Seeing Yourself

Seeing yourself is important.  I can remember watching music videos as a child in the age of MTV when Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video blew my mind.  While the world was fascinated by the choreography and costumes, I was fascinated by “the girl” in the video. Alas, she looked like me!! (in my mind).  I can do that. The more I was fed images of brown women being boss, beautiful, bold. The more I was empowered. 

I want my boys to see themselves too — Especially before they are introduced to the negative stereotypes associated with their race in the media AND before they could become accustomed to being nonexistent in certain forums altogether.  It’s one main reason  I started @castlesandkings, my newest Instagram account where I take and post commercial and editorial photos of my 2 boys. 

Brown boys are grossly underrepresented in fashion mags and advertisements, story books and films particularly for children.  

@castlesandkings is an outlet for my sons to be the models of curiosity, adventure, beauty, class, coolness, silliness and laughter, intelligence, intrigue, mystery and mischief they naturally are and that largely goes unseen.  

Thanks to social media platforms, I don’t have to wait. I have the vision and means to create and host the images I’d love to see. 

I’ve grown up with brown kids being the face of poverty and AIDS in the US and abroad.(Think “We Are the World”.) Unless you were a celebrity of some sort there was little to no coverage of a brown kid simply playing Chess or seeing Spot run or finding an alien in his backyard which he then saves from government forces.  No. Our boys and girls were  portrayed as fatherless, impoverished, hustlers and pimps in need of saving. This and a few other 1 sided images recycled taught many of us to see ourselves through those lenses although in our communities we knew there was more to tell.

My friends and I alone were models of 1 and 2 parent homes where we ate dinner together as a family, explored our neighborhoods, won spelling bees and kept secrets from our parents just like any other kid across America. However this was rarely represented in the media.

Images matters. 

The power of an image goes deep. It reaches to the soul of a person especially a child, and creates a path for the feet to walk. 

I recognize the equation. 

External is Internalized is Physicalized. 

What we see we believe we become.

It’s God’s equation. The God Who  gave us our imaginations and encourages us to use it to create images of His beauty, love and power through the hearing of His Word.

When we do, meditate on Him, we become more like Him.

We are also made in God’s image. Now that’s something to get deep down inside of you and to capture. Internalizing that truth alone is transformative.

My sons will see themselves not only as I see them, the media portrays them but also as God sees them.

May all who view @castlesandkings see the heart of a mother, the workmanship of God and some pretty cool kids.

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In this collection of images of my oldest son, I see an artist, activist, free thinker. He gave that to me.

I was just there to capture it, to give it back to him and now to share it with you. 

What do you see when you see your self, your children? 

      WINE IN THE WILDERNESS

altesa

Want to see more? Follow @castlesandkings on Instagram.

Want customized pictures of your own? Visit http://altesa.wixsite.com/altesabakerphotog

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Sweet(leftover)Inspirations 

VIDEO: Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pie Minis


My husband is in charge of making the sweet potato pies for the holidays, (boy, are they good!) while I cover pretty much everything else.  I wanted to involve the kids in the cooking fun and decided to help them make their own pumpkin pie from scratch.  I chose pumpkin for the hands on experience of cutting and cleaning out a real pumpkin. (Kids love messy stuff). 

We watched a slew of video tutorials to assist us in making the homespun pumpkin pie and got more than a few tips. Apparently my kids also got inspired. They requested we create a video for You Tube to help people make something special for the holidays too.  I am not always able or desire to oblige their requests to make random videos but this one was not only doable but simple and purposeful.  

Leftovers+Inspiration= mmmm 

Our first homemade pumpkin pie was a success. I still prefer sweet potato pie. In any case, we had leftover pumpkin pie filling but not enough to fill another pie crust. Not in the habit of throwing perfectly good hard earned filling away, we got creative and recorded it for your viewing pleasure.  Prefer sweet potato like me, we have you covered in this leftover makeover video too. 

If you are a mom or dad, babysitter or visiting auntie looking for a simple cooking project to do for the holidays with the kids, check out the video below.  While kid-friendly, it’s also a unique sweet alternative to bring to that inevitable potluck. (You’re welcome).  

VIDEO: Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pie Minis


Love to hear. What’s your holiday inspiration? 
-altesa❤️

Oh The Places You’ll Go/ Quicksand Learning


Learning how to read opens up one’s eyes to all the world.

Quite literally in this case.

As a result of my son’s newfound reading ability, we stumbled into a fun activity that turned into an interactive, educational foray around the world (while at home). Let me tell you all about it.

(Think:  “If You Give a Mouse A Cookie” Storybook by Laura Numeroff)

My son began reading the “made in” labels on the back of his toys— because he could (Cool.  Sparks).  That lead to reading the labels of his stuffed animals (more sparks), then his clothes (more sparks).

Because most of the labels read “Made in China”, he had questions like “Why is everything made in China?!”, “Why isn’t anything made in the USA? ”

(I smell smoke).

Good questions son.

(Time for mama to fan the flame.)

I answered his questions and made a few suggestions that involved competition and counting. (Remember, I’m the fanner of the flames.)

“Let’s make a chart. How many things can you find that are made in the USA?”

“Let’s locate the places you find on the map.”

He began to expand his search around our home for “made in” labels. (Even his little brother got in on it.) They found places all over the globe. It was eye opening to find things from Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, India, El Salvador, Vietnam, Philippines… from clothes to shampoo bottles we were living internationally without having stepped outside. (By the way, there were only 2-3 “Made in USA” labels found out of  20+ labels in our home.)

Of course that lead us to locate each place on the globe,

then to write down and tally our findings,  

which lead to a comparison chart,

which has the potential to lead to probability and percentages. 

You may also dive into categorizing the items found by use or materials,

Or

You may look into the manufacturing process: the steps it takes to get into an American store. 

You can also learn the languages of each country, a day in the life, their money system, gross national product.

The possibilities for exposure and learning are non stop. It’s what I call a “quicksand learning” opportunity because it has no end.

I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time but from that one activity, we covered reading, geography, math, economy, manufacturing, mass production, social studies, research and statistics.

Not bad for a day’s work. This was a Saturday (our off day) by the way.

There’s still many places to go with this activity for beginner readers to advanced teens interested in global economy.

That’s what a child’s interest or sparks does, it takes them places.

As a homeschool mom, I’m so glad I get to be the tour guide& (fanner of the flame.)

Thanks for reading.

Where has your child’s curiosity taken him or her?

What are some ways you have taught using everyday items or simply based on your child’s interests? 

-Altesa

THE CLOSET ACTRESS:  Throwback To The Future

Welcome to the newest installment of The Closet Actress where my passion for acting and dressing up meet, kiss and have babies.

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THE BACKSTORY

I think it was my third year of grad school.  I decided to launch out and start auditioning, eager to use all that expensive technique I had gained in my three years of studying.   I auditioned to play a part of a diva Video Jockey/ TV host who was being followed as part of a faux reality show.  This was a short film written and directed by a beginner filmmaker.

I had a good audition.  In fact, the director called to tell me so. Only he did not offer me the part but asked if I would coach the actress that did get the part. Huh?!  Whaaat? She looked the part (model type) and I had the skill. Classic. It was such a mix of emotions. On the one hand, I was being acknowledged for my skill which sends me over the moon with unspeakable joy and on the other hand I was being rejected for my lack of long legs… which sucked. Feeling uneasy inside, I agreed to do it and rationalized my decision as noble, generous even godly.  But it sucked…

I know what I want. I’ve always known what I want. Somehow over the course of time I’ve second guessed and settled. It had become a part of the fabric of my decision making process.

Choose.

Second-guess.

Settle.

It happened with the sundry and big decisions–

Choose. Second guess. Settle.

I don’t know where this insane habit came from but I’d guess it’s probably from the depths of some childhood experience.

Anyhow, on that day I agreed to the filmmaker’s request to coach his choice actress when I really didn’t want to do it— I settled.

That’s why when something all too characteristic of that former time happened to me recently I responded with a big , fat, gracious…

NO THANK YOU.

It was a “throwback to the future” moment.  I had another good audition and was told so by the director.  Yet I get a call asking if I’d be willing to be “background”.  Whaaat?!  My mind raced to the time and space of that early compromise in grad school. The “sucky” feelings I had back then rushed into my “now”.  History was trying to repeat itself.  I had to stop it.

Thoughts of nobility and missed opportunity crossed my mind AGAIN.

However, unlike then, I know now I’m under no obligation to accept something just because it’s offered.  I’m also over believing the lie that I will be missing out on something if I don’t accept. These are nothing more than settling traps.

God has greater things for me than that.  He has greater things than that for all of us. I believe God has given everyone a customized vision for their lives. We see ourselves in a certain special way, doing a certain special thing by His design but often second guess those ideas, dismiss them and settle for something completely outside of that vision. It’s a subtle shift that much like that insane habit of mine becomes apart of how we wear life.   It takes courage to accept God’s personal vision for your life and even more to walk in that vision. That often means fighting for it. Everyday. Moment to moment. And when we don’t fight for it, we’re settling.

We are the guardians of God’s vision for our individual lives. 

Settling is a personal decision. Only you and God knows what that looks and feels like. Our battlefields will each look different. What was offered to me by the young filmmaker then and what was offered most recently were not awful things in themselves. It’s when I accept someone else’s idea of me against my “knowing” heart that it shifts to settle mode.

How could anyone successfully follow their dreams following someone else’s idea of them?

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I’ve never met a box I could fit in.

THE WARDROBE

If you remember, the last episode of The Closet Actress featured several forgotten pieces from my closet inspired by classic films or stage plays.

Well, the outfits featured in this new episode are a throwback to the 80’s and 90’s.  I chose these items solely because they perfectly complimented one thing:  My Shell Toe Adidas.  I have wanted these classic Shell Toes for years but never bought them.  They were too expensive. I didn’t really need them. Those were my 2 common excuses. But I finally got them for my birthday. (thanks hubby). Something I’ve always wanted!

Getting them was half the battle.  Although my husband bought the right size they were too big which meant I had to return them.  The store didn’t have the size I needed. So they suggested a boys’ size alternative but when I tried them on they just weren’t quite right. One sales guy told me something was wrong with me, not the shoes. Ha! That was my cue to go elsewhere which I did until I found a place that would order the woman’s size shoe I wanted.   I had to wait another week but I got the shoe I wanted. This is a minor event that serves as major reminder how the opportunity to settle presents itself anywhere, anytime, and with anything— you’ve decided you want. But alongside the opportunity to settle is the opportunity to fight for it. We get to choose.

I’m fighting. How about you?

How has God’s vision for your life been challenged?

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Feeling a bit nostalgic, click the links below to scratch that itch.

WARDROBE IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:

Grey and black tunic sweatshirt dress, Paraphrase

Baja-inspired pullover hoodie, Paper Crane  

Black knit leggings, Poof

Superstar “Shell Toe” , Adidas

80’S AND 90’S INSPIRATIONS:

“Walk this Way” video 

“My Adidas” video

Lisa Bonet

Molly Ringwald

Thanks for stopping by.  

-altesa

 

 

… to me.

As a child, my birthday happiness was dependent on the reaction and response of others.  I (was forced to) realize, as I got older, that dependence is unhealthy.

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It’s empowering to know your value and worth runs deeper than people’s memory, financial situation or Facebook alerts.

Your birthday’s special and valuable simply because YOU ARE HERE.  God saw it fit to grace you with the gift of life and all it’s treasures.  That’s enough.  Stop waiting and start celebrating… throw your own party even if you are the only one invited!  If folks show up, let that be the icing on the cake.

How do you take responsibility for your happiness on your birthday?

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Mommy Playdate

What started out as an idea for a cute Instagram picture turned into a full blown wedding photo shoot and what I am predicting a movement amongst mommies to relieve stress.  
Inspired by my friend’s Instagram post where she described a way cooler pretend play time with her boys after adding a doll that looks a lot like her to the mix of their testosterone-centric superheroes, I pulled my doll from the closet.  Bridal Barbie was given to me by my sister eight years ago as a wedding gift.  My husband owned a Tuskegee Airmen G.I. Joe that we picked up from a Goodwill nine years ago.   It was only natural for them to get married.  They have been living together for so long now, yeah, it was about time.

Boy did I have fun.

Along with my two boys, I pretended for a few hours while arranging these two love birds.  I hadn’t played like that in a very long time, not with dolls.  It was amazing how quickly my brain connected to the little girl.  Only now I was a little girl with a camera.  This simple act brought such joy to my heart.  This short lived moment will live for ever in my mind and in pictures. It not only lifted my spirits but reminded me of the power of images and play. When you place them together. Whoa Baby!  I foresee a lot more mommy play dates in my future.

There was a natural progression between set ups.  They became like real people with real personalities.  I was in full throttle play y’all.

I began to think of all the standard “wedding day” poses between bride and groom, like the “before” shots where couples each stand unseen on either side of a door holding hands to share an intimate prayer prior to the ceremony.  Or the “eavesdrop” shots where the couple’s private moments are captured.  Or the “reception” where bride and groom let their hair down in full celebration mode.  The ideas were endless.  If my boys had not begun complaining about food and something of the other, I would probably have a 1,000 pics instead of 250!  Don’t worry, I only shared a few on this post.

Check out the photo shoot. Do you think I can add wedding photographer to my list of skills?

The Before:

The After:

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The reception:


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The eavesdrop:

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and of course no event is complete pretend or real life without…

The selfie:

Hope you are smiling and inspired as I was to create these images and this post.

IG: @altesabaker

love,

altesa

The Kitchen Table: Farmhouse Dreams on an Apartment Budget

Bringing my farmhouse dreams on an apartment budget to life one DIY project at a time.

First up, the kitchen table.

OUT WITH THE OLD.  IN WITH THE OLD?

( I forgot to take an official “before” photo of the table, so I dug this up. The spiders at our home are unusually big but harmless.  They even pose for pictures.)

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We were given this kitchen table set for a wedding gift 8 years ago. Perfect then, not so much now.  The once desired espresso finish turned into a scratched up nightmare. The rich color no longer stood out against the dark brown flooring that was recently added and it all became a very undesirable blah!

Yes, I was itching for a brand new table.  However, budgetary constraints forced me to redefine new.  Isn’t it great how budgetary and space limitations force creative adjustments?  I would get my new table, by way of a DIY refinish job.   So I gathered my materials:

Citristrip Stripping Gel, goggles, gloves, industrial garbage bags, 4 aluminum foil pie  pans, paint brush, sponge brush, drop cloths, steel wool #0000, scrapers, sander with 220 grit sandpaper…

and went to work.

AM I DONE YET?

I had to apply several applications of the Citristrip.  Since using another chemical, like mineral spirits, to help remove the residue was not an option for me, I used the steel wool pads with soapy warm water mixture (dish detergent) to scrub down the excess stain before finally sanding.   I also experimented with vinegar, isopropyl alcohol and bleach on three separate occasions to test their success with removing residue. They made some progress but nothing worked better than the Citristrip, a steel wool pad and some muscle with the exception of sanding of course.  It was around this time that I discovered my table is not wood but actually laminate.  You know the stuff that most kitchen cabinets are made from.  I didn’t let the disappointment stop me.

It took me about a week to complete this project because it turns out there are also 4 legs with 4 sides each to them plus 4 apron sides to the table as well that needed the exact same attention as the top.  Let’s not talk about the chairs. Yeah…no return.  Remember to prepare yourself for some pretty long days applying, scraping and cleaning when you embark on your table and chair refinish project.

Although very messy and time consuming -all the nooks and crannies between the table and chairs left me worn out- it is very satisfying to have persevered and to get to see everyday the results I once imagined.

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I like the washed out look but need protection on a kitchen table where two boys grub out.
DELIBERATELY IMPERFECT

I thought I’d need to re-stain, well, paint the table (It’s laminate!) in order to get the rustic, worn look I wanted. But it turned out just fine after stripping and sanding.  Yay! (Plus I was tired.)

Finally, I used Minwax One Coat Clear Satin to finish off the job.

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Laminate kitchen table with mismatched seating.
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The beauty of a rustic look is it’s imperfections

Next on the list to farmhouse dreams on an apartment budget:  Simple bar stools and upholstered seating.

Thanks for reading,

altesa

My DIY Epiphany:  Don’t give up. Take a break. Get perspective,  but don’t give-up.