Friday, June 29, 2012

Don't Judge

Today is a glorious day because this is released:




And yes, I'm seeing it. 

I've got my girls' night and childcare all arranged!

Oh and I agree:

Thanks to Erin for putting this on her Facebook wall - it made my day!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Yes, You Can Trust Product Recipes!

On a whim I tried the pasta recipe on the back of my Barilla whole grain pasta box, and it was fantastic!

Here's the recipe, sorta; it's actually called Whole Grain Penne with Zucchini & Cherry Tomatoes, but Barilla only has it with rotini on their site.

Here's how it turned out (I tweaked it by adding red pepper flakes). . .


Sometimes I forget to look on the product for recipes, but in the past I've made Quaker Oats' Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies (without raisins of course!) and Campbell's Soup's French Onion Soup Burgers.

What's your favorite recipe from the back of the can/box?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Love Birds: Three Years Strong!

It's a gorgeous day for our anniversary here in NYC - much nicer than it was in Puerto Rico on our wedding day!


We're not going out tonight but have plans for dinner next week (hopefully!). 

Here's what I'm reflecting on this anniversary:
  • I'm thankful for a loving husband who works super hard to support our family
  • It's refreshing how things are starting to normalize vs. the past 2 years where we were dealing with being pregnant ('09) then new parents ('10) all in the midst of housing issues
  • I'm looking forward to contributing financially to our family by growing my business over the next two years
  • I'm very glad Mr. Love Bird and I are on the same page about not expanding our family any time soon; we're very happy with our family of three for now!
  • I still want to finish reading Power of a Praying Wife and share key takeaways as I mentioned last year (hey, I hardly have time to read and it's taken me over 2 years to finish the Twilight series!)
  • I'm very excited for the next 2 years to fly by so we can make a reunion/vow renewal trip to Puerto Rico with our family and friends
  

P.S.Check out our previous anniversaries here and here!

Monday, June 25, 2012

You Don't Have to Own to Have Style at Home

Mr. Love Bird is very much design/decorating averse especially in a rental apartment. However, I feel like it's nice to come home to a pulled together apartment and I believe you don't need to invest in expensive pieces to add personality to one's home. Mr. Love Bird on the other hand is fine to live with naked windows and white walls which makes me shudder! He abhors the thought of putting holes in the walls although I've explained to him via Young House Love how easy it is to use spackle to patch the holes back up.

Anyway, I'm a fan of Erin Gates' style at Elements of Style and her Boston rental was featured on the new-ish lifestyle site I'm also a fan of called Everygirl.

Check out some highlights from her 2-floor garden apartment:  





Erin cites IKEA and Ballard Designs which I am also a fan of, the latter my mother brought my attention to years ago.

Speaking of rentals, Made by Girl has a regular feature highlighting bloggers who rent and the Good, Bad and Ugly about doing so. I highly recommend it!

If you rent, how do you make your space unique? Please share!

 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Let's Talk TV

I've posted before about how we're cable free and since June marks the 2-year anniversary of that (it flew by!), I wanted to talk about how it's been going.

We still find most of the shows/movies we want to watch online but most of the time we're too busy to even sit down and watch TV. When I see my timeline filled with people griping over celebrity reality shows and such I realize I really am not missing anything! I used to watch the Real Housewives series when we had cable (and Mr. Love Bird watched it too though he probably won't admit it!) and after a while I became turned off to it. Besides, I put it into perspective by thinking about how much time is wasted on that stuff. I understand there's some element of escapism involved, but seriously am I going to get to the end of my life and say, "Wow! I really watched some good reality TV in my lifetime." Probably not.

A recent tweet by Rosetta Thurman (aka HappyBlackWoman) hit it spot-on:


So true! And with the speed that which life is flying by now especially having Nia, I really don't have time to invest in a bunch of people's lives who really have nothing to do with me or care.

Anyway, discussing what we do watch, Mr. Love Bird and I join in on maybe one show each season that we watch at a time. Lately, it's been Mad Men (we still have to watch the season finale) and before that it was Walking Dead. Next, we want to watch Game of Thrones.

I was thinking back to all the shows I used to watch and never finished and decided to start multitasking by watching the shows while I ride our stationary bike. Without commercials my old favorite shows are about 45 minutes which is the perfect amount of time to work out. I really work up a sweat AND I'm entertained!

Here's what I'm catching up on during my workouts . . .


The Tudors (this one I just finished)

{Image Credit}
Big Love (it's been on my mind even before I spotted Ginnifer Goodwin at the Charlotte airport)

{Image Credit}

The OC (I never watched the last season)

{Image Credit}

Gossip Girl (I think I only watched the first two seasons)

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And lastly, the show I am MOST excited about that is back for a 2nd season: 

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (I am SO excited to hear Issa Rae the creator and star of this web-based show at BlogHer '12! along with Awesomely Luvvie, a hilarious pop culture blogger)


{Image Credit}

Do you work out and watch TV? What shows do you watch?

 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Product Junkie's Throwback Love Affair

I've always had an addiction to drugstores. I love toiletries and can easily get carried away simply running into CVS or Duane Reade for just a tube of toothpaste and walking out with $50 worth of products. In college I had a bad, bad shopping habit at CVS getting caught up spending hours going up and down the aisles multiple times each month. 

I was reminiscing over some of the products I've grown up with such as Bonne Belle Lipsmackers (btw I loathed the Dr. Pepper flavor) and Love's Baby Soft (I went through a period in college when I wore it again as I did when I was a child), which can still be found in drugstores. Besides standard drugstores, I also loved going to Bath and Bodyworks, which was headquartered in my hometown. One year in school we even had our holiday party there and all went home with products. I was in heaven smelling of Sweet Pea the rest of the season!

{Image Source}
I'm not really into Bath & Bodyworks, but whenever I visit my parents in Maryland I remember how obsessed I used to be over it because they still are! Yes, my mom and dad are into Bath and Bodyworks - BIG TIME. It's actually kind of fun trying to decide which scent I'll smell like each day and I'm surprised to see how the product line has evolved to be less sugary-scented or should I say, offers more than just the sugary scents (I never could stand vanilla/sugar cookie/icing type scents - YUCK!).

One of my favorite scents was pear and I was bummed when it was discontinued (as was the Kitchen Spice handsoap), but I was elated when I found Victoria's Secret carried it. That was my signature scent for years.

When I was at my parents' on Memorial Day we went to the mall and my mom had some kind of super coupon and shared the wealth with me. That's when I found my new favorite scent:
{Image Source)
After many sniffs I selected the body cream which has shea butter, jojoba oil and smells of "golden apricot, pink peonies and a hint of praline." Sounds divine, right? Well it is! I think this will be my go-to scent for the summer or maybe even bound.


Do you have a throwback love affair with a particular beauty product?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How Love Birds Do Summer '12


Happy summer '12 everyone! I'm a big stickler for waiting until the actual first day of summer to say it's summer and not a day before. Regardless, I'm just happy it's here! This winter was so mild and the spring so rainy that I'm excited for stretches of days of perfectly sunny days. The past week I've been loving the low humidity but things are slowly heating up in NYC.

Mr. Love Bird is spending this first day of summer heading somewhere that I am insanely jealous he gets to go to for work (sorry, I cannot disclose!), but since it's a place I've wanted to go since I was a child at least he gets to do a little research before taking me and Nia back there someday - he promised!

Anyway, similar to '11 I wanted to share what we Love Birds are looking forward to this summer; when I look at our calendar every single weekend except for two is filled up through Labor Day! Here are some highlights:
  • Our 3rd anniversary (here's our 1st and 2nd anniversary)
  • Summerstage concerts (they're FREE throughout NYC)
  • Focusing on my business more now that Nia's weaned
  • Sewing a long overdue dress for myself from an adorable pattern I purchased months ago from Pins & Needles
  • Continuing the moms' ministry at my church
  • The Kehinde Wiley exhibit at the Jewish Museum
  • July 4th pool party in Maryland with my parents 
  • My church's beach baptism (I haven't been since Uka's baptism in '08)
  • BlogHer '12
  • Seeing family friends in Rhode Island and visiting the Newport Mansions
  • Nia's 2nd birthday
  • Summer reading (I'm halfway through Breaking Dawn two years after starting the Twilight series  - the writing is just SO awful - and I have yet to finish the Hunger Games trilogy - I only got through the first book)
  • The Jazz Age Lawn Party (it's now become a tradition with Nia - click here to see her dress I made for last year's party!)
What are you looking forward to this summer?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Just Have to Say

A recent family photo
I have a variety of perspectives on my timelines/Google Reader etc. and that's what I love about social media: being exposed to so much in such a quick and organized way. 

A while back I applied to a once-in-a-lifetime blogging opportunity with little faith that I'd be selected and when I wasn't selected despite their mumbo jumbo about not necessarily selecting the biggest, most successful bloggers for the opportunity, in the end that's exactly who was selected. 

I've learned not to be bitter about such things (you can read about that here) and Chronicle of Pookah's Mom (aka Rose's Daughter) had a post a while back expressing her thoughts about such disappointments that got me thinking. 

Later when my Grandma Emma passed away I realized had I received that blogging opportunity I wouldn't have been able to complete it. Talk about bigger picture. God had me in the right place at the right time. 

This has happened to me before when Mr. Love Bird's mother passed away suddenly on Christmas Day 2005. I had a direct flight going from Boston to Columbus, where my family lived at the time but on the way back, the day after Christmas, for whatever reason I could only find a flight with a connection. I was frustrated but purchased it anyway. The bittersweet truth was that as a result with my layover in New York City I was able to be there for Uka and his family soon after his mother's passing. Again, God had me in the right place at the right time.

It's so easy not to see the forest for the trees, get envious of others and the like, but Glossy Mimi's recent post over at Lipgloss and Binky really spoke to me especially this part:

"What’s real to one person isn’t another person’s reality and the REAL is not everyone lives a sad and awful life, some of us are living and rolling with the punches no matter how hard they hit…I don’t know about y’all but I bobs and weaves in my skinny jeans and wedges…and I don’t care what anyone thinks about it."

As I posted in Rose's Daughter's comments on the post mentioned above (my full comment was much longer but you can read it on her post here): 

Overall, I always remind myself that I have no idea what is really going on behind the screen. As an example, Young House Love which is wildly successful has “pulled back the curtains” at times to give details about how much time/effort goes into their blog and seriously, I wouldn’t trade what I have right now for any of that as much as I like their blog. 

I’ve found that keeping my nose to the grindstone and not changing who I am to garner followers has worked best for me. With anything I’ve noticed if I try too hard I don’t get the desired results but awesome opportunities/accolades/success comes my way when I’m hunkered down with tunnel vision.

I've been journaling since I was 7 years old. That's nearly 25 years of journals. What's wonderful about it is I've been able to look back and put things into perspective and bring this Bible verse amazingly to life: 

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." - Romans 8:28 NLT 

Have you had a situation when you were in the right place at the right time? Also, how do you deal with disappointment?



P.S. Afrobella had a fantastic post recently about dealing with disappointment. This line especially rang true for me: "Lesson number TWO – don’t share what might happen. Share what HAS happened." You can read her full post here. I highly recommend it!

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Love Birds' Father's Day Weekend (In Pictures)

Saturday 











Sunday






{Click here to see what we did last Father's Day!} 

Friday, June 15, 2012

She Fell Asleep in My Arms . . .



Listening to this sweet song on Pandora's Ladysmith Black Mambazo station:



Sometimes it's still so hard to put her down . . .

We're headed to Six Flags tomorrow for a family Father's Day trip. What will you be doing for Father's Day?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Love Birds' Top 5 Reasons You Need to Embrace Twitter

Probably Tweeting - I promise I don't while eating!
I shared how I won a free Zip Car over the Memorial Day weekend via a Twitter contest and I wanted to go in further detail as to why I love Twitter (and not just for this reason!).

I have to be honest: when I first heard of Twitter I thought, "Oh no, yet another social media fad to waste my time." My sister Ariane was on it and kept singing its praises so I decided to sign up anyway a little over 3 years ago. I hardly used the service, but when I saw people posting Twitter updates to Facebook that made me laugh or were thought-provoking I decided to re-explore it. Also, as I grow my blogging and business brands I kept reading about how important it was to have Twitter.

As I slowly embraced Twitter and now after using it for three years (more heavily in the past year), here are my top 5 reasons why it needs to be embraced:
  1. News breaks on Twitter first - remember all the buzz about the guy who unknowingly live tweeted about the invasion at Osama bin Laden's compound? And when  Whitney Houston passed away I knew because of Twitter before it made it on the news. This point is also juxtaposed with the fact that there can be errors/false reports so too, remember to take tweets with a grain of salt until verified by multiple sources. 
  2. It's better than Facebook - before Twitter I used to be one of those people who annoyingly constantly update their status. Twitter is just the status portion of Facebook. Limited to 140 characters it makes "status updates" to the point and often witty. You can go beyond 140 characters and there are URL shrinking tools available to "Tweet longer." Additionally, while I don't like it, there is a feed that pushes your tweets directly to Facebook. Instead I leave Facebook for more personal life updates, sharing things I find around the internet, staying in touch with friends and I use Twitter for up-to-the moment updates. So no, I don't need to post on my personal Facebook page every stinkin' thing Nia's doing or what she or I am eating for lunch, but if I want to that's what my Harlem Love Birds twitter account and Facebook page are for. Also, it's not constantly changing like Facebook. What you see is pretty much what you get!
  3.  It gets you out of your comfort zone - while Facebook tends to keep you in a circle of people you know, because of hashtags (themed topics) you can find people all over the world talking about similar things or who have shared interests; for example, as a Toastmaster following the hashtag, I was able to congratulate someone on another continent, who I have never met who tweeted that they had completed their Competent Communicator. They replied and that was it. I guess it's kind of like random acts of kindness!  
  4. Twitter is the city that never sleeps - I know it's supposed to be New York City or Las Vegas, but really it's Twitter. I can go on Twitter in the midst of insomnia, or when Nia was a baby, in the middle of night feedings and scroll through finding amusement and comfort. I often see moms asking each other questions - sending mini-polls out to the Twitterverse and getting great feedback. And when people are rude or annoying there's the ability to delete or mute them. I LOVE muting especially if there are spoilers on my timeline for movies, books or shows I haven't experienced yet. 
  5. You can network (and win stuff too!) -  Winning that Zip Car over Memorial Day weekend was perfect timing as we had a lot of places we wanted to go and renting a car the traditional route as well as using our paid Zip Car membership was going to be pricey. I just so happened to see the contest come across my timeline, entered in less than 10 seconds and found out a day later that I had won! Zip Car is well known for their social media savviness, but there are other brands on Twitter too and they are great about responding. As my regular readers know, I am a squeaky wheel, and I am careful to give both praise and constructive criticism on Twitter and consider seeking out building branding partnerships with them. From a personal perspective, I also have a Twitter account under my real name, but I don't tweet under it - I only follow others. This is a good point to remember too especially if you work for a company that does not allow you to engage in social media. It's so valuable to even be on Twitter just to read, not necessarily tweet. Job posts and serious stuff is posted too and you can create lists to categorize your interests. It really is what you make it!

So there you have it! Wanna learn more about Twitter and understand the lingo? Check out this fantastic guide courtesy of Mashable. 

Why or why haven't you embraced Twitter? If you have, why do you like it? Ever won everything cool on Twitter? If so, please share!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Song for Now

In catching up on my Google Reader I saw someone (sorry, I forgot who!) recommend Vivian Green's Pandora station. I added it to my favorites since returning from Ohio and boy, am I glad I did! Ledisi's song Alright speaks to me right now:

 
Ledisi - Alright by foxysoul


Alright

this life can make me so confused but it's alright

living day by day I feel so used that ain't right
I just wanna run and hide
I don't have the time to cry it's alright (it's alright)

alright


many thoughts are running through my head, it's alright

wishing to be somewhere else but here, it's alright
I can't wait to see your face
I need a smile and your embrace, and I'm alright

alright


life can bring us through many changes

just don't give up
it's gonna be alright
people come and they go
it's just the way that it goes

sometime the rain it makes me sad and it's alright

some things in the world make me mad and it's alright
in the morning when I see the sun I know I'm not the only one
its alright

alright


wish I had some money to pay my bills

I can't even buy that dress on sale but it's alright
having money don't mean a thing
loving you is everything
I'm alright

(life can bring us through many changes

just don't give up
it's gonna be alright
people come and they go
that's just the way that it goes)

everything is everything


it's alright

{Source}

What song is speaking to you? Please recommend your favorite Pandora station.
 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Life With Nia: 22 Months


I remembered Patrick Pup unlike last month, but this time she insisted on reading her Bible while I took pictures!
Somehow time has collapsed, and we are hurtling towards Nia's 2nd birthday. I think all the travel we've had over the past 4 weeks has something to do with it!

I'll get right to the update:
  • Toddler's Weight: Mr. Love Bird and I debate about the accuracy of our scale and her weight, and I'm thinking our scale is wonky. Her doctor didn't measure her at her vaccination appointment she was scheduled for last month due to a fever she had. She's around 26 lbs according to how I weigh her!
  • Toddler's Height: I think she's 34."
  • What size of clothing does toddler wear? Still wearing 24 months and not filling out in the width. For example, I purchased a 24 months swimsuit and had to get an 18 months one instead which fits her much better.
  • Any milestones toddler reached during the month: 
    •  Use of the word "No" has reached epic proportions; here's an excerpt from our family's first review courtesy of our Airbnb host after our recent stay in Boston, which proves this point:
Quiana, the mother of the family was here for a Wellesley college graduation reunion. But little 2 year old Virginia aka Nia stole our hearts. She was adorable and her favorite word was NO! Thank You Virginia, I use the word all the time now and get interesting results.
    • She let her Aunt Charity braid her hair! She NEVER lets me do more than puffs without screaming and apparently she didn't even put up a fight. Wow! They were actually two strand twists and upon returning from our friends' wedding last Sunday this is what we saw - I followed the pattern and cleaned up the style while traveling to Ohio:
Although she doesn't look it, Lil Love Bird was overjoyed to be with her cousins!
  • Special outings toddler had during the month:   
    • Memorial Day weekend trip to Ohio with my parents (without me!)
    • Boston for my 10 year Wellesley College Reunion (recap coming soon!)
    • Ohio for my grandmother's funeral
    • Smaller, local outings have included continued playdates with our local moms' meet-up groups. She had a dirt playdate before we left for Boston that she LOVED, especially since I recently saw her with something black around her mouth, I asked her what it was and she told me it was "medicine." I asked her to give me some and she led me to dirt in the windowsill. GROSS GROSS GROSS! {reminded me of Baby Making Machine's post about her daughter licking a toilet seat!}
 
  • What are your thoughts about this past month?
    •  Time, please slow down! She is so verbal and shares all her thoughts, wishes and demands with me constantly ("COME. HERE. MOMEEEE!" is her newest one!)
    • I can tell she's going to be a good mommy's helper when the time comes for a sibling so I'm cultivating her helping skills now
    • The best way to describe her is like a Sour Patch Kid as seen in this commercial - she'll do something naughty then turn around and be so cute:
  • What was toddler's routine?  
    • Traveling has made things a little wonky but most importantly she's weaned as a result of her trip without me to Ohio with my parents over Memorial Day weekend; she's acting out a lot because I can tell she misses nursing - she'll nuzzle my chest and occasionally attempt to sneak and nurse but I gently remind her she's a big girl now and redirect her to solids
  • Reflect about the highlights of the month? WEANING!
  • Did any big changes occur? Did I mention WEANING! HALLELUJAH! I knew we were getting close to the end of our breastfeeding relationship so I was taking pictures the last week wondering which time would be the last. It was on the morning of Friday, May 25. This is what nursing a toddler looks like (not this):
I almost lost this picture due to my BlackBerry's unexplained corrupted SD card; after 8  hours of research, trial and error, I recovered it via MiniTool Power Data Recovery Free Edition. A streak remains on top due to the corruption, but I'd rather have that than no picture at all left of this precious moment!
  • What are toddler's favorites - toy, food, person, etc... Still loving Thomas the Tank Engine so I think that will be her 2nd birthday theme!
  • What I'm looking forward to? 
    • Six Flags this Saturday for a family Father's Day trip
    • Our 3rd anniversary on June 26 {see how we spent our 2nd here}
    • July 4th pool party at my parents' home outside Baltimore
    • Planning details for Nia's 2nd birthday
 

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Bittersweet Return to Ohio

My mind is in a fog due to the highs and lows of this past week and I've been all over the place in my thoughts that I haven't slept a full night since returning home Friday night. I am clear-headed enough to thank everyone who shared their sympathy and prayers for my family as we celebrated my Grandma Emma's life in Columbus, Ohio. The comments here on the blog were a wonderful reminder while I was traveling what a great support my blogging community is. Thank you for that!

We had just returned from my 10 year Wellesley College reunion and un/re-packed Monday night, hopped in a rental car Wednesday and made the 9 hour drive to Columbus. My sister Ariane joined us and was able to keep Nia entertained in the back while Uka focused on the road - the perfect driving weather helped compared to the rainy cold we had in New England last weekend. 

Lil Love Bird entertained herself while I packed
Nia had given us a preview a few days before of what to expect on a long car trip ...


 

But decided to provide mostly fun moments . . .





Enjoying her first Eat'n Park smiley cookie!

But overshadowing the journey was the reason why we were making it. 

My last visit with my Grandma Emma - August 2011
My grandmother Emma Belle Manley was honored in such a tremendous way at her homegoing service on Thursday. My mother worked hard to put together a touching photo collage video that captured the true essence of her mother. My Cousin Valerie performed a beautiful dance tribute, my Uncle James played the piano as movingly as I can ever remember and my mother's church friend Mrs. McKee shared her thoughts and sang in such a way that inspired me to the core. I was also especially touched that Julie, my best friend since fifth grade, came to the wake. I had shared the details of the day with her but hadn't expected her to come - I did it as a courtesy since I would be in town and I sometimes find out after the fact when friends have come to NYC and it really annoys me when they don't at least mention they're passing through even if they can't see me. I felt so loved to know she was coming and it meant so much for her to be there at the wake.

Grandma Emma had a beautiful day to be celebrated, and I'm especially thankful to Mr. Love Bird for being there with me as he has been traveling a lot the past 6 weeks for commitments on my side of the family. He has been very understanding. 

I know it's cliche when distant family laments they only get to see each other during weddings and funerals, but it is often so true. I saw so many family members that I hadn't seen in years and to see the way Nia enjoyed playing with her cousins made me wish she had little cousins here in NYC the way Mr. Love Bird and I had growing up. Yes, we had family telling us she needs a playmate, but no, we are still nowhere ready for that to happen yet!

I am a Midwestern girl at heart and being in my Aunt Thelma's huge backyard brought back childhood memories of leisurely Sunday dinners filled with laughter and family. I would love for Nia to experience that. For now we have a makeshift family of friends here in NYC and of course my sister Ariane is here, but it's not quite the same. 

Nia traveled to Columbus Memorial Day weekend with my parents, and it was so funny to see her literally resume her playdates with her cousins and see her eyes light up with familiarity. It was precious!

I'm glad I was able to capture a few special moments . . .  

















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