Archive | July 2013

Stay Cute Monday – Nailed It!

All non-sheeny

All non-sheeny

I am not sure what came first, the chicken or the egg. I am not sure if I love nail polish because my nails grow long or if my nails grow long because I pay them a lot of attention. I find there is a direct correlation between keeping your nails painted and maintaining a decent length. My nails started getting rather long in the sixth grade. I figured since they were so pretty, they should be adorned. Of course, it didn’t hurt that my aunt was going to cosmetology school and frequently used me as her guinea pig. I was the only one in the family who would sit still long enough to let her practice. Thus, my love affair with nail polish began.

I have a few rules for my nails. I hate complicated designs. Remember in the 90’s when people would get airbrushed images on their nails? Yea, no. I did once allow my friend in cosmetology school to affix appliqués of animals on my nearly 3 inch nails because she begged. I of course hated it but everyone I met loved them so I kept the look for two weeks. Yes, in high school I started an experiment to see how long my nails would get. Turns out, ridiculously long.

I like unusual colors. This was harder in the 90’s when there were only a few nail polish lines and most stuck to shades of red and pink. I once discovered this gorgeous yellow at Woolworth…okay this story sounds like it’s from the 1920’s. I swear there were Woolworths in Michigan until the late 90’s. I adored that color. It complimented my brown skin perfectly and gave my nails a natural pop. That and a glittery wine became my signature colors. My aunt convinced me that we should have signature colors to stand out. Hers was a pale shimmery silver. In college after my beautiful yellow was discontinued, I moved on to a pumpkin orange. Due to a friend, I stopped filing my nails oval five or six years ago. My mom has naturally oval nails and I think they are an awesome shape. I decided to stick with my natural shape which is very rectangular. This shape doesn’t lend itself to boring reds and neutrals.

I never use nail polish that could ruin my nail bed. I saw this glorious new invention with pearls and no. This applies to a lot of textured nail polish. Finally, I shy away from variations on French. I think French manicures only look good on perfectly sculpted fake nails. My nails are real and French never works properly.

So I have my favorite brands of nail polish and as a 25 year nail polish veteran—I’m never without cover—I know of which I speak.

First, my new favorite thing is Zoya. It’s all natural, vegan and tailored for natural nails. The weirdest thing about this nail polish is that it needs only one coat, because it is so thick. It has wonderful colors and last forever. However, it is primarily available online with paid shipping. That means my $8 or $9 bottle can run up to $15 if I only buy one bottle. I usually load up when there’s a sale. This 4th of July, you got two bottles free if you got a bottle of Liberty pixie dust. The texture was cool. My only quibble is pixie dust has no sheen. Even with a high gloss top coat, it has a dull finish. I like sheen.

For sheen, I like the super cheap Wild and Crazy. Since every plaza has a dry cleaners, nail salon and beauty supply, I can always find my lovely $2 nail polish anywhere. I love the colors and the ease of application. It rarely bubbles. I hate bubbles. Of course if you wait 3 to 5 minutes between coats, you can avoid bubbles, but I apply a lot of coats: nail strengthener, base coat, 2 coats of nail polish and top coat. This coupled with an impatient Aries and there can be bubbles. The problem with Wild and Crazy is that it chips easily. It’s not shrinkage but full blown chunk of nail polish just gone. It’s good for a week max.

Finally, I like two brands for their polish capabilities though their colors are boring: Borghese and Essie. It is hard to find a stand out color. But the polish lasts forever, a good 10 days. It’s beautiful, thick and smooth. It’s usually available at Ulta or Rite Aid. So it is not too terribly difficult to procure.

I try other brands from time to time. In a pinch I will use a nail strips, though I haven’t found one with the ease of use of the originator, Avon. I absolutely detest the ever popular OPI. It cracks if you do not constantly add top coat and who has that kind of free time? But the above are my signatures.

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The Take It Off Edition

This was a difficult week. A very difficult week. I had a coworker once say in reference to that infamous glass that I am not a pessimist or an optimist. I am a realist who’s had someone drink his water before. This was also a coworker who became embittered that he lived in a neighborhood that became increasingly Black and once told me that the Civil Rights movement did Black people no favors as Blacks did better under slavery. Of course this was in a workplace setting where I couldn’t respond properly.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know what sunny view of slavery he had as I surmised internally (can’t be the angry Black woman in the office when it’s only you) that he had never read a slave narrative or an African American history textbook to see how harsh that life actually was. I imagined that he would never watch the amazing film, Slavery by Another Name, which showed that southern Whites established a stereotype of criminality in Blacks in an effort to imprison and obtain free labor from Blacks after Emancipation. It is an enduring stereotype that everyone somehow bought into and we still aren’t free from. I’m sure he never read a statistic that was astonishing and inspirational to me. At the beginning of the 20th century, 90% of all Blacks were impoverished and that number dropped to 30% by the end of the 20th century. That is a lot of hard work and effort that no one trumpets. Sigh, what a week…

 

scale

So back to the glass, I’m a realist who gets exhausted by all this reality. My original plan for this entry was to discuss the fact that I manifest much of my stress through my overwhelming love of food. So, let me return to that plan. Food soothes a multitude of ills. I obtain this wondrous click (to reference Tennessee Williams) when I eat a perfectly sugary chocolate chip cookie. That click caused me to gain 20 pounds in the last few months. Something odd happened. None of my clothes fit. I put on a dress, sat down in my car and immediately realized that I made a terrible wardrobe decision that I was stuck with a day of extreme discomfort. I decided to finally weigh myself and voila…20 more pounds. Considering that I was already a few pounds over when I last weighed myself, I realized I had to change my approach to life.

I have friends that barely eat or barely think about eating. A lot of these people are also picky eaters, which makes any attempt to eat out an extreme challenge. I read that overweight people’s hunger sensor works more. That is totally me. Except for years, I never really gained weight, or if I gained weight I could take it off rather quickly by eliminating a snack or adding 15 minutes per workout. However, once I hit my 30’s my metabolism changed and it was over. My action plan to keep the weight off was simple. I stay away from high caloric and fast food. No tasty food at home, none in my office. However, at my new job thin people with actual willpower constantly had all kinds of delicious snacks and treats. I need tricks and schemes.

I felt overwhelmed. I would need to lose 25- 30 pounds, not the stubborn 7 extra pounds that I seem to keep. I once again attempted to do the Fat Smash. It’s a diet designed by Dr. Ian from Celebrity Boot Camp. I saw a modified version online and was successful at losing weight when I gained 15 pounds due to my reliance on fast food while I was a travel warrior. I downloaded the book and started the program in last October. I failed oh so miserably. The popular criticism of the diet is that it is hard, very very hard. It’s a detailed multi-month, layered plan. Turns out the online version of the plan I liked so much but couldn’t find is the sustainment plan that you actually don’t get to until about three months in.

The first 9 days of the plan is a complete detox. It trains your brain to not like food. Okay, according to the plan, it’s supposed to cleanse your system of all the delicious bad food you consume. I’ve taken colon cleanse pills and done juice fasts before. How terrible could it be? Well, terrible. The key to the detox is really what you can consume: fruits, veggies, one cup of oatmeal, one cup of nonfat yogurt, beans, nuts, popcorn and brown rice.  There were other items I don’t remember because I don’t like them. The food must be cooked simply. No frying, breading, etc.. Over the course of three months, you can gradually add foods back a few at a time: sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta and bread, lean meat, dairy, cereal. Some food you can never add back. After a month last fall, I lost about 7 pounds (that I kept off), but returned to old habits.

How do I lose this weight? Back to Fat Smash. Just for a month, then switch to something sensible like Weight Watchers. I made this decision like many Aries decisions, on a whim. I wasn’t prepared. First off, this plan is quite pricey. Plant based foods are way more expensive than easy processed foods. I ran to the grocery store, purchased my list of allowed items and was ready to go. Breakfast was oatmeal and blueberries. I hate oatmeal, but really wanted some kind of carbs into my day to avoid gas, lol. I actually eat oatmeal regularly. However, it’s with brown sugar and dried apricots that mask the mushy nothingness. No sugar or dried fruit which is just sugar were allowed. Man, did that oatmeal make me sad. Lunch was hilarious because I didn’t make anything the night before. That morning I just grabbed stuff for a salad: bagged salad mix, onions, red pepper, black beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. Then I had yogurt and grapes for an afternoon snack. The key to this plan is to constantly eat. Otherwise you get hungry, Incredible Hulk hungry. So I had pistachios and strawberries for additional snacks. At home, I realized that I didn’t feel like cooking. I really should have meal planned. So I stuck with a trusty staple I love: Wegman’s brown rice steamables and added a mixed vegetable steamable (I cheated and added the smallest dab of butter ever) and some cannellini beans. On the beans I sprinkled cayenne pepper. It was the saddest dinner ever. But I was satisfied.

Over the weekend, I finally devised a menu and things came together. I made a wonderful lentil soup that was everything. I grabbed some soup recipes from the internet and combined elements of two of them. The key was cumin and red wine vinegar. I couldn’t remember if I could have vinegar but I let it go. I made fruit smoothies for breakfast and forgot about the sad oatmeal. I also gave myself a small cheat everyday to stay on track. I had coffee on two days because I was extremely sleepy at work. Another day I had tea with the slightest bit of sugar. I have this apricot peach tea that really doesn’t need sugar but realized I was out when I got to work. I had 3 to 4 Hershey’s kisses to satiate my sugar cravings on some days. One day, I went to my new office’s taco Tuesday mixer and had some soft Chicken taco. That didn’t go well by the way. The cheats helped me stay on the plan and I felt physically great after about a week. I was detoxed. The first few days I felt a bit like how a Hollywood starlet must feel: hungry, slightly loopy and off balance. I am pretty sure this is how they must eat regularly to maintain their size. Plus, you aren’t allowed to exercise more than 30 minutes a day. So I got a lot of rest.

I did well, remarkably well. Even eating out. One day, I had Chinese food: mixed vegetables and brown rice. There was this tasty orange sauce that came with it that I devoured. I am not sure what it was or if it was allowed on the plan but I ate it anyway. I also learned to increase my portions. I was eating way too little salad. I moved from a bowl full to a plate full. Every drab meal was met with extreme excitement since I was always starving. However, eventually my appetite subsided and I started to eat less. I extended the detox to two weeks and after two weeks, I lost 9 pounds. I decided to skip the incremental steps and move to the sustainment portion of the plan as I was ready to eat everything. With the 5 pounds I lost in the two weeks prior, I am up to 14 pounds. I am halfway there. I just need no triggers make me want a cookie. Looks around…nope nothing here.

 

Fourth of July Edition

bearI don’t know what I did incorrectly in my adult life. Okay, I have several clues, but I spent the Fourth of July not eating barbeque. In fact, it was a rather ho hum four-day weekend with minimal plans. Something weird has happened. I get bored. This isn’t me. I blame this on several factors. I am an introvert. An extreme introvert. Actually, I am downright shy, which in women mostly reads as cold and aloof. Being alone doesn’t usually bother me. However, here’s the problem. For two years, I had a long-term house guest that drove me batty. All I wanted was to moments of solitude. So living alone again was good. This was buffered by the fact that I worked with a bunch of chatty extroverts who satisfied my spurts of chattiness that occurred throughout the day. However, in my new office I am surrounded by IT folks who talk about IT stuff. Yea, no. I have no conversations about fun things like Mad Men, wine, Groupon or other randomness that pops into my head on a regular basis and now I get bored.

Television shows us that single people aren’t really single. You have your cadre of friends who regularly hang out in your apartment (Living Single or Friends), constantly schedule outings and events (Sex and the City or Martin), or see frequently at your local spot (Cheers). This is not in fact real life. Of course, we introverts don’t realize this due to an over reliance on television. We are a weird lot. We actually like going out, just not meeting new people or whatnot. We just like to have our sitcom troop of compatriots who are a steady and reliable presence in our lives. In hindsight, I never saw these characters at random cookouts, parties or other such events. It’s those darn extroverts that get these invitations.

So Fourth of July, I watched television. I had this wonderful idea to catch up on home projects and did none of them. I refrained from my favorite solitary pastime of shopping, which was a miraculous feat. Friday, I saw Despicable Me 2. It was cute but I wanted to see more of the girls. I really like the girls and it was too focused on Gru.

Saturday, I went to Baltimore to see The Wretched for big fun. Okay, I went to the African American Heritage Festival. The thing that amazes me about this event is how much it changes every year. I still remember the first time I went to see Erykah Badu, when I was stuck at the train station. The few constants I experience every year are somehow ending up on the freeway when attempting to park and people still wear inappropriate clothing for their body types. The changes:

  • This year it was free. For a couple years, they attempted to charge for entry, which didn’t go well.
  • No outside food allowed. This meant that I waited in line for 20 minutes for food that turned out to be sold out.
  • There was only one stage and one real headliner. Of course, there was some teen stage that I chose to ignore. Previously, there were several themed stages include national artists and underground R&B. This is how I discovered my hair role model, Deborah Bond, and others such as Ledisi, Conya Doss and Sy Smith.

This year I discovered that reality television really serves as an amazing platform. The crowd was pumped to see K Michelle, whose fame comes from being on the just awful in my opinion, Love and Hip Hop Atlanta. Even though, I don’t think many were familiar with her songs. People jumped up and were truly excited to hear songs from her latest EP. Granted the song content wasn’t my cup of tea, mostly about beef, strippers and hood rich activities. However, people loved her. The headliner was Fantasia. I really liked her on American Idol. I acknowledge that Fantasia, the singer, was overshadowed by Fantasia, the person. She was brave to admit she couldn’t read but that didn’t win her any favors with the public. She over the years became a punchline instead of a focus on her overall talent. Despite, her personal struggles, she puts on a great show. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I will admit I would never plan to see her through any other opportunity.

The Summer is Here Edition

MP900384872 (2)June is Black Music Month and usually kicks off my summer concert season. I started the month off with my favorite event: The Capital Jazz Festival. This year the event was more aggravating than in previous years. I didn’t attend last year because the line-up was ho hum. The line-up this year was stellar and that was made obvious by the fact that the event was sold out. I meant to go up to the box office the week before to obtain my tickets; however, I felt awful. Once upon a time, I could get tickets at an outlet in the next town over or at one of Merriweather Post Pavilion’s sister venues. However, that was not allowed and the online fees were expensive. The tickets were already $65 each day and there isn’t a two-day discounted package. The fees amounted to $15 each day. I just figured I would get my tickets at the venue. Wrong. It was sold out. I was Lost and Turned Out. Viva Les Whispers! I had to wait by the gate hoping someone would sell a ticket. I had my chair, tote and cooler and really struggled to make it to people yelling that they were selling tickets. I kept losing out. However, with patience (I suck at) and perseverance (I’m great at), I got into the concert.

First, the logistics were horrible. The Soul Stage, where we usually plant, was full of tents and immediately adjacent to the vendor area. There was no place to camp. We were forced to sit in the abundance of too many folding chairs all day. This was not comfortable. MPP made a huge error in two ways: placing the vendors near Soul Stage. The crowds could barely maneuver through to get from stage to stage or stage to bathroom. MPP also allowed too many tents to set up. People were extremely disheartened to discover that the uncomfortable folding chairs are the only option. You really cannot stretch your legs or easily place your cooler anywhere. They wouldn’t allow anyone to move the folding chairs.

Despite the terrible logistics, the artists were great. I was especially surprised by Babyface. He was funny, fun and in great voice. He sang his songs and a medley of songs he wrote for other people. Man, does he have a deep bench. I wish he would have sung songs from the 2000’s though, okay maybe just Face2Face. I loved that album. I’ve always loved The Whispers and wanted to see them in concert for years. Although, they are aging and not as agile as they once were, I experienced a group I adore, so I feel great about seeing them. Chaka Khan continues to elude me. Capital Jazz Fest has scheduled her twice and she has cancelled twice. Jeffrey Osborne took her place and he was okay. He actually has a song in my Top 50: We’re Going All The Way. And with my typical luck, he sang about four songs I didn’t know before hitting familiar tunes, none of which was the one song I like. Dammit. I feel like these artists plot against me. No, It Just Gets Better with Time from The Whispers either. Otherwise, the artists were awesome though I was pretty uncomfortable for two days.

Washingtonian published the 2013 free summer concert list. I was saddened to learn that my favorite venues for summer concerts – Carter Barron and Fort Dupont – have reduced schedules due to the Congress’s inability to do their jobs also known as sequestration. Carter Barron has two free concerts and no paid concerts. I am shocked about the paid concerts, I hoped that the money collected would cover the cost of an event. Granted tickets are usually around $25 but with 1,500 seats I thought we would be safe. Unfortunately, no. And the two free concerts are the Reggae and Blues nights, plus a few movies. Neither is my cup of tea. Fort Dupont serves as a showcase for the formerly successful. I have seen countless 70’s bands and the wonderful Roy Ayers at the park, all for the low, low price of free. This time Fort Dupont concerts feature local artists including the U.S. Army Band. I will admit that I am disappointed. While I hate interacting with the outdoors with such ridiculous things as hiking and canoeing, I submit to listening to music while sitting in the summer breeze. My big events this summer will be down to two—Summer Spirit Festival and, of course, the Legends of Summer Tour with Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake. Both are within a week of each other. I hope I can pepper in some more concerts this summer. Stay tuned!