Monday, July 21, 2014

Creative Gifts

Okay, this is a brag post. I'm showing off some of the creative gifts that my creative niece, Gabby, has been making. You know how you see those Pinterest photos of projects that don't go quite as expected? Well, that's what always happens when I try to make things. My niece is the person who can just see an idea, then she goes off and improves on it.  I can talk her up all day long, but I'll try to let the photos speak for themselves. (I'll try.)

The first time I realized she could transfer her creative skills to edibles... She made this for DJ's first birthday:


And DJ's growing up to LOVE trucks!

Edible rocks & dirt. A kid's dream.

She even put "roadwork" inside


Having a baby? I'll give you onesies & diapers. Gabby will do this, using stuff Mom & Dad need.

Cute, right?

All kinds of useful baby items in this cute bundle

This is a favorite of mine. Airplane.
Bottles, diapers, toys...


She does stuff for the grownups too
Molded edible ornaments

For the game-playing cousin of hers

For her co-workers

With treats inside the treats

Her talents don't end with the gifts. She is going to talk me through making some chairs of my own when I get settled in my new home.


She took a plain set of chairs (left) & put on her spin to match a room decor (right)
Yeah, so, if you want a gift from this family, my feelings won't be hurt if you prefer Gabby's creations.

I'm trying to talk her into doing this as a side business. I mean, on top of her working a full-time job and pursuing her Masters... If you are interested you can connect with her here on Facebook or on Google Plus. Or, you know, me, her favorite auntie!

Peace
--Free

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Time of Waiting

I'm always quoting Zora Neale Hurston's line: "There are years that ask questions and years that answer." I'm not worried about years, but, lately, I feel like I am living in a time of waiting.

My family and I are waiting to see how my sister's chemo is going; I am waiting to move and be settled; I have a friend who is waiting to see whether or not she will be moving. I have another friend who's wife is battling cancer. I'm waiting to hear how they are both doing. So, really, I waiting and praying. Lots of both, but I'm ashamed to say that I've been doing more worrying than praying. Bad habit.

In this time of waiting, I've been having moments of reflection that come out of nowhere. Not the good kind of reflection - like musing over hopes and goals - but the bad kind.

Last night's moment was dark. Early in the evening, I was dog tired, but when a sudden rainstorm started, I couldn't sleep so I just sat up feeling as if all my life is hanging in the middle of the universe. Waiting for something. Wishing I knew what all I need to be prepared for when the waiting ends and the breathing begins again. There have been a lot of those kinds of moments.

The other day, when I was visiting DJ, I actually did have one nice moment. He and I have this thing where we call each other "Boo-boo." (Him: "Bye, Boo-boo, I see ya 'laler'." Me: "No, Boo-boo! No spitting!" Him: "Okay. I sorry, Boo-boo.") I was watching as he struggled to put on his favorite (and about-to-be too-small) pair of shoes. I spent a few minutes wondering who and what he will be in ten or fifteen years.

Today, after a dismal start to the morning, the sun broke free and I just needed to be outside in the warmth. I had a nice moment of watching a tiny squirrel skitter around in the branches of a tree, but when the wind kicked up, I just felt so sad and lonely that I started questioning the meaning of my life.

It's all this waiting that is making me so restless and moody. I need time to speed up a little bit, just enough to end all the waiting and show some answers to my prayers. I just want to be out of this particular space of time.

Peace
--Free

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dream Products

Since I'm prepping to relocate, I have't been able to take on any new product reviews. In the meantime, I've come up with a dream list of products I'd love to try out.

First of all, for any of the products, the basic criteria would include mainstream availability and prices affordable for average people. By "average" I mean those of us who don't have excessive discretionary funds. Maybe I even mean those of us who rarely get to use the term "discretionary funds".

So, here's the list I have in my head:

  • An entire skincare regimen with natural, wholesome ingredients without any mention of animals that weren't killed in the making of the finished products. I love animals, but I don't need to get an entire history of the treatment of them in a brochure attached to my wrinkle cream.
  • Any product that actually does reduce cellulite and takes inches off my waistline. The product can't include any ingredients that are renamed to hide the fact that they came from the lab of a mad scientist. Also, it can't take six months of installment-plan use to see any results.
  • Hair products that work - not just the sample product that is never quite the same as when you get the full-size treatment. If it implies that it will make your hair shine, bounce, curl, soften up, straighten up - or make complete strangers on the street follow you around because of the great smell - then, dangit, it will do that.
  • Something like those pocket/purse-sized teas and juices to squirt into my water that uses actual sugar - no artificial sweeteners allowed. Matter of fact, I want tiny, purse-sized teas, sodas and sugary juices for when I just need a little bit of a guilty thirst fix.
  • Cottage cheese that doesn't look like curdled baby poop. I don't even care if it tastes any different that regular cottage cheese. Every time I want to try cottage cheese, I just can't. I have a sensitive gag reflex when it comes to food that looks like it's already been partially digested.
  • Grape-sized, rind-less watermelon. Love watermelon. Hate the mess. Loathe that I have to have the fly-attracting rinds in the garbage can in summer.
  • Mixable, customize-able makeup. I've seen foundations that are supposed to blend in "true" to various shades, but it's all a lie. You still have to find a close enough match to blend true or else you will look like a cartoon parody of yourself. I want some foundation palettes, and some blendable lipstick that can take me from day to night without having to buy eight tubes of colors that are close-but-not-quite the right shade.
Am I asking for too much? I know I can't be the only one who hasn't thought of some of these products. I hope that by the time I get moved and settled in the new town, someone will have at least come up with the purse-sized sodas. At any rate, tomorrow I might post about my Amazon wishlist...

Peace
--Free

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

About Black (A.A.) Hair

This is an interesting article on WebMD that makes several good points about African American hair. (You all know how I hate that term "African American", but saying "black" hair would be confusing. Now that it's clear, I'll use "black".)

I just posted about a couple of products that I am using more of lately. This article has me ready to take a much closer look at labels (and my personal hair care routine).

I hope I'm not breaking any rules of quoting from someone else's source, but there are so many points made in the article that I locked onto:
  • One common myth is that there is just one type of African-American hair, New York stylist Ellin LaVar says. (I like the way she thinks. Here is the link to her site.)
  • Generally, the hair contains less water, grows more slowly, and breaks more easily than Caucasian or Asian hair (I knew this, but never thought about it enough.)
  • "Look for products that describe the texture of your hair, not the color of your skin," LaVar says. (Excellent point, right? I mean, Lupita N'yongo and I share a skin color, but I can tell from photos that we have different hair textures.)
  • "I often have to explain to clients that African-American hair needs to be washed regularly," (I've always been taught not to "over-wash" my hair, which I took to mean not washing moer than once every 10 to 12 days. Oops.)
  • Curly textures tend to be the most vulnerable to drying out and breaking because the bends in kinky hair make it difficult for natural oils to work their way down the hair shaft. (Another thing I knew without understanding it.)
  • "If the product feels greasy, it's probably not adding moisture inside the hair," LaVar says. "You need a penetrating conditioner with lightweight oils that are absorbed rather than sit on top of the hair." (My favorites don't feel greasy, but I want to look for something good for my hair, not just good on it.)
  • She prefers conditioners with essential oils -- like grape seed oil, for example -- that moisturize without leaving an oily residue (I need to think more about ingredients!)
  • LaVar says that body lotion can be a good stand-in for a leave-in conditioner because it is designed to be absorbed into the skin. Rub a dime-sized drop between your palms and smooth it over the length of your hair. (Wow! So my cousins and I were onto something when we were younger and used lotion in our hair!)
Man! I sure wish I could afford to hire this woman as my stylist. 

And wash regularly. Don't forget to wash!

I sure don't miss the salon!
 
 Here is another good take on caring for "dry hair". Good article, but I can't agree with the point made about conditioning. I know for a fact that it is not that hard to over-condition black hair. It depends on the conditioner and how long you leave it in. When my hair is over-conditioned, it becomes really weak - almost like when using a relaxer.

By the way, for my silky-haired sisters of all racial types, here are some ideas for curling without heat. Nice.

One of the things that I've gotten better about is not following trends when it comes to my hair. There was a time when if more than 5 people were doing something "new" with their hair, I wanted to try it out. I've done 2 types of "curls" (yes, I did the Jheri Curl!), worn cornrows and braid extensions; I wore all the ugly hairstyles that seemed so cool at the time; and I only stayed conservative when it came to dying my hair. I even tried out a weave for the first time just before I got sick. Now, that was a lifesaver when I was in the hospital and without the coordination or energy to use any products or appliances! 

The hate is real, y'all
I love my now natural hair, but I don't count "going natural" as following a trend. Being natural is not very cool when all the celebs are wearing flowing locks of weave down to their knees. Also, it wasn't easy doing the chop and getting used to caring for my hair in its natural state. It was a little bit of a nightmare, now that I think back on it. 

What I love about my hair now:
  • It is my natural hair (with a little colorizing help from the box!)
  • It's easier to care for than my relaxed/processed hair was.
  • It reflects me and not what someone else thinks of me.
  • It looks good even when the gray starts showing.
  • I can get caught in the rain without wanting to steal someone's umbrella.
  • Accepting my natural hair feels like accepting the natural me.
Yes!
What I struggle with about hair:
  • Wanting to try every product for natural hair.
  • Finding good products at a good price.
  • Re-adjusting my hair care routine as I learn more about what is and is not healthy.
  • Some people still being so curious about this natural look.
  • People wanting to touch my hair. 
  • People who believe that "good hair" equals long (or straight or lots of) hair.


Until the past few weeks, I hated having people touch or feel my hair because, while it often looked nice, it didn't feel that way. Now that I've hit on some good products, I almost want people to touch my hair so that they can see that it is soft and sensual. I find myself touching my hair a lot more.

I'm better about this now

One thing that we women need to do is realize that we are all sisters - black, white and every color/race there is. We have the whole media industry pushing body and hair issues on us at every blink of the eye. Our best weapon against all the image bullying is to remind each other that we are amazing just because we are female. That's our freaking super power.

I have the same personal rule about my hair that I do with the rest of my physical appearnance: I do the best I can to make what I have healthy, clean, decent and, hopefully, pretty. If I had to do it to be a better person, I'd cut every strand off my head tomorrow and learn how to rock the baldness. I'd have to adjust of course, but there are too many more good things about me to be too hung up on appearances. That said, I'm happy for what I'm working with right now.

Peace
--Free

(Thanks to the folks on Pinterest who post the best natural hair humor ever!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

**REVIEW** StaSofFro and L'Oreal EverCreme

Now that I have more length to my hair, I had to switch up my styling products. With the shorter hair, I used a lot of oils and creams to help the growth. Dry and damaged = enemies of growth.


December 2013

March 2014

July 2014

Today

For my shorter hair, I was using a lot of coconut oil, Jamaican Black Castor oil, plus just about anything that tamed the frizz. My hair has grown out quite a bit, so my big thing now is holding a curl, softness and conditioning.

The two products I'm using are ones I've talked about before, but I have a new appreciation for both:

The Leave-in is SO good

Sounds greasy, but it's not
I discovered the L'oreal EverCreme leave-in a couple years ago (according to my post). I like to use it first thing in the morning to add a shot of moisture to my hair. I follow that up with the SaySofFro for some softening and scalp moisture.

Most people think of StaSofFro as being greasy/oily like so many "wet curl" products, but it's a whole other thing. If you apply it and let it absorb for a few minutes, your hair is very touchable. The softening I get with this spray is amazing. After I wash and condition, I like to spray the StaSofFro on my roots and scalp. I massage it in a bit to work it through to my ends, then I spray the EverCreme just enough to get the outer part of my hair.

Since I've been using these two as my main hair products (about 2 weeks or so), I find that I have a lot less breakage and a lot less dryness. It's also nice that my hair is easier to "refresh" in the mornings.

What I like about both products is that they leave my hair very touchable and soft. Also, the price. I can get each for under $6. Can't beat that with a 5-speed blender.

Peace
--Free

Monday, July 14, 2014

Damages and Joy

Sunday was a nice family day. A bunch of us drove out to Eagle River to take DJ to the Bearclaw Bear Paw Festival. I rode with two of the nieces and, for some reason, I played a CD full of Elton John and Creedance Clearwater Revival. Big mistake. We all ended up meloncholy (and one of us just broke down and bawled).

This song is one of those with lyrics that almost every person with damages can relate to - damaged youth, damaged love, damaged dreams.

Wow. Yeah.

I think the mood did us all at least a little bit of good. I know that I was ready for some fun afterwards.
Nice drive
HATE this in winter

Look at that view

 The drive alone brought back memories of going to Eagle River to visit my dad when he was so sick.

Oh, THAT moose. Huh.

Yeah. Right.


This is who it was all for


Hahaha!

I wanted to, but...
not today

He's going for a ride!

He was happier than he looked

Look at all these big folk. Eating fair food... ~sigh~
My niece will be leaving tonight, so I'm glad we all got to have a nice family day together. I think we must have depressed the weather with our earlier mood. It started raining just as we all got something to eat.

This picky eater was just killing the kettle corn!

I ask for some, but...
The rain kept coming down, so we headed back to Anchorage.

Fit our earlier mood
Right about the time we hit the highway, I remembered I'd wanted to have some funnel cake. Oh well. It was a great time & I got to knock out a quickie post.

Peace
--Free

Saturday, July 12, 2014

**REVIEW** Kiehl's Creme de Corps (lotion)

From my wonderful L'Oreal box of goodies, I picked out a couple of faves. I've already reviewed 5 Sec Blur from Garnier. My other fave? This lotion from Kiehl's:


It's good stuff. Just as promised by the site's info, the lotion is non-greasy and hydrating. I was kind of surprised at how well it worked when I used it. For one thing, it doesn't seem as thick as some other "rich" lotions out there. It feels a little wetter.

PROS:
  • Takes very little to get results
  • Gives skin a nice softness that lasts all day long
  • No unpleasant odor (I smelled nothing)
  • Has a squeeze top - not  a pump (great for packing!)
  • Comes in sizes from 2.5oz - 1 liter (that one has a pump)
  • On-site reviews claim that it does improve skin texture over time
CONS:
  • Pricey (from $11 to $75)


As usual, I didn't read all the suggestions for use before I, uh, used the product. I just slapped some on and rubbed it in. Turns out, there's a little tip for better results (I guess): apply lotion and let it "soak in" before dressing. That makes sense, if I applied more of it, but I'm being stingy to make the bottle last. I apply it the same as I do any other lotion - meaning I just apply it and go.
Maybe I'll try the "soak" application one day. Right now, it's all I can do to find time to shower and moisturize at all.

I've talked here before about the state of my extremely dry feet. This lotion works well enough to make my feet feel good. (I've been drinking more water lately, so that could be a contributing factor.) Because I'm a fanatic about moisturizing, I don't let my skin get too dry in the first place but, if I had to rate this lotion, I'd say that it does work really well. Since I haven't been using the "soak" method, I can tell you that it doesn't take much of it to moisturize from the shoulders down. My hands are almost as dry as my feet (almost, sort of) because I tend to wash and sanitize them throughout the day. The Kiehl's does soothe that dryness instantly, and the results last a long time.

I don't know if I will be able to buy this lotion often but, if I could, I would. The price is in a neighborhood I reserve for shoes and purses: $29.50 for the 8.4 oz bottle I received. However, there are a variety of sizes so the $11 2.5 oz bottle would be a nice to have in one of those purses.

If you have super-dry skin and are looking for a good lotion, this might be worth it. The reviews from customers (on the brand site) are very favorable.

By the way, I noticed that Kiehl's has a facial cream. Interesting. I'm going to have to see if I can get my hands on a sample...

Peace
--Free

Friday, July 11, 2014

Recap: Detox Challenge

Well.

Seeing as I'm too bleary to even remember which day I stopped recapping, I'm just going to tell you how the rest of the detox went.

On whichever day I was supposed to be doing all fruits and veggies - I did. I did it a day early, in fact. Yeah. All that water I tried drinking obviously diluted the best of my brain cells.

Once I got off track (and had to keep looking back at the first post just to remember which day I was on), I decided to just stick with the fruit, veggies and water. I did okay until about 2 this morning. That's when I came wide awake to have a full-on anxiety attack.

I should have done this detox challenge at a better time. I started right when we had visitors coming into town (which meant lots of meals I had to cheat with or miss out on); I'm in the middle of trying to get packed to move; and I'm obviously feeling the stress to the point where my brain is rebelling against being on good behavior.

Oh - and to top all of the other stress going on, I got a jury summons. Really? I'm moving away, people! And, because I have a new doctor who's out on vacation, I get some stand-in who knows nothing about me. He refuses to write a disability excuse. I wish it was his jury I'd be sitting on. I can't keep my own life straight, but I'm supposed to sit in judgement of some other poor soul's fate?

Anyway, here is what I noticed overall about the last days of this challenge:

  • I only sensed some increased energy once. Since then, I just feel water-logged (even though I never made my water limit). My fatigue is hitting a high.
  • My mind isn't any clearer. The stress of moving may be causing some of that, but the challenge didn't help.
  • My skin is a lot less dry, including my lips. Usually, I have to use balm throughout the day to stop chapping. Even my feet (which are dry and rough as Arizona pavement in July) are not as scaly and don't take as much care.
  • I peed. Lots. And then lots more. 
  • My bowel movements didn't increase or decrease. (But I never did get around to drinking any prune juice.)
  • My hair feels great. Like my skin, it's lots less dry. It just feels really soft and moisturized.
I don't know what all of this means. I'm guessing that there is something in coffee that makes my brain work better. There might even be something in it that decreases my sarc symptoms. I say that because, when I decreased my daily coffee intake, I became a little more clumsy and off-balanced than I have been in a while. Again, this all could be due to my stress and anxiety levels. 

Since this challenge didn't go as well as I liked, I plan to do-over once I get settled in my new town and calmed down.

Peace
--Free

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

**REVIEW** Garnier 5 Sec Blur

As I mentioned before, I love the box of goodies L'Oreal sent to me. L.O.V.E. it all. I did have some favorites though. This is one of them:


Garnier 5 Sec Blur. Genius.

I probably would not have tried this if not for the gift. Not only did I try it and like it, but I let my sister try it and she went out and got some for herself.

PROS:

  • Mattes the face after applying moisturizer and before applying the rest of my makeup. Mattes any shine without drying out the skin.
  • Could be worn alone if the shade were slightly darker. My sister can wear it without foundation. 
  • Has a really nice feel to it. Goes on like a spreadable powder. 
  • Blurs surface imperfections and evens out my skin tone for applying foundation or my shaded powder makeup.
  • Helps "set" my foundation. I noticed that my makeup wore better and longer if I used Blur.
CONS:
  • Because I have such a dark complection, I can't wear it solo. I have to apply foundation or my tinted powder to get rid of the slightly ashy look.
  • Though it does work as a "primer", it doesn't really do as much for my fine lines. I think this is only because of the pale shading. If it came in a brown tint, I think the blurring would work on fine lines.
This is really a great product. I'm hoping that someone will come out with it in a variety of shades for more skin tones. When I went with my sister to pick out hers at the store, I noticed that there were at least 4 other brands with a similar product. My sister is a few shades lighter than I am, and she is able to wear the Blur solo. Looks really good on her and saves her having to wear a foundation.

Very light against back of my hand
Powders as you blend in


This side, Blur-free                               This side, Blurred
This is a really good product idea. Going on the search for one in a better shade for me. 

Peace
--Free

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Recap: Days 2 - 4 of Detox

To recap of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of my detox challenge, here is how those days went and what I consumed:

Sunday (Day2)

I didn't feel as stressed because I knew I'd be able to eat something (minus breads). My energy level seemed good and I wonder if that's because of the water from Saturday. I did have to pee a lot throughout the day - but not as much as I thought I would. My other bathroom use didn't increase.

One of my hopes in detoxing is, that by clearing my body of toxins, I will be more clearheaded. My illness messes with my brain and I'm praying that cleansing my body will give some relief from the fuzzy-headedness and the frustration that causes.
  • Coffee with flavored cream (at 6:30 a.m.)
  • 40 oz water
  • Snack of 1 oz plain goat cheese, 5 Triscut crackers, three pieces of pickled garlic, 1.5 oz of beef summer sausage (lunch at 3 p.m.)
  • 16 oz water (while cleaning and packing)
  • Coffee with flavored cream (around 4 p.m. because dinner isn't until 7 p.m.)
  • 1 cup collard gumbo (shrimp, tomato paste/sauce, okra), 1 small piece of hot water cornbread and  fried chicken wing  (Yeah, I said "fried"! It was a family dinner, sorry.)
  • 16 oz water before bed.
I almost think I ate too much food today. Even though I ate a very small amount at dinner and skipped the candied yams and sauce, I felt too full afterwards. I almost didn't have room for the last serving of water. I was really disappointed that this is the second day of not making the full 80 ounces of water.

Sausage, cheese, garlic, crackers
"Grammy's Gumbo"
Usually made with pork chops, not shrimp

Monday (Day 3)

Didn't feel as energized this morning. Probably has to do with feeling too full at bedtime. Noticed that my urine was super clear every time I got up to use the bathroom during the night - which was about four times! Maybe that's why I was a little groggy. Told myself that I am not going to eat as much today. Thinking I will stick to cheese and cracker snacks, and maybe a little bit of sausage.
  • Coffee with flavored cream at 7 a.m. (but not as much because of feeling so full already)
  • 16 oz water while running errands
  • Goat cheese, sausage, crackers and garlic for lunch around 1:30
  • 2 servings of water 16 oz each while making calls and folding clothes (feeling a little headache-y and tired, but not hungry)
  • 1/2 cup leftover gumbo at 4 p.m. (made my headache go away, but I'm still really tired)
  • About 1/2 ounce (3 slices) sausage and 8 oz of water for dinner at about 7 p.m.
  • Cup of chai tea at bedtime 
Felt really super tired all afternoon, but at least I wasn't running to the bathroom every 10 minutes. I did have to pee about every hour. And, yes, I realize that I am falling short on the water intake.

Tuesday (Day 4)

I woke up still feeling a little groggy and un-rested. This could be an effect of the water cleaning some of the toxins from my body. I hope.

One positive: my skin doesn't feel as dry as it usually does. This apartment holds heat like a roasting oven, so most nights I can almost feel the moisture being sucked out of my skin. The air is still super dry in here, but I don't feel the need to roll out of bed reaching for my body lotion.

Some of our out of town guests are leaving tonight so someone had the really good/really bad idea of meeting at Lucky Wishbone for a family lunch. (Any time family comes to visit there are 2 places on their list to eat: Lucky Wishbone and Arctic Roadrunner - both are burger joints.) I'm going to attempt to remove the bread from my Jumbo Burger, but I'm probably going to cheat.
  • Coffee. Yes, with flavored cream. Around 6:30 a.m. I'm so tired, I wanted to chew grounds right from the can.
  • 2 16 oz bottles of water, back to back, between 11:00 and 12:00
Here is where I feel off the wagon y'all: today we hit Lucky Wishbone. I stuck with just a burger (bread included) and then downed another bottle of water (about 12 oz). I babysat DJ from noon til about 4, then the whole family spent the rest of the day together. I just got home and it's almost 11 p.m.

The nieces and nephews (and my sis)

This kid. 'Nuff said.

We had a family seafood night

I stuck to crab and shrimp
And salad

I feel like I'm going to have to do much better with my water intake. This is ridiculous. How hard should it be to drink plenty of water? Apparently, I'm struggling with it. (I even went off and left my water bottle at the fam's tonight.) I am promising myself tonight that I'm going to do much better with the challenge in the next few days.

I'm still fatigued. If I'm not feeling better by the end of the week, I'm going to have to check with the docs to see what is going on. I don't need to get sick when I'm trying to get moved... My brain is a bit fuzzy, so I hope that I kept all this straight. I tried drafting a post for each of these past few days, but had to edit here and there. For now, goodnight.

Peace
--Free

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