Not just speaking practically…

One thing the four of us ladies can agree on is how much we love, LOVE food (and wine).

IMG-20150919-WA0007But, before we share ‘foodie’ experiences, new and old recipes and stories of meals shared with others, I thought I would share some of my deeper foodie musings…

At a basic level – we need food to survive. Yet, food has always been about more than just sustenance for the lives of people. Besides the practicality of food, there’s just so much we can experience through sitting at the dinner table. Not to mention the simple joys of having a meal that takes you back to your cultural roots, allows you to learn about the cultures of others, reminisce about a past experience, or creates an opportunity for you to engage with family, friends, and maybe even strangers.

But even on a deeper level, whenever I think about food, I rein myself in with the concept of “everything in moderation”…

Life Exhibit “A”

For YEARS I couldn’t eat macaroni and cheese (I’m talking that good homemade macaroni and cheese).

IMG-20150629-WA0056
– A healthy appetite indeed…

When I was younger it was one of my favourite dishes, and I think we’ve established that I have a healthy appetite.Though she was hesitant, I reassured my mummy than I wanted more. Of course I did – who wouldn’t want more of this cheesy, warm lusciousness?

Bad idea.

I overdid it. I ate so much it all came up.

Lesson learnt.

But then on the other hand there’s Life Exhibit “B”….

Every year my grandmother, mother, sister and I, together bake traditional Black/Rum/Fruit/Christmas Cake – a Jamaican Christmas time essential.

I remember those days when my Grandma led the baking, with my mummy as sous chef. My sister and I were given the simple tasks: butter and flour the tin, crack the eggs, blend the fruits…

The years passed on, my mother was now the head chef and my sister and I were given more responsibility – we started to play a role in the aspects of the project that were more pivotal to the outcome of the cake. And eventually grandma played more of a supervisory role (though tasting the batter is a very important role in its own right).

There’s something special amount those moments. To be honest, as much as I enjoy the cake, which every year we say we’ve made the best batch yet (except that one year when we burnt it, but somehow still managed to “fix” it), it was always the process of baking the cake that I think was most memorable for all of us.

Contrasting these two experiences, I have come to a few conclusions:

As amazing as food is, overdoing it is bad for you.

As amazing as food is, we can’t forget that a lot of people work hard to grow, harvest, (or rear) and transport it so we can have food on our plates at home.

And as amazing as food is, at the same time you’re indulging in a fabulous meal, someone else is going without one.

 

I think this train of thought transcends into a lot of areas of life. This idea that we should be grateful for what we have, maximize our potential, and use the opportunities given to us – appreciating the support we receive from others in achieving our goals, and recognizing that not everyone has had the same opportunities before them.

 

______________________________________________________

 

Dark Fruit Cake

Ingredients (recipe makes 2-3 cakes)

  • 2 lbs raisin
  • 1 lb currants
  • ½ lb prunes
  • ¼ lb dried cherries
  • ½ lb mixed peel
  • ¼ lb sugar
  • 1 cup rum/port wine (Jamaican “red label wine” is preferred)
  • ¼ lb chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1½ lb brown sugar
  • 10 eggs
  • 1 lb flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 lb butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tblsp almond essence
  • 1 cup port wine
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ bottle brown colouring (browning)

 

Instructions

Soak the fruits in 1 cup of rum/wine in a jar for 4 weeks or longer

When ready to bake the cakes (recipe makes 2-3):

  • Mix butter and sugar well until creamy. Add the eggs (beaten) one by one, to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix in eggs thoroughly as they are added to the batter.
  • Cook the fruit mixture over low heat with a cup of water for 15 minutes, constantly stirring.
    • Optional- Blend fruits after cooking.
  • Sift the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, spices etc).
  • Alternate mixing in portions of the cooked fruit mixture and the flour mixture into the batter.
  • Stir in browning into the mixture to obtain a milk chocolate colour (once baked the cakes will look darker).
  • Add the vanilla and almond essence.
  • Pour the mixture into baking tins lined with grease paper, or tins greased with butter and floured thereafter, to prevent the cake from sticking.
  • Bake at 275 degrees for 2-3 hours according to the size of pans.
  • After the cakes are cooked and removed from the oven, pour a mixture of rum and wine on top.

IMG_3183

Sri Lanka: An Adventure of a Lifetime

FullSizeRender-13

If you like curry and adventure, you’ll love Sri Lanka. I had no idea what to expect when I hopped on a plane with my spicy man in November 2014. We touched down in a damp Colombo, popped in our new SIM cards and rolled our suitcases outside into the island air. After bargaining rates with the cabbies we settled into our ride and started our drive through the city.

I rolled down my window and the humid air rushed through my curls – it was 9:00am and people were opening up their storefronts, heading to work in their blouses and dress pants, music was playing and the horn-honking drivers were kicking up dust from the roads as they weaved around pedestrians.

After settling into our BnB, we crossed the street in the pouring rain into a small local restaurant called Green Cabin where we ordered hoppers (like miniature crepes in the shape of a bowl with either egg or milk in the middle), chicken curry, mutton rolls and lime soda. With our bellies full we planned out the next two weeks of our trip and here are some of the things I recommend you do when you go to this beautiful island:

FullSizeRender-17.jpg

Colombo
Colombo is a bustling city with a lot going on. You can wake up at around 5:00AM, take a tuk tuk to the Galle Face beach and walk along the boardwalk as the sun rises. You can walk across the street from the beach to the Taj Samudra where you can dine like a queen on a breakfast feast of coconut-milk-rice, fish curry, spicy omelets, hoppers, coconut sambol (freshly shredded and spiced coconut) and exotic fruits like starfruit, papaya and mango followed by the most famous tea in the world, “Ceylon tea”.

FullSizeRender-11The tea is so fresh and fragrant that you need no milk or sugar to enjoy it. You can drive seven miles from Colombo to the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, one of the most revered Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka where you can remove your sandals and take in your own moment of peace and gratitude. You can pop back into the city and visit the variety of artsy cafes and shops including, my favourite, Hansa Coffee, to eat some bombtastic brownies and iced mochas. Finally, for the foodie in you, treat yourself to an authentic lumprais from the Dutch Burgher Union, which may be one of the few times you eat deliciousness out of a banana leaf.

Beddegamma & Yala National Park

FullSizeRender-13 copy

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sleep in a tree? Me neither – but #bae wanted to go so we went. On the way to Beddegamma from the city we stopped at almost every fruit stall to drink out of orange coconuts and eat mangosteens (tip: do not eat the wood apples – they taste like socks – not wood or apples).

FullSizeRender-8 copy 2Our treehouse had a full queen-sized bed, a toilet, a sink, and a giant tree trunk that ran through the middle of it. At night I counted the stars and fell asleep feeling a cool breeze and listening to wild birds. I woke up at 5:00am the next morning, took a cold shower, crept down the stairs and we made our way back to the camp site where a jeep picked us up and drove us into Yala for a safari. It was a phenomenal experience! We drove through mud roads into the park where we saw families of spotted deer, monkeys, a group of grazing elephants, exotic birds, peacocks and more.

FullSizeRender-14

FullSizeRender-10

Nuwara Eliya
If you like tea, high altitudes, rolling hills, waterfalls and lots of nature you will love Nuwara Eliya. I am a tea fanatic so when we arrived at the Tea Factory Hotel, I was overjoyed. The hotel is on a tea plantation and you can wake up to see the sun rise over the hilltops. Eating a breakfast of string hoppers rolled over a mixture of honey and shredded coconut was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

FullSizeRender-8 copy 3

Kandy
Kandy is another bustling city with a lot to offer. The markets were busy with smells of fresh spices and exotic fruits. The curry tasted just like my aunt’s. Oddly, they didn’t serve rice and curry and night – instead, the variety of restaurants offered Chinese food. While we love Chinese food, we were determined to find some good kothu roti. We found a greasy spoon only frequented by locals where nobody spoke English and we had the BEST chicken kothu roti in the city – it was intensely flavourful and the owner was so happy we came by that we all took a group photo before we left. After dinner we walked to a dessert shop for wattalapam (a very sweet dessert made up of jaggery, coconut milk, eggs and spices) and finished off the night with watermelon juice.

FullSizeRender-8 copy

Kandalama
If you can only stay in one area of Sri Lanka and you are in need of some good R&R then you must go to Heritance Kandalama. The hotel is an architectural masterpiece by Geoffrey Bawa who integrated the jungle and caves into the hotel. When you walk out on the balcony attached to your room you walk right into the jungle and can hang out with the little monkeys who try to con you for bananas. Your room is stacked with a box of fresh fruits and the bathroom has a glass wall so you can hang out in the tub and watch baby monkeys swing along the trees. The food in the dining areas is second to none. You can take a cooking class and learn how to make fish curry or relax in the infinity pool or organize a trip to Sigiriya Rock, an ancient rock fortress you can climb and take in the view of the jungle.

FullSizeRender-9 copy 2FullSizeRender-10 copy 2FullSizeRender-5FullSizeRender-7

Sri Lanka is by far one of my favourite places to travel to and has (along with Italy) the best food in the world. If you have the time and can save up the money, it’s definitely worth a visit!

IMG_3334

 

 

 

5 Slay Tips from a Neurochemist, Writer, Friendship Expert, Executive, and Student

What does it mean to slay?

dreaming about.....

I’ll admit—I’m still figuring it out.

But, I know this single mom with three kids, who survived a tsunami of bankruptcy, divorce, and welfare. Eighteen months later, she was an executive of a software company: Sarah Centrella.

I also know this Professor Emerita of neurochemistry at California State University. She rewires the brain for happiness. Dr. Loretta Breuning.

There’s this other boss-woman, she’s a friendship expert and the founder and CEO of GirfriendCircles.com who’ll chime in. Shasta Nelson.

Last, but never least, there’s Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love” and “Big Magic.” She knows a thing or two about pretty much everything.

These women live on my bookshelves and I know them inasmuch as I know their labored revelations, that which has been peeled from their minds and souls, and deposited into the pages of their books.

From each of them, I’ve sourced 1 tip that will help you learn how to slay. To these 4 tips, I’ve added 1 of my own, as a woman and student still figuring things out.

Tip 1.The Writer Tip: Make Room for Fear

FullSizeRender-12
“Do you have the courage to bring forth this work?” -Jack Gilbert

A woman who slays is doubtlessly a courageous woman. And, talk of courage always comes back to fear – banishing it, mastering it, overcoming it.

Elizabeth Gilbert takes a different approach to fear in her book, “Big Magic”. She welcomes fear as the “conjoined twin” of creativity. Gilbert believes “Fear and creativity shared a womb,” and their familial lifeline means there’s fear you need, and that you should make space for it, “heaps of space”.

She calls for us to talk back to our fear not with anger, but cordially, because if you “can relax, fear relaxes, too.” Gilbert shows us by talking to her fear directly, and to me, emulating this is step 1 of learning how to Slay.

She says to Fear:

“Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused… You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to vote. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio.”

So we have our first slay lesson from one of the Greats: Invite fear along. Be kind to it. But as Gilbert warns, never ever let fear “drive the car.”

Tip 2.The Executive Tip: Say it & Slay it

FullSizeRender-14
“I believe you can speak things into existence.” -Jay Z

Sarah Centrella charts an 8-step plan to success in her book “Hustle Believe Receive.”

These are the steps: Dream it. Think it. Say it. Write it. See it. Do it. Believe it. Live it.

Of the zillion gems in her book, for lesson 2, I’ve chosen this one for you: Say it. Sarah reminds us that owning your dream begins with verbalizing it.

She says, “Instead of saying If I become X, you say WHEN I become X. It’s really that simple… You talk about it in detail as if it’s a GIVEN. You know it’s coming. Not if, but WHEN.”

For Sarah, hers was a big dream to speak into being. She first vocalized her dreams on a bad date. She told him she was going to be on TV, meet Oprah, write a book, and change the world—all of which she did and is still doing.

To me, that’s a woman that slays.

Follow her footsteps by replacing “IF” with “WHEN” in your own life. Then find someone to share your biggest dream with. Don’t be realistic when you tell them about your dream. Be brave. Say it & Slay it.

Tip 3. The Friendship Expert Tip: It Takes a Village

FullSizeRender-13
“The love in me calls out to the love in others and can never be extinguished.”-Shasta Nelson

It’s easy to let the word slay become a synonym for success. They evoke the same images: pantsuits, award ceremonies, ethereal gowns, finger-snapping.

But, my definition of slay is girded with community and friendship. It is through others, with others, and for others—it takes a village to find happiness and to stand in it, or in other words, to truly slay.

And, that’s why the friendship expert, Shasta Nelson, makes an appearance here. Shasta has written a book entitled, “Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.” Shasta’s book teaches readers how to be a better friend, and by extension, a better person.

Stay tuned to Part II of this blog, launching Sunday June 26th, for one of Shasta’s core lessons and our third slay tip.

In Blog II: We’ll also learn from Dr. Breuning’s book, “Habits of a Happy Brain”. 

FullSizeRender-15

And, you’ll finally hear my very own slay tip. 🙂

IMG_3185

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut Oil Saved My Curls

Moving to India brought about a lot of changes to my daily routine. I commuted to work in a rickshaw. I bought my groceries in a bustling market where I haggled for my bananas and papaya. Cows regularly cut me off on the road. I ate some form of lentil pretty much every day. I knew these kinds of shifts would happen before the move, but I didn’t predict the changes to the one thing that probably impacts my day the most: my curls.

I can’t pin down exactly what made the greatest difference  – the heat, the humidity, the dust in the air, the hard water – but my curls exploded in India. I spent the first 5 months looking like a poodle in the Amazon. And not only was it frizzy and massive, my hair was more knotted than it’s ever. Within a day or two of washing it, my curls seemed to fuse together and I would curse throughout my shower.

So in order to tame it, I went through my tried-and-tested curly products from home like wildfire. I arrived in India in November 2015 and by the end of the year, my tubs and tubes were empty. To be frank, even those didn’t help me much. And I couldn’t buy any more Deva Curl or Kinky Custard or Mixed Chicks Leave-In Conditioner anywhere there. So I searched beauty salons and pharmacies looking for an answer. Nothing worked.

When I moved to Bombay in February (I started out in Delhi for the first three months), my friend here recommended something I hadn’t yet tried: coconut oil. Indian women have sworn by hair oils for ages, especially coconut and olive oil. Almost all hair salons in India offer an oil treatment and judging by the shiny, thick locks I was surrounded by, I thought I’d give one a try.

I quickly learned that an oil treatment is more like a head and scalp massage with moisturizing oils. Not a bad start! I arrived at the salon and Surendra ushered me to my seat. He had brought with him a small bowl of coconut oil the size of my palm with one inch of depth. I looked at it and chuckled to myself. He has no idea what he’s dealing with.

My hair was tied up at that point. I decided I had better let him see what he’s in store for. Upon letting my curls loose, the poor Surendra squealed out a yelp. Oh dear, I thought. He looked at the little bowl of oil and then at my head again. We were speaking in one or two words of Hinglish (Hindi and English), so I didn’t know exactly what he was thinking. But he seemed to decide we’d start with the small bowl. Optimistic, I thought.

An oil massage begins with the application of oil to dry hair, starting at the scalp and roots. Surendra struggled (and then eventually ripped) my hair into parts and began to apply the coconut oil from the small bowl, bit by bit.

He hadn’t even finished the left corner of my head and the bowl was empty. Even funnier, the oil had disappeared on my head. You couldn’t tell that my curls had seen anything applied. It looked dry and normal. Now Surendra saw what I knew was coming. He stepped away for a second and came back with pretty much the whole tub of coconut oil. Ok, I thought, now we’re talking.

Surendra continued to apply the oil until my scalp was covered and began massaging my head and neck. Hair benefits aside, the treatment is worth it just for this.  Sooo good. After an hour of the massage, he pulled my hair back into a slick ponytail and suggested I keep it in for a few more hours then wash thoroughly. Now totally relaxed and smelling tropical, I headed out the door. Even with a massive amount of oil in my hair, I still didn’t look like a had a massive amount of oil in my hair. I was surprised he didn’t apply it to the rest of my strands as well, but I figured this was the way they do it, so I’ll try it this way. He told me to come back in 3-4 weeks for my next treatment.

After washing and air drying, I noticed an immediate difference to the texture: my curls were softer and less frizzy. My hair still wasn’t as tamed as I hoped, but I was very pleased nonetheless.

However, after a day or two, my frizz returned and so did the knots. I only went back to see him a few weeks later, taking his advice a bit literally. The second time was just as relaxing and the results were still great, but the effect was still not quite enough.

So I decided to start applying oil on my own in the shower. Sometimes I’d use it as a leave-in and sometimes as a mask that I’d leave in for hours and then wash out. I would use it every day or every other day depending on my hair’s condition and where I would be travelling to. I also used it on my roots and my ends, which I needed desperately. Now with consistent use, I could see a remarkable difference. No frizz, soft and light, shiny, no knots. Finally!

I’ve been using coconut oil regularly for a few months now and I’m officially a convert. Many curlies have been recommending it and using coconut oil for ages all over the world, but I didn’t give it a go until India. I can fully appreciate why so many people swear by it, especially after five months of fighting with my hair without any tools.

IMG_2130
Immediately post-oil treatment – shiny and fresh!

I used the Nutriva Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – the same one you can use for cooking, teeth pulling, on your skin etc. Nothing special about it (some oils say they’re made especially for hair but I don’t think this really makes a difference). I also have a little spritz bottle of coconut oil that I use when travelling or to touch up in between washes to tame frizz and give a nice shine (I am tempted to bring this little bottle in my purse even because it is SO useful, but I don’t because I’m afraid of spills).

I’ve heard great things about avocado oil and olive oil but have yet to try them out. Personally, I love the smell and consistency of coconut oil and its multipurpose personality (body moisturizer, lip balm, etc.), so I think I’ve found my match. And I’m never letting go!

What other oils have you used? Any other natural curly hair products you recommend? Leave a comment and let us know!

 

IMG_3335

 

 

 

 

Turning 30: The QuarterLife Crisis

flower-729515_1280
Is this it?

At 29,  I looked around at the life I built, at the never-clean condo, the 15-minute lunches, the pencil skirts and dry-clean only shirts, and wondered aloud

“Is this it?”

It was spreading. Dating had a palpable urgency. Newlyweds were taking time apart. Friends were quitting their dream jobs. A chorus of discontent had become the anthem of my late twenties, early thirties peer group. The word dream had become vacation; clubbing was now brunch; and kids these days were no longer us.

It seemed as though for most of our lives, we had our heads down, counting our steps, certain that if we hit every milestone, the worst we’d face is baldness and an age-inappropriate car purchase.

baMan's hand climbing stairs made of wooden blocks
One by one, we were starting to look up.

One by one, we were starting to look up.

Had we made our high school teachers proud? Was it time to hang up the ballet shoes, the football helmet, the guitar? Had all the emblems of possibility been doused by the number 30?

I wasn’t ready.

I watched as friends and family bound and gagged their teenage dreams. College athletes became personal trainers. The best musicians I knew abandoned their bands, their solo projects, their promise to the rest of us that we’d be able to say, I knew that guy, when they struck it rich.

Shouldn’t I be a millionaire by now? Where the hell is my knight?

Every A+ and glossy degree had helped me earn a life I didn’t want. I was re-reading Eat Pray Love like a map back to the effervescent pre-teen me.

I never saw this coming. That’s the thing about the Quarterlife Crisis. No one ever sees it coming. Lavish buys are chalked up to naiveté; break-ups were inevitable; job changes are just growing pains.

The sitcom Friends iconized the ups & downs of the thirties as the romp life phase, wherein self-actualization can be won over coffee and uneducated waitresses end up working at Ralph Lauren. If we could only make it to 28ish, we’d bask in the Friends years – where soul mates live across the hall and a baby daddy’s major flaw is dinosaur talk.

But, what if there’s something more to turning 30? Something that babies, divorce, or even a Balinese medicine man can’t fix.

“Why God? Why?!,” Joey, from Friends, wails on his thirtieth birthday.

“We had a deal. Why are you doing this to us?”

By 30, most of us have known true loss.

3
Ran off with Happily Ever After

The Prince/ss stole the fairy dust, kicked you out of the castle, and ran off with happily ever after.

Maybe there was a funeral. And you had to speak. And you thought back to the days when you were afraid of public speaking, when that was the worst thing imaginable, and how worst, the word worst, well you just didn’t know what that meant. So, you spoke at the funeral, and all along, you didn’t believe that your love was really gone, that this was really happening to you, not knowing that there’d come a time when you’d miss the disbelief, when you’d wish you could doubt that your mother, spouse, or best friend was really and truly gone. Because now there was no mistaking it – their absence, a saw, that cuts at the days, making bloody stumps out of old joys.

Or, maybe you fell out of love. You kept looking at the person that used to be your soulmate. Looking for the things you used to see and seeing ordinary and boring in their place. Of course, that didn’t make it any easier. When she took everything away – the first big purchase you made together, the L-shaped couch neither of you could afford, but could fit 6+ people and so became deeply necessary (even though 6+ people never did sit on the couch).

Or maybe you stopped loving yourself. Not because someone hurt you when you were young. You excavated that hurt in your early twenties. Not because someone didn’t love you right. You watched Oprah and starting dating better, kinder men.

It started with a Shush.

girl with super hero cape and mask looking up
The Right to Dream

The teenager in you, the one that wanted to become president, own multiple business, dance at Julliard, or travel the world was a bit too loud in your early twenties, when all you wanted to do was go out dancing. So, you shushed the teenager. At 25, you started talking back to the teenager with words like silly, stupid, and childish. So, the teenager bowed their head, and shushed.

You took a job you never wanted. And, 26, 27, and 28 became all about working, saving and earning the right to dream. On the odd day when the Easter Bunny, Cupid, or the American Dream scampered into your 9-5, you’d try to listen, but what grownup listens to Cupid?

What you didn’t count on is that you needed the teenager. You missed the teenager. You loved the teenager. So, shutting her up, calling her names, and leaving her alone for a decade would end up hurting. Because not loving all of yourself, hurts. Hurts a lot.

Here’s what we know:

Life is much harder than you expected it to be. Aging is the surest way to learn this. Age does matter. Statistically, as you age, you’re more likely to suffer from the kinds of challenges that make you wiser. The upside is that life is also much more beautiful, eons more fantastical, and replete with orgasms you never could have imagined.

The sooner the Friends fantasy loses hold – the better. Don’t wait until 50 to shake things up, face your mortality, buy a cool car, or shave your head.

Listen to your older sister. Listen to your older brother. Listen to your parents and your grandparents and your Uber driver and the man who makes the best cup of coffee on your street.

Listen to that shrill, heads-in-the-clouds, scrunchie-wearing, teenager, too.

Whether you like it or not, she’s in it for the long haul.

IMG_3185