30 October 2011

Ginger .... the spice of life!

When it comes to drinks, I would have to say that my standard would have to be none other than: water; at varying temperatures of course. I also regularly drink milk, and at times, grape juice. I tend to dilute my grape juice with water rather than drinking it full strength. Given that water is my staple drink and can be rather bland and boring, I am always researching ways to improve its flavor, by adding healthful components. There are the obvious choices which include: lemon, honey, or tea.

However, I tend to stay away from acidic drinks like coffee and tea, aside from an occasional vanilla rooibos tea. This is because of my fear that such liquids will end up eroding the enamel on my teeth. As a precautionary measure, I generally rinse my mouth with water after eating or drinking, to remove as much acidic residue as possible, so as to keep my teeth clean and naturally white; not stark white, just white enough, if you know what I mean.

Given the limited options for improving the flavor of water, I was more than pleased to have discovered ginger as an alternative. Not only is it a flavorful addition, but its health properties are extensive. It is good for detoxifying your body and aiding in digestion, and apparently there are studies out there to show that it's anti-inflammatory, eases arthritic pain, and combats ovarian cancer cells. These are merely a few of the myriad health benefits that ginger provides.

Today, I cut off a fragment of ginger from the root and placed it in a glass cup of water, before heating it. It tastes a bit stronger than lemon, but it made the water taste pleasant; not too potent or bitter. Definitely a keeper. Healthy and delicious, just how I like it.

Source: http://www.whfoods.org/

20 October 2011

Rihanna's latest music video/film: profound to say the least.

The much anticipated "We found Love" video has finally been released and Rihanna fans everywhere may now rejoice. I have watched it a few times and am rather impressed with the various metaphors embedded within. I think the unadulterated drug aspect is shocking at first. It is surprising and definitely caught me off guard; not what I had expected at all. However, when I watched it a few times and went beyond the surface, I started to uncover the underlying meanings and was impressed with the overall artistic quality. My interpretation is that the drugs symbolize the ecstasy that one experiences when in love or when we delude ourselves into thinking we are in love when it is merely an illusion. Then there's the rainbow-colored vomit which might symbolize the bliss that one blindly experiences in the midst of a chaotic but seemingly happy union between two people. I also like the symbols that the "mine" and the "yours" provoke. One might argue that the video glamorizes violence, drugs, and unhealthy relationships, but I think it is a work of art centered on the illusions of what is 'love.'

Postponement of the chocolate-free challenge

I'm not sure how long it will be until this resumes. The truth is, only a few hours after I had initiated the challenge, I gave in to my addiction. After witnessing someone sitting in close proximity savoring every delectable morsel of their dark chocolate brownie, I headed straight for the container of dark almonds waiting ever so patiently on the bottom shelf of my pantry. The rest, as they say, is history.

The following day, I vowed to start my challenge anew. However, to my dismay, I simply could not resist the dark chocolate non-pareils and chocolate cat cookies which covertly called out my name while I was perusing the dessert aisle at Trader Joe's.

Given my rather intense chocolate cravings at present, coupled with the abundant options of chocolate food items at my fingertips, I think it is safe to say that I have no choice but to postpone this challenge.

19 October 2011

How to meditate without actively trying

I have found that striving to achieve a sense of calm during standard meditation actually defeats the purpose. Putting too much thought and effort into releasing your worries and frustration is actually counterproductive. I know when I sit down with the intent to meditate by myself and without interruption, I often come away from the situation feeling more stressed out than had I not sat down to meditate at all. The act of trying to induce happiness has an opposite, unintended effect.

When I reflect on those moments that I have felt most at peace with myself, on a spiritual and emotional level, it becomes clear that it is because in those moments, I was allowing my thoughts to flow naturally without judgment or resistence. I was playing with my cats or sitting outside reveling at the beauty surrounding me. I was engaged in a thought-provoking conversation. I was dancing and letting the rhythm of the music inspire me. I was present, in the moment before me, soaking it in and allowing any particular thought to interfere. I was just being me and letting the present unfold itself.

My spirit had lifted to a higher, more secure place instantly, when I channeled my energy into the present moment. My heartbeat slowed and my breath followed suit. I was experiencing the wonderful effects of meditation, not by trying to achieve a sense of peace, but rather by meditating naturally; unconventionally. It is through participating in the present moment and living outside of your head that you will achieve an authentic sense of calm. It is by taking part in the here, the now, and the reality; it is by not focusing on the past and letting go of expectations you may have about the future, that you truly meditate without even trying.

Eat greens for that enviable glow.

I love salad, not only because it tastes delicious when the toppings are just right, but because of how it improves my complexion and energizes. It never fails to rejuvenate my skin in times of need. For lunch today, I had some spinach salad adorned with red bell pepper slices, chicken, balsamic, and olive oil. It was so satisfying and invigorating. For the past few months, I have been incorporating more greens into my diet. Salads (romaine, spinach) are easy to prepare and the topping choices are endless. Sunflower seeds, mushrooms, avocado, tomatoes, cranberries, hard-boiled eggs, beets, olives, artichoke hearts, shredded carrots, and almond slices are merely a few ideas. Rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and a host of other vitamins and minerals, greens are definitely the way to go when it comes to achieving a gorgeous glow.

18 October 2011

30 day chocolate-free challenge

I consider myself a chocoholic for sure. Chocolate is one of my absolute favorite foods and I consume it daily. I don't deny that dark chocolate, my chocolate of choice, has many health benefits, including the fact that it contains antioxidants and it serves as a mood-booster. However, the major downside in my case is the fact that it makes my face flush the day after eating it.

I have been tested for a chocolate allergy previously and fortunately, the results were negative. However, I told the doctor that chocolate seemed to induce flushing and inflammation and he advised me that while I may not have an allergy, I may have an intolerance, which is the reason for the skin reaction.

Clearly I haven't considered the flushing grave enough to avoid chocolate up to this point. However, the flushing is a bit of a nuisance and does make me self-conscious. That is part of the reason why I'm motivated to initiate this challenge. I also am excited to see if there is any other noticeable impact on my overall complexion and health once the challenge is complete.

The question remains, can I do it? I tried this challenge before an lasted about a week before I caved. I think if I just keep in mind the positive impact it will have on my skin, I may make it. We shall find out. Today is day #1...............

16 October 2011

The importance of combing your hair

I used to comb my hair only when it was wet, with a wide-tooth comb. I know that hair is naturally delicate when wet and therefore, more susceptible to breakage. However, this did not deter me from combing it while showering as I was convinced that the alternative was more detrimental. I thought that combing my hair while dry would contribute to more breakage and that there was no point in doing so, other than to create an afro-like effect. If only I had recognized there were alternative brushes to be used, I may have felt differently.

Recently, I watched a Youtube video in which this woman used a paddle-brush to comb through her hair to wrap it and straighten it, without using heat. I loved her idea and wanted desperately to try out the technique, so I went out and bought a paddle brush similar to the one she had used.

I'll save my hair-wrapping experience for another rainy day, but the point is, I got my hands on a paddle brush for the first time in a very long time. To make a long story short, I used this paddle brush on my dry hair one time, and was pleasantly surprised with the sensation and the effect. It felt very soothing to my scalp, for starters. Also, I expected it to be more of a struggle when working the brush through my hair, but the hair actually detangled rather easily. Ever since I started using the paddle brush, I have not looked back. I have been very pleased with the outcome of brushing through my dry hair each night and will continue to reap the following benefits:

1. It's a way to massage your scalp and stimulate healthy sebum production.

2. It untangles your hair, which makes it easier to style and comb through the following day.

3. It distributes the natural oils from your scalp through the length of your hair, so that the dryer sections of your hair become naturally moisturized.

4. It feels good.

15 October 2011



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Rapid review: Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris: "We found Love."

This song literally sucked me in the moment I first heard it on the radio. Last night and earlier this morning, I had this thing on constant repeat on YouTube. It's just so catchy! It makes you feel liberated and motivated. It is definitely dance-worthy and I give it 5/5 stars. Rihanna's subtle but sultry accent meshes well with the funky disco/pop beat in the background. Oddly, it called to mind Chris Brown jamming to the sound with some of the techno moves he displayed in the studio scene of his "Beautiful People" music video. "We found Love" is supremely repetitive, but nonetheless electric, and will keep you bobbing your head until the end.

Cocoa powder as a hair styling product

It's getting colder out and I'm definitely not feeling this weather, so today I'm wrapped in a blanket on my couch writing this post for all the hair junkies out there, who want to try a more natural, chemical-free method when styling your hair. Cocoa powder is the topic of choice today. I wanted to tell everyone that I dabbed some cocoa powder on my roots last week, when I hadn't washed my hair, and found the results to be note-worthy. I used it as a substitute for commercial dry shampoo. I guess it really wouldn't technically qualify as a "dry shampoo" given that it doesn't cleanse the hair. Therefore, a more appropriate description would be: hair powder. It's perfect, particularly when your hair is unwashed and needs a quick pick-me-up. Here's my DIY recipe:

Step 1: Ensure your hair is completely dry.

Step 2: Part your hair. You can part it in various sections or just part it in the middle. Along the part-line, dab the cocoa powder. You can use as much as you'd like.

Step 3: If you have curly hair like mine, you can kind of scrunch your hair and pump up your roots with your hand.

End result: Less oily roots and cool "dirty" hair.

I think using cocoa powder creates a cool effect. In my opinion, the added benefits to using cocoa powder instead of commercial styling products are as follows:

1) The scent is delightful and won't irritate the sinuses of those who are particularly fragrance-sensitive

2) In contrast to most dry shampoos on the market, it does not create a white cast on the roots, but rather a chesnut brown colored tone, which is easily concealed if you have dark brown hair like mine

3) It's cheap

4) It's natural (so natural that it's safe to eat; how often can you say that about your styling products?)

NYC fun, here I come!

I'm taking two day trips to NYC this week and thus, am in full-planning mode right now. The truth is, I'm more of the whimsical type when it comes to traveling, and I'd prefer to allow someone else to do the planning while I merely relax and enjoy the ride. However, this time I'm the one planning the itinerary. I feel it's something I need to do for myself; to map out where I'm going and go ahead and explore. I've actually been dreaming up this venture for quite some time. I've visited "the City" before but wasn't as passionate about what it had to offer as I am now. I'm older and wise and now more purposeful with regard to what I hope to take from this experience. I want to revel in the vibrant culture, diversity, and european flair and reflect on its brilliance.

Getting back to the planning aspect, I must admit that I'm getting a bit antsy as the formal plan yas yet to be formulated. The fact that I have T minus two days to prepare gives you an idea of how dire the situation is. However, I know what I need to do now is get down to brass taxes and plan ahead so as to ensure that I have enough time to see as many beautiful sites as possible. My mom will be accompanying me and I already know it's going to be fun times! So far, the list of my definite must-sees (& dos) includes:

1. 9/11 Memorial

2. High Line Park

3. Central Park / John Lennon Memorial

4. Battery Park

5. Staten Island Ferry / Statue of Liberty / Manhattan Skyline

6. Little Italy

7. Greenwich Village

8. Brooklyn - not sure specifically which spots in Brooklyn but I'm definitely heading over there!

9. SoHo

10. 5th Avenue

I'm so excited. Once the plan is fully executed, I'll come back to report on the details. For now, feel free to share with regard to your short-excursion experiences. If you've ever planned a day trip to NYC before, even better! Any tips? What did you find most memorable? Where are the best places to eat? There are so many good-eats to choose from, it's insane. Help me out if you will.

13 October 2011

5th day shampoo-less

Today was the fifth day of my no-shampoo experiment. I woke up, showered (water-only on the hair), and got dressed and went to work as usual. I dabbed a bit of oat flour on my roots once my hair was dry and wore my hair in a half-up half-down style and I was good to go. To be honest, I loved the way my hair looked today. I'm actually surprised that it looked as good as it did. It looked very moisturized and not greasy or unkempt.

I felt like I might be able to actually make it an entire week and not have to use shampoo until this Saturday. However, then I realized that I have two pimples forming, both near my hairline. One is situated in the temple area of my face and the other is near the upper left side of my forehead. I kinda freaked out inside a bit when I noticed these pimples because they are rather large in size, compared to the random small zit that I'll get on occasion.

I'm not sure if they resulted from the oils from my scalp or from remnants of the oat flour. Maybe they aren't at all related to not having washed my hair for the past five days. I can't be absolutely certain as to the cause. However, I was worried that the oat flour, no-shampoo combination might be the culprit. Therefore, I caved tonight and shampooed my hair.

I made sure to use a lot of shampoo too, to get rid of any oat flour build-up. I will say that the texture of my strands felt rather silky and smooth as I was coating them with shampoo. It oddly felt like I had used conditioner. That led me to think that my natural oils really did work their magic in adding moisture back into my strands. I'm pretty pleased about that.

I'm definitely going to hesitate with regard to using oat flour in the near future on my scalp, as I'm not sure if it's best for me, given that it's possible it led to my breaking out a bit. There is a strong likelihood that I will continue to shampoo much less, given the positive effect it's had with regard to reducing dryness. I just need to figure out to keep the oiliness at bay in a non-comedogenic manner. Any ideas?

12 October 2011

Experiment: Washing hair less

I'm doing my own little experiment in which I cut back on my usage of shampoo so as not to deprive my curly hair of the moisture it so desires. The reason I'm trying to cut back on shampoo is because I feel like it creates frizz and severely dries out my ends and the top layer of my hair in particular. Rather than attempt to restore moisture artificially, by coating my strands with commercial conditioners or masques, I decided to go with a more natural approach. My main concern with using conditioners is that I feel like they merely mask the problem. Also, for me, commercial products, and conditioner in particular, tend to cause me to break out.

I thought that the least harmful approach to attempt to restore some of my hair's natural lustre would be to reduce the frequency with which I shampoo my hair on a weekly basis. I'm aiming for 1-2 times per week. While I've tried this experiment in the past and did make it to about the fifth day before shampooing at one time, the experience was not pleasant. I've made some changes this time around to try to lengthen the time period of no-shampoo without having to sacrifice with regard to my hair's appearance. When I tried shampooing less before, I lasted until the fifth day, and by that time my hair did not look pretty. My roots were very greasy/oily and my hair as a whole, didn't look good.

This time around, I'm combing my hair at night and I'm using a natural substitute for dry shampoo (ie. oat flour) on my roots. While I do shower each day, my hair is only rinsed with water and no other cleansing product. It's been four days since I last used shampoo on my hair. I must admit that my hair doesn't feel unbearable or look as unpleasant as the last time I tried this. Whereas before I was desperate to shampoo my hair by the fifth day because my scalp had accumulated so much oil, it's now only slightly oily at the roots, and this is easily concealed with my natural dry-shampoo.

What I have noticed is that the top layer of my hair is much less frizzy and more shiny than normal. My curls are also more pronounced. I do think the fact that I have been combing my hair as a nightly ritual is also beneficial in that it distributes some of the oil from my scalp through my hair and to my ends, where I need it the most. Rather than dreading the thought of going another day without shampoo, I am actually looking forward to it and may just wear my hair down tomorrow. We'll see how it goes.

Interestingly, I did go to the gym on Monday as well as tonight and even though I did break a sweat, this really hasn't had any ill-effect on my hair. Can I make it a full week without shampoo? I'm not sure yet. I will say that I'm taking it day by day. However, I'm looking forward to see how long I can make it and if shampooing my hair 1-2x per week for an entire month with have a lasting difference on the overall quality of my hair. I'll keep you posted.

04 October 2011

It's okay to indulge every now and again.

There are times when, out of pure laziness, I don't feel like loading up on greens or eliminating sugary foods or other trigger foods, even though I know that this method works best in terms of expediting the skin's healing process. In other words, I'll deviate from the proper skin regimen which in part, involves getting a sufficient amount of sleep and eating certain foods. Instead of getting the recommended 8-9 hours, I'll procrastinate having to rise early for the work day grind and stay up past midnight when I have to get up at 7 a.m. I'll eat handfuls of dark chocolate almonds like they are going out of style. I will crave pizza for dinner, and come hell or high water, that's what I am going to be having.

The point I'm trying to make is that it's okay to purposely or inadvertently fall off the skin-health wagon from time to time. I listen to what my body is telling me and if I feel the need to indulge, I go for it.