First, deep into summer mode, I'm loving these bright, fun new nail stickers (and having a pool in our 114 degree heat).
I'm also loving the peonies I picked up on sale at Safeway. They're my very favorite shade of pink.
I'm loving this little snorkeling Santa ornament that we brought back from Cayman. On our trip to London last year, we picked up an ornament for our Christmas tree so we have started a new mini tradition.
I'm loving that summer = more time for cooking!
Finally, I'm loving playing around with the Canon 40D and all of Max's lenses! The 40D is actually the SLR we bought for diving, and the one all of the underwater photos were taken with (Max wasn't ready to take his nicer 5D Mark II underwater). The 40D has now become the Mande-Practice Camera. I had no idea how much time and work went into SLR photography (aperture, shutter speed, ISO), but I'm absolutely loving all the things these cameras can do!
Our very first dive in Cayman was a wreck dive. I was a bit nervous as I had never done a wreck dive before and the concept of an "overhead environment" was a little scary. Dive Master Nick of Deep Blue Divers assured us that the wreck was the "Disney World" of wrecks and that I'd be just fine.
True to his word, the Kittiwake offered big open spaces to explore, and was the perfect first wreck for me. A former submarine rescue vessel, the USS Kittiwake was scuttled in just January of this year, making it the newest wreck around the islands. It had a surprising amount of sea life for only being underwater for six months, and was already covered in neat bubble algae.
As soon as I hit the water and started descending, I got that fantastic euphoric rush of everything that is diving. It's an amazing, amazing experience. I tried later to describe it as going to an aquarium squared (and I love aquariums), but really it's like going to an aquarium times infinity.
And I had no reason to be nervous about the overhead environments - the second I saw our first one, I knew that I couldn't wait to go in!
Max liked seeing the lathe:
I thought all the old air tanks were interesting:
We wove in and out of the ship, going down to a depth of 55 feet over our 49 minute dive.
Max and I chose Deep Blue Divers to dive with for our ten Cayman dives. We wanted a smaller company that took out just a handful of people at a time, as opposed to one of the larger operations with the massive boats. On a small boat, you get to know everyone you're diving with and also get more interaction with the dive masters. Deep Blue was also home to several Brits and I just can't get enough of their accents!
Our days worked like this: we would start with a 7:30AM pickup in one of the island vans (re: semi sketchy with no seat-belts):
We'd head over to the dive shop and hop in one of the two boats that we would take to two back-to-back dive sites:
We were told that the dive shop was actually the first one on the whole island!
On our first day, we met British Dive Master Nick. Max had been emailing with him about our dives, and we had spoken on the phone just once. He seemed a bit surprised when we met in person, then on the way back to the shop after diving that first day he spilled it: he had thought we were a couple in our 60's (yes, more than double our age). Apparently, my husband is super formal and polished in his emails, so Nick automatically expected that he was 65. He said he was shocked to find out that this "young lad" was Max, you know, the "old guy" from the emails! Max had relayed in his emails that I was a "bit nervous" about heading back in the water after more than a year, and that I was just 5'4'' and a buck ten, so Nick had envisioned me hobbling in on a cane, kind of shriveled and tiny. We so got a laugh out of all of this (it was even funnier as Nick was saying all of this in his British accent), but I think Max and I are kind of used to feeling older than we actually are (though never before anywhere close to retirement age ; )
We so enjoyed diving with Deep Blue and thought that all of their dive masters were fantastic. I especially loved bubbly Denise and her darling British accent, but my favorite was trickster Nick. In this photo, he gave me a sea cucumber to hold, then told everyone underwater that it was whale crap! I think it's great that even through my mask you can tell I know he's up to no good.
Cloudy days were still a-okay for diving. We even saw rain hitting the water's surface on one of the dives when we were down below.
This is what we look like post diving. I went with braids on this trip pretty much every time we dove. I've tried everything: buns, high ponytails, low pony tails... and no matter what, my hair is pretty much a disaster after. In Bora Bora, we dove with some French women and I was super envious because they would do nothing to their hair (literally, leave it down) and all during the dives their hair would flow perfectly around them. Then they'd get out of the water and their hair would be perfect again. Ahhh, if only I were French ; )
Max and I spent a glorious week on Grand Cayman, one of the Cayman Islands! I lost count of the number of times people asked us if we were on our honeymoon : ) It was just so incredibly wonderful to spend seven days together, not to mention in such a beautiful place.
The Cayman Islands are part of the British West Indies and located in the Caribbean. They are made up of three islands, Grand Cayman being the largest measuring in at a whopping 22 miles long. The Cayman Islands have been a British Overseas Territory since 1670 (I especially loved seeing Queen Elizabeth on the Cayman Island dollar). No taxes are imposed, making the islands big in offshore banking. Legend says that the exemption from taxes was rewarded by King George the III in 1788 after Jamaican merchant ship crews were rescued by Caymanians. The Cayman Islands were originally called Las Tortugas after the sea turtles spotted in the area. It's been called by many a diver's mecca, so Max and I just couldn't wait to dive it together.
Max decided that this was the trip to combine his two favorite hobbies: diving and photography. He had been photographing underwater with a point-and-shoot for some time (and out of water with an SLR), but finally decided to go all out with a special dive housing for an SLR. When it arrived at our doorstep, we were baffled by how large the setup was, especially when the lights were added. This is Max giving it a go around in our pool before we headed out:
Just to give you some perspective, this is what a normal camera looks like underwater (that's me!):
And this is my husband with his professional setup:
Not only was it big, but it was really heavy. I don't know how Max carried it around!
Needless to say we had people coming up to us the whole trip with questions, which was lots of fun. My favorite was a woman we were chatting with by the pool who just stopped mid-sentence and asked "Wait, is that a camera in there???"
Max's setup did give us some amazing underwater photos. Underwater photography with an SLR is definitely tricky but Max was absolutely loving it. He's already planning on how to upgrade his equipment for our next trip ; )