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

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!

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!

 

Baking Soda… Have we met?

This post for my domestic divas out there who want environmentally safe multi-tasking products at their fingertips! Baking Soda, also known as Sodium Bicarbonate, (NaHCO3) has been around since the 1800’s.  It’s most recognized as a leavening agent to help with the ‘rise’ in baked goods. It’s also a mild, yet effective cleanser, but  it’s not just for household use; here’s a list of uses that just might make you say “Whaaaat???”

  •  Antacid – Did you know that medicines like alka-seltzer gets the effervescent (fizzing) action from baking soda? It’s ‘fizz’ that is said to settle the stomach from minor bouts of nausea and heartburn. As always, used discretion and consult a healthcare professional for any prolonged discomfort. DO NOT USE if you suffer from any serious conditions like ulcers and such.
  • Kitchen cleanser – If you have expensive, non-stick cookware, or delicate materials like granite or stone, baking soda is the ideal cleanser. Tough enough for stains without harsh chemicals or damaging abrasives.
  • Toilet Bowl cleaner – This can double as a neat science trick for the kiddies! Combine a 1/2 cup of white vinegar with a 1/2 cup of baking soda directly into the toilet bowl…. watch the fizzing action! (and no, it won’t explode) Let it sit for 15 min. while you get some coffee, then come back to casually swish and flush… it practically cleaned itself!
  • Jewelry cleaner – I discovered this by accident. I’m a serial lotion-slatherer – the thick stuff – which leaves my rings dull, dull, dull. (I’m never smart enough to take them off) One day, I scrubbed my pots good with baking soda, and upon rinsing and drying, I was nearly blinded by my normally-dull rings. They were sooooo shiny! It’s been my go-to ring cleaner ever since.
  • Toothpaste/breath freshener – This is pretty well-known, as a toothpaste is manufactured by Arm & Hammer. I’m a fan!
  • Carpet & vacuum freshener – Do you have pets? This is essential for all those pet-parents out there! Sprinkle baking soda liberally on your carpet, wait 15-20 min, then vacuum up! It instantly refreshes the carpet and the vacuum, especially when dealing with potentially stinky debris like pet hair.
  • Drain cleaner- Baking soda eliminates accumulated germs and odors in kitchen and bathroom drains. This is more preventative, but still effective with clogs too. Tip 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by boiling water or 1 cup heated vinegar for tough odors and/or clogs.
  • Exfoliant for face and body – This is my FAVORITE use! Tough enough to clean out those pores, and get rid of dry, dead skin, leaving the skin baby soft… gentle enough to use every day! At least I do. Use it in your bath, scrub up in the shower… so invigorating! Store it in a snazzy little container, like this bamboo spice box with a magnetized lid (something similar –bedbathandbeyond.com):

  • Laundry booster – Baking soda boosts your laundry detergent’s cleansing abilities by regulating the water’s ph; keeping it from becoming too acidic, or too alkaline. In a ph-regulated environment, the laundry detergent’s much more effective on stains and odors. Learn more about ph here.
  • Fruit and Veggie Cleanser – Whether you buy organic or inorganic produce, a good wash in a sink of cold water and a 1/2 cup of baking soda will leave your goods squeaky clean! Try it sometime!

So, instead of spending tons of $$ on multiple cleansers and fresheners, make the investment of about $5.00 on a rather large box of baking soda.

You’ll get waaaay more bang for your buck!

Salute to Juice

Juicing is a craze I was slow to embrace. Every time someone would mention how amazing the effects of juicing was, I’d get a visual of midnight infomercials with manic hosts tossing a million ingredients to make a magical mystery mix. I wasn’t enthusiastic.

However, I had a revelation while staying at some friends’ house in Spain. Their surroundings were so rustic and beautiful.

They had a lovely orchard and garden, and picked everything we ate. There was such an abundance of fruits and veggies, they made smoothies with the extra. I was so in love with the process, and how I felt afterwards, I was motivated to buy my own Vitamix juicer when I got home. I’ve been juicing ever since!

While I didn’t initially get into it for health purposes, there are quite a few benefits to this new habit. It’s an effective way to get a blast of nutrients and fiber your body needs to function properly. If you have a hectic schedule, and constantly reach for junk food and fast fixes, this is an excellent way to substitute the bad with the good, with an added energy boost from natural sugars of the fruit.

When juicing fruits and veggies, it’s important to use organically- grown produce – produce that have not been treated with synthetic chemicals such as pesticides – because the vitamins contained in the skin boosts the nutritional value when incorporated in the juicing process. As this is not a juicing blog, I will not bore you with the list of fruits, veggies, and their value. Instead, I will thrill you with colorful array of pictures of my tantalizing smoothie skills! 😛

Start with fresh organic fruit of choice – here we have apple, pear, blueberries, strawberries, banana, ginger root and wheatgrass – an excellent detoxifier and metabolism booster

Combine all that yummy fruit into the juicer – what’s that greenery at the bottom, you ask? Just a little spinach for a dose of vitamin k. Shhh… don’t tell the family, what they don’t taste will help them!

Add some organic unfiltered unsweetened apple juice – about half-way – and once you get the juicer going on high, add a few ice cubes.

There you have it… A carafe of the Good Stuff! With no added sugars or sweeteners, you’ll be surprised how delicious it is! I call this mix – The Good Stuff! *I know, I know…*

By the way, I also added chia and flax seed – two amazing resources of omega-3 fatty acids. You can add what ever you like to these mixes for your personal needs. Just be creative and enjoy!

If you want to learn more about the nutritional benefits of juicing, check out this article on livestrong.com

Happy Juicing!

Aloe Vera – How good it is!

I grew up with this prickly little plant in my back yard. My mother, who wasn’t particularly known for her green thumb, was insistent on keeping up with this weird, gangly shrub. I never paid much attention to it, until I’d procure a cut or burn from fooling around in the kitchen, which was often.

*footnote – Reading while trying to cook is not a favorable combination… but I digress.* 

Mom would promptly send me out to the yard to break off a leaf of the aloe vera, and spread the gel over the cut or burn, to aid in the healing.  Most often than not, my wound would heal very well, with little to no scarring.  I can’t say I always followed directions, so when I did end up with an offensive mark, Mom would say, “See? Didn’t use that Aloe Vera like I told you!”

As an adult with a family of my own, I found myself coming full circle to my parent’s old remedies… but not without a little research first. This plant is amazing!

Also known as “Lily of the Desert”, Aloe Vera is known for its extraordinary healing properties.

  • The gel found within the leaves acts as a topical ointment for minor burns and abrasions.
  • It is popular as a soothing, naturally cooling treatment for sunburns.
  • The gel can also be orally ingested, as it is also said to aid in digestive issues and minor cases of stomach ulcers. *It is highly recommended to buy Organic Aloe Gel that advises oral ingestion on the label. Any other source can be dangerous and eating it straight from the plant is just plain gross.*

Did you know that Aloe Vera is awesome for your hair too? It’s juice acts as a natural conditioner and moisturizer. It has the ability to penetrate the hair follicle and strand, to aid in restoring the hair to it’s natural sheen. It’s a wonderful scalp treatment for afflictions such as psoriasis and dandruff, and if that’s not good enough… wait for it…. it’s recognized for it’s ability to promote hair growth! Oh yes it is!

I’ve used Aloe Vera for most of my adult life for different purposes, and I can honestly say that I’m a fan. Aloe Vera Rocks!

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For more compelling information on this amazing plant, check out this article from  Global Healing Center: http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/nutrition/benefits-of-aloe-vera

It’s good stuff!

Good Eats in the Heat

It’s August, clearly hot in most areas of North America, and with the heat comes the occasional aversion for the kitchen  Even the most enthusiastic foodie like myself can’t imagination turning on the oven even in an air-conditioned setting.

Here’s a quick, no-heat option for a Spanish favorite – Gazpacho.  This is a cold tomato soup, which sounds a slightly unattractive for those unfamiliar, but unless you don’t like tomatoes, this is a delicious, refreshing dish that could be an appetizer or a light meal with some shrimp and a good crusty bread. Here’s a recipe from one of my fav sites, Allrecipes.com:
Southern Spain-Style Gazpacho
recipe image
Rated: rating
Submitted By: MUGAL
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
Servings: 4
“This refreshingly tangy bowl of the Spanish classic was inspired by a trip to Toledo, Spain.”
INGREDIENTS:
3/4 green bell pepper, seeded
1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 day-old crusty bread rolls, cut into thick
slices
6 tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon olive oil
DIRECTIONS:
1. Blend the green bell pepper, cucumber, garlic, and 1/2 cup olive oil together in a blender until smooth. Add the bread slices to the blender one at a time and blend each into the mixture until smooth. Blend the tomatoes into the mixture one at a time until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl; season with salt and cayenne pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon olive oil to serve.
As I stated before, I am a foodie. I’m suggesting recipes that I’ve not only tried, I’ve pretty much owned them. (patting self on the back) There are a lot of gazpacho recipes out there, but this one is the closest I’ve come to the gazpacho I tasted and fell in love with in Spain. I have just a couple of suggestions:
  • Try red wine vinegar instead of balsamic. This is up to you, but I like the taste of the red wine vinegar.
  • Use a really good spanish extra-virgin olive oil. You’d be surprised how the oil contributes to the taste.
Enjoy!

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