Santa List

Today is Santa List. The day that you are supposed to make sure you are on the Nice List. Santa and the elves already know but you have time to adjust yourself accordingly. I know a lot of people do not believe in Santa. It’s a personal preference.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What I love about days like this is it’s about fun of the season. I love days.  I love knowing that there are some interesting ones out there. This is one. Having fun and being light and learning how to smile and being the type of energy the world could use is all things to be aware of. Here is my list of what I  think would get you off The Naughty List.  What are some of the things you could do to get on the Nice List?

Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Make sure you’re nice to those around you
  • Pay it forward
  • Give to others
  • Smile at others more
  • Give towards a charity that you are super passionate about
  • Be the friend to others that you want in return
  • Help another person today and everyday
  • Get rid of anger and negativity
  • Think before you speak
  • Speak kindness towards others
  • Treat someone at the coffee shop to a drink of their choice
  • Pay off someone’s Christmas Layaway (Christmas angels do exist)
  • Do an extra chore or household responsibility of your roommate or partner
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Sponsor a family for holiday dinner

FYI-these are already things we should be doing all the time. But if today you find yourself on that Naughty List, you better find a way to incorporate a few of these suggestions into your life! Have Fun.  As far as I am concerned Larry The Elf at my house reassured me that I am already on the Nice List and I plan to stay on there! Have a little fun with it!

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Christmas Village Experience 2018

So as many of you know I came across the Christmas Village last year doing a Google search for free family fun. I then convinced my family to give the authentic outdoor German Market a try. We were impressed and excited to attend again this year. This year I was invited to take an intimate look at what the Christmas Village really has to offer behind the scenes. This year thanks to the renovations of the Love Park sign, it was even more special!

I was able to attend the opening ceremony to light “The Present.” Thanks to Mayor Jim Kenney who hit it home with his opening speech about giving towards others. This is the season to not just think about ourselves and our families but how we can best serve the people of Philadelphia. The Present is 27 feet in height, well-lit holiday present. It is in the middle of the Christmas Village.  Not only is it visually stunning, its set as a reminder to give to others.  If you are in the area you can give by texting and you will receive a gift tag that can be displayed on “The Present” that is a symbol of what the holiday is all about. You can actively give by doing the following:

  • TEXT PARKS to 501501 to donate to Fairmount Park Conservancy will go towards helping Philadelphia Parks
  • TEXT BOOKS  to 20222 to donate to Welcome America’s holiday book campaign for Parks and Recreation. Every $5 raised will purchase a total of 4 books. 
  • TEXT 80100 to donate to Project Home to help end poverty and homelessness

Inside “The Present”

“The Present is open starting today to the public all the way through December 24th. It’s free to enter and as you can see from the above photos it’s a beauty to see, take photos and walk inside!  I felt like the biggest kid. The colors and lights had me mesmerized. 

So I knew after watching “The Present” light up that I was off to a good start. The first stop on the tour was the German Grill. The open grill had all the best of the German deliciousness. From Bratwurst to Schnitzel, I was in pure Heaven. The open grill is such a delight and the smells pulled me in. I was completely satisfied.  As soon as I got home, I was upset as to why I didn’t take a Bratwurst to go. 

This took me to the second stop on the tour and that was to the open beer garden, The Alm. It’s always a good idea for beer. There are a lot of new items on the menu. Let me also point out for families with young children. This is a great spot to combine adulting and kids. It’s closed in. So this means a lot of play for the kids and drinks for the adults. This year they have a new beer mug. It’s a beauty to behold and you know that the bigger the cup, the bigger the gulp!

As if the beer wasn’t enough, I made my way to one if that’s right one of the wine offerings, German Gluhwein.  It’s a mulled wine. They offer a white and a red wine and both were amazing.

Next up was Käthe Wohlfahrt. This indoor gem blew my mind. This unique shop was full of mostly hand-made treasures. From one of a kind pieces to ornaments and decorations, it was a delight. Note there is no videography or photos for the public. However I was able to get you that inside look. What I will say is this is a must on your stops through the open village. Be careful as some of the pieces are pricey. So if you have little ones just hold their hands. I do believe once they see how well-lit and how beautiful the pieces are, they will spend more time asking questions than running through the store.

Next stop was the The Bacon Jams. I’ve never had bacon jam but today I wanted to buy all of them. These easy to spread jams taste super authentic to real bacon. The flavors were amazing. I tried every last one. From the maple bacon to the honey bourbon! All of them were a treat!

I believe I was turning into a foodie by the end of the night. The next stop was to Sweets where we tried some toasted chestnuts. I’ve never had any before but I was a believer tonight. Be sure if you attend that you make your way. There are other sweet treats as well.

Keeping in line with sweets we make our way to John and Kira’s. This was like chocolate Heaven! I tried for her first time honey bee chocolate made from local honey bee. First of all this gooey treat should be eaten in one bite. It’s honey flavor mixed with chocolate had to be the best that I have had in a long time. We also had some amazing sea salt caramel.

If you ever been to the Christmas Village you are full aware of the Raclette. It’s basically the best cheese I’ve ever eaten, that is melted under a special heated lamp and the cheese oozes onto some of the freshest bread Philadelphia has to offer. I was in cheese coma. Let me say that yes I took one for the team of non dairy, but I ain’t feel not ounce of shame.

For those who love unique cards you must stop at Love Pop. You can get pop up 3D cards. I enjoyed the tour and I plan to grab a few to give to special friends.

Our next stop was Mike’s Hot Honey. We were told that when you taste it, it would be sweet and then bitter and it was true. Mike’s Hot Honey is a spread that can be put on almost anything from bagels to chicken. I enjoyed it. I don’t know if I am getting a cold but if I was when I left I definitely felt like my palette was cleared. 

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Of course we needed something a little sweet so we headed over to Helmuts Original Austrian Strudel. They had your classics like cherry but they also had some that were a definite go back and true such as the meat and pulled pork puffs. They even have a mac and cheese one!  

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One of the final stops before ending with hot chocolate was Truffleist. This is what the name says, Truffle. So between some amazing cheeses and salami, the truffle butter was everything. I mean everyone enjoyed it. They have an amazing selection and to be honest I could eat that truffle butter by the spoonfuls. It was that good. 

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One more goodie before I end, I love hand blown glass. The colors are amazing. So I had to take a picture of the Mouth Blown Ornaments. 

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So the tour was everything and more. You and your family or friends will have an amazing time. I tried to give you a snippet of what it would be like. The only thing that I didn’t see was Santa but you can catch Santa in the Santa Hut for pics starting on the weekends and then close to the season being over he will be there everyday. I would make sure you go and see him if you’re trying to get on the Nice List. 

Special thanks to Philadelphia Christmas Village, the sponsors: Bank of America, Acme, Käthe Wohlfahrt, and Hernnhuter and all of the partners who helped to make this day. Also shout out to all of the amazing vendors who bring the Christmas Village to Life rain or shine. Remember its free to enter and you only pay for the food, drinks, and treasures you find. 

Special shout out to Kory Aversa and the Aversa PR and Events for having me. 

So head on over and grab your kids, your friends, your girls, or your boys and  have an experience to remember!

Hours:
Sunday – Thursday: 11:00am – 7:00pm
Friday – Saturday: 11:00am – 8:00pm
Christmas Eve: 11:00am – 5:00pm

Location:
LOVE Park, 1500 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102

My Thankfulness

I know that is clichéd but the reality is for those who celebrate it, it really is about being grateful.  It’s the one time of the year where you hold all the sour faces would perk up.  We know you can’t control everyone and sadly there will be some who are still going to find a way to complain but when I think and look back on this year that is almost over I have to be grateful.  Please take a moment to realize your blessings.  I know in my family we usually go around the table and tell each other what we are grateful for.  Even if that is not what you and your family does, take a moment to acknowledge your blessings.  Even if you are dealing with the most lowest part of your life and you feel like you can’t have another thing fall, trust me I have been there take a deep breath and hold on.  You are still blessed. There is a lesson in your struggle.  You won’t see it if you aren’t open to learning.  If you take your eye off the problem and find what is that you aren’t getting that you need for your next phase the answer will reveal itself.  Take my word for it.  I have been in things I thought no way I would make it.  I got calm.  I opened my ear and spirit, prayed and the answer came.  Refocus your eyes.

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One of the recurring themes in our home is that we can do nothing of ourselves but everything together.  When it’s just been us 5 we have remained strong in the darkest of hours.  I am grateful for all that HE has done for me and my family.  I am grateful for my little people who keep me grounded.  They are little bundles of joys to be around.  They really are a blessing.  Even if they work hard to do the opposite of what we ask.  They are still our gifts.  I was going over the story of the children in Chattanooga and my heart got so heavy.  If I got a call that my children were taken from this Earth over some dumb, prideful, irresponsible adult I would be losing it right now.  My heart goes out to each and every parent that is dealing with the tragedy of that lost and any loss of a child.  The pain is overwhelming I can imagine.  I had nothing but tears in my eyes as I hugged and kissed my kids last night.  That has to be a hard pill to swallow.

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I am grateful for my husband.  I have seen him take some amazing stands this year in his life, our relationship and as a father.  I can’t even begin to complain about him.  He really is a great man.  He was so super thoughtful and continues to be even with him dealing with his own tragedy this year.  He is still pressing on.  I know his mother would be proud of him.  She loved him more than anything and that’s not just a statement.  As an only child he was her world.  And he honored her until her last breath I can surely attest to that. I love you Marques.

I am grateful to my extended family on both sides.  I am so blessed for my family wrapping their loving arms around us.  They have been such a great support system during all of this year.  The ups and downs and all the late calls and texts.  You guys are the real MVPs.

To my amaze balls friends you guys rock. To be honest my friends are really just family. The ways that you have stepped up this year and have continued to help us in ways that I couldn’t even imagine.  Thank you all!!

Please again count your blessings, name them one by one.

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The Thanksgiving Rush

So I am usually one for celebrating the holidays.  However my days have been super long and I just realized that Thanksgiving is the next week.  We have so much to do with closing out some of the items from my mother in law’s passing that I haven’t really tapped in. Normally his mother would cook until she got to the point where she couldn’t and my husband’s uncle would do all the cooking.  I haven’t heard word on whether or not he will be resuming things so my husband and I will just cook something at home and enjoy our little family. Now if the uncle decides at the last minute to cook, I will still prepare a meal at home because that’s how I grew up.  My mother didn’t care whose house we went to she made her own dinner that way we would always have something to enjoy for later. Remember you can’t go to folks house trying to take leftovers for the week and when you barely lucky to get a plate.

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So either way I find myself focusing on the big day.  I know we are to be thankful for everything all the time and trust me I am but the anxiety of trying to pull a menu together is a bit much right now but I know I will do just fine.  So with that being said I had to dust off a few of my recipes and start my master Thanksgiving list.  You know that no matter what happens somebody will be hitting that grocery store the day before.  I am trying to be one less of those folks.  I will be going this week before the weekend.  I have a lot of events this upcoming weekend on top of some extra cleaning in my own home that I need to work on as well.

So how will I get through? I will try to pre-prep as much of the items I can.  This weekend I will be getting my cookie dough all together.  Mind you I usually do this in the beginning of November but I didn’t have enough time.  Preparing the food that I can earlier such as cutting up ingredients, etc will save me time and stress.  I will start making things on Wednesday.  I am off super early so without the little people in the way I can get one or more items in the oven.  Another way is to have some fun.  My kids love helping me and I will be letting them in the kitchen.  Music will be there as well to get me through.  Not to mention with Thanksgiving means I can start decorating for Christmas and I really do look forward to it.  A little adult juice will be had as well.  So a stop to the state store to get me some wine is in order.  The holidays as stressful as they are at times depending on the situation.  There are some who have no one to spend it with.  A lot of people miss significant members of their family. This year it will be my mother in law and my great-grandmother.  This is the time to call and check up on everyone.  This can be such a low time for some of our neighbors or even the elderly.  If you have a sick member in your community if you don’t want to invite them over pack them up some good treats that they can enjoy.

Call a friend whom you haven’t spoken to in a while.  I know we are an Instagram, text, snap world but people’s voices are just as much important as being on social media.  Call a loved on whom you may have an issue with and work it out.  Let me just say for the disclaimer, since I have so many family and friends that read this I have nothing but peace for all.  I love the holidays and I think everyone should be together but I still also believe that you don’t have to force your feet under other’s table to make a point.  Love is love and love don’t always mean forcing relationships to fit where they don’t fit.  You can however call and be cordial to your family members.

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Also to note, the holidays also start a lot of drama. So for the men and women that are juggling more than one man or woman and neither man or woman knows that they are being juggled, good luck.  You know how this works, whomever you spend your holidays with will feel like the main chick or boo.  You can’t be at the same place at the same time. For my single readers, enjoy your holiday.  I get it you don’t want to be alone but its better to be alone than sitting with the one that is eyeing your cousin and your mom.  I get it. Being single feels like it sucks but everybody in matching outfits and broken smiles ain’t happy.  Also back to families not all families are built like the Cosby’s.  So often times old things come out or things that shouldn’t have come out too.  Don’t mix so much alcohol at these events when you know Aunt Sue going to show her ass.  I mean that literally too.

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Take your time.  Try not to have so much hypness over the holidays.  Be gentle with others and remember the most important part, being thankful for the little or the much you were blessed with .

Evaluate my life when I feel in Shambles…

Self evaluation of your life should happen often.  How often is up to you.  For me I always have a plan so I may look at things weekly if not daily.  It’s not that I am attempting to carry the weight of the world on my shoulder.  For me it’s always keeping things fresh and always working toward my goal.

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Today is national evaluate your life.  So no doubt many will take the time to think about what they are doing and need to do and haven’t done.  Let me say before you cue in the sad choir, that evaluation can take a lot of mental stimulation.  I know there have been plenty of times in my life where I would evaluate my life than I would go into a deep depression. All I could see was the negative things.  It was a slap in the face of what my potential was and what was actually happening.  I would in my mind want to find the ugliest of clothes and just walk around with nappy hair and sadness.  However in the real world while I was in my pity party, life was moving forward.

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I had to go to work for fear of not paying my bills and the fear of having to come home and say to my parents I couldn’t cut it. So even at my most lowest moment when even Ramen noodles seemed like Red Lobster, I had to keep going.  So how do you pick up the pieces of a shattered life or the life that was meant to be but still hasn’t shown up to greet you?

  1. Make bigger tasks smaller.  You have a plan of what you want.  Always know what it will take to make that plan pop and then find ways to make that happen daily.  If you aren’t doing one thing daily towards your goals you are already losing.  Small goals give you a mental relief until the main goal is achieved.
  2. Give yourself a break.  It is true that those who hustle hard win.  However even in hustling there are days when you are burnt out.  You have to find some time to be gentle to yourself.  You will beat yourself up harder than a fight in the boxing ring.
  3. Know that failure is when you stop not when you get knocked down.  If your goal is to workout 3 days a week and you only made it to 2 days, be grateful and try again.  If you allow your mind to have its way next thing you know you are back to no workouts at all.
  4. Focus man.  Yes that’s for the ladies too.  So many times you focus on what others got, what others are doing, etc and you are losing because you keep comparing.  It’s great to find someone who is at a place you want to be. But let’s keep it real you spend more time comparing yourself to people you never want to be like just because they seem to be temporarily prospering right now. All gain ain’t good gain.  Focus on you.
  5. Learn to find an activity that reduces stress. Let me just say that its hard to do that if you are seconds from losing it all. However its important.  I know plenty who are on their seemingly last leg but they ran, walked, journal, listen to music, etc something to keep their wits about them.  Most of the issues we face in our life has to do with her mind. If you can change your mind and how your mind has you seeing the things around you, half the time you can make more happen for yourself.

So today while you are evaluating all that life has thrown and feel like you too are being thrown, take a few steps back.  Do NOT quit.  Quitting is the biggest result of failure.  You could fall a thousand times before reaching your goal and have others consider you as a failure but when you believe it and allow it to happen you have failed yourself.  I know plenty especially in the relationship category could use this nugget.  They date a few frogs and meanwhile their friends are married, engaged, and having babies, so they immediately they cry when is it their time?  One re-evaluate yourself from the inside out.  We spend a ton of time and money on the outside and very little on the inside. Then we wonder why we attract what we attract. If you won’t date you than no one else will.

Take some time to get a plan and work your own plan.  You can’t simply say I want to move out of my family member’s house but didn’t include a savings plan, haven’t looked at your real budget and not your wish I could budget. You have to do all of those things and more. Step out and work your plan.  Be strategic.  I mean winging it hasn’t served you so get more of a definitive plan in motion.

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I have shared this before but let me say it again if you want to win you will.  I watched my mother who had my twin and baby brother and I as she walked us to the sitter.  She then walked to work and then back to the sitter and then we got the bus  home.  If the bus was late we walked.  We did whatever was necessary.  I also remember being in a homeless shelter for women and kids and thinking to myself how lucky I was.  I didn’t know that we were living below our means.  I had no idea that this wasn’t okay.  My mom never allowed us to believe that.  She never allowed us to be ashamed.  She took on that shame.  So now when I see bratty kids or even worst bratty adults who complain I just smile.  I know how to live and make things work when things were at nothing.  Some people around you have no idea of the things you been through that will get you to your destiny.  I am grateful for being on welfare as a child.  I don’t take for granted. Although I don’t have that in my pathway now, I never will get too big to remember those low days.  I remember when I had done some of the worst things in my life and knowing that at the time I didn’t see a way out and everyone was talking and saying I am this and that and how even with all of that I just kept on and keep on going.  The times you had or will have is preparing you for what is to come.  I don’t allow my very blessed children to take for granted what they have.  I make sure that they give back constantly.  Trust me it’s apart of the bigger picture of their life.

While re-evaluating things today, write some things down.  Don’t just keep it in your head.  Ask questions to the right folks that can help you get to where you want to be. Sometimes the life you think you want isn’t even the life you are supposed to have.  Stop forcing a square into a circle hole.  Sit quiet and know that the plan you are forcing may not be working for you for a reason.

Pay it Forward

Paying it forward is another way of giving of yourself, your time, and your energy to someone else.  It doesn’t have anything to do with what’s deserved.  You literally can pay it forward not just today but on every day.

There are a million of ways to pay it forward.  Anyone can do it. I encourage families to adopt a giving spirit in your home.  For instance my kids and I always go through their clothes, shoes, and toys and find organizations that will use the items.  I’ve been pushing that ever since I became a parent with the kids.  It’s super important to recognize the blessings you have and do what you can to help others who aren’t as fortunate.  Thankfully with social media we have seen whole organizations pay it forward.  From customers paying the bill for breakfast and other eateries to others paying off Christmas layaways these little gems help to keep the human spirit going. There are so much darkness in the world, why not be the light?

Here is just a small list of ways you can pay it forward:

  1. Donate your clothes and unwanted but in good condition items to an organization or find someone in your community who needs.  Think about it especially when the seasons change parents are scrambling to find clothes, give.
  2. Pay for someone else’s meal.  You never know the situation.  You may find that the individual or family you were paying for really needed a touch from a stranger.
  3. Offer to babysit for a single mom in your community.  Raising kids is hard and there are a lot of overworked single parents who could use a break and a helping hand.
  4. Invite or make dinner for a family.  That is time-saving and will allow a family to reconnect.
  5. If you have a gift or service such as doing or cutting hair, mechanic, etc why not offer your service free to a person or family that may really need it.  Not everyone is blessed with these luxuries.  Offer them the chance to look good or have their car up and running so they can continue to get to work or get to that next job interview.
  6. Make box lunches or breakfast for the homeless or make woman packages that helps women who are homeless or displaced the ability to keep their dignity during that time of the month.  Nothing is worst than having to use paper towels or paper napkins and trust me you would be surprised of the many women who are forced to these means.
  7. Tutor a young person.  Education is key and it’s not that all of our youth aren’t interested it could mean that they just need someone to pay them some attention. Helping them become better students will empower them to be more cautious of themselves and build a lasting relationship.
  8. Spend some time with the elderly. Do you know of many elderly who live alone and do not have anyone to help them get things like medication etc.?  There are many. We know of many n our own communities and yet we don’t offer to help or check on them.
  9. Mother’s Day is around the corner and many new moms don’t have a support system.  You may know of a new mom in your church or job, offer to make meals.  Meals is a great thing since often times we forget to take care of ourselves because we are so engulfed in the new baby.
  10. Collect books to be donated at area schools where books is scarce.  In these times I’ve seen more copied handout of papers than books.  Many schools in poverty-stricken areas do not have access to a large amount of books.  We all have a few books that our children have outgrown.  Start collecting them and bringing to these schools.  Giving the gift of literacy will be the stepping-stones to many kids future.

As you can see this is such a small list.  I’m sure you can be more creative in finding ways to lend a helping hand.  It doesn’t matter if you know the ones you are helping or not.  All that matters is you are doing the very thing to give back to others.  So what will you do? Pay it forward!!

 

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday or “day of ashes” is the start of the 40 days to Easter where one decides to fast, give up of one self, give up bad habits or sins.

Where the ash comes in is that ash represents repentance.  So it’s really a time for reflection.  Although observed by most Catholics, the thought of giving up sins can be extended across the board.  Most people give up things like chocolate, alcohol, and junk food to name a few.  I admonish or encourage you to give up things that will make you a better person in addition to something physical.  Let’s try taking gossip, lying, etc that will help your overall person.

So what will it be?  What are you willing to give up?  What about them secret sins that only you and God knows about?  Reflect on your inside and make the dedication today.

Here are a few things you can do to celebrate or participate in Lent:

1.Alcohol seems to be one of the most popular things that people give up.  That means NO alcohol or alcoholic beverages.

2.Sex-Sometimes married couples participate in this.  There are a few things to consider. One if your partner is not on board than that’s not fair at least to me.  One if you ain’t giving up anyway on a regular basis this can be used as a cop-out. So walk a straight line with this one. If you’re unmarried and not in a committed relationship this would be a great thing to clear your mind and body too.

3. Negativity.  This is going to be hard for some.  This may have been on the top.  This means you have to be mindful of you to be honest.  It takes more work to crack down on negative words, complaints, and destructive behavior than people like to give it credit.

4. Tearing down your mate.  This is something that could go with number 4 but the reality is the one you sleep with and are trying to make a life with ALWAYS has a way to get under your skin so therefore sometimes focusing on building your marriage will be beneficial in the long run.

5. Shopping.  Yes only getting what you NEED.  This is hard.  That means no Target runs, etc and only getting groceries and those essential needs.  After the season of Lent not only will you have discipline but you will also have saved yourself a few dollars.

The response is endless.  This is a time to self reflect and get your life right.  To me it doesn’t even matter if you are super religious or not.  Getting focused and stop a bad habit is something we all can use.  Also replacing some good things in the place of the bad things is essential.  For instance if you aren’t shopping during Lent, than maybe you can go through your home and give in the place of buying.  If you are not tearing down your mate, than put a special note somewhere different everyday to build their love jar.  If you’re not drinking alcohol than replace that with drinking water and watch your body thank you.  If you’re not having sex maybe you can put intimacy in its place.  Intimacy is not about sex and can teach you how to be loving in different ways. Taking negativity out can be replaced with self-love and finding ways to be more loving towards others.  So what will you do?  If you say you have nothing that you can do, I would call your bluff.  The best way to know is go home and ask the ones that live with you to give you an idea.  They can come up with plenty, pick one and do that.