Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Celebration Blog--Coming Soon

Hello All,

I definitely want to post about MLK celebrations and this our embarking on a historic moment in the next 24 hours. Today, however, I am out serving on this National Day of Service. I will be posting a better late than never MLK commemoration blog tomorrow.

I hope everyone is serving someone or something today (for a good cause of course).

Be blessed,


African Music

As apart of my New Years resolution to be more aware of world food and culture, I recently did some heavy research on the culture of Kenya. Yeah—it’s great that I’ll be cooking Irio (hopefully I fix it as close to authentic as possible), but I certainly want to know more about African music. Now, I have my favorite artists (Benga being one of my favorite genres and Fela Kuti being one of my favorite Nigerian artists), but I wanted to explore more. My goal is to serve a traditional Kenyan meal with an evening of African music—in my mind, the ultimate cultural experience.

Joseph Odindo provides a short list of his favorite tunes. Odindo also discusses the distinct styles of East African music as opposed to other forms of African music. I was particularly interested in the Marimba. A Marimba is a set of wooden xylophones (played with drumsticks called “beaters”) that is accompanied with the piccolo and the baritone (both soprano and tenor).

I’ve never heard the Marimba ensemble, but I am anxious to search for African songs that contain this melodic sound. According to Joseph Odindo, Marimba’s popularity first grew in Zimbabwe, but is now popular in South Africa, North Africa, Australia, and Europe.

The Anti--vaccine Movement: If not vaccines, then what?

Just recently, I read an article describing Paul Offit’s stance on vaccinations and their correlation between autism. As a former educator, I’ve been heavily immersed in a variety of social and learning differences that students bring to the classroom, including autism. For me, I have always refused to believe that diseases/illnesses just happen to spring up from nowhere. Autism is no different. With a somewhat recent court case, parents tried to convince the courts that their child’s autism was caused by the endless number of vaccinations that were given to him.

Paul Offit blames the anti-vaccine movement on greed and opportunism; also citing coal, mercury and forest fires as the primary contributors of Autism. Paul Offit also supports and continuously advocates for various Autism groups throughout the country (Offit blogs for a group of anti-vaccine advocates called Age of Autism).

I haven’t read Paul’s book, but I honestly think that autism may stem from a number of man made creations. I’m no doctor, nor am I an expert on autism—I just have good old-fashioned common sense. This is such an interesting topic (and point of contention for many), I think I may have to pick up this book in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for additional commentary…

Where, Oh Where are the Reasonably Priced Apartments?

With current state of the housing market, my hopes of getting my dream home by age 25 have been put on hold—until the market changes (hey—I know what you’re thinking. I recently celebrated the second anniversary of my 25thJ). Not only is the housing market a wreck, I am beginning to be very sick of overpriced, undersized apartments. Especially in the Northeast, it just seems like apartments are smaller and more expensive than ever.

I’ve been looking at less than desirable markets lately (less desirable because I never considered moving to these places—ever). With the recent blast of artic weather and lack of quality housing, I’ve suddenly become interested in Dallas, Texas. Why Texas? Well…I’m not sure. I actually hate the Cowboys and I am not a fan of the state (for my own reasons that I care not to discuss in this blog). But, I visited the Power Properties website and found some extremely good deals on quality living arrangements.

Not only is Power Properties offering future residents a chance to win six months of free living, they offer spacious and trendy apartments in both loft-style apartments and historic-styled buildings. Can you believe it east coasters? I actually saw an apartment over 800 sq. feet for $685 per month. Shucks, I didn’t think apartments under $1,000/mth even existed anymore. Another thing I like about Power Properties is that there are no secrets on how the apartments look. There are ample pictures, floor plans, and testimonials right there on the website.

Never mind—on second thought, I wouldn’t want to move to Texas. But after visiting the Power Properties website, I sure thought about it long and hard.

The Happiness of Pets

For some reason, when I was younger I always believed that happiness is pets. Although my parents didn’t allow them in the house, I continuously begged for a puppy year after year. I’d wake up every Christmas morning, hoping and wishing for a puppy under the tree. This “happiness is pets” attitude came from the first time I visited the pet store at White Marsh mall. My mother didn’t really want to go into the store, but she knew that I had a burning desire to hold a puppy for the first time.

I was only ten years old, but I could see the look of love and caring in the puppy’s eyes. That golden retriever wanted me to take him home. The relentless begging and whining did no good however. I was a straight A student with a ton of responsibility, but I was carefully warned, “When you turn 18 and get your own house, then you can get one—but for now…the answer is NO!”

A few months ago, I turned 25…no, 27 (goodness, I still forget that I am drifting closer towards my 30s). Anyways, my “happiness is pets” attitude is still very much apart of my life. My cousin gave me a Yorkie to keep. Unfortunately, the mother grew too attached to the puppy, so they took it right back. Nonetheless, I was so attached to my little friend. I had found happiness in that puppy. I also had one lesson reinforced. If you want happiness, you can never depend on someone else to give it to you. With that said, I’ll be going shopping for a new puppy of my own this summer.

Old Home versus New Home

A friend’s situation had me really thinking about whether to look for older homes versus newer developments. I hope she doesn’t get mad at me for calling her out (for the sake of privacy, I won’t mention her name). A new home can be expensive—even with the market, they are still overcharging people for smaller lots of land (backyards are a thing of the past—they’ve been replaced with granite countertops and stainless appliances). On the flip side, a new home merely requires maintenance. Just like any other new purchase, under warranty, if anything goes wrong, it will be fixed almost immediately by the contractors.

An older home comes “as is.” It is less expensive, but a person could end up spending more money remodeling the home. My friend is constantly spending lots of money that she doesn't have on home repairs. I’ve done some home remodeling shopping and K-Designers offer various home remodeling deals. Patios, bathtubs, windows and other additions are just a few of the K-Designers service options. With K-Designer options, I could practically have a new home. I guess this is something I’ll have to re-visit when I am closer to purchasing my first home. As of now, it’s just good to weigh my options.

The Ugly Side of Divorce

I’m not ashamed to admit that I watch cheesy WB sitcoms, but I certainly don’t classify The Game as one of these shows. Yes, it is a WB sitcom, but it is far from cheesy. It’s actually really funny. The characters have a comedic element, but they seem like people I’d actually like to hang out with. Melanie and Derwin actually remind me of myself and Tosin (without the baby mama drama of course).

One of the story plots revolves around Kelly and Jason’s divorce. Their divorce is just getting plain nasty. The unfortunate part about it is that they are forgetting that their innocent daughter is in the middle of their issues. Arlene Kock, a child family law specialist, hits the nail on the button with her insight on divorce. Arlene Kock specifically reports on the ugly side of divorce and how children can be affected from these battles. Although Kock discusses California spousal responsibilities, the information on her blog helped me to get a more critical view of Kelly and Jason’s divorce trials. My advice to Kelly and Jason: they better split amicably for the sake of Brit-Brat.

Money Matters

There were times when I wished that money didn’t exist. I believe that money is the root of all evil. People get really twisted up over money. Families are torn apart, people are physically attacked, and people pretend to like you because of money (when they know they really don’t). There is definitely a separation of class in this society too. Some people have it, and some people don’t. And the ones that don’t have it may spend their whole lives searching for happiness in the almighty dollar; while the people that have it never find happiness because they know nothing else besides the dollar. What’s that cliché again…Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

Frank Hanna stated so eloquently that “money makes the economy run more efficiently.” This is true, Frank Hanna. Money is needed for the economy to work efficiently. People need money to live a content life. But where does the need for money spiral out of control? Frank Hanna continues, “…any unhealthy appetite can hurt us, including an unhealthy appetite for money.” Once again, another true statement, Frank.

It sickens me—the way people are attached to money. It’s just money. You can’t take it with you. Why not live off of happiness and self content? I am by no means financially rich. However, I am rich in humility and spirit. No one can take away the wealth of my spirit.

Investing During a Recession

Ahhhh…the recession. We are living in tough times right now. People losing their jobs, stock market is doing ridiculously bad, housing in a downward spiral—what’s a young investor to do? During a down time like this, it is actually an optimal time to learn as much as you can about investing. Bad times don’t last forever, and as things slowly creep back up to normal (whether it’s three months or three years), we can equip ourselves with top knowledge that will allow us to make the best investments for our future. is a top educational finance site and one can seek expert advice from money gurus such as Susie Orman, David Ramsey, Robert Kiosaki and even from Norman Steisel, Deputy Mayor of NYC. In fact, Norman Steisel is the first Deputy Mayor of New York. Advice from this guy is valued because he oversaw the major overhaul in the city’s budget and has been instrumental in major financial decisions made for the city. Norman Steisel Deputy Mayor of New York is just one example of someone that may hold the key to financial knowledge. The underlying point is this: get expert advice, in combination with logical thinking and you can put yourself in a good place when it is time to invest. More to come on this topic…

Taxi Please

I came across an interesting blurb on Amos Tamam, and innovator of the taxi service. Although my experience with cabs as a teenagers quickly prompted me to save my money and purchase a vehicle of my own (those meters go up fast!), I’ve always been interested in how someone can actually innovate taxi service.

Well, I discovered that Amos Tamam actually made it possible to pay for a taxi ride with a credit card. Whohooo to that! I was wondering what would happen if you happened to get stuck someone with no cash. That innovation was needed. Amos Tamam is also credited with helping to develop one of the world’s leading Taxometers (not quite sure what the dynamics of this are, but it sounds very innovative). Unfortunately, his innovations are limited to New York and Philadelphia cabs. I frequent these cities often, so maybe, just maybe, I’ll catch a ride in one of his cabs.

Jazzy Me

My husband actually listens—I like that. Actually, I love that. He’s been hearing stories of my high school band days and my familiarity with music. Music is one of my absolute favorite hobbies. Listening to it, dancing to it, and playing it have been my favorite personal hobbies since I can remember. Many people don’t know this, but I can read music—I’m pretty good at it in fact. All those times I lugged my 20 pound French horn home on the bus in order to practice for school concerts and solos—I’d better know how to read some music. As Mohammed Babangida agrees, there is something about jazz and the way it makes a person feel

In the past ten years, I haven’t been practicing or playing anything—only listening. Just recently, I expressed a deep interest to start playing music again. I’ve had my fair share of practice with the French horn (and alto/bass clarinet). My desire was to master another instrument. So low and behold, my husband bought me a Yamaha keyboard for Christmas. I didn’t ask for it, he just listened to a conversation and presented it to me. What a joy! Needless to say, I haven’t taken my hands off it! Like Mohammed Babangida states, I’d like to find the correlation between jazz and traditional African music. I already know that jazz incorporates the same improvisation, polyrythyms, and bluesy notes as traditional African music. Mohammed Babangida credits contemporary genres with African roots (especially Afro-Cuban jazz, hip-hop, and R&B).

One of my favorite all time jazz artists is Thelonius Monk. He was a wizard on the piano. Maybe, just maybe if I practice hard enough—I can play an excerpt from one of his pieces, with some added Tonya improvisation of course.

All my 55 and Older Friends…Retirement is Right around the Corner

Yes—to all my 55+ family and friends, retirement is right around the corner (and I know what all my twenty-something friends are thinking—I am cool with people of all ages). Even with news of the recession (heck—the depression—it is what it is), baby boomers nationwide are still looking forward to retirement in the next few years. Andy Barkate’s retirement planning firm in California specializes in assisting seniors with all issues regarding retirement.

If you are not sure about how the recession will affect your retirement, I suggest seeking council from firms like Andy Barkate’s. His firm deals with the following: tax advantaged investments; corporate pension and profit sharing, IRA rollovers, index annuities, estate planning, fixed annuities and 401(k), 412(i) and 457 deferred comp plans, employer/employee benefit plans, 419 welfare benefits plans, traditional and Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, Educational IRAs, 529 educational plans and structured settlements. Too bad Andy Barkate’s firm is located in California. For all non-residents of California, I’m sure that there are firms this too. Be careful though. Make sure that you are educated enough to make the executive decision. The firm should not make your decisions, but provide guidance.

Mexican Food—Caliente!

Although I’ve am concentrating on African and Asian cuisine in the next few months, I was just recently reminded of my love of Mexican food. I scrolled over Hector Kabande’s blog and I must admit—this guy’s blog is growing on me. He’s a family man and a lover of international cuisine (qualities that my husband and I both share). Now, I am into living a healthier lifestyle, but I saw some recipes on Hector Kabande’s blog that are very appealing.

Hector Kabande loves Mexican food—and so do I! At first, I hated spicy foods. My parents never incorporated spicy foods into our meals and my tongue was not accustomed to spicy foods. That all changed when I met my husband—now, my tongue is more tolerant of spicy foods (which is a staple of many international dishes). On his blog, Hector has recipes for a Tortilla Casserole and Roasted Chili Peppers that I must try immediately. I think I’m going to have to change my course of plans and insert a Mexican cuisine day. Caliente!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Irio and My New Year's Resolution

Happy New Year to all! I haven't written a blog entry in quite some time now. I was bogged down with holiday frenzies and new year planning. Nonetheless, I am back to pounding the blogging pavement--and I plan to make this year better than ever! Each day on January 1st, I try and make a tradition of creating at least 10 resolutions. I write them on a large poster board and hang them above my bed (so that they are the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing that I see before going to bed). For the most part, I generally tend to meet my expectations--but some new year's resolutions always seem to go by the waste side.

This year, one resolution that I am working my hardest to keep is the following:

Everyone knows that I absolutely love traveling (and even the idea of traveling) and I love to learn about different cultures around the world. Sometimes people get so caught up in the stresses of their lives, that they forget that there is an entire world out there to see (or at least learn about). This year, one of my many resolutions is to eat a signature dish from each country in two major continents (the other continents will come next year). The first continents are Africa and Asia.

Now, I've tried many dishes from various West African countries--but in my 27 years, I have only tried Ethiopian cuisine; but what about other East African countries? My tongue is secretly craving for some of Kenya's or Burundi's signature dishes. In my search for East African cuisine, I came across Mwanga Wangethi's blog. Thanks to Mwanga Wangethi, I have am excited about making my very first Kenyan dish--Irio.

I must admit...when I came across these recipes, I wanted to learn more about Mwanga Wangethi and his connection to Kenya. As a project editor on international child and forced labor regulations, I was familiar with his name...but I couldn't quite put my finger on who he was. Turns out that he is an Editorial director for an East African multi media group. His name actually came up in a few of my reports. Small world--literally.
P.S. Can someone teach me how to make the lamb stew and Kachumbari that goes with it? Yummy!