Atlanta, Georgia Preimere of “Chef”: A Movie About Food, That Feeds The Soul

chef pic

I am a firm believer in shaking things up and doing things out of the ordinary to break the monotony of the work week.   So when I heard about a special movie premiere happening on a Tuesday night, it sounded like the perfect mid-week date night to me!

It’s quite rare that I walk out of a movie theater feeling inspired and ready to make changes in my life, but that is exactly how I felt after viewing the movie Chef.

Taste of Atlanta and Cinebistro at Town Brookhaven teamed up for the Atlanta premiere of the movie to raise money to benefit Chef, Terry Hall’s “Legacy Lives On Fund”.  Hall, the late owner of Happy Belly Food Truck, passed away on February 11, 2014.  His fund was established to ensure that his two children would receive a college education.

Chef is about a man’s who’s career and private life have stalled.  As he loses everything he finds that family, loyal friends and fearlessly following one’s passion are the keys to success.  The all-star cast featuring Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara & John Leguizamo make the movie come alive.

As a foodie, I would be reminisce if I didn’t mention that one of the biggest stars in the movie is the amazing food.  From Cuban sandwiches to beignets, the movie left me hungry for more.  Good thing I was at Cinebistro and could order great drinks and amazing food.  I especially enjoyed the beef sliders which were cooked perfectly.

Check out Chef in theaters now and follow Taste of Atlanta for more exciting events to come!

 

Keep Exploring Your World!

 

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Cape Town, South Africa: A City Surrounded By Unbelievable Beauty ( Part III)

Cape Town, South Africa

My favorite cities have the same things in common:

  • Unique cultural experiences
  • Spectacular food
  • Efficient transportation
  • Beautiful sites
  • Excitement

Cape Town knocks each category out of the park.!  The City’s beauty alone is enough to fill an entire post.

Home to the majestic Table Mountain, there aren’t many places that I would rather spend my time.  It is too hard to adequately describe Table Mountain’s beauty, just know this, if you question the existence of GOD you won’t after visiting.  The site is spectacular.
Table Mountian, Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountian, Cape Town

 

After leaving Table Mountain, stop by Boulders Beach for lunch and to hang out with some animals that you would never guess could weather the South African heat !

Boulders Beach, South Africa


Boulders Beach, Cape Town

Beyond its beauty, Cape Town is home to hundreds of great restaurants.  With so much to try, this great City is where I really stepped out of my culinary box.  At Mama Africa ,in Cape Town’s party district, I ate the most delicious appetizer: crocodile!  It was grilled and seasoned to perfection!

Crocidile, Mama Africa, Cape Town

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also had the game kabobs consisting of (warthog, ostrich, and springbok).

Game, Mama Africa, Cape Town , South Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food was amazing and the drinks were flowing all night.

 

In addition to the amazing food, the house band kept the party going and several of my companions jumped at the chance to join in the fun.

Mama Africa , Cape Town, South Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We couldn’t spend time in Cape Town without taking the 60 minute ferry ride to Robben Island to visit the site of the maximum security prison where Nelson Mandela and many other political prisoners were held.

Robben Island Ferry Ride , South Africa

 

Robben Island, South Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surprisingly, the island is now home to a few hundred people, including former prison wardens and former prisoners a like with a school, church and grocery store.   The actual prison is now a museum, visited by millions of people each year.  Being on the island is a humbling experience.  What really adds to the overall experience is that the tours are guided by former political prisoners.

 

Our guide was imprisoned at Robben Island for six years for his participation with the African National Congress (ANC).  He shared his experiences and even showed us the actual cell that he was held in.   We also viewed the cell that Mr. Mandela was held in during his 18 years on the Island.  (pictured)

Nelson Mandela's Prison Cell, Robben Island , South Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting Robben Island was a sobering experience  and as we left, we felt hopeful about South Africa’s bright future despite its troubled past.  Having a wine tour booked following our visit to Robben Island worked out to be a wise idea!

 

In 45 short minutes we were in Paarl sampling sumptuous wines and unbelievable chocolates.  South Africa’s vast wine country is beyond gorgeous.  The rolling hills lined with grapevines as far as the eyes can see, with jagged mountains framing the horizon, create a picturesque setting.

 

Wine country, Paarl, South Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wine was fantastic but the absolute star of the day was the meal that we enjoyed at an onsite pizzeria.  The cow feta and spinach pizza, chicken livers, brie and tomato sandwich and the lamb baguettes were unbelievable.

Chicken Livers and Lamb, South Africa

 

I truly recommend spending no less that half a day in wine country.  With hundreds of independent producers you are sure to discover something great.

When the sun rose the following day we were greeted with great coffee and the sour realization that we would be heading back to the states in a few short hours.  But leave it up to my crew to make the very best of it by going shopping!

Cape Town’s Green Market located in the City ‘s downtown district is massive.  Despite the fact that many of the vendors are selling the same trinkets, you can find some really good deals and some unique items if you take your time and explore.

Cape Town Green Market, South Africa

Feel free to haggle but make sure you shop with Rand, the local currency ( it just makes it easier ).

 

A few short hours later we loaded our luggage, headed to the airport, and made the 17 hour journey back to the states.

 

South Africa is an unbelievable country.  I cannot wait to return in a few years.

Have you traveled to South Africa?  Tell me your story here.

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Fun and “Game”: Exploring Kruger National Park and the South African Countryside (Part II)

Visiting Johannesburg was awesome and a great way to start our South African adventure!

After spending three exciting days there, we traveled by bus from Johannesburg to Hazeyview in preparation for a game drive in Kruger National Park.  During the four-hour journey we stopped at Blyde River Canyon and had the honor of viewing the immense South African Countryside.

Blyde  River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world!  It was truly breathtaking.

Blyde Canyon

Blyde Canyon


After visiting Blyde Canyon it was on to Kruger National Park.  Kruger National ParkWe arrived at the park before the sun came up.  Lions and leopards are nocturnal hunters and rest during the day, so getting there before dawn is ideal.  As our open air vehicle cut through the cold morning air we were warmed with the excitement of seeing animals in their natural habitat.  Almost immediately after entering the park, we spotted a heard of antelope grazing and zebras in the distance. However, DSC_0413we traveled for nearly and hour without seeing anything more than antelope and as the sun came up, we feared we had missed our opportunity to see any  “big cats”.

Well, after making an abrupt left turn on a dusty trail, we spotted a pride of lions resting under a tree…..we were excited, nervous, and totally humbled in their presence.

Pride of Lions : Kruger National Park

 

Kruger National Park

Our anxiety calmed when our guide explained that lions have no “depth of sight” which means that as long as we were not wearing bright colors and we didn’t exit the vehicle, the lions saw our vehicle and everything in it as one large object too large to attack.  Now if anyone decided to stick a hand out or exit the vehicle ( which is illegal) well they may have become lunch!

We enjoyed the lions without incident and after we admired them for a while and took a few hundred pictures, we caught our breath a drove deeper into the park.

From that point on, we saw water buffalo, majestic elephants, a lone hyena who appeared to be injured in battle, mischievous baboons, gorgeous birds, rhinoceros, turtles and much more.DSC02985Leopard Turtle :Kruger National ParkHyena: Kruger National Park

DSC_0523Elephant: Kruger National Park
Being in Kruger National Park during the day was exciting, but venturing into the park at night is totally exhilarating.

 

Kruger National ParkKruger National ParkGuided only by two manual search lights and the vehicle’s headlights, in the pitch black darkness, we combed every tree top with our eyes for a glimpse of the allusive leopard.  Despite being told that seeing a leopard is rare, we searched for two hours anyway.   A few people in our group spotted a leopard that morning but it was much too quick for all of us to get a good look.

That night we never had the pleasure of encountering one.

Despite only seeing four of the famed “Big 5” ( lion, leopard, elephant, water buffalo, rhino)   it was quite an adventure visiting Kruger National Park and experiencing its compelling beauty.

Stay tuned for (Part III) The Perfect City :Cape Town, South Africa !

Check out the following post for great tips to help you plan your South African safari :

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/themes/wildlife/south-african-safaris-for-first-timers-eight-tips/

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Johannesburg,South Africa: Rich History Bright Future! (Part I)

Ever been to a place that brims with so much culture and beauty that you find yourself overwhelmed but you can’t quite get enough?  Well, if you answered “yes”, then maybe you’ve been to South Africa.

I had the pleasure of spending nine days in the “Rainbow Nation” and during that time I visited three wonderful and distinctly different cities: Johannesburg, Hazeyview, and Cape Town.

Our first stop was the bustling city of Johannesburg, located in the eastern half of the country.  Many know this city as the place where Nelson Mandela began his adult life, raising a young family and becoming interested in politics.  Soweto, a township in Johannesburg, is credited with being the site of some of the most important anti- apartheid demonstrations. DSC_0171 (2) The city has such an inspiring history that one is forever changed after visiting.  During our three-day tour, we visited so many spectacular sites!  As soon as we landed, we hired a driver and we’re whisked off to the Cradle of Humankind   Cradle of Humankindthe museum showcases artifacts that support the theory that human life began in Africa.  A cast of the oldest human remains are on display at the museum along with many of the earliest remains ever discovered. Cradle of HumankindCradle of Humankind There are also tours of the caves where the remains were found.  Unfortunately, the caves were closed following several weeks of torrential rains.  If you would like to see the caves, call in advance to ensure that they are open to the public at that time.  Despite not seeing the caves, the museum was well worth the visit!
The following day was devoted to exploring South Africa’s more recent past.  It was only roughly 25 years ago that former South African President, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after serving 27 years for organizing against the apartheid regime.  At the beginning of the day, we visited the humble home that Mr. Mandela shared with his second wife Mrs Winnie Mandela prior to his arrest in 1968. The five room home constructed with bright red bricks is now the Mandela House MuseumMandela House Museum Soweto, South Africa  Visitors have the opportunity to view Mr. Mandela personal belongings such as his honorary degrees and letters exchanged between the pair during his unjust incarceration.  Mandela House Museum Soweto, South Africa Aside from the beautiful plaques behind clear glass cases along the walls, there were more sobering details that reminded me of how difficult life was for the Mandela family and all families who opposed the government.  On the exterior walls, our tour guide pointed out several bullet holes and fire damage markings.  He later explained that during Mr. Mandela’s incarceration, Mrs. Winnie Mandela was persecuted by police daily.  Their house was burned down by officials twice and police regularly fired bullets at the home to scare Winnie and her children into moving away.  Being there and reading Mr. Mandela’s biography inspired me to learn more about Winnie Mandela’s contributions and sacrifices for the anti-apartheid movement. Winnie Mandela: Mandela House Museum Soweto, South Africa

Interestingly enough, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s home is located on the same street. Desmond Tutu's Home Soweto, South Africa Vilakazi Street is the only street  in the world that has ever been home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners. Desmond Tutu's Home  Soweto, South Africa

From there, we visited the  Hector Pieterson Museum.  The museum tells the chilling story of the uprisings that started in Soweto in 1976 and spread across the country.  On June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson and  his classmates, along with children from several other townships left school and marched in protest against unfair education policies. Over 150 children perished during what began as a peaceful protest: twelve-year-old Hector Pieterson ,was the first to be gunned down by police.  Hector Pieterson Musuem Soweto South Africa The museum stands as a testament to the courage of even the youngest South African fighters in the anti-apartheid movement.  We also visited the Apartheid Museum which is a must see. Soweto, South Africa  Like the Hector Pieterson Museum, this museum provides a multisensory experience.  Aparthied Museum, South Africa One of the things that I really appreciated was the fact that the museum curators included an exhibit highlighting what was going on in other places in the world during the most gruesome apartheid events. DSC_0116Aparthied Museum, South Africa It demonstrated for me that we must be more knowledgeable about what is happening in the world around us.

I must admit, visiting so many places related to the atrocities of apartheid  in one day was overwhelming.  You many want to visit each site on a different day or take a break and decompress over a great lunch between visits.

Speaking of food, South Africa is touted as having one of the best culinary scenes in the world, so we wasted no time jumping fork first!  On our first night, we dined at Moyo in the upscale Melrose Arch community.  Despite Moyo being a local chain, we were delighted by the depth of the menu.  The restaurant offers traditional South African food with a modern twist.  With a delightful mix of game meats and traditional Indian dishes it was a great fusion of the influences all of the people of South Africa have had on the cuisine.    For example, my husband had the Springbok which is apart of the antelope family with mashed potatoes and a traditional African red sauce, while our other companions enjoyed ostrich and other exotic meats.

Moyo, South Africa

For dessert we had everything from traditional puddings to hand churned ice creams.

Moyo , South Africa

Needless to say, we left full but hungry for more great culinary adventures.

We had an amazing time in Johannesburg.  Then it was off to Hazeyview for a spectacular day a Kruger Park !

Be on the lookout for Part II (Fun and “Game”: Kruger Park and the South African Countryside)

 

1st Annual Andrews Wine Festival: Spring Has Offically Begun!

Despite suffering from jet lag after a ten-day South African vacation, my husband and got up and out last weekend to celebrate spring at the inaugural Andrews Wine Festival!  If you missed the 1st Annual Andrews Wine Festival, don’t make the same mistake next year!  The festival, held in the Andrews Entertainment District, was a lively affair!  With over 150 wines, beers, and spirits available to be sampled, how could one not have a great time?  The event had something for everyone from the inexperienced to the wine connoisseur.

Andrews Wine Festival

In addition to tasting outstanding wines from all over the world, attendees were also treated to a number of amazing seminars.  The seminars covered everything from wine selection to making the perfect cocktail.

Alex Sher, of Proof & Provision shared his time-honored techniques in a class titled Cocktail Mixology.  During the class, he demonstrated each technique as he prepared two cocktails: The Classic Aviation and The Manhattan.

Alex Sher: Proof & Provision
Old World vs. New World and Wine 101, taught by Master Sommelier, Michael McNeil, covered wine basics, paring techniques, and wine selection strategies.

Michael McNeill: Andrews Wine Festival Artisan Spirits, taught by Will Atkinson of Corsair Distillery (Tennessee) covered the fundamentals of producing high quality spirits.  In addition, he allowed us to sample the best gin I have ever had! Atkinson shared the secrets behind his company’s award-winning  whiskey and explained why quinoa really is a super food.

Corsair Distillery: Andrews Wine Festival

The final class of the day titled Craft Beer 101, was taught by Matt Olson, Vice President of Quality Wine & Beer’s Craft Beer Division.  During the class, Matt allowed us to sample seven beers ranging in style and taste.  He provided instruction on how quality beers are crafted and what distinguishes great beers from the rest.

Matt Olson
All of the classes were fun, informative, and highly interactive with hosts that were professional but laid back; which created an awesome experience.

Andrews Wine Festival

My personal favorites from the festival are:

Corsair Distillery – Barrel Aged Gin

Cleto Chiarli – Brut Rose Spumante

Matchbook – Chardonnay Musque

Matchbook – Tinto Rey

Bonanno – Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2014 Andrews Wine Festival was amazing and 2015 is sure to be even better!

The Andrew’s Entertainment District , in the heart of Buckhead, is a world-class regional entertainment destination, with first class dining, entertainment, and nightlife scene. The premier destination for Atlanta’s nightlife! The place to be and be seen, and it’s all conveniently located under one roof! Featuring 8 diverse and distinct venues.

What festivals prepare you for spring?

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How To Eat At A Bunch Of Awesome Restaurants On A Budget: Restaurant Week 2014! Let’s Go!

 

Want to try the country’s best restaurants for half the price?  Well then you have to get out to your city’s upcoming Restaurant Week!  stroy pic 3

Restaurant Weeks are hosted by cities all over the country. In Georgia, we host several  each year.

It works like this: a group of participating restaurants in a city offer a variety of 3 to 4 course prix fixe meals at a reduced price; for a period of time, usually seven days but some run for longer periods. Often, but not in every case, a potion of the proceeds from sales during this period are donated to a local charity. Interested diners can make reservations directly through the restaurant or by using Opentable.

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Below is a list of the popular Restaurant Weeks being offered in metro Atlanta and a few across the country.  Check with your local Convention and Visitors Bureau to find out about your specific location:

Atlanta Metropolitan Area

Inman Park Restaurant Week March 17-23 (Spring)

Buckhead : May 17-25

Downtown Atlanta-August 9-14

Midtown September 6-14

Inman Park (Fall) September-TBA

Vinings- October 5-13

 

Other Great Cities

Detroit, MI, April 11-20

Washington DC-TBD

San Diego, CA (fall) TBD

Dallas Fort Worth August 11-17

 

Check these out next year! We were too late this go round  Sad face

New York City, NY (January)

Savannah, GA (January)

San Francisco (January)

Charlotte, NC (January)

Los Angeles, CA (January)

San Diego, CA (winter) (January)

Baltimore, MD (February)

Chicago, IL (February)

Las Vegas, NV (March)

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Traveling With A Two Year Old Caused Me To Have An Emotional Breakdown : I Never Saw It Coming!

I was recently delayed at Tampa International airport for several hours waiting to return home after a lovely trip to Disney World in neighboring Orlando, FL. Flying standby is nothing new to me. I have flown in standby status most of my life, thanks to my mother, a proud airline employee. Eventually, I make it home and the discount is usually worth the trouble. This time was no different. The flights were oversold for the entire day but I was confident that I would make it home eventually! My daughter was so fascinated watching planes take off and disappear into the sky that she seemed unfazed by the long wait.

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The gate agent was making her final call for late passengers and I was ready to get a snack at the nearby deli before the wait started over at the next gate. To my surprise, the next words I heard uttered by the agent were my name. It was like music to my ears! After spending hours in the airport, it was finally our chance to get home. Just as I got up to gather our belongings, I called my daughter away from the window, which upset her. She decided to express her discontentment by flinging off both of her shoes and having a full-blown tantrum complete with kicking and screaming! As I struggled to grab both her and her shoes, I nearly fell over her stroller. I clumsily grabbed my carry-on bags and finally made my way to the counter. My bags were in disarray and my daughter was hanging from my arms barefoot. The agent, appeared annoyed by the entire ordeal and when she realized that my ticket neglected to state that I was carrying an “infant in arms” she was visibly bothered by the mistake. She went to her computer, tapped the keys violently and produced a new boarding pass for me. She handed me the slip of paper and asked me to move along quickly. Before I could catch my breath, I was rushing down the gateway onto a full plane. My daughter was clutching to me still barefoot and her backpack and my laptop bag both flopped along my hips. As I attempted to move down the aisle, my bags and my daughter’s legs made contact with every person that we passed. I finally realized that I needed assistance to make it to the back of the plane, and asked a flight attendant standing close-by for her assistance. She obliged. However, just as she grabbed the backpack, my daughter’s Sippy cup that was tucked into the backpack’s side pocket, tipped over and milk began to drip all over a nearby passenger. As I dove to catch the cup and stop the leak, I bumped the flight attendant from behind.
Without realizing what I was trying to accomplish, she yelled out “Don’t push me!” In addition to her outburst, the soaked passenger looked at me with disgust. All I could do in the moment was attempt to apologize. I was confused and embarrassed.
As I looked for seat 40D I came to the sad realization that it was indeed a middle seat. I could just feel the stares from people hoping that I wasn’t coming toward them. I just knew my seatmates would be uncaring and annoyed.
Well, quite the contrary. I was greeted warmly by both passengers and each asked if they could assist with my bags and the baby. As I finally settled into my seat… it happened…overwhelmed by sheer frustration and embarrassment, I began to weep. Initially, only a few tears escaped from my eyes. Then all of a sudden, I began crying uncontrollably and trying to hide my face behind both, my favorite leopard print scarf and my unsuspecting child. The more I tried to stop crying, the faster the tears ran down my face. After a minute or two, the young lady sitting to my left softly asked “is there anything that we can do to help you?” I was so embarrassed that despite my best efforts, the people around me had witnessed my breakdown. My response to her was that I was ok and I just needed to catch my breath. After a few moments I began to tell the story of what occurred. They listened intently as I retraced my steps to figure out where exactly I lost my control; in essence, what really happened that lead me to a packed plane crying uncontrollably among strangers. Both expressed empathy toward my situation and reassured me that I was safe with them. For the rest of the flight the three of us engaged in a lively discussion about how much each of us enjoy traveling. It was as if nothing had ever happened. To the young lady finishing her graduate degree in psychology at the University of Florida and the gentleman living just outside of San Francisco, who has a daughter graduating from Boston University this spring; thank you for extending God’s love to me that day. In a moment when I was feeling the most alone, you two stood in the gap for me. I shall always remember your kindness and compassion.

Has the kindness of a stranger ever made a profound impact on you while traveling? Share your experience here.

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Running, Screaming, and Playing At The Museum? The Children’s Museum of Atlanta

 

Are you looking for a place that is kid friendly, easy on your pockets, and educational too?  Well,  The Children’s Museum of Atlanta is the place to go!  Dedicated to making learning fun for children of all ages, this place is packed with things to see and do.  I started going to the museum with my nephew when he was about three years old.  At ten, he still loves going and has a new appreciation for the exhibits.  Moreover, I now take my two-year old daughter, Brooklyn, and she loves it!

From creating works of art on a whiteboard that spans the length of an entire wall, to fishing in a giant indoor pond, my daughter explores the museum by touching everything!  Fortunately, that’s the way it was designed to be enjoyed. Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA During our most recent visit, Brooklyn discovered the infant toddler area, complete with soft blocks and tunnels perfect for children 6 months-2 years old.  She spent quite a bit of time there.  Then it was off to the massive interactive Farm to Table exhibit. Imagine It : The Children's Museum of Atlanta

The exhibit explores how food goes from the farm, illustrated by a life-sized tractor and ceramic cow, to the supermarket, and finally to our homes.  Kids are able to fill shopping carts with plastic loaves of French bread, cartons of milk, eggs and everything in between. Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA

This exhibit is a crowd favorite.  There is also a train depot, a large sand box, and a huge exhibit dedicated to engineering and logistics.  But not to worry, it is big fun!  The exhibit uses colorful balls and simple machines to teach these complex principals in an enjoyable way.   By the way, don’t miss the dance parties and story time during your visit.  (See the activity schedule when you arrive for details.)

Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA

There are also temporary exhibits that come to the museum throughout the year.  Check out the current exhibit: Sonic Sensation, running now through June 1, 2014This new, highly engaging exhibit offers a fun and informative opportunity for children to understand the anatomy, measurement, and science of sound.

The exhibit features a variety of interactive, hands-on activities for children to see, feel, and hear sound. Visitors can experiment with pitch, test their listening skills, make a movie soundtrack and much more! As children engage with multiple learning stations throughout the exhibit, they will discover key listening skills through the science of sound and hearing.

Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA

Visiting the museum is always a great experience…. especially when it is free!  Check out Target Free Second Tuesdays.  Thanks to the Target Corporation, admission for the museum is free from 1pm-7pm on the second Tuesday of every month.  Otherwise, tickets for visitors ages one and above is $12.75 per person.  The museum is also available for birthday parties and special events.

Tip: There are several paid parking options near the museum and the prices range from $5.00-$12.00 depending on the day and length of your visit. The lot located on Baker Street directly across from the museum is the most convenient.  On weekends, parking in this lot is generally a flat rate of $5.00.

Have a fantastic time at  The Children’s Museum of Atlanta.

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How Kayaking In La Jolla, California Saved My Marriage

Despite being married to the love of my life, our first year of marriage was rough!  We had petty arguments and some not-so-petty arguments.  Simply stated, we had a lot to learn about compromise and effective communication.

A few months into our marriage, I asked my husband to join me on a business trip to San Diego, California.  Neither he nor I had ever been, so we were excited about the trip.  Yet upon our arrival, disagreements ensued.   From disagreeing on what car to rent to where to have dinner in the Gaslamp District, I can’t say we were always on the same page.  Between visiting the San Diego Zoo and enjoying cigars at The Cuban Cigar Factory we quarreled.

On the last day of the trip, we decided to venture just outside of San Diego, to La Jolla, for dinner and to enjoy the famed beaches.  La Jolla is breathtaking, with dramatic cliffs jetting out of the Pacific Ocean, lined with awe-inspiring homes.

La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks

It is a fantastic place to shop, dine, and enjoy outdoor sports.  We decided to tour its famous caves and get a closer look at the sea lions that rest upon rocks close to the beach.

La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks

So we booked a kayaking tour through La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks and set out for an amazing adventure.  There was just one major problem: having only kayaked in calm waters, I was nervous about kayaking off the beach directly into the jagged waves of the Pacific.  My husband on the other hand, became increasing more excited at the thought of encountering such waves.  Before we set sail, I shared my concerns with him.  He reassured me that the trip would be great and that I had nothing to worry about.  I reluctantly adjusted my life jacket and took my place behind him in the vessel.  As we paddled out, the waves grew in intensity.  At the sight of rather large waves, I would close my eyes tightly as the kayak was lifted temporary and then abruptly returned back to a level position.  After a series of large waves, I opened my eyes to find that my husband had paddled us away from our tour guide and further away from the beach.  As we approached the buoys (which confirmed my fears that we had ventured too far) I nervously asked that we turn back.  My husband ignored my petition.  I then responded by attempting to paddle in the opposite direction.  My actions almost caused the kayak to flip over and after a few close calls, my husband decided to steer us toward the group.  He then said “he felt sorry for me because I was missing out on a great experience, all because I refused to let go and trust him.”  I was nearly in tears.  As we neared the group, I took a deep breath and began to relax a bit.  We entered the first cave and the cool breeze suddenly opened my eyes not only to the picturesque scenery but to who my husband is, as a man and as my partner.

La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks

He wanted me to be open to adventure and experiencing something fun and exciting with him, trusting that he would protect us and use sound judgment to keep us afloat.  This revelation allowed me to truly enjoy the second half of our tour, as well as the past four years of our marriage.  As we paddled along in sync we laughed, smiled and road the waves without fear.  We are still riding the waves and staying afloat by working together and trusting each other.

Have you had a travel experience that shaped your perspective on life? Share it here.

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Pictures courtesy of La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks http://www.lajollaseacavekayaks.com/

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Here We Come: How I Got Prepared For Disney!

There are few things that are more magical than taking a trip to Disney World!

So, when we decided that we would be taking our daughter to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for her birthday, I grabbed a stack of books and got busy planning.  But the more I read, the more nervous I became.  Neither I nor my husband have ever been to Disney, so by book number two, I was completely overwhelmed.

There are lots of books on the market explaining strategies on how to make the best of your Disney experience and here are a few that really helped me.

Fodors’s Walt Disney World with Kids 2014 by Kim Wright Wiley   

This book was so comprehensive and was by far the best tool that I consulted.  Although the book is quite large the information is easy to digest.  Wiley gives you a break down of each park along with a strategy for navigating each.  The book also provides a chart which explains each attraction’s location, line speed, ride duration, and age and height requirements.  This chart was essential because we are traveling with a small child whom may not be able to ride everything. So knowing exactly what she can and cannot ride in advance is a time saver!  In addition, Wiley gives a brief description of what to expect on each ride so parents can decide whether it is appropriate for their children.
The book explores so many important pieces of information from what time to arrive at the park, when to use a fastpass, how to get around the park, where to stand during the parades and the best place to view the fireworks in the evening.  Not to mention the best strategy for snagging a character breakfast and which hotel will best suit you.

Birnbaum Guides 2014 Walt Disney World 

Let me tell you why I enjoyed this book so much:

The book is colorful and easy to read with plenty of pictures which made it fun for me and my daughter to read together!  The book only took about an hour and a half to read cover to cover.

In addition to being a quick read, it is very comprehensive and well structured.   The authors leave nothing to chance.   After reading this book, you will know when the parks are the least crowded, where to go to meet the characters in each park, how much money you will spend on average, what to pack, where to stay and how to prepare the kids for the trip!

Similar to the Fodor book, the Birnbaum Guide outlines the rides in each park that are appropriate for each age group.

The book also provides itineraries for each park to get the most out of each day without passing out or going broke!

Some of the best tips that I learned from the book are:

Tip 1: Prepare small kids for the trip by watching Disney movies and listening to Disney songs leading up to the trip.  The more familiar the more enjoyable the experience for small kids.

Tip 2: Small children usually interact better with characters with human faces i.e. Cinderella verses masked characters such as Mickey Mouse or Pluto.  The book recommends that parents allow small children to warm up to characters by allowing them to interact with the “human” characters first before introducing masked characters.

Some of the other things the book does well include: providing a full color map of Disney World, complete hotel information with a complete break down of each Disney resort with an explanation of the activities and amenities offered at the resort.  In addition, the book includes the type of traveler that will most appreciate each resort.  The book also breaks down fun activities for single travelers, mature travelers, travelers with disabilities and couples traveling without children.

After consulting these guides, we feel prepared to have an amazing trip to the Magic Kingdom!

Have you been to the Magic Kingdom?  How did you prepare?  Do you have a resource that I should check out or great information that you would like to share?

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