the end of november


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Today, my in-laws return to England.  We had a good, meaningful time together -- they got to see the sights and I think a fun time was had by all.  When they return home, they may say many things to describe their visit with us, but I feel confident that they won't say that we didn't feed them, drench them in rum punch, or smother them in LEGO.

Today's also the last day of NaBloPoMo, and I must admit that I didn't think that I'd be able to post every day, particularly considering that the holidays and their visit was during this time.  But I did.  And I'm proud.

And now, I will take a break.  I'll be back on Wednesday, but I'm going to spend today and tomorrow catching up on some work, and generally settling back into a routine.  Thanks so much for those of you who stuck with me over the last month.

Can you believe it's December already?


P.S.  Don't forget -- today's the deadline to get all your photographs mailed for the First Annual Chookooloonks Photo Drive!  I'm loving all the ones I've received already, thank you.  And if you're worried that you're overseas and it's too late to mail, don't be -- I set this November 30th date with you in mind.  Just please get them in the mail today!

P.P.S  Rum punch recipe here.


Song: November by Nir Mizrahi

the first step is admitting i have a problem

When I think about my childhood, I undoubtedly had a great one:  my sister and I lived a comfortable life with our parents, we were afforded great educations, we were loved.  And yet, there is one nagging regret, one aspect of my youth about which I'm very bitter:

We never had LEGO.

It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense why we didn't have it:  my father has a PhD in engineering, my uncle is a structural engineer.  By any logic, you would've thought that my sister and I would've been swimming in LEGO.  And yet, our childhood remained LEGO-free:  we would wistfully admire the intricate sets our friends had, and return home, LEGOless.

It is for this reason that I have recently become obsessed with LEGO. 

We bought a set a few weeks ago for Alex, and when she became frustrated trying to put it together, I immediately pushed her out of the way.  "Here, let me help you," I said, my eyes spinning like crazed pinwheels, as I grabbed the plastic blocks.  And when, 2 hours later, I finally finished the little beach house, I turned to Marcus, and growled the growl of the undead:


Last night, out of fear, Marcus came home with the Winter Toy Shop, which I had decided I had to have as part of our Christmas decorations.  And so, armed with rum punch, I conned Helen into helping me put the thing together.

Three hours later, we completed the project.

And I have to admit that if I see another LEGO block before the end of this year, it will be too damned soon.


SongWeapon of choice by Fatboy Slim

ye texas renaissance festival

Ye large man with cute elf ears.

Yesterday, we took Marcus' family to the Texas Renaissance Festival.  I am always somewhat ambivalent about going to the Texas Renaissance Festival, specifically when it comes to taking Marcus' family there.  "Are you sure?"  I always ask.  "I mean, wouldn't it be at least mildly distasteful to your family to go to a place with a bunch of Texans speaking in bad English accents?"  Marcus always disagrees.

Personally, I think it's just because he's looking forward to drinking flagons of ale.

One great thing about the RenFest, though:  it certainly makes for interesting photo ops.

Ye old knight with a heart around one of his pointy metal nipples.

I considered the image above for an upcoming Love Thursday, but then decided against it.


Ye faire maiden.


Ye maiden with a highly impressive (and somewhat terrifying) décolletage.


Ye maiden who kept shouting "I want a husband!  Are you married?  I want a husband!!" Methinks there was some ye-mighty-strong-mead in her stein.


Ye another faire maiden.


Ye man with a decidedly sickly green pallor.


Ye lady blowing bubbles.


Ye ... elephant?


Ye Uncle Matt eating a turkey leg.


Ye fairest maiden in all of the land.


Ye fairest maiden in all of the land humiliating her father with her skirt.

SongLove story by Taylor Swift.  I actually despise this song, but you would be surprised how few contemporary songs there are out there with a Renaissance-era theme.

love thursday: 100+ things i'm thankful for

Halfway through setting the Thanksgiving table.

In no particular order:

1.  Marcus' quirky sense of humour.

2.  My parents' warmth and friendliness.

3.  Oreo cookies.

4.  Learning how to make Trinidadian cooking, well enough that my parents look forward to when I make it.

5.  The ease with which Alex tells me her deep, dark, personal stuff.

6.  My friends Trish and Carl, particularly how at this point in my life, they're not so much friends as family, and how they have a standing invitation to come to our house on the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas to eat leftovers, and they always take advantage of it.

7.  My Houston posse, particularly Laura and Jenny and Katherine and Brené.

8.  Fires in our fireplace.

9.  Our family Friday night camping night.

10. Rum punch.

11.  Caribbean beaches.

12.  The way my English inlaws always make me feel welcome every time I see them.

13.  Alex's very keen wit.

14.  Saturday morning pancakes with my family.  Even though I don't really like pancakes.

15.  The Shawshank Redemption, When Harry Met Sally, Juno and Lost in Translation.

16.  To Kill a Mockingbird and all of Bill Bryson's books.

17.  My friend Mark.  Who, like Trish & Carl, is also much more like family.  Which leads me to ...

18.  ... the fact that he found the lovely and very gracious Morgan to spend the rest of his life with.  Their impending wedding thrills me to no end.

19. Dark chocolate.

20.  Stinky cheese, coupled with a glass of really great port.

21.  Manzanita beach.

22.  My cameras.

23.  My Mac.

24.  The fact that I'm from a beautiful country like Trinidad & Tobago.  There are aspects of it that frustrate me to no end, but ultimately, at its core, there is no sweeter place.

25.  All of the opportunities -- educational, professional and otherwise -- that I've been afforded by living in the United States.

26.  Origins Ginger Essence cologne.  It has become my signature scent.

27.  Nag champa incense.

28.  Family vacations, particularly when it's just the three of us.

29.  My newfound but thoroughly addictive way of journaling.

30.  Our relatively small, relatively old, but oh-so-comfortable home.

31.  My studio.

32.  Rufus.

33.  Papermate Flair pens.  Seriously, if they're ever discontinued, I'm not sure what I will do with myself.

34.  Cost Plus World Market, IKEA and Target.

35.  All bookstores everywhere.

36.  Plum wine. Particularly the glass Marcus just brought me as I was typing this list.

37. Scuba diving.

38.  Cayman Islands.

39.  My friend Victoria.

40.  London.

41.  Mangoes.

42.  Marcus' culinary gift.

43.  Tea.

44.  Ghost Hunters.  Don't judge me.

45.  My sister.

46.  HGTV.  Don't judge me.

47.  Calypso.

48.  Bossa nova.

49.  Steelpan.

50.  Star Pizza.

51.  Paris.

52.  Blogs.  Particularly really good ones.

53.  Random acts of kindness.

54.  Shockingly white, puffy clouds.

55.  The arrivals gate at any airport.

56.  My friend Everett.

57.  Cafe Brasil.

58.  Candles.

59.  Handwritten letters.

60.  My friend Cash.

61.  T'afia restaurant.

62.  Annie Leibovitz.

63.  Eddie Izzard.

64.  Jon Stewart.

65.  Barack Obama.

66.  The woman who I met on one of my 5 mile walk/runs who stopped to stay something very nice to me once.  I have no idea who she is, I don't know if I'll ever see her again, but I'll never forget her.

67.  Cookies & cream ice cream.

68.  LEGO.

69.  iPhone.

70.  The cartloads of photographs that keep coming for my photo drive.  I can't tell you how moved they make me.  Really.

71.  A perfect Texas weather day.

72.  Santa Fe.

73.  My grandmother, and her memory.

74.  Handbags.

75.  My summer trips with the Lovebombers.

76.  Squarespace, Flickr and Twitter.  And all the friendships that have resulted therefrom.

77.  My engagement and wedding rings.

78.  How hard Marcus and Matt worked to build me a Lazy Susan for our giant old dining table in time for Thanksgiving dinner.  I thought it would be a 20-minute job, instead, it was hours of backbreaking toil.  I love how it turned out, and I love them for working so hard on it to make it perfect.

79.  My friend Lori's cranberry sauce recipe (1 package of fresh cranberries; 1 cored, peeled, sliced apple; 1 peeled navel orange; 1 cup of sugar.  Puree in a blender until the consistency of apple sauce.  Perfection).

80.  Large meals shared around a table with family or friends that last for hours and hours.

81.  Mexico.

82.  The Spanish language.

83.  Big, warm, heartfelt hugs.

84.  My grandfather, and the memory of him.

85.  Marriage.  And adoption.

86.  Really beautiful, photogenic flowers.

87.  Steelpans.

88.  Musicians.

89.  Children's plays, choirs, or any performance or recital.  I cry at all of them, whether my child is involved or not.

90.  Staedtler pens.

91.  Ecosystem journals.  Just like Moleskines, but made of 100% post consumer recycled content.  Fantastic.

92.  One-on-one times with close friends.

93.  One-on-one times with Marcus.

94.  Sunsets by the ocean.

95.  Christmas.

96.  Morning and evening snuggles.

97.  Beautiful postcards.

98.  Shared unspoken sentiments.

99.  Belly laughs.

100.  Those of you who visit me here at Chookooloonks.  It sounds so trite to say this, but seriously, your notes, comments and visits have been literally life-changing; without them over the last 5-1/2 years, I likely would've never rediscovered my passion for photography and writing.  I owe you all deep, heartfelt thanks.


* * * * * * *


Happy Love Thursday, and Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you, wherever you're from, or wherever you may be.


SongGolden by Jill Scott

taste of texas

There is an unwritten law in Texas which states that if ever you are hosting people from out of town, you must -- without exception -- take them for authentic Tex-Mex cooking.  So, being law-abiding types, that's just what we did last night.

Helen, above, is my sister-in-law: Marcus' brother Matt's wife.  She is kind and patient and true, not to mention smart as a whip.  She just finished medical school, and is currently doing her residency.  This is a good thing, not just because of the generally-accepted ideology that pursuing a career in medicine is admirable, but also because when you are married to fearless (and somewhat reckless) types like Marcus and Matt, it's often advantageous to have a doctor in the family.


SongPatience by Take That.  Today's song brought to you by Helen.

stealing away


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There is a downside to working for yourself:  there are far fewer vacation days.  When you have an employer, you know you can pretty much take your allotted days off with impunity (or at the very least, feel righteously indignant if you can't), but when your employer is yourself, it can be a lot tougher (particularly if it means that you're not going to get paid if you don't get your work done).  And so, it can be tricky to get "time off" for the holidays.

I am nothing if not a hardass boss, apparently.

Luckily, I have an understanding family, and while they drove south to check out Galveston beach yesterday, I stole away to my favourite coffeeshop to get some work done.  For the most part, I was successful -- I made my deadline, and even managed to get a shot of my keys for NaBloPoMo purposes.

And it looks like I'll even get to take Thanksgiving Day off.

SongLullaby by the Dixie Chicks.  Yesterday while I was working, a friend sent me a link to a gallery of photographs of her recent wedding, and this song was playing.  It made me very happy.


Marcus' mom, brother and sister-in-law arrived at our house early Saturday evening, duly jetlagged.  Because we knew this would happen, we made absolutely no plans for Sunday, so that they could sleep in, if necessary, and get acclimated to Houston time.

The next morning, after we had the pancakes that Alex suggested*, we asked them if they had anything that they were looking forward to doing while in Houston.  Because it was a beautiful day, they suggested a walk.** And so, we wandered down to a nearby bird sanctuary to take a stroll through the woods.

Since I'm not a huge fan of walking in the woods***, I went along with a slight bit of trepidation, bringing my camera along for solace.  But little did I know that spending a good 45 minutes playing poohsticks would be so relaxing and fun.

I'd say Thanksgiving week is off to a decent start.


*  She didn't so much suggest, as ask everyone in the house, "Would you like pancakes for breakfast?  They're really good.  I think you'd really enjoy them.  Seriously, do you want some?  You should try some!"  I took that as a hint that she wanted me to make pancakes for breakfast.

**  Ah, these tourists from countries where people actually walk places!  Don't they know that here in Houston, there is no walk, only Hummer?

***  Beaches, yes; woods, no.  There are bugs in the woods, man.  I'm not good with bugs.  Marcus reckons that spending my formative years in the tropics ruined me.


SongIt's the same old song by the Four Tops.  Today's song brought to you by Alex's Uncle Matt, shown in an intense poohsticks contest, above.

weekend wisdom



“Stress: The confusion created when one's mind overrides the body's basic desire to choke the living daylights out of some jerk who desperately deserves it.”

- Unknown

I admit it:  I sort of love that.

And on that note, here's hoping you have a great, stress-free (and nonviolent!) weekend.

SongRespect by Aretha Franklin


Image:  Little jade Buddha Marcus bought for me in China. Photographed with Nikon D300, 50mm manual lens.