An Evening for the Stars with Starfish Foundation


On April 21, 2018, contributing writer Raquel Davis and her two daughters, social media correspondent, Destinee’ Merritt and photographer Charity Merritt, attended  An Evening for the Stars: Starfish Benefit Dinner held at the Red Lion Hotel in Timonium, MD.

Few days before the Starfish Benefit dinner, my daughters, Destinee’ and Charity, and I joined Sharing the Details to cover an event located around my neighborhood in Baltimore County, Maryland. This particular event was hosted by The Starfish Foundation, a safe hub that provides education and leadership development to Ecuadorian high school students who are currently living in extreme poverty.

Being an educator of fifteen years myself, and a mother to a high school graduate (Destinee) and a high school senior student (Charity), I understand the importance of having a good education. And how life changing it could be without it.

The Starfish Foundation was founded in November 9, 2011. Their mission is to “be a premier means for at-risk Ecuadorian youth to achieve a post secondary education.” They provide scholarships to students in Ecuador to finish their high school education and help students develop into strong leaders. Presently, the program has 150 students and is looking to expand space to receive more participants.

 Here’s how the The Starfish Foundation stays engaged (and how you can be involved):

  1. To Sponsor a Scholar – For just $30 per month, one can support a student to attend school along with the necessities required to receive an education.
  2. Join in the fun! – Locals can participate in the March Madness challenge, attend a Happy Hour on Giving Tuesday after the Thanksgiving holiday, and/or compete in their virtual scavenger hunt Starfish Search in the Fall.
  3. Volunteer – The Starfish Foundation are looking for volunteers both in the U.S. and in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
  4. Stay in touch – Connect on social media by sharing and posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and blog.
  5. Shopping on Amazon – Help buy items to donate from their Wish List and/or Add the non-profit as the Amazon Smile program receiver for whenever shopping online!

And of course, the attending the Benefit Dinner dedicated in celebrating and supporting the Students in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

The Starfish Foundation Event Banner

When we walked into the venue, we were greeted by  members of the organization. The Welcome Party gave each of us printed and laminated name tags. There were tables with Silent Auctions items to bid on to and a Photo Booth with the Starfish Foundation Logo backdrop, ensuring all guests will be Stars for the night! Even the food was exquisite! We had  salad, rice & beans, shrimp, chicken and fried plantain chips from a self serving buffet line. Once we were seated, we noticed recipes placed on each table for guests to try at home.

Salad at the Table. Photo Courtesy of Charity Merritt of At Five Photography.

Here’s a sample recipe on how to prepare Plantain Chips!


  • Green plantains
  • Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: Chili pepper or garlic gloves to season the oil

Plantain Chips

  • Peel the plantains
  • Cut the plantains in thin slices.
  • Heat the oil, either in a pot or frying pan, until it reaches around 375 F – 400 F. Use enough oil so that the plantains are completely covered to brown.
  • Add the plantains slices to the hot oil. Fry them until they begin to brown.
  • Sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve hot or cold

Each table center also had a bulletin that featured students from the program next to the creatively cut lemon and flowers center pieces. My table highlighted a beautiful soul named, Karla.

Karla. Photo courtesy of Charity Merritt of At Five Photography.

“Karla enjoys spending time with her siblings, she is fifteen years old and her favorite color is gold. She likes rice with fried chicken.” I only look forward to her success story!

There is a saying that goes, “Teamwork makes the Dream work!” I must say, for The Starfish Foundation it holds true because over 200 people came out to support. 

Packed house. Photo courtesy of Charity Merritt of At Five Photography.

For an organization which started almost seven years ago, the Starfish Foundation has accomplished in making a positive impact in South America. However, there is still so much more work to be done. It was a great pleasure to have met the leaders in the group and join other guests in supporting such a great cause.

An Evening For the Stars, is an annual event held in the Spring hosted by The Starfish Foundation. Be sure to come out and dine with Starfish next year! In the mean time, join the mailing list to be notified of their other annual events. 

Student Newsroom Food Interviews at LABS@LightCity


On April 21, 2018, contributing writer, Emma Hagedoorn, shares her experience in working as an anchor and journalist for Food Lab of Labs@LightCity at the IMET Columbus Center. The Student Newsroom is sponsored by local news WJZ-13 CBS Baltimore and part of Light City, a FREE festival of LED light displays, music, and innovation by Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts in Baltimore City, Maryland

My name is Emma Hagedoorn, and I am a sophomore at Loyola University Maryland. I am the news editor of Loyola’s student news source, The Greyhound, which is where I heard of this opportunity to work with the Labs@LightCity. The main editor of our University Paper, Nick Cirone, had attended some of the labs, and encouraged me to attend. And I am very happy he did! It was such a cool experience to be a part of this festival. As someone who is not a native to Maryland, and this only being my second year to even see the Light City Festival, it was amazing to see a whole new aspect. I had no idea they did different labs, and being able to interview and listen to different speakers was a great opportunity.

Emma interviewing Christian De Paco and Chef Melanie Molinaro in the Green screen of the Student Newsroom.

I worked on the last day, which was the Food Lab, and as a lover of food myself, this was a perfect day for me. I liked how it was not only chef’s speaking or showing how to cook meals, but other speakers who shared their experiences in Baltimore and with different themes of food in relation to the city and life in general. I felt like a real professional when I walked in and got a photo pass by Pixilated and how I was able to take speakers up to chat with me on camera in front of a green screen.

Emma’s Photo Pass by Pixilated.

I had the chance to interview some cool people, who all did different things. My first interview was with two women who spoke about The End of the Boys Club. Both Allison Robicelli and Therese Nelson were such beautiful individuals inside and out and I really enjoyed their panel discussion, along with Alison Price Becker and Rachel Waynberg. They had some great things to say within our student interview about being the change in Baltimore and elsewhere, as well as great advice for college students.

Emma between speakers Allison Robicelli and Therese Nelson.

I was also able to interview Devin Johns who is the Social Engagement Manager at Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia. She also had a great personality and it was great to be a part of her first time in Baltimore.

Devin Jones and Emma.

I was finally able to interview the owners of Stall 11 in Baltimore, which serves vegan and vegetarian options. Chef Melanie Molinaro along with Christian De Paco spoke at the Food Labs. Molinaro showed everyone how to make vegan mac n cheese. They were both so open about their restaurant and the city of Baltimore.

Overall, I learned a lot from this experience. I was able to get real time interviewing individuals as well as being on camera. I felt the rush of an event and coming up with questions on the spot and trying to find the speaker before they left. I also get experience on camera and learned some skills about where to stand and how to interview on camera. I would suggest doing this to anyone who is interested in any aspect of communications. I hope to be back next year for more labs!

Emma with speaker Chyno.

Food Lab of Labs@LightCity was presented by Visit Baltimore with Wegmans as supporting sponsor. Other members of the Student Newsroom are Nick Cirone, Cache Jackson, Jessi Kim, Naomi Peppers, and Saran Tarawaley. 

Throwback-Center Stage (Grand Opening): The White Snake Review


March 3, 2017, I had an exclusive invite from Center Stage to cover their theatrical release of The White Snake. The show was approximately  2 hours and 11 minutes long and I was able to finagle a cookie and a drink during the 15 minute intermission. Unfortunately, Center Stage’s restaurant vendor Flavor was not open during the time but I still had a remarkable time.

The last time I went to Center Stage was when I was 19 years old and the venue, if compared to today’s renovation, was dwarfed in size. The 28 million for the renovation project does speak volumes, with its’ grand, illustrious marquee. The lobby is much more spacious, the box office was revamped, and there are all sorts of literary quotes just floating about the wall by the Pearlstone Theater. On two opposite ends of the theater are a wine bar and a coffee bar, but the mini hike is worth it. Speaking of a mini hike, driving to Center Stage was easy.

There was a parking garage just a block from the venue which was only $5 for the show. The drive was decent since the parking garage was nearby and there wasn’t much traffic that day.

For a matinee theater show, I decided to do my hair a bit differently by wearing two braids crossed in the back. I wore my  White House Black Market gray and white leopard print work blazer with a champagne pink ruffled Anne Taylor shirt with white pants. For my birthday that year, one of my close friends gave me a Sailor Moon-inspired Luna head shaped purse. Surprisingly enough, this purse pairs well with my ensemble.

I may have been a little overdressed for this opening but the young college student in me was so excited to be back! I had so many fond memories of Center Stage in my college heyday that I wanted to relive it in my current state as an older millenial. As soon as I walked in, I was given an amazing swag bag full of papers about Center Stage, information on upcoming productions, and the bag, itself, I have been using for work.

The seats inside the head theater were fancy, soft, and princess like. I love the color red and those plush seats were heavenly. A definite upgrade from what I remembered back in the day.

“The White Snake” was a production by Mary Zimmerman and  directed by Natsu Onoda Power. Zimmerman adeptly fused Western and Eastern perspectives in this retelling of the story with music, set designs, imagery, and costumes. This adaptation of this old, Chinese tale, was vibrantly displayed with colorful settings, creative snake costumes, and an almost surreal sequence change that could be oft-times had a “Disney” magic to it.

Power, an associate professor of Theater from Georgetown University, worked the story of friendship, love, and acceptance into a relatable piece. The underpinnings of the story is to recognize that although we all come from different walks of life, it’s good to accept the person as whole.

The show was strongly directed and several actors broke out and shined a light with their witty quips, light steps, and emotive reactions.  The White Snake played by Aime Donna Kelly delivered a strong performance that vacillated between enigmatic and forlorn when her lover, the pharmacist’s assistant, Xu Xian, played by Joe Ngo, discovers the truth behind her true species. Ngo had a multi-dimensional performance that shifted from silly, to concerned, to determined.

My favorite character was the sassy Green Snake played by Eileen Rivera. Her tenacity, verve, and fun energy enthralled the crowd. She had a literal snake like charm whenever she made a one-liner.

Ensemble members such as  Caitlin Cisco, Samy el-Noury, Jason Kao Hwang, Damian Thompson, Yukio Tsuji, and Joshua Ziemann brought out a moving magic from scene to scene.

The play was also easy to get into. The narrative just sucks you in from the beginning.  Power provides strong lines for the cast and it’s quite noticeable when you notice the audience’s visceral reactions.

I can easily see this play heralding Baltimore’s top ten for best theater shows in 2017. The acting, directing, lush scenery, and the script blended East Asian culture with Western humor, plausibility, and culture.

Although this play is currently not in production: Scroll below for upcoming shows at Center Stage. Definitely consider donating to this great theater right here!

About Center Stage

Center Stage is the state theater of Maryland, and Baltimore‘s largest professional producing theater. Center Stage began in a converted gymnasium in 1963 as a full arena theatre that seated 240 people.Center Stage houses two performing spaces, the 541-seat Pearlstone and the smaller Head Theater, both in its home in the Mount Vernon Cultural District of Baltimore.




Upcoming Center Stage Plays (February-March 2018)

1.) Skeleton Crew (February 2018)

From the playwright of Detroit ’67Skeleton Crew (the third play in Dominique Morisseau’s acclaimed Detroit trilogy) tells the story of four workers at the last exporting auto plant in Detroit struggling to survive as their way of life disappears. Set around 2008, this play vividly portrays the modern struggle in a changing America, and reveals the real people on the factory line. This skeleton crew—the bare minimum number of staff needed to function—is made up of people who keep the vital operations of the plant running in the face of obstacles, rumors, and, eventually, the confirmation of their worst fears. Loyalties are tested and boundaries are crossed as this vibrant team of loyal and proud workers navigate an uncertain future. Purchase tickets here

2.) Animal Farm (March 2018)

One day on Manor Farm, shortly before his death, an old boar named Major told the other animals about his dream. United by the realization that all animals have a common enemy—man—the animals revolted against the tyranny of forced work. They fought and gained their freedom and established a system of thought, Animalism, based on the wise words of the Major. All animals are comrades. All animals are equal. But as months and years pass, the exalted words of the Major become distorted, and the citizens of Animal Farm come to see that some animals are more equal than others. Purchase tickets here.

3.) Mobile Unite Twelfth Night (March 2018)

Mobile Unit, an exciting new initiative of Baltimore Center Stage, that breaks down the walls of conventional theater spaces by taking high-quality theater to economically, culturally and geographically diverse communities across the Baltimore area, including homeless, elderly, incarcerated. The project launched in spring 2017 following a successful pilot project in 2016. Purchase tickets here.




Boordy Vineyards: 72 Years of Rich Wine and Fun Times to Come


For most of my life, I have never been a big fan of mixed drinks. I don’t know why, but I could never imbibe a Cosmo and honestly say I enjoyed it. The only mixed drink that I could ever really drink is a Bloody Mary, but then again, I would need a Grade-A Brunch experience before I can down one.

I’m picky with drinks, in general, because my only liquor of choice is wine. Preferably red wine, but wine nonetheless. And I wouldn’t just drink any glass, box, or bottle of wine either–I only want quality.  Boordy Wine is a natural choice for me. One, because I am a proud Marylander and two because Boordy makes rich, award winning, red wines that touch the soul.

Last February I had a VIP  tour around Boordy vineyards, witness the wine making process, sample a thorough selection of red and white wines, and get background history on the vineyard.


If you live in the Baltimore area, the commute is a breeze. Parking is ample, free, and found around the premise. If I came around Summer time, the vineyards would’ve been fleshed out with grapes, just waiting to burst underneath the hot, scorching sun. Since I came around Winter time, I missed out on a potential scenic moment.

I was able to tour where the wines are processed (large, silvery, cylinder machines) and stored (legit French cork flown in from France).


High-end wineries (like Boordy) often store their wine in large, french oak barrels as a way to enhance the fermentation process and to assure the wine connoisseur that they are only drinking the finest. Boordy is famous in the Mid Atlantic region for their red wines, especially its’ Landmark series which is made in limited quantities and sourced from 100 percent Maryland  grown grapes. This award winning wine series is flavorful, plush, well blended, and dark. Consider joining Boordy’s Landmark Wine club to partake on these rare delights here.  

After I was given a tour of the farm area, visitor center, wine cellar, barn, I was escorted to the wine bar area where I sampled a rainbow of reds only the Gods could imagine. Here’s my review on a handful of tastes:

Dry Rose 2016: With a blush color, and lip puckering after taste. This dry rose resembles ones from France. This sample was both delicate, clean tasting, and airy like the skies.

Merlot 2014: A deeply, aged wine that marries black currants, earthy textures, and aromas of fresh berries from a Fall Harvest. The medium body is perfect. This drink would pair well with a medium rare steak or a finely, roasted, lamb dish.

Landmark Reserve 2013: Here is a personal favorite of mine.  This red wine is full bodied, with a full-taste that invades the senses. There are cocoa notes and smoky tobacco aromas enhanced in this tasting. I highly recommend this bottle for special events and parties. It’s one of those kinda wines.

Spiced Wassail: I call this a fun red wine that you can party with during Summer cookouts, bon fires, and days on the beach. The spices mingled with natural sweet nodes evinces warm and inviting memories from my youth.

Syrah: Deep, majestic, and mythical. That’s precisely what I thought about Boordy’s syrah and find this to a mature drink for wine lovers.


Boordy was also so kind that they gifted me with a wide range of wines! They make the best birthday, engagement and Galentines day gifts! Definitely check out their website here for more details on where you can get your own set of red wines.


Along with fine tasting wine, Boordy is a great venue for birthdays, and  for special events. Their 19th century barn has two levels, a rustic panoramic area to view music, and a floor to dance the night away. This barn also houses great live band shows, an open area for eating, and a chance to take the best #FarmLife selfie amidst the strewn lights hanging confidently along the barn interior.


Winter Events at Boordy Vineyards:

January Weekends
1pm – 5pm
Admission is free
Winetastings are optional – $8 or $15

Party at Boordy’s 19th century barn, enjoy wonderful food-truck fare from Brick Brick’n’ Fire  Pizza on Sundays and Pasta La Vista on Saturdays.

Live Music from 1:00p.m.-4:30pm:

Jan 7 – Art Wachter & Blues Grass
Jan 13 – Take 2
Jan 14 – Jay Swanson
Jan 20 – Tom Beers & Friends
Jan 21 – Dan Haas
Jan 27 – Dear Creek
Jan 28 – Smooth Groove

February Weekends

1pm – 5pm
Admission is free
Winetastings are optional – $8 or $15

Live Music from 1:00p.m.-4:30pm:
Feb 3 – Spider Hole Band
Feb 4 – Art Wachter & the Blues Grass Band (Only Boordy food available for purchase)
Feb 10 – Take 2
Feb 11 – Jon Zorn
Feb 17 – Tom Beers
Feb 18 – Smooth Groove
Feb 24 – Jay Swanson
Feb 25 – Dear Creek

March Weekends

1pm – 5pm
Admission is free
Winetastings are optional – $8 or $15

Live Music from 1:00p.m.-4:30pm:
Mar 3 – Jay Swanson
Mar 4 – Jon Zorn
Mar 10 – Dear Creek
Mar 11 – Art Wachter & Blues Grass
Mar 17 – Take 2
Mar 18 – Tom Beers
Mar 24 – Dan Haas
Mar 25 – Smooth Groove
Mar 31 – John Zorn

About Boordy Vineyards

Boordy Vineyards has played a seminal role in the renaissance of regional wines in America. Founders Philip and Jocelyn Wagner established Maryland’s first commercial winery in Baltimore City in 1945, and their success at producing classically-styled wines inspired many pioneers around the country to follow their example.

In 1980 Boordy was purchased by the R. B. Deford family – who had been grape growers for the winery since 1965 – and was relocated to their historic 240-acre farm in the Long Green Valley of northeastern Baltimore County. The winery is housed in a 19th century stone barn whose massive walls provide an ideal environment for the production and aging of wine. Rob Deford, who received training in enology at the University of California, Davis manages Boordy with his wife Julie Colhoun Deford.  Boordy currently produces 97,000 gallons of wine annually and cultivates forty acres of grapes in the Long Green Valley (Central Piedmont region) and in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Maryland





6th Annual Taste of Pikesville

taste of pikesville 8
Taken by Mark Soriano 

The Pikesville Chamber of Commerce had its annual  Taste of Pikesville event at the Hyatt in Baltimore April 26, 2017.  Foodies, bloggers, and B-more media elite convened to dine on delectable treats, party with a moving mannequin (only in Baltimore), and try to out-scheme a legit magician (again, only in Baltimore).

A portion of the proceeds went to Baltimore Hunger Project,  a 501(c)3 non-profit charity that feeds hungry children on weekends during the school year.

taste of pikesville 4
Taken by Mark Soriano 

Sherryn Daniel’s Blog (moi) was a very proud sponsor of this event. Baltimore’s children are the future, and without proper nutrition, that future could fall on the wayside.

taste of pikesville 5
Taken by Mark Soriano 

Notable vendors such as: Wegmans, Akbar Restaurant, Bagby Pizza, Baltimore Whiskey Company, Bonefish Grill, Citron, Eggspectation, Great Shoals, Inka Grill, Linganore Wine, Mari Luna, Miski, Mezcal, Mr. Chan Asian Bistro, Raven Beer, Silk Road, Whole Foods, and Wyndridge Farm had an array of food, drink, and memories that I don’t even think the written word could do much justice to.

So when I first arrived, I was treated to complimentary valet service (a perk for all guests) and was quickly sent to the VIF room (VIP but with more Oomph).  Here, exclusive media guests and the exclusive B-more guests schmoozed, dined, and conversed in style. Here I was able to taste the greatest latka that ever graced my mouth and also swigged a delightful tropical juice to amplify that moment in my memory.

taste of pikesville 3
Taken by Mark Soriano 

When general admission opened up, I was able to partake in the following sans regret:

  • Lamb burgers: These burgers were cooked medium rare and were paired with a tart sauce, arugula, and extra attention. I regret not eating three more.
  • Gazpacho: This silky, red, drink of the Gods made a beeline to my belly and had a blissful ride down.  I liked how the soup was smooth without too much of an acidic overbite.
  • Macaroons: VIF had an impressive Macaroons display paired with chocolate lava cakes. I have an insatiable sweet tooth so this display was up my ally.
  • Great Ales: Although I am not a Baltimore native nor much of a beer drinker (except Mexican and English beers), I will say that Baltimore craft beers are really good. Support local and buy Baltimore.
  • Uzbeki Food:  My memory is shaky on what I ate but I know what I ate was worth it.  I don’t know very many Uzbeki food places but if I do a quick Google search, I am sure I can find that one restaurant in Baltimore that has THE BEST!
Taste of Pikesville 2
Taken by Mark Soriano 

I’m a hardcore foodie so I was shocked, in a good way, with Baltimore’s up-and-coming food scene. Baltimore is an underrated food city but accurately rated sports city (Love the Ravens and O’s so I am very biased).  Taste of Pikesville was the best way for anyone curious to get a quick sample of some of the best the city has to offer.

About Pikesville Chamber of Commerce

The Pikesville Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting and improving the business community in Pikesville.  The Chamber works in partnership with the residential communities and local government to create an environment that is a great place to live, work and shop.