Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year - Welcome 2018, Hurry Hurry!

When you are born
in a world you don't fit in
It's because you were born
to help create a new one

Happy New Year dear ones.
Let's make it big.

Kiss My Ass 2017
Cheers to 2018 in the biggest way possible!

Go vegan, stay vegan.

Monday, December 25, 2017

And So This Is Christmas

This time of year I do my best impression of a hibernating bear. Mostly it's due to super long hours in the kitchen bakery getting orders ready for shipping and local delivery. This year sure was different since my kitchen remains almost totally offline (still not conducive to VeganMoFo, mini or not). I found myself retreating inwards even more, not for the best of reasons either. Finally I decided to make an effort to shake the blues and I've started working outside the bed and breakfast. Two part time jobs, one involving food (vegan!) the other involving animals (aw). The scheduling is a lot harder to get used to than expected, and the driving involved can be quite treacherous this time of year (we've moved into season here, honestly even with less visitors to the Keys due to Irma, the roads remain very clogged with people taking ridiculous and unnecessary risks like passing in no passing zones, speeding, shooting iPhone video while driving, and so forth). Since we're not reopened yet, and I couldn't take a single baking order, I thought it best to find a purpose, that's where the jobs come in. We are making slow progress around here,  I'd like to say slow and steady progress but it's not that way. Some days we accomplish far more than other days, some days it seems absolutely nothing gets done. Once January hits, things will get back to a more normal schedule and it will be hopefully easier to get things done. The County has been slower than normal, contractors that have been working like mad have taken some well earned time off, and many people tend to get caught up in this whole holiday madness thing.

Down here, the community did a lot of nice things for a lot of people in need. We did our small part, for what we were able, driving around a couple neighborhoods, being silly and handing out small boxes and bags of vegan cookies. I'd also like to say that really brought a warm fuzzy but damn it was so hard being in such hard hit areas (yes, our neighborhood is among the hardest hit too, but since I don't go out much, I ignore the realities that go with all that). Both of us happy vegans were out there, and we had a little elf with us... the son of our neighbors, he is such a fine and sweet boy. He was so sweet and excited handing out the cookies. People were hugging him, thanking him. It was just cookie, not a magic wand. It simply sucks looking at shattered lives when all you have to give is a cookie. After we were all finished, the little elf said something like "wow, those are some messed up houses, we should do this more often." Mind you, this sweet little elf had his own life and house shattered thanks to Irma, and they too are putting back their own pieces. But there he was with a smile, a big heart, caring about others knowing full well we should do that more often.

The reality is, at least for us, we can't. At least not yet. We have to keep our eye on the prize though, and that means rebuilding our lives and our business. There is so much red tape that has been an issue, and so much unnecessary nonsense that we have zero control over. If you've been following us for a while, you know full well the way I cope with stress is either through running, exercise or working with food. Triple frustrating because those things have all been compromised as well.

So frustrating.

Despite all the stumbling blocks, I was very determined to do something for us, and something... anything... for the community. The cookies started out as a donation for one of the great feeding the community programs that has popped up, but they didn't get picked up on time. That's when we decided to head out ourselves, which was a good, but hard, move.  I baked several hundred very plain, but still kinda cute vegan sugar and gingerbread cookies in (Key) deer and people shapes. They looked like this before bagging:

And this after bagging:

We had a visit from one of Santa's reindeer on Christmas Eve:

We took a trip up to the mainland a few weeks ago to do some business, have some really important meetings about some really important issues we're dealing with, and we stopped into IKEA to have a look around at some ideas for decorating when we finish the rebuild. Yup, IKEA is know for ultra modern, but we were super pleasantly surprised to find 1) vegan food in the cafeteria and 2) furniture styles that can blend into coastal styling and some really great storage design ideas. We also stumbled upon an accidentally vegan gingerbread house that (of course) needs assembly, IKEA style. It was $4! I had to get one! So, with some accidentally vegan candies from the local CVS (by the way, I never knew that CVS has it's own brand of candy, some of which actually says "vegan" on the label), a little aquafaba royal icing, and some vegan sprinkles I get from Sweetopolita, we came up with this:

Since cooking and baking really is not happening on a regular basis here due to logistical issues as well as mechanical issues (you have no idea how much went into baking those couple hundred bags and boxes of cookies.... but it was still worth all the challenges), and I knew I wanted to do my best to have a nice post for MiniMoFo as well as keeping my own tradition of an annual Buche de Noel, I had my wishes granted by the raw fairy when I stumbled upon a photo of a raw Yule log on facebook. The recipe is offered in a free seasonal e-book download from Joey's Kitchen. Seriously, their picture is mind blowing, it stole my heart. I knew as soon as I saw it that was the ticket. I headed out a few weeks ago to get the 1 ingredient I did not have (psyllium powder), and this is what I came up with:

That, dear hearts, is a raw, vegan organic Buche de Noel. I decorated it with organic pomegranate seeds I had left from a few poms we picked up while at Whole Foods on the mainland, as well as some raw cacao nibs. The ganache softens quickly at room temperature, I think if I let the cake chill a little bit longer the sugar snow would've held up better, but I was happy, very happy, very VERY happy. If you want to make that same cake, you can look up "Joey's Plate" on facebook and sign up for the free ebook. I'd give you the link, but it's only a sign up link. Get the book, its free and has several recipes.

I do write about life post Irma, because that is my reality. I suppose if one doesn't live here or visit here to help repair lives, it's hard to fathom what it's like right now, but basically it's all consuming and exhausting. Knowing this, we HAVE to keep our spirits up, do silly things, find a way to get through the day helping someone else, find a way to laugh, anything along those lines. We lost most of our family things for Christmas, and what was saved just didn't make sense to drag out only to be covered in the dust from drywall sanding or whatever else is floating around. Instead, I had an idea and asked the other happy vegan to grab the ladder that was our very good friend for a couple months as a stand in for when we had no steps. I came up with this:

He opened up the ladder and together we started grabbing random things lying around.... contractors demolition bags, paint chip samples, stirrers, outlet covers, caution tape that we had leftover from the house we lived when we had it roped off before final demolition... you get the idea. The "angel" on top is a safety lantern that was donated to us in a relief delivery from Adam & Timberly along with one of the respirators they donated as well. I popped on the head of a broken angel that my dad gave to me many years ago retrieved from underneath some rubble. It made us laugh, mission accomplished.

And, finally, last night in the stillness I decided to find it in me to be with nature, which used to be one of my most favorite things. I rarely go outside anymore, I don't think walking from where ever I may be to my car counts either. When I went outside I saw the deer walking by, a fish jumping past the flats, and was treated to the most amazing technicolor sunset:

After I took the shot above, the sun did set, and the sky went from fire oranges and amber to pinks and purples, then finally to black. Since it was Christmas Eve, I stayed out there til the other happy vegan joined me, and we walked up onto the roof to watch Santa & Rudolph fly over. Every year some kind pilot gets some special clearances and flies down the Keys with just a red glowing light. High enough so the wee ones can't see him, but low enough that us not-so-wee ones hear the gentle buzz of the props. The schedule is published ahead of time, and indeed Rudolph came at the stroke of his appointed time. The astronomy buff in the other happy vegan came out in him last night as we talked about Orion and a few other constellations. It was crystal clear where we were last night, perfectly still and quiet. There actually was a slight chill in the air, but that's probably only Keys style talking, I mean if I had to take an honest guess I'd say it was about 72 degrees. When I looked at the temperature during cookie delivery time, it said 81. I'm so not a white Christmas, holly jolly, rolly polly with Santa gal.

So, even for a Solstice loving, summer loving, tropical kind of gal like me, Christmas came and gave us a few moments trying to fool us into peace and good will. We don't wait for holidays and such for that kind of thing, that's why we went vegan, you know.... to actually DO something about the troubles in the world, not just give lip service and SAY we'd like to change the world.

I was able to keep up the Yule log tradition in spite of some really difficult circumstances, and I'm just pleased as punch (kombucha?) about that. No matter what Yule 2018 brings, I know cake will be involved because if I can do it this year, seriously I can do anything. One more week of 2017.... to take a page from Queen Elizabeth, with a little Key's twist:  "2017 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure ... In the words of of one my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an 'Annus Horribilis' I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so." Oh Queenie.... if only you and I both had a crystal ball!

Annus Horribilis or not, we still have cake. Raw, vegan, organic, fair trade, blissful, beautiful cake. And that, my friends, is where it will always be at. Vegan style, for the win.

Wishing us ALL a better 2018... getting it in now, in the very likely event I don't get back to the computer before January washes in. And, oh what a year 2018 will be. I am SO kicking 2017 in the ass come December 31. New Year look out, here we are totally ready for you with open arms, and we plan to make it fabulous beyond comprehension.

Happy Solstice. Merry Everything. Happy New Year. Go Vegan. Stay Vegan.

Yup, we've got it all covered.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Plate That They're On

Last night I put up a picture on our Deer Run facebook page of vegan egg nog muffins. As I said then, probably only the second time I've baked since Irma. Between having to throw out thousands and thousands of dollars of ingredients, and also have some equipment impacted, I just cannot find my way in the kitchen right now. But..... muffins are doable, and in the spirit of the season I thought I'd come up with something not so run of the mill as far as a seasonal flavor. Anyway, the muffins came out pretty darn great, and I wanted to put them on a holiday plate for the picture. When I posted the picture, I said something about maybe someday I'll talk about the plate they're on.

Vegan eggless nog muffins
On "the plate"

Let's talk.

When dad was alive, he would give me gifts at Christmas of certain things that were cumulative over time. Crystal for example. I have this amazingly gorgeous set of lead crystal which I have not used once since I moved to Florida. In fact, I even wrote about that crystal on a prior blog post, because I remember writing about how a box I picked up one day actually still had a shred of Christmas paper attached. It was causing me angst because I have these things that I do not use, but couldn't seem to part with.

Irma has given me quite a change of perspective.

Take, for example, the plate those muffins are on. Along the lines of those "cumulative" gifts from dad was a set of Spode "Christmas Tree" dishes. He started me on them, and kept me going for years. I actually really liked them, and I began to pick up little "fillers" here and there as I would see them at thrifts (not often for Spode, but it happens), on sale in department stores (goes to show how long ago this dates back for me), and other stores. I had some nifty pieces like a cake cutter, a quiche dish (used quite often as it was just a perfect size for my own chickpea quiches) and other neat pieces that aren't really dishes. I was looking in my cabinets a year or so ago and decided some things had to be packed up since I wasn't using them, and this included my Spode. I had so much of it all in protective china cases and boxes. I pulled it all out of the cabinets and packed everything away into plastic tubs. And, then I put them into my storage trailer where I also had the bulk of my personal items which were removed from here when we put the place on the market.

Hello Irma. You really suck.

Irma took our storage trailer, and everything inside. She didn't flood it. She took it. She moved it from here to there, and along the way she decided just taking it wasn't enough, she wanted the exclamation point of it actually exploding into pieces. Even writing these words actually cause a sort of nausea for me. The things that were in there and will never recover... maybe I'll never completely come to grips with the personal nature of it actually. I'm not talking about things like clothing (although that was in there too), it's more like the tubs and tubs of photographs going back decades before I was even born. My books, I'm a book lover. I love the smell of the, the feel of them, and the experience of reading a book instead of a computer screen. 95% of my books are gone (cookbooks excluded). Things like that which would have no value to anyone else, but were irreplaceable to me. So sad. Anyway.... Irma took the Spode. All of it. Gone. Vanished.

Not too long after Irma, I put a video up about my experience with "death cleaning." I was surprised when I opened up the cabinets where the Spode used to live and saw that it was already gone. In that moment, I realized yet another thing that was gone not by my choice. Big empty spaces in those cabinets where years of memories through dishes used to be. I even used the Spode during Christmas time here for guests. Not every day, but I used it. Not because it was Christmas, but because it brought me good memories.

I've been out to the Coupon Bight several times searching for things that Irma took, including clothing, photos, books, paintings, furniture, you name it. I found so little, but there were a few victories. One of the lowest moments for me after the storm was the time I was out in the Coupon Bight in the post storm blistering heat. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, I was wearing my non-fishing fishing boots, a swimsuit and sobbing as I sifted through the silt trying to retrieve as much of grandma's silverware as possible. At that moment, a rental carload of 'bags came down the not-yet-repaired street still rife with asphalt washouts, (so obviously not from around here in their shiny new Mustang convertible, laughing) holding their iPhones up high recording every image, including me. It was humiliating, sickening, infuriating, and a moment I just wanted to give in to all my misery and run away. I didn't go back out there anymore after that until the other happy vegan and I went out there together in an effort to survey the wreckage of the Save-A-Turtle trailer and see what we could salvage from that for the non-profit (so very little, unfortunately). Yeah, that trailer also was eaten by Irma, and I've not gone back out there again since, but the other happy vegan has made a few trips on his own. Alone, he's brought a kayak to load anything he found, just as I had done in the early post-Irma days. After one of those trips I saw a small pile of mud encrusted zippered china/dish protectors sitting in the sand near my sad room. I knew immediately what it was.... Spode! I plopped myself down in the sand and unzipped every case right then and there. Not a single dish had nary a chip or crack. They had been submerged for more than 2 months, ripped out with a huge storm surge pushed by winds that reports say at times were in excess of 150 mph in my zone.

After I unwrapped each plate, I soaked them in tubs with anti bacterial cleaners, scrubbed them with soap and a special scrubby, rinsed them, and then ran them through twice in my superheated dishwasher (new, also since Irma). I stacked them, opened the cabinet where they had lived for well over a decade since I moved here, and put them right back where they sat all those years before I moved them into the trailer as an "unnecessary" item, although they no longer sit in their protective pouches, and there's a mere fraction of what used to be.

None of the special cute pieces have been located, including the cake server, and the quiche dish. Not a single cup has been located, but almost all the saucers have been retrieved. I don't have all the plates, cake plates, salad plates, rather just a few of each. But, I do have some. I know I did a death cleaning after Irma, but I feel like these dishes are meant to be kept, at least I'll say not meant to be given away just yet.

It was astonishing to me to come full circle with something as innocuous as plates. But for whatever reason(s), these dishes are a sign of either ridiculous excess, or the exact opposite. I'm not sure which, and actually since most days I'm not really coping very well navigating life and all the bombs that come with it since September 10, I'll try not to read too much into any of this. But.... I cannot help but to some tiny extent think of my dad more than ever right now. It's been really difficult to go through the storm, and everything that's happening since. The ground is constantly moving under us both personally and with our business since Irma, we are constantly adjusting our sails and it's exhausting at a time when I'm already exhausted.

So, I have some Spode and it's a pretty safe bet that I'll be eating off that plate after December is long gone. Seems like the right thing to do, when there are no rules anymore anyway. I think a nice red dragonfruit will look just as beautiful on it as the vegan eggless nog muffins.

And that is the story of the plate that they're on.

Vegan love my friends.