Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bento Eating for Healthy Living - My Adventures in Creating Delicious, Healthy, Beautiful Meals

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Do what you want to do!

One of the great things about getting older is you don’t care as much about what other people think. You discover the things that make you happy and decide that you’re going to follow your own path. This is one of my reasons for going natural. But, besides natural hair, one of my other passions is making “bento” lunches.

What is BENTO???!!!!

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Basically, “bento” is a Japanese or Asian style of packing a nutritionally balanced and visually appealing meal in a compact, box. The word bento, in a nutshell, means “convenient”. I stumbled onto this phenomenon while searching the web for healthy ways that other cultures eat. Initially, I was looking for different foods and how they affect my hair (of course) but when I learned about the art of bento making, I LOVED the concept and decided to give it a try.

Reasons to “bento”:
1). HEALTHY – the concept of bento is to make your lunch nutritionally balanced (according to the Japanese philosophy of nutritionally balanced. It's a slightly different philosophy than the Western view of the Food Pyramid), visually appealing and to help with portion control - cuz’ ya’ll know portion sizes in this country are WAY outta control!

The general rule of thumb for packing a bento lunch is to include 3 parts carbs or grain (rice or pasta, I often use brown rice) 1 part protein (some kind of fish or lean meat or even legumes) and 2 parts fruit and/or vegetables with no candy, junk or fatty foods and no empty space. I know a lot of people out there don't like their foods to touch so, many use the ready-made, compartmentalized boxes or just separate their foods using, foil, wax paper, paper muffin cups, etc. For me, bento is a simple method for weight control and healthy eating without counting calories. Many bento boxes, because they are on the smaller side, only hold about 600 ml of food. In Japan they don't measure these meals in calories, per se, but by the capacity of the bento container so they figure the number of calories correspond to the capacity of the container - thus 600 ml of food is equal to about 600 calories. But, rest assured, if you have a larger appetite, you can buy bento boxes that hold more than 600 ml! I just use that as a guideline for myself. Some of my lunches are larger, some are smaller depending on how I feel - but I try to make sure they are all nutritionally balanced and visually appealing.

Also, the idea is to create a lunch that has a variety of flavors, textures and colors. Most bento “gurus” say that a good bento should include 5 colors, white, brown, green, yellow and red or orange. In order to have all these colors in your meal, you have to have a variety of sources – particularly the green, red, yellow/orange. Those are the colors of many fruits and veggies. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

2). SAVES MONEY– it stopped me from running to McD’s everyday for lunch.

3). IT MAKES ME SMILE – The anticipation of knowing that I have my own, cute little lunch that I took the time to pack myself not only keeps me away from the fast food restaurants during the day, but just plain adds some joy to my life!

Different Types of Bento –
(Photos courtesy of Wikipedia)
Bento lunches range from the very basic and simple to the incredibly elaborate. Many people take a lot of time preparing their bento lunches and some have turned it into a form of food art; using food to create cartoon characters, cute cuddly animals and even landscape scenes! These elaborate bento meals take a lot of time to prepare and are very interesting and fun to look at.

My Bento Lunches:
(These 2 photos are MY own bento creations!)
While I do enjoy perusing the bento websites and marveling at the elaborate works of food art…I ‘aint got time for all that! I keep my bentos simple and try to prepare them either the night before or in the mornings in under 15 minutes. That means I use a lot of easy to pack, already prepared foods, like pre-cut or baby carrots and celery sticks, broccoli spears, cheese cubes, boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, grapes, etc. and my main ingredient - leftovers from dinner the night before! I do try to keep it balanced and interesting, though. Every once in a while I’ll get the notion to “create” something cute. And I have been known to put cute little faces on my boiled eggs or something, but that doesn’t happen very often – LOL!

What do you carry your bento lunches in?
I started out using just some good ‘ol square, oval or compartmentalized Tupperware-type containers, which is perfectly acceptable. But, then I decided that I wanted some “real” bento boxes so I purchased a couple. They just make the whole bento experience more fun for me.

Do what makes you happy

When I first started with my bento obsession, my
co-workers were curious about my little lunches and lunch boxes. My family thought I was silly. They would watch me make my lunches and ask me questions about it. When I explained what bento was all about they would give me the *side-eye* like I was crazy; much like they did when I started going natural with my hair! But, I don’t care. It makes me smile, and that’s all that matters. I don’t need their approval. And, hey, I’ve maintained my target weight, I'm healthy and I've saved a lot of money over the last year, just by changing how I eat my lunches everyday, so now who’s crazy?

(Me giving THEM the *side-eye*...HA!)

If you're interested in learning more about making Bento, check out:

What do you do to eat healthier?

Visit my YouTube channel

Ciao for Now!

Article by Evelyn Ngugi of "Kinks & All" from

I really love this article by Evelyn Ngugi. I subscribbed to her You Tube Channel "Spicyeve" today. For one, her hair texture is similar to mine, and she talks about all the things that she's discoved so far during her natural hair journey. I love how she makes a point to discuss what she can't do with her hair, even though you see others do it - it helps me a great deal ( I don't look right in minitwists either, at least not in the front of my hair because it's thin - LOL!) Check it out!
Ciao for Now,

My ‘fro has grown this year! The last photo is a blowout from this past summer. I haven’t done a blowout since, but I know my hair is even larger!

January 17, 2011 was my afro’s first birthday, folks! To celebrate, I made a video to explain why I went natural and why I make natural hair YouTube videos. I also feel it’s not enough to simply go natural. You’ve got to pay attention to your hair and learn something! Below is a list of things I learned my first year natural.

1. I need a “detangling my hair” playlist. Musiq Soulchild just seems to make the comb glide through my hair, and it seems like my coils like Bilal better than any conditioner.

2. Aloe vera does nothing to my hair that water can’t as a spritz. But it is good to mix with leave-in conditioner and a bit of oil. When I want to stretch my hair just for the purpose of pinning it up, that mixture works great on twists. Mmm, fluffy.

3. I have relatively thin and fine hair, naturally. Thin, as in the number of hairs on my head is less than average and fine, as in the diameter or width of a strand of hair is smaller than average.

4. Because of #3, I CAN’T rock mini twists. It just can’t be done.

5. Being natural taught me to love myself, so #4 doesn’t phase me; I can move on to different protective styles.

6. Oyin handmade is one of the most amazing hair care companies out there. So is Kinky Curly.

7. I am extremely comfortable with my shrinkage and LOVE to wear regular afros or wash n’ goes (the legit ones, like just washing and GOING, not 1 hour spent defining your curls). While I love my shrunken hair, it was easy to neglect it and not keep it properly detangled. That led to split ends, and ultimately cutting some hair again. I’m rocking stretched out hair now and re-twisting every night. Honestly, I resisted it. I didn’t want to put in the work.

8. Strangers will go out of their way to compliment your hair. Especially people who realize the importance and beauty of what you did. A white woman with biracial kids complimented my twist out. A white chick with locs said she loved my hair. A black dude with a picked out ‘fro wanted tips on how to wash it. These were all strangers on the city bus.

9. Coconut oil is God’s gift to afro textured hair. I feel like it was made specifically for me or something. This stuff is the TRUTH.

10. Growing your edges back takes a really, really, REALLY long time.

The most important thing I discovered this past year is that I am never going back to permanently straightened hair. This is me. One year natural. Here’s to the rest of my life!


Mature Curlies: "5 Top Tips for Thinning Hair"

This is a very informative article that I found on ""

You’ve finally learned to love your curls . . . and now you’ve noticed those once-lustrous locks are thinning. Oh, the injustice! Don’t despair—we’ve compiled five tips to keep you and your curls looking chic and stylish at any age.

1. Rule out a medical issue.
While everyone’s hair thins a bit with age and thinning hair can be genetic, it can also be a sign of a medical issue like anemia or thyroid problems. Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist, recommends asking an endocrinologist or dermatologist to rule out these issues. “Most medical doctors are not the ones to rule out medical issues. A dermatologist or endocrinologist would be the best medical experts to go and see,” she explains. A poor diet may also contribute. Fortunately, “if you lack iron and start eating red meats then the hair will regrow once your diet is appropriately balanced,” says Jaliman.

2. Consider Biotin supplements.
According to Jaliman, biotin supplements (also called vitamin H for “Haar and Haut,” which mean “hair and skin” in German) can help thicken hair and strengthen nails. Though biotin occurs naturally in some foods, few food sources are rich in the vitamin, so during the 1940s, Swiss scientists developed a synthetic process to replicate it. Biotin supplements are now available over the counter, and Jaliman says they are extremely effective.

3. Keep it short.
A short, multi-layered haircut can help create the illusion of fullness. “When we are younger, we let our curly hair grow longer, because the ‘weight’ straightens it a little when we blow-dry it straight,” explains Sandy Dumont, a Virginia-based image consultant and founder of The Image Architect. “However, it isn’t wise to keep hair at a longer length when it is thinning, because it will look droopy. A ‘stacked’ haircut gives the appearance of more volume, so that’s a great style.”

4. Lighten up.
The more contrast between hair and skin tone, the easier is it to see the scalp. Dumont has blond curls and says that when light hair thins, the effect is subtle. “You rarely see the scalp near the front or at the crown, like you do with dark hair,” she explains. If you have darker hair, Dumont suggests teasing it slightly at the crown to cover the scalp or going a little lighter to soften the contrast. “Streaks will do; it isn’t necessary to lighten the hair all over,” she adds.

5. Focus on the temples.
Even with lighter hues, thinning hair can show up around the temples, where the hair tends to be more fine to begin with. “Make sure that is covered with bangs or a side part with partial bangs,” suggests Dumont. “Curly hair that thins at the temples will make any woman look like ‘granny with a permanent,’ so it’s important to have a stylish hairstyle.” Good advice for all of us!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When You Can't Get Your Hair to Look Like "HERS"!

(The first two pictures are OBVIOUSLY not me - LOL, they are file photos taken from Google Image Search)

In the last year or so, since I started this natural journey, I have often become inspired and irritated both at the same time, by new hairstyles that I've discovered. I'll spend time searching the web for a really cute idea for my hair, particularly a protective style; find the one that I really like and study the technique to achieve the style; then gather up all the necessary tools and items to duplicate this style I just studied (*anticipation mounting*). I'll start out so excited, following all of the steps as closely as humanly possible, but soon thereafter the frustration begins to build as I discover that I just can't get my hair to do THAT! Either my hair is not long enough, TOO long in some cases, not the right curl pattern for some styles, too uneven in some instances or, the one that I hate the most, too freakin' THIN in the front! Grrrrrrrr!!!!!

Its taken me a little while to figure it out, but, because my hair is thinner and has a slightly looser curl pattern in the front, and because of the shape of my face, I have to modify a lot of the styles that I see to fit me, my head and my bone structure. I recently tried to duplicate a style that I found on You Tube that I thought was just sooo cute - I thought the You-tuber and I had similar hair texture and length so I figured it would look perfect on me. Fail, Fail MISERABLE FAIL!!! What looked super cute on her looked really stupid on me because my face is just too long and the hair in the front of my head is just too thin to wear all pulled back away from my face. I need to have some kind of distraction going on up at the front of my head- either a cute headband accessory, or a style with some volume or structure (a pomp, a flat twist, SOMETHING). I don't even like the way my hair looks parted down the middle, unless it's in a twist out style, framing my face with some height at the crown. Generally, though, I end up parting or styling the front of my hair to one side, no matter what's going on with the rest of my head.

I did have an epiphany just recently, though. Indeed, we're all here to help, inspire, encourage and offer support to one another. I would never have made it this far in my journey to natural hair without the Internet and the natural hair community. But, those ideas, advice and suggestions are not there for you or me to copy to be just like someone else. When I take other people's styles that just don't "work" for me and modify them to look right on my head, I oftentimes end up liking them better on me than the original style that I was trying to copy. I have that - "Hey, I just created my OWN style", moment. And that, my friends, is pretty cool and is what this whole natural journey is all about...discovering what works best for YOU -- no matter your hair-type, texture, thickness, (or lack thereof!) Just do you, boo;)

Ciao for now!
Visit my You Tube channel: "Over 40 Curly"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My First Braid Out and Thoughts on Hair Length

Hi! I'm really enjoying my hair growth and length. It really is growing well. Still trying to eat well, get plenty of water and taking my vitamin supplements as well as handling my hair gently and mixing Olive and Hot Six oils with EVERYTHING! Seriously, though. I mixed oils into my daily water spritz and used it to moisturize my hair when it was seriously dry and knotted up at the ends (I had been wearing it in puffy bun styles). I sectioned the hair off and spritzed each section generously and started detangling first with my fingers and then with my wide-tooth comb and paddle brush and there was hardly any difficulty at all. Very few knots and tangles! I was so excited! No more fighting with a dry tangled mess of hair, and I can detangle my hair dry without loading it up with conditioner (although, that does help ;)

So, I decided to be brave and do a braid out for Easter. I didn't use any rollers at the ends as I've done in the past with my TnCs. It turned out alright, I just have to get used to the ends being straight instead of curly. I need to practice a little more but overall I was pretty pleased. I used shea butter and did 4 big french braids going back. I did a flat twist at the very front going towards my right ear. See the results above pics ;)

I'm also super excited that my hair is long enough now to do this cute little puffy bun look in the back. (See very first pic at the top) I achieve this look best when my hair has been stretched by flat-twisting or braiding the night before.

I'm pretty much completely natural now. No more relaxed ends in the back, on the sides or in the front. Just a little, about 1/2 to 1 inch of relaxed ends left at the crown of my head. I'm trying to hold off until July before I cutthat all off, but, I don't know if I'll make it. We'll see.

I've been thinking a lot lately about hair length. I thought I went on this journey wanting my hair to be crazy long - like a lot of natural you tubers out there. But, now that my hair is growing and becoming more and more healthy, and I'm able to do more styles that I like, I don't know now that my goal is for my hair to be super long. I'm enjoying it as it is right now. I can wear it out, I can "bun" it, I can make a puffy bun look with or without a banana clip in the back. I don't think I'm all that in love with the idea of my hair being terribly long anymore. I'm really liking it for where and what it is right now which is about collar bone length on the side and in the back when stretched. In the front it's about nose-tip length when streteched. I'd like for the front to get a little longer so it'll be even with the rest of my hair but other than that, I don't feel the need for my hair to grow down to my butt, LOL! If it does fine, if it doesn't, I'm o.k. with that too. It's just not my focus anymore. Originally, I wanted my natural hair to grow out to the length that my relaxed hair was when I started this journey. I believe that I've surpassed that goal already so, I'll just continue to treat it well, protect it, etc. do all the things I'm doing now, chop the final relaxed ends off by July, and be happy with how it is in the present instead of focusing on and living for the future and wishing for my hair to grow down past my knees ;)

Check out my video on my thoughts about hair length on my YouTube Channel @ or view it below.

What are your thoughts? What are your hair goals? Weigh in!!!

Ciao for now :)