A friend I never met.

Every year for Cropover I write about the music, costumes, friends and fun that comes with trekking down the road on the first Monday of August. This year marks a different kind of post with an unexpected turn of events. I say with a heavy heart that the world lost a well known “happy go lucky” girl during the Grand Kadooment. As the participants split to let the ambulance go through, I believe nobody could fathom the purpose of this emergency vehicle. August 1, 2016 Renee Sheppard Ratcliffe had callapsed and was taken away to rest in peace.

Renee was a leader in events and was often called upon for a “good belly laugh” or “sincere hug”. “You either loved her or hated to love her becasue she was real… All of the time”. 

I use quotes because I personally never got the privilege of meeting Renee, these are just words I’m hearing from my friends who knew her well. With a passion for life she was very active in the community, often reaching beyond the call of duty and supporting local gatherings. From Cropover to her twin boys, it seems Renee had a abundunce of loving energy and an unstoppable driving force. 

Judging alone from the photos being spread around, who wouldn’t want to be this girls friend?! The smiles, the mid laughter snap shots, her enthusiasm for well… Everything! From her admiration of dragonflies to the color purple, Renee has made an impression that will stick with the loved ones she departed from as well as the strangers (like myself) that now know of her spirit.


I watched the shock spread across the crowd as the day progressed, the struggle was clear. Do we all go home and try to absorb what had just happened or should we power through and continue jumping in her name. Considering she was a bandleader and designer, Cropover was when she was in her highest of element. In fact, she had just been interviewed prior to us taking the road. I believe her passion for this celebration guided most to live it up even harder and finish strong as Renee, (from the sounds of it) wouldn’t of wanted it any other way. 

After the costumes were retired and all settled down, the island joined to honor her name with a proper setting and peaceful ceremony. 

Renee, I thank you for the impact you’ve recently made in the world that surrounds me. Your story is just one more addition amplifying my gratitude for this fragile life. I’ll allow your quick departure to be a positive reality check in my own daily routine… that I don’t pass up the opportunity to greet someone with a smile, laugh a little louder, love unconditionally and be thankful for my health and very existence.

“Realize deeply, that the present moment is all you ever have.” Eckhart Tolle

“Maybe the best thing to do is stop figuring where you’re going and start enjoying where you’re at.”

“Spread love wherever you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” Mothe Teresa

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“People fete’n like family, having fun in good company”

Wikipedia says: Soca- also known as the soul of calypso, is a genre of Caribbean music that originated within a marginalized subculture in the Trinidad and Tobago in the late 1970s, and developed into a range of styles in the 1980s and later. Soca developed as an offshoot of kaiso/calypso, with influences from cadence, funk and soul.

So I’ll admit that now, a solid 80-99% of Soca songs mention something in regards to rum, wukkin up, grindin, rum, chippin, fettin, rum, a waistline, bumpa and/or rum. For this post, I wanted to point out a few other lines that shine a different light on the irreplaceable energy that surrounds Cropover. Family, connection, unconditional friendships and love for the islands.

Red Plastic Bag- I love it– “Fetting is not a crime. I think that everybody should find time to unwind. I just love to be in a good party, I just love to see love and harmony. People fetting like family, having fun in good company. Please dont stand there and judge me, I like to have me fun. Love to see people happy and see people as one”.

Peter Ram- All Ah We -“Me nah want no drama, come pure upset di karma”. 

Machel Montano- Happiest Man Alive “We don’t got no time for no worries, We don’t got no time for stressin…. We come out to live we life… the happiest people alive”.

PeterRam- Good Morning! – “It’s another episode, when we out on de road. Dis is what we love, to celebrate to celebrate. This is not Hollywood, we doh come out to pose, we does party with no restraint.”

Benjai- Phenomenal “It’s a wonderful feeling, share with others, all my brothers, all my sisters. Today we making we name.”

Then there’s the not-so deep lyrics that still have us jumping around and smiling to the soca vibes!

Machel Montano- Like uh boss – “Is whole year I wait for de Carnival and I know that it will be magical. Misbehaving and ah doh care at all. So don try stop me, I’z ah professional… Cuz when I fete’n of course, I jus do it like a boss!”

King Bubba- Callin in sick – “I callin in sick, this is too much vibes to miss. Meh doc tell meh this, rum is meh only medicine. So tell di boss I call in sick.”

Destra Garcia- Lucy– “I grew up as a real good girl, always home doh go nowhere. Ah soon as I was introduced to Carnival deh say I loose!”

Stiffy- Tek off something– “Tek off something and pelt it away… Fling it pon the ground…. cuz it’s yours, you buy dat…could be a shirt or skirt or earring back… Could be uh belt,slippers or bras of yuh strap”.

You’ll hear all of these songs supporting the fetes (parties) during Cropover season here in Barbados. One of my top picks for fete of the year goes to the annual Collets Cruise! In order of oldest to most recent, below are collages of this event from the past. (Click on the provided link to read the entire post)

2012- Cool Runnings and the Buccaneer

2013- Big kids pretending to be adults

2014- Next time I’m bringing a pirates hat

2015-Spontaneous salted Prunes

…and now, 2016! All aboard, drop your bags and start spreadin the love.

Time has shown that you can always count on someone sporting a new shirt with a written phrase that may or may not offend you. This year was clean and simple with a basic “bucket list”. 

Another little tradition is my trusty Heritage stickers. I’ve been sreading them around the world for over 4 years now and here in Barbados they usually find themselves stuck to a cup (so I don’t lose which one is mine)!  To be continued…

Speaking of rituals, here’s one I dread to love. In the collage below you’ll see us in years past on the left and to the right is a column from this year. Sweet Snuffy, my dearest of Daniels… I admire your consistent cheeky smile and bottle-o-fun that keeps some drawn to you and others avoiding you.

…and the winner of best facial expressions goes too… A split between Jason and Rachel. Congrats!

Anchor = swim! 

Ryan didn’t let us down with his annual acrobatics routine, a backflip wit de floaty!

Dear Cupid, well done. Sincerely, Erika
Ok back to Soca music. How do you bust out a party that’s already ripping at the seams? Bring aboard the Soca Bashment King of the year to perform his top hits! Yep, Stiffy from above (song- Tek off something) got dropped by boat and ramped up our energy. Try sitting still through this set…. Not possible.

To Captain Ronald and crew, much gratitude for a safe and success journey each year. Even though most of your guests are giggling their way off more concerned about where their other shoe is, you hidden hard work doesn’t go unnoticed and we all thank you.

Daniel, Sean, Dwayne and Clint (please forgive me if I’ve left out anyone). I’m honored as a returning friend to play a small part of the familiar faces that make this day a reunion of good vibes! There are 365 days in a year… your cruse is in my top 3 favorite. Counting down till next round!

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Barbados behind the lense of Craigg Basham

So my buddy shows up with a tiny piece of luggage, an awesome attitude and a camera the size of my head. Instead of posting details of where each photo is taken, I simply invite you to appreciate the vision behind his lense. Craigg (seen before in This girls on fire and Cliffs, caves and fish cakes) was able to capture some amazing shots that should be on postcards in my opinion.

Every photo you’re about to view came from him and that grown up camera of his. Other work by this artist can be viewed on doublegphotography.smugmug.com or on Instagram @ craiggjb_

Enjoy! 


…but wait, there’s more! 


Recognize the beauty below? You’ve seen the interior and the luxury that comes with it if you read the post, We aren’t gauranteed someday.

Did someone say a lime by the pool?! Yep. Craigg is the only one looking at the camera. Well done sir… Well done!

He even caught me in a couple unexpected moments. Kind of forces a deep breath every time I look at them.


Craigg wrote: As my 10 day trip comes to a close. I can’t help but thank the amazing human being responsible for my being here. We met during my time in Japan and have been friends ever since. She’s been such a gracious host, tour guide, and most importantly; an incredible friend. She showed me the island, introduced me to her friends and I was able to see the island life in a way only locals can. I’m eternally grateful for the hospitality shown. Thank you, Erika. May you always have happiness in your pocket and you’ll forever be the girl on fire (inside jokes) lol. 

Dear Craigg, you were such a wonderful guest (turned roommate) and I want to thank for your easy going attitude and flexibility while learning what “island time” truly means. Your fancy camera exposed the beauty I’ve always seen here and the time you took to capture it, I am so grateful for. It was also a familiar vibe to have someone around that actually got my one liners and could dish em’ right back! Thank you for playing that song every morning for me and finally, because of you… I now giggle every time it rains and I have to reach down to turn on the winesheild wipers. “Sweet mercy, please no! Ugh raaaaashole!”

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Cliffs, Caves and fish cakes!

Once upon a glorious backpacking trip, I went to visit my cousin in Japan and had an amazing time! You can check it out by clicking on any of these posts. During the events, I came accross this happy guy that brought an abundunce of laughter to the already entertaining journey through the country of sushi and hi-chu’s. Craigg and I connected quickly while belting out Alicia Keys seen in This girls on fire! After years of attemted and failed reunions we’ve finally managed to make it happen and wherelese besides good ol’ Barbados. Along with him is Kristina, a vibrant little lady with a passion for adventure and new experiences… My kind of girl!


First things first, Legendary fish cakes! “Legendary” is this sweet well known shack that sells out by lunch and simply closes after the last cake is gone. 


Craigg captured me giving a brief explanation of what these little jewlels are made of (typically it’s a ball of fish, potato, bread crumbs and herbs deep friend and served up with a dipping sauce). You can also get it “in bake” which means in a homemade bread roll.  A proper order would be “2 in bake and 2 fish cakes with peppa sauce”. 

Moving on to our mini island tour. This is the same ride you’ve experienced with me seen in If these walls could talk, would you want to listen? Except now, I’m the driver (enter eyes wide open face here). First stop is straight up to the Animal Flower Caves. This is located at one of the most northern points of the island in the parish of St. Lucy. 

I’ve done a post on the history of this place, so I’ll leave it up to you to do your own research if you’re interested in the actual historical sight. For this round, it’s just picture time!



Walk around to the more eastern side of the point and you’ll find cliff sides embracing the power of the the North Atlantic Ocean.


Next stop was the view from top of Cherry Tree Hill

Finally, no East Coast tour would be complete without a stop at Bathsheba.


So for all of the tourist that check into your accomodations on the south coast then don’t leave the souvenir shops or swim up bar, I invite you to branch out and explore beyond the hotel rum lunch… I mean punch! Rum punch.

Kristina, I hope you thoroughly enjoyed your short and sweet visit to this magical place. I invite you to travel with your heart pure, your mind free of expectations and your ears and eyes wide open! 

I’m sure you noticed the spectacular quality of most of the photos above. I give full credit to Craigg, his camera and a little (a lotta) bit of talent. 

Please visit his website at doublegphotography.smugmug.com or follow his eye catching work on Instagram @ craiggjb_

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Kelly does it again!

Making her third appearance on this blog and hosting numerous shows on the island of Barbaods I’m honored to once again introduce you to my friend Kelly Anne. The creator, owner and dedicated operator of Kelly’s Kloset.

In past posts you can see the entire set up for The Cliff as well as more behind the scenes of what takes place prior to the show. For this read, I’m simply going to put some photos of the action and invite you to visit Kelly’s Kloset Facebook page.

I apologize for the lack of clarity in the photos as they’re a collection from random cameras and photographers.

I was again so fortunate to have the pleasure of doing these gorgeous girls hair backstage. Here we all are prepping for the runway!


Let the show begin!

Find more of Kelly on Instagram @ kellyskloset246. Local girls, she has multiple locations on the island in which requires a scheduled visit… It’s as easy as a phone call! 246-234-9039

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Let freedom ring… from within.

Today is July 4th, a federal holiday recognized in the United States of America. In 1776 the original 13 colonies declared their independence from England and was officially observed as a new nation… “Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Definition of Independence: 

1. the time when a country or region gains political freedom from outside control

2. freedom from outside control or support : the state of being independent

Definition of Freedom

1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint

2. the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action

My dictionary of thoughts at the moment:

If you are truly independent and living with freedom, I believe you’ve given yourself permission to enjoy life in such a manner…

  • Independent from others emotional demands. 
  • Independent from the programmed way of thinking.
  • Independent of expectations.
  • Independent from inner negative torment.
  • Independent of the need for outward fulfillment.
  • Freedom to live without self induced struggles.
  • Freedom to breathe without the weight of unnecessary stress.
  • Freedom to be exactly who you are without fear of judgement.
  • Freedom to live not only through experiences but beyond your dreams.
  • Freedom to love. Deeply. Truly. Without holding anything back.

No matter what Independence Day means to you (disregarding your countries standards, your families traditions and your friends thoughts), I truly wish you a sense of freedom that ignites a fire within to extend beyond limitations that you may not even know you have.

For more of a proper post on this holiday, I invite you to check out the post 4th of July in the USA

Want a sampler platter of July celebrations? Please enjoy July shenanigans in California

Care to see how Independence Day might be spent in Florida? Check out 4th of July, Santa Rosa Beach style

Witness the good ol’ south celebrating in Fish fry and fireworks and All American holiday – part 2

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Sir fish photo-bomber 

My final post for this round of Florida will bring you to the shore on Panama City Beach. My beautiful company for the day is my ever so popular mom and our dear friend Jeanie. This has now become tradition for each one of my visits. Nothing but us girls, a few chairs, snacks, drinks and tons-o-smiles. 

Look east and you’ll find high rise hotels boasting their view of the sea. Take a gander to the the west and you’ll see a few locals surrounded by the tourists staying in those hotels.

Our little set up was perfect, not to mention able to withstand the winds that others were having such difficulty with!

(I may or may not of giggled a few times watching people battle their umbrellas). 


Since I’ve completely bailed recently on keeping the blog up to date, I’m going to fast forward slightly and catch you up to what’s been rolling along in her happy trails.

First things first, I’ve returned to Barbados!

Arriving back to my home away from home, I was greeted by my guests. That’s correct, my friends from California beat me here but made time to join me for some traditional “must do” activities! This post is all about a cruise on the  Cool Runnings Catamaran! You’ve seen happy faces on this adventure many of times in several past posts. Here we are getting the rules (or lack there of) out of the way. 

A quick sail leads us right to the underwater land of sea turtles, tropical fish and salty smiles. 


By far the best underwater photobomb I have ever encountered! Well done sir fish… well done.

 Captain Orlando, Chad, Brandon, Zack and Sean… Thank you for making it yet another fabulous experience!

On the last evening before they departed back, we met up to enjoy the Oistins popular Friday night fish fry. Denny, Shawn, Ally, Jacob, Steve and Sini… Thank you so much for your company on this magical island and I truly hope it goes into your memory book of an unforgettable vacation! Ps, I’m holding you to the family soup tradition!

                           

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Music for the soul & friends for the spirit

You all should be familiar of the tunes I’ve been sharing (you’re welcome) all over this blog for years now. The band Heritage has made its way on several posts and some of my most memorable ones are Grass bottom dance floor4th of July, Santa Rosa beach style, and the unforgettable opportunity going on tour with them shown in A man becomes what he thinks about! This round, I was lucky enough to score two evenings during my visit to Florida. Check out the scene at Fudpuckers in Destin, Florida!

The second show was at a new outdoor venue on 30A!  The Hub offers a stage, several dining options, indoor/outdoor bars and a welcoming seating area for groups to gather.

Hello friends!

Nightfall just enhanced the mood with well placed lights and a perfect moon to end the evening. 


Not all live music has to come from a big stage to brighten the day. Let’s move on to a Sunday afternoon with some of the vibrant people shown above. Enlightened Studios is. Home based production company that provides an environment to “promote positivity through music production, performance, and education”. With bright colors, happy decor and a variety of instruments, this house shouts as a wonderful gathering place!

With a surrounding like this, how does one refrain from making music? They don’t.

Wander outside and you’ll find the garage turned lounge, ping pong court and art gallery. The fun just doesn’t end! 

Hugs, love and all the good vibes to go with! Thank you Cole for your irreplaceable smiling eyes and always open door. You make a difference in the lives around you!

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Light attracts light 

With a camera in hand and his face wearing an innocent but mischievous grin, he grabs the safety goggles and invites us to follow him. “I thought you said we were going to do some light painting photography?” (Image in my head: us in a studio covered in paint with cool lighting and a few snap shots). “We are… Kind of.” He replies. 

The gentleman I’m speaking of plays a magnificent role in the light attracts light equation of this post. Matt’s desire for an abundant life is shown not only through his artwork but the unmistakable joy he shares for nature, people and all the organic experiences in between. World, meet Matt Stone!

On this clear evening of darkness lit with bright stars, I allowed my trust to follow his footprints in the sand as we headed to the bay shore just over the main bridge in Panama City Beach. 

This is Rob, another brave smile joining us on this fantastic mini adventure.


Allow me introduce to you the art of steel wool photography. 

Step 1: Gather your tools. You’ll need a rope, steel wool, a metal kitchen whisk, a lighter, protective clothing  with goggles and gloves, an open mind and fun loving people. 

Oh, and let’s not forget the camera! No, not your iPhone 12 point two-cool-for-school but a legit camera or as I call it, a “big kid camera”. Matt used a Canon 7D Mark II with an 8 mm fisheye lense. 


Step 2: Find a safe environment with nothing flammable within range and preferably next to (or in our case, directly in) a large body of water. 

 Step 3, 4 and 5: Let the fun continue! Set your camera up properly with a 20-30 second shutter speed. Your partner in crime then gets in place and starts the show. By rubbing a lighter or 9 volt battery against the wool, it will start sparking but won’t really produce any flames (thankfully). This is go time in which the holder swings the rope in circles to create a globe styled design with hot ambers lighting the sky. Bouncing off rocks, sizzling to the water and circling the masters head, the camera captures several strands of the ambers path. A strong enough launch to have me dancing and dodging a few red hot drops on shore!
Here are just a few of the shots we captured that night. If I would have recorded audio along side these episodes, you’d witness a few reactions of amazement, a couple screeches of fire kissing the skin and an abundunce of pure laughter. (Sounds like an entertaining evening to me!)


The following night they returned and created some new angles with vibrant colors under a local bridge. Brilliant!


Another art form is light painting photography. Simply put, it’s just a magical way to enhance a photo with demensional light designs. We had some light-hearted fun with it! Pun intended.


Leave it to Matt to take my “I wonder if you…”  thoughts and turn them into a beautiful reality. I mentioned creating a heart. He did the rest!


Matt, thank you for the beginning of a new chapter to this beautiful book of art, freedom and universal peace. Everyone needs a modern day super hero😉

If you want to check out more of his work please check out his insta @stone_sharp_images.

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7 reasons to ride a bike

1. For the health of it! Cardiovascular stimulation is a peice of the pie of fitness (did someone say pie? Mmmmm). Cycling just 20 miles a week reduces your risk of heart disease to less than half that of those who don’t exercise at all.

2. Breath of fresh air, ahhhh. So we don’t leave plastic bottles in the sun due to the cancer-causing toxins released, but what about the interior of your vehicle that bakes all day in the heat? We climb right into the chemical box and drive for hours.  Not to mention our poor environment and the fumes we inhale by simply starting the engine.  I vote to hit the trail and breathe the green.

3.Care to shed a few pounds?
Riding your bike for an hour burns anywhere from 400-700 calories an hour while sitting in your car or on the couch burns a whopping plate of boredom with a side of time to snack. I wonder how many calories you demolish by carrying your bike?

4. Sexy time! The Harvard University found that men over 50 years of age who cycle for at least three hours a week have a 30 percent lower risk of impotence than those who do little exercise. Keep it up! No pun intended.

5. Money hunny. According to research from the University of North Carolina, people who cycle for 30 minutes, five days a week take about half as many sick days as the lazy-o-man.

6. Light bulb! Illinois University found that a five percent increase in cardio fitness from cycling led to an improvement of up to 15 percent in mental tests. That’s because cycling helps build new cells in the hippocampus (that funny named region of the brain responsible for memory). Say what?!

7. All the cool kids are doing it! Some of my most fond memories traveling abroad involve me, 2 wheels and happy people! 

Hayden, thanks for the unconditional support in my crazy lifestyle. You’re the type of person everyone wishes they had in their life. Champagne forts, bike rides, sushi love, stupid humor, the list goes on. You’re the best! Plus you always let me win shooting pool (side kiss wink face). So grateful you’re my boy… 

Next stop, Florida! 

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