Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Let's Lunch! No 1: Deconstructed Pitta Burger

My new workplace is not, unfortunately (or fortunately) situated within my home, so I have to provide lunch for myself, else risk Hangry*-Low-Blood-Sugar mood swings. I can't really see myself buying every day, so I pack and take a lunch with me.

The British packed lunch tends to follow a certain pattern. Sandwich, crisps, yoghurt, treat, fruit, drink, though grown ups have the added choice of leftovers too. Unless it's leftovers, it's not too great on the pocket or the health side. Boring too! I wanted something delightful, tasty, affordable (maybe even cheap) and that wouldn't make me feel like keeling over from still being hungry afterwards.

I'm fascinated by bento boxes. They share similar themes with packed lunches, but tend to be set out differently and in a manner than appeals to the eye. I like the fact there's usually quite a large focus on vegetables too.

My main problem is wrapping my head around eating the food cold. In the few snatches of summer we may get here, that's a possibility. But even as we are only just emerging from the depths of winter, I still find myself hovering near the microwave.

I used one of my favourite thrifty recipes to make this - delicious, easy and quick! Definitely a keeper in our househ

Anyway. In this lunch, there's:
  • Red grapes
  • Kidney bean/carrot balls
  • A pitta bread sliced in half
  • Half an avocado wrapped in a plastic bag
  • A few slices of cucumber lurking under the pitta bread.

I also took a banana and an apple with me.

I toasted the pitta bread halves at work, added some margarine on the inside, and then stuffed them with the avocado and kidney bean balls. Dee. Lish. Shious.
This lunch is both vegan and vegetarian friendly.

Paleo/Gluten Free: Skip the pitta bread for some lettuce leaves and replace the kidney bean balls with meatballs.
Hate avocado?:  Swap it for some soft cheese. Or some halloumi. Mmm.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Length Check & Personal Hair Challenge


Just below chin
Length: 10 inches/26cm

Left Side
Just above Armpit Length
Length: 11.5inches/29.5cm


Just above armpit length

9.75 inches /25cm

Right side

Above Armpit Length
10 inches /26 cm

Measured Sunday 06/04/2014

The stats don’t look favourable. A little bit of progress since the last time I checked but an inch in 18 months is nothing to be shouting from the rooftops about. 
To be honest, I know why it is. I decided last year that I didn’t want to be a natural who had to wear twists as their protective style – I wanted to be a wash and go girl, a 7 day twistout girl; I wanted more choice. More variation. More style.
And I did get what I wanted. But I didn’t get the protective element of it. My hair is too fine for that to be a reality for me. I also didn't really practise styling my hair. I always still wore it back in a ponytail or bun, whether it was twisted, in a braid out or loose. Today, I found myself talking to a work colleague about hair and she (of Indian heritage) complained that her hair didn’t grow. For her, the ladies with hair to envy are Indonesian women with hair that swirls around their ankles.
We chatting about different techniques, and I explained that when your hair colour needs re-touching, it’s proof your hair is growing. It’s just breaking off at the ends. She said she heard you need to trim every 6 weeks to help hair grow. And so forth.

I’m someone who really enjoys putting theory into practise, so I’ve decided to give myself a challenge to actually take into consideration all the advice I read on a daily basis and see some results (and this post is me making myself accountable).
I’m going to follow the rules JC puts in this BGLH article. So the rules are:

1. Give it time -  2-3 months
Well, that’s kind of the whole point: I either give myself unrealistic expectations in too short an amount of time (‘Waist-length this year or bust!’) or take too long and have no accountability for myself.
I don't think the goal of 15 inches of hair I originally wanted for October 2014 is do-able since we're a quarter of the way through the year already and I'm at 10 inches. 
Yeah. This is a bit of a reality check. 
Taking that into consideration, this personal challenge will last 3 months, having decided this on the 7th of April, I'll be finishing on the 7th of July 2014. I'll post my progress weekly on this here blog.
The starting measurements are above – so let’s do this! *Makes ultra-ready noises*

2. Stop trimming. Opt for search and destroy
I think this one’ll be eaaasy. I’ve already had a bit of a cut last month and I'm hoping to have a bigger cut at the end of the year, but I’d kinda like to have some hair to spare after, you know what I mean?
At the end of the three months I might have a little search and destroy session, but 'till then, I’m putting the shears away.

3. Low maintenance AND No manipulation
This is a little bit harder. I’d absolutely LOVE to do a wash and go routine for the next three months but, let’s be honest, I’d be bald before May. Despite the ideas we have wash and goes being easy to upkeep, I feel it’s a little too high maintenance for me. Having to re-wash every single day? NAHP. No thank you. Not for me.
Even a bun is too much temptation, with the unloosening every night...I’m gunning for no manipulation for as long as I can. If I make it to two months in my current set of twists, then that is excellent progress for my recovering Hand-In-Hair Syndrome self. I’m pretty sure excessive manipulation is the main cause of my current plateau, so I’m trying to cut it out as much as I can. Let’s head for an A, instead of an F.
I’ll re-do the perimeter ever two weeks and that’ll let me know how tangled my hair may be getting and whether it’s time to take them down before something Terrible Awful happens.

4. Find a washing routine, stick with it
This, for me, was the tricky bit. I’m sticking with the never neglect your hair theme and will moisturize when and if necessary.
I don’t want to wash my hair when in twists – they shrink and tangle and are a pain to take down (I think. It’s been a while since my last set of twists and I opted for no water then, so I don’t remember if washing made them harder to take down. I do remember that I loved the look after they’d been washed and conditioned and my hair felt very moisturized when the twists came down).
If I take this current set down before two months, then I’m going to try every fortnight for my washing schedule to cut down on the hair manipulation.

5. Keep your free hair stretched
This will probably be in the days/week when my hair has just been out of the twists and I’m experimenting with a new style or something.  I never really have a problem stretching my hair – I find my hair a lot easier to work with when it is stretched. My main problem is keeping it stretched, the result of which is I give up and put it in a bun.
So I solemnly swear to give myself permission, on these free hair days when I’m obviously going to be going a bit mad and loose, to scrap the no manipulation malarkey and re-plait or re-twists or re-whatever nightly in order to keep my hair stretched.

 I also want to challenge myself to try a new style at least every month for the next three months.

Who knows? If this works out for me, I might host a similar challenge next year.


Friday, 11 April 2014

Amazing, Anna Hibiscus!

I have always been a big reader since I could...well, read.

I spent a large portion of my childhood and adolescence in the public library (and many parts of my adulthood, but less for leisure and more out of necessity). It was an escape in the hard times, a delight in the good times, an exploration with friends brave, loyal, cunning and true in those story books nestled so close together on the shelves.

     Thus, I've always had a little secret dream of having my own private home library, full of books I loved and love still, in order to share them with my children. I positively glow inside at the thought of tucking up for a cosy night, reading books about dragons and spies and stubborn princesses and courageous children setting out for adventure with someone for whom this is all new, and for whom this will be something precious and wonderful.

One thing that was important about this book collection is that it must feature as diverse a cast of characters as possible. And that must include people who resemble me and/or my future little bookworms.

It's not always easy. But the other day, while I was walking along the shelves, head tipped at a 90 degree angle to make reading the names of the authors easier, I was taken aback by something.

"Atinuke?" Just the one name for an author was strange enough, but then the fact that was a sound, from a language so familiar?

I stopped and picked up the book, before quickly realising it was in a series. I took all four that were available out from the library and devoured the stories within an evening.

Yes, I read children's books. Good ones, anyway.

The Anna Hibiscus books are sweet, poignant, funny and observational, but set at a level and in language that children can understand (apart from maybe the little bits of pigeon and Yoruba). They are beautifully illustrated with cheery and joyful pictures by Lauren Tobia.

From an adult perspective, I marvelled at the fact that issues grown ups may tip toe around are dealt with head on. In 'Have Fun Anna Hibiscus!', Anna goes to Canada and we see the cultural differences through her eyes - from having dogs inside the house, to her first time ice-skating and making friends when you are different. Anna. In 'Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!' a friend from Canada comes over and shows her unawareness of

"Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa'.

Mainly, I love how positive the book is about Africa. Anna is neither ridiculously rich nor pitifully poor, though she does see poverty and wealth at different times in the different books. For me, as a child of Nigerian parents, who has never been to the African continent, this was an important bridge between the two polarising images of Africans - desperately poor or obscenely rich. There is a lot of negativity surrounding the continent, so it's lovely to see someone underline the normalcy that happens in-between, underneath and despite all the media imagery.

It is a middle ground I can imagine my parents inhabiting easily, where you are comfortable but still work and are supported by family.

One story that tickled me has to be in 'Hooray for Anna Hibiscus!'
In this story, Anna is fed up of having to deal with the fact she gets her hair down every week, so she takes matters into her own hands and hides when the braiders arrive. Then she has to deal with her hair by herself for the whole week...

I thought it was a really cute explanation of why many African girls braid their hair! I loved and was surprised by it, because I wasn't expecting to find such a story in the book. Also, Anna's style of choice was my favourite when I was little. I called them 'Minnie Mouse Ears':

Lauren Tobias' illustrations perfectly complement the story - simple and yet intricate and complex at the same time. In one picture, I marvelled at the range and detail put into the clothing and varying hairstyles of the characters on the page.

If you're interested in hearing Atinuke herself talk about the books, I've found a good interview here.

Maybe it's due to a kind of cultural or genetic cultural nostalgia; maybe it's because I found much that was familiar to me in the storied; or maybe it's because the books are incredibly well written.
All in all, I was very impressed by these books that I stumbled upon unexpectedly in the library and am definitely adding them to a roster of books I'll be buying in the future.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Lazy Wash Day which I reap the consequences of my laziness.

See, I definitely do all these shenanigans on my wash day for a reason - the tea rinse (reduce shedding, means less evil tangles), apple cider vinegar rinse (keeps my scalp happy), sectioning (keeps me sane) etc etc.

But sometimes I forget all this and then my wash day looks something like this:

1) Pre-poo with Vatika Oil over a day.

2) Slather on Garnier Ultra Blends Shea Butter and Avocado conditioner. Left it on for about 2 minutes and then rinsed it out, but not thoroughly. I think I wanted to experiment with using it as a leave in.

That was it.

Also, my silly self has been watching too many youtube videos again and slavishly drooling over people's instagram pictures.

So this video

had me convinced I could style my hair when wet into twists for a an awesome looking twist-out.

Me. Style my hair. When wet.

Like I ever just stop at twenty twists. I ended up with a third of my head done in twists that were too small to be a good looking twist out by my reckoning. I fat twisted other sections and I finally ended up finishing them a few days later (Read: Spent all of my Wednesday evening spent finishing them off. I could have cried).

 My hair was sooo tangled from my inadequate stretching on my wash day on Saturday, that took up most of the styling time. Basically, these are staying in for the next two or three weeks, come hell, high water, or itchy scalp, which is kind of good, because I've had cravings to try Wash and Go's and maybe I'll have gotten over it by the time these come down.

Aren't they just the saddest looking twists you've ever seen?

If having 3 - 5 inches of your untwisted is protective styling, then I'm a goose egg.

Fortunately, I have enough pride and re-did the offending hair parts.

I think I need a 'reading-other-people's-hair-blogs-and-looking-at-people's-instagram-pictures-and-watching-hair-related-youtube-videos' fast. 
I tell myself it's informative, but I think I'm deluding myself and wasting time.

I can feel myself getting to that point, where I'm over-frustrated with myself and my hair, which will probably end up in another moany-moany-whine-whine post, or me giving the inversion method a try.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee

On Sunday evening, I was supposed to be cleaning my kitchen.

Instead, what I was doing was marathoning the Great British Sewing Bee.

Someone at my church mentioned it to me, after I bemoaned my lack of skill/progress in learning how to sew - particularly clothes. In three years, I've gone from enthusiastic amateur sewer, to glaring bitterly at the two(!) sewing machines collecting dust in my cupboard. Since my infinity dress, I haven't made anything since.

Every teacher seems to want to charge a bucket load of money and take up time that I don't have to teach me to make things I'm not interested in.

Then...this show. When I say I'm hooked, I'm hooked. It's great to me to see the various techniques being talked about, because I'm a very visual learner. Everything is explained perfectly for an amateur such as myself. I know it follows a very similar format to the Great British Bake Off, which was HUGEly popular amongst my friends but I couldn't watch that one because it was too tense watching the cakes come out (I know, I'm a wuss).

I also used to watch Project Runway with my mum but, although I loved the creation aspect of it, a lot of the technical terms went over my head and I despaired of many of the 'high fashion' projects and cattiness. After one guy made a maternity dress based around the concept of an egg or a nest or something, I. Was. Out.

 In this one, everyone gets on and supports each other and, though it's still competitive, there's no animosity. I find it hilarious when there's about right people, running around losing their heads, and then someone has finished already and is having a biscuit and a cup of tea.

It's definitely my kind of reality TV show.

 I like how they explore the history of fabrics in the UK, explain the different properties of whatever material they're using and give definitions to whatever jargon they're using...a total geek's dream! Squee! I found myself feeling really inspired and taking notes.

 I love the different characters and personalities. I don't want anyone to leave! Some of my favourites are...

I love Linda, whose beautiful smile reminds me so much of my mum, it twists my heart a little and makes me pick up the phone for a call. She's so bright and bubbly, and so...well, Welsh. Absolutely brilliant.

I adore Heather, who is incredibly elegant and a perfectionist and sweet and easily flustered. I love watching her talk, because she always makes me laugh. The fact that she learnt to sew so she could make clothes when she couldn't easily afford them just makes her the more endearing.

And then there's Chinelo. Wow. Maybe it's because her style of sewing is the one I'm most familiar with, having grown up going to people's houses, having everything from your nose to your toes measured; of drawing a design, rather than picking out a pattern, resulting in these crazy elaborate ankara creations...It's cool to see that on TV, but it's also great to see that (unlike many tailors I've come across in my ankara wearing years) she cares about the little details and the way the clothes fit, as well as the huge bow on your shoulder. She learnt the 'African' method from her aunty who is a tailor, but unfortunately, I don't have one of them lying around... She's not familiar with patterns, preferring to semi-create her own based on  the model's measurements, and doesn't always use pins but she makes it work for her.

Oh, and she has a blog now *stalks obsessively*.

All in all, it's massive inspiration to get back into sewing. One of the most basic things I've taken away from watching it is - have a go! Because if you don't start, you dont' give yourself a chance to succeed.
They all have varying reasons and motivations for making clothes, such as putting their own stamp on it or necessity. Mine is simple - when putting something on, I want it to give the wearer (me, probably), the best feeling they possibly can in it.

So I may not have been able (or courageous enough) to have a wack making my own wedding dress, but if I start now, I might be there by the time The Littlest Sis is ready to wander up the aisle.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A Quick FYI

Is using acronyms in your blog title obnoxious? Sorry.

Anyway, the other day I was perusing my good old local supermarket, when I *ahem* accidentally found myself in the beauty aisle.

Look, it could happen to anyone.

While I was there, my eye fell upon something vaguely familiar...

These are the exact same conditioners I used in Paris! They were about £4 each (£3.89, if you want the exact details) for 400ml, and they're both silicone and paraben free conditioners, if you're into that kind of thing. The others in the Ultimate Blends range, not so much when it comes to silicones, but I think they're all paraben free.

I was so excited, I picked them up and added them to my trolley immediately (to the bemusement of the Wonder Thing, who I'd previously been desperately rushing to get out of the supermarket to get to his secret birthday surprise).

From what I've seen, the cranberry, coconut and lemon conditioners (not the 1 minute treatments) also seem to be silicone and paraben free (but please check, I just had a cursory glance whilst there).

If you're  someone who can't afford (or simply refuses) to spend £20+ on a conditioner, t have certain standards, you may want to check these out (the Vanilla milk and papaya one smells SO good). 

A full review will be out soon, but I'm trying to write it in French and English and my French is appalling, so....don't watch this space, haha!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Quick Condition Day (Cowash Day)

Is it a cowash day if I don't use the conditioner on my scalp? Just on my hair?
If it helps, my 'dealing-with-my-hair-days' are going a lot better than my 'coming-up-with-an-appropriate-title' moments.

 The only thing of note this week is that I wore a ponytail for the whole week, applied wheatgerm oil almost daily to my ends and slicked my hair back with gel on Friday..
What I was starting with.

1) I pre-pooed with coconut oil overnight and wrapped my head in a silk scarf and then dumped a satin bonnet on top. Although I'd awoken the morning before with this ensemble intact, this Saturday morning I woke up to find the bonnet literally hanging on for dear life. Oh well. That's what the satin pillowcase is for, no?

(L-R): Diluted apple Cider Vinegar, Darjeeling tea & Garnier Ultimate Blends Nourishing Repairer Conditioner
2) I started by dousing my entire scalp and hair with some diluted ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) and took some time to massage it in. Then I rinsed.

3) Then I doused my hair and scalp with the Darjeeling tea. I had enough to have a go at saturating my entire head space. Instead of rinsing immediately, I applied Garnier Ultra Blends Nourishing Conditioner on top of the tea-sodden hair and left it for five minutes while I splashed about. I used quite a bit - about four generous squirts? My hair always seems to drink it up!
I hadn't sectioned my hair at all during this - just treated it as 'left section' and 'right section' and smooshed everything through with the applicator bottle or my hands.

4) I rinsed and then wrapped my hair in a towel for ten minutes. Then I sprayed on some aloe vera juice and started plaiting my hair using Anita Grant's Cafe Latté leave in and some wheatgerm oil that I'm trying to use up. When it started to get a bit thin towards the end, I just started twisting.

Finished product.
5) After I'd finished plaiting, I applied a squirt of Organix Anti-breakage Serum all over.

Because it took me quite a while to do the plaits/braids, I've decided to leave them in for a while. Maybe until Friday.
I don't think not sectioning made a difference when I was in the shower and when it came to my hair tangling, but it definitely makes a difference when it comes to my hair's shrinkage after washing! It felt like a lot of manipulation, because I didn't section my hair before conditioning, so my delightfully moisturised hair shrunk up like I was preparing for a wash and go instead of a semi-protective style.  Definitely something to remember for the summer...