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.

Me vs 2015. What's the score after the first quarter?

Cheers to a commendable first quarter!
So the first quarter of the year is almost over and I am reviewing my KPIs.I will admit, it has been a slow start to the year. I looked at my list and while I have not tackled all of them, I have made some inroads into others.

1. Spend more time with the family.
I have been doing a really good job with this. Soon, they will be begging me to go away. I have been getting my mum to try new things/experiences, and just this morning I was greeted by chubby cheeks as the niece and nephew came over. I have been seeing them much more - doing aunty things like taking them to participate in Kiddies' Carnival, taking them for pizza and ice cream, playing 'sling shot' (I enjoyed this more than they did!) and just sitting and watching silly shows that are not on MY Netflix profile but on theirs. I have also been trying to make more time for my friends too. It has been a good start!!

I have more yogurt and fruit, and less ice cream
2. Health and fitness
Well, I have actually put on weight and I don't need to stand on a scale to confirm that. I just know. I know how I have been eating and I know how I have been slacking off at the gym. I know. However, I have taken a bold and almost traumatic step - I have registered for a health and fitness competition at work. It is a Biggest Loser type initiative and while I will confess, the actual prize (though I do not know what it is) is what drew me to it primarily, I know I need something to motivate me. I have found it hard to stay motivated on this for some reason this year. The traumatic part of this is that I am going to have to publicly declare how fat and unfit I am - well, at least to 2 people - the nurse and the dietitian. I neverrrrrr stand on a scale and now I am going to be haunted by that figure and by the fact that others will also know. lol. But over the next 8 weeks I am going to give it a good go, especially as it is a team event and I cannot let my teammates down.

3. Travel
I have not gone anywhere yet but I generally do not travel at this time of the year. But I do have a fair idea where I am going mid-year. This is probably the easiest of all my KPIs and the one that would most likely make anyone who knows me say "duh".

4. Paying it forward
This is an important one. Too often we work, make money, enjoy the fruits of our labour without reflecting on how we got there. On my path to awesomeness, I had an incredible circle of friends and family and people I met along the way, and who have since become gems in my circle. They have all in one way or another been support and comfort through personal and professional milestones. I am nothing without my circle. I also know that even though I may gripe about little things like being tired all the time or being a bit too fat for life, I have been blessed and I do not have any real earth shattering issues. But some young girls start their lives under more challenging economic and social circumstances, and may need someone to be in their circle. So this is why I am on my way to being a Big Sister to a Little Sister in the Big Sister Programme. I am most excited about this. I have always always wanted an opportunity like this and when it presented itself to me at last, I ran with it. I am so happy to be able to write a positive progress report on this KPI and so early in the year!

5. Stretch myself in the kitchen
I love to cook and I cook often, mostly my lunches for work. But I also wanted to try things I have always been less confident about or have never tried before. I tried making croissants once as a teenager and they were like lethal boomerangs. I saw a recipe for pain au chocolat this morning and decided I would try my hand again this weekend. But I have also done some fun things like new flatbreads, stuff involving the dreaded pie crust and been learning how best to cook different kinds and cuts of meats.

Blind baked my pie crust for a lovely spinach and mushroom quiche

6. Blog at least once a week
So far, a resounding success. I have a blog entry for every week of 2015 so far. It is a miracle! It has not been easy, but I have done it! (cue super hero music)

So I know I have to get off Netflix and get a jump on some of the other items on the performance contract and get to work. But so far, hey...doing okay. I will not let 2015 kick my ass.

Netflix - So Evil, but so Good

Life? What is life?
Binge - to excessively indulge in something.

Some of us already participate in excessive behaviours - binge-eating, binge-drinking, chain-smoking, shopping sprees. Then came Netflix and binge tv.

I have been a Netflix subscriber for a few years now but never really actively used it, as I was busy with school, then with work, and in between, busy travelling, socialising and having a life.

Then came Christmas 2014, and my brother came over to the house with the kids and asked why there was no Netflix on the tv. It was still only a cute app on my tablet. In order to keep the kids occupied, he went ahead and added Netflix to the tv,and that was when it all went downhill.

Later when all the family had gone, the dishes were washed and I was all snuggly in my pyjamas, fluffy socks and with a glass of white wine, I sat in front of the tv, turned it on, and since there was nothing besides warm and vomitty fuzzy Christmas specials on, I flicked on Netflix. There in big screen wonder,was the beginning of my binge tv existence.

Over the long holiday weekend, I started in on Downton Abbey, finishing the first two seasons in record time. I have since brought myself up to date, having completed all five seasons on Netflix and via streaming. Then I moved on to The Fall, followed by Luther, and Orange is the New Black.I just today opened up The Killing, after a failed outing with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which is way too looney toons for me.

One of my fave shows is Orange is the New Black

I love me some Idris. DS Justin Ripley and DCI John Luther - Luther is also on Netflix

But Netflix is evil. Plain and simple. You switch it on to watch Episode 3,saying to yourself, after this episode, you will go feed the dog and do something worthwhile with your life. Before you know it, the dog is scratching at the door, the sun has set and you're still on the couch with snacks and on Episode 8, unaware of life around you.

- the act of watching an entire season of a show in one sitting
- a totally valid excuse for avoiding social obligations

How then do you end up on the couch for hours at a time, to the detriment of your friends, family,dinner dates and normal life?

Entertainment minus the wait - TV producers are generally trying to entertain you and keep you on the edge of your seat. You sit and watch an episode of your fave show on Tuesday night, it ends with a hell of a cliffhanger and you go "Ohhhhh snap" but then what? You have no choice but to take off the tv and wait 10,080 minutes til the next episode airs on the next Tuesday night. That can be real agony. With Netflix though, you don't have to endure those 10,080 minutes, or worse, but instead in less than 15 seconds can find out who shot J.R. - well, you know what I mean.

No commercials - Good tv with no interruptions. However, unless you have the emotional willpower to hit Pause, to go use the bathroom or feed the dog or children,this can be a really bad thing as well. lol.

Great tv all in one place - I love the one-stop-shop-ness of Netflix. I can choose to watch a movie or a tv series I may never have watched for one reason or another. I love that Netflix itself has also pushed the envelope with its own shows as well like House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black.  I don't have to resort to watching Lifetime any longer.

It's portable - Physically portable via the fact that when you leave the couch and the SmartTV you can still pick up your fave show on your laptop, tablet or phone.And of course, no matter where you are, you can pick up exactly where you left off.

Take your pick from the treasure chest that is Netflix.

So if you are an amateur at the Netflix hustle, here are some quick tips to note before embarking on a long weekend of quick showers, no human contact and hours and hours of tv and movies.

  • Clear the house or have a Netflix buddy who is also a true believer -Nothing worse than being interrupted during your Netflix marathon
  • Clear the schedule - Do the shopping, sweep the floors,feed the dog, farm out the kids before settling in on your couch with your remote, tablet, laptop or smartphone
  • Make sure you are properly dressed - Comfortable, loose clothing works for me and if it is night time, you must have your blankie.
  • Make sure you have marathon fuel aka food and drink - Netflix snacks are a must. I also like to have a nice wine open and ready to go for those unforgettable tv moments.

I was gutted when I heard that Fox had handed over Empire to Hulu and not Netflix so I am back to lying in bed with my tablet as I catch up on that. Not as fun as sitting on the couch looking at a much larger screen but Empire is as binge-worthy as they come. I have a whole separate post for Cookie Lyon, who is just my everything right now. But Happy Netflixin' this weekend, friends.

The Selfie Stick - The Darkest Point in Humanity

The selfie stick at work. Steups.
Photo credit: The Telegraph
Let's just get right down to it. The selfie stick. It is possibly one of the most polarising contraptions out there right now. You either love it, or hate it. So what is it?

I love Urban Dictionary!
Selfie Stick 
- An extendable stick you can put your phone on so you can take a selfie from farther away.
- An elongated rod, usually made out of plastic or steel, with a camera on one end and a dense moron on the other
Others have also referred to the selfie stick as the Staff of Narcissus and my favourite was British journalist, Grace Dent who described them as "one of the darkest points in humanity".

Yet to some, the selfie stick is a moment in history - a greater discovery than the coffee bean, electricity or air-conditioning. Yep. Being able to enhance one's selfies for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is the reason they sleep better at night.

I did some more research into this phenomenon and there are three basic kinds of Narcissistick...sorry...selfie stick.

  • The sticks that are Bluetooth-enabled, which pair with your iPhone or Android phone and let you press a button on the handle to take a photo. 
  • The sticks that plug into your smartphone’s headphone jack, which also let you take a photo with the press of a button on the handle. 
  • Sticks that come without any remote triggering function; some of these are sold as a package deal with a keychain-sized Bluetooth remote. (source: QZ.com)

Now I love me a selfie and if one morning I think I look extra cute, better believe I am taking a freakin' selfie. Not on my soapbox when it comes to selfies - selfies can be great. But, what is this selfie stick business? I have a problem with this - people walking around with a stick to take selfies? C'mon man.

Now from a travelling perspective, and as a solo traveller, I completely understand how challenging it can be to document some of your moments on a life-changing global discovery. You stand in front of that monument you reaaaaaaally want to get a photo of - with you in it - and then do the tourist 'bait and release ' where you size up the other tourists or locals passing by and decide who looks friendly enough, or at the very least, the least surly, so you can ask them to take that photo for you.

Nowadays, with smartphones with flip cameras and so on, the vacation selfie has sometimes replaced the charity photo from fellow tourists. I have still not jumped on the vacation selfie train completely. I still like the old fashioned tourist beg because they are often much better photos, if you are a seasoned campaigner and know how to choose your volunteer photographer, and I still like having 1-minute meet and greets with strangers who may be just like me, or not. That's part of the beauty of travelling, for me.

But I will admit, I am not a lover of the selfie stick. Though I get how it could benefit me as a solo traveller in particular, I feel an overwhelming distaste for it. I am so glad many museums and other such places have seen fit to ban their use. It is already hard battling with overzealous tourists trying to take selfies in front of everything, including that painting you want to take a closer look at. Add a 3-foot stick to the mix, and a few hundred...thousand tourists to that, and it is a nightmare.

This would drive me crazy!

Not to mention, people seem to be whipping out these things any and everywhere. There has to be some risk of physical harm as people walk around with these things threatening to poke you in the eye or in the guts. Not to mention the plain old inconvenience of it.

There was the guy in Rio de Janeiro waiting to go up the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car. His gigantic selfie stick kept getting caught in the vinyl ceiling of the waiting area and then inconvenienced other passengers inside the already-cramped cable car. - TreeHugger.com

But of course it speaks to a deeper malaise -the ever pervasive need to be viewed, to be 'liked', to create this world where everything about us and around us is perfect. Where every single thing is a photo opportunity and a chance to get 100 likes on Instagram and get more likes than the photo taken before or your friend's photo. Where you end up becoming more focused on the photo's potential on your social media than on the actual moment.

I’ll never forget the woman at a spectacular northeastern beach who never took her eyes off her extended cell phone, carefully wading into the warm turquoise ocean while holding her selfie stick at the perfect angle. She posed, smiled, angled her head, posed again. Not once did she put down her stick to actually swim in the water - Treehugger.com

Photo credit: The Telegraph
If this is your thing though, more power to you. I won't wade up to a woman like this and tell her don't do it. That is her business. I will possibly snicker and roll my eyes and blog about it, but it is her right to look like an idiot.

Where I do have a problem is if that selfie stick is going to challenge ME! - if it is going to block my view of my experience, be totally invasive during my moment, or just simply physically be a nuisance.

So kudos to some of my favourite places like the National Gallery and the Chateau de Versailles for banning the selfie stick to ensure everyone can enjoy the treasures which these venues offer to visitors.

Sadly I am hearing that selfie drones may soon be inflicted upon us. At that point I think I may just retreat into self-imposed exile from the world.

It's so hard to say Goodbye when you only just said Hello

I had a completely different post planned for today. You don't wake up expecting to have to write something like this.

In 2013, I visited Rome - a city I had always wanted to see. One of the most exciting things about that trip was meeting up with my childhood penpal for the first time ever. I wrote about the anticipation here and about the actual meeting here.

When I returned home, we gushed about our trip. Later...she told me she was sick. Cancer - that awful, awful scourge that has covered this world with such a darkness and a mercilessness. She was upbeat, she was positive. We traded messages, I prayed, we made plans. The last conversation she had, she told me she did not have good news. But she was trying her best, she said. She sent me a happy smiley but I am sure she was in so much pain. I sent her one back. The worst thing about having friends so far away is that you cannot hold their hand or hug them. A happy smiley and my thoughts and prayers were all I had to offer. I messaged her after that and got no response. This morning, it dawned on me that I had not checked in on her in a little while. I checked on my last message and saw that it had never been read. I went to her page and I speak no Italian but I did not need to understand the language to understand the story being told through the photos, the messages, the tags.

She was without a doubt the highlight of that trip. When we met, it was like we were friends for years and years, even though we were in a way. She opened her heart to me, her friends, her city. The warmth and beauty of her soul were so genuine in a city that at times felt so cold. It did not matter that I was black or a foreigner or whatever - we were friends when we were 11, and here we were in our 30s - friends then and forever.

I still have the first photo she ever sent me so many years ago in an envelope stamped 'Roma'. She, leaning against a wall, in an oversized sweater, long brown hair over her shoulder, pretty smile. She was happy to make friends from an island so far away and we were so much alike even though we were so different,

She was so young. She was my age. But while I cannot speak to how many lives she touched, she certainly touched mine. I am so glad we got to meet and even though it was a short moment in time, it was a memorable and beautiful moment.Our next rendez-vous was to be in Trinidad. We had talked about this. I looked at the screen this morning and I just cried. She was as good a friend as any I see every day. When I had joys to share, I shared them with her. When I was cold and lonely in London, she always made me laugh. I am heartbroken. We will never make that trip to Cuba together now, but I promise to live each day with hope the way she always told me to. Life is so short and it is not fair.

The hardest part is I did not even know until this morning. That is eating me alive. My heart was heavy and so I checked and checked and checked - going crazy with checking messages, sending messages to her friends, trying to translate messages into English, and forcing myself to think positively when deep down, with every post I tried to translate, every post that was not hers, every throwback photo, I knew otherwise.

Farewell, my lovely, my beautiful friend - both inside and out. Thank you for loving me despite boundaries. Thank you for being the light that you were. Thank you for living a life worthy of the love you have received. Thank you for once again reminding me to Live, Love, Laugh. I will hold you in my heart forever.

Grazie. Sleep well.

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