Things to do

  • The Gang’s All Here for the NYC Downton Abbey Exhibition

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    Downton Abbey may be long over *tear* but that doesn’t mean you can’t relive every moment from the show. And no I don’t mean reruns on Amazon Prime, though that’s a great place to start. What I mean is, what if I said you could actually step inside of Downton Abbey? No, I’m not talking about the actual castle, although that too would be a show lover dream destination. But no, what I really mean is some genius (who deserves a raise), had a brilliant idea to bring Downton and all its aristocratic prestige to America, despite the Dowager Countess of Grantham’s and Mr. Carson’s objections. Cause, of course, they would be the ones to object.

    As an obsessed fan of the show, I had to go and it did not disappoint me. As a matter of fact, it gave me an all new appreciation for the show all over again, but more specifically the history of the period, costuming and the lives of aristocrats.

    Join me as I give you a quick tour of the Downton Abbey Exhibition in New York City. Since I can’t talk about Downton without the theme music I’ve included it for your musical enjoyment.

    The First Level

    Upon entry, you’re greeted by none other than Mr.Carson. He welcomes and shades you in true Mr. Carson fashion. Then you enter the lower level service area and this is when you realize you’ve entered Downton.

    Because you’re downstairs the first room you will enter is the kitchen. The sights and smells allow you to imagine all of the delicious meals that are prepared for Lord Grantham’s family. The only thing missing is Mrs. Patmore in your ear telling you to get a move on cause the bell board is ringing.

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    The Second Level

    After you leave the service level you come into the main area of Downton. At the center of it is the famous dining room table. This is where the Grantham’s dine for all of their meals. I don’t know about yall but I consider the table is a silent character. This table has been at the center of many jaw-dropping moments.

    The table is large and it’s place settings intimidating. There’s a fine art to English dining and one wrong misstep you’ll give yourself away as an American. As Myka Meier, an Etiquette Expert owner of Beaumont Etiquette explained, pinkies up in England is a dead giveaway that you’re an American. The proper way to sip tea is to grasp the handle between your thumb and index finger and your remaining fingers are tucked under for cup support. And if you’re wearing lipstick sip from the same spot so you don’t have lipstick all over the cup. For more information about the courses Myka offers click here.

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    The Third Level

    This is where you’ll see iconic pieces from Downton’s most memorable episodes. This includes the wedding gowns worn by Lady Mary, Lady Edith, and Lady Rose MacClare, as well as leisure wear, formal dining wear and uniforms worn by the shows main characters.

    All of the costumes displayed come with background and scene information. There’s even historical information relating to life (across all stations) during the early 20’s in England, fashion, and how aristocrats were expected to carry themselves.

    Examining the costumes (from a close distance) is how I spent most of my time. The detailing in the stitching, overall designs and how they’re coordinated together are impeccable. It’s truly a sight to behold and made me feel like I was right back in the original scene.

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    The Dowager Countess said it best, “You’ll find there’s never a dull moment in this house”, or in this case the exhibition. I’ve been twice and there were things that I saw on my second trip that I didn’t see on my first visit. There’s that much to see, far more than what I shared with you here. Thankfully this is a walking tour so you can take your time exploring, learning, and being amazed.

    The exhibition runs through September 2018, and after that, I don’t know where it’s headed. So if you love Downton Abbey and find yourself in NYC you need to add this to your must-see list.

    Have you been to the Downton Abbey exhibit? What was your favorite part?

    *FYI: I was given a complimentary ticket for my second visit to the Downton Abbey Exhibition for the purpose of this review. This post also contains Amazon affiliate links.

    Cover image credit: Downton Abbey

  • Here Are 10 Tips for Navigating & Surviving CurlFest

    curlfest mommyrandr valerie pierre #curlfest

    This was my first time attending CurlFest hosted by Curly Girl Collective, and I had a blast! But, it was quite overwhelming. There were thousands of people there. Literally wall to wall Black Girl Magic. You walk in and everything is grabbing your eye. You want to go to every corner to see and do everything. But it’s impossible.

    I was there from 12 to 5 and I didn’t see a fraction of everything there. But that’s okay. The experience of being there was well worth it. But next year I will be ready, and so will you if it will be your first time attending.

    Here are my Top 10 Tips for Navigating and Surviving CurlFest:

    Go To Bed Early

    Yes, the event starts at noon, and that leaves plenty of time to sleep in. But this event takes place in the center of a park with very little shade in the middle of July. It’s hot. The heat will drain you. I’m tired as I write this and it’s just 9:30 p.m. The earlier you go to bed the more refreshed you’ll be to tackle the event. There’s a lot to do so you’ll need all the energy you can get.

    Get There Super Duper Early

    There are a few reasons why I say you need to get there early:

    1. To beat the crowd. I was standing in front and center of the main stage at 12:30 p.m. At that time there were about 200+ people there. Which made the event area look damn near empty. That’s the key word right there..empty. This is your opportunity to take photos at the large #CURLFEST hashtag sign or other fun selfie stations, gets floral headpieces made or get all the freebies you can from the numerous beauty vendors. I recommend getting there by 10 or 10:30 a.m. this will give you full reign of the space before the rush of the crowd.

    2. To get a seat in the shade. CurlFest takes place in an open section of Prospect Park. The perimeter of the event has shady spots but not very many. So you want to get there early enough to snag one otherwise you’ll be forced to get a spot just outside of the event or worse, layout directly under the hot sun.

    3. To get a general admission bag. If you were able to snag a regular ticket that meant you were to get a bag – while supplies lasted. Another key phrase a lot of people overlooked as it was mentioned at the bottom of the ticket. So if you want to get that supply get on that check-in line by 10 a.m.

    Avoid The Official Check-In Line

    CurlFest requires no ticket to enter. This is a FREE event. Which means there is NO reason to wait in line. Just walk in. Unless it’s 10 a.m. and you’re waiting to get a ‘while supplies last’ gift bag. Then, and only then, should you be in line.

    I took an Uber and got off at Ocean and Lincoln and walked to the event. It’s a short walk. Less than 10 minutes. When I entered the festival area it was on the left of the stage, which would be considered the back. Should the event be held at this same location next year this is the side I will enter. It’s closer to all of the vendors and allows me to avoid the obscene crowd and ridiculous long entry line.

    If you have an Early Bird ticket make your way to the official check-in as there is a much shorter line for you to pick up your GUARANTEED swag bag. There’s is no need to rush as you are owed a bag. 

    If you have a General Admission ticket and get there after 12:30 p.m. don’t even bother waiting on line for the bag as supplies are long gone. Just enjoy the festival.

    curlfest mommyrandr valerie pierre #curlfest

    Wear Comfortable Footwear

    This is a festival and there will be lots of walking and even more standing. Yes, you wanna look cute, and by all means, you should but remember your feet will pay the price for not wearing something with support. Wear your cute shoes to start but make sure to have your sneakers in your bag for a switch.

    Bring A Large Tote Bag

    The swag bag I received was not heavy but thankfully the items were put in a larger bag (a bag in a bag) which made carrying everything else I received that much easier. But if you aren’t lucky enough to get a swag bag you need to bring your own. There are a lot of vendors present with tons of great stuff to purchase. All of those little bags add up and will get heavier in your hand, especially if you’re buying product. Those full-size bottles are weighty. Having your own tote or backpack to stuff your items will help keep you from losing bags and allow you to be hands-free to do things like dance and take selfies with friends.

    Bring Cash

    I’m not one for cash but not everyone takes credit card, especially at festivals. I made sure to bring about $25 cash with me and guess what? It came in handy. There was an Italian ice cart and she only took cash. Guess who was able to buy a cup? This chick! Don’t miss out on good stuff cause you lack paper in your pocket.

    Bring Your Own Food And Drink

    There’s gonna be thousands of people at this event. There will be a chance food and drink will run out and if you do get some it will probably cost more than usual. If you’re not interested in waiting on line 25 minutes only for the for the taco stand say they ran out when you’re 3 people from the order window (a true story that was shared with me) then I suggest you bring your own goodies. This is a park so no one will check your bag. Bring whatever you need to keep your belly full until you leave.

    Have A Plan

    You need to have a plan of action. This is not an event where you figure it out when you get there. Do you want to get products from beauty row? Pictures at selfie spots? Try new foods? Be sure to get there earlier enough to quickly scope out what’s going on and do that first, then worry about everything else. Don’t be like me and lollygag for a few hours then turn around and realize all of those empty lines have more than 100+ people on them.

    Getting Your Ticket to CurlFest 2018

    Tickets sell out in the blink of an eye. You have to be prepared for when the Curly Girl Collective posts the ticket link. I made sure to turn their notifications on for both Twitter and Instagram. Starting back in May every time they made a post I was aware of it. It allowed me to know when ticket sales were going to happen and to have the link in advance to be ready to purchase at the release time. This is how I was able to snag two Early Bird tickets before the site crashed. Make sure you have quick fingers tickets sold out in less than 10 minutes, and you can only get one Early Bird ticket per person. Yes, I was quite fortunate to buy one and go back and buy a second. So tell your friends to be ready at their computers so they can get theirs as well.

    Quick Tips:

    Bring your phone charger. You will run your battery taking pics and video.

    Do not drive. There is no place to park. Take the MTA or an Uber.

    Find the Shea Moisture section with fan and mist combo. Life changing.

    Wear and bring sunscreen. Again, this is an open area park in the middle of July with no shade. While tanning is great, burning is not.

    There you have it. These are all the tips to surviving CurlFest. I can’t wait to go back next year armed and ready. I had a great time but now I know what to do when I go back next summer.
  • Kinky Boots the Musical Is a Holiday Season Must See!

    Ladies and gentlemen, and those who have yet to make up their minds…

    I have been transformed!  It’s no secret that for years I judged Broadway. I claimed I didn’t like something when I really had no clue what it was about. I judged its surface without bothering to learn more about its core. But now, I am officially in love with everything about Broadway. It has awakened my soul to the point where I can no longer live my life without Broadway.

    So what happened that sparked this long overdue change in my perceptions towards Broadway? Kinky Boots The Musical.

    aaron-c-finley-todrick-hall-and-cast-2cmatthew-murphy

    What is kinky boots about?

    Charlie Price (Aaron Finley) the owner of a shoe factory who is about to lose it all when help comes from an unlikely person – a famous drag queen named Lola (Todrick Hall).  Together they embark on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance of not only themselves but most importantly others around them. Seeing this show when I did couldn’t have come at a better time considering the current climate.

    And just because the has a heavy topic that doesn’t the show isn’t filled with laughter, tears and all the shade one can handle – after all it did win six Tony Awards! The performances are captivating and the costumes are stunning. Todrick Hall, who is my new bestie in my head, plays the lead character and honey, once he’s on stage there is nothing you can do watch in awe. As a matter of fact, the entire cast did a stupendous job! With music by Grammy-Award winner Cyndi Lauper you are in for an amazing musical ride that will have you singing long after the show ended.

    kinky boots
    Todrick Hall as Lola
    Regardless of what your plans are this holiday season seeing Kinky Boots should be on your list! Get down to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in your finest red shoes cause remember, Sex Is in the Heel!

    KINKY BOOTS HOLIDAY SALE : 

    You can save up to 40% on select performances through 2/12/17! Just visit KinkyBootsTheMusical.com and use code BOOTS3.

    OFFER DETAILS:
    Mon, Tues, Thurs performances through 2/12/17
    $87*
    Select Orch/Front Mezzanine
    (Reg. $99-117)
    $45*
    Rear Mezzanine
    (Reg. $79-$97)Friday, Sat, & Sun performances through 2/12/17
    $107*
    Select Orch/Front Mezzanine
    (Reg. $109-$147)
    $75*
    Rear Mezzanine
    (Reg. $79-$97)Conditions: Offer valid on select seats. Blackout dates may apply. Offer valid for all performances now through 2/12//17. This offer cannot be combined with any other discount and is not applicable to previously purchased tickets. Regular Prices $55-$147. Limit 8 tickets per order. All sales are final. No refunds or exchanges. Offer subject to availability and includes a $2.00 facility fee. Normal phone and Internet service charges apply. Offer may be modified or revoked at any time without notice.
    FYI: I was provided 2 complementary tickets to the show for the purpose of this review. Thoughts and opinions are always my own. 
  • Halloween Terror at New York City’s Haunted Attraction Blood Manor

    Despite the fact that I’m scared of my own shadow I had the brilliant idea to walk through Blood Manor Haunted House New York City’s Premier Haunted Attraction. I make it my life’s mission to avoid anything that has the potential for giving me nightmares yet here I was about to willingly have the bejesus scared of me.

    So every year around Halloween my friends always make plans to visit haunted attractions. These are activities I try to avoid like how those 80’s teens should’ve avoided sex at Camp Crystal Lake. But this year I got tickets to Blood Manor I thought why not. It would be a decision that I would question and regret every step I took through this maze of hell.

    First off,  Blood Manor is not a place that you would easily spot. It’s about 2 feet from the Holland Tunnel on Varick Street in a nondescript building. It’s a two-story walk up in an even creepier hallway. When you step inside the hallway you don’t feel like you’re about to see the white light. I actually thought okay this isn’t so bad. This was my second mistake. My first was even being there.

    When it was our turn to go (you walk in teams up to 6) and we got the rules I thought it couldn’t be any worse than this. My third mistake. When we entered the attraction and the door slammed behind us and all hell broke loose. Now I can’t tell you everything that happened because as a coping mechanism my mind has blocked it out. But I can assure you it went something like this…

    We went in like

    And almost immediately we had some shit coming at us like

    So we hauled ass right into the pitch darkness and I was like, then it was like

    So now we running through there like

    Then run into this dude and his chainsaw like

    Now we like fuck this shit and start running again

    And run smack-dab into this chick acting like

    Now we screaming like

    I end up in a corner like

    Rashidah somewhere like

    This thing appears like

    We hit that exit door at the end of the attraction like

    And never looked back.

    They told us thanks for visiting but we were down those steps and outside trying to catch our breaths. All we could do was wipe the sweat from our brows and thank God that we made it out alive. As we walked away we heard the screams from others who were walking through and could only hope they made it out in better shape than we  did.

    blood manor
    Me & Rashidah at the bar after we made it out

    Jimmy Kimmel and Kevin Hart walked through Blood Manor a couple days after we did.

    Seeing their video makes me wish I would have inquired about our own. I know our reactions were priceless as theirs.

    So if you want the bejesus scared out of you then  grab your friends and go see for yourself. And if you’re a real badass go on the nights where it’s pitch black and all they give you is one glow stick per group. If you’re opting for that night don’t call me because I’m not going. One walk through was more than enough for me.

    Go see for yourself get tickets to Blood Manor here. Happy Halloween!

    *I was comped two tickets to the show for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.