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.
Lavender lemonade. Such wonderful alliteration. I adored the sound of it, so today on day four of eating (or drinking) lavender, I knew THAT was exactly what I needed to make.
I steeped the lavender only thirty minutes in order to get a subtle lavender flavor to avoid that “soapy” taste I’ve encountered in some recipes. The recipe calls for steeping the lavender several hours alternatively if desired for a stronger lavender flavor.
My daughter really liked this tart lemonade (you can fiddle around with the amount of water, sugar, or lemon if necessary, too. I could see this lemonade mixed with seltzer water or sparkling wine, too, for a different refreshing drink.
Here is the recipe if you want to try this:
A small handful of freshly picked and rinsed lavender flowers or a Tablespoon of dried culinary lavender flowers (I used dried from Amazon).
1 cup white granulated sugar
2 cups of boiling water for the infusion
1.5 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice from lemons (it helps to roll the lemons on the counter with the palm of your hand before juicing them to get maximum juice from each lemon.
2 cups or more of cold water
Cut the lavender flowers from the stem and place in a medium bowl. Pour the sugar over the flowers and use your fingers to gently rub the flowers into the sugar.
Pour 2 cups of boiling water over the lavender sugar and stir until the sugar is melted. Cover and let infuse (or steep) for thirty minutes or up to several hours.
Strain the lavender syrup into pitcher you just made, discarding the flowers.
Stir in the lemon juice and add another two cups of water. Add more water, sugar, or lemon if desired according to taste. (more lemon if too sweet; more sugar if too tart.
If desired, add a drop of purple food coloring.
Chill and serve with ice, sliced lemons and a few lavender sprigs if available.
Life is good. Give something new a whirl today. Carpe diem, friends………..
I can still hear my wonderful father saying to me time and time again in my head: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” That was him, “King of the Colloquial Expression”, always finding a teachable moment everywhere. A man of few words but words that meant something. He didn’t speak much, of course, unless he had something to say. No idle banter for him, but a pleasant and funny disposition, a kind and loving heart, a warm smile with a sunny laugh, and a man of few words. Life lived well and lived fully.
I think of my Dad today on day three of a week of lavender recipes I am trying. It comes down to the idea of cut the idea of cutting your losses while you are ahead versus you never know until you try. Go the distance; live without wondering what could have happened. Go the distance; risk disappointment but know you tried. I impart these same words to my daughter, “Teen Traveler” and decide without blinking an eye that the proverbial “show must go on”, another quip from my beautiful days with my father before he passed on. Even though we haven’t really cared for the two lavender recipes we tried this week, we will continue in our quest.
Day Three: Lavender pound cake. Pound cake brings to mind simpler, almost more old-fashioned times, as my beautiful mother adored pound cake and served it to me when I was small like her mother did before her. Pound cake, buttery goodness and sweet confection, just like Mom. Throw in a little lavender, and it HAS to be good, right? This time I am going to decrease the amount of lavender I use to see if that makes a difference and pair it with lemon. How could lemon pound cake go wrong with wise words of advice from my father coupled with sweet memories of my mother……
I decided to use my Mother’s old vintage Corningware loaf pan, complete with the cornflower from a lifetime ago filled with less complication, confusion and without Covid. This was either a very good thing to use my Mother’s pan as fond memories of love and comfort surrounded me while I was baking, or…..it was a bad thing because my mother wasn’t much of a baker. In either case, it was fun to take out my Mother’s old pan again if for nothing other than the sake of nostalgia.
Yesterday my track record for yummy lavender recipes was 0 for 2. I waited with excitement as I watched the cake come out of the oven and cool. I used a vanilla confectionary sugar glaze when it was cool enough as the recipe directed.
And I added sprinkles. Of COURSE I added sprinkles, as I had learned years ago from marrying into my husband’s family that sprinkles on our Italian struffali is the ONLY way to go. LOTS and LOTS of sprinkles. My daughter also taught me that life is better, always better, with a little sprinkles on top.
One person who tasted it said it felt like they were eating a scented drawer liner. My daughter said it would be delicious WITHOUT the lavender. I actually liked it, but I would have preferred the recipe to have a little heavier glaze on the top, as it was almost transparent in the recipe, even though I added even more confectionary sugar to thicken it than the recipe called for.
Day three: 1 for 3. Finally a recipe that tastes good (to some of us). I actually think I’m on to something here with the combination of lavender and lemon. Perhaps tomorrow I will try lavender lemonade. You know how it goes…..”if life gives us lemons, we make lemonade!”
Day two of my seven days of eating lavender. How could I go wrong with lavender honey ice cream? How could I EVER go wrong with ice cream? My daughter and husband now wonder out loud why we didn’t choose seven days of cinnamon.
I found a recipe that uses lavender with honey, so I elected to use orange honey, a local favorite here in Florida. How could I go wrong with orange honey either? Orange honey tastes a little sweeter than the regular clover honey which is what one normally thinks of when one thinks of honey. It is also a little more “floral” in taste.
Using heavy cream, whole milk, dried culinary lavender blossoms and honey in a pan on the stove until steaming, this is how I began the process. The recipe says to cool the mixture for one hour in the refrigerator after it is steaming, and the honey melts and to follow the instructions in one’s ice cream maker. At some point, I strained the lavender flowers from the mixture, too. My ice cream machine says to put cold ingredients into it before starting it up, so that’s what I did. I cooled the mixture much longer than an hour. I decided before I put the mixture into the ice cream maker that the muddy-colored default ice cream color simply would not do, so I added a few drops of neon purple food color before continuing after I strained the lavender out of the mixture. Lavender should be purple. One of life’s axioms perhaps.
After waiting with great anticipation, the ice cream started to freeze and began to take shape. After my first trial of a recipe using lavender yesterday (lavender-mint water), I was a bit skeptical, but the ice cream looked so appealing in the ice cream maker. Finally, the time came for me to try it……ready…get set……….go…..Smooth texture, appealing color but tastes like…….SOAP. I immediately reminded myself that the French word for “to wash” is “laver”. Sounds like lavender. Lavender is associated with WASHING, noteatingevidently, and for good reason.
After freezing the ice cream for many hours, I decided that it tasted a little better when it was colder. The texture was smooth and creamy, and I almost liked the flavor. ALMOST. I am wondering now if the hints of floral taste to the orange honey may have given it the strange after taste. Might try this again another time with standard clover honey instead……or….might NEVER try this recipe again.
All in all, it was fun to experiment with a new flavor. I have come to like expecting the unexpected.
Life is good………..find enjoyment in the unexpected today if you can. Carpe diem, friends.
Note to self: perhaps combining lavender with lemon tomorrow might do the trick! Luck with lavender and lemon……at least the alliteration is fabulous!
“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.
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, 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!
Now that the state of Florida is opening up little by little after the pandemic, my daughter, “Teen Traveler”, and I decided we were well overdue for a road trip. Living in Florida has its benefits, even though this time of year it is hot. VERY hot. We have some of the most beautiful springs with crystal clear blue water that I’ve ever seen, and we decided it would be well worth the two and a half hour ride to see them.
This time, we decided to travel to Dunnellon, Florida to see Rainbow Springs State Park. This park was originally a privately owned theme park destination in the 1930s , complete with a zoo, a rodeo, gardens everywhere, a boat ride, and a ride with leaf-shaped gondolas suspended from up high above the ground. After the theme parks in Orlando opened in the early 1970s, Rainbow Springs closed. Sometime thereafter (in the 1990s) , the state of Florida acquired this land and made it into a beautiful park, preserving the original three man-made waterfalls. At the time of our visit, two of the waterfalls were inoperable due to a maintenance issue, but the one that was still in operation was beautiful.
A cement and brick walkway circles most of the main areas in the park, but there are several wooded trails to walk as well.
We traveled mostly on the cement and brick walkways as well as the boardwalk paths, but we walked a little way on one of the wooded paths behind the overgrown butterfly garden, which is scheduled for refurbishment in the near future.
“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” -Henry David Thoreau
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway on the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. ” – Henry David Thoreau
While walking on trail in the woods, however, we encountered a park sign alerting us about the presence of bears in the park, along with instructions about what to do if we encountered any bears. We decided to turn back toward the more populated areas. At this park, you can rent canoes and kayaks and can swim in the crystal blue water as well, although a sign alerts you of the possibility of alligators in the water. We decided to skip this fresh water swimming experience for the time being, as I felt it was a bit unsafe to swim in fresh water with others during the present corona pandemic.
We saw many beautiful flowers while walking about the park and were forunate enough to see a butterfly egg on the back of a leaf when we turned it over. Fascinating find.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he expects.” – John Muir
“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” – Henry David Thoreau
We came to this park mainly see the beautiful blue spring waters and the waterfalls but were delighted to see the beautiful plants and a glimpse of an unexpected butterfly or two. They say it is the “little things that matter,” and the unexpected “little things” in sum added up to a wonderful experience.
We exited the park, full of wonder and joy at all that we had seen, heard, smelled, and touched at this beautiful site when we passed by a little pond with the most beautiful green algae floating on top of it, which beckoned us to stop for a moment.
There was something special about this little pond that “Teen Traveler” and I felt simultaneously the moment we stopped. We looked at each other and both said that it was a place at which we could literally spend hours. It was so serene and peaceful. We decided to sit upon a rock at the edge of the pond, watching with the sense that something great was before our eyes. While sitting silently and experiencing this magic moment together, my daughter noticed a frog on the shore of the pond.
It was one of those magic moments where the world works in perfect synchronicity for a time, where everything works together as it should. It amazed us that this frog was so perfectly suited for the pond, and the pond was perfectly suited for the frog. The camouflage before our eyes was amazing. The frog’s head was exactly the color of the algae, and the frog’s lower body was exactly the same color as the rocky sand beneath him. We watched the frog, and the frog watched us. None of us moved for a moment or two. While we were experiencing one of those things that just took our breath away, my daughter slowly and quietly pointed to the pond. At first pass, I thought I was looking at several leaves floating beautifully in the water before us.
“Could a greater miracle take place for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau
At second glance, I realize most of what I was looking at were NOT leaves. My daughter pointed out to me that we were looking at frogs, and the frogs were looking at us.
Counting quickly, we saw at least nineteen sets of eyes gazing upon us as we gazed upon them. There were frogs EVERYWHERE. It felt surreal, almost like we were in a film, maybe some perfect version of the world in a Disney film perhaps. I had never given frogs a second thought in my entire life, yet this was one of the most beautiful and amazing sites I have seen right before me that moment. As I sat quietly on that rock, watching the world unfold before me and enjoying life through my lens, I realized what we came for didn’t quite work out the way we planned, as two of the waterfalls were broken and the butterfly garden was overgrown and in need of refurbishment, yet the beauty and experience that surrounded us was one of the best Florida day trips we had experienced in a long time. Sometimes if we are flexible enough to open our eyes to what is thrown our way, we discover that life is beautiful, if we allow ourselves to see all the possibilities before us.
We ordered 1500 live ladybugs to release in our yard recently, as we wanted to find a natural control to the aphids that were eating our plants. They arrived in a small mesh bag, and we released them at dusk one night, as they normally fly during the day. Releasing them at dusk allows them some time to find food and settle in for the night. We sprayed them with a little sugar water as we released them, as this makes their wings a bit sticky for a few days to encourage them to stick around and find food before they can fly away.
We transferred the ladybugs one by one to our plants in the yard and were fascinated by them in the meantime. Who knew watching a ladybug would be such a delight! Some ladybugs don’t have any spots.
“A multitude of small delights constitute happiness.”
Life is good; look for the little things that provide you with a new sense of wonder.