For both Don and I, this is our first time escaping the Canadian winter in a tropical like location. Surrounded by palm trees and sandy beaches as we are now and sans the freezing cold we're so used to at this time of year, it’s hard to get our minds around the fact that we’re only a few days away from Christmas. I was waiting for Don in a store parking lot the other day, luxuriously soaking up the sunshine while listening to Xmas carols coming from an outdoor speaker: "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!" hehe It felt so surreal! Although it's been rather chilly lately (barely above freezing at night), we're not complaining. No sirree!
In Palm Tree Land
We were told that Florida is actually the only state where palms are native. I've been fascinated by their different shapes and forms and the seemingly endless varieties of leaves.
My favorite of all is the Royal Palm. You can distinguish it from the other species by its divided trunk; while the bottom is rough and barky, the top part is smooth and green. The following picture doesn't do it justice, but you can still get the idea.
What I didn't know is that coconuts grow on certain types of palm trees. Here in Florida, they have green coconuts. Don actually found one on the ground while walking Kylo and brought it back to Stephanie's home. Yay! If you get them early, the coconuts are filled with sweet water (much like young Thai coconuts), but this particular one was more mature and therefore had thick white flesh and hardly any water.
Walk on the Wild Side
Steph wanted to show us some of the 'real Florida' as there is so much more to its landscape than beautiful sandy beaches. One late afternoon, we drove over to Micco Scrub Sanctuary near Palm Bay for a stroll.
The trail first took us among a sea of saw palmetto...
...then to scrubby flatwoods sprinkled with pine trees. I don't know why, but the scenery reminded me of Africa, maybe because of its desert-like appearance.
Kylo had a great time! He very nearly had an encounter with an armadillo but he missed the action as he happened to be exploring behind us.
It was very close to full moon and we could distinctly see the latter in the sky. Notice the little white dot among the trees?
When we headed back, we were blessed with the breathtaking sight of the sun setting in the distance. Perfect timing!
Room With A View
After spending a little over a week at Steph’s home, it felt like it was time to give her personal space back, so we set up headquarters at Wickham State Park, right in the heart of Melbourne. I was expecting a crowded and not-so-quiet campground, you know, it being in town and all, but I was up for a pleasant surprise. Wickham Park's camping area - although a little tight - is very comfortable. For some reason, it seems to attract mostly retirees in their great big RVs who were ideal neighbors. ;-) As a bonus, the park also offers several ponds and hiking trails which made for lovely walks.
Wouldn’t you know it, the weather turned on the very night that we arrived at the campsite. It started to rain and almost didn’t stop for 36 hours straight!!! Amazingly, there’d be short lulls here and there, just long enough to allow us to do whatever we had to do. Unfortunately, we soon found out that our new tent had a leek. Bummer! Don managed to keep us dry by rigging a couple of tarps on top on the tent. It may not have looked pretty but it worked!
When we returned the tent to the store, they didn't carry this particular model so we ended up buying a different one. This actually proved to be a good thing as it's really comfy and considerably larger than the other ones we've had. Not only is there room for our air mattress, Puss' toilet and Kylo's blankie, but we can even do our rites in there and bring in our folding chairs on rainy days. The tent is also in the shape of a dome which is totally cool!
Our new palace
But one of the tent's best features is a little window nearly at ground level which seems to be specifically designed in order for small furries to get in and out. The funny thing is that we didn't even know about it until we first assembled the tent.
Puss absolutely ADORES it and is virtually glued to the window all the time, checking out what all is going on out there.
Everybody Loves Kyky!
Ever since our arrival in Florida, it’s been amazing the number of comments we’ve received about how beautiful and well behaved Kylo is. It seems that he draws attention everywhere we go, be it on our walks, hanging around our campsites, even at highway toll booths! lol Guess Floridians (if there’s such a thing as everyone we meet seem to have come from another state! lol) are real dog lovers, eh? Someone pointed out that folks here tend to have smaller dogs too which probably accounts in part for their awe.
I love the look on people's faces when we tell them that we feed Kylo about 75% raw fruits and veggies, and that he’s never been trained or tied up! ;-)
Magical Mystery Dust
In our lives, Don and I often have the opportunity to witness Life (or 'The Mystery' as we like to call it) work its magic. I know it can be easy to forget as it's sometimes very subtle (or perhaps we're the ones not paying enough attention!) Now that we're on the move, Life's mysterious quality, with its intricate connections and synchronicities, seems to be even more noticeable, no doubt as not only is Life coming towards us, but we are also now going towards It.
Anyhoo, I thought you guys might enjoy this little story...
One evening while we were staying at Steph's, a man named Spencer knocked on the door. He said that Kylo went over to his van the previous day in order to greet him when he was driving down the street. (By the way, Spencer doesn't live in the neighborhood or anything, he just 'happened' to be interested in renting a house a few doors down!) For some reason, this encounter with Kylo stayed on his mind and intrigued him so much that he decided to come over and say "hi". As he was talking, Don noticed that Spencer was wearing a cap with the words "raw foods" on it. (I mean, what are the odds of that, right?)
Donnie called me over and we all got talking, swapping stories. As it turns out, Spencer started eating raw some months back, hoping it would help with his health issues. He's actually a regular customer of Happy Healthy Human, the raw café/wellness center where Stephanie works! When we told him a little about us, he immediately thought of hooking us up with a friend of his, Carmen, who is in charge of a local raw meet up group called "We Love It Raw". Less than a week later, we found ourselves giving a small raw class at Carmen's home. She was excited that we'd been so mysteriously brought together.
A few months ago, it became clear to Carmen that she badly needed to make some changes in regards to her health or her days were being counted. That's when she stumbled upon some information about raw foods and started introducing them more in her diet. The results have been dramatic, to say the least! In fact, she saw her doctor the day before the class and he gave her a clear bill of health; no more diabetes and high blood pressure! Hee hah! Carmen showed me some pictures taken last year and she looked like a different woman altogether. In-cre-di-ble! Now she's got her coworkers all curious, asking about her major weight loss and new glow. Yay raw! ;-)
The way this incident unfolded was such a good reminder of how we need to stay fluid and trust the flow. We just never know what the Mystery has in store for us next!
Feasting at Café 118°
I was initially going to stop my post here, but then realized that I haven't put up a single food pic!!! Now we can't have that, can we?
When I found out that Matthew Kenney had opened a raw café in Orlando, I managed to tempt Don into making a little detour for this unique experience. I mean, how often do we get to enjoy the creations of someone like Matthew? (It was also the perfect excuse to avoid most of the dreaded I-95 traffic as we were making our way back north towards St-Augustine.)
In case you don't already know about Matthew Kenney, he is the author of the raw best sellers Raw Food Real World and Entertaining in the Raw and the co-founder of the famous Pure Food And Wine restaurant in New York. Of all the raw chefs, I’d say that I admire his work the most. Matthew's approach to raw food preparation is closer to art than that of anyone else I know.
Café 118° is located in Orlando's Winter Park, a quiet ritzy area with charming cobblestone streets. The space is artfully decorated with paintings and to win extra points, the music was really very good. (We even unconsciously found ourselves moving to the beat a few times! lol)
As the restaurant was almost empty, the waitress took ultra good care of us; describing some of the dishes and answering any questions we had.
Making our choice among the mouth watering menu was no easy task. After much pondering, we decided to go with the Beet Ravioli which I was told was an exclusive recipe not published in any of his books. Plus it was still early in the day and I didn’t feel like having anything too heavy. (Not to mention that we wanted to make sure we’d have room left for dessert!)
The dish consisted of paper thin coconut beet wrappers filled with a sublime Cashew Ricotta. Wow, don’t know how he does it but that ricotta’s texture was a-ma-zing! So like the real thing! It was accompanied with a subtle Pear Wine Sauce which complemented the Ravioli’s flavors perfectly. We normally stay way clear of alcohol, but it didn’t bother us at all. The Ravioli was served with an excellent simple arugula salad with lightly dehydrated cherry tomatoes.
Mushroom lovers that we are, we also opted for the Portobello 'Steak' with South American Potato Salad.
The dish’s aroma felt rich and almost sexy to me (hum, never guessed I’d think of mushies as sexy but there you go! lol) The ‘Steak’ had a wonderful smokey flavor that was achieved by soaking the Portobello mushrooms in lapsang tea. They were then slightly dehydrated, sliced and napped in a delicate tamari sauce. I was fascinated by the subtle hint of smoke. Delish! The Potato Salad was made with jicama cubes tossed with avocado and red onion; extremely simple but I thought it complemented the Portobello 'Steak' very well.
When the waitress asked me which one of the entrees I liked best, I honestly had a hard time replying; both dishes were so tasty yet very different!
But the best part was dessert…
We ordered the 'Smores' which I’d read a raving review about. We’ve never had the original SAD version (which is totally fine by us! lol), but being camping and all, it felt very appropriate to try it. The 'Smores' consisted of graham crackers (again, how does Matthew come up with these creations!?! His talent never ceases to amaze me!) filled with a slightly gooey cream (yep, reminiscent of marshmallow) and drizzled with a divine Chocolate Sauce. A little too sweet for our taste buds, but still very very decadent.
We were adamant to try one of Matthew’s ice creams so we ordered the Banana Almond Butter Cup. This one really had us on the verge of moaning, but we duly exercised some restraint. Rich, sumptuous and beyond creamy young coconut based banana ice cream (man, I gotta get one of them ice cream makers!!! Hear that Santa?) with little cubes made of cacao powder and almond butter, and topped with Chocolate Sauce. Need I say more?
As we were getting ready to leave, more scrumptious plates suddenly appeared at the kitchen's little window. I would have gladly grabbed a few spoonfuls of each as it all looked so delicious and, once again, impeccably presented. Ah well... Maybe another time! *fingers crossed*
Wishing you all a blessed and joy-full Holiday Season!