Philadelphia Zoo and Chase presents: LumiNature

What do you do when you mix the holidays with one part light show mixed with interactive galore? You have LumiNature. This 12 zone adventure will light up your world allowing you to create the most magical experience you didn’t know you needed…until now!

I try to keep my blog life separate from my family life but last night I mirrored the two and it was the best mix of both worlds. I’m the biggest kid but having my actual kids and niece was the best thing I’ve done all week! So let’s dive into this exhibit. The Philadelphia Zoo has invested a lot of time and effort to make this brand new exhibit into a dream. FYI like I had to explain to my kids this is not the time to visit with animals. This is apart of but semi separate fun. So if you have tickets for the Zoo you will need to get separate tickets!

Without giving you all 12 zones I’m going to give you my top 4 zones and why I loved it!! Tickets to the exhibit is timed and can be purchased online here! Parking prices can be seen there as well.

Wonder of Slumber

This is at the very entrance of the Zoo! It’s airy illuminated flowers are extremely magical. Here is the pic of when it was still some daylight available:

Here is the picture of it in its nightly glory!

It’s visually stunning. Also keep in mind as you guide your way through the zones there are interactive things to touch and play. There are also actors who are dressed and of course in lights to make it a night to not forget. Have your camera or phone ready!!

My kids with the lion doing their best ROAR!

Northern Lights

This is where the big show is. You get to meet Polaris the 35 foot polar bear who brings you into dancing and awe. The shows are timed at about every half an hour. You are going to want to be front row and center!

You can see a snippet of Polaris in action on my Instagram stories or in my highlight at More Philly! This show has some of the classic holiday and dance songs you will love to hear. It was nothing but smiles and awe from start to finish! Trust me you and your guests will absolutely love it!

Flamingo Fancy

This is one dazzling exhibit. It’s pink is so illuminating and I wanted to stay here for some time. Just take a look:

Hand crafted flamingos make up this beautiful tree! Even the walkway to it is stunning!

Peacock Spectacular

You can turn yourself into your own peacock! Peacocks are always known for their beautiful color and last night was no different!

There were a lot of extra things to see along our journey!

Since last night was the grand opening, the Philadelphia Zoo and Chase had a media and friends opening party!

Great food, hot chocolate bar, chocolate wine aka hot chocolate with wine, a regular bar and a great parting gift!

You will not be disappointed! Make LumiNature your new addition to your holiday plans. The light exhibits are out of this world. 2019 has been a great year for the Philadelphia Zoo. From the new additions to the park and upgrade food, LumiNature is your go to for memories and all of the feels!

Valentine’s Day Message

I would like to say Happy Valentine’ Day to all who celebrate this holiday. Sending you love and peace today and everyday.

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To my husband, I love you! Another year of love to push through this life with! To want to still wake up and pray with you and push you to being your best self as you do the same! To wake up feeling safe in body and mind-I don’t take that for granted. To know you are being honorable in a world of Futures……….thank you!

To my children, mommy absolutely adores you! Y’all turn up to that candy so y’all can turn down at bedtime so mommy and daddy can drink our wine and fall asleep on the couch!

To my friends and family, have a loving day!  Some of my best points in waking up to text messages of encouragement from dope friends who are out here trying to be whole and happy is the best!

To my readers, I send you abundant love!

To my single readers and friends-I know today is hard. You question your when.  It hurts and its okay to say it hurts. People will tell you how you should feel and how to process today. I say process it in a healthy way.  Process it in your way! I get it. I used to wake up and decorate my apartment and watch all of the girlie romantic comedies, go out on dates or hang with my family or friends. Night was hard especially if you feel or don’t have anyone to hang with.  It will pass but it doesn’t change the depth of feeling you feel today! I understand!  Sending you an extra genuine dose of support!

Valentine’s Day Snub

This day can be so super dramatic. Between the movies that make it bigger than life. So often, we even I get caught up in this day. What I think is important is to be honest about where you are and your expectations.

When my husband and I dated in college he really outdid himself. Without even having to say anything he really did a good job. Before him I really was blessed to date and whomever I dated just naturally got it right. I love holidays of all kinds. I love the art of celebrating. It breaks up life. It gives you small victories to look forward to. So for me it’s another celebration. It’s not just above saying well as a married couple he should show love so this one day doesn’t matter. I post holidays of all kinds and everyday I get excited to find a way to celebrate one of those holidays so Valentine’s Day is one as well.

I used to not be so vocal in my love for the day because everyone would make these claims of how commercial they were. As a preachers kid holidays depending on which ones you celebrated were deemed wrong. As I came into my own, I realized how happy celebrations made me feel. So I don’t allow others’ feelings to fall on me. I won’t allow people to say that a commercial holiday doesn’t matter. I’ve heard it all from what if your husband wasn’t able to make the day special?! How is that possible when he and I can make heart shaped cookies and watch a movie feel special?! End of day I enjoy his presence and I enjoy celebrating these types of holidays with him. It’s a perk of having him in my life.

So there’s never a Valentine’s Day snub for me. Although I understand that some don’t feel the same as I do or as blessed as me in regards of having someone to share the day, I don’t want to snub my feelings to appease others. I can have empathy without dissing my own love of the day!

I respect everyone no matter where they are. There were many years that I spent with family, by myself or just with my girlfriends. Some years in my singleness I felt fine and other times I was heartbroken. Admit where you are. Own it! But be okay if you like me love these love holidays!!!!!

Mature Love

Let’s face it with the wave of reality television society obviously loves drama. We thrive on. We take it in.  We gravitate towards it. In the last 2 years I have taken on a journey to dismiss a lot of the drama in my life in the form of television and media. In addition to that in the last few years I have eliminated drama in my personal life and especially in marriage.

I think about the wonder years of college. Here I had come from this small town and I had recently been holding on to my high school sweetheart. I was so torn on keeping up this relationship but happy to start this new adult life. With limited time I ended one relationship and set out on a journey to find myself. In the midst of finding myself, I found a new relationship. In the beginning I kept telling myself to keep my options open but I fell hard and heavy with this tall glass of water who I later would end up marrying and having a family.  Oh the relationship goals I hear people speak of when I post my beautiful family is encouraging.  It encourages my husband and I to honor each other more and to be the example to ourselves and children.

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Let me dip my baby toe into the early years when we weren’t as gracious in relating to one another as we should. The drama and fights and break ups to make up were really out-of-pocket. My college years were filled with too much of it.  Our friends God bless their hearts had seen their fair share. From me moving off campus, to not being able to go down the street without a fight, goodness. Yes not anything physical but all that ratchet yelling could have made a lot of this reality television look like Elmo’s World. We were in love and I will speak for me unable to handle and know what adult love was supposed to look like. The cursing each other out, seeing or attempting to see other folks (depending on who you ask), acting a fool in public, breaking up and making up and not telling others, just exhausting to write let alone live. Back in the day it seemed like a whirlwind. It seemed normal. Everyone on campus knew we were toxic and out-of-pocket. Just a mess!

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Separating and allowing space and time and for me to honestly deal with some inner struggles led us back to each other. People think we just woke up one day and decided to give this thing called love a try. We were tested in that love several times almost ending our marriage. What turned things around from college and marriage was living and learning about myself. Finding out what worked for me. I found out my passions. I had learned to live with myself enough to not allow someone else to come into my space that wouldn’t allow me to be me. This allowance has come up several times in our current marriage. The ability to let your partner balance their lives with you is necessary. One day in our car we were at the point of divorce, he looked at me and said, “are we in or out?” He said if we are in lets stick together and make it and if we are out, lets find a way to be honorable with our children.  He looked me in my eyes and I knew he wasn’t playing.

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We at that moment lived by our mantra” us against the world.” We had stated that mantra in college but it solidified with me and him that day. That was at least 2 years into our marriage. There are no cute pictures you can take when two people have kids and are literally walking around like hateful roommates. What picture can you show when you are at the point of no return?  what picture can you show when you have enough and only doing the bare minimal?  So I always go back to the picture below.  When we were happy and made the decision to love each other forever. The time where we were so in love that nothing before that mattered and now nothing after should be to the point where we can’t work together.  We are willing to be with one another and this picture reminds me to take a mental break, wait for an answer, love despite of, and go back to the basics of what makes us, us!

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We don’t have the answers. We live each day but we know what works for us. We were friends first. We have “truth moments.” We give each safe space to be vulnerable.  We are learning to listen and talk to and not at each other. These are things that we learned in counseling the first months of our first year! I stepped out what we should be in our marriage and looked at the value of what we are able to make and hold on to when disaster hits. We are stronger together because we still want to be teammates in this thing called life.  As holidays like Valentine’s Day comes we love love or at least I who loves all holidays love these and any love related holidays, but to know that we are working through things and have matured beyond the college days is a miracle of staying the course! I want to leave a highlight with you, don’t think you have to struggle to get to this great point. If you can avoid it, please do so. Know yourself before you enter any relationship. The best thing is to work on you, get counseling before considering dating because uniting with a person can be a trigger in itself, and be clear about boundaries.  I am not glorifying bad behavior.  You can have healthy love. I am glad that we did the work to get to where we are. Nobody wants that perfect love story, but our love story is perfectly fitting for us!

Ask Toi: How much is too much for a first Valentine’s Day?

I would say rule of thumb spend what’s in your budget.  Do not over spend for any holiday.  Also since it’s your first one I would focus on something that you heard your partner talk about, likes, etc. So if you heard they like to run, maybe a gift card to their favorite running gear store. I can’t say what I would spend, I know my average for a first time Valentine’s day would be 75-100.  It’s a lot more money involved when spending for a man in my opinion.  So that is where I would keep it. I have been known to spend on my husband when we were in college dating. But again, clothes like a sweater of high quality cost more back in the day and that was before I was doing online shopping etc. Do not feel obligated to purchase anything that you will regret. I always asked myself while shopping for a new love interest, if we broke up on February 15th how would I feel about the purchases?  If you answer is clear your spending amounts will be clear too.

Monday Motivation: Christmas Edition

As the holidays are exactly 8 days away one of the things that I have changed is not waiting until the last-minute for everything. I have a few things to do but I am not allowing any of it to get under my skin. For that I am grateful. I know the holidays aren’t about giving gifts or receiving gifts as much as it’s about be a blessing to those around me and spending time with my family and which is my personal choice to celebrate the birth of the Savior.

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I am not allowing the hustle and bustle of the season to make me crazy.  I am not going to spend time getting into countless arguments over stuff that I know that I can’t change. I know I can manage my time. I know I can prepare things early enough to be sure that things are the way I want them.  I know that beyond preparing for the actual day of Christmas is about preparing for the kids to be on break. Finding them activities that can be done in and out of the house that won’t break my budget.  These are the things that I am allowing to motivate my week. I don’t want to be sitting around upset or making myself vulnerable to mindless arguments over who should be doing what and when.

Be intentional about your thoughts this week. Your to do list will get done in tine. Do what you can and what can’t be done, don’t max out cards to do it. Don’t stress your life so that you are going more and more into debt and pain in the New Year. Do not do more for folks if it isn’t coming from a good place and a good heart. I have cut out a large amount of spending by focusing on the kids in my life. That doesn’t mean I didn’t get any adults but I definitely didn’t try to get all of the adults I know. Balance is my focus. My motivation is keeping the spirit of fun in my thought process. Playing with my children. Making time to watch movies with them. Making sure that I bake with them. Not worrying about material parts alone. Some people really lose it trying to keep up with the Jones’s.  Don’t let that be you. There are a million things to be celebrated. Families coming together that were torn apart, checking in on the elderly, seeing strangers smile who might have been so down that the holidays seem like a joy kill to them, serving the less fortunate, any and everything can be seen through different lenses. Do not loss that focus as you wrap gifts, prepare food, and set out outfits.

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This week, choose joy. Choose to see the good in this already evil world. Choose to be grateful for what you have and the little you may think you have may be someone else’s portion. Choose to be happy that you have the ability to make decisions that affect your life. Choose to smile more. Choose to be kind to others around you. Pay it forward. We need to hear more stories of others doing for those around them than taking. Let’s hear it this week for making sure you check in on others. There is a lot of pain that comes in with the  holidays too. As much as I love celebrating, I know that some folks are hurting. Some folks are experiencing high levels of pain, death, grieve, etc. My heart goes out to them. I have been praying for more people who are in these situations more and more as the holiday gets closer. Think of those people around you. Motivate your Monday and week to the things that matter that don’t have anything to do with price tags.

Keep your mind and heart clear. Sending you love as you go into the home stretch of this week!

Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market

I had the elite pleasure of taking the tour of the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market. This was my actual first time! Now like the Christmas Village, it’s an open air market. It features delicious foods from of course Philadelphia. It also features artisans, designers, crafters, with gifts under beautifully designed tents.

So as we began the tour the first stop was at Philly Sausage. It features two sausages the Italian Market and the Philly Sausage. Amazing doesn’t even describe the way my tastebuds felt. The cold began to be less frigid as soon as that warm sausage hit my tongue. They were excited to be out there and welcomed us with warm arms. Trust me we needed it!

The second stop was of course to the Beer Garden. Nothing warms me like alcohol. With three different flavors to choose from it’s a match made for everyone. I of course tried the Lemon Meringue IPA that had the highest alcohol content. Judge your mother it was cold. It’s super tasty! You definitely need to try it!

We enjoyed the Deck the Halls Light Show sponsored by Independence Blue Cross. An electrifying display of music, magic and lights all covering City Hall was an absolute delight! I loved the part when as we watched people didn’t just watch and filmed, they also sang along!

The fourth stop of the night was at Popcorn Obsessions. 80, yes that’s right 80 flavors of out of this world flavors. I highly recommend the mint chocolate, peppermint stick, and the chocolate cookie dough. They were sweet perfection. This goes outside of the normal flavors you would find at a local spot. They have sweet to savory flavors! You will not leave disappointed

So by this point I’m happily jittery as we took a walk to the Winter Garden sponsored by TD Bank. This garden has seating for those who want to enjoy their beer. Speaking of beer, at Dilworth the new treat this year is not being restricted to drink only in the garden. You can drink your beer while you walk and shop. The only place you can’t is within City Hall.

I absolutely loved the Winter Garden. It’s visually stunning, plenty of seats to enjoy your drinks, and the reindeer grass displays were super cute.

Now one of the highlights was stopping at Lokal Artisan Foods for the French Toast Bites. Now I know everyone loves French toast however if my French toast ain’t crunchy I don’t like it. This French Toast changed my perspective. It was deep-fried and the owner, Charisse McGill made my French toast bites with love. Have you ever met someone who just had that IT quality?! She’s it. She’s personable, passionate, and makes French toast tell a pancake to get down!! I was impressed and I look forward to seeing more in the future from the whole company. PS she quit her job 3 weeks ago and went from punching a clock to walking in her destiny. I can’t wait to watch her story unfold.

One of the jewels of the night was Gourmet Creations. These spreads which we tried on pretzels can be used on various foods. I tried just about all of them and the highlights for me was the chocolate raspberry and the Cheddar Ale.

On our next stop we made our way to Cynful Bliss. This is a mobile alcohol and non alcohol infused desserts. Now yes I love my “adult juice,” but this was more than that. The passion that was shown through the product is a hit for the holidays and beyond. I had “Greed.” It was peach cobbler and peach brandy. What I loved is anyone who makes desserts with alcohol knows alcohol will burn off during the process. However they add more than enough to have a shot in a glass with premium alcohol. I’ll be ordering some for the family. Who doesn’t like desserts? This was the perfect combination. You can have your cake and drink it too!!

Who doesn’t love cannolis? I know I love them. We had to include the stop to the Cannoli Cafe. Fresh and sweet. I loved it.

Nothing says the holidays like cookies. Our stop at Picket Fence Confections was a pure delight. Homemade and beautifully decorated they were a sweet treat. Kera puts her heart into her creations. These cookies are fresh and amazing. I had the apple cinnamon oatmeal cookie and it was the perfect mesh of perfectly paired ingredients as well as it was one is the softest cookies I’ve had in a long time.

After all of that eating it was time to take a ride on the Carousel. As cold as it was and as much as we thought we would be too cold to enjoy it, our inner kid came out immediately as soon as the ride started. How could it not?! Everyone loves the fun and excitement of a carousel ride. Grown folks riding around, smiling, and laughing made us forget for seconds that we were in under 40 degrees.

So off to Penn Potato Fries. Amazing chicken and fries. It was well worth the wait. They didn’t just have it pre made. It was made while we waited. We were able to talk, ask questions, and dance along to Christmas music but once I ate the fries and chicken immediately I knew that this was a stop we couldn’t have had passed up.

Since the Holiday Market has something for everyone I was even able to stop at Piggy Back Treats to grab a treat for my furry brother Sammy. These are human grade treats for dogs and cats. Definitely don’t forget the pets in your life. These treats can be delivered locally and mailed. Get your orders in soon to guarantee before Christmas.

Now to end the night well at least food wise we stopped at Woops. Woops is the macaroon of macaroons. All kinds of flavors to choose from and I highly recommend the mint chocolate. The only issue is which ones to choose from.

One of the last highlights outside of the Rothman Orthopedics Cabin is of course the Ice Rink. Everyone of all ages enjoying a night of skating, smiles and some of the best Christmas music!!!

So if you love food, you’re covered. If you love beautiful one of a kind gifts, you’re covered. If you want to gather your friends and family for a good time for the Light Show or Ice Skating, you are covered. What’s not covered is getting all of this for too much longer. Be sure to get out and leave the hustle of the holidays and make time for fun!!

With all of the holiday options you got to make sure you don’t miss any of it. Stop by the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market!!