My ex-husband was a substance abuser. I don’t think I have ever openly shared that. It’s not a secret, so I’m not exactly slandering him. I could never understand why he wasn’t able to just quit. “Dude,” I wanted to say, and shake the hell out of him, slap him across his face a few times, and knock him upside the head with something hard for good measure. “You see how this stuff screws your life up. It’s killing you. It turns you into an ass. And it’s eroding any love I’ve ever had for you. You know all these things, but you still won’t quit.” It just seems like when you know something’s bad for you, when you know it’s capable of ending your existence, you should be able to put it down. No matter how addictive it is, you should be able to say: “You know what? I love my life more than I love this shit. That’s enough.” I felt so much contempt when I looked at him, hating everything that his drug of choice turned him into. It’s easy to see such a glaringly obvious fault in someone and focus on it until everything else is obscured, like the application of a vignette filter. 

It’s not always easy to find your own faults. Sure, we can find our surface faults, but how easy is it for us to dig down to the root of it and locate the ultimate fault? It’s extremely difficult. Not only is it difficult but when you do find it, but acknowledging and owning that fault is a sometimes impossible. 

My weight is an obvious flaw. I’ve struggled with it all my life and eventually got to a point where I was sick of being fat. I worked out, ate well, and lost a lot. I felt better than I had since high school. But I’m still struggling with the behaviors that made me fat in the first place and for the first time, I think I understand why an addict can’t just stop. Sugar is my culprit. It always has been; I just didn’t realize it until I caught myself in the act one day. I remember the almost orgasmic feeling I had when scarfing down a chocolate cupcake, and then almost choking because I forgot to stop and breathe. Although there was no one around to witness this exhibition of gluttony, I was embarrassed and ashamed. And despite having lost weight, I don’t feel as good as I did when I ate well. My joints feel achy and my brain is in a constant state of fogginess. I finally understand that sugar isn’t something I’m capable of consuming in moderation. Even a small taste results in the crashing open of the floodgates, unleashing a tidal wave of craving.

I’d managed to wean myself off of sugar once. That was when weight loss became nearly effortless for me. Then I had a relapse and now, losing weight is as demanding as swimming in a pool of chocolate pudding. It’s exhausting, and I have so many days when I just feeling giving up and giving in. I know that a sugar detox is the only way I can change that pudding to water and swim through like I did before. It’s tiresome to think about though, and sometimes too overwhelming to even consider attempting. In my moments of self-pity, I realize that I’m not much different from a substance abuser who just doesn’t stop. I can think of a multitude of excuses about why it’s such an impossible feat. I know that cutting out sugar is the key to everything, so why can’t I just stop eating it? I don’t know. I really don’t.

I don’t have a reason for sharing this. Maybe because I haven’t written a fitness post in a long time. Maybe so those of you on your own journeys understand that the process not all smooth sailing. Sometimes you have to swim through pudding to reach your destination.

Carl’s Cake

Summertime in Florida can be deceiving when you work in an office building. Most offices keep the air conditioner set to “Arctic Chill”, so the view outside the window of the sunny, cloudless sky almost looks like a mirage. There’s no way it could be all that warm outside when your toes are frozen solid, right? 

Having lived in Florida for over nine years, you’d think I would know better. You’d think I’d remember the last time I was fooled by the air conditioned office space and use better judgement before venturing outside, but I quickly forget. 

On my lunch break today, I decided that today would be a beautiful day to walk next door to Race Trac for a frozen yogurt cone. When I stepped outside of the door, I sighed in relief. I could feel the telltale tingling in my toes, letting me know that they were beginning to thaw. The fact that they were beginning to thaw as soon as I set foot outside should have served as an alarm. It should have said to me: “Stop! Are you crazy? It’s a million degrees outside. The walk across the parking lot could kill you.” I ignored that silly voice shouting at me because frozen yogurt was a mere 50 yards away. Half a football field stood between me and a waffle cone full of Carl’s Cake for the low price of $1.49. So I pushed on. 

A few more yards into my journey, I remembered that I hadn’t been transported to a comfortable 80 degrees as I had mistakenly thought only three short minutes ago. I was still in Florida, and the gates of Hades were still wide open. My hijab was soaked in minutes, and I cursed myself for choosing today of all days to wear a navy blue abaya. Who does that in the summertime in Orlando? I could feel rivulets of sweat travelling down my back and at that moment, it dawned on me that I still had to come back across the parking lot after acquiring my frozen yogurt. 

Here’s something you may not know about me: I have always had problems following through with commitments. My closet was stuffed with sewing projects I’d begun, but never got around to completing. Ingredients for recipes sat in my pantry collecting dust because I couldn’t bring myself to actually begin the cooking process. I think a part of me was afraid of failing. Not finishing didn’t sound quite as bad as failing did in my twisted brain. 

I know I went off on a complete tangent, but stay with me. Finishing a half marathon let me know that if I stuck with something and gave it my all, I could finish it. So I’ve gotten much better at following through. And maintaining my new attitude, I was going to accomplish my goal of buying a frozen yogurt waffle cone. After what felt like hours (but was really less than 5 minutes), I flung the door of Race Trac open to obnoxiously announce my arrival. The nonexistent greeting I received from other customers was far less than I thought I deserved for braving the midday sun to fulfill a commitment. 

I sauntered over to the frozen yogurt section, taking in the pastel display of machines and giving myself a metaphorical pat on the back for my triumph. I’d made it, y’all. Grabbing a cone wrapped in flag-printed paper, I decided to treat myself to a blend. Not only was I going to enjoy a helping of Carl’s Cake, but double chocolate swirl as well. 

I walked more quickly back to the office. Not only did I not spend enough time in Race Trac to cool off from the walk over, but my yogurt was already running down the side of my hand. I finished off the last of it as I walked past the gym, feeling a sense of solidarity with its patrons. We were all a hot, sweaty mess. The how’s and why’s are irrelevant. 

I think I’ll leave frozen yogurt for the fall, when the walk across the parking lot will be more bearable. Of course, that’s easy to say when I have my desk fan angled to dry my armpits. I’ll probably forget all about this uncomfortable experience the same way that mothers forget birth pains once they see their beautiful babies. The truth of the matter is that I’ll probably brave the parking lot again next week for a taste of coconut frozen yogurt. 

Afsana’s Favorite Things

It has been many moons since I have celebrated a name day. Can you tell I am working my way through the Game of Thrones books? Anyway, I think the last birthday I celebrated was over 20 years ago. I don’t have any plans of starting back up, but I will happily accept gifts from any reader who may be feeling philanthropic this month. Since I haven’t done an “Afsana’s Favorite Things Post”, I figured now would be a good time. 

I have a confession to make: I’ve been bitten by the DIY bug. The problem is that I have no tools. The contents of my tool box consist of a hammer, an electric screwdriver, several manual screwdrivers, a tape measure, and random screws that have fallen out of pieces of furniture that my children have destroyed over the years. Seriously, there’s not even a hand saw in my collection. You can imagine how far I’ll get trying to build a set of bunk beds. So here’s my wish list: 

HomeCraft 14-Amp 10 Inch Miter Saw with Laser


This saw received pretty high reviews, and is cheaper than many of the other models I looked at. The laser will assist with cutting straight lines and let me tell you, I need all the help I can get. This product sells at Home Depot for $109.

Ryobi Miter Saw Stand

I know it’s not the same brand as the actual miter saw, but work with me here. They appear to be compatible and at $99, this was the cheapest I could go without getting something that looked like it had been constructed from Legos.

DeWalt 18 Volt Ni-Cad ½ Inch Compact Drill/Driver Kit

I’m all over the place with the brands here. This drill appeared to be a decent price at $99, but what do I know about drill prices? See the description of my toolbox above. The biggest selling point for me is the fact that it’s cordless. With my level of coordination, I would probably trip over a cord and drill a hole into the side of the washing machine by accident. 

Kreg Jig Master System

Sure, I could probably just use a drill with a countersink bit for the projects I have in mind, but isn’t this impressive? Just think, the person who owns this system would be the envy of all their DIY friends and Pinterest followers. At $139, it’s not a top priority for me. It would be nice to have, though.

DeWalt 5 Inch Random Orbit Sander

Because I can’t have the kids getting splinters on their new bunk beds, can I? It sells for $59 at Home Depot, and got pretty good reviews. AND it comes with a dust collection bag, so Linebacker won’t need his rescue inhaler while I’m using it. 

Brother CS6000i Feature Rich Sewing Machine

This isn’t tool related, but I am itching to replace the awful Shark sewing machine I have currently. Why is Shark making sewing machines, anyway? Please leave that to the professionals, Shark. Stick with steam mops. Anyway, I learned about this sewing machine from Mimi G’s blog and when I did some research, it seemed to be exactly what I needed. It’s basic enough for me to be able to work without getting to frustrated, but is capable of sewing more than the straight and zig zag lines I am currently limited to. The best part? Automatic buttonholes, y’all. And this baby is less than $150 on Amazon.

Gingher 8-Inch Knife Edge Dressmaker’s Shears

I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but I’m still using the shears that came in the sewing kit my mom bought me a really, really long time ago. And since my kids have gotten their grubby hands on them, they’ve been used to cut way more than just fabric. I’m talking robots made from cardboard boxes. They don’t cut fabric very well anymore. And when I say they don’t cut fabric very well, I mean that I’d get better results from a steak knife. Lately, I’ve taken to using a pair of all-purpose scissors that I usually reserve for coupons. That’s how desperate my situation is. These come with a hefty price tag of $23 but Mimi G said I should get them, so I shall. 

Dritz St. Jane Sewing Basket

This is incredibly adorable, and would store all my sewing notions perfectly. Right now, I am using an old container that used to house organic baby spinach. It’s flimsy, and doesn’t hold everything I need it to hold. That’s how my kids got ahold of my sewing shears in the first place.

That concludes this year’s edition of Afsana’s Favorite Things, unless I can think of more things to add to the list. In that event, there will be a sequel.

Foodie Files: Hummus

   I have been a lover of hummus for as long as I have been attending Iftaar dinners at the masjid (at least 15 years). Sadly, the masjid was the only place I could find decent hummus. Back in the day, store-bought hummus left a lot to be desired. The flavor was bland, and the texture was lumpy. At least that was the case until Sabra came along with its robust flavor and smooth texture. And hefty price. If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m super frugal when it comes to grocery spending. The meals we eat in my household are directly related to the current sales at Publix, and it will take an act of congress for that to change. 

I need my hummus fix, but can’t see spending $4 on that little bitty container of Sabra. Thankfully, my friend Maisoon makes a mean hummus, and wasn’t shy about sharing the recipe: 

2 29oz. cans of garbanzo beans (I used Goya)

¼ cup of tahini (sesame paste)

juice of 2 lemons

4 cloves of garlic

¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil

salt to taste 

1. Empty the cans of beans into a pot, liquid included. Add two cans full of water and simmer until the water is almost completely gone. Cool completely.

2. Sautee/brown the cloves of garlic in the olive oil.

3. Add all ingredients to a food processor, mix to desired consistency.

4. Enjoy! 

When cooking the beans, you will notice that the skin separates from the beans and floats to the top. It isn’t harmful, but feel free to scoop them out with a slotted spoon. I’ve heard people say that removing the skin improves the texture. Maisoon uses a Ninja blender to puree her hummus, which purees everything thoroughly and results in a nice, creamy hummus. My cheap food processor requires a bit more effort, but less so when I scoop the skin out.

The amount of garlic you add really depends on your preference. 4 cloves is listed as a guideline, but I tend to go heavy on the garlic. Browning it in the olive oil makes it much less pungent. You could probably roast it in the oven as well, but be sure you still add that olive oil to the mixture. Olive oil is a must for a good batch of hummus.

Please note that bottled lemon juice is by no means an acceptable substitute for juice from fresh lemons. About a year ago, there was a lemon shortage and I couldn’t find them anywhere in stores. I used bottled lemon juice instead, and ended up tossing the entire batch of hummus because no one would touch it.

As for the salt, I normally add about a teaspoon. You really don’t need much, since the beans are already salted.

Also, you can be really flexible with hummus. Add some roasted red peppers, basil pesto, or any other extras that appeal to your taste buds. I prefer mine plain, but I won’t turn my nose up at hummus with chopped olives sprinkled on top.

My kids love hummus, and it’s one of the few ways I can get Little Linebacker excited about veggies. On nights that my mother in law volunteers to keep the kids, I am perfectly happy with hummus and veggies for dinner. We used to be content eating it with celery, carrots and pretzels, but I’ve recently started expanding my choices to include veggies I normally pass over in the produce section. Check the produce section at your grocery store, and don’t shy away from those sugar snap peas. I hope you love this recipe as much as I do!

Foodie Files: Quinoa Salad

I love going to potlucks, and I dread them at the same time. I am not even remotely creative when it comes to food that I’ll be sharing with people. I don’t have much confidence in my culinary skills, so I stick with tried and true dishes. That usually means store-bought key lime pie. This time, I decided to get put more effort forth than just browsing the dessert section at Publix. 

I’ve never cooked quinoa before, so I was really intimidated by dishes containing it. But what’s the point in this quest of mine if I’m not going to step outside of my comfort zone? When I read the back of a package of quinoa, I could have kicked myself for not making it sooner. It really isn’t much different from cooking rice. I would love to have varied up my grains a long time ago. Rice gets tired really quickly. 

The recipe Sweet Potato, Apple, and Kale Quinoa salad, and can be found here

I won’t post the full recipe since it can already be found on another blogger’s site, but I can share some info with you. Victoria (aforementioned blogger) used quinoa, vegetable broth, olive oil, diced sweet potatoes, a large apple, dried cherries, salt, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette to pull this masterpiece together. She includes a recipe for the homemade vinaigrette, which includes balsamic vinegar (obviously), a shallot, honey Dijon mustard, honey, olive oil, and salt.

I truly couldn’t have taken a less appetizers my picture than this. But you guys were warned well in advance of my photography talent. Anywho, garnishing the salad with goat cheese and pecans at the end is optional. I actually bought goat cheese, but forgot to add it to the salad. At least it was on hand when I made the frittata. Other than forgetting the garnish, the only thing I did differently was use dried cranberries instead of dried cherries because dude, have you seen the price of dried cherries? Holy smokes.

The original recipe calls for cooking the sweet potatoes in a skillet with olive oil and salt. I think I will roast them instead next time around to enhance the sweetness of the potatoes. I can’t wait to make this salad again. It was a hit with the kids as well as the potluck attendees. 


Foodie Files: Spinach Frittata

When you grow up in an African American household, grits are a natural part of life. Having lived the majority of my life in Buffalo, I always thought grits were eaten exclusively by black people. One Monday morning in third grade, we were discussing what we ate over the weekend. Upon mentioning grits, I could see other black classmates nodding their heads in agreement while white classmates looked puzzled. “What is a grit?” one asked, confused. Embarrassed, I never again openly admitted to eating grits. 

Imagine the shock I experienced upon moving to Florida and seeing white folks openly ordering grits for breakfast in restaurants. I know it sounds bad, but I couldn’t stop staring. It was such an anomaly to me, seeing other people eat food that I had mistakenly believed resided only in the diets of African Americans. My husband is a huge fan of grits, so I fix them often. Sometimes, I get a little tired of the same thing. Grits, scrambled eggs, turkey bacon. Grits, scrambled eggs, turkey bacon. Or pancakes, scrambled eggs, and turkey bacon. Do you see now why I was so desperate to dig into my stash of Food Network magazines?

I’ll bet you thought this food post was going to include a recipe for grits, didn’t you? Not this time. I’ll share that recipe when my vacation from grits is over. This post is about eggs in the form of a frittata.

The recipe I tried out came from the April 2015 issue of Food Network Magazine, also known as The BIG Breakfast Issue. Trisha Yearwood’s recipe for a spinach frittata calls for the following ingredients: 

4 large eggs

½ cup of heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

4 cups baby spinach

Preheat your oven to a broil. In a medium bowl, whist together the eggs, heavy cream, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper until smooth. Fold in cheese and tomatoes and set aside.

In a medium oven-safe frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté until softened. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Pour egg mixture over spinach and cook until almost set, about 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the oven and broil until golden brown on top, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn out onto a serving plate.

Now I know some of y’all are shaking your heads at the idea that a fat girl who claims to love food could make it through almost 40 years of life without having ever attempted a frittata. Please refer back to my last post and note my lack of cooking skill, as evidenced by the results I achieved from this recipe. 

Trisha recommends using a cast iron skillet for the recipe, which I actually own. What I didn’t consider was the fact that my monster-sized skillet (which is much needed for my monster-sized family) is probably much bigger than the skillet that Trisha used. This resulted in a really flat frittata. I also forgot about lowering the shelf in the oven, so it was broiled very close to the heating coils. That explains the reason why my frittata is more on the black side than golden brown as Trisha suggested.

It wasn’t exactly burned, which is a plus. The flavor was decent. I decided against the grape tomatoes. Actually, I forgot them and opted not to make another trip to the store. My onions were sliced instead of finely chopped, but it worked out fine. I didn’t bother to measure the spinach, I just used a whole bag because I love spinach. 

The next morning, I decided to try the recipe out again with a few tweaks. I doubled the recipe and used kale in place of spinach, since I had a boatload of it leftover from another recipe I tried (which will be posted soon). Publix had Baby Bella mushrooms on sale, so I threw those in as well.   

  I subbed goat and cheddar cheeses for the Swiss and this time, I remembered to lower the shelf before broiling. These results were a thousand times better, although I prefer spinach to kale in this dish.

If you are a novice like I am and have never attempted a frittata, please give it a go. Anyone can make it if I can, I promise.



Walmart Beauty Box

I’m not normally a big fan of Walmart, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to purchase their beauty box for the low price of $5.00. It’s a quarterly box, and there isn’t a subscription available for it. You pretty much just mark your calendars and go online to buy when it becomes available. The value of the box was worth far more than the price I paid for it.



The first item packed inside was Jergnes BB Body Perfecting Skin Cream. The shade I received was for light skin tones, which I do not have. I gave it away, so I can’t give a review on that.



Next up was the Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula lotion. I have used this in the past and loved it, so I was glad to receive it in my box. I don’t know why I expected all new products to be showcased, but I’m okay with getting tried and true products. The bottle was a generous size, but still fit nicely into my purse. The sample reminded me of how much I liked this lotion back in the day, so I’ve put it on my shopping list.



I’ve seen coupons for Loreal’s Total Repair shampoo and conditioner, but never bothered to clip them. I’m not sure why, but I never even considered trying this line. I was really impressed once I gave these samples a go. I shampooed and conditioned after getting out of the pool and was really impressed by the results. My hair felt clean without feeling stripped. This is another one that will go on the shopping list.




I can’t tell you what Fame by Lady Gaga smells like, because I still haven’t opened it. I have a feeling the sample will end up in my daughter’s purse at some point. I probably won’t get around to wearing it.



I was hoping Garnier’s Ultra-Lift Miracle Sleeping Cream would be wonderful, since I love their other facial products. This left my skin feeling really dry and itchy. The sample came with a coupon for $2.00 off, which I’ll be giving away to someone who actually likes the product.



I did enjoy the Burt’s Bees Renewal Intensive Firming Serum. I am a lover of all things serum-related, and wish I would get them more often in my boxes. I used this underneath my regular moisturizer and it made my skin feel smooth without feeling greasy. It didn’t irritate even a little, which was a big deal. And the fact that the sample came with a coupon for $3.00 off didn’t hurt, either.



My favorite product in the whole box was probably the Palmer’s Skin Therapy Oil. I used this on my face after cleansing before bed. It wasn’t as oily as I expected it to be. It absorbed really well into my skin and left it feeling super soft when I woke up in the morning. The downside is that I can’t seem to find it in any store. I would love to buy a bottle. I guess I’ll have to check Amazon for this one.



I’m sorry about not taking a picture of the Ken Paves Smoothing Line Regimen before I used it. It doesn’t seem fair to give this line a negative review, because it probably works wonderfully for someone with straight hair. It’s not meant for curly hair, which tends to get really dry. I lean towards hydrating hair products. I’ve never had good results from smoothing versions.



In addition to those products, I also received a coupon for a few can of Dry Spray antiperspirant (which usually sells for around $5) and a coupon for $1.00 off any Palmer’s Sun protection product. In Florida, we use sunscreen nearly all year. This coupon definitely won’t go to waste.




All in all, I’m happy with the box. While there were products in it that I generally wouldn’t use, the value of the things I did like were more than the cost of the box itself.