Day 276: Crocodilians

wpid-20121221_121520.jpgI’m loving this croco-gator. He was so cool! I suppose in the animal world this would be some sort of stalking or hunting pose. His whole body submerged except for his nose and eyes. Right as I snapped the picture his eyes slid over to stare at me.

The little green leaves completely coated the top of the water, which made his parts above the eater surface, beautiful camouflaged.

As I took this picture, there was a 13 foot alligator behind. He could move but was pretty lazy. Saving those quick reflexes for a real meal.

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Lola and Kit posed with him. Whoof, he was big! A little boy around five was told to stand by the glass for a picture similar to ours and he thought his parents were nuts! He stood about a foot from the glass and looked terrified when they told him to get right up close to the glass.
This child is smart. You don’t snuggle huge wild animals.

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Day 275: Deep Ocean Critters

The deep sea room really got my attention because it was so dark and there were eerie blue lights that showed off weird critters. As my eyes adjusted and my nose nearly pressed to the glass I would exclaim as I finally saw the strange shapes inside.

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I have been to other aquariums where the octopus resident had a jar or other treat toy to play with. Maybe this just wasn’t play time, but this octo-friend gave off a lonely and depressed vibe. He was snuggled in the corner as if willing the clock closer to closing time.

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This is some sort of sea cucumber. From random Google searches, my guess is the Johnson’s sea cucumber. They are at least related even if the colors are different. They were fun to look at even if they barely moved. The tank didn’t have any signs up for these cucumbers.

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The giant Japanese spider crabs were really freaky. All legs and huge. It could, gladly, wrap its legs all around me in a morbid cuddling fashion. They were devilish cool, but I wouldn’t want to be a little fish swimming by.

Day 274: Sharks and Santa

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I should have taken pictures of the signs instead of just the tank inhabitants. Because I am 100.4% certain that the scientific name of this creature is Baby Shark.

They were pretty precious whatever they were. I have seen catfish bigger than these guys.
Right next to this tank was a touch tank for a sea urchin. Those are spikes of death. They are pretty soft. Starfish were pretty alien too.

Nearby, we saw fish that could walk around on land using their pectoral fins. Like we might hold our breath under water, they hold water while they skitter around on land.
Another tank exhibited some rather benign looking fish but an informational video showed them shooting water at insects. Archer fish I believe those were called.
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We also saw a brief show featuring Scuba Santa. It was definitely directed towards kids but it was neat to see the shark rays swimming around Santa’s head.

Day 273: The Underbelly

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Not much to way about this fish. Except that maybe he is a bit of a show off. Of all the places to sucker onto, he chooses the archway glass so that everyone can get a good look at his exquisite underbelly.

When I was a kid, I thought the most interesting thing in a fish tank were the fastidious cleaner fish. I still think that if I had to be a fish, being a cleaner wouldn’t be so bad.

I’m not sure what this fishy creature is, but it doesn’t look like it is cleaning….

Vegetarian Recipe Resources

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My friend, Jess, has recently become a vegetarian and confessed she didn’t have a lot of ideas or good recipes to make yummy veggie dinners. Enter Kat, the friend who has no life and loves surfing the Internet

Here are a few of my favorite, conveniently vegetarian meals:

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna (tons of cheese)—I believe in this vegetable. You could even just bake it and make it a salad.

Stuffed Bell Peppers (you can litterally stuff them with anything)

Scrambled Smash–This is a family tradition. Heat your skillet, clean out your fridge of all your veggies (meat optional). If you’re adding pepper, onions, mushrooms or spinach, I recommend to saute it all before adding eggs. Beat eggs equal to your other ingredients (eggs will hold it all together), add spices and a dash of milk if you’re feeling frisky. This is NOT an omelet.
It is a great way to have a one skillet breakfast and clear out your fridge of all the scraps of veggies.

Now we’re moving on to the list links. If you are a vegetarian reading my blog, please share your favorite recipe or website. Knowledge is full belly.

The first website I was reluctant to add because many of the photos look so fancy and perfect. Then I saw the picture of the beet humus. The Simply Recipes Vegetarian Section.

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I’m not brave enough to try it. Beautiful, no? I do like humus and it doesn’t take very long to make.

The blog 101 Cookbooks has an amazing selection and organization. This a blogger who truly wants to be a resource, like an online, searchable cookbook with tips. Quesadillas are super easy to throw into the oven. Cheesy melty goodness:

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VegWeb has a huge amount of recipes from fancy to duh-simple. This is also a good resource for Vegan recipes. Not all their recipes have pictures but the community can add their own. The feature that tickled me most was the Surprise me! Button by the search bar. It surprised me with this delicious looking dinner:

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Vegetarian Times some sweet recipes. Some of their categories include: 1 ingredient/5 ways, 30 minutes, vegan, one pot meals and more. Kale and garlic soup is Sooo perfect for this time of year:

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Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) has a journal you can pay for, but it is not necessary to access recipes. They even have old journals in .PDF form on the website if you want some veggie reading.

Savvy Vegetarian has recipes and an advice section with tips on how to keep a balanced diet (protein etc). Also they have some nice categories, such as quinoa, tofu and beans/lentils.

All Recipes is my fvaorite site because it is super searchable and has user reviews that really help! I read a recipe then skim the reviews for those tips you wish your cookbook would tell you beforehand. The vegetarian lentil soup is very similar to mine, except for that whole sausage thing:

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I hope this helps you find out what you’re eating for supper. Gosh, I’m starving. Now I have too many options! What should I eat!?

Day 272: Subterranean Life

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I have seen crayfish fight. This is NOT a picture of two crawdaddies fighting. I’m sure but I would bet a bubble gum stick they love each other. Very, very much.

I was pleased to find this tank of fish and crayfish. Not because of their habits–which was fscinating–but because these are eyeless crayfish and eyeless fish (Mexican tetra, I believe).
I work at a cave so I am obligated to nerd-out whenever I see anything related.

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For comparison, these two crayfish were fighting. I laughed at first because the smaller crayfish had unevenly sized pinchers. Upon further inspection I realized the smaller crawdaddy had won the fight and was eating or brandishing his prize.

So much activity in the corner of one little tank.

We moved on because in the Congo room the decorator had anchored functioning Congo drums at child height…and boy were there children.

Stay-In Valentine’s Day Plans for Playful Couples

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I designed this stay-in date night for my sister-in-law and have decided the plans are too good to keep to myself.
This is a Valentine’s Day date designed for the broke-college students, kids at heart, vegetarians and those wishing to break the stiff candle-lit dinner traditions.
If this is you, read on.

Keep in mind these are plans for adults and they often do adult things together. If you are offended by couples with healthy/happy relationships both physical and emotional then this is your warning to get outta Dodge.

Set the TableMake a blanket fort

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I know it may have been years since you last made one. Just get started and your inner child will fill in the blanks. If you’re timid to try, here is a link to help get you started: School of How To.

Fill your fort with blankets and pillows to lounge on. Then put a string of Xmas lights or a small night light inside instead of a candle–a touch light or battery flameless battery operated candle.
Eat dinner then push the dishes out of the fort and get to snuggling.

Make Dinner

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All Recipes has a fantastic recipe for Black Bean Stuffed Bell Peppers. This is a vegetarian recipe but you can easily modify it. Fry up some bacon til crispy. Cool and crumble it into your mix. Also, this is a special dinner so if you have fresh onions then dice and saute half an onion (at least).

Cook dinner together. If you don’t think cooking as a couple is romantic then try this: Turn off the phones, turn on music you both love, lock the doors, draw the blinds and get naked. If you’re a little weird about cooking in the buff, then keep on your underwear and apron.

Dessert for Chocolate Lovers

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Fun desserts are messy. I’m working the mathematical correlation now. I recommend fondue or a s’mores lab.
Contrary to popular belief you DO NOT need a fancy fondue pot nor double boiler to make fondue. Just be careful to melt slowly and stir often. Crock pots come in handy if you have one.

This is the same Groovy Fondue recipe I used for my birthday party. It was a HUGE hit. Pro-tip: You can make truffles out of the chilled leftovers. You’ll thank me later.

The tasty alternate dessert is to create a s’mores experimentation lab. Grab plates, ingredients and get ready to create a franken-S’more. A Lot On Your Plate blog has Ten S’mores Recipes that should inspire you to get creative. Marshmallows in the microwave are just hysterical anyway.

Games/Activities

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The first two activities are more passive, but as you will soon find that they are awesome to add to the list.

The Couples Q&A. There are literally tons of these questionnaires on the interwebz and a quick Google search will turn up plenty of results. This list is just to get you started. Keep in mind–Some lists are designed for deep emotional probing that is probably inappropriate on a fun night.

The second activity is for dreamers. Kit and I love making lists like these. Here is an example of a Couple’s Bucket List to get your creative juices flowing. Grab a notebook and dream big!

Minute to Win it Games.These are fun and can be adapted for two instead of a group party. Most of the materials are super cheap–to save even more money, do these games the day after V-Day and buy the sale candies.

The games from that blog that I chose are: Heart-a-stack, Marshmallow Toss, Love Spot (use paper cut outs instead of expensive craft pom poms), and Heart Pick Up. I have seen the Face Cookie on every M2W party blog and am exhausted with its overuse.

How to Get Your Spouse to Play Along
If your partner isn’t the playful sort then I don’t have much hope for you. However, if you’re gamer sweetheart is just a little shy then this is a great date.

Kit doesn’t do well with surprises so I typically spill ALL my surprises. Some guys or gals are like that. They need to be mentally prepared for fun so they can be excited instead of reluctant. Give them really obvious hints. Tell your partner that you will be playing some mini-games similar to Mario Party and that you’ll be making supper together. If you want to keep it a guessing game, tell them some of the ingredients to dinner or dessert.

If you use any of my date night ideas please let me know how your night went!
(You don’t have to share the gritty details).