Expressions of a People Black History Month Celebration

One of the things I love about living in the DC metro area is all of the events that occur for every holiday, every celebration. That means this Black History month there is no shortage of things to do all over the area.

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On Sunday we were able to partake in the Expression of a People at Harmony Hall in Fort Washington, MD. I do not frequent Fort Washington much as it is a bit away from me, but this event seemed very interesting so I headed out that way. It was amazing!

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There was a caricature artist who was very personable and quick. There was face painting, tattoos, balloon artistry, pottery making, mask making, story telling, dance performances, etc. It was truly a day filled with Black richness! We had a ball.

To top it all off the staff was phenomenal. They answered all questions with a smile and were genuinely courteous. I will not hesitate to enjoy an event at harmony hall in the future.

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If you are interested in future events, please visit them here. There is a lot going on throughout the year and I have no doubt you will have as good a time as we did.

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Epic Supergirl Party For My Super 7 Year Old!

When planning Johanna’s 7th birthday party I was…tired. Tired and confused. She wasn’t really clear on what she wanted and I was still super exhausted from planning Isabella’s (that post is super late, yet coming soon). To know me is to know that I like to be very hands on when it comes to my parties. The thought of having to plan yet another one was overwhelming to say the least. We threw around so many ideas: Emoji party, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland… The emoji party sounded very blah to me, I loved the idea of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (still not sure why we didn’t go with that one), and Alice in Wonderland was just too much. There were too many decorations I would simply have to do and I would run myself into the ground trying to make my vision happen. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a flash of Johanna in a superhero outfit went through my mind and I knew that was it.

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But I also knew that I did NOT want to do your typical Spiderman/Avengers/etc. party. I also did not want to do wonder woman or any other supergirl character party. I wanted the party to be focused on Johanna and her friends specifically being superheroes. That’s when I jumped on good ole fiverr and began the first step in having an african american superhero girl created. In fact, I had 2 different people turn a photo of Johanna into a superhero. I was not very happy with either of them – shout out to my graphic artist friend Amanda for fixing the drawing I liked the best (you can find her contact info down below)! In the end it worked out and it gave me a great starting point for the party. With that photo I began to scour the internet for invitation ideas and I felt pretty darn good about myself for getting the invitations out before 2018!

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So here’s the thing. I knew Johanna was watching me with this party. She saw how much work I put into Isabella’s party. She also saw how for months I had supplies rolling in so that I could make all the things for the party. She was watching to make sure that she received equal treatment and I was trying my darndest to make sure that happened.

But then the Christmas season came. And I forgot. Forgot all about the party.

So right after New Year’s I looked to see what was on my plate and was shook to find that not only was her party coming up, but I hadn’t done a darn thing for it! We had secured Badlands in Rockville, MD for the party, but that was all that was done. No cake was ordered, no cookies, nothing! And while I do love making cakes for family and friends, Isabella has sucked every bit of energy I ever had in the last year and it just wasn’t going to happen, so I had to get moving.

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Thanks to Instagram I found a baker. A week before the party we headed to his bakery at Iverson Mall and I tried a cupcake. The cupcake was good, so I went ahead and inquired about ordering a cake. After some back and forth of trying to work with my meager budget ($100 or less) I got the cake order and felt darn good about that. Next I dug through facebook trying to find the cookie decorator I had met at a local Homemakers Ministry I attend, as my usual cake person was on vacation until the day AFTER party! Thankfully I found her, and she was able to fill my order with iced sugar cookies that were so soft and yummy! I was on a roll!

Then thanks to my creativity and at times, some help from etsy, we got things rolling. Johanna was constantly peeking over my shoulders and I could tell she was starting to feel very excited about how things were coming together for the party. But then I remembered that the child needed something to wear. Oy! I hit up my friend Mallory who is famous for making an outfit for her girls in a day, and gave her my vision for Johanna’s cape. I also need one made for her cake topper (more on that later). She was able to whip it up and get it to me in a week, and I am forever thankful. I bought a plain white shirt from Walmart and do to limited time I shoved my silhouette into the corner and created a simple and quick iron for her shirt instead of vinyl. I also made one for the whole family. I ordered a tutu off of amazon (which arrived smelling very much so like fish and had to be washed 2x to get the smell out) and some gold pants (wear once and done type pants, if you know what I mean). I forgot all about the mask, but thankfully a wonderful etsy shop was able to get that to me in 3 days.

By the time the day of the party arrived I was dizzy with exhaustion and so happy that I was almost done. However, my annoyance at how tired and frantic I was dissipated when I saw how happy and excited Johanna was at her party. I barely saw the child because everytime I looked around I would just see a flash of gold sprint down a hill, or a slide, or climbing up. There was laughter, much exercise and the sounds of kids becoming exhausted from the fun.

They colored airplanes, got inside of one, and had fun with some stuff that looked like playdoh but was actually much nicer than any playdoh I’ve ever had. And then there was cake!

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So my regular cake topper lady was also on vacation when I went to place my order. Instead I decided to buy this really cute doll I saw and I was going to use her for the cake topper. She arrived and she was MUCH too big. I tried to get a couple of people to make her a doll. One wanted entirely too much money, and the other just…it just…yeah, no. I couldn’t. So that was scary because I was really stuck. 2 days before the party I drug the kids to Target in a final effort to find the dang cake topper. I prayed that the Lord would guide me, and he did. In my favorite aisle (you know which one) I looked down and there was exactly one doll that was $5 and could totally work for the cake topper! I jazzed her up with the cake and a little sticker I attached to her shirt and voila! It really worked out, don’t you think?! And I intended on making cupcakes, but then I saw this hot pink cake at my local grocery store for only $14 and I thought about how much time I would be saying and decided what the heck? Two cakes it is! I also stepped on the cake before leaving for the party so there’s that…

The kids loved their favors! I’m so thankful to oriental trading for the sunglasses and cupcake (turned candy apple) stand I was able to get from them. Although I must say that was absolute favorite favor to give out was the tumblers I bought from Dollar Tree. I glittered them, added a sticker, and boom! I also really enjoyed making the placemats. For the backside I was able to print a cute table setting guide for the kids. I really do like for my favors to be functional and I thought the parents would appreciate that.

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It was an amazing party and everyone had a super time. And I am beyond happy that in 2016 we decided that the girls would have a birthday party every other year instead of every year, so mama gets some rest in 2018.

If you would like for me to do a review on my experience having a party at Badlands let me know!

Location: Badlands PlaySpace, Rockville, MD
Cake: Pro Cakes, Iverson Mall, Temple Hills, MD
Safeway, Bowie, MD
Cookies: Adrien of Sweet Treats Couture, MD.
Cupcake Stand: Oriental Trading
Cake “topper”: Target
Water Bottle Labels: PrintablesMirtaGyles
Supergirl Candy Bar Wrapper: SimplyEverydayMe
Superhero Birthday Sign: SimplyDovie
Mask: Monichelle Designs
Metallic Leggings: Amazon
Graphic Design Artist: Amanda Carlson

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God’s Grace is Sufficient

The Christmas season has come and gone and I’ve been silent. If you have followed me for a while, you may notice that every  Christmas season I get a little quieter, or just become non-existent altogether.  In October I have so many big plans for this blog. So many things I’m going to post, areas I want to challenge myself in, but then November hits and…nothing. And that’s because this particular season is always hard for me.

Every November I welcome Thanksgiving with a bit of excitement, but also a whole lot of apprehension because Turkey Day means that December is on the horizon and December means I’m in for very rough terrain. December means a little bit of depression, a whole lot of anxiety. It means excitement and sadness. It means being overbooked, having too many plans, trying to find space to breathe. It means missing my mom desperately and not knowing what to do with those emotions. It means fighting so so so hard to stay present for a little girl that loves the advent season more than anything and trying to make new memories with a baby who still doesn’t know what to quite make of it all. It means struggle. It means screaming inside for peace. It means wondering if I’ll survive it all or if I should just go ahead and put myself on a 72 hour hold.

My birthday is December 16th and my moms was December 19th. It’s tough. December 19, 2016 found me having a total and complete breakdown. My dad had to come over and tend to me because I was in a bad way. I had hit rock bottom of it all.It was ugly, scary, and it hurt physically and emotionally. I was in my own personal hell and for the life of me I still don’t know how to escape myself in times like that.

November 2017 I was determined that December would be different. That 2016 would never happen again. That healing, not darkness, was on my horizon. So I prayed. I mentally locked myself up and had a face to face with Jesus. I needed him to perform a miracle in my life. I needed him to break that chain that was pulling me down every year. I prayed so hard. I had others pray. For once I let others in and I asked them to please, please pray. Please.

And when I tell you that God delivered…

I was in awe at how he met me right where I was. I was in awe at how he showered me with love in the way my mom would so many times. Like the Minister at church who gave us a monetary blessing for the girls on behalf of my mom. And then there was the lady in the Post Office who not only paid for me to ship my package, but then also gave me a blessing. When I went to thank her for being so kind in paying for my package, I told her that the blessing was right on time as funds were very tight for me in that moment and I was dreading shipping the package because of it. I also told her how that very day was my moms birthday, she would’ve been 67, and what she did felt like God soothing me. She asked me to do her a favor and accept something. She said that it was also her birthday and she was 47 to my moms 67 and that’s when she handed me $50. After thanking her and praying that God bless her for blessing me, all I could do was call out to Abba God.

He was literally raining down blessings on me. And that was only the beginning.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t have some struggle. As I drove out to hang out with my friends for my birthday, I had a mild panic attack on the way. I still shed tears. I still had moments of not being sure if I was coming or if I was going. However, they were nothing like previous years. 2017 I felt 70% present, which is amazing for me! I made it. I made it through my birthday. I made it through her birthday. I made it through Christmas. I made it without breaking down, without losing myself. God met me, God loved on me, God reminded me exactly who he is.

And before anyone thinks it was about the money, let me assure you it was not. You see, my mom loved to show people her love by giving to them. She loved to by them very nice gifts and that of course included me. My love language is not presents. I’m not impressed by money or things. But when those around me started giving to me in honor of her, and they were doing it so extravagantly, I KNEW that was God loving on me the way that she would. Awwww That God of mine! He overwhelms me! He’s too much! My cup runneth over! The way Jesus loves on me is perfection.

So while I am sorry that I’ve been away, it was necessary. It was survival.

Thank you for sticking with me through my quiet seasons. I hope to be very loud in 2018.

Not an Instagram Homeschool Mom

I’ve always wanted to be what Instagram showed me as the perfect homeschool mom. Waking up an hour or two earlier than the kids, drinking my cup of coffee or tea while reading my morning devotional, going into prayer, then planning and preparing for the day. I used to think man! Those moms really have their crap together. Definitely not a slacker like me. But tried as I may, I never could get myself together in the mornings. I peel my eyes open once Isabella begins hitting my face, or crying, whichever comes first. And then I just lay there, much like a sloth you would see at the zoo. Tap dancing on the line of dreaming of just one more hour of peaceful rest and thanking Jesus that I’m seeing another morning, promising to make good use of it…if only the bed and I could stop our love affair. Then Johanna right on que announces that she’s hungry, so we all get ourselves together and eventually make our way downstairs for breakfast and the start of another school day. And as that day comes to an end and the kids and husband are in bed having their own affair with the bed, I realize that I have found my sweet spot. It’s not Instagram picture perfect as the only light streaming in is that which is provided by the moon, the bathroom, and the computer. It’s not ideal for drinking anything but decaf coffee or tea as I would be ridiculously jittery from the real stuff, but it is perfection.

The moon and I have been great pals for years now and many a night we have fought the sun so that we could dance just a tad bit longer. It is when the moon is shining reflecting the light of the sun that I really become alive. Suddenly my thinking is clear and sharp, brainstorming ideas to execute my homeschool dreams and plans is as easy as breathing, and patience to learn and grow as a homeschool mom magnificently magnify. I’m able to purge much of what I hold in my head for only me, myself, and I to see, clearing much needed space to have a dialog with my Jesus that I tend to struggle to have during the day. It’s nothing short of brilliant, until my head starts to swim and my vision gets heavy reminding me that I’m no longer 20 something and this dance I have going with the moon must cease until yet another night as I have to spend much of my time with the sun these days because I’m 30 something with kids that need to be taught and molded and real world problems that can only be resolved between the hours of 9-5.

Somedays I still really admire those Instagram moms. Many in this society put so much value on those who are able to wake up with the sun. They accomplish much and they’re hard workers. They must be amazing and their kids must be geniuses! But I remind myself that I’m no less awesome. After all, I get to dance with the moon and that’s downright magical.

A Homeschoolers Guide to Doing NYC on a Budget

Have you ever taken one of those quizzes that tell you what state you should move to? Which one fits your personality, has the weather you desire, and the activities you want to do? I have and I’ve taken them quite a bit because I’m waiting for the results to change. Every single one of them tells me that the city I need to be in is NYC. The quizzes aren’t telling me anything new. I already know this. New York City has been in my very soul since I was a child. My parents used to tell me I would hate it. “It’s dirty. Filthy! Too crowded. You’ll hate it.” But somehow I just knew I would love it, and I did! The first time I visited I fell in love and I just knew I wanted to be there. However, our finances tell me no. I can visit all I please, but sadly, living there is not in the cards right now. Even though I can’t live there, I’ve dreamed of sharing New York City with Johanna since she was a baby!

In September one of the many local homeschool facebook groups I’m in announced a group buy for tickets to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in NY. I was all over it! Not only did I love the book, but I loved the movie too. But to get to see it on BROADWAY? I’m in. So Johanna and I read the book, watched the movie, then packed our bags and headed to the big apple dragging the Mister and the baby with us!

Planning was a bit tricky because we were on a very strict budget and very little time. NYC overnight, but under 24hrs, for less than $300? Challenge accepted, and here’s how we did it:

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1) See a broadway play, but in the middle of the week and get the group rate – We were able to get tickets in the back of the orchestra for less than half the original cost by going in with a group. They needed there to be at least 20 of us in order for us to get the group rate, and that was rather easy. We ended spending under $100 for two tickets!

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2) Share a treat – I knew I wanted to take Johanna to the Sugar Factory when we went to NYC because it’s a chic place full of treats, just her style. But I also knew I didn’t want to spend a grip, so we shared a treat under $5 and enjoyed the cute little shop. It was actually super good!

3)Visit kid friendly stores, but look for really good sales – I know as a mom sometimes we really want to treat our kids even if our wallet protests, so when you go to the majorly cute stores in Times Square like M&M and Disney, plan ahead, go with a plan. I knew Johanna would want something out of the M&M store, so we made a cute bag of colorful M&M’s for half a pound, and put them in her M&M souvenir I bought her years ago when we got home. I also scoped out the Disney store before we came and happen to know that they were having a pretty decent sale. Turns out she didn’t want anything in there anyway, but I felt good going in knowing that I was prepared.

4)Enjoy the beauty of Times Square, it’s free! – Grab some lunch and take a seat in the middle of Times Square. I’ve never had a boring time in Times Square. There are always some characters (literally and figuratively) around there. While I grabbed a kabob from a street vendor, Johanna chose to get something from McDonald’s. We sat on a wall in the middle of TS and enjoyed watching about 8 Minnie Mouses, 2 Cookie Monsters, a Spiderman, Batman, Minion, 2 statue of liberties, and many more. Just a normal day in the city.

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5)AirBNB, enough said – Our airbnb cost us $100 less than a hotel in the city would have. I chose for us to stay in Queens simply because I had never been there before. I always stay in the middle of TS or in Chelsea, and I wanted to do some place different. The organizer of the show tickets found an equally inexpensive airbnb in hell’s kitchen! As always, check the ratings and make sure to read all the details. Our airbnb was very nice and in a very chill neighborhood, just one block from the bus we took. It worked out incredibly well.

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6)Choose one landmark to visit, and find a cheap way to do it – Johanna really wanted to see the statue of liberty. I knew that cruises to do so could be rather expensive so we were all set to take the ferry from lower Manhattan to Staten Island for just $5 each! While we wouldn’t be able to actually visit the Statue of Liberty, she would be able to see her fairly up close. However, as I was scouring the internet reading about parks and such in NYC, I found one about Liberty State Park and I thought that would be perfect instead, especially having the baby with us. The kids could play AND see the Statue of Liberty! So Thursday morning we found ourselves at the park with a pretty great view of her, and Johanna had a ball with her father in the park before we headed home.

I feel like we were able to pack a lot into our trip. I knew that this was not the trip to try to show her everything I love about New York, but it was enough to just get her feet wet. Enough to have her say “Mommy, when I become an adult, I’m moving to NY!”. You just don’t have any idea how sweet those words were to my ears.

Have you done New York on a very tight budget? What tips do you have to share?

To see our trip in action and for more tips, checkout our video on our Youtube channel!

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Pumpkin Pudding Cobbler

Awww, it’s October. That means crisp air, the changing colors of leaves, fashionable knee high boots, apple picking and…all things pumpkin. I hope that you can tell that I am less than enthusiastic about that last thing because it drives me absolutely INSANE just how crazy everyone is over pumpkin. I hate pumpkin! I know hate is a strong word and I truly mean it! Especially pumpkin spice. Dear God, save me! Why are people so crazy about that yuckiness? I just don’t get it!

But wouldn’t you know that this month I was challenged. I was challenged to do a project pumpkin related. I could’ve said no to the challenge, but I said to myself no, you’re going to rise up and meet it head on. You’re going to create something in the kitchen containing pumpkin that even you would want to eat! You can do this! So after much melancholy despair and dread, I had an aha moment! Why not make a pumpkin COBBLER! Everyone loves cobbler right? So why not just turn your cobbler recipe into a pumpkin cobbler recipe? And so I did. However, I didn’t just do it, I did it on camera trying it for the very first time praying and hoping not to fail. I did a darn good job if I may say so myself!

Now, the version that I made is more of a pudding consistency. If this turns you off I will have an alternative at the end of how to make it more stable, but I promise you, even as is it is GOODT! That’s right, not good, but goodt! My dad ate his portion so fast I was concerned he may immediately have heartburn. My husband is now requesting that I make it for Thanksgiving and the baby screams whenever you take it away from her. I mean, it must taste aight.

Checkout the recipe below, then head to my youtube channel to watch it come together!

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Ingredients
1 cup butter
4 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 ½ brown sugar
1 cup sugar
(2) 28 oz cans of pumpkin
1/2 cup of milk
4 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract**
cinnamon and sugar mixture for pecans and topping (at least 4 tbsp. Adjust as needed)

Directions

  • Put together your pie crust, form into a ball, wrap with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator until it’s time to be used. There’s a pretty good recipe found here.
  • Preheat over to 350 degrees
  • Add in your spices and sugars and stir
  • Add both cans of pumpkin and the milk and blend well.
  • Pour the pumpkin batter into the dish. If you are using pecans, toss them in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon, then place them on top of the batter.
  • Roll out your pie crust and cut it into any pattern you prefer. Brush with melted butter and then sprinkle with the sugar/cinnamon mix.
  • Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Top with ice cream for some a la mode fantasticness, or don’t. Enjoy!

*For a more dense pumpkin batter try adding 1/2 cup of flour and 1 tsp of baking powder to the dry ingredients, then stir in all of your wet ingredients (pumpkin, milk, melted butter. Pour batter in pan then continue with directions.

**I totally left out the vanilla extract! Add 1 tsp.

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An Open Letter to My Daughter on Her 1st Birthday

My dearest Isabella,

Today you are 1 and I feel robbed. A day that should be full of celebrations has my eyes tinged red as tears flow down my face. My newborn is gone. My toothless, non-babbling, laying still little person has disappeared. Yes, I am excited for your growth and it is nothing but pure joy to see you become the little person you are meant to be, but my heartaches wishing you were my tiny baby just a little bit longer. See, you’re our last baby. The last one we get to bring home from the hospital and the last one that we get to stare at in awe of just how awesome God is. So yeah, mum, as you call me, is quite sad today.

But I’m also amazingly satisfied and proud. You are 1 and sassy. People that meet you say “she doesn’t take any stuff, does she?” and you don’t. Not from anyone. You stick up for yourself against your big sister, and you give your daddy and I a run for our money. Your giddy smile makes my heart want to burst. It’s contagious. I can’t be melancholy when I look at you. That smile races through my body wrapping me up in the heat of your pure joy.

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Some say you look like me, a few say you look like your daddy, a lot say you look like your grandma Sylvia, and that makes me so proud. I pray you always resemble her, keeping her memory alive. Before I knew I was pregnant I had a dream that on a sunny day in a building in DC I stepped out to meet her. She handed me a stack of baby clothes and some money. She was so happy. I asked her if she wanted to come in and meet Johanna but she said she couldn’t, but she was so happy to give me that stack. I had no clue that she was trying to tell me that another miracle was headed my way and to get ready.

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Since that day you and I have gone through a lot, including laying up in George Washington University Hospital together. I was so worried about your life, and mine. I had really bad anxiety and panic attacks due to being stuck in one room looking at the same 4 walls every day, rarely allowed to leave since I was on pretty strict hospital bedrest due to preeclampsia. But you still had your nightly dance parties in my belly and they let me see you via ultrasound at least once a week. A lot of times you were sleep, sometimes you turned your back on us, but one time you were laying there just blinking at me as if to say hey lady, when does the party really get started? I’m ready to bust out this joint. And eventually we both did. You had a short stay in the NICU my little IUGR baby, pulling out your feeding tube every chance you got until they finally decided not to put it back in. A fighter. You’ve always been a fighter, a survivor. Now I’m watching you thrive.

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You’re still petite and look younger than most 1 year olds, but you are fierce. You are also very loving and compassionate. If your sister is crying you go rub her leg and check on her. Sometimes when I’m upset you’ll lay your precious head in my lap. You could afford to be a little kinder to Pepper though. I know you like him and are intrigued by him, but there are better ways of loving on him than pulling out his fur/hair and chewing on his ear.

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Isabella. I named you Isabella because one day God told me I was going to have a daughter named Isabell… I couldn’t figure out if he was saying Isabelle or Isabella. I hate the nickname Belle so I went with Isabella. Oddly enough when I was pregnant your Grandma Sylvia showed up in a dream to your Aunt Carol telling her you would be named Isabell…Aunt Carol wasn’t sure if it was Isabella or Isabel either. But I knew you were meant to be and seeing the meaning of Isabella I knew that you were special and that me having the opportunity to raise you was going to be a great gift that I should handle with care. Isabella – Devoted to God. What a powerful name for such a powerful baby.

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I could go on and on reminiscing, thinking about all the great things that make you YOU, but you see, it’s 9am and you are smacking your sister in the face trying to wake her up. Next you will sit on her head, as you normally do, but this morning you’ve already pooed and I just can’t let you do that to her. But I’ll end this by saying I adore you. Thank you for giving me another chance to be a mom to a newborn. Thank you for allowing me to give breastfeeding another shot, even if it still didn’t work for me. Thank you for allowing me to witness a baby’s firsts again. What joy that has brought me. Thank you for the gift of you. You’re unlike anyone I know and I love that. I pray that this year as you grow, I grow too, and that we continue to learn a lot from one another. That you continue to laugh hard and embrace the love that surrounds you from us every day. Happy birthday, Isabella. You’re amazing.

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