waning december: nine for nine

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with New Year's resolutions:  I feel the need to make them, but I do so grudgingly, with the nagging doubt that I'm just setting myself up for failure.

Incongruously, however, I do love a good to-do list.  I love how it feels to scratch through each completed task.  I make them daily, and I love how productive I feel at the end of the day, even if I haven't finished every item.

And so, this year, I thought I'd come up with 9 Things I'd Like to Do in '09 -- not resolutions, you understand, but a little to-do list of things that I'd like to accomplish by the end of December 2009.  You know, things to aim for.  No pressure.  Just things I'd like to set my sights on.

So, here they are:

1.  I'd like to complete the Blurb book I started -- a coffee table book of images and words.  Just to say I did. Blown off, in favour of #8, below.

2.  I'd like to attend an gallery opening of my photography. Completed, February 12, 2009!

3.  I'd like to save enough money for a downpayment on some land.  Preferably land within view of the ocean.

4.  I'd like to lose some weight.  I'm not happy putting this on this list, but seriously, things have gotten out of hand.  Let's go with 5 pounds for now, to be renegotiated upon completion.  Several times upon completion. -- Currently in the process of working with the second 5 pounds.  Sadly, on 9.9.9, I've regained.  Renewing commitment.

5.  I'd like to get back into working out regularly.  I hate working out, but I do love how I feel when I'm done, and the truth is, I think some of my best thoughts while I'm doing it.  Perhaps if I think of this as a form of meditation -- a way to help be more creative -- instead of a chore, perhaps I'll be better about being consistent.

6.  I'd like to write more personal letters.  I miss personal letters.  Remember when people used to send personal letters?  And the thing is, I love calligraphy and beautiful penmanship -- I'm actually a bit obsessed by it.  So, I'm going to write more.  I'll start small:  I'll aim for 5 letters this year.  That seems manageable, right?  I'll even buy pretty stationery to make it happenThanks to my dear friend, Lu, I've been penpalling regularly.  Certainly I've sent more than 5 letters out as of this update, 9.9.9!

7.  I'd like to focus more on more photography projects.  It's what I love to do, and the reason that I left my corporate job.  I'd like to develop them more. I've done two lovely ones, and updated my projects page.  I'm crossing this out, but this is ongoing.

8.  I'd like to pick a new project to work on -- one of the creative projects I've been afraid to start. I have a list of them.  I'll pick one, and let you know which one I pick.  Just as soon as I get the courage.  Ahem.  As of May 2009, I am officially writing a book.  Not only that, I have a book deal, and am scheduled to be published Fall 2010. Stay tuned!!

9.  And finally, I'd like to start reading more.  I'm a member of GoodReads, I should make good use of it, don't you think?  I've been reading like a champ this year.  Thank goodness!

There.  Nine for nine.  Just a nice little to-do list of stuff that might be fun to do, you know?  Stuff that would give me something to scratch through for next year's list.

In the meantime, for the rest of this year, let's celebrate all we've accomplished in 2008 -- because even if we didn't finish our intended lists, I bet we did lots of other great things.  For example, you probably made a new friend, or reconnected with an old one.  You probably made someone feel really good at some point.  You probably laughed until your sides ached.  You probably even made something you're really proud of:  a photograph, a good meal, a lovely gift ...

In my case, one thing I did that I'm really proud of was quit my job.  It was scary, and economically-speaking, I have rotten timing, but 2 months later, I know it was absolutely the right thing to do.  I'm so much happier.

What's one thing you did in 2008 that you're proud of?


SongThink, by Aretha Franklin.  Let your mind go, let yourself be free, baby.

* * * * * * *

A little end-of-year housekeeping:

-  I'm working on my monthly newsletter, which will go out on January 1st.  If you'd like to be included on the e-mailing list, please click the link to the left and subscribe. 

-  I'm about to order one more batch of the Chookooloonks 2009 calendar from the printer -- if you'd like one, please click here to order, and get 'em while they're hot!

-  And finally, thanks to all of you who've supported me throughout 2008.  It was a crazy year -- and your words and e-mails made it all the more fun.  Thank you!

the bad girls club

As I type this, Alex is currently spending a few days with my parents.  My sister and her family are in town, and Alex is getting to spend the time with her cousin, Julia.  Julia is a year and a half older than Alex, but the age difference doesn't seem to matter much -- they get on famously.  We showed up on Saturday morning, and that's the last I've seen of my kid.  She and Julia took off, and other than the occasional giggle and whisper, I've heard nothing more.  They're thick as thieves, those two.

Earlier this year, Marcus and my brother-in-law, John, took the kids camping, and it was there that Julia and Alex formed The Bad Girls Club.  It is unclear which of the two of them came up with the name, and I'm not entirely sure of their purpose; however, I am led to understand that they are primarily a rock band.  The photos here are part of their "official photo session," and the images are supposed to end up in their "official photo album."


SongGirls just wanna have fun, as performed by Cyndi Lauper. Turns out Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana, one of Alex's favourite singers) has done a remake of this, but I just couldn't bring myself to feature it.

bonus shot: rum punch

Every time I mention rum punch, I always get requests for the recipe. And while I've posted this recipe online in the past, in light of the fact that New Year's Eve approaches, I thought I'd repost it again, so that your year-end party becomes really something special. Be forewarned: even though it tasts like just a refreshingly harmless little beverage, this drink is 50% rum -- so you might want to have the number of a local cab company nearby!  Also, for clarification's sake, that this is TRINIDADIAN rum punch -- this is not the fruit-punch-and-rum-with-a-paper-umbrella mixture you probably got during your last vacation to a tropical resort. This is the Real Deal.

Here's the catch, however: because I learned this by watching my father make it, there are some parts where I don't exactly measure -- I know that I've gotten it right just by looking. I'll try to describe it to the best of my ability, but it may take some trial-and-error on your part to get it just right.

Okay, so to the recipe:

The cool thing is that recipe itself is surprisingly easy, and can be remembered by memorizing a little poem:

One of Sour, Two of Sweet. Three of Strong, Four of Weak.

Translated, this means:

One part "sour," which means freshly squeezed lime juice (do NOT use bottled lime juice -- only fresh lime juice will do!);
Two parts "sweet," which refers to a simple syrup (sugar + water);
Three parts "strong" -- rum (only golden rum, NOT white rum);
Four parts "weak" -- served over ice.

Get it?

Okay, to break it down into recipe form: the following would be how you'd make a gallon of Trinidadian rum punch:

1. Squeeze enough limes to make 2 cups fresh lime juice. Pour into a gallon container.

2. Pour 4 cups of water into a large pot, and heat to boiling. Once boiling, reduce to simmer, and START POURING SUGAR INTO THE POT LIKE A MADPERSON. Seriously, just keep pouring and stirring until the sugar dissolves, and keep doing this until the sugar-water mixture is the consistency of, say, cooking oil. You're going to go through almost an entire pound of sugar, and worry about your dental health. Trust me, you haven't made a mistake.

Once the sugar-water mixture is cool, add to the gallon container.

3. Pour 6 cups of golden rum into the gallon container. When in Trinidad, I use Fernandes Black Label rum; however, since it's difficult to get Trini rum in the States, Bacardi Gold will do. Do NOT use white rum -- it just doesn't taste right. It has to be gold.

Stir, and pour over ice. Add a dash of Angostura Bitters (available at most liquor stores), and a dash of grated nutmeg to your glass.


boxing day

I've always been rather fond of Boxing Day -- it's like Christmas Day's laid-back, somewhat slightly-stoned little brother.  The feeling of celebration still lingers, but in a quieter, calmer way.

As soon as I post this, I'll go to the kitchen to make some banana bread to take over to my mother's house tomorrow (my sister and her family arrive late tonight), while Marcus and Alex continue their pick-up game of croquet in our entryway (one of Alex's Christmas gifts).  And later this afternoon, good friends will come over for some leftover Christmas dinner.

I hope your holiday continues as warmly and peacefully.

SongIn the colors by Ben Harper

chestnuts roasting on an open fire ... black lung rolling 'cross the floor ...

In a nasty turn of events, I seem to have contracted some horrible sort of affliction that has me very close to coughing up my spleen.

I think I have consumption.  That has a very Christmas-Carol-Dickensian ring to it, don't you think?


(What's consumption?)

Update:  On your recommendations, I just had two slices of toast with a clove of crushed garlic on each of them.  I still have consumption, but I can pretty much guarantee there isn't a vampire within 20 miles of my house.

through the viewfinder: countdown to christmas

I'm happy to report, I'm in a great mood.  The Christmas shopping is done, the gifts are wrapped, and Alex's Christmas recital helped blow the last of the funk away.

Tra-la-la-la-la, baby.

The only thing left to do is to do the grocery shopping for the big day -- and after making the shockingly long list last night, Marcus will head to the store today to pick everything up.  We tend to have a pretty traditional Christmas meal -- traditional, that is, if you came from a Trinidadian-American-English family like ours.  While I won't be eating any meat, in addition to the turkey and stuffing (American), we'll have roasted potatoes (English), Brussel sprouts (English), macaroni pie (Trinidadian), some sort of pig product -- either ham or a pork loin (Trinidadian), and of course, rum punch (definitely Trinidadian).  Then we'll wind everything up with apple pie and ice cream (American).

I know I have a pretty international readership here, I was wondering:  is there anything special you eat around this time of year?  Extra points for recipes!

SongSanta baby, as performed by Eartha Kitt


bonus shot: the terminal cuteness of the holiday recital

Last night was Alex's school recital.  She was one of the narrators.  I cannot tell you how excited she was for this play -- last night couldn't have come quickly enough.  We worked on her lines every day while we were on holiday:

"A little star wasn't able to go with all the big stars ... but she heard the plea of all the animals, and the little tree, too.  She decided to go down and be a Christmas star for the little tree, and twinkle brightly on Christmas day. 

"The star looked just beautiful on the little tree, and the little tree began to feel just like a Christmas tree.  In fact, she thought she was the most beautiful Christmas tree ever.  Don't you think so too?"

She did wonderfully. 


This was during the dance number at the end of the play.  The little girl with her is her best friend Sydney.  These two are inseparable.  Inseparable, that is, until their teacher separates them for talking too much in class.


At the end of the play, giving some face for the paparazzi.  The sweet little boy, B, is a lover, not a fighter.  That kid'll hug anybody.


Alex and Sydney hugging in post-play euphoria.