Wednesday, February 25

Random Acts of Kindness & Other Thoughts

Hello Friends!

I hope you are well well.

As we approach the third month of the year already, I thought I would share some thoughts and experiences on Random Acts of Kindness, which to me - is one of the most important acts we can carry out in our daily lives.  

Source here

So I am going to give a quick run-down of how kind acts can come back twice-fold and without expecting it, that we should just jump in and offer to help where needed when it is least expected.  In the last quarter of 2014, there were many people in Jamaica who came down with a mosquito borne virus, called "Chikungunya virus" or "chik V" shortened.  It is a debilitating virus that literally attacks the joints in the body, and you feel as if you are 100 years old to say the least.  You can barely walk, get out of bed or move around when the joints are swollen and in pain. I know this for a fact, as I came down with the same virus in November.  For almost three months and more, I have been suffering from this and it has taken about that amount of time to finally get back to feeling like the "old me" again, and almost back to a place of normal.  Now I can continue on and on about negative things, but I choose to stop right here and talk about the positive, and to say that if it were not for a very few people, I would have been very lost going through this.  A few lovely peeps (whether family or friends) who would check in on me daily by text, phone call or just to say hi.  The lovely lady who offered me fabulous Italian pasta's for lunch and dinner (I could not say yes very often as I was not exercising!) - and the one person who listened to my painful stories each day - I say thank you, you know who you are!  Of course my hubby was my main support, but I am referring here to random peeps.

The reason for this back story is because there was a time about a month before when a friend came down with the same virus, and I helped her wherever I could taking into consideration, that she lived alone.  Not for one second was I helping her to expect back the same help one day in any shape or form!  However, one month later when I came down with the same virus, this lovely lady came to my rescue like a nurturing mother, offering meals, calls and support constantly - I will never forget it as long as I live.

I absolutely love this quote from Princess Diana - it is so true! Source here.

Back to the general day to day random acts of kindness...we live in a time that busy thoughts, goals, errands, etc. can take us away from thinking about anything else.  That is what can sometimes cause the feeling of not wanting to help someone come to fruition.  It can happen to any of us at any given time.  I can only advise: do not give into the path of not helping, just think when you help someone you are giving joy.  You have no idea why this situation was put in your path, but the best course is to do what you can and with the best of intentions, without me you will be happy at the end of the day for so many reasons.

Source here.

There have been countless times in my life that I can look back on (just up to yesterday) where I feel as what I put out there has come back to me twice-fold. It could be small, but you know it's karma. One simple random act of kindness every single day can change the world -- negative, to positive.  Sad to happy.  It all balances out. 

Last Summer when I was frequenting Starbucks when in Florida, I had heard about people who pay for the person directly behind you in the line and while standing in a line one day I decided that sometimes when  I was in Starbucks I would do I started to pay for the person behind me at random times.  Later in the Summer I received an email that I had given Starby's so much business that I had earned enough points to apply for a gold card and get special treats and refills each day...I was floored and blown away, as I had not had any intention of paying more to get more, I did not even know about the Offer they were putting out there at the time. So now everytime I am away and at Starbucks, I am entitled to something free.  Wow.

It doesn't have to be big, it doesn't have to be life-changing but do remember that everyone is going through "something" - they may give you a happy, brave face each day and internally they are unhappy. If you know you can cheer them up, or help out when they need a favor, do it, trust me it works in a way that can only bring back goodness.  It could be that one comment on Facebook complementing someone on their new hairstyle, wishing them a happy birthday, or simply liking a post that could make that person's day. 

2015 means so much to me, but there are two important things I vowed to myself for this year: spiritual growth and continuing to build my fitness and health.  No one is perfect, and no one will ever be...and we cannot expect perfection from each other - but we can look to better ourselves and grow.  Taking on new ventures, passions, goals, dreams, only helps us to become stronger and happier each day.  

The constant critiquing of others, including friends only harps your own growth. Negative thoughts does no good for anyone. Selfishness cannot get us anywhere either. 

The circle of kindness and happiness should flow out and affect everyone we meet daily...I know I am trying my best to feel uplifted, renewed and happy no matter what life throws at me.  In my darkest times, I have turned to my faith - and that has helped me 100%, but I also look at what I can celebrate.  So I had 'chick v' for awhile and I could not exercise, or walk properly, but there are people out there who will never walk, never exercise and are happy.  My plight was nothing compared to people who have terminal disease.  My plight also helped me to see new opportunities and where I can grow and be better, it gave me time to focus and think about what I really want.  

Source here.

My goal is to continue on this course of happiness and kindness as much as I can. 

I want to thank those people who have helped me in their day to day acts of kindness and say to you, it is going to be two fold coming back to you, as you have been amazing, supportive and fabulous.  

One act of random kindness per day - let's do it!

Friday, February 20

{Cocktails} Try this: A Soursop Martini!

Hi Friends,

Hope you are faring well with the cold snap right the meantime it has also been a bit chilly here in Jamaica, and by "chilly" I do mean perhaps low to mid 70's so we are not doing too badly!

I have another lovely cocktail to share from Rajay over at Jamaica Inn - this is one of his own creations and what I love about this drink is that it is not sweet and very subtle.  

If you are planning on a visit soon to Jamaica Inn, make sure you ask for one of these delightful soursop martini's - if not, try one at home:

 Jamaica Inn's Chalkboard in the Main Lobby and Bar where the daily cocktail changes daily.  This is Rajay's creation which is absolutely yum.
 A Soursop Martini with a twist of lime - and all that is needed is soursop juice, vodka, lime juice and a small amount of sweet syrup...
 Rajay uses the cocktail shaker to mix it up with a glass full of ice to ensure the cocktail is served very chilly (like the weather right now!)

Until the next time...

Thursday, January 29

{Health and Fitness}: A Hearty Salad Niḉoise!

Hello Friends!

I hope you are well faring well with the cold weather and storms if they are affecting you.  Maybe this is the perfect time to think about a vacation to a lovely tropical island in the sun.  As previously posted there are some wonderful Offers and Specials running in many hotels at this time, so a very good time to jump on them before they expire.

In the meantime, I thought I would share a healthy and hearty version of a Salad Niḉoise from Chef Maurice over at the beautiful Jamaica Inn.  

This is so easy to make and so good for you. This classic Niḉoise can be made with just plain white tuna from the can (which is how you usually see it done) or with fresh tuna (grilled or even lightly seared) mahi mahi and  salmon.  I added in to the menu, a wonderful Salmon Niḉoise at The Caves when I was the manager there and it received great reviews.

This French salad always has certain ingredients that can be interchanged depending on what you have on hand, it can be put together on a bed of lettuce or organic greens (or not), but it always has eggs, olives, green beans, anchovies and a classic vinaigrette.  Some restaurants I have been to use red peppers, shallots and artichoke hearts as additions, which is really divine too.

What I love about a Niḉoise is that not only is it good for you, it is filling.  So it's a great option for not just lunch but dinner too!  We have it on our lunch menu at Jamaica Inn so if you are planning a visit there, do remember to order it, you will not be disappointed.

This is the classic Jamaica Inn version. Chef Maurice used fresh tuna for this wonderful and hearty salad. The fresh tuna is grilled to perfection, no more than four minutes on each side (this is a tuna steak), but it is also marinated before hand. Chef whips up a fab marinade that includes: a clove (or two) of minced garlic, 1 small onion chopped finely, half an escallion chopped, a tablespoon of chopped fresh basil, salt and pepper and evoo (extra virgin olive oil.) Marinate for up to thirty minutes before grilling.

Build the salad starting with organic greens (lettuce, arugula, mixed greens) - one hard boiled egg halved, 6 black olives, 2 small tomatoes quartered, two small Irish potatoes (cooked and quartered), as well as half a cup of cooked green string beans.  Place the cooked Tuna steak on top with half a lemon. If you like anchovies, then you can add one anchovy to the top of the tuna.

For the Special Dressing courtesy of Chef Maurice (for one serving):

 - Equal parts of EVOO and Rice Wine Vinegar
 - 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
 - salt and pepper to taste
 - 1 garlic clove crushed
 - if you have fresh ginger on hand, a dash of ginger
 - Mix or shake in a mason jar.

How is your fitness and health journey for the year so far going?  I have gotten back to the gym after a two month hiatus after being ill, and now back on track.  As you all know working out is great but we have to take care that the nutrition part of it is adding up to our workouts.  All depending on your goals for fitness - whether you are just trying to maintain, build muscle or run a marathon - it all comes back to the "right foods."

If you are someone who is looking to get fit and healthy but not ready to get to the gym, then I have a perfect recommendation for a fab website with over 400 workouts (Pilates, Yoga, low impact cardio, to high, etc. etc.) - at Fitness Blender.  There is also a wonderful resource of information on eating healthy and even pages you can download and print to keep you on the right track each day as well as programs they offer for fitness and nutrition.

My goals for this year in terms of fitness (and I will be blogging more about this over the year) is to build muscle (lift more heavier weights and build up slowly!), so I can see the muscle definition form more and more. That for me involves more weight training coupled with a few cardio blasts per week.  I am all for it. I love to run and also would love to build up the mileage over time. This means for me in terms of nutrition (and not wanting or needing to lose weight) more protein in my diet from day to day...protein shakes are part of it and there is wealth of information on various products we can use to build muscle through not only working out but by a specific diet.  I am looking forward to another year of healthy living, and more yoga too!

This recipe is one of the recipes that I think are just fabulous if you are on a similar path, or just love salads!


Tuesday, January 13

Winter Specials and More in Jamaica!

Hi Friends,

Oooh, the weather seems to be quite chilly currently in the USA and UK! (and I should throw in Canada too) - I see nothing predicted but Winter Storms and big chills for the rest of the month.  I am sure many of you are checking out rates and packages for hotels here in Jamaica that you are interested in booking, feeling so cold.

Well rest assured that despite the chilly weather where you are, it continues to be beautiful and sunny here in Jamaica.  I have often written about the fabulous and surreal days at this time of year in Jamaica...I have posted many "Winter Sunset" pictures (that sounded so paradoxical but 'tis true.) - The mix of cool and breezy evenings plus the bright orange sunsets make for a very romantic and exquisite setting.

I have listed below some Winter Specials from my fave hotels, plus a packing list ideas for you ladies - keeping in mind that at this time of year it can be slightly chilly here in the evenings (which means it is about 72-28 degrees) so wraps and shawls are a must!

Catch a cool special offer over at the chic and fabulous Goldeneye this year running from now to December 15th with a five night minimum (see details in the link above!)

Top pic: lagoon suites, and bottom pic, I am sitting in front of one of the one bedroom beach cottages (there are two, and three bedroom available.) check out more details and packages in the link above.

Cannot take another Winter Storm?  Then hurry and catch this special offer running to the 7th of February at my very fave - Jamaica Inn.  The picture below shows the romantic premier suites with the beautiful and expansive verandas on the beach...picture waking up to the view of the Caribbean Sea right at your fingertips!  You will get a $50.00 Spa credit when you book this package (one of the Spa rooms are pictured below.)

For all travel from now to March 16th, 2016 you can catch quite a special offer running until the 18th of February at Couples Resorts!  Check out the super duper special prices in the link attached.

 A Private Dinner set up at Couples on the beach, make sure you book one when here! 
There are two resorts in Ocho Rios and two in Negril, you will truly be able to find one that you love, and with this special offer - all are affordable right now!

And ladies...what to pack for these exquisite hotels? I have some tips below:

Packing List for Winter Season in Jamaica

A large hat is super important down here in Jamaica to protect your face from those harmful rays.  If you don't want to pack it, wear it on the plane!

Travel in style with luggage that stands out.  Don't be the last person at that luggage belt waiting for your black suitcase like all the other thousand black suitcases :-)

Resort wear here in Jamaica becomes more fashionable each year...make sure you are staying up in the fashion and pack some shorts for dinner! These metallic shorts are my current faves - match up with a breezy cream top and Tory Burch sandals.  

I love this dress for an evening out for a private dinner on the beach with your other half, so beautiful!  Remember to pack a scarf if you are traveling to Jamaica from January to April (evening's are nice and cool, especially if dining out al fresco.)

Evening bags are a must for dinner.  Travel lightly from your room to one of your hotel's restaurants with a stunner like this one above.

No tan before you travel?  No problem man.  Make sure you incorporate a good sun powder for your face (this one is amazing, by Smashbox.) 

Espadrilles will never go out of style, especially here in Jamaica - make sure you pack a pair, or two, or three!

Beach totes are so important to throw in your kindle, Ipad, phone, towel, beach wrap and suntan products - make it fashionable with this cute one from Tommy Hilfiger.

I hope to see you all in Jamaica soon!

Friday, January 9

My Fave Restaurant in Jamaica!

Hi Friends,

I thought it was time I posted about a restaurant that I just rave over and have never, in over ten years had a meal that was not under "par excellence."  I write alot on this Blog about many restaurants and hotels - and the whole premise of what I write about is a guide to you, the reader based on what I consider to be an excellent place to stay or eat here in Jamaica.  There is nothing on this Blog that has not been carefully selected by me as a place that I have no problem recommending!

So without further adieu let's talk about Toscanini.  It is an authentic Italian restaurant with a Caribbean flare, housed in a gingerbread "great house" and owned by a brother-sister team who have had many years experience owning restaurants.  London born restaurateurs, Lella and Pierluigi (PG) Ricci are the force behind this successful and award winning restaurant, PG being the Chef and Lella the "face" of Toscanini and who you will meet upon arrival.  

Both are just as assiduous about not only the high quality of food served up, but the consistent and top notch service they have become so well known for. Having catered and continue to host not only international celebrities and past Presidents, but a loyal array of Jamaican residents who consider this gem the first stop when passing through Ocho Rios.

 The actual 'house' of Toscanini is Harmony Hall Art Gallery - with the restaurant located on the ground floor.  It is a beautiful old great house that was purchased and lovingly restored by Annabella and Peter Proudlock.  Annabella, a well-known Artist in Jamaica and the Caribbean now has a collection of art from other well knows Artists throughout the Caribbean on sale upstairs in the Art Gallery.
 Pasta is freshly made each day and this is one of their most popular pasta dishes, the "Pasta Ortolano" which is roasted veggies in an olive oil sauce.  Mouthwateringly good!  Home-made Focaccia is also baked daily and Lella ensures that she inspects all the fresh sea-food the fishermen deliver for high quality.  Look out for Mahi-Mahi, snapper, lobster tail and marlin in the repertoire of dishes offered daily.
Fresh salads are also a daily feature of the Chalk Board Specials depending on what is in season.  This is one of my faves, avocado and beets.

One of the lovely features of the restaurant are the famous Chalkboard menus that are changed from season to season.
The wine collection is impressive and all the wines are kept in a temperature controlled wine cellar. 

 PG, Executive Chef and the owner behind this very successful restaurant.
Lella (owner of Toscanini) pictured with Annabella Proudlock, Artist and owner of The Harmony Hall Art Gallery.

If you are visiting Jamaica, I highly recommend Toscanini as a place to dine while here - while they do not have a website you can follow everything on their new Facebook Page.  Also see Trip Advisor for reviews.  The contact details are on the Facebook Page for bookings as well as the phone number.

Pic credits to Raquel Parke (not last two pics) - check out her work on the Facebook Page of the restaurant.


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