Monday, January 30, 2012

Thoughts & Events

Its been pretty busy around these parts lately.  We of course have guests coming & going all the time, but on top of that we're entrenched fully in what we call "high season." Restaurants are buzzing, there's organized events going on seemingly every other day to keep us locals and visitors alike busy, and of course for a last resort, there's always keeping up with whatever media spoon feeds us to pass off as news every day.

In the last week between tending to my fire ant bitten feet, I've been to Key West three times.  Once for an educational event and presentation by Dr. Will Tuttle author of the World Peace Diet, next for a birthday party for one of my friends, and finally for the Key West Craft Show.  The presentation by Dr. Tuttle was eye opening, even though I've read his book about 4 times, maybe more.  Somehow, hearing him speak on the subject matter impacted me more.... truth be told I was shocked by the statistics and facts he quoted at his event.  Dr. Tuttle is an educator and activist for many important matters, including a plant based diet.  There was a good size turnout for the event, which made me happy because sometimes I get overwhelmed by the state of our world, and I feel unable to communicate well the importance of a plant based diet.  After attending the presentation, although I admit I felt very sad about the state of our world, at least I had the renewed passion to help educating others when information is sought.  Thank you Dr. Tuttle.

Next, a friend had a birthday party at a restaurant in Key West.  It was a gathering of about 11 folks, some I knew quite well, and a couple I hadn't even met before.  Turned out it was a lovely mix of people all with the common goal of celebrating the birthday of one of our fellow princesses.  Indeed, we celebrated with good food, good drink, and good friends.  I do believe she had a memorable birthday, while I was just thankful for that particular ride I didn't have to drive.

Also this weekend past was the annual return of the Key West Craft Show.  I write about this show every year, its among my top picks.  I like it because it attracts a high quality of artists, with diverse works. Once again we came away with some very unique items, none of which I define as clutter.  Items were either for the garden or to be worn.  Nothing I shall term "dustable."  We had a nice couple hours mingling with the artists, admiring their wares, and even saw a few of our friends in the fray.  Afterwards we headed over to the Sugar Apple for a fantastic lunch.  Oh, I forgot to mention, after Dr. Tuttle's presentation, we headed over to The Cafe, on Southard.  It was pretty late when the event broke up, so we wanted to have dinner before heading back up to Big Pine.  Funny thing especially that we saw at least 8 people come and go into The Cafe who also were at Dr. Tuttle's talk.  Perhaps he made an impact sooner more than later. I should email him to report the good news.

We're heading back to Key West tomorrow.  Our friends at Help Yourself are hosting a community party.  The restaurant has taken over the space next door which formerly was a laundromat, and is expanding with an organic market.  I'm so happy I could sing with joy (but I won't because trust me you don't want to hear that off key disaster).  Although Help Yourself hoped tomorrow night would be a celebration of a grand opening, here in the Keys things typically take longer than planned.  They've made stellar progress on the huge task of remodeling the space, and they will be open very soon.  Despite the fact its not a grand opening, its still a celebration; one where we as a community can come out to support this heroic effort, and see all the great progress so far.  As mentioned, we're very excited about this market, and can attest by eating at Help Yourself too many times to count that the food is exceptional quality, organic, and VERY darn delicious.  We are so lucky to have a place like Help Yourself so close to our home, not to mention the owner (Charlie Wilson) and her wonderful, dedicated employees who give wonderful and caring service, with a smile always.

The blessings of the wonderful food coming out of places like Good Food Conspiracy, Help Yourself, Sugar Apple and The Cafe were highlighted for me just tonight.  After boot camp, I settled down with my (organic! vegan!) salad and opened a food magazine I purchased last week.  I don't usually buy this particular mag, its not veg, and not really anything at all I'm interested in.  But, on a whim I picked it up to see if I could get any new ideas from mainstream conventional cooking to attempt to veganize (in my spare time, haha).  Well, I freaked out tonight as I flipped through the pages.  The recipes were awful; dripping with unhealthy saturated fats from cheeses and copious amounts of butter and meat products.  More than half the items included fried entrees.  Any breakfast recipes were made with so many eggs I wouldn't even attempt to veganize them (never before have I come across a recipe for muffins that started with six eggs AND butter).  It was disgusting, the photos I'm sure were meant to be tantalizing, but it was a heart attack on paper I swear it. That, and a waste of my $5.

So, its another long drive down and back to Key West, but I'm pretty sure this upcoming visit will settle us for a while at least before heading back down.  Sometimes I find that I don't even leave the confines of my house, let alone my property, for days on end. Heading to Key West 4 times in one week I think is a new (unwanted) record for me here.  I'm looking forward to it though, and especially to support the great work of Help Yourself, for their commitment to our community, and their commitment and caring towards our good health.

That catches you up just a bit I'd say.  Tomorrow morning will be here before I know it, time for me to make our beautiful (organic! vegan!) cholesterol free, non-fried and delicious healthier choice breakfast.  Why would anyone choose anything else?!

See you soon!

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Within the last two weeks, I've been involved in two separate events on opposite ends of the spectrum, both of which I've posted about. The first, a fashion show in which I was buffed, fluffed and puffed every way imaginable, the second a mud run where anything but buffing, fluffing & puffing was involved. I'm still in recovery from the mud run.

A lot happened at the mud run.  It took two days of posting to get through the story of the "must swim" obstacle.  After the run, us campers were "treated" to more than the the standard choices other non-camping runners faced:  an agriculture shower spray or a hosing down by firefighters. Instead, us campers got "real" showers.  Now, I'm using quotations marks here because what one typically defines as a shower is in my eyes was much different than what we faced down after the run.

I think the showers should have been declared another obstacle.

The showers had a wood slat floor which we quickly learned would swallow up our soap, shampoo and anything else anyone happened to accidentally drop.  The showers had wooden slat walls which were staggered, so if you went to the edge REALLY became community showers.  And, the showers had some type of utilitarian shower heads, I can best describe as a hose attachment.  Each shower had 4 of those nozzles, one on each wall, and a "door" which essentially was a gate fixed to the ground, permanently in the open position.

There is a reason I am known around these parts as a city girl.

After stepping into one of those shower stalls along with 3 other soon-to-be of my closest comrades, we were treated to the lowest water pressure ever experienced.  In fact, after close to 20-25 minutes of attempting to get mud off me WITH the assistance of friends (what are friends for, right?) I was still covered in mud.  The giant handfuls were gone, thankfully, but my skin seemed to have a permanent orange tinge to it.  There just wasn't enough pressure to get the mud off.  Doing the best we all could anyway, after stepping out of the shower dressed quite sparsely, I took a few steps aside to let the next crew into the community stall; directly into a large fire ant nest.  It hurt, but I didn't realize what was going on for a few seconds.  When I looked down at my feet, I was in a large puddle of mud, so I basically thought it was just mud itching me.  Upon closer inspection, I realized the mud was moving, and moving a lot.  They were swarming me, up and over my ankles.  Yeah, I began jumping up and down like an idiot, screaming and hollering.  Just what I wanted.... calling attention to myself after a shower, barely dressed, with really bad hair issues surrounded by hundred of others. Regardless, I tried to kick them off, it didn't work.  I tried to brush them off.  It didn't work.  My friend D who had just dealt with the same shower situation as I had scrambled off to a nearby low nozzle and called me over.  She turned it on, and I tried to wash off the ants. Slowly I made progress, but not before the damage was done.

I have too many ant bites to count.

Its been over one week since the mud run escapade... over one week since the fire ants.  The water trauma is mostly behind me, the ant trauma is not.  I have welts covering me where the ants attacked, and they itch like crazy.  I have awoken in the middle of the night for the last 4 nights in a row, plagued by terrible itching. Nothing helps.  I wonder, when will this end?

There are people in the world who devote their lives to creating weapons of destruction.  I don't think anyone needs to waste any more time on those issues.  Fire ants are natures answer to WMD.  I imagine if you get covered with enough ants, those things can do more damage than planned.

I've got another fashion show coming up.  I'm hopeful my bruises, sunburn, and fire ant bites will heal by then, but its not looking good on the ant situation.  Maybe I'll get to wear boots or something.  And, with that said, perhaps I'll wear boots on my next mud run too... or at least for my Apres' run "shower."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

MUST SWIM - Part Two

When I came back up I had a death grip on that line.  I don't ever remember feeling terror like that ever before in my life.

The look on H's face wasn't really a good one, I'd describe it as one of deep concern. I looked away from her and fixated on those floats.  With my death grip on the rope, I began to sort of pull my way forward.  I couldn't touch the bottom, my body kind of just hung as I constantly tried to feel for the pond bottom that simply wasn't there.  When I got to the floats, I think I began to cry because there were no handles, nothing.  It was a mass of muddy soaked hard slippery plastic.  Someone told me to let go of the rope, so I did, and just grabbed for the floats.  More panic because it was so slick, I couldn't get up.  Someone in my group told me to grab deeper ahead on the floats, I did.  They said get a leg up on the floats.  I did.  I was pulled and rolled up to the plastic dock of floats.  I looked behind me, hundreds were still jumping in, screaming about the cold, hollering, laughing, just doing it.

I was in the middle of the obstacle paralyzed with terror.

I had no concept of time anymore, but likely it was only seconds when I realized S was in the water in front of me; he came back for me.  I had only moments on the floats before I was back in the black water with S coaching me, supporting me, helping me.  Then, I was again back on the floats.  It was a blur, I was truly consumed by terror, there's things I probably said, things I probably did, that I just cannot recall.

Now, all that remained was the final third of the pond.  No ropes, no floats, nothing.  There was only dark, deep, freezing pond water. Any feelings of happy dancing iPod girl were long gone.  I was now water terror girl in the middle of an official panic attack.  In honest to goodness hero style, S was there.  He was in the water, talking me literally off the edge. He said "we're going to cross together."  He told me he wasn't leaving without me.

I was completely out of control, unsure of all I said, but I do know I never stopped talking.  I know I said I really don't think I can do it.  I think I said leave me there.  He said he was going to swim me across on his back.  He said that I could do it.  He was the face of complete calm in the middle of chaos all around him, not the least of which was me completely out of control.  And then it struck me I think more than anything that was the problem; control.  There was nothing in this situation within my control. I couldn't make the water shallow.  I couldn't go back.  I couldn't instantly overcome water terror, and I couldn't magically learn how to swim.  I looked at the best of the best, S, and knew he would make sure I would get to the far side, so I asked him how did he want me to hold on.  He told me what to do, so I did it.  We were back in the freezing black water which was deeper than I wished it was, and he was swimming.  I was crying.  I was apologizing.  I remember saying "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry" about a million times as we were swimming.  He was under the water, I was not. He would come up for air, and then he was under the water again.  I really was sorry.  I was sorry that someone like him, the best of the best, had to waste his time for someone like me.  I was sorry that I was not up to the challenge.  I was sorry that I wasn't good enough, that I wasn't better. I mean all of that when I say it, and I still mean it. I think we should all do our best, and for me my best wasn't good enough.  I completely fell apart.

Epic fail on "don't be a weak link" goal setting. Epic fail.

When we got to the far side, everything was slick icy mud.  It was, for me, like trying to climb out of a vat of oil.  I don't really know what happened next.  I know that I began to realize I was out of the water and face planted on the other side of where I started.  I got up, crying like an infant.  I couldn't control my emotions, I was spent.  When I stood up, my legs were like rubber, and I had difficulty walking for no other reason than out of control emotions.  My friends were there cheering.  I don't know when it was, but I found S and I know I hugged him.  I really didn't want to let go.  I know I said thank you, and I know he looked at me at some point, and instead of making me feel even more like an idiot, ashamed and embarrassed, he congratulated me on being brave. Seriously?  What?  I said I was sorry.  He said stop it.  And, then at some point, he was gone.  He was back with his video stick camera, running ahead of all the rest of us crazy girls getting ahead so he would be at the next obstacle to video us.  I was on my feet moving away from the black water.  Away from the "MUST SWIM" sign.

I was back on the sandy trail, in the sun, I was sort of running, sort of stumbling with my friend M.  She who has the magical Airstream camper I called shotgun in.  It was M who told me to stop. She is a NP; another angel in the boot camp group who always somehow is there anytime any of us has a spill in boot camp, falls wrong and maybe breaks something, or is breathing not quite right after an anxiety attack in a pond of freezing black water.  I told her no, I was ok, I want to keep going.  So, she stayed with me as we moved back into a light run on the sand.

The sun felt amazing.  People were still passing us commenting, hollering, yelling and screaming how that black water was so freezing cold.  It didn't bother me, that ridiculously low water temperature.  Keys-girl, sun loving, palm tree worshipping, it-can-never-get-too-hot, girl didn't care and I didn't really grasp why did anyone care how cold the black water was because at least they could swim through it.  Actually, those thoughts are kind of stripped down sanitized for this blog, because what when through my head I cannot put here.

I remember I did a lot of audible cursing on that course.  I had my hair in a high pony tail so as I became muddier and muddier hair wouldn't slap and stick against my face.  That high ponytail repeatedly caught on low barbed wire while I was belly crawling through orange mud, which then would kind of jerk my head back as my body kept moving forward.  I remember at that obstacle clawing through the mud just screaming obscenities (sorry don't hate me) and then realizing S was right there smiling and laughing with his video/camera stuck to the end of that 3 foot pole, filming us one by one as we clawed through.  I saw that camera inches from my face.  I couldn't stop swearing.  Nothing clever or poignant coming out my mouth.  I wanted to say "don't try this at home kids" but instead far less inspiring pearls of wisdom flowed.

The obstacle I feared most, that wall, wasn't so bad after all.  Although it was higher than I thought it would be, and I was correct, there were no knots to help me, I jumped for the rope, leaned back, and began to climb. I was going to climb the wall because I knew the worst of anything was behind me.  As I climbed, I heard S say "lean a little further back Jen" so I did.  The last thing I remember on the wall was S hollering "that's it Jen!" when I leaned waaaaaay back and dug deep.  S was there coaching all of us over that wall, including me.  I got to the top, and sat there for a moment, just looking around.  People were everywhere.  On the ground.  On the wall.  On top of the wall.  Scrambling down the back of the wall.  Running away from the wall.  Running towards the wall.  I had my moment at the top, heaved completely over, grabbed something akin to a plank on the back of that wall, and began picking my way down.  As I got closer to the ground, I jumped and there I was. Done with the wall.  There was nothing that would be bad now, whatever else came my way, the worst was over.  I was sure of it.

Mere seconds passed when someone came rushing up to me and said "H is afraid of heights."  I looked up and there was my boot camp instructor straddling the top of the wall.  I never knew she was phobic of heights, and instantly waves of empathy washed over me.  I ran a few steps closer back to the wall, and joined the rest of our group, hollering encouragement.  She waved away our cheers, she needed us to be quiet, we were not helping her situation.  So, I shut up and stood there watching her as she watched us.  She picked her way over and down, then was back on the ground. She was ok and happy again.

She and I walked together away from the wall.  I told her that she probably had no idea how proud I am to know her, how proud I am of her. She said something that I don't remember, but it wasn't really what I wanted to hear, because I know I said to her to stop it.  I said don't ever forget that none of us would be there if it wasn't for her, that she is the reason we were there; she is the reason we can do what we did.  We were back on the sandy trail, and had a lot of obstacles left.  We, as a group, faced them together, laughing at times, cursing at times.

We finished together, various stages of sunburn, blood and bruising.  We partied the rest of the weekend, some in tents, some in that camper, but all together in victory.

For the record, if I'm ever confused enough to agree to any more of these crazy events, I'd bring a pool noodle no matter how foolish I may look.  I think kicking across a freezing pond with a bright pink pool noodle looks much less foolish than having a complete breakdown while surrounded by hundreds of other people.

Our friend S, he won a trophy for his time in the wave he ran for speed.  He was happy, everyone is proud of him, and shares his happiness.  For me, there's just not enough (vegan! organic!) coconut waffles in the world that I could make for S to show my gratitude.  The best of the best, indeed he is.

Monday, January 23, 2012

MUST SWIM - Part One

I knew it was up ahead at some point because friends told me about it something like 1.5 hours before I was there. But there I was now, standing in front of a pond of freezing cold black water with a big sign that someone had scrawled in over sized childlike writing "MUST SWIM."

This is the story of my weekend; me, the girl who not only cannot swim, but has water terror.

Last year, some of my friends from boot camp went to a mud run somewhere in the cold parts of Florida.  These friends are people who essentially make physical fitness a party in a good way, not to mention that running is a big part of their lives.  Included in that small group is "S," retired navy officer and jet pilot. Best of the best. Whenever I am in a boot camp class with S I know I try harder. He sets the bar very high for himself, so I know that even if I cannot do what he does, I need to always do my best.  He's a quiet reminder that anytime I think there's something I cannot do, I can do more than I think I can.  Not to mention he is always very positive for the rest of us, cheering what seems like meager accomplishments compared to his own physical abilities.  He is exactly what you would expect from someone with his experiences... tall, proud, exceedingly polite and gracious. I'd say "still waters run deep" is a good phrase to use because he doesn't talk too much about specific experiences, but I know enough at this point in my life that people like S are absolutely more than a cut above the rest of us, that he is a completely different breed. When he is in boot camp class he is like a machine.  I admire and look up to him, although I usually am so in awe of him, I don't just go around saying things like "you're amazing," but of course that is what we all think, myself included.

So, those friends went on that mud run, S included.  Somehow at some point, I agreed to go with the group this year.  When I agreed, it was about 9 or 10 months ago.  I thought the day would never come where I'd REALLY be camping with this group of people, running an obstacle course in a cold part of Florida, far away from home.  Imagine my surprise when that day actually came.

There was a lot of planning involved, but the core group is very experienced at traveling for things like mud runs, tris, half marathons, marathons and so forth.  They do this quite often.  For me this was getting completely out of my comfort zone.  I registered for the event, paid, and began my own preparations, which essentially was me asking constantly "what should I bring, what do you need, what can I do to carry my weight."At some point I began to pay better attention to my own physical training, tracking my running times, working out harder, and paying close attention to the fuel that went into my body (bye bye sugar).

At one point a few weeks ago, for kicks I logged onto the event website to see the obstacles. They don't publish them when you register, its a surprise and different every year.  So, when I registered, there was nothing specific for this year, but I think it said there were 13 of them spread over a little 5k.  I knew what they did last year, it was tough, but nothing to convince me not to join them. When I logged on, I saw a wall.  It looked big.  I would have to climb up it, over it, and then down the back.  I got pretty scared.  I don't have good upper body strength, and the picture of the wall showed ropes, but no knots to help.  I shut the site off, and never went back on.

I packed gear, food, camping comforts such as they would be, and woke way before dawn the day of departure.  Arrangements were made long ago for my absence here; I had my friend K come and handle the kitchen while I would be gone.  All that I had to worry about was camping, and doing the event.  My goals were pretty simple.  Keep up with the group. Don't be a weak link.  Finish. Reasonable goal setting I thought.

The group arrived in central Florida early afternoon and we began setting up camp.  My friend M, also from boot camp, has a camper. A REALLY nice camper.  I didn't ask many questions about logistics before we left.  I was happy I called shotgun on her camper last year which meant no tent camping for me. Beyond that I didn't need to know anything, I already was happy enough.  As we got about 1 hour away from the destination, on the way to pick up her camper from an RV park in central Florida, somehow it came out that it was an Airstream.  Oh my goodness I thought, I have just won the lottery.

Before I knew it, we were setting up camp, and I was actually putting my blanket and pillow lugged from home onto a bunk.... with sheets.  There was a fridge and freezer.  Running water, and more.  Are you understanding why I was declaring myself at that moment the happiest person in camp.  Yes, indeed I was.

The night progressed, food, beverages, a campfire.  S on patrol, overseeing everything, making sure we were safe and protected.  It was so much fun, that night was great. The race was the next day, our wave was scheduled for 12:30.

Morning broke, they had their breakfast, I had mine.  Everything was going well.  S was running the race twice.  First early in the morning for time, then with us, for fun with his camera/video on a 3 foot pole. We all prepared, and off he went.  We went to cheer him.  You cannot see most of the course, its winding, through some rolling hills, and like I said, it's 5k.  We pressed against the "finish" fence which was close to the fire jumping. We saw him coming around a bend. You just know its him.... he runs with perfect military posture and precision.  We yelled and screamed, but among thousands of others he couldn't hear us.  He came off the line, was cheered by the group, tons of hugs and pictures were taken.  Then he was gone.  I'm not sure when or what happened, but at some point he pulled our boot camp instructor aside and said "we have a problem."  He told H (our instructor) that one of the obstacles was deep water which required swimming.  Everyone knows I cannot swim, and its not just an I can't swim situation, its that I have water terror.  At some point back in camp after S's wave, and before our wave, I was told about the water.  I panicked.  I went away, and breakfast also went away. When I got back to rejoin the camp, I decided that a little liquid courage was in order (haters, just don't hate on this one) and soon enough I was happy girl dancing with my iPod.  I was told I could walk around the obstacle if I didn't want to go in.  I said I didn't want to walk around, I didn't come that far to fail.

I wasn't sure how I would handle the situation, but I'd figure it out when I came face to face with it.  Somehow my worries about climbing a wall were no longer worries.

I ditched my iPod and we all headed over as a group for our start time.  I was still pretty much happy dancing girl at that point, just without the iPod.  It was a pretty big event, thousands of people, loud music to get us all amped up; crazy was the order of the day.  We were all herded together, hundreds, thousands maybe, in our wave. The horn blew, and we were off.  Running on a sand trail I wanted to settle into my pace, and I was told immediately "slow down."  I was ok, and protested.  I was told again "slow down."  This by one of the last year's runners from our group.  So, I heeded the advice.  We ran the trail, which was almost entirely sand, and came upon the first obstacle.  A pretty deep mud pit.  I didn't think it was bad, I stayed near the edges so it only came up just past my knees.  Exiting the pit my legs felt double their weight from the mud caked upon my shoes.

We went on.

I'm not sure when it happened, but it was early, maybe even the next obstacle.  I came around a bend, the course opened up straight, and there it was.  The pond with freezing cold black water.  To the left was a large sign with "MUST SWIM" scrawled upon.  Then an arrow pointed at the pond.  I ran to the edge and stood.  I looked down, it was black as oil, not a single inch of visibility.  All around me people were jumping in and screaming because it was so cold.  Large splashes of muddy black water began to coat and sting me.  I ran to the right where I saw a slim yellow rope no one was near.  The lifeguard was right there.  I said mostly to myself, a little bit to her "I'll just use that rope, it will get me to the middle, after that where the rope ends, I can just hold the sides of the pit and claw my way holding the wall through the second half" or something like that.  I was thinking that was exactly what I would do, when my panicked musings were interrupted by said lifeguard.  "Its really deep there, really deep."  I looked at her.  She was young and fit.  I said "I can't swim."  She told me I could walk around the obstacle.  I told her no, I had to figure how to get through the water.  She said there was no other way, I had to go in, and it would be over my head.  I went back to where I was before, far away from the really deep side.  At some point I realized everyone I was with was either across the pond already, or in the water.  I really began to survey the entire situation.  There were skinny yellow ropes for the first third. Then there was a set of interlocking floats that created a rectangle in the center separating that middle section of water to swim across.  You'd have to scramble up the floating dock, plunge back in, swim, scramble up more floats, plunge back in and swim the final leg to get to the far end.  The water got progressively deeper, so I was told.  Or, you could swim the entire length by avoiding the floats in the middle, but that was the deepest part, thus my plan of clawing my way across the sides wouldn't work.  Besides, even though it was mud, it felt more like ice. Slick.  Slippery.

Since my plan wouldn't work, I had to figure a different solution.  I looked down into the water, and saw my boot camp instructor in the black water calling to me.  She said go around, or if I come in, they would help me.  I said "how deep, can I touch" she said no, I couldn't touch, but hold the rope, get to the floats, and she stood showing me how deep.  She's taller than me, so her head was a bit above the water.  She then told me the last bit of info I needed which was "its a straight drop right in."

There I was standing on the edge of the black water pond, surrounded yet completely alone.  I looked one last time at the sign. "MUST SWIM." It had not changed by some miracle. I dropped to my ass, swung my legs in, reached out, grabbed that very skinny yellow slick mud covered line, and dropped straight down. The rope of course completely bowed once my weight was upon it and I was under.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thrive, Not Deprive

Every day I plan to put up a new post, then I get bogged down in chores, and other things.  I think mostly right now its the "other things" that are clogging my time.  Don't feel bad for me, its nothing I cannot handle, and nothing tragic.  I'm planning for something coming up, and it involves some commitment of regular exercise, and diet modification.  The exercise thing I can handle (mostly).  Just making sure I hit the mark on daily workouts plus running; making sure I don't slack.  The part that's been really hard for me is diet modification.  Now, if you've ever spent more than 2 minutes with me, you know that "diet" is not in my vocabulary.  I said "diet modification," that's something we can all probably do better with, including me.

Any one can just as easily be a junk food or unhealthy eating vegan or vegetarian, as can a carnivore.  There's plenty of poor food choices out there for us vegans, just as there are for anyone else.  I spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and baking.  I read a lot, and pay special attention to anything that has to do with disease, chronic illness, and how to reverse such things with diet modification.  I understand well enough that too much of anything is not good for us; for me my nemesis is sugar.  What I've worked very diligently on lately is removing excess sugar from my diet.  Not easy for me, the first couple days I was probably not very nice to be around.  I haven't removed ALL sugar from my diet, but its been vastly reduced.  The modification resulted, at first, in headaches, irritability, and some fatigue.  Workouts were difficult.  Through it all, I persevered.  As I write this now, I feel somewhat victorious because my workouts have improved, as has my endurance for running.

This modification is driving home the point to me just how important food is, the philosophy of eating to thrive.  Thrive.  I like that word.  In the news right now is a lot of talk regarding Paula Deen and her diabetes.  I'm sad to see that she's not taking this opportunity (so far) to grow into a healthier lifestyle with food... to take her devotees on the learning journey that could improve her own health, as well as those of her fans.  Instead, she seems to be taking the customary route that so many people take.... drugs.  BigPharma.  She's going to be a spokesperson for a drug.  I read a quote from her that said "no one wants to live on lettuce alone."  Well, she right; I love lettuce and don't want to live just on lettuce.  Fact is, I don't, and neither does any other person who wants to eat to thrive.  There's plenty of better food choices out there than deep fried this, processed that, or nitrite filled other things.  She's not going down the plant based and/or low fat road, yet.  Maybe she will someday, and I will be watching.

For now, I've taken my own diet modification as a reminder that too much of anything is not usually good for us.  I'm eating better, I've got a goal set right in front of me, and I'll report back to you soon to fill you in on the details.  The next time I eat a double chocolate brownie (vegan, organic, of course!) or a piece of heavenly organic vegan dark chocolate I will savor every bite, and not have a speck of guilt.  I may be eating to thrive, but I'm not eating to be deprived.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Girl Power!

Boy oh boy, have I been BUSY!  In addition to regular obligations and sudden obligations, there's things that I've been doing, and/or planning for, which have been in the works for a while.  One of those events took place today.  I was in a fashion show.

The event was for charity, a Relay for Life event.  Some time ago, my friend J who owns Tickled Pink Boutique here on Big Pine Key told me about a fashion show she was asked to put together as part of a fundraiser for a women's group somehow connected with Relay for Life.  J asked me if I'd like to be a model.  I'd get to wear some cool clothes from her store, get my hair and make up done, and twirl around in the name of charity.  Sounded good to me, of course I said yes.

In all my years, I have never been IN a fashion show.  I've gone to many shows as a spectator, but nope, never IN a show.  Its a lot different from behind the scenes, trust me.

I was buffed, puffed, exfoliated, sprayed, tweezed, sprayed, poked, prodded, and re-sprayed.  My hair was done 2 different ways with 2 different sets of accessories.  My make up was even airbrushed on. Seriously! When did airbrushing makeup come into play?  All this pancake flipping and cupcake baking has taken me out of the beauty loop for far too long.  As a whole team of people were making magic happen with me and all the other models, I actually began to once again feel actually feel empowered by my femininity.  Time was being made for me to be beautiful; that just never happens.  It's something I shove to the back burner constantly, and I MEAN constantly.  I've no time to be a girly girl with this business and all my other obligations. I often wonder why do I even cut and color my hair anymore when it typically gets shoved into a baseball cap immediately upon waking up every morning.  Almost every day I also say to myself "as soon as breakfast is over, I'm going to style my hair, and get cleaned up." That almost never happens.  Why bother. After chores, I'll go for a run or some other workout, then its time for more chores, then maybe a boot camp class, a walk on the beach, and so on.  You get the picture.  Do you see anything in this scenario that makes it worth my while to even think about mascara or lipstick?

Me either.

Today was different.  Yesterday was different.  The last few days have been different.  Outfits were planned, accessories chosen, makeup and hair were planned for me, and nail polish was on the agenda.

I, along with all the other models, did our best to do justice to all the work put in by those magic makers who fluffed and buffed us.  Those who dressed us, painted us, combed & sprayed us.  Jacked me up in stiletto heels, reminded me constantly to stand up tall, smile and twirl twirl twirl.

It was an experience, this I must say.  Thankfully it WAS a good experience, as I, along with all the other models, have agreed to do another show in Key West next month for another cause.  That show is planned to be over the top glam.  I'm looking forward to it, I really am.  Someone out there besides me actually gives thought to my appearance.  My hair is already being planned, outfits are being chosen, and the magic makers behind the scenes are working hard to get us all sprayed, painted and beautiful for the next show.

I may actually remember to bring a camera next month.  Its not too often I've got a crew of experts working  to actually turn me into a girl.  They pulled me back from the abyss; where runner's feet and a baker/cook's overly washed hands are the order of the day.

Its nice, really nice, if I do say so myself!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Basking Once Again

The cold front blew through a few days ago, temps dropped into the 60s.  We had one pretty cool day and night, and then the temperatures began to claw their way back up.  Today we were solidly back in the 70s under a perfect sunny sky.  The winds are gentle once again, the seas are calm, and the sky is very clear.  Its simply poetry in motion.

My time outside has been limited the last few days.  I've had many extra chores to do, lots of extra kitchen work.  Despite this, I have made time to walk the beach a few times, feel the sand between my toes, and spend some time with Peri.  The street is abuzz with bicyclists, runners and walkers once again.  When I run I'm constantly waving "hi" to others as we each pass on our own separate missions.

Its good to be here, really good.  I know there's a good lot of people out there counting the days til their own respites at Deer Run. Everything is lining up perfectly, the stars, the moon and the sun. Don't forget to pack your flip flops and sunglasses.  You're gonna need 'em!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

You Want To Be An Innkeeper?

Its a romantic idea, isn't it?  Being an innkeeper.  Many people confide to us happy vegans here that they want to be innkeepers too. They ask us questions like "what's it like being an innkeeper," "did you always want to be an innkeeper," and so forth.  No, I didn't always want to be an innkeeper. Somehow I tumbled into this life here, and my philosophy is I'm going to keep doing it until the next best thing comes along.  So far, so good.

But, let's talk brass tacks for a minute, ok?  The one thing I wish other innkeepers told me before I took the plunge (ok, its 3 things, see below)

1)  Keep a first aid kit in the kitchen.

2)  Be careful with knives (see #1)

3) Do not disengage any safety devices on any kitchen appliances (see #1).  The safety devices are there for a reason.

It was a rough morning in the kitchen.  I still have all my fingers attached, however the other happy vegan is lucky that he still does too.  He has a bad habit of being in the kitchen when I'm working. I've asked him multiple times to be careful in the kitchen when I'm working.  Sometimes I think he doesn't consider my morning cooking is actually work.  He's a happy morning person, he wakes up whistling and such.  I find that annoying.  I've told you before, I am not a morning person.  If I could be running a bed & dinner that would be more up my alley.  He thinks he knows what I am going to do "next" in the kitchen.  He wants to help. Yes, there's been multiple stories of this before. Remember how he "helped" by taking the orange juice out of the fridge and loosening the cap, when all I asked was for the container?  Then how I shook the container and in slow motion half a gallon of orange juice ended up from ceiling to floor? Remember how he ramped up the blender speed up, unknown to me, and the lid wasn't affixed properly so when I hit the "on" button an entire Vitamix worth of Celestial Dream smoothies blew all the way into the living room?

Ah, being an innkeeper.

So, today he thought it would help me to turn the faucet on so I could wash fruit.  I didn't ask him to do this, and I've reminded him too many times to count that he shouldn't anticipate what I want or need in the kitchen.  To no avail.

I had a handful of chopped fruit in my hands, with a paring knife.  I spun around from one counter towards the sink, went to reach for the handle to turn it on, exactly at the same time he reached for the same handle. Unfortunately, I had the paring knife in my hand pointed straight out.

Guess what happened next.

So, he went screaming from the room, cursing me and my *$@#% knives while I finished the last minute preparations for breakfast. Then we got into a fight.

Yes, I felt absolutely awful (and still do) for stabbing him pretty badly. But I also got mad because kitchen accidents happen. They happen to me all the time.  I'm constantly injuring myself because I work quickly.  I almost lost a digit once because I was stupid enough to not use the safety device on my mandoline.  I absolutely NEVER misuse any appliance, ever, (anymore), nor do I ever undo safety devices. Back a while I used to work in a place where lawyers were known to be.  Product liability law was interesting to me because of the stupid ways so many accidents happened.  Why would anyone disengage the safety shield on a saw or whatever was beyond me. But, people did it.  Over and over again people were their own worst enemies with equipment. Then I found myself here doing the same thing, albeit not on chainsaws.  I don't do that anymore.  Despite the fact that I work quickly, I never take shortcuts; anymore.

I also keep my knives very sharp.  My first culinary arts teacher told me that dull blades are responsible for more injuries than sharp blades.  I agree.

I actually paid money to take a short class about innkeeping a year or so before we began looking for an inn.  I've also read a few books on innkeeping.  I've owned other small businesses, and also worked for others. Yet, I never got the advice I'm giving to you today.

Next time someone tells me they want to be an innkeeper, all I'm going to say is "keep a first aid kit in the kitchen."  My next best advice would be "keep one in the garage too."

Monday, January 2, 2012

And He Huffed, And He Puffed, and He Blew the House Down

The "he" is Old Man Winter.  The "huffing & puffing" pertains to the "cold front" blowing through right now, as I clatter along the keyboard.  My house is still standing, but hey, I'm always up for a good fairy tale.

I woke up this morning (always a good thing) and flipped on The Weather Channel.  I pushed the little red dot on my clicker and up popped my local weather (this is a very cool thing I just discovered on my remote, after all these years).  The local weather for my favorite zip code (here) reported that today would be beautiful (of course).  It also said a cold front was on its way.  Ut oh.  That still kind of puts fear in my heart.  Cold front.  No, its not going to snow.  No ice.  No hail.  No ridiculous things like that.  But, they said a big blow was coming, and temps would plunge.  Into the 60s!!!  We might even see 50-something on the overnight.  Brr.

Did I ever tell you that when we first bought the B&B, the other happy vegan set out immediately to "hardening" the inn.  Making it more storm secure.  He also set about making it much more energy efficient.  This included the addition of something neat-o called "mini-split" air conditioners.  When the minis arrived for installation, he indicated he wanted the heat option added.  Heat?  He was virtually laughed out of the room by the HVAC installers.  Thankfully he doesn't really care what others think about things like that, and the heat option was installed.  Our entire B&B, every guest room and my own quarters, has heat.  Glorious heat.

Who's laughing now, eh?

I came home from the gym tonight in my shorts, running tank and sneakers.  Plus a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up around my head as tight as possible.  This tenderfoot's teeth were practically chattering.  I admit it, I'm a wuss.  A proud, island living, summer loving, heat loving, wuss.

I become uncomfortable as soon as the temps drop below 75.  This is no lie.

I already prepped our current guests not to make fun of my attire tomorrow.  I explained that I'm sure I'll greet them in a hat, scarf, long pants, long sleeves, socks and whatever else I can dig out. Down here when a cold front blows through, you can always spot a local.  Winter coats pop out.  Hats.  Gloves.  You can also always spot a visitor.  Tank tops.  Flip flops. Bikinis.  It's all too true.

So, Old Man Winter is making quite the racket tonight.  My chimes are making themselves known (I think the other happy vegan actually took down my huge heroic chimes already, he's not a fan with winds like this).  I'm already plotting and planning my workout tomorrow. The winds are coming north.  Whipping off the Bight.  I know what to expect, and it's not going to be what I signed up for when moving here.  I'm going to get pushed back and forth across the street by the winds.  I finally sprung for some cold weather running gear.  Special fabrics to run in when its cold.  Long sleeves. Long running tights. Basically polar bear wear.  Its not here yet. I've tracked it almost hourly.  Its "in transit."  All that really means is "not on my body." Sigh.

Oh yeah, sure, we're still warmer than the rest of the entire country. Oh yeah, sure this is still the only place I want to be, the only place to be at times like this.  But still, my blood has thinned from island living, and never forget that I've donated pretty much every warm article clothing I owned to charity before I moved here.

I'm so happy I sprung for that Sea Shepherd beanie.  I wonder how it will look with my magic purple hair. I think I've got the key for tomorrow's successful run.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

So the Year Begins

Happy New Year.  2012.  It's here.

If I were going to make a resolution, one single resolution, maybe it would be to always do that which should be done the exact moment I know it must be done.

This would require a few clones of myself.  Maybe that could be another resolution.  Cloning, work on it.  For good purposes only.  No evil clones please.

I missed a deadline.  Nothing major.  Just a fun little side thing I wanted to do with some friends.  I finally made the time to get the administration part of it completed, and I missed it.  My heart sank.

I've only myself to blame, and life goes on.

A fresh new year, a fresh new chance.  Otherwise today wasn't so bad, things got off to a decent start for 2012.  But I missed a deadline for something I wanted to do that had potential for fun.

Not enough fun going on.

Maybe there's my resolution.  From someone who no longer makes resolutions, this one wouldn't be so bad, to simply have more fun.

Indeed.  I'm going to work on that for sure.