Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Water Water Everywhere

Irene is gone, her legacy is still being carved.

I didn't understand until today the amount of devastation that hit from North Carolina all the way to Vermont and beyond.  I am only now just beginning to understand.

I don't think media is really putting it out there how much damage was done from this flooding. I got a call from a friend in North Jersey today who really broke it down for me, admittedly I was shocked.  So much so that I spent some time today reviewing videos people have posted on the internet.

I lived most of my life in areas that are presently suffering from massive floods. One town in particular where I lived has suffered over and over and over; and will continue to suffer more floods in the future. The town is in place it doesn't belong.  Its surrounded by water, and has a tendency to flood. Not those once every 100 year events, but major flooding what now seems like at least every 5 years.  To see pictures of the same homes, businesses and streets under water is heartbreaking.

People like me live in places like that because its where we were born, and don't know any different.  Many of us wonder "where would I go anyway" so some of us stay. I'm not sure what possessed me to stay so long once I was old enough to make my own decisions.  I did love having drastic extremes in nature; mountains 1 hour this way, shore a quick drive that way. City just over there, park right next door.  Was that why?  I even bought a home way too close to a major a river.  I had water in the basement a couple times, nothing major. I am sadly convinced this time around my beloved ex-home is full of water. I also had a business on a street near another river. I know that property is swamped today.

Right now I live in a structure less than 50 yards from the Atlantic ocean.  Talk about crazy, right?  Yet, oddly, here I am in one of the highest risk areas (according to insurance companies) for destruction from hurricanes, and today I am among the most fortunate around.  Sitting in sunshine, gentle breezes, and watching birds soar above. Such a stark contrast to the roads caving in, dams breaking, homes and businesses being swamped, and people without water, power or other services.  Or, worse, people who have paid the ultimate price.

We'll be making a donation to the Red Cross, designating it for these new flood victims.  It seems like so little, but right now its all I can do. My heart is heavy with sadness for the towns all up and down where Irene visited and left her mark.

One day, may the good people who live in these areas which suffer again and again and again, somehow find a way to rebuild their lives, hopefully in an area that was planned better than that which is there now. It was only a roll of the dice that this time around it wasn't me. I'm not taking anything for granted, and to all the victims, my thoughts are with you.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


The one and only nest on our beach so far this year hatched last night. There's 97 new hatchlings in the world today that weren't here this time yesterday.

Mr. Happy Vegan was on patrol this morning, and noted what appeared to be 2 dig holes at the site of the nest.  This is a sign of predation.  He thoroughly searched the area for remains of hatchlings, and any other evidence of predation.  There was none.

He made calls to all the surveyors, and decided to excavate the nest this evening due to the risk of predation.  Upon arrival while waiting for other surveyors, I began a beach clean.  This is the frustrating part of our turtle walks.  We usually feel more like glorified (barely) trash cleaners than turtle nest surveyors, especially on a year like this when there's been so little nesting activity on our assigned beach.  But, its necessary if you want to be a good steward for the planet.

In 20 minutes I collected roughly 80 pounds of trash, most of it fishing debris like rope from lobster traps/buoys, bait boxes, tarps, and light sticks.  Just add this as another reason to go vegan if you ask me.

When the other surveyors arrived, Mr. Happy Vegan began the excavation.  First, he measured the depth of the holes which were dug from most likely raccoons.  Then he had to decide where to begin to dig, its not an exact science locating the nest... I think it comes with experience being able to target the site. He's very good at that, and was spot on once again.  He began ever so gently sweeping away small handfuls of sand.  You must be patient doing this work, you cannot just dig in deep or rough. There are so many times exhausted hatchlings are stuck inside, and they need gentle care.

Within a few minutes, Mr.Happy Vegan discovered a hatching who was trapped under a plastic lid that was buried under the sand.  Another example of why its so important to collect trash when we see it.  The hatching was very weak, and his teeny shell was slightly concave due to pressing against the lid, trying to get to the surface. While the excavation continued, I took the bucket we had on site in case of a discovery just like this, and we collected a bit of sand from around the nest site, put just a splash of sea water on top, and gently lowered the hatchling inside. The bucket was covered with a towel and the excavation continued.

By the end of the event, 3 more exhausted hatchlings were rescued. 93 turtles had hatched and were gone. We hope that all 93 made it to sea, there really is no way of knowing if any were taken by the suspected predators.

Out of this nest, a total of live 97 loggerhead hatchlings emerged.  4 were transported to the Turtle Hospital for evaluation. We are hopeful they will survive and be released quickly.

The turtle hatchlings are the reward for all the other work done.

Trash is collected, sorted, recycled or disposed of more responsibly. Training is taken, and a commitment of time is made by any volunteers. Paperwork is required, and reports must be filled out. Sometimes the turtle walks are done in the rain, sometimes its blistering heat & humidity even in early morning; other times its a battle against gnats & mosquitoes.  Of course, the walks are always done early, sometimes as the sun is just rising. While others are sleeping or waking to the taste of a first cup of coffee, turtle walkers are out in force all over the world, including the Florida Keys, every day during nesting season.  All so that we can have some small part in helping these threatened and endangered species survive.

Hope is not lost, it can never be.

There are 97 more loggerheads in the world tonight that weren't here last night.  Let's take this small victory, its the only one we've got so far this year.

Tomorrow more turtle walks will occur. More trash collected. More rope, monofiliment line, and other extreme hazards will be collected. That will be more likely the order of the day instead of another nest, but we still have hope. If we didn't, we wouldn't be out there searching for nests.  Its not easy, but tonight the rewards spilled forth in a priceless way.  Priceless indeed.

Welcome to the world little loggerheads.  Swim free, swim deep and swim fast. But, no matter how you swim, just keep as far away from humans as possible.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Holding Our Breath

We're holding our breath. Everyone down here is.  It's all about the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast right now.  Irene is making her way up, heading for the Carolinas, then through the mid-Atlantic, and likely through the Jersey shore.  Who knows where after that.

So many of us down here have connections to the threatened areas.  I like to say "great minds think alike" when it comes to appreciation of wonderful things.  Things like the sea, coastal living, and beaches.  Many of us from down here used to live coastal where Irene is heading.  So we still have family and friends up there.  Here at Deer Run we meet thousands of people every year from all over, but of course  many are from our old coastal stomping grounds.

What possesses us to build homes and businesses at the edge of the sea?  Love is the only answer I can come up with... crazy stupid love. Love of that same sea that so often wants to chew us up and spit us out.

We're worried for almost everyone and everything in the path of Irene.  We wish there were stricter construction codes and less complacency when it comes to these things.  The shoe is on the other foot right now, instead of our phones and emails going mad, we're the ones desperately seeking information on far away areas. Instead of being riveted to our own barometer, we're scrambling for updates on NOAA and TWC.  Trying not to watch too much mainstream television as the only purpose they serve is to induce panic. The talking heads on the news are bad... makes you think Apocalypse now, yikes.

So, here we are somewhere about one thousand miles away from Irene, yet its all we are thinking about, all we are talking about. Our hearts and thoughts are with everyone in Irene's path, all we can do is hold our breath and hope she zigs, instead of zags.

We're with you in spirit.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dodged a Few Bullets

We've been following Hurricane Irene since her formation.  We watch the tropical updates daily. I know more than I wish I needed to about convection, warm water fuel, and tropical waves.  So, Irene was born, and we watched. And waited. Mercifully, the Keys are out of her path.  Worrisome, however, is the path she's presently on puts many friends and loved ones in her path.

So the waiting and watching continues.

Over the weekend, preparations were made around the inn.  All the trees were well trimmed, and all the coconuts taken down (seriously, coconuts are like cannonballs in the wind, never realized that until I moved here).  I didn't have to really get into the nitty gritty of interior preparations, thank goodness, for when I do, its massive. All exterior clutter is taken down and stowed.  Everything on all the porches is taken in and stowed. Shutters come down. Food and water is stockpiled.  Crates and cages are readied for the animals.

I am picturing all that work going on all along the coast north of here.

Thing is, many places in the path are not ready. The construction codes are so poor, there is no chance if there is a direct hit from a major hurricane.  I'm not attacking residents who live there for that, its simply a fact of life.  I know this because I used to live in one of those areas. When we lived someplace else, Mr. Happy Vegan did a major reno on a house we lived in. It was coastal.  On the water, thisclose to a bay.  As he began pouring money and effort into the house with things like special roof strapping, category 5 metal roofing and so forth, people were like "why?"  And we both were shocked that question would even be asked.

Its not like that here.  There's strict construction codes, most of it came after Hurricane Andrew which I think was in 1990.  A direct hit on the mainland by a Category 5 hurricane.  It was a disaster.  So, better codes came out of that, at least for South Florida.

The rest of the country is on its own learning curve.

We've been enjoying some beautiful weather this week.  Hot, breezy, sudden bursts of thunderstorms providing incredible lightning.  Other places still suffer from the threat of a hurricane, continued flooding, continued crippling drought, massive tornado recovery and even a small earthquake (!!) on the East Coast.  Yikes.

I'm never one to be complacent, no, we are as prepared as we can be for a predictable disaster.  Yet, I do find it ironic that I'm living in one of the "highest risk" areas for bad weather right now, and still enjoying essentially tranquil beauty.

I'll take it as long as I can get it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

There Was A Road Trip

There was a road trip. I was not involved. The other happy vegan here, and one of his chips off the old block, went north with a pickup truck, big empty trailer, vegan snacks, and energy waters.  They had a mission, but I was the ultimate benefactor. I shall explain.

I mentioned in a prior post or two that Mr. Happy Vegan's first born and his fiance' are moving here.  For keeps!  So, we're all happy about this, but we know what it means.... the dreaded "loading of the stuff."  It ain't pretty, never is.

Many moons ago, I moved 4 times in one year.  The first move I was like "oh, this used paper plate has sentimental value."  By the time the 4th move rolled around, I was pitching and giving away a huge amount of stuff. The thought of packing, moving, and unpacking any extra stuff was more than my fried brain could handle at that point.  However, these kids, well I'd have to say this is their first really big move.  And,  yes, its big indeed.

There was a lot of stuff.

The boys headed up north, leaving the womenfolk to fend for ourselves on the island.  They drove through many states, day & night, rain & sun, food and no food. The "loading of the stuff" was accomplished, and from description I can only picture a scene from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life."  You know, the one, right?  We ALL know the scene.... huge guy at the restaurant, although sickeningly full, is convinced to eat  "just one more mint."  What happened next was hilariously sick & funny.  Gotta love it.

The truck and trailer were quite like that.  The "just one mint" comes in with my request.

Jersey corn.  I wanted it bad. I figure if I'm left behind to hold the fort down, the least that can come out of it is a teeny request for corn, right?

Not only did corn show up in the middle of the night last night, but so did a few stray Jersey tomatoes. Oh, yes, the boys showed up too.  Safe and sound.

After the other happy vegan already put in what amounts to a full day of work, he is presently napping.  I am under strict instructions for a 3pm wake up call so he can work some more.  I've gotten just a few bits & piece stories about the road trip, but I do know there were a few tire blowouts on the trailer due to weight.

You don't suppose it was the minty corn, do you?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ack, Too Much Stuff

Ha ha, poor Mr. Happy Vegan.  He has to live with the aftermath of me when I watch too many episodes of "Hoarders."  Its true, that show is my new guilty pleasure. Not that I take pleasure in the misery of other people, not at all. Instead, what I mean is television in general (often referred to as "the idiot box") can be an overall waste of time. So, watching television is in itself, a guilty pleasure for me.

So, I'm watching too many episodes of Hoarders. What this translates to is "ack, too much stuff!"  So, I spent many hours yesterday working on a large closet full of supplies, pulling out that which is unnecessary, and re-organizing that which is needed. I have several piles in my living/dining room right now destined for various local charities. Mr. Happy Vegan returned home yesterday in the middle of my "too much stuff" freak out and began surveying the lay of the land. "Why are you getting rid of this?" "We should keep this" "I can use this" were words I just didn't want to hear as he pulled thing after thing out of my piles. The poor guy, I put up with it as long as I could, but finally the freak out escalated even more and my "TOO MUCH STUFF"  tirade was more than even he would bear.  He backed off pretty quickly.

So, I'm on another tear through this place. Nothing is sacred, no space shall be overlooked. I'm really working the "ack too much stuff" angle pretty hard. Any time I feel the urge to keep something, I can pretty much be assured another episode of "Hoarders" will be running, and I'll tune in to keep my momentum going, then get right back to the work.

Its not easy living right where you work, organization skills must be sharp.  I'm organized, I have a system for everything.  But YOU try living and working in a small space with your partner... he who tends to keep more stuff than even me (he'll deny it, oh how he'll deny it!)  If anyone ever  told me I'd be paring down my possessions to what they actually are now, and then get rid of even more, I would have said "no way!"  But, here I am. Letting it go. Happy to push it out the door. I actually have EMPTY cabinets in my office right now.  Completely empty. I open them periodically just to bear witness to the fruits of my labor. THEY'RE EMPTY, YIPPEE!!

If you don't hear from me for another day or two, you can trust that I'm buried elbow deep in another closet, filling box after box with stuff to go from this place to another place.  Mr. Happy Vegan is keeping a very low profile right now, I'm telling ya, he's pretty sure he's going to be packed and loaded into a trailer next.  He doesn't really  need to worry too much.  As long as he keeps his mitts off my "to go" pile, he is safe.  If not, I am not responsible for what might happen next.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Quick Catch Up

My bad, I've been busy.  This little flip of a dog named Rio occupies much of my time.  She's irresistible.  You'd feel the same way.  This is our last night with Rio, her parents return tomorrow.  She will have to go home. I'm going to miss her immensely, this little dust mop running all over my house.

Over the last week there's been a lot of action in the area. Diana Nyad tried, but couldn't complete her long distance swim.  She suffered from asthma and shoulder pain, which coupled with rising seas, made it too much to bear for her. She swam for something like 29 hours before being pulled out of the water on her own decision.  We still say kudos to you Diana.  You've done well, and you've got our respect in a big way.

The turtle that was shot with the spear through her skull is continuing to improve. The reward is pushing $13,000 now, plus other donations of in kind services.  She's been named Sarah, and you can read about her and the updates at

We have had no more turtle nesting action on our beach.  We are disheartened, but not hopeless.  There are still a few more months that turtles are nesting in our area, and we're simply hoping for a busy second half to the nesting season.  Guests continue to sight turtles while snorkeling, diving and swimming.  They're there... they're just not HERE.

We have a full moon tonight, and I was out there playing with my rocks & crystals in the sand.  Some people I love need help.  I've asked the Universe to step up and do its thing. I don't ask for miracles very often, but I'm rooting for one now.  A few candles, incense and crystals never hurt in the equation.

I gave a helping hand to another friend who is moving.  This friend has suffered tragic loss within her family, and is leaving the Keys for a while to be with a family member on the mainland of Florida. No one knows what the future holds, but she's hoping to be back home in her beloved Florida Keys maybe in a year. We'll all be waiting for her, and until then, we'll all be holding good thoughts for her and her nephew. Its good to have family when needed.

Speaking of family....Mr. Happy Vegan's first born and his fiance' are relocating from there to here.  They're on the road tonight, dogs and all.  They should be arriving sometime tomorrow night, and they'll be settling into their home and jobs. Its a big transition. Been there, done that.  But, I'm very confident they're going to love living here in the Keys, and both Mr. Happy Vegan and I are delighted. For the next couple weeks, I'm pretty sure chaos will be the order of the day until all is tucked in as it should be. Thankfully they've got youthful energy on their side along with palm trees and sunshine to help too.  All that, and a whole lot of vegan muffins & cookies being tossed their way.

Its really going to be nice having some family close by.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Her Name is Rio

Meet Rio!

Has she stolen your heart yet too?  She's got mine, boy has she ever.

Friends are on a mini-trip visiting family.  One thing lead to another, and we volunteered to care for her while they are away.  Rio is teeny tiny, 3.6 pounds at last weigh in.  Actually, she looks like a puny dust mop to me, and I'm constantly looking down as I walk to make sure she's not an accidental football.  So far, so good.

Its been years since I've been around a dog on a regular basis.  When we moved here, in my plans was the adoption/rescue of a greyhound or two.  The flaw in that sentence is "my plans."  Its not feasible to me or any dog to adopt while running this business, I realized that when I got into the nitty gritty of daily life here.  Too much of my time is eaten up, there's just not enough time for a greyhound, or any dog for that matter. Rio is another story though. She's tiny, and I can handle her.

She's quiet.  She doesn't bark much. She probably hadn't even found her voice until she met my cats. Aggie and Luciana skulked off under furniture, and Rio just wanted to say hi and "let's be friends."  The kitties wanted none of that, so Rio decided to tell them in woof-speak "please, let's be friends."  Otherwise, she hasn't spoken much.  My cats look like giants compared to her, its funny to see them so confused by such a very small animal.

Rio is happiest when she is with someone.  She gets lonely quickly, and tends to mope a bit when she thinks she's alone.  Her happiest moments are in the morning when we get up and she sees us for the first time of the day.  She wiggles so much its hard to even pick her up; the whole back half of her body is wagging, not just her tail.

Rio is a fan of dancing, and that takes up a lot of our together time (she's a fan of VanHalen too!)   She tires out quickly because she's so small.

Rio is a sweet girl.  My house is turned upside down with fun things for her, her little pink bed, her pee pads (she still learning that.... I'd say she's running about 50/50 on percentages during her time here so far), and so forth.  I looked at my living room and decided this is much like having a new baby in the house. Play pen in the living room, toys scattered about, special food in the house, and neither of us wanting to leave for too long because we'll just miss her too much.  Its bliss.

Rio is only here at doggy B&B for a few days.  I'm going to miss her bunches when I have to relinquish her back to her parents.  Until then, I'm getting in as many dances as possible, along with as many puppy kisses as I can.  I completely forgot the joys a dog brings into life.  Woof.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Another Clutter Bust

Just when I think there couldn't be more clutter to bust, I am proven wrong. I've  been working in my office for several hours today. Organizing things. It started out as a small project, but now as I look around, I've got boxes everywhere, step ladders out (2 to be exact), closed shelving open, open shelving closed, boxes to donate to charity, and on and on and on. Ugh.

I had to take a break; I was done in by photos.  It happens to the best of us, the mountains of photos.  I haven't gone through them in years, in fact I probably really haven't snuck a peek at most of these boxes since I moved here and plopped them down on shelves.  But, going through everything today I had to open the photo boxes, look inside, see what's there. What did I find?

I found that the 80s were amazing for huge hair and fluorescent clothing (although I still think I rocked both pretty well). I found that Mr. Happy Vegan had more hair than I ever remembered. I found that I too had more hair (albeit in terms of size), and also learned that Mr. Happy Vegan wishes I still wore my hair like that (look out gals of Jerseylicious). I found pictures of my entire family at birthdays, graduations, and just regular days. All of us.  Together. Its difficult to look and see. I cannot believe how young we all were, and how young they were when stolen off this Earth.

I found mementos of loves lost, and love found.  I cannot believe some of the things I've actually saved.

I found photos of all my beloved companion animals through the years from kittenhood to days before they left me.

Its all so overwhelming.

Time has gone by. It has gone by so quickly.

Time continues to go by. Its all happening too fast.

Surrounded by boxes, bags and drawers of stuff, I'm making my way through. Of course I'll never toss any photos that I have kept. I've done that before.  The answer to any bad breakup or editing of my life was to run photos AND negatives through shredders or better yet have a bonfire (yup, did that). I don't regret having gotten rid of those photos, but what it leaves me with are absolutely the cream of the crop, my treasures, the best of the best. My family, and my friends who are the equivalent of family.  As soon as I finish this post, I'm getting back to the sorting. I'm not organizing any photos, and I'll try really hard to stop looking at them.  Just put them in boxes, re-label them and move on to the next pile.

The clutter busting never ends it seems.  With each effort I make, my space is more open, and I feel lighter. This office was the last room that felt overwhelming.  After today, I don't think I'll be bothered with that feeling, not at all. Its all going, and what's left will be boxed, labeled, filed and organized.  At least, that's the plan.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Swim Diana, Swim!

I'm snug as a bug in my home right now while rains are pelting my island.  Not just my island, but much of South Florida.  Seems that Emily, although now just a rain event, is all over our area.

As I write, my thoughts are with a lone swimmer out in the  Florida Straits by the name of Diana Nyad.  Remember her?  She's an endurance swimmer.  I remember her from when I was a child. Back in the 1970s she attempted an open water swim from Cuba to Key West.  Back then, she swam for close to 50 hours in a shark cage, attempting the same thing.  She didn't make it, currents put her off course and she had to abandon the swim.

Diana is now 61 years old, making another attempt.  This time she's not in a shark cage, she in open water. For the record to be considered valid, she must complete the swim without a wet suit. Also, she is not allowed to touch the boats or crew that are around her for nutritional and medical needs.

Diana jumped into the sea off the coast of Havana before 8pm last night. I've been checking the internet through the day seeing how is she doing.  Updates say that she's swimming strongly, no mention has been made on anything I've read about the rains moving through impeding her progress.

I admire Diana Nyad. She's trained hard for this event. She's pushing boundaries of what's "expected" of people's capability at her age. She's a role model in my opinion.  If the currents happen to bring her landing to my beach, she will receive a heros welcome (and some darn tasty morsels).

We hope Diana completes her journey. Although she's out there as a lone swimmer, she has captured the hearts of MANY people, and  we're all rooting for her.  Go Diana, go!!!  Swim strong & conquer!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

In No Particular Order

The turtle with the spear intentionally shot through her skull is doing well. She has been named "Sarah." You can read about Sarah and her story at on their blog. A few more people have stepped up the reward money offered for capturing the abuser. Sarah is the talk of the town down here, none of us really can understand why would someone do such a horrible thing to such an innocent creature. She was found not far from where I am, just off Big Pine Key. I'm optimistic someone will come forward with information.

Things here are moving along ok. I didn't get out to run today. We keep getting these thunderstorms randomly rolling through the area, and its messing with my schedule. Tomorrow I'm running and biking, no matter the weather.

I thought about baking today, just for fun, but the force wasn't with me. I'm not sure what deflated my sails in that department because the day started off like gangbusters. After breakfast I made a pot of soup for a friend who wasn't feeling well yesterday (I made my "get well quick" miso soup with 'shrooms, chick peas, tofu, baby spinach and ginger). After making deliveries, I spent a fair amount of time surfing the net looking for some specific information I've been seeking for a while. I've put a few more feelers out there for what I'm looking for. Sometimes I wonder why are people so lazy. I've sent out email after email, asking for what I need, and I'm obviously willing to pay what it takes. No responses. Is the rest of the world that well off that they can just ignore paying requests for their services? Maybe so. I keep filing away in the back of my mind all the people who are ignoring me as I go through my efforts. Its not a good feeling to be ignored. Maybe someday I won't be so cryptic about what I'm going through right now, but for today, I must be. I will definitely remember anyone who has helped me, and gone out of their way for me. I will return the favor when needed. I will definitely remember those who have chosen to ignore my pleas. Such a pity.

Oh, the one really great new recipe I made this week was a vegan fruit filled pastry. I'm not a fan of cooked fruit, I say that all the time. But, I forged ahead with the recipe anyway, and I'm happy I did. I'm going to turn them into "minis" I think they'll be really cute and tasty. Mr. Happy Vegan says the pastry was a little too thin in some spots, so I'll make sure not to do that again. Otherwise, I don't listen too much to him with cooking issues. Tonight I planned on making another nice Italian dinner for us, complete with homemade sauce (ok, the tomatoes were organic from a can, but all the rest of the ingredients were fresh), vegan "meat" balls, fresh made salad dressing and so forth. You know what? It didn't happen. As I pulled my cookbook out (Veganomicom, thank you very much), he came in and said "you can't make sauce, I'm going to the store." After I nearly fainted from that remark, he then said "here's tomato paste, you can use this, I'll show you how to do it." I promptly closed my book, shut off the pots & pans, put the tomatoes in the fridge, and walked out of the kitchen to play with the cats. I invited him to make his own dinner, I would be having cereal. Sure, he said he was sorry, but I got annoyed anyway. He realized the error of his ways quickly, but once words are said, they just can't be taken back, can they? No, and that meant I was off the hook for dinner.

Everything turned out fabulous; I had peaches on my cereal.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Angels Among Us

Some days I have better stories to report than other days. Today was a rough day in the Keys animal kingdom. Here's what's up.

Early this morning we learned that a loggerhead turtle was brought to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon with a spear shot through its skull. We learned this when Mr. Happy Vegan happened to call the most amazing and wonderful vet, Dr. Doug Mader, of Marathon Animal Hospital just to ask a question. Dr. Doug, his wife, Dr. Gerri, and their staff donate their services to the Turtle Hospital (and many other wildlife rescue organizations) when needed. And believe me the need is frequent.

Anyway, Mr. Happy Vegan happened to call Dr. Doug this morning to ask him something. By simple good fortune, that call was placed in between Dr. Doug starting the turtle's surgery, and him rushing home to get additional tools because he at that point couldn't remove the spear. As he told the story of the turtle to Mr. Happy Vegan, of course the question comes "was this an intentional act" the answer came swift and without question... "absolutely."

So, all day I've been wondering about the turtle who some violent abuser had intentionally shot with a spear through its skull. As I was driving home from the gym, just minutes from home and being able to find out about the turtle, I saw "something" on the side of the road. "Something" sticking up on the grassy area past the deer fencing on Big Pine. I looked back in my rear view mirror and saw the "something" kind of move. All thoughts of the turtle went by the boards as I pulled over waiting for traffic both ways to clear. As soon as I could, I wheeled the car back around in the other direction, and pulled over near the "something." It was another cormorant, in almost the exact same location I rescued "Hope" not too long ago. This time I didn't have my magic purple hair on my side, all I had was a large towel.

I got out of the car with the big towel and began a very slow walk to the bird. Now a small string of traffic was coming up the other direction, lead by a large white van who was speeding. Speeding is common on Big Pine, I'm sorry to say. I'm constantly passed on the double yellow line, tailgated, and so forth as I obey the speed limits here, especially at night when it drops to 35 mph. I saw the bird panicking on the other side of the road, and she bolted right out in the path of the white speeding van. The guy had to be doing 50-55mph. I screamed, and cringed. I couldn't watch. He didn't slow down, he didn't swerve. Nothing. He didn't care. I waited for the thud. It didn't come. I looked over, and saw the bird made it to the other side, and was smashing himself against the deer fencing, trying to get through. This was a terrified animal. I ran to him, and threw the towel over him, as I did so he began screaming and tried to attack me. I knelt down to him and covered him well with the towel, hooding him completely. He calmed enough so that I could pick him up. I ran to the car, and off to Maya's I went. When I got there, a very quick assessment was done. He was bleeding, but didn't seem to have a broken wing (thankfully). His foot was probably broken though, and I don't know what else could be wrong. I spoke briefly with the angel who was going to help this bird, and left.

I cried the whole way home.

When I got home, Mr. Happy Vegan asked how was the bird. He knew what happened because I called from the car. After I got past my "I hate people who don't care" ranting, he told me the turtle survived! Dr. Doug has removed the spear! It didn't go through his brain, and he saved the eye that the spear almost destroyed. The turtle is resting in an antibiotic bath as I type this, and it is expected (listen closely) that this turtle will be a candidate for release in just 3 short weeks. From a spear in his head this morning to being released later this month. There is a reward up for information leading to the capture of the abuser who shot this turtle.

There are angels among us.

Through all this, I guess now is just a good a time as any to tell you... one of the 2 surviving stranded pilot whales was transferred very recently to Sea World where he will live out the rest of his life. In captivity. At Sea World. I understand the intentions were all good to save this pilot whale's life... it is a life worth living, a life that has value, this I believe. However, to think of that soul in a tank at a sea park is heartbreaking to me.

As for the other pilot whale, he's still critically ill, being worked on at the Marine Mammal Conservancy. People are trying to save him. I just wonder what will his life be like? Can he ever go free? These animals simply do not belong in captivity. Do a little reading on cetaceans and you will begin to see that these highly intelligent creatures do not belong as exhibits in parks on any level. Some reading this may not agree, but these are my feelings.

So, there it is for today. Angels are among us. If you want to donate to Maya at Wildlife Rescue, or The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, I've given you the links. They're the "real deal" of charities, and your donations are tax deductible for both of these organizations.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Labor of Love

I spent the majority of Monday in the kitchen. Baking. Lots of new recipes. I am pretty convinced that what goes on in my kitchen is not atypical of what goes on with other people's baking episodes. The baking marathon of new recipes of course means new ingredients, different ingredients. By the time I got my multiple new recipes on track yesterday I had ground flour, juiced vegetables for dye, toasted nuts, sliced, diced, measured and liquefied too many ingredients to count, all before I even thought about combining anything together in a recipe. My friend "K" was working here on Monday, not in the kitchen, but in the next room which opens to the kitchen. She saw most of the baking events unfold that day, and simply said "geez Jen, talk about a labor of love."

There are very few things that are simple when it comes to my kitchen and baking anymore. It is without a doubt as K said "a labor of love."

I watched a baking challenge show a few months back that pitted several cupcake bakers against one another through various taste and presentation challenges. One baker, however, was a vegan baker who baked "allergen-free." No soy, no wheat, no dairy. Probably no corn, and who knows what else was on the "no" list. She was competing against conventional bakers. The deck was clearly stacked against her. Other bakers simply had to measure flour and other "normal" ingredients and throw them in a mixer, while the specialty baker had to make many adjustments, as well as prep many other ingredients, to get the basic recipes comparable to conventional, and then move on to the other parts of the challenge. I identified with her through the show.

I would love an assistant. That, and a bigger kitchen. My kitchen is the same as any other mere mortals apartment. It is what's called a "galley" kitchen. After we moved here, the kitchen needed help immediately, it was unworkable. Adding to my frustration was the fact that the kitchen I had just left was my dream kitchen. Mr. Happy Vegan designed it according to my specifications. Fancy schmanch, dreamy stuff. Beautiful appliances, double wall ovens, granite and tiles of my dreams. Trying to work in the kitchen here when we arrived was just not feasible, burners didn't work, the dishwasher leaked, and lots of other not so fun stuff. As a mini-makeover began, I dreamed of double ovens, granite countertops, and fancy tile, but ended up with white countertops, one regular oven, and floor tile which began to crack within the 1st month it was placed down. My one extravagance was a warming drawer, which ended up to be among the best money spent in the kitchen, and really wasn't extravagant at all.

So, my little galley kitchen with the cracked tile floor and I were best buds for about 8 hours yesterday working on new recipes. Of them, 2 were "keepers" and will go in to rotation at a new enterprise I'm working on. I consider that not too bad at all, in fact I'm almost willing to call the day wildly successful. This despite the fact that one entire bowl of home ground organic flour had to be composted. When I ground the oat flour, I measured what I needed in one bowl, and poured the rest into an identical stainless bowl right next to it. I sifted and measured the ingredients for that 1 recipe, and didn't bother to move the bowl away with the extra random flour. Of course in a baking induced stupor when I poured the liquids in the dry, I poured them in the wrong bowl...the bowl with the extra random flour, managing to ruin all the extra flour, plus all the liquid ingredients (which happened to contain 1/4 cup fair trade organic vanilla extract... see what I mean? I'm a complete baking fool). Compost walk of shame.

When I woke up yesterday, I was still finding random beet juice stains on my counter, all the attachments for my Champion still air drying on the counter, and flecks of shredded coconut materializing everywhere. Not even mentioning the extra pots, pans, tins and containers that seemed to be overflowing waiting to be put away.

The price to pay for a labor of love.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Intervention on the Way?

We went to Key West for dinner one night recently. LaTrattoria has opened an additional location, this one ocean front. I've been stalking their opening for weeks, and was happy to hear they've arrived. We headed down, and had a great meal. I would go back.

As we were eating, we made our plans for desert (The Cafe) and then another cocktail for me at Virgillio's (next to LaTrattoria on Duval). None of those plans came to fruition. After dinner, we were walking around when I realized I wanted to be back home. Home. With my cats. With the Key deer. With my backyard beach, palm trees and setting sun. The winds were soft and warm, and Big Pine was whispering on them.

We got to the car and began the short drive to the edge of the city when I saw that the Borders Express was going out of business. This is sad news indeed, as Key West is drying up for bookstores. Why? A city with a long rich literary history should be paved from end to end with bookstores. But, sadly no more. The internet, I think, is killing many types of storefronts, including bookstores. There will be 2 independent book sellers left in Key West now, that's it for the whole city.

I'm a gal who loves bookstores. I love being surrounded by the sweet temptation of books. Roaming from section to section, not knowing where will I end up. The smell of a bookstore is like no other. Besides, I'm not "techy" and at least for now you won't see me with one of those e-readers many people seem to find so trendy.

Anyway, this bookstore is going out of business. I said to Mr. Happy Vegan "hey, stop, let's go in there!" So we did. After a few minutes browsing, I ended up in the cookbook section (small surprise, right?) I began looking through the shelves, and found about 3 shelves full of vegan cook books as well as general healthy eating. Mecca.

I looked instantly for the 1 cookbook I desperately want, but haven't bought. They didn't have it. So, I looked more closely at what WAS left. I started to get woozy.... too many choices. Then, I sat down on the floor. Mr. Happy Vegan sighed heavily, for he knew I would be there a while.

Pulling book after book off the shelf, I began to chat with a woman next to me. Turns out she is from Italy, but now lives in Key West. As we chatted off and on, she gave me a recommendation for 1 book, and I gave her my recommendation on one she had in her hands that was a favorite of mine. In what seemed like just seconds, the store dimmed its lights.... closing time! WHAT? How the heck did THAT happen?

It was the moment of reckoning... time to choose. After practically swearing on my life after my last purchase of 3 more cookbooks (only a few short weeks ago), I found myself heading to the register with 4 more cookbooks. Mr. Happy Vegan just looked at me, hanging his head.

After swearing off cookbooks, 4 more have incredibly made their way into my home. For the last couple days I've been reading them cover to cover. In no particular order. Skipping back and forth. I feel like a kid in a candy store, combined with being the kid who ATE the entire candy store. I'm flipping book to book, recipe to recipe. Feeling all giggly and giddy. I've already tried 3 recipes, only 1 of which was a partial fail (which was my own fault). Today I've got several more experiments on tap, and a few more hours of reading.

Poor Mr. Happy Vegan. He's probably secretly planning an intervention for my book buying. Either that, or simply worried that he'll be the next thing I toss out on a clutter busting day to make room for even more books.