Subscription Addiction // diemBox

Subscription boxes have become my latest guilty pleasure.

Somehow I managed to convince myself that it’s not really shopping if you get it routinely deducted from your credit card, without you actually having to go back in and click ‘Make Payment’ each time.

Right.

Anyway, right now I’m subscribed to a few foreign-based boxes, but have long ruminated on the feasibility of a locally-based subscription box, specifically one that carried locally-made items.

I was happy then, to receive an invitation to the launch of diemBox, a subscription service which positions itself as the Caribbean’s premiere subscription box service.

The launch was originally carded for July 24, which, if your memory is sharp, you’ll recall is the day POS thought it was going to burn…but then didn’t. Ie, POS Prison jailbreak day. So everyone cancelled all their evening plans, save for the usual Avenue rats who fear nothing, not even gun-toting prison escapees.

ANY. WAY.

The launch got postponed to the following Sunday and I was unable to attend because I went to CPL finals instead *record scratch*. More on that another day.

Elena of diemBox was kind enough to deliver my box to me at work, so I could bask in the glory of the first of the ‘Caribbean-inspired’ monthly offerings.

DiemBox

Hello gorgeous

According to the description, each box is carefully curated based on a monthly theme, which embodies life in the Caribbean.

Cost: $60USD per month; with free shipping for addresses within T&T. Regional/International subscribers will incur an additional shipping cost.

Note however that there are different costs depending on the length of subscription you take.

Diembox3

Promotional Image of diemBox contents

The information card I received with the box listed the items and their retail value:

MIKASA Stemless Wine Glass – $163TTD

MG Oolong Tea – $138TTD (Wasn’t included in the box I received)

Immortelle Beauty Esscentials Shower Gel – $69TTD

Bottega Mini Black 200ml – $59TTD

Anigram Ring Holder – $95TTD (Mine was a whale. I saw others got giraffes and rabbits)

Porcelain Ramekin – $45TTD

Stonewall Kitchen Raspberry Peach Champagne Jam 3.75 oz – $45TTD

MACO – $44TTD

Total Retail Value of items: $658TTD

Note: I received a Cailyn Nailpolish – which I priced in Starlite Pharmacy at $20TTD (This was not listed on the info card, so I presume it was a last minute replacement for the Oolong Tea).

DiemBox2

I think the assumption most people made/are making (myself included) is that this box was supposed to be a box of locally-made products.

Not so…as diemBox clearly states on their website and all social media profiles…it’s a Caribbean-inspired box.

Inspired.

Verdict:

I think this is a good first attempt at a Caribbean-based subscription service.

I’m not unreasonable…I know a service like this is expensive to curate, especially since we here in the Caribbean don’t have the benefit of mass-produced items to pop into subscription boxes.

However, that’s not the consumer’s concern. The consumer’s concern is whether they’re getting value for money.

Value is a pretty abstract concept. It’s not just dollars and cents; it’s the intrinsic benefit added to your life by a product or service, and that’s very subjective.

Would I pay $60USD per month for this box? Not based on the contents of the first box. And that’s not a dig at the quality of the items…they’re very good quality, tastefully designed products. Would I use all of them? Sure!

Like…I love me some prosecco any day of the week, and Bottega is the bomb…that ring holder is adorable…I never realised I needed a ramekin until I got this box (not even kidding)…Immortelle Beauty body wash went straight into my gym bag.

My real issue is that I want more locally made products. If this box included even two or three more locally made items, I would happily pay the asking price.

I must note that I have seen a concerted effort on the part of Elena and her team to get more local artisans on board with the project.

Hopefully this will encourage more local artisans to actually produce more of their goods in sample sizes, so it can be economically feasible for them to contribute to the box.

I could easily see an Amara Organics, Koko Karibi, Peta Odini, Shop Shari, Turtle Warrior TT, etc fitting in with this box, based on the type of products they make.

I’ll be monitoring the contents of the next few months’ boxes to see how the curation progresses.

Let me emphasize again – in terms of product quality and retail value…this box is worth the money. But if you’re looking for something you truly can’t get from a foreign subscription box, it’s not all the way there yet.

I encourage you to check out diemBox for yourself though, and decide whether this is a box you’re willing to try.

Website

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Travel Diary // Eating the Big Apple I

Hi, I’m back and slowly but surely getting over my intense NYC withdrawal.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram and Snapchat (@CeolaB), you probably witnessed me successfully eating my way through The Big Apple last weekend with my best friend Sandi and her sister Ashanna.

IMG_0004

No makeup selfie on the way to Brooklyn from JFK. Shout out to Jose who was the best host ever (AirBNB y’all).

P1000288

These beauts on the A train ^^^

Normally my trips to NY are just huge shopping marathons with my mom but on this trip I wanted to focus on eating at places I’d never been to before. I polled my FB friends before I left to try and get a gist of some of the best NYC eateries that I should hit up while on vacation.

Naturally I couldn’t hit them all, but I think I achieved my goal of enjoying a true foodie experience in New York.

Check out the pics below for a run down of all the grub I had.

Spice was one place that kept coming up when I asked about good food in New York. It’s a chain restaurant with extremely quick service, which doesn’t come at the expense of the quality of the food. We had a great meal and all our entrees came with complimentary appetizers. Don’t mind if we do.

P1000290

P1000292

P1000293

P1000294

IMG_0015

P1000296

P1000297

That night we decided to check out a Zagat rated southern comfort restaurant nearby where we staying. Peaches Hot House was packed to capacity when we arrived around 8:30pm. We placed our names on a board and went outside in the cold to wait, staring daggers at this group of folks who were taking forever to pay their bill and leave.

Eventually we got a seat and started in on some good ol’ comfort food. Not too shabby, but admittedly, didn’t live up to my expectations. I was super excited about the mac n cheese and blackened catfish but the fish turned out tasting a bit overseasoned and the cheese was slightly too sharp given the tartness of the salsa on the catfish.

Sorry about the dodgy pics, the lighting in the restaurant was next to none and I didn’t want to blind my fellow diners with my flash.

IMG_0027

IMG_0029

IMG_0031

That was day one of my NYC eats. Look out for the next post in which I gush over Chelsea Market.

Mini-Haul // The Shop

I popped into The Shop at The Normandie Hotel on Friday evening with every intention of grabbing my mom a Mother’s Day gift.

I left with a bag full of stuff…none of which were for my mom. Usual behaviour.

The Shop has really expanded its stock of local vendors considerably since it first opened.

It’s so refreshing to me to be able to find new artisans that I haven’t heard of before. I honestly fell off the local market scene for a bit because I began feeling like I had seen and experienced all there was to experience. Visiting The Shop showed me that there is still a lot left to discover, and new artisans are emerging every day with products that are just as impressive as the ones I’m used to.

Anyway, let me show you what I grabbed.

IMG_9853

ESPJr Snow Cone Onesie – TTD$125

My Uncle Chris, who lives in Holland, is expecting his first child in July. I figured that he, like all displaced Trinis, will be wanting to dress up his baby in Trini paraphernalia. ESPJr’s Mini Trini onesies are the perfect, non-cliché identifiers of the offspring of Trinidadians everywhere.

IMG_9858

Wholesome You Oatmeal and Walnut Exfoliating Cleanser – TTD$125

I’m not nearly as into skincare as I should be. I suppose that’s because I don’t really have much problems with my skin, so I’ve taken it for granted.

Recently I’ve noticed my skin is getting much oilier than I’m used to, and I’m not sure why.

I saw this brand Wholesome You at The Shop and decided to give them a go, seeing that I’d never purchased it before.

This Oatmeal and Walnut Scrub is made “for gentle exfoliating to rid of acne, scars, excessive oil, it also tones, safely cleanses your skin and much more.”

IMG_9855

Wholesome You Clove and Rose Facial Mist – TTD$70

Totally new product for me to try. I’ve never bought or used any kind of facial mist before. This one “is perfect for hot sunny days as it soothes and cools you down while your exposed to the sun or after. It also has antibacterial properties for the flu season and it cleanses and hydrates your skin on the go!”

Sounds good to me. I thought the smell of the clove would be off putting but it’s actually not bothersome at all. I actually quite like it.

IMG_9854

Tea-licious Chocolate Mint Black Tea Leaves – TTD$65

I am a tea stan. I love tea. I also love loose leaf tea and got a tea maker from my friend Sean over Christmas so I can make pretty sweet cups of loose leaf tea.

Mint tea is one of my favourites, so when I saw Tea-licious CHOCOLATE mint tea I was like nah…gotta have it.

I’ll be trying this tonight while I take in some Game of Thrones so I’ll let you know how it goes.

IMG_9857

Cocoa Vintage Ceramic Cocoa Studs – TTD$100

Long love Cocoa Vintage and her amazing jewellery. I saw that she had done a plethora of new ceramic pieces (they’re all amazing by the way) and was all too happy to grab up this pair of dainty cocoa pod studs. The ends are gilded as well to add a bit more dimension to the earring. For some reason my ears haven’t been playing nice with longer, heavier earrings so I was glad to see some nice small studs that I could buy. New every day earrings perhaps?

IMG_9856

There ends my mini-haul.

I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you take the time to pop in to The Shop to take in some of the best that local has to offer.

Thoughts // On Dating

When did ‘dating’ become a thing in Trinidad?

Well…depending on who you ask…dating has always been a thing in Trinidad, we’ve just always called it by another name (make that no name at all), or neglected to distinguish between the different sub-categories of dating, which apparently exist.

Now, I’ve always known it must be possible to date in Trinidad…and back when I was a teen I’m sure I would have called it ‘dating’ when I was hanging out/hooking up with a boy I didn’t want anyone to refer to as my boyfriend.

Is that what dating is now? The arm’s length we keep potential significant others at because we just can’t deal with the commitment? Well…this person is cool…but do I want to have obligations to them? Do I want them to have a say in my life – like how my free time is spent, or whether or not they can share my food?

Well, no. My friend Mel  theorises that there are three categories of dating:

1) Dating just to pass the time. You’re not emotionally invested in this person. You just casually go out from time to time, have a few good conversations if you’re lucky, maybe fuck, maybe not, whatever. It’s no biggie and when it’s done you hardly miss it.

2) Dating to assess whether someone is a suitable candidate for a relationship. This is the probation period where you like this person but before you dive in head first, you want to make sure they won’t murder you in your sleep. At least not right away. Either person may choose to see other people at the same time. Some toting may be involved if shit goes left.

3) ‘Dating’ ie that is my man and this is my woman. Exclusive relationship here folks.

So, apparently those are all the potential definitions of ‘dating’. My understanding has always been #3. It’s what I’ve always done. I see you, I like you, I make you my boyfriend. Talk done til you fuck up, I find out you’re insane, or I get bored.

But now, basking in all the wisdom that has washed over me since I’ve been flying solo, I’ve begun to reassess my approach.

dating1

Perhaps I should be more discriminating. Perhaps I should take a stab at this dating thing, the one where I actually put people on ice for a bit before I claim them.

Experience has dictated that people are duplicitous as all hell. One thing to your face and an entirely different person once you turn your back.

If there was some way to figure out what someone’s problem was, before you’re in too deep, wouldn’t you want to take it?

It all sounds like a no-brainer, right?

So what’s my problem?

Well I have several. Lol.

First and probably most basic is…I’m not entirely sure I know what a date is. Like when does it stop being two people just hanging out…and wander into date territory? Or was it never just hanging out, it was actually dating the whole time and I just don’t know?

dating3

And it also doesn’t help that unsolicited male attention borderline terrifies me. Worse yet when it’s supposed to be your friend…then all of a sudden you getting track and it’s like what just happened? Ah! This is scary.

I’m an incredibly awkward person when it comes to navigating that kind of social territory. If you ask me out unexpectedly I immediately go into a panic spiral and talk utter garbage in an effort to get myself out of it. Smooth, this one…smooth.

dating6

Another burning question: how do people find time to date multiple people? Like…where do you find the hours? Between work, gym, sleep and Netflix, and the time I try to set aside to see my friends, I couldn’t fathom finding the time to see multiple yet-to-be-determined-essential people. Also…how does that work? You play emotional Russian roulette and hope you win somehow?

I guess I’m not good at doing anything halfway, so when I invest time in someone, I invest TIME in someone. And energy. Splitting up that energy and sending it off with different people seems like a colossal waste, and an exhausting endeavour.

Props to all the people who can do it and maintain their sanity, but I’m not entirely sure it’s for me.

So then how DO you invest said time and energy into just one person…AND manage your expectations well enough that if shit goes left and you realise this may not work, that you don’t feel just as badly as you do after a breakup? I mean…you may not feel AS badly…but I’ve been floating happily here in this nice emotionally neutral, completely drama-free single life that even the slightest disruption, I think, will feel pretty lame.

Managing expectations has always been a challenge for me. I constantly expect the same of other people as I do of myself. What I put out, I usually expect to get back, and that happens maybe one out of every ten times in my life, lol.

This year was meant to be my exercise in learning to have less expectations…but I’m not too sure how I’m meant to do that if I don’t engage in any activity that tests said ability.

datemyself

Meh, this is tricky.

Truth be told…I’m…scared? Is that the word? I don’t know…maybe. Wary. Let’s use wary.

Cliche as all hell but true – I’m very wary of getting close to anyone right now. I’m very wary of giving an actual shit about anyone that isn’t me or my best friends (you bitches know who you are, don’t start me).

I really wanted to finish this on some profound note.

Writing this has been difficult.

Mainly because I think I still am not 100% sure how I feel about any of it.

However, let me leave you with the three most valuable lessons I got from my Facebook poll:

1) Communication is key. Be very clear about what you want and do not want. What you are doing and what you are not doing. What you expect and what you do not expect. Everyone may not end up on the same page after all is said, but that’s better than a shit ton of mixed signals and blurred lines.

2) Leave physical intimacy out of it unless you’re certain it won’t impair your judgement or decision-making ability. Spoiler alert: if you have a vagina, it probably will.

3) Manage your expectations. Don’t go planning your life with this person when you’re not even sure they’re feeling you the same way. Just be chill, try to relax and take it one day/date at a time. Easier said than done of course, but it seems like a pretty important part of this new age dating game people are so taken with.

dating5

I think I’m done. If I decide I’m not…I’ll be back.

Photo Journal // St Vincent & The Grenadines Part Deux

Day 2 – Bequia

The highlight of my trip was most definitely my visit to Bequia. For whatever random reason I’ve always wanted to visit Bequia, so even when the sky was behaving quite schizophrenic on Saturday morning, I was super stoked to hop aboard the 8am ferry with Odini, Kern, Louis, Karen of SoKa and Jeremy of Fashion is Payne to Bequia.

The ferry itself is an hour-long ride and EC$45. Not too shabby to get to paradise.

P1000188

Wut?

P1000187

I love the colours in St Vincent.

P1000190

Once we disembarked (Odini didn’t get sick, much success!) we trod off in search of breakfast. Odini seemed hell bent on acquiring Mac’s Pizza, which was of course closed when we got there, so we opted for breakfast from the Gingerbread House instead. Not too bad, a bit pricy but such is life when the main clientele of a place is comprised of yachties.

 P1000198 P1000196

Instead of the recommended gingerbread, I opted for a shortbread cookie, a macchiato and some waffles which turned out to be pancakes.

After everyone finished eating we set off again to Princess Margaret’s Bay, which is a relatively short walk from the harbour.

P1000201

Just down some stairs…

P1000203

And around a bend…

P1000206

And then you’re there!

P1000209

One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. Bequia was everything I was expecting. The only thing that could have made it better was if the water wasn’t so blasted cold, and if the wind didn’t keep blowing sand all over my face every time I tried to sun worship.

Processed with VSCOcam with kk2 preset

If you look closely you can see the entire right side of my face (my right, not yours) is completely covered in sand.

P1000212

P1000216

Following some spelunking at a cave near the end of Princess Margaret Bay, we decided to head over to Lower Bay next.

P1000220

People who live in St Vincent have NO excuse not to have amazing legs…everything is a climb boy…

IMG_9410

But then you get where you’re headed and it all seems worth it.

P1000221

For those of you who were wondering, we did eventually get Mac’s Pizza, on our way back to catch the 4pm boat back to the mainland. Entirely too short a stay in beautiful Bequia, but good company, good food and gorgeous surroundings can make the time fly.

P1000226 P1000228 P1000229

Some pretty good pizza to end an amazing day…like the boat said ‘No Complain'(ts).

Now when the world gets me down and I go to my happy place in my head, I’ll be in Bequia, xoxo.

Photo Journal // St Vincent & The Grenadines Part Un

So this weekend I hopped across to St Vincent and the Grenadines, mainly to visit my friend Odini (you may know her as the mastermind behind menswear label Peta Odini) but also to scratch an item off my bucket list – to visit Bequia.

When my obsession with getting to Bequia began, I’m not quite sure, but it’s been on my to-do list for quite some time now. When LIAT had a sale on fares earlier this year I rather spontaneously booked a flight for the same time I knew Odini would be home.

Our mutual friend Kern (check out his T Shirt line Shop F.A.W.) decided to beat me back on spontaneity and booked his ticket to come with, like, 2 weeks before I was scheduled to head up.

Day 1 – Jack Sparrow Tours

On Friday we met our tour guide, Iston, of Jack Sparrow tours for a full day of traversing the Leeward side of the island – from Fort Charlotte to Wallilabou to Dark View Falls near the town of Richmond.

P1000151

Fort Charlotte is small, but packed with history. Commissioned paintings show the bloody history of the Black Caribs, the French and the English as they battled for dominance of the island. You also see how the Free Slaves came to the island and settled. A really creative way of depicting the history of the island. I thoroughly enjoyed following the story through the art.

P1000154

The view from Fort Charlotte was stunning.

IMG_9321So this may be a smidge controversial, but along the Leeward coast, we stopped at a food truck near the fishing town of Barrouallie to sample the ‘black fish’ or pilot whale, which is still hunted in St Vincent. The meat itself had a texture reminiscent of smoked herring, but it obviously wasn’t smoked. Delicious really…and the yam and coconut dumplings were a great accompaniment.

P1000155

Next we headed up to Wallilabou Bay to check out one of the sets of Pirates of the Caribbean. They shot the scenes for Tortuga here, and there are a few props and scenes left behind that conjure up images from the movie in your mind. I kind of feel like I have to watch the movies again now. Our tour guide Iston was actually an extra in the films so he was super excited to introduce us to his former place of employment.

P1000161

A selection of coffins. Apparently these are from the scene where Jack Sparrow shoots himself out of a coffin while in Tortuga.

P1000166

We finally arrived at the Dark View Falls near the town of Richmond. This is after our tour guide stopped by some friendly neighbourhood dealers and grabbed a handful of very green Vincy (that’s marijuana) to show off to our British tour-mate. Anyway, Dark View Falls are gorgeous, but FREEZING cold. In fact all of the water in St Vincent seems to be freezing cold, but the Falls took WIN. We braved the cold water because we’d come too far not to. There you can see Louis (Brit) enjoying the refreshing pool while Kern and I contemplated how best to approach this popsicle situation.

P1000169

Too late to turn back now…

P1000171 P1000173

P1000176

Eventually we trekked up to the second falls higher up. My feet were NOT happy about what was essentially a hiking expedition over spiky ass rocks and cold ass water. My feet kept cramping up every time I stopped moving. I took my time, hence Kern is standing there like ‘Wtf woman, hurry up!’

IMG_9349

Small thing though…waterfalls are awesome photo ops, made marginally more awesome by selfie sticks.

IMG_9360On the way back from the Falls we stopped at a restaurant where I finally got to taste the infamous and much-lauded Hairoun Bitter Lemon. Fun fact: Hairoun takes its name after the Kalinago word for St Vincent, which is Hairouna. The actual brand dominates in St Vincent – their branding is EVERYWHERE and it seemed to be a fixture in every shop and restaurant. Also…quite delicious.

Stay tuned for Part Deux where I take you to the GORGEOUS island of Bequia <3

Out & About // Meet Me at Fanatic – ‘Fresh”

It’s Lent y’all. Time to purge the sins of Carnival away with our seasonal stint of devotion and piousness (kind of).

In keeping with the holy season, Sean decided to throw a vegetarian edition of Meet Me At Fanatic – out with the meat and in with the veggies (and a touch of fish, I guess for the people who think fish isn’t meat).

I don’t eat beef nor pork, and my best friend Sandi is pescetarian, so we both left the event feeling WAY more full than we normally do, since this was the first Fanatic that we could actually eat every single dish. Those small bites add up in a big way when you’re not looking.

Ambience wise, the crowd was noticeably less thick than I’m accustomed to, but the good thing about that was I didn’t have to elbow anyone in the face for taking my seat (which Sean constantly forgets/declines to reserve for me). DJ ShyGuy, as usual, kept the vibe up with a mix of his house, lounge and soca music.

P1000107

Drinky drinks. Cucumber and mint martini to fit in with the night’s theme of ‘Fresh’.

IMG_9257

Cous cous galette with mushroom ragout, topped with goat cheese.

IMG_9260

When I saw cassava ceviche on the menu I was perturbed. A ceviche with no fish? Quel horror! It was actually probably one of the most delicious dishes of the night. IMG_9264

Phyllo pastry stuffed with mushrooms, olives, spinach and raisins and drizzled with an agro dolce sauce (sweet and sour for us native english speakers).

IMG_9266

Super delicious lentil and roast corn patty atop a fennel-scented bun. Those kale chips on the side were the bomb dot com.

IMG_9273

We also got a nifty recipe card at the end of the event with the recipe for the patty.

IMG_9269

A smoked salmon and cream cheese roulade. My least favourite dish of the night, but only because I despise cream cheese. The reviews from the cream cheese lovers were great though.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any snaps of the spinach and mushroom fettuccine, or the desert, which was fruit clafoutis, but they were both God damned delicious.

To maybe make up for that (not really, I know) here are some bonus shots of the prep/plating:

P1000121 P1000111 P1000104