Tuesday, January 2, 2024

The Best Laid Plans...

Plans for 2023 included more frequent posts here. That didn't work out, there were problems with account access. Oh the joys of technology.

So, here I am, shall we try this again?

The last year was one of change, something I'm not a big fan of but also pretty much the only constant in our lives. We fostered a "fospice" kitty and then adopted her late summer. She's still with us although we had a very big scare last week, didn't think she was going to make it. Not only did she make it through the crisis, she's doing really well having just had another check up this morning. She's elder, and has multiple issues, but she quickly became a heart cat, and we love her dearly.

What can I say about work. Work is work. We aren't doing as much of it by choice, we have semi-retired. We still take guests, just not as often. We take time off with more regularity, we almost never used to do that. What can I say, a major hurricane, pandemic, and then an accident the other happy vegan had caused him to be out of commission for quite some time (then surgery; still recovering, but recovery is going well thankfully) gives clarity.

Our summer plans got torpedoed when he had his accident basically on our first scheduled week off. We did manage to go RVing for a couple weeks, which was very nice.

My camera did finally completely bite the dust, in January of 2023. This was a big blow to me as I didn't want to invest a huge amount of money into something I consider myself only marginally good at as a hobby. So I struggled for most of the year with a defective iPhone (it was replaced twice, still having hardware glitches including in the camera which was very frustrating). I held out for the new iPhone release instead of buying a nice camera. I'm still learning with the new phone, but it's a big improvement over my last one. Never in my life have I waited for a phone to be released, so this was new to me as well. It's too soon to say if it will be worth the money, but so far, so good. I did buy an older used camera which is much newer than the old one that couldn't be repaired. I'm struggling to learn all the features on it, and honestly I haven't invested nearly the amount of time I should have by now to learn more. Instead I have been focusing on the cell camera which is easier to learn.

Our computer crashed and burned this year as well. It was a Mac and it stored tens of thousands of photos. Most were recovered, but the issue now is getting new photos on the replaced computer. I'm using an older computer, instead of buying a new one right away, we moved the guest computer into the office and loaded what we could onto it. The photos program took a backseat due to the amount of space it needs, so now almost none of my photos are available on the computer, I have to look at them all on thumbnail size. This is a disadvantage when I'm doing photos for sharing, or photo challenges. I get by though and hopefully in the next few months I'll have that sorted out too.

Both of us here started taking steel drum classes, but he had to drop out after a few classes due to his range of motion from the injury. I've signed up for another round of classes with the hope of improving. It's not easy, no joke there's a lot of notes on the drum (I decided to start on lead tenor, not sure if that was a good move or not) and it seems the older I get the more difficult it is to learn new skills. Despite this, I've persevered, and a friend of mine from a few islands up signed up for the next round of classes too. She's an age contemporary and vegan so we have a lot in common. I think it will be nice to have a friend in class, although everyone in the first classes were super friendly and super supportive of one another.

I'm toying with a few things for the blog, mostly this is more of a therapy tool for me (haha) as I never monetized it or tried for bigger reach but I've hoped that with the vast amount of content on here (especially cooking tips, recipes and what not) that someone has found it useful if they've stumbled upon it. One thing I always planned to do was a vegan on a budget series, like "eat vegan for $20 a week" kind of thing. That's needed more than ever based upon the eye popping prices at the markets lately, but I'm not sure I can devote the time for not just budget recipes, but the meal planning as well as making sure things taste good. We did make it through Hurricane Irma on a very shoestring budget with LOTS of donations, but that included not having a kitchen at all and I'm not going to rely on as much packaged foodstuffs when I do the budget series. Today I'm organizing recipes, cookbooks and my office space for my kitchen reference books. I'm finding some inspiration for other ways to do a series, maybe just pull a book a day and randomly do a recipe. Not sure what to do. I've been intermittent fasting for quite a long time now, and with that I don't like to eat junk anymore. It's become harder to maintain a good level of energy and health the older I get if I eat crap, you know... garbage in, garbage out. So, the budget series with random cookbooks combo might get the nod.

Other than that, my time is filled with volunteering at the local animal shelter regularly twice a week, metal hand stamping (have we ever discussed that here, I'll scroll back and see), work as we take it, and a few other things like photography, recipe testing, and attendant to the kitties at home. Last year did see several animal protests at various venues, that remains on my schedule for 2024.

So, over the next week or so I'll see where I'd like to take these posts in the new year. It's nice to have access here again. 

Till next time, go vegan, live vegan, stay vegan.


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Surprise! I'm still here! Let's recap, shall we?

I almost never miss a sunrise anymore.
It's important to have that moment.

Hello, it's been a while since we've met here. Since it's been so long, let's recap, shall we? You might want to grab a cup of tea before you continue reading, for the recap is not pretty nor particularly brief.

I used to write with some regularity. Posts would wax and wane, but generally I think I was pretty consistent. I enjoyed Vegan MoFo and used this blog to keep up with that too (they've disappeared and despite my best efforts to connect with admins there, something seems to have happened causing them to derail, I can only hope tragedy has not fallen upon them). Mostly I wrote about my life in the Florida Keys and running our vegan business here. I also liked to write about animals, things I would see on my runs, cooking experiments and of course just general ramblings. I never made any attempt to monetize this blog, nor build it up. I think that's evident in the followers, lol. I was, and still am, very ok with that.

I'd been through some really hard stuff in my life, but on September 10, 2017 my life changed forever in a very bad way. Hurricane Irma made landfall very close. My house and business got the "dirty side" of the storm. The house almost completely disappeared, it looked like a claw took away everything down to the studs. My business, which is located 4 lots down the same road as the house, was shuttered almost exactly 2 full years as we worked through horrible litigation with insurance and awful red tape with government. We were in the process of working towards retirement and bought the house less than 2 years before the storm. It was a roll of the dice, in fact it was my ultimate decision that we bought the house. In some ways it was a huge mistake, in other ways a huge salvation. I'm not through processing in my head whether I'd change that if I could go back in time, but most likely I'd say I would probably change that decision if I could.

I took two part time jobs between the impact and our rebuilding, but nothing could really stop the downward spiral of my own mental health. It crept up on me. When I finally realized what was happening I didn't even care or have the energy to try and find a way to care. I think it's a miraculous feat to have survived what I did. I mean, don't get me wrong, the hurricane WAS horrible. I will never forget my first glimpse of our bed and breakfast after the storm. The road was so full of debris it was impassible even on foot in some sections, so we picked out way down Long Beach itself on the 2nd day post storm. To be honest, even typing this right now makes me have pangs of physical pain. The sight was unbelievable... shattered, it was just shattered. Everything that used to be around that I thought would always be here... gone. Thick hardwood hammocks, gone. Almost every tree... gone. The dune... gone. Our possessions... gone. Everything, absolutely everything... gone. Vanished. If it wasn't gone, it was destroyed. The surge and wave action was so high it came into the second level of the bed and breakfast. Trees had fallen on each side of the building which created huge holes thus allowing the torrential rain and wind inside. The skylights blew out of course, allowing rain and wind inside. To this day, sometimes I still find little bits of an odd substance which anyone else other than us living here wouldn't even know what it is. It's insulation from the walls and attic. That stuff was everywhere, it coated everything and anything like fine bits of web. It's been years since Irma, and I've wiped every surface more times than I can count, yet I still find tiny bits of that insulation in rare instances. We've gutted, reconstructed, and rebuilt. Nothing was untouched, yet there's still occasional random bits of insulation. How?

We are not unique having been pummeled by a weather event or natural disaster. This we know.

Irma took not only our home, our business and mental health, but it took the life of our rescue cockatoo Angel. She acquired an infection from the toxic pollution in the air. There was so much debris after the storm, someone(s) somewhere in a position of authority decided to begin huge open burns of debris in certain areas, one of which was near here. We were never even told. It was nothing we could see either. There were so many other smells in the air, we had no clue. None of the public was notified, in fact it was not until residents in an area of another open burn site began to get sick with respiratory ailments that people realized what was being done. Long story short, one morning Angel coughed. The other happy vegan had her seen by her veterinary specialist within about 24 hours of that cough, and she was diagnosed with the serious infection. Birds mask illness, she was no different. By the time symptoms are happening, too often birds are in end stage of whatever is happening. Despite heroic measures by Angel's doctor, she died. 

Angel dying was the worst part of everything. We both feel responsible, and still have not come to terms for any peace with what happened. She should not have died. The burns should have been at least disclosed, and we have a lot of residual anger when it comes to her loss of life.

During the time trying to navigate a rebuild of both our lives and the business, I found myself in need of major surgery. I had been struggling for years with odd symptoms which no doctors could ever tie into something and it was frustrating. I'll tell you that often times through the many doctor visits I was told it was in my head. I cannot help but consider that because I am a woman, if a doctor cannot figure something out in the 2.3 minutes of time allotted to my appointment, I'm told it's not real. Well, suffice to say it was real and there was one doctor who actually diagnosed the real within 2.3 minutes of my allotted time. Through grit and grace I ended up under the knife of a specialist surgeon in a specialist hospital on the mainland. This happened during some of the worst of my mental health struggles. I didn't want to have to go to a specialist, in a big special hospital, with needles and knives so far away. I was so tired... I was so sad.... I was barely functioning. I just wanted it to be easy. In the end, I listened to the people who loved me enough to tell me to get where I needed to go, not just where I perceived it would be easy.

After my recovery from surgery, after the rebuild, after Angel's death, and after the reopeing of our business, Covid came into the world. We were reopened mere months when the Florida Keys got shut down, and all legal hospitality got shuttered along with all other non essential businesses. I say legal hospitality because make no mistake... people flooded the Keys in droves, but people like us who are licensed could not operate. All the unlicensed illegal rentals were running full tilt boogie as people with means came in by boat or private plane to illegal and unlicensed rentals (the road into and out of the Keys was closed with a checkpoint, you had to show proof of residency or essential business to get past the checkpoint). Those illegal unlicensed rentals do not pay taxes, and most aren't even insured. Because local government was not operating normally either, there was practically no oversight for all that illegal business. Stories for another day, perhaps.

Once the Keys reopened and legal hospitality was allowed to reopen, we reopened too. We shifted our highly social business model to a reimagined "contactless" model with so much sanitizing and hotspot cleaning our heads were spinning. After a slow start, we were busier than ever with bookings! So, we just kept going and going and going. We refined what needed to be refined through the pandemic, and made the best decisions we could with the information available as time progressed. We maintained our health and worked constantly through the pandemic. We were (and still are) incredibly grateful for the people who chose to come here. Disasters leave devastation of not just property and environment, but also on a financial level and we were not immune from that. Working like fiends, we began to dig out of the financial distress that was set upon us.

I'm not sure when it happened, but the clouds of how I felt and didn't care about anything or anyone began to lift. I think at the worst of it, almost no one understood the depth of what was happening because if someone doesn't want you to understand just how dark things are in their head they will make sure you do not know the truth of that darkness. This is why I say it's a miracle that I'm still here, because it IS a miracle. I don't know why I'm here, or how I'm here, but I am here. I'm still finding my way back and reassembling a few last remaining bits, but the list isn't unmanageable anymore.

We have shifted how we run the bed and breakfast to provide a far better balance for quality of our own lives. We're taking more time off. I took up a new to me craft (metal hand stamping) and quite enjoy it. I returned to running over a year ago and found that by cutting down my self imposed daily requirement of too many miles I "had" to run every day, instead I run just over 3 little miles every day (more only if I want to, not because I have to). I began volunteering at a local animal shelter which was huge on my list as it's something I've wanted to do since moving here. And, wouldn't you know that this blog is one of the things on my list too. It was a way for me to memorialize things in my life, including the business, even though I know it came at an expense of some people who I'd rather not have the level of insider information shared. I do share, but even at the level I share, it's nothing compared to what I hold back.

Through all of it, friends and people I love dearly moved away, and some have died. The circle of people I allow close in my life gets smaller, smaller and even smaller. The older I get the harder it is to make friends, and some days I think why do I even want new friends when I can barely manage the relationships I already have. Also, when it comes to new friendships, I have almost no interest if someone is not vegan.

I never understood the times I would listen to people say their extreme hardship (whatever it was) was a gift. I mean seriously, how can being pushed to the brink of losing everything someone holds near and dear be a gift? But as the light began to return in my life I had my own epiphany of that, and while I do not consider what I've gone through a gift by any means, it has provided a refined clarity of what is important to me. Veganism is important to me, and if someone I meet nowadays can know all the horrors associated with not being vegan and still choose to not be vegan, well then that's all I need to know.

After the storm, I thought I could keep up with being here at the keyboard. I made some posts, they're still up... every post I've ever published is still up. But somehow writing wasn't fun anymore, rather it was exhausting and I was already exhausted. I didn't see a future anymore, so what possibly could be gained by punishing myself even more by setting pressure to write? I've fully accepted with reckless abandon a new post Irma clarity for the word "no." I have learned to edit in life not just in writing, and it has been liberating. I have zero guilt or remorse about the way I conduct myself, what I've removed from my life, the things I've allowed to remain in my life or the new things I've let in. It feels damn good. I think a lot more before I commit to things now, as I will consider the toll on myself of anything I may agree to. I think that I'm in a positive enough head space to actually want to resurrect writing here with zero pressures on myself of how often but fair to say I expect it to be with some regularity.

I don't spend as much time in the kitchen as I used to creating new recipes. I'm not sure if I miss it or not, I guess I don't because if I really wanted to be doing that, I would be doing it. I do not expect to have as much writing about those experiences, but of course I could be wrong about that too.

I do spend more time with our animals with no apologies or guilt as far as things like "its the middle of the day, I should be dusting" kind of thinking. I think there will be a fair amount of writing about animals and their shenanigans, especially now that I volunteer at the shelter.

Rumor has it one day each of us will no longer be here, and apparently that includes me. I live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and for the time I do have left here, let's see if I can do a little more writing with maybe even some wisdom and mindfulness tucked in here and there. If I find that it's becoming more burdensome than I expect, I'll let you know before I go on walkabout.

I always considered Deer Run more than "just" a business, but after Irma I realized that we are in fact a community. We are so fortunate to be among those small businesses that clearly have longevity, purpose and yes, community. I find that remarkable, and inspiring. For all of this, I share what I have and hope to bring some good stuff your way moving forward.

That's enough recap.

Go vegan, live vegan, stay vegan.

Thanks for reading. See you again soon.


Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Done....

one of my favorite 2020 sunrise pics
no filter
I almost never filter the sun shots here...
with natural beauty like this, would you?

Although I set the bar pretty low for 2020 goal-wise, I still didn't hit them all. I'm usually manic about goal setting and achieving any set goals, I'm not fretting too much though because other things came up that demanded my time which were far too important to back burner. Presently it's not in my best interest to speak much of those issues. Instead, as I round up 2020 on a computer screen, I'll focus on good things. 

Firstly, I am still alive, obviously I am still alive. For your information, 2020 has not been the worst year I've been through, not by a long shot, which is one of the reasons I feel positive. If Irma had not happened here so close to the time that Covid came into all our lives, I may have had a different perspective. However, since recovery from Irma is ongoing I've been able to cope with quite a lot of pandemic related issues that others seem to be struggling with. I never want to lose sight of the difficulties our community (and myself) all faced in the aftermath of that catastrophe. The year after Irma was probably the worst year of my life, and I've had some crappy years under my belt. Since 2018 is still so fresh in my life, I can say 2020 was doable, workable, but not without challenges of course. Our area was closed to non-residents and non-essential workers for hmmm.... 3 months? During that time, here we did lots of work. Any business always needs attention if you want to keep a good business running well, even when it's seemingly not running. We cleaned, we organized, we painted, we created. We reimagined our business for operations during the Covid pandemic. As essentially a social type of business needing to move temporarily into a less social model in order to be sustainable, we've succeeded.

When the Keys did reopen, we didn't know what to expect, but we felt we were ready. Overall things have been going as well as can be expected. Business is down, but as I look around as to what's going on with other places I am nothing but thankful. We are here, we are healthy, our guests are pulling their own weight with understanding and mindfulness. I am privileged and thankful.

This year was also one of great loss, just weeks ago our sweet tuxedo girl Luciana Luna Bean crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Her passing was expected, yet not. Only a very few short months ago she was a happy healthy girl living her best life. Once we received her diagnosis, her health deteriorated rapidly and right before my eyes. We supported her, loved her, cared for her and did our very best along the way. Of course it wasn't enough, nothing was going to be enough to save her. I am profoundly grateful that she came along with us for a little camping trip we took shortly before her diagnosis. For someone so tiny (her weight upon passing was barely 4 pounds) the space she took up in our lives was enormous and I'm struggling daily with her absence. I'm not the only one struggling, as Diesel has a very troubled heart right now as well. Early this morning we went out to pick up Luciana's ashes. She was cremated on Christmas Eve. She was actually a "Christmas" kitty. Her shelter name was "Holly" because she was born around the holiday. I hadn't thought much of that until I saw her cremation date. Maybe there's some significance to this, perhaps not.

We still have Dorian "empty the shelter" foster kitties who we named Biscuits & Gravy. With the pandemic, the shelter has been very supportive to all foster families, and we feel very fortunate because we are all still hopeful for their adoption, together.

This was the first year in many years that Vegan MoFo didn't happen. Even my feeble goal (4 food posts in 1 month) was one I couldn't pull together. Maybe 2021 will be the year I decide to go back to sharing more things on the blog, I've been considering this for quite a while. It's been difficult though because there's been a lot of challenges that I'm coping with that I probably wouldn't write about. I want to be authentic, so I am still working through if I can find a balance for writing here more often, or not.

I understand there is a lot of pain, anguish, anxiety, violence and negative in this world. We all are subjected to challenges, that's a given. It's important to limit the amount of energy we absorb from others when we are dealing with our own recoveries and survival, but just as important to help those we are able in whatever ways we are able. Mostly I feel that if there's a better, more compassionate and kind way of doing something, then we have the moral obligation to do so. This includes living vegan, of course.

My hope is that as we move into 2021, people will understand the connection of zoonotic diseases, which will finally be a lightbulb moment for the ETHICAL reasons to live vegan, and we'll be just that much closer to a vegan world. As long as I have breath in my body, I will never stop being a voice for the voiceless. Animals are not here FOR us, they are here WITH us. I've seen good things happening that I never thought would occur in my lifetime (there's actually mainstream ads on media for plant foods!!!) but as Covid showed us all... we have a HUGE way to go. In fact, as I write this, texts are coming in from a dear friend about preparations going on next door to her for a "celebratory" pig roast. Her heart is broken, as she is one who lives with compassion living a vegan life. There's nothing celebratory about a pig roast, it's cruel and unnecessary. This is not a judgment, this is a fact.

If you've taken time to read this post, I thank you. I wish us all a better and brighter world in 2021, and a vegan world at that. We must help others learn, to help pre-vegans understand that veganism is not a personal attack on themselves (oh the irony, right?) and instead to show those in need how to be vegan.

Thank you. Happy New Year.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Not VeganMoFo 2020: Birthday Cake

I didn't hit goal. I hoped to have a post up every week for you in October, but only managed one. Well, I suppose if I get this published today, that will make 2, so I'm batting .500, in sports not bad.

My friend turned 50. I have been so pressed for time I couldn't do what I would've liked, but I managed a chocolate fudge cake with American Meringue buttercream. To decorate, I made 50 chocolate caramel hearts, and homemade Twix bars. It's the Twix that are the star on the cake, the recipe is at the end so scroll down. I stopped caking after Irma and essentially mostly only bake for friends and fun. I truly wish I had more time to do things for friends when there's a memorable occasion. This cake was decorated very quickly. I stuck all the vegan Twix bars all over the top at random angles and spaces. There was a lot of them, they covered the top. The Twix bar cookies shattered when I took them out of the pan, but the components tasted so great on their own I still wanted to use them. I was right... once they were all assembled and coated, they were fabulous. This is a "decorate and run" cake, which has basically been my theme for the last year. The goal is just get it done. We were headed out of town for a few days, so I had to deliver the cake 2 days before the party. I have no idea how the cake tasted, what it looked like after 2 days, nor what it looked like when sliced. I was long gone by the time the celebration was on. I hoped for a photo, but nothing has come through yet, so here's what you get:

9" double layer chocolate fudge cake
AMBC frosting
50 chocolate caramel hearts
homemade twix bars
vegan sprinkles
drizzled in salted caramel

Once again my kitchen counter looked like an autopsy
had occured after I was done with the cake.
I am not known for being neat while baking.

This sad bit of avocado was leftover from breakfast service.
I'm no fan of avo, but still had plans to use it in my lunch.
I never had lunch, and the avo was in the wrong place
at the wrong time.
RIP avo.

I jammed all the twix bars of random sizes all over into the top of the cake after icing. I had no plans for how to fit 50 chocolate caramel hearts on this cake, so I just started sticking them anywhere. I had just enough space for 50. When all was said and done with the vegan sprinkles from Sweetopolita, I filled a pastry bag with quick salted caramel, and drizzled the entire batch over the cake. I figured if a little salted caramel is good, more is even better.

Vegan Twix Bar link:
For what it's worth, the finished ones on the link above looked a bit fatter or fuller. Perhaps it was my pan size, I used an 8" square pan. Mine also baked way faster, check them at 15 minutes and then every 5 minutes there after. My caramel was soft, but firmed up enough after chilling.

The salted caramel sauce I made for the drizzle was at this link:
I thought this was a great recipe, very simple. Don't "force" this recipe and try to cook it faster, your sugar will scorch and you'll need to start over. Be patient, your sugar will melt and soon enough you'll have a great caramel sauce.

I used Chef Chloe's chocoalte celebration cake from her dessert book (I think that's the one it's from).

I used Meggan Leal's American Meringue Buttercream for the frosting, I love working with this recipe. It's not too sweet. When it's hot, go for at least a 50/50 split of shortening vs. vegan butter. At least where I live, the vegan butter is way too soft to hold up to piping and transport in the warm weather. We're still in the 80s here temperature wise. I actually did a full vegan butter recipe, so the piping was much softer than I wished (but the flavor was far superior doing it this way). When time is not on your side, you just do the best you can with your cake and do it with love.

Sprinkles are from the vegan offerings at Sweetopolita, as well as some of the special vegan sprinkles my friend who passed away sent me before she died. My supply of them is dwindling.

I have a few other things I hope to post about, I'll do what I can to get a few posts up in the next few weeks.

Go vegan, stay vegan.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

(Not) VeganMoFo Day 1 2020 - Latex Food Allergy

Completely in line with the dumpster fire that 2020 has become, there doesn't seem to be an "official" Vegan Month of Food blogging/vlogging event this year. I still hope to get at least four posts up this month. I meant to do one every week, but we're already on the edge of the third week, while this is my first MoFo post.

I recently learned about latex food allergy syndrome, never heard of it before but had to ramp up quickly as a guest arrived with this, and I had no advance notice. After speaking with the person and taking some onotes, I felt a bit overwhelmed. I immediately got to researching and started a safe meal plan for them. I should point out that not every person has the same level of sensitivity to every "no" item for any allergy syndrome, and this was the situation I was faced with too. My writing here by no means represents a "one size fits all" when dealing with latex food allergy, but what I'm talking about today worked for the person I cooked for.

Right after she checked in, I immediately set to making plenty of unsweetened almond milk as soy was off the list (simply almonds and water, try it!) Next I set to making "Better Butter" from the Gentle Chef's Non Dairy Evolution Cookbook with the almond milk. These are 2 fast and easy items to make, but I am unable to share any of Chef's recipes as they are copyrighted. I'll share what I can at the end (none of his recipes).

Today is a rainy, windy and gray day. I saw the forecast and knew comfort food would be a good choice. I settled on "Bangers & Mash" with a side of marinated kale salad for one of the breakfasts. Here's a picture, and afterwards is what I did:

Vegan Bangers & Mash with crusty bread
Marinated Kale Salad on the Side

I made the "bangers" using the Gentle Chef's recipe from The Gentle Chef cookbook. Prep ahead, these come together quickly, but after steaming they need overnight to set up. I used the Chef's spuds recipe from the same book, as well as his savory onion gravy... same book. For the spuds and gravy, I used the almond milk and Better Butter I had prepped previously. The night before I also made a marinated kale salad. Apparently peas are a very traditional side dish for bangers and mash, but I have a big aversion to peas, and sometimes my preferences slip through to the public menu. I went with the kale salad because I had 3 beautiful bunches of organic red and green curly kale plus it's a solid recipe. I did, however have to make my own fast vegan "parm" because the commercial one I had on hand had an ingredient contrary to the latex food allergy concerns. All I did was process almonds, nutritional yeast and sea salt in my food processor. No, it's not parm, but it's good enough as an ingredient for the recipe, as you'll see below.

Marinated Kale Salad (my recipe is veganized, original non vegan recipe published by Katherine Martinelli)

1-2 bunches kale (I prefer curly

juice of 2 lemons

1/3 cup olive oil (I'm out, I used non GM safflower)

2T dijon mustard

1/4 cup grated vegan parm*

salt & pepper to taste.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Wash and chop your kale into small pieces, place in bowl. Pour dressing over the kale and massage well. Do your own add ins if desired, I like dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Sometimes I add chopped pecans, not this time

*vegan parm (recipe from Forks Over Knives)

1 cup almonds, cashews or walnuts (I used almonds, cashews were a no go w/latex food allergy)

1/2 cup nutritional yeas

1T salt free seasoning (I used scant amount of sea salt as I did not have salt free seasoning)

Process in food processor with the "s" blade til powdery.

I also baked a loaf of artisan overnight bread to sop up the extra gravy. The little picture above shows a small plating I made for the other happy vegan, but for guests their food was tucked into the most eco-concious takeaway packing I can currently source.

For this particular situation, I was still able to use gluten and nuts. Cashews are off the list, but remember technically cashews are a fruit so that does make sense to me. I also used flours made from legumes to replace any eggs. Being able to work with nuts gave me lots of latitude to create, including a sunflower seed based "cheeze" which I used in place of cashew cream.

For me, I took advantage of being in a position to challenge myself again when faced with yet another food allergy syndrome someone else is living with.  It's almost like when someone is a new vegan, we just need to discover new ways of doing old habits.

Pick up any of the Gentle Chef's books, or at the very least make the kale salad, it's delicious.

Vegan love!


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

I'm Still Here and We're Going to Celebrate Vegan Food!

Hi. It's been a while. How have you been? I'm ok, but like the supermajority of people around the world, I have concerns about Covid, social justice reforms, politics, the economy, healthcare and so much more. Since we last talked on this blog, we reopened our business for a total of 5 1/2 months after being closed for 2 years due to Hurricane Irma, and then had to shut it down because of Covid. In fact, the entire Florida Keys shut down, there was a checkpoint in place at the top of the Keys where apparently you had to prove your residency or if you were doing business, had to prove you were essential. I cannot say I did anything of merit during the months the Keys were all closed, rather I stayed home with the other happy vegan and worked very hard on all the loose ends we didn't get to finish when we were reopening from the 2 year Irma closure. I reimagined a vintage armoire into our new coffee bar (that was a much larger undertaking than I thought it would be). I painted some dressers for our own personal use. I organized piles of things to donate to different places. I did the biggest deep cleaning of the kitchen and whole back of the house since my post Irma death cleaning. Not once did I go out for months. It was an odd time in our lives to say the least.

I've been wondering what happened to VeganMoFo for 2020, I know I'm not the only one. I sent an email to the administrator weeks ago, but it went unanswered. There's no clues at all on line as to the status, and the website is not working either. I cannot help but have concern for her under the circumstances, and I have been channeling positive energy for her. Tomorrow marks October 1, and I've decided to at least do a weekly post celebrating vegan food. Although it seems like we will not have an international organized event this year, I feel like even after all these years, I still have so much to offer. Last year I did not follow the suggested prompts, you may recall instead I did 31 cakes in 31 days. I'm not sure what I will do this year, but it will be food, and there will at least be 4 posts for October, maybe more. I don't think I'll be doing videos this time around, they take a lot out of me and I'm never comfortable in front of the camera. I will have pictures, recipes and tips for you, likely with a few shenanigans tossed in for good measure.

If there's anything you're interested in, feel free to comment below and I'll do my best to address your ideas in a post.

Thanks so much!

Vegan love, 

Jen xo

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019, Over & Out

"Keep on smilin' through the rain, laughin' at the pain
Rollin' with the changes til the sun comes out again
Keep on smilin' through the rain, laughin' at the pain
Rollin' with the changes, singin' this refrain"
Hoo boy, if anyone puts into words what I need to hear it's just under 4 minutes of Wet Willie circa 1974, thanks boys!

If you've been with me for any length of time here on the blog, or in my life, you know that December and I just don't get along. We'll never be friends again, those days are long gone and I accept it with as much grace as possible. Not to mention that the whole end of the year countdowns that seem to be an obsession with so many all over the place are just depressing to me. Everything is amplified this time of year, and as someone who has endured catastrophic loss this time of year the simplest tasks are so challenging for me some days. However, that said, when I do look back at where I was this time last year and consider my mental health and attitude now the progress has been positive and immense. It hasn't come easy.

When I had my final make or break moment last year, one of the things I decided was allow myself the true power of the word "no." And with that has come the complete scaling back of almost all peripheral activities in my life that I used to participate in, some of which I enjoyed, many of which I did not. And, as I've begun to rebuild my life and my business I have found that the things I do choose to "yes" now more often than not have glimmers of happiness and genuine enjoyment. Those have been some really good moments.

This year I've bid farewell to more friends, some expected, some not expected. This is something that has always been a way of life living in a "destination" area (read: tourist area), but I never really adjusted to. Irma accelerated the goodbyes in my life, and I continue to struggle with that part of this recovery every day. But, for the first time ever, there was a friend of mine from many years ago who moved TO here! And when I say "here" I mean HERE! Like 15 minutes away from me. No matter how different our lives will be, we are friends and it's really refreshing to look through the lens of someone new here, excited about the differences here from where we come from, and desiring to embrace a way of life that perhaps is simpler at least in some ways. I'm super excited for my friend and her family, and that's the truth. This one thing actually HAS come easy, at least for me since I'm not the one who uprooted and moved. ;)

I recently picked up a new-to-me hobby (metal hand stamping) and as someone brand new at the stamps, I have discovered this is one thing I think will be around for a long time in my world. I've also finally fulfilled a long ago promise to myself and have started going to the photography club meetings at the Refuge down here. The few meetings I've already been to have been immensely educational, there's all levels of photographers in the group and right now I sit, listen and absorb. You know I love to look through life through a lens, but never seemed to have the time I wanted to learn more about the craft. When my camera was stolen a few years ago while I was out, I was deflated and angry. The camera that was gifted to me as a replacement has been one that I've struggled with... way too much technology and just not my style... but I've set a goal to learn as much as I can to trade it in and then choose the one I really want. This has been solidified by the trips to the Dry Tortugas that I've been taken on this year for the first time as well. Yup, after around 16 years here I finally saw in person the Dry Tortugas National Park not once but THREE times this year. My friend who goes out there quite often has sponsored every trip for me and it's changed my life. I still am in awe that there's a place like that in this country, actually even on this planet. I can run around like crazy taking hundreds of pictures of just one bird, or sitting there doing nothing. No pressure on me, none. It's sublime to be there! I find the history very interesting, the engineering and "trivia" of the actual building of the fort a never ending source of fascination, and the serenity second to none (at least until the ferry comes in, LOL). I've studied up on the birds that migrate there, and those who live there year round. Looking back, honestly those trips are true highlights of 2019 for me, indelible, unforgettable. Such a privilege to have been able to go, and have someone who has been willing and able to share that with me.

The nature has begun to spring back down here since the storm, although the landscape is very different now. The deer are still here, and despite a push by the Feds to delist them, so far that has not happened. I hear and see a lot of people living with an attitude of privilege instead of gratitude, I suppose that's just human nature and I'm sure I have my own moments that way despite making a constant effort to be mindful and understand people "where they are" not where I am so to speak. Through it all, I think I am as prepared as possible for whatever 2020 may throw my way. Many days I have felt like my life is a "duck and cover" mode of survival, but thankfully not as much of that anymore. I clearly know what I do want in my life, and what I do not want in my life. I predict more change in 2020 for me, not sure why that seems so surprising to say (at least to me) since really the only constant is change.

I appreciate all of you who take time to read my posts, and hope that 2020 brings more writing as well, something I have long enjoyed but long neglected. I'll be around for VeganMoFo (at least that's the plan as of now) and I hope to share as much as I am able with you about the miracles in the Florida Keys. Once I settled in here, I thought I'd never leave. Then Irma hit and I thought I couldn't get out of here fast enough. Since it's taking so long to get through our recovery, I am now at a place where I allow myself the thought that anything is possible, I may stay, I may go... I have no clue and I'm comfortable enough right now having no idea what to do beyond my immediate future. For someone who likes schedules a lot (read that as A LOT) it's pretty liberating to not know what comes next.

Happy New Year to you and yours. Go vegan, stay vegan.