A Hair Refresh with Stylist Ray Guh of Haircraft by Ray at The Gregory Hotel

Before: Straightened hair with fried ends

A few months back during the holiday season of 2016, I was invited by Janine Just to be a featured  curly-haired blogger & influencer in a hairstyling segment for a Facebook Live with The Scene, co-hosted by Atara Twersky, mother and author of Curlee Girlee. The book, inspired by her youngest daughter who has a full head of ringlets, serves as visual and written positive reinforcement for young girls who feel out of place or awkward with their curls. The segment was filmed on-site at the Caravan Stylist Studio in The Gregory Hotel in the Herald Square neighborhood of Manhattan.

During the approximately 20-minute segment, young girls with curls were interviewed with their parents about their hair, and styling specifically, with a hairstylist on-hand to show proper methods. As the “curly woman”, I recounted my trials and tribulations with multi-textured hair growing up, and the struggle for finding proper products for my hair type. For my piece of the segment, celebrity hairstylist Ray Guh of Haircraft by Ray, whose studio is right down the hall from the Caravan, washed and demonstrated how to properly distribute and style my curls, using the OGX Coconut Curls line of products.

Before: side view, lots of length with grown out color

I loved my experience so much with Ray that I knew I had to go back. My ends at the time were super damaged, so he extended the offer to come in for a trim in the coming weeks, and today was finally that day! I had most recently blown my hair out for Valentine’s Day, and with my week being so incredibly hectic, had no chance to give it a wash. I came to Ray’s studio with my hair in a slick ponytail, mostly tamed by the natural oils that came out to play after not washing for over a week. We took my hair down to see the overall length and assess the damage to my ends. I mentioned to him that my main concern was to cut the split ends and grown out color, but keep the length. Ray said taking off about an inch and giving some shape to the front of the hair would be the best plan of action, and that this type of cut would work well both curly and straight.

After: Fresh cut!

After taking my before photo, it was off to get a (much-needed) wash. Once back in my chair, Ray sectioned my hair off to get to cutting with precision. It was crazy to see how limp my ends looked as he cut them off, but there was such a sense of relief. Up until this point, this was the longest my hair has ever been in my adult life as at has been over a full year since my last hair cut. Length is cool, but my hair was completely lifeless and lacking bounce. Seeing the dead ends come off literally and figuratively made me feel lighter.

Side view: I am BEAMING

After a full conversation about coconuts and our home countries of Belize and Taiwan respectively, my hair was sectioned off again post-cut to be styled with product. He used Ouidad Climate Control gel to rake and shake my hair, the method for styling curly hair in which you rake product through a section of hair thoroughly, then shake the section between your fingers to activate the curl pattern. I was placed under the hood dryer for approximately 15 minutes after product was distributed through my hair to lock in moisture, followed by diffusing the hair with the blow dryer to dry all remaining damp hair. Once dry, he distributed a shine serum throughout my hair to seal the shaft, and when I looked in the mirror, I felt like a superstar!

Back view: Shiny curls to envy!

My curls were so shiny and bouncy! Once I did a spin in the chair, fellow stylist Franny exclaimed, “You look like a Pantene model!” I was hype. No doubt about it. We took after photos with a proper ring light, making sure to have a combo of still photos, Boomerang, and slo mo for dramatic purposes. I told Ray that I felt like a new person, and we took a selfie to remember the moment forever. With my cut, my hair looks and feels super healthy, and I can’t wait to go back to Ray for my next cut. If you are a curly girl, I highly recommend Ray for your next cut and styling experience!

Silly selfie with Ray after my cut

 

The Gregory Hotel
42 West 35th Street (Mezzanine level)
New York, NY 10001
United States
(212) 947-0200 ext 7024
*All photos by Andrea K. Castillo & Ray Guh

In Photos: On The Ground At #WomensMarchOnWashington

We The People, artwork by Shephard Fairey

January 21, 2017. The day after the inauguration of a new president in the United States of America, whose name I refuse to say. The first day of a complete shift to a new regime and day of resistance marches all around the world. The premier event, the Women’s March on Washingtonwas held this morning and afternoon along Independence Ave., and it is on this day that I officially have become a part of the resistance.

You Cunt Touch This

As of this morning, I have been in Washington DC a few days, specifically to photograph Thursday evening’s Peace Ball at the new National Museum of African American History & Culture. Prior to today, I have not attended a march, and was super excited to do so as the timing was perfect, and I have never felt more strongly for the equal rights and progression of women all over the world. A group of six of us, all women of different ages and ethnic backgrounds, attended the march together, and the spirit in the air was incredibly positive. From our trip to the diner early this morning to fuel up pre-march, to getting to the Metro to head into downtown DC, 90% of the faces that were presented before us were of our fellow woman.

It almost felt as though every woman (and man) that had an opportunity to travel to or commute to DC for the march specifically, did. Arm in arm, outfitted in buttons, “pussy hats” (see below), and posters in hand, my photographic intent was to capture the words of the people via those posters.

 

Pussy Grabber

Central themes included that of women’s reproductive rights, immigration, rights of indigenous peoples and their land, sisterhood, denouncing the President and his authority, and solidarity. These themes were vocalized in the words of the vast array of speakers, including America Ferrera, Ashley Judd, Gloria Steinem, Janet Mock, Van Jones, Donna Hylton, and many many more.

Said Gloria Steinem in reference to our new president’s careless and immature use of social media (and possibly referencing Drake):

…that a Twitter finger does not become a trigger finger.

Police coming through Continue reading

What I Am Reading: “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay

When it comes to journeys in life, some things you have to embark on at the exact right time. Whether it be making a big move, changing careers, becoming more fit, or even, reading a new book. In past posts I have documented my struggles with depression and anxiety over the years, and during this time, I always had the idea in the back of my mind that I had to switch focus, and actively walk in the path to healing. I have had an interest in self-help books for some time now because I have always found the knowledge of experts to be helpful when friends or loved ones could not always help. Suggested by my good friend Moeima, You Can Heal Your Life is one such book.

Written by self-help guru Louise Hay and published by her imprint Hay House, You Can Heal Your Life is one of those books I was told you have to be ready to read, and it’s true. I originally purchased the book in the earlier part of the year, and became quite frustrated with its format. It was not an easy read by any means, as it was set up as more of a workbook. Louise discusses different topics by chapter, begins and ends each chapter with affirmations, and asks questions throughout that the reader is to answer either within the pages of the book, or on a pad of paper. In the early part of the year, I was not ready to do this, but once I began therapy over a month ago, I knew jumping back into the book would be imperative to my healing.

I brought it with me wherever I would go, on my subway trips to and from the city, reading intently and voicing all affirmations in my head. It felt so easy at this time, because my timing was finally right, I could apply lessons and teachings through a clear lens, without the disruption of negative thoughts. Throughout the book Hay reiterates the importance of positive affirmations and truly loving the self in all forms, from the foods you eat, the way you speak of yourself, and the  way you present yourself to the world. Reading more about these teachings made me realize that I may have great ideas for and about myself, but that it is imperative that I truly believe it all, and share it with those in the world around me.

If you are in a rut and willing to actively walk on the road to healing, I would definitely suggest reading You Can Heal Your Life. It will not be the easiest read, and it makes you stop and analyze many aspects of your life, but at the very least, it will help you gain practices to truly love every bit of yourself.

Available at Hay House and other fine book retailers.

#MANday: Belizean-American Designer Jonathan Justin Smith of Jonathan Justin Handbags Chats Working With Janice Dickinson, & Following Your Dreams

Jonathan Justin posed with Janice Dickinson. Bags L- R: Aaron Clutch, Ricardo Duffel, Elinna Togo Satchel

Here at A Life In The Day of Andrea, I have made it a constant mission of mine to showcase and uplift people, entrepreneurs, and businesses that I care deeply about, or believe are doing innovative work. As a lover of all things beautiful and handmade, I am drawn to great design of all sorts and types. Having worked in the handbag industry for many years, I realized that what excited me the most about the process was not only the end product, but the story behind the designer and what bright idea led to the beautiful bag you carry each day.

For this feature, I interview an emerging handbag designer out of Los Angeles named Jonathan Justin Smith of Jonathan Justin Handbags. A fellow Belizean-American and lost cousin (truly, not for fake), I believed it was imperative for him to tell his story in his own words via my platform. Read on below!

 

What inspired you to design handbags, and when did you know that you wanted to pursue it full-time?

Well to start off, I was about 18 or 19 years old, I always looked up to two people, Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn. There is a certain class about both ladies that’s timeless. I used to work in the handbag industry as a sales representative, my first job was at TUMI Designer Luggage. I was going to Santa Monica College studying Business Administration, and I knew that I wanted to start my own business, but I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. Working for TUMI Designer Luggage I never cared to have a bag. I’m a luxury guy, I like nice things, but I would never look to handbags for anything. While there I  grew an interest for handbags, and what TUMI taught me is functionality, and that’s what I loved about them. Every piece of theirs is so dynamic in functionality; women have a place just for their watch in their handbags, and I really enjoyed that idea and the quality was out of this world.

After that I worked for Coach Leatherwear. Coach taught me about leather and the quality of it too; I think Coach is known for their leathers. So it was like, let me just take what I learned from these companies I worked for and make a sample. I had my first sample made, the JJ Blue, and it was pretty high-end; Saffiano blue leather outside with this red interior, it was really nice, and I didn’t think it would go anywhere. I thought I was in over my head a little bit because of the concept the there is a Hermes, and there is a Prada, you’re not the first to come out, and it is obviously daunting, but I guess God puts things in the right place at the right time. I had a friend that was a fashionista in the Pasadena area that is known for her style. I told her about the bag and she was like, ok let me see it. So I showed it to her and she was like, “Get the out of here, this (bag) is pretty dope!” She decided to take it and wear it for a week, and now I’m here. With Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn in mind, it definitely inspired my go-getter attitude at the time and my fearlessness, and also in my design, that luminous aspect I was talking about recently.

Elinna Togo Satchel & Elinna Togo Wallet

What is the inspiration behind your bags, and why they have the names that they do?

I never just look at Louis Vuitton like “Oh that nice bag, let me copy that and make it Jonathan Justin”, that’s never the case. I always seem to have somebody in my life at that time that’s like, “Omg I love your handbags! What do you think of doing an orange (lining) in a handbag?” I am usually that person that says ‘let’s do it!’ if I am feeling it. So Aaron, for example, he is one of my good friends and was my artistic director for some of my shoots, he was like, “what do you think of some orange in a bag?” and I’m like, ok, cool, and made it. It’s a blue clutch with orange (lining) on the inside and it’s named the Aaron Clutch. It’s awesome when it has a name or meaning like that because I can go back and think, “yea that’s the guy that told me to put orange in there.” He helped make that and I feel good about it.

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Style Guide: Waste No Time With A Fresh Wooden Timepiece From JORD + Enter To Win A New Watch!

Keeping it casual. Knit top: Behno, Watch: JORD

December is here, and you know what that means. The holidays are right around the corner, and you are probably making your lists, trying to decide what to get for all your loved ones (and yourself). As I am always in the spirit of helping folks with gift suggestions, I have teamed up with the wonderful folks at JORD watches for a unique campaign. The brand makes beautiful men’s and women’s wooden watches for all tastes, and I have collaborated with them for a style post and giveaway. Yes, a GIVEAWAY!

Close-up of the Frankie 35. Jeans: TopShop, Top: Behno

I am super low-maintenance when it comes to timepieces. I always look for something in a pretty neutral color or color combination, that can transition from day to night. I am also super mindful of the size of a watch face as I have a tiny, baby wrist. I have found that in the Jord Frankie 35 style. With a 35mm face, this style is the smallest that Jord has to offer, which was right up my alley. The Zebrawood & navy face combo works greatly for me as I wear jeans a lot during the day, and the palette complements it well.

Time for a costume change. Wool shirt dress: Behno, Watch: JORD

I run lots of errands during the day in my jeans and sweater, and as holiday party season approaches, I generally work special events or attend parties in the evening. I easily transition from day to night by throwing my hair up, applying one of my favorite red lipsticks (I have a collection of about six shades), and switching into an easy dress.

Stunt. Wool shirt dress & faux fur stole: Behno, Watch: JORD

I like to call this look my nod to the arrival of King Jaffe Joffer in 80’s comedy classic, Coming To AmericaClean and simple lines with a dramatic or statement factor; in the case of King Jaffe Joffer, his statement piece was a lion head stole, in my case, it is the combo of the printed stole complementing the wood element of my watch. The look will definitely turn a few heads at your next gathering, having everyone ask, “Where did you get your watch?”

When you see the food at the function. Wool shirt dress & faux fur stole: Behno, Watch: JORD

You will  politely respond that your watch is from JORD, who makes some of the finest wooden watches on the market. You say hello to your buddies and get to talking to new friends, and then this look of excitement appears; the food and drinks come out, and you are overjoyed. It doesn’t take much to make you happy; good food, company, and copious amounts of compliments from your cool watch.

All in the details. Wool shirt dress & faux fur stole: Behno, Watch: JORD

Now you ask how you can be down to be the talk of the party with the best watch? You are in luck. One lucky person will have the chance to win a brand spanking new JORD watch, just in time for the holidays! Here’s what you got to do:

Pretty much a win-win for all. May the odds be in your favor!

Wooden Wristwatch
//www.woodwatches.com/widget-article/andreakcastillo

Photos by Kermit Mercado

This post was sponsored by JORD Watches

Event: Camel Assembly x Overthrow Present #GrabMyGloves, Bringing Awareness To Domestic and Sexual Abuse, Sun. 11/20/16

For a little over a year now, I have been a part of a wonderful women’s collective called Camel Assembly. Spearheaded by my good friend and fellow Sistergoddess, Yelda Ali, we gather for monthly assemblies to exchange ideas, team build, and collaborate for the greater good. This Sunday, November 20th, we are holding a very special assembly paired with an incredibly important social campaign for our fellow women; raising awareness for domestic and sexual abuse.

The #GrabMyGloves campaign is the vision of Sistergoddess Heather Ovieda, whose aim was to use assembly as a means to raise social awareness for a cause too many women unfortunately succumb to at some point in their lives. The women-only event will be held at Overthrow Boxing Club, where attendees/spectators will be able to view select Camels sparring for charity in the ring. Following this will be a panel discussion featuring three of Overthrow’s female trainers Alicia Napoleon, Melissa St. Vil, and Ronica Jeffrey, where they will tell their stories and personal experiences with domestic and/or sexual abuse. I am humbled to be interviewing the fighters and moderating the discussion. It will definitely be a powerful moment where our voices will be heard!

Tickets for the event are $30 a seat, with proceeds going to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. The main event will be at Overthrow Boxing from 3-5pm. The “afterparty” will be at Gelso & Grand from 5-8pm. Tickets are still available for purchase now. Grab yours here. If you are unable to attend, or are a man (sorry guys!), you can still donate whatever you can to help support the cause. Hoping to see you on Sunday!
Sunday, November 20, 2016 | 3 – 5 PM
9 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012

Yes, You Can Have A Plant-Based Meal With Flava at Urban Vegan Kitchen

Urban Vegan Kitchen as seen from Carmine Street

When it comes to food, I am always up for an adventure. When it comes to dining out, I prefer a sexier environment that is chill with unique design elements. When these two things are combined, I am a happy camper, and this is the case with Urban Vegan Kitchen. I attended the grand opening event in late October directly after a hot yoga class, ready to eat, drink, and learn more about the new culinary outpost. As I have many friends and family members that are vegetarian (some vegan), I am always in search of restaurants that have plant-based meals that I can equally enjoy.

The brainchild of co-founders Pamela Elizabeth, of Blossom Du Jour fame, and David Tianga, Urban Vegan Kitchen serves up vegan soul food in the former space of Blossom on Carmine. Once crossing the threshold inside, I was immersed into a super cozy space of white-painted exposed brick walls, standard table & cocktail table seating, lounge chairs, with framed photographs and posters hung on every wall. The lights were dim, evoking a sexy, but not too sexy nighttime vibe, with sounds spanning A Tribe Called Quest to salsa hits played by the DJ of the evening.

Menus & cocktail table seating

The dining area was separated from the kitchen with a glass block wall (seen above), offering a distorted, light-filled peek into where the magic happens. Passed hors d’oeuvres were served throughout the evening, my favorites being the Fried Okra served with ranch dressing, and the Chickpea Hush Puppies served with a house-made remoulade. I saw folks with drinks and realized there was another level below. I arrived quite early, but once I found friends and was able to put down my gym bag, I headed downstairs for a cocktail.

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Event: Dirt Don’t Die: A Celebration of the Life of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Fri. 11/18 in Brooklyn

Hip Hop heads in NYC, this one is for you. November 13, 2016 marked the 12th anniversary of the untimely death of Wu-Tang Clan founding member, Ol’ Dirty Bastard. He passed two days before what would have been his 36th birthday. To celebrate his life and legacy, the family of ODB along with the folks at Chemistry Creative bring us Dirt Don’t Die: A Celebration of the Life of Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Hosted by Ivy Rivera, the event will feature a live DJ set by legendary Hip-Hop producer Ski Beatz, who will be spinning proper 90’s Hip Hop in addition to ODB’s entire catalogue. There will be a live performance by ODB’s son, ODB Jr, and many more special guests!

Tickets are $20 online and at the door, and can be purchased in advance via Eventbrite. For more info, head over to the event Facebook page, and prepare yourself to enter the Brooklyn Zoo!

 

Dirt Don’t Die: A Celebration of the Life of Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Fri, Nov 18, 2016, 6:30 PM – Sat, Nov 19, 2016, 12:30 AM

CHEM LAB WAREHOUSE

315 Ten Eyck Street

Brooklyn, NY 11206

Saturday Sounds: Mattie Safer “Whenever You’re Ready” (Music Video + Audio)

As we quickly approach the middle of November (ALREADY) after an anxiety-filled presidential election, I wanted to musically smooth it all out for you guys with a nice soulful tune & visually appealing music video. Let me introduce you to Mattie Safer, the DC-bred, bi-coastal crooner whose EP All We Are is sure to make a fan out of you!

His latest single, “Whenever You’re Ready”, evokes a feeling of 70’s soul, reminiscent of Marvin Gaye, but fresh enough to be played in 2016. The song lyrics are a confession to a lover. Mattie explains that he will be available to love the object of his desire whenever she is ready, and not rush her into something that she it not yet prepared for.

The track’s music video, directed by HXLT (formerly Hollywood Holt, for the real ones), is a simple visual told through a multitude of hanging bulbs, with Mattie as the center spotlight. Peep it below.

Digging it? If so, and you live in NYC, he will be performing live on Monday, November 14th at Berlin Bar in the Lower East Side. Check out his website for more info, including his glorious bio written by yours truly. Happy Saturday!

 

Photo by Christelle De Castro

Fan Of Chef Masaharu Morimoto? Enter To Win A Signed Copy of His New Book, “Mastering The Art Of Japanese Home Cooking!”

Here at A Life In The Day of Andrea we are super passionate about food and entrepreneurs. It is incredibly exciting when both worlds combine in the form of talks and other live events. IVY, a membership-based social community with a purpose of lifelong learning aimed to ignite young minds, hosts a myriad of events, spanning business networking, talks, and wellness. For their next salon discussion in NYC, they are hosting an evening with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, of the globally famed Morimoto restaurant portfolio.

In his salon event, Chef Morimoto will discuss his newly released book, Mastering The Art of Japanese Home Cooking in a Q&A style, his road from chef to world-renowned restauranteur, and conduct a book signing for attendees to wrap up the event.

Are you a fan of Chef Morimoto, Japanese cuisine, entrepreneurs, or do you just love books? Want a chance to win a signed copy of his new book? Hit us up on social media and tell us why you should win, and be creative! Let us know about new skills you want to learn in the kitchen, food history, anything that stands out. Be sure to include the following in your tweets/Instagram posts/Facebook posts:

  • Your testimonial as why you should win a signed copy of Chef Morimoto’s new book. Extra points for photos!
  • Social handles: @alifeinthedayof | @IVYConnect | @chef_morimoto
  • Hashtag: #IVYConnect or #TheSocialUniversity

If you reside in NYC or the surrounding area and want to attend the salon event, check out the IVY website to become a member. Good luck to you!

Saturday Sounds: Steve Lacy “Some” (Music Video + Audio)

The youngest member of my favorite band The Internet, Steve Lacy, is here to bless your ears with bouncy guitar-driven soul. The 18-year old musical phenom-in-the-making released his first solo music video for his feel good tune, “Some.”

The music video, directed by Matthew Castellanos, gives us a bit of nostalgia of teen romantic-comedy films. The young man with a speaker in front of the object of his affection’s home, posted up to serenade her, and ask her out to prom. This story, however, ends a little bit differently. Check it out below.

The video is tight right? But you are probably asking, where’s the audio girl? The track is on Lacy’s SoundCloud and the player is below. Like it, play it on repeat, and vibe out.

If you were lucky to snag tickets, you can catch Steve Lacy perform live with The Internet at the now sold out Camp Flognaw Festival on Sunday, November 13th in L.A. His solo debut is on the way, so hold tight for more tantalizing grooves!

When The Going Gets Tough, You Compete in Your 1st Tough Mudder With Noah Galloway

Team Merrell at Tough Mudder

When the going gets tough, what do you do? Do you rise to the challenge, or whimper at the idea of possible defeat? Depending on your circumstances, the answer to this question can have a myriad of options. A few weeks back when I recounted my mental health journey, I was not having the best time. In that week I was invited to participate in a Tough Mudder competition on a media team sponsored by Merrell and led by Noah Galloway. Galloway, an army veteran that lost his leg and a part of his arm in the line of duty, is the Tough Mudder ambassador and recently released a book on his journey entitled Living With No Excuses.

Since I was feeling a bit down, I stared at the email for a very long time before I responded because the idea of competing in a mud run scared me. At the time I had not worked out in month, and I was scared that I would hurt myself as I was not in the best shape. After speaking with reps via email, I decided to do it as a voice inside me told me to do something that scares you. I psyched myself for the remainder of the week and was ready to go bright and early that Saturday morning.


Eggs Benny from Jack’s Wife Freda. Photo: Andrea K. Castillo

We started our day with a lovely breakfast at Jack’s Wife Freda in the West Village. The super cozy all-day American-Meditteranean bistro has a plethora of delectable (and healthy) breakfast options. After much back and forth, I decided on the Eggs Benny which was two poached eggs on a potato latke, served with smoked salmon and beet hollandaise, paired with a latte to sip on. As we finished up eating, reps from Merrell began to distribute our gear for the mud run and post-activities. It included the following items:

Once we were geared up, it was off to the sprinter van with our team to head to Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ, the site of this year’s Tough Mudder Tri-State and Tough Mudder Half Events. Our team competed in the Tough Mudder Half; a 5 mile course containing 13 military-style obstacles. What is unique about Tough Mudder and other similar events is that it is not an individual race, but based on teamwork. With that in mind, my anxiety lessened a bit on our way to the course, and once I saw it, I felt much better about my decision.

Climbing the Pyramid Scheme

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Celebrate Italian Heritage Month with Cacio e Pepe & Stemmari Nero d’Avola

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe & Stemmari Nero d’Avola 2013

October is Italian Heritage Month, and to properly celebrate, I wanted to share one of my favorite pasta dishes paired with an excellent red wine. On National Pasta Day (October 17th) I decided to chef up Cacio e Pepe, a Roman dish which literally translates to “cheese and pepper”, that is comprised of a thin pasta, Pecorino cheese, and black pepper. My wine pairing was a  bottle of Stemmari Nero d’Avola 2013 that was sent from their PR company.

Nero d’Avola is an intense red grape harvested in the Agrigento provence of Sicily, marked by its deep ruby red color, bouquet of dark red fruit, and velvety texture on the palate. Given these characteristics, I surmised the peppery quality of the pasta would balance the notes of the wine.

Since I had a box of Barilla Thin Spaghetti to work with, I googled “Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe” and found a great recipe from Olivia’s Cuisine. I did not have the exact ingredients listed in her recipe, mainly the fresh grated Pecorino and Parmigiano Reggiano, so I like to call this “Andrea’s Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe On a Budget”.

Ingredients

My cooking style is very on the fly, always trying to use the ingredients I have at home at the time when hunger strikes. It is much easier to work with what I have got, so when I opened the fridge to see I was out of Parmigiano Reggiano, but had pre-packaged Parmesan cheese, I decided to go forth. Let us get into everything you will need to make this dish.

Tools

  • 1 Large pot to boil pasta
  • 1 Large Saucepan or wok to mix pasta and sauce
  • Tongs

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (box) of Barilla (or any other brand) thin spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper plus extra for serving
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 stick of butter unsalted
  • 1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese (can be doubled)
  • Salt to taste

Simple goodness

Now, here are the steps to get you into the world of pasta goodness!

Instructions

  • Fill large pot 3/4 full with water seasoned with a dash of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Boil spaghetti.
  • While the pasta is boiling, toast the black pepper in your saucepan/wok approximately 30 seconds until fragrant. Add olive oil and stick of butter. Once butter is melted, remove from heat and reserve.
  • 2 minutes before spaghetti is al dente, remove from heat. In this case the pasta should cook approximately 7 minutes. Remove from heat, strain pasta and reserve 1- 2 cups of the pasta water.
  • In your saucepan, add a 1/2 cup of pasta water to your pepper/olive oil/butter mixture, stirring in pasta until coated over medium heat. Dash in cheese bit by bit, stirring vigorously to melt cheese and avoid clumps. Repeat these steps until all cheese is blended in and you achieve your desired consistency.
  • Serve immediately in a warm pasta bowl or plate. Add cheese, black pepper, and salt to taste.


Close up

Isn’t this divine? With a prep and cook time of about 20 minutes, this dish is simple pasta with a hearty amount of cheese and intense flavor. Pour up a generous glass of Nero d’Avola (13% ABV, if you were wondering) and you are transported to Italy, if only for the moment.

For more information on Sicilia DOC wines, be sure to head over to their website. Buon Appetito!

 

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

What I’m Reading: “The Bridge To Brilliance: How One Principal In A Tough Community Is Inspiring The World” by Nadia Lopez

A few weeks back, I recapped the book release and conversation event for Dr. Nadia Lopez’s newly published work, The Bridge to Brilliance, at BRIC Media House in Downtown Brooklyn. As I have completed the book, I wanted to share my experience in reading it, and the lessons that have rang true to me. The Bridge To Brilliance is a non-fiction work by Dr. Nadia Lopez, principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy middle school in Brownsville, Brooklyn. She quickly rose to fame on the internet in the past year when a student of hers named Vidal mentioned to Brandon Stanton of the popular Humans of New York blog, that she was the person that most influenced his life. The viral reaction of this post led to a full profile on the school, its staff and students, and a massive crowdfunding campaign to send the students on annual trips to Harvard, which was fully funded over 10 times over.

The book recounts Lopez’s own childhood, growing up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn to immigrant parents (from Guatemala and Honduras, respectively), and how good teachers affected her life and livelihood in her younger years. It focuses on  Lopez’s transition from the corporate world working at Verizon to the NYC Board of Education as a Teaching Fellow, to her current position as founder and principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy. The tone of the book is very no-nonsense and easy to read as it is the words of an educator. Lopez clearly gives breakdowns on the NYC Board of Education and its processes in funding, mass gentrification and its effects on students, and the importance of taking students outside of their school and comfort zones to experience the vast world outside of Brooklyn, New York.

As the daughter of immigrant parents from Belize who have worked for (and continue to work for) the NYC Board of Education in special education the majority of my life, I immediately connected with the majority of the stories in Lopez’s book. A lot of jargon, specifically in the special education sector, which Lopez worked in in her earlier years, was easy for me to understand as I have learned it from my parents. It felt like with each page I turned, I was reading the experience of someone just like me, which I do not often experience when reading books. The words are very familiar.

What I did not entirely expect, was the amount of trials and tribulations that Lopez went through, both in her personal and professional life, to get to where she is today. She mentions that she was on the point of giving up when Brandon Stanton visited her school. It made me realize that everything is not as it seems, and that sometimes in life we have to reach rock bottom in order to go up. Her steadfastness and relentlessness did not allow her to give up on herself or her students when the future was not promised. I really enjoy this story because it really did inspire me to keep going, but to be kind to myself. Women, particularly Black women and other WOC are often expected to be strong, but it is necessary to have a tribe of women and men to lean on in the tough times to get through it all.

If you are interested in learning more about the NYC public school system, or are a lover of inspirational stories (or both), I would definitely suggest picking up The Bridge To Brilliance. The book is available for purchase at booksellers nationwide, with all online retailers listed on Dr. Lopez’s official website. Happy reading!

 

*Photo via Amazon.com

Transparency On This #WorldMentalHealthDay

My happy place, Belize

What do you do when you don’t know how to ask for help? From a young age I learned how to help myself in many ways as I did not want to bother others, or would lose patience in waiting too long for help. Being able to help myself made me feel very independent; I learned how to assemble furniture on my own as a preteen, and could always conjure up a meal or snack in the kitchen with limited ingredients. This will to “make it happen” on my own terms is why I started A Life In The Day of Andrea five years ago; I wanted to have my own online destination where you could learn something new, view beautiful photos, and feel like you were present for all the experiences I have documented thus far. At the age of 30, I have come to the conclusion that this ability to help myself is a huge issue I deal with, and it has been quite detrimental in many facets of my life, the largest one being my own mental health.

In the past, I have written tidbits of my struggles with depression from dealing with the deaths of many family members and friends in four short years, and how stuck I have felt from losing jobs over and over again. I have had many temporary highs in that time, whether it be working with a respected publication, partnering with brands, traveling to a new city, and meeting awesome people, but behind my smiles and pristine photos, the high would end as soon as I got home. To attain more highs, I would keep myself busy, go on as many coffee dates, making sure to attend as many events and partaking in the open bar so I could temporarily escape from my existence of being unhappy. I can’t really pinpoint where this feeling of unhappiness and feeling of ongoing depression began, but as of late, I have really hit a wall. I like to think of myself as a natural born leader who has a strong vision for what she wants in her life, but I often fall short as my thoughts of self-doubt, riddled with anxiety hold me back. It is hard to really explain where it comes from, but it has been pretty consistent for years now.

In recent weeks, the combination of my depression (caused by lack of opportunities, and recent birthdays of the deceased) and anxiety have had me locked up in my bedroom for days. My sleeping habits changed, going to bed after 3 AM and awaking in the early afternoon. I have avoided meeting groups of friends as I did not want to answer the question, “so what are you up to?” In my avoidance, I have developed a feeling of guilt as I believe I have disappointed people. The idea of disappointing people is often worse than actually disappointing people. A few days ago while trying to draft a post here, it happened; I had a pretty awful anxiety attack that felt like my chest, specifically over my heart, was caving in. I cried for hours alone, drank water, and took pain meds to ease the pain that I had caused myself. I texted friends and family as a cry for help, and they listened, but what I really needed was a real life human in the same room as me, to listen and help me with what I was/am going through.

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