What To Do: Chocolate Lovers Fest gets bigger and better

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Dull, grey midwinter days can lead to feeling glum but there is an antidote – a vacation on Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

If that seems attractive but not very realistic, there is another antidote — chocolate.

Who doesn’t love chocolate?

Even a small dose of the brown-colored treat can elevate your mood. And, a mild sugar rush can give you a kick start.

Eating chocolate is often associated with happiness and celebrations. A 2013 study in British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that that consuming chocolate may help improve your mood, making you feel calmer and more content. Dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that create feelings of pleasure. Dark chocolate also contains serotonin, an antidepressant that can elevate mood.

On January 27, the Kennett Chocolate Lovers Festival will be held from 1-3 at Unionville High School (750 Unionville Road, Kennett Square, http://kennettchocolate.org).

Hundreds of chocolate treats, including cakes, brownies, candies, cookies and cupcakes, will be available for attendees to taste at this Festival, which is a benefit for the United Way of Southern Chester County.

Participants can partake in a fun day sampling as many chocolate delights as they wish.

Contestants will vie for awards in the following categories: professionals, amateurs and students (ages 12 up). Last year more than 200 entries were available for tasting by the public and the smell of chocolate permeated the air.

VIP tickets are priced at $35 ($55 for two people – online purchase only), includes early timed entry at noon. General admission from 1-3 p.m. is $15 ($50 for family of four – online purchase only) and includes six regular tastings per person.

Additional tastings are available for $.50 each. Parking is free this year.

Longwood Gardens

Every year when January arrives, Longwood Gardens (Route 1, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000, www.longwoodgardens.org) celebrates one of the largest families of plants in the world.

If you did a Google search to find out which are the largest families of flowering plants in the world, this is the answer you’d receive –

The three largest flowering plant families containing the greatest number of species are the sunflower family (Asteraceae) with about 24,000 species, the orchid family (Orchidaceae) with about 20,000 species, and the legume or pea family (Fabaceae) with 18,000 species.

The orchid is a flower that is acclaimed as one of the most beautiful, delicate and graceful flowers in the world. The Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew list more than 20,000 accepted species with about 800 new species added each year. Additionally, horticulturists have more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars.

Longwood celebrates the orchid each year with its ultra-popular “Orchid Extravaganza” — an annual event that this year is running now through March 24.

The celebration of the orchid species features thousands of orchid blooms along with a variety of displays and special exhibits throughout its four-acre conservatory. “Orchid Extravaganza” will also feature stunning displays of orchids in planting beds, containers and innovative exhibits.

As one of the first plant collections at Longwood, orchids have held a place of distinction since 1922.

Visitors will be able to escape to a balmy oasis filled with nearly 5,000 blooming orchids during Orchid Extravaganza. Longwood’s heated four-acre Conservatory provides an escape from winter’s chill and features thousands of colorful orchid blooms displayed in extraordinary ways.

In addition to the one-of-a-kind horticultural display, Orchid Extravaganza features activities and programs for the entire family, including concerts, talks, tours, OrKid Days, and more. The Gardens are open daily from 9 am–5 pm.

Guests will be amazed as orchid blooms cascade down walls, spill from containers, and hang from the ceiling– featuring Cattleya, Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, and Oncidium, among others.

In the Main Conservatory, a canopy of twelve pink and purple Orchid Orbs welcome you to a lush sanctuary of vibrant, artfully presented orchids.

In the East Conservatory, Cymbidium Edith McDade arrangements with Tillandsia chains accentuate the Oval Basin, while three large Cymbidium Edith McDade baskets hang from above.

New this year, six eight-foot tall color blocked panels filled with Phalaenopsis create an awe-inspiring display in the Patio of Oranges. In the Acacia Passage, delicate cascading branches of cinnamon wattle beckons with fragrant blooms, while 18 urns filled with yellow and white Oncidium and Phalaenopsis line this picturesque passageway.

Additional indoor highlights include the Mediterranean Garden featuring a riot of vibrant color January through April with Australian purple coral-pea (Hardenbergia) vines blooming like miniature wisteria. In the Estate Fruit House, nectarines, melons, and other fruits and vegetables flourish in the midst of winter.

OrKID Days are feature activities where families can discover the colors, patterns, and beauty of orchids through art activities and storytelling. OrKID Days are February 18, and March 9 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and are free with Gardens Admission.

Admission to Longwood Gardens is $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and $13 for students.

Bleak mid-winter days tend to make people cold and hungry. People in cold climates around the world are aware that a great way to get rid of the hunger and warm up is to sit down with a hot bowl of soup.

Sweden is definitely a cold-climate country with more than its share of bitter winter weather. As a result, the Swedish people are well aware of the nutritional and therapeutic benefits of hot soup.

Pea Soup and Punsch Supper

In recognition of this, the American Swedish Historical Museum (1900 Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-389-1776, http://www.americanswedish.org) will hold its annual Pea Soup and Punsch Supper on January 25.

This Saturday, visitors to the museum in South Philadelphia are invited to shake off the chill and warm up Swedish style with an evening of steamy soup and strong drink. This annual event, which is known as “Ärtsoppa och Punschin Sweden,” is hosted by the museum’s Pea Soup Committee.

Attendees will break bread together over a quintessential Swedish meal of pea soup and punsch, which is a sweet and strong Arrack liquor-based drink. Arrack, a strong Indian liquor, was imported from Java and became the base ingredient for making punsch, which has 25 per cent alcohol by volume and 30 per cent sugar.

This hearty meal, which also includes sharp cheese, bread and dessert, is inspired by a tradition that dates back to medieval times. On Thursday nights, the people of Sweden would eat this filling meal before beginning the weekly Friday fast.

This year, the museum is combining an old tradition with a new innovation. Visitors can enjoy the traditional soup and punsch combined with the modernity of new Swedish “tilltugg och efterrätt” or Hors d’oeuvres and dessert.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to view the museum’s newest exhibition “New Nordic Cuisine” including exhibit talk by Curator Tova Brandt.

“New Nordic Cuisine” is the defining exhibition on one of the most important cultural phenomena to come out of the Nordic countries in recent decades. It focuses on a value-driven food system that has captured the attention of world-famous chefs and home cooks alike over the past 15 years.

Tickets are $30.

Every Friday and Saturday in January, the Chaddsford Winery (632 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, 610-388-6221, http://www.chaddsford.com) will present “Murder Mystery Nights 2020” from 6:30-9 p.m. each night. Another winery event is “Winter Wine-derland,” which will be held on January 25 and 26 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. each day.

Here is the scenario as posted by the winery – “After laying his claim in the East End, Jack the Ripper’s killing spree fills the dodgy streets of London with panic and fear.  But as the fall weather sets in, the murders begin to subside.   The townspeople grow hopeful that Jack’s finally buggered off and his horrific reign of terror has ended.

Then, on a bitter cold night in November, a baffling murder occurs.

Scotland Yard proves to be straight rubbish, unable to solve the crime.  Has Jack the Ripper returned or has another chap taken his place?

London needs your help!  Polish up your looking glass and help them uncover clues to pinpoint the killer and the motives.

Along with an evening of mystery and suspense, you’ll enjoy bloody good hors d’oeuvres and downright brilliant PA wine!

Share this first-rate experience with your best lads – and don’t forget to don breeches and frocks that are fit for the Queen.”

The “Menu and Pairing Lineup” features Charcuterie Board with ’17 The White Standard and ’17 The Red Standard, Cucumber Finger Sandwiches with ’17 Sauvignon Blanc and Chaddsford White, Shepherd’s Pie with ’17 Merlot and ’16 Pinot Noir, Salt Beef Slider with PA Craft Beer, Corn Chowder with ’16 Sur Lie Chardonnay and ’17 Harbinger and dessert with coffee and tea.

Tickets are $60, and reservations are required.

“Winter Wine-derland” will be held on January 25 and 26 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. each day.

The outdoor winter festival will feature ice carvings, the “Chaddsford Prize Wheel,” “Niagara Falls” Ice Luge Wine Shot (with purchase of a wine tasting), specialty cocktails, fire pits, live music and food truck fare from Plum Pit Food Truck.

The “Wine, Cheese & Honey Pairings at Penns Woods” at Penns Wood Winery (124 Beaver Valley Road, Chadds Ford, 610-459-0808, http://www.pennswoodsevents.com) provide a nice way for visitors to enjoy a winter weekend day.

Penns Woods Winery is joining forces with local cheese makers and local honey artisans to present exclusive pairings of wine, cheese and honey. The tastings will feature five premium Penns Woods wines, each paired with various cheeses and honey from local farms.

The mouth-watering tastings will be held every weekend in January from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sundays. As an added attraction, live music will be featured on January 25, and 26 from 2-5 p.m. each day.

Tickets cost $28 per person in advance and reservations are required. Cancellations must be made within 72 hours or ticket holders will be charged the full amount of the tasting. Reservations are made and kept on the hour.

There is a great event this weekend that will get kids’ creative juices flowing — Hagley Museum’s “STEMtastic Weekend.”

Visitors to the Hagley Museum (200 Hagley Creek Road, Wilmington, Delaware, www.hagley.org), a 230-acre historical village on the site of the original du Pont Company gunpowder mills in northern Delaware, will be able to learn about a science in a fun way.

Hagley’s STEMtastic Weekends

Hagley’s STEMtastic Weekends are taking the place of Invention Convention with a new format that extends the fun beyond the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend.

Young inventors and tinkerers will take over the Visitor Center second floor gallery where they can investigate the inner workings of a variety of electronic gadgets, express their ingenuity by creating an invention and earning a “Hagley patent,” enjoy robotics demonstrations by local robotics teams, and participate in hands-on activities that explore the many aspects of coding and robotics.

“STEMtastic Weekends” events are scheduled for January 25 and 26 and February 1 and 2.

Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for children (6-14) and free for children (under six).

Plastic frequently gets a bad rap.

All the plastic bottles littering the ocean definitely are a bad thing. Even the phrase “plastic” has a negative vibe.

But there are also a lot of good things associated with plastic. On January, The Franklin Institute (222 North 20th Street, Philadelphia, www.fi.edu) is celebrating plastic with an event titled “Plastics Chemistry Fair.

Thick and shatterproof…slippery and translucent…plastic is of the most versatile materials on earth.

On Saturday, the Franklin Institute hosts the Society of Plastics Engineers Philadelphia Section and “Dr. T — the plastics expert” for an exciting day of exploration that will focus on plastic polymers and the chemical makeup of one of the world’s most commonly used materials.

Visitors will be able to find the answers to questions such as — Why are pill bottles orange?, What makes a bouncy ball bounce?, and Are plastics the next craze in high fashion?

They also will be able to learn how plastics can be adapted and modified to handle virtually any task imaginable.

The event will also commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty ® by seeing what the museum staff can do with 50 pounds of Thinking Putty ®.

Other activities include making glow-in-the-dark slime, engaging in compelling live science presentations, participating in a museum-wide scavenger hunt, and visiting with some of Philadelphia’s top plastics organizations during this fun-filled day devoted to the magic of plastics.

The event will be held January 25 from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. It is included with General Museum Admission, which is $23 for adults and $19 for children (ages 3-11).

Wonderspaces

Wonderspaces, an experiential, interactive arts venue, will celebrate the grand opening of its largest location to date this weekend in Philadelphia at the Fashion District (27 North 11th Street, Philadelphia, philadelphia.wonderspaces.com/).

Building on the success of annual pop-up shows in San Diego, and its first permanent location in Scottsdale, Arizona, Wonderspaces will open a 24,000 square foot gallery space.

Wonderspaces will present 14 art installations that all play with the idea of perspective.  The artwork ranges from award-winning virtual reality short film about a dinner party-turned-alien abduction, to a room where visitors digitally paint the walls with the movement of their bodies.
The first line-up of artwork at Wonderspaces includes: Submergence by Squidsoup, Blooms by John Edmark, Sun by Phillip Schutte, Transition by Mike von Rotz and Joost Jordens,  Black Balloons by Tadao Cern, Body Paint by Memo Akten, Come Together by Michael Murphy,  The Last Word by Illegal Art, Stories of Mechanical Music by Myriam Bleau, and Myrkviðr by Yasuhiro Chida.

Tickets for Wonderspaces are $24. An average tour of a Wonderspaces show lasts 80-90 minutes but visitors are welcome to stay as long as they want. Tickets are tied to a specific date and time. The number of visitors allowed to enter every fifteen minutes is limited to ensure the space never becomes too crowded.

Best of Britain — England at Le Mans Demo Day

On January 25, Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum (6825 Norwitch Drive, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, www.simeonemuseum.org) will host a special event called “Best of Britain — England at Le Mans Demo Day.”

The event features a variety of impressive automobiles from the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum’s collection of vintage automobiles including a 1927 Bentley 3 Litre Speed Model, a 1934 MG K3 Magnette, and a 1953 Jaguar C-Type.

Demo Day events typically stay true to the following schedule – 10 a.m., doors open;  11:15-11:45 a.m., scrutineering technical learning session; noon-12:30 p.m., Demo Day discussion and Q and A with Dr. Simeone; 12:30-1 p.m., driving demonstration with featured automobiles; 1-2 p.m., visitors are able to inspect and photograph Demo Day cars while engaging with Simeone Museum staff and volunteers.

“Best of Britain — England at Le Mans Demo Day” will be held on Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tickets are $8.

Now through February 23, the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting the well-loved musical “Cabaret.”

The classical musical opened on Broadway in 1966 and won Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Original Score.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $63 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

If you’re looking for a fun family activity – an indoor activity unaffected by the weather — Linvilla Orchards (137 West Knowlton Road, Media, 610-876-7116, www.linvilla.com) has something just for you — the miniature golf course “Fore! the Planet.”

Linvilla Orchard’s “Fore! The Planet” is a highly interactive and playful museum exhibit created by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. This exhibition pairs important environmental issues with the fun of miniature golf.

It features 18 unique educational holes on a variety of topics — butterfly metamorphosis, a tropical rainforest, evolution, dinosaur extinction, food chains and more. Kids of all ages can enjoy playing miniature golf while learning about our environment on every hole.

The first hole is “Butterfly Life Cycle” and players must putt through each stage of the colorful insect’s metamorphosis. The next five holes are titled “Seed Dispersal,” “Bat Sonar,” “Food Chain,” “Evolution of a Golfer” and “Backyard Explorer” followed by “Natural Selection” and “Predators and Prey.”

On the “Dinosaur Extinction” hole, players get to hit their balls toward the scientific theory of dinosaur extinction they find most plausible. The remainder of the thought-provoking holes are “Recycling,” “Water Pollution,” “Landfills,” “Wild Corridors,” “Bird Migration,” “Spawning Salmon,” “Alien Species,” “Population Threats” and “Rainforest Threats.”

The mini-course is open daily from 9 a.m. -5 p.m. through March 29. Tickets are $6.95 (ages 11 and over) and $5.95 (ages 10 and under).

Every year, the Garden State Discovery Museum (2040 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, 856-424-1233, www.discoverymuseum.com) presents special programs designed to bring smiles to the faces of its young visitors.

The “Snow Queen Meet and Greet” will run from noon-2 p.m. on January 25 from noon-2 p.m.

The main event on January 26 will be the “Frosty Sisters Meet and Greet” followed by “Alice in Wonderland Storytime” on January 27.

Admission to the Garden State Discovery Museum is $15.95 for adults and children 12 months and over and $14.95 for seniors.

For the past few months, people have been able to get in a happy mood by visiting HAPPY PLACE (www.HappyPlace.me).

Live Nation Philadelphia brought HAPPY PLACE, an interactive, immersive pop-up exhibit with larger-than-life installations and multi-sensory themed rooms, to the King of Prussia Mall where it was slated to be open until just after Christmas holiday.

Originally scheduled to run through January 5, HAPPY PLACE has been extended until February 29 and will be operating on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays only.

HAPPY PLACE is filled with multi-sensory immersive rooms inducing smiles and laughter, plus larger-than-life, one-of-a-kind installations including seven-foot stilettos made of a million candies and six-foot tall mirrored X and O letters surrounded by a wall of one thousand red lips. It features more than 15,000 square feet of playful spaces and cheerful moments.

HAPPY PLACE is created for an audience for all ages. Minors under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Tickets start at $30 for adults and $20 for children (ages 4-12).

“Grim Philly’s Nightmare Before Christmas Tavern Tour” (856-829-3100, http://www.grimphilly.com) will be held January 24, 25, 30 and 31.

Participants will have the opportunity to toast with the ghosts of Christmas past while drinking in the yuletide spirits of grog and nog on this entertaining fact-filled tour.

The evening’s activities include trivia and drinking games for chances to win free beer, drink and/or food samples for all at each stop and a variety of drink specials.

Participants can relax in warmth enjoying authentic handmade Christmas beverages, snacks and prizes (included) as they learn a full range of the surprising histories of Yule and Viking lore and Saturnalia — all which have worked their way in to our modern Christian celebrations including ideas of magick, gift giving…and origins in even infanticide and human sacrifice.

Guests will be able to revel in little known facts of our holiday past including the season’s pagan roots in Roman, Celtic and German traditions, while learning of medieval, and New World additions in mumming and mistletoe.

The tour price of $45 includes guided historic tour of “Grim” Philly, tavern admissions and two “Christmas Drinks.” The tours, which start at 6:30 p.m. on Fridays and 5 p.m., on Saturdays, will depart from 599 Market Street, Philadelphia.

If you’re a fan of the cold-weather season, there’s a special event this weekend that you’ll really enjoy — the 2020 Lambertville-New Hope Winter Festival (various locations around New Hope, Pennsylvania and Lambertville, New Jersey, 215-862-5067, www.Winterfestival.net).

The popular annual event is running mow through January 26 in the two towns which straddle the Delaware River in Upper Bucks County — New Hope in Pennsylvania and Lambertville in New Jersey. The festival’s organizers list two main goals — to provide a healthy cold-weather experience in their river town communities and to demonstrate that their diverse communities are alive and well in the winter.

The list of ticketed events includes “Oldies Dance Night,” “Winter Festival Revolutionary Pub Crawl,” “Winter Festival Pub Crawl After Party,”

Taste of Winter Fest,” “Winter Festival Magical Musical Pub Crawl,”

“Concert & VIP Reception with Abbey Road Live,” “Beef ‘n’ Brew,” “A Capella Extravaganza,” “Chili Cook-off,” “Winter Walking Food & Shop Tour,” and “Soup-A-Thon Cook-Off.”

Artists will be presenting live sculpting demonstrations at a trio of locations — Havana Restaurant & Bar (105 South Main Street, New Hope) and Triumph Brewing Company (400 Union Square Drive, New Hope) on January 25, and Suez Water (11 Bridge Street, Lambertville) on January 26.

The Chinese zodiac is a rotating cycle of 12 years in which each year is represented by a specific animal and its characteristics — rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

2020 is the “Year of the Rat” according to Chinese zodiac.

On January 24, it will be time for the midnight lion dance, which is one of the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations in the area.

The Philadelphia Suns perform the traditional dance each year at the free event in Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

Festivities run from 11:30 p.m. until 1a.m. in the 1000 block of Race Street.

For those of you who are less nocturnal, there will be another Lion Dance at the same location on January26 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Chinese Lunar New Year events are scheduled for several locations on January 25 including Elmwood Park Zoo (1661 Harding Boulevard, Norristown, https://www.elmwoodparkzoo.org/event/chinese-new-year-celebration/),

Independence Seaport Museum (211 South Christopher Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia, https://phillyseaport.org/lunar),

Dilworth Park (1 South 15th Street, Philadelphia, https://centercityphila.org/parks/events/chinese-new-year-celebration),

Rivers Casino Philadelphia (1001 North Delaware Avenue, Philadelphia, https://www.riverscasinophiladelphia.com/events/lunar-new-year-dragon-dance/),

Please Touch Museum (4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, https://www.pleasetouchmuseum.org/calendar/),

On January 26, the Main Line Chinese Culture Center hosts its 2020 MLCCC New Year Gala and Culture Fair at Great Valley High School (225 North Phoenixville Pike, Malvern, www.mlccc.org)

The free event, which runs from 1:30-5:30 p.m., features traditional Chinese music, martial arts demonstrations, a chopsticks competition and more.

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