Bole (Roasted Plantain) and Fish

If you want to maximize your enjoyment, please enjoy this sumptuous meal with the sauce to avoid choking on your food and meeting your ancestors mid-meal.

Plantain and Yam served with pepper sauce.

Happy Sunday!! The weather is warm, sky is clear and we can finally go out, albeit with some restrictions. I went to the mall to get a few clothes and when I saw the queue outside the stores, I did a U-turn and said to reminded myself that buying clothes was not an emergency.Enjoying the warm weather at the beach is one thing. Standing in the hot sun in a queue is another. As Nigerians say, I cannot come and go and kill myself.

Lol anyway, although we are approaching the tail end of summer, we still have some time to squeeze in a barbecue or two. So, I figured, why not share this amazing recipe with you?

If you are from Port Harcourt City, Nigeria, then you already know. The last time I went home, I pretty much had this meal every day. On the day of my return trip, I was tempted to get in one more serving but I knew the risk of having a tummy upset was high and I did not want to be sick throughout my 20 hour trip. That would have been a nightmare. Shockingly though, I was almost willing to take the risk. Again, in Nigerian speak, “borrofus will die on the line”. It was either I defeated the meal or it would defeat me.

Anyway, to the dish known as Bole (roasted plantain). This is usually accompanied with roasted yams, roasted fish and of course a nice spicy palm oil based sauce. I hear people in lagos eat their bole with groundnut. I’m almost certain doctors would call that a choking hazard but that’s a topic for another day.

If you want to maximize your enjoyment, please enjoy this sumptuous meal with the sauce to avoid choking on your food and meeting your ancestors mid-meal.

Total Time: 60 Minutes Cook Time : 40 Minutes Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

Plantain

Yam (Optional)

Fish (Mackerel)

Scotch Bonnet (4 pieces)

Red Onions (2 bulbs)

Palm Oil (1 cup)

Stock Cube and Salt to taste.

Plantain and yam before cutting it.
Plantain and yam sprayed with oil and salted lightly before going into the oven.

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven for 10 minutes. Blend onions and pepper coarsely with very little water.

2. Slice the plantains and yams open and brush some vegetable oil lightly on it then sprinkle a little salt before setting on the grill. (I do not have a grill so I used my regular oven. If using an electric oven, line a baking tray with aluminium foil, spray a little oil to avoid plantains sticking to the tray). Make sure the oven is on the grill function at 400 degrees C.

3. Lightly brush fish with oil and season with salt and pepper. Also place on grill or in oven. (Chop fish into 3 or 4 pieces)

4. Place a small pot on the heat and pour in palm oil. When it heats up a little, add pepper and onion blend. After 5 minutes, add a stock cube and salt to taste. Check sauce and add pepper or salt to your taste.

5. Turn plantains and yams over half way through the grilling. After 30 to 40 minutes, it should be cooked.

6. Food is ready to serve.

Plantain and Yam after grilling.
Pepper sauce.

I hope you try this amazing straightforward recipe. It is so tasty and finger licking good. You won’t regret it.

Do Not Use If Seal Is Broken.

So, the next time you prioritize a list over love, remember that Christ loved you without requirements. Remember too, that people are not products and many of us are imperfect with broken seals.

Within the last three weeks, I have committed to walking an hour every morning and yet today is the third time I have taken that walk for a plethora of reasons.

I had caught just two hours of sleep before my 6:15am alarm went off and I was displeased to say the least. I rolled over and dismissed the alarm to catch a bit more snooze and it seemed like I had just rolled over and it was now 7:02am.

I tiredly opened my eyes, tapped my husband to remind him we had to walk and then I went out to see what the weather was like. I can’t say a little part of me was not excited when I saw that it was drizzling as it would make for a good reason not to walk today. But I had to remind myself that I committed to the walk this week and so off we went.

An hour thirty minutes later, I am home now from the walk, waiting on my breakfast to be ready and the rain outside has put me into a thinking mood. What am I thinking of today?

Grace! Amazing Grace!

We are not strangers to the line that accompanies most sealed products; “Do not use if seal is broken”. Why? because someone could have tampered with it or perhaps it was never sealed properly and it has now been contaminated.

Surely, I am not saying to extend grace to those products but as humans, we tend to apply the same mindset to our relationships with people.

Thinking about it though, which one of us isn’t broken? Broken by pain, hurt, shame, betrayal, feelings of unworthiness, low self esteem and so much more? In fact, it almost seems like the same things that broke us are the same reasons we put up walls and refuse to associate with people bearing the same brokenness.

I don’t expect anyone to take on the burden of everyone’s pain but we can extend grace.

As a single lady, I remember writing a list for what I wanted in my husband and I know many of us have lists for various things. Sometimes, it is a list for what we want in a friend, a house, an employee or a church and we are so committed to the list that grace becomes foreign.

No one could ever extend grace as Christ does. We could not even fathom God’s grace. Dying for people who didn’t even check one box on his list? Dying for people who spat on and abused him?

We put up walls because someone told us that someone hurt them in the bid to ‘protect our peace’ or ‘protect our space’. But what we are really doing is making ourselves judge, jury and executioner. I am worthy and you are not.

Actually, the world encourages us to be ‘wise’ and avoid broken people. We chant things like ‘hurt people hurt people’ that justify the behaviour. Many times, people are broken through no fault of their own and the least we can do is point them to Christ who heals rather than avoid them.

Imagine if Christ only mingled with us when we were whole enough and good enough for his love. The same people who ask you to avoid broken people would have been the same people criticizing Jesus for dining in Zacchaeus’ house

God has loved us so perfectly even in our deepest brokenness. You know what? He tells us in Psalms 51:17 that he will not despise a broken and a contrite heart.

Even more exciting, he encourages us to bring our burdens and cast them on him in exchange for rest in Matthew 11:28.

We could never extend the same grace that Christ gives but we can emulate him as he encourages us to.

So, the next time you prioritize a list over love, remember that Christ loved you without requirements. Remember too, that people are not products and many of us are imperfect with broken seals.

It is okay to have lists but they should be motivated by love (for Christ and people) and not pride.

Heart to Heart: I’ll love to hear your thoughts. Have you been critical of brokenness?

Beauty Marks and Battle Scars.

Who is the boy with the millipede on the head? She said.

There was no boy and there surely was no millipede. My English teacher was referring to me and the said Millipede was the birthmark on the side of my head. I never forgot that day.

For the first twelve years of my life, I was never conscious of my birth mark or the fact that I hated its appearance. To me, it was just a mark and I paid it no special attention.

My mum had told me that it might have been an injury during my birth because it seemed too big of a scar to belong on my baby head. It didn’t really matter if I had the mark while in her belly or got it on the way out. All that mattered was that it had always been a part of me from birth.

As puberty crept in, self awareness and the idea of perfection were at the fore front of my mind and it was in adolescence that I first battled with self esteem based on physical appearance.

Back then in highschool, we began to notice who was pretty or ugly, tall or short slim or fat. We also awaited the promise by our science teachers that for the guys, shoulders would get broad and that the girls would have slimmer waists and wider hips.

Lol, I wonder how much this affected the self worth of many of my class mates and I who waited earnestly for the broad shoulders and wider hips and still continue to wait.

For many of us, appearance has been a large part of how we define and accept ourselves. We have an image of what we ought to look like influenced either by what we learnt at school or what we saw on TV. Instead of accepting ourselves, we fawn at images of people we believe have the template body or appearance.

Like I said, I never forgot my teacher’s description of me. What made it worse was that in my boarding school, the girls were not allowed to grow their hair, so I had to walk around school with my birth mark sticking out like a sore thumb.

When I would have conversations with people, they stared straight at my head like my eyes were at the side of my head. And so, as soon as I finished highschool, all my hair styles were ‘protective’ hairstyles. Lol, it wasn’t my hair getting protected though; it was my birth mark and what was left of my self confidence.

I had to shield my birthmark because I was tired of the undue attention. For you, it could be a mole, a crooked eye, or something else that just makes you feel less than perfect. With all the self love messages that abound today, we are all gradually working out some of the self-worth issues we have struggled with.

It was only two years ago that I decided to start wearing my natural hair and although I still care about the mark, I no longer feel compelled to explain it when people stare at it.

Recently, I was talking with my 6 year old niece and she was surprised to see the mark on my head because I was wearing my natural hair. What’s that on your head she said? I replied saying that it was my birthmark to which she said ‘eww, I hope you’ll cover it for your wedding’. I laughed and asked her why? And then she giggled and said ‘cos it’s disgusting’. Oh dear, it was really hilarious but also showed that she had already began learning what ‘pretty’ or ‘perfection’ should be.

I occasionally still consider removing it surgically but when I think of other things I could spend my money on, I have to encourage myself from within. I still think it gives my hair line an awkward shape but who cares? Just kidding, I actually do. Just not as much as before. And when I take pictures, I have to take it showing my ‘good’ side which is the other side of my face.

Our identities should not be tied so much to blemishes or scars and even when they are, they tell a story of the life we’ve lived and we should not feel less because of them.

How did we decide that one body or face shape was the ideal one? Can we go back to that place of childhood innocence where everyone just had a face and none was judged prettier than the other.

I understand that we are all at different stages in our journey to self acceptance but I hope we all get there some day. Your scar makes you YOU. I have yet to see anyone with the same birth mark as me and even though sometimes I hate it, I have to embrace it.

Remember, we are all made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27) and all things He created are beautiful

Heart to Heart: What appearance issue have you struggled with and overcome or are still struggling with?

Addicted To Cheap

If I never understood “Penny wise Pound foolish”, this experience explained it perfectly because if I had gotten my ticket directly from the airline, I would have spent $2,000 at most but ended up spending roughly $8000 because I wanted to save $600.

I am generally a cheap kinda Gal because for starters, I am no millionaire and even if I was, I probably would still love cheap.

When I walk into a clothing store, my eyes look out for those big red signs that say ‘Clearance’ and when I shop online, I filter to Sale or Clearance before I begin shopping.

Similarly, I buy the Equate version of St Ives or Clean and Clear and the Great Value version of Kellogg’s cornflakes or Nestle water because why not? My rationale is that we are paying extra money for the name and I don’t care for the name.

Of course, there’s probably more than the name but that was what I chose to believe and that earned me the nick name ‘Great Value’. Recently though, I have learnt the hard way that being cheap often ends up costing you more.

Expensive or Cheap?

Last year, I had planned to travel in August and so I got my ticket in January because I wanted it for cheap but then I got it from one of these discount sites and made my destination a city different from where my family lives so that I could save a few hundred dollars.

But what I did not think about was the fact that I would already have excess luggage for my international flight and considering that domestic flights have even lower baggage allowances, I would end up spending the money I was ‘saving’ on transporting my baggage to my actual destination and that’s besides the flight ticket. I didn’t even factor in the stress of leaving arriving at the international airport and then driving through the city to go to the domestic wing in a city I had never lived in.

So while I was discussing my itinerary with my dad, he requested I cancelled the flight and rebooked it to my actual destination. I did that but didn’t get a full refund. I rebooked with another discount company in order to save again. The greatest shocker came in August when I got to the airport and tried checking in only to find out that I could not because I did not have a U.S Visa.

At this point, I could either decide not to travel or buy a fresh ticket. I had not been home in 7 years so I bought a new ticket for more than twice the cost of my initial ticket still on a discount site and I was just so excited to finally be on my way home. You will not believe that when it was time to return from my trip, my new ticket too could not be used when I got to the airport. Because I was making two stops in Germany, I needed a German visa.

I was so upset and disappointed in myself but there was only one choice and that was to purchase a new ticket yet again for twice the price of my original ticket. If I never understood “Penny wise Pound foolish”, this experience explained it perfectly because if I had gotten my ticket directly from the airline, would have spent $2,000 at most but ended up spending roughly $8000 because I wanted to save $600.

Sorry to disappoint you though; that was not the experience that gave birth to this post. It was yet another incident of me being cheap. Two weeks ago, my stove stopped working and because we had just finished with wedding expenses, I went online to look for a cheap stove.

Sure enough I found one for $280 (delivery included) but what was I expecting for that price? Soon after the stove was delivered, one of the burners stopped working while I was cooking and then two days later, another burner followed suit.

Now, I am stuck with a stove that barely works and I still have to spend the money to get another stove that works. This made me think long and hard about my spending choices and ‘addiction’ to cheap purchases and I learnt a few things i’ll love to share.

1. Cheap is not always bad.

When I first went to high school at age 9, I was really careless and because it was a boarding school, I was responsible for all my stuff. However, when I returned every 3 months, my mum would have to take me shopping to replace everything from my cutlery to underwear to shoes and socks since I had lost them all.

Because of that, she decided that until I had matured a little, she was only going to buy the cheap versions of all the things I needed since they would be replaced in three months anyway.

In this scenario, I believe she was absolutely justified because buying the high quality expensive stuff would have been sort of an intentional waste of money considering that they would need replacing in a matter of months.

2. Value is not Cheap.

Nobody intentionally undervalues themselves. If a price is too good to be true, it is too good to be true. If a company offers a product that provides you $1000 worth of value, there is no scenario where it would be priced at $500.

There’s a reason why similar phones are priced differently or different loaves of bread from different companies have different prices. Just to clarify, the value is not always from the product and is often bestowed by the consumers but they go hand in hand. eg Iphones, Birkins etc.

Essentially, the other sellers who listed their stoves for $450 knew that the stoves were worth the price and that someone else who appreciated a deal but was not cheap would buy it. The person whose stove I bought for $280 gave me exactly the quality I paid for.

Truly, I think this is the straw that breaks the camels back. I have learnt the hard way not to focus too much on price but on value.

Heart to Heart: I would love to hear your experiences. Have you prioritized price over value and what did you learn from it? Or do you think price is always key?

‘…The one with the strange name’

I am sure you are wondering what today’s post is about so let me shed more light.

I was having a phone conversation this week and in the bid to describe someone to the person on the other end of the call; she says to me, ‘is it the one with the strange name?’

What comes to mind when you think of a person with a strange name? Are there any names you typically refer to as strange? And why? Do they have weird meanings or connotations or are they just names from people of different cultural backgrounds than yours?

In this case, the person I was trying to describe is of African descent and has a name that reflects that just as the person on the phone had an English name in line with their ancestry. And I seriously doubt they have ever been referred to as strange even by non-native English speakers.

You see, the word strange simply means foreign or unfamiliar and in a ‘pre-bias conscious’ world, it might not have meant much. But in today’s world and sensing the tone of the conversation, the word ‘strange’ seemed more powerful.

It meant an ‘othering’, a differentiation, an alienation, and certainly I was not here for it. So, I rebutted: what strange name? Of course, while knowing what name and who she was referring to. Perhaps, she must have sensed my disgust or disapproval and then made attempts to pronounce the name.

It was not that I needed her to pronounce the name but the fact that she sought to alienate someone without even meeting them because they had a non-English name.

It reminded me of an experience at my place of work where a client did not want to speak with me over the phone because I had an ‘accent’. Yeah, surprise surprise, you too have an accent; albeit Canadian or American.

He asked for my manager and after he explained the reason for not wanting to speak to me, my manager told the client that he was busy and transferred the call back to me. Lol

I am sure many of us have had a similar experience. Some people try to avoid it by coining some European names out of their native names. It’s interesting to see because I can’t tell if we are making room for others to communicate with us or if we are shrinking ourselves into the closet and ridding ourselves of identity.

Sorry to say but I believe it is the latter. As a Nigerian with two English names, I often catch myself rejoicing at the fact that when I submit applications online, no one knows where I am from till I get there. If that is not erasure of identity, I can’t tell what is.

Generally, I find that Africans are more open-minded and benevolent when it comes to learning pronunciations of names and cultures of others. I wonder if its because we have always looked up to a ‘Western Ideal’ or because most of our countries are so culturally and linguistically diverse that you become exposed from a tender age.

Heart to heart: What do you think it is? I’ll love to hear your thoughts.

 

When Outside Opens…

Closed park in North Vancouver. Source: Shutterstock.

Over the past two months, every one has said some variation of this phrase as countries across the world continue to battle the novel Corona Virus, Covid-19. What started as an isolated occurrence in ‘far away’ China soon became a neighboring threat that has affected our lives in our various countries.

It was no longer business as usual as people began to get infected, die, and worst of all die in isolation since they could not afford to infect those dear to them. Schools shut down, churches went online, millions across the world lost their jobs and for those who still had their jobs, remote work became the norm where possible.

Yet, there were those people who not only remained working but had to work above and beyond to ensure that the rest of us were safe, healthy, and able to access our essential needs. Shout out to the Doctors, Nurses, Grocery Store Workers, Delivery Men, and Women, etc

Funnily enough, when the list of essential services was released in my location, I was quite surprised. It taught me that everyone has a role to play for society to properly function. Some services I would have expected to shut down were deemed essential much to my surprise and it made sense when I thought about it. The other thing I learned was that a lot of the work we go to perform at a physical office space could be completed remotely, LOL!

But back to the gist for today; when outside opens…

What is going to happen when it does? The lockdown in most places has disrupted so many lives. Rescheduled exams, virtual graduations, baby and bridal showers, canceled weddings, closed schools, massive layoffs, etc and many are saying that life as we know it has been changed forever. Do you agree? Here’s what I think will happen.

1. There will be a new appreciation for ‘outside’ You see, I have always been a couch potato and I am the friend who dreads the ‘going out’ plans I made when the date approaches. Lol, I literally begin to wish the day could hold off on arriving or I hope that one of my friends cancels before me, and then just for effect, I grumble to make them believe I was really looking forward to our lunch date or whatever plan it was. I guess the secret is out of the bag now.

But these days, I find myself imagining what this summer could have been. I actually cannot wait to be able to go lay by the beach, see a movie, visit my local park and just move about unrestricted. And I really believe, this period has been an eye-opener for many others.

2. There will be more jobs on the market.

When Covid-19 initially hit and the lockdown ensued, many people lost their jobs and many companies stopped advertising new openings. I even know of a friend who had received a job offer but was then informed that the start date had been postponed.

Except for critical positions, it seemed like the safer way for employers was to sustain the current workforce rather than bring on fresh employees.

However, in the past week or two, job postings have started to increase and I believe there will be more opportunities posted as the lockdown ends.

This is not to say that you should wait for the lockdown to end before you start applying to new jobs. If you are looking to make a career switch or just to move jobs, the time to start applying is now and you never know what might happen.

3. Remote work will become more acceptable.

You know how they say that some work meetings could have been an email? Some office work could have been done remotely.

Throughout the lockdown, I am the only person in my entire friendship and family circle who has had to go to the physical work location. Yet, every one of these people I know has completed their work to the same standards as when they worked in the office.

Actually, many of them put in extra hours at home because you do not need to leave the office space to go home. Work is home and home is work.

I believe traditionally, we have come to associate dressing up and leaving home in the morning and going to work with productivity. When in reality, we do not all need to gather in a brick and mortar location to carry out productive work.

Clearly, companies like zoom were ahead of the curve and this lockdown probably worked best in their favor. I think, because the facade of office work has already been exposed due to Covid-19, it might be easier for companies to accommodate requests to work remotely when necessary.

4. Church attendance might dwindle

Prior to Covid-19, a lot of people, particularly the younger generation were already arguing on the importance of attending a physical church location. We have all been taught that we, the people are the church and not just a building. But does that mean that we do not need to gather in a physical location with other believers who equally make up the church?

A lot of people believe that online service is the same as attending church and after having worshiped online for the past two months, they might need some time to get back to gathering in one place. Even then, they might feel justified in worshiping online. After all, God still accepted our praises online throughout Covid-19.

Certainly, the first Sunday we are allowed to go back to church will be litttttt because I know that the praise and worship will be off the chain!! But after that, what next?

Can we sustain that excitement? Will we continue to appreciate the opportunity to gather and fellowship with other saints?

5. Weekday weddings will become more popular.

With almost the entire wedding season closed this year, many couples (including myself), have had to reschedule, postpone or cancel their nuptials. And for those who did not cancel or have a virtual wedding like some did, they will have to find a new date.

Unfortunately, most vendors are booked months and sometimes years ahead making it difficult to book a new date with such short notice. If you are lucky enough to be able to book a new date with one vendor, what are the odds that all the other vendors will be able to accommodate that date as well?

So, some couples are booking off-season weddings or just going ahead with weekday weddings to be able to book a date close enough to the original date.

Whatever ceremony happens though, the most important thing is getting married to the one you love.

I would like to hear your thoughts. What do you think is going to happen when outside opens? When we can all get back to doing what we love and enjoy.

Is there something, in particular, you are excited about? Let me know in the comment section.

I hope you all are safe and well. Have a great week ahead and Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Who am I? Get to Know Me!


Hello Guys,

Welcome to my blog. I am glad you are here and I hope you have a great time 😉

My name is Esther Stanley and I have always had a flair for writing, speaking and just having conversations. While i have always fancied writing, its safe to say that my commitment to procrastination superseded my commitment to put pen to paper. Its been years of pushed deadlines and convincing excuses but I am finally making my drawn-out dream a reality. So what do we say to the gods of procrastination?? Not today!!

Quite honestly, one of my ‘reasons’ for putting it off as long as possible was my fear of reception. Filling up my phone with notes has been my personal attempt at consolation for not putting on my big girl pants and accepting criticism no matter how harsh it may be.

Well, enough about my procrastination and let’s talk about why you are here and why you should return.

This blog is going to be reflection of my passions and the things that excite me. I hope you can feel my passion burn through every post and get excited to engage with me as much as I am looking to engage with you.

To me, writing is an art and like any work of art, both the creator and observer are likely to have different interpretations; often influenced by their point of view or their identities.

Growing up, my life identity comes from my faith as a Christian and experiencing life as a Black Woman. I don’t only expect that your opinions might differ from mine but I am excited to read all the varying opinions and interact with your heart as you interact with mine.

Every time you visit, you can expect to read something I have learnt in my journey as a Christian, or maybe a new recipe I think your taste buds will love or perhaps something about building stronger relationships and friendships. Yes, this blog will focus on Faith, Food and Fun not just because these are the things that help me maintain my joy in the midst of life’s trials but also because I believe we can all relate to these three things.

I am so excited for this chapter and I would love for you to be excited too. Please leave a comment to let me know you are here and excited as well. xo

With love,

Esther Stanley