "I want to get married when I'm thirty.  So, I will start dating when I'm twenty eight.  That will give me two years to find a good man."

Sounds very logical to me.  We'll see how the next few years go.  I will be keeping this picture on hand as a reminder.  I might even put it on the refrigerator.....

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Working out the kinks.....

It could be the rebel in me (quit laughing Dad!) or that I've been trying not to focus on how many days I have left.  I can't make myself count the days.

So, I'm going to try a different approach.

My baby and I were able to be extras in the film!!!  Our exciting day began by dressing in our "zombie clothes" that we made the night before.  We used coffee grounds, sand paper and scissors to distress thrift store finds. Then we drove to the abandoned building that was being used for filming. 

We were given a "zombie class" where we were taught how to move and make the appropriate zombie noises.  The most important rule was given by the zombie wrangler: "Do not say "brains"! If you do, at that moment the films turns into a comedy."  After being given undead make up and lots of fake blood, we were ready for filming.

When we had a break for lunch we made a run to McDonald's.  After spending several hours in our zombie make up and seeing everyone around us in it we kind of forgot what we looked like!  Several weird looks, crying babies and one suggestion to wear more sunblock later, we hurried back to the set. 

I had explained that she needed to be on her best behavior and listen carefully do the director.  She did great!  After the first scene she looked at me and said "that was easy, can we do it again?"  At the end of the day, she and another little girl were placed in the front of a zombie mob attacking a person.  The girls were very serious about their roles.  When the director yelled cut, the scary little zombies erupted in a fit of giggles.  The man they were attacking wanted to know who had bit his leg.  Neither one would fess up!  Is that what they mean by method acting?

My baby now wants to be an actress. Just ask her and she'll reply (in an odd Russian accent): "I have a future in movies."

I love what this experience did for my baby!  At the beginning of the day I sat a timid little girl in the make up chair and she was questioning if she really wanted to do this.  At the end of the day  I saw her turn and growl at a guy in full bloody zombie get-up that tried to sneak up and scare her.  We both stepped out of our comfort zones and had an experience we will never forget.

I have a ton of wonderful pictures, but I can't show you any of them!  We were allowed to take photos, but we can't post any online until after the film is released.  The film, "Z", is being created by the wonderful people at Tempest Entertainment.  You can see trailers for other films on their channel on YouTube:

Thank you sooo much to Tempest Entertainment for letting us be involved in their project and to my friend Meghan for telling us about this fun opportunity.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 3

Getting in the groove!! (if you repeat it enough it's true, right?)

We had our regularly scheduled Skype calls today.  Who ever invented Skype should get the Nobe Peace Prize or Sainthood!  It is absolutely amazing that my hubby can be half way around the word and I can still have him back me up in the discipline department!  Daddy might be scary over the phone, but it's even better when our baby can see him.

Hubby and I are lucky enough to be able to talk twice a day- at night I call him before going to bed and he's getting up for work and in the morning he calls us when he's getting home from work.  It's not like having him here, but it's a schedule and it keeps me sane.

Now to get back on track with the housework.  While he was home I kind of winged it so things aren't so great.  Time to pull out my Control Journal and actually read the daily emails from Fly Lady.  If you're not familiar with Fly Lady take a look at  It's a great site that helps you get your life and house in order.  I know my house will be sparkly clean if I stick to the plan, now  just have to get off my butt and do it!

In more exciting news: the baby and I might be in a movie!!!  An old friend of mine posted on Face Book that a movie she is in needs extras.  I'm waiting to find out the details and see I can bring my baby along.  When I asked if she'd be interested she replied "Why am I just now finding out that you know famous people? What else are you hiding?" 

She cracks me up!  It makes me want to tell her I was a secret agent before she was born...