I'm known for being the person to ask you where, when and what time you were born within five minutes of meeting you. As a lover of astrology, one of my hobbies is to collect people's birth charts in order to analyze them. Because of my love of astrology and the research that comes with it, I stumbled upon the phenomena of what's called a "Saturn's Return," which is when the planet of Saturn returns to the same spot it was when you were born, and when a person's adult life starts getting real. It usually starts when someone turns 27, and goes into full swing around the age of 29 and 30. Since I was turning 27 on August 19, I was excited to see what my Saturn's Return has in store for me. To celebrate, I decided to travel to the city of New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) by myself to experience the culture, eat good food, and feel its all around vibe.
As I landed in NOLA an hour later and a little more hungover than I expected due to multiple shots from my bartender Peaches at Papi's Cuban and Caribbean Grill at the Atlanta airport, I took my Lyft into the city and realized that I couldn't go out and explore like I wanted to the first night because I was so tired, so instead I whipped out my phone to begin my favorite activity of checking off restaurants I've bookmarked on Yelp. My first stop was Acme Oyster House that I heard was known for their chargrilled oysters. I had no opinion of oysters, and I only had them once, so I thought what better place than New Orleans to try them. My hotel was located in the middle of all the action, so it was just about a 10 minute walk. I was hesitant when I first got in line to put my name down on the waiting list, as the line was wrapped around the corner, but was overjoyed when I was able to get in immediately and sit at the bar since it was just me. The staff was friendly and shucked oysters right in front of me, and I ordered a prickly pear margarita, fried crab claws, and chargrilled oysters. It was a great way to end the night after an exhausting day of traveling.
It rained every day, but that didn't stop me from enjoying myself. The next day I planned to explore and go shopping, and then hang out with my friend from college, Gabrielle, a member of the band Sexy Dex and the Fresh. I had cash burning a hole in my pocket and I was ready to waste money at the Riverwalk Outlet Mall, but unfortunately, I didn't find anything on all four levels. Feeling defeated, I ordered a daiquiri from Fat Tuesday and got my nails and toes done to waste time and to hide from the torrential rain that had started. Once I met up with Gabrielle, I hung out with her friends and got the chance to explore New Orleans outside of the touristy part, and had a ton of fun having a water balloon fight, taking tequila shots, making new friends, and going to house parties. I also learned of a New Orleans tradition of pinning a dollar bill to your shirt in honor of your birthday, and throughout the night, I made 22 dollars. I also got the chance to meet the sweltering humidity of Louisiana, much more thicker and swampier than that I'm used to in Virginia, but had a great time laughing, dancing in backyards to Selena, eating Peruvian food, and talking under the stars.
On my birthday I rose from my bed excited to turn 27. I like getting older because sometimes it feels like I'm unlocking an achievement. I strolled along the street to go to Buffa's for brunch on the recommendation of a bellhop from my hotel, and during my walk I took in the scenery of the colorfully bright houses and blue skies, while enjoying the warm sun on my skin. At Buffa's, I was greeted with five dollar mimosa specials, a free shot of Jameson with the bartender in honor of my birthday, and dined on grits, cheesy eggs, bacon, and a homemade buttermilk biscuit. From first glance, it seemed as though Buffa's was only the size of an average bar, but I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered an entire backroom of diners enjoying live jazz during brunch. I hung out for a bit more at the bar, and then headed out to the middle of the city for a Buzz NOLA bike tour. Arriving a little earlier than planned, I killed time at The Ruby Slipper next door and slipped in ahead of the three hour wait once again to sit at the bar and sip on their Ruby Slipper mimosa served to me by a fellow VCU alum. When I headed back to Buzz NOLA, my tour guide pinned a dollar on my shirt in honor of my birthday (I may or may not have told them it was my birthday in the comment section when booking my spot), and spent the next four hours viewing NOLA via bike, riding through the historically black neighborhood Tremé, exploring the mausoleums of the St. Louis Cemetery Number 3, and pausing for Jack and Cokes with my new friends from British Airways in New Orleans City Park. An unexpected flat tire gave me less time to prepare for my next birthday celebration, dinner on the Steamboat Natchez, but I arrived there on time and enjoyed the sunset on the Mississippi River with a cup of Merlot in my hand, talking to another solo black female traveler about how we're both enjoying our time.
Dinner on the Steamboat Natchez started at 7pm and I was welcomed with a birthday card and greeted by a couple from Hampton, Virginia, who was curious as to who I was. We spent the rest of the time on the cruise getting to know each other as we periodically got up to get food from the buffet which included seafood alfredo, prime rib, green beans, and delicious gumbo. The Hampton couple and I ended our tour with shots of Jameson and bananas foster, and then it was off to my final destination of the night: outdoor music at Bacchanal Wine.
I arrived at Bacchanal at the suggestion of a friend, and fell in love with it as soon as I stepped in. The premise of Bacchanal is that you choose your own wine, meat and cheeses, and then they plate it for you and serve it to you. I walked up to the counter stating that I liked sweet reds, was given two options, and chose Brachetto D'Acqui by Marco Bonfante, a deliciously sweet and bubbly red that capped the end of a perfect birthday. I enjoyed my charcuterie plate of chicken liver pâté, prosciutto, warm bread, olives, nuts and fruit jam spreads and soaked up the live band and warm air. I even made a little friend in the form of an opossum who a got a little too close for my comfort and I left shortly after. Since I was the only single one outside, I really didn't want to end my birthday as the girl who shared her food with an opossum. I went to bed at 10:45pm full and happy, excited for what was to come with my 27th year.
I spent my last day in New Orleans at the Whitney Plantation to honor the ancestors who died due to the horrors of slavery. I learned a lot about the day to day lives of slaves who lived there and the plantation itself, such as how the life expectancy of slaves sent there was 10 years, and how it was known for harvesting sugar, which was a meticulously grueling process the slaves had to do for 12 hours a day. It was a somber experience, but I believe I am a better person for seeing how the wealth of Louisiana was made off of the backs of slave labor.
When I came back to the city, I strolled down Bourbon Street with a Hurricane, a suggestion from my boss, to kill time before I headed down to the Blind Pelican for their happy hour special of buy one get one free rail drinks and quarter oysters. This is where I discovered my love of raw oysters, and ordered 2 plates of a dozen along with an appetizer of fried green tomatoes with shrimp and remoulade. I made friends with the bartenders and one of them recognized me as a fellow Southerner by my manners. I made another friend at the bar, and suggested Bacchanal again where we spent the rest of the night enjoying the live music and getting to know each other more. I ended the night a little after midnight and the next morning enjoyed my last hours in NOLA with a bloody mary made with house infused bacon vodka and catfish and grits at The Ruby Slipper.
The beginning of my 27th year in New Orleans was a great trip of self discovery in addition to a deeper love for solo travel. NOLA has officially stolen my heart with its rich culture and people, and in the future, I look forward to visiting more often and finding new ways to fall in love with it every time.
I Love Grocery Shopping
Like many people, Saturday is my favorite day of the week. It's a day for me to spend quality time by myself, knowing that I have a full 24 hours to do so. One way I like to spend my Saturdays is grocery shopping. I love spending Friday evenings browsing the internet to find inspiration for dinner, and then venturing out around Richmond in order to find the perfect ingredients.There's a lot of great places to get groceries Richmond, but I chose the following three places as my favorites because of their ties to the local economy, food variety, and of course, price.
South of the James Farmer's Market
The SOTJ is one of the few events worth waking up at 8am for. A busy hub of local farmers and artists alike from all over Virginia, SOTJ is great for quality cuts of meat, fresh in-season produce, and everything in between. It's fun going in with a game plan, and knowing what you want from where. Some of my go-to vendors include Free Union Grass Farm where I buy chicken, or duck if I'm feeling fancy, Cabbage Hill and Walnut Hill Farms for vegetables, and Hog Haven for some good 'ol pork. In addition to groceries, I love wandering around and seeing what other items are available to purchase. One of these include Mrs. Yoder's donuts, the warmest and softest donut around.
Fresh to Frozen
Rising from the ashes of Ukrop's dust, this salvage grocery store, based in Midlothian, Virginia, sells "ugly" produce at crazy cheap prices. Depending on when I go, I can find a 10 pound bag of potatoes for a dollar, or cabbage for 10 cents a pound. Sometimes if I'm lucky, I can come in during the middle of a sale where they give customers an extra 25 percent off. They even take overflow of groceries from other stores like Whole Foods and make their items way cheaper than what you would pay at the store. I like going here because they make food affordable to everyone, and they're helping continuing reducing food waste by taking on food that would otherwise be thrown away.
In terms of national grocery chains, Kroger is by far my favorite. I do love Trader Joe's and Wegmans, but Kroger will always be near and dear to my heart because you can collect points that can take off up to $1.00 off per gallon of gas. I like Kroger because they always come through when I can't find what I'm looking for at my other two stores. I usually go here to look for artisan cheeses for an alfredo or carbonara recipe, and to buy traditional groceries for my pantry.
When it comes to buying groceries for your kitchen, where do you shop?
It's been a week since I drove three hours and one minute on 95 North to see Syd, the lead singer of The Internet, perform at Baltimore Soundstage for her "Always Never Home" tour. Since then, for a good portion of this week, I have gone through probably one of the worst cases of post concert depression, second only to seeing Drake in 2012 for his "Club Paradise" Tour. It didn't help that I have played her debut solo album "Fin" to death, and then switched to "Ego Death" by The Internet to compensate when I got tired of that. As someone who goes to concerts regularly, this is something I am used to, however, this seemed to hit harder than most, and I'm pretty sure it's because I regularly fantasize about being her girlfriend.
When I first heard The Internet, I was intrigued by the beautiful female alto voice singing about the loss of her female love, or just being in love with a girl in general. It's been a while since I've heard a singer sing about their relationship with the same sex, outside of Frank Ocean honestly, and I was happy to hear it, especially since I was looking for music by female artists to expand my tastes. All it took was one song, and I was hooked.
I was so excited to see Syd because I am a new fan, and as soon as I got into The Internet, Syd released Fin her debut solo album, and then announced her tour. My friend and I had made plans to go together at first, but unfortunately plans fell through, and the Wednesday before the show started, I decided to close my eyes and buy the tickets. I was throwing a pity party for myself and decided that the only thing that could fix it was concert tickets.
Driving up to Baltimore was easier than driving to DC to be honest, and I was so happy when I found out that there was a parking garage directly next to Soundstage, so I wouldn't have to waste time finding parking in a new city. I grabbed my tickets at will call and got to the show at 7:45...15 minutes before it started.
Her openers were Beya Likhari and Kari Faux, two dope women musicians who I had never heard of until that night. I heard of Kari inadvertently through HBO's "Insecure" but didn't put two and two together until she performed some songs from the show. Kari was a cute, petite black rapper who had a ton of great energy with the crowd. I loved her set and I look forward to keeping up with her career. Beya, I had never heard before, but I enjoyed her too. Her voice was deep and rich, and reminded me of Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. Also, her style was super dope and she had beautiful waist length hair. Check the videos below to watch some snippets from my Instagram story.
After these two performed, I could barely contain my excitement for Syd. The stage was set up with just a white sheet and tons of lights flashing that I think were to ward off video recordings, but I still got some good shots.
Seeing her live solidified my love, however part of my post concert depression stems from the fact that she isn't my girlfriend. She was an amazing performer and her voice is even better in person. With the footage I got of the show, I created a brief video that will hopefully give you a glimpse of what the show was like from my view. I will continue to watch this and the other videos I have to keep the memory of this show going forward.
Eating My Way Through Raleigh
While tagging along with my aunt for my cousin's basketball tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina, I was lucky to discover a plethora of delicious restaurants that the city had to offer.
We happily ventured out every evening to see what Raleigh had to offer and I found some fabulous places to eat. Here are some of my favorites:
Brewgaloo: a beer festival highlighting the importance of shopping local in Raleigh, I got to meet up with friends and spend some time drinking craft beers in the warm sunshine.
Bida Manda: On our second night we were going to here for dinner, but the wait without a reservation was over an hour. A little while later while we went to El Rodeo restaurant, my friend texted me telling me that I should go because it's her favorite spot in the city. Because I trust my friend's opinion, now I really want to know what Bida Manda has to offer.
Today is International Museum Day and to celebrate, I used my lunch break to visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), where they offered free tickets to their newest exhibit highlighting the life and work of the iconic fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent.
To be honest, I knew nothing about Saint Laurent other than the famous YSL logo that has been around for years. What I did learn however, was that he was always into fashion, even as a child. He grew up in Algeria, where during his childhood, he created outfits for paper dolls and modeled them at pretend fashion shows for his family.
His big break came when he became the assistant to Christian Dior at the House of Dior, and then took over once Dior passed away. The rest, as they say, is history.
Laurent's designs and pieces are totally my style. He loved the color black (as do I) and loved to pair fun and flashy accessories with an all black ensemble.
Although he loved black, he played with color as well. His creations spanned every color in the rainbow and they were dazzling.
What I appreciated the most about Laurent was that he wasn't afraid to step outside the box and do what others didn't. He broke gender roles by designing tuxedos for women, and he wanted women to choose what to wear themselves, preferring that they do "looks" instead of traditional "outfits" that were popular in the 60s. His designs were awe inspiring, and with every turn I took in the exhibit, I was floored by what I saw.
My next steps are to find some fabric, a dope seamstress in Richmond, and recreate some of these outfits so I can rock them at all the cookouts this summer.
Although it can be hard to claim some rappers to be true feminists, Schoolboy Q comes pretty damn close. Raised on the streets of LA in the Hoover Street Crip Gang, Schoolboy Q, (raised Quincy Hamlin) has been seen posting messages of “girl power” all over his Instagram account, and showing up to events such as The Grammy's and Coachella proudly sporting the message.Breaking hyper masculine stereotypes. He is even selling the hoodie and donating all of the profits to Girls for a Change.
It’s great to see Schoolboy Q being open and knowing how important it is to celebrate girls, especially while watching him raise his daughter Joy. From gym trips to cheering her on at soccer matches, you can tell that Q is killing it at this whole dad thing.
This is a design that lost to an itinerary written in Microsoft Word. I feel like I shouldn't feel entitled to win because that's life but damnit, I was really proud of this lol. Anyway, feel free to use it if you ever visit Richmond, Virginia.
The prompt: Create a 3 day itinerary for a foodie traveling to Richmond.
That Time I Did Whole 30
For Lent this year, I had decided to try Whole 30. I had heard about it through a chef, Angela Davis, who I follow on Twitter. I wanted to try it because the idea of cutting out sugar was very intriguing to me. I know that sugar is awful for you, but the problem is, it's in just about everything. Like, literally everything.
It was a really eye opening experience that made me want stay knowledgeable about what's in my food. I also love cooking so I was excited to try new recipes that were Whole 30 compliant. It wasn't difficult to come up with recipes because for the most part you're just eating meat and vegetables, the most difficult part, in my opinion, was the fact that I couldn't go out to eat virtually anywhere because you don't really know what's in the food in fast food restaurants. I pretty much had to cook everything, which can get kind of annoying.
I don't think I'll probably do it again as a "diet", which wasn't really my intention in the first place, but I think I'm going to apply the principles and recipes of it into my cooking. Two of these include using portabella mushroom caps as buns and making my own mayonnaise.
In my opinon, portabella caps as burger buns make the burger more flavorful. Even if you don't season your burger, if you season the mushrooms, you'll still get a delicious result. In addition, it's a great way to add vegetables to your diet.
I have an obsession with my food processor, so I was happy to know that was what I needed to make the mayonnaise. I never knew what it was in it's purest form, but it's just olive oil, mustard seed, an egg and lemon. Luckily, those are all staples in my house, but I picked up some mustard seed from Ellwood Thompson. For the mayo in the picture, I actually made aioli, because I had garlic on hand. I also used a duck egg that I had picked up from the South of the James Farmer's Market. The result was creamy and light, and I used it on swordfish that I had made later on in the week. I'm looking forward to finding new and creative ways to eat healthy!
I made this image about my mom for something I was applying for a while back.
The prompt: Design a chart that depicts your favorite personality characteristics in your parent(s). Be sure to label the traits. Have fun and be inventive.
Some music makes you want to dance, some music makes you want to cry. Some music makes you want to throw up your signs to remind people of where you're from and if there's a problem with it, it can be handled outside. Here's a playlist I jam to from time to time when I want to hit a lick with my friends, featuring former gang banging rappers whose lyrics give us insight into the thug life. This is the perfect song to play in an upper class suburban neighborhood with the windows down.