Sunday, November 29, 2009

Catch up Sunday

The universe told me if I didn't start posting photos of beautiful things and people that I couldn't take any more photos today. Another way of saying the little things are starting to pile up, as happens when I house/critter sit for any length of, being a beautiful Sunday, here are a few Culebra scenes that made it worth bringing out the camera. Enjoy!*


A pretty intense water spout the other day

Yesterday when the horizon melted

I'm loving my orchids!
Almost all of them are blooming or ready to bloom

Sunset on my way back into town yesterday

And after all of that Nature, there is a little local bit here. This is the parking lot of Susie's, where cats are treated like - well, let me put it this way. I'm never letting my cat know how well these are treated. There is also this weird almost albino rooster who doesn't realize he should be abed. He takes little naps but then continues wandering. Chiqui was quite insistent I get his photo since he's such an aberration.

Chiqui was reading palms of dinner guests...particularly the women, go figure -
when I tried to get him *working* he caught me instead

Have a beautiful, peaceful Sunday. Do something restful.

*Don't forget: you can click on the photos to make them large enough to almost climb into

Friday, November 27, 2009

Free Range Friday

Sorry if you're completely tired of turkey, but that is what is going on here today! So here we go with what I brought to our pot luck Thanksgiving Day dinner beside cornbread stuffing.

First, I brined the turkey

The basic recipe I used was this one from Alton Brown, but I also looked at a lot of other brine recipes, looked at what I had on my shelves and in the garden and added my own creations as well. For instance, I didn't have candied ginger (one of my favorite things to eat) and didn't feel like making my own, though it's not difficult. So I just grated a bit of ginger in there along with some ground ginger. I also added tarragon, racao and lemon balm from the garden, along with some ground sage and smoked paprika.

I read that a self-basting turkey already has a big salt factor so I cut back on the salt I added since I had inadvertently bought a self basting turkey. It came out just on the very edge of being too salty, but not unpleasant at all. Next year, no self basting turkey for me, because I will absolutely brine again.

After the turkey had been in brine about 18 hours, I dried it and made my Dad's dressing for it. Which is one package Pepperidge Farm (sorry, you die hard do it yourselfer's, tradition is tradition), the giblets sauteed in a stick of butter along with chopped shallots and or onions, a head of garlic cloves, minced and salt and pepper to taste. Add a cup or so of broth (boil the neck for your cat or your friend's cat, wa la, you have broth), enough to make it moist but not mushy. Less is more.

NOW it was smelling like Thanksgiving! After washing the potatoes (I never peel potatoes for anything, including mashed potatoes), I put them on to boil for mashed potatoes. The turkey was stuffed and in the oven, the potatoes were cooking...this is usually the point of just relaxing, but I was not relaxing at all, I was being tortured by mosquitoes. Yes, even with spray, even with coils, it was not nice, not fun, not enjoyable.

Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. Out of the oven came the turkey. Off the stove came the potatoes. I navigated my way through dogs and cats and escaped to my place. The turkey went on the grill, the potatoes couldn't quite recover, and become the lumpiest mashed potatoes I have ever made in my life. But with a quarter pound of butter and pint of heavy cream in them, who cared? The bowl was empty when I last saw it!

Empty mashed potato bowl behind Mikey....who is back for seconds...or thirds
(there was enough food to fill up the table quite a few times,
but alas, only one bowl of mashed potatoes. More next year!)

The roasting pan was pretty sturdy but I put a flat pan under it for support. I also put a few sticks of wood in there on top of the flame shield. With the grill on medium low, the sticks just smoked some, which is what I wanted. Had I known I was going to use the grill, I'd have soaked them a few hours first, but even cheating like I did, there was a delicate smokiness to the meat that I really liked. Next year, grillin' all the way - with soaked wood chips - after the brine!

The sun was really shining on the turkey!

The cornbread stuffing got a big compliment from someone who claims to love cornbread, so I am figuring it was all right. Next year, I'll only cook foods I love myself, even if I try something new.. I don't like the worry of wondering if it is 'right'. And if you're not thrilled about the taste of something, trust me, you just can't know if it is right or not. I didn't even take a photo of it finished; in fact I forgot about it in my mad get-away-from-the-mozzies dash and had to go back and get it later on. Poor cornbread stuffing!

"What's in there??"

As usual there was plenty of food and all of it good. This year seemed to be the year of desserts. I'm not a big dessert person but two of them had me nibbling away, Kim's pecan pies and Zulayma's flan, which was a pretty as it was delicious. And almost gone before I could ge a photo of it!

Don't you wish you had a slice of this? Yes you do.

A good day, a happy day, with part of our island family of friends. And lots of turkey leftovers for meals in the days to come, including those bones for soup when the weather cools off more.
 Yes, Jack, you're on the blog
First Thanksgiving en familia

John and Chuck's dessert plate

Just sayin'

Three women eating drinking laughing

Happy folk!

Tia Krista and Kai

Pan almost smiling

Hope your Thanksgiving was excellent! Have a great respite between now and the next big's really all about the love, so don't make yourself crazy...or in some cases, crazier. Really. I mean that.

The Day After

I think this photo of Kai has it pretty well nailed as to how many
of us are feeling this morning. A very good time was had by all!
More later.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Today I will play with food to be ready for tomorrow's gathering of sailor and baker and paper mache creature maker along with the other various and assorted who gather each year for a feast of food and thanks.

This year I'm fixing a turkey, something I haven't done in probably 15 years. Oh, I've been AROUND fixing turkeys, but either I was living where I didn't have my own oven or having a traditional gathering with friends on one island or another where someone else was always in charge of the turkey. This year I'm housesitting where there is an oven! And it works! (ah you sharp eyed one, how, you are wondering, does she bake all of those muffins and breads with no oven? Easy, in one word. Elves). I thought I'd try something I've never done, to celebrate the turkey, so this year I'm trying brining it before roasting it. I thought about grilling, but that means hauling that rather large bird BACK over to my yard where the grill is. Of course, I'm going to have to haul it anyway....maybe I'll have a change of heart, despite the oven!

Usually my contribution to dinner is garlic mashed potatoes and this year will be no different, except I might add some yuca, looking more for a garlicky semi-island mash, a la Susie. Her's has another ingredient as well, but I'll be lazy and not add it. I also made a cornbread with chorizo stuffing...the jury is still out on it. I'm not sure why I made this, as I don't care for cornbread or chorizo, but it just sounded so good, I had to try it. I'll let you know the verdict.

De-cased chorizo and a bunch of other fixin's

Cornbread and raasting garlic

Thanksgiving is my personally favorite holiday as well as our nationally most confusing holiday. I'm getting the confusing part out of the way today so tomorrow I can just enjoy the Thanksgiving part. Because the truth is, we have this National Day of Thanks, based on what is basically a myth, perpetuated throughout American classrooms across the country, disguised as actual history. I'll let you suss out the details yourself for the real story of Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective, but from an historical perspective, this extract from The Farmer's Almanac gives another eye opener on our rather misunderstood holiday.

Thanksgiving Day (U.S) began in the early 1600s when our forefathers in Massachusetts and Virginia feasted in heartfelt gratitude for survival, but most of the Thanksgivings in early U.S. history were to celebrate victories in battle.
The Continental Congress proclaimed the first national day of Thanksgiving on December 18, 1777, to celebrate the defeat of the British at Saratoga. These national observances were patriotic occasions, quite separate from the local harvest festivals.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to God, combining patriotism, harvest time celebrations, and religious observance.
It was not until 1941 that Thanksgiving Day was fixed on the fourth Thursday in November

And what do we end up with? This whole holiday that celebrates an event in our history that never really happened.* For myself, I can go with the whole idea of setting aside one day for sheer thankfulness. While I think my thank-o-meter is usually pretty close to full, there can really never be enough thanks in the world. As I'm known to be a bit...gushy (yes, on more than just Thanksgiving, but that day in particular), it's sort of like finding a sushi bar with a big Welcome MJ, everything is free and we brought in oysters just for you! sign in the road of my life, one day a year.

Another reason it is my favorite holiday is that Thanksgiving Day is the one American holiday that isn't exploited except in a gluttonous imbibing of food, which makes it a day that a lot of hungry people get fed through the generousity and willingness of people to serve others less fortunate. You know, the quiet people. Take a moment to be thankful for them, and if you are 'them' thank you! We all need to remember to share the wealth.

None of these people will be having dinner with us tomorrow, but I think
some of their relatives will be there - I've seen that hat before...and the dog too

And to my son-in-law Ryan - who does more for his tribe than they'll ever know, and other First People friends (whose cultures had a variety of Thanksgiving days throughout their yearly calendar long before we came along), I'll keep spreading the word. Yep, you all got screwed (and died of the diseases and wars to prove it), and the justice balance still isn't right. Maybe as people learn more, they will do more to see that happen. In the meantime, I give thanks for you and your ancestors, with an apology on my lips and sorrow in my heart.

Ok, that's done, the feast! Have a sticky hands and lots of dishes Wednesday getting ready! Oh, and there's cranberry jelly at Cheli's and Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix at Milka's - save one for me!

*For another look at Thanksgiving based on the rather twisted memories of one young man, go here - and remember, if you don't know Squanto, you don't know squant..

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh me oh my I think I'm high

Yesterday afternoon I took the dogs for our walk, the same route as the day before when I saw the doe for a few seconds. I took my camera along,  laughing at myself in this Disneyesque mode, expecting the deer to understand that I wanted to see them at this o'clock so they'd best show up. On the other hand, I've walked in a lot of woods nearing sunset and that is a good time to see deer. Sometimes magic happens and I wanted to be ready.

The dogs plowed on.

But then, like a shift in the air, there was an alert difference in them. They were looking up and ahead, seeing something I could not.I followed their signals and there, up on a curve in the road, was this beautiful buck. He just stood there, long enough for me to turn on the camera, pray it didn't jam on zoom and get off a couple of shots.

We stared at each other, no doubt with very different sensations, my being in awe, him being in potential danger.Then he hightailed it (and now we know where that saying comes from) down into the safety of the bush.

I was left laughing and thanking the dogs, the deer, the universe.

I've loved this poem for a long time. Adjusted for a Caribbean setting or right in your own world, it is very true for far more than deer.

How to See Deer
by Philip Booth

Forget roadside crossings.
Go nowhere with guns.
Go elsewhere your own way,

lonely and wanting. Or
stay and be early:
next to deep woods

inhabit old orchards.
All clearings promise.
Sunrise is good,

and fog before sun.
Expect nothing always;
find your luck slowly.

Wait out the windfall.
Take your good time
to learn to read ferns;

make like a turtle:
downhill toward slow water.
Instructed by heron,

drink the pure silence.
Be compassed by wind.
If you quiver like aspen

trust your quick nature:
let your ear teach you
which way to listen.

You've come to assume
protective color; now
colors reform to

new shapes in your eye.
You've learned by now
to wait without waiting;

as if it were dusk
look into light falling:
in deep relief

things even out. Be
careless of nothing. See
what you see.
Right after seeing Mr. Buck, this view of St. Thomas was around the corner.

 Sometimes, I think the universe gets a bit of a grin, letting us have our way. If you heard a low mirthful chuckle late yesterday afternoon on Culebra, now you know why.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday morning walkabout

Yesterday while walking the dogs, I turned up a road I'd never been on before. I could hear a deer in the woods. Then a few yards farther on, one leapt out of the woods and ran up the road away from me with her white flag of a tail raised high. With another gravity defying jump she was back in the woods and the world was silent, as if a miracle hadn't just occurred.

This morning, oh my! Blue sky! Plants wilty with too much rain are making a come back, the cat is feeling frisky. Maybe it really is late autumn. The sea almonds seems to think so.

Color in the morning sun

Leaf fall (see, we DO have seasons!)

Spinach sprouting, thanks bro!

It's difficult to capture the most delicate green of this orchid...but so it is

A pretty pot of peppers

What the sea brings to me

Have a beauty full Monday. Look for deer - yes, Virginia, even in the city, keep your eyes open

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Day Our World Stood Still

When I was nine years old, making my way back upstairs to my classroom from the library, the whole school suddenly had this buzzing in the musty air. I went back to the library where a television was on. Teachers were gathered near to it, crying. I ran back to my classroom where my teacher, Mrs. Brown, looking gravely ashen, so different from her chubby cheeked smiling self, which was scary enough, told us the President had been shot in Dallas and most likely was dead.

I don't remember the rest of the day, but I do remember school letting out. I lived close by and walked home. As I made my way through the bike racks, listening to girls cry and boys be kind, one boy said, 'Serves the nigger lover right.' Twenty of us turned on him, in shock, but there was nothing to say. I'd never known such feelings even existed. I'd never heard anyone use that word. I only knew something was very wrong with that boy. What I didn't know and what may take the rest of my life to really know, is that amidst the good in the world, and there is good, there is something very wrong all over the world. I don't keep silent anymore.

For the next few days I only remember watching televison. I remember marching in our living room, from the White House to the grave, marching with the procession in place on our terrazo floor, wishing I could do something to make it not so horrible.

I dreamed I was the president of these united states
I dreamed I replaced ignorance, stupidity and hate
I dreamed the perfect union and a perfect law, undenied
And most of all I dreamed I forgot the day john kennedy died

I dreamed that I could do the job that others hadn't done
I dreamed that I was uncorrupt and fair to everyone
I dreamed I wasn't gross or base, a criminal on the take
And most of all I dreamed I forgot the day john kennedy died

Oh, the day john kennedy died

Did the assassination  of John Kennedy change my life? Of course it did, as did the ones that followed. But that was the first in a young life that had already gotten a glimpse that it wasn't all rosy out there and we should try to do something, even little things, to help right the tilted axis of the world we live in. How can I still be surprised by greed and evil? The alternative is to be deadened to pain, which cannot come without its parallel hardness to joy. I'd rather feel both than feel nothing at all.

We know too much these days. We can't think of people like John Kennedy without knowing all their untidy sides, plastered in public next to their shiny facets. How easily we forget that for most of us, being unimportant on a world scale, have plenty of untidiness in our own lives that would not bode well on the screen of public scrutiny. So today, I mourn the idea of John Kennedy, the hope he brought to us, the shattering and picking back up the pieces that we did and do imperfectly at best, but with continued effort. Even as he served.

Have a thoughtful and joyful Sunday! Do something good.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hot & humid, no rain so far

Today has been a teaser. Breeze starts to blow, then quits. Sky clouds up, then clears. In a while it will cool off enough to take the dogs for a walk down the road. Hopefully the muddy parts will have dried up so that I don't come back looking like I dipped my feet in milk chocolate. It's not a good look for me.

More and more winter folks are showing up and it's good to see them! Sometimes I almost think my seasons turn more on who is coming and who is going rather than weather. I find, now that it is hot again, that I keep calling it summer, here at the almost end of November. I'm sure one day my brain will mush down to just hoping I remember what season I see all the extra people in. I'll have to go by Christmas decorations (some of which are already appearing, so maybe that's not the best idea).

I went by to talk to Susie for a few minutes. She is spiffing up the restaurant before its seasonal re-opening the day after Thanksgiving. Only Susie can have paint pretty much from head to toe and say "I'm getting excited!" and you know she means it.

It's looking bee youuuu tee full, Susie!

For now, I'll content myself with my home away from home. Playing with dogs is sort of like what people say about, and fun to give them back as well. So very different than cats...most of them anyway. Regardless of the fact that my cat is in a pique once again at my comings and goings....mainly goings. Ah well, she's getting plenty of meal treats to make up for it...

Coolest banister rail ever (I can imagine one like it in an A frame in North Carolina..)

Great view from upstairs - better than it looks here

Friday, November 20, 2009

Free Range Friday

Switching houses isn't for the faint of heart...especially if one is easily confused and I am. I had bought a few things for cooking and a few things for my own home before leaving town today. For my house it was mainly cat food and some bits for my contribution to our communal Thanksgiving meal (more on that later). Instead of dinner. I got back over to housesitting world with a lot of cat food and nothing to cook for tonight.

So! Will I let that stop me? Of course not! Once again, my brother steps into the breach of rescue, which is why he has the A frame in my heart! Today I got an unexpected package at the PO from him.. I usually open packages he sends right in the PO because the contents are pretty sure to amuse my PO guys and any bystanders that know me. Today was no exception. Free range indeed!

What my brother sent me:

3 good books
2 good magazines
1 coupon booklet that does no good here, but thanks anyway. Anyone need to save 350.00 in coupons, let me know.
1 bag of hazelnuts
1 bottle of rooster sauce (what we call chili garlic sauce or tuong ot toi vietnam) yum!
2 quickie rice packages
2 tins of smoked oysters (I'm tearing up now)
3 tins of chicken salad to go, with crackers - enjoyment yet to be determined
1 package chocolate chip cookie mix, all natural, by a company called Homemade Gourmet who has the motto 'Bring Families Back to the Dinner Table'. Hey, what could go wrong?
1 packet chia seed, with the following instructions:

Directions: Mix 1/3 cups seeds to 2 cups water. 
Whisk wait 15 mins and whisk again. 
Place in fridge 
Take 3 tablespoons 3 times a day of gel

Sounds revolting; maybe the word gel should be...replaced. But I think they'll make great sprouts. Ok, where were we?
1 clothespin
1 solar calculator (which rocks, since the one at the cart died)
1 box of glazier's points - you never know when someone needs a few of those, and I'll have 'em! I can toss a baseball and break a window with a lot less guilt now.
1 very cool crab/lobster trap

A friend happened to stop by the cart while I was pulling out all of my goodies to really see them. She asked why my brother would send me all of this. I can only say, he's my brother! Thanks, sweetie! I love you too.

It's raining again *yawn*

Does this rain and spotty radar mean I'll be home today? And then, which home? The new digs where I'm housesitting are great, but of course, no place is home. The dogs are nice. The cats are fluffy. The chicken is demanding. I didn't see the bats, oh darn.

When settling in to a home not your own, there are bumps and thumps that you have to learn. That scritchy scratchy sound...what was that? Are the bats coming inside? But on investigation, it's the edge of a mat like wall hanging hitting the edge of a rattan loveseat. Those thumps are the shutter in a suddenly strong and cool gust of wind that disappeared as quickly as it came rushing through the house.

My new view for the next couple of weeks

Where are the plates & glasses? How does the stove work? Most importantly, where are the light switches I was told about and shown only a day before? In the dark dark dark of the country, that is good to know. There is this very cool light by LL Bean that has a clicker to turn it on. Yes, it's a complete gadget but I love a good gadget that does something practical and this one fills the bill. The trick of course is being absolutely sure where the clicker is. This one lives on an elephant's trunk, I should be able to find it just fine.

Of course, there are the things you forget to bring over. Like laptop cords and camera cords and much more importantly, contact lens cases and glasses. So after my eyes were weary of contacts I was basically Mr. Magoo for the rest of the night. And when you don't sleep well, the night can be long indeed. I watched the battery on the computer go to the red zone, almost finished a book, toddled up and down the stairs a few times, cooked dinner that I'd skipped at 2 in the morning, peering closely at the contents of my pans. Being a chicken pesto pasta dish (say it out loud, it's fun!), I think I could have made it blindfolded but half blind was close enough.

The sound of water running prevails around the island these days. The low spot where the old cattle pens are on the way to Zoni is a complete waterfall. Yesterday there was a beautiful great blue heron, perched on the edge of the concrete spillway looking mystically elegant. If you look hard, you can see him. He was there for hours and hours but finally one false move on my part had him flying.

He's not easy to see - there were a lot of things
the camera wanted to focus on - but he's in there

The sun seems to be coming out again, maybe I'll get to open the cart's raining again! Oh well, if not, I'm remembering the cords and my glasses this time before I head back to the country. Free Range Friday will be coming up next!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A busy, lucky day

Today, unlike many of my days, is actually almost as full as my dinghy was this morning...where did all of that rain come from???

All I have time to do here this morning is send you a Little Bit O' Luck!

The beautiful ship left the harbour this morning and my camera failed me. I don't even KNOW how to write how this bothered me, but I have to let it go. The water is flat calm, the dawn was approaching and this ship was ghost gliding out to sea. My camera zoom just...balked. I'm including this bad (for every good photo you see here there are usually 10 or more bad ones!) one only to let you use your was silently stunning.

So, the (camera) luck can begin any time now. Have a stunning Thursday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thin on the ground

Lately my posts have more photos than content and there is a reason for that. I've not been in town much, due to rain, haven't been on the streets much, due to dinghying, so what you get from me is pretty insular to my yard, my water roads to town and this side of the hill. It's about to get a whole new shift as I start housesitting for a friend I've never housesat for, for the next couple of weeks. Her description of the critters has me a little nervous, including dogs, cats, chickens and visiting bats. Not visiting inside, I was assured. Yes, yes, I know, they eat mosquitoes. I'm delighted, truly. So life should get interesting in new ways, starting tomorrow.

But since I'm still working on yesterday, here is some of that. I wish I could have gotten a photo of the sardines jumping into my dinghy and leaping over the dock, but I'm not that fast. It was pretty strange and funny though. Like an idiot, I threw them back in instead of keeping them for bait...I know, I wasn't thinking. They just looked so...well, if you've ever had a goldfish, I need say no more. If you've never had a goldfish and plan on having one, don't give your heart away to it or them, like I did with Simon and Garfunkel, lo those many years ago. Trust me, it will only end in tears.

The sardines were driving the pelicans crazy. It was a beautiful thing.

A ship that is a better fit for Culebra - the Westward, one of the semester at sea ships