Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

     There’s no better way to get me to read a book than to tell me a movie is getting made based on it. A movie co-starring my cousin, Bobby Daniel Rodriguez, with other names like Julianne Moore, and Ken Wantanabe, shot Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto to the top of my queue.  In fact, I was so excited I sprang for the audible edition so I could have the story narrated to me when I couldn’t actively sit and read.
Bel Canto is a literary symphony, told in the spirit of an opera. Set in 1997 Peru, it is based on the true story of a terrorist takeover of the Japanese Ambassador to Peru’s residence, during a birthday party thrown for the Vice President of Peru. Patchett takes her readers inside the home with the party goers turned hostages for the entire 126 day duration of their confinement.  Her readers discover the reality of captivity, the inevitable unlikely pairing of lovers, and a man’s love affair with his God,  set against an incredible score of classical opera like nothing you’ve experienced before.
I was so enchanted by the story that I never deviated from the audible version. It’s worth noting that the narrator, Anna Fields, performed as brilliantly as the prose, never degrading herself to produce silly “girl” voices, or mocking the lower registers to make stereotypical male ones.
Bel Canto is a lyrical joy that captivated me from the first line, and held me tightly through a roller coaster. Even with the knowledge of exactly how the hostage situation resolved, this novel wrenched my heart, and even managed to deliver an ending I didn’t see coming.
The movie version of Bel Canto is slated to be released in 2018.

My MHM Products

I’ve gotten a few questions about the exact products I use for MHM, so I figured I’d just create a quick post to answer it for everyone in one place.

As far as the ingredients for all the DIY products:

  • I started with the Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, because that’s what I had on hand. I ended up grabbing a store brand organic ACV when I ran out, and found it smells stronger than the Braggs. Both work just fine, but I intend to use Bragg’s when I run out of the store brand.
  • I tossed the container of benzontonite clay, so I don’t remember the brand. I bought it at Whole Foods.

For deep conditioning and co-washing I use Face Values brand Tea Tree Conditioner, which I bought from Harmon. It’s the no-frills version of Paul Mitchell’s Special Tea Tree Conditioner.

For Step 4 (Leave-in condish) I use Kinky-Curly Knot Today, which I got on Amazon.

Kinky-Curly Knot Today Leave-in Conditioner


For Step 5 (curl definer) I use Miss Jessie’s Multi-Cultural Curls, which I get on Amazon, or at Sally’s Beauty Supply. This is the one item that doesn’t strictly adhere to the Maximum Hydration Method’s no-no ingredient list. I tried Kinky-Curly’s coiley custard, which was the most commonly used curl definer among all the blogs I read. I found that my hair really didn’t respond well to a gel, so I returned to

Miss Jessie’s Multi-Cultural Curls

Miss Jessie’s, and I’ve been pleased with the results.

I’ve thrown everything else out. So I don’t have oodles of product around my bathroom anymore, which my family really appreciates.

I hope that answers your questions. As always feel free to reach out on Instagram @TR_Patmore, or on  Facebook!!

30 Days Later | My So Called Post-MHM Life

     I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my MHM 7 Day Challenge posts. Actually, I’ve gotten the same question a lot of times.

“What happens after MHM?”

According to the Research…

     There isn’t a straight answer to it. Some sources say you don’t do anything for three days, then repeat the cycle again replacing step one with the Cherry Lola Treatment every 2-4 weeks.
     Others say you should return to your normal process (read: pre-MHM life), repeating the cycle every 2-3 days, although the time span is contended wildly between sources. As far as I’ve been able to find, the modifications are based on curl and porosity type, which creates a spider web of different approaches and techniques. It’s complicated.
     My hair is a high porosity 3b curl. Which means it’s super dry, but curls about the width of a sharpie marker, and the strands are super fine. That means I don’t need such a strong curl definer. A creme is better than a gel for me.

Post-MHM Life & Me

     The MHM 7 Day Challenge is like a detox cleanse for your hair. Not only does it get your hair to square one, but it forces you to reevaluate the choices you make. I’ve learned to determine the reasons for my hair’s behavior. Instead of trying to apply some kind of product to combat the issue, I can respond to it with science. The biggest gain from MHM is that it forces you to learn the science of your own hair.  There’s a reason for each step:
  • The baking soda rinse is all about lifting the cuticle of your strand, so that you can dump as much hydration into it in the conditioning step.
  • The clay removes the excess product from your hair, so in the end you’ve got a plump, shiny clean strand.
  • Leave-in conditioner gives that last moisture dump, and the curl definer hardens around the strands, forming a cast. This causes the curls to clump, and if I’m being honest, this is as far as I ever got with my hair process. I had no real concept of the final step.
  • The final step is the one where you fluff and separate the clumps of dry curls very gently. It’s also the one where you put the oils on the ends of your curls to help them look less frazzled. Skipping it leaves the roots of your hair weighed down more, making it less likely to curl up there the next day.

By the end of the 7 Day Challenge I’d learned the various textures of my hair.

  • Fluffy and dry.
  • Mega friction squeaky clean.
  • Slippery and conditioned.
  • Crunchy.

I found that I could predict the final result by the way it felt when I’d finished styling. I learned how to define that Goldilocks combination of slip and friction, and that I still have a lot to learn about my hair, and a lot to learn about myself.

  • I have to learn that my hair is supposed to stand up. That’s what it does. Frizz is going to happen. I have to remember that it isn’t just curly girls who battle frizz, it’s everyone.
  • I have to learn how to get the top of my head to curl all the way to the root.
  • I have to learn to embrace the round shape of my hair, and stop feeling like it looks messy.
     At first there was a lot of trial and error, although I continued to dilute my conditioners, both the co-wash and the leave-in. I also love the applicator tips because the help me make sure I’m hitting my roots. I have to refill the co-wash bottle every other day-2-3 squirts of conditioner, and fill the bottle with the hot water from the shower.  I’m sticking with the kinky curly leave in, and the Face Values brand tea tree conditioner—I’ve come to love the tingle.
     There were a few days where I tried to make the Kinky Curly Gel work as a spray gel, which lead to some weird splotches of gel as I experimented with dilution, and different spray bottles. A misting bottle works well, and is pretty good for killing frizz, but I just hate the texture of it. I can’t touch my hair at all. It’s something I’ll save for special occasions when I need my hair to look amazing.
     When the hair at my crown stops curling to the root, and my curls start to take on more of an s-shape than a spiral, that’s when I know to repeat the MHM cycle. So far it’s been about a week between cycles, and I still haven’t repeated the Cherry Lola step. I’m a little leery of how long the first batch is supposed to last, and I haven’t gotten around to figuring it out. I’ll probably make a new batch before I get an answer. I prefer my hair after the apple cider vinegar rinse to the baking soda rinse.
     I’ve changed de-tangling equipment quite a bit. I use a shower comb to de-tangle my dry hair before i shower, and finish it with a metal fan pick. I’m also using a fan pick during my final separating step.
     I’ve also upgraded my shower cap situation because I can’t handle the crunching sounds they make.
  • During the step one rinse I use a spa headband to catch the drips.
  • During the deep conditioning I wrap a scarf around my head like a turban.
  • I use a shower cap for the clay step, because that stuff can be messy
  • I got a wave cap for plopping my curls.
     Oh, yeah, remember plopping? When I have the time to let my hair dry at home, my hair responds beautifully to plopping! I just add a little extra curl definer, pile my hair into a wave cap, and let it dry.
  I’ve compiled a full slide show for all the days of MHM, including the four weeks beyond.

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In the end my process comes down to this:

I can get up to three days of use out of one styling. If I’m not wetting/washing my head in the shower, I just clip it into a bun and do my best to avoid the water. I don’t mind a little water in my hair, I just don’t let it get soaked. It helps with styling after the shower.
Hair wetting days
  1. detangle dry hair
  2. apply diluted warm conditioner from root to tip. Clip into a bun atop head.
  3. detangle in shower
  4. apply diluted leave-in followed directly by curl definer in sections (experiment with this daily).
  5. separate and scrunch when completely dry. apply oil to ends as needed.
MHM Days
  1. de-tangle dry hair
  2. apply clarifying rinse with spray bottle. clip into bun atop head. use spa wrap to catch drips. 30-60 minutes.
  3. rinse. apply diluted conditioner root to tip. clip into bun atop head. use scarf and spa wrap to contain. 15-30 minutes
  4. rinse. apply clay rinse root to tip. clip into sections (experiment with configuration). contain with shower cap 15 minutes
  5. In shower, rinse in sections. Return hair to sections after rinsing. Alternatively rinse all in one mass and section with clips before leaving shower.
  6. apply diluted leave-in followed directly by a little extra curl definer.
  7. plop hair until 80% dry.
  8. separate and scrunch when completely dry, apply oil to ends as needed

If I’m being honest, I put off MHM days. As I’m writing this post summer is upon us, and it doesn’t always make sense to let my curls loose. There are lots of updos, and hair buns happening, and with two kids home, it’s hard to find the time to get through the entire process. I won’t put it off forever. That’s how I know the impact the Maximum Hydration Method has had on my hair. I’m still willing to do it.

Would I do the 7 Day MHM challenge again?


In fact, I’d like to challenge one of my favorite role models, one of the most graceful, beautiful and intelligent women today, Michelle Obama, to take the challenge, and show us her natural curls! Wouldn’t it be amazing if it caught on? If women everywhere stopped succumbing to the pressure to get straight hair, and the world was filled with beautiful curls?!
     Curly hair has a stigma. It has associations of being dirty, smelly, and unclean.
     It looks wild, unkempt, untamed. There are people who are scared of curly haired folk.
     Curly hair is an identifier. The products for them are usually sold in “ethnic care” sections (don’t even get me started on this!. What does that even mean?), a subtle act of segregation.
     Curly hair is an act of resistance. Societal standards have attempted to erase natural curls for millennia as a subtle method of control.
     There is an ever-growing curl power industry starting to catch its stride, and the more visibility we give our curls, the more knowledge we can discover. Wouldn’t it be awesome if when we told little girls they were beautiful, we meant it for all of them, not just the ones lucky enough to have straight hair?
     It sounds superficial to spend so much time thinking about hair. It feels like I should be writing something about valuing ourselves by more than just our physical representations. Still, if I can save one little girl, or one grown woman from a flat iron, or a chemical relaxer, it would all be worth it.
Thank you for taking this journey with me. I leave you with one final slideshow of the amazing hair days I’ve had Post-MHM. Enjoy!

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MHM Day 7 Reveal & Review

It’s finally here! The final day of MHM. It’s a strange feeling. I thought I’d be more excited. There’s a lot more burnout involved than I’d imagined, but I’ve never spent so much time actively worrying about my hair. It’s been quite a journey. Here’s my final day’s re-cap:

Step One:  ACV and the rest of the option 2 baking soda rinse.

Steps Four & Five

Kinky Knot diluted Leave in & Miss Jessie’s Multicultural Curls.
     Today I got very distracted in the garden, and didn’t get started until 2:00 PM!! If you’ve been following along this far, you know that the MHM process is crazy time consuming. So I skipped the finger combing in favor my shower comb. It was much easier to get the conditioner through. I also made the call to return to my original curl definer: Miss Jessie’s Multicultural Curls. The gel just made me unhappy.  It’s not a total loss though. I’ve read that if I dilute it enough  (I’m working on the enough part) it is a wonderful spray-on. I may try this as a final step when MHM is over.
     I was able to fly through these steps in 20 minutes! That’s a 7 day record! Using the Multicultural Curls cream made everything feel so much nicer, and while the frizz wasn’t fully banished, it was definitely under control. It was my best hair day so far. In fact when I woke up the next day my hair still looked amazing. It was my best hair so far.

The Reveal:

Day 7 MHM Reveal

The best way to see the results is the shake test. I wish I’d thought ahead enough to take a video of Day 0. Still you can see how amazing the definition is. You can see how each curl is it’s own independent body, instead of just being one giant mass.

My MHM Assessment

     If we take a look at a side-by-side shot of Day 0 and Day 7 of MHM, it’s clear to see that my hair has changed.
     I’ve been so obsessed with frizz during this process, it’s funny to look at the hair I started with. My pre-MHM hair is so much frizzer!! Can a person get spoiled so quickly?  Post-MHM the curls form full ringlets, and they start much higher up to the root than they did before. With each curl defined, my hair has the volume I’ve been searching for too.

The real question is, would I do it all over again?

     I want to give you an unequivocal answer, but the truth is that the MHM process is sooooo time consuming. I can’t stress this enough. The ACV is kind of stinky, and my family did get pretty irritated with me. All the waiting in between steps is nothing short of obnoxious. It’s hard to sit down and write while your hair is dripping, or your scalp is tingling. Plus, writing my experiences down took up a significant amount of time too. Oh, and did I mention the mess? I definitely sprayed just as much ACV on the mirrors as I got on my hair. It was absolutely a challenge to get through, and it caused lots of timing issues. Because I skipped a day a few times the process took a total of 11 days, and by the last day I was so sick of shower caps. If I did it again, I would make sure not to schedule anything time sensitive for the duration.
     On the other hand, I am soooo in love with my hair. It’s incredible. It feels good. I feel confident. My husband loves how much curlier my hair is. If he hadn’t been privy to what I was doing, he says he would’ve thought I cut my hair. That’s how much spring I’ve gained! The best part is that my ends are super healthy. I think I may still get a trim, but it will be minimal. After an entire year without a cut, that’s impressive. I may actually get to keep the length that grew in that year!
     The best part is that I don’t have to do it all over again, at least not every day for seven entire days. To maintain maximum hydration it is recommended to repeat one day of the cycle every 2-3 days, but I’m calling it once a week, as that’s the guideline for 4c hair. The Cherry Lola treatment can replace Step One once a month.
     Honestly, I can’t say I would do it all over again, all seven days, all the rinses, all the waiting, the tired arms, the dripping hair… at least not until I know what my hair looks like after MHM. If the question is, would I do the MHM every time I wet my hair, then the answer would easily be “hell no”. However, if my hair continues to look this fabulous even after my 15 minutes of normal styling I’ll be singing a much different tune.
In the meantime, check out a pictorial wrap up of the 7 Day MHM challenge.

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My next post will be all about life Post-MHM- how MHM changed my practice, and I’ll dish on the big decision: to MHM, or not to MHM!

MHM 7 Day Challenge- Days Three -Six

     If you haven’t been playing along, I took the Maximum Hydration Method 7 Day Challenge (click here to learn more about MHM), and had some really amazing results so far on Day One & Two. The only problem was the frizz factor was worse than I’d hoped it would be, although the weather was pretty humid the entire time. For the most part the first three steps stayed the same, with the exception of toggling Step One’s clarifying rinse between diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV) and the option 2 baking soda rinse. Steps 4 & 5 gave me the most trouble, and took the longest time, so this is where I experimented the most. For these next few days I’ll only be highlighting the differences in my methods. For a complete rundown on each of the steps check out my Day One & Two posts.

MHM Day 3

Step One: Option 2 baking soda rinse.

     I can safely say that using a spray bottle to apply the rinse is the easiest and most effective method. Each application uses about 4 ounces.

Step Two: Deep Condition

     Instead of adding warm water, I chose to pour just boiled water (after I made some mid-morning tea, of course) into a mug and let the applicator bottle sit in there for five minutes.

Step Three: Clay Rinse

     This is when I started sectioning my hair differently. Instead of thinking about my hair in sections (left, right, crown) I thought of it in layers from the nape of my neck to the front of my head. It took FOREVER. I also decided to rinse these sections out individually, and roll them into little buns in the shower. The clay can be hard to rinse out, and this helped me make sure I was getting it really clean.
     Remember when I was complaining about how the clay made my hair feel? By Day Three I’d begun looking forward to it. Because curly hair strands are naturally ridged, it is not actually supposed to feel smooth.

Steps Four & Five: Leave-in Conditioner & Curl Definer

     These are the steps where I’d been breaking the MHM ingredients rules. Miss Jessie’s Leave-in Condish actually contains denatured alcohols, which are drying. I picked up a bottle of Curls brand Blueberry Bliss Leave-in Brûlée, which doesn’t have any of the MHM no-no ingredients, but I stuck with Miss Jessie’s Multicultural Curls as my definer. MHM is a very hands-on process which calls for you to detangle and style with your fingers. My hair is pretty long, so pulling the product through to the ends is quite the workout on my arms. I took breaks. The definition of the curl comes from these steps. While you might have heard of Ouidad’s rake and shake method (pull each section, shake it, and release it), others might call it shingling. I like this term better, because it is more accurate. I like thinking of each section as shingles on a roof.

These pictures were taken before my hair was completely dry, which is why my roots look so much darker (also I need to get my hair color updated). I will say, that I did have a halo of frizz by the end of the day, and my hair felt sticky. I’m pretty sure it came from the new leave-in, so abandoned it, and decided to buy the products recommended by the creators of MHM.
Knot Today Leave-In & Kinky Curl Coiling Gel. I ordered them on Amazon, so it’ll take two days for them to arrive. Still, the results were enough to push me to the next day.

MHM Day 4

Step One: Baking soda ACV

Steps Four & Five:

This time I decided to dilute Miss Jessie’s Leave-in Condish, according to the rules.
Today I got my eyebrows done at Ulta’s Benefit Brow Bar. I let the waxer fill in my eyebrows, which is always a little strange when I’m not wearing any other makeup.

You can see the frizz really well in the pictures, but this is the day that I realized I could separate my curls without losing the definition. From everything I’m reading the frizz comes from the curls clumping together. Despite the frizz, I’m still pretty stoked about how far up my hair is curling. In some places it’s all the way up to my scalp which usually doesn’t happen even after a professional Ouidad style.

MHM Day Five

Ugh by this day I’m so ready for this to be over. As much as I love the results, all the rinsing and application of products is incredibly time consuming. I am seriously not the kind of girl who spends so much time on her hair. Not to mention that even by the end of Day 4 I’m still getting more frizz than I’m happy with. If I have to choose between a better defined curl, and frizz, I’d gladly choose the pretty curls, but after all this work I really hope that I’m getting more than that.

Step One: ACV

Steps Four & Five :

Knot Today- diluted as per proper instructions
Kinky curl custard
I really don’t like the Kinky Curl Custard. It dries up as soon as it touches my hair, which I’ve read is simply casting the shell to hold the curl. I haven’t used a gel in a really long time, so I forget how my hair responds to it, but I’m pretty sure it’s never been like this. It leaves my hair brittle to the touch and crunchy for the entire drying process, but the curl definition is incredible. Once it’s completely dry, all I have to do is scrunch and separate. Even the frizz is better managed today.

Day Six

Step One: ACV

Step Two: Condition

This time I decided to try the conditioning overnight. It wasn’t a hair thing. It was a time thing. I had places to be on Saturday, and the entire process is easier when all you have to do is the clay rinse and the styling.

Steps Four & Five:

Knot today
Kinky Curl Custard
     This time I diluted the gel with water. The instructions didn’t say to do it, but after reading some of the reviews which claimed it works better for 3b hair when diluted, I decided to give it a shot. I also thought that my hair might be rebelling against the way I’m trying to combat the years of parting my hair down the middle. So I went for a side part. This was a mistake. I hate the way my hair falls in my face, so I’m constantly touching it. We all know that anything rubbing against curls may as well be a latex balloon.

     I took these shots after being at a BBQ all day. You can see my hair has held up pretty well even with all the grabbing I did. Still I don’t love the way the gel feels in my hair, even diluted. The gel casts so quickly I don’t get a whole lot of time to style or place the curl. My hair does curl all the way to the tip now, and it feels much healthier. It doesn’t shake all in one clump. Day Two was definitely my best hair day so far, but considering the weather, that’s not the fairest assessment.
     By the end of Day Six, though, I’m ready for this to be over. Seven days is a long commitment to spend so much time on my hair. I’ve thought about giving up so many times, but day by day I’m am watching my coils change for the better. Would I do it all over again? Well you’ll have to wait until my next post to find out!
     In my next post I’ll recap the MHM Seven Day Challenge, deliver the verdict on whether or not is was worth the trouble, and post side by side shots of Day 0 and Day 7 so you can decide for yourself if the MHM Seven Day Challenge is right for you.

MHM 7 Day Challenge– Day Two

It was on Day Two of the 7 Day MHM Challenge that I realized this would be really difficult for a working woman, especially a working parent, to accomplish. There is a whole lot of sitting with stuff in my hair, and a whole lot of rinsing. I can’t imagine I’d be able to pull this off if I didn’t work from home, unless I took a vacation, and who really wants to spend their vacation rinsing their hair every 15-30 minutes?

Step One: Clarify

Choose one of your clarifying rinses, either one of the baking soda options, or the apple cider vinegar rinse.
Saturate your hair from root to tip.
Let this sit for 30-60 minutes.
I chose the apple cider vinegar option. I had this in a 6 oz applicator tip bottle, and it was a pain in the butt. Sometimes the tip would get clogged, and it was hard to squeeze out. I really should pay more attention to recommendations. Next time I’ll definitely try this in a spray bottle. Because it’s liquid, I can probably use less and have more control. I applied it to my sectioned off hair, and covered it with a regular shower cap. I discovered the dripping immediately, and tied a folded bandana around my hairline to hold it in. Other than the fact that I smelled like a salad, this wasn’t an uncomfortable experience at all.
I rinsed this out over the side of the tub using the detachable shower head.

Step Two: Co-wash and De-tangle

This is the step with the most time impacting options. You can choose to apply your 2-3 oz of conditioner mixed with 4-6 oz of water
  •  overnight;
  •  for 15 minutes—just use warm water or tea with the conditioner
  • for 15 minutes—just use warm water or tea with the conditioner, and use a steam hood.
I chose the warm water, no hood option. Again, I used the tea tree oil conditioner, and it tingled like heck on my hair. I really like how fresh it makes my scalp feel. I rinsed this off over the side of the tub with the detachable shower head. I’ll admit, by now I was feeling the time being spent on my hair. I know it isn’t uncommon for a person to spend upwards of an hour on their hair, but I’m just not one of those girls. My usually process takes a grand total of fifteen minutes, not including my shower.

Step Three: Clay Rinse

I have to admit, I know this is one of the most important steps, but I hate this stuff. I learned from my Day One blunder, and added water to get the rinse to a liquid consistency, before transferring to a 6 oz bottle with applicator tip. This was way easier. I applied it in sections, held down with clips, put on a shower cap for 15 minutes.
This I rinsed in the shower. So maybe I don’t hate it, as much as I hate the way it makes my hair feel. It’s the way my hair is supposed to feel, squeaky instead of slippery. I’m just not used to it, and it has a little bit of that nails on chalkboard kind of effect on me. Also, it’s hard to get out of my hair. Next time I really have to work on this better. I had to rinse my hair even after I got out of the shower, because I noticed little bits of clay still in it.

Step Four & Five: Leave-in & Curl Definer

     Again, it’s important to note that each step is completed on each section, BEFORE moving onto the next section. Root to tip is the name of the game here.
     I spent a lot of time on each section, making sure I was getting the roots with both products, and de-tangling. My hair went from feeling rough, and squeaky to smooth and slippery as I used the leave-in, Miss Jessie’s Leave-in Condish. The curl definer, Miss Jessie’s Multicultural Curls, I applied while raking and separating. This is not much different than Ouidad’s Rake and Shake method. This took the longest, and reminds me of why rake and shake didn’t work for me either.
     I should mention that it was a very yucky, rainy Monday. Even when it wasn’t raining, the air was at maximum humidity. By all rights my hair should have been a hot mess. Instead, once it was completely dry (which took something like three hours), I forgot any reason I had to complain.
It was so hard to capture the definition, and separation of my curl, especially on a rainy gross day like this one. So I shot a video and slowed it down enough to show you exactly why I decided to keep going to MHM Day 3.
My next post will give you a rundown on Days 3-6, the trials, tribulations, and courses of products I ended up running through on the hunt for the perfect curl!
 Press play to see the awesome video of my springy curls!

MHM 7 Day Challenge- Day One

I decided to start the Maximum Hydration Method on a Friday to avoid having to worry about dropping my daughter off at school with a shower cap on. It was a LOT of work. I have pretty strict Monday-Friday rules for myself. I write a scene a day up front, and then I use whatever time I have until school pick-up for errands, or chores. I made sure I ran through my own usual process so I could fairly assess the before and after. I had an hour and half to gather all the ingredients, which included things that sounded hard to find like,  Bentonite clay, and liquid aminos. Between Whole Foods and Harmon, I found every single thing at a $50 price tag when all was said and done. Well, I did flub a bit on the applicator bottles. Why did I think 4 oz travel bottles would work? Probably because I was rushing. If I had to do it again, I would have prepped by hanging onto empty conditioner/shampoo bottles. Luckily I did have a couple hanging about, and the applicator tips from my too-small bottles fit them. I could have saved about $10 by planning ahead.
Once all the ingredients were procured, and the kids were back home doing homework, I got to work.

MHM Step One: Detangle and Cherry Lola

The Cherry Lola Treatment is a strictly Day One product. Once the 7 day cycle is complete you’re free to repeat it as often as every two weeks. I used half of the recommended baking soda, because this is an intended abrasive, and other curly girls have reported a potential disruption of curl. I also added an entire TBSP of avocado, because I didn’t have a 3/4 TBSP and I figured it couldn’t hurt. Oh, yeah, and I got to eat the rest of the avocado! Bonus yum! In my house bananas don’t last long enough to become overripe, so, at the suggestion of one of my friends, I baked a plantain in the toaster oven at 300 for 30 minutes. It worked to achieve the consistency the Cherry Lola Treatment requires, but I can tell you, after frying up the other half, it wasn’t sweet. Still, a couple slices double fried made excellent tostones! Bonus yum 2!!
My favorite part was detangling my hair. I never do this on dry hair, because it stretches my curl straight. Not completely straight. It’s about as straight as you can get a sheet of paper after you’ve crumpled it into a small ball. No matter how hard you push or press, without heat, it will always have creases. The same holds true for my hair getting detangled by a comb. It was like watching the balloons inflate for The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The circumference of my hair was stupendous. I couldn’t help but to take a selfie break. This needed to be documented. I should also mention, seeing the magnitude of my mane was a bucket lister for my husband. Bonus Dreams Coming True!

I combined the ingredients easily into the Ninja Blender Large Carafe until it looked like a kale smoothie. I didn’t bother trying to pour it into an applicator bottle. Instead I took the pitcher into the bathroom, and scooped it out as I saturated my hair with it. Definitely messy!! Be prepared to clean the tub afterwards.
The first thing I’ll say is that my hair did NOT like this combination of being detangled, and then coated with goop. Some of it started to frizz rebelliously, and it felt like it would never feel completely wet. I just kept applying it root to tip until it was all one big mass that I could wind into a bun on the top of my head. I covered it with saran wrap, and used a bandana to cover the edges.
     I stored the rest in a mason jar in the fridge. I think I have enough left for two more applications, but I’m not really sure how long this kind of mixture can be stored.
     Meanwhile, I prepared and bottled the rest of the rinses. I decided that I’d alternate ACV rinses and the option 2 baking soda rinse. Both were easy to prep. I used an old leave-in conditioner bottle to store the option 2 baking soda rinse, and still had about 4 ounces left over. Well, well, well, travel-sized bottle. One of you has served a purpose. The ACV rinse is all liquid, so I stored it in a 6 oz bottle I found, which an applicator tip fit on perfectly. *Note* Since writing this I have already completed some of the MHM cycle, and have since learned that the best practice for this rinse is a spray bottle.

     The clay rinse is slightly more complicated. If I’d bothered to read the directions more clearly, I would have seen the recommendation was to use an old 32 oz shampoo/conditioner bottle. It wouldn’t have mattered, because I didn’t have one of those, but I feel like I would’ve tried harder to source one. I mixed the conception in an old ricotta cheese container. It’s supposed to be a liquid consistency, but I left it a little gloppy. I figured I’d have to add water to it when I used it the next day, and would handle it in the moment.

This clay rinse is too thick to be used as-is, but I can add water when I need it.

     Once all the products were prepped and bottled, I took some time to clean up. Then I cooked dinner.
     It was over two hours later when I washed it off in the shower.

MHM Step Two: Deep Condition

     The MHM Method offers you a few options here, all of which involve 2-3 ounces of conditioner mixed with 4-6 ounces of water in an applicator bottle. The difference in the options has to do with length of time to keep the conditioner in, and the temperature of the conditioner you use.

Option 1 is to apply the conditioner mixed with temperate water, to your soaking wet hair, and leave it in overnight under a shower cap.

Option 2 is to apply the conditioner mixed with warm water (or tea), and then sit under a steamer hood (if you have one) for 15 minutes.

Option 3 is the same as option 2, just without the steamer hood, under a shower cap for 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can sit in a hot shower and let that function as a heat source, but that may be a big wasteful for some folks.

     I picked option 1 for Day One, just to give my hair the extra oomph. I mixed 4 ounces of water with 2 ounces of conditioner in an applicator bottle, and applied that to my still soaking wet hair after I’d turned the water off. I tried the saran wrap and bandana method, but it didn’t hold up to couch cuddling with my honey. I swapped it for my go-to overnight hair wrap from back when I was plopping my curls on the reg— the Curly Hair Tee. The recommendation is to seal in the heat with some kind of plastic shower cap, I think, but I couldn’t deal with it overnight.
     Remember how I told you in the last post, how I chose the FaceValues Tea Tree Oil Conditioner? Before you run out and purchase it, let me first warn you that the ingredients DO include Tee Tree Oil and spearmint. Either of these ingredients will make your scalp tingle, but the combination is pretty intense. Personally, I didn’t find it to be horrible. In fact, since it’s allergy season, the aromas actually helped keep my sinuses clear, which I found to be a major plus. I could see others, particularly those with low pain tolerance, or sensitive scalps, being really uncomfortable with it. My husband did his best to tolerate my minty-fresh scent, but I know it wasn’t the most fun for him either.
     Going to bed was NOT the end of Day One.
     In the morning I rinsed the conditioner out of my hair. I’d read that the best method was to pour water over your hair with a pitcher. I tried it, and found that my hair was incredibly soft and easy to detangle with my fingers BUT I ended up using my detachable shower head to make sure it was all out of my hair. Either way, my back was very unhappy afterwards. Bending over for long periods of time stinks. Don’t forget to stretch!

MHM Step Three: Clay Rinse

     I admit, this time I was also not paying much attention to the rules. Instead of thinning out the goopy clay mixture, I used the same scoop and saturate method I’d used with the Cherry Lola Treatment. Again, very messy. I vowed not to do that again, as I washed the tub after application. This was another back breaker too. the recommendation was to NOT pull it into a huge mass, but I didn’t listen to that either. It was so messy I couldn’t imagine being able to apply this AND try to coil it. A better solution was required. Either way I wrapped it into a shower cap and left it for 30 minutes, but 15 minutes is the minimum.
     I rinsed this off in the shower. It was a little unnerving because my hair was so clean it was actually squeaky! I confess that I never let my hair feel like that, because it feels like it would get too dry, and then too frizzy. The other thing was how easy it was to detangle with my fingers. The squeaky feeling usually comes with extra tangly coils, but this was the exact opposite. Everything felt soft and clean. While I was still in the shower I separated and clipped my hair, starting from the nape of my neck, in sections. Part of my goal is to reshape the way my curls fall, so I could get rid of the part in my hair, so I chose to define these sections as Bottom Layer, left and right; left side; right side; crown, left and right; front of head.

MHM Step Four & Five Leave-in & Curl Define

     This part is kind of tricky, because the mirrors are so steamy after a shower. Letting the hair clips full of hair drip, I toweled dry and got dressed, and opened the door to let the steam clear. This step is to apply your MHM approved Leave-in conditioner, and then your curl definer (whether it’s a gel or a cream) section by section. Do not apply the leave-in to your whole head, and then do the definer. I did this bent over for the two bottom sections, and the side sections. The crown section and the front of my head section I did while standing straight up (my back was killing me.
     Let it dry. Don’t touch!
     Letting it dry without touching it was so hard. I was dying to see the results! For one, the curls had started forming much closer to the root, and they were spiraling fully! I think I may have used more curl definer than I needed to out of habit, which is something I’ll need to work on. I think it would have been even softer to the touch had I toned it down. Even so, Day One of MHM gave me my one of the best hair days of the entire year. The weather was good for it too, no humidity or excessive heat. My husband said it looked like I’d come home from Ouidad, which is high praise. If this is it what Day One does, I can only imagine how this will look by Day Seven!!! What do you think?

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In my next post I’ll take you through Day Two, the pitfalls and the successes, and we can both see what if there are any curl gains to be won!

Before the MHM Challenge- My Curl Regimen

     I believe in the scientific method. As such it is important to understand my hair going into the Maximum Hydration Method 7 Day Challenge.
     I have Type 3b Curly low porosity hair. This is an important tidbit to know, as different curl types require different kinds of products, and have different needs. You can click here to learn about your curl type. 
     I haven’t heat styled my hair since October 2015—and that was because the place I went didn’t know how to style curly hair without straightening it first. I shampoo my hair every 2-3 weeks with sensitive scalp Head & Shoulders, which is probably the worst thing I use on my hair. When I talk about washing my hair every day, it doesn’t include shampoo. For over a year I’d been using Biolage Curl Conditioner, to scrub my scalp and condition daily. Last week I bought a cleansing conditioner by Carol’s Daughter brand, but it was much more drying that I’d anticipated.
     In the shower I detangle with a wide shower comb. This is also a relatively new change. Up until recently I swore by my vent brush for getting tangles out of my wet hair. Truth be told, that’s a lot of the reason top of my head hair is so flat. Too much pulling in all the wrong directions.
     Out of the shower I apply Miss Jessie’s Leave-in Condish all over, and follow up with Miss Jessie’s Multicultural Curl Cream, and wait.
     That’s it. Nothing complicated. From beginning to end it takes about 15 minutes.
     By now you might be thinking you’d love to embrace your inner curly girl. I think you should, but there are some things to consider before you commit.
  1. Yes, your hair will get frizzy, but your straight haired friends are having frizz problems too. Unlike them, however, you can twist your wet hair on either side of your part, and pull both sides into a cute updo. Your straight-haired friends just have to deal with their flyaways, cause you’ll be looking fly that way. See what I did there? I’m adorable.
  2. You will have to completely give up your blow-dryer, AND your flat-iron. I’m not talking about giving it up only for special occasions either. Every single time you use one of those appliances you are burning the strands of your, already hollow and porous, hair. Sure, some of the newer products mitigate that damage, but just like decaf still has a little caffeine, you’re not avoiding all the damage. In fact, your hair is not going to be at it’s best until all that damaged hair is gone. Besides, you know how you feel when you see that girl with the perfect coils and you think “My hair never looks that good. She must have special hair.”? Well if you start now you CAN have that hair. It will take some time, some adjustment, and probably a little investment. In the long run, however, curly hair is a lot easier to manage and predict that you think. The same way you learned how to handle your straightened hair, you can learn how to have amazing curls almost every single day!
  3. You will fall in love with yourself. I can’t overstate this enough. You shouldn’t hate your reflection. You shouldn’t roll your eyes every time you see yourself in a picture. Some people would call that vanity, and perhaps there’s a line somewhere, but loving yourself is one of the best gifts you could give yourself. For me, embracing my curls was synonymous with embracing the me who I am. I was born with curly hair. I’ve gone through the same curl-hate, strand punishing dictatorship. I was only ever happy the first day of an awesome blowout, but it wasn’t me. I was dodging rain, and cursing humidity as if the weather was personally out to get me. It didn’t happen overnight. It took time, and Pinterest, but little by little I started to see more and more good hair days. Once, the pizza delivery girl looked at me stunned, and said, “You have the best hair I’ve ever seen!” At the time, I thought she was nuts, of course, but it takes time. Nowadays, I do wish I could have less frizz, but on the whole I’m proud to wear my hair high. It’s so much fun to play with!
  4. Children will be inspired by you. I don’t mean this to sound weird, okay. There are tons of little curly headed boys and girls out there who only see beauty associated with glossy, straight, usually blonde, hair. When little curl-kids see my hair, especially on a good hair day, I can see the looks in their eyes. It’s the same one I had for the Noxema Girl– a recognition that curly hair can be beautiful, and that means I can be beautiful too. Everyone deserves to believe that. You can be person, but first you have to love your curl.
  5. You’re going to have to learn to read a label. Hair is skin, right? It’s a part of your body, and as such, you should know what you’re putting it in. Not all products are made for your hair. Things like Vitamin B5 builds up on your hair like a protein, and are really hard to remove. Avoiding things on the MHM-No-No list is a good way to get started. 
     In my next post I’ll give you the low-down, the results, and most embarrassing picture I’ve ever taken, when I take the plunge with Day One of the MHM 7 Day Challenge!

The MHM 7 Day Challenge & Me

I found it while browsing the web for a new conditioner. My hair conditioner wasn’t packing the same punches like when we first got involved, and my curl definition was suffering. I’d picked up a bottle of Carol’s Daughter cleansing conditioner, but it felt too drying.

My hair really needs a change.

Then I saw it.
 The Maximum Hydration Method (MHM) seems to have gotten its start in a forum in a post by a user named PinkCube (click here to get the info direct from the source ). It’s original intention was for kinky curly type 4c low porosity hair ( Click here to learn more about porosity ), but has been used by naturally curly women with all curl types with some pretty amazing results. A simple Instagram hashtag search lead me down a rabbit hole so deep, and an array of such amazing curls that the complexity of the process didn’t seem so terrible. The entire process takes 7 days, if you wet your hair in the shower every day like I do, and is intended to get your hair to its maximum hydration. The results are supposed to leave you with the best curl definition and the least frizz your hair has ever seen. At least that’s what it looks like to me.
The science involves lifting your hair cuticle so you can dump in as much moisture as possible over the seven days. By the end your hair should be as full of moisture as it can get, or at its maximum hydration.
The cycles as set forth are pretty complicated, so I’ve separated them into Day One steps, and Days 2-7 steps.

Day One:

  • Cherry Lola
  • Deep condition overnight
  •     -you can also choose to add warm water to the conditioner, and keep this on for 15 minutes—a steamer hood will enhance this.
  • Clay Rinse
  • Style
  •    – in sections with leave-in and curl cream. It’s important to note that you should condition and define each section before moving onto the next. You should also remember that oil products, like serums, should be applied last because they create a barrier over your hair strand. The idea is to fill the strand with moisture, and then create a protective barrier. So keep that in mind as you go along.

Day Two:

  • Clarify
    •   choose from the three rinse options
  • Co-wash & Detangle -you can choose to apply conditioner overnight, as in Day One; or either of the 15 minute methods
  • Clay Rinse
  • Style

The Rules: 

One day equals a full cycle. Ideally, it is recommended to complete in consecutive days, but that may not work into your life. Still, the count happens by cycle, not by day.

You must complete all 7 days!

Choose hair care products (conditioner, leave-in, curl definer cream) without any of the following products:

MHM No-No Ingredients
TEA-triethanolamine, or any other ethanolamines i.e. MEA, DEA
Hydrolyzed what protein/peptides
Panthenol/ Pro-Vitamin B5
Glycerin & Propylene glycol
Mineral Oil and waxes
Denatured & drying alcohols
Salts and Sulphates
Aloe Vera Juice & Coconut oil may cause sensitives for certain hair types, so use your best judgement on this
Why take the challenge?
I’m a big fan of curly hair. You’d think that was obvious, but you have no idea how many amazing curly haired women I’ve met who still want to damage their hair with heat, and then complain they can’t have hair like mine.  I’m not saying I have perfect hair. Far from it. Otherwise I wouldn’t attempt something that requires so much time and rinsing. No, I don’t think there’s been as much information available for curly girls, certainly not information that’s accurate. Do you know how many times I’m looking for naturally curly hair styles only to be met with pictures of straight haired curls with heads full of curling iron spirals?
  • They don’t curl to the root.
  • They feel weighed down and dry at the same time
  • My hair seems to not be growing, or has reached its length potential. I’d like to see if I can grow it longer.
  • The curls aren’t the full spirals I know they can be. It’s obvious my hair is suffering from too much product and not enough moisture.
 One of the biggest benefits of finding a path to the perfect curls is that little girls with curly hair, with parents merciful enough to spare their childish tresses the heat damage, can see that they do not have to grow up to wish to have beautiful hair. They already have it. They don’t have to struggle with flatirons and curse the rain.  It’s my obligation to all of the little curly girls and boys out there to normalize and redefine what beautiful hair can be.
Scroll down for all the MHM recipes I’ll be putting to use in my Day One MHM post. Until then, my next post will give you the rundown on my current hair care regimen, so we can have a good basis for comparison– and give me time to gather ingredients.
Clay Rinse
1 cup
 Bentonite clay powder
olive oil
2-3 cups
mix together for a creamy consistency add water if it’s too thick until you have the consistency you need.
Baking Soda Rinse option 1
1-2 TBSP
Baking Soda
mix together in an applicator bottle
Baking Soda Rinse option 2
1-2 TBSP
Baking Soda
1 tsp
Olive Oil
6-10 oz
mix together in an applicator bottle
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
1:1 ratio ACV to Water in an applicator bottle
The Cherry Lola Treatment
2 cups
Greek Yogurt
2 TBSP**
Baking Soda
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Coconut liquid aminos, or liquid soy aminos
1/2 TBSP
Raw Honey
Unsulfured molasses
overripe plantain or banana
3/4 TBSP
Egg (optional- I left this out)
Step One
Blend the ingredients in a blender.
Step Two
Detangle your completely dry hair
Step Three
Selfies!! Post your big hair selfie on Instagram and tag me @tr_patmore #JustMyInkblotBigHairDontCare
Step Four
Saturate hair with mixture. Cover with a shower cap. Leave in for 1.5-2 hours.
**Because this is intended for 4C kinky hair, and baking soda can disrupt curl pattern, I only used 1 TBSP of this.
Liquid aminos can be found near the soy sauce.

That Time I Accepted Myself…

The day my husband told me that I should “become a writer” I got mad at him. A writer wasn’t something you woke up and decided to be. A writer was someone who spent a lifetime honing their talent, and crafting their story. It was most certainly not me.

At the time I was twenty-six, sixteen weeks pregnant, and recently laid off from my job. I was scared. Let’s be honest, no one is excited about hiring a pregnant woman, and we hadn’t even had the conversation about child care yet. We’d been married only a few months. I’d finished my first semester towards the Master Degree in English Education I was working towards. I didn’t know how I’d manage school, work, and a pregnancy, but now I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to school without having a job. This was an out-of-nowhere tangle I hadn’t even considered when we’d decided to get pregnant quickly. My reaction to his suggestion was badly directed, of course, but I didn’t know it at the time.

At the time I was reacting to the idea of “being a writer”, and how I had no idea how to even accomplish something like that, and, yes, I got mad. What I didn’t realize was that my fear wasn’t in becoming a writer, it was in having to learn how while also learning how to keep a tiny human being alive. I didn’t even consider the extra work hidden in there. Things like laundry, or washing walls, or after school activities. I didn’t think about baking cupcakes, or being Class Mom. Instead of realizing that I was scared to enter two worlds  as foreign as writing, and child-rearing. I just got mad. I got mad, and then I got busy. Eight years later, I am a writer. I am a writer who has written things. I am a writer who is currently writing a novel.

The journey to get here has been a difficult one. There’s been all kinds of reasons: life’s challenges, the need to teach myself about novel structure, software, time. The biggest problem, however, has been me.

There.  I said it.

Maybe you don’t think that’s big news, and maybe you agree with me, and maybe you knew it all along, but I only just made the connection.

I’ve been torturing myself for years, reading all the writing books I could get my hands on. They all say the same thing: Write. Write every day. Create a routine. Develop a habit.

Some books go as far as calling me an amateur for not following their advice. Others tell me I am giving in to my inner demons. All of them make me feel like a complete failure, because I simply could not find a way to write every single day.

I tried all kinds of things. Getting up early. Going to bed early. I’ve tried Bullet Journeling (which actually helps, but doesn’t solve the time problem). I’ve tried deleting social media, and games on my phone. No matter what I did, I couldn’t solve for the problem that ten AM on Tuesday was never the same as ten AM on Wednesday. Ever.

Three weeks ago,  I had an epiphany. “What if I just accept that I’ll never be able to do what those books tell me to do?” What if my life isn’t the kind where writing will ever have the chance to be a routine. What if I accepted that if I want to write, I have to fight for it?

I won’t say that some divine light shone down on me from above. It didn’t. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what acceptance would bring me. For a moment I considered that perhaps I couldn’t be a writer, right now. That didn’t sit very well with me either. The novel I’ve got trapped in my mind needs to be written. I owe that to the teenaged girl out there who thinks that she is defined by the choices being made for her, and to the boy who wants to be more than his small town can offer him. That girl is worth fitting twenty minutes of writing in between loads of laundry.That boy is worth using that free thirty minutes I have after I get home from the supermarket to work a scene. The story I’m writing is worth carving out some time, whenever I can find it, to put words to paper.

I’ve written almost every week day since.

Isn’t that amazing? For years I’ve beaten myself up for not being able to do the work of two women, despite the fact that I’m only one. I’ve criticized myself for not being able to balance raising children, running a household, and being a wife, with creating a universe out of nothing. We do so much damage to ourselves without even realizing it. I cursed myself for not achieving more, instead of realizing how much I actually do achieve every day. I engage in self-destructive behavior when I didn’t do it all, instead of feeling encourage by what I was doing.

All I had to do was accept myself.

I had to accept that I haven’t been writing full-time, because I have an actual full-time job. I had to accept that even though I don’t get paid for the laundry, the mopping, the bathing, the cooking, the planning, the coordinating, or any of the duties inherent in being the stay-at-home parent, it is still a job. In fact, it is more than a full-time job. It is a 24/7/365 job. I had to accept that the writing I do is work above and beyond the work that is expected of me.

Once I received this self-acceptance I suddenly was able to see myself as the juggernaut I really am. That I have almost a third of a novel written is now something I can say with pride, instead of shame. That I’m completing scenes as a faster rate than every before is a testament to my epiphany.

Maybe this blog isn’t going to get the attention it probably deserves. Maybe I don’t have the time to write an article a week, while still writing scenes in my manuscript. Maybe you’ll understand. Maybe you’ll get tired of waiting for me to write a new post. I’ve also accepted that I don’t have to know the future. That’s not a prerequisite for this job.

The only thing I have to remember to do is write whenever I can, because each one has been carved out of the time it takes to do the hardest job in the world.