Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Joyful Baker (who's also a Joyful Cook)

For anyone wondering, the unspeakable cat behavior is continuing, but that's not what today's post is about. I just wanted to offer you that update.

Today I am writing about food.  I've been immersed for hours over the last few days cooking and baking for other people.  Sure this is something I do everyday for guests of the inn, but things have ramped up with orders and such, and now sweets & savories are being ordered and delivered. More on that later, because I want to concentrate on the actual food.

I received a recent call from someone thinking about staying here as a guest.  As a very flip comment they offered their opinion about our vegan offerings advertised as something along the lines of "we'd eat it, I've tasted such things before, it was ok."  The conversation about food didn't go beyond that comment, as they were essentially thinking out loud, or so I believe; they were not asking me anything specific about the food here, or even food that happens to be vegan in general.  But, that comment has stuck in my mind.

I honestly believe if people had more ability to visualize the "bigger picture," and more access to better food, the majority of people would be vegan. More access also means insuring anyone who is closer to the poverty level, or in the poverty level, gets the good food they need and deserve too, instead of being completely victimized by governments and corporations. Its no secret there is no love lost between me and corporate agribusiness in the world.  I despise what greed and corruption has turned "food" into.  The truth is hidden from consumers, because if we really knew, we wouldn't want to eat that food.

Back to the issue at hand.  Food.  Real food.  Food that happens to be vegan.

I have made batches upon batches of chocolate biscotti with almonds & cranberries for sale, and a bit to take to that spaghetti party.  I'd put my biscotti in any competition against the best offered out in the market, I have that much faith in it.  Oh, and yes, its vegan.  I have made a scratch tiramisu to bring to the spaghetti party which I can only say is down right dreamy.  It's taken 3 days to make, including making the biscuits to substitute for the Lady Fingers, and making my own raw cashew cream as one of the ingredients. This dessert is so good it could be on the menu of any fine restaurant. And, oh yes, its vegan.  I've made dozens and dozens of pounds of hummus this week and delivered it through the lower Keys, people are gobbling it up faster than I can produce.  Yes, of course its vegan.  My cookies, cakes, pies, donuts, veggie burgers, hummus, and countless other sweets & savories are hitting the market, and yes, they're all vegan.  People are not eating this food and saying with a certain glib attitude of "we'll eat it" as if doing me a favor.  No, not at all.  People are rejoicing for the availability of artisan made, fresh and organic food which yes, happens to be all vegan.  There is nothing in this food to raise your cholesterol, there is nothing in this food which caused another being's life to be sacrificed in the name of a sandwich.  This food has even been made with ingredients that support fair trade to help others earn a living wage.  Greed, corruption, disease and ignorance are not ingredients in my food.

I am going for a run, and swore I wouldn't spend ANY time in the kitchen today, but I changed my mind.  I took some orders for a market today and I got excited about so many people wanting this food.  I got excited to make more biscotti for the spaghetti party. As my Kitchen-Aid was swirling the ingredients together I truthfully felt absolute joy as I worked.  And that became the inspiration for this post. 

I do not know what the future holds, none of us know.  But I swear on all that I hold near and dear, I will continue to devote my life to changing this world for the better, one vegan bite at a time.  Stop in for a stay; you will not regret it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Feline Mayhem

That which goes on behind closed doors is never really known, unless you're behind the closed door.  Here, at face value things seem status quo.  Behind closed doors, there has been some serious mayhem of the feline variety for 2 solid days.  Normally I would chalk this up to "cats will be cats," but things have spiraled so far, so fast, for the last 2 days this no longer falls into the "normal" category, whatever normal is anyway.

Some things are unspeakable, so I shall let sleeping cats lie.  But a few things, I can share.  I can share that Pink Moon tore across the bed this morning before dawn, using my face as a secondary launching pad resulting in puncture wounds in places that bleed a lot. I can share that Luciana Luna Bean has not taken kindly to Peri hanging out on my private entrance steps, resulting in some of that unspeakable behavior which has resulted in her banishment to the bedroom for an entire day.... who knows how I'll feel about her return to social life tomorrow, so far its not looking good.

I cannot even share the two bad deeds Agatha Rain is responsible for, no, I cannot share them.  Suffice to say she is catona-non-grata around me and I see no end in sight for that either.

Even Peri is on the outs with me.  As I was driving down the street on Thursday night to go to boot camp, I saw a small gray figure slinking down Long Beach, far from my home... yes, it was Peri, away from home, far from his usual territory.  I screeched to a halt, catnapped him, turned the car right around and drove him home, duly informing him "don't do that again."

And, Lemon Blue Verbena, my "very bad animal" who typically is Mr. Evil, Mr. Pussface, Mr. Bad.... he's been an angel.  Sleeping all curled up next to me, minding his manners through the day.  Being sweeter than (vegan) sugar, and giving me plenty of kitty kisses.  Go figure.

I spent about 6 hours today in my kitchen baking, packaging and filling orders.  I'm on the edge right now, holding on for dear life. We're both so busy with so many obligations that eat away at our time, I suppose this is par for this time of year. Through all this, the cats are getting to me for real. I took it out on Mr. Happy Vegan today when he snitched a lemon poppy seed cookie off the cooling rack, which he swore up and down was a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie (it wasn't, trust me I know, when I'm filling orders, counting is a major priority while scooping dough).  I tried as best as I could muster to explain he should not argue with a baker who's been up since pre-dawn hours thanks to feline mayhem.  He seemed unconvinced.

This barely scratches the surface, because as I said there's mayhem involved, and plenty of it.  I am wondering what other new unspeakable acts these cats will bring forth into my day when tomorrow arrives. I can honestly say I'm not looking forward to discovering their daily evidence, or continuing to be victimized by ill placed claws in the dark.  Two puncture wounds and several unfortunately placed scratches are likely not the end of their list, not by a long shot.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Random Things

Yesterday I accomplished all but one of my tasks on that "to do" list I wrote about on my last post.  That is not too shabby, especially considering it took me close to 1.5 hours just to get to Key West yesterday due to some idiot who drove 32 mph from Ramrod Key down to Rockland Key.  You'd think the driver would have noticed a long line of cars, maybe 35 of us or more, behind him constantly jigging for a way to pass.  To no avail.  When I finally got to Rockland Key at the two lane passing zone, I was treated to the most loathed of all drivers... he who talks & texts while driving.  He managed to plug up the passing lane all the way until the last light before entering Key West.  When I passed him, I saw that he was still talking on the phone.  I watched him behind me as we navigated the traffic filled streets in Key West, and noted that he was actually texting when he went to move into the lane to his left.... directly into a silver Dodge. The Dodge was pushed into a "scramble lane" down the center, where a royal blue Toyota was stopped to make a turn.  Lovely.

Moral of the story is put your cell phone down, please.

All this hustle and bustle of high season has taken me all over the middle and lower Keys in the last couple weeks, and its been just exhausting.  I find myself with a day in front of me where I will stay home all day. I'm elated.  I plan to clean, run, do wash, and go to boot camp tonight.  And, I'm going to prepare for a little party we'll be attending over the weekend.  We've been invited to a "spaghetti party."  It is exactly as it sounds... a party where spaghetti is featured.  Friends of friends are throwing the party, and seem to be quite set on making us a beautiful vegan sauce for the spaghetti.  We didn't expect that, and are really happy about this.  Now, in return, I'm going to surprise the host & hostess with my unbelievably delicious vegan tiramisu.  So, today I begin my preparations by baking the basic vanilla cake.  The "cream" takes 2 days to set up before assembling the entire cake, so as you can see there is a fair amount of timing & planning involved.

It's kind of odd that tiramisu is basically my most favorite dessert ever.  I say its odd because there's not much chocolate in tiramisu, and I think chocolate is my most favorite food and flavor.   A long time ago when I worked at a real job, I was chatting with a client who had enough money to travel all over the world, eat at the finest restaurants, and see wonderful places all over.  Somehow tiramisu became the topic of conversation.  He told me that while on a recent trip to Italy, he dined at a restaurant where he had "the best tiramisu of his life." He told me he had asked to see the chef who made the best tiramisu he ever had in his life, and said chef was so taken by his compliments that he GAVE him the recipe. This floored me, the restaurant was very fine dining, and chefs tend to be very protective at times, understandably.  But, this also was in Italy, and although I've never been there, I presume its true that Italians are quite lovely & generous people, certainly based upon my experiences with Italians who have guested at Deer Run.  Hm, I wander....   anyway, after that client and I had that conversation, that client gave ME the chef's recipe.  I never made the recipe, I went vegan instead.  But, I still have the recipe and someday will do my version of veganizing it.  For now, I have a recipe that I make every few years which is also from a restaurant, and is a vegan recipe.  I've had the recipe for many years now, and think its the best.  So, in gratitude I will be taking a whole box of my best vegan tiramisu to the party.

Spaghetti.  Tiramisu.  All vegan.  I think I'm really going to like this party.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


As I was driving over the (dreaded) 7 Mile Bridge one of four times today, I noticed how low the tide seemed to be.  There were more sandbars visible than typically I would see, but I'm not really sure why.

I drove Pop up for his game today, and he was in pretty high spirits. This was in contrast to a bit of grumpiness on my part.... he did his best to shake me out of it, not that he needs to do that.  Pop's day was pretty different as planned than my day.  He had his breakfast, did his daily puzzle, a few exercises in his chair, and then sat outside for an hour or so until it was time for me to pick him up for his golf. Me, on the other hand, well I hadn't even had breakfast by the time I picked him up; not a speck of time was there to spare, not even for my flax flakes.  He wondered why I hadn't eaten, and honestly I couldn't bring myself to say that if I stopped to eat then we would be running late for his game too.

By 7:30am today I realized I was already behind schedule, which came as a shock to me because seriously it was only 7:30am.  How can anyone be behind the 8-ball at only 7:30am you may wonder, but if I sat and wrote all that I had on the "to do" list today, then you would begin to understand.

I haven't put up a post here in close to 7 days.  I don't have much to say because my days are essentially the same thing this time of year; a complete and total blur.  I missed my run today because I had so much to do.  I was trying to figure a way today to be in Key West AND Marathon within 2 hours time, which was absolutely impossible. Nonetheless I had anxiety about that until I finally caved in and just said no, cannot do Key Weird today.  So, tomorrow I have to go to Key West.  I've got a list of 12 things to do tomorrow.  Twelve things. That's just the basics.  I've got pretty high hopes that I'll make that run, and even a boot camp class.

I know there is cold and snow about the world, it is February after all. In between noticing all those sandbars on my drive to Marathon, I glanced at the temperature gauge and saw 81.  I wondered why wasn't I the one on the boat, the sand, or in a lounge chair, but as I glanced at my 102, soon-to-be 103, year old friend in the car next to me, I felt that I hadn't done such a lousy job prioritizing after all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


There's an equation for you.  Two, plus 15, equals 79.  What's it mean?  For those inquiring minds:

Today's month and date, along with the temperature.

Maybe you're sitting in a very cold part of the world, wondering about warmer parts of the world.  If that's you, now you can stop wondering.

I heard it snowed in a few places today.  My condolences.

Here 2+15=79.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hello and Happy Valentine's Day to you.  Maybe you celebrate, maybe you don't.  I know I've had my fair share of Valentine Days where I was boycotting the holiday for a variety of reasons (usually because I was alone, and didn't want to venture out to a restaurant or whatever into a sea of red clothing, red roses, and diamond rings), but that's just me.

Now I'm here at Deer Run spending my time making a nice holiday for others, which I think we really did once again this year.  I simplified a few things compared to last year (I'll never forget the epic efforts with my attempts...and multiple failures... of red velvet vegan brownies, with shredded organic beets).  Nope, I stuck with tried and true recipes this year (mostly) and every single thing I put forward came out perfect on the first try.  That, my friends, is bliss in my world.

I've done most of my chores already, and have to say, after a brief cold spell (brr!) we're right back up in the high-70s.  Today, a most picture perfect day, is a day made for running, bongo-ing, and baking.  Lucky for me, I've done all those things, and more.

We're going to a little party later at a friend's rental.  They're back in town as snowbirds for a month, after we bid them farewell last year... retirement for them, sadness for us.  But, it's time to be happy, they're back in town, and I'm about to go tint some wicked white (vegan! organic!) frosting just the right shade of pink for a proper Valentine's Day celebration.

Enjoy your day, and I do hope you find time for a little running, a little bongo-ing, and a little baking!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Help Yourself Helps Us All!

Well that took a little longer than planned.  The "that" to which I refer is this post.  Sorry.  Its been busy here. I went to Key West I think 5 times in one week, which is insane to me.  But, it was business, and as much as I always consolidate as many chores as possible into each trek down, things kept coming up which required more trips there. In addition, I've still got the baking thing going on, and a few other things.

When last we met, I mentioned I would be posting about Help Yourself in Key West and a little community support gathering we recently attended.  So, here's what this is all about, and then some photos for you.

Help Yourself is a small organic restaurant on Fleming Street in Key West.  They opened shortly after we arrived here at Deer Run as proud owners, and then began our conversation to a green lodge. We were thrilled about Help Yourself from the beginning because of their commitment from the outset to organic food.  And, of course, they have many vegan offerings, which obviously makes us here go wa-hoo!

Help Yourself is a pretty small restaurant, you order inside, and then there's picnic tables outside where you can eat, or you can take away your food.  Next to the restaurant was a laundromat, so if it was wash day for you, then you could go get your awesome food and enjoy it while you watched your delicates spin in the wash.  Hooray when we heard the laundromat was leaving (too bad for your delicates I guess) and that Help Yourself was taking over the space and expanding with an organic market and juice bar/cafe'.  This was huge news to us, and many others.  Our community is under served when it comes to fresh and healthy food.  We've got Good Food Conspiracy on Big Pine Key, Food for Thought in Marathon, Sugar Apple in Key West, and Help Yourself in Key West.  Those are essentially the only places offering organics on a regular basis, with an eye towards health and wellness.  I think the Winn Dixie on Big Pine Key is trying to poison us, never in my life have I ever seen so many freezer cases full of processed food.  Its so unfortunate.  I think places like that Winn Dixie prey on us folks who have so few choices to shop.  When you're trying to feed a family, sometimes people are just at the mercy of retailers like Winn Dixie who don't care about us, instead they provide food which has barely any nutrition in it at all.  Its full of salt, fats, synthetics and chemicals. The other places, like Help Yourself, Good Food, et al, really are not like that.  Sure, money matters to all of us, the bottom line must be watched.  But these smaller places that I speak of are entrenched in our community and CARE about us.  They care about our health, our wellness, and work very hard to source and provide nutritious food that tastes good.  Plus, they know the names of their customers, they become genuinely concerned about us, and we all work together in this community networking, helping, pitching in when needed.

So, Help Yourself announced their expansion, and the community rallied.  People began to help with the expansion in many ways, including donations of time and money.  Our community needs this market, our community wants this market, and people rallied to help.

Help Yourself planned an event for the end of January, initially hoping it would be a celebration of the grand opening.  But, as with most things in the Keys, its taking just a bit longer than hoped, so the celebration went forward as a way to showcase that which has been completed already, and simply a way to spend a nice evening socializing.  Ah.... sounds perfect!

So we went.  And, here are the pictures:

The lovely Audrey, bartender extraordinarre'!  Not only does she pour a fantastic glass of organic red, but she makes a phenomenal vegan caramel almost too good to be true!

Doggies love Help Yourself too!

Old friends reacquaint...

While new friendships are struck up too.  This is Dave. He is a very important person (aren't we all?!) He has written a book called "Peep Show for Children Only" it is about his true life experience as an educator who was persecuted by the school board for being vegan.  We chatted.  He's well spoken, polite, and I learned a lot from him in that short visit.  I ordered his book. I don't know how the truth ends as I asked him not to tell me, since I wanted to buy his book.

Mingling at the soon-to-be-juice bar.

Ah, the lovely Charlie Wilson.  Visionary indeed.  She owns Help Yourself.  We love you Charlie!

Preferred Key West mode of transportation!

Even the coconut man was there!  He has the BEST coconut water!  He whacks open the coconut right in front of you, and presto... coconut water.  Sooooo good.

Smiling flowers at Help Yourself.

Help Yourself helps the littlest ones too! This little guy was getting up close and personal with the evening's entertainment.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Glimmer of Hope

My next post will (hopefully) be about our trip down to Key West last night to celebrate with Help Yourself as they continue their efforts to expand with an organic market and smoothie/juice bar into the space next door to their current restaurant.  I took some pictures, which I'd like to use with the post, so I'm not going into much detail until I transfer the photos from my camera.  We recently got a new computer here, and I'm still learning how to do things; downloading photos is something I still have no idea how to do.

While in Key West last night, we were surrounded by dozens of like-minded people.  It was so uplifting, so invigorating, so much needed.  We met human rights activists, animal rights activists, vegetarians, vegans, people currently in transition to going veg, community activists, mothers, fathers, business owners, tourists, several dogs, and a few people just passing through Key West as they figure out where in life they belong. All this diversity evolved into a very warm and thoughtful event.

I had a few conversations throughout the evening with some people who have ideas and thoughts which dare I say some might consider radical. The thing is, to me their thoughts and ideas were not radical at all because there was too much truth in the words they spoke.  This free speaking, free thinking crowd got me to refocus myself on how to best help people learn to transition to a plant based diet, and help people to feel free enough to question authority, stop being spoon fed, so to speak, by corporations & government, stop just accepting things as they are now.

When I was a little girl, both of my parents smoked. I think I've touched on this in several of my prior posts.  Growing up in the 60s and 70s, smoking was very much accepted.  Maybe some of you reading this won't remember the days back when air travel actually had smoking allowed.  Unbelievably, the way things used to roll was that some rows were declared "ok" for smoking, some rows not.  The entire plane of course would end up in a cloud of smoke, there were no partitions, no special ventilation that I recall.  It was awful.  Trips with my parents even in the car were often ordeals for me, I remember sitting in the back seat of their cars very often begging them to put out their cigarettes.  My mom especially would become annoyed, and crack a window.  But the smoke somehow seemed to go out that teeny crack and wash back in via my cracked window, making things even worse.  My parents were not bad people, not by far.  In fact, they are among the short list of my heroes.  They became addicted to smoking, and back then smoking was socially acceptable. Decades ago when my parents first became addicted, things were such that smoking was promoted as a healthy thing to do.  The huge tobacco industry lobbied our government (as they still do I'm sure). Truth was buried, hidden, repressed, and covered up. Through the tireless work of activists and educators, truth was eventually revealed.  Smoking is bad for us; it kills us and pollutes the planet. Animals die from ingesting filters, waters are polluted from byproducts, and products themselves, and all sorts of other ills occur from smoking.

Do you wonder why I am talking about smoking?  Well, wonder no more.

What is going on right now in the food industry seems to me to closely parallel days of past with smoking.  People collude to cover up information, huge corporations are lobbying government with massive payoffs and spin doctoring, government subsidizes certain crops but not others, and generally speaking massive amounts of time, money and effort are spent making sure we the public are spoon fed very carefully crafted spun statistics AND foodstuffs.  Meanwhile, there is a small (but growing) voice out in the public working tirelessly to get the truth told.  These voices are educators and activists who are working tirelessly to expose cruelties, end abuse, and pursue truth and justice. I'm sure sometimes they feel as if they're spitting in the wind.  I'm so sure of it because I know that's exactly how I feel sometimes.  But, change IS coming.  I know this because of the group of people I was around last  night.  Even maybe 5 years ago I wouldn't  imagine a co-mingling such as I saw last night.  Doctors, drifters, educators, homemakers, parents, students, on and on.  No one shouted down anyone else if there were disagreeing thoughts (wish our political leaders and want-to-be political leaders would do the same), no one disrespected any one else.  And, while many people spoke of studies, books, medical journals and other articles that are pouring forth thanks to the advent of the internet and social media, many others nodded their heads and spoke of reading the same journals, articles, studies and books.  I think its fair to say that it's a lot harder to cover things up now than it may have been in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and even the 80s.  

The truth is coming out. Just as smoking was taught to so many that it was good for us when it wasn't, current accepted eating habits are also not.  People may hide behind arguments like "this is the way it has always been done," "this is my personal choice," and "you have no right to tell me what to do," but I've got something to say back to any haters.  Just because something was "always done" a certain way doesn't make it right.  Humankind has been given the ability to think and reason, and we need to evolve as knowledge is acquired.  Saying something is a "personal choice" seems a legitimate argument at face value, but truth be told, your personal choice is effecting me, my planet, and the future of all beings who will inhabit this same planet long after we are gone.  The impact of our personal choices will resonate for a long time after we are gone.  And, also, while I may have no right to tell you what to do, as this is America, I do have a right to demand truth; a right to expect that our government and its leaders are not morally bankrupt allowing themselves to be swayed by corporations and huge gobs of money lining their pockets while covering up what we all are entitled to know, read, hear and see. I look to the current media blitz about Paula Deen as a good example. She may be quite a wonderful, funny, sweet, talented lady. But, she's all that now with diabetes to boot. It seems that to some extent there was too much at risk (perhaps at risk was a small empire built on food that can be the trigger for so many ills.... like diabetes?) for her to come forward 3 years ago when first diagnosed. Now the truth is out as she endorses a drug, instead of a healthier lifestyle. She has a right to handle things as she desires, however as a public figure, she should expect scrutiny as well.

When I hear others speak, or read what other people write, I marvel at their ability to be such clear, concise and eloquent communicators.  I do not have that gift to the extent I would hope for.  Despite my many admitted shortcomings, I own the fact that I was indoctrinated into a system like millions of others which causes harm and damage.  Despite this, I also am willing to seek out information and learn how to evolve into a more productive person, an advocate for people, animals and planet, no matter how difficult some of the information is to see, hear or read; no matter how hard the road may seem to facilitate changes in ourselves, sometimes the stakes are just too high and we MUST take that hard road.

I believe there is very little personal choice anymore. Our collective actions are leading us down a path of no choice.  While millions of people starve every day, our seas are over fished.  The aberrant way food is grown is destroying our planet and the food itself; our water supply is growing smaller, our air quality is failing as well, and our food choices are having such significant global impact that its quite possible the only way for our planet to survive is that at some point there will be some type of plague or massive die off that will essentially be a cleansing for the planet itself.  This actually is terrifying for me.

Despite often feeling confused, scared, sad, and full of rage, I get up every day with hope that I will reach someone new, that its not "too late" for the future that will come long after I am gone.  Everything I do, everything I learn isn't really for me anymore.  Its about passing on to the next generations; paying it forward. There's a growing voice out there crusading for truth, talking about responsible choices and compassion, and working to stamp out ignorance.

Indeed, we must look ahead and remember the long journey begins with the first step.

Thanks for checking in today.  Check in tomorrow for those great photos I promise!