Monday, August 31, 2015

In Our Garden: How We're #CreatingCommunity

Happy Monday friends! Today I'm coming to you with fellow blogger Teri of Cottage In The Court on a special CoLAB project via ALT Summit and Blogalicious. Over the past few weeks we've come to know each other and while we reside in distinctly different communities and are of different generations, we're in our agreement in our belief in the importance of community and the effort it can require to create it.

We've created a photo essay of sorts to share our experiences and hope you enjoy it! At the end is an invitation for you to participate as well.

My #CreatingCommunity Story

In one month my family and I will celebrate the one year anniversary of our move from NYC-metro to Portsmouth, NH. I've shared before about how this has impacted us especially from a diversity perspective and now with a bit more time behind us, I find that I still stand by my belief that open conversations are still the best route to progress. I don't shy away from difficult topics and I'm proud letting my children see me be assertive in our relationships as we navigate our still-new community. I believe it helps build their confidence as well. Do I think we'll stay here in New Hampshire the rest of our lives? I'm not sure, but for now I'm making sure this period of our lives is one we learn a few valuable lessons from. Here are a few featuring Nia and Grayson at Prescott Park, our own local garden, which is the pride of the community. We find ourselves here a lot especially this summer where the kids had swimming lessons adjacent to the garden as well as enjoyed time at the nearby playground and most recently caught a performance of Peter Pan. It really is a central community location and we find ourselves at peace there.

Teri's Story

Here are a few photos from Teri's community garden. I'll update with a link to her story as well!

As the summer winds down we invite you to share how you're #CreatingCommunity on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We look forward to seeing your images!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life with Gray: 1 Year

Grayson's 14 months old today so I guess that's a good reason to do his 1 year update, right? I still call him "baby Grayson" and probably won't stop anytime soon!

One of the things I love about summer birthdays are outdoor parties and back in June we made our way over to Great Island Common, a huge expanse of green and blue, in New Castle to celebrate. Many of Grayson's fellow baby friends have older siblings who are friends with Nia so it was definitely double fun as she got to hang out with her little buddies. 

It was so special to have my sisters come up from NYC!
Between playing at the playground, rolling around on the blankets and enjoying bubbles, it was a fun day!

Now for Grayson's monthly questionnaire:

  • Baby's weight: Grayson weighed in at 18lbs, 6oz at his last well visit; he really is eating more but it just isn't sticking to him much! The good news is that the's on his own growth curve and the "curve" part is what's most important so his dr. isn't concerned 
  • Baby's height: 29" but I've been assured by my father-in-law that he's just taking after his dad who sprouted much, much later! 
  • What size of clothing does baby wear?:  Still in 9-12 months for the most part; the 12-18 month pants are just too wide
His 1st birthday eve at our hotel in Bar Harbor

  • Special outings baby had during the month: The weekend of Grayson's birthday (and our 6th wedding anniversary) we were in Bar Harbor, our first time there as a family; it was so picturesque and Grayson enjoyed rolling around in all the greenery

  • What are your thoughts on this past month?: We were mostly concerned about potential allergies this month as we knew after his egg allergy scare a few months ago that we could finally get a blood draw when he turned 1; we got it just after his 1st birthday and it confirmed his egg allergy and that we were all clear for dairy and nuts
  • What was baby's routine? Swimming lessons and the library have been the mainstays of our summer and the month of June only had our trip to Maine so it was nice to be local for the most part; hotel stays can always throw things off, but Grayson and Nia still go down for the night together around 8/8:30a.m. and he's up first around 7 followed by his sister; I appreciate that they both sleep through the night
  • Any milestones baby reached during the month?: Just lots more teeth pushing through and nervous about walking 
  • Reflect about the highlights of the month: Celebrating his first birthday in Maine was extra special and his birthday party was such a fun day - it's been great to find a nice little circle of friends for Grayson!
  • Did any big changes occur? With the allergist's approval he'll be ready to move onto cow's milk 
  • What are baby's favorites - toy, food, person, etc... Loves his sister of course and is also obsessed with pushing things around the floor as though they are cars (especially books)! His window perch remains one of his favorite places to play and the trucks that go by give him so much entertainment 
  • What I'm looking forward to? Taking Grayson to Day out with Thomas next month then Ohio in August to meet my side of the family for the first time
Being Grayson's mom has been a true blessing - he's such a sweet-hearted little boy and such a snuggle, which I love. Here's to another fun year that I'm sure is going to fly by!


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Flash Giveaway: Summer's Not Over! Win a Downy Wrinkle Releaser Travel Kit

Disclosure: A promotional giveaway item was provided for one of my readers; all opinions expressed are my own.

We still have about two weeks left before school starts here and with summer not officially over until September 22 (my birthday!), there's still time for a couple weekend trips before fall. While we'll be in town for Labor Day weekend, there are so many people hitting the road. Will you be one of them?

For last minute travel preparation, I've patterned with Downy Wrinkle Releaser to offer one of my readers a special travel kit just in time for your final trips of the summer. It includes:
  • Branded travel toiletry bag 
  • Downy Wrinkle Relesaser travel size 
  • Dreft stain stick 
  • Hooded neck pillow
Growing up, despite my dad making me iron practically everything (including my jeans O_o), and as an adult I now deliberately tend to pack items that don't require ironing (sorry dad!). Thankfully Downy Wrinkle Releaser is giving me a little wiggle room since I can do a few quick sprays before hanging my clothing, tugging out the visible wrinkles, smoothing the fabric and allowing to dry overnight. Plus my family of 4 are usually contained in a single hotel room when we travel it saves me from one of my dreaded fears of my kids toppling the hot iron over on them in such a confined space.

Would you like to win a Downy Wrinkle Releaser Travel Kit? Simply enter via the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway runs today Wednesday, August 26 through Sunday, August, 30 with the winner announced on Monday, August 31. 

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To learn more about Downy Wrinkle Releaser visit their website and be sure to follow on Facebook and Twitter for latest product news.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

Nia's 5th Birthday Party

So much catching up to do here, but I'm so happy to share pics from Nia's 5th birthday party this weekend!

The number one thing I fret over for Nia's birthday each year is the weather. I'm absolutely committed to it being outdoors and while she did ask for a Water Country party (and yes, we explored that dern expensive option), we ended up compromising for a family trip there on her actual birthday. She was perfectly happy with that!

We also did a mini-celebration in my native Ohio too with an epic cake for her (so many pics and memories from that trip to share) and for her local party here in Portsmouth, NH I started a running Evernote list of who to invite and it ballooned rather quickly. We had to make a few tough decisions and ultimately, no tears were shed over the final list, and the day turned out to be a perfect mix of friends from our neighborhood, play groups, church as well as kiddie cousins. The best part? The day started off with questionable weather but by party time it was perfect! 

We're 5 for 5, ya'all!

A few pics from the party:

So annoyed my lens was dirty for this, but had to share this capture of pure cupcake bliss! I'll admit they were delish (and I have two still staring me down)
A final note about what it's like living here in Portsmouth: I think I've mentioned it before, but there are times when it really feels like someone's pressed the easy button for us. This party was at our local pool where the kids have taken free lessons 2x/week this summer. It's a HUGE, clean pool with a super shallow gradient that's comfortable for Grayson AND they allow non-residents (for a small fee). Like Grayson's 1st birthday party, they allowed us to set up a tally sheet at the front gate and settle up at the end of the party. I went into it expecting a hassle, but thankfully it was so simple!

Do you remember your 5th birthday? I do and I have strong memories of being 5 years old in general. Next up, Kindergarten two weeks from tomorrow (hooray for a couple more weeks of vacation Lord, help me)!


P.S. For a look back: Nia's 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th birthdays

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Best Dress of the Summer by eShakti (& a Coupon Code!)

Disclosure: I received a dress from eShakti for review purposes; all opinions expressed are my own. 

If you've been following my Instagram and Facebook feeds this spring and summer there's a particular dress that keeps popping up, and it's getting quite a bit of feedback:

It's the Scalloped Blooms Voile Maxi Dress by eShakti. Haven't heard of eShakti? It's an online dress retailer that allows you to select a style you like then they customize the dress to your specific size. This was a dream come true for me as I'm an avid online shopper and while I usually have good luck with sizing there are times that I have to return items and I don't always have time (or patience) to go to a tailor, especially when I often have my kids in tow. 

On our April cruise
At the time I selected this maxi dress I was still nursing Grayson, and while my instinct told me to find a more nursing-friendly dress, I went with it anyway. I'm glad I did because he weaned soon after AND I had another fun occasion to wear it when I went on my 2nd cruise of the year with my mom. 

Here's what I like about my eShakti dress: 

  • It's high quality - I was concerned that it'd be too transparent, especially with it being white, but it's double layered and the material is nicely weighted, but not too heavy. The dress is breezy which is perfect for summer weather!
  • It's machine washable - When I like a clothing item I want to wear it frequently without having to run to the dry cleaners frequently; I can simply toss my maxi dress in the wash and it's fine. Also the embroidered design on the front has held up well through many washings
With Getting Gorgeous co-founder Vera Sweeney at this summer's annual event
I'm fashionable in an instant - It's so easy to throw on yoga pants and a tee each day I'm running around with the kids, but when I can slip on a dress like this one I feel glamorous without being over the top; on one occasion when I wore it Nia noticed and asked, "Mama, why are you fancy?" She really cracks me up! 

It's a conversation starter - So many women online and IRL (in real life) pepper me with questions about my eShakti dress and they're so surprised that I got it online; yes, it fits correctly (I provided my dimensions) and it's very affordable (my dress is currently on sale for $44 AND you can get a $30 credit when you sign up as a new customer!)

    Although it seems like temperatures aren't cooling down any time soon (it's been consistently in the 90s here in NH!), there are still some beautiful maxi dress options to choose from that will take you into fall. Here are a few more of my favorites:
    l to r: 1//2//3//4
    Would you like to give eShakti a try before the summer ends? Exclusive for my readers just use this coupon code "harlemlovebirds" to get 10% OFF when you shop the site (valid from 08/19/2015 – 09/19/2015*)

    *Please note:
    • Code has to be entered in the ‘promotional code’ box.
    • It is not case-sensitive. 
    • Code can be used any number of times until the validity period. It can be clubbed with any other promotional offer, gift coupon or gift card in the same order unless explicitly specified otherwise in the offer conditions.
    • This discount code is not applicable on clearance, gift cards & overstock categories.Not applicable on previous purchases
    Have you heard of eShakti? Which go-to item have you been wearing this summer?


    Monday, August 17, 2015

    Our Weekend at the 10th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party

    We may have missed it last year, but this year was our 5th time attending the Jazz Age Lawn Party and Nia and Grayson's 1st time as siblings. I learned my lesson after last time and made sure I arrived early to catch the first Governor's Island ferry out at 10a.m. and I'm glad I did - it was CROWDED! It's crazy to think how small the Jazz Age Lawn Party started and now to see how thousands turn out for it. It was a scorcher (hooray for no rain!), but we loaded up on sunscreen, secured a shady spot and stayed until 3p.m. 

    My cuties stay mean muggin'!
    She convinced me to get this for her ($6!), but I have to admit it was delicious - I've tried others that were so bitter, but this was perfection on the hot day!

    We packed lunch but then Grayson passed right out! And of course we had to get a bit of ice cream from the vintage truck:

    I wanted him to wear a cap and suspenders but he didn't even last in pants - it was SO hot!

    Queen Esther was my favorite performer
    She got 3 spins, failed the first two then the woman's son, "a pro," came back to the booth...
    The little boy was the cutest! He zipped right in and spun white which wins every time apparently
    Of course I had to make a little video of my cuties together (Grayson is still a reluctant walker!):

    I definitely think this was our last year attending. I miss how small it was in the past especially being able to see the special performances on the dance floor. Now it's just too crowded and there are too many vendors. I'm thankful we've been able to document our visits here on the blog over the years. It's been a fun run for us at the Jazz Age Lawn Party!


    P.S. A look back at our previous visits: 2013, 2012 and 2011

    Friday, August 14, 2015

    Back to School with Horizon Snacks

    Disclosure: This conversation is sponsored by Horizon. The opinions and text are all mine.

    With Kindergarten approaching in a few weeks, I'm already thinking ahead to one of the most important aspects of my daughter Nia's school day: what's in her lunch box. Horizon Organic has made the decision easier with their extensive line of snacks. From their Super Squeeze to Fruit Crunchers there are exciting and flavorful options to choose from. As a mom it's important to me that Nia's lunchbox is full of good things for her to eat while she's more interested in the taste. I'm glad we've found something we both agree on!

    In the past Nia's school provided lunch for her 5 days a week in Pre-K 3 and I packed her lunch when she attended 3 days a week in Pre-K 4. This year is different as she returns to a 5-day a week program AND I'm packing her lunch daily. I have to admit I found it a bit intimidating at first but I've decided on an action plan:

    1) Get your child involved - I have a hard time delegating but now that Nia's 5 and her motor skills are more developed I'm involving her every step of the way from contents selection to how to pack her lunch. I'm sure she'll be more likely to eat the contents 

    2) Plan ahead - I'm drawing upon my mom's tactic with me and my 3 siblings growing up of having us pack our lunch the night before; I used to loathe it but as I grew up I found I carried this habit with me even in the workplace. I'm hoping this is a habit that grows with Nia as well!

    3) Learn through lunch - With the advent of her 5th birthday Nia's become very interested in how the body works and it's the perfect opportunity to explain how the food we eat fuels our body. Even when she grabs cheese she'll tell me, "Mama, I'm eating protein; it's good for me!" Along with teaching her what's in her lunch box, I also see it as an opportunity to help her foster a positive relationship with food; you can never start too early

    4) Don't be afraid of the swap - I'm not sure of the lunch rules at her new school, but trading food was something I liked doing with my friends; with most schools being wary of allergies I know this can be an issue, but with the possibility of swaps it also introduces Nia to new food and ideas for her own lunch that might help make it more creative for us back at home

    Nia recently had the opportunity to try Horizon Organic Snacks and was very vocal in her feedback, as usual! The Strawberry Super Squeeze was her absolute favorite and she had to keep it away from her brother who was trying to get a taste too. Beyond the lunch box, as an after school snack I was also  happy to see how much she liked the Classic Mac in a single serve cup. Both it and the Super Squeeze are packed with protein and calcium, which Nia now knows are very important!  

    Be sure to follow Horizon Organic on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for the latest product news and visit their website for nutritional information and fun ideas for your little one's lunch box.


    This conversation is sponsored by Horizon. The opinions and text are all mine.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2015

    Wordless Wednesday: Nia's 5th Birthday Edition



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