A Tree Frog Adventure

I had a small adventure at the Jacksonville Zoo. I was in the Florida reptile house, and a large frog was splayed on one of the glass doors. It was a Cuban Treefrog and was about the length of my hand.

A volunteer was in the building and said she didn’t want to let it out until she was sure it wasn’t part of the collection. She knocked on the door to the keeper area, but no one answered. So she ran down the path to have someone radio a reptile keeper.

I told her I would keep an eye on where the animal went, and keep people from entering the exhibit through that door (both to prevent escape and to keep the animal from getting crushed). Help arrived in the form of a more experienced volunteer who loved reptiles. She tried to catch the frog, but it jumped out of her hands and then squeezed itself into a corner. It looked up at us as though to say, “Are you going to hurt me?”

It had a right to fear. The first volunteer said they should freeze it, since it was an introduced species. The more experienced volunteer said they turn them loose; they come in all the time. Hurray! We opened the door, and it jumped out in a single leap.

Until today, I never thought of frogs as having deep feelings. But this frog’s expression changed my thinking. It had no desire to hurt us, and wanted only to live its life.

The Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) is an invasive species
found throughout Florida. It was introduced in the 1920s.

Photo by Kathy of Flickr

Easy Vegan Omelet Using Just Egg

Vegan omelet prepared with Just Egg and served with Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Chips

I recently heard of a product called Just Egg, and wanted to try making omelets with it. It took several attempts to figure out how to create an omelet with this bean-based liquid, which can be found in the egg-display case at Whole Foods. Below is the recipe.

Step 1. First grease a non-stick, 10-inch pan with olive oil.

Spread 2-3 teaspoons of oil across the pan.

Step 2. Set out the remaining ingredients:

  • 1 slice of Violife Mature Cheddar [vegan] Cheese
  • A handful of broccoli crowns
  • A slice of red pepper
  • 1/2 cup of Just Egg
Ingredients for a vegan omelet. The cheese is sliced into strips and the vegetables are then chopped.
A half-cup of Just Egg makes a single omelet.

Step 3. Slice the cheese into thin strips, and then cut the broccoli crowns and pepper slice into small pieces.

Step 4. Pour a half-cup of Just Egg onto the pre-greased pan.

Half-cup of Just Egg on a pre-greased, 10-inch pan.

Step 5. Next, set the burner to a medium-low temperature. (The highest heat setting on my stove is 10, and I set the burner to 3.)

Step 6. As the burner heats, add the chopped vegetables.

As the burner heats, add chopped vegetables to Just Egg.

Step 7. When air bubbles can be seen in the Just Egg, reduce the heat (on my stove, I lower it to 2.4).

Small bubbles and surface tension form in the egg substitute.

Step 8. Add strips of vegan cheese.

Vegan cheese is added to a Just Egg omelet before rolling.

Step 9. Fluff the edges of the Just Egg with a flexible spatula. This makes it easier to roll the omelet.

Fluffing the edges of the Just Egg base makes it easier to roll the omelet.

Step 10. When one side is firm enough to gently lift, begin rolling the omelet from one side to the other.

Although this picture shows a bit of browning, normally there is none. My rolling was a bit slow today,
since I stopped to take photos along the way.

Step 11. Finally, slide the omelet onto a plate…

Omelet made with Just Egg

Step 12. Add a bit of salsa for taste and color.

Like hash browns with your eggs, but don’t have time to prepare them? Have Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Chips instead.

Finished omelet made with Just Egg and served with Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Chips

So how does the Just Egg omelet compare to a chicken-egg omelet? In all honesty, I like the taste and texture of the Just Egg omelet better, and this is now a staple dish in my weekly diet.

For those who want to know more about Just Egg, I’m posting a picture of the ingredients label below:

Limiting ourselves with self-imposed labels

Minimalist cactus

Name-calling is hurtful. We all know that.

So why do we hurt ourselves by assigning labels to our behaviors; our very thoughts? Why do we place ourselves in categories, and rank ourselves among movements? It’s a form of self-destruction; or self-protection as we huddle behind a gossamer wall.

So what led me down this path?

I saw a YouTube video by a young woman who appeared to be in her mid-20’s. She had embraced minimalism, which is easy to do when you are young. Thinking back, I was a minimalist for at least a decade, when I had nothing; didn’t want a great deal; was busy experiencing life and learning society’s unwritten rules. Even then, I had plenty of stuff I didn’t use—objects and memorabilia from childhood and cast-offs from family members. But it all fit in a single closet, since I had so little.

Anyway, this young woman had become disenchanted with minimalism. She wanted more than two plates in her home, because she wanted to entertain friends. She wanted colorful clothes instead of the plain ones that fit her minimalist ideal. She wanted a pair of scissors other than her nail clippers. In seeking to live up to a label, she had surpassed it and ventured into asceticism. But self-deprivation is nothing new. It is, in fact, ancient. The label had imposed a magnified image, in which a multi-dimensional world was viewed through a single lens.

And wherever there is a label, there are those who take it to extremes, becoming competitors on a track with no finish line. Who is the ultimate minimalist, vegan, Christian, Buddhist, liberal, conservative, runner, body-builder, through-hiker, biker, collector, prepper, drinker, bad-ass? There are those who will argue for their own superiority beneath a label’s banner, since other people are not true [insert label here].

Perhaps being human seems too futile and fragile, and feeling superior in some way—any way—makes us feel safe in an unpredictable world. But without care, the label becomes isolating, separating us from the community; from naturally generous people with valuable gifts who can help our branches grow. Does any tree strive to remain a stick?

So what banners do I fly under? Too many to count. But they wave in the wind; are never ironed with starch. Sometimes they switch directions, or collapse in stillness.

The labels fluctuate as I grow. I’m a seed in the mud; a thorny stem; briefly a rose.
Always growing and accepting of water; nutrients; sunlight; the care of varied insects. I droop in rainstorms, stretch beneath blue skies, and dance in the wind.

Together my neighbors and I create a garden. None of us carry the ultimate bloom, since a single blossom is unsustainable. Once frozen, growth ceases. We wither beneath the weight of [glistening, sparkling, unblemished snow].

Community of cacti

Photo of cactus in white pot by Pexels with Pixabay.
Photo of colorful cacti by cetceeq with Pixabay.

An inspiring video for lovers of fungi and macrophotography

When I was in 7th grade, my science teacher gave the class several project options, one of which was to collect specimens of fungi. I liked being outside, and was keen to do this particular assignment. Mom helped by suggesting a trip to Philippe Park in Safety Harbor (FL).

Philippe Park is now manicured, but back then it was wilder. The paths were sand and gravel, and lined with wild plants. There was ample shade beneath towering oak trees, and fungi were everywhere.

I returned home with at least a dozen different species of mushrooms and lichens, and arranged them in a plastic terrarium. I was fascinated at how the fungal bodies “breathed.” The walls of the terrarium would intermittently fog for a few hours, and then clear once again.

Since then, I’ve had a fascination for mushrooms and lichens, which is why I watched the video I’m sharing now. However, this video far exceeded expectations. Although the photography allows one to see the magnificent beauty of innumerable species, it’s the story behind the photographs that leaves me inspired. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And thank you Stephen Axford. You are now one of my heroes.

Limelons: A Refreshing Melon With a Tang of Lime

Limelon, the perfect summer fruit.

One of the best parts about a plant-based diet is trying new fruits and vegetables.

This week, I passed a display of Limelons. The name suggests that the fruit tastes like lime, one of my favorite flavors. However, lime can be overpowering unless subdued by other ingredients. A part of me feared its tang might be overwhelming.

I took my find home and cut it in half. I was surprised that the fruit was white, since the flesh of melons is usually colorful. I carved off a slice and took a big bite.

It was wet and refreshing like watermelon. But the texture was smooth like cantaloupe. The overall flavor was mild, but with the lingering taste and tang of lime. A perfect summer fruit!

Today, it accompanied my lunch, spaghetti with vegetable sauce. By the end of the meal, I’d consumed two large slices of Limelon.

I’m believe this fruit could accompany nearly any dish. The flavor is clean and versatile. The fruit itself could be pureed or juiced, added to salad, or used as a margarita base.

I will warn, however, that the tang creeps up on a person. By the end of the second slice, my lips tingled with the zing of lime. Nevertheless, I can’t wait for my next meal and another slice of Limelon.

The Limelon is a hybrid fruit that was developed in Taiwan by Known-You Seed. It is the result of natural crossbreeding rather than genetic modification.

In 2012, a small number of melons were introduced to British markets, where they were an immediate success. These initial melons were yellow, with latitudinal green stripes. They were sold for only three weeks, because the fruit has a short growing season.

A Dutch company (HillFresh) bought the rights to the European market in 2019, and has continued to expand the Limelon market. In 2020, the fruit was being grown in Murcia, Spain and sold in Great Britain. Hillfresh is now investigating other countries as potential growing sites, in the hopes that Limelons can be grown year-round.

This is the first time I’ve seen the fruit in my area. I feel lucky, since it may only be available for a short time. But now that I’ve tasted it, I’ll look for it again next June.


REFERENCES

Limelon Melons, Specialty Produce.

Bentley, Paul, Full of bite, the melon that tastes like a lime: New hybrid fruit to be launched in UK supermarkets, Daily Mail, July 4, 2012.

Pineapple to the rescue! Surviving amoebic dysentery and reducing eye floaters.

Once upon a time, pineapple saved my life.

I was touring in Kenya and staying at a lodge near Lake Nakuru. I sat down to dinner and the first course was served—a cup of beef bullion. I held the spoon to my mouth, but couldn’t swallow. The thought of swallowing filled me with nausea.

I excused myself and went into the night, where I stood in a state of confusion. As I made my way toward the cabin, I stumbled down a series of steps. But the steps began to move. One side of the stair widened, while the other narrowed. As I passed rooms along the way, I pressed my hand into walls and doors for stability.

At the foot of the decline, my head started to spin. It was difficult to discern which cabin was mine. I made a guess and fumbled with the key. The lock turned.

I spent the next several days in bed, nursed by my mother, who had come on the trip with me. I maintained a fever of 104 (40˚C), and was unconscious much of the time. I only awoke to bouts of simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea.

A doctor visited the room and diagnosed amoebic dysentery. Half the tour group had the same illness! He gave me some pills to reduce the vomiting and said it was critical that I eat and drink, even though I wanted nothing.

Drinking the water was out of the question, since it glubbed from the tap in green clumps. Instead, I forced down orange soda (bottled water wasn’t available). There were only two foods I could keep down—ice cream and pineapple.

I credit the fat in the ice cream for preserving my weight, although I still lost ten pounds in three days.

I credit my mother’s care and the readily available pineapple—high in vitamins and filled with water—for pulling me through.

Since that time, I’ve been a pineapple fan. Yet, for much of my life, I rarely ate it. It looked so formidable that I didn’t think I could cut it. And the idea of hollowing the core sounded daunting.

However, I’ve recently been plagued with eye floaters due to a vitreous detachment in my right eye. A vitreous detachment is a normal aging event that occurs anytime after age 50, and happens when the vitreous gel that supports the eye pulls away from its attachment point.

A 2019 study*, which I first learned of through the Doctor Eye Health channel, suggests that consuming pineapples may cause floaters to dissolve. With this information, I had a new incentive to consume pineapple. I went to the store and bought two, hoping that something would be left of the fruit after my chopping and hacking.

I quickly found that pineapple is easy to cut. Although the skin looks quite hard, it offers resistance similar to that of an apple. A sharp blade helps, but isn’t essential.

First I remove the top of the pineapple, and then the base.

I then set the pineapple upright, and cut through the middle. I do this by placing the point of the blade in the center of the cylinder and pressing down. I then repeat the process on the opposite side.

This leaves me with two pineapple halves. I find the halves fit into plastic containers easily, more so if I cut away their curving sides. Cutting away the curving ends also makes the slices easier to eat.

I do not core the pineapple, since most of the nutrients are in the core! Admittedly, it is tougher than the remaining flesh, but is easily eaten if the fruit is sliced thin. I find five thin slices make a single serving.

I store my pineapple loaves in storage containers, and cut away one serving per day. I usually work on one loaf at a time, cutting slices from both ends to prevent color changes from oxidation. One pineapple lasts six or seven days.

After five months, my right eye is nearly free of floaters. Unfortunately, I am now experiencing a vitreous detachment in my left eye. Pesky floaters drift through the center of my vision, and I am again forced to eat my favorite fruit. Dr. Google’s orders!


REFERENCES

Photo of pineapple pile by Matthias Boeckel of Pixabay.

*Horng, Chi-Ting, Chen, Fu-An, Kuo, Daih-Huang, et al., Pharmacologic vitreolysis of the vitreous floaters by 3-month pineapple supplement in Taiwan: A pilot study. Journal of American Science 2019;15(4).

Beating the Summer Heat With Cooling Towels

Now that summer has arrived, the challenge has become staying cool. I recently tried the YQXCC Cooling Towels offered on Amazon.

The towels are actually like long scarves, measuring 47” x 12″ (119 cm x 30 cm). The fabric is thin and soft, but seems durable.

To activate the towel, one soaks it in water until thoroughly saturated. Then the towel is lightly wrung out, given a few shakes in the air, and wrapped about the neck or shoulders.

I recently used this on a hike, when the temperatures were in the mid-80s (29˚C), with a “feels like” temperature of 90 (32˚C). The towel didn’t change the temperature, of course, and I was glad to finish my walk as the day became hotter. However, the cooling towel allowed me to extend my hiking time, kept me from getting dizzy or sick from the heat, and made finishing the trail tolerable.

I knew the day would be warming up, so I put one of the towels in a gallon freezer-bag and added water, until the bag was half full. I then sealed and folded the bag, tucked it into the side-pocket of my backpack, and carried it with me until needed. When I removed the towel, I wrung it out over the mouth of the bag, to preserve water for resoaking.

I discovered that it is easiest and most effective to wear the cooling towel pirate-style. I push the center of the towel into my forehead, and then cinch it behind my head. It stays in place, and there is no need to make a knot. I then pull the ends around my neck and tuck them into my shirt. I also separate the forehead band and pull a flap of fabric over the top of my head. The flap dries out very quickly unless it is covered by a hat. Even then, the single layer of fabric dries more quickly than the bunched ends.

Wearing the towel made a huge difference in my comfort level, so I bought a package of towels for my husband. He uses one when mowing the lawn, and says it makes the heat bearable.

I now consider the YQXCC Cooling Towel standard hiking equipment.

(YQXCC three-pack, $11.99. The link is provided for convenience. This review was not requested and the reviewer was not compensated.)

Restaurants in the St. Augustine Historic District

I recently visited the St. Augustine historic district, and ate at a restaurant—the first time in over a year.

But eating in the historic district is a little tricky. Many restaurants don’t post their hours, and some aren’t open on Mondays.

I planned to eat at Delish Kebabs Brazilian Street Food (12 Cathedral Pl). A few weeks previously, I’d placed a take-out order of the Veggie Kabab Salad Combo. The veggies were nicely grilled and the serving was plentiful. The kebab was laid over a bed of salad. The meal came with a small container of balsamic dressing and two small containers of homemade cilantro sauce. The cilantro sauce could be jarred and marketed separately—it was so good that I’d have bought a jar to take home.

However, I forgot that Delish Kebabs doesn’t open until 11:30 AM, and I was hungry. I decided to start walking, and eat at the first place that looked open and had a relatively healthy menu.

Columbia Restaurant, St. Augustine, FL

From Cathedral Basilica (corner of Cathedral Place and St. George Street), I walked north on St. George Street. I passed the Columbia Restaurant (corner of Hypolita Street and St. George), hands-down the best restaurant in the district—and it opens at 11:00 AM! The food is of the highest quality and is typically cooked to perfection. I can personally recommend the Grilled Grouper and Scallops Casimiro. I also enjoyed the flavorful yellow rice. (Desserts are the restaurant’s weak point.)

I’ve been to the Columbia several times and the service is typically exceptional (only once average). Natural light floods the restaurant’s interior, and a fountain in the middle of the dining room makes it feel as though one is eating outside.

However, the Columbia is also one of the most expensive restaurants, and today I was seeking something more budget-friendly.

I continued walking and passed MiMi’s Famous Crepes. Although it was after 11:00 AM, it still wasn’t open—counterintuitive for a place selling breakfast fare.

Auggie’s Mini Donuts is across the street from the City Gate in St. Augustine, FL

I finally reached the end of St. George Street, and now I was starving. I decided to have a snack to satisfy my stomach until I could fill it properly. Across the street form the Old City Gate, I saw a sign that said Auggie’s Mini Donuts (2 St George Street). I cringed just a bit, since I normally avoid sweets. But just this once…

Just inside the door of Auggie’s is a counter, and behind the counter a river of hot oil, which is clear to light-amber in color. A machine flips little donuts into the oil, which then float downstream. The treats are then flipped again onto a tray.

The donuts are then prepared to the customer’s preference. There are a number of toppings one can choose, some of which require a surcharge. I ordered the cinnamon sugar, which was included in the price.

OMG! They were indescribably good, and the warm dough melted in my mouth. Auggie’s Mini Donuts have become my new secret indulgence!

Six mini donuts run $4.00. It looks like a small serving, but it left me feeling satisfied.

I walked back up St. George Street to a restaurant that always looks intriguing, and yet I usually skip. I usually skip it because I often can’t tell whether it’s open, but today two young women were sitting near the door, rolling silverware into napkins.

The St. Augustine Seafood Company (33 St. George Street) has an outdoor eating area, which looks small from the street. But the patio wraps around the back of the restaurant, and there are a number of tables. Some of the tables can handle larger groups.

Rear dining patio, St. Augustine Seafood Company, St. Augustine, FL

I ordered the Fresh Catch fish sandwich, blackened. The sandwich itself is topped with tortilla chips (sounds odd, but it works), cilantro coleslaw, and a creamy cilantro sauce ($15). For the side, I chose the watermelon and cucumber salad. The watermelon and cucumbers were mixed with a bit of onion, lime juice, and a smattering of blueberries. The lime juice gave the salad a pleasant tang. The entire meal was delicious, and the server was cheerful.

From previous visits to the historic district, I can also recommend these restaurants:

The Floridian (closed on Tuesdays; 72 Spanish Street)

This restaurant offers some vegan and vegetarian options. I can personally recommend the Dixie Burger (choice of beef or a black-been and sweet-potato patty). I’ve had the black-bean/sweet-potato burger and it was large and full of flavor.

I’ve also had one of their salads, but it looks as though this particular salad is no longer offered (I suspect the drizzled honey was attracting too many yellow jackets).

At the Floridian, one can eat outdoors or indoors. The service has always been good at this restaurant, and prices are moderate.

The Kookaburra (24 Cathedral Place)

This is a good place for a quick cup of coffee in cooler months. The service is quick, and the coffee price is reasonable. I had one of the savory veggie pies, but it wasn’t very good.

The Café Hidalgo (35 Hypolita Street)

This restaurant is very small, and the service was a bit slow. But the prices were reasonable and the Greek salad I had was fresh and delicious. I’d definitely visit again.

Be Inspired to Eat Healthy

Roughly seven years ago, two movies inspired me to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

I first watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, a documentary about a man in declining health who decides to make a change. The film follows Joe Cross as he alters his diet, quickly sheds pounds, and rediscovers his own energy and abilities.

A short time later, I watched Forks Over Knives, which dispels myths about foods most of us have consumed since childhood. In this documentary, scientists help us to understand why building a habit like Joe’s can be life-altering.

Although I never juiced my food the way Joe does, these films inspired me to consume primarily whole fruits, grains, and vegetables. In less than eight weeks, my energy level skyrocketed. The pounds quickly dissolved from my 142-lb body, and stabilized at a healthy 120.  My blood pressure and heart rate were going up, but dropped to normal levels. Antiphospholipid Syndrome, a “genetic” hyperclotting factor, put me at risk of a stroke; but with a change in diet it disappeared—along with constipation, various allergies, hypothyroidism, and osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis). Now in my 60’s, I routinely hike 5-9 miles carrying a backpack and ride for miles on a kick-scooter.

I believe everyone should be able to see these films, and now they are available to watch for free. Check them out and, if they inspire you to move forward and take control of your own dietary habits, let me know.

You can also watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead for free on Joe’s web site (in exchange for an e-mail address).

To watch Forks Over Knives, click the link below (an e-mail address is required to view the film).

https://www.forksoverknives.com/the-film/


Photo of smoothies by silviarita of Pixabay.