Tuesday, January 2, 2024
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
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
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
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:
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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:
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.
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
|"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"