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!