I started this blog to share some of the thoughts I have along the journey of life. I love to travel and spend time with my family and friends. A good meal, breaking bread with those I love, gives my life meaning. So does travel. I adore dreaming of sites to visit, not just to check them off on a list. Rather, I consider myself a student of life, traveling as an explorer, to open my mind to all the possibilities the world holds in store for me and for others. I love to travel to discover how different the world is in terms of climate, cultures, politics, terrain, economy, etc. but also to discover how SIMILAR the people are. Despite language barriers, much can be communicated with a smile or gestures. Language is simply a means to communicate, yet there are so very many other ways to communicate. Once when I was in French-speaking Canada, I realized that my 7th grade French class didn’t teach me the word for “straw”. However, when I thought about it, I was able to communicate to the very French-speaking waiter in a very French-speaking restaurant about my need for a “cylinder through which to drink” in my limited French vocabulary. Travel challenges the mind and soul, stretching us to problem solve and form conclusions about all that we experience. THAT is the type of travel I enjoy best. “All’s well that ends well”, as they say………….”Life is Good” as well.
Today, I wanted to share something that I read which inspired me, especially during this difficult time for our country and world during the pandemic.
“Rather than focusing on the obstacle in your path, focus on the bridge over the obstacle.” -Mary Lou Retton, Olympic Gymnastic Gold medalist, who also won two silver medals and two bronze medals in 1984
Life is good; find that bridge somehow somewhere today. Carpe Diem, friends.
Somehow the lyrics to a pop song flashed in my head as I looked at the end table in my family room the other day:
“Am I out of my head? Am I out of my mind?….
…Don’t think that I can explain it What can I say, it’s complicated….”
-“Bad Things” by Camilla Cabello and Machine Gun Kelly
What started out as a simple way to pass the time during the “shelter at home” pandemic lock-down has turned crazy. Simply CRAZY! I looked at my daughter, “Teen Traveler,” while we were out on one of our day trips the other day and said with a laugh, “We are in WAY over our heads!” We traveled to a garden center an hour away to purchase some organic parsley to feed our caterpillars and laughed when we heard that they were fresh out of parsley because some woman bought TWENTY parsley plants shortly before our arrival. We laughed together the whole ride back to our house wondering WHO would buy TWENTY parsley plants.
Fast forward to us taking inventory while feeding our caterpillars later in the day, and we decided that soon WE will need twenty parley plants for our black swallowtail butterflies that are currently in the caterpillar stage. We didn’t PLAN for that many caterpillars. Honestly. It seems that whenever we went for a walk, we took a cup with a lid “just in CASE” we found any butterfly eggs or caterpillars. Then, it didn’t help that when we went to the garden center we saw some caterpillars on some of the plants, and we asked if we could take one (or two or three…)home to raise. It didn’t help that when we purchased parsley from the garden center, most times we found a few eggs or a few tiny caterpillars on the plant AFTER we got home, either.
I am on the clean and tidy side, so if you EVER told me I would have many, I mean MANY, caterpillars in my house I would have said no. Then again, when I was pregnant many years ago if you told me I would have everything I could possibly need, including the proverbial kitchen sink, in my diaper bag, I would have thought you were crazy, too! I have decided having the caterpillar eggs and tiny caterpillars inside my house is the best place to keep them, though. I tell myself that it’s okay (while I inhale and exhale deeply, I might add) because they are in a cup with a napkin over the top, secured with an elastic. There is a lid to the cup over that which has tiny air holes poked on it for air circulation. I am so good with the idea of a double barrier. Nothing goes into or out of that cup without my knowledge. The eggs, caterpillars, and plants don’t smell bad I tell myself as I inhale and exhale deeply. Has to be done, as keeping the caterpillars and eggs in a cup outside in this Florida heat is much like a sauna, and they would die. I read on-line that some crazy butterfly person lets the butterfly caterpillars roam freely inside her house and often finds the chrysalises attached to her drapes! I laughed when I told my daughter and husband at least I am NOT that person. At least not yet and hoping not ever!
Once the caterpillars get a little larger (after the first and second “instar” or stage, maybe after a week) my daughter and I move them outside in butterfly cages. At least that WAS the plan until we realized we needed more cages than we thought. It was an exercise in creativity, as we had to come up with something quickly that would help, as we likely won’t have as many caterpillars growing at one time in the future. We came up with using some clear plastic plant saucers we found at Walmart with a lingerie bag (with TINY holes), which we supported upright with a host plant (MORE parsley) and dowels. This seems to be working well for the time being.
The caterpillars don’t always excite me, as they can be a little creepy to be honest. Okay, sometimes they can be VERY creepy, but watching a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis to release into our yard is magical. The black swallowtail butterfly caterpillar, however, is beautiful in my opinion.
Last week, I found a sulphur caterpillar on my walk around the neighborhood right next to my foot. I took him home, put him in a cage, and just this week he hatched into a beautiful sulphur butterfly. Amazing. Amazing AND humbling. Last night I saw another caterpillar on my walk but left it where it was instead of taking it home this time, thinking we have a lot going on right now. A LOT going on! I’ll be on the look out for another gulf frittilary caterpillar next time I go walking, though. Make no mistake; this is a bit of an obsession I think….at least for the time being…but I like to think of it as a “diversion” from the pandemic right now though.
It’s funny how everyone is different. Someone in the family suggested that we keep a notebook of our findings. Another person in the family suggested we simply keep a list of all the butterflies we raise but acknowledged that some people just like the whimsy of it all instead. I am sort of in the middle. I keep a note on the cup of caterpillars with the date the egg hatched, the date the caterpillar went into the chrysalis, and the date it emerged from the chrysalis simply so I can plan ahead for parsley……more and more parsley. In the meantime, though, I have decided that this Easter Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (the only one we have) might do well with a floral water tube in a mini habitat with a cutting of the wild black cherry we have growing in the yard. That also keeps him from climbing around at the bottom of his tray with his frass (excrement) between cage cleanings, too. This way, I don’t need to put the whole host plant into the habitat until he gets larger, and the food will last longer because the plant needs full sun but the caterpillars do better out of the sun but in a bright spot. Plants can get “leggy” under these conditions.
Life is good. Find something that excites you every day. Find a reason to get out of the house to go for a walk (with a little scavenger hunt to find butterfly eggs and caterpillars, maybe?). Seems as though we never leave the house without a little cup and a lid these days.
Today was one of those days. One of those days that happen every so often when you’re not quite on your game so to speak. One of those days where at least one thing isn’t going quite your way or at least the way you want. That’s how the earlier part of the day was going for me. Normally I look on the bright side with a glass that is “half full”, even if the proverbial glass is cracked, chipped, or leaking water so to speak. Today my glass was a little less than half full this morning.
I decided to take a walk after dinner to clear my head, which is something I normally don’t do until our Florida evening gets a little cooler after dark. Usually my husband comes with me, but tonight I decided to go alone because he was working on a project in the garage at the time I wanted to take a stroll. I decided to take a shorter route tonight, going on a street I normally never walk through. I glanced down at the sidewalk for a moment and couldn’t believe my eyes. A very large green and yellow caterpillar was right near my feet. This is the first butterfly caterpillar I have ever found, and it was a fantastic find.
The caterpillar was so close, in fact, that I almost stepped on it. I wasn’t sure what kind of caterpillar it was, but I decided to pick it up with a pond frond (some caterpillars sting) to take it home to put it in one of our butterfly habitats. I needed to research what kind of caterpillar it was, as butterfly caterpillars are usually very specific as to what plant they will eat in their caterpillar stage. My feeling was this green caterpillar with a yellow head might be one of the yellow “sulphur” butterflies that are common in these parts. I know that the sulphur caterpillar changes colors, depending on if it eats the green leaves of a cassia plant or the yellow flowers of the same plant. As luck would have it, I had very recently purchased a Bahama senna (cassia) plant because the next butterfly I want to raise was going to be a sulphur caterpillar, as I could release this butterfly into our yard if that is the one I raised next. I looked for several days over the past week for a retail supplier for either sulphur eggs or caterpillars but found none had any in stock currently.
Bahama senna is a native Florida shrub, which can be a host plant to the sulphur butterflies.
(photo courtesy of Shirley Denton, FNPS.org)
I offered the caterpillar some of my plant, and he didn’t eat it at all. When I saw him climbing on the sides of the habitat, we put in some twigs to the habitat, as I wondered if he was getting ready to form his chrysalis. I know that caterpillars don’t usually eat anything right before they begin their transformation to the next stage. We watched the caterpillar move about the habitat for a while and checked in on him about an hour and a half later. We were amazed to find he crawled up high onto one of the twigs and started exhibiting the “J” formation, where his body bends in the shape of the letter J just before he changes to a chrysalis.
I try to learn something new every day if I can, and tonight I read about the chrysalis formation in a bit more depth. I learned that some caterpillars change color right in their fifth instar (stage) before changing into a chrysalis. At the time I am writing this, the caterpillar has changed and is no longer green but more of a yellow or orange/tan color.
I learned that the point of attachment of the caterpillar to the place where the caterpillar makes his chrysalis is actually a point with many “hooks” if you magnified it enough to see (the cremaster). Also, I was shocked to learn that the chrysalis isn’t just the caterpillar wrapped up. Rather, certain hormones in the caterpillar kick some enzymes into gear at the right time, and the caterpillar actually “digests” itself with the exception of a few parts that function almost like “stem cells” , called imaginal cells, leaving behind a puddle of ooze. I guess that explains how I thought I “lost” a malachite caterpillar in a habitat recently just before I found it had changed into a chrysalis.
This remarkable mechanism that changes the caterpillar to a butterfly is fascinating, albeit a bit creepy. Okay, it really is pretty gruesome. Yet this process in which the caterpillar changes to a chrysalis is like all the parts to a well-rehearsed orchestra makes beautiful music, almost effortlessly because it is such a well-coordinated event.
So, finding my sulphur (I think it was a sulphur) caterpillar was a stroke of serendipity during this summer evening. Finding a butterfly like this on a day like today started could be coincidence. Could be fate. Could be Divine intervention. Could be good karma. One thing is for certain; it definitely is something that takes my breath away, and that’s always a good thing.
Life is good. Savor a moment of serendipity this summer if you are quiet enough to hear it calling you. Carpe diem, friends……………..
Today, like any other day, was a gift. Today was the first day I have ever seen a hummingbird, and it took my breath away. I have seen and heard about hummingbirds but have never given them a great deal of thought. Today, however, as I was tending my containers of plants in my backyard here in Florida, I looked up and briefly saw a green and blue hummingbird out of the corner of my eye hovering near my blue salvia, which I later learned has a high nectar content for hummingbirds. I planted it originally as a nectar plant for butterflies, never ever dreaming that I would see such a beautiful blue and green hummingbird as a bonus. I don’t know much about hummingbirds in Florida, but this one looked like it may have been a more tropical variety because of its coloring. It was even more colorful than the hummingbird pictured above. It graced my yard for mere minutes, and I never had the chance to grab my camera in time to take a picture unfortunately.
The hummingbird I saw was more like this one, but I don’t remember seeing the purple on its head.
This is a copy of a scrapbook page I saw on the internet using a quotation from Papyrus Cards and arranged by “Taxed4ever” in Canada…beautifully said and beautifully arranged……
After a little bit of research I found out that hummingbirds live only in the Americas. Watching the hummingbird in my yard for a brief moment, I was fascinated with its ability to fly forwards, backwards, and upside down. The thing that really took my breath away beyond its beautiful color was its ability to hover in mid-air so effortlessly, and this is what first caught my eye. Hummingbirds do not hum, but their name comes from the flapping sound their wings make when they flap it from fifty to two hundred beats per second. Amazing creatures. I found out also that most species can live from three to five years (some larger ones can live over a decade) , but most die in the first year. Another amazing thing about hummingbirds is their fast metabolism, and they need to eat every ten or fifteen minutes from dawn to dusk and might even eat approximately half their weight in food and eight times their weight in liquid during this time. In fact, they can visit between one thousand and two thousand flowers per day to meet this need.
You can encourage hummingbirds to visit your yard by planting salvias, bee balms, day lillies, and other flowers with long trumpet-type shapes along with a humming bird feeder, which contains a sugar water mixture that you can make yourself or purchase at a local garden center. If you get a hummingbird feeder, make sure it has an “ant trap” at the top of it (or you can purchase an ant trap accessory on Amazon), as the sugar will attract lots of ants, and ants can contaminate the feeder and bring disease. Make sure you wash the humming bird feeder every few days, as the sugar water can host different types of bacteria, but it is recommended to empty and wash the feeder with vinegar and not bleach. One other tip is to avoid the inverted bottle type of hummingbird feeder, as I have heard these can leak. If you have more than one feeder, it is recommended to keep them ten to twenty feet apart, as hummingbirds are very territorial creatures.
If you want more information about hummingbirds, you can “Google” them or find information here at the Hummingbird Society website:
In Mexico, legend has it that “the hummingbird is the symbol of strength in life’s struggle to elevate consciousness— to follow your dreams” (from NationalGeographic.com), which is somehow appropriate and relevant today during the Covid-29 pandemic.
Life is good. May you “open your eyes to the wonders of the world today” and “embrace all that life has to offer” in order to “celebrate the joy of every day.”
Today is the day. THE day that our ladybug larvae arrived. Arrived in a TUBE, that is. Evidently there was a “run” on ladybug larvae during the pandemic (go figure!), and Carolina Biological Supply was a bit short on these larvae during the earlier part of the pandemic. I ordered the larvae on May 19, and today (June 13) they finally arrived. The directions said to moisten the circular sponge in the habitat before adding the larvae. The directions also told me to add a half scoop (scoop provided) of the orange-colored food to the habitat before adding the larvae as well. The directions further told me that I should not fret if the larvae do not move right away, as they had a long journey and were likely thirsty, hungry, and tired. At least three or four larvae found their way to the moistened sponge within five minutes of their liberation from the tube. Remarkable creatures in my opinion. I’m really hoping these tiny little creatures don’t come out of the habitat when I open the lid tomorrow to re-moisten the sponge, as several were crawling onto the sides of the habitat shortly after I took them out of the tube.
The directions tell me I am to moisten the sponge daily and add 1/2 a scoop of food every two to three days to the floor of the habitat and to keep the habitat out of drafts or sun.
Evidently, IF I do everything I’m supposed to, we will have pink ladybugs in ten to fourteen days. I received ten ladybug larvae, and evidently five should survive the process. Another exciting diversion during the pandemic to keep us busy.
There is a sense of excitement I feel watching something so tiny growing before my eyes. I can’t wait until the larvae change to adult ladybugs so I can release them to tackle the aphids in the yard.
Life is good; find something to ignite your sense of wonder and excitement during this pandemic if you can, even if it is a bug!
It has been said that you “get what you pay for.” Today we traveled to Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Florida which is about two and a half hours away from where we live. I had wanted to go to visit there for sometime now, so we decided that today was the day. Butterfly World is the first butterfly house in the United States and the largest in the world. Right here in Florida. Right here in our state. This place is extremely well-kept and has been in operation for over thirty years on over three acres of butterfly aviaries. The website says that Butterfly World is “one man’s hobby gone wild”. How could we go wrong visiting one man’s obsession? Evidently as the story goes, the proprietor, Ronald Boender, was an electrical engineer with an interest in butterflies since he was young. He started raising them in small numbers in his home yard after retiring and originally opened a commercial butterfly company in 1984. Butterfly World was opened in 1988 and serves as a beautiful butterfly attraction as well as a research facility. The admission is rather pricey at $32.50 for adults and seniors, $22.50 for children from age 3-11 (children under 2 are free). Currently, there is an internet special of 50% off until June 8 for all those who mention it at the ticket counter. They also offer AAA discounts of 15% and a military discount of 25% the rest of the year. For an extra dollar, we received a butterfly guide, which described the varieties of butterflies we might encounter there, along with some butterfly education. This was worth the extra dollar in my opinion.
When we first walked into Butterfly World, we encountered a research room, which had an audio explaining a bit about the butterfly life cycle.
Walking into the first butterfly aviary, we were greeted by three beautiful blue Morpho butterflies, which are among my favorite kinds of butterflies. Their beautiful color and large size takes my breath away.
There were butterflies EVERYWHERE we looked, flying around us, near us, and in front of us. Lots and lots of butterflies in a well taken care of and well-managed butterfly house.
I loved the butterfly education on the wall plaques and in our purchased butterfly guide.
“Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will elude, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder. ” – Henry David Thoreau
We were so very fortunate to have butterflies land on us, including the beautiful blue Morpho butterfly (shown here on my husband’s back with his wings folded up). The bottom of most butterfly wings is not nearly as colorful as the top of their wings.
The blue Morpho butterfly had always been my favorite butterfly, but now I’m not sure. The large Australian Cairns Birdwing Butterfly took my breath away, as it looks like someone colored him with a whole box of crayons on both the top of its wings as well as the bottom of the wings where butterflies are not usually so colorful. Of course, though, the male is more colorful than the female, a common trait in the animal kingdom. This butterfly is one of the largest Australian butterflies, measuring about five to six inches across from wing to wing.
In addition to the butterfly aviaries, Butterfly World has a garden center with butterfly host plants for sale, a lorikeet habitat, and an insect museum which featured some fascinating insects such as scorpions, trantulas, large centipedes, and cock roaches. There is also a beautiful butterfly museum as well.
Most visitors spend about two to three hours at Butterfly World, and we were no exception. Just watching the dance of the zebra longtail butterflies (pictured in previous photos as the black and whitish yellow striped butterflies) or the multitude of butterflies fly to and fro was a fascinating experience. If I lived closer, I would definitely purchase an annual pass (for $70.00). Our ticket included complimentary cold bottles of water, which we appreciated on this hot day, and there is normally a snack bar in operation. Unfortunately the snack bar (with ice cream novelties) was closed at the time of our visit because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Upon perusing the gift shop, I saw this sign:
Life IS beautiful. Life is good. Carpe diem, friends…………..
As you may recall, I purchased some Painted Lady caterpillars a while back as a diversion during the state “safer at home” orders during the pandemic. The caterpillars arrived along with their “muck in a cup” (or pre-made food).
After about ten to twelve days, the caterpillars crawled to the top of the cup in which they arrived and started to form the tell-tale sign that they were about to form pupae. The tell-tale sign that signals the beginning of this stage is seen when the caterpillars begin to look like the letter J, as they prepare to bundle up to make a case which is attached to the cup lid by a silk pad they have fabricated. After about twenty-four hours of hanging upside down, the caterpillar skin splits off and exposes a case or pupa.
Seven to ten days later, the painted lady breaks free from its pupa and metamorphisis has been completed. During this stage, the adult structures are formed, and finally the pupa has now turned into a butterfly that needs to dry his wings before he can fly.
Wings dry and harden after about twenty-four hours, and the butterfly continues his life for about two weeks during which the butterfly can travel up to one hundred miles a day at thirty miles per hour. The butterflies can mate around five to seven days after emerging from the cocoon, and the female can lay as many as approximately five hundred eggs in their short life time. Eggs are singly laid on a host plant, such as thistle, mallows, hollyhock, legumes, and others. Once the butterfly reaches the adult stage, their diet includes many nectar plants, such as blazing star, cosmos, New England aster, Joe-pye weed, Mexican sunflower, purple coneflower, and zinnias. They will visit other nectar plants, though, including red clover and milkweed, too.
In our home, when we woke up one morning to find that the first one of our pupae had hatched into a butterfly, there was a great deal of red exudate on the side of the net cage. This exudate is not blood, as many people think, but is meconium, which is waste products of their metamorphic activity.
Shortly after, a second butterfly emerged before we knew it, about a half hour later. We decided to watch the remaining pupae and actually had the good fortune of actually seeing a butterfly emerge from its pupa stage. It was a magic moment, watching life literally unfold before our eyes.
After giving the painted ladies some orange slices and sugar water on a cotton ball on dish in their cage, we decided to let them go free. It was yet another magic moment for us, as my daughter reached inside their cage, and the each butterfly crawled onto her hand in order to be released.
“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” -E.B. White
If you are interested in raising butterflies, I would recommend you order a kit with pre-mixed painted lady food to start (“the muck in a cup”). Now that we’ve gotten the butterfly “bug”, we plan to raise butterflies from eggs to caterpillars, then caterpillars to pupae, then pupae to adult butterflies. Each type of butterfly needs a certain host plant to lay eggs upon, but there are often many nectar plants that they will eat from as adults.
Three valuable sources of information and supplies can be found at:
We have been busy gathering a few host plants and many nectar plants for containers around our yard and likely will try malachite butterfly eggs next.
” And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
Life is good; find something new in some hidden spot that excites you. Carpe diem, friends………
I am always of the mindset that if we don’t like whatever situation we are in, or if we can’t change the situation, we must change our thinking. Changing our thinking puts our life back into our own hands and allows us a choice as to how we proceed. Self- isolating was (and is still) difficult while we cope with the pandemic, so I began to think of all the wonderful ways I could connect with others beyond my narrow little world in the last few months. I really enjoy reading, so I found an on-line book club which met weekly during the pandemic. Although I didn’t love the books we read, it was such a welcome break to speak with others on-line about a shared experience. Talk centered around the book, but also drifted from time to time to how everyone was feeling about the pandemic. Talk continued also about what our experiences were like, which stores were opening, what restaurants were closed, etc…as the United States began to re-open in the last month or so.
The link below contains a small list of on-line book clubs for avid readers that want a shared experience or wish to try something new:
I have found it helpful in my life to exercise my body, to exercise my mind, and to exercise my soul regularly to stay healthy and well, and during this pandemic it was no different.
Life is good; try out something new today to help you cope with the trials and tribulations of the pandemic. That’s been the beauty of the pandemic, if there is any. That is, we all have found new ways to re-connect with others and to what we may have enjoyed in the past. Find a way to change your thinking and come up with a new diversion, too.
Carpe diem, friends……..
(If you belong to an on-line book club, feel free to message me, and I’ll post a link for others to hear about it, too.)
I have come to many realizations while being cooped up inside during this pandemic. My fascination with one’s perception has me asking myself which is more important in life? The journey or the destination? This is a hot topic among many people, whether they think about it or not. If you think of the people you know, there are many people that are more “journey” type people, yet others are more “destination” people. This fascinates me to no end. Our perceptions about the world colors our approach to living time and time again.
Recently, the discussion in our home has centered around the pergola that my husband built recently in the back yard. We talk about how we are planning on growing all kinds of plants in containers to make the space more inviting when we sit under it. I have enjoyed the many “pipedreams” that have gone round and round in my head, much like I enjoy a good road trip. For me, the journey is such an important part of the experience. Thinking about doing something, pondering about all the possibilities, brainstorming for new ideas, “seeing” the plants in my head in various combinations all give me joy. Similarly it doesn’t matter where I plan to “go” on the road trip; doing whatever comes along, stopping where the wind blows is equally fun. The trip itself, or the journey, is half the fun. It is similar to the selection of planting materials, containers, etc. in my mind. It matters less what I actually plant, as the journey is part of the experience with growing plants as well as I search for “thrillers, fillers, and spillers” for my containers. The pandemic has inspired me to get back to my “roots” of gardening, if only in containers, which is something that had always defined me until I moved to Florida. Gardening here is a whole new world, one that I had not ventured into again until recently.
It is very interesting to me that my daughter, “Teen Traveler” isn’t always quite like me. She isn’t always quite like her father, either. However, she’s game for almost anything, like both of us, and I dragged her to a garden center today where we could be in the open and socially distance ourselves with a wide area away from others. I told her I could use her thoughts about what we grow near the pergola and told her that my only requirement was that the plants need to attract butterflies and be colorful. We walked round and round in the garden center, and after a while she announced that she was “done” with the experience as she was getting very hot in the Florida morning sun. She laughed when she said “I guess it really doesn’t matter to me what we plant in the containers. It will be fun, but all I really care is that they look good in the end.” What a revelation. Definitely a “destination” person, at least in this matter. Fascinating.
I guess in the end, I have decided mostly that I want it ALL. I always want it all. The “journey” is part of the joy in my life, as well as the “destination”, too. I always enjoy a good “pipedream” as often as I can as well as having my hands elbow deep in the dirt, but the finished product gives me a sense of satisfaction and joy, too. I wonder if this approach is situation specific or if this approach can be generalized to other areas of our lives as well. Food for thought.
Life is good; enjoy both your journey as well as your destination if you can, whenever you can.
Carpe diem, friends…………………
Two links for creating beautiful container gardens: