Amalgamation 2019

If you’ve been reading these for a while you might have seen that one of my highlights for 2018 was meeting/hugging/opening for Misty Copeland (and Complexions Contemporary Ballet) in last year’s staging of Amalgamation by Plie for the Arts. 

This year, there were a number of dance celebrities performing, instead of a full company, which made for an interesting and very varied show.  And as part of the Plie Dance Collective (a group of dancers from different dance companies and backgrounds) we performed in the show, opening each night with Virtuosi, as well as reprising last year’s piece Confrontation…both by the amazing Renee I. McDonald.

Dancers like Dusty Button (who I’ve followed for years), Terk Lewis, Autumn Miller, Michael Dameski, Osiel Goueno, Nikisha Fogo (half-Jamaican half-Swedish) and so many others graced the stage along with some local dance companies like NDTC and Movements. In addition to performing, many of the international guest dancers hosted masterclasses giving us a chance to be taught by some of the best in the industry globally.

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(L-R) Dusty Button, me and Terk Lewis at their combined masterclass

I haven’t really danced all year, so it was good to get back into classes and rehearsals as we prepped for the show and, of course, the energy of show weekend was absolute bliss. This show kicked off the active dance season for me and between now and December I have two or three more shows to go!

For the first time ever in life I took a day off (from school or work) the day after the show and I’m so glad I did. So often with shows you go so hard until it’s over and then just go straight back to business as usual (which often leads to me getting sick), but this time I’m happy I took the time to rest and recoup before getting back into the thick of things.

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Virtuosi by Renee I. McDonald, shot by (IG) @button_built from in the wings backstage

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New Wave: Live Cooking + Poetry

If you read my blog regularly (who knows, maybe I actually have fans lol) then you would’ve seen me mention New Wave earlier this year in the context of Celebrity Closet. It’s a charity thrift pop-up shop that uses clothing donations to raise funds that are then used to impact social change through the arts…phew, that’s quite a mission!

Aside from thrifting, New Wave provides a platform for Jamaican culture and talent through their curated events (and social media page). This summer they had a series of events at Kingston’s newest watering hole, Janga’s Soundbar. I missed the Film Night + Open Mic on August 12, but got to catch some of the Live Cooking + Poetry night on August 19.

 

With Pink Apron Jamaica and Kamila McDonanld cooking up a storm and Gladstone Taylor and Tami Tsansai on the mic, the audience was treated to a feast for the eyes, the stomach and the mind. I had to leave early so I wasn’t able to see Kamila’s cooking and as an aspiring vegan (this is what I’m calling it now) I opted not to try Pink Apron’s lobster quesadillas, but their demonstration definitely inspired me to try making my own tortillas one of these days.

Next up in the summer series… New Wave: Music The Story of Wayne Marshall on September 2, 2019 at Janga’s Soundbar

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Mac & Faux-Cheesy

I saw this tweet the other day saying that in France, vegan cheese is called “fauxmage” (regular cheese is “fromage”) and I just thought that was so brilliant! I haven’t been as vegan as I’d like for a multitude of reasons, but that’s still the goal that I’m working towards. As such, I’m still experimenting with different ways to create some of the dishes I used to love.

It wasn’t until this vegan experiment that I began to feel like I could really cook, I’ve always considered myself more of a baker but because of my raw meat phobia, cooking what I’d call “real food” wasn’t something I did. Now that I’ve removed the pressure of needing meat in my meal to make it “real food” I’ve been able to just look at random ingredients and come up with a meal. I can cook seasonally, with whatever fruits and vegetables are available for sale, or literally go outside and pick stuff from a tree in my backyard and voila…I’ve got food. It still kind of blows my mind lol.

I’ve also managed to enjoy things I’d never liked before (callaloo, I’m talking to you) just because I’ve figured out how prepare and season it myself. And, after seeing that tweet about fauxmage it got me craving some mac & cheese so I started thinking about how I make that without using an actual block of vegan cheese (another successful experiment btw). This time around I read a few recipes, in particular one for a vegan cheese sauce on Loving it Vegan, in order to form the basis for my own recipe.

Most (if not all) faux-cheese recipes call for nutritional yeast, which gives you that umami, kind of cheesy, nutty flavour that is kind of reminiscent of cheese. Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely not cheese…so don’t jump in thinking this is going to be an exact substitute, it’s almost more of a savoury creamy pasta, but for me it works to satisfy the same taste buds that are craving some cheesy goodness. It’s the kind of thing that’s great as a side or just on it’s own.

Mac & Faux-Cheesy (8 side servings)

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2.5 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • ¼ onion (chopped)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast (more to taste)
  • ¼ tsp seasoned salt (more to taste)
  • ¼ tsp black pepper (more to taste)
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp Cajun seasoning
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • Escallion/green onion (garnish)
  • Macaroni (prepare according to package instructions)
  • Hot pepper sauce (because pepper makes everything better)

Directions

  1. Prepare macaroni (or other pasta) according to package directions.
  2. Heat 3 tbsp coconut oil in a large frying pan until it starts to bubble.
  3. Add sifted 2.5 tbsp all-purpose flour to the pan and stir to prevent it from clumping up.
  4. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, add 2 cloves chopped garlic and ¼ chopped onion and let it cook a bit in the mixture.
  5. Add 1 cup coconut milk and 1 cup soy milk to the mixture and stir until everything is well blended together.
  6. Mix into sauce ¼ cup nutritional yeast, ¼ tsp seasoned salt, ¼ tsp black pepper, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp paprika, ½ tsp cajun seasoning and ¼ tsp turmeric.
  7. Pour the finished sauce until your macaroni and mix together until thoroughly coated, serve and garnish with escallion and your favourite hot pepper sauce.

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Barnes & Noble Book Haul

Last week I told you how Barnes & Noble is a non-negotiable whenever I go to the US, so of course this week I have to show off my book haul :). I came back with ten new books, eight I bought and two I got. This wasn’t meant to be a book buying trip, but when I’m in my happy place I really just can’t help myself.

I love Lisa See, and had just started rereading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan before I went on my trip, so I was determined to find some new ones by her to come home with. Other than that, and a Spanish copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I didn’t go in with any plans or a list of books I had to have. I did what I usually do and just waited to see which books spoke to me.

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Barnes & Noble Haul

These are the ones I came home with:

  1. China Dolls – Lisa See
  2. Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal – JK Rowling
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk – James Baldwin
  4. The Other Alcott – Elsie Hooper
  5. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See
  6. The Woman in the Photo – Mary Hogan
  7. Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
  8. The Librarian of Auschwitz – Antonio Iturbe
  9. Becoming – Michelle Obama
  10. An American MarriageTayari Jones (not seen here)

Becoming and An American Marriage I got from a family friend and the others were from Barnes & Noble. So far I’ve read If Beale Street Could Talk, The Other Alcott, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, The Woman in the Photo, Pachinko and An American Marriage.

Since my goal is to actually do proper reviews for these books and put them on Goodreads at some point, I’ll just give my two cents here without going into too much detail. The Other Alcott and The Woman in the Photo were nice and interesting but definitely didn’t rock my socks off. If Beale Street Could Talk was really good, but kind of in an esoteric way…I don’t know if it’s for everyone. 

An American Marriage was good, so well written, but also a depressing reminder that life sometimes sucks and things just aren’t fair. Pachinko was what White Teeth by Zadie Smith wasn’t for me, meaning that it follows multiple generations of a family through their struggles and triumphs and life experiences, but while I just couldn’t get into White Teeth (still going to try and finish it one of these days) Pachinko had me and held me until I was done.

And now, my favourite…The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. So many times when a book ends, whether due to my own curiosity or the author’s intent, I’m left with questions about what would, could or should happen next for the characters, but not this time. Reading this book and seeing how the characters weave in and out of each other’s lives until finally things come full circle was just so fulfilling. This is easily the most satisfying book I’ve read in a long time (and it’s also about tea…I love tea) and it’s just reinforced Lisa See’s standing in my world.

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Fun in Florida

While I haven’t quite decided if I enjoy travelling yet, Florida (or Kingston 21 as we Jamaicans like to call it) is somewhere I’ll probably always end up going simply because that’s where half of my family lives. Daddy’s family is mostly in Jamaica, but on Putus’ side they’re mostly in Florida so I try to visit at least once a year and spend some time with them. Like so many other Jamaicans, I’ve been going to Florida (Ft. Lauderdale specifically) for years, so of course I have my “must do” things, but even then I still manage to have some new adventures each time. 

Funnily enough, one of my new adventures this time around involved going to the beach for the first time. We’d planned on going to watch the sun rise, but left out a little late so by the time we got there it was already a bright, sunshine-y day. It wasn’t going to be a beach day, but as a self-proclaimed beach bum it’s always nice to visit beaches in other countries, walk barefoot on the sand and dip my toes in the sea. After the beach we had breakfast at Croissan’Time, a cute little French bakery that’s been around since 1986. I had a croissant and a palmier and they were delicious! Another fun first was a nearby bar (I forget the name) where my friend and I tried some interesting beers and played ultimate pub trivia all night long.

Ft. Lauderdale Beach

As for my must, must-do…Barnes & Noble is absolutely non-negotiable, I don’t think I’ve ever been to the US and not gone to that store…it’s literally my favourite place on earth and easily where I spend most of my money on any given trip. When it comes to shopping for books I’ve been known to get out of hand, so in order to curb that, I have a book buying budget principle. I am not allowed to exceed 100% of the money I intend to spend on books. So, if I decide I’m spending no more than $100 on books, it means that if I find books that I can’t live/leave without, then I can buy them as long as I don’t go above $200. This time around (partially thanks to my weight allowance) I didn’t exceed my limit and I managed to get some good finds.

My happy place 🙂

On the Saturday, my aunt and I took a drive up to West Palm Beach where my grandparents live and we had lunch with them and spent some good quality bonding time laughing about how different things are between when she was young and now. I’d bought Grandma a book called “Your Grandmother’s Story” and it’s basically a journal with prompts that would guide her into filling it out so that I can learn more about her. She kind of refused to use it but my aunt loved the idea and said she’ll work on getting Grandma to fill it out lol.

Grandma (and I) wanted plums

Since this was the first non-dance vacation I’ve had in a couple years, it was really nice to just be able to chill out with friends and family without any pressure, but even so, I was really happy to get back to my normal routine of work and everything else in between.

Do people normally get tired of vacation and look forward to going back to work or is that a me thing?