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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Feeling Depressed For the Holidays? Eat Cake! made a beautiful Depression Cake.
Click HERE to read all about it.
I'm feeling a little split this holiday season. A little Sybil-esque. We're spending this Thanksgiving and Christmas in Fiji aboard Hotspur, island hopping in the South Pacific. How in the world could that be depressing? Well, I'm afraid I've caught a touch of nostalgia.

Half of me misses the "Ho! Ho! Ho!" of Colorado.
Heaps of panoramic, powder-white snow,
crackling fireplace warming my backside.
Snuggled in my favorite Norwegian wool sweater with the pewter clasps while singing carols and baking old-fashioned goodies whipped up with my KitchenAid stand-up mixer and baked to Betty Crocker perfection in my convection oven.

The other half of me says, "Ha! Ha! Ha!"
I'm half-naked in the tropics; it's hotter than sin.
And, our refrigerator quit working a week ago and we had to toss out ruined produce.
Now I have...
the perfect excuse NOT to cook for the holidays!

Several variations of the Depression Cake can be found on
Click HERE to read all about them! Carrot, Spice, Kahlua, Lemon... yum!

But, the holidays remind me of the Texas women in my family -- maybe not so much the year that my mother fell on the Christmas tree trying to put the enormous Lone Star topper on it (my father laughed and she cried). But, the tradition of smells that emanated from the kitchens of my mother, grandmothers and aunties lives strong within me. Their smiles, their laughter, an occasional swear word whispered when an ingredient went AWOL or a dollop of something dropped from a spoon to the floor... nothing says "holiday" more to me than those flashbacks of my favorite southern busy-bodies swishing around the kitchen creating magic and memories. 

Really get in the "spirit" of the holidays and try this
gorgeous Bailey's Depression Cake. I found it on

I remember my grandmother telling stories about her "bringing up" in Paris,Texas during the Great Depression. How she carried her lunch to school wrapped in butcher paper, a skinny scrap of pork salt sandwiched between a slice of stale bread rubbed once with a butter knife coated in lard. How neighbors, not much better off, brought her family opossum stew as a charitable act. It tasted so greasy, she told me, they could barely eat it. The slim rations of food to feed six kids (would have been eight if two babies hadn't died) didn't stretch far. Then, Grandmother caught diphtheria and they didn't think she'd make it.

In memory of my grandmother and her siblings, now no more, I share a slice of history for anyone who's without. Whether you're:
without a doubt...
without a clue...
without 2 bills to rub together (modern-day inflation)...
or, in my case, without refrigeration... the Depression Cake (or War Cake) is super easy and surprisingly tasty. A Depression Cake doesn't require expensive or hard-to-get or refrigerated ingredients like eggs and butter and milk. Nowadays, the recipe has been upgraded to "Vegan Cake" or "Dairy-free Cake", but I still call it the Depression Cake. What's more, it's a great boat cake because you can mix it up in the same container you bake in. One less bowl to wash.

Depression Cake
1 ½ cups flour
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 Tablespoons oil
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease an 8x8 square pan. Sift first five ingredients into the pan. (And this may be a meme, but I do it anyway because my great-great grandmother's biscuit recipe also calls for creating a "well") – make three indentations or “wells” with your fingers in the sifted ingredients, two smallish and the third larger. Pour the vanilla in one well, the vinegar in the other well and the oil in the largest well. Pour water over everything and mix up good (or well). Bake for 25-30 minutes, center rack.

There is a group of American cruisers meeting for an un-traditional Thanksgiving get-together tomorrow in Savusavu. I'll be bringing... cake.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Vinyl and canvas signs were waving "Happy Diwali" as early as September in Savusavu. Not having a clue about Diwali, we asked a few locals. We were told:
"It's a very big Indian party."
"You'll see lots of lights and fireworks. It's an Indian holiday."
"You'll have invitations to Indian homes and you'll be offered sweets."
"You will walk down the street and Indian people will hand you goodies."

As Diwali approached, painted pictures and colorful posters popped up in store windows. Ladies appeared days ahead of time wearing gauzy flowing sarees, chudidars and kurtis. Colors swirled. Fireworks went on sale for months ahead of time. Little clay pots (diyas) used as candle holders filled with coconut oil and small wicks sold by the pallets.

Diwali, we learned, is the Hindu New Year, the Festival of Light. We were invited to homes to share food and conversation. We were blessed with many treats, Indian cookies and candies. Before the vegetarian dishes, battle of the fireworks burst skyward in glitter explosions. If not to wrestle for the fanciest firework, then for the loudest boom.

Carolyne and I dressed up for the fun!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Party in Paradise

Carolyne turned 16-years-old on Halloween. The week before, Jim hit 50. I always feel exhausted after October and sometimes - elated it won't come again for another year. We always try and keep our celebrations simple... a nice dinner at a favorite restaurant and thoughtful SMALL gifts. Living on a boat, there's not room to accumulate "stuff" - yet we always seem to. For Jim's birthday, we invited sv Evenstar to our boat after we shared a dinner together at a favorite restaurant. B.J.'s birthday and Jim's birthday were the same day.
Danielle's cake she made and decorated. This girl is so talented!!

B.J., Kathy and Danielle - sv Evenstar
Halloween isn't celebrated in Fiji. Usually I can piggyback Halloween functions and Carolyne's birthday and it's pretty easy. This year I didn't know what to do. The marinas in Savusavu are all very different. Savusavu Marina is in the way back of the estuary. It's a great place to have a party, but too far away from the center of town for many people to venture out on a rainy Saturday night. And, it's the beginning of cyclone season, so many cruisers have already departed.

The Copra Shed is the fancy marina. It has two restaurants, a couple of hotel rooms and a very nice courtyard with picnic tables and a bar. The staff is cordial and professional. There are docks in front of the marina. We have been staying with Copra Shed since our arrival in July and we've loved it. But because the restaurants are open to the public, it's not a good place to have a private party.
Birthday girl

Fairy Leila and her ukulele

Carolyne and Danielle in their costumes at Waitui Marina
Waitui marina isn't fancy, but it has lots of character. It's rustic, doesn't have docks, has one small Indian restaurant and has picnic tables under a corrugated metal roof... which may leak once in a while. The manager, Jolene, is the draw to this marina. She is unmistakably the most lovely person to work with and to know. The only helix moorings available when we arrived in July were at Waitui - there were two left - and we snapped one up immediately.

I went to Jolene last week and asked about having a little get together for Carolyne's birthday at Waitui. Jolene was agreeable and I explained Carolyne wanted to keep it small and sweet - no big celebrations. I soon learned with Jolene, there is no celebrating on a small scale. When we arrived to the marina last night, the outdoor eating area was dressed for a party.

Ninja Caleb and his sparklers

Blue Sea owner Nathan and his son
 160 colorful balloons lined the gutters, a handmade sign was lit with bright lights and Jolene arrived with a beautiful chocolate cake. The kids dressed up and played Twister and lit sparklers and threw loud banging poppers. 

Nathan, owner of the Blue Sea Restaurant, brought out a sound system and played pop tunes and rock and roll. We ordered very reasonably priced dinner from his menu and drank wine with our Swedish and American friends. Some of the employees brought their children. 
Ella, Danielle and Caleb playing TWISTER

Jolene surprised Carolyne with a beautiful cake

Eleanor waiting for lollies

Carolyne had been dying to make pinatas, a yearning from years living in Mexico. She made three small, globe-shaped pinatas and painted them. She taught the Fijian kids the art of smashing and gathering lollies afterwards.

Ninja in full dress

The grown-ups... sort of

Carolyne setting up one of her three pinatas

The aftermath

Because it's close to Diwali Day, sparklers and poppers were for sale

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sailing and Writer Celebrities

Our family has been sailing over seven years now. We've met oodles of interesting people. Some of these sailors have published their adventures. We're friends with some of them.

Emily and Mark Fagan
(photo from
Emily on s/v Groovy now travels in her land yacht with her husband, Mark. She still writes for sailing magazines, but has expanded her repertoire to include RV publications. Her photos are phenomenal and she's had cover photos for many magazines, as well.
Baby Rocket, James and Jess aboard Hotspur. They're in New Zealand and
have just introduced a new member to the family - a baby boy!
Jess Lloyd-Mostyn on s/v Adamastor has a family sailing blog and her articles have been published in Yacht World, Sailing Today, Ocean Navigator and other magazines. We met Jess, her husband, James, and baby girl, Rocket, in La Cruz, Mexico. She and her family successfully crossed the Pacific with their infant. We shared lovely adventures in French Polynesia together.

Diane Selkirk, who's recently been photographed with lemurs on her head
Our dear friend, Diane Selkirk, is a freelance writer for numerous publications and is a published author. We cruised Mexico with her, her husband Evan, and one of our daughter's besties, Maia.

The Del Viento family
We met Michael Robertson on s/v Del Viento via email. Later, we met him in person with his wife, Windy, and two young daughters, Eleanor and Frances, in La Paz, Mexico. He writes regularly for magazines and most recently collaborated with cruising friends on a book.

Behan and one of her darling daughters
We cruised with Behan Gifford, her husband, Jaime, and their three kids (Niall, Mairen and Siobhan) in the Sea of Cortez. She introduced me to her solar oven and I've wanted one ever since.

Sara Dawn Johnson (photo from
We know Sara Dawn Johnson through other cruisers. Recently, I emailed her to find out about camp-vanning in New Zealand. They sold their boat s/v Wondertime and are adventuring aboard their land boat, Wing'n.

I am honored to have a published sidebar in this book

VOYAGING WITH KIDS: A Guide To Family Life Afloat is a recently published book authored by Behan Gifford, Sara Dawn Johnson and Michael Robertson. This is a must have for any family considering cruising. We wished it had been around when we set sail in 2008.

B.R. Swain is a sailor using a pseudonym for writing romance novels. Swain recently published Hearts For Sail on Wattpad.

Barbara showing Carolyne (right) and other cruising kids
how to make challah in La Cruz, Mexico
 Barbara Gottesman is a once upon a time cruiser, mom and author of How To Slay a Pirate.

We also had the pleasure of meeting Jinx Schwartz while in La Paz, Mexico. She was kind enough to give Carolyne a free book she authored from her Hetta Coffey series.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Invited to a Hindu Temple and Ganesha Feast

When a local repairman here in Savusavu phoned Jim to invite us to attend the Ganesha ceremony at the Hindu Temple, we were eager. "Don't eat meat on Saturday or Sunday," Pallay instructed. I thought for sure Jim would balk. I made him Eggplant Parmesan once for dinner and he complained for a month that the meatless meal bordered on starvation. But for Pallay, Jim agreed. This was the last day of the 10 day festival of Ganesha Chaturthi.

Jim and our host and friend, Pallay
I call Pallay a repairman because that's how we met him. Our big alternator gave us grief and fixing it was cheaper than buying a new alternator. But really, Pallay is Jim's friend. He's given Jim a tour of the town and showed him locations where to buy certain things. His rates have been more than fair and he's not charged us more for extra work. He's come to Hotspur several times to diagnose our alternator's behavior.

It was disappointing that on Sunday it rained, but that didn't stop the horde of Hindus from showing up to the small temple to worship. We could hear the bells clanging in town before we walked up the steep, paved road and multi-level steps. We trudged through mud to get to the door.

Men tended a celebratory fire pit outside and we removed our shoes. Women and little girls dressed in their finest saris sat on woven mats on the floor. A narrow path led to the Ganesha. Flower wreaths and food offerings brightened the altar. The second we walked in I began coughing from the rolling clouds of incense. The open windows helped a bit. We paid our respects to the altar by rotating a silver platter with candles, incense and marigolds around the deity several times and took a seat in the back on the floor.

Ganesha paraded through town
How these old women could sit cross-legged for hours on the hard cement was unfathomable. My legs began to buzz with numbness and I shifted uncomfortably. It took my mind off it when the boys on a stage began singing, playing the harmonium, drums and cymbals. Women got up and danced, long costume earrings and bangles jangling with their hip shakes. Some threw rice at the Ganesha. It was hard not to jump up and join the dancing women, but my daughter's "don't do it" glare kept  me rooted to the hard, uncomfortable floor.

Pallay escorted us outdoors a couple hours later where we were served food. The men served sweets like rice pudding and groundnut laddoos (a crumbly cookie). There was also a pasty, sweet dish with raisins and coconut. Everyone ate with their hands. Later we had lunch, a vegetarian delight.

Strong men loaded the Ganesha on a palanquin and the crowd followed him through town. Colored powders in pink, blue, green and orange were tossed into the mass of colorful people or rubbed on faces, hair and clothing.  People danced in the streets, sang and chanted. MORYA! It was quite the spectacle as Ganesha was taken to the ocean and released into the water, taking the misfortunes of mankind with him.