Friday, December 11, 2009

Freedom Goes To the State Fair With the Hall Family

I had an exciting trip to the North Carolina State Fair this year with the Hall Family. We woke up early and headed to Raleigh for a day of fun.

Sydney, Peyton and I couldn’t wait to get there and ride the giant Ferris wheel that Mrs. Hall and her sister, Catherine had told us about. At first I was a little frightened but once we got moving, I enjoyed the ride a lot. You could see the whole fair from the top of the Ferris wheel!

There were so many interesting things to see while we were there. We saw many exhibits like the 4-H displays in the Education Building and many beautiful entries in the Hobbies and Handicrafts Building. We also saw many different plants and animals. Sydney, Peyton and I had fun participating in the Lego Challenge. There were four different areas in the challenge but our favorite was building with the Legos. The lady in charge asked Sydney what her favorite letter was and everyone had to create an object that began with the letter ‘S’.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when we walked by the PBS tent and I saw many of my favorite TV characters. There was Curious George, Maya and Miguel, characters from SUPER WHY! and Dragon Tales. Peyton and I had fun dancing the Hokey Pokey with them.


I was so surprised at how much food was at the fair! There were corn dogs, sandwiches, blooming onions, funnel cakes and other yummy smelling treats. We ate candy apples and cotton candy while we were there. Ms. Catherine bought a turkey leg for Sydney and Peyton’s uncle and it was as big as I am!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Freedom's Weekend Getaway in Charlotte With the VanNotes

Freedom enjoyed a weekend getaway to Charlotte, NC. She got to meet our new baby girl cousin and had a special evening out at Disney On Ice. She enjoyed watching the ice skaters perform all kinds of celebrations including holidays and traditions from around the world. Freedom was in good company, bringing along her second grade Parsley friend, "State Mate."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Freedom Traveled to New York City with the Black Family

Freedom took a ten day trip with the Black family to New York City.
She traveled by car and stopped for one night in Virginia, then saw some cousins in Maryland before staying with family in the city. The first city day included the Museum of Natural History, where Night at the Museum was filmed, and the Planetarium. She also took a hike in Central Park and saw some rowers.

The next day was in the Bronx, where the New York Yankees played the Tampa Bay Rays at the new Yankee stadium. Go Yanks!!

Tuesday, we went to the borough of Brooklyn and to the 9-1-1- call center. The building walls are made of the same material that's in bullet proof vests and security was very high. Freedom passed all background checks and was allowed on the floor to visit with the brass.

Tuesday night we went back into Manhattan for Shrek the Broadway musical. Great performance!

Wednesday was a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The Statue is made of thin sheets of copper. It is only 3/32 of an inch or the thickness of two coins! She is an amazing site and Freedom was in awe. To the left is a photo of a life-sized replica of Liberty's face. On the right we are with a park ranger in front of the original torch from the Statue of Liberty. It was replaced with a new one in 1986.

Other sites Freedom visited included Saint Patrick's Cathedral, FAO Schwartz toy store, and Rockefeller Center where she took an elevator up 70 stories to the top to see the entire NYC skyline. Good thing Freedom isn't afraid of heights! What a great trip for Freedom, Lauren, and Gregory Black along with the rest of the Black family. Can't wait to go back!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Freedom's Summer Vacation in Sedona, AZ with Mrs. Rizzo

My summer vacation this year was in Sedona, AZ. I went with Mrs. Rizzo and her husband. We landed in Phoenix and then drove two hours north to Sedona. When you arrive in Arizona, one of the first things you notice is that the scenery is very different from what we are used to seeing on the east coast where we have lots of trees and green grass. Arizona, because of the hot, dry climate, is mostly dessert. Green grass generally grows only where man plants it. Instead, you see plants that require little water and can withstand the summer's triple digit temperatures. (One night when we were there, at 9PM, it was still 103 degrees!)
As we headed north and into unpopulated areas, we saw lots of saguaro cacti growing in flat areas as well as up the sides of hills and mountains. The saguaro grow naturally only in southern Arizona, and northwestern Mexico, though a few stray plants can also be found in southeast California. When we were about two thirds of the way to Sedona we no longer saw any saguaro.

The saguaro (pronounced "sah-wah-roh") is a very slow growing cactus. A ten year old plant might only be one and a half inches tall. It might take fifteen years for the plant to reach one foot in height! The average life span, however, is usually 150 to 200 years. They start off growing straight up and may take up to 75 years before they grow their first side arm. The arms allow the cacti to have more areas onto which to grow flowers as the flowers only grow on the top of the plant. This cactus flowers from April to May and the sweet, ruby-colored fruit matures by late June. The flowers are creamy white with yellow centers and its major pollinators are bats because it is a night blooming plant. It is the state flower for Arizona. They are an important part of the desert as they are used for shelter by birds. Woodpeckers drill holes in them and they and other birds live in them. Even after the plant dies, it is useful. Its woody ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture. Mrs. Rizzo bought a doll made from saguaro. To learn more about this fascinating plant you can view a short video on this website:

Mrs. Rizzo was disappointed when the saguaro disappeared from view as they continued to drive to Sedona, but she didn’t have to wait long to see more of nature’s beauty. As we were driving into higher elevations, there were mountains around us and then it seemed like we turned a corner and the red rocks of Sedona suddenly appeared. We were speechless! Their beauty is beyond description and these photos cannot begin to show their magnificence. These red rock formations are unique to this area of Arizona. After doing a little research, we learned that the rocks in this area have six layers of sandstone, two thin layers of limestone and on top of all of these is one igneous layer of basalt stone. This area, millions of years ago, was underwater. (The shells from sea creatures made the layers of limestone.) When the land was underwater, the abundant iron in the water easily leeched into the porous sandstone and then it rusted. That’s why the rocks are so red. Over the years, the land shifted and caused cracks to form. Rivers flowed between the cracks and carved out the rock formations we see today. They have names such as Bell Rock (below right), Cathedral Rock (above), and Steamboat Rock.

The first pioneers in this area settled in Oak Creek Canyon in 1876. It wasn’t until a few years later that Sedona, just a few miles north, also became settled. It got its name in 1902 when Theodore Schnebly submitted his wife’s name when applying for a postal permit. Today, Sedona is famous not only for being Red Rock Country, but also for being an artists’ community. We visited one art gallery and saw bronze sculptures, paintings, pottery, jewelry and many other beautiful things.

Though visiting the art gallery was lots of fun, Mrs. Rizzo’s main desire was to get up close to the red rocks so we decided to take a hike up to Cathedral Rock. We walked about three quarters of a mile and then it began to get really steep and we realized we couldn’t go any further. We rested for a while, admired the scenery and took a few pictures.

That is the top of part of Cathedral Rock behind me. If you look at the photo or Cathedral Rock above, you can see this same area. Click on the picture to make it larger and see if you can see two people. They will give you an idea of how tall the rocks are. It took us about 30 minutes to get where I am in the photo to the left. We climbed a little higher after this but not much since we are not rock climbers!

On the way back to the car, we stopped to take a good look at this Century Plant which was blooming. Though called a Century Plant, it is not 100 years old. It blooms only once, after anywhere from eighteen to thirty years. The flower stalk grows five to six inches a day to a total height many times taller than a man. The yellowish flowers bloom June through August. It takes all of the plant’s energy to grow this fast and this tall so when it is done blooming the whole plant dies, but new plants begin to grow from the roots. Native American used this plant as a source of soap, food, fiber, medicine, needle, and weapons.

Native Americans have lived in this area for thousands of years. We visited Montezuma Castle which was built by the Southern Sinagua who flourished and lived peacefully here from the 1100s to about the 1400s. It was discovered in the 1860s. This five story, twenty-room pueblo is one hundred feet above the valley. There are forty-five rooms in a six story dwelling to the left, but it was not as well protected from the elements and has deteriorated over the years. Living here was cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The Sinagua were skilled farmers and grew corn, beans, squash, and cotton. They used the nearby creek for irrigation. The last record of the Sinagua occupying this part of Arizona is 1425. No one knows why they abandoned the area.

One day we took a trip on the Verde Canyon railroad. This canyon is accessible only by rail. The thirty-eight mile long route goes from Clarkdale (east of Sedona) to the ghost ranch of Perkinsville. This thirty-eight mile route, using 250 men and 200 mules, took only one year complete finishing in 1912. It was built to support Arizona’s richest copper mine in nearby Jerome. The four hour nature show tour travels between two national forests and is adjacent to a designated wilderness area. Over thirty bald and golden eagles winter in the canyon, but only one pair of bald eagles lives there year round. We saw where they nest, but they weren’t home at the time we rode by. The train ride also goes through a 680-foot man-made tunnel. It was pitch black when we went through. You couldn’t even see the hand in front of your face! When we got to the end of the route in Perkinsville, the engines were moved from one end of the train to the other and then we headed back on the same tracks to Clarkdale.

There was one other thing about Sedona that was unusual.... the McDonalds! Look at the arches. They aren't 'golden'; they're turquoise. This McDonalds is supposedly the only McDonalds that doesn't have golden arches.

I will never forget my trip to Sedona. Even without these photos, I can close my eyes and remember how beautiful it was. Mrs. Rizzo says she hopes to go back there in a couple years. Maybe I'll get lucky and get to go with her again!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Freedom Travels with Jocelyn and Her Family to Emerald Isle for Memorial Day

Freedom traveled with Jocelyn and her family two hours north of Wilmington to beautiful Emerald Isle, NC. The place they stayed at was overlooking the beach and all the kids loved hearing the ocean, especially when eating ice cream on the balcony and at night. Freedom and Jocelyn had big plans for the weekend. They took turns going back and forth between the indoor pool at the complex they stayed at and the beach. In the pool, they enjoyed swimming and practicing lots of tricks like swimming under water and turning somersaults in the water. While on the beach they enjoyed digging in the sand and finding tiny clams and boogie boarding. One night they went out for ice cream at Ben and Jerry's which was fun since Jocelyn's father is from Vermont and that is where Ben and Jerry's ice cream is from too.
On the last day of their trip, Freedom, Jocelyn and her family went to visit the aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. It was a really great aquarium. They saw the otters get fed. It was neat seeing them catch the gold fish in their pond. They learned the difference between land, aquatic and sea turtles. Sea turtles have flippers, aquatic turtles have webbed feet with "claws" and land turtles have feet. Also, the shells of the aquatic and sea turtles are flatter and more sleek to move through the water. Land turtles have more of a dome shells that they can pull their body into, whereas the aquatic and sea turtles cannot pull their bodies into their shell. Jocelyn and Freedom also took a walk outside the aquarium on one of their walkways/trails and couldn't believe the hundreds and hundreds of fiddler crabs that they saw. They learned that the fiddler crabs with the one big claw are males and that the claw is mostly for show rather than function. After a great day at the aquarium, seeing lots of great creatures, Freedom and Jocelyn sat in a lot of traffic leaving the Emerald Isle area, but is was worth it. They had a great time with all the swimming and learned a lot at the aquarium.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Freedom Attends a Dance Competition in Greensboro with Sydney

On Friday, March 27th, Sydney and Freedom helped load the car and then headed to the Nexstar Dance Competition in Greensboro, NC. Sydney is a member of Techniques in Motion’s Petite Dance Company and invited Freedom to come along and learn about one of her favorite past times.

On the long ride to Greensboro, Sydney and her friend Emily explained to Freedom what to expect while she was there. The days are very long and there are lots of dancers and dances to watch. The girls checked into their hotel rooms so they could get a good night’s sleep before dancing the next day.

Everyone had to be at the auditorium early the next morning. Sydney’s mom helped her put on her makeup and once that was finished she was able to put on the costume for her first dance. Sydney did a jazz dance to “Girls of the USA”. Freedom loved the pink costumes and thought the girls did a great job. Later in the day Sydney and her friend Emily did a tap dance to “In the Summertime”, Freedom thought the music reminded her of being at the beach. There were many types of dances to see while they were in Greensboro: ballet, tap, jazz, clogging, and lyrical. Freedom thought taking a tap class might be fun!

At the end of the day when awards were given out, the Petite Dance Company did a fantastic job. Freedom was so excited for the girls when they found out their dances earned Platinum and High Gold ranking as well as Overall 1st and 2nd places.

On Sunday there were more dances and dancers to watch before loading the car and coming home to get ready for the school the next day. Freedom enjoyed learning more about the different dance forms and would still love to take a tap class.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Justice Cruised The Gulf of Mexico with Alex and Elizabeth

Alex’s Blog
My spring break was awesome! It has lots of adventure and fun. My family went with me to Mexico, and not the dangerous part of it.

First we had to stop in New Orleans, Louisiana, before going to Mexico. It has a lot of gambling, jazz, bars, casinos and Mardi Gras (fat Tuesday) stuff. New Orleans is home to the big Mardi Gras party. My favorite place we visited first was the aquarium. I saw an anaconda that was bigger than my dad’s leg! There were also parrots, piranhas, penguins, sharks, jellyfish, turtles, even an owl. Phew, that’s a lot! I even saw an albino alligator. Outside we saw a robotic dinosaur…weird!

The next day we went to the D-Day museum. We saw huge planes in the main room! I also saw a tank, a rusty army jeep, a big machine gun, a wicked motorcycle, battle boats, and other stuff. D-Day is the day when the USA attacked the Nazis (German army) who had captured France. We saw videos about D-Day and some other weapons. At the end we got cookies and Sprite.

Then we got on our cruise ship, the Norwegian Spirit. We went to a pool with two water slides. We just looked around. It had thirteen floors and about ten restaurants. My favorite restaurant is Raffles Court. Our room was on the ninth floor. It was a small room with two folded beds and two regular beds. An announcement came on that told us to watch a video on channel two and then go to your emergency station. After the video we got on our life jackets and we went to our station for the drill. The drill didn’t take long. We looked around the ship for the rest of the day.

The next day was a full day at sea. We swam in the pool. We even saw a pool that doesn’t have water slides. At night, we played in the arcade.

Our first stop on Tuesday was in Costa Maya. First, we went zip lining in the Costa Maya forest. I went really high when I zip lined! Next we went to the beach. While I was swimming I saw a crab and fish. At the end, we looked for souvenirs. I got a necklace. The symbol on the necklace stands for late August which is my birthday. Then we got on the ship.

Our next stop was Guatemala. We took a boat from a harbor to a water park. It had water slides, turtles, iguana, table tennis, even a bar in the middle of a pool. My dad and I went to the top of a small, stone, old lighthouse. I got an old drum-like instrument with a wooden stick.

Our next stop was Belize. We visited the one ruins of the Mayan tribe. We even climbed to the top of the biggest ruin. A man told us the Mayans sacrificed children for something from their gods. We were at a beautiful restaurant. I got an old mask.

Our last top was in Cozumel (Mexico). First we drove in a blue dune buggy to a beach where I snorkeled. I saw lots of fish, even an eel! Then we went to a celebration place called El Cedre. Then we went to another beach. Another dune buggy ran out of gas. Next we went to our shop so we could go home. I got a shark tooth necklace.

We had a great trip!

Elizabeth’s Blog

Our vacation was a blast! There we so many things to do. On Saturday we landed in New Orleans. We went to places like the aquarium, French quarter and Jackson Square. The next day we got on a boat to Mexico. The boat was huge! It had 13 floors. Sunday we spend the whole day at sea. We did almost everything on the boat. They were playing, eating and adventuring.

Costa Maya: The next day we were in Mexico. We took a bus through a jungle to go zip lining. Alex did it but I was a little too scared. When we got back on the van we went to the beach. We had lunch and explored the water. Most of the time I was in a hammock relaxing.

Afterwards we went shopping. I bought a dolphin key chain.

Back on the boat, after dinner, we went to the Star Dust Theater to see a magic show. The magician had broken five Guinness World Records!!! I loved the origami trick.

Guatemala: In the morning we took a smaller boat to the Amatique Resort in Guatemala. The water park was awesome! There was a castle and a pirate ship with slides. We ate lunch by the pool. On the resort there was a playground and everything in it was made of wood. There were even some turtles and iguanas. We climbed the old lighthouse and cracked open a coconut.

What was funny about being on the ship was that every time you came back from dinner the maids had folded the towels into different animals like an elephant, rabbit, lobster, dog and frog.

Belize: In Belize we all took a van to some ruins. We also learned a lot about sacrifices. Afterwards we went and had lunch at a garden-like restaurant. We went shopping and then went back to the boat.

Cozumel: In Cozumel we took dune buggies to the beach and went snorkeling. I didn’t want to go snorkeling because swimming with animals makes me nervous. We spent the whole day riding dune buggies and visiting beaches until it was time to go back to the boat.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spring Break in Northern California with Liberty and Olivia

Liberty went with Olivia and her parents to Northern California on Saturday, April 4, 2009. They flew into the San Francisco Airport and then drove down the coast to Monterey for the first couple of days. They stopped a few times along the highway to take some pictures of the Pacific Ocean because it was beautiful. They visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium (visit website to see live webcams) and saw neat exhibits on seahorses and jelly fish and watched the Aquarium staff feed the penguins and otters. Then they drove through the 17 Mile Drive along Pebble Beach golf course. Olivia narrated the tour with the brochure that they received at the gate.

The next day, they drove further down the coast to San Simeon and toured
Hearst Castle. It was one of Olivia's favorite parts of the trip. A woman designed the Castle and it was awesome. The outdoor swimming pool was really cool.

They drove up to Sacramento and went to the California Railroad Museum the next day which was very nice. Then they drove into San Francisco. The first day in San Francisco they went on a city tour on a Hop On, Hop Off double-decker bus. It stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge and Liberty, Olivia, and Olivia's parents walked to the center of the Golden Gate Bridge and then back. It was a little scary and very windy and chilly. It is 220 feet from the bridge to the water at the center point. That night they went to see the musical "Grease" starring Taylor Hicks (from American Idol) and they liked that a lot.

The second day in San Francisco, it was rainy but they went to Alcatraz. The tour started with a boat ride to get to the island and then an audio tour (with headphones) around the prison cell house. They learned all about what it was like to live and work there. In the afternoon, they went to the Giants vs the Brewers baseball game at AT&T Park and the Giants won. The pigeons were flying over their heads looking for food during the game which was weird.

The next day they went to the crookedest street in the world (Lombard Street). They rode on the cable car several times and Olivia got to stand on the outside and hold on to the pole. They got plenty of exercise walking up and down all of the steep hills around San Francisco. Other things that they saw included Coit Tower, Ghirardelli Square (for yummy chocolate and ice cream), and the Cable Car Museum. Olivia and Liberty learned a lot of interesting things on this trip. They also rode on Street cars that were brought to San Francisco from other places all over the world like Milan, Italy.

On the last day they went to Muir Woods and saw redwood trees that were
over 200 feet tall and 2000 years old. It was cold inside the Redwood Forest but really neat to look around and up. They visited the town of Sausalito and did some shopping also.

We flew back home overnight returning on Easter morning. It was a really fun trip!