S is for Sand dollar

There is a wonderful sandbar that forms from time to time around Siesta Key.  You can walk out there and shuffle around sometimes ankle deep in the water.

One year we took off to the sandbar because there were so many people out there collecting something. To our surprise, we found an abundance of sand dollar tests on top of the sandbar.  Whole, white sand dollars. So we collected some, too.


Sand dollar

Over the years we have ended up with a lot of them and I now use them for crafting, making Christmas ornaments that I sell on my Etsy store, Crafty Beachcomber, or give as gifts. I’m working on some new ones now for this Christmas season.

White sand dollars are the remains of the dead critter. The test or skeleton. If you see a sand dollar of another color, typically green or blue, it is alive and should be left alone.  One day, however, there was a person on the beach collecting green (live) sand dollars and setting them on the beach to dry out. Along came a lady who started throwing them back into the Gulf.  Live sand dollars really shouldn’t be harvested. And throwing them back can be dangerous to the sand dollar. The impact of hitting the water could kill it so if you see someone drying out live sand dollars and feel they need to be put back, gently place them back into the water a distance out. They will find the strength to shuffle under the sand for protection.

If you find some perfect sand dollar tests, check Pinterest for the perfect way to display them or for crafting ideas.

S is for Sand

It is amazing how sand varies around the world.

Even in one state, like Florida or even Hawaii, sand can vary from beach to beach. It is made from a variety of things: crush rocks eroded from mountains that have made their way downstream to the coast, lava rocks and coral pounded by ocean waves, shells worn down from wave action, dumped glass and pottery tumbled in the surf, housing materials broken by hurricane storm surge and taken to sea to be tumbled around for years to come by the waves.

I have found pottery shards, well-tumbled glass, worn-down chips of china dinner plates and tea cups (one has part of the manufactures name on it), brick pebbles and more.

Sand can be pink, black, brown, white and every shade in between. It is course with large grains or fine as flour.


Sand blowing on a windy day at Gulf Shores

They all have advantages and disadvantages. Dark sands tend to hold the sun’s heat so be aware and wear shoes on these beaches. Even a grey sand, like Turtle Beach, FL, or a brown sand, like Ocean City, MD can be hot. White sands reflect the sun but compacted, like areas of Siesta Key public beach in Florida, can hold heat (my experience). Loose sands are tougher to walk in than fine sands. Fine sands, on a windy day, can damage electronic equipment (cameras) if the sand finds its way inside. And speaking of windy days, regardless of the sand, you’ll get sandblasted. The coarser the sand, they more you’ll feel it, but fine powery or sugary sand can rough up your skin, too.  Keep sunglasses on you and your children on windy days to avoid sand in your eyes.

I keep a collection of sand, something I started when I homeschooled so my boys could compare sands. Most I’ve collected but some I’ve had friends or family send to me.  If you collect sand, look on my Pinterest board for ideas on how to display it.dscn8461

What’s your favorite sand?



S is for Seaweed

Often, when visiting the beach, seaweed washes ashore and stays. The large piles dry out in the sun, usually attracts flies and can sometimes stink. It can be annoying to both the beachcomber and coastal swimmer. Floating around in the warm waves of the ocean or the Gulf can be a drag if you get surrounded by a mat of seaweed. But as nasty, in a sensory way, that swimming in seaweed can be, did you know it is nutritionally wonderful for you?

There are many types of seaweed and they are edible, although some do not digest as well as others.  Seaweed is super nutritious, providing Calcium, Vitamin K and Iron to our diets all wrapped up in a low-calorie food.

There are many sources on line for edible seaweed and how to prepare it. Some you can eat raw.  Search around the internet if you are interested in learning about edible seaweed from your local beach. My favorite source is a local Asian grocery store.

Nori chips and other seaweed snacks are so tasty. You can find them now in most every grocery store. When my boys were little we would hang out at the local Single-A baseball games (my husband worked there) with some of the player’s wives and children. One would bring seaweed snacks with her that she brought from California and my kids loved them. I could not find them anywhere near by us back them but love having nori chips available now. If you haven’t tried them, please do. Check the organic foods or Asian foods section of your grocery store or stop by your local Asian grocer


Nori Chips

Seaweed Salad 


If you’ve followed me for a while, you’d know that when I lived in FL and AL my boys were in 4-H and they worked on a marine  project. We had a large fish tank and temporarily kept a variety of critters in our tank for observation. When we left FL our Extension officer suggested we take the tank and a few critter with us and continue the project there, which we did. But we ran into a problem: We had sea urchins. Sea urchins eat seaweed. They eat a lot of seaweed.  That summer my car was not in good spirits so we couldn’t make many trips to the beach (about a 45 minute drive). I solved that problem by enlisting some friends who were going to the beach to have their kids collect bags of seaweed for me. They brought back a lot of zip-top bags filled with dried seaweed which was perfect.

Then the oil spilled into the Gulf near us and our beaches were shut down. As the beaches closed we couldn’t get there to collect seaweed for the urchins and my supply dwindled. And we couldn’t put the urchins back into the Gulf since the water almost as far as Apalachicola was off limits. It could be a death sentence for the urchins. We lived on the Mobile Bay and I was happy to find a variety of sea weed for them in the salty part of the Bay. But there wasn’t enough. A friend from Sarasota and her family came to visit us and agreed to take the urchins and a few other little critters back with them. They ceremoniously  put them into the Sarasota Bay where we originally got them.

Observing these urchins was a treat for all of us and new friends in Alabama. They would climb the side of the tank just a little bit to get above a piece of seaweed and hold on with little suction arms. Then the urchins would grab the seaweed and munch on it with it’s “teeth” located underneath it’s test. It would use its spines and suction arms to move the seaweed into its mouth. Urchins eat fast.

Here are some pictures of our aquarium. Click on each for a caption.

Note: Sea creatures belong in the sea. We were given permission by our local Extension office to house them. We were also given permission by our local Extension office to take them across state lines for educational purposes. What we took was approved by our Extension officer because they existed where we were going and could be put back into their natural habitat. Our new Extension office in AL knew what we had, too. If you keep pets and no longer want them, do not put them into the wild. Your pet may not be native to the region and may cause some eco-system damage. Take your pet to a local Extension office, wild-life specialist or pet shop to drop off or get advice about passing it on to the next owner.  A local school might also want to take it for education purposes.  But do not put it into the wild.


S is for Sea

We all grew up hearing about the 7 Seas but there are many more than just the 7 from ancient times. There are also 5 ocean regions and within each ocean are many additional seas. Seas are also landlocked in many continents.

Did you know there is really no consensus on the definition of SEA? That’s what I read somewhere.

I thought I’d just list the seas around the world here but after looking into it, I think I’ll just pass you along to Wikipedia’s List of Seas.

Then I thought I’d do an story on everything SEA, like SEAweed, SEAgull etc. But, again, the list is long, so I’ll send you to another website for an exhaustive list of words that start with SEA. It includes words like seam (sea+m) but many others in the SEA theme I write about.

If you are a beachcomber you know several of our favorite SEA words: seashell, seashore, seaglass, seabean, seabird, seaweed, seahorse.