Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bye Bye 2011 Hurricane Season! Hello Jingle Bells!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I'm Fine, Thank You Very Much

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, A Day Late

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Peri, Peri, Our Sweet Peri

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Vegan Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

He's Back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Creature Comforts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vegan Morsels In the Keys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

What's New?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cake Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Superboats Are In Town!

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

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

How gorgeous is THAT?!!!

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

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

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

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

It's all so very good.

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

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

See you there!!!  Vroom Vroom!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Weird Circle Piece

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 6, 2011

She's Got Herself a Little Piece of Heaven

The "she" referenced in today's title would be me.

The weather here today was as close to perfect as could possibly exist.  Not only was the weather perfect, but today was the 2nd best day of the year (the 1st best day of the year being, of course, the first day of Summer) because it was the "fall back" of the "spring ahead, fall back" rule.  This gave me an extra hour to myself this morning. I used it wisely... staying in bed to the very last second.

When I got up and flipped open the shutters, the sun streamed in and woke up the cats (well, ok Pink Moon was already up and bouncing across the room and everything in it because breakfast was already 1 hour late, but the others seemed just fine with things). I gathered myself together and wandered into the kitchen for work. I finished morning chores ahead of schedule, did a quick run, had a visit with Pop, and then headed down to Key West for errands.

As I drove south,  I popped in one of my most favorite cds of all time, and let the music flow as the wind whipped through my open windows. Today was a day where "max" volume on the stereo was woefully inadequate.

The sharp blue sky set off the seemingly unreal aqua blues of the water, so much so that it just seemed like a dream. Or, for lack of a better word, some type of heaven.

I sang.  I car danced.  I didn't care who may have noticed.

I've got my little piece of heaven, here in these beautiful Florida Keys.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Confess A Fatal Flaw

It's been a busy week. I haven't written yet about lots of goings on, but I promise I will.

Meanwhile, my time is getting eaten up by out of the ordinary things.  I've had some shopping to do, some cake decorating to work on, and other things too.  We had that slight cool down a week or so ago, it warmed right back up (doors slammed shut again, ac on due to monster baking sessions), and I've also been pouring through my closet yet again, getting rid of things.  This most recent clutter bust had to do with shoes.

I used to have a shameful amount of shoes.  I wore them all at various times.  I love shoes, and would buy a ridiculous amount of them, boots too. When I moved here, I kept several pair that I thought I loved too much to give up.  None of them are flip flops, that would be too practical.  Instead, they are lovely dress shoes. Pretty snazzy ones.

Those multiple pair of pretty snazzy shoes have sat in my closet since I moved here, collecting dust. Worse yet, none of them would work with that ever-so-fancy dress I've got for that big event coming up in the very near future. I grabbed my step ladder this week, and pulled them down from that top shelf that I could not reach.  I opened every box with care, and marveled at how pretty they are.  As I was admiring a certain pair, a receipt slipped out of the box; the receipt for the shoes.  I looked at the date, and was shocked to see how much time had passed since those shoes entered my life.  As I read the receipt, I remembered the event I wore them to, and remembered all the friends who were at the party I wore them to.  I remembered my friend who first found those shoes, it was the same friend who was kind enough to run to the end of the State I lived at the time to fetch them for me. That friend was, of course, also at the party when I wore those shoes.  That person and I are no longer friends.  It's been a long time. As I found myself surrounded by shoes, it was almost as emotional as going through photographs of days gone by.

I attach too much sentiment to objects.  I admit this has long been one of my fatal flaws that even I am aware of.  So, that fatal flaw reared its ugly head as I was admiring long lost shoes. I didn't want to get rid of my shoes. I lugged these shoes to the tropics from the cold zone, but have never worn them once since moving here.  I began to feel ashamed... guilty.  Its like these shoes, none of which were particularly pricey or anything special, were little works of art. But, they were like works of art that had been stolen by some thief, and sold on the black market.  So, the art is stolen, and sold illegally, and thus cannot be displayed for all the world to see, as would be just and right.  Art is made to be appreciated, if it is not, it is wasted. At least in my eyes.

So, I took one last look at those pairs of shoes, wrapped them up in my best recycled tissue paper, re-boxed them and carted them out the door to be sold, to be worn by someone new. To be appreciated.

They're gone.

When I look at the top shelf in my closet, there is space instead of boxes.  I am still thinking about those shoes, and realizing that part of me still wants them to be there.  Its embarrassing. I don't think I even really understand.  But, they're gone, and I am not going to change my mind enough to retrieve them

They will stay gone.

I cleared out more space in my closet thinking I was simply going to get rid of some shoes.  Instead I found myself surrounded by a flood of memories, and the realization that time is passing much quicker than I want it too.

I think the only thing to cure this ill will be some shoe shopping. And soon.