My Hair Story: Soulsearching to find a Confident Self

***Update: In case you stumble across this, I summarized my hair story into a video in August 2010 and posted it on my blog here.  It's just as detailed but has more pics and an editorial by moi***

So, I think it's going to take me a little while to get into this "post more than once/wk" thing, but that's ok. I feel like typing today, so I thought I would share with you all my hair story...

That's me at two years old, with two big afro puffs *LOVES IT!*

My mom was anti-relaxer forever. When HS started, I felt the "relaxer" pressure. I got my hair straightened at the hair dressers every 2 weeks. I played basketball AND all my friends had long, wavy/straight hair. I caved in. My actual hair was pretty healthy in the relaxed style - minimal breakage. However, I did have an extremely sensitive scalp and would burn EVERY time I got a relaxer. I stopped getting relaxers regularly in 11th grade and wore braids. Going into my senior year of high school in 2003, I was bold and brave and did a Big Chop :0. I got a lil' texturizer with it to "soften" the look. I hated it. I never got a touch up for the texturizer and got another big chop before I went to college and dyed my hair cherry red Summer 2004.

This pic is from Freshman orientation, you can't really see the color but...whatevs.

In college, I still was not confident with my own self image, and I felt that I was "THE ONLY" natural sista at the University of Michigan (GO BLUE!). Essentially, I did NOT feel that I looked good and thought I would feel better with straight hair, thus I got a relaxer AGAIN *note this was about 3 months after getting permanent color*

My hair was feeling pretty awful with the color/relaxer mixture, and so I stopped getting relaxers and went to my good and faithful fall-back hairstyle - the rod set *Note - I did the rod sets myself* I did try a 2-strand twist here and there, but with partially damaged straight ends and kinky roots - it didn't look so hot.

By Summer 2005, my ends were in horrible damage. When I went home for the summer, my mom gave me some suggestions for hair styles...I chose to go with a cute short-relaxed cut b/c it was sharp and fairly easy to manage.

I LOVED this style on me, I felt I was so cute and sharp! I was going to my hairdresser at the time RELIGIOUSLY and she kept me looking RIGHT! I rocked that style for the entire school year, letting my hair grow out. By the end of the summer, my hair was long enough to do 2 french braids, but I had the mixed-hair textures thing again. When I'm natural, I like to be ALL NATURAL, so at the end of the Summer of 2006 I did ANOTHER big chop. Unforch, I REALLY hated my hair after the chop.

This is me RIGHT after my big chop with coils - the only way I still felt attractive with this short cut. I held out and let my hair grow - it was EXTREMELY slow as I didn't know much about caring for healthy natural hair. By Summer 2007, my hair was a decent length - long enough to cornrow and have about 1" of hang time. I LOVED my natural hair with my personal style...For my bday fun, I straightened my hair that summer to check how long it was.

Both pics are from Summer 2007 - first pic is me with some coils, second is me straightened. Unfortunately, the sista who straightened my hair burnt it. Thus I suffered from heat damage. I sobbed - LITERALLY - for 1 hour when I realized this as I washed my hair and found that my kinks wouldn't return. My hair was stringy-straight in random patches - it was awful. So, I did the thing I do best - BIG CHOP. *Yes, another one, this makes 3* I didn't want to suffer the pain of having super short hair again so I cut it to leave about 1.5" on the top with about 1/4" in the back. I hated it - it was awful b/c my hair was 20 different textures from the heat damage.

I promised myself in 2007-2008 I would grow my hair and just let it be. I did just that - covered the "bad" hair in twists, let it grow out, then cut it some more and started fresh. Again, by the Spring of 2008, my hair was about the same length it was the prior year.

However, I was coming upon graduation and interviewing for jobs. I wanted to straighten my hair to have a more "refined" look at the interview. Good News: I did look sharp and I interviewed for the job I currently hold with the hairstyle :). Bad News: I don't know how to pick good hair dressers and suffered from heat damage AGAIN!

After this, I made a vow to NEVER chemically/physically straighten my hair EVER AGAIN b/c it just wasn't working for me. In the Summer of 2008, I did another BC but LOVED it this time. I was finally confident and satisfied w/ being natural - I thought it was beautiful.

This pic is me in July 2008, shortly after my 4th BC.
This entire time I only knew 2 things:
1. I wanted to be natural
2. I wanted to have long hair

In August 2008, I started locking my hair because this was the ONLY way I thought I could have long hair and be natural. Then my cousin introduced me to the BGLH blog, and I was hooked - I thought, I can have LONG NATURAL HAIR w/o dreads *EUREKA*. I decided to comb out my locks the next day and thus my past meets my present...

Pics are from January 2009 and May 2009 with locs.

In summary I recognize that being natural for me meant that I needed to be confident about who I was - especially for my outward appearance. I needed to not care what other people thought. Sure, some ppl may not like it, but others will LOVE IT! It took me a while to get to this level of acceptance. I feel that I am there now. I have worn my natural kinks to a variety of social and professional events, and I look just as sharp as everyone else. I also met my current bf rocking my short cut. IMO, mainly b/c I finally thought I was HOT and it showed in a great way!

That's my story, it's quite long, but when I think about took me from Summer 2003-Summer 2008 to get things right :)

Eureka! Banana Works!

Do you all recall my first run-in with the banana conditioner? If you don't, here's a quick recap: My hair felt GREAT - really moisturized after - and when I went to style it, I found pieces of banana all "up in there" *in my best DMX voice*

I did a banana conditioner this weekend and used the same exact recipe, which I got from BGLH.
1 banana, pureed
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp ACV

This time, I used a strainer again to filter out the large-solid banana particles. When I did this - I poured the 1/2 cup of milk into the strainer while the pureed banana was in there and mixed it w/ a spoon in the strainer. I think this mixing really allowed the small banana particles to move through the strainer easily. In the end, I have great moisture and no more banana left in my hair!

I sealed my hair w/ Olive Oil *my other favorite blog, The Natural Haven, said that research only proves that Olive Oil and Coconut Oil penetrate the hair, thus I'm using OO instead of Castor oil* My hair has GREAT shine. I let my hair dry over night in some "play-play" bantu knots and 2-strand twisted it the next day. I think my hair looks fab! I'll post pics later.

PS - I'm on the road again this week, so no cooking :(. I'm in Houston, TX training for work. I should be back with some new fierce styles soon...I've been brainstorming :)

Friendly Big Chop

So, my sorority sister/co-initiate from college came to visit last week for Philly's Greek Weekend. She hadn't gotten a perm for 7 months and wanted me to give her a big chop. I asked her the ENTIRE weekend if she was sure about it and she was. We bought some shears and I cut off all her relaxed hair. I just wanted to add a post about it.

Jasmine before the cut with a roller set - we did a curly mohawk style:

Jasmine after her big chop:

I'm so happy I have another natural soror! :)

Updates, Updates, Updates

Hello Blogosphere! JIC I have any followers, know that I was away at a conference for work all week and this was the final look I went with for my professional conference:

I just did a twist out and pulled my hair back with a cute lil' scunci headband that I got from Rite Aid. So, before that I tried the Kinky Curly product that lots of natural girls rave about. I swore it wouldn't work for my 4b hair, but needed to try it to prove it. This is what my hair looked like right after my co-wash w/ the Kinky Curly product in it.

The KC product is supposed to LENGTHEN curls and DEFINE curls. I think this product is ideal for women with CURLY hair (4a/3b/3a) b/c this is what my hair looked like afterwards:

*Excuse my facial expression...I was not ready for the pic, and I was on a Philly Duck Ride bus.* So, CLEARLY I feel like my hair looks 1,000,000 times better with the twist out. I didn't like the product for my hair. It looks a lot shorter in this style and felt VERY dry. So that's my shpiel on Kinky Curly.

Not to back track...but I used banana for a deep conditioner for my twist-out look (last week). Remember I said I LOVED the feel of my hair after the wash - but didn't like the actual leftover banana in my hair. So this time I bought a strainer and pureed the banana and put it through the strainer, leaving the large banana parts in the strainer. I still had some banana left in my hair but MUCH LESS! I'm going to deep condition w/ banana tonight, trying a different technique with the strainer - I'll let you know how this works!

Blow Out Style & Mini Running Update

I cornrowed half of my hair in the front and did a cute little twist over to give it a little extra flavor. I also have continued to twist the rest of my blowout and came to the conclusion that: w/ the way I blow dry my hair, I may as well do a big tight twist out, b/c it will give me the same length and look if I let my hair fully dry in the twists. Here's a pic of the final product.

As far as training for my half-marathon goes...I have been running at least 3 times/week for at least 2 miles a day. I don't see any real improvement in my timing, but I noticed that my endurance must be getting better b/c I'm not nearly as tired at the end of my runs.

Yesterday, a couple of guys asked me if I was a "runner." Let me say I was so geeked b/c I feel that runners look yeh, I assumed that meant I looked good, lol. They invited me to go running w/ a group of ppl that are training for the Broad Street run in September. Only thing is they run at 7:30 AM on Saturdays. Slay me now! I'm going to try to run with them tomorrow...I'll let you know how it goes :)

Hair Trial: Blow Out

On Sunday I borrowed my cousin's EXPENSIVE FHI blow dryer and Aveda brush *b/c I don't have anything* and planned to deep condition and co-wash my hair. I wanted to use banana again and try to puree it, but I had no bananas. So, I just used a conditioner from Earthly Delight for a deep conditioner and used my usual Aubrey Organics conditioner for the wash after. I was coming out a twist out, and for a minute I thought I may have 4a hair *I was excited*

To my disapointment (ok, honestly I was SUPER GEEKED about the coils I saw in this deep condition), after I washed it out and combed through it, my hair went back to its usual 4b self.
*Excuse my sopping wetness LOL!* But clearly there's a SIGNIFICANT difference in length and curl pattern here. Oh well, after the co-wash I put on my Aubrey Organics leave-in conditoner and sealed w/ Castor oil. I also used some FHI hot sauce that is a heat protectant and went to work on my hair.

Let me say that I have some THICK HAIR! I separated my hair into about 14 sections and dryed it section-by-section. I still don't know if I can do a blow out myself b/c my hair drying technique is NOT on point even with sectioning! head was hurting afterwards, lol and it was not even straight LOL, AGAIN! Despite the pain *thought pain + hair was finished when I went natural* the final product was FIERCE YA'LL!!!! I loved it!

I LOVED the volume and length...I felt that my hair looked so long! However, my hair felt SO DRY - moisture is a serious challenge for me. I made a homemade spritzer out of spring water, castor oil and a drop of conditioner. This mixture was not good for me - I think the conditioner is to viscous for the spritzer's spout, so basically I get no spritz out, lol. I got the idea from various blogs, but IDK how most ppl use this mixture as oil & water never mix - they're an EMULSION...I negated my technical learning and made it anyway but I won't do it again.

Note that these pictures were all taken Sunday. I twisted my hair for the night and the next day it was VERY DIFFICULT to get this look back. I'll admit I reached for the comb *on my DRY HAIR, I know that's a no-no* and just worked my wide-tooth comb through the partially straight part - not combing through the kinks at the very ends of my hair. I also used my fingers to comb through it. I wore my hair blown out today too but my ends are just absolutely kinky and I'm CONSTANTLY touching/picking/pulling at my hair. I'm going to braid/twist it today b/c I'm a no-stress kinda gal when it comes to hair and clearly blow-out styles are not conducive to my hair length goals.

However, the ultimate purpose of me blowing my hair out was to try a cute professional pin-up style. I'll let you know what I come up with tonight b/c I have an important conference to attend for work and I plan to be NATURAL and FIERCE, but I want to do something different. I'll update to let you know how it works out.

Whole Wheat Pancakes w/ Strawberry Sauce

What's up ya'll! So, I had a great time celebrating Independence Day with family & friends in the city where Independence was born! I did my hair in this 50's do that I got from a blogger named Cherry Lola. It came out fab - but I'll stop rambling about that and address the title.

I LOVE breakfast, there's not a day that goes by where I don't eat breakfast. Typically on weekends I like to do more than my usual Kashi's Cinna Raisin cereal. Today I took a recipe from one of my favorite health-conscious chefs, Ellie Krieger and made Whole-Wheat Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce. I got the recipe from her cookbook, The Food You Crave.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-grain pastry flour or whole-wheat flour *I used whole-wheat
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
3/4 cup nonfat milk
1 tablespoon honey *I think this ingredient is the secret to these sweet & yummy cakes
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking Spray

Strawberry Sauce
2 pints (16 oz) fresh strawberris, hulled or 4 cups frozen unsweetened & thawed
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Email me if you want directions, but know that these pancakes were healthy & delicious! I even had my b/f taste them and he also said they were good - he couldn't believe they partially had whole-wheat flour in them! Plus we all know that strawberries are packed with Vitamin C and fiber...a great way to start my day!

BTW - I took my twists out so I can test out a professional blow out style for an event next week. I never seem to really like how my hair looks when I take it out, but I'll post later about how it all turns out.

Spanish Meatballs & Yellow Rice

Let me start my first cooking review by explaining that the first time I cook something, I FOLLOW THE RECIPE, unless it takes longer than I suspected. So, last night I cooked some Albondigas y Arroz de Adorno aka Meatballs and Yellow Rice w/ Peas. It's from a Spanish cookbook my cuz got for me called 1080 Recipes by Simone and Ines Ortega.

The Good: The recipe didn't call for many ingredients - I already had most of the stuff in my kitchen. It's definitely budget-friendly. If you let it marinate in the sauce and cook slowly, the flavors of the saffron, onions and tomatoes really comes to life - it's quite tasty!
The Bad: It took me AT LEAST 2 hours to cook it, AND I took some shortcuts.

Here's a pic of the final dish.

Here's the recipe for the meatballs:
1 lb 2 oz ground beef *I always get the ground beef w/ the least amount of fat
1 sprig fresh parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons bread crumbs *I just used an of a whole wheat bread loaf - HOLLA!
3 tablespoons white wine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sunflower oil

4 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
small pinch of saffron threads *Can be found in the spices section, you press/grind it, pour some water in it and it turns yellow :)

The rice called for long grain rice, a small pinch of saffron, 3 tbsps butter and 1 cup of peas. I would type out all of the dreadful details to cook this, but I doubt most people may want to replicate. So email me if you want a copy of the recipe. All-in-all, I will only cook this again on a weekend.