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.
I had my second Covid vaccine Monday morning around 11:00 AM. By 9:00 PM I was feeling “not quite right.” By 11:00 PM, I had the chills, a fever, a headache like none other than I had experienced before in my life, eye pain, body aches, fatigue and nausea. I went to bed, snuggling next to an additional pillow for extra insulation and lots of blankets to keep me warm, even though I live in Florida.
I woke up at some point in the night with what felt like a fever well over 101 degrees and a throat that felt so dry that it felt like knives were sliding down my throat. With the exception of two bouts of type “A” flu several years ago, I had never been this sick. And yet, I wasn’t really sick at all. It was just a reaction for the second Covid shot I had.
I slept most of the day and finally got up around 8 PM to take a shower. As I stood with my head flat against the shower wall, enjoying the soothing and healing water trickle down my back, I couldn’t help but feel grateful. I was sick but not REALLY sick. I kept thinking of all those unfortunate souls that have had Covid and were ACTUALLY sick. I thought about all those unfortunate souls that have had some type of chronic sickness, like cancer or some other dreadful disease. Little more than eighteen hours later, I was well on my way to recovery.
They say it’s the little things that mean a lot. A husband that comes in to check on me repeatedly while I was sleeping to ensure that I was okay, a daughter to give a gentle hug and a smile, dishes loaded up into the dishwasher in a clean kitchen while I slept, calls from dear friends to check on me, and a husband that made sure I had plenty of water available near by all day long is how I will remember this day. I am grateful for what I have time and time again. Life isn’t perfect, but heck it’s good. Damn good.
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 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……………..