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S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Autumn Wreath
October 12, 2007, 9:59 am

Ham wreath, that is!

Veronica has been enjoying having a full galley, er kitchen, at her disposal and turned out a fabulous dinner last night.

Her recipe, with adaptations:

2 pkgs pop-em crescent rolls (scary!)
1 1/2 cups diced ham
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 1/4 cup shredded swiss and cheddar, mixed
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 egg white, for glazing

Unroll crescent dough and arrange triangles in a circle with points out. Combine ham, green onions, 1 cup of cheese, mayo and pepper in bowl. Scoop onto crescent dough. Top with tomato and remaining cheese. Wrap points of crescent dough over filling, tucking under wide ends of dough in the center of the wreath. Brush dough with egg white and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

The adaptation part? Original recipe called for 10 ounces frozen spinach which we forgot to buy. If it was included we would call it a Ham Florentine Wreath, not an Autumn Wreath!

The verdict? No leftovers means it was highly successful and delicious. Two thumbs up, Veronica, yum!

I'm all at Sea with this Recipe!
Busy Autumn Times
October 11, 2007, 10:25 am, An update:

Have we been busy? Why, yes we have! In the last few weeks on the health front we have had one Root Canal, one minor surgery and 5 teeth pulled and braces on.

Marianna pulled a wire out last night eating a strawberry. The orthodontist is only in Key West on Thursdays and Saturdays. Do I stick it back in (am I supposed to? I tried and it was not successful but I can try again) or make the 100 mile trek on Saturday? 100 miles, you say? What is she talking about?

We were hired to house and pet sit in two locations 100 miles apart, originally not at the same time, but their plans changed to the same times. So we girls are watching two kitties in the Upper Keys while Hal is walking two dogs in the Lower Keys. For people with Island Fever who detest driving I think I'll be spending quite a bit of time behind the wheel in the next few days as Hal and I are switching locales on the weekend. I work weekends, you know, and he doesn't.

Simple plans that become not so simple.

Other news to share?

Veronica received her CAHSEE, or California High School Exit Examination scores the other day. How'd she do? Well, she did all right I suppose.

She only set the new record for the highest scoring student Oakview High School has ever had.

That translates into a 440 out of 450 in Math and a 450 out of 450 in English. Not too shabby! We are so very proud!

This has since opened up new paths, including something called instant admissions at a few universities back in CA including Humbolt U which is a fabulous looking place that has a great program that she is very interested in. So she is thrust back in the middle of a huge decision making process.

So yes, our Autumn has been fairly busy!

Hello Autumn!
October 3, 2007, 10:35 am

Happy October to you! It's Fall!

With the lack of 4 seasons here in the sub-tropics we declare October and November as the Autumn months. December and January are Winter, followed by the Spring months of February and March leaving everything else to fall under the broad umbrella of Summer.

So after 6 months of heat we were quite excited to see the cooler month of October arrive. That's rather tongue in cheek I'm afraid, as most days are still hitting 90, but the mornings are cool enough to go for a walk, a walk that is pleasant if you're back by 9am!

Which fits in perfectly with something else that October signals the beginning of - school! Yes, our formal tablework began on Monday. This week is a fairly light review in all subjects and shockingly every day so far (okay, two days and hopefully today) we have managed to cover all 6 items in our Rule of Six!

That makes me absurdly happy.

As does the fact that Mixologist won in my impromptu poll last week! And as much as I'd like to stick around and chat a bit more, I've got lunch and school and work tonight on my plate for today!

P.S. In the stores new produce is appearing with the change in seasons too. One of the most unique is the larger red scaled fruit pictured at the bottom of my journal above. Has anyone tried a Dragon Fruit? I think it is also called a Pitaya. Any hints on eating it?

Mixologist, Cocktalian or Bar Chef?
September 24, 2007, 10:46 am

I got the job! Hurray! Doing a happy dance here! You do know you can dance on a sailboat, right? LOL! We do all the time! Great practice for crowded dance floors, actually. ;)

Anyway, I've put in three shifts now, my regular times will be Saturday Night, Sunday all day and then floating throughout the week.

Don't you love the cool picture? My dear sister, Michelle, got a little crafty and pasted me behind the bar in a happening Kansas City joint. You can read the article online at the Kansas City Star. This very informative article has led me to quite a dilemma, what shall I call myself? Bartender is obviously so-o-o-o last century. Mixologist, Cocktalian or Bar Chef are a few of my favorites now, so help me decide!

Vote today in the comments and thanks in advance!

September 19, 2007, 12:29 pm

Marianna and I were super excited to take Veronica up to the Everglades last week, we were certain she would love it being the bird loving gal that she is!

We'd last visited the Everglades in late January during the height of the birding season. This trip we saw fewer birds and smaller gators and no 17 foot long bulls, thank heavens! But we heard some interesting things this time. So let's begin, shall we?

This is the start of the Anhinga Trail, nicely paved or boardwalked the entire way. I personally like it best when we get to the elevated boardwalk part as I like walking over the gators better than beside the gators. Just a personal preference. ;)

Could it have something to do with this sign perhaps?

Or the fact that this particular alligator

Could be gotten much, much closer to?

Sorry for the slight blurriness there, especially after the last post about our favorite photographer. Could have had something to do with me turning around and screeching at her as she was stretched out on her belly hanging over the boardwalk trying to get a good photo. Just maybe I startled her?

Here's my style of nature observation. A mango-like tree beside the boardwalk.

Or how about a nice lily?

Okay, so this Raven was pretty neat but not quite as neat as...

this Limpkin! This is the first time I've seen one and I'd love to hear its call. It was one of the featured bird songs that was left in the old Tarzan shows that were filmed in Florida. You can hear the call here on Cornell's All About Birds site.

Even though we didn't hear the Limpkin call we did hear the alligators' mating calls, very deep grunting noises and as we were leaving the boardwalk for the paved trail we heard baby gators chirping!

So cool.

Nature Study
And the Winner is...
September 14, 2007, 10:32 am

Gosh! We have been so very busy lately that I have so much to share on this poor neglected blog! So I think I'll start with a very exciting Marianna happening.

She entered and won a photography contest! The Keynoter and L'Attitudes Newspaper was running a summer contest for Kids in the Keys, you can see all the entries here and the two articles naming the winners here and here.

Her Cat's Eye won two Honorable Mentions, for Most Mysterious Object and for Best Close Up while her Green Anole won Best in Show.

We are so very proud of our photographer!

Congratulations, Marianna!

We Are Now Certifiable
September 8, 2007, 3:16 pm

SCUBA Certified, that is!

This week has been spent under the water for Marianna and I. Pool work and four Open Water Dives as well as a final test have completed our YMCA SCUBA course!

We are SCUBA Divers now!!!

Do you want the details? 'Cause I'd love to share them!

Our first dive was in the afternoon on the Benwood Wreck. The ride out aboard the Ocean Diver dive boat was lovely, the seas calm and the skies sunny, as we say down here - a Chamber of Commerce day. Marianna and I suited up and stepped off the back of the boat into the 86 degree water with visibility that was about 35 - 40 feet. We swam over to a nice sandy patch and settled down to demonstrate things like flooding and clearing our masks and buddy breathing.

We then took off to do a bit of exploring! The Benwood was a Norwegian merchant marine freighter that sank in 1942 after colliding with a tanker, the Robert C. Tuttle. Both ships were running "lights out" to avoid German U-Boats during WWII and while they did avoid the Germans, they did not avoid each other!

The ship is now mostly flattened out upon the bottom with very interesting little holes you can peep down into that the fish love to hide in and a nice rib structure that is visible. Our deepest depth on this dive was 37 feet and we stayed on the bottom for 47 delightful minutes.

Dive #2
We then moved on over to French Reef and stopped at the Christmas Tree Cave dive site. This site has neat Coral "Swim-Throughs" and canyon-like formations to wind your way through. The name Christmas Tree Cave does not come from the Christmas Tree Worm, my first guess, but rather from the highest coral formation at the site which is cone , or shall we say, Christmas Tree, in shape!

This is a spectacular site with tons of cool areas to explore. The canyon-like channels are rather challenging to swim through as none are wider than your arm span and many are tighter than that. We were able to visit one "swim-through" which was long enough to be considered a cavern. It was coated with cool fish exhibiting a bit of Bioluminescence in the darker waters of the cavernous "swim-through". Our depth on this dive was 40 feet and we were down for 52 minutes in water with 40 easy feet of visibility.

Dive #3
Our third dive was a morning dive from the Santana dive boat. As we left the dock a broken rainbow appeared in the sky. There had been heavy downpours at dawn and most of the people on the manifest cancelled due to the rain which we thought had moved further south.

As we cleared Crash Corner and exited the canal however, we could see very dark clouds about and our captain, Craig, made the call to transfer our dives from our expected locations back to the Benwood and French Reef.

I actually really enjoyed returning to the Benwood and seeing it a second time. We moved over to a neat sandy patch with a colony of Yellow-headed Gobies at 50 feet, our deepest depth for this dive. Gobies are fun to watch as they emerge from their holes and slip quickly back in, tail first. After 40 minutes in water with 40 feet of visibility we surfaced to spitty rain and rough seas and visibility that was much worse above the seas than below!

Dive #4
With the seas kicking up we secured our gear and got underway quickly. By the time we got to French Reef the seas were 4-6 feet and very confused. (This is a very rough ride for the Keys.) Captain Craig didn't even slow down as an intense looking storm cell was bearing down and we continued on to Molasses Reef with a boat load of very ill divers. Dive Master Trace got the two worst guys positioned in one location and then very nicely cleared everyone else's dive gear up to the cabin area as the aft deck was awash as we plowed through the waves.

By the time we arrived at the Winch-Hole dive site on Molasses Reef the rest of the passengers were moving ever so slowly toward their equipment so we three were the first in the water and once we gave the OK signal to the boat we immediately sank below the roiling seas to the calmness of the reef.

As we swam toward the large, iron winch that gives this particular site it's name a brillant flash of light caught our attention. As no other divers were yet in the water it couldn't have been their camera's flash and we later found out that the Marine Buoy we moored beside took a direct hit of lightning! If you click through to this site you can see the conditions we were in on that day, from 10am till 11am the wind was 24 mph as the storm cell moved through.

It was really neat to watch the huge drops of rain strike the ocean from below and the waves rush past while we were nicely protected 33 feet below the surface. At the peak of the storm the visibility dropped from the usual 35 feet as the skies darkened and the light faded but came back once the darkest part of the storm passed.

This dive was just as spectacular as the previous three, perhaps more so with the contrast between the storm tossed seas and the calmness of the reef. The large winch was neat to see as well as several other iron artifacts. We again settled into a sandy patch and Rick had Marianna demonstrate Buddy Breathing again, making sure to emphasize maintaining physical and eye contact at all times. He then released us to explore or do what ever we wanted.

I settled down to observe a wall and Marianna laid herself down beside me on the bottom and proceeded to "sleep" snoring bubble rings toward the surface. After her "rest" she shook herself awake and played gazelle for awhile leaping from one sandy patch to another.

As we moved around the reef, some of us swimming and some gracefully leaping about, we traveled in a stacked formation with Rick leading, Marianna leaping about below and I just above. Which turned out to be a very good thing as her weight belt and she parted company. She bumped up into me, immediately dumped all air as I grabbed onto her and dumped the air from my BC too. We settled right down beside her weight belt which landed on the sand and got her belt back around her waist and then continued our dive. After 50 minutes we reluctantly surfaced to seas that were still confused but calming as the storm finally moved off.

So many neat things were seen, a nice sting ray flying over a coral formation, lots of Midnight Damselfish, Parrotfish, Queen Angels, Purple Sea Fans...we haven't even settled down with our Reef Fish book to formulate a list yet!

Marianna and I are so very happy and proud of ourselves for completing this dive course. The conditions on the last two dives were quite extreme, our Dive Instructor said they were pushing the limits of anything a Sport Diver should be out in; we handled an equipment malfunction beautifully, again according to our Instructor; and we both thouroughly enjoyed ourselves! I wish we had more pictures to share but on the check-out dives additional equipment is not brought along, but if you click through on the links above you can see several pictures and additional information on each of the dive sites.

It feels fabulous to be able to call ourselves SCUBA Divers now!

The Promised Photo Collage
September 6, 2007, 1:10 pm

Wow! Over a week since last posting! What have I been thinking/doing?

Plenty, I suppose, as evidenced by this collection of photos...

Picking up beloved sister at airport in totally rad rental vehicle.

Delivering beloved sister promptly to ocean so that she can dip feet in the Pacific and the Atlantic all within one week.

Joining beloved sister in water that has waves.

Look! It's a wave!
I refuse to divulge how many eerily similar photos we now have.
Thank heavens we live in a digital age.

Me, rinsing sand and a very earnest Buddhist whom I had no idea was behind me at the time.

First ever drive by beloved sister in the totally rad convertable.

First ever ride by beloved sister in the totally rad dinghy.

Return of said beloved sister in totally trashed dinghy.

Actually, not too totally trashed. Just a little seam separation. Nothing a little Gorilla Glue won't cure. A tiny bit of advice for other boaters - skip the Shoe Goo and just go straight for the Gorilla Glue. You can see the results of the Shoe Goo around their ankles. Yes, that water is calf high and the gas tank is floating.

So there, now you're caught up on the first, ummm...two days, maybe? Goodness!

Busy times...
A Few Nice Things...
September 1, 2007, 10:17 am

this morning since I have the chance to post BUT I sent the camera with the card in the waterproof case out in the dinghy pictures available! Darn! The coordination is lacking this morning, I guess. I think it comes from splitting the same amount of coffee between three people when we are used to splitting it in two. It is a theory anyway, a caffeine deprived theory perhaps, but a theory just the same! ;)

Let's see, first off I've contacted Tim at SailBlogs about the difficulty people have been having leaving comments here, his response:

The comments system has been getting hammered by spammers over the past two weeks. There is a block in there for ip addresses, and as these get tagged it is affecting other users (i.e. if an IP address of a main system, like AOL, gets tagged). I'm working on a slightly smarter system that does not have such blanket blocking. I have to do it carefully, tho.
This is not really related to the maintenance we're doing, but rather a spike in traffic that is occurring for a few blogs.

Thank you so much for emailing me and letting me know there was comment trouble happening!
Hopefully Tim will be able to hammer out the slightly smarter system in no time at all! Think hammocks, not blankets!

Dear, nice, Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight awarded the Nice Matters Award to me this week!

A (slightly modified) description of the award:
"This award is for those who are nice people; good friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our world."

I am going to break with tradition a bit here and award this Nice Matters Award to some real, close to me, people - Hal, Marianna and Veronica! It has been a very nice week so far, we are all still alive, no one has been deep-sixed and very few if any tears have been shed!

They truly deserve this award and if you want to play along grab a tape measure and mark out a 35 ft by 11 ft space that is kinda pointy on one end. Stand in that space with three of your nearest and dearest loved ones and imagine moving all your possessions into the space with you.

Nice really does matter in a situation like this!

Now, just for fun, when I was over at By Sun and Candlelight to grab the Nice Matters button I went ahead and took the Accent Quiz I found over there and the results were scary accurate for this Denver-born and California-raised girl!

What American accent do you have?
Created by Xavier on

Western. Like Midland, Western is another accent that people consider neutral. So, you might not actually be from the Western half of the country, but you definitely sound like it.

I hope your Labor Day Weekend is off to roaring start! Hopefully the camera will return and be filled with exciting photos to share! Stay tuned...

Please Welcome
August 28, 2007, 6:00 am

Our newest Crew Member!

Today we are off to Fort Lauderdale to pick up my sister Veronica, who will be joining the crew of the S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen temporarily, until she finds a vessel of her own!

You may recall she spent her Senior Trip with us earlier this summer, what we didn't share at that time was that she spent allot of time helping Hal work on boats and showed an innate mechanical ability as well as a definite work ethic that is stellar in the Florida Keys! So inspired was she, that she proposed a business partnership to Hal, who after much consideration, accepted her proposal.

So not only will we be gaining a 4th person into our 35' home, but a business as well!

If you live or are passing through the Florida Keys and are having problems, or simply need some detailing done on your yacht, drop us a line!


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S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen
Who: Capt. Hal, Jennifer, and our daughter Marianna, a great photographer!
Port: Boca Chica
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