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The Leaning Tower of Eiffel May 28, 2009

Posted by smooregasbord in Fashion, Shopping, Travel.

longchampI left my heart in San Francisco a LONG time ago, but I’ve made a little room for Paris.

I’ve always wanted a le pliage tote from Longchamp. They’re nothing but nylon and leather, but they’re the most beautiful combination of nylon and leather in my book. I figured what better place to get one than the city where they started…beautiful Paris!  This was my souvenir from Casey from our wonderful little getaway.  I absolutely adore it. C’est trés chic!

Viva Las Vegas August 22, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Travel.

Well, folks, I’m heading to Vegas first thing in the morning for a week of fun! I’m especially excited about seeing Jersey Boys and the Cirque du Soleil show, Ka. We’re making another trip to Hoover Dam to see the nearly completed bypass (What can I say? Casey watches too many episodes of Modern Marvels.) We plan to eat at one of our favorite restuarants, Mesa Grill.  They have killer collards!! Oh, we also plan to do a little gambling.  One-armed bandit, here I come!!

Which Exit Will It Be? May 10, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Around Town, Food, General, Travel.
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This month’s issue of Southern Living magazine features a story called “Best Exits Off of I-95“. The first exit featured is 177B where they visit Le Gaulois Cafe in Old Town Alexandria. While I personally haven’t tried their french cuisine, locals rate this restaurant among one of their favorites. I’m also told that their Valentine’s Day menu is exquisite along with the romantic setting that they offer. I’m certainly marking it as a “place to try”. That’s the thing I love about this area…so many great offerings, not enough time to try them all!

The second exit is 148 where they make a pit stop at the Potomac Point Winery in Stafford, VA. Their petit verdot has won awards at several local wine events. The article encourages you to try their Richland Reserve, a bordeaux blend. Dezel of Vine Spot, a local wine blog, stated that it was “Stafford’s best kept secret.”

They continue their travels all the way to Palm Beach, Florida; however, I’m only mentioning the two locales closest to the DC area. Check out the article to see which exits you want to take on your next road trip southward bound.

Big Girls Don’t Cry May 6, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Travel.
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They just jump up and down and scream really loud after they purchase tickets to go see Jersey Boys! While it’s not on Broadway, it’s quite possibly the next best thing: Vegas baby! We’re heading to Vegas at the end of August for vacation. I saw that they were playing at the Palazzo which is located adjacent to the Venetian. I believe that it’s part of an expansion that the Venetian underwent beginning a couple of years ago. Needless to say, I am unbelievably excited about going to the show! I had tried several times to get tickets in NYC; however, they were always sold out for months. Now I get my opportunity and in one of my favorite cities to boot. Yippee!

Diary of a Travel Guide Junkie: Charleston, SC April 23, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Food, Running, Travel.
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Better late than never, right?! A couple of weeks ago we headed to Charleston, SC, to run the Cooper River Bridge Run. It was a nice weekend getaway before officially heading out of town for work. I have always enjoyed Charleston, but this year it felt a little different. It just seemed too crowded. While that part was disappointing, one arena in which Charleston doesn’t disappoint is the food.

We hit up Jestine’s Kitchen for dinner on Friday night. This is a restaurant with no website and no reservations…just country cooking and blue plate specials. I tried the glazed ham with a side of collards and mac & cheese and, you know me, I couldn’t pass up on a glass of sweet tea.

On Saturday, following the race, we headed to Virginia’s on King to meet some friends for lunch. I would have to rank Virginia’s way high on my list. Upon being seated, we were offered bite-size pieces of their broccoli cornbread. Ok, really. I just ran 6.2 miles, must you torture me with this miniature morsel of deliciousness. We tried two of their appetizers: fried pickles served with remoulade and fried okra with spicy aioli. The okra was pretty tasty, the fried pickles (aka frickles) were just ok (my taste buds have been spoiled by the frickles served up at Del Merei’s). Moving on to the entrees. I can’t pass up on pimiento cheese. It’s a comfort food from my childhood, one that I don’t see very often and don’t make at home mainly because Casey hates pimiento cheese (and he calls himself a southerner). Virginia’s Pimiento Cheese Sandwich on Texas Toast was jaw-smackin’ good and paired with the most drool-icious blue cheese coleslaw. If anyone out there has a recipe for this coleslaw, please let me know! I couldn’t even tell you what anyone else ordered because I was up to my elbows in pimiento euphoria.

We grabbed dessert at Cupcake. This is the cutest store ever which specializes in made-from-scratch, you guessed it, cupcakes. They have 32 different flavors and serve up nine of those flavors daily. Our group sampled the chocolate peanut butter, red velvet, and chocolate chip cheesecake. I really wanted to try the pina colada, but it wasn’t on the menu that day.

With our bellies at maximum capacity, we crossed the street to go to Three Dog Bakery. Since I was going to be away from home for such a long period, I wanted to send some goodies back to Dixie Belle. Her package included a few Scottie’s Biscotti, Puppermint Patties, and Carob Chip Cookies. You can just save me the speech on how spoiled our dog is.

We got our seafood fix at Fleet Landing. I tried the sea scallops in lemon butter sauce…not my absolute favorite; however, my mom tried their shrimp and grits which was prepared very nicely.

We were pressed for time on Sunday morning, so we didn’t get a chance to stop by Hominy Grill for brunch. I don’t know about you, but an hour wait didn’t really appeal to me. Instead, we hit Camille’s Sidewalk Café which was surprisingly refreshing. The food was simple and good and the coffee rocked my world. I was sad at the thought that this may be my one and only opportunity to eat at Camille’s, but then I discovered that there’s one in Arlington and in DC! Guess I won’t need to start a franchise after all.

What’s that? You want to know how the race went? I had a PB for the 10K finishing in 1:05:28. While I didn’t reach my goal for this race (60 minutes), I did shave about five minutes off of my previous time. Not bad, considering the humidity was unreal and I was struggling a lot more than anticipated. Note to self: When you average a 10 minute mile, don’t think that you can sustain a pace of 8:57 just because your friend, Mr. Adrenalin, is sitting on your shoulder. Casey finished in 51:53, my dad finished in 1:05:28 (notice a similarity? thank goodness parents show pity on their children), our friend Blythe finished in 1:04:07 (oh, and friends show pity too).

Things I Learned in Warner Robins April 18, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in General, Travel.
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I am not a huge fan of change, so it’s not hard to believe that I would dislike being away from home for two weeks for work.  If you know me, then you also know that I have officially become “city-fied” and, therefore, don’t like towns where there isn’t a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or large shopping mall!  With that being said, there are a few things I did enjoy about Warner Robins, GA.

1.  McDonalds.  Say what?! I know that sounds ridiculous, but when you eat out for three meals a day and the menus pretty much consist of fried items and sweet tea, anything healthy is refreshing.  So I guess you’re wondering why I would put McDonalds down.  Well, I never eat at McD’s anymore…mainly because I can’t resist a quarter pounder and fries.  There was one located right across from our hotel, so after perusing the nutrition facts on their website, I ventured over.  One night I had the Asian Chicken Salad with Newman’s Own Lowfat Sesame Ginger dressing and a fruit & yogurt parfait. Total damage = 550 calories. On a different night I had the Southwest Chicken Salad with Newman’s Own Creamy Southwest dressing and a fruit & yogurt parfait. Total damage = 580 calories. That’s not too shabby. You can use their Bag a McMeal feature to calculate calories and other nutrition info. Oh, and the taste is phenomenal. I didn’t know McD’s could make such great salads. I will say that the Southwest salad was my favorite!

2. Wilson’s Bakery. This place doesn’t make a bad anything. Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts can’t hold a candle to the freshness of the goodies prepared at Wilson’s. From their famous finger nut cookies to the maple pastry and apple fritters, everything is a favorite from this place.

3. McCall’s Tastes to Remember. This local sandwich shop serves up the best Hot Ham & Swiss that I’ve ever eaten. Not to mention, they have a selection of fresh homemade soups everyday…I’m partial to the Tomato Florentine. The creme de la creme of this eatery is their desserts with banana pudding cake and pina colada cake topping the list…as good as any cake your granny can fix up.

4. Ole Times Country Buffet. This is a place that my grandpa would love. All you can eat fatback, catfish, veggies, ho’cakes, oh, and banana pudding. I love eating here, but only once, otherwise a tow truck would have to bring me back to VA. They have THE BEST mac & cheese, fried okra, and cabbage.

5. Sweet tea. It’s everywhere. It’s hard for me to resist. And it’s limited availability in the mid-atlantic region is probably the reason why I’m not five pounds heavier.

6. Gold Cup Bowling Center. I love to go bowling and WR has the ultimate bowling alley. It’s huge, it’s new, it’s clean, and it’s smoke-free. I want to shrink it to Polly Pocket size and bring it back to VA.

7. The cleanest and most orderly Super Walmart and Target on the planet. Seems like an oxymoron, I know, but it pretty much elicits a “wow” reaction every time I walk through the doors.

8. Chuck Norris quotes.  I didn’t know Chuck still had such a following besides those individuals who use Total Gym and watch Walker, Texas Ranger.  I’ll share more on that later.

9. …and saving the best for last. It was nice spending time with old friends that I worked with in Atlanta and making new friends!

Flying South for the Winter January 25, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Running, Travel.
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…or more like for the weekend. We’re heading out on a jet plane bright and early tomorrow morning. This is it. This is THE weekend. It’s make it or break it. We’re heading to Miami for the ING Miami Marathon/Half Marathon. We are running the race with my sister-in-law and her husband. This is Casey’s second marathon and Joy’s first. Of course, Brett and I are total newbies. We have high hopes that we will win…in our own minds! Wish us luck. I’ll be sure to post pictures upon our return.

“I don’t think jogging is healthy, especially morning jogging. If morning joggers knew how tempting they looked to morning motorists, they would stay home and do sit-ups.” ~Rita Rudner

Diary of a Travel Guide Junkie: Adventures in O’ahu January 24, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Food, Shopping, Travel.
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If only we’d had more time to explore, we could’ve covered all the places listed in Frommer’s. Alas, I live in the real world where there is never enough time.

First stop, shopping in Waikiki baby! Waikiki is truly a shopper’s paradise. There is every store known to man, and not just stores, but designer boutiques like Gucci, Prada, Tiffany’s, D&G, Fendi, Tod’s, Burberry, Coach, YSL, Louis Vuitton…enough name dropping. Pretty much all the stores where I leave a mark on the window because a face plant against the glass and drooling is free of charge! Two things that I noticed are huge on the islands are Crocs and LeSportsac. I don’t typically do Crocs only because I’m short with small, yet wide, feet. Put me in a pair of ‘beach’ or ‘cayman’ and I look like I have Barney Rubble feet. Yabba-dabba-do! Recently, Crocs has come out with much cuter designs for women, like the ‘mary jane’, ‘celeste’, and ‘alice’. For those who know me, you know that I seriously heart LeSportsac. The crappy thing is that there is no LeSportsac boutique in the DC area which is what makes it hard to believe that there are probably ten LeSportsac stores within a five mile radius in Waikiki. Our closest store is in NYC, and it’s hard to convince Casey to travel to NYC just so I can snag a new bag! You can always shop online, but then you don’t get access to the exclusive designs sold only in the boutiques. That being said, I picked up two bags during our trip in patterns exclusive to Hawaii. Next up are the ABC Stores. These are not the liquor stores that most mainland folks know. These are a cross between a 7-11 and a souvenir store.  A great place to pick up those random oddities.

We then went to visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. It was a very educational and moving experience. We purchased a book while we were there and the author was on site to give autographs. Not only that, but there were four Pearl Harbor survivors on site the day we visited. We were able to get one of them, Robert Kinzler, to autograph his photo in the book we purchased.

Following the visit to Pearl Harbor, we went to Diamond Head. I think the total hike to the top and back is less than 3 miles and it took a little under an hour. While the distance of the hike wasn’t bad, the trail can be somewhat difficult to navigate with approximately 175 steep stairs to climb. With that being said, it is WELL worth it for the spectacular views. We even got to see a double rainbow (see pictures in sidebar).

At the completion of our hike, it started to rain. We decided to drive around to Hanauma Bay and then to Kaneohe Bay. The drive was nice and offered spectacular views of the eastern side of the island.

The following day we decided to visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation and then continue on to the North Shore. The Dole Plantation was so much fun. I had heard mixed reviews about it, but I am certainly glad we went to check it out for ourselves. I’m a bit of a gift shop fanantic and this one takes the cake! It is HUGE. They have pineapple everything, and I did purchase some pineapple coffee that I’m excited to try. There is a pineapple garden maze that covers approximately 3 miles. They even offer a garden tour which shows the various crops that are grown on that part of the island including coffee and chocolate. They also have a small pineapple garden that shows the different types of pineapple and the various growth stages. If you can’t tell, I seriously *heart* the Dole Pineapple Plantation!

We headed on up to Waimea Bay and watched people jump off “the rock”. It was unbelievably crowded, so we continued north to Sunset Beach and Shark’s Cove. We also pulled off briefly at ‘Ehukai Beach, home of the Bonzai Pipeline, to watch the surfers. Our pictures do not give justice to the size and power of the waves!

On our final day, we visited the Valley of the Temples which is home to the Byodo-In Temple. It was quite stunning and the Ko’olau Mountains were just unbelievable. You felt like you were in a movie or in some faraway land. Supposedly the temple was built without using a single nail. Pretty cool, huh? Also, I read that it has been featured in the show Lost. Casey and I both rang the enormous Peace Bell before entering the temple (which is supposed to bring you good luck). The sound was quite peaceful until you had some idiot who felt like they were trying to keep tune with the song “Get It On (Bang A Gong)”, then it got to be a little annoying! The grounds are also home to wild peacocks; however, we didn’t see any.

From the Valley of the Temples, we traveled to Punchbowl National Cemetery aka National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The grounds are beautiful and they also offer a wonderful panoramic view of the entire city.

We then spent the remainder of the day sprawled out on the beach in Waikiki. I couldn’t bear to go any deeper than my knees because the water was just too cold.

We had a wonderful time and I certainly hope to go back…maybe to visit Maui or the Big Island…a little Rusty’s Hawaiian anyone!?

Diary of a Travel Guide Junkie: Honolulu Cookie Company January 15, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Food, Shopping, Travel.
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HCCIf heaven has a scent, then it most definitely will smell as sweet as this store! I came across the Honolulu Cookie Company while perusing the shops at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. The aroma drew me in like a scene in a cartoon. Most of their cookies are naturally flavored varieties of a macademia shortbread and all are shaped like pineapples. The fruit flavors ranked highest on my list (lilikoi, mango, pineapple) with lilikoi as my favorite. I can’t describe it except to say that it had a very fresh and fruity flavor…never too sweet. Their kona coffee cookie was a jolt of coffee packed into cookie form! Their packaging is beautiful and varied. I highly recommend this as a gift for someone special (yourself included). With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, their cookies would make a nice alternative to the typical chocolates.

Diary of a Travel Guide Junkie: Let’s Talk Breakfast January 13, 2008

Posted by smooregasbord in Food, Travel.

Everyone knows that the first meal of the day is the most important one.  That it shouldn’t be missed.  That it’s your energizer bunny. That it involves massive amounts of coffee.

When traveling, I’m mostly known for grabbing a Starbucks drink and breakfast sandwich. However, when in a place as wonderful as Hawaii, you’ve got to step it up a notch.

In addition to my Frommer’s guide, and at the request of a native Hawaiian coworker, I also purchased the O’ahu Revealed travel guide. It’s breakfast pick was Wailana Coffee House (WCH) and was conveniently located next door to our hotel. They don’t have a website, but a good local review can be found here. This is a 24-hour restaurant with quick, friendly service and good food. Coffee is always a must and WCH had quite tasty coffee for a diner.  (Side-note: This was before our taste buds were spoiled by the deliciousness of Rusty’s Hawaiian.)  Casey opted for the Portuguese sweet bread extraordinary. I don’t really know how to describe it except as a variation on french toast which he adores. I went with the pineapple pancakes. The waitress placed three varieties of syrup on our table: maple, boysenberry, and coconut. I’ll give you one guess as to which one I chose. The coconut syrup looked weird like a milky, gooey white, but the taste was exquisite…not too sweet, a perfect compliment to the pineapple. Of course, when in Hawaii, one must eat spam. I requested a side order, but what came out looked unfamiliar to my southern upbringing. What I know as spam is a rectangle, but what sat before me was a circle. Huh?! I tasted this mystery meat and it certainly didn’t taste like spam. I asked the waitress what it was and she replied, “Portuguese sausage.” She accidentally brought me the wrong thing, but it was a new experience with food. I can’t really describe it. It was very spicy. It was different. All in all an excellent meal for a low price.

Frommer’s suggested Eggs ‘n Things as a great breakfast spot. Even with the large crowd congregated outside, we were able to get seated in about five to ten minutes. They have a fairly large list of daily specials and a variety of fresh juice. Casey ordered an enormous ham and cheese omelet with a side of pancakes. He claimed it was a three egg omelet, but the size suggested something else (I’m thinking six eggs)! I went with fresh banana crepes which were very light and delicious. I was longing for a douse of the coconut syrup to go along with them, but opted for what I think was a strawberry syrup. Regardless, the two flavors combined nicely. In the end, I finally got my spam which I devoured with artery clogging pride!