Showing posts from December, 2010

The Real Spirit of Christmas

There's a voracious vibe hanging in the air. Eyes flicker with the sentiment of more! more! more! It must be Christmas time. It's difficult to uncover the real, charitable focus of the season under all the materialism but you can find it if you decide not to be distracted by all the other nonsense. I don't enjoy shopping at all but I do get a kick out of choosing gifts from my favorite charities.  Instead of trolling through aisles filled with plastic doodads and electronic gadgets, I browsed through vaccines, mosquito nets and water kits for children all over the world. The Unicief  Inspired Gift program allows you to purchase these life-saving supplies on behalf of a friend or family member. They also get a card with a photo and description of the gift. I also perused chickens, rabbits, pigs and goats for the perfect present. Women in war torn countries learn to rebuild their lives through animal husbandry, farming and work initiatives provided by Women For Women Intern

Sand Dollars, Skeletons and The Season

I've just finished decorating my Christmas tree, which always inspires me to think about the origins of many of my ornaments.  Glittery, beaded, balls from India are favorites, as well as embroidered bells from Italy. But the most unexpected decoration is a pure white sand dollar I got from St. Croix. Sand dollars make elegant Christmas ornaments and are commonly used in coastal areas and the Caribbean. The pretty sand dollar-covered tree above was captured in Eleuthera, with echos of the sea right outside. I never realized that sand dollars are fuzzy sea creatures similar to starfish. The sand dollars that wash ashore are actually skeletons.  Decorating a tree with skeletons gives a whole other perception that doesn't quite fit with the holiday season but I still think they're pretty. Will you be decorating with any souvenirs from your travels this season?

Genips and Sea Grapes and Figs, Oh My!

I love tropical fruit, the more exotic, the better.  Whenever I travel to the Caribbean, I make a point of visiting the local markets or vendors for local fruit. In St. Kitts, genips, shown above, are sold on almost every street corner of Basseterre. Genips are like lychees, you peel them and suck out the pulp, around the seed which is slimy and slightly sweet. Figs are what Kittitians call the miniature bananas pictured above. I don't like bananas but I do enjoy figs, which are sweeter and creamier than the bananas grown in the U.S. Sea grapes grow on towering trees that tend to grow near the sea. This sweet fruit is also sold by many street vendors in St. Kitts. There's nothing like nibbling on a juicy bunch, as the sun warms your shoulders. Do you have a favorite fruit that you discovered on your travels?

Chocolate Chicago

I am recovering from a chocolate hangover. Like a love hangover, it has no cure.  It all started when I grabbed a Groupon for  Chicago Chocolate Tours . Chicago boasts a long candy history and naturally, I'm very familiar with most of it but my husband isn't ( he just likes chocolate, not sugar in all forms). So we signed up for the Gold Coast Chocolate Tour and met are tour guide Jenny, above in the lobby of Bloomingdale's. Even though I possess a serious sweet tooth, I confess that I was not equipped to down pounds and pounds of chocolate over 21/2 hours. We started at More cupcakes, a tiny gourmet cupcake boutique aimed toward cupcake snobs, which includes me.  As you can see from the display above, the shop carries a dazzling array of flavors, including savory versions like maple bacon, goat cheese basil and blue cheese walnut praline. We sampled a tasting size of the chocolate fudge cupcake that was rich and moist. We planned to head back to stock up on red velv