Making Butter

I made butter recently. One of the things that I have been enjoying this COVID era is hosting my pod members/friends to dinner in my apartment. Before the COVID era, whenever I was going to spend time with friends, it was usually done outside the house. A quick stop at the ice-cream place in the summer. Or a jaunt at the local thrift shop, Savers, to browse was generally my go-to friend hang out. With a raging pandemic, going out hasn’t felt as safe as staying in. So when I invited my friend B to dinner, we both knew that meant a trip to my apartment. The menu was pretty simple because I knew I was going to spend the day studying. I wanted to make sure that it was a stress-free day for me and her.

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Silhouette of me at a beach in new bedford

5 Things I Am Missing This Summer

I keep thinking about the things I am missing this summer. I always used to say that every New Englander lives for the summer. In the Boston area, where I live, winter is full-on. The chill starts in November. In maxes itself out in February and March. The snow keeps coming until May. For a city that is built on public transportation, walking around in heavy shoes because of dirty sloshy snow is a pain. So, summer is a thing.

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Romance Books To Read July 2020

Romance Books To Read July 2020

I am recommending a few romance books in this post. If you choose to use the links included in this piece, I will likely earn a commission from Amazon. Please support me by using the links included. The money I earn will allow me to continue to produce this blog consistently.

June started off with a bang. It was a bang that the world really needed to hear. With the intensification of the Black Lives Matter movement, I was transfixed with the news. I spent so much time on Instagram reading posts and reposting resources to stories. So it was a lot on my Black body. In the midst of this turmoil, the way I found to calm my anxiety was to focus on reading novels. In particular, I committed to reading romance novels by Woman of Color as a form of protest against the overwhelmingly white gaze of the publishing industry. 

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Chipotle Chili topped with yogurt and cilantro

A Decade in Review

A Decade in Review

A Decade in Review

Recently I have come to realize I am very future-oriented. I am constantly looking forward to what is coming next. This is really clear if you have ever had a meal with me and I am already talking about what I should cook next. That’s just the way I roll. The danger in this approach to life is that I constantly feel like I am not quite where I am supposed to be. Instead of seeing everything I have done, I am always so focused on what I have yet to achieve.

Lately, everyone has been sharing their highlight reel on the net. Yes, I call it a highlight reel because very few people are honest about the struggles they have overcome. Social media has made us all into good editors. I am not going to lie. While I was reading some of those reels and feeling down about my own life, I was asking God “when?”. It was like this every time somebody talked about buying a house, or landing the corner office or having a baby. Then after the expected bout of dejection, I took a step back and looked at my own life. And this is what I saw on my reel.

I finished my second Master’s degree at the beginning of this decade.

I earned an MSc. in Management from a university in England. And at the end of this decade, I am in the early phase of moving into a brand new field, nursing. Currently, I am in school completing classes towards a BSN and I feel ecstatic about the things I am learning.

I discovered that I love teaching. I did a year of service in Ibadan teaching at a public grammar school for children from poor families.

Then I moved to Boston and became an educator at a big company. While working in retail, I realized I want to be a health advocate and chose to go back to school to become a nurse. This decade is really when I realized I love working with people.

A Decade in Review
I moved around a bit at the beginning of the decade.

My decade started in England and then I moved to New York then Lagos to Ibadan then to Boston. I have now lived in Boston for almost 7 years. There is something about feeling like I am where I am supposed to be that makes me glad that I took the time to find the place that suits me. There have been many lonely days and nights. I have also had many moments of amazement that I am brave enough to seek new fertile grounds. Like I feel I really chose to be a small fish in a big pond this decade

In the midst of all the moving, I managed to start a business with my sister.

We co-founded and managed a fashion business that actually employed a small team of people. We ultimately decided we needed to close the business and I chose a different path back to the US. Those days working with my sister would stay with me for a lifetime.

I expanded my sense of empathy in this decade.

I feel like I have always been an empathetic person. But looking back, my empathy seemed conditional. Living life and discovering that having control in life is an illusion made me take a step back. Discovering my own pain and the pain of others expanded my heart and made me more likely to offer grace instead of judgment.

In many ways, I have come to understand my own mental health in this decade.

I have had some of my saddest and most depressing days in these last 10 years. But I have had more good days than bad. I’m finally learning how to prioritize my peace, set boundaries and center my need for happiness. I say learning because it is a process that has no end. As my life evolves, so does my practice of self-care. 

A Decade in Review
I became Black.

I know this is a weird statement to make because surely I have been Black for my whole life. But, the thing is I really discovered the social construct that is Blackness when I moved to Boston. Who would have thought Boston would be where I would learn about racism, micro-aggressions and the ways bias hinders achievements in Black lives? I could write a whole dissertation on this.

I found love.

Not just romantic love that makes me feel seen and supported. No, I also found the love that makes friends turn into family. I discovered the love of self that makes it easier, not easy, to be selfish about taking care of myself. Oh! that  self-love is beautiful and terrifying because suddenly I am telling people, “ Yes, I am smart.” Love is beautiful especially when I take a step back and see the evolution of the relationship with myself and my people.

A Decade in Review

Writing this quick review of my decade made me realize that I have so much to be grateful for. The one overwhelming thing about my life how much privilege I have been afforded. Sometimes I get lost in my struggles of my earning enough money or not being married or owning a house. However, lately, I am also taking a step back and recognizing the privilege of my life. I have had so much autonomy over the course of my life, especially in this past decade. I have had the luxury of making a decision based on the pursuit of happiness. Chasing happiness and emotional fulfillment is a luxury. For that, I am grateful!

Health as Shame

A picture of a black woman looking directly at the camera

The first time I had a negative thought about my body was around the age of 10. By the time I was thirteen, I was already skipping meals to be skinny. By the time I was fifteen, I took pride in not eating for days. At 31, I find myself still battling my body image. I have spent two decades of my life battling my body. I am always too fat. 

Finally, I have reached a point where I realize that the problem is not my body. The problem is the way I have been socialized to look at my body. It has been ingrained in me for so long that in order to be beautiful, I had to skinny. Not just any kind of skinny though. I had to be the kind of skinny that was still voluptuous. You know the kind of women’s body I am talking about. The big boobs, big ass, small waist, flat tummy and just the right amount of neck skinny. Oh! I almost forgot to add that you must also have that space between your thighs. Thinking about it know, I feel like the ideal woman’s body is like the specs for a car or a machine. It is not human. It is not real.

After another attempt at dieting to shrink my body and the inevitable mental health deterioration that accompanied it, I am putting in my resignation letter. I am not interested in dieting anymore. I am not interested in restriction anymore. For those who feel the need to talk to me about health, please don’t. 

I have found that the conversation about health is often a euphemistic discussion on shame. How can a woman who does not have the criteria listed in the ideal female body specs not have shame? I have  to admit that this shame is not reserved for the fat. In many ways, it extends to skinny women as well. How many times have we publicly discussed a woman’s body because she looks like she doesn’t eat.

We have begun to talk about shame much in the same way we talk about sex. We don’t talk directly about it but we do talk about it in other ways.  Just like we judge women for the number of men they have sex with, we judge women for the amount of food they are eating. And the problem is that we never allow women to be right. Whoa! You have only dated one guy. A woman should never have sex with more guys than she can count on one finger. Just like a woman should never eat more than salad on a date. A woman must never talk about having a libido just like a woman must never talk about her love of food. 

Of course, there are exception to every rule. In the health world, a woman can talk about her love of food as long as she meets the specs. A woman like Giada De Laurentis or Nigella Lawson can talk about food because they meet the specs. Every other woman must respect her “health” and avoid food like the plague.

Clean eating has become akin to pursuing new virginity. Sugar is universally reviled. Fat is still the demon. Unless you are on the ketogenic diet, in which case you worship at the altar of fat. The point is that diets have become a way of capitalizing on our shame. Just follow these few rules, and you will feel superior to all others. If you fall off the wagon, shame on you. You just need to try harder. Just think of how much better you would feel at 110 pounds in that bikini. Nobody ever says anything about how sad it feels not to be able to eat full-fat ice-cream.

Please, give me a moment here while I talk about how much I hate diet foods. I particularly detest the new generation of diet food like 50 calories a pint ice-cream that taste absolutely nothing like ice cream. Between diet books, diet foods, cult workout plans, the waist trainers and the detox teas, our culture of shame has spurned a whole industry that churns out millionaires by burning through our wallets.

After thinking critically about it, I have decided that I no longer want to be part of this cult. I have no more money to give to anything new diet ideas. There is no more time to contemplate if I should try the Whole 30 or keto my life. I am in transition out of this cycle of shame, disappointment, and self-destruction.

 I recognize that I have let food become a way of constantly shaming myself.

Don’t get me wrong; I still have lots of shame that I have to work through. The big difference between me of today and me of yesterday is that I recognize that I have let food become a way of continually shaming myself. I acknowledge that I have become a hateful critic of my own body. If I am sincere, sometimes I project my own shame to other people.

The work that lies ahead for me is to learn to silence the shame. I have started doing for myself in small ways. I am eating the foods that I find interesting instead focusing on restriction as the path the health. Part of recognizing the shameful way I have been relating with food is being able to call out myself when I am using food as a mechanism to get out of boredom or soothe anxiety. This work is tasking. However, I accept the tasking nature because it is never going to be easy to dismantle decades worth of shame and process.

As I get through my transition though, I don’t know what the other side of the shame-filled diet culture looks like or feels. I know that there has to be a better way than loathing my own body. 

Power of Representation

In the current climate we live in, I find myself having political conversations all the time. The recent conversations revolve around representation. I am lucky that I live in Massachusetts where the politics is reliably liberal. However, just because the politics are progressive does not mean we still don’t disagree. 

I found myself having a conversation about knowing your elected representative the other day with a lovely white couple. Yes, this conversation involved race. You see, at some point, we started talking about the Capuano/Pressley race for US House of Representatives. For those who don’t know, Mike Capuano is the incumbent Democrat Rep for Massachusetts Congressional District 7. He has held that seat for five years. He is a reliably progressive voice. By all metrics that we use to judge our representative, Capuano has not failed a single test. Oh! And Capuano is a white man.Capuano is being challenged by Ayanna Pressley. Ms. Pressley is an African American woman who serves on the Boston City Council.

When I was having this conversation with the couple, they were like but the positions are identical, and Capuano has seniority. That is a valid argument. But, my view on the Capuano/Pressley comes down to the power of representation. There is power in being represented by someone who can authentically speak to your life experience. Capuano might have a progressive voting record but he certainly does not understand what it means to be a minority living in Boston.

Representation: There is power in being represented by someone who can authentically speak to your life experience

I am not going to go into the trial and tribulations of being black in Boston, but it is a lot. It is an experience that only can be understood once you have lived it. Pressley, as an African American woman living in Boston, represents something that Capuano never will. Given how infrequently Black female candidates get the momentum needed to take them into office, I like to champion viable options like Pressley.

Alas, as I researched my primary ballot, I realized that I am not eligible to vote for Pressley because I don’t live in her congressional district. It was also glaring clear looking at my ballot that diversity is still a huge issue for the Massachussetts delegation. My ballot is overwhelming male speckled with some color.

I really don’t feel like I can complain about being under represented on the ballot. I know that until people like me, an ordinary everyday citizen, begin to participate in politics, we can’t complain. If I want my experiences to be seen and heard, then I have to step up and speak. 

I’ll be voting on September 4th 2018 during the Massachusetts Primary Election. General Elections are scheduled for Tuesday, November 6th 2018.

The $100 Kitchen Essential List

setting up a kitchen is one of the fastest ways to feel like you are home.

This morning as I stood in my kitchen using my mixer to make a batch of cookies, I started thinking about how far I have come. I had none of the kitchen essentials, and I did not know where to start. My life has unquestionably gotten much better than when I first moved back to the US five years ago.

It is not easy moving your whole life in two suitcases and a hand luggage. Especially when you are moving from Ibadan in Nigeria to Boston, Massachusetts.  When I arrived I did not own any kitchen gadgets, I slowly had to buy everything that I needed to set myself up and get cooking.

I guess I am feeling a bit nostalgic because September 1st is Moving Day in Boston. People change apartments, and others get an apartment for the first time. If you are a young person, who is in college or just starting out in life or even just short on money, it is not exactly easy to go to a store and buy a whole new kitchen in one go. But, if you are financially conscious or you love cooking or both, setting up a kitchen is one of the fastest ways to feel like you are home.

Hundred Dollar Kitchen Essentials list featuring sharp knife, frying pan, cooking spoon, plates, cups/mugs, cutlery, kitchen towel, chopping board, pot, mixing bowl, blender

Knowing this, I wanted to help by creating a list of things to make the kitchen set-up process easy. I was looking at my kitchen things and asking myself what are the absolute essentials that I use a lot. Then I thought about the places that I buy kitchen stuff for on the cheap. After much thought and consideration, these are the essential things that every kitchen needs for cheap.

I think a hundred dollars is a generous budget for an initial kitchen equipment shopping. However, I also know that a hundred dollars can be a lot of money. If you have to prioritize the list, focus on the few items then work your way down the list. 

OXO Six Inch Santoku Knife

A good sharp knife is something I highly recommend you splurge on from the get-go. Knives are such a big part of the kitchen experience. Plus a good knife saves you from cuts in the kitchen. My preferred knife is an OXO Santoku Knife. It is relatively good quality for a decent price. When I checked on Amazon, it was less than fifteen dollars.

Plates are an absolute must. I would actually suggest buying bowls, to begin with. These are the ultimate multitaskers. You can have a soup in a bowl or your morning bowl of cereals. You can also have a salad or some grains. But you can’t do all that with a plate. A good and absolutely cheap place to get plates and bowls is the local dollar store. While you are there, browse the aisles and get yourself some cutlery. My local dollar store also does an amazing job of stocking cooking spoons, cups, and mugs. Just note that if you have to choose between a cup or a mug, pick a mug. Always choose items that can multitask.

Something else that is a must when you first get a kitchen is a good frying pan. When I am buying my first frying pan for a new space, I always buy an all metal one. This because an all-metal frying pan can work on the stove top and in the oven. So, before I owned baking trays and pan, I used to bake my chicken and my cakes in my frying pan.

The other hack I had for my kitchen was my Pyrex glass mixing bowl. It used to be the thing I baked my bread in for a long time. You can also do a yummy pasta bake in Pyrex glassware. Contrary to your imagination, Pyrex bowls can be affordable if you know where to look. An excellent place to buy pyrex bowls is Walmart. They sell them as individual pieces. 

A black classic 5-speed Oster Blender

If you are looking at my list and thinking that I have gone insane adding a blender to the shopping list, let me defend my process. Looking for a fancy blender? There is plenty on the market for you. If you are on a budget, there are plenty of options too. Oster makes these fantastic 5 Speed blenders in the under 20 dollar range. I actually found one for 16.99 dollars at Target when I was writing this post. I used one of this 5 Speed Oster blender heavily, for a couple of years.  You have to make sure you do your research before buying. To be honest, between Walmart, Target, Amazon and Best Buy, one of those stores absolutely will have it on a rock-bottom sale price. 

By the time you are done buying the essentials, you should be able to start making decent meals in your kitchen. As you explore more recipes and settle into your new home, you will find yourself acquiring the things you feel you need. I have one ask of you. Please don’t buy that equipment that only does one thing like juice a lemon. Prioritize buying things that multitask.

Tomato Eggplant Sauce in a black cast iron pan.

The Problem With Self-Care

Self-care is an affirmation that my needs are validI am a big proponent of self-care. For me,self-care is an affirmation that my needs are valid. However, self-care is now big business in the consumerist culture that as American as apple pie. The big business of self-care is one that I find both intriguing and appalling. The problem with self-care business is that everyone is not allowed to care for themselves.

This whole thought about self-care as a business came about because the New York Times Magazine published a profile called ” The Big Business of Being Gwyneth Paltrow.” As the title implies, the article explores the ascendant of Ms. Paltrow as a purveyor of self-care via her Goop brand. Reading this article made me think about my college days when she first started pushing her newsletter out to the masses. There is a recipe I got from her that is still one of my favorite recipes. It is a plain apple and broccoli soup that is finished with lots of lemon juice. It is very similar to this recipe I found on the Goop blog for broccoli and arugula soup.

Anyway, let get back to the point of I was trying to make. Following the writer’s story about the trajectory of Ms. Paltrow’s brand as well as the rise of the self-care industry was interesting to me. One of the things that I love about the growth of self-care as an acceptable form of self-love is that it has empowered women to demand time for themselves. Time to read. Time to sleep. Time to do yoga. However, the rise of self-care as an industry as also meant that many underprivileged people are left feeling like they are failing at life.

One of the things that Ms. Paltrow talks about in the profile is how crucial it is for her to create an aspirational brand. A brand that is based on utilizing her privileged access to wealth that allows her to be able to create the kind of self-care she wants. While I do not begrudge her her privilege, I find it a bit naive not to have a conversation about how many women are not allowed to care for themselves properly. Forget about money because money is a huge barrier that I can’t possibly talk about all the ways it harms the underprivileged. Even when we do have the funds to create opportunities for ourselves, many women, especially black women are not allowed to care for themselves.

As a black plus size woman, one of my problems with self-care is the feeling of being unheard and unwelcome when I want to care for myself. One of the radical acts of self-care that I have done in the past few months is seeking help with my body. I went to the doctor, and I felt unheard and misunderstood. It was like everything I said boiled down to one thing; weight loss. I feel tired begat a lose the weight response. I am gaining weight at an unprecedented rate begat a eat less comment. Knowing I have a past eating disorder begat a sign up for weight loss clinic from my doctor. Through all of the emotional trauma of feeling as if my doctor intentionally did not want to acknowledge my mental health as a legitimate part of my well-being, I kept caring for myself by demanding a proper diagnosis and appropriate help.

Then I sign up for the gym, and I feel like my plus size body is being judged. One of the most uncomfortable parts of going to the gym for is the judgment. I can’t complain about the quality of service. Since I am fat, I can’t possibly understand how gyms work. I remember one time I went to use a treadmill at the gym and realized that the speed off. I couldn’t complain because it would have turned into “you are out of shape” instead of looking at the machine. This was despite the fact that, at that point, I had consistently been running for years so I knew what my body could or could not do. So fatphobia is another way that I am being denied full access to self-care.

I have found that relaxing experiences can become traumatic experiences because of my status as a black plus size woman.

As a black woman, I am treated with suspicion when I go into self-care service providers like nail salon. One manicurist refused to paint my nails until I had paid her. No one else had to pre-pay before getting nail color applied. One of my favorite things to do is to grocery shop. I love looking at new foods on the shelves and thinking about ways to use them. Even that has gotten ruined because I noticed that I was being followed at grocery stores. Apparently, I am not the right demographics for this particular store chain. Interestingly, I walk into stores, and I am not acknowledged because again not the right demographic. So even when I choose to self-care, the trauma that is inflicted on me in the process compounds the burden I am trying to offload.

I have tried to negate some of the problems with self-care. I now choose to self-care in ways that are centered around my safe space. I still like to explore new foods by reading food blogs and shopping online. My choice to learn how to sew and make my clothes has turned making into a form of meditation for me. I have also started exploring ways that I can bring yoga into my house.  I am a big fan of Yoga With Adriene. This means I am constantly looking for ways to create a yoga space in my apartment for private practice.

While I sometimes wish that I could go into cool spaces and be at ease enough to enjoy the experience, I can’t take chances. Instead of giving up on caring for myself, I am centering my self-care practice in my safe space. I am also excited that more women of colors and plus-size women are creating experiences for my demographic because of the trauma that comes from the general population.