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 

 

 

 

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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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

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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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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