Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good bye 2008!

And thank you, Uncle Jay!

Results are in, it's Holiday time!



If you take the blue agave plant and the damiana flower and mix them up with a bunch of other magic ingredients, you get Agavera. The contents could be labeled, party in a bottle, and a very beautiful bottle indeed. At least that is what three of us found out yesterday afternoon. Which is why I'm up at rooster crowing time and was fast asleep at writing time. I know I fed the cat because some cat I never saw before was in here eating the last of her food when I woke up. And the lights were turned off. And I'm pretty sure I didn't make any silly calls or try to email my last boyfriend with long wails of why aren't we together now? Which makes Agavera high on my list of 'if you're going to drink a 'party in a bottle' type drink, this is a good one! I'm pretty sure that's my story. I'll have to check in with my cohorts in imbibing later today to be positive.

Earlier in the day the man I consider one of the living embodiments of what Culebra is to me showed up from the cold North with his wonderful wife Randi and their new baby, Moya, who came into my arms without a whimper. I think she is going to be passed around a lot this week...babies everywhere! Juanito was on the move (and if you know him, you know he moves fast) but I did make him stay still long enough to get a photo or three. Cooky lion!!!



I'm glad I got into the holiday spirits; just in time for New Year's Eve, the best party Culebra puts on. We still have Three King's Day on the sixth. In between - well, one of the great things about living here is I can just look forward to who knows what will happen next.

Have a wonderful and safe New Year's Eve! As Hector from Milka's said yesterday," OUT with 2008!!! 2009 is going to have everything good, health, love, peace, prosperity. 2009 will have EVERYTHING!" I'm taking his word for it. Of course, he said it in Spanish and I might be getting some of that mixed up, but it's my blog and I'm going with my translation.

Happy New Year!!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Worse than fireworks

I had just finished two things, 1) catching the tail end seconds of magic light time and 2) thinking about Deb's comment about my peace being shattered by holiday fireworks, before the aural assualt started. Thumping, pumping, throbbing bass across the water...oh no, the party house is open!

I love this house, which was built at night due to the laws being broken (too close to water and mangroves), building it right over the water, again. It was a post hurricane wreck and new laws should have kept it from being built. I think they even had to tear it down a couple of times. But weekend nights the hammering would commence and finally it was done and has stayed done. It's even painted in colors I like, which is a considerable thing.

It's the ultimate water house, with the front and side opening up wholly to the water, and a nice dock for the go-fast boats and water toys they keep there. They aren't rude with their boats (at least in this part of the bay), but they are seriously rude with their music. Maybe it's because this sort of music makes me want to rip arms & ears off of bodies (and they say music doesn't incite violence...not true). I can truly use the word despise to describe how I feel about this music and that is without even understanding the words. Luckily. And it's the music of choice each holiday they open the house.

Maybe I'll just retaliate with the cd Chant. My speakers wouldn't make a dent on them, but I'll enjoy the thought of it...unless I take my own advice and hold on to that magic light moment (and maybe decide to let those kids live to see 2009 - the jury is still out).

Sunday, December 28, 2008

How do you

photograph beautiful? I've seen a zillion photographs and paintings that knock me out in my soul and they are timeless. But I'm talking about trying to share right now, this minute, when the winds have started to die down, the sun is out, the sky is purest of blues with 80 degrees cooled perfectly.

I could go to the beach and shoot something glorious. I could catch that pesky hummingbird on a brilliant red bud. Maybe children prancing in low surf. A sunset. But it would not catch what is happening this moment, this hour, this perfect time.

All I know is...how lucky am I to have this moment of achingly beautiful. If I knew how to wrap it up and bottle it, or take the photograph that would include the smell of my gardens in the slightly salty air, I'd be, in the bank, a very wealthy woman, because everyone would want to have it...just for a sniff, just for a look, just for the feel of the cool warm air touching skin. Instead, I find my wealth huge with only what I am experiencing, just as my Daddy told me life would be if I looked for the right thing in the right place at the right time, a long, long time ago.

I have this and I'm only sorry I cannot share it fully with you who are not here. Maybe one day they will figure out that transport Star Trek thing and I'll have the landing zone right next the cart and bid you welcome, welcome in!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Home Day

When I think of today, which is still going on, it just feels like a home day. Not just home the dwelling I live in, but home the place I live in... The sort of day when you know you are in the right place at the right time of your life. Barely past dawn was grey and gloomy but only moments later the sun was out. Christmas winds were, and are, blowing hard. I got to the cart a bit late due to later morning rains but when I settled in the sun was shining and all was well.

Visitors from years past came by, renewing connections. Lots of people who go to the annual Christmas party at Ann's mentioned my absence, caused by, I am now sure, some person kissing me and then telling me how sick they were. The icky sick came on strong mid-Christmas day and no party for me, first time I've missed it in seven years. But not being one to share the ick, better to stay home and know I can party on next year. Note: do NOT kiss anyone if you are sick!!!! Didn't your mother teach you anything?

It was a good day, mellow in a windy, more people than we've had here in awhile sort of way. Finally the sun was beating on my legs and it was time to close. A friend came by mid-closing and we went to chat on the bridge out of the sun. The wind was wildly tunneling through the canal but in a good for conversation way with someone I wanted to catch up with. Then a couple more people came along to talk. Then some visitors wanted hot sauce. Nice! I can stand in the middle of the bridge and still do business...I might do this a little more!

I forgot it was Saturday and went to the PO and the bank, wondering what kind of half holiday it must be and figured I might as well head back to Dinghy Dock for an afternoon cocktail. Good conversations, the reminder that it was Saturday to my wondering why on the PO and bank (duh me) and the thought that Neil's rotisserie chicken (which he's started doing again on weekends..8 bucks for the whole chicken, 5.95 for the plate of chicken, rice and beans, green stuff, a hell of a deal) would be a great dinner (and four more when you eat for one). So, two drinks in, a chicken in hand, I was on my way.

An artist I hugely admire as both an artist and a person, and her make-me-laugh-with-good sarcasm husband gave me a ride home. We got to have a bit of talk time, something we don't usually get, and I was glad, again, to know I have people like this in my world.

So this post is sort of what people tell me a Seinfeld episode is like (not having a television for - a long time)...an expanded treatise on nothing much but a day of life in my life. I can only hope your ordinary days are as good as mine, because I just feel grace.

The year is ending, a new one beginning oh so soon. Outwardly, it's tough, and I'm not Pollyannish enough to pretend differently. But I am a believer in surviving with joy. If you go to the dark places in life and come up on the other side standing on your feet, you know it will take a lot more than financial down times to sink your boat. And I'm glad for that knowledge. For those whose life has been a chair of bowlies, it's going to be a lot rougher to adjust. But you can! And with joy. If you pay attention, it's the little things that make the difference. And those little things will help you through.

Friday, December 26, 2008

What's in that..Friday

New Year's Eve is Wednesday night and we'll celebrate around the world the end of 2008 while ushering in 2009. Of course, we'll all be celebrating in different ways, but it all comes down to the same purpose..hoping for good luck, better fortunes of the physical and financial sort, peace & prosperity - however you phrase it, regardless of your claims to superstition, resolutions, looking back or looking forward, who doesn't want a fresh clean slate on which to start a new year?

From a UK site we get this:

Good Luck

Traditionally, it was thought that people could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year.

For that reason, it has become common for people to celebrate the first few minutes of New Year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night.

It was believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day (hence the ceremony of 'First Footing' when a visitor brings coal to warm the house) would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year and with odds like that they really couldn't lose.

It was thought to be particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle.

For that reason, the eternally entertaining Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune - and apparently the calories don't count!

Don't be getting all excited here thinking I've lost my mind and will be posting donuts as a good healthy & inexpensive meal because that is not going to happen. Just the idea of eating a donut on New Year's Eve at midnight makes me feel a little nauseous (that might be because I sold Krispy Kreme donuts in sixth grade and my gluttony has left a residual glazed taste in my mouth).

Nope, instead we're going to go with a good ol' US southern tradition of black eyed peas (the peas, which of course are really beans, are symbolic of coin) and something green (to represent paper money). And because it's a southern thing, cornbread.

There are, as usual, many ways to make black eyed peas. Some may be healthier than this one, but it IS for New Year's Eve so tradition has to come in here somewhere! And while I think that those with aspirations of 'champagne wishes and caviar dreams' may try real hard to dress up the humble black eyed pea...I'm not much for dressing up food for the sake of something different.

So here is my take on black eyed peas (this is with a crock pot...using dried peas. You can use canned or frozen - yes, they have frozen black eyed peas - or use dried and do it on the stove, but this way works for me; less propane, easier clean up)

Green note: Because it's New Year's Eve and this is good luck food, greens are part of the deal and good for you too. To get them in the mix and add some color to your peas, in the last hour of cooking the peas, put in the greens of your choice, spinach, collord greens, kale. These can be fresh, frozen or canned, because the southern way is to cook them a long time (and that will be long enough, no matter what style you use). If you use fresh, wash them well, dirt loves to hide in fresh greens!

  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 (or more) large onion
  • 2 - 4 small ham hocks
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 full teaspoon garlic powder, or use 1 medium head garlic, minced (I love garlic and am accused of overdoing it by some, and just enough by fellow garlic fiends, so adjust accordingly)
  • One bay leaf (remove at end of cooking)
  • good pinch of salt (keep a box of kosher salt near the stove, you'll know what a pinch means)
  • One package/one bunch/2 large cans greens of your choice.
Soak peas overnight, rinse well and take out any that look 'wrong'. Rinse until water runs clear.
Mince onion & garlic (needn't be small, it gets pretty much turned to pure flavor by the time this is done) and saute in a tiny bit of oil or butter. I usually take some of the fatty skin from one of the ham hocks and saute it first to get some seasoned fat to saute the onions in. Once the onion is slightly softened (and that good smell is going up your nose), toss it in the crock pot.

Place peas, ham hock, pepper, garlic, bay leaf and salt in the crock pot. Pour in 3 (or 4) cups water. Cover and cook on medium for 7 to 9 hours (don't forget to add the greens at the end!). Serves 6 to 8...but if you stretch it with rice and some hearty cornbread, it can go farther.

One thing I do at the end: if too much fat seems to be floating around the top, put the whole crock into the freezer for about 15 - 20 minutes. The fat will harden up a bit and can be easily skimmed off. Return it to the cooking element on high until it gets back to heat. If you've been imbibing a bit too much, do NOT do this step, the crock is heavy! Best to just mix it all in and enjoy a few extra calories than break your crock...not a good luck move at all.

And one more thing about black eyed peas (really)...according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the peas, are low in fat and sodium and contain no cholesterol. They are high in potassium, iron, and fiber and a half cup serving counts as one ounce of lean meat from the food pyramid. Of course we sort of negate that no fat thing with the ham hocks, but if that's as naughty as you get on New Year's Eve, you're probably going to be okay.

So let's make some rice to go with it. Since I just had a big thing on rice a Friday post ago, I'll let you do the research. HOPEFULLY you kept some of those turkey carcasses to make broth with! Because rice is always better made with broth. Period.

We'll move on to cornbread. This is a great article about cornbread, with some really good tips, like sprinkling corn meal in the bottom of the pan before pouring in the batter, to make the top extra crispy. It also mentions the good old southern way of making cornbread in a cast iron skillet. I'm a big fan of cast iron, but that's another post.

This is pretty much the way I make it, though this exact recipe I've taken from an 'about' site. Same as anything else, there's lots of ways to make cornbread. I like simple. The only thing I add sometimes is - remember those fat from the ham hock used to saute the onions and garlic? Instead of tossing it into the crock pot, saute them even more until they are really crispy, let them cool and crumble them into your cornbread batter. And, as you'll see in the about article, that's a WHOLE lotta sugar in this recipe. I'd use maybe a good pinch of sugar, if any at all...your choice.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, optional
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable, for skillet
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • melted butter for brushing top

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 425°. Put oil or shortening in a 10-inch iron skillet and place in the oven to preheat while making batter.

In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and sugar, if using.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and butter. Combine with dry ingredients and stir until all ingredients are moistened. Batter will be like a thick pancake batter.

Carefully, with heavy oven mitts, lift skillet out and turn to coat all of the inside surface with oil. Pour in batter and return to oven. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until browned. A toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.

OR!!! You could go all healthy, make a black eyed pea salad with a light dressing, a crispy fresh spinach salad, and cornbread with no sugar. Whatever blows your New Year's horn, fits your budget and your intended waist size!

Buen provecho, y'all!





Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt

Working up until this year, Eartha Kitt died today at 81 years of age. Another of the great ones that left a wonderful legacy of music. Lucky us.

Happy Christmas!

From me & Culebra to you...(and happy sixth day of Hanukkah too!)

Ann's Wreath

Incoming Santa!

Incoming kids & parents

Wiki's Sound machine giving me a preview

MORE kids!

Santa & helpers giving out gifts at Milka's yearly Christmas party

What Santa's doing now...

Hoping your day is full of peace on earth and much good will!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where the hell have I been?

Saturday morning started out yet another beautiful day (we're on a roll here). As I was sitting at the cart, a friend from St. John surprised me, showing up strolling across the bridge, a great unexpected Christmas present. We did bits of Culebra, including some great Night Riding with Greg, conga night, Amy Jo at Dinghy Dock, and then headed over to Vieques, one of about three Caribbean islands he's never visited.

Penny from Sea Gate hotel made us welcome, in her own inimitable style. At Mar Azul, my favorite bar in Isabella Segunda, we saw Al the owner, and Jimmy of Coqui Fire hot sauce, who told me I had hot sauce waiting at the airport on Culebra. Oops! But if you've been waiting for it, it's in (along with some Trinidad Charlie's sauces from St. John, which little Laurie brought back on her sailboat. Thanks, Laurie, you rock)!

A great local meal (I can't remember the name of the restaurant, sorry), a couple trips to Mar Azul, waking to 10,518 really angry sounding roosters at 2:30 a.m. (you think we have roosters? NOTHING like over there...there are 1000's and they're mad!). Then some friends of mine tracked us down and took us to breakfast in Esperanza at Tradewinds, followed by a trip to their very awesome home. They've planted a gazillion ginger & heliconia plants to surround their new pool (new to me, since my last visit) and it looks incredible. I was too awed to even remember to take photos. Thanks mucho, Karen and Lee, what a nice treat to see you both.

I felt like a complete tourist on holiday during the Christmas season, something I've never done and really enjoyed...so that's what it feels like. I came home with island fever, really glad I didn't have to wonder how I could move and live here forever. Huge thanks to Steve for a brief, refreshing and absolutely unexpected time out.

Mar Azul bar, with Jimmy's football season snack bar...and a great Tequila sign


Al, owner of Mar Azul, and a friend who dropped in


Our amazing meal...whole fish, obviously, and Tropical lobster, which looked like uh oh and turned out to be yum yum

Steve & MJ feeling sated full


Yet another neat space at Sea Gate...where you'll find your favorite book in your room


Weird yard in Vieques...what is it about dolls and Puerto Rico...scary!


View of Culebra from the ferry, heading to Fajardo from Vieques

Sitting in the unofficial waiting room in Fajardo...never know who you'll run into!. Crazy Russians can be anywhere!



Home again...waiting for the green flash that didn't quite happen...
.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lechon isn't quick but this will be


(Christmas yard art at the elementary school...the theme this year is Old Fashioned Christmas)

Big thanks, bro! Just in case this doesn't last, I'll be doing the quickie version of lechon asado. Hopefully I can add titles to the photos and a bit more history later. One knock off already....here we go!

I was going to pull bits and pieces from this article but instead I'll just toss it in whole. Sort of like the pig itself.

WARNING!!! Graphic pictures of a naked pig! Go no further if you are offended by photographs of naked pigs, or how your meat really looks before it gets to the table!
OTHER WARNING!!!! If you are a member of PETA, run away now, and please keep your thoughts to yourself, as I'm a blatant carnivore and not ashamed.

El Batey is one of our very local places, run (except for a brief interlude) by the same family for many years. Their history on Culebra is much bigger than any pig; Digna being one of the pivotal forces in helping get the Navy off of Culebra with its bombing practices...another story for another day. But when woman go out to bombing ranges in little fishing boats...powerful stuff happens!

Rain kept the roast from starting at dawn thirty, a good thing for me because I got to see most of the prep. But the pig cooked faster than expected, so by the time I got back it was already in the kitchen, getting carved for the line of waiting customers. The pictures tell the story.






Friday, December 19, 2008

Island Woman's interrupted moment

This is Island Womans brother, I spoke to her a moment ago (before the phone clicked off, again) and she asked me to let you all know via her blog, she is well, and will be publishing as soon as the world-wide-web and she are able to speak again. Communications on her island appear to be spotty today, so, she is sending happy-face :) smoke signals until then....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Friday's What's in that...expands

Yes, I know it's Thursday, but I'm still finishing the lechon post and with internet on and off and two days of silence, Thursday will be Friday and Friday will be last Tuesday...got it? Culebra time)

Too much is going on right now in line with other things I've been writing and thinking about to just have one recipe going on...so along with a good, inexpensive healthy recipe, I'm tossing in a couple of other long term 'recipes' that will pay back long after the meal is over. Here is the first one. I like this because there is no reason anyone can't do this unless they live in their car or under a bridge (and there are solutions for that too, but not now, not here).

This family only started their urban homestead in 2001, not 30 years ago. Sometimes when I see things like this it is a little overwhelming, but having gardened, raised critters, etc. I know that anyone with a tiny bit of knowledge can start with something, one little thing, and grow and learn from there. When I raised goats, there was ONE book in the library about it (no internet back then, can you imagine?) and it wasn't helpful, so I went out into the country and drove around until I saw some goats and hooked up with the guy raising them. He taught us a lot and no doubt our goats were very grateful. If you want to do something, DO it!




In the 'get creative with gift giving dept: I got an email from my cousin with this pretty wonderful idea. She and her husband put this together as their gift this year and I don't think she'll mind me passing it on. Not everyone can do everything, but someone can do something. Or...take the ideas and apply them to your own life. Get creative!


2008 Holiday Ark.pdf
978K View Download

and now...for the recipe of the week! This is from my daughter Michelle.

Black Beans & Rice:
Cook brown rice. While rice is cooking, in separate pan saute a medium onion for about 10 min. Add garlic to your liking. Add a can of rinsed black beans & cover for about 5 min. Add a handful or two of chopped spinach and stir. To serve, layer bean mixture and rice in bowls. Garnish simply with: a sprinkle of vinegar or go extravagant with: shredded cheese, salsa, cilantro, avocado, leftover shrimp/crab/pork or even cooked diced sweet potato. Full of whole grains, fiber & protein -- and depending on what you top it with: Calcium, Lycopene, plus Vitamins A, C, E & K just to name a few... enjoy!
~~~~~~~~~~~

Ok, I'll add a bit to this. Rice is the easiest thing in the world to cook or the hardest, take your pick. Basically, two cups water, one cup rice is the measure, subtracted or multiplied according to how much rice you want. You don't need much to get a lot of rice! If you have any meat or fowl bones around, make a broth to use as either part or all of your water, it adds to the taste and it uses up something you might throw away. I toss in a dash of olive oil.

There are lots of schools of thought on cooking rice, but basically two ways. One, start the water boiling, then add the rice, lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot and simmer until done, usually about 15-20 minutes. The lower the heat the better. The other school is, and I never saw this until I moved to the Caribbean, is start with cold water or broth, put the rice in, bring to a boil, let it boil 10 minutes or so, then turn off the heat, cover it and let it steam. It should be done in 10 or 15 minutes. Either way is good.

Beans. Obviously canned beans are fast and pretty inexpensive. But dried beans are even more inexpensive. However, they will take longer. If you have a slow cooker, it works great for beans! If you don't have one, they are usually at just about any yard sale for about 5 bucks and a great way to cook. They don't use much electricity, you can 'set 'em and forget 'em'.

I never put spinach in my black beans and rice, but I'm going to try it next time. If it's good enough for Popeye, it's good enough for me.

I also add just about any sort of leftover meat that is in the fridge. I never thought of shrimp! Good one, Mich! Ground hamburger sauted with onions and garlic, lots of garlic, is great with this as well. If you don't eat meat, this is fine all by itself, but I happen to be a carnivore and that's how my Daddy made it, so that's how I cook it.

Don't forget to use the vinegar!! It sounds a little weird, but it brings all the flavors together, just about a half a teaspoon a serving, then adjust if you want more. Finely minced raw onions on top are (making my mouth water) another good addition, along with the yummy toppings suggested above.

Buen provecho!

Suggested reading (anything from Amazon, reviews are way down the page, worth reading & they usually have the best deals on books new and used)

The Good Life - Scott & Helen Nearing
Link
The Encyclopedia of Country Living - Carla Emery (this is one of my favorite books of all time, I got the second edition over 30 years ago, mimeographed on different colored paper...she wrote and sold it a chapter at a time and went around to art shows and markets selling it out of her van...it's full of life stories as well as just about anything you want to know about country living...an amazing book by an amazing woman...people really CAN do anything if they want to enough)

An interesting blog from the starting zone

Urban Homesteading.com


Monday, December 15, 2008

Got a little, give a little

I went yard walking late this morning, or late for me anyway. The sun had just topped the hill and was blinding...what could I photograph in this light? I stood on the dock and swung up the camera, took a quick shot and came back in with spots dancing in my eyes. Blinded by the light, indeed...


(Once again, lechon is being deferred for something else. That is because I found out that there will be a real deal pig roasting going on at El Batey tomorrow morning and I wanted to get some pictures of my own to share, rather than only others I've gathered up. So, this gives you yet more time to dig your own pig pit!)

When I got to the cart this morning a giant truck was next to it, spewing fumes as it was being used to run a gennie for a guy welding stuff on the little sewer pipe bridge (gotta think of a socially acceptable shorter name for that thing). Plus, they'd knocked my trash can over putting the electrical cord through...and left it spewed as well. So I took a walk to Milka's to think how to deal with both issues and came up with...pick up the trash, say nothing. Ask them to move the truck forward about 15 feet or so, which they did. Except for the noise, everything was fine on a beautiful day (when my job means I sit outside in December in shorts and a t shirt, I mean, c'mon!)

Finally, they turned off the truck. Then they packed up their stuff and left. Minutes later I could hear tamborines and maracas and chirping children. Neil and Nydia were holding the children's Christmas party at Dinghy Dock. I grabbed my camera just in time as they were booking along pretty fast! So I missed the old people parranda in pics, but I caught the young people one. All was peaceful, all was bright. Again.

And I got to thinking about the whole Christmas thing, how many people won't be able to do what they'd usually do as far as gift giving or other expenditures considered 'normal' at this time of year, especially the kind that kept the debt piling up. And I thought about a birthday party I went to the other night where almost every gift was a handmade one...clever ones too, not little rick rack trimmed dresses for the dish soap. Will more people find they are really creative this year when they truly want to share a gift or two? Will you?

Then I got what I considered a really good article by email that was in the same general direction, focusing on giving what you can, where you can. And getting back the unexpected.

So what's the point here? Am I leading up to something profound? No. I just think that out of the huge financial mess (and its attendant trickle down personal disasters) something good has to come of it. And if, at Christmas (yes, Virginia, Christmas only, because that is where pressure is most exerted to overdo, overwant, overspend, overhave), we can realize that life being more simple by necessity needn't be a howling thing, but a good gentle shove in the right direction of some very positive reality (easy for me to say with a roof over my head and food on my shelves, but it's still true)...then that could be one good consequence in the myriad of bad ones.

Because Christmas will be over soon, and there is a whole new year to think about how we want to live our lives...and maybe have a bit more of *others* than just mememememe. Maybe. At least that's this story, and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New Bridge in Town (sort of)

If I wasn't such a dumbkoff this would have been posted late afternoon.. But live and learn! Lesson 1, don't try to be smarter than the computer. Who knew? And, I forgot the recipe for Friday...hope no one starved!

This was going to be about lechon, but...in the wisdom of Culebra that I'll never understand they changed the time of the bridge being closed to put in the sewer pipe mini bridge from tomorrow to today at noon. It went slick as a greased pig...astounding! I was and am very impressed. So here is a slideshow of the big event.

video

The song is Construction Worker, by The Golden Dogs. Thanks to Rocky and the other very skilled guys who made everything go well today!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Slightly Drunken Interlude (aborted)

Here is an idea that will make someone a fortune if they wish to pursue it. A machine that is able to detect alcoholic content, attached to your computer and phone. It would lock up either or both if touched with less than desirable emotively charged hands. You'd be able to set the level to your own personal "oh my god, I wrote/said what?' zone. To whomever takes this idea and implements it, all I ask is...when you make your fortune, remember me.

Lucky for you, my own don't-write-and-SEND-o-meter kicked in last night (the post time showing is now 'last night') after a long, repetitive ramble about people I know on a couple of islands sending me hello messages (that turned into very sloppy sniff sniff I love them, it's been so long, written dreck) that in the bleary light of not so early morning was much better to see still in the edit stage than the 'Your post is published!!!' stage, saved. Bless the need to just 'lie down for a second'. The only slightly decent thing worth saving was this photo of the one day past full moon.

And now back to your regularly scheduled Sunday. Lechon is on the blog menu for later.

Let the parrandas begin!

One of my favorite things about living here this time of year is the custom known as parrandas. Different islands call these musical island walkabouts by different names; in the Virgin Islands they are called tramps. No doubt other islands have other names for them, but here...it's parranda.



So what is a parranda, you might be asking? This is an explanation from the El Boricua web site in an article about Puerto Rican Christmas traditions (which are nothing at all like American Christmas traditions, it's a good read if you are interested in different cultures, especially ones that might be being celebrated in your own neighborhood)

Puerto Ricans are known for their unforgettable "parrandas or trullas navideñas". A parranda is when a small group of friends gathers together to "asaltar" or surprise another friend. It's the Puerto Rican version of Christmas caroling. Most parranderos play some sort of instrument, either guitarras, tamboriles, güiro maracas, or palitos. And they all sing. A parranda tends to be more secular than religious however many of the traditional aguinaldos (Puerto Rican Christmas songs) retain the holiday spirit.

The parranderos arrive at the destination and then very quietly gather by the front door. At a signal all start playing their instruments and singing. The parrandas usually begin after 10pm in order to surprise and wake the sleeping friend. The parranderos are invited in and refreshments, music and dance follow. Of course we don't surprise unsuspecting victims. The parranderos are given plenty of "hints" before hand by the homeowner that he is ready to receive a parranda.

The party goes on for an hour or two then everyone, including the owners of the house, leave to parrandear some more. The group grows as they offer their parranda at several houses during that night. At the last house probably around 3 or 4 in the morning the homeowner offers the traditional chicken soup or asopao de pollo. The party is over at dawn.

Bring on the coquito!!

Yesterday morning as I was sitting at the cart I noticed a lot of older people across the street at the fire station, singing and playing instruments. Sometimes that could mean a church thing, but this time is was a daytime parranda. And did I have my camera, as cuatros were strummed, tamborines were jangled, guiros were scraped, maracas were shaken and voices were lifted in toe tapping song while everyone danced or swayed? Of course I didn't. Later on the group made their way down to Milka's, the colmado (market) down the street and word got back that Hector, one of the owners, was doing some seriously excellent dancing while the parranderos played. A sight I'm really sorry I missed.

I knew it was parranda time because much earlier yesterday morning, around 3 a.m., I woke up to the first parranda of the season coming through my neighborhood. Some people really do NOT like this early wake up call, but I happen to love it. Almost always, the music is good and you know people are out there having a great time. A neighbor of mine has told me I am invited to their parranda, an invitation I've been waiting for for six years now. I won't know the words to the songs, but when has that ever stopped me?

And I promise, I WILL bring my camera!

Felicidades!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm quite in love


with the moon, in case I haven't mentioned that before. And Culebra is an excellent place to have our affair. I should be writing this tomorrow, when the moon is actually full, but when I got hit in the eyes tonight as La Bella Luna rose over the hill...I couldn't wait until tomorrow. Especially a moon with a Culebra shaped cloud under it!



There is something about the moon rising over the water, any water (though I prefer salt), that silver line growing toward the shore...when I was a teen, we'd climb out of our windows, hearing the sea gull call signal (lucky for you there is no sound bite here) and a half dozen neighborhood kids would head to the beach to swim in the light of the moon. Literally. Staying in that silver path was a sort of magic that pulls as strongly as the moon pulls the tides and I'm forever drawn (though I haven't gone swimming in the moon path in way too long).


Someone told me that being geographically fixated as far as where one lives is an indicator of a narrow mind. Call me narrow minded then, but for me to stay anchored in the world I have to be able to see water...the moon rising over it, that ever changing constant. And see it I do...every moonrise, when I look out my window.



"So at last she set out on her way and walked many, many days and whomever she met she asked:
"Can you tell me the way to the castle that lies East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon?" But no one could tell her."


This fairy tale got it wrong in my case...as they so often do. No place is happily ever after and a palace may be very tiny. The witch doesn't live here (nor the prince either), east o' the sun and west o' the moon. One thing was true...no one could tell me how to get here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oh yeah, it's Wednesday

Time moves slow around here. Or fast, I'm not sure which. One day someone is telling you stories from the day they have off and then you see them again and they are back to work but it seems like the same day. Or maybe it's just me.

A couple of days ago (or so) a bright, shiny yellow VW van went by the cart and it was Dick of Dick and Cathie's VW Thing & bike rentals along with laundry doing folk. Having known this van for years, it's rust, it's primer, now here it was, all brandy new and lovely looking. Having had two VW vans of my own, I confess I am partial to them. The big island has a LOT of VW vans that have been restored. And I believe they must have a club...one year a lot of them (maybe 20?) came over here and I got to see van after van from the 70's or even earlier that had been fixed up and oh glorified. Sit on the corner long enough and just about anything can go by...

My children learned to drive in my second VW van. At the time, I lived on a pretty deserted stretch of A1A in Florida, the perfect place to let them loose learning stick shift. Miles and miles of miles and miles, the only distraction being the beach, 10 yards off the road. That van, a 1972 Camp0Rama, was my favorite. I'd have it loaded up with wine and cheeses, kites and clothes so I could take off anytime for a road trip. The best road trip being one to the Outer Banks of South and North Carolina. People would wave happily and often offer me a place to park overnight. Usually on the beach, on their beach front property. I met some incredible people along the way. A woman who I'd love to find again, a Charleston gallery owner who lived on Folly Beach, let me stay the night or forever. We talked a good deal of the night and I woke to Vivaldi wafting out in the yard along with the smell of homemade bread. I left Camp Folly with bread and homemade jam and a thousand thoughts of thanks in my head. Where is she now?

At the beginning point of that trip, the van was dying. I babied it from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach, dismayed at the 'strip' of mini golf, motels, basically Daytona Beach in SC, so I turned south and drove some more. 10 miles down the road I found a great barn of a bar/restaurant on the beach. I went in, had a glass of wine and asked the hostess if 1) she knew any VW mechanics and 2) if I could park overnight in their parking lot. She said she'd get back to me. A bit later in the evening she came out and told me yes, I could park overnight and yes, she knew a VW mechanic but he wouldn't be available until morning. Fine. I watched the sunset, made a meal and settled down to read in my very comfy bed. A bit worried about nocturnal visitors, my only idea of defense was a pair of serious scissors.

An hour or so after dark, a knock on the window of the van startled me. It was two cops, asking what I was doing there. I told them the situation and assured them I had permission to be parked there. They seemed to accept that and told me I'd have to be gone by the next night, which we agreed to. As they walked away, I heard one say to the other...so if we'd been bad guys, what was she going to do? Cut our hair?

In the morning, a guy came by, his hands full of bags. He told me he was the mechanic, a friend of the hostess. The bags were full of breakfast he'd brought for me. First shocker. Then he proceeded to fix my van, whatever was wrong with it. Then he offered me money for gasoline. Shocker two. I said, no, uh, the way it works is I pay YOU for fixing my van! He declined, rather forcefully. He then told me that he and his girlfriend lived about 20 miles south of where I was and that if I had any other problems, give them a call. He hugged me, wished me well and drove away. I sat in stunned amazement for awhile...It's a strange VW van thing I guess. Or that's all I could figure out. The whole trip was like that...and I'll never forget it, or the people along the way. Which is one of the reasons I call myself the Luckiest Woman in the World...I do live on Culebra, after all.