natural

My family and I moved to Florida when my daughter was just 5 months old and lived there for about a half. Shortly before we moved, my husband bought a Cadillac that, even then, was nearly 10 years old. For the most part, it worked fine. There was just one small problem: The car’s automatic locks were really finicky and they’d sometimes lock and unlock on their own.

One day, my husband and I headed out around lunchtime with our infant daughter strapped into hear car seat. We parked and he got out of the car to go run an errand, leaving the keys in the ignition and the car running. After waiting for what felt like a long while at the time, I got out of the car to stretch my legs. No big deal. Except that I closed the door behind me.

I realized my mistake immediately, and as if the universe were echoing my moment of stupidity, I heard the locks in the car doors engage. With the car running with my husband’s keys in the ignition. And my infant daughter still strapped into her car seat. And my spare keys inside my purse in the now locked car.

At least the air conditioning was on.

My husband came outside about 30 seconds after I locked myself out of the car, just as I was looking up a locksmith on my cell phone, which was — thankfully — still in my pocket. The locksmith took maybe 5 or 10 minutes to arrive, but it felt like an eternity. All I could do was play peek-a-boo with my daughter through the car window in the meantime.

By the time he finally arrived, I was a nervous wreck. But my nerves quickly turned to embarrassment when he realized there was a baby locked in the car. He delivered sympathetic words, but I couldn’t help feeling like the worst mother in the world. And that feeling turned into a laugh out loud moment when, 30 seconds later, when the locksmith had unlocked the doors and freed me from parental purgatory, we found my daughter laughing her head off.

The whole thing turned out to be one really expensive, nerve-wrecking joke.

I’m sure every mom has at least one similarly hilarious moment in their arsenal. Well, finally, you can use those stories to your advantage.

ZarBee’s is the maker of a line of natural cough syrups with tiny ingredients lists. My family has used one of their cough syrups, and I loved it. The main ingredient is honey, which is exactly what my own mother would use in her homemade cold remedies. It also meant my daughter swallowed it without complaint, because it tasted good too.

Now, ZarBee’s is giving moms the chance to share their hilarious parenting stories for a chance to win a dream vacation worth $10,000!

Entering the contest is simple. Head to the Hilarious MOMents contest page on Facebook and watch a video of hilarious stories. Then just log into the app using your Facebook profile and share your hilarious story to earn points and badges. If you collect at least 1000 points, you’ll be entered to win one of three prizes: a family vacation, a staycation or a day off from cleaning your house. All of those sound like valid reasons to share your moment with the world, no matter how embarrassing it might be!

And if you’re interested in trying Zarbee’s cough syrup, you can find it at Walmart for $1 less than competitors.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Walmart Moms program. Walmart has provided me with compensation for sharing the Hilarious MOMents contest and my own hilarious story with you. Participation is voluntary and as usual, all opinions are my own.

For months, I’ve had various people — online and in real life — tell me that I should try Kinky Curly products. I’d heard lots of good things, and the fact that the ingredients are mostly natural and the founder of Kinky Curly is a fellow Caribbean woman finally led me to go see what they were all about. I picked up Kinky Curly Knot Today conditioner/detangler and Curling Custard at Whole Foods last weekend.

I’d been wanting to attempt a frohawk (a mohawk look created with natural hair) for a while, but I couldn’t get it to work with just bobby pins. I was hopeful that the rumored detangling prowess of Knot Today combined with the definition of Curling Custard would help me finally make it work.

Kinky Curly Process

I co-washed first with Oyin Handmade Honey Hemp Conditioner (my all-time favorite, go-to conditioner), then covered my hair in Knot Today. Let me tell you — this stuff has awesome slip. I detangled in the shower, and I lost a lot less hair than I usually do. Plus, detangling was generally a lot easier. It took me only about 10 minutes to do my whole head when it normally takes me about 20.

The instructions on the Curling Custard indicated that it should be applied on soaking wet hair in small sections, and I took them to heart. I started in the front, finger coiling my curls in small sections on the left, then the right. This part of the process took a long time since I was hand coiling every curl. I planned to do my entire head, but after about 20 minutes, I decided there was no way I was going to attempt that. I settled with doing just the front in big bangs, with the frohawk in the back.

The photo at the beginning of the post is my hair on day 2. The photo above is from day 1.

To put it simply, I LOVE Curling Custard! It made my curls really pop and shine for days! Every day, I rubbed a tiny amount of it on the front of my hair for some extra shine, and it held up a lot longer than I expected. I don’t know that I’ll sit and finger coil my whole head, since that would take forever, but my next goal is to try using it for two-strand twists on wet hair.

Ingredients

KNOT TODAY: organic Mango fruit extract, organic slipper elm, organic marshmallow root, organic lemongrass, cetyl alcohol, behentrimonium methosulfate, citric acid, phenoxyethanol and natural fragrance.

Concerns: Phenoxyethanol is the only ingredient that concerns me. It is possible to derive phenoxyethanol from natural sources, but many beauty products instead use a synthetic version that can be bought cheaply from China. I’m honestly not sure which this is, but Kinky Curly claims to use natural ingredients, so I’m very hopeful that this phenoxyethanol is naturally derived. It is used as a preservative, and the synthetic version has questionable toxicity. Read more about it here

CURLING CUSTARD: botanical infusion of water, horsetail, chamomile, nettle and marshmallow, organic aloe vera juice, agave nectar extract, tocopheryl acetate (vitamin e), pectic, citric acid, potassium sorbate and natural fragrance

I will definitely do some more research about these ingredients, but all things considered, I’d definitely use these products again.

The frohawk

When I was transitioning, I achieved a curly mohawk with a single banana clip. But since I’ve been completely natural,  I had never been able to fit all my hair in the clip or even remotely get it to close. And bobby pins alone just weren’t strong enough to hold all my hair. A fellow member of the Curly Nikki forum suggested this technique:

I used two banana clips instead of one, and I only used them to secure the hair in the middle of my head. I used my hands to separate my hair into three sections: A small section from front to back on the left and right side, and two sections in the middle: front and back. I used one banana clip to secure the hair in the middle back of my head, and a second banana clip for the middle front of my head, leaving my bangs loose. Then I used bobby pins to pull up the sides of my hair to just outside the banana clips. The result was a mohawk look that didn’t require any pulling or tightness.

I loved it, and I’m happy to report that it lasted me five whole days. I used a little Curling Custard every day to smooth my edges, but other than that, I didn’t do anything special to keep it intact. I slept on a satin pillowcase like I usually do. And it honestly probably could’ve lasted a few more days, but I was ready to lose the bobby pins.

What do you think? Have you ever tried a frohawk? What did you use and how did it turn out?

While living a more sustainable lifestyle is often at the forefront of my thoughts and guides a lot of the choices my family and I make, I admit that its easy to get complacent and feel like you’re doing enough. We still eat out more than I’d like, and I’ve resorted to buying clothing from stores like Target because I didn’t want to spend a lot. But one area where we never slip is in our personal care products. I’ll go for weeks using just oil on my skin after a bottle of lotion runs out because I won’t buy just any brand. The same goes with deodorant.

My husband and I have tried a variety of deodorant brands over the past few years trying to find something that is the right combination of natural and effective. As you can imagine, that involved quite a bit of trial and error. So thank goodness I work from home! The two brands that we’d come to rely on were Arm & Hammer Essentials Deodorant and Tom’s of Maine Long Lasting Deodorant. However, the both fell short in some way.

Arm & Hammer worked great, but contains some questionable ingredients. Tom’s was great in terms of ingredients, but didn’t work as well as I would’ve liked on Georgia’s hot summer days. Still, it wasn’t terrible, and it was the longest-lasting that I had tried. So when I got an opportunity to try Crystal Body Deodorant, I didn’t hesitate. At worst, I figured it wouldn’t work and I’d go back to Tom’s. At best, I’d finally find something that met my needs.

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After having tried it for about a week, I can honestly say it is the best natural deodorant I’ve ever personally used. I admit I was skeptical, because liquid roll-on deodorants hadn’t worked very well for me in the past, even when I was a little girl and they contained all manner of chemicals. I needn’t have been worried.

Crystal goes on wet, but dries almost immediately, so it doesn’t feel runny or gross. I tried the Crystal Essence lavender and pomegranate scented versions, as well as an unscented version. The lavender & white tea and pomegranate are easily my favorites. The fragrances are mild at best, but lasting. They don’t overpower the senses, but even hours later, I could still smell the fragrance. That was the first surprise.

The second surprise was that it really, truly worked. It kept me drier than I expected. Even after a full day, part of which was spent outside in the heat, there was no noticeable odor under my arms. I couldn’t believe it!

Even more impressive is the ingredients list. Short and sweet:

  • Purified Water (Aqua)
  • Natural Mineral Salts (Potassium Alum)
  • Natural fragrance (made with lavender and white tea essential oils and extracts OR pomegranate essential oils and extracts)
  • Cellulose

That’s it.

It was unbelievable to me that a product with so few ingredients would work so well. But apparently, the key is the mineral salts. From their website:

Odor is caused by bacteria, which form on the body. Most deodorants on the market today merely mask that odor with unnecessary and unwanted chemicals. They “de-odorize” with the help of chemicals. Crystal™ deodorants, made of 100% all natural mineral salts, prevent odor from happening in the first place by neutralizing the bacteria. That’s why we believe our products are actually un-odorants, preventing odor, rather than deodorants which just cover it up.

Sounds logical to me, and it actually works, so who am I to argue?

I also love the fact that Crystal deodorants are endorsed by Cancer Treatment Centers, has received the safest possible rating in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database (ZERO), and it is not tested on animals. Plus, I can pick it up at CVS, literally a block away from my home. I can definitely say I’ll be switching brands for the foreseeable future. That is the best outcome I could have hoped for!

If you’d like to try it too, Crystal is having several promotions at CVS and CVS.com through Sept. 30.

(review): I received this product to review. The opinions are my own.

I started my journey toward natural hair waaaay back in January, and I am finally where I want to be.  Nearly three weeks ago, I strutted into a local salon with a head full of two-textured hair, and I walked out au naturale. Well, almost. I still had about 1-inch of relaxed ends in the front because the new growth there wasn’t quite long enough as the rest of my head. Still though, I felt like a new woman, literally.

The whole way home, I kept running my fingers through my curls, only barely able to believe that they were all mine — not modified by chemicals or trying to be anything other than what they are. I felt more free than I ever could have believed. For a while.

Then I got home and had to look in the mirror. Understand, friends, that I had been seeing myself with straight hair for 20 years. As I mentioned in my first hair post, without even realizing it, I had wrapped my perception of beauty up in my hair. Bone straight meant flyy as hell. New growth meant ponytails until I could get a fresh relaxer. So it took some time for me to appreciate my new look.

It didn’t help that I still had those relaxed ends, albeit only an inch or so of them, taunting me from the front of my head every time I looked in the mirror. Because of those ends, I felt like my first attempt at styling — a twist out — was a disaster. While most of my hair curled and twisted happily, the straight ends stuck out like sore thumbs, refusing to be coaxed into submission.

As happy as I was about my decision to BC (big chop), I was even more disappointed in myself about the way I was trippin. For a few days, I really felt like I wasn’t attractive. At. All.

Thankfully I have a husband who was only too happy to take on a new role as cheerleader. He loved my new hair from the very second I had it cut, and he wasn’t shy about letting me know that. His optimism and compliments helped a lot, but to make the transformation complete, one final step was required. A few days after my cut, I pulled out a pair of hair scissors and I went to town on those relaxed ends.

Yes. I cut them off. Myself. And it was the best thing I could have done for my hair. Yes, the front of my hair is now slightly shorter than the back, but my hair is so tightly curled that it’s almost impossible to tell the differences in length. And I feel better because all the processed hair is gone.

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Since then, I have learned not just to accept, but to love my newly natural hair. In fact, I’m having a full on love affair with my low maintenance TWA (teeny weeny afro). I can wake up in the morning and run my fingers through my hair with some coconut oil, fluff and be done. That is the best feeling in the world.

More than anything else though, I feel like I’m seeing myself — really seeing myself — for the first time. So everyone, meet the new Jennae. She’s happy to be happy in her own skin, and finally, in her own hair :)

I love jewelry and shiny things as much as the next girl, but unlike many, I’m not really partial to diamonds. Unless they’re vintage. And now that I’m trying to take my passion for green living beyond the surface to EVERY aspect of my life, I’ve learned to love the look of materials like recycled glass, silver and gold, and even tree nuts and berries.

When it comes to unique, eco-friendly accessories, noone does it better than Green Diva Jewelry. Seriously, these pieces are just gorgeous. There’s no denying that. But what I love even more than the beauty and quality of the jewelry is the commitment to the environment that is evident in every piece. After all, with a name like “Green Diva,” they’ve got to walk the walk, right?

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This week, they’re having a 65% off sale, which means that you can snag beautiful pieces like the ones shown above for a fraction of their original prices, and many cost less than $50.

It’s been a while since I’ve treated myself to something pretty, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be grabbing a couple of these steeply discounted pieces for Christmas presents as well.

Why It’s Green:

  • Made of eco-friendly materials like recycled silver and gold, Fair Trade materials, vintage components, and materials that are made in the U.S.
  • Packaging is made of 100% recycled and/or corn-based materials and printed with water-based inks
  • Business and studio operated in an environmentally-conscious manner, and Green Diva acts as an environmental advocate
  • A portion of Green Diva’s proceeds is donated to the Yellowstone project of the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental causes
  • Green Diva offers a jewelry refashioning service by which customers can send in old, outdated jewelry that they don’t wear to have it redesigned and modernized into something they’ll actually use, instead of encouraging them to buy new jewelry

Price: $24-275 before 65% discount. Use coupon code cst_65_wk3_82759

Given the heat that always seems to be emanating from my HP DV2 laptop, I’ve been hunting for an eco-friendly cooling pad, or at least some sort of laptop stand. I had resigned myself to buying a used option until I came across this beautiful set at Viva Terra.

The laptop stand is made of bamboo, and it includes a large air vent, which is supposed to keep the computer cool. I’m not sure how cool my computer would be, but at least it would no longer burn me as it sat in my lap. It also has two built-in cradles for charging other devices. For me, this is ideal, since I’m almost always charging my computer and iPhone at the same time.

What I love even more though, is something I wasn’t even looking for. Also available is a unique, quirky mouse, also made of bamboo. Who says computer peripherals have to be made of cheap plastic?

Why It’s Green:

  • Both made of bamboo

Price: $39-69 (aff)

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I bet at least a handful of you were thinking something lewd when you read that headline. But I guess that was the point :) Chalk it up to my sick sense of humor.

Anyway, my husband introduced me to Naked Juices a few weeks ago, and all I could think was “where have you been all my life.” These juices are, by far, the best I’ve had in a long time. All natural with no preservatives, no added colors or flavors — nothing but naked, natural juice. Hence the name.

When I was a high school cheerleader (don’t tell anyone I told you that), I stopped drinking soda altogether. For years, even into adulthood, I refused to drink soft drinks. A few years ago, though, I started slacking off. I’d like to reclaim my old habit take it a step further, eliminating not just sodas, but all artificial beverages, from my diet. Hopefully, drinking Naked is a step in the right direction. Even though I generally try to avoid anything in a single-serve package, I can’t resist the taste of these juices, and knowing that they’re made of quality ingredients by a company that is socially responsible makes it easier on my conscience.

To my knowledge, Naked juices aren’t organic, but they are all natural and the bananas they use are certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Considering how many preservatives, artificial colors and sugars you typically find in fruit juices these days, I’m happy to support a company that sells the juice in its natural state. Also to Naked’s credit, they recently started switching all their 32 ounce bottles over to 100% recycled plastic. By doing this, they’ll be reducing their consumption of virgin plastic by 1 million pounds per year and cut their oil use by 8,192 barrels every year. To put this into perspective, that would be roughly equivalent to taking 497 cars off the road.

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Eventually, they’ll switch all their bottles to 100% recycled plastic, including their single serve and 64 oz. sizes. Of course, the ideal solution would be to switch their packaging to 100% recycled glass, but I imagine that would add to the already premium cost. It is already a bit expensive, but I think it’s well worth the price. My personal favorite from the Naked Juice lineup is Blue Machine, which contains blueberries, blackberries, bananas and apples.

Why It’s Green:

  • Packaging being switched over to 100% recycled plastic
  • Made with no preservatives and no added colors or flavors
  • Bananas certified by the Rainforest Alliance

Price: $2.50-6, but price varies by location and size. Use the Naked store locator to find a retailer near you.

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There are a lot of things I’m still working to change about my lifestyle to make it greener. That should’ve been pretty clear from my confessions post. Up until January ’09, one of those things was my hair. Ever since third grade, I had been using chemical relaxers to straighten my hair. It was just what the women in my family did, so it was what I did too. Over the years, I had seen women with beautiful natural hair, but I never thought it would work for me. I thought I’d never be able to manage it or learn how to style it. And beyond that, I wrapped my perception of my own beauty around my chemically straightened hair. I never felt more beautiful than the day I got a fresh relaxer and my hair was laying down straight, smooth and shiny. And weeks later when some new growth started to come in, I’d feel less beautiful and start pulling my hair back in a ponytail. That was the way it had been for as long as I can remember.

But as I moved further and further toward a greener lifestyle, I started feeling guilty about what I was doing to my hair. I knew my bi-monthly relaxer wasn’t good for me or the environment when I washed it down the drain. But it was all I had ever known, so I continued to do it for months, even through the guilt. Finally, I decided that I just wasn’t going to relax my hair any more. Period.

For those women who have never had relaxed hair, understand that this was a huge decision for me. I was about to change the way I perceived myself and my beauty. My 4-year-old daughter has a thick mane of long, natural hair, and I often struggle with managing it. So how in the heck was I going to manage my own? I am, however, glad that I’d made this decision for the benefit of my health and the Earth and for no other reasons. My husband, who is a Rasta and has dreads, had been telling me to make the natural leap for years, but I wanted the decision to be my own. Now, it finally is.

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The first photo shows my hair a few weeks ago, 7 months into my transition (ie. 7 months after my last relaxer). It was taken by the lovely Sheena of Mommy Daddy Blog while we were in Chicago for BlogHer. The photo above was taken by my husband a few weeks before that. Some women opt to cut off their relaxed ends at the beginning, but I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the idea of having such a short cut. Instead, I have chosen to grow out the relaxer and cut off my ends gradually, an inch or two at a time.

Ever since I started really caring about my hair and taking good care of it, which I wasn’t doing when I was relaxing, it is much healthier, even with two completely different textures to work with (kinky natural hair for about 4 inches from the roots and straighter relaxed hair at the ends). Thanks in part to natural hair divas (and bloggers ) like Curly Nikki and videos from women like MahoganyCurls, I have learned to embrace my natural texture and I’m actually looking forward to my big chop, when I finally cut off the last of my relaxed ends.

I’ll share my hair journey throughout this process, and I hope to get great feedback and comments about what others are doing.

For those of you who are interested, here’s my current hair regimen:

I’d love to hear from other women of color who are living with their natural hair texture, or who are transitioning like I am. In fact, I want to hear from any woman who has a mass of curls for hair. What is your hair regimen? What products do you use? Why did you decide to go au naturale? Get the conversation started in the comments below!