Sweet Spice Down. Irma Update.

Well, it’s official. Sweet Spice, our island paradise home is gone. We’re still stateside and so we haven’t seen the damage in person, but the words that have been used to describe it are “destroyed”, “totally destroyed”, “missing”, and “not much left.”

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Weirdly, one of our neighbors found our high-quality sign in the rubble. It outilved the house.

We’re fine. We’re in Indianapolis where Jennifer is finishing up a week of work. We were supposed to head back home in a few days, but that can’t happen now. Not just because we don’t have a house or any possessions left, but also because the whole island is just devastated. I mean, really devastated. The pictures we’ve seen and the few messages we’ve gotten from friends, neighbors, and the coconut telegraph have been totally heartbreaking. As far as we can tell, it’s just a complete disaster zone. Here’s a picture I stole from an interweb page about our neighborhood.21761666_10209811717829745_5002246930315855434_n

The media coverage of the Virgin Islands was super sparse, especially in the first few days  after the storm but there are some reports coming out now. Like this article in the Washington Post about how the people in our neighborhood, Coral Bay, are coping. Read it. It’s totally amazing. And speaking of things that are amazing, almost everyone we can think of has been accounted for. If you see the pictures, you’ll know how crazy that it is.

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Before

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After

And then maybe if you’re feeling generous you could make a donation so that the people in STJ can buy chainsaws and diapers and tarps and mosquito repellent, and hopefully maybe some beer because my neighbors have been huddling under mattresses in a Category 5 hurricane, dodging power lines and dead donkeys, cutting each other out of barricaded houses, and just generally surviving for 8 days already and I think they deserve some beer. This is St. John we’re talking about after all. Withdrawal is a real consideration.

As far as our plans go, we really don’t have any yet. I think we’re a little shell shocked. We just sold our Winnebago, by the way. That was actually one of our goals when we planned this trip. Things were going so swimmingly with all the improvements at Sweet Spice we decided to just focus on the house. Good timing. Go us.

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Coachese in happier times.  So long, Coachese!

I don’t know much about blogging, but I’m pretty sure I read that it’s really important to pick a specific subject and stick with it.  That’s going to be fairly fucking tough since this blog is supposed to be about our travels in our Winnebago and our life in our house in St. John…and we don’t have either of those things anymore. So, unless you’re super stoked to read about whatever it is that we end up doing from here on out, feel free to un-follow us or de-subscribe or whatever. Who could blame you?

Our post-Tuesday reality will most likely involve driving down to Florida to stay with family while we figure out what’s next. Ultimately, we’ll rebuild and live in STJ. We know this. We just have to figure out how. I mean, we’d like nothing better than to go home on Tuesday. Because clearly what St. John needs right now is two more homeless, middle-aged ladies. And their dogs.  Probably not. So for the immediate future we’re completely open to suggestions. Seriously. Ideas currently being batted around include: another RV (that actually works), a tent on our property, a container house. We’re spinning. Who has ideas?

 

Hurricane Irma: We’re OK. We’re Off Island.

Thanks to everyone who has called and texted and emailed to check on us. We are not on STJ right now. We’ve been in the States for the past couple of weeks working (and selling Coachese). We feel very lucky to be here while our friends and neighbors in Coral Bay are hunkered down riding Irma out. I can’t even imagine how scary that would be. We have no idea what’s going on at our house. It was completely boarded up before the storm (thanks, Paul). We are scheduled to head back around the 19th, but that may change.  We don’t really have any information about what’s going on in St. John right now. Pretty sure communication will be very limited for some time. Thanks again for all the crossed fingers! Keep the good thoughts going for everyone in the VI.

My Blue Island

If we had more readers, this post might get me in trouble. But we don’t. So here goes.

If you live on a small island in the Caribbean there is a distinct chance that you have some sketchy neighbors. I don’t mean this in a bad way, and I am the first to admit that we are definitely someone else’s sketchy neighbors. What I mean is that living here you meet a lot of people who are…not quite linear. Most of the people we know here are super nice and friendly and we readily throw them into categories and think we know who they are. Like, oh yeah, Scott, he’s a boat guy. Or, oh yeah, the Snyders they’re great, they’re like old hippies. Or, Todd, not sure what his deal is but he seems really classy. They don’t spend much time talking about how they got here or what their story is, which I, for one, appreciate. It makes for an interesting vibe: unbelievably laid back while simultaneously maniacally guarded.

But the other day I started thinking about it. It started like this; somehow, we ended up hanging out with some neighbors of ours who have this amazing house of which I am often somewhat jealous. These are established people who have a finished house that has a name and who don’t sleep on a pullout couch. They’re adults. We went over for drinks, got the tour, went for some dinner, had a blast. Very neighborly. Thoroughly enjoyed myself. Got a glimpse into how the other half lives. Jennifer knows them a bit more than I do, so the next day I asked her what their story was. She said she wasn’t sure, but she thought someone else had mentioned he was in furniture.  Huh. Ok.

But, I mean, their furniture wasn’t really…noteworthy. And, like, when does he do this furniture-ing? I mean, I’m pretty sure he’s not furniture-ing anything here and he’s here like 60% of the time. Whatever. Maybe he secretly invented furniture, built a house here 20 years ago, and called it a day.

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Ok, this is not their house. This is Robin Masters’ estate from the hit tv series, Magnum, PI. But you get the idea.

And what about Scott the boat guy? Late forties. Always friendly. Always helpful. Always a little rumpled. A little sunburnt. Lives on a sailboat of some kind. Always see him at the grocery store, or the mail drop, or the bar. Seems to eat most of his meals out. Not flashy, but not starving. Doesn’t really seem like he has any visible means of support and I’m pretty sure he’s been here for years. I know approximately seventeen Scotts. Seriously. Just off the top of my head. Scott is almost the norm.

Finally, it dawned on me. This is the place where you would go if, say, you figured out how to swipe a big chunk of change from under the nose of the company you worked for and you ACTUALLY DID IT and didn’t get caught. Or, like, if you were a cop and you stumbled on a dead guy in a car with a trunk full of money and only the dead guy got turned in. I think when people do stuff like that, like, take the money and run….this is exactly the place they’d to run to. No passport required, not a lot of scrutiny, just a boat ride away from several other nations. Excellent weather.

I know, I know, I’m being dramatic. Probably you can tell I watch a lot of movies. So, when I had this realization the movie I immediately thought of was My Blue Heaven, starring one Mr. Steve Martin. In this gem of a film from 1990, Steve plays a mob informant from NYC who gets relocated to some All-American suburb courtesy of the Federal witness protection program (supervised by none other than Rick Moranis-you know, Honey I Shrunk the Kids?).  blueheavendvdAnyway, Steve Martin’s character is a zany fish-out-of-water in a very shiny suit. He struggles to adapt. Until…he realizes the old guy at the pet store is one of his old mob buddies who ALSO was relocated to this little slice of heaven. Eventually, he realizes the Feds have “hidden” so many people there that the idyllic suburb houses more criminals than Sing Sing. That might actually be a quote from the movie (which is fabulous, by the way. Embrace the dance sequences). Sorry, I digressed.

 

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Anyway, that’s how I’ve been feeling here on St. John recently. Like everyone has some crazy backstory I don’t know about. Hey listen, I know that most of my fellow island dwellers are not on the lam or in witness protection. I know this. They are just as boring as we are. But a girl can dream.

Sweet Spice: Our Projects Have Projects

This is an update. Ideally, I’d wait until we actually finished something before posting about it but 1) we never finish anything and 2) we had a personal request from our number one fan, Mr. Hoffman. This one’s for you. See you in the comments section!

There are changes afoot here at Sweet Spice (what a terrible name for our island paradise, no? More on that another time). We are taking the bull by the horns and making progress on our to-do list. Also, we are hiring people to help us. As I write this, there are three guys working on screening in our front porch. Amazing. But no matter how hard they work, it will not be done today because we are waiting for screen doors from St. Thomas. That’s just how it works. I envision an extremely prolonged semi-screened situation looming. You know how the old saying goes, “better to have half a screen than no scr……just kidding.  Half a screen is pretty much just as useless as no screen.”

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Future screened area. Fingers crossed.

Moving on. We finally had the property fenced in to keep the donkeys and goats out. It’s like a miracle. Things are growing and nothing is eating them. We did not tackle this project ourselves, which is probably why it got finished. After the fencing, we basically had a truckload of palms and bougainvillea planted to help stabilize the hill that was damaged by a wayward wedding party and their SUV a while back. Read more about that here. It’s made a huge difference. Really. Much less like an abandoned accident scene.

 

Our neighbor-slash-landscaping guru, Josephine, did an incredible job, but now we have to keep everything alive, even during droughts. It’s a lot of pressure. We don’t want to let her down so we built a somewhat elaborate irrigation system (so far, so good. Thanks youtube) and have been mulching and weeding our asses off all over the place. Kinda.

 

 

No projects here are ever just one step. The people who build the fences and plant the plants are not the same people who build the gates to the fences. But, after a month of scampering under treacherous wire fencing every time we had to leave, we finally found someone to build us a gate. Life. Changing.

 

 

Seriously.

That same guy is also helping us improve our sleeping situation. Basically, we’ve been sleeping on the pull out for so long that I’m pretty sure we’re both maimed for life and utterly deserving of some special parking compensation. The “bedroom” of our house is basically a weird little room tucked under the porch. There is an elevated platform to hold a mattress, some very sketchy crumbling drywall, and a scary bathroom in a separate shack next to the pool. Read more on that here. Anyway, we’ve been using the space as the global headquarters of Crossfit St. John Sweet Spice (membership: 2), but those days are coming to an end. We eventually hope to build the taj mahal of fitness, but we’re not there yet. In the meantime, we bit the bullet and impetuously ordered a real mattress. Shockingly, it called our bluff and showed up. There it is now, behind the couch that we’re still sleeping on.20170712_132851

So the plan became, ok, we’ll just go down there and move the weights to the side, maybe throw some paint around, step on a spider and make it work. But it was so gross. It was too gross for our new mattress. I accidentally bumped into the wall and it literally crumbled into sand and dust at my feet. Plus, there was a lot of suspicious fly activity. I don’t want to talk about it. Anyway, I showed it to the guy who helped us with the fence. One thing led to another, and… we decided to rip everything out. Then he suggested we could maybe fit the world’s smallest bathroom down there. The reason this might work is because this guy, Paul, is like a combo of an actual handyman and a youtube video tutorial. He doesn’t show up with a crew. He shows up and tells us what to do. So he’s building the new bedroom, but we’re going to help. We had to tear everything out ourselves. Current dead rat tally: 2. I can’t talk about it. But at least we work cheap.

 

The status right now is that everything is torn out, down to the studs. All of the many, many, pest-inviting openings have been sealed. We ordered pretty much the smallest sink we could find on amazon (it’s so small that amazon will deliver it here) and the toilet is on the way from St. Thomas. Allegedly. We are definitely headed in the direction of a good night’s sleep and 15 sf of bathroom decadence. I have no idea how this is going to work, especially the plumbing. Especially if Paul vanishes into the St. John version of the Bermuda triangle that has claimed so many of the contractors around here. If that happens, I’m not 100% ruling out a very long pipe leading deep into the woods…

Stay tuned.

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This is the platform where the bed will go. One day.

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The bathroom will be in that corner. Can’t you see it?

 

 

 

 

 

Iguana Drama

So, one of the downsides of having an empty pool is that iguanas sometimes fall in and can’t get out. That seems ridiculous, I know.  They’re wild iguanas- of course they can get out, right? Nope. We figured this out when we had to scrape dried iguana off the bottom of the pool when we first moved here.

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This is our state-of-the-art iguana rescue apparatus.

Well, it happened again. We heard scratching and scrambling and, sure enough, there was an iguana in the pool. After carefully assessing the situation we decided to put some sticks and a long-handled pool brush in there so the little guy could climb out on his own time. You know, let nature take its course. However, when a lady we know who has lived here a while found out about our plan, she clearly thought we were silly and ridiculous people. Then this happened:

 

Yep. She’s a badass.

Sincerely,

Silly and Ridicuolous

How To Make Your Own Sea Salt

It’s not all fun and games here in paradise. I mean, mostly it is- but there are some exceptions. Here’s one.

There’s a very cool thing that happens here when we go through a drought. Just behind an amazingly beautiful beach called Salt Pond, there lies an actual dark and murky saline pond. No idea about the science of this, but probably you can look it up. Anyway, it’s on the South Side of the island and if you’ve ever been here to visit us (and if not, why not?) we’ve probably taken you there for a beach day or to hike up Ram’s Head, which is a breathtaking trail. So usually that’s what we get up to when we head that way- fun and sun and happiness. But, when there’s a drought and enough water evaporates out of the pond behind the beach, the salt crystalizes and all of the locals get giddy and start talking about going over there to “get salt”.  All natural, free, delicious sea salt. Who could resist? We, like many of our neighbors, grabbed a bucket and headed over.

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Salt Pond Beach- where we’d take you if you came to visit.

Here’s the thing: harvesting salt is way harder that you’d think. The pond is like a muddy pool with a hard white crust of salt forming at the edges. Also, because the water table is so low there’s a not-so-delicious sulfur smell going on. You have to carefully pick a spot where you can chip away the crystals (by hand, mostly) and not break through the salt and into the mud.

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Salt Pond Mine- just a short trail away from the beach.

By the way, this is all stuff we figured out after some disasters last year because no one ever tells you how to get salt. They just tell you it’s there. One of the things we learned is not to overfill your bucket. Hiking out with heavy buckets of salt flat-out sucks. All along the path back to the parking lot you can see where people have either started dumping their salt on purpose as a load lightening technique or else they dropped their bucket out of fatigue (hello, last year).

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Salt Down. Bummer.

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Salt Harvesting- not all it’s cracked up to be.

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Huge Crystals

Even if you make it home with your bucket of salt, the work is not over. This salt is not shaker ready. This year we did a combination of processes. We dried it in the sun (excellent way to encourage rain, by the way). We picked out the debris and rinsed it. We put it in a very low oven (last year, we burned it. Did you know you could burn salt? You can.) Then we crushed it with a mortar and pestle.

Then we put it back in the oven until it was bright white and very salt like. Now it’s in jars, ready for use. It actually worked out. We’ve got a stellar end product (not like last time). We probably have 4 or 5 quarts of St. John’s finest sea salt…but it wasn’t easy.

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If any of you reading this have any suggestions on how we could make this easier on ourselves next time (other than just going to the store), we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

Food Fairs and Chainsaws

You might think we spend all of our time here on St. John sunning ourselves on the beach and drowning in Painkillers. Sadly, not true. We do other stuff, too.

Last week was Carnival in St. Thomas and we decided to go check out the Food Fair. It’s a big deal. Government workers get the day off to go. No joke. And it’s just one day, so we jumped on the ferry last Wednesday to check it out and I’m so glad we did.

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Getting back and forth on the car ferry. It’s like our Geo Tracker is amphibious. Sort of.

Normally, I would be skeptical of such an event. I’ve been to things like this over and over, hoping for handmade peach ice-cream and Mrs. So-and-So’s Famous Fried Chicken- you know, like in all the books I read when I was a kid. Like, suddenly I’m going to just walk into the Charlotte’s Web State Fair. Not surprisingly, I’m almost always disappointed by generic funnel cakes, fried snickers bars and maybe some turkey legs from Costco sold by pseudo-professional vendors. (One notable exception is the Pony Swim in Chincoteague, VA where you can get stellar oyster fritters. Really. You should go.)

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Butter Conch Platter. So tasty. So much butter.

Anyway, the St. Thomas Food Fair was phenomenal. Packed with people. Tons of stands set up by church ladies, farmers, families, school groups and small vendors from throughout the Virgin Islands. It was very homespun and very solid. All the food was traditional and everything we had was fabulous. It definitely helped that people were very willing to advise us on which stand had the best whatever while standing in line. We got several excellent steers. It’s like a very frenzied, very caloric scavenger hunt where everyone was actually on the same team.

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Saltfish Pate

There were people selling johnnycakes, stew chicken, butter conch, whelks, and pates stuffed with shark, conch, saltfish, beef or veggies (pates here are like little fried hand pies with kind of a chewy crust. They are amazing.) There was a roti stand. There was tons of sweet stuff too, the usual suspects like coconut tarts and pineapple tarts but also stew cherries, gooseberry tarts, sugarcakes (which I think are pretty much just sugar), pumpkin fritters, and banana fritters. Of course there were Ital stands and tons of natural juices, drinks and tonics. There’s a guy in St. Croix who apparently sells kallaloo every Saturday in some square there, and he made the trip. It was delicious.  The whole thing was spectacular and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in town for STT carnival.

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Chowing down on some seafood kallaloo.

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Lots of high tech signage.

On the way back to the car ferry, we stopped at Home Depot. Because it is a complete sacrilege to go to STT from STJ without going to Home Depot. Also, our internet, which used to be excellent, has been acting shady and we were told we needed to cut back some “bush” (trees), to give our antenna a straight shot to the tower. We were advised we’d need something called a pole saw for this…so we picked one up. Yeah, it turns out that a pole saw is quite literally a chainsaw on a 9′ pole. Did not see that coming. Anyway, now we have a pole saw. A really cheap one. It’s bananas.

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Thought wearing all my clothes at once would count as protective gear.

The chainsaw end is heavier than than you’d think and the pole is pretty flimsy so it just bounces all over the place. You’re supposed to secure it to yourself (according to the directions) with this super shoddy shoulder harness. Once I made it onto our very steep hill, that strap seemed like way more of a commitment than I wanted to make to a chainsaw so I took it off. It was so heavy and so unwieldy I ended up just kind of flailing around wildly in a sea of “catch and keep” which is an almost impenetrable thicket of thorns and prickers. I comforted myself by screaming “Help Me” and “I am not a landscaper” at regular intervals. You know, to relieve the tension. Complete miracle no one was injured.

But at least the internet is moderately better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Racing Out Of Egypt. Sort Of.

Happy Passover and happy Easter! This year we decided (kind of at the last minute) to have a Passover seder on one of the actual days we were supposed to have it. We’ve been known to shuffle holidays around to fit our very busy schedules because it’s usually just two of us…and is the specific date for Thanksgiving or my birthday really written in stone? No. But this year Jennifer actually remembered it was Passover at the right time and we decided immediately to seder it up. As a total non-Jew, Passover is one of my favorite holidays. I highly recommend it. I’m not going get into the whole history and significance of the holiday. Probably you know. Or you can google it. What it is for me is The World’s Greatest Dinner Party.  There’s reading, there’s ritual, there are all of these symbolic dishes and there are a mandatory, a required, four glasses of wine. It’s a great time.

The deal is though, there’s some stuff you have to get ahead of time- like matzo. Matzo is an absolute requirement. Gotta have it. This is usually not a big deal because you can buy matzo anywhere this time of year. Salted, un-salted, whole wheat, Organic, Streit’s, Manischewitz, whatever. Except on St. John. There’s no matzo on St. John. We checked. Every store.

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Frances on the prowl for matzo.

We could almost definitely have gotten some on St. Thomas (it’s just a ferry ride away, but still kind of an ordeal-I mean, you can do it, but not at the end of the day for just one thing). So, we did what we always do: we gave up on a timely seder. We figured we’d just pick up some matzo the next time we’re shopping in St. Thomas and do a seder then. As a consolation prize, we decided to watch The Ten Commandments with Charleton Heston and Yul Brynner on our new little projector. I don’t think I ever really watched it before. It’s amazing. I LOVED IT. So weird, so wonderful. Anyway, it tells the story of Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt and it was a reminder that matzo is supposed to be the kind of bread that you can make when you’re a slave with nothing and you are running for your life. So, honestly, how complicated could it be?

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The Ten Commandments. Solid.

 

We had no idea so we looked on the interweb and found out. Turns out matzo is very easy to make. Flour, water, salt, and maybe some olive oil. The big deal is that you can’t have any leavening, and if you are really strict about it you have to have it all baked and finished within 18 minutes of the water hitting the flour. The idea is that there is no possible way of getting any accidental leavening if you’re moving that fast. There was absolutely no reason for us to follow that rule (because nothing about what we were doing was anywhere near Kosher), but we tried it anyway.

We measured everything out in advance (but kept it all separate), hauled out our pasta roller (because we’re not actually fleeing Egypt), and cranked up the oven.

Then we set the timer for 18 minutes and started mixing. And rolling. And congratulating ourselves on how much time we had.

And then it fell apart. Somehow we went from a carefully executed, nearly professional set-up to a ridiculous episode of I Love Lucy. I’m pretty sure this has something to do with the fact that we only have one little cookie sheet.

And the whole time we’re yelling, “We have to go now! Pharoah is coming!”  It was a little intense. We successfully completed the first batch within the time limit, but on the second batch we got beat at the buzzer. We went ahead and baked off the last two batches we’d rolled out, so all in all the whole process probably took 30 minutes.

It was totally worth it. The matzo worked out.

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Homemade matzo!

It was thinner than normal commercial matzo because I think we rolled it a little too thin, but it was definitely matzo. It did the trick for seder and a little extra for snacking. And I have a feeling we’re going to do this every year now, even if we have regular matzo available. I mean, I know we can get faster…

We’re Baaaaaaack!

So, yeah, it’s been a while. We’re back at home in St. John. We’ve been back for about 6 weeks. We put aside our dreams of an epic road trip this year, tucked Coachese into a storage space in Indianapolis and got the hell out of there. We’ve done a lot of harebrained stuff over the years, and most of the time it’s pretty much worked out. Not so much with Coachese. Not yet. Anyway, on the way home we spent a few more weeks in Florida, visiting family and gathering a bunch of stuff to take back with us to the Virgin Islands. This time the bulk of our luggage consisted of 175 lbs of bumper plates (weights) for our barbells. Not even kidding. We are fairly ridiculous.

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This is Frances. All suited up from our flight. At this point we’re in a car on a boat and we’re almost home. Wembley is in the back, drugged senseless.

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This is what happened when we finally got home.

Having abandoned our house in the tropics for the better part of a year, it should not be surprising to learn that we came home to quite a mess. This was enhanced by the fact that our house was a disaster even before we left. More on that here.
Now that we’re back we’re trying to make the house more livable and settle into our island routine. We’ve made some progress…cleaning, painting…finding, buying and installing some actual appliances (beat it, hot plate). We built a makeshift plywood kitchen counter that should be temporary but that I’m sure we’ll be stuck with for years to come. Also, more cleaning.

Somehow, while we were gone, our toilet broke. That was a pretty big drag for a while, as I’m sure you can imagine. The house came with this crazy, power-flush toilet which is apparently really water efficient but for which no one on island had any parts. So now we have a brand new toilet. Go us. Cross that one off the list. To give you a glimpse of our glamorous life in the tropics, here are a few of the things that are still on the list:

  • Figure out why our water tanks seem so empty. Like almost everyone here, we collect the rainwater from our roof to use in our house. For everything. There is no city water. So the rain falls on the roof, flows through our gutters and collects in these big tanks outside. Theoretically, unless there’d been a crazy drought, our tanks should be brimming with water because it’s been raining and we haven’t been using the water for a year, right? But when I bang on our tanks they seem mostly empty. I’m not a scientist, but I think somewhere, somehow, we have a problem.
  • Get the pool refilled. We drained it to deter squatters while we were away. Also, we switched to a saltwater system because buying chlorine and chemicals is horrible and I was always turning our pool green. Again, not a scientist. Apparently, we are missing a part from this new system and we need to buy either a mysterious part or a whole new salt system. Plus, we have to talk a water delivery guy into driving a tank truck up our road. Also we have to find the water delivery guy before we can talk to him. Here’s the thing, the pool is tiny and we never used it much (partly because it was always green and very scary) so it’s kind of tempting to just forget about it, but looking at an empty pool is way more depressing than you think it would be. Let’s hear it for first world problems.

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    Beautiful, no?

  • Get our driveway paved or at least graded. Our driveway is a little treacherous in the best of times. Last year, no shit, some tourists in an SUV mistook our driveway for the road and skidded down our hill and almost into our house, taking out a couple of trees in the process. They were fine, don’t worry. The best and weirdest part? It was actually a bride IN HER DRESS with all her bridesmaids on their way to her wedding. It was a very surreal morning. Anyway, the driveway is much worse now, so we really need to get on that. We know a guy who will help us with this but he has to get his ‘dozer back from the country. So…no idea.

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    This is a shot from when the Wedding Crashers crashed last year. That’s their car hanging perilously by a tree. Jennifer’s expression is completely unscripted.

  • We need to build a fence to keep the donkeys, goats, and deer out of the yard. They eat everything, they poop everywhere, and Wembley hates them. It looks like there used to be a fence around the property so I’m thinking this might not be a huge deal. I’ve been wrong before. In the meantime, we built a very ramshackle contraption out of pvc pipes and chicken wire to grow a few vegetables on our own. You know, so we don’t get scurvy. It was very flimsy so we spray painted it black. Now it looks sturdy. I think we’ve got a solid 7% chance that we’ll actually get to eat some of these things before the animals destroy them.
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    Flimsy.

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    Sturdy.

  • Replace the shack deck. We have a little rental cottage/shack and we actually have a lovely lady renting it as is, which is nice. She’s very brave. But it has a deck that is about to fall over and we are determined to replace it before we have to hide her body in the woods after she falls off and kills herself. The soil here is very rocky and I can only imagine what a pain in the ass grave-digging is. Plans are actually kind of underway for this project (the deck, not the grave). We’ve talked to people. We’ve tracked down a dumpster. We’re hopeful. This could be a win.

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    The dumpster is here!

  • Find a better place to sleep. Our house is super weird. It’s like a studio with a sleeping loft that you need a ladder to access and can’t really stand up in. So we don’t sleep up there. There’s a bedroom on the pool level, but you have to go outside to get down there and there’s this weird platform thing that’s built in and the space isn’t that usable. Like, for instance, you can’t actually fit a bed in there. So we just keep all of our freak show fitness stuff down there. Also, there’s no bathroom down there, so if you have to pee in the night you have to go outside, up the stairs and into the main house. It’s not horrible, it’s just not ideal. So we don’t sleep down there, either. We sleep on the pull-out couch in the living room. Which is next to the bathroom. Because we have priorities. We need to do something about this whole situation. Ideally, we’d like to build a little workout area with a shed, tucked somewhere out of the way. And add a bathroom downstairs. We live in hope.
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    This should be our bedroom. What? Doesn’t your bedroom look like this?                  CrossFit St. John Sweet Spice. Membership: 2

     

Probably you can tell this list is really more for us than for you. I’ve heard it’s good to make lists. Apparently it helps you be more productive. Fingers crossed on that one. In the meantime, we’ve been having a good time catching up with our neighbors, taking the pups around the island, getting used to driving on the left again, and making everything from scratch because the food situation here is pretty grim*. We remain amused at how beautiful and kind of ridiculous it is to live here.

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Sunday morning hike.

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Sunday morning water break at the ruins on the Leinster Trail.

*These are our attempts at preserving some West Indian limes in salt. Why? Scurvy. I am needlessly obsessed with scurvy. Also, we got a very cool cookbook from Jennifer’s Aunt Lynn (thanks, Lynn!) and they use a lot of preserved lemons, which are not available here so we’re doing limes. 

Happy Holidays. All of Them.

Hello!!! Sorry we’ve been out of touch for so long. Living in a hotel can be (among other things) uneventful. We had to wait to accumulate enough stuff to post about. Also, up until about a week ago, we couldn’t find the charger for our camera. So here goes:

We’re still living in the hotel in Indy.  Jennifer signed up to work through January so that we can fill the coffers enough to stay in St. John as long as possible. Also…Coachese is ready!!! We picked him up from the mechanic and drove him here from St. Louis last month. He’s currently a main attraction in the parking lot behind the hotel. He’s running well but has no heat so a winter camping trip is not in the cards. Plus, let’s be honest. The election kind of  knocked the wind out our urge to tour more of the USA right now. And we’re not sure how well Coachese would do in long-term storage so, wait for it, we’re thinking about selling him. I know. You’re shocked. I don’t really want to talk about it. Nothing is final.

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Moving on, other bright spots of the past couple of months include a roadtrip we took last week which we nicknamed, in advance, “vaycaca”, a loving mashup of vacation and poop. Basically, Jennifer took a week off so that we could drive a rental car from Indianapolis to Philadelphia for her sister’s daughter’s first birthday (Happy Birthday V!), then on to Delaware to finally close out our storage unit (Never get a storage unit. It’s like a reverse pawnshop. You give them money and your stuff and then you pay and pay and end up donating all your shit anyway), then back to Pennsylvania for one night, then on to DC to spend Hanukkah and Christmas with my family, then back to Indianapolis. All in a week. You can probably see how this seemed like a heaping pile of mandatory crap disguised as a vacation, no? Here’s the thing: It was great!!!

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Wembley, captured on film on the streets of Philadelphia.

We had a good time seeing Jennifer’s family (especially V), and we got to kick it at our favorite hotel in Philly. Rittenhouse Square was all decked out and really got us into the holiday spirit. Going back to Lewes, DE was actually one of the highlights of our trip, even though we were dreading dealing with our stored stuff . Not only did we successfully cut ties with the storage Nazis, we got to see a bunch of amazing people and get our asses handed to us working out at CrossFit Lewes. Turns out we were a lot more fit when we lived there. The big bummer was we really didn’t have enough time to visit with everyone, an oversight we are hoping to overcome by encouraging everyone to visit us in STJ! And, finally, we ended the week at my brother’s place in DC.

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Check out Santa.

It was a super-happy coincidence that the first night of Hanukkah was on Christmas Eve this year, since my brother and I both married Chosen People. Also, for the past several years, we have kept Christmas interesting by picking a different theme every year. These themes are more celebratory than authentic. Think grade school book report, not senior thesis. We’ve done French, Caribbean, Russian, Chinese, Italian, you get the picture. Everything from french fries and berets to the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Some years have been really successful and some have been a little half-assed. I am happy to report that this year’s theme was Mexico and my brother and his wife KNOCKED IT OUT OF THE PARK.

 

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Tablescapes just don’t get better than this.

It was a crazy Hanukkah-Meximas smash. We had festive decor. We made tamales. We had brisket, latkes, and jelly doughnuts. We had ponchos. And beer ponchos. We had chicken enchiladas, lamb tacos, and multiple tablescapes. We had an incredible playlist. We also had a traditional roast turkey, stuffing, homemade rolls, and  a custom-made holiday movie trivia game involving dreidels.  Thanks, Mom! And congratulations on the win, Will and Olivia. We’re going to kick your ass next year. We even had a custom-made prank gift. Did you know that if you wrap a couple of rectangular ceramic tiles in duct tape, put an Apple sticker on it, and wrap it in bubble-wrap it looks a lot like a MacBook Pro?  Well, we do. Thanks, Dad.

Never a dull moment.

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Game on.

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Hola. Me llamo Bernie. Feliz Navidad.

And now we’re back in The Suites with a month more to go. I have to say, we were pretty down and out in the weeks before Hanukkah/Christmas. We were crushed by the election. Obviously. And, in general, 2016 has been pretty fucking crappy all around. But that trip (and literally watching about 35 Hallmark Holiday movies in our hotel home) saved our holiday season. So, in the final hours of this year, barring further tragedy, Happy New Year, guys. Cheers. Oh, and if you’re in the market for a vintage RV we can make that happen…

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Happy Hanukkah.