Saturday, November 30, 2013

Free Range Friday Saturday ~ Culebra

Since my online capability left the building Friday and there is still pernil and gravy and stuffing wafting through the air, we'll just remake time, as we do here on occasion.

There were wonderful meals served and shared around and about the island Thursday - the about part was out on the water, because we can do that here - families and friends gathered in thanks for the gamut of the much we have to be thankful for, and that includes groaning tables.

This groaning table was at Molly's where we all gave thanks for good friends and some really awesome cooks!
John brought pineapple upside down cake...and was damn proud of it
Greg's shrimp are always a welcome addition
A beautiful fruit salad, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy...mucho yum
And turkey. Did I mention turkey?
Some of the usual suspects and some new faces too

And music! Thanks, musical people!
Stolen photo of some of our boaty turkeys friends celebrating the day with thanks
Going back a bit. Remember when I wrote recently about tea? Well, I wrote to a few companies and got some responses, but the one that stood out was from Numi tea. I had written asking about the tea and the tea bags, as in, what are they made of, since I'd read the article about something else to wonder about. I got a nice note back explaining that there might be a trace of bad stuff in them and that they were looking for alternatives. Then, unexpectedly, I got this:

Hi MJ,

I wanted to follow up with you about your original question about our tea bags. I have to apologize for my previous inaccurate response about whether our teabags contained epichlorohydrin or not.

I didn't fully understand the process, but my colleague from our Quality Assurance team did an in-depth look at the process and also requested a chemical test. We are happy to let you know that our tea bags do not in fact contain epichlorohydrin!

In order to create tea bags that will stay intact when immersed in boiling water, our manufacturers achieve wet strength by cross-linking epichlorohydrin with a polyamide polymer, which when linked, causes a reaction that uses up all of the epichlorohydrin chemical. We have had our suppliers perform tests to make sure that no epichlorohydrin remains in our tea bags and they have provided us with verification that our tea bags contain no traces of this agent. 

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Best regards,

The Numi Tea’M
Nourishing vegetable, spice and tea infusions

That's what I consider over and above customer relations.  As consumers, we have the responsibility to pay attention to what we willingly purchase and put into our bodies. As suppliers, there is a responsibility to be open about our concerns and requests, but that often isn't the case. One response I got suggested I simply stop worrying about tea bags and buy loose tea. Another, saying they got their products from 'many sources' answered my follow up questions with 'no, we don't know.' I guess they figured that I wasn't going to be a customer. They're right. But as for Numi, I'm not only going to be a customer, I'm going to suggest them to friends and family and you, gentle readers, because I like their philosophy, they use fair trade teas, they support sustainable practices and because hey Margie, you rock!

Now I just need to figure out where to buy it.

To everyone who did thoughtfully and intentionally NOT participate in Black Friday (or Blacker Thursday)? Good on you!  If we simply ask ourselves, how much do we really need, and then answer it honestly, this world - yes, the world, or at least our corner of it - could be a better place. We have much to be thankful for, the best of that is not counted in things. Thus endeth the lesson. Oh, except for the 'when you do buy, buy local' part!

Have a supportable Saturday. Do something soothing.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah from Culebra 2013!

Since I can't make that title again in my lifetime - the next coinciding of these holidays won't happen for more than a few thousand decades - I have to play it up today. I'm sorry I didn't find this earlier - the ideal meshing of the celebrations, but if you're going to be around 70 or 80 thousand years from now, you might want to hang on to this. Whether the key play at your home today is playing with your dreidel or your turkey, or both happy day of celebration of thankfulness. Let the good food roll!

I could go on about all the things I am thankful for and most likely, at some point in the day, for some unlucky listener or plural that, I just might and in fact, probably will. But for now, morning chores done, not that there are many, I cannot help but put having the pain gone from my arm at the top of the list. It's still not all the way back to pumping iron strength, but that's a time thing. No pain is like a jump up and swing from tree branches thing. So this year, Dr. R, you rate pretty high on my human list and you don't know it nor care, but there it is!

Otherwise, I'm thankful that the same things I'm thankful for year in and year out that are still around to be thankful for. Some old friends are gone, that never stops, but new babies have been born. I still have my children and brother and most of the ones dear to me, who make me laugh, who have put up with my little, on the world scale, trials and help me through them. Who drink with me and work with me and...oh crap, I'm doing it. You get the idea.

I tried to capture the 'look, it might snow!' light of this morning before it gets too sunny for those in chillier/colder/more frigid conditions

She wasn't quite awake yet and the chicks ate first

She was very awake.

They keep on hangin' on

Life is good
Have a wonderful day of thanks, no matter where in the world you might be. Happy Chanukah day 2!

Have an especially thankful Thursday! Do something traditionally twanged.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lost Dogs! Special Edition

Here's the deal. Dogs are let to run loose or they get out of their yards (or maybe separated from their owners while they visit the island) and good people either foster them while the search is on or bring them to AWC (Animal Welfare of Culebra) folks, who are alreay inundated with the many satos needing medical attention in the hopes of finding them homes. So if you recognize ANY of these dogs, PLEASE get in touch with AWC!

email -; or call Lori Novis 267-251-0721

From AWC -

Dear Community,

The following 5 lost dogs have been "brought" to AWC's attention or are under our care. Please let us know if there any leads as to whom may own these dogs. We've posted signs at the Post Office and at the road that leads to Playa Larga.

Take a good look at these sweeties, they want to go home!

White & tan pup, female, found at ferry dock

Black female 'lab' with some white spots, unsterilized, found at Playa Larga

 Black male 'lab' with some white spots, unsterilized, found at Playa Larga

 Beige corgi-like male dog, unsterilized ... wandering around town

Chocolate puppy, found with Playa Larga dogs ... just sent to vet for immediate care
When I say AWC is inundated with dogs (and cats too), I'm not exaggerating. Some people are taking care of multiple animals due to the lack of foster homes. So, here's a foster plug, if you can foster, even if only for a couple of weeks, please do. AWC pays for food and medical, they just need more places where these dogs can get socialized and ready for adoption. You can use the above number and email for information on how to be a foster helper.

Keep your eyes and ears open.

Thanks for all so many do! 

Goaten Morgen!

I'm glad I can walk by goats in the morning. 

Have a tranquil Tuesday. Do something therapeutic.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Since I have way too much time to be on the computer, I've been sleuthing a bit into my old stomping grounds, connecting with people and places around where I grew up. It was a place that has pretty well disappeared now, according to all I read, but in my mind, it is still very real.

One of my favorite places was Mather's Bridge. I've written about it before, a wooden bridge with a swing center where we - with our parents and later by ourselves - fished, shrimped, crabbed, had dates, stomped on one end of a plank of wood to watch the other loose end jump up. We climbed that bridge like a jungle gym and no one ever said stop, including the bridge tender.

It's impossible to tell that the bridge was wooden, but it was!
On one of the sites, Florida Backroads Travel I got in touch with a woman, Donna Lewis, who's family managed the restaurant there from 1964 - 1966. She had some photos and kindly shared them.

The cabins here were the subject of much speculation. Fishermen, hookers, we guessed all and more in between. As curious as I was, I never really investigated them - the mystery around them - that I most likely created - kept me at bay.

This was one end of the restaurant. It was funky and dive-y in a perfect way, very much the river and not the beach, which was a mile in the other direction. My Dad would take us there once in awhile. Never a fast food place, but we could go here. I'm still glad.

This is Donna and her Dad, but the main thing here is the water wheel. On one side was a more than  anatomically correct mermaid and the subject of many a young boy's fantasy and giggles.

The other side was a dolphin, being ridden. It was our inspiration and we tried more than once to gather the courage to jump on one of the many dolphins passing by near our dangling feet where we sat on the piers under the bridge. Up close, they were NOT like Flipper, but rather, they were big and wild and wonderful, not tame. I know people who have been pulled along by dolphins - it's still a fantasy for me.
This is a photo/painting of Mather's Bridge in the 90's by Lloyd Behrendt -  "they are photo oils - "I start with a silverprint ( B & W photograph) and then color it with transparent photo oils"
How it looks today
The restaurant is gone now, and the huge Dragon that was located at the very tip of Merritt Island is gone as well. The places we rode our bikes madly or slowly, past groves of avocados and oranges and grapefruit, with homes set so far back you couldn't see them, with honor stands on the road selling fruit, with a scary abandoned nursing home that still had pianos madly out of tune scattered here and there, is now the home of manicured lawns and mcmansions. The clickity clack of our bike tires going across the bridge, (a bridge now replaced by a spanning/swing bridge  - are the days  gone of waiting for it to open, while tall masted sail boats lazily made their passage?), the excitement of discovering something new, the juice of an orange picked and peeled and eaten right then and there - little thieves that we were - are part of a gone era, but I still hear the rhythm.

How good, then, to find others for whom these memories are as real as my own! One person commented that now there are signs on the bridge with Rules of Do Not posted everywhere. We grew up when there were no rules, when supposed common sense, which we only had in small measure but enough to keep us from killing ourselves, was the only rule. It worked.

What does that have to do with Culebra? Oh, quite a bit. And as more people discover her, more rules will come. My yard becomes my Indian Harbour Beach more and more, but you still have to go a long way to go shopping at anything resembling a mall, there are still no traffic lights or fast food joints or car lots. There is still water every direction you care to look and all roads end at a beach.

Yes they do. And you can't take that away from me...

Have a memorable Monday. Do something melodic.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Free Range Friday ~ Culebra's Turkey Run and Turkey Too

The Turkey Run (or, ungrammatically correctly the Pavo Cerrera, which I am afraid will come out as the running of the turkeys and it certainly was not) is my favorite event all year. Of course, I also say that about the parade of paso fino's. But there is something about this run, its inclusion of all ages, lots of family participation, and general joy of the community turnout that really makes me happy and says Culebra to me in bold neon letters. As bold as the sneakers that flew by in sizes from baby 0 to men's 12's.

 Somewhere about here my camera battery died and I started using my phone. My bad.

These last are the worst, but how can I not include them?

I didn't stay around for the awarding of the turkeys to the winners but there will be some extra birds on tables around the island with some big smiles for dessert.

Looking for something different for your Thanksgiving Day turkey? I know, it's all about tradition but some traditions could use a little shaking up and Cajun Spiced turkey will do just that.

This is not Cajun Spiced turkey but it was something different from the year I brined and smoked a bird for our get-together Turkey Dinner. Yes, it was awesome.
Cajun Spiced Turkey (adapted from a bunch of recipes!)

This is for an 8- 10 pound turkey. If you have a bigger one, you can double the ingredients.

Make sure you have some butter and some olive oil standing by.

Ok, let us begin!

First, you need to put together your Cajun spice - this can keep a long time in the fridge, sealed, so it can be made early. Like today.
  • 5 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika 
  • (regular if you can't get smoked - smoked is better and hot smoked better yet)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder 
  • 1 teaspoon cumin  
For underneath the turkey, you want to roughly chop up

1 large carrot
2 celery stalks
1 large onion

What goes inside the turkey? Well, your Grandma's stuffing recipe if you must, but what about trying
1 peeled crisp apple
2 green onions
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon Cajun Spice Rub
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 jalapeno pepper

and do this with it (once you've removed the giblets and neck and rinsed the turkey, organic I hope, inside and out)

Cut the apple into large pieces, seed (if you don't want as much heat) and cut jalapeno into strips, dice green onion and halve garlic cloves.
Add one teaspoon oil to saute pan over medium heat and add all ingredients.
Toss to coat and saute just until fragrant and tender, about 5 minutes.
With tongs, remove ingredients from pan and insert most of the mixture into body cavity and a small amount into neck cavity.

And here is where I go off road. The giblets are sauteed with lots of onion and garlic and the neck goes into a small pot of water on a low heat. Part of the giblets get used in what we call Poor Man's Pate. Finely chopping or giving them a whirl in a food processor, fast because it should be slightly rough, then served with crackers, with the rest put in the stuffing mix. This might be a Jewish Cajun thing. The neck goes to the cat, or your neighbor's cat. It must go to a cat though. The water from cooking the neck can be used in the stuffing and/or the gravy; it is now officially broth.

Tuck in the wings and tie the legs with butcher twine, place the turkey in the pan on the rough cut veggies. Rub the bird with a tablespoon of butter and sprinkle on your chosen amount of the Cajun Spice mix. Put that beauty in a 325 degree pre-heated oven for about 2 1/2 hours, roughly 15 minutes per pound. Remember, this is for a 10 pound turkey, adjust your cooking time to the size of your turkey.

I'm big on basting while cooking the turkey (obviously, I don't buy self-basting turkeys) because I like to play with my food and it makes me feel virtuous when out comes this amazing golden brown bird. Plus, opening the oven lets out a mouth watering aroma to all within smelling zone of the oven, which is part of Thanksgiving.

Let it rest about 10 minutes before carving. While you are letting it rest, you can make an awesome spicy gravy from the pan drippings.

Buen provecho!!

Have a feasible Friday. Do something flexible.