Category: Travel

Vacations Are Good for Health and Long Life

Posted on Jul 14, 2014 by 1 Comment

Many of us look forward to vacations, and when the economy is tough we can easily feel like vacation is a luxury we can cut from our budget to make ends meet.

However, a recent poll by the Society for Human Resource management shows strong support from personnel managers who believe those who take a vacation are better workers, especially if the time off is paid.

Just because you get paid time off, though, doesn’t always mean you can afford to go somewhere. It also doesn’t mean you should skip vacation all together.

Staying home for vacation offers opportunities to take day trips you never have time for in the busy day-to-day. In recent years, these stay at home vacations have grown popular enough to get their own tag – staycations – and they still provide benefits like stress relief and improved morale. Plus when you return to work refreshed, you enjoy greater job satisfaction.

But taking vacation does more for our health than reduce stress for a week or two. In one 1992 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers followed a group of 750 middle-age women for 20 years.

At the start of the study none of them had heart disease. Over time, it showed that the women who didn’t take vacation had a higher risk of heart attack and death. Other studies have reached similar conclusions.

I have friends in other countries including England and Australia and the people there are astounded that in the States we only get an average of two weeks. They get six weeks! The problem in the United States is that many of don’t even use the vacation we do get! In fact, almost 50% of people don’t use all their vacation time according to the Families and Work Institute.

To enjoy better health and longer life we should be taking advantage of our vacation time. Even if you can’t go somewhere, use the time to read or do those fun things you never have time to do.

“Fun” is a relative term, of course. It can be a physical, mental, or spiritual vacation. What’s important is that we actually take them!

photo credit: g-useppe via photopin cc

Link Round-up: Pizza, Ombre Fondant, Candy Cane Bath Bombs, and More

Posted on Jul 8, 2014 by No Comments

Today’s link round-up has a pizza recipe, tips for ombre fondant, candy cane bath bombs, and more.

The Neighborhood Moms shared a recipe for a Kentucky hot brown pizza.

Confessions of an Overworked Mom shared a great app for traveling.

I’m Topsy Turvy showed us how to create ombre fondant.

Kalyn’s Kitchen shared a recipe for power greens breakfast casserole.

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Suzy Sitcom showed us how to make cute (easy!) table settings.

View Along the Way offered some tips for budgeting and answers to money questions.

A Mom’s Take showed us how to make candy cane bath bombs for Christmas in July.

Photo credit: The Neighborhood Moms and Suzy Sitcom

Link Round-up: Frugal Vacations, Wall Art, Popsicles, Ice Cream, and More

Posted on Jun 24, 2014 by No Comments

Today’s link round-up has homemade ice cream recipes, frozen watermelon pops, ideas for an amazing weekend, and more.

The Thrifty Couple shared a frozen watermelon pop idea that’s simple, natural, and refreshing.

A Virtuous Woman gave us a collection of homemade ice cream recipes.

link ru frugal vacation

Hobbies on a Budget gave us five tips for an amazing weekend.

Another Cent Saved showed us how to create wall art with beans.

Eighteen25 showed us how to make DIY glitter sunnies.

Design Dazzle shared summer bingo printables.

We Know Stuff taught us how to create a lavender sugar scrub.

Photo credit: The Thrifty Couple and Hobbies on a Budget

Ready to Try an Extreme Vacation?

Posted on Jun 9, 2014 by 1 Comment

Extreme vacations are increasingly popular with adults, especially work-a-holic, high achievers who need a challenge and a change of pace.

For example, you can attend a week long SEAL Advanced Training Course in Chesapeake, VA for around $2,000 a week. While I’m guessing that’s a men-only gig, there are plenty of other extreme vacays that women can choose.

What about taking on Uganda’s Impenetrable Forest on a Gorilla Safari that lets you get up close and personal with gorillas in their natural habitat? For eleven days you get to hike in Uganda, through forests and across plains, studying chimps, gorillas, and other African wildlife in their natural environment.

You’ll even track gorillas on foot, hiking to altitudes of 8,500 feet. You’ll stay in camps — this is for real and not a luxury tour where you head back to a five star hotel at night.

Heli-skiing is for the adrenalin addicted ski buff. You’ll be taken by helicopter to a high peak with an altitude of anywhere between 6,500 feet and 10,000 feet. Once at the top you’ll disembark and ski down to the pick up spot.

My personal favorite is a vacation in Antarctica. For some reason, I have always wanted to go there but figured it was only for military experiments and scientific research. Apparently that’s not true and there are several vacation packages that include this destination.

There are hundreds of these types of extreme vacations to fit all interests. I think the popularity comes from the need many people have to push themselves to the limit, to see what they can accomplish, and to experience everything possible. Then there is the whole adrenalin addiction thing.

I think that my dream vacation would include hours of laying on a beach and being served icy beverages by hot cabana boys, but if you are into challenges and adrenalin rushes you might want to look into something more extreme.

photo credit: dirkgroeger via photopin cc

How to Save Money on Your Summer Vacation

Posted on Jun 5, 2014 by No Comments

I know that people keep saying the economy is better, but I must be living in an alternate reality because I sure don’t see it — and I live in one of the most economically stable states in the United States.

Let’s face it, saving money on your vacation means that you may actually be able to take one. No matter where you are thinking about going, here are some ideas that may help you save some hard earned cash.

If you’re going to be driving, there are a couple of ways to save money. The first is kind of a no brainer — watch your speed and obey local laws because a ticket can seriously put a dent in your vacation allowance.

Gas prices fluctuate across the country. For example, today gas prices in Connecticut are reported to be 3.90 a gallon while in my area of Texas they are 3.45 a gallon. That’s a big difference. Try to plan your vacation to areas with lower gasoline prices and use websites like gasbuddy.com to find the gas stations with the lowest prices no matter where you are.

Consider a vacation rental rather than a hotel. If you have more than one or two children, a vacation rental in the area you’ll be visiting can save you some money over having to get hotel rooms. Plus, rather than having to eat at restaurants you can prepare some of your meals yourself.

Camping in one of the many state or national parks can be a good way to take a vacation without a huge expense. If your family is the outdoorsy type, consider tent camping. Otherwise, look into the option of renting a cabin. Many parks have cabins that can be rented by the week or weekend.

There are numerous ways to save on your vacation. Everyone needs to get away once in awhile so don’t let a tight budget stop you.

photo credit: Randy Heinitz via photopin cc

SearSucker ~Where New American Cuisine Reigns Supreme

Posted on Mar 6, 2014 by No Comments

If you live in San Diego, Del Mar, Phoenix, Texas or Austin, Texas you may have heard of Searsucker? Searsucker is more than just a summer fabric from your childhood, it is Bravo’s Top Chef finalist, Brian Malarkey’s restaurant.

It is a foodie’s paradise, specializing in farm to table cuisine. It has a vibrant bar scene and is a fit for your special occasion. Enjoy an eclectic menu and indulge in its wide open comfortable space.

Recently, I had the opportunity to dine at Searsucker in San Diego, California. Searsucker is one of the finest downtown San Diego restaurants. Situated in the heart of the Gaslamp District, Searsucker serves new American Classic cuisine paired with specialty cocktails and unique local brews.

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Chef Malarkey has created a fantastic eatery full of local fare. The farm to table aspect is strongly reflected in the taste of the food, everything is fresh and clean. The menu includes fresh seafood caught on the San Diego coast as well as locally brewed lagers and ales on tap.

The airy, eclectic design of the 7,000 square foot restaurant in downtown San Diego features an open kitchen and lounge divided only by furniture. It feels part retro barn and part downtown nightclub.

Friends and family can chat with chefs and servers as easily as they can with each other. Searsucker isn’t a place to get away; it is a place to get together. The lighting is warm as is the atmosphere, and the staff are courteous and knowledgeable.

I was there with a large group and the staff handled the dinner, accommodating all of the different diets, without a hitch or complaint. Food was placed in front of each of us without interruption. My conversation with fellow diners was never intruded upon by a waiter leaning between or above us.

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There is a flow in Searsucker that is felt in everything from the conversation to the farm to table food and even in the atmosphere. You won’t want to leave and when you do, you will be counting down until the next time you come back.

The night I was there I sampled a lot of food, but there were still a lot of things that I didn’t get the chance to try. A girl’s only got so much room in her stomach, after all.

I started the evening with a house specialty drink called a Skinny Jenny. It was made from citrus vodka, ginger beer, lavender syrup and lime. If you like mojitos, you will love a Skinny Jenny. For appetizers, we had a sampling of the brie triple with strawberry jam and currants, artichoke hearts with Gruyere and tomato, and spicy shrimp with bacon grits. Is your mouth watering yet?

For my salad, I had the strawberry, champagne, walnut and goat cheese over a bed of fresh greens. It was as amazing as it sounds. For my main course, I indulged in the loin filet with lobster butter and mushroom demi. It was decadent.

For sides, we were brought a sampling of  butter potatoes, jalapeno chorizo corn off the cobb and fried Brussels sprouts with walnuts. I had never been a fan of Brussels sprouts before that night but now, I prepare them like this and I have them at least once a week.

To top it all off, we were brought samplings of the pig and peanut brownie, banana cake and vanilla bean cheesecake.

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I must admit that by the time I left, I was sufficiently stuffed but between the ambiance and the amazing food, I really didn’t want to leave. Great food and good conversation with new friends made a memorable impression on me and I would recommend Searsucker to everyone. Bon Appetite!

Photo Source: SearSucker

Top Spots to Take Your Family on Vacation

Posted on Jan 30, 2014 by 2 Comments

Family vacations are something my parents and all my brothers and sisters looked forward to every year. We would load up in our Oldsmobile and head out onto the open road.

Sure, it was hot and sticky and I am sure some of us were whining and all of us were driving our parents crazy at some point or another, but it was unforgettable. I still remember our trips and those memories will be with me forever. I want that for my girls.

Here are some places that I think are great family vacation spots for every family.

Williamsburg, Virginia

Why not step back in time with your family while strolling down the streets of Williamsburg, Virginia? You can walk along with red-jacketed soldiers in tri-corner hats and ladies in powdered wigs and lace dresses. Costumed actors re-enact what life was like in 18th century Williamsburg for politicians, slaves and the towns people around the time of the Revolutionary war.

Williamsburg is the perfect place to get kids excited about history without it feeling like a burden or feeling forced upon them. Instead of trying not to fall asleep learning about the revolutionary war, they will be too busy asking living, breathing towns people of Williamsburg about their loyalty to Great Britain or their desire for freedom from the Queen.

For a real treat, stop at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern that still serves seafood meals that are based on original recipe favorites of our founding father, George Washington. Talk about giving your kids a taste for history.

Washington, D.C.

D.C. is one of my favorite places in the country. There are so many famed national landmarks in our nation’s capital that you will never be short on things to do.

You should start at the heart of it all: the National Mall. The two-mile stretch of land nestled on the banks of the Potomac River houses the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial and the White House. Monuments and Memorials are open 24 hours a day, which makes it possible to experience D.C. on your own schedule.

Make sure to allot plenty of time for all of the Smithsonian sites, all 19 of them. They are all free of charge and your family will love it. My girls adored the National museum. To this day, it is one of our favorite places we’ve visited as a family.

If you want to visit the White House or the Capitol, you must schedule way in advance. If you plan on being in town during Christmas time, enter to win tickets to the lottery to attend. It’s a once in a lifetime treat.

New York City

New York is known as the city that never sleeps so plan your trip carefully. There is so much to do that you will have to pick and choose.

Favorite attractions that your child will love are the Empire State Building ( I wouldn’t miss the change to take them to where An Affair to Remember started), Rockerfeller center, Times Square, Central Park or the Statue of Liberty. Then there is MoMA, the Met, the Guggenheim, FAO Schwartz and shopping at Barneys.

My girls are into ballet and theater, so a trip to Broadway is a must. And who doesn’t want a Grey’s Papaya hot dog and a thin slice of New York style pizza? There is so much to do and see, it would take more than one trip to see everything and experience New York City.

Grand Canyon

Your children’s imaginations will run wild at the sheer sight of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Cliff walls plunging into the abyss or jaw-dropping canyons that stretch for days will have your children, and yourself, captivated by it’s beauty and splendor.

The Grand Canyon can be viewed from a skywalk, by mule or from a watercraft floating through the Grand Canyon. Any way you do it, the view is magnificent.

There are several ways to experience the Grand Canyon. You can splurge on an adventure at the Grand Canyon Ranch where kids can ride horses, ride in a real wagon while viewing Bison on safari, and gather around a campfire at night to sing and eat before heading off to slumber in a cabin or teepee.

This is a once in a lifetime trip that your children will never forget. Prepare to blow their minds.

Where is your must visit family vacation spot? What was your best family vacation ever?

Photo Source: Ritesh3

Couchsurfing an Innovative Affordable Way to Travel

Posted on Dec 30, 2013 by No Comments

When you hear the term couch surfing you may picture a “couch potato” sitting in front of the television or game station with some kind of electronic control in hand. Couchsurfing couldn’t be further from this picture. Instead, couchsurfing is the term used when travelers stay in someone’s home and sleep on their couch. It’s a cheap way to see the world, but is it safe?

According to Couchsurfing.com, couchsurfing is a service that connects members to a global community of travelers. The service helps travelers connect with a place to stay.

When I first heard about this the hair on neck bristled; something about staying at the house of a stranger. While couchsurfing sounds a little unrealistic or at least unsafe on the front end, there are actually more than 100,000 cities worldwide that offer a couch to sleep on. If it is safe, it could be a great way for our college kids to travel, and meet locals.

Getting Started

I’m still not sure if I’d feel safe enough letting my child couchsurf, yet I love the idea. From what the site says, it takes a little time to search through profiles for the city or cities you plan to visit. Just browse the couches available and then check profiles and references for the homes that interest you. Sounds easy, but my fingers haven’t found the courage to register as yet.

Once you or your child has settled on where to stay, you just send a Couchrequest for the dates. The site recommends sending about 5 requests and to include a personalized message that explains to the host why you want to meet.

Not a New Concept

The couchsurfing concept is really not new. Long ago, travelers stopped by people’s homes to see if they could get a meal and a place to sleep for the night. At dinner, if the knife beside your plate sat with the blade pointing in, that was an invitation to stay. If the blade pointed out, it meant you could eat there, but were not welcomed to stay for the night.

It really could be a great way to meet people, and save money while traveling. Plus you’d have a chance to make friends around the world. I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried this.

Photo credits: TijsB

Niu ~For the Sushi Connoisseur in Chicago

Posted on Dec 12, 2013 by No Comments

If you are ever in Chicago and you want to enjoy a sushi experience for the senses, you must try Niu Japanese Fusion Lounge. It is located at 332 East Illinois Street, next to the AMC Theater. This time last week, I was having a delicious dinner with great friends at a fantastic sushi restaurant.

Niu is a spacious pan-Asian eatery in the River East neighborhood within walking distance to the Sheraton Towers Chicago. I should know because that is where I stayed while in Chicago this last week. Niu’s sexy, casually chic dining room can accommodate up to 225 guests.

We went with a party of around 25 and there was no issue in seating us in the back. If you go with a smaller party you can sit in one of the tables facing Illinois street and take in the real Chicago nightlife experience.

The ambiance was perfect, low lighting, candles; very sexy and welcoming. It lent itself to sitting and staying awhile, talking with your company and casual dining but in a relaxed upscale setting. They seated us at two long linear tables.

A round seating would have been more conducive to conversations but honestly, I don’t know if a circular seating would have been possible anywhere with a group this large. Fortunately, the staff was very understanding with all of us moving around to talk to one another. They did a hell of a job keeping our orders straight with all the moving, if I do say so myself and they did not complain or chastise us once.

The food was amazing. There was a huge selection; really something for everyone and any kind of sushi your heart could want was on that menu. I had the Sexy Mexican which was shrimp, spicy Alaskan shredded crab, jalapeno topped with avocado. It was absolutely delicious.

I also sampled the Diablo which was shrimp tempura, cucumber, radish sprout, gobo, topped with baked scallop, Alaskan shredded crab, tobiko and eel sauce. I like spicy and these rolls did not disappoint.

The drink list was extensive. Niu offers a full bar with many house specialties. In case you were wondering, the drinks taste just as good as the food.

The wait staff were like food ninjas slipping in and out of the candlelight, placing our plates of food in front of us without disrupting our conversation. They were courteous and conscious to the fact that we were catching up. Waters were never empty and none of us ever wanted for anything because before we could even notice a deficit, the need had been fulfilled. It was absolutely perfect.

Honestly, I don’t know if it was the restaurant or the company, or maybe it was a little of both, but that dinner was one of the best I have had in a very long time. I have never spent a dinner laughing so hard and sharing sushi, passing around one another’s plates like old friends, even though we had only just met that evening.

My dinner at Niu is not something I will soon ever forget and I hope that your experience there is equally as memorable.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Chicago?

Photo Source: Niu