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Manolo for the Big Girl | Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

Skin Secrets of an African Princess

One of my closest friend in college was a princess.

I don’t mean a princess in the “it’s true because it says so in rhinestones” sense but an actual no-foolin’ African princess. At the time I knew her she was on the royal lam, trying to prolong her time in America before she had to return to a life that didn’t involve late night pizza delivery and complete anonymity.

She also had the most beautiful skin of any woman I’d ever met.

I’d say it was the most beautiful skin of any person I’d ever met, but that award goes to the dean of Canterbury Cathedral, whose name I forget but whose distractingly silken handshake in 2006 remains unsullied by time and the fact I passed out knee-wobbling drunk on a quarter of a pint of farmhouse cider in a nunnery four hours later.

I don’t know the dean’s secret to flawless skin, but I do know Jo’s (I’ve changed her name, since as far as I know, she’s still on the lam).

Every night she would rub her wet hands on this burnished lump of dark brown soap. She’d lather, rinse and then rub beige butter into her skin until it shone.

That’s it.

A few months ago, I was perusing Coastal Scents when I came across their Project Ghanaian initiative that helps provide an income opportunity and health care to rural Ghanian women. I recognized Jo’s brown lump as African black soap. Makes sense, since she was Ghanaian, so I ordered the Out Of Africa pack, which included a pound of natural African black soap, unfiltered shea butter, plus big bottles of raw virgin coconut oil (does that sound unpleasant to anyone else?) and African wild honey (which sounds like a blaxsplotation flick in which the outstanding Pam Grier and her equally fantastic wigs fight evil to a Bootsy Collins soundtrack.)

Black Soap

Ingredients: Coconut oil, raw shea butter, cocoa pod ash, water and palm kernel oil.

This is definitely the stuff Jo used, and it’s great. I’ve heard a lot about how it’s supposed to clear acne, soften lines, do your taxes and make your mother understand the reason you don’t want kids isn’t because you’re selfish and want to deny her the joy of her old age. I’m not sure about all that, but it’s a great, natural, inexpensive product that’s as good or better than any other cleanser I’ve tried.

Unrefined Shea Butter

I don’t know whether Jo used cocoa or shea butter to get her skin to glow, but I’m never going without a tub of this stuff again. It’s like the rooster sauce of beauty products: it makes EVERYTHING better. I use it as an after-shower moisturizer, a hot oil treatment (melted with a bit of coconut oil), cuticle cream, lip balm, frizz tamer, heel softener, and even slick a little on my legs to get that shiny but not goopy look. It’s also the only facial moisturizer I use now.

Coconut Oil:

I’m not a fan of the smell, which is a little acrid. Still, this is a whizbang makeup remover and massage oil and I’ve heard if you melt equal parts shea butter and coconut oil, then let it set up and whip it, you get a nice body butter. I might try it, and I’ll definitely add a few drops of a strong essential oil –rosemary or lavender I think– for massage duty, but otherwise I’ll stick to the shea butter which smells better and is less likely to stain my sheets.

African Wild Honey:

Uh. You probably shouldn’t eat this since the words EXTERNAL USE ONLY are featured prominently on the bottle. In unrelated news, it tastes like molasses. I don’t really know what to do with this yet. I’ve heard it makes a nice face mask, but I’ve got half a liter of the stuff so suggest away!

Is It a Shoe? Results!

Last week we played “Is It a Shoe?” wherein our smart and sassy audience answered the seemingly simple question: “Is It a Shoe?”

The subject of was this, uh, unusual offering from Swedish design company Minimarket.

 

And while there were more than twenty comments, many of which garnered a chuckle or even a lady-like guffaw, the winner had to be longtime superfantastic reader TeleriB with her suggestion:

It’s a shoe encased in new tri-color carbonite, for all your long-haul preservation needs!

“Worried that the dodgy smuggler sort of moving company you’ve hired won’t take adequate care of your expensive shoe collection? Dip them in our patent-pending tri-color carbonite to fully wrap them in a sturdy protective shell that can survive bangs, scratches, and the freezing vacuum of space.

Call today!”

 

With the lovely Qbertina getting the award for Best Reference to Outmoded Forms of Transportation with:

“It’s a penny-farthing boat.”

 

and These Aren’t ChaCha Heels earning the Slightly Overthought Fashion History Medal for:

“It’s a shoe all right. I’m trying to figure out if it’s a Robert Clergerie shoe (cause he does those kinds of wedge soled shoes) paying a weird homage to an early Ferragamo sandal made during the fascist era–and if that’s supposed to have any relevance to the political situation today.

But I wouldn’t wear ‘em.”

Neither would I, ChaCha, neither would I.

Twistie’s Sunday Caption Madness: The It’s All Tutu Much Edition

How do all!

It’s time once again to play Twistie’s Sunday Caption Madness. You all know how this works. I post a picture that’s begging for a caption like Oliver Twist wants more gruel. You provide said captions via the comments function. Next week I declare a winner and we all boogie down with glee.

This week’s image comes from the Sartorial Cruelty to Canines file and it looks a little like this:

Ready… set… snark!

Ah Yes, It Was a Very Good Year

The proto-Delorian pictured above is the 1962 Ford Seattle.

Why is it there?

It was the first picture to come up when I typed ‘1962’ into Google Images. Awesome, isn’t it?

And why did I type 1962 into Google Images in the first place?

Well, because earlier this week, I celebrated a grand half-century of existence.

And you know what? That got me thinking about the year I was born into. I thought about how much the world has changed in the years since. I was born into a world where a single computer took up an entire room, where telephones had rotary dials, television was black and white, and nobody had ever heard a single note of The White Album. Nobody had ever been terrified by a Dalek, nor had they said ‘beam me up, Scotty.’

But a quick Wikipedia search showed me a lot of interesting things did happen in the year of my birth. Politics, science, the arts, sports, religion… something cool or horrible or more vastly socially important than anyone could have known at the time happened in each category. People who matter in a global sense were born that year, and so, too, did some die.

It saddens me to realize that I missed sharing the earth with ee cummings by a matter of less than two weeks, and that Eleanor Roosevelt and Charles Laughton were both gone a couple months later. Other major losses that year include: William Faulkner, Stuart Sutcliffe, Marilyn Monroe, and Herman Hesse. I’m a lot less cut up about the death of Adolph Eichmann.

On the other hand, it delights me to know I share a birth year with such people as: Jon Stewart, Eddie Izzard, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Joan Cusack, Felicity Huffman, and Tom Colicchio. That’s not too shabby a list. Also? It’s painfully incomplete. 1962 was a good year to be born for greatness, it seems.

1962 saw the debut not only of moi, but of Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf on Broadway and Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen. Silent Spring debuted on bookshelves everywhere, as did Sex and the Single Girl. The Beatles released their first single and the Rolling  Stones played their first major gig. Johnny Carson became the host of the Tonight Show, a job he would do for the next thirty years. AT&T launched the first communications satellite. The Hulk and Spider Man arrived on the comic book scene. Alas, the curtain came down on two of the Flying Wallendas who were killed when their famous seven-person pyramid trick didn’t go as planned.

On the political end of the spectrum, there was the Cuban Missile Crisis, the arrest and imprisonment of Nelson Mandela,  the French Foreign Legion left Algeria, and Jamaica achieved independence. The US Supreme Court ruled that naked pictures of men were not pornography and that prayer in public schools could not be required. Fidel Castro was excommunicated by the Pope.

Oh, and there was that neato car.

So that’s a little bit about the year I was born.

What about the year you were born?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go to Wikipedia and do a search on the year you were born. Tell me three interesting people who were born that year, three who died, and at least two culturally or politically significant things that happened – for good, for ill, or just for grins.

And if you don’t feel like revealing your ages, feel free to make it the year you were married, the year your dog was born, or any other year of significance to you for whatever reason you please.

Give me your best lists!

Thursday Miscellany

Recently, the stars aligned so a professional seamstress with lots of time on her hands moved across street, and –much like when I realized one of HLB’s myriad young nephews was gay– I thought “You don’t know it yet seamstress/small gay child, but this is your lucky day.”

It was my lucky day too. I’m not sure I can handle another dress that looks great in the photos and turns out to be made of the thinnest imaginable t-shirt material, sewn together by a blind monkey on a roller coaster.

I’m just so sick of the scuzzy feeling that comes with playing along with shops that take advantage of an underserved market by hiking the prices way up and dropping the quality way down, because hey, where else is the fatty going to go?

I’ll tell you where she’s going to go: Across the street.

Dressmaking will never be my strong suit (see what I did there?) but I can design like a house on fire. Actually, I bet I could design better than a house on fire, although I’ve only set a church on fire, so I don’t really have a frame of reference.

Anyway, I’m working on sketches for a half-dozen dresses to tote along on my upcoming trip to the east coast and then Europe: a tweed for travel, a silk for evening and four wool pontes for meetings and general swanning about. Nothing extraordinary, just classic, well-tailored pieces in natural fibers.

I don’t think it’s any secret that what’s appropriate for autumn in conservative Washington D.C. and winter in chic Italy and Spain is not exactly de rigeur here, where the last three meals I’ve eaten have been out of coconuts.

(I’d hit it)

It’s a pleasure being able to design precisely what I want and have it made on my body instead of suffering through an obstacle course of cheap knits, tacky prints and indignity.

It’s guilt-free shopping since the fabrics are from Italian mills, and they’re being constructed by a seamstress across the street, not a seven year-old across the globe.

And even though representing Team Fat American Chick abroad smacks of respectability politics (“No, no! We’re not all sloppy, lazy and slothful! Let me take it upon myself to vastly overcompensate for your ridiculous bias against people like me, because God forbid you look past your prejudices.”) it’s fun to fret over a hemline for dresses that will be immortalized in pictures for decades to come.

Who knows, maybe I finally will release a plus-size collection. Lord knows we need all the designers we can get.

Oh, have you been following my posts at the Manolo’s Shoeblog?

On Tuesday it was “What Miss Plumcake is…

and today it’s a collection of $1000+ shoes that are all on sale for at least 70% off, plus a brief tutorial on how to perk up your feathered accessories.

Go visit. The comments are quiet over there.

 

Is It a Shoe?

That’s right everybody, it’s time to play the swell new guessing game:

The rules are simple. Look at a sample image and answer:

  • Is it a shoe?
  • If not, what is it?

Ready, let’s play!


IS IT A SHOE?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun with Coffee

Let me tell you about my great grandmother’s hair.

Wait, no, first let me tell you about my great grandmother.

  • She was Scottish. I mean really Scottish. Descended from the historical Lady Macbeth, her two children were Andrew, after Scotland’s patron saint and Bruce, as in Robert The.
  • In the middle of the Great Depression in New York City, she demanded and summarily received a large baby grand piano, which she moved around by getting on her hands and knees under it and crawling it to her desired location.
  • She was a devout Scottish Presbyterian until one fateful day when the choirmaster took away her solo. She flounced off to the Anglican Church across the street and that, friends and lovers, is How The Plumcakes Became Episcopalians.
  • Her hair, the same shade as mine, kept its natural espresso hue well into her seventies, though a colorist’s brush never touched her precious mamie bangs.

***record scratching to a stop***

…back the truck up.

Lady Macbeth Thing: Fine. I’ve met the women in my family and I assure you, all the perfumes of Arabia would not sweeten our collective hands.

The Piano Thing: again, fine. Not everyone suffered in the Depression, and it would go a long way towards explaining my atavistic urge to buy a baby grand piano in the middle of the last recession.

Flouncing off to the Episcopalians: Anyone who doubts the veracity of this has clearly never been in or near a church choir.

Deep brown tresses into her seventies: ay, there’s the rub.

It seem great grandmother Plumcake had a teensy trick. Instead of setting her hair in curlers, she’d set them around damp black teabags. Tinting her hair ever-so-slightly with each wash and set.

Her caffeinated little secret sprung to mind the other day.

Harsh water and daily dips in the Pacific have not been kind to my hair. While I understand natural summer highlights and beach textured hair are both sought after (for the latter, skip the spendy products and use what the runway hairstylists use: non-iodized salt dissolved in warm water. Apply with a spray bottle) my dark brown Eton crop does not benefit from either.

I’m not especially interested in coloring my hair, but I don’t want to lose its natural hue either, so, like my great-grandmother before me, I went to the kitchen to improvise.

Coffee Hair Tint

3 tablespoons instant coffee
2+/- tablespoons sour cream/plain yogurt
2 teaspoons hot water

Dissolve the coffee in the hot water and add enough sour cream to make a thick paste. Apply to towel-dried hair. Wrap hair in a shower cap, let sit at least an hour and wash out with a gentle shampoo in the coolest water you can stand.

Okay, those are the basic directions. Here’s what I did:
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