Thursday, June 29, 2017

Digression: A restaurant start up in five days

First, a bit of history for those who don't know: for nine years Ola Lola's Garden Bar was well-known, popular burger restaurant and bar. Last August, we decided to shut down to do some much needed maintenance to get the house and the business ready to put on the market. We reopened just the bar - no kitchen, no food. We quickly realized that wasn't going to work. We had too good a reputation as a restaurant and too many people expected us to have food. When they found we no longer served our famous burgers, they went off in search of other edibles.

We talked with a couple of friends who have a food trailer with an excellent reputation and following. They were unhappy where their trailer was parked and were looking for a new location. We talked about bringing the trailer to Ola Lola's, to do the food side of the business. The only problem was they were leaving for the best three months of the season. When they got back on the island, they moved the trailer to Ola Lola's. Better late than never, even if the "season" was over and we were headed into the doldrums. We had food - really good food - again.

That was in April. We were finally getting recognized for having food, and the MiraSur (the name of the food truck) followers were catching on to the fact that they were open again and here at Ola Lola's. For personal family reasons, they couldn't be open on Monday but wanted to be open on Thursday. We changed our hours to match since it didn't make sense for one of us to be open without the other.

Which brings us to this week, wherein the rollercoaster that has become our lives continues.

On Saturday Matt (MiraSur owner and chef) told us that as of Sunday, they were closing. Ceasing operations. Their reasons are all good and all related to family and health. They plan to sell or rent the trailer. If we know anyone who is interested...

Not the best moment of Sunday.To salvage anything of the summer season we need to be strong for the next month and continue to have food. That set us scrambling. Basically, we had five days to do a complete restaurant start-up.

First we changed our days and hours back to Friday to Monday. That gave us an extra, fifth day. Then we had to find people to run the operation since Elaine's reasons for being out of the kitchen - working to start the therapeutic riding center - are still in place. Phone calls and texts to our former crew said yielded "yeses" but other work and schedules meant they couldn't start full time. So now Elaine is stepping in - TEMPORARILY - to get it going.

Then there was a menu to work out. Fortunately, we could base it on a simplified version of the old Ola Lola's burger menu. At least we all know how to prepare everything on that menu. The start-up learning curve would be much shorter. Once we had a menu, there was shopping and prep. We had to let our local baker know we were starting up again and wanted his bread. At first he wasn't too happy. He's trying to cut back himself and didn't want to take on the extra commitment. In the end, he agreed to do it because it's us, it's Ola Lola's.

The original conversation and plan was to use the MiraSur food trailer and operate out of that; it is all set up and ready to go. The more we talked through it, the less sense that made. The Ola Lola kitchen was never actually "designed." It evolved organically along with the menu. It really fit better than the food trailer. And, everyone involved is familiar with it. It's that whole learning curve thing again. So-o-o-o, now we had to completely clean and reset the kitchen, which hadn't been used as a commercial kitchen for almost a year.

Kitchen cleaning and food prep are going on as I write this on Thursday. Final shopping and prep for fresh stuff with happen on Friday before we open. .

Here we go! Again! And yet another chapter in the Ola Lola's story.

Change is good. Right?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Best moment 170622

It's early in the day yet - and there is a birthday party at Ola Lola's tonight - so this best moment could well change.

But for now today's best moment is diving at Natural this morning. Visibility wasn't great but it was a nice dive with Darryl and Vivian. There was hardly any current, the water was warm and the fish were friendly. And, we got to blow bubbles.Those opportunities have bee few and far between this year. I only need 92 more dives this year to reach 100 for the year and only 90 more to reach a total of 500.

Better get diving!

Best moment 170521

Happy Summer Solstice!

You know, some day just slip by with no one moment jumping out at you. Yesterday was such a day. Then others are so full of "best moments" it's hard to choose.

It could have been that early morning walk on the beach with Amber and Oz and that sparkling firs-day-of-summer sunshine on the ocean. On another day the best moment would have been that amazing riding lesson I got from our resident Therapeutic Riding Instructor. Or maybe trying a new wood-fired pizza place for the first time.

But today it's easy to choose: my best moment today was talking to our son Steve for nearly two hours.

He has so much good news! He and Jenny finally go married (they've trying since last November but that's another story). They are buying the house they've been renting. They got a great deal. Now they can clean out and restore the upstairs - which was rented as an apartment - and have bedrooms for all the kids. I am so happy for them!

They live outside Washington, D.C., so politics had to be part of the discussion. But so were the kids and plans for the garden and and and.

It was two of the best hours I've ever spent. We love you Steve, and Jenny, Angel, Olivia and William!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Best moment 170618 Father's Day

Well, the best moment certainly could have been the beach and trail ride. And it certainly could have been the Vitamin Sea therapy soaking in the tide pool. 


But hands-down the best moment was a long talk with our oldest son, John. We don't actually talk nearly enough. Talked for more than an hour about all kinds of things. The call may have been longer but both cell phone batteries were dying.  Thank you, Beeje, for the best moment of my Father's Day!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Best moment Friday 170616

Happy birthday - to ME! Yep I survived another lap around the sun and I'm here to tell about it.

For the two of you who are wondering this is not the umpteenth anniversary of my 29th birthday. Well, actually it is, but that's not how I look at it. I have 66 years and I am proud of it. I will wear every one of those years as a badge of honor.

So was there a special best moment? Several actually. Elaine made me baked oatmeal apple crisp for breakfast. We had lunch together, even if it was in the car on the road trying to get errands done before the rain. It didn't rain. Listening to my grand children sing happy birthday on the phone.

And this sounds weird but...Facebook. For all the crap on fb - and there is a shit-ton of it - on a day like your birthday it is an amazing thing. Okay, I get it: it's abbreviated. It's shorthand. It's an excuse to say, "I connected" without having to actually do anything like write a letter or send a card  or even make a telephone call. But...

More that a hundred people took a moment to say "happy birthday." Some of them wrote very touching personal comments. And in response I took a moment to consider each one of those people, who they are in my life, what they mean to me. Some of those people only have passing contact in my life; without fb we probably would have lost touch with each other. Some of those people were very important in my life years ago and we did lose touch, only to find contact again through fb. 

That's really why I stay on social media, to keep that contact. Not for the memes or the politics but for the people. I'm 2,000 physical miles away from some of these folks. It's nice to be reminded of who they are, who they were, and who they've become.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Best moment Wednesday 170614

It's very early in the day but I can't imagine what could top this.

Actually there are two best moments already. The first was seeing Elaine walk out of the gate at 4:00 am, hugging her, kissing her, knowing she was finally home.

The second was waking up with her beside me. Yes - I missed her a lot.

I am so happy for her and proud of her. She has accomplished so much in the last month. And now she's home.

Best moment Tuesday 170613

Message from Elaine that she's at O'Hare in Chicago and boarding her flight for the first leg of her trip home.

(Her United flight from Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale was delayed nearly two hours.She was supposed to have a comfortable break in Ft. Lauderdale to leave the secure zone, get her checked bag at United baggage claim, and then go to JetBlue in a different terminal. [Becasue United and JetBlue are not "partners," a fact that was repeatedly pointed out, her bag could not be checked through to Aguadilla.] With the delay that wasn't possible; she would have to rush to change terminals and be lucky to make the JetBlue flight to Aguadilla at all. It looked like she was going to have to leave her checked bag for United to deliver later.  

But - the JetBlue flight was also delayed. With a couple of flat-out sprints she was able to get her checked bag, get to JetBlue and make the flight to Aguadilla. Elaine and luggage made to Aguadilla, two hours late but hey, esta todo bien! Its all good.)

Best moment Monday 170612

 From Dorota Janik, Reins of Life:

Hello Everybody,

We have reached the end of series of our educational experiences. Our volunteers rocked again! It was intense couple weeks but so rewarding. Thank you everybody for your contributions to making us so successful. Thank you Amanda for your guidance. Thank  you all instructors for your time, talents, shared experience and knowledge. We should be so proud of our team!!!

I can not wait to share wonderful news with all of you: Aly, Debbie & Elaine can officially be called Therapeutic Riding Instructors. I am so proud of them! 

Dorota Janik, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Reins of Life, Inc.

Email from Elaine in response to the above email: 

I am incredibly happy and grateful. Please know you are all always welcome to come visit me in Puerto Rico (and share in our new soon-to-be therapeutic riding center). I will keep you posted as we move forward.

Hugs and horse whinnies,

All the work and being away for the last month has paid off. Elaine is now a fully certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. That's a huge step forward on our Next Great Adventure!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Best moment Sunday 170611

A nice, easy trail ride with Marie and Zip. We trotted, cantered(!) and enjoyed a relaxed beautiful ride. It was a beautiful day!

Best moment Saturday 170610

"Coral reefs are threatened worldwide. Here's a way to rescue broken coral fragments that have fallen in sand and will die. With the expertise of NOAA, the community was able to make some racks to plant the fragments in a coral garden! After they hopefully regrow, we will be able to put them back on a safer place on the reef." --Kathy Hall, marine biologist

On Saturday volunteers met on Shacks Beach for the first "plantings" in our new coral nursery.

The nursery bed is PVC pipe with holes drilled in it. Coral fragments are attached to cups filled with cement with twisted wire. The cups are then placed in the holes and secured with cable ties.

Volunteers carry the PVC frame out to a pre-selected spot then divers secure the frame to the ocean floor with rerod driven into the sand.

Meanwhile, other volunteers collect fragments of coral, in this case elkhorn coral (and one bit of staghorn), for seeding.

And the first seed bed is in place! The coral will be allowed to grow here. Healthy coral will later be transplanted to the reef. If this bed is successful, more will be added. Several more frames are already under construction.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Best moment Friday 170609

Diving at Shacks - for the second day in a row!

Shacks Beach - "our" beach, the beach just a few minutes' walk from home - is probably my favorite beach in Puerto Rico. That's saying something because Puerto Rico has no lack of beautiful beaches and truth be told, I still have a few to explore. Part of the attraction is proximity: It's hard to not to love a beach that is a five-minute walk from home. Part of the attraction is the lack of crowds. While other beaches (Jobos and Crashboat for example) are jammed with umbrellas, boomboxes and bodies, when Shacks is at its busiest, there are maybe a couple hundred people. Most of those are packed into one small area; the other two miles of beach are nearly empty.

Part of the attraction is the variety of activities: snorkeling and scuba diving over and through a 8,000-year-old reef, paddle boarding in a protected ocean pool (behind the aforementioned reef), kite surfing, surfing and just hanging out on the beach are there, all together in one spot.

Scuba diving at Shacks is a multidimensional experience. First there is the swim-out over Blue Hole. Not as deep as the famous 3,000-foor-deep Blue Hole in Belize (ours is more like 35 feet deep), Blue Hole is an area were the reef grew around a sandy area, making a hole in the ocean.

KAP (Kite Aerial Photography) view of the inner reef and Blue Hole.

The outer reef at Shacks is called a "finger-and-groove" reef system. The reef has grown in to long "fingers" with canyons between them. The canyon walls can be as much as 35 feet from the sandy bottom to the top of the reef.

This part of the reef is like Swiss cheese, riddled with holes, nooks, crannies and swim-throughs. Beyond the finger-and-groove is a long plateau of flat reef.

The dive then loops back around to the finger-and-groove. Going out we usually swim over the outer wall of Blue Hole. That's mostly to save air, so we're not using up air getting out to the cool stuff. Coming back into Blue Hole we swim through the reef, through one of several underwater tunnels that lead from the outside back in.

Coming out of the "big tube" into Blue Hole. Not all the tunnels that lead into Blue Hole are this big.

Once divers are back in Blue Hole, we can either swim across the sand bottom -

or go around the edge of Blue Hole. More swim-throughs and holes and cracks to the surface offer an incredible laser light show. (See the photo at the top of this post.) My dive buddy Darryl even does what he calls the "caverns tour" of the edges of Blue Hole, just to experience this. Many times he does the "caverns tour" as a second dive after diving the outside reef.

Either way, whether we swim across or around Blue Hole, one more swim-through tunnel leads back to the surface and back to Shacks Beach.

Every dive we do here is different. It's the swim-throughs and holes and cracks and canyons that make the experience at Shacks unique and very popular. Pretty much everybody (including us!) wants to dive Shacks. Unfortunately, Mother Ocean tends to limit our diving here to the summer months. Shacks faces due north, right in to the teeth of every swell coming down from the North Atlantic. Some years it's ever too rough to dive in the summer. Last year for example we only dove Shacks three times and two of those were lulls during surf season.

Anyone interested in diving Shacks please note: It is imperative that you dive with a guide who knows this reef. It is a beautiful dive if you know what you are doing. It can be dangerous if you don't To be honest, very few local dive guides are truly able to safely lead dives at Shacks. If you're interested, contact us and we'll hook you up, Mother Ocean allowing.

A quick transparency note: The photos in this post are not all from one dive. You probably knew that already but I just want to be clear.

 Here is a link to video I did of part of the caverns tour: Into the darkness, into the light

(Sorry it has taken so long to post this.)

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Best moment Sunday 170604

How did I not post this? The best moment of Sunday, 06/04? The whole day! It was Amber the Wonder Dog's 17th birthday! That is incredible! He's still with us, still running on the beach every day.

I hope it was a happy day for him. He has brought so much joy into so many people's lives. He deserves for every day to be a great wonderful day.

Best moment Thursday 170608

Okay, the day isn't over yet and something truly amazing could still happen. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the best moment today was diving at Shacks.

Finally! A nitrogen fix! And we're planning to go again tomorrow! I didn't take many photos today. Since it's been so long since I've been in the water, I wanted to concentrate just on getting my diving mechanics back. A wise choice I think.

It was a good dive. We say three turtles - one of them huge - French angel fish, black durgons and a bunch of other stuff. It was not only good to dive, it was nice to dive a site that a bazillion other divers don't. Very few people besides us dive the outside reef. The reef looked clean and pretty healthy, not all kicked out like some of the more popular reefs.

Ahhhhh! Back in the water again.

Best moment Wednesday 170607

Hmmm - yoga or snorkeling?

Gotta go with yoga for this one. Snorkeling was okay, a chance to be in the water. But one of our favorite snorkeling spots has become a very popular little beach. Parking is a pain and there are lots of people scaring away the sealife. Don't get me wrong: it is still beautiful and amazing and with yoga before it snorkeling would have been the best moment.

Yoga was great. Our teacher Rosie said she wants to make yoga junkies out of all of us. Well, she certainly has made one of me!

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Best moment Saturday 170603

Holy Summer Surf, Batman! It doesn't happen often unless there is a hurricane but we had surf! In June! My friend Anna wanted a few late/past season photos and I manage to get a few.

I gotta say though, I am ready for the ocean to lay down for the summer so we can so some diving! I am jonesing for some nitrogen in my system. But shooting surf in June was a pretty good moment.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Best moment Thursday 170601

Oh the irony! The best weather day we've had in three weeks was June 1 - official opening day of hurricane season.

It was kind of a day of best moments: the electricity came back on after being off for 24 hours. No one knows why it was off, let alone why it was off for so long.

I actually went in the ocean for some Vitamin Sea therapy. Still didn't get dive yet but I did snorkel for an hour.

And the best moment of all was I took KTJ for a walk to the ocean. She really hasn't been out since Elaine left and she needed an outing. A couple of things about this outing: One, I'm used to being around the horses, to have all three crowd around me. I've worked with KTJ (who, remember is an almost 17-hand Thoroughbred) but a rarely take her for walks. When we work with horses, we talk about our personal space, our "bubble." When you (or in this case I) walk with her on a narrow trail, "bubble" takes on a whole new dimension. She is a big girl!

The other thing I need to mention is how good she was. I admit I was nervous taking her to the beach. The last time I did that coming home she bucked and reared and threw a bunch of kicks. No one was hurt but when it was scary. When she gets up on her hind legs, she's not just big, she's huge! And thos kicks! So I was nervous. But I didn't want to transfer my nervousness to her because that would make her nervous and more likely to act up.

I just talked to her all the way home. "Good girl! What a good girl! It's all good we're fine." Okay it was a lot of self-talk but it kept both of us calm. We got home without a single incident. Next time, I can respect her size and space, but I don't think I will be as nervous. Watchful, yes. Nervous, not as much.

Best moment Wednesday 170531

You know Elaine has been off training for her Therapeutic Riding Instructor certification at Reins of Life in Indiana. We talk every day, frequently about what is happening with her training.

At first the going was a bit tough. She learned that what she is doing in a month "normally" takes 12 to 18 months. Her mentor Amanda is the senior TR instructor at Reins so her client list has all the most difficult cases. These are the clients Elaine is training with. Again, "normally" many of these clients would never be assigned to a newly certified instructor, let alone an instructor-in-training. But, "ah, you can handle it!"

And she has been! On Wednesday evening when we talked, she sounded great! She is now seeing some of the clients for the second and third time and that makes so much difference.

I won't go into long boring detail (Thank you, John!); it wouldn't make much sense anyway. Suffice it to say she had two really great productive teaching sessions that day. She was really happy about it.

And that made my best moment of the day. I was so glad to hear her sounding and feeling really good about a teaching session. That truly is magical!

Best moment Tuesday 170530

My mornings at "the ranch" are pretty much the same: Have coffee, feed the cat, feed horses, run dogs on the beach, feed dogs, feed me, make sure horses have hay and let Chocolate out of the corral.

Tuesday was a normal day. All the critters were taken care of, the horses safely in the paddock grazing on hay.

Until I looked out the window and saw three horses in the field across the street.

What the...? I just left our horses! How did they get out so quickly? I ran to the window and looked out at the paddock. There were our horses, alert to the other horses but safely inside their enclosure.

After a moment of panic, the best moment was when I realized those weren't our horses out in the field, that ours were indeed tucked in the paddock.

Friday, June 02, 2017

different photos

I wrote before about being interested in all kinds of photography: land/seascapes, food, etc. Working with Matt in the food truck MiraSur here at Ola Lola's is giving me the opportunity to play with my food. Here are a couple of photos so far.

Above is the MiraSur pulled pork sandwich on their own homemade potato bread roll. Below is the grilled portobello sandwich on homemade sourdough bread.

Matt does amazing things with food but he really wants to be a baker full time. He's making bread to sell so I hope to get a lot more practice photographing bread.

The nice thing about this gig is then I get to eat it!

off topic - more photos

Here are more photos from the "morning light" series:

First, I love black and white photography. Back in the film days, I had my own darkroom. In the digital age I've struggle to find ways to create black and white photos I really like. Recently I found a couple of ways to make black and whites. This is another take on that sunshine "moonlight" photo from a couple of days ago.

I call this photo "Molten Silver Sea." It's not black and white, although it looks like it. If you look closely there is just a bit of color in the sky.

 Another dramatic black and white although not as contrasty as the others. I like the tight horizontal crop.

These two are the same photo, one with color left in, one contrasty black and white. I can't decide which I like better.

Hope you enjoy them all.

Best moment Thurday 170525

Did I say surf was gone for the season? I spoke too soon! On Thursday there was a nice little swell bump. I got a great set of photos from it. Since usually surf is done by this time, this session was a bonus - and a best moment.

You can see more of the photos from this session on our website,

Best moment Saturday 170520

(Sorry these posts are out of order. I'm trying get the story of my life back in order after a confusing week of rain, thunderstorms, squirrelly dogs and power outages.)

Because of the weather - unseasonably warm one week, daily thunderstorms the next - I spent a lot more time indoors through the midday. And I admit it: much of the time I could have been writing I've spent learning more about photography.

I've been into photography since I was 16, a really long time ago. Most of the time I consider myself to be a good photographer, self-taught, but pretty knowledgeable. Every now and then I realize how much I don't know and how much better I could be.

Since the surf is down and the drought on diving continues, I'm looking for other things to photograph. As a true Gemini, I'm interested in all of it. For a while I'll focus on portraits, then land/seascapes, then food photography. That's a lot of ground to cover. I've spent a lot of time watching videos, learning about software, studying other photographers' work, and then more time trying to practice what I'm learning.

My morning walks with Amber and Oz are frequently among my best moments. Lately, the early morning light at the beach is fascinating. The strong highlights on the water are mesmerizing. This photo from Saturday is one I love, and puts into practice a lot of what I've been working on. The dark moodiness almost looks like moonlight but it is hard morning sunlight.

There are more of these to come. I'll post more later, maybe not as best moments but just because.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Best moment Sunday 170521

Still a drought on diving so Sunday's best moment was - ho-hum - another beach ride