New Orleans Style Snow Balls

I took the kids to a snow ball stand in Daphne, AL yesterday.  It was New Orleans style.  Gosh, I didn’t know there were so many different “styles” of snow balls/snow cones.   New Orleans style is a different cut or shave of the ice from other styles.  It’s not chunky like you would find at most county fair stands and it’s not shaved like Hawaiian Shave Ice (see my blog of May 23 “Hawaiian Shave Ice Near the Key”).  The cut of ice is really small and pleasant.  The other thing about New Orleans style is that its made with a “snow ball” on top.  I watched mine being made.  The ice went into the cup and flavor was poured in.  Then more ice was chopped on to the top of that and shaped into a ball, followed by more flavor.  Doing it this way, the snow ball shape was maintained.  Too cool.

Travis got watermelon/blueberry combo.  His lips and teeth were black when he finished.  Austin got watermelon.  His lips turns a bright red.  I decided on the dreamsickle.  Yum.

While there were traditional flavors to choose from like cotton candy, grape, granny smith apple, lemonade and the one’s my boys picked, the other flavors were decidedly New Orleans: creole creme, dulce de leche, cookie dough with sweet cream topping, red velvet cake and wedding cake.  These flavors all have the sweet cream  topping.  I was told in New Orleans a favorite combination is the blue bubble gum and spearmint.  It makes a “dark yet bright” blue green, if you can picture that.  I learned its a favorite of older men. 

The New Orleans Style Snow Ball stand is on 98 in Daphne in a gas station parking lot near a traffic light.  Good directions, huh?  I don’t know this area very well but I do know it’s the traffic light south of Hazel’s Vegetable Stand.

Funky Bird Nests

The folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology come up with great ideas for bird watching.  A recent one which I got involved with was called “FUNKY BIRDS IN FUNKY PLACES”.  They wanted people to enter pictures of bird nests that just weren’t in the traditional tree. 

My entry was a dove that nested on a door closer arm.  The door was to the recreation room at a friend’s condo in Sarasota FL.  That particular door couldn’t be used.  I don’t really think the door (part of a double entry to the driveway) was ever used, except for emergencies.  There was an entry from an inside corridor.

Go to www.CelebrateUrbanBirds.org and check out my entry, number 176. 

After you check out the rest of the entries, because I know you will want to, surf around the website.  There might be a new challenge that you could get involved with.

Another Cornell site to check out is Project Pigeon Watch at www.pigeonwatch.org.

Busy, Busy, Busy

I’ve been busy with the homeschool group in addition to planning for our next school year so we really haven’t taken very many day trips around the area. But, here’s the run down on life along the Gulf Coast.

We did take a trip to Orange Beachto hang out with friends.  They were staying at the Caribe and invited us to join then at the pool.  There are a ton of pools and a lazy river at this resort.  We just swam, then went to look around town.  It had been 14 years since we had been in Orange Beach.  Yes, it has changed.  I was happy to see that a good bit of land was still set aside and undeveloped.  We went to Flora-Bama and walked along the beach.  The beach drops off steeply where we were. 

July 4th we went to a friend’s house to watch fireworks.  We’ve been to so many festivals over the years that getting in a crowd is not that fun anymore, so we dodged the crowd at the Pier in Fairhope for a more laid back adventure.  These friends of ours have their own pier and boat house on the Mobile Bay between the I-10 bridge and the Lake Forest Yacht Club.  We watched the few from the Yacht Club but had to scan the horizon for about a half-dozen different spots across the bay to see fireworks.  They were all pretty far away and hard to see. It was more fun just hanging out.

We’ve been swimmingweekly with the homeschool club.  The boys are practicing tennis with a group of homeschooled students on Monday’s and at other times when we can.  The ultimate goal is to play as a team in the fall.  The boys are doing well; it’s just soooo hot and Travis, especially, wears out quickly.

We made another trip to Biloxi last weekend.  A couple we know, Lloyd and Stephanie, hosted a crawfish and shrimp boil at their house.  We knew them from when we lived in Mobile years ago.  Gary and Lloyd worked together.  The house they live in was under 8 feet of water during Katrina.  An older couple had lived there at the time and decided to stay during the storm.  The bayous and creeks rose.  The couple had to go to their attic in order to survive.  Lloyd and his dad buy homes, fix them up and rent them.  They bought this particular house to restore and move into.  It was beautiful.   

There was so much food.  Along with crawfish and shrimp, the boil included corn, potatoes, onions, garlic and sausage.  We ate our fill and had room for watermelon afterward.

The “Pirate” exhibit just ended at the Museum of Mobile and we made the time to go see it.  The whole museum was nice and we’ll be back for future exhibits.  We went with a family of boys plus an extra friend; 5 boys ages 10-14 running around having fun.  Thankfully the museum workers were happy to see us; we were the only ones there at that time so I was less worried about the boys bothering other museum-goers.  This was a different experience than what mine are used to.  In the past, we’ve gone from point A to point B together, reading everything, examining each exhibit and talking about it, even times when we’ve gone with friends.  That’s just how we do it.  Wow, I’m not sure the boys got anything out of the trip.  But that’s life.  We studied Explorers and Pirates during history last year and I figured this would be a great visual to all we studied.  Maybe not.  What I do remember, other than the snack room and the gift shop, was the replica of the Hunley (which the boys sat in and paddled) and a sandbox with “treasure” in it.  If you found a doubloon, you could trade it in at the front desk for pirate themed temporary tatoos.    Maybe the next exhibit they’ll spend more time with.

Fish tank news: the large, pink sea urchin that had eaten my black, spiny urchins is now being eaten.  I put it in the small tank for survival.  There still is a bunch of seaweed and seagrass in the big tank to eat so I don’t know what’s happening.  I do know this: sea urchins don’t see, smell, or hear.  They walk with their spines and have little feelers that move food (grasses, etc) around then to their mouth which is underneath them.  These little feelers also help then cling to things, for example the sides of the fish tank.  They protect themselves from predators by doing several things including: covering themselves with shells, grasses and other items they find, and by eating away at coral, limestone, and coquina along the beaches and hiding in the hole they dig.  If you see a rock formation along the coast that has cup shapes dug into it, chances are a sea urchin ate the rock to form the hole to hide in.  If they’re hungry they’ll eat what’s in their way, including each other.  I just read that they will eat carrots so I’m off to the refrigerator to peel some carrots.  Actually, I have the little ones and I’ll put them in whole.  The urchins love to chomp on mangrove seeds so a whole carrot should be enjoyable.

New aquarium creatures identified

After a lot of research on my part I discovered a critter I needed identified is definitely a spaghetti worm.  How I got it I don’t know.  It could have been inside a shell or attached to some seaweed.  It has made a tube of grainy stuff which I really think is urchin poop.  It “glued” its tube to the inside of a crown conch shell.  It its so fun to watch when it’s using its tentacles which are really long, really skinny almost clear hair-like things.  They remind me sometimes of a large construction crane: gathering material from down below (on the bottom of the tank) and raising it up to the top which would be its mouth.  Too cool.  We have 3 of these critters now.  Check out this link for a cool picture. http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2002-06/rs/index.php
On the same crown conch I noticed some black spots but didn’t question it.  Today I saw something amazing rising up from two of the spots.  I’ve discovered that my fish tank has black-spotted feather duster worms.  They are so cool to watch, too.  If disturbed they shrink to nothing but a dot.  Then they cautiously come back like an umbrella opening upward.  Here’s a link for a picture: http://reefguide.org/blackspottedfeather.html
We’ve aquired a porcelain crab somehow; probably mixed in with some sea grass and sand.
I am having trouble finding algae for the critters to eat.  We took a trip to Orange Beach on Sunday and were able to scoop from the shore at the Pass some grasses.  The Gulf beach was barren and the Bay beaches have been, too.  We’ve had some storminess today and are expecting more this week so hopefully I’ll be able to gather some loosened grass for the critters to eat.