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Crookedfinger Art: Sustainable Fashion & Art

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Crookedfinger Art is an expression of my person style and creative impulses. – Kim Cadenhead

Meet Kim! 

Kim Cadenhead is the founder of Crookedfinger Art.  Kim has a unique quirk, two crooked pinky fingers, a result of a genetic glitch.  Her little quirk resulted in the inspiration for her company name, it is an ode to her unique characteristic which she embraces and has allowed her to flourish as an artist with her original artistic style.  Kim is passionate about various medias for art projects.  Her portfolio includes: paintings on canvas, mixed media, handcrafted sustainable products and graphic t-shirt designs.  Kim recently took part in an artist workshop in North Carolina.  The workshop gave Kim an opportunity to grow as an artist and finesse her painting skills.  Her experience there lead to her latest creative endeavor a series of floral paintings on both canvas and repurposed wooden trays— both wonderful works of art for home decor.

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Kim is an artist who is inspired by the environment around her and incorporates the very essence of her surroundings into her paintings, handmade items and mixed media projects.  In my humble option, I view Kim’s most recent floral collection as having a touch of influence from impressionist paintings incorporated with her own modern signature style, blending beautifully together.  Her floral paintings from her 2016 collection are my personal favorites.  Kim sells both original canvas artwork and canvas prints.

Sustainable Fashion and Eco Art

Since moving from Toronto, Canada to the Cayman Islands, Kim has visited local thrift shops to gather materials for her latest sustainable art projects.  It is her aspiration to repurpose materials found locally and transform them in sustainable handcrafted products including: beach tote bags, hand tote bags, messenger bags rugs, pot holders, coasters and even mixed media art pieces.

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It is rather astounding when you take a moment to realize the magnitude of materials available that has the potential to be repurposed and used in a sustainable way.  All of her eco-friendly items are handmade.  Kim’s sustainable art pieces have all been made from magazines that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.  Kim is an artist with an eco-conscious mindset.  Her sustainable fashion and home products prove that recycled and repurposed materials can be transformed into chic sustainable products.

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Support Local

Kim’s artwork and eco-friendly products are available for sale at Art Nest Creative Studio, at Pasadora Place.  You can also visit Kim at Camana Bay’s local Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays.

Stay Connected

Follow Kim on Facebook, click here

Follow Kim on Instagram, click here 

Visit her website, click here 

 

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Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet

 

Photo Credit: National Geographic

SEA OF HOPE follows iconic ocean explorer and conservationist Dr. Sylvia Earle, renowned underwater photographer Brian Skerry, author and captain Max Kennedy, and their unlikely crew of teenage aquanauts on a year-long quest to secure their future. Deploying science and photography, they hope to inspire the creation of blue parks across an unseen and imperiled American wilderness.

It was an absolute honor to be published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories.  Please visit their website to read my full article Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet.  Sea of Hope is airing 15th January 2017 on National Geographic.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

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Epiphany: How A Family Of Explorers & Conservationists Overcame Their Fears

 

View Epiphany Movie Trailer

A popular definition of epiphany as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is: “A moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.  For me, an epiphany is a sublime moment.  It is an awakening, when your thoughts come into focus and there is a moment of clarity.  The opportunity presents itself as an illuminating thought.  A moment of such great revelation can bring forth incredible things.

I have had the privilege to get to know award-winning filmmaker and wildlife cinematographer Michael Maes and his wife Ellen Cuylaerts, an award-winning wildlife photographer.  They are truly two of the most amazing people I have ever met.  They are inspiring, compassionate, kind, generous, brave and humble people.  I am grateful to know them.  As a family they live intriguing and extraordinary lives as explorers and conservationists.  They explore the world and use their gifts and talents in film and photography to share their passion for conservation with the world.  An underlying message in their documentary Epiphany is the power of film and photography.  I am a firm believer that art whether it is in the form of film, photography, writing or any other genre has the ability to create change and have a positive impact.  The photographs and film both Michael and Ellen share with the world captures stunning encounters with wildlife, marine life and spectacular scenic views of nature.  It serves to remind us this planet is worth fighting for and protecting.  Art has an incredible ability to connect us all on a universal level.

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For Michael and Ellen, film and photography is a means for them to contribute to nature and conservation— a way of giving back.  They use their films and photography to educate, and create awareness about various environmental issues.  A strong image whether captured in a still photograph or a moving picture can evoke emotion, share a powerful message and allow an opportunity for one to be enlightened and enriched.  In particular, a scene in their documentary Epiphany with Whale Sharks captures a collection of beautiful moments spent in the presence of these majestic creatures.  There is utter tranquility within this scene and the Whale Sharks swim gracefully.  The scene showed the majesty of sharks— they are not to be feared but respected.  Other scenes with Oceanic White Tips present the elegant poises and patterns of these sharks as they glide through the water, depicting them beautifully in their natural habitat.  The sharks and divers were able to inhabit the space harmoniously.  It is important to note, the divers still had to remain very vigilant at all times.  Ellen and Michael take great care in the composition of their photography by ensuring they develop a connection with the wildlife during their encounter and allow that to translate in their photography.  By doing so, it creates a powerful image illustrating that there is a story and meaning behind every photograph.  The heart of their photography and film is to remind us all what a privilege it is to live on this beautiful planet and to not take for granted our natural resources, the environment, the ocean and all animals.  There is a great urgency for a united effort and action to happen globally to increase conservation of the environment and protection of all animals.  As advocates for the ocean they are keen to promote awareness of the urgency to protect sharks.  Ellen and Michael use film and photography to promote conservation and help rehabilitate the image of sharks by showing us that sharks are to be respected not feared.  The real fear is a life without sharks.  The reality is if sharks continue to be slaughtered for their fins and their population continues to rapidly decline they will face extinction.  Sharks have been roaming the ocean immensely longer than humans have inhabited the planet.  It would be a great tragedy for sharks to become extinct.  There is no coming back from extinction.

 

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Recently, I had the opportunity to watch their documentary Epiphany a film that is inspiring and moving.  The film left a profound impact on me.  It is a film that I hold dear to my heart, as it was truly special to watch a film friends of mine had made and with such admirable bravery they shared their story with the world.  I implore others to watch their award-winning documentary which is currently available on iTunes.  The documentary touches on a variety of themes: the power of art and film, conservation of sharks, environmentalism, Autism, the unbreakable bond of a family and finding bravery to overcome fear.  Michael and his family are incredibly courageous to share a vulnerable side of their lives and their journey through life with the world.  Primarily, the narrative of the film tells the journey of Ellen and how she finds the bravery to overcome her fear of the ocean.  It is her kids that leads Ellen back to nature.  It is on this journey, Ellen rediscovers her love for photography which allows her to overcome her fear of the water by swimming with sharks and photographing them.  The film also touches on Michael and their kids Margaux and Max leading extraordinary lives with autism.  A takeaway from their documentary is that there is a need in this world to look past each others differences and accept one another as they are.  We are all uniquely different and that is what adds to our individual beauty.  There is a need for society to stop labelling and creating divides due to differences— being different can be a remarkable gift.  A beautiful message within in the film, is the families unbreakable bond.  The diagnosis of Autism running in their family understandably initially created a feeling of isolation, fear and hardship.  However, together as a family they were able to thrive and live out their passions.  All of them having wonderfully marvelous courageous lives.  As a family they inspire us all to live a life of compassion, kindness and bravery.

 

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The power and healing of nature is beautifully interwoven within the story which unfolds throughout the documentary.  Nature serves as a catalyst to connect the family together, strengthen their bond and open doors for amazing opportunities to share their passion for conservation, film, photography and art.  A beautiful synergy is built between the family as they collectively immerse themselves in exploring nature and the depths of the ocean.  A profound message the documentary presents is that Ellen is able to move past her fear of the ocean and develop a trust within nature.  The ocean serves as a bit of a paradox in Ellen’s life, while on one hand it is the foundation of her fear of water, yet on the other, it serves to inspire her to contribute to conservation, follow her passion of photography and connect deeply with her family.  By having nature as an integral component of their lives, the differences within the family does not create walls to divide them, in fact nature bridges the family together and anchors them.  Moreover, through expeditions exploring nature, it brings forth a bravery within each of them to overcome their own personal fears.  Through their conservation efforts and giving back to nature, each of them were able embrace their individualism and remain true to themselves and their passion for the environment, photography, film and art.

Meet Michael Maes

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Michael Maes is a wildlife filmmaker, specialized in big animals and animal behavior. His portfolio (both underwater and topside) covers the polar regions, temperate waters and the tropics. He has a passionate interest for polar bears and Arctic whales.

His work has been broadcast on various national television like Nat Geo Wild, Outside Television, CBC. It also received recognition at a myriad of international film festivals; reflecting the ability to translate the need for wildlife conservation onto the screen.

In 2015 Michael was inducted as cinematographer in the Ocean Artists Society (http://www.oceanartistssociety.org), an organization uniting artists worldwide to raise awareness and protect the marine environment through art. Michael is also a founding Navigator of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (http://www.reefresearch.org), a leading scientific research centre in the Caribbean focusing on coral reef restoration, research on coral resilience, and ocean education.

More About Michael  

Website michaelmaes.com   (Currently Under Construction)

Check out some of his recent Arctic Work:

 

Q & A with Award-winning Filmmaker Michael Maes

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1. What inspired the documentary and for you to tell this story?

Ellen Cuylaerts; my wife; challenged herself to overcome her fear of water and sharks, culminating her personal growth by feeding those feared sharks. That was the story to which many viewers can relate to.

2. What is the heart of the documentary? Or the core message for audiences to take from watching the film?

Basically Epiphany is a story about all of us. Everyone has his or her fears, everyone faces challenges of life, we can all make decisions to alter our paths.

Epiphany shows the viewer setbacks can be turned into strongholds of life itself.

In short, Epiphany is a story of hope.

3. Did you face any challenges while making this documentary?

Apart from logistical nightmares, the complete lack of privacy for our family during the 18 months of filming was very exigent. Although most of the shootings were at dream locations, we constantly had cameras and microphones pointed at or near us. Especially Ellen as I was fortunate enough to be behind the camera for most of the underwater filming and all areal cinematography.

Next would be the communication between the producer (me) and the rest of the crew. Having autism makes it very difficult to communicate my thoughts; up to a point where I even think I “say” something but I actually only “think” it. That has lead to many difficult situations, frustrations and even words. But, ultimately and always thanks to Ellen, we regrouped and were able to finish a gem.

4. What was one key lesson you learned from making this film?

Don’t think what you say but say what you think!

5. Is there a particular scene in the documentary that resonates with you or has the most significant meaning to you?

To me the most emotional scene in the documentary is at the end where Ellen stands strong among tens of sharks circling her and I (you can’t see that of course as I am filming it) am lying flat on the sand at her feet; filming Ellen from that extreme low angle; all the way up to the water surface; sharks everywhere.

That scene grabs me the most as it portrays in images the fact that Ellen conquered her fear, surrounded by sharks yet she is the one who is in charge! There she stands, holding food next to her body, telling the sharks with her body-language to not come in for the food… she… her… your wife… the mother of your two children… surrounded by sharks… I cannot express how powerful that scene is for a filmmaker who’s the husband of the talent…

As a cinematographer that scene also grabs me as it is – excuse-moi the bragging – simply a formidable shot completed by the genius score of music written by the Belgian musician Eric Bettens.

6. What was your favorite filming location?

Honestly? None! They all had their particular challenges and filmic rewards. A favorite moment I could tell you: a close to two hour dive with only Ellen and myself at Tiger Beach. We were down there without bait or chum. We just wanted to have our Zen moment; away from the fuzzy madness of the production. Did we get rewarded for being there: we had three 12 feet tiger sharks and a bunch of lemons and reefies. A mind-blowing peaceful moment! This footage did not end up in the documentary as the sequences were too long and beautiful to cut. Now that Epiphany is released I will review those amazing scenes again.

7. What do you hope this documentary will accomplish? Or what is your goal or hope for this film?

Of course we want to spread awareness on the sad condition sharks are facing globally. But we also want people to think about their own life and take action if they want to. We want Epiphany to bring hope to those whom are trapped in a fixed pattern, caught in a seemingly hopeless situation.

8. What does the film mean to you and your family?

30 months of blood, sweat and tears.

9. Do you believe film and art has the power to help bring positive changes to the environment?

Many of the world’s environmental issues are far out of reach of most people. Pictures and film bring those issues closer to many, though often in the hard “documenting” way – which is good of course.

Bringing the animals and their world to the beholder in all beauty – nature as it is – makes people see the beauty of those animals. This could lessen the fear of the unknown and invoke interest in the animal or its habitat. Every time I get a message from someone I don’t know telling me some work of mine made him or her get interested in that animal or its environment, is a bigger reward to me than a paycheck.

10. Do you find using art and film as a medium allows you to see the impact and changes in the environment differently, than as opposed to just reading about the issues our environment faces?

As I am a person whom thinks in images, I would believe so. However I feel this question should better be answered by an avid and passionate reader.

More Info about Epiphany 

Website            : www.epiphany.movie

Epiphany on iTunes : https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/epiphany/id1169290433

Trailer Epiphany                     : https://vimeo.com/156486645

Special Thanks

Special thanks: Photos and video courtesy of Michael Maes and Ellen Cuylaerts

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For The Love Of Animals: Ian Somerhalder Foundation Medical Emergency Grants

 

Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

A truly heartwarming initiative was started by the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) to aid in the rescue and rehabilitation of animals that have heartbreaking stories of being abused, neglected or suffered a traumatic injury.  These animals are deserving and in need of a second chance.  ISF created their Medical Emergency Program to extend compassion to these animals and assist in aiding to their recovery and wellbeing.  ISF launched their Medical Emergency Grant Program on Valentine’s Day, 2014.  A day symbolizing a commitment of love and compassion towards animals— inspiring others to do the same.  Since the inception of this program, they have helped over 1,000 animals including: cats, dogs, turtles, birds, bats, horses, sheep, cows, sea lions, goats, rabbits, and more.  All have benefited from an ISF Medical Emergency Grant— giving them an improved quality of life, resulting in a touching success stories.  These animal rescues are now living happier lives with their new families in their forever homes. The testimony of these animals show, that animals have an incredible resilience no matter how difficult the hardship they faced.  They also remind of us of the incredible bond animals establish with humans, despite the suffering they endured, once they found a new and loving family in a safe environment they continue to express love unconditionally.

Animals have an exquisitely poignant way of teaching us, through demonstration, how to love and be loved. We learn compassion, as well as expand our perception of the infinite connection to the environment around us, from our creature friends–whether they are furry and lick us, or slither and swim. We owe it to these creatures to provide protection, healing and love. That is exactly why I am so proud that the IS Foundation has launched our first grant program — the Emergency Medical Grant for Animals – Ian Somerhalder

ISF provides grants to both the US and Canada and works closely with dedicated teams of amazing rescuers in various parts of the US and Canada who are on the front line every day finding animals in need of a better life and urgent care.  These admirable individuals advocate on the behalf of these animals.  Animals that receive an Emergency Medical Grant have been found either, abused, neglected or have suffered a traumatic injury.  ISF reviews applications and typically makes a decision within a week.  They then have the money sent out the following week to the treating veterinarians and rescuers.  The ISF Medical Emergency Grant criteria and eligibility can be found on the ISF website, Grant Information Page.  “The purpose of this grant is to provide animal victims a second chance by alleviating their rescuers of the financial stress of treatment so they can focus on facilitating the animal’s adoption into a permanent, loving home” ISF works with individuals, animal rescuers, veterinarians and non-profit organizations seeking to rescue and rehabilitate animal victims.  (ISF)

The ISF Medical Emergency Grants Program has done an incredible job of bettering the lives of so many animals.  Animals that have had the opportunity to recover and rehabilitate now have wonderful success stories inspiring us all to help protect and care for animals in need.  ISF has established a network of dedicated animal rescuers (grantees) and built amazing relationships with them over the past 2 years.  Their collaboration and teamwork has created a positive impact.  An added bonus, the ISF have met so many loving animals that have greatly benefited from their program.  In instances when the animal in need and the rescuer are near by, the ISF take the opportunity to meet with the animal and rescuer(s).  The ISF have shared a plethora of wonderful heartwarming success stories of the animals they have help give a second chance to. To read their success stories visit their grant success page.  Their dedication to provide resources to assist in bringing a life changing positive impact on the lives of animals that have deeply suffered, inspires us all to work together to be a voice for animal victims that have endured a painful hardship.

Must Love Animals

Below are a few success stories of the ISF Medical Emergency Grant

Meet Elsa

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Ozzy

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Twinkle Toes

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

To support the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and stay up-to-date with their projects follow them on Facebook and Twitter or visit their website 

The Cayman Islands: A Haven for Sharks & Rays

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

The Cayman Islands has built its name and reputation primarily on being a renowned diving destination.  Pioneers in our local diving community over the last few decades contributed to building our diving industry into the premier operation that it is today.  They recognized the exquisite beauty our underwater landscape had to offer and have since then made it accessible for locals and tourists to recreationally experience and explore the beauty that lies below the surface for themselves.  With a desire to showcase our natural resources comes with a commitment to preserve them.  Our duty towards conservation for both land and the ocean is beneficial not just from an environmental perspective but also an economic one.  Our tourism industry is strongly tied to our island’s natural resources.  Ergo, an obvious reason to ensure that our natural resources are protected.  Last year on Earth Day (2015), the Cayman Islands officially became a Sharks and Rays Sanctuary.  The sanctuary expands across all three islands.  This is a positive step towards ecotourism as many tourists are keen to visit places that are committed to conservation.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

“I’m extremely grateful that the Cayman Islands recognized the need to make the islands a shark and ray sanctuary. Not only will their protected status benefit the health of the reefs but it’s also a strong statement towards the tourism industry which is an important source of revenue. By protecting our natural resources the Cayman Islands puts itself in the the market of the informed and eco friendly tourist making the right choice for the future generations.” -Ellen Cuylaerts

Sharks in the Water

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

By virtue of us standing by and not acting to protect coral reefs and marine life that are under threat there is a very likely possibility that corals reefs will continue to become degraded and even destroyed.  The caribbean has already lost 80% of its coral reefs.  There is an intricate connection between coral reefs and all marine life.  If keystone species such as sharks continue to decrease in population it will have a tremendous impact on the coral reefs and the marine life that depend on the reefs.  A scary thought that should be racing through everyone’s minds is what if I never see a shark in the water again?  Our fear should be driven by the thought of what will happen to our ocean and the ecosystem if shark populations globally continues to spiral down or worse become extinct.  Sharks are a keystone species and are fundamental to maintaining the health and balance of: coral reefs, marine life and the ocean.  Without their presence there could potentially be a devastating collapse within our fragile ecosystem as their role in keeping our “life support” viable is monumental.  Ultimately, we need a healthy ocean as 70% of the world’s oxygen comes from there.  Healthy shark populations means healthy reefs.  Coral reefs support 1/4 of all marine life.  Healthy reefs means a flourishing population of marine life.  This is beneficial for: our ecosystem, recreational divers, snorkelers and for fisherman.  Balance within our ecosystem is key to benefiting the preservation of the planet, as well as a thriving diving industry, tourism industry and fisherman.

We can’t fail to act to protect our ocean and marine life.  The ocean is often referred to as the heart of the planet.  There seems to be a collective assumption that the ocean is indestructible, that no matter the amount of pollution pumped into the ocean it will always reset itself, that there will always be coral reefs and an abundance of fish, sharks and all marine life.  It is as though we cannot fathom the thought that it could all go away one day.  The reality is the ocean like anything else has its limitations.  We cannot keep testing the ocean’s ability to bounce back.  It is evident that the ocean is under an immense amount stress due to climate change and the rapid decrease in the populations of a multitude of marine species.  For instance, sharks and rays are under threat.  Every year, 70 million sharks are killed for their fins (Fin Free).  In comparison it is reported that targeted Manta Ray populations have declined by an estimated 56% to 88% in recent years (Wild Aid).  With this in mind, there is an urgency for countries around the world to declare their waters as a shark and rays sanctuary.  The more protection coverage of the ocean for sharks and rays will by virtue allow for coral reefs, and fish populations to have time to recover and recuperate.  This is beneficial to everyone.

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Specifically to our waters, current research indicated that we have a lower shark population than expected for a healthy reef ecosystem.  This suggests that our waters need an increase in sharks to ensure our coral reefs can remain healthy.  Shark populations recover over a significant period of time and sanctuaries can provide a safe haven for populations to recuperate.  Presently, there are no comparative ray nor shark surveys specific to our region.  It is difficult to state how our population of sharks and rays compares to other islands in the Caribbean.  However, some research conducted by Marine Conservation International (Research Partners of Department of Environment Cayman Islands) suggests that Cayman’s shark numbers are relatively low in comparison to our Caribbean neighbors.  Notably, numbers will vary from species to species.  However, our waters have a fair population of sharks and rays. Both species are being threatened across the Caribbean and around the world.  Protecting sharks and rays regionally will benefit not only our territory but also on a global scale as it encourages other countries to designate their waters as a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures.  It is evident that the protection of sharks and rays needs to be made as a united effort, and the Cayman Islands is doing their part to help in this initiative.  Now that our waters have been designated as a shark and ray sanctuary there is hope that it  will give our shark population a chance to recover.

A Sanctuary for Sharks, Rays & Coral Reefs

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The sanctuary serves as a haven for our sharks and rays. Our sharks and rays are of great significance to our coral reefs and marine environment both ecologically and economically.  Most importantly their protection is needed to ensure their survival —our ecosystem depends on it.

The sanctuary also serves as a means to benefit our island not only from an ecological standpoint but economically.  The protection of sharks and rays has a direct impact on benefiting our tourism industry.  Sharks are a highlight for divers.  Whereas, rays can be seen in a large school at Stingray City located at the sandbar on the eastern side of Grand Cayman.  Protecting our sharks and rays within our region will not only allow for a positive impact on improving the health of our coral reefs but also it will help to maintain our status as a popular diving destination.  Flourishing reefs serve us ecologically but as an added bonus they are attractive diving spots helping our tourism industry and economy.

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Declaring Cayman waters as a sharks and rays sanctuary is a positive step towards ecotourism and beneficial for our islands.  Countries making a shift towards ecotourism demonstrates that we can find a balance between developing the economy of a country but not at the cost of losing their natural resources.  It is possible to use our natural resources and benefit from them and not destroy them —rather there is an emphasis on the preservation of natural resources as they have intrinsic value.  Specific to Caribbean islands our natural resources are everything to our tourism industry which greatly impacts our economy.  For Cayman, we could look at the ocean as the very soul of our island.  Our culture is bound to the ocean and it is imperative that we continue to move forward in protecting our ocean, coral reefs, marine life and natural environment.  Cayman’s transition into ecotourism has helped to establish the Cayman Islands as setting a positive example for other islands in the Caribbean by way of encouraging other islands to consider becoming a sharks and rays sanctuary to increase the coverage of areas that serve as a haven for them.  While, our waters protect a small percentage of sharks and rays in our region, and is making a positive impact, it would be greatly beneficial if other regional countries made their waters a sanctuary.  Alone, we can make a small difference, but together we can make a much stronger impact.  Protecting the coral reefs, marine life, sharks and rays is a global need.  

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

This article was also published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories please click here 

Wake Up & Smell the Coffee Marshmallows!

Powder Monkey Gourmet Treats has whipped up a batch of new flavors for their gourmet marshmallow line. Coffee lovers, are you ready for it? Coffee infused marshmallows! Yes, the creme de la creme of marshmallows has arrived. -, (Powder Monkey) has not only created one of the most delightful marshmallows on the market, but has also created an ingenious garnish to morning coffee. Oh yes, move over hot cocoa with marshmallows on top, coffee topped up with these divine marshmallows is on a whole new level of awesome! Try the Coconut, Mint Chocolate Chip or Rose to spice up your coffee. Bonus! For those of you, like me, who has food allergies the good news is the coffee flavored marshmallows are gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free!

Hip Hip Hooray! Another fun fact, these little treats are made with a rich blend of different coffees.  Curious what inspired this new flavor, “People love coffee. The flavor is complex and has many different layers to it” says, creator Lydia Ray.

While coffee lovers are in marshmallow heaven, don’t think for a moment that is the only flavor Lydia has whipped up. Another, equally yummy new marshmallow flavor by Powder Monkey is Mint chocolate chip infused marshmallows! Summer might be over, but no one said you can’t make s’mores all year long. These delightful marshmallows are jam-packed with chocolate chips and is the ultimate ingredient for s’mores. Stay-tuned for our recipe. If you don’t fancy a s’more you can always add these chocolate chip treats in your hot cocoa to give it an extra layer of chocolate richness, which is never a bad thing.

Marshmallow Lollipop

How cool is this? Marshmallow lollipops! Powder Monkey marshmallow goodness just got even better. Essentially, it is a scrumptious dessert on the go.  These little heavenly treats are fantastics for events, like birthday parties and tea parties.

The Making Of Powder Monkey

Learn how it all began.  Read our last feature on Powder Monkey Gourmet Treats, click here

Photo Credits: 

Powder Monkey Gourmet Treats

Eco-friendly Travel Must Haves

Happy Wanderlust Wednesday!

If you are getting ready for your next travel adventure, and you are looking for some great eco-friendly products then this post is just for you.  Curious to find out what’s in my bag? I have 6 easy to travel with eco-friendly travel must haves. They are a selection of basic items. Truth, I am almost always overpack! I am still learning how to pack lighter.  It is safe to say, I could add more items to my bag (and this post).

What’s in my bag? Eco-friendly Travel Must Haves

The Bag- A reusable Paris themed bag

A reusable bag is always a great investment. Plastic bags are a nightmare for the planet.  A reusable bag is wonderful to have when traveling, especially if you like to do some impromptu shopping at a local farmers market or great stores you find along the way.  I love my Paris themed bag, it is a perfect fit for traveling.

H2O on the go

What is lovely to see, is hydration stations in public venues and airports. Having a reusable water bottle with you at all times is great.  It keeps you from having to cave in and purchase bottled water. No matter where you are traveling staying hydrated is key.

Get the Eco Chic Look

Traveling can be a bit of a nightmare, and all the running around and waking up at crazy hours or flying in on a red-eye it’s hard for a girl to look her best.  Sometimes less is more, and all a girl ready needs is that perfect shade of lipstick.  Butter London has a wonderful array of makeup and products. Here is the best part, these products are carcinogen-free.  My favorite little makeup and cosmetics bag is from  Cheeky What is great about having a little cosmetics bag with you, is you can store makeup and other little odds and ends.  These lovely items I purchased from Le Visage at Camana Bay you can find a wonderful selection of makeup and skincare products that are great for you and the planet.

Beauty Rush with LUSH

I love the little travel size shampoo and conditioners hotels offer you.  The only downside is the plastic packaging. I just recently discovered that LUSH makes both a shampoo and conditioner bar! Hello, no plastic packaging!  On the plus side, hotels always offer you bar soaps with little or no plastic packaging.

Wake Me Up For Champagne!

 

The general rule is if you are gonna wake someone up who is sleeping on a plane, can it at least be for champagne? A sleeping mask is the best thing ever, especially when traveling. What I find great about this particular one is the velcro strap. Other styles often end up loosing their shape and becoming loose resulting in the purchase of a new one, this particular style is adjustable so lasts longer (if not, forever).

Tell us where your next travel adventure is and what are your favorite eco-friendly travel must haves…

Happy and safe travels, xo

 

Birthday Wishes, Give With Love, xo

On 13th October 2013, I started a birthday tradition, whereby I selected a group of charities to raise awareness and funds for.  I asked friends and family to kindly make a donation in lieu of gifts.  In my twenties, I had reached a point in my life where I no longer needed to accumulate more things.  I love presents just as much as anyone, but the truth was I didn’t need them.  I would rather friends and family give what they would have spent on a birthday present to a charity instead.  So, with that in mind, I used my blog as a platform to help raise awareness for the selected charities over the years.  This year, the theme is blue.  It is the commonality between all three charities I would like to highlight this year.  Blue is representative of the ocean, which directly correlates to both Force Blue and Grand Cayman Eco Divers: Coral Nursery Conservation Program.  Having spent nearly my entire life living on an island, I am drawn to the ocean.  I love everything about the ocean.  It is my sanctuary.  As far as I am concerned, the ocean is the most enchanting place on the planet.  The health of our oceans, coral reefs and marine life rely on the protection and ocean conservation globally to keep it thriving.  Our oceans are the heart of this planet.  Blue also happens to be the awareness color for diabetes, a cause very close to my heart.  The blue circle is the global symbol for diabetes awareness as designated by the United Nations, it is symbolic of the blue sky we are all under and unity.

My birthday wish this year is simply to raise awareness and funds for these causes.  All I ask, is for friends and family and wonderful people I have not met, but are reading this post to kindly share this post to raise awareness for these great causes and/or if you can make a donation.  Usually, I would write this post on my birthday, however, I thought if I release it earlier it might help raise more awareness and hopefully funds for these causes. Feel free to us this hashtag when sharing the post  #ecochicbirthdaywishes

Give With Love, xo

Below are three organizations I would like to raise awareness and funds for.  Each of them, I have worked with in some capacity.  They are all very worthy causes and close to my heart.  I have absolute respect for their initiatives to help make a difference in the world and the lives of others.  It has been an honor to get to know the people who work at these organizations and work alongside them.

FORCE BLUE

FORCE BLUE is a non-profit organization, (501(c)(3) initiative based in New York, their mission is to unite the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of coral reef conservation for the betterment of both. FORCE BLUE gives former combat divers and SOF veterans the chance to experience and explore one of the most critically endangered ecosystems on the planet and to adapt their training and teamwork to aid in its protection (FORCE BLUE).  It is an incredible honor to have met the veterans of Force Blue’s Team One.  After getting to know them, hear their story and work with FORCE BLUE it has changed a part of me forever.  The veterans of FORCE BLUE Team One have such incredibly beautiful souls.  They are my heroes.  They are humble, inspiring and have a great respect and passion for ocean conservation.  FORCE BLUE’s initiative is life changing.  FORCE BLUE Team One had their first mission here in the Cayman Islands and they helped with the Coral Nursery Conservation Program we have on island, to read more click here 

FORCE BLUE To make a donation please click here to their website  

Grand Cayman Eco Divers: Coral Nursery Conservation Program

Grand Cayman Eco Divers, is a husband and wife team devoted to supporting the reefs and are dedicated to maintaining the coral nurseries, outplanting, and educating the youth about coral.  Their Coral Nursery Conservation Program seeks to grow viable coral fragments on “coral trees” to later outplant them onto damaged or critical coral reef areas.  This effort of coral conservation has proven successful.  Funds from the public and corporations are needed to help keep this conservation effort going.

To make a donation click here to their website 

Cayman Islands Diabetes Association

 

Diabetes is a cause that is very dear to my heart.  At 21, I lost my mother to complications of diabetes.  My mother unfortunately had lost her eye sight, had a series of strokes, and finally had kidney failure, all of which are complications of diabetes.  My mother’s birthday was 31st October, as a way to honor her memory I would like to raise awareness for the Cayman Islands Diabetes Association.  The Cayman Islands Diabetes Association is a non-profit organization and they offer free public screenings for diabetes using the HbA1c test which gives a 3 month average reading of glucose levels.

To make a donation: Please email to inquire donation options and details cidiabetes@candw.ky

P.S.- Thank You, xo

Thank you to everyone who is able to make a contribution to help these wonderful organizations.  Whether it is by simply sharing this post to help raise awareness or making a donation.  Your generosity is greatly appreciated and will help these organizations in helping make a difference and carrying out their initiatives.

#ecochicbirthdaywishes

with love, Laura xoxo

Photo Credits:

FORCE BLUE

Grand Cayman Eco Divers

Jim Catlin

Turning the Tide on Plastic

It is becoming more evident that as consumers we have an addiction to plastic and it is a habit that is in desperate need of breaking. Plastic is an escalating problem globally. In particular, single-use plastics such as bottle caps, plastic bags, straws and so on are more frequently being found in our oceans or tangled around or ingested by marine life. Micro-plastics are another major component of ocean pollution. Plastic products that are not recycled end up somewhere and that could be in landfills or as debris polluting the environment, rivers, lakes, and oceans which is problematic. Somewhere along the way the ocean has become a trash can, and it was never intended or designed to be one. Our oceans serve as a home to marine life, coral reefs and ecosystems all of which depend on a healthy ocean for their survival— we depend on a healthy ocean for our survival. We view the ocean as this indestructible resource, however, even the ocean has its limits and plastic pollution disrupts the health of the ocean and is harmful to marine life. Some marine life become entangled in plastic and it often results in their death. While other marine life, ingest plastic which can also result in their death. That being said, the fish that we consume, is highly likely to have consumed plastic particles or micro-plastics and that could be problematic to our health in the future. As plastic pollution in our oceans is a growing issue and concern globally, it implores us to re-evaluate our consumption habits.  It is so easy to develop a disconnect once trash is tossed out or put in a landfill. We tend not to think about where it ends up, it quickly becomes out of sight and out of mind and from that it is easy to disregard the implications it might have on the place it ends up. The thing is there is no “away” our trash goes somewhere. Plastic is found everywhere! The magnitude of plastic that has accumulated in oceans and on land is astonishing. It is so easy not to think about it if we don’t see where it directly ends up or the implications it results in. The bottom line is we are all affected by the implications of plastic polluting oceans and our environment, it affects us just as much as it does animals and our environment. We need to be more conscious and aware of where our trash goes, we need to rethink what products we buy as consumers, and evaluate what environmental impact they have once discarded. Both consumers and producers need to rethink the packaging of products that are consumed, especially single-use plastic items. We should ask ourselves can we live without this product or is there a better alternative? In some instances, the answer is yes. For example, making small changes such as eliminating the use of straws, plastic bags and plastic bottles from our daily lives can create a positive impact.

Plastic-Free Cayman

Local Founder of Plastic-Free Cayman, Claire Hughes, was inspired after watching the documentary A Plastic Ocean to do her part in helping shift the Cayman Islands towards being single use plastic-free, or as close to it as possible. Her first plan of action was to start a Plastic Bag Ban petition. Plastic such as grocery bags which end up in the ocean cause serious harm to turtles and other marine life. For instance, turtles might mistake a plastic bag for a jellyfish, a normal part of their diet. Once the stomach is full of plastic it is a slow painful death for the animal as it physically cannot ingest any nutritious food the animal becomes malnourished and dies from starvation. Plastic also disrupts the turtle’s natural ability to manage its buoyancy, preventing the turtle from diving down for food it can only float on the surface leading to severe sunburn and eventual starvation. Additionally, plastic breaks up in the ocean into small pieces of plastic which can be mistaken for food by many types of marine life.

Plastic-Free Cayman’s aim is to raise awareness, educate and act on reducing single use plastics in the Cayman Islands. While on a trip to Little Cayman, Claire and her family scooped up a plastic bag floating in the sea while kayaking. Claire and her family did a beach clean up while on holiday in Little Cayman after they were shocked to find trash on the beaches and wanted to leave the beach cleaner than they found it. Trash is not something one expects to find while vacationing on an island. Seeing trash littered along the beaches really hit home, and encouraged her to start a dialogue about the harm plastic causes in our oceans and to marine life. As a teacher, she has had the opportunity to educate Cayman’s youth about plastic in our oceans by showing them the 22 minute educational version of A Plastic Ocean.

 

 

Beach Clean Ups

 

Plastic-Free Cayman is expanding its efforts of eliminating plastic on our islands by teaming up Red Sail Sports Cayman to initiate an island wide beach clean up once a month over the next 12 months.

The public is invited to come together as a community to clean up our beaches. Sadly, even paradise is not immune to plastic and other items of trash washing up on our beaches or floating in the sea. We can all do our part to help save our oceans and joining in a community beach clean up is a great way to make a positive impact. Even spending 5 minutes out of our day to pick up trash along the beach or side of the road helps to make a positive impact.

Coming Soon: Beach Bay Clean Up

Date: 1st October 2017

Time: 8:00am-10:00am

Venue: Beach Bay, Bodden Town

Save The Date: Future Beach Clean Ups

 

Local Venues: Go Straw Free

 

 

 

 

Local establishments: Sunset House, Island Naturals Cafe, The Greenhouse, Vivo, Catch Restaurant, Rum Point and Royal Palms are doing their part by switching from plastic straws to paper ones.

Single-use plastics really do wreak havoc on our oceans and environment. One simple way we can move forward in eliminating plastic (or as much of it as we can) from our daily lives is by saying no to plastic straws. If your drink really requires a straw then consider using a paper straw or bring your own reusable glass or metal straw. We can do our part by joining the movement to #stopsucking. Lonely Whale Foundation has started a wonderful campaign raising awareness about plastic in our oceans. Their simple challenge of giving up plastic straws can make a big impact. Click here to take their challenge to #stopsucking

Join The Movement: Plastic-Free Cayman

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Photo Credits:

Plastic-Free Cayman

Claire Huges

Island Naturals Cafe

Dive In: Coral Conservation Community Project

Grand Cayman Eco Divers have had great success over the last year with maintaining their coral nurseries and outplanting viable coral fragments onto Cayman’s reefs.  Brittany Balli and Aaron Hunt, are a husband and wife team, that are dedicated to their Coral Nursery Restoration Program and are devoted to ensuring a positive future for Cayman’s reefs.  Their commitment to coral reef conservation has lead Grand Cayman Eco Divers to work in a united effort with Sunset House and Dive Tech to ensure the success of their programs.  Grand Cayman Eco Divers were inspired by the positive results of their coral nursery program to initiate a study abroad program, inviting both international and local students to learn about their coral nursery program and coral conservation here in the Cayman Islands.  In an effort to expand on education of coral conservation and raise awareness for the coral nursery program Grand Cayman Eco Divers are inviting our local community to get involved and join the volunteer team for their coral nurseries.

Inspiring a Community to become involved in Coral Conservation

 

Grand Cayman Eco Divers, welcomes the community to join them in coral conservation to help ensure that Cayman continues to have healthy and vibrant coral reefs and ecosystems.  Last weekend, Grand Cayman Eco Divers had a successful coral restoration class for local volunteers at Sunset House.  As a result of such a positive turnout, Grand Cayman Eco divers will be hosting another class on coral restoration on Sunday, 1st October 2017, at 9:00am at Dive Tech, located at Lighthouse Point, West Bay. The public can attend a presentation about their coral nursery program and learn about coral conservation here in the Cayman Islands.  Members of the community who would like to volunteer with their coral nursery restoration program will have the opportunity to learn about coral, conservation, and the proper techniques and protocol of maintaining the coral nurseries and handling the coral during outplanting of coral fragments onto reefs. Volunteers with no diving experience are welcome to join and take advantage of dive courses offered by Grand Cayman Eco Divers and become certified divers.  All participating divers/volunteers are asked to purchase a CI$10 token to take part on coral nursery sites to cover operating costs. The funds will then go directly back into the coral nursery restoration program.  Over a series of courses and trips to the coral nurseries, volunteers will build their confidence and experience working with the coral nurseries.  Later, they will transition into joining a core group of volunteers working directly with coral and outplanting them onto Cayman’s reefs.

Caring for our Coral Nurseries 

Over the last year, there has been great success with Grand Cayman Eco Divers coral nurseries restoration program.  A core element of its success is dedicated volunteers who generously give their time to visit the coral nurseries on a weekly basis to clean, monitor and maintain the coral nursery sites located throughout Grand Cayman.  Since the infancy of this project to help restore Cayman’s reefs, much has been learned along the way.  The location of a coral nursery site is important.  Strategic locations are chosen based on having the most ideal environmental factors to increase the chances of optimal success growing coral fragments that will later be out planted onto various reefs.  There is proving to be positive benefits of placing coral nursery sites in deeper water to help offset damage from storms.  The process itself of outplanting the viable coral fragments onto the reef is a very delicate operation.  Special precautions must be taken during the handling and transition of the coral fragments to avoid damaging the coral and ensure the coral will successfully grow on the reef.  All volunteers participating in their coral nursery restoration program undertake courses offered by Grand Cayman Eco Divers to ensure the integrity and success of the program.  The courses teach volunteers the guiding principles and practices used for coral conservation here in the Cayman Islands.

Adopt a Coral and Pledge to help preserve Cayman’s Reefs

Grand Cayman Eco Divers Coral Nursery Restoration Program is committed to restoring Cayman’s reefs and ensuring that our reefs can continue to provide diverse ecosystems.  Reefs are fundamental to our islands as they have both environmental and economic significance.  A coral nursery program is a means to secure a promising and healthy future for our reefs, as the program has thus far been successful.  Coral reefs face a multitude of threats including, climate change, bleaching, and ocean acidification.  A successful coral nursery program allows our reefs to have a fighting chance to have damaged and critical areas restored over time.  In order to continue this flourishing conservation initiative donations to fund the program are imperative.  Weekly visits to the coral nurseries to conduct maintenance, cleaning and monitoring of the “coral trees” is paramount to ensure positive out planting of the coral fragments.  Funds are needed to support the operating, dives and maintenance costs of the entire program.  For the last several years, Grand Cayman Eco Divers have generously financially contributed to their program, and as a result the program was able to keep moving forward thanks to their admirable support and commitment to the restoration of Cayman’s reefs.

“Aaron and Brittany have personally financed most of this program and devoted their own personal savings toward this for the last several years.  Each donation is greatly appreciated and goes directly back into operating the Nursery program.” – Grand Cayman Eco Divers

Now, is the time for a call to action, in order for their coral nursery program to continue moving forward additional funding needs to be secured.  Donations from our community are instrumental to the program’s success and ability to carry on.  Both private citizens and corporations have an opportunity to “adopt a coral” by making a donation to the conservation efforts of their Coral Nursery Program. Click here to donate 

Stay Connected

To learn more about Grand Cayman Eco Divers study abroad program click here 

Local students who would like to get involved in coral conservation click here

Visit Grand Cayman Eco Divers website, click here 

Photo Credits:

Grand Cayman Eco Divers

Charlotte Roslev

Jim Catlin

More Than a Rocky Beach: Brilliant Brighton, England

It’s Wanderlust Wednesday and today’s feature is by guest writer Tiffany.  Check out her latest travel adventure, exploring Brighton, England.  Enjoy, xo

I wasn’t expecting much more than a beach when I stepped off the train in Brighton, so I was happily surprised to find a beautiful, art-filled city full of amazing coffee and vintage shops awaiting my exploration. Brighton certainly lives up to its name–it’s full of colour! From colourful houses with colourful doors, to fun-loving street art and narrow, bannered street markets, the whole city feels like the set of a Wes Anderson film.

Straight from the train to the beach — or that was the plan anyways. Its easy to get distracted in Brighton. Our first stop ended up being street art, vintage shops, and many, many colourful homes! If you have a bit of a thing for pretty, interesting, or colourful doors Brighton is the place for you; home owners take pride in their front stoops and entryways in a very artful way.

 

 

When we did make it to the beach we were rewarded by a very rocky walk along the coast. If you are expecting soft sand you won’t find it in Brighton; I’d highly recommend bringing a yoga mat if you want to sit in comfort. The water was warm though and on a clear day you can see the beginnings of the Rampion Wind Farm off the coast which whill be nearly the three times the size of Manhatten when completed!

Of course, when you get tired of sitting on rocks, you can always explore the various activities on the beachfront. From arcades to Brighton pier itself, you won’t be bored on your mini-beach vacation! The view from Brighton Pier itself is worth the walk out as you gaze back onto city’s the French Riviera-esque architecture.

On our way back to the train station we explored the famous Royal Pavilion Gardens. This little slice of Inda is a former royal residence and WWI military hospital. The garments and outside are a breathtaking and peaceful place to escape the sun and enjoy a picnic before hopping back onto the train back to London!

Places to Try:

– Cafe Coho: Amazing coffee and sandwiches, this little Brighton gem is a great place to grab breakfast or lunch to fuel your adventure. Located right outside the main train station, this was our first stop.

– Gelato Gusto: Gelato, Gelato, Gelato! This cute little stop has won countless Taste Awards for its fresh and fruity treat. Yummy and reasonable!

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Tiffany is a London based blogger, photographer, and writer who loves exploring new places both within her city and the across the globe. You can explore Tiffany’s work on her blog, MyHappyCoincidence.wordpress.com, and see her photos on Instagram. In addition to writing, she loves photography and is rarely found without a camera in her hand.