How I Celebrated Thanksgiving In Cayman

How I Celebrated Thanksgiving In Cayman

While Thanksgiving 2020 was a strange one for many around the world, it was a particularly interesting one for me as I celebrated it away from my family for the first time ever in the least thanksgiving-esque setting you can think of…the Cayman Islands. 

To be honest, Thanksgiving was not even really on my radar. Living on this island is like Groundhog’s Day in the weather department. I realize that to most people 86 and sunny every day of the week sounds pretty darn good. No need to cuss at the weatherman with a forecast like that. And of course, it IS wonderful. However, for someone who is used to extreme seasonal changes, this Groundhog’s Day vibe has me very mixed up.

The other reason Thanksgiving wasn’t totally on my radar is because it is not really celebrated here. Cayman is a British territory and we know of course that Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Whereas in Wisconsin I would have enjoyed Wednesday thru Friday of vacation, here I had to work the whole week! (Poor me).

Alas, despite my lack of seasonal awareness, I must accept that the holiday season has arrived. However strange this year may be, 2020 has taught me to stop wishing for a different reality and simply make the most of what I have. While I wish I could have celebrated Thanksgiving at home with my family, I was able to take part in the next best alternative: Friendsgiving…Cayman style!

While I have participated in a few small Friendsgivings while living in the Midwest, Cayman Friendsgiving 2020 definitely will go down as the most special and memorable one to date. What really gave it WOW factor was the amazing lady who made it possible…my good friend and fellow American, Christine! I cannot tell you how many people I have met in Cayman that I initially suspect to be American but then later find out are Canadian. (Classic mix-up). The fact that Christine “sounds American” and IS actually American (New Jerseyite to be more specific) is such a comfort to me. Not to mention she is one of the most warm, kind people you will ever meet!

Christine hosted Friendsgiving at her place on Black Friday. When I walked into her apartment the first words out of my mouth were OH. MY. GOD. I thought for a moment that I had driven myself to the Ritz Carlton by mistake. She had rented banquet tables complete with linens, table settings, lights, and candles. She lined the living room with fresh flowers and added a finishing touch with name tags at every spot. While helping her with the final details, I spotted her open excel spreadsheet complete with guest names and their respective dishes. (Yes, she is an accountant…and also basically the Martha Stewart of Cayman).

I had signed on to prepare apple crisp (to honor my family’s tradition) and an autumn salad to add some green to the line up. My autumn salad called for sweet potato, a product I KNOW they have in Cayman. However, on the particular day I went to the supermarket they informed me they did not have the AMERICAN sweet potato but they DID have the JAMAICAN sweet potato. This was a learning moment for me as I never thought of the sweet potato as being classified by country. My ALDI days did not prepare me for this. Anyway, dazed and confused I purchased the Jamaican sweet potato as recommended by the produce man. Upon cooking it, I realized it does NOT provide a pretty orange color pop, but rather has an ugly yellowish, gray-speckled color. NOT something I wanted to put in my autumn salad. So, with a sigh of defeat I decided not to add it to the salad. But upon trying it a bit later, I can report that it DOES taste a bit similar to the “American” sweet potato and is rather yummy.

ANYWAY, back to Friendsgiving. Thanks to Christine’s spreadsheet, we all prepared something a bit different and had a wonderfully delicious variety for our Thanksgiving dinner. We were greeted at the door with welcome shots which we renamed “Gobblers” as their original name was a bit too explicit for a Thanksgiving celebration. They are made from Kahlua, Irish cream liqueur, and whipped cream. This really set the tone for the evening as we mingled about among our group of 14 friends. I even got a bit crafty myself in the mini bar department (AKA the washer and dryer covered with a festive sheet), preparing my brother’s Negroni recipe for a few people to try…shoutout Chase!!

After we had finished eating we migrated to our gender role areas: the men outside on the patio smoking cigars, the women sitting on Christine’s king bed in slumber party mode. In typical Thanksgiving fashion, we were too tired to move but were very happy to be chatting away in each other’s presence. And yes, that is a cup of coffee in my hands in the picture below as that is exactly what I would be drinking after Thanksgiving dinner at home 🙂

In total, there were 14 guests representing 8 countries: USA, Spain, South Africa, Slovenia, France, China, Canada, and England. I am so grateful to have shared Friendsgiving with this amazing group of people. We were first and foremost incredibly lucky to have the freedom of getting together freely and safely due to the near non-existence of COVID on the island. I also feel very fortunate to have made such good friends in my short time living on the island. Sharing with them the sentiment of togetherness and family that Thanksgiving brings during a time when I can’t see my own family was something I will never forget.

Thank you so much to Christine and to all the other lovely people who have made Cayman feel more like a home to me. 

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the next edition of Island Diaries by Kate!

Happy Holidays!

The Cayman Coffee Crawl

The Cayman Coffee Crawl

Many of us have embarked on our fair share of pub crawls — but what about a Coffee Crawl?

It’s time to mix up our routine with a new non-alcoholic event that can be enjoyed while basking in our lonesome or surrounded by our friends.

How does it work you ask? Well, it’s quite simple. You start by picking three (or more) coffee destinations. Luckily, if living in Cayman, this step has already been completed for you compliments of Island Diaries by Kate! You must then consider a time frame. Do you want to visit all three coffee venues this month, this weekend, or get super hyped on caffeine and visit all three in one day? 

Follow me on Instagram for my free Cayman Coffee Crawl itinerary or a customizable coffee crawl template (see left) that works anywhere in the world. This is a fun way to remember your favorite drinks and food from each place you visit and share your picks with friends and family!

Read about my first ever Cayman Coffee Crawl below and get ready to embark on your very own coffee adventure!

https://www.instagram.com/island_diaries_by_kate/

Stop Number #1: Bluestone Lane

Location: 51 Fort Street, George Town

Located only a few blocks from the waterfront in the heart of George Town, you will find Bluestone Lane on an adorable street corner across from George Town public library.

Seating: There are many seating options available both indoors and outdoors. Even during peak Sunday breakfast hours we were able to find a table within a few minutes of ordering our drinks. 

Beverage: As recommended by a friend, I ordered a Flat White with almond milk. It arrived in the most picturesque manner with the steamed milk design etched on the frothy surface. Bryan, a man who favors consistency in his coffee drinks, ordered an Americano served strong and hot in blue porcelain. Both drinks were rich in flavor and kick started our day in a perfectly caffeinated fashion. 

Bites: Unsure of where my appetite was when I arrived, I ordered their Vegan Keto PB Cheesecake. (I mean, who knew such a thing existed). It was delicious and large in portion, pairing wonderfully with the Flat White. Bryan went for a more traditional start to morning, ordering an Egg and Bacon Croissant Spiral. (Sunny side up egg, bacon, spinach, tomato chutney & roasted garlic aiolil). Overall, YUM. 

Thoughts? I would definitely recommend trying out Bluestone Lane for a quick breakfast or coffee while in George Town. As someone who spends much of her time around the Seven Mile area, it is nice to change up the vibe and head “downtown” to grab a coffee. Nice people, upbeat ambience, and a tasty menu. Definitely check this off your next Coffee Crawl!

Stop #2: Tillie’s, Palm Heights

Although Tillie’s would not be considered by most as a place to stop for coffee, we argue that it is one of the best and should definitely be considered on the crawl! Keep reading to find out why!

Location: 747 W Bay Road

Located on the coveted white sands of Seven Mile Beach, Tillie’s provides breathtaking ocean views in a captivatingly elegant dining space. Many Cayman residents and visitors have experienced such ambience at their iconic Sunday brunch but have you ever considered stopping by for something as simple as a coffee or juice?

Seating: We arrived around 11 am on a weekday It was incredibly quiet as the staff were just starting to prepare for the day ahead. We selected a table in the sandy area under the awning, as close as possible to the pristine waters as possible. We sipped our drinks with toes in the sand and only the ocean waves as background noise. Name a better place to enjoy a late morning coffee.

Beverage: I ordered a delightfully refreshing green juice and Bryan ordered, you guessed it, an Americano. 

Bites: I chose to enjoy my green juice in and of itself while Bryan ordered a small plate of empanadas. Of course, this was not the most conventional of coffee hours, but hey, anything goes while living on a Caribbean island! 

Thoughts: Unexpected but optimal venue for a coffee date. We will definitely be back for more green juices and americanos. Many people frequent Tillies for their elaborate brunches and cultural nights, but I think there’s something to be said for the simplicity of ordering a coffee and juice on the beach. You could even throw on a swim suit for a post coffee dip!

Stop #3: Jessie’s Juice

Location: Market St, Camana Bay 

Cafes don’t get much cuter than Jessie’s Juice in Camana Bay, a vibrant waterfront community in the heart of Seven Mile Beach. Jessie’s is the perfect place for a post workout juice, a mid shopping spree coffee, or a quick and healthy meal while out on the town.

Seating: Jessie’s, being the cute little place that it is, has very limited indoor seating. The main draw of this juice bar & café is the vibrant outdoor seating options perfect for meeting up with friends or people-watching in solitude. You can even bring along a furry companion!

Beverage: If you are one of those people who are overwhelmed by “too many” amazing options, you may have a tough time at Jessie’s. One look at the menu and your eyes will go wide with wonder. We came for coffee but as usual were tempted by the wide variety of smoothies, juices, lemonades, and kombucha. After trying a couple samples, we ditched our coffee plans and settled on two tall glasses of peach kombucha. Even people who are a little bit on the booch fence will love Jessie’s version. It is fresh, fizzy, and has virtually none of the vinegar flavor that some brews seem to contain. I totally recommend this drink especially because they let you taste it beforehand!

Bites: We settled on Bryan’s favorite pastry — the banana nut muffin. This muffin has been known to help the accountants of Camana Bay survive through the busy season! It is a light and delicious option if you are not super hungry! 

Thoughts: All around, Jessie’s is one of my favorite places to go for a coffee or smoothie. If you haven’t been yet and would like to try it out, you should definitely go when you have time to sit for a while outside. Bring a book, meet a friend, or people-watch to your heart’s content. (Wear sun glasses so people don’t think you’re creepy.)

Cayman Coffee Crawl in Review:

This island offers many exciting events… but if you aren’t interested in drinking alcohol or spending a lot of money, I think the Cayman Coffee Crawl is an excellent activity to try out! Please stay tuned for future coffee crawls as I know I am only scratching the surface and there are so many places to be explored! (In Cayman and world wide!)

Connect

If you decide to try my coffee crawl or design your own version wherever you are in the world, please share with me! Also, if you have any recommendations for cafes to try in Cayman or around the world, send them my way 🙂

As always, thanks for reading! Subscribe below to receive new content to your inbox every Wednesday!

A CONVERSATION WITH JANINE MARTINS

A CONVERSATION WITH JANINE MARTINS

Janine Martins is a yoga and meditation teacher based in Grand Cayman. She creates personalized, private yoga experiences for her clients in their homes and in outdoor spaces.


Introduction

Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Janine Martins has undoubtedly picked up on her profound yet subtle wisdom that manifests itself through stories, insight, and acute observations. Following a conversation with Janine you may find yourself feeling more centered and focused as her positive vibes permeate everyone around her. 

After Janine’s ayurvedic morning routine I was able to ask her questions about her business, her personal yoga practice, as well as her life growing up in Cayman. Just as in everyday conversations, her responses were deeply thoughtful, eloquent, and uplifting. Keep reading to get your fill of inspiration and good vibes!

How and when did your yoga journey begin? 

In the winter of 2008 I was living in my university town. I signed up for a 7 week yoga course at a shop that sold yoga and activewear.  I was walking home after yoga one evening and realized all of a sudden that I was smiling ear to ear… blissful. I saw the snow on the ground and the people around me. I felt so deeply present in the moment. I didn’t realize at the time what the class was doing to me… but a while later, January 1st 2009 to be specific, I began my 1-week intro-pass to Bliss Yoga in Cayman.  I went every day for 7 days. I fell in love. One day before class I was bending down at the water cooler to fill up my bottle and suddenly thought, “I could totally be a yoga teacher.” The thought went out of my head just as quickly as it came. After that week I continued to practice yoga 6 days a week for about 8 months. I was obsessed, I couldn’t stop going. It made me feel so balanced. I found a routine, I went to work, I came home, I had my tea out on the balcony. I was meditating but I didn’t realize I was meditating. I was doing a lot of things naturally that I didn’t realize until years later. 

“I’m coming back here. I know I am coming back here. This is my calling.”

Flash-forward to 2016 — I left Toronto again and was back in Cayman. I knew I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I had experienced burnout and other traumatic experiences that had hospitalized me. My soul was crying out.  I asked myself what it was I really wanted to do. “I want to teach yoga.” Within 3 months I had found a place to do my teacher training, but my passport did not arrive on time so I had to find a new place. That’s how I ended up going to Bali and Singapore. Two weeks before I was supposed to go I got into a car accident and again, thought I wasn’t going to be able to go. But it all came together. I completed my yoga and my reiki training at the same time with Tirisula Yoga. We were in Singapore for 4 weeks and Bali for 10 days. In Bali while driving from the airport to the property, I experienced déjà vu multiple times. “I have been to this corner; I’ve seen that person’s face – I feel like I have been here before.” The Balinese people kept asking me where I was from; they thought I was Balinese. I thought, “I’m coming back here. I know I am coming back here. This is my calling.”

What kinds of yoga do you teach?

I try to be open to many different styles of yoga and utilize different practices. I don’t pigeonhole myself to one. The several I do draw on are hatha, vinyasa, kundalini, yin, and restorative. I only teach what I feel drawn to but I customize those experiences to my clients. Everyone is unique so what my client needs is not necessarily what I need.

“I customize that practice for my clients based on their physical and energetic needs and what else they are doing in their life. I have to take into account the whole person.”

What kinds of practices do you find your clients typically need?

Many of my clients are already practicing very yang-centered practices such as CrossFit or working out at the gym. They don’t need to do Ashtanga or the very disciplined practices…they already have that. I find that what a lot of my clients need to do is to slow down. They need to feel, need to breathe. It is not so much about moving fast and doing 50 poses, but about being in one pose and feeling it and breathing in it. It’s not only about the physical practice but on honoring what the other practices are. Meditation is a big part of what I offer my clients and I think very quickly a lot of clients discover that is what they need a lot more of than movement. 

I try to stick to the practices that are a bit more traditional and a bit more energetic-focused as opposed to “here’s a system… go do it.”  I customize that practice for my clients based on their physical and energetic needs and what else they are doing in their life. I have to take into account the whole person. This is what Ayurveda says: you are a whole person, you’re not just this sixty minutes. What else are you doing? What else is going on in your life? 

What practices do YOU need?

For me personally, I need a combination. I need a vinyasa flow or a power flow to get my energy moving. But I also need yin… I need restorative, slow practices. I am very breath-focused. So if you practice next to me in a class I will sound like the Darth Vader next to you. You will know I am there. 

Having been raised in Cayman, what about this island have you come to love most? What makes you most proud about being Caymanian?

One would be the physical place — the landscape. I love how beautiful it is…the birds, the iron shore, the sand, how different Northside is from West Bay. And then the history…The sand front yards and the conch shells that line the driveways. I love this culture of small family living and people being so connected to the ocean and so connected to each other. I love having these traditions of making up songs and taking care of each other.

“Even if they didn’t always have the words, they always really wanted to take care of everyone. That sense of community, that’s what I love so much about Cayman.”

My grandmother and great grandmother…they were poor black women, they didn’t have any education. They raised my mother on their own. But they still told her, “Anne, go to the big school.” That was their way of saying go to university. Go before you get married. Make sure you can take care of yourself. They were two unmarried women who would die spinsters with no property other than their shop and their home. And even in the shop my grandmother was giving away things all the time. She had lists full of things that she gave away that people owed her money for. And that is what she was known for — being a very kind woman. There was so much love for each other  Even if they didn’t always have the words, they always really wanted to take care of everyone. That sense of community, that’s what I love so much about Cayman. We might not always say it the right way. It may not always come out in the right tone. But there is really a sense of “we have each other’s back.” 

When conditions are safe to travel, what are your top three destinations you would like to visit?

Spain, Portugal, and Cuba!

Cayman Fast Five:

  1. Favorite coffee spot: Jessie’s Juice, Americano
  2. Most peaceful place: Northside, Barefoot Beach
  3. Go-to lunch spot & what you order there: Tillies – Vegan Kale Salad, Tostones, or Snapper Ceviche
  4. Day-off activities: Paddle boarding with Vitamin Sea, breakfast at Island Naturals (Acai Bowl), or a massage @ No. 11 Spa
  5. “Guilty pleasure”: “I don’t feel guilty about anything I eat or do — everything I do is something that is a gift to my body. If I want to indulge I give myself permission to indulge. I am making the conscious decision to do it.”


READ NEXT:

AN INSIDE LOOK: JANINE MARTINS

AYURVEDIC MORNING ROUTINE

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Cayman Islands Travel & Lifestyle

MEET KATE

 Hi, I’m Kate! I’m a Wisconsin native who traded her snow boots for flip-flops in May of 2020 when I packed my whole life into two suitcases and moved to the Cayman Islands with my partner, Bryan.  I created Island Diaries as a way to document my island adventures and share about the Cayman lifestyle. A Midwest girl at heart, I bring a fresh perspective to Caribbean life, serving as a guide for locals and tourists alike on all things Cayman Islands. Whether you are local to Cayman, planning to visit, or just curious about island life, I invite you to explore Island Diaries and let this site guide you on your next island adventure!