We recovered from he cruise and dove right back into the real world. I finished taking all my photos for the SPC/Insectathon project. I have a nice rig now for macro photos and learned how to do a lot with the editing software.
We had a calm relaxing Christmas Eve and Day. Grandma Susie came down and hung out for the day. It was a much smaller Christmas this year since we did the cruise and have another cruise the summer to Alaska. The elves made another big mess and used my camera and rig to take butt photos! Silly elves!
I got a lot of cool little gifts like an electronic hedgehog I had to build, Lego sets, some boardgames and books. E the same but he also got a cheese making kit.
Part of our gift was Dive Disney at the Living Seas. We went with a group from Macs Dive Shop. We suited up and learned the rules then were turned loose in the giant fish tank for a long time. Mom and I went all over exploring. Dad and E were exploring as well. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget!
We have had some crazy last minute vacations but nothing like this. We were sitting in the living room on Saturday December 14. Dad sent Mom a linked said, “We need to take a cruise soon!” They talked back and forth for 20 min, made a few phone calls and then broke the news to E and I that we needed to pack immediately. We were leaving at 6am to drive to Port Everglades to board the ship at 11am. A lot of crazy scrambling happened to secure appropriate clothing (that fit), pack the bags and make last minute pet and house care plans. We made it. We hit bad traffic entering the port and thought we’d never make it. We finally unloaded the car and got through all the security, having to reshow our travel docks every step of the way since it was so last minute we weren’t showing on the logs for the ship yet.
Once on board we found our room, checked in to Club HAL, verified our Orange Club status and tried to get the lay of the ship. This was our first cruise on Holland America and it took a little getting used to. Always a highlight of any cruise is seeing the kitchens! Their kitchens are huge and sprawling. It was quite a neat, however, fast tour. We enjoyed our meals a lot and explored as a family. I broke off eventually to hit up the teen club. I had a great time and made a few friends. Big difference from Disney, there were only a small handful of teens on board. E didn’t like his club option so stuck to Mom and Dad a lot. I enjoyed some time on the at sea day just relaxing on the balcony and watching for flying fish, a favorite past time. We played shuffleboard and checked out the food options around the ship.
Grand Turk was lovely. We got off the ship and explored the port area. There was lots to see and do. We had a snorkeling trip planned but wanted to explore a little beforehand. We found all sorts of marine life. We had a mix up in time and were way early for our snorkel. We wish we figured it out sooner so we could have rented a golf cart and toured the island a little. Lines started forming and there was some confusion going on. We scurried over to find out that the winds were really strong and they were refunding the snorkel excursion. We finished exploring the port, bought a few souvenirs and headed back on to the ship for lunch. The elevators have a different rug each day that tells you what day it is, that was cool! I had some yummy pizza from the pool side pizza place and then we did some trivia and all went our separate ways. We stopped in for dessert at the buffet and I tried all the dessert options. I enjoyed more time in the teen club and enjoyed the shows at night with friends.
Next was San Juan. As we arrived in port we could see the old fort. It was massive! We had an excursion to a place called Window Cave. If was a nice bus ride and then an enjoyable hike. There were these massive snails all over the place. I was obsessed with them. I had to point every single one out to the guide. The cave was cool considering its location on an island. As we walked I wondered whey they called it Window Cave and then we came to the room that answered that question. There is a huge opening in the cave. What a view! We saw bats, moths and even a python up in the walls of the cave. I absolutely loved this excursion. We had lobster for dinner and then went and played shuffle board before the evening show. Mom fell ill and broke out in a head to toe rash. She wasn’t well. We think it was a reaction to lobster but that doesnt make a lot of sense. Who knows. All I know is that she was miserable, bright red and puffy.
St Thomas, US Virgin Islands was our next port of call. We have been here before so opted to do some off the beat adventures. Dad and I went scuba diving. It was absolutely amazing. We saw all sorts of marine life and enjoyed our excursion a lot. There sadly were no photos, only memories of this part. Mom, feeling a little better but still crappy, and E went off on an adventure of hiking and kayaking. E tried to hug a manchineel tree but thankfully was stopped quickly. The tree has toxic sap that can burn your skin. They enjoyed a 2 mile hike around an island and then a 3 mile kayak paddle trip. They had a great time. E was exhausted and Mom was barely hanging on at the end of the day. Looking forward to our at sea day!
The at sea day was nice and relaxing. We did all sorts of events on the ship. We explored all of the ships art. We went on a invite only provisions tour. That was really neat. We got to see where all the food is stored and how it is all allocated out. We learned a lot about how much goes into stocking everything from a bar of soap to the fanciest Champagnes. The winds were strong and the waves were high but the ship was stable and enjoyable. Periodically if you were walking you had to take a few extra wobbly steps to avoid crashing into the wall, but it honestly wasn’t too bad!
Our final port was Half Moon Cay. We scheduled horseback riding and beach time. We were up early to a rocking boat. The waves and wind were more than yesterday. We waited in line to exit the ship to be told that for the safely of the guests and crew that we would not be enjoying time on the island. Since the waves were so high they were not able to safely tender people to shore. We took that as a sign to relax and enjoy the day. E and I went swimming for a while. We enjoyed some hot tub time. We played more shuffle board and Mom and E played bingo. It was a nice way to end the cruise we didnt know we were going on until less than 24 hours in advance.
Back at port with great memories of our adventure. We are looking forward to Christmas in a few days and unwinding from our adventure.
To say I have been busy lately is a mass understatement. Finals week was the first week of December this was also the week of the state 4-H indoor match in Newberry. We just drove up for the day for the tournament. I shot fairly well and managed a 4th place finish. Senior level is much harder and I really haven’t been practicing as much as I need to lately. Mom felt I was not taking enough study breaks so she kept coming in and force-feeding me smoothies to keep me going. I was really worried about my trig grade. I made a few errors on the midterm which meant to get an A for the term I needed an A on the final. A LOT of hours went into this preparation. I managed to pull out the A by 1 point! But an A is an A after all! I still have my 4.0 gpa at SPC.
We had a squirrel visitor, we have named him Tiny HUman (pronounced hoo-man). He liked to eat our leftover bread. The cats like to watch him. He even comes and knocks on the slider to let us know it is food time.
After finals we enjoyed a few days of fun at Busch Gardens. It was nice to be stress free for a while.
E and I helped decorate the Christmas tree. We got some cool new Harry Potter interactive ornaments this year.
I spent a lot of my winter break working on my insect collections. I am trying to get 1st place at the state 4-H Insectathon this year. It is a LOT of work and preparation but I am up for the challenge! My collection grew by over 100 specimen that needed cataloged and sorted. Hours and hours of curation and organizing was accomplished.
We kicked off another Forest Ecology season with 4-H with a fun day at Eagle Lake park. We met many new team members and I helped coach them on the material and then we all led groups on a fun scavenger hunt. We had to take photos of various items, including our team selfie.
We had a holiday party for 4-H at the extension office. We watched movies, had popcorn and other junk food and made mini gingerbread houses. Then we went over to see the lights at the Botanical Gardens and sang some carols along the way.
I am enjoying my time off from classes. I am not eager to start back up in January since I have a very hard class load. I know I will be fine, but I really needed this break!
I helped to host the 4-H Thanksgiving Break Entomology Day Camp. We had 15 youth in camp. I spent many hours planning and organizing for this camp. Mom allowed me free rein to organize everything since I was earning volunteer hours for the program development and implementation. We had several art projects for the kids including: paining with super worms, create-a-bug and bug murals. We also learned about life cycles of insects and then the youth received super worm cultures so that they could observe the life-cycle. We spent a lot of time in the fields collecting. We even had a few kids really skilled at sweep netting and catching grasshoppers. One of the girls asked if I could help her dig in the compost bin, OF COURSE! Together with the help of a few other eager youth we found grubs, millipedes, ants, and beetles. Our snack-time was insect themed too. We had ants on a log (almond butter on celery topped with raisins), chocolate chirp cookies and flavored grasshoppers and mealworms. I was shocked that more of the girls were willing to try then the boys. It was a fantastic camp and I hope to host many more of these when I have free time in my college schedule.
Dad and I flew up to St. Louis for a week. I was attending the Entomological Society of Americas annual conference. We arrived a few days early and enjoyed some old haunts in the area. I went to City Museum twice and also to the St. Louis Zoo to see the Insectarium.
The conference was epic. I really had a fun time attending various outreach programs, speakers and seminars. I absolutely loved the Linnaean Games! It was wonderful to cheer on UF and see them win this year.
One of the programs I attended we worked on building this giant ant out of paper. We had it hanging from strings that were tossed over the rafters. After quite a lot of work and near completion we were instructed that we had to dismantle our creation due to some rules violation. I guess no one every asked permission or if they did, asked the wrong person.
This conference made me fairly solid in my future path that I for sure want to study entomology. I am still stuck on what my focus will be. I really enjoy the outreach part of it, teaching others what I know but also the collection and research end of it. I hope to continue to go to these conferences so that I can continue to be exposed to more in this field.