WITS – women in travel summit 

I am on my way to my first travel writer and blogger conference. This one is located in Irvine, California. I am so excited to network with other writers, learn from industry professionals, connect with brands and just meet some all around great women! 

Flew out of Denver. What a busy airport! The TSA lines were the longest I have everseen, but thankfully it was moving fast. 

  

Kayaking Laguna Madre in Port Mansfield

Recently we (my husband and I) were able to Kayak the Laguna  Madre in Port Mansfield, Texas. It was – what I would consider – a very easy kayaking trip. It was easy to put in right from the shore. The waves were very calm and gentle with an occasional splash over the tip of the kayak. The water was also very shallow, perhaps 2-feet deep about 500-feet from the shore. You could stand up and walk back to shore. I would recommend this trip for a beginner kayaker because of its simplicity and the shallow water.

streatching our legs compressed pelicans on pier compressed remnants of boarwalk compressed nilgai antalope-compressed launch area compressed my man compressed donna compressed beach compressed heron compressed antalope tracks compressed

The Travel and Adventure Show in Dalllas

 

After 12 years and 61 shows, the Travel & Adventure Show Series has established itself as the premier consumer marketing platform in the travel industry. Since 2004, the Travel & Adventure Shows have helped over 1.1 million travelers find, plan and book their dream vacation.

 nicaragua- buen viaje

This past weekend I was thrilled to attend the Travel and Adventure show in Dallas, Texas at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. There were over 100 amazing travel related booths showcasing the most amazing destinations that spanned the globe. There were travel specialists and tour operators from cruise lines, photo safaris in Africa, Yoga tours in Nicaragua, and trekking in Nepal. There were large, well-known companies as well as small private owner/operator tour companies such as Buen Viaje Tours in Nicaragua which offers small, personable tours for families as well as individuals, ranging from cultural tours, birding tours and photography and art workshops.

rick steves

The show hosted several guest speakers that gave talks aimed at helping you in your travels with advice on planning your next trip – what is new for 2016, and suggestions on where to go. The guest speakers included; Rick Steves – traveling through Europe through the back door, Pauline Frommer – What you need to know before you plan your next vacation, Peter Greenberg – The brave new world of travel in 2016, and Patricia Schultz the author of 1,000 places to see before you die.

The savvy traveler is always looking for new tips and techniques to enrich their travel experience. The Travel and Adventure Show did not disappoint! There were presentations on the challenges and rewards of traveling solo around the world on a motorcycle, how to travel smart and pack light, and how to take better travel photography.

camel 1

Not only could you plan your next dream vacation get-away at amazing show only prices, there were also activities that you could participate in and shows that you could watch to give you a feel of the exotic destination that you would soon be headed to. Some of the fun, and even unusual, activities were camel rides, ride a segway, climb a rock tower, or practice your diving in a 18,000 gallon heated dive pool.

diving

Throughout the weekend you could watch colorful dancers from Mexico, Hawaii, Bulgaria, Bahamas and the Middle East performing elaborate traditional dances on the Cultural Stage.

 

In addition to cultural dance and music demonstrations, there were also cooking demonstrations from local chefs and chefs from Maui who created mouth-watering recipes such as Ahi Tuna Cruda with grilled pineapple; pan roasted brussel sprouts with sweet chili vinaigrette and goat cheese; seafood tostadas and more.

MY 2 CENTS – All in all, it was an exciting show with a fabulous turn out! Travel excitement abounded and dreams to explore new places were fostered and born. This was a great local event to learn about activities and cultures in distant foreign lands, learn about available adventures in your own backyard, and even meet your tour operators before you go on the tour! I highly recommend you attend one in a city near you! The Travel and Adventure Show currently has venues in Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego and Dallas.

 

Till we talk again!

Donna

The Botanist – where steampunk meets botanical magic

Delicious treats
Delicious treats

Do you ever read those advertising magazines that are spread across the desk in your hotel room? I have to confess – Sometimes, maybe, but usually I just brush them aside to make room for all of the travel books, casual books, magazines, and electronics that I brought with me. It is not like I just push it all onto the floor – I neatly clean off the paraphernalia that is “littering” the top of the desk so I can organize what I brought with me and see where all the outlets (or lack thereof) are located. At some point during the trip I may eventually take a quick flip through one of their magazines. I know, probably not the best habit for a travel writer, but I am working on changing that.

On a recent excursion to Chester, England I actually took a moment to stop and flip through that colorful magazine before I swept it off to the side – scanning headlines, reading the occasional recipe, reviews of the seasonal spirits, or the most noteworthy up-and-coming restaurants.

One brief headline caught my eye, The Botanist – an eclectic dining experience steeped in charm and style. There are so many ‘wine bars’ and ‘brewers’ that this caught my eye. The name was just enough to give a little intrigue and interest without giving away what it was all about. It was so steampunkish!

The lobby at The Botanist
The lobby at The Botanist

I was not disappointed! The atmosphere was so amazing and unique! It gave the feeling that you had stepped back in time to a garden sanctuary. The exterior of the restaurant was decorated in wrought iron panels with vines growing over them. The interior was decorated with wood accents that had a weathered-gray finish to them.

steampunk decor
steampunk decor

The bar area was quite impressive with an expansive front bar that had ample room for the botanical mix-masters to work their magic with herbal infused liquor and spirits. The back bar consisted of a massive shelving system that contained a sizeable assortment of liqueurs infused with berries, herbs, and fruits in addition to a fabulous selection of craft beers and ales.

Our mix-masters
Our mix-masters
The bar at The Botanist
The bar at The Botanist

Their menu is a beautiful and tasty selection of dishes inspired from delis and rotisseries of the UK and the comfort food from grandma’s English kitchen. Note worthy menu items that had a unique table presentation were the Hanging Kebabs (a very savory dish available in chicken, lamb kofta, prawn or beef and slathered with sweet chili, ginger, and garlic butter), Chicken Liver and Rum Pate that is brought to your table in a mini terracotta flower pot on a wooden plank with Turkish flat bread and a plumb and apple chutney that is served in a mini wheelbarrow.

Chicken liver and rum pate
Chicken liver and rum pate
Hanging lamb kabab
Hanging lamb kabab
carrot cocktail - it was actually good
carrot cocktail – it was actually good

Other favorites include the homemade Scotch Egg (fried to perfection so that the breading is crispy on the outside but the egg still has a soft center) and the Salt and Pepper Onion Petals served with a herbed sour cream sauce.

Scotch egg
Scotch egg

 

Craft ale and cocktail flight
Craft ale and cocktail flight
watermelon cocktail - great for hot summer days!
watermelon cocktail – great for hot summer days!

The food was delicious, flavorful, and wholesome! What a great find tucked in a narrow little side street off Eastgate St. and Northgate St. The Botanist is a great place for lunch, dinner, or a place to meet friends in the evening for cocktails and to listen to live music.

 

For more information on locations, hours and menu items check out their website at http://thebotanist.uk.com/

My 2015 in a nut shell

My 2015 in a nut shell divider_scroll

Looking back, 2015 was a very active year. It contained some big steps and changes, and some small. There were quiet-momentous moments and there were loud-joyous moments. 2015 was a year of discovery, growth, and shedding of old shells.

I hope that 2016 continues with that same momentum and theme.

This is my 2015 in a nut shell, without divulging to much incriminating info:

Started the year in a still relatively new place, new surroundings, new environment. Trying to feel settled and situated

Came to terms with good-byes from long ago

Became closer to old friends

Made a new circle of friends

Saw my youngest child graduate from high school

Saw my oldest child start college with new vigor

Started a new career

Started a network web that spans the globe

Toured U.K. for 3 weeks

Experienced a new city and state

Became involved

Almost lost someone very dear

Almost lost someone else that is becoming important again

Re-kindled the flame that I saw in that sexy man that I am proud to call my husband

Re-affirmed who and what family is

Rediscovered me

I now feel settled and situated

Take a moment to reflect on your 2015. I hope your 2016 is better, more productive, more fun, more engaging, and you have more opportunity for growth.

Happy New Year!

Welcome   2016

The Smallest House in Britain

 

Smallest House in Britian
Smallest House in Britain– the itty bitty red one on the side!

Tucked onto the end of a row of houses near the walls of Conwy Castle is Britain’s smallest house. The Quay House, with a footprint measuring a mere 10’ by 5.9’ and a total height of 10’2” to the eves, pained fire-engine red, is located in Conwy, Wales. The house got its name because it is located on the quay, a wharf or reinforced bank for the loading or unloading or ships or boats. The Quay House was a residence from the 16th century until 1900. The last resident was a fisherman by the name of Robert Jones, he was 6’3”.

The Quay House, which is still owned by descendants of Robert Jones, hosts thousands of visitors a year. Visitors to the house are amazed and awed that a house, which is so small, is still so practical and efficient. The Quay House is open from 10am to 4pm during most days. Late visitors and school trips please contact The Quay House here . The cost of admission is 50p for children and £1 for adults.

Other places of interest to visit while you are in Conwy are:

Aberconwy House
Aberconwy House

The Aberconwy House is a 14th century merchant’s house from medieval times, which has survived six centuries of a turbulent history. Upon visiting the house, you can learn about the daily life through the centuries by an audio-visual presentation.

Conwy Castle
Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle was built during King Edward I’s second campaign in North Wales between 1283 and 1289. Conwy Castle sits on the location of Deganwy Castle, the former stronghold of King Henry III that was destroyed by Llywelyn the Last in 1263.

Fishing boats waiting for the tide

It is a little known fact that Conwy was once an important pearl fishery and harvested as much as 4 kilograms of pearls per week in the 169th century. Musseling the old-fashioned way is still active in Conwy today, but now practiced on a much smaller scale. The Conwy Mussel Museum provides the history behind the Conwy mussels, their uses, and the mysteries involving a royal crown.

conwy wales

 

 

 

21 Fabulous Christmas Traditions

cmas tree

Christmas is a season of happiness and joy, steeped in traditions. Every family has their own set of traditions that they celebrate every year. Here is a list of traditions that your family may already participate in or some may be new that you want to start participating in.

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 1.  Organize a cookie decorating party. Bake a large batch of cutout sugar cookies and invite your friends, family, neighbors over to decorate them. Send everyone home with a few for Santa. You can also make a small hole in the top of the cookies with a straw before you bake them and turn those into ornaments for the tree.

2.  Make a gingerbread house with your family. Pre-made sets make it easy to do and provide you with everything you will need! Another option is to use graham crackers, some royal icing and candy you have saved for this purpose.

3.  Decorate your yard with munchies for the woodland critters and birds. Make ornaments out of oats, bird food, and caramelized honey with molasses in the shape of patties. Run twine through them and hang them from the tree branches. You can also string popcorn and cranberries like garland to hang from trees and shrubs.

4.  Gather a small group of friends, family, and kids to go caroling in a nearby square or neighborhood. You would be surprised at how many people appreciate it and how happy it will make you, even if you are out of tune! Then end the evening at someone’s house for hot cocoa.

5.  Support your local theater production company and go watch a showing of “The Nutcracker”, “A Christmas Carol”, “The Night Before Christmas” or some other Christmas themed show.

Christmas_in_Dublin,_CA

6.  Check out holiday the lights in your town, city or neighborhood. Get in the car, turn on your holiday playlist, and find brightly lit houses.

7.  Go sledding, ice skating, or other outdoor winter activity with your family. A great time to schedule this is on Christmas day, after the gifts are opened, the meal is eaten, and everyone is getting antsy from being inside.

8.  Use an advent calendar to count down to Christmas. There are many varieties of advent calendars. Some suggestions for different types of calendars are 25 small candles that you burn one candle a day, 25 boxes of small gifts or tasty treats that you open one box a day. You can even put an adult spin on an advent calendar by creating a wine calendar with 25 mini single glass sizes of wine bottles and you have one bottle a night with dinner.

9.  Set aside one night each week to watch a holiday movie or television special, such “Miracle on 34th Street” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

10.  Have your child start an ‘I Am Thankful’ list. Have him/her add one thing that he/she is thankful for each day. You can turn this into a decoration by having him/her write it on a paper Christmas tree or snowflake that you then hang across the fireplace or some other area.

11.  Purchase or make a holiday ornament for each child every year. This is a great reason to reminisce during holiday decorating.

haddon-sundblom-coke-santa

12.  Sit down with your child and write a letter to Santa.

13.  As a family, write your holiday letter. Have each member contribute one memorable moment from the year to share with friends and family.

14.  Make holiday decorations yourself! Decorate windows with paper snowflakes, glue glitter onto pinecones and arrange in a bowl, and visit crafts sites to get creative and fun ideas that will involve your children.

15.  Start a holiday village display. Add a new house or shop to your display each year.

Miniature_Christmas_Village,_Birkenhead_(2)

16.  Camp out in front of your Christmas tree one night. Keep the tree lights on, read holiday stories, and snack on holiday treats.

17.  Volunteer your time as a family at a soup kitchen or a food bank that hands out food to families in need.

18.  Find a giving tree that allows you to sponsor a family in need or purchase toys for children in need. Go shopping for the items together and donate them.

19.  Deliver cookies and treats to your local fire station, police department, or the staff at your local hospital to show your appreciation for their service to the community and for working through the holiday.

20.  Visit your local senior citizens center. It can be rather lonely for some seniors during the holidays.

21.  Invite family, friends, and neighbors over Christmas evening for games, dessert, and to decompress from the holiday.

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Pleistocene Epoch in Waco, Texas

visitor center
Waco Mammoth Monument Visitor Center

On the outskirts of the bustling city of Waco, Texas is a partially hidden piece of paleontological history of mammoth proportion. Waco is a comfortably sized city, conveniently situated between Dallas and Austin just south of Ft. Worth. Waco is home to many sights and attractions that thrill both the young and the young-at-heart alike.
One such attraction is the Waco Mammoth Monument. Situated on 107 acres the Monument became one of the newest additions to the National Park System on July 10, 2015 by Presidential proclamation from President Barack Obama.
A BIT OF HISTORY
On a balmy spring day in 1978, two young men set off on an afternoon adventure in search of arrowheads, fossils and other interesting finds near the Bosque River. As the men were walking down a ravine looking under shrubs and digging in the dirt examining small pointed rocks for the deliberate chipping pattern on the edges in hopes they had found an arrowhead when they discovered a bone.

ravine where the leg bone was found
ravine where the leg bone was found

When they first came across the bone they may have thought, “Cool, an old bone, but it probably came from a cow.” The land that they were walking on was, at one time, an old dairy farm. As they started uncovering the bone, it became rather obvious that what they had found… was no cow bone! This bone, which they rightly assumed, was part of a leg, a very big leg because that bone by its self was 3′ tall, nearly half of their height!
human vs mammoth femer
human femur vs. mammoth femur
The young men took the bone to Strecker Museum at Baylor University. There, staff member David Lintz came to the realization that the bone was part of a leg bone from a mammoth, a Columbian Mammoth to be precise.

 

waco mammoth
Mammoths were much larger than us!

Mammoths were quite large animals. They stood 14′ tall at the shoulders, weighed an impressive 20,000-24,000 lbs.! The daily diet of a mammoth consisted much of the same as what modern day elephants eat today, but in much greater quantities. A single Columbian mammoth ate as much as 300-700 lbs. of grass, leaves, and other plant matter and drank as much as 50 gallons of water a day, and in turn, produced about 400 lbs. of dung daily! The tusks of a mammoth could reach lengths of 12-14′ from end to end.

Waco Mammoth
The concrete base is about the size of an adult mammoth foot

MORE PRESENT DAY
For the next 23 years museum staff members and volunteers explored the ravine, uncovering 23 unique Columbian mammoths. Columbian mammoths have been discovered throughout North America, what made the Waco mammoths unique was that eighteen of those remains were from a nursery herd, a herd that contained only adult females and juveniles, the first and only recorded evidence of a nursery herd of Pleistocene mammoths.

Mammoth remains
Mammoth remains

As the paleontologists and volunteers began uncovering the remains of the mammoths, they discovered three separate natural disasters that caused the demise of the mammoths. The first event drowned the entire nursery herd between 65,000 and 72,000 years ago. During the second and third flooding events the remains of a bull mammoth, juvenile, a female mammoth, a camel, a tooth from a saber cat, and at this time, an unknown animal were also discovered.

The Monument is a unique destination to view paleontological finds such as the mammoths because the bones have been left “in situ”. Meaning, that the original bones were kept in their original position found within the bone bed.

dig site for students
dig site for students

Although the Waco Mammoth Monument is comprised of 107 acres with a visitor center, preservation hall, gift shop and facilities to host amazing school tours and special dig sites for students (learn about them here!), only 2 acres have been explored at this time. Because of the amount of specimens found in that 2 acres, it is thought to contain a substantial amount of hidden knowledge and information below the layers of dirt that will help us understand in greater detail what life was like, what lived and an how interactions were made in the Pleistocene Epoch.
The City of Waco, The Waco Mammoth Foundation, Baylor University, and the National Park System have collaborated in an effort to preserve the mammoth remains and to expand the Monument.

Mural showing an artists depiction of a flood
Mural showing an artists depiction of a flood, notice the stairs that had to be relocated

The preservation hall at the Mammoth Monument is climate and humidity controlled. The walls of the structure extend 25-40′ into the ground to the bedrock below the water table. In addition, the windows are situated so as there is no direct sunlight into the building to degrade the mammoth bones. There are at least two additional mammoth remains located within the walls of the preservation hall that are waiting to be re-uncovered. At the time that the hall was being built, one set was discovered where a staircase was being built causing a slight relocation of the staircase. The other set was discovered were one of the exterior walls was being built causing that wall being pushed back an additional 17′. In order to protect the bones they were reburied in soil.
The future of the Waco Mammoth Monument is full of excitement and anticipation. Due in part to the combined partnerships and donations from individuals and businesses, efforts to build an on-site lab are being developed. Once the lab is built, excavations can begin again to discover what life was like in Texas in the Pleistocene Epoch, most likely, and hopefully, starting with the two mammoths that had to be reburied.

For more information about scheduling your own tour, please visit their website, here or call (254) 750-7946.
Operating Hours:
• Tuesdays –Fridays: Open 11:00 a.m. –5:00 p.m.
• Saturdays: Open 9:00 a.m. –5:00 p.m.
• Sundays and Mondays: Closed
• (Also closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)
Guided Tour Fees
• Adults: $5
• Seniors (over 60): $4
• Military (with ID): $4
• Educators (with ID): $4
• Students (7th grade through college): $4
• Children (preK through 6th Grade): $3
• Infants (ages 3 and under): Free
National Park passes do not apply to guided tour fees. Please support our preservation mission, access to the Dig Shelter is by guided tour only.

How to walk a new city without getting lost!

There are so many apps these days for all of our gadgets. There are apps for everything imaginable, some very helpful such as those that help you keep track of your daily life, pictures, passwords, accounts, inventory and such. Then there are those that have no other value other than for the pure entertainment of it. I am about to tell you about an extremely handy travel app that every traveler, regardless if you are embarking on your first journey or you have been around the globe several times, should have in their digital arsenal.

I have to admit when I first came across this travel app I was not expecting much. I thought that it would be like so many other apps that claim they have all these fabulous functions that you can’t travel without, the typical “all that and a bag of chips” line. But I did agree to try out the app, so I took it for a test drive so to speak on a recent trip to New Orleans (check out the adventure here). Wow, was I surprised! I was so pleased with the functions, the ease of the app and how fun it was to use that I decided to tell you all about it!

THE MUST HAVE WALKING CITY GUIDE

GPSmyCity was so fun and easy to use! It is chock full of interesting ideas of where to go, what to see and do! I used the New Orleans guide, but there is an impressive over 470 cities (click here for a complete list) around the world that are mapped out with walking tours to attractions that are sure to appeal to just about all interests. There are three main categories for the walking tours – Sightseeing  Walks, Custom Walks where you choose your own attractions that interest you, and then the Saved Tracks.

img_6137

NOW WHERE WAS THAT?

If you are like me, you just kinda wander where ever your eyes and heart lead you, not really following a clear or set path, which was very evident when I used the Saved Tracks option! It tracked my every step and wow, did my path zig-zag all over the place!  No wonder I was so tired at the end of the day! One of the features that I really liked about the Saved Tracks option was that I could drop a pin on the map in the app and enter the name of a location such as the store where I found that cute pair of shoes but was not quite ready buy yet or the restaurant that I wanted to go back to because there were just too many things on their menu to try in one sitting, but of course I could not remember just where they were located because I had zig-zagged all over the city!

img_6130

TWO FOR ONE BONUS!

With GPSmyCity all I had to do was to go back to my Saved Tracks and look at the pins I dropped, find the location I was looking for, and then I could see where it was and how to get there. Very easy! That particular function was also very helpful after the trip because I could look back at where I had been and then write about it. Very handy for us travel writers and bloggers! Not only can you drop a pin, you can also save a picture or two of the location, or in my case, the shoes that I wanted! Who does not love a simple, functional, and fun app!

img_6133

SO MUCH TO SEE AND DO!

The Sightseeing Walk category has pre-entered attractions grouped together by themes such as City Orientation, Architechual Splendors, Prominent Shopping Areas, Nightlife, Churches, Museums and such. Of course, each city has themes that are unique to that city. New Orleans for example, has a Voodoo Tour and a French Quarter Tour. Within each theme, there will be a list of what to see, why to see it, a brief history of the attraction, hours, and a map of where it is located.

img_6135

HEY LOOK AT WHERE I AM!

As an extra bonus, you can also share your walks on Twitter and Facebook, if you choose to do so, with all your friends and family so they can follow your adventures around the world.

 

 

Put this on your list of must do’s when in DFW

Pizza Truck
Pizza Truck

This past weekend was the  The Great Texas Food Truck Rally in Dallas, Texas and we had the distinct pleasure of attending. We had a great time! We got there a bit early and thereby avoided waiting in lines which meant that we could sample more foodie delights in less time but also we had our choice of delights before supplies starting running low!  There was such a wide variety of trucks and eclectic dishes, there was something for everyone whether it was pickle flavored shaved ice cones, to a grilled peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich, to Mexican street tacos and of course the favorite standbys, hot dogs and home made ice cream.

Executives in Action
Executives in Action

Celebrating its second year, The Great Texas Food Truck Rally was created to benefit Executives in Action, a pro bono firm that supplies consulting advise to other non-profit organizations in the areas of management and organizational needs to help that company operate more effectively and efficiently so that it can support its mission and expand its reach to those in need.

Live Music
Live Music

There was a good turn out for the Food Truck Rally with around 28 trucks and hundreds of people. There was live music, a beer garden, and of course, lots of food to choose from! Some of my favorite palette tantalizing trucks were:

DOWN TO EARTH

food truck
Down to Earth

Celebrating their 1st anniversary this year, Down to Earth, vegetarian and vegan cuisine and catering based out of Keller, Tx. is owned by two “crazy vegetarians who love to cook!”.  Maribel Rubio and Alma Rangel whip together for your delight menu items Lentil Sloppy Joes, Black Bean Burgers or my favorite, Mexican Veggie Torta which has black beans, roasted zucchini, roasted red pepper and a chipolte crema fresca. What about desert you ask? They have that too! Try the NSB Panini, a French brioche with Nutella, strawberries and bananas, how can you say no to that!

Mexican Veggie Torta

The idea for a food truck was developed after continuous frustrating dining experiences where the vegetarian/vegan selections were minimal at best. They realized that if they were frustrated with menu selections then others would be as well. Being avid foodies themselves they knew that they could create delicious meals that are both good for you taste great! It was then that they decided to embark on a mission to change the way that people think about vegetarian/vegan meals, which is lacking in taste and texture or it had to be fried.

We are all about living a healthy life style by eating healthy delicious meals without compromising or negotiating being a foodie… we CAN have it all!

What are the future plans for Down to Earth? Rubio and Rangel foresee a dream of opening several restaurants in the DFW metroplex in addition to offering nutrition classes and partnering with local non-profit organizations to offer healthy meals to the homeless and other groups in need.

VEGAN NOMS

Vegan Noms
Vegan Noms

Have a sweet tooth but can’t have gluten or dairy? Then you have got to check out The Vegan Noms! Envisioned and created by Allison Catalane who had no intention of relinquishing her beloved sweets in order to eat healthy! After much trial and error, Allison developed her recipes for her delectable cookies and cupcakes, which are quite delectable! Trust me! The Snickerdoodle cookies and Banana Bread Cookies are superb!

“when you try my treats, you won’t even know they are vegan!”

Allison is a firm believer that a well designed vegan diet will bring harmony to the mind and body.  Sweeten your day the healthy way with some of Allison’s vegan desserts!

 

BELLATRINO

Bellatrino wood fired Pizza
Bellatrino wood fired pizza

Love pizza? Then you have got to try  Bellatrino. This is not your run of the mill food truck, Bellatrino is based out of Southlake, Tx and is DFW’s ONLY wood fired pizza oven food truck! They will create for you a fabulous lightly smoked wood fired pizza that is full of flavor and delicious melted cheese all you need to do is bring the beer! They also have salads, desserts and appetizers. Their key ingredients are imported from Italy with its greens bought locally and organic.

wood fired pizza oven
wood fired pizza oven

 

PARROT ICCE

Parrot Icce, Licensed to Chill is a Hawaiian shaved ice specialty truck that has a large selection of flavors from the old tried and true raspberry, lemon-lime and cherry to flavors like fireball, margarita and even pickle!

 

THE GUAVATREE TRUCK

Yucca Fries
Yucca Fries

The Guavatree Truck  which has been on The Great American Food Truck Race on FoodNetwork is a Cuban American truckstaurant that brings a twist and some uniqueness.  The GuavaTruck has been rolling around Texas since 2012 with Onel and Pam Perez at the wheel. Inspiration for their menu was derived from Onel’s traditional Cuban family recipes, with a twist, of course! Some of their more popular tasty treats are Cuban sandwiches with guava mustard, Yucca Fries (a very dense and heavy starchy root) loaded with Black Beans, Queso Fresco, Cuban Donuts (a spin on a traditional Guava and Cream Cheese Pastelito), Ropa Vieja, and many other Cuban specialties. The Guava Tree is sure to satisfy your Cuban Fare Cravings.

THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN MEAT PIE COMPANY

The Great Australian Meat Pie Co
The Great Australian Meat Pie Co

The Great Australian Meat Pie Company which is based in Plano, Texas came into existence when the owners returned to the US after spending several years in Australia and decided to offer delicious  meat pies  from Australia with an American twist.They   have a passion  to feed people and it shows in the quality of their  food. They have some of the best meat pies that I have ever tasted! A tower of delightful flavors!!  We had the chicken pie, it was so good with a creamy white sauce with onions, mushrooms, chunks of chicken on a dumpling  and all of it liberally sprinkled with shredded cheese. They have a large selection of pie varieties including an Australian mainstay, Vegemite Sandwich.

Chicken Pie
Chicken Pie

Did you miss this once a year event?  Did reading about all this delectable variety of food make your mouth water? Never fear! Every weekend on Woodal Park Freeway, nestled in between the Dallas Museum of Art and Klyde Warren Park you will find a pleasant selection of food trucks, bistro tables to sit at while you are munching on the assorted tasty delights that have been offered in addition to being entertained by watching the variety of people that enjoy relaxing in Klyde Warren Park.

Another food truck haven in the DFW area of Texas is the newly opened Richardson Food Truck Park located at 522 Bishop  Ave, Richardson, Texas 75081.  They are open Sunday— Thursday 11:30 am-8:30 pm  and Friday-Saturday 11:30 am-12 am. Newly remodeled with plenty of tables to sit at to eat your  morsel adventures, beautiful landscaping  and even restrooms. Here you will find the trucks that I have mentioned in addition to many others.

How to have an Unforgettable, Adventure-packed weekend in New Orleans

New Orleans

New Orleans is a truly amazing city! It is incredibly diverse and eclectic offering a wide range of activities for every interest from historical landmarks to new age vape shops and haunted tours to shopping for antiques or listening to live music in any one of the many bars or on the street corners and dancing in the street to getting married and parading down Bourbon St.

street dancing wedding procession

10 ACTIVITIES THAT SHOULD BE ON YOUR LIST

  • GO ON A TOUR!

There is such a variety of tours available you may not be able to decide between going on one or multiple tours! To give you an idea of the variety available, there are ghost tours, grave yard tours, historic haunted tours, plantation tours, whiskey tours, haunted bar tours, swamp tours, trolley tours, bicycle tours, foodie tours just to name a few!

Three tours that we went on that are definitely worth mentioning are Dark Crescent Tours Plunder & Booty Tour, Haunted History Tours and Jean LaFitte Swamp and Airboat Tours.

dark crescent tours dark crescent tours tour guide

Dark Crescent Tours offers a plunder & booty tour which is a drinking tour that is both very informative and fun. On this tour we walked (yes, this is a walking tour) to an assortment of bars and historic buildings and heard engaging and mysterious tales about the pirates, scallywags, thugs and call girls that lived in New Orleans, some of which are rumored to haunt their old hang-outs. Our tour guide for this 2 1/2 hour tour was a very animated and entertaining woman by the name of Angel who whole-heartedly embraced her role as a pirate, dressed in pirate garb complete with the 3-point hat, cape and fingerless gloves and, of course, plenty of arghs and aye’s mixed into the stories of piracy, plunder and even love. This tour includes 1 drink from each of the 5 bars that are visited during the evening.

Haunted History Tour     historic tour

Haunted History Tours is a locally owned and operated tour company that offers a wide range of tours from garden district, to voodoo, vampire, and ghost tours. They also offer a special tour, 5 in 1 ghost and mystery tour, for those who only have time for one tour but want to get a taste of several tours. Our tour guide for the 5 in 1 was the very knowledgeable, friendly and captivating Natalie who delighted us with tales of mystery, intrigue and murder in the French Quarter from the reins of both the French and the Spanish rulers. Natalie regaled us with many stories, one of the most mysterious was of the Sultans Palace where there was a massive massacre of all the inhabitants of the house, every man, woman and child had been hacked up and their body parts strewn through every room of the house. It was a very bloody and gory scene, but who did it and why has never been discovered and remains a mystery to this very day.

Jeanlefitte tour  Jean Lafitte tour  Jean lafitte tour Jean Lafitte Tour

Jean LaFitte Swamp & Airboat Tours will take you on an almost 2 hour adventure in Louisiana’s murky bayou’s meandering through floating islands of marsh grass and flowers in yellows and blues. As the trained guides expertly maneuver the boats smoothly through the ever-moving and changing channels of the bayou they will tell you about the wildlife that lives in the swampy bayou. They will point out the alligators as they sun themselves on the grass or as they glide through the water looking for a morsel to snack on. They will point out the egrets as they are gingerly walking over the floating islands and shallows looking for fish. The airboat ride was surprisingly smooth and gentle as it glided over the water.

  • DRINK ABSINTHE

Have a glass of absinthe at the Pirate’s Alley Cafe at 622 Pirate’s Alley and learn how this anise and fennel or black liquorish flavored distilled spirit drink is made by dripping ice-cold water over a sugar cube to create the swirled creamed look while you hear about the history of this illustrious drink that was favored by many famous artists and dates back to the 1800’s. Surprisingly, this drink really did help settle our queasy stomach from too much imbibing the night before!

Old Absinthe Old absinthe Old Absinthe Old AbsintheTHE old absinthe

  • GO TO FALULKNER BOOKSTORE

After you have your drink and lesson in absinthe, meander next door to the Faulkner Bookstore and check out their selection of poetry, unusual books and newly published books.

Faulkner book store

  • EAT OYSTERS!

New Orleans has some of the best tasting oysters that I have ever tasted! You can get them on the half-shell, fresh and clean with a bit of lemon juice or tobacco sauce, stuffed with fresh crab, breading and a buttery garlic topping, or Rockefeller with parmesan and garlic baked to perfection. My favorite was a slightly smoky, mouth-watering grilled oyster from The Royal House Oyster Bar. Just talking about it makes my mouth water!

Oysters

  • HAVE A BONE SHOOTER

Only in New Orleans have I seen or even heard of a bone shooter!  Of course, if most people cringe, I am going to try it! Go to Meauxbar on Rampart St. First of all, this is Not listed on their menu, you have to request it. Order the savory escargot that is served in the bone as an appetizer, this is not the shooter but part of the shooter, you have to tell the waiter that you want to do the shooter when you order the appetizer.. Don’t let the server get your bone (slight pun) because the waiter will bring a shot of absinthe that be poured through the bone to your mouth.

bone bone shot

  • HAVE A DRINK AT THE REVOLVING CAROUSEL BAR

The Hotel Monteleone has a fun and entertaining feature in it called the Carousel Bar. The bar revolves in a circle, no, it is not like a carnival ride, it is very slow so you barely feel the movement, unless of course you are already toasted then you will feel the room move if you are sitting in a stationary chair!

carousel2

  • EAT AT TROUP’S MEATERY

For all the foodies out there you have got to order the meatery board and the covey rise vegetables at Troup’s Meatery! They offer a delicious selection of patés, cracklins, sausage, boudin balls, cured sliced meats, seasonal vegetables and heirloom tomatoes grilled in a bacon vinaigrette. Truly unique and flavorful!

troups meatery       troupsvegies

  • HAVE A DRINK AT LAFITTE’S BLACKSMITH SHOP

LaFitte’s Blacksmith Shop is reputed to be the hang out of the pirate Jean Lafitte in the late 1700’s, yes, some think he may still be there from time to time, the building its self is thought to be the oldest structure that is used as a bar in the United States! This is a hopping place to be in the evenings for a drink and the patrons spill into the street as is common for nearly every establishment in New Orleans!

lafitte blacksmith lafitte blacksmith

There is so much to see and do in New Orleans that no matter what is on your list to do, there will always be more to see and do! There is no way to do even half of the activities available in one weekend. So, my advise to you…. just plan right now to make a return trip or two! You will be glad you did!

8 Things to do at the Texas Renaissance Festival

TRF
Arrgh!

In the small town of Todd Mission, Texas approximatetly 50 miles northwest of Houston is the largest renaissance festival in this country. The Texas Renaissance Festival is 55 acres of fun, fantasy and merriment. Founded in 1974 by George Coulam, the festival welcomes half a million guests annually to be transported via their imagination to another time and land.

The Texas Renaissance Festival proudly tips its hat to the over 500 costumed performers on 17 stages, and nearly 400 shops featuring unique artisans, merchants, craft vendors, human-powered rides and a diverse assortment of food purveyors offering mouth-watering dishes with a home-cooked flair. The festival runs 8 weekends from October to November annually. Each weekend has its own theme which in turn influences the vibe of the festival, the performances, games and contests for that weekend.  The themes for the eight weekend event are Oktoberfest, 1001 Dreams, All Hallows Eve, Pirate Adventure, Roman Bacchanal, Barbarian Invasion, Highland Fling and Celtic Christmas.

There is so much to see, do and taste that there is not enough time in one day. Thankfully there are hotels and B&B’s near by that you can book a room at or bring your camping gear or RV and stay at the festival in one of their camping locations for a nominal fee.

8 THINGS TO DO AT THE TEXAS RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL:

Watch a live show

With 17 stages there is a wide variety of music and performances to choose from. They are all geared towards fun and frivolity with audience interaction.

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Polka Band in the German Village
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Pirate Band

 

 

Hang out in a pub

Have a seat in one of the many pubs and drinking (non-alcoholic drinks are served as well as mead, wine and beer) establishments, rest your feet and strike up a conversation with the person next to you. You never know who you might meet! We met an individual who was a fire spinner performer at the festival but for her day job she was a legal assistant who also dabbled in interior design!

imageTRF
Say hi to your neighbor
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You will meet some interesting people!
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Enjoy and have fun!

Watch a jousting match

The jousting is entertaining to watch with knights vying for the maidens hand.

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Jousting

Try your hand at playing a game

There are many games for the young and young at heart to play. Not into games? How about a ride?

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Rides for kids
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Play one of the many games

 

 

Watch the vendor parade

The vendors gather together with flags and small displays of their wares to show off in a parade around the festival grounds.

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Watch the parade
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Displaying wares

 

 

Go to the weekend kick off pre-party

Every Friday and Saturday there is a  pre-party (21 and over) to celebrate the start of the weekend. The decorations are elaborate and amazing to see! There is a costume contest for the best dressed and a D.J. that plays a wide variety of dance music.

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Dance! Dance! Dance!
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Acrobatic entertainers

 

 

People watch

There are so many interesting people there, both in costume and not, this is a whole entertainment venue on its own!

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So many interesting people
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So many things to see
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The creatures we discovered!
So much to see!
So much to see!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY

What ever you do, have fun! There is something for everyone! Sample the food, wash it down with a cold beverage, cheer for the performers and browse the huge selection of shops with hand crafted one-of-a-kind goods!

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Unique flavors to try
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Many selections to choose from
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Wash lunch down with a cold drink

Next Stop…. Louisiana!

In preparatory celebration for experiencing  all the sights, sounds, and tastes of Halloween in New Orleans I thought it would be fun to learn and share some informative, interesting and down right weird tidbits about Louisiana and one of its largest cities, New Orleans.

  • Louisiana was first successfully settled in 1718 after the French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier had claimed it for France in 1682.
  • Louisiana became the 18th state of the Union on August 30,1812
  • There is a bill in the State House of Representatives that fixed a ceiling on haircuts for bald men of 25 cents.
  • There have been over 30 hurricanes that have hit Louisiana since 1900. The most notable Hurricane in recent history being Katrina (2005). Hurricane Isaac’s (2012) storm surge was so powerful that the Mississippi River ran backwards for 24 hours.
  • Louisiana does not have counties like some other states.Their political divisions are called parishes instead.
  • It is illegal to gargle in public….. seriously!
  • Louisiana is the only state that has a population of Cajuns, descendants of a 17th century settlement called Acadia in the northeastern section of  North America that includes parts of eastern Quebec, the Maritime provinces of Canada and Maine that were driven out of Canada in the mid-1700’s.
  • Louisiana is the only state that still refers to the Napoleonic Code in its state law which forbids privileges based on birth and allows freedom of religion.
  • With that being said, if you are a palm reader, fortune-teller or mystic it is illegal for you to officiate a wedding in New Orleans.
  • The town of Jean Lafitte was once a hideaway for pirates.
  • New Orleans hosts the world-renowned celebration of Mardi Gras. An ancient southern Europe custom brought to Louisiana by the French that celebrates food and fun on Fat Tuesday just before Lent, 40 days of prayer and personal sacrifice.
  • New Orleans Voodoo has its roots from African slaves.
  • If you bite someone in Louisiana with your natural teeth it is considered a simple assault but if you bite them with false teeth it is considered aggravated assault.

this one made me laugh…..

  • You are not allowed to tie an alligator to a fire hydrant in New Orleans!
alligator
Can’t tie your alligator to a fire hydrant

Bloomin’ Bluegrass Festival

impromptu jam session
impromptu jam session

The Bloomin’ Bluegrass Festival and Chili Cook-off in Farmers Branch, Texas was quite a shindig event! The festival is put on every year by the Farmers Branch Chamber of Commerce and the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation. This two day event brought 11 bluegrass bands from around the country to show their talent for strumming out folk songs and over 20 chili chefs vying for the title of best Bloomin’ chili.

Bluegrass music is a subgenre of country music that was inspired by ballads that were sung by the settlers from Ireland and the U.K who arrived in the Appalachia area of the United States in the 18th century. Bluegrass is traditionally played on acoustic stringed instruments such as the fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin with the addition of the harmonica or jaw harp. The stringed instruments are accompanied by a vocal harmony of baritones and tenors often with a modal sound in the highest voice.

For a sample of what bluegrass sounds like check out the Del McCoury Band or the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band who were also at the Bloomin’ Bluegrass Festival.

In addition to live music and a wide assortment of chilies to taste there were also food vendors that sold funnel cakes dusted in powdered sugar, plates mounded high with freshly made potato chips, sweetly popped kettle corn, crawfish and meat pies, fried gator (yes, it really does taste like chicken!) and gumbo just to name a few dishes available to fill a belly while listening to live bluegrass music.

In between sets of bands playing music you can take tours of historical homes and structures, watch historic demonstrations or shop in the arts and crafts marketplace for homemade jewelry made from semi-precious stones, silver, natural gem stones, praline bars, abstract metal art, leather goods, or copper wind chimes.

fall decoration
fall decoration

Try these yummy dishes at your next pub visit

lamb burger
lamb burger

The UK is best known for their warm, hearty and flavorful foods. Recipes which have been handed down for generations are a mixture of delightfully flavorful vegetables such as carrots, turnips, rutabagas, peas, potatoes, and meats such as lamb, venison, chicken, and veal.

Sweet potato Chips (fries)
Sweet potato Chips (fries)

If you want to sample this countries vast and unique array of savory dishes, pubs are a great place to accomplish this. The pubs of the UK are as diverse as the people who inhabit the country and the food that they eat. Familiar menu items in a pub are their hearty and savory pies which they call pudding, made with a selection of vegetables and meat in a delicious thick brown gravy topped with a flaky buttery pastry top and a side of mashed peas.

Steak and Kidney pudding Quick Recipe:

1 package of Pre-made pie crust (2 crusts  per box)

1 packet of Brown Gravy mix

1 lb, of stewing steak

4 oz. of kidney (lamb or ox)

Preparation

  1. Line a greased pie pan with 1  of the pie crusts

  2. Cut meat and kidneys into small pieces

  3. Mix the meats together and put into the pie pan

  4. Pre-mix the gravy and pour over meat

  5. Put the other pie crust on top sealing the edges by dampening your finger in water and running it around the bottom pie crust.

  6. Bake at 350 for approximately 3 hours or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are just starting to bubble out

A pint of Guinness or a Stout is a great accompaniment with this dish. Just saying… pretty yummy!

ploughman's platter
ploughman’s platter

Another great dish you will find is the Ploughman’s Platter which consists of a tasty selection of roasted and cured meats, aged cheeses, both hard and soft, and a small loaf of freshly baked bread that has a crispy buttery top sprinkled with oats and a warm soft interior that makes it an excellent pull-apart bread. There will also be small sides of homemade berry jams and churned butter.

When you are done with your main course and you still feel a bit peckish, try one of their dessert items such as the Bread Pudding that has raisins that have been plumped by soaking them in brandy or whisky, the Jam Suet Pudding (much better than it sounds) or the cranberry orange scones with a spot of tea or coffee.

ahhh! Dessert!
ahhh! Dessert!

Monument Monday: Balto

Monday is Monumental Monday here at Whats New Adventure. The topic of conversation?….. Yup, you guessed it, monuments! The world is full of absolutely amazing monuments! Monuments that are grandiose, extravagant and seen by millions of people to small plaques that only a few local people know about. Do you have a favorite monument? Do you know of a monument that could use more recognition? Share your comments below! I would love to hear from you about them!

Dogs have been herald as man’s best friend for centuries. They are always there when we need them, giving us unconditional love and not asking anything in return except for love. In a corner of Central Park in New York City is a monument to a dog that represents many dogs from several dog sled teams in a historically important time period in Alaska.

Nome 1900
Nome 1900

The year is 1925. The location is Nome, a village just 2 degrees south of the Arctic Circle that saw a boom in population when gold was discovered there in 1899. The terrain is what some people would describe as bleak with small scrub trees and a flat tundra that is covered with ice and snow for many months out of the year. The indigenous people who are friendly, quick to smile and to welcome others to their table for a meal are also experts in efficiently living off the land and carving out a home in a land that many would consider inhospitable.

Nome had 1 doctor and 4 nurses in a 25 bed hospital when the potentially deadly diphtheria epidemic broke out. The antitoxin that the doctor had on hand was not enough to treat the population of Nome, which at that time was just under 1500, and the antitoxin had expired.

The doctor made an emergency call to have additional vials of antitoxin transported to Nome. The additional antitoxin was located in the west coast hospitals. The problem was that transportation was very limited in Alaska at that time, in addition, it was winter which reduced travel options even more. To get the antitoxin to Nome from the west coast would take well over a month via plane, train and then dog sled team. The people of Nome did not have the luxury of waiting 30 days!

A doctor in Anchorage at the  Anchorage Railroad Hospital discovered some forgotten vials of the antitoxin in a store-room that he wrapped in quilting and put in a metal container and then sent it to Nenana, a town that was as far north as the train could go.

It was arranged that dog mushers would get the serum in Nenana at the same time that mushers would start the trip from Nome towards Nenana. They would meet along the trail at the half way point in Nualto and create a relay to get the serum to the people of Nome.

balto map
Historic map of trail from Nenana to Nome

The trail from Nenana to Nome is 674 miles (1085 km) long and under normal circumstances would take 30 days to traverse. The best dog mushers and dog teams were recruited to relay the serum from Nenana to Nome in less than 6 days, which was how long it was estimated that the serum would survive in the brutal winter conditions of Alaska.

DogSledRace
Dog sled team

Balto, a black and white Siberian husky, was the lead dog of the dog sled team run by Gunnar Kaasan. Balto lead the dog sled team in nearly a straight line through  a blizzard with white out conditions so intense that Kaasan could hardly see the dogs that were harnessed the closest to the sled. The blizzard winds were so severe that at one point Kaasan nearly lost the serum when the wind grabbed the sled and sent it tumbling. The serum became dislodged and fell in the snow drifts. Kaasan severely frostbite his hands searching for the serum.

balto kaasan
Gunnar Kaasan and Balto

Through blizzards, frostbite, temperatures that ranged between -50F and -85F (-46C and -65C) with the wind chill and wind gusts at an estimated 80 mph it took 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs, many of who lost their lives on the trail because of the cold 5 1/2 days to make the 674 mile (1085 km) trip to Nome. The serum was delivered to the doctor in tact and with out a single broken vial!

Today the race to save the people of  Nome is celebrated every year with the Iditarod Sled Dog race which takes place during the Fur Rondy Festival in February.

The monument to Balto and the other 4-legged heroes of that momentous trip was created by Frederick Roth on December 15, 1925.

How to explore Ft. Worth like a local

Sundance Square is the heart of downtown Fort Worth. It is a 35-block area filled with restaurants, boutique shops, art galleries, and hot nightspots. It buzzes with activity day and night as thousands of feet crisscross its red brick streets, courtyard, and plaza filled with lush landscape making Sundance Square a destination within Fort Worth.

If people watching is your thing, then you will want to hang out at Del Frisco’s Grille for dinner. It is located in the heart of Ft. Worth in the Sundance Square Plaza on E. 3rd st. and Commerce. Ask for a seat outside where you can watch people meandering with their dogs, couples walking hand in hand and children playing in the distant waterspout fountain garden. Del Frisco’s Grille has a delicious menu with some palette tantalizing plates such as cheesesteak egg rolls drizzled with sweet & spicy chili sauce, ahi tacos with tuna tartar and a spicy citrus mayo sauce for the appetizers.  For the main course, the lamb burger with roasted tomatoes, arugula and tzatziki sauce or the juicy and tender filet mignon, available in either an 8oz or 12oz option! They are all excellent choices! With such a savory dinner menu, of course they also have a decadent dessert menu as well! My recommendation would be the Nutella bread pudding with coffee ice cream and a caramel sauce or the lemon doberge 6 layer Cake with lemon buttercream icing and lemon glaze.

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Scat Jazz Lounge

No trip to Sundance Square is complete without experiencing some of the live entertainment available within the square. The Scat Jazz Lounge is a favorite for live music. The Lounge, located in the basement of the historic Woolworth building carries on the traditions of the old speak-easies of the 30’s in New York City with the dark wood trim, dim lights and swanky atmosphere. When we first learned of the Lounge, the directions that we were given to get there were, “go to Sundance Square, look for the alley with the red neon light, then take the elevator down”. With directions like, that how can you not have your curiosity peeked and just have to check it out! Check it out we did! There are no tv’s on the walls, no neon signs to disrupt the swanky feeling you get when you are sitting there listening to the musicians and sipping on your Whisky Sour, Martini or Old Fashioned. With live shows on every night of the week except Mondays, there is a jazz style for everyone.

 

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Jazz band
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Jazz band

Another amazing Sundance Square must see is the Four Day Weekend comedy group. This uproarishly funny comedy group is the longest-running show in the southwest. They perform live shows Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and 10pm from audience suggestions and participation. They have been called the “Whose Line is it Anyway” of the Americas. Four Day Weekend’s 212-seat theater is located at 312 Houston St. within steps from many eating establishments both casual and upscale.

 

Before you leave Sundance Square take a few moments to watch the light show on the massive umbrellas while you are sipping your latte from Starbucks, which is located conveniently in the Square. Sit at a table in the square and watch the water jets shoot vertically in rhythmic patterns to music and lights. It is common to see children playing on the outskirts of the fountains trying to dodge the next spray of water. It is a good spot to people watch and carry on a quiet conversation.

 

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Sundance Square

Not ready call it a night? Never fear! Sundance Square is reminiscent of New Orleans in that there are many open-air bands with a wide range of music genres belting out their tunes encouraging people to get up and dance! So, there is no reason to rush back to your car and house, meander, take your time and enjoy the sights and sounds of Sundance Square.

 

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Street band

Monumental Monday: William Wallace Monument

Monday is Monumental Monday here at Whats New Adventure. The topic of conversation?….. Yup, you guessed it, monuments! The world is full of absolutely amazing monuments! Monuments that are grandiose, extravagant and seen by millions of people to small plaques that only a few local people know about. Do you have a favorite monument? Do you know of a monument that could use more recognition? Share your comments below! I would love to hear from you about them!

w.wallace
William Wallace Monument

The William Wallace Monument located in the stone age settlement of Stirling, Scotland, a city that surrounds the fortress Stirling Castle and the medieval old town of Stirling. Stirling, at one time was the capital of Scotland, is now a flourishing city for local government, higher education, retail and industry. Due to its strategic location near the Highland Boundary Fault between the Scottish highlands and lowlands it is considered as the “Gateway to the Highlands”.

The William Wallace Monument, also known simply as Wallace Monument is a very tall and impressive tower designed by Glasgow architect, J.T. Rochead built from 1861-1869. The massive tower built at the summit of the Abbey Craig dominates the landscape for miles and is a constant reminder of the fierceness that Scots have shown for their freedom and for their independence. The Abbey Craig is a tall hilltop that is comprised of quartz-dolerite. Archeologists have also found evidence  of an early Iron Age fort on the Abbey Craig by the remnants of “vitrified” walls, walls that were created, not in the usual fashion of building out of rocks but by melting stones in a matrix of wooden posts which were then burned to form the ‘vitrified’ wall.

There are numerous walking paths that are used by locals and tourists alike. For those who are more physically fit and up for the challenge (or maybe for young kids who have energy to burn off!) you can hike up to the top of the Craig from the parking and visitor area via the trail (about 20 minute walk, uphill), or you could just take the shuttle bus as well and save your energy for other exploring, shopping, pub crawls…. you choose!. It is a very beautiful walk with awesome views and many picturesque opportunities, well worth your energy expenditure.

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pretty flowers
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so many pretty flowers on the walk
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walk the trail

The Monument, which was built-in the 19th century, commemorates Sir William Wallace,The Guardian of Scotland, a 13th century Scottish hero who gave his life for his country in the fight for freedom and independence. The tower was built-in the Victorian Gothic style from sandstone and is an impressive 220 ft (67 meters) tall and has a whopping 246 steps in its spiral staircase that lead you to each of the three exhibition galleries and the ‘crown’ or viewing platform at the top of the monument where you can see for miles.

The first gallery that you will encounter is the Hall of Arms. Here the walls are lined with banners and plaques that tell the story of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, how it was fought and won on September 11th in 1297. The  Battle of Stirling Bridge had major significance in Scotland’s history and in the history of medieval warfare. Some have described the battle as marking the end of the middle ages because until 1297 armies of heavily armed men and mounted knights were unstoppable. The Battle of Stirling Bridge was commanded by Sir William Wallace and a common army of enlisted spearmen which defeated feudal knights in full armor.

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Story time line

This battle was of particular significance to the Scottish people because it was the first time that a major English army had  been defeated since the Dark Ages. This victory destroyed the myth that the English were invincible and empowered the Scots drive and determination to triumph over the English.

The second gallery is the Hall of Heroes. Here there are 16 busts of men who are considered heroes in the fight for freedom and reform. These busts include some of the more historically important men such as King Robert the Bruce, 1274-1329, Robert Burns, 1759-1796, a poet who attacked various government establishments and the high taxes that were levied, James Watt, 1736-1819, inventor of the steam locomotive which was the springboard for the Industrial Revolution, John Knox, 1510-1572,  and other religious men who spurred reformation of the church.

w. wallace
Hall of heroes

The third gallery is the Royal CHamber. Here you can learn about the trials and obstacles that had to be overcome in the building of the monument. Obstacles included who would build it by having a competition to find a designer, where it would be built, what it would look like, funding and over budget woes to name a few.

For those who make the trip to the top of the monument, the Crown, they will be rewarded with a breath-taking view of Scotland’s amazing country side, from Ben Lomond and the Trossachs in the West, to the city of Stirling and the Ochil and Pentland Hills in the East.

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The Crown
w.wallace
the beautiful view from the crown

The Amazing Stories We Would Hear if the Wall Could Talk!

Pubs are transporters into the mysterious past. Each pub has its own distinct feeling, charm  and character that greets its guests at the at the ancient carved door that has had so many hands push it open the wood has been aged to a deep mahogany brown and polished to a smooth satin finish. When you first walk up to the entrance you are greeted by ornate carvings of gargoyles, angels, horses, dogs, green men and any slew of other characters in stone that graces the roof tops, eaves and trim of the pub. The architecture is amazing! Take a moment to stop and think about how they were created, by hand, each piece was individually carved and chiseled for that one particular pub, a single job that took a stone mason months to complete, you can not help but be in awe over the craftsmanship. Above the ancient entry door you will see the year the building was created carved in the stone,  sometimes easily dating back to the 1500’s. Again, wow! The amount of history that is in one building is staggering! How many billions of hands have pushed open that heavy, hand hewn door with spikes that were pounded by the blacksmith in his furnace.

pubs
Gargoyle on a roof top
long term patron
long term patron
Interior of a pub
Interior of a pub

As you cross over the thresh hold take notice of the step, see how it is worn? See the deep grooves in the weathered step that has been created my generations of feet walking through that door? You are greeted by the smell of aged wood that has been permeated by years upon years of wood smoke, cooking fires, and floors that have been preserved in the rich hearty juices of ales and heady Guinness that has sloshed over the edges of mugs as they are clanked together with cheers. It is a very comfortable, wholesome and easy feeling like old books (read about that here). As you sit at the bar, booth or table, which ever you choose, you look around and notice the distinct charm that is in that particular pub. Perhaps you notice the worn path in the steps to the door from all the feet that traversed through the door over the centuries. Or perhaps your eyes are drawn to the windows that have so many small panes in them and you notice some of the glass has wavy circles embedded in them or have imperfections such as small air bubbles and then it dawns on you, again, the history, the age, those windows were not forged in a factory, but by hand in a wood or coal kiln.

stairs
stairs worn by foot steps

For centuries pubs have  been a place of gathering for village members. They would meet for a pint or two to discuss the day, to share the good times and the bad, or work business deals (at one time that would have been trading chickens, sheep or wool). It is where families meet to have a dinner of savory meat pies filled with steaming vegetables and tender chunks of lamb, venison or chicken mixed in a thick rich gravy or a lighter fare of a ploughman plate consisting of a small freshly baked loaf of bread with cheese and cured meats.

pubs
plougmans platter
Scotch Eggs
Scotch Eggs

Today, pubs are still the standard where travelers can rest their weary feet, where neighbors can relax and catch up with their friends and family. Business deals are still negotiated around the same table that was used to haggle and barter for  livestock. They still serve the savory meat pies and ploughman plates to fill and nourish empty stomachs.

red lion
Red Lion
pubs
Marlborough Arms
golden lion
Golden Lion

How to design an awesome entry for the holidays

Go from this
Go from this
To this
To this

Do you have this amazing entry to your house and have been wondering what you could do with it? Check this idea out! This design idea will work for any entry large or small that has an over hang of some kind to hang the wire frame from. I did this in my entry which has a rather high ceiling. I will give you a step-by-step guide on how to recreate the same effect for your entry. All the foliage can be easily found at Michaels, Hobby Lobby or your local thrift store.

First step is to put up the wire frame that everything will hang from.  Use a 14 gauge galvanized steel welded wire fencing. This will be sturdy enough to hold the weight of all the goodies that you will be putting on it! Measure the width of your entry and then add about 8-12″.  This extra length will work like a friction fit if you have a brick entry with a ledge close to the top. For added protection use screws and wire holders to secure the frame to the walls and create a slight arch.

First thing on the frame will be the base or background lights. These will be the mini lights (color of your choosing depending on the holiday or if you  want this display to last through several holidays (I.E. Harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years) then you can add lights for all the seasons now providing they are not to obvious. For example you would not want to hang large white snowflakes and pumpkin lights together because you will be able to see them even when they are not plugged in., zig-zag several strings of these light from one end of the frame to the next and attach to the frame with twist ties or zip ties. NOTE: if you are doing multiple holidays make sure that you only connect lights together for the SAME holiday. Start each new light string in the same corner closest to your power source that way you can plug-in your Halloween lights and the Christmas lights will stay dark and therefore hidden in the foliage and vise versa.  Don’t worry if it looks thin, you will  be adding more lights later.

flickering candle lights
Flickering Candle Lights

Next, add your base green fill. This will be just a plain greenery swag about 4′ long that you can pick up at Micheals or Hobby Lobby. Depending on the size of your entry, you will need four to start with. I like to get a mixture of the wire pine bough swag that are really easy to attach to the wire frame by twisting a small branch to the frame to hold it in place and the plastic ones that look fuller but you have to attach with zip ties. Attach these to the wire frame in a row pattern so the tips of the boughs just barely touch.

The next layer to add will be the decorative lights, the icicles, flickering flame, skulls, snowflakes, ect. Put these up a little loosely (so the wires are not tight to the frame), you want them to “peek” through the foliage and other things you will be putting up. You will need only two to three strands depending on the size of the entry. Attach them to the frame in a large and wide zig-zag pattern across the entry. For example, start in one corner then go to the midway point on the opposite side and then go to the opposite corner.

The next thing that you put up will be the fall color swags, Halloween swags or Christmas swag. You will need 4-6 of these depending on how “full” you want it to look. Attach these to the wire frame in a loose, half-hazzard zig-zag pattern. You do not want a “line pattern” with these, you want them to look “natural”, like they grew there.

entry
fall design

After you have the swags up add your “filler”. Use silk flowers to fill in the spaces where you can still see spaces between swags or it jus looks a little thin still. To attach the flowers either bend the flower base so that it can hang from the wire frame or weave the stem through the wire frame. Bend the flower so that it is hanging down as if it was growing on an arbor and you are looking up at it. Use a variety of flower styles and color combinations that fit your theme.

entry
fall critters

Once that is done and your entry is looking full and absolutely amazing, add your hidden highlights or peek-a-boos. By that I mean add small woodland animals, fairies, small hanging gourds, ghosts, bats, presents, ect. Hang some from the wire frame and swags at different heights to create even more depth to the display. Tuck some in the corners peeking out from behind the flowers. You want some of these features to be kind of hidden so that when someone is looking at it they see some things that are out in the open and some they have to search for. Kids and adults have fun with that!

For the Harvest entry pictured here I started with fall colors, then the 1st week of October I will put up Halloween foliage and Halloween lights, then the 1st week of November I will take down the Halloween lights and foliage and I will be left with the harvest decorations for Thanksgiving that will take me through to Christmas when I will take down the fall foliage and put up Christmas themed foliage and lights. Through out all of this the base lights and foliage stays the same.

Christmas
Christmas
Halloween
Halloween

That is how you create an amazing entry for the holidays! Have fun designing your own creation in your entry! Please feel free to post pictures of your creation! I would love to see what you did!

A Great Day For Kayaking And Then We See This

This past weekend was a great time to kayak! The sun was nice and toasty, the waves on the lake were not to high, there was minimal wind. Perfect day!

We packed some water and snacks, loaded up the kayaks and off we went to Lake Arlington, one of the local lakes that is popular for kayaking as well as fishing.

kayaking Lake Arlington
Kayaking

We arrived at the lake, unloaded and after deciding which direction that we wanted to go in, we set off! The waves were not to high for a lake but there were still waves which were about a foot high or so. Just high enough to splash over the front tip of the kayak and keep us cool from the heat of the sun reflecting off the water.

Kayaking
Kayaking

Not in a big hurry, just out for a leisure paddle day, we made our way slowly across the lake. A short distance from the dock we encountered a small head wind which taxed our arms and made us rather tired. Several times on our journey across we had to stop several times to rest our achy arms and just float for a minute or two. Then we were back at it, paddling towards a quite little cove on the other side of the lake.

kayaking
Slough off Lake Arlington

As we neared the cove the head wind subsided and the waves calmed down. As we entered the cove we were greeted with views of egrets, great herons, turtles and fish jumping. Sounds very picturesque, right? It really was, with the exception of all the garbage that was also there.

I could not believe the amount of garbage that covered the shore line of this picturesque cove! There was new garbage that had been freshly washed up and there was garbage that was very evident that had been there for quite some time partially buried in the muddy earth. Lets be clear, this is not garbage that just blew in from the wind traveling on the waves of the lake. Yes, I am talking about that type but I am also talking about garbage that had to have been dumped there, such as, tires, shopping carts, steel door and such in addition to plastic bottles, coolers, plastic barrels, food wrappers, ect.

Litter
Littered beach
litter
Littered beach
litter
Littered beach

Our excitement level was so high that morning anticipating the adventure of finding picturesque coves that you could not tell if someone else had been there before you or not and hoping to see wildlife.  It became so very disappointing and disgusting to see all the beauty of the water tainted by the continuing streams of trash and shore birds that carefully picked their way through it searching for fish.

Heron
Heron

I see things like this and it makes me so angry!  What are people thinking when they drop trash, not bio-degradable organic products, off the side of their boat or throw it out their car windows or just leave it on the side-walk. Why? WHY?  Why do people do that? Why do some people not take responsibility for their actions and pick up their trash, clean up after themselves? Every year cities organize clean-up days to help combat this nasty habit that some humans have. If every person took responsibility for their own trash and carry it out with them if they are  visiting the wilds of Mother Nature and make sure that it is deposited in the appropriate trash receptacle cities would not have to organize clean-ups once a year.

If we quite polluting our waters and land perhaps we would see a reversal in the toxicity of fish, in deaths of birds and deformity of amphibians. What will it take for us, humans, to stop destroying this planet that we live on, the only planet we have. Is this really the legacy that we want to pass on and instill in our children? Don’t think twice about where that garbage goes when you drop it from your hands, it just disappears magically. We don’t know why the ozone is depleting, oceans are warming, or we are having such erratic weather patterns, right? Are we really so ignorant that we can not see that we are creating these issues, killing our planet, or just arrogant?

I challenge everyone, every man, woman and child, to start taking responsibility for themselves and their own trash. I am not saying that you have to be a “rubbish radical”, although if more people were it would be very beneficial for ourselves and for our planet. I am saying, start by taking one more step over what you currently do to help clean up this place we, you, live in.

A hidden gem in the Yorkshire Dales

Forbidden Corner
Enter if you dare!

Tucked away in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in Tupgill Park is a fabulously fun hidden gem for young and young at heart called The Forbidden Corner. On a recent tour of the UK we discovered this very entertaining park. The Forbidden Corner is a 4 acre maze with tunnels, chambers, labyrinth and many hidden surprises designed to thrill its visitors at each twist and turn.

But beware of the many doors that may lead you astray, for no-one can safely say that there’s a way to escape every alley way

Forbidden Corner
Forbidden Corner Entrance
Forbidden Corner
Walk through the mouth!

First, you enter The Forbidden Corner through a tower that is designed to look like a face with a gaping mouth and when you walk through to the other side there is a loud and exaggerated belch. Yep, that is the start of the surprises that you will encounter when you visit. It was so much fun exploring rustic tunnels built at angles that opened up into underground labyrinths designed like an elegant ancient parlor room which in turn wound deeper into the earth passing large animated rats learning about cats and then opened into a large room lined with doors, most of which went nowhere, some only open one direction, the challenge is to find the door that opens in the direction that you want to go.

As we wound our way through the hedge maze we encountered the massive wood cutter with his gargantuan ax, a molten glass pyramid that turned out to be the roof of one of the caves below! We were surprised by a motion activated waterfall over one of the trails and a Pan fountain that sprayed water at out feet. This might be a good time to mention that if you go, bring a towel, and a change of clothes might be a good idea as well!

Forbidden Corner
Underground tunnel
Forbidden Corner
Axe man
Forbidden Corner
Top view of glass pyramid
Forbidden Corner
underground view of glass pyramid
Forbidden Corner
Cute little Pan sculpture
Forbidden Corner
Not so cute when he catches you by surprise and drenches you!

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A BIT OF HISTORY

Originally built as a private folly park for the exclusive enjoyment of friends and family of Mr. C. R. Armstrong CMG, OBE in 1989 through a series of events and evolving ideas The Forbidden Corner began to take shape and evolve into what it is today. First the firs were planted to shield the Tupgill stables, then a tower was built to view the beautiful Coverdale Valley. As the construction of the tower was under way a suggestion was made to build a grotto. During the building of the grotto heavy rains filled the 25′ deep hole, so then a tunnel had to be dug to empty the hole and then to make matters worse an underground spring was discovered. Well, I bet you can guess what all that water did to the dirt walls of the tunnel and grotto, yup, that was one huge mud puddle!

The following year saw the stabilizing of the grotto and the tunnel walls. The building activity and creativity started to take off then with ideas flooding in from all around the world as to what to add to make it what it is today.

In July of 1994 The Forbidden Corner was officially opened to the public with about 100 showing on opening day. Since then, several features have been added to the park, such as the Green Man and the Faucet Tower.

The Forbidden Corner was so much fun I would highly recommend it as a must see if you are in the Yorkshire Dales! Treat your family to a days adventure of exploring mazes, tunnels and labyrinth and when your little toes are tired and you need to rest your feet take a break in their cafe and have a slice of their very delicious carrot cake with a cup of tea and then meander their gift shop for unique finds and trinkets to take home to remember your day!

2015 Opening Times: Everyday 28th March – 31st October then Sundays until Christmas. Monday – Saturday 12 noon – 6 pm (or dusk if earlier). Sundays and bank Holidays 10 am – 6 pm (or dusk if earlier). – See more at: ADMISSION AND HOURS

Remember

Where were you on this very day 14 years ago today. I know exactly where I was and what I was doing. Today the United States, and maybe even other countries in the world are remembering this day, remembering the people that died, remembering the terror that griped our country and had many people around the world staring in disbelief at their televisions. September 11, 2011. A day that will never be forgotten. A day that has been burned into our memory like the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, like the day that Kennedy was assassinated. Days of senseless violence. Days of terror, uncertainty and anger.

Today we remember the men and women who died in the Twin Towers, who died in the planes that crashed into them, who selflessly gave their lives in Pennsylvania to prevent the plane they were on from crashing into an unknown location. In all nearly 3000 people lost their lives that day.

We lived on the East Coast at that time. I remember very clearly the stories of tragedy and triumph that filled the news. I remember the stories and faces filled with tears of happiness as loved ones were found alive buried in the rubble of the tower. I remember the pleas and the begging hoping for those that were still unaccounted for to be found. I remember how people said that they were asked for strands of hair from the hairbrush that the missing person used so the ME could do a DNA match. I remember seeing children whose parents had kissed them good bye that morning as they went to work who were now orphans.

Yes, that day was full of pain, but in the midst of all the pain and confusion the day was also full of compassion and heroics. Like the courageous passengers of flight 93 who took action against the terrorists, knowing that they would not survive some were able to call their loved one’s one last time from cell phones. Or like Wells Crowther, a 24-year old equities trader who lost his life helping others escape the burning inferno the towers had become. He was able to climb down the stairs on the 104st floor to the 78th floor where he carried a woman on his back to the 61st floor and then went back to the 78th floor to help another group of people down to the 61st floor.

Not all the heroes were human, some were the four-legged version that truly proved to be man’s best friend that day. There were more than 300 trained search and rescue dogs that were used to find survivors. Genelle Guzman-McMillan was the last survivor who was pulled from the wreckage of the Twin Towers, she was found 27 hours after the crash by one such specially trained dog.

So, today, say “I love you” to those that are important to you. We may have problems, there may be a lot of hate in the world and in this country, but there is also a compassion and tenderness to help our fellow inhabitants of this planet, when the need arises. In case you have not noticed, there are still countries in turmoil, there are still people fighting for their lives against terrorism, fleeing their countries in hopes to save their lives and the lives of their children. Show compassion to those you meet, you do not know where they have come from nor what they have endured to get to where they are right now, today, meeting you.

Travel Opportunities abound!

Housesitting
Dixie
Housesitting
Skipper

Earlier this summer I had took the opportunity to become involved in something that has been around since people have owned homes, had animals to care for and have traveled. In short, housesitting. In the past it has been neighbors, friends or family that would take care of your home and furry family members while you were on vacation or an extended leave. Well, now there is a new movement that is rocking the travel world, making it more convenient to go on vacations and holiday in addition to taking that once in a lifetime job opportunity across the world with out having to liquidate your assets to get there. That movement is being driven by a company based out of London called Trusted Housesitters. The company founded by Andy Peck and Rachel Martin has been around since 2010 after pet sitting in Spain and realizing the huge need for this service.

Through Trusted Housesitters you, (the house sitter) can travel the world while saving money on your housing costs simply by caring for someone else’s furry family members and their home and you, (the needs the sitter) can travel with peace of mind knowing that your home and pets are safe, secure and well cared for. This is a win-win situation!

I had the opportunity to care for an adorable dog and kitten, Skipper and Dixie respectively, near my own home. Their owners are transplants to Texas from Alaska as well so we had many things in common. I would feed and water Skipper and Dixie a couple of times a day, entertain Dixie for a bit, she has the softest hair! I would take Skipper for  walks and let him play in our pool. He felt like he was at doggie summer camp! Skipper has this unique habit of standing on his hind feet when he is excited and crossing his front paws and waving them in a up-down motion.

housesitting
I’m going to get it!
housesitting
Hanging out by the pool

This has been one of my more enjoyable assignments and something that I will continue to pursue for several reasons. First, growing up on a farm, I do enjoy animals and their personalities. Second, who would not like to travel and save money on housing costs! You cover your airfare but the world is your oyster with so many places see and experience, as a house sitter you will undoubtedly be able to see and experience life in that location that you would not have been exposed to as a tourist.

Empty nest, adventure, life, travel