La Grand Fete 2018 by ‘Smithsonian at 8’: Thirty Embassies, One Delicious Night!


March 23, 2018, La Grand Fete, sponsored by Smithsonian at 8, celebrates the tail-end of DC’s Francophone festival by having 30 embassies provide food, drink, and culture to worldly D.C denizens at La Maison Francaise at the Embassy of France. Music was provided by DJ Princess Slaya, who spun songs from around the world.

Tickets were sold for $40. Because this event sold out, no tickets were sold at the door. Tortoise & Hare Bar and Grille were open throughout the night, offering a bevy of beverages such as cocktails, international beers, and wine. Street parking was limited on Reservoir Road, around La Maison Francaise, and several attendees also used public garages available at Georgetown University Hospital.

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La Maison Francaise

Traffic was congested from my end. It took me around and hour and twenty minutes to get to this party. I was overjoyed that I didn’t have to wait in a long line since the weather was pretty frigid that day. Due to time and my commute, I was short on time. So I wore a basic, black dress with a scoop neck from White House Black Market, a turquoise tank from The Limited, and a gold colored leather satchel.

When I went through security, I asked the girls in the front what they recommended. Three of them highly recommended the Belgian waffles, French Wines, and Quebec Cotton Candy.  As I walked up and entered the embassy, I noticed that the coat racks were packed. Attendance was really high this year.

I couldn’t stop eating one. I had to eat three!

Women wore the latest in D.C and European fashion, and men wore business casual slacks and shirts. The dance area had various shapes of white balloons bobbing and floating along the ceiling; dancers partied to top 40 U.S, French, and Caribbean hits; and plates of international fare made various appearances across the venue.

From the corner of my eye, I noticed a really long line by the Embassy of Haiti table. When I walked closer, I could easily see what enticed the ravenous, or shall I say, thirst-driven crowd: an endless supply of rum. Haiti is famous for this libation, and I can easily see why. It was worth the wait, since I wanted seconds myself.

Lots of dancing.. maybe some romancing? France is known as the country of love after all…

More of the European-based countries had fine wine and beer tastings. For instance,  Switzerland featured their White Wine titled Fendant Treize etoiles AOC 2015. This was a French port that originated from Martigny, Valais. The most popular beer that night was from Belgium. This thirst-quenching ale attracted a flock, and almost impenetrable crowd, that made it it difficult for me to grab my own sample. In the classiest fashion,  I savored each drop since I do crave European beers from time to time.

When you think of Serbia, think of all the delicious bread you could possibly eat!

Along with imbibing liquors, I did get a chance to snack. Quebec had outstanding maple syrup candy, and equally outstanding maple syrup flavored cotton candy. Benin, Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Burkina Faso had outstanding African dishes such as curries, veggies, and fish platters. Serbia had delicious bread in the shape of a circuitous cross. Romania, Armenia, Monaco, and several other french-inspired countries also had delicious fare that gravitated a hungry crowd. After sampling my fair share, I made a quick visit to the Embassy of Cote de Voire (Ivory Coast) and saw some old friends from way back when.

Fam from the Embassy of Cote de Voire!

Counrties, like the Ivory Coast, are primarily connected through the French language. Since different regions have various ethnic identities, languages, and customs, the French language unites the country and bridges strong communication.

Speaking of France, I was hankering for some red wine from burgundy, beef bourguinon, and some canales. La Grand fete isn’t La Grand Fete without a visit to the motherland. I so had my fill and then some.

And my last but best stop, was the Embassy of Georgia!

A special thank you to the Embassy of Georgia for exclusively inviting Sharing the Details as their guests for La Grand Fete 2018! It was both an honor and a special treat!

I learned so much about this country in my short visit. Did you know that men wear Chokha, an iconic piece coat made of wool, with long sleeves, laps, hugged with a belt with a stilleto on it? A native citizen of Georgia can always tell a man’s place in society based on the color chokha he wears.

Did you also know that traditional Georgian women’s clothing has often been deemed as being luxuriously beautiful? Women wear a long dress called a kartuli, which is snuggly belted, with a fancy bodice and long laps. Special attention is always placed on the headdress, which consists of a thing, white veil; a thin bolster made of silk, and a large, calico, veil that covers the body minus the face.

The wine industry has a boon in Georgia. The Wall Street Journal (2016) has remarked that Georgia could be a great “Wine Destination” due to the earthy mode of creating these wines. Kahketi, is a province on the foothills of the caucaus mountains that has renown chacha, a grape-skin liquor reminiscent of moonshine; Qveri white wine, which has a sharp taste, and a deep hue color; and Shavi Gvino, a red so dark that it’s known as a black wine.

The Embassy of Georgia had a grand presentation of wine tastings, literature, folks dressed in traditional garb and with a flash mob led by Mamuka Gogiberidze, Dachi Chalabashvili, Lady Vanessa Reyes, Gvantsa Gogiberidze, Tako Rakviashvili, Beka Adamashvili, Gvantsa Turashvili, Tamta Revazishvili, and Tamar Zedelashvili.

This was the big talk of La Grand Fete. Several kids practiced on their routine, and pulled this difficult feat in front of a packed audience. I had a wonderful time learning more about the culture and meeting people from the Embassy! Such an amazing group of people!

If you want to learn more about this fabulous culture and party all night, click here to purchase tickets to their big shin-dig held at the Georgian Cultural Center April 5, 2018.  There will be an inclusive wine tasting, a stand up comedian, art exhibition, food, folk music and your chance to see the famous flash mob perform their routine!

Tune into Sharing the Details for special coverage of the Embassy of Georgia party, April 5, 2018!


New York Fashion Week 2018: Selly Djap, Christina J. Kim, AJ Saunders & Blakk April–4 Designers, A Kaleidoscope of Talent!


February 16, 2018 I had this unique opportunity to not just cover one designer for New York Fashion week but four at one show. Christina J. Kim, Selly Djap, AJ Saunders and Blakk April rounded out the tail end of the”Street Fashion” segment of NYFW 2018. This show was held at the Sunset Terrace at Chelsea Piers from 4 p.m to 7 p.m.

The night before, I drove to New York City around 12 a.m and finally came to my hotel, the Eurostar located at the heart of Wall Street, around 5 a.m. I swear I haphazardly packed. I lost my right Italian leather shoe from my suitcase due to the crunch on time. When I woke up by 1 p.m, I dolled up my face, wore black from top to bottom (it’s the New York and D.C thing to do) and sported a sparkly, gold, jacket that was originally sold from a boutique in Los Angeles. Inclement weather (the drizzle and the freeze) didnt stop fashionistas from rocking their best threads.

From the hotel, I took an Uber ($10 price ride) to the location and met up with my photographer.  We were covering behind the scenes for this year’s shows. This was my first time seeing models getting their hair done, practicing their catwalk, and lounging with a Starbucks drink before a big show. I learned from behind the scenes, how much work went into getting ready and with how the networking game as changed. Instagram is the best way to connect with Fashion designers, models, stylists, and photographers.

Lighting is key. So much prep work went behind providing enough natural and unnatural light for incoming media. Sharing the Details was able to have a video interview with both designers Christina J. Kim and with Selly Djap. Stay tuned for future exclusives on them and on AJ Saunders and Blakk April.

On top of that, I have never watched a fashion show below an Ice rink before! This was a brand new experience.

This new experience may tie in to a sea change with the NYFW industry. According to Forbes, NYFW and the shows have been dealing with turbulence in attendee turn outs. Brands, big and small, are turning to live streaming a fashion show while others cancel shows on the fly and try to recreate unique parties and fashion experiences at hotels, pop-up locations, and anything else tied to what’s trendy.

The fashion industry, collectively, has to meet changes and demands from a newer generation and from newer transnactional relationships. Customers want to know who created their products. Social media has ensured a transparency in this case. Brands are starting to rethink ways to reach their consumer base and to surprise them. This fashion paradigm has greatly affected the way a NYFW show is produced and executed.

For newer designers, this welcoming change means room for creativity. Instead of most shows following a format of attendees sitting idly in a row where models do a simple catwalk down the aisle at an exclusive venue. More shows, like the one I attended, are held in unique locations like an Ice Rink and have impromptu events–for example, a live engagement parlay between two VIP attendees which actually happened in between Selly and Christina’s show–to revive the shows with a new, verve.

After the video interview, I took a seat at the front.  VIP and general admission started to pour in and trickled down to sit, network, and take selfies. The bar from behind served guests wine, beer, and delicious cocktail drinks.

Fashion Designer Selly Djap’s Winter 2018 “Trauma” line showcased an eclectic arrangement of black dresses that portray sexual re-awakening after going through abuse. This fashion line was inspired by her personal history.  Asymmetrical necklines, sequence trimmings,  sheer/ transparent sleeves, made a bold statement with several dresses worn. Business casual ensembles with tight pants, bare shoulder tops, spark the imagination with the crowd.  Selly’s previous fashion line, “Sex” explored a variation of pinks, silks, floral beaded patterns that are also reminiscent to her conservative upbringing in Indonesia.

After Selly’s models sashayed out. A brief intermission was set. I had this wonderful opportunity to meet talented photographers who worked directly with Christina and with Selly. Their passion, eye for creativity, and kindness exuded with each photo they took.

Christina J. Kim’s Winter 2018 line, “Alter Ego” took the audience by surprise. Her contemporary, underground, street fashion line is full of mixed fabrics, bold colors, and mixed mediums. Her garments can work well for both genders. Christina’s past collections focused on details and minimalism and her color palate was primarily an array of neutrals. With her newer line, models paraded floral prints, over sized sweaters with over-stuffed cowl necks, asymmetrical neckline shirts and a splash of gingham.

Blakk April Collection titled “I Got Issues” was inspired by allowing people to reach their dreams.  Roosevelt (birth name) used sheer, soft, fabrics that hug and enhance a woman’s natural curves with some of the dresses he designed. Blakk April experiments with capes, multi-high-level slits in the front of dresses, pastels, and shimmering greens that could only bring out a lively gown. His eye for women’s fashion  for this line brought out a wave of I-phones out from the VIP attendees. His previous collection, April Wardrobe Raw Edges, experimented with plaids, stripes, and solid toned pieces. His previous collection gave off a casual, going to rock my local indie show vibe whereas his recent line exuded a glittery, awe-struck club going vibe.

Last by not least is AJ Saunders “Maladjusted” Collection took in the known, unknown, and wove in a creative spin with gender neutral clothing. AJ started a gofundme page last year to be able  to do a NYFW show this year, and this line paid off in spades. Her mantra for each piece which is “manipulation of the self to make the inaccessible accessible” was exuded due to her eclectic use of material, anatomical structures, and with breaking new ground with gender identification for tops, bottoms, and all kinds of ensembles. Her further experimentation with 3-D printing, chest binders, and human anatomy-inspired shapes evinced a reaction from the audience and even blew up a couple Instagram accounts. AJ definitely thought outside the box with this line.

Each designer’s vision brought down the house, so to speak. Attendees clamored up to each designer up the show for photo opps, Instagram handle shares, and to pick apart these innovative thinker’s brains. This was more than just a memorable show, these showcases stretched my own imagination quite a bit.

Stay tuned to Sharing the Details for exclusive interviews with Designers Christina J. Kim, Selly Djap, AJ Saunders and Blakk April. 

Engineers without Borders (DC) Gala: Dress to the Nines and help a great cause March 23, 2018!


There’s a multitude of reasons why charitable giving is always a positive! Did you know that participants who donate, according to a study from NIH, donating even $100 activates pleasure centers in the brain?

Not only that, charitable giving brings more meaning to ones life, helps others in need and sets a strong example for children to follow!

With that said, why not donate and also wear your best gown or tux?

Engineers without Borders- DC Chapter is having a gala at Josephine Butler Parks Center (2437 15th St NW Washington, DC 20009) on March 23, 2018 from 8:00 p.m to 11:00 p.m. Tickets are just $85 and proceeds go to several humanitarian-based projects that the organization is involved in. Street parking is available around the D.C area. Click here to purchase tickets!

Engineers without Borders, (EWB-DC) is a non-profit humanitarian organization that collaborates with community partners to design and build sustainable engineering projects. Their projects are implemented through a community-driven model based on full partnership with host communities.



This year’s Gala will have an open bar ALL NIGHT, hor d’oeuvres by Eat & Smile Catering, silent auction, DJ, photography by Brian Adrian Photography, a trivia give-a-way contest, and a pitch competition where we will be awarding over $6000 to our project teams determined by audience vote!

The Gala is also a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the DC chapter’s many projects:

1.) Current project: Water Supply project in Cameroon 

2.) Current Project:  Community Center in Panama 

3.) Completed Project: Water Supply in El Salvador 

4.) Two New Projects: A Bridge in Burkina Faso and Water Sanitation in Peru.

There will also be a silent auction featuring items in and around DC as well as good from  partner communities.


The Sharing the Details team will be providing live coverage of this event, tune into our website and social media the day of the event!

A Toast to the First Amendment

Taken by Trena Raines 

April 28th 2017, I had the privilege of attending the National Restaurant Association’s reception “Toast to the First Amendment” party that honors the White House Correspondent’s dinner, L Street in Washington D.C.

Top media officials, congressional staffers and other notables were in attendance at the event.

Taken by Trena Raines 

Guests partied on the eighth floor of the National Restaurant Association office where the bulk of the party took place. At the top of the stairs, party-goers imbibed specialty mixed drinks and tried an assortment of gourmet beer  at the bar.

Guests were also treated to a  specialty cocktail made by acclaimed mixologist Zebulon Jones. For foodies,  there’re only the finest. Separate rooms had mini tacos, sliders, and chicken lollipops. In addition, the dessert room had  sweet bites as well as after-dinner cocktails and coffee. My personal favorite are the Pinot Noir Chocolate bonbons but I know many other attendees strongly fell for the tiramisus in a cup.

Taken by Trena Raines 

The weather was so cool and crisp at night, that much of the party convened by the balcony to partake  in a rare liquor tasting sponsored by the  Distilled Spirits Council. Guests were privileged to try the  rarest and most expensive liquors in the world, including Johnny Walker Blue!

In addition, the Beer Institute took over a large alcove to allow guests to sample rare beers, including Bells Mars and Madam Rose! My personal favorite was this bright ale from the New England area. Other attendees told me that there was this one beer with an extremely high alcohol concentration– it was the perfect dare for newer attendees to try. I didn’t want to try though because I didn’t think I could handle that.

Taken by Trena Raines 

DC’s top media professionals from Washington Post, CNN, The Hill, MSNBC,  senior Hill staffers, and staffers from the Trump Administration were in attendance at the party.

Conversation topics ranged from why white wine beats beer any day  to why Unicorn shots are immature college aged drinks (some Hill writers were former bartenders). Liquor was the one topic most attendees seemed to chat the most about. And I can see why given that the NRA made sure attendees only drank what’s rare and highly sought after. Johnny Walker Blue, anyone?

Lets say that I learned more than I should that night!

The National Restaurant Association

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) is the largest foodservice trade association in the world*—supporting over 500,000 restaurant businesses. In partnership with state restaurant associations, they work every day to empower all restaurant owners and operators to achieve more than they thought possible.

NRA represent and advocate for foodservice industry interests—taking on financial and regulatory obstacles before they hit our members’ bottom line. The association provide tools and systems that help members of all sizes get significantly better operating results. And NRA  offer the kinds of networking, education and research resources that are only possible because of our vast, and active, membership base.

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.

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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.

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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.

First Model Union World Wide: Exemplary Pursuers of Fashion

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Courtesy of Michael Hutson
The fashion industry is bursting at the seams with models, designers, stylists, photographers, and agencies that are looking for the next Gigi Hadid. However, the industry is scant on multi-faceted agencies that shape models into business moguls. This is where First Model Union World Wide (FMUWW) comes in.

FMUWW is a singular agency, founded by Michael Hutson a.k.a. Monichi, that underscores the importance of the French term Poursuit de la Mode: the pursuit of fashion in business. Michael Hutson is the CEO of FMUWW and a renowned photographer. He believes

“Everyone is trying to pursue some type of industry in the form of fashion.”

With this mantra in mind, he created FMUWW to be an agency that shapes and molds a vast clientele of models, designers, and bookers into business owners. Fashion and sole proprietorship go hand-in-hand with this business concept. It’s unique in that fashion agency clients get real-world business skills, experience, and even contacts to assist them as they go out into the industry to pave their own path.

The overall goal of FMUWW is to educate, elevate, and inspire its clients to be leading future stars that embody true leadership potential. Leaders teach others to succeed, period. In the age of millennial entrepreneurship, this axiom is often not as widely practiced in other fields–let alone the Fashion field.

Often in an office culture, an environment of backstabbing, ruthless competition, and distrust molds into a company’s mission, but FMUWW’s goals and beliefs are a diametrical opposite of society’s norm. In short, it’s a breath of fresh air given the times.

Along with shaping each of its models to be a leader, FMUWW also grooms each to be a brand.

The clientele tends to consist of international models hailing from Ethiopia, the UK, and France, who are given lessons on modeling, posing, and runway etiquette. They are also given courses on how to make their money work for them.

Additional services include on-set traveling, designer housing (Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania), local- and long-distance traveling opportunities, and test shooting.

Are you a model who wants to cultivate your leadership skills? Contact Michael Hutson aka “Monichi” for more information: 

I exclusively attended Old-New Years Masquerade Vasilica at the Embassy of Macedonia


 *Special thank you to the Embassy of Macedonia and UMD President Metodija A. Koloski for the hospitality & background information*

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the United Macedonian Diaspora’s 12th Annual  Old-New Year’s Masquerade Vasilica celebration at the Embassy of Macedonia. The embassy was packed to the brim with 200 stylish D.C denizens who were donned in glam ensembles and baroque masks.
Vasilica is a centuries-old Macedonian holiday that commemorates both, the feast day of St. Basil the Great and the New Year’s Day according to the Julian calendar.  People from all over Macedonia and the region come to Vevcani wearing festive costumes and masks and dance throughout the two-day event. The Embassy of Macedonia was skillfully able to mold old tradition with new trends.  I remember when I walked into the embassy, I was impressed with the party layout.  The middle of the room had a bustling dance floor with a talented DJ who not only spun newer hits but meshed in 90’s jams.  Often times, Washington D.C carries a stigma for having a deadened dance floor but this particular party deactivated the stigma. There was an active dance floor, delicious all you can eat goodies, and copious amounts of authentic Macedonian wine thanks to Stobi Winery. 
 I had the great fortune to sample delicious Macedonian delicacies such as  Macedonian kebabs, tavche gravche (a special baked bean dish), shopska salad (cucumbers, peppers, onions with some salt, vinegar, and oliver oil), as well as the popular Macedonian walnut baklava. Each dish was scrumptious, fresh, and really filling.
Stobi Winery is well known in the D.C area for carrying special wines that use Vranec red (a special grape found in the Balkans), and for their whites and roses.  I really enjoyed sampling the rose due to the beverage’s light taste, rosy hue, and smooth yet fruit finish. I recommend this special wine for any festivity. If you want to cultivate your palates and also be more cultured with your wine selections, visit MacArthur Beverages in Georgetown to find this delicious wine or even contact Aleksandar Krsmanovic at from the Balkan Wine Project.
 At the beginning of the evening, guests received a piece of bread–a welcoming token to any Macedonian household– which was baked by UMD D.C. representative Gordana Mirkoska. According to Macedonian Orthodox tradition, whomever finds the coin is blessed with luck, health, and prosperity throughout the year. One lucky guest found this coin and the crowd was overjoyed!
Later on in the evening, Ambassador of Macedonia Vasko Naumovski and UMD President Metodija A. Koloski warmly welcomed guests to the residence and invited all to eat, drink, and be merry. I definitely took their advice to heart, especially when I donned my sparkly, sapphire mask and pranced around the dance floor to every single 90’s song like I was a kid in the 90’s. I was also lucky enough to get on this super long conga line that seemed to have grabbed folks from different areas of the embassy. I will surely relish the singing faces, practical jokes (this random guy kept smacking men in the behind in a mysterious, Lothario-fashion) and overall ambiance of that moment.
Speaking of the  Embassy of Macedonia, did you know the embassy was also known as the Moses House? It  was constructed in 1893 and is a mixture of Queen Anne and Neoclassical architecture. This house was renovated over the years and  officially opened as the Embassy of Macedonia on October 26, 2005. The architecture is both beautiful and mystifying. The curves of the roof along with the cream coffee-milk color, and the overall body of the residence is easy on the eyes. Based on this salacious yet provocative description of the house, I hope this entices you all to check this embassy out. 
  Lastly, all proceeds from Masquerade are given to the United Macedonian Diaspora’s scholarship program which gives  grants to college students, and strengthens the internship program.
I had such a memorable time that I do hope to go back again next year!

The Great Escape Room in D.C: Intellectual Fun!

great escape room

Escape rooms are a national trend that I actually agree with.

This concept became a trend in 2014 when a group of entrepreneurs wanted to provide millenials a real-life video game experience where players solve puzzles in under 60 minutes as a way to escape the room they are trapped in.

Before I had my first escape room experience, I falsely assumed that players try to go through several rooms, in an ornate mansion, in order to shore up evidence to solve a big mystery at the end. When I brought six of my friends to The Great Escape Room in D.C (located on 1730 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington D.C) we were floored with the Sherlock Holms-style mystery we had to solve, the ancient mars bars used as a clue, and the uv ray nightlight (plus other cool tools, tricks, and games) we used to solve each puzzle.

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Sixty-minutes may sound like a short amount of time to many of you but when you have multiple puzzles to solve, clues to unearth, and humorous amounts of stress layered in between each game, you feel like you’ve been playing this game for a long while.

What I really liked about The Great Escape Room was that all players had to work together, cohesively, in order to solve each puzzle consecutively. Without teamwork, trust, and communication I doubt we would’ve solved the puzzle just in time. In fact, this experience further bonded my rag-tag group of friends.

After our experience, we devoured copious amounts of gelato at Dolcezza by Dupont circle and kept rehashing items we all couldn’t find and word games that really twisted our minds. A funny moment that happened at the escape room was when one of my friends, Dan, came 15 minutes late and he walked through the door we were trying to escape out of. Our guide joked that she knew who the trouble maker in our group was. I just knew based on our guide’s sense of humor that the team behind The Great Escape Room really wants everyone to have a memorable time.

In fact, our guide for The Great Escape Room was very helpful whenever one of us was stuck. She guided us with hints and boosted our confidence over solving even the most cumbersome puzzle. When I think of the color green and puzzles, I will always remember the most difficult place to find a missing clue piece. Some memories, like that on and of my friend Dan coming out of the wrong door, are happy memories I will always cherish with me when I think of The Great Escape Room.

My friends universally agreed this experience is perfect for birthdays and many have said that they want to go back there again in the near future. I know that if I wanted a surefire way to teach leadership skills and teamwork to a group of eclectic personalities, I would recommend this experience.

Sometimes it’s good to take a break from playing a video game and to just experience the real thing.

14 Ways to Take Advantage of Your Birthday

Surprise! We’re on candid camera.

As you get older, it does get harder to celebrate your birthday. Each year that passes by could only mean wrinkles, gray hairs, and a slower metabolism. Although this timely holiday may be hard to stomach for some, for me, it’s a great opportunity to amass great discounts for the month of February and to live it up

If you enter “birthday freebies AND list” on Google you will garner pages upon pages of discounts you can cash in on your birthday  that are ranging from burger joints to clothing stores. One year I had a coupon for a free desert ($4.00 in value) at Le Madelines and for a burger ($9.00) at Ruby Tuesdays. If you take advantage of these lists and at least sign up for these deals 30 days before your birthday, you could possibly get away with eating free for an entire month. One caveat is you may get bombarded with spam-ish e-mails but I do have faith that you all will figure out a way around that.

If you don’t feel like typing this simple keyword in, you can also click on the following links to easily access these birthday discounts:

1.) Allyou’s Birthday Freebies

2.) Urban Tastebud’s 400 Birthday Freebies

3.) Pop Sugar’s 147 Birthday Freebies

4.) Hustler Money Blog

5.) The Penny Hoarder’s 100 Birthday Freebies

6.) Freebie Depot’s 700+ Birthday Freebies

7.) People’s Magazine’s 88 Restaurants

In fact, if you want to take the extra step, download this free app called bdayfreedayapp from the apple store. On the week of your birthday, it tells you which birthday discounts you can cash in your immediate area.

Freebies aside, that’s not the only facet you can take advantage of on your birthday. On the day of your birthday you dictate what you want to do and you have the opportunity to garner a mass following to do so. All it takes is for you to be a bit vocal on what you want.

A golden surprise!

This year for my birthday, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. I was vocal with my best friend, boyfriend, and even close friends over what I wanted to happen; and I also took the extra initiative in planning everything out. Before I get into how I  made my mini dreams come true, I do want to say the following: Not everyone can read your mind and not everyone has the time to throw you a surprise party. Life is not always like a Lifetime or Hallmark movie where the lead gets a surprise party thrown at the beginning and her wishes somehow come true just by thinking it.

In real life, you say exactly what you want and throw your own party. By taking initiative and by being confident in what you want, you feel more joy because you are solely responsible for your own happiness.

This year, I went to New York City with my best friend, hung out in Frederick, Maryland with the boyfriend, and threw myself a grand party. My best friend and I planned everything in advance and I was able to do almost everything I wanted to do. In Frederick, Maryland I communicated enough with my boyfriend exactly what I wanted and I was able to eat at the best restaurant in that area. If you guessed Volt, than, yes, I totally ate there. For my grand party, I planned each activity out in advance and was easily able to sway all of my friends to cooperate. Birthday’s are special days that commemorate your existence and it would be such a waste to squander it due to age insecurities or to peer pressure.

New York City

New York Fashion Week 2016 at Stevie Boi’s Cabin Show. His shades are worn by Madonna, Elton John, Beyonce, Lady Gaga and beyond.

Frederick, Maryland

Just had a 21-course meal at Volt in downtown Frederick, Maryland. Being a gourmand has its perks.















Grand Party

My birthday did involve a massive pillow fight. We played the “Mortal Kombat” theme song in the background and I was quickly k’od on the spot.

So you all clearly see that I am having a blast, right? Well, I want you to be able to take advantage of your birthday and do exactly what you want.

Here are some tips, tricks, and off-the-cuff ideas to help YOU take advantage of your birthday.

1.) Employ bucket list ideas into your birthday party. When you plan your party, it’s always your rules. Plan activities out in advance and let your guests know what’s ahead and what they should bring. I was reminiscent of my younger days so I wanted to have a massive pillow fight, like the one in Washington D.C last year. I told everyone in advance to bring a pillow and everyone was ready to pretend they were fighters from “Mortal Kombat”. Having a massive pillow fight, as an adult, was on my bucket list and it was sheer joy seeing all of that play out with a willing crowd.

2.) Make it a potluck. If you are worried about costs, assign a dish for everyone to bring. Your birthday is a special day and I am sure everyone is willing to pitch into make it even more special.

3.) Add spontaneity. As we get older, it’s harder to be spontaneous. Catching up with friends tends to be a challenge since it all has to be scheduled in advance. Your birthday party is a special time for you to be random. Let’s say you feel bored for a hot second and want to go out for a chocolate milk shake. You can easily get everyone board and just drive to a local diner. Since you are dictating your own party, you are the leader so what you say goes.

4.) Be Frugal. Parties can be expensive so it’s best to be smart when it comes to decorations, foods, and with everything else. If you want to save massive dollars, go to Michaels on a weekday and check out their clearance items. Also remember that your local dollar store has all the party supplies you need. If you mix those two together, you will be able to aggrandize your home without emptying out your wallet.

5.) Plan Multiple Outings. Your birthday doesn’t have to be just one day–it can span a month with the right kind of planning. My best friend and I love New York city so we both planned everything in advance. Since our trip was in celebration of my birth, we were able to eat at my favorite Korean, Falafel, and bakery-type spots. Not only that but our instagram game was point. In fact, use your birthday as a personal excuse to get out of town for a day or two. Go to that exotic spa in Arizona, ski down the best slopes in Vermont, or even go skydiving in California. Because this your birthday, your pals will want to support you in your endeavors and join you in all of the fun. Life is truly short and there isn’t enough time to celebrate the beauty of life. Just saying.

6.) Look and Be at your Best. Confidence can be found inside out. When you dress your best you do feel your best. No matter what, whether you are having a party with friends or you are at the office, wear your best outfit. If money is an issue, Goodwill and Amazon can take care of that (they often sell high-end clothes for pennies). If you are naturally slovenly, make it that on the day of your existence you dress to the nines since we all need to celebrate your life. Once you get this step taken care of, you will emotionally feel like you have a stronger control of your day and be able to helm all birthday activities.

7.) Eat like royalty. Go on Yelp or Google Reviews and pick the best places to eat. Invite all of your friends out too. Not everyone goes out to eat and when they do, it’s often to a chain restaurant or a local diner. When it’s your birthday, you need to treat yo’ self. If you have a hard time picking the best place to eat, look up who your local food bloggers are and see what they say. Whatever is the snootiest response, that’s where your dollars gotta go. It’s your time to eat foi gais on croquettes.

8.) Give yourself a Surprise Party. Yup. You can totally get away with this. Just tell one of your trusted friends to help you plan your party and they can tell everyone else you have no idea that this party is going on. When it’s D-day and you are walking through that golden door, that’s when you can use your best acting skills to pretend that you had no idea. For your pretend surprise party, tell your friends (hosts) to make sure that everyone is using confetti poppers once you enter inside. You can even have them lay out activities that you haven’t done in awhile (chocolate flight, twister, truth or dare, paint ball, etc). If you really want to go above and beyond, you can theme the party and have everyone dress up as someone from a favorite movie you like. There was this one episode of Community  where Jeff (smarmy but kind lawyer) planned a Pulp Fiction themed party and demanded that everyone dress up for their friend Abed. If you have seen the episode, just know that you can have the same exact party like him if you plan in advance and coral everyone involved.

9.) Get Outside of your Comfort Zone. Have you always wanted to have a food eating contest but were too afraid to do so? Or better yet, are you terrified of snakes? Use your birthday as an excuse to plan those activities so you not only entertain your friends and family but you can also make yourself a stronger person that year. When you are able to push your own internal boundaries, on the day of your birth, you feel emotionally exulted and free to take on any other challenges in your life. This is also a smart career move if you need that extra boost of confidence in working towards that promotion.

10.) Make Unruly Requests. It’s the only time of year you can get away with doing this. You can’t really do this during Christmas and you can’t really get away with this on Valentines day either. On your birthday, if you want to spend the entire day at the spa than do it. You can try to have a family member take care of your personal errands for that day. We all understand. Better yet, if you have a friend who sings well, you can request on that day that they sing songs by Queen, David Bowie or even the Backstreet Boys. It’s your birthday, and you can demand if you want to.

11.) Everywhere you go. Tell the world it’s your birthday. This bit of advice works well at ski resorts, bowling alleys, and especially at all restaurants. So many businesses have quiet deals for birthdays and you may not know about them since they aren’t always advertised. Not only that, you can get away with asking for the entire month since your birthday is too much of a grand event to isolate for just one, short, day.

12.) Remind people over and over again that your birthday is coming up. Not everyone has a scheduler on hand and not everyone goes on Facebook. Remind enough but don’t be whiny about it. When people remember your special day, they will take it upon themselves to treat you right.

13.) Save up. With all great endeavors comes financial responsibility. Plan what you want several months to a year in advance. Create an estimated budget and allot an ample amount of cash. This may seem like common sense but many do forget to save for their big day and just opt for free meals or for parties that are too kitschy due to egregious costs.

14.) Openly declare what your birthday dreams are. This may sound childish but it does work. Let’s say you dream of riding an elephant on your birthday. You keep communicating that to everyone and you keep reminding yourself what you want, that it’s bound to happen. Whether you save up money for this activity or if one of your friend’s started a kickstarter program to get you that dream, anything can happen if you declare it. I mean, look at Kanye West. Albeit, he did work hard for his successes but he did declare what he wanted in life and got it. I am not advising to have a Kanye-sized ego but I am advising to dream big and to go after what makes you happy.

So there you have it. This is how you take advantage of your birthday. You squeeze all opportunity out and use your time wisely.

If you want to follow more tips or just want to say hi, follow me on Twitter (@SherrynDaniel) or check out of my foodie pics on Instagram (SherrynBlog). 

9 Steps in Becoming a Food Writer

Try the world
Totally in love with my early birthday gift. “Try the World” has delicious treats from different countries and it’s mailed to me bi-monthly.

So what does a food writer do? Type this statement into Google and you will see a plethora of results that examine the definition, tasks, and requirements behind being a highly sought after food writer.Now, my favorite food writing advice comes from acclaimed Washington D.C food writer, Monica Bhide.

In a 2011 Forbes article she advised new food writers to:

1.) Ask a ton of questions.

2.) Go out into the world and immerse your senses in food. Listen to foodies, smell clementines, and hone into your senses.

3.) Read voraciously.

4.) Get used to rejection.

If you love her advice (which you should) definitely tweet her here.

food and wine
You can only  get so much from Buzzfeed. I figure a subscription to Food and Wine can only help.

Aside from studying the concept of food writing, the best way to learn about food writing is to learn for yourself; That’s what I did several years ago when I first started in the gourmet food industry. I was a fledgling when it came to truly understanding how a Hershey chocolate bar could never supersede deluxe bars of milky brown gold from Belgium (craving Belgian chocolate right now). Now I am armed with  the ingenuity, foresight, and verbal dexterity to write either mouth-watering restaurant or product review.

Along with writing, so what does a food writer do? Well, here’s a candid picture behind this food writer that I hope will help  you along your own food journey.

1.)Network and learn from trade shows. It’s a given but attending the NASFT Fancy Food show, and other regional food shows across the U.S not only cultivate your senses with unique delights (mushroom flavored mochi) but this is the best place to create everlasting relationships with notable key figures. A few years back, I attend the Summer Fancy Food Show and struck a fun conversation with the CEO of Tortuga. After we chatted, I was able to sample his new line of rum cakes and had a memorable time reviewing them for my blog. Primarily at food shows will  you stay abreast with food trends and also learn about new products before the public does.

2.) Try new foods and don’t wimp out. It’s basically a given but how can anyone write about food if they don’t know what it tastes like. Also, when I say try new foods I don’t mean just new American or just fancy foods at pricey restaurants (that’s just being a poser). I mean foods from all over the world that both tickle and intrigue your senses. Why not eat some couscous with your shakshuka? Or try something else aside from chicken tikka masala. For my past birthday I received this delicious subscription boxset. Try the World lets foodies sample exotic spices, teas, jams and beyond from countries like France and Thailand. My baked chicken was a success this week thanks to the French persillade from Mont Saint Michel and also a dosage of butter to moisten up the bird.

Had Valentines day Dinner at The Modern in New York City.  They have a great four-course menu.


3.) Write.. Duh! Learning how to write about food is both a culinary and artistic experience. When I first started, I would do online and offline research on foods. I would later create an outline, fill that in with information I gathered from diverse sources, and write out my thoughts as simply as possible. It’s always best to remember KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) but it never hurts to throw in fancy food words here and there if you thoroughly know what it means. Use your imagination, freely. Do not feel constrained by what your peers are writing too since writing, in itself, is an art form.  Read from notable food writers online and learn to write like them. Once you gained the confidence to write like them, freelance and write for notable food blogs like We, The Eaters. Once you finely tune your craft, feel free to start your own food blog and brand yourself.

4.) Meet and eat with  foodies. When you are in the food industry, it’s hard not to meet up with other foodies. If you are new to being a food writer, just do a simple Google search, and you will find other food bloggers in the area. Definitely connect with them on social media and start a relationship there. You can find fellow foodies on Instagram and on twitter if you type in #foodie in the search bar. Social media is all about connecting. In fact, I met my food marketing expert friend, Jimmy Matorin through Linkedin. (check out his blog here) You can also find fellow foodies at food shows and through events sponsored by your favorite newspaper. As an avid reader of The Washington Post weekend guide, I often look up food shows, festivals, and restaurant openings in the area. Buredo (burrito sized-sushi) recently opened up and I know that the first people going there are tweeting and blogging about this delicious occasion. Don’t be shy! Exchange e-mails, meet up for coffee, and learn by listening.

5.) Learn and be social on social media. A great segue from connecting with foodies on social media is to also pick up on trends. Download a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat apps. Perform a Google search on local and on national food bloggers, youtubers, and celebrities like Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentis, and follow them through these apps. Often times these foodies are posting content on current food trends. Also follow esteemed food journalists, publications, and photographers too if you want to get article ideas or even partner up on a new venture. When you click on food-related hashtags and follow up on conversation you will instantly get fresh information you can use for your articles.If you want to engage further, subscribe to food threads on quora, reddit and on Linkedin. Provide value by giving information or articles to readers that are of interest. Lastly, If you want to pay it forward (great movie, by the way) offer to write up a review for a new restaurant or help a new food company out with a product review. Newer establishments often post on social media and this is also a great way for you to get your foot in the door.

6.) Subscription magazines are not dead. As you see above, I have a subscription to Food and Wine. I am really excited about this since this is the premier magazine for recipes, food trends, and information on getting the best of the best. I also recommend getting a subscription to Saveur, Bon Apetit, and Fine Cooking. If money is tight, than you can also fatten up your RSS feed by subscribing to notable food bloggers. Try using these keywords “food bloggers AND foodies AND List” into Google. Peruse some of these lists and select food bloggers that you trust. Not all food bloggers are credible so pay close to attention to what they write, how factual it is, and if they fit your own niche.

7.) Cook until your finger nails are encrusted with flour. My fingers are still caked with flour but I do know that they have no regrets. When you are hands-on in the cooking process you learn more about what it takes to craft a fine dish. If you are a novice in the kitchen start out with simpler recipes. Type  “Easy buzzfeed recipes” into Google and peruse those links. I can attest that these recipes are easy to use. I made a five ingredient spaghetti carbonera from Buzzfeed and I was able to impress a full house.

8.) Eat at unique or new restaurants. I happily live in a food mecca. Washington D.C, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York have diverse cuisines from all over the globe. Just recently a new Phillapeno restaurant called Bad Saint opened up on 11th street in D.C and I am just hankering to go. I get that it can be pricey to eat out often so I highly advice that you eat with good friends, and share appetizers. Groupon is good to an extent, however, several restaurants are demanding customers pay extra since they proclaim they don’t make enough through the Groupons, alone. In order for me to keep track of food trends for future articles, I take a picture of the menu, images, and people. I jot down notes on the taste, visual, and experience too. I also take it a step further and look up certain dishes, their cultural ties, and even on how an amateur chef could possibly concoct this at home. Great writers ask questions and dig further for more information.

9.) Be Padma Lakshmi. So I am not telling you to go into modeling or to be a host of a tv show. When I say be Padma Lakshmi I mean take the food industry by storm. Be fearless and take a risk. Say you want to write for “Food and Wine” but you are scared of rejection. Just do it. Say you really want to learn how to make a souffle but you are scared of failing at it. Just do it. Lakshmi braved the modeling field and smartly grasped the food industry by being the premier host for Top Chef, writing books (Love, Loss and What We Ate: A Memoir), and by immersing herself into different culinary cuisines. She has also branded herself as a fierce food writer as well through social media, networking opportunities and through self-growth.

I’ve taken my own advice from going to trade shows into being Padma Lakshmi, and have grown a lot over the years as a food writer. What I learned about food writing is that food writers are not only writers but social media mavens, networkers, chefs, artists, risk-takers, and also food scientists. Food writers are the Jack’s (or Jackie’s) of all trade and that’s what we do. We do everything.

Follow me on Instagram (SherrynBlog) and on Twitter (@SherrynDaniel)