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The designer, Stella Jean

The designer, Stella Jean

Mixing African prints with Italian tailoring, Stella Jean’s designs are vibrant, yet classic.  Stella Jean is of Italian and Haitian descent.  She grew up in Rome which lends to her fashion aesthetic; however, she is undeniably inspired by Africa and her Haitian roots in her designs.  Jean is self-taught; however, Giorgio Armani took her under his wing early in her career and she is considered his protégé. 

She has collaborated with Christian Louboutin and has Rihanna and Beyoncé clamoring for her latest pieces.  Stella Jean is also conscious of the struggles of women and native people. Through her use of native craftspeople, she seeks to support struggling countries and communities and preserve their ancestral arts and traditions. She works with industry to generate commercial enterprise and self-sustaining local communities, focusing on women’s empowerment.  She began her partnership with Ethical Fashion Initiative in 2013 when she extended her reach into a wider range of ethically produced items like bespoke Bogolan (mud-cloth) from Mali and Jewelry from Haiti.

Stella Jean’s lines are not “fast fashion”.  Most of her designs fetch a price tag of over $500; however, each piece is unique.  With the addition of a kid’s line, I might have to live out my Stella Jean dreams through my daughter.

For more Stella Jean, you can follow her on Instagram 

Go HERE for her latest Look Books




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I am writing about this little city because it is the last big trip I went on with my family and the first trip with my daughter out of the country.  We traveled to Cartagena for my brother-in-law’s wedding last May.  The town was such a surprise, a little enclosed jewel located on the northern coast of Colombia on the Caribbean.


Cartagena was “discovered” by the Spanish in 1533, but indigenous people date back to 4000 B.C.  A strategic site for trade due to its large port, Cartagena was under constant threat of invasion for centuries.  This finally led to multiple forts and a wall being built around the city.  We stayed in Old Town, behind the walls, with beautiful Colonial architecture surrounding us. Our hotel, Hotel Boutique Las Carretas, was an old colonial building, outfitted with modern conveniences with a rooftop pool overlooking a romantically dilapidated, ivy-covered building next door.  Our balcony gave view to the narrow cobblestone streets where you could hear the trotting of horse-drawn carriages with tourists in tow.  The service at the hotel was top-notch.  Our concierge noticed it was our daughter’s birthday from her passport and arranged for a cake and balloons to be delivered to our room.  It was truly charming.


We were only there for five days, but we could have easily occupied ourselves for two weeks weaving in and out of the little village streets, shopping, and eating our way through the city.  The Del Rosario archipelago lies just off the coast, so island-hopping is another fun option to spend your day.  Word of warning, I would strongly suggest you speak Spanish, or at least have a friend fluent in the language traveling with you, as outside of our hotel, the people did not speak English.  Also, make sure the boat you charter to go island-hopping has life jackets on board for everyone, or bring your own – the same laws that govern our safety in the U.S. do not always apply in foreign countries.


So with that, please enjoy my photos…

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My favorite movies are movies I can enjoy with my family.  I love movies with strong female characters who overcome adversity through working hard and having grit.  I have a 7-year-old daughter who loves soccer and Bend It Like Beckham, with the exception of a few scenes with “older” themes, is a good family movie.  It is slightly cheesy and has a few clichés, but it is so funny and addresses issues of culture, tradition, race, and stereotypes of girls who like sports.


The movie is about a young, Indian girl growing up in London named Jess (played by Parminder Nagra) who loves to play soccer; however, her traditional Indian family feels she should pass her A Levels and learn to make the perfect chapati.  After seeing Jess play soccer with boys in the park, Jules (played by Kiera Knightley) asks her to join her soccer practice.  Jess practices with Jules’ team and loves it.  She hides soccer from her family for as long as she can, but her family eventually finds out and it forces them to make a decision between dreams and tradition.


Bend It Like Beckham focuses on the struggle first-generation Indian youth face in London. Whether it is holding on to tradition, respecting elders, and living the dreams of your parents; or truly assimilating into your new culture and living your own dreams.  It addresses that balance between being who your family is and adopting the culture of where you were born, a theme very relatable for most first-generation youth.

The movie also spotlights sexual orientation.  A side story of the movie is Jules’ mom’s preoccupation and fear that her daughter is a lesbian.  It is a very comical side story, but it brings up a stereotype that girls cannot be good at sports, or like sports, unless they are lesbian.  One of my favorite quotes from the movie is, “Get your lesbian feet out of my shoes!”  You have to watch the movie to get it, and I promise that line will be met with laughter.

There’s a little romance, lots of cultural jokes, and David Beckham only appears in posters throughout the movie.  Bend It Like Beckham features a multi-cultural cast that does such a great job in truly bringing to life cultural nuances and comedy is used as a vehicle to address social issues with impeccable timing.  I really love this movie - I wrote this whole post with a smile on my face.





My husband is horrible about remembering, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries.  I know this can be used as an excuse and I don’t want to say I’ve given up, but I understand these things are not important to him, so I deal with it.  This being said, we have NEVER celebrated a Valentine’s Day.  Not while dating, not while married.  We have been together a total of eleven years.  ELEVEN Y-E-A-R-S.  And this is just a fact of my life.

It used to bother me.  I would wait and hope he would remember.  Disappointment.  I would remind him and hope things would change.  Disappointment.  I would get really hurt by it, every year.  I would cry and think he didn’t value me.  I would tell him this and he didn’t get it.  He told me wanting gifts is superficial.  Finally, I took the Love Languages Test.  My top two love languages are: Acts of Service and Gifts.  I had my husband take the Love Languages Test.  His top two love languages: Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation.  He didn’t even score on the gifts.  He got a 0.  Instead of me being disappointed a few times a year, I told him he doesn’t have to buy me gifts anymore.  I will get my own gifts.  I actually prefer it.  Instead of him buying me another pair of panties or workout gear – I can probably wear a different pair of panties every day for three months and not do laundry – I will buy something I actually want.  Will my husband every surprise me with a nice purse or jewelry? No.  Will I ever be surprised with a car? Not a chance.  But at least I know this. 

I just got a little depressed writing that…  I guess it still bothers me.  BUT I have the most fabulous, thoughtful friends and they make up for it.  Maybe I can describe the perfect Valentine’s Day, or ideas that would make my heart happy.  And actually, it wouldn’t have to be on Valentine’s Day, I actually think Valentine’s Day is stupid.  It could be on either my birthday or anniversary.  I think writing a heart-felt letter about how much you care, appreciate and love someone is the best gift ever.

I hope I didn’t depress the ish out of everyone…




As you can probably gather from my family profile, I love Peruvian food. The first time i had causa was at my in-laws vow-renewal. The mixture of tart potatoes and spicy aji pepper with familiar chicken salad and creamy avocado was heaven. I ate a tray all by myself. Enjoy!  




2 lbs. yellow potatoes ( Yukon gold)
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup lime juice (mix with key limes, if available)
2 -3 tablespoons aji amarillo peppers (my in-laws always bring this for us from Miami)
salt and pepper
2 cups chicken salad (used as filling, I typically buy this premade)
2 -3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced into rounds
6 -8 pitted black olives
Sliced avocado


  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are tender and cooked through. Drain and set aside to cool.
  2. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them. Put the potatoes through a ricer or mash with a potato masher until smooth. Stir in the oil, aji pepper, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Line a casserole dish or baking pan with plastic wrap, pressing it down to fit the dish. Spread half the potatoes into the bottom of the dish and smooth out. Spread chicken salad evenly over the potatoes. Layer sliced avocado over chicken salad. Spread the remaining potatoes evenly over the filling (chicken salad and avocado). Press down gently to firm up your causa. Cover and chill thoroughly.
  4. Lay a serving platter upside-down over the top of the causa dish. Using both hands, flip the dish and platter over, letting the causa fall onto the platter. Remove and discard the plastic wrap.
  5. Garnish the causa decoratively with the hard-boiled eggs and olives and, if you like, a sauce. Cut into portions and serve.


If I don’t have a large group, I use a round spring form pan – it shows off the layers and makes it look fancy

You can substitute chicken salad with tuna salad, ahi tuna, shrimp, crab salad

My mother-in-law has substituted the avocado with beets

As an appetizer, you can roll the potato mixture into ½ inch balls, top with chicken salad/filling of choice, and drizzle with huancaina sauce or Peruvian mayonnaise

You can garnish the causa with cilantro, tomatoes, shrimp, lime - use your imagination




I first encountered Ruud Van Empel’s work during Art Basel Miami in 2009.  I turned a corner and in the center of the wall was a little black girl, her skin as rich as chocolate, in a beautiful sequined chartreuse dress, daintily holding a little purse with her lace-gloved hands. The colors were so vivid, the environment was so utopian.  The texture of the dress seemed so tangible and the artwork seemed like a more beautiful, perfect version of real life.  I was hooked.  The work of art was Ruud Van Empel’s World #27.

His subjects are all so interesting.  His models are as diverse as the color palette he uses and they are styled to perfection.  The settings are always interesting and idyllic. Every time you look at one of his pieces, you find something new, so much thought and detail have gone into Van Empel’s work.  All of this detail and beauty comes from a technique Van Empel developed after graduating from Art School in the Netherlands in 1981.  Van Empel photographs models and nature, taking the most perfect aspects of all, then cuts them out and pieces them together through Photoshop.  None of the models he uses is a real person, but an amalgam of features from many models.  The environments he creates are created from a perfect leaf photographed maybe five years ago and a perfect flower photographed yesterday, pieced together to make a heavenly forest. 

A great interview with Van Empel can be found HERE.  He explains his thought process and why a boy who grew up in a small, mostly white, Catholic town in the Netherlands decided to use very diverse subjects.



SWIRL STYLE: Afropunk Fest Style and Fashion

Created after the 2003 documentary bringing to light the Black presence in American punk culture, Afropunk Fest is one of the most multicultural festivals in the US.  The festival brings together people of all different backgrounds for music, art, fashion, film, and more.  Their efforts encourage diversity in the media and access to the arts through volunteerism in under-served communities.  Past performers during the festival include Lenny Kravitz, Kelis, Grace Jones, and Lauryn Hill.

While the festival sounds amazing – promoting multiculturism, the arts, and philanthropy, I am particularly obsessed with the festival-goers’ fashion and style.  From the array of prints, to all of the natural hair, to my favorite, tribal face paint, the partiers are on point in creativity and originality.  I want to rock tribal face paint every day in suburban Dallas, Texas after seeing the photos; but considering I get perplexing stares when I rock my simple afro in public, I might have to save the tribal paint for when I finally attend the festival one day.

For more information about Afropunk Fest: .



SWIRL SKIN: Jojoba Oil

You will eventually learn I am one of the laziest and cheapest frugal people when it comes to taking care of myself.  I have acne-prone, sensitive, combination skin.  For years, I would not leave the house without blotting papers on-hand.  I was afraid to use moisturizer for fear of getting a gazillion pimples.  I always broke out on my cheeks, not in my T-zone like normal combo skin.  

I don’t like complicated, multi-step skin regimens (Jenn, I don’t use toner, I’m sorry, and I know I will regret it some day).  I don’t like spending lots of money (although Biologique Recherche is AHHHH-mazing if you have the dinero, it’s no joke, and I will do a post on that some other day).  SPF during the day is non-negotiable, but I needed a night-time moisturizer.  

One of my dearest friends, Lori, of SkinHairBeauty, told me to try jojoba oil back in 2006.  She told me it was the closest oil to the natural oils in skin.  I felt like putting oil on my pimples would make them bigger and the fear of having scars or hyperpigmentation from breakouts sounded like a nightmare, so I never tried it.  Six years after that first conversation about jojoba oil, I was a stay-at-home mom trying to save money.  I was at Trader Joe’s and saw a bottle for $6.99.  Bought it, liked it, and I’m still using it as my night-time moisturizer three years later. In those three years, I have probably purchased four bottles total that is including the time I used it on my belly while pregnant.  So not only am I only enjoying a two-step, wash/cleanse process in the evening, I am only spending an average of about $9 per year on night–time moisturizer. I easily used to spend an average of at least $200 per year.  Eventually, I will need to incorporate a retinoid or AHA/BHA to combat wrinkles, but until my son sleeps through the night and is out of diapers, I’m ok with saving time and money.




Sometimes I don’t like combing my hair – it’s nappy; however, I like to look like I combed my hair. I made clip-in bangs because I had leftover hair from making clip-in weave (tutorial later).  

I sometimes wear this look if my hair is wet and in a twist-out (as pictured above), and well, mamma has places to be and things to do. Mamma is also too lazy to wake up two hours earlier than needed to do something with her hair. Sleep is a precious commodity in my world.

Supplies needed:

Hair (matched as close to your hair color and texture as possible)

Wig Clips

Hot Glue Gun



Scarf or Headband

Step 1:  Measure weft of hair to the desired width against your upper forehead/hairline. I double-up on the weft (fold in half), hot glue where hair is folded.

Step 2: Lay out two wig clips. Make sure the curved side is facing down/matching the curvature of your head.

Step 3: Hot glue hair to top of wig clips. Wig clips should be on each end.

Step 4: Clip hair in where desired

Step 5: Cut – I did a fringe

Step 6: Cover your whole head in a scarf with bangs peeking out, or use headband to cover where the bangs are clipped in

Step 7: Own it

If you mess up, just try again.  It’s not your real hair…

xoxo Amal