Saturday 30 May 2020

Letter from Key West, May 30 2020

- 105,159 deaths in the USA from Covid19
- Riots, looting and burning in the streets of Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York, Denver and Chicago
- George Floyd, horrifically murdered by a police officer, assisted by 3 other officers of the law, in open view over the course of 9 minutes

Sad, shocked, horrified, and angry.  And scared.  This is the world we live in now.

We all play a part in this and we all have a part to play in the change needed.  We must stand up for our neighbour and say no more.

I'm sorry.  I wish I had more words to say. But right now I am feeling things that I am trying to process.  Feeling on edge, feeling emotionally drained, but knowing there is work to be done, this cannot continue. George Floyd's life and death cannot be in vain.  

Let this be the one, that we all say to, ENOUGH. 

Thursday 28 May 2020

Letter from Key West, May 28 2020

102,137 Deaths in USA from Covid19

Life continues...remotely
Today Enid in Ireland, myself in Key West, joined The Author's Guild and watched Margaret Attwood in Toronto, and Judy Blume in Key West, being celebrated.  The moderator was Andrea Pinkney Davis in New York so it sure was an international affair.

The link to the recording is here.  I hope it is still available when you are reading this blog, it is a very enjoyable hour or so.

They are both such wise, smart and humorous women.  Margaret Attwood in particular has a great wit about her and quite a glint in her eye; "the others might find out" when declining to name her favourite character!  Judy Blume declining too "it is like being asked who my favourite child is".

I liked hearing they were both from a family of readers and were "allowed" to read anything they wanted and could handle, which they took advantage of - Judy reading from her parent's bookshelf and Margaret raiding the bookshelf of the parents of the children she babysat for.  I can relate to doing both those things, growing up in a reader family myself too.  

That also reminded me of the "Young Adult cart" that existed in our local library when I was about nine or ten.  All of the young adult literature books (or maybe just some, the risque ones i.e the Judy Blume's lol!)  were stored on a little book trolley behind the main desk.  So if you were over fourteen you could show your library card and they would wheel the cart out for you to choose your books. Oh what different times we lived in eh?!!!  
Well I don't remember exactly what happened, first of all I think my mother was like "oh just use your older sister's card to get books from there", or at some point I think she said to the librarian, it's fine, I give my permission, just let the twins borrow from the cart if they want.  I think if Judy Blume (and Margaret Attwood) heard this they'd get a kick out of it!

All in all a great tribute to them - in their own words really - it was literally a conference call meeting between the three of them, see pic below.

And of course a lovely thing to watch along with Enid. And then talk about with her afterwards, when of course I reminded her that, sure don't we know Judy personally, having met her a few times now ;) That is a joke, of course we don't know her, but my God she has been the most wonderful gracious person and so giving of her time and thoughts and conversation the times we have met her.

Thanks for the invite to watch this Enid! Great idea!

Stay well friends. 

Ps. Click here if you want to see my handmaid's costume which I wore for a protest outside the Irish Government iro the 8th Amendment (repealed!)

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Art during Quarantine

During these crazy pandemic times I am turning to lots of things to help me through.  You know, important things like wine, vodka, key lime pie :)
And art.

I am seeing and hearing about lots of wonderful things people are doing here in Key West.  Even simple things like facemasks (we are all wearing them!), local artists are doing fantastically creative things with them.

How simply beautiful are these masks hand-painted by Rick Worth.

Back home in Ireland I am hearing about an AWESOME project in the works, by a woman, for women, in the Gaeltacht area of Connemara.  I can't say too much about it right now, but watch this space, as soon as I can share more with you I will!

And then of course there is my guy, Irish artist Pigsy.  

He just never stops.  He has just sold this amaaaazing large piece to a couple in Dublin who I am going to assume have a very big wall and house to showcase it.  It is large in size and large in expression.  "Phoenix Rising" it is called and I just adore it.

And then he also has been working on this fun little commission of a dinosaur head.  

Such a wonderful energy to his work...
"Rex the protector" is a work in progress and I am looking forward to seeing the final piece.

Support Art!
If you would like a piece from Pigsy in YOUR LIFE but your budget doesn't quite align with his :) Then how about a print?  They are available from aaaaaand during these pandemic times if you use the code "SupportArtists" you get 10% off.

And finally! If you have 10 minutes spare sit yourself down with the family and check out this thought invoking, yet feel good little film about Pigsy, some of his struggles in the past, and where he is now.

Featured at the London Irish, Bristol, Galway and Cork film festivals.
Click here to view this award winning documentary film.

Sunday 24 May 2020

Letter from Key West, May 24 2020

9.34pm on Sunday evening and my thoughts go to coffee shops and what the future looks like for them.  I sure don't want to sound selfish or self-absorbed, and definitely don't want to sound like I am not aware of, or don't care about all who have been really badly affected by Covid19.  But god damnit I sure do miss my Starbucks.

Not for the coffee!  I can get coffee anywhere.  I miss Starbucks, and independent coffee shops too, for what they provide more than just the coffee. Back when I lived in Dublin there was a wonderful big 24 hour Starbucks on Stephen's Green, just around the corner for me, where you would find me most Sunday evenings savouring the last bit of the Dublin weekend atmosphere while avoiding the temptation of the pub.
And when I spent the month in Chicago at the end of 2018 I spent many a happy time, whiling away an hour or three, in awesome coffee places with my laptop and big mug of caffeine.  My favourite  being The Wormhole.

This photo is of me actually in The Wormhole when I wrote this little retrospective blog post of 2018. Happy days.

Happy days indeed. So what now, in these days of love and covid, and social distancing?  Will hanging around our neighborhood coffee shops be frowned upon and discouraged?  Will people who use them as hotspots for their job have to find an alternative?  Will independent coffee shops make it through at all??

All I know it, it would be a tragically sad day to find myself in Wicker Park, on a cold snowy Chicago day and not be able to enjoy a Koopa-Troopa (iirc!), served up by a friendly barista, with a healthy dose of 80's nostalgia on the side....if you've been to The Wormhole you will know what I mean ;) Hell, come on like, they've got an actual scale size DeLorean DMC 12 in the store!!!!

Stay safe, stay well friends.

Saturday 23 May 2020

Letter from Key West, May 23 2020

1,635,836 covid cases in USA
96,370 covid deaths in USA

Key West continues to open up - restaurants are now at 50% capacity, the check point will be lifted on June 1 and tourists can come and stay in accomodations at 50% capacity.

We had neighbours over last night, and amongst lots of other things the virus in Key West was a topic.  The general consensus was to enjoy the next week and a half and be prepared to bunker back in again when the visitors come.

It is hard to see how the spread of the virus can be controlled in a tourist/partying area like Duval Street.  People come to Key West to socialize in the bars, enjoy great alcoholic drinks, listen to music, make new friends, talk into ears, congregate in groups etc etc do you get drunk people to practice proper social distancing?? Although, the bars are not open yet, only those that serve food.  Maybe that is the answer - no standing-only type of establishments, table service only.  Maybe that sets the tone and the parameters??

On a nicer note, it was a really lovely evening.  Our neighbours are the best and have been beyond helpful to us recently with flat tyres on the jeep!!! Yes flat tyres - two!! B and his young sons are car crazy and always tinkering on their own, but still, what they did for us was above and beyond.  So this little get together was a thank you for that.

Not pictured is the hummus, guac, salsa and chips. And key lime pie! And beer.

We started with rum and coconuts (from the garden, cut down by Patrick).  How cute do they look with a bamboo straw?!
And then Ciproskas by moi.  Which co-incidentally was one of my very first blog posts back in March 2012! A recipe of how to make a "caiproska" - spelling seems to have changed in my mind over the last 8 years lol!

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Letter from Key West, May 19 2020 - June 1 reopening

Well it is official.  The checkpoints are being removed, and The Keys will be open on June 1.  Which means that come June 1, Key West is open for non residents i.e. tourists to come visit.

Restaurants are allowed serve diners inhouse at 50% capacity.  Bars - if you are also a fully functioning kitchen/restaurant then you are allowed open as per the restaurant rule.  If no food, bars are not mandated to open (yet?).  Hotel rooms/accommodations/lodgings are allowed open and have guests stay, at 50% capacity.

What can I say?  Like my previous post, I'm nervous. I'm anxious that just one asymptomatic carrier will kickstart the spread of the virus through our little community.  We have been incredibly lucky and our numbers are so, so low currently.  I am worried that is about to change.

But what is the alternative?  We cannot stay holed up forever. Would it be any better in another month?  I cannot say.  What I can say is that in one month the tourist season is practically over for Key West and unemployed service industry workers would then be looking at a lean few months until October for Fantasy Fest.  IF Fantasy Fest goes ahead?  Who knows at this point what is going to happen.

What I do know is what I can control.
Practice excellent social distancing, wear my mask at all times in public, wash my hands, wash my hands, wash my hands.

Stay well friends.

Sunday 17 May 2020

Just a perfect day....

Yesterday (Saturday) was a day, that will make my heart sing for many days and weeks to come

- We were on the boat at 9.15am and I ate a breakfast of English muffin and coffee on the water.  Is there anything better
- Patrick had an amazing morning of fishing.  Including the fish monster pictured below!
- We enjoyed a really lovely early afternoon in the back yard and the house.  We had a fab cold lunch of Norwegian smoked salmon, Italian prosciutto, Spanish sausage and Irish cheese.
- I may or may not have had a vodka screwdriver with my lunch (of course I did). And we had some squares of key lime pie chocolate for dessert.
- Patrick went grocery shopping and came back with 4 bottles of our favourite Cabernet Sauvignon that were on special
- We faffed around and had fun in the house and yard for the afternoon
- I had an outdoor shower.  Yes, I know, an every day occurrence.  And one, that will never not be, an awesome novelty experience
- Back we headed to the boat at around 4pm.  We went for a massive spin all around the island and I had my famous "goofy [aka really happy]" smile on my face the whole way
- We went for dinner in Dante's and it was fabulous - had the seafood sampler of oysters, shrimp and crab claws
- Went back out on the boat and did some evening fishing.  Patrick caught another fish monster.  Saw a beautiful sunset
- Home and chilled for the evening.
- Ate some key lime pie for a late night treat
- Went to bed absolutely exhausted but so happy.  Slept amazing!

Letter from Key West, May 17 2020

89,498 Deaths from Covid19 in the USA

On Friday evening we went out for a quick dinner before going out on the boat.  It was not a great experience.  The social distancing arrangements in the restaurant were good - thumbs up there.  However service was slow (drinks and food) and the menu was limited (ok I am fine with this).

But my major concern was some of the other patrons.  Key West is supposed to be residents only at the moment, but there are definitely tourists in town.  Hey guess what, four of them strolled into the restaurant, not a mask to be seen, straight up to the bar, not giving a care in the world about keeping 6ft away from the bartender.

Frankly, I don't think they should have been served.  And finally, about ten minutes later they were politely (too politely imo) invited to step outside - the prompt for this being when one of them dropped their drink and the glass smashed everywhere.  Not cool man, not cool.

Contrast that with Dante's on Saturday.  Am happy to report: great social distancing of tables, great service, great food.  We had the seafood sampler and it was awesome!

Oysters, peel'n'eat shrimp and crab claws

Oysters to die for, the size of a a plump baby's fist!

Thursday 14 May 2020

We have the best neighbours!

I came home to THIS!  A gift dropped over to us by our lovely neighbours. How unbelievably sweet of them.

Isn't the branding and the box just adorable?! And of course you know how much I love Key Lime Pie!

Yep.  Their branding is just perfect!

Slice to meet you :)
A big key lime pie and oh my gosh chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick, I've always wanted to try that!!

Ummm!  Well excuse me, Mr Two Bars of Chocolate hiding behind the pie on a stick!

So! Tonight we shared the pie on a stick and it was fab! And we had some of the chocolate too.  The pie we are keeping for the weekend and I will be sure to report back how it is...particularly compared to my favourite - the Publix pie!

Covid Cooking - Shrimp & rice

We ate out last night and it was "fine" but a little bit, dare I say it, fast food/"kids food" type of fare. Ok I hold up my hands, we had chicken wings.  And flatbread. Which let's face it, is essentially pizza.

So this morning we made a pact, no more "kids food" and aim for food with more complex flavours than buffalo and ranch.

So I made dinner tonight! Nothing fancy, in fact rather simple. But it had some good flavours and left us both feeling good after it.

Shrimp, basmati rice, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper

And that's it!

Monday 11 May 2020

Letter from Key West, May 11 2020

Key West continues to open up.  For residents only! The road blocks are still in place and no tourists can come...yet.

There is talk of non residents from June 1.  I am conflicted.  I get it has to happen. Life on the island as is, is not sustainable, but on the other hand is life itself sustainable by bringing the virus into our midst?

Am I being dramatic?  All I can say, is that after an initial few weeks of anxiety, based on the current numbers of cases in Key West and up the keys (Monroe County) I feel safe.  Looking at the numbers up North (Miami eek) scares me.

Anyway, on a nicer note, as noted, Key West continues to open up.  Today Shanna Key reopened.  So guess where we went for dinner!

I had the chilli as I ALWAYS do
Patrick got chicken wings which is unusual for him.  He also had two pints of Guinness which is not unusual.

It was a really lovely evening actually.  We must have told our server eleventy seventy times that it was great they were back open.

Sunday 10 May 2020

Letter from Key West, May 10 2020

4,097,158 Worldwide Cases
282,495 World Deaths
1,328,201 USA Cases
79,508 USA Deaths

Key West continues to be in the early stages of opening up/planning an opening.  A small amount of restaurants are open at 25% capacity.

We went to Alonzos for Happy Hour appetizers yesterday and we pretty much had the restaurant to ourselves.  A good thing for us, not so good for the business.  It felt good to be out and having a drink, even with facemasks etc.

There have been reports of some businesses not managing the crowds adequately, and the patrons not practicing good social distancing.  Yes, Smokin' Tuna I'm looking at you.

Us...we've been practicing social distancing by heading out on the boat. A LOT.  So happy with it.

Yesterday morning we took home 4 fat grunts.  
Stuffed and seasoned, with garlic, lemon, rosemary and thyme, we enjoyed them for lunch yesterday and today.

Tomgirl jewelery

One pair classic, one pair relaxed & boho!
My very special Etsy order arrived from the wonderful Taryn aka Tomgirl in San Francisco, California,  Handmade leather earrings, impeccably crafted, and as light as air.  A joy to behold, and a joy to wear.

And I must mention the beautiful package they arrived in: the cutest recycled brown paper, with green stitching, hand made envelope! 

I am just so HAPPY!  

Check out this crafter extraordinaire on Etsy and make yourself HAPPY!  Link here!

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Letter from Key West, May 5th 2020

1,194, 494 Coronavirus cases in the USA
70,272 Deaths due to coronavirus in USA

Key West is starting to open up - limited opening, residents only.

New transport!

Hello readers!

Since you last heard from me, some exciting things have been happening.

Namely, I have two new forms of transport!
- I got insured on the jeep.
- We bought a boat!!!


It's a little Carolina Skiff, with a 20hp Suzuki motor.  It has a max speed of about 15mph and it is just perfect!  We have been out loads since we got it just a few days ago, and HAVE CAUGHT FISH!!