Sunday, February 27, 2011


I spent a few more hours today on that art project of mine which I picked up yesterday after shelving it a couple months. I was inventorying art projects of mine which are half finished, or worse off. Not surprisingly, I have quite a few.

For the last few days, I have been thinking of things unfinished by other people; unfinished business of people who were taken from this world seemingly too soon, no particular plans to not be around the next day, yet they were gone.

While channel surfing, Amadeus came on. Great movie in my opinion. Tim Hulce was a great, over the top, Mozart. Mozart was taken too soon, never finished his Requiem, not to mention all the other music he heard in his head, a single note of which never made to paper. Its a pity. John Lennon, another master talent taken from us too soon. Who knows the music he would've brought forth, the changes he would've made in the world.

Presidents, philosophers, poets, doctors, scientists, and artists. Many taken too soon, so much left behind unfinished. Ordinary people succumb to the same problem.... leaving this astral plane with unfinished projects, unfinished houses, unfinished paperwork, unfinished anything else there is.

I don't want to be known for unfinished business when I'm gone. I'd rather have someone look at something I created and admire it in its totality. But, time gets away from us, we always think we have tomorrow, and don't embrace today perhaps as much as we should.

I had a lot of work to do today. I didn't finish it. I don't feel badly about that either. Instead, I made a point to change into painting clothes, bring the paints out again, and play with the colors of the rainbow Universe. My project still isn't finished, but that's ok. I'm a few steps closer, and have confidence that this particular project will be one I complete. I can see it in my head, now I hope pretty soon that vision will no longer be imaginary.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I had some free time today. I'm not sure how it happened, but there it was so I grabbed it.

Today was Day 1 of the Old Island Art Days in Key West. This is the show that I thought was last weekend; the one that resulted in us driving to Key West for a reason that didn't exist since the show wasn't happening then. Rather, the show was today, and will continue tomorrow. Neither of us had ever been to this particular show before, and truth be told it is doubtful we would have budgeted time to go if we didn't have to be there to pick up 2 pieces that an artist had created at Mr. Happy Vegan's request. It really was our good fortune to be able to go, this show was great. There was a very high caliber of artists and their work, with great variety too. Both of us were impressed with the show, and we agreed we'll make a point to return next year.

We had only a couple other stops to make in town for the business, and made haste of them all. There was a fair amount of work to be done here at the inn, we really just wanted to get back home.

Once we returned we set about doing chores. Soon enough I found myself still with plenty of sunlight left in the day, and a break in my work. I pulled out my brushes & acrylics and returned to an art project that has been sitting idle for at least 2 months. After putting some time in with the paints, Peri and I took a walk down the beach to the fire site. As Peri and I sat on the beach, I reflected again on that experience, and gave thanks once more for the rescuers who made sure a bad situation did not turn much worse.

Peri and I walked the beach a little more, and then returned back here. Angel was with Mr. Happy Vegan sunning herself on the beach. I sat down, and all together we watched fish jumping, planes flying, and Key deer strolling. I enjoyed a frosty beverage, Peri got some snacks, then I cleaned up my paints.

Somehow I still have a reasonable amount of time left to make something half way decent for dinner, and relax a little more.

I don't know how this down time appeared for today, but I welcomed it with open arms, open paints and open beverages. Fingers crossed for tomorrow!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Moving Ahead

One of the things that fire did for both myself and Mr. Happy Vegan was make us want to get rid of things. We both spent today like maniacs, making piles of things to give away. Neatly categorized in boxes and bags, what goes to this place, what goes to that place. I was saving certain items for certain reasons. Those certain reasons are now gone, so we now are parting with lots of different things.

Its kind of like a spring cleaning day. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and I have every single door and window open in my house. I am listening to birds sing as I make my way through chores. Every now and then I hear something outside that makes me stop and go look. I saw a sea plane flying low and slow over our shore, they're always fun to look at.

So, here I am taking a little breather from today's marathon purge. This includes outdated paperwork. We've also realized its imperative to move the paperwork we will keep into a fireproof file cabinet. Sure we have a fire safe, but that's not very big. Believe it or not, we scored a fire proof filing cabinet at our local Habitat for Humanity. Its been sitting empty for too long, the fire was a wake up call on that too.

We realized that top loading animal crates are a necessity for emergency, and are in the process of acquiring them instead of the traditional types we have. Once we get the new top loaders, the crates we have will be donated to local animal organizations where we know they will get years of good use.

To celebrate the progress I've made, I ate a chocolate muffin. Once the ankle gets back in line, I promised myself I'd run an extra mile for that muffin, it will totally be worth it.

The animals are settling back down after all the stress from the evacuation, although Pink Moon is still pretty much in hiding. She has come out twice so far to have a tiny bit to eat. I am giving her lots of space, and she has all the time she needs to reconfigure her thought. She'll feel safe again eventually, my little anxious kitty.

Part of me is so sad to see certain items go, I had plans for many of these things. But, I stop the pity party and imagine someone finding that same item in the thrift shops where we're donating things to, and then I feel better. Helping someone who needs something, making the day a little brighter for them. All the while certain charities benefit too.

I used to take things to consignment shops and have garage sales when I lived up north. I don't do that anymore. Instead, anytime we have something of value, something someone else can use, we donate it. For us, this is the right thing to do on many levels.

So, there it is. Fires make us look at things differently. What can be here one second can be gone the next. Another day to remember that things are things, stuff is only stuff, and to protect what is truly important. I hope I never have to evacuate again because of a fire here or anywhere else, but if we are faced with something like that in the future, I think we will be even better prepared.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

One Fire. Many Heroes.

Last night, the house to our right looking out on the ocean burned down. We are in shock.

No one was hurt. That is the miracle in the story.

It was the wee hours of the night. Mr. Happy Vegan had fallen asleep watching television in the living room, I had fallen asleep watching television in bed. Suddenly, he burst into the bedroom screaming the house next door is on fire, call 9-1-1. Then he was gone. I was disoriented, but understood what he said. As I grabbed the phone, I ran outside onto an upstairs deck, dialing. What I saw was beyond belief. With no exaggeration, it was a raging inferno. The flames were soaring high above the tree line, and all I could hear above roaring flames was "POP POP POP" which was the sound of thick plate glass windows and doors exploding.

I ran out to the normally quiet, starlight street, now glowing bright orange, with a heavy roar of flames. Fire actually does roar, I never really knew that until last night. As I ran towards the flaming house, sparks were flying. I was calling out for Mr. Happy Vegan, where was he? I found him near the house, ready to direct the emergency crews as they arrived. Until they arrived, there was nothing we could do. Nothing. It was such a helpless feeling to stand there and watch. The heat was incredible. Within minutes, we knew the house was a total loss.

Police, fire and rescue personnel arrived. Immediate mandatory evacuation was undertaken, and all guests were evacuated from our inn. We were working to evacuate all of our animals, which was exceptionally traumatic for them, especially Angel our cockatoo, and Pink Moon (who I just posted about, remember?) Mr. Happy Vegan literally peeled Pink Moon off the ceiling of our screened breakfast veranda. I have never seen such terror in an animal. She attacked me, she attacked Mr. Happy Vegan, and ended up hanging from that ceiling (its wood, she embedded her claws on the walls & ceiling) and did not want to come down. She had no choice in the situation, we were not leaving her behind. It was a bad scene.

All the animals were secured in crates, and driven off premises. (Peri's parents secured him safely, by the way).

All this is happening, people fleeing, fear, confusion, and then there's the flip side of this story... the rescuers running into the mayhem, danger & confusion. They have a plan, as they are trained to do. Dozens of vehicles, responders both paid & volunteer were here all night long fighting the fire. Thankfully the house did not have anyone in it, but that was not known initially.... just because a house is supposedly vacant does not always mean it is.

I stood on the beach for hours last night and watched many heroes risk their lives before my eyes. There is a very big "back story" to this particular house, but its not relevant here. The person who dedicated so many hours of his life to building that house was a very private person, as so many people who come to the Keys are. I shall not disrespect his memory by making public a life so very private. But, when the house was being built long ago, often times the community came out to help, watch and talk. Community. The house brought the community together then, and decades later, the same house brought the community together again. Some of the same people who were there as it was being built were there to witness its destruction last night. These people were not here just to watch a house burn, they were here to help us. Help us evacuate our guests if needed, offer refuge for our guests if needed, assist with crating and securing animals, and offer comfort and support. Community. Its good where we are.

So, through all these things last night, many heroes spent all night long fighting a fire, protecting surrounding homes (including our own beloved Deer Run). I admit once the animals were safe, my mind shifted to "please do not let this fire spread." We are in the dry season. My mind was racing with thoughts of things in my home... precious few family mementos. Photographs. Letters. Articles of clothing that were mom's, which I still have 25 years after her passing. Not many, but still important to me. Most of what I was thinking of were things that would mean nothing to anyone else but myself and my family. Worthless items in terms of money, priceless to me in terms of replacement. A juice glass. A coffee cup. Mom's glass. Dad's cup. Dad's bottle of alcohol soaked cherries... those stupid cherries the source of decades of family jokes. "Oh please don't let this fire spread" I said over and over. Please do not let Deer Run burn. Those heroes made sure the fire didn't spread, and that Deer Run didn't burn.

Many "what if" thoughts are with us today. What if Mr. Happy Vegan had not heard the fire when he did. What if the fire spread through the dry woods to our home on one side, and the other home where people live too. If only we had heard, or seen, the fire sooner. Thoughts of our guests. Our animals. So many what ifs, and if onlys.

Because of one fire, there is great loss today. Because of many heroes there is not greater loss today. We are profoundly grateful to our community responders, they came from near and far. There are not words to express our gratitude, but we are deeply thankful.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Very Peri Interlude

Its been a while since Peri made an appearance on the blog. Here he is coming in from ocean, crossing our flats at low tide. He's a mainstay at Deer Run, I simply have no recollection of life before Peri. I was walking on the beach today taking inventory of palm trees, sunshine and blue water when I happened to notice a sleeping grey blob in the sea oats. All stretched out, eyes slammed shut, basking. Body half obscured by those sea oats, the other half out for the world to see.

Peri is a character, but he remains very mysterious. He still has a very secret life, and a lot of enablers to help him along with that secret life. He has us perfectly trained as to when he wants his (organic!) snacks, his ears rubbed, or anything else he may desire. Some mornings he simply does not show up for his breakfast snacks. Is that because he's already eaten 3 other breakfasts at his real home and other appointed stops? I have my suspicions about that, but he's not giving up any information.

When Peri doesn't show up at an expected time, I feel a little lost. I do not like him to deviate from rounds. Often when I call for him, he will come, but other times, there's no rousting him from his secret duties. The other day, I was walking down the beach. Very often Peri will join me. This time he was nowhere to be found. I called & called. Nothing. I walked for a while, maybe a mile, then began my turnaround.... as I did so guess who I saw trotting down the beach at me. Yes, Peri appeared out of thin air. I waited for him, then picked him up, gave him a quick kiss and put him back down on the sand. We began walking. As cats often do, Peri suddenly bolted ahead for seemingly no reason. He began playing at something invisible to me. Then he looked around to see if anyone was watching, and re-bolted this time climbing up a palm tree so fast I couldn't believe my own eyes. I eventually caught up to him as he sauntered down the tree trunk. He accompanied me home as if none of that ever happened.

Peri doesn't worry about his career, paying bills, what people say about him, or anything else. I think he must have been very good in a past life to come back in his present form and end up with the protectors in his life that he has, living in paradise on Big Pine Key. He is adored by virtually all who cross his path and his needs are well taken care of. Animals live on the same planet we do, but they experience a very different world, often filled with physical pain, emotional pain, abuse, callousness, torture, indifference, disrespect, and other horrible things. Here, Peri has a bubble where people actually listen to him and care about him. He's "only" one animal, but its a start for justice in the world. More than anything, I think Peri is a very good teacher.

We've moved the cam so Peri's passings to and fro around the fire pit can no longer be seen; we're adding a pan/zoom feature soon, so do not despair. You'll get your Peri fix, but when HE'S good and ready. Of course.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Everyone Needs a Tiara

I bought a tiara today.

We went to Key West to make a delivery. When we have to do things like that, we coordinate anything and everything we possibly can think of to do down there at the same time. Lately we've been heading into the city about once a week (twice this week thanks to my very poor interpretation of the art show dates), and will be heading down again on Saturday due to that scheduled pickup I expected last weekend. During our mini road trip, we bought supplies for the business, and stopped at a nice, and very funky, consignment shop in town. A while ago, when I realized I actually needed readers (sigh) for things like cookbooks, menus, maps, the newspaper, instructions of any sort (uh, well you get the idea), I took the plunge with a hand painted pair of magnifiers. I had them quite a while, and was very careful with them. I lost them, my one and only pair, about 10 days ago. I've been borrowing Mr. Happy Vegans on an as needed basis, but his are much stronger than mine, and aren't helping me very much. He has about a thousand pairs of them scattered around the house. I never understood that theory, until about 10 days ago when I lost mine.

So, we went back to that consignment shop that sells very funky things, including hand painted readers. I was happy they still carry them. I found a pair I can live with, and was convinced to pick up an additional pair "just in case."

Mr. Happy Vegan was preoccupied with manly things in the store, so I was able to browse a while. That is when I came across a fabulous display of tiaras. "I must have a tiara!" I exclaimed. As I unpinned tiara after tiara from the display and tried them on, I was transported back to being 7 years old playing dress up with my box of beads, rhinestones and frou-frou things. I had a box of "fancies" that was given to me by my mom's mother. I had it for a very long time. Those "fancies" were in today's age probably worth a fair amount of money. Vintage 1920s, 30s and 40s era jewelry, hat pins, and so forth. I had a tiara in there. I have no idea what happened to most of those items, although I have a few pieces packed away that survived many moves and turmoil in the past. Things get lost, things disappear. Such is the story of my vintage tiara. So, there I was trying on tiaras in Key West. There were some very large tiaras which I considered too gaudy, pirate tiaras with skulls (yuk & blasphemy!), and even black tiaras. I considered a black tiara, but its just not right for every day wear. I settled on a nice traditional tiara with a forward slant. Not too tall, not too swirly. It is, as Goldilocks would say, "just right." A tiara adds just the right amount of fabulousness to any outfit. This is key, considering what comes next.

I came home, changed back into work clothes, tied up my hair, then put on my tiara. I put my apron on, and began unloading and re-loading the dishwasher. I still have to wash the floor, and do some prep for tomorrow. Its all good though, because have a tiara. It adds just the right amount of fabulousness to any outfit, just like I said.

Everyone needs a tiara.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunshine, Cookies, Bread & Ice Packs

Another postcard perfect day here on Big Pine Key. Blue skies, sunshine everywhere, tropical breezes, and endless aqua blue water shimmering as I look outside. I was relegated to indoor work today, the ankle is not cooperating with me. After icing and resting it on the overnight, reality set in. Breakfast was to be cooked, chores were to be done, and I had several baking orders on tap. Off to the kitchen I went.

Upon standing several hours, I was rewarded with four types of cookies, including a new perfected recipe for whole vanilla bean oatmeal cookies with dried fruit & nuts. I'm not a fan of oatmeal cookies, not sure why. But this cookie.... she has stolen my heart. After working through some trial & error with the batter, the flavor was perfected with the addition of (organic! fair trade!) whole vanilla beans. Ooo-la-la. These little dream drops are headed down to Help Yourself in Key West. Got to get these babies out of the house asap, lest I begin to break into the packages myself. Actually, they're ginormous cookies... for some reason they gigantified during the baking process. Anyone who looks at these vegan cookies of deliciousness will go ga-ga. I also baked 3 loaves of bread today, tomorrow morning I've got french toast on the menu. Yes, that's a lot of baking, and many hours of work. Somehow, most of it just didn't seem like work.

I was asked today by someone why don't I post more recipes on this blog. Their feelings were that I write about food a lot, so how about some of these recipes. Well, I'm going to tell you, I don't post many recipes because I'm not really interested in reinventing the wheel. There are so many recipe blogs out there, and fine ones at that. When I want a new recipe, I would not go to my own blog, I go to those who make it their sole purpose to create vegan recipes. I'm not that gal, and I have no plans to be. So, that is why recipes are not here very often. If you're disappointed, I'm sorry about that, but heck remember... this blog is about our vegan inn, life in the Keys, and animals too. Speaking of animals...

Mr. Happy Vegan thinks our first fawn of the season in the herd is being born. Mommy dropped her tummy, and then disappeared very shortly afterwards. Its been about 3-4 days since this particular mommy has been around the grounds, very unusual. So, we're excited about this, thinking its only February and already there's babies. If indeed this baby is busy being born right now, it will be about 4 short weeks before we will see that precious soul taking wobbly steps under mommy's watchful eyes. The Key deer fawns are very small. I have never seen a newborn, but I was told they are 2-4 pounds at birth. Wow, that's small.

Usually when I see a new fawn, her legs are very wobbly, her spots are very bright, and she (or he) has pencil thin legs that you think would just crumble with each step. But, thankfully that doesn't happen. Instead, they roam around stuck like glue to their mommy, calling out with cries that indeed sound like a human baby. I'm very excited thinking about seeing fawns in spring, it never gets "old," I never tire of this huge event. I promise, if I'm fortunate enough to get some good pictures, I will share

So through all this thinking of baby Key deer, baking of cookies & bread, and staring at aqua blue water, my ankle never let up on me today. I wrapped it up tight, stuffed it in sneakers, and headed out to boot camp tonight. I suppose that wasn't the best idea, but I made it through, perhaps not the best showing I've ever had. Tomorrow brings a trip into Key West, a trip up to Marathon (eeks, that's like opposite ends of the Earth in Keys talk) and I expect an ice pack or two. There will be no creation of new cookie recipes in the Deer Run kitchen tomorrow. I've got some serious plans to get in some lap time with Peri after the chores & road trips. Our forecast calls for sun, tropical breezes, and temps close to 80. Carpe Diem.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thanks for the Lift

And the next thing I knew, there I was standing on the side of the road, waiting for a ride.

Allow me a moment to explain.

Remember a recent post, I said I was going out to socialize. On a work night. On high season. I know better than to make plans for anything other than work this time of year. It doesn't agree with me, there's always some static, some problem, some chore that remains undone if I go out to play (not to mention that I couldn't even consider hitting the dance floor last night at Jahfe, I was relegated to the sidelines because of what I'm about to explain). Thursday night I believe it was. Yes, Thursday, for sure. Oh, yes, I went out. Minutes before I was due to head out the door, I found myself jumping into the shower to de-skankify. So much for leisurely plans to shower, style my hair, iron a nice outfit, blah blah blah. No way.

After I became de-skanked, I threw on something that sort of matched, put on shoes, and rushed out the door. The situation didn't allow for much time to decompress prior to arriving at the next destination. I found my mind racing, and couldn't relax. I sat for a few minutes, chatted with a few people, and then made my way to the ladies room. Mind still racing, seeing things around me, but not focused on any of it. One of the things I saw, but did not process was a sign that said "step up." I opened the door to the ladies room, flipped on the light, and the next thing I knew I was splayed out half way across the floor, my belongings scattered around me. What the heck??!! How did THAT happen. First thought was "I hope no one saw that" and the next thought was "ow ow ow." Ankle injury. Not good.

I gimped my way back to the crowd after collecting myself and making my best attempt putting myself back together. For the past few days the ankle has been nagging at me. It was a little puffy. I chalked it up to bad footwear, and far too many hours standing every day, 7 days a week. Today, I decided to go for a run and workout. In my new snazzy, yet very ugly Vibrams. We've had too many guests here to count that swear by them. I have not heard anyone say one bad thing about them. Plus, my ISLANDS magazine this month has a blurb about them too. Universe said "Jen, get the shoes already, will ya?" Shoes acquired, new tunes on the iPod, I'm going for a run if it kills me. Ha.

I get out there on this picture postcard day, and within just a few steps I know the truth.... don't press on. I do anyway. Running gives way to walking. Walking gives way to limping. Limping gives way to cursing.

And the next thing I knew, there I was standing on the side of the road, waiting for a ride.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Thank goodness it wasn't me!"

This time of year there are so many activities going on, its often difficult to choose which, if anything, I can budget time for. Its also the time of year when we are at our busiest, and days can go by in a blur. Between President's Week, Valentine's Day, and just being normal high season, its "go go go" for anyone working in the industry. I have been adding many extra obligations every single day for several days in a row, and am prone to make mistakes when rushing through things (remember the ill fated cookie dough story?) Today I made an error that cost 3 hours of precious time I have so little of.

Mr. Happy Vegan has an outdoor art piece being created by a favorite craftsperson of his up on the mainland. It is supposed to be ready at a particular show she will be at in Key West, which was published in the paper a few times this past week, which I repeatedly read as this weekend. Not.

We hauled butt all the way to Key West for the non-existent art show. All he could say when I realized the error was "thank goodness it wasn't me!" Any man out there reading this probably will completely understand his relief at making that statement.

On this President's Holiday weekend, we battled exceptionally heavy traffic all through the lower Keys into Key West on the only road there is in and out of the Keys. Its like being at the Jersey shore on 4th of July... those who live there know you just do NOT go out unless your life depends on it. This is kind of my mentality on certain holidays here, including President's weekend. Yet, its also when there's multiple music events, art shows, and lots of other fun things going on, including this very important, yet non-existent, art show.

Upon finally getting into Key West, we picked our way through the clogged streets. When I stopped and looked, it honestly looked like bees protecting a hive, there was that much activity. We headed to where the art show was supposed to be, and that is when I thought "maybe not today?" and yes, upon calling the local Chamber of Commerce, "maybe not today" turned into "*#@(#!" We continued to pick our way through the streets, back roads & shortcuts not known to most visitors, and finally escaped back onto the only road in and out of the Keys.

Traffic on the way back up was just as heavy, still other shows going on, other events, and let us not forget the normal regular every day life that goes on for those of us who live here full time. I think there's a touch of spring fever in the air. Our perfect weather continues, and there's a lot of people visiting the area who have been trapped in snow, cold, ice & sleet for way too long. The skies are clear, the stargazing spectacular, and the full moon last night showered us with beauty.

Three of my precious hours were spent paying for my own negligence. I have not been showing my gratitude enough, so the Universe provided a reminder to slow down and bask. I shall heed the message; we're going to head out and see Jahfe'... they're in town. Reggae, champagne, pineapple juice & snacks. That's the antidote to overscheduling if you ask me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time to Play?

We're going out tonight. Socializing. On a work night. Although for a few months, EVERY night is a work night. Its dicey, this socializing on a work night during high season, at least for me it is.

In preparation for this socializing, I had to make something. Well, I didn't have to make something, but I was raised not to show up as a guest empty handed. Time ran short, so I did a very bad thing... hauled out a cookbook, leafed through it, and randomly selected what looked like the easiest cookie I could find besides chocolate chips. Came up with a chocolate chai spiced shortbread cookie. Mixer to oven took less than 5 minutes in my world.

If I am so pressed for time, how do I magically have time to post this entry? Well, being that tomorrow is french toast day (mmm, banana french toast sprinkled with cocoa powder--fair trade! organic!-- and fresh strawberries) I had to make bread. So, I have exactly 22 minutes to do this post, which is the time the bread is in the oven baking.

In between, I baked a batch of Vegan Dreams for the health food store (seriously, if you've been on Big Pine Key, you've probably had a Vegan Dream because they're the best cookies out there), and am also mid-way through Marney's birthday cake. Yes, our dear friend and owner of Good Food Conspiracy here on Big Pine Key is having a birthday, so in her honor I'm baking a cake just for her. In the midst of all this baking, I still had that organic parsley from the Help Yourself farmer's market that I had to do something with... so pesto it was. I didn't have any basil. I made pesto anyway. I substituted organic baby spinach. Its actually delicious.

I've got a workout scheduled for 4pm, someway, somehow this will all come together in time for me to get ready for tonight's socializing. I don't have an outfit planned. I don't have much of anything planned. But, I've got the shortbread cooling on racks, and tomorrow's breakfast just about prepped. I am an innkeeper, we never rest. Just like the post office of olden days... neither rain, nor sleet, nor blah blah blah. But in our world its "neither baking, cooking, lack of sleep, nor lousy time management" shall keep me from my appointed duties... or my socializing just once this week. I'm taking this as a victory, and I've even got 10 minutes left on the timer before the bread is done.

Jahfe' rolls into town this weekend. I think I'm in trouble.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Making Whoopie!

Any self-respecting baker and lover of chocolate understands the righteous place that Whoopie Pies have in this Universe. Mr. Happy Vegan calls them Moon Pies. Matters not which you choose to call them, its important to worship at the feet of the Whoopie Pie Gods (hereinafter referred to as WPG's).

For Valentines' Day, I made whoopie. Of the pie variety, thank you very much. Here they are, shaped like little hearts. Sweet perfection, wouldn't you say? Remember those dastardly little beets that gave me so much trouble in my quest to make the perfect red velvet brownie (which never happened by the way), well the organic beets that dared remain in my fridge gave way to organic beet juice, which was summarily dispatched into my Whoopie Pie filling. Ah, chocolate cakey cookie goodness, filled with fluffy pink frosting, all piped into heart shapes.

I was never a big fan of Valentines Day. Spent my fair share of them alone, or with the wrong person. Then other issues in life gave way to the holiday being for others, not for me. Kind of like running this place. I think one of the busiest, and most important, days for a bed and breakfast is Valentine's Day. I swear, if someone cares enough to make plans to be on an island in the middle of February on a day reserved for lovers, what can I say, I'm gonna roll with it, and make it a day those lovers will never forget. We kicked the morning off for our guests with a champagne breakfast, and lots of special touches for all. To help things further along, I made said Whoopie of the pie variety, of which I am quite proud.

I practiced these pies. Its been a while since I made this type of Whoopie (eek?) and memory served me that last time I made WP's, the cake recipe was "off." The tops cracked, and I thought the cake too dry. So, I tweaked a few things, and the WPG's bestowed me with Whoopie of my childhood dreams, without the bad ingredients like eggs or whatever. I perfected the frosting, and let my beautiful pink Kitchen-Aid whip that badass filling about 7 minutes to get it absolutely perfectly fluffy. I tasted batch after batch, ending up with a sugar headache, which could only be healed with a huge green salad, some miso dressing, and a carrot juice (thank you Champion!) But, Valentine's Day is not about miso, carrots or greens. No, its really chocolate, romance, love & SUGAR! Ahhh. Great combination.

So, our guests got sweets & treats boxes filled with homemade cruelty-free goodness, including red velvet cake balls (yes, more of those organic beets were juiced for the cake, after the compost incident), and well what can I say, I liked the end result. The Whoopie Pies were just as a proper Whoopie Pie should be. The cake is not crispy, not too soft either. And, when you bite into it, the filling squishes out, so you have to lick it off the sides. By the way, can you imagine the horror; I've heard there are people in the world who think WP's are supposed to be eaten with a knife & fork! The WPG's do NOT approve of such behavior.

Our own Valentine's Day included a mini-road trip into Key West to make a cookie delivery, and we ended up again at the farmer's market at Help Yourself. This time I scored organic fresh ginger root and organic parsley. I'm going to make a nice big batch of homemade seitan (Praise Seitan!) with the ginger, but I'm not quite sure what to make with the parsley. I will decide by tomorrow, as the parsley is telling me its do or die time, literally. Also, for the first time in longer than I can remember, flowers were delivered to me, which made me smile.

I had to bag the run yesterday due to lack of time, but it was a judgment call. I decided it would be better in my life to have a nice meal at "The Cafe, A Mostly Vegetarian Restaurant" as part of our road trip than it would be to spend the time letting my feet hit the pavement. All things considered, I think I made the right choice.

Whether you consider Valentine's Day romantic, or not; whether you observe it, or not, I would certainly hope you made the most of the day you were given. At the very least if you happened upon a Whoopie Pie, I sure hope you seized the moment to worship the WPG's for the chocolatey cake & fluffy whipped frosting goodness they bestowed upon you. Whoop-de-doo!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

To Do, Or Not To Do... That Is the Question.

If anything on this planet gets cloned, please let it be me.

It is without a doubt that I think I can accomplish more than I am physically able. When I make my "to do" lists, usually I envision a page full of crossed out items by day's end. The Universe laughs. I should listen.

I made a "to do" list last night, and in general had a decent idea of how this week would shape up for obligations, and any "spare" time. Mr. Happy Vegan stumbled upon my "to do" list after I had written it, and he thought it was, um, shall I say, ambitious? Yes, that is the word I'll choose. I thought he was being pessimistic on me. I was convinced not only would I do everything on that list, but I would have time for a run AND a workout. Stop right there.

I'm coming up on 9pm. I have 2 racks of cookies cooling on racks, 2 trays of Valentines' treats chilling in the fridge, 4 boxes of sweets to wrap and give tomorrow, and I still have not even begun to vacuum and wash the kitchen floor. Not to mention my regular breakfast prep that is not even started, and a few other choice necessities not taken care of. Eating? Forget about it. About 5 minutes ago I scarfed down a Happy Buddha frittata, I couldn't muster the energy to make a salad and sit at the dining room table.

Most of my days are NOT like this. They are busy, even over-scheduled, but they are not like this. Holidays throw me off, they always do. It has to do with my inability to gauge just exactly how long something will take, because in my imaginary world, things get done properly the first time... which is always what I call the fatal flaw in the story.

I really like watching food shows like Challenge, Cupcake Wars, etc. If you wonder why I enjoy these shows so much, its because I love watching others make mistakes in the kitchen. It validates my own kitchen issues. Take cookies, for example. I have tried & true recipes. Made most of them dozens of times, some of the literally hundreds of times, maybe thousands (for 1 particular recipe that is no exaggeration). Now, I was making cookies today for a delivery scheduled for tomorrow in Key West. Somehow, something went wrong on one of the double batches. This is why at 9pm I have racks of cookies cooling on my counter, instead of being wrapped, labeled and boxed for delivery. Last night on a food show, I watched a baker make a recipe she has made probably hundreds of times. After she had the product baking in the oven, her assistant realized they left an ingredient out. I understood, understood completely. And, tonight as I realized the mistake in my recipe (picking up 1 box that looks similar to another box of a different ingredient), I thought of the baker on television last night.

Yesterday morning as guests were just sitting down to breakfast, I picked up the OJ container that Mr. Happy Vegan had taken out of the fridge at my direction, gonna make smoothies for guests. I picked up that carton and shook it with all my might. Did I mention that Mr. Happy Vegan did me a "favor" and removed the cap without my asking, or telling me. Orange juice flew in slow motion out that spout. I watched it defy gravity, and time stood still. Then, there was juice everywhere; on the cabinets above the counter, and below the counter. OJ dripping down into my utensil drawers, pooling on my feet, and across the floor. There were expletives, I admit it, something I never do while cooking & baking. You may think its silly, but I think its very important to be in a pretty good mood while in the kitchen, lest any negative energy flow into the food. Couldn't help it with the juice, something as benign as that added about 30 minutes of extra chores to my day. Stuff like that, its what I really should put on my "to do" list. Yes, for every "to do" on the list, there should definitely be at least one "un do" related to each said particular chore. Perhaps that's the secret.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

She's Pinkalicious

The earliest photos of me as a baby include stuffed bunnies, teddy bears, and cats. As I've written before, dad loved dogs, mom loved cats. My upbringing absolutely nurtured a love of companion animals. Growing up with animals, real & fake, I've learned many important things from them. I have a cat in my life now that is complicated, and I just cannot figure her out. Here she is, her name is Pink Moon. Isn't she beautiful?

She was a rescue. Like most rescue animals, you don't find them, they find you. Here at Deer Run, we had gone through a profound period of loss, including my dad, one of my closest friends, and 3 of our animal companions all within just a few months. It was an excruciating time in my life. One day after all that loss, Mr. Happy Vegan came home with an animal carrier, and silently put it down on the floor in our living room. I was certain it was a bad joke. I peeked inside, but saw no one. I told him he wasn't serious, and he said look again. So I did. Cowering way in the back of that carrier was a Very. Small. Animal.

That very small animal was terrified. I wasn't sure why she was so scared, pick a reason I suppose. Was it because she was a throwaway at a local shelter? Had she suffered abuse no one would ever know about? Was she frightened because of all the noise at the shelter? Scared of the big carrier, the big person who put her in there, the big car, or the big house? Who knew, certainly not me. We took the carrier into the bed room, shut the door, and opened the crate. Eventually she came out, and ran under the bed. I did not see her again for several days. This very small animal didn't want anything to do with anything in her new home. She had an amazing talent of being able to slip through my hands. For her first vet appointment, I literally moved everything in the entire bedroom in an attempt to get her into a carrier. Mattress, box spring, bed frame, dressers, night tables, laundry baskets. Blocked off the closet, the bathroom, and the exit door. Didn't matter. She was so quick, I had to cancel the appointment and reschedule, for over 1 hour I tried to coax her any way I could, it was impossible.

This little slip of a cat was, and still is, an absolute thief. It sounds so cliche', but she stole our hearts. It took a while to name her, but eventually she told us what to call her. We went with it, agreeing with her that this is an optimistic moniker, and represents hope, even through hard times.

She was born anxious, and to this day remains full of anxiety. The slightest noise or misstep causes her to seek refuge under the bed for hours. But... when she is relaxed and content she becomes one of the most docile and loving souls I have ever known.

Pink Moon was exceptionally small when brought home, and she has stayed small. She never got really long, tall or heavy like most others here do. She's tiny for an adult. She has this "thing" she does every morning. She waits for my eyes to first open, then begins her "dance." She starts to swirl, twirl and tumble all over me. She beings to rumble like a Detroit Diesel, and then, only then, she begins to drool. Oh, geez, you think that is so nasty don't you? Actually, so do I. But, this tiny 6 pound cat has the sweetest face, I forgive anything and everything the moment she sets her eyes upon me.

She frequently looks foolish, as we have one of our other cats (I will write about her soon) who "mothers" her. This other cat wants to be a good mommy, but she overdoes things in that she chews off all Pink Moon's whiskers. Pink Moon is a tortoise shell kitty, with very long white whiskers, given the opportunity to have them grow. But, her pseudo-mommy doesn't like her having long whiskers. Once they get to a certain point, she will over-groom her and remove them. Usually it takes about 2 days for the whiskers to be fully removed, and for the interim, she really looks hilarious, half whiskered, half not. Then, she will stare at me with her anxiety filled eyes, wondering why am I laughing, and I have to explain its only because she's so beautiful.

Pink Moon enjoys constants. She abhors change, be it new food, new people, new toys (she still plays with her purple fuzzy from baby days) or new animals. She will not gaze outside the window, rather she is content to be on a cushion, a pillow, a blanket, or a throw rug. Anything soft is her home.

Of course, Pink has a song. You might think you know what it is, but is not what you think. Nope, her song is "Super Freak" by Rick James. Goes like this "She's a very pinky girl, a pinkalicious little girl..." You get the drift. I hope Pink loves her "Super Pink" song, but I cannot be sure. I'm tone deaf and will never sing in public anything more than a round of Happy Birthday. But, whether she likes it or not, she tolerates it for sure, and when she does she stares, then blinks very slowly at me.

I think it is true that animals tend to pick one person in the house and be closer to them than any other. Pink has chosen me, much to the dismay of Mr. Happy Vegan. Don't get me wrong, Pink LOVES him, loves him a lot. But, her anxieties come out much faster with him, and she is slower to respond to him. Is it possible that terrible things happened that we will never know about, and it was a male offender that has burned an indelible memory upon her? We do not know. What we do know is that we have all the time she needs, all the patience it takes, and all the love there is, to nurture this tiny thief of hearts any way she wants. She is the princess, she is in charge, and we are merely vessels to bring whatever it is she needs or wants.

Now you know a little something something about our little pink, pink, pink, pink... Pink Moon.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Beet Goes on, but I Fail Movie Trivia

You guys take your blog reading seriously, and you also know your movie trivia. Yes, its been pointed out (several times in the last couple hours) the movie with the armadillo cake was Steel Magnolias, not Terms of Endearment. Well, in my defense, wasn't Shirley MacLaine in both? And, even better for me, although that movie was in the 1980s too, it wasn't the early 80s after all. I confessed I didn't remember much about the movie. I wasn't kidding, now you've got the proof.

I'm feeling much better about it all, thank you very much.

Red Velvet Compost

We've been extra busy here, sorry for a slight lapse in posting. I have a very important post I will do post-haste, but Mr. Happy Vegan has a photo which must go with it, so it will wait another day or two.

This post started out titled quite differently, and with a rush of optimism. By the time I finished writing it, my experiment had gone from glory to epic failure. I'm taking this opportunity to edit the post as written, and just post it as is, warts and all (I hate that saying!)

Yesterday we went to Key West. I had a delivery to make, supplies to buy, and heck as long as we were there, we had a quick bite to eat. Our day trip took us to Help Yourself, a small organic restaurant on Fleming, which we are fans of. We happened to hit it just right, every Monday they have a farmer's market on site from 11a-5p. I never get down there on Mondays, but the stars aligned, and there we were. Now, you farm country folks would not consider a farm market that which we consider here in the Keys, which is a pity. There's a bit of snobbishness from farm market shoppers, meaning most are accustomed to huge areas with many actual farmers on site, selling gigantic volumes of corn from the back of a pickup, tomatoes by the bushel, homemade breads & jams, or whatever. But, you know what? They had local grown produce, albeit not by the pickup load, homemade jams, ketchups, jellies, baked goods, and even a nice guy with a machete on site to whack open a coconut so you could get fresh coconut water right out of the coconut! Betcha you don't have that at your farmer's market. I left with homemade papaya fruit ketchup, homemade spicy starfruit relish, garden grown tomatoes, local starfruit, and drum roll....US grown organic beets. I almost fell over when I saw them, and here's a picture of them here in their new home, my kitchen. Edit: No, I refuse to publish a photo of the beets. They've disgraced my kitchen. This is where the photo would've been. Too bad for the beets.

So, what's the big damn deal about beets? Look at your calendar boys & girls... its almost Valentine's Day. Don't curl your toes up and get your panties in a bunch, I'm gonna be ready for it (edit... yeah, sure, right!) if you're not, that's YOUR problem. My organic beets are going to be made into the best red velvet brownies on the planet (edit... ahahahahahahah, no they're not!). I've been obsessed with red velvet cake, cupcakes & brownies since I saw Terms of Endearment (in an actual movie theatre, um, when was that... last year? certainly it wasn't 1983!) Anyone else remember the armadillo groom's cake? Well, that's basically all I remember from that movie. Cake. Of the red velvet variety. I'd never even heard of red velvet cake before then. It made a lasting impression, here I am more than 25 years later still stalking red velvet baked goods. (Wait, you're NOT laughing at me, are you?! All because I learn important stuff through movies? Stuff about cake, and other subjects? Yeah, well, I'm not too embarrassed to admit it, even if you are. I also learned that there were pans under refrigerators "back in the day" that you had to pull out and clean, from another movie. That pan information was quite relevant at the time for a certain then-apartment-dwelling, but future Florida Keys Happy Vegan).

Being vegan, red velvet is not something that's what I would say is "common." Most red velvet cakes are made with food coloring, and what is conventional food coloring typically made with... beetles. Yuck! Over the last couple years, there's been an explosion of cupcakeries, so I'm always checking out the red velvets. Of all the places I've been, only 1 ever offered a red velvet, which was vegan. I devoured it, wow, was it good. And, you know what else? It was NOT stoplight red, like the armadillo cake in the movie. Rather it was a mellow reddish brown, kind of like the Hawaiian islands famous red dirt.

Being that I don't get organic beets very often, I couldn't help but grab enough to make red velvet brownies for guests. Admittedly, I've never made them before (edit... this is the fatal flaw). So, why am I certain my brownies will be the best ever? Because 1) they're cruelty free 2) they're organic AND fair trade and 3) I will make them with tender loving care, how can they NOT be the best ever? (edit... 1) I'm delusional 2) I'm delusional and 3) I'm delusional).

I'm practicing a small batch today, just "to be sure" they won't need any additional adjustments (edit.... adjustments? how about an extra step at the end that says "walk to compost bucket") I've poured over about a dozen recipes, including my own basic brownie recipe, to figure what's what to red velvetize a brownie. I think I've got it down, so I've taken the plunge, the beets are steaming as I type, then off to puree them, and mix up the batter. (edit..... I did all that, including the walk of shame to the compost barrel).

So sad, you didn't book your Valentine's Day here at Deer Run. For the lucky ones who are booked in, red velvets all around (edit.... eeks, pressure! Maybe back to red velvet cupcakes after all!). Heck, I might even save one for my own valentine (edit.... he sure hopes not!)

Edit.... Back to the red velvet drawing board.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Can't a Girl Eat in Peace?

Food. Life here revolves around it, its part of the business. Being vegan even more so. Yeah, I got the snarky question again very recently "so if you don't eat meat, what DO you eat?" I wanted to reply with something just as snarky, but I didn't. Instead, I took the opportunity to try and educate the seeker. Stupid me. They weren't interested in hearing anything I had to say. No, they were interested in the sound of their own voice... and their own eye-rolling histrionics.

No newsflash, vegans do not eat flesh, or by-products from animals. Yet, anyone reading this already knows that. Vegetarianism has gone much more mainstream than days past, and most people at least have heard the world "vegan." I am constantly astounded though by some people feeling so attacked because of something I adhere to. I'm not out there at steakhouses going "ewww, how can you EAT that?!" or dissecting the food on someone else's plate, why do some people think this is so very ok for them to do to me?

What do I eat? Everything that is NOT animal flesh or by-products. "How much time do you have to listen to my list?" is what I should've said to the hater who bashed my lifestyle. In the last 2 weeks, I've had more smoothies than I could probably count, amazing stuffed squash, hummus plates, vegetable timbales, chocolate, scones, frittatas, seitan peppersteak (courtesy of The Cafe in Key West), too many fresh vegetable juices (thanks Champion!!) to count, hot cereal, cold cereal, fruits, grain salads, vegetables, kale, kale and more kale, plus a host of other things. Someone who is several years my junior, carrying 50 extra (or more) pounds on their frame, is not in a position to come up to me in a public place and disrespect me about my food choices, especially considering I was minding my own business not bothering anyone.

I've said it before, and it bears repeating, being vegan is a lightning rod issue I believe mostly because everyone knows there's problems with conventional eating. We know this, its not a mystery, the information is in mainstream media. We've all seen or heard something about the horrors of agri-business, be it cruelty, filth, disease, or whatever. I was brought up as a conventional eater. Its what I was taught. I didn't know any better. But, once information was forthcoming, I began making changes. What can I say... there's always gonna be "haters" out there. I guess I picked the wrong day to go out to eat, someone had a problem with something, and took it out on me.

After I finish this post, I'm going to enjoy this 80 degree day, do my 5K and then give thanks for all the good (including the good people) in the world. After that, I'm going out to eat with friends tonight. In a public place. I'm pretty sure if needed they will form a wall around me to protect me from any ignoramus who may stumble my way. I hope.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sunshine Superman

February 3rd? How can it be? I'm here in the Florida Keys, doing my vegan-y thing while the temps are over 80 degrees another day. Its summertime baby. Sunshine. Music. Frosty cold beverages. Lounging in hammocks. Picnics. Friends. Sand. Palm trees, palm trees, palm trees.

The title of today's post refers to one of the most summery songs ever. Psychedelic pop from the 60s, summer music from a time long gone. The memory remains though. And, looking out my window today, its more than memories... summer is HERE. Now!!!

I'm giddy. I can no longer contain my enthusiasm at all. You HAVE to come down to the Keys!! What the heck are you waiting for? Why waste another moment socked in the snowbanks. As soon as the airports re-open, you MUST come here. There's lots of places to stay (including my favorite, Deer Run), wonderful people to meet, the most amazing turquoise water to swim in, and a sky so blue it hurts.

I'm here in shorts, flip flops and a tank top. Making vegan cupcakes, then going for a run. The heat index will be in the high 80s by the time I get out there. The last 2 days of running I actually received a sunburn. SUNBURN KIDDIES! Not frostbite. Nope, rather is a bona fide sunburn.

I'm not trying to make you feel bad, I promise you. Its just that I feel so good, I wish everyone could feel the same way. Feed your soul. Carpe Diem. You won't be sorry!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Can You Dig It?

Whoomp there it is!

February 1st is the "it" I mean.

Today is called Imbolc by pagans. I like the reference, it's basically a celebration half way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. Half way to spring. Ahh....

But, we're not quite there yet, are we? No.

My heart does go out to everyone who is bracing for yet another severe winter storm. I suppose you don't need my sympathy if you're one who relishes the snow and cold. If that's you, my empathy is not sent out in your direction. Rather, I'm feeling for those souls stuck in the cold, wishing they were in the warm. I hear ya. Believe me.

It seems almost impossible, but it was pushing 80 here today. The sky was so blue, I actually photographed it with my cell phone while I was running. Being that its allegedly winter, I went out there without sunscreen. Bad move. I came home from my on-street workout with a sunburn. My runner's tan has been fading, but in one fell swoop, poof its back. Bliss.

Tomorrow our forecast is amazing, gonna push past 80. I have 3 workouts planned tomorrow, 2 of them outside. I'm so looking forward to it. I admit I slack when the temps cool off, its just too much when north winds blow off the Bight, and I'm getting smacked here and there by our "when good winters go bad" Keys-style. Oh, this is especially hilarious when I consider my past life up north. I was a Spin instructor. I distinctly remember one February morning in particular, having a 6am class to teach. Oh yeah, talk about misery. The alarm went off at 5am. I dressed for the gym then dragged myself down 3 flights of stairs in utter darkness to my frozen over car jammed in a snowbank. When I turned the key, my car informed me the outside temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit. I can close my eyes and still see that scene...the green glow of the dash reading that oh-so-wrong number 7.

So, try as I may, its very difficult to control my glee about our particularly warm, sunny patch of weather here in the beautiful Florida Keys. Yup, I'm giddy alright, and I'm taking it for all its worth as long as it lasts. Whoomp, there it is. Oh yeah.