Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas (a diversion from hair)

The presents don't really matter.
The rush can be too much sometimes.
The dollar comes and goes.
There's so much vanity in the world, in my life... I'm guilty, Father.

I want nothing more right now than to be in your presence.  I'm so thankful for the gift of Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was slain that we might be redeemed, sanctified, set free and delivered.  I love Your presence!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Marinated-Goat Cheese from "A Soft Place to Land"

Mmm... fooooood!

I have at least two events to which I could take this dish in the coming weeks.  And I had no idea that goat cheese had less fat and calories -- and is easier to digest -- than cow's milk cheese.  Go figure!

Check out the recipe by clicking the link to this blog, A Soft Place to Land.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Cherry Lola Re-Do

I'm a huge fan of simple recipes, so when I first heard about Cherry Lola on NaturallyCurly's 4a message board (which BTW is a great board particularly for new naturals), I knew I had to give it a shot.  I guess I would call the "Cherry Lola Treatment" a conditioner.  She has a great breakdown on her site of the properties of amino acids which is worth a look.  After seeing her results -- and acknowledging that her texture is different from mine -- I just wanted to see what it would do to my hair.

I tried this back in Winter/Spring '09 after I chopped off my locs to go free-form.  I took pics but lost them (pooh!). I think my hair was about 7-8 inches stretched at the time.  The treatment softened my hair AND loosened my curls temporarily.  Please note -- my goal is not to change my hair texture.  I'm quite fond of it as is.  But, I do have some issues with frizz and like to experiment with how to lessen it a bit.

Anyway, fast-forwarding to today, I cut my hair to TWA in August 09 and kept it short for several months.    Now, in Dec '10, it's around 6-7 inches long.  

My Issues:  winter dryness, frizziness

2 parts Organic Yogurt
1/2 part baking soda
1/2 part amino acids

I bought a

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Cookie Time!



Is there ever a time in life when cookies are inappropriate?  No, of course not!

Eons ago when I was a kid, my younger brother and sister and I would make Nestle's Toll House Cookies together around Christmas time.  We were a creative little threesome, so we would always make a "story" out of the process. I don't remember it *precisely* but I think the dry ingredients formed the mountains, the vanilla was lava, the egg was sunshine, chips were chocolate rain -- you get the picture. This was after Atari but before Playstation -- we had fun with simple stuff. The best part was getting those cookies hot out of the oven -- crispy on the outside, soft inside -- and dunking them in ice-cold milk. Mmmmm... makes you wanna throw rocks at pretty boys, as Dad likes to say.

So, you could safely say cookie-making, especially in December, is simply in my veins. Now, chocolate chip will always be fine and dandy, but lately I've been all about carob, what I consider to be cocoa's nutty-sweet ancient cousin. Mom used to give it to us sometimes as kids. I recently started eating it again during a fast earlier this year, and I just can't get enough. I toss carob chips into my homemade pancakes and I drink carob hot with almond milk as a sub for coffee or tea. In the words of My Big Man, "It's D.E. Licious."

Read up on carob's origins and uses (it may have been what John the Baptist ate in the wilderness) or get straight to the sweet stuff with my favorite carob chip cookie recipe, courtesy of the Chatfield's brand of carob chips. Enjoy!

Shones' Fave Carob Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
¾ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 ¾ sticks soft butter
1 cup date sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup carob chips (I like grain- or naturally sweetened carob chips)

Directions:
Heat oven to 375-degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Mix butter, sugar/s, milk, vanilla extract, and egg in a separate larger bowl. Gradually add flour mix to the wet mix, stirring well. Add carob chips.
Bake 9-11 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. ENJOY!!

Modifications:
· I use organic whole wheat flour in place of regular flour.
· Sometimes I substitute 2 cups of self-rising flour for the first three ingredients.
· For a different texture, I add whole flaxseeds or finely ground nuts (e.g. walnuts, pecans) to the mix at the end.
· I strongly prefer using date sugar (ground up dates!) over brown sugar.
· I often replace the brown sugar with maple syrup, molasses, honey, or agave nectar (or some odd blend of these). I tried a half-cup of brown sugar + 1 cup unsweetened applesauce today and reduced the milk by a third to make up for the additional liquid. It made for more cake-like, fluffy cookie.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winterizing my Hair

Eureka! I have finally realized the importance of writing down the basics of what I'm doing to my hair so I can know what's working and what's not. I'm hoping this will help me perfect my regimen.

* 35 is too chilly for wash-n-gos, so I've gone from twice a week to every other. I use Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap (Target), Dr. Wood's Shea Vision liquid soap (EarthFare), Giovanni Direct Tea Tree Shampoo, or plain old Ivory bar soap. With the liquid soaps (Bronners, Woods) a little goes a long way.


* I co-wash weekly using whatever happens to be on hand. Lately, it's Herbal Essences Totally Twisted or Modern Organic Products (MOP) Mixed Greens. MOP isn't as rich as I would like for the winter. I might have to re-visit AOHR.

* To catch the drips I use a micro-fiber turby-towel thing I found at TJMaxx. I don't know how much it cost, but I know it was cheap because... well, because I'm cheap. This cuts drying time in half.

* After getting dressed, I remove the turby, add a moisturizer, such as KBB Hair Milk. Then I seal with (in order of preference) grape seed oil, olive oil, or cold-pressed castor oil. Basically, I use a quarter size amount and gently rub it onto my damp hair from root to end. In terms of achieving and keeping my hair moisturized, I've achieved FANTASTIC results since I started sealing a few months ago. I can't believe I didn't start doing that sooner... like 3 years ago when I first went free-form.



Oh, dear Grape Seed Oil, where have you been all my life?

* After sealing I typically stretch it in some way, because it's easier to do this when it's all damp than when it's dry. I either two-strand twist or band it with satin-covered scrunchies.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

50-Day Fast Update & Recipe Idea (Veggie Pockets)

The End of the 2010 Pentecost Fast

Our church just wrapped up our annual 50-day Pentecost fast, and I'm so excited about what God is doing in our lives from the inside-out. This fast was more about spiritual transformation and renewal (Romans 12:1-2) than food or lack thereof, but what a wonderful experience all around. The Daniel Fast (no meats, no sweets) has changed the way I view and use food. Although I have returned to eating both meats and sweets, I eat much less of each and have seen dramatic increases in my skin, energy level, and countenance, especially from avoiding the standard post-lunch, mid-afternoon crash. I lost almost 20 pounds, and I believe it's sustainable. And my *ahem* inner workings have improved. Daniel and the three Hebrew boys knew what they were doing.

The dietary changes were easier the expected for DH and me. I know that the transition was eased by the fact that we were dedicated to the fast, doing it together, and he is a pretty good sport about trying new things. I don't take any of this for granted. Some of our major changes:

  • Chocolate was replaced by carob chips and carob powder. Now, don't get me wrong -- I still adore dark chocolate, but carob has such a unique, warm flavor. It's the perfect change-up. We make hot carob drinks (sometimes in place of coffee) using Silk Almond and Soy milk, pure vanilla extract, a little agave nectar and Chatfield's carob powder. I also made these fancy, sweet, yet white-sugar-free carob no-bake cookies (Thanks, MissLycia @ AllDayNatural!).
  • Hummus, olive oil (only for flavor, not for cooking), and grape seed oil replaced butter.
  • Brown rice pasta replaced regular pasta. I am not a fan of the *taste* of whole wheat pasta, but brown rice pasta has a flavor that reminds me very much of regular pasta. It's just brown rice and water. :)
  • Fruit and cereal has replaced our daily 2-eggs + 2 slices turkey bacon + grits breakfast. Yes, we actually ate that every day. I love a big country breakfast now and then, but I realized I just don't need that much food. One of our favorite new breakfasts is oatmeal topped with mangoes from Mexico, which are sold at the local Asian market. Go figure!
  • Though anything with sugar was off limits during the fast, now that we are off, we no longer eat regular ice cream. Lovely as it tastes, all that milky goodness just doesn't rest well with our stomachs, so we've switched to soy ice cream, and even that is done sparingly.
  • Trader Joe's Fiberful Ends & Pieces fruit snacks are a great replacement for candy/chewy things. It's like fruit roll ups, but healthier. Yummy!

The thing I miss most is ice cream. Shout out to the Cook-Out milkshake menu. Oh dearies, if you haven't tried one yet, you don't know what you're missing. But, I did just discover what I'm missing:

One Cook-Out Mint Chocolate Chip Milkshake (they only come in one 16-oz size) is a belly-blowing 760 calories, with 34 grams of fat and 94 carbs. Yikes.

Recipe Idea: Veggie (or Meat & Veggie) Pockets

A friend of ours from church gave us this basic recipe for an instant meal. Her three kids love it, and so do we. These pockets are quick, customizable, portable, and filling. There are no measurements in my recipe, sorry, but here's my ingredient list for a basic veggie pocket:

Grape seed oil
Onions, chopped
Minced garlic
Fresh spinach
Colorful peppers
Whatever other veggies you like
Cooked quinoa, brown rice, or diced potatoes
Seasoning to taste (cumin, pepper, curry, whatever you like)
Shredded mozzarella cheese or hummus
Large tortillas, the healthiest version you can find (low/no sugar, whole wheat, etc)

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. On the stove, saute and season the veggies in grape seed oil on medium or medium-low heat until tender. Then lay out a tortilla on a plate. Spread cheese or hummus onto the center of the tortilla. Put veggies and your cooked brown rice/quinoa/potato (optional) on top of that, then fold up the tortilla like a burrito. Lay the pocket on a lightly greased cookie sheet, fold-side down. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. That's it!

The veggie pocket might puff and stay, or it might flatten out as it cools. If you prefer something meaty, brown some ground turkey or sausage and add that to the mix. I like to dip my pockets in salsa. Wrap them up in wax paper or foil and put them in the fridge for grab-and-go.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Other "N" Word


A question was posed today on one of my fave hair blogs, CurlyNikki.com, and I have no idea how to formally cross-post, but I thought I'd mention it here:

"Weigh in divas... is nappy a term of endearment, something we should embrace? Or do you feel offended when family and friends refer to your natural frock as nappy?

I just want to re-post my answer here, and also get your take on the question.

My response:

I've never had anyone call my hair "nappy" to my face, but I know that people *think it.* I've been called some other not-so-nice things. Some people are slick and subtle with it, e.g. "You should try a blowout! Look, I clipped out this newspaper article about it for you..." Others say it to their friends while you are in earshot. And sometimes it just shows on their faces.

These types of things used to really hurt me, but -- thank You, Father! -- it doesn't both me that much anymore. Why? I think the more mature you become (notice I didn't say "older"), the less other people's opinions matter. And more importantly, I believe what He says about me. Everything else is bunk, trite, and sometimes just plain evil. My people, when it happens to you (there's no "if," just "when") I encourage you to throw it in your mental garbage disposal, flush it, incinerate it -- do whatever you have to do to not internalize that thing -- and forgive that person... immediately! We add WAY too much value to people's personal preferences!

My hair is natural. This is the way God intended for it to come out of my head. You can call it kinky, curly, coily, or whatever you want, but the plain and simple fact is this texture is natural. It's mine. I take care of it. I like it. It's fun! My husband likes it (i was natural when we met, and yes, I think that makes a difference). It's here to stay.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Curls and Miss Jessie's in Target

I recently learned that Curls and Miss Jessie's are being sold in Target stores across the country! I've never tried it either of those product lines, but perhaps now I'll give it a go.

For an on-again, off-again product junkie (PJ) such as yours truly, it's always nice to find products that can be easily returned via a quick trip down the road. Unfortunately, most traditional Mom-and-Pop BSS (beauty supply stores) offer no refunds/no exchanges. Boooo!

Does this mean you'll spend more time at Target? Dangerous... !!!

The 50-Day Fast

Every year my church fasts corporately for 50-days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, the celebration of the first fruits of the harvest following the Latter Day rains. It is also the celebration of the birth of the church. In Old Testament times, it signified the time of the giving of the Law to Moses; so how fitting that God selected the same celebration to birth and ordain the church, which ushered in the dispensation of Grace that replaced the Law. We're connected to Christ through His Grace!

This year's theme, Be Ye Transformed, is especially fitting for me. Over the past few years, my weight has slowly crept up, up, and away. when I graduated from college, I was about 170 and wore a size 12. Now I'm around 210 and wearing a 16. I'm 5'10" and I "carry weight well," as they say, because it's evenly distributed. But it's still not healthy for me to carry around all this extra.

All this weight gain is linked to a number of major events: grad school (mindless eating while studying), too much tv (mindless eating while vegging), and not exercising as much in general, to name a few. Notice how many of the reasons have to do with the mind. I want to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Change is (or can be) partial, but transformation is all-encompassing. I know I have to think differently and then my behavior has to change to match, until healthy living is actually my normal, sustained, consistent lifestyle. I have to believe, receive, and apply God's Word, which says in 1 Corinthians 6:19, "...know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"

It's time to live it!

I'm going to post throughout this fast, which I believe is going to transform my life -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And I invite you to join me, if you feel led of God to do so. I'm so excited! I'll post more info about the details of the fast soon, as well as healthy substitutes I'm learning about for common foods, recipes, exercise (which I actually started in January and have continued regularly), etc.

:)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Peace out, cable box.

Oh, we're getting radical now. My DH and I cut off the our cable on New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, 2009.

I should have had someone take a before and after picture when I turned in our stuff. I'm standing there in a long line at the TWC office with my box, looking half-happy and half-I-can't-believe-we're-doing-this. Besides the two other people holding equipment, it seems like almost everyone there is paying a bill (on the night before the due date), which is so primitive to me in this age of e-banking... but I digress. It's the last day of the decade, and I'm about to off-load that box and realize a savings of more than $1,200/yr for our household.

At the same time, I know this could have been an even bigger blessing if we cut our cable when God told us to do it back in January 2009. I had just lost my job as a recruiter, and we had some important financial decisions to make. Down to one income and slightly pressed for bill-money, it made sense to us that the first thing to go would be a luxury item, such as our HD cable w/DVR. Now some might argue (as did we) that cable is sort of a necessity (The Weather Channel, hello!?), and even moreso once you've experienced the thrill of rewinding live HDTV using DVR. Oh, the joy of skipping commercials and re-running the funny parts of The Office and Psych. And of course DH loves his Sunday football using picture-in-picture on the big screen. So we kept cable and cut out other things like eating out and going to the movies.

Then in August, I got a new job. Amen and thank you, Jesus! Suddenly we all Steve Winwood circa 1986 -- back in the high life again. We could definitely afford to keep the cable now, and yet something still wasn't right. Our five-day Texas trip for Christmas helped us figure it out. In Texas, we didn't have cable, but we did have family, fellowship, reading time, four-mile walks in the morning, and great food (e.g. The Salt Lick in Driftwood -- best BBQ!).

At that point we realized we didn't need cable anymore and, more significantly, we were missing out on a lot of living because of it. During this first three days of 2010, we've been more productive, more focused, more active and more engaged. I'm creating things. I'm listening to more music. I'm reading again, something I loved to do as a child. I'm blogging! Better than all of that, I have more time for prayer and study, and true quality time with my husband. There's also something nice about the quiet, the absence of idle chatter from set. I don't need it to keep me company anymore. There truly is happiness sans cable. And if we do get a hankering for entertainment, there are plenty of suitable substitutes, like Netflix, Hulu.com, Wii, and even NFLlive.com. Just connect the computer to the TV and you're good to go.

The biggest lesson I learned from all this was not "how to save money," but the importance of being obedient, focused, and kingdom-minded. Kings aren't distracted by things that don't matter, the things of this world. Kings are steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the things of God. I look forward to seeing what testimonies, fruits, and adventures will come this year as a result of not being tied to the tube.