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Showing posts from October, 2009

Top 5 Most Beautiful Beaches

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Because it's cold, rainy and dreary in Chicago and because I live close to arctic winds and far, far, away from paradise, I've been contemplating the most beautiful beaches I've ever visited. My criterion for beauty doesn't just involve physical attractiveness. I also consider the clarity of the water, color and texture of sand and if there are distinguishing cultural indicators like music, food or dress. Using those requirements, here are my top five most beautiful beaches: 1. St. Lucia Of course. From the warm, crystalline water to the sweep of the Pitons overlooking powdery stretches of beach, St. Lucia comes as close to Eden as I've ever seen. 2. Barbuda You've just never experienced paradise until you've laid on a pink sand beach. Tiny Barbuda boasts a stunning combination of turquoise water and pink sands. The sand is so dazzling that I keep glass bottles of it all over my house. 3. Bahia Rio may claim the fame and glitz but the beaches

Partying with the Mocko Jumbies

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I love mocko jumbies. I think one of the reasons that I love them so much is that they always represent a party of some kind. In Caribbean culture, these masked, colorfully-costumed stilt walkers typically appear at carnival celebrations or other festivities. You'll find them on most English-speaking islands, where these figures can be traced back to traditional West African rituals where they represented spiritual seers and protectors of the village. I bought the fanciful mocko jumbie sketch above from artist Judith King in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. It enlivens my hallway with its playful spirit. In May, the U.S. Virgin Islands unveiled their new logo and I thought it was particularly fitting that the symbol is a mocko jumbie. On St. Croix, St. Thomas and St.John, mocko jumbies pop up everywhere,from neighborhood jump ups to beauty pageants. Below, a crew of mocko jumbies get ready to parade in St. John. Watching mocko jumbies dance and clown is an entertaining exper

My Favorite Views

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I'm an island girl and a city girl but no matter where I am, I love being near the water. In St. Lucia, that's easy of course. My all time favorite view is the gorgeous sweep of the Caribbean Sea with the Pitons looming over it. That's the dreamiest view that I've ever witnessed. When I'm in my hometown, the view of the Chicago River with Marina City (the round building) filling the skyline always energizes me. What's your favorite view?

A Top Chef Master's Meal

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What's a meal created by a top chef master taste like? Does it transcend mere earthly dishes? Does it haunt your dreams and inspire drooling? I headed to Rick Bayless' newest restaurant creation Xoco, to discover the answer. You might have heard of Rick Bayless. He hosts some cooking shows. Wrote some cookbooks. Won a fancy top chef title. Known for his innovation with Mexican cuisine, Bayless' Xoco, (SHO-ko)which means "little sister" in Aztec slang, focuses on Mexican street food. Now Rick likes to take his liberties with Mexican food. He whips up traditional dishes with flourishes and twists, to appeal to the American palate. His take on Mexican street food involves a small selection of tortas or sandwiches, caldos or soups and most importantly, freshy ground, hot chocolate and churros or fried dough. Most of the ingredients are locally produced and organically grown. My favorite part of the experience was drinking aguas frescas , fresh fruit j

Through African Eyes

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Generally, I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels. As a writer, I develop a very personal relationship with every book I read and graphic novels never seem to exhibit enough depth for me to want to sustain a relationship. Well there's always exceptions to every rule and Aya , written by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clement Oubrerie, is that magical exception. Whimsically drawn with watercolor hues, the book literally called to me in a crowded bookstore. Once I picked it up, it was over. I kick-started a relationship with Aya, a smart, 19-year-old living in the Ivory Coast circa 1978. That was the time of the charismatic president, Houphouet-Boigny's 30-year leadership of a prosperous, forward moving Ivory Coast. Such was the elegance and creativity of the country's capitol, Abidjan, it was dubbed "Paris of West Africa." I have read and heard stories about this glamorous era but it's a vivid reality for me on the pages of Aya . Aya lives in Yopou

Adventures in Apple Picking

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It's October and if you live in the Midwest, that usually means it's time to drag out fall gear --sweaters, boots and coats. If you happen to be a Chicago girl that likes to journey into the country once in a while, October also means apple picking time. Typically, I meander over into Michigan to pick apples with my family but when we don't feel like a full 3 hour trip, we head to nearby Indiana. County Line Orchard in quaint Hobart, Indiana,(lots of corn fields and pick-up trucks) supplies the quintessential apple picking experience. You start with a short tractor ride to the orchard area of your choice. Despite the popularity of Red Delicious and Granny Smith, there are dozens of apple varieties to choose from. The tart, slightly sweet Gala and Honey Crisp varieties are my favorites. The orchard brims with apple trees studded with red, yellow and green fruit. But from a distance, it just looks like a vast field of green bushes. Bright signs identify the appl

Harlem Rugelach Reveries

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I adore rugelach. Actually, anything drenched in sugar, cinnamon and butter enthralls me but that's not the point. The point is that I have sampled authentic, oven-warmed rugelach in Austrian cafes. I have munched on kosher rugelach from Jewish bakeries. I've even tried generic rugelach from big chain grocery stores. But none of them have managed to inspire the buttery heaven that Mr. Lee's rugelach from Lee Lee's Baked Goods, conjures within me. Ensconced on a West Harlem side street, Lee Lee's store window proclaims "rugelach by a brother." It's not exactly the phrase you'd expect for a traditional Eastern European treat but Mr. Lee was trained by a Rabbi to create perfect rugelach. Mr. Lee's secret it seems, is that unlike most bakers, he skips cheap vegetable shortening and creates handmade butter dough for his rugelach. The flaky dough literally melts in your mouth and the generous sprinkling of raisins and nuts make them seriously a

A Sweet New York Scene

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There's nothing I love to explore more on a trip than music, history and food. Combine all of them together and you have my dream of a perfect destination, where there's really no reason to leave. That's how I felt when I slipped into the dimly lit, thatched roof room of Ashford & Simpson's Sugar Bar . Nestled on a non-descript street on New York's Upper West Side,the place literally glows with energy. Bamboo, forged brass and walls washed in amber and deep cinnamon provide the backdrop for non-stop sensory stimulation. The narrow space is always crowded but Thursday nights are when Sugar Bar really jumps with an unbelievable open mic. The menu filled with creole and Caribbean delights is only the opening act. I ordered red snapper with plantains and greens, which I vaguely remember as well seasoned. My focus was not on my food because I was surrounded by such an engaging parade of artists. At the table next to me was the noted jazz flautist Bobbi Humphrey

South African Spirit (CD Give Away)

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This marks the 100th post for Farsighted Fly Girl and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than with a dose of funky South African sounds. Dance Mama by singer/songwriter/composer Christine Vaindirlis, stirs up the most infectious party music that I've heard in a while. Born in London, raised in Johannesburg and trained in Milan at La Scala, she also reflects on irresistible cultural jambalaya. Despite such a global experience, it's clear that her heart remains in South Africa. From the vibrant geometric designs of the CD jacket and disc, created to recall Zulu bead work and Ndebele house paintings, to the references to South African music icons Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim, South Africa is all over Dance Mama . The 10-track album bursts open with "Indaba" (home) a joyful, bouncing, display of township party music. Christine's well-honed funk chops inform "Call To Freedom" and her classical training shows up for "