Friday, September 30, 2011

Free Rangin' Friday - Coffee, Beer and a mention of bread

If you read this blog much, you've seen me mention Suzanne of the Finca a few times. That's because she impresses me,  bringing much into my day, not only with her really good weather information, not only with her little tidbits of interest she includes in her daily emails (and sometimes more than once daily, if the weather is looking ominous for our area), not only for her vanilla beans that keep my sugar special, but for her ongoing good spirits that spill from her words like...well, a good cup of coffee, which she also grows and sells.  Smiling is good, laughing is good. Suzanne is, in a (four word word) word, good for my soul.

   credit: from the Finca website           

Yesterday I missed the fact that it was National Coffee Day. Suzanne included this article from the Washington Post and it made me smile enough to think it worth passing along.

Coffee! (Evy Mages - FOR THE WASHINGTON POST) National Coffee Day

It might as well be called National Day Day. What's a day without coffee?

Every so often someone in a lifestyle magazine tries to make us rethink our caffeine habits by observing that “For the money you spend on coffee every year, you could buy eight designer bags!” Now when anyone gives me the chance to buy eight designer bags, I quail. “Are you kidding me?” I say. “For the price of these, I could consume twice as much coffee annually!”
National Coffee Day should be a holiday. There ought to be parades. There ought to be tributes.

If you don’t think coffee matters, consider. In Biblical times, when no one drank coffee, a woman named Judith killed a man with a tent-stake. In 1066, when coffee had yet to reach that part of Europe, William the Conqueror stormed over to England and seized a large swath of territory, and he did so very grumpily. Some say that beauty killed the beast. I say that it was the fact that King Kong never drank coffee in his life.
More recently, the Census Bureau released a memo complaining that workers are falling asleep in the middle of the office, and it seems unprofessional.
“Sleeping on the premises is not acceptable behavior,” the memo noted. “It is manifestly unprofessional and creates an impression of carelessness, which unfairly impugns the hard work of the entire Census community. Moreover, such behavior can lead to safety problems in the event of an emergency.”

There’s only one solution to this, and it’s dark and contains high levels of caffeine. Not to say that the Census Bureau is not a fascinating, pulse-pounding workplace that generates as much adrenaline as watching a Jason Statham movie while diving from a plane, but — well, this is why they invented coffee!

Studies have found that the more coffee women drink, the more they reduce their risk of depression. I’m on my fifth cup today!!!!1!! “That’s probably plenty,” my co-workers murmur. But why take the chance? Sylvia Plath drank fewer than five cups a day, and look what happened to her! Meanwhile, I am ebullient! I am shaking with glee! Or with something!!! I am so ebullient that people think I am about to have some sort of seizure! Earlier today I cleaned every surface in the whole office, and someone asked me to join a study group of my peers, whose other members all turned out to be cocaine-addled rats.
Coffee is the tie that binds us. Garfield has become a popular national comic strip, even though it contains nothing that can be reliably identified as a joke, simply on the strength of the fact that its protagonist is a cat who hates Mondays and loves lasagna — and coffee.

Coffee keeps us happy and allows civic life to function. Case in point: I drink lots of coffee, and to my knowledge, I have never assassinated anyone.

We like our coffee like we like our men — half-off, today, thanks to promotions at 7-Eleven. 

We like our coffee like we like our men — in large quantities. That’s why Christie might have to run.

You think those were dinosaurs? That was just how the Earth looked before its coffee.

My point is, Happy Coffee Day.

If you need me, I’ll be off somewhere never sleeping again.

Ok, enough about coffee! There is another beverage that might be its only true rival in popularity, beer. I have to say, I'm not a beer drinker, really. Oh, I'll have the occasional 'been working outside and am so hot I think my head is going to explode' icy brew to cool me down. I'll take a taste of something imported or microbrewed and like it. Not enough to exchange my usual drink order, but enough to almost appreciate the beer drinker's pleasure. Almost. But then, I like sushi and raw oysters and have eaten the testicles of bulls with glee, so I get that tastes differ.

One thing I do know about beer drinkers is that they don't want to wait around for a re-fill. Good bartenders are very aware of their beer drinking customers in this regard. Drinkers of other beverages might have to wait a bit and don't mind much, but beer drinkers seem to want an endless bottle or glass filled almost before the last sip/slurp/dregs of the previous one is gone. I guess it's a beer thing.

Neil, who owns Dinghy Dock, tends to feel slighted in this regard, so he came up with a unique solution. The bike bell mug. Attached to the handle of his mug is, well, a bike bell. And he isn't shy about using it, much to the annoyance of certain other customers, one of whom has promised to put the bell in a place where...let's say the sound of it would be muffled.

 Happy Birthday, Neil!!!!

These threats bother Neil not one bit. His next 'beer refill reminder' he tells me, is a Wooga Wooga device. Like Dick and Joyce have on their Model T, I ask. Yes, he says. I'll keep my eyes and ears open and get back to you readers on that. dispatched from your on-island reporter, MJ

But isn't Free Range Friday about FOOD? you might be asking. Where's the food? Well, since yesterday was Bread Baking Day, food other than the staff of life sort of took a back seat. Way in the back. I think I ate...bread. I'll work on that for next week. I was trying to find a Kylie Kwong video, because she is such a wonderful chef with a great style, but the ones I want are all in...Chinese. Go figure!

Have a food inspired Friday! Do something un-frangible.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Salt of the Earth and Sky

First, for you of the Persuasion, l'shanah tovah! As my much more observant friend from Haifa wrote, ...may this 5772 remind us all this is the only planet we've got, we all need to respect it and each other. 

If you need some last minute menu ideas, go here for something traditional
or here for something I did a couple of years ago, not traditional

It is an incredibly beautiful morning here... Ophelia, one of the strangest storms I've ever watched, fast, slow, falling apart, regenerating, falling south, moving north, has finally gotten herself up and away from us, and hopefully will not be a bother to Bermuda, we'll have to watch and see. While being very destructive rainwise to some of the islands, such as extreme flooding in Dominica, we can again be thankful here for another by-pass.

Today is bread baking day, so I'm in stop and go mode, which suits me pretty well. I'm in the middle of painting shelves, if you happen to notice periwinkle fighting with coral...

Yesterday I heard a deep rumbling and it wasn't the detonations that are going on at Flamenco with found unexploded ordinance. It was a bulldozer moving a very large boat...into the lot next door to me. My infatuation with big machines, along with  the people who drive them, was well rewarded; those things are powerful!!!

But out back (or what I think of as front), all was tranquil, a sky show of clouds, the water clear and beautiful. Life's all here.
Have a non-tedious Thursday! Do something traditional. Or not.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

From Nuts to Shrimp - Culebra Style

I'm not the most sociable person in the world, but on occasion, I can be induced to go out beyond sunset, especially if the company is potentially, temptingly better than the menu, and the menu was delectable. Last night was that combination, including a great view and a pool to finally quench the heat of the day. And hot it was; still and hot, with few people out in the mid day of what was that melting your brain while stealing your go-juice sort of heat. But with the sun down, in almost too warm but really perfect temperature water, with stars blazing overhead, laughter and chat floating back and forth? That's good.

I did read a good joke though, that crossed my mind last night. Ok, it's not really a joke, just a bit out of a novel, but I thought it was funny, it reminded me of my father's sense of humor. "I just drink to be sociable," he said. "Oh. When does it start working?"

In real life, St. Thomas looked much closer, close enough to swim over for a visit. Then the lights appeared, and as has been said many times of that night view (the first time I heard it I was on Jost Van Dyke), "Doesn't St. Thomas look pretty...from here?"

The thing about driving around with a very observant and well informed about the animal world person is that magic can be happening right in front of your eyes and you, alone, might just drive right over it, whereas the person aforementioned won't. Thankfully.

On the way home, we stopped because of what looked to me like it could have been a discarded flip flop, but to knowledgeable eyes was a turtle, not unlike a cross between a box turtle and a snapping turtle with a name I've unfortunately already forgotten, but it is an endangered species, so if you see one, be thoughtful! Its top shell looked hieroglyphic, its smooth bottom shell (is that called  a shell?) determined it was a female. I was getting a lesson and forgot to take a photo, sorry! 

After the turtle was safely moved off the road into the bush, we looked up to see glowing red dots of light, which turned out to be SHRIMP washing across the road. Really. That was so crazy that I did get the camera, because it was one of those moments that if you tell about it the listener might say...Had a fair bit of liquid fun earlier, MJ? One of those 'the more you protest it's true, the more you sound like a) an idiot b) a drunken idiot. So here is proof, even though it is one time I wish my camera didn't have a red-eye feature on it; they were glowing like within lit rubies from the headlight reflection in a pretty dramatic way. For true!

I've heard of shrimp around Puerto Rico, especially in the southwest of the big island, and I've been told they are sometimes here, but I'd been skeptical, relegating it to the  'you should have been here 30 years ago!' department. Now it is in the 'I love it when Culebra magic happens' department, a very full bin indeed.

Have a turtle magic Tuesday. Do something tip toe-ingly.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Sunday on Monday

I think there is a new law of nature on Culebra that some rain must fall on Sunday. I don't know what happened in the two months that I was gone, but for three Sundays now, rain has, at some point, been a part of the view. Well, as that little girl said to me a few years ago,'You know what rain means, don't you? Rainbows!'

Anita, the Grillin' Queen (Sunday Sausage & Football at Dinghy Dock)
 No matter where I looked, or where I was looking from, the clouds were huge and dramatic.

This is Little Bit, or as I originally named him when I took him home to foster as a wee kitty, under the influence of a certain alcoholic beverage, Nikoli. He lived the next years of his life with Marsha and Ren, who fell in love with him and decided to adopt him themselves. Now he lives up on the hill. I'd like to think he remembers me saving his tiny life, but I think he's just a lovely and loving cat.
Sunset on my last night up the hill

The work week begins anew. I'm back at sea level. Life is good.

Have a non-monotone Monday. Do something mercy full.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Sun Moment

Today we're in a swirl of sun and clouds, fast rains and glowing greens. Simple Sunday.

Happy Birthday, Tessa!
Have a serene Sunday. Do something singular, with savvy.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Up High

Right before their plane took off, the couple I'm house sitting for and I were talking about how long I'd been taking care of their critters and home, and came up with six years. Which sounds like a short time and a long time at the same time. But until I was up there, taking photos of the bay, that's when I knew it had been enough time for two trees to block the view of the middle of the bay. That somewhere in some storage photo place, I have pictures of the bay entire, those trees at the bottom of the yard barely noticeable.  A measurement of time.

I'd noticed the other day that from a road across the street from me, at an elevation maybe 10 feet above my own home, I can no longer see the top of my own bay, because of a tree. I walked back and forth a bit, realizing how it was once open to view - a couple of docks, some boats, now a tree. And that is how time goes for me on Culebra.

They flew to their big island mini holiday because the ferries are still wrong. I'd heard from a friend who came over for the day on Tuesday that the 5:30 ferry he was supposed to take home left at 4:30 instead, stranding him until the 6:30 (or is it 7?) cargo ferry showed up. He finally made it home by 10:00. They flew because it would be more fun to jump on a timely plane and take a taxi to their fun spot and instant holiday. And because on the way home, when you are done with the holiday (whether you want to be or not), you just want to come home, relax and get ready to go back to the routine without your last holiday moments spent wondering if you are going to be able to come home at all.There are still people taking the ferry, and attempts seem to be being made to make it right.

If you do decide to take the ferry, here is the schedule, posted late, sorry! And thank you Angelica!!

In the small hours of the morning, after some rain had stopped, I went outside to see the lights of town, the lights surrounding the bay, opening up the dark. Another time marker, because there used to not be nearly so many lights. They are kind of beautiful though, reflecting off of the water. A deeply yellow/orange half moon hung, looking temporarily suspended, in the sky, and I knew if I tried to somehow gather all of that into a photograph it wouldn't tell its story. You'll just have to come and see it for yourself, no matter how you get here, it's worth it.

Last night I was cooking some lo mien noodles, in the broth I'd made to cook some chicken (soy sauce, parcha/passion fruit juice, garlic and ginger). These noodles cook pretty fast and aren't real starchy, so it works to cook them in the broth, especially if you put the lid on while it boils. It tastes great and it looks like art, for awhile.

Just another day in Paradox.

Have a soothing Saturday. Do something a little bit silly.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Yikes! Friday already!

Nah, I knew it was Friday already. I'm laid back, not laid out. Well, truthfully, I have been laid out for the last few day with a minor but punch your life into the slow lane for a few days health thing. I'm fine fine fine, but just can't put stress on my toeknuckle eye because it is already unhappy with me.

So that mean I missed the whole autumn equinox! I didn't miss it exactly, I was right here and you were right there, but you, if you read this blog much, know how I like to blather on about sky events. I was robbed! But I'm sure you made it through just fine.

And what about the time change? I wasn't here to help you with that! Never mind That's not until November 6. Which is almost winter, so why do they say Fall Back for a reminder? Most likely a saying from Up North.

Anyway, today I start house/dog/cat sitting from an anonymous hilltop here on Culebra. This is one of those nice side things I do that doesn't really require eyes as much as heart (love the babies) and a vague sense of time (babies are snurfling all over you, must be time to feed them). Along with...well, that's pretty much it except for watering the green things, which is pretty easy. And enjoying the view. Which I'll share.

(there was a whole warning here that didn't show up! I'll recreate it if I can. First, thie next part is for grown ups. Please have all minors leave the room. Please have all people who don't like cursing leave the room. Please have all people who don't like drinking, or don't think drinking and drunk people can be funny leave the room)

Ok, to the three of you that are left (I'm very thankful for my friends). Frankly, laying around in bed is about the most strenuous sort of boredom I know. So, even though I'm not supposed to be stressing my eye (please, all medical advisors, leave the room), I have already read 8 books and spent way too much time online. Thanks to Laurie, I've been laughing a lot because of a youtube girl out there who makes little vignettes called My Drunk Kitchen. This is the episode that got me addicted. I don't know if they are all this funny, but I intend to find out. Vicarious drinking and cooking? What could be better than that? This covers Free Range Friday, by the way. Thanks, Hannah.

In the meantime, meaning until it is time to go up the hill, I'll be doing this. But not so precariously.

Have a freewheeling Friday! Do something forthrightly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

But that was yesterday...

After looking at the photos from yesterday and the sky outside my window today, I can only think of all the contrasts, too many, that are in all of our lives. I'll take both, what choice? but tip the scales on the sunny side, por favor!

[Just a note that we had probably the wildest storm last night of any since I've been on Culebra, maybe the longest lasting of any since I've lived in the Caribbean; it seemed to go on for hours. Credit due, we only lost electricity twice and for brief periods (I thought it was hours until I remembered to try the 'trip the breaker' trick...duhme). I'm not sure how much rain we got, but Karen on Vieques measured 5.5 inches. Except for a gentle rain this morning, the weather has slip slided us so far today.]

The first shots are from the ferry dock. There was a pretty close to perfect play of sun on the water, but I was captured by chatting while clouds took over. The rest are from Flamenco. There was one man coming out of the water when I walked down. He went off the beach and then there was only me. Except, it was so incredibly fine, it hardly felt like there was anyone at all. What is that saying - it's better to be lucky than to be good...

The wind was coming up and it seemed time to go, that curtain of rain moving faster as it drew down on those amazing clouds. As it happens, nothing much came from all of this drama, at least not then. It wasn't until after dark, many hours later, that the storm mentioned above hit. By then my computer had crashed and I gave up many attempts CPR until the morning, when it miraculously came back to me. But only on dial up and some tin cans with string I think, (yes, gurus, it was unplugged at the first distant roll of thunder; just a tired computer, I think)

Have a tremulous Tuesday, what's left of it. Do something thunderous.

Monday, September 19, 2011


The above title is for an article that came in my Starry Messenger email update from the Starry Skies website, a great spot to check out if you are interested in things skyward. Frankly it was just too good not to use. My first thought was how well it describes certain political parties, and maybe just some individuals too. Ok, that's out of my system

 credit unknown

Sometime in the wee hours we got some rain. Not like the rain we've had since I've been home, but the slashing, bashing sort. The kind that comes with lightning and thunder that literally shook the shack. It was glorious! Except, for the first time since she wiggled her way into my life, CWIM was bounching around like a ping pong ball. Shelf to table to bed to oof chest (mine) and finally to her favorite hiding spot. I'd tell you where that is, but she won't sign the release consent forms. I'm not sure how long it went on but I finally fell back asleep while it was fading away. Oh weather wonders!

This morning, Vieques was supposed to be having its own protest concerning the ferries; I'm awaiting word on the outcome*. Around 10:30 Julian was going around the island with his sound truck, announcing there would be a 6:00a.m. cargo ferry, regardless. I don't know if that happened or not. What I do know is that I went on facebook to see who else heard it, because I thought he was saying there would NOT be a ferry. I was quickly corrected by Angelica that indeed, I got it wrong (surprise!). Between Julian and facebook, we get the news around here at night...the coconut telegraph (yes, and facebook too) working well in the day. Something to be said about 3rd world with a gloss...

I'm still really slow on my connection and have a semi-full plate today, so I'm just going to stop here for now.

Have a faster modem Monday! Do something melodious (beside the silent screaming of a fast typist forced to go at sticky tar speed).

*from Google Translate - for the Spanish version, go here


Vieques occupied since early this morning Elizabeth II terminal to protest once more for the service launches Maritime Transportation Authority (MTA), which for a single month operates a passenger ferry between Fajardo and the two island municipalities.

The mayor of Vieques, Evelyn Delerme, said the situation has caused the island municipality residents have had to make trips of up to seven hours at sea before reaching its destination in the so-called Big Island.

From 5:00 a.m. today, seized the end of Vieques seeking to cripple the service. Shortly before 7:00 am, none of the ships had entered or left the dock, but the first trip is scheduled for 6:30 am

"People have been very diligent, very respectful of the pain of those who suffer from this service and has not been presented to travel," the mayor stressed.

"We have supported not only by their presence, but does not appear to use the services," he added.
Delerme said the situation has already become "intolerable," so that community groups yesterday asked him to Governor Luis Fortuño intervention.

The mayor said the ATM had said last Friday that would have the main boat ready for use, but that did not happen.

The demonstration will last until 6:00 pm today.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I Got the Sunday Slows

Which are not related to the Sunday blues; I don't have those.

This morning started out with a blotted by clouds sun and then some nice drum rolling thunder, along with, instead of the deluge it looked like, 5,327 fat drops of rain. Enough to use the windshield washers on the way to the store. Not enough to get the seat wet from the window I forgot to roll up. Perfect.

While I was in line at Milka's (Hector and Sandra are on holiday in CANADA! Good for them!), I was talking with a couple of visitors who are staying at the villas on Flamenco. He was carrying a bottle of vodka and one of cranberry, so I knew right away, they were the good sort. We were talking about how, whether it is rainy or sunny, how beautiful it is to be here, the troubles with the ferry (they are from NYC, second visit, but rather upset about the lack of certainty in traveling back and forth - yes, it is not helpful in creating the good will of return visitors when they don't know if they can get to their flights home, hello out there, powers that be???). I hope they return for visit # 3 but in the meantime, they are making the best of Culebra. I like that. A lot.

Face to face encounters are the best!

According to the radar, which can change in an instant, we have rain ahead of us. I think I need to do an anti-Sunday-rain dance, as this is the only day Norman can work on my dinghy and it's been raining on Sunday for ages. So may we all join I can go bail out my houseboat. Yes, we are all the center of our own universe, most of the time. It's true.

We also have a couple of invests to be on the lookout for - make that three. It's that time of year, boys and girls. And that's why I'm not unpacking my 'put-away' things yet. And grabbing a few cans of this and that. And throwing leftovers in the freezer. Like that.

And even though it's not morning anymore, I'm including this Cherokee Morning Song, because it's such a Sunday feeling. Thanks, Matty, for finding this!

Have a soul full Sunday. Do something soothing.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Culebra Flip Side (or Why I live here despite certain realities)

Yesterday was full of sunshine, breezes, beauty and the typical torpid heat of our September. Oh, and the veggie guys! But first, I went out toward Zoni to air out a home and this is some of what I saw.

 The sargassum is pretty dramatic from this view!

Ah, this is what I was remembering on those cold, under the blankets mornings out West

When I was writing regularly for Caribbean Travel & Life, I got an excellent assignment to write about Biras Creek, a unique resort on Virgin Gorda. I centered my article around Alvin, the head gardener, who took me around the property he'd cultivated for 30 some years. One of the plants he introduced me to was the strawberry cactus - shown above is one from here. He plucked the fruit and had me taste it, and yes, it did taste like a pale strawberry, and was just as full of seeds. The horticultural info on this plant is interesting, with many names. It's spiky and strange and wonderful.

One web site that sells essences of different plants writes "For those of us who are expecting things to go wrong or be difficult, Strawberry Cactus encourages us to let go and allow our hearts to transmute difficult emotions. We know that there is perfection in each moment and each situation, and we begin to live in joy. " Truthfully? I don't have a clue what that means, except maybe the contrast of spiky and sweet, but I thought it was interesting. And maybe it works, who knows? What I do know is that every time I see this plant, I think of Biras Creek and a wonderful old man who taught me new things with love and passion. Among the many words of wisdom he shared with me, one in particular stood out, and still does. "Being good and kind, that will carry you through the world." Here's to you, Alvin, with thanks and love.

 Defying all mandates on Culebra, this charming bird watching area is actually completed and ready for your enjoyment. The sign shows some of the birds that can be seen. 
The best time to do this is at daybreak, just in case you're interested.

 If you've ever wondered, but don't know what 'tying up for a 
storm in the mangroves' means, this is what it means.

 At the veggie stand, Lawrence and I pondered these fruits. Lawrence said, ' brings something to mind, but it's something underwater.' That made sense. Then along come Pam and Chuck, who knew all about this fruit, including the fact they they are growing the very tree in their yard!! They are called rambutan (pronounced as written). Here is some more information about them. As I read and saw more photos, they look like a red, hairy genipa. I haven't tasted one yet, but I will. Pretty damn fancy stuff we're getting here, Veggie Guy!

Along with rambutan (I just like saying 'rambutan' - try it!), 
there were some purple fingerling potatoes. Who could resist? Not me.

From there, it was down to the ferry dock and matters serious. All in a day on Culebra...welcome to Paradox!