Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Soul Survivor: The Reasons

God determines who walks into your's up to you to decide who you let walk away, who you let stay,and who you refuse to let go."- Anonymous

I saw this quote somewhere, and it really made me think about how people are placed in my life for a reason...

but I never think about me being placed in someone else's life for a reason. The concept sounds simple enough...but is not.

How do you know? Sometimes I look at people around me, at how I treat them, how they treat me, how they behave...and I look heaven-ward and ask...really Lord? WHY?? If nothing else, it is my desire to fulfill God's purpose in life for if this person is supposed to be be it.

But what is my purpose in other people's life? Am I supposed to be teaching lessons? Setting examples? Being a friend, being a shoulder...and most importantly...

what happens if I fail?

It's one thing to muck up my's something else to not do right by someone else's. Lord knows I've let some people stay when they should have been exiled from my life, and let some people go that maybe deserved a second (or third...or fourth) chance.

I guess God's greatest gift to us is free will...and patience is a virtue...and guidance is divine.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tales of a Foodie: Tea Time! An Interchangeable Recipe for Tea Breads

I'm a big fan of quick breads - it takes half the time it does to bake regular bread, and there are so many great recipes for it! I came across a recipe for tea bread a while back, and decided to try it with some variations. They came out great! Tea is definitely not just for drinking anymore! A few great things about tea breads:

* they can be made just like tea - the recipe I use requires honey instead of sugar to sweeten the bread. It really makes the flavor of the tea the star of the show, and is a great sugar-free snack. 

* they make great gifts! Divide the recipe batter up among mini loaf pans, wrap them in pretty cellophane, add a bow and tag, and you have a perfect little gift! 

* This delicious recipe is amazingly simple, so it's a great beginning project for the novice baker. 

First I'll provide the base tea bread recipe. For the tea bags, you can use whatever kind of tea you think would taste great as a bread. 

Base Tea Bread Recipe

3/4 cup  2% milk
2 tea bags
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup butter, melted
3 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large saucepan, combine milk and tea bags. Heat milk over medium-high heat until steaming. Remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Discard tea bags. 

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, combine tea-infused milk, honey, butter, and eggs. Gradually add flour mixture to milk mixture, stirring until blended. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Below are my favorite variations:

Vanilla Chai Tea Bread

Use vanilla chai flavored tea bags. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Lemon Ginger Tea Bread

Use lemon or lemon-ginger flavored tea bags. Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger and a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest. 

Green Tea Bread

Use green tea bags. Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime or lemon zest

You can have a slice for breakfast, or have it as a delicious snack! If you come up a variation that works for you or that you'd like to try, please share it with us! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kiss My Glass - But I Just Opened That Bottle!

I can't tell you how many times I have opened a bottle of wine, had one or two delicious and satisfying glasses, and put it in the fridge. I go back a week later, pour myself a glass, and spit out a mouth full of vinegar. I'm going to share a few tips on storing your bottles of wine.

You don't need a special refrigerator or cellar to store wine that you want to age, or just don't want to drink right away. Any cool, dark place, such as a closet or pantry, will do. Keeping the wine out of the sunlight and at a consistent temperature is key. You should also invest in a wine rack - when the bottles lay flat, it keeps the cork wet so air can't get in through cracks and promote spoiling. Wine bottles with screw tops don't need to lay flat. 

Once a bottle of wine has been opened, you want to limit the amount of air exposure. Re-corking and refrigerating a bottle of wine shortly after opening it will keep it fresh for up to 2 days
A vacuum pump wine sealer (shown above) is relatively cheap and can keep wine drinkable for up to a week. They run around $10, and it includes a pump and a couple of stoppers. 

Hopefully this little handy post will keep you from drinking a glass of vinegar or tossing a half-full bottle of perfectly good wine. Cheers!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Black Girl's Think Tank - The Hardest Part of Being Human

A while back, I came across an interesting concept that really got the wheels in my head turning: The 4 Hardest Tasks for people are not physical nor intellectual, but spiritual:

*Return Love for Hate - it's easy for us to identify and crucify our so-called "haters." But how difficult would it be, after that, to love them anyhow? Most of us don't realize how hard it is because we can't wrap our brain around loving someone who objectively or directly "hates" us. We're not supposed to, right? Its ridiculous for us to even entertain the idea. But if you are a spiritual person, or even try to live by the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you) then you will understand that however hard this might seem, it is necessary to get along in our lives if we have a shot at true happiness.

*Include the Excluded - I was always the kid that felt sorry for the other kid that was eating lunch by his or herself - and sometimes I would go so far as to go over and sit for a while, or have lunch with them. But only if my friends were on board too - good thing I had good, compassionate and like-minded friends. As adults, we hardly ever acknowledge the Excluded. We're not all in the same lunchroom anymore, so why bother? But it's even more important now that we do this. At church, at work, wherever. These are the things that just generally count as a good deed, and make you a better person.

*Forgive without Apology - So wait...I have to forgive this person, even if they don't apologize or ask for forgiveness? I know, it seems crazy. But you don't need me to tell you that holding grudges does nothing to the other person, and is absolutely poisonous for you. Don't feel like you're doing them a favor by forgiving them - you're doing it for YOU. Because after you do, you're free of it.

*Say "I Was Wrong" - Nobody, I mean NOBODY likes a Know-It-All. Some might think it makes you look weak and stupid to be wrong. But it makes you look stupid AND obnoxious to be wrong and not acknowledge it. 'Nuff said.

I check myself on all of these every now and then. Maybe if we all conquer the 4 hardest parts of being human, mankind will be restored...or maybe folks will just be happier. ;-)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tales of a Foodie - The Perfect (and EASY) Pancake

Whenever I find out that a friend is using a pre-packaged shortcut to make a favorite dish, it is not uncommon for me to immediately exclaim "but you can make that from scratch, and it's SO EASY!!!" This usually prompts a disgusted look from said friend, followed by an eyeroll. I will admit, as a self-proclaimed foodie, I have been cooking and baking long enough to find things easy that may seem a little difficult to the novice cook. However...

...pancakes from scratch are the easiest thing from scratch you will ever make! I can make a whole batch in them in under 30 minutes, and they are fool-proof if you follow this simple recipe.

Fool-proof Pancakes From Scratch

1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)*
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

* it's very important that you spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and level it off. If you scoop the flour and level it, you may have a denser measurement that is not accurate for this recipe. 

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees; have a baking sheet or heatproof platter ready to keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. It's important to use a whisk, or at least a fork to ensure that all ingredients are mixed well. 

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, butter, and egg. Add dry ingredients to milk mixture; whisk until just moistened (do not overmix; a few small lumps are fine.)

3. Heat a large skillet (nonstick or cast-iron) or griddle over medium heat. Fold a sheet of paper towel in half, and moisten with oil; carefully rub skillet with oiled paper towel (you may have to repeat this after each batch if the skillet looks a little dry.) 

4. For each pancake, spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter onto skillet, using the back of the spoon to spread batter into a round (you should be able to fit 2 to 3 in a large skillet.)

5. Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst. 1 to 2 minutes. Flip carefully with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in oven. Continue with more oil and more batter. Serve warm, with desired toppings (syrup, confectioners sugar, honey, jam, preserves, whipped cream or chocolate syrup.)

See how easy that is? In five simple steps, you can have homemade pancakes! Below are a few extra tips that will help enhance your fabulous pancake-from-scratch experience:

* remember, to keep pancakes tender, take care NOT to overmix batter; a few small lumps are fine.

* the skillet is at the right temperature when drops of water jump a little on the surface.

* use as little oil as possible in the skillet; a quick wipe with an oiled paper towel is enough.

* for thinner or thicker pancakes, add more or less liquid; respectively.

* if you want to add extras, such as blueberries, sliced bananas, strawberries, chocolate chips or nuts, sprinkle on pancakes before flipping. 

* To freeze left-over pancakes, stack cooled pancakes between squares of waxed paper; place in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container. Freeze up to 3 months. Reheat on a baking sheet in a preheated 350 degree oven or toaster oven. Don't reheat pancakes in the microwave - they will get rubbery. 

This basic pancake recipe was found in the September 2006 issue of Everyday Food (one of my all-time favorite food publications) and I have been using it ever since. I hope you find it to be as helpful as I did! 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Naps, Mishaps & Product Caps - The Lazy Curly Girl's Guide to Daily Styling

Aaaannndddd I'm back! Since the rapture has been postponed, I figured I would start up my blog again!  And what better way to come back from a 5 month hiatus than with a lazy-themed blog post! You know what they say - life happens. This is often my excuse for not spending more time on my curls. So here are a few tips for my Lazy Curly Girls (LCG) for daily hair styling.

I want to take this opportunity to throw in a disclaimer - while I have the upmost respect for my curly girlies that spend at least an hour or more on their hair daily and nightly, and have an endless repertoire of cute and intricate natural hair styles...this post is not for you. This post is for my can't ever find more than two bobby pins, don't even know how to corn row, don't have the patience to two-strand twist, had to ask someone what a "YT channel" was,  thinks a tuck and roll is something you do when your clothes are on fire, need a ten-minute or less hair regimen CURLY GIRLS!!!

Now if you fall into this category, you must be willing to have a certain "freedom" to your look. You must not be afraid to rock your hair in its natural state, as long as it looks supple and moist. Also, I have what is often referred to as "3c" type curls. So these tips are ones that work with my curl pattern. But don't let that discourage you from experimenting!

The Co-Wash 'N Go

Before getting out of the shower in the morning, I wet my hair just a little - enough to make it wet, but not too drippy.

- I divide my hair into four rough sections, and apply a good leave-in conditioner (right now, I'm partial to Mixed Chicks Leave-In Conditioner - it has a tiny bit of hold in it.) Then I shake it out a little, part it on the side and allow it to air-dry.

The Curl Re-Charger

This technique is good for the 2nd or 3rd day after a fresh wash 'n go. At this point, my curls have lots of volume, so it tends to be a little big - but that's how I like it. ;-)
- Before getting out of the shower, wet your hair with your hands, just enough to make it damp. Then add some moisturizing cream to it (I like Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Cream; it has a bit of hold) or a curl-reviving spray (I like Curls Lavish Curl Moisturizer; it has glycerin, which makes it good for redefining curls.) I often use this technique on the second or third day after a regular wash 'n go.  I sometimes put on a large elastic headband and push it just past my hairline so the curls kind of frame my face.

The Flirty Pull-to-the-Side

This is one I use when I really needed to have washed my hair about three days prior to doing this style. A very cute hair accessory is needed here - as well as some large, funky earrings. This pic didn't come out so great, but you get the gist:

I wet my hair with my hands right at the sink, and used regular hair gel to smooth and brush it all to one side (Pro Con Protein Gel or Olive Oil gel is what I use - but any gel with conditioners and hold in it will do.) It also helps to wet the brush a little. I secured the tiny puff with a Goody's black elastic, and pulled out the curls a little to surround the elastic. Then I pinned the flower on the side. Quick and cute!

Ok LCG's (Lazy Curly Girls), chime in - let me know what you think, and if you have any suggestions to add!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Soul Survivor - New Year Check-In

I'm not one for making New Year's Resolutions. They give me pause when I realize that I'm inevitably going to fall off the wagon. But I do like to check in and see how my life has been affected over the course of the year - what's changed, what hasn't, what needs to. Its kind of like dieting (which I am also NOT a fan of) - I'm better off making small dietary changes in choices that eventually will feel normal to me. I think life can benefit from the same practices. So I'm gonna check in and assess:

This time last year, I was not yet 30. I still had that slight sense of immortality you have when you're still in your twenties - that feeling where you feel like no matter what you're doing, you still have time to correct/eradicate/change the behavioral thought pattern behind it. Because you're still in your can deal with it when you turn 30. Hmph.

Last year, my worst fear was not being able to graduate from Normal Life 101 after life dealt me a heaping serving of POO. This year the same catalyst of events have continued to change this thought process dramatically. Now, I almost feel too mortal - there is a heightened sense of anxiety I never thought I'd be a victim of. Before I reach 31, I will work on this. No one should have to live in fear.

This July, I will have been a resident of New York for 9 years. That makes 9 years out of college, so actually, 9 years as a resident of The Adult World. My social practices have changed immensely, although last year I rang in the New Year almost exactly the same way I did this year. Close to home, with lots of drinks. I'm not done going out and having fun, but even though its hard to meet someone new at the Home Bar & Lounge, the couch is comfy and the drinks are cheap. *shrugs*

My friendships/relationships have taken a few turns, both for better or worse. This past year I was forced to evaluate the term "best friend." The people in my life I call friend all are different things to me, and serve their purpose in my life in different ways. To refer to one of them as "best" is strange to me - it seems like "best" is normally code for "most loyal" or "been my friend the longest" or "person I hang out with most." That being said, some of my oldest friends (old as in length of time, not age) are no longer in my life as of last year. And some of my newer friends are closer to me. You roll with like-minded people, and minded-ness has evolved. Especially over the past year. I'm rolling with it. A reason, season or lifetime? I'll enjoy them all. And dismiss accordingly.

As for dating...the jury is still out. I'm a creature of habit and vacate regularly to The Comfort Zone Resort. Dating is scary. Starting over is scary. This time last year, I was NOT ready to move forward. This year...I'm a little more ready. And that's enough for me right now. Time to redirect my focus...or at least attempt to. No Dating Diets, just no sudden moves.

Finally, I'm trying to be more positive this year. Positive thoughts are all the rage on Facebook and Twitter, so I'll give it a shot. I hope this year brings for all of you everything you wished for and more, and that whatever check-in you engage in, be it resolutions or just new thoughts, you are able to assess your life and make it work for you. You survived a whole 'nother year - if for nothing else, pat yourself on the back for that!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tales of a Foodie - Most Requested Recipes, Vol. 1

Whenever I have a gathering to go to and want to bring something, but don't have a lot of time to bake, I make my famous Spinach Dip. Everyone loves it, and think its a lot fancier than it actually is. The recipe is SUPER easy, and folks will think you slaved in the kitchen for hours!

Slammin' Spinach Dip

1 box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 8 oz. package of shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup of mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Transfer to an oven-safe dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese around the edges slightly brown. Serve immediately with tortilla or pita chips.

This recipe doubles easily if you're serving a larger crowd. Enjoy! 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Naps, Mishaps and Product Caps - The Mentals and Physicals of being a Naturalista

Ok, so my intention was to write all of my natural hair goals for 2011. But I have decided to switch gears - in honor of "Natural Hair Day", I'm gonna post 11 simple do's and don'ts for true natural divas.  I've got seven years in the natural hair game, and I have seen it ebb and flow through things both positive and negative. So here goes:

1. DO be honest about your inspiration. I didn't decide to transition because I wanted to liberate myself from the evil clutches of chemicals. I transitioned because I was a starving actress who could not afford touch-ups at NY's high-priced salons. Whether my curl pattern was wavy or zig-zaggy, I was going for it. *shrugs* If you want to transition because its trendy now, go for it. Its your hair, not your religion.

2. DON'T look down on sistas who have relaxers. Just because someone has a perm does not mean they hate themselves! When I had a relaxer, I loved my hair. Now that my hair is all-natural...I love my hair. I always say, good hair is hair that is well groomed and well taken care of. There is room in that category for all of us!

3. DON'T think that because you're natural that you can put anything "natural" on your hair! I'll say this again - I am not putting monkey sweat, raw ostrich eggs, sulfured molasses, or anything else ridiculous in my hair just because it's "all-natural". It's ok to peruse the kitchen for some natural hair essentials, but please understand and know your hair. There are products out there that are designed to make your process easier - take advantage of them!

4. DO understand that everyones hair is different. So your girlfriend gives a product a raving review, but on your head, it ends in a sticky mess. Your hair is unique to you - and I mean more than just a curl type label. All 4a's and  3c's aren't curled alike. 

5. DO have patience and be willing to experiment. You can't find out everything there is to know about your hair from blogs and YouTube tutorials. At some point, you're going to have to just try some stuff out and learn your hair. Products don't change just because you finally found a review where it worked for someone. If it didn't work the first time you tried it, it still won't. And remember, it takes your hair at least two weeks to get accustomed to a new regimen. So don't get discouraged if you don't see results right away.

6. DON'T let society and the media tell you what your hair should look like! Ladies, at the peaks of our natural hair journeys, we will not all look like Alicia Keys and Mel B. Invest in what style will look good on you, and don't stop searching until you find something you love with your hair.

7. DON'T let people discourage you from transitioning! The truth is, people are afraid of what they don't understand. Why on earth would someone want to NOT comb their hair everyday? Why wouldn't you want sleek, straight hair that you can swing? Isn't that what every lady wants? Not anymore. And please try and refrain from getting wrapped up in Jigaboo/Wannabe fights. We're so past that - don't let a relaxed chick intimidate you. If you're feeling the pressure, just wait until you're ready. We'll be here for you when you are. ;-)

8. DON'T buy into the notion that natural hair is a "movement". Choosing to go natural is just that - a choice. Women have had the option of wearing their hair in natural styles since the beginning of time. The fact that it is trendy now doesn't make it a movement. Just makes folks more aware. Kind of like how Oprah's Book Club had to remind some folks that black women do read. Making it a movement means that it will eventually be done, having made its mark on history. I want my children and grandchildren to always have the option of wearing their hair how they want without feeling alienated by society.

9. DO understand styling your hair isn't just about the products - it's also about the process. I have learned that not taking care in the process of caring for your natural hair can be detrimental, no matter how good the product is. Take the time to take the necessary steps - let the conditioner saturate the hair shaft. Comb through in sections. Don't dry with a towel. Don't cut corners in your process and then blame the product.  My entire hair regimen at the moment cost me all of $25 and I'm super happy with the results now that I know exactly how to use them. 

10. DO understand that as a true natural diva, you can make your own rules. Wanna color your natural hair? Do it. Who cares if some people consider hair dye a chemical? Wanna straighten your natural hair every week? Do it. I didn't sign on to be a natural hair ambassador - I did it cuz it works for ME. Some naturalistas love concocting and mixing their own hair products right from their kitchen, while others spend hundreds of dollars on products that are just right for their hair. Neither is wrong. I'm not natural, my hair is. So don't give me the side-eye when you see me eating McDonald's instead of organic hemp seed tofu sandwiches. My hair does not, will not, and hasn't ever defined me. 

11. DO surround yourself with a support system if you need it. I went at my transition journey pretty much alone - just me and my hairdresser. But it wasn't that bad. I've never been one to follow the crowd, but unfortunately, in the short years that I have had natural hair, times have changed. Take advantage of whatever you need that's out there - natural hair forums, blogs, YouTube videos, transition buddies, hair mentors, whatever. We live in a world where your hair may not seem like a big deal...until you get passed over for a job because of it, or something equally as disrespectful. Be supportive and you'll get it back. That's something that works whether it's about your hair or not, ladies.

That's all I got. Here's to new styles, new mind sets, and a new attitude for you and your hair!