1st Vegan Thanksgiving

The time came for me to live the vegan life during America’s most gluttonous holiday…Thanksgiving. Surprisingly it was my best one yet. I did not over eat and had more than enough options. My biggest fear was not being able to take part in the turkey festivities. I knew I would have to get a turkey substitute and was thinking tofurky. My mom is pescetarian and bought one two years ago but this year we tried something different. My favorite vegan restaurant, Veggie Heaven, was selling turkey dinners. We ordered the deluxe dinner for two. It included turkey, mashed potatoes, rice, soup, and salad.  The food was amazing and they have two locations in NJ: Montclair and Teaneck. 

 
Even though I was ordering a dinner I wanted to make some of my faves. I made mac n cheese: Ronzoni elbow macaroni, Daiya shredded mozzarella, Earth Balance

 
 Lettuce-less Salad: black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers. 
  
Slutty Brownies: layer of chocolate chip cookie, layer of Oreos, layer of of brownie

  
Pumpkin Pecan Cobbler: pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, almond milk, flour, sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, pecans

  
Yes! I prepared quite a bit for myself but family members were more than supportive of my lifestyle and did their best to accommodate my diet. One of my cousins researched veganism to prepare a meal I could eat. Another cousin makes vegetarian swedish meatballs which are delish but contains eggs so she made a separate batch for me. 

 
My aunt tried a new drink she wanted to share with the family but it contained milk. As a result she tested the drink with non dairy milk so I could be included. It was my best Thanksgiving because the food was great but the family was more important. It was great seeing all of the support even though my diet deviated from the norm. The day was all about family and I remembered how much I love mine. I am sure most of us will be eating leftovers for a while sooo…. 

 

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Virgin Vegan Hair

I have been gone for a while, but I’m back. I’m back to share the good news with everyone. I am 1/4 or more through my hair transition. A few articles ago I expressed a desire to transition to natural hair. Now what is natural hair and why don’t I have it? Natural hair is hair that has not been chemically processed by perm, relaxer, Keratin treatment, Japanese straigthening etc. My hair was first
chemically relaxed at the age of nine. Now I know that sounds a bit young but it was not uncommon for young black girls in America. Actually it was a surprisingly liberating experience. Contrary to what many naturals may say about chemical relaxers, it put a huge smiles on my face. Imagine two hours at the salon and a totally new type of hair. One that flowed, was shiney, and most importantly free of barrettes. It symbolized young black girls getting older and having a more mature look. Now I am not saying chemically relaxing hair is the end and be all of life but its opens doors to self expression. When my hair was relaxed I had those super cute flat twists in the front, ponytails, buns etc. When my hair was natural very few people were aware of natural hair care and cute styles. Young girls often wore braids or barrettes. There is nothing wrong with these styles, but with the hair tucked away so often it leaves little room for exploration. Moms were skilled with styles that lasted so hair care didn’t become a chore and young black girls who didn’t have long curly hair (and even them too) kept their hair almost hidden out of convenience.   

she’s too cute
 
 
Liberation of the present and future! Can’t wait to rock that fro
 Over the past few weeks I have learned differently. With the natural hair movement and the social media presence of naturals across the globe, there is no shortage of information. Black women with natural hair have more options than to hide their hair in braids or barrettes. We are wearing our natural hair proudly in styles our mothers could not have imagined 20+ years ago. With this wealth of knowledge I am more than excited about my hair journey. I am heading into my 3rd month of transitioning. Many relaxed women transition for about a year. That statistic puts me at about 1/4 way through. I may choose to BIG CHOP (cut the remainder of the relaxed ends off) sooner or later. I have been taking photos to capture my journey as the natural hair grows in.  

Around this time I would be itching for a salon visit to straighten the new growth.
    
 As for a hair care regimen: I wash my hair with shampoo and conditioner once a week. I co-wash(only using conditioner) in between the week. I use the LOC method to moisturize my hair: liquid (leave in conditioner), oil (olive oil), cream (raw shea butter). I also
mostly
wear protective styles (styles that keep the ends of the hair tucked away: braids, twists, buns). The reasoning behind this type of styling is that I spend most of my time at home. When I am out my hair is usually out lol. One my concerns when going natural was finding products that were not tested on animals. The sad truth is that a lot of formerly black owned hair companies were gobbled up my Proctor and Gamble and as a result…test on animals. The positive truth is that within the natural hair movement there are women who only use products that can we placed on skin, hair, and consumed. People are using Jamaican Black Castor Oil, Olive Oil, Flaxseed gel, and many other home concoctions for hair care.
Products 

Shampoo: Designer Touch Conditioning Shampoo (probably not vegan but I bought a professional size months ago)

Conditioner: Designer Touch Dandruff Free (probably not vegan but there is a lot left p.s. I do not have dandruff)
Co-Wash Conditioner: Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle (cruelty-free)
LOC Method Products
Liquid: Cantu Shea Butter Leave In Conditioner (final product not tested) 
 Oil: Olive oil 

 Cream: Raw Shea Butter  

 A relaxers takes about 6-8 weeks to grow out before a touch-up is needed. This would mean that I am about one month outside of my relaxer. I am only at the beginning of journey but more than excited. I am ready embark on a new life that showcases the beauty of my natural hair. Most importantly, I am waiting for that feeling I had the day I received my first relaxers. I wanna flash my natural hair and feel liberated. I will no longer be a prisoner to relaxers and touch-ups. I can travel the world without a 6-8 week time constraint, work out to my heart’s desire, and inspire young girls of all ages and races to embrace their inner and outer beauty.  

 
Months 3-5 are known to be the most difficult because the natural and relaxed hair are quite distinct and are close in length. Wish me luck!

Unemployment as Opportunity

I have posted before about being unemployed and annoyed but this time I would like to reveal the benefits of my unemployment. Yes, I have no money. Yes, my days go by quite quickly with very little getting accomplished. And yes, I would like for that to change. In the meantime I am using this as a learning opportunity. Not too long from now I will be in graduate school and working, both full-time. I am learning all of the things that I won’t learn in a classroom…at least not one dedicated to psychology. 

The past few months have been the focus of self-improvement. This uninterrupted time has gotten me thinking about all of the things I was passionate about during high school and college but never managed to fully grasp and educate myself in between exams, laundry, and trips to Starbucks. I forgot how much I loved feminism, activism, fighting for the rights of those who cannot fight themselves, taboo topics such as child marriage and the exploitation of the working poor. I miss lively discussions on issues plaguing society. I miss learning about the corruption that our society has been built on. I miss cooking various forms of cuisine. I miss learning about foreign cultures. I miss trying new things. I miss GROWING. 

Though these past few months have been hard I’ve loved the time and space it has offered me to become a better person. Without this time I probably would not be a vegan and here writing this article. Keeping up with a blog did not work for me in college. I was so preoccupied with everything surrounding formal education: papers, exams, and research. Those were the key points of my life. If I wasn’t focused on one, I was doing the other. Throughout this journey I am finally becoming the woman I want to be. Not necessarily the woman with a million degrees but the woman who is aware. No longer will I ignore the ingredients in my food or cosmetics. No longer will I assume that everyone has the same privileges that I do. No longer will I basque in my ignorance. 

There are three major things that I have learned over the past few months. They may not be skills I can put on a resume but they will forever ensure my improvement as an individual. 

Activism

I love learning about the struggles and triumphs of people around the world…women  making a greater appearance in tech, better work life balance for both sexes. I love to see people fighting for the rights of people around the world. What kind of world would it be if people didn’t protest and make their voices heard?

  
Cooking

As I have already shared with you, I have been in the kitchen cooking every Tom, Dick, and Harry meal I can. Trying new foods introduces me to different cultures and the resources available to those regions.  

Saint Martinian Fried Dumpling
  
Aruban Food
  
Jersey Fresh Apple
 Personal Style

I screamed it loud and proud that I would be changing my hair from chemically relaxed to completely natural. Not only that but I’ve been trying makeup techniques and various hairstyles. Pushing myself to the max. I’ve tried contouring and various nail techniques. With all of this practice on personal care I will be more than ready to get these seemingly insignificant skills into my daily routine to improve my confidence in the workforce.  

Awaiting the liberation
  
Front of extension twists (only 2)
  
Twists using extensions
   

  

Gotta Love Family

A few years ago my cousins from the island of St. Martin/Maarten visited us in New Jersey. They are originally from Jamaica but moved for more opportunities. During their visit they brought back many things from their tiny island: a new accent, stories, and great food. One my favorite dishes was Johnny Cakes. My cousin showed me how to make them and they were my life. This quick, easy, greasy treat may not be an everyday meal but definitely an options for those looking to splurge a little. The recipe is simple and the link is below. *I used smaller portions than the recipe called for. 

http://www.dinesxm.com/recipes/sopranos-johnny-cakes

1. Put all of the dry ingredient in a bowl.

 2. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly and then add water.  

 
3. Knead the flour. 

  
4. Cut the dough into small pieces and roll using a rolling pin. Once a piece is rolled make a slit in the middle. 

  
5. Put in hot oil to fry and flip once each side is golden brown. 

   
    
 
6. You have the finished product. Cut it in half and add cheese or mock tuna salad and enjoy. Great for breakfast, lunch, or a lazy dinner. 

  

Brighter Day

It has been over a week since I’ve updated you guys on my struggles and accomplishments. As you know I am a recent grad looking for employment and making my way in a difficult employment arena while also trying to find myself and new ways to occupy my time. A few weeks ago I learned to contour (not well) but effective. I loved the look and that was a great way to occupy my time. This past week has been a bit busy setting up interviews and planning outfits. Don’t get my wrong I am VERY grateful for these opportunities it’s just been a hassle printing multiple copies of my resume, getting dressed, driving in traffic, and showing my best self to these employers. The great news is that the experience is immeasurably beneficial in fact that it’s great prep for the 9-5 work day. 
However, even with the interviews and prep I still have a lot of time on my hands. I have been doing different things to imporve my quality of life because I have the time. The habits that I start now during my free time can be implemented into my busy daily routine of the future. So aside from contouring, vegan meal planning, and skin care, I have decided to focus on my hair health. 

Hair health is debatable in every hair community. African hair is quite versatile. It can be worn: straightened, curly, kinky, coily, braided, permanently relaxed, temporarily relaxed, permed, or completely shaved. With this versatility comes of a slew of opinions. My hair is currently relaxed a pretty healthy. I love my hair in every style that its can be worn. Every style has it’s advantages and disadvantages. 

   
 My hair was first permanently relaxed (which means chemically straigthened) when I was nine yeards old. Needless to say, I have no clue what my natural (non-chemically processed hair) looks like. Once becoming vegan it became difficult finding hair relaxers that weren’t tested on animals, hair products that weren’t tested on animals, and other relaxed hair vegans. Growing out my hair completely from root to tip will be a challenge. Promise not to judge me if I fail.

  
 I have been looking for ways to reduce cost as well as my environmental impact and the amount of chemicals I am willfully putting into my body. I would normally get a chemical relaxer touch up on the roots of my hair. This is because the hair that grows out my head isn’t naturally straight. Getting these frequent relaxers makes it possible for all of my hair to remain as one texture. I could never believe that these chemicals are not causing some kind of environmental impact during the process. Less relaxers, less money spent. And lastly, natural hair needs natural ingredients. Chemically processed hair needs chemicals to be maintained. Call me crazy but I think less chemicals=healthier living. Otherwise how would our ancestors have made it before us?

   
 I have been trying new styles and watching tons of youtube videos. I will keep everyone posted about regrowing my hair from roots to tip with frequent trims and new maintenance. I will be turning my hair routine upside down but I think the benefits will be immeasurable. What is known as “going natural” is a great emotional and physical challenge. Everything I thought I knew about my hair, everything that worked, everything that didn’t is going to change. Emotional because it can be a long process with unexpected challenges. Physical because the skills that I acquired with relaxed hair (roller setting, flat ironing, curling) are all out the window and I am back to the drawing board. 

The good news is that I am always up for a challenge and I never achieved more that when I have to struggle for it. 
  
 
 

Fried Chicken and Roti

I have had a very productive cooking day. I tried things I’ve never tried before and succeeded. The good news is that I have pushed myself. Along with my new creations I got called in for a job interview next week which was definitely the icing on the cake. Now to start! I was hungry during lunch time today. If you have been keeping up with my posts you would know I am on a budget. I’ve been unemployed for a while so my money in dwindling. I’ve been keeping all three meals very simple. I remembered that about a week ago I bought vital wheat gluten. The first time I tried to make chicken  nuggets they didn’t turn out so great. The good news however was that I did not give up and today was the day for success. Instead of nuggets I made fried chicken (do not judge me my life is not a stereotype). I followed the directions right on the box and went straight to work. Of course cooking the gluten took about and hour and then breading and frying only a few minutes. 

 

This is them while boiling. They swell so much in the water
  
Don’t they look legit?
I am super proud of myself. Not only did they look good but they also tasted good. And above all they were inexpensive to make. Thank god I don’t have a gluten allergy!

Again, if you have been following, my last post was on a baby shower I attended where there was no vegan food available so I worked with what they had. I set out to veganize that dinner and I did it with success. I received some criticism from a vegan discussion board about eating the gravy of a meat based stew. After making the fried chicken I set out to make roti and curried coconut chickpeas. Need I say, it was AMAZING!!!!! The roti takes a bit of time to make but the good news is that I think it gets easier once you get the hang of it. It requires rolling and kneading and rolling again and oiling and flipping and patting and folding lol. But it’s more than worth it. This is will be a new staple in my diet. It will diversify my meals and I can use whole wheat flour to make it as well. 

It needs to be folded and special way
  
Perfectly oiled in the pan
 
The chickpeas were easy as always. I let them do their own thing in the pot while I focused on other things like all of that rolling, oiling, and patting. I opened and rinsed a can of chickpeas, put it to boil in water, added every seasoning from the pantry, added Jamaican curry, added coconut milk and let it simmer. 

   
 
The recipe for the roti is in another post. It’s  a great meal and time spent will decrease as you get used to it. I am definitely making this again. Roti is a staple in the Guyanese culture with Indian influences. It is cost effective for someone on a small budget. The recipe I posted called for four cups of flour but that would’ve been too much so I did two cups instead. Next time I will breakup the douch into smaller sections so they are thinner. All in all it as a great success for the day. I pushed myself and ended up enjoying  lunch and dinner. 

 

Final product!
 
 

Baby Shower Blues

First off I have no children and have no plans of having any for at least another 15 years. I went to a baby shower this past weekend and broke the cardinal rule of attending a non-vegan gathering: eat before you come or bring enough food to share. I did neither.

Before I left the house I knew my options would be limited. I was already hungry from not having ate anything all day. I decided to attend the shower last minute and quickly stuffed some granola bars in my purse and headed out. Once I got to the shower I consulted the hostess about the dinner that evening. She told me what was made and there was nothing for me to eat. The granola bars were only going to hold out for so long so I had to get creative. I found out that they were serving roti, which is a Guyanese flatbread with Indian influences. I assumed that because it resembled a tortilla it would not contain any butter, but just water and flour. There was also a meat stew made. I inquired whether or not it contained butter and luckily it did not. The roti and stew gravy was delicious.

Roti Recipe: https://ahayahyashiyadietrylawsrecipes.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/west-indian-guyanese-style-paratha-oil-roti/comment-page-1/

Lesson: Eat before you go and let people know your dietary restrictions. Also come with an open mind. You may have to try things new to stay alive. After returning home I found out that roti does traditionally contain butter or vegetable oil as an ingredient. The chef who prepared the meal was not present therefore unable to answer that question. I will probably learn to make roti on my own with vegetable oil because it really was good along with the curry gravy. The great news is that I found some time to work on my contouring and selfie skills that day. Tell me what you think!