Loveletter to Trenton

When people ask me where I’m from, I slightly roll my eyes and murmur “New Jersey.”

“What part?”

“Trenton.”

“Oh…..I’ve driven past there on the turnpike.”

End of conversation.

 

Living in this mixing bowl mecca of Washington DC, I have had the opportunity to meet people from all over the planet…..gorgeous places, rich with culture like Morocco. Panama. Nigeria. Kazakstan. So when I tell people where I am from, I never reveal the location with pride. I am proud of what Trenton has accomplished in the past but lately, with all of this selfish behavior and embarrassing actions from our Mayor and Governor. I am not proud to call Trenton…or New Jersey home.

TRENTON MAKES THE WORLD TAKES glows proudly over the Delaware River. The relic brings a smile  to my face each time I see it because it reminds me of what I used to think about Trenton. I listen to my father reminisce about the “good ole times” he had back in the 70s….the factories he used to work in (which are now vacant and abandoned)…..the booming industrial and manufacturing years….when Trenton was a major manufacturing city. Today, you can’t go a few minutes on any highway, road and not see vacant and abandoned buildings and warehouses. There are hundreds and it definitely tugs at my heartstrings when it has been that way for decades.

Trenton toughened me up and opened my eyes. Together, we weathered extremely cold winters and humid, hot summers. You taught me to fully appreciate pork roll, freshly baked bagels and hoagies. You reminded me to keep my doors locked, at all times. You reminded me that although you can live on the same street as your best friend , you can still live in 2 different townships. You proved that delicatessens belong on every corner. You showed me that there is nothing cooler than going to Halo Farms (and this still excites me at the age of 30). You taught me to embrace the cultural differences of my neighbors. Although I lived in the North and its a Southern thing, you demonstrated that a simple hello can be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. You taught me how to appreciate rowhouses and basements. You showed me gorgeous, rolling hills and the gritty streets. You proved to me that nothing beats a Parkway Pizza.  You proved that no matter how dangerous the neighborhood is, the gang bangers and troublemakers always take the time to say hello to the elders sitting on the porch. You showed me the best of times and the worst of times. You are beautiful…in your own unique way.

trenton

 

So today…when someone asks me where I’m from….I am going to smile…and I will proudly reply ” I am from Trenton, New Jersey.” My birthplace…the city that helped mold me into the woman I am today….the place that still holds a very special place in my heart, no matter what.

 

Travel is….

Its not secret that I love to travel….new cultures…new sights…new people….new food…nothing compares to the feeling I get when I travel to new places for the first time. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I rode the Metropolitana di Milano in Italy…especially when all of the signage is in Italian and no one really stops to help you. I had tears in my eyes when I stood in the middle of St. Peter’s Square. I was intrigued with the ruins of Tulum and the stories that our tourguide told us…even if they were only half truths, they were still so very interesting. Annoyance followed while being approached by sellers in Cancun. Feeling of contentment when eating real Italian gelato for the first time. Feeling small while standing in front of the Milan’s Duomo. Feeling complete while standing on the Golden Gate bridge.

As 2013 comes to an end and 2014 finally makes its debut…I’m setting my sights on seeing more of the world.

Travel is spending countless hours in an airport terminal. Travel is returning a smile to the stranger next to you. Travel is sharing stories with a new friend. Travel is flipping through language dictionaries. Travel is packing way too much…or far too little and hopefully learning from those mistakes. Travel is not knowing how to use a bidet. Its discovering that your favorite musician is someone else’s favorite musician half way across the world. Travel is getting lost. Its entering churches too captivating to not enter. Travel is trying extraordinary food for the first time. Travel is buying too many souvernirs. Travel is taking way too many pictures but, wishing you took more once you return home. Travel is riding public transportation and hoping to God that you get off on the right stop. Travel is riding the train and getting lost in the scenery outside of the window. It’s dancing in the street with complete strangers from around the world. Its connecting with these new friends on Facebook. Its the realization that there is much more to living than working and paying bills. Travel is a journey of self discovery.

 

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Duomo-Milan
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Tulum Mexico
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St. Peter’s- Rome, Italy

 

One thing is for sure…..

One thing is for sure….I’m inching closer and closer to 30. Its scary but, I feel like I’ve been through so much already. My 20s were a very trying time for me…I lost friends, made new friends, moved, earned 2 degrees, dated and been in several relationships, fell in and completely out of love, and discovered who I really am. At the age of 28, I would have never imagined that I will be where I am today when I was 21. At 21, I was in complete and utter love, set to graduate from ODU and I felt the pressure…the pressure to grow up, get that dream job, get married, have children…blah…blah…blah. Did all this happen like I wanted it to? Not exactly. I’m burned out. I’m an overachiever who puts a ton of pressure on myself. However, my 20s were very enlightening. I rolled up my sleeves and dug deep into my soul to find out what makes me tick. What makes me me? And to understand who I am. I fell in love with me. With that realization, everything else will fall in place. Since I will reach the age of 30 this year, I wanted to sum up some important things that I learned in my 20s:

  1. Move out of your parent’s house as soon as you can. There is nothing like living on your own. Once you move out (and stay out), there’s a sense of independence that will hit you as soon as you relax on your couch, futon, whatever. It’s a good feeling…embrace it.
  2. Take risks. I know you’re scared to do certain things but, your 20s is where you can fuck up and learn from your mistakes. Enjoy them J
  3. Learn to cook something well. You can’t live off Lean Cuisines and Ramen forever…I mean you can…but the question is…how long?
  4. Leave the cheap liquor alone. I found out the hard away…..consider this a warning.
  5. What you learned in high school doesn’t really count…you will forget these people as soon as you go to college. But, make them your Facebook friends and observe…it’s interesting.
  6. Life is short. Seriously. Never know what tomorrow will bring…so enjoy today.
  7. Your priorities will change. At 21, my priority was getting to the club before they charged a cover. At 28, my priority is getting 8 hours of sleep EVERY night.
  8. The story doesn’t end here…You have your whole life ahead of you.
  9. Your friendships will change. Those girls you kick it with every day in your early 20s will not be the same in your late 20s. True friendships last past college…remember that.
  10. Take pictures…lots of them. Save them to a portable hard drive…not to a flash drive. (Side Note: My flash drive stopped working last week after 2 years…I lost plenty of pictures and very important documents..Not happy). These are the years you have to look back on.
  11. You can learn a lot from observation. Observe your friends….your neighbors…and if you’re creepy….your exes). It’s cheaper and hurts a lot less when you learn from observation.
  12. When it gets rough and you feel like no one’s in your corner, call Mom. Cry. Wipe your nose. Hang up. And repeat. It will make you feel better.
  13. Mom and Dad are human, they don’t know everything but, they sure have a lot of life experiences under their belt. Ask questions. Learn something from them. You’ll find out that they were right all along.
  14. When you find you fall in love, give it all you got. Say what you need to say. Fall head over heels. It’s a great feeling but, it’s hard to find. These moments are the ones you live for.
  15. Smile….its not that bad. Trust me..it could be a lot worse.
  16. We’re all weird. The weird things make you who you are. But remember, someone loves you for you.
  17. Accept the things you cannot change. If that woman/man doesn’t love you the way you want them to, move on. If you don’t look like Beyonce, it’s ok, Beyonce doesn’t look like Beyonce sometimes.
  18. Never. Ever. Lend. Money. to friends or family. I repeat. Never. Ever. Lend. Money. to friends or family. Dude…you’re not going to get it back.  Answer these questions: If you expect it back and don’t get it back…will it change your relationship with that person? Think about it. Because it will.
  19. If you have a passion for something, pursue it. Don’t be embarrassed by it. Embrace it.
  20. Live well. Choose your own major. Pick your own friends. Wear what you want to wear. Start doing the things you love…no matter what anyone has to say.
  21. Step out the box. Do something you thought you never would. Its okay if you don’t like it or if it doesn’t work…its life and its okay.

Its Still….

Its still in my home today. Just me. No roommate, no family, no friends…yet. Just me…my wine…and Melody Gardot’s silky voice coming from the speakers reminding me of how awesome the quiet can be. Forget the feast I must prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow….I am most thankful for the still…the quiet…the beautiful silence of my home…until tomorrow, that is. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours and take time to enjoy the moment!

My love for Filipino food

I had the coolest best friend. I was 9…she was 10 and she was Filipino and gorgeous. All the boys wanted to date her. And all the girls wanted to be her friend. Especially after the day she punched a classmate with a cast on her arm.  Talk about lucky!

She lived about 2 blocks from my house and her family welcomed me. There, I fell in love with everything Asian. I enter the house, removed my shoes immediately. The house always smelled of fresh steamed rice. And all of her siblings were nerdy (except for her, of course!).  I remember one particular day when her mother offered my kimchi. Smelled like ass but, tasted like heaven. Me…I love anything well seasoned and pickled. Then, she began to fry lumpia. As soon as she was done cooking, I was first in line….had no idea what it was but, I was already hooked!! Bit into this crunchy roll and it completely rocked my world.

Unfortunately, her family moved across the country to California and I hear from her every 5 years. I think about her a lot…wonder what she’s up to….but, I can’t lie…I think I miss the lumpia move (I’m kidding!!).  Recently, I decided to make lumpia based on a recipt I found on RasaMalaysia.com (http://rasamalaysia.com/lumpia-filipino-spring-rolls-recipe/). I made it for my parents…who never ate Filipino food before and it lasted 1 day in my home… Enjoy!

Lumpiang Shanghai (Filipino Spring Rolls)

Recipe: Lumpiang Shanghai (Filipino Spring Rolls filled with Pork)
Makes about 50 lumpia/spring rolls

 

Ingredients:

1 package Lumpia wrappers (25 sheets); Chinese or Vietnamese spring roll wrappers meant for frying can be substituted.
2 pounds ground pork
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method:

Using a serrated knife, cut the square lumpia wrappers in half so that you have two stacks of rectangular wrappers. Place a damp paper towel over the wrappers to keep them from drying out as you work.

Combine the pork, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, eggs, and black pepper in a large bowl. Using your hands, or a rubber spatula, mix the filling well so that the seasonings are evenly distributed.

Place one of the rectangular wrappers vertically on your work surface with the short edge facing you. Place a heaping teaspoon of the filling on the wrapper about half an inch from the edge closest to you. Grasp the bottom edge of the wrapper and roll it up and over the filling, continuing to roll until 2 inches of wrapper remain.

Dip two fingers into a bowl of water, then moisten the last 2 inches of wrapper with your fingers. Finish rolling the lumpia, then rest it on its seam. Continue rolling with the rest of the filling and lumpia wrappers.

At this point, you can freeze your rolled lumpia if you wish by placing them in freezer bags and then into your freezer.

To cook the lumpia, fill a large frying pan with about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Gently place the lumpia into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes total (if frying frozen lumpia, it will take 1 to 2 minutes longer).

Place the fried lumpia on paper towels and serve immediately with sweet and sour sauce (bottled from the store is fine).

Note:

  1. You can also add finely minced raw shrimp to the pork mixture if you’d like. Also, instead of ground pork, you can use ground beef, or even ground turkey if you’re watching your girlish figure.

 

“Pho” inspired Grilled Steak with Mint, Cilantro, and Lime

Pho is a godsend…a hydrating and filling meal after a crazy night of drinking and partying…steaming hot broth to unclog that runny nose when you have a cold….enough noodles and beef (or chicken) to practice your chopstick skills..if you haven’t experienced pho yet, you are uncool. There! I said it.

For those uncool people who do not know what Pho is…let me fill you in. Described as a Vietnamese Beef Noodle soup usually served with slivers of beef or chicken, and includes rice noodles, basil, onion, bean sprout and lime. The broth is generally made by simmering beef bones, ginger, onion, cinnamon, clove, blah, blah, blah   …so fragrant and such intense flavor…let me tell you- it will change your life! Plus..eating pho feels so…so….right.

Came across the recipe…combining my 2 favorite foods…Pho and Grilled Steak. Hope you enjoy…off to Wegmans!

“Pho” inspired Grilled Steak with Mint, Cilantro, and Lime.

Letter to My Younger (and slightly foolish) Self

Blogging scares me. I am writing from my soul, my heart, from memories…and I feel vunerable. People will judge me based on what I write, based on what I believe. And that scares me. But, I started a blog to share my feelings and hopefully to learn a little something about myself along the way.

I read a book entitled “What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self” by Ellyn Spragins and several famous women write letters to the women/girls they once were. It inspired me to reach down and share advice I wish I had when I was 18. I have no regrets but, its a letter of appreciation of who I am today.

I can see you sitting there with the biggest grin. I can see you smiling, just ending your phone call with your boyfriend, Erskine, sitting on the top bunk of the bunk beds you share with your roommate, Natalie. You have a boyfriend, you are in your first year of college….you’re on top of the world right? You can hear your rowdy hall mates and best friends (Tiziana, Ramona, and Melissa) laughing and screaming down the hall waiting for you to emerge from your love trance and join them so they can finally get to Peabody to dance the night away. These women are your rock during your college years. You need them as much as they need you. These ladies play very important and very different roles in your life…After graduation; you lose contact with Tiziana because she and Ramona had a disagreement. From this situation, you will learn that women can be very petty. Remember this….this won’t be the last time you experience it but you will grow from it. You move to Woodbridge with Ramona and later she has your goddaughter, Mia. You will eventually lose contact with Ramona. This is because when she gets a boyfriend, she disappears. From this situation, you learn that great friends are hard to find. Melissa will remain in your life for a very long time. Ever since you met her in 1992, you 2 have been like sisters. Keep her around…she’s a very positive person in your life. She’s a rare find.

Ahhh… Erskine….your 1st love…nothing but unconditional love. Your relationship will survive tragedies, arguments, and a very long distance (all the way to Iraq). You cry together, laugh together, travel together. Here’s the bad news: You will not marry this man. This man will give you an ultimatum that will destroy your relationship but, will strengthen you as a female. Stand your ground girl! Letting him go was the most liberating thing you could have ever done. You will make the decision to walk away…from this point, walking away from anyone who doesn’t give you what you need gets easier.

I know at times you may feel like death surrounds you…it hits too close to home.  You you’re your baby sister, baby brother, Grandma, and Pop Pop. Unfortunately, you will experience it again as time goes on. “Never forget me” are the last words your Uncle says to you as he lies in a hospital bed dying from cancer. Those 3 words will stick with you for the rest of your life. You see the fear in his eyes…it will scare you too.  This experience will shake you…it takes you a while to begin the mourning process. This experience will also open your eyes to a new life. A life where you will want to take risks and live every day like it’s your last day on this earth. Since your future is unknown, you will want to make the present unforgettable and precious.

Chantelle, you will get a few tattoos-go to grad school-live independently-laugh until you cry many times-become a professional bartender-travel the world-put a smile on everyone’s face-and dance dance dance! You will enjoy this time.  Stop planning and roll the dice! The husband, the babies, the big house will come…when you are ready. You have plenty of time to take on the new roles of Wife and Mommy.  So….go crazy! Skydive! Ski! Fall in love! Break hearts! Change someone’s life! Drink tequila! See the Eiffel Tower! This life is too short to be calculated and stiff! These are the days of your life. Make them count Rockstar!

Live, laugh and love!

You are my sunshine,

Chantelle Victoria