My visit to Elk Run Winery

It’s officially summer in the DMV and I’m trying to find more excuses to get out and enjoy the weather, especially now that social distancing restrictions are more relaxed. Having known that this day would come, I’ve been purchasing tickets for various events, venues, and just cool places to visit so that I can have a reason to hang with friends. One of the places that topped my list was Elk Run Winery located in Mt. Airy, Maryland. I visited this winery five years ago and loved it, so naturally, when I saw a Groupon available for a wine flight for two I immediately purchased it. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t drink so inviting him to join me was out of the question so I opted to invite my co-worker Dana, who I haven’t seen in person in 16 months since I’ve been working from home to a good ol’ fashioned girls day trip! 

Elk Run Winery is nestled in the rolling hills of Frederick County, Maryland not too far from the Carroll County line. The drive from Prince Geroge’s County took about 75 minutes and led me through 5 counties (Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll, Frederick). Although it’s what I considered to be long-distance, the route did offer beautiful scenic views which were helpful and allowed me to take my mind off of the journey. As I passed large beautiful homes, farms, and spacious open land I forgot for a moment, that I was still in Maryland. My GPS alerted me as I neared my destination and I was reminded of the winery’s hidden entrance. It’s not really hidden, it’s just easily missed if you’re not paying close attention. Dana was already there waiting for me, so as soon as I parked, we set out to do what we came to do – wine down! 

As we entered, we were immediately greeted by a hostess who quickly took our wine flight selections as we took in the scenery. I’m not much of a dry wine fan and neither is Dana. We both prefer sweeter notes and since I’m very familiar with Elk Run’s Sweet Katherine dessert wine, Dana trusted me to select three wines for the both of us. I chose all of their dessert wines: Sweet Katherine, Sangria, and my absolute favorite Vin de Jus Glacé. As we moved to one of the tables outside, I could not help but think about how great it is to be outdoors cicada-free! I doubt if I would have stayed very long if those red-eyed bugs were still on their warpath. 

Excited to sample our wine, Dana and I quickly sat down as we tried to decide on which wine to taste first. Dana cheated and tasted the Vin de Jus Glacé even though I tried to get her to save what I considered the best for last. I started with the Sangria. This wine is a blend of Sweet Katherine, orange juice, and tonic water. It’s sweet but not overly sweet and would be the perfect complement to any brunch menu. Next, I tried my first love, Sweet Katherine. This wine was recommended to me years ago and I’ve never looked back. It’s a sweet after-dinner wine, full-bodied and smoky. Lastly, (drum roll) I slowly savored the Vin de Jus Glacé. This gold medal-winning wine is a lavishly sweet ice wine made from Riesling whose rich aromas include apricot, honey, and flowers. It’s deliciously sweet and would pair well with soft cheeses or traditional desserts. I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen this particular wine in any of the local stores in my area however I do know that some stores, like Foundry Wine & Spirits, will call in an order for you if you request it. 

With a bottle of wine to go in hand, Dana and I prepared to make our trek back home to our side of the state. And although it’s a hike to get there from where I live, I’d definitely visit again! So if you have a few hours to spend on the weekend and are looking for something to do with friends, I’d recommend visiting Elk Run Winery. You can spend an hour or two and enjoy a glass over conversation or make a day of it and enjoy the sounds of local jazz musicians in the late afternoon. Whatever your choice, I’m certain you’ll enjoy it. 

I celebrated National Rosé Day with a Vegan Donut!

June 12th is National Rosé Day and while most were debating over what brand of Rosé wine to purchase to celebrate this day, I was gassing up my car for the 53-mile ride into Baltimore to pick up my pre-order of Raspberry Rosé donuts from the best vegan donut shop this side of the Mason Dixon line – Cloudy Donuts. 

Located in the Lauraville section of Baltimore just a stone’s throw away from my alma mater, Morgan State University, Cloudy Donuts has quickly grown to become a local favorite within the vegan and non-vegan community. Quick heads up, if you plan to visit, leave your scale at the door and forget tracking this on your calorie intake app. Consider this your cheat meal… I guarantee it will be worth it. 

Choosing which donuts to try may be difficult for a newbie as you may become overwhelmed with their many choices. To remedy this, each weekend they’ll post their available flavors on their Instagram page. If you’ve never experienced one of these flavorful donuts you need to know that their flavors are anything but common. You won’t find the traditional jelly donut here. Instead, you’ll be met with flavors like: 

  • Blood Orange
  • Blackberry Mint Mojito
  • Mango Chile Lime
  • Piña Colada
  • Raspberry Rosé
  • Raspberry Lemonade
  • Sugarberry
  • Lemon Poppy
  • Cotton Candy

To see a full list of their 30+ flavors, check out the highlight section of their Instagram page. I’ve tried some of these flavors and others in the past but I’ve never tried their Raspberry Rosé flavor but I could tell by their pictures that it would be worth the trip! So even in the height of cicada season, (If you know, you know) I risked it all and drove to Baltimore to secure the bag…well, the box. 

Once home, my family and I began to pick and choose the donuts we wanted to try and Raspberry Lemonade quickly became a house favorite. Its flavor hits you with a burst of citrus followed by a tangy sweetness that encourages you to take a second and third bite. I of course wanted to try the Raspberry Rosé next but I saved that for last as my family and I tried the Blackberry Mint Mojito. OMG…. this flavor is absolutely amazing. The mint provides a fresh and cool sensation while the raspberry provides a sweet and tart finish. 

Blackberry Mint Mojito & Raspberry Rosé

Finally, after trying the other flavors I prepared my taste buds to try the Raspberry Rosé. This flavor infuses Raspberry Rosé in its glaze and comes with a pipette of Rosé wine and like the other flavors, this one did not disappoint! The dehydrated raspberry toppings were the perfect addition to this donut but the pipette of wine was the showstopper. I drizzled a little over the glaze and pipped the rest inside the donut itself. Needless to say, I’m going to pay for all these calories next week in my extreme hip hop step aerobics class but I’ll worry about that later. 

If you’re in the Baltimore area, or just outside of it and don’t mind the short trip, check out Cloudy Donuts. They often sell out during the weekend so it would be best to pre-order especially if you’re driving a good distance to get there. If you do check it out, let me know what flavors you’ve tried or plan to try and I’ll add it to my list when I visit again.

~With Love, Meek

What’s your shade of red?

Ok, before I share the deets on how to choose the perfect red lippie for your beautiful melanated skin tone, let me first proclaim that you can wear whatever shade of red you choose.  You’re beautiful in any and every shade sis, and I mean that.

Now that I’ve addressed the elephant in the room let’s get down to business.  If you grew up in the 80’s like me, you’re probably used to thinking only women of a certain class were able to pull off a glamorous red lip.  The wealthy, the sophisticated, the debutant, the err dare I say…’lady of the night’. You were led to believe that good wholesome women were to stay clear of this proud and self-centered color because it gave the wrong perception. Personally, it wasn’t until I was somewhere in my early 30’s that I finally gave this vivacious color a try.  I purchased a cream based lippie that had a hint of sheen to it.  I was so excited to try it on that I almost applied it while sitting in the parking lot of my apartment complex. I rushed upstairs, fought for a few minutes with the quality control seal and finally unwrapped it.  After waiting so many years, my moment had finally arrived.  As the angels rejoiced, I smoothly applied my first shade of red lipstick and you know what? I hated it. I flat out despised it and I was too eager to toss it into my tiny bathroom trash can. Who else can relate?… Sis you are NOT alone!  That is why I’m going to tip you off to knowing how to pick the perfect shade of red lipstick each and every time with just three easy steps. 

Step one, when shopping for your go to red lippie you want to know your skin’s undertone.  Knowing your undertone will help you narrow down the shades that best compliment your complexion. There are three types of undertones – warm, cool & neutral.

A person with warm undertones has a skin type that can easily tan but does not burn. This is the most common undertone for those with higher levels of melanin. Additionally, the vein under the wrist is a greenish color. 

Photo by Terricks Noah on Unsplash (Warm Tone)

A person with cool undertones will likely have – skin that can easily sunburn and the vein under the wrist is more of a bluish color.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash (Cool Tone)

Neutral undertones are a mix of both warm and cool tones. 

Photo by Andre Adjahoe on Unsplash (Neutral Tone)

Step two, once you’ve determined your undertone it’s time to select the shade that best compliments your complexion. Since all red lipsticks are not created equal, knowing which color base works for your complexion will help you to narrow down your search. Red lipsticks that have an orange base are best paired with cool undertones. A few examples of these include:

Meanwhile those with warm undertones are better paired with a red lipstick that has a blue base. Examples of these include: 

Neutral tones can wear either but it’s best to try on the shades whenever possible.

Step three, research and ask questions.  If you’re shopping online for your lipstick, do a quick google search to determine the color’s undertone. If you’re buying in store from a retailer such as MAC or Sephora, ask an associate to assist with suggesting shades that compliment your undertone. 

You may have to try a few before you find the perfect match however I promise you it will be worth it and hopefully these tips will help you narrow down your search. 

Happy shopping ladies! 

Random things I’m attempting to experience before I turn 40!

Twenty years ago, whenever I thought about someone being 40 years old I would immediately consider them to be old.  But now as I’m inching closer and closer to being 40 myself, I realized how wrong I had been. Yep, my knees crack when I try to do the buss it challenge, I feel like the tin man trying to learn Tik Tok dances, and I would rather listen to 90s Hip Hop than anything that is currently playing on the radio.  But other than that, I legit don’t feel any different than I did 10 or 20 years ago.  

Even still, turning 40 has forced me to reflect on what I’ve experienced and accomplished so far in my life and I can’t help but to think of all the things I thought I would have experienced by now. As a result, I feel the need to force myself to embark on a new adventure each day to make up for lost time. That’s why I’ve decided to make a list of a few things I’d like to experience before my 40th birthday this year! Take a look!

  1. Try a new hairstyle
  2. Learn to skate
  3. Learn sign language
  4. Travel to 3 new states
  5. Take a picture with a celebrity 

So if you’ve been following me on Instagram then you probably know that I’ve already tackled two of the items on my list so far.  I’ve recently shaved off 30% of my hair and have begun skating classes. This blog post however will provide comic relief for anyone wondering what it would be like to learn how to skate at almost 40 years old. 

I have never learned how to skate but somehow in my adult life I always ended up owning a pair. Whether someone gifted me a pair or if I purchased a pair online, I seemed to always have skates lying around or tucked away in my closet.  My earliest memory of wanting to learn how to skate was when I watched the movie, Roll Bounce starring Shad Moss “Bow Wow”. I had to have been 24 when that movie came out so that proves that skating was not on my mind when I was growing up.  I was too consumed with riding bikes and playing double dutch when I was a kid.  I don’t remember ever seeing someone skate in my neighborhood… it just wasn’t a thing. 

Fast forward over a decade and for whatever reason, I decided I wanted to learn how to skate again. So, I did what I normally would, I purchased a pair of skates online and then tucked them in the closet. Let’s be real, how was I ever going to learn? Skate with the kiddies at the rink with the little triangle support? I think not. Now don’t get me wrong, I still had the desire to learn, just not like that. 

During one of my Tik Tok binges I came across several skaters who would glide so effortlessly it encouraged me to want to try again.  I posted on Facebook my desire to learn and almost instantly received a recommendation for an instructor less than 10 miles from my home! 

Excited, I scheduled my first lesson two days later and met up with 20 other skaters at a community center for what would be my first ever official skate lesson. 

Ok I know what you’re thinking? Did I fall? Was I the oldest newbie skater? Did I go back? No, No and Yes I did.  The instructor, Kenney Rollo Davis, is a skating instructor, performer, coach and fitness trainer.  He has over 30 years of experience and was super patient with me on my first day.  I started out doing what he calls the Frankenstein walk. While everyone around me was skating backwards, dancing, and spinning in circles I was walking back and forth on skates with my knees bent and arms stretched out in front of me like Frankenstein. I wasn’t even rolling yet… just taking monster sized steps and walking back and forth.  Now under normal circumstances I might have been embarrassed however there was one other person that was learning how to skate and she was 57! If she didn’t care about how ridiculous she looked, why should I? Eventually, we both ended our lesson learning how to skate back and forth. Nothing fancy, just the basics. 

My first skating experience went extremely well.  So well that I returned the following week sporting a brand new bag for my skates because, let’s face it – I’m like a semi pro at this point.  After lacing up I moved on to my next lesson which was simply to review skating back and forth and then try a new move called, “Skating Bubbles”.  This move required me to create a circle or lemon shape while skating in a straight line.  At first glance, I was pretty sure this would be easy so I hit the ground running to try and learn it as quickly as possible. And then… it happened. I swear, I replay this moment in my mind over and over again.  One minute I’m skating and the next minute everything is moving in slow motion and the room becomes silent.  I remember feeling weightless and then seeing the bright lights overhead.  That’s about the time I realized what was happening so naturally I knew what was coming next.  My back slammed against the concrete so hard I bounced back up like a pop tart.  I looked around to see if anyone noticed me fall and to my surprise, several people did notice but continued on with what they were doing.  I was left to help myself up and dust myself off.  And that’s exactly what would have happened if I was learning how to skate as a kid I suppose. 

After down playing my fall I continued to skate for about another hour before I called it quits for the night.  As my body started to relax during my short ride home I finally began to feel the effects of my spill just an hour ago.  All sorts of thoughts flooded my mind. Will I need an x-ray? Should I pick up some Icy Hot? I’m definitely going to need an epsom salt bath.  Do we still have those ice packs? You know, things you think about when you realized your bones don’t heal as quickly as they used to.  As I hobbled my bruised but not broken body home I immediately grabbed an ice pack from the freezer for my hand which was throbbing uncontrollably.  I’m assuming I probably tried to break my fall with it. I then popped a few tablets of ibuprofen because let’s face it… I’m no spring chicken and if I want to be able to sit up in the morning I’m going to need these meds! Lucky for me, I had a chiropractor appointment the next day so whatever slipped out of place would be promptly corrected in the morning. 

All in all, learning to skate isn’t easy but I can honestly say that I’m enjoying the journey.  If there’s something you didn’t learn to do while you were a kid I want to encourage you to learn it this year.  Doesn’t matter if it’s skating, riding a bike, playing basketball, playing the piano, etc. If you missed out on learning years ago, chances are there’s an adult class created somewhere with you in mind. A quick google search just might lead you to your new favorite pastime. 

If you do happen to try something new, I want to hear about it! Leave me a comment so I can celebrate your new beginnings.

Six of my favorite women owned businesses to patron during Women’s History Month and always

Helllllllllllo March! This month always reminds me that spring is just around the corner even if the current weather doesn’t feel like it. It’s a positive reminder that after months of being cooped up in the house, we’re finally going to be able to spend more time outdoors! Well… you know…. After we get this pandemic under control.

But there’s something else special about this month.  It’s the time we spend honoring and encouraging the study, observance, and celebration of the vital role of women in American history – better known as, Women’s History Month! This year, I’m choosing to celebrate Women’s History Month by highlighting Black women entrepreneurs, and what better way to do this than to feature six of my favorite black girl magic businesses! Spoiler alert, all six are represented in the image above!

First up is, Oh My Nails, a boutique nail salon located in Owings Mills, Maryland. The services are provided by licensed master pedicurist, Melanie Eggleston who specializes in nail health, not just aesthetics. The salon is private so you’re able to receive 1:1 attention without distractions from other patrons or technicians. Melanie offers several specialized pedicures but during my recent visit, I chose the diamonds and pearls pedicure. This service included a glass of rosé, a gold plated foot soaking basin filled with faux gems and pearls, and various scrubs and lotions speckled with gold flakes. I’m going, to be honest – It was the hints of gold everywhere for me! I legit walked out of there with new feet. So if you’re in the DMV, be sure to book an appointment at The OMN Shop

Next up we have The Garden Jewelry Store. If you’re looking for statement earrings, you’ve come to the right place. I have a growing collection of yarn earrings from several different small businesses, however, the first pair I’ve ever bought was from here. Their yarn earrings range in length so whether you’re looking for a show stopper or something a bit more discreet, I’m sure they’ll have what you’re looking for. In addition to yarn earrings, they do offer other earrings designed to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Check them out!

Ok, so this feature is going to be a two-for-one special…hahaha. It’s where coffee and creativity collide. If you follow me on Instagram, then you’re well aware of my subtle coffee addiction and how much I enjoy supporting one of my favorite brands, Boss Blend Coffee Co. I pass these single-serve pour-over packets out like stocking stuffers to my friends and family I swear! Well, I wanted a cute insulated coffee container to carry around when I’m running errands and sipping on the go but I wanted it to be something that supported this brand as well. I reached out to Made with magic crafts and provided the lead designer, Jessica, with my idea, and viola! This dope on brand insulated coffee cup was birth. I’m going to carry this with me everywhere, so if you see me extra caffeinated, walking fast, or doing laps around a thrift store somewhere…just mind ya business.

Now over to clothing. As someone who thrifts 75% of her clothing, it’s not often that I purchase apparel online. However, when I do, I make sure it’s from a small business like Hug Life’s Esty shop which is owned and operated by Justa_MDgirl. T-shirts and hoodies are staples in my closet so when she released the ‘To Do’ list hoodie, I quickly snagged one for myself. I also purchased the ‘Bad vibes don’t go with my outfit’ T-shirt which I plan to pair with a blazer, jeans, and heels at an upcoming photoshoot. Check out the other items she offers and let me know which is your favorite.

Last but certainly not least is my barber / natural hairstylist, Natalyn Obey, owner and operator of Natural Curl Junkie. My hair has always been a challenge for me. My thick tight coils and sensitive scalp have always required extra attention. For me, wash day felt more like wash days and no matter how much conditioner I used I could always bet on seeing a clump of balled up hair in my wide tooth comb afterward. I knew I needed to see a professional because my DIY protective pandemic hairstyles were likely hurting my hair more than it was supposed to help it. I was too excited when Natalyn squeezed me in with a last-minute appointment to not only provide consultation on my scalp issues but to take the reins and give my hair the attention it desperately needed.

When I tell you she is the natural hair whisperer, I tell you no lie. She had my hair well behaved like a child in church during benediction! I was almost sad to see 25% of it fall to the floor when she began shaving but I quickly got over that once she began to install my butterfly locs.  What I love about Natalyn is that she’s a one-stop-shop for natural hair care.  She’s dedicated to the care and growth of your hair and provides you with a natural hair profile & analysis during your consultation.  My analysis included a regiment, a style guide, and suggested products to use tailored to my condition.  If your hairstylist isn’t doing this, you need a new one – Period! Do yourself a favor and check her out. She’s mobile so if you’re unable to travel to her, she’ll travel to you.

There are so many more women-owned businesses that I support frequently, I wished I could list them all! Maybe I’ll do part two in an upcoming blog post. In the meantime, gives these ladies a follow and tell them I sent you…they just might hook you up with a discount *wink*.

~ With Love, Meek

But there’s something else special about this month.  It’s the time we spend honoring and encouraging the study, observance, and celebration of the vital role of women in American history – better known as, Women’s History Month! This year, I’m choosing to celebrate Women’s History Month by highlighting Black women entrepreneurs, and what better way to do this than to feature some of my favorite black girl magic busines

I’ve started a podcast

Chamomile Conversations host

You’ve read that correctly, I’ve finally launched my podcast, Chamomile Conversations.  The podcast that spills the tea on how Women of Color entrepreneurs quit their 9-5s to become full-time entrepreneurs and build dope profitable businesses. So if you were wondering where I’ve been since my last post in July or what I’ve been up to… well, this was it.  Ok I’m lying *smile*, It only took me 6 weeks to create my podcast and I started in November and went live in December.  However, this podcast has been an idea of mine since 2016. 

So allow me to share with you a few things that led me to create my podcast and what you can expect from my podcast as a listener.  But before we jump right in, I’d like to invite you to subscribe to my podcast on Apple iTunes, Spotify  & Google Podcast. Don’t forget to leave a rating / review.  

I don’t think I’ve ever shared this with you all but I used to operate my own branding and marketing business nearly 5 years ago. I primarily helped bootstrapping entrepreneurs properly position themselves in their industry by using free to low cost resources. Although this business was my side hustle, it helped to supplement 20% of my annual salary. I was still working a full-time job and on my way into the office I would listen to podcasts.  My commute was about 45 minutes so it gave me enough time to listen to lengthy interviews featuring branding and marketing coaches and strategists. For the most part they were really good but I struggled with connecting with many of the guests featured.  Basically, I didn’t come across many people that looked like me or experienced what I had before and while I was running my business.  Therefore it made it hard for me to connect with how they were able to transition to becoming a successful full time entrepreneur. 

Lightbulb! That’s when the idea for this podcast came. 

Fast forward 5 years and I’m now interviewing women of color entrepreneurs to share the real story behind why they quit their full time jobs.  The cool thing about this podcast is that with the help of voice actors and sound effects, I will reenact the moments that lead up to when my guest quit their job. So if my guest shares with me that she flipped over her supervisor’s desk on the day she quit, you’re going to hear those sounds effects in the reenactment. Or if my guest said they bought coffee every morning on the way to work, then I’ll make sure to reenact a scene that includes footsteps approaching a coffee shop, a door opening, a barista to greet her…. you get the gist.

I’d like to also point out the type of businesses my guests have launched.  One guest worked over 10+ in the telecommunications industry and decided to pivot and open her own boutique nail salon.  Another guest resigned from her administrative position at a prestigious university to build a self-care inspired candle company in the middle of a pandemic! The third guest I’ve interviewed quit her career in retail to build her own coffee company, and the list goes on.

My hope for this podcast is to reach someone who is on the cusp of leaving their full-time job who can draw inspiration from the stories of my guest and take the leap of a lifetime to become a full-time entrepreneur. So if you, or someone you know, are interested in hearing the stories of badass women of color bosses, please share this podcast with them.  We’re just getting started.

How I salvaged my birthday celebration during a Global Pandemic

True story, when Covid-19 hit hard in March I was laughing at all the Aries babies.  Just knowing they had to shut down their birthday party plans cracked me up.  Fast forward to July and just look at us… LOOK AT US! How do you ‘turn up’ during the hottest months of the year at home? <insert crying Michael Jordan meme>. I seriously had no idea what I would be able to do or if my friends would be comfortable doing “it” with me given the current circumstances.  I thought about brunch on my deck, but you know… Coronavirus.  Then I thought about brunch at a restaurant, but you know… Coronavirus.  To keep it safe, I figured it would be best to just not do a thing with anyone else outside of my family.

So now that I knew who I was rolling with, my husband and our son, it was time to figure out where we were rolling to.  A quick Expedia search let me know that international traveling was still ‘a thing’ and is cheaper than ever if you want to risk it – and I’ll be honest, we almost did.  Uh-uh, don’t judge me… LOL.  It was hard passing up a 5 day stay in a premium suite, all inclusive resort hotel in Jamaica with roundtrip airfare included for 3 passengers for only $1500! See, now you’re rethinking your travel plans too!

Since traveling internationally would be too risky I instead started to research some national landmarks that were within driving distance and decided to visit Niagara Falls, D.C and Central Park. We kicked off this week-long road trip by spending the weekend in Niagara Falls.  Now, being born and raised in New York… you know… REAL New York, visiting Niagara Falls was never on our bucket lists. In fact, we consider any part of New York outside of the city (all five boroughs and parts of Westchester County) to be Canada.  It doesn’t matter if you live in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, etc.  If you’re not from the city, you’re from Canada.  Ask a New Yorker.

The drive to Niagara falls from Maryland took about 7.5 hours.  We drove through western Maryland which is absolutely beautiful by the way, then through the mountains of Pennsylvania and over to western New York into Buffalo.  We booked our hotel on the U.S. side and once we arrived at our hotel we hit the ground running and immediately headed out to cross Rainbow Bridge (the bridge that connects the U.S. to Canada) but you guessed it… Coronavirus. Unfortunately only essential personnel were allowed to cross so we were left stuck at the gate with no way to enter – whomp, whomp. From there we visited Niagara Falls park which to my surprise places you extremely close to the edge of the falls. If you’re afraid of heights, then this may not be a good look for you.

G and I attempting to cross Rainbow Bridge into Canada
Team Gross ready to kick off our Niagara Falls adventure

Our last day in Niagara falls happened to be my birthday, so to celebrate we purchased tickets for the Maid of the Mist boat tour.  Alright, I’ve been dying to tell you all about this experience so here goes. This boat tour is not truthful with its name…. LOL. There was no ‘misting’ involved except for what you may feel while waiting in line.  Riding on this boat gave me horrible flashbacks of the opening to Gilligan’s Island. It rocked, it shook, people screamed (with excitement I assume) and then….. the downpour! I mean buckets and buckets of water splashed all over the boat and on ME! Yes, we were all wearing upside down blue hefty trash bags but we might as well have worn nothing. I swear I quickly tucked my lil ponytail in my plastic hood, threw on my shades and secured my mask for dear life.  I was looking like the Unabomber in all my gear… LOL. Where’s the lie?

Next up, Washington, D.C.  So this is sort of a freebie for me because technically I already live about 15 minutes away from our nation’s capital so traveling here is effortless however, there is still so much I don’t know about the city so exploring its history is still on my to do list. And what better way to explore than to do it on a bike? 

With four bikes strapped to our SUV (we brought along our nephew as well) we set out to cruise the city in 90+ degree weather.  I swear this idea sounded a lot better when we planned it a week before when it was 75 degrees. Because of the current global pandemic, tourism is currently down which made it extremely easy to find parking.  We parked adjacent to the Monument and began our journey from there. Now, the fun begins. 

Picture it, my grown butt on a pink and purple bike with a super narrow seat peddling my heart out around the monument, the white house, Black Lives Matters plaza, the MLK memorial and more.  Read this part slowly, my rear end is not a perfect match for my narrow bicycle seat. When I tell you I ached….. I tell you NO LIE!  We rode for nearly 9 miles, dodged a flock of angry geese, ducked under the limbs of low hanging trees one of which nearly claimed my ponytail, and I narrowly lived to tell this story…. Whew! It was definitely an experience to remember but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Luckily, I had 3 days to rest my … yea.. before we closed out my birthday week with another trip to New York. 

Me after riding all the way up to the base of the Monument.
Black Lives Matter street mural

Our final stop on my birthday week tour landed us in Central Park. My husband is a big Law & Order fan and has seen corners of Central Park on the show countless times.  It’s been a big deal for him to see it up close and personal so we figured this would be the perfect time to check it out.  I say we because as a native New Yorker that was born and raised in the great borough of The Bronx just 17 miles away from the park, I’ve never been there either. Just wasn’t something we desired to do growing up I guess. 

Gassed up yet again, we hit the road for our 4 hour trip where we made our first stop in The Bronx – of course.  There’s no way I’m coming to the city without seeing my family! After a few greetings, jokes and dropping off our son we jumped back in our SUV to our intended destination. Nope, not catching the train this time, because you know…. Coronavirus. Unlike D.C, tourism has picked back up in New York and we were unable to find parking on the street so we paid a ridiculous amount to park in a garage.  Small price to pay to be able to travel in the city without riding the subway riddled with viruses I suppose.  As we walked towards the park I quickly realized that this is not going to be an easy leisurely stroll through the park.  For starters, it’s 96 degrees and the humidity was awful.  Next, half of the city was already in the park, skating, bike riding, skateboarding, tanning, picnicking, celebrating, dog walking and who knows what else.  Social distancing did not exist in the park this afternoon but luckily it is large enough for us to keep our distance from others. We walked a bit until my husband spotted the sponsored bikes by Citi Bank and had the nerve to ask me if I wanted to ride around the park.  Ride? Me? On another bike? Sir! Not a chance…LOL! Not knowing where to go, we grabbed a map from a nearby information booth and began our walk through the park.  We visited a few iconic points of interests such as, Sheep Meadow, the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, the Reservoir, and the Bow Bridge where someone set up a beautiful memorial for the late Naya Rivera. I must say, the park is absolutely beautiful. It really is, and it holds so much rich history that I wished we had more time to explore it all. Sadly, it was still very hot and we were tired of dodging people coughing or simply not wearing a face mask so we decided to head back to our SUV to begin our journey home. 

Melting in the sun in front of the Bethesda Fountain

My 39th trip around the sun couldn’t have been better or spent with better people.  Although the Coronavirus is still running rampage throughout the world, I was glad I was still able to enjoy my special day by doing things and exploring places I normally would not have.

Has your birthday plans been interrupted because of the spread of the Coronavirus? Did you celebrate in a different way this year? Let me know below.  Don’t forget to subscribe and follow me on social media @WithLove_Meek for more candid conversations and daily lifestyle updates.

With Love, Meek

Frugal Fashion Finds

Before the pandemic forced many stores to shut down, I had a standing weekly thrifting appointment at my local Goodwill that I rarely ever missed. If you haven’t been thrifting recently (past few years) then you probably have a negative perception about purchasing someone else’s new or gently used clothing. To be honest, I did too. Growing up I always thought the Goodwill only sold the clothes of dead people or musty tattered garments.  Whenever someone told me they purchased something from a thrift store I would immediately think they were in need of financial assistance because only people struggling to make their ends meet shopped there – right? Absolutely incorrect! Some of the most stylish fashionistas with padded pockets thrift regularly and you should too! I guarantee once you’ve gotten the taste of saving on what should be a pricey item, you will never want to pay full price again.

So for all of my non-thrifters, this blog series is for you.  I’m going to share some of my favorite finds from my local Goodwill that will instantly complement your current wardrobe and encourage you to start thrifting! First up – Shoes. 

This is my absolute favorite section to shop when I visit my local Goodwill. Even as a size 9.5 (watch ya mouth) I’m always able to find shoes that are new or gently used so that’s a huge plus in my book. I love this section of the store because it really resembles a shoe section of a department store.  The shoes are always very neatly stacked and arranged and gives me more of a boutique feel than a local thrift store. 

With so many options to choose from, I like to follow my own three-step check when perusing the shoe section.  

1 – Always determine what’s trending

In the spring, taupe or neutral tone pumps and flats will be on trend so it’s likely I’ll find more of these styles available during this time. If these styles are trending, scoop them up because oftentimes additional discounts will be added to their final sale price. I explain this a bit more in step 3.

Pro tip – Between January and April, a lot of people will donate a large amount of clothing to thrift stores to receive a tax write off.  During this time you’re likely going to see a range of shoes from sandals to boots. Although we’ll be entering into the spring and summer season, don’t overlook getting a jump on purchasing boots for the fall or winter seasons.  I purchased a pair of knee-length Guess boots, a furry pair of North Face boots, and a pair of water-resistant Timberlands for less than $50 combined!   

2 – Check for wear and tear

I always check the bottom of the shoes and their heels to determine their wear and tear.  Most times there is very little, like these nude Steve Madden heels, but sometimes you’ll come across a pair that is pretty worn. However, the sales team is really great with making sure they only put out quality merchandise so this only happens every once in a while. What I love about my local Goodwill is that they carry a lot of shoes that are brand new. It’s not uncommon to see the original $79.99 tag on a pair of Jessica Simpson heels with an $11.99 Goodwill sticker right next to it. I love it when that happens because I get to brag about how much I’ve saved without sacrificing the quality of the product! 

3 – Check the color of the week

Some Goodwill’s will have a weekly sale called, “The Color of the Week”. Each item in the store is tagged with a color – blue, orange, green, purple, or yellow.  At the start of the week, the store will decide which color will be the color of the week, and all items that are tagged that color will receive an additional 50% off. So a pair of shoes can quickly go from being $9.99 to just $5! But to make these deals even sweeter, some stores like my local Goodwill will offer 75% off of an item in a specific section that is tagged with the color of the week. So while all store items that are tagged with a blue sticker are 50% off, blazers tagged with a blue sticker would be 75% off.  

Pro tip – Shop the color of the week early! If the new color is revealed on Sunday, make sure you’re at the store when they open or shortly after. If not, you’ll find that many of the items remaining are not the color of the week and therefore you will not receive additional discounts off of the items. 

So after completing my three-point check, I’m usually good to go with my choice(s). I’ll try them on to make sure of the fit, add them to my cart, shop a bit more in other areas, and finally check out.  

I hope this post was able to dispel the notion of what thrifting is and shed some light on its fashion and financial benefits.  Thankfully, with stay at home orders slowly lifting in many states – a lot of people have made huge donations to Goodwill across the nation, so if you haven’t been thrifting in a while or if you’re looking to get started now would be a great time. So get thrifting and make sure you hit me up after you do!  I want to know what you’ve found because one, I want to know what great deal you’ve gotten and two, I want to know what store I need to hit next… LOL.

What other Frugal Fashion Finds at the thrift store would you like me to cover? Dresses? Blazers? Jeans/Pants? Children’s? Come on, give me a reason to shop… LOL. Comment below with your suggestions and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram – @WithLove_Meek.  There you’ll be able to view more of my Frugal Fashion purchases in my IG-Story Highlights. 

~With Love, Meek

Black Lives Matter and so does your sanity

Let’s cut to the chase – this past week has been one hell of a ride.  Black Lives Matter protest have been held in every state in the country not to mention the hundreds that have been held globally. The pride that swells up in me when I watch thousands of black and brown people bravely standing in solidarity with other races with their fists raised high in the air from every corner of the county is indescribable. What was easy to ignore before is almost impossible to ignore now as thousands of peaceful protesters continue to march in the streets daily to voice their frustration over the wrongful killing of George Floyd.

For nearly two weeks, we’ve all experienced an intense roller coaster of emotions. Some of us, like myself, were forced to paint on our ‘happy’ faces as we joined Zoom meeting after meeting after meeting at our 9-5’s and struggle as we tried to answer the ever-annoying question of, “Are you ok?”. Side note, we’re not ok.   I’ll even bet the notification sound on your phone has probably been working overtime because your friends continue to send you BLM related updates every ten minutes. Am I right? You want to stay connected but mentally, emotionally, and physically you’re drained – well at least I am or should I say, I was. I finally decided to unplug daily to keep myself centered and I’m going to share my routine below with the intention that it will help at least one other person. And to add a little ‘oomph’ to it, I’ll also share the products I use in my daily routine which happen to be from black-owned businesses.

I typically wake up between 6:30 – 7 a.m. and after the basic morning routine, I get settled in a quiet space to begin my morning meditation. I like to set the intention for my session so I’ll begin by clearing the energy in my space with lavender sage. This helps to remove any negative energy and restores emotional balance. I purchase my bundles from The Vybe Collection. They have several other bundles available as well as Palo Santo and waist beads. Next, with my space now cleared, I’ll play a few frequencies on my singing bowl and then apply protection oil to ward off any negative interactions I may encounter throughout the day.  Master manifestor Ty Johnson Anderson, of Spiritually Bougie, offers a protection oil called, “On the mainline” that I swear by.  I’ve used this oil before entering intense meetings with people at my job that are usually nasty to me and have come out of those meetings without a scratch! Trust me, during these uncertain times, you want an extra layer of protection to keep you covered from the enemy you can’t see. You won’t find this little gem anywhere on her site, uh uh… this is top shelf honey. Send her an email and let her know you’d like a bottle.

After about 15 minutes of meditating, I’ll move on to the next step of my routine which is journaling.  The feelings that I feel are valid but most of them are negative because of the hurt that I’m visually ingesting daily. To release this, I’ll imagine the negativity in my heart chakra physically move from the center of my chest, down to my arms, down to my hands, through the pen and onto the paper.  Once I’ve felt that I’ve moved the negative energy out I’ll begin to jot down notes of gratitude. I like to do this with a dope cup of coffee because it also signifies the start of my workday and I’m going to need the caffeine to wake me up.  These days I’m usually sipping on Boss Blend Coffee. I really like their medium roast because it has a bold flavor with no bitter after taste. 

The last step in my routine is practicing Yin Yoga in the evening after work and after I’ve likely consumed too much negative social media.  The light stretches really help to release the physical tension I’ve built up throughout the day.  Now if you know me personally you know how much I absolutely love candles so it should come as no surprise that I’m likely burning one of my favorite soy candles from Blue Lotus Candle Creations. It’s the perfect way to end the day and restore balance to your mind, body, and soul.

If you’re thinking of giving this a try, let me know.  Leave a comment below and tell me what part you’re looking forward to trying.  I really hope you enjoy it as much I do.

~With Love, Meek

Bob Ross’n it up while quarantined

It’s show time!

Screaming in my Cardi B voice, “Coronavirus, $#!^ is getting real!” If you haven’t seen this video of Cardi sharing her fears with her fans over the continuous spreading of COVID-19, then you need to ASAP its hilarious.
So how ‘real’ is this threat? So real, that the governor of this great state of Maryland along with the superintendent have agreed to close all public schools for two weeks. Yes, two whole freaking weeks. If you’re a working parent like myself then one of two thoughts just ran through your mind. Either one, who’s going to watch my child(ren) while I’m at work? Or two, my child(ren) are about to eat everything in sight! Am I right? It’s a well known fact that no one can empty out a refrigerator faster than kids on spring break or summer vacation. I truly believe they are petitioning to turn snacking into an olympic sport! Seriously, the thought of having my son home 24/7 for two weeks is enough to scare my tubes tied! Don’t get me wrong I love my stinker dinker to pieces but at his age, nothing is ever enough except time spent sleeping. Not food, not play-time, not… a… thing.

So here I am. Working remotely for two weeks while also trying to figure out how I’ll entertain an eight year old so that he doesn’t eat our family out of house and home in just 72 hours. Thankfully, his awesome teacher sent him home with tons of homework and we also have access to educational online platforms but these are the ‘just okay’ activities. I’m looking for something fun and creative for us both to do (and even daddy if we can trick him into it, LOL) and that’s when I remembered my DIY paint night kit.

See, a few months back I had purchased canvases, acrylic paint and brushes because I wanted my husband and I to enjoy a quiet paint night / date night at home. Well life happens and we have both been so busy that I guess I must have forgotten about it but believe me, I was too glad to have found it now! I quickly shot over to YouTube to find the easiest DIY paint night tutorial when I stumbled upon The Art Sherpa’s channel. OMG talk about gorgeous paintings! I new almost instantly this was not going to be a mommy and son paint party but rather a, “I’m painting this and you can sit over there and draw tic tac toe”. The artist’s name is Cinnamon Cooney and she has the sweetest personality. Before each painting she scribbles intentions onto her canvas and then blends it in with a damp paint brush. Now anyone that knows me, knows I’m am all about asking the universe for what you want and being ready to receive it so I loved Ms. Cinnamon straight out of the gate!

I poked around her channel for a bit until I found a painting I thought I’d be able to easily complete. Lucky for me, The Art Sherpa’s channel breaks down the skill level needed to complete each painting so I kept my butt over in the beginners section and settled on following her guide to painting the, Easy Aurora Borealis Acrylic painting. Now I know what you’re thinking…What’s Boog going to paint? Well obviously he was not interested in painting what I wanted to paint so he chose a sun and moon canvas we had laying around and also decided to freestyle on a blank canvas.

Finally, we’re ready to do this! As I transform my kitchen into a makeshift art studio, I couldn’t help but think – If any of this gets on my kitchen floor, I’ll never hear the end of it. Not wanting to convince my husband that there’s zero chance of paint ending up on the floor, I decide to place old newspapers beneath our kitchen table. Now my kitchen looks like an art studio if a parakeet decorated it. We both take our seats, I hit play on my laptop, and we begin our paintings. Fast forward about 45 min and let’s just say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder…LOL.

I’m going to blame my finished product disaster on the fact that my paint quality was crappy and I didn’t have some of the colors used in the tutorial. I really wish I had the pink color because I think it wouldn’t have look as funky. Boog on the other hand had a great time painting buildings and trees and I guess that’s really all that matters. Well, that and the fact that he hadn’t raided the snack cabinets for almost an hour!

Mama mission accomplished!

What are you doing to keep your child(ren) busy and the creative juices flowing during this mass quarantine? I’d like to know! Share down below or shoot me a message on Instagram @WithLove_Meek. I can use all the tips I can get during the next 2-3 weeks!

Until next time,

With Love,

~Meek