Red Tide Disaster

After the second day, things insidiously start to change at the beach.

          10:00 a.m. –  the water appears unfamiliar; lost its transparency.

          11:12 a.m. –  a man sitting on a bench behind us coughs discretely. No one pays attention.

          12:30 p.m. – we eat flounder sandwiches I made with the leftover flounder from last evening.

          1:34 p.m. –  we haven’t caught a single flounder.

          2:00 p.m. – a small dead fish appears on the beach. Everyone likes it. We use it as bait.

          2:17 p.m. – a young couple is walking aimlessly along the shore. Both coughing.

          2:22 p.m. – a second dead fish. The kids play with it.

          2:23 p.m. – a third dead fish.

          2:48 p.m. – everyone is coughing.

Soon, we realize that something very peculiar is about to happen and we even suspect, it is already happening! As more and more lifeless fish dreamily swims out of the sea, more and more people start coughing. The beach fills with an endless cough. It feels somehow like a prelude to a symphony.

Rumors of ocean tornadoes and biblical interpretations of apocalyptic events start circulating among coughing vacationers.  Until someone explains with authority the unusual and most inconvenient situation  as a phenomenon called RED TIDE. I know that sometimes the things I am writing about sound fantastical, and often they are, but Red Tide is real, I promise. Here is some scientific facts about it which I found at www.mote.org

A red tide, or harmful algal bloom, is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plant-like organism). In Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis, often abbreviated as K. brevis. To distinguish K. brevis blooms from red tides caused by other species of algae, researchers in Florida call it “Florida red tide.”

Many red tides produce toxic chemicals that can affect both marine organisms and humans. The Florida red tide organism, K. brevis, produces brevetoxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates, causing these animals to die. Wave action can break open K. brevis cells and release these toxins into the air, leading to respiratory irritation. For people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, red tide can cause serious illness. The red tide toxins can also accumulate in molluscan filter-feeders such as oysters and clams, which can lead to Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning in people who consume contaminated shellfish.

Karenia brevis, or Florida red tide, kills fish by producing a potent toxin (called brevetoxin) that affects the central nervous system of the fish. The toxin can also affect birds, mammals and other marine animals.

The next day, the sea is dark, the sky grey and low; there is nothing left of the beach but yesterday memories and dead fish of all kinds lying among pieces of corals and beautiful seashells. No vacationers.

Red Tide Fish Kill

Red Tide Fish Kill

I grab the opportunity to photograph dead fishes of all kinds. It is like snorkeling in the coral reef with colorful fishes swimming about, only we are not underwater, there is no coral reef, and the colorful fishes are rather grayish and miserably inadequate. I also find them beautiful, paranoid, strange, scary, grotesque, sympatiques(fr), curious, morbid, familiar, funny, alien, worried, mysterious, sad. (At the end of this post, you will find my Dead Fish Portraiture Gallery.)

One more day passes by and the fish starts to stink badly. Nobody knows who, when, and how will take care of it.

Ivo tells me: „Let’s clean up the beach ourselves.“ And I am all for it. So we volunteer to do it, Ivo and me.

Sharon, the woman who cleans the park, gives us some garbage bags, fourteen I count later, and some latex gloves, and then she leaves. With this scarce equipment, we head to the carnage scene. The smell, should I even mention it? DEAD FISH!

We start filling bags scooping the carcasses by hand, trying to fit as many as possible in the bags, as fourteen bags is not much for the amount of fish we have to collect. Some of them, the sail catfish, have poisonous spikes in the fins, and we have to be careful.

Ivo collecting dead fish

Ivo collecting dead fish

It feels like a fish genocide. Hellish eyes full of terror and sand, teeth crooked, discolored skins, gaping half rotting bodies, sea snakes twisting around gooey scaly corpses, mouths gasping for water. I am not eating sushi any time soon…

This first day we clean a big portion of the beach in front of the park and the campground. And we continue the next day. Ivo does most of the job; when he works nobody can keep up with him, everyone who knows him can confirm this. Finally, the beach is clean, there are more than thirty garbage bags lined up away from the waves waiting to be picked up. Local people and campers passing by all congratulate us and thank us. We feel proud with our work.

We have self-sentenced ourselves to community work usually done by Offender Programs and we feel we have served our time to pay for the overnight stay in the park, sneaking in the campground showers, using the free internet, and some other minor offenses. Our conscious is now cleared. Plus, we are now famous among the locals as „the crazy Canadians who do nasty job for free.“ In reality, we do get something out of it. Knowledge and experience. We learn all about the Red Tide phenomenon first hand, and we learn about the local fishes.

All is left now is for the county to send some people here to pick up the bags.

The following day the sherif department calls, and not only they don’t thank us for the initiative and the free work, but they tell Sharon that we didn’t do a proper job, that we filled the bags too much and they are now too heavy to pick up… This brings us down a bit.

Anyway, they send people, collect the bags, and the Red Tide is now history.

New campers arrive in the campground and go to the beach, enjoy the warm weather, the soft sand, the cool waves. But I remember another beach.

No monument here to commemorate the departed. Only black ravens high in the air like demoniacal kites still slowly savour the smell of death.

Only this and nothing more.

DEAD FISH PORTRAITURE GALLERY

Alian

Sad

Paranoid

Beautiful

Morbid

Mysterious

Sympatique

Grotesque

Strange

Funny

Scary

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Turtle Beach, Florida

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination. 
– Christopher Columbus (who never arrived at his „chosen“ destination, which was India, as we all know…)

About a week ago, after visiting the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, we found a peculiar beach! We discovered it, like Columbuses,  and we conquered it!

The conquerers of Turtle Beach

The conquerers of Turtle Beach

Turtle Beach, where log-head turtles the size of a car crawl out of the sea at night to bury their eggs in the sand and hope for the best,  is not far from the more famous and crowded white-sanded Siesta Key Beach (our initially chosen destination, which we somehow diverted from) . Not many people come here, as there are not many hotels around. Instead, there is a campground next to a City Park, and the beach is occupied mostly by the few camp visitors, which makes it very homy and friendly place.

Testing the temperature of the water.

There, we park Baba Ghanoushe in the huge free parking area near the beach, and as we do not see any signs forbidding overnight parking, we decide to stay. A week later, we are still here, on the other side of the campground’s fence.

Sometimes it makes me sad thinking how our old Baba is all alone, like an unpopular outsider, and all other campers are huddling cosily in the campground. But then, she is different, isn’t she, and this is the whole point, being different, living alternatively, outside main stream society, literally outside. It is not an easy thing to do because outside of the campground we don’t get the „full hook-up“ that the others pay for: electricity, water, showers and laundry, but hey, we are saving $50 per night, spending quality time in a resort spot for free!

Testing the depth of the water

Our first day on the beach, Tuesday, January 15, is fantastic. We sunbathe, we play in the waves, we fish among languorous herons and pelicans, and we (mostly Viktor) catch ten flounder, which is one of the best tasting fish we ever had.

First, we see other people fishing from the shore and they tell us how it’s done.

They show us how to catch first our bait: tricky tiny mole crabs, scooping sand with hands from the edge of the water as the waves retreat. With a shy mole crab on the hook, we start pulling out fish after fish after fish, every time celebrating with a frantic cheer and dance, which quickly earn us fame among everyone on the beach.

Thanks to the flounders we are catching, we meet Nancy and Pierre who come to inspect our catch.

Ivo with a crown of Flounders

Ivo with a crown of Flounders

Nancy and Pierre are „our people,“ from the frozen land up in Canada, where French language is spoken, and this is of course the base for new friendship in a foreign country.

Pierre and Nancy

Pierre and Nancy

These guys are incredible, unique people, and you won’t know what I mean unless you have met them. But you probably have. Remember that skinny 15-year-old guy with long curly hair hitchhiking dressed as a boy-scout from Montreal to Miami in 1967?-it’s Pierre! Or maybe you’ve met him on the road between Canada and Peru in 1975, when he was driving a Westwalia all over Central American like a true hippy. Or if you happened to be somewhere between Sidney and Pakistan in the 1980s, you will certainly remember him driving around in his car. Or maybe a motorcycle passed you on the roads of Guatemala and Costa Rica?-It’s him for sure! And if you are not much of a hippy-type traveller, maybe you have met Nancy, working on a cruise ship in some far away sea? Yes, if you are a politician from New Mexico, and, incrustrated on a tooth (upper second incisor) you have a diamond which for many years shined on the belly button of a belly dancer who fell in love with you  and gave you the diamond as a souvenir, you’ve met Nancy on the cruise ship, mister Diamond Tooth Miller…

Telling stories in the morning with coffee at Pierre and Nancy's campground site, Turtle Beach, FL

Telling stories in the morning with coffee at Pierre and Nancy’s campground site, Turtle Beach, FL

Such are Nancy and Pierre, travelers and story-tellers. Plus, they know exactly what we need, as they’ve already done what we are doing, and that same evening after the beach, as we are stuffing ourselves with pan-fried flounder, Pierre showes up on a bicycle with a flashlight on the  head and smuggles us in the campground, the four of us, to the after-dark hot-water showers, the best showers we had since we left Canada in November.

Coffee time at Pierre and Nancy's camp site

Coffee time at Pierre and Nancy’s camp site

The next day, Wednesday, we spend together on our beach, fishing, sharing stories, cutting hair… Yes, Maya gets a haircut on the beach, again, this time by a professional hairdresser and a first-grade nomad. Nancy, thank you! You are amazing!

Nancy shaping Maya's hair style

Nancy shaping Maya’s hair style

Maya's new look

Maya’s new look

And I get a story which goes something like this:

There was a 37 feet sailboat, ketch-rigged, named Chinook 2 traveling from Portugal to Pakistan in 1981. There was nobody on the boat but the captain and Pierre. And a huge grotesque albino rat. The rat, elusive enigmatic creature, who was creeping about all dark corners of the vessel at night, was slowly but surely gobbling up the food supplies, even the cork of the wine bottles. Every morning, for three months, the captain would declare with certainty: „Today, I’ll catch the rat.“ 

The two sailors tried every possible and impossible method known to man to catch the creature, but in vain. They bought special traps from Tunisia. They tried to lure him with cheese in a cage, only to find the cage burglarized and the cheese stolen. Finally, Pierre adopted a stray cat in Crete, choosing a good sized one from the thousands roaming the streets of the island, a fierce ambitious-looking black-and-white cat, and bestowed upon him the difficult task: catch the rat, dead or alive.

For one entire month, the rat was nowhere to be seen. But evidence of his existence could be found each morning on Pierre’s sleeping bag, in his very bed: rat droppings. What was happening at night, nobody knew but the cat.

A month later, as they were approaching Port Said in Egypt, the cat, possessed with insanity,  jumped off the boat, almost falling into the sea, and disappeared forever, running without rest all the way to Al Qababt. 

Thus, the albino rat remained forever deep down in the boat’s belly, emitting feeble ominous noises at night like a melancholic ghost, or a very delicate somnambulist. 

Pierre and the first flounder for the day!

Pierre and the first flounder for the day!

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Our „Ringling Museum of Art“ Experience

Our travels bring us to unexpected places of wonder.

After visiting a boat for sale in Marco Island, Florida, we headed towards Sarasota.

It was Monday and “The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art”, the Number One Must See Attraction in this area, has free admission on Mondays. We spend 4-5 hours in the Museum of Art and its gardens,  66 acres of waterfront property.

Outside Gardens, Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida

Outside Gardens, Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida

The museum, built by John Ringling, opened in 1931. It houses his personal collection of about 14 000 masterpieces, including paintings and sculptures by the Old Masters like Rubens, van Dyck, Velázquez, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, El Greco, Gainsborough and more; European, American and Asian works. It is truly impressive.

European Art, 16th and 17th century

European Art, 16th and 17th century

JUDITH HOLDING THE HEAD OF HOLOFERNES by Francesco del Cairo, Italian, 1607-1664; SN 798, oil on canvas

JUDITH HOLDING THE HEAD OF HOLOFERNES by Francesco del Cairo, Italian, 1607-1664; SN 798, oil on canvas

But for me, the most emotional moment was entering the newest gallery featuring the Coville Collection of 90 photographs of the 20th century and beyond focused on photojournalism.

A quote by Susan Sontag is the first thing you see as you enter the gallery:

All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by sharing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.

— Susan Sontag

The earliest photograph in the collection dates from 1888: the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris; and the latest is of the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

20th Century Documentary Photography

20th Century Documentary Photography

There I found iconic images that I have only seen before in my Art History books. Images by Margaret Bourke White, Edward Steichen, Julia Margaret Cameron, Louis Wickes Hine, Ansel Adams, Andre Kertesz, Edward Weston, and others.

Julia Margaret CameronSir John Herschel, 1913, photogravure

Julia Margaret Cameron
Sir John Herschel, 1913, photogravure

Next, we marveled at the exquisite Ca’d’Zan mansion and its Venetian Gothic architecture. We will have to return to look at the mansion inside as well as at the Museum of Circus. One day is not enough.

The Ca' D'Zan mansion

The Ca’ D’Zan mansion

Our Monday finished with a walk in a park in Sarasota looking for a restroom for Maya. It was dark, about 7:00 p.m., when we entered the Sarasota Art Center as it was still open and there was a restroom for Maya!

And we ended up looking at some more contemporary local art. Surprisingly, the collection impressed me, there were many truly amazing paintings and photographs.

But this was not all! As we were ready to go, people started coming in. It turned out, there was a Flamenco Evening event, free admission, and we decided to stay! In the center of the gallery, surrounded by artworks, two classic-flamenco guitarists, two singers, a guy and a woman, and a male dancer, performed for us and a crowd of older Sarasota citizens, the most wonderful music from Spain. Viktor and Maya were both so impressed, more than by the Ringling Museum.

As the music- the magic- ended, there was vino and cheese, and a wonderful memory.

Te Quiero Verde.

For more information about the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, visit

http://www.ringling.org/

More photos from Sarasota, Ringling Museum of Art

Mira&Maya with Grand Piano&Mirror

Mira&Maya with Grand Piano&Mirror

The Gardens

The Gardens

Maya in front of Ca' d"Zan mansion

Maya in front of Ca’ d“Zan mansion

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden

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Morning. Routines. Our Life in the City Park. Part 3

Our Saint Petersburg mornings in the park are filled with little routines. They begin very early with other people’s little routines which wake us up. You see, we don’t sleep in a campground like any normal tourist family with a motor home, but in a city park next to a swimming pool, the only free place we found where overnight parking is not forbidden. Early swimmers come here around 5:30 and inevitably start splashing and cheering next to our sleeping Baba Ghanouche. She wakes up reluctantly, shakes the morning dew and the little yellow seeds brought by night birds off her back, and gracefully drifts through the quiet purple city towards her daytime spot at Demens Landing Park, about a mile away. This is all the distance she traverses back and forth in a day lately.

Lotus and Hibiscus(a fictional physically impossible morning exercise)

Lotus and Hibiscus
(a fictional physically impossible morning exercise)

There I make myself a coffee and watch another sun slowly emerging from the sea. Viktor and Maya are still sleeping or just about to wake up and ask for breakfast. Maya tells me the ending of her dream, she never remembers the beginnings.
A bird made a wish and Jackie turned into a bird. I ate one popcorn, only one, and blew on a dandelion. She became Jackie again. She was crying and she gave me a hug.
Jackie is a new friend but a truly good friend, especially to Maya. We will miss her one day when we leave…
Ivo is already near the piers exercising. Ringo the cat is keeping him company. Soon I join them as well. We believe that physical exercising in the morning is a good way to start the day.

Lotus and HibiscusReincarnated

Lotus and Hibiscus
Reincarnated

The January breeze caries smells and sounds of seas and palm leafs. The air is already hot but fresh. Back in Canada, it is snowing for sure…

One would think that besides the occasional jogger or an early dog walker, there is not a living soul in the park. But it isn’t so. Saint Petersburg is invaded by hyperactive skinny squirrels and they proliferate in high concentration here in Demens Landing. The last squirrel census for this park alone came up with a number in the thousands, but since then they have surely multiplied. Squirrels have babies 6 times a year! And with tender dedication they teach their young the same bad manners. Thus, the savage traditions of trash cans scavenging for leftover french fries, of stealing the peanut butter  and jelly sandwiches from absentminded picnickers, of fiercely chasing each other up and down the palm trees emitting peculiar heartbreaking cries, are inevitably passed down the generations.
After we finish jogging and exercising, I find a 20 dollar bill all wet from the night, stuck on the wooden pier. I enjoy finding it, although I am also sadly conscious of the fact that as soon as I find it, I start loosing it, cent by cent, the same way we loose everything else that we ever find, including friends.
Next, we go back to the motor home dodging hysterical squirrels on the way, and prepare for sailing.

Ringo arrives

Ringo arrives

RingoReads about catamarans and drinks coffee

Ringo
Reads about catamarans and drinks coffee

RingoPurring

Ringo
Purring

I can do two pull-ups! It is tough being tough

I can do two pull ups!                                                                                                                                                                                                   This is a good exercise for the arms, chest and back

This one is for the back and shoulders

Hanging with arms spread.                                                                                                                                                                             This one is a good exercise for the back and shoulders

A morning egret on the rocks near the pier in Demens Landing.

A morning egret on the rocks near the pier in Demens Landing.

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Boat Hunt Update

It has been a long time since I wrote here about our boat hunt development, so here we go.

About a month ago we fell in love with a Wauquiez 49 Centurion located in Rock Hall, Maryland. This beautiful ocean-capable French boat had everything we wanted in and out (the three-cabin layout with two mirror aft cabins…)

Wauquiez 49 Centurion under sail

Wauquiez 49 Centurion under sail

Wauquiez 49 Centurion Layout

Wauquiez 49 Centurion Layout

Wauquiez 49 Centurion Saloon

Wauquiez 49 Centurion Saloon

Unfortunately, there are not many Wauquiez 49 in North America, most of them are in Europe: France, Spain, Croatia… The one in Rock Hall had already a contract when we called and got sold for 162, 000 on December 22. It was the End of the World for us…

But a new cycle in our search begun shortly after „The End-of-the-World Day“.

December 23, we found a Catalina 42 mk ii for sale at the marina next to the park where we are currently living. After visiting the Catalina Factory in Largo, FL, and after talking to people and reading comments in the cruisersforum.com on a thread I have posted a few weeks ago suggesting that it is better to get a smaller boat, we thought the Catalina 42 mkii (three-cabin layout of course) is OK for our needs. The one just beside us in St Pete is 2007, asking price 189,000.

Catalina 42 mkii

Catalina 42 mkii

As we were getting ready to make an offer, just about two days ago, we met a guy at a boat yard, who has been sailing and cruising extensively, and who is now fixing all kinds of boats. Bill Maker. There was a Catalina in Bill’s boatyard and he wasn’t at all enthusiastic about her. As he explained, they are OK boats but not built for offshore cruising, not the best choice for our needs.

As we finished talking about Catalinas, we started talking about Catamarans. And so the Cat seed has been planted in us and is now growing like a magic bean.

Same day, 20 min after saying good by to Bill, we walked by a marina, and we found a book: The Cruising Catamaran Advantage by Rod Gibbons ( we always scavenge the used books at the marinas). Same evening, in the cruisersforum.com, a guy from Arizona asked: „Are you sure you are committed to a monohull?“ -Not anymore!

We are now considering Catamarans, as well as monohulls. But it feels like we are starting all over again the research-reading-learning process, as we didn’t know anything about Cats… One  helpful for us article on cats was:

http://www.bayacht.com/goodbad.htm

Next week we are visiting a Fountain Pajot Athens 38, 1998, one-owner, never chartered. Looks like we have „a thing“ for French sailboats…Oh, and have you seen the layout; guess how many cabins there are in a 38 Catamaran? In the meantime, we are continuing to sail on the small 18 feet keelboats here at the Sailing Center every day for a few hours. And every day it is a different weather, different experience. But although it is a great practice for the four of us, we feel we now need to do some much more serious sailing on bigger boats. So next step will be crewing.

Fountain Pajot Athens 38 under sail

Fountain Pajot Athens 38 under sail

Fountain Pajot Athens 38 layout

Fountain Pajot Athens 38 layout

Fountain Pajot Athens 38

Fountain Pajot Athens 38

We’ll see what happens next…

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The Pineapple Volunteers. Our Life in the City Park. Part 2

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.   -Thoreau

Every Saturday there is a Farmer’s Market in Saint Petersburg, across from our park. White tents appear like mushrooms early in the morning at the big parking lot occupied by cars during week days. Merchants are selling fresh and organic produce, live chickens, fresh cheeses and meats, fresh guacamole, honey, herbs, freshly squeezed pineapple, orange, and sugarcane juice; there is live music, and people are coming from all directions to get whatever their appetite dictates them.

About two weeks ago, out of curiosity and attracted by the music, the smells, and the euphoria of it all, we went to check it out. It was about two in the afternoon and some of the merchants have already started to fold their tables and tents. As we had nothing better to do that day, me and Ivo volunteered to help one of them. Almost a quarter of the market was his territory. He gladly accepted our help, not comprehending at first our offer to „work for free“. It took us and five or six more paid helpers less than two hours to fold all tents and tables, to package all unsold fruits and vegetables, and to load a truck with all the crates, juice machines, and cash registers. At the end, the owner of the business again offered to pay us, and we refused again, telling him that we would rather take whatever damaged unwanted produce he might have. And he gave us a load of fruits and veggies, a mountain of vitamins and fibers,  inviting us to „come again next week“.

And we did. It became our Saturday routine volunteering at the market for about two hours in exchange for tons of produce (lots of leftover pineapples from the fresh pineapple juice machine). We have never before had so much fruits and greens at our table! We are now eating healthier than ever, saving much more money from grocery shopping than if the guy payed us in cash instead.

Moreover, our „work“ at the market is voluntary allowing us to preserve our independence. The time and effort which we commit are being remunerated directly with products instead of money which becomes a win-win situation for us and for our employer, as it is products which our employer does not need, but we do. I proudly consider this situation a successful survivalist strategy in urban environment and I can’t wait for next Saturday’s harvest!

The following are pictures and recipes of  our harvest. I will be adding more later on.

Saturday, December 23, 2012 Harvest #1

Saturday, December 22, 2012 Harvest #1

Fruit s for breakfast

Fruit s for breakfast

Kyopolu

This is a traditional Bulgarian food-preserve based on eggplants (I love eggplants) and peppers with lots of garlic.

I bake in the oven (or roast on a BBQ) one or two eggplants along with 4-5 green and/or red peppers (I prefer red for sweeter taste). In this version, I added 2-3 zucchinis and I baked everything for about 2 hours, or until well done. After, I peel the skin of all vegetables and remove the seeds from the peppers. Then, I finely chop them. You can puree them, but I prefer the less finer texture of larger pieces.  I add tomato paste or fresh tomatoes. If fresh, I first boil the tomatoes whole in the kyopolu paste for about 5 min., then take them out, peel the skin off and slice them. I boil everything in a deep pan or a pot with vegetable oil for about 20-30 min. and I sometimes add a hot finely sliced jalapeno pepper. Finally, I remove my Kyopolu from the stove and wait 5 min before adding as much crushed garlic as desired (4-5 cloves). If I have parsley lying around, I will definitely mince it and toss it in!

Kyopolu

Kyopolu

Banana Bread

You know this one, don’t you?

All you need is a few overripe bananas, I put 4 in this one, half a cup brown sugar, 2-3 table spoons vegetable oil, two cups all-purpose flour, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking soda and baking powder, some salt. I also added lots of crushed baking chocolate bark in the bread, as well as on top of it! You could use chocolate chips instead too.

So, you crush and puree the bananas, I do it with a fork, add the sugar, oil, and eggs and beat all this until it forms a liquid paste, then add the flour, soda, salt, crushed chocolate, mix lightly and poor in a pan. I use a flat pan, not the classic banana bread loaf one. Thus, I don’t have to bake it for 90 min, but only for about 45 min. and it is well done and has lots of crunchy parts.

 

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Green Salad

Roman salad with tomatoes, fresh green onions and cucumber, oil, salt, lemon juice.

Green Salad

Green Salad

Mish-Mash

Another traditional Bulgarian meal. Usually it is made in emergency situations, when there is nothing to eat, and something is needed ASAP.

It is scrambled eggs with vegetables. I first steam the veggies, usually peppers, tomatoes, fresh onions, in this case I added asparagus. When the veggies are done and cooked, I add 4-5 eggs and scramble them with the veggies.

Mish-Mash

Iceberg Salad

With tomatoes and cucumbers, salt, vegetable oil and lemon juice

Iceberg Salad

Iceberg Salad

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Christmas

December 24: it is Christmas Eve, as well as Ivo’s birthday.

A quiet evening at the park, something a little special for dinner in the motor home, maybe a chocolate cheesecake for desert, maybe candles, Ivo and me reinventing memories from our Bulgarian childhood Christmases for Maya and Vick… This is how I imagined our first ever „Tropical Christmas“ in Saint Pete, Florida, up until our new friends, Desi and Koko, called and invited us to celebrate it with them.

We first met Desi and Koko, and their two charming daughters, Dahlia, 5 years-old and Lily, 2 months-old, in our park the same week we arrived in St Pete. We became instant friends based on so many things we have in common; mainly (but not only): they are Bulgarians like us!

So instead of a lonely quiet evening at the park , we spent Christmas Eve (this is when Bulgarians as well as other nationalities celebrate Christmas) with 4 more Bulgarian families, 10 adults and 8 children, at Koko’s parent’s house in Odessa, Florida. There we were welcomed with Bulgarian folklor music and an endless table adorned with traditional Bulgarian Christmas meals, everything arranged in pots and plates coming directly from Bulgaria, from my childhood, from my grandmother’s house…

We got immersed in an all-Bulgarian Christmas at its best, and for this reason, I am sure, even Santa showed up with a full bag of presents for everyone! He was later voted „The Best Santa Clause Ever“ by Viktor and Maya.

Best Santa Ever

Best Santa Ever

It was truly an amazing evening, and I was happy and thankful that our children got the chance to experience a traditional Bulgarian Christmas, very similar to the ones from our memories.

The next morning, at the park, we woke up with an inexplicable calm feeling of nostalgia and gratitude.

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