Twenty-two years ago and it is hard to believe it has been that long, I saw the Everglades for the first time. It was an amazing experience. I have been back once, but that has been several years ago also.
I remember when we first arrived and started walking around, we heard a very strange sound. It was almost like a loud chirping. At first I thought it may have been a thousand frogs, or like the cacophony you hear from crickets on a very hot night. Then we thought perhaps that strange sound came from birds.
Finally we were told that they were the mating calls of the alligator. There were dozens and dozens of them, and it was incredible to see them in their natural habitat.
We saw them in the water, lying in the grass below us as we walked on the trails, even on the side of the trails, and the whole time, those loud chirping calls echoed everywhere...
which to a person who has never heard an alligator before was mesmerizing.
The coastal plains of the southeastern United States are home to most alligators, who live in both natural and man-made fresh water lakes, ponds and wetland areas.
A bit ungainly out of water but they are great swimmers. That's not to say they can't move fast so don't be deceived. I read on one of the information boards nearby that they can shoot out of the water like a porpoise.
The males are between 10-15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) in length and can weigh 1,000 pounds (453 kg). Females grow to a maximum of 9.8 feet (3 meters).
Facts about alligators:
There are over 200,000 alligators in the Everglades, but over 1.5 million in the state of Florida.
As solitary reptiles, you will rarely see alligators in groups, except during the spring mating seasons. They lay 30 to 40 eggs which incubate for approximately 60-65 days, and produce hatchlings 8-10 inches long.
The jaws of a gator have over 1,000 pounds of closing pressure!
Each alligator has approximately 80 teeth at any time. When they wear down or are lost in battle, they are replaced with new teeth. An alligator can go through 2,000 to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime.
Gators live approximately 30 to 35 years in the wild, and can live past 50 years in captivity.
The main diet of a gator consists primarily of fish, but they will also feed on turtles, mammals, snakes and birds.
Often you will see only the alligator's head in the water, not its body. This allows them to more easily strike their prey, such as fish, without being detected.
Alligators regulate their temperature by moving out of the sun and into the shade, where they rest with their mouths open to release stored heat. They also cool off by going into the water.
Because of legal protection, alligators are no longer endangered. They are, however, still classified as threatened to insure their continued protection and that of the endangered American crocodile.
The above information, and more, came from this site, and though we did not go on an airboat ride, it is on our list for whenever we go back.
They are fascinating to watch and fit into my category of absolutely magnificent, but like any wild animal we must never take them for granted. Don't get too close if you can help it. I know, I am preaching to the choir but I saw first-hand people within a few feet standing way too close, even with their children, for those photo ops.
I have heard and looked at photos of unexpected alligators in people's gardens, on the golf course, just about anywhere where there is water. If you live in alligator country I would be very interested to hear your story of any encounters you have had.
In a bowl, combine oats, flour, brown
sugar, baking powder and salt.
Combine milk, eggs and butter; stir
into dry ingredients just until blended.
Fold in pecans.
Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour onto a
greased cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat; turn when bubbles
form on top of pancakes. Cook until second side is golden brown.
Our cast-iron skillet is too heavy for me to handle easily these days, and I don't have a griddle any more. I used a regular frying pan. There was no whole milk in the fridge. I used 2% instead.
I had blackberries in the fridge but any other favorite
fruit would be nice to make it look pretty. Raspberries or strawberries would give a more colorful presentation. Blueberries is another favorite of mine. Or bananas and blackberries, which you can see here. A mixture of all would be delicious.
I topped/drowned my pancake with Maple Syrup, an old standby and one I have always enjoyed (I need to wake up first before I try pouring out of any bottle. This wasn’t such a catastrophe but I have had others, and all learning experiences). For a change of pace I would like to try Raspberry Syrup and will put that on my grocery list for next time, unless I make my own.
The website said 3 pancakes (1/4 cup of batter for each one) works out to about 402 calories. One was more than enough for me. It depends how hungry you are. There is more nutritional information at that website above.
You can halve the amount of ingredients if you want to make a smaller batch. However, as I like to use my freezer for quick and easy meals, there were a lot of leftovers to do that. I used up the rest of the pancake batter, put them on one of my cutting boards in a single layer, popped them in the fridge and flash-froze them. Once frozen I wrapped them up individually in aluminum foil and stacked them in the freezer. I suppose you could also freeze small portions of the batter and cook the pancakes later if you prefer.
I used old-fashioned oatmeal. I read a while ago that you can give these oats a whirl in your blender. Don’t pulverize them, just a couple of bursts and you can use them instead of the quick cooking oats called for in a recipe.
I hope you like the sound of this. I really enjoyed my pancake. It is not for everyone I know. Hubs prefers the crepe versions I make, which I also enjoy. Actually, they are a cross between a crepe and an American pancake, and like the English pancakes I learned to make from my Mum when she made them once a year on Shrove Tuesday.
My photos this week are from a trip I took to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia some time ago. It is a lovely garden and one I can highly recommend if you ever find yourself in that area.
We started at the Japanese Garden which was a gift to commemorate the historic trip of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Paul Snyder, the first official delegate to the Sister City association with Moji, Japan.
Further along we came across these lovely lion statues....
and another pond adorned with a carpet of water lilies.
This flower below is called Melampodium.
A nice garden of flowers but I didn't make a note of what they were.
In the next photo you will see my main purpose for going to the garden.
I had heard about this plant and the explanation next to it read: "Once in a Lifetime: You are witnessing the only flowering of this specimen of the Century Plant (Agave Americana). The Mexican native may wait between 10 to 30 years to flower, depending on climatic conditions. This plant is 15 to 25 years old. After flowering the main plant will die, but small offshoots will continue to grow around the mother plant."
As these photos are several years old, I am not sure if those offshoots are thriving. I do hope so!
Hopefully we will be able to visit the garden again one day, but as it is some distance away, and with everything else going on, I am not sure when that will be.
More good memories of our trip to Honolulu in December 2008.
This little bird is the Warbling White-eye (Zosterops japonicus). It was introduced to Oahu in 1929 from Japan. It's a common small bird in the city as well as the forest.
It nests from February to November. The nest is a small cup of woven fibers and grass. The eggs incubate for 11 days and then fledge after 9 or 10 days.
The Warbling White-eye at a distance looks very similar to the native Amaki'i. It's easily distinguished however, by the white circle around the eye. The Amaki'i has a black circle.
Common Waxbill(Estrilda astrild)
The Common Waxbill is only found on Oahu. It was introduced from Africa sometime in the late 1970's. This bird is very shy. It travels in large groups of individuals that are most easily recognized by their call as they fly away. The easiest place to see them is in large open grass fields where they are found eating weed seeds.
The Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata) Also known as the Brazilian Cardinal, it was introduced around 1930 from South America. It feeds on seeds, plant matter, insects and fruit.
Look for this bird traveling in family groups. If you see a bird with a brown crest and black bill, it's a juvenile. Observe the unique interaction of the juvenile with the parents. Often, the juveniles will wait for the adult to pick up the food and give it to them, even though they are the same size.
Has anyone heard of Giraffe Manor in South Africa? Has anyone actually been there? It would be a fabulous experience to stay and see these beautiful animals as close as their guests do. What a phenomenal experience that would be. You can see what I am talking about at this link.
The Giraffe is one of the most interesting animals. I am sharing favorite photos taken of the ones we found at The Honolulu Zoo on our trip to Hawaii in December of 2009.
Interesting facts about the Giraffe: A male can grow as high as 18 feet (5.5 meters), females up to 14 feet (4.3 meters).
Males can weigh up to 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms), females up to 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms). Their lifespan is between 15 to 20 years. Those bumps on its head are called ossicones, and both the male and the female have them.
Size at birth is 6 feet tall (1.8 meters), 100 to 150 pounds (45 to 68 kilograms). Gestation period is 14 months. Age of maturity is 3 to 5 years.
A giraffe's foot is the size of a dinner plate - 12 inches across (30.5 centimeters).
They have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as we do, seven. Each one is just much bigger than ours and can be over 10 inches long (25.4 centimeters).
A giraffe's tongue is 18 to 20 inches long (46 to 50 centimeters), and is blue-black. Some people think the color is to keep it from getting sunburned.
Giraffes can moo, hiss, roar and whistle.
The record running speed of a giraffe is 34.7 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour).
Its range is in pockets of Africa, south of the Sahara Desert and its habitat is the savanna.
They have a spotted coat similar to a leopard, and for a long time people called the giraffe a
'camel-leopard', because they believed it was a combination of a camel and a leopard. That's where the giraffe's species name came from, "camelopardalis".
I found all these interesting facts, and more, here.
This pasta dish was excellent and we were very happy with the way it turned out. I found it at a food blog called Kitchn and Yasmin Fahr was this recipe's author. My thanks to Yasmin for an excellent dish. This will be very nice to serve up for company, when things finally return to normal. We are still very much in a wait and see mode, like many of our friends.
One-Pot Creamy Chicken Orzo
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus
more for serving
1 pound dried orzo
4 1/4 cups water, divided (4 cups for cooking the orzo and 1/4 cup for later)
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch
oven or large pot over medium heat until it gets hot.
Add 1 pound orzo, season lightly with
kosher salt and cook, stirring constantly until toasted, about 1 minute.
Add 4 cups of the water and season
Bring to a boil over high heat and
cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the orzo is al dente and
most of the water is absorbed, about 7 minutes. You might need to lower the heat because we found that even with stirring, the orzo started to stick to the bottom of the pan, but don't turn it so low that it takes it off the boil.
Meanwhile, halve 1 pint grape tomatoes
(about 2 cups). Halving them prevents that hot liquid inside the tomato from burning you when you bite into one.
Reduce the heat to medium and stir in
the tomatoes, 4 cups baby spinach, 1-1/2 to 2 cups shredded chicken, 1 cup
grated Parmesan cheese, and the remaining 1/4 cup water.
Cook, stirring constantly, until the
spinach is wilted, the chicken is warmed through, and the cheese is melted,
about 2 minutes.
A creamy, cheesy sauce should have
formed, but if it looks dry at any point, add one tablespoon at a time of warm water until you reach your desired consistency.
Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and
some freshly ground black pepper. Serve and enjoy!
Notes: Storage: Leftovers can be
refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.
Enjoy leftovers as-is, warmed up with a splash of water to loosen up the sauce. Or, stir leftovers into vegetable or chicken stock for a quick and comforting soup. Either way, you can liven them up with more leafy greens, or other quick-cooking vegetables like mushrooms.
Denise's notes: The rotisserie chicken is a great idea but as I had chicken breasts already in the fridge, I used those after poaching them. Not much else to say as we didn't change anything else. It was delicious. We have leftovers for tomorrow's lunch. It can only get better.