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!