Tuesday, 17 July 2012

How We Came to Be... at Camp KSC

So a few people may have been wondering how we came to be at Camp KSC. One word: SCOUTS! The opportunity presented itself for Laurel to apply for a scholarship to attend Camp Kennedy Space Center this summer. It required that she write an essay about what she would like to do at camp. I've decided that since so many people helped her to get where she is, I'd share part of her essay:
"I have always wanted to learn about telescopes, how space shuttles take off, and astronauts and satellites. I love learning about the solar system and going new places. I love watching shuttles and rockets go off from my back yard. But it would be even cooler to see one really close up. If I went to Camp KSC, I can add it to my great adventures and tell my Girl Scout sisters all about it." -Written by Laurel Smith
Today, we picked up a VERY excitable 7 year old again...She got to meet an ASTRONAUT today! She was so excited as she told us about meeting retired NASA astronaut Jon McBride and getting her picture taken with him. Laurel regaled us with tales about all the questions her and her team asked him, with her own question: How much do you love space? and his reply: I love it alot! 

She also came home sporting a shiny patch that she won for answering a trivia question correctly. We thought it was very fitting considering the patch said "Salute to Girl Scouts" - so Laurel was stoked! Each day she gets to take home a commemorative coin as well. So basically, she's taking home a small collection of memorabilia from Camp KSC.

Kevin and I spent the day walking around with Ella while Laurel was at Camp. Our hotel has a very eclectic collection of decorations around the property... tikis and eyeballs and beautiful flowers! So far the week has proven to be exciting and relaxing at the same time... headed to the beach to enjoy the water for a bit before the sun goes down! Will keep you updated as the week progresses!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Camp KSC and Cocoa Beach

Today marks the 1st official day of space camp for Laurel. (Yesterday was Orientation and Registration) As most of you know she was raising money for her trip because she received a scholarship for an essay she wrote. She sold a few paintings & received a few donations via her fb fundraising page...and she finally got there! When we checked in for Space Camp - they directed us to the US Astronaut Hall of Fame (which happens to be across the street from the American Police Hall of Fame). As part of registration, we were able to tour the Hall of Fame for free. I think this was wonderful - because it really got Laurel excited about Space Camp. Here we wandered through memorials and tributes and exhibits about space exploration and science and history! By the time we left, Laurel was bursting at the seams with excitement and she said she just couldn't wait for Monday!

We managed to get a hotel room with a combination of using our frequent flyer miles and some of the cash she raised. The best part is... we managed to get an oceanfront resort for cheaper... yes, cheaper... than a dive. So this week we are staying at the International Palms Resort & Conference CenterIt's oh so nice to literally walk out your door and be on the sand in less than 3 minutes! We checked in late and headed straight for the surf - jeans, long pants - everything! The water was surprisingly warm, so much so that Ella didn't even protest when we put our toes in. Towards the end of the evening though, the surf/tide starts to pick up. No sand castles for us! We made it a point last night to set our alarms this morning so we could watch the sun rise as dawn breaks. Unfortunately, there was so much cloud cover on the horizon, we could only see the colors of the sky overhead... not quite the sun... but it was a beautiful sight nonetheless. 

After picking Laurel up from Space Camp today - well, let's just say it was non stop chatter. She made rockets, participated in the Mission Launch Experience. Her camp instructor, Bruno, came over to us and told us that he really loved having Laurel in his group (They were Team Enterprise). He said she was such an active participant with lots of questions and so much enthusiasm about what they were doing. Laurel was literally BEAMING! She brought home the paper rocket she made - apparently, they set off a bunch of rockets throughout the day - and a collectible coin. She also got her Mission Commander pin, since she was Mission Specialist 5 - here I found out that she got to mix chemicals to create combustion prior to launch... um, let's see, we're going to teach our 7 year old to become a rocket chemist... Is this a great idea? lol! In any event, I think it's safe to say that for the first day of camp, Laurel was definitely busy. They wore her out (see image) and she's just way too excited for tomorrow!


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Coming Home…

reposted from the i.seekissimmee.com website...
While many people who come to the Kissimmee area are visitors – there are some of us who can call Kissimmee “home” – and I am fortunate enough to be one of those people. This past week has been an opportunity for me, as a local, and for my family, who are essentially experiencing things for the first time, to explore some of the lesser known treasures that you can find in the Central Florida area. One of the best parts about Kissimmee is the fact that you can pretty much go anywhere on a tankful, explore for the day, and still make it home in time for supper.

We’ve had a wonderful time visiting local haunts and haunting locals – swimming like fish, and swimming with the fishes! There have been attractions I’ve never heard of and old favorites too. I’ve never realized how much fun and how exhausting it could be until I’ve had the chance to truly go exploring in my home town. Thanks to many of our local attraction business partners, we were able to coordinate some “behind the scenes” tours and get the real lo-down on our city charms. I have to say that the most surprising place for me to visit was by far, the Marineland Dolphin Adventure. I like to consider myself to be a lifetime learner – and it was here that I was able to not only have a lot of fun with the kids and the dolphins, but I also learned a lot about an old time amusement. I never knew that this place existed in the early 30’s – and just had a great time learning about the changes and advancements Marineland had been through over the years.
Exploring my own city and doing day trips is just more encouragement for me to take some time off and go digging around town instead of staying home and catching up on the laundry! The chance to see the look of excitement and wonder on our children’s faces as we went from one place to another… priceless. Here’s hoping to another vacation and having the opportunity to share it with everyone again in the future! If I’ve tuned anyone in to exploring some of our hidden gems, or to take a stay-cation anywhere – then I’ve done my job! I challenge you, tourist or local, to take a trip on a tankful or to visit one of our lesser known venues… and surprise yourself [or your family] next vacation! And I thank you for coming along with myself [and my family] as we traveled from our own backyard to St. Augustine and home!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Going Seaside for a Bit – Lunch and Waves

reposted from the i.seekissimmee.com website...

Before heading out of St. Augustine, we figured we desperately needed to take in some rays and waves. But of course, after a day of sightseeing and mini-golf – it was time for some food! We moseyed down A1A in search of a scrumptious lunch. We found this cute little restaurant called Coquina Beach Club, just a stones’ throw from the St. Augustine shore. With a nice selection of seafood and a can-you-say-yummmm Brown Sugar Rum Bread Pudding, there was little to complain about. A children’s menu would’ve made it a bit more family friendly, but all in all, we enjoyed our meal.We had a nice sampling of their daily special and apparently got there just in time for the arrival of the local Flip Flop Til You Drop participants! What a bunch of fun people and all for a good cause. 
With a combination of full bellies and good company, we finally headed over to the beach to soak up some sun! Right now there are sections of the beach that are closed off while the City of St. Augustine continues to build a new Splash Pad area for everyone – but if you’re willing to drive a little further down, you can find a nice expanse of soft sand and beautiful sand dunes. We took turns collecting shells and playing in the waves until we finally decided to head back to Kissimmee. As for visiting the Nation’s Oldest City, we certainly had a great time doing new things! And with it just being about an hour and a half to two hours drive away – it makes a great gas-tank vacation!

St. Augustine’s Red Sightseeing Trains

reposted from the i.seekissimmee.com website...
Today was our final day in St. Augustine and we thought we’d do the whole sightseeing thing in the morning! We went back over to Ripley’s to catch a ride on the Red Train Tours [parking is free with paid train tour – which is a big bonus in both price and the ability to FIND a place to park!] and take a tour around the town. The nice thing about the sightseeing trains is that they pretty much run all day long, and you can hop off and explore and just catch the next train! If you stay on the train the whole way through, you’ll probably be sitting for about an hour – so it’s nice to just hop off and wander a bit.
There are so many interesting sites to see while on the route, so there’s pretty much anything that catches your fancy. You can stop at the Fountain of Youth or tour the Whetstone Chocolate Factory… or even better – have samples and take home a bottle for yourself from the San Sebastian Winery. The tour guides are locals and as you drive along they like to share interesting facts and local stories about each location. It gives the whole tour a little bit of historical charm.
Our final hop off was at Bayfront Mini Golf. Here you can play a round of putt putt for only $1 [with paid Sightseeing Train ticket] in between stops on the Red Train tour. It’s also a great stop to catch a ride on the boat tours (or a pirate ship), freshen up (hooray for nice clean restrooms!) or just have an ice cream bar at the Mini Golf  stop! We caught our train back to Ripley’s after a pit stop by the fort and went off in search of lunch.