Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ponce Inlet, Florida

Now that summer's here (yeah!), I'm spending some time catching up on my blog. I'd love to catch up on all of our vacation photos before we start on our next big adventure...16 days in EUROPE!! So, here's part I of our trip to Florida last summer. Alex & I went with my husband's family: his mom, dad, sister & her son who was three.

We rented a house in Ponce Inlet and that was our base for the week. We used Ponce Inlet Watersports three different times during the week and really enjoyed them. Alex and her cousin enjoyed these 'swings' while we waited for our various tours.

We rented kayaks which was a LOT of fun, but I didn't take my camera because I was afraid it'd get wet. This photo was from the EcoTour and the photo was of my favorite part...I got to hold a jellyfish! It's a cannonball jellyfish and isn't painful unless you get the chemicals in your eyes or mouth. I washed my hands afterwards. Thrilling!

I went running on the beach at sunrise three different times. It was WONDERFUL, though I tried it barefoot the first time. Ouch! I ended up with some bloody toes. Yuck! Anyway, another thrill was seeing sea turtle tracks! It was nesting season and I could see where the turtles had crawled up onto shore, dug a nest and deposited their eggs, and then returned to the ocean. Amazing!!!

I visited the Reptile Discovery Center in LeLand one day by myself. I didn't know the schedule and only got to see the last two snakes being milked. It was an amazing thing to watch, though! And, it was very safe as the man, and snakes, were in another room behind a glass wall.

Alex and I visited the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet while the others went shopping. We enjoyed the touch tank and the aquariums and other displays. Outside we got to see some turtles who were being rehabilitated. There were displays showing what was harming them... like trash. We saw x-rays of harmful things they had swallowed... like a fishhook. And, we visited the nearby SeaBird Rehabilitiation Center.

Our house was about 1/2 a mile from the beach and we spent a lot of time there. Here's my nephew making a sand angel!

And Alex having fun on a boogie board. We had a blast with these!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

DC at Night!

My final post about our DC fall 2010 trip with the Carolina Homeschoolers is of a nighttime tour we took with two other mom/daughter groups. We had a wonderful time this night!

Besides the information we received as the bus drove us around, the bus also stopped several times for us to get off and explore various monuments. This is the Jefferson Memorial which was modeled after the Pantheon of Rome. It is a gorgeous building with a large statue of Jefferson inside.

This was my favorite photo of the night - the Lincoln Memorial and the moon enveloped in clouds.

Another place we stopped was the FDR Memorial which opened in 1997. It was a really neat memorial which includes four outdoor areas which each showcase one of FDR's terms as president. The girls LOVED this memorial! Here they are posing in a Great Depression bread line sculpted by George Segal.

The back of the Lincoln Memorial....

and the front of the Lincoln Memorial. We loved seeing DC at night!

National Mall

This post is continuing our DC trip with the Carolina Homeschoolers in the fall of 2010. The group is going to DC again in October, and we are considering going! We'll make a decision within the next week or so. It was an incredible experience and a great group to travel with and I highly recommend them!

Alex in front of Lincoln's statue at the Lincoln Memorial

We are standing near the Lincoln Memorial and you can see the reflecting pool behind us. Also, in the distance, you can see the Washington Monument and Capitol Building (behind my head).

Here's a reflection of Alex pointing to a name, Gary R Holland, on the Vietnam Memorial wall. We looked for several friends/classmates of my mom and mother-in-law while we were there, and also my mom's cousin. There is a book where you can look up the names and find out where you would find the name on the wall.

This man was selling water bottles and had trained a squirrel to climb up his bike and eat peanuts from his hand! Alex got to feed him a couple of peanuts. Of course, she loved it! (And, yes, we bought a water bottle from him.)

And, here is Alex in front of the WWII Memorial which opened in 2004. Alex is actually watching some Hawaiian dancers on the lawn and the memroail is in the background.

Capitol Building

Looking back at our fall of 2010 trip to DC with the Carolina Homeschoolers group...

Our group got to tour the capitol building!

Each state of the Union has contributed two statues to the Capitol building. I believe there are 50 of these in the National Statuary Hall - one for each state. The other 50 statues are spread around the building. The statues are chosen by the states to "honor persons notable in their (state) history." Above is Helen Keller, who I find personally very motivating, which was donated by Alabama.

Texas, where we live, has Stephen Austin and Sam Houston on display.

Before becoming the Supreme Court Chamber (1810-18600, this room was the Senate Chamber (1801-1808). Thomas Jefferson took his oath of office in this room in 1801. The infamous Dred Scott decision was delivered here on March 6, 1857. (We've also visited the court house in St Louis where this case started.)

This is the fresco that is painted in 1865 by Constantino Brumidi 180 feet above the rotunda floor. It is entitled "The Apotheosis of Washington." "Apotheosis" means to raise someone to the rank of a god.

Here's a close-up of Washington (center - I flipped the photo) who is indeed god-like. He is flanked by female figures representing Liberty and Victory/Fame. Completing the circle are 13 females representing the original 13 colonies. There is a lot of symbolism in the fresco and you can read more at the Architect of the Capitol website.

This is a portion of a frieze that is underneath the painting "The Apotheosis of Washington" shown above. It is called The Frieze of American History and was originally intended to be done in low relief. It is done, instead, in frecso by three different artists. The paintings resemble sculpture in a monochromatic pallate of whites and browns which is called grisaille. The 19 scenes measure 8 feet 4 inches tall and have various snippets of American history. The four I happened to photograph are the 3rd through 6th scenes: Cortez and Montezuma at Mexican Temple, Pizarro Going to Peru, Burial of DeSoto, and Captain Smith and Pocohontas. You can see all of the images and read more about this frieze at the Architect of the Capitol website.

(image from Wikipedia)

There are many other elements of art within the Capitol Building and even in the rotunda, but I'll leave you with John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence. It is one of 8 large paintings in the Rotunda, and 4 of them were painted by Trumbull.

After our Capitol tour...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Audubon House in Key West

After our stop at Hemingway's home, we had a DELICIOUS lunch at an outside diner.

I had a DELICIOUS crab cake... so yummy!... followed by Key Lime pie. Key West is known for their Key Lime pie, and I was not disappointed!

We saw several roosters (& a few hens) and heard even more. Evidentally, the roosters were brought to Key West, an island that is only 2 by 4 miles, many years ago by early pioneers and Cuban Cock fighters. There is an ongoing debate with some residents wanting the roosters removed while others enjoy them.

Then we walked over to the Audubon House. John James Audubon had visited Key West in 1832 and, while visiting, sighted 18 new birds for his "Birds of America" book. This house is where he stayed during his visit.

Surrounding the house are gorgeous tropical plants. We spent some time slowly walking around. I would have loved to have sat and read here! Absolutely charming!

The house was full of beautiful antiques!

Audubon created his bird prints life-sized...

but afterwards produced a "more accessible edition at approximately 1/8 the size of the originals. These were single color lithographs, which were hand colored after printing." (Quote from a sign under one of the prints.) So, you have an original size on the right and a 1/8th size, or "octavo", on the left.
My photo of nesting cormorants (& snowy egrets) May 2007
I loved reading some of Audubon's quotes!!! In fact, I'd love to read a book by him. Here's one of my favorites from one of the signs: "...On the 26th of April 1832, I and my party visited several small Keys, not many miles distant from the harbour in which are vessel lay. Mr. Thurston had given us his beautiful barge, and accompanied us with his famous pilot, fisherman and hunter, Mr. Egan. The Keys were separated by narrow and toturous channels, from the surface of the clear waters of which were reflected the dark mangroves, on the branches of which large colonies of Cormorants had already built their nests, and were sitting on their eggs. There were many thousands of these birds, and each tree bore a greater or less number of their nests, some five or six, others perhaps as many as ten..."

And, one more quote... On the 7th of May, 1832, while sailing from India Key, one of the numerous islets that skirt the south-eastern coast of the Peninsula of Florida, I for the first time saw a flock of Flamingoes. It was on the afternoon of one of those sultry days which, in that portion of the country, exhibit towards evening the most glorious effulgence that can be conceived. The sun, now far advanced towards the horizon, still shone with full splendour, the ocean around glittered in its quite beauty, and the light fleecy clouds that here and there spotted the heavens, seemed like flakes of snow margined with gold. Our bark was propelled almost if by magic, for scarcely a ripple raised by her bows as we moved in silence. Far away to seaward we spied a flock of Flamingoes advancing in "Indian line," with well spread wings, outstretched necks, and long legs directed backwards. Ah! reader, could you but know the emotions that then agitated my breast! I thought I had now reached the height of all my expectations, for my voyage to the Floridas was undertaken in a great measure for the purpose of studying these lovely birds in their own beautiful islands...."

And, the islands were beautiful, indeed! And, Audubon's language is, too! I'd love to find out more about his education...