Monday, January 30, 2012

We'll Always Love Harlem

It's official: we Love Birds packed up over the weekend and left Harlem for roomier pastures; we'll always be Harlem Love Birds though since that's where our family began!

It was bittersweet, but a move that will improve our quality of life dramatically. 

At the end of the move Mr. Love Bird's BFF gave Nia her first baby doll:

Nia's been acclimating well to the new apartment and so far loves finally being able to use her magnetic letters on the fridge:

We had a year plus long battle in housing court and in the end it worked out quite favorably for us.

Here's what I love so far about our new digs: 
  • Closer to Mr. Love Bird's office so he'll get home in 20 minutes vs. 1 hour which means more family time
  • A very homey space - instead of an apartment building it's a 5-year old, 3 family home
  • Upgraded from a little over 900 sq ft to approximately 1,100 sq ft
  • 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms instead of 1 1/2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom
  • Walk-in pantry closet and large linen closet
  • Huge master bedroom with en-suite bathroom and his and hers large closets
  • Loads of sunlight
  • Central heating/AC (no more huge radiators/AC units taking up space)
  • Substantially less costs overall which allows us to get Zip Car (used it the day after we moved to run errands and LOVE being close to suburban-type stores I was used to growing up in Ohio)
  •  We've quickly discovered an amazing Italian family-owned restaurant and our go-to brunch spot close-by and will be treating ourselves 1x/month for Saturday brunch the first Saturday of each month and Sunday dinner the last Sunday of each month
  • A wonderful library is in walking distance - looking forward to starting up Nia's weekly storytime soon!
  • Easier for our parents to visit with ample on-street parking (a little over 30 minutes for my father-in-law by car and just under 4 hours by car for my parents)
  • Much quieter neighborhood (sometimes our Harlem block would be a little too hot especially in the summer time)
So in short, I'm VERY excited about this apartment!

P.S. I always promised I wouldn't be the type of mom to give potty details for Nia in my status updates, but I thought it'd be OK to share here that Nia had a big breakthrough potty training today: she came to me so I could put her on the potty for #2 for the first time!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Just Can't Get Enough . . .

Those of you who follow me on Twitter saw my major hair news recently . . .

Yes, after swearing I wouldn't cut my hair again I went for a major cut (more details on the awesome salon I went to coming soon!).

Anyway, one of the aspects of the salon I liked was their soundtrack. I had heard Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton's song So In Love in passing before, but had been so busy not to really sit and enjoy it. Well, while sitting peacefully at the salon, the track came on and I realized how much I LOVE it! I've had it on repeat this week. The lyrics made me think of Mr. Love Bird:

Listen, I’m so in love with you,
That I can’t help myself!
Can’t help it!
As long as it's me and you
We don’t need nothing else!
I’ve got you!
Got you!
Hey, hey, hey, yeah, yeah,
Oh, Let's make it last forever!

I’m so in love, uhuu
First ting in the morning
When I open my eyes and see you
Hey, hey, I feel like a breath of fresh air
I feel like I can fly,
That I can get by.

I went home and found the video on You Tube to share with you:


Doesn't it just make you want to grab your sweetie and dance? 


Monday, January 23, 2012

Getting to Our Homeland

Thank you everyone for the wonderful response to my teaser post on our trip to Nigeria. So many of you online and IRL (in real life) have requested to hear more and have been so understanding of the fact that we're in the midst of a major move.

I'm taking a break from packing to put this post together...

With so many thoughts still swirling in my head about the epic-ness of our trip, I decided to just go ahead and go in chronological order. Makes sense, right?

Several of you have asked about traveling internationally with a toddler and while I'd like to eventually do a separate post about that (I've hinted at it before when Nia was a baby), I will intersperse some tips throughout but I do promise to do a dedicated blog post. 

On our way to JFK - we had a gorgeous departure day!
We left for Nigeria the day after Christmas in the evening on Air France Premiere connecting on our flight to Lagos via Paris. From Lagos we stayed on the same plane to Port Harcourt - a short 45 minute flight. Honestly, Mr. Love Bird had spoken so highly of what we were going to encounter by upgrading to Premiere that I was actually just excited for the flight itself for weeks!

A quick snapshot at Charles de Gaulle Airport
A look back at our plane once we landed in Nigeria; the plane from NYC to Paris was a double-decker - the first time I had  flown on one!
Outside Port Harcourt Airport
Uka's sister Nnenna flew with us to Nigeria and while the check-in desk warned us about a strike in Paris and how we were definitely going to miss our connecting flights by bringing carry on luggage, in the end there was nothing to worry about and we were fine. 

Nia in her Boba 3G that I won right before the trip while we wait to load up the van with our luggage.
I have to stop and say here that having the Boba 3G carrier was a dream come true! Nia was excited by the novelty of being on my back and we easily navigated Charles de Gaulle airport. Speaking of the airport, I spotted a LadurĂ©e on our way to our connection and instinctively wanted to run and pick up some macarons (you can read about my obsession here) but decided to wait on the return trip to do so. They were SO good!

Overall I found that staff and fellow travelers were sympathetic and helpful in general to our traveling with a toddler. Despite already being ahead of lines by flying Premiere we were whisked to front of lines virtually everywhere. It was a real blessing! Besides skipping the lines, the leg room, meals, lounge access, extra baggage allowance and attentiveness we received from the Premiere staff was fantastic. I don't think we'll ever fly economy for a long haul flight in the future!

Regarding total travel time, France and Nigeria are both 6 hours ahead and we flew overnight to Paris so counting layovers and in-air time, it was roughly 16 hours of "airportness." 

One aspect that didn't dawn on me until maybe a month before our trip was that it was hot in Nigeria (yes, I'm a bit slow!). So after getting over the excitement of flying Air France Premiere, I became excited about going to 80 degree sunny weather. Although we hadn't had chilling temperatures in NYC yet (we've since been hit with our first winter snow this past weekend), it was still exciting to go to a warmer climate. I made sure we were dressed in layers to strip down once we landed.

There wasn't a jet bridge in Port Harcourt and we deplaned by going down stairs. The first thing that hit me was the humid night air. And the smell of air very different from NYC. The air wasn't quite as heavy as Florida's muggy air that I had expected - I was trying to seek in my travel memory bank for something to compare it to. The smell was more country, but not in a "fresh country air" kind of way. NYC has a myriad of smells from block to block even, and throughout our trip I would make mental notes of the smells which I'll continue to touch on. For me smell is inextricably linked to my memories of our trip.

Once we arrived in Port Harcourt we met up with our aunt and her daughter. I had read that retrieving luggage in Port Harcourt was a nightmare so I was definitely prepared to wait hours for our luggage. Luckily it was a mere 2 hours before all of us retrieved our luggage. There was something like 15 pieces for the entire family!

Nia was exhausted and fell asleep pretty quickly at the hotel
Uka's aunt's brother and driver were waiting to pick us up, and we were so excited to be on our way at last! We stayed at a hotel about 2 hours from the airport and in the morning we had hoped to wake up bright and early but overslept a bit and left for a 3 hour drive to Ohafia, where Uka's maternal family lives. It was a real journey, but I loved taking in all the sights and sounds along the way . . .

An example of traffic - people and cars made it a bit congested at times!

Nia was a good sport during the long ride - and yes, there are no car seats/regulations for child restraints in Nigeria (more on that to come . . .)
Another busy street scene
Sellers of beverages and snacks would approach cars in traffic; it was SO welcome as sometimes we'd be stuck in traffic for a while. I'd imagine it was also a great way for keeping in shape as they'd sometimes run alongside the car!
As we moved away from Port Harcourt the landscape changed . . .

It was interesting to me to see this "Jamaica" shirt as Nigeria often reminded me of the month I spent in Jamaica; from the landscape to the music and food I can now see the strong ties between Jamaica and Nigeria!
So after departing NYC on the evening of Monday, December 26 we arrived in Ohafia, Nigeria the afternoon of Wednesday, December 28.

Part of the festivities we were there for was our cousin's wedding on Thursday the 29th and 30th. I will have fun details on that in the next post as well as how we settled into Ohafia.

Is there something you're itching to know about our trip? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to address it in upcoming posts. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Get So Weak in the Knees (Or Why I Heart Home Goods)

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! With all the extra space we'll have soon I decided it would be fun to go with my mom, Grandma Mary and Nia to Home Goods (they've never been!). Home Goods is such a fun store, and I can spend hours there exploring. Although I've never been to the Upper West Side location not far from me, the one in Maryland was spacious and well organized. When I used to live in Boston I only went in the one right outside the city in Natick a couple times, but I don't remember it being as nice as the one I went to not far from my parents' house.

I found some awesome pieces that inspired me as I think about how I want to decorate our new apartment:
These were the first thing that caught my eye when I walked in. I'm thinking lucite lamps on bedroom nightstands or just one in the office/guest bedroom.

This is channeling Cupcakes and Cashmere! I think this would look divine in our bedroom (we have a space between our two windows that this would fit perfectly and would be viewable down our long hallway)

This doll helped us get through the first half of our shopping trip

That long piece would look great above our sage sofa

Love this for the office (and under $50!)

Awww look it's Harlem Love Birds!

Definitely want to find a way/place to incorporate a floor length mirror

We have a little entryway that would fit a bench - love that it has storage (and the nail heads!)

Love this neutral Barca Lounger piece at the base of the bed (and storage) - it had a rip on the other side that wouldn't be visible. The associate said the price was negotiable as a result!

This little hat is how we got through the second half of our shopping trip

This was whimsy!

Nia cried over this  - it'd look wonderful in her bathroom and would go with the existing monkey theme of her nursery

This over the dining table would be so elegant

Another office lamp option of vs. lucite; it's very crafty

Totally lusted over that tray! It'd go great on a coffee table or sitting out on our buffet table.
So of course I didn't get any of these big pieces - it was mostly an inspirational trip, but I did pick up some small kitchen items I had been needing for a while (silicone oven mitts, peeler, grater and a cooling rack - fun, I know!). 

Now back to packing, and I PROMISE my next post will be about Nigeria . . .

Friday, January 13, 2012

Life With Nia: 17 Months (Baltimore Edition)

This is a special edition post since Nia and I are in Baltimore for the long weekend visiting my mom (my dad's coming tomorrow!) and grandma before she flies back home to Columbus, Ohio at the end of the weekend.

Coming back from Nigeria this is a special break because it's giving us a welcome breather before we head back Sunday to ::drumroll:: PACK UP and MOVE!

We Love Birds have scored an amazing 3 bedroom apartment which will shorten Mr. Love Bird's commute by more than half. Having more time together as a family AND more space is a dream come true! The apartment is a wonderful blank slate well maintained and ready to decorate. This will provide for some awesome blog posts!

As a result Nigeria posts are indeed delayed as I want to give the trip due justice instead of cranking out quickie posts so please bear with me! The whole family is also recovering from some nasty sickness since being back (antibiotics, Theraflu, probiotics, tea, cough drops and ibuprofen fills our days). UGHHH!

Anyway, on to the update . . .

Nia and her Uncle Tanner
  • Toddler's Weight: Nia is packing on the pounds! She's just over 23lbs now.
  • Toddler's Height: We'll confirm next month at her 18 months appointment how tall she is, but I can tell she's more than the 31" at her 15 months appointment because her 18 months pant legs are shorter than ever now.
  • What size of clothing does toddler wear? Nia is LOOOONG! 24 months is fitting her comfortably on length.
  • Any milestones toddler reached during the month:  
    • Just talking more and more
    • Showing an interest in colors, numbers and shapes; it might be time for mini-preschool lessons!
  • Special outings toddler had during the month:  
    • NIGERIA! (yes, more to come)
  • What are your thoughts about the past month? I really want to wean and am trying in earnest. It's been such a challenge. She's getting so big and seems to be such a big girl, but still hanging onto nursing with a vengeance. We can't believe how much she knows and often we don't know until we pick her brain and ask her questions and she actually answers!
  • What was toddler's routine? Nigeria did WONDERS for her sleep routine. The time change helped and coming back she's going to bed between 7-8p.m. and waking up around 5-6a.m. AND napping 2x more frequently. Mr. Love Bird and I also go to bed earlier too and wake up earlier, and it's making us very productive! I like it! 
  • Reflect about the highlights of the month:  
    • Getting more sleep. YESSSS!
    • Our first international trip - going was a challenge as Nia was recovering from her ear infection and had severe diaper rash from the antibiotics, but returning was a breeze
  • Did any big changes occur? 
    • Just becoming more of a big girl!
  • What are toddler's favorites - toy, food, person, etc... 
    • She loves the Tickle Me Elmo she got for Christmas but unfortunately, the day after Christmas it stopped shaking. Since it's now a collector's item there's nowhere to return it to have it fixed. She likes that he still says, "That tickles!" though. 

    • She is getting more and more connected to Uka; being able to spend more time together in Nigeria helped and as we're moving closer to his office we look forward to visiting him at lunch time when the weather warms up.
  • What I'm looking forward to? MORE SPACE! It's going to be so fun for her to have a proper nursery and space to play. This will definitely improve our quality of life overall. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Nigeria for Life

I have been trying to piece together my first of many posts about our trip to Nigeria and it's so hard to know where to start. Last night before I went to bed I did a brain dump of everything from our nearly 2 week trip that stood out to me.

There is so much to say!

In all going to Nigeria was life changing for me. Before touching down in Lagos I got emotional just thinking about how I was returning to not only where my ancestors were from but from where all of humanity originated (meaning Africa). This felt so powerful! I didn't cry but tears welled up in my eyes and I warned Mr. Love Bird that I was having "a moment." 

While I prepare and organize pics and details recapping our trip, I wanted to share my most favorite picture from nearly 1,000 we took:

I made her little skirt before we left for Nigeria - she loved it! More on that in a separate post.
To me this picture, taken from the garage leading out of our Aunt's compound symbolized the future our family will have in Nigeria, the opportunity and the expansiveness that I felt there.

Look forward to sharing more about our trip soon!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Beauty in East Harlem

Thoughts on moving are on the brain (more on that later), and my sister Ariane lives in East Harlem and while I prefer West Harlem, there are a few aspects of the east side that I like (besides the fact that my sister is there!) one of which is the only Target in all of Manhattan (much, much better than the one closer to us in the Bronx). 

Now the Wall Street Journal has shared another reason to love East Harlem: this amazing renovation!

Check out a few highlights of this stunning former church:

{Photo Credit}
{Thanks to Harlem Bespoke for sharing this!}

Sunday, January 1, 2012

10 Things I'm Looking Forward to in 2012

No New Years' resolutions to speak of here. Just wishing everyone a safe and happy start to 2012. 

Here's what I'm looking forward to:
  • Fully launching my business including building my brand, improving this blog and my destination wedding business
  • My 3rd wedding anniversary with Mr. Love Bird
  • Moving to a drama-free apartment (with hopefully more space!)
  • Learning to take better photos with my DSLR
  • My 10 year Wellesley College reunion (I feel like I just graduated)
  • Nia turning 2 (which means knowing she's DEFINITELY going to be weaned this year)
  • Becoming physically stronger
  • Working on my craftiness - more sewing, knitting and Pinterest-ing
  • Achieving my Advance Communicator Bronze in Toastmasters
  • Finding a way to make it to London for the summer Olympics
What are you looking forward to? 


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