Going Natural: My Quick Guide

This is for all my “Curlfriends” out there!  

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I have been natural since 2009 – natural, meaning I’ve decided to stop the use of relaxers to alter my natural curl pattern. I don’t think it was my conscious choice, per se… it was more like the last time I tried to put a relaxer on it to “texturize” or loosen my curl, it flatly refused to take. My hair simply resisted, and in fact, seem to laugh at my feeble attempt to “straighten” my edges – they turned out kinkier than ever. It was at that point that I decided to wave the white flag, and take the plunge into the abyss that was my natural texture.

My belief as to why we indulge in relaxers in such, is that we have been taught that kinks were bad; the hair MUST lay down, MUST comply, MUST be calm for those around us to be “relaxed”. In essence, the relaxer was more for society, than for us. Our hair never really benefitted. Because it was calm, didn’t equate to health… quite the opposite. Our natural curls grow out of our heads, upwards. It’s natural states reaches for the sky! The chemicals in relaxers break down the natural follicles – doing away with the natural structure of the curl; laying it straight. Thing is, that altered structure is now weakened considerably by the chemicals, hence the propensity to thin and break.

We also equate relaxers to manageability. I thought that my hair would be too thick and nappy to do anything with… as if thick and nappy is a bad thing! LOL In actuality, thickness, strength, shine, and manageability are what we strive for out of our hair – and the stronger, more healthy your strands have, the more manageable it will be, completely!

Initially, my journey was arduous and frustrating. I was a product junky hopping on any bandwagon I could… my poor hair, while going through the transition phase was weak, wiry, and confused. Eventually I got tired of bandwagons and began to research the structure and science behind curly hair. That’s when I turned the corner, stopped product-hunting, and slowly formulated products that were tried and true for me!

To this day, my hair has not been stronger, healthier, more vibrant, and more manageable than now! I can style it in any way, the options are endless. Not that I still don’t experience setbacks, but knowing your true hair’s nature and applying it has been amazing – I can’t see myself going back to chemical relaxers, aka “creamy crack”! lol

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I’m not gonna bore you further with particulars, but here are some rules of thumb to start you off on YOUR journey! 🙂

1. Do you want to transition, or big chop? Honestly, chopping off all the relaxer’s the way to go, so you can deal with fresh virgin hair, but not for the faint of heart. I was a wimp about such a major change, and chose to transition, so I went through the awkward phase of 2 different grades of hair, and slowly trimmed the relaxer off…. either way you go, you must be patient with yourself.

2. How often do you wash your hair? A clean scalp is key, but our hair can’t take too much stripping – every 2 weeks is pretty adequate. If you wear wash and go’s, consider “co-washing”, using a cheap conditioner to “wash’ in between shampoos. Believe it or not, the cheap conditioners like “Suave” still removes the surface dirt from your follicles. If you haven’t already, convert to a sulphate-free shampoo – This is important, as sulphates are sudsing agents that are detrimental to curly hair over time, with over drying-stripping the follicles of needed moisture. My favs right now are Loreal Sulphate-free shampoos and conditioners, and Organix Shampoos and conditioners (Also sulphate-free)

3. Moisturize-seal your hair after every wash, and if needed, daily. We’ve always thought moisturizing meant using hair grease – not so much. Because most grease is petroleum-based, which stops moisture from reaching our follicles, as does mineral oil, not all grease is good. It also clogs your pores in your scalp, which can result in poor hair growth and oddly enough – dry scalp. You want to use a leave-in conditioner first, then apply a pure oil like avocado, grape seed, coconut oil, or castor oil (not the stuff you find at CVS – only the organic cold-pressed stuff from the health food store) These oils are good for penetrating the hair shaft to adequately moisturize the hair.  Aloe vera juice is also an excellent moisturizer before sealing.

4. Put the comb and brush down!!! Coarse/Curly hair appears to be super tough, but actually it’s really fragile. Vigorous combing and brushing everyday can truly stifle progress in growth, incurring breakage with each use. The key is to finger through your hair to detangle initially, with the help of a thick conditioner for those snags and tangles, or use a vented brush GENTLY. If you look at my pic, I have a LOT of hair, but I actually only comb it on wash days, which is twice a month! Lol I know it sounds ridiculous, but you’d be surprised at how well your hair complies after some time.

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5. DEEP CONDITION! As much as possible! Our hair needs protein, so to feed it real protein is key…. but don’t go running out to your local beauty supply; look in your refrigerator! If you have eggs, plain full-fat yogurt, olive oil, and honey? You’ve got an awesome conditioner!! Mix and apply – when using egg, don’t go under a heat cap, (Scrambled eggs does nothing for the tresses) but put on a shower cap and wrap a warm towel around your head for 20 min… rinse out with a thick conditioner. My favs are Tresemme conditioners. (not the shampoos – contains sulphates)

6. Find a regimen that works, then stick to it! Once you find key products that your hair truly likes: Avocado oil, aloe vera juice (excellent for moisture) an awesome shampoo and conditioner duo… stay with it! Your hair will thank you. How can it possibly do that, you ask? By simply giving you shine, bounce, body, and life! If you want it in a ponytail, it won’t fight you, it will simply relax into whatever style you attempt. Now that’s the best kind of relaxer there is… hair health!

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7. Protect your tresses at night! Okay, I know it’s just not sexy, but you’ve gotta protect those ends! Our hair has an aversion for cotton sheets and pillow cases – it robs our strands of moisture and over time, our ends suffer, I tell ya… suffer! (major breakage issues) Ideally, it’s best to wrap up your hair when it’s time for bed, but if you must keep it cute for your significant other, a satin pillow would do nicely!

Bonus Tip: Please have patience! Rome wasn’t built in a day.  This is a journey of self-discovery… of course there’s always a learning curve for everyone. Our hair might respond to different things – I use coconut oil religiously for lots of things, but my hair HATES coconut oil by itself. No bueno. The most important thing is to take pride in your curls, kinks, and waves. Learn what makes your hair glow, and I promise, you won’t want to go back!

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For other blogs that have waaaaay more info on this subject, check out some of my favorites:

http://www.curlynikki.com

http://www.kinkycurlycoilyme.com

http://www.naptural85.com

A Little Something Useful… Homemade Vanilla Extract

Have you ever been gifted a liquor that didn’t agree with you? At first taste, all is well, then like a bad date, leaves you full of regret with a monstrous hang-over? One of my friends gave me a bottle of vodka of said propensity. The cocktail made from this particular vodka was pretty smooth, so much so that I had another, complete with a full meal and dancing afterwards. The next day, I felt such a recourse, as though I’d been on a bender of cheap shots and mixed liquor all night. No thank you. However, when my friend gave me a bottle of the hellish vodka, I just smiled graciously and tucked it in the closet.

As the holidays approached, the availability of gourmet items like fresh vanilla beans were everywhere, yet the good vanilla extracts were SO expensive! Then it came to me: I’m gonna make my OWN darn extract! There’s nothing like homemade in my book, and with the hellish vodka, taking up space… why not put it to good use?

Now making vanilla extract is not an overnight thing. It takes the vanilla beans at least 30 days to cure. There are various methods to make extracts – you can use any high-proof alcohol of choice such as vodka, rum, bourbon, tequila or such; the alcohol does influence the flavor, as do the amount of beans used. I referenced this website to get me started: http://tipnut.com/homemade-vanilla-extract/ – which was really helpful. Generally, I fully endorse using alcohol that you would enjoy for cooking, but using the hellish vodka would be fine since extracts are used in small, concentrated doses. By the way, I decided to write about this after I’d embarked on my extract journey, so you’ll simply have to visualize the hellish vodka in it’s natural state – clear! So here goes:

Here are the vanilla beans I used – Generally 2 beans per pack; Trader Joe’s is inexpensive and quality.

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Split them down the middle – scrape the concentrated goodness into the alcohol

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Added them straight to the alcohol bottle – the sentiment at the bottom is pure vanilla! Shake up at least once a week, and let it marinate for at least 30 days – this has set up about 2 months.

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I just transferred the contents to this bottle which is much more convenient to use – As you can see, Trader Joe’s is my favorite store, and this organic maple syrup is love in a bottle! There were trace elements left to mingle with the vanilla.

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I especially like this top for easy pouring!

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This extract smell like vanilla heaven, and does not perish. It’s best kept in a dark, cool place. Next time you have a yummy dessert, use it!

Goodbye, hellish vodka. Hello, vanilla extract!

Have you tried this? What’s your experience?

Back on the Block!

Hello, World!  Happy New Year – 2014!

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 I have missed an entire year on this beautiful, budding space that’s mine, all mine. Where have I been, you ask? Well, I could acknowledge my rigorous school schedule at Harvard, my kids’ rigorous school schedule, my numerous health issues – 4 surgeries in 2 years, most recent was last month, (yay me) or maybe it was even my beauty products that, despite everything, is still in production. Yes, I could cite all of these issues as to why I’ve neglected my new venture, but I won’t. Instead, I will declare one social media space that I’ve allowed to suck up precious blogging time: Facebook. 

Now, now… I won’t exactly go throwing FB under the bus.  It has served me well in helping me to reconnect with family and friends that would ordinarily forget I was breathing, due to my inconsistency to keep in touch. That medium has allowed me to maintain relationships, share of my family, share in major life events that I would neglect to know about; even if to send a kind word to a sick loved one. For these reasons, as well as the amazing opportunities for businesses and personalities to network, it’s a wonderful virtual neighborhood to be in.

However comma – as my Dear Uncle Larry would say – It can suck. You. In!!! It’s so easy to get caught up in others’ minutiae, you can forget or lose sight of your own space.  I happened to check out another Blog – “A Belle in Brooklyn” – which is a great site by the way, from what I see, and wanted to follow it. So I try to log on. No go. Wait, this is a word press… I have a word press account. No go. What??? Do I not have a blog anymore?? All this time, I thought I could go back to blogging anytime I wanted to… (feverishly trying different angles to log on) Oh here it is… my blog. What am I, retarded?? This is my space. I love Bohemian Flux… how could I have neglected my most perfect forum, where I can address and share all the things I love dearly? Foolishness!

I don’t care to make resolutions. I think that for me, personally, the habit of resolutions are so fragile; so easily forgotten. (Like my blog. smh) I would rather put it on my ever-revolving to-do list: Spirit, Family, Home, Health, School, Business, Blog. It has to be prioritized for me to take it seriously. I will aspire to make this a weekly practice, but I won’t be hard on myself if I have to make it bi-weekly.  I will say, it feels SO good to write here again! 

What are your plans for the New Year? What do you want to do more of? What do you want to let go of? 

Salut! ❤

 

Breakfast Spread on the Fly…

What. A. Week… Actually, hectic can’t describe my last 2 weeks with school starting for the kiddos AND myself! Early mornings, hustle for more school supplies that you somehow missed, orientations here and there…. my head has been on a spin cycle – hence, the absence of entries on here. :-/

No matter, I’m a trooper, and I tend to adjust to surprises and rigor pretty well. So when dear Hubby informs me on Sunday night (while I’m getting the kiddos ready for the week, mind you) that he’s having a friend over at 8 am for a meeting, and could I pull a little something together, my first thought was to throw my shoe at him…. but the second was, I got this! (Of course I did away with that first thought! lol)

Get Your Plan Together

Do you have any quick meal go-to’s? I find that when entertaining, having a couple of perfected recipes are the best! If I’m having a few guests over, a frittata would be the business, but since it’s just Hubby and his comrade, I decided on a quick bagel spread with fruit and juice.  This was easy enough, but it’s not about just slapping some bagels and cheese together… you gotta make it special! I’ve incorporated some veggies, two kinds of cream cheese, and a some lox to be fancy with it, but you can use whatever you like… the choices are endless! Just make sure the ingredients used are good quality.

  • Prep the night before – I sliced red onions, cucumbers and beefsteak tomatoes and stored them in tupperware. I made an avocado and garlic cream cheese, (1/2 avocado, 1 small clove of minced garlic, a good squeeze of lemon juice) and transferred it and the plain cream cheese into smaller containers.

  • The day of, slice and toast the bagels – use a spray butter like “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” to flavor – I used whole wheat bagels and everything bagels

  • Arrange everything on the table where your guests can help themselves – I’ve added a melon platter, capers, orange juice, and coffee brewed in a french press -the only way to brew coffee, in my opinion! Note that everything is transferred to small, attractive containers for appearances… which is half the battle of entertaining!

Simple, yet effective… and you hardly break a sweat! 🙂

Be Sweet to Your Feet

Living in New York is a dream come true for me. Oh, to be in a fashion mecca everyday, surrounded by the fashion-forward masses.  I used Sex and the City as my guide, studying the four chic femmes in all their stylish splendor, prancing through the streets in Jimmy Choos. I prepared myself to navigate the city streets on a perpetual runway!

The first week I arrived, I did just that…. hitting the streets in lovely assembles with my prettiest 4 inch heels. Carrie Bradshaw’s got nothin’ on me!

The following week, with feet too swollen and sore to wear anything other than tennis shoes, I painfully limped through the day and thought to myself, What went wrong?? How in the world am I seeing all these fabulous-looking people strutting their stuff in designer shoes?? I took myself to a nail salon to treat my feet to some  damage control, and made a startling discovery: women were removing their fabulous shoes to reveal a multitude of bunions, corns, twisted toes, blisters and broken nails. Yikes!  Is this the real price of fabulous? 

I came across this diagram from Truth Beckons, an informative multi-faceted media page on Facebook:

The pictures on the right absolutely mirrored my pedicure neighbors,  so I had to find out – how does this happen? The following points are common contributing factors:

  • Aging – As we get older, our feet continue to grow and spread, while our arches fall and the natural padding wears away over years of usage. This leaves us vulnerable to an assortment of conditions.
  • Certain Fashions – Some shoes are simply made for looks, not usability. Wearing shoes that are too narrow, tight fitting, or pointy-toed can crowd toes and cause various abrasions, such as corns, calluses and blisters. Bunions are suspected to also be a result.
  • Heel Height – Continual wear of heels 3 inches and above over time can cause shortening of the achilles tendon, making the wear of flat footwear very painful. This also affects unnatural weight distribution to the balls of the feet, resulting in a condition known as metatarsalgia.

How can we still don our heels while saving our feet?

There are a few ways to still “work the runway” on the streets while minimizing any undue tootsie damage –

  • Travel comfy – Keep a pair of flats on standby for navigating your way to and from work. Make a choice – Catwalk to work or at work? Making this choice cuts down on some of the hours of wear – obviously helpful for your feet.
  • Change it up – Experiment with other fashion statements that don’t require nosebleed height. Kitten heels can be killer with a sleek pencil skirt. Try some patent-leather flats with those cigarette pants you’ve been looking at.
  • Invest in inserts – There are a vast array of inserts that are made for all types of shoes, including stilettos, that provide extra cushioning. My favorite is Foot Petals – Super low-key, yet very affective.

http://www.footpetals.com

  • Try Comfort Wear – *Gasp! Did she say to visit the Comfort Dept??* Yes I did! You’d be surprised at the wide array of choices brands like Cole Haan, Aerosoles, Naturalizer, Born, and Sofft have to offer. These shoes are constructed for comfort, but are making a serious effort to keep up with the latest styles.

These are from Naturalizer -Not bad, huh?

Last but not least, treat yourself to a good foot massage every now and again. Our feet put in a lot of hours carrying us around, especially in those beautiful, painful heels. Reward them and yourself with a good therapeutic rubdown.

Be sweet to your feet!

L& of Lingo… a mini rant

Call me a grammar-nazi… Proclaim me a visceral word snob… but whatever you do, please write it out in reasonably cohesive sentence structures.  With words completely spelled out. Go crazy and add some punctuation. Am I asking too much? I should explain….

We, my friends, are living in an age of an interesting, yet potentially dangerous mixture for written language – Social Networking + mobile data + the lack of patience in instant gratification for the average teen = Text Lingo. Not sure what I mean? Let me demonstrate:

Ordinary structure:

The Translator! Use it to create or understand text messages and check your spelling, Just type or paste in here the message that you want to translate , Pick the type of translation  and then click go! Just hover your over or click the highlighted words to see the definitions of the words.

Translated structure into Lingo:

d transl8R ! uz it 2 cre8 or undrst& txt msgs nck yr sp, jst typ or paste n hre d msg dat u wn2transl8 , pik d genre transl8N n thN cliK go!jst hovR yr ovr or cliK d hi-lited wrds 2C ddefs of d wrds.

Did you get all that? I’m typing it, and I still have trouble with interpretation! lol This is an actual example from an app called Lingo to Word.  Yes, we actually need an app for text interpretation.

It’s funny right now, but how many times do you scroll through the news feed to see phonically-written hieroglyphics spewing out long messages to the masses? It’s rather painful to read… unless it’s really entertaining.

I’m addressing this because the old saying “Practice makes perfect” really does apply. If you are continually practicing shortcuts  and lingo in written word, how prepared will you be to articulate professional correspondence when it counts? After continuously texting alpha-numeric symbols and abbreviated words on a constant basis, will we really remember the art of the written word?

The most apparent group affected are high school students, as they’ve spent their most impressionable stage in the prime of texting/social networking age.  With constant cuts in public education across the country, there is a lack of emphasis in writing and  reading comprehension. Students spend more time texting lingo then on formal studies of english and grammar, which shows in test scores, and in the substantial misuse of your – you’re, or theretheir, and they’re. It’s frightening!

Seriously, there has to be a balance. Texting and Social Media are here to stay, but can easily coexist with full sentences and proper grammatical structure. Take a little more time to spell out “you”… splurge on that extra 2 seconds to type “the” as opposed to “d”… which often makes one look less than smart. And if you are abbreviating because you’re multi-tasking, then perhaps one of the two activities could actually wait, right? I’m not suggesting to write books or grammar masterpieces… Just write cohesive sentences… utilize that wonderful concept known as spellcheck.  Show the world that we are indeed still advancing, not regressing in our abilities to communicate!

Do it for yourself… *dramatic pause*…Do it for the children!

Beautiful Lifestyle Principles

So I am on a constantly revolving path to fitness and good health. I’ll start a gym regimen, go steady for a couple of weeks, only to fall off the wagon due to injury or my ever-changing schedule.  I’m definitely more consistent with my food choices for myself and family, but it’s common knowledge that consistent exercise is a vital need for our bodies, especially as age becomes a factor. *cough-almost Forty-cough-cough*

I will attest that in order to stick to an exercise regimen, incorporating your favorite activity is key. If you’re an athlete, go for a team sport. If you’re an aspiring body-builder, the gym is definitely your speed! I’ve always been enthusiastic about dance, (I’m an absolute geek for Dancing With The Stars…Shhh) so, exercises incorporating grace, balance and movement are my thing! So I just happened upon this book, Ballet Beautiful the other day, and found something interesting to share:

Aside from the compelling routines, the author Mary Helen Bowers, who incidentally prepared Natalie Portman for her jaw-dropping role in Black Swan (2010), offers a healthy philosophy on the approach to health and overall wellbeing that she calls The five Ballet Beautiful lifestyle principles:

  1. Be Prepared 
  2. Eat well and often
  3. Substitute for satisfaction
  4. Be flexible
  5. Forgive and move on

To avoid extensive quotation, here’s a quick summery – Be prepared for whatever your life entails, pack smart and healthy snacks to avoid making bad choices. Eat well and often entitles you to listen to your body – some folks do better with 6 tiny meals, while others function better off of 3 meals and 2 smart snacks in a 24 hour period. Substitute for satisfaction requires that you don’t deprive yourself of taste, only substitute mayo for mustard, brown rice for white rice, or balsamic vinegar for the creamy ranch you normally go for, and so on. Be flexible has nothing to do with how far you can go into the Chinese splits, *don’t we wish* but rather applies to your relationship with your body and food, which also applies to the last –Forgive and move on – If you have a night of burgers and fries, don’t count yourself out. Forgive your night of gluttony and fun, and get right back on the wagon of smart eating and mindful exercise.

This book is a nice read… I like her approach, although her constant reinforcement of Ballet Beautiful this and that can be a bit repetitive. *Branding at work… Got it!*

All in all, it’s worth picking up, if not for the ballet, then for the healthy life skills that can be applied to any form of exercise and lifestyle.

You can do it!

 

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