“Let’s get out of this town
Drive out of the city away from the crowds….”

-“Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift

Last weekend, we traveled to Gainesville to get out of town broaden our horizons. We haven’t gone on long day trips because of the increasing Covid-19 numbers in Florida so we don’t want to stay in a hotel. However, armed with our masks, we thought this might be a good day trip with few people, as it was opening day at the museum. We had planned to go on a zip line in Micanopy at the Canyons Zip Line and Adventure Park, but it rained immediately after we got out of the Natural History Museum.

The real draw for me to the museum was the Butterfly Rainforest at the Natural History Museum, which is right on the campus of the University of Florida and only about an hour and forty-five minutes from Orlando. This large screened in pavilion is home to many tropical (non-local) butterflies and their nectar plants.

I was surprised to hear that the pavillion contains no host plants, so the butterfly population is not self-sustaining and needs to be replenished.

I had been to other butterfly aviaries before and was a bit disappointed that there were not as many butterflies as I had anticipated, although this was the first day the aviary was open after closing for the pandemic.

It was well-maintained and beautiful with many colorful plants and flowers nestled among a waterfall and a winding path.

The Butterfly Rainforest admission is $14.00 for adults, $12.00 for seniors, college students and Florida adult residents. Children from three to seventeen are charged $7.oo for admission, but their fee is waved with proof of an “A” in science on their last report card.

After going through the butterfly aviary, we meandered through the museum admiring the many butterfly research stations, collections, and other exhibits.

I loved the Florida cave exhibit, which had a cave to walk through along with stations describing the geology of the cave in Florida. Many people don’t realize that Florida is home to a spectacular cave with impressive stalactites and stalagmites in Marianna, FL.

There is a large fossil collection here as well, and there are updated signs with photographs which beckon the visitor to read them, which is a little different than other museums I’ve visited whose signs haven’t been updated in many years. Here I learned that Florida was home to rhinoceroses around twenty-four million years ago, where the geography here resembled that of an African savanna. Fascinating.

Because we couldn’t do the zip line on our way home, we stopped at our favorite “Silver Springs” to stretch our legs, admire the blue waters, and get a little exercise. I just love this place and never tire of this little spot of “Old Florida”. This park has wild rhesus monkeys among the trees, but we have yet to encounter any during our visits there.

Life is good. Carpe diem, friends…………..enjoy today.


Yesterday was a great day to get out of the house for a mini outing during the week day. We thought we would travel to East End Market in Orlando in the earlier hours of the day to avoid crowds. We haven’t yet gone to a restaurant to have a sit down meal during the pandemic but lately have expanded our horizons to have a take-out meal outside.

East End Market in Orlando is perfect for this because they have instagram-worthy plants in raised beds outside to provide a perfect backdrop for your meal. There are several options for food here, including a food truck and an artisanal bread shop called Olde Hearth Bread Company that features wholesome breads and pastries (most breads are vegan) with no artificial flavors or preservatives.

There is a Farm and Haus counter service venue that features made from scratch “comfort foods” for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The also include vegetarian menu items such as a Mediterranean wrap, coconut curry with vegetables and a side of coconut rice, burritos (with and without meat), Meditteranean bowls, and a burrito rice bowl.

This place is home of the famous Orlando Gideon’s Bakehouse, home of the famous five dollar half pound cookies. I recommend the cookies and cream cookie, which is the perfect blend of a sugary confection. The place has been in operation since 2016 after the proprietor purchased an old cookbook from 1898 with the recipe for the cookies inside, along with handwritten notes and doodles in the margins written by a boy, Gideon, who aspired to be a baker one day in the 1800’s. The proprietor of Gideon’s Bakehouse started the sweet shop with only $800 dollars, one employee, a dream, and decided the name of his sweet shop should give credit to that little boy from 1898. What has been a local favorite in Florida has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and others and will soon expand to a second space in Disney Springs sometime during 2020*. I highly recommend this place.

After we arrived at East End Market, we decided we wanted to try lunch at La Femme du Fromage (“the cheese lady”), which has been featured on HGTV, USA Today, The Cooking Channel, The Travel Channel, and The Food Network for good reason. I had the mozzarella and house pesto salad, which featured fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and greens with pesto and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and was delicious. It was just the right portion size and hit the spot for an outdoor lunch on a warm summer later morning, early afternoon lunch.

My daughter tried the award winning “Grand Fromage” grilled cheese which featured artisanal bread, prosciutto, four cheeses, tomato, and basil. To call this a grilled cheese is to do it a dis-service, as it was more like a pannini. Definitely a winner, and my daughter could see how this sandwich won a “Best of Orlando” award at one time. If a charcuterie board is your thing, you can get this at La Femme du Fromage as well, along with flatbreads, too. Vegetarian options also include truffle mac and cheese, margherita or tomato/goat cheese flat breads as well.

After lunch and we took some photos in the gardens, which were beautiful. We decided to try the Japanese donuts (mochi) at Dochi, which are beautiful to look at and are lighter and chewier in texture than our American donuts.

I found out that these donuts are vegetarian, as they are not fried in animal fat (lard, etc.) but are not vegan, as they contain milk and eggs.

The portion was just about right to split with my daughter and was not too sweet, although these donuts are frosted. We tried the oreo cookie mochi and enjoyed it. Flavors change daily.

East End Market was a wonderful way to “break bread” together with my daughter in Orlando. This site also features a rental room for parties along with a courtyard for outdoor dining that has a chic vibe.

Life is good; find somewhere new to “while away the hours, conferring with the flowers” (from a song sung by The Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” movie ).

Carpe Diem Friends………

*Gideon’s Bakehouse has opened a second bakehouse as of February, 2021 in Disney Springs in Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.


photo courtesy of C. Boucher

One of my favorite things to do here in Florida is to go Alligator hunting. Not REAL hunting, but hunting with a scavenger hunt. There is a wetlands near my house in central Florida where we drive along a loop road to play a little game like “Where’s Waldo” to see if we can find “Where’s the alligator” instead. The wetlands near our house is closed because of the pandemic, but the Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is open. Black Point is a seven mile drive where you can see all kinds of beautiful wildlife, including wildflowers, birds( including a bald eagle), snakes, river otters or bobcats if you are lucky, and the most beautiful alligators I’ve ever seen in the wild. Here in central Florida, we are in the midst of alligator courtship season, which typically runs from April to May, and mating season is normally in May and June. Eggs are laid in mounds of soil or vegetation in June or July, and the average alligator can lay around thirty-two to forty-six eggs. Eggs hatch from mid-August to early September, and during this mating season alligators can become territorial. It is wise to stay inside your car in this loop, as it is recommended to stay at least twenty-five feet away from any alligator in the wild. Florida is a great place to see alligators in the wild, as it is estimated that there are approximately 1.5 to 2 million wild alligators here.

sign at the beginning of the refuge
sign at the turnoff to Black Point Wildlife Drive

The entrance fee is normally ten dollars per car and is payable with an honor system envelope provided at the little blue sign below at the entrance. Visitors retain a stub from their payment voucher in the car and deposit the remainder of the voucher in the envelope at this sign. Because of the pandemic, however, there is currently no admission fee necessary.

brochures and ticket envelopes are found here

It always amazes me to see so many wildflowers in the midst of our “moderate drought” this spring in this part of Florida.

beautiful wild gaillardia flowers line the sides of the loop road
infrequent wild pink gaillardias are found among the mostly orange gaillardia wild flowers
a wild butterfly on yellow wild flowers takes my breath away
more beautiful yellow flowers along the banks of the water
the root system of the mangrove is impressive to see
beautiful purple flowers amidst the vegetation on the banks of the water
HERE is Waldo!
Is that a log or an alligator? Sometimes it is hard to tell until you look for a while to see if it moves.

The vegetation (mangrove) grows in some of the most inhospitable substrates I have seen, and the landscape is literally dotted with young plants which grab hold of the arrid land as well as the brackish water to flourish.

possible bald eagle sighting

One needs to drive VERY slowly to see the alligators swim silently in the waters or hiding among the reeds. Sometimes they are even on the banks of the water, laying out in the sun. At times, the alligator at first appears to be a floating log, but then you see movement or the swish of a tail.

Today we were fortunate enough to see an alligator near his den, which is cleared by the alligator’s snout and feet and can be up to twenty feet deep/long. Alligators are such formidable and amazing creatures.

On the way out of the Wildlife Refuge, you can see the Vehicle Assembly Building in Kennedy Space Center. This building is where the Apollo, Space Shuttle, and Saturn V rockets were assembled and completed. It is also the world’s tallest single story building.

There is nothing like the “thrill of the hunt” when looking for alligators here in central Florida, on the Space Coast. It is a great place to get out of the house, too, during this Covid pandemic and a wonderful day trip from most of central Florida.

Life is good; enjoy the sunshine and the day. Carpe diem, friends……..