Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tropical storm Bonnie

We were just heading home from the store when one of the bands from tropical storm Bonnie came through. Look at the crazy sky in these two pictures which were only taken about 10 minutes apart from each other! Only in Florida...

Liz and Matt's baby shower!

I can't believe Liz is already 7 months pregnant! Today we went to the shower for baby Declan.


They received absolutely tons of really adorable gifts...


I was really proud of my diaper 'castle' cake!


Congratulations Liz and Matt - we love you!


Maddy's fashion summer camp adventure!

Maddy and Mya had a blast at their "Fashion Forward" summer camp at the dance studio! They learned about make up and hair, designing clothes, photography poses, walking on the catwalk and some new dance moves too! They picked out their own theme (Spring fashion), selected all of their own clothes, and put together the most adorable little show for the parents at the end of the week to show us their catwalk moves. They absolutely lit up the room and you could tell they felt like superstars. You would have never known how nervous they were. Too cute :)



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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happy 11th Birthday Madison!

To celebrate Maddy's birthday this year she wanted to do the "Keeper Tour" at her favorite place in the whole world, Big Cat Rescue (http://www.bigcatrescue.org/), and her BFFFLs (Best Friends Forever For Life:)) came over for a disco sleepover party in the evening. It was a very, very long night and I think we all feel older this morning...
When we arrived at Big Cat Rescue in the afternoon they presented her with her special birthday gift - a brick with her name on it for their permanent path through the sanctuary. She was thrilled!


The Keeper Tour is two hours long and you get to see 'behind the scenes' all of the creative ways that the sanctuary enriches the lives of their cats. The vast majority of big cats end up at BCR after being abandoned by: private owners (who didn't realize how expensive and difficult they would become as pets), circus's, fur farms or were recovered from drug raids. For the most part the cats have been declawed and/or defanged and have never lived outside of captivity. These cats cannot be rehabilitated into their natural environment and therefore have to live out their days at the sanctuary.


To prevent boredom and to improve their quality of life, a lot of the enrichment activities involve stimulating their sense of smell. Here's Maddy doing the first activity on the tour which was making 'scent bags' from herbs, spices and even perfume for the cats to eat or play with.



We made frozen "bloodsicles" out of salmon broth, rats and baby chicks...


Maddy was a special helper and did a fine job of carrying the treat bucket...


Cats love new and interesting smells. Here's Armani the leopard who has given up his food for a minute to play with a bag we sprayed with Chanel!

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Here's an ocelot growling to defend her food treat. It's a frozen rat - we didn't want it anyway :)

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Since the staff do not interact with the cats at all, they train them some very basic commands so that they can inspect their bodies for any signs that they may require medical intervention. All training is done with positive reinforcement only and using a clicker and food treats. Evidently, big cats are very difficult to train in general and so many are destroyed (or abused) by the entertainment industry since they won't follow commands. Here's Bengali, a 500lb tiger doing the 'up' command...

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And one of the cougars...


During the tour, we fed Fig Newtons to Banjo the bintarong or "bear cat." He's not really a cat at all and smells exactly like popcorn. He's very tame but check out those claws :)

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Nikita is their biggest lioness. She was found chained to a wall and living on a concrete floor during a drug raid. She has to live alone since she had been declawed by her previous owner and so cannot survive in a pride. She is so beautiful...


This is a Sand Cat, a desert cat native to Afghanistan. The tour guide told us that they have to be really vicious to compensate for their small size. She said she was more afraid of this cat than the tigers! We thought he looked exactly like Puss in Boots from Shrek :)


Here's one of the caracals enjoying her hammock - another form of enrichment...


The tour was fantastic - Maddy's favorite visit so far (she's been 13 times now:))


While we were at BCR, Michael got the house all ready for the party...


Our girls arrived and we had pizza, cake and opened gifts...


Mike came up with a creative solution for how to hang the pinata...


The birthday girl got first dibs at the candy...

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Tough times call for tough measures...

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After the sugar rush, the girls got their dance on...

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Mike was absolutely loving it :)

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After flashlight tag, the girls went to bed and were still giggling well into the early hours. In the morning, we were all exhausted. Not too tired for Mr. Mike's famous pancakes though and Maddy still had the energy to make hers into a tiger...:)


Happy Birthday to our kind, sweet and beautiful girl, Madison. You have no idea how proud we are that you wanted to give to your favorite charity for your birthday. You are as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside - how lucky we are:)

***Update!!!***

Madison has also been blogging about her special day on her very own Big Cat Blog (www.mybigcatblog.blogspot.com). Today she received a comment on her blog from the actual CEO and Founder of Big Cat Rescue!!!It said "Thanks so much for visiting the cats 13 times and for donating in such a kind way. This pictorial of your Keeper Tour is better than our own website at showing what it is like. Thanks for sharing. Carole Baskin, CEO Big Cat Rescue" How exciting!!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fort de Soto

We went fishing in Fort de Soto today and Mike and Maddy literally caught dinner!
Here's Mike with his flounder...


And Maddy with her 5lb trout which she caught all by herself!


It actually broke the rod...


She was so proud of herself. A blue heron saw her fishing skills and hung around waiting for cast offs:)



There's just enough room in the cooler Mike now you've drank those beers - you're such a team player :)


Dinner time!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Mike is a triathlete!

Mike completed his first triathlon today! Despite the fact that he didn't do a training program, or even try the swim or bike outside beforehand and ran in his underwear (!), he still managed to swim 0.25 miles, bike 15 miles and ran 3 miles - all in an hour and a half! All of the pics, details and some videos of Mike at his sexiest are on the running blog (clareisrunning.blogspot.com - or use the link on this page on the left hand side).
Congratulations Mike - you're a freakin' rock star!!


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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Maddy's Big Cat Blog

Madison has started her very own blog to spread the work about how we can all help big cats. The link is on the left hand side at the top of the page under "Madison's Big Cat blog" or you can access directly by clicking http://www.mybigcatblog.blogspot.com/. She is very proud of her hard work and would love you to leave some comments if you have time :).