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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 2010

This year, we made plans to spend Christmas in Florida with Todd's family, since last year we spent Christmas in Maryland with mine.  This was the very first Christmas that I haven't spent with my family, so I admit that I was a little nervous...

A manatee on Christmas Eve
December 22 (Wednesday), I went home from work wondering if I was starting to get sick.  I took some medicine and hoped for the best, and made my sister's rum cake recipe.  Arg, it stuck to the pan, so it wasn't the best looking or structurally sound rum cake ever made, but it would have to do.  I wrapped it in cellophane just in case, and I packed it in my new Wilton Cake Caddy, and on Thursday it went to the airport with us.  My sister makes a rum cake every Christmas and it is one of the things everyone looks forward to every year, so I wanted to bring a little piece of my Christmas to Florida.

We arrived in Orlando on Thursday evening, and our nephew and niece, Josh and Alysa, picked us up from the airport.  The four of us headed to Todd's parents house in Leesburg.  We met up with Todd's parents and the six of us went out for pizza.  I was feeling just a tad miserable because I did indeed have a cold, and it was steadily getting worse, but I made the best of it and hoped I didn't make anyone sick.

Me, with a little manatee.

Christmas Eve morning, we were up at 4:45am to get ready to go snorkel with the manatees.  Josh and Alysa went with us (this was our Christmas gift to them) and we arrived in Crystal River at 6:15am.  We were joining others at Bird's Underwater for the manatee snorkel.  We donned our wetsuits and then headed out on the boats.  The sun was just starting to rise as we headed out on to Kings Bay, and steam was coming off of the water.  It was only about 35 degrees outside, despite the fact that we were in Florida.  Temps would get up into the upper 40's/low 50's though, after the sun rose.  The water, thankfully, was 72 degrees, and we warmed up after a few minutes in the water.
Josh and a manatee calf

The second we were in the water, manatees were swimming up to us.  They were munching on the rope under the boat, and they basically just swam up to you and would kind of "sniff" you.  We swam up into the Three Sisters Spring, where the water was a bit more clear and there were plenty of manatees swimming around us, and some sleeping on the bottom.  There were strict rules about what we could and could  not do (we could not, for example, drop below the surface of the water).  The manatees had to approach us, we could not chase them or pursue them ourselves in any way.  There were US Fish and Wildlife rangers on the shoreline watching to make sure that no one harassed any manatees or broke any rules.

The manatees were so cute!  Some were little babies (but, you know, still like 4 feet long) and some were MUCH bigger - like 10 feet long or more, and most likely weighed as much as 1500 pounds!!  Yikes!  There have been a lot of negative things said lately in Florida about the manatee snorkel and I have to say that it did not appear to me that any manatees were harassed at all while I was there, and the US Fish & Wildlife folks and the tour operators made sure of it.

Alysa pets a manatee
After the snorkel, we headed back to Todd's parents house.  My cold was getting worse still, and so I ended up taking a nap for about 3 hours.  Todd came in part way through and told me it was ok to keep sleeping, since Josh and Alysa had both fallen asleep for about the same amount of time, too.  (and they'd gotten to sleep in the car on the hour drive to and from Crystal River!)

Christmas Eve night, we had dinner and drove around looking at Christmas lights for a while.  Josh had to go home since he worked on Christmas Day, but Alysa spent the night at Todd's parents' house with us.

Christmas morning, I was actually feeling well enough to go for a short run, so I went out for about 30 minutes.  It had warmed up some, but it was still a little bit chilly (for Florida anyway) at about 55 degrees. It did make it up into the upper 60s on Christmas, though.

In the afternoon, Todd's brother and his wife, and Josh, came over for Christmas dinner, which was quite enjoyable.  We spent a good day with family, and the rum cake was a hit!!  The cake caddy was am AWESOME way to transport a cake on an airplane.

Josh, though, decided to play a little prank. He stole Todd's watch from the bathroom when he was over on Christmas Eve, and brought it home.  Todd's brother pointed out that the watch kind of looked like a womans watch, and they realized that they had MY watch.  So, they wrapped it up in a box and gave it to me on Christmas Day.  When I opened it, I thought they'd given me a NEW dive watch, the same one I already have.  I was confused, and showed it to Todd, who was confused, until Josh said, "Don't you even recognize your own watch?!"  Ha.  I'll get him back.

Everyone headed out, and we relaxed.  In the midst of it all, I'd been hearing about the snow so I changed our Sunday flight departing at 8:45pm to one departing at 5:25pm.  I hoped the extra time would help us get home in the snow.

Sunday morning, I was still feeling sick, but I went out and did 7 miles.  It was cold, about 45 degrees, and really, really, windy, so it was not a good time in that regard.  At least I'd brought some cooler weather clothes, but I neglected to bring a wind breaker.  That sucked.  Still, I got the miles in.

Sunday afternoon we waited to see what would happen.  Southwest had canceled all of the mid-morning to mid-afternoon flights that were taking off before ours, and then at about 1:00pm, they canceled the 8:45 flight that we'd originally been on.  Only ours and one other flight were not canceled.  At 2:30pm, we were packed and ready to head to the airport, and we headed out.  Tom (Todd's brother) called when we had just left to say they'd canceled our flight, and a few minutes later we had official word from Southwest.  So, we turned around.

I was nervous about getting home, because we were supposed to be at my grandmother's house in Virginia at 12pm on Monday to celebrate Christmas with my family, and that was looking like that was in jeopardy. When I checked online, I saw that Southwest wouldn't rebook us until THURSDAY and I would have definitely missed my family celebration in that scenario.  I checked around and found a flight out to Dulles airport at 9am on Monday for only $149 per person on United, so we booked that right away.  I ended up using our tickets from the canceled flight to rebook Todd on a trip to Orlando in the spring to visit his parents.  We headed out to dinner with Todd's parents and relaxed for the evening.

Monday, we were up at 5am to head to the airport.  Things were looking pretty good with the flight.  Josh was at the airport at the same time - he was flying out to see his girlfriend in Missouri, so we had breakfast with him before we got on the plane.  Security was CRAZY and there were a lot of people flying stand by on our flight (we had gotten 2 of the last 4 seats on the plane).  Otherwise, we didn't see anything weird, but I think we were really lucky to have gotten a flight when we did for as low of a price as we did.

We arrived at Dulles at about 11am, and my brother-in-law picked us up at the airport.  My grandmother's house is right around the corner from Dulles, so we were right on time for the party.  My parents were there, and all of my siblings and their kids, so we were all together except for one of my brothers-in-law.  We had a nice time, and I got a few more of my grandma's recipes.

Then, we drove my mom and her significant other's car (with them in it, too) back to BWI to get our car.  We said goodbye to them and drove home.  So, in the end, the timing worked out perfectly!

I was exhausted today, though!

One more manatee shot:


abbi said...

Your manatee photos are great - that looks like a great thing to do for Christmas - kind of sucks about all your travel problems on the way back but at least you made it back!

Kovas Palubinskas said...

Sounds like a great trip and lucking out with the flight home!

K said...

Sounds like a great Christmas! Glad your flights worked out in the end.
Hope you're feeling better now.

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