LIVING LA VIDA LOCA….SEVEN DAYS OF EATING LAVENDER, DAY THREE (LAVENDER CAKE)

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!”

Life is good; carpe diem, friends……..

(photo 1:dreamstime)

LIVING LA VIDA LOCA….SEVEN DAYS OF EATING LAVENDER, DAY TWO (LAVENDER HONEY ICE CREAM)

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, not eating evidently, 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!

(photo 1/2:dreamstime)

LIVING LA VIDA LOCA….SEVEN DAYS OF EATING LAVENDER, DAY ONE (LAVENDER WATER)

I love lavender. In fact, I wear a lavender body spray from Bath and Body Works every night before I go to bed because I love the scent so much and have for years. They say lavender has many medicinal properties such as anti-inflamatory properties, help for insomnia, pain relief, and can help one relax. I’m not sure about any of that, but I just love lavender.

In my ever-present search to “shake things up” to live my life fully, I came up with the crazy idea of EATING lavender for seven days. Why not? Sounds fun. My daughter, who is game for just about anything, celebrated my search for satisfactory lavender recipes and offered some recipes she found herself. Other people I spoke to wondered WHY on Earth would we EVER eat lavender and remarked there is probably a reason lavender is not as ubiquitous as rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, basil, or parsley. All the more reason to give it a whirl I said.

Day One. Having just received our culinary form of lavender (culinary form is important to avoid pesticides, chemicals, etc…), I was excited to begin. I thought we would start out with something simple. My daughter and I love fruit flavored water, so we decided we would try LAVENDER flavored water. We had already ordered culinary lavender from Amazon and were ready to begin.

I was thinking that the addition of another flavor might work out well, so I tried a recipe for lavender-mint water with the mint we grow in the yard. How could I go wrong with mint? This recipe was quick and easy, as you put some lavender in a tea strainer along with water and mint sprigs in a mason jar.

The mason jar steeps at least 8 hours in the refrigerator and is ready to drink after being strained for any stray lavender buds. Ready…..set…..drink……

culinary lavender from Amazon

Soap. Soap is what it tasted like to me. Not refreshing. Not anything but soap. My best friend here said to look on the bright side, and I should be glad at how clean my insides might be from this soapy confection with a laugh. And maybe the other person who said there probably is a reason why we don’t use lavender in our recipes was right. Just maybe that person who said that is always right. Note to self: try lavender in a recipe with some other flavor that “cuts’ the strong flavor of the lavender somehow. After a little research, I found out that lavender is, in fact, better if the flavor is “cut” somehow with something like dairy, lemon, or honey.

Can’t wait for tomorrow…….day TWO of la vie de loca with lavender.

Life is good; find something to shake things up today. Do the unexpected. Eat something you normally don’t or won’t eat.

Carpe diem, friends…..

(photo 1, 2,3 :dreamstime)

PUT A LITTLE COLOR IN YOUR GREY….

Every now and then something crosses my desk that causes me to pause a moment. Today I am sharing something that did just that when my friend in Belgium shared it with me.

“Barely the day started and… it’s already six o’clock in the evening.
Barely arrived on Monday and it’s already Friday.
… and the month is already over.
… and the year is almost over.
… and already 40, 50 or 60 years of our lives have passed.
… and we realize we lost our parents, friends.
and we realize it’s too late to go back…
So… Let’s try to make the most of the time we have left…
Let’s keep looking for activities that we like…
Let’s put color in our grey…
Let’s smile at the little things in life that put balm in our hearts.
And despite everything, we must continue to enjoy with serenity this time we have left. Let’s try to eliminate the afters…
I’ll do it after…
I’ll say after…
I’ll think about it after…
We leave everything for later as if ′′ after ′′ is ours.
Because what we don’t understand is that:
Afterwards, the coffee gets colder…
Afterwards, priorities change…
afterwards, the charm is broken…
afterwards, health passes…
after, kids grow up…
after, parents get old…
Afterwards, promises are forgotten…
after, the day becomes the night…
after, life ends…
And then it’s often too late….
So… Let’s leave nothing for later…
Because in the meantime we can lose the best moments,
the best experiences,
best friends,
the best family…
The day is today… The moment is now…”

-taken from a FB post by Simplement Moi

Life is good; carpe diem, friends….

photo: dreamstime

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

the “Rooster Tail” in the wake of my friend’s boat (photo by C.B.J.)

There are many things that take my breath away and cause me to reflect upon how fortunate I am. Last night was one of those magical moments. My friend called me last night to tell me the bioluminescence in the river here in Florida was breathtaking and spontaneously invited my family to go on her boat to see it. She had just been on the river with her family and wanted to share the beauty that she had seen with us. I am blessed to have such a wonderful friend in my life. Some people go a whole lifetime without encountering such a loyal and true friend who is such an inspiring person in so many ways.

photo courtesy of “Adventures in Florida”

We arrived at my friend’s house at approximately 10:00 PM and jumped into her boat. Her husband, the Captain, was wonderful as he described the river landmarks and canal system while we sailed away. Shortly thereafter, we saw schooling fish that looked like torpedoes in the water as they followed along side the boat and in front of it.

I had seen the bioluminesense while kayaking at night here in Florida on two previous occasions but never while inside a powerboat. What a spectacular sight, especially on the wake of the boat while driving fast. It is a moment best remembered in one’s mind, as it never photosgraphs well.

Here in Florida, the bioluminescence “season” is usually from May to November usually after 9:00 PM on a dark night when the phase of the moon is darkest. Light is produced by living organisms, usually plankton, from chemical reactions during this time and shows up as a blue-green haze.

Life is full of magic moments; find yours today.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends…………

“…I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night

And I think to myself
What a wonderful world…”

-from “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong

“WHILE AWAY THE HOURS, CONFERRING WITH THE FLOWERS” DURING A DAY AWAY IN EAST END MARKET, ORLANDO

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.

OF MAMMOTH CAVE AND A LITTLE PHILOSOPHY

JANUARY, 2017 AT MAMMOTH CAVE, KENTUCKY

I am always fascinated with the themes of perception and reality, ignorance and truth. In fact, when I was a young girl, I noticed some numbers adjacent to the inside door, close to the check out counter, in our local convenience store. These numbers were arranged in color-coded blocks, similar to those near the exit door at Lowes. I asked one of my parents about these brightly colored numbers, and one of my parents described that they were there to help identify the heights of any thieves that tried to steal from the store. The numbers represented the heights of the suspects, and the colors were designed to help the store clerk remember the numbers. Fascinating, especially to an older, inquisitive child. This really left an impression on me.

These numbers allowed me to see that everyone sees and remembers things differently. Our conception of reality is based on what we know or have seen, our personal biases, and our interpretations of what we’ve experienced. Fast forward to when I was young adult. Someone very dear to me and I went into a local field to fly a kite, believe it or not. College exams were over, and we were looking for a way to fly a kite as a way to unwind as I recall (based on my perception from many years ago, of course). We were laughing and joking, making a lot of noise, when out of the corner of our eye, we saw someone laying face down in the ground. Surely the person would have roused if asleep we thought. As we walked closer, we realized the person did not move at all, and the person’s calf was exposed and a bit mottled. We touched the person’s calf, seeking a pulse, when we realized the calf was cold. Stone cold. We looked at each other and came to the same realization at once. The person before us was dead. This was long before the days of the ubiquity of cell phones, so we RAN to call the police. Police arrived, and so did the local news reporters. I put my hood up, as it was cold in New England that day, the day we grew up, and I knew we would be there a while. More and more reporters arrived but were kept at a distance from the crime scene by the police while we gave our statements. The next day, reporters said a brother and his younger sister found the deceased person, likely due to the difference in heights between my companion and myself. Reporters said also that two young lovers were coming out from the woods that day, and nothing was further from the truth. Discrepancies upon discrepancies were reported to the public by the news media. We later learned that the poor deceased woman was an inmate from a local state hospital mental health ward and had ground privileges. The story that was told to the media by the police was that she fell asleep and died from exposure to the cold that day.

In Plato’s “Republic”, a story is told about a cave. In this “cave allegory” as it has been called by many people, there is a group of prisoners who have been chained since childhood in a cave such that they can face only one wall, and there is a fire burning behind them. As such, the fire casts numerous shadows in front of them, and they have come to accept that is what is real. This is the only stimulation these people have had in their dreary lives. The focus of their lives, in fact, are the shadows, which are the only things they have come to know.

One day, one of the prisoners escapes from the cave and makes his way out of the cave. Outside of the cave, he is shocked and afraid to learn that he sees numerous things he had no idea existed. He squints to see the sun, then focuses on the sights before him. He realizes there are other people outside the cave as well as real animals, too, and he delights in this knowledge. He returns eagerly to the cave, almost blind from the sun, and tries to explain to the others, with joy, about the world that exists beyond their little cave beyond the shadows. There is some suggestion in the story, too, that if the man tried to free the others from their confines, they would kill him, as they would rather remain in the cave with their eyesight healthy, just as it was.

So many of us live in a similar cave, surrounded by what we THINK is the truth, either metaphorically or in reality. Our versions of what we have come to know is based on our limited exposure and understanding to the events, people, places, and things around us. While some of us seek to see beyond the cave, despite the risks, others of us prefer to remain inside the cave among our own limited knowledge, perception, or ignorance. Of course, some of us prefer to live only sometimes in that cave, depending on the situation at hand. Sometimes we venture out of the cave, yet other times we are more content not to explore beyond our comfort zone. Human behavior and the motivations for such are fascinating.

On a separate note, I have never encountered a cave that I didn’t love. During this period of self-isolation, I am reminded of a few of my visits to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky during a moment of my own armchair travel. This cave is known as the longest cave system in the world and is over four hundred miles long. At time of this writing, the cave is currently closed due to the covid epidemic but is normally open 364 days a year, closing only on Christmas. Normal hours are from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM (Central Time) . Plan ahead before you go, as year round cave temperatures can be around 54 degrees Fahrenheit, so you likely might want a jacket. Reservations are strongly recommended, as cave tours often sell out in advance, but some self-guided walk up tickets are available at times. Ticket prices vary, depending on the tour you select, and there are many tour options to meet your needs. Some tours require passage through tight spots, and others do not. Other tours require long distances with hundreds of steps and steep inclines, yet others require limited steps through short distances. One way to experience something different might be the Violet City Lantern Tour, during which the only light for visitors is from lanterns. There is also an accessible tour for those with limited mobility as well.

It’s best to check the website below to plan your visit and to check on the status of any changes to park operations:

https://www.nps.gov/maca/index.htm

Find your way out of the cave a little from time to time….live life well and experience life as fully as you can.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends………………………

THE BLESSING OF AN INSPIRATION AND OF A FRIEND

Wall mural and bike photo taken in Amsterdam, the “cycling capital of the world”

I have an amazing friend who lives in another part of the world. He has a certain “joie de vivre” that I can’t possibly explain. I have been fortunate to have had the chance to break bread with him and share a laugh or two over a short period of time. When he smiles, the world smiles with him. My friend recently went on a bike ride while going for a short get away while he was seriously ill and feeling very tired. He was equally tired of all his body has been through with his illness, yet he managed to find joy that day. An explorer and a traveler, my friend adjusted to his status at the time, adapted to what he could do, and revised his conception of adventure during this week end. A picture of him riding his bike that day is one of my favorite pictures of him, as it captures his essence somehow. This friend makes me smile again and again. The world is a better place, in part, because of him. The world is also a funnier place, too, because of him. He knows how to live well, and I admire that in him. He enjoys the love of his beautiful family, great food, travel to exotic places, and reading. One of his favorite songs is “Oh What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, and it has always been one of my favorite songs, too. My friend is an inspiration to many people, including me. I will keep this photo of him etched in my mind and heart forever, feeling fortunate to have had the good fortune of spending time with him, even if a short time.

my strong and funny friend

Today, thinking of my friend, I decided to get on my bike, as I used to really enjoy riding my bike and haven’t done that in a while . Seems like it’s been a long while since I went for a bike ride in the neighborhood. Too long. Can’t believe I haven’t thought of this earlier as I try to find something new or re-connect with something that I used to do as often as I can during this pandemic and self-isolation. It seems pretty easy to social distance on a bike.

“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”

-John F. Kennedy

(photo taken in Amsterdam)

Perhaps I’ll go for a little longer bike ride tomorrow. Perhaps the next day will be even longer. Maybe later in the week I will put the bike on the bike rack on the car to go for an even longer ride. No time like the present. Makes me think of a reply I once heard when I asked someone what time it was. The reply was simple; the person said “the time is now.”

“It is the unknown around the corner which turns my wheels.”

-Heinz Stucke

(photo taken in Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands)

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

-Albert Einstein

Life is good. Find something you used to love doing and haven’t done in a while today. Live fully, live life well, and enjoy the moment, using some inspiration as your guide if you have one.

Carpe diem, friends………………………….

WORDS TO LIVE BY AND MAKING MEMORIES


I love when I stumble upon joy. Pure joy. Today while driving with my daughter, “Teen Traveler,” we saw a whole group of people social distancing a whole different way. In the water, we saw dozens of people kite-boarding and experiencing true joy. I can only imagine how that must feel with the waves splashing beneath your feet while you are pulled literally in whatever direction the wind blows. I imagine it feels free, exciting, peaceful, liberating, and joyful all at the same time. It was almost poetic watching these kites and their owners making a memory today before our very eyes. Made me think of a poster I have hanging in my house that reads:

“Make a memory

Smile for no reason

Create joy

Pay it forward

Dance without music

Wax poetic

Laugh until you cry

Win with grace

East Dessert First

Count your blessings

Say yes to chocolate

Take the high road

Make someone’s day

Celebrate everything”

-Author Unkown

Life is good; carpe diem friends………live fully, live well, and create a memory today.

(Note to self: look into kiteboarding and surfing lessons…………)