About Me

Living in the Caribbean is probably like living anywhere else, with the same ups and downs. But it does have its own vibe and flavour and gives me a unique perspective on most things. I'm often sarcastic, mostly funny, always looking for a new adventure. I have not boxed myself into any one category of life. I love a lot of things and dislike a lot more. I write about them all.

Happy Moments at Crust2Crumb, La Romain

Crust2Crumb's apple pecan cupcake
Photo credit: Yash 
Finally got around to this.

Breakfast is a concept I have only recently started to embrace, more because breakfast includes coffee, which is undeniably a daily morning ritual. With my calamitously busy week, my days off are filled with errands but before errands I make it a point to stop, have a cup of coffee and maybe a cheese puff (my favourite coffee go-with) or if I really want to live on the edge - an omelette or pancakes!

My usual breakfast nook - well, I have given that particular place a rest. Too crowded on a good day, but more because there was only so much of the surly service that I could reasonably take without doing more than sucking my teeth. 

So while I would pass Crust2Crumb on Dumfries Road, La Romain almost every Saturday morning on my way to the supermarket, I never stopped in to check it out until a few weeks ago. Admittedly, it was not a breakfast stop but a "Today sucks and I need a few minutes to compose myself" stop, but baby steps.

First off, the place was quiet. Located on Dumfries Road, it is away from the real hustle and bustle of San Fernando (though the traffic before the traffic lights is never cute) and there was parking, there was a corner table (major!), there was a nice peaceful ambiance. Already an A+. Even when filled, it is not overbearing which I can live with. With it being Carnival season here in Trinidad, the festive Carnival motif is very cool.

Service-wise - another A+. There was a smile, there was willingness to be of assistance. This is so important to me. I cannot bear bad service and I have no problem whatsoever in calling someone out on it or complaining about bad service - though in Trinidad, that sometimes makes no sense.

The coffee. Perfect. Along with an award winning cheese puff, I had a hazelnut latte - a break from my regular cappuccino or mochaccino. It was clearly prepared with patience and love, as was the awesome puff. I also gave their Mocha a gold star HERE.

My hazelnut latte and my cheese puff - coffee break of the stars!

I would try their breakfast and lunch menus later - with a preference for their breakfast menu, which is simple but to the point. Again, ever so accommodating, I got mushrooms in my omelette when the menu did not have mushrooms listed. You also have options like pancakes in banana, blueberry and chocolate chip, Eggs Benedict, English Breakfast - eggs, bacon and sausage (no baked beans?) as well as local options such as bhaigan (eggplant) choka, tomato choka and saltfish buljol.

Omelette complete with veggies and mushrooms

Lunch is good. Though they only teased us with the gourmet pizza menu on the afternoon (no pizzas when we were there), there is a salmon and cream cheese pizza that everyone wanted to try. I stuck with a roasted vegetable soup (and a cheese puff - see how real the puff love is?) while the fish and chips and chicken breast, garlic and cheese panini went down well around the table. Though not a huge sandwich person in general, I have committed to trying their Aussie burger one of these days - which from all accounts seems to be quite a hit. 

Roasted vegetable soup -lunch of choice on the day

Red velvet cupcake for the win!
And last but not least, their desserts are awesome. Stop in, have a coffee and a cupcake - maybe a double chocolate or a red velvet or an apple pecan. Have a slice of carrot cake - don't mind that you will need to run from San Fernando back to Port of Spain to burn that off, such is the decadent look of it. Swap your coffee (never!) for a fruit smoothie or a coffee chiller. 

They also do cakes for order, and take tea plate orders as well.

Whether you fancy a morning breakfast before getting your day started, a lunch far from the madding crowd, or just a coffee break alone with your thoughts, I think Crust2Crumb is an excellent option for whatever your life wants while in the Southland. Always happy when my side of the island brings on more amazing options for socialising or reflecting over food or a cup of coffee and a puff!

Crust2Crumb - Corner Dumfries Road and Arjoonsingh Drive, La Romain.

Cue Rocky Music - This Week's Gladiator Moments

While my days are often challenging, as part of my 2015 mission to look for the positives, here are the winning moments from this week:

Did my 4.19 km with no regrets
Not passing out on my return to the Queen's Park Savannah
I hate running. Like seriously hate it. I am not a fan of working out on the whole but being able to tell my doctor this morning that I had made a small dent in the weight gain he so scoldingly jotted down in my file last year, was a bit of a victory.

Before this week, my return to fitness was limited to the gym - the treadmill primarily. My mission was to build up some level of endurance in the privacy of the gym before going out in public and embarrassing myself. lol. I had put it off long enough though and after hitting the sack early on Sunday, I donned my battle gear, with some new fat busting tunes on the MP3 player, and hit the asphalt dark and early on Monday morning - determined.

The first day was rough, I will not lie. There is an old guy who was committed to showing me that he was much fitter than I was. I was committed to not letting this old man pass me. And so we went, but the cramps near Kapok did me in and as he passed me, I could see the glee and the smirk on his face as he claimed victory. By Wednesday though, even though physically exhausted, I managed to get back into a rhythm and finished strong.

(cue Rocky music)

Being generally healthy this week
My eating habits are a daily struggle and I treat them as such. I generally do eat well. My meals themselves are top notch for keeping it healthy. My problem has always been snacking. I bought 2 heaps of these lovely portugals both for juicing purposes as well as for snacking purposes. I did have brownies during the week and a cupcake today but this is victory nonetheless.

They sold me the sweetest portugals ever! Major win!

My happy corner at work
Cue free flowers and my happy corner on my desk was a major win. One has to do what one can to keep the smurfiness flowing, so the flowers were a welcome addition to my snack/tea/aromatherapy nook.

My little animals, my honey and my tea, my clusters, my water, lotions, nail polish. Perfect!

A perfect cafe mocha
I love coffee. I love chocolate. I love when coffee and chocolate come together in a perfect union. Unfortunately, this perfect union is hard to find, mainly because most times when I order a cafe mocha, I get a cup of hot, sickeningly sweet mess. Then I have to add water, dilute the espresso shots, negate the point of the drink in the first place. But Crust2Crumb gets a special award for a perfectly drinkable mocha today, to go with the awesome red velvet cupcake. This is why they are my new to-go place for coffee when I am on my side of the island.

Awesome Red Velvet cupcake to go with my perfect mocha

Saying hello to Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan in The Fall
So I continue this Netflix lethargy on lazy evenings, and I decided to try The Fall - a BBC crime drama series with Scully and the guy who will play Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey (never read the book(s) and have zero interest generally). I love love love Gillian Anderson and she is so good in this. The perfect Ice Queen. Strong, commanding, but still beautiful and feminine.

Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson in BBC's The Fall

I am a bit hooked though not to the extent that I am hooked on Downton Abbey!

Simple victories this week - I don't ask for much! Hoping next week will be even better.

Travelling while Black

They tell you in the guidebooks what to expect if you're gay or if you're a woman. Hell, they need to do it for if you're recognisably black.  
 "Americanah" - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi

Ain't this the truth! Ain't this the truth!

*Ms Adichi speaks a whole lot of truth in Americanah, by the way.*

So while I am not sure what is going on with my life and what 2015 will hold, I still have to at least think of vacation ideas. It's bad enough being a solo traveller - having to find places where a solo traveller feels safe and secure. It's bad enough being a solo female traveller - having to be extra careful in the choices you make as it relates to hotels, travel etc. But add being black to that - it's just a whole other thing altogether.

Travelling while black is real - the notion that this is an issue, I mean. Shopping trips to Miami and New York - no problem. It's like being at home. London - such a melting pot that it's rare that I actually feel like an alien. Londoners ignore everyone - black, white.  But there are some places where I have felt totally out of sorts. The Rome experience to this day, always makes me a bit upset.

Vacations should be carefree for everyone.
This is not me, btw
Luckily, the good experiences outweigh the bad, and though there have been several moments of "wtf!" on my trips, I think they usually had less to do with racism and more to do with:

Plain and simple ignorance - Dear Europe - all black people do not live in Africa. Ever heard the word "diaspora"? I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked to say an English word in "my language". For example - old guy in Florence, Italy. Worse yet, when they find out I am not from Africa, then I just HAVE TO BE American, even if my accent does not quite fit the bill. "Ever been to New York?" Yes, I have been to New York but that is the magic of air travel. I am not American. If someone actually knows where Trinidad is after I tell them, I give them a virtual hug because it is almost miraculous! I am truly an oddity which takes me to the next point...

Curiousity - I heard someone refer to the impolite staring as "rarism" as opposed to"racism". In some of these quasi-homogeneous cities, people like me are a rarity. You are like the raisin in the bowl of milk so they stop and stare and you check to make sure you don't have something in your nose or that your fly is not open because the stares are so pervasive and invasive. Worse, in some cities, the black people there tend to be immigrants, and in my experience, they were usually street vendors/scam artists or hooking. Enter well-dressed black woman and it's like "wtf"? You have now confused the people even more with your bourgie blackness. For me it is always a bit bizarre, especially coming from a place where people stare at you cause they like your ass and want to grab it. Noone stares at my hair, or wants to touch it here, but it is a real phenomenon in some of these places - one that is not cute no matter how clueless or genuinely curious the people may be. There should be a guidebook for residents of these cities - Dos and Don'ts of Meeting Black People for the First Time.

They are just naturally unfriendly and surly - The haterade may actually have nothing to do with the colour of your skin. The people sometimes are just plain unmannerly, unfriendly, uncouth and as we say in Trinidad, "just not on you" and have no damn "broughtupsy".Sad to say, London always comes to mind. They are just a special breed of homo sapien - totally divorced from the reality of life all around them, but when you get around the cold exterior, and get them to put down the iPhone, they can be lovely people. In some places though, they are just like this - fullstop.

But don't get me wrong - travelling while black has the real issues of racism. I have had bus drivers ignore me, waitresses take their damn time to serve me and when they did, I got none of the smiles and sweetness the white customers got. I have had border control brace me as though I were some kind of hoodlum, and Customs stop me to search my luggage and when I looked around, everyone else being searched looked like me. My friend had the cops called on her as she was pumping gas at an isolated gas station behind God's back in the US. And let's not forget another friend who was followed to her hotel room by a hotel employee, accosted and told that prostitutes were not allowed in the hotel.

And it does not matter that we are not drug mules or international escorts. It does not matter that I am educated to Master's level, have a very nice job, with paid vacation and international medical coverage, and zero desire to stay past the time on my visa. The fact of the matter is my passport looks strange and worse yet, I look strange cause I am dark skinned, with dark brown eyes and dark hair. Oh, I'm black. Right. Forgot about that.

But it would also be unfair to paint one city black (pun very well intended) because of the idiocy of a few. Most of my experiences have been positive and a city like Rome, for example, is so beautiful that you just ignore the nonsense and try to make the best of it until you can get the hell outta there. Not to mention I had the chance to meet a friend for the first time ever, so there were a lot of good memories from that trip. I have learnt over time to not miss the opportunities in front of me because of any stereotypes or prejudice people may have. That's on them.

That being said, I am not sure where to go this year. My tolerance levels for nonsense are at an all time low, and it would be nice to travel among more people like myself, but still - the world is my oyster so onward! Ideas still welcome, keeping in mind the solo, female bit as well.

Why I Have Fallen in Love with Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey, Season 5 - I am here!
So over the holidays, I really and truly had some down time - time where I had nothing to do. So I retreated to my couch, with copious amounts of wine and snacks, and Netflix. I had heard so much about Downton Abbey, which up to that point, I had never watched, and I really wanted to see what the big deal was about. And so I clicked on Season 1, Episode 1.

I am now getting ready to stream Season 5, Episode 1 - such is the addiction that has developed. I must say, I really do enjoy the show. But why is it so buzzworthy?

For me, it is:

A period piece set in Britain- I love anything historical and I love period pieces. The show starts off in the pre-World War I era and follows an aristocratic family and their servants. So you get everything fun and puzzling about British aristocracy and the servant class of the day - from the high brow accents and silly traditions, to the lower brow accents and quirks. From the sinking of the Titanic, to the house getting electricity, phones, a refrigerator and an electric whisk, and the race relations of the time - re-living these significant milestones and curious events through the story is fun; to be reminded of just how novel it all was at the time. This, in the age of rapid paced technology, where I can have a conversation with my phone, is a change of pace.

I watch it while getting ready for work on my tablet. I know. I need help!

The best of both worlds - So you have the aristocrats and you have their servants, and that is part of the allure as well. You are not saddled with having to listen to Mary Crawley all episode long, because really - what do they do? Have breakfast, have tea, have dinner, walk around the room, brush their hair, ponder their future lives. You are not saddled with having to listen to Mrs Patmore all episode long because really - what do they do? Make breakfast, make tea, make dinner, walk around the village, clean up, ponder their future lives. lol. You get the best of both worlds, with some pretty amazing storylines in-between. Seriously, the  show does well to highlight the struggles of the working class and the conditions they had to endure to survive in some cases, juxtaposed with the sometimes flippant lives of the upper class, with their teas and dances, though they too had their own issues to deal with.

Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith
Amazing character and plot development - I am not sure if there is any one character that you like or hate all the way through. Thomas Barrow for example - as loathsome as he can be - still had his moments. He has a soft and vulnerable side which we do see from time to time and even I will admit, without spoiling it for anyone who has not watched it yet, I have felt sorry for him at times and even rooted for him to stay.

Mary Crawley's place in my heart also fluctuates as she is a complex hybrid of snob and bleeding heart. That being said, with the characters being so diverse, the stories keep getting more interesting. Not only that, the plots don't drag on for weeks and weeks. So it is like a soap but without the coma.

* Spoiler alert ahead - don't read the red text*

I also like how, like Game of Thrones, major characters get snuffed when you least expect it. That being said - spoiler alert... skip the next paragraph, newbies.

Lady Sybil's death was epic! I have replayed that scene about 10 times. That has to be the best piece of television production, direction and acting I have seen in ages, i.e. Tom Branson makes me bawl every single time! Every single time!!!!!

I will say though, Tom Branson and the Dowager Countess, played by the ever wonderful Maggie Smith are constant favourites. The Dowager Countess' droll one-liners are everything! On the flipside, Lady Grantham's voice is sooooo grating on the nerves. I like the chick but why does she always sound like she is trying to soothe the helpless?

Matthew and Mary Crawley
The un-Scandalous love - In the era of the maddening Olivia/Fitz/Jake love triangle and all the accompanying sex scenes - heterosexual and homosexual - which sometimes can be too much to bear, it is really a breath of fresh air to just go back to Austen-like love, minus the debauchery. Where men courted women with prose and not with lines referring their private parts. Really, it is about emotions that everyone can relate to on a very basic level. I have not seen a pale bottom, a nipple, not even an ankle in the 4 seasons of the show I have watched so far. While clearly the debauchery did indeed exist in the time, I am glad that the show chose to go the modesty route, staying true to the spirit of the period and not bringing the 21st century's thirst for lust and R-ratings to the fore. The in-breeding is as raunchy as it gets here. I mean, Mary Crawley and Matthew Crawley are cousins.

It almost makes you long for a time gone by when men were gentlemen, and women were ladies and did not cheapen relationships or devalue emotional connections and friendship. Prudish love is underrated!

The landscape and the fashion - To a lesser extent, I love England as you know. The old castles and great aristocratic houses, the wide expanse of beautiful countryside. The weather - not so much. The fashion of the time is not my favourite, as compared to say, the 60s and 70s, but it is quite fun to see how modestly women dressed back then. No cleavage, no wardrobe malfunctions - and yet the men were still keen.

Do you watch it? Do you like it? I am about to go watch the first episode of Season 5 now. Toodles.

Working Towards Life's Bonus in 2015!

KPIs - getting things done!
Happy 2015, folks. Wishing my 2.5 readers a wonderful and productive year!

So I have decided that in goal-setting this year, I am taking another approach. A lot of my time is spent with work – other people’s work and other people’s objectives. While each employee has a personal/individual performance contract outlining how he/she aims to support the company’s objectives, they are not really “personal” in the true sense of the word. We rush around all year working long hours, losing sleep, gaining weight, getting sick from it all, in an effort to meet these KPIs, so we can get a good rating and/or bonus at the end of the year. We rush around, exhaust ourselves, make ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually worn out.

This is all well and good (maybe it is not that good), but what about life’s KPIs? What about the bonus we get out of life itself? What about the bigger ME picture? I figured if we put so much effort in outlining specific targets for work, and some of us face those tough performance conversations with our bosses each year, why can’t we do the same for ourselves, our health, our families?

Working on my 2015 Life KPIs
over a cup of coffee
I have therefore formally written down my 2015 life goals, with base, target and stretch outcomes, and with sections so I can do monthly progress check-ins and self-assessments at the mid-year point, and year-end point, just as is done at work. The monthly check-ins are important. At work, budgets may change, or strategies may change and such changes impact one’s ability to deliver on specific objectives, and so you request an amendment where necessary. Life happens and checking in monthly allows you to re-assess the practicality of the goal(s) set and allow you to tweak said goals or eliminate the goal(s) altogether.

I have not set any grandiose objectives – nothing like “bring about world peace” or “lose 100 pounds”. My objectives are quite simple, so don’t think this is some huge scientific undertaking, with massive, complex sounding aims. But there are things I am working towards and know I want to achieve and so the investment of time and effort has to outweigh the time and effort invested in other activities.

Spending more time with the kiddies - on my KPI sheet!
Some are bigger than others. Some are things that are so simple but I keep putting them off and making excuses and still have not been able to tick them off my bucket list. What about you? Maybe you want to spend more time with your children. I know I certainly am adding “spend more quality time with my niece and nephew” to my list. Aunty cannot be tired every weekend! Or make more time for yourself. I am a huge advocate for “ME” time – and feel not many people subscribe to the belief that “ME” time is essential. Maybe you want to save a bit more this year. How will you do it? 

So typing up my Life Performance Contract, jotting down my KPIs, and will print and place on my dresser – a place I see every morning, every evening and as often as my hair needs fixing or my nose needs powdering. I am also going to give a third party a copy – to keep me honest.

So... onward as we work towards life's precious bonus!

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