This year marks the 7th Year of Black Breastfeeding Week. I am a huge believer in breastfeeding. Nursing my son was one of the most challenging and worthwhile experiences I have endured as a mom. I previously wrote an article for MomsRising.Org during their Black Breastfeeding Week campaign. Unfortunately, this is “evergreen” material, because the challenges of breastfeeding moms continues. Here is my experience.
Y’all! If you would have told me in January that on April 1, 2020, that I would be back working from home, assisting my son with classwork, and “social distancing” was actually a thing, I probably would have said “IKYFL!” (if you don’t know what that means, inbox me or ask a teen—and while you’re at it ask them what KMSL means because I still don’t have a clue).
At the conclusion of 2019, my professional life made a dramatic 180 degree pivot for the better. Other circumstances that were also troublesome were showing signs of hope as well. I thought that 2019 was the 2nd worst year that I’d experienced in my life and things would only get better in the new year, but 2020 said “hold my beer!”. The year 2020 is a reminder to all to count your blessings, because things could always be worse.
March was a complete emotional roller coaster for me. It started with me counting down to a much need cruise vacation. I enjoyed planning my itinerary and was overjoyed with each outfit that arrived in the mail as I thought of the selfies that I’d take in them. The month left me with allergies and hot flashes which constantly has me asking myself “’Is that you, Rona?” I find myself constantly having to fight negative thoughts about dying or surviving without my loved ones.
Alas! April has rolled around. I woke up this morning feeling a encouraged. I am at peace. God is in control and His will is going to be done. The only thing I can control is being proactive about taking measures to reduce exposure of the virus to my family, checking on family and friends to make sure they are okay, and making the most of the time that we have been given. I will come out of this experience better!
We’re in this thing together, so let’s run on to see what the end’s gon’ be!
Take care and be blessed,
If you’ve been following me on social media, you may have seen my posts regarding an opportunity I had to create a recipe featuring Envy Apples. This recipe was featured at a tasting at the Publix at Lake Miriam Square in Lakeland, Florida. The tasting was a huge success and, as promised, I am sharing the recipe with you below.
Oh! On September 28, 2019, Publix Aprons Cooking Schools are offering an Envy Apple Demo Dinner. If you’d like to join me at the Lakeland location, or at your local Publix Aprons Cooking School, you can save $10 by using the code ENVY928.
A Gullah Girl’s Apple Pie Tiramisu
1 Cup Pecan Halves
¼ Cup Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Butter
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
½ Teaspoon Rum Extract
Over medium heat in a skillet, add butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir constantly until butter is melted and brown sugar is dissolved. Be careful not to burn mixture. Add Rum Extract. Add pecan and stir until thoroughly coated—about 2-3 minutes. Transfer pecan onto a tray lined with parchment paper. Cool. If you make the pecan ahead of time, store cooled pecans in an airtight container.
4 Medium Apples: Peeled, Cored and Diced (I prefer to use a red apple, but if you
like the tartness of a granny smith or other variety, please feel free to substitute)
1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
¾ Cup of packed Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
¼ Teaspoon of Nutmeg
2 Tablespoons of Corn Starch
½ Teaspoon Salt
3/4 Cup Water
In a bowl, toss apples in lemon juice and set aside.
In a Medium bowl combine brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, corn starch, and salt until
thoroughly mixed. Add apples to this mixture and coat completely.
In a medium saucepan, add ½ cup water (it should cover the bottom of the pan). Keep the
remaining ¼ cup of water on reserve in the even your apple mixtures becomes too thick.
Add apple mixture to the pan. Heat over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally. If mixture thickens too quickly, add the reserve water sparingly. The sauce should be thick, but not sticky and not runny. Cook about 15 minutes until apples are soft, but not mushy. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your diced apples. Cool to room temperature.
Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz Cream Cheese, Softened
1 Cup of Confectioner’s Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
½ Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
8 oz Whipped Topping
½ Teaspoon of Rum Extract
In a bowl, using an electric mixer, mix cream cheese until smooth and light. Add in sugar
and cinnamon and mix until it is well blended. Add in whipping cream and rum extract and mix until well blended. Lastly, add in Whipped Topping. Mix until smooth. Divide into halves.
1 Pack of Pepperidge Farm Chessmen or your favorite shortbread cookies
Layer the bottom of an 8” x 8” glass dish with a layer of the shortbread cookies. Pour half of the cream cheese mixture on top of the layer of cookies. Let chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Add apple filling on top of the first layer of the cream cheese filling. Add the
second half of the cream cheese mixture to the top of the apple pie filling.
For the Garnish: Coarsely chop the 1 cup of pecans and remaining shortbread cookies
(need about ½ Cup) You could do this in a food processor, but be careful not to over
process. Sprinkle the pecan/cookie mixture on top of the dish. Refrigerate 1 hour before
It’s Fall Y’all! Well, not really—but I am over this Florida heat! When they said it was a “Hot Girl Summer” the record heat and humidity levels were not what I had in mind. Since Pumpkin Spice Lattes have started to pop up here and there I am fast-forwarding to fall!
Nothing says fall like a sweet, crisp and juicy apple. Apples are front and center as our children return to school—whether if it’s a healthy lunch snack or a gift for the teacher. If you are nostalgic, you remember the premiere activity for fall festivals and carnivals was bobbing for apples. And let us not forget the smells of a freshly baked apple cobbler straight from grandma’s kitchen.
OK…so by now you’re saying, Chandra, what’s up with all of this apple talk. Well, if you follow me on social media, you may recall that I share that I had to come up with a recipe using apples. I asked if I should make a savory or sweet recipe, and the overwhelming response was for a sweet recipe. EnvyTM Apples is hosting a sampling event at the Lakeland Publix store on Saturday, September 7, 2019, and my recipe will be featured at the event. The Publix Aprons Chef will be preparing my “A Gullah Girl’s Apple Pie Tiramisu” (I’ll be sharing the recipe in a later post) for your sampling pleasure and you can take home a recipe card to try it out yourself. It is DELICIOUS!
Though I am very excited for this opportunity, the star of the show is the EnvyTM Apple. EnvyTM apples are sweet and crunchy apple and is a cross between a Braeburn and Royal Gala variety of apple. This non-GMO (yay!) apple are grown naturally in Washington State and New Zealand. Naturally high in citric acid, these apples are slow to brown, so you don’t have to worry about browning apples ruining your charcuterie boards! EnvyTM apples can be found nationwide at major grocery stores including Publix, Whole Food, IGA and Wegmans. To find a EnvyTM retailer, visit envyapple.com.
These dolls represent my best work to date. They took research. I had to make a connection to the essence of each being. I had to do them to the best of my ability.
See, I have this friend/soror/sister name Sili. She’s awesome. I’ve known her over 10 years. When I began to put my toe in the waters of entrepreneurship, she was my first customer when she purchased a key chain that I showed her while we were sitting next to each other at a meeting. Since then, she has been a regular supporter of my handmade business. Since this initial sale, I’d been making crocheted dolls for about a year or so, but at the end of 2018, I made a mermaid with a “story”. The story of a mermaid who lived off of the coast of Hilton Head Island (where my maternal family is from), and I named her Tinga, after my grandmother. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to make dolls that were more than just a toy, but representative of one’s journey. I listed “Tinga” in my Etsy Shop, and guess who snatched her up within minutes of the posting—The awesome Sili Recio, of SiliRecio.com. Very soon after receiving Tinga in the mail, Sili contacted me about creating two dolls to commemorate the journey she was on and once again, the opportunity presented itself for me to tell a story.
Sili is on a religious journey. She shares her story on her blog. Though I am a Christian, I acknowledge the fact that religion existed before Christianity. I felt the connection to her journey as she connects to the roots of her ancestors, because as a Gullah Descendant, I know there are religious beliefs and traditions that are still practiced in the Gullah Culture that is rooted in our African ancestry. The dolls represent the Orishas Oya and Oshun.
Oya was crafted intentionally to resemble Sili. When I asked Sili how she wanted to have her hair styled, the only instruction I was given is that “she has to have ‘Sili’ hair”—Alrighty then. The schythe and iruke, both also made by me, are inspired by the ones that belong to Sili. Oya is warrior, which I designed with flat feet. She is ground and “stays ready”. She is in customary skirt of 9 colors and has 9 copper bangles on her wrist.
When crafting Oshun, I had to tap into my inner goddess. Oshun is often seen with her peacock fan and compact. I wanted to create Oshun so that she could fan herself and check her angles in her mirror. I tapped into my “kuumba” and created and fixture within the doll that would make her upper body posable. This was a first for me and I was pleased with the outcome. I opted for a “pointed” toe for her because of her level of femininity and a goddess braid adorned with cowrie shells.
These dolls are a physical representation of the orishas, and I encourage you to take a moment to learn about what they represent. They stories of strength will inspire you.
Are we still saying “issa”? In case you are not familiar with the term “issa”…It has gained popularity from a video of an interview with 21 Savage. It’s a slang term for the phrase “It’s a”. So “issa” slang term–get it. Hopefully I can ride the #issa train a little while longer with my blog title.
So, what is a “pop-up shop”? In the most basic of terms, it is a short term retail space. I like to think of it as a fancy version of a vendor fair; but pop-up shops are typically small and more intimate, with very few (or only one) retailers.
For the handmade vendor, pop-up shops and vendor fairs are a major source of revenue for their business. For the purposes of this blog, I use the term “pop-up shop”, but many of the concepts apply to vendor fairs. I am still new at vending at pop-ups and selling my handmade products, so I wanted to share what I am learning along the way. This blog is a part of a series of posts regarding vending tips. The fall season is full of vending opportunities for the handmade artisan, and preparing for these opportunities can lead to a profitable 4th Quarter in business. Today’s blog is focuses on budgeting when selecting vending opportunities.
Things to consider:
Vendor Fee: Based on the price point of your product and your estimated sales (we’ll talk about this in a future blog), you should first consider if the fee is set at an amount that would be profitable for your business. I vended at an event recently, and the audience was not my typical demographic. I chose to vend at this event for market research versus making a huge profit. The event is a monthly community event, with a surprisingly low vendor fee. My monetary goal was to break even. Happily, I did well in excess of the vendor fee that I paid.
As you become experienced in vending, you will be able to estimate your sales based on your set profit margin and your captive audience. Eventually, you will find your “sweet spot” when it comes to your target vending fee. The goal is always to be profitable, but in some instances, the exposure may be more valuable than a host of sales.
Tent: It your event is in an outside event, a tent is a necessity as it distinguishes your space from other vendors and it protects you from the elements. Make sure when choosing a tent, to select a quality tent. Also, invest in tent weights or have a solid and safe way to secure your tent from flying away or, even worse, striking some one. Please note if the venue has specifications in regards to the color of the tent—white is typically a safe option. If you choose to brand your tent with logos and/or colors, you want to make sure that a solid white replacement tent cover is available for your tent model. Also, confirm the size of the tent space that the venue is providing. If the event is in the evening, you should also include a source of lighting and this should be included in your budget as well.
Table: If your venue does not provide tables, you may have to provide your own. In my experience, most venues will allow for a 6 foot table. Pretty self explanatory. Please makes sure that you have seating as well.
Display: Invest is a quality table covering. Presentation is everything. Inexpensive plastic table cloths could subliminally send a message to your customer that your products are not of high quality and value. Seasonal decor will attract customers to your area. Please make sure that you have flyers, business cards, etc. for the customer to take with them. Candy is a good idea as well–keep in mind, candy will result in “sticky little fingers” and if your items are in arms reach of small children, you may want to have some hand wipes available.
Insurance: Liability insurance is always a good idea as you never know what can happen and that you may be liable for. At a recent vending event, the organizer required proof of insurance from any vendor whose products were to be consumed or used on the human body (i.e. food or body care produces). If your product fits into one of these categories, definitely factor this cost into your budget.
Our next blog in this series will focus on preparing for the event. Happy Vending!
My Monday has gotten off to a rough start. Overslept. Homework Unfinished. Mismatched groceries—meaning, nothing “matched” to make a complete meal. The rectifying the aforementioned resulted in the little one being late for school. Again, I felt like I was the ultimate failure as a mom and contributor to society.
Instead of wallowing in my “I suck as a human being” valley, I took a second…took a breath…and reflected on the “why” the above happened. My family and I just came off of a weekend of doing some epic things. Among the fun of the weekend, my son shot his first commercial for one of the biggest companies out there (more to come) and he sang lead for the first time in choir in his choral debut.
So I decided to count my “failure” this morning as necessary in our familial journey to more greatness in our lives. It serves as a reminder that failing to plan is a plan to fail. With proper planning and time management, I am sure that all of the above would have been avoided. Lessons learned and steps to avoid a repeat have been taken.
My experience today reminded me of this clip of Denzel Washington giving a commencement speech that I came across last week on Goalcast’s Facebook Page. This clip is full of so many nuggets that I am sure I will come back to it again at some point. But I want to leave you with this quote by Denzel Washington:
I have too many “WIPs” and not in a good Dominatrix kind of way.
WIPs are what we in the craft world call “Work(s) in Progress.” On Wednesday, my “crew” and I like to share our WIPs. I generally on share one WIP, maybe two. But truth be told, the abundance of WIPs in my house are killing me softly, both mentally and financially. The mental impact is due to the fact that I cannot see the fruits of my labor, so I do not have any “wins” to celebrate. Financially, the impact stems from my multiple trips to and from hobby stores to but supplies, but I have nothing to show for the investment. Here are some of my “WIPs”:
In 2017, one of my top goals was to get my craft business up and running. I wasn’t aiming to be a full-time crafter, but I wanted to use my creative outlet as a way to pay off a few bills and put some money away for a rainy day.
Over the past 6 months or so, I have met some wonderful sisters in the craft world who constantly inspire me. I have taken some classes to further develop my crochet skills. As a result of the influence of my new found friends and “education,” I now suffer for idea overload!
So, we are at the half-way point of 2017 and though I’ve made a few sales, the revenue would probable cover an off peak season electric bill. I am taking now taking the opportunity to revisit the goals that I set at the beginning of the year and looking for ways to achieve the possible. I have come up with a way to tame the WIPS and boost my business. My game plan is as follows:
- Take a look at my current WIPS and make the decision to either commit to the WIP or abandon it (in other words ‘pee, or get off the pot!”
- As new ideas/concepts come up, I will have dedicated pages in my journal to:
- Write out of the details of the proposed project;
- Write out the supplies needed for the project and note what supplies I have on hand;
- Draw a sketch of the idea; and
- Put the idea into rotation.
3. Set a realistic inventory goal that I want to carry; and
4. Set a production timeline for custom orders.
As I look at my current Crochet WIPs (note, I am serial crafter so there are all sorts of WIPS laying around), I’ve already decided on projects that I am going to toss. I have decided that I will have no more than two WIPs going on at a time. I decided on two because:
- If I only worked on one, I’d be bored; and
- I would be able to focus and finish more quickly.
So next week, I hope to have a more focused and detailed WIP Wednesday to share with you all. If you have any tips on conquering WIPs, please share!
So, I am beginning my own “Blogging Bootcamp” utilizing all of the knowledge I have gained from BLOGHer. Now, I get it, it may not be the most direct and succinct way to polish my blog, but the way my monetization is set up (meaning, I am not monetizing one bit at this time) I am going to use the information I have to date to the fullest. My ultimate goal is to shape the blog and then in the near- distant (is that an oxymoron) future hire one of my successful blogging friends to help tone up the “muscle”. Note—I said hire, as their knowledge and experience has value.
If you read my prior blog, The Afterglow of BlogHer17, you may recall that one of my major takeaways was “Know Thyself”. This week, I am focusing on polishing up my brand. In doing so, I want to pin down:
- What is my message?
- What makes my blog unique?
- What are my values? and
- Who is my target audience?
Branding is the key factor in orchestrating how you want to show up in the world—both personally and professionally. Branding should be authentic and not present a false picture. My goal in branding is to present who I am—fabulous flaws and all, while sharing my voice with the world.
I am laying her in the afterglow of Blogher17. I have been enlightened, made connections, and had the opportunity to breathe the same air as many of my sheroes. Thanks to Dorethea Volpe, my new catch phrase is “Bacon is God’s way of saying “I love you”. In addition to the above, here are my 4 biggest takeaways from the conference:
I am not a liberal as I thought I was. I really did not know exactly what to expect. I honestly thought the conference would be non-stop blogger talk; however, there was an unexpected, but welcomed, political/activism aspect. Through this exchange, I learned that I am definitely left of moderate, but I am a bit closer to the middle than the far left, and I’m OK with that. Also, though I don’t necessarily agree with all the political views of Ana Navarro, seeing her in person at the conference made her a political rock star in my book.
I came as myself. For the first time EVA I attended a conference as Chandra. I’ve been to numerous conferences, both personal and professional, and at each of these conference you got either “Chandra the Woman of God” or “Chandra the Community Servant” or “Chandra the Insurance Professional”. But this conference allowed me to be “Chandra” who is a mixture of the aforementioned versions and a lot more. My first tweet on Friday was about the anxiety I had about wearing leopard leggings. When I arrived to the conference, I was relieved to see that everyone showed up the way they desired. This was liberating and was definitely a confidence booster.
Know thy brand. This conference was the mother of all “Elevator Pitches”. I’m used to saying “ Hi! How are you? Where are you from?”. Here, it was like “Who are you and what is your platform?”. You definitely need to KNOW your brand and your target audience.
Engagement. I hate to admit, but I was not sold on the Twitter game. I only signed up for a twitter account to be nosy one time. But I now know that if I want to make a space for me in this blogging universe, Twitter is one of the platforms that I need to utilize to build a presence and following. I have tweeted more this past weekend than I have in my entire Twitter existence, and I’ve gained some followers as a result. Who knew that “if you tweet, they will come”? I guess everyone did but me.
Needless to say, the conference was very fulfilling and I look forward to doing it again!