My fashion forecast

The winds are changing in Senegal, which means that hot season is… almost over! Just a few more weeks and it’ll be cool sailing until Spring. I’m already thinking about decorating for the holidays, drinking hot coffee again and wearing some long-neglected favorites in my closet.

1. Long scarves, thin scarves, gauzy scarves, flowered scarves… I cannot wait! After six years in France, I have a hard time feeling like an outfit is complete without a scarf. And I have quite a collection that I will be dusting off de-molding soon!

2. I got an amazing pair of Express ReRock jeans at the Gazelle Skirt clothing swap in June, which means I have worn them all of once due to the arrival of summer. They felt great, and if my husband is to be believed, apparently they looked pretty great as well. 😉

3. Shall we chambray? I remember wearing my dad’s old chambray shirt with leggings when I was probably in third grade. I’ve loved them ever since, so when Numero Uno had a selection, I stocked up. However, their lightweight fabric does not look good when you are pouring with sweat. So they too have been hiding in the closet for several months.

What about you? Any cool-season clothing you’re looking forward to wearing?


Healthy and strong


This humbling collage hangs on my refrigerator as a motivator. The picture on the far right was taken a little over a year ago, just before I got pregnant with our second daughter. The other two were taken a year later, after I gave birth and ate half of N. America single handedly. (Check the map. It’s not there anymore!) With the help of Weight Watchers and regular exercise, I’m down 34 lbs and have 13 lbs to go to reach my goal, so my strategy must be working!

My four-year-old daughter Isabella and I were talking about the collage the other day. “Which picture do you like the best?” I asked. She pointed to the one on the far right. It was a no brainer to me. “Why?” “Because I like the face you’re making.” That was not the answer I was expecting at all! “You’re a lot bigger in this one,” she added, pointing to the middle one. OK, she’s starting to get it. “You’re smaller in this one,” she said, pointing to the image on the left. So, my daughter isn’t referring to my body’s size, but the size of the image itself, relative to the others.

She’s so beautifully clueless that even after I’ve lost all this weight and am resembling more and more the fit woman I once was, not once has she commented or seemed to notice the transformation that practically every adult around us has. And for that I’m grateful. I have made every effort to avoid the word “diet,” speaking instead of being healthy and strong. I love that when I’m working out, she wants to join me. And she values the idea of eating healthy foods. I also enjoy that she’s a girlie girl. She likes pretty dresses and painting her nails and doing her hair. And so do I.

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Most days, I do my hair and make-up and throw together a cute outfit, even if I’m staying home all day. After all, my husband is staying home all day, too (he works from home), and he deserves to see me at my best. Why should I only groom myself when I go out, but neglect my appearance when I’m home? I know, I’m preaching to the choir here.

Yet, even as I write this, I must confess that a part of me wonders how to teach my daughters the balance between enjoying aesthetically pleasing things – since all humans are visual, not just our husbands – and cultivating inner beauty. I endeavor to direct my compliments towards her character, her behaviour, her good choices, her kind actions. And, thanks to the semantic range of the word “cute,” I can affirm her on many levels with a single phrase – “You’re so cute!” – accompanied by a big hug. (We Latinos are affectionate people!).

I read a popular blog post recently that argued that we should never to compliment our kids on their appearance. I’d say that’s going overboard, wouldn’t you? Don’t you like it when someone tells you you look beautiful? Why should our little ones be any different? To me, it’s a matter of balance. Yes, we groom ourselves and our children so we look presentable and easy on the eyes. But we also teach them by example to be generous, kind, hard working, dependable, and just an all-around fun person to be around. And in the end, hopefully that’s what they will remember most, how much fun we were to be with, not how perfect our hair was. Because when we’re old and grey, those are the memories we’ll want them to treasure.

After all, beauty doesn’t last and time is the great equalizer. Can you tell the difference between an 80 year-old who was a beauty queen and an 80 year-old who was just like you and me? King Solomon’s mother taught him the same wisdom I want to teach my girls, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30).

I don’t have it all figured out. I have a lot to learn as a wife and mother, so I welcome virtual and face-to-face friends to share your own wisdom with us on the subject.

Incidentally, for anyone interested in learning more about my weight loss journey, I’ll be writing a post soon on the subject. Stay tuned!

Put these on your list.

While in the US this summer, my mother-in-law introduced me to something amazing. Two somethings, actually.

I’ve been a home mani-pedi girl for years. Just ask my back-in-the-day roommate, Peggy. I arrived in Dakar fresh from the US at the same time that she arrived from Mali after getting bumped out of Cote d’Ivoire because of the coup. The first Sunday night when I busted out my nail polishes, she busted out the eye roll. But before we moved apart, she was on the weekly pedi bandwagon as well.

For years, that’s been my routine on Sunday nights. Until this summer when everything changed… for the better.

My mother-in-law introduced me to Orly Bonder Basecoat first. I’ve never been much of a base-coater because of the longer drying times and I couldn’t tell that it did much. But she claimed this stuff was great so I gave it a try.

A quick couple of brush strokes later, the first toes were already dry. So I moved right on to my color layer.

The next introduction was to Sally Hansen’s Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Topcoat. I was always even less of a top-coater, at best putting one on the following day. But it was the insta-dri promise that hooked me. (Although the silly ‘i’ instead of ‘y’ nearly lost me, but I digress…)

Dip, brush, brush, dip, brush, brush… In no time I had finished the topcoat and it was dry to the touch in about two minutes! Sold. Where do I sign?

Not only are they fast and easy (which is good when you’re talking nails, mind you), my pedicures are lasting about three weeks without a single chip… even in Dakar! Manicures are usually at least full week sans chipping, depending on how much time I spend in sudsy dish water.

Both of these are easy to find in the US and I highly recommend you add them to your shopping list for the next trip back. They work with any type of nail polish color (not just Insta-Dri formulas) and create an unbeatable trio.