It’s been a couple months and a lifetime since my last newsletter. I haven’t been sure what to say, or whether it’s even appropriate to take up space in your inbox (please feel free to delete if you aren’t interested in my voice right now—I get it!). And like many of you, I’ve just been processing what my role should be, and how I can be an ally and an antiracist force. Also, feeling sick about the Groundhog Day-ness of our current Covid charts.
Anyway. I thought about only highlighting Black-owned businesses and antiracist books/sources. I’ve included many of those but instead of making it a special edition, I’m planing to make sure I incorporate diverse voices and businesses on an ongoing basis. Please hold me to it!
Here’s what I’m reading, buying, and not cooking right now:
A brutal and compelling argument for reparations: A few weeks ago, Nikole Hannah-Jones had a NYT magazine cover story, “What is Owed,” that gave a succinct, sickening history of slavery’s legacy and the reason why financial reparations are such an important part of dismantling systematic racism. It made me think about generational wealth—which most non-Black Americans have—and what my family safety net has afforded me over the years (literally, everything). She also has a great Fresh Air interview about the piece.
Black-owned businesses: I have felt guilty and sad a lot recently, which are not useful feelings. So I’ve been channeling them into finding amazing Black-owned businesses to support. I’m not giving myself any hard-and-fast rules but in general, if there’s something I need or want, I’m going to Black-owned companies first (see above re: wealth gap). Here’s a short list of new-to-me, completely awesome Black-owned brands that you should definitely check out:
- Klur: Founded by esthetician Lesley Thorton, this super chic skincare line is focused on delivering results through a small selection of clean, efficacious products. I ordered her Immersion hydrating serum, which literally feels like a drink of water, and her Skin Soil, which is a fine grain powder you mix with your cleanser to create a gentle but very efficient scrub. The latter is my new favorite product to force on other people.
- Luv Scrub: I found this deceptively simple washcloth via my friend and blogger Grace Atwood. It initially reminded me of the spa gloves (remember those?!) my mom had when I was a kid, but I was intrigued by her glowing review. I ordered one for myself and one for my sister and am a total convert—I just scrunch it up in my hands and use it all over with my cleanser. It feels great and cathartic and my skin is noticeably smoother.
- Uoma: While I’m not using much makeup these days, I do want to look halfway presentable in all those Zoom calls. I had been hunting around for a new brow gel so I ordered Uoma’s Brow-Fro Blow-Out Gel and I’m such a fan. It’s a slightly thicker formula that seems to fluff up brows and make them look tidy but also extra full. I also ordered their pencil but am saving it for less sweaty weather.
- Puzzle Huddle and Little Likes Kids: I found these two companies while putting together Lilly’s birthday list last month—both focus on showing diversity in their scenes and characters. They also just create great products—Lilly loves this “Fun Outside” puzzle (ordered from our local toy store because we’re trying to support local businesses vs Amazon) and we’re patiently awaiting this Future Scientist one to come back in stock.
- Kido: We have a local toy store we’ve been trying to keep in business but I’ve also discovered a bunch of cool small shops, including this Chicago-based wonderland. They’ve got a great assortment of books and toys and the clothing is both cute and modern—seriously, these leggings! I ordered Lilly and Finn Vote tees and onesies, respectively.
- Darlying & Co: I ran across this eco-friendly brand’s bamboo toothbrushes on Erica Cerulo’s black-owned businesses highlight and bought them on look alone—Lilly loves them and rotates colors depending on her mood. I also like their unscented body wash, which has been good for Finn’s newly eczema-ish skin (we switch off between this and Bubbsi, my other fave).
My friend Caroline has a podcast called Gee Thanks, Just Bought It all about life-changing things you should buy and she recently asked people to share their favorite black-owned businesses. The comments are a treasure trove.
Speaking of business: My friend and brilliant founder/VC Sarah Kunst (I angel invest as part of her Cleo Capital fund) recently did a 20-Minute VC that’s a great listen even if you’re not in the tech world. She has a good reminder that you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out (in a thoughtful way) to people you admire (“slide into their DMs”), smart advice for founders navigating our current moment, and why we need more diversity in fund managers (“it drives better returns and I’m an incredibly greedy person and want to make more money”)—hear, hear.
Anti-racist kid books: I’m excited to help Lilly and Finn build a bookshelf that shows them all different types of people and perspectives. I’ve gotten tons of suggestions from friends and the many lists that are floating around, and also joined The Conscious Kid’sPatreon (great content, and a lot of it). Also love following The Brown Bookcase, which was started by 9-year-old Rylei and has wonderful mini reviews. Some of our new additions: Sulwe, a gorgeously illustrated story about different skin tones; The Day You Begin, Harlem’s Little Blackbird, and Blast Off into Space Like Mae Jemison. We picked up a lot of these from Books Are Magic, our neighborhood favorite, but I’ve linked to Chicago-based Semicolon.
(And adult books): Like many people, I bought Ijeoma Oluo‘s So You Want to Talk about Race? as part of my drive to undo and relearn my worldview. I highly, highly recommend it—Oluo says herself that she wants the book to be useful and help guide our day-to-day actions and interactions and I’m definitely finding that to be the case. I’ve also appreciated the reminder from many authors and shop-owners that we should also just be reading incredible Black authors for their talent and stories—on that note, I’m currently immersed in Colson Whitehead’s terrible-wonderful Nickel Boys and have Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half waiting in the wings. (Psst—I also think it’s worth reading Lauren Michele Jackson’s piece questioning questioning the role of anti-racist reading lists—will definitely make you think, and has the helpful reminder that at the end of the day, you have to do the work and read the books.)
Easy, delicious kitchen helpers: For many reasons, Rob and I haven’t been super jazzed to cook these days (don’t worry, we still love food and optimizing it). We’ve been mostly relying on simple stuff—grain salads, grain salads—as well as supporting our local favorites, many of whom have been doing an impressive job pivoting to grocery/wine/takeout options. (If you’re in Brooklyn, definitely check out Popina and Kiosko by La Vara/Saint Julivert).
We also recently tried Ipsa, a Brooklyn-based startup that is making frozen food that is exciting and delicious, and definitely something you want in your freezer for long days. I learned about it ages ago from my friend Gina and finally ordered and now I can’t stop telling people about it. Everything has been incredibly bright and flavor-rich (charred pineapple pibil with chicken, heirloom bean and vegetable soup) and we just add a big salad to make an easy, satisfying weeknight meal. They gave me a code to pass along—use Mollie15 for $15 off your first order.
I’ve also been helping the Purslane team (catering arm of Rucola, my go-to neighborhood restaurant) tweak their home delivery offering and it just relaunched! Purslane Provisions is basically everything I want to round out my weekly cooking: healthy, vegetable-forward prepared foods, useful pantry items (Soom, of course), and local produce. They’re delivering every Monday to the five boroughs (or pickup from Rucola if you’re in Brooklyn) and shipping to a 500-mi radius of NYC. Feel free to use MOLLIE10 for 10% off your order.
Sleep breakthroughs: Lilly stopped napping the day lockdown began and things were looking pretty bleak (no naps, no quiet time, no sanity) until we worked with my former Birchbox colleague-turned-sleep-whisperer Brittany on a plan. We were honestly pretty skeptical it would work but she mapped out a plan to transition Lilly out of her crib at the same time as introducing solo quiet time. Much coaching, hand-holding, and one set of Frozen sheets later, Lilly is doing an hour-and-a-half of quiet time a day and sleeping happily in her big-girl bed (Frozen sheets, of course) each night. I can’t recommend Brittany more highly if you’re having baby or toddler sleep issues.
Last thing! If you are a brand that wants to integrate diversity and inclusion into your marketing strategy in a real, sustained way (and shouldn’t all brands?), check out Backstory Consulting, a new agency started by Callia Hargrove, a longtime strategist.
That’s it for me. I hope you’re staying safe and healthy and have found an ultra lightweight mask for summer.