The Wiz Live – Review / Yahoo! Don’t Bring Me #NoBadNews

The Wiz is a Classic. If you don’t agree…Ease On Down The Road

I watched The Wiz Live last night and absolutely loved it! I joined the live twitter feed and of course like always, the Black Twitter family along with some honorary NON-Racist members of society, tuned in to watch together. When I say the amount of love, support, and connection that was felt through social media and throughout our culture was beyond overwhelming. It was! To laugh, applaud, shout in excitement and cry together with people you don’t know at all– but are connected as kin of the same struggle…it was epic, moving, chilling and glorious. Imagine 2 million people laughing, crying and making jokes at a family BBQ and you’re ALL related… yeah that’s Black Twitter. It was absolutely the best and proudest moment we could experience together and we LOVED @NBC for showing the magic of black actors in The Wiz to the world.

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Shanice Williams, let’s just say, I was very impressed by her musical theater presence. Being so fresh to the scene she showed a certain comfort-ability that most seasoned actors take years to attain.

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Mary J. Blige was spectacular, she was amazing, she sang DOOOOOOOWN and I was sooo proud of her. She has so many great moments in her performance and I was extremely impressed with her acting. Sure I can bypass some tiny moments of coming out of character a bit, because the amazing-ness coming from her and that amazing costume gave me all the life I needed for the night. I love her all over again!

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Neyo, David Alan Grier and Elijah Kelly were amazing as well. I was impressed wtih Neyo’s stage presence and David amazed at his role playing that Lion. Loved them. Elijah Kelley stayed in character the entire time and THAT was impressive!

THE WIZ LIVE! -- Season: 2015 -- Pictured: Common as The Bouncer -- (Photo by: Paul Gilmore/NBC)
THE WIZ LIVE! — Season: 2015 — Pictured: Common as The Bouncer — (Photo by: Paul Gilmore/NBC)

Common, was ok. I could honestly do without his character. Maybe if they gave him more of a role, but how could they. I think he did pretty well for the amount of speaking lines he was given.

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Queen Latifah, I love her love her love her… but something with the songs I wasn’t really getting everything I needed from them.  She looked amazing and she was better playing herself than the Wiz honestly. Can we talk about the makeup and costumes?!! FLAWLESS! All I know is, she better work! She was still awesome to watch!

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Honey!!! AMBER freaking RILEY!!! SANG for the GODS last night! She was everything you would want in a good witch of the North! I didn’t know what else to do but stare, mouth open and absorb everything she spit out! I mean, Brava to her! She was getting DOWN with those munchkins!

Enough about my brief review – (trimmed it due to this nonsense I’m about to get into.)

I was so excited, I went to bed singing “Home” until 2 am this morning. Sang myself to sleep and woke up with the songs still in my heart. I couldn’t wait to read some reviews online because I just knew it was spectacular. And then I came across this article from Yahoo! Critic-at-large, Ken Tucker

Yahoo! Don’t Bring Me #NoBadNews

I am appalled. I speak to Ken now and any other people who don’t understand the magic of The Wiz (and no, I’m not even giving a paragraph to the idiots who said The Wiz is racist and there should be an all white cast of the Wiz. Look up Judy Garland and go back to sleep).

Ken, to say that…

The Wiz “simply isn’t a classic piece of material”

…just makes me sick. Your critique of performances is understandable, although I may not agree, I agree to disagree. But where I draw the line is when you discount a musical, one of the ONLY musicals that represent the black culture, and one of the ONLY successful earlier black productions ever to grace Broadway. To say it “simply isn’t a classic” is ridiculous!

Just because it doesn’t speak to you and people like you, doesn’t mean that it isn’t a classic!

You don’t understand the IMPACT this production, the movie and this newer modern version has had on our culture, on our creative talents and on our youth!

There are so many reason’s WHY the original “The Wiz” on Broadway may not have translated to “contemporary” audiences in prominent venues.

LIKE VIOLA DAVIS SAID: The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is OPPORTUNITY!

If there is no opportunity, how COULD it translate to “contemporary audiences”?

And who the hell is a contemporary audience anyway? If you were on Twitter last night, It was FULL of an audience who could relate, who loved it, who cried, who applauded, who had viewing parties. It was the top #1 trending topic all day AND night yesterday! So, AGAIN…. who are the members of the “contemporary” audience you speak of.

There was an overwhelming amount of support (crushing the naysayers and racists) for this production and it went on for hours! If you tuned in, you would see how our culture and others appreciated this momentous moment TOGETHER. You would see the hundreds and hundreds of tweets from people of multiple races express how they loved it as a kid, performed it in high school musicals and were actually watching it with their children…ECSTATIC to be able to share this CLASSIC with them!

To be so removed from our culture, our relations, our art, our appreciation, our CONNECTION to this CLASSIC production and movie, shows exactly WHY television needed this, why WE needed this, why this COUNTRY needed this.

Sure, Ken doesn’t need to sugar coat his critique of the performances. Ken, tell it like it is with all of your professional due diligence. BUT, do your homework, understand what’s going on here and WHY it’s important. Understand that YOU sir are just as bad as everyone else who discounts ANY and EVERYTHING we do or attempt to do, putting your “denied a classic” stamp on it because YOU are ignorant of its magic, its impact and its influence on our community!

This line here from you:

“Here’s a challenge: Name a song from The Wiz other than “Ease On Down the Road.” “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News,” maybe, but that’s about it.”

…. Goes to show your total and complete ignorance of this production and the “Contemporary Audience” your article is aimed at.

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“HOME”… “Home” is the biggest song of the production and movie. Stephanie Mill’s career took off from this song and it’s been a talent show staple song since! The Ballad piece is the most spectacular and popular song from The Wiz and you don’t even name it!

And What about “You Can’t Win”? Michael Jackson Slaaaaayed that song in the movie! That’s MY favorite! C’mon man!

Me AND Michael are looking at you crazy!

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As far as I’m concerned your critique means NOTHING because you KNOW nothing about the magic and the message of The WIZ.

This line you say here:

“The idea of seeking out some powerful wisdom that will grant intelligence, courage, and freedom, only to realize that these qualities reside inside, not outside, oneself—that’s a potent, enduring theme.”

Yes, it’s a potent and enduring theme, but do you understand WHY it’s important to “our audience” to “our culture”? Because when you have people like you who call the most epic piece of African American theater “Not a classic” you, Ken, enforce the idealism that minorities are not AS important and some of us therefore have to STRUGGLE through our OWN insecurities to find the INTELLIGENCE, COURAGE and FREEDOM inside of ourselves to become better versions of OURSELVES. To create art, to succeed at what our hearts desire. Your insensitive remarks enforce and reveal your ignorance of a culture you know nothing about.

THE WIZ LIVE! -- Pictured: (l-r) Uzo Aduba as Glinda, Shanice Williams as Dorothy -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)
THE WIZ LIVE! — Pictured: (l-r) Uzo Aduba as Glinda, Shanice Williams as Dorothy — (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

When Uzo Adubo sang “Believe in yourself” she brought tears to not only the cast on stage but to thousands of people on twitter live. Most of whom did not know that UZO is a TRAINED OPERA SINGER! That song, that message speaks VOLUMES to those of us with shattered dreams, to those of us who have to overcome way more obstacles than your “contemporary audience”. As she hugged Dorothy it was as if she hugged US. That moment, that song was pivotal and encouraged HOPE & FAITH in us but in your words:

“Uzo Aduba was positively adorable as Glinda the Good Witch.”

And… that was it. What an UNDERSTATEMENT!

While I accept your critique and agree to disagree, I am going to ask you to “simply” Ease on down the road with that “Classic” BS.
The world loved it and if you don’t believe me, go ‪#‎TheWiz‬ or #‎TheWizLive‬ on Twitter and see for yourself. Your article was mediocre at best. Have several Theater seats. Thank you!

Patti Pie! Behold the Power of Patti LaBelle!

Patti Pie! Behold the Power of
Patti LaBelle!

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(Courtesy of Patti LaBelle.)

Hey everyone, welcome back!

If you haven’t heard, there is currently a major viral, tweeting, sweet potato pie frenzy happening across the country at sold out Walmart’s over Ms. Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie!

Last Friday, an incredibly hilarious and entertaining video review of Ms. Patti’s pie, by a very talented personality by the name of James Wright swept social media by storm. He indulged in this unknown sweet potato pie that you can only find at Walmart for $3.48 and claimed that you were going to sing like Patti LaBelle after eating it– and honey did he sing! Hilarious, yet entertaining, James belted line’s from Ms. Patti’s classics –Onnn my owwwwwn….why did it end this waaaaay….(Watch the video below and prepare for a good laugh)

The video that started it all!

The video was shared on his Facebook page over 7 Million times since last Friday and it literally sent people across the country to every Walmart they could find, only to find out:

1. It’s only sold at Super Walmart’s
2. Many of them were SOLD OUT!

Walmart needs 2 Million pounds of sweet potato’s to restock the shelves with this delicious pie! Heaven help the bakery’s night shift!

This just in – Walmart needs 2 Million pounds of sweet potato’s to restock the shelves with this delicious pie! Heaven help the bakery’s night shift!

It was a sweet potato pie frenzy! Thousands of people (myself included) drove to Walmart, called Walmart– GPSed the closest Super Walmart! I live by at least 5 so I was positive that I could find some… boy was I wrong!

I jumped on the bandwagon and documented my whole experience searching at least 6 WALMART’S before finally finding some in Secaucus, NJ 40 min away from my house! I actually called and asked for them to put 4 pies to the side for me– the girl in the bakery said they were going fast, someone just left with 20 boxes. Her name was Joyce. Praise be to Joyce! She had those 4 boxes waiting for me. The last 4 in the store.

Yes, I did my own video review of the Sweet Potato Pie because I needed to share every last experience with you all! I documented my entire journey and it…is… hilarious!

And yes, I did my own video review of the Sweet Potato Pie because I needed to share every last experience with you all!

I documented my entire journey and it…is… hilarious!

Check them out here.

How exciting and ridiculous is this entire Patti Pie ordeal? Let’s just say in 2 days, my 1st video of me searching for the pie had over 12K views and my 3rd video reviewing the pie has over 10K…. the day I uploaded it!

Comments from my viewers noted that the pies are sold out in, Cincinnati, New Jersey, Maryland, Los Angeles, New York, Tennessee and many more! According to Yahoo Food, a representative from Walmart said, “For 72 hours, we were selling one per second.” (For a bit of context, Walmart might sell two pumpkin pies every second in the month of November. But still, $1 million in sweet potato pie sales is a lot of pie.)….

In my Opinion: No But’s!!!…You sold 1 pie every second in a weekend–not a month– keep it real. The only reason why you didn’t sell anymore is because you ran out!

(continue yahoo)…Walmart was caught off-guard by the frenzy, Ales said.

“Friday morning, the team was working with the [sweet potato pie] supplier to see how we can keep up with the demand,” Ales said. “The supplier… was having a hard time finding [enough] sweet potatoes. So we walked down the hall to the produce department [and said,] ‘We need about 2 million pounds of California sweet potatoes!’ So that’s what we’ve been working through.”

Ales added that Walmart is working hard to replenish stocks at sold-out locations. “We’re really sorry about that,” he said. “We’re looking at where stores are out and how we can quickly move pies to that area.”

(My “Power of Patti” videos explains how companies market Pumpkin pie around the holiday’s to a general demographic instead of tapping into the African American market who were born and raised on Sweet Potato Pie. The only boxed pie that sells Sweet Potato pie in most supermarkets is Mrs. Smiths… and that’s if you can find it.)

Take a look at the videos below and enjoy! Don’t forget to share!

My Patti Pie Journey!

FINDING Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pie – Walmart Pt1
Mission Impossible: Watch how we search high and low on this hilarious journey for Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie!

REVIEW Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pie -Walmart Pt 3
Mission COMPLETED: We finally got our hands on Ms. Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie!  have some concerns people! Watch to see if it was worth the trouble! HINT: YOU HAVE TO HEAT IT UP for a better experience!

Why is Everyone Going out to Get Patti Pies?

If you want to know why everyone is flocking to get these pies, I break it down for you in the video’s below where I talk about the power of demand vs. supply, the power of word of mouth marketing, the power of the black dollar and most importantly the Power of Patti. When the holiday’s come, companies market towards a general demographic who they assume LOVE pumpkin pie. But, in the African American community, you couldn’t be any more off base. We love SWEET POTATO PIE honey! Here’s why…

Patti Pie’s – The Power of Patti (Is it that serious?) Pt 1
Many of you have watched my #PattiPie videos (Thank you, You guys rock!) and left me a bunch of question’s. I felt a video could answer some of them with the most important question being answered…Why are all of these people running out to get a Patti Pie?

Watch Patti Pie’s – The Power of Patti (Is it that serious?) Pt 2

References:

MARKETINGCHARTS.COM – “14% of Americans Are Black. 3% of Major Media Ad Spending is Focused on Them.” (Quotes Nielsen)
http://www.marketingcharts.com/tradit…

FORBES.COM – Word of Mouth Marketing – (Also quotes Nielsen)
http://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberlyw…

NIELSEN: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/about-us…

SHOPRITE: List of Pies – http://www.shoprite.com/pd/category/G…

https://youtu.be/Q6pg_r2YXHs?list=PL1G1qx9lLJ0gzKTxh74IQrlRRbePo9ujZ

Crock Pot Chicken w/ Gravy! Recipe!

Back in the Kitchen for a day!

Last night I made the most delicious #Crockpot #chicken with #gravy! One of my favorite #passions is #cooking ! I haven’t had much time to #cook recently with the finishing of my new #book taking priority, but i can tell you it feels good when you have time to be in your own kitchen! #yummy #yumm #yummi #yummyinmytummy  #sundried #tomato #tomatoes #onion #carrot #onions #soup mix , #salt #pepper #italian #seasoning #olive #oil  #honey #paprika #cinnamon ! #bonappetit !

Take on Innovation – In your Kitchen!

Quick recipe:
  1. Grab a whole chicken from the market. Clean it thoroughly, remove the bag of gizzards inside, place in crock pot.
  2. Grab your favorite seasonings. Se above for my choice of flavors. Cinnamon was a secret season and it added just the right touch of spic, minus the sweet.
  3. Slather the entire chicken in Olive oil, front and back.
  4. Season each side of the bird generously.
  5. Throw in your favorite veggies. DO NOT ADD WATER See above for my favs! Yum.
  6. Set the Crockpot on high for 6-8 hours depending on the size of your chicken. Then forget it!
  7. Do your laundry, write your book, make body scrubs, go for a run or simply relax with a glass of wine. The hardest part is done.
  8. GRAVY: If you want gravy (and who doesn’t right?), about halfway through once your chicken starts to make a broth, remove  half of the piping hot fluid and place in a microwaveable container.
    Sprinkle some flour in the broth, constantly stirring until it begins to thicken. Don’t put too much flour. Just enough to get it thicker than the original broth.
    Place in the microwave to for 2 min and allow it to thicken some more. This is you thickening the gravy more with heat without putting it on the stove.
    Remove and place to the side. That’s it! If you want it a bit thicker, just repeat with a bit more flour, but not too much. You don’t want dumplings for this recipe.
  9. When you can smell the the delicousness coming in from your kitchen annnnnnnd you see the little thermometer popped up out of the chicken, you are DONE!
  10. Cut what you need, Place on your plate, add your sides, drizzle your gravy and enjoy!
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T.O.I House by Toi Stori

 

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11 Successful Makers Who Prove It’s Never Too Late to Do What You Love

Check out this cool article!

It’s never too late to follow your passion no matter what it is! We’d all love to quit our day jobs and do what we love. Check out this Yahoo article for great inspiration on people who have followed their passions and are making a living from it!

11 Successful Makers Who Prove It’s Never Too Late to Do What You Love

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Photo: Layla Fanucci Article: Christine Erickson – Editor ‎October‎ ‎05‎, ‎2015

 

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By subscribing, you’ll have:

  • Exclusive access to preview selected book chapters
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All because you signed up to read this AMAZING book!

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You will also be the 1st to know when and where to get your copy and you’ll be given a special invitation to attend the book launch party! Paaaaaaaar-taaaay!

What’s the name of this book and what is it about? Wouldn’t you like to know.

Here’s a secret for you: It took me 1 year to write it, 8 years to publish it and …I wrote it by accident.

Don’t miss a beat! Tell your friends and family to sign up too! You don’t want to miss this!

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Take On Innovation,

~ Toi Stori

Publishing My 1st Book! – Part 1

Part 1- Inception & Discovery

(I kind of wrote this book by accident.)

Before you go any further!!!!!

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Hey guys,

Welcome back! It’s time I shared with all of you what most of my closest family and friends already know. I am publishing my 1st book!!! YAY!!!

Where is this book coming from you ask? Aren’t you already doing so much – Working a full time job, blogging, making body scrubs and selling them on Etsy? Yeah, I am, but those things shouldn’t stop me from completing what I started in 2006. Yes, you read that right…2006!

 I wrote this book by accident.

I was 22 years old and it all started as a dream…a very vivid dream… And now that I think about it, a very basic dream. I was being chased by someone in a dark alleyway, mid winter after I’d just left a party. A stranger came to my rescue, fought off my chasers, saved my life and I fell in love. The end.

But was that really the end? I woke up and grabbed my nightstand notebook and wrote it down.
(As a songwriter and dreamer blessed/cursed with the vision of foresight – I kept a notebook nearby to capture every melody and vivid memory). It came in very handy that night.

As I wrote down this “intense” dream, I realized, I had so many questions but no real answers.

  1. Why was I being chased?
  2. What did they want?
  3. Who was this knight in shining armor?
  4. What was his story?
  5. Where did he come from?
  6. Who’s party was I at?
  7. Why was I there?
  8. Who was I?
    And most importantly after this man saved my life…
  9. What happened next?

I thought about this dream all day. Even while I was occupied with life itself, my mind would drift to that notebook. I needed to do something about that dream.

They say when the emotions you feel within a dream linger and stay with you, your inner spirit is telling you to pay close attention.

So I did. I paid very close attention. I went to my computer desk, sat down and opened up Microsoft Word. The cursor blinked there for about 30 seconds before I began writing. At first I just transferred my notes from the notebook – breaking them down into sections.

Dark alleyway
imagesMid-winterimages (1)

Party
cocktail partyHero
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Love
giphyDiscovery

I knew then that I wanted to expand this dream into something more interesting, more dramatic and more creative. I felt like my dream would make a pretty cool movie. But the more I typed, the more I realized this dream needed to be told in the form of a story and not a script.

Understanding the structure of the books I read helped me to apply some of that same structure into developing my own story. I knew what time of year my story would take place – Mid-winter. I knew how I wanted to open the book – Dark alleyway (straight into mystery and darkness). I also knew where I wanted my main character to meet her hero – at a party. And finally, I understood what these characters needed… they needed a reason to live or die. That reason would be love.

I sat back thinking, “Damn, this is pretty good.” But I needed more. I needed to develop my characters.

Next: Meet The Author Part 2 – Creating the Characters

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Summer Vacation – Cancun, Mexico – Paradisus All-Inclusive

What I did this Summer…

Heyyyyyy ya’ll heyyyyy!!!!

It’s so exciting to write you once again and this time, to share my vacation experience with you! My luv and I went to the beautiful country of Mexico, but not just to Mexico…to CANCUN! I know it sounds cliché, – Spring break = Immature fun, but we went during the summer when it was raging-teenager-hormone free! If we saw any, they were there with their parents… praise Jesus cause I can’t deal!

Anyway, my luv and I weren’t alone. My mother and her husband actually double vactioned with us although we left them during the day to embark upon our own private time which equaled – EXCURSIONS! They had a blast all on their own! They actually  had more time to enjoy the resort than we did!

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Aeromexico – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

We were only there for 5 days so we had to jam pack everything into one huge experience. The 1st day was a bust because whoever’s idea it was to fly and connect in Mexico city must’ve been drinking while they booked our flights. #1. Mexico city is the worst place to catch a connecting flight. Hardly any structure for US immigrants, no English speaking employees to guide us through the line and it was so big we had a hard time finding our gate…which we eventually did with moments to spare! – But enough of the negative reviews on Mexico city because the rest of the trip was amazing —- exxxxxxcept when we flipped over on a jet ski in the middle of the ocean but – we’ll get to that later.

Paradisus - Cancun, Mexico - Toi Stori for T.O.I House
Isla Mujeres- Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

The color of the water was spectacular – the beaches amazing, although there was so much seaweed it made it a difficult swimming experience,  just being in another country was everything I hoped it would be – Hot weather, beautiful water, amazing culture, kind and humbling people and excitement to last me until my next trip!

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Paradisus – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

The Paradisus Resort was BEAUTIFUL! It was a 4 star hotel with real vegetation hanging from every balcony, level and floor. It was like living in a real life Oasis. We bought the Royal Suite package which allowed us a butler, exclusive access to private dining areas, private pools (no kids – pa-raise Jesus) and every service you could’ve wanted. 24 hour room service we hardly used and scented pillows with Lavender and Vanilla, Eucalyptus with white tea were some awesome services included in the package! Yummmmm happy snoozing!

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Paradisus – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House
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Paradisus – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House
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Paradisus – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

Day 1 we arrived pretty late so that was a bust thanks to our booking agent getting us on a connecting flight but, whatever. We were beat by time we arrived. We had dinner at one of the all inclusive restaurants (Taco’s – not my choice) but I noticed their portion sizes were extremely small. If you wanted a big adult sized meal, head to the buffet. You can make your own plate and you have waaay more options.

Day 2 my bf and I got up and dressed for the pool. We decided to book our excursions 1st thing. I think we did the best thing by booking the entire week at once because every day we knew what we were doing, where we were goin and what time we’d be back. Scheduling your life is key, why not your vacation UNLESS you’re on vaca specifically to rest. Then you’re best bet is to just go with the flow.

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Paradisus – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

Our 1st excursion on day 1 was the worst experience for me (insert overturned jet ski). It was no surprise to me that my bf couldn’t swim. Although he was in the Navy for 6 years, somehow he got through it without really grasping how to swim “correctly”. He’d told me months before this vacation that he couldn’t swim but I begged him to try a water sport. Just TRY! He’d have on a vest, so he’ll be fine. After MUCH deliberation he obliged, so here we were, finally in Mexico and we sign up for ….Parasailing. Parasailing. What does swimming have to do with parasailing…. shut up and wait…you’ll see. lol

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Paradisus – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

In order for us to parasail, we had to get on a JET SKI to get to the boat that was already in the middle of the ocean. Insert sigh. I’ve never been on a jet ski but I was willing. I’m SUPER adventurous and always open to a new experience but when they told us that we both had to ride behind a guide …I counted 3 grown ass adults on a jet ski…scary but we went on. They told us to bring a camera but if it got wet they weren’t responsible…ooookay so I brought my brand new Nikon DSL D3200 and wrapped it in a plastic bag and the guy placed it in a compartment of the jet ski.

We got on and OMGGGGG he was flying all over the place, jumping waves and I was holding on to him for dear life and my bf holding on to the guys jacket with me in between them for dear life. WTF! Then he stops. Mid water…land just a blink in the distance. He hops off and disappears under the water. BABE! Where the hell did he go?

He appears and in broken English says he needed to take the seaweed off the rotors and for ME to hold the jet ski steady while he basically somersaults over us to get back in front. JESUS give me balance! Be a weight, an anchor, a bouey… cause I can’t!

He finally gets seated in front of me and I think ok, we’re safe, we’ll be there in a moment. Not even 3 minutes later, he stops again and does the same thing! This time as he’s trying to re-board, i’m trying with all of my might to hold it steady, but this Cirque du sole trick he did over my head caused us to flip ALL THE WAY over! The ENTIRE jet ski was upside down, me and my bf were underwater and of course he’s trying to swim up to the surface but he’s pushing me beneath him! I thought OMG this is it. We’re gonna die right here, right now!

I swam away from him and when I came up for air he apologized of course but he was holding on to this rope on the back of the jet ski I hadn’t even noticed previously. I was ok because I can swim, but I more more worried about him. To my surprise, he was very calm. (Must have been that Navy training kicking in I guess) insert eye roll.

I get back on the jet ski 1st, and wait for everyone else to get on behind me. I am absolutely terrified, but everything works out and we continue our journey. Of course i’m crying all the way to the boat because I convinced my bf to try water sports and this is what happens! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t come all the way down there to lose him to the ocean! Oh hell no!

We finally get to the boat and discover that my camera didn’t survive the journey. It stayed in the compartment but water got inside of it. So you know I was annoyed but not as pissed off because at least we were alive.  I did a no no and tried to turn it on which I’m sure ruined it.

Parasailing was even more stressful because after that near death experience, we go almost a hundred + feet in the air with no belts, no harness – just a 2 seater something. Everytime the wind blew or the boat accelerated, I thought we were gonna fly out! That was it. Get me off and get me out!

Needless to say, we went back to the company we booked with, told them of our horrifying experience and demanded we change our next excursion. Guess what it was…..Jet ski’s! yeeeeeah, no.

So they booked us for a day trip to the island of Isla Mujeres which we did on day 2.

It was absolutely beautiful! We took a boat there which was spectacular! Tequila on the boat, entertainment from the crew and a relaxing ride along the gulf. When we arrived, there were hammocks, beach chairs and a nice little beach to relax. We passed that up and rented a golf cart to explore the island. It was beautiful. We saw Iguanas, some ruins, tons of unoccupied houses, and the views were breath taking.

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Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House
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Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

When we got back, we had a buffet lunch and hopped back on the boat to take us to the downtown area of the island. We walked, did a little shopping, but mostly just explored for 2 hours. So many merchants tried to get us to come into their “little shops” (their words, not mine) and buy over priced knick knacks. Yeah, if everything was handmade, how come every store had em? LOL

I opted to haggle some guy for 2 gorgeous necklaces $15 for 2. I’d seen them sold at so many shops that when someone approached me on the street with a bag of them I couldn’t resist. The stores were selling them for $20 each.

(here I am at happy hour at work with my fun co-worker wearing one. It’s twisted cause I’m having a good time at happy hour! But the middle is supposed to drip towards the center)

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Work Buddies – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

 

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Isla Mujeres Necklace – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

The next day we went on another day tour to Tulum! It was Marvelous! – and HOT! 1st we got picked up late by our tour bus and then had to listen to a very vocal, highly IQ’d gentleman from Australia who talked everyone’s ear off all day. I thought he was interesting but the hotter it got the less he talked!

1st we went to see the pyramids in Tulum. Awesome, breathtakingly beautiful but there was not an ounce of shade so as my bf and I speed walked throughout the entire complex of ruins, I forced myself to take in the hot breathtaking experience. I was beautiful but damn it was hot as hell!

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Tulum – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

Next they shuffled us off to a little jungle in the middle of nowhere to eat a quite decent buffet lunch – even though they rushed us. We then strapped on our gear to go zip lining! It was amazing and for my 1st time, I had a blast! After that, we rappelled into a cave and then changed to snorkel in a fresh water cave with tiny little fish and bats, bats, bats! Guano anyone?

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Zip Lining – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House
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Zip Lining – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House
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Zip Lining – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

It was a long ride back but it was such an amazing experience I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Tulum - Cancun, Mexico - Toi Stori for T.O.I House
Tulum – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

On our last day, we managed to fit in a speed boat excursion! That was fun and scary because I’ve never driven a boat before, let alone in open water (read above about my new fear of open water) speeding behind boats being inches from the water.

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Speed Boat – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

Once we stopped and anchored to other boats, I was the only one from my family that hopped into the ocean and  snorkeled along the great barrier reef. Talk about amazingly beautiful!!!  It’s like a whole other world down there. Quite alien-like and awe-inspiring. I always seem to have a new appreciation for the Universe, creation, God and life itself when I snorkel.

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Speed Boat – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

I hated to leave that wonderful oasis of beauty, grandeur, lost and rediscovered ancient ruins. I was more emotionally attached to this place than anywhere I’d ever been before. I watch the History channel and I researched the ancient pyramids, drawn to their mystery, history and architectural achievements. I never thought I’d see one up close and I did…and it was AMAZING.

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Paradisus – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House
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Paradisus – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House
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Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

If you are drawn to a special place and feel the urge to travel, do it. We only have one life. Make the best of it. I know I will!

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Isla Mujeres – Cancun, Mexico – Toi Stori for T.O.I House

To My Nephews and Unborn Children: #MAYDAY

To My Nephews and Unborn Children:

I come to you as an aunt or future mother whose heart is too fragile to see you as yet another victim of a society that was not built for you. The pain of mothers past, present, and unfortunately, the future supersedes anything the human soul can possibly comprehend. Your beauty as black men has been replaced by fear from those who never have or ever will understand you. Unfortunately, this stigma has been placed upon you before your parents were even born.

Although you may feel equal to your peers of other cultures, you must remember for your life’s sake, that you are not; at least not yet. The fact that I am writing this is painful enough to admit, yet, it is the only advantage you will have in life. If you understand the difference between you and your multi-cultural brothers, you will understand what your fathers and brothers before you have come to understand and….you just may have a chance.

The times we live in are truly a time of confusion, heartache and pain. Painful that we are only fifty or so years out of segregation where people like you were bound by laws of this United States that criminalized you for being who you are. Simply for being…who…you…are. It’s painful that in the face of injustice from those who have owned us, sold us, oppressed us, killed us and destroyed our families and even with the insurmountable evidence against them, it is still not enough to lift the bounty from your heads.

Those who hate you and want to destroy you will do it, even with the law on their side. It’s painful that peaceful protests are rocking this country, yet the media would rather show the small few who loot and burn so they can generalize us all, rather than understand our pain. It hurts to read the comments on social media from “friends” of a different race who assume we are merely complaining and can’t relate to our suffering. And speaking of suffering, it pains me to go to work every day and suffer in silence as the visuals of our dead men laying in the street rack my brain, mixed with deadlines of work I could care less about.

The only dead lines I fear are the chalk outlines of young black men who look just like you.

My heart is heavy with despair as I must prepare you for the life you are about to enter as a black man in America. It’s unfair, it’s humiliating and it hurts but you MUST heed my warning or else your young lives will add to the millions of young black men whose lives have been taken from us way too soon.

There are some rules that you as black men must be aware of and it applies to you and only you. Here are a few:

  1. Do not let your frustration or anger of being racially profiled, followed, harassed, and frisked or provoked cause you to REact in the way they expect- in the face of law enforcement. This includes being loud, belligerent, ghetto, untamed or simply upset. There are some who will use even the excuse of a sneeze to kill you in cold blood.
  1. Do not walk with your hands in your pockets in public places. If your hands are cold, wear gloves. Pockets were not made with you in mind. The image of you has been plastered on TV and ingrained in the minds of people who are not like you, brainwashing them to fear you. And because they do, they do not see you searching for warmth but instead searching for a gun we all know you don’t have. They will call the police who will take their word over yours and never stop to ask you questions before shooting you dead.
  2. This is one of the hardest things I will have to tell you but you will only have your own judgment to guide you. As scary as it may be, WHEN the police wrongfully approach you (and in your lifetime this will happen more than a few times), you MUST stand there and face fear directly in the face. Do not move unless they tell you to. Answer them and follow every direction they give. As humiliating as the demands, you must comply. I know it will hurt physically, emotionally and spiritually but your highest priority is to stay alive! DO NOT give them a reason, although they need none. Even as I write this, I know that this too is a gamble. Like facing a beast in the woods, do you stand still so you don’t provoke it, or do you turn and run because you know either way, you’re dead? I beg of you, do not run. Live to survive another day, to find another way to rise above this.
  1. If you want to record your interactions with police, use your phone but have it out before they approach you. They do not want to see you reaching for anything. Be polite, answer questions and although you have rights, unfortunately – these rights do not apply to you. Be aware. You have a right to record and to ask questions but, as a black man, this is a provocation. They will see you as a threat and use this as an excuse to do what we have already seen them do and get away with it.

Last but not least…

  1. Do not forget the fallen. Whatever you do, remember their roles in this universe. To bring awareness to an epidemic much larger than any known disease this world has ever seen. Racism is your biggest enemy and it has been killing our people for hundreds of years. There have been more black lives taken since the beginning of slavery til the very day you read this letter. Do not become another one of them. Always remember those who came before you.

I am weak and drained with sadness from the injustice plaguing this country but I have found the strength to instill in you the truth of what it is like to be a black man in America.

Although I have not listed every occurrence, know that racism hides behind closed doors, grand jury’s and badges. If you know this, then you know you must find a peaceful way to make a change.

You are powerful, strong, beautiful human beings and change can happen but, it starts with you. Sometimes it seems as if you must represent yourself in ways only Jesus can. Like you must be perfect to even have half of their respect, but you must think and grow beyond that. You must find ways to protest injustice without inciting violence, looting, destruction and pain; which not onlyaffects others but also affects your own people.

You have a responsibility to educate yourselves in your history, in the trends of disparity among our culture so that you may have the tools you need to finally defeat this enemy.

You are our future and though they may target our future with police brutality, I won’t let them succeed which is why I am leaving you with these words of advice.

You will be carrying on where others have left off but what are most important are two things:

  1. Do not forget the fallen
  2. Stay alive

Always remember to keep love and peace in your hearts. No matter how hard it becomes you must hold on to your humanity, no matter how hard they try to take it away.

Be strong my young black children and never forget the fallen.

#Mayday #MikeBrown #BlackLivesMatter  #MaydayBlackAmerica  #blackamerica  #protest  #love  #unity #Ferguson  #nojusticenopeace  #justice  #TrayvonMartin  #EricGarnet  #EzellFord #KajiemePowell  #DarrenHunt  #CameronTillman  #VonDerritMyers #KaldrickDonald  #TaneshaAnderson  #AkaiGurley  #TamirRice  #America

Host a Holiday Pot Luck – Zesty Apple Blueberry Cobbler Recipe

 Is This Your First “Holiday” Supper?

As the holidays quickly approach on the heels of a summer not ready to be forgotten, like clockwork, family and friends are already trying to claim you at the head of their dinner table. And rightfully so – you’re the life of the party I’m sure!  But, with so many invitations and dramatic personalities to avoid, how do you decide which ones to attend? This year, you don’t have to! Why not host a holiday event at your place for once and show them how it’s really done? Stress free, guest participation and absolutely budget friendly!

Being the oldest in a family of four and the oldest grandchild of a family eleven times as big, I stayed in the kitchen, picking up tips, recipes and lending an extra hand during the days of my childhood. Until, of course, one year I was left to make Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners practically alone. It was a great learning experience nonetheless, but as I got older I realized, I did not want to feel like I was working in a soup kitchen on my favorite holidays, serving large groups of people four course meals and barely getting enough time to enjoy family time, let alone eat the food I slaved over for days! No I’m not exaggerating… DAYS! And of course, who do you think was in the kitchen cleaning up? Muah.

I began to despise the holidays, being met with gender role responsibilities, it just made me angry until it came to a head one year and I refused to lift a finger. That lasted all but 20 minutes until I saw things falling apart, and no, I’m not talking about the freaking turkey! I needed a change and quick. This event occurred twice every year and if I was going to survive it, I had to come up with a better solution.  And then it came to me…

Why not host a Thanksgiving POT LUCK?!!

I invited friends and family to my home who I just knew would enjoy the idea and use this opportunity to show off their own culinary skills. Everyone brought something delicious with their own utensils and containers, liquor and wine, games, games and more games! And what’s even more exciting, they helped me clean up! Pa-RAISE the holiday heavens!

Oh my God it was the best idea ever! Instead of cooking an ENTIRE meal by myself, the most I had to do was coordinate the menu with everyone so we didn’t have five pans of mac and cheese, three turkeys and one bottle of soda on the holiday spread! Instead of spending my time cleaning greens, basting turkeys, glazing ham and peeling sweet potatoes, I spent my time making a couple of dishes and decorating my adorable little apartment like the cute little DIY’er I am. We enjoyed great food some of us may not have tried otherwise; great laughs and of course better memories to last me through the next holidays for years to come. Every now and then, when I have to drag myself to an event I’m attending out of obligation, I reminisce on the great times I had with amazing people and secretly plan the next one.

If this is your first time hosting a holiday event or you have a fear of cooking for a large number of people, try alternating holidays this year. This Thanksgiving, host a pot luck at yours or a friend’s house and save your Christmas cheer for those who really need it! You know exactly which members of your family I’m talking about! Bah- humbug!

Here are some great tips on how to host a Holiday Pot Luck.

  1.  Create an INTIMATE list of fun friends and family. Do not invite people out of obligation or I can assure you, you will not have the fun you set out to have. Instead you’ll be catering to a party pooper and that just defeats the purpose now doesn’t it?
  2. Use a free online invitation service like Evite, utilizing the amazing templates to give your party a nice festive theme. Here, people can leave comments confirming their attendance and the dishes they choose to bring. It’s also a good idea to ask your guests to list any allergies or food preferences so everyone is accommodated. Here is a link to some Evite Thanksgiving Pot Luck specific invites.
  3. Pick 1 maybe 2 dishes you’d like to make and stick to it. Don’t get over excited and decide to cook any and everything.  That’s why the universe gave us friends. Use them.Word of advice:
    If you’re set on having turkey at your pot luck, do yourself and your guests a favor and bake turkey wings. For some reason, people love to fight over wings  and unfortunately the third person looses. Some folks don’t understand that God only gave them two. Don’t make them wait around for next year. Just buy a bag and keep it movin’.
  4. Purchase seasonal decorations from the dollar store. They have great cheap decor and punch bowls, plastic utensils, table covers and anything else you think you would need. But remember, don’t overdo it.  Keep it budget friendly.
  5. The week of your event, reach out to anyone who has not responded and confirm your total guest list and menu. Make sure your guests aren’t bringing double dishes unless of course it’s a cook off, then its game on!
  6. Invite and/or inform your neighbors. If you don’t want them in your house because you don’t really know them, no biggie. Don’t invite them. But, do inform them of the festivities you’re hosting so they’re not surprised – number 1 that you even have friends let alone noisy ones and you’re not surprised when the Po-Po is knocking on your doh-doh!
  7. Make sure your playlist is set and you have enough music to last you all night. It sucks when people are waiting for guests to arrive and it’s just you, the punctual friend and the scratches at your bedroom door from your dog you stashed away for the evening. Play some music to drown him out.
  8. Have some munchies before the main courses are served. Chips, meatballs with colorful tooth picks and punch will do. Save all of the good food for later.
  9. DO NOT use this time to invite your EX just so they can see how much fun you’re having without them. Inviting drama is not cute. DO invite that guy or girl you’ve been talking to and introduce them to the fun people who matter in your life.
  10. Take lots of pictures, play ice breaker games, enjoy your night and remember to have fun! It’s also fun to vote on everyone’s favorite dish and give an early Christmas gift as a reward. Something budget friendly of course and if you can stretch it, a goodie bag on the way out.
  11. Don’t be shy to ask for help cleaning up. Pass out garbage bags if you must. If they’re your friends, they’ll get your sense of humor and they’ll understand why. After all, it’s just you and the dog right? I’m sure after you locked him up in the room all night, he’s not in the mood to wash your dishes and take out your garbage.

Here’s a quick and easy recipe for your First Pot Luck! Enjoy and don’t burn the house down!

Zesty Apple Blueberry Cobbler
by Toi Stori

Prep Time: 20 min.  Active Time: 40 min. Total Time: 1 hr. Serves: 6

For the Filling:

4 Granny Smith apples
1 Medium sized container of fresh blueberries about 1 1/2 cups
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, Allspice or apple pie spice
2 oranges juiced
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

For the Topping:

1 Cup of pancake mix or all-purpose flour
1 Teaspoon of orange zest
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 Tablespoon of allspice
1/2 Tablespoon of cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 Cup of water or milk
1/2 Cup of brown sugar

Zest Apple Blueberry Cobbler
Zesty Apple Blueberry Cobbler Ingredients .
Photography Credit: Toi Stori
For ToiHouse.wordpress.com

1. Preheat to 350 degrees F.

2. Make your filling: Peel your apples cutting them into 1/2-inch slices. If you have an apple cutter, even better and quicker. Throw them in a bowl and toss them with granulated sugar and lemon juice. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples and cook, until slightly softened, stirring occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes. Add flour, cinnamon, vanilla extract, orange juice and allspice and stir. The juices should thicken a bit in 2 minutes. When done, remove from the heat and add in the blueberries. Let this cool completely.

3. Make The Topping: Combine the pancake mix or flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, allspice,  cinnamon and orange zest in a large bowl. Cut in 3 tablespoons butter with a spoon. Add the water or milk; stir until you get light brown dough and until there is no loose flour in the bowl. Spoon the dough into your flour dusted hands and form round balls flattening them into biscuits. This should make about 6 pieces of dough.

4. Spoon the filling into a buttered casserole dish and top with brown sugar. Place the dough evenly around the casserole dish on top of the filling, finishing with 1 piece of dough for the center. Sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Transfer to the oven and bake until the topping is golden and crispy, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool for about an hour and eat warm.

Eat and Enjoy~

Mine turned out like this! It was fabulous! Try this and everyone will wonder where you learned to do that?!

Zesty Apple Blueberry Cobbler
Zesty Apple Blueberry Cobbler.
Photography Credit: Toi Stori
For ToiHouse.wordpress.com

Start Your Day Peachy!

Sweet Peach Raspberry Medley
(OAS) Friendly Recipe

Let me start off by saying, I LOVE peaches, but I have just 1 problem. I’m ALLERGIC! I, along with about 70% of people with pollen allergies, suffer from Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) caused by cross-re-activity between proteins in fresh fruits and vegetables and pollens.

I noticed a few years ago that I had developed an allergy to fresh pitted fruits. I was so annoyed because I love fresh fruit and this came out of nowhere! Never again would I be able to eat Apples, Bing Cherries, Nectarines, Plums and my all time favorite –  Peaches, in its natural form.

I discovered this sweet way to prepare my peaches without suffering from the effects of my allergies which include an itchy tongue, throat and swollen throbbing gums. By cooking or processing the fruit, the proteins are broken down so OAS typically doesn’t occur.

(If you have food allergies, please consult with your doctor before trying this recipe. This preparation works for me but others may be different)

So for breakfast, I wanted to make a quick fruit medley with Peaches and Raspberries. I wanted to feel like I was eating fresh juicy  peaches with a bit of a snap, so I nuked it in the microwave for 1 minute. Anything longer than that and they become mushy like cobbler, which isn’t bad, but that’s not what I wanted today. If you want, after nuking, you can cool them off in the fridge and when you take them out, they taste just like fresh peaches.

Here are the ingredients you need for a Sweet Peach Raspberry Medley:

Sweet Peach Raspberry Medley
(OAS) Friendly Recipe

Prep Time: 5 min.  Active Time: 1 min. Total Time: 6 min. Serves: 1

1 Peach
1 container of Raspberries
1 Tablespoon of Honey
1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon

Photography by: Toi Stori For ToiHouse.wordpress.com
Photography by: Toi Stori For ToiHouse.wordpress.com

 

1. Wash your peach thoroughly to loosen any dirt and possibly any pollen stuck to the skin; slice sections of the fruit, discarding the pit.

2. Place on a microwavable plate/container (cover it to steam – best)  and microwave for 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds (longer if the peach is a bit firm)

3. Toss a handful of raspberries on top; drizzle honey over fruit medley; sprinkle cinnamon

Eat and Enjoy~

What foods have you sacrificed for OAS? Find a way to enjoy your favorite foods again!