Ital (eye'-tal): of or from the earth; vital; life giving; natural.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tippy Top

Tippy Top is our little one room cabin that we like to call home. It is cozy and sweet and offers up some amazing views. More to come...

Our Front Entrance

Variegated Hibiscus and Elephant Ear with Some Morning Glories Climbing the Trellis

Potted Bougainvillea, Aloe and Zinnias

Papaya Trees, Basil, Dill, Mint and Tomatoes

The Bathroom

The Shower

Remember the Miracle Mint?


Thursday, October 3, 2013


It happens just like they say. You wake up one morning thinking, “I can’t keep living this way.” By the time you go to bed that night, you have a whole new life planned. By the next morning, you are giving in your resignation at school; booking plane tickets for an extended summer vacation with the kids where you can think about the next step; giving the landlord the standard 30 days notice; returning to the apartment to downsize all material possessions, saying good bye to what you thought would be your life's plan.

Then you move to a one room cabin on an organic farm where you start a school, join a cooperative of women dyers, build an art studio, plant a garden, swim in the ocean, bathe under the stars, begin using all that patois you’ve learned over the last three years, stop taking potable water for granted, make peace (again) with the ants, learn patience, realize there are giant spiders on this island, hear drumming with ancient roots in the distant villages each night, gossip with the neighbors, learn to identify stinging nettle, chase goats over the hills, have long conversations with the breeze, drink breadfruit juice, realize that you still have too much stuff, use flashlights to walk home at night, make friends with fireflies, become a better mother, begin to heal, remember how to live.

"An amazing thing happens when you get honest with yourself and start doing what you love, what makes you happy. Your life literally slows down. You stop wishing for the weekend. You stop merely looking forward to special events. You begin to live in each moment and you start feeling like a human being. You just ride the wave that is life, with this feeling of contentment and joy. You move fluidly, steadily, calm and grateful. A veil is lifted, and a whole new perspective is born."

Thursday, August 1, 2013


We are on extended holiday with family in Central Pennsylvania. It has been a glorious summer so far!!

On the plane with some silly monkeys

At the airport in Florida waiting for plane #2

Working hard with the cousins
Park Day

At the park

County Fairs are the best!

More Merry-Go-Round

Round and Round

A walk down Main Street

Blueberries and Sunflowers

Farm Day

Blueberry Pickin'


Fresh from the garden

The helper


Nature Boy



Playdough Creations

Kindred Spirits
It is refreshing to be able to spend this time with all of our loved ones.
More soon...
Peace and wellness,

Thursday, July 4, 2013

On Being a National--Revisited

This was originally posted on July 4, 2012. Funny that things haven't changed much in a year's time. Although I would confirm that I am more often than not assumed to be German over any other nationality, and I have been told to learn to speak German for that reason. Who knows, maybe I will. 

There are days I feel like a stranger in a strange land, that no matter how long I live in one place, I will always have a pull, a longing for another place. That no matter how much I assimilate into one culture, there will always be something that reveals my origins, identifies me as an other.

Today is July 4th, my home nation's birthday. I am currently sitting in a quiet cafe sipping Blue Mountain coffee and listening to an Emo album of Bob Marley songs as performed by a nymph-like woman (or so I imagine). It is an incredibly gorgeous Kingston morning. Mo is at work. At home, Song is playing with the babysitter and Shine is engaged at summer camp. It is just another day.

At my other home, the one I conjure in my dreams at night. The one that produced memories that I hold close to my heart. At that home, my family is preparing for a picnic. There will be loads of food with Uncle Bud at his station by the grill. There will be cousins running, jumping, shrieking, playing. There will be fireworks and flags.

My patriotism towards America has been questioned on more than one occasion. If I loved America, why would I ever leave? If I were a real American, why would I scrutinize and dare to speak out about the injustices of the government? If I were truly patriotic then I should have no problem uttering the words, "America is the greatest country in the world."

Here, I am almost immediately identified as a foreigner wherever I go yet American is hardly ever the first guess. It is usually British followed by German or Canadian. (I once even got Australian!) While there is a large population of all of those nationals here, Jamaicans are inundated with American culture. (The music has now changed to some very American country music with the twanging vocals and steel guitar whining softly in the background.) All of the television programming available in the States, is available here too. If I had cable I would be able to ogle at Anderson Cooper on the network news and be in the know with the latest episode of Downton Abbey. Florida is a quick 1 hour plane ride away. I can BoGo at Payless and get super cute sandals and it is only a matter of time until I am rummaging through the clearance racks at Old Navy. So I find it curious that American is not the first thing people see when they see me. Do I really disguise it that well? Maybe I'm not as American as I think I am...

But I do love America and I am proud to be an American. I don't wear my patriotism on my shirtsleeve for the world to see, but just get me talking about the gorgeous (and vast) landscape. Ask me about John Muir's writing (who was actually born in Scotland) or Edward Abbey's radical visions. Give me an opportunity to expound on the New York School of painting and how those artists propelled us into the contemporary art of today. Let me share with you the history of indigo dyeing in the Southern United States and tell you about the Gullah people still living off the coast of North Carolina. I will spend an afternoon with you exchanging Native American folktales. I will bake one of the most delicious apple pies for you too and I'll play you the best jazz music while we eat it. Let me tell you about Community Supported Agriculture, cooperative education and public libraries. And then allow me to remind you of this:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. 

--Declaration of Independence 

Yes, I do love America. Happy Independence Day! 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


That's a lot of days. Be sure you fill them with love, laughter and joy.

Peace and Wellness,

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day Dreams

On Friday, I was speaking with a coworker about her upcoming year abroad in Spain. I told her that Spain grabbed my heart twenty years ago on a whirl-wind 10 day European tour with my high school language club. The first opportunity I had to travel in college, it was Spain again but this time for six months. I traveled the whole country then. Met wonderful people. Drank sangria. Wrote poetry. Studied art. Danced under the stars. Made amazing memories.

Last night, I stumbled upon this on Tumblr:

Run away to Barcelona. Eat milk chocolate magnum bars and drink cheap champagne. Burst into charming fits of laughter whenever you get embarrassed about butchering the Catalan language. Wear denim cutoffs, Dr. Pepper chapstick, and very little else. Go dancing at 3 a.m. Whiten your teeth. Tan your shoulders. Braid feathers into your hair. Perpetually wake up with sand caught in the thin cotton sheets of your tiny bed. Listen to the Rolling Stones and kiss all the longhaired boys you can get your hands on without ever having to apologize.

- (via thatkindofwoman)

Spain is tugging at my heart again. And, I certainly wouldn't mind kissing this longhaired boy...

What are you dreaming about?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How a Mango Saved Dinner or Suggestions for a Well Stocked Pantry

One of the biggest challenges I've faced since moving to Jamaica has been adjusting to the way in which we receive our pay. If you are fortunate enough to have a regular job with a regular salary (like Mo and I currently do) then you most likely get paid once a month. Yup, ONCE...in a MONTH. And it likely comes at the end of the month. So budgeting takes some skill and a lot of practice and well, sometimes it just doesn't go the way you had planned or thought you had planned. Such was this month with some unexpected car expenses and a barrage of school field trips for Shine and so on and so on.  (Yes, I think we fall into that category of highly educated struggling middle class family living paycheck to paycheck...but that is a post for another day...this one is about mangoes...)

Meal planning this week required a five loaves and two fishes kind of miracle as I scanned our sparse wares. The reality is we had plenty of food even though our pantry looked bare. In fact we had a week of pretty phenomenal meals and here is why:

1. I believe in growing your own food. Even if it is just a basil plant on a window sill...get some seeds and grow something. We have a balcony that we have filled with a random assortment of plants both intentional and unintentional. Currently we have growing: parsley, callaloo (leafy green), cho-cho (chayote squash), peppermint, what we think is hibiscus (birds love to bring/discard their lunch to our place), rosemary, scallion and sage. Admittedly, we have been rather negligent when it comes to tending our little garden and really only the strong survive, but it's something. And this week we had a lovely meal of baked potatoes topped with sauted callaloo, fresh herbs, tomatoes and tofu cream. Which brings me to my next two suggestions...

2. We adore root vegetables. They are cheap and they seemingly last forever. When we go to the market they are our staple purchase and a pound of potatoes (sweet or Irish) will hang around for a month or more if stored in a cool, dry place. Plus they are starches and so they are filling, meaning a little goes a long way in a meal.

3. I always have a block of tofu in the fridge. I know, I know! Soy! The once healthy now evil food. However, I still believe in its health benefits when you purchase the organic, non-gmo variety. It is super versatile. (Make it savory or sweet, cream it for a rich sour cream effect, crumble it for a feta effect, saute, fry it, bake it...etc.) Keeps well. And again, it's filling.

4. I buy dried beans. Sometimes I think it's just the artist in me because I love the variety of colors and shapes that the beans come in. I also think it has something to do with the way the beans (or peas as they are called here) are displayed...in big wooden barrels with shiny silver scoops. The whole aesthetic just gets me. And I won't lie, I love to send the scoop deep down into the barrel and hear the shooshing sound that ensues. When I get them home, I love transferring them to the glass mason jars both for the clinking sound of dried bean against glass and because they look so pretty sitting in my cupboard. They will last indefinitely stored this way and while it does take some advanced prepping to use them for meals, it's worth it. We had a delish curried lentil, sweet potato, raisin, mangoey thingy that I poured over some quinoa and served up with some thawed roti I forgot was in the freezer. Shine declared it, "The best meal ever!" And I admit to being particularly proud of this one because...

5. I almost always incorporate fruit in the meal. We always have a stash of dried fruit in the house, even if it's just the humble raisin. Much like #4, dried fruit lasts indefinitely, tastes good, is kid-friendly and makes an ordinary meal extraordinary. What would have been a pretty bland (and brown) meal of lentils, potatoes and grain was flavorful and fun because it had bright orange chunks of fresh mango in it and little bites of sweet deliciousness with each raisin. It happens to be mango season right now and our apartment complex happens to be home to a significant number of mango trees so it just meant a trip down to the yard to find a mango ripe enough for dinner. Again, refer to #1...and if you can't grow your own fruit, at least invest in the dried variety. You will be happy you did!

6. I'm big into grains. Paleo-schmaleo...I like grains and seeds posing as grains (quinoa). They are dried and so keep like the beans and fruit...forever. They look nice (#4), they are filling, they taste good and they are appropriate for dinner, lunch AND breakfast! I like to mix and match them. Sometimes I make a quinoa, oat, barley porridge topped with flaxseeds and honey which is heavenly!! Other times I will make a rice and bulgar pilaf with walnuts or almonds. Which brings me to #7...

7. Along with the dried fruit stash is the assorted nut stash. (yeah, that sounds weird...) I always have on hand walnuts, almonds, cashews and peanuts. They are a good source of protein, add a flavorful crunch to any meal and are just fun to eat. You can also soak them and then either sprout them or blend them into a nut-butter or vegan cream.

8. I stick things in the freezer and then forget about them. Remember that roti mention in #5? Well, there was also half a bag of edamame stuck behind the ice cube trays which inspired last night's Japanese style meal. I tossed the remaining edamame into a pot of boiling water and unearthed a bag of dried seaweed from the cupboard (all things dried are good and seaweed is one of those super foods that we aren't always in the mood for but really turn boring staples into a world class meal). It was a sushi with a side of edamame kind of night. The only problem was that I had the seaweed, the rice, the scallion and some scrambled egg but that would be some pretty eh sushi. Then I remembered, "Mangoes!". I told Song to get her shoes and off we went on a mango hunt. One of our neighbors was in the yard with his daughter and offered to climb a tree for us. We returned upstairs with a giant mango and sat down to a really simple yet nourishing and delicious meal.

My experience with meal planning this week reminded me to 1. be creative in the kitchen and 2. rely more on real, living foods. While I am passionate about healthy eating/nutrition/local produce/etc., my hectic schedule often finds me looking for simple, convenient ways to make meals. I sometimes fall short of my healthy eating ideals and we eat grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. However, dinners this week took the same amount of time as any other week and if not pleasant just for the sake of their variety, they were also pleasant because I really did feel like I was producing a miracle!

So, the moral of the story is: If you have a well stocked pantry and a few mangoes, you can eat like royalty even on a tight budget.

Sunday, May 26, 2013




Birthday Mural


New Shoes

Green Juice Mustache

Green and Purple Mustache





Colorful Creatures


I love the world


Friday, May 24, 2013

Coming into Focus

Life gets fogging from time to time. There are many ways to clear the fog: prayer, meditation, soul searching, goal setting, divination...

We have learned of a new way to remove the gray mist and regain focus. A number of weeks ago we met with a Yoruba priest who gave us (well, Mo more specifically) a reading. In actuality, he just communicated what the elders/ancestors/spirits were saying. It sounds mystical/new age/hippy-dippy but it wasn't.

Baba Yomi heralds from the Bronx. He was dressed in a plaid short sleeve shirt, khaki shorts and flip flops. We sat outside at a picnic table with a notebook and pen. A few opening prayers were said and then a seemingly random (although not) assortment of rocks were cast on a woven placemat and then "read".

Yoruba divination or Ifa is ancient. It originated in West Africa and was carried to the Caribbean and North America by slaves. Here is an excellent synopsis of Ifa by UNESCO.

What amazed me about the reading was how deeply it resonated with our situation. We have some large decisions to make. Both of us have been feeling confused and lost. Baba granted us access to the bigger picture. He gave us perspective...wisdom...and blessings. The skies are beginning to clear and we are able to  see the trail markers once more and continue on our journey.

We are being led in very interesting directions. Changes abound. It is a very exciting time.
Until soon...
Peace and wellness,

Photo courtesy of www.jamaicatravelforum.com