The Lazy Sunday Taskmistress: Reporting for Duty

It’s so funny how you can do the exact same things in two different places.  The outings and errands remain the same, but the locale, obviously, is so very different.  What I mean is that this weekend could have happened in Buffalo, though I guess I wouldn’t have seen palm and coconut trees during it.

It was a very normal homey weekend, the kind I’d been really missing.

There was a fun visit to Bhagwansingh’s, our big homewares store (my Home Depot has a much cooler name, clearly!) for a rake, a shovel, a toilet seat, and a flashlight (no, I don’t plan on hitting someone over the head with a toilet seat then threatening them with a rake to make them dig a hole in my backyard by flashlight–but it is a good idea, in theory).  After which came a fun visit to the plant store in search of a Bajan cherry tree (which we did not find there):

There was a stop for some fast food, Trini-stylie–doubles, of the kind a girl watchful of her figure can enjoy and delectate once every blue moon if she has any intention of baring a six-pack at Carnival:

You ask for your doubles here...

And 2.5 seconds later you're eating this pile of chickpea goodness

There was the inevitable doubles-induced nap with baseball (and later, cricket) in the background, plus dinner and an outing to the movies (Toy Story 3), followed by the usual beer, though I sadly had to give the 3-D glasses back before I had the beer.

And, on Sunday, there was plant-purchasing and fruit and vegetable loading-up at the Sunday market, followed by brunch and plenty of quality online reading and online dress-stalking.  I need a dress for a party at ours in a few weeks and I have a wicked plan to pull a Scarlett O’Hara and make the dress out of some red curtains in a manner like so:

The Anthropologie Graphical Dress--be still my heart

After which we had a very lovely get-together for tea and chat in our neighbor’s garden, for which I wore an appropriately-themed flowery skirt:

Skirt by me (dress refashion), top by Old Navy, sandals from Target--very predictable, I know...

The only thing that could have improved my weekend?  Not having a knee twinge/ache.  I know full well that I may possibly have come from a nutty home Zumba session, but I’d rather believe it came from a nutty kitchen cleaning session.  I’d rather be allergic to cleaning than to Zumba.  I’m now off to apply ice and feel silly about it and hope that the Zumba gods aren’t punishing me for appropriating their thang.

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Foodie Fix: A Slice of South America In Trinidad

In a total Homer Simpson “D’oh!” moment, I realized that posting a Foodie Friday post at 10 pm on a Friday night kind of defeated the purpose of calling it Foodie Friday since, well, it would get read on the weekend.  Silly, silly me.  So from now on, you’ll be seeing Foodie Fix (and Trini Tales, too) appearing at their usual times, sans the day of the week added in.  It makes very little difference in the grand scheme of things, I know–but at least I feel like I got one over the tyranny of the days of the week. Tyrants…

________

Anyway, to the matter at hand…

Which is the eating of Venezuelan food in Trinidad:

A few months ago, Mr. L suggested a surprise lunch to a restaurant he’d recently heard of.  Our gluttony pushed us to brave torrential rains and, ever since, we’ve had to impose a limit on how many times a month we get to go to Taryn’s for lunch.   I swear I have an internal GPS and it only ever wants to take me there (23 Mucurapo Road, St. James, Port of Spain, in case you’re in the area and want to set your real GPS or map-skillz to it, too).

The first time we went, I had the pabellon lunch, which had stewed beef, fried plantains, black beans and rice.  It was delicious and I had to be wheeled to the car because it was so filling:

The second time, I went for something a bit lighter and, in the process, ignited a torrid love affair with the Venezuelan arepa:

I had it with the stewed beef filling and rice and beans on the side and was so appreciative of how tasty it was that I almost asked the lovely owner if I could work there full-time just so I could be paid in arepas.  Thank goodness I have a bit of shame.

This time, I figured that nothing in this world can’t be improved with the addition of a fried plantain or three, so I ordered the arepa with stewed beef and fried plantain (with the customary black beans and rice on the side):

At least this time I knew the dangers of its deliciousness and only vaguely considered making rash offerings of services in exchange for arepas.

It’s not just the delicious food that keeps me coming back.  The ambiance is homey and familiar with its low bar and woodwork and sweet table decor; it’s very much like the kind of Old San Juan lunch spots that I love so much when I go to Puerto Rico:

Please pardon the arm--there are only so many times a man will kindly move his arm before you risk losing your camera--and your plate.

The service is extremely friendly, the cast of regulars is reassuring to see, and the prices are really, really good considering that you are paying for a crispy-exterior, soft-and-meaty interior slice of heaven on a plate.  Oh yeah, and I get to hear and speak Spanish, which always does my little scrawny heart great good.

Someday, I’ll manage to resist the arepas and order some of their other Venezuelan specialties, like the shepherd’s pie-type dishes with plantain and fish or plantain and stewed meat (which are much more familiar to my Rican-girl palate).  Someday, pigs might fly straight into my mouth, ready-roasted, too.

Until then, I’ll be trying all of the arepas on the menu.  I’ve tasted the cheese ones (which are made with a salty white cheese and which would totally rock my dairy-free world, if they could):

I’ve yet to try the ones stuffed with pork, chicken, fish, or shrimp.  I’m afraid of what would happen if I did, because then I’d be ordering several arepas per sitting and that would just not do.

Oh Venezuelan food, where have you been all my life?  (Oh yeah, you’ve been seven miles from Trinidad and quietly chillin’ in the Trinidad Northern Range where the Spanish in Trinidad lived–and in St. James, too, apparently.)

If you are tempted to have an arepa adventure this weekend (as I may well be), check out the recipe on Food Wishes (you can use any brand of masarepa cornmeal–note, it’s not the same as masa harina!) or the recipe on Venezuelan Food and Drinks.

Buen provecho!

Trini Tale Thursday: When It Rains…

It REALLY rains here.

You’ve probably seen me mention the rainy season and wondered why I had my panties in a twist about it, unless you’re Trini, in which case you know all about the rainy season and how to deal.

But, for those of you who haven’t seen the madness that is a tropical rainy season, let me tell you ALL about it and how it affects your entire life–your food, your workouts, and your hair.

Basically, Trinidad has two seasons–dry and rainy.  During the dry season, it’s 93 F with zero humidity and it rains once in a blue moon.

During the rainy season, it’s 93 F with 90% humidity and it rains constantly.  It pours. Buckets and buckets and buckets.  No sweet April showers here, folks; we get black skies and heavy, low-hanging clouds:

Why, is that a fat rain cloud posse in the distance?

See that cloud? It totally soaked me and all the other wonderful Emancipation Day festivity viewers

Oh yes you CAN get rained on at the beach--and I did

The rain is absolutely torrential–you could wash your hair under a downpour in less time that it takes using a good-pressured showerhead, I am certain of it:

I'm taking cover on my porch

A curtain of rain hanging down from my roof

The rain most certainly brings things into bloom.  They look so pretty that I usually don’t mind how it takes two Zyrtek, two doses of eye drops, and two doses of nasal spray each day to keep me from ripping my face off from seasonal allergies (which last–you guessed it–all rainy season long).  See how gorgeous?

I want that red flamboyant tree, and I want it BAD.

I'd like these, too

However, the rainy season also brings power outages (which would not vex me nearly as much if they didn’t mean being fan-less and sweaty) and floods, like the ones I had to wade through on my way back from the airport last August (thanks again, Mr. Neighbor with the Pickup Truck for hoisting me and my goods onto the back of your pickup truck and getting me home safely!):

Yuck.

The rainy season also brings the scourge of bugs all up in your kitchen business, nibbling away at anything in a bag and therefore surprising you when you open the rice and find bugs and rice dust.  It also brings the scourge of mosquitoes all up in your joint, nibbling on your legs and other tasty areas (but mainly my legs–freaks) and inducing general paranoia about dengue fever in the bitee.

I had dengue when I was ten.  It sucked.  Can’t they just move along?  (I tried as hard as I could to get a picture of my currently-mosquito-colonized legs, but I’d rather not have readers passing out from grossness).

Of course the rainy season makes your skin nice and glowy, but it also makes your hair resemble a nest of sloppy crackhead birds.  No, I’m not showing you a picture of my frizzy head because you might not come back to my blog.

The rainy season also makes a Blindy McGoo driver like me terrified of being caught out on the road when the skies open up (and, of course, of getting my hair and feet wet when I eventually get out of my car).  Traffic stops when it rains heavily.  The wipers can’t handle it.  It’s a bonafide acceptable excuse for being late here.

And that, of course, means that getting to the pool becomes rather difficult–should it even be open on a very rainy day, since the slightest threat of thunder is enough to send the lovely pool-managing dudes running back home and hiding under their tables (or just not letting me or anyone swim if a thunderclap was heard in the last twelve hours).  Thank goodness for Core Fusion DVDs and Zumba at home, or my fitness would take a serious hit from the weather, sheesh.

As for the beach–ha.  You pack up your car, you hope for the best, you drive an hour to get there… and if the rain starts pounding down:

Oy vey

At least you can be grateful for a bit of cover at the beach’s bar:

Why yes, that is indeed a makeshift ladder contraption with a man on it, back left

Where you can enjoy an awesome beach lunch:

The best stewed chicken, macaroni pie, salad, rice, and callalloo lunch ever had by woman, from Las Cuevas beach last Sunday

But do I complain?  Nope (well, except for the mosquito bites).  I’ll take biblical downpours over wimpy British misting and butt-freezing cold any day.

The Trouble In My Kitchen

The trouble in my kitchen is actually that the kitchen is quiet these days.  Dead, dead quiet.

It’s not that there is no good dishing up going on around here.  I haven’t fallen prey to packaged foods and, truth be told, it’s not even like I’m eating the same things every single week.  The food I make still tastes mighty fine to me (and to those who eat it, or so they say) and it’s still nutritious and balanced and all that nonsense.  And it all still manages to look pretty enough on the plate, see?

French toast with starfruit

Black bean and rice burrito bowl a la Chipotle

Caribbean bean burger on salad, breadfruit salad, avocado slices

But I’m just not dying to get my hands on my knives and pots and spoons, as I used to be.  Check me for fever–this has never happened before.

I have to confess that I was feeling pretty uninspired before I left for Buffalo.  However, the prospect of North American summer produce (I’ve never met a squash or a berry I didn’t want to make out with) and North American supermarkets and specialty food shops was enough to keep me afloat, food-wise.  I had a whole long list of stuff I wanted to make while I was there, some of which got made (grilled zucchini, corn on the cob, all kinds of kooky salads, pork and pork and more pork) and some of which is now on the list for next summer.

However, I was not pushing people out of my way to get into the kitchen during my visit home.  And now, I wish someone would come and cook for me, because despite having picked up a new cookbook and psyched myself up for the triumphant return to my kitchen (where I know where everything is and belongs), I’m still not feelin’ it.

I know, I know:  you’re thinking I have no business griping about fresh produce when I live in the tropics and can get my hands on all kinds of crazy exotic goodies.  Well, yes, I can.  But the problem with having just one season is that you have the same things year-round, for the most part.

It’s pretty tempting to hold a pity party for one in the dining room while I wistfully look at my kitchen and then beg for sushi takeout.  However, it’s probably better for me to analyze the problem and the issues at hand which have led to this sad culinary state:

Dietary issues:

  • I miss my dairy, full stop., and I’m fairly sure the cows miss me.  I don’t want to eat a whole cow’s worth of cheese, but it wouldn’t go amiss on a salad or on my greens or on, well, anything.
  • I also realized, while in Buffalo, that indulging in ricey and wheaty ways to the extreme leads to grogginess and the need to kill someone for a baguette in the extreme, which narrows down my lunch options quite a bit.
  • And let’s not even talk about nuts–I’d trade a year of my life to try any of those fancy  new nut butters or savor a macadamia.
  • To add to the maelstrom of malaise, I try to keep both the man and myself happy at dinner.  Ideally, I’d be eating vegan vegetable, bean and grain feasts with a hunk of pork on the side, topped with shrimp; he is more into the pasta/potatoes/cheese/slight veggies on the side kinds of meals and, quite reasonably for a vegetarian, would not garnish his meal with pork.  Needless to say, it’s a most wearisome juggling act sometimes, even with his valiant assists on meal-planning.

Ingredients:

  • Did I say I’d kill for nuts?  Scratch that.  I’d commit various Class-A felonies for berries, squash, nectarines, and all kinds of seasonal produce.  I love the range of tropical produce, but range does not equal variety if I’m eating pumpkin twelve months of the year.
  • I could get some seasonal goodies at the supermarket or at Pricesmart–I’d just have to swear off buying everything else for the month, because those things don’t come cheap (or even reasonable).

Inspiration:

  • I can’t get inspired.  I try to read foodie blogs to get inspired and feel uninspired.  I try to NOT read foodie blogs and let it happen naturally but it doesn’t.  I buy cookbooks to peruse and end up asking myself why I spent $20 on a book whose ingredients I cannot find/afford/eat.
  • See above.  It just bears repeating.

So I guess my only solution is to have a piece of Martha Stewart’s brain (or, better yet, Nigella Lawson’s brain) transplanted onto mine.  It’s the ONLY logical way out of this.  Until then, I’m not going to stress about being stressed about cooking–and I’ll wait for all your wonderful comments/suggestions/instructions to get out of this funk.

Have you ever had a cooking rut?  How did you deal with it?  Share and help a girl out, please!

Back In Business–A Playlist To Beat Laziness

I almost gave in to laziness and fear and sleepiness and ridiculousness this morning–but I didn’t.  Ladies and gentleman, I went for my first post-Buffalo Trinidad run!  And to celebrate the occasion, there’s a new playlist involved…

When the alarm went off at 5:45, I was all “Hells no.”  I hit snooze.  When it went off again, I hit snooze, wanted to cry at the prospect of leaving my cozy bed, and negotiated with my half-asleep self that I’d run in the afternoon instead.  When it went off the third time, I decided I was not going to feel any better about this first run back in Heat Central, shook off my ridiculousness, and went out for the damn three-mile run.

One word for it:  amazing.

I thought the heat would be unbearable, as it was when I left in May, and I was concerned that the sun would be a bit much for my late-ish start.  No such thing.  It was sunny but not frying weather, there was a breeze (which was actually cool!), and the mosquitoes weren’t nearly as nippy as I expected them to be.  I broke a sweat before I was even breathing heavily and was practically exuding a river as I ran, but it actually felt great to sweat so quickly; it was like running in my own personal shower bubble.

So yes, I had to sacrifice about twenty seconds per mile of speed compared to my Buffalo times, but it didn’t matter in the least.  It was too awesome of a run for me to care.

And did I mention the scenery?  It was breathtaking on my route, now that the rain has pounded the island and greened up the mountains and trees and bushes, and I could smell all kinds of seasonal flowers all along the way.  It was as idyllic as running in Trinidad gets.  This picture is not of the route, but you get the idea:

Those are the mountains I see on my morning run

Misty gingers of the kind I see on my morning runs

So, in honor of today’s awesome run, I’ll give you my Guaranteed Laziness-Busting Playlist, which is sure to generate big-time badassery at even the ungodliest hour of the morning:

  • Rihanna–Hard
  • Bajah and the Dry-Eye Crew–Laba Laba
  • MIA–Stepping Up (*her entire new album kicks and thumps, I can’t recommend it enough)
  • Mapei–Public Enemy
  • Anjalie–Boom
  • DJ Waxfiend/Busy Signal–Sound of Sirens
  • Lazerproof–Tigerlily
  • Lady Gaga–Dance In The Dark
  • MIA–Born Free
  • Bajah and the Dry-Eye Crew–Bondo Kallay
  • Thunderheist–Jerk It

There’s no way you’ll be able to sit still through this mix, I promise.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you!

In Which In-House Zumba Goes Down

Maybe it’s the exhaustion setting in from my relentlessly-busy six-week-plus visit to Buffalo–OK, it’s definitely the exhaustion from that–but I decided to forgo my morning run and have one more sleep-in day today.

I usually feel incredibly guilty about sleeping in late, even though my work is 100% flexible; I guess I’m afraid if I sleep in one day too many, I’ll find myself wearing my bathrobe all day and never leaving the house.  However, I told myself that I could bring nice shoes (and workout clothes and books and plastic dishes and spices and everything else that makes your two suitcases badly overweight) from Buffalo ONLY if I left behind my big sack of perpetual guilt over ridiculous things.

Sorry, Mami:  I left the guilt squished into a tiny box in the attic, next to my kitchen wares.  Hope you don’t mind.

Back to sleeping in–I slept in.  And when I woke up (at a very reasonable 9:00 am), I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house and go for a swim.  This was (admittedly) partly due to laziness, but also (very reasonably) partly due to my fear of driving on the left so soon after spending six weeks driving on the right and NOT driving like a Trini.  I just didn’t feel like scratching up my car today.

Furthermore, at some point while I was flying over the Atlantic last Friday, I schemed up this elaborate plan to do Zumba on my own, no video, at home.  I know I was under the influence of heavy Dramamine, but it seemed like a great idea at the time–and it still seemed like a great idea last night.  I mean, I love the music, I attended twice-weekly classes for six weeks and have pretty decent memory for moves, and–most importantly–I wouldn’t need to leave the house.  Perfect.

So, this morning, I decided to set up my very own Laura and Lola Home Zumba Session (for more on Lola, check out my Target shorts and Old Navy top review–she glommed onto me that day and I just can’t seem to shake her off).  Basically, Lola is my good friend who is exactly the same as me, except she talks about embarrassing stuff and wears her inner big-mouth (and sometimes not much else) on her sleeve.  I try to stop her from being as foul-mouthed and frank as she could be, and I keep her well away from my prim and proper mom and all decent people.

Anyway, enough about her–back to the Zumba.

I set up the “studio” in Mr. Laura’s office while Lola looked for hoochie shorts in my drawers (she didn’t find any) and watched me fiddle with cables and move chairs around:

Uh-oh, don't tell anyone I showed you the home office...

The AV --so very hi-fi

Lola also helped me put together a playlist of Zumba tunes on Grooveshark and added as much ghettolicious reggaeton as she could find and I allowed.  I’m a decent woman, even if she sometimes isn’t.

Once we were ready to go, I set up my heart rate monitor, hit start on the timer, and told her to back her booty up and follow me for one hour of grooving and shaking to salsa, reggaeton, merengue, and cumbia, as well as a few of the silly Zumba-only songs.  Might I add that the hour flew by and we had great fun?  And that we did not break anything in the man’s office (though our blasting tunes most definitely woke him up)?

Anyway, we had a grand old time raising our heart rates (almost as high as when I go running!) and I even managed to get her to stop shaking her booty at me for long enough to gather our thoughts on our home Zumba session.

Pros:

  • I could do this any time, in any weather, without leaving the house–and in the air-conditioning, too!
  • I could do this by myself (or with Lola–you know what I mean).
  • Doing this by myself means that my moves can be as crazy/ridiculous/high impact/low impact as I want or need them to be.  Therefore, I need not be embarrassed by my booty’s propensity to shake (intentionally and unintentionally).  I can also let Lola go crazy with her reggaeton and wining moves without horrifying the sweet YMCA ladies–or the sweet YMCA instructor.
  • I can wear as little as possible to keep cool.  For me, that meant sports bra and capris; for Lola, that meant rolling up my workout Bermudas into booty shorts (there really is no stopping her, sheesh).  All done safely out of sight of all the neighbors and respectable folk!

Cons:

  • I had to do it by myself.  That meant improvising moves and trying to remember them without having anyone to follow.
  • I didn’t have anyone to show me new moves, so I had to think fast and hard to come up with different steps.  Lola was absolutely zero help here–when in doubt, she sticks out her posterior and shakes it.
  • I didn’t have a mirror in my home “studio” (the window did not work to reflect my moves in broad daylight-go figure, right?) So, while I might have felt like Shakira bustin’ my moves, I may well have looked like Dame Edna bustin’ my moves.  I know that part of the beauty of at-home Zumba (and any Zumba class, to be honest) is that how you look doesn’t matter, but I don’t want to get in the habit of dancing like a sixty-year-old Australian cross-dresser, thank you very much.

All in all, I give my at-home Zumba attempt a B+.  I’m shocked that I managed to dance by myself with Lola for a whole hour and that I was at no point bored, and I’m pretty surprised that I remembered so many of the Zumba moves.  I’m gently kicking myself for not ordering a Zumba DVD while I was in Buffalo (Amazon doesn’t do Trinidad), so I’m going to get it for myself as a Christmas present and check out some YouTube clips for new moves in the meantime.

In any case, at-home Zumba will definitely be a staple of my fitness repertoire from now on, especially since the rainy season downpours make a daunting proposition of scheduling decent pool time.  And, with Carnival coming in eight months (and Christmas and my mom’s amazing array of pork dishes for the occasion in between) I need all the shaking and toning I can get.

I really hope Lola lays off the booty shorts, though, because now I’m tempted to get a pair for myself.  She is such a bad influence.

No More Skirting the Issue: The Ride for Roswell Skirt Giveaway

Remember my Ride for Roswell?  Oh, that little 20-mile bike ride for cancer research fundraising?  The ride for which I trained with a shaky first ride and with a few rides full of panache and cycle style?

For which rain did not cooperate sometimes and for which I rode ghetto-unfabulous with a posse of my badass sisters for backup and commiseration?

For which I ate like a beast (sometimes during the actual bike rides)?

Baby Bel and I chomping on hot dogs

And which, of course, I rode with the coolest people on earth–my sisters and friends, not to mention all 8,000 other awesome Ride for Roswell participants?

As official a team photo as we could manage!

The unofficial shot--sisters scream silly Spanish swearwords, as per tradition

Yes, well…  All of that happened almost a month ago and I have been shamelessly neglectful in holding the Ride for Roswell Skirt Giveaway, due to some circumstances within my control (too much household craziness, chasing down some post-ride donations and pledges) and some outside of it (family issues, work craziness, flight delays, etc).

But no more!

I decided to go about this in a thoroughly unscientific way because math hurts my head on a Sunday night (as for the flash, the camera manual for my new DSLR also hurts my head on a Sunday, hence the glare–I’ll learn soon, I promise).  Each donor was allocated a number, which was entered once for every five dollars they donated:

How very scientific!

The numbers were folded up into itty bitty little squares and tossed in a most appropriate vessel–my scratched saucepan:

I know--it's time to replace this with better Teflon

Wherein they were tossed and shaken all about:

Boom shakalaka shake...

Shake it like a pan full of popcorn (go on, sing it to the tune of Outkast's "Hey Ya")

Then stirred for good measure:

The oatmeal spoon sees some night action, ooh la la

Before a winning number was pulled out:

The spoon is as impartial as I am!

Under the watchful eye of Umbi, who was monitoring proceedings for fairness and procedural propriety:

I swear his eyes are under there--and they're SERIOUSLY watchful...

And the winner is…. Kendra!

Woot woot!

Congratulations to the lovely Kendra!  I’ll be getting in touch to get measurements and ask for color/print preferences, etcetera.

I would also like to thank EVERYONE who donated and everyone who wished me well or even gave me and my silly team a thought on Ride for Roswell day.  We couldn’t have done this without you and I can’t wait to do it again next year–33 miles, here I come!