Sunday, April 29, 2012

Getting There

I've been all atwitter lately, out of sorts... off kilter... not running on all cylinders I guess. I realized today that my problem was partially stemming from a bad habit I broke long ago, but somehow crept back into my recent daily life... the inability to say "no."

I didn't realize all the extras that were pushing my daily "to do" list further and further from completion were because I was agreeing to virtually every single request that was put upon me from every angle possible.  I used to run my life this way; didn't realize why I had so much work, and so little spare time.  Then when I started my own first business years ago, I realized the power of "no." Being that I'm only human, I fall off the "no" wagon from time to time if I'm not an advocate for my own priorities.

Where am I going with all this you may ask.

Well, when I figured what was the problem, I took action.  I wiped the slate clean.  Yes I finished all the things I had agreed to that I probably should've said "no" to, but once my word is given, its rock solid. So, I finished up all those loose ends.  And I re-wrote a "to do" list which included some closet purging, a nap, time with my cats (and Peri) and a run.

I'm happy to report that I crossed off all of those items from my list, including a run which began at 7:39pm tonight.  I wasn't going to to go.  It's been gloomy weather wise here all day.  Two times the Sun King broke through, but two times clouds swallowed him up.  I wasn't ready to run at either of those 2 very short windows, so I simply prepared to run in the rain, whenever I got to it.

I got to it at 7:39pm, as noted.  It was misting lightly, so obviously it was damp. No matter that the temperature hovered in the mid 70s... I was still cold.  I put on a "winter" running shirt; long sleeves.  My iPod has been exposed to countless downpours, what was a little mist, right?  Then I put on my new sneakers (I'm still breaking in my first pair of Brooks, I have bid farewell to Asics).  As dusk loomed, I took off.  I ran.  Then I sprinted. Then I added jumps into the sprints (oh, this is so necessary; during boot camp one night our instructor took those giant orange road hazard barrels, turned them on their sides, and commanded us to jump over them.  Let's say it didn't go well and I'm practicing my jumping much more ever since). I packed all this into a 35 minute burst of energy.

A recent iced tea cap told me "the cure for anything is salt: the sea, tears or sweat."

I would tend to agree, especially after my own 35 minutes of rain soaked salt.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Wish

I think a lot about things I cannot have; about things that are essentially impossible to manifest.  When I consider my top three "wishes," I think I would have to say "I wish I could manifest more time" as likely right up there.

Time.  It is truly one of the only things that cannot be bought on this Earth. Philosophers have devoted their lives to ruminating over it. Many people at work practically live and die by a deadline, constantly watching that clock, while maybe there's others who seemingly have no worries at all about time.  Then again there's those of us like me who are over scheduled and no matter how effective our time management appears to be, it just isn't good enough at some point.

Welcome to my today.

My pre-planned "to do" list is essentially untouched today.  The "woah, surprise!" items that took precedence throughout my day over my "to do" list just seemed to grow and grow and grow as the hours of the day ticked on.

As I write this, it is Saturday night.  Right about now a wee bit over two decades ago, you would have found me in my teeny apartment preparing for a night out with friends for clubs and dancing.  In the background would have been some lame television program (however if it was a Friday which was also dedicated to friends, clubs and dancing it definitely was NOT a lame program, not lame at all, it would have been Miami Vice, yay!)  Flash foreword a "few" (a-hem) years and here I am on a Saturday night working to fill some orders. As I was whirling the biscotti dough in my beloved Kitchen-Aid (after grinding my own almond flour in my just-as-much beloved Vita-Mix), for some reason I began to think of those times.  And, I wondered how wonderful it would have been if there was a way I could "bank" free time from then for when I would have needed it, times like now.  And, maybe not just "bank" it, instead I could exchange it as time not just free, but extra time I could tack on any day I wanted to miraculously and mysteriously have 29.5 hours in a 24 hour day, yet the space and time continuum doesn't deviate through the Universe. Only for me.

How great would that be.  I calculated that I need about 5.5 extra hours today to complete everything I need to, and still have a little time to put up my feet, drink a tall glass of black cherry ice tea and allow myself my own philosophical ruminations about space-time staring at the ocean.

Its not to be.  I don't have the magic theory, and no scientists I know of have cracked the time travel code. Instead I'll just keep plugging along watching the dough swirl and think about Crockett and Tubbs I guess.  That's much less painful than thinking about space-time anyway.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Could Have Been Better

I had plans today, big plans.  Of them all, I only accomplished one chore that was actually on my "to do" list, and I didn't get out for a run today either.

Although I woke up earlier than usual, I found myself chasing the clock all day long.  After usual morning work of breakfast and cleaning, I found myself assigned a surprise turtle walk, because the assigned person suddenly could not cover it, and I didn't find out until after breakfast.  I got out on the beach as early as I could, which was not early enough to beat the heat.  I turned to the right on the beach, walked far less than 1/4 mile, and there at the edge of the wrack line stood a cormorant.  She didn't try to flee.  I knew something was wrong.  Again, the rule with birds essentially is: if you see one where you normally wouldn't, or doing something it normally wouldn't, it is in distress.

I evaluated the bird from a distance and walked up in the dune around her.  I was alone, with no rescue gear.  I called Maya.  She was up in Marathon, but said she would come by in 1 hour and we could do the rescue together.

I walked to the one end of the beach looking for evidence of turtles (none), and then back to the cormorant.  I didn't want to wait an hour, the thought of this distressed bird sitting in the wrack for an hour was something I couldn't allow to happen.

I should have left well enough alone.

I got back to the inn and saw 2 guests who had been kayaking.  I asked if they would assist me in the rescue, they agreed.  I got large towels and a carrier, and we headed down to the cormorant.  We set up a blockade, and made the plan.  It was futile, and in the end the bird ended up heading to the sea.  She could fly (thank goodness), but barely, and only skimming the surface.  I lost sight of her in the water.  I walked the beach and surrounding area through the day searching for her, to no avail.

Sometimes "it" is not as bad as "it" looks when animals are in distress. This bird clearly did not have a fractured wing, if she did, she could not have flown and likely would have been dragging the hurt wing.  She did neither.  I can only hope that she was stunned, maybe flew into a power line, and needed some quiet time to re-group.

I'll be back out tomorrow searching for her, just in case.

After that failed effort, I had to finish the rest of the turtle walk, which was about 1 mile.  It was sobering. There was no evidence of turtles, but plenty of evidence of humans.  Plastic.  Line.  Rope. Plastic. Cans.  Bottles.  Plastic.  Did I mention plastic?

When I do turtle walks, I have to keep my focus.  I am there searching for evidence of turtles, and I do this very carefully.  One time a couple years ago I was walking with the other happy vegan (an absolute expert at Turtles: CSI) and I missed tracks.  He saw them, quizzed me on them.  Wasn't going to let my mistake get by. But, the thing is, some of the beaches we walk are very difficult to spot turtle nesting activity, and yes, I once missed tracks and never will forget that.  So, I must keep my focus when walking for nesting purposes. Sure I collect trash.  I pick up line, monofilament and rope which are especially hazardous to turtles.  I collected 3 bags of trash today but was heartbroken leaving the amount I couldn't handle on my own.  The stretch of beach I cleaned on Earth Day is still mostly clean.  I picked up a few things that had come in on the tide, but was pleased that my efforts yielded still clean nesting territory.

Turtle walkers on our beach carry bags and collect trash.  This is a long beach to walk, broken into 3 assigned sections for walkers.  In short order, the territory will be looking much better.  I just wonder with a broken heart what will it take for humans to learn?  Stop with the plastics.  Buy in bulk.  And, yes, my pet peeve as I've written about before... those "Capri Sun" juice bags... well I saw far too many bags today than I could count. One minute of juice, forever in a landfill.  All in the name of convenience.  I pick on Capri Sun because they are so identifiable. Perhaps their "great" marketing & branding department has done too fine of a job, because it seemingly takes much longer for those labels to fade than almost anything else I find. I always know Capri Sun thanks to those long lasting labels.

Today could have been better.  The cormorant escaped.  More trash existed than I could collect on my own.  I fell hours behind on chores, and didn't stop and smell the roses so to speak.  I have only myself to blame if I'm disappointed with what I did today so I find myself resolving to make tomorrow count double.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blue Buntings!

This post is about blue buntings.  Be patient, I'll get there.

Today was one of the top ten days of the year down here.  The weather was absolutely perfect. The humidity dropped low enough that for the first time in months my AC was turned off, doors flipped open, and breezes flowed through my home.  The sky was sharp blue from the moment the sun rose to the time it set.  The winds were finally gone, the sea was flat.

Being that it is Tuesday, it was a "Pop" day.  Up and back over that 7 Mile Bridge.  Twice.  I'm never a fan of the actual trip because of the bridge, but have resolved that this is life down here; when I must go north off my tiny island, that bridge is involved. I was running ahead of schedule this morning, so I picked up Pop a bit earlier as well. I drive his car when I take him places.  This is the way Pop wants it to be, I think it gives him a sense of control being that he still has a car, so theoretically he is still in command.  Maybe that's a man thing, I'm not sure.  It's an older car, not overly fuel efficient, and lacking in creature comforts like a cd player or satellite radio. I mention this because there's very few stations that come in clearly between here and Marathon, so I'm often tuned in to NPR instead of music on the Pop rides.

I dropped Pop off for his game, and was left with his shopping list and my own shopping list.  I headed to the store in Marathon I hit once a week and immediately found a prime spot, in the shade.  This has not happened since December.  As I strolled up to the entrance, I saw "B" in his trusty spot.  B is a Korean war veteran who has a motorized scooter that he rides around on in Marathon.  Almost every Tuesday when I'm at the shopping center, B is holding court at the entrance, much like Pop does here on Long Beach in the morning.  I stopped and chatted with B.  Today he had on a new cowboy hat.  I really liked it, suited him well.  He looked a bit like John Wayne, and I told him so.  I think he liked hearing that.  His hat was emblazoned with "KOREAN WAR VETERAN" and some patches.  I didn't ask what the patches were for, there were too many people coming and going that wanted to talk with B, I couldn't be selfish and hog the dialogue with him.

I went into the store, got my cart, and began to pluck the items I needed with great precision.  The aisles were devoid of any people for the most part.  The organic produce items I needed also didn't exist.  The clues added up at that point:  parking available in the shade, lots of locals chatting with B, no shoppers in the store, supermarket shelves cutting back on regular items....this can only mean one thing, that the majority of the snowbirds are heading home.

I made my rounds in record time, finished both my shopping and Pop's shopping.  Heading back to the car, I waved a "see ya next week" to B, and loaded the loot into the back seat. As I shut the door I realized I was being watched.  To my left was one of the most beautiful and gentle golden labs I've ever met. She was sitting in the shade, with all the windows open (I promise you, it was not a situation where she was locked in a hot car...any time I see that, I do call police). This beautiful island dog wanted to be friends. So, as I spoke to her and offered a gentle pat on the head, she actually began to nuzzle me, and won my heart. Her fur was so soft it was almost like that of a feline. We had a great visit. I noticed a few amused glances and short commentary thrown my way by passers-by. Animals are a great way to connect humanity to one another.

I headed back south over that big bridge, and tuned the dial off NPR "just to see" what was on the music station.  Incredibly, it was a "two for Tuesday" on the station, and they were headstrong into some of my most favorite stuff.  I turned up the volume as best I could in Pop's car, rolled the windows down, and drove.  No one in front of me on the bridge, no one behind.  Just the way I like it.

As I drove (over the bridge) to some of my most favorite music surrounded by water and weather I thought to myself how beautiful the place I call home really is. I imagined I was a visitor seeing all this for the first time, and understood better why I see so many people with camcorders hanging out their windows down here.  I felt happiness, but wistful, wishing that I had the day off.

My most favorite music keep spewing out of the little speaker in Pop's car, 4 in a row.  Enough to get me over the bridge and almost home.

When I got home, I was enveloped again in chores.  Hours of work. Then I got mad because I saw a stack of recycling on my counter from this morning that the other happy vegan had not yet taken out. I was annoyed, it was clutter and I didn't like the way it looked.  I grabbed the pile and headed out my back door.  Then I got even more annoyed because on top of my recycling cabinet was a giant saw for a project he's working on.  I decided to walk to the curb with the pile in my arms, still annoyed. I looked skyward, there he was.... a blue bunting.  I could not believe my eyes.  There has been only one other time I have ever seen an indigo bunting since I have lived here, and it was at the north end of the street... never here at my home.  Within a split second, there was another one.  A pair, yes, it was a pair of blue buntings.  I became elated.

The pair was bouncing from limb to limb on a tree just outside my door, then flitted towards the ocean.  I watched them til they were out of sight, then took the recycling to the curb, and went back inside.  I couldn't believe what I saw, so I decided to see if I could find them.  I went outside to the ocean. I began to walk the beach and headed towards the woods between my house and the burned out house a few lots down.  I walked up the dune into the woods.  I saw many small finches and realized that I had not even noticed we're in the middle of the annual finch migration; something I look forward to every year.  Well, it was happening and I was too busy to even notice!  All sorts of tiny finches were seeking refuge in the woods.  I was quiet. I waited, then there he was. The blue bunting! And there was his mate too.  Chirping and flitting, flitting and chirping.  There is no mistaking a blue bunting.  Mostly I'm so enamored with them because pretty much never in nature, as far as animals go, do I see blue.  We don't have blue jays here, or any other blue birds.  Key deer aren't blue, and neither is Peri.

I watched the pair til they disappeared into the brush.  I headed back upstairs to finish my work, then got ready for a run.  2.5 miles into my run, there they were... 5 or 6 blue buntings hopping up and down over blades of grasses on an empty lot.  Maybe there were even more than 6, I cannot be sure.  They were moving so fast I couldn't count.  They headed seaside, and vanished.  Incredible, right?

After I got home, I had a few more chores to do, and a delivery.  I loaded the car and headed down the street.  At least 3 more blue buntings swooshed in front of my car. Cobalt. Indigo. Electric. Royal. Choose any of those words, put a beak and feathers on it, and you have a blue bunting.  So bright they cancel out the blue of the sky.

Today was as near to perfect as a work day could be.  Changes in latitudes man, changes in latitudes.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day! Be Somebody

Today is Earth Day.  Did you do anything special?  I saw a brief blurb on TV that people are being encouraged to do "random acts of green" but didn't see who is doing the encouraging.  Personally, I think it comes from within, but that's just me.

Today was a day full of work for me.  I didn't get to the newspaper til well after 2pm, and didn't finish my coffee until well past noon... after re-heating said cup at least 8 times.  I didn't even get out for a run today, pitiful considering its all clear now after the last day's deluge down here.  I had planned to run, but essentially when push came to shove, I had to choose between my run, and doing something for the good of the planet.

I chose the planet.

It is turtle nesting season down here.  Lots of fresh new faces showed up for the nesting training, but permits haven't been issued yet, so no beach assignments have been made to all the new surveyors.  For now, our beach territory is getting by with the few permitted walkers who still hold permits from last year.  No action on nesting here (yet), but it is sure to come.  With that in mind, I had to get out and do a beach clean, I just had to.

There is almost no sadder sight to behold than that of wildlife foraging for food in nature among litter, or wildlife entangled, injured or dead from litter.  I had to do something to clean parts of beach down here that normally don't get cleaned, I couldn't bear the thought of a turtle hauling out to nest and crawling across garbage.  I grabbed a stack of heavy duty contractor's bags from our supply, my camera, sunblock, and a phone and off I went.

It was a grim sight when I reached my destination  This is a portion of what I saw:

A very small portion of the stretch of beach I cleaned today, prior to efforts.

As usual, when I collect trash, I also constantly search for sea beans.  I actually think of the sea beans as a reward for my work. Many times when I feel overwhelmed during beach cleanups, at just that moment I will find a sea heart, nickerbean, or some other bean treasure.  I spent 2 hours cleaning, and collected 6 very large contractor's bags full of trash, which I estimate to be at close to 400 pounds in total.  This is not including the items that were too large for the bags which were a large wooden box for gun ammo, a large round barrel cover made out of resin which weighed close to 30 pounds, and a hatch door from a boat. I'm very good at estimating weights considering the amount of cat litter buckets I haul up and down my back steps.

This is what the same portion of beach looked like after my work:

Make it so.
My mind wandered as I went about this work.  I would be elated when I found beans (today's treasures: 1 sea heart, 2 nickerbeans, and 1 sea purse); puzzled when I found some things (I found items today which had the Hebrew language, Spanish language and Greek printing on them); and absolute rage when I found other things (debris from fishing always gets me irate... I found close to 400 feet of line today, plus shotgun casings, light sticks, bait boxes, monofilament line and lures--some with hooks, some without).

Not too long ago, someone said to me something along the lines that there is a lot of trash on beaches, and someone should do something about it; someone should pick up the trash.  Being that I AM one of the someones who constantly picks up trash on beaches, roads, parks, parking lots, stores, and well, basically anywhere I find it, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was "have YOU ever stopped and picked up trash on a beach?"  The stunned silence that followed was the answer.

I get discouraged when I see things like the excess of trash and debris from people who fish, and don't care about consequences at all.  There are people who take things out of season, undersized fish, over the limit, rob from traps, throw garbage from their boats into the ocean, lay more traps than they legally pay for so they can over harvest, and on and on.  They don't care about consequences, the attitude is "I got mine."  That sense of entitlement is really a pet peeve. Down here where the sea is as much part of the culture as breathing is for some of us, well that that sense of entitlement runs rampant in some people.  They are environmental criminals, and they are the lowest of the low, right down at the bottom of the list with those who prey on children, animals and the elderly.

Consequences.  There are consequences for our actions, sometimes good, sometimes bad.  Not enough people think about the consequences when they throw garbage out a window, a lit cigarette from a car, rob from the environment, or live without a mindful attitude.

Every day is Earth Day in my world. Some days I accomplish more than others, but every day I make mindful choices to help lessen my footprint on the Earth. Sometimes those choices are easier than others, but with every positive choice, I effect change for the good.

Today I cleaned a half mile of prime sea turtle nesting beach.  As I walked back towards home, I spoke aloud inviting the turtles onto the beach to safely nest. Soon, the new beach surveyors will have their permits and will be "on the job" as well.  We all carry trash bags when we walk, so in short order miles of beach will be cleaner and safer for turtles.

Today is Earth Day.  Happy Earth Day to you.  As my gift to you, I cleaned a beach.  No need to thank me, but it would be nice for you to pay it forward and be somebody.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's Raining, It's Pouring...the 7 Mile Bridge Run is Cancelled

For the first time in 31 years, the annual 7 Mile Bridge Run is cancelled due to weather.  I read on on line the decision was made as the runners were lined up for the start, just about 7:30am.  I'm not sure why they even bothered to go through those motions, the radar last night was pretty telling.

Early evening yesterday we headed down to Key West to sign up for, and participate in, a long term cancer study.  The data gathering was part of a Relay for Life event at one of the parks in Key West.  I read about the call for participants in the paper not too long ago, and figured what the heck, its time for some vegans to represent. I've probably never mentioned it before, but on my long list of phobias is needles.  Through my entire life this has caused some troubles at times, most notably when blood drawing is involved.  I knew there would be the need for blood sampling so I resolved myself to the fact.  All was well until I saw the waiting line for the phlebotomists.  It wasn't like I filled out my questionnaires, had my assessment, and just moved along for the blood draw.  No, instead I was subjected to waiting and watching, and watching and waiting.  Left to my own observations, musings, and imaginary concerns.  I did go through with it, the tech was skilled, I've got no complaints there.  The issue is solely a mental one, and I of course found myself sitting at the edge of the tent afterwards for about 20 minutes regathering my composure, and allowing the sweat which had begun to pour off my body during the draw to dry under the watchful eye of the event coordinators. I am such a total wuss. Afterwards we found ourselves at the Cafe' (yay!) where I managed to eat a little bit and really began to normalize (whatever normal is anymore).

I woke up in the middle of the night to the pounding of rain on my metal roof.  Before I knew it, thunder filled the air, and lightning lit up my room.  The cats pretty much seemed unphased (except of course for Pink Moon who took refuge under the covers and onto my foot).

Today is a rainy day in the Keys.  A very rainy day.

It's unusual to have rain like this at this time of year.  We're still technically in the "dry" season, and we haven't had significant rain for months.  Something colorful on the radar map is splashed from the Gulf through the Atlantic, from the Keys to the mainland. As I mentioned, the 7 Mile Bridge Run is cancelled for the first time in its own history. I'm sorry for all the people who traveled from all over the world for this event.  There's a lot of locals who do participate, but this run is known the world over and does draw an international set as well.  How disappointing for them, indeed.

We're socked in with rain until probably tomorrow.  This is badly needed rain, but its sadly at the expense of an event packed weekend here in the Keys.  The Conch Republic Days are on going in the Upper Keys as well as Key West.  A big bicycle race was slated from the mainland through the Upper Keys.  I cannot imagine the havoc this weather brought to the Relay for Life in Key West throughout the night, and I've already mentioned the cancelled Bridge Run.  Plus it's messing with my own little run I had planned as usual.  I can run in rain, but I won't run when there's lightning.

I suppose if I was a visitor here I would spend part of my day at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, or maybe some shopping downtown Key West then some lunch.  But, I'm not a visitor, so my regular life just goes on.  We're slogging through our chores, getting drenched periodically.  We've got plans to celebrate a good friend's birthday at a local restaurant so I'm putting the finishing touches on her (vegan! organic!) birthday cake.

I'm not ready for the "rainy" season yet, no way.  This little preview is too early, but will make all the animals (except Peri... he hates the rain) happy.  The deer are bedded down for the day, but when they emerge they'll be scampering about drinking all the fresh water, and searching for the new growth that is sure to come in just a few day's time.

It's raining, it's pouring.  And I've never been a fan of nursery rhymes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Key West Pottery (Honest Works Pottery) and food Food FOOD!

Paint-a-pot; eat a lot.   That is the sum total of my day off.

When I woke up on my official day off, it was about 15 minutes later than I usually get out of bed.  Already I could strike one thing off the list: sleep late.

The other happy vegan wondered aloud why was I awake so early, but I wasn't about to explain that technically I already had slept in.  I shuffled around the house, stumbled out the back door and took in the view.  Sun, glorious sun.  Palm trees everywhere, and morning sun blinding me off the ocean.

After feeding the cats I had some coffee and read the paper.  I decided to skip breakfast, there was too much anticipation within me for the day.  That happy vegan called and set up a paint a pot session for us early afternoon at Key West Pottery in, no surprise, Key West. I had met Adam & Kelly at a street fair in Key West just a few short months after they had moved to Key West from Ohio.  They had a combined energy which I  would say bordered on exuberance for life and their work.  Fantastic, right?  I became an immediate fan of their clay, and have since admired the beautiful creations coming forth from their studio. (They do have a web site if you're interested at

By late morning, we were on the road heading down the Keys.  We made a couple of pit stops along the way, and before too long we found ourselves at Sugar Apple for lunch.  Skipping breakfast was so worth it. My day off tempeh Reuben tasted better than almost anything I've ever had.  Was it the perfect sunshine, the perfect ride down with no idiots on the road (always a big plus), the great smells coming out of the Sugar Apple's kitchen, the smiling faces when I walked in, or just the fact that they serve damn good food in there, no matter the day, no matter the occasion, I'll never know.  But, my day off tempeh Reuben rocked my Universe and prepared me for my afternoon of painting.

We arrived at Key West Pottery where Adam, Kelly and their youngest boy Nyah greeted us and gave us the drill.  Both of us happy vegans selected the same size bowls and got to work.  The other happy vegan actually used to paint and draw, sure it was airbrushing on cars years ago, but he's got a knack for artistic vision. Me?  After weeks of mentally planning my piece, when I sat before the empty bowl my mind went blank.  I had to study the colors, and sit for a while.  By the time I began, the other happy vegan was already brushes up and going to town.  He finished his entire piece at least 1.5 hours before I did.  He accused me of being a perfectionist, I accused him of ruining my painting mojo.  It was good natured back and forth of course, but truth be told I was the furthest thing from perfection, at least for the painting.  I kept looking around the studio, watching clay being thrown, admiring the work in the showroom, and then coming back to my sad little bowl.  What actually became my finished product was nothing like I had envisioned beforehand, and what will be the real final product will be a total surprise as it has to be fired, and who knows what will come out of that kiln.

While we painted, we talked with each other, the artists, and customers who came and went through the showroom.  Reggae music filled the air as my mind wandered to everything, then nothing at all.  I've waited a long time to paint a pot, and I am not disappointed.  In fact, I'm already planning my next trip down, won't be for a few months thanks to my work schedule, but it will be on "the list" for another day off.

Here's a photo of the owner/artist and another artist taking a short break in the studio that day:

Here's a shot of the boys taking a break from their clay!

After we finished, we drove back up the Keys, made a few pit stops here and there for no reason really, and finally ended up back on our own beach, frosty beverages in hand and snacks at the ready.

I think I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the night before all this eating and painting we went back to Kaya Island Eats yet again. While part of me is sad it's a 25 minute drive from my house, the other part of me is grateful it's not on my island, because I'd have an easy excuse to eat out every single night. Again we were treated to beautiful, flavorful and creative food.  The chef made us everything from salads, appetizers, entrees AND dessert, which trust me I savored every morsel. I wish I had my camera for both Kaya and Sugar Apple that day; food like we had makes me so happy to be vegan, so happy to be in the Keys, and so happy to be surrounded by people who "get it" about being vegan, about being a foodie, and simply about having passion inside for your work.

I think I had a really great day off.  In fact, I wasn't dreading waking up for work the next day.  I didn't run the extra mile I hoped for, but I managed to make really good use of my respite, it recharged my batteries, and I've been back at the helm since whipping up the good stuff for the Universe.

Let's see how the clay was fired, hopefully I'll have a really cool photo to post of our paint-a-pot afternoon in Key West.  I've been craving another of those tempeh Reubens... I'm definitely looking forward to the phone call that says our creations are ready for pick up! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Gee whiz, its been slow going for me lately.  My days are devoured by obligations and chores, and my nights are split between exhaustion and insomnia.  Even my insomnia is interrupted lately, if it's not some horrible leg cramp in the middle of the night, its a cat jettisoning off my kidney, or a pounding headache tormenting me. The sliver of time in between all that is spent at boot camp, or running.  The thought of a day off, which is looming not too far away, is keeping me going.

I've got about a month's worth of plans set for my one day off. Plans include a trip to Honest Works Pottery in Key West for a "paint a pot" session (I've been plotting my design for weeks!).  The other happy vegan wants to see a movie (at the Tropic, of course). We both want to eat out (Sugar Apple? Help Yourself? Good Food Conspiracy?  The Cafe? Kaya? So many great choices!)  I want to sit in my hammock all day with my iPod and relax with Peri at one side of me, and cold beverages on the other.  I'd love to get out on the boat and patrol for swimming sea turtles.  I want to run an extra mile or two, take photos of the osprey who is constantly on the branch across the street in the Bight, and sit in our saltwater spa.

I have a mere 24 hours to complete everything noted above, and that's not even mentioning that I want to sleep late too.

The reality will certainly be something very different, but times like this take me back to when I was trapped in an office to earn my living.  I would live for days off and vacation time.  Back then, although the last day in an office before leaving for vacation was sure to be crazy, it was almost always better than the last day I was actually on vacation.  Anticipation I guess.  I would be stuck in the place I didn't want to be (work) dreaming about the place I wanted to be (usually, here) and was happier than if I was actually at the place I was dreaming about (usually, here) dreading the place I had to go back to (work).  What the heck is it about humans that allows us to operate on that level I'll never understand.

So with my day off looming I'm dreaming.  I'm in the place I dream about all the time (here) but I'm still dreaming about a day off in the same place.  I suppose this also has something to do with basic human functioning of keeping hope alive.  Hope for the best.  Hope for the future.  Hope for a positive outcome.  Hope for a miracle. And, hope for a month's worth of plans to manifest in one day off.

My day off isn't today though.  I got up when it was still dark, baked, cooked, and cleaned.  All this and its not even 10am.  I've got the dreaded ride up and back over the 7 mile bridge for Pop today (4 trips over the bridge today, feel my pain), food shopping, paperwork, more cleaning, and whatever else the Universe throws at me. During work I roll with the punches much easier than on any day off.  On my day off, I refuse to make phone calls, refuse to do paperwork, and refuse to do lots of other work-related things.  How can I possibly be expect to do ANY of that when I've got movies, hammocks, cats, pottery, cold beverages, boats and more to tackle?!

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Did you see last nights' full moon?

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
                  -Ferris Bueller

Paradise awash in moonbeams.

Peeking out from the trees & clouds.

It was bright as daylight.
One of the most beautiful sights on Earth.
Peri pauses for thought awash in the moonbeams.

Friday, April 6, 2012

There's Always Hope. And Pesto.

We've been regrouping from the bad news we received about the environmental fight we've been part of.  The other happy vegan has picked himself up, dusted himself off, and is back in the saddle. We both are ready to move forward, because as they say, it ain't over til its over.... and this one ain't over.

This past week we had our annual "stranding & salvage" training for endangered sea turtles, and this week coming we have our annual nesting training.  Its almost that time of year again; turtle time!  Tax day may be the 17th this year, but turtles don't wait for taxes.  The beach walks begin on the 15th, as they do every year.  The timing is a little ironic considering the environmental issue I've referenced above, and in my last post, involves (alleged, yeah right) illegal filling of submerged lands (Atlantic ocean kiddos) and shoreline hardening, which has eliminated nesting habitat for (yes, endangered) sea turtles.  I keep scratching my head over this one, but honestly this little patch of shoreline is kind of representative to some of us down here as "all that is wrong with some people and their attitudes."

So, we've got (alleged, yeah right) illegal issues going on with endangered species habitat, annual turtle training, and the usual "I'm too busy for anything extra" of this time of year, but.... I've got time for pesto!  Since I received my copy of Chloe's Kitchen cookbook, it has not left the prized spot on my counter on my dad's old iron trivet which supports my cookbook holder.  Today I made Chloe's avocado pesto.  I haven't done more than taste test this one with a sample, but I do believe she's got another winning recipe for me at hand.  The one thing I wasn't sure of was what type of avocado she used (being that she's a Cali girl, probably Hass, which is much smaller than our beloved Florida avocados), but I had Florida, so Florida it was.  I think I made double the recipe due to the avocado size issue, because I pretty much doubled all the rest of the ingredients.  It is very creamy, and quite flavorful (ok, ok, I added more than a little extra garlic, but hey, that's just me).

Helping to pull us out of our environmental funk, I've got pesto.  A good dose of hope that right WILL eventually prevail, and the endangered species WILL get their habitat back SOMEDAY goes down even better with a fantastic dose of Chloe's pesto.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rough Patch for Mother Earth

As I sit down to write this, my mind is a jumble of thoughts. We've gotten some bad environmental news on the local front, and are still processing it.  As you may recall, we've stepped up and been fighting an environmental injustice very close to home.  I remained exceptionally skeptical through the process that there would be any justice, however the other happy vegan really had some hope that there would be remediation required.  The "official" determination has come down from the top, and suffice to say "they're" taking the road often taken, that of no responsibility.  So, here we have a situation where there are obvious environmental crimes, yet as we worked out way up the food chain, somewhere along the line each agency would either have a "not my problem," response or "there's something fishy here, but nothing can be done about it because..." response.

Ah, there's so much I could say.

The other happy vegan was essentially talked off the ledge by me this morning when word came down.  As he grabbed for the phone to begin the tirade of phone calls, I worked to change his mind.  Don't want to fly off the handle, I said; there's still too much at stake, and its not over.

He wants to give up.  He told me so.  The funny thing is, all through this process I've been angry, but never really allowed myself to believe things would change.  When it comes to government at any level, I believe I'm a realist.  The wheels turn slowly, and so often as we've seen over and over, people get entrenched and protected, and well, it can take decades for things to change... to get the dead weight out.  And for justice to prevail.  So, while he wants to give up, I'm now acknowledging I'm just getting started.  I feel there's enough blatant evidence being ignored by a long food chain that when the poo eventually will hit the fan, it will hit it bigger and better.  So, no, I'm not ready to give up, and as I said, I'm really now just getting started.

I had a prior career in a profession where wheels turned slowly, and time after time I saw that things weren't really about justice. Instead, it was about settlements, about wearing the other side down.  Getting people to "cave" so to speak, or maybe more eloquently I would say getting people to see that even when all the evidence is in their favor, and the other side has more staying power... more money... more anything, that "they" will keep chipping away at the little guy, so better to just take what they gave, or walk away.  Save yourself the aggravation was the drum that "other side" banged over and over.  So it seems I've got a couple decades under my belt dealing with motivations like that. This maybe makes me better prepared to be the proverbial fly in the ointment?  That, and a hefty does of "question everything, believe nothing" that my dad instilled in me also might help me dig my boot heels in.

On top of all this, I'm mourning the loss of Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden in Key West.  It is now officially closed to the public. Decades of work and good intentions by an environmental warrior have now ended, and the parcel lies in the hands of someone else.  Too many of our guests to count visited the garden during our stint here so far at Deer Run.

I won't single any one person out as someone I don't trust, because there's a very short list of people that garden could have been turned over to that I would have trusted.  Unfortunately, I have very little expectations for the good future of the space.  I have nothing but respect and admiration for Nancy Forrester.  She soldiered on against incredible odds for decades, probably feeling like she was rolling a boulder up a hill 24 hours a day, and often feeling alone in the fight to protect that beautiful patch of open space in Key West.  Nancy is a hero for what she was able to accomplish, and accomplish for so long.  Now I, along with the rest of the public, are no longer allowed in the garden to renew and refresh our souls in that space.  Someone will come along, probably plow down some trees, and put up a "proper" home, without regard to conservation issues including responsible design for the space.  Things like considering which way the sun shines to maximize warming and cooling abilities, alternative power, or simple preservation of trees.  Instead of the space continuing on as a refuge for animals, trees, plants and people, its being marketed as "build your own private home in  Eden" or something nauseating like that.

Its been another rough few days for Mother Earth.  Some may want to give up, but we just can't.  This is just like the fight for human rights, equality, animal rights, and any victim of injustice.  Too much at stake to walk away.  Besides, I know the other happy vegan's real truth.  He may say he wants to give up, but when push comes to shove, he doesn't have that in him.  That's another reason why we're together ... he's the dreamer to my realist.  He will dream of the day when justice will prevail, and that dream will keep him going in dramas of right vs. might.  I need to be around dreamers, because the reality is enough to wear the best souls down, and so with dreamers, hope springs eternal.

Hug a tree.  Hug a dreamer.  Its all the same.  And, all along the way, pick up some trash on the road, help an animal in need, and do something right not for reward, but rather because it IS the right thing to do.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kaya Island Eats!

I'm testing two new recipes today in my kitchen, both are scratch made meat analogues.  I'm not really sure why I'm bothering to try these recipes, I'm not really one who enjoys "fake meats" anymore.  I have eliminated them almost entirely from my breakfast rotations, although I occasionally do make a soy sausage biscuits and gravy recipe.  Mostly though when I do things like biscuits and gravy, I use organic beans for the base instead of a meat analogue or soy substitute.  I think these ramblings here are to reinforce to you that food is at the forefront of my mind.  If you saw me Saturday night drinking my dinner and eating my world class Vegan Dreams (cookie), you may have a hard time believing I'm on a food wondering binge, but I am.  I pulled out almost every cookbook I own this weekend and began pouring over recipes.  Simply put, I'm bored but usually too tired to do anything about it when it comes to food (hence the Vegan  Dreams and cocktails combo for dinner this weekend).

To rescue me from myself, I'm delighted to say that a new restaurant has joined our Keys community.  I waited a while before really beginning to publicly jump for joy, but I think its fair enough to say they're good.... really good.  Kaya Island Eats opened a few short months ago, they're located down on Saddlebunch Keys.  Its about 25 minutes from here, depending if you get behind normal drivers or not.  Kaya Island Eats is what I would consider something along the lines of Caribbean fusion cuisine.  They offer conventional food, but also are turning out to be exceptionally veg friendly.  I'm not sure if they were born that way (veg friendly) or are being bred this way (quite a few vegans, including us, are making their way to Kaya, thus morphing into very veg friendly is a smart move), but I can say, they are making this happy vegan even happier.

We have been there no less than four times.  After the initial visit during the grand opening time period, I thought the food was good, and the place had mega-potential.  I don't think its fair to judge any new business fully upon its opening, there's always kinks to be worked out.  I think I had realistic expectations about that, meaning I felt any rough edges would improve if they really were all they were hyped to be.  Indeed, I was right.

Every visit has gotten better and better.  No one is being served thoughtless food, especially us vegans, nope there is none of that nonsense going on.  At our last visit, the chef on a whim whipped up a scratch vegan pesto (OMG, PESTO.... that rates up there with vegan tiramisu in my world) because he had fresh lemongrass on hand in the kitchen.  So, he experimented for me and I was rewarded with an amazing lemongrass vegan pesto; I was delighted when my meal was served to me.  Remember a couple weeks ago when I wrote about an awful eating out experience where some dispassionate chef plated cold, unseasoned, undrained, straight-out-of-the box nasty tofu at a restaurant?  I'm happy to report that Kaya Island Eats is the opposite of that experience.  Each time we have gone there we have been served delicious food that I  would consider innovative.  The chef seems to "get" that vegans are not pasty lentil eating people who don't care about food, or don't know about food.  Kaya is going out of their way to serve really good food, and have some fun in the kitchen along the way.

I'm all about experimentation with food.  Its food, not brain surgery.  The world will not end if something doesn't turn out as hoped for when we're combining ingredients.  And, truth be told, a real chef with culinary training and experience probably has far fewer kitchen "fails" than someone like me who has some professional training, coupled with daily workings in my own kitchen.  I love that when I ate there a couple weeks ago, the chef thought about my food enough to look at something he had on hand in the kitchen as a "special" and wondered "what can I do with this for a vegan?"  I love that the thought was there, and even more I love that the wonderings became a beautiful meal for me.

I'm really looking forward to seeing Kaya here for the long haul.  If you're looking for me and I'm not on my beach having cookies & cocktails for dinner, you may very well find me down on the Saddlebunch Keys at Kaya Island Eats being served vegan food as it should be.  Yum!