Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Documentary Preview: Dark Girls

I came across this preview on Black and Married with Kids for a documentary entitled Dark Girls. I've posted before about the challenges within the black community regarding the color complex: that the lighter one's skin is the better. This is part of the confusion in our society overall where tan skin is generally heralded yet "white, pasty" skin is seen as unattractive, especially in beauty industry advertising. 

For example, when I see commercials for self-tanner and bronzer it makes me very confused in the same way I was when I received a free spray tan session from my visit to the Wendy Williams Show. What if they were giving out free spray-skin bleaching sessions to make those of us who were darker skin lighter? I see no difference. Anyway, take a look at the trailer. I definitely want to see this documentary:

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mr. Love Bird's 30th Birthday!

The Birthday Boy
Mr. Love Bird turned 30 on May 7! We celebrated with homemade deep dish pizza and rosé - per his royal highness' request! In fact it was Uka who had to be in the kitchen that day. He's really mastered the deep dish pizza beautifully. Like last year, he used America's Test Kitchen's recipe (you have to be a subscriber to retrieve it), but this year he doubled the amount he made: 8 pizzas! I helped out by making the sauce and browning the sausage the night before as well as making his surprise birthday cake.

Our Lil Family (peer pressure made me put that lone balloon on the wall!)
The pizzas were so good, but the cake is what had me excited! I had posted before about making a salted caramel cake for Mr. Love Bird, having been inspired by Full House. When it came down to it I was in no way in the mood to make a cake from scratch and came across something that at least sounded even better in my recipe files: "Better Than Sex Cake!" The ingredients looked simple enough: devil's food cake, sweetened condensed milk, caramel, whipped topping and crushed candy bars. Great!

This is how it turned out (and it was SO good and simple; I'll definitely be making it in the future):

Since it was refrigerated it held up well!
I think I should've chopped the Butterfinger topping in larger pieces!
Here's the recipe (if you do an internet search you'll find so many different versions!):

Better than Sex Cake

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
1/2 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces caramel ice cream topping
3 Heath Bars or Butterfinger bars
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Bake cake according to package directions for a 9x13 inch pan; cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Make slits across the top of the cake, making sure not to go through to the bottom (I used the end of a wooden spoon and made holes).

In a saucepan over low heat, combine sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping, stirring until smooth and blended. Save some of your Carmel topping for garnishing later. Slowly pour the warm topping mixture over the top of the warm cake, letting it sink into the holes; then sprinkle the crushed candy bars liberally across the entire cake while still warm. (I try to get some pieces in the holes).

Let cake cool completely, then top with whipped topping. Decorate the top of the cake with some more candy bar chunks and swirls of caramel topping. Refrigerate and serve right from the pan!

I'm bummed we don't have any pictures of the amazing pizza but it looked and tasted as good as it did last year! Afterwards everyone was comatose although we did get a couple rounds of Wii party in (Nia didn't like the shouting that ensued so I took her to her room for some quiet(er) time).

Uka's BFF, Chima, brought an amazing red velvet cake and that was dessert part 2 (and breakfast!).

Uka and Chima: Friends for Life!
The delish cake (and box so we can remember forever where it's from!)
Here's a few other party pics:

Nia in her usual location
Having fun with mama and dada
She is SO serious
Me and my BFF Van
Gathering around to sing Happy Birthday!
I made a little tribute table of mementos for Uka (we were 18 and 19 in that picture in the foreground!)
Uka's poster from Venezuela
Overall we had a lot of fun, and I hope this breaks the norm of it raining (or threatening rain) every time we have a party as it was actually sunny this time!

P.S. Uka and Chima are heading to Vegas for their official 30th b-day celebration in a couple months; it was totally my idea. Smart, right?!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PSA: Proper Undergarments

Photo Credit: Cafe Press

I follow Nicole Bitchie on Twitter and last month she posted a helpful go-to guide for underwear. I wish this was plastered on billboards, subway posters and buses all throughout NYC, especially Harlem AND especially now that warmer weather is here! From VPL (visible panty lines) to see through leggings and muffin tops that runneth over, the offenses are ATROCIOUS! I am so embarrassed for so many young women running through the streets of NYC lately thinking they have it all together but honestly, they do not!

Now I have to be honest and admit this guide is not just for those who have grossly offended proper underwear etiquette, but it is also just plain useful for those of us with more class. I'm definitely bookmarking the My Skin Lingerie

Photo Credit: My Skin Lingerie
I adore wearing white, and I've been in constant search of the perfect nude. I had consulted Victoria's Secret before and an associate was so confused about what to wear under white that I eventually figured it out on my own, but I was so surprised that this wasn't a part of their basic training or if it was, perhaps she just forgot. Anyway, at last I'm excited to come across an array of lingerie shades fit for wearing under white (and they're seamless too!)!

Any other undergarment tips to share?

Where Did the Summer Go?

Enjoying a bit of  calm before the "summer storm"
I know it's technically still spring, but my mind is already past the summer and into fall! I can't believe as I look at my calendar how it's already getting filled in. I'm still in shock that June is next week - how did it sneak up so fast???

We're heading to VA to visit my parents with my sisters for Memorial Day weekend. Our family loves to write itineraries and our weekend will be filled of 4 a.m. and 5a.m. wake-ups to go fishing and to church. {That was one thing I LOVED about being on my own was finding a church that I could go to in the afternoon! After 18 years of waking up at the crack of dawn for church I was very ready for afternoon services!}

Anyway, I'm sure we'll have fun, but right around the corner is our 2-year anniversary (again I will have no expectations as I've learned the hard way) then July 4, Mr. Love Bird's 30th bday Vegas trip with his BFF (yes, it was MY idea!), BlogHer 2011 (I'm not booked but it's in my calendar, and I'd love to go), a visit to Ohio (trying to time it during the AWESOME Ohio State Fair), then Nia's 1st bday, followed by Toastmasters International Convention (I'm praying Mr. Love Bird and I can make it - it's in Vegas this year) and finally the summer ends with Labor Day Weekend. 

Oh! And between all that we'll have a few BBQ and fondue parties PLUS we're leading a picnic Growth Group at Riverbank Park every Saturday with our church


So that's our whirlwind of a summer done and done!

Anyone else have the same type of summer ahead? How are you coping?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Macarons: My New Obsession

{Photo Credit: Bouchon}
This past week a briefly snoozing Nia and I met up with fellow Wellesley alum Solie B. and enjoyed lunch at one of my favorite cafes Bouchon. Nia's gone there with me a few times before, and she was a doll this time although the time prior was a bit problematic. 

Anyway, I enjoyed a ham and cheese and for dessert decided to try a macaron at the bakery, which stands apart from the cafe. There is nearly always a line at the bakery and this time was no exception.

The menu with flavors isn't on the wall, but instead one must peer into the case to make a selection. Being the Type A person that I am, I decided to take a scientific approach and go by which macaron trays were most empty. There were none left of pistachio, all of the rhubarb seemed to be there as well as most of the vanilla, but only a few chocolate were left so I asked for one of them. 

I also decided to get a cup of coffee.

Honestly, I should have sat down to prepare myself for the goodness I was about to partake in. 

That chocolate macaron made me want to cry. I think even Nia, wrapped in her Moby, could sense my emotion. She was silent and looked up quietly at me while I savored my macaron and sipped my coffee in between tiny bites. The crispy outside contrasted with the silky, buttercream inside was so divine. I wanted to stand from the top of the third floor railing where the bakery is located and declare: "GOD BLESS THE FRENCH!" 

Oh! The coffee was delicious too; much better than Starbucks, and it was the perfect accompaniment to the chocolate flavor of the macaron. 

Now I have heard of macarons before and spelled it as "macaroon" when I tweeted about its goodness, but after a bit of research I found that they are not synonymous. Macaroons are the super sweet balls of coconut which, while tasty, pale in comparison to the complexity of macarons.

Since enjoying my first macaron I was directed to this blog post courtesy of Elle Decor detailing how to make your own (as well as a link to a proper pronunciation guide for those of us who are Type A!). I will certainly be trying this recipe, and I think it might be fun to invite my sisters over to make them together. Now that would make a fun blog post!

{Photo Credit: Wikipedia}
Someday I hope to make it to Ladurée in Paris, which is an old school bakery that supposedly has the best macarons in the world.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More Harlem Brownstone Love

Yesterday, as we walked through Harlem on our way to Fairway's Customer Appreciation BBQ, Mr. Love Bird and I admired the brownstones in the nearby historic district. We aspire to purchase and renovate a brownstone (check out the WSJ's recap of such a renovation), and I thought it would be fun to continue to highlight a few nearby brownstones as I've done before:

This is on my block {photo credit: Harlem Bespoke}

I adore the contrasting colors of the wood
The green walls are so bold, and the Anglophile in me loves those chairs!

 This lovely brownstone was featured in Elle Decor:

What amazing light!
The unique rug print draws me in and the window molding is gorgeous!
This reminds me of Newport, RI; very nautical
Those shells are a great way to bring nature indoors
Loving these original mahogany shutters
Finally, this well appointed brownstone a couple blocks away left us breathless {photo credit}:

Corner home is ideal
Beautiful woodwork
This would be perfect for entertaining
I'd love to invite my girlfriends over for a SATC marathon here!
This is where the guys could hang out during the SATC marathon!
This room has an old-school, yet modern feel to it

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Yes, I Use Our Wedding Gifts

My Cuisinart and Kitchen Aid
I can hardly believe my 2 year anniversary is coming up next month, and it seems like I hear other newlyweds and articles lament over how no one ever uses their pricey wedding gifts, especially the Kitchen Aid stand mixer and Cuisinart food processor.

This really baffles me!

I registered for things that I knew I would use, including the above mentioned items and the honest truth is I use them at least weekly and sometimes more frequently.

For example, when I need fresh breadcrumbs I toss some old bread in my food processor and in a few short pulses they're done AND they taste much better than store bought. To save money we buy block cheese and when we need it shredded I just put on my shredder attachment and again, in a few seconds my block is reduced to shreds. 

My stand mixer is used for pizza dough which we make regularly and freeze as well as general baking which I love to do. In the future we intend to get additional attachments such as the meat grinder to replicate Shake Shack burgers at home as well as the ice cream and pasta attachments.

We thoroughly enjoy using our kitchen gadgets!

We have loads of mixing bowls, dishware, a waffle maker and juicer that get lots of attention too, but I will admit that we haven't used our chafing dishes or candlesticks, but we still have time for those!

Check out this video from The Atlantic Monthly that shows how much time is saved in the kitchen by our modern-day gadgets:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: This Won't Hurt a Bit

I've been reading fellow Wellesley alum Dr. Michelle Au's blog The Underwear Drawer for years now (she's been keeping it over 10 years), and I was very excited when I learned her new book This Won't Hurt a Bit was being released. Last week my sister Ariane and I went to her booksigning at Columbia (see if you can pick us out in the picture in the link!) and picked up a copy of her book. I have a huge pile of books on my nightstand, but I made a point to put Michelle's book at the top of the pile, and I'm proud to report I finished it in a week! {You must understand that this is most impressive as it's taken me nearly 6 months to finish Eclipse.}.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the book! It had just enough seriousness interspersed with Michelle's dry humor and most importantly, as a mom myself, I felt a connection with her recurring struggle with the challenge of "having it all." Last fall I started a bit of discussion on my Facebook wall when I posted an excerpt from Michelle's observation on this topic: 

"And that's what working parenthood feels like a lot of the time. Trying to do two important jobs in parallel, and half-assing both of them."

Michelle delves deeper into this sentiment in the book, and while I'm currently staying at home with Nia full-time, Michelle's honest thoughts on trying to balance work and family are exactly what makes me not want to work for someone else, especially when she discusses childcare. She laments: 

"Our entire weekly schedule, our entire day-to-day existence, hinges on the fact that we have childcare, and that while Joe and I work, there is someone to stay home with Cal." 

Having explored childcare options in NYC and understanding that it could be nearly half of my take-home pay I completely understand where she's coming from and I agree wholeheartedly when she expressed, "The message I get wholeheartedly from society is clear: the ability to juggle working motherhood successfully is contingent upon having the right kind of job."

Michelle doesn't pretend to have advice or know the answers to the challenges working mothers face, but her candidness allows us to know we aren't alone in this ongoing internal dialogue.

Apart from the working mother theme, I appreciated how Michelle broke down the medical school process for the average reader. I have a few dr./mom friends and this helped me understand a lot of what they must be going through. I look at them in awe now! 

Throughout the book Michelle poignantly highlights various patient interactions she has and at times I could even feel myself catch my breath with a saddened outcome or her quick-paced retelling of a harried scenario. In the same way patients must come in and out of Michelle's daily experience she did the same for her readers.

Michelle's quote sums up what I've thought about on my own following the rare times I've had to be inside of a hospital: 

"Consider . . . all that is happening in hospitals around the city at this very moment, yet outside here in the real world, life goes on as usual." 

I highly recommend This Won't Hurt a Bit, and I hope my readers include it on their summer reading list. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What $200 Buys at Family Dollar

Ever wonder what $200 buys at Family Dollar??? Well, I'm going to tell you! I had received $200 in Family Dollar gift cards from my Wendy Williams' experience and this past Sunday Mr. Love Bird and I ventured out to Queens to use them (there aren't any Family Dollars in Manhattan). 

Here's what we purchased:
  • Caress body wash
  • Suave lotion
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Chrome serving tongs
  • Magic erasers
  • Scotchbrite sponges
  • Food storage set (for my sister-in-law)
  • Balloon-themed paper products for Nia's 1st birthday party
  • Mini-cutting board
  • Gain laundry detergent
  • Glade Plug-ins refills
  • Kitchen towels
  • Oven mitt set
  • Men's dress socks
  • Ambi face wash
  • Aim toothpaste
  • Listerine 
  • 3pk plastic bowls (for Mr. Love Bird to keep at work)
  • Hanes no-show socks
  • Queen sheet set
  • Dora placemat (for my niece!)
  • Water bottle (for Mr. Love Bird's desk)
  • Lighter fluid
  • Charcoal
  • 5 summer outfits for Nia
  • 4-10x13 frames
  • 2-4pk Venus dispoable blades
  • 9x13 glass baking dish
Whew! A lot of these items have a back story like the sheet set since we sometimes have guests sleep over so it's good to have an extra set, potholders because my old ones were wearing thin and I had been meaning to replace them, a 9x13 glass baking dish because I already have a metal one but some recipes are better with the glass dish, etc. 

The cart was halfway full when Mr. Love Bird proclaimed that he believed that we had already spent $200. When we got to the checkout and saw that it wasn't quite $200 I had him run back to get the 10x13 frames I had seen and I threw in some razor blades. I intend to use the frames to add some color to our walls based on inspiration I saw on Young House Love

Anyway, the grand total was $202.01. Mr. Love Bird was very impressed!

The only casualty was the lighter fluid which we can't seem to find, but it's easy enough to pick some up next time we're at the store.

Sometimes it's nice just to get some basic household items . . . FOR FREE!

P.S. Of course it wasn't as glamorous but my Family Dollar experience reminded me of my $2,000 Macy's shopping spree courtesy of the now defunct Modern Bride Magazine in 2008. That was so fun!

Nia and I Visit Famous Footwear in East Harlem

Just a quick update on my previous post about Famous Footwear opening in E. Harlem:

Nia and I met with my sister Ariane last Saturday to attend the grand opening. It was packed! As we approached we could hear the drummers and Nia started dancing (she bobs up and down in her Moby Wrap!).

There were models in silver leotards on the first floor

The festive entrance to Famous Footwear

Famous Footwear was PACKED! As we entered we were given a key to unlock the box for a $500 shoe giveaway. We also signed up for the Shoecrazy mad dash to grab shoes but unfortunately didn't win.

I managed to get a clear shot without hoards of people!

Ariane and Nia pose for the camera
I will say that it was very overwhelming being in the store that day, and the line was excurciatingly long, which I'm sure is what Famous Footwear wanted, but I actually prefer the selection of DSW. I found Famous Footwear's shoes to be too plain for me, however they had some cute children's shoes which Nia took a liking to:

On the bus ride back there was a woman who won the $500 in shoes - I'm not sure if she had used the full $500, but she did have a bunch of shoe boxes with her. The store was SO chaotic that day I think I would have preferred to wait until another day especially because as I walked through I didn't see a lot of shoes in my size (9). 


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