Sunday, December 21, 2014

Photos: Gingerbread House Making Contest at the Christmas Village - NBC10's Keith Jones, Fox 29's Caitlin Roth and CBS3's Syma Chowdhry

So many parties, and festive events this week puts PhillyChitChat so far behind in blog posts. Happy Sunday; enjoy this special entry as I try and catch up!!
NBC10's Keith Jones, Fox 29's Caitlin Roth and CBS3's Syma Chowdhry went head-to-head at NRG's Home Gingerbread House Decorating Contest last Friday in Christmas Village.
Each charity received $1,000 just for participating and another $1,000 went to the winning charity.
Keith Jones is working on the Red Cross Gingerbread House.
CBS3's Syma Chowdhry was helping the Red Paw team. See that bone on the roof, that is a solar power bone, collecting energy to run the electricity for the whole house.
Fox 29's Caitlin Roth with Heritage Conservancy
I was the honorary media person for  HopeWorks Camden, but wanted to take photos and neglected my duties too much.
Syma Chowdhry
When I shot this I though that Caitlin's house was going to win.
And I thought this is a winning shot for Molly Eichel's column the next day, but neither turned out to be winners. In this shot is Caitlin Roth, Keith Jones and the Frank Lewis from WOGL as the emcee .                   

Karlin Andres, India Thomas, Jose Figueroa and Chad Spaulding.
Keith Jones, Tessi Ruiz and Mary Anne Milner.
Mary Kury and Syma Chowdhry

Lori Albirght, Heather Farber of NRG Home, Sarah McGill, Mary Kury and Syma Chowdhry
Karlin Andres, India Thomas, Jose Figueroa and Chad Spaulding.
Lori Albirght,  Sarah McGill, Mary Kury (Red Paws) and Syma Chowdhry
Red Paws is the winner
Heather Farber of NRG Home hands Red Paw a check for $2,000
Heritage Conservancy accepts a $1,000 check for their work

The winning house by Red Paws
The Christmas Village is here until December 28, there's still lots of fun things to do, and see there, as well as eat. I hear the Wisconsin cheese is delicious. I'll be there on Monday, picking up last minute gifts. Hope to see you there.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Mayors Michael A. Nutter and Dana Redd of Camden, New Jersey, announced their Cities’ plans to make the Philadelphia region the best place to celebrate the New Year.  Featured events include the SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront at 6PM and midnight on New Year’s Eve and the Mummers Parade on Broad Street on New Year’s Day.

“There is no better place to spend the New Year than in Philadelphia,” said Mayor Nutter.  “The Mummers Parade and the SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront are both family affairs.  The majority of the Mummer performers are proudly following in the footsteps of their parents, aunt, uncles and older siblings.   The New Year’s Eve fireworks will once again be presented at two times: 6pm and midnight, to accommodate families and folks who may have other plans at midnight.  So, come to our beautiful city on New Year’s Eve, watch the fireworks, stay overnight in one of our great hotels, and celebrate on Broad Street with the Mummers on New Year’s Day – it’s a great way to ring in the New Year.”

Mayor Redd said, “The City of Camden is thrilled to celebrate another New Year’s Eve with its sister city, Philadelphia. The SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront represents a unique collaboration between our two great cities and numerous public-private partnerships that are helping to transform our waterfronts into a world-class destination.”

The SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront is an annual tradition with twice the fireworks and twice the fun on December 31st.  Spectators can enjoy unique, choreographed and synchronized soundtracks to fireworks launched from barges in the middle of the Delaware River and heard on both the Philadelphia and Camden waterfronts.  KYW Newsradio will also broadcast the official soundtrack to both shows.  The midnight show will be televised live by CBS3 following a special pre-show of events leading up to the countdown. 

“For the past four years, we’ve had a blast being part of Philly’s biggest New Year’s celebrations,” said Wendy Hamilton, General Manager of SugarHouse Casino. “We’re glad we have the opportunity to keep these traditions alive for the thousands of Philadelphians and visitors who come to the Delaware River Waterfront and Broad Street every New Year’s. With our property’s next grand opening right around the corner, 2015 is going to be a big year for us, and we can’t wait to ring it in.”

Tom Corcoran, President, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC), said,“We're proud to once again produce the two  SugarHouse New Year's Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront, it’s one big celebration that brings together two cities and attracts thousands of visitors to the Delaware River Waterfront to celebrate the new year.”

In addition to hosting the New Year’s Eve fireworks, DRWC is celebrating the holidays with Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. This seasonal park at the Blue Cross RiverRink includes a ski-chalet style lodge, food and beverages by Garces Events, Art Star gift shop, a light display including one of the city’s largest Christmas trees and a winter garden complete with rocking chairs and fire pits. 

The 2015 Philadelphia Mummers Parade will follow a new route on Broad Street STARTING AT City Hall to Washington Avenue in Philadelphia beginning at 10AM on January 1st.  Spectators are invited to enjoy the parade from three special performance zones as more than 10,000 glittering and colorful Mummers strut and dance down Broad Street.

The Philadelphia Mummers Parade features five divisions, each with its own artistry, sound and customs. Leading the Parade are the Fancies, with their sequin-studded lavish costumes and feathered glamour.  Next are the Comics, who parody hot political issues and pop culture. Then it’s the men of the Comic Wench brigades in bonnets and bloomers, waving multi-tiered parasols.  Finally, after all 17 brigades are judged, the String Bands will march down Broad Street entertaining the crowds with their intricate musical arrangements combining string, reed and percussion instruments. 

For the ultimate view of the Fancies’, Comics’, Wenches’ and String Bands’ first performance before the Judges, the Grand Stand entertainment zone, on Dilworth Plaza at 15th and Market Streets, will feature more than 1,200 ticketed bleacher seats.  Additional drill spots are located at the Union League at Broad and Sansom Streets (pictured above) and at Broad and Carpenter Streets.  Tickets for the Mummers Parade Grand Stand bleacher seats ($20), Fancy Brigade Family Show ($28), Fancy Brigade Finale ($23), and MummersFest ($5) are available by calling 1-800-537-7676, or can be purchased in person at the Independence Visitor Center on 6th and Market Streets or at the Welcome Center on 16th Street and JFK Boulevard. has a great illustration map of the 2015 Mummers Parade Route

Another family friendly activity for fans is MummersFest at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, a four-day festival from Friday, December 28 through Monday, December 31 which provides a sneak peek into the making of the Mummers Fancy Brigade Finale. The interactive event offers families opportunities to try on Mummers costumes, watch the clubs rehearse, go on a backstage tour, participate in crafts, and even learn to strut.

Michael DiBerardinis, Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community Resources said, “This parade is a symbol of Philadelphia culture and Parks and Recreation is proud to be the host of this annual family event. We are also excited to be collaborating this year with the Mayor’s office, Sugar House casino, and the Delaware River Water Front to provide our residents with an unforgettable New Year experience.”

Get the latest news and information on Philadelphia’s holiday happenings at  For more information on the SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront and the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, visit: more information on the 2015 Mummers Parade, visit:


I really wanted to go to this, but I was covering the Philly Style Magazine party, which I will be writing about on Monday. Tune in to see what people wore, and what they told me, especially Carl Dranoff. 


The Todd Herremans Foundation recently hosted members of Leprechaun Sports Association of Philadelphia at DICK’S Sporting Goods. Eagles players Todd Herremans, Jason Kelce and Mark Sanchez served as “Shopping Consultants” and surprised the kids with $100 shopping sprees from the Herremans Foundation as they shopped for winter coats, gloves, boots and other cold-weather gear.

 Todd Herremans and the kids. I like those shamrocks on the sleeves. I think this would be a good St Patrick's Day look. (It's only 10 weeks away)

“It’s a great feeling to provide underserved children with a chance to get the cold-winter gear they need, as well as some other great things from DICK’S,” said Herremans. “I’m really thankful for (Jason) Kelce and Mark (Sanchez) to take time out of their busy schedules to help spread some holiday cheer.”
  Jason Kelce

 The kids enjoyed a Chik-Fi-Let lunch, and who wouldn't.
Mark Sanchez talking about the virtues of the sneaker

Todd Herremans, Jason Kelce and Mark Sanchez

(Thanks to the Todd Herremons Foundation for the content and pixs)

About the Todd Herremans Foundation:Created by Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Lineman, and Ravenna, Michigan native, the Herremans foundation’s mission is “to help where help is needed.” A 501 (c) 3 designated charity, it raises funds for various charitable organizations in Philadelphia and Michigan. More information can be obtained by visiting, by emailing or calling 231-740-5809.

Photos: PhillyChitChat Pop-Up Party at Christmas Village

Last week I had another one of my PhillyChitChat Pop-up Parties, where I invite readers, influencers and tastemakers to a behind the scenes tour or demonstration somewhere. So far we've had the PhillyChitChat incHUGHbator at Serafina, and the pop-up party with the new Spring menu tasting at Square 1682 
This time we headed to the Christmas Village, which is definitely one of my favorite holiday places this year. Today I'll be doing a lot of my shopping there for the holiday, which I haven't started yet.

First stop Kettle Corn. Mom loves, loves, loves good Kettle Corn. Don't tell her but I'm getting her this. Plus I did get her a cute shawl from local Philly designer Melissa D'Agostino.

That Alexander Hankin is such a card.

TODAY at noon is the last concert at lunch at the Christmas Village, come out and say hi.

Heather Yerid, Matt Ray and Melissa Leonard. (I'm sure grateful to meet Melissa this year, she's so much fun. A bigger fan girl than me. Meets celebs with her daughter and should definitely blog about it.)
Thanks to all the food vendors at the Christmas Village for feeding my 25 guests, who braved the wicked weather to come out and support me.
Like the always festive Michelle Leonard from the Main Line. How awesome is she and her holiday style.
Sam Shoap and Candice Lauren

The crew
OK these things, what are they cupping thingys. do you see Angelina and Brad, there's also a Rocky one, Flyers and Eagles. Must haves.
Kory, in all things Kory. He's a genius, and together we've done a lot of great things. He's also very appreciative, and tells me all the time. PhillyChitChat is better because of meeting Kory.
 TJ Tarrant, Jason Cevera and Katie Griffin.
Did you know Wisconsin Cheese place was so busy they ran out and had to get another shipment from Wisconsin.

This year the Christmas Village has quadrupled the number of people who have visited. No doubt Kory Aversa, Aversa PR knocked it out of there with press placements. And I think Dilworth Park is a perfect complemtary attraction across the street. The holiday spots in Philadelphia are definite must do every year.

Thank you to my friends, and readers for coming out and supporting the 3rd PhillyChitChat Pop-Up Party.

If you want to be considered for a PhillyChitChat Pop-up Party email me at
buzz (at) and I will add you to my list. Thanks

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Official Statement: Charting a New Course on Cuba - Just Released

Office of the Press Secretary


White House Press Office (delivered 2 minutes ago)

December 17, 2014
Fact Sheet:  Charting a New Course on Cuba

Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people.  We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba. 

It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.  At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba.  Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.  It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse.  We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state.  With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.  In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.
Today, we are renewing our leadership in the Americas.  We are choosing to cut loose the anchor of the past, because it is entirely necessary to reach a better future – for our national interests, for the American people, and for the Cuban people.
Key Components of the Updated Policy Approach:
Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has taken steps aimed at supporting the ability of the Cuban people to gain greater control over their own lives and determine their country’s future.  Today, the President announced additional measures to end our outdated approach, and to promote more effectively change in Cuba that is consistent with U.S. support for the Cuban people and in line with U.S. national security interests.  Major elements of the President’s new approach include:

Establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba-
·         The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were severed in January 1961.
·         In the coming months, we will re-establish an embassy in Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between our two governments as part of the normalization process.  As an initial step, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs will lead the U.S. Delegation to the next round of U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks in January 2015, in Havana.
·         U.S. engagement will be critical when appropriate and will include continued strong support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba and other measures aimed at fostering improved conditions for the Cuban people.

·         The United States will work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern and that advance U.S. national interests, such as migration, counternarcotics, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons, among other issues. 

Adjusting regulations to more effectively empower the Cuban people-
·         The changes announced today will soon be implemented via amendments to regulations of the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce.   Our new policy changes will further enhance our goal of empowering the Cuban population.

·         Our travel and remittance policies are helping Cubans by providing alternative sources of information and opportunities for self-employment and private property ownership, and by strengthening independent civil society. 

·         These measures will further increase people-to-people contact; further support civil society in Cuba; and further enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people.  Persons must comply with all provisions of the revised regulations; violations of the terms and conditions are enforceable under U.S. law.

Facilitating an expansion of travel under general licenses for the 12 existing categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law-
·         General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in the following existing categories: (1) family visits; (2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; (3) journalistic activity; (4) professional research and professional meetings; (5) educational activities; (6) religious activities; (7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; (8) support for the Cuban people; (9) humanitarian projects; (10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; (11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and (12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines. 

·         Travelers in the 12 categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law will be able to make arrangements through any service provider that complies with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations governing travel services to Cuba, and general licenses will authorize provision of such services. 

·         The policy changes make it easier for Americans to provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers and provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector.  Additional options for promoting the growth of entrepreneurship and the private sector in Cuba will be explored.

Facilitating remittances to Cuba by U.S. persons-
·         Remittance levels will be raised from $500 to $2,000 per quarter for general donative remittances to Cuban nationals (except to certain officials of the government or the Communist party); and donative remittances for humanitarian projects, support for the Cuban people, and support for the development of private businesses in Cuba will no longer require a specific license.

·         Remittance forwarders will no longer require a specific license.

Authorizing expanded commercial sales/exports from the United States of certain goods and services-
·         The expansion will seek to empower the nascent Cuban private sector.  Items that will be authorized for export include certain building materials for private residential construction, goods for use by private sector Cuban entrepreneurs, and agricultural equipment for small farmers.  This change will make it easier for Cuban citizens to have access to certain lower-priced goods to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state.

Authorizing American citizens to import additional goods from Cuba-
·         Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined.

Facilitating authorized transactions between the United States and Cuba-
·         U.S. institutions will be permitted to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions to facilitate the processing of authorized transactions.

·         The regulatory definition of the statutory term “cash in advance” will be revised to specify that it means “cash before transfer of title”; this will provide more efficient financing of authorized trade with Cuba.

·         U.S. credit and debit cards will be permitted for use by travelers to Cuba.

·         These measures will improve the speed, efficiency, and oversight of authorized payments between the United States and Cuba.

Initiating new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely-
·         Cuba has an internet penetration of about five percent—one of the lowest rates in the world.  The cost of telecommunications in Cuba is exorbitantly high, while the services offered are extremely limited.

·         The commercial export of certain items that will contribute to the ability of the Cuban people to communicate with people in the United States and the rest of the world will be authorized.  This will include the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices, related software, applications, hardware, and services, and items for the establishment and update of communications-related systems.

·         Telecommunications providers will be allowed to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and internet services, which will improve telecommunications between the United States and Cuba.

Updating the application of Cuba sanctions in third countries-
·         U.S.-owned or -controlled entities in third countries will be generally licensed to provide services to, and engage in financial transactions with, Cuban individuals in third countries.  In addition, general licenses will unblock the accounts at U.S. banks of Cuban nationals who have relocated outside of Cuba; permit U.S. persons to participate in third-country professional meetings and conferences related to Cuba; and, allow foreign vessels to enter the United States after engaging in certain humanitarian trade with Cuba, among other measures.

Pursuing discussions with the Cuban and Mexican governments to discuss our unresolved maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico-
·         Previous agreements between the United States and Cuba delimit the maritime space between the two countries within 200 nautical miles from shore.  The United States, Cuba, and Mexico have extended continental shelf in an area within the Gulf of Mexico where the three countries have not yet delimited any boundaries.

·         The United States is prepared to invite the governments of Cuba and Mexico to discuss shared maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Initiating a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism-
·         The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately launch such a review, and provide a report to the President within six months regarding Cuba’s support for international terrorism.  Cuba was placed on the list in 1982.

Addressing Cuba’s participation in the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama-
·         President Obama will participate in the Summit of the Americas in Panama.  Human rights and democracy will be key Summit themes.  Cuban civil society must be allowed to participate along with civil society from other countries participating in the Summit, consistent with the region’s commitments under the Inter-American Democratic Charter.  The United States welcomes a constructive dialogue among Summit governments on the Summit’s principles. 

Unwavering Commitment to Democracy, Human Rights, and Civil Society
A critical focus of our increased engagement will include continued strong support by the United States for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba.  The promotion of democracy supports universal human rights by empowering civil society and a person’s right to speak freely, peacefully assemble, and associate, and by supporting the ability of people to freely determine their future.   Our efforts are aimed at promoting the independence of the Cuban people so they do not need to rely on the Cuban state.