Thursday, December 24, 2015

'Twas the Night Before Christmas...Nautical Style

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the boat
not a creature was stirring, not even a roach.
The dry bags were hung on the davits with care, 
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their berth, 
while visions of snorkeling filled them with mirth.
And mama in her ponytail and I in my headlamp, 
had just dropped the 'hook in a new harbor "camp".

When out on the deck there arose such a clatter, 
I sprang from the nav station to see what was the matter.
To the aft cabin I flew like a flash, 
grabbed my machete and opened the hatch.

The full moonlight sparkled and danced on the ocean, 
while our boat gently rocked with a side to side motion.
When what to my sun-tired eyes should appear, 
but a flying pirogue pulled by eight tiny deer.
With a laughing old helmsman singin' a Caribbean shtick, 
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than dolphins, his coursers they came, 
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:
"Now Dasher! Now Dancer! 
Now Prancer! Now Vixen!
On Comet! On Cupid!
On Donner! On Blitzen!
From the top of the mast all the way to the clew!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away you!"

As sea birds before a wild hurricane fly, 
when met with an obstacle, take to the sky.
Over twinkling anchor lights 'round the harbor they flew
with a boat full of parts and St. Nicholas, too. 

When suddenly I heard on the cabin-top roof 
the prancing and pawing of each tiny hoof.
As I clicked off my headlamp and was turning around, 
down the companionway stairs came St. Nick with a bound!

Hawaiian shirt, bermuda shorts and waternut in hand,
his feet and his face were all covered in sand.
A sack full of provisions he had slung on his hub
and he looked like a man just returned from Sam's Club.

His eyes, how they sparkled!  His wrinkles, how cheery!
His cheeks were all sunburned, his nose was all peely!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a sail, 
the ends of his beard housed a braid, like a tail.
The stump of his Cuban cast a faint yellow glow,
but the Old Salt, he knew better than to smoke down below.
His face was all weathered, and he had a big tum, 
from a lifetime of rays and plenty of fun. 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old Salt
and I knew right away this was not an assault.
A wink of his eye and a swig of his rum, 
soon gave me to know he was nothing but fun.

He spoke not a word, but got to work down below
And serviced our systems with the speed of a pro!
He cleaned up our terminals and replaced an old hose, 
After halving my "to-do" list, up the companionway he rose.

He jumped into his boat, to his team gave a whistle,
and away they all went like a nautical missile.
But I heard him exclaim as he sailed through the night
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

© original adaptation written by Brittany Meyers, property of

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas in the Caribbean: Getting into the Spirit in Paradise

I love Christmas. It is, bar none, my favorite time of year. While I'd like to say that, despite the lack of snow, it still feels very much like Christmas down here - that would be a lie. But we do have spirit! The main difference (besides the aforementioned lack of snow) is the fact that we aren't surrounded by family as we would typically be this time of year. We're not cuddled in front of a fire watching Christmas movies (possibly my favorite holiday tradition), and Scott is working like mad every single day because right now it's "peak season" down here. The snowy long drives into the homes and arms of loved ones are not in our future for a while, so instead we get to be with the family we "choose" (our friends) and we get into the spirit in other ways.

The girls and I decorated our boat with holiday crafts during our famed week of quarantine, and we're going to be making decorations for our tiny tree (compliments of our best friends, the Sunkissed Soeters) on Christmas Eve, mostly because the twins would no doubt have destroyed any construction paper ornaments we make if we'd done it any sooner. Which brings me to another point of why this year feels a little different; the twins. Haven and Mira are at that very tricky 'in-between' age where they are into EVERYTHING. Crafts are difficult (at best) to complete, and watching a Christmas movie with them? Forget about it! These babies don't sit still! Baking cookies with them? Insanity! They're too young to even understand Christmas, so there's not a ton of pressure to 'make it magical' for them not to mention the fact that we are outside, and not in our boat, 90% of their wakeful hours. Isla, however, does get it and I'm trying to keep the spirit going for her as best I can.

We were able to visit Santa before we came down (and before Thanksgiving when there were zero lines and Santa wasn't burned out). I hadn't planned on going but Isla saw him from the mall indoor play park we were at and insisted on paying him a visit. "Mommy! Do you think he will be able to come to our boat?" she asked me with pained eyes. "Of course he will," I told her. "Santa gets to visit all children." "But..." she started with a sad face, "We don't have a chimney." It was decided then and there that we'd make sure Santa knew where to find us. We went right up to him and after a little coaxing, she spoke to him, "Santa...we live on a boat and don't have a chimney. You are going to have to come through our companionway. Is that okay? Can you still come see us?" Our awesome Santa gave a hearty laugh, told his Elf to take some notes and said, "Where is your boat darling?" Isla told him that we lived on Tortola and that our boat was blue and named 'Asante'. He then told her that he used to live on a boat in Hawaii in the summers with Mrs. Claus and that he actually had a dinghy! "I will take my dinghy to your boat!" he told her with a smile. Isla's eyes lit up and she looked at me with a beaming grin. "And don't you worry," he continued, "I can get on your boat and come through your cockpit to see you. My Elf has taken notes and I will not forget you!" After that, the girls all sat on his lap and Isla told him she wanted a stuffed Hello Kitty doll for Christmas, gave him a big hug and we were on our way. The relief she felt was so obvious, I had no idea she was so worried about him not being able to visit. Point for the spontaneous Santa encounter - it was all she talked about for days. "Santa has a dinghy!" she'd excitedly tell anyone who would listen.

We're also keeping spirit alive in other ways...Our Elf, Crispin, has followed us to the boat, and while I completely forgot to move him during our crazy week of illness, he has come back to life and been sneaking around our boat each evening, finding a new spot to hide (easier than you'd think on a small boat!) where he can watch the girls during the day and report back to Santa in the night. We listen to Christmas Carols and this morning made some Christmas cards for a few of our favorite friends and marina employees (you better believe the beach bar is getting one! Our girls are bellied up to it every day!) Darcy and I are going to do a little beach "treasure hunt" on Christmas day for the kids (our hubbies will be working) and her and I are also planning a beach pot-luck for our families and anyone else who wants to join. My cousin, Emily, is flying in to be with us and we're hoping to spend time with our good friends Jody and Peter from Where the Coconuts Grow as well. We will also be writing him a detailed note and thank you to Santa tomorrow. As well as leaving him some cookies and carrots for his reindeer.

We are also talking a lot about the "spirit" of Christmas and what it really means, namely: being with the people you love, saying "thank you" for what you have, and helping others. We don't go crazy on gifts over here, just a few small things for each girl - and they're not expecting much because we've never gone crazy for Christmas. It's all about family, friends, and love. That's what matters most. Gifts are just icing on the cake.

So that's what our Christmas will look like down here. As much as I miss the crackling fire, eggnog, jumbo cocktail shrimp and being surrounded by family in a warm and cozy home, I'm definitely happy to be here and - honestly - I don't miss the snow one bit. The beach will do me just fine!

Merry Christmas, everyone. Much love from our family to yours. May all be Merry and Bright! xoxo

Reindeer footprint decorations.
Christmas cards ready to be delivered! 
Simple ornaments strung up (out of the reach of the twins) on our indoor Christmas lights.
Some of our home-made decorations. 
Ornament colored by Mira.
Our sneaky Elf, Crispin, on the lookout for good behavior! 
Our boat as decked as we can be this year, with our tiny tree ready to be decorated tomorrow morning.
Christmas in the Caribbean
Snowbirds fill the air
Christmas in the Caribbean
Lots of presents everywhere
We don't live in a hurry
Send away for mistletoe
Christmas in the Caribbean
We got everything but snow.
- Jimmy Buffett

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Daily Life in the Islands: Finding our Groove

The dust of "newness" is settling and we're falling into a nice little routine here at Nanny Cay. But we were not without our hurdles...After Haven fell ill with hand foot and mouth, Mira got a double ear infection and (what I am guessing) an upper respiratory infection as well. Sleepless nights followed long days and it was a pretty tough couple of weeks, particularly because I was on my own almost entirely. Being boat-bound and in quarantine was a real challenge for all of us. We used the opportunity to get crafty and make Christmas decorations for our boat and get into the holiday spirit. As fun as those crafts were, my girls are 'outside' kids and the sunshine was calling. After a good two weeks, it seemed that all our illnesses had run their courses and we were able to venture back out into the world. I'm hoping we caught most of the 'big stuff' that Tortola has to offer and that health will reign for a few months. Being a stay-on-boat mom to three little ones is hard work, and it's a lot harder when they're sick, tired and cranky.

With Scott gone almost every single day from 7:00am to 7:00pm at work, I roll solo with the girls most of the day. Luckily, we have chosen to live in a place where there is plenty for them to do right outside our companionway and, let me tell you, it is SUCH a blessing. There's a beach, park and pool all within a five minute walk from our boat. There are loads of kids around, from locals, to expats, to visitors - so our girls have plenty of playmates to socialize with. It's really a perfect place for little ones because not only does it feel a bit like the 'good old days' with kids running wild and free, this community very much adopts the "village" mentality and keeps an eye on one another. Every day I am grateful to be here.

So what do our days look like? Mornings are usually spent at the beach, where no matter what our girls always find hours of entertainment and new friends. Afterwards, we return to the boat for a rinse down, lunch, and naps and then in the afternoon we hit the pool which is very conveniently located right next to the beach bar. It's like the Caribbean Cheers. I love it and, yes, I also love my afternoon cocktails which very much "take the edge off". Sure, our days are pretty predictable and we follow a sort of routine, but when it comes to begin outnumbered three-to-one by little ones, I find it absolutely necessary. At least once a day I am stopped by someone wondering how the heck I am doing this on the boat and I tell them three things: "Snacks, naps and cocktails!" No joke, without those three things I would be in a padded cell.

Before we came down I treated myself to an early Christmas present with some of the money I have made on this blog, and sprang for a fancy new camera. I am now the (very) proud owner of a Canon EOS Rebel T5 Digital SLR Camera and some amazing lenses (50mm and Wide Angle lenses are the winners!) - I still have a lot to learn on the photography front, but holy heck I wish I would have invested in a proper camera years ago! This thing is so much fun and I just love the photos I am getting with it. I know they say that it's not about the camera but the photographer, but I'm going to go ahead and say that, yes, a camera (and specifically lenses) make a humongous difference in the quality of photos. I love my new toy!

Anyway, here's a little glimpse into our life as it looks these days. I'm with our girls all day, every day. We're outside in the sunshine, barefoot and fancy-free. We are surrounded by a wonderful community of friends, new and old. I really couldn't ask for anything more.
During quarantine we made a lot of Christmas crafts from trees to ornaments to reindeer!
They still love this little tub! This is where we rinse/bath every day after the beach and pool.
This is our back yard. Does it get any better than this? I don't think so. We love ourPacific Breeze Beach Tent .
We still always love to play on the deck of our boat. Our home is our very own jungle gym, and these kids are monkey's!
Playing nicely together with our Spielstabil sand toys by HABA, USA
My little Gerber baby. Don't let her innocent looks fool you, this girl is Denis the Menace in female form!
Both of the twins (who happen to be Pisces) are total fish. They LOVE the water.
We make a lot of "potion" in our buckets, throwing all sorts of shells, sand and water together.
Every day we are treated to spectacular views. Living in such beauty is truly inspiring.
Sandy toes...and nose...and everything else! Little Mira was still getting over her cold here.
They are so happy on the beach.
New friends and make-believe games.
Beach Jenga with our new friends, Landon and Micheal.
Combed beach.
Every night an amazing sunset with island ridge lines in the distance.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Wonder of the Wonderbag: A Review

I was skeptical of the Wonderbag. First, cooking is not really my 'thing' and second, it looks more like a zafu meditation cushion than a culinary device. But a culinary device it is! The "Wonder" of the Wonderbag is the fact that this pillowy contraption is actually a slow cooker in disguise...and one which uses zero energy to boot. What the what?

My good friend Darcy was the first to tell me about the Wonderbag. I trust everything she recommends as she and I are equally thorough in our product selection so I knew I needed to consider it. Anything that makes cooking easier and/or less painful for me is a "win" in my book, so I decided to look a little further into it.

The Wonderbag is slightly more scientific than it looks, and is strategically designed to retain heat (or cold) for up to eight hours. With an insulated core that keeps heat from escaping, all you need to do is bring your food to a boil using conventional methods and then put it in the bag. Hours later and voila! your meal is not only fully cooked, but still piping hot. If that isn't compelling enough, the company is also socially responsible and for every bag purchased they donate a bag to a family in Africa. This company is making healthier, more sustainable meals all across the globe! After reading the incredible back story, reviews and getting input from fellow users, it was clear the Wonderbag made perfect sense for our boat. I reached out to the company to see if they would send us one and thankfully, they agreed.


The first major advantage of the Wonderbag, for me, is the fact that I can cook dinner at noon. My girls nap every day from 12:30pm to about 2:30pm and this is literally the only time during daylight hours where I get anything productive done. I am usually out and about with the girls all morning and all afternoon, which means I am not home cooking. Come 4:45pm I am a harried and rushed mess trying to get our girls out of the pool/off the beach/back from the park and home in time to cook up something fast so I can get them bathed and in bed by 6:30pm. It's a little....hectic. Cooking on a small boat with three toddlers running amok is not exactly easy.

The Wonderbag changes all that.

The first meal I tried in my bag was my favorite go-to simple dish, one pot Mexican quinoa. I put the girls down for their naps and got to work. I followed the recipe, boiling the dish for 15 minutes or so and then plopping it in my Wonderbag. After wrangling the girls home from our afternoon outing, a hot meal was ready and waiting. No frantic thrown-together dinner. No rushing like mad because I needed to cook something, quick. We simply came home, showered up and ate. Sigh. I was sold.

The next meal I tried was a spinach lasagna. This one made me nervous because...well, lasagna made without the use of an oven? Strange. I found a recipe online, tweaked it slightly based on what I had available here, and got to work. Five hours later we had a delicious lasagna piping hot and ready to eat. Once again, I sang my gorgeous pillow-turned-cooking-contraption more praise.

I love that we use less energy to cook.

I love that I can leave food "cooking" on the boat without the worry of fire.

I love that, no matter what, the Wonderbag will not burn my food.

I love that I can cook at a time that is convenient for me.

I love that I can keep our girls out playing in nature, longer.

I just kind of love this thing.


While the Wonderbag is amazing, it is a little on the large size which could be a problem for some smaller boats with less storage space. It resembles a giant pillow but, luckily, because it is "squish-able" is slightly easier to store. We have a small locker underneath a settee cushion where ours lives so it is not cumbersome or in the way in the slightest. Also, cooking with it can be a little tricky because water does not evaporate as it would over, say, a flame or in an oven. This means some recipes need a little tweaking. Luckily, the folks at Wonderbag have put together a great page on Tips and Tricks to help beginners like me. Like anything, I think the more I use this great product, the more efficient and easy it will be. They also have a fantastic Recipe Index with tried and true Wonderbag delights.


I love my Wonderbag. For me, the fact that it keeps food warm for up to eight hours and allows me to cook meals at a time that is convenient for me is the only reason I need to own this thing. I LOVE IT.

Do you use a Wonderbag? Have any great recipes to share? Or is there another slow cooking method/product that you love aboard? Share in the comments if you wish!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Illness Aboard: Getting Acquainted with Cabin Fever

Hand, foot and mouth. It sounds more like a children's song than a medical diagnosis, but it is a highly contagious (and super menacing) "disease" that is - according to many parents - one of the worst child viruses to have in your home. I will add that it's also a terrible one to have on your boat. The last few days have been some of my most challenging since living aboard, culminating in an epic 'ugly cry' last night as I cradled my inconsolable baby and let the overwhelm take over.

No sooner had I finished writing about what a (relatively) 'smooth transition' this has been when I started noticing what I thought were bug bites popping up on Haven's legs. After two days of more bumps surfacing and fussiness of epic proportions (and, trust me, you don't want to meet fussy Haven!) it dawned on me: hand, foot and mouth disease. Isla had it around the same age back when we were in Grenada so I was familiar with what it could look like and the havoc it would wreak. Even still, I hit Google to confirm and sure enough, Haven's is a text book case, with the "bites" turning into oozing blisters and scars all over her body and mouth. My poor little Gerber baby looks like a leper.

The night I confirmed the illness was the worst. I resorted to co-sleeping, crammed up in the v-berth with the girls while Haven cried and writhed in pain every fifteen minutes. She'd scream and squirm in pain, despite the Motrin I had dosed her with before bed, and nuzzle up to me for comfort. Then Mira, upset at being awoken from deep slumber and also wanting mommy, would start screaming and try to nuzzle up to me, knocking Haven out of the way. The two of them would fight and cry over my upper body's limited real estate, and it would take a while to setting them back down. This happened over, and over, and over all. night. long. Needless to say, it was a sleepless night for all of us and a very long day followed with ill-behaved under-napped children and a boat that I'm shocked was not reported to authorities from the amount of blood-curdling screaming coming from within. This exhausted mama hit a low point and was at wit's end most hours of the day. Not my finest hours by a long shot.

Illness with little ones is no fun, period. It is significantly less fun on a boat. Scott, who has been burning the midnight oil and putting in twelve hour days at work, has not been around to help me much as we get our new endeavor up and running (details coming soon, I swear!) - so I've been battling this on my own. Pre-diagnosis, I was taking our girls on outings to the beach, pool and park on heavy rotation with my girlfriend Darcy and her boys but because hand, foot and mouth (HFM) is so contagious, I can no longer adhere to my sanity-saving routine of keeping them out and about. Instead, I have to keep our girls quarantined and away from other children, meaning we are contained in our (relatively small) boat for hours and hours on end. This is not easy and very challenging. We don't have television and the twins are too young to enjoy videos or pass any adequate time on an iPad, and being in such close quarters means they are in each other's space a lot which, in turn, means tantrums, screams and fits that are enough to drive a solo mama to the nut house. I'm also told to keep them apart so the other two don't get it which is, quite literally, impossible considering our living arrangement and my lack of 'back up'.  We hope for the best: that the other two are spared and when Haven's episode runs it's course, we will be done with this.

Luckily, our boat is well-equipped with medical supplies to tend to sick kids, though we've rarely had to use them. We carry plenty of pain reliever and fever reducers such as Motrin, Tylenol to relieve pain as well as a healthy dose of topical ointments like Neosporin, Coconut oil and Calamine lotion to help skin ailments like the blisters. I'm a long-time fan of using essential oils on our boat, and when I was back home my sister-in-law, Julie, introduced me to the beauty of diffusing them for household wellness, and I have been diffusing a combination of Thieves and Purification oils in my awesome portable USB mini aroma diffuser. I've also combined Lavender oil with a carrier lotion to apply to Haven's skin to help with her sores. All of these efforts seem to be helping and, knock on wood, so far the rest of us have been spared this awful affliction.

Staving off cabin fever associated with quarantining three small kids on a boat is almost as difficult as fighting the real illness. We've been rotating our two iPads, introducing toys in shifts and reading lots of books. We're getting creative making forts and, literally, climbing up the walls but I think we might be on the mend. Haven slept through the night last night (hallelujah!) and seems significantly happier today. In a few days time, we might just venture out. For now, we'll remain as quarantined as we can on the boat, with breaks for a meal or two here and there and trips to the ice cream shop for treats to soothe Haven's sore throat.  Big thanks to all of you who have given us advice, thoughts and well-wishes on our Facebook Page, it's nice to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and be reminded that "this too, shall pass."
Haven has sores like this all over her body.
Just a few on her hand. She's hard to photograph because she's always moving, but there were many more!
Legos offer great entertainment, until all three girls want the same Lego piece!
Playing with our Imaginets
The stairs are a hot play zone!
Playing nicely together...some of the time ;)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...