Too Much of The Gram


Magenta Wrap Dress


Szechuan Tofu & Eggplant


New Pick: " Two Years Eight Months..."


Caring For The Caribbean


New Pick: "The Mothers"


The Stripes Have It


Himalayan Pink Salt & Rose Water Scrub


Travel Diary From Home: Intro

As much as I enjoy travelling to other countries, nothing feeds my soul more than being at home in the Caribbean and on my home islands of Trinidad & Tobago in particular. While far from paradise, there is much good in these twin islands. However, although other Caribbean islands may be extolled as dream places to visit, T&T is not as celebrated unless for our famous Carnival and even in regards to this nuanced, vibrant, complex festival, so much goes unhighlighted. When it comes to the environmental beauty of Trinidad and Tobago, our anonymity is even greater. We Trinis, are responsible for this. Part of the cause is economic. Enriched with oil, natural gas and other geological resources, we have not had to rely as heavily on tourism as a primary source of revenue in comparison with our Caribbean neighbours. Another factor is that Trinbagonians are not very keen on valuing our beauty (environmental and cultural) unless it is validated by foreigners.

One of my reasons for starting this blog was to help celebrate my country's beauty. Beginning this month, I would like to kick things up a notch. From featuring more stories of inspiring young Trinbagonians to highlighting places to visit on the twin islands to sharing more recipes of Trini cuisine, I intend to bombard you with Trini goodness! I will provide tips for visiting as well as interesting things to know about Trinidad & Tobago. I look forward to hearing whatever questions you have along the way.

Photography Credit: Kyeon Constantine

2.6.17 2017 Summer Book List


Travel Diary: The Teotihuacán Pyramids, México


Just to Get Away

The wish to live near the ocean or in the bush has been tugging at my heart strings more and more. Sitting before the sea as the sun stakes its claim in the sky or lying in a hammock reading and drinking a cup of tea as breeze whistles through the tropical foliage...meditating as rain patters unto the eager ground and eating juicy fruits reaped from the surrounding land. Lately, I've been acquainting and reacquainting myself with some of my islands' quiet little spaces...Villages with idyllic Amerindian, French and Spanish names. Passing through these niches that shun many of the trappings of urbanisation remind me that life can move at a slower, more gentle rhythm. How would it be to experience such days as a norm? For days to be governed by the sea or forest? For thoughts to be quieted by nature. I intend to find out.

Photography Credit: Kyeon Constantine 


Village Dispatch: Trinidad & Tobago w/ Ayanna

Ancestral Memory: What led you to acting?
Ayanna Cezanne:  You can say I've been acting all my life. I come from a family that is performance bound. We've always had very large get together's with cousins, aunties, uncles and my grandparents where there was always a song, a dance and a performance. Apart from the natural environment of having such a lively, large performance based family, I also have a very clear memory of Form 4 GCSE class in London. I was going to Maria Fideles in Euston. We had a very active drama club. Six months prior, I had come to the UK with my mum. I had  found it very unsettling in the U.K. The initial college I attended was Coloma Convent and I felt pretty displaced and alone. I was one of very few black children so I transferred to Maria Fideles. I immediately found my tribe. Although still a convent, it was a bit of an urban school compared to the previous one, which was a very strict all girls convent. There were many flagrant characters there and I fit in with them immediately and drama club was real. Drama club was where it began.  When I came back to Trinidad, I went to Holy Name Convent. We had dance clubs and different performances in which I was involved. Fast forward down the road, I would say that 2011 was my real decision making year to try to take acting seriously, hone in on some talents and formalise some skills. I kinda went brave and decided that this is what I wanted to do.

AM: What exciting things are happening in the Trinidad & Tobago film industry?
Ayanna: In my perspective, there has been a lot of growth and there have been definite opportunities for film makers and actors to have somewhat of a forum to get a chance to actually hone in on some of the areas they want to develop or have access to that in the past due to funding, lack of resources and other constraints, they weren't able to. These things (obstacles) started to lessen, especially with  the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival and a few of the bodies that came into being - some of which I have been told served some type of a purpose but in my opinion did not see through with the mission they were probably set out to accomplish - but nevertheless, they have provided outlets for us to explore, network and take our craft to the next level. What you can see is that  there is an avenue for film makers, actors and technical people. There is a lot still to be done and a lot still to blossom. There are some truths that need to be spoken and I'm not sure we're ready to have those kinds of honest discussions as yet but you can't poopoo the whole party. There has been growth and there have been amazing people coming out of that growth. We do have to focus on the positives.

AM: What are your hopes for the local arts ecosystem?
Ayanna: On the whole, I want to see and possibly experience some real growth within the head space of Trinidadians as far the way we see ourselves and challenge ourselves to be a lot more than what we are presented with. I have seen representations of things that have been the same for the last 30 to 50 years. You would  think  there would have been far more progress in a lot of areas. There is  a stagnation and myopic view that's a mindset of  people in the society. I hope that people continue to forge forward, putting on film festivals, workshops, making opportunities available and developing craft. There needs to be more development of our human capital. I think that's what it comes down to. But people have to be open to that.We need to mature our audiences as well. I'm hopeful. I hope that there are more people wanting to up the ante, regardless of their role in the industry.

AM: To what do you accredit being an unconventional mother?
Ayanna: My mum was an unconventional mother. My grandmother was an unconventional mother. My great grandmother was an unconventional mother. It in meh blood! (Laughs). I've had some other very strong female around me: my aunt Anna, my aunt Nina, my aunt Julianne, my mum. Single parent but very purposed in her youth. Leaving her little San Fernando home. She had a very unconventional upbringing too. She was involved in the 1970 Revolution with my grandfather. She was kicked out of school at 14 because she marched. At the time, she attended Naparima Girls', a prestigious school in the South and that was just not going to be heard of so she left school at 14 and did not go back. She forged a life for herself. Then Ayanna came along and life continued. I think that because of that I made certain decisions after finding out that I would be having a baby. There were so many definitives for me about how I intended to mother. I intended to be informed. I intended to be very purposed. I intended to learn the most positive ways (that I would have known at the time) in which to bring a child up. I really wanted to explore raising a child without hitting a child. Everything about this role I was taking on was about trying to be a better version of myself.

AM: What are four things you would tell your younger self?
Ayanna: Hmmm...."It ain't that serious Ayanna. It's really not that serious. Let go of things that are not serving you and I don't mean airs and graces. It's  ok to not be ok. You're going to figure it out. Once you're willing to do the work, you're going to figure it out. Do exactly what it is you think you want to do. It's a wicked kind of existence when you march to another drum.

AM: You exude such youthfulness and vitality. What keeps you young and vibrant?
Well, thank you for those compliments. I'm going to be so frank about this. Thank my granny and great granny for some good a$$ genes. I think that's where it begins with some good genes. Apart from that, I've always looked younger than I am. As a teenager I was the youngest looking one...a slow developer. That had its disadvantages *( Laughs) but as you grow older, it is an advantage. You see, the things you didn't like (before) become the things you love. I also believe that music is a huge part of youthfulness. I've been really blessed to know so many genres of music and old music. There's nothing quite like the timeless classics in all genres. There's something about that: the storytelling as well as being able to connect with feelings and emotions, to sing and to get it out. Music really takes you and transports you to different places. Also, having a spirited daughter at 22 has been an added benefit-she has been the icing on the cake. She has definitely kept me young. I don't hold on to age at all. In fact, I don't even conceive of it anymore. I intend to be feeling and looking great at 60, 70, 80, whatever time I turn back into dust and move on to some other plane. Regimen wise, I don't actually have a strict regimen. However, in the last few months I've gone through a spell of learning more about my body, my triggers, mindfulness and trying to centre myself more. I've had to and I've had a very good friend on the journey with me who has helped me maintain balance and remaining centred. I've introduced yoga and I do drop it like hot bread and then pick it back up again so don't sit there and think that I have all my ish together. I fall off and on the bandwagon but there has been a certain consistency of late through understanding how stress manifests itself. Self care is more important to me now. You can't get me to do anything on a Sunday unless I absolutely want to. I read or relax, do webinars, tutorials, play music, dance, maybe put on a bikini and feel sexy. It's my day. Also, I've started to use fewer chemically based products. It's bloody expensive but important. Meditation is key now, I try to do that daily. I don't ever want to say the word regimented but I do try to practise this more because it feels good when I do. That's it really. To live good and I love alot! I love alot!

AM: Where on our islands do you go to be revitalised?
Ayanna: To be honest, I don't really have a favourite place that I go . I love to be near music. I can be a really happy camper in the middle of a party where the right music is being played. That can be my getaway. I would be in my own world, singing and dancing, not caring about anything but the music and me. As far as a physical place though, I like the ocean a lot. Also, I treasure that quiet time at home being alone in my thoughts....Practising the joy of keeping my own company. So my home can actually be my go to space. It might mean being in the outdoor part of my home. I can feel the breeze and spot the ocean. Home is probably the best space for me.


Sundays Like This

Having a job that often takes me away on the weekends has helped me appreciate the languorous pleasure of Sundays spent sleeping in late...well, Saturdays too for that matter. Unfurling from soft sheets to the sounds of nature instead of jumping to the jarring toll of an alarming clock is a welcomed respite. I take my cool time to greet the world. Un-bothered by the hours going by, I read, daydream or watch a movie-usually, spoiling myself with all three. I sip a cup of soothing tea and listen to my heart's musings. I used to feel a tinge of guilt at this self indulgence but many morns pulled from hotel beds to work before 6 am and having to then immediately turn on the 'ready to chat' switch have been an effective cure. I've come to embrace my need for solitude. Those who truly know me, know that as conversational as I can be, my tolerance for socialising and chatter is actually quite low.  As such, I view Sundays' quiet, easy awakenings as a sacred opportunity to care for my mind and spirit. In the haven of my home bedroom (since that's where I linger), I can recharge from the over stimulation of this society. Although I hope that even if I'm married with children, I will still claim such moments,  they will probably not be as frequent as now. (My friends with young one's to tend to remind me of this, intentionally or not). So for as long and as often as I can, I  will indulge in Sundays like this. 

Please share how you spend your Sundays. Do you pass them lazily or do you find yourself out and about before the sun is high in the sky?

Photography: Sammy Sampson 

Travel Diary: Ghana Market Adventures Part 1


Trinidadian Mango Habanero Pepper Sauce

With a collision of Indian and West African roots, Trinidadians are a peppery food liking people. When the Guinness Book of Records listed the world's hottest pepper as being from Trinidad & Tobago, we considered it a national badge of honour. For the typical Trini, a meal is not complete unless there is a some heat accompanying it. To ensure that this is so, we marinade and cook our dishes with fresh peppers (usually pimento, habanero or bird peppers). For those incidents when the finished meal still requires some heat, the person eating will add a whole pepper or pepper sauce to his/her plate. Even many of our 'snacks' are spicy hot. Our obsession with pepper is inculcated from childhood. As a rite of passage, adolescents gather to make and communally feast on a spicy fruit concoction called chow (made from mangoes, pineapples, guavas, pommerac, pommecytheres, cocoa and a plethora of whatever tropical fruit is in season). I remember as I child, my older brother giving me a piece of such fruit that had sat baking in the sun to intensify the spicy sting. As if that wasn't wicked enough, he had hidden a piece of pepper in the morsel. I not only ate it but returned for more, my tongue stinging with pain. I refused to let on that I could not handle the heat. When my brother gave me another piece, I felt proud of myself.

I've taken this obsession into adulthood. Like many other Trinis, I've been experimenting with creating my own pepper sauce recipes. Pepper sauces are a great option if you want a dash of heat in your meal but you want to be able to control the intensity.  Furthermore, they are extremely easy to make. In this post, I'm sharing a recipe for a mango habanero sauce. Please note that you can easily adjust the heat and sweetness of the sauce by adding or reducing the number of peppers and mangoes used. Let me know how yours turns out!

15 habanero peppers (use fewer peppers for a milder sauce)
3-4 large full to ripe mangoes (also use more mangoes if you 
   prefer a sweeter milder sauce)
2 kiwis (these were used to add some tartness w/out having to use 
             more lime or vinegar)
1 lime/lemon
3 cloves of garlic
6 stems of green onions
1 onion
1 bunch of chadon beni (also called culantro or oriental     
   cilantro)/about 10-12 leaves 
2 carrots
1 tbsp of salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)
1 cup of distilled vinegar
1/4 cup of mustard powder
1/2 cup of water 

*Using gloves, roughly chop peppers, removing the stem/head.
*Remove some of the seeds if you want a very mild sauce. 
*Roughly chop flesh from the mangoes.
*Roughly chop kiwis, onions, carrots and scallion.
*Grate a wedge of lime to obtain lime/lemon zest.
*Place peppers, mango, garlic, carrots, chadon beni, green and 
  regular onions in blender. Place blender on pulse setting until 
  the ingredients are minced or finely chopped.
*Add salt, mustard pepper and lime/lemon zest to the blender.
*Place on pulse setting until the mixture is smoothly blended.
*Transfer the sauce to bottles and refrigerate. 

Be sure to keep your hands away from eyes during the process and wash your hands thoroughly after! 

Travel Diary: Ghana , A Retreat in Accra


Travel Diary: Ghana, Labadi Beach

During my stay in Accra, I wanted to check out Labadi Beach. I was excited about spending a pleasant Sunday afternoon at the popular spot. I arrived to find hordes of visitors and knew that it was not going to be the quiet time I had anticipated. Much more disappointing though were the piles of rubbish that greeted me, mostly plastic and styrofoam that had washed down from the city's gutters. I had seen those gutters brimming with garbage and grimaced out of concern about the impact of that non bio degradable waste. To then see such waste coursing into the ocean was too much. To see children playing on the beach and in the water amidst the detritus pulled at my heart. It felt like a blatantly cruel act against our planet and our children. Yet, so many adults were there seemingly enjoying the scenery, taking selfies, lounging beneath umbrellas...unbothered by the plastic bottles , wrappers, styrofoam containers scattered across the sand and being claimed by the sea. I felt confused about how such extensive pollution could be so accepted but I wondered if I was being self righteous and paternalistic.

When I travel, I prefer to focus on the best of the place I'm visiting. I strive to leave my biases, preconceived notions and judgements on the aiport tarmac. I am convinced that I gain more from the experience of travel this way. This is perhaps all the more so for the African continent. The belief that there are too often negative representations of African countries  dissuades me from harping on the less than pleasant aspects of life in those nations. I feel a desire to recap only the good and there is indeed always good. However, my recent journey to Accra led me to question whether there is harm in always  glossing over the ugly things I encounter. Although I ascribe to the concept of celebrating the positive things around me  so that more of those things will be manifested, I also believe that it is important to acknowledge the things I wish would change in this world. Yes, I may not be a citizen of Ghana and I should be sensitive to not impose paternalistic opinions but I am a citizen of this world and I care.

Whether it is watching Ghanaian children surrounded by the filthy, harmful refuse of human consumption or seeing the ocean take away that refuse and knowing that it will end up on the other side of the world, I feel affected. Consequently, I can't recount the beautiful aspects of my experience in Accra without addressing the things I hope will be better.Our children and their children deserve better.

Black Woman Power

Much has been said these past few days regarding women's rights, particularly with marches held across the US focused on such and the beginning of Trump's presidency.  I didn't attend any of the marches, not because I was opposed to the principles behind them but because I've needed to sit still and not do much, not say much. Tending to my mental health has been a primary priority, something that as a black woman /woman of colour  is one of the most radical and powerful acts I can carry out. In the space where sexism and racism intersect, the realities for us darker female kind require greater strength- strength that ultimately comes from within. This I know. So as women converged with pickets, loud speakers and  cleverly worded tshirts to demonstrate solidarity, I remained at home meditating, cleaning, listening to music- essentially  feeding my spirit and fortifying my mind. It was all with the intention that I will be able to lead a life that would make this world a safer place for my nieces, possible daughters and other girls. Sisterhood is vital, yes but those divine relationships reflect the relationship we have with ourselves. My sitting in silence was my gesture of solidarity.

Photography: Sammy Sampson