Ladder to the Moon

On September 1, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

Ladder to the Moon

Written By Maya Soetoro-Ng

Illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Ladder to the Moon rests on a bookshelf, in my bedroom, where I can keep an eye on it. I bought it for Simone and Nadia, but it is all mine. Mine, I say.

I am in love with the writing. It is, in a word, gorgeous. The book is longer than the average picture book, and the words paint dreamy pictures. As for the illustrations, they are the most intricate I’ve ever seen in a picture book and evoke the imagination of a child. When I find a publisher for my picture book, I’d be happy for Yuyi Morales to illustrate it.

I’m drawn to the story as well. My mother passed before Simone and Nadia were born. In Ladder to the Moon Suhaila wishes she could have known her grandma. One night, Suhaila realizes her wish when a ladder appears at her window. In lush prose, Grandma Annie invites her granddaughter to come along with her on a magical journey. Together they explore a mother’s love, empathy for others, and the value of civic engagement.

The book has given me an idea about how I can make my mother real to Simone and Nadia. There has been a long-running debate about whether picture books are written for children or for parents. They are written for both. This one resonates with me, and I hope one day Simone and Nadia will embrace it as much as I do.

Have you read this book? What did you think of the writing and illustrations?

Argan Oil

On August 31, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

The beauty aisles are lined with products touting the benefits of Argan oil. The oil has been added to skincare, nail, and hair potions.  If the law of supply and demand is in effect, then a lot of people are demanding a relatively low supply of this oil. I’ve seen it online for as much as $96 for four ounces. Ouch! There are less expensive versions, which also have less Argan oil in them, and others have been cut with coconut, jojoba or some other oil that is listed in fine print on the back of the bottle.

Women love this product for its hydrating properties. It is a light oil, and it produces an intense shine. Of course, it can only be found in one place on the planet: Morocco. The oil is extracted from the nuts of the fruit the tree produces and is harvested from the tree by women who work in co-operatives.

Like many women, I wanted to try out this Argan oil. I love shea butter, and I have an ongoing love affair with henna. It took me a few weeks to zero in on some pure oil at an acceptable price. I found it at, where a four-ounce bottle for $17.

I’ve been using it for a few weeks now. I use a dropper to take the oil from the bottle and to put a few drops in my hand. I rub my hands together and then spread the oil over my hair. (I haven’t been bold enough to use it on my face, though folks swear it helps fight off all those bad things in the atmosphere.) The oil is expeller pressed, which means no solvents or anything else that could change or weaken its properties were used to extract it.

I love the shine and the non-oily feeling Argan oil produces, but the real test will come this winter when the air has been stripped of all its moisture. I’ll keep you posted.

Have you experimented with Argan oil?

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Overheard On The Playground

On August 22, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

Beautiful Little Girl: Do y’all speak Spanish?

Nadia: No, we don’t speak Spanish.

Beautiful Little Girl: You look like you do.

Simone: Do you speak Spanish?

Beautiful Little Girl: Yes.

I cannot place a value on overhearing such conversations. While the rest of the world is debating the validity of a fictional book and movie, I’m sitting front row and center, watching our future navigate this thing called race.

I could not have imagined how many ways people would ask, “What are you?” We have been asked whether our daughters are Brazilian and Asian. A few weeks ago, someone asked Simone whether her father is Chinese, and someone else asked if she was mixed with black and white.

I had worried — Sometimes I still do — about the questions. A part of me feared people would make assumptions and taunt my girls. I try to arm Simone and Nadia with answers. After witnessing how my daughters handle these situations, I am not sure I need to intervene.

The conversation above was so mature. The Beautiful Little Girl spied two little girls who didn’t look one way or another. She checked her hunch and was skeptical when it was not validated. She was certainly on to something. Nadia, who can be a bit blunt and sassy, answered her question without judgment. Even when the Beautiful Little Girl told Simone and Nadia she was doubtful about the answer, there was no back and forth. Simone, a reporter-in-training, figured there had to be a reason why the little girl asked and turned the question around. Then I heard giggles and squeals and laughter.

With all the mature stuff out of the way, they got down to the business of playing with each other. I think we adults can learn a thing or two from the children.




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The Tanning of America

On August 18, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

In THE TANNING OF AMERICA: How the Culture of Hip-Hop Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy (Gotham Books; On-Sale 9-8-11), Stoute draws from his diverse background in the music industry and brand marketing to chronicle how an upstart art form – street poetry set to beats – came to define urban culture as the embodiment of cool. Steve Stoute’s understanding of how hip-hop morphed into mainstream culture enabled him to relate to a new generation of thinking, which catapulted him to the forefront of pop culture – where he still remains today.

In THE TANNING OF AMERICA Steve Stoute shows how a company can connect with the youth market without seeming inauthentic and staying true to their core brands. This ‘tanning’ phenomenon – the positive, powerful potential of urban youth culture that, when harnessed properly, can bring disparate groups of people together – raised the generation of black, Hispanic, white and Asian consumers who have the same ‘mental complexion’ based on shared experiences and values. Today’s consumer is a mindset, not a race – and when businesses get it right, and have a proper understanding of tanning, success is imminent.

Steve Stoute’s knowledge and observations will allow readers to find success in a new generation’s bold reinterpretation of the American Dream.

I am intrigued by this conversation and the book. What do you think?

The Marriage Ref

On August 16, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

Really? An interracial couple couldn’t agree on what to do with their daughter’s hair, so they went on national television to have entertainers tell them who is right and who is wrong. I’ve watched The Marriage Ref once or twice, and I don’t find it all that funny or enlightening. In this episode, which aired Monday, Aug. 14, the white father  wants his little girl to express herself, while the black mom wants her to look presentable.

If I had to take the matter seriously, I’d side with the mother. There’s nothing wrong with a child expressing herself, as long as that’s something she wants to do. Nothing in the clip leaves that impression. All the viewer learns is that the father simply doesn’t want to do hair, and that’s too bad.

Here’s the thing. These people aren’t serious. There is way too much acting and exaggerating in the clip, and the viewer later learns the father wants his daughter to be “discovered.” I think he and his wife are using the show to get their daughter on television. They got the exposure they wanted. I just wish it had not been at the expense of a child and her beautiful, natural hair.



Quote, Unquote

On August 13, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

We don’t like the food that you make, Daddy.

Simone, lobbying to eat out. 

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School Bus Blues

On August 12, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke


Add in your own bluesy guitar riff between verses


My daughter is a first-grader

Can ride the bus to school

It’s a five-minute ride

Makes so much sense too


Well, she boarded the bus

Told the driver her name

Sat next to a girl

Went on the first day


Picked her up a little later

All seemed a go

Then my daughter said something

She told me no.


Well, it’s more convenient.

Probably safer too.

The little girl won’t do it.

So, what’s a parent to do


I’ve got the blues

The school bus blues

She’d rather ride in the SUV

So, what’s a parent to do

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Affordable Organic Skin Care

On August 10, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

It wasn’t long ago that I went to the spa and got a talking to from my beauty expert.

Get your skin act together, she said. You are not a young thing anymore. You must take care of your skin.

After she whipped my skin and me into shape, she sent me home with an arm full of  items. They work well — and are expensive.

That’s the problem with my skin care regimen. I don’t want to spend that kind of money on lotions and potions. Plus,  I want something with natural ingredients. I had three choices: I could either keep purchasing the expensive stuff, mix my own concoction or buy it from  a reputable organic store.

Cue Mission Impossible music.

With my skin in good shape, I tried to find an affordable solution. I already knew about Bentonite Clay and use it for facials. Bentonite Clay is available at many health food stores for $8 or $9 for 16 ounces.

Armed with that information, I was sure I could find something organic and affordable to exfoliate and moisturize my skin. I clicked around and found Mountain Rose Herbs Cleansing Grains.

For $5.25, Mountain Rose Herbs offers two ounces of White Kaolin clay, organic Oat Bran, Almond meal, organic Corn meal, powdered Rose petals, and a blend of pure steam distilled essential oils. It smells divine. Mix a pinch or two with a little spring water or tea, apply to face in circular motions and rinse.

Warning: Don’t put anything wet in the jar, not even a finger, unless you want to contaminate all the goodies. Use a plastic or wooden spoon to scoop out a little each use.

For the body, try dead sea salt. It is the main ingredient in many body scrubs. Mountain Rose Herbs has a one-pound bag of dead sea salt for $4.50. Want to spend even less? Buy a five-pound bag here. Need some aromatherapy with that? Draw a bath, sprinkle in a tablespoon or so of dead sea salt and a few drops of an essential oil. Or, mix dead sea salt with a carrier oil, say jojoba, and use it to exfoliate the entire body. Both recipes provide an instant spa experience without the spa price. Enjoy!

Do you have any money-saving beauty secrets? Spill!



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From The Inbox

On August 9, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke


What to do when someone you care about shows his thoughts.

Q: I would love to get your opinion on the following…My husband and I are a happy interracial couple (I’m black, he’s white) living in the South. Race is not an issue for us and this is how we hope to raise our kids. We’ve developed a friendship with a white couple who have been very good friends over many years and are in fact our children’s godparents. They were raised in the South by very traditional white families, and even though they seem to be very progressive, they prove that you can’t escape your past. Last year, the man was animatedly recalling a story and used the n-word to describe a group of people in his story. My husband and I were shocked and really didn’t know how to react. He went on with his story as if it didn’t happen, following which, we left. Discussing it in the car, my husband and I were more disappointed in him than angry. We briefly discussed whether or not we should talk to him about it, but decided against it. He hasn’t done it since, but it’s hard to forget. Any thoughts?

A: Thanks for your question. It’s a tough one, but I will take a shot. My take on this is that you should always say something when something like this happens. It could be something simple like: Really? That’s the way you describe this group of people? It may not be the thing you want to say or thought you’d say, but you have to let the person know that you don’t appreciate that kind of language and that he shouldn’t feel comfortable using it in front of you.

I was on a plane that was experiencing turbulence when the woman sitting beside me made a comment about the pilot’s race. I, too, was flustered and didn’t know what to say. I managed to get something out of my mouth that did not condemn her speech but hopefully let her know I didn’t appreciate it.

Were your children there? I would not want to explain how my child’s Godfather used a racial epithet to describe Mommy’s people. (If he can’t see how his word may be hurtful to a group, he may see how it is hurtful to his Godchild.) The moment may have passed, and it may not have the same effect if you talk about it now. But if it ever happens again or if he’s joking about this story or some other opportunity presents itself, I’d take him aside and tell him. Keep it sweet, to the point and make sure your talk lacks emotion. If you stay cool, maybe he will follow suit. I wouldn’t do it in front of other people, if you can help it, because he’s likely to be embarrassed and may respond in anger.

Weigh in, folks. What would you do?

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