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Friday, July 6, 2018

if you're attending ESSENCE FEST
(or any festival really)

This week women everywhere left behind their cares and worries to head to New Orleans for Essence Festival.  While I have been one of these women in the past, I decided to stay home this Summer as it's my last full Summer at home with my kids.  You read that right... I'm heading back to work this Fall!  So my priority was spending as much time with my family as possible vs attending Essence Fest for a 3rd year in a row.  I have considered the whole '3rd times a charm' adage + what that may have meant for me but I also considered how much my kids will appreciate this time when they look back.  Anyways, back to why I'm here writing this blog post to begin with!  For those of you who are headed to Essence Fest (or later this month, Curl Fest), I have a few good tips that you will thank me for later.

1. To Stay in the City or Not...
This tip may be a little late because I know anyone attending Essence Fest probably reserved their room months ago.  I've stayed on the perimeter of the city (Metairie) as well as in the middle of everything (Royal Sonesta on Bourbon St.) before.  I highly suggest that you stay in the middle of everything BUT grab a courtyard view room.  It may seem great to be a part of the fun throwing beads down with a street view room but what's not fun is trying to go to sleep when there's a band playing outside your window.  They say New York is the city that never sleeps + that may be true but it doesn't hold a candle to the parades you will find going down Bourbon Street at 2AM!  Grab a courtyard view and you won't even know what's going on outside most of the time but you can easily leave your room + go join the fun if you want.

2.  Uber/Lyft
Unless you're driving around New Orleans yourself (which I don't recommend), you will likely be using Uber or Lyft to get around.  Guess what?  So will everyone else!  So when your Uber driver is trying to find you + all you can tell them is that you're the cute black girl on the corner in a sundress... girl, your frustration will begin to kick in faster than the Louisiana heat does every morning.  TIP: keep a solid bright scarf with you at all times.  When your Uber driver calls you to see where you are, you'll be able to wave your bright orange scarf in the air to direct him towards you.  Now, it still may take them 15 minutes to drive a block because of the crowds but it beats them passing you + having to go all the way around the block again.  Nobody has time for that when you're practically melting!

3.  Cash is King
This one is easy!  Always carry enough cash on you to feed yourself + a friend (there's always somebody who only has their card) but not enough to get robbed.  Don't be walking the streets at 2AM with a bankroll of cash because that, my dear, is not safe at all.  Keep $100 in cash on yourself at all times.  Yes, everyone takes cards these days but machines go down all the time and sometimes the line for cash payers is MUCH shorter than the one for card payers (because everyone is using their card to pay).  Lastly, the street artists are amazing and you will find yourself wanting to leave a tip for just about all of them after they put on their concert!  Yes, it does feel like a concert because they are THAT good.  So, having a little cash on you for this will come in handy as well.

Miss Julee

Creator of @ChicBusyMoms
4. Be Persistent + Network
For the Influencers/Bloggers, this tip is for you!  Hopefully before you traveled to New Orleans, you made a game plan for the events to attend.  Occasionally, your point of contact may become busy + unavailable to you especially if the festival is underway.  Reaching them during the festival may not seem possible but I implore you to not give up.  If you want to be in the room, go anyways.  There is a HIGH chance that the contact who was suppose to get you in will be a gatekeeper.  I'm not a fan of name dropping but if you're going to do it, do it when you're trying to get into an event that you were suppose to be at.  Whoever is checking names, likely knows your point of contact and can easily confirm.  Now, this does NOT work if your name was never suppose to be on the list.  In that case, abort mission and go home!  But don't come all the way to New Orleans + give up because people are too busy to take your call or return your text.  It's pretty likely that they're not doing it on purpose so BE PERSISTENT.

Mom lived her best life as you can see! LOL
5.  Find the Balance: Social Media vs IRL
My first year in New Orleans, I failed miserably with this one.  I wanted to capture EVERYTHING, and my girl Amber who I went with wanted ALL the pictures.  Every 2 seconds, we saw a wall or backdrop that we wanted a picture in front of.  If I'm not mistaken, we even bickered a few times because I was over it after a while and the heat was something I had never experienced.  Here's something to keep in mind... be intentional about the content you're trying to grab!  You're not going to post 987 pictures, nor will you need that many for a blog post so don't waste your time trying to grab ALL the images.  At the most, you MIGHT use 10 of those pictures and that's including #throwback content.  I know it's tempting to take a picture in front of all those pretty walls but you will drive yourself crazy... and your friends who have to take the picture.  Instagram Stories is even bigger now than it was then + while you may want to share your every second with your audience, it will take away from YOUR experience if you're not careful.  What worked really well for me was capturing the video content for Instagram Stories/Snapchat and then editing later.  We all know that bulk of the time we spend Insta-Storying is editing + adding captions so try and do that later.  I found using the time in the Uber going from place to place or while waiting in line at a restaurant was the perfect time.  This way while you are in the moment/at the event, you aren't sitting down in a corner trying to put finishing touches on Instagram Stories.

I can't wait to see everyone's point of view from Essence Fest this year while I'm back home.  No FOMO here because I'm still very grateful for the opportunity I have with my family but I will definitely be tuned in!  If you can think of any more tips to share, definitely leave them below.  Whether it's Essence Fest or another Festival, I'm sure they will still be applicable.
Wednesday, May 9, 2018

None of Your Faves Look Like Me?
A Talk on Inclusivity + Diversity

Woke up on a sunny Wednesday morning, checked my email and what do you know... yet another reminder that Black women are underrated.  If you follow me over on Instagram Stories then you know I received an email from Planoly (as did hundreds of thousands of others) sharing their Favorite Moms for Mother's Day.  Love the gesture because Moms really deserve the recognition so I excitedly scrolled the list to see if there was anyone I recognized, anyone I could relate to... you know, anyone that looked like ME.  And, to my surprise there was not ONE black woman.  First thought was that this must be a mistake because all the bomb ass Black Bloggers who are Moms that I know of, one of them had to make the list.  Scrolled again but nope.  Not one.  I'm tired of this shit so I shared my frustration over on Instagram Stories AND tagged Planoly.  And, not that fake tag that everyone knows isn't really tagging anyone.  Nah, I made sure it had that underline so that they would see my story because I need to know HOW + WHY nobody who looked like me made your list.


removed information that included actual name(s)

Okay, now that we're all caught up let's recap.  This is yet another 'mistake' where 'we' were left out but unintentionally, of course.  You know sometimes you have to force something before it becomes habit.  So if every company (that is or may have an issue with this) has to set forth a protocol that requires them to always include Blacks in order for it to become INTENTIONAL then so be it.  Because how many mistakes and mishaps are going to happen if proper procedures aren't put in place so it doesn't happen again?  Now moving on to Brandy Pham's response, Founder + Creative Director of Planoly.  I will speak for myself when I say that Asians are WOC, yes, but they do not look like me.   Instead of (4) White, (1) Asian and (1) Racially Ambiguous (not sure what her race is... could we not have found one (God forbid TWO) black Mom(s) to throw in there?  There is nothing wrong with all WOC (Women of Color) including Asians being used, but my issue is that none of the women in the Promo Email look like ME.  With ALL the Black creatives who are Mother's like myself, you mean to tell me that we couldn't find ONE?!

Lastly, the Email header is yet another coined term from black culture: "We Got it From Our Momma"!  I kid you not...

I can overstand a Momma needing to go on Maternity leave and take care of their babies... shoot, I've done it 3 times!  Besides yourself, someone (if not multiple people) on your team should have caught this.  This is part of the problem!!  Not enough people in these decision making meetings are seeing this as a problem.  I received numerous responses about building our own table to sit at and that's all well + good.  There are quite a few tables already built by women who like me or are currently being built but I'm getting tired of having to boycott businesses left and right.  It sounds to me like Planoly made a poor judgement call in the selection of Bloggers chosen for this email BUT there has to be a way to stop this from happening over and over and over again.  That's the part that is wearing at me... the constant "oops" "our bad" "we made a mistake" "we'll do better".  JUST DO BETTER!  

I'm sore as hell from working out last night, moody from cutting sweets + incorporating a better diet and now THIS.  Candice didn't need this today.  NOT today.

Lets chat soon.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Getting Personal with
Kiehls (Georgetown)

Last week I was invited by the Kiehls Georgetown location to learn more about their Apothecary Preparations Service.  Picture no longer having to use a product that addresses 'most' of your skincare concerns but instead addresses your exact skincare concerns.  That's exactly what this service does!  In recent years, there have been many brands that have created custom foundation options which have definitely peeked my attention.  But what's better than personalized makeup?  PERSONALIZED SKINCARE, duh!
Photo Credit: Katherine Elizabeth Photography

The consultation at Kiehl's went much faster than I thought it would!  No thanks to DC traffic, I arrived nearly 25 minutes and I couldn't have been more frustrated.  Thankfully, the staff at Kiehl's was more than understanding and we immediately began my consultation.  During the appointment, a skin chart was provided so that I could point out my greatest skincare concerns.  Two targeted complexes are assigned to the personalized serum in order to address the top two concerns addressed.  There are 5 targeted complexes that can be added to the base which is a skin strengthening concentrate made of squalene and a skin lipid complex.  Options for the targeted complexes are: Wrinkle Reducing (Retinol Concentrate + Pro Retinol), Texture Refining (Vitamin F + LHA), Visible Redness Neutralizing (Sunflower Seed Extract + Vitamin E), Pore Minimizing (Samphira Extract + Salicylic Acid) and Brightening (Vitamin C + Scotch Pine Extract).
Kiehl's Apothecary Service
My top 2 concerns were Brightening + Texture Refining which addresses the aftermath of being acne prone.  The Kiehl's Targeted Complexes are super potent and are not meant to be applied directly to the skin hence why they're diluted with the Skin Strengthening Concentrate Base.  I've only used the Serum for a few days so I can't report back much yet but I will update after a month or so.  Get this though... the Personalized Serum is meant to last 6 months if used 2x/day.  SIX FREAKING MONTHS!!  So although, this service isn't cheap ($95), it's totally worth it to me given how long the product should last you.  And, while I can't report any "results" yet, I can say that my skin hasn't had any adverse side effects yet which doesn't take my sensitive skin long to do (usually within 24 hours).  Using the products that Kiehl's sent me home with to complete the skincare regimen, there's not one that my skin isn't loving right now.  I thought the Ultra Facial Cream might be too heavy for my oily skin but it's surprisingly fairly lightweight despite the name.
Personalized Serum Provided for Free to Review

Kiehl's is an OG in the skincare game with ratings + reviews that scream high praises.  So, it doesn't surprise me that it's one of the first brands to provide bespoke services that address skincare concerns.  If you're like me and you prefer personalized ANYTHING, you're going to love this service.  Apothecary Preparations should be offered in all Kiehl's stores by now so check out the location by you + make an appointment.
Monday, April 16, 2018

Update: Becoming My Own CEO
Keeping it Real || My Story

I cannot believe it is freaking 2018 guys.  It doesn't seem like I resigned nearly 3 years ago, but here we are 3 years later and we're not living in a Shelter somewhere.  We made it!  I'm sure you didn't expect for me to say that but these past few years have been far from easy.  Very rewarding but not easy at all!  We've moved, had marital issues and even the kids struggled here and there.  It's been a hard ass 3 years but there were SO many lessons learned + even more struggles than I care to share but I will share a few.  Why?  Well I read a Blog Post over on about what it takes to become an Influencer Full Time.  And it made me realize that what my life may be perceived as from the outside could possibly make others who are interested in working for themselves think it's easy.  It's NOT.  So, while there have been many who have shared their "truth" about being a Blogger/Influencer, no one will have my story.  Here it goes...

In 2015, I resigned from my job as a Director of Sales & Marketing because I just had this overwhelming feeling to give more time to my family.  Loved my job but I was miserable thinking that Nannies had raised my children for the majority of their childhood.  Amazing Nannies (Sandra if you're reading this, we still love you!), but it wasn't ME.  The first few months after I resigned, I worked with a Manager to assist me in getting paid opportunities.  At the time, I was making MAYBE $600-800/month which was literally a fraction of what I made working in the corporate sector.  After a while, I realized that I couldn't afford to pay a fee to a manager when I was already bringing in so little.  Then came the real work of bringing in the money myself.  First thing I had to change was doing so much Natural Hair content because my hair was suffering.  Not because of bad products but your hair takes a beating when you're styling + manipulating it with new products almost weekly.  I had to get creative because my income was still helping to pay bills so the first thing I did was start incorporating my family more.  Whether it was styling my girls hair, sharing what brands we used around the house, what we ate, clothing... ANYTHING!  I opened life with my family up and the opportunities came in.  Notice how I say came in and not poured in.

Before Influencing Full Time (Natural Hair)
After Weekly/Bi-Weekly Natural Hair Campaigns- DAMAGED
Decided to Cut my Hair + Change Directions

Hair Began Flourishing Again

Leaving my job cut our household income in half because my husband and I almost had the same salary at the time.  It was damn hard especially living in Northern VA but we didn't want to move the family.  There were months where I had to call the Auto Loan company and ask them to push that month's payment to the end of the Loan Term.  I can't even count how many months our rent was late or how many payment plans we had to set up to keep our cellphones or cable on.  Do you know how to make $50 last a week for a family of 5?  We do!  And in the midst of all of this, we battled with keeping the child support I received for Taylor + Gregory on time + current which took a toll on our marriage.  Where was the money?  Two Words.  Net 60.

Getting paid from brands is an entirely different process than getting paid from a Corporate job mainly because it's not predictable.  The contract says they will pay you in 60 days which is already a hurdle if you need the money NOW but that's your problem, not theirs.  60 days comes + you still haven't been paid so this is where it gets sticky.  I once had a brand rep tell me that the 60 days didn't include weekends because she doesn't work weekends.  After payment was made, I had to stop working with that brand for over a year + only resumed working for them when I knew I would be dealing with a more honest rep.  I've had brands wait until the last day and THEN send the check.  Sure, late payment penalties can be added to punish the Brand for the late payment but that doesn't change the fact that your rent was due on the 1st!  These are the hard lessons I had to learn early on and no one ever shared this part with me.  Talking money + payment in the Influencer world is so hush hush unless it's to brag.  No one ever wants to share the nitty gritty and so you learn as you go.

We Know Dark Days, We Know Hard Times...

With time, came growth and with growth came more money... HALLELU!  My husband and I both saw the value in me being at home so going back to work was possible but a last resort.  There was a lot of pressure on us to figure out a better strategy + that's when I realized that I had to put my skills to work for my husband.  First, I helped him realize that he should be making WAY more at his current job.  That man is a dedicated worker, almost to a fault... he deserved.  With my encouragement, and his work ethic, he negotiated an increase that replace 50% of my previous income.  SCORE!  For a while, that did the job.  It was like a band-aid.  It wasn't long before we realized that we needed even more money if we wanted to elevate our lifestyle at all.  Nobody wants to struggle forever!  So, I became his head hunter and began applying to jobs for him and sending emails left and right.  All he needed to do was show up to the interviews and nail it.  Teamwork literally made the Dream work.

We are finally doing well financially and guess what?  It's just about time for me to head back to the corporate sector because the family is also doing well.  Didn't expect to hear that huh?  Yeah, I miss doing what I did in the hotel industry and I've been wanting to go back for some time now.  If you follow me on Instagram then you probably remember the time I went back to work for a day.  LOL.  What can I say?  I have standards and they weren't met *kanye shrug*.  But come this Fall, I should be back in someone's office making a steady bi-monthly paycheck ALONG with having a nice amount of disposable income from Blogging.

I say all this to say that while none of this would've been possible without the support + income from my husband, it was still a struggle.  We did learn a lot from those struggles but I find it my duty to share the not-so-good since I do share the good with you all.  I've received messages from Single Moms who want to quit their job and "do what I do".  No ma'am, not with those babies depending on you.  Stack your money and make a solid plan before you take any action.  Not saying you need to spend a year on this but just BE READY.  And, that can mean different things to different people depending on your lifestyle and goals.  Health Insurance is expensive.  Retirement is expensive.  Kids heading to college soon are expensive.  So, I hope my personal journey sheds a light on the hard truths about Blogging + Influencing.   If you have any specific questions, ask them below.

Let's chat later. XOXOMCS.
Thursday, April 5, 2018

Easy Spring Updates
(featuring) Smart Tiles

Spring is here, seems like it took forever, but it's here finally!  Longer days, warmer weather + if you're like me then it's time to spruce up the home a bit.  Now when I say "spruce", I mean swapping out a throw or a pillow.  Changing up the bedspreads, painting a wall or two, and lightening colors throughout the home.  Recently, I found a quick solution to change up my kitchen in a temporary way that doesn't cost me a fortune thanks to Smart Tiles.   If you change your mind often or live in a temporary living space (rent) like myself, you will love this option!  Take a peek below and see how nicely my kitchen was transformed in a matter of hours.



I chose the Muretto Alaska Tile backsplash to lighten up the kitchen from the dark countertops + give some contrast.  I think it definitely did the trick and added that extra oomph that the space needed.  Being that I rent this home, it's important not to spend a ton of money on updates + backsplash isn't something that you can take with you.  So being able to do this with temporary backsplash and brighten up an area sans permanent changes made me so happy!  Huge thanks to Smart Tiles for sending me these tiles to update my kitchen.  I'm already looking at ways to do this with the bathrooms in my home using their new Metro Ava Collection.  It's freaking blush pink subway tiles guys!!  Crossing my fingers that my husband lets me do at least one bathroom.

Let me know if you decided to update your home this Spring with Smart Tiles!  I promise you, it's so worth it.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sprouts Ellicott City, MD
is FINALLY Open!!

Photo: @mycandishoppe

Photo: @mycandishoppe

After a few weeks of impatient waiting (on my part), Sprouts in Ellicott City, MD is finally open today!  Last night, I had the opportunity to tour (and shop, let's not forget that part) the store during their 'Pre-Grand Opening' event and OMG... I wasn't ready at all.  I had an idea of what to expect but definitely was not entirely prepared until I walked in.  My friend Sommar described it perfectly though... It's as if Whole Foods, Wegman's and Trader Joe's had a threesome.  Sprouts would be the baby!  Nevermind that no one knows who the father is... it's the perfect analogy.

While the store seems to have almost everything you can want, it's actually only 30,000 sq ft which isn't huge for a grocery store but their priority is being able to serve their customers.  For example, they also don't have aisle numbers!  This is because if you need help finding an item, a team member will walk you directly there.  No more "its on aisle 8 or 9" then you go to aisle 8 and still don't find what you're looking for!  They will even provide a sample of any product right there on the spot if requested.  I experienced this amazing customer service last night actually.  It was 8:00PM when I was finally done shopping + checked out.  Come to find out, the store had closed at 7PM for the Pre-Grand Opening (normal store hours will be 7AM-10PM)!!  I was there for a whole hour shopping not even realizing that the store had closed.  Multiple team members had approached me asking if I needed help but not once did they elude to the fact that my time had come to an end.  LOL.  While I felt horrible for not realizing I had overstayed my welcome, I was also SHOCKED that I was not being rushed out the store!  Everyone was so kind + forgiving... mind blown.

Anyways, here's a peek inside the store to give anyone not familiar with Sprouts an idea of what to expect.  This will likely be my go-to grocery store as I feel like there's less of a chance that I will have to visit multiple grocery stores each week like I do now.  Before now, I would go to Wegmans for the Deli, Produce, Sushi + more... Whole Foods for specialty food + drinks and then Harris Teeter for everything in between.  BTW, I grabbed a Crunchy Crab Sushi Roll for dinner at Sprouts and I could've slapped my Momma (sorry Mom but it was amazing).  Sprouts literally has combined all of what I need from those stores into one location.  They are the epitome of that Tyrese Gif "What More Do You Want From Me?!".  LOL. You really couldn't ask for more!  I anticipate on being there again soon + often so I'm sure we will run into each other.  See ya there.  XOXOMCS

Photo: @mycandishoppe
Low Prices

Photo: @mycandishoppe

Photo: @mycandishoppe
Fresh Produce
Photo: @mycandishoppe
Olive Bar

Photo: @mycandishoppe
Salad Bar

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time

"Would the 11 or 12 year old you be proud of the person you are today"?!  This was the question Ava Duvernay asked the theatre on the screen before the movie began.  With a thought provoking question like that coming first, I knew the movie was about to get deep... and I was 100% right!  Although I'm rarely wrong... I just didn't want you think I was surprised, but I digress.  There are so many scenes in the movie that will have you remembering vividly those early teen years.  Back when all you wanted to do was fit in, make friends and be perfect!

This is the perfect movie for the entire family!  As much as I know Kennedy will enjoy it, I'm actually excited for Taylor to see it as I saw so many similarities between her and the main character, Meg Murray.  I wonder if she too will notice when she does see the movie. And it's not just for the girls either which made me happy, so I know Gregory will love it as well.  Mom + Dad will also enjoy and may pick up on some introspective lines + scenes that may go over the children's heads.  In fact, I almost highly recommend that you watch it with your children because I could see a child having quite a few questions throughout the movie.  Kids these days are smarter + this is a whimsical piece but there are moments that may need a bit of explanation from an adult.  And definitely be ready for a couple of lumps in the throat throughout the movie!

Seriously, it's a great story that will bring adults back to their childhoods and remind them that while being a kid was a fairly easy time in life (compared to adulting), it does come with it's own stresses.  I definitely left the theatre thinking about ways I can connect with my own children better so I can be a better resource to them when they need.  No need to address the acting because once again we were blessed with an A1 cast of stars, they were amazing!  Just go ahead and grab your tickets and make it a family night out!  Enjoy.


One night, Charles Wallace, Meg and a fellow classmate, Calvin, meet three otherworldly visitors who have traveled to Earth with an important message for Meg: Her father’s discovery is, in fact, an extraordinary accomplishment, but a darkness has infiltrated the universe and he is now in grave danger. Together they set off in search of Mr. Murry with Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Whatsit as their guides, tessering to worlds beyond their imagination and confronting the powerful, evil energy face-to-face. But in order to save her father, Meg must first overcome her own flaws and insecurities and harness the strength necessary to defeat the darkness...and it is a journey she must come to on her own. (credit: Walt Disney Media)


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