New Book: Opal Palmer Adisa’s “Painting Away Regrets”

We welcome Opal Palmer Adisa’s new novel, Painting Away Regrets, which was recently published by Peepal Tree Press (2011).

Description: Christine and Donald are two modern, urban professionals, fundamentally unsuited to one another, caught in the currents of life, and bound by the one thing they have in common–powerful sexual desires. They meet in graduate school at Berkeley and become consumed by the amazing sexual chemistry they share. Marriage and four children later, Christine and Donald are at a crossroads. Moving easily between the Caribbean, Africa and the USA, the novel dances between the real-life drama that unfolds between Christine and Donald, and the spiritual world of the Orishas where every human act has a spiritual ramification.

Gail Tsukiyama (author of The Samurai’s Garden and The Street of a Thousand Blossoms) writes: “Rich in the vibrant rhythms and colors of the Caribbean, Painting Away Regrets, is a song that resonates the redeeming power of love and family. Opal Palmer Adisa’s storytelling shines in the lush island folklore; in this story of one woman’s spiritual and sensual journey towards healing and forgiveness.”

[The book cover features LeRoy Clarke’s painting “Arima Mama.”]

Opal Palmer Adisa holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. She is a Jamaica-born, award-winning poet, and professor of creative writing and literature at the California College of the Arts, and her work has appeared in more than 200 journals, anthologies, and other publications. She is also the author of numerous poetry and short story collections. Her first novel was It Begins with Tears.

For more information, see

Thirsty Thursday – Jamaican Rum Punch!


The basic measurements are as follows:

  • 1 part sour
  • 2 parts sweet
  • 3 parts strong
  • 4 parts weak

What is used for each part (sour, sweet, strong, and weak) is what provides the endless variations. What I found most often is closest to these ingredients:

  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • 2 parts grenadine syrup (Note: Anchor Cherry Syrup is more traditional in Jamaica, but harder to find elsewhere.)
  • 3 parts Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum
  • 4 parts water


Mix all ingredients in a pitcher or punch bowl. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve over ice.

Rum Notes: Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum is the best selling rum in Jamaica. While not as popular in the US, it’s what you’ll find in over 90% of all Rum Punch recipes in Jamaica. Be careful, though: it’s very strong.You can find Wray & Nephew at Beverages & More, among other places. If you can’t find Wray & Nephew locally, and don’t want to order online, you could substitute one of the lighter Jamaican rum’s from Appleton Estates. Appleton Estates is the second oldest Rum producer in the world. I’d recommend either the Special Gold, or the VX.

Variations: There are many variations on this drink, but I think most of them originated in places other than Jamaica. One popular method is to substitude fruit juice for the water. I’ve seen people use pineapple juice, orange juice, peach juice, and more. Personally, I think it makes the drink too sweet, but feel free to experiment.

Another optional variation (often done in Jamaica) is to add whole pimiento (allspice), nutmeg, or cloves. You’ll want to remove them before serving, so putting them in a tea bag or cheesecloth will help.

Optionally, add slices of fresh fruit.

One last word on ingredients: a traditional Jamaican flavored syrup is Anchor Cherry Syrup, which can be found online. Feel free to substitute.


Christmas Lights Up in Cayman

From elaborate lighting displays and spectacular fireworks to homes draped with decorations and boats beaming from bow to stern, Christmas is Cayman’s most festive time of year. It’s a time when everyone seems to pull out all the stops to make the most of the season and spread holiday cheer. There are gala tree-lighting celebrations, outdoor Christmas concerts, holiday craft markets and a dazzling array of yuletide events for the entire family. In Cayman, Christmas is done up big — and bright.

Lights Show
Highly recommended is taking a Christmas lights tour, as residents here outdo themselves when it comes to decking the halls. Many dress their homes and tropical gardens from head to toe in holiday attire — and every year the decorations seem to get bigger, better and brighter. There are some incredibly ornate and elaborate displays that take weeks to create, including two private homes on the must-see list: the Crighton family in Spotts and the Bodden sisters in South Sound. Festooned with festive lights and whimsical displays, they draw thousands of visitors each year.

Every year, the Crighton family home and expansive grounds are transformed into a truly magical Christmas wonderland, a tradition that began in the 1970s. It’s the largest holiday display by a private home: a stunning showcase of animated displays, decorations and millions — yes, millions — of twinkling lights. People are invited to tour the grounds, with wide-eyed youngsters treated to candies and gifts. It takes about six weeks to get everything set up before the switch is flipped and the grounds are illuminated, usually by early December.

The Bodden sisters, Maureen and Maxine, also go all out to celebrate the season. Their home and yard on South Sound, located across from Sunset House, is decked out in an elaborate array of lights and decorations for a memorable Christmas display. Computerised trees that change colour with bright LED lighting make for a dazzling display, which is updated from year to year. The Christmas showcase has been a family tradition for some 30 years, attracting repeat visitors who appreciate the time and effort that goes into making spirits bright.

Tree Lightings
Several gathering places in Cayman usher in the holiday season with tree lighting ceremonies. Camana Bay is known for its spectacular holiday events and enchanted town centre. The holiday season kicks off with its annual tree-lighting celebration, set for November 22 on The Crescent. Families can experience the magic of Christmas when a towering Christmas tree and thousands of lights illuminate the town. The Cayman National Choir and Orchestra perform music of the season, accompanied by children’s choirs from the Cayman International School. Song sheets are provided for audiences to sing along to favourite yuletide carols. Santa has the honour of switching on the lights before he hands out treats to youngsters and poses for keepsake photos.

Governors Square on West Bay Road hosts an annual tree-lighting ceremony complete with Santa making a dramatic entrance via helicopter. There are treats for youngsters and a chance to tell Mr. Claus what’s on their Christmas wish list. The mall is awash in colourful lights and décor, and the evening includes numerous prize draws and activities for kids. The tree lighting takes place at dusk, and the evening features carols and Christmas fare. This year’s event is set for December 3.

Downtown George Town comes alive with a holiday extravaganza hosted by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman. A tradition for more than 45 years, the event features a spectacular tree-lighting celebration, a visit by Santa and songs of the season. It takes place on December 5.

Another long-held tradition is the annual “Santa Landing” sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Grand Cayman. This year, Santa makes his grand entrance via helicopter on December 3 at the airport park across from Foster’s Food Fair. A tradition for more than 30 years, Santa has arrived by boat, light aircraft and helicopter. Santa and his helpers hand out gifts and treats to the young ones, and the afternoon features games, face painting and photo opportunities with Jolly Old St. Nick.

Camana Bay Christmas
Camana Bay is home to a whirlwind of holiday sights, sounds and events. Some are Christmas-centric, while a few are just great family events. The holiday buzz begins in November with the annual Festival of Trees, a fundraiser for the non-profit Central Caribbean Marine Institute in Little Cayman. The week-long showcase raises money each year through a Christmas dinner and auction of 12 trees decorated by local companies. The dazzling trees are on display in The Town Centre from November 15 to 18, and then auctioned at the gala dinner on November 19 at the Arts & Recreation Centre.

On November 25, visitors can enjoy the Christmas Breeze Concert featuring the Cayman Islands Folk Singers, held outdoors on The Crescent. Two events take place the following day: the Children’s Book Festival, staged outdoors on The Paseo, and the Pink Ladies Christmas Bazaar and Tea, held at the Arts & Recreation Centre. The bazaar is a popular annual fundraiser that includes handmade crafts, entertainment, children’s activities and raffles. On November 28 at The Crescent, performers deliver entertaining tales as part of the Cayman Islands International Storytelling Festival, better known as Gimistory.

December’s festivities kick off with the Barnes Dance Academy’s annual Christmas Parade outdoors on The Crescent on December 3. The evening showcase is an extravaganza of singing and dancing featuring young performers from across the island.

Cayman Hospice Care’s Light Up a Life is a time to reflect on lost loved ones. The remembrance and tree-lighting ceremony on December 3 takes place in Cassia Court.

On December 7 the weekly Farmer’s Market gets into the holiday spirit with a Christmas Evening Market. Vendors set up shop on Market Street, offering an array of handcrafted gifts as well as home-grown produce and Christmas-themed treats. A true family affair, the evening includes live music and a kid’s craft area.

On December 10, one of the island’s showpiece events takes place: the Cayman 27 Parade of Lights. It’s a spectacular display of boats of all shapes and sizes adorned in brightly coloured lights. The event includes a Christmas craft market, traditional yuletide carols and a special appearance by Father Christmas. The evening is capped off with a spectacular fireworks show, a fusion of sound and lights that is sure to delight everyone in the family.

Post-Christmas, be sure to take in the New Year’s Eve fireworks at Camana Bay, a fabulous display that sets the dark Caribbean night ablaze.

Putting on the Ritz
The Ritz-Carlton’s festive displays are truly magical, so be sure to stroll through the doors and take in the holiday décor. The little ones will love the resort’s annual Teddy Bear Teas held throughout December. Kids can indulge in tiny sandwiches and a tower of sweets, and visit Santa and his helpers who are gathered around a giant gingerbread house. For the grown-ups, there is a selection of herbal teas, finger sandwiches, fresh-baked scones and tempting pastries, all accompanied by holiday melodies.

Movies Under the Stars at Periwinkle offers a festive family-friendly evening. After dinner at Periwinkle, an al fresco grill overlooking the resort’s waterways, everyone can curl up on lounge chairs at the adjacent Periwinkle Theatre for a complimentary family-themed movie held nightly at dusk throughout November and December.

Giving Back
The island is known for staging numerous running events throughout the year, and one long-standing favourite is the Jingle Bell Walk/Run. Serious runners participate alongside moms with strollers and furry four-legged friends. This year’s walk takes place on Sunday, December 11, starting at Tiki Beach on West Bay Road. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there to hand out treats and for prize drawings. Funds raised go to the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre.

Another popular holiday run is Dashing Through the Sand, where participants work off the turkey on this short walk/run along Seven Mile Beach held on Boxing Day. Check for registration details on both of these fun runs.

Business Bling
Many businesses go all out for the holiday season, with Vigoro Nursery, Celebrations and Island Companies known for their sensational holiday displays and celebrations.

Vigoro’s Nancy Rohleder dresses up the nursery’s two locations with impeccable holiday attire. Her trees are renowned throughout the island for their creativity and allure. To kick off the season, the family-owned business hosts two Christmas parties complete with music, shopping and wonderful refreshments. The first takes place at its Walkers Road location on the evening of November 3 with catering by Calypso Grill, and the second celebration takes place in Lower Valley during the afternoon of November 20 featuring live music, Champagne and desserts.

Celebrations, located in the Mirco Centre, transforms each year into Cayman’s Enchanted Christmas Store, an exquisite showcase of holiday gifts, trees and décor. It’s worth a visit to take in this sensational Christmas shopping haven.

In Cayman, the Chamber of Commerce sponsors events called Business After Hours. Local businesses host these social evenings, and they’re a big hit on the island. One of the main draws is the holiday event hosted by Island Companies, which features numerous give-aways, flowing Champagne, yummy finger foods and an array of exclusive holiday specials offered only during the evening. Hundreds of Chamber members and guests turn out for this networking mixer of the year that’s become the unofficial kick-off to the holiday shopping season. It takes place on December 1 downtown.

With so many events and festivities on tap, it’s easy to let the spirit of Christmas in Cayman sweep you away.


Catch some rays on Grand Cayman


“A lot of people are really nervous at first, but after a little time here, they start to get used to it,” the tattooed, laid-back former Missourian told me, her eyes hidden behind big, brown sunglasses, her hands occupied with the task of handling a giant stingray.

As we chatted, waist-deep in the warm blue water on this sandbar out in the middle of Grand Cayman’s North Sound, several of these grey monsters swirled around, brushing past our legs or bumping into our backs in search of food. Nearby, as if on cue, a woman in her 20s screamed, “Oh my god! They’re all around me!”

She almost tripped on a small male ray in her attempt to scamper away from a group of curious rays that had surrounded her. Samantha, the Missourian, has worked on this sandbar, which is known as Stingray City, and welcomes boatloads of tourists every day, for more than five years—and she has the deep, even tan to prove it. That whole unfortunate business with Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin gave all stingrays a bad name, but Samantha says that these South Atlantic Rays are definitely harmless unless you step directly on, or happen to kick, their little appendage with the stinger — and even then you won’t die, but just render you into a state of discomfort for a little while. All of a sudden, I feel stingers underfoot with every step I take.

Stingray City is just one of the unique attractions on Grand Cayman. While many Canadians seek little more than sun, sand and a great tan from their mid-winter Caribbean vacation, this place — which doesn’t have a single all-inclusive resort — offers a much different experience than most tropical destinations. Made famous in the 1980s for its tax-free offshore banking system and its starring role in popular movies like The Firm, Grand Cayman (along with its smaller sisters, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac) includes a surprising array of fascinating attractions, the perfect place for travellers who want more stimulation out of their warm-weather trip than just a thick novel and a lounge chair.

Cuisine is one significant area where the Caymans have excelled, although Vico Testori remembers a time when this wasn’t so. Attracted here from his native Italy more than 25 years ago by the bright sun and the absence of taxes, Testori owns a lovely Italian restaurant called Pappagallo’s, a quiet thatch-roofed spot tucked away on Grand Cayman’s quiet north side.

“When I got here, it was exactly like that book, Don’t Stop the Carnival,” Testori tells me, his staccato patter having apparently persisted through a quarter-century of laid-back island life. Back then, his restaurant didn’t even have a water line. Agriculture produced almost nothing, and if the boat from the mainland didn’t come on Monday, he was left without milk or fresh vegetables. “In those days, the shelves were empty. Now we have all sorts of French cheeses in the supermarket,” he says. “It’s a trade-off. In the old days people were happy with less, and life was quiet and serene. Now we have more of everything.”

But there’s more to Grand Cayman than food, a fact confirmed for me by Anthony Clarke, a young Caymanian who grew up over in Bodden Town, a small settlement on the south side of the island. With a steady hand on the wheel of the catamaran that has just taken me snorkelling at the wreck of the Kittiwake, a World War II rescue boat recently sunk to create an artificial reef, Clarke, with a pleasant island lilt, explains that, far from the glam image of big dollars and soft sand that now (quite appropriately) marks the Caymans, his grandmother has told him stories about times past when hordes of mosquitoes plagued this place, a scourge so thick smoke pots burned inside every house and cows sometimes died from breathing in too many of the insects.

Life is better now, with the mosquitoes under control and with a good degree of general wealth, coffee shops, movie theatres and other elements of modern life. “There’s always a lot going on. Plays, food events, fishing and volleyball tournaments, waterski races—there’s always something,” Clarke says. And even though Grand Cayman has become thoroughly modern, Caymanians have preserved a few of the important elements from their past, including their proud seafaring heritage. Many people here own boats, taking them to Rum Point on Sundays (“they call it ‘going to Church,’” another local told me), and the island also celebrates with a number of boat-related festivals.

Tim Johnson is a freelance writer based in xxxx.

Just the Facts

STAYING The Caribbean Club ( offers luxurious three-bedroom, three-bathroom condos on a glorious stretch of Seven Mile Beach, starting at around $500 per night. For somewhat less salubrious accommodations, check out the Marriott Beach Club Grand Cayman (, which features many rooms with ocean or tropical courtyard views, starting at $189.

DINING For great a great meal, make sure to visit: Pappagallo for Italian with island flare; (; Abacus for great steaks and seafood (; and Luca ( for the best wine list on island.

DOING On the north side of the island, the Cayman Turtle Farm ( has helped revitalize the Green Sea Turtle population. You can handle juveniles and swim with older ones. At the island’s Botanic Park, endemic Blue Iguanas sun themselves in the parking lot and scurry along the garden paths. Opened just last year, the Cayman Motor Museum ( the private collection of a wealthy Norwegian shipping magnate (and part-time island resident). It showcases more than a dozen Ferraris, one of Queen Elizabeth’s earliest royal limousines and the original Batmobile.

Planter’s Punch – Feeling Punchy?

It is often claimed that Planter’s Punch was created right here in Charleston. The potent concoction of rum, sugar, and citrus was the specialty of the house at the Planters Hotel in the 19th century, and it went on from there to gain national fame. Or so the story goes. Unfortunately, it’s not true.

The Planters Hotel was indeed a famous antebellum establishment. It opened in 1809, when Alexander Calder converted the old Dock Street Theatre into a hotel, and it became the favorite resort for rice planters when they came into the city for the winter. The hotel was well known for its imbibing clientèle: a British visitor who stayed there in the 1830s noted that during dinner “very little wine is drank, and rather too much brandy.” But there’s not a shred of evidence that its bar ever served a beverage called Planter’s Punch. That association seems to have been made in recent years based solely on the name of the hotel itself.

Planter’s Punch actually originated on the rum-producing island of Jamaica. Cocktail historians, including Wayne Curtis in his rum history And a Bottle of Rum (2009), have traced Planter’s Punch back to a recipe published in The New York Times in 1908. I’ve been able to take it back even further. In September 1878, the London magazine Fun ran instructions in verse for creating “Planter’s Punch! A West Indian Recipe:”

A wine-glass with lemon juice fill, of sugar the same glass fill twice

Then rub them together until

The mixture looks smooth, soft, and nice.

Of rum then three wine glasses add,

And four of cold water please take. A Drink then you’ll have that’s not bad —

At least, so they say in Jamaica.

For some reason, Planter’s Punch has always lent itself to a recipe in verse, but no two authors ever seem to use the same ratios. By 1903, the Kansas City Star had distilled the ditty down to four lines: “One of sour / One of sweet / Two of strong / And one of weak.” The editor explained this as the juice of one lime, one spoon of sugar, two tablespoons of old Jamaica rum, and one of ice water. The 1908 New York Times recipe cited by Curtis and other cocktail historians was a little closer to the original 1-2-3-4 proportions, but with some ingredients reversed:

Take two of sour (lime let it be)

To one and a half of sweet.

Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,

And add four parts of weak.

Through Prohibition, recipes for Planter’s Punch were pretty consistent in ingredients even if the rhymes and ratios varied greatly, and it seems to have remained a Jamaican specialty. After the repeal, when high-quality rum was available once again in the United States, Planter’s Punch became trendy, part of a tropical drink fad that brought into fashion such rum-based concoctions as the daiquiri and the rum Collins. It was so popular that Fred L. Myers and Son produced a brand called “Myers Planter’s Punch” rum.

As late as the 1940s, a typical Planter’s Punch recipe called for just rum, lime juice, sugar, and water, but sliced fruit like oranges and pineapples were often included either as garnish or in the drink itself. Soon those slices of fruit were replaced by various citrus juices, including pineapple, orange, and grapefruit.

We may not have created Planter’s Punch here in Charleston, but it’s certainly a fitting cocktail for this city. Long before Charlestonians had heard of sweet tea vodka or Grand Marnier shooters, they were drinking rum, most often in the form of a punch.

“Madeira wine and punch are the common drinks of the inhabitant,” a visitor to the city wrote in 1763. Charlestonians of all social ranks flocked to punch houses in the 18th century for their favorite tipple, and potent concoctions of rum, sugar, and fruit juices were essential components of any party, ball, or social gathering well into the 20th century. More than anything, it’s a perfect cooling drink for our semi-tropical climate.

The trendiness of Planter’s Punch faded around World War II, but you can still find it on the cocktail menus of a few places around town. At Fleet Landing, they blend dark and light rum with pineapple, orange, cranberry, and lime juices and serve it in a big pint glass with a garnish of orange, lemon, and lime slices, plus a maraschino cherry for good measure. It’s a stout drink, but, as has been the case for centuries, those citrus juices help cut the bite of the rum and make it go down smooth.

Perhaps most noteworthy is the version at the Peninsula Grill, which is a part of the Planters Inn. There’s no actual link between this Inn and the old Planters Hotel. The 19th century version was severely damaged during the Civil War, and, though repaired and reopened, it never regained its former stature and closed for good around the turn of the 20th century. The building was restored by the Works Progress Administration and became the Dock Street Theatre again in the 1930s. The present-day Planters Inn was opened in the 1980s in a restored building that once housed a retail store.

The Peninsula Grill may not have a direct link to the old Planters Hotel, but it still serves an excellent Planter’s Punch. The bartender first pours Myers dark rum in a tall, straight glass filled with ice then adds orange and pineapple juice from two bottles and finally a drizzle of grenadine. A silver cup is clamped over the top of the glass for a quick shake, then it’s served to you garnished with a cherry and orange slice on a clear plastic skewer. It’s a good solid drink that tastes like a fruit juice drink and not something loaded up with a lot of rum.

My favorite local version, though, is the Carolina Punch over at Anson, which takes the Planter’s Punch recipe and, in honor of our city’s favorite shooter, adds a little Grand Marnier, which I think gives it a splendid local twist. The punch has a deep orange-red color and is served on the rocks with a quarter orange slice, a creamy and delicious treat.

Applying such variations to Planter’s Punch is the natural thing to do. Wayne Curtis did his best to pin down a “standard” recipe but ended up concluding that “Planter’s Punch is a class of drink rather than a single cocktail, with hundreds of variations floating around, and more invented daily.” Looking into the subject in 1936, Jane Cobb of The New York Timesconcluded the same thing, advising, “The sensible thing to do is to drink slowly and stop fussing.”

And that seems like splendid advice for cocktail hour on a warm Charleston evening.


Christmas in the Cayman Islands


Christmas traditions in the Cayman Islands are as varied as the people who live here. From beach parties to visiting the spectacular light displays at private homes and the wonderful parties… there is something to do for all ages. Indulge in our wondrous selection of heavy cakes, Christmas beef and sorrel.




Long ago Christmas in Cayman was joyfully celebrated as the most festive time of the year. Christmas was the time of awakening for the islands. At Christmas time everyone came alive and the Islands became vibrant with colours.


Christmas was also the time of year when everyone came home. You see the Cayman Islands boasts a strong sea fearing Heritage. Many of the men left the islands once they were in their late teens in order to work with various shipping companies; it was there way of making a living. So when it was Christmas the families of the Cayman Islands became very anticipated as they looked forward to the return of the seamen. This added to how special the Christmas season was.


The most remembered and most revered Christmas tradition is that of the Sand Yard. As many others in the world dream about a white Christmas, people in the Cayman Islands also liked a white Christmas. Of course not possible with snow as we are located in the tropics, but a white Christmas in Cayman meant snow-white sand yards. From as early as late October the women and children started gathering large amounts of sand from the beaches.


Many Caymanians still remember ‘backing sand’ (carrying it) from the beach on moonlit nights. The sand would then be brought back to the yard and put in even piles. On Christmas Eve morning the piles of sand would be swept across the yard making it absolutely white. The newly swept sand was not allowed to be walked on until Christmas day, as it was a special part of the season. A path of gravel would be laid from the gate to the front door, lined with conch shells to keep the gravel together; this would be used as the footpath to the house. Each year the preparing of the sand yard stood as a competition to see who would have the whitest and prettiest sand yard on island.


The white sand yard is a beautiful tradition that you can still see today, many of the old Caymanian houses that are found on the island still have white sand yards.


Another special event took place in Cayman at Christmas that added to the excitement of the season. Christmas concerts, all the churches on the islands organized concerts that the children would take part in. At the concerts the children would recite Christmas poems, which they had memorized. It was a time for much excitement as this was also the occasion for new clothes, hats and shoes.




The main focus of Christmas was centered on the church. Coming from a strong Christian background, first thing Christmas morning in the Cayman Islands there were church services. Everyone attended church where there was always a special service to be heard.


How Modern Traditions were practiced in Old Cayman


Christmas Trees


The first family in Grand Cayman to have a modern Christmas tree was Mrs. Ella Latters’ family. She recalls “my father James Hurlston worked for Moravian Missionaries from Germany in Nicaragua. They believed a lot in trees and decorations. The missionaries ordered their Christmas trees from Germany each year and we would get ours in the same lot. So when we lived in Nicaragua we had a real pine tree. In Grand Cayman Dad would find a suitable tree and decorate that”.




Decorations for the Christmas trees came about in quite an interesting way; no decorations were sold on the island for modern trees, as many of the Caymanian people did not know about trees. So therefore decorations were hand made, as Miss Aarona Booker Kohlman remembers, “My family used the pinecones from the casuarina trees to make decorations. The pinecones were covered in different coloured foil and hung on the tree as ornaments”.


Houses were decorated with a Christmas blossom that can be found here on the island. The blossom only blooms around December, it is a tiny red flower. It was used to add color to the house, they were put in all corners of the house.


Santa Claus


Santa made his first appearance in Cayman around 1901, the seamen brought the tradition home from their travels. The children would look and wait for him all day and all night till they fell asleep. Children would also place special stockings at the foot of their parents’ bed (because they had no fireplace). The stockings would be filled with all sorts of goodies like candy, apples, fans, fire rockets etc. when the children woke up in the morning.


Traditional Food

Eating was also a big part of Christmas. As this was the time of the year that food, which could not be afforded year round, were bought as presents to the family. For instance Christmas was the only time of the year that many families on island had beef. Beef was regularly too expensive but families would save money so that at Christmas beef could be a part of Christmas dinner. For Christmas dinner there was an abundance of food. Miss Ella Latter notes, “ I don’t know where we found room for all that food to go, but it could never look like Christmas without it”. Cakes were just as important as getting beef for Christmas. There were heavy cakes and light cakes galore. The aim of the season was to please the palate with as much delights as possible.


A very unique and special part of the Christmas food tradition was that for the children. Parents and children would build a little hut out of thatch in the yard, the little hut would be the children’s’ Christmas house where they would cook and bake things of their own, just like their mom would in her kitchen. The kids looked forward every year to having their own little hut for their festivities.



Cayman’s Best Beach Bars

What better way to relax and soak up the sun, sea and sand than hanging out at a beachfront watering hole?

Grand Cayman boasts some top spots to chill out on the famous white sands of Seven Mile Beach while enjoying a cool cocktail or two. The North Side of the island is also home to some celebrated outdoor escapes, where barefoot fun and relaxation is always on the menu.

Seven Miles of Smiles
There are three top spots along Seven Mile Beach’s legendary stretch of white sand offering a slice of Caribbean life: Royal Palms, Tiki Beach and Calico Jack’s.

Royal Palms is an island institution, drawing locals and visitors alike. Mix, mingle, and enjoy friendly island service along with good grub and refreshing brews. Perched on one of the premier stretches of beach on the Seven Mile strip, Royal Palms recently underwent a revamp, with a swim-up bar and poolside cabanas among the new star attractions. Sunday is a prime time to soak up the scenery and enjoy great poolside drinks specials. Its $5 personal-size pizza (available after 3 p.m. on Sundays) is one of the best deals around. It’s an ideal place to people-watch and take in the sunset, and it definitely lives up to its motto: “No shoes, no shirt . . . no problem!”

Further down on West Bay Road is Calico Jack’s, another casual spot to relax and sink your toes in the sand. Go for a swim, and then sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Order a Cayman Colada — a traditional piña colada mixed with Chambord (raspberry liqueur) for an extra kick — and enjoy nibbles such as jerk chicken or scotch bonnet mahi-mahi.

Tiki Beach offers an array of seating options to drink in the view — shaded cabanas, a roomy bar and several comfy bamboo lounge chairs on the deck overlooking the sea. Its tiki-thatched roof can be seen for miles around. Highly recommended is sampling items from its appetizer menu, including crispy grouper fingers paired with a wonderful spiced mango-curry rémoulade. Its most popular cocktail is Cayman Lemonade, a 16-oz drink that will turn your frown upside down.

Barefoot Escapes
If you’re seeking a little more tranquillity, take a leisurely drive to the quaint district of North Side. First stop: Driftwood Bar & Grill. This rustic beach bar is a top draw for locals and visitors. There’s volleyball on the small stretch of beach and you’ll likely find locals involved in an animated game of dominoes. Sit indoors and watch the game on the big screen, or relax outside on the shaded deck and enjoy cool sea breezes while watching the waves roll in. This is a spot for some serious chill time, as the wooden sign over the door will attest: “Stress, what’s dat?”

Driftwood is known for its barbecue specialties and unique Cayman-style pizza toppings, including conch, jerk pork and Cayman-style beef. Mix it up, and order a Hawaiian-conch pizza. Or dig into its signature dish, the Driftwood Seafood Chowder.

This unassuming bar is now famous for being on the silver screen; it’s the setting for the film Zombie Driftwood. The tongue-in-cheek comedy pits a group of holidaying heavy metal fans against an invading cruise ship full of tourists who turn into zombies. You’ll recognize Driftwood’s affable owner in the flick, Phil Eckstein, who also wrote the screenplay (a sequel is in the works). If you’re in the mood, this is the perfect place to zone out with a zombie cocktail or two.

The beach bar at Cayman Kai is another great place to relax and unwind. Full of charm and good vibes, Kaibo Bar & Grill is a favourite hangout for North Siders. Sunday afternoons are the busiest, where you’ll see everyone and their dog — literally — enjoying some down time in this down-to-earth beachfront playground and marina. Enjoy a swim, rent a kayak or go on a full-throttle jet-ski safari.

Kaibo’s legendary mudslide is a must — a heavenly mix of Absolut vodka, Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream blended with real ice cream. Try its cooked-to-order burger or grilled mahi-mahi. Kaibo boasts that it has the island’s coldest beer; the brews are cooled to their core with ice (the bar’s two huge ice-making machines are capable of churning out 20,000 pounds of ice per day; they usually go through 600 pounds a day to maintain that frosty flavour).

A hop-skip away is Rum Point, undoubtedly the most recognized beach bar in Cayman and a definite must-do destination. The beautiful aqua-blue shallow waters are ideal for swimming and exploring, and its lovely white sand beach and long wooden dock are great for picturesque photos. It’s also the only beach bar where you can pull up a hammock and laze away the day.

Rum Point is ‘the home of the mudslide’, and its concoction is truly top notch. Another favourite is the Rum Point Sunset — four different rums mixed with orange and pineapple juice. (The joke is, if you have too many, you won’t see the sun set!) At the Wreck Bar & Grill, order the jerk-spiced cheeseburger, served with its famous jerk mayo sauce.

Life’s a beach in Cayman — so be sure to enjoy some downtime at these idyllic beach bar retreats.


Cayman Islands: Fishing Ban Extended at One of the Last Spawning Areas for the Nassau Grouper

A groundswell of public support generated by Guy Harvey’s latest film The Mystery of the Grouper Moon has prompted the Marine Conservation Board of the Cayman Islands to extend a ban on fishing the Nassau grouper spawning aggregation site near Little Cayman, The Bahamas Weekly reports.

The Board, this week, voted to extend the current moratorium another eight years after reviewing extensive research conducted by REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) and Oregon State University and a public education campaign supported by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) and the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DOE). The existing ban, in place since 2003, was due to expire at the end of the year. The penalty for catching Nassau grouper in a spawning aggregation site between November and March is up to one year in prison or up to $500,000 in fines.

“The Cayman Islands are celebrating the 25 anniversary since the formation of the first marine park here, so it is fitting that such a strong conservation effort has been made by the MCB and that common sense has prevailed,” said Dr. Harvey.

In filming the research work being conducted by REEF, Guy Harvey and award-winning filmmaker George Schellenger created a compelling and informative 45-minute documentary—The Mystery of the Grouper Moon. The film’s purpose was to document the research and make the results available in layman’s language to the residents of the Cayman Islands. The documentary (for a preview go to php?id=5 ) was shot entirely in the Cayman Islands and was supported by REEF and the DOE. The GHOF also supported the education campaign with custom artwork.

More work, however, needs to be done, according to Dr. Harvey, an internationally celebrated marine artist and a professor of marine biology, who makes his home in the Cayman Islands.

“We are all very glad that the Marine Conservation Board has acted positively on the research conducted by REEF and the DOE, as the science clearly shows the recovery of Nassau groupers has not been as successful as expected,” said Dr. Harvey. “This is because fishing for this species still continues during the spawning season, but outside of the protected spawning aggregation sites.”

The Nassau grouper population, according to Dr. Harvey, has maintained equilibrium and has not grown appreciably. Harvey says the next step is for the Ministry of the Environment to legislate protection of Nassau grouper throughout its range during spawning season, between November 1 and March 31.

“This would be similar to the protection enjoyed by conch and lobster populations which remain healthy in the Cayman Islands, but are fished for only during short seasons each year,” he said. “Also the minimum catch size of the Nassau grouper needs to be extended from 12 inches to 24 inches. It is good fishery management to let fish reproduce before they are harvested. A 12 inch fish is immature.”

An added advantage to keeping groupers at a healthy population is that they can serve as a natural culling force on the invasive, non-native lionfish, which are annihilating several species of juvenile reef fish throughout the Caribbean.

“Local fishermen need to realize that these conservation measures will benefit all user groups in the years to come,” Dr. Harvey concluded. “Once the Nassau grouper population recovers it can then be managed and fished within the restrictions of new catch limits, but the spawning brood stock must be protected forever.”

For more information on the Nassau grouper, please go to moon

About the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation

www.guyharveyoceanfoundation. org

The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation funds inspired scientific research and innovative educational programs to encourage conservation and best management practices for sustainable marine environments. The GHOF will help ensure that future generations will enjoy and benefit from a naturally balanced ocean ecosystem where fish and other marine wildlife flourish.


Illustration: “Study of a Nassau Grouper” by Thom Glace at


Cayman’s Classic Restaurants

At Grand Cayman’s historic dining establishments, culture never tasted so good.

Cayman is blessed with a plethora of dining establishments — there are said to be more than 300 dining facilities. But when it comes to those that are simply “classic,” there’s merely a handful. They’re tried and true and definitely on the “A” list.

Grand Old House
The grande dame of them all is Grand Old House, also known as Petra Plantation. The waterfront building located near Smith’s Cove is now celebrating its 103rd year. Once a hospital for World War II wounded soldiers, this historic building, established in 1908, boasts a rich heritage. It was originally built as a stately Caribbean great house on the Petra Plantation. A private residence to numerous families over the years, the birthplace of Cayman’s first Rotary Club, a haven during storms, a beauty parlour, and even a children’s Sunday school, the structure was finally turned into a restaurant in 1969 by Bob and Jeanne Brenton. In those early days, the South Sound road was nothing but a dirt track, and the building was lit by oil lamps. Nevertheless, with its warm and welcoming ambiance, it soon became a popular gathering spot for local residents.

Today, Grand Old House is the site for many a wedding — more than a thousand have been conducted there. There is even a whole wall of engraved plaques commemorating each couple.

Featuring an award-winning chef and a wine list that has garnered several awards from Wine Spectator Magazine, Grand Old House remains a beloved classic in Cayman’s culinary world, and is open for a leisurely lunch or romantic dinner.

The Wharf
Located at the eastern end of Seven Mile Beach, The Wharf is known on the island for its perfect setting. Overlooking a small sandy cove and the remnants of a shipwreck, at The Wharf you’ll enjoy an exquisite dinner with an uninterrupted view of the setting sun, gentle ocean breezes and the sounds of lapping waves gently kissing the shore. You will want to request a table “on the rope,” which means you will be right at the water’s edge. And, as if the setting weren’t romantic enough on its own, an extremely accomplished Paraguayan harpist, Eugenio Leon, comes out to serenade you.

Like Grand Old House, The Wharf has been the setting for many a wedding, with one memorable bridegroom appearing around the corner on horseback and trotting up to the altar.

The adjacent Ports of Call bar is always a popular spot for sunset happy hours, especially on Fridays. And Tuesday’s free salsa lessons draw in the dancing crowd.

Ristorante Pappagallo
Another romantic dining spot is Ristorante Pappagallo, located down a winding road in the northern district of West Bay. Set on a tarpon-filled lagoon surrounded by a bird sanctuary, you cross a beautiful, wooden bridge to enter this handsome, thatched-roof structure. That’s when you’re greeted by a dapper African Grey Parrot who goes by the name of Bogart. There are several dining areas within this impressive high-ceilinged structure. One is an open-air screened-in porch overlooking the lagoon with lights illuminating the surrounding mangroves and its roosting birds. There is an adjacent indoor dining area beneath the thatched ceiling, and another with exotic birds in glass-front cages built into the encircling bamboo walls. Here, the “cockatoo table” features a pair of these charming and lovely  creatures who never fail to amuse and entertain during the course of the evening.

The Lighthouse
Lastly, a classic Caymanian dining establishment is The Lighthouse, an iconic lighthouse that overlooks the island’s south coast. From downtown George Town, The Lighthouse is roughly halfway along the 22-mile-long southern shore of the island. You’ll know it when you see it; the building truly is a lighthouse, though not used for navigational purposes. Here again, there are several dining area options: a screened in patio with stunning sea views; the port room surrounded by vintage bottles; or the enclosed dining room. Definitely a place to stop if you’re doing an island tour.

Order Up
Of course, seafood features prominently on all their menus. Ristorante Pappagallo is heavily influenced by the northern Italian cuisine of its owner, Vico Testori, and they make all their own pasta by hand. Similarly, The Lighthouse, with Guiseppe Gatto at the helm, features Italian cuisine. Under the direction of Clemmens Guettler, The Wharf’s menu is quite well-rounded, and they make a wonderful lobster; as is the case with the Grand Old House, which has an award-winning Indian chef in its kitchen and is under the direction of German national Martin Richter. Cayman boasts a multicultural community and our culinary scene benefits richly from this fact. These tried and true classics of Cayman’s dining scene really can’t be beat.


Film: Exploring Biodiversity of Haiti’s Grande Colline

Green Antilles posted a fascinating video from the Terra Incognita series that examines remote, poorly known, and largely unexplored regions of Haiti, where almost no forests are left. In this first installment, a large and virtually unknown mountain range, the Chaîne de la Grande Colline, is revealed. The mountain is located near Port-à-Piment, on the Tiburon Peninsula in Haiti. It ranks as the 10th highest mountain in the country. A team made up of biologists, photographers, a filmmaker and a journalist explore the biodiversity of the Grande Colline in a helicopter expedition.

The viewer follows the team as it explores very rare frogs and anoles. Although the focus of the documentary is on the ravages of deforestation, it leaves us with a degree of hope that, with concerted energy dedicated to protection, Haiti’s remaining cloud forests and the species that inhabit them will be able to survive.

This and other videos—such as “Haiti’s Unnatural Floods,” “Saving Haiti’s Frogs,” and “Cutting Haiti’s Forests”—are available on the Caribnature/Haiti (a nexus for Caribbean nature and conservation awareness) page. Caribnature aims to teach people about the natural history of the Caribbean islands and conservation issues through multimedia essays. Each essay tells a story through images and video, contributed mostly by professional photographers and videographers. According to their description, “The hope is that these essays will raise awareness of Caribbean biodiversity and conservation.” Partners in this project are the Audubon Society of Haiti, Conservation International, Birdlife International, and the International League of Conservation Photographers.

Caribnature is a non-profit site created and directed by scientist Blair Hedges, a professor of biology at Penn State University, in an effort to bring attention to the writing on the wall revealed by the dire ecological situation in Haiti and beyond. Hedges—who is one of the world’s foremost authorities on amphibians and reptiles—has led rescue missions in Haiti and other countries in the Caribbean to try to save threatened frogs and other species. He points out that “The decline of frogs in particular, because they are especially vulnerable, is a biological early-warning signal of a dangerously deteriorating environment, just as a dying canary is an early-warning sign of dangerously deteriorating air in a coal mine. When frogs start disappearing, other species will follow and the Haitian people will suffer, as well, from this environmental catastrophe.”