Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three More Days

With only three days remaining in 2011, I'm thinking deeply about what I need to leave behind this year. 

Wouldn't it be wonderful to begin 2012 with zero baggage?
What if I left behind every ounce and milligram of doubt and disbelief?
How would my life be different if I gave up my surplus and traded it for breathing room?
How many minutes of wasted time did I rack up this year, and how will I improve my use of precious time for next year?

By all international standards, even those of us living at the poverty line in America are doing better than most people in the world, and yet there's a constant pull for MORE. Two years ago we gave up the cable box, and I would be shocked if we ever went back to it. Yet there was a desire to back fill what we gave up with replacement entertainment, and still I want MORE... but it would serve me well to do MORE with LESS -- LESS frivolous conversation and MORE Godly fellowship. LESS absorbing the world and MORE permeating the world with what God is pouring into me. LESS of me and MORE of Him.

Life lived more abundantly.
Love given freely.
Words chosen wisely.

What will you leave behind this year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Styling Tools: Brushes

Denman Cushion Brush Nylon Bristles, 9-Row
Denman Brush

I was in shock the first time I had to go to the BSS to find a brush after I cut off my locs. I didn't need much in the way of styling tools for those eight wonderful years. At the same time, one of life's little pleasures is the feeling of bristles gently massaging your scalp. Ahhh.

There are so many brushes on the market, it can be hard to choose if you're transitioning to loose natural hair. Plus, the way you use each brush varies depending on your desired result. Also, certain types of brushes are generally considered no-no's for natural afro-type kinky/curly hair.  Right from the jump, I can tell you it's probably best to avoid any brush with little plastic beads at the end of the bristles. Most stores have tons of these kinds of brushes! The problem is our little coils will wrap and tangle around those beads, causing too much tension and then breakage. I imagine this type of brush is OK on straightened or stretched natural hair, but with other options on the market it might be best to avoid the beaded ones.

Here's my short review on three brushes -- two which work well for me and one "meh." At the same time, please remember the old familiar disclaimer, what works (or doesn't work) for one head of hair may not work (or might work!) for another.

Denman Brush

This is a great brush for detangling on wet/damp hair only when it's loaded with slippery conditioner or gel. On shorter natural hair, this method produces springy little curls, as long as you don't disturb the curls after brushing by touching them before they dry. I don't use my brush as much now that my hair is longer, because it's just a lot more hair to work through, but I whip it out once in a while.

I bought my Denman D4 brush for about $14 on  I used it for four years until the red base fell apart. Maybe I got it wet too often, or it was overexposed to oil and product. I decided to replaced my dying Denman with the Goody knock-off at a fraction of the price, and I believe you can only find it at CVS. One caveat: the base on the knock-off version is less spongy than the Denman, so the potential for too much tension and hair breakage is greater. Just be careful with it.

Flat Boar Bristle Brush 

A natural boar bristle brush is great for styling and shaping hair, especially for pulled-back styles like puffs, buns and other updos. Now some naturals say these brushes cause breakage when used too frequently, which could be true, but I personally haven't experienced this issue. I use my boar bristle brush in tandem with aloe vera gel (AVG) or a shea butter-based product to smooth down and soften my hairline.

This brush doesn't do much in the way of detangling, however I do find it creates a great sheen when used on stretched or straightened natural hair with a bit of pomade (e.g. grease or similar product). In contrast, I think the bristles in synthetic brushes are too jagged... maybe it's the way the bristles are cut on the production line? Anyway, I think it's best to stick to soft, natural bristles.

Round Boar Bristle Brush

...And here's where I need some help. So I bought a round boar bristle brush thinking I could use it for an at-home blowout, but it seems I'm just not quite that adept. I thought I could do it like the Dominican salon (#fail).  This brush ended up being dedicated to the cat. Cleo loves it, but not as much as she loves catnip on a turbo scratchpad.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Boxes at My Door: Product Splurge!

The shipping industry must be booming during this season. I've seen the UPS truck in my 'hood every day, multiple times per day, for the past two weeks. I must admit, sometimes I peek through my mini-blinds like a little kid wondering, "Is he going to stop at my house this time? Oh, please sir, stop at my house!"

I received and purchased more hair stuff this month than I did over the past six months. Here's a rundown:

Oyin Handmade - I've been stalking this site for years, but never got around to buying until my sister gave me a gift certificate a few months ago. I purchased Oyin Burnt Sugar Pomade (to compare to petrolatum-based grease), Whipped Pudding (to compare to shea butter and SheaMoisture DTM) and Greg Juice, aka Juices and Berries (because I needed a moisture spritz or hair milk type of product for dry days).

Curlformers - I won my first bid on eBay, which was exhilarating, and got a starter set of extra long and wide Curlfomers for about $50 including S&H. At Sally or online, the same set is about $70 right now not including shipping, so I think I fared well. I'm really excited about trying them as a method of stretching my hair without heat.

Terressentials - I purchased the Lemon Coast Pure Earth Hair Wash. This is a mud shampoo with the purifying benefits characteristics of clay and none of the drying sulfates found in common shampoos. I'm not sure how this product differs from bentonite clay, but I enjoy the effect bentonite clay has on my skin. So far after three washes, I'm really feeling the Lemon Coast. My hair is so soft, light and supple, I haven't even used conditioners. There are several reviews on Terressentials for natural afro hair on YouTube. Check out Naptural85's channel for a good one.

Nubian Heritage - I bought lotion rather than hair product, but I want to plug it anyway. I found Nubian Heritage while walking through Brooklyn with a girlfriend. I think all of their physical stores are now closed, but they sell at Wegman's, select Whole Foods, EarthFare, etc. Some of their scents (or maybe just certain bottles?) are being discontinued, so I was able to pick up a few things at about 30-percent less than the normal price. Their Harlem store was so gorgeous, it's a shame to hear they closed it, but I'm glad they're still in selling through distributor channels.

I've got raw video reviewing some of these items in greater detail, but the video editing takes a backseat to some higher-priority spiritual and personal projects right now. I'll put the video(s) in a separate post, hopefully by this weekend.

Thanks for reading. :-) 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pot Roast in a Slow Cooker

Special thanks to Mariel for sending me this fantastic recipe for beef (10 points) plus vegetables (5 points) in slow cooker (50 points!). That's a winner, because any recipe I don't really have to stand over for 5-6 hours takes prime real estate inside my recipe box. Chef John's videos prove to be quick, easy, and he's funny to boot. And to whoever invented the crock pot, you should win a medal and an iPad.

This recipe is kind of similar to a posting for beef stew posted by my high school classmate, De'Andra, author of the HighlyFlavoredSC blog. D, I made your beef stew recipe last week. DH and I were all over it, girl, and you're right -- it tasted better every day. Thank you for sharing your gift and flair for good home-cooked eats!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The One Resolution to Make in 2012

I read this short and sweet article by Dayna Steele on Fast Company this morning about the one resolution we should all make. In it, Dayna writes:

"Do this one thing and you’ll be good to go for the year: Do what you say you are going to do, otherwise known as accountability... Every goal begins with your own accountability, whether it is business success, losing weight, developing your personal brand--whatever your goals may be this coming year."

I'm at this point in my life where I'm being challenged on every side, or so it seems, to raise the standard for myself... and despite how uncomfortable this makes me feel -- kind of like teetering on six-inch stilettos after walking in flip-flops for years -- these challenges are very good for me. When you hold yourself accountable, you keep your word and build a legacy of integrity, one which precedes you and helps define you. It's an aspect of maturity which should be modeled and can be learned, even by a thirty-something-or-other.

Our church lost a dear sister and fellow laborer earlier this year. She was the first person I ever really knew who passed away, and I still miss her dearly, but one of the things which stands out to me about her life was her high level of accountability. She met the mark time and time again, even when she was very sick. She showed up on time. She completed documents on deadline. She did her job and school and took her kids where they needed to go. She kept her promises -- even when no one would have faulted her for taking a "pass." She was, as she liked to say, "a professional" at whatever she did. Not perfect, but professional, dedicated, committed to seeing things through to the end.

So when I find myself procrastinating yet again on finishing a project (including blogging on a regular basis), I recognize a fault in myself. I'm not okay with this. When I connect with a friend and we say we're going to get together for lunch or over the phone, we need to set the date. God gave us the gifts and a certain yet unknown amount of time, and we should use them according to His plan and live at 100%. Because truly, anything less is just not enough.

In what ways do you know you need to be more accountable? The great thing about a resolution like this is we can start today. For me, as it applies to this blog, I have a goal to post at least twice a week plus weekly posts on my YT channel, Shonesters. Now this may not sound like much, but with everything else going on in my life, I want to be realistic. If I accomplish more, ta-daaah! Icing on the cake.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Natural Hair at the Office

One of the most common topics I hear from new naturals and the natural-curious women is how to wear your hair at work. To the broad question, "Can I go natural and still look professional?" the two-word answer is simply "Absolutely, yes."  

Pinned-up twists at the office

With so many styles and so many places from which to draw inspiration (message boards, blogs, YouTube, etc.), I would be shocked if a new natural couldn't find a fitting natural hairstyle for her lifestyle. I think the biggest issue is not so much what other people think of our hair at work, but how we think of ourselves and our level of confidence in our appearance. We've been so conditioned to believe that only straight hair is "acceptable" -- not just at work, but in general -- the idea of wearing curly or kinky hair to work really challenges our definition of a "professional appearance." However, the more we open our minds to the idea of our curly hair being "good" and go beyond that to "beautiful" and even "normal" (after all, this is the way it grows out of our heads), the more I think we will continue to see natural hair accepted in different work environments. 

My current job as a recruiter for a global technology company allows me to rock my hair just about any way I want. Now, those who know me well are rolling their eyes right now because they know I often work from home, but this isn't always the case. I do go into the office sometimes, and when I do I want to look my best. I often wear a puff, twist updo, or a bun. Sometimes I wear my afro out, yet pulled back with a few pins. My job environment is known for being diverse and accepting, so my hair has never been a big deal. The more people see how comfortable I am with myself and my hair, the more they relax. It's both eye-opening and sad, but when I do get weird looks and stares at my hair, it's usually from other black women who are determined to wear their hair bone straight

For the record, I do not believe my choice of hairstyle has sidetracked my progress in any way. During the roughly 14 years I've been natural, God has blessed me with promotions in business across industries -- media, banking, government and HR. I recently had the opportunity to travel to recruitment events -- all glory to God.  Funny story though:  a few years ago when I was out of a job, my dear Mommy actually asked if I could straighten my hair temporarily. I had shoulder-length locs at the times, so yes... I'm saying she suggested I straighten my locs. *Sigh* Oh, Mom... I love you. I know you were just trying to be helpful.

And I understand the importance of subdued styling. You have to know your office culture, but even in some of the most conservative environments, you might be surprised at how many different styles you can wear. Here are are a few professional styles I've tried over the years:

TWA - The teeny-weeny afro, or TWA is perhaps the easiest professional style of all, and perfect for the busy woman. Just wash and go, and even during the cold months the drying time is easy. My favorite example of a professional with a TWA is Xerox CEO Ursula Burns. 

Ursula Burns, Xerox CEO - Photo Source

My wash-n-go (WnG) about 6 months post-2nd BC

Twists and Twist-Outs - This is a quick, easy and versatile style which translates well on various lengths of hair. You can pin them into an updo, curl them, create bangs, do mini-twists, and then set them free for a twist-out. Twists stretch the hair without heat to better show your length and increase styling options, which also can be a time-saver if you don't have time to spend styling your hair every day. I usually wear my hair in some sort of a twisted or stretched state to avoid tangles, especially now that my hair is much longer, and I'm typically able to go for week or two before I feel compelled to wash and style again.

Twists set on foam rollers

If your hair is long enough, you can shape it into a french roll, dramatic flat twists or various updos. Depending on your technique and products used, you can achieve a well-defined twist-out or something more chunky and textured. 

A twist-out on short natural hair
SavvyBrown's donut bun on stretched hair - tutorial here
My version of cinnabun updo

The number of ways to style natural hair will boggle your mind, but for a glimpse, check out this video by Naptural85 with pics of more than 200 natural styles.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Greasy Update

My journey into the greasy world continues. So here are four things I learned about hair grease so far:

1. Grease travels to my scalp. And when it arrives, scary things happen. Like big nasty flakes and build-up. Ewwwwwww! I applied it sparingly, and only to my hair, like all the expert vloggers said, but alas... it ended up on my scalp, and sometimes accidentally on my face. Ewwwwwwww!

2. Grease makes for a great twist out, but the after effects are undesirable. I liken it to eating bubble yum or Big League Chew. For the first minute it's like, "Wow this stuff tastes awesome!" as the sugar sparks euphoria and makes you want to skateboard. Then after about five minutes, you're looking for a convenient place to spit it out, and you develop an overwhelming desire to brush your teeth pronto. About two days after my awesome twist out, my hair looked... faded brown? Grayish black? Either way, it just wasn't good. My hair attracts more lint when I use grease.

3. Grease is not the appropriate choice for mini-twists, but holds up well in moist climates. It looked great in the beginning, but then felt funky, heavy and linty (is linty a word? I'm going to use it in Scrabble) after just a few days.

my first set of mini-twists with grease... probably not my best idea

BUT they held up wonderfully at the beach! It was humid, too.

4. My husband really likes the scent of Three Flowers Brilliantine grease, so I will re-purpose it as a foot balm with cotton socks for overnight softness.

Now in contrast to the pics above, check out the shine from doing semi-mini-twists using KCCC - Kinky-Curly Curling Custard. Holla!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grease: Twist out results

I had no idea my new tub of grease was such a vintage staple. Though my first introduction to Three Flowers Brilliantine happened yesterday by chance at Wal-Mart, apparently it's an old-faithful product line with nearly a hundred years on shelves internationally, particularly in Hispanic/Latino communities:

Three Flowers was launched in 1915 by the American perfumer, Richard Hudnut.  Three Flowers was also known as Tres Flores in Spanish speaking countries.

Three Flowers was a complete line of toiletries and by 1964 the fragrance was available in perfume, cologne, brilliantine in both liquid and solid, after bath dusting powder, face powder, talcum powder, cream hair dressing and conditioner, cleansing cold cream, vanishing cream, tissue cream, lipstick, rouge, and cream. (Source website)

My results from the first grease twist out were good, as you can see on the video. I still get better twist-out definition from Curls by Sisters Smith Curly Pudding, but the softness of using grease as a sealant -- this is what makes it a winner for me. Plus, I don't care as much as I used to about curl definition. Explode that curl, sculpt your hair!

Some say grease isn't recommended for fine hair, but I think it depends on what kind of grease you get, how you use it, and the viscosity and weight of it. TFB is light-weight and slick, and a little goes quite a long way. Another thing I noticed while putting the twists in (on lightly misted damp hair, of course) was how the tangles I did have just melted away in my fingertips. Wow, now I can see why Mom used it so consistently.

*Hanging my head in shame* I have officially unlearned my lesson, the one I picked up from years of looking at hair blogs, fotkis, and YTubers. I thought the best approach for me to take was avoiding the stuff I used when my hair was relaxed, and even the stuff my sweet mom used on my hair when I was a kid, but I admit I was incorrect. Petrolatum is not the devil. But there is a right way and a wrong way to apply it.

Here's an article about how to use grease, some videos by someone who tested it in her hair for a month, and (just in case you've been under the rock with me, lol) CurlyNikki's post about her new-found admiration for it.

For those of you who knew about this grease thing all along, thank you for gracefully holding back your "I told you so, you fancy-pants newbie natural!" I still don't think I'll ever go back to the Pink Lotion, but I also never thought I would use grease, so... ?

Hair Grease?

In 14 or so years of wearing my hair in its natural state, here are some things I've learned:
  • My mane is thick (a great number of hairs on my head) and fine (individual strands are slender).
  • My hair is porous. It drinks water and water-based products like people guzzle sweet tea in NC.
  • It's prone to dryness and breakage without (a) enough moisture, (b) a proper sealant and (c) topical protein on a consistent basis.
  • The most effective protein treatments for me are often straight from my fridge -- yogurt, mayo, egg, etc. Henna is so-so, but I'll keep trying, plus I like the reddish color.
  • Combing doesn't work as well as finger detangling for me. It doesn't matter if my hair is soaking wet with conditioner or just damp. Fingers work better.
  • The best oils/sealants for me thus far are olive oil, grapeseed oil and shea butter, but they must be used sparingly and never on dry hair.
  • Straight shea butter creates build up. For me it's more effective a whipped/blended state with aloe, for example.
But what about hair grease?  Until recently, I haven't put much effort into re-visiting the things Mom used on my hair when I was a kid, but blog posts and YT videos over the past several months have piqued my interest. There's no shortage of stories out there about women having great success with minimal products + plain ol' hair grease -- Dax, Royal Crown and such. The argument still is and continues to be "do what works best for you."  

But wait... what really is "best?" The ingredients in grease aren't healthy, or at least that's what I've heard/read over the past several years. Petroleum by-product ingredients and cheap fillers clog hair follicles, are carcinogenic and will cause your thighs to double in size overnight... right?  Hmmm. Maybe.  

But perhaps it's also a more effective and less expensive sealant. Maybe it handles heat styling better than those bottles of CHI. I mean, Mom used to apply grease before searing my hair straight with the hot comb off the stove. As much as I hated it as a kid, looking back at the pics all I see are ropes of long, thick healthy hair. Back then I was concerned about reverting (of course I didn't call it that as a kid), because it meant I couldn't go swimming. I couldn't sweat my straight hair out, and I didn't want to have to go through the hot comb business any more than necessary. I didn't start having scalp issues until relaxers came into play. After relaxers, my scalp flaked and itched all the time.

All other things taken into account -- aging, environment, different techniques -- something about good ol' fashion hair grease is mysteriously appealing. Appealing enough for me to (finally) give it a shot as a natural-haired adult.

For more on my foray back to grease, including a mini-meltdown, check out this recent video.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Natural Beauty: Maria

Maria is one of many making the Triangle's natural hair scene so rich. We met at a Christian spoken word event in Durham a few years ago, and then I saw her growing portfolio of hair pics on FB -- so dynamic with the styles. Maria, thanks for sharing your story!  :-)

The lovely Maria
1) What lessons did you learn about hair/beauty when you were younger? 

            “Your hair is your glory!” Those 5 words were ingrained in my brain at an early age. My mother was adamant that women should have loooong hair! My hair was long, but it was always (and I mean ALWAYS) swoll! It wouldn’t stay straight if my life depended on it. My relaxers didn’t seem to ever “take” which resulted in a nice hot straightening comb being added to the mix. I would get a relaxer almost every 4 weeks as a result of trying to “tame” my hair. It’s a miracle that I kept ANY hair on my head. HA! Needless to say, I had MANY hair challenges. I wanted it to be silky straight and it WOULD be for about a good week.
            My hair was such a challenge that I used to keep one of those portable thermacell curling irons to curl my bangs on the school bus because they had started to rebel before I was able to make it to class. It was just so sad J. Everyone always said I had this pretty thick head of hair, but I could barely stand it because it never did what I wanted it to. Can you imagine the frustration of spending countless hours on your hair only for it to look like a puffy mess??? Oh and DON’T SWEAT! Or let it be raining! OMG!  Hair slicked back in a ponytail with some Dax Pomade became my constant companion.
            I was drilled in my head that your hair should be nice and neat, long and straight, so I think it was a “not-so-subconscious” act of rebellion that I chopped it all off when I turned 21. I thought a haircut was best thing that EV-ER happened to me. With enough spritz and gel, my hair was fiercely fabulous and untouchable (literally LOL). My mom almost put me over her knee for a beatdown when I came home from college with about 1.5 inches of hair. She nearly lost it. HA! Definitely an unforgettable moment.

2) How has your perspective about hair/beauty changed over time?
I’d never admit this to my mommy, but I’ve truly come to believe that my hair IS indeed my glory. It’s an extension of who I am as a woman, God’s magnificent creation, fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s my responsibility to be a good steward of the vessel God has given me (mind, body, and soul) and this means treating it with tender loving care.

3) When and how did you decide to go natural?
When it comes to my hair, versatility is a must. I’d done just about everything, including long hair, short hair, fingerwaves, ponytails, etc. The only thing I hadn’t done was rock a natural ‘do. It was something I always wanted to do, but I was stuck on trying to be “silky straight.” Unfortunately, in 2008, I began having issues with immune system that caused my skin to blister. This included my scalp. I felt that it was in the best interest of my health to stop the chemicals. I was unsure what the cause of my autoimmune disorder was, but going natural would be a good place to start the healing process.

Since I’d worn my hair short for 11 years, it was easy for me to transition to natural hair. As it grew, I’d have my stylist cut out the relaxer a little at a time. In the meantime I tried several other styles like kinky or senegalese twists to help me maintain during the times I felt like giving up. Now I’m happy to be healed from the autoimmune disorder and have a head full of naturally curly hair.

4) What three hair products/tools are must-haves for you?
It’s difficult to narrow my “must-haves” down to only 3. I guess I’ll start with my Ecostyle Olive Oil styling gel – I just LOOOOVE it! I use it for my twists, up-dos, wash-n-go, etc, etc, etc. Next would be my paddle brush. I could break into song when I think of my brush. “I need thee! Oh I need thee!” With all this thick hair, it’s very helpful in my detangling process. The final must-have is shea butter…I couldn’t pick just one hair product in particular, BUT, most of the ones I use have shea as their base.

5) Where do you go for natural hair inspiration or advice?
YOU-TUBE and GOOGLE!!! These websites are my main source for hairstyles and product reviews. Other major sources of inspiration are my friends. Several of my friends are natural and have gone through the tests and trials of finding the right products for their hair. It’s helpful to be able to bounce ideas and recommendations off of each other.

6) What are the best aspects of being natural? The most challenging aspects?
The best aspect of being natural for me is the ability to play in the rain or workout without freaking out about the moisture. I also like the fact that my hair isn’t brittle or over-processed. It’s healthy, strong, and longer than ever. Another great aspect is that I have LOTS of styling options that don’t require heat or spritz. It’s so liberating.

Before going natural, I would use just about any product that would give me the desired result.  The most challenging aspect of being natural is that I must pay attention to the ingredients of the products I use and I may pay more money. I try to stay away from products that have mineral oil or petroleum. Because so many products contain these ingredients, I have to do more research. Find the right products for my grade of hair has been a challenge as well. My bathroom cabinet often looks like a science lab. It is definitely trial and error. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa.

My biggest challenge has been to resist being affected by other people’s perception of my hair. When I first started with about an inch of hair, folks either loved it or HATED it and God has blessed me with friends that don’t mind speaking their minds. In addition, people that don’t even “know me like that” made and still make comments like “I don’t know if I like that,” “Wow your hair is really big!”, or “I like it better the OTHER way”. Let’s just say that it’s been an interesting journeyJ.

Thankfully, though it took me a while, I walk with confidence and the belief that my hair is beautiful and so am I regardless of the style choices I make on a particular day.

7) What's the best compliment you ever received regarding your natural hair/beauty?
“Girl, people pay good money for hair like that!” Hearing those words put a big old’ smile on my face because I have actually been one of those people to PAY good money for hair just like this. As a matter of fact, I still have a few hair pieces stored away somewhere.

8) In closing, please share anything on your mind regarding natural hair.

I have said “DO YOU!” so many times over the past couple of months. As I mentioned before, many of my friends are natural or contemplating the journey. While I listen to their struggles or concerns, I have to admonish them to do what feels good or right for them. Don’t do it because it seems to be fashionable or because somebody said you should or shouldn’t. Do it because it’s what you want to do. If you see the benefits, it’s worth a try.

Going natural is definitely a process! It takes time to adjust especially if you’ve been getting relaxers all your life. This journey requires patience and the ability to persevere because the urge to give up may come tap you on the shoulder.

Honestly speaking, there are those rare times that I just want to cut it all off and slap a perm in it because I admit that I miss the days of just taking off my wrap cap, finger combing, and rolling out! But when I think of all the chemicals that I’m not putting in my body and see the glorious sheen and curl of my natural hair, I put the thought in the trash can of my memories and relish in the fact that I made the best decision for me, myself, and I.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chicago, Charlotte and Cali in 3 Weeks

Finally, it's the end of October. *Whew!*  Happy birthday to my brother Aaron, who made his grand entrance some 30-eh years ago, just as Dad was about to take me trick-or-treating. I ended up doing the candy hunt with the next door neighbors. The next morning, I had a brand spanking new baby brother.

I love you, Aar-Bear!
circa 1982

What a crazy-busy month full of wonderful moments. First stop, Chicago, where I had the pleasure of sharing an hour with one of my fave bloggers, the lovely Patrice, aka Afrobella. Ta-dahhhh!

Chicago - October 12, 2011
Back in August, Bella held a sweet giveaway on her blog, offering up her Asus netbook to one of her longtime readers and (gasp) she picked me. Since I was headed to Chicago anyway for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Conference, we agreed to meet in-person. On her recommendation, we visited the Chi Bakery, which is an unassuming little place in the middle of a quiet block... but aren't unassuming little places often the most fun? By the way, the lemon cupcakes and red velvet cookies melted into oblivion in my mouth. Very nice treats! We chatted for about an hour, and I must say -- Patrice is just as kind and professional IRL as she is in on her blog, and I respect and admire her approach toward developing her personal brand. Bella, thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me and for the wonderful gifts.

The weather was unseasonably warm that week in Chicago. No offense to all my NYC buddies, but the Chicago skyline is so impressive. My coworkers and I took a water taxi to the Sears Tower and took pics at the top:

Then my sweet hubs whisked me away for a long weekend in Charlotte, NC. We visited the Jerald Melberg Gallery to view the works of NC native artist Romare Bearden. You might remember seeing some of his art on the Cosby Show. They're selling his originals, including one for $1.8 million, you know, just in case you have a little art money to spare. His collages are bold and beautiful.

We also visited the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, NC, about 40 minutes from downtown Charlotte, soul food restaurant Mert's Heart and Soul (it was soooo good!), and of course how could we pass up a stop at IKEA.

Last stop for the month of October -- Anaheim, CA, for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Conference. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time for sightseeing in Anaheim, but the weather was beautiful and the people I met around town were friendly. I look forward to going back with Charles so we can take a drive down the coastline.

Went for a jog beneath the palm trees at sunrise...

I also experienced Lush for the first time at the Anaheim Gardenwalk outdoor mall. Based on some reviews I've seen around the net, I'm a bit skeptical on the hair products, but decided to pick up the Godiva shampoo bar and the Wiccy Magic Muscles massage bar for the hubster. It contains cinnamon and smells just right for the fall/winter season. And my husband really, really likes it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Artsy Blog: Alisa Burke

Not much time to blog right now, but wanted to give a quick plug for an artist blog I came across recently. I think I posted about it on FB already:

She has a lot of painting and no-sew projects (YES! because I do not know how to sew... yet). 

Why carve, taking the risk of bleeding on the pumpkin, when you could simply paint the pumpkin? And in an ikat or Missoni print, maybe you can bring it inside and enjoy it through Thanksgiving. Check out her blog for more cool ideas.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Natural Beauty: Amy

I'm so excited about my first Natural Beauty interview. What better way to start than with my sister, Amy!

In Wrightsville Beach, NC
September 2011
What lessons did you learn about hair and beauty when you were a child?
Growing up I remember wanting what I didn't have; the straight flowy hair like my barbies and the girls at my predominately white school/neighborhood had. I would constantly ask my mom, to the point where I think I exasperated her, to tell me what color skin I had and expecting, wanting…maybe even pressuring her to tell me "golden brown"…not black and not just brown it had to be golden brown…and why I couldn't have hair like theirs. There are pictures of me with really long hair when I was 5/6 years old, and that was my natural hair pressed. What's funny is that I don't remember having that long hair at that age but I do remember when it all got cut off because I was devastated! Mom eventually took me to get a perm so that it was easier for her to take care of, and I believe that is what broke my hair off from being really long to really short...I felt robbed. I felt very ugly growing up.

August 2009

How has your perspective about hair and beauty changed over time? 
My perspective has done a complete 180 ever since I quit relaxing my hair in 2009. For years I did the weaves and extensions and spent (I say spent...I feel more like I wasted) time and money in the salon and it got to the point in 2009 that I finally got sick of I was just done. How many more times was I going to make an appointment, show up only to have to sit and wait an hour or two or three until the hairstylist was finally ready to see me, and then spend another 3 or 4 hours getting my hair done while she was also trying to finish up or squeeze in clients in between! Then she’d bump the ends of my hair even though I said I didn't want them bumped but she'd insist on doing it anyways and I'd just go along with it because at that point I was just ready to get out of there. So I'd get home or in my car away from the salon and be fixing it a way that I really wanted and here I just spent all this money and time! Then I'd worry about sweating out my perm or messing up my hair…so for me, just about every salon visit was a very unsatisfying, uncomfortable experience all around. Ultimately, I was sick of spending so much time getting my hair done. I realized I wanted to be doing other things with my time.
You introduced me to Curly Nikki and BGLH shortly after I decided to quit relaxing and that's when my perspective on beauty started to change. That was the first time I saw African-American beauty being celebrated and honored and I was like a sponge soaking it all in...all the pictures, styles, tutorials, products and clothes (OMG the clothes, the style!). It was overwhelming yes, but I welcomed it all.
I see so much more beauty in our culture and myself now than I ever have before and I am incredibly thankful for this change in perspective. It has really helped me to grow as a person.
When and how did you decide to go natural? 
When I decided to quit relaxing, I didn't have a plan and I wasn't ready to embrace my natural texture yet, so up until the time I decided I was going to loc my hair I just maintained it on my own. I would wash it, condition it, use my flat iron and I bought some clip in extensions from Sally's or wore clip in extensions I made myself using left over hair I had purchased before for weaves so I could still get that length I liked. Then I started wearing wigs...the cheap ones at that. At some point I remember discussing my options with you in regards with what to do with my hair and you suggested I consider getting locs because it would fit my lifestyle and personality and that resonated with me. So I started researching locs on nappturality and the net…it took me a while to decide when and how I was going to get them. I got my locs installed in April 2010 via two strand twist extensions (human hair) because at that time, I only had about an inch or two of natural hair and I didn’t want to do the big chop, but I also knew without a doubt I wanted to loc so extensions seemed like a good idea. But they only lasted about 2 months; I think a week after I had them installed two of them had already slipped out and from there more went along with them so I ditched the extensions and went from there.
What three hair products/tools are must-haves for you?
clarifying shampoo
bobby pins - my saving grace for styling
some type of moisturizer - I'm experiencing with leave in conditioners (Oyin's juices, Jane Carter leave in, Oyin shine and define/whipped pudding, Taliah Waajid leave in, hot oil treatments (I don't rinse them out)
Where do you go for natural hair inspiration or advice?
Nappturality's loc forum
You Tube: bronzegoddess01, chescalocs, eloiseTV, barbaydian261, tbey82, qochemist, quotidianlight to name a few. 
I also like blogs: irocklocs, chescalocs, lecoil, lockrocker, queennaturalbeauty, naturallybeautifulhair, naturaleza, thenaturalhaven, flygirls, curlynikki, bglh, dreadenvy, locluv and then there's Loc'd life magazine...
I’m a junkie when it comes to researching natural hair online. I love it.

September 2011
What are the best aspects of being natural? The most challenging aspects?
To me, the best aspect of being natural is the freedom from what society deems is beautiful and what you have to do to look beautiful. You don't have to look European, you don't have to spend gobs of money on services and products to achieve awesome hair and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise you (now) know they are dead wrong! That is so liberating to me. Another positive aspect of being natural is that I’ve become more comfortable in experimenting with fashion, and it’s created another avenue for creativity when it comes to styling my hair on my own, since I don’t go to the salon, and these are things that I didn't realize would come along with the journey. I'm so inspired by the different hair and fashion styles that we put together as everyday's bliss!
The most challenging aspects would be learning about your hair, but I think it's challenging in a fun way with moments of frustration…but to me such is life, there are ups and downs. It does take time to learn about it, to learn to listen to what your hair is telling you rather than hanging on to old methods of taking care of your hair. You have to learn what products work, what techniques work and if you’re going about it on your own then you know…there’s a huge learning curve. And There is definitely a mental transition as well.
What's the best compliment you ever received regarding your natural hair/beauty?
That it fits me, it's thick, and I have nice cheekbones.
In closing, please share anything on your mind regarding natural hair. 
Research! If you’re interested in going natural, there is so much info available to you on the internet it’s ridiculous! At the same time, there IS so much info it can get overwhelming trying to filter through all of the information (and misinformation) and apply it to you and your hair. Understand it’s a process and be patient with yourself and with it. And have fun with it! Yes hair can make a big statement and it can directly affect your confidence, but inner confidence will shine no matter how bad of a hair day you’re having.
And yes you can have locs and work in the corporate world. I work for a major defense contractor…’nuff said.

Amy, thank you so much for sharing your story and being my first interview. I love you, sissypoo, and you are gorgeous!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homemade Mayo Deep Treatment/Detangler

wow, i look sleepy...

I first mentioned my fondness for mayonnaise in my hair in this post about a great twist-and-curl. It's been an ongoing experiment. Well, pull up your rocking chair and a sweet tea, and let me tell you what happened...

I did this mayo + honey + conditioner thing weekly for a month or so, then I took a break from it, though not really on purpose. I really didn't feel like doing a lot of stuff to my hair for two weeks while vacationing in Tobago. So I revisited this treatment yesterday, mostly because my hair seemed dry and brittle, so much that hubby noticed. So upon doing this treatment yesterday, even before shampooing, 'twas as if my fro sighed, smiled and whispered, "Thank you!"

The first thing I noticed after the mayo mix the softness. It was also easy to detangle and, again, little to no hair in the comb or on the shower floor. I figure my hair must have needed the protein. Since mayo is basically eggs and oil, I suppose it's chock full of what my hair needed. It also feels well moisturized and was quite shiny in twists and as a twist-out (I used shea butter for twists yesterday, but in the pics shown here I think I used Curls By Sisters Smith Curly Pudding).

Here's the recipe for a homemade mayo treatment:

- Small bowl
- Spoon (doesn't matter what kind)
- Mayo, full fat, generic or whatever
- Conditioner (I use Suave Coconut)
- Honey
- Shower cap
- Heating cap (optional)

1) In a small bowl, mix four heaping spoonfuls of mayo, two heaping spoonfuls of conditioner, and one spoonful of honey. Stir until blended well.
2) Apply to hair. It's not so important that it gets to your roots. Just make sure your hair is well covered. Massage it in. Use the whole bowlful. Whatever you don't use, personally, I would toss it out.
3) Cover your head with a shower cap and then either sit under a heating cap for at least 30 minutes, or just piddle around the house and let your body heat do the work for an hour or so.
4) Rinse out completely. Follow with a gentle shampoo or co-wash (to take away the scent of mayo). The result is soft, shiny, manageable hair... well, at least that's the result for me.

If you try this, or if you already do something similar to this, I'd love to hear about it. I'm curious about how this might work for locs too (Ames!).

a pic post-mayo

shiny post-mayo twist-out

Unrelated but fun news: because I don't just want to blog about myself, my first natural hair interview is coming soon with a lovely loc'ed sister! And I'm hoping to have another cool interview with a popular natural blogger in October. Thanks for reading and following.

Praise ye the Lord!

Monday, September 26, 2011

For the Foodies: Strawberry Salsa

Despite the fact summer is officially over in the northern hemisphere, it's common in the US to find strawberries well into the cooler months shipped in from warmer climates like Florida and Mexico. While I prefer to eat local and at Mom-n-Pop shops, after finding this yummy little recipe for Strawberry Salsa via I might get tossed into locavore jail.

Check out this fantastic recipe video from DeliciousTV1 (YouTube), which features Savvy, and don't be surprised if you see this at my next dinner party!