Popped Books: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

“The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” by Issa Rae

I don’t remember the exact moment when I first saw an episode of “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” on YouTube. (I think maybe I was in college and a like-minded awkward friend put me on to it because she knew I would like it.) However, I definitely remember cracking up during basically every webisode. I could see so many snippets of myself and even a few of my awkward friends in J that I was hooked.

The web series was beginning to become popular back then, but not nearly as popular as it would become. “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” catapulted the web series’ creator, Issa Rae, into the spotlight and made mainstream media aware that black/awkward/nerdy people exist and want to see themselves represented way more on TV and in film.

My love for Issa Rae and everything that she represents put her first book, a collection of funny, autobiographical essays appropriately titled The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, on my radar as soon as it was released earlier this year. However, I let the dust settle a little so that I could get me a copy for the free from the library.

I started reading this book on my recent plane ride to NOLA and finished it shortly after I returned home to the Chi. It was a light and enjoyable read. I smiled, chuckled, and nodded with understanding as Rae entertained me with a wide range of topics—from how she can’t stand public displays of affection to how the idea for her web series came about. She even delves into personal topics like how her parents’ divorce shocked her world as a teenager and what it was like growing up half-African. I absolutely, positively loved the opening sentences to many of her essays, especially this one which comes from the essay “Leading Lady”: “Several months ago, I was blocked on Twitter by a disabled, white stripper” (Rae 35). Doesn’t that sentence alone make you want to read this book?

I’m just gonna discuss a few sections of this book that I really enjoyed and think you will too once you get your copy:

1. The Struggle

Part of being an awkward black girl is dealing with the age old issue of what it means to be black enough, which is the result of other people questioning if whether you are indeed black enough. Issa Rae delves into this topic in her essay, “The Struggle.” She writes about how she slips in and out of her “black consciousness” (160). She describes having moments when she “can’t see anything outside of the lens of race” (160) and other moments when she feels pretty apathetic about race and would rather not talk about it. It points to one of the biggest conundrums of our time in my opinion. On one hand, I want to teach my daughter to be proud of being a black girl and to care about issues relating to the African Diaspora, but on the other hand, I don’t want her to limit herself, her experiences, or her worldview by always seeing everything in relation to her blackness. I want her to be able to just be a girl, not always a black girl. Racism and white supremacy make this beyond difficult but I don’t think that we should stop striving for the kind of world that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed about.

2. New York, NY

Doesn’t every creative-type fantasize about heading to the Big Apple to pursue their dreams at least once in their life? In “New York, NY,” Issa Rae writes about her often bleak time in NYC when she was a broke, recent college graduate working two jobs and trying to grow her own nonprofit, which consisted of “filmmakers of color determined to reform the image of black film” (187). I really felt her angst in this essay, but I love that this period of uncertainty in her life led her to create the web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” She writes, “It all made sense: my shyness, all the times I was dismissed for not being ‘black enough,’ my desire to reframe the images of black film and television…these were all symptoms of my Awkward Blackness” (191). Sometimes certain doors have to close in our face so that we can realize our true purpose. I love this section because it’s something we all can relate too. I can’t imagine too many twenty-somethings that don’t have some kind of quarter-life crisis before they turn 30. Her story just proves that our trials really do sharpen us and may possibly even push us in the direction we are meant to go.

3. ABG Guides

Lastly, a major plus for me about this book were the funny “ABG Guides” interspersed between the more serious essays. These are sections of the book where Rae gives the awkward black girl reader seasoned advice on various topics such as the various kinds of blacks and how to interact with them (read the essay “Connecting with Other Blacks”) and how to deal with practically every type of coworker (see “When Co-workers Attack” for more info). These silly guides got a lot of chuckles and maybe even a few LOLs out of me!

So I’m not going to give all the goodies away because I do want you to check out this book and support my girl Issa Rae even if you simply pick this book up from your local library like I did. If you don’t have an awkward bone in your body, you more than likely will still get a few giggles and inspiration out of this book. If you are indeed an awkward black girl, I don’t know why you haven’t went out to get this book already. We have to support each other; we’re all in this together! (Did you think of “High School Musical” when you read that last line? No? Well, I guess we can’t be awkward sister-friends then…)

Have you read The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl or do you plan to? Any other cool or funny memoirs/autobiographies that caught your eye lately? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook!

Trial and Error

Lotion-making like life is trial and error. You can research as long as you can. Get a bunch of different advice. Yet, there are some things you only learn and get better at by doing.

I’ve been feeling encouraged by random people and a friend commenting on how soft my skin looked (or felt in the friend’s case) after consistently using the first batch of lotion I made. It felt good to know that it was because of my own little homemade concoction. I’d never really considered myself good at making things with my hands. This new hobby of mine is one more reminder of my little internal theme for this stage of my life: no limitations (cuz “I’m a No Limit Soldier known to keep it rowdy”–virtual dap if you know what song that’s from) and no labels.

Last weekend, I decided to make a Vanilla Shea Butter Lotion. This was the second time that I made lotion on my own and the third time I’ve made it in general (remember that class I took at Magalie Naturals?). I still had a teensy bit of those little butterflies of excitement that I had the first time I made lotion during Memorial Day weekend.

This time, I was very pleased with the consistency of the lotion. I used a little more sweet almond oil than shea butter this time. For some reason I thought the result would be a lighter lotion. However, the lotion was actually a little thicker and creamier. My skin absorbed it pretty quickly, but I did notice a little more dewiness (or shine) than from my last batch, which actually doesn’t bother me. It just means I can use even less of it at a time to have soft, glowing skin!

The only thing that I wasn’t super crazy about is the scent of this batch. I wanted to get all fancy and make some kind of green tea vanilla lemon goodness but wasn’t able to. Hopefully next time though!

Check out my ingredient list for my latest batch of Vanilla Shea Butter Lotion:

  • 70%    Distilled Water
  • 12%    Shea Butter
  • 10%    Sweet Almond Oil
  • 3%      Stearic Acid
  • 3%      Emulsifying Wax
  • 1.25% Vanilla Extract (McCormick brand)
  • 0.75% Optiphen Plus (non-paraben/non-formaldehyde preservative)

For more info on the equipment I used and measuring methods, check out my first post on lotion-making. I never got a more precise scale, btw, for those of you that remember my measuring dilemma from the first post. Oh well.

ingredients vanilla lotion

I gathered my ingredients together on the kitchen counter. You can see the regular-ole McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract that I used to add fragrance to the lotion. I’m wondering if I would have liked the vanilla scent a little better if I’d used a fancier brand/quality or even better figured out how to incorporate actual vanilla beans in some way. But hey, I’m lotion-making on a budget for now. I hope to use the A+++ ingredients one of these days though.

oil phase vanilla lotion

This is the oil phase. I melted the emulsifying wax and stearic acid in the microwave in 30 sec bursts, then added the sweet almond oil and shea butter. Since the mixture was warm, it didn’t take long to stir the shea butter until it melted completely.

two phases vanilla lotion

Here you can see the bowl with the oil phase and the other with the water phase. It may be hard to see the water in the second bowl. I tried to warm them in the microwave just a little to get each mixture to be about 70 degrees Celsius before I added the water to the oils in the large bowl. This is why I believe the consistency was so much smoother than the first time I made lotion at home. Remember in the post, Lotion-Making: My Very First Time, I said there were tiny waxy pieces throughout the lotion that needed to be rubbed in the skin a little bit longer than the rest.

mixing vanilla lotion

Mix. Mix. Mix.

vanilla lotion

And voila!

When was the last time you made something from scratch? It may be a little confidence-booster after you see how crafty you can be 😉 Let me know in the comments or on Facebook!

Essence Fest 2015 Tips and Tidbits

essence fest welcome sign

I know what you’re thinking…Yes, this is yet another post about Essence Fest 2015, but don’t worry. This will should be the last one! 😉 I just want to quickly shed some insight for those of you that have never been to Essence Fest/NOLA and may be thinking about heading there next year.

Here are some things that I either would have done differently or that I wish I had been prepared for before heading to the Big Easy:

1. Get a hotel in the French Quarter or close to it.
Although I loved the spacious 3-bedroom apartment we found on Airbnb in the Filmore neighborhood (subdistrict of Gentilly), I would recommend getting a hotel downtown so that you can be in the center of the action. Maybe not on Bourbon Street so that you can get some sleep (if you plan on sleeping), but a few blocks over from it. This way you can be within walking distance of French Quarter attractions as well as a short cab ride away from the Mercedes Benz Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for all of the Essence Fest events. Since we were a 15-25 min drive from the French Quarter and the Essence Fest events, having a rental car was great, but it did prevent us from really exploring on foot. I think we would have made better use of our time if we were already close to most of the action and didn’t have to drive to it.

2. Plan on getting up early if you want to see any of the empowerment speakers.
Each day, you will need to be at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center as soon as they open if you plan on seeing any empowerment speakers for that day. The events at the convention center are free and open to the public. This means there may be a ton of people trying to see the same speakers or attend the same workshops as you. You can only grab tickets for events on the day that they will take place; you can’t get the next day’s tickets in advance. The upside is that you can get tickets for yourself and your friends so everyone doesn’t have to show up early to get the tickets if they don’t want to.

3. Plan on not sleeping.
If you come to New Orleans during Essence Fest, you probably will get very little sleep because you won’t want to go home after the concerts in the evening. You probably will want to hit up the French Quarter. That will make it harder for you to get up early and make the most out of the free daily events at the convention center (see number 2). Bring a pack of Red Bull in your suitcase, prepare to guzzle some coffee, or just mentally prepare yourself to be a drunk zombie during your entire trip.

4. Keep that itinerary short.
You will not get to do half of the things you planned to do while in New Orleans.
Most people probably aren’t anal enough as me to make an itinerary, but if you are, know that you won’t get to do half of the things on there. Essence Fest has enough activities to keep you engaged all day, which makes it hard to take time to explore the diverse neighborhoods and dining options in NOLA.

5. You won’t see all of your fav musical performances. Be choosey.
You probably won’t get to see all of the artists that you want to see during the evening concerts at the Superdome. There’s very little time between the main stage performances and the superlounge concerts, which is probably intentional. If the performances didn’t overlap a little, there wouldn’t be nearly enough room in the superlounges. The superlounge concerts are a lot more intimate than the main stage performances. If you get to a superlounge early enough, you could end up standing at the front of the stage. However, getting there early would mean missing a good chunk of the main stage performance happening at the moment. I missed out seeing Raheem Devaughn perform in a superlounge, which I heard was amazing, only to see a disappointing mainstage performance by Missy Elliot. I’m still pissed at myself about that. Be warned!

Have you been to Essence Fest this year or in previous years? What would you do differently if you go again?

Essence Fest 2015 Recap Part II

Hey y’all! Welcome to Part II of my Essence Fest 2015 weekend shenanigans. If you’ve already checked out Part I, which includes a little intro and my Wednesday-Thursday adventures, keep on reading.

Less sleep, more drinks, and great food…

Fun at the State Farm booth at Essence Fest 2015

Fun at the State Farm booth at Essence Fest 2015

Friday

Friday was the official kick-off of all the Essence Fest events, including the empowerment workshops, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. I had plans to get inspired by Deitrick Haddon, learn about getting my side hustle together by the Queen of Side Hustles, Kandi Burruss, and get some fitness tips from Mr. Hip Hop Abs himself, Shaun T. Too bad none of that happened…

After waking up late because we spent a late night in the French Quarter, we arrived at the convention center around noon and found out that we needed tickets to attend the free empowerment workshops, which they were all out for the day. We were kicking ourselves for not getting there earlier but also ticked off that it wasn’t clear that we would need tickets for the workshops.

So what do you do in New Orleans when there’s nothing else to do? Drink. I was very close to slapped before it was even 5 o’clock. I must say that strolling through the convention center buzzed was probably a lot more fun than it would have been sober. We got silly and made a 30-second video at the State Farm booth (peep the video below) and did the electric slide on the Coca Cola dance floor to some jams by Cameo and other songs that I was too buzzed to remember now. I definitely remember being turnt tho.

Since we learned our lesson from the night before, we made it in decent time to see Kem, India Arie, Charlie Wilson, and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly perform at the Superdome Friday night. Everyone was really good, but Charlie Wilson definitely got the party started. Uncle Charlie showed everybody how it was done. When he performed one of my favorite songs ever, “Outstanding,” my night was complete.

Saturday

NOLA praline from Magnolia Sugar & Spice Praline Kitchen & Hot Sauce Bar

NOLA praline from Magnolia Sugar & Spice Praline Kitchen & Hot Sauce Bar

Being the sweets-lover that I am, I could not leave New Orleans without trying a praline so I stopped for one at Magnolia Sugar & Spice Praline Kitchen & Hot Sauce Bar since I could actually see a lady making them at the front of the store. Mine was already wrapped and packaged up, but it still tasted fresh and delightful. It had nothing on my beloved beignets, but it was tasty.

Speaking of tasty, we randomly stumbled on The Rum House, a “Caribbean Taqueria” on Magazine street after the original place we had in mind told us the wait time was an hour and a half. Ain’t nobody had time for that.

I’m forever grateful that we found The Rum House because I was in taco heaven. I ordered the Taco Trifecta, choosing a seared-scallop taco, a chilled shrimp taco, and a steak taco with guacamole. I also chose their smothered greens for my side. Nothing on my plate disappointed. It was definitely my favorite restaurant out of the few that we visited. The frozen Sangria Margarita was lovely as well. All of that with a phenomenal waiter to top it off=good times.

My Taco Trifecta from The Rum House (scallop, shrimp, & steak), NOLA

My Taco Trifecta from Rum House (scallop, shrimp, & steak), NOLA

We took a little time to stroll down Magazine Street before heading to the Superdome that evening. We came across a cool vintage store where I picked up a “Do the Right Thing” tank and some parrot earrings. I’m kinda second-guessing the earring purchase now, but we’ll see how I feel after I try them on.

Macaroons at Sucre, NOLA

Macaroons at Sucre, NOLA

We also stumbled on the most beautiful little bakery that had so many colorful and decadent desserts on display. One of the handsome guys behind the counter let us try some delicious macaroons. I seriously thought about taking some of them home for my cake-decorating, future bakery-owner bestie, MsBijouWho, but the prices made me zip my purse up with the quickness. Yep, even on vacation, I think like a SAHM. Budget. Budget. Budget. Sigh.

Saturday night at the Superdome was amazing, mostly due to the super-entertaining and awesome performance by Ms. Erykah Badu. She is the truth. Everybody was out of their seat by the end of Usher’s set too. He was almost putting people to sleep in the beginning while performing some lesser-known songs and some instrumentals, but by the time he started singing “You Make Me Wanna,” “Nice & Slow,” and songs from his “Confessions” CD, I think everybody was like, “Okaaaaayyyy Ur-sher.” The only thing that was kinda disappointing is he didn’t take his shirt off, but I’ll give him a pass on that one I guess.

Sunday

Sunday was bittersweet. There was so much that I still didn’t get to do in New Orleans by the time Sunday night rolled around that I was a little sad that the weekend was already over. Not to mention that that was the end of my unlimited girl time. And yet, I was really missing hubby and L-Boogie at home.

Bad Boy R&B group, 112 signing autographs at Essence Fest 2015

Bad Boy R&B group, 112 signing autographs at Essence Fest 2015

I didn’t get to eat as much fried chicken as I could handle at Willie’s Scotch House or really get to explore any of the neighborhoods, but I did get to see more celebs at the convention center on Sunday afternoon than I did in the previous days. I took a picture with journalist, Roland Martin and got a flier signed by Bad Boy R&B group, 112. My bae, Daron, even shook my hand. I could’ve died. Yeah, he shook everybody’s hand, but still…I told him he was my fav and he smiled!!!!!!! OMG!

That night, Floetry killed it at the Superdome, but Mary J. Blige proved that she’s still the Queen of Hip- Hop Soul (check out a video of her singing “Not Gon’ Cry” below). She had everybody on their feet during most of her performance and the crowd literally went nuts when she brought out Method Man while singing “You’re All I Need.” It was the perfect ending to the weekend.

We headed to Bourbon Street after Kendrick Lemar’s performance and although I tried to hang, my feet were killing me and I just couldn’t do it. I’d left my flip flops in the car earlier that day so I was stuck in some comfortable heels that turned into heels from hell by the end of the night. (In fact, my feet were still tingly and sore after returning home because of those dang shoes I had on.) So I got a few souvenirs and about 30 min of sleep before I had to be at the airport Monday morning. And that was the end of my Essence Fest 2015 getaway and reunion with my college besties!

Overall, my first grown woman getaway was a ton of fun. It was a much-needed break to recharge before returning home to my domesticated life as a mommy and wife. While I thoroughly enjoyed having a little flashback to those glorious sisterhood moments that I had in college when I was able to eat, sleep, and turn up with my besties 24/7, I realized that I wouldn’t change a thing about my life at the moment. It’s true that I don’t get a chance to just be a woman and do girly things nearly as much as I’d like to. However, Essence Fest weekend made me realize that even if Usher had taken his shirt off and I was able to try all the fried chicken that New Orleans had to offer, it wouldn’t have compared to hearing my toddler say, “Love you” or being in my husband’s arms.

So long NOLA! Can’t wait until we meet again! 

Essence Fest 2015 in New Orleans, LA Recap (Part I)

Little sleep and big drinks…

“Bourbon Street before the crowds come at night.” 14 February 2012 by Chris Litherland via Creative Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

I’m baaaaaaaccccckkkkk. Back in more ways than one. This is my first blog post after my little hiatus and I’m happy to be back to see what’s poppin’! The break was really good for me. Although I missed blogging, it was good to recharge and get my mind right. I have a lot more to say to my popped people than before the break so I’m pretty excited!

One of the things I want to tell you about is my trip to New Orleans, LA for Essence Festival 2015 during 4th of July weekend! This trip helped me mark a couple of things from my 101 Things in 1001 Days list, including:

2) Travel to a city/location in the U. S. and outside the U.S. that I’ve never been before (1/2)
3) Have a reunion with my besties from college
52) Go to a concert

I’m ecstatic to knock off 2.5 things from my list and can’t wait to share more with you about the trip. Let’s start with highlights from Wednesday and Thursday!

Wednesday night

I arrived in hot and humid Nawlins for a long-anticipated reunion with my besties from college, Di and Des. You all may remember one of them from one of my P.O.P. Women features, The Positively Optimistic & Powerful Destiny. I don’t think we’d all been in the same room with each other since my wedding in January of 2013 so we were really excited about this trip. One of the best things about college is that you have the opportunity to make friends for life that come from all over the U.S. (and world for that matter). We all rep the Midwest, but have such different backgrounds, experiences, careers, and personalities. This made deciding where to go and what to do a little complicated at times, but it also made the experience that much more interesting.

Coop's Place in New Orleans, LA

Coop’s Place in New Orleans, LA

We ate dinner in the French Quarter at Coop’s place our first night in NOLA. I’d read about it being a must-visit dining spot for real New Orleans food. Once I’d gotten there, I’d forgotten what they were famous for and had no idea what to order. The waitress wasn’t very friendly so I ended up trying the Coop’s Taste Plate, which consisted of a cup of seafood gumbo, red beans and rice with sausage, rabbit and sausage jambalaya, and a fried chicken wing. The best thing on my plate by far was the fried chicken wing. It had just the right amount of seasoning and it was pretty much everything. The flavors tickled my starving taste buds in all kinds of amazing ways. The red beans and rice and jambalaya were just ok. All that I really remember about them was that they were spicy. 

Seafood Gumbo at Coop's Place, NOLA

Seafood Gumbo at Coop’s Place, NOLA

Besides for the food, the service and ambience left much to be desired. Even though we were able to sit down right away, there was a hella long wait for the food, flies buzzing around, and the tables were so cramped that I had to keep getting up during my meal to let people pass behind me. That definitely killed my vibe. My food was lukewarm as well, which was probably my fault. I had to run to the car to get a change of clothes right when the food came because I’d spilled my drink all over my lap. I’ve noticed that I have a pattern of spilling drinks lately. Maybe because my drinks are so few and far between that the buzz catches me off guard and I get clumsy. But, I must say that the one, delicious chicken wing on my plate and the good conversation stopped that dinner from being a complete fail.

After leaving Coop’s Place, we strolled down Decatur street and guess what I saw…Café du Monde. The thought of scarfing down some hot, sugary beignets was one of the main reasons that got me down to New Orleans. Let’s just saw I was not disappointed. They were a doughnut-lover’s dream come true. It was an orgasm of powdered sugar in my mouth. They were everything. I could have eaten them everyday I was there, but my stomach fat and our schedule wouldn’t let me.

 Thursday

Western omelet with cheese, hash browns, and biscuit at The Trolley Stop Café in NOLA

Western omelet with cheese, hash browns, and biscuit at The Trolley Stop Café in NOLA

The official Essence Fest festivities didn’t kick off until Friday morning so we spent Thursday late morning/early afternoon eating and strolling a mall in downtown New Orleans. We ate at The Trolley Stop Café and it was everything. The long wait was worth it when I finally got a taste of my western omelet with cheddar cheese, hash browns, and biscuit. The food was so good that we ate there twice, once during brunch hours and the next time at like 2 or 3 in the morning, after coming from a (somewhat wack, wannabe bougie) club nearby. It’s open 24 hours during the weekend. Definitely a must if you’re vising NOLA!

Yours truly before leaving for the Kevin Hart show. Yep, I was def one of the most fully clothed women at Essence Fest ;)

Yours truly before leaving for the Kevin Hart show. Yep, I was def one of the most fully clothed women at Essence Fest 😉

Thursday evening we headed to the Mercedes Benz Superdome to see Kevin Hart’s What Now show. Lecrae and Trey Songz were his musical opening acts. Due to poor planning and the unexpected inefficiency of the process of getting into the superdome, we didn’t get to our seats until Trey Songz had already started performing. I was a bit bummed about missing Lecrae, but I did get a peek at him a few days later at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center during some Essence Fest festivities. I would’ve loved to see how the crowd responded to a Christian rapper preforming right before Mr. “Invented Sex” Trey Songz. That should’ve been comedy in itself!

Kevin Hart’s show definitely had its hilarious moments as expected, although, I wouldn’t say it was better than his previous stand-up that I’ve seen on TV/DVD. (This was my first time seeing him live.) I must say that he was not playing games when it came to his “No camera/No cell phone” policy during the show. Anybody seen pulling their cell phone out during the show was kicked out. Let’s just say that it was too many people being escorted out to count. That little man meant biness!

After the Kevin Hart show, we headed to the French Quarter and looked around. There was a good amount of people out, but the huge Essence Fest crowd didn’t really show up until Friday. We had our first Big Easy daiquiris. I had a strawberry one and it was delicious. We just loitered around until we were ready to turn in for the night. It was hard to go home when everything was still bright and open way into the wee hours of the morning. It reminded me of Times Square in NYC but at a much slower pace. Clearly, NOLA never sleeps, but it’s a relaxed insomnia unlike the hustle and bustle of NYC.

Stay tuned for Essence Fest 2015 Recap Part II! It feels great to not only be home with the fam and catch up on zzzzzzz’s, but to also be back in the blogging saddle 😉 Keep it poppin’ until next time!