Saturday, 15 December 2012

Christmas Spirit

 We have been so busy unpacking, trying to figure out where we are, driving to the grocery store, doing homework, and working – yes, I am working now – that it feels like Christmas is no where near here.  Yes, we have a tree and our chimney has Christmas decorations – and YES I did send out Christmas cards this year(finally), oh and I did bake one set of Christmas cookies too, but still it just doesn’t feel like Christmas yet.

What to do to make it feel like Christmas? Join the neighborhood caroling group of course! No, I can’t sing and you really don’t want to hear me sing, but I still enjoy doing it. Our neighborhood has for the first time, got together and tonight went caroling. We met  at our pavilion, had hot chocolate, cookies, and sweets, practiced singing, and then jumped on a trailer covered in hay bales and set off down the road to sing to some neighbors who have a had a hard year. 

The kids were super excited, hopped up on sugar, and raw energy, the adults enjoyed socializing, and making other people feel good.  All in all, it was a nice way to “bring in” the Christmas season. So, get out there and do something Christmasy.

Friday, 7 December 2012

1 month already?!

walking down the road
to see our first snake!
So, here we are at a little over one month into our new adventure.  I feel like I have been here forever and yet like we only just stepped off the plane all at the same time.  Is this normal? Who knows, but we deal with it and enjoy the feeling every day.

So, here we are in Austin, Texas.  Living out in the country, surrounded by trucks, big SUVs, wide open spaces, dry caliche soil, horses, cows, HUGE highways, HUGE houses, HUGE super markets, and HUGE bugs. We have a fantastic neighborhood where EVERYONE - and I mean everyone has been 100% welcoming, we love our rental, we love the bigness of it all, A is in school and in LOVE with it, C adores going to the library, playing outside and the DEER! We have wild deer that roam our yard all day long! The foodie in me says "Hello fresh venison loin in blackberry chipotle sauce" the naturalist says "Hello beautiful four footed animal that I can watch and enjoy over a cup of coffee."  I wonder who will win that battle??

dinner or pet?
Honestly, we couldn't be happier with our move.  It has taken some getting used to, I won't lie. My eyes are still not trained to see trees instead of ocean when we crest the hills out here in Hill Country. Every day it takes me by surprise that I can't see the beautiful azure sparkling sea of the Caribbean. Having to use a GPS and still not knowing where I am exactly is hard. Not knowing all the rules of the road is hard. Not being able to keep my tan is REALLY hard. Having a litter box inside in killing me! Worrying about coyotes eating the cat is really annoying - although I think he would put some serious Crucian bush cat whup @ss on them if given a chance.  Never knowing what the weather is going to be like is hard......

fire pit in our yard.
BUT we LOVE it here. People are really so very NICE. I don't know how to explain it, everyone on St. Croix was NICE, but this is..... different. Case in point, the lady in Home Depot who sold us our washer and dryer not only called me 3 times to see if they had been delivered and how they were working, but she got me an awesome super sale price, AND wrote me a THANK YOU NOTE after they were delivered! Plus every time she sees me there I get a BIG hug!!!!  The cop that pulled me over for using high beams "within 1000 feet of another vehicle"(who knew??) only gave me a warning since I wasn't used to driving in Texas and smiled the whole time!!! The people during the black friday rush - yes, I went - GAVE me their cart because they didn't need two(where was the pushing, pepper spray, and tasers?)!

So, hello Austin - we really like it here so far.  Now, can you please put some other Latin music on the radio aside from Rancheras and Nortenas, I need Reggaeton!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Life, Crazy life

I feel like my life has been crazy. What am I saying? Life HAS been crazy and I don’t see it getting any easier in the next few months either. SIGH  Between school, family life, and trying to keep us going on a sane schedule, we made the mad, crazy decision to leave St. Croix.


Don’t get me wrong, we are excited to start a new adventure, to expand our horizons, and try new things, but you know, leaving is SCARY, hard, and WAY too much WORK!  There are tons of reasons why we chose this time to leave here, and tons of reasons why we could have stayed, but once we laid the cards on the table, it made more sense to leave STX than stay right now.  I know those of you living up where it gets cold and whom have know us since I was little are probably just shaking your heads right now in disbelief. I don’t blame you; I shake my head in disbelief and can’t really grasp the thought that in (hopefully) less than a month we will no longer be on this bright little jewel in the Caribbean. St. Croix will ALWAYS be where my heart is and a HUGE chunk of my heart will be consumed with my love for this island; but it is NOT the island of my youth anymore.  It has changed so much in the last few years- but especially in the last 8 months – that I almost don’t recognize her. 

People don’t seem to care for our way of life here anymore, yes things are getting hard economically, but that isn’t even what I mean.  What I mean is that there are so many more people here now who are being bad elements. There are more burglaries, shootings, hold ups, rudeness, drive by shootings, and just general disrespect going on that it saddens me and makes my heart feel burdened. I feel that we have lost our way and need good government and sensible people to help bring us through our rough times.  We need visionaries who can give up their own agendas to bring St. Croix through her hours of darkness and back into the light.

Will St. Croix be what she was when I was growing up? Probably never again – we have gotten too big, been exposed to too many outside “values”, and been shown how the outside world lives to ever return to the good ol’ days. Will St. Croix once again become a place where many people can live in harmony, support one another, look out for their neighbors, and where people will stop to help those in need? Yes. Will that happen over night? No.

I think this transformation needs to start in the home – if you see your child being mean to another – STOP them. If your child disrespects you because you haven’t been a parent who has rules – make some rules and give your child consequences. If you allow your children to be disrespectful, take wheat doesn’t belong to them, and have no consequences then you will get more of the same as they become adults.  

Maroon ridge view
After giving our children consequences for their actions, we need to look to our governmental leaders. If they aren’t working to better this place we call home, why keep them in office? Why do we pay them the money we do? Is it so they can pass legislation renaming roads? Maybe it is so they can return money that the Feds give us for our schools so our children fall further behind in education? Hmm, no? Oh, I know, it’s so those politicians can steal more money from us and further weaken our economy.   Heck, if I didn’t do my job, I’d be fired in an instant – why can’t we fire our Senators if they don’t do a good job?

ANYWAY – this post wasn’t supposed to be about St. Croix’s ills, it was supposed to be about our crazy life and how by leaving I have made it crazier.  SO yes, I have been a hermit these last 4 weeks trying to do school, pack, not kill my husband or kids when things got crazy, empty the fridge, learn all about the moving process, and not tear my hair out trying to figure out how to do EVERYTHING I want to do before we leave. Life is CRAZY here right now, but we enjoying all of our remaining time on St. Croix because I want to impart my love of this place to my children before we leave. 

We have gone hiking, chaney hunting, ruins rambling, Taino Indian learning, taken part in food events, gone to the farmer’s market, spent time with friends, played on the beach, etc.

There is still so much to do!

Sunrise over St. Croix
If you don’t see me out and about it is because I am trying to get in a last minute dive, go to Buck Island, walk the beach at sunset, watch the sunrise over Point Udall, go down that road I ALWAYS wanted to explore, climb that mango tree, snorkel the reef at Jack’s and Issac’s, and generally just explore this beautiful island paradise.  I want to drink Tamarind juice, eat Armsrong’s Ice Cream, have another Pate, eat another Roti, have a rum drink at Buck Island, swim a beach I have never swam before, take pictures of everything, lime in Christiansted, explore the back streets of Frederiksted. I want to go horseback riding in the rainforest on a fast horse, see the tide pools at Annaly, go to Maroon Ridge, I want to breathe in our salt air, smell the rain on the hot ground, feel the Tradewinds caress my skin after coming out of the ocean. In short, I want to take all my favorite parts of St. Croix wrap them up in my heart and carry them with me so that when the going gets tough on our new adventure I can pull out each memory or experience and remember what a charmed life we had here and what a truly special place this little island in the Caribbean is.

St. Croix is where my heart is. Where is your heart?

Monday, 1 October 2012

These boots were made for walkin'.......

deep sea explorer

In about February, my friend Anna was leaving island and while at her house I saw these ΓΌber cute cowboy boots that I thought would be super fun and super cute for C to wear. She gladly gave them to us as handme downs. I think we were the 3rd child to get them.  They were some well loved footwear by the time we got them.

beach boots!
These boots have been used as cowboy boots, firemen boots, astronaut boots, exploring boots, and most recently fisherman boots. They have been used for stomping on gongolos, running, climbing, holding swords, hiking, hiding things like toys and leaves, cars have ridden in them, they have been worn to town, the grocery, to the beach, to see horses, on boats, and to bed. THANK YOU ANNA for providing fun hand me down footwear for my kid for the last 7 months.  I can count the times on one hand that C has worn other footwear in that time frame – umm, 5 times. HE LOVES those boots!

During this whole time that C has been wearing the boots, it has been without socks so you can imagine the stench that emanates from them when they are removed. They must be taken off outside and they never come inside anymore.  Even the bugs that get put into them come out gasping for air! He has sweated in them, put dirty feet into them, had pee accidents in them…. You get my drift.

boot love!
It has gotten such that when people see C and he doesn’t have his boots on they ask him what happened to the boots? He will answer I left them at home, or they needed a rest.  He hears EVERY reference to his boots when we are out(EVERY SINGLE ONE) and answers with a “Tanks! I love my botas”. He even asks complete strangers if they like his boots.  He would sleep with them on if I let them come into the house off his feet.  He models them - naked.  When I ask him if he wants to wear his shoes and am holding the boots, he says “Not papos mami, botas(not shoes mommy, boots)”! The kid cracks me up!

garbage boots going
on assignment!
Sadly though, the age of these particular boots must come to an end.  On Friday he decided to go wading into the sea to catch fish while wearing the boots.  Salt water, sand, and fish are not friends of leather boots.  Not sure how I am going to explain to him why the boots must be trashed, but would you want to wear something that has foot stench, salt water, fish, and sand smell? He probably wouldn't mind but I and the rest of the family on the other hand.......

So Adieu dear boots, adieu. It has been fun, and one day we will get another pair, but for now – out you go.  Enjoy your well deserved rest in boot heaven where all well loved boots must go.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The home schoolers go indigenous with the Caribbean Indigenous Arts and Crafts Museum on St. Croix!

Today, we had the pleasure of going on a field trip to the Caribbean Indigenous Arts and Crafts Museum at Cane Bay! Whew, what a mouthful! This trip, although open to all ages, ended up being all elementary kids. There were three girls and three boys - what a great group they were too!

The kids arrived and were instantly captivated by Kelly the Parrot who sand Happy Birthday, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, some opera, and cried like a baby!  She was really cute and hates to not be the center of attention.  Anyway, after talking and interacting with Kelly, they all went over to the open air picnic area and took their seats.

The children learned all sorts of fascinating things about Tainos. Tainos were the indigenous people who lived here on St. Croix from PreColumbian times up until shortly after Columbus "discovered" the Virgin Islands.  They were one of the most populous groups of Native peoples in the Caribbean. They farmed, hunted, gathered, and created beautiful works of art.  It is thought that their farming techniques were so far advanced that they only had to dedicate 2 hours a week to gardening. They produced such food stuff as pineapples, cassava(or yucca), peanuts, and sweet potatoes. They also grew cotton. Apparently when Columbus came by he noted, as did other explorers, that the island of St. Croix was heavily terraced and farmed with cotton plants.

Some of the islands in the caribbean still retain their Taino names. Some of these islands are Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti.  It is thought that St. Croix's name was AyAy which means The River. Now, why would St. Croix be named The River? There are no rivers or flowing bodies of water here! Well, way before the plantation industry got going here, St. Croix was FULL of rivers and streams and guts. With the advent of plantation farming, all the trees were either burned or cut down and it stopped raining here.  Once the rain stopped, guess what else stopped? THE RIVER!! Salt River is named just that because there was a river of water that flowed out of the hills and into the ocean. When we have tremendous rains, our guts fill and flow into the old path of our ancient river. I wonder what St.Croix would look like today if those plantation owners hadn't deforested our island - don't you?

ANYWAY back to some facts that our group thought was neato:

  1. There were between 20 and 30,000 people living on St. Croix at the time of Columbus' arrival
  2. A Taino woman shot one of the Spaniards with bow and arrow when Columbus' men came ashore
  3. Columbus never actually set foot on St. Croix
  4. Tainos had parrots
  5. Tainos used blowguns
  6. Spent a lot of time making very cool art
  7. They wore feathered hats
  8. Taino Indians were some of the first Indians to live on St. Croix
  9. Many words came from the Taino Arawak language

So folks, if you get a chance to go visit Brian and his wife Jill at the  Caribbean Indigenous Arts and Crafts Museum at Cane Bay, please let us know what you think.  This is a great resource for artists, collectors, and children to learn a bit about our history here on St. Croix before the European conquest.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Summer of Ice Cream!

Pure ingredients
It seems like in years past each summer has had a theme. Last summer was jams and jellies. This summer has been ice cream!  When I was little my Dad made homemade ice cream every once in a while.  I don’t know why he didn’t make it more often, but I do remember that we had an old White’s Mountain hand cranked ice cream maker. It was the kind you had to put rock salt and ice into.  Maybe we didn’t make it more often because my Mom didn’t like the egginess of homemade ice cream, or maybe because finding rock salt on the island was hard back then.  Who knows, but I do remember being sad when Hurricane Hugo destroyed it.

The secret to tropical ice cream!
A few years back, my Dad got a new Cuisinart ice cream maker that was electric and had a freezer bowl. It was genius! He started making ice cream again, and since he usually had an excuse to make it when we came for dinner, it became tradition for A to tell him what flavor to make. He started making Cinderella and Ariel ice cream….. what is that exactly? It’s vanilla ice cream or almond flavored ice cream that has been dyed the appropriate color to match the Princess in question’s dress. Hence blue ice cream for Cinderella and pink or red ice cream for Ariel.  My niece L also got into and started asking for Aurora ice cream, and then later Pocohantas ice cream. I am sure that is Disney got a hold of this site, they would make an even larger fortune!

Anyway, I have an attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer that promises to make ice cream. I tried it once and it worked marginally. This summer, I was determined to figure it out and make it work!  So, I experimented – a lot J

Tricks to using a KA ice cream attachment in the Caribbean:

1.     FREEZE your bowl for at LEAST 5 days.
2.     Chill in the freezer your cream for at least 2 hours before you mix it into your base
3.     After mixing your base, CHILL for 2 days in fridge or FREEZE for 8 hours.
4.     Start mixing as EARLY in the morning as possible(5 am is NOT too early in this case)
5.     Cover your KA with a fluffy bath towel while it is mixing.
6.     Once mixed and soft serve consistency, place into metal or ceramic bowl and put back into freezer at least overnight
7.     Eat with friends and family outside while admiring the lingering heat of the day

Basic ice cream recipe:

1C whole milk*
1C sugar
2C cream
4-6 egg yolks(large)

*The more whole the milk you use, the creamier the ice cream

Scald milk and sugar in pan. Beat yolks in separate bowl. Add scalded milk to yolks once milk is slightly cooled. Mix continuasly so yolks don’t cook.  Return to stove top and stir until the mixture coats the back of your spoon. Once it is thick and coats spoon, mix into super chilled cream, add flavoring and chill in fridge or freezer.

Some notes: If you are using whole flavorings like mint leaves, cinnamon, rosemary, etc steep those in the scalded milk for at least 30 minutes then rewarm milk and add to yolks after removing flavoring(or not – your preference)

Some of our favorites this summer were:

Mango and Morita Chili

Rosemary, Blood Orange Olive Oil, and roasted Pepitas

Chocolate Decadence with Cocoa Nibs

French Vanilla

Mint Chocolate Chip with real mint leaves

Mamey, Cinnamon, and Piloncillo



I have a few other flavors up my sleeve but will not tell you about them just yet!

We enjoyed this summer’s theme. Did your summer have a food theme?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Where has it gone?

Sailing camp

The summer is at an end.  About 3 months ago I had all these plans for our down time. I was going to clean out closets and under beds, go to the beach 3 times a week, finish a quilt, pick up a few other sewing projects, cook up some great meals, fix the garden beds, explore a different part of St. Croix every two weeks, etc. 

Here is what I ACTUALLY accomplished – cooked great meals, ran errands, took A to multiple camps, ran C around to different play grounds, played with both kids, started tutoring, became a mom mobile, hung at the beach, made new friends, explored science stuff with the kids,  cleaned the house,  read, put our dog to sleep,  rediscovered Buck Island, realized that I NEED salt water, built multiple train track configurations, did arts and crafts with A, and had a GREAT time.

Watermelon Ice Pops!
Did I accomplish what I wanted to accomplish – no. Did I get frustrated when I realized that my closet and under my bed is still a mess – yes, but did I also get to create some wonderful memories with my family – YES. Was it a good summer despite not getting through my to do list? Most definitely!

I think that A has had the best summer of her life to date. She was in Danica David’s art camp and got to do art 5 days a week for 1 month, she made new friends, went of field trips, and got bitten by the art bug.  Here is a video clip of their end of the camp song:

Then she met not one, but two new friends named Alex. If she doesn’t marry the one later in life I’m going to be crushed. She made new girl friends who allowed her to stay multiple nights in a row for sleepovers, she swam in someone’s pool or the ocean everyday, she learned how to sail, she had friends over to play all the time, and she had 2 birthday celebrations!

Birding at the Buccaneer
C got to go play at the beach a lot, he played in his sandbox, got Mommy all to himself, and missed his sister ALL the time! He took walks, learned how to speak a ton more, came up with some great witticisms, and started requesting odd, odd, odd songs at bed time. Anyone ever hear of the song about the Farmer who ate his chickens pollos, the big friendly dinosaur who played with horses, or the some about the bleeding dog in the bushes? I hadn’t before this summer, but now I know them VERY well.

I LOVED my summer and I’m not really too disappointed that I didn’t clean out the closets or under the bed. There are more important things in life.  How was your summer?