Saturday, February 21, 2015

From Mali to Maryland: Shea Radiance is everywhere!

Photo from the Global Shea Conference in 2010
In March 2010 I attended a global shea conference held in Bamako, Mali (hosted by the West Africa Trade Hub and the Global Shea Alliance). One woman I met during the conference was Funlayo Alabi who owns a shea butter business called Shea Radiance. I was excited to meet her because my host mom, Annie, and I spent a lot of time talking about shea butter - from how to make it to how to sell it to how to use it. 

After I learned more about her product line, Funlayo and I started talking about our origins and she told me she was from Nigeria. She asked me where I was from and I said Virginia Beach, VA. Now how many people do you think have heard of Virginia Beach outside of the United States? Or even outside of Virginia? Funlayo had not only heard of Virginia Beach, she had lived there! She told me that she received a degree from Regent University and that now she was based out of Maryland and traveling back and forth to West Africa for her shea business. I thought, wow, what are the odds that at this conference in Mali I would meet someone from Sub-Saharan Africa who had not only heard of my hometown, but had lived in it?

Flash forward five years later. I left Mali. I got married (twice!). Abdoulaye and I bought a house in Hyattsville, Maryland and we had a baby! Our baby girl is what brings me to this blog post today. While Abdoulaye and I share many of our parenting ideals, there are a number of ways we're approaching this new adventure that are different simply because of where we grew up. And while I love shea butter as much as the next Returned (Environmental) Peace Corps Volunteer, I hadn't considered it as a staple for my baby's medicine cabinet.
Keeping my baby's nose clean since 2015
Abdoulaye, on the other hand, saw shea butter as a non-negotiable and so I began my search for some. But I didn't want just any shea butter - I wanted the good stuff. No additives. No perfumes. No chemicals. No words I couldn't pronounce. All those requirements led me to Yes! Organic Market in downtown Hyattsville, a short walk from our home. While searching the aisles, I found what I was looking for and picked up a small tub. I looked at the label to make sure it was 100% shea butter and imagine my surprise when I saw the name of the brand, Shea Radiance, Funlaylo’s company! I made a noise to match my surprise and told a man who worked at the grocery store standing nearby the story of how I had met the owner of the company. He nodded and said, oh you know Funlayo? I said, do you know Funlayo?? He nodded his head and kept going on with his business - I kept standing there letting my head shake with my jaw dropped.
The face of a happy shea butter baby
From Mali to Maryland - it looks like shea butter is here to stay in my life and I couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Butterfly Baby

Our little girl is just over 12 weeks and filling out her rolls a little bit more every day. We're still adjusting to our new sleep schedule (Lillie Foulé is, too, it seems) but a flexible work schedule for Abdoulaye and a long maternity leave for me are making it all doable. I'm thankful to be settled in Hyattsville for a spell after a number of trips along the East Coast and grateful for our warm home on snowy days like today.

I've been looking back at blogposts from my time in Mali - including ones from when Abdoulaye and I were dating - and I can't help but shake my head at all that's happened in the past few years. I wake up in the morning to this little cinnamon roll who is smiling at me with her gummy grin and I feel this swelling of my heart. Don't get me wrong, her fussy spells - and she definitely has them! - can be exhausting and draining. But when she snuggles her head into the crook of my left arm or sees me smiling at her and then smiles back at me and sometimes gives me a laugh, I get a boost and a little baby high. 

In the past few days, Lillie Foulé has started to grab onto things with some real force - her little fingers curling tightly around toy rings or, when it's within reach, my poor hair. She's still sleeping in her bunny bed/co-sleeper and not loving the crib but at least she's sleeping! Bath times are a highlight of the day as Abdoulaye gets the lint out of her crevices and I smile on as he goes through the parts of the body in Susu. 

As I write, LF is waking up from a long nap. Her little hands are stretching up and over her head and she's figuring out how to stick her fingers in her mouth with her eyes shut and little toes kicking out of the bottom of her blanket. If there's one thing EVERY parent says to me, it's that these moments don't last forever and to cherish them while they're here. I'm going to give my butterfly baby a snuggle and do just that.

sweet headband from Grandmother Shellnutt

rolls for days

Monday, February 2, 2015

9 states (and the District!) before turning 9 weeks

In between grabbing cloth inserts for her diapers and giving Abdoulaye kisses goodbye, we were able to snap a few eight week pictures. Our little bunny is growing! After returning from our trip down the Eastern Seaboard, Lillie Foulé and I had a couple days to hang in Hyattsville before my mom drove up to our home and then flew with us to Memphis, TN en route to Tupelo, MS to see my cousin! 

While it was a quick turnaround, I'm also aware that this is a unique time in our life - it won't be this easy to travel with her ever again! Of course, people have varying opinions when I tell them about our travels. Some say 'I could never do that!' and others say 'Do it while you can!' Thankfully (for me and the other passengers on the planes we've been on), Lillie Foulé is a great little traveler and snoozed through the take-off and landing for all of our plane trips thus far. 
Lillie Foulé loves Mississippi and maroon does look quite nice on her
 Waiting for us at the gate were my cousin, Martha, and her sweet husband, Matt. I'm lucky to have a cousin like her since we not only share blood & kin :) but also interests. She's got a pretty super sister, too - I loved reminiscing by checking out her wedding post from 2012 (!!).  Coincidentally, the last time I was in Mississippi was in 2008 for Matt & Martha's nuptials! Mom and I were way overdue for a visit.
Not sure if the sound hole is actually for a face but Lillie Foulé's fits perfectly!
When we arrived, Matt & Martha were waiting for us at the gate and then drove us directly to their gorgeous home about an hour and some change away. After getting acquainted with their pups, we snuggled right into relaxing on their couches and that's where we stayed for the long weekend - delightful! While LF and I have been moving around a lot, we've also been relaxing once we get to where we're going - and that's been great. Martha spoiled us with homemade meals (including cinnamon rolls ohmahgoodnessss!) and is the ultimate hostess with bathrooms filled with all the products (full-size I might add) you may have forgotten at home. I felt like a queen with a double-sink vanity to myself!
We all have the same nose! I love this picture even with the countertop in the foreground. 
When we ventured out of the house on Sunday, we went to Bishop's BBQ, which was divine, and then (after some retail therapy) went to Bop's Frozen Custard. After getting my oreo malt, I attempted to engage the high school student manning the cash register in a conversation just to hear his sweet southern accent. Oh Mississippi.
Then we headed to Elvis' birthplace and Martha took my new favorite picture of my mom, LF and me in front of the house he was born in that was built by his father. We got there too late to tour the museum but had fun wandering around outside before the cold sent us back into the car and home for more Gilmore Girls.
Thank you very much.

Sweet, sweet photo taken by Martha. 
On our way to the airport we stopped in at Lost Pizza, Co. for our last Tupelo meal of the trip - we weren't disappointed! Mom and I shared the Happy Hippie pizza (like a mediterranean) as we reminisced about our trip with our favorite Mississippians. With a direct flight to Memphis, I hope our next visit to Tupelo won't be so far away!
Sunset in Memphis (trying to wear her out before the flight to avoid a fussy bedtime like she'd been having - it worked!) 
As for traveling with my little dumpling (at 8 weeks), the Ergo carrier was a must for us and I just needed to stay hydrated and fed so I could feed her. I also loved the snap n' go stroller for her car seat - it makes moving around the airport a breeze when I can't hold her!
Airport diaper change - Granne is so talented!
More pictures from our trip here!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Traveling the Eastern Seaboard

Today Lillie Foulé is two months old. Oh my! It's been a whirlwind since she came and at the same time one of the most relaxing times of my life. Today is the first day I've been alone with my girl since I had her - pretty incredible! Up until now I've either been with family on a trip or had family or a friend staying with me. Of course, Abdoulaye is always here and it's been marvelous seeing him in the role of dad (or Baba as he'll be called). For LF's two-month birthday present we opened her Maryland 529 college savings plan. It's never too early!
 Speaking of early - LF is my new alarm clock, of course, and she didn't fail in her mission during her first road trip from Virginia Beach to St. Augustine, Florida. My sister, Lindsay, was moving down to join her husband in the Sunshine State and so LF and I tagged along for the ride. Including Virginia we visited five states and ate our way through all of them. Our first stop was Fayetteville, NC where we just rested our heads. Then it was on to Charleston, South Carolina where we stayed at the stately Embassy Suites Charleston. What a treat! The hotel was right downtown and as you can see from the photo above, gorgeous.
 Our first happy hour in Charleston was at Social Wine Bar. We noshed on pizza, blue cheese chips, roasted cauliflower and mussels and loved every bite! We landed here around 5pm on a Friday night and enjoyed people watching and marveling at my sleeping baby while the crowd slowly picked up and the people came in.

 Then, it was on to Pearlz for their oyster happy hour. Just down the street from Social, we cozied up to strangers at a long bar peninsula and Lindsay and Sheri dug into a few rounds of oysters (I don't care for the bivalves). Lillie Foulé continued to sleep and when she did want to nurse, we just cozied up on a bench in front of the restaurant before heading back inside.

 On Saturday we wandered the streets of Charleston one more time before packing up and heading south. I loved these swinging benches on the boardwalk and soaking up the sunshine and stretching my legs before the next part of our journey. Thankfully all of our driving was around 3 hours per stretch so we weren't cooped up in the car too long - and perfectly spaced for my baby girl's feedings and naps!
 Posing here before a wedding party took portraits in front of this fountain. The bride and bridesmaids were wearing platform stiletto glitter heels! Oh my!
Next we headed to Savannah, Georgia to see our dear family friend, Marty. Marty owns Savannah Smiles Dueling Piano Bar and played Lillie Foulé's first dueling piano bar song - A New York State of Mind. The lyrics seem appropriate for our trip (even though we were headed in the opposite direction of NY). We were, after all, on a holiday from the neighborhood :)
 Then it was on to St. Augustine where we headed straight for A1A, recommended by a friend of Sheri's. She didn't lead us astray as the food was delicious and the view beautiful (if only it hadn't been raining it would have been even better!). Lillie Foulé slept on the seat next to me while I dug into a delicious salmon and rice dish.
 On our last day of the trip, Lindsay and Sheri dropped Lillie Foulé and I off at the Jacksonville airport for a (direct!) flight home. It was her first flight at just six weeks and so I was of course nervous as to how she would do. Thankfully, the lift off and descent were fine - she slept the whole time and nursed just a little as we lifted off but didn't seem to be bothered by the change in pressure. Lucky me!
Unrelated to our trip but I just love the bracelet my friend Margaret from Bay and Bee's made for LF. What a unique and precious gift that we'll treasure for always! I can't wait until her little wrist chunks up enough for her to wear it!

Friday, November 28, 2014

baby Bangoura: 29 to 38 weeks

For posterity's sake - here I am at 29 and then 38 weeks. I can't list cravings or pains I had because I didn't have either. Toward the end I would get short of breath but other than that - this little bunny made pregnancy easy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

4 things I learned from 3 Airbnb experiences in 1 weekend

Celebrating Lindsay's bachelorette from our Airbnb rooftop deck in Washington, DC
Last week Abdoulaye and I got to simultaneously experience Airbnb as both host and guests (learn more about Airbnb and how it works here). Since we host on Airbnb nearly full-time and try to use it for travel as often as we can, I think about Airbnb a lots. I almost always have either an email reminder that a guest is arriving or that a trip of ours is coming up in my inbox. And that's wonderful! But it's rare that we're both traveling (separately) and hosting at the same time, which is what made last weekend special. Here's how our three simultaneous Airbnb experiences played out:

The scenarios: My sister's bachelorette crew (there were 11 of us!) came to Washington, DC and we rented an awesome condo in Petworth to celebrate her pending nuptials. While I set up bridal banners and snacks, Abdoulaye got on a bus to New York with two buddies to visit friends of his from Guinea that are living in Harlem. And as I put the finishing touches on decorations and Abdoulaye unloaded in Penn Station and set out to find his Airbnb, Anke, a German woman visiting the US after being an au pair in the area 20 years ago, arrived at our home in Hyattsville for a week-long stay.

While our three uses of Airbnb were all quite different, there were definitely some common threads that ran throughout them all, which I detail below.

1. Communicate! Each of us had some sort of difficulty in either getting into or finding our Airbnb. My complication came from the fact that the management company renting our condo had two Jennifers checking in on the same day and so the representative got confused and thought we had already spoken multiple times. Oops! Abdoulaye had a hard time finding their Airbnb in Harlem, which, at 11:30pm, is not exactly fun. Anke hadn't checked her email before leaving where I detailed how she could get the key to our house (no one was home at the time). In all of these instances clearer, earlier communication would have been helpful and likely prevented the misunderstandings. In the end, everything worked out fine but the paths could have been a little smoother.

2. Location, location, location. What's awesome about Airbnb is how local you can make your experience. Each of us was looking for an Airbnb that wasn't just close to what we wanted to see and do - but also offered a unique living experience. With our condo in Petworth, we got to see what a DC neighborhood was like and could easily hop on the metro, which was just two blocks away. Abdoulaye and his friends got to see what living in Harlem was like without intruding on their friend's apartment (he didn't have room to host them himself). Anke appreciated living in our calm, quiet neighborhood where she, too, wasn't too far from public transportation and could talk with us about things to see and do in the city (when we got back from our weekends away!). It's great if you're already familiar with a place so you know where you want to stay but if you're not sure about the area, check out the reviews listed below the profile of the place you'd like to go to learn more.
A picture from Abdoulaye's trip to Harlem
3. A local experience. Whenever we get a request from someone who wants to stay at our place, I wonder what made them choose Airbnb over a traditional hotel experience. Of course, cost is probably (definitely?) the #1 factor but beyond that, it's that people are looking to connect with others while traveling or to experience a city from a more local perspective. Since I recognize that's an important factor for myself while traveling, I want to do more to make our guests feel at home and get to know not only Washington, DC but also Hyattsville, MD, which is a pretty awesome city itself. I plan to detail more things to do in the area in our home's online profile and maybe when folks come I could set out a list of things happening in the area during their stay that they wouldn't know about without living here.

4. Enjoy! Sometimes travel means going to a place, setting down your bags and spending not much time in your hotel room. Sometimes travel means hunkering down in a luxury location where it's important that where you're staying is nice because that's your experience. Last weekend, we got a taste of both of those perspectives. It was important to me, and my sister, that we stay at a nice place where we could lounge around with her girlfriends but also visit the city. Abdoulaye wasn't as interested in finding a really nice place as he was in finding somewhere that had a clean bed and a bathroom. Anke wanted somewhere in between the two. Thanks to Airbnb - we all got what we wanted!

I think it's unlikely we'll experience a similar trifecta of separate travel and hosting in the future but I'm thankful for the experience and what it taught me about Airbnb. Using Airbnb to travel makes me a better host and more in tune with what others are seeking in their own experience. We're already looking forward to a trip in October to the Eastern Shore - I wish we could bring a soothing water experience to our own backyard!

If you're interested in either hosting or traveling with Airbnb, consider using my link to sign up!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hyattsville Arts Festival 2014

Take a stroll in Hyattsville; Image Source
A couple of months ago I signed up on the Prince George's County Volunteer website to find an organization in the area who needed some additional hands on deck. Lucky for me, the Brentwood Arts Exchange (BAE) called a couple weeks ago to see if I could help out at their booth for the Hyattsville Arts Festival, which took place this past weekend (September 13th from 11-5) in downtown Hyattsville. I toured the festival in the morning with Abdoulaye, Loretta (dear work friend) and her roommate before joining the BAE table in the afternoon. And even though it wasn't hot, I still got a key lime popsicle from Picnic Pops before getting a chai from Vigilante Coffee - what a treat!
Brentwood Arts Exchange; Image Source
The booths, which featured over 150 vendors, were fantastic and filled with local, Hyattsville-area artists and craftspeople.  My first purchase was for my mom for her birthday (shh, don't tell her!) from Bella Art Mosaics. I know you're reading, Mom, so I won't put up a picture or describe what awaits you but I think you're going to love it!
Jay Durrah painting the original of the print I purchased; Image Source
I loved standing at the BAE booth and chatting with strangers and familiar faces alike.  We've been in Hyattsville a year and I'm slowly starting to make neighbor friends/acquaintances, which makes our little city feel even smaller. The BAE booth was adjacent to Jay Durrah's booth and I absolutely loved his work. I debated getting one of his prints and finally called Abdoulaye to make sure it was OK before taking the (fabulous!) plunge. I hung it in our living room as soon as I got home and am already so thankful - the print is perfect.

Just a few booths down from Jay's booth was the Hope Honey Farm where I met Maggie who produces Certified Naturally Grown honey from her backyard in Hyattsville. As I purchased five bars of soap (lavender & lemon cake, frozen and pumpkin spice), we joked that her bees probably fed on my greenery and then I was coming back to buy the fruits of their labor! It was not only wonderful to make a great purchase (if I have self-control, I'll give most of them away as gifts and not hoard them!), but to also meet a neighbor. She even uses Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified palm oil; work would be proud!

My last purchase was from Karla's Mixed Media Studio - a gorgeous print of the silhouette of a woman in orange with a handwritten quote surrounding her body 'All I can do is all I can do and all I can do is enough.' As soon as I hung Jay's print, I found a frame for Karla's and hung it on the wall as well.

I was disappointed to miss the arts festival last year and even though it was a bit of a drizzy day this past Saturday, the festival was worth the year-long wait! I'm already looking forward to helping out at other events featuring BAE and going to the Hyattsville Arts Festival in 2015. If I plan better, I can stock up on gifts for the whole year in one go!

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