Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Need Ideas for Valentine's Day? Top Ten Things To Do in BrandyWine Valley @visitbrandywine #TravelTuesday #BVFoodie

Brandywine Valley, #BVFoodie

Stuck for Valentine's Day Ideas? How about you both toss aside the drugstore flowers and chocolates in a tin for something a little more upscale, something that will allow you to leave the 'day-to-day' behind and take time focused solely on each other.

I had the chance to take a Food and Wine Bloggers Press Trip/Media Familiarization Visit to BrandyWine Valley, and thought I'd share a top 10 list of things to see and do, and ideas on where to stay of course!

This City Mouse/Butterfly enjoyed the charming Pennsylvania Countryside where I got to sample great food and wine, hit the sites and the shops and experience some time away from my crazy hectic life in New York City. While PA is not that far from NYC, I felt like I was a world away - and I mean that in a *GOOD* way!

The last time I visited Pennsylvania was on a church bus trip to Amish Country! I was super young (maybe I'll post an 'adorkable' Throwback Thursday if I can find those photos!), but I do remember it being such a stark contrast to my life in NYC. This trip brought me back to that first one. Especially while we were on the road and passed two young ladies horseback riding! (I so want to do that on my next visit! I have been horseback riding since I was very young, and it is one of the things I try to arrange to do when I am on personal/vacation travel.)

Where I stayed:

I stayed at Mendenhall Inn located at 323 Kennett Pike/Route 52, Mendenhall, PA - those of you following this butterfly on Instagram got to see my Instagram post showing my room and the neat swag that was waiting for me upon arrival! If you are not yet following Ascending Butterfly on Instagram, make sure to remedy that right now! (Sometimes Instagram Photos happen way before the full blog recap does so it's a fun way to share in what I am doing in the moment).

Mendenhall Inn, BrandyWine Valley, Press Trip, Room Interior, Swag Bag, Travel, Lifestyle Blogger
Room at MendenHall Inn
During our visit, there were several events/happenings going on at the same time (including several wedding parties!) and I have to say I was amazed at the fact that I didn't really hear any noise in the hallways. They also did offer breakfast, but as I was on a Press Trip, Breakfast was already planned for us and so sadly I didn't get to try Breakfast at the hotel. But everything looked great! It was a little crowded when I peeked in so I didn't get a chance to nab my own photos. (I didn't want to be that creepy lady with the DSLR snapping random photos of people eating breakfast! LOL) They offer Eggs (with or without cheese), bacon, sausage, sausage gravy, biscuits, make your own waffles or pancakes, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, bagels, juice, coffee or tea. The hotel has quite a rich history and great overnight package specials that also include admissions to local attractions.

Mendenhall Inn, BrandyWine Valley, Press Trip, Room Interior, Swag Bag, Travel, Lifestyle Blogger
Swag Bag Upon Arrival!

By the way I had to share that I made Shrimp Puttanesca with the Puttanesca sauce from my swag bag when I got back home and it was really GOOD! 

What you might not know is that Brandywine Valley is a destination for Exotic Mushrooms, hence the mushroom kitchen towel that was included in our swag bag! It is behind the Breakfast in the Brandywine Valley Book so it might be hard to see. (It is currently being displayed proudly in my kitchen now as I love cooking with mushrooms - I hear they have a mushroom festival in BrandyWine Valley and I may have to time my next trip out there with that festival).

BrandyWine Valley, Press Trip, High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge, historical West Chester, Pennsylvania, Menu, Appetizers, Entrees
High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge Menu


We arrived in the late afternoon and headed out to Dinner at High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge in historical West Chester, Pennsylvania. Bringing a taste of my favorite place NOLA to Pennsylvania - they offer Cajun, Creole and Exotic Cuisine (Creole Fusion) that is truly delicious, but it's actually one of the 'cocktails' that rocked my world! I had no idea that what my Margaritas were missing in their life was BOURBON! Yes Bourbon!

BrandyWine Valley, Press Trip, High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge, historical West Chester, Pennsylvania, Menu, Appetizers, Entrees





































The Bourbon St. Margarita at High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge was my favorite on their specialty drink menu it contains: Milagro Silver Tequila, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, OJ and a splash of sour and Bourbon. It really kicks a traditional margarita up in notch not just in terms of 'punch'/'kick' but flavor as well!

BrandyWine Valley, Press Trip, High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge, historical West Chester, Pennsylvania, Menu, Cocktails, Cocktail Menu, Bourbon St. Margarita Signature Specialty Cocktail
Bourbon St. Margarita Signature Specialty Cocktail
Needless to say I had to get a close up of it!

We were a party of Four and ordered a few Apps to share and different entrees and like the good Lifestyle Bloggers that we are, we stopped to take photos of everything! We also split everything - so we could 'taste it all'. Tough job my butterflies, but somebody has got to do it! :)

BrandyWine Valley, Press Trip, High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge, historical West Chester, Pennsylvania, Menu, Appetizers, Entrees


Alligator Sausage Entree, High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge
Above: Alligator Sausage - 'exotic cuisine' on the menu at High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge


Blackened Red Snapper, High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge
Above: Blackened Red Snapper (tasted as good as it looks!)


Lobster Ravioli with Blackened Sea Scallops, High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge
Above: Lobster Ravioli with Blackened Sea Scallops

Dinner Entree, High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge

Jambalaya, High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge
Above: This Jambalaya was definitely a taste of New Orleans!

Creme Brulee Dessert, High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge
Above: I always ask for Creme Brulee for dessert, even if I don't see it on a menu! It's one of those things I enjoy having when I am out but never make for myself! (Much like with Lava Cakes and Cheesecake too!)

Cheesecake Dessert, High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge
Above: Cheesecake! The good thing about ordering different desserts in a group is you get a taste of everything!


Proprietor of High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge, Donny Syracuse
Above: Proprietor of High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge, Donny Syracuse
Boxcar Brewing Co., Boxcar Brew Pub, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
ABOVE: After High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge we hit Boxcar Brewing Co. for some music and live entertainment!
Boxcar Brewing Co., Boxcar Brew Pub, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
I love that Boxcar thinks local!
Boxcar Brewing Co., Boxcar Brew Pub, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Boxcar Brewing Co., Boxcar Brew Pub, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie, Cider, WIne

Boxcar Brewing Co., Boxcar Brew Pub, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie



Boxcar Brewing Co., Boxcar Brew Pub, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: Looks like we arrived right on time for live entertainment!


Boxcar Brewing Co., Boxcar Brew Pub, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie, Mango Ginger Pale Ale




































Above: I ordered the 'Mango Ginger Pale Ale' - The sweetness of the Mango with the crispness of the Ginger made this a beer to remember!


Boxcar Brewing Co., Boxcar Brew Pub, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie, Upstairs Bar
Above: Shot of the upstairs Bar

Hanks Place, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
















Above: The next morning we bypassed Breakfast at the hotel and hit Hanks Place, had to nab a shot of this sign that reads: "Hanks Place Where Hungry People Eat and Friendly People Meet'.

The sign couldn't be more true, a great breakfast and great laid back vibe with very friendly people! I enjoyed Hanks Place and definitely recommend them.

Hanks Place, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie




































Above: I love the warm welcoming entranceway!


Hanks Place, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie, Breakfast, Steak and Eggs
Above: This steak and egg breakfast was just what the Doctor ordered after an evening out!


The Artisan Exchange, Indoor Farmers Market, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: After Breakfast we hit The Artisan Exchange.


Farm and Garden Flowers, The Artisan Exchange, Indoor Farmers Market, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
The Artisan Exchange provides an affordable space for the exchange and discovery of local, sustainable, hand-crafted foods by some of the Philadelphia area's best artisans. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me. As a digital entrepreneur I have great respect for my fellow creatives and loved the idea of a space where so many different types of businesses were able to reach a wider audience. And how one vendor would always recommend another when it matched your interests or complimented what you were purchasing. I got lost in the candle section and took a few home because I loved so many of the scents!

Firehouse Donuts, The Artisan Exchange, Indoor Farmers Market, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: Sweet temptations on display from Firehouse Donuts! Founded by lifelong fireman and EMT, Kevin Carney to raise funds to benefit his local fire company.


Chicken or Pork Burritos, The Artisan Exchange, Indoor Farmers Market, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: Wish I hadn't been still stuffed from Breakfast, the burritos looked good!

Meat Sampler Tray, The Artisan Exchange, Indoor Farmers Market, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: Sign reads: "Ask me about the samples today. Also please don't grab with fingers"



Heirzoom Bakery, The Artisan Exchange, Indoor Farmers Market, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: Another fun stop was the booth of Diane Holtaway of Heirzoom Bakery who displayed her Fennome Pastries - an heirloom Hungarian Pastry Recipe that had been passed down in her family for generations - I'm pretty sure you could actually taste the love!


Veronica's Doggie Delights, The Artisan Exchange, Indoor Farmers Market, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: There was even something for your loyal doggie furbaby - Veronica's Doggie Delights offered up Beef & Cheddar Twist and Bark-A-Que Twist, and Grain and Gluten Free Products for Dogs as well.

Wynnor Farm, The Artisan Exchange, Indoor Farmers Market, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: Wynnor Farm in their own words 'is a working relic in Chester County, Pennsylvania with fun for all ages.' While we didn't get to actually visit the farm personally I do know they offer a corn maze, pumpkin picking hayrides, pedal Kart Races, they sell 100% wool yarn spun from their own sheep's fleeces (little known fact about me, I used to crochet when I was younger),  and they also sell Turkeys for Thanksgiving as well.


Rebecca's Dumplings, The Artisan Exchange, Indoor Farmers Market, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: Rebecca's Dumplings - Rebecca Li Jordan's family recipe became so popular among family and friends that a business was born, varieties include: Gluten Free Pork, Gluten Free Vegetarian, Bacon Egg and Cheese Dumpling, CheeseSteak Dumpling (I wish this sample had been available that day I have a weakness for Philly CheeseSteak!)

Chocolate Sea Salt, Mompops, The Artisan Exchange, Indoor Farmers Market, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Chocolate Sea Salt Flavor Mompop




Above: While the price is not 'free' Mompops are FREE OF: Gluten, Dairy, Peanut, Soy, GMO Free, Low Calorie, NO Additives, No Preservatives, No Concentrates, are 100% Vegan AND Kosher! oh did I already say they taste good too? :)


MacDougall's Irish Victory Cakes, The Artisan Exchange, Indoor Farmers Market, BrandyWine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: MacDougall's Irish Victory Cakes are made with all-natural ingredients, they buy ingredients from local farmers and use eco friendly and 100% recycled packaging. Their 'Massie's Sweet Butter Cake' utilizes their Great Grand Dad's Award-Winning Recipe - golden eggs, sweet butter and dairy - fresh from the farm (and a 'wee' bit of whiskey that is baked in) you add your favorite jam and fresh whipped cream. These were SO GOOD!

I spent so much time talking to the artisan I bought the candles from, I neglected to take pictures so when I light them I will take photos  and post them!

Below: After The Artisan Exchange, we were on to Levante Brewing - We got a chance to try one of their craft beers when we got there which was a nice way to unwind after power shopping at The Artisan Exchange Indoor Farmers Market. Shopping makes a gal thirsty!

Brandywine Valley, Levante Brewing Co., #BVFoodie
Levante Brewing Co. 










Brandywine Valley, What's on Tap, Craft Beers, Brews, Levante Brewing Co., #BVFoodie
Above: Get a load of what's on tap!


Brandywine Valley, What's on Tap, Craft Beers, Brews, Levante Brewing Co., #BVFoodie, Elevate Your Craft, The Writing is on the Wall
Above: "Elevate Your Craft" - the writing is on the wall baby!


Brandywine Valley, What's on Tap, Craft Beers, Brews, Levante Brewing Co., #BVFoodie, Elevate Your Craft, The Writing is on the Wall, Eric Gillard
Above: Eric Gillard of Levante Brewing led us on a tour of the Brewing Company and the facilities.


Brandywine Valley, What's on Tap, Craft Beers, Brews, Levante Brewing Co., #BVFoodie, Elevate Your Craft
Above: A peek at where Levante makes their craft beers


Brandywine Valley, What's on Tap, Craft Beers, Brews, Levante Brewing Co., #BVFoodie, Jack Daniels Barrels
Above: Levante uses Jack Daniels Barrels which helps to impart a unique flavor to their brews!


Brandywine Valley, What's on Tap, Craft Beers, Brews, Levante Brewing Co., #BVFoodie
Above: #BVFoodie Crew in front of Levante Brewing Co. I wish it were warm enough for just a cardigan right now! :-)


Brandywine Valley, What's on Tap, Craft Beers, Brews, Levante Brewing Co., #BVFoodie
Above: We had a brew on the way in and one after the Brewery Tour, there were folks playing Jenga others at the bar and I really liked the laid back vibe at Levante. (and it's proximity to The Artisan Farmer's Market can't be beat!)


Talula's Table, historic Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Brandywine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: This leg of our itinerary was like sensory overload! Great Breakfast at Hank's Place, then The Artisan Farmers Market, Levante Brewing Co. and then we hit Talula's Table for a meet & greet. Talula's Table is a gourmet market in historic Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, a sort of modern 'general store' that offers specialty foods as well as imported goods from around the world.

Talula's Table, historic Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Brandywine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: Check out the assortment of tasty scones! Mixed Berry, Pumpkin, Cranberry Orange White Chocolate - YES, PLEASE!

Talula's Table, historic Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Brandywine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: From sweet to savory, Talula's Table has a little something for everyone! I just wish there was already 'smell-o-vision'!

Talula's Table, historic Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Brandywine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: I LOVE a good sourdough bread! The best I have had was in San Fran, good to know there is some closer  to me than the West Coast!


Talula's Table, historic Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Brandywine Valley, #BVFoodie, honey on display, pumpkins, rooster, fall



sole propietor Aimee Olexy of Talula's Table, historic Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Brandywine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: Talulah's Table co-owner and sole propietor Aimee Olexy also shared a bit with us about her 'Farm Table Dinners' which literally book 4 months in advance, this Chef's Table dinner offers an 8 course Tasting Menu ($108 per person) and you bring your own bottle ($25 Corkage Fee per table) there are no modifications made to the menu, which you can check out HERE before you book. If you can't visit PA anytime soon, you can also shop Talulah's Table online! I for one have my eyes on the 'grande gourmand' and 'truffle love' gift baskets!


The Whip Tavern, Pennsylvania, English Pub, Horse country, Brandywine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: After Talulah's Table it was time for a late lunch at The Whip Tavern - a traditional English Pub in the heart of Horse country (hence the two young ladies on horseback I saw on the way there!).


The Whip Tavern, Pennsylvania, English Pub, The Tavern Sandwich, Horse country, Brandywine Valley, #BVFoodie
Above: I ordered 'The Tavern Sandwich' A Thick Slice of Smoked Ham on Crusty Bread with Brie, tomato, and spicy honey mustard with crisps (that's chips for my fellow yankees, LOL) I started with the Mushroom Soup, my photo came out, but I'm not sure it really did it justice which is why I left it out! :-) (If I were 'superman' brie would be my cheese kryptonite - I definitely can't resist it!)


Chaddsford Winery, Brandywine Valley, 632 Baltimore Pike, US Route 1, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie
Above: Wine Selection for tasting at Chaddsford Winery. 632 Baltimore Pike (US Route 1) Chadds Ford, PA - 610.388.6221

Let's just say a day that offered both a brewery tour and a winery tour definitely required being fortified well, so it's a good thing that we ate well that day! :)

Chaddsford Winery, Brandywine Valley, 632 Baltimore Pike, US Route 1, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie
Above: Time for some serious tasting!


Chaddsford Winery, Brandywine Valley, 632 Baltimore Pike, US Route 1, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, 2013 Proprietors Reserve American White Wine
Above: First up a lovely 2013 Proprietors Reserve American White Wine


Chaddsford Winery, Brandywine Valley, 632 Baltimore Pike, US Route 1, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, 2013 Chardonnay Barrel Select
Above: Second up was the Chaddsford 2013 Chardonnay Barrel Select


Chaddsford Winery, Brandywine Valley, 632 Baltimore Pike, US Route 1, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Chaddsford 2013 Proprietors Reserve American Red Wine
Above: Third Wine on the tasting menu was the Chaddsford 2013 Proprietors Reserve American Red Wine


Chaddsford Winery, Brandywine Valley, 632 Baltimore Pike, US Route 1, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Chaddsford Winery Club Series Red Wine
Above: The Fourth Wine we tasted was the Chaddsford Winery Club Series Red Wine (I wish it had been NY Yankees of course, but I have to admit it was good!)


Chaddsford Winery, Brandywine Valley, 632 Baltimore Pike, US Route 1, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Chaddsford Winery Sunset Blush
Above: The Fifth Wine on the tasting menu was Chaddsford Winery Sunset Blush.


Chaddsford Winery, Brandywine Valley, 632 Baltimore Pike, US Route 1, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Chaddsford Winery Spiced Apple Wine
Above: The Sixth Wine turned out to be the biggest surprise. Chaddsford Winery Spiced Apple Wine was a totally pleasant surprise. While I do like apples, I didn't think I would like a Spiced Apple Wine (I am NOT a Spiced Cider fan) so when I tried this and I really liked it I was totally surprised. I immediately imagined all the ways I could integrate this into my cooking, particularly pork dishes.


Chaddsford Winery, Brandywine Valley, 632 Baltimore Pike, US Route 1, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Chaddsford's Holiday Spirit
Above: The Seventh and final Wine is Chaddsford's Holiday Spirit. I thought it was great to be able to try out their seasonal variety in addition to some of the more standard wines you expect to try at a typical tasting.


Terrain (an URBN INC shop), Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie
Above: Outside shot of Terrain (an URBN INC shop)

Our day was eventful to say the least, so we got a little down time between the winery and our late dinner at Terrain.


Terrain (an URBN INC shop), Terrain Cafe, Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie
Above: Terrain's picturesque outside gives way to a warm interior, with seating that gets you very close to your neighbor.


Terrain (an URBN INC shop), Terrain Cafe, Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Bread served in Planter
Bread served in a Planter!
Above: Honestly you just need to taste this bread to find out why it deserves its own hi-res photo, yes it's THAT good!


Terrain (an URBN INC shop), Terrain Cafe, Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Scallops served on Cedar Plank
Above: OK so if you haven't figured it out yet I'm a bit scallop obsessed! Drooling yet?


Terrain (an URBN INC shop), Terrain Cafe, Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Fruit, Cheese, and Nuts tray
Above: This Fruit, Cheese, and Nuts tray was perfect - Terrain (like Tallulah's Table) is BYOB by the way!


Terrain (an URBN INC shop), Terrain Cafe, Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Duck Entree
Above: I ventured out of my seafood comfort zone and ordered the Duck.


Longwood Gardens, Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Plants, Flowers
Above: Since the day before was jam-packed it was a nice way to end our journey with lunch and a tour of Longwood Gardens.

There are things I consistently take pictures of while traveling - things that probably don't make much sense to anyone else - doors, doorways, pathways, churches, any building with 22 or 222 as a building address and so when I saw this door I had to stop and nab a photo. This fits with my 'zen' vibe perfectly!

Longwood Gardens, Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum, Miracle of a Thousand Blooms, Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Plants, Flowers, Garden, Gardens, Gardening
Above: I took a picture of the sign so I could remember, it reads:

"This is the largest plant of its kind ever grown outside of Asia.

This Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum has more than 1,400 equally spaced flowers blooming on a single plant. Out of the hundreds of cultivars of chrysanthemums, only a few are suitable for growing to this size.

Our horticulture experts have trained in Japan to learn the intricate secrets of growing the Thousand Bloom. From a single stem cutting, it has taken 17 months and more than 1,500 staff hours to nurture and train this single plant into a perfect blooming dome."

Longwood Gardens, Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum, Miracle of a Thousand Blooms, Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania, #BVFoodie, Plants, Flowers, Garden, Gardens, Gardening
Above: Isn't the 'Miracle of a Thousand Blooms' beautiful?

I have a ridiculous amount of photos from Longwood Gardens alone, so I'll save some of those for a Wordless Wednesday series of photos when it's a bit closer to Spring.

MY TAKE:

What I loved about this trip is how well each experience flowed into the next, great food, great spirits, great people, great venues and great company, we were a small group which I was incredibly grateful for. I know the assumption is that bloggers are wildly social and love to 'live out loud', but some of us are actually pretty shy and the bigger the group the more intimidating it can be at times so for me having a small group made it much easier to socialize and not feel totally worn out at the end of the day!

It was the one-on-one interactions with proprietors like Donny Syracuse of High Street Caffe & Vudu Lounge and Aimee Olexy of Talulah's Table that really stood out. Would I have loved those venues as much if I hadn't met them? Definitely, the passion they put into their establishments show through in the service and the quality and caliber of the meals. I love that they both wanted to bring the things they most loved to where they are. Vudu Lounge is such an amazing taste of New Orleans, the food was great so was the service and the vibe was comfortable and familiar - as a New Yorker because a lot of our restaurants raise the bar in that way, but I have also visited the beautiful city of New Orleans and it was fun getting a feel for being on bourbon street in Pennsylvania. If Donny's name sounds familiar he traveled the world playing with "Arcade" (Ratt and Cinderella) opening for Bon Jovi so it's not uncommon to see Tour Buses outside Vudu Lounge! Had Bon Jovi been out there that night I probably would have been totally star struck.

In stark contrast was Talulah's Table, it was more of an equivalent of a lower Manhattan/Village Vibe.

Boxcar with it's live entertainment and craft beers was fun also.

All the venues embraced a strong 'farm-to-table' culture which I truly loved.

There were a few excursions I didn't get to experience that I would love to go back for - Wintherthur, Herr's Snack Factory Tour and I definitely want to go horseback riding the next I am there.

If you are looking for an amazing Valentine's Day Weekend somewhat 'off-the-beaten' path, Brandywine Valley has got you covered!

Readers Sound Off: Which of these ideas appeal to you most for Valentine's Day? Is it a cozy weekend at an Inn? A Wine Tasting? A romantic Dinner? (And if you are single like me, make it a girls weekend with your single friends! or as the interwebs is calling it #GALentinesDay)

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FTC Disclosure:  This is NOT a monetarily compensated Post, however the trip was sponsored by BrandyWine Valley for Editorial Consideration. All opinions are 100% my own! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255 - Guides Concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, you may check our Giveaway and Disclosure Page for additional information regarding Ascending Butterfly Disclosure.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Why I am wishing you the exact same #MercuryRetrograde that I just had! Musings I deal with #Blizzard2016 #Snowzilla


The planet Mercury goes Retrograde three times per year for a 3 week period of time. A period of time that is said to wreak havoc on communications (Mercury is the Communication planet), a time where you are NOT to sign a contract under any circumstances, a time when electronics go haywire, or worse still you may lose them as during this time period people are prone to losing stuff, and by no means should you accept a job offer (you are to try and stall the offer and sign AFTER the retrograde period).

I am wishing you the exact same Mercury Retrograde I experienced this time around with specific examples of why I was successful:

(1) When people gave me that "I don't understand you look" or if I said 'Purple' they said 'Yellow' - where it was important they understood me I repeated the same thing in so many different ways - with patience - that eventually they got it. Problem Solved.

(2) When I got those annoying email pitches from PR Reps and Brands asking me to publish a press release, host a review or giveaway in exchange for product - where I normally responded with a Media Kit and ask specifically what their budget was - or better still asked them if they got paid in the product they are pitching if they were snippy - I did this with some and when I got a response saying 'other bloggers would do it' if I won't - Again this is where I normally would tell them go ahead and reach out to those bloggers then - this time I responded all month with this simple and poignant sentence - "I can offer you quality work, I cannot offer you free work." - Not one PR person had a 'snappy' comeback for that sentence - not one. This is how I will always respond to requests for free use of my time and publishing space. It is simple, effective and doesn't appear to allow for rude retorts. Yet another problem solved.

(3) Since 'Losing Things' under the influence of a Mercury Retrograde can also be 'electronic losses' I was sure to back up files and save work in progress after every sentence - annoying? A bit perhaps but no articles got lost mid-way. And any writer who has written a full article only to watch the screen go blank and not have the work come back can attest to just how horrible an experience that is. You can NEVER re-create the work the same way it was first written. So hit save often while you are writing - In my opinion, not just during Mercury Retrogrades as precaution but all the time.

(4) I did experience some electronic snafus - apps that just stopped running - un-installing and re-installing did the trick for most. and for some reason I did have products die on me - a television and an electronic device I purchased for someone as a Holiday Gift (both purchased WAY before the Mercury Retrograde oddly) - I didn't lose it like I might have in previous retrogrades. I dealt with each problem one by one. I untangled each tangled thread individually. Some took more time than others, one I am still working on. As an Aries I like tackling issues head on, it's just the way I am. I am beginning to see Mercury Retrogrades as a cold or flu - like a cold or flu forces you to 'shut down' for a few days - a Mercury Retrograde is sort of a cold for the spiritual you that sometimes need a reminder to slow down, re-trace your steps, be careful.

By the way, Jupiter is also Retrograde!


My Take:

The reason things worked out differently for me during this particular Mercury Retrograde is because I handled the situations differently. I managed my reactions differently (not so easy for an Aries with Scorpio Rising to do), and in doing so experienced different outcomes.

Our 'problems' are as much a 'perception' as our blessings are and when we react to our 'perceived problems' in a new way we will experience different results.

Because I learned to weather the 'Mercury Retrograde Storm' I have very little fall out to deal with.

And now that the 'cosmic climate' is coming close to being back to 'coast is clear' I am ready to take on what is going to be a very new year for me in so many ways.

This may be my favorite of all 'keep calm' photos:



Call to Action/Readers Sound Off: How did YOU fair during this month's Mercury Retrograde? Was yours frought with arguments, mis-understandings, electronic snafus, losing things or other forms Retrograde Chaos? How did you handle those situations?

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FTC Disclosure: All opinions are 100% MY OWN. This is NOT a Compensated Post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255 - Guides Concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, you may check our Giveaway and Disclosure Page for additional information regarding Ascending Butterfly Disclosure.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

{#WordlessWednesday} Snowglobe {#Photography} #LifestyleBlogger

Did you miss my coverage of the annual New York Botanical Garden Annual Holiday Train Show? If so, see more pictures HERE!

Have you ever owned a Snowglobe?

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FTC Disclosure: All opinions are 100% MY OWN. This is NOT a Compensated Post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255 - Guides Concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, you may check our Giveaway and Disclosure Page for additional information regarding Ascending Butterfly Disclosure.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Last Chance for the @NYBG Holiday Train Show + they will be open for the long weekend! {#Photo Highlights}

This is NOT a compensated post!

Tshirt in New York Botanical Garden Gift Shop - Holiday Train Show 2015
Looking for a fun way to spend the long weekend? If you are based in New York City I would highly suggest the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show which will be open on Monday. The show is family friendly and the model trains zipping past a display of 150 famous landmarks - each painstakingly re-created with bark, leaves and other natural materials is sure to delight the entire family.

This weekend is also the last weekend you can catch 'Bar Car Nights' (which is the adults only evening version of the show that comes with a complimentary cocktail/beverage) - fun date night idea, and not a bad idea for those singles who are ready to mingle either - you never know who you will meet while waiting in line for your cocktail at the bar. (If you hold magic in your heart and allow 2016 to enchant you, it surely will).

There are new trains and tracks this year as well as a short film of the show's behind-the-scenes magic, a multi-sensory finale of light and sound. 

The grounds are like a winter wonderland spread across 250 acres with musical performances, fire dancers, ice-carving and Evergreen Express Activities for kids in the Adventure Garden.

Not based in New York City? No worries, I've got you covered with Photo Highlights!

Above: Fire Dancer - New York Botanical Garden

Above: Fire Dancer, New York Botanical Garden

Above: Fire Dancer, New York Botanical Garden

Above: Fire Dancer, New York Botanical Garden

Above: Fire Dancer, New York Botanical Garden

Above: Fire Dancer, New York Botanical Garden

Above: Fire Dancer, New York Botanical Garden

Above: Ice Carver at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York

Above: Ice Carver at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York

Above: Ice Carver at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York

Above: Penn Station Replica (created using Natural Materials) at New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show

Above: Phillipsburg Manor Replica at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York

Above: Radio City Music Hall Replica at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York

Above: Highland Gardens Replica at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York

Above: Grand Central Terminal Replica at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York

Above: Stadium Replica at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York

Above: Trans World Airlines - TWA Terminal at John F Kennedy Airport Replica at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York (See the airplane on the left of the terminal, isn't it cute?)

Above: Enid Haupt Conservatory Replica at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York (Had to love that nod to themselves, we were in the Enid Haupt Conservatory enjoying the Holiday Train Show!)

Above: Macys Replica at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York - There is an exclusive contest going on at NYBG to win a Macys Gift Card, so be sure to look for the sign and enter the contest!

Above: Union Station Replica at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York

Above: Wave Hill House Replica at New York Botanical Garden 2015 Holiday Train Show, Bronx, New York

I took TONS of photos so I will create a Pinterest Board for this one soon and come back and post the link to it here.

DISCOUNT:

Buy your tickets online and save $5 with code 9101 on tickets to the last Bar Car Nights on January 15th & 16th

MY TAKE:

As a New Yorker and Bronxite, the New York Botanical Garden is sort of like 'my home away from home' - I visit there often enough! Between taking in The Orchid Show, the Frida Kahlo Exhibition this past summer and now the Holiday Train Show, it amazes me how much they transform the space! I enjoyed the Train Show - it was definitely more crowded for the bar car night that I attended than I expected, so leave enough time to get there so you can enjoy your entire session. There is SO much to see!

Speaking of The Orchid Show, the 2016 Orchid Show is almost here, and we will be hosting another giveaway for Orchid Evenings at the Garden right here, so please stay tuned, that giveaway will launch VERY soon! I definitely recommend the show as a Valentine's Day Date idea or even girls night out if you are not sharing Valentine's with a special someone this year.

Are model trains a part of your holidays? Have you ever been to the Holiday Train Show?

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FTC Disclosure:  This is NOT a compensated Post, All opinions are 100% my own! Passes to the Holiday Train Show were provided for Editorial Consideration. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255 - Guides Concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, you may check our Giveaway and Disclosure Page for additional information regarding Ascending Butterfly Disclosure.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What Legacy Will YOU Leave Behind? Why these words of tribute to #DavidBowie resonated with me so strongly

Of all the social media posts about David Bowie's Passing, this one, by astrologer Jonathan Cainer, is the one that resonated with me most:

David Bowie receiving his Star on the Hollywood Wak of Fame, Getty Images
David Bowie receiving his Star on the Hollywood Wak of Fame, Getty Images
"I was 15 year when I went to a concert, in Bradford, expecting David Bowie - and got Ziggy Stardust! This versatile genius embodied the old astrological adage: 'In each full personal birth chart is the potential to express every sign.' He had the drive of an Aries, the voice of a Taurean, the wit of a Gemini, The empathy of a Cancerian, the swagger of a Leo, the observant eye of a Virgo, the charm of a Libran, the certainty of a Scorpio, the aim of a Sagittarian, the integrity of an Aquarian and the fluidity of a Piscean. This Capricorn reached within, found every hidden talent and became a starman." ~Jonathan Cainer

David Bowie and his wife Iman at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards in New York City 2002
David Bowie and his wife Iman at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards in New York City 2002, Photo Credit: Suzanne Plunkett/Associated Press
He was a musician, artist, husband, and father who influenced, art and fashion as well as music. This is an amazing tribute to him, and makes you think:

What will be said or written about YOU when the time comes? What legacy will you leave behind?

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FTC Disclosure:  This is NOT a compensated/sponsored Post, All opinions are 100% my own! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255 - Guides Concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, you may check our Giveaway and Disclosure Page for additional information regarding Ascending Butterfly Disclosure.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Is 'Cause Marketing' becoming the 'Stray Dog of the Internet' - something you have to stop feeding for free? #MotivationMonday

This is NOT a Sponsored Post.

Photo Credit: Steam Driven Media
Blogging seems to be the only industry I have ever worked in where people assume it's OK NOT to pay at all for the services they require or suggest that a barter of product suffices as payment. Social Good and 'Cause Marketing' are beginning to feel like that stray dog that you are warned never to feed under any circumstances.

And this is coming from someone with a Print (remember Newspapers? 'The Blogs on paper" that melted on your fingers when you read them) background as - get this - a 'Human Interest Reporter'. I went on to Television News writing and then did a brief stint for several Magazines before joining the 'Digital Influencer' side of the journalistic house.

My blog began in 2009 (I was actually Ghost Writing for a few brand blogs before then), and the first week we launched a simple empowerment post with an affirmation it got on the radar of a well known celeb - one whose roots began in Music and has become pretty much an empire - he re-tweeted that post. Simple enough right?

That simple 're-tweet' got picked up by his fellow celebs and was re-tweeted so often they temporarily broke our server.

Very much a blessing. One I was NOT prepared for. I got bombarded with un-solicited press releases and requests to 'run giveaways' and post what amounted to 'advertorials', with no compensation for me because the info was just so 'valuable' and 'informative' that my readers would LOVE it they assured. I scoffed. I have a strong communications background, a degree in mass media communications and these emails were nothing similar to the ones I received when I was in print or television. Not at all similar. I hid and was 'PR Free' for the first year of our launch. Those were the most blissful 365 days of my blogging career.

Then along came a household brand who had pitched me the whole time, invited me to events and really wanted a way to be presented to the community I worked very hard to build. I knew full well I needed to be careful in how I partnered with brands. It's why I avoided it for so very long.

This brand was persistent, they make products I actually use in my home daily and spent a year really reading my posts - most likely because I refused to snatch the dangling carrots.

They finally presented a charitable initiative. A very worthy one.and asked directly how we could partner.

Alas, my 'Good Heart' became both a blessing - and to an extent - a downfall. I enjoyed partnering with the brand. I certainly enjoyed helping them help a worthy cause. Doing good fits well with an Empowerment Blog that is run by a Life/Career Coach.

But don't cue the music and don't ride off into the sunset. Yet.

It opened up a flood gate of  'do me a favor' emails. A ton of 'why did you it for them and now won't do it for me?' questions that I face to this day.

I now have to tell them what I tell brands that pitch me other things:

When underwear brands pitch me about creating content or running a free giveaway in exchange for their underwear, I ask their reps pointedly 'Do YOU get paid in UNDERWEAR'? and when they reply 'No, of course not' I reply 'Why should I?' - Most have no answer. One agency rep forwarded my email to his entire agency with the subject - 'Who does this little bitch think she is?' I was 'accidentally' copied. Within minutes I tweeted the agency's owner and let them know I could post our email exchange and show their reps exactly who 'this little bitch' is. Needless to say they didn't want that to happen and I will never partner with their atrocious agency.

Sadly I now have to tell folks who pitch me 'Cause Marketing' something similar - I can't quite pay my bills with my 'good heart'. I can't give every cause free advertising just because it's a good cause. And the hard part is I have a background in Human Interest and Empowerment. That will always be 'my beat/my thing' but that does NOT mean I am REQUIRED to do anything for free.

It's an even bigger pet peeve of mine, when the rep will look at my site and tell me since you haven't posted for a day I thought you were in need of 'content'. I live in New York City where there are thousands of trade shows, theatres, art, and multiple events DAILY - I also Life Coach, run a Social Media Consultancy and mostly blog during 'Graveyard Hours', I will never lack content and at any given time - I average 14K in un-read emails on a 'good day'.

These lessons in Blogging and Cause Marketing have prompted me to take on ONE major pro bono cause per year and devote myself specifically and entirely to that cause, which I can opt to change the following year so that more Not-For-Profits can have a voice that are scrambling to get heard over the Social Media noise out there. I was raised by a very philanthropy driven family, and was taught that giving of time is as valuable if not more so than giving money, but the problem is - there is only finite amounts of time that one can afford to give away.

That means I have to turn others down and I refuse to allow myself to feel guilty for doing so. This is a business, I have always treated it that way. If you approach me like I am a 'hobbyist' - you are doing us BOTH a huge dis-service.

Call To Action/Soundoff:

Bloggers how do YOU approach Cause Marketing on YOUR Blogs? Readers, how do you feel about Bloggers 'feeding the stray dog'? Is it like any other 'advertorial' to you or does it make you truly explore the cause a bit more?

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FTC Disclosure:  This is NOT a compensated/sponsored Post, All opinions are 100% my own! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255 - Guides Concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, you may check our Giveaway and Disclosure Page for additional information regarding Ascending Butterfly Disclosure.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

{Now Playing} Is @JoyMangano a Cicada? I ended my year with JOY, @JoyTheMovie that is! #JoyMovie #Movies #Cinema

The last movie I got to see in 2015 was a SAG Screening for JOY The Movie, so I like to say I ended my year with JOY!

Happy New Year Butterflies! While I did post to social over New Year's Eve, this is my first official Blog Post of 2016. And being the Ascending Butterfly that I am, I wanted to start with something inspirational that focuses on an Entrepreneur whose products are probably already in your home.

Joy (the Movie) which was released on Christmas day, is based on the true story of Joy Mangano, the Miracle Mop Inventor and entrepreneur.

The weird question I open this post with - Is Joy Mangano a Cicada? - is actually based on one of the most poignant moments in the movie. In the scene, Joy is reading to her daughter about Cicada's, which live and mature underground anywhere from 13 - 17 years in total before they emerge. - She painfully realizes that is exactly how she feels and where her life is at. (This butterfly can certainly relate to sometimes feeling like I am still very much trapped in the cocoon and ready to bust out!)

At this point in her life, her ex-husband is still living in her home, her mother who was an almost recluse hiding from life in her bedroom since her husband left her, Joy's children and then her philandering Father who comes back to home to live with her (brought to her door by the mistress he left his wife/her mother for by the way) and her job opts to change her shift to nights as they are making 'cut backs' - needless to say at this point she is under a tremendous amount of pressure. That kind of intense pressure and *ish* that makes you re-think every choice you've ever made, wonder where are you going and how much longer you can go on with circumstances the way they are. You know, 'the little stuff''.

ABOUT:

JOY is the wild story of a family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, pave the road in this intense emotional and human comedy about becoming a true boss of family and enterprise facing a world of unforgiving commerce. Allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy's inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces. Jennifer Lawrence stars, with Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Elisabeth Rohm and Dascha Palanco. Like David O. Russell's previous films, JOY defies genre to tell a story of family, loyalty and love.

"I want you to remember something, because a lot of times people get nice things and they start to think differently, we got here from hard work, patience and humility, so I want to tell you, Don't ever think that the world owes you anything, because it doesn't. The world doesn't owe you a thing." ~ Joy Mangano, JOY The Movie

TRAILER:



MY TAKE:

I am curious as to why this bio-pic was released while the real subject is still very much alive and well. Bio-pics are tricky enough when the subject has passed, nevertheless when they are still alive.

It is not the most flattering depiction of her family that's for sure with a few exceptions - her grandmother (played by Diane Ladd), and surprisingly her ex-husband (played by Edgar Ramirez) prove to be her truest allies as well as Neil Walker of QVC who gave Joy her first shot in the home shopping television retail experience (played by Bradley Cooper) . But her mom (played by Virginia Madsen), dad (played by Robert De Niro), half sister (played by Elizabeth Rohm) and Dad's Girlfriend (played by Isabella Rossellini) were more of a hindrance than a help and there is one scene in particular that made me want to smack her Dad AND his girlfriend;s teeth out their face! (So I guess they were playing the part quite well! LOL)

A surprise stand-out was Melissa Rivers who played her mom Joan in the QVC scenes, it was so spot on it was almost eerie! And I have no doubt her mom would be proud.

But while the story was compelling, I am sad to say that I don't feel this was Jennifer Lawrence's best work. You would think 'Katniss' could pull off playing a strong woman who overcomes the odds against her to build her own empire (I mean really right, sound familiar?), but she doesn't. Jennifer didn't do the role any justice in my opinion. It felt like she was 'walking through it' and I wasn't quite sure if it just didn't resonate with her, but she kind of has this vapid, valley of the dolls type of expression on her face most of the movie that didn't really fit what was happening to the character. Joy went through some deep lows to get to her ultimate high, a high that from what we see at the end is a bit bittersweet, and Jennifer just didn't convey what was happening in a way that hit home.

As this is a bio-pic, even in my 'pro film critic' days (have I mentioned how that was one of my favorite times ever as a professional writer?), I can't comfortably give a review on this movie - this isn't a ticket or skip it type of movie - this is a true story that is still un-folding, I can only comment on the acting and how the family on the whole is portrayed in the film. I wish Jennifer would have put the life she puts into her performances in the Hunger Games movie franchise into this movie. Katniss isn't real, Joy Mangano is - and in many ways she is just as tough as Katniss - but Jennifer just doesn't give you that.

The movie is an inspiration to all entrepreneurs, Joy overcomes tremendous odds - both from the outside world and her inner own circle and fights hard to achieve her success. And even in the face of financial ruin, picks herself up and goes to bat again, while the movie was released over Christmas it is such an empowering story that it's perfect to catch this first week of the New Year when you are pumped up, armed with your list of goals and resolutions and raring to go! (I may be singing along to Mary Mary's Go Get Your Blessing Right Now!)

What female entrepreneur do you most admire and why? Do you own a Joy Mangano Product? (I love her huggable hangers and I haven't yet tried the Miracle Mop but I would like to!)

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FTC Disclosure:  This is NOT a compensated/sponsored Post, All opinions are 100% my own! Advanced/Press Screening Passes Provided for Editorial Consideration. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255 - Guides Concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, you may check our Giveaway and Disclosure Page for additional information regarding Ascending Butterfly Disclosure.