Friday, November 30, 2012

Free Range Friday ~ Culebra

I'm running a bit late this morning, although I was up with the chickens, so to speak, but went back for a few more zzzz's. I wanted those extra moments because my daughter Sarah, on Oregon time - four hours behind us - called with a slew of incredible information she's been digging up on our family. They've always been a bit of a mystery; well, more than a bit, and some of the rocks turned over are starting to explain a lot of things. It is truly amazing, the information that is out there, with the click of a keystroke and passion. Sarah has the passion and we get to benefit!

This is not my relative, I'm pretty sure. Rather, I read that she is Duchess of Devonshire. 
 I like her style and want to be doing exactly this when I get to her age.

After getting off of the phone, I was wide awake with questions that will never be answered and the bit of wow when lives spoken of all of one's life suddenly become quite real, in black and white, documented history and some with photos. I had no idea that Sarah looked so much like my grandmother!

My Grandmother

And now, on to the food part.

Yesterday I brought home a yogurt maker from a moving sale. I had one about 30+ years ago and used to use it a lot. Before that, when we raised goats and had lots of really delicious creamy milk (yes, you can have delicious milk from goats, it's all in the feed), I would make yogurt without any fancy contraption, as it really is easy to make. But contraptions can sometimes be good reminders and I really like yogurt, so why not. I figure I'll return to myself the money spent on just the first batch!

Salton yogurt maker, recipes online, thankfully!

So, there is the yogurt maker. I like plain yogurt, a lot apparently, as my mother used to tell me that I'd beg for it when I was knee-high. Back then, I think plain yogurt was the only kind to be had, and unless she told me that story a few dozen times, I'd probably not have thought about yogurt being sold at all, in New Hope, Pennsylvania. But I like flavors too, if I can find a decent yogurt, meaning one that isn't full of things I don't want to eat. This way, I control the input and am only limited by trial and error and imagination.

The direction my imagination has gone involves another thing I have around here; eggs. Add up eggs, the holidays, a yogurt maker and of course, there is only one direction to go. Eggnog yogurt, of course!

Have any extra cartons? Recycle! Send them my way. One day I'll go with the cardboard ones, but not yet.
Because I don't have time to experiment with this idea yet, I was looking up recipes for eggnog yogurt and they are few on the ground. Eggnog yogurt with granola (love eggnog, love yogurt, love granola but not together, thank you) and a couple of others, none of which triggered my 'gotta share it' button. So I think the thing to do is just make the yogurt, make the eggnog and mix it together. There should be a better way, but I have to work on that.

A modified  by me Yogurt in a Salton Yogurt Maker  recipe (if you don't have a yogurt maker, check out this page for 3 simple ways to do the same thing and still end up with great yogurt!)

(A thermometer is really helpful but if you don't have one, you want to heat the milk just until tiny bubbles are forming on the edge of the milk; you do NOT want a full boil! At the end of that, you'll know it has cooled down enough to put in your starter if you can comfortably stick your finger in it, lukewarm)

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 12 hours
Ingredients needed:
One quart whole milk (you can use other than whole milk but why? It's yogurt!!)
One heaping tablespoon of plain yogurt with live, active cultures. (we buy a half pint of organic yogurt to use as a "starter" )

1. Pour the milk in a saucepan. Bring to just boiling, remove and let cool to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. When the milk has cooled to the proper temperature, stir in one heaping spoonful of the store-bought yogurt until thoroughly blended.
3. Decant approximately 6 ounces of warm milk into each jar. Snap on the lids.
4. Plug in the incubator. Place the individual yogurt containers in the opening provided. Cover, and set the dial to a time 12 hours from now.
5. Twelve hours later (some say seven hours, you just have to experiment), the yogurt can be removed from the incubator and placed in the refrigerator.

At this point you can add fruit or vanilla or whatever strikes your fancy. I'm going to add eggnog. And after seeing an advert for wine ice cream, you can be sure the eggnog will include rum, brandy or bourbon, depending on my wallet contents (brandy would be my choice). Unless you don't want it spiked, but unless you have a good reason for not drinking alcoholic beverages, eggnog should definitely have the nog in it!

This recipe, taken from (and only slightly adapted by me) here, is about as close as it gets to what one of the best eggnog makers I ever met used.

Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: 30 minutes / Yield: 12 to 16 servings
  • 6 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup brandy, bourbon, or dark rum
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla (NOT fake vanilla, a criminal offense)
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • Additional grated nutmeg for garnish

Combine eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3- or 4-quart pan, whisking until well-combined. Continue whisking while pouring milk in a slow, steady stream until completely incorporated. Turn on burner to lowest possible heat setting. Place pan on burner and stir mixture continuously until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be patient. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes. 

If you want to be really sexy, you can use one of these spoons carved by John McAbrey. Yes, this is sexy. Photos are used without permission but I'm hoping John and Gretchen won't mind!

For buying information, go here

Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl to remove any accidental small cooked bits of egg. Add brandy, bourbon or dark rum plus vanilla extract and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Pour into a glass pitcher, decanter, or container and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate this egg custard mixture to chill at least 4 hours or up to 3 days before finishing.

When ready to serve, pour heavy cream into a bowl and whip until it forms soft peaks. Fold whipped cream into cold custard mixture until combined.

Because mixing the eggnog and the yogurt could make it a bit soupy, I'd go with the Greek yogurt style, which is only one more step on the yogurt, putting it in a sieve and letting it get really dry. Cheesecloth is best. After dripping, give it some good squeezing (see how sexy cooking can be?). It will end up a lot thicker and creamier and hold up to the eggnog.

So there you have it! Except for one more thing.

Have a fully flowering Friday! Do something that puts the fun back in fundamental.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Move On, Dot Culebra

Culebra, for many, has a special blend of work and play. I think it comes from the outrageously beautiful surroundings, the fact that a lot of us work sort of inside/outside (having much in common with the best bars and restaurants, oddly enough). When your geography grabs you, just because you've turned a corner, how good to be able to stop a moment and enjoy it. And then, if things work out the best way, to become part of it, sand on the feet, baby wavelets washing that sand away, a breathtaking vista in your eyes and soul.

This is either a wonderful rock formation or a pile of petrified dinosaur poop. You decide.
I'm not always sure just what I'm doing here, but when I open my eyes and see the water, when sleep fades and my ears can hear the birds (no, not just chickens), when the subtle change of season is making itself known by a cool breeze on my skin as the sun starts reaching into our day, I know I'm in the right place.

The painters were very busy yesterday. Another fine job. Thank you.
I have this 'thing' going on with my elbow; an old injury that, with age (the elbow, not me), has decided to have a loud say in how I go about my daily life. Around here, it's known because you can't walk around with a cast on your arm, supported with a sling, without a fair amount of comment. Hell, you can't walk around with a pair of new shoes without a fair amount of comment.

With the winter season upon us, I've gotten a lot of questions about when I'll be baking bread again and have come up with a number of imaginative replies. But the real answer is, after making one test batch to see if I'd be able to scratch my nose with that hand after whipping up six batches of dough, I've realized that I probably can't. 'Probably' because I really don't like saying anything definitively. There are still some things to check out and maybe that will change, but for now, that is not going to happen. There will be hot sauce! There will be (and are) eggs! And something not unduly stressing my arm will pop into my head one of these days, I know that. There is another hat out there just waiting to fit my head. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I can do a little here and a little there. And here is not bad at all. I'm still the luckiest woman in the world.

Have a tell yourself the truth Thursday. Do something terrifyingly, transparently trusting.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tracking Sharks (the in-the-water kind)

My brother turned me on to this site that tracks tagged sharks around the world last night, and I've been playing with it ever since. There are lots of variables possible for choosing what to see and how to see it. Of course, I could read a help section, but why do that when clicking possibilities makes it all an oh wow surprise?

Even though the moon was one day from completely full - meaning tonight will be completely full - this Hunter moon, this Blood moon, this (my favorite) Sanguine moon caught me completely as it rose almost centered in my window. The moon and the earth dance doesn't always synchronize in this perfect frame, but when they do, I'm pulled like the tides to go and greet our Mistress of the Night. Or, in this case, very early evening. Yet another reason to be grateful that the dock 'o the bay is back in place.

Depending on where you are in the world, you could experience this tonight, the last lunar eclipse of the year.

Have a watchful, whimsical and wakeful Wednesday. Do something wider.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Moor Than This

Yesterday's ferry trip looked like it was going to be done in the rain, but then, the skies dried up, the sun trickled around the clouds and played on the water and sitting topside was the option taken, thankfully.

I've wanted this photo for a long time. Usually there are lots of people standing here, 
but after beating a few of them and bribing the rest, I got what I wanted.

Doesn't it look better? I am imagining a farmer's market under those fence, of course.
I always wonder what tourists think when someone obviously from Culebra is taking photos of a sight seen countless times over the years. But it is never the same and always, even when I think I'll just sit and enjoy it, I'm drawn to my feet, clicking away.

I also wonder if the captains get into a little race mode...this guy cut some big corners and won.
Cut off the hotel and I could live here
 The mission of the trip was taking one of our rescue dogs that got caught in a bit of a dog tussle to the vet in Fajardo. After he was safely with the doctor, I did a walkabout, checking out Ralph's Food Warehouse (good selection in the regular grocery store part but I wasn't wowed by low prices and the warehouse part was pretty slim pickings - it did kill an hour or so though, no hurrying to meet anyone or move on to the next place). There is a really nice big yard at the vet's - big deal one might think, but yards around here are not so common. A book, a bag of peanuts, some shade that I hoped was not the pee spot of all the critters who come in and out; another hour easily passed by.

The vet's office is pretty simple in decor. A few animal photos that look like they are from the '50's. A couple of flowery prints. There was also this nicely framed (I cropped a lot of the pretty out to make the message more obvious) letter of thanks and warning. I think I read about this once, but a reminder never hurts. Thanks, Homer!

Simple decor. Weird, but simple. I didn't get a photo of the weird - on the ceiling are two duck bellies with feet dangling and one bottom side of a duck with its face stretched down, like we are the ones underwater. As kitchy as it was, it also was sort of neat in the way of making you think upside down. I wanted to paint the ceiling tiles blue...

Then this was in my email when I was home. Maybe there is a message the universe is reaching out to give me. Or not.

Copyright Last Lemon Productions Ltd. 2012 (used with permission)
Have a go outside the territory Tuesday! Do something transcendent.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Just Because It's Monday...

...doesn't mean I still don't have Sunday on my mind. Not that there was much going on, in fact, there was pretty much nothing going on. At least for me. For a Sunday, that's not a bad thing. Then, I think about it and realize that wasn't quite so.

At some point in the timeless day, Walt and Justin came by to work on docks. My little dock had had a run in with a storm while I was away. The storm only partially won, but enough to make the dock unusable. I tried to fix it, without success. But it would have been a good video.

In the meantime, Walt's floating dock, which is accessed by my non-floating but now floating dock, had broken away from its moorings as well. It sounds much more confusing than the visual. When it is done I'll take a photo. Sort of like the porch. Patience, Prudence.

(In the Other Meantime, this is a reminder to all who need to be reminded - usually those of us who shouldn't need to be reminded: just because something is anchored with a deeply set sand screw, doesn't mean it is really secure. There. Consider yourselves reminded, not only about the physical laws determining wear and tear on lines, shifting sands and inexpertly tied knots, but the metaphysical implications of...never mind)

The best part of all of this is that I get to walk out on my dock again and see another view of the view. I get to join the teeny crabs who crawl between the planks; peer between the board cracks and see if the lobsters have returned. Fish a little farther out of reach of rocks and mangrove roots.

So yes, something did happen yesterday. Something big for something so little.

It might be getting near time to get my dinghy back in the water, now that she has someplace to live again.
While Walt and Justin slogged about the duffy bottom of the bay, CWIM tasked herself with holding up a porch support. She really does this well and I'm pretty sure in another life she was a lion gargoyle on some ancient building holding up the roof. More likely she was a real lion, coddled by some spoiled princess who gave her tidbits of now extinct animals I'd be ashamed to know about. Not that she ate them, but that they were fed to her, if you follow that reasoning. More things that don't worry cats. Obviously.

With the holiday weekend (Thanksgiving, remember?) that started last Tuesday around here, there were plenty of boats rafted up in the usual places. In fact, it seemed like more boats than in the last few years, which is a good sign. If you want to know about the real state of the US economy, all you need to do is notice what our popular anchorage sites look like over holidays. I would be willing to bet there is a very close correlation between sturdiness or lack of it in the economy and how many boats show up here. Ok, some PhD candidate with an eye for a weird economic thesis, I have just handed it to you.

Heading back to the big island after a weekend of debauchery good family fun

While the rain held off yesterday, we did have a rolling weather scenario of sun and overcast going on. I liked it, as the air did not reach the exploding steam bath stage. It is staying warm much later than normal (I'm sure someone will say, 'oh MJ, it's always like this at Thanksgiving time' and maybe they are right but it seems warmer to me). On the positive side, I am in the water in late November, something my water friends will agree is something I don't normally do (they do). On the negative side, my blanket looks really lonely on the shelf and I'm very ready for the day, or probably night, that I'll pull it down in all its light weight warmth, another seasonal marker. 

So I was wrong. Shocking, but your coffee either hasn't kicked in yet or is wearing off, depending on your time zone, so I'm doing you a favor. Yesterday was full of activity, both around my yard and beyond. Most good, some not so good, as I heard there have been some animal poisonings going on...make sure your critters are where they should be.

In a fantasy world, this would be my guest bedroom. (credit unknown)
In a fantasy world, there would be no one cruel enough to kill a animal or send men and women to war. But fantasies are for Sundays. It's Monday and I need to go.

Have a maverick Monday. Do something mischievously miscellaneous.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Simple Sunday ~ Culebra

"How to Overthrow the System: brew your own beer; kick in your Tee Vee; kill your own beef; build your own cabin and piss off the front porch whenever you bloody well feel like it."
-Edward Abbey

Friday, November 23, 2012

There's Culebra and then, There's the Rest of the World

Culebra is full of contradictions and most of them are good ones. We're part of America, yet so much not a part that we could be another country. I include the big island of Puerto Rico as one of those other places. Here, we have no chain stores and no chain restaurants. We have no homeless, no hungry, no threats of boycotts if someone expresses their religious beliefs out loud. No one will complain of a Nativity scene on the plaza with no Hanukkah menorah or Diwali clay lamps of oil or Kwanzaa cornucopias nearby (though they could be there too and that would be fine).

 So today, on Black Friday, if you want to shop 'til you drop, you won't find any sales here, except maybe a shopkeepers items on the sale rack that is in its appointed spot year 'round. Today, when and if WalMart workers are striking on the big island, with hopefully some pubic support, we won't hear about it until the ferry gets back this afternoon or tonight. If at all. Hearing about it I mean, not the ferry not coming back at all, that's better now. Really!

Pat says she is following the healthy advice of one glass of wine a day
Here, less really is more, and that works on a lot of levels. Yesterday, talking with a friend in my yard, we walked to the water's edge. Our talk meandered about the good and not so good of life here, the things we have and don't have, the frustrations we live with because the alternative is much worse. Sometimes.

But then we sat on rocks at the water's edge, watching the boats sway, looking at the roots of mangroves inching out of the water. Black mangroves, I learned. White mangroves were there as well, identified with two white dots at the base of the leaf. There were red mangroves too. All looking so much alike and all so very different. While the leaf of the black mangrove is more pointy than the other two, the real difference is how it absorbs the salt from the water. There's a whole big explanation about this, but the fun part was the taste test. My Thanksgiving appetizer was licking the back of the black mangrove leaf, then a white one. One extremely salty, one not.

Molly (and her guests) kindly shared space and time for our Thanksgiving dinner at her guesthouse. Thanks, Molly and guests!
At the water's edge, I could lose care about much of anything at all 'out there'. Back up the yard, hummingbirds were madly darting while iguanas crept overhead and down below; that was about the biggest activity going on. I can live easily without Black Friday - I can live without a lot of things that are just things. I find though, the idea of living without hummingbirds, without the sound of water lapping nearby? I don't want to live without that, no matter how easy it might be somewhere else. At least, that's what I think as this year draws near to closing.

 Friends were scattered around the island at various dinners here and there. 
But these guys were here.

John brought a turkey and finished it off in Molly's oven, meaning we all got that wafting aroma
 I didn't get photos of the two young women guests, but I did have a good chat with this charming, funny, sweet family from Prague. How cool is it to be from the historical capital of Bohemia?
(I did remember!)

I love this photograph.
Diversity, contradictions, life on Culebra. A microcosm of so much out there in the larger world and thankfully, so much itself. Here, I won't say hey! it's Buy Nothing Day, buy nothing! because here, you are buying about as local as it gets. So carry on! Buy local, where ever you are, if you must buy today. Just remember the moments of life that no amount of money can buy and do your best to stock up!

Have a frequently fabulous Friday! Do something freeing.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving From Me and Culebra!

~credit unknown~

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Girl Named Esther

I had a few other things I was going to post today, but really, does anyone need a recipe for Thanksgiving, as we are all online or you wouldn't be reading this? Does anyone need a list of what we can be thankful for, as if a reminder would accelerate your own thanks? If you plan on Black Friday shopping, sit for a moment and think about what you really need. Not that we shouldn't buy for fun, but this day seems to me like, after that last burp at the groaning feast, taking three more bites and throwing up. Elegant image, I know.

I got a request to post the following and it seems the more important thing. Esther represents just one of so many, animals, children; beings in need. You know what to do. If you can't help financially (and I know that is reality for too many) then offer yourselves in whatever capacity of giving by going and volunteering as you can.

From Terrie, at AWC, from last night:

"Please help! Funds are currently at "zero" & AWC has pups (& cats) who need our assistance! "Esther" was rescued this evening. She'll need a vet visit, vaccines, spay, heartworm test, & perhaps more before she's ready to find a forever family. AWC needs your help tonight!THANKS for GIVING this Thanksgiving!!"

There is also Dharma Ink in MA, a tattoo place, that is giving half of today's profits to AWC. Ok, I'm not a tattoo person, but a whole lot of folks are, so get some ink today if you were planning on it anyway! 

Have a wield your wallet Wednesday! Do something wakey wakey!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pig Question

There's not much happening today. In fact, right now it's dark and it's cool and it's raining. Wbich means I should, by all rights, be asleep, cozy, dreaming lovely dreams of living on a Caribbean island, maybe with a cat. Maybe with a cat who thinks she's special. So special that she can jump on my head and ask for breakfast. At 5 a.m. Ok, that's not a dream.

Yesterday on the way to Zoni, we saw this pig. I wasn't fast enough, or it was too fast, to get a head shot.

I'm putting another one here. Take a good look at this pig's backside.

On the way HOME from Zoni, we saw this pig. I was a little luckier, this pig was easier to see.

My friend Francie said it was the same pig. She also said I could get out of the car and get a closer shot. My friends are really great that way. But however great, I didn't think it was the same pig.

I got out of the car. The pig started snorting. I got back in the car.
Francie was sort of snickering. I'm pretty sure it would be called snickering. I told her how I grew up around wild boars, and they scared the crap out of me (rightfully so, of course, if you've ever been chased by a wild boar, you know it is smart to be scared of them - SMART - and yes, Virginia, there are wild boars in coastal Florida. There are wild bores too, but they are everywhere and a completely different discussion). I'm pretty sure she got in another quiet snicker again.

My question is, do you think this pig and that pig are the same pig? I don't. Maybe it rolled in the mud and got bigger. Thankfully, there IS mud around. Opinions please. A lot depends on this. Snickering rights for one thing.

And there's one more thing I want to ask you. Do you think waking up to rain would also make me wake up with this song in my head? Really?

Have a total it up Tuesday! Do something untarnished.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Discoveries 2012

Today is a holiday around here, called Discovery of Puerto Rico Day, as much a misnomer as Columbus Day, but a good excuse for another day off. The article linked above is pretty good in its inclusion of the real beginnings and peopled history of Puerto Rico, nicely relegating Columbus as a now famous guy who also happened to come by the place, renaming it (as long ago white Europeans tended to do) after John the Baptist. Which seems weird. You can read all about it if you like.

Saturday was Victor Gonzalez' Discover Culebra Day. It was the day he found out that beyond protests with marchers holding signs, beyond the vilification of him publicly since very shortly after he arrived, he found out we also can get lawyers, official entities, and the general citizenry to take him to legal task.

The hastily called public forum, in light of the change of governments and the lack of support whipped out from under him to continue to plunder our island like a ravaging one man army of destruction, outing his false information by Fish and Wildlife, the DNR, the FAA and other initialled groups I don't know because they are in Spanish, made abundantly clear that the raping of Flamenco beach is illegal and must cease. His plans for windmills (that he submitted as being 150 feet high rather than the 300+ feet, his lack of permits, his general lying, selfish, ecologically unsound plans were brought into the light of day. Ironically, he brought most of them. We shone the light. It was beautiful.

My favorite part of all was after he, the only proponent, and we, the room full of supporters, among us the well prepared speakers including lawyers hired by private landowners and public groups, the never ceasing activists who put their time and money and talents on the line over and over and over against those who would exploit this unique place, and our newly elected mayor speaking; at the end of all of that Victor asked for the opportunity to say 'only 4 lines'. The judge gave a resounding 'No.'

Yin and Yang
Oh, it's not over. This was a public hearing, as required but previously not done - a Victor trademark - but this was a huge, huge step in the right direction. As decisive a blow to the pillaging of Culebra as was the election earlier in the month. An election that is already changing the course of conversation and action. A new wind is blowing through Culebra and indeed, Puerto Rico. Discovery indeed.

Ivan (our soon to be officially in office mayor) speaking out for our island
Have a mighty Monday! Do something mouth-wateringly momentous.