Saturday, 30 November 2013

Independence Day 2013

Happy Independence Barbados!!

Today, my island Barbados celebrates it's 47th year of Independence, when we broke away from British colonial rule and took over the ship to guide our own destiny.
I didn't attend the official parade or other celebratory events because I preferred to spend my day out visiting friends and their beautiful gardens.
What better way for a gardener to spend Independence Day?
Hope you had a good one.

Friday, 29 November 2013


As we here in Barbados celebrate our 47th year of Independence (November 30th), and feeling patriotic and all that, I thought I would prepare one of our local delicacies that are eaten during this time of celebration.
Especially since last year I did not have the urge to make them and I was cussed to "hell and back" by my friends and family. 
Wow the words out of their mouths...decent respectable people that know how to cuss like pirates when they are irate...gotta love them.
This year I thought I would surprise them with the tasty treat.

These are a sweet treat made with cornmeal, pumpkin, sweet potato and coconut along with spices and steamed in banana leaves.

These traditional corn based Bajan delicacies are synonymous with the month of November and our Independence Day.
The local word "conkie" was more than likely adopted from the Ghanian "kenkey" which refers to a similar prepared cornmeal dish from that territory.
Prior to Independence, eating conkies was associated with the British Colonial Celebration - Guy Fawkes Day (Nov 5th).

Yesterday I made a batch of conkies.  I remember my mum would make us conkies and I would watch her while she prepared them thinking to myself...what a lot of work, but they sure taste good when they're done.
I had requested some banana leaves from my girlfriend who lives in the country and she was happy to oblige.
Eight big green fresh banana leaves
Banana leaves stain, so be careful to wear some old clothing while preparing them.

Next cut the spine of the leaf can use a knife but I prefer a scissors.

Wash the leaves thoroughly in water with a little bleach and dish soap.

Clean leaves after a thorough washing to get rid of all debris, dust, and whatever may have been lingering on them.
The next step is to singe the leaves to make them pliable so that they can be folded into neat packets with the conkie mixture inside.
The old method of singeing the leaves over an open flame.

The new way (trick) which I learned from my girlfriend is to use a plastic bag (preferably one without a logo or words printed on it) and place a few banana leaves inside.
Place about 4-6 leaf strips inside the bag and fold it over and place in the microwave for 2.15 minutes.  The leaves are singed easily this way and in record time.
Be careful when removing the bag, the contents are HOTT and one can be burned easily with the steam.

Wipe and dry the steamed leaves. Some will now have a camouflaged pattern and that's okay.

The leaves are now ready to receive the conkie filling.
My friends in New York purchase their banana leaves from the Asian market already processed.  Some supermarkets here on the island also carry the banana leaves pre-packaged.  I prefer to clean my own leaves.
Time to get the ingredients ready.

Pumpkin, Sweet Potatoes, Coconut, Butter, Milk, Flour, Corn Flour, Sugar, Raisins (optional), essence and spices.
See recipe below.
Did I mention that conkie-making is time consuming?  We're not even half-way there yet.
Make sure your hands are in a grating mood, it is now time to grate the pumpkin and the sweet potatoes (I buy my coconut pre-packed and already grated to cut down on the time).
Grated pumpkin and sweet potatoes with the grated coconut peeking out from at the bottom of my very big bowl.

Add all the wet ingredients and mix well, then add the dry ingredients until it resembles a fairly thick but smooth paste.
 Just like so.

Now where is my Big-A$$$$$ pot? This is the big daddy of pots and very much needed for conkie making, if not you'll have to use several pots or make several batches.  The photo above does not do this Big McGuffy any justice at all.
I must tell you the story of my Big A$$$$$ pot. Many years ago, at an auction sale one day, there were four big pots up for bid, and as I sat there watching a well-known hotelier outbid me for the first three, I was quite frustrated.  I immediately said to him, "Cuddear, give me a chance nuh, I need one of those big pots to make my conkies....let me get the last one nuh?"
He conceded and allowed me to have the winning bid on the last one. I thanked him.  He told me that I owed him conkies for the rest of his life.....hahaha.

Okay, so now we have our big pot, and we need to continue with our task.
Remember the spline that I removed from the banana leaves, well they will be playing a part as well.

Take the splines and cut them into pieces to fit the bottom of the pot where they will serve as a rack for the conkies to rest as they are steaming.
Fill the pot with just enough water to barely cover the cut splines.

Now it's time to cut the singed banana leaves into squares which will be folded into the conkie packets.
The banana leaves give the conkies a distinct taste.

Time to start making our conkie packets.

Take about 2-1/2 tablespoons of conkie mixture and lay it on the banana leaf, making sure the ribbed part is on the outside.

Make the packet by first folding over one half and then the other half and fold under the two ends to form a neat package.
Just like so.

Sometimes the leaf may rip as you're filling it up with the mixture, and you need to work a little patchwork technique by slipping in another piece of leaf to "patch" the hole....and then carry on smartly.

Now that all the packets are folded it's time for their steam bath, so load them into the pot on a low /medium flame and soon you'll have a tasty treat.  Did I say soon?  My pot is a Big A$$$$ pot, so it takes about 3 hours for all the conkies to be cooked and firm.

At last they're done!!!

Remove from the pot and place on a tray to cool.  This way you can wash the pot immediately before any stains from the banana leaves and stems set in. That's why I also put just a sprinkle of oil in my pot to aid with cleanup.
Finally they're cool enough to eat....look out here I come.
I'm like a child on Christmas morning...excitedly opening my conkie present and enjoying the contents.
Unwrap the conkie from the banana leaf and savour the aroma, admire the texture and salivate over the tasty treat and then enjoy...enjoy...enjoy.


Here is the recipe which was shared with me by a good friend years ago.
6 cups corn flour (the finest grain corn meal can be used)
1-1/2 cups regular flour
2 cups grated coconut
6 lbs grated pumpkin
1 lb grated sweet potato
12oz butter - melted
6oz shortening - melted
4 cups sugar (good brown sugar not granulated)
3 cups milk
3 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons almond essence
2 teaspoons spice
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
8-10 banana leaves
Makes 50 conkies

These cornmeal packets are made throughout the Caribbean but have different names.
In St.Lucia and Trinidad they are called Paime, and in Jamaica they are known as Duckunoo, Blue Drawers and Tie A Leaf.  They can be savoury or sweet and they are made for various festivals in these islands.
I know you're wondering where was Mr.BrownBerts during the whole process....where else would he be, but......
....waiting patiently for the conkies to be finished, stretched out sleeping on the kitchen floor......"timing de pot."
He shared a conkie with me, and he was gobbling quicker than I was, so I think he had more I did.  Don't worry, I picked the raisins out of his portion since they cause a potential health threat for dogs and the toxicity can lead to renal failure.
Dogs should not have grapes either in case you're wondering.

A day of hard work, but paid off a gazillion times over with my sweet scrumptious tasting conkies.
My friends and family are all happy now.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Missing You

"Sadly missed along life's way
Quietly remembered every day
No longer in our life to share
But in our hearts you're always there."

Mums, one year ago today, you left us to continue your spiritual journey....we miss you.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Traffic Jam

Today, I had to leave home to run some errands.
Even though we are a small island, we have lots of traffic for the 280,000 inhabitants that live here, and I find it necessary to conduct my business in what I call "off-peak" hours so as to avoid being stuck in traffic.
Today, I thought I was doing just that, but I was wrong.......wrong....wrong.
The hardware store I needed to visit was not far away, so after my supermarket shopping I headed there.
I found myself stuck in mile long traffic at 10 o'clock in the morning, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out why.  Work and school traffic should have been gone a long time ago, and it didn't appear to be an accident up why the painfully slow moving traffic?
As the traffic continued to crawl slowly along, I finally saw what the cause of the slowdown was.

The Barbados Water Authority workers were still on strike outside their Manor Lodge offices.
The unionized workers walked off the job last week Thursday (Nov 21st) after management failed to conclude negotiations on increments for staff, among other things.

Of course the union is now involved, and a spokesman for the BWA has stressed that service to the public will not be disrupted....we shall see about that.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Saturday at 7

After all the rain that we had been having during the past few months, the accumulation of black mold was everywhere.  This could easily cause a nasty fall when wet with its slippery surface on the driveway.  It was time to get it cleaned.

Our family is quite close, and when I mentioned my project to one of the younger family members earlier this week, he immediately said that he would come over and help me with my task.
"Saturday at 7," he said.
"Are you sure?" I asked (For I know the younger folk love to party after work on Fridays.)
"Yes," I'll be there," he replied.

The last time I cleaned the driveway, I was clothed in a rain poncho, and despite my special haute couture for that occasion I still ended up covered with debris all over.....I was glad for the offer to clean it this time around.

Seven o'clock found me outside trimming back my crotons and sweeping the walkway at the side of the house.
Seven-thirty, and I was raking cut grass from the lawn.
Eight o'clock and I was cleaning around the golden palms at the front of the house, which included removing the spent palm frond with the hummingbird nest that had been vacated.
Eight-fifteen, and my helper pulled up.  He did not want to keep too much noise in the neighbourhood too early he told me.  I told him that my neighbours are up and about very early.  There were already two of them outside mowing their lawns.
Out came the pressure washer....a Honda GX 2000 which worked like smooth.....and made quick work of the area.

I was impressed and since I'm in the market for a pressure washer, I may look into one like that.
Worked like butter I tell you.
A full tank held Bds$10.00 (US$5.00) and did quite a bit of cleaning.....I was VERY impressed.

Well it being Saturday, and with Beast all ready and able to go, I took a quick jaunt out to the supermarket to recycle my bottles, and to visit the plant nursery for my special philodendron plant that I said I would return for.
I had also lost a croton plant earlier this year, so I bought a small replacement as well.
The nursery was filled with folks making their early Christmas plant much so, that I was amazed at the few remaining philodendrons to choose from.

Back home, I fed Brownie and myself quickly, and then took a quick rest before heading outside again to finish cleaning up.

Crash!! Bang!!   Garbage bins were being thrown back against the to my ears, the garbage collection crew came out this evening after not showing up yesterday.
A great end to a tiring day.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Always expect the unexpected

All week I'd been trying really hard to accomplish several chores, in order that I could go out for a jaunt today and join my girlfriends at an auction sale.....but it was not to be.
I awoke early as usual and took care of some household chores, had a shower, dressed and was out the door.
As soon as I entered the garage and said "hi" to Beast....(yes, I do that), I realised that he had a flat tyre on his rear left side.
Now I know I've said it before, and I'll say it again... the reason why I love my Beast so much and have held on to him for so many years is because he looks out for me.  He would never ever have had a flat tyre on the road.....any ailment on his part he always brings me home safely and then gets sick.  This morning was no exception.

To make matters worse, I discovered that someone had hit my front bumper on the same left side.
I have no idea how or when it occurred.  The last time I drove Beast to the market was probably when the "someone" did the deed.  People are so dishonest these days.  This is damage that I will have to fix myself.
In the photo above, you can get a glimpse of my friend who came by to help me change the tyre.
He also gave me a ride to my favourite tyre repair shop since my spare didn't look too reliable.
He could not understand why I wanted to visit the tyre shop "on the highway", but I told him that they provide good service and when they fixed  a tyre it was properly aches and pains afterwards like at some other tyre shops, where the tyre magically deflates the following day or some other problem surfaces with the tyre.

My favourite tyre repair shop has a long bench to sit and wait and watch tv while your tyre is being repaired.

I kid you not, I was there all of five minutes.  My tyre needed a new valve and it was installed so quickly that I didn't even realise that the repair guy was finished until he rolled the tyre out to me and announced, "It done! You good to go!!"

Quick efficient and reasonable service....gotta love it.
Back home where my friend replaced my tyre and it was all good.
Thanks to Vincent and his crew.....thanks guys....I will always drive to your shop "on the highway"....always.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


This morning started out with dark clouds and a downpour of rain that hid the entire horizon and obliterated the harbour and the city environs.
The rain came in off the sea which is not unusual for this time of year.
Despite the rainfall, I was still able to make out the Carnival Valor cruise liner making its way into the port......after all, today was Wednesday, where else would she be, but here?

Carnival Valor
I watched for a few minutes while she berthed safely, and then as if waiting for a cue, the sun broke out from behind the clouds with such intense heat, that I was amazed.
In "two twos" the ground was dry and the leaves on the plants were no longer glistening with raindrops, so I took a walk outside with you know who.

The crotons were flowering

My special heliconias were also putting on a show.
I could not ignore my neighbour's ixora in full splendour.....isn't that a gorgeous pink?
After our quick walk and a nice breakfast, I settled down to some indoor chores and Brownie settled down for a chit chat with his two mouse friends.

Old friend (no limbs, no tail, no eyes, no whiskers) Mousee, and Big Blue Rat.
I have no idea what he says to them before he starts biting them and then licking them and then another round of biting, and more chit chat....wish I knew always makes me laugh.

 Stir-fried veggie rice with chicken and salad adorned with the yummy Chick Fil-A sauce that traveled home with me from VA.....who's laughing now?????
Mr. BrownBerts enjoyed his lunch too, and settled down for his afternoon siesta with a full tummy.

A nice day indeed.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

And they're off.....

I heard the excited twittering this morning immediately after I opened my bedroom window.
Reminded me of a small child on a bike riding free for the first time and squealing "Look Mum I can do it!!!"

 Empty nest
Upon further investigation, I was happy to see that the young hummingbirds had flown the nest and were flitting from branch to branch, and then flying off by themselves into yon and yonder. The excitement of their tweets rang throughout the early morning air.
Mum sat not too far away on a swaying palm frond looking on and keeping close watch.

I had never seen a hummingbird at rest before, and it was quite interesting to watch.

Keeping a very close eye on her new offspring

One little baby hummingbird at rest between the palm fronds twittering merrily away.
It's amazing, at least to me, how fast they have learned to fly.  They were just wrapped up in a cocoon-like nest a few days ago being mouth-fed by their mama.  Now they were sailing through the air with wild abandon.  Very impressive.
Isn't nature grand???

Saturday, 16 November 2013

A week of sunshine

Finally a week of sunshine to get my delayed gardening chores completed.
Lots of trees and shrubs were trimmed, grass was cut, and guess what.....the garbage collection guys actually came out early Friday morning and took away all the bagged trimmings.....happy dance.
I also discovered a weed killer that kills only the weeds in the lawn and not the grass new spray can was on the job again.  I really don't like using the chemicals but it's sometimes necessary until things are back under control.

I also had a chat with my neighbour in the back and we've decided to keep the area devoid of all bush due to the robberies that have just occurred.  I cleared the overgrown path that leads to the quarry which will make it easier for us to dump all the debris over the edge of the quarry when we're finished debushing the area.
By the time we have completed that project Brazen and company will have no kind of shrubbery to relax in and should move on to other areas.
As per doctor's orders I'm having oats for breakfast to help correct the cholesterol problem that has just surfaced.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around how does a vegetarian like me end up with a cholesterol problem.

A nice steamy hot bowl of oats with a squirt of honey and apple slices.

Brownie still has a couple more days to go on his medication.  Here he is jumping up to say hello while I lay on the couch watching the news after lunch.

Yesterday afternoon, my friend came by to help me dig out the old palm tree roots outside the grass verge entrance.  They were all dried up but still tough for me to dig out.  It took a little while to get the job done because my nosy neighbours kept on coming by to say "hello" and to investigate and share their opinion on the process.  I never bother them when they're working on any of their outdoor projects, but mine seem to be fair game for them to be malicious.....every single time.

The robber has been spotted in the neighbourhood again....a young man wearing a hoodie and a backpack to put his stolen treasures in. He operates during the day it seems, and everyone is on edge.
Spoke to another friend today, and he said to me, "Don't get down there in your own house and be frighten of no punk, give me  a call when he shows up at your place, I will deal with him."
Told him I'm not afraid, just wary, because he seems determined to hit every single house in the neighbourhood......he'd better be very careful not to choose my home.

No Saturday jaunt for me today.....spent the morning cutting grass out in the back garden and the afternoon indoors cleaning.....I am a very tired bunny tonight.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Gifts of kindness

Anyone who is anyone all know that I collect blue and white porcelain pieces.  I started back in the early 90's and now I have quite a unique collection..... which has grown from my travels and several gifts from friends over the years.
When I was getting over the flu recently, I was still feeling a bit down and out and struggling to get my life back in gear.
One day, my daughter brought me a gift from her friends.  Her two crazy friends who treated me to a lovely birthday dinner earlier this year.  It was such a thoughtful gift and it cheered me up immediately out of my "sicky sicky" doldrums.

Spode Blue Room Collection mugs
My Feel Better Soon gifts

The Hare and the Tortoise -Aesop's Fables

Indian Sporting

They're right at home with the rest of my collection.

Thanks so very much Stuart and David!!!

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