Monthly Archives: September 2009

October on Siesta Key 2009

I’ve had a lot of searches on my blog for things to do around Siesta Key this October.  Well, sadly I’m not there this October but I can still report what is going on.  Here’s the list of all the things I’m going to miss.  Hope you can make it to at least some of the events.  And write to me…let me know how fun it was.  I’ll be back….

This first weekend is busy for the YMCA SHARKS swim program.  Several friends of my children are on the SHARKS swim team so I encourage you to support them.  Here’s how:

There is an open water swim at Siesta Beach on October 3.  Go here: for information.  

The Siesta Key Triathlon is October 4.  It also benefits the YMCA Sarasota Sharks swim team.    There is no race day registration so go here: and sign up.

Other events on and around Siesta Key include:

The Farmer’s Market is in the Village every Sunday morning.

October 4th you can go to St Boniface Episcopal Church with your pet for a Pet Blessing at 4pm.

Every Saturday the Ringling Museum has Family fun events.  Check out other events going on there all month long including a ballet night at the Oslo Theatre.

October 3rd head to GWIZ for their Bayfront Astronomy at 6pm

October 8 at 8am meet at the gazebo at the Celery Fields for bird watching with the Audubon Society.  I love going to the Celery Fields.  We have seen the coolest birds there.  For info call 335-3119.  They’re hoping you’ll give a donation for sharing their expertise with you.  It’s well worth it.

Calling all Safe Boaters (or those that want to be):  The Sarasota Power Squadron is holding Safe Boating classes this month starting October 5th.  Call for info: 400-6467. 

If you want to escape to another island, the St. Armand’s Art Festival is October 10 and 11.  We really like the Columbia Restaurant so stop in there for a salad or cuban sandwich.

I have to promote something that benefits the 4H and the Extension office.  My kids are 4Hers.  So please go to the Sarasota County Master Gardeners Annual Plant Sale on October 10.  It’s from 8am to 2pm at Bee Ridge Park.  Call for more info: 364-5838.  Refreshments are being sold by 4Hers, so buy a plant and a refreshment.  Thanks!

This same weekend (Saturday only) at GWIZ (my kid’s favorite museum) the Sarasota Magic Club is hosting a magic class for children in grades 4-8.  Check out for details.

October 17th: Coastal Cleanup is over but what about the rivers?  Myakka River cleanup is scheduled for 8am to noon.  Bring your kayak or canoe.  For info call or email Mary Jelks: or 366-0446

Sarasota Blues Fest is October 24.

Sarasota Arts and Crafts Fest is October 17 and 18 on Main Street.  Info:

Also, at St. Armand’s Circle, is the Smooth Jazz free concerts.  They start October 30 and are held every last friday of the month through May.  Bring a lawn chair.  It’s a fun and relaxing way to spend your evening.

Phillippi Estates is hosting a Pumpkin Festival October 30 and 31.  The event benefits the All Children’s Hospital.

Safe Treats, the annual Trick or Treat event on Siesta Key at the Village is on October 31 from 3pm-6pm.  It’s a fun, safe kid’s event.  Sorry we’ll miss it this year.

Other Halloween events:  October 24 at GWIZ; October 27 at Selby Gardens Little Sprouts Halloween Parade; I’m sure there are so many more that won’t be advertised until closer to the date. 

No interest in the above?  Kayak the Grand Canal, bike from the north end to Turtle Beach and back, explore the shops at the Village, hunt for iguana (the Siesta Key Association will be happy if you find one), bird watch, go fishing, search the sandbar near the public beach for sand dollars before the water gets too cold; comb the beach; grab a chair and sit along the water; call a friend up north from the beach and let them hear the beach sound (they may hop on the next plane for Sarastoa or quit being your friend); rent a boat; parasail; play bocce ball on the beach; eat ice cream at Big Olaf’s; watch the sunset; walk briskly from parking lot beach access 5 to Point of Rocks and back; look for bioluminescent critters after dusk near the shore (stay out of the water after dark…its dangerous); stand on a street corner and call out to everyone that I said hi (you might get some funny looks); shop at Bliss in the Village for Sunshine Everyday tshirts; cookout at one of  the public beach pavillion grills; toss the football around on the beach; play paddle ball; build a sand castle/sand sculpture; float in the water on a noodle; pick up trash from the beach; fly a kite. If it’s raining check out my blog about what to do on Siesta Key in the rain.  Just enjoy your day at the most beautiful beach I know of.

October in Baldwin County AL 2009


Can you believe it’s October already?  Where did the time go?  Fall came and I didn’t even look at the calendar that week to notice.  Of course I do notice that most trees in Fairhope are Live Oak or Pine so there will be a lot of green remaining this fall and winter.  Trees have starting changing up north; my brother-in-law sent me a picture of the colors surrounding Lake Anne in Reston, VA.   The other trees here (you know…the ones that do change to magnificent color in the fall) are dropping leaves but they’re already brown and dead.  I do expect that is the exception so I’ll forget about all those Pin Oak trees in my neighborhood that are losing brown leaves and wait for that seasonal paintbrush to  color what remains.  This October’s events list is simply that: a list of what’s happening without the editorial.  I’ve provided websites so you can look up the information you need if you’re interested.  There’s a lot to do in both Baldwin County and Mobile County so I’ve listed for both; Mobile is just a bridge length away so why not include some fun stuff over there as well? 

I’ll be at the birding events, and probably the sausage festival.  I think my husband and youngest son would like to go to that one so we’ll hang out with them.  I can definitely say that with bird migration underway, we’ll be taking our classroom outdoors this month.  Since moving here we’re anxiously awaited this time of year; we’re under a huge fly-way and want to spot as many birds for our Life List as we can while we live here.  That’s been one of the fun things about moving around the country.  Some folks have to save their money and take vacations and long weekend trips to do their birdwatching; we just move. 

There’s a Honeybee Festival this month.  Eating local honey is so good for you.  From what I understand it helps you combat the local allergens by boosting your immune system.  We always buy local honey.  That might be a fun festival to go to; educational, too.

Here’s the list of what’s happening around the area.  If you know of something I don’t, send me a comment and I’ll post it.  Have fun.

Baldwin County:

Rock Creek Community Yard Sale: October 3, 8am to noon.  Rock Creek is at the Fairhope/Montrose line on the east side of Hwy 98. 

Maizing Family Fun Farm continues until October 31. Wales West Light Railway Pumpkin Patch Express: through October 30.

Baldwin County Fair: through October 3

Thursdays and Fridays throughout the month, Faulkner State hosts a brown bag concert.  Bring lawn chairs and lunch.  Info: 251-438-5460

Honeybee Festival: October 3

Blakeley Bluegrass Festival: October 3

National Shrimp Festival: October 8-11

My youngest son turns 13 October 8!  Now my home is “filled” with teenagers; there are only two.

Corn Maze in Magnolia Springs begins October 9. Thursday and Friday 4-8pm; Saturday 11am-9pm; Sunday 1-6pm. Info: 251-605-7216  Edited October 25, 2009: We went to the corn maze today and had a blast.  I hope you get a chance to go.  There are two mazes: a criss-cross running maze and one shaped like a tractor with lots of dead ends, left or right decisions and loops.  It took us a solid hour to go through it.  We actually had gotten so turned around that we found our way back out the entrance and went in through the exit to finish the maze.  There are 5 things in the maze you need to find, mark on a card that you are given at the entrance and return the card for the chance at a prize.  We really enjoyed ourselves and highly recommend it. 

Bird banding at Ft. Morgan State Park: Every morning between October 10 and 22 from pre-dawn to mid-afternoon.  The event is free but there is a charge to the Park.   Update: if you can make this event, GO.  We went on a warm day and saw two birds banded.  I got to hold one.  With the cold front there should be a great amount of birds to be seen.  I heard a bunch of western strays were banded.  I don’t know which ones but I wish I had been there.  I might make another trip tomorrow.  Have fun.

Alabama Coastal Bird Fest: October 15-19 check out all of their scheduled events  Updated October 17: if you still have time after reading this to go, then head over to the bird festival at Faulkner State in Fairhope.  We saw a raptor exhibit, got birdhouse kits from the Boy Scouts, made suette, was given a bird nesting box and bird seed, free bird posters, pencils, and there are plenty of other cool exhibits and things to purchase.  There is a touch tank of marine life and caged birds (including a Pileated Woodpecker) to view and learn about.  Dauphin Island Sea Lab has a touch exhibit of sea creatures as well.  Go…have fun!

Mullet Run: October 17 Fairhope 

Grand Festival of Art by the Bay: October 17-18 Fairhope

March For Babies: October 24 Spanish Fort:

October 24: FREE event:   REFUGE OPEN HOUSE  from 9am-1pm at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge  offering free guided nature walks and boat tours. You can stop by any of 3 locations on Saturday:   The refuge office (on Hwy 180, 7.5 mi. west of Hwy. 59) where they will be showing a 15 min. film on the National Wildlife Refuge System; The Canal Park boat launch (on the south side of the Intracoastal Waterway under the Hwy.59 bridge), where they will leave for a 30 min. boat tour to see the Sand Bayou Unit of the refuge; The Pine Beach Trail (1.5 mi. west of the refuge office), where they will be offering guided nature walks at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, and 12:00.  Children are welcome. (251) 540-7720

German Sausage Festival: October 31 Elberta

Polo at the Point: October 23-25 Point Clear

Halloween Day events on the Eastern Shore

There is a local magazine called “This That and the Other”. They’re sponsoring an Autumn Bash as a fundraising event for Mercy Medical.  It’s scheduled for 1-5pm at the Eastern Shore Center Fountain.

5 Rivers is holding an event from noon-5pm.

If you’re a pet owner/lover take Fido to the Wharf in Orange Beach for  the Howl-o-Ween Spooky Pooch Parade & Costume Contest. Categories include best trick, pet/ower look-a-like, best kisser, biggest dog and smallest dog and best costume.   Raffle tickets for vendor prizes; proceeds go to BARCPet Adoption and Rabies/Microchip Clinic set up (251) 224-1012.

Putters Dream in Spanish Fort is having a Halloween party from 11am to 6pm: 625-4808

 Here’s a cool pumpkin and Halloween website for Alabama:

Mobile County:

BayFest Music Festival: October 7-4

Mobile Symphony: October 17 Halloween Pops 251-432-7080

Night at the Museum: October 23

Greater Gulf State Fair: October 23-Nov 1:

Woofstock: October 25 (a costume party for your dog; my dog would spend most of her time trying to get the thing off)

Mum Festival (Mobile): October 25-November 25

Bellingrath Gardens is also having an event for the little ones starting at 5pm with reduced admission charge.  See web address above.

On the 27th from 7-8pm you can go to the Environmental Studies Center on Girby Road and participate in SKYWATCH.  Observe the moon, open star clusters, nebula and more with the Mobile Astronomical Society.  Its free and open to the public.

Glass Blowing 101

There is a glass art studio that just set up at the Orange Beach Art Center called the Hot Shop.  You can watch the artist create with glass usually just on the weekends.  They also schedule field trips and groups so some members of both the Lake Forest Home School Club and BEACH homeschool club attended a class at the Hot Shop today.  We learned about the history of glass, the science of glass and watched as the artist went through each step, including blowing the glass, to make a wavy bowl.  He incorporated color and ridges.  He taught us about the furnace and how it works versus the “old fashioned way”, how the glass cools and handed out a sheet of paper with glass and glass blowing terminology on it.  At the end of the presentation, anyone interested could pay $20 to make a glass ornament.  It was a treat to watch one of our students, Nick, do this before we left.  His job was to blow into the blow pipe at determined times.  The artist would gather the molten glass, roll it on a table, add color and when it needed an air bubble in it to make it grow into a ball, Nick’s job was to blow into the pipe.  He said it was really hard.  The pipe is long so just a little puff of air isn’t going to do much. You have to use your lungs.  In the end, the artist produced for Nick a red glass ball with a glass hook attached for hanging.  It needs 12 hours to cool, so he and his mom will have to make another trip to pick it up.  The red glass, when it is hot, looks brown so we’re anxious to see the cooled product.

rolling molten glass in a fine glass coloring

rolling molten glass in a fine glass coloring

reheating the glass

reheating the glass

he's added larger chunks of purple glass for more color

he's added larger chunks of purple glass for more color

using tools to shape the glass

using tools to shape the glass

after making an opening and reheating the glass it is spun to resemble a flat plate

after making an opening and reheating the glass it is spun to resemble a flat plate

then the glass is hung down; gravity pulls the ends together to make a wavy effect

then the glass is hung down; gravity pulls the ends together to make a wavy effect

The art center was a treat, too.  The art was beautiful; mostly beach-related subjects and reasonably priced.  There is a gift shop.

The Hot Shop is open to the public on Saturdays and holds classes from 10am to 2pm.  They offer the opportunity to make an ornament for $20 or a paperweight for $35.  We saw some paperweights in the art center and they looked like oversized marbles with a flattened part to rest on.  The colors used for the swirl inside the glass was very pretty.

The Orange Beach Art Center is located at 26389 Canal Road.  From the Foley Express turn left on Canal and the center is on the left.  If you pass the blue water tower you’ve gone too far.  Check out their website:

More Deer in my Yard

We have a huge double window in our homeschool classroom (it’s actually the converted dining area of the kitchen) which allows us to nature watch between math problems, capitalization lessons and science labs.  We have lots of trees filled with squirrels and birds; butterflies flutter by; people walk their dogs past our house (a street runs along side); deer graze on our grass and dart into the woods across the street.  We also have two large bird feeders that attract both birds and squirrels.

This morning a doe and her two little ones (one smaller than the other) walked across the yard before darting into the woods.  A neighbor was walking her dog up the street toward them which probably startled the deer and they took off.   What a cool sight.  Hope they stay longer next time.

Fun Things You Can Do With Seaweed

We went to Gulf Shores this past weekend for some vitamin D and hydrotherapy.  After I picked up a ziplock bag full of seaweed from the waterline to feed my sea urchins and crabs at home, I sat down to enjoy the sun.  All my boys were in the water.  Yes, there were some jellies, but also lots more seaweed which they had a blast flinging at each other.  So I began to ponder: what else is seaweed good for?  Here’s my list:

Ice cream is sometimes made with kelp and sushi is sometimes wrapped in it.  You can also purchase strips of dried, pressed seaweed to munch on for a snack.  My boys loved it as toddlers.  Then my source of the stuff, a baseball-related friend from California, moved back home and I couldn’t find it in town.  My boys went back to eating crackers and pretzels.  There is also a type of seaweed that, if you were starving, you can boil up, season with salt and eat.  My favorite dish is seaweed salad.  But there is plenty of other ways to prepare it or use it in a recipe.

A friend of mine in FL took a class with her children.  They went on a boat trip, collected seaweed and learned how to prepare it to eat.  You know, if you get stranded on an island or stuck near your hurricane-destroyed beach-front house and need something to eat, she told me that knowing the right kind of seaweed to eat would help you survive.  So you can eat seaweed.

Cosmetics, hair products, toothpaste and other related items can have kelp in them.  Therefore, you can use it for hygiene.

Seaweed is good for sea critters to eat.  I collect it (or have friends collect it when I can’t make it to the beach for a long stretch) and feed it to my sea urchins and crabs that I keep in my fish tank.  When my urchins eat it they look like alien jellies or space creatures.  Imagine the urchin clinging sideways to the side of the fish tank with sea weed hanging from its mouth (which is on the underside of the creature).

You can name things after it: a website, a horse, a boat, a book, a pet, a rock band, a store, etc., etc.

I read about a car company in Asia somewhere that’s making a car using kelp in the plastic.  I don’t know why.  I’m not sure I’d even want to drive it except maybe on the golf course. 

You can use it for crafts although make sure its really dried out because of the smell.  Dried seaweed can be incorporated for a seaside door wreath.  Arrange it on a round plate with a hurricane candle in the center.  Just don’t let it burn.  Glue a piece or two to a poster board and when the glue dries, paint or draw an underwater scene surrounding the seaweed. 

Make a Halloween costume with seaweed.  One year we went to New Orleans Jazz Fest at the Zoo and there was this wood cut-out of a person with a hole for the face.  It was covered in moss from the trees.  You stand behind it with your face sticking through the hole for a Kodak moment.  Well, moss is rich with chiggers so that turned out to be a bad idea for my husband.  We spent the afternoon looking for a pharmacy for chigger rid.  Anyway, seaweed has other micro-critters in it and they don’t itch, at least I don’t think they do.  A costume covered or decorated with dried seaweed would be too cool.  Take a picture and send it to me.

Seaweed adds a nice touch to a sand sculpture or sand castle.

You can, like my boys found, have a great time flinging seaweed at each other.

Pitcher Plant Bog

Pitcher Plants

Pitcher Plants

 The Pitcher Plant is a carnivorous plant.  It captures and eats insects that climb inside.  Their flowers are tube shaped, hollow and open at the top.  A sweet liquid at the bottom of the tube attracts insects which crawl down the tube over cilia that is pointed downward.  Once in the tube, the insect can’t climb out because of the little hairs.  The liquid inside basically “digests” the insect and the plant absorbs the minerals as nourishment.

Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant

 A bog is a wetland that’s dry enough to burn once in a while in order to stay healthy.  Fires burn off layers that would cause the ground to become shady and inhibit growth of these plants.  Natural fires caused by lightning used to keep the bogs habitat in order but more recently controlled fires have done the trick thus keeping nearby homes safe. 

There are 4 types of pitcher plants at this bog to look for: Sweet Pitcher Plant, Purple Pitcher Plant, Parrot Pitcher Plant and the most numerous type is the White-topped Pitcher Plant.

Boardwalk entrance to Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog

Boardwalk entrance to Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog

The bog is located on CR 17 off of US 98 just east of Fish River Bridge.  After visiting the bog go across the bridge and visit the Weeks Bay Estuary Interpretive Center.

Coastal Cleanup in Fairhope AL

After a long rainy week we had great weather for cleaning up the shoreline.  The group I organized took the section of Mobile Bay at the northside of the mouth of Fly Creek.  We started at the Jetty and moved about a 1/4 to 1/2 mile north.  Thanks to the teens of the Lake Forest Homeschool Club and their siblings for coming out and helping the clean up. 

Here’s what we found: tires, construction material (might be washed up parts from a previous hurricane), boat parts, beer bottles and cans, candy wrappers galore, a flip flop, fishing line, broken parts of a styrofoam cooler and styrofoam cups, bottle caps, broken glass, motor oil containers, plastic bags, tobacco containers, cigarette butts, drinking straws, a kerosene container for a portable grill, a plastic Spongebob toy, a little toy pony and plastic soda and water bottles.

We collected 7 bags of stuff plus what we left (tires and construction materials to be picked up). 

I’m thankful that this cleanup happens each year, although it sadly has to.  Please remember to be responsible for your trash whether as a boater, beach goer or just while hanging around any waterway.

A Deer in my Yard

From my kitchen window you’d look north through a stand of trees, down a small grass hill, across the street that runs alongside my house and over to a neighbors home surrounded by trees.  The lot to the east of them in not developed and consequently densely filled with trees.  We usually see deer  coming out of those woods and hear all kinds of nocturnal birds in that direction.

Last night as I closed the blinds before doing the dishes I saw the silhouette of a deer on my yard.  Turning out the kitchen lights I called the family and we all stood there watching it; it watching us.  How mighty and amazing; utterly beautiful.  It was thin with small antlers but probably as tall or taller than my husband.  After several minutes it turned and slowly walked across the street only to vanish into the woods.

We’ve seen deer in the neighborhood; sometimes in our back yard, sometimes running across the street but this time was different and amazing.  It stood there, backlit from the street lamp across the way and stared back at us.

I can’t think of what would top this experience at the moment…except the moose in my friend Kristine’s yard.  She lives in Alaska.

Love bugs and Dragonflies

It’s that time of year when the south is covered in love bugs and damsel flies.  You just can’t get away from them. 

I had a pair of love bugs fly along side of me from my car to the front door of Publix today; like their job was to escort me to the door.  They swarm you when you get back to your car and if you’re lucky they won’t get in with you.  It’s difficult to pack the car with a lot of groceries.  Love bugs just don’t know they’re not welcome on the ride home.  Well, a pair of love bugs just didn’t get it today and ended up at home with me  attached to my purse.  They crawled down to the kitchen floor and were stepped on.  They must not taste good because my dog stayed away from them.  Usually she has to taste every unwanted critter that gets smashed in the house.

According to an article I read from the University of Florida extension office love bugs are actually small black flies with red thoraxes.  They fly two times each year:  the spring flight occurs during late April and May.  A second flight occurs during late August and September. Flights extend over periods of 4 to 5 weeks. Mating takes place almost immediately after emergence of the females. Adult females live only 2-3 days, except the ones that I hit with my car.  They don’t have a chance to live that long.

“The female lovebugs lay from 100 to 350 eggs which are deposited beneath decaying vegetation.”  I guess they’re in all the pine straw we use here as mulch in our gardens.

“Adult lovebugs are harmless and do not sting or bite. They feed on the nectar of various plants, especially sweet clover, goldenrod and brazilian pepper. Usually, lovebug flights are restricted to daylight hours and temperatures above 68°F. At night lovebugs rest on low growing vegetation.”  For more detailed info check out the site:

Love bugs are everywhere and you can’t help but to hit them.  The front of every car in the south is coated in black this time of year.  I haven’t taken many long trips recently so my car is only slightly coated but I remember one year driving through Charleston SC; the windshield and the front grill were so filthy by the time we got where we intended that we had to wash the car.

Damselflies and dragonflies are everywhere, too, but I enjoy them a lot.  So what’s the difference?  Damselflies, when they are at rest, hold their wings paralled to their bodies.  They are smaller than dragonflies.  Dragonflies hold their wings perpendicular to their bodies.  These critters eat mosquitoes, flies, flying ants, and butterflies. I wonder if they eat lovebugs.

 They come in beautiful colors.  One day I hope to have a better camera so I can take pictures of them.  I don’t like hitting these creatures with my car; thankfully they’re not as plentiful over the roadways.  They search for food over the grassy areas and marshes. 

Enjoy them while they are here because when they’re gone for the season, winter will be on its way. 

Wonder what a South Alabama Winter is like.


EDITED 9-9-09: Lovebugs seem to like heat.  I read on several websites that they are attracted to a chemical in automobile exhaust and also to heat.  I’ve pulled up at the grocery store and parked the car in a spot where there were no love bugs congregating.  Then suddenly by the time I’m out of the car, it is swarmed by bugs.  When I got home yesterday there were no lovebugs flying near the front of the house.  I moment after going in the house we looked outside and found the front of my car covered in lovebugs.  It was creepy.  I later went out and found my car was having engine troubles.  Could be the battery…I’m due for a new one.  Or…is it lovebug damage?  And does insurance cover it?  Probably not. 

Edited again: it was just the battery.

Edited 9/23/09: Its been raining so much lately that I just realized the love bugs are gone.  It must have happened last week.  I don’t remember seeing them over the weekend.  So, they were here about a month.