Brandy is Returning to ‘Chicago’

Calling all Brandy fans!

The multi-talented entertainer is making her way back to the Great White Way. The Grammy winner is hitting the Broadway stage again for a 17-performance engagement (August 17 through August 31) at the Ambassador Theater where she’s reprising her role as “Roxie Hart” in the Tony-Award-winning musical, “Chicago.”

Brandy Norwood as Roxie Hart in CHICAGO THE MUSICAL
Set in the Windy City, the musical tells the story of Roxie, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to leave her. The show is filled with tantalizing numbers and eye-catching costumes that will surely keep the audience captivated.

From the catchy 90s tune “I Wanna Be Down,” to the hit TV show “Moesha,” the stunning powerhouse singer/actress has created melodic magic and onscreen allure for more than two decades. We’re sure that her performance in the classic roaring 20s tale will deliver the same amazing pipes, undeniable charisma and indisputable flair that only Brandy can bring.

If you want to see the talented triple-threat do her thing live, this is a show you won’t want to miss.

For show dates and tickets click here

Have you ever seen “Chicago?” What’s your favorite Brandy song?

Review: ‘Endangered! The Musical’

This past Sunday, my family and I visited New York City’s International Zoo.

Never heard of it? Well, that’s because this zoo was set center stage at the Davenport Theatre right in the heart of Manhattan. The “zoo” is the backdrop to the brand new off-Broadway show, “Endangered! The Musical,” which tells the story of a budding kid reporter who gets stranded with a group of endangered animals in the middle of a record-breaking storm.

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Directed and choreographed by David Chase Gosselin, “Endangered! The Musical,” is a delight for the senses. Through heartwarming songs, foot-tapping dances, and funny pop-culture references sprinkled with educational tidbits, audiences are treated to 70 minutes of pure entertainment.

Each of the talented, multi-cultural cast members brought their characters (tamarind, skunk, crocodile, crane, cheetah and panda bear) to life with witty dialogue coupled with their respective, uncanny “animalistic” attributes.

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Photo by Jeremy Daniels

The musical is an amusing way to introduce little ones to the importance of taking care of the ecosystem and looking after all living things, not just people. Afterall, earth is the only planet we have and we must do our best to preserve it and all its creatures. Again, this show does an outstanding job of addressing these issues in ways that are engaging and interesting to children.

Both of my kids enjoyed the show from start to finish. My son was especially enthralled by the music and occasional flashing lights.

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If you’re a parent of a young child in the New York City area, I highly recommend catching this wonderful musical.

Click here for show times and ticket information.

Disclosure: I was provided complimentary tickets for review purposes only. All opinions  expressed are my own. 

What shows have your family seen this year? 

Cirque du Soleil’s ‘OVO’ Gets Bugged Out in Brooklyn

There are circuses and then there’s Cirque du Soleil.

The popular Canadian-based entertainment troupe has been wowing audiences since the early 1980s, and this week my family got to see its latest show, “OVO,” right in the heart of Brooklyn.

Inspired by the ecosystem, OVO, which means “egg” in Portuguese is a captivating production showcasing dancers and acrobats dressed as colorful insects and creatures as they live, eat, play and flutter about in breathtaking stunts. When they encounter a mysterious egg, the curious creepy-crawlies are fascinated by the enigmatic sight.

Comprised of 50 performing artists from around the world, spectators are treated to eye-catching costumes, stunning choreography and jaw-dropping feats that defy gravity. Both of my kids enjoyed the show from start from finish. Their eyes lit up even more when the green crickets leapt and bounced from a nearly transparent trampoline to a giant rock-climbing wall set center stage.

If you’re looking for a thrilling evening for the entire family, head to the Barclays Center or NYCB Live and catch this awe-inspiring show.

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“OVO” runs at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn through Sunday, July 9th and at NYCB Live on Long Island  from August 30 through Sunday, September 3rd. Click here for ticket information. 

**Full disclosure: I was comped a pair of tickets for review purposes only. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Have you ever seen a Cirque du Soleil show? If so, which one did you see?

5 Reasons Why I’m Attending the 2017 Essence Festival

Today, I’m attending the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans for the first time. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to pack my bags and head down to the Big Easy for a weekend of music, fun, food and fellowship.

I’ve always been a fan of Essence magazine and have only heard great things about the annual festival, so it was only a matter of time before I made my way. Plus, after my recent visit to New Orleans last fall, I fell in love with the ambiance, culture and of course, the delicious cajun cuisine.

After eyeing the nightly concert lineups and speakers booked for the 3-day event, I am beyond excited to head to the Crescent City this Fourth of July weekend. Below, check out several reasons why I’m looking forward to attending my first Essence Music Festival.

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Networking opportunities. Essence Festival is synonymous with black girl magic, so it goes without saying that the event will present plenty of opportunities to connect with fellow boss babes, entrepreneurs and professionals from various industries.

Mouthwatering dishes. From crawfish étouffée to scrumptious beignets, New Orleans is known for their delicious food. Being here during the festival provides countless moments to get a good meal.

Beauty Carnivale. Being a beauty buff, I can’t wait to get the latest makeup tips and tricks from fellow bloggers and editors at the festival’s first-ever beauty carnivale at the expo.

Getting inside scoop. Tons of actresses, singers and pop culture luminaries will convene in New Orleans this weekend for the festival. Hopefully, I’ll be able to snag a few exclusive interviews and get the scoop on some of our favorite stars’ upcoming projects and more.

Top-notch performances. They say music is the soundtrack of our lives. That’s why I’m so excited to take a trip down memory lane with a few of my favorite artists from the 90s and early 2000s. What teen growing up in the 90s didn’t love Xscape’s R&B hits? The quartet’s recent reunion has been music to the ears of R&B fans around the country and Essence Festival attendees are lucky to hear them live on Saturday. They’ll join a roster of other talented artists including India.Arie, Diana Ross, Solange, Master P and Chance the Rapper.

Will you be in New Orleans for the Essence Festival this weekend? If not, have you ever attended in the past?

Product Review: Baby Dove + GIVEAWAY

When it comes to trusted health and body care products for me and my family, Dove is always top of mind. In case you didn’t hear, the 60-year old brand recently released a line dedicated to our littlest family members: babies.

Yep, the brand behind the celebrated Beauty Bar is now bringing its skincare expertise to infants with its new Baby Dove line. Developed for babies with normal to dry skin, this mild hypoallergenic array of products including Body Wash, Body Lotion, Face & Body Wipes, Shampoo and Baby Bar soothes baby’s sensitive skin and moisturizes effortlessly.

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Baby Dove products are available here, starting at TK  

Although I’m no longer a mom to babies, I do have a toddler whom I’ve tested these new offerings on. However, when my 7-year-old daughter blurted out that these products were for “babies,” my son wasn’t too pleased. I assured him it was also for big boys and that it would make his skin smooth and smell yummy—and I was right. As expected, it smelled fresh and clean, but not too fragrant.

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Plus, the body wash hydrated his skin like no other cleanser I’ve ever used. Usually, after bathing, his skin looks super ashy and dry as if he’s rolled around in baby powder! Luckily, after using the new body wash, his skin appeared and felt moisturized—even before applying lotion. The rich formula reminds me of the regular Dove Body Wash that I swear by, which leaves my dry skin super soft after just one shower.

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While I could skip the lotion with him, I still rub it on because it locks in moisture and provides an added layer of hydration. Plus, it amplifies that baby fresh scent that I love.

If the positive results I’ve experienced with my 3 ½ year-old son are any indication, this innovative formula would work wonders on babies with even gentler skin.

**GIVEAWAY**Have you used the new Dove Baby line? If so, what are your thoughts? I’ve teamed up with Dove to give one lucky reader the chance to win the entire line along with a few Beauty Bars (for moms). The winner will be randomly selected and announced on July 5th. This contest is only open to U.S. residents

How do you make bath time fun for your children?

5 Reasons to Take Your Kids to Gulliver’s Gate

Looking for a place to keep your kids cool and entertained on a hot summer day?

If you’re in the New York City area, look no further than Gulliver’s Gate. This brand-new attraction brings a miniaturized version of the world to the heart of Times Square. Based around the popular adventure story, “Gulliver’s Travels,” this awe-inspiring exhibit of miniature wonders is nothing short of amazing.

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With more than 300 built-to-scale scenes, including model landscapes in New York, Asia, Latin America, Russia, Israel and many other regions from across the globe, it will keep you and your little ones intrigued for hours on end. Plus, upon entry, guests are given a key (that’s yours to keep!) that with a slight turn, can bring parts of the exhibit to life. For example, by inserting the key at the kiosk in the New York scene, makes the famous Macy’s Day Parade move through the minuscule city with colorful characters.

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Both of my children (daughter, 7 and son, 3) especially enjoyed Russia because the snow-capped models reminded them of Christmas—and of course, New York, because of its hometown familiarity. My personal pick was Washington D.C. I’ve visited the nation’s capital countless times and I’m always blown away by the classic architecture and designs. The level of detail that the talented team behind the exhibit demonstrated to recreate popular D.C landmarks is truly remarkable. Seeing replicas of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama waving from the state-of-the-art White House was a pleasant surprise and nod to their legacy.

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Not only are the scenes mind-blowing, there are also novelty stations such as “Make a Rainbow” that allows kids to use their cognitive skills to connect the colors of the rainbow. There’s also an interactive “waterfall” where visitors can take a digital photo and have it displayed in the cascading water. Plus, there is also a 3D photo booth, where families can get photos and even a miniature version of themselves to take home at an additional cost.

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In a nutshell, here are 5 reasons why you should take your kids to Gulliver’s Gate.

  1. Keeps kids cool. It’s a great indoor attraction to escape the heat during the summer months.
  2. Makes learning fun. My daughter asked many questions during our visit and the staff were knowledgeable and shared interesting tidbits about the replica regions displayed throughout the exhibit.
  3. Nonstop entertainment. With so many intricately-designed displays, there’s just so much to explore! You’ll be entertained at every turn.
  4. Convenient location. The Times Square location makes it easy to travel to from public transportation.
  5. Good for kids of all ages. My 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son enjoyed the exhibit equally. My daughter was fascinated by the fine details, while my son was excited to find a few of his favorite characters (hint: Spider Man is hanging in Brooklyn 🙂 ) hiding out in scenes throughout the exhibit. I’m sure older kids and teens would find it interesting too.

Whether you live in the Big Apple, or planning a visit, Gulliver’s Gate is an awesome attraction for the entire family.

Gulliver’s Gate is located, 216 W. 44th Street in New York City. Ticket prices are $36 for adults and $27 for kids (12 and under).

(Full disclosure: My family and I were comped entry to Gulliver’s Gate for review purposes. All  thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Have you visited Gulliver’s Travels yet? What’s your favorite museum and/or exhibit?

Calling All ‘Despicable Me’ Fans: 5 Minions-Inspired Gifts for All

Let the Minions mania commence!

If you’re a “Despicable Me” fan, you already know that the third installment of the popular franchise opens in theaters June 30. In celebration of everyone’s favorite banana-eating goggly-eyed, overall-wearing movie stars’ upcoming release, I’ve rounded up some must-have Minion-inspired items that are guaranteed to make your kids (or you – no judgement here!) squeal with delight.

Check them out below:

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Cult luggage band AWAY’s limited edition “Carry On” will be the envy of all travelers when they spot the eye-catching yellow roller bag. Available here (June 20), $225

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Take note, stationery lovers! This adorable Moleskine limited edition large leather bound notebook will add cheer to mundane meetings and positive vibes to never-ending to-do lists. Available here, $25

FunBites® 2-Piece Minions Goggles Food Cutter Set

This nifty FunBites® 2-Piece Minions Goggles Food Cutter Set will get your little one excited to eat just about anything as long as it can be cut into fun goggle shapes.  available here, $13.

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This Minions Sculpted Coffee Mug will give you the caffeine and a jolt of cuteness you need to start your day. Available here, $13

Despicable Me Sleepy Time Minion Bob

Your mini-me will get a kick out of the funny phrases this cuddly Despicable Me Sleepy Time Minion Bob blurts out. Available here, $40

Are you or any members of your family “Despicable Me” fans? 

Event Recap: Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

Nothing signals the start of summer in New York City like the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.

Held the second weekend in June at Madison Square Park, the popular barbecue festival has brought some of the best ‘cue aficionados and BBQ lovers alike together for the past 15 years. With over a dozen grill masters from across the country ‘cueing up slabs of mouth-watering ribs, the two-day fest is a can’t-miss event for foodies.

My husband and I have been attending for years and this time we made it a family affair with our two kids in tow. We opted to attend on Saturday and boy am I glad we did. On Saturday Kingsford charcoal hosted a delicious brunch for members of the media, which consisted of fried chicken, waffles (with Bourbon maple syrup), corn on the cob, shrimp & grits, watermelon salad, and last but certainly not least, Bloody Mary cocktails garnished with a tender pork rib.

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After grubbing on the scrumptious southern classics mentioned above, we made our way to the main event to try even more finger-lickin’ barbecue. Throughout the park, we made our rounds visiting various booths from Alabama to Texas. Finally, we landed at our favorite, 17th Street BBQ, for their delectable baby back ribs and tangy pit beans. The perfectly grilled meat fell off the bone with the slightest bite while the sauce created a tasty blend of sweet, tang and a bit of heat. Not sure if we’re partial because this pit-master hails from our home state, Illinois.

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From spare ribs to brisket to pulled pork sandwiches, the grilled meat festival didn’t disappoint.

Next year, if you’re in the NYC area the second week of June, clear your calendar and experience the ‘cue fest for yourself. If you can’t wait that long to get your hands on some of the country’s best barbecue, take a visit to one of the vendors who has an outpost nearest you. Click here for a list of all the chefs and grill masters and their locations.

Rib road trip, anyone?

What’s your favorite BBQ spot? What makes it the best?

3 Thoughtful Things to do this Father’s Day + Hanes Gift Pack Giveaway

It’s no secret that dads tend to get the short end of the stick when it comes to Father’s Day. Sure, they get the cards and other small tokens of parental acknowledgement, but we moms know that their special day pales in comparison to ours. In fact, The National Retail Federation estimates that U.S. consumers spent $23.6 billion on Mother’s Day this year. Last year, however, the NRF put Father’s Day spending at $14.3 billion. Those numbers prove that we spend our money on mom way more than on dad.

This year I’m letting my husband know how much he’s appreciated by showering him with love and items that he’ll use and won’t get tossed aside after Sunday. Being married for more than a decade, I know that expensive gifts don’t mean as much as thoughtful, practical things. That’s why I’m celebrating his contributions to our family by doing things that will have sentimental and heartfelt impact.

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Stock up on undergarments. Undershirts, underwear and socks may not be hot ticket items, but they’re always in high-demand in my household. Stocking my husband’s closet with comfy, versatile t-shirts is a simple yet practical gift that lasts all year long. Hanes® has been my go to for keeping him outfitted in super soft t-shirts and undergarments since we’ve been married. I’m sure that he’s going to love the brand’s new ComfortBlend® Superior Softness Undershirts, which are a cotton-modal blend that offers maximum comfort and includes advanced odor protection technology.

Bake a tasty treat. Nothing says “love” like homemade baked goods. I’m still no match for my mother-in-law’s scrumptious desserts, but I can make a pretty decent cake. My guess is that most men would appreciate a delicious batch of cookies, mouthwatering pie or any other sweet treat to show you care. Remember, baking always gets you brownie points. 😉

Sneak sappy snapshots. They say men aren’t sentimental, but I beg to differ. Sure, dads may not show their sappier sides as much as us moms, but they’re not robots – they have feelings too! Why not snap a few sneaky snapshots of him cuddling with the kids, reading a bedtime story or doing some other adorable thing with the kids and create a photo album or personalized present with the photographs? Trust me, your husband will be overjoyed with the sentiment even if he doesn’t fully express it. Remember, they’re all big softies underneath their tough exteriors.

In honor of dad’s big day, I’m giving you guys a chance to win a $50 Hanes Visa Card, 3-Pack of Hanes® Superior Soft T-shirts, Package of Hanes® Socks with FreshIQ™. Simply tell me how you plan to celebrate Father’s Day with either your husband, father or both by leaving a comment below or tweeting me @BrownGirlGumbo. One lucky reader will be randomly selected and notified on Thursday, June 15th.

How do you plan to celebrate Father’s Day with your husband or father this year? 

Citrus Makes Summer Dishes Come to Life

When it comes to making meals for my family, I’m no master. Sure, I can prepare the basics, but beyond the simple standard meals, I’m an amateur at best.  Plus, getting my picky 7-year-old and toddler to eat anything remotely unfamiliar is a feat. That’s why I’m always trying new seasonings, spices, and cooking oils that will subtly introduce new flavors to their favorite dishes.

This month, I’ve added a lemon-flavored extra virgin olive oil and a citrus seasoning to my cooking repertoire. The olive oil, sold exclusively at Stop and Shop is a game-changer. My kids and I believe citrus makes just about any dish taste better and this olive oil delivers. Its subtle hint of lemon provides a slight acidity that typical olive oils don’t offer. I’ve used it to sauté spinach, drizzle on baked salmon and toss with pasta.

My daughter at the Limoncello promotion stand at our local Stop & Shop in Brooklyn.

My daughter at the Limoncello promotion stand at our local Stop & Shop in
Brooklyn.

Speaking of pasta, that brings me to my other culinary discovery: True Lime’s crystallized Lime, Garlic and Cilantro. This perfect blend of citrusy seasonings, brings my pasta dishes to life—earning it a permanent spot in my spice rack. From linguine to bow tie to penne, this blend perks up ordinary pasta in an instant. I also sprinkle it over rice and seafood for extra flavor. There’s also True Orange with Ginger that adds a wow factor to Asian-inspired meals. Plus, none of the True Citrus spiced blends contain any artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, or gluten, and they’re also non-GMO.

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I prepared this pesto bow-tie pasta dish with Stop & Shop’s Limoncello Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkled True Lime Cilantro & Garlic seasoning on top.

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In addition to the olive oil, Stop and Shop has an entire lineup of limited edition limoncello-inspired creations that will be perfect for summer dining while True Citrus also offers delightful flavored lemonade mixes. True Citrus products are available in 37,000 stores nationwide such as Target and Walmart, and Amazon.com.

If you love lemon and lime, you’ll love these citrus-inspired offerings. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you!

What’s the one seasoning (excluding salt and pepper) that you can’t cook without?