Friday, September 21, 2007

Food on the go

2007 will be known as the year in which kids' lunches were more well documented than at any other time in history. Like this: and this and this

What began as jaw-on-the-floor voyeurism into over-achieving moms' obsessions with something as mundane as fixing a kid's lunch (don't get me started on my theories on over-degreed moms and the boredom of rearing children and the need for kudos from internet strangers... that's what blogging's all about, including this one, and stop me before I reveal too much....) became a little inspiration that I, too, might be able to move beyond goldfish-in-plastic-baggies for our outings. It has revolutionized our trips out and about, keeping us away from drive-throughs, though I haven't quite ventured into creating dioramas based on PBS shows out of nori and rice.

What was I saying? Oh, yeah. Anyway, a few basic pointers on keeping you and yours fed on your outings about town. Cute, I admit, DOES work.

The scraps from the sandwich are under the star. The 'jello' is fruit juice and knox unflavored gelatin. That's applesauce, with platic 'ice cubes' to keep it cool (a lid then goes over that blue container). He loves it. The trouble is that the lunchbox, called a 'laptop lunch', is way more expensive than it should be. And could be better. I love it, but I'm still not sure it's worth the $20 (or more, if you get the insulated cover) price tag. But we do use it daily.

For our trips to the park, I use these little things by "Lock and Lock". The four little containers inside are removable. You can't keep liquids from mingling, but it will keep your crackers away from your cheese. And at $3, I'd much rather invest in several of these.

I wish the laptop lunchbox and this "fit and fresh" container could meld together into a single, perfect lunch carrier:
This is less than half the price (even less with a bed bath and beyond coupon), has an ice pack (hello! laptop lunch makers! you listenin'?) and two, count 'em, TWO little containers with lids rather than just one. My school-age son likes it, but sometimes needs help getting it open. This is the one I use if we're going to be out and about all day carrying food around in the heat. The ice pack, which you can't do with the laptop lunch other than packing in those plastic ice cubes, seems essential when you live in Florida.

We also have one of these in our car:

No, it won't cool things that aren't already cool, but when the temp is a billion degrees outside, you can store your sippy cups and snacks in here, the thing cools as long as the car is running, and when you turn the car off to go play, it stays relatively cool. Return to your car after a few hours, and it's hot as h-e-double toothpicks inside the car, but your water is drinkable and your snacks have not spontaneously combusted. I think you can get one for $30 or so. We've had ours for 5 years now.

So there. I've now photographed my kids' lunches to "blog" it. I'm sure I'll have to spend extra time in pergatory for that. But it has saved us some moo-la not having to grab fast food or pack a billion little containers of eats. (And I admit I owe it all to those overachieving mom bloggers.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Underwater Cameras

The good photo/ complete trash ratio on this roll is not good. But I suppose I've been spoiled by the infinity chances of digital cameras. Anyway, it's been fun to get an underwater disposable camera every year at the beginning of the summer, and develop it at the end of the season. I admit it was a bit more challenging this year since I was always holding a baby, but you get something beyond the usual photos.

Here you see the YMCA pool and Blue Springs. The top one I'm underwater and the boys are topside. Kind of interesting, even if not exactly frame-worthy. Beach underwater shots have never come out very clear, though the waterproof casing allows you the freedom to follow your subjects into the waves. Bright bright sunlight and clear water, like a pool or clear springs give the best results. And I suppose it's the film they use for those - they are assuming the bulk of the photos will include water and sky - but you get some incredibly vivid blues when using these underwater cameras. Like the sky in that bottom one. But beware - skin tones and greens, like trees, don't look so great if you aren't underwater.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Blue Springs Park

Different from Blue Springs State Park, this is a private park. That charges admission. Ten bucks per adult head ($3 for each child 5 or older.) The grass is mowed, the trash picked up, and the showers clean and warm. And that's costly for them and reaaaally nice. But after we paid our $16 to get in, we walked the boardwalk to the Santa Fe River and looked across and upriver to Rum Island spring. Which is free. And I felt a little foolish. Like I'd just bought into a gated community with an overpriced HOA.
Here's Blue Springs Park (again, the private park near Poe Springs, not the state park), $16 for me and the kids:
Blue Springs 9-06 1
GORGEOUS. If you don't mind forkin' out the bucks, you will be richly rewarded with clean bathrooms, a deep blue spring to eyeball, a vast expanse of shallow sandy beach for the shorties, and, perhaps the main reason people pay (kinda like gated communities), to be surrounded by other patrons who don't mind forkin' out the bucks.

Here's Rum Island, free, but you never know if you'll find beer bottles or undies lying about (kind of like my cool old downtown neighborhood):

I'd like to explore other springs in the area (please - leave comments for suggestions!), but maybe we'll wait til school starts and we can go on some quiet weekday morning and enjoy the springs as they were meant to be enjoyed - ALL MINE!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Shark teeth in Rattlesnake Creek

Maybe I'm taking all the joy and surprise out of their 7th grade science field trips. But this is COOL. If you've been to the museum (like a million times, right?) you may know that Florida was once part of a prehistoric sea, and fossils are found in our creek system. They are EASY to find. All over the place! How cool is that to a boy?

So how can I find my own shark teeth, you ask? Start at West Side Park. Go east down 8th Avenue (in a car, not walking.) At the top of the hill is a light. Go through that one, but turn left at the NEXT light, 18th terrace. The road will dip where it crosses Rattlesnake Creek. The left/west side is the side you'll want to go down, so you may want to do a u-turn to park.

It's clean, shallow, shaded, right in the midle of a residential neighborhood, and gorgeous. Just start sifting through any areas where pebbles have gathered. You'll start seeing shark and ray teeth and other fossils.

Right now, the museum has a megaladon exhibit, and you can take your shark teeth and match them up and find out exactly what they are.

By the way, here's a cool link to our creek system here in Hogtown.

UF jumping fountain

So where in Gville is THIS? A spouty fountain? Wheeee! I hesitate to blog this, else the toddling hordes infiltrate our secret spot. But it really does exist. You just have to brave beauracracytamicized parking, and walking amongst thin, tan, pierced midriffs in your capri-pants-knit-top mom costume with your self-worth still intact. This little gem is nestled alongside Buckman dorms.

We spent a really nice day on UF campus. Can't really say it was free since we paid $3 to park and Starbucks grabbed me by the feet and shook every last coin from my pockets.

So here's the scoop. For the summer, you can go to the parking kiosk at Tigert Hall (on 13th Street and Union Road) and get a token for $3. Drive to the left to the gated lot in front of Little Hall. Your token lifts the gate, to the delight of all kids in the car. There's LOTS to do, most of it commonplace to us and mind-blowingly awesome to a five year old. For example:
Visiting the small art gallery in the Art School building, exposing young ones to the angst and disturbing creations of 19 year olds. Better than the Harn because they can touch this stuff, and there are no museum Nazis to follow your every move.

And there's also this:
The International Center. There's a Starbucks here (like, duh.) So you can grab your international-themed cookie and sit in front of a line of about 20 tv's, all showing broadcasts from different countries. There was a samurai movie from China (okay, my husband just informed me that samurai movies are Japanese, not Chinese, and I'd say what's the diff, but I suppose that's not the kind of response the International Center is all about) , a soap opera in Arabic, a Spanish talk show... and chocowhippedcreamlatte things to drink.

And Library East, much changed from my days:
Guess what's just to my right. No, guess. A STARBUCKS! I blew their little minds with the moving shelves, the chairs with the little tables that swing over your lap, and oh, my holy stars, a revolving door! Though it's shiny and starbucked, It still smells like 1992.

This was only the half of it. The music building was a hit, because "we're inside, but also outside! how can this be?!":

We spent like half an hour here, because someone had hidden little flamingos and gnomes and stuff in the ferns, and there was an actual little pond/fountain, and my kids know how to play hobbit.

So there was more. Much more. Vending machines. People with purple hair. Guys playing guitars. Stairs, oh, so many stairs to climb up and down. Elevators to ride. Empty lecture halls to yell in. Gator statues to wrassle. We didn't even make it over to the Union or the ODome or the stadium. Only worth it in this heat if you can top it off with the fountain, which is my gift to you, dear readers.

Stay tuned. We'll be returning to campus when the Krishnas complete their annual migration to the Plaza. A childhood without vegan goulash eaten to the tune of "My Sweet Lord" isn't SPARKY at all.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


"A stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and DESERVES is a parent who is SPARKY" - Danny (Champion of the World) via Roald Dahl.