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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
The View from the Beach
December 11, 2007, 7:35 pm

The masts and shrouds are filled with lights
'neath the waning of the moon
There's an air of celebration in the realm of King Neptune.


Exciting Eve
December 11, 2007, 7:11 pm

Our Jesse Tree is growing more delightful everyday (and fuller too!) Marianna was completely inspired by these Scandinavian Ornaments by Martha thus the black backgrounds and brilliant colors.

The sunset is breathtaking tonight and we've been invited for cocktails and appetizers on the T-Deck.

Instead we're going to eat Mexican food and decorate our boat and then attend a midnight La Serenata Mass at midnight to welcome the Icon of Our Lady Guadalupe to the Archdiocese of Miami from Mexico City. More info here and I, of course, will tell all tomorrow here!

Must go now as the tub of decorations is being lowered down the hatch and the no-see-ums are awful and the conchs are being blown!!!

P.S. Don't forget Alice's Tea for tomorrow. We are buying the goodies tonight before mass.

Our Faith
Unexpected Kitchen Science
December 10, 2007, 3:05 pm


Certain things should not be wrapped tightly in plastic and hidden behind the bananas.

Anyone care to place a guess as to what it was?

I'm all at Sea with this Recipe!
Why you may need to repeat your drink order.
December 7, 2007, 2:48 pm

Oceana is back.
The planes began flying at 6:30am this morning.
That building you see under the plane?
The Navigator's Bar and Grill.
Who's working this weekend?
Friday night - me.
Saturday night - me.
Sunday night - me.
Conch Rum and Coke or Miller Light Draft?

Kitchen Science - Maia!
December 7, 2007, 7:22 am

As Marianna and I were walking through Winn-Dixie we noticed a display of many types of bananas in the produce section. One of our favorite things to do is taste test either different varieties of foods or new to us foods so we quickly came to the conclusion that bananas and plantains would be a great topic to address next.

Caribbean Plantain on left and Hawaiian Plantain to right

Now I have to pause for one moment to tell you how amazing this is. Marianna hates raw bananas passionately. This developed relatively recently, she claims she simply ate too, too many when she was a little tyke and she just may have a point there! As a toddler she named herself Nanna and since that sounds very similar to her preferred food at that time you can imagine a typical day.

Toddler in kitchen - "Nanna!"
Mommy at counter - "Oh! She said her name! What a sweetie!"
Toddler a little louder - "Nanna!"
Mommy, crouching down, starts cooing.
Toddler, reaching for bananas just out of reach on counter, starts screaming.

To avoid this many times a day senario, I promptly renamed that preferred food Maia, the Hawaiian word for banana since we were watching the totally cute Keiki Calabash 4 times a day at that time. You can hear a portion of the song featuring Maia here.

Demonstrating proper cutting technique.

Now I suppose would be as good a time as any to introduce two additional books we are thrilled to be using, 21st Century Cook and Big Snacks, Little Meals.

Caribbeans are flipped, Hawaiians are not.

The first is subtitled the Bible of Ingredients, Terms, Tools & Techniques and I think that is an accurate description! It is loaded with easy to find information, but the book is a decent size, about 8x5" maybe, so it doesn't take over the entire counter when you're working with it, very important in small places!

The second book is a fun cookbook written for older kids, as it says - "This is a book about real cooking, not some little kid's book about making PB&J sandwiches that look like bunnies. You'll start with fresh, basic ingredients, and put them together to make nutritious, substantial dishes." The recipes range from one entitled Ooey Gooey which I was pushing to try since it involved bananas, peanut butter, chocolate and marshmallows to Fried Green Tomatoes which is what we went with.

Green Tomatoes Frying and Spattering

Marianna's reasoning? If we're frying plantains the skillet will be hot so we might as well toss a few green tomato slices in too.

She's way too practical for me sometimes. ;)

Chef in the Galley

Kingdom Plantae - (Plants)
Subkingdom Tracheobionta - (Vascular plants)
Superdivision Spermatophyta - (Seed plants)
Division Magnoliophyta - (Flowering plants)
Class Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
Subclass and OrderZingiberidae -
Family Musaceae - (Banana family)
Genus Musa L. - (banana)
Species Musa acuminata Colla - (edible banana)

I'm all at Sea with this Recipe!
Catocala Conundrum
December 5, 2007, 6:55 am

Under the dock light the other night Marianna rescued a lovely Moth moving it from the dangerous area over the water up to the mangroves instead. It was quite calm, not very fluttery at all so we were able to get a great picture of it after trying many settings on the camera.

We've managed, thanks to What's That Bug and BugGuide to identify it as an Underwing Moth, but no more specific than that as we stopped our research after learning how popular Catocalas are with collectors for the difficulty in identification. Love the idea that many of the names are related to marriage, continuing a tradition began by Linneaus. It would be cool to say we found The Bride or The Darling but I didn't want to devote hours and hours comparing all 111 species today.

Sorry folks, busy life intruding here!

But if you are familiar with Moths and would like to help us further identify this beauty we'd love to hear from you!

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Superclass Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Subclass Pterygota (Winged Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Noctuoidea
Family Erebidae
Subfamily Catocalinae
Tribe Catocalini
Genus Catocala (Underwings)

One last tidbit - Catocala, from the Greek "kato" meaning below or behind and "kalos" meaning beautiful.

A perfect name.

Nature Study
Compliments of the Season
December 4, 2007, 6:56 am

Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping presents is one of my favorite things to do! I remember getting really elaborate with the ribbon in my early teen years, they were works of art, let me tell you! Gift bags are awful for presents but super cool for storing things like stationary and cards or as part of the decorations with heaps of pretty ornaments inside.

Real tree or artificial?
We've had both, I fondly recall trying to assemble those old artificial trees with the color coded wire, best thing I ever did was recolor that wire with vibrant nail polish one year! As far as real trees go the first one I recall was cut down deep in the forests of the CO Rocky Mountains and carried home, we've hauled cedar trees home behind our horses and then put a "real" tree inside, cedars are only good for bonfires!

When do you put up the tree?
I try to have the tree up by Saint Nicholas' Day.

When do you take the tree down?
Sometime during that week after New Years.

Favorite holiday theme?
Seaside Seashells!

Favorite gift received as a child?
Herbal books and handcrafts.

Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes! I had the hardest time finding one here in the Keys, I had half a marina out looking for us one year! Jack and Lorraine found a beautiful snowglobe Nativity that we love but no one could find a traditional multi-pieced set. How awful is that? Then the good ol' Dollar General stepped up to the plate and had a pile of really nice Nativities. I bought one on the spot!

Hardest person to buy for?
My dearest husband, of course!

Easiest person to buy for?

Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Oh, it had to be Grandma's traditional underware, always really nice panties, and I actually liked one set with delicate embroidered doves but having to unwrap underclothes in front of all Dad's brothers was mortifying!

Mail or email cards?
Snail Mail all the way! I think giving and receiving cards and letters and finding them in the mailbox is one of the best parts of this Season!

Favorite Christmas movie?
White Christmas, or maybe It's a Wonderful Life, or Little Women...

When do you start shopping for Christmas?
December 1st. Don't rush me!

Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
No, but there is this one tiny, tiny gift bag, that has been passed around this family for years!

Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Russian Tea Cakes!

White lights or colored on the tree?
Colored lights on the inside tree, up on deck we have varied colored and white over the years. I don't know which we'll do yet this year!

Favorite Christmas song?
OK, how can I name just one?

Still, Still, Still - my December baby's lullaby
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
The Carol of the Bells
O Holy Night

Travel for Christmas or stay at home?
For the past few years we've stayed on the boat.

Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?
Probably not!

Angel on the tree top or a star?
I like stars on the top of trees but Marianna found and fell in love with an angel one year so she flies over our inside tree.

Open the presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
One present on Christmas Eve, it used to be from Mom's parents when I was a kid and it was usually a nice warm nightgown.

Most annoying thing about this time of year?
People who moan and groan their way through December especially if I'm trapped beside them in the post office.

What I love most about Christmas?
Christmas lights and candles, the music, Jesse Trees, Advent Wreaths, Saint Nicholas - patron of sailors and Saint Lucy - my name saint and wrapping presents and decorating the tree and the reflection of our lights in the ocean...

A picture of our Jesse Tree so far this year, Marianna has been making one ornament a day on some sparkly silver and purple gift tags from Martha Stewart, of course you can't actually see the sparkly silver and purple in this shot but I love her depictions of Creation with the sun, moon and twelve foil stars, the Tree of Knowledge with the tempting fruit, and the Fall of Man with an amazing snake bearing the shining fruit in its mouth.

In other news...I've been nominated for the 2007 Homeschool Blog Awards! I'm deeply honored to be nominated two years in a row, in the category of Best Geographical Blog.

Thank you so very much for brightening my day!

Kitchen Science 101
December 3, 2007, 3:16 pm

Marianna requested a round of Kitchen Science for December and I more than happily agreed! I think I'll share what we've studied here fairly regularly, maybe not every day but hopefully several times a week at least, so do keep checking back to see how our budding chef boils over with her new-found culinary skills!

The first topic we addressed was SALT, the only natural rock consumed by humans. The Story of Salt by that wonderful author, Mark Kurlansky, who also wrote those fabulous books, COD and The Girl Who Swam to Euskadi which is a bilingual book in English and Euskera, (the Basque language) was a great starting point for us.

But our spine is What Einstein Told His Cook, which is very much along the lines of what would happen if Bill Bryson was set down in the kitchen, very readable in a highly intelligent, yet humorously snortable way.

We next decided to try our hand at a bit of a salty art project. The first step is to saturate the page with watercolor, making certain to thoroughly wet the page while laying down a thick coat of paint.

While the paint is still wet sprinkle salt on the wet paint.

Let everything dry and then use a dry brush to knock the salt crystals off the paper. Where the salt landed nice little random white dots will be left leaving lovely background paper for all sorts of science reports, personal stationary, or recipes!

A great recipe celebrating all things salty would be Chicken with Green Onion Salt Dip, a yummy Vietnamese recipe. The chicken is cooked and chopped into bite sized pieces and then dipped into the flavorful sauce just before eating.

1/4 cup green onion
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 1/2 Tbsp Oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 cups cooked chicken
2 cups hot cooked rice

Combine first four ingredients in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Arrange chicken over rice, serve with the dip.

Other cool links:
The Exploratoreum has a Science of Cooking area, which we recently found thanks to Theresa!

This link to Salt Stories has a great listing of salty stories and I'm (for once) not talking only of the ocean! You'll find links tracing such wonderous stories as Like Meat Love Salt and Cap o' Rushes throughout the world from Asia to the Bard's rendering in King Lear. Great place to browse on a December afternoon!

Do you have a favorite salty story?

I'm all at Sea with this Recipe!
Advent Begins!
December 2, 2007, 7:22 am

The most anticipated time of the year has begun!

In celebration Marianna and I broke out our fine china, which just happens to be a cast iron teapot - LOL! - perfect for this sailing vessel in a way that delicate Wedgewood or Spode would never be.

After blessing the Advent Wreath we lit the first candle and sat down to a lovely plate of cookies, the highlight of which were the Pocky Sticks. Hal came aboard and helped devour the box, having not had any since his last stint in Korea.

Each year we make our own Advent Wreath, last year we made a tiny little wreath out of 4 Scallop Shells set on a mirror. Mary M. traced the awesome symbolism of that wreath for us in the comments box and it has now become one of our favorite things that I'm always meaning to pull out on certain feast days like the Baptism of Our Lord or Saint Brigid (who has shells on her cloak) or even when we talk about Pope Benedict XVI. Have you noticed his Papal Coat of Arms? A nice big Scallop Shell is featured front and center.

But this year the vote was cast for a nice "traditional" wreath which we managed to pull together from a Martha Stewart candle ring, Pier 1 votives, black electric tape and no lavender or rose candles!!! We'll make do with the same votives we used last year, but I can tell you one crewmember is keeping her sharp eyes peeled for the appropriate colors!

Speaking of appropriate colors ... I'll leave you with one last girly photo for this joyous season!

Happy Advent!

Our Faith
Barracuda Tang
November 30, 2007, 6:43 am

Marianna's best find while swimming in our beautiful blue backyard was a very nice Dive Knife.

It had minor corrosion but nothing a little action with a Miracle Cloth wouldn't clean up.

So has the intrepid explorer had to use it to fend off any Sharks, or heaven forbid! Barracudas???

No, the task it is used for most frequently is carving mangrove roots into bows and arrows!


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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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