Spring Break in Chattanooga, TN

Fall break, winter break, summer break …oh my!  As a mother of a kindergartner, I must admit that making the transition from a year round daycare schedule, to a traditional public school schedule with so many breaks, has been a struggle for my family.  We planned to stay home during fall and winter break, focusing our energy and finances on spring and summer breaks… both of which can be costly with peak season pricing for transportation and accommodations.

Spring break came around faster than expected and as I planned for a much needed trip to the beach… life happened.  My husband and I had to make a costly home repair which cut our travel budget in half.  So, with half the budget remaining, I had to coordinate a trip that would be economical yet super fun for the kiddos.  I began to think of ways to cut the transportation cost.  I missed the chance to secure discounted plane tickets to Florida playing the “I can get it cheaper next week game”, so I knew we would be driving to our destination.  I also remembered we have Hilton Honors Points which we could use to cover our hotel accommodations.  After thinking about this trip over and over, I realized that there is plenty to do less than two hours away, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I have fond childhood memories of Chattanooga, so I started planning.  Well, it turns out, that while I was growing up, so was Chattanooga!  The city only slightly resembles what I remember from 25 years ago.  The area’s development, along its stretch of the Tennessee River has been explosive!  The Tennessee Aquarium, which once stood alone, is now nestled between cool restaurants and other attractions like the  High Point Climbing and Fitness Club.  Just down from the iconic aquarium sits the Creative Discovery Museum.  This amazing hands-on museum is a paradise for kids.  My six and three year olds spent hours exploring the multi-story building filled with sensory activities from a extensive waterworks exhibit to animation and fine arts.  The museum has so much to offer, my kids left no stone upturned.  In one day, my children became ship captains, railroad engineers, doctors, musicians, stop motion animators, chefs, scientists, architects, and beekeepers.  They were transported around the world to an Ethiopian spice market and went fishing in the crystal clear waters of Zanzibar.  The Creative Discovery Museum is not to be missed if you have kids 12 and under.  The average cost for a family of four with two kiddos over the age of three is about one hundred bucks but it was money well spent.  You can truly spend your entire day there.  I loved that the staff was super helpful, the bathrooms were clean and the other patrons were courteous and friendly.  We will definitely be visiting again.  Family memberships starts at just over $100 and is a nice quick getaway from Atlanta.

Since opening on May 1, 1992, the  Tennessee Aquarium has been a staple in the southeast.  Located in two contemporary structures just off the bank of the mighty Tennessee River, the aquarium boats some of the most extensive coverage of freshwater wildlife in the country.   As we meandered through the halls, we were all filled with wonder and excitement to see creatures like turtles, snakes, and alligators up close.  The segment on River Monsters, large creatures living deep below the surface, was a huge hit with my family.  We discovered creatures we had never seen before and developed a greater understanding of those that may be in our own backyards.  Plan to spend several hours at the aquarium and take in a feature film at the Imax theater.  Tickets for a family of four is over one hundred dollars but it offers a full day of fun and education for the entire family.

One of the many things I appreciate about Chattanooga is the fact that parking is reasonably priced and most of the major attractions are within walking distance from each other.  So you park the car once and you are good to go for the rest of the day.

After leaving the aquarium we strolled over to Moe’s BBQ restaurant for lunch. The food was amazing, especially the smoked turkey, collard greens and corn bread.  The prices are good and the staff was wonderful.

Bluewater Grill is another great restaurant near the museum and aquarium.  The food is delicious and reasonably priced.  The restaurant has bistro tables outside and makes for a great place to grab lunch or dinner.

After having a wonderful lunch, we took a relaxing stroll over to the Walnut Street Pedestrian BridgeThe bridge spans a half mile over the Tennessee River and ends at Coolidge ParkCoolidge Park is a picturesque setting for family fun, complete with plenty of great spots for a picnic and is home to an amazing carousel.

We had an great time in Chattanooga.  We will be returning to visit Rock City, Lookout Mountain and the Incline Railway.  During this trip, the weather was cold and windy and we did not have the appropriate attire to stand in line outside for over an hour with small children.   I have been to each of these attractions and they are totally worth a return trip.  The three aforementioned attractions offer combo deals on admission, so grab a deal online or when you arrive in Chattanooga.

There are great family friendly hotels in the heart of everything.  And since the City is walkable, once the car is parked at the hotel you are good to go.  We opted to stay about 20 minutes out at the Embassy Suites Hamilton Place for the indoor pool and complementary hot breakfast.  If it were warmer, we would have definitely stayed closer to the action.

We had a wonderful spring break and we are looking forward to enjoying some much needed rest and relaxation in the Dominican Republic over the summer.  I can’t wait to tell you all about our trip.

Until next time.

 

Kitchen Renovation Part III: The Big Reveal

So over the past several weeks we discussed planning for a kitchen renovation and how to make all of the tough decisions involved.  Well… one fine day the project will be over and you will have a the space of your dreams!  Good planning always pays off.  Here are pictures from my actual kitchen. We love it !

 

 

 

I wanted to share everything that I learned along the way, so I packaged it all up in a handy e-book for your reading pleasure.  The e-book is really a collection of helpful checklists designed to help you plan and execute your project with peace of mind.

Kitchen Renovation Planning Guide

 

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: Kitchen Renovation Part II

Renovating my kitchen was a dream of mine for  seven years.  The experience was exciting, fun and often tremendously overwhelming. There are so many decisions that must be made whether you are approaching this alone or with a designer.  I will outline my overall approach to this process in future post as part of this series.  My hope is that by the time you go through my journey here @ Eat Breathe Travel, your journey will be less overwhelming and more enjoyable.

Before getting started and during the entire process I looked at so many kitchens in showrooms across Atlanta and online.

Here are a few that inspired me greatly, courtesy of Pintrest:

Thonet bentwood bar stools or cross back stools, colonial style

Want to know how to recreate this clean, white kitchen? www.recreatearoom.com

 

Dining open to kitchen - love the white, the island, the dining room chairs and that wood table! (Note: I mirrored the original image to match my design)

Among other things, these kitchens encompassed my overall design aesthetic and gave me a springboard to work from to ultimately establish my must haves. One of my must have elements was replacing my old white cabinets with new white cabinets that extend to the ceiling with glass panels throughout.  I can’t wait to show you the pictures.

Speaking of decisions, selecting a back splash was one that caused me to have countless sleepless nights.  Marble, glass, ceramic….there are so many possibilities for materials.  I settled on marble because of its classic appeal and color.  Deciding on the back splash layout was a whole different series of decisions and sleepless nights.  Grout color is yet another selection that must be determined before your project can be completed and the color selection makes a huge impact.   Kasey with The Raw House Project  does a great job covering this topic.

Here are a few kitchen back splashes that inspired me.

Herringbone grey splash-back tiles | Little Things Interiors More

Backsplash · Carrara Marble in 3x6 subway with carrara herringbone pattern inlay above range

I ultimately opted to use individual polished marble subway tiles with bright white grout.  I had it installed  in a herringbone pattern above the cook top, as a special feature.  Here are some of the styles that I considered.

Ready to see my actual pictures? Here you go….

We used polished marble (3×6) tiles from Lowes. The price is great and the quality is amazing.

There is so much more to share as we walk though this project.  By the time we are finished you my friend will be a kitchen reno pro!

Stay tuned…

 

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The Seven Year Itch: Kitchen Renovation Part I

While cooking in my impossibly small kitchen in my first home, I often fantasized about how nice it would be to prepare meals in the beautiful chic chef’s kitchen that I would own “one day”.

Well… my husband and I bought a house seven years ago and although it had many elements that we loved, the kitchen was not one of them.  We agreed to purchased the house and I was promised that we would update the kitchen.   At that time I believed that we would get started on the kitchen right away.   However, we actually got started on something else when we moved in… less than a year later I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and a few years after that…and a basement project later, we welcomed another happy and healthy daughter.

Seven long years in a kitchen with outdated appliances and peeling cabinets.  Seven long years dreaming of a gas cook top.  Seven long years of stalking beautiful kitchens on Pintrest.

 

 

 

Well the kitchen is now complete!  I could not be happier.  So let’s take look back at how we began the process, survived the renovation and everything we learned along the way.

 

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for Thanksgiving: Decor Planning Guide & Checklist

This year I will be hosting Thanksgiving for the first time.  I am both nervous and excited.  Hosting  any event can be overwhelming but the holidays often come with increased levels of stress.  Instead of allowing myself to become overwhelmed, I am leaning on my tried and true methods for preparing for any special event at my home by starting early and making a plan.

Although I fight it, I operate best in a structured environment, so I have created a structure by developing a checklist.  I use a daily “to do list” to approach my day …so just like everything else, I created a list to prepare for Thanksgiving.

This checklist is specifically for planning the decor.  On Thanksgiving, food gets all of the love but this year don’t overlook your decor.

Download this easy guide for a quick and easy way to plan.

Thanksgiving Decor Planning Guide & Checklist

 

Happy Holidays 

 

 

 

Turn a Storage Space Into an Outdoor Oasis In One Afternoon

I love enjoying beautiful days outside on my deck, but the direct sunlight is often too much to bear! We purchased a huge patio umbrella a few years ago and it provides great coverage, but I was searching for a bit more.  I wanted a space for outdoor dining and additional space to entertain.   Then it dawned on me…use the space under your deck.  We have an amazing space under our deck that was being used for storage…until my recent stroke of genius.

Excited…I purchased a fantastic outdoor dining set, grabbed some LED outdoor string lights, snagged some affordable outdoor curtains, hung a medallion and presto… an outdoor oasis was born!

Instead of buying curtain rods, I purchased some inexpensive PVC pipes and spray painted them.  I used Rust-Oleum spray paint in Bronze to complement the color of the stain on my deck.   To finish them off, I used Gorilla Glue to affix some curtain finishes that were in the attic. 
I saved money and found a way to reuse some items I had around the house.  In my book, that is considered a big win !

What do you think ?

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DIY Projects on a Travel & Food Blog? DIY Window Seat

So I have been in my home for seven years and there are still so many things that need to be done.  My formal living room sits empty, my kitchen needs to be renovated, the interior wall colors need to be updated, and until a few weeks ago, my outdoor space was pretty lame.   So in addition to discussing great food and travel experiences, I will also share my DIY projects and the many home improvement projects that we are undertaking this year.   

The first project that I took on this year was turning an old TV stand into a window seat.  When I purchased my new TV console a few years ago I planned to donate my old stand to charity.  It had good bones and deserved a good home.  Instead, it sat for two years moonlighting  as a console table in my formal living room.   Wondering if this furniture piece could have a new life, I took to Pintrest for ideas.  Pintrest never fails me!  So of course I found endless things I could turn the stand into.  I really like to DIY but I only attempt things that I can do and do well…so I chose the easiest option: a window seat.  A little padding, a little fabric and a little paint…right?  Well it turns out that there is also a little measuring, a little sanding and a little engineering involved too.

Step 1. Selecting the “soft stuff”: Fabric and cushion materials

I know I wanted my daughters and their guests to have an ultra thick and soft seat, so I went with the thickest foam at the craft store.  I then grabbed some inexpensive cotton fabric that complemented their decor.  After that I followed Erica’s easy technique for making the cushion. The foam was super thick and I am kinda sloppy so I had to pull the fabric super tight so that it would hide my mistakes and smooth out the lumps on the edges.  You need a super sharp razor or straight edge to cut your foam if needed to fit your furniture piece. 

Step 2. Sand and paint your base

I wanted to change the color of the TV stand so I selected my color and went out to Home Depot.  I was all ready to have my color created when I spotted a gallon of  “opps” paint that would also work and for half the price.  So I grabbed my paint and extra pads for my sander and I rushed home to get to work.  It took me about 30 minutes to fully sand the piece and prep it for paint.  I applied two coats of paint to the piece and allowed it to dry overnight.

Step 3. Affix your cushion

After allowing the piece to dry for 24 hours, I started thinking of ways to affix the cushion.  I thought about nailing it but I was not fully sure if the thin MDF backing could sustain nails.  So I settled on using some commercial grade Velcro that I had for a different project.  The Velcro is strong enough to hang a fire extinguisher from so I knew it could do the job. 

 

Step 4. Make the big reveal !

The girls absolutely loved the seat !

 

 

 

Best wishes on your project . Let me know how it turns out.

 

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The Disney Cruise Is Everything You Dreamed It Would Be !!!

So I started blogging because I love to write, almost as much as I love to eat, and travel the world.  But the day that I found out that I was pregnant with my second child, I lost all interest in writing, eating out, and traveling.  For some reason, I just changed.  I stopped coordinating events for my dinner club, stopped making travel plans, and gave up on my blog.   Even after the shock of being a mother of two went away, I still could not get motivated to write.  My husband and I would dine at an amazing restaurant and I would say ” wow this place really deserves to be discussed on the blog” but I would never take any action.   Although I hoped that I would get back into it, I feared that Eat Breathe Travel was a thing of the past.  That was until …our recent Disney Cruise!  

 

A close friend was planning to go on the Disney cruise and I decided to join her.  I thought that it would be the prefect gift for my oldest daughter’s fifth birthday.  Well I was right!! It was the prefect gift.  Going on the cruise was a great experience for my family.

There are so many websites dedicated to the Disney Cruise that I originally thought I had nothing to add, but let me just share a few things that I learned from my experience and touch on some highlights :

  • Book early to a get a lower price:  Disney can get pricey, so try to book as far out in advance as possible.  Once you select a date, go ahead and book.  The price increases about every two weeks so make a decision and put down the deposit like yesterday!  I called one day and was quoted approx. $1,750 for my family of four ( 2 adults 2 kids under 5 years old) I called back less that two weeks later and the price had increased to approx.  $2,000.  I booked that day and kicked myself for a few weeks for losing $300.00 due to procrastination.
  • Pay for you trip by the deadline or else: Disney is great about payment plans but... You can pay online and you can pay as much or as little as you like, you just have to have the trip paid off 60 days before your travel date.  Oh but if you miss that deadline it is a done deal!  Disney will not entertain extending the deadline for you or anyone else.  If you miss the deadline, Disney will refund your money and cancel your reservation faster than you can say Mickey Mouse.  Take as long as you want to pay… but pay before the deadline please!
  • The three day trip is a beast:  We had a ball but we had no time to rest.  Everything is do or die.  Because the trip is so short, plan accordingly.  If you do the trip that goes to Nassau, Bahamas and you have been to Nassau before, stay on the boat and chill.  If your trip goes to Castaway Cay the following day, save your energy for that.  At Castaway Cay your food and transportation are included in the cruise price.  The beach is great and there are enough lounge chairs and umbrellas to accommodate everyone …so spend your time there.  Ok…back to Nassau…if you have been and can miss it, then take that time to do fun stuff with the kids on the boat like hang out at the pool and get great photos, and eat and drink all day.  Doing so, helped us save our sanity and reboot from all of the craziness  of travel and just being on a Disney Cruise ..lol
  • The nightly performances are not to be missed:  They are offered twice a night to accommodate both dinner seating times.  The shows are Broadway quality and we enjoyed everyone of them.  They are great and should not be missed for any reason!!! Don’t miss the shows ok?
  • Kids Club.…super fun for the kids, super necessary for the parents, super safe ( get registered before you sail and include everyone in your party that is allowed to pick your child up…if you are with a big group you may want to allow a few people to collect your child)  Just a note:  there is kids club at Castaway Cay as well…that was a game changer for us.

Disney rocks!! Here are a few other examples:

  • Hand washing stations at the buffet:  I am so funny about buffet style eating largely due to the cleanness or lack thereof of the patrons.  Well Disney addresses that issue head on.  There are hand washing stations and hand sanitizer at each restaurant entrance..use them.
  •  Complimentary strollers: Can I also say that Disney provides complimentary strollers at Castaway Cay so you don’t have to take yours off the boat !!!!
  • Healthy Food: Disney offers healthy food options.  In addition to the all you can eat soft serve ice cream and endless soft drinks,  you can also get fresh cut fruit, smoothies, salads, and wraps.

Everything else you need to know all the way down to which travel route is quicker can be found at: https://www.mousesavers.com

Worth mentioning:

  • Rental car companies run shuttles to Port Canaveral.  If you are traveling by rental car you can drop it off at Orlando Intentional Airport and ride the shuttle to Port Canaveral instead of paying  for a rental car to sit parked at the port and paying for parking.  Parking at the port for the 3 night cruise is ($64.00).
  • If you are traveling with a large party ensure that your rooms are linked so that you will be seated together for dinner.  We had a party of 20 and although we made arrangements in advance, they did not get us seated together until the final night.  It was a real bummer ..but that was the worst of it.
  • Carry your own collapsible water bottles .  We got these and they were a great purchase.   The non-alcoholic beverages are unlimited on the ship, but going back and forth to get them can be a hassle.  Make things easy by taking your own bottles.
  • The gym is good too! Imagine getting your taking your daily run overlooking beautiful ocean views.

Above all else, have a really good time!  Planning a Disney Cruise can seem intimidating.   Print off a good check-list and do your research ….but by all means enjoy your family and have a ball !

Happy trails

Travel Necessities: The Braun ThermoScan 5 Ear Thermometer: It’s Quick, Easy, and Accurate!

When I travel, I try to pack light and carry only the necessities.  Despite my best efforts, I still end up with too much stuff anyway.  Lately, I have been compiling a list of must have items for every family trip so that I can be a bit more organized and cut down on some of the clutter.  I recently added a new item to my travel medical supply list: the Braun ThermoScan 5Ear ThermometerBraun ThermoScan 5 ear thermometer I was recently asked to review this product and I was pleasantly surprised.  I have always been curious about which thermometer renders the most accurate reading.  Braun addresses this question in the first few pages of the owner’s manual.  According to Braun, the ear temperature is the most accurate measurement because the eardrum shares blood supply with the temperature control center of the brain.  Therefore, changes in body temperature are reflected sooner in the ear than other sites on the body  (p. 5 Braun ThermoScan 5 manual 6500 2014).

Likes :  There were several things that I liked about this product.  The very best thing about this thermometer is the speed!  The device only takes about three seconds to render an accurate reading. That’s amazing for me because my daughter hates getting her temperature taken!   Another thing that I liked is that it comes with batteries ( seems like a small thing but when you are traveling or even at home with a sick kid you need all the help you can get).  Another great convenience, it comes with a lens filter already installed so the product can be used immediately after it is taken out of the packaging.  Having the lens filter installed also gives new users a guide when installing filters in the future.  The product also comes with a  neat carrying case for the thermometer and the lenses so that everything is right there when you need it.  Braun ThermoScan 5 ear thermometer Without the case I could definitely see myself misplacing the lens filters.

Potential Improvements: I wish the device and carrying case were a bit smaller because I need all the space I can get in my luggage and around the house.  I must admit the case is only about the width of my Motorola cell phone but the smaller the better in this instance.

Overall it is a great product: fast, convenient, and accurate which are all things that help me keep my sanity when dealing with a child or husband who may be feeling under the weather at home or abroad.

 

Disclousre:  This product was provided on a complimentary basis for testing purposes from Influenster

 

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The Summer Never Tasted So Good: The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2014

 

Atlanta Food and Wine Festival 2014

I am an avid reader of Food and Wine Magazine and during  the last weekend in May, it was as if the best articles from the publication leaped off the pages and came to life in my hometown during the 4th Annual Atlanta Food &Wine Festival.  The festival comprised three magical days of all things food and beverage from interactive classes to three massive tents packed with the sumptuous food from all over the south.  Not to mention  the wine, beer, moonshine, bourbon, vodka  and everything in between that seemed to be in endless supply.  It didn’t take long for me to forget all about the brutal summer heat.

We started the day by taking a series of classes to improve our overall knowledge of food and cooking skills.  The class I enjoyed the most was “The Brothers Grill” hosted by Kent and Kevin Rathbun.  Kevin, the successful Atlanta chief and restaurateur ( Kevin Rathbun Steak, Krog Bar, Rathbun’s and the KR Steak) and his older brother who is a talented chief and Texas restaurateur (Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen, Abacus and Jasper”s) served up the goods.  The pair made grilling the perfect piece of meat and brotherhood look effortless!  Kevin and Kent shared tips and tricks and dished up lots hearty laughs along with Kent’s baked potato salad and pork tenderloin and Kevin’s salmon with baked corn mash.

Atlanta Food and Wine Festival 2014

 

Atlanta Food and Wine Tasting Tents 2014

The tasting tents opened in the mid-afternoon and we ate and ate until we could eat no more.  There were so many things to explore in the tasting area.  The tents were set up according to rough categorizations.   BBQ tents welcomed festival goers at the entrance.  As we ventured further we faced a fork in the culinary trail: do we bear left to the Coca-Cola tent for an ice cream float and then on to the largest tasting tent? Or do we bear right and start with the seafood and farm to table selections?  Either way was a win!

We chose left and dove face deep into the most overwhelming tasting experience I have ever encountered.  There were old classics  like traditional peach cobbler with ice cream and Brunswick stew.   To the truly creative such as caramel and bacon doughnuts as well as crunchy  Philly cheese steak  spring rolls.

Festival Faves:  La Bonne Vie’s cheeses were a treat, especially the  mild goat cheese and smooth rich brie; Davio’s Philly cheese spring roll was fun and different and packed robust flavor;  One Hot Mama’s Fried Chicken had a crunchy breading and a sweet and savory flavor profile; Revolution Doughnut’s offered a delicious Caramel and Bacon Doughnut that presented the perfect balance of salt and sugar; Pearson Farm peaches were  so juicy and refreshing, King of Pops’ Dark Chocolate Patron Popsicle was rich and full of flavor; Orpheus Brewing‘s  Summer Ale, the Ale was light,refreshing and easy to drink.  There were so many great dishes represented you really couldn’t choose wrong.

AFWF 2014

Tips:

Buy the multi-day pass! There is so much to see and do during the festival and it is difficult to take it -all -in during the course of just one day.  Spread it out and pace yourself.

Wear conformable shoes and a sun hat.  Shield yourself from the sun to conserve your energy so that you can eat and drink the most possible.

Take time to really taste and enjoy the food.  Resist the urge to start shoving food down just to get to the next vendor.  Savor the flavors!

Did you attend the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival this year?  Share your experience with me here.

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Photos Courtesy of Eatbreathetravel and AF&WF/Rafterman Photography