Stop, Drop and Roll

You know ‘em … those three memorable words taught to us in youth to save our lives if we were on fire: stop, drop and roll. That same advice, those same three words, also are essential to save our lives from smoldering away into discontent and unfulfilled potential.

How do I know? Cause I did it.

The first part of 2018 I woke up every morning with mixed feelings, I was happy with some parts of life but utterly unsatisfied with others. I could have kept going … pluggin’ along and holding on to what I thought was my “ideal life” in Tobago. And I probably would have until I was blessed with a little fire … or rather a big blazing scorching jolt to my life plan. So I stopped. I dropped. I rolled.

And this is what I learned.

Stop: Pause. Poke your head above the fog of the daily routine and look at your life. Evaluate what is happening and how you’re feeling. I hadn’t allowed myself to do that and failing to do so perpetuated the same unfulfilling action.

“Stop searching for happiness in the same place you lost it. Change is not dismantling the old, it’s building the new.”

–  Brianna Wiest

Drop: Drop what isn’t working. Let go of caring what others think. Give up merely existing in the life you think they think you should have. I had to muster the courage to let it go and do something different. Let’s be real … that took untold strength and bravery.

“Often, holding on is what you do when you’re not strong enough to scrap your plans and start anew … The truth is that sometimes, the most loving and important thing you can do for yourself is give up.”

–  Brianna Wiest

Roll: Roll with change. Embrace uncertainty and let it move you to a new place. I found that being open and admitting that I didn’t know exactly what was coming next did NOT mean that I had lost my way or that I had failed. It just meant that I was in a fertile phase, allowing something greater to happen. I have the freedom to do and be something better than what I was allowing before.

“Uncertainty is the fertile ground of pure creativity and freedom.” 

– Deepak Chopra

Now … I’m still uncertain. I’m still digging in that fertile ground. But I am more hopeful, grateful and aware than ever before.

Fry Bake and Fish

It’s New Year’s Day. It’s cold and dreary outside. It’s my first winter outside of the Caribbean in 12 years and I’m missing Trinidad & Tobago. Pondering that while looking at my new deep fryer I bought myself for Christmas (thanks to a husband who believes I can buy better gifts than he can), I thought nothing would help solve that better than making some Fry Bake and Fish. If I can’t be at the beach, might as well enjoy my favorite beach food.

Now I must admit me and fry bake have a sometime’ish relationship. Sometimes they come out beautifully and sometimes they don’t puff up enough to escape my Trini husband’s criticism.  But say what … they always taste good.

Fry Bake Recipe* 
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour , plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon butter or margarine (optional)
  • 1 cup water (be prepared to add more if needed)
  • 2 cups vegetable or canola oil for frying the bakes

Instructions:

  1. Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
  2. Add butter and mix with a fork (or use your fingers) until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs
  3. Make a hole in the center of the flour and add 3/4 cup water while mixing and stirring in a circular motion. Dough should begin to resemble really coarse crumbs.
  4. Add 1/4 cup more water and continue mixing gently for about 5 minutes until you form a smooth, soft dough.
  5. If dough is too sticky, sprinkle in a tablespoon of flour. If the dough is too dry after adding all the water, add another tablespoon or so of water and mix it until the dough is smooth and soft.
  6. Allow to rest for about 3-5 minutes, then dust with flour and knead to form a smoother dough.
  7. Rub some oil on top of dough and allow the dough to rest for 25 – 30 minutes covered with plastic wrap or a damp paper or kitchen towel.
  8. Divide the dough into 6 or 8 pieces (depending on how large you want the bakes to be).
  9. Roll them into balls and place on a well-floured surface. Allow to rest for 10 – 15 minutes.
  10. Flatten the balls of dough until they are about ¼ inch thick. You can use a rolling pin or your hands.
  11. Slowly add the dough to the heated oil in a deep pan or a deep fryer.
  12. Fry in hot oil until both sides are golden brown, about 30 – 45 seconds per side.
  13. Remove the fried bakes from the oil using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
  14. Serve it warm with fried fish, salt fish, vegetables or anything you fancy. My kids prefer it sliced with cheese inside. Yum!

I put the bakes in a warm oven until I finished frying the fish.

My father brought back cases of halibut from a recent fishing trip in Alaska and we have been looking for all sorts of ways to prepare it. So I battered up some of that halibut to serve with the fry bake.  I cut the fillets into pieces small enough to fit inside a sliced fry bake and used the batter recipe below.

Fish batter
Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Mix flour, baking powder and salt together.
  2. Add milk and water slowly, then beat until batter is smooth.
  3. Dip fish or chicken into batter, allow excess to drip off.
  4. Deep fry until golden brown (I used a deep fryer set on the 320F temperature)

We sliced the bakes and placed a fried piece (or two) of fish inside. We added tomato, lettuce, garlic sauce, tamarind sauce (or chutney or whatever we had on hand) and pineapple chow made earlier that day (I said I was all about my favorite beach food today). And of course my Trini husband added pepper sauce.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Sugar Pie Bites

I wasn’t at all saddened today when a package of frozen prepared piecrust fell to the floor and scattered. Oh no … not at all. Now I could make cinnamon sugar pie bites guilt free.

My mother used to make extra pie crust dough when I was young so we could roll it out in small pieces, sprinkle on cinnamon sugar and bake them until they were a glorious golden brown flakey treat. I now do that for my kids (ahem … and myself).

Here’s the simple to-do:

Ingredients

Uncooked pie crust dough (homemade or otherwise… no judgements here)

Mixture of cinnamon and white granulated sugar (whatever ratios fit your taste)

Softened butter (or margarine)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick spray.

Roll out or press pie crust into whatever shape you like (you could even shape them into your kid’s name initials). Or break apart a frozen pie crust. I like to make the shapes smallish (1-2 inches) to make them easier to pop in my mouth. But the size and shape is really up to you.

Place the dough shapes on the prepared baking sheet.

Brush on soften butter in the dough bits and sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture on top.

Place in oven for about 10 minutes or golden brown.

If you can’t resist the cool-down wait, I feel you. I have burned my mouth too many times. No shame.

My greatest lesson learned at the Kentucky Derby

My little Trini family had great timing when we arrived in Louisville, KY – just in time for the Kentucky Derby Festival. After enjoying days of fireworks, Chow Wagons, fair rides, an airshow and parade, the great Kentucky Derby raced on the first Saturday in May. While admiring the hats, horses and the “most exciting two minutes in sports” my mind raced back to when I was an 18-year old volunteer at historic Churchill Downs.

As an Oldham County High School Beta Club member (Go Colonels Go!) I had the opportunity to earn all my service hours volunteering over two days for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. It was then that I got my first REAL lesson in presenting myself.

After a previous orientation where we received uniforms that made everyone look like white-jacketed-khaki-bottomed boxes, hundreds of students from multiple schools gathered in what seemed like the basement of Churchill Downs. In there adult group leaders assessed us in a glance as they walked by, selecting boys and girls for specific jobs. We didn’t know what those jobs were until we were separated into our work groups. This was all new to me. The first day (Kentucky Oaks Day) I was selected to take tickets at the grandstands. Not a bad job. All patrons were nicely donned and mostly pleasant. But on the bus ride home I heard about the jobs my friends were selected for: ticket takers in the Infield (oh the crazy stories), other Grandstand positions (pleasant and easy), and Millionaire’s Row (oooooooohhhh they even got tips). Now, in those days Millionaire’s Row was IT. You could get no more glamourous.

So … on that bus ride home I decided to do something to improve my chances at a better position on Derby Day. The next morning, I hotrolled my hair, put a ribbon in it and put Lip Smackers lip gloss on (makeup wasn’t familiar territory back then). Later when a lady briskly walked through the throngs of students in that basement room and pointed her manicured finger at me, I was eager to know what assignment was in store for me. I followed her along with four other girls into an elevator and then into a nice room with an astounding view of the track.

“Your job is to stand at the doors for the horse owners, trainers and their guests. Ensure they have a wristband on, open the doors for them and be pleasant. That’s it.” She gave us a smile, introduced us a man in charge of the room who placed one of us at each door and left. It was a lovely day.

That experience has stuck with me for more than 20 years. Image matters. Just with a little extra effort, I was able to improve what I was able to do. Now … I’m not at all saying that appearance is the only thing that matters. It isn’t. But no one can deny that others tend to make judgments based on how your present yourself. Neat and tidy doesn’t mean high-brow fashion labels but it is the fundamental rule of presenting yourself. And it’s also important to remember that internal beauty always reflects externally.

So thank you Churchill Downs staff of 1995 for teaching me a lesson that will forever stay with me. It has, and will continue to, serve me well.

 

Fab Four Things I Learned While Living in the West Indies

For the past 12 years I’ve had the privilege of working and living more than 2400 miles away from my native land. The experiences garnered throughout these years have made me into a better person, more effective leader and aware global citizen.  Here are four fabulous lessons I learned from my time in the West Indies:

  1. Open up. Forget the A/C and open up those doors and windows. More importantly, open up yourself. Don’t close off the sun, breeze, neighbors, and all those opportunities outside. Sure …  at times it may get uncomfortable but it’s worth it. Live life with an open door, mind and heart.
  2. Being different may describe you but doesn’t define you. I appreciate the frank manner in which people in the West Indies describe others: chinee, dark, white, red, indian, shorty, tallman, blondie, thick, etc. But I most appreciate that people usually don’t take offense to those terms – it is just a description after all. While stereotypes do exist (gotta be real), I learned in a very personal way that what you do is more important that what you look like. Actions are what define us.
  3. Go brave. Whether it is donning a tiny carnival costume, exploring the islands, meeting new people or owning your own insecurities … just DO it. It took a few weeks in Trinidad & Tobago to get over years of personal limitations related to body insecurities and self-imposed inhibitions. While I’ve always been a fairly confident person, I finally felt completely comfortable with all my imperfections. I finally realized that being genuine, real, honest and relatable is what makes up real beauty and what drives greater success in life.
  4. Social currency is the most valuable kind. It is true … who you know makes a difference. Always work to build positive relationships and help others when you can. Being in a position to help others – and actually doing it – means I have a positive balance in my social currency account from which I may withdraw should I need assistance. Word of advice: You also have to know yourself. Are you a valued colleague or a sponge who appears only when you need something? No other time better uncovers the sponges than Carnival time in Trinidad & Tobago. I’m looking at you free fete and costume seekers.