5th year Blogiversary

This has been an amazing year. I believe I’ve touched the surface of what I plan to do and I have no choice but to keep going. I’ve been intentional, asked for help, leaned in on my mentors, outsourced to professionals what I couldn’t do and learned a lot in the process! The journey has been one of the best!

I’ve learned a lot more about myself. I realize that I’m not an island. I learned that I’m strong enough to handle fluctuating schedules. I’ve had the most productive year. I’ve been to all kinds of events, managed my family, my health, and my sanity. I love where I’m headed. There are already some amazing things lined up this next year!

I also want to thank the brands who helped me celebrate this year. Not just in prizes but in hospitality all year long. A special thank you to Eat Banza, Chima, Blessing Manifesting, and Nicole Lapin! I’m honored that you took the time to help me collaborate! Also I want to give an extra shout out to Aversa PR for allowing me the opportunity to be at so many wonderful events and openings. It’s actually been one year working with Aversa PR.

Thank you to my family who put up with me having a wonky schedule. I’m out in the field for almost 3-4 days a week some weeks more than that. I get asked how do I do that with 3 kids under 10. The answer is simple; they love and support my efforts. As long as I keep meal prepping they are good to go! I don’t book anything during their Girl Scout or soccer events and I make time to keep the spark alive with my husband.

Thank you to the network I’m with in TCP! The Cultured Professional has been an amazing network. They are family! “We Working over here!” is a lifestyle and definitely not a moment! These hardworking individuals have meant and continue to mean the world to me. Check them out here!

I want to say a special thanks to the many blog friends I have. There are a quite a few but I’ll highlight a few; Phillyfoodgal, Kingston Jael Michaels, Cocoamommy, Vidafashionista, and PR Brandon Szeltzer!

There are so many collaborations that took place to name! So many wonderful brands I wouldn’t even have known about without having an amazing network behind me! It’s been one amazing ride!

Thank you to every reader! One thing about it is even when Twitter or Instagram shuts down for hours you keep on reading my content and for that I’m honored!! It’s been a great transformation these 5 years! Thank you to everyone who submitted an Ask Toi!! You’re ability to be vulnerable is appreciated!

If you notice I’ve begun branding. This will continue! This has always been a goal for me! Now that I’m learning how to do it more consistently my promise is that I will always brand with companies that I believe in. They need to be products I’ve used in the past or use currently. They need to be what I would stand on. Something that I want my daughters to be proud of as you ladies! Brands that my son can feel good knowing I’m not compromising myself just to make money or sell my name for!

Let’s rock it out this year and make it happen!!

Non Traditional Thanksgiving

There’s nothing wrong with going against the grain! Making the holidays what you want it to be is really special if you ask me. There’s no rule that says you just have turkey, you just dress up, etc!

You can dress your day up or down as much as you like. When we first had our oldest we were super traditional. We tried to split the holidays. We dressed in super traditional clothes, we watched the Thanksgiving Day parades, etc. We have kept a lot of the traditions from our childhood and merged them together. Fast forward to today and I can tell you we have love in the center of us but we make it whatever we would like it to be and on our own terms.

When you don’t like to keep in line with traditions here are some amazing ways to change the perspective:

Friendsgiving

You can do this in a numbers of ways. Over the weekend my friends and I did a Friendsgiving brunch. This was a way to come together, brunch, and connect! I’ve seen some that incorporate non Thanksgiving Food. You can do a themed dinner or luncheon. I’ve seen where people bring leftovers and put a spin on it. This gives you a way to get rid of your leftovers and spend valuable time with your friends!

Themed Dinner

Yes turkey might not be your thing. You could always opt for something else besides ham or a turkey. There’s always a themed dinner. A themed dinner takes the whole Thanksgiving day dinner to another level. As long as you’re thankful it shouldn’t matter what you have on your actual plate. So eat to your desire. You could always mix both traditional with non traditional too.

Thanksgiving Mixes

This is when you take a traditional dish and flip it. Like a switch up on the day. I’ve had some amazing meals that I wouldn’t have known existed by eating some mixes. For example a sweet potato soufflé. It’s amazing and something my family wouldn’t traditionally have. The spin is still Thanksgiving but has a different level to it.

Thanksgiving Brunch

So a few people I know are having a brunch that day and then spending the rest of the day drinking and Ubering to shop and having a dinner out later in the day! It’s genius and with less clean up. I would only caution if you make this option to secure reservations early. Especially if you want a nice sit down meal. There are a lot of options here in Philadelphia. If you follow me on Facebook I have and will continue to highlight some amazing restaurants that have great options!

So again make the holiday as big or as as small as you would like. Focus on what you want to see happen for the day. Don’t compare yourself to others. There are people fighting major to stay connected with themselves let alone others.

Mystery of Irma Vep; A Penny Dreadful

The Mystery of Irma Vep is a 2 actor whirlwind of fun, chaos, tragedy, and a love story all wrapped into one. In my mind I kept watching all the clues and I thought I knew how the ending would go but I was pleasantly surprised and hugely WRONG!

So now that we know I am the last one to come and help you on a murder mystery dinner spin let’s talk about what is right. This amazing witty production is by Steven Wright and stars Paul Kahn and Rich Bradford! These two actors’ ability to play multiple roles is nothing short of amazing. I was expecting some choppy transitions being that two actors are playing at least 2-3 roles a piece but it was the most hilarious but smooth transitions I’ve seen in a long time.

Let me give it up to the set director also Paul Kuhn this set I loved! I loved the detail in the little things like the transitions between the hanging pictures of the Lady in the house. I loved the Egyptian set as well. This was well thought out. The colors were bright and amazing.

So what exactly is the play about we follow the story of Lord Edgar and his transition from his First Lady (wife) Irma Vep. He has already moved on sort of to his new wife, Lady Enid. In this twist of who done it, we are introduced to the maid Jane who seems to be of Caribbean descent. She knows where all the bones lay. Most maids know the secrets of the home. We also meet Nicodemus who we need to watch a little closely as he may or may not be “after” Lady Enid. So what happened to Lady Irma Vep? How did she die? Why can’t Lord Edgar move on properly? What is wrong with Nicodemus?!

This production in its entirety is full of explosive acting. There was nothing but laughs the entire time. I was surrounded since I went to the matinee show with a mixed crowd. There was a smile on every last face. This production from start to finish including a 10 minute intermission is about 2 hours. To be honest I didn’t realize the time because I had to keep watching to be sure I caught the clues.

This is the last week as the show ends on November 23rd. You can purchase tickets here! Be prepared for strobe lights, laughs, some adult content as they are some not so subtle talk that may not be suitable for a younger crowd. I would recommends this for anyone 16 and up with adult supervision!!

I so want to tell you what the actual mystery is but if I did how would you get the full story?! Check it out for yourself!

Curio Theatre is located in Baltimore Avenue and 48th Street. They have a love for acting and do things within the community as far as discount tickets and no student will ever be turned away from a show just because they can’t afford it!! Parking is street parking but let me honest I’ve never had an issue with finding a spot and I’m the type that doesn’t do well with finding great spots on the regular! Get there early you will not be disappointed!

Remember there’s nothing wrong with a man dressing in a dress when he’s acting his but off!!! I loved this! It will make sense once you see it!

Thank you Curio Theatre for having me. Thanks to Carrie Gorn for always making sure I’m in the right place at the right time!

Happy 1st Anniversary Lokal Artisan Foods!!!

It’s a beautiful thing to have a dream. It’s another to take a chance on yourself and literally leap. I met Charisse a year ago at the Philadelphia Christmas Village. She made me the best French Toast bites of my life.

One of a Kind

If there is anyone who knows me from a kid they know I do not like french toast. I might have eaten a piece or most likely a bite to be courteous but you ain’t ever seen me finish a serving like I do these amazing French Toast Bites. They are the most crispiest French toast I’ve ever had. Even with going vegan I don’t even have to miss them because they are vegan approved!

Tenacity

Charisse quit her job to pursue this dream full time. The type of quit where your items are mailed to your home type quit. Not many would or could pull off such a great jump. When I met her at Christmas Village it wasn’t just about a tasty treat. From the beginning I saw someone who believed in hard work and practiced what she preached. She’s a go getter. Someone who doesn’t wait for doors she creates them! You can’t help but be impressed.

Piazza Pod Park

If you haven’t been to the Piazza Pod Park and you live in Philadelphia I have to question what you have been doing. It’s the home of some amazing businesses including the French Toast Bites. The Piazza is my go to for all things fun. They have had an amazing Summer and Fall. Let me tell you what I saw when I went on a random Summer night. I saw Charisse serving a customer with the same vigor as she would a large crowd. I saw a business owner working hard and making it happen. She’s also in school to get her Masters by the way!! I was there attending a nearby event and I just wanted some peace and quiet. The Piazza is where I went and as I enjoyed my French Toast Bites I saw Charisse just grinding hard.

Lokal Artisan Foods which is home of the French Toast Bites, fresh pressed lemonade and the amazing French toast seasonings-yes you can buy it for your personal use at home brand is one to contend. As it expands I plan to follow, buy, and always lend my support.

Today’s one year celebration was one for the books. Guests were greeted by some amazing food, adult drinks and you know I love a good mulled and spiked cider, kombucha, and CBD Delight Drinks!

You know the drill the camera always eats first!

Special shout out to Wild Kombucha! They had some of the best Fall favorite flavors and my favorite was the apple spice!!

Today’s celebration motivated me especially after hearing Charisse pour her heart out! I felt motivated to a thousand! There’s nothing we can do when you push past that place of being uncomfortable!

Shout out to the Piazza for having these amazing fire pits! I loved the s’mores that were made today!

Charisse’s team is hands down the type of team we all need in our corner! We need the ones who run with us and ask questions later! We need the type of team members who believe in the dream just as strongly as we do! Having that type of fire with you makes a huge difference!!!

Made in America

Hearing how she even got to be a vendor at Made in America was super inspiring! Who would have known one cold call and some persistence could open a door?! Not many can say they have spoken on anyone on Roc Nations team but Charisse has and isn’t stopping any time soon!

Anywhere Lokal Artisan Foods is you can count on me with my notebook, debit card, and camera! To many more years Charisse! I’m so proud of you!!!

Follow Lokal Artisan Foods on Facebook so you don’t miss an event!

Follow them on Instagram so you can always remind yourself of the cravings you need and you can get to them ASAP!

Order the French Toast bites seasonings especially with the holidays coming up. This perfect blend will take your French toast to another level!!

You can see where I posted my first video of Charisse a year ago here!

Monday Motivation: Coachability or New Coach?!

It’s another Monday! Another reset! Another week to make better plans and amazing achievements. Time to get focus! Last week we talked about Burn out and this week we need to talk about being coachable!

Being able to be coached is key to any success. No one is just born with all the tools. As a blogger there are other bloggers that I look up to! I am always willing to ask questions. I’m willing to listen AND receive criticism. These are just the basics of being able to be coached. If you think that you can’t humble yourself and get tips to be better it’s a quick down fall coming your way. We all can improve.

It’s okay to be able to ask the hard questions and be willing to receive the answers we say we seek. Some of my blogger friends have sent suggestions my way that I do my best to immediately implement. When I went to the Blogher conference recently I learned tips and tools to make my blog stronger to increase visibility. It wasn’t a matter of “I’ve been doing this for 5 years.” 5 years or 5 minutes I still have the ability to listen and change!

Have you ever seen a know it all? They get defensive the minute you offer a suggestion even they are the ones who asked! They get mean and loud as if what you are giving them means they can’t be better or that you want to tear them down to nothing! Criticism can either hurt your feelings and tear your dream or hurt your feelings and make you better-you have a choice. I had someone say “why you!” That hurt my feelings but it helped to push me not leave me wounded and stagnant! Every last one of us has the ability to coach the next one behind us and the ability to have someone coach us. It should work hand-in-hand.

Don’t let criticism bind you and the gift inside of you. It’s like a person who can sing but allows someone who thinks they can’t stop them. Trust me the gift inside you wants to come out. You can hide for a long time but eventually someone is going to hear you sing and remind you of the gift you keep locked away out of fear of criticism. Being coached is like having someone in your corner being a backbone of love and encouragement! That’s the way it should be. Even if a coach delivers a hard blow it should still feel like love!!!

Coach or Hinderance

I said above that even when you have a coach that has to deliver bad news it should feel like love be careful when you have someone on your team who get joy out of delivering the bad and don’t follow up with love. Tough love is beautiful but it should come from a vessel who has the ability to know the difference between pulling back and going forward. I’m amazing of the amount of people who have people on their team that they KNOW don’t mean them well so they can be seen as loyal. If your loyalty to them is dependent on you taking each and every hit that’s not a coach that’s an enemy in your camp! Clean house! Get these types of folks off the team!

Is your Coach Qualified?

Being able to listen and take in change is key but having the right balance of a coach is equally important. Being coachable also means not selecting a coach based on favorites. Make sure that the coach you believe in your life is also qualified. Would you have a fitness coach that ate wrong, overweight, and showed up when they felt like it lead you to a weight loss journey? Would you allow someone who was known to have public financial problems be your financial advisor? Would you let someone who couldn’t swim teach you to swim? No! Stop letting unqualified folks take you places they have no authority being in. You might not even have a problem being coached you might have the wrong coach in your life. Be clear!

Start this Monday asking some serious questions. Ask yourself if you’re not able to allow someone to help you because you need to humble yourself to receive. If after you deem yourself coachable ask yourself is the coach in your life authorized to take you to a new level? Don’t waste your time only getting the folks who never challenge you to be better. The ones who spend more time breaking you down but not being able to ever speak love into your life.

Dominque Morriseau’s Sunset Baby

I think about those in the middle of revolutions. What about their families? What about the people who they are tasking to uphold? It’s a catch 22. You can be damned if you do and damned if you don’t. How can one fight for what’s right and be there for their own family? Can you win both battles? Who wins?

Sunset Baby is about a daughter and father caught up in lost times and even more distraught relationships. They say political activist are the backbone of the Black fight? Who’s backing them? Who’s helping to keep their families together. Even in today’s terms we see those like Shaun King and the same has to be asked! We see this tortured relationship between Nina and her father Kenyatta. Nina’s mother has written letters upon letters to her father who spent a large part of his and Nina’s life in jail.

Nina has had enough of her ghost of a dad. He wants these letters as token pieces of what he left behind but with Nina’s mom deceased will Nina see the value in him having them. It’s a lot to be said about the relationship between a daughter and father. They choose to pick the men in their lives who in some regards mirror their dad. I watched the way Nina and her boyfriend, Damon interact. How Nina kind of goes through the motions of love but is missing the essence. How much of a hustler Damon seems to be but he’s just as marred. This is why Damon and Kenyatta “see” each other.

Oh and the definition or should I say the evolution of “Sunset Baby!” Nina’s chasing something she believes she’s ever had but she’s had a taste. She wants her life to evolve in such a way that she doesn’t realize its not a small stretch from reality!

This was powerful. There are a LOT of imagery that I took in. I could really write whole essays on them. Just in Nina’s name alone is strength!! Sunset Baby is a must see not just because it’s the perfect backdrop of what many face during the end of the Black Revolution but because it’s a pure blueprint on what’s happening now-political unrest, mass incarceration, and families torn apart. There’s nothing new under the sun and Sunset Baby opens a conversation that we need desperately today!

Azuka Theatre

They are in their 4th season of pay what you decide! It’s a wonderful way to make sure that amazing theatre can be seen by all! Also if you never been to Azuka Theatre located at the Louis Bluver Theatre At the Drake you are missing out. Sunset Baby will be in theaters until November 24th. The production is 90 minutes. Directed by Amina Robinson; playwright Dominque Morriseau -this is an all star cast; Victoria Aaliyah Goins who plays Nina, Steven Wright who plays Kenyatta, and Eric Carter who plays Damon!

Things to be aware:

  • It’s an intimate setting with that in mind, there may not be a chance to seat you after the show starts
  • There is strong language so be mindful
  • Be on time if you need to change your tickets contact the theatre as they can release your unclaimed tickets 15 minutes before the show!
  • There are amazing drinks and snacks/The sponsor for Azuka Theatre is Two Roads Brewing!

Tickets can be purchased here!

Thank you to Azuka Theatre for having me as always I love what you produce! Thank you to Aversa PR!!! Make sure you flood this production. FYI the night I went it was full to capacity don’t wait until last minute for your tickets!!

Blogher Biz 2019 LA

So much energy, truth, and business leveling up took place. As you know I attended the Blogher Biz LA experience and it was just that a worthy experience. I’m not a conference person. This means I don’t go from conference to conferences if I don’t feel like it’s going to benefit me to some degree.

How you start is How you Finish…

Who are you? Erica Williams Simon started the morning helping us reframe this answer. Are we what we do? Who are we? I was moved. I know she was talking to me. To have someone call you and your insecurities out was refreshing. It was at that moment I knew let me dig in! I wasn’t leaving with just a good time. I was leaving healed in some places and with a strategy to make it happen!

Why Blogher Biz?

The Blogher Biz conference was an intimate conference full of bloggers and influencers who are ready to level up. Everyone wants to level up now thanks to Ciara right?! Wrong. There’s a lot of folks who want to level up but don’t do the work and aren’t coachable. The women at Blogher came in with a purpose to level up and I believe it will happen!

What is leveling up with Blogher Biz?

This comes in the form of learning about SEO. If you’re a blogger and haven’t heard SEO than you need to take a step back. Having your blog go to the top of the search board is important. Leaving how to add more headers, have quality pictures, and making your blog more streamlined is important!

Oh and if you need a free plugin that I love use Ink! They are not sponsored by Blogher but I use them and they are great and works with WordPress and easy to use!! They help with SEO!!

Getting the Coins

Blogging can be for a number of reasons. You have me when I first began it was a great hobby and outlet. For some like myself we realize that we can create amazing content and turn it into a full budding business. You need coins to do so. We learned the art of negotiating. How to ask for what we what and not leave money on the table!

We also heard from an amazing panel of financial gurus. The notion that we can’t enjoy our lattes, save and make upward mobility and have the money we need was broken!

From left to right: Nicole Lapin, Sherita Janielle, and Dee McLaughlin; sponsored by Capital Group

Save me Complex

One of the best thing I loved was that the Blogher Biz was located at The Riverter LA. One of the first things you see in the beautiful creative space is this:

There’s no save me complex. Women have always been saving themselves the rest of the world is just catching on. With that in mind I loved Kate Somerville! Kate built her skincare line by the notion of saving herself. She took an idea; didn’t have a lot of capital and went to friends and family to help. Here’s the kicker…she came with a plan. She had it written her what, how, and when. She not only paid everyone back she did it earlier than she originally stated. None of that borrowing and dodging.

Justine Goodman and Kate Somerville

Women investing in other Women

I had no idea about women investing in other women was a thing until I started coming to the Blogher conferences this year. I was delighted to learn from Jesse Draper. Jesse is a venture capitalist of Halogen Ventures. She recalls seeing women owned businesses asking for way less than men would. Men have zero issues knowing what they want and asking and most times receiving it. We as women have to know what it takes. Jesse said the things that stick out to her is someone who knows what they want and is willing to challenge her.

Jesse Draper and Audrey Cleo Yap

Influece Unplugged

A lot of folks don’t want to hear it but sometimes you have to accept free merchandise before you can ask for a rate. It’s not totally unheard of. Once you get to a certain place it’s perfectly fine to know your rate and ask for it. Companies will negotiate with you. Have and make an investment into a great attorney to go over your contracts! Ask questions and know what you are doing and what is expected of you.

Pictured; Pia Baroncini, Lauren Perinchief, and Jennifer Powell

Let me say that Blogher always and I mean always gives the best treats both during and as take home by the wonderful sponsors!

Boost Friends

Hi Boost Friends! We all need Boost Friends! Thanks to Kwanza Jones curator, creator, and investor of IamSupercharged had us on our feet after lunch helping us resift our energy! Making sure we understand how we need people in our lives bringing positive vibes into our lives!!

Tika Sumpter and Karin Gist

We all should be familiar with the show Mixedish! This show follows a mixed couple and their family and the challenges that even in 2019 are prevalent when dealing with race and identity. Tika and Karin shared their passions on how they climbed and still climb in their professions!

One thing about Tika I didn’t know what she was set to go to college and unable to pay her bill she got a waitress job and found acting. Hearing her say that she was someone who wasn’t supposed to be where she was resonated with me. Sometimes life will carry us into our purpose!

Karin has to follow passion even after passion had lead her into some amazing circles! Knowing that success will be defined by you and not by others!

The Future is Female Founded

We learned that sometimes having a degree in finances isn’t always necessary. Shout out to those who do go to school because we need people on the front line too! Google should be your friend. No need to be in this world not asking questions and finding out what you need to make your business pop. Learning to take a chance on yourself is necessary!!! These ladies came with the goods. My notes section of my phone is dedicated to Blogher at this point! I needed my notes to be in retime!

Nicole Lapin, Christina Stembel, Sashee Chandran, AmyAnn Caldwell, Maggie Q

Molly Sims

We know Molly as a model, actress, and philanthropist, but Molly is a super hero to me. More than just the nostalgia of seeing her I resonated with the fact that she’s married and has kids and still killing it! I struggle since often times creatives are younger and younger and often times I’m the mom of the group! However mom or not Molly let it be known being relevant is in how you carry yourself! She’s a force and she encouraged us to take projects that speak to us! Go over contracts and have a plan!

Krista Smith and Molly Sims

I learned sooooo much! I made amazing connections!

Me pictured with Mschurchdress; give her a follow she’s amazing and stunning look at this beauty

Here are my tools for going to a conference like Blogher:

  • Get close-sitting in the back should be because you needed to for things like frequent bathroom breaks or you were late (always better late than not coming)
  • Get social (I connected with more than 30 people)
  • Take great notes (you ain’t come for nothing)
  • Use social media at the same time-this is a learned skill. It didn’t take away from me getting the information-you will be surprised of who notices!!! Trust me!
  • Don’t waste your time-go with intention

Realize when you’re in a Blogher conference the best thing is to smile and speak. I have yet to have a bad encounter with anyone including the organizers who I know by name at this point because I make it my business to make sure I’m seen!

LA owes me nothing. I had a great weekend and though I’m jet lagged at least I’m inspired! I stayed at the Holiday Inn which I will review them separately! Amazing time though and great service!

I also had a great time seeing my family while there! Can you look at this amazing sushi from Rok Sushi Kitchen!!

Here are a few goodies:

Mochi icecream by Bubbies

Amazing flavors and they had the best display! I need like a case for the holidays!!

These by Smart Sweets take my candy craving to a great high! I’m still learning about vegan options that taste great! This brand has ALL my favorites. I’ll be ordering soon!!

What I’m currently reading…

Thanks Nicole Lapin for my autographed copy!!! I’ll be gifting one to one lucky reader soon stay tuned!!

Blogher will always have my support for always supporting women!