A Love Letter to My Daughter on Her Very First Birthday

Dear Daughter,

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17

Your presence came as a surprise but from the moment that I found out you were going to be my sweet little baby GIRL my heart could not contain the excitement. As a mom of two boys I did not know what to expect but nevertheless I felt extremely blessed that God gave me this magnificent opportunity to be your mother. You were the perfect, calm and sweet baby inside of the womb. I was a little concerned at first because both of your brothers were quite the opposite! I soon realized after many checkups and doctor visits that you were perfectly fine.

“Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.” John 16:21

Throughout my pregnancy I was able to maintain my physical fitness routine and often went for walks with your brothers as well as exercised at the gym with my friends. That helped out in the long run because the doctors informed me a week or so before your scheduled induction date that you were going to be at least NINE POUNDS! With the support of your father, grandmother and the team of doctors and nurses, I mustered up the strength to deliver you at 12:55 PM on February 15, 2018. You weighed a WHOPPING 10 pounds and 4 ounces!! Your father and I named you Nia Constance Imani Williams, a name we had picked out together while we dated in college. I wanted you to have a piece of my family history so we incorporated my middle name and your great grandmother’s middle name (Constance) into your name.

Your first name in Swahili means ‘PURPOSE” and your middle name means “FAITH”

Your first year of life has been so special to me as I had the opportunity to stay home with you fulltime. I did not have the same opportunity with your older brothers and the bond we formed during this first year will be something that I will never forget. I pray that the smiles, laughs, and cries we shared together helped you feel loved and cherished as only a mother and child can relate to. I know that as you get older your dependence on me will get less and less but for now I love being there for you hand and foot to help you navigate through this new world of yours.

“May our daughters be like graceful pillars, carved to beautify a palace.” Psalm 144:12

As we celebrate your first year of life as a family my prayer for you will always be to keep being the light that brightens up every room you enter. Your smile and laughter are so contagious and I never want you to lose that sparkle. I promise as your mother to nourish and protect you and to be the best support system a daughter could ever ask for or need. I know that as a parent sometimes we can push our dreams and insecurities onto our kids and I vow to never be that person. I want you to live the life that God has ordained for you and not live your life to please other people.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

When I look into your eyes I see such a pure and innocent soul and I wish I could keep you this way forever. I’m not ready to introduce you to the lows that this world may offer you but I know that’s not reality. Instead of wasting time thinking about what’s to come I will choose to live every day presently and cherish the daily journey that we take together. I’m honored to be your mother and I just want you to know that I will always love you, now and forever more. Happy 1st birthday my dearest daughter! The world is yours!

Fun Ways to Celebrate Black History Month across the Bay

By now everyone should know that February is deemed Black History Month in the United States. It is a time where we celebrate the many achievements of people of African descent in the U.S. from February 1st – February 28th.

Instead of composing a list of African American inventors (something that I used to have to do in grade school when I was growing up) I decided to put together a local list of ways you and your family can support a black owned business, gain new insight on local African American achievements or just simply celebrate your African American neighbor, coworker or friend.

February 1st

Join the dynamic husband and wife team at Livy O’s Catering Co. by kick starting your weekend with a little live entertainment, delicious food, and signature cocktails. Doors open at 7:30pm. Reservations and or VIP tables are available at http://www.livyos.com

February 2nd

In case you did not know, there is a really big football game happening this weekend. Some people watch for the game, some for the halftime show and others just tune in for the epic commercials. Either way, be sure to contact Craig Watson of Mr. Margarita Tampa for all of your Super bowl entertainment needs. Your party isn’t official unless Mr. Margarita is there!

February 3rd

If you haven’t secured your menu for the Super Bowl please consider calling my friends over at Sim’s Catering services. Another dynamic husband and wife team that are sure to make your taste buds come alive! Contact them via email at simscateringservices@outlook.com or by phone at (813) 484-0734.

February 1st – 7th

The superhero blockbuster thriller of 2018 is returning to the movie theaters! Take your family out for FREE at participating AMC theaters to relive this EPIC movie. Check here to see which theaters are eligible http://www.amctheaters.com.

Black Panther is sure to be a family favorite with this award winning cast!

February 6th & 7th

Here’s another chance to take your family out by going to the David A. Straz Center in downtown Tampa to see Tyler Perry and the cast and crew of Madea’s Farewell tour. Tyler is well known for his plays and his beloved character Madea so this show is sure to be a hit! Tickets are selling out fast so be sure to call the Box Office at (813) 229-7827 for further info.

Tyler as Madea is a whoot and we all have a Madea in our family!

February 8th

Spend the day in Sarasota, take in some of their beautiful sights and enjoy St. Armands Cirlce. Then head over to Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall to be serenaded by the iconic Pattie LaBelle. Her classic hits of soul, r&b, pop, blues and spirituals will be sure to put anyone in a great mood. Tickets can be purchased through their box office by calling (941)953-3368.

The ageless and iconic Patti LaBelle!

February 9th – 13th

Take some time out of your busy week and support these local businesses in the month of February and throughout the year!

February 14th

Skip the long waits in line for a dinner date this Valentine’s Day and take your boo to the movies. Nothing like enjoying good laughs over a comedy to lighten up the mood. This movie is starring Taraji P. Henson who was just awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

February 15th

Stop the presses! It’s a national holiday! My daughter turns the BIG ONE!!

February 16

Did you know Tampa Bay has an annual Collard Green Festival? Neither did I! I just found out about it this year and I’m very excited to attend! This year it will be hosted in St. Petersburg, FL at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. Come out and enjoy this family friendly event from 9am – 4pm. Taste samples of collard green inspired recipes, learn various cooking methods that contribute to a healthier lifestyle and many other activities happening on site during the festival. Children 12 and under will have a KidZone designed to captivate their interest in urban hands on gardening, composting and more! Come out for arts & crafts, bounce houses, fun and more! There is even a collard green cook off competition you can enter and the winner will be awarded $500! Check out their website for more info http://www.tampabaycollardgreenfestival.org

February 19th

The iconic African American dance company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, will be in Orlando, FL for one memorable night. Fun fact: I majored in Dance at the University of South Florida and one of my classmates, Jermaine Terry is a company member of Ailey. To say that I am a proud friend and classmate is an understatement. The dance performance will be held at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in the Walt Disney Theater. Call for ticket prices and information at (844)513-2014.

February 20th & 23rd

Fashion visionary and event host enthusiasts, Lacey B. Smith brings you the ninth installment of Haute Accessories Week 2019. This year’s event will be hosted at the Hyatt Place Tampa/Wesley Chapel. HAUTE is an event exclusively to spotlight the contributions of accessory designers in the fashion industry. Featuring the unique and creative works of independent and emerging accessory designers. Come out and support this two day event! Be prepared to be wowed and shop the latest designs and accessory trends of the year!

February 24th

Come out and join us for fellowship at Rivers of Life Church Ministries in Brandon, FL. Our nondenominational church is open to all and welcomes you to our Sunday services which began at 10am every Sunday. Pastor Curtis A. Swafford and First Lady Rev. Dorothy T. Swafford would be delighted to have you. Please visit the church’s website for more info http://www.rolcm.org.

February 25th – 28th

As our Black History month draws to an end, please consider supporting these businesses during the month of February and throughout year.

I had such a great time composing this list. Leave me some feedback on businesses or events I could have included. I hope that you find this list useful and let me know if you attend any of the events listed. Happy Black History Month 2019!

Top Five Places To Shop for Kids Clothes On a Budget

I recently took my children to have their Christmas pictures taken with Santa. So of course, in true mom fashion I had to coordinate all three of my kid’s outfits. Yes! I’m that mom that plans out the clothing details for each special occasion. Don’t you?

Buying a new outfit every time a momentous occasion rolls around can get expensive. To eliminate spending extra cash, I first start with what they have in each of their own wardrobe. That’s how I get my creative juices flowing and figure out which color scheme I will go with. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, but in the African – American community, it doesn’t matter if you were born twins or not, at some point you dressed alike with your sibling(s) photo shoot or not. I have photo evidence of me and my brother wearing the same outfits as kids and we are not twins!

I don’t like spending mega bucks on clothing for children since they grow out of them so fast and they can’t really appreciate the value of the clothing anyway. I tend to shop throughout the year on the clearance racks and keep certain occasions in mind as I’m purchasing items. And like any pro shopper knows, it pays to purchase items out of season to get the best deals! Below I’m sharing with you the top five places I shop for kids clothes while sticking to a budget. I’m no personal stylist, and I may be biased but I think my coordinated outfits for photoshoots have turned out well. Comment below and let me know if any of your top places make my list!

Bealls Outlet

I’m new to shopping at Bealls Outlet as I have been shopping at their main store, Bealls, for years. I was pleasantly surprised to find great options for my boys when I shopped for their Christmas shoot. The best part is their prices are very reasonably priced so no coupons required!

Both of my boys shirt’s came from Bealls Outlet

JC Penny’s

Earlier in the year we did a family maternity shoot. My oldest son is ten and seems to be growing out of his clothes at the speed of lightning.  The shirt I had originally picked for him to wear did not fit anymore so I made a quick run over to my neighborhood mall and headed straight for JC Penny’s because I knew I would easily be able to find something for him. A lot of people sleep on JC Penny’s for kids options, which is fine with me because that leaves more options for me!

My husband and my oldest son’s shirt both came from JC Penny’s

Crazy 8

As a boy mom, it’s often hard to find cute and stylish clothes for boys. Most stores have just the basic plaid, stripes and plain color shirts. I can always count on Crazy 8 to have up to date stylish attire that can fit any occasion.  I saw these African print shirts in their store and decided to grab one each for my two boys, not knowing that they would be the perfect addition to our Black History photo shoot we participated in. I love Crazy 8 also because at least 2-3 times a year they mark their ENTIRE store down to $12.99 & $9.99 and I rack up for my boys during those sales. Be sure to subscribe to their email list so you can stay up to date on their sale cycles. 

Aren’t these shirts adorable? Thank you Crazy 8!

The Children’s Place

The Children’s Place will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my go to store as a first time mom. I think every single piece of clothing my oldest child owned came from there from the age of 0 – 5 years. I’ve since branched out to other stores but this store is definitely my all time favorite. I still shop their clearance rack year round for super cheap deals that you can’t just say no to. It’s also my favorite store to gift clothing items. If you’re a girl mom they have the cutest dresses!

My oldest son’s shirt came from The Children’s Place

Old Navy

Old Navy is great because you can shop for your entire family there! Everyone get’s an outfit without breaking the bank. You get an outfit! You get an outfit! And yes, even mom can throw something in the cart for herself too! What’s not to love about a one stop shop kind of store?

My youngest son’s shirt and my oldest son’s pants are from Old Navy

Honorable Mentions…

Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s are my go to places to shop for kids clothes as well. I don’t really go there specifically to shop for clothes but if I’m ever in there I make sure to scan the clearance racks in the kids sections and usually come out with a few hard to pass up items.

FIFTEEN WAYS TO SHOW PEOPLE YOU LOVE THEM WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK

The Holidays are in full swing and before you know it the New Year will be here! I know around this time of the year it’s easy to become overwhelmed and believe it or not, the season that is meant to bring you great holiday cheer can turn into a big holiday drag. According to a Forbes(**) 2016 article, Americans were expected to spend over 1 Trillion dollars during the holiday season. Let that sink in…ONE TRILLION DOLLARS!!! I can only imagine how much the number has drastically increased in two years.

What many people don’t like to talk about during this time of year is the financial strain the holiday season can really be to the average working class family. In an effort to be more fiscally responsible (because life goes on after the holiday season and bills still need to be paid Jan 1st), I’ve put together a list of fifteen affordable ways that you can participate in showing your friends and family that you love them without breaking the proverbial bank.

1. Phone Calls – It sounds so simple but when was the last time you actually called someone to check up on them and express to them how much they mean to you? Pick up the phone today and give that uncle, aunt, or cousin a call. They will be so glad you did.
2. Lunch Date – There are plenty of establishments offering daily lunch specials so this can be a fairly reasonable way to treat someone out to lunch and show them some appreciation for being your friend or favorite Auntie.
3. Greeting Cards – I just caught on to the Dollar Store card section and it’s the bomb! Super affordable and some cards even cost less than $1. If mailing out cards isn’t your thing, you can search online for ways to send personalized e-cards to your friends and family.
4. Home Visit – Call and schedule a visit! Bonus points if you bring a small gift like a bottle of wine or even some delightful candles from my super talented cousins at Marcish Market (www.marcishmarket.com).
5. Potluck – Host a potluck style party. Everyone brings a dish so the burden won’t solely rely on one household. What’s not to love about food, fellowship and fun?
6. Cookie Exchange – Attend a Christmas cookie exchange party and make goodie bags out of the mounds of sweets you will come home with from the party. I attended one last year and it was so much fun and a great way to learn and try new recipes.
7. Volunteer – Organize a group of family and friends and reach out to a local organization like Metropolitan Ministries to see how you can help out in your community. Volunteering is a great eye opener and a good reminder to be thankful for what you currently have.
8. Prepare-A-Meal – Cook your favorite meal and invite a friend over that may not have any close relatives in town. Who would turn down a home cooked meal?
9. Childcare Services – Offer childcare services to your friends and family who have young children. I don’t know anyone who would turn that down!
10. Small Business Support – Does your friend or family member run a small business? Then support them throughout this holiday season! I love supporting my friends over at Jon’s Gourmet (www.jonsgourmet.com).
11. Send Flowers – News flash! You don’t have to wait until Valentine’s Day to send that special someone a bouquet of flowers. Go ahead and surprise them by brightening up their day!
12. Coffee Date – Meet up at your favorite local coffee shop to catch up with friends and family over a cup of tea or coffee.
13. Bake your favorite holiday treats – Pull out your family recipe’s that your Grandma passed down to you and share with your friends and family. Who wouldn’t love a homemade chest pie, sweet potato pie or fresh made bread!
14. Park Meet Up – Did you know there are plenty of family friendly local parks in your area? If you live in a state like Florida, where we never participate in the Fall or Winter weather, meeting up to do outside activities are still possible. Plan a family meet up date and bring a picnic and some games the whole family can enjoy. It’s nice to get outside and be amongst nature.
15. Family Photo Session – Who doesn’t have a smartphone these days? With so many cool features like an amazing camera, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on family photos. Coordinate your outfits (be creative, think holiday festive) and get a tripod and snap away!

I hope you find this list useful and find ways to celebrate the holiday season without breaking the bank. Comment below with some ideas that you plan on implementing this season. Wishing you love, peace and joy this holiday season from my family to yours!

In Pursuit…

**https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanpearson/2016/12/22/holiday-spending-to-exceed-1-trillion-and-11-other-surprising-data-points-of-christmas/#e226172247fe

Vegetarian Collard Greens

The holidays are approaching! Time to pull out your favorite family recipes. Don’t be alarmed by the word “vegetarian”, these greens are a hit and are always in demand when I make a big batch. I grew up in Tennessee and Georgia so I’m a southerner through and through. During my teenage years my parents turned into health enthusiasts and became vegetarians due to health concerns. I learned to cook by watching my mother make delicious vegetarian recipes and we did not miss the meat at all.

I like to create simple and healthy recipes that can be done without spending all day in the kitchen. Making my vegetarian greens won’t be complicated at all. The best part is, you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy them. Check out the ingredients list below.

What you will need:

2 bags of fresh greens
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 small onion
1 carton of vegetable broth
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 jalapeno
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Seasonings: salt, pepper and Ms.Dash Garlic & Herb seasoning

Cooking instructions:

Heat pot to medium heat
Add olive oil to coat bottom of the pot
Add diced onions, minced garlic & stewed tomatoes (cut the stewed tomatoes once they are inside the pot)
Sauté for 5-7 minutes on medium heat
Add freshly washed greens
Add vegetable stock, apple cider vinegar, salt & pepper.
Let pot cook down for 25-35 minutes on low to medium heat
Taste greens and season additionally to taste

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Maker Faire Is Coming to Orlando!

I’m excited to partner with Maker Faire Orlando as a social ambassador for their upcoming Maker Faire celebration on Nov 10th & Nov 11th at the Central Florida Fairgrounds!

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Maker Faire Orlando is a non-profit, community-organized, family-friendly celebration featuring local do-it-yourself science, art, rockets, robots, crafts, technology, music and hands-on activities. On Nov 10th & 11th, people show what they are making and share what they are learning at the 7th annual event to be held at the Central Florida Fairgrounds.

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Exposing my children to technology and innovation at an early age is key so that they learn and gain an appreciation for S.T.E.A.M.(science, technology, engineering, arts & math). If you’re local to the Tampa Bay Area please join us for what is sure to be a spectacular family event!

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Here’s what you need to know⬇️⬇️
•Event takes place Saturday & Sunday (Nov 10 & 11)
•10am – 5pm both days
•Central Florida Fairgrounds (4603 W. Colonial Dr., Orlando, FL 32808)
•FREE on site parking
•Tickets available for purchase at
http://www.makerFaireOrlando.com
•One day pre-sale tickets $10 (youth & students) $15 (adults)

See you there! Bring your whole family for a day filled with excitement and fun!

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The Accidental Stay At Home Mom

Quick question, have you ever landed a job or been handed a job that you really didn’t want or weren’t mentally prepared to take? Well that’s basically what happened to me when I became a SAHM. I didn’t want to be a stay at home mom at the time but I did not want to stay at my current job either due to the toxic work environment. So what do you do when you’re dealt a hand that you weren’t expecting to play? Do you fold or do you figure out how to navigate through the cards you’ve been dealt in the best possible way so that you come out on top like the winner you know you are?

If you know anything about me then you know I chose the latter. One thing that you can say about me is that I never give up and I’m going to be persistent in all that I do. So here we are today in 2018 and I’ve been a SAHM for THREE years now! And dare I add that I actually enjoy staying home with my kids and being the C.E.O. of my household! It’s definitely not for everyone and it’s definitely not a cake job. It involves a lot of time and effort spent away from your home running around in circles with your kids while you’re out running errands for the household…meanwhile your home is in shambles and your hubby walks through the door wondering what you did all day! But it’s all worth it and I know my kids will look back on these years and appreciate the time we have spent together in their adolescence which will help mold them and shape them for the future. I’m excited to share my life experiences with you and my journey in pursuing happiness in my life through family, fitness, health and motherhood.

A little backstory on why I’m starting a blog. The short answer is I enjoy writing and sharing information with people via social media. The long story is, in 2015, after 15 years in Corporate America, being a working mom and wife, trying to venture back into the higher education world by obtaining my Master’s Degree, I had a mini breakdown trying to hold it all together. The breakdown was most definitely fueled by my toxic job and work environment that I was going to Monday through Friday from 8am – 5pm. Needless to say, the breakdown was my catalyst into staying home and becoming a stay at home mom and wife while I mentally and physically get myself back together so that I can rejoin the corporate world when I chose to do so. And as the saying goes…”When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”

I’m excited to publish my first blog post. This blog is a labor of love that I’ve been wanting to put out for awhile but let the feeling of not being good enough prevent me from moving forward. Who can relate? Having something that you would like to do but never really taking the plunge to get it done. Well, I’ve officially decided that this is my time of manifestation. I refuse to sit on the sidelines, watching other people live out their dreams while I just wish upon a star for mine. No thank you! That type of mindset is so last year, time to move over and walk in my destiny. Who’s with me?

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