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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bye-bye 2011!

I planned to have a post yesterday, so I could do a different post today, but I'm going to combine (sort of) my thoughts for my final post of 2011, as we usher in the New Year.

I don't give too much thought to resolutions any more.  Some people do, some people don't.  That's ok.  But, there's one resolution I hope that more people will consider as we move into a fresh new year, and that is going veg or at least reducing the amount of meat and animal products eaten.  In order to encourage this, and help people along, an organization called Mercy For Animals has something called the New Year's Veg Pledge, and is offering free vegetarian starter kits.  You can find out about this at www.mercyforanimals.org.  MFA is working very diligently to expose cruelties, torture and other atrocities involving the animals-for-food industry.  I encourage you to check out their web site.

So, we're saying good bye to another whole year, and honestly I wonder how is it possible that time is passing so quickly.  The older I get, the faster time goes.  So long ago, every day seemed to last forever.  A single day was filled morning to late at night with the wonders of everything.  Now it seems like I simply blink and its tomorrow.  Maybe the lesson in it all is just a reminder that all we really have is today, so don't waste it.

While our 2011 here at Deer Run was filled with ups and downs, as I reflect on things I mostly remember the better parts of the year. New friends we've made, and old ones that re-visited.  I think about the environmental issues we have gotten involved with.... things right here on my street that cause negative impacts on our planet and its inhabitants.  There is a small glimmer that there will be some justice, finally, in 2012; that there might be some remediation on some very big wrongs that were done in the past against Mother Earth. This includes illegal seawalls blocking nesting habitat for sea turtles.  I'm watching and waiting now, as our part is done for some of these ills.... its in the hands of "officials" and well, we'll just see what happens.

I expect to see much more serious subjects taken on by the other happy vegan and myself regarding environmental issues.  Things on a larger scale, subjects that must be tackled and changes made for our community and our planet.  We have to start somewhere on all these projects, and although sometimes we don't know exactly WHERE to start, we just have to breathe deeply, close our eyes and jump in ... so to speak.  Get started, that's what we have to do.  The same way I encourage everyone to move towards a more plant based diet.... just get started.  Nothing fancy needed.  No special food, no special equipment.  Simply reduce something.  Meatless Mondays are a great idea, a movement that is spreading to many cities, and maybe that's how you'd like to tackle a more plant-based diet.  Just pick a day to NOT eat animals and their by-products.

I really have no idea what 2012 holds.  There's many things percolating right now, we're "on the edge" of big events and projects as I write this post.  I know that the other happy vegan and I are fully committed to being good stewards.  With every passing day the sense of urgency seems to ramp up even more; we will continue to do more to serve our planet, and everyone (and everything) on it. People, animals, planet.  Do something positive.

I'll see you in 2012, keeping you up to date on the happenings here in our neck of the beautiful Florida Keys.  We're keeping our eye on the prize (the prize being justice, education, and wonderful things like that) and hope you will too.  We're big fans of our planet, we're big fans of all environmental warriors out there, we're big fans of the Keys, and we're big fans of Deer Run.  We hope you will join us as we move into the New Year and keep your eye on the prize too.  Do good, live lightly, dare to care, and become involved with a cause bigger than yourself.  With that, how can any of us go wrong?

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Swedish Fish, my undoing

Running.  If I ever think there will be a time in my life when I'm no longer running, it would only happen due to inability to do so.  Santa is working against me.

You know, I don't even celebrate the darn holiday.  Christmas that is. But, somehow my house became full of sweets and savories.  Way too much stuff that only belongs on the "occasional treat" list.  My undoing today has been Swedish Fish.

Damn Swedish Fish.

I love Swedish Fish.  I never buy Swedish Fish.  Ok, maybe not "never buy," but I can honestly say they only  make their way into my house at best once or twice a year.  Somehow that diabolical Santa came down my non-existent chimney and deposited a pound of Swedish Fish.

I made it 4 days before opening the bag.

They're open.  On my counter.  Staring at me.

Who eats ONE Swedish Fish?

I don't admire those Victoria Secret model people.  No, not at all.  If I read one more story of a size negative 2 professing her "love of food" I'll scream.  I'm pretty sure they are not eating.  And, certainly not eating Swedish Fish.

I ran sprints earlier this week.  Something went "twang" in my hip, and its been slow going since.  I'm picking and choosing my workout battles.  I have a friend who offered me up her spare Trikke earlier this summer.  I haven't had time to add it into my workouts.  I think now is the time.  Running, which I desperately need to continue thanks to my Swedish Fish fail, is painful.  Last time I had an injury like this, it took months to heal.  Months?  Cannot spare that now.

Damn Swedish Fish!  Did I mention?!

Tomorrow I expect to be a first timer on the Trikke.  I've been trained on it, but it's a whole different beast when you're out there alone with something like that for the first time.

Damn Swedish Fish.  Damn Damn Swedish Fish.

I have to pass the bag when I finish this post.  Somebody, anybody, HELP!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Vegan Goes to Sea. Sort Of.

Christmas Day dawned sunny and warm here.  The other happy vegan and I exchanged small gifts.  I'm happiest with a tofu press (I've wanted one for years!) and a very beautiful home made apron and headwear he bought for me at one of the local craft shows (honestly they are too pretty to wear, but I am wearing them anyway).  He seems happiest with the new Sea Shepherd shirt on the way, and the "butter bomb" messages and donations I made also to Sea Shepherd in his name (you can find info about the "butter bombs" at www.seashepherd.org).

Mid-morning yesterday I went for a run.  I put on a sparkly santa hat with my running gear and went outside.  It was very warm, I would guess it was 80 degrees.  Too hot for a santa hat, but I wasn't going to relent on that issue. With the sun beating down on me in solitude I was treated to nature in all its perfection, and ran the best time that I've run in many months.  While I was running, I thought about all the Christmases I had spent in the past surrounded by family. I miss that stuff, I really do.  But I also thought about Christmases I spent stuck driving highways covered with ice, shoveling my car out of snow banks, or waiting and worrying for a loved one who was driving to the festivities in terrible weather.  Even as I was showered with the sun's rays, it was a little hard to reconcile that moment with how things used to be.  This weather, this magnificent, remarkable, glorious weather.  I just breathed deeply and soaked it in.

After I got home, I did a few light chores and got the great news that the other happy vegan was going to take me out for a starry sky nighttime boat ride.  I should've known that the Universe had other plans.

We went out on the boat.  It was dark.  Very dark.  Very VERY dark. I have not been out on a boat ride at night longer than I can actually remember.  Certainly since living here, at night I have never gone on our boat launched from our ocean mooring.  But, I put on my water shoes, and stepped into the Atlantic in pitch darkness.  At first touch, the water felt shockingly cold.  I laughed because really the water was maybe 75 degrees.  Warmer than it really EVER got where I used to live.  As I made my way slowly across the flats to the boat where Mr. Happy Vegan was waiting I adjusted to the temperature. I couldn't see much, so it took a few minutes to get out there.  Once on board, I adjusted my hat and waited.  I looked back towards the beach and took stock of my home, and the others on the shore. Some had Christmas lights, some were full with families celebrating, and some were dark.  In a few minutes we were off.  Heading straight out to sea in the darkness.  I watched the shore lights get further and further away.  I watched my home disappear.

We continued on.

After a while, I felt it.  The boat vibrated.  The engine sounded different. I knew something was wrong.  He let off the throttle, and I asked "did you feel that?" and "the motor sounds funny."  He felt it. He heard it.  We both thought the same thing "trap line."  So, with a light shining, we inspected for an entanglement on the prop. Nothing.

He throttled it up again, and the back of the boat shook.  He said "that's it, we're going back." He pretty much knew what was wrong, but I didn't care.  I knew he worked for hours the day before, and for quite a while the next morning to take me on our starry boat ride.  I felt badly for him.  I also knew that the lives of everyone on the vessel were in his hands, they always are when you board a boat as a passenger.  In the pitch black of the Atlantic ocean, that is no small deal.

We gimped back towards the house in darkness.  Every now and then a soft salty spray would wash over me. The winds were picking up slightly, and I couldn't see the rollers like he could.  Mostly because I wasn't watching for them.  Remember me?  The girl who hates bridges, cannot swim, and is terrified of water?  Yes, me.  That's me.

I am not afraid when he is at the helm, but there was a conscious effort on my part to just keep breathing and don't think about anything else.

I saw the lights on the shore come back into view.  I saw our turtle friendly lighting set against the lit mangrove, and eventually we were back on shore.

Even though things really didn't go as planned, I spent part of my Christmas night at sea.  In shorts.  Wearing water shoes.  Looking at Christmas lights from the perspective of the ocean.  I hope, and I think, that there will be a time years from now where yesterday will be one of the many Christmases I reflect upon.  Just as I reflected upon the cold and snowy holidays of years past, yesterday is filed into my memory banks too.  That, and the joy I feel to have my feet back on solid ground.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Christmas Day in Paradise

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's That Time

Christmas Eve.  Even for those of us who don't traditionally observe this holiday, it still brings a certain stillness in the air.  A special kind of peace.

I'm sitting here writing this post, while the other happy vegan replaces a battery in the boat.  He wants to take me out on the water to look at all the houses that are decorated for Christmas.  I was surprised when he asked me to do this, very happily surprised. Maybe the boat won't cooperate, I'm not too sure, I'll just have got wait and see.  I hope so though.

There's more than a touch of sadness in the air around me this time of year, I've lost too many people that were far too important in my life, at this time of year.  Not only is it an anniversary, but for whatever reason, loss seems amplified this time of year.  Also, today the other happy vegan and I went to sprinkle some ashes of our beloved friend, Kevin, who we lost just about this time last year.  Our friend Kevin, a modern day Renaissance Man.  Kevin's friends saved some ashes for us two happy vegans to sprinkle.  So, together we went to do this, toast Kevin with some organic tea, and say another good bye.  To console myself, I'm eating some beautiful vegan chocolates that were sent to me by a another very special friend up in the cold zone as I reflect on all that I have in my life, and all that I will miss every day until the day I die. And, as I eat these vegan chocolates I wonder also, why have the last four I've eaten been coconut?

Tonight, we shall light candles on our beach in memory of our loved ones not here anymore, and a special candle for all those we love who are facing such dire challenges in their lives.  We do this every year, and although it is very sad, it is also very happy because through the tears there is always laughter as we remember them and speak of the best memories, recounting so many fun times.

Memories.  Good ones and bad ones.  They're here to stay.

Whoops, I just got the bulletin that although the boat will not be fixed tonight, it will be in the morning.  That's ok.  We're going to take a ride around the island, just the two of us, look at houses and celebrate the blessings that we have here in Paradise.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, may it be filled with family, fun, friendship, and compassion for our Mother Earth and all who inhabit it.  That, and lots of vegan chocolate.  Merry Merry.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Like It or Not, Here It Come

Yeah, definitely, like it or not, Christmas is pretty much upon us. We're still busy here, lots of extra obligations, baking, visiting, hosting, and etc.  I took some time for myself today, had a long overdue salon appointment, did a small amount of shopping in our local fabulous stores, then tonight went out to eat with the other happy vegan.  It was a relatively calm afternoon and evening in the middle of absolute chaos.  As we were finishing our black bean burgers at Parrotdise tonight, I remarked about what I thought was a star now jammed on top of the ocean growing bridge tree.  He was game for a ride up (especially since I was doing the driving), so we made the trek up over the bridge.  I'm not sure who the light artist was this year, but they really went all out with lights, there's way more than last year.  Since the tree that I'm referring to is truly growing out of the old 7 Mile Bridge in the middle of the ocean, there is no stopping to admire the sight.  Even at the late hour we made the ride, traffic was surprisingly busy.  I didn't see the star lit up.  I looked as best I could.  Maybe we'll have time to take another drive, and I will be the passenger.  I wish I could have a picture to show you.  It really is remarkable to see these lights when all you would normally see is black sky set against black water.  Its so dark at night down here.

So, here we are days away from Christmas.  Remember, I live in a place where it is politically correct to say "Merry Christmas."  No happy holidays stuff down here because we know our neighbors, and know who celebrates what.  And, thus, some people who are close to me know me well enough to wish me "Happy Solstice" as I was out and about yesterday.  I don't hold it against anyone wishing me a Merry Christmas.  I wish them the same, and know that happy greetings are meant to be graciously received.  And, even though I really don't celebrate Christmas in traditional ways, I have for decades looked upon this time of year as one of a spirit of good will.  You can never go wrong with that.

Recapping the last few days, I should let you know that one night as I was driving on the way to boot camp at the gym, I came upon yet another injured cormorant.  She was just standing in the bike path.  I was running late for class, but there was no way I was going to drive by.  So, I grabbed one of the rescue towels I had in my car, and walked right up to her.  She didn't try to get away from me, she just let me hood her.  It wasn't until she was enveloped that she panicked.  She tried really hard to peck her way out of that towel, but that wasn't gonna happen.  I scooped her up, took her to my car, deposited her on my lap, and called the other happy vegan.  Within minutes I had transferred her to his care, and he was off to Maya. The good news was that initial evaluation led Maya to believe she only had a bruised wing.  She would heal, and go home to the wild.

Another rescue that happened the day before was of the gecko variety.  As I was brushing my teeth, Lemon was fixated upon the ceiling.  Upon closer inspection, when I looked up I saw the Geico Gecko stuck to my bathroom ceiling.  It would have been curtains for him if I just left him up there, my cats are determined that any gecko who comes into their zone doesn't  make it out unscathed.  So, I woke up the other happy vegan, and we tag teamed the gecko.  I climbed up onto the bathroom vanity and with a very long pole helped shoosh him towards the safety of a glass, where he then made a graceful exit outside onto our porch.  Crisis averted.

I've still got some baking to do.  I have some care packages that didn't get prepared on time for friends.  I kind of resigned myself that not everything could be accomplished on the appointed self-imposed schedule.  So, I think on Christmas Day I will be doing a little more baking, a little more boxing and packaging, and then next week, a little more shipping.  On "UNCLE" day those chores were a few of the things that I had to simply let go.

I've given it my best shot once again this year.  I cooked, I baked, I cleaned, I worked.  I wrapped, I delivered, I packaged, I shipped.  I laughed and I cried.  I ran, I worked out, I ate chocolate, and I ate biscotti.  Sometimes I did all those things in one day, and most of those things in one hour (or so it seems).  Its been a blur, and admittedly I didn't take my usual advice to sit back and enjoy the ride. I'm going to be glad when all the hustle and bustle is over.  I hope you have had time to enjoy the fun parts of the holiday, and that what you remember most is not the work, but the rewards.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Solstice!

Happy Solstice to you!  How was your day?  Did you know today was the Winter Solstice?

Winter Solstice means many things to many people, and nothing to some people. I recognize it as, among other things, a return to light. Days now begin to get longer, we're scraping and clawing our way back to Summer.  Remember Summer?

I've been busy.  So busy, in fact, that I did not do any special baking for myself or my Solstice loving friends.  I'll have to find a way to make up for this on Yule.  But, at least I did find time to make some deliveries today.  I donned my best sparkly Santa hat, put on assorted other sparkly attire with shorts (yup, shorts... 82 degrees here today), Santa socks and motorcycle boots, and out the door I went with boxes and bags of treats.  I drove up and down the Keys making my deliveries for those who observe Christmas.  These were not "work" deliveries, these were personal. Vegan, organic delights I've been working on for days for my friends. Those who care for my animals, care for the planet, care for my community, and care for me. 

Its been a tough go around here lately.  I get crabby, the other happy vegan gets crabby.  Long hours, seemingly unending work.  When I went out to retrieve something in my car yesterday (after 3pm) it was the first time I had even been outside the confines of my quarters.  I was struck by how bright the sun was, and actually how hot it was. The temperature read 81 degrees.  It moved me enough to shut off the oven, push aside the mixing bowls and pans, put on some running clothes and get outside for an overdue run.  I decided while running that today, Solstice, I would make my deliveries to my friends. 

So I spent this morning boxing and wrapping those special treats, got Santa-d up, and went for that drive.  No holiday music on the radio, I'm not in the mood, even tropical music wasn't doing it.  I went for the best vintage classic rock I could find, and headed up and down the Keys.  I'm so glad I made the time.  As I was driving over the 7 Mile Bridge (again) and the bridge near Bahia Honda, I really marveled at the color of the water.  The winds have been blowing for days, I'm not sure if the sediment stirring has an impact on the vivid color, but the aqua blues seemed even more picturesque today.  I flipped my Costas back and forth to check the difference with polarized lenses, just for fun.  The color seemed almost as blue (without), but certainly the dimension was not there without those awesome shades.

I wasn't the only person out and about in Santa gear, seems like the everyone really is "in the mood."  Like it or not, Christmas is coming, but today I simply rejoiced in Winter Solstice, and the beginning of the ebb back towards my beloved Summertime.

Wishing you a Happy Solstice.  Hang in there..... I swear, Summer's coming!  And, if you just can't wait, you might want to pop down to Big Pine.  Today we topped 82 degrees.    Now that's what I call a Winter Solstice.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

UNCLE!

I give up.  Well, not entirely, but at least for the moment.  I'm not even in the whirlwind of holiday shopping that envelopes the majority this time of year, and yet I'm finished.  Cooked.  Done.  Over it.

I have been on my feet for 14 hours today (so far, except for the time it will take for this post, and bits of computer time today) and I have so much to do, I could easily clock in at least 3 more hours.  Not gonna happen.  This decision came to me as I was doing an "easy" project of chocolate covered pretzels.  Never done them before, but how hard could they possibly be.  Open a bag, melt some chocolate, smear it on, and sprinkle adorable sprinkles.

Sounded like a plan.

I coated my pretzels and began to add the sprinkles. Cute holiday sprinkles.  Red ones.  Green ones.  Round ones. Holly shaped ones with cute round berries. They all came in small jars with shakers.  Or so I thought.  I used 3 of the 4 jars, all had shakers.  I came upon my last jar.... those stupid holly sprinkles.  I coated my pretzels, opened the cap, didn't look, and "SPLOOSH" holly sprinkles with round berries everywhere.  Rolling across the counter, across the floor, into my shoes, and onto the cat.  There was no shaker top for those "cute" holly sprinkles with round berries.   But, after 14 hours standing, consider if you'd check for a shaker top before applying, especially if the preceding 3 jars DID have shakers

Its been 4 solid days of baking.   I missed my run today because I had too many chores.  Two trips up and back to Marathon for Pop, food shopping, baking, deliveries.  Blah blah blah.

This is nothing compared to what ba-zillions of other people do this time of year.  Yet, as I began sponging up holly shaped sprinkles with round berries from every surface in my kitchen, then hauled out the vacuum with crevice attachment for further amusement, I thought it... "UNCLE."   I admit defeat.  Cutting my losses for the day.

I have more pictures to post, but haven't had them downloaded for you yet.  Homes, businesses and people are all decorated for Christmas. On one of my scads of errands today, I saw a bicyclist wearing a Santa hat with a dog in the bike basket, also wearing a Santa hat (I know, I know.... I agree it probably wasn't the best idea for the dog's safety, but at least they were off the main road, on a bicycle path).   I also drove over the 7 Mile Bridge (4 times) today and noticed that the big tree randomly growing in the middle of the old bridge now has what appears to be a star, with lights, jammed near the top.  I have every intention of making the trek over that bridge in the dark to check it out.  Tonight would actually be a good night for that, considering its dark out, and I'm still awake.  But, no.  My mantra, which I mustn't forget is "uncle."

Let's try again tomorrow, ok?


Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmastime in the Keys.... in Photos

Here's some more pictures I snapped recently of Christmasy things around the island.  Have a  cup of vegan chai paired with a tasty vegan gingersnap cookie, and enjoy the photos.  There's more to come, I promise!

Sparkly palm tree!

Those sparkles really know how to catch a breeze.

Got lights?

Slow shutter, groovy man.

Peri, basking in the glow. Meow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Semi-True Story

I had occasion to dress up (well, by Keys standards anyway) and go to a Christmas party.  I've made a decision to go to as many parties as possible, no small feat considering my job, and all the other responsibilities I've accepted in my life.  So, I got dressed up Keys-style and got in my car under a bright sunny sky.  Feeling pretty good. Damn good actually.  Driving down the Overseas under the warm December sun I channel surfed the satellite radio and ended up with vintage 80s rock.  Pounding rock and roll, the kind when "max" on the dial is not good enough.

I continued to drive.

Traffic was pretty heavy.  Its high season down here now.  This is the "it" place, the place to be.  Of course it is.  I'm no fool.  I was just whining about temps in the 20s and 30s a couple days ago.... I'm back home where its still pressing close to 80 degrees.  I rolled down the windows.  Wind whipped through my car, and my hair.  No need to change the station, the Universe was on my side as the unseen DJ kept playing more favorites.  I'm heading south.... my favorite drive. South anywhere is always a good thing when driving.  North means cold.  South means warm.  Here, South also means an incredibly scenic drive.

As I approached Boca Chica I heard them before I saw them.  Navy jets.  Indeed they were up there.  Traffic began to do some pretty squirrelly things.  Everybody wanted to watch the Navy jets but they also wanted to keep driving...a bad combination.  I persevered, and let off the gas a bit, giving the guy in front of me some extra room in the event there was some exceptionally bad driving.  Thank goodness there wasn't.  At the same time I also tried to turn up the radio.  It was already at "max" but I wanted more.  Sunshine.  Rock and roll. Navy jets.  A good outfit with some great accessories. Wind whipping everywhere.  It was just another day, but it was a perfect moment. A feeling of happiness and immense American pride washed over me.

I pulled over, opened my car doors, let the music blast, grabbed the teeny American flag I keep in my car and began to dance, alone, off the side of the road while I waved my flag at the pilots who were doing those unbelievable square side rolls and turns that I usually only see at air shows.  At that moment a very large pickup truck pulled up right behind my car.  The door opened, and out popped a young man in what I shall describe as military fatigues.  He had a hat on and very dark sunglasses.  Boots too.  Classic young military. Very polite.  And very hot.  He ma'am-ed me, then joined in my happy dance to the sound of Bon Scott blaring out of my open car doors.  I honestly said nothing at all, I was pretty surprised.  Before I knew it, the song was over. There were barely seconds between the end of that song and the beginning of the next, but there was just enough space for me to say "thank you!"  He smiled, ma'am-ed me again, hopped into his big pick up truck and left.  I waved my flag as he disappeared into traffic, then got back into my car and continued my way South.

I was a few minutes late to the party.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Square Peg

It just feels so good to be back home.  Back in the Keys.  Back in the warm weather, with sunshine and palm trees.  Every time I go back to my ex-home, I feel more and more detached.  It's such an odd feeling.  There's family and dear friends up there.... I must find a way to get them all to move down here.  It's the only solution to my problem.

I don't belong up there anymore.  I've mused about this before.  I'm a square peg in a round hole when I leave my safety net of the Keys. Here I'm surrounded by square pegs. Here, I think "square peg" is just another way of saying "genius," to a certain extent.

I go up to the cold zone to visit family and friends.  That part is great, it really is.  Its the main purpose of any of those trips, seriously why else would I even think of going to a cold climate, I don't ski, I don't snowboard, I don't like to drive in snow, and I don't really like hot toddies. So, I go to see people I love.  Of course while I'm up there, moments of nostalgia wash over me, but there is truth in the old saying "you can't go home again."  At least, I can't.  Home isn't there anymore; for me it's here.

One of the people I adore most on this planet said to me on this trip something along the lines of "I was driving around today and I wondered what do you think about it here when you come to visit now?" It was an interesting question, and also ironic.  Ironic because for so much of the trip I was snapping pictures of my environment. Most of the photos were taken from the car since that's where I spent so much of the trip.  I had just scrolled through the camera to review pictures the morning I saw my friend who had asked that question.... and noted that 90% of the pictures were bare trees and freeway construction.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I used to love living up there.  Its not that way anymore.   My friends and family are not happy living there.  It is crowded.  When I asked friends to describe what its like living there, they said "angry," "lonely," "dark," "sad."  It's a shock sometimes when I stop and think. All I loved, all I ever knew, was right in that airspace.  My beaches are still there, they are waiting for me, and I will see them again. But, it doesn't seem to be enough for those who remain.  This contrasts starkly with being here.  No situation is perfect, that's not realistic.  But not one single person I saw in the cold zone was following their bliss.  No one. Another stark contrast.  I'm surrounded by people who are doing just that; following their bliss. Be it spending days on the beach weaving palm fronds into hats, playing the guitar and singing for supper, running a soup kitchen, or spending hours on end playing with muffin tins and measuring cups in a kitchen with a cracked tile floor.

I was the square peg because I was not living my life "stuck."  There were catalysts in my life which jolted me into an awakening of sorts. I used to be "stuck" like many of us can be.  We can be "stuck" in lots of things.... jobs, relationships, places. Sometimes we find a way to break free, while other times fear paralyzes us and we don't take chances.  What a shame.

I wish I could create a magic potion for everyone I love and wash it over them so they could see the forest for the trees.  Instead, I use words.  I tell them "anything is possible."  Its not much, but its all I have.  And, as the square peg in the round hole up there, maybe those words don't carry much stock in a dark, sad, lonely, angry space.  Also because up there "square peg" does not mean "genius." Nope.  Up there, all it means is "girl with unsuitable winter wardrobe unhappy with the weather."

Its different down here.  I'm surrounded by square pegs, and lots of us understand that anything really is possible.  Must be the sunshine and palm trees knocking sense into us. That or a falling coconut. Whatever it is, I'm in.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Where To Begin?

It's that time of year again…. hustle, bustle, cold zone time.  We went, we survived, and are back.

As I sit here typing, the pounding in my head overtakes the clacking on the keyboard.  The schedule we keep when doing the rounds up north is exhausting.

We were cramped into the tiniest seat I have ever seen on a commercial plane, ever, in my life.  We measured roughly 14 inches of leg room.  The seats no longer recline either.  And, our flight was delayed 3 hours on our trip up.  3 HOURS.  Add the 3 hours seated on the tarmac to the 45 minutes ahead they boarded us, the 2.5 hours flight time, and then a few extra minutes as we taxied to the gate upon arrival and that all made for one extremely unhappy tin can full of people.

As we bolted off the plane and got our rental car, all we could each think of was "food!"  Being that it was after 2am by this time, prospects were slim.  We managed to find a WaWa which has a 24 hour sandwich shop, and within less than 10 minutes each of us were scarfing our veggie sandwiches as we agreed that the weather wasn't "that bad" it was about 40 degrees.   Pouring rain, but no snow.  This was do-able.  By 3am we pulled into the hotel and simply crashed.

The rest of the trip was essentially driving around 2 neighboring states for visits.  It was not easy.  We placated ourselves with food, and lots of it.  The biggest saving grace of the entire trip was food.  Everywhere we went, any time of day, food.  Vegan food.  One of the places we stayed was purposely selected as it was across the street from a Whole Foods Market.  Yes, with multiple hot & cold food bars, soups, daily vegan baking, and just about anything I could ever want… and then some.  One day we were in there 3 times.

The weather didn't cooperate for part of the time, it was raining for I think 3 straight days before I saw a glimmer of sunshine, and towards the end of our trip it got cold… really cold.  Think 20s to 30s.  I trudged around the states wearing almost every article of clothing I brought…. 2 scarves, socks, tights, 4 shirts, jeans, and my Sea Shepherd magic beanie.  I even had to break down and buy boots.  I was cold, and never warmed up til the plane landed back in Florida about midnight.

I took lots of pictures, and will post some random ones.  They're not here now because one of the other things that happened was our hard drive crashed.  Dead as a doornail.  Now I'm on a new computer with all sorts of things I have no idea how to use, including picture downloading and retrieval.  I'll get to it all, I promise.

So, I'm home, the other happy vegan is home.  The cats are re-adjusting to life with us, I can see the mangrove twinkling at night, Peri is sleeping on the back deck, and we are solidly back in more proper winter weather of mid to high 70s.  Sounds like December to me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

She's So Shy

You don't know her, but she's here too.  Her name is Elsa.  She is Peri's sister.  Those who visit Deer Run invariably meet Peri.  He's very gregarious, very social, and very "in charge" of all things on Long Beach.  Elsa, however, is a whole different story.  Elsa was a rescue as well, and she was initially living in Miami.  Another big city girl.  She must have experienced some bad things, as winning her trust takes a lot of time and patience.

When she first arrived, I only heard about her, never saw her.  Kind of like the legend of Big Foot.  The other happy vegan began to win her trust after months of giving her some kibble regularly, but for me, she would never do anything but run as soon as I appeared. This was distressing for both her and me.... I would never hurt an animal, and really wanted her to know this.  I persevered, and won some trust.

She stuck very close to Peri for a long time.  Then one night about 3 years ago, a terrible fight happened.  Peri and Elsa were dueling to the death it seemed. Blood was involved, and horrible screaming.  We intervened as best as possible, but Elsa ran away.  She did not return for a while.  Peri had scrapes too, but he went on with life as usual.  Finally Elsa returned, she healed, yet she and Peri were no longer friends.  Through the passage of time, thankfully that has changed. They are now thick as thieves.  When Peri went on walkabout a few weeks ago, Elsa seemed distraught.  Not eating right, listless.  Lonely.  I knew how she felt.  Peri came home, and she was a perky gal again.

Elsa is still very shy.  She does not "hang" with the guests.  If you look at her the wrong way, she runs and hides.  I am allowed to pick her up for a few seconds when I feed her, and that's her limit.  I do not chase her for hugs, no, that is all wrong.  I just always give her a quick hug & kiss on her terms to help keep her social and knowing she is safe at our place too.  Little girl that she is, the Universe is big... she is small.  Elsa is loved, but shy and we accept this.  Her angelic presence is welcomed at Deer Run... she too likes to tan on the deck, but admire her from afar, otherwise you will not admire her at all... the invisible kitty that she can be.



Sunday, December 4, 2011

Our Mangrove!

Without further delay, I present our mangrove:


Peace.
See you soon!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hellyeah, VEGAN BONGOS!

I got the mangrove shot tonight!  But that will have to wait til tomorrow, I've got something way more exciting to report.

We went to the Sugarloaf Craft Show today at the Sugarloaf School. The few times I've missed this show for any reason results in me spending the rest of the year moaning that I missed the show.  Its a great one, with a totally homespun flair.  This show brings out some great local talent, and I found a new fave today.... Mr. Bongo Man.  Ok, that's not his real name of course, but that's what I'm calling him.

Mr. Bongo Man makes drums & other percussion instruments completely out of wood.  I was looking at all sorts of arts & crafts when I realized I heard live percussion playing along to some jazzy/funky music.    When I looked around to find the source, I saw Mr. Bongo Man grooving to music playing a pair of hand made bongos.  I ran right over, couldn't help myself.  I was totally excited.  You don't know this, but I've been searching for vegan bongos for a couple years. I guess I don't really need bongos, who does, right?  Then again, I could say who DOESN'T need bongos.

Finding vegan bongos is no small feat.... 99.9% of what I've found have animal skins; a huge "no way" in my world.  About 2 weeks ago I found a guy on line who makes very fine percussion instruments out of wood.  They're very beautiful, and very unaffordable for me as someone who wants vegan bongos for no reason. So, imagine my glee today when I met Mr. Bongo Man and his hand crafted wooden percussion.  He had me hook, line & sinker and I simply could not have been any happier.  This is what I chose today:



My vegan bongos and a shaker too!

You purists out there may take issue with me for calling these "bongos."  Technically they are actually called "cajon" drums.  Box drums.  I actually knew this even before I began chatting with Mr. Bongo Man.  But, let's just call them bongos, for the sake of my own happiness, ok?

I've been bongoing up a storm today.  The other happy vegan has been pretty good natured, but he did have some issues when I was bongoing in the car.  I switched to the shaker for a little while... believe it or not he found bongoing in the car a little distracting (that's a nice way of saying he was becoming extremely agitated and annoyed with me).

I found some other really cool things at the Sugarloaf show today, and saw some old friends too.  I love meeting the craftspeople at shows, admiring their wares, complimenting their hard work, and choosing unique, artisan crafted special gifts for those I love.... even for me!  My vegan bongo quest has come to a close.  I think we could end a few wars if more people had some vegan bongos.  There's nothing like it in the world, they're AWESOME!



Friday, December 2, 2011

Let the Pictures Begin

For the last couple days, I've had my camera at my side every time I've gone out.  I figured this would help me get some of those cool holiday shots I want to, but its not that easy.  Traffic is an issue (its so not cool to stop in the middle of the highway and shoot photos....), timing is an issue, and my ability to get the camera actually ready for the perfect shot seems to elude me a bit.

I went outside last night to photograph our lit mangrove.  It was too dark.  I slogged into the sea thinking that would do the trick, to no avail.  I couldn't get the shot.  So, I figured I'd simply take it at dusk when the lights show and there's still some natural light left.  But, that didn't work out tonight, as I was preoccupied doing something else.  I did get a few photos taken today, check them out!


Christmas tree shopping, Keys Style.

A local business here on Big Pine, all decked out.

Old Bahia Honda Bridge.
Yes, I realize this isn't a holiday shot, but isn't it beautiful anyway!

See you tomorrow!!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bye Bye 2011 Hurricane Season! Hello Jingle Bells!

Today's the last day of November. Thanksgiving is behind us, and we're full throttle into the Christmas season.  My happiest note though is that today brings the "official" end to the 2011 hurricane season.  Buh-bye, so long, see ya!  We made it through another year without serious storms in this area.  Ahhh.... I am happy. Looking ahead, I still see palm trees and massive amounts of sunshine, but I also know tomorrow I turn the page on the calendar, it will be December.

 Although I don't celebrate Christmas, I do enjoy looking at the spruced up homes & businesses with wreaths and lights.  I always love stumbling upon the unexpected, like last year's drive across the 7 Mile Bridge and seeing lit Christmas lights strung on a tree growing out of the old bridge in the middle of the ocean.

I was out last night for a friend's birthday celebration.  We went to the Square Grouper on Cudjoe Key.   My meal was just wonderful, and the service was great, never a small feat when dealing with a large group of revelers.  On the way home I noticed that many businesses have already decorated for Christmas. There's trees decorated and lit, buildings all trimmed out, and even the business district light poles have decorations on them. When did this happen, I have no idea, but it seems quite a few elves have been hard at work.

This past weekend, I asked Mr. Happy Vegan for a favor.  I asked if he would string our solar powered LED lights onto the mangrove in front of our house.  In the Atlantic Ocean.  I love looking out upon the inky black ocean showered by a starry sky (and most nights the Milky Way thanks to the fantastic star gazing conditions here) to see those teeny tiny lights twinkling on the tree.  He was way ahead of me... when I asked him about the lights he told me that he already had them sitting in the sun to be charged, and planned on getting them on the tree that day.  Indeed, he did.

I never forgot a question/comment a guest said a few years ago, asking what's Christmas  like down here. He said something along the lines of "it's probably like it doesn't even happen, it just doesn't seem like a Christmas-y place." I think I understood that he probably meant it doesn't snow here, its not a Norman Rockwell kind of place when you think of Christmas.  But, indeed the majority of people here do embrace Christmas in many traditional ways, as well as the unexpected. Traditionally, there's places selling real Christmas trees, traditional Christmas music plays in the stores, churches have special things going on, and stores are decked out trying their best to entice us with their offerings. Unexpectedly, I've seen the Salvation Army bell ringers dressed like pirates & wenches instead of Santa, seen steel drum players wearing Santa hats playing Silent Night, and seen lit Christmas lights on a tree growing out of a bridge in the middle of the Ocean.

I've decided to take a little time this week and photograph some of our local holiday sights for you. I'll post them for you to enjoy.  As the season wears on, I'm sure I'll see lots of interesting things, so I'll do my best to keep the pics coming through the month. I shall have my camera at the ready, at least that's the plan.

Although my toes seem to curl every time I hear Christmas music (unless its played a la tropicale'), there's a lot for me to enjoy this time of year too. I hope you there is for you too.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I'm Fine, Thank You Very Much

I posted recently about my little struggles with the conventional food associated with the Thanksgiving holiday... about the cruelty issues, and lack of nutrition that is in so much of the "food" available.  Well, I'm feeling much better today, thank you very much.

I'm working out my issues by finding solace in my own kitchen, as well as with our wonderful our guests.  I like to write about how great our guests are overall, and they really are, but sometimes I find even more exceptional kindness and compassion.  It really is people like that who help me find balance.

So, I'm in the kitchen a lot lately.  I'm working on a few new things, and baking up some old standbys.  I've been practicing my cake decorating skills a little bit more, and have made 7 more cakes in the last few days (that's a lot of cake!)  I feel better doing this.  Sure it can be chaotic in the kitchen when I'm working on so many different things at once, but at the same time its very soothing and relaxing.  Mixing batters, creating frostings, baking all these donuts, cakes & cookies.  I'm reminded how good food really is, and what its purpose is.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not passing off my baking as health food, but it is pure food.  Ingredients you can pronounce and recognize, plus not an ounce of cruelty.  I also felt better after I made a delivery to the health food store, just the 15 minutes or so I spent in there was completely uplifting. It smelled good when I walked in, people were smiling and laughing, and there was music playing.  It was definitely a good thing.

Amidst all the nuttiness in the world, I'm regrouping and stopping the pity party. There's much work to be done.... cakes to bake, cookies to invent, chores to do, cats to visit with, and an ocean to gaze upon. Not to mention the fact that I'm always busy changing the world, one vegan bite at a time.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, A Day Late

The other happy vegan and I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving holiday.  We had a nice day here. We did our usual morning work & chores, plus some other work tossed in for good measure.  I played with the kitties, visited Peri, and did some paperwork.  The other happy vegan and I came to an agreement about dinner and dessert; he would actually help in the kitchen, we were going to cook together!  He made some stuff, and I made some stuff. I think the star of the show were the candied sweet potatoes. I scored a bunch of organic sweets at the Help Yourself farmer's  market in Key West on Monday, no special plans, I just happen to love them. But, on a whim I decided to make them candied, which I haven't had in decades.  They came out amazing, absolutely amazing.  I tossed in a few vegan marshmallows for good measure.  Tasty morsels.

The other happy vegan and I gave thanks yesterday for a very long list of things. As I've said, I live in gratitude every day (ok, I'm only human and do have my moments, just putting that down in case Mr. Happy Vegan reads this entry on a day I'm melting down about something......), but Thanksgiving is just another day to be thankful.

We're moving forward full steam to the jingle bell season.  I'm going to try my best and ignore all the hustle, all the bustle, and simply stare into the sea at night and find peace within.  For now, enjoy your tofurkey leftovers, and lots of that vegan pumpkin pie. For the record, my "turkey cake" was probably one of the tastiest cakes I've had in years, and I don't even really like vanilla cake. It was, as they say, amazaballs.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Peri, Peri, Our Sweet Peri

I don't have much imagination today of what to write as I stare at the blank screen.  I did lots of stuff today, and thought many thoughts.  I cooked, baked, cleaned, worked out, and so forth.  I played with the kitties, visited with some friends, and did the usual things with the usual suspects.  But, I think my favorite thing today was visiting with Peri.  I've given a couple stern of lectures his way since his return, but they've been balanced as I lavish him with love.  Peri seems a bit tired the last day or so, since his return from walkabout.  I wonder what he did during his time away (no tom catting around, that boy is properly fixed), but he just won't share where he went, or what he did.  He seems a bit more patient with me too, as I've frequently been picking him up and giving him all those extra hugs & kisses.  Peri hasn't really liked to be a snuggle bunny for the last few months.  I mostly chalk it up to the fact he's wearing a fur coat and its 80-90 degrees often, so why should he want to snuggle. My kitties inside seek the sunny patches, while Peri outside seeks the shade.  Things are cooling down a bit, mid-high 70s, along with the occasional low 80s. That seems to be enough for Peri to let me be his main squeeze every hour on the hour.

Peri. I love him so much.  I'm so happy he's back on patrol.  I keep running out the back door just to get a glimpse of him, he hasn't wandered far since his return. He's been here for snacks, naps, hugs, kisses, and of course to break new guests in upon arrival.  Our sweet Peri, on loan from the Universe (and our nearby neighbors).  He brings peace, he brings his own form of wisdom.  Sweet dreams little Peri, I'll be waiting for you when you awake...snacks and kisses are on the menu.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Vegan Thanksgiving

T-minus two days til Thanksgiving Day. Admittedly its not what it used to be for me anymore.  Mostly because I think I live with much more gratitude in my life than before, so I don't really need a special day to reflect and be thankful, I already am.  Yet, Thanksgiving brings other things to the forefront for me, mostly about violence and cruelty towards animals to satisfy the selfish wants of some.  This is a bad time of year to be a turkey.

I went to the supermarket today, had to get groceries for Pop, so I got my supplies for the next week or so.  People were in the store buzzing like bees.  Everyone blindly grabbing food and tossing it into carts with, in my opinion, not very much thought. No thought to the source of that food, no thought as to the likely genetic modifications the food was subjected to at some point, no thought as to the pesticides or herbicides sprayed on the food, and no thought to the suffering of the animals for the non-vegetarian choices. It became a bit overwhelming for me.  I did my shopping as quickly as I could, while proudly wearing the other happy vegan's Sea Shepherd sweatshirt.  I got a lot of looks, but no comments on it (this time).

While I was looking at baked goods (you know I don't buy the "store" goods, but I do like to keep current as to what is "out there") I found a cake in the shape of a turkey.  The ingredients were long, with many chemicals and preservatives I honestly could not pronounce.  It was also made with very cheap ingredients. The cake looked cute, but it was a horror show of things no one should eat.  But, I snapped a pic on my cell phone, came home, and made my version of the cake, which is pictured above.  I'm gonna give myself some props on this one.  This cake was made "on the fly" without a plan really.  It is entirely organic except for the non-aluminum baking powder. It is vegan. Even the food colorings are organic. So, maybe its not fluorescent orange and neon red like the one at the store, but I kinda wonder what MAKES that red so neon, that orange so fluorescent.  I didn't do much planning with the colors, I could do better, and will next time. But, its the point that this cake is one that is cruelty free, organic and actually will taste amazing.  There's way better choices in my cake with things like organic pure maple syrup for sweetener, and real organic fair trade vanilla beans for flavor.

Vegan Thanksgiving.  I'm frustrated because I'm tired of stuffing my thoughts and feelings when someone feels compelled to tell me how "wonderful" their cholesterol laden, unhealthy, cruel meal was. I don't want to re-live that meal of yours, trust me, I don't.  I work very hard to find balance with my personal beliefs and dealing with the public.  On this holiday I have no good thoughts about the food being offered up, and I have no small opinions about the horror show that is known as factory farming. It's absolutely despicable.

It doesn't have to be this way, it doesn't.  It shouldn't be this way.  Cruelty should not be on the menu.  I don't see this as something to celebrate, not at all.  Too many food conglomerates are passing off items that are called "food" but really don't fit the technical definition of food.  Food is supposed to nourish our bodies, it is not supposed to cause suffering; not supposed to cause disease, illness, or poor nutrition.  But, so much of what is offered up is doing exactly that.  Major boo hiss.

We are having a cruelty free vegan dinner on Thanksgiving, just me and the other happy vegan.  It will not be extravagant, nor elaborate, but it will be healthy, tasty, and pleasing to look at.  We will not be making too much food so that excess goes to waste.  Absolutely not. Instead, we will be picking up some groceries for the local food bank over the weekend, and donating them for distribution.  And, those groceries will be cruelty free, and healthy too.

I honestly feel like I'd like to just join Pink Moon and hide under the covers til its all over, but that's not an option. Instead, I'll just have to deal with all this, and you'll just have to deal with me til I get myself back on balance.  I do hope you'll find yourself making some compassionate choices with your food. A lot is at stake, and ignorance is NOT bliss.




Monday, November 21, 2011

He's Back!

Peri is back!  You say you didn't even know he was gone?  Well, that would be correct.  I didn't want to panic the planet.  He went on walkabout, but came home in the dark this morning.

Peri had gone walkabout one other time a few years ago.  I vaguely remember it, his trip lasted about 3 days give or take.  I say I vaguely remember mostly because I want to black it out, not remember a time that he wasn't here.

Peri is not our kitty.  He does have a very good home, food, love, shelter and medical care.  Peri is micro-chipped, tagged, collared and vaccinated. Yet, if you've been to Deer Run, you know he spends a large portion of his time here.  Sure, he's a child of the Universe, but he's still "my boy" and I love him dearly.  He is one of the most complicated, expressive, loving felines I have ever met.  I absolutely adore him, I don't remember life without him.

Two days ago Peri did not show up for dinner.  Unusual, yes, but he sometimes comes late after he's had about 6 other dinners, including at home. It wasn't until yesterday morning when he didn't show for breakfast that I began to panic.  His sister Elsa came, and seemed lonely. She ate, but not as well. I banged the dish but no response. I waited about 1/2 hour and sat to read the paper, but couldn't. I was too worried. I shot an email out to his main family to see if they'd seen them, and the other happy vegan phoned over there.  No, they hadn't seen him either.

I hoped on my bike and pedaled up and down the street calling for him. Looking for him. Listening for him.  No response.  I ditched my plans for the flower show.  I couldn't really do anything until I knew Peri was ok.

All day long yesterday I would walk the beach, the street, and through neighboring properties calling for Peri.  "Peri! Peri! Winkle, where ARE you?"  Nothing.  All day. All night again.  I woke up about 4am-ish, restless. I wanted to call for Peri, but its so darn quiet here I knew it would disturb sleeping guests and neighbors.  So, I tossed and turned fitfully until I got back into a light sleep.  Suddenly the other happy vegan burst into the bedroom, it was still dark out, before 6am "PERI'S BACK! HE'S HERE NOW!"  I dashed up and out of bed (I swear, a true miracle for a non-morning person) and bolted outside to the deck.  There he was in all his glory, chowing down on his first, second, third, or fourth breakfast of the morning.  Or, maybe not... maybe he hadn't eaten at all while on walkabout. He wouldn't say.

I lavished him with praise and words of love.  I petted him and cried while he ate. He didn't care about my joy, he cared about his food. I didn't disturb him too much, its never right to disturb an animal while eating (nor a happy vegan while she's eating, for the record). I just knew I had joy in my heart to touch his soft grey fur, to see his tiny little self.

While Peri was away, everything around here reminded me of him.  He has entrenched completely into Deer Run, this place breathes Peri.  My deck is his tanning bed.  The sea oats are his shady retreat.  My back walkway is his dining room, and the beach is his playground.  I see him everywhere, and that is why yesterday was so painful for me. I saw him everywhere, but he was not there.  It was difficult not to become overwhelmed with grief simply by his brief absence.  It was a very difficult day for me.

Peri is back. His parents are happy, we're happy, Elsa is happy and even the sun seems brighter this morning.  Welcome back Peri, and don't do that again!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Creature Comforts

I spent the better part of yesterday in bed reenacting Cameron's pseudo-death scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.   Unfortunately for me, The Cameron Scene means I was out of commission for a day. Boo hiss.

It was coming on for several days, this I knew.  I ramped my Vitamin C intake up to a level I won't confess to in these writings, and complimented it with Zinc.  Then I reduced my Zinc because a wise friend told me I was feeling foofey in the tummy because of too much Zinc.  Once I got that under control, there was a brief moment of stability, then it all went south.  That's where the Cameron pseudo-death scene came into play, and my day ended.

I watched about 11 episodes of Sex in the City, a couple hours of home shopping, a cupcake show, a few minutes of vintage "Pop Up Video" (who knew that was even still in rotation?!), an infomercial, as well as a laundry list of other shows on the idiot box.  I was miserable, and there wasn't much for consolation.  Until I realized I was surrounded by my cats.  Not even surrounded, I was actually enveloped by my cats.  They knew I was unwell, and offered me comfort.

I had 3 of the 4 cats with me all day yesterday.  Even Pink Moon, my "invisible kitty" who spends 95% of her waking daytime moments under the covers, was out offering me comfort.  She sat quietly on me for hours as I watched tv to a backdrop of palm fronds swaying outside in the sunshine.  Luciana and Lemon stayed for the day as well, but they did find the need to do more frequent "patrols" around the room than Pink.

Creature comforts were offered up in full effect yesterday.  I'm moving around today better than yesterday, and am considering a road trip down to the Key West Flower Show today, the one that Sue used to take me to.  Last year's efforts to find a proper planting in honor of Sue didn't go so well. The Key deer nudged the cages aside, and dined on the "Sue plants" as if they were baby greens mixed just for them.  I didn't have the heart to stop the deer, after all they were here first, and have more rights out there than I do.  So, maybe we'll head down to the show today after all.

I'm a bit of an optimist, and hoping that if any scene from Ferris Bueller is going to happen at my house today, its the "what AREN'T we going to do today" clip.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vegan Morsels In the Keys

This post started out as an ode to the powerboat races, with pictures. When I attempted to load the photos, something happened. Sigh.  I guess the "something" that happened was me and my pathetic grasp of technology. No photos uploaded. I spent something like 1.5 hours downloading photos from my camera, then uploading them to the computer.  Something went wrong.  What a surprise. They're gone.  Well, they're still on my camera at least, its not like the Key deer photo disaster from a couple months ago wherein all the photos simply vanished. But, 1.5 hours are wasted, and I'm beyond frustrated.

Instead, you'll have to be content with my miscellaneous musings of another day.

Thanksgiving is on my mind.  This is not a happy time to be a turkey. I've already got my Tofurkey stashed in my freezer, and I'm planning our little Thanksgiving celebration with lots of cruelty free delights.  So, I've been really focused on food lately. And, being focused on food leads my mind to wander to other like-minded people in these beautiful Florida Keys. I'm gonna give a shout out to some of my most favorite peeps, right here, right now.

Good Food Conspiracy on Big Pine Key.  Our oasis on Big Pine.  A health food store with full service juice bar.  From behind that juice bar comes an amazing array of daily nourishment, both for the mind AND body.  Fresh organic smoothies, organic salads, wraps, soups made fresh daily, always a gluten free offering, always vegan options. Almost any kind of juice you could imagine, vegan "burgers", raw options, pestos, on and on.  This is my home away from home.  I am in there usually at least 6 times a week.  Inside that oasis is my newest venture, a bakery case which has a daily selection of my fresh baked organic, vegan goodness.  If Good Food wasn't here, I cannot even begin to imagine how different my life would be here.  Good Food has been in the same location for going on THIRTY YEARS.  At the helm is Rev. Marney Brown, captain of all things good. Marney is a driving force for the real food movement down here, and she has been since Day One.  As a total bonus, I also meet some of the most interesting and diverse people I've ever come across right at her wonderful community gathering place.

Help Yourself in Key West. An organic restaurant.  Small, but divine.  What comes from that kitchen is mind blowing.  Not only is Help Yourself tops in Key West, but they're EXPANDING!!!  I'm so excited I want to shout with joy. Help Yourself also sets up an organic farmer's market once a week in their parking lot. They are so important to the community that I actually scratch my head and wonder how did we even manage before they were here?

Food For Thought in Marathon.  Ah..... Marathon.  Home of the Turtle Hospital, one of the best places in all of the Florida Keys. For far too long it was a nutritional wasteland then along comes Elin who breathes new life into Food For Thought at the Gulfside Village Plaza.  Poof, Marathon is transformed.  Elin has brought superb healthy, nutritious and great tasting food to that region which was sorely lacking.  She scrubbed, buffed, sweated and probably cried as she transformed the Food for Thought health food store into a true gem. Her beautiful shop offers groceries, gifts and a juice bar that beckons to me. The food coming out of that tiny kitchen is worthy of awards.

Sugar Apple. Key West.  Hello my peeps at the Sugar Apple.  You are there for me in ways you'll never know. How about the time 2 years ago when I had someone with severe allergies, yet I needed to fake something oniony. I called you begging for Asafoetida and you HAD IT IN STOCK!  How about the time I needed Irish Moss Flakes for an obscure recipe I was in the middle of making, and you HAD IT IN STOCK!  How about that slam banging VEGAN KITCHEN you have at your store where I can go in and order absolutely everything off the menu knowing full well it is 100% completely cruelty free, and delicious!  And, how about the fact that you are the only store I know of in the whole Florida Keys who stocks "Sammie's Cookies" which are by far and away so addictive that each time I buy them, I full well know the box contains 1 serving and 1 serving only....because I cannot stop eating them once I open said box (even though I probably spelled Sammie wrong).  Ah... Sugar Apple.

And, I could not forget "The Cafe, A Mostly Vegetarian Restaurant" on Southard Street in Key West.  As the name says, it IS a mostly vegetarian restaurant, the only one in Key West with a beer and wine menu, plus lots of nifty vegan options cranking along on the menu. Oooooo, The Cafe is getting ready to officially add Daiya to their menu. They've got it, and have begun working with it, experimenting in their kitchen.  When the other happy vegan and I were there (twice in the last week) we got super-secret info that Daiya was in the house (sorry Keith, maybe its not so super-secret now....)  So, as we rejoiced and ordered our Daiya filled meals, then subsequently scarfed down every last morsel on our plates, we pondered how we survived before Daiya.

So, there's my props to some peeps.  Without these places, my life down here would be much emptier in so many ways. I would also be A LOT hungrier without these amazing places to feed me and nourish both my body and spirit.  There is almost never a time when I walk into any one of those places, and don't bump into someone I know, or make a new friend, thus leaving that much more enriched.

Anyone who wants advice for cruelty-free options over these holidays, please reach out to me.  You can find my email on the "contact me" link at my web site. I'm here for you, and pledge to be another link in the long chain for making this world a better place, one tasty vegan bite at a time!

Monday, November 14, 2011

What's New?

Just a quick note to make sure you know I haven't abandoned you. The weekend is finally over, and I have just a few minutes to fill you in, and promise you that more will follow and photos too.

Mr. Happy Vegan's first born got married this weekend.  Here in the beautiful Florida Keys.  Remember they moved here not too long ago, so their wedding went from a "Keys Destination Wedding" to a "You Bet We're Locals" wedding.  I think the wedding was magnificent because the bride was truly a breathtaking vision, and her groom was as handsome as you'd ever wish.  They got their wedding by the sea as hoped, with many loved ones to witness and wish them well.  I hope it was everything they both hoped & dreamed for, and I will post a few snaps when I get the chance.

Also, as mentioned the Superboats were in town for the World Championship in Key West.  There were 3 fatalities during races. I wish I didn't have to write this, but to not mention this I think is disrespectful to those who perished, as well as to anyone involved in the sport.  We were at the races on Wednesday and saw Big Thunder's wreck.  Both the driver and throttleman died. We were not at the races on Friday when Page Motorsport's boat wrecked. The driver survived, but the throttleman succumbed to his injuries. We attended the full day of racing on Sunday, and saw many tributes to those racers, all the boats had special decals on them, and there was a plane flying a banner in memory of the 3 racers too.  Our thoughts truly are with those families and friends of those who wrecked.

The races went forward on Sunday, we had VIP tickets and front row seats for the competition.  It was a beautiful day, and the boats were magnificent.  I will post photos when I get a chance.

Last week the Parrotheads were in Key West for their annual festivities, Jimmy Buffett showed up for a "secret" concert on Duval Street. We heard he was performing, but thanks to our work, could not go.  I'm sure all those who made it had a fantastic time. Only wishing I could have been there too.

As you can see, in addition to the day to day obligations of life, a lot has been going on.  Now that the wedding is over, I think things will calm down a bit and we can move into our regular pace of things for high season. Its hard to believe its the middle of November when I'm staring at blue skies and palm trees, but here we are.  That's the story from sleepy old Big Pine Key (or maybe just sleepy old me), and I promise to post a few snaps asap. I did take over 800 photos at the races, I'll share a couple of my favorites as soon as I get them off the camera and onto the computer.

Until next time, enjoy every day where ever you are. Life's too short not to do good deeds, live with compassion, and appreciate all that surrounds you.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cake Update

Can't this cake just be finished already?  Pretty please with sugar on top?

The cake with the missing weird circle piece is not finished.  It's very close to completion, but not there yet.  Conservatively, this cake clocks in at 35 pounds.  That's a lot of cake.  And mousse.  And frosting.  And flowers.  Lots of flowers.  Too many flowers.

Flowers are why I'm clattering away at the keyboard instead of working on finishing said cakey goodness.  Flower fatigue has set in.  All that's left is the flowers on the top, a few more dots of white icing, and then the sprinkling of the edible glitter pink hearts across this cake. I should be in there, just finish it already.  But no, flower fatigue, as I said.

This was the largest cake I've ever made so far.  I even put some of those wooden dowels in so it wouldn't collapse. Now I'm just worried that the server will whack pieces of wooden dowel in the served cake, then someone will choke on one. Being only a 2 tier cake, the dowels are pretty short.  The other happy vegan didn't think I should put them in at first. Now that he's carried the aforementioned cakey goodness in and out of the fridge for me no less than 8 times so far, I think he understand why I was so determined to use the stability dowels.  35 pounds of cake. Holy farking un-cow.

I have a few hopes with this cake.  The first is that it makes it to its final destination in tact.  That's a biggie.  The next hope is that no one chokes on a dowel. Another biggie.  I hope the people who I made this case for enjoy it and will always have good memories of their party and their special cake.  That's a huge hope.  And, of course, I hope I survive this evening without putting my elbow, finger, or any other body part in the frosting (again) requiring emergency repairs (again).

There's been a steep learning curve on this cake for me.  And, even though I already had a huge level of respect for bakers and cake decorators, this cake has taken my amazement for their craft to a whole new level.  Don't ever argue with a cake artist about price.  Take it from me.  There's no way any of them can charge enough for their final product to really make anything more than a small profit.  Its a labor of love for them, it has to be.  No matter how good you are, there's still so much extra love and attention that gets poured into occasion cakes that they could never really charge for it all.

I salute you in all your cakey goodness you bakers and cake decorators out there.  And, may your wooden dowels always be long enough so that no one is surprised by them in your cakes.  Bake on.



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Superboats Are In Town!

I appreciate machines, I really do. Doesn't matter if its a pink Kitchen-Aid mixer, or a 40' offshore raceboat.  They're both fine machines.

And, speaking of powerboats... the Superboats are back in the Keys for the 31st annual offshore powerboat races.  These races are for the World Championship.  I'm pretty sure this is my favorite event of the year.  Here's a picture I took of one of the boats at a race I attended a prior year.



How gorgeous is THAT?!!!

I expected to be hearing some offshore powerboats passing by my house over the weekend. I was waiting for them, yet heard nothing; saw nothing.  I kept checking.... listening. Nothing.  I was a little disappointed about that. I had my binoculars at the ready. Its kind of like a Pavlov's Dog thing with me and and offshore powerboats.  I hear the motors and instinctively go running for the binoculars. I guess it was a blessing in disguise that I didn't hear any this year.  I would have accomplished much less around the house if they were dashing by every few minutes.

On my two rides down and back to Key West over the last two days I did see a fair amount of powerboats being trailered down.  I also saw a huge trailer and motor home making its way down the Keys all painted up with one of the team names and logo splashed all over them.  That was nice to see.

Yes, I know this is a guilty pleasure, powerboating, being that I'm all about the eco thing.  But, its not me that's out there, so try and have a little compassion for me on this, please?

We've got some passes for the events over the course of this week.  Our plan is to get down there tomorrow and check things out, meet some people, marvel at the machinery.  When the boats are racing, there is a thunder that is unbelievable. You can hear nothing else, except the "shuke shuke shuke" sound of the helicopters following the boats at a very low altitude.  Its a pretty big adrenaline rush as a spectator, I can only imagine the feeling the throttleperson and driver have in the races.

It's all so very good.

You may wonder why a pink Kitchen-Aid mixer kind of kicked off this blog post which is mostly about the offshore powerboat races.  I couldn't help myself, I've been working in my kitchen for a few hours now making triple batch after triple batch of vegan white not-buttercream frosting for the big cake with the missing weird circle piece.  My Kitchen-Aid is amazing.  I wish I had a larger one because I use it so very much, but my small pink mixer has yet to fail me once after all these years.  Its been humming along nicely for long stretches this morning, and hasn't complained once.  So when I think of awesome machinery, I think "Kitchen-Aid mixer" and then of course the superboats.  See, I'm an appreciator of all the Universe has to offer.  I can just as easily admire my mixer as I can admire a boat that easily costs more than triple the last house I owned.

So, I'm running my mixer, still listening for the faint sound of a powerboat going past my slice of heavenly ocean.  If that fails, at least I take great comfort knowing I'll be in Key West tomorrow to see them, and then I'll be front and center for the race finals this weekend.  Another slice of awesomeness in the Keys.

See you there!!!  Vroom Vroom!


Monday, November 7, 2011

A Weird Circle Piece

I've been mentally preparing for a special cake. It started out larger than probably needed for the final count, but right now I'm still not completely certain of that. All that basically means is I made too many fondant flowers, no big deal. They last.

I have very little knowledge and training about working with fondant.  Actually I had one very unorganized class which was exceptionally basic. It was so poorly run, I never went back for the other classes. And, of course within only a few days of that decision, it popped into my head that I'll make a cake for a special event and surprise that someone special at said special event.  Sounds like a plan.

Today I baked the cakes.  Multiple layers.  Big layers.  Things I'm not really accustomed to doing, but was confident enough after lots of planning that I'd be fine.  And, I was.  There were, however, 2 glitches. One my fault, one not.  The first glitch was me flipping a layer before it was cool. Bad idea, very bad idea.  As I had this giant layer crumbling on my counter, I felt crushed. It was then that I turned off all the lights, cleaned up what I could, and went to lay down and think. Within a few minutes, I heard Mr. Happy Vegan walk into the kitchen, then enter the bedroom to ask "what happened, did the cake break?"  Seriously.  So, with  rapier wit I informed him that no, everything was fine, I had no idea of that which he spoke.  He was not amused, but then again neither was I.

After he left the room, I continued to think about how to re-engineer this cake with what I now had.

After a while, I had decided how I would make the major repairs so I went back into the kitchen and began to fit the puzzle pieces together. It went ok but one piece was missing.  Not a small piece, not a large piece, it was by Goldilocks standards "just right" in terms of size.  A perfect circle actually.  You see, I had used heating cores for every layer of the cake.  One perfect circle was missing.  I slid things under the cake to see if maybe the perfect circle was trapped under the giant broken layer (it wasn't). I looked through everything on the counter (nope, not there), on the floor (not there, thankfully), and even opened up all the drawers in case one had been a little open when disaster fist struck.  Nothing.  It was then that Mr. Happy Vegan re-entered the kitchen to ask what was I doing.  In a moment of clarity, I asked him "did you eat any of this cake?"  He said "no, only a weird circle piece."

ONLY A WEIRD CIRCLE PIECE?

I guess I took it particularly hard that he ate the "weird circle piece" because a few days ago he spilled the beans about the surprise cake.  I've spent a lot of time on line looking information up about quantities, decorating ideas, and planning. I had to make 2 trips to Key West to get what I needed for this cake, and I actually have a pretty well stocked kitchen.  Two extra trips is a lot in my world.  So, when he admitted he ate the weird circle piece, I took it badly. My freezer is chock full of cookies, donuts, cupcakes, and more.  He could have had any one of those items, but he chose the weird circle piece.  It was more than I could take.

I cleaned up the kitchen yet again, and pushed the cakes aside, instead taking my emotions to the gym for boot camp.  Good decision.

 I will work with what I have, and some lucky soul will get a giant glob of mousse and frosting where a weird circle piece should be.  I guess its no big deal, but if you had been rolling fondant for about a week or so, making gum paste, royal icing, and flowers (all vegan, of course!) til the wee hours on a regular base, you'd miss your weird circle piece too.

Another day in the baking world. I should have expected this.