Congo Inspired Hair Style

**UPDATE: I forgot to tell you where the Congo-inspiration came from**
Happy Monday Everyone! Check out the video below for a tutorial on a Congo-inspired style I did. I did this style back in January and just got a chance to upload the video. It is protective, and it's pretty easy also. It has full bantu knots on the top and a roll-style in the back. Enjoy!

PS - this weekend I took outfit pics - YAY! I'm going to try my best to get back to daily posting, because I really do missing blogging. Here's to being hopeful, and to a great week!

Why the Congo inspiration? I originally saw a video posted by afr0st0ry with a picture of a Congolese woman with a similar hair style. Her entire head had these type of fuller bantu knots. Additionally, she appeared to have some type of mud mask in her hair. The style looked very nice, so that's where the inspiration came from! Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a picture that resembles this woman's hairstyle, and I can't find the original video either, but that's where the Congo-inspiration came from.

Manhattan Pizza

In my travels for work, I stay at my parents house in Virginia Monday evenings before I head out to work in Central VA the following morning. This is the only chance I have in a kitchen for the entire week! It's so dreadful...ok, that's a bit much, but it's not the best. I have encouraged my brother to pick out what he wants to eat for dinner, and this night - he chose PIZZA! He got the idea for this pizza from a local pizza shop that calls it: Manhattan Pizza.

Manhattan Pizza
Serves 4

Pizza dough, 1 lb SS: Ours was pre-baked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Truffle oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves only
1 onion, thinly sliced
250 g cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
250 g shitake mushrooms, sliced
4 oz fresh mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 425 F. In a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat, warm 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onions and the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the onions to a bowl. Wipe out the frying pan, set over medium-high heat, and warm the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Transfer the Brush the crust with the truffle oil. Spread the onions and then the mushrooms over the crust, leaving a border. Sprinkle with the cheeses. Bake until the crust browns and the cheese melts, 12-15 minutes.
Since we swiped the toppings from a local favorite pizza place, I had to guess on the amounts used for the pizza. We used the directions from another similar pizza. This combo of pizza toppings is AMAZING, the feta adds a nice creamy flavor, while the mushrooms and carmelized onions keep things sweet and salty. We served this with a side salad.

3in6 Hair Challenge Update

I'm right in the midst of week 4 of the 3in6 Hair Challenge, and I'm surprised to say that I've learned and re-learned some things about my hair. I'll break my learning's down by weeks.

Weeks 1-2: I wore small/medium two-strand twists. I washed my hair at the end of week two, and I noticed that a lost very little hair in my wash session - probably half of what I typically lose. I think this was due to the fact that I went straight from to my twists to my wash routine. I normally wear my hair out for one or two days after twists. Observing the minimal hair shedding/loss led me to see that even one to two days of wearing my hair out in loose form affects my hair retention.

Weeks 3-4: I attempted a new protective style at the beginning of week 3, and it was an ultimate FAILURE! The style was a side-cornrow style with the rest of my hair in medium-sized two-strand twists. After I saw the style, I realized that I do not like cornrow styles on me - personal preference. After the failed attempt, I twisted my hair in small two-strand twists. Since I did the FAILED style on wet hair, I also lost more hair than I expected due to re-detangling my semi-dry hair. I haven't twisted my hair on wet hair in over a year. I decided to try this old routine, because I didn't know when I would have time to twist it in the coming days. To my surprise, I found that this method of twisting on wet hair led to more detangling and hair breaking than I remembered. Clearly, that is something I won't do again. I really was about to call the challenge quits at the beginning of week 3, because I was not feeling how my hair was looking. Thankfully, I found another updo style for my twists that I received tons of compliments for, and that I love. Check out pics below.

I'm contemplating box braids for my Week 5-6 hairstyle, however I think I don't like box braids on me, so maybe I should just stick to twists...However, I know I'm getting tired of twists so I'm not sure what I'll decide...maybe I'll just bite the bullet and do some mini-twists - only time will tell!

Spiced Bean and Herb Hash

Doesn't this sound just delish! My brother and I prepared this dish for the fam while I made a pit stop at home traveling for work a couple of weeks ago. My mom, dad and brother, really enjoyed this aside an herbed chicken breast. I served this over rice, and my dinner was complete!

Spiced Bean and Herb Hash
Serves 4
Source: The Illustrated Quick Cook

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra as needed
1 tablespoon butter
1 red onon, coarsely chopped
Handful of fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
1 lb (450 kg) russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 14oz can chili beans
2/3 cup hot vegetable stock
Handful of flat-leaft parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a nonstick frying pan over low heat. Add the onion, a pinch of salt, and the thyme leaves, and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the potatoes and cook until ightly browned at the edges - you may need to add more olive oil to accomplish this.
  3. When the potatoes are nearly tender - about 15 minutes - stir in the chili beans. Pour in the hot stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season well with salt and pepper. Serve hot. SS: Cooking potatoes is not a quick task, especially if you want them to be soft and tender. I found that the potatoes needed to cook much longer than 15 minutes to get them to the right texture.

Black Bean "Burger" with Curried Yam Mash

NB: Posting may be a little less frequent while I figure out my whole blog while traveling for work schedule. I have two tasty posts today and tomorrow. Hopefully I find something nice to wear and have time for pics this weekend - I miss my vain fun outfit posts. I also did a "new" twist updo this week - will post pics next week!

This recipe came about from my first (and only) adult roommate - she was a vegetarian. We lived together right after we graduated in 2008. We rarely cooked for each other, but one day she had an extra bean burger left over, and she kindly offered it to me. Her side was a delicious mashed sweet potato mixture. The salty/sweet accommodating flavors were great for my palette! I re-created the dish with the two items below.

Black Bean "Burger" with Curried Yam Mash
Serves 4
Source: Get Cooking by Mollie Katzen (Black Bean Patty)
Source: Top Chef Cookbook (Curried Yam Mash)

2 to 3 tabelspoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely minced red or yellow onion
2 15 oz cans black beans
1 large egg, well beaten
1 cup toasted breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 good-sized cloves)
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more, to taste)

2 large sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons EVOO, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon mild curry powder
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

For the Curried Sweet Potato Mash:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Peel the yams and cut into 1" cubes. Put the yam cubes in a large bowl and coat with the oil. Add the curry powder and salt to taste. Place in a greased baking pan, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 50 minutes, or until softened. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.
  2. Remove the yams from the oven and transfer to a food processor.  SS: I used a potato masher. Add the butter and lemon juice and process until smooth.
For the Black Bean Patties:
  1. Place a large (10 to 12-inch) heavy skillet over medium heat. After about a minute, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, and cook in the center of the pan, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion softens. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Set a colander in the sink and pour in the beans; give them a quick rinse and allow them to drain thoroughly. Transfer the drained beans to a medium-large bowl, and use a potato masher or fork to mash them as smooth as possible. Stir in the beaten egg, breadcrumbs, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Scrape in the cooled onion, and mix until thoroughly combined.
  3. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, and then return the skillet to medium heat. After about a minute, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Use a large spoon to scoop 4 equal mounds for the bean mixture into the hot pan, and then, with the back of the spoon, flatten and push each one into a patty about 1/2-inch thick and 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Cook, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.
  4. Use a metal spatula to carefully loosen each burger and flip it over, adding a little more oil if the pan seems dry. (If the burger falls apart as you turn it, don't worry. Just push it back into shape and keep cooking.) Cook on the second side for about 3 minutes, or until the undersides are nicely browned. Serve immediately.
If you are looking at the curried yam mash recipe thinking that it's oddly familiar, that's because it is! I posted a recipe for a curried sweet potato mash here. I followed the same steps, and subbed sweet potatoes for yams. The curried yam mash was delicious, and the patty was ok, next time, I'll go a little lighter on the cumin.

Happy Valentines' Day Loves

Today is a day of love, and I always tell people, "I love love!" Watching old couples is a guilty habit of mine - they're just so cute! This past weekend, my grandparents did a dance as a part of the couples' ministry at their church. They were so adorable. They danced to the song, "Everytime I Close My Eyes" by Babyface. They have been married for 58 years, and they're just a model couple. They still greet each other with a kiss whenever they first see each other.

This year, I have no "real" valentine for the first time in 4 years. *My dad did get me a card which was nice, and my brother also said, "Sis, I'm here for ya if you need a shoulder!"* Although I would love to be cuddling up to someone tonight ;-) - this year I am reflecting on all the other loves in my life. That includes my family, friends, and God. Whether you're single, boo'd up, going through something complicated - focus on love today, because there's love somewhere in your life! Here are some of the people I love...

Clearly I can't include everyone here, so here are just some shout-outs to some of my faves - love you guys!'s the sitch

Dress - FCUK; Blazer - Anthro; Tights - Target; Necklace - Anthro; Earrings - Franklin Square; Boots - Franklin Square; Lips - MAC, Odyssey

Date: Friday, February 11, 2011

I got assigned a new project at work that requires me to travel Monday through Friday. I hate traveling, it gets old quick, mainly because I am unable to do the things I love - cook, blog, service. Thus, we'll see how long this "project" lasts...I have had a general lack of motivation in getting dressed due to my travel schedule. I've been packing, washing, cleaning and re-packing. I have been wearing clothes, but very generic, not super-cute clothes.

Today I said - screw it, just look good - forget about your place, which is a mess, and do something FOR YOU. This is what spurred the mini-dress in February. Why? Because I feel that I look good, and sometimes a girl needs that in her life. I'm also going thrifting in Harrisburg today. So, here's to a great that involves family, thrifting and lots of fun - and no work allowed!

Loo's Hair Challenge - I'm In

Hello Lovelies, you know how I feel about a challenge...bring it on!!! I decided last minute to participate in Loo's 3in6 hair challenge. The challenge is based off of the idea that hair grows an average of 0.5 inches every month, so it's a 6-month challenge, with a goal to retain 3 inches by following the rules below.
  1. Eat fresh fruits and veggies
  2. Take a daily multivitamin
  3. Drink lots of water
  4. Wear twists or braids for 2-4 weeks at a time
  5. No direct heat
  6. Pre-poo with coconut oil for 20 minutes SS: I'm subbing coconut oil with Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose because my hair doesn't like coconut oil, and I checked with Loo ;-)
  7. No trimming
This is how I feel about the rules...I pretty much have numbers 1-3 covered already. I washed my straight hair on Friday (1/28/11) to return to my kinks. I dusted my ends when I straightened it so numbers 5 and 7 are covered. I already do number 6. My main issue is rule number 4, it's going to be tough for me. Loo advises to re-twist your edges weekly and/or to wash hair while in twists. I don't know, I hope I last, but we'll see how this goes! As of know, I'm rolling into the end of week 2 of the two-strand twists I did on Sunday (1/30/11), and they - surprisingly - are holding up fairly well. Check out pics for this super cute updo!

I came up with this updo based on a style I rocked when my dreads started getting longer when I was locking. This style has three flat twists in the back twisted towards the top of my head. I then twisted the ends from the three flat twists into one flat twist on the top of my head. I also did one additional flat twist in the front on one side. Then, I pinned the other side back. Hopefully this makes sense. If I find time, I'll make a video. The first week I wore my typical side-swoop low "bun" with bangs.

Are any of you participating in this challenge? PS - if you don't know about Loo - check her out, she has GORGEOUS HAIR and her blog is pretty cool too!

Sweet and Savory Pretzels

For the Superbowl this year, I hung out with some of my homeboys from high school. They had a typical menu filled with buffalo wings, pizza and beer. I opted to bring stuffed pretzels!

Stuffed Pretzels 
Source: The Food Network Magazine, January 2011 Edition
Makes 28 pretzels SS: I got about 20

1 1/2 tablespoons dry active yeast
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs

Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Poppy Seeds
Sesame Seeds
Kosher Salt
Onion Flakes

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

  1. Mix 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 F), the yeast and agave in a bowl. Set aside 5 minutes.
  2. In a food processor fitted with the dough blade, pulse the whole-wheat flour, 2 cups all-purpose flour and the sea salt. Add 1 egg and the yeast mixture and pulse in 10-second intervals until the dough comes together, about 3 pulses. Turn out onto a floured board. Knead 10 to 12 times, adding up to 3/4 cup more flour if the dough is too sticky. Cut the dough into 4 equal portions; cover with a clean towel. SS - I don't have this type of food processor, I used a spoon to mix the dry ingredients and two knives for the latter. Also, I waited for one hour after I covered the dough, even though this wasn't specified.
  3. On a floured board, roll out one piece of dough into a 14-by-11 inch rectangle, 1/4 inch thick, with a shorter side facing you.
  4. To make plain pretzels, cut the dough rectangle into seven 11-by-12 inch strips. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with kosher salt. (Skip to Step 11)
  5. To make stuffed pretzels, roll 1 piece of dough into a rectangle; sprinkle your filling across the middle. Fold the bottom third of the dough over the filling.
  6. Sprinkle more filling over the folded part; fold the top third of the dough over the filling and pinch closed.
  7. Roll the dough into a 15-by-11 inch rectangle. Cut into seven 2-by-11-inch strips.
  8. Working with one strip at a time, pinch the long edges together and roll into a 12-inch rope with your hands.
  9. Shape the pretzels on a baking sheet: Grab the ends of the rope and cross the left end over the right end.
  10. Cross the left end over the right end again to make a twist in the middle. Brush with beaten egg and top before baking.
  11. Preheat the oven to 475 F. Bake until browned, 16 to 18 minutes.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons grated sharp cheddar cheese across the middle of the dough (Step 5); fold the bottom third of the dough over the cheese, then sprinkle another 2 tablespoons cheddar over the folded part. Fold the top third of the dough over the cheese (Step 6). Reroll, cut into strips and twist into pretzels (Steps 7-10). Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion flakes and kosher salt; bake (Step 10). SS - I mixed all of the toppings in a small bowl and stirred them up to get a nice even mix of all of the toppings.

Spread 1/4 cup softened Nutella across the middle of the dough; fold the bottom third of the dough over the Nutella. SS - I melted the Nutella in the microwave, if it's cold, it hardens fairly quickly, I would suggest waiting for the Nutella to firm up before covering to refrain from oozing Nutella on the sides. (Step 5) Then sprinkle 1/2 cup coconut over the folded part (Step 6). Fold the top third of the dough over the coconut. Roll out again, cut into strips and twist into pretzels. Brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with a mixture of sugar, ancho chile powder, cinnamon, ground cloves and cayenne (you'll have extra spice mix); bake (Steps 7-10). SS - I added all of the toppings into a bowl and dipped the pretzels in the mix.

So let me say that these pretzels were WORK. Total cooking/prep/wait time was probably 3.5 hours. This does not include clean up. I had nutella over my entire kitchen! I brought the savory pretzels to a friends' place for the Superbowl, and the general sentiment was that they were good. I decided to leave the sweet pretzels at home, because I think I accidentally mixed some of the savory in with it. Like I said, this was messy, at hour 3, just starting the sweet pretzels, I was tired, so I wasn't as meticulous to separate things out. Additionally, adding all that coconut was unrealistic. The sweet pretzels were extremely messy - they were falling apart with the addition of the coconut. THUS, the next time I make these, I will only use the Nutella. I think I will still enjoy the flavor without the coconut.

Personal notes

Top - BCBG; Jeans - Urban; Blazer - Banana; Boots - Borrowed from mom; Earrings - Borrowed from mom; Necklace - Etsy

Date: Thursday, February 3, 2011

I warned you that I would be posting out of order. I actually did get dressed on Thursday, with the hopes to change into something a little more upscale. However, I got back to Philly at 3 PM, and my bus left at 3:30. I thought I would be cutting it close to try to make a quick trip to my apartment to change with that short time frame. Thus, I had to work with the outfit I packed. I do feel that the blazer stepped up the elegance of the outfit. However, I will also say that by opening curtain, my poor blouse had been through a lot, and it just didn't look the same.

Note to Self: When traveling, do consider the material of the outfit and it's "travelability" when desiring to look composed and classy. Cotton will almost never hold up well at the end of the day. End note.

The Hair Dilemma, A Moot Point

This is another hair post that I would like feedback on. When I wore my hair straight a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I love the styles that I can achieve with straight hair.The styles totally work with the look I want to portray.

I personally feel that locs are the natural woman's straight hair. I think any style I can achieve with straight hair, I can achieve with locs. This brings me back to the topic of... locking my hair. However this time I have different feelings as to why I feel this way. Let me start from the beginning. When I did my BC in July 2008 I knew two things:
  1. I wanted to be natural
  2. I wanted to have long hair
Since then, I've had starter locs, free-strand natural hair, and straight hair. I've learned a lot about my hair. Here are some facts that I've learned over the past 2.5 years.

  • My hair does not hang down (with the exception of a FRESH braid/twist-out, which lasts one day)
  • My hair loves to shrink, at percentages unbelievable, 50-75% of it's actual length
  • My hair is naturally dry, and extremely kinky
  • My hair thrives in protective styles (twists, braids, updos)
  • My hair doesn't hold a "mold" well (mold = twists, braids, rods)

Pic 1 - May 2009, 9 month in locs
Pic 2 - January 2010, Day one braid out
Pic 3 - January 2010, Day two braid-out *same one*

Knowing some of these facts and looking at the two things I know I find a dichotomy. The fact is, if I continue this free-strand natural thing, my length will be a figment of most people's imagination. Just click here to see what I mean. So, what's the point of having long hair if it's not noticeable, and you can't enjoy it?

I don't do braid-outs, twist-outs, bantu-knot outs or any other "out" styles often because they lead to knots and tangles which, lead to breakage. Not to mention, my hair will look like an afro after one day anyway. There are naturals whose hair thrives with these styles, however I am not one of them. Thus, I am left with a dilemma. I don't want long hair just to know for myself - I want the world to know! I also do not like braids, and I'm temperamental with twists. Therefore, I feel like locs will allow me to show off my length.

It's funny, because I started writing this two weeks ago and felt that I would definitely loc my hair, however I'm on the fence about it now. I know a lot of kinky (haired) ladies follow this blog, I want your feedback! What do you all think about this? Do you feel my dilemma? What do you do to show off your length with really tightly coiled hair? Does showing your length matter to you?

One final example: Kimmaytube. I like Kimmaytube - love what she brings to the natural hair community. Her length shows dedication, and is commendable. However, she keeps her hair wrapped up 90% of the time, masking her true length. Again, I wonder - what's the point?

Lost in the Stars

I totally lied and said I'd be back Friday...sorry, you don't even know me like that and I'm lying. LOL - just a small fib. Ok, I'm going to post updates in non-chronological order - sorry. This post is about Thursday night. My oldest/best girlfriend Miss Lindsay Roberts had her New York debut in Lost in the Stars Thursday evening (2/3/11)!!! The show is based on the book Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton. I had to read the book in high school, and I remember it was one of the few books I actually enjoyed reading.

I went to NY to see her on the opening night, and it was truly amazing. I met up with Lindsay and some of her friends after the play. We went out with the rest of the cast at Pazza Notte, a two for one martini bar in Mid-town, where we ate mussels and pizza until 2 am. It was DELICIOUS! I forgot to take pics at the restaurant...side eye. Want to see pics of Lindsay's lovely friends? They are GORGEOUS  and AMAZING. Erika is a finishing up her last year as a 3L student at St. John's, and fellow blogger, - she is wearing the lovely kente blazer. EJ is working on her Master's and teaches children in special education - all black. You all know all about Lindsay - don't you love her hair candy (the headband)?

There are no pics of me in these photo shoots. That day, I worked in VA, so I drove to Philly, caught a bus to NY. Met up with my friend Bethany for a quick dinner, and then went to the play. Needless to say, I was looking pretty "hit" by the end of the show. I caught a 6:30 am bus back to Philly Friday morning and went to work. I covered up being ridiculously tired fairly well. Thus, when I got home, as much as I wanted to blog, I wanted to sleep even more. I slept from about 7 pm to 9 am - no joke!

To let you know what's to come...I'm participating in Loo's 3in6 Hair Challenge. I have some old outfit pics that I have yet to post, and I will let you know what's going on with me and work. Finally, I'm going to attempt to make some pretzels for a Superbowl party I plan to attend. Check for all of this next week. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!!!

What had happened was...

Hi Everyone,

Monique here, checking in and letting you know that I'm still alive and well. I recently started a new project for work that involves a lot of travel and minimal internet access - YIKES! I should find a nice rhythm with my new schedule by next week. I will have updates tomorrow!


The Best Shortbread Cookie EVER

Happy February everyone! I don't normally make extreme least, I imagine that I don't. However, I must say that these cookies that you are about to see are the best shortbread cookie I've ever tasted. EVER - PERIOD! BTW, I've tasted lots of shortbread, from Girl Scout Trefoils (on sale now) to the ones that come in the blue tin, to Panera's - all of which, are pretty dang good. These cookies are a win, indefinitely. Make these for Valentines' Day, birthdays, other holidays, Tuesday's Wednesday's...get the picture?

Best Shortbread Cookie Ever
Source: Dana - Treat Yourself
Makes 3 dozen

Since Dana got this recipe from a book, I don't feel comfortable re-producing a reproduction. Click here for a direct link. PS - if you do check it out, know that hers look better than mine!