Photos courtesy of Ryan Prouty

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pathetic attempt at Christmas baking...after Christmas

This is the first year I have done NO Christmas baking. Too many other priorities, no one to do it with (a family tradition with my mom and sister dating back to the times when I was only able to reach the counter by standing on something), no need for all the calories...the excuses could go on! Well, tonight, we had some free time, just us girls and we decided to make Scottish shortbread. Alayna got a baking set for Christmas and we decided to use her cookie cutters and even used her baking sheet when we grew tired of cutting them out. We made DELICIOUS shortbread and had fun too!

Alayna got to play with the colored sugar. She made quite a creation and SO tasty!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Myakka River State Park

I can not say enough about this park! I can't wait to take our guests here in the future! Troy and Lora, Greg and Emily, you will LOVE this place!!! This is a park about 20 minutes from our house, just south of Sarasota, but seems like its in the middle of nowhere! The Agape crew met today for a cookout and the first annual flag football frenzy. Say that 4 times fast! While the guys were playing, we girls headed to the canopy walk. Its a suspended bridge in the middle of the trees with a tower to climb to see over the tree tops. This is major in Florida because its so flat here. I didn't realize until we got to the top that I hadn't had a view of Florida like this yet, except from an airplane. There are virtually NO hills anywhere. It is so flat, you never get out and above and look down on a pretty valley. There just isn't anything like that here. But the weather is amazing, so we will get over it! Anyway, the trail to the canopy walk was amazing! We kept stopping to admire the trees and vegetation. It was just so photogenic. Bear with my skills, I am still learning this camera. Alayna and JoDee got ahead of the group:
Alayna thought this tree trunk looked like a long neck dinosaur:

This tree really defies gravity...even with us piled on it! Next to me is Felicia, Harvey's wife (you may remember them from our Thanksgiving pictures).

Its hard to see, but beyond the sign is the resurrection fern growing on a tree branch:
This is the underside of the canopy walk. It swayed quite a bit as you walked across!

Alayna poses for a picture on the climb up to the top:

Only 4 people at a time are allowed on the bridge. Alayna wasn't afraid at all.
A view of our climb from the ground:
And at the top! I bet this is NOT how you pictured Florida! There is a small pond, but the Gulf of Mexico was still too far away to be seen. See how flat it is??
On the way back to the shelter house, we saw some alligators looking at us from a bridge over the river. He/she was content to just stare back at everyone!Riley steals the camera...AGAIN! He has been guilty of this often! When we got back, the boys had lunch cooking!
Charlie was at the grill:

After lunch we headed over to watch the second half of the football game. It was tied up at halftime. This is the back of the Mikarts family. Kristin was shaking her groove thing for the photo! Their four-year-old is slung over Mark's shoulders and nearly fell asleep like that on the short walk to the field! Aren't the trails beautiful??Here is the Prachar we didn't quite have enough Prachars for the team, but close!
This is Kristin imitating the kids who were constantly saying, "Look Mom." and "Watch me!"
After the football game (I heard an unverified rumor that the Prachar team won), we grabbed our poles to try some fishing. As we were getting everything out, I notice Alayna's hair and cracked up. Do you know the nursery rhyme about the little girl with the little curl "right in the middle of her forehead"?
We started catching fish (tilapia) after we got some earthworms from some kind folks who were calling it a day and taking their 80 pounds of tilapia home. I even caught one on Alayna's baby pole! She had gone on a potty break...that's what she gets!
She caught a couple on her own too.

Harvey caught the biggest fish:

Two people from our group caught this fish! He got hung up in the brush and broke the first line and was dragging the piece of line and the bobber around the bank, then he apparently didn't learn his lesson and quickly got caught again! We got our hook and bobber back! Are you admiring my photography skills???

As the sun set, it made for a beautiful reflection on the river:

So, Alayna and I posed as we were packing up our things. What a fun day! We didn't do a fraction of the things we could have done at the park. There were biking and walking trails, canoe and kayak rentals, boat and tram tours, and I don't even know what else!

We'll save something for the next time!! When we got home, we played games, including a game of Yatzee in which I rolled not just one but TWO Yatzees!! I was using a score card from the previous 5 games that showed a nice row of ZEROS in the Yatzee category for each game! I about fainted when I rolled the second one! Needless to say, I killed them at this game and have been banned from any other dice games in the future! This was such a fun way to spend the day after Christmas!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Festivities...Florida style (WARNING: there may be some offensive content for those who are enduring subzero temperatures this Christmas!!)

Christmas Day was a day to celebrate! We started the day with the Apple/bacon coffeecake that we stayed up WAY too late making:

It was really amazing, but I had to take a picture because we will likely never make it again! It was a lot of work! One piece was about all you could eat, and all you needed too! Next, we opened gifts. Paul was very excited about his new white t-shirts! He also got a John MacArthur study Bible (ESV translation), and I don't know who will enjoy it more, he or I!
Each of the kids got a flashlight! Sometimes they are so easy to please!
Riley didn't have a single pair of long pants for school! Now he has three! Thanks Grammy and Papa Prachar! Holden's favorite gift was a dragon that grows when placed in water...he's still growing...will have to keep you posted regarding how much he grows! Thanks Grammy!
I was so excited to give this gift. I made a book for my mom and sister with pictures of our family and a story about waiting until we are all living in the same state again. They work was complete!
Alayna still loves teddy bears!
After the gifts were opened, Paul and Tim headed out to change the brakes on the van. Doesn't everyone do their car repair on Christmas Day??? No??? Oh! The absence of loud, often rhythmic squeaking was quite a gift! Thanks Honey...and Tim!
Alayna quickly tried out her baking set and brought us all cookies by the pool:
Where we were preparing for our promised dip. Ready!
No going back now!!
We held hands to make sure neither backed out!
WOW!! It was cold!
Alayna was inspired and wanted to go in as well:

Then, Tim's turn:

The polar bear club:
Then, it was time to get serious and get things ready for Christmas Dinner. Kate, Dan, and Jack joined us for dinner on the lanai again. It was warmer today than it was at Thanksgiving. We have had absolutely gorgeous weather since Jo and Mom got here with the exception of Monday when it was in the 60's. The high was in the low 80's, cooling down to the 60's at night. It was a little humid until it rained in the evening and then that improved too.

Our kids love Jack and he is so patient with them!
We rounded out the day by cleaning up (there was a lot of that to do, but there were lots of hands to help and it went quickly) and watching a movie. The kids slipped into sugar comas early!
We discussed the meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate it. This was what each child said:
Gabriel: "Jesus was born, He came to save us."
Riley: "We celebrate Christmas because Jesus was born. Most people don't know that he was born to come into America to save us...or the Earth!"
Holden: "Because Jesus was born on that day. Its the day people give things to other people because its nice to other people and its also nice for other countries too."
Alayna:"Because Jesus was born and that's all I know!" And donkeys came to where Jesus is. That's about Christmas!"
Well, I think we got our message across! I love it, you just can't make this stuff up! Our family is praying for each of you for a blessed time celebrating and remembering our Savior.