February 9, 2012

Girls just wanna have fun!

Hi Fashionista Mama,

Toddler girls have a bevy of beautiful fashions out there. There’s so much choice, sometimes it can feel overwhelming. Here are a few pieces that I know you will love!

Cheers,
Char a.k.a Epic Mom

February 9, 2012

Let’s hear it for the boys

Hi Fashionista Mama,

It is sometimes difficult to find funky fashions for little boys. So here are a few pieces that I just know you’ll love!

Cheers,
Char a.k.a Epic Mom

February 8, 2012

Snorkeling in Grenada

Dear Epic Readers,

I hope this post finds you well.  As promised, here is the third issue in my Travel Tuesdays series.  So grab a pirate’s punch and let’s hoist off on an epic adventure to Grenada.

In the South Eastern Caribbean, about 100 miles north of Venezuela, you will find the gorgeous island of Grenada (pronounced Gree-Nay-Dah).  It is also known as the Spice Isle or the Isle of Spice.  Over the centuries, the island has been inhabited by Black natives of African descent, British, French and Amerindians – both Arawaks and Caribs – whose artifacts and carvings can still be found throughout the island.

More than 70% of Grenada’s exports go to the United States and European Union. Their growers are increasingly adopting sustainable farm management practices, which is why their clean, green organic approach to agriculture is recognised around the world.  Cocoa, Banana, Nutmeg and other spices for export have been the island’s main source of foreign exchange for hundreds of years, and in fact Grenada is the world’s second largest nutmeg producer.

One huge highlight for me about Grenada was going to the world’s first Under Water Sculpture Park at Molinere Bay.  Wow, that was an exhilarating experience!  All of you who have read my blog from the beginning know that I’ve always struggled to learn how to swim.  This summer, I had a breakthrough at my local swim school and was able to swim the entire length of the pool and back.  Even accomplishing this feat, I still have no clue how to tread water.   So you can imagine how the voice in the back of my head was screaming at me to stay on the cruise ship and let hubby go on this adventure by himself.  Still, I resigned myself to put on my swimsuit and take a book with me on the tour so I could stay in the catamaran if I changed my mind at the last moment.

Off I went on the catamaran, zipping over the waves, my hair streaming behind me, the wind whipping in my face – what a feeling of freedom and exhilaration!  Then we slowed down for our guide to share some details about the aquatic life around the island.  After this tutorial, our next stop was Molinere Bay.  It felt almost like an outer body experience, floating outside myself as I watched the real me get into a life jacket, flippers, and goggles, climb over the edge of the boat and ease into the ocean.   Now, all my friends will tell you that I am an extremely cautious person.  I am not a risk taker, and never have been.  Had you asked me about this last year at this time, I would have said, “I never will be a risk taker!”  Yet, having children changes you.  Having watched my kids learn to walk and talk and do all those incredible feats that they do in their first few years; having encouraged them to try again when they literally fall on their bums when learning how to walk; having been their cheerleader for three years and encouraging them to try something new even if they are scared, I decided to take the same advice myself:  to be brave and bold and try something new too.

Before I knew it, I was holding on to a little lifebuoy, swimming along looking at the most amazing, breathtaking vista before me.  Seeing fish in an aquarium pales in comparison to watching those iridescent luminous shimmering fish swimming everywhere.  It was breathtaking.  Then I glimpsed something off in the distance, coming into focus and taking shape as I approached.  There were beautiful sculptures dotted along the ocean floor!  My favorite was one called ‘Christ of the Deep’ standing majestically with arms outstretched and head looking up towards heaven.   Christ of the Deep was placed in St. George’s Harbor to commemorate the people of Grenada for their help and to thank them for the hospitality they extended to the people on board the Italian ship Bianca C after it caught fire and sank in the harbor. 

If you are in Grenada, book a Seafaris Powerboat Eco Tour and ask for Albert.  He is passionate about sharing the history and ecology of Grenada and is a wonderful guide of the underwater sculptures.  He was truly awesome at making the excursion interesting for both experienced and novice snorkelers!

Here are three of the most exciting highlights of the island:

  • Visit the Mona monkeys that live near Grand Etang National Park.
  • Tour St. George’s market for ginger, cinnamon, mace, turmeric, nutmeg, coconuts, bananas, and so much more.
  • Snorkel in the world’s first Under Water Sculpture Park at Molinere Bay.

Cheers,

From the beautiful island of Grenada

Char a.k.a Epic Mom

February 7, 2012

Blogging Basics – Choosing a blogging platform

When I decided to start a blog, I had no idea where to start, so I researched various blogging platforms to see which one best suited my needs.  Here is a simplified look at three of the most popular blogging platforms.

BlogSpot/Blogger:  Blogger and BlogSpot are both services offered by Google.  BlogSpot is a free domain service provider, whereas Blogger is a free publishing platform.  Blogspot provides a subdomain if you are not using another custom (non-BlogSpot) domain, with the catch that the given subdomain will include a “.blogspot.com” ending, such as “example.blogspot.com”.  BlogSpot/Blogger has a limited amount of themes but it is relatively simple and easy to use when compared to wordpress.org.  You do not need any extra training to use the blogger dashboard, and the options are clear and easy to navigate.  You can monetize on BlogSpot by having AdSense ads placed on your blog. It’s important to note that on this platform, blogs can be deleted without warning.

WordPress.com:  Free publishing platform that anyone can use.  You will have a subdomain like (example.wordpress.com). It is easy to modify and has tons of glossy and professional looking themes and plenty of plugins.   There is no need to back-up your database regularly for safe-keeping.  You will have to pay for a Premium account if you want to monetize on WordPress.com. It’s important to note that blogs on this platform can be deleted without warning.

WordPress.org:  Self hosted publishing platform that allows you to have your own domain name.  You will have to pay for hosting if you want to use this option.  There are a number of very professional looking themes that allow you to have a great look for your site, and an exceptionally wide range of plugins that you can use to specialize the look and feel of your website.  A big reason why I chose WordPress.org, was that I am able to own all my content which isn’t possible on Blogger or WordPress.com.  Finally, on this platform, your blog will never be deleted without warning.

Another reason I chose to use WordPress.org was related to an analogy I read.  The writer compared Blogspot to a neighbourhood in which any resident can walk over to all the other houses and look inside at their leisure. The analagy continued that wordpress.org at least gives the blogger a little more control over who is able to view their site and posts. Having young kids, the ability to control content more closely in Wordpress was really the deciding factor for me because I wanted to protect them as much as possible while blogging. That being said, there is no right answer to the question of which blogging platform is the best. Instead, you have to weigh the options and figure out which platform works best for you.

So epic readers, which blogging platform did you choose to go with and what would you recommend it to others?

February 1, 2012

Cooking in St. Kitts

Dear Epic Readers,

I hope this post finds you well. As promised, here is the third issue in my Travel Tuesdays series. So grab a pirate’s punch and let’s hoist off on an epic adventure to St. Kitts.

Located in the Leeward Islands, St. Kitts and its sister island Nevis are two beautiful jewels in the Caribbean.  St. Kitts was originally settled by the Kalinago people, who named the island "Liamuiga," which means fertile land on account of its rich volcanic soil.   St. Kitts has since then been settled by the Spanish, Huguenots, English and French. It is an independent Commonwealth realm and Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state.

If you are trying to figure out the ideal time to visit St. Kitts, a very special treat will be waiting for you if you go between December 18th and January 3rd. During that time you will be able to visit their annual Carnival and join the party, or as the locals say, "jump-up in de band".

We arrived in St. Kitts on a cloudy day that quickly became sunny and bright. While waiting for our tour group to assemble, I meandered my way over to one of the locals and we had a wonderful conversation about her view of modern St. Kitts.   She shared that the changing social landscape of the island was creating a clear division in St. Kitts between the haves and the have nots. I thought this was too bad since they have many academic opportunities for post secondary graduates, such as the International University of Nursing, the International University of the Health Sciences, the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College.   If only young Kittitians had more intentional opportunites to access that education, maybe that systemic divide would eventually diminish.  It was a refreshing and honest take on island life that I have definitely heard before from other natives of smaller islands but I was still fascinated to get her take on it.   All too soon, I had to say goodbye and hurry off to join my group.

We were herded into a van and ambled on our way past a few of the universities mentioned above, to the Fairview Great House & Botanical Garden. When we arrived there we were greeted by a beautiful Kittitian woman in traditional garb who gave us a guided tour around the great house and later on throughout the botanical gardens. She was very well versed in the history of the Fairview and had a great knowledge of the traditional plants and their nutritional and medicinal usages. We were also able to sit in a cooking demonstration with their head chef.  My only disappointment was that I had anticipated participating in the cooking of the traditional Kittitian dishes but instead had to observe as the chef lectured and cooked.

Now if you are curious about the historical Fairview great house, it was once the residence of a French military commander before becaming home to various significant families such as the Mannings, humanitarian and New England lawyer John Gardiner, abolitionist lawyer James Stephen, and the great grandfather of the reknowned English Novelist Virginia Woolf. Later on the Lam family ran one of the island’s first full service hotels, “Fairview Inn”, which was known for its parties, especially the New Years Ball.  Mr. Kishu Chandiramani purchased it in 2008 and restored it to its former glory.

Now that you have some background, let’s check out some pictures of the Fairview great house and its surrounding botanical gardens in the vlog below.  I am also including a recipe that I was given for ‘Creole fish in a tomato broth’.  To all my foodie friends…bon appetit! 

 

Cheers,

 

From the beautiful island of St. Croix

 

Char a.k.a Epic Mom

 

   

Creole Fish in a Tomato Broth

1 Fish Fillet of your choice

½ cup diced tomatoes

½ cup diced green bell peppers

½ cup chopped onions

½ clove garlic

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig parsley

1 cup tomato juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 cup water

Cajun seasoning to taste

 

Method:  In a hot pan add olive oil and unsalted butter.  Lightly sauté onions, garlic, and green bell peppers till golden brown.  Add brown sugar, Cajun seasoning, tomato juice, water and lime juice.  Bring to a boil and let simmer.  Submerge fish fillet in pot and reduce the liquid by half to intensify flavor.  This should take 10-15 minutes. 

Recipe courtesy of Fairview cooking class.