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.
When the “Enterprise” Starship had orders to return to Space Dock to be decommissioned in “Star Trek: The Undiscovered County”, Captain James T. Kirk said, “Second star to the right and straight ’til the morning,” before he and the crew went on one last trip. This quote is originally from Peter Pan when he told Wendy how to find a star.
I can’t help but think of this quote during this historic voyage planned by our American astronauts here in Florida tomorrow on it’s first operational, not last, trip to take the crew to the International Space Station. Tomorrow’s flight, called “Crew-1”, is scheduled at 7:49 PM on November 14, 2020 from the Kennedy Space Station. Although astronauts were launched into space already aboard the space taxi, this flight represents the beginning of what is expected to be regular flights back and forth to space. It is also represents the first NASA officially certified commercial spacecraft system capable of transporting humans to and from the International Space Station. This is such an exciting time for space travel, first with the Space Force agency creation, and now this. So much for which to look forward!
The planned flight was originally slated for October but has experienced several technical issues, so it was pushed back to tomorrow from Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX forged ahead, despite these obstacles, to meet their goal with the visionary leadership of its founder, Elon Musk. Goal met.
American astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Mike Hopkins will join Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi on this historic mission tomorrow. The international cooperation in space and aboard the International Space Station is inspiring.
“Second star to the right and straight ahead ’til morning,” astronauts, and Godspeed. “Ad astra per aspera” (which means “from hardships to the stars”, the official motto of the State of Kansas with origins from writings of the philosophers Virgil and Seneca).
Life is good; find something to celebrate today. Carpe diem, friends……….
*The rocket launch was postponed until Sunday, November 15 at 7:27 PM and launched successfully.
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!”
Inspired by the frogs and tadpoles we saw recently at Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon, FL, my daughter, “Teen Traveler” decided she HAD to raise tadpoles. She and her friend went scouting for a location to find tadpoles over a week’s time whenever they went for a walk in the neighborhood. One day, she came back so excited that she had found a source nearby for the coveted tadpole. Armed with a net, a bucket, and a huge sense of adventure, she set out to catch three tadpoles to raise in our home. I admired her preparation. She had researched how many tadpoles she could safely raise in our home and announced that frogs should be raised with at least two other “friends.” She decided that she would use a ten gallon fish tank and that three would be the appropriate number for her. She took the tadpoles back to our home, “dripping” them (a procedure she uses to slowly acclimate the new fish she purchases to the new water in her fresh water aquarium) to ensure their safety.
She has been taking care of them for a few weeks now, and they are no longer the size of a pin head (okay, yes, I exaggerate). Just the other day, she announced with both surprise and disappointment that the tadpoles are not really tadpoles. Evidently the tadpoles she took home were really fish. After she announced this, we laughed for quite a while. Sometimes a fish is just a fish, I guess. It amazes me is that the discovery of what they were in no way diminished her sense of excitement she felt when she found them, nor did the discovery reduce her fond memories of the time she spent with her friend searching and searching for them. At the end of the day, it is a good story in her mind or at least a good “ice breaker” if she’s ever at a party.
While recently at Rockledge Garden Center in Rockledge, FL looking for host plants for our butterflies (okay, looking for butterfly eggs AND caterpillars, too) she found some tadpoles mixed in among a tank of various water lilies that were for sale.
Before I knew it, she asked an employee if the tadpoles were for sale and ended up with three tadpoles that the employee gave her, no doubt admiring her confidence, poise, and drive.
Sometimes a fish is just a fish, but attaining your goal feels even better. Doing what we set out to do, despite whatever setbacks we encounter, is really the “name of the game.” Disappointment is everywhere during our lifetime. Learning to face disappointment, deal with it, continue with our plans, and laugh at our follies is the important thing. Learning to laugh at ourselves when we make a mistake is a gift my mother taught me long ago. Laugh and move on.
“You miss one hundred percent of the shots you do not take.”
-Wayne Gretzky, former Canadian professional hockey playerand leading scorer of the NHL to date. He was nicknamed “The Great One” for many good reasons, including having more goals and assists than any other player in history.
I have come to many realizations while being cooped up inside during this pandemic. My fascination with one’s perception has me asking myself which is more important in life? The journey or the destination? This is a hot topic among many people, whether they think about it or not. If you think of the people you know, there are many people that are more “journey” type people, yet others are more “destination” people. This fascinates me to no end. Our perceptions about the world colors our approach to living time and time again.
Recently, the discussion in our home has centered around the pergola that my husband built recently in the back yard. We talk about how we are planning on growing all kinds of plants in containers to make the space more inviting when we sit under it. I have enjoyed the many “pipedreams” that have gone round and round in my head, much like I enjoy a good road trip. For me, the journey is such an important part of the experience. Thinking about doing something, pondering about all the possibilities, brainstorming for new ideas, “seeing” the plants in my head in various combinations all give me joy. Similarly it doesn’t matter where I plan to “go” on the road trip; doing whatever comes along, stopping where the wind blows is equally fun. The trip itself, or the journey, is half the fun. It is similar to the selection of planting materials, containers, etc. in my mind. It matters less what I actually plant, as the journey is part of the experience with growing plants as well as I search for “thrillers, fillers, and spillers” for my containers. The pandemic has inspired me to get back to my “roots” of gardening, if only in containers, which is something that had always defined me until I moved to Florida. Gardening here is a whole new world, one that I had not ventured into again until recently.
It is very interesting to me that my daughter, “Teen Traveler” isn’t always quite like me. She isn’t always quite like her father, either. However, she’s game for almost anything, like both of us, and I dragged her to a garden center today where we could be in the open and socially distance ourselves with a wide area away from others. I told her I could use her thoughts about what we grow near the pergola and told her that my only requirement was that the plants need to attract butterflies and be colorful. We walked round and round in the garden center, and after a while she announced that she was “done” with the experience as she was getting very hot in the Florida morning sun. She laughed when she said “I guess it really doesn’t matter to me what we plant in the containers. It will be fun, but all I really care is that they look good in the end.” What a revelation. Definitely a “destination” person, at least in this matter. Fascinating.
I guess in the end, I have decided mostly that I want it ALL. I always want it all. The “journey” is part of the joy in my life, as well as the “destination”, too. I always enjoy a good “pipedream” as often as I can as well as having my hands elbow deep in the dirt, but the finished product gives me a sense of satisfaction and joy, too. I wonder if this approach is situation specific or if this approach can be generalized to other areas of our lives as well. Food for thought.
Life is good; enjoy both your journey as well as your destination if you can, whenever you can.
Carpe diem, friends…………………
Two links for creating beautiful container gardens:
As long as I’ve lived in our present home, five years or so, I have wanted a pergola in the worst way. No, since we bought our second house about FIFTEEN years ago, I have wanted a pergola. In our current house, we have a cement patio slab in the back yard that we rarely use, which I always thought would look great with a pergola. I thought it would center the yard and give us a purpose to venture outside of our comfortable pool screen deck area into the “real world.” Another way of stepping out of our comfort zone metaphorically. The patio is on the south side of the house, which of course in central Florida makes it hot most time of the year. My husband has pointed out that it’s nicer in the screen room, as we are free of mosquitoes when we sit there. My husband has also pointed out that with only three of us living in the house, we have PLENTY of places to sit and enjoy the moment without the addition of a pergola. I, however, pointed out that I really wanted the pergola to have a place to string those wonderful industrial “Edison” light bulb outdoor string lights that I’ve seen EVERYWHERE, and it would be great from time to time to enjoy the breeze OUTSIDE the screen, especially at night while watching the sunset over the pond behind our house. The lights were a key component to my plan, something to which I really looked forward.
Fast forward to Sunday, Mother’s Day. When I awoke, my daughter gave me a “pergola” that she had constructed from rolled paper cylinders and tape along with a beautiful card she made. I laughed and said I FINALLY got the pergola I have always wanted. Then I saw it, that wry little smile on the faces of both my daughter and my husband. They brought me out to the garage, where there was a pergola kit that my husband had purchased earlier in the morning while I was sleeping. Evidently, he wore his N99 half face mask from his garage workshop when he rented a van to drive to the store to purchase the pergola. I was speechless. It was even a GRAY pergola, the color in my head which I had recently decided I wanted. It was such a beautiful sight seeing my husband and my daughter collaborating together to make a beautiful moment. A beautiful moment for ME. It was, in the words of Raymond Carver, “a small good thing”, except this was a LARGE “good thing.”
Shortly thereafter, my husband tirelessly laid out all the parts to the pergola on the backyard grass in the hot Florida sun and began to lovingly and patiently assemble it. We had delighted in planning all the wonderful things that we could grow in pots around the pergola to make a backyard oasis, a spot of rest, relaxation, and tranquility. I became even more excited when I saw the pergola move beyond a set of boards, nuts, and bolts to really start to take shape. I have not decided yet what I want for furniture under the pergola, as I already have two large sectional seating areas and a good sized dining table near the pool already. I want this space to be somehow different as it beguiles us to sit beneath it. We decided that we want a vine-covered pergola to allow us a bit of shade, so my husband decided on a confederate star jasmine plant after a great deal of research. This plant would give us a quickly growing scented flower which grows wild in these parts and is easy to care for. We did a “curbside” pick up of two of these plants from the local nursery to get a jump start on growing them before we really need them. We are enjoying the planning process as a whole family. This gives us a new bond together, something we can call our own and can each take part in. Each of us takes turn watering the plants we have purchased for the pergola, and there is beauty in this sense of togetherness. In a sense, it is somehow like we are all breaking bread together in some way, as this is a shared experience that brings us even closer together.
As my husband and I were going for our walk last evening, I decided to check where the electrical outlet closest to the pergola site is, as this pergola has electrical outlets built into it which can be connected to a nearby electrical outlet. We have outdoor electrical outlets all around the exterior of the house, EXCEPT adjacent to the concrete patio. I laughed at myself for thinking of almost everything EXCEPT the electricity. In retrospect, I decided I didn’t want the pergola as much as I wanted the hanging lights, truth be known. It seemed, then, that my plan had the first monkey wrench thrown at it.
After just a moment more with my own thoughts, I quickly decided that life is VERY much like that pergola. We come up with a plan, sometimes in intricate detail in our lives, looking forward to a myriad of things that unfold as part of the process along the way. The pergola, like life itself, gives us a sense of purpose that we develop and nurture. We think the sky is the limit and live our lives accordingly. After all, what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve, so it has been said. However, as life happens, sometimes there is some obstacle in our way. Something comes along that we had not planned. Something threatens to thwart our plans. We consider changing our course. We consider putting our plans aside, if even only for a short time.
However, the human spirit prevails, and the pergogla construction (and life) continues. My husband and I know we can come up with a new plan in which we can solve this issue. If we eliminate the improbable, as it has been said, what remains is the possible. We CAN make this work with a little thought and effort or we can change our thinking and our expectations. That is, we could always have a pergola without lights (not a possibility for me). We could always run an outdoor extension cord as the most obvious and quickest solution solution. Or, we could hire an electrician to put in another electrical outlet where we need it once the pandemic is over and we can have someone come into our house again. We could have him drill through the cement/block construction of our house in order to bring power from the INSIDE out. There are many ways to solve this problem, and we simply need to think about them and decide upon a solution. That’s life, isn’t it? Define the problem. Work the problem. Find the solution. It can be done, and it will be done. My motto always is, “Don’t tell me no, tell me HOW.” Sometimes, though, we have to wait just a little while for the plan to come to fruition.
Life is good. Work the problem. Find the solution. Life life fully and completely, finding something to look forward to and make it work. That’s life, in all its glory and in all its beauty.
Carpe diem, friends……find your own version of a “pergola.”
This month, in about five days from now, I would have boarded a plane to Cairo if it weren’t for the Covid pandemic. I had decided earlier in the year that this was the right time to cross off one of my bucket list items, for a variety of reasons. I had always wanted to go to Egypt, and I decided that there is no time like the present. I did a great deal of research but was conflicted about going on my trip this month. I also was unsure whether it was a good time for me to go or to wait until later in the year when the new Grand Egyptian Museum was slated to open near the pyramids. This new museum is going to be huge, as it is planned to house the full collection of Tutankhamen artifacts for the first time because of the greater space available. This museum will be located right near the pyramids, will showcase over fifty thousand artifacts, and will occupy one hundred and twenty acres of land with an anticipated five million visitors per year (as estimated prior to the pandemic). Construction started on the new museum in 2002 but was delayed for a variety of reasons.
I had planned on staying at the historic Marriott Mena House with a pyramid facing balcony room for a few nights. This historic hotel is only about a half a mile away from the pyramids and has a fascinating back story. Originally built in 1869 as a hunting lodge, it is the site of the first swimming pool in Egypt in 1890. While the original house is still on the premises and is currently being renovated, there is a newer more modern section of the hotel on the property as well. Prince Albert of England, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, and Agatha Christie are among the many esteemed guests who have stayed at this hotel in the past. From there, I could have walked to the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, but for safety concerns, I was going to have a private tour arranged to take me there and into the Khan el-Khaliki bazaar, or souk, in Cairo, which dates back to the fourteenth century. I was thinking I might bring a lantern or two back from Egypt to hang in my tree near the pool at home. I decided I would also go to the current Cairo Museum of Antiquities as well, but really wanted to see the new Grand Egyptian Museum, had it been already opened, instead. Life is full of trade-offs.
I had also planned on going aboard a Nile River Cruise aboard the MS Esplanade, stopping in Luxor to see the Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple (the largest religious building ever constructed). I chose the MS Esplanade, in part, because of the wonderful daybeds on the top sun deck that would allow me to relax and keep cool along the journey down the Nile. After Luxor, we would have sailed to Aswan to see the Temple of Horus at Edfu, a Nubian village, the Temple of Philae (dedicated to the worship of the Godess Isis), and the High Dam. A final stop on the itinerary included a visit to the Valley of Kings.
I remember seeing a fragment of the Karnak Temple as a young girl in the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, along with a sarcophagus and knew the moment I saw them I wanted to go to Egypt some day. It was so exciting to think I would actually walk in the Karnak Temple in May when I was researching my trip to Egypt earlier this year. Trip to Egypt. Goal Set. Trip to Egypt. Goal would have been met.
As part of my research, I learned that the only travel advisory in Egypt, prior to the Corona pandemic, was regarding the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert, two areas I had planned to avoid because of the greater possibility of terrorist activity. I knew I needed to be alert and aware of my surroundings in Egypt otherwise, which is something I normally am during any trip. I also had planned to avoid any mosque, church, or temple to keep my trip a little safer.
I learned a few things in my research that surprised me. There are very few crocodiles (maybe not any at all) in the Egyptian Nile any longer, despite them being worshipped in Ancient Egypt. Evidently the construction of the High Dam pushed them closer to Lake Nassar instead. Also, I found it very interesting, albeit disappointing, that there are no hippopotamuses in this section of the Nile either, as they are extinct in this region even though they were present there in ancient times. Hippo hunting and drying of the region has led to their extinction here in more modern times.
I am very disappointed that my trip has been postponed because of the pandemic, but I try to look on the bright side, even for this trip. I was hard pressed to decide whether to go to Egypt in the spring or to wait until the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo later in the year. It seemed the best option at the time to go in the spring of this year, as the political climate was a bit more settled than it had been in recent years since the Arab Spring in 2011 and the ouster of President Mubarek in the aftermath. The economy in Egypt had improved a bit last year, yet the American dollar was still strong. Incidents of terrorism were reduced in and around Cairo and the Nile valley than they had been in years, too. Tourists were beginning to return to Egypt in greater numbers, and it was finally a good time to return to Egypt again before the pandemic. However, at this time, flights have been recently suspended into and out of Egypt for the time being, so I am grateful I was not stuck in Egypt had I traveled there. Being quarantined and having difficulty returning home to the States would have definitely been difficult.
When I will head to Egypt is still up in the air, but one thing is certain. That is, I will get there, and it is only a matter of time. I have my heart set on riding a camel there, too. It’s all about the photo op, right? Maybe I might add in a layover somewhere special along the way, too. Swimming in the Dead Sea might be fun in Hurghada, which isn’t part of the Sinai Peninsula. Guess that’s the upside as well.
Life is good. Look forward to something you were planning before the Covid pandemic hit and start planning it all over again for sometime in the near future. Make it happen. Goal set; goal met soon.
There is always tomorrow to look forward to; carpe diem, friends………….
(I was going to book my trip through Memphis Tours, as they have been in operation for a very long time in Egypt and have great reviews. Another company, Liberty Travel Egypt is worth taking a look at as well. )