Giant molten chocolate column.
There’s nothing like living overseas for a year-plus to make you appreciate being home for the holidays. This past month has been a whirlwind of visiting American friends and family as the husband and I have ranged from down south in Texas, all the way up to (what this Texas gal considers) the Far White North of Indiana. Although both of our overseas posts–China and Suriname–celebrated Christmas to some degree, the American Christmas experience is truly unique. In no other place that I’ve lived has the holiday been as sugary, extravagant, bustling, or glistening as I’ve found it to be in the States. Traveling home to share in all that chaotic cheer gives me an effervescent kind of happiness.
One of the moments on this trip that quintessentially captured American Christmas was a stop at Albanese candy store, AKA Santa’s Workshop. Some of our dear, Indiana-based friends took us to this massive–and I do mean massive–sweet shop in western Indiana. The instant we crossed the threshold, we ran into an almost palpable wall of warm, sugary scent. The sights were equally dazzling, with banks of home-made chocolates (maple truffles, malted milk balls, chocolate-covered animal crackers, turtles, haystacks, etc.) and endless bins of rainbow-colored gummy candies (did I mention that their gummy bears are home-made?! From scratch?!) Vintage-style candies lined the back of the store, and an extra wing of the shop boasted a glorious array of glittering Christmas baskets and speciality items. And as if that weren’t enough, a gigantic column coated with flowing molten chocolate stood sway in the midst of all the Christmas sparkle.
Considering all the temptation around, I was pretty proud of the fact that we walked away with only two packs of bubble gum cigarettes (a nostalgic favorite of my husband’s) and 1.5 pounds of chocolate candy (peanut butter meltaways, chocolate-covered cookie dough, and chocolate almond toffee). I’m also grateful that the Suriname to Indiana commute is long enough to prevent our being regulars at Albanese. Because my waist-line cannot take that abuse on a regular basis!
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An atmospheric painting of a white lotus by Soeris Dipai.
A gala tickets: Cutest event name!
My “Birds of Suriname” series. With some 700+ species in Suriname to choose from, I may be adding a few more fowl to this flock in the future.
Our new addition: “let me feel,” by Doro Nuyken.
A very tropical collection by Frankie Martodikromo (also a member of Suriname’s Ministry of Defense.)
That red “sold” dot is ours! The artist generously dropped the price a wee bit… but it was still an expensive night for our household!
Another work by Soeris Dipai.
My offerings: two originals and two prints.
The ornately carved pieces hewn from tropical timber and the rainforest-themed painting make this Suriname in a snapshot.
Gorgeous work by Overdo Berghout. The top painting is one of my favorites, as it captures so beautifully the gaiety and freedom of Surinamese celebrations like Owru Yari and Holi Pagwa.
My first art exhibit! Hence my taking everything but the kitchen sink. You know: Just in case….
A series by Doro Nuyken.
Beautiful portraiture by Jona Giovanni.
For my artist’s placards, I prefer the term “handwritten chic” to “unprofessional” or “home-made.”
Check it out–that’s my name! To SIS, I’d like to say: Thanks for having me!
Close-up of one of my paintings: “Mallards at Dawn.”
A macaw taking flight, again by Overdo Berghout.
Because no gala is complete without a few gorgeous floral arrangements.
On this blog, I’ve mentioned a time or two that I paint. But it’s purely for my own enjoyment (and the occasional gift-giving to family and friends). I make no claim to being a professional artist. Let’s be honest: trying to make it in the arts can be a heartbreaking business. Attempting to carve out a writing career is artistic excitement enough for me.
So I imagine how honored I felt when one of my dear friends in the Embassy community invited me to participate as an artist in the gala she was throwing to raise funds for one of Suriname’s international schools and a cause it supports: a local home for underprivileged children. Internally, I balked a little at being labelled one of “seven of local artists” (I’m not an artist! I just happen to have a few tubes of paint lying around my house!). But the idea of getting to showcase a few pieces was pretty exhilarating stuff. Continue reading “Art, Auctions, & Wine: Oh My!”
Here for purchase: all the colors of the rainbow.
A view of the site of our frivolity: the Palmentuin (or, Dutch for Palm Garden).
The Phagwa necessities: colored powder, water, squirt guns, and Heineken.
A view skyward, at the beautiful day we had for Phagwa.
I may have told the husband he looked like he’d been performing surgery on a Care Bear.
I’m an Oompa Loompa and he’s a grape–a match made in Heaven.
This Phagwa brought to you by Heineken. (About 2 seconds after this photo, my beer was turned leprechaun-green by a well-aimed shot of Phagwa powder.)
Proof we’re not the only multi-colored weirdos.
Exhibit A: Evidence that we did not skimp on the powder.
A successful sneak attack resulted in a rather rosey back.
When riding this ride, don’t forget your safety googles….
Because you’re going to need them if you want this chic reverse raccoon-eyes look!
My purse may never be the same.
A different type of “tan” line.
Hard to believe this T used to be pale blue….
A week later and some of this pink ink is still hangin’ ’round.
Being in the Foreign Service has meant living in and traveling to lots of unique spots. I’ve had the immense privilege of enjoying many adventures. Among these, some stand out as particularly cool: visiting an ice festival near China’s border with Siberia, holding a baby tiger, and tromping around the Great Wall definitely make top tier
Last Monday saw a new addition to that list: celebrating Holi Phagwa, Suriname-style. It might not have been quite so adventurous or once-in-a-life-timey as scaling ancient Chinese fortifications, but it was just so fun. Because what adult doesn’t enjoy an excuse to fling colored powder on friends and strangers alike, sans repercussions? Continue reading “Holi Phagwa 2017: Hilarity & Hues”
This gorgeous, peculiar thing is the pod that holds all that cacao goodness.
Chocolate tea & a chocolate cupcake. Hard for me to be a happier girl.
Those purple beans (aka nibs) are the fresh, natal version of what becomes chocolate.
Cacao tree flower–from which the pods apparently grow.
Our work table. Let the cacao-powder producing fun begin!
Cacao nibs, empty husks, and chocolate powder (post-nib-grinding accomplished via mortar & pestle).
Spices to adorn our cacao powder (from the spoon and moving clock-wise): cinnamon, ginger, anise, cayenne, cloves, nutmeg.
Our chocolate bar tasting score card–just like a wine tasting!
Half a cacao pod, looking kind of like a mangled space-ship. The flesh around the nibs is actually pretty tasty–a flavor akin to lychee.
Because what would a Dutch/Surinamese-run business be without a pair of wooden shoes?
Our baby cacao trees! (Note the nibs on the stem of the nearer plant.)
Our tree to bar chocolate treats.
Chocolate-crafting in action.
I may have mentioned this before, but my writer-self tends to make me a bit of a homebody. Left to my own devices, I burrow anti-socially into whatever authorial project I’m currently engaged with, avoiding distraction (i.e. people) at all costs. Upon taking a quiz to determine which of the six types of writers I am, I scored as 100% weird recluse (with only a 33% dash of Ray of Sunshine to cut the Yikes!). That kind of says it all, I think.
But these last few years, I’ve made an effort to try to prioritize people, experiences, and adventure, as well as my writing. So I’m always grateful when friends who are cooler than I am come up with un-pass-up-able activity ideas.
A few weeks ago, this meant a visit to Tan Bun Skrati, a chocolate-making operation run by Rutger (Dutch) and Ellen (Dutch-Surinamese), a husband-and-wife duo. Built upon traditional cacao-processing techniques bequeathed to Ellen via her Surinamese mother and grandmother, Tan Bun Skrati offers workshops as well as various cacao-oid products (teas, chocolate bars, wine, vinegar, etc.). This operation is run out of their home, a quaint dwelling set behind high flowering shrubs and heavily-leaved trees–so well hidden, we passed it twice before realizing where it was. Continue reading “Cocoa & Craftsmanship”
A posturing peacock at Philip’s Animal Garden.
A look sea-ward from The Flying Fishbone’s bar.
A crab joins our dinner party at The Flying Fishbone.
Husband and me at The Flying Fishbone, a lovely little restaurant where we got to eat with our toes literally in the water.
Aruba’s California Lighthouse.
Tucked beneath a cliff, a hidden cove where we took a rather chilly swim.
These shockingly blue chaps were to be found everywhere on the island.
My beautiful best friend.
Aruba’s starkly beautiful arid landscape.
Me and my bestie. When we met as 3-year-olds, we couldn’t have imagined sharing a Caribbean adventure one day.
One of many, MANY staggeringly beautiful views.
Pelicans set sail near Arashi Beach.
Husband and me, claiming our own slice of the Caribbean.
My view from our dinner table at The Flying Fishbone.
Ocean spray cascading into the Natural Pool.
For this Texas gal, this sign was a hard buy to resist.
Palapas on a crystalline blue Caribbean beach.
Husband and me, in front of the anchor honoring those lost at sea. (And, in the distant left, a cluster of kite surfers with neon-hued sails.)
Couldn’t’ve said it better myself!
Our own private oasis at our AirBnB rental.
See the tiny people in the water at the left-hand side of the photo? They’re swimming in the “Conchi” Natural Pool, located in the Arikok National Park.
A wild iguana breaks into the axis deer enclosure at Philip’s Animal Garden.
A storm rolling onto Baby Beach.
Everybody needs a break now and again–a chance to get away from that job, that place, that set of circumstances wearing you down. A chance to refuel.
For me at least, living overseas has made this need particularly pronounced. Functioning in a culture distinct from that of your homeland, coupled with being so far from family and friends, can make the stress ratchet up more quickly.
But I’m happy to report that, thanks to a week-plus in Aruba with my husband, my best bud, and her fiancé, I’m now more rested, relaxed, and (bonus!) tanned.
Even before heading to Aruba, I knew it was an “arid island,” lacking the rainforesty climate and foliage often associated with island atmosphere. I wasn’t sure how well I’d like this aesthetic after traveling to spots like Maui and Thailand. Continue reading “Aruba: Our Arid Paradise”
Today (way too early this AM) my husband and I leave for our new post (and home!) in South America. Our Home Leave has been full and wonderful, colored by visits with all the family and friends who make our lives textured and whole.
As always, saying goodbye feels a lot like having my heart tugged out of my chest. But I count myself incredibly blessed to have something (and someones) so beautiful, that it’s hard to leave it/them behind. (That’s my version of a paraphrased quote often misattributed to A. A. Milne.)
There’s no embarking on a new adventure without saying goodbye to your old normal. So here’s to our next step on this Foreign Service odyssey. And here’s to our lovely family and friends, sending us onward on a warm tide of well wishes.
Au revoir, America!
*Featured image is property of Wind & Wave Watersports (Peltier surf shop of choice).
I’m currently enjoying a getaway (in Cambodia!). But I couldn’t resist sharing this little treat: The New Yorker retitles famous novels (Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, etc.) as Friends episodes here.