Saturday, November 28, 2015

A 3a.m. Post-Thanksgiving Blog Post

I started off this week feeling down because of the ongoing turmoil we all know is happening in our country and abroad. It's caused me, the stoic Virgo, to be quite weepy this week also because of some private things. Mr. Lovebird's been such a support, and I love him for that. 

I felt so torn as I looked at Nia trying her best to stay up until almost midnight to help me trim our tree with her eyes at half-mast in a stupor of happiness. Relishing her innocence vs. what was going on inside of me and how I know this season is such a very hard time weighed heavily on me. 

Now more than ever I am thankful for my family, their health and my faith. I don't know what I'd do without any of them, but I do know that I am grateful and pray that I will never be complacent. I also know it just can't be about my 4 and no more. I may be called to live out the Great Commission but all of us are called in some way to pour into others. Imagine if we all took on that challenge? And not just for those who looked like or believed like us. 

We have so much power and we don't even know it most of the time. 

Financial expert Suze Orman has always expressed her mantra of "people first and then money" and while it's within the context of financial health I think it is applicable to social priorities as well. 

I'm so over amassing things, and I'd tailor Suze's mantra to reflect my value of "experiences over things." Yesterday morning we visited with dear friends we hadn't seen in a while followed by picking out a tree at the same farm we visited last year and as we passed the filled up parking lots of the mall and stores in our area I felt complete with our version of Black Friday. 

Is this time of year hard for you? If you have kids, how do you balance remaining upbeat, reflecting their happiness vs. inner turmoil you may be feeling?


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Treat Yourself This Cyber Monday with Robin Wilson Home

Disclosure: I am a compensated brand ambassador for Robin Wilson Home; all opinions expressed are my own. 

Let's take a break from Thanksgiving prep to talk about self-care - and yes, this self-care conversation involves Cyber Monday shopping! Christmas shopping has evolved over the years for me especially now that we have two kids (yes, I used to go out to stores early on Black Friday ::hangs head in shame::). Instead of focusing on lots of things for each of us, we now go the route of meaningful family gifts. Last year that meant a new juicer and a couple years before that it was our DSLR just in time for our Christmas-break trip to Nigeria. Mr. Lovebird and I were just discussing what to do this Christmas as our family gift, and I suggested we update a few comforts around our apartment including our towels and bedding. 

Although we had towels on our wedding registry we only received one set and never completed the rest ourselves, however we have updated our towels a few times over the years. I grew up in a home where we hung onto our towels for LIFE, but now with my own family I'm very particular about my towels, and I learned quite a bit about them at the recent W.E.L.L. Summit. While I have a luxurious bath robe that I cherish (a past Christmas gift from Mr. Lovebird!), I'm reliant on my towels for mostly face/hand washing and drying my hair. 

Robin Wilson Home's 6-piece Luxury Supima 100% Cotton Towels in Champagne  ($45.99)
Right now I have my eyes set on Robin Wilson Home's Luxury Supima 100% Cotton Towels. They come in 9 colors (I usually go with white) are made from 100% United States cotton. I tend to be Type A about how I arrange my towels in my linen closet, but with the decorative band on the Robin Wilson Home towels I'm thinking I'd have to reassess my method to make them pretty like the picture! 

Whether for your own home or as a gift the set of 4 Luxury Supima 100% Cotton Bath Towels is a great way to upgrade your bath situation PLUS it's a great way to shop small this holiday season by supporting Robin Wilson Home. Don't you agree it's such a comfort to be welcomed as a guest with thick, fluffy towels? It's a splurge worth making, and this Cyber Monday Robin Wilson Home is making it affordable with the 10% off code SPROUT when you place your order online here

Be sure to follow Robin Wilson Home on Facebook and Twitter too to keep up on all the latest product news and promotions.

Happy shopping! Now back to your cooking . . .


Monday, November 23, 2015

Tis the (Stressful?) Season

What I feel like doing lately!
Every weekend I have such lofty goals of scheduling out my blog posts like I used to do when things were simpler, but as usual I get caught up in real life (SHOCK!) family things, and it never quite happens. Of course it's worth it though especially when there's pie involved! 

This weekend we focused on cleaning and Thanksgiving grocery shopping (why is it so hard to find plain Colby cheese???). It seems unreal that this time last year some of our 20 guests from 6 states had already started arriving for Thanksgiving. It was epic, remember? Although it's just the 4 of us this year I still feel a bit bowled over, but I'm trying to remain calm. Doing simple things like picking up a fresh bouquet of Trader Joe's flowers for my desk, listening to Miles Davis while I'm working and getting my PiYo workouts in are all making a difference on how I'm coping this season.

I don't weigh myself often, but when I started Shakeology a little over a month ago I really used it to start taking better care of myself. Doing that (I'm *this* close to my pre-pregnancy weight!), along with my new cut and color and refreshing my closet with the help of my friend and fellow mompreneur Courtney have been baby steps towards me feeling more like myself. It's all about Kaizen

Nia's out of school starting Wednesday and it's not nearly as cold (yet!) as it was last year. I'm thankful for how gorgeous it is here, our improved quality of life and that we are all well. Part of that wellness involves our church. We were blessed to participate in our first Thanksgiving dinner with the congregation yesterday and we had a great time. The sense of community means so much to us, and I'm thankful for our spiritual family. 

This week we'll get to see our extended family just outside Boston, and while I've discussed diversity (or lack of it) here in New Hampshire, being up here does put us closer to the kids' little cousins on Uka's side of the family. Nia is bursting at the seams to be able to see them this weekend! It makes me happy to see how excited she is as I remember the same feeling as a kid knowing I'd get to see my cousins. 

Community is definitely what you make it. 

Speaking of which regardless of the vitriol spewed in the past couple weeks there is still hope. This post is proof of that. Please take the time to read it and share.

A few other things worth sharing:

  • Glenn AND Jon Snow?! How is it possible for fictional good news to make me feel so uplifted???
  • Have you heard of the Green Book? This NPR story sheds light on it and how it really wasn't that long ago that something like this was a must-have for black people traveling throughout the country, especially in the south  
Wishing you a stress-less week as you prepare for Thanksgiving! 


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Yep, It's Been a While: Vlogging with the Kids!

Thought it'd be fun to do a quick vlog with the kids so I'm sharing a few pre-Thanksgiving thoughts. Can't believe one more week to go!



Monday, November 16, 2015

Peace: A Stream of Consciousness

I pray for Paris. I do so not to hop on the hashtag activism bandwagon, but I am a Christian, and I believe in prayer. And while I respect the responses I see that have said, "we don't need prayer," as I feel convicted to respond in a particular way that aligns with my beliefs, that is how I respond.

Pausing to consider the statement: "I am a Christian" I also know the troubled history that has been carried out for centuries in the name of my religion. When the attack on Paris happened Friday before even knowing the details I knew what was going to explode in subsequent discussions: anti-Muslim sentiment.

Of course it did, but it spurred me to want to step back and understand why. Why do these terror groups form? Why do we keep going through cycles of this? Why does it seem to always be juxtaposed with a civil rights issue we may be going through at the same time in our own country? Why do we start to split amongst ourselves as Americans being able to show solidarity for #prayforparis but fail to achieve mainstream support for #blacklivesmatter? Some of the same people who were upset about the hijacking of #blacklivesmatter into #alllivesmatter are the same ones calling that #prayfortheworld be used instead of #prayforparis. What's been especially conflicting for me is the diversity of those I've seen making both sides of that argument. 

As someone who's studied cultural psychology, I understand the concept of in groups and out groups, and I understand that just because we support one cause doesn't mean we don't necessarily support another. I also understand that you can't force someone to feel a certain way about a topic or force them to show empathy (and this video on empathy is a must-watch). You can respectfully enlighten and educate as I had to do when I pointed out flawed logic on a post expressing that groups not used to acts of terrorism are more deserving of sympathy vs. those who aren't as though there is some master measuring stick of "being used to terror."

As I shared on my personal Facebook wall when discussing the attack in Paris, I understand it's not just about armchair activism via social media and changing one's profile picture to a flag (if by all means that's what you feel compelled to do, then do it). However, what social media has the power to do is bring awareness in a very mass way to certain issues. Without #prayforparis many would not have known about Garissa although that happened all the way back in April. 

Additionally what social media does is acts a barometer of sorts. What it's done is given people a platform to express what's in their hearts. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's come across a Facebook friend's viewpoint on a topic and thought "I had no idea they felt that way" sometimes in a heartening way and other times in a disheartening way. This is also why I think it's important to realize people really do get keyboard courage and that one must step from behind the computer screen and have face-to-face dialogue. 

For those of you who have come up to me in person, talked to me on the phone, sent texts and emails about these issues in the past few days, please know that I appreciate you and your willingness to have meaningful discussions. 

Beyond seeing the role of religion and social media, I've also been considering the role of the white majority in our country and I keep coming back to this Louis C.K. video (warning: very strong language) where he discusses how great it is being a white man. While his piece is quite humorous, on a serious note I appreciate his willingness to see his privilege. From this place of privilege is the ability to have empathy, the ability to change things and the ability to be willing to understand the role that the history of this position of power has played in what's unfolded worldwide. 

While we look ahead towards peace, we cannot ignore the violent history that is in our past and how it colors what is happening now. From the cries for black people to "get over it already!" or calls from some Christians to blindly respond with Bible verses and "Jesus is the answer" without seeing how people acting in the name Christianity has caused so much pain worldwide, historical context cannot be abandoned.

Yes, it would be fantastic to simply say, "We're all human" and get on with it, however there have been constructs put in place that simply won't dissolve overnight.

So what do we do?

Again I think it goes back to how you're personally compelled. 

Empathy definitely has a role to play, and as a black, Christian woman for me that means being aware of my history in each of those groups I'm a part of and how that colors my desire and ability to create a more peaceful world. In regards to what just happened in Paris, it's made me realize how little I know of Middle Eastern history and Islam and to make a dedicated effort to learn more. 

It's a start.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Experiencing the First Ever W.E.L.L. Summit (& a Giveaway!)

Her (Power) tee
Self-care seems to be the theme of 2015 and when I came across W.E.L.L. Summit several months ago I immediately put it in my calendar. I've traveled quite a bit this year and after attending a few conferences I was looking forward to being grounded for a bit, but when the opportunity opened up to volunteer at W.E.L.L. Summit I was thrilled to be able to attend. It *really* is my last big event of 2015. 

And it was the best way to close out the year. 

The acronym W.E.L.L. represents wellness, empowerment, learning and luxury and the brand behind W.E.L.L. Summit, Organic Bath, touched on all these themes by curating a robust and well-rounded group of sponsors, influencers and thoughtful attendees who convened at Wyndam Beacon Hill.

A VIP reception on Thursday night was a casual way to kick off the conference, and I immediately picked up on the vibe of the conference. Everyone was welcoming and extremely passionate about their businesses, causes and what they wanted to get out of the conference. Oh and the food was plentiful and delicious! It was also unseasonably warm adding an extra dose of happiness to the room. 

The following morning kicked off with yoga sponsored by Athleta and while I didn't attend, throughout the conference I really appreciated how opportunities for physical activity were sprinkled throughout. From spin class at CYC Fitness to  Xtend Barre this was not your typical "sit and listen" conference. 

WELL Summit Registration Table

In between attending the registration table and helping bending the scenes, I was able to take in quite a few sessions, and I'm thankful to Gianne, founder of Organic Bath, for being so flexible. A few of my favorite sessions:

Sacred Beauty Salon with Rebecca Casciano was an intimate group where we discussed our ideas of beauty and examined different ways to view ourselves. We kicked off with really looking at each other a la The Artist is Present as well as engaged in a diverse beauty discussion looking at cross-cultural and cross-generational portraits of women. I've definitely changed how I view myself post-kids and this experience was definitely confidence boosting. Rebecca recommended changing up our look whether it be cutting our hair or trying different accessories (like new glasses), and I definitely agree that my recent transformation has been therapeutic in a way. 

Make-up artist Kristen Arnett gave the lunch keynote and I was struck by how humble and down-to-earth in her approach to beauty. Specializing in using organic products and having worked on so many celebrities, she shared how pretty much every woman that sits in her chair picks herself apart. We really need to go easy on ourselves! Beyond her job as a MUA, Kristen is also working on her wellness platform Green Beauty Team. It's worth checking out! 

Next up Drink your Greens with Heather Stevenson, founder of Thirst Juice Co., convinced me to hang onto my juicer. I've been obsessed with smoothies lately, but there are reasons for using both especially with the benefits of drinking juice first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. The pure boost of nutrients to your system is so powerful! My biggest issue with juicing is all the leftover pulp. We lease and don't have a garden otherwise I'd compost, but there are ways to incorporate it into soups and veggie burgers. 

In between sessions there were so many snacks and tea on hand provided by TigerNuts, Simply 7 SnacksEmmy's Organics (these macaroons are EVERYTHING), Cocomama and Numi Organic Tea. I love it when a conference makes sure everyone is fed and hydrated! 

Friday night the highlight was the farm-to-table dinner catered by Chive Events.   Earlier I met the keynote speaker Latham Thomas, founder of Mama Glow, during Brandie Gilliam's How to Make an Impact With Your Brand. I've been following Latham for years after hearing about her via Gabrielle Bernstein and Claudia Chan's SHE Summit. It was an honor to finally meet her (and for her to so graciously indulge my selfie request!).

I wasn't staying on site (shout out to my friend Anna who let me stay with her!), and I arrived Saturday morning as the Healthy Beauty Panel was underway featuring Tara Foley of Follain, Kristen Arnett and Kathryn Rodgers, of the Silent Spring Institute. When that finished I caught Coyuchi CEO Eileen Mockus' Healthy Home session. She shared how to select eco friendly materials for your home as well as laundry care guidelines. Pretty much we should be washing everything in cold water and line drying! Also, beware of benzoyl peroxide in your beauty products - it will stain your linens. 

After lunch I assisted in celebrity chef Ariane Resnick's Bone Broth for Wellness session. Ariane literally wrote the book on bone broth. While it's something that's been around cultures worldwide it's quite new to the U.S. and I was so surprised that as a non-meat eater Ariane touts its benefits. Ariane made a quick version of bone broth on site (it was delicious!), but recommends using a pressure cooker. Although my grandma swore by hers, I've always been intimidated by pressure cooker horror stories, but Ariane assured us they are 100% safe now. 

Next up was setting up for that night's closing party. It was a shopping bazaar of sorts with brands on hand as well plenty of samples and an amazing DJ. I was fading fast (plus I got word that Nia was running a fever), but it was fun to hang out for a couple hours before heading home. 

I was excited to finally being able to sample Sweetgreen. They had opened in NYC around the time we left last year and with a location in Boston I haven't had the chance to eat there yet. Of course there were samples on hand and their pear, apple, cheddar salad was delicious. I'll be attempting to recreate it at home until I can make it back to Boston for more! 

Sunday closed out with yoga and brunch by Birch Benders pancakes. Since I was already back in New Hampshire I had to drool over Instagram

I felt refreshed from my W.E.L.L. Summit experience and committed to applying better health practices in my home especially when it comes to self-care. When you know better you do better, right? If you want to attend W.E.L.L. Summit in 2016 (location TBD) sign up for their newsletter on their website to stay connected. 

Now for the fun part: a giveaway!

There was so much swag available at the conference and I brought some back to give to one lucky reader! It's a flash giveaway over on my Facebook page through the weekend with the winner announced on Monday, November 16:

(Tote bag not included)

Head over there to enter. Good luck!

Congrats to the W.E.L.L. Summit team on a successful inaugural conference!


Monday, November 9, 2015

Distraction Tactics (and a Winner!)

Kicking off a week post-WELL Summit is a very good thing (although I may be a bit too relaxed as I messed up tonight's slow cooker dinner!). This weekend was the inaugural conference - that's the farm to table dinner above - and I was on Instagram sharing my experience. Definitely go back and check out the #wellsummit hashtag for lots of goodness (and stay tuned as I'll be giving away actual goodies from the conference too). 

With my mind centered on positivity, I'm not even going to call out the red cup issue by brand name, but as a Christian and a black woman between that and the foolishness which a certain female co-host (whose name I refuse to type) likes to spew lately about various social issues, there is one thing I'm going to say:

Stop getting distracted people. 

Coming from a career in media, please see these "controversies" for what they are: attention-grabbing stunts and the more you engage with them the more free press you're giving them. I went back to the OP on the red cup issue, and it's one obscure preacher touting his beliefs in a video. People got a hold of it and made it viral. Again, it's purpose is to get attention; they want you to talk about them so they'll be relevant. Same with the network cohost. So please stop playing into it. Please.

There are more important things to focus on. Let's keep it movin' . . .

On to the winner of my L'eggs giveaway (thank you to everyone who entered): 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congrats Erin! I'll email you shortly to claim your prize.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Life with Gray: 15 Months

Second child syndrome is a real thing, hence the reason why I haven't written an update on Grayson since his belated 1 year update 2 months after his 1st birthday. I enjoy going back and reading updates on Nia at the same age as Grayson and figured the least I could do was update based on his doctor appointment schedule. That's fair, right? 

The picture above was from Instagram a few weeks ago when he had actually just turned 15 months and it's one of my favorites. His little Pooh Bear tummy, huge dark chocolate eyes and parted lips are all typical Grayson. Most days he toddles around busy working on his little projects pausing to observe trucks that pass by our fishbowl windows - they provide so much entertainment for him! He is a very easy baby and a true sweetheart. His hand-me-down "Hug Me" shirt conveys exactly what I'm prone to do at least 15 times a day. The best part? He lets me and doesn't try to break free. He's a real snuggle bug!

Here's the full update:

  • Toddler's Weight: 21 3/4 lbs - this was from his 15 month check-up a couple weeks after he turned 15 months  
  • Toddler's Height: 30 1/2"
  • What size of clothing does toddler wear? At the time he turned 15 months he was still comfortably in 12 months clothing and starting to wear some 18 months, but still a bit too long and wide
Escape artist in the making

  • Any milestones toddler reached since last update:  
    • Not sure if it's a milestone, but he's the most confident climber and explorer! He scares us often (as in the clip below - we've since moved the stroller to our lobby), but has the cutest side-eye that says, "I got this!"

    • His vocabulary is slowly expanding, but he mimics us very well 
  • Special outings toddler had since last update:  
  • What are your thoughts since the past update? Grayson still isn't a big eater, but I was thrilled to see he's improving weight-wise; at the time he turned 15 months he was still toppling over from time to time (his large noggin is to blame!), but he does his best to keep up with his big sister. It's fun seeing them interact more! 
It doesn't take much to make Grayson happy! 
  • What was toddler's routine? Grayson's pretty easy going and since turning 1 has dropped his 2nd nap. He wakes up with his sister at 7a.m. via their alarm clock and they both go to bed at 8p.m. At night they "snuggle down" together for their devotional and daily calendar. It's a tradition that's been going strong for a few months now and they love it. During the day we do storytime one day a week still getting out to play while the weather permits and at the time he turned 15 months was spending a couple days a week with our babysitter, a young woman we know from our church who he really likes (it's so precious to see him blow her kisses!) 
Catching up on snuggle time during Nia's soccer practice
  • Reflect about the highlights since the last update:  
    • Becoming a steadier walker
    • Attending the Jazz Age Lawn Party for the first time 
  • Did any big changes occur? 
    • Adjusting to his big sister being at school full time (preschool was only 3 days a week this past year) - he was a bit melancholy when she first started 

  • What are toddler's favorites - toy, food, person, etc... 
    • He is still obsessed with Nia and calls her constantly: "NEE-AH!" She chases him around all the time and he tries to scramble away. Nia still roughs him up from time to time, but it makes him stronger, right?

    • Toy-wise, he still likes his little corner in our dining area where he can play independently in the fishbowl windows
    • He continues to like smoothies (he drinks the most and fastest out of all of us!) and has a funny way of responding when we use our Ninja Auto-iQ:

  • What I'm looking forward to? Celebrating Thanksgiving locally in Portsmouth and getting our real tree up; since Grayson's more active than Nia was I'm wondering if the tree will survive the entire season! We'll go the day after Thanksgiving to get it like we always do; we'll head to Texas between Thanksgiving and Christmas for "Thanksmas" with my parents
Always my baby

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Celebrate November With My L'eggs Fall Fashion Giveaway!

Disclosure: I received a samples to review and giveaway; all opinions expressed are my own.

I'm in complete shock that it's November, but if it brings me that much closer to sweet potato pie I'll get over it! This past weekend was such a blur of activity and I was so excited that my friend and fellow mompreneur Courtney, a personal stylist, came over to help me reorganize my closet. I had posted a collage of the blank canvas here when we moved in last year, but lately it hasn't been living up to its potential cause I've been using it as partial storage as well as being in between seasons and sizes (meanwhile Marie Kondo's infamous book sits forlornly on my dresser). Here's a sneak peek of Courtney working her magic (a dedicated closet post is in the works!):

It took us about 2 hours to get through everything, but it quickly became apparent that I have some embarrassingly huge gaps in my wardrobe mostly due to being pregnant two winters ago and then this past winter not quite being ready for my old clothing which, as Courtney (gently) confirmed, is very much outdated. 

Wardrobe-wise there is one thing going in my favor: the awesomeness of L'eggs Energy Footless Tights. They have Graduated Compression which at 35 years old, really does make a difference in how my legs feel after a long day of activity with the kids (it's all about the blood circulation!). I've been pairing them under my skirts, dresses with booties and flats. 

Here's how I styled my L'eggs Energy Footless Tights over the weekend:

The team over at L'eggs has been great about keeping me stocked with pantyhose and leggings this year and to inspire your fall fashion, I'm giving a lucky reader a trio of L'eggs Energy Tights (size M), Trouser Socks (2 pair, shoe size 5-9) and Footless Tights (size L) - sizing chart is here

Giveaway runs November 3 - November 8, 2015 at midnight EST with the winner announced on Monday, November 9, 2015 (open to US residents, ages 18+ only); enter via Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Be sure to visit L'eggs website and follow Facebook and Twitter for the latest product news.   



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