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I love Halloween. And Thanksgiving. And Christmas. And Valentine’s Day.

Admittedly, I love every holiday that gives me an excuse to be in the kitchen. My lovely roommate would attest to the fact that of these holidays, Halloween is a clear favorite. Last year I made more than we were able to consume! Eating sweet things + Dressing up in a costume and prowling the streets of new york? Riiiight, like I would ever pass that up.

Unfortunately, I am busy studying this year and abstaining from the spooky sexy goodness  (it’s my first time not dressing up in 22 years! sadness of my life). I am, however, putting three of my favorite fall cookie recipes out there so that someone will be able to partake in the festivities.

The first is a not-so-sweet lemon shortbread that I made as an accompaniment for my friend’s tea party this past September. They are simple and infused with chamomile so you can imagine that they go well with any warm beverage and a cozy sweater. Eating them makes me feel like a ‘lady of leisure”. The second is my all-time favorite rainy-night oatmeal cookies (I hate raisins, so expect chooocoolate). The whole-wheat flour, extra cinnamon and walnuts all complement the oatmeal in ways never before experienced in your mouth. The final is my favorite Halloween treat made for the roomie last year. Three words for you: Reese’s. Peanut-Butter. Cups.

Dress Up and Rub Somebody This Weekend. Think of Me. xoxo.

Classy Lemon-Chamomile Shortbread Cookies
(Retrieved and adapted from realsimple.com)

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey (+extra for drizzle topping)

1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 lemon  (for both zesting and squeezing juice –> see Tip below)

4 packets of chamomile tea

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

1. Heat oven to 325° F.

2. In a small bowl, zest lemon and combine with squeezed juice from inside the lemon. Add 1 teaspoon of honey and vanilla extract.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and mix until light and fluffy. Gradually blend in the lemon zest mixture, followed by the continents of 3 tea packets, and finally the flour. Continue mixing until dough forms.

4. Evenly press the dough into a brownie pan or an 8-inch square cake pan. Dizzle lightly with honey and the continents of remaining tea packet.

5. Bake until the shortbread begins to turn golden (17- 30 minutes depending on your oven and size of your pan, check regularly after 17 minutes).

6. Let cool 5 minutes. Cut into 9 squares, then cut each square diagonally to make triangles. This makes 18 pieces total.

7. Cool completely. Remove the shortbread cookies from the pan.

Tip for Zesting

For me, the easiest way to zest a lemon is to take a lemon and cut it in half, then cut each new section into another half (so that you have 4 pieces out of the lemon total).  Take one of the four quarter sections into your hand and, using a cheese grater, lightly scrape the yellow off of the lemon peel. Stop when you have exposed the white inner peel. Continue with the remaining pieces of lemon. You may have to manually clean off zest from the grater and put it into the bowl from time to time.

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K!tchen Soundtrack for this recipe: “Neon”- Amanda Diva, Spandex, Rhymes, & Soul (2009), “I Decided”- Solange Knowles, Sol-Angel & the Hadley St. Dreams (2008)

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World’s BEST Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

(retrieved and adjusted from smitten kitchen’s oatmeal raisin recipe)

Ingredients
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter or butter-substitute, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I like to use Ghirardelli’s 60% dark bittersweet, but any type of chocolate chip will do)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips and walnuts, if using them.

At this point you can either chill the dough for an hour in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet and then chill the whole tray before baking them. (If you are short on time, feel free to bake them right away, but be aware that this will make them slightly less thick).

The cookies should be two inches apart on a greased or parchment-lined  baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in).

Take the cookies out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Recipe makes a couple dozen standard-size cookies.

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K!tchen Soundtrack for this recipe: “Rock Me Baby”- Tina Turner, What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993), “Rainy Night in Georgia”- David Ruffin, Rainy Night in Georgia (1994)

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Halloween Special: Peanut-Butter Cup Cookies

(retrieved and modified from realsimple.com)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature or butter substitute from cold
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 12-ounce package small peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped

Directions

Heat oven to 375° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or grease them appropriately.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugars until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in the peanut butter cups.

Drop tablespoon-size mounds of dough 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

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K!tchen Soundtrack for this recipe: “Thriller”- Michael Jackson, Thriller (1982), “Sweet Transvestite”- Tim Curry, Rocky Horror Picture Show(1975), “Touch a Touch a Touch a Touch Me” – glee cast, Rocky Horror gLee Show (2010)

**The title of this post was my fail-attempt at a pun. If this is lost on you, I suggest: http://tinyurl.com/67wofc**

Must give a quick shout out to the little ladies whose videos are making it a bit easier to be a black girl this week:

1) Sesame Street – I Love My hair

2) Willow Smith- Whip My Hair

As I told my mother, if these songs had been released when I was 9 years old- there would have been no safe place for her to hide. Oh, and the mash up between the two is awesome as well.

Much love from one black girl to another <3

“Keep fighting until I get there, When I’m down and I feel like giving up… I think again. I whip my hair back and forth!” -Willow Smith

“It’s curly and it’s brown and it’s right up there! You know what I love? That’s right, my hair!” -Cutest muppet of all time

One of my closest friends from college got this idea from some other mutual college friends. Then another favorite lady from that era of my life joined in. It’s a full-blown blog movement. And so, here we are.

Gratitudes are a list of simple things we are thankful for. The things that keep us grounded in the midst of all our craziness. When was the last time we paid attention to or gave thanks for the little things that get us through the day during our most hectic and stressful times? Sometimes it is so necessary.  just.  to.  pause.

GRATITUDES

  1. The way that the sun streaks through my bedroom window in the mid-morning through afternoon, highlighting the beautiful candles and plants I keep on my window sill.
  2. That we are knee deep into fall, by far my favorite season (seriously, I’ve mentioned this before, but orange/yellow/red leaves on trees? I’M OBSESSED WITH THEM)
  3. That no matter what I am doing or where I go in the world, there is a collective of amazing people in Buffalo, NY who will always love me.
  4. Reruns of gLee to jump start and off set wednesday-humpday mornings.
  5. Willow Smith’s Whip My Hair and the kids who are snapping to it (literally and figuratively).
  6. Even though my heart breaks with every report of another suicide, I am thankful that attention is finally being put on the isolation and abuse faced by too many queer youth in this country. I am thankful for the people who are reaching out with compassion, whether I agree with their methods (You Are Loved vigil) or don’t (“It Gets Better” YouTube campaign). And Ellen DeGeneres.
  7. Applesauce.
  8. Being caught in an elevator with someone who looks nervously at the wall, says “I wanted to tell you last night… I think you are pretty cute”. And then blushes and looks away.
  9. Being paid to read and write about the things I care about. Not needing a side hustle.
  10. The smell of fresh, clean laundry. And cinnamon. Not together.
  11. The completion of 1 field exam, accepting that there is still 1 more to go. And a dissertation proposal. And an entire dissertation to write- but we take things one day at a time. #TeamAchieve
  12. That I will be ending this week by having vegan brunches and fall frolics with the man I love most.

I am going to keep this one short.

Because couture fashion often resembles high art.

Because anything that celebrates the unique and stunning beauty of black women deserves to be spotlighted.

Because I just finished complaining about black representation in fashion, and so now it’s time to celebrate.

Because I am still giddy off of fashion week.

Because we worked it out this september on the glossy inked pages of magazines worldwide.

Because sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

And because the word ‘fierce’ may be played out, but act of being fierce never will be.

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*Kelis, I’m giving you the raised eyebrow and meaaaann side-eye over the headdress choice. You get a pass this one time because I love the lighting in the photo and your facial expression. Don’t try that ish again. Appropriating another’s culture is NEVER a good look. NEVER.


It’s September in New York. And among a plethora of other exciting happenings (the beautiful color changes on trees, the return of apple cider at the farmer’s market!, fall TV premieres… did I mention fall is my favorite season?), September in New York means Fashion Week.

Anyone who has ever picked up a women’s magazine is probably vaguely aware that September is fashion’s New Years Eve. But for those of us who live in the city, Fashion Week is visceral. Models. Models. Models. EVERYWHERE. Running around lost in SoHo, chasing after subway trains, their frazzled looking stylists in front of you waiting for morning coffee. Details of runway shows headline the evening news. Whispered text messages of “i saw [insert former Top Model cast member here]” start pouring in from your friends in late August and stay until the start of October.

I have sat on this post for a while now. Some of the questions I want to ask are difficult to grapple with and have no clear answers. What does it mean that for the first time, after 40 years of existence, Essence magazine, the largest publication dedicated to black women’s lifestyle, hired a white woman as their Chief Fashion Editor? Though there have been recent small gains in the presence of black models- why is there still a major lack of black women designers? Thanks in part to Essence’s decision, this will be the first time in almost 1/2 a century that not even a single black woman sits in the front row of editor’s seats at the runway. Where are the black taste-makers? The tides are changing.

How do we argue for continued attention towards the world of black fashion in Obama’s [insert sarcastic quote marks here] ‘post-racial America’? Many find fashion and beauty industries to be frivolous, but anyone who has seen the infamous doll test knows for sure that it is not. The ways that black women’s beauty, hair, body, skin, and fashion have been manipulated by media industries has caused so many long-lasting effects on our community that one blog post could not possibly do it justice.

Since I am short on time, and my books are calling me, I won’t go into much more detail about my thoughts on the manner. I will say this, there is a growing world of blogs and digital magazines that bring black interventions into the sartorial world to the forefront. Please check them out because they are doing such beautiful work. One of my favorites is Coco+Creme, an offshoot of Clutch Magazine that premiered in August. In one of their earliest posts, they asked who are the iconic foremothers of black fashion? Who are the women of yesteryear that we adore? Who do we often forget?

I have a lot of interest in icon-making and iconography, the ways that an image/moment in time/person/celebrity becomes more than itself and turns into somewhat of a rallying symbol. ‘Icons’ grow beyond their own specificity and become an almost empty vessel, one that we identify with and fill back up with our own hopes, dreams, nostalgias, and aspirations. We connect to other members of our community through their own relationship to the icon we have in common. Through them we find each other.

Icons are powerful things- don’t believe me? Haven’t you ever wondered before why elementary schools spend so much time teaching children lies about our ‘founding fathers’, framing them as honorable men so that the children will be ‘proud to be American’ from a young age? Ever asked a hip hop fan where they were when Tupac died? Where were you on September 11th when the towers fell? Does a clear image pop immediately into your head when someone says Che Guevara or Angela Davis? Yep. Exactly.

With this in mind, the article on ‘Black Beauty Icons’ really left me wondering a few things. Who would be a black girl’s Audrey Hepburn? Marilyn Monroe? Jackie O? Who maintained that old world class and glamour? Who was brave enough to fuck with the lines of normativity and be funky they bad self?

I decided that perhaps the best way to meditate on the future of black fashion and beauty was to look at our past. So, without further adieu, here are few women that I would add to my personal black fashion look book:

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Almost anything you ever wanted to know about the core of what I’m made of, you could learn from this woman.

I randomly stumbled across this video on facebook. I have no idea who made it, but it captures my Aunt Lorna in her finest essence. She is one of my mother’s best friends, one of the women who truly raised me from the first moment my eyes opened in this world, and a source of my strength when challenges arise. I love her more than words.

Finding this video was also serendipitous because the anniversary of my beloved Asa’s passing is this Saturday September, 4th. Asa baby, you already know that from the moment your body left this world your spirit changed the way so many view our actions of love, myself included. I think of you everyday.

“I think my greatest strength is probably my belief and dedication in the idea of unconditional love and building the beloved community. That’s my life’s work. That’s what I’m about. That’s the thing I’m trying to succeed at every single day. It’s not my greatest strength because I do it so well. It is my greatest strength because I believe in it with all my heart. And I think that faith in something gives us strength. So that would be it.” – Lorna C. Hill

This past Thursday I celebrated my two-year mark of moving to New York.  On August 19th, 2008 I moved to the city with less than a month to go before starting my PhD program and no friends (outside of Mother’s extended family- who all live in brooklyn) to call my own. I was starting, quite literally, from ground zero.

Fast forward the past two years. I’ve built a nice life for myself here. All the same, I think that New York City has a bit of learning curve. Or maybe that is just your early 20s in general? I learned how to navigate the subway within 24 hours of touching down in the city, however some lessons took a bit longer to master. Some lessons I’m still working on. Some I have to re-learn everyday.

One of the hardest of these lessons is how to be 100% comfortable in your own skin. When my  friend Celeste posted this WONDERFUL video a while back, at first I kinda ignored it. When another friend posted it this morning on facebook, I knew I could no longer push it to the back of my mind.

I was lucky enough as a child, especially as an only child, to have a mother that always encouraged the positive aspects of ‘alone time’. She often goes to dinner by herself and movies by herself or will spend an afternoon reading a book in a coffee shop by herself. My mother never needed someone else to entertain her, completely comfortable in her own thoughts, and that is something I am glad to have inherited from her. That being said, however, some days it still a struggle to be content with just being you.

And with that in mind I would like to add a few suggestions to the video above:

  • Look at yourself (naked) in the mirror everyday until you learn how to love everything that you see
  • Dance by yourself in  your underwear. It’s sexy. And fun.
  • Find the quirkiest thing about yourself that no one else understands, but makes you happy. Do that thing as often as possible.
  • Learn to revel in the silences – Still trying to learn this one from watching my fabulous roommate. I’m a bit of a chatterbox myself.
  • Take a cheap/free meditation class at your local community center or Learning Annex
  • Once a month, eat your dessert first.
  • Journal your thoughts (or start a blog!). Draw even if you think you aren’t that good at it. Make a collage. Try your hand at home movies. Express yourself in a new way.
  • Mistakenly ‘lose’ your cellphone ever once in a while. Remember what it was like to spend your day without having the world able to reach you every second. It feels good! I promise.
  • When you start feeling awkward or uncomfortable by yourself, check out this song. And play it on repeat until you feel good again.
  • Work every day at loving yourself more than anyone else can ever love you.
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