There’s a snake in my coop!

Theres a snake in my coop!

Theres a snake in my coop!

I have mentioned before that I am a city girl living in the country these days and I have mostly gotten used to the random wildlife encounters – giant spiders the size of my hand, weird bugs, gopher tortoises digging holes and the occasional snake in the yard…. But I have to confess I was surprised and proud of my recent reaction when nature got a little closer than expected…

Eric the snake wrangler

Eric the snake wrangler

I went out late one afternoon to collect the ladies eggs from the coop and when I opened the second nest box a giant snake was looking me right in the eyeball! Did I scream? Did I run? Did I faint dead away of shock? Nope, remarkably, I did not!

hiding in the coop after I chased him away from the eggs

Hiding in the coop after I chased him away from the eggs

I dropped the lid, yelped and took an involuntary step backwards – then promptly opened it back up again so I could take a picture LOL. (You got to identify these things so you know what to do…)

Scarlet King snake - thankfully not a coral snake

Scarlet King snake – thankfully not a Coral snake

When we first moved in, we saw what we thought was a Coral snake on the front step and scared to get too close we took a picture and looked it up – fortunately it was just a Scarlet King snake – harmless but it looks a lot like the deadly Coral snake on first glance. They both have red, yellow and black stripes but the order is what is important.

Red next to black, friend of Jack
Red next to yellow, kill a fellow.

Words to live by people….

Gopher Tortoise on the pool deck

Gopher Tortoise on the pool deck

Eric did see a Coral months later, mostly however we see Black Racers which are likewise harmless – this one was new to me so I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I opened the box and took the picture he was clearly trying to move away – I think more frightened of me than I was of it – just barely LOL.

Golden Silk Orb Weaver Spider - beautiful but huge!

Golden Silk Orb Weaver Spider – beautiful but huge!

I chased him off before he ate any of our eggs and sent the picture to Eric who was on his way home. When he arrived a few minutes later he got the grabber and went to investigate.  (I may have been able to chase him but I draw the line at actually trying to pick him up – we all have our limits and thats what husbands are for LOL)

Sand hill cranes - my fav Florida bird

Sand Hill Cranes – my fav Florida bird

At first, we thought he was gone, but I saw him up on the top rafter – Eric managed to get him out and was astonished that it was at least four and half feet long – I don’t think he believed me when I told him how big it was LOL

possibly a mole king snake... not sure LOL

Possibly a mole king snake… not sure about this one LOL

After a little research we discovered that is was a yellow rat snake (some people call it the chicken snake since it likes eggs and will eat chicks if available) Fortunately all our ladies are likely too big to be in any danger from a snake and he can eat as many rats as he can find – even thought Catness, our badass barn cat, doesn’t leave much room for that LOL

Deer in the pasture

Deer in the pasture

Haven’t seen him since – Much prefer the deer and Sand Hill Crane sightings LOL

Black racer staring in the window at me...

Black Racer staring in the window at me…

Black racer on the pool deck

Black Racer on the pool deck

 

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A little calm amidst the chaos

My moment of Zen

My moment of Zen

It has been a busy couple months  – a couple of my oldest friends have to come to visit with their kids, family have been houseguests and between the theme park visits, dinners and entertaining everyone, I have also been traveling a lot for work… So I am especially happy to have carved out a little time for myself this weekend.

potato mix with chives and cheese

potato mix with chives and cheese

Yesterday, I had a great lesson with my horse, riding around the obstacle course of the back wooded pasture. She was calm and connected and I was more focused than I have been of late. Now the nights are brighter I need to try to ride a couple times a week! I think we need to get out on the trails soon.

little nests of the potato mix

little nests of the potato mix

This morning the house is empty – all the current houseguests are with my guys at Universal – I stayed home to do laundry, run errands and clear my head before the work week starts again on Monday. However since it is Easter I decided to try a new egg recipe

nests after 30 minutes in the oven

nests after 30 minutes in the oven

Baked Eggs in Hashbrown Nests

  • Take a packet of thawed Simply Potatoes hash brown potatoes and add some chives, cheese and seasoning.
  • After tossing that together in a bowl, spray Pam on a muffin pan and make little nests of the potato mixture
  • Put that in the oven at 400 for about 30 minutes, then let cool a little.
  • Crack an egg into each nest and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning.
  • Bake for about 10 -15 minutes (you need to keep an eye on it since everyone’s ovens vary)
  • Sprinkle a little cheese and some shredded prosciutto on top and serve.
eggs baked with a little cheese and prosciutto on top

eggs baked with a little cheese and prosciutto on top

It was pretty good even if I do say so myself LOL

yolks are little too firm - but still tasted good :)

yolks are little too firm – but still tasted good

Unfortunately I was a little distracted and left them in closer to the 15 minute mark which meant the yolks were quite firm when I had actually wanted them to be soft – the 10 minute mark might have been the right time to take them out since they continue to cook in the pan – Oh well, next time….

Laundry is done, belly is full – I think it may be mani pedi time 🙂

Israel Trip

Jerusalem - Old City next to new

Jerusalem – Old City next to new

I travel a lot for work and so don’t normally get too excited about it – in fact it gets pretty old most of the time. Every once in a while however,  I get a chance to go somewhere completely new to me and that gets rid of that blasé attitude in a hurry!

Jerusalem - Old City street

Jerusalem – Old City street

Last week I went to Israel – yes it was for work, but I was really looking forward to the trip – I love to experience the culture of new places and Israel has such a storied history.

Jerusalem - Dome of the Rock and Western Wall

Jerusalem – Dome of the Rock and Western Wall

I stayed in Tel Aviv, which is a lively modern city on the Mediterranean sea – sadly the hotel was not on the beach – next time LOL

Bucket of hummus with falafels in background - fries clearly not authentic LOL

Bucket of hummus with falafels in background – fries clearly not authentic LOL

I managed to get some sight seeing done in the evenings after work The team I was visiting took me out for a traditional hummus and falafel lunch on the first day Yum! A bit more hummus than I am used to eating in one sitting but it was really good.

Stark modern architecture on this synagogue near Rothchild st

Stark modern architecture on this synagogue near Rothchild st

That evening my traveling companion/co worker and I took a cab to Rothchild street to walk around and see some of the Bauhaus architecture that part of the city is famous for. This was a fun street to people watch on – lots of people out for a stroll, taking their dogs for a walk or sitting in cafes and restaurants. We ate at a lovely restaurant called Shulchan which is Hebrew for table. The food was absolutely delicious!

Bauhaus architecture

Bauhaus architecture

Monday night the Israeli team took us to dinner at Jaffa Port – Jaffa is an old fishing town that has now been incorporated into Tel Aviv – however it is a completely different vibe – old buildings with winding streets and stone plazas – I loved it and wished I had been able to spend the day strolling around and being a tourist. Again, we had a fantastic dinner at Kalamata with many shared courses sitting outside in the mild evening air.

Fruit shop near Rothchild St - it glowed against the other darker buildings

Fruit shop near Rothchild St – it glowed against the other darker buildings

Israeli food is a bit of a mix between a few different influences, Mediterranean, Arabic and of course Jewish. There are a lot of fresh vegetable dishes – I even ate beets for the first time in many years and actually liked them!!! I also was told to try a fantastic arabic dessert called kanafeh that has cheese , hair fine pasta (or perhaps pastry), pistachios and sweet syrup – it was as amazing as promised – I will have to see if it is possible to make it myself.

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

The next night I took the design team out for dinner and they recommended Kitchen Market in Tel Aviv port – completely different. Much more modern boardwalk along the sea and a lovely little restaurant above a farmer’s market. We watched the sun set over the Mediterranean and again had a dinner with many courses and some amazing desserts!

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

We saw the minister of Justice –Tzipi Livni – strolling along with her husband which was quite a surprise for everyone – she has been instrumental in the recent, but sadly stalled, peace talks that Secretary of State Kerry has been involved in.

Kanufeh - best dessert of the trip!

Kanufeh – best dessert of the trip!

On our last day, a couple of the Israeli team drove us into Jerusalem for a bit of sightseeing before leaving the next morning. It is about an hour away but traffic before the upcoming Passover holiday made it slow going. We drove through some of the ultra orthodox areas on our way which was a little rundown.

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

This is a topic of much debate and tension recently – my description of it is likely simplistic since I am no expert but the problem as I understand it, is this –  For religious reasons these families do not believe in working in the secular world and want to practice their life of prayer in peace without any interference. However the challenge is they have little income, the government apparently has to subsidize them and they do not participate in Israel’s draft, citing the same religious reasons. There is a new law that is being passed to say that they must participate in the draft like everyone else. As you can imagine this is causing heated debate. I can see both sides points – on the one hand wanting to live according to your own beliefs, but on the other hand not wanting to subsidize people who do not have to make the same contribution to society as you must.

Tel Aviv Port

Tel Aviv Port

Once we arrived in the old city I was amazed to see so much history crammed into one relatively small place – this is the the most sacred place in a number of different religions and its often violent history makes it a truly fascinating place to be. It is a magnet for tourists and religious pilgrims from around the world. I could have spent a week there alone but I did my best to take advantage of the few hours that we had.

Farmer's Market Tel Aviv Port

Farmer’s Market Tel Aviv Port

We took the underground tour that brings you down to the original street level of the Western Wall – we are talking built in Herod’s time!!! I can’t begin to describe how it felt to be walking on 2000 year old stones and touching the 2000 year old wall. We saw the old cisterns that provided water for the temple and the city above and heard about the history of the holiest place on earth. I am no stranger to history – growing up in Ireland it is common to see castles built in 1100AD etc but we are talking built in 70 BC – anyway you look at it that is really freaking old LOL

Mediterranean Splash over sea wall

Mediterranean Splash over sea wall

Once back out in the sunshine we visited the more visible part Western Wall – men and women are separated and traditionally you write a prayer or wish on a piece of paper and roll it up and cram it into the crevices in the wall.

Jerusalem - Old City Market

Jerusalem – Old City Market

We wandered around the market where I picked up souvenirs and gifts – you need to be willing to haggle big time here – fortunately I had some no nonsense locals to help me out with this LOL.  I bought a beautiful necklace made from silver and 2000 year old Roman glass for myself. Not being religious, this was the perfect souvenir for me and I got it for less than half what he asked originally.  Mind you, this elaborate, theatrical haggling session involved flinging arms in the air and walking out of the store because the price was so terrible, only to be chased after by the shopkeeper begging us to come back for a new and special deal that was putting him in the poor house – this happened three times – I kid you not! I was having a hard time keeping a straight face and would never have done that on my own.

The Underground Tour

The Underground Tour

On a high after my complete bargain, I picked up some beautiful hand painted Armenian pottery, some intricate mother of pearl inlaid boxes, hand carved olive wood boxes and a few other trinkets to give to friends and family.

These stones with the frame around them are from Herod's time!

These stones with the frame around them are from Herod’s time!

We wandered around the streets and saw he Tower of David and a beautiful park with lighted fountain that the local kids where playing in, before having dinner at Eucalyptus in the Artist Colony. Again this was a tasting menu, comprised of approximately eleventy billion courses that went on for hours LOL. It was  all fantastic but I could barely manage the desserts at the end. We had Maqluba as one of the courses which is apparently a special dish that you have to circle your hand above 7 times and make a wish before turing it out on a plate – it is mostly rice and chicken and quite good. The chef came out to chat with us and it was a great evening.

Artist Colony

Artist Colony

Finally we headed back to the hotel and a 4am start for the 28 hours trip back to the US. Next time I go I will tack a few days on so I can spend more time wandering around and absorbing all the history and, of course, eating at many more restaurants 🙂

Tower of David

Tower of David

 

Old City at night with fountain plaza in foreground

Old City at night with fountain plaza in foreground