On Sanibel we go shelling. BUT –

– on Long Island’s north shore, we go rocking :)

I wanted some stones I could stack on my desk in a Zen-like manner, so I went to Sunken Meadow State Park and found all these candidates.

There were also some slipper shells, jingle shells, muscles, oysters, an inhabited moon snail that might have been dead but I gave it a second chance, and a couple of very stinky, bug-infested channel whelks. I didn’t collect any of them. I was there for stones :)

Harry Potter: The Exhibition at Discovery Times Square

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Harry Potter: The Exhibition at Discovery Times SquareOn Saturday August 13th, my nieces and I embarked upon a journey to New York City to see Harry Potter: The Exhibition. The exhibit was very good, and doubly so because of the great discount we got by purchasing our tickets in combination with our Long Island Railroad fares. We were not allowed to take pictures, so I have nothing from which to refresh the memory, and very little to show you besides a few exterior photos I mobile blogged yesterday, which you can find here.

In the beginning, we were admonished that we MUST turn off and put away all cameras, video cameras and cell phones. Then we were ushered into a room where we found Sorting Hat resting upon a stool. A few volunteers were sorted. Volunteers were given the opportunity to state a preference and the Sorting Hat was held over their heads. The Sorting Hat’s voice was then heard, describing the volunteer’s characteristics. The Sorting Hat always put the volunteer in the house of their choice. Surprisingly, not everyone said Gryffindor; we had one of those, but also a Slytherin and a Ravenclaw. Therefore, we got to hear a variety of prognostications from the Sorting Hat, instead of having to listen to him wax poetic over Gryffindor ad nauseum.

After the sorting we were whisked off to another chamber where we were treated to a 5 minute or so video montage from the whole series of films. I admit that I have not bought any of the DVDs (waiting for the inevitable super dooper deluxe box set), so it was actually a treat to see footage from all the way back to the first film.

There were collections of things from the movie sets on display, many with accompanying video to remind you which film and in which scene these things were seen. The collections tended to revolve around a character; for instance, we see Ron Weasley’s trunk and his bed from Gryffindor Tower at Hogwarts and there’s a video that shows scenes with Ron in them starting when he was teeny tiny, with all the props you’re looking at in the background.

Further along in the exhibit, guests get to pull mandrakes out of the ground and hear them squeal; actually, they were squealing incessantly the whole time we were in the exhibit, and they sound EXACTLY like the ones at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the Universal Orlando Resorts Islands of Adventure theme park.

We also got the opportunity to sit in Hagrid’s huge chair inside his hut and we practiced throwing the quaffle through the goal hoops too.

It was fun to see the sizes of the actors clothing change over the years. For instance, Harry was apparently TINY as a first year in the first film, because his school uniform was really small. And judging from her muggle attire from the more recent films, it’s obvious that Emma Watson is still TINY as an adult. The largest set of Gryffindor robes by far belonged to Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom but the biggest costume overall was Robbie Coltrane’s Hagrid outfit. I can’t believe how big it is!

After the tour, of course you’re dumped out into a gift shop. If you thought souvenirs in Orlando were expensive, hold on to your hats. Robes in Orlando were running around $100. However, you pay DOUBLE that at the exhibit, and I am relatively certain that they are the same robes – no French seams or golden threads or anything like that. I do not know why there is such a completely insane 100% markup on the already-pricey robes. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason for it. Maybe it’s just that you’re standing in Times Square. T-shirts were average ($28-ish and up) as were house-colored ties ($35). Jewelry was for sale – for instance, the time turner and Mr. Lovegood’s pendant in the shape of the Deathly Hallows symbol – but it was all way over-priced for non-precious materials. My nieces contented themselves with a few rubber bracelets and post cards.

I would not pay to see it again, but I’m glad I paid a discounted price to see it once.

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On my way – Harry Potter in NYC

I’ve traveled to New York to visit with family. Today, a handful of nieces and I are taking the Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan, where we will walk up to Times Square and visit the Harry Potter Exhibition. The exhibition is moving on come September, so I am glad to have this opportunity!

Seining on Lover’s Key, Florida

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06182011648-Lovers-Key-Real-FloridaDirectly after we finished up with the Field Trip On Estero Bay, we all got into our cars and drove down to Lover’s Key State Park for some more nature geek fun. First we all congregated in a shady area, settled in at picnic benches and ate our bag lunches. Then we proceeded down the path to the beach to go seining.

“Seine” is not just a river in France. A seine is a net that is used to capture small fish and other aquatic life. The seines that we used on this field trip look like a volleyball net strung between two poles. There are floats at the top of the net and weights at the bottom. I take one pole, you take the other, we stretch the net between us and then we walk through the water, slowly trawling toward the beach. Then, quickly, before someone perishes, we scoop up what we found and place it in tanks for observation. When we’re done learning, we set the critters free.

Lover’s Key is a Florida state park that is comprised of several islands/keys. The Bonita Beach Causeway cuts through it coming down from Fort Myers Beach. This proved to be an excellent site for studying the Southwest Florida coastal environment.



Lovers Key is covered with many different species of plant life. In true geek fashion, I am starting to find the biodiversity of nature to be endlessly fascinating, so I was happy to crawl all over the place with my camera after the expedition had ended. Here’s a shady nook close to the causeway entrance with a path down to the beach. Notice we are standing under the dense shade of a cluster of trees that include seagrapes; the branches overhead were heavy with fruit.



A different path to the beach here leads over a wooden bridge that spans a small bayou of sorts.



This is part of the bayou over which the little foot bridge crosses. Our instructor had wanted to investigate and observe life in the bayou as well as off the beach; however, it’s been marked as a “keep out” zone now, so we had to content ourselves with craning our necks over the side of the bridge to see what we could see. And of course, we all wore shoes 😉

Look at those clouds pop, huh? The beauty of the Southwest Florida sky is endless.



Here’s a view across the bayou toward the beach, Big Carlos Pass and the hi-rise condos beyond. Note that there are plenty of hidey-places along the shore of the bayou; not sure what nests there but futher back in the protected area, I would not be surprised if there were some gators lurking now and then.

Funny thing about protected areas; in addition to the critters, they might be protecting YOU, too! So always take heed of the signs, OK? I don’t want to hear that you became lunch!

06182011650-Lovers-Key-Blue-CrabA LOVER’S KEY BLUE CRAB | Our instructors equipped us with plastic tanks which we filled with salt water from the beach in preparation for examining our finds. These tanks had “bubblers” attached to keep the water aerated and moving.

Our first seining attempt brought up a couple of crabs. Can’t really tell what the one submerged is – speckled, maybe? but on the right is a male blue crab. Normally, you turn them over to see if they are male or female. The female will have a marking underneath that is rounded like the US capital dome, whereas the male will have more of an obelisk-shaped marking, like the Washington Monument.

In the case of blue crabs, however, the female’s claws are tipped in bright orange. I don’t see any orange on this one, so it’s a male. Floating behind him are his sectioned “swimmies” – swimming paddles that are attached to the rear leg.

I don’t have any other worthy photos of the critters we saw, which included several types of fishes, some snails and a sea horse! It’s hard to photograph them in the tanks with the brilliant sunshine blasting them and the water distorting them. Also, I need to solve the problem of handling my camera while my hands are salty, sandy, wet, or any combination thereof.



After the seining expedition was done, I stuck around to take a few photos and find some plants for identification. Sea oats are one of the types of grasses that grow in the dunes. They are perennial and multiply by means of underground rhizomes. They can grow to be six feet tall or more! You’re not allowed to collect wild sea oats because they play a critical role in helping to keep the dunes together.



This is one of two tropical plants that look similar and are often confused with one another. The inkberry (pictured) and it’s counterpart, the beach naupaka, have pretty similar configurations, including the berries while green and the flowers, which look as though someone had pressed them in between the pages of a book. However, the leaves of the beach naupaka curl while the inkberry leaves do not. Inkberry fruits become very dark, looking like purple/black grapes; the ones pictured here will mature that way, while a beach naupaka’s berries will turn white.



This is a strangler fig; looks like the “host” has long since succumbed to the treachery of its “guest”! These ficus trees are kind of like those guys in Corporate America who get to the top by crawling up the backs of their colleagues. Stranglers germinate on a host tree, sending roots down and branches up. In an effort to support their climb toward sunlight, they “strangle” their host. Here we see the hollow made where the host used to stand; you can see a bit of bark remains, but the rest has rotted away.



The beach trolley trundles its way across Big Carlos Pass. I like the foot/bike section on the bridge. It made me feel somewhat protected even as the vehicles went zipping by. These trolleys are a pretty efficient way to get around this area, especially during “season” when there are too many cars and not enough road down this way. There’s even a starting point on the mainland – park your car at the Winn Dixie on Summerlin Road and in a little bit, a trolley will come by to collect you.



This is the scene when you climb up the hill from the parking lot up to the foot/bike path on the bridge. You can see the bayou off to the left, above the blue truck, and the beach where we did our seining and discovery of cool critters.

Between the boat trip on Estero Bay and then this segment at the beach, everyone was some combination of hot, tired, wet, salty, sweaty, a little sunburnt and very happy by the time we were through.

I proceeded to Sanibel Island after this, let myself into a friend’s house to take a shower and when she got home from a hunting expedition of her own (shopping!), we went out for dinner with some other friends on the island.

Life in Southwest Florida is GOOD. :)

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The EPCOT Jammin’ Gardeners

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The EPCOT Jammin’ Gardeners are Daryl, Paulie and Leo – aka Petunia, Rosebud and Weed 😉 This video dates from the opening weekend of the most recent Flower and Garden Festival at Walt Disney World (March 2011). Isn’t it amazing what music can be made with trash pails, buckets and flower pots! Subscribers: if you don’t see a video below this sentence, then please CLICK through to the blog.

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Dolphin chase on Estero Bay

© Copyright 2011 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

Here’s some bonus footage from the my field trip on Estero Bay with the Florida Master Naturalist program here in Lee County, Florida. One of our classmates made up a song about the joys of Estero Bay and the dolphins seemed to love it. They ended up chasing our boat for a few minutes, leaping in and out of the wake as we sang our way toward the dock. Check it out in this video, below – Email Subscribers: if you do not see a video posted below this sentence, please CLICK through to the blog.

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