Friday, May 26, 2017

Velocity Made Good

Yata took his turn at the helm our first full day out and it was a windy grey day with big swells and a boat riding like a herd of stallions over the sea. 

Each day of sailing around these islands is unique, from Yata's stormy ride to one day of near calm that required us to motor. Borko,  the consummate sailor never took the lazy route of motoring when sailing was an option. 

We would determine our course in the morning and depending on the direction and power of the wind we would sail a direct route downwind or tack back and forth with a side or headwind. The day I sailed we had a side wind and I kept trying to get speed but at the expense of the direction we were headed. At one point Borko explained Velocity Made Good. If you sacrifice too much direction for speed you could actually have a negative VMG because you're not actually getting to your desired destination. 

Sailing strikes me as something that is ruled by the laws of physics but at the same time is an art. It requires a feel for the boat, wind & water. But it also rewards experience and that is something Borko had ' in spades'. 



Split, Brac, Vis in the Dalmatian Islands

We are on one of the archipelago islands off Croatia's coast bouyed in our 46 foot monohull with Katchy Kay, Jolly Jelle, Dan, Jody and our hired native captain Borko (sp?).

We left the village of Milna on the island of Brac this morning just before the rain set in. 
We had a great meal last night at a fisherman -owned seaside restaurant. Black risotto was on the chalkboard menu. I was intrigued  since I'd never heard of such a thing I love a good risotto. We ordered a meal family style; a Sea Bream and another smaller fish, roasted vegetables and the black risotto. For some reason the fish here is very expensive, in fact the fish at one and a half kilos( about 3 1/4 pounds cost about $100 US. But it served seven people and it was caught the same day. The fish was simply grilled and it was fantastic with a crunchy butter flavored crust and juicy firm white flesh. But the black risotto... oh my!  It is black from the ink of the cuttlefish, very black and I expected an inky flavor but instead it seemed rich and creamy as if made with dairy cream of some sort. Borko says not!  Kay says yes they do finish it off with cream sometimes. I doubt I'll ever be able to make this since I don't think there is any substituting ink of cuttlefish. But Katchy says we can get squid ink back home at Coastal Seafoods. 

  On the island of Vis we had a real treat, meat cooked under the bell, Peka. Borjko highly recommended it especially the octopus so we pre-ordered 4 lamb & 3 octopus. The meat is cooked over wood fire in a bell shaped cast iron pot for about 2 hours. It is served in the bottom of the bell at the table. It's a traditional way of cooking of Croatia. The octopus was the most tender and savory seafood with potatoes and onions to soak up the juices and a specialty of  the island of Vis. We were at Roki's  an inland establishment that provided transport and had their own wine. Red & white.   We were unduly surprised to see the place full of happy diners.    

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico wine in the cellars of CantiliciVineyard near Radda where we are staying this week. Winding roads up and down the olive and grape growing hillsides anticipates the rolling waves of a sailboat we will soon be on in Dalmatia.    After a few hours of riding the rough waves of Chianti hillsides we found this charming little village of Ambra. In the town square a group of locals had just completed a fundraiser walk for a cure for cancer. They were sitting along banquet tables having a dinner of charcuterie, roast pork, pasta, couscous salad with local red wine and the lovely treat, a dulci they called Peaches.   The Peaches are actually a yellow cake, rosy tinted with a core of cream. 

I had shown the servers my list of allergies that I had translated to the local language and they seemed even more confused asking me to 'say in English'. Which didn't really help, when suddenly I realized I'd given them the list that had been translated into Croatian. When I realized the error, we all had a laugh at my mistake. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Art & Food

 This is my watercolor rendering of Noah, our youngest grandchild, Nick & Maggie's. Although I think it almost looks more like Ian, his older brother.
I've also been working on more books and paintings while here in Dominica. I have made a habit of doing an annual self portrait and a grandchild portrait while I'm away for the winter.

 I have an exhibit coming up at the 

LE Phillips Library in EAu Claire, WI 

April 17th to May 27 with the reception on April 20th at 7-8pm. 

I'll be featuring my work completed during our annual global forays.

Black Bean Pitas with Hot Creamy Sauce     

4 cups cooked black beans
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 diced red onion
2 large cloves garlic sliced thin
1 tsp toasted ground cumin seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 small green bell pepper diced
1 med. tomato diced

1/2 cup water

4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. milk
3 T or more of hot sauce (too taste)
1 c. diced cucumber
4 whole wheat pitas

Saute in oil the onion, garlic, green pepper, tomato, spices and beans until onion is transparent. Add water and simmer until water is absorbed. Salt if needed to taste.

Cream Sauce:
Combine cream cheese, hot sauce and milk until smooth

Warm pitas, tear in half. Fill to 2/3 full with bean mixture. Top with cucumber and 2 heaping spoons of the cream sauce.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Keep it Pozitive

One third of a five foot by one foot acrylic of Dominican Sunset.
We’ve had an eventful week.  I think the last time we blogged, we were at the Sisters Sea Lodge at Picard Beach in Dominica.
Our room at Sisters Sea Lodge with new painting.
We are still in Dominica.  

Spesh, as in special, had taken us up to see the spectacular Syndicate Waterfall.

An old cottage used in Pirates of the Caribbean
He also 
rowed us up the Indian River where we saw a setting for the secondPirates of the Caribbean movie and introduced us to a new habitat. The river carries salt water quite far up the river and results in an unusual mix of plants and animals. The twisting roots of a particular tree resemble the arms of a swarm of octopi. We also saw a Yellow Crowned Night Heron, a Green Heron and more. 

We planned to drive to our next destination and enroute, go to the Kalinago territory. The Kalinago, aka Caribs are the last of the original people of the Caribbean.  They have a protected territory in this small country where they try, through educational demonstration, to retain some of their traditional crafts and practices. We visited their reenactment village and bought a few small items, a handwoven basket and a mask carved from the wood of the tree fern. Their name for the island was Waitukubuli which means, “she who stands tall”, referring to the high mountainous land they inhabited. 

Spesh had sent an associate of his, Charlie of Sunshine taxi.  Charlie came a bit early that Saturday morning to pick us up but since we’d seen this unusual behavior with Donkey, we realized we could take our time and he was not trying to push us. He just, “likes to be early”.  Charlie is a rastaman who is proud of his beautiful country and wishes all his countrymen would take pride in it and treat the tourists well and live a kind, healthy life…no drugs and very little alcohol, would be Charlie’s prescription for a better Dominica.  We warmed to Charlie of course; who wouldn’t with a philosophy like that, and arranged for him to return to pick us up a week later and take us to Mero, our next destination.  But before he dropped us at Calibishie Bay View Lodge he took us to the Islet Cafe in the Kalinago area where we had a great lunch from a high mountaintop perch.  The food was ‘really nice’ especially the starter, the plantain fries with a killer dip (my guess for the dip: cream cheese, mayo, curry, hot sauce).  As we sat down at the table, I pulled my lap top out of the backpack only to realize that the water bottle lid hadn’t been screwed on properly and had wet the computer.  I opened the screen, hit the power button. Yes, the apple started to reboot and then suddenly went black.  Nothing, it wouldn’t peep.  We took it to Bayview Lodge, put a fan on it and even put it in a big ziplock with rice and tried to restart it a couple times but it didn’t seem to even take a charge. Dang!

Yata’s mother died last week. We weren’t surprised, she was 98 and had been declining steadily for a few months. When we saw her at Christmas we realized it would probably be the last time we’d see her.  It was very sad leaving her. But she had had a full and fruitful life. She left behind three sons, eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren who loved her dearly.  

Trying to communicate with family back home using only a smartphone and sharing it between the two of us was getting stressful, especially when I couldn’t charge the cellphone on the computer and had to try to find other people with usb plugins wherever we were, to keep the phone charged. Although people were generous and willing.

Calibishie is on the northeast shore of the island and thus has more of an Atlantic coast with brisk winds. It is also an area where many expats have built homes and thus there are more guest houses and tourism amenities.  We had heard from a number of people that we had met that there was a Canadian on the island who went by the moniker Poz  (for positive) and that he was a dead ringer for Yata.  So we had to meet him! Turns out we were staying an easy two block walk from his place, Calibishie Gardens and Poz Restaurant and Bar. They did look like they could be brothers. Poz, aka Troy, is a bit younger, taller and bigger but the eyes, forehead and nose are sure similar.  And they both have a positive energy that people are attracted to.  By the end of the week, we had swum in his pool, eaten our way through much of the menu, shared life stories and Yata finished up by entertaining his clientele on our last night with mostly Motown favorites.  Great fun. 

Poz is a bit of a social worker at heart, always trying to help people out and seems to be well loved by the locals and expats alike. But we came to realize that he was stressing.  His ‘ride’ had been stolen by a man who he’d hired to do some paint work on it.  The man was seen using the car and not returning Troy’s calls to return the car.  Troy notified the police but the best they would do was to follow up on a sting operation that Troy maneuvered, an illegal sale.  The man was caught in the act of selling the car that he didn’t own and yet Troy was still having a hard time getting the charge to ‘stick’.  So he continued driving, over an hour, day after day, to try to make sure that the man was properly charged. And on top of all of that he even remembered to pick up a usb charger block for my cell phone!  Wow!

Charlie was scheduled to pick us up this morning at 10am to take us to Mero, our final stay on Dominica.  But of course he arrived at 8:40 while we were still sitting in our pajamas having our morning coffee.  Again, no rush. When I told him that the laptop was dead he was amazed but said, “I have a friend, Cedric, in Portsmouth (which was on our way to Mero) who might be able to help. He worked for Apple in England for many years.”  I said, “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt”, although I was a bit skeptical.  I had contacted Apple and they told me to put it in a bag of rice which I’d tried to no avail.  But we dropped it off with Cedric who seemed like a capable guy.  We drove on to Mero and after some difficulty found out guesthouse, an elegantly appointed spacious villa overlooking the sea, again!  I guess that comes with being on a small island.  Within ten minutes of arrival, Charlie returned to say that Cedric had my computer repaired!  Wow, again!  These folks are almost miracle workers!  Within another hour we had the laptop back, fully operational.  I was so happy I gave Charlie a big hug and kiss and invited to take him out to dinner. 

We drove down the hill to the Romance Cafe on the Mero Beach for dinner a wonderful french style seafood filets in a buttery cream sauce with fresh vegetable salad and roast potatoes. While the manager/cook was totaling up our bill Yata grabbed a guitar and began extemporaneously singing a song about the Romance Cafe, shocking and delighting the staff. When we asked at the bar if the folks knew Poz, their eyes lit up and they said, “I heard there was a party at Poz’s last night.” I said, “That was him, playing music there last night”, pointing at Yata.  Poz is planning a party at Romance Cafe here with Yata heading up a jam session this coming Tuesday.  Stay tuned! 


Fungee with Carmelized Onions and Shitake Mushrooms
3 servings

1 cup of fine ground cornmeal
3 cups water
1 tsp or more butter
salt and pepper
1 red onion sliced into thin crescents
1/4 pound of shitake mushrooms sliced
2 T olive oil or butter or combination
1/2 tsp dry Thyme
1 scant T balsamic vinegar

Heat water in medium sized saucepan to near boil.  Slowly pour into the water the cornmeal, whisking while pouring.
Continue to stir with a spoon until it bubbles and thickens, about a minute. Turn off heat and add butter and salt and pepper, stir and then pour into a lightly oiled or buttered dish.

Saute onions in butter/oil for 10 minutes until soft. Stirring at times. Add thume and hitake along with some water if needed and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Add vinegar and cook for 30 seconds. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve onions mixture over the warm fungee. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Minus Two on the Charm Scale

Sunset at Picard Beach
I think that AirBnb and other travel sites should have a category in their rating system for charm. After you’ve stayed in one of their member accommodations you are asked to rate them for location, accuracy, cleanliness, communication and value.  We’ve had a strange run here with AirBnb.  Maybe it isn’t designed for old folks like us.  When you read the reviews of sites, they are often young travelers, rarely people like us in our sixth decade.  

The garden at Sister's Sea Lodge
But this run of bad luck in Antigua, and now in Dominica, brings back memories of some of the other less than pleasant lodgings we’ve stayed in over our last eighteen years of travel.  For example there was the tent in the Masai Mara while on safari, that was riddled with mosquitoes, a sagging cot and a spare bathroom attached at the back. There was the hovel in Isla Mujeras that was so grungy I had to drink a few shots of tequila to be able to sleep in restless ignorance; the little motel in San Juan de Atitlan Guatemala where I was accidentally locked into the bathroom with no way out short of removing the hardware. Speaking of hardware; the bathroom shower was an instantaneous hot water shower head that could have been an instantaneous electrocution device, with electrical wires running directly to the shower head a few inches above your head.  I could go on ….  but here in Dominica we finally decided we’d had enough of subpar accommodations.  The room looked ok in photos and the reviews were five star, albeit, with only a couple reviews over the course of two years. In reality it was a small apartment in a sixteen unit four story concrete monstrosity set in a complex of dozens of other concrete abominations.  Turns out it was mostly rented to students at Ross Medical University just a block away.  We had to ask for new pillows — the old ones stunk — kitchen towel which were actually a cafe curtain panel and a pillow case.  Not a lick of art on the walls, a long fluorescent bulb above the bed as the only light in the room, etc.  But there was Wifi so I quickly got on the computer and found a place nearby on the beach that looked like our style, Sisters Sea Lodge. But they were closed until the next day until 9am.  So we made the appointment and contacted the manager and cancelled the week remaining in the concrete gulag. The manager wasn’t happy about it but seemed to understand when we told him honestly that, “ It wasn’t what we expected” and that we “Wanted something nicer”.  He even drove us to see the Sisters Sea Lodge the next morning. 

We loved it, just our style. On the beach, the tiny resort included a huge tropical garden with cabins built by an Italian owner. It reminded us of our first winter travel destination, Villa Los Mapaches at Isla Hotbox. The cabin has stone walls with wooden ceiling and furniture.  This is a bit larger and more substantial than the palapa —thatched huts — of Mexico and it  has survived at least one major hurricane — Erica, just two years ago.  

Already we’ve had a great lunch of fried Lionfish with fries and salad and a decent French Rosé in the house restaurant sitting here on Coconut Beach.  Life is good!

So, on a 1 to 10 scale, last nights lodging, rates a minus 2 on the charm scale and tonight’s looks closer to 8.

Donkey and the Lost Cell Phone

One day while in Dominica we decided to take one of the local buses, a van, to Scott’s Head at the southern tip of the island, where the Atlantic and the Caribbean meet.  There is a striking promontory at the very point that we wanted to hike and scope out for future snorkeling. 

From Scott's Head looking north up the Dominica coast.
We rode there from the next village, Soufriere, where we were staying for the week. We were deposited in the small town center and were heading toward the point when I saw a good photo subject and, reaching for my phone, realized that it was missing.  Panic! Then ,”No I probably just left it on the table back at the apartment”. But we saw another bus driver across the street so I thought maybe he could just check with the other driver. This is a pretty small island and I figured he probably knew who that driver was. Sure enough, Donkey, as his name was lettered in large silver foil across the top of his windshield, did know who that last driver was since he had just passed him enroute.  He immediately called him but his phone ran out of time just that moment.  Because he had tried to call, the other driver, called him back. 

Meanwhile we were climbing up the rocky isthmus when a van pulled up at the base and began honking and flashing his lights at us. We ran down and there was Jean Claude, aka Donkey with my cell phone.  I was so relieved and a bit surprised since I really thought I had left it at the apartment.  So we tipped him and talked to him about driving us to Portsmouth when we  moved to our next accommodation.  We told him where we were staying and got his number and agreed to Sunday morning at 10:30.  I tried calling him using WhatsAp the Wifi phone application that so many people use internationally.  But I couldn’t reach him to confirm. So the day before departure I I got the number for another driver and made other arrangements.  But Saturday evening as we were sitting in the kitchen eating the best Potato Lentil soup I’ve ever made, Donkey pulled up beside the window and honked.  He hadn’t heard from us — turns out he doesn’t use WhatsAp, so we canceled the other driver and were all set for the next morning.

I sat in the front passenger seat next to Jean Claude because the roads here are, at times, quite winding and nausea inducing.  We had about an hour to share stories and Jean Claude was an interesting guy.  He owned his own van proudly and kept it very clean and in good order; although I noticed the tires were getting a bit thin.  He dressed sharply and wore his hair in an unusual style. It was cut short except on top where it rose straight off his head in a flat topped muffin shape.  He was forty-one and said he loved to work and had aspirations to expand the taxi business. He acquired his first van by driving for a woman who paid him based on a percent of revenue.  He tried to hire another driver to expand business but that driver stole from him and he claimed he’d never trust another person again. The woman for whom he’d driven told him that her husband had told her, “While they were in bed one night” that Donkey’s van was paid off but didn’t want to tell Donkey. So the woman told Donkey, “ Don't tell my husband I told you, but your van is paid off.” The man had to pay him back payments for which Donkey had overpaid.  Donkey also said that he had moved away from his parent’s home when he was thirteen. It sounded just like a Cinderella story without the prince and the slipper or the stepmother. He was the oldest child of six. The parents made him do so much work and didn’t allow him to play or go with them when they took the others for enjoyment.  And so he just left. I asked where he lived and he said he rented a place and worked.  He also dropped out of school at that age and never went back.  

The view from our verandah in Soufrier, Dominica
Jean Claude seemed very honest, kind and respectful, in fact he also had the word RESPECT in large silver foil printed on the he side of his van.
This world is such a sad and glorious place at the same time.  We’ve met grouchy or sullen people, drunk prostheletizers, opinionated bores, sweet innocents, forgetful lighthearted optimists, greedy or desperate vendors, proud artists and gardeners, philosophical taxi drivers, wary youngsters, warm local passengers, vain teens and openhearted travelers.
It takes all kinds! Like I’ve said in the past, “Meeting new people as we travel is one of my favorite things about this wandering lifestyle.” And I suppose if everyone was a perfect citizen of the world it’d be a Steppford-like existence, boring and unsustainable.

Pumpkin Lentil Soup
2-4 servings

2 T oil
2 cups butternut squash cut into 1/2 cubes
1/2 onion diced
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 T fresh grated ginger
1 T curry powder
2 cups vegetable broth 
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup lentils
1 T demerara sugar
1 T lime zest or to taste depending on strength
Juice of half a lime (1-2 T depending on strength —Caribbean limes are strong)
salt to taste

Heat oil in pan and sauté onions, garlic, curry, squash and ginger
Once all is browned nicely, about four minutes, pour in the broth.
Add lime zest, ginger, sugar, chicken broth, coconut milk and high simmer until lentils are cooked, about 30 minutes. Test for tenderness.
Add lime juice to taste as well as salt if needed. 

So much of this recipe seems to rest in the quality of the broth.  I never throw away perfectly good flavors. Years ago when I worked in a kitchen I saw the chef making broth incorporating even the onion and garlic skins.  Why not, and what about the nutrition in the kale stalks and the subtle tang of the lemon grass stalks.  I think I even used a bit of the bones of a split chicken breast in the broth so it wasn’t strictly a vegetable broth, but you get the point. 

Just before the cell phone was recovered.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dominica, Paradise?

This flag of the Commonwealth of Dominica features one of two parrots that live in the rain forests of this tree clad mountainous island.  We are staying here at Soufriere, the southern village on the leeward (west) side.  
 There are sulphur springs with pools to bath in and on the shore there are hot springs seeping into the sea on the edge of the beach. Bubble Beach just below the church has a small natural spa by damning up the hot water coming out of these springs and letting it mix with the sea water where you can sit and soak. The nearer you sit to the spring the hotter the soak.  Too hot, just ease toward the sea.  We went snorkeling and found out why it's called Bubble Beach. Pea sized bubbles wobble their way to the surface as the gases are released from the ocean floor sparkling like liquid diamonds.  

Bubble Beach Spa

View from our veranda
We had a lovely Valentine's dinner last night at Cocoyeah! Fried Red Snapper with pan sauce ( to die for ) and rice/veggies, provisions finished off with fancy icy cream dish.  Wine selection wasn't great so I had a good glass of local guava juice.  It was romantic, al fresco dining inside the stone walls of an old fort or colonial structure. After dinner we went to 'hang' with some fellow visitors we had met on the island: Michael a mycologist/botanist/sustainable farmer from northern Florida, who sold me his travel binoculars cheap since he is leaving tomorrow after a month backpacking around this island; Bjorn and Laura, Danish backpackers sharing a house with a couple of young travelling German women. And also at the gathering were Derek the twenty something Dive master, Jayni, also a Dominican diver and finally John, a Brit who is managing a small eco-resort here and who is a Free Diver.  I picked his brain about that after folks talked about his death wish.  He does seem to be attracted to risky occupations as he worked on a snake farm in Africa with many poisonous snakes including the Black Mambo. Trivia: you can swallow the venom and if you have no ulcers , the venom won't harm you.  Free Diving is the sport of diving to depths while holding your breath, without dive tanks etc.  John can hold his breath for over three minutes and has dove to 240 feet of depth.  He talked about the body's challenges and how to do it. He said that when you relax and push past the initial urge to draw a breath, the urge subsides and if you can equalize under the pressure of the depth, you can stay down longer.  My only exposure to Free Diving was an article many years ago about a competitive Free Diver who died by pushing beyond what is reasonable.  John said her practises of assisted submersion (with weights or a motorized device) are no longer used.  In some ways it is safer than scuba because there is no need for decompression stops on the way up and no build up of nitrogen. 

The jam last night was pretty funny as Bjorn and Yata made lyrics about John the Deathwish Diver and Derek the 3D diver; Derek the Dominican Diver.

Roseau is the capital of the island and only about fifteen minutes away, up the coast.  We took a bus/van in on Monday to stock up on groceries and get the lay of the land.  It's classic small, old Caribbean style with some of the older structures draped with hundreds of electric cables.  We found
 a nice little lunch place after asking a local young man for his recommenations. Gouyae, a lunch counter that was serving Corn-crusted Mahi Mahi with rice and provisions.  Excellent!  So good we ordered an extra serving of Mahi for only $3!  Groceries here are quite high priced.  While Antigua had subsidized chicken, this island doesn't seem to offer that but it has more access to seafood. So we've already had great fresh from the sea meals.  No great meals from our home kitchen. Although the pictures on the AirBnB listing made the kitchen look as if it was going to be a chef's dream, instead it is one of the most poorly equipped kitchens I've ever used. No blender, masher; bad pans, etc.   Oh well, that forces some creativity.  While in Roseau we found the local vegetable market and bought amongst other things, a bunch of passion fruit.  This yellow/red fruit opens to find an orange tangy pulp surrounding small edible seeds.  It's tart and needs a bit of sweetening but is a great flavor.  I'll have to see what more I can do with it other than putting some on our yogurt for breakfast.

We plan on doing more snorkeling while we are here and some hiking. There is a hiking trail that traverses the island from this southwest corner to the northeast corner and goes through the Kalinago Territory which is where the last living native Caribbeans live.  Bjorn hiked through that area and said what should have taken six hours took two days because 'people kept giving  us things'. They were very friendly and generous apparently. Derek said they are friendly to tourists but don't like the native Dominicans.  Hmmm, I'm sure there is some history behind that.  I'd like to hike this area and meet these people.  Apparently they look more like south and central Americans indigenous people, the Maya, Aztec, and such.

Oh, and is this paradise? Pretty close. Perfect climate if you like mostly warm and sunny (we do). Lush land with an abundance of free food; plants and seafood. Little or no mosquitoes!  No poisonous or dangerous animals or reptiles.

We are here for a few more weeks and should experience Carnival here. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Villa Dysfuncion

Week five Antigua. Feb 5th-12th

This is our last week on Antigua. Sunday we fly to the country/island of Dominica.  Sounds quite different than this island, a tired money-laundering (historically) over used tourism country.
Out for an evening walk

Do I sound a bit jaded.  I know it may sound like all our travels are fun and games, lying in a hammock strumming a guitar or cooking up some gourmet creation but one must take the bad with the good.  We love this style of travel;  booking rooms, apartments, cottages and all the unique travelers and hosts that we meet from around the world.  But of course once in a while you get the bad that I mention.

This home we are staying in is lovely, on the internet, on AirBnb's website. It shows a swimming pool through a pair of palm trees, a large bedroom and modern bathroom en suite as well as a large open plan living room, kitchen.  It is surrounded entirely by a ten foot wide veranda and it is up the hill a ways and has a nice view out to sea as well as sea breezes most of the time.  But, it should be called Villa Disfunction.  I recall my first impressions as we came in, walked up the unswept stairs, saw the dog foot prints all over the deck and chewed up cardboard scraps lying around the deck that I thought....hmmmm.  Then inside, the white painted cupboards all finger printed and in need of scrubbing.  Our bedroom though, has always been an oasis. We have a very comfortable king size bed with good linens which Yata launders at least once a week.  And we have pretty good wifi so we can take care of work and communications handily.  And even watch a Netflix movie once in a while. (The Art of Cia Qhoung, sp?) was an inspiring one.

Twice in the last three weeks the water quit and it takes nearly 24 hours for someone to come and repair it; apparently air gets into the line and then needs to be bled and the host, Adrienne hasn't learned how to do this.  So we use water from the swimming pool to flush the toilets and we have bottled water for drinking and cooking. But one of the most annoying things are the two stray dogs Adrienne has adopted who are mostly starving for attention, left chained on the deck and when released run and wrestle and harass each other and us. They are completely untrained and bark at all hours, often waking us from a deep sleep.

There is more, but I'll save that for the AirBnb review.  That's the thing, you can usually depend on the reviews in AirBnB and Adrienne had at least four top rating reviews. But in hindsight, they look as if they were young travelers who wouldn't notice the lack of cleanliness and were just out to party. Like Adrienne said, 'when I pick them up at the airport, they want to go to the bars before they even head to the house.'

Besides meeting CJ the Aussie who took us to a Cricket game and taught us the rules, we've also had Filip and Anna as fellow guests.  Filip, about thirty years old, is a salesman for a Heating and Cooling business from Prague, Czech Republic and Anna is his Russian girlfriend.  They were diligent about practicing their English and going to the beaches, everyday, of which there are many on this island that boasts 365, one for each day of the year.  We shared a driver to the beach a couple times and enjoyed meeting them and the driver, Denzel.

Denzel is probably the best driver we've ever had, in any of our eighteen years of travel. Nice van, slow pace, and very punctual. Often times, he would come even earlier than we said, 'just to be sure'.

Let's finish this blog with a recipe:

Kohl Crop Salad with Turkey Bacon:
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon spice (either Garam Masala, Cajun, West Indies curry, take your choice)
Broccoli  1cup cut into florets
Cauliflower 1cup cut to same size
Kale leaves, 3 cups, destemmed and ripped
1 cup of cooked garbanzo beans
Six strips of turkey bacon, cooked and torn into 1 inch pieces

1 large clove of garlic, in the skin, slightly crushed
2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons Plain Yogurt
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1- 2 Tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice

In a bowl combine olive oil, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower and spices
Mix to coat, pour onto baking sheet
Roast in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 min, turning periodically.
Add kale leaves, stir and continue to roast five minutes more.
Remove from oven set aside. Remove garlic clove and add to the dressing ingredients.

Meanwhile blend in food processor: all the dressing ingredients adding the de-skinned roasted garlic clove.

Salt and pepper to taste.   Pour dressing over vegetables add garbanzos and bacon pieces and mix.
Serves 2 as a main course, four as a side dish.

Self Portrait, watercolor

Just above our rental here on Buckley Heights of Antigua is a large home of grey unstained wood. Its large veranda overlooks the island to the north and out to sea. This is the home of Jan Farara and her husband David.  I looked her up online and was impressed with her strong colorful acrylic paintings depicting island life. I gave her a call and she invited us up the same day to meet.

She grew up in England, sailed the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic to work in the Charter Sailing business of the Caribbean. Eventually she settled on this island, ran a restaurant for years and in the last decade or so has gone to art as a career.

Jan is an attractive woman in her seventh decade with the energy of a thirty year old. She is outgoing and generous.  Her husband, a gentle quiet man, David is a few years younger than Jan, as she often reminds us and seems dedicated to making Jan and her art become a success.

Jan sells most of her work to the 1% crowd that lives on the Jumby Bay Island,  a high end resort and villa  packed islet just off the north coast of Antigua.  As she says, "it's just chump change to them".
We've learned that many of these people are temporary as many of them are in exile from legal states. In fact financially people on this island are in a banking purgatory where they can't make many financial transactions due to the offshore gambling and money laundering that occurred here in the past and was shut down by the US government.  So often one will hear of a person who came to the island, invested or enticed others to invest and began a large scale project only to be stalled when they ended up in prison.  Unfortunately an far too common occurence.

But life goes on amongst us 99% and we enjoy life regardless of the mechanations of the economic elite.  Tonight we had a most wonderful time and fabulous food and wine on Jan and David's veranda. A rain storm passed over the island creating a double rainbow and

We had walked up to Jan and David's since it is literally just above our home.  Teddy the little white fluff ball of a dog like young cheerleader, all bouncy and bright greeted us at the door.  Yata entertained us with some songs while Jan sang a few as well. A bit later Carol and her husband Arthur joined us. They've had a winter home here for decades.  These Americans talk about what this island was like twenty eight years ago, how people still transported goods on donkeys and women carried baskets on their heads.  There were very few cars. On the other hand, this year alone has seen a 40% increase in the number of cars on the poor quality roads.   

Jan set a lovely table. 
The main entree was an amazing bowl of Seafood chowder. I picked Jan's brain to learn about her process after they mentioned a number of times how difficult and how much time it took to make the base.  Apparently they take the lobster carcass, pound it into pieces, oil it and roast it with onions and garlic. Then on the stove top cover the roast lobster with broth is, sherry, white wine wine, mirapoix and whatever and then simmered  with fish broth until it is quite concentrated and strong.    Strain it through a sieve squeezing out juices. This can be frozen for future use.
To make the chowder, simmer this concentrate with cream, fish broth, fried bacon, potatoes, mussels, sauted garlic and onion, brandy, salt and pepper. 

Jan served this fabulous dish with french bread. I contributed a salad and fresh baked coconut macaroons. 

I have finally broken my art slump and have been busy painting the last week.  Here area  a few examples:
Bougainvilla, acrylic and watercolor on paper

Bouganvilla and Fern, watercolor and acrylic on paper

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Goat Water? Banana Soup?

Goat Water
I know it doesn't look great and sounds even worse, but it was fabulous with a hint of clove and cinnamon.  Goat water is similar to beef stew but instead of beef broth and meat you would use goat meat and broth with Caribbean spices as I mentioned earlier.  They also offered Conch Water. Maybe next time.  This was at Dan's our closest commercial establishment here in Buckley Heights.

That was our first local fare. I'd heard of Goat Water but not sure if this is strictly Antiguan or Caribbean. Other than that I haven't found many restaurants offering local fare, instead we've gone to some great entertainment venues with high end menus in the harbors which serve the boating tourists.  So we've enjoyed the great sounds of Asher Otto and ItchyFeet while sipping on Chilean wine and savouring a brick oven pizza, for example.
Yata, Adrienne, Jean and CJ

But I have been enjoying the use of a good kitchen in our AirBnB lodging.  In the back yard we have a papaya tree and some banana plants. The bananas are quite green but green bananas are used here for savory dishes and I made a banana soup.

Banana Soup
serves 4


4 T butter
3-4 cups of pealed and chopped green bananas
2 cups of chopped sweet potato or carrots
1 medium onion diced
2 bay leaves
6 peeled cloves of garlic
8 cups of water or stock (vegetable)
1T  Caribbean curry (turmeric, ginger,cinnamon, cardamon, etc.)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion, garlic, sweet potato, banana for 7-10 minutes. Add the stock and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer until bananas and potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes). Let cool, and then blend until smooth. Return to low heat.  
Salt and pepper to taste. 
Sprinkle with dash of fresh grated nutmeg and serve.

(2-3 cups of cheddar cheese can also be added in the final reheat to melt.)

Antiguan History

Nelson's Dockyard
In the Southeast corner of the island is a UNESCO Historic site, Nelson's Dockyard, a compound of buildings built in the 18th century by the British to serve the nautical industry, commercial as well as military. It was named in memory of Horatio Nelson of the Battle of Trafalgar. He had spent some time in the area and had married a woman from the nearby island of Nevis.  The Dockyards have been restored and maintained to impeccable standards. Many of the buildings have been converted to hotel, restaurants, and shops.
The pillars
This photo shows one side of a row of pillars. With the other row these twelve foot high erections held up the roof of the boathouse in Nelson's Dockyard.  The concrete cap on top was added to prevent erosion of the pillars. We found a tiny beach between the rows where we spent a few hours reading and relaxing.
Interior of the Officer's Quarters, now an office space at Nelson's Dockyard

Shirley Heights Outpost
High above Nelson's Dockyard Shirley Heights has a stellar view of the bay and harbors below.

A bit of history:
The island was settled over 4000 years ago by Archaic Age fisher/forgers. They are believed to have originated in South America. During the first millennium BC they were displaced by the Arawak also from South America. Europeans arrived in 1493 with settlers arriving in 1632. Most historians credit Edward Warner as the first successful colonizer of the island. African slaves were introduced to build the structures  such as Nelson's Dockyard and Shirley Heights. The main resource that was treasured by Europeans and eventually North Americans, was sugar. The first large scale sugar plantation was established in 1674 causing a vast forest to be eliminated. There were slave uprisings in 1728 and 1736. Slavery was abolished in 1834 but slaves were still economically enslaved to the plantation owners. In 1846 two thousand Portuguese were imported to work the plantations and in the early 1900's Lebanese arrived as 'peddlers'. 
Due to a change in how payment for labor was rewarded in the cane business, the Riot of 9 March 1918 ensued. Many died and the cane planter's decision was reversed. 
The Antigua Trades and Labor Union was instigated in 1938/9 and many workers joined and ushered in better working conditions for the workers. VC Bird, the second president of the union made great strides. The Antigua airport is named in his honor. 
The US Military base opened in 1941 as sugar was declining in importance for the island. 
The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) with its trade union base won nearly all elections and under Bird's administration, Antigua gained independence in association with Great Britain in 1967 and full independence in 1981. 

Don't forget Barbuda!
This smaller island with a population of around 2000 lies thirty miles north of Antigua. With European colonists it was held privately by the Codrington family then as a Crown colony and later as a dependency of Antigua.