Thursday, August 30, 2012

Big Weekend on Tap!

I blink and missed it.... summer.  It's gone.  Labor Day weekend is upon us.  In years past, Labor Day weekend was one which I dreaded. Bidding farewell to friends from down the shore til the next year.  I never understood why people closed their summer houses so early and I was forced to endure the sights and smells of autumn... pumpkins, mums and foliage. I wouldn't have minded the fall foliage so much on its own, but I knew that just behind it lurked the cold and dark winter. September and October are truly glorious at the shore, and the water is especially warm in September up there. Why do people leave there so early? I was known to pull the drapes on my tiny summer home and barely venture out once the sun went down on Labor Day.  I couldn't bear the end of summer.  Now I don't have to, for every day is summer here in the Keys.  It's no small coincidence I live here now, my emotional state has flourished since becoming a full time resident.  Sunshine, palm trees, ocean.  The magic elixirs, trust me.

Labor Day weekend is upon us.  We're working all weekend, but that matters not.  We've got plans.  Social plans.  Fun plans.  Charitable plans.  All good stuff, trust me.  Here's a little roundup I'd like to share.

Before Isaac blew through, our local animal rescue and shelter (called Safe Harbor Animal Rescue of the Keys or S.HA.R.K. for short) rescued an adult male pug who had been abandoned on Big Pine.  Bad enough the dog was a throwaway, but the dog is also paralyzed in his back legs.  He's been named "Gus" and there's been a lot of publicity going to Gus the wonderpug.   Funds are being raised to purchase a wheelchair which will obviously aid in his mobility, and also will likely assist with his incontinence issues.  All weekend long the Looe Key Tiki Bar on Ramrod is hosting fundraising efforts for Gus as well as the other S.H.A.R.K. animals in need.  But, tomorrow night there's an event where Gus will make a personal appearance.  We're in!  Yup, we're going to see Gus, and actually plan to drop of an adoption application that a friend of ours from Illinois will be filling out to become a candidate to adopt Gus.  I promise to write more about that if things work out for that adoption, but don't want to jinx things right now.

Then, on Saturday we're actually heading out to Boondock's, also on Ramrod, to join the fun as Xperimento! comes to town.  World dance fusion music is my classification for this great band out of Miami.  A real treat for them to be so close by, as typically when they're in the Keys you'd have to travel to Key West for the fun.  So, I'll be digging out some comfy dance shoes and maybe even a tiara as we head out for some dancing under the stars.

Lastly, a great documentary opens tomorrow at the Tropic in Key West titled "Last Call at the Oasis."  This film is about the global water crisis.  The other happy vegan has chosen the last few movies we've traveled to Tropic to see, last one being Spiderman in 3-D (complete waste of 2 hours of my life by the way, save for the great popcorn and beverages from the snack bar).  Somehow he always enjoys the films I select much more than those I get dragged to see (notice I refer to his as movies, mine as films).  So, if we are able to make the early show, we plan to have lunch at Sugar Apple for, of course those fabulous tempeh reubens.  If we make the late show, we'll probably end up at The Cafe, which is another of those "you just can't go wrong here" kind of places.

Labor Day weekend is here.  Instead of drawing the drapes and pulling up the sheets, I'm deciding on outfits for the festivities, and planning the delicious vegan food stops.  I feel for anyone facing down Labor Day weekend as the end of the summer.  I can tell you the cure all for that nonsense absolutely is trip to the Keys.  As I said above, we've got the magic elixirs and sure do like to share.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Musings on a Storm

Severe weather is serious business.  No matter where any of us choose to live, we've all got our own host of issues to deal with when it comes to Mother Nature.  My own biggest fears when it comes to Mother Nature are earthquakes, and tsunamis.  Earthquakes because they happen so quickly there is virtually no way to prepare, and tsunamis for very obvious reasons (um water terror anyone?)  When it comes to life in the Keys, we do have to give special consideration to hurricanes & tropical storms.  I think I'm very fortunate however because although I respect any nature phenomenon, when it comes to hurricanes we have an advantage ahead of time for planning, unlike earthquakes.

Much has been made of the present storm called Issac. Issac remains a tropical storm, with potential to morph into a hurricane as it moves past my area.  As I write, another squall line is moving through.  Not too unusual is for me to meet someone who upon finding out where I now live will make a comment how they could "never live there" because of hurricanes.  There are precious few times I think that a person cannot do something, instead I believe the possibilities are endless for us as individuals.  Yes, it seems to me that some people have to work harder than others to achieve their goals, but I still believe anyone can do anything they set their mind to. An exception to my rule on that might just be those who say they could never live here.  If you think you cannot do something, you're right.  And, if you think you do not belong in an area where weather threats take over your worries, you do not belong there.

It's odd.  Here I am living on a small island along a string of other small islands, but I have never in my life felt as safe as I do right now.  I cannot believe how fortunate I am to have this peace within me.  It's not because I am ignorant or in denial about realities of storms, but really the exact opposite.  Never have I had the good fortune to live in an area that takes storms so seriously as to really plan ahead like down here.

I was born, raised, and spent the better part of my life in the northeast.  A fair amount of that time was spent living and working in coastal areas, sometimes right on the water.  No one up there prepared for storms like they do down here.  When the other happy vegan and I lived in a coastal home across from a bay, he decided he was going to renovate the home and bring it up to modern standards. The biggest part of that plan was hardening the house.  It included impact windows, a metal hurricane-rated strapped roof, and other expensive things that no one would notice from the outside, but can be priceless to those on the inside.  With very few exceptions, when people found out what we were doing to that house, they were incredulous.  "Why would you spend your money on that?" was a common theme.  He was never surprised by that mindset, but I was every time. Sometimes we would take car rides up and down the shore, and onto neighboring islands to look at the homes paying special attention to new construction.  Design and construction up there is pathetic when it comes to consideration for natural disaster. It seems to me that despite epic devastation in this country from historical storms, people up there are sold window dressing instead of solid construction, all given the stamp of approval by regulating authorities in the areas. We would always leave our self-guided tours remarking that one day a storm is going to blow through, and those towns will be completely wiped off the map.  We hope we are completely wrong about that.

Here, Florida has just now passed the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew which to this day remains one of the most powerful and life-changing storms to hit this country.  Andrew devastated South Florida beyond what words and photos could show.  Andrew changed everything for South Florida, including building and construction codes for South Florida.  I live in an area that has some of the most stringent codes for construction because of storm threat; I have no problem with that.  In fact, I embrace that type of thinking.  I wish this was the rule rather than the exception for all areas of the country.  There's too many people I love and care about living in some very fragile areas.

So, here I live on this small island, surrounded by other small islands, very calm right now.  We spent the better part of yesterday preparing for Issac.  The other happy vegan is a very good planner.  I cannot really think of anyone else I'd rather be with in face of a storm.  One of the first things we did when we knew we were moving here was make our disaster plan. Actually it was even written down.  When time came to begin Issac preparations, all I asked him was to give me a list of what I should do.  I don't need to figure things out myself, and I don't need to get in his way.  He's the one who has overseen all the hardening of this bed and breakfast, he's the one who has set up the emergency system for the B&B including an appropriately sized generator (which many of our guests have heard as it test cycles for a few minutes every mid-week.... music to my ears), and he's the one who will lead me to safety in case of disaster. I never doubt that. He takes storms seriously, and plans for them. That's the thing in this world.  Maybe sometimes we cannot control the circumstances that surround us (i.e.: the weather), but we sure can control our reactions to them.  And, with enough planning, you find yourself being able to live in a storm prone area and still have inner peace.  That inner peace, along with a few cats sprinkled in, and I probably wouldn't ask for much more.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Storm Update

Hi gang, how is everyone at the moment; well I hope!  It's been close to 1 week since my last post.  If you haven't "liked" us yet on Facebook, I encourage you to do so.  I promise to keep the blog going, but Facebook has been a wonderful way for me to get information out in a much more timely fashion.  On to the matter at hand.

Here, we're in the "cone" of error for Issac.  As I write, we're waiting for a substantive update from the Office of Emergency Management. All is well, and it's simply a matter of planning.  Presently there are no warnings in place (for us), and no orders for evacuations of residents or visitors.  The storm is a tropical storm as of now, it may or may not strengthen to a Category 1 storm by the time it is over, or near, us. To that end, it's about safety.  And, if OEM calls for special things, then so it shall be.  We are expecting an update about 5pm-ish.  At that time, we would expect to have much more information about the storm's intensity, track, and thus the plans for folks in Florida, especially the Keys.

We've had isolated thunderstorms rolling through today, completely unrelated to Issac.  And, in between those storms, we've had blue skies and sunshine.  Typical South Florida summertime weather.

No need for anything but calm, cool and collected actions.  Everyone is fine, and we are following the bulletins, updates and NOAA weather as closely as the next person.  We are mindful that many people are already in dire straits from storms past, and we are holding very good thoughts for everyone in Haiti, Cuba, and other struggling areas.

Follow our updates on Facebook.  You'll find us under "Deer Run Bed and Breakfast - Florida Keys." I'm a little pressed for time at the moment, so for the next day or so I'll be posting more info on that Facebook page.  Thanks for checking in everyone.  We'll be just fine, as will the Key deer, Peri, Elsa, Angel, and everyone else.  Never just shrug off odds on a storm; it's always better to be over prepared (which of course includes plenty of luscious vegan food & a good corkscrew!)

See you soon!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Diana Nyad is Swimming (again)

Here it is an early Sunday morning with relatively calm wind and sea conditions.  I am puttering around my house doing chores, cleaning and organizing things.  My benign day is going by as someone I greatly admire is facing probably the biggest challenge of her life so far. Diana Nyad is swimming again.

The weather window for this epic swim of hers has changed again, so instead of leaving Cuba's shoreline this morning, she began 15 hours earlier; Saturday afternoon.  Here our local paper has a picture of Diana blowing a trumpet from the beach in Cuba just before she began the swim.  I've clicked onto her blog already a few times since early this morning hoping for updates, and there are some already. Through the night she encountered swarms of jelly fish and already has endured several stings.  She shifted her stroke and the blog said it seemed to help.  She is swimming with a special suit designed to protect her from jelly stings.  On her last attempt to swim from Cuba to Key West, she was done in, if I recall, by jelly stings, and profound asthma.  I do recall she was having major shoulder problems as well, but I don't think that is why she stopped the last try.

There's so much I could say about Diana Nyad, but words seem to fall short.  You already know that I admire her immensely; I've written about her a few times on this blog.  Throughout my day of chores, cleaning and organization my thoughts will be with Diana. The thoughts of many people are with her from all around the world. Who knows what causes any elite athlete to have that drive, that focus, that power needed to set such extreme goals and then achieve them.  Diana Nyad has tried this epic journey before, and although each time so far she has not completed the swim, each attempt has better prepared her for another attempt.  Despite the fact that she is merely days away from her 63rd birthday, she is likely in the best shape of her life both mentally and physically.

Diana I'm thinking of you and hope you can feel the love and power coming forth your way from around the world.  Swim strong and conquer.

(you can follow Diana's journey with updates on her blog at

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Another Visit to Kaya Island Eats

Well, there it is.  We've had another visit to Kaya Island Eats.  I'm going to gush, I can't help it.  There is finally a fine dining establishment that I enjoy going to repeatedly.

You know I'm pretty much about food.  I'm a fan of food on every level.  I enjoy preparing food, serving food, and eating food myself.  I appreciate love and thought that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to a good eating experience.  I appreciate the training and dedication it takes to be a good chef, and the passion a chef needs to have longevity and happiness in the food industry.  All that being said, I think there's a perfect combination happening down on Saddlebunch Keys with Kaya Island Eats.  This is how we rolled.

At about 5:00pm, I was getting ready for a run.  The other happy vegan stopped me as I was getting ready and said why don't we go out to a movie, and maybe dinner.  Movie?  And dinner?  On a work night.  That's just crazy talk.  Tempting.... but still crazy talk.  I began to cave into the idea, so I looked up the movies.  Nothing playing either of us wanted to head down to Key West for. So, I said "nah" let's do it another time. He was persistent and said how about a drive to Key West for a stroll through the neighborhoods, a cocktail and maybe a late dinner.  A late dinner?  On a work night?  Still crazy talk. But, again I began to cave.  I looked outside, and saw a very dark cloud approaching.  This wasn't good news for my run.  He flipped on the radar weather, and we both saw a run was not to be at that time. I agreed to Key West, and we both agreed to no particular plan, let's just see where we end up.

As we began to drive, we encountered torrential rains about 10 minutes into the drive.  Within 5 minutes, it was sunny and clear again.  Just a few more minutes later, the skies re-opened with torrential rains, thunder and lightning.  At this point we were only half way to Key West, but 2 minutes from Kaya.  Neither of us wanted to walk the city in the rain, so we detoured into Kaya.

It was still a deluge when we pulled into the (covered) parking lot.  I didn't want to walk up the stairs, we never carry an umbrella. To our amazement, there was an elevator underneath to carry us nice and dry upstairs!

Once we got upstairs, we were greeted by the hostess with a giant smile asking if we'd be dining tonight or at the bar.  For the first time ever, we said we're going to have a drink at the bar, and then we'd like a table.  No problem she said.  Off we went to the bar.

A little light and happy banter was next between the wonderful bartender (gaa..... so bad with names!  I'm sorry, it began with an "s" and she was awesome, but it has slipped from my mind) and a few other patrons nearby.  I ordered something called "Bethany's Birthday Cake" which was a beautiful drink rimmed with hibiscus sugar.  When I asked bartender "S" her recommendation of the drink or not, she laughed because sitting next to us at the bar was the Bethany who the drink was named after. With that recommendation, who could pass it by.... not me.  Once our drinks arrived, a beautiful fresh homemade salsa and tortilla appetizer arrived as well.  The owner, Scott, knows we are vegan, and he takes exceptionally good care of us (as well as our own customers we send there, and quite frankly of ALL patrons in his restaurant!).  The tortilla was delicious, as were our drinks.  We watched a bit of the Olympics while chatting amongst ourselves and others at the bar.  I honestly cannot recall the last time I went out and just sat at a bar with no schedule, no particular place to be, and no deadlines.  We watched the weather outside too.... on our one side the sun had already come back and was shining down, on the other side, the downpour continued.
This was what's left of my "Bethany's Birthday Cake" cocktail by the time I remembered to take a photo, as well as a  the tortilla with fresh, house made salsa.  Tasty morsels indeed!

We decided to have dinner, and almost as quickly as that happened, the lovely Bethany of the Bethany's Birthday Cake cocktail sent us a round of drinks.  Seriously cannot remember the last time that happened either, thank you Bethany!!!

As we were waiting, one of the most delicious things I've eaten in forever came to our table.... a blooming onion!
It was perfect!
Not greasy, and had a spankin' hot bbq dipping sauce!
Once we were seated, we both agreed we were going to throw caution to the wind and break the rules with eating; we wanted pasta, potatoes, and no one was going to tell us otherwise.  So, our lovely dinner was a beautiful simple salad with hibiscus dressing, pasta in vegan butter sauce with capers and pink peppercorns, french fries with truffle ketchup (!!!) and of course I had a glass of their signature hibiscus punch (non-alcoholic deliciousness).  Our server, Matt, has been at Kaya since its inception, and we adore his apparent light hearted approach to life and excellent sense of humor.

Pinch me, is this for real?
Pasta with portobello and a simple vegan lemon butter sauce, capers and pink peppercorns.
 Now you're talking!

Fries are a very occasional indulgence in my world.
 The other happy vegan orders them everywhere we go (he fancies himself a connoisseur of fries, seriously).
 Kaya always serves up a generous portion, crispy outside, fluffy inside.
 Their sauce is a truffle infused ketchup.  Seriously.

There's always leftovers for me to take home!
 By 11am the next morning, they were gone.  I actually think it was even better the next day.
I ate it cold;
I could not go the whole day knowing it was in the fridge calling to me.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love when other people prepare food for me?!  Ok, ok, I know that's a constant running theme on this blog, but I LOVE when other people prepare food for me!

Scott came over to our table during dinner, as he does with pretty much all patrons, checking if everything was ok.  Was it ok?  It was better than ok.  It was wonderful.  Delicious. Beautiful.  Perfect.

I do write about food a lot on this blog.  That's one of the purposes here... food, animals and life in the Keys.  To the list of places we adore (Good Food Conspiracy, Help Yourself, Sugar Apple, The Cafe, Food for Thought) we have added Kaya Island Eats.  They consistently go out of their way to make every patron feel important, to make every meal matter, and to have a fun time playing with food in the kitchen along the way.  I cannot help but think about my prior blogged about naked tofu experience at an alleged 5 star restaurant in Key West and how different a simple shift in thinking from a chef makes for a great dining experience, or for the worst ever in the Keys (naked tofu post-traumatic stress I suppose).  For the record, no chef or manager or ANY person from that alleged fine dining establishment in Key West who served me the naked tofu ever had the courtesy to respond to my letter.  Nothing.  Obviously they don't care about me or my dining experience. I will never recommend them to anyone; anyway why would I when we have places like Kaya that take such magnificent care equally of everyone who dines there.

After all was said and done, we made our way back to the car for the ride home, and were met by a sweet little gray girl kitty.  She had tags and a collar on, and let me hold and snuggle her for a moment. I was too enamored to take a photo of her, and hated to say goodbye.

Kaya is on an extremely well earned 2 week vacation.  That's how it is summertime in the Keys.  Lots of places close for a respite, things do move at a slower pace this time of year.  It's been a great few months of wonderful food and experiences at Kaya.  Enjoy your vacation folks, can't think of anyone who's worked harder than you. See you soon enough!

Monday, August 6, 2012

August Already?

We're truly in the heart of summertime here in the Keys.  More than a handful of friends and acquaintances have taken to the road, gotten "off the rock" so to speak, and have taken (or will soon be taking) vacations.  Some places have scaled back their hours, some have closed for a week or two here or there.  We're still open and working, and truth be told there remain very few days where I have "spare" time.  Part of the reason is simply working on Deer Run, but there are other projects and endeavors that both the other happy vegan and I have undertaken that keep us more than well occupied. Through it all, I'm still running.  There was one day last week where I just had to say "no" due to the heat.  It was absolutely excessive for exercising outdoors, and it's still bugging me that I had to ditch my run.  Otherwise, I'm keeping up fairly well.  I read another book about running very recently.  It's not worth mentioning which one, because I wouldn't really recommend it overall.  Yet, there was a few tidbits in there that will help me out, and one which really reinforced my quasi-commitment to running, such as it is.  Basically it affirmed that simply to finish a run is to meet a goal.  And, that is exactly how I approach running, as well as other tasks.  For me, running is not necessarily about time (although sometimes I do work to improve personal bests, NOT in the summer!), its about finishing.  That first mile is always the worst for me.  I'm tired.  My body won't seem to cooperate.  I can't seem to breathe properly.  My mind is wandering. It's a struggle, boy is that mile a struggle.  Then something shifts, and I'm better; not faster, just better.  I find my comfortable stride, my breathing settles down, my mind becomes clearer.  So, this book had an entire chapter about successful running, much of which was devoted to finishing.  I've already donated the book to a local charity, never to be seen by me again.  On to the next.

We've had some incredible weather through our country, drought is everywhere (something we deal with annually here in the Keys, making water conservation a major issue at Deer Run just as a matter of good practice), fires still rage in certain places, random torrential rains and flooding are occurring other places.  Here we're also truly in the heart of the hurricane season.  I pay special attention to the tropical storm updates daily, and hope to not let my guard down too much when its beautiful here as much as it has been.  Yes, of all the places in the country, we've had a relatively calm and typical summer.  Rains at night, sometimes popping up through the heat of the afternoon.  Last week was a week of unbelievably flat seas, so much so that we were out on the boat, and this non-swimmer was far out at the reef (miles from shore!) in the water watching the undersea world go by with about 50 feet of visibility.  I saw a goliath grouper as long as our boat (check out our Facebook page, I posted a picture), which although they're not aggressive, admittedly I waited til he swam away before getting into the water with that prehistoric creature.

I'm enjoying summertime as much as I'm able to right now.  Work is putting more pressure on me than normally comes with summertime season, but there's light at the end of the tunnel, and that makes me happy. I've been planning a few art projects, and we still have our BIG Deer Run news to (hopefully!) be sharing in the very near future.

Please check us out on Facebook, I'm having a great time posting photos on there, its such a great way for me to get current information out to people who are wondering.

Have a great day everyone, I'm off to make 2 Meatless Monday recipes (which I'll share on Facebook), which although simple (my constant goal!) should be pretty darn tasty!  See you soon!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Full Moon Frolicking

We had a full moon last night, did you go and play in moonbeams?  I did, for a little while at least; so did Peri.  He goes crazy on the full moon.  You have to see it to appreciate the hilarity of it all.

Full Sturgeon Moon has risen.
Me?  I'm on the roof.
This month is giving us two full moons, the next will occur on the 31st, which will be known as a blue moon.  A blue moon is a term given to the 2nd of the full moons which occur in one month.  The next blue moon after the 31st will not be until the year 2015.  Carpe Diem.