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.
“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.
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.
Happy Mother’s Day y’all. Today I wanted to get out of the house to do something different. Several years back, we had traveled throughout Tuscany looking for sunflowers. I never realized they were right in our own state in such numbers. “There’s no place like home,” it’s been said. Traveling to Sledd’s u-Pick Farm in Mims reminded me of that saying. Although the sky was cloudy, the bright yellow sunflowers provided a beautiful contrast against the otherwise dreary day. It took my breath away when we pulled up to the farm and saw sunflowers in such number.
Sledd’s is a pick-your-own farm in Mims, Florida, offering a large field of sunflowers that you can pick yourself, as well as a sunflower maze this time of year. While many of the sunflowers have already been picked and some are past their prime, more sunflowers will be available to pick again in June.
Sledd’s charges five dollars per person for entry into the field and then charges for the sunflowers you pick. Prices are two dollars for the first sunflower stem, three dollars for two sunflower stems, and five dollars for three sunflower stems. Remember to bring your own scissors, as none are provided for you. Also, come prepared with cash, as this is the only form of payment they accept. Plan ahead by checking their Facebook page, as hours change greatly due to weather and unforeseen circumstances as well. Keep in mind, also, that there are only port-a-johns on site and only a little structure under which to make payment. This is a small family farm without any kind of gift shop or visitor center that offers other pick your own crops at different times of year, such as tomatoes, berries, and vegetables as well.
“Like a single sunbeam on a warm summer day, there is an exuberance and a brilliance of a sunflower.” -Author unknown
When we arrived, we were amazed at the numbers of people that were standing in line (without six feet between them) to pay for entry into the field. No attempt was made to remind the visitors of the need for social distancing, and we saw only two other families with masks. We were glad we brought along my husband’s N-97 mask from his workshop, which we took turns sharing and went into the field one at a time. Once we got into the field, however, we could stay apart from others to keep our social distancing.
I’m thinking that this place might be less crowded on a week-day or any other week end than Mother’s Day. Seems as though lots of people came with their mothers for this charming pick your own activity. Social Distancing might be easier at another time.
I couldn’t help but notice my daughter “Teen Traveler’s” tee shirt, which suggested the need to “Bloom With Grace” when she was walking around the field. That’s my girl; such attention to detail. Such sage advice. My daughter, the old soul.
Sunflowers are symbolic in China for longevity and long life, and I am reminded of the pandemic which began in China while walking about the field, hoping for long life for the citizens there and everywhere. My mind wanders also to Vincent Van Gogh, who said he found “comfort in contemplating the sunflowers.” I also found comfort among the sunflowers after being essentially cooped up inside for weeks during our “safer at home” pandemic orders here in Florida. It felt so good to be among such a bright backdrop of living, thriving beautiful plants today. There were lots of bees on the flowers, and watching them on the sticky sunflower heads was fascinating. There was such peace for that moment in time, and it felt wonderful to be a part of it. It felt like life goes on, despite all that is going on around the world at the same moment.
“…You’re making it feel that everything is alright You’re my sunflower, you’re my sunflower In a world that’s crumbling, all around us everyday You are, all the inspiration that I need to find my way…
You’re, making it feel that everything is alright You’re my sunflower, you’re my sunflower You’re, making it feel that everything is alright You’re my sunflower, you’re my sunflower….”
-“Sunflower” by Lenny Kravitz
Helen Keller, an inspirational writer who was born both deaf and blind once wrote
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” ~ Helen Keller
I contemplate this as I think about the days ahead with the pandemic. Helen Keller’s advice, along with the old Maori proverb that says to “Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you.” I look forward to brighter days ahead when we can return to some semblance of normal after the Covid pandemic is behind us. In the meantime I remember that life is still good, even now.
Carpe diem, friends……..and turn your face to the sunshine today while you get out to live fully again. May the shadows fall behind you, or may you at least not SEE the shadows today.
With “Safer In Place” restrictions lifting in Florida, “Teen Traveler”, my daughter, and I hit the road for the first time in many weeks for one of our day trips here in Florida. We are still self-isolating but decided we could go on a road trip IF we are not near other people. We thought we would try a trip to one of the eighty Florida State Parks that have re-opened on May 4.
We decided that we would pack all our water, snacks and everything we needed so that we could stay out of the stores and continue to self-isolate. We had a problem to solve, however. My proper upbringing normally leads me away from discussing things of this nature, but we had to think about what we would do once “nature calls, ” as we didn’t want to expose ourselves to people who might have Covid-19, even those without any symptoms by using the restrooms. We also did not want to give anyone Covid-19 in case we are also one of the asymptomatic carriers. “Teen Traveler” and I decided we could solve this problem and decided we would make our own “portable facility”. We turned to the net to see what others have come up with and built this from the supplies we had on hand.
The only modification I have to add to other models we have seen on the net right now is to put a large plastic garbage bag (13 gallon kitchen bags work well) OVER the pool noodle, as this pool noodle would be difficult to clean. So, one garbage bag UNDER the pool noodle, secured at the rim and one garbage bag OVER the noodle, too. Contact me if you want directions how to make this “portable facility”, but the picture is self-explanatory. I will also add that it it a good idea to place some disposable diapers or santitary napkins on the bottom of the garbage bag inside to absorb any effluvium prior to discarding this bag in the garbage after use. With a solution like this, we don’t have to stay cooped up inside any longer.
That being said, we decided we would be able to travel ANYWHERE now on a road trip. “Teen Traveler” and I always come up with a travel theme song to start our road trip. Today, it was “Life Is A Highway”. We also play a little travel game together to break up the time while we are driving, so she enjoys the journey. One of us comes up with a word, and then we both try to think of songs that have lyrics or titles that include that word. That way, I get exposed to “Teen Traveler’s” musical tastes, and she gets to hear some of the older music she might not get a chance to listen to from me otherwise. Music is such an important part of her life right now, and I need to listen to her music if I am to remain as an important part of her life as well.
We laugh, we bargain, and we enjoy the moments together while we have them. Today was a gift for me to be with my daughter, as time flies so very quickly. Before I know it, she will be off to college, but I have today. Someone once told me not to even think about the day that “Teen Traveler” will move out to college but to concentrate on this moment right now. Such sage advice.
We did not want to journey very far from home for our first outing in a long time while still maintaining social distancing. We took our masks, and we decided to travel to Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park to see some ruins of an old sugar mill, here in the “real” Florida, as the state park system advertises.
Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park is located in Volusia County, Florida, approximately five miles north of Ormond Beach, on the Eastern side of Florida. It is easy to find with signs on Route 95 at exit 270.
The park is open again, and there are self-pay envelopes at the entrance. The fee is four dollars per car, but bikers and hikers pay only two dollars. Take the envelope and retain a portion to hang from your rear view mirror. There is no one at the entrance, so it is very easy to continue to self-isolate here.
Bulow Plantation was the largest plantation in East Florida and was started in 1821 by Major Charles Bulow to cultivate indigo, cotton, rice, and sugar cane and eventually housed a sugar mill. Unfortunately the place was destroyed during the Seminole War in 1836.
The sugar mill on the property site was constructed of coquina, a limestone that consists of shells and shell fragments.
In addition to viewing the old sugar mill, visitors can rent canoes on the property (during non-pandemic times) and hike. There is a 6.8 mile trail that leads to Bulow Creek State Park, where visitors can see an oak tree, the Fairchild Oak, that is over six hundred years old. The land that houses Bulow Creek State Park at one time contained eleven plantations, each with their own stories to tell.
Hiking is beautiful in these parts, with flat wooded trails and beautiful trees and plants.
Paddling along the river would be beautiful once the canoe rental restrictions due to the pandemic are lifted.
“Life’s like a road that you travel on When there’s one day here and the next day gone Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand Sometimes you turn your back to the wind There’s a world outside every darkened door Where blues won’t haunt you anymore….
“…..There ain’t no load that I can’t hold A road so rough this I know I’ll be there when the light comes in Tell ’em we’re survivors Life is a highway Well, I want to ride it all night long….”
-“Life is A Highway” by Tom Cochrane
Life is good; find a way to get out of the house during this pandemic and live a little. Living a little with someone you love is even better.
Carpe diem, friends………….live life fully and live life well.