African Black Soap is The Truth.

Happy Monday. So, I talked about my skincare routine here. Recall that I wanted to make some improvements to my quick routine, being that with age came crazy, random blemish bursts and also, I think my skin had become way too used to the products I had been using for years. Several months ago, I was in the store and saw a bar of African Black Soap on the shelf.

I asked myself, Self, why haven’t you gone the African route? Hello? Your blood is 100% Motherland. Of course the Motherland would have the remedy for your skin. I checked out the ingredients (I knew it wasn’t pure, raw African Black soap; that one will tear your skin apart and I needed to take baby steps towards that kind of detoxification) and decided to purchase it. Slowly, dear reader, I saw the improvements to my skin. Trouble spots, particularly on my left cheek (three pimples that were hanging on for dear, dear life) and that insane forehead of mine slowly began to fade and ultimately disappear. I started doing more research on the YouTube about black soap and decided to try Shea Moisture’s products. Even better results.

The above two are my personal favorites. I use the soap twice a day (look at your Square Peg; months from 40 and making good skincare choices) and the mask is a once-a-month thing. Here’s my new and improved skincare routine, broken up by night and day:

clayclay2Night

Day

Same routine, except I skip the toner.

I haven’t yet hit up any eye creams and serums, but the toner has been great in diminishing the dark, waking-up-at-3AM circles under my eyes.

So far, so good. I’d very much like to apply African Black Soap all over my life, but that’s entirely another matter.

Bon Monday…

ain’t nothing changed.

As much as I’m thankful and grateful for the journey of changes in this life of mine (it took a long time to fall in love with myself, for example; self-worth/self-respect/self-esteem came late for me, but those things came right when they needed to 👐🏾), some things remain exactly the same for your Square Peg. And I don’t have a problem with that.

  1. sideeyeI still side eye strangers. It’s nice to meet new people. It is. But that nine year-old who barely trusted folks who weren’t mother or father hasn’t completely disappeared. Look: stranger danger is a thing. If we’ve never, ever met, there’s a chance that I’m checking all the exits in case you decide to flip out and/or request something I’d rather not give you, like limbs or kidneys. It is what it is.
  2. I still watch YouTube videos on how to style/wash/manage my natural hair. I returned to natural six years ago. *shrug* One never stops learning. And one forgets. And one finds a bizarre comfort in watching other people wash hair3their hair. And once needs reminders that detangling is a necessity. I mean just because you graduated from school doesn’t mean you don’t still (mind the double negative there) text your old Math teacher to ask her how to calculate percentages, right? Right? Hello? Anyone?
  3. I still use my library card. I haven’t in a while, need a new one for a new state, but I’m a library card believer. Here’s a story for why I consider it a privilege and not a right: my mother had me banned from checking out books from my local librarylibrary when I was about 13 years old. You see, I was a chronic later book returner. Like chronic. I also had this terrible habit of not remembering where I left my books. (Honestly, my mother’s wish that I have a daughter just like me when I was a teenager was appropriate.) As a result, my Mom was usually left with paying my fines. So, one fine day, Mom went to my favorite library and informed the librarians that I was disallowed from using my card until I turned 18. Yes. 18. So. Gangsta. I was heartbroken, wanted to scream and rage at her (but didn’t because I wanted to also live), etc. But it happened. And on my 18th day of birth, I went right to that library and re-applied for a new card. And promptly incurred more fines. But I was a working woman by then, so who was ‘gon check me, boo? (She was. I became much more careful. *nervous laughter*)
  4. dogsI still have my checkbook. Nope, you’re not in Jurassic Park. There aren’t dinosaurs drifting around you. I haven’t written an actual check in many moons, but there are still some companies that ask for your full checking account number with the twenty-five zeroes. Since that number remains unknown to me by memory, I make sure that my check book is somewhere nearby.
  5. I still wear slips. I am the daughter of an African woman. If I stopped wearing them, even despite the distance and states between us, she would know. Of course, honestly, I don’t wear them as much as I did back in the day. If a skirt or dress has lining in it, I opt to not add more fabric to it. But if I wear something thin or could potentially have a moment a la marilynMarilyn Monroe, I will so throw on a half slip. Sure, I’ve had moments recently where I realized, with cold dread, that the thing was slowly descending towards my ankles…but you know what? Panic is good for the soul. Keeps you alive. Not really. I digress. On the off chance that what I’m wearing may expose, uh, exposure, slips are still my go-to.
  6. I’m still salty about the ending of Lost. There’s nothing more to say.
  7. I still believe in the power of good penmanship. Not only do I believe in it, but I openly admire it when I see it. I know no one writes anything down anymore, so yeah, but on the off-chance that I see someone put paper to pen…and do it so well…and use flowy cursive or straight lines…happy sigh. Look, my sixth-grade teacher nearly hit me for not being able to get that cursive ‘r’ just right. Apropos of nothing. But back then, it was important to write well. It just was. Time and technology happen, so this isn’t a diatribe against that (I am typing all of this), but it’s a lost art that I enjoy seeing and doing.
  8. I still can’t end a list with an odd number. If loving even numerals is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Some things never change.

Are you lover of change? Or no? Or both? Or…just tell me.

Bon weekend…

 

💯

If you’ve been here for a while or recently stopped by to take a look at my little corner of the Internet, you know that I am Ghana-born, partially Ghana-raised, birthed by a Ghanaian woman and man, product of Ghanaian ancestry. Honestly, I’ve never wondered if there was anything else in my blood. I just never have. But one sees ads for Ancestry dot com and one gets curious. Even larger: I never met my paternal or maternal grandfather. Would a genetic test perhaps reveal a few things about them? Would genetics speak of them in some way?

I decided to find out. There was a sale on Ancestry so I took advantage of it and signed up to receive the at-home DNA kit to send back to them for testing. When the kit arrived, I was disappointed to learn that no, this wasn’t a Law-and-Order type of DNA test with a Q-tipped cheek swab. No, I would have to–ugh–spit into a vial. Side note: I believe, with all my heart, that spitting is ugh. So, yeah, the kit sat there for a while, ignored by me. Eventually, however, I got the nerve to re-open the kit and just do it, already. Conveniently enough, Ancestry sends you return packaging so I put everything together and sent it off.

The results came back to me a few weeks ago. Shall we discuss?

Pic

  1. Cote D’Ivoire, Benin, and Togo, oh my. Like I said earlier, This Square Peg never doubted the presence of Ghana running through her veins. But I’ll be for real: seeing Cote D’Ivoire and Benin
    yesss
    Girl, please. She knew she was 100% African.

    and Togo…WOW. WOW. So very cool and and intriguing all at the same time.

  2. 100 percent of something. A friend of mine remarked that she’s never seen results where someone is 100 percent of something. “You are 100 percent African. That’s really amazing.” Hearing that gave me life. Because it is amazing. I never needed confirmation of my genetic makeup, but seeing “100% Africa” above was just the coolest thing.
  3. French. Is it any wonder, dear reader, that I’ve been attracted to everything French since I was 12 years old? For reasons I’ve never quite understood? Could the presence of Cote D’Ivoire and Benin and Togo, all officially French-speaking countries, have anything to do with this longstanding amour? Can genetics determine devotion?
  4. Mama. When I informed my mom about the results of the genetic test, she responded with the following: “We don’t know anyone from there.” I laughed and replied that this wasn’t a list of people we knew, but rather what my ethnic heritage is.  She was silent for a bit, seeming to marvel over this information. I wondered if she was thinking about which one of our ancestors perhaps emigrated into Ghana
    Africa Map
    Photo courtesy of Africa Guide.

    from the three places, primarily Cote D’Ivoire. After all, if you glance at the Western side of my continent, Ghana is flanked on both sides by the other three countries. Anyway, I then mentioned to my mom that this could explain my abiding love for the French language (even though, real talk, I I speak Frenglish), a statement that she quickly agreed could be true.

  5. In the End…Other than wondering about genetics and DNA and the past and my forebears and on and on, life went on after learning my results. My curiosity was assuaged. I didn’t gain a wealth of understanding about the stories of the men and women I didn’t have the opportunity to meet. Nevertheless, it was just plain cool to add this new piece of information to the mosaic of me.

Have you ever done a test like this?

Feel like talking about it?

Can you hear the comments area calling?

Blogvember #29: The Baby Steps Gourmet.

Cooking is an art form. And in a world of cuisine Van Goghs, I’m best described as the lady with tracing paper who would love to just copy the art without doing all the work. When I was 15, my mother devised a plan: she, my sister and I would take turns cooking. She showed us how to do the basics, some recipes along the way, that sort of thing. I grumbled about it, of course, because what teenager doesn’t grumble? It’s in the teen DNA. But it was actually pretty awesome. I gained skills and became quite confident using them. Eventually, I could whip up a stew or Jollof rice in no time. When I moved out at 24, feeding myself was doable. I could cook my own food.

And then I moved back home.

There’s something about your mother’s cooking that makes your attempts laughable and inedible. And undesirable to yourself. Back home, I would whine to my mother that, rather than me cooking dinner for the family at the stove, she could do it much better. Her eye rolling in my direction was massive. But not doing it regularly like I had in the past wore away at my cooking confidence. When it was time to get to the stove (because all that mid-30s whining wasn’t cutting it with Mother), I found that I forgot simple steps or didn’t move with the confidence I had in the past. So I ultimately decided that I would move to TX and live once again on my own, what shocked me the most was that I actually looked forward to getting back to cooking for myself.

Don’t tell anyone.

Anyway, these days, I cook here and there. Working full-time and engaging in life and worship and new friends and new areas leaves little time to actually devote to homemade cuisine. But I’m working at it. Cooking at home is a money saver, can help me experiment, and at the end of the day, it just feels good to create my own meals.

Don’t tell anyone.

Last night, I decided to recreate my favorite (it deserves italics: favorite) Ghanaian meal: fried plantains and bean stew. Or red-red. Previously, when I tried to fry plantains years

redred
This isn’t my red-red. I ate it too fast to take a picture.

and years ago, I almost burned my mother’s house down. This time, I plowed ahead with my plans to make this pretty easy meal, fears of burning down my apartment building pushed aside and ignored. I pulled out the deep fryer and got to work. I also cooked a stew comprised of black-eyed peas and other yummy things. Back to the italics: it was delicious. I mean: I wanted to lick my fork. Maybe I did. But the very best part, the most awesome, was the phone call to my mom later that evening to announce that I successfully pulled off a meal that, to date, only she has been able to prepare to my liking. (And a Ghanaian restaurant that I was obsessed with frequented back in our area.) I could hear the happiness in her voice. “I guess you’re really growing up,” she also said. We laughed. Because I’ll always be 9 years old where she’s concerned, and I don’t mind one bit. Nevertheless, it was nice to see that all my silly fears (well, only one fear: it’ll taste like dirt) about cooking are just that: silly fears.

Just call me the Baby Steps Gourmet. But I’m still bringing utensils and paper goods to every event I’m invited to, so don’t get too crazy.

The Seamstress.

I’m spoiled rotten. I am. You see, whenever I see photos of lovely dresses and skirts and outfits, particularly with African fashion, I just head over to my mom’s room, bat my medium-sized eyelashes (why do boys get long eyelashes? Can someone explain this to me?), and sweetly ask if she can recreate the look. After a few days filled with fittings that Mom does after I’ve eaten (“Ma, can’t we do these before I’ve eaten an entire piece of bread?”) and her threatening to hit me over the head if I don’t stand still, straighten my posture, and stick out my derriere, I find a lovely outfit waiting for me. It’s pretty amazing, no? Of course, after several years of this (even volunteering, at one point, to make me three dresses back-to-back for a special event), my mother basically put on a moratorium on all things me and declared that she was taking a break from making my clothes. I really was ok with this. Spoiled rotten doesn’t mean blindness: making clothes is hard work! Especially if you’re dealing with a bread-eating brat like me. I put a moratorium on my requests, as well. Fast forward, though, to a month ago when she bought some lovely African fabric pieces and offered to make me something. I casually agreed, stopping myself from jumping with joy. Eventually, I saw an outfit on Pinterest that struck my fancy and showed it to her. She nodded sagely and said it could be done. Even with a life and a full-time job, it only took her a few days to finish it. Again, because she’s amazing.

Here’s the outfit I saw on Pinterest:

PinterestDress

If you know me, you know about my love affair with peplum-inspired outfits. (See here and here.) So it’s no surprise that I wanted something akin to this lovely ensemble. We chose the fabric and Mom did her thing, completing it this past Saturday. Needless to say, it was beautiful. It also fit me like a dream, despite my post-bread fittings. I wore it proudly to my house of worship yesterday on Sunday and took all the photos I could, some at Mom’s request so she could show me off to her other seamstress friends. (Ha!) See a few below.

AfricanDress4

AfricanDress2
If you look to the left of me, you’ll see The Seamstress in the background.

AfricanDress1

Right?? Don’t you love it? I wanted to wear it all day and to bed. One of my absolute favorites that she’s ever made me. (I’ll post a gallery of all the ensembles she’s made me one of these days.) Here’s a full-length shot of the outfit.

AfricanDress3

A dear friend decided to photobomb my impromptu photo shoot with her adorable twin boys, which was awesome. Anywho, since yesterday was chilly, I paired the outfit with some fishnet tights and my dependable booties.

Overall and as usual, Mom did a fantastic job. Also per usual, the outfit ignited a storm of friends asking me if she could lend them her services. When I related their comments and requests to her, she merely laughed.That’s the thing with my Mom. She’s so modest about her skills that she thinks people are just being nice when they compliment her abilities. My sister and I are currently working our gifts of persuasion to try and convince her to monetize this gift. I’ll let you know if we’re successful.

So, yeah, it’s nice living with a seamstress. More than nice, actually. But The Seamstress wants to teach me how to sew. Somehow I need to persuade that thought right out of her mind…

The Mild African Woman.

My name is This Square Peg, I am an African Woman, and I cannot eat spicy foods.

{Moment of silence}

It’s weird, right? That when I eat anything spicy I see my life flashing before my eyes? It’s been like this since I was a wee lass. (Apparently, I’m also Irish.) I have memories of my mother cooking milder versions of the same foods because some of us (read: me) couldn’t take the peppery heat. One time, in my haste to inhale the Chinese food in front of me, I accidentally swallowed an entire red pepper. I was in bed for the rest of the night. There may have been hallucinations. Seriously.

So why am I able to cover my egg white omelets with Sriracha sauce and

For Today - Affordable Flavor (Wood)
I bow to you, my benevolent master.

eat with abandon? Even when my lips burn after eating, as they now are, I typically am able to withstand the heat after a bit. Am I building some kind of resistance, finally, to spiciness?

No. I can only handle Sriracha. Nothing else. So, so strange. In the end, I add my inability to largely eat spicy foods to the list of other things that I, as an African Woman, was denied:

  • Discernible hips
  • An actual derrière (although, thanks to squats, something might be growing back there)

Just unfair.

Are you like me? Or can you handle the heat?

Several Things African Mothers are Not Here For.*

(*Or, rather specifically, my African mother)

Discussing anything having to do with shaving or other such topics with your adolescent, hirsute daughter, leading her to make the type of mistakes and gaffes that defy description.

The idea that Idris Elba possesses any kind of good looks and responding to statements of that vein with comments such as, “there are about 12 men walking around the market in Accra right now who look better than him.” (Respectful side eye ensues.)

Mom3
The woman herself. I should add that I love her to pieces.

Magazine covers that proclaim someone to be the Most Beautiful… or the The Sexiest…because she will never, ever agree with that mumbo jumbo.

Complaints about being hungry, because “there’s rice in the kitchen.” Because whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner, rice will fix everything.

The knowledge that her daughter will watch movies she’s seen many times before or listen to the same songs over and over again. And over again.

The possibility that her daughter may marry a man with a large head.

Leaving the house to see a movie without a 100% guarantee that the ending will be happy. And since you can’t know that, she’s not going.

Speaking of leaving the house, doing anything that requires dressing up and leaving the house unless it’s worth it. So this means trips to the theater to see a show. And that’s it.

You, when you forget yourself and somehow believe that being in your mid 30s gives you the laughable right to express every silly thought that enters your head. Please have several seats, you.

The idea that the African dresses she sews for her daughter are too tight. (“Quiet. And stick your butt out.”)

Any kind of behavior that’s the opposite of ladylike, gentleman-like, or human being-like.

Parenting without large doses of cleverness, dignity, strength, tough love, cuddly love (within reason; let’s not get crazy), faith, and a dedication to her children and family.

If you don’t have an African mother, please feel free to borrow mine. But I’ll need her back, ok?