Personal Health Journey: Dabbing into Vegetarianism

At the end of December, my husband came to me with the idea of our family going meatless for the month of January (granted at that moment, we have been eating everything from shrimp to ham with chicken in between). When I listened and processed his proposal for our family to kick start a healthier lifestyle in 2014, I was pretty much on board with the concept of abstaining from meat for one month. Ever since my husband and I met years ago, we have strived to be more health conscious and aware of what we put in/on our bodies. Although we have made many undesirable choices in our diet and eating habits, we at least aim to learn more about ways to get back on track toward a healthier eating lifestyle. He and I have learned so much over the years, and I am so blessed to be married to someone who at least wants to strive toward a fitter life.

Throughout the past year, we both have been researching information on the food industry and the prevalence of GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods/plants in a majority of the products we consume (particularly those containing soy and corn). A GMO is essentially an organism whose genetic material has been altered (via mutation, insertion, deletion) using genetic engineering techniques (Wikipedia). Some of the reasons why GMO foods/plants have promoted within the food industry include the following:
  • They have higher resistance to pests and herbicides compared to their natural/organic counterparts
  • They can withstand extreme farming conditions (particularly the frigid/drought environments in second and third world countries)
  • They have increased harvest yield (to aid in reducing world hunger)
  • They have better nutritional value
Sounds very promising with lots of great intents. However, there is a flip side to GMO foods/plants. So much controversy exists today around how the government promotes GMOs as safe and acceptable in our food supply despite researchers claims of how these genetically modified organisms can potentially cause an increase prevalence of cancer, tumors, allergies, gastrointestinal problems, and etc. upon prolonged consumption. I have not found any human studies as of yet on the effects of GMOs on our bodily system, but there are existing studies done on lab rats that show some pretty disturbing effects of GMO consumption. Nevertheless those individuals in support of GMOs claim that the effects of GMOs are very minimal to humans; any study stating otherwise is more likely to be debunked or retracted it seems. At the end of the day, money and politics are two major drivers between the government (FDA, USDA) and biotech companies (ex. Monsanto) and the battle of shedding the truth behind GMOs will be a hard, long one especially for organizations such as Non-GMO Project.

Despite all the manifestations in the war on food quality and consumers' rights (to at least know whether their food is GMO or not through the tough push for US labeling laws), I still have a responsibility as the major chef of my home to be aware of not only my health but my husband's and developing daughter's as well. How my husband feels about our health decisions as a family matters greatly to me and vice versa because our goal as a team is to be the best stewards of our earthly bodies as possible and live as long as it be God's will in great health. With us being eye to eye on this matter, the past month of eating (almost entirely) meatless was not nearly as challenging as I thought it would be even though I did suggest at the beginning of the month that we start off eating 6 days of vegetarian meals with 1 day of meat (preferably organic/non-GMO raised) meals (with veggies and fruits of course!) so it would not feel like we are going into this cold feet and setting shop for failure.

Now that January is completed and we have accomplished our goal, I can say from my experience that vegetarianism is not as far-fetched of idea for me as I once believed. To drive the point further, I have already set in my mind to not eat any meat product but only twice in February at most. I honestly do not miss meat nor do I have a craving for it at all. I ate two little chicken wings from Whole Foods the other day just because it was our "Meat Day" but opted for a black bean burger when we went out to eat (and LOVED it) while my husband devoured a beef burger ( least it was grass-fed! He gets a point for that). 

So many thoughts I would like to share but do not want to drag everything out one single post; I will explain later about my thoughts and experiences from this month and our family's dietary plan going in February.

At this state, I am dancing around making the transition toward becoming a vegetarian. :-)

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Ghana Plaits in a Bun with Side Fringe Hairstyle

The last time I have actually styled with Ghana plaits was back in October as shown in these two posts (First Ghana plait style attempt / Ghana plait piggyback style). Ever since then, African threading has been my choice when it comes to stretching Z's hair before styling into a protective style such as cornrows.

Today, I wanted to revisit African threading/Ghana plaits to style Z's hair in such a way where I did not have to focus on neat parting and designs (hence why I love scalloped parting) but could still put her hair up in a bun.

Z's hair was well moisturized from deep conditioning her hair yesterday. For some time, I have been using the LOC method to help her hair maintain moisture between styles. However, today, I decided to go back and use my trusty modified version of a leave-in conditioner concoction created a few years back by YouTuber, Kimmaytube. This mixture contains my favorite leave-in, Kinky-Curly Knot Today, along with Aloe Vera Juice and Jojoba Oil. I wanted to keep things light since I do not plan on having this style in Z's hair for more than a week (but who knows). The application of this leave-in mix was beautiful--it instantly smoothed out Z's hair and made it easy to part and lightly finger comb through after air drying overnight. This stuff is so predictable in a great way!

To fall in line with our January goals, I wanted to keep her ends protected and particularly off her coats and clothing.  Therefore it was important for me to style her hair in a way that majority of it fits into a bun. After I threaded her entire head, I kept a few plaits out for a side fringe and gathered the rest of her plaits into a ponytail using a cloth elastic band (dipped in oil). I did not snip off any of the threads because I wanted to use them to wrap her plaits in a bun and secure it without using any pins in her hair. 

To accessorize her hair (and to protect the exposed ends of the remaining plaits), I added some Bead Barrettes to the ends after snipping away the excess threads. Instantly, the style was Z approved. :-)

It is amazing how fast Z's hair has grown since her trim/cut back in September (some areas I trimmed about .5 inches whereas other areas I trimmed about 3 inches in order to even things out and have a strong start to her healthy hair journey). Her left side and front areas are about 6.7-7 inches long (eyeballing) whereas the rest of her hair looks to be anywhere between 8-10 inches long. Shrinkage is something else!

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Wash Day

After a few days of loose hair in a twist out and finding specks of lint (and FOOD articles, smh) in Z's hair, it was definitely time for a good cleansing.

Target had a buy one get one half off deal on the Shea Moisture products this week so I decided I wanted to try on Z's hair the African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo to go with the Purification Masque (the deep conditioner from the same African Black Soap line that I recently ran out of). The African Black Soap line targets dry, itchy scalp and related issues and contains tea tree oil (which is known its antifungal/antibacterial properties to help remedy scalp conditions and buildup).

Here is what I did today:
  • Pre-pooed with Coconut oil (Note to self: Use a little more oil on the sections)
    • Lightly finger detangled into several sections and applied oil on dry hair
    • Covered hair in plastic bag for 30 minutes
  • Cleansed hair with African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo
    • Diluted 1 tablespoon (approximately) into 8 oz of warm water in a nozzle bottle to apply on Z's scalp
    • Massaged diluted mixture into scalp
      • It has been so long since I had to lather any shampoo in Z's hair it seems. Initially, there was little lather but once I added more water to her hair, the shampoo had a nice amount of lather.
    • Honestly, as I worked the shampoo in to her hair following massaging her scalp, her hair felt slightly stripped of moisture and matted
      • Could be the nature of the shampoo
      • Could be the nature of the hair cuticles raising slightly from the shampoo 
      • Could be because her hair has been loose for several days
      • Could be the fact I did not use as much coconut oil in her hair from the pre-poo
      • I had to be extra gentle not to tug too hard through her tangles during this step
    • Rinsed shampoo from hair under warm water
  • Deep conditioned hair with Purification Masque
    • Removed excess water from hair using a white t-shirt
    • Generously applied Masque to hair, focusing on the ends
    • Applied a generous layer of coconut oil
    • Put her hair into bantu knots
    • Covered hair with a plastic bag and two knitted hats for 30 minutes
      • With her running around, her hair was nice and warm by the time I removed the hats and bag from her hair
    • Rinsed hair thoroughly with warm water
      • Hair was very soft
      • Was able to detangle her hair easily than before
  • Conditioned hair with Giovanni Smooth as Silk
    • Applied to each section of hair 
    • Used my fingers and modified Denman brush to remove tangles (from tip to root) and shed hairs from her head
    • Her hair was literally like butter at this step
    • Rinsed hair thoroughly with warm water
Her hair felt so plump and moisturized after the entire process was completed. I have started on part of her hair this evening and will finish up her style tomorrow. 

I am going to try the Deep Cleansing Shampoo again on Z's next wash day to see if I feel any difference with her hair after adopting some of the notes I posted within the text above. Nevertheless, her hair feels wonderful and smell wonderful as well. There is truly nothing like a clean and well moisturized head of hair! :-)

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The Three Day Twist Out

This week has been a very easy week for Z's hair. Last week (after completing my yarn wrap endeavor), I decided I did not want to be bogged down in doing another time consuming hairstyle so I simply twisted Z's hair (no pictures, sorry). Monday, I unraveled her twists so she could wear a twist out for a few days. Here is a comparison demonstrating how a twist out can easily revitalize a hairstyle:

In regards to maintenance, I lightly spritz her hair at night and put her bonnet on for bedtime. In the mornings, I fluff up her hair in the areas that were flatten overnight from sleeping.  Here is a side by side comparison of how her hair "expanded" between the first and third days of wearing her twist out:

Even at day three, her hair still has pretty good definition. I love this style on her and cannot wait til the weather gets warmer so she can wear this style more. From looking at her hair, her ends are in great shape from protective styling and moisturizing her hair consistently since her trim last September. Tomorrow, I plan to pre-poo (with Coconut Oil), cleanse, deep condition, and stretch Z's hair (via African threading). I have not decided how I will style her hair although I am toying with the idea of finishing up January with Ghana plaits

Will update soon. :-) 

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Personal Health Journey: Week 1

170. At the beginning of this year, I weighed 170 lbs. Granted I am 5'8 and pear shaped (meaning with the "right" clothing, I can easily appear 10 pounds smaller), but in the grand scheme of things, I am overweight. 

My weight was never a huge deal to me until of course I had my daughter. I gained a whopping 60 pounds throughout my pregnancy and got down to 151-152 for my wedding in 2012. Ever since then, the scale has been slowly creeping upward although there have been quite a bit of yoyo-ing in between.

I would say that enough is enough and that this is it; I am going to embark this journey to a better health and physical lifestyle and never look back! But honestly, I have said it all before. I get hyped, start off strong, and then within the process, my motivation dwindles, my drive comes to a halt, and I eventually level back to where I started--overweight.

I realize that I need to change my mentality when it comes to changing my diet and physical habits. I cannot allow my family, friends, busy schedule, personal doubts, etc deter me from striving toward improving my health. I have to want to the change as much as I want to breathe. I have concluded that am not trying to engage on this journey to look better in my clothes (because that will automatically come) but to challenge myself to prove that I do not have to settle for making poor choices in my diet or (lack of) physical activity. I can do much better (all things through Christ). It is important for me to be a better example for my daughter and encourage her (and others) to take better care of her body especially now since she is watching my every move (and lack of).

I am fully aware that accountability will play a huge factor on my pathway to improving my physical health. One way for me to do this is to document things (food diary, exercise log, mental assessment) so I can see where I am going on my journey. When there are no record of progress, I can easily lose sight of where I came from and how far I have progressed along the way. Ultimately, this oftentimes sets me up for failure...I know this from consistent experience. I have always had better results when I track information down and compare results to see what is working and what needs to be altered to help get me to where I would like to go. The problem is that I need to prioritize my schedule and prayerfully improve on my time management skills. 

Regardless of how many times I have failed, I have definitely learned something valuable from each failure to that can help me become more successful in my quest. Above all, I have been prayerful to God to help me in this endeavor and to keep Him in my plans first.

It is my hope to post weekly about details regarding my physical and diet activity for the week. There is so much I need to work on that it is best for me to take baby steps instead of trying to tackle on big goals. My goal for week one was to just get moving. High Intensity Interval Training is my choice of exercise because it really gets my heart rate up in such a short period of time. When I was doing HIIT last year, I would perform 5 different exercises in a time frame of 20-22 minutes and burn on average 200-230 calories (based on my memory). Since it has been a while since I have worked out, I decided to take it easy to do 3-4 exercises within 17 minutes. Oh, I was feeling it. Heart pounding, heavy breathing, sweat dropping. I am soooo out of shape but I know well enough that it gets easier the more I complete the workout. This is what I don this past week:

Day 1: Tuesday 17 minute HIIT (4 rounds: Push-ups, Mountain Climbers, High Knees) 25sec/45sec(rest/jumping jacks/jogging in place)
Burned ? calories (forgot to use my HR monitor-Polar)

Day 2: Thursday 17 minute HIIT (3 rounds: Squats, Side Mountain Climbers, Tricep Dips, High Knees) 25sec/45sec(rest/jumping jacks/jogging in place) 
Burned 191 calories

Day 3: Saturday 17 minute HIIT (4 rounds: Push-ups, Mountain Climbers, High Knees)
25sec/45sec(rest/jumping jacks/jogging in place) + 1 set of 100 jumping jacks 
Burned 225 calories

My goals for this week include:
  • Repeating the same workouts + completing a set of 100 jumping jacks at the end of each HIIT workout (like I did yesterday). 
  • Shutting off all electronics, books, lights out by midnight at the latest every night.  Preferably I would like to be in bed with light outs by 11pm. My body needs enough rest to function plus sleep is excellent in managing my stress and anxiety the next day.
  • Drink 8 cups of water each day.

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I am Not the One to Post About Celebrities (and Their Kids) But OMG: Blue Ivy's Hair

It is disturbing to me the type of comments I have read following a post on a blog I frequent about Beyonce's and Jay Z's daughter Blue Ivy and her "susposedly" unkempt hair in the above photo. Upon doing a further search to find a photo on Google Image Search (which further drives the point), I came across so many other articles with more negative comments such as:
"Have they ever heard of a comb and moisturizer?"
"Beyonce can afford top dollar weaves but not invest in her daughter's hair."
"That hair is a hot dry mess."
"Her parents should be a shame of themselves for letting Blue Ivy out in public looking like this."
"Beyonce is so lazy."
Is this the type of thoughts that run through some other women's heads when they see Z playing outside in all her frizzy glory smiling, laughing, and being a typical preschooler? Not that any of those thoughts would deter me because I know how I handle her hair and I have realistic expectations when it comes to natural hair period at her age. But still. Blue Ivy is only two and this picture is only one snapshot out of the many that are continuously being played out second by second. 
Scanning through some of the comments harshly criticizing the state of Blue Ivy's hair on her second birthday, I had several thoughts going on in my mind:
  1. "What in the world??? This is a child like many other natural hair children out there."
  2. "Her hair is just fine for a two year. Period. What is the big deal?" 
  3. "So what if Beyonce did not put a comb and oil to her hair. This does not sum up the outcome of Blue's natural hair care and its health or even Beyonce's capability to properly care for her daughter's hair."
  4. "Geesh! It took me years before figuring a lot out about my hair and my daughter's."
But of course, according to the First Amendment, we all are entitled to our own opinions (and obviously opinions to other people's I just could not help to notice however how warped our thinking can get over such small matters (similar to the hair controversy over Gabby Douglas' hair when she JUST won two Olympic gold medals! smh) while at the same time missing on the greater points of life.

It is often perplexing how others can judge someone else's hair let alone a two year old child as if they have always keep their (and/or their child(ren)) hair sleek, shiny, moisturized, "did" up, and etc especially without knowing (or even considering) the other side of the story. First off, what if Beyonce did moisturize her daughter's hair: not all natural hair types result in a shiny appearance even after adequate moisturizing and that is perfectly fine. Secondly, not all parents choose to use gel on their child's edges to keep them down or create curls neither do they desire to combat friz by redoing a hairstyle everyday (and that is fine too if that's their preference). I feel that we should be respectful toward each other as it regards to our hair care and our children's. 
My daughter's hair may go a few days before the frizz factor kicks in, but at the end of the day, that is what natural hair naturally does. It curls its own way, it flies its own way, it lays it own way. It is amazing that at the two (or even three) week mark of a protective style, Z would still receive compliments of how nice her hair is from people inside and outside our race. It makes her feel good which makes me feel good because it is my desire to instill inside her that she is beautiful regardless of what her hair may look like on any particular day. Many of us know how unpredictable our hair can be even when we had the best intentions or even when mother nature (wind and rain) decides for our hair to be big and poofy for the day.
But given that Beyonce is Beyonce and the naysayers will continue to nay, you just have to push aside the negative comments and just enjoy life. I believe Blue Ivy's hair looks perfectly acceptable and adorable and well into reason for a two year girl.
Quite frankly, I actually like Z's hairstyles as it has "aged" some with a little frizz. It fits her overall personality of being active and a little rugged around the edges (she's tough) while promoting a relaxed and easy-going look instead of always being concerned whether or not a tumble on the floor displaced a curl or created extra fly-a-ways. My four year old does not have time for that. :-)

So, as far as Blue Ivy's hair care goes...Bow down people. 

Ok, just joking (I thought it was funny in my head). 

What's your perspective about the situation?

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Keeping it Simple: Styling Yarn Wraps

Beautifully Curled: Styling Yarn Wraps

My husband teased me the other day saying "You said you always wanted locs when you turned 30 and now you have them." Although I love my yarn wraps the more they "age" and can totally see myself growing locs ONE day, I am glad these are removable. I am definitely not ready for a permanent change to my hair at this stage in my life. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with faking it and enjoying every minute of it. Oh, the vanities of life!

Let me take a moment to be honest. I have not been doing anything extravagant to my hair in terms of styling. All I truly want to do is wear high buns most 85 percent of the time. Yes, really. I told my husband why it did not click in my head to wear high buns when I had mid-back length natural hair years back but I guess they were not as popular back then...I do not know. What I do know is that I am loving them so much except when my bun hits the roof of the car as I get in and out...grrr. I digress.

I have played around with a few simple and quick styles and recreated them below:
Beautifully Curled: Styling Options with Yarn Wraps

My trusty look so far:

Beautifully Curled: The Basic High Bun using Yarn Wraps

And for a little extra flare, I like to add a Pompadour to my bun style:

Beautifully Curled: Simple Bun and Pompadour Style

I also switch up the regular bun into a donut bun from time to time and truly appreciate the fact that no hair pins are needed to secure the bun into place. :-)

Although I have not been wearing the wraps entirely down as much, I am glad I parted the front of my head in a manner where I have the option of wearing the wraps down in different positions:

Beautifully Curled: Parting Options with Yarn Wraps

Overall, I like the simplicity these yarn wraps have brought so far. I will probably play with a few new styles as time goes on, but I certainly do not plan to be in the mirror for over 15 minutes styling my wraps. I am all for up and go styles especially now I have started to consistently workout (okay, has only been two days of working out but at least it is a start!). :-)

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Yarn Wraps/Faux Locs/Genie Locs FAQ and Tips

Beautifully Curled: Yarn Wraps FAQs & Tips

{updated 3/18/2015: check out my ultimate yarn wrap guide posted here}

How was my hair prepped before installation?

What kind of yarn was used?
Note: Only use 100% Acrylic Yarn when doing this style. Using wool yarn will loc your hair (based on information I gathered from YouTube tutorials I watched during my research and not from personal experience). One brand I have noticed that is commonly used by many women is the Red Heart Brand. I did not use the Red Heart Brand because it seemed really black compared to my natural hair; the Caron black yarn is slightly off-black with a little sheen--more like my own natural hair:

Beautifully Curled: Type of Yarn for Yarn Wraps
Red Heart Black (left) and Caron Simply Soft Black (right).
Tip: Buy your yarn from Michael's craft store and use the 40-50% coupon on your yarn to save a few dollars. I bought 3 bundles of yarn (4 oz) and saved over $5 just by using the coupons (available to scan via smartphone).

How long was each individual yarn string?
34.5 inches long. I am 5'8 and my yarn wraps came out to APL (Arm Pit Length) in the back.

Tip: Instead of cutting individual pieces of yarn, wrap all the yarn around two chair legs (or table legs) and cut straight down the middle on one side to create a bundle of equal length strings. This process only took 10-15 minutes tops and was a huge time saver!

Beautifully Curled: Quick Method for Cutting Yarn for Yarn Wraps

How much yarn was used to complete installation?
Each bundle had 4 oz of yarn. I used approximately 10 oz of yarn. My hair is pretty dense especially at my crown.

How was the ends sealed?
Initially, I tied two knots at the end of the wrap before cutting the excess strings beyond the knot and burning the knot to seal the wrap. Eventually I got lazy and went down to tying just one knot. During the final 6 hours of wrapping, I was so over with the entire knotting process and decided to just hold the lighter at the point where I wanted to end the wrap and allowing the heat to melt the yarn straight through thus separating the end of the wrap from the excess strings. I then clipped the burnt ends to create a blunt ("neater") look. Kind of hard to explain. I just know that doing it this way shaved off a significant portion of time (and lots of frustration) that would have been spent tying multiple little knots. 

How long was the complete installation process?
About 24 hours over a 5 day spread. This did not include hair prep before installing yarn wraps nor the yarn cutting process. Due to the fact that my hair is 2 inches long (except in the front perimeter of my head), I had some difficulty starting off the wrap closely to my scalp while I was working on the back portion of my head. My arms were in awkward positions (and became tired often) and many times I had to redo several of the wraps due to slippage. Also with my hair being short, I had to do smaller sections than initially planned to make sure I was able to securely wrap the yarn around my hair to reduce the chance of slippage over time.

Tip: Start with the perimeter of your head and move inward toward the crown. By completing the perimeter of my head first (at least 4-5 rows in), I was able to manipulate the wraps into different styles that could be worn outside the home even though the crown was incomplete.

How long do I plan to keep the yarn wraps installed?
8 weeks is the planned timeframe at the moment.

Does the wraps loosen over time?
Yes, it has been almost 2 weeks since I have first installed the wraps. Initially, the wraps were stiff but over time, they have relaxed significantly. So far, I have not experienced any complete (or anywhere close to complete) unraveling of the wraps but only time will tell. I am assuming that with greater manipulation of the wraps comes the increased likelihood of loosening. Honestly, I like them a ton more now they are loose and hang down more like locs.

Have I experienced any slippage of the wraps?
My hair is short overall as mentioned before so there was a great concern about making sure I can get the wraps started as close to my scalp without pulling too tight. After assessing my hair, I have noticed several wraps have slipped some, which could be caused by a number of factors: not starting wrap close to scalp due to awkward hand positioning while installing, hair growth, and/or loosening of the wrap as stated in previous question. Quite frankly, I have not had any major issues with the slight slippage especially in the middle section of my head, but I do plan to redo the perimeter of my head anywhere between 3-4 weeks to refreshen the style. In addition, I make sure I am not creating any extra tension on my hair (particularly my edges) when I put the yarn wraps into buns and ponytails.

What is my moisturizing routine?
I spritz my hair/yarn wraps every other day or two with my homemade moisturizing spray. I do not want to add lots of product in my hair especially since I am planning to thoroughly cleanse my scalp once while the yarn wraps are installed. I focus primarily on the first 2-5 inches of the wraps (starting from the root of my head). The yarn absorbs the spritz wonderfully (of course!). From what I have researched, the hair stays quite moisturized within the wraps. Got to love protective styling!

How do I plan to cleanse my hair?
I am still considering options. Some women have actually soaked their entire wraps under water to cleanse their hair/scalp. This results in very heavy wraps that can take over a day to completely dry. I am put off by this method because (1) it is too cold for me to have my hair drenched in water especially overnight, (2) I want to avoid any unnecessary slippage of the wraps due to the heavy weight of the wraps post wash since my hair is not very long as is, and (3) I am truly only concerned about my scalp. I was pondering doing some type of rinse over my scalp only (with the yarn wraps separated into several sections for ease of assess to scalp) such as apple cider vinegar and possibly using aloe vera juice as a follow up. Eh, I just do not know right now, but I will update this section once I figure out what I am going to do exactly.

What is my night time routine?
I put the wraps into a bun (if they are not already in one) and cover the bun with my satin bonnet while wrapping the edges with a satin cloth.

Has there been any issues thus far?
It has been forever (since 2005) since I have had any extensions (microbraids at the time) but having these yarn wraps sharply brought to remembrance the itchy scalp issue that occurs when I wear extensions. Spraying with my homemade moisturizing spritz has helped relieve the itching temporarily, but I am looking into possibly creating an oil mixture using Extra Virgin Olive Oil (base/carrier oil) and peppermint,  lavender, and rosemary essential oils (from Whole Foods) to test if this mix will aid in alleviating the itchiness and dryness over an extended period of time. Using tea tree oil is another idea.

What has been my favorite style?
The high bun. I cannot deny it. It was the motivation that led me to try out the yarn wraps. :-) Check out some of my other styles HERE.

If there are any other questions I did not address please feel free to ask them below in the comment section, and I will be sure to answer them for you.

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Finished Installing Yarn Wraps/Faux Locs/Genie Locs

Yarn Wraps/Genie Locs/Faux Locs

Praise God I am done! Over a 5 day spread working from the outside in, I am finally able to celebrate with a full night of rest tonight. :-) I love, love, love these wraps and look forward to wearing them into different styles over the next 2 months I plan to keep the wraps. 

Yarn Wraps/Genie Locs/Faux Locs

I am working on an FAQ/Tips (click the link) post to explain more information about my first experience installing the yarn wraps. Hopefully I will have that complete to post next week with all the deets! :-)

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Z's Wash Day

It has almost been 3 weeks since a last washed Z's hair, and it was definitely quite a detangling session! The details:

  • Deep Conditioned: Applied Shea Moisture Organic Black Soap Purification Masque (used the last ounce today) and Coconut Oil to dry hair before lightly misting with homemade moisturizing spray
    • Did not remove style yet
    • Focused on the ends and scalp
    • Covered her hair with the "conditioning" cap (pictured above) I impulsively grabbed at Dollar Tree 
      • Such a flop!!! After 30 minutes, there was no heat generated from the cap so I grabbed my trusted grocery bag and placed it over her hair before covering it with the "conditioning" cap for another 15 minutes.
        • Worked much better. Think the cap had too much open space underneath to accumulate any heat. Will not purchase another one.
    • Removed hair style
  • Cleansed: Did a baking soda rinse (1 tablespoon per 8 ounce of warm water)
    • Used a nozzle bottle for application to scalp only
    • Focused on massaging her scalp to remove dead skin, dirt, and debris
    • Her hair did not lather like mine did after the baking soda rinse (still have to look into this)
    • Rinsed hair
  • Conditioned: Applied a generous amount of Giovanni Smooth as Silk Conditioner to her hair
    • Detangled hair in sections
      • Added Extra Virgin Olive Oil to her ends for extra slippage
      • 3 weeks of not detangling hair in twists made it a little more challenging to finger detangle her hair in 4 sections. I ended up with 9 smaller sections to ensure I removed all tangles and loose hairs
      • Finger detangled before using wide tooth comb through hair (going from tip to root)
      • Ran through each section with modified denman brush to remove loose hairs
      • Twisted each section to prevent retangling of hair
    • Rinsed hair
  • Did a final rinse with Apple Cider Vinergar (1 tablespoon per 8 ounce of warm water)
    • Did not rinse out the ACV (smell disappears as hair dries)
  • Applied Coconut Oil and Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie (LOC Method) to hair it had air dried for an hour (aka while eating dinner)
  • Stretched: Threaded hair in 8 sections to air dry overnight in prep for styling tomorrow.
Note: The amount of shedding was not overly drastic. It was as expected after almost 3 weeks of no comb in hair. Z's had a pretty good amount of hair growth over the past 3 weeks. It seems that her hair hits around the 0.5 inches/month growth rate.

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Halfway Done with My Yarn Wraps

OMG. These yarn wraps are taking F.O.R.E.V.E.R. I am halfway done and 10 hours down. They are not perfect but I do like them so far. I am starting from the perimeter of my head in. Hopefully by Thursday I will be done.

Just a quick update. Must get right back to it for a more couple of hours.

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Wash Day

Last night:
  • Cleansed scalp with baking soda rinse (1 tablespoon per 8 ounce)
    • Definitely experienced lots of lather as time passed when I massaged my scalp
      • This could be triggered by something acidic on my hair/scalp
        • Sebum: Natural oils produced from scalp which is slightly acidic
        • Hair products: Aloe Vera Juice is acidic
    • Initially made my hair feel smooth but then my ends started to tangle
      • This could be triggered by the fact the pH of baking soda causes the cuticles to lift
    • Hair felt "stripped" once the baking soda was rinsed out
      • Maybe be a reason contributing to the baking soda's clarifying property
    • Scalp had no residue
  • Deep Conditioned with Shea Moisture Organic Black Soap Purification Masque
    • Immediately my hair felt smooth and soft again
    • Applied Coconut Oil on top of Masque
    • Covered hair with plastic bag and deep conditioned overnight
      • Side note: I have read an article on from a guest blogger stating that overnight deep conditioning maybe be an overkill because the hair can only absorb but so much. Hmmm, may be some truth to this theory. Nevertheless, I had no desire to wait an extra 30 minutes to rinse out the conditioner. I called it a night.
  • Rinsed deep conditioner from hair
  • Conditioned hair with Giovanni Smooth as Silk Conditioner
  • Rinsed hair with Apple Cider Vinegar rinse (1 tablespoon per 8 ounce)
    • Did not rinse out the ACV (smell disappears as hair dries)
  • Applied Coconut Oil and Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothing (LOC Method)
  • All set to start the installation process for the yarn loc/wraps

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December Assessments/January Goals

Last month was my first month setting monthly hair goals for Z, and after reflecting back on December, I can truly say that everything pretty much went as expected. My overall goal for our hair care throughout the winter season is to keep our regimen/routine as simple as possible while focusing on optimal moisture retention and protection of our hair against the dry and cold weather. One of our biggest issues with Z's hair has been dry, itchy, and flaky scalp. Assessing her scalp over the course of the month and following through with my consistent moisturizing efforts, I am happy to report that her scalp has significantly less flakes. I believe this is primarily due to the fact I have been oiling it with coconut oil. I will be continuing the practice of oiling her scalp every time I put in a new style to help alleviate Z's scalp issues.

My goals for Z this month are pretty much similar to last month's:
  1. Clarify Z's scalp by doing a mild Baking Soda rinse (1 Tablespoon of Baking Soda per cup of warm distilled water).
    • Last month was our first time implementing this rinse. Although I did not have any complaints about the rinse as far as noticing any ill effects such as extra dryness of the hair, I have not come to a definitive conclusion as to whether we should keep this rinse in Z's cleansing regimen. Therefore, I will try it again this month to see how well the rinse cleanses her scalp after removing her current style later this week.
  2. Deep condition Z's hair bi-weekly using Shea Moisture African Black Soap Purification Masque and Coconut oil as described in this post.
    • I plan to do an overnight 30 minute deep conditioning treatment following the Baking Soda rinse
  3. Co-wash her hair with Giovanni Smooth as Silk Conditioner following the deep conditioning
    • After rinsing the conditioner, I plan to do an ACV rinse (1 Tablespoon per cup)
  4. Style her hair into 2 sets of protective updo styles lasting approximately 2 weeks each. 
  5. Use our homemade moisturizing spritz on her hair regularly to restore moisture as necessary.
  6. Continue using the LOC method this month as it seems to be doing a good job keeping her hair moisturized.
As far as my hair goes, it has grown long enough that I am now required to give it a little more attention than I have before. I did set a small baggy challenge at the end of last month, but unfortunately, I did not follow through after the first week. With so much traveling going on, I just was not focused on my hair or the challenge like I intended. I did co-wash my hair at least once/twice per week and applied a leave-in, oil, and cream. I am still up in the air about whether my hair responds better to the LOC method or the LCO method. I will stick with LOC for a few months before coming to a final conclusion.

Since I have decided to grow my hair out, I really desire to focus on protective styling this winter (and this year). I know from experience that keeping my hair in a protective mode (and under very low manipulation) greatly minimizes breakage at the ends and maximizes my overall length retention. For the past 6 months, I have been wearing nothing but my wig, and honestly, I am tired of it! I am ready for a new look...anything other than a wig.

I have been looking at some options online and came across this look:

Seriously. I love this look! I cannot believe this was achieved using yarn. I have seen other pictures of yarn braids/genie locs a few months ago on the Chocolate Hair and Vanilla Care blog but never considered back then about trying the style on myself (plus I had less than an inch of hair on my head at the time as well). I have watched several YouTube videos yesterday to get the gist of how to achieve this look, and I found the video, Yarn Locs Tutorial by ForeverRikk, most helpful in breaking down the process and giving me the boost to proceed with the yarn extensions.

I am aware from these videos that I need to be prepared to give up a good 15-20 hours of my time installing them myself. I figure I will start tomorrow night and finish my head over the course of 2-3 days after putting Z to bed. I will see how this process goes. Nevertheless, my hope is to be completely done by Wednesday. Once installed, I would like to keep them in for 6-8 weeks, redoing the front, edges, and back as needed. I am super excited about this style especially since I did a few practice locs to determine how long and thick I would like them to be.  I will post more about my process and plans for this protective style in the next post.

What are your hair goals/plans for the month? The year?

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Happy New Year! So Glad to Be Back Home

Z and all of her duck lip(ness). :-)

Within the last 2 weeks, my family has traveled up and down the east coast. We went from enjoying a nice mild(er) Christmas in SC to cozy(ing) it up during a very cold New Years in NJ (and thankfully missing a brutal snow storm upon returning back home to NC). It is always nice to go on an extended vacay to visit family and to get away from the responsibilities and realities back home, but it is just as nice to return to familiar territory, personal space, and high speed internet. :-) 

So my Happy New Year posting is a few days late, but better than later is what they say, right? I hope everyone rang in the New Year on a very positive and motivating note. As a custom, millions of individuals put careful and profound thought into new year resolutions and vision boards in which more often than not, go broken or fade off into lost sight, respectively. For 2014, I am approaching things a little differently.

I have decided not to focus on setting concrete/tangible resolutions such as losing 20 pounds this year or going completely organic and etc. Instead, my focus this year will be more internal.

In order to externally be the best Kristal I am destined to be in this lifetime, I must learn to love myself from within as God loves me. God sees past my flaws and shortfalls with tender love, and He has the desire for me to do the same as well. In dwelling in this level of love continuously, all other external goals/resolutions/plans will come through as a result of having a better mindset of who I am and Who my Provider of all things through love, grace, and mercy is. 

As stated these two recent posts (post 1, post 2), I am striving this year to leave the baggage of my past behind just as Christ has done for me on the cross. I am tired of being held back by my what ifs, what could have beens, and what should have beens. My thoughts can be so debilitating and paralyzing and that way of thinking is simply not of God but of the devil. This year, I am going to love myself more so I can appreciate how short and precious life is; in all life's many lessons, knowing that each lesson is not designed for me to dwell on a dead past but to grow toward a better future.

So these year, I will direct my focus around themes to think AND live by each and every day:
  • Theme in 3 words: Honesty, Love, Peace
  • Theme scriptures:
    • Psalm 139
    • For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11 KJV)
    • Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8 KJV) 
  • Theme song: Video by India Arie
With no concrete resolutions, I do not have to stress about falling off the wagon by February. Instead I can just focus striving to move forward even when my plans and goals do not pan out the way I envision. As long as Christ is my centerpiece, I cannot do anything other than to move forward according the God's will. 

Did you set any resolutions this year? If not, why?
What is the source of your motivation to make 2014 the best year yet?

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Deal Alert on Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Organic Coconut Oil

For my daughter and me, coconut oil is one of our staple products not only for our hair but our skin as well. Coconut oil has so many benefits as listed in the previous post that it is no doubt (for us) far superior over other oils for our hair and skin needs.

Since we (including my husband) use so much of this oil, restocking can be quite pricey for the budget savvy shopper (me). I ordered 5 jars (yes FIVE) earlier this year from for a great deal in addition to using some gift certificates I had available at the time. I believe I was able to come out to about $5 per 15 oz jar of Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. Now that we are on our very last jar ::insert sad face::, I knew I had to start looking up some places to order some more coconut oil at decent prices. I looked on and found the cheapest offer for a 15 oz jar at $7.16 ($6.80 Subscribe & Save customers). Not terribly bad I guess, but I really do not like having to buy enough jars to qualify for free shipping on Amazon.

Then the most amazing thing happened last week (ok, maybe not that dramatic). I was browsing through the local Trader Joe's and came across this 16 oz glass jar of Organic Virgin (yes certified) Coconut for $5.99.

::Insert Happy Dance::

Ok, so not as great of a deal compared to when I purchased it from but definitely a bargain considering that I do not have to order it online in bulk nor wait several days for it to ship to my home. And for over a $1 worth of savings per jar compared to the Nutiva brand on Amazon, I was elated to purchase two jars of the Trader Joe's brand on the spot and drive back home with my favorite oil on hand. 

I am one happy gal!

I have not opened the jar yet to do a comparison but believe me, it will be opened soon. Hopefully the Trader Joe's brand will be everything I expect out of my coconut oil; I feel it is pretty hard to go wrong when it comes to this awesome oil.

Hope this excites someone else as much as it was for me! Share the wealth and save a few bucks. :-)

Have you tried Trader Joe's Organic Coconut Oil?

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Why Coconut Oil Triumphs Other Oils When It Comes To Our Hair

Benefits of Coconut Oil

Oils are essential in any natural hair regimen due to their sealant properties of locking moisturize inside the hair thus reducing dryness and breakage (aka increasing length retention).

With so many different kinds of oils out there, simply using one or two or a mix is a matter of preference and what one's hair likes. This is the blessing of having unique and versatile hair (or a possible curse to the product junkie out there...j/k).

For our household, there is no doubt that coconut oil is our favorite oil. It holds so many amazing benefits that it can truly be classified as our power oil since we utilize it quite often for our skin, our hair, as a deodorizer, and in our foods; we have not been disappointed yet. In this post, I will list some of the qualities I have researched about this super oil that I have personally experienced as true on just our hair alone:
  1. Coconut Oil, when used as a pre-poo, reduces swelling during washing (over swelling of the hair can weaken the hair and lead to breakage). Since using coconut oil as a part of our newly established pre-poo routine, Z's hair does not feel as limp as it used to prior to not pre-pooing at all, which is important because her hair is already quite fine in texture.
  2. Coconut Oil is a great hair conditioner; it enhances the shine of the hair's surface and increases its softness and pliability. I can definitely vouch for the shine with it comes to using it on my hair.
  3. Coconut Oil provides essential proteins necessary to reduce protein loss and replenish damaged hair (also great for chemically relaxed and high porosity hair). Note: If your hair is protein-sensitive, coconut oil might not be the best option for your hair type and can actually harden the hair texture.
  4. Coconut Oil can easily penetrate the hair shaft due to the low molecular structure of the oil and serves as an effective sealant. The lightness of the oil is another reason that it is a great candidate on my daughter's fine hair texture without weighing it down and making her hair really greasy with buildup when using the LOC method.
  5. Coconut Oil is anti-fungal: massaging/oiling the scalp with coconut oil can help alleviate a dry, itchy, and flaky scalp. In this month alone, I have seen a reduction in the amount of dandruff present on my daughter's scalp after oiling it thoroughly during her styling sessions.

Here are the sources I used to obtain information about the benefits of coconut oil:

Let me not get started on how great coconut oil smells or how silky it makes the skin post shower or how yummy my eggs are when cooked with the oil. Another post for another day perhaps!

Is coconut oil a staple in your product stash?
What is your favorite quality about coconut oil?
How do you primarily use this oil?

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