Happy holidays.

By the time you read this, I’ll be in transit to the United States. I usually book my ticket well in advance but this time, I couldn’t so I thought I wouldn’t get to visit. But for some reason, I wasn’t worried. I just felt that I’d be able to find a reasonably priced ticket, even though it’d be a few days before my desired departure date. Sure enough, I bought my ticket 5 days ago and the price exceeded my expectations.

With the transitions I’m dealing with now (if I feel so inclined, I’ll write a post about some of it in the not-so-far future), I needed this visit and I’m thankful that I found an affordable ticket on such short notice. I’ll be gone until mid-January, and hopefully this visit will ease the challenges these transitions give me, giving me refreshed eyes, mind, heart & spirit.

I may write a post at home, who knows. But if I don’t, surely you’ll understand. For those of you who blog, I hope that you’ll take a break too. You deserve it.

Happy holidays, whether you celebrate or not, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Santa Claus.

Keep calm and drink tea. Happy holidays.
Keep calm and drink tea. Happy holidays.
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Chocolate Festival 12.09.2012.

Here it is again. I won’t write much because the Chocolate Festival is pretty much the same every time. Just check out the photos and related links below.

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Here it is again. I went solo this time. I won’t write much because the Chocolate Festival is pretty much the same every time. Just check out the photos and related links below.

Galeta.
Galeta.
More from Galeta.
More from Galeta.
Naan bread topped with chocolate.
Naan bread topped with chocolate.
Pistachio Rose. Home of the chocolate naan bread.
Pistachio Rose. Home of the chocolate naan bread.
My piece: chocolate & pistachio.
My piece: chocolate & pistachio.
Jaz & Jul's.
Jaz & Jul’s.
Jaz & Jul's chocolate powders.
Jaz & Jul’s chocolate powders.
Making mine.
Making mine.
Finished product.
Finished product.

IMG_2495

My friend's name in chocolate.
My friend’s name in chocolate.
Anna Mae's Texas beef chilli and macaroni & cheese.
Anna Mae’s Texas beef chilli and macaroni & cheese.
Texas beef chilli over macaroni & cheese. The chilli was subtly flavored with cocoa.
Texas beef chilli over macaroni & cheese. The chilli was subtly flavored with cocoa.

Related links:
December 2011 festival https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/ukchocolate-festival/

April 2012 festival https://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/miym-cf_030412/

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Few Of My Favorite Things.

For more about the Weekly Writing Challenge, click here. For more about this week’s writing challenge, click here.

(NOTE: This is the challenge from 2 weeks ago. Whatever… I’m still dealing with jet lag from going home. Better late than never.)

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For more about the Weekly Writing Challenge, click here. For more about this week’s writing challenge, click here.

(NOTE: This is the challenge from 2 weeks ago. Whatever… I’m still dealing with jet lag from going home. Better late than never.)
________________________________

My maternal grandmother died over 17 years ago. Although it has gotten easier with time and the pain isn’t as sharp as it used to be, the longing, the memories, the love… even the pain, no matter how dull… never go away. She was a major part of my life. We (her grandkids) saw her almost every day, as she lived down the block from us and watched us after school sometimes while our parents worked and made their way home in the evenings. We’d play in front of her building, not too far from her sight of course. Our old neighborhood is far from savory, so after calling us to get in before the street lights came on, we were inside with her and/or down the hall at my god-sister’s house and/or upstairs at my play cousin’s house (her god-daughter).

Before I moved over here, my aunt J surprised me & gave me one of my grandmother’s possessions as a parting gift. It pained her to do it (she shed a few tears), but she wanted me – the oldest grandchild & only granddaughter – to have it. I was, and still am, humbled by it and keep it on my dresser. I’ve even used it once or twice. What is it, you ask?

Her old school powder puff. (I have other items from her, but this one sticks out the most.)

Grandma used this powder all the time, whether she was making a quick run to the store, or going on a weekend trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey (Wikipedia link) with her sisters (my great-aunts), or visiting Panama (Wikipedia link) or Barbados (Wikipedia link) or (insert anywhere here). I vaguely remember her putting it on, standing in front of her mirror as she finished getting dressed. I loved hugging & kissing her after she dabbed the powder on her neck & chest because she smelled so sweet! She’d fuss at me a little – “Don’t mess up my face (make-up) & clothes!” – but she knew full well that she loved her granddaughter’s hugs & kisses.

I still think about her, miss her, and love her beyond infinity. I wonder how our relationship would be if she were still alive. Grandma liked travelling a bit, so I’m sure that she’d visit me over here for a while and, later, fuss at me for making such a fuss over her.

(Panamanian accent) “You don’t worry about me! I’m not that old, I know where I’m going. I want to explore this place, it’s so big, my goodness!… Yes, I know it’s like back home but still, it’s big!… Just give me the spare keys so I can find my way around… Yes I’m sure, dammit! You’re not too grown for a pop in the mouth. Your mouth fresh!… Yes, I’ll be fine… Yes, I’ll call you… No, I won’t lose the spare phone… Alright alright! Ay yi yi, dios mio, yes I’ll behave!… I love you too, babes.”

If any of you are from the Caribbean or Central America or South America (hell, almost anywhere worldwide) and you have grandparents or older parents who visit you when you’re an expatriate, they stay long time! My grandmother would surely stay at least a month.

I laugh just thinking about it… but that’s how I picture things in my mind if she were still alive. I’d prefer her to be here in body & mind, but at least I carry her spirit with me everywhere. And it only takes one whiff of her powder to reminisce and treasure the memories.

You are forever missed & loved. Que en paz descanse pa’siempre, Grandma. And thank you, aunt J.

The crack in the cover tells a story.
The crack in the cover tells a story.
Grandma's essence.
Grandma’s essence.

Tell me about your favorite things in the comments section.

Melts in your mouth (again).

https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/186528533475110912

I wrote a post about the Chocolate Festival a few months ago. Well, it’s back in a few towns again and unlike the last time, I went with a friend & met up with 3 people from Meetup. I also got to buy myself a couple of treats this time (no laughing ATM for now). Rather than write the same things that I wrote in the last festival post, take a look at a few new photos instead. In the meantime, I’ll have a bite of my brownie with white chocolate chips & a bite of my piece of red velvet cake, please & thank you.

Churros sprinkled with cinnamon & sugar (R) with melted chocolate (L).
Churros sprinkled with cinnamon & sugar (R) with melted chocolate (L).
Chocolate vodka chillies.
Chocolate vodka chillies.
Black River (Jamaica single origin).
Black River (Jamaica single origin).
Rabot Estate (Saint Lucia).
Rabot Estate (Saint Lucia).
Hotel Chocolat quail eggs.
Hotel Chocolat quail eggs.
Chocolate porter (beer).
Chocolate porter (beer).
Chocolate liqueur. (One can easily get drunk from this, it tastes that good.)
Chocolate liqueur. (One can easily get drunk from this, it tastes that good.)
Demarquette.
Demarquette.
Seashell.
Seashell.
The Pancake Bar.
The Pancake Bar.
Easter eggs (Philip Maes).
Easter eggs (Philip Maes).
More Easter eggs (Philip Maes).
More Easter eggs (Philip Maes).
Philip Maes chocolatier.
Philip Maes chocolatiers.

As an added bonus, here’s some beef chilli flavored with dark cocoa and topped with pico de gallo & shredded cheese. It was surprisingly good.

Beef chilli.
Beef chilli.

And these are for me. Sorry, no sharing. 😐

Brownie with white chocolate chips.
Brownie with white chocolate chips.
Red velvet cake.
Red velvet cake.

Home (sweet home).

Happy holidays.
Happy holidays.

It’s that time again…

I’m heading home for a little more than a fortnight and will be on a plane by the time you get this. I’ve got a couple of posts scheduled to keep you reading whilst I’m away, so please stay tuned.

This time will be a little different, though. This will be my 2nd Xmas at my 1st home while working in my 2nd home. Many of my insights are the same, but there are some that are definitely different. I don’t know how these new insights will affect my time back home, but I’m anticipating the outcomes once I return to my 2nd home. Here are a few of my new insights:

– My friendship group has gotten smaller. It comes with the territory of being an expatriate. Rather than mourning the losses, I’m gonna try appreciating the ones who are still around.

– My definition of friendship has changed. It’s hard to explain and, therefore, I’ll test things out while I’m home.

– My definition of family has changed. A wise friend told her husband that “there is a difference between family and relatives”. That’s one of the best insights I’ve had this year and goes with my edited version – “blood is not (always) thicker than water”. Contrary to popular belief, one can choose one’s family, and that’s powerful.

I almost stayed here for Xmas for financial reasons. But I decided to break away from the usual Spinster and take care of my Self first. I can’t control everything, so I’m allowing the universe to take its course for once. I wanted to go home, so I made choices to make it happen, and I think that that’s what the universe wanted. I’m looking forward to seeing my loved ones & getting some rest/recovering from jet-lag because things are hectic at work & I haven’t had a proper vacation since June. With so much vacation time in Europe, that’s a long time to go without self-care and time off. Perfect timing from the universe.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays, no matter what you celebrate (or don’t). To those of you traveling, I wish you a safe journey to your destination(s) and a wonderful time when you get there. Be mindful/careful and have fun. Relax, take a chill pill… whatever you do, just enjoy.

Melts in your mouth.

What does chocolate remind you of? Does it bring back childhood memories?

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What does chocolate remind you of? Does it bring back childhood memories? Does it bring back adult memories? (*evil grin*)

When I think of chocolate, I reminisce about being a kid and drinking Nestle Quick chocolate milk. I remember learning how to make S’mores in home economics class. I reminisce about the different varieties of chocolate chip cookies that my mother would bring home – Chips Ahoy, Keebler, Pepperidge Farm, Mrs. Fields, Sean’s cookies, local grocery store bakeries. I think of my all-time favorite ice cream cake, Carvel, with the layer of chocolate ice cream and chocolate cookie crumble. Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes aren’t too bad either.

The memories. *drool*

While I’m far from a chocoholic, based on my nostalgia I can understand how millions of people worldwide have such unconditional & undying love for chocolate. So when I found out that the annual Chocolate Festival was coming back to town 12.09-11.2011, I decided that unlike last year – when I was more lazy & colder than I am now – I’d definitely attend to see what the big deal is. I wanted to go with at least 1 person, but life doesn’t work out the way that I want it to so I went solo. And as usual, it was nice.

(Well… except when the cash machine laughed at me when I tried getting cash to buy some chocolate. Maybe that’s a good thing for my health.)

The Festival was held for a full weekend and took place on 2 levels – street level and inside a venue. I didn’t feel like going into the venue so I stayed on the street.

Street level.
Street level.

For someone who isn’t a die-hard chocoholic, that was enough for me. Check out these photos to see why:

Red velvet & chocolate cakes.
Red velvet & chocolate cakes.

Santa Claus.
Santa Claus.
Pretzels.
Pretzels.

Along with buying ready-made chocolate products, one vendor sold kits for people to make their own chocolate and has a program specifically for 16-24 year olds to make & sell their own chocolate – entrepreneurship at its best. One of the partners, Kieran, said that he & his business partner are available to visit schools to showcase the business. In this terrible economy, I applaud them for giving others the opportunity to make a little legal change.

Click me & make your own.
Click me & make your own.

Although I couldn’t buy anything, I took many samples and collected many business cards. I plan to give 1 or 2 of them my business in the future.

Chocolate sesame.
Chocolate sesame.
Chocolate with raisins & etc.  I HATE raisins but didn't know until afterwards that there were raisins inside.  That's how good it was.
Chocolate with raisins & etc. I HATE raisins but didn't know until afterwards that there were raisins inside. That's how good it was.

Did you miss the Festival? Don’t worry… it’ll be back and it might be in your area when it returns. In the meantime, check out the long history of chocolate (Wikipedia).

Thanks for coming.
Thanks for coming.

Nomad.

I know this for sure though: I’ll likely wander the world for the rest of my life.

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https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/100622867535896576

Although I’m agnostic, I believe in souls, spirits, intuition and energies. As I get older, I’m learning to pay more attention to each of those things (if there’s a difference) because when it comes down to it, I know what’s best for me and need to learn to trust that. So it kinda jolted me into reality when on the way to work a few days ago, a realization hit me like a ton of bricks:

My soul/spirit has been at dis-ease lately. It hit me that a small reason is because I no longer want to go back home.

I never thought that those words would cross my mind. The United States isn’t perfect. I have a love-hate relationship with my country. But I didn’t think that I’d never want to return there.

And it’s hard to grapple with for so many reasons, a few that I’ll mention here.

1. I don’t have any real or potential suitors back home. (I don’t even have any here. Or anywhere else for that matter.) Love definitely isn’t waiting at home (or anywhere else).

2. I don’t have any children or other dependents. This isn’t hard to grapple with, as I’m child-free; it’s just another thing that doesn’t tie me down. I’ve got nephews & godsons whom I love beyond anything that they could ever imagine. But they’ve always been far away from me, so this amount of distance from their aunt & godmother won’t matter much. Hopefully they’ll visit me.

3. For reasons that I’d rather not get into now, I don’t really have any family save for a few family members. If those family members miss me, they can always visit (but they won’t).

4. Friends….. such an overused word, one of the most overused on this planet. Also for reasons that I’d rather not get into now, since I moved here I’ve seen their true colors. Sadly, I’ve had to let some go for good. It’s always been hard for me to make friends and it’s not much different here either, so maybe it’s best to cultivate a few friendships anywhere other than home and leave that behind.

5. Observing home from here has disheartened me, even scared me at times. I’ve stated that no country is perfect (not even Norway, sadly), but from an outsider now looking in, home isn’t giving me warm fuzzy feelings anymore. The political & economic climates, the outright hostility, the stripping away of civil rights/freedoms, the blatant disrespect on so many levels….. home isn’t exactly screaming “Come back! Welcome home!” lately.

It’s bittersweet. On one hand, I’ve always dreamed of traveling the world & living abroad. Ever since I was a child, having school pen pals worldwide & owning my 1st atlas, wanderlust has always been part of my life. I’d look at the atlas for hours, imagining the mountains & villages & towns & coastlines that I’d see one day. And while I’ve not seen every place that I want to see yet, I’ve been lucky enough to see a few. But however, it’s sad to look at my short list above & acknowledge that there’s nothing for me at home. A tree gets nourishment through its roots. I don’t have any roots to plant at home.

I don’t know if I’ll plant my roots in the United Kingdom. Only time will tell. I may even change my mind about home & return there after all, who knows. I know this for sure at this moment though: I don’t wanna go home & I’ll likely wander the world for the rest of my life. I’m used to doing it all solo, and that’s alright. It just so happens that along with the benefits, it comes at an unexpected price.