November 30, 2012

On My Radar Screen

Happy Friday!!! It's hard to believe today is the last day of November - 2013 will be here before we know it!

Here's what is on my radar screen this week:


I want this book - The Night Before Christmas in Paris tells the story of Madame Claus' adventures in Paris! Add this one to my stocking stuffer list. (Thanks to Tish at A Femme D'Un Certain Age for putting finding this wonderful book.)
 
 
 
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was lit this week and will remain lit until January 7th. This is the 80th anniversary of the lighting. This years tree came from Flanders, NJ and will be adorned with more than 30,000 colored lights and a Swaroski star. I saw the unlit tere when I was in the city a week agao - it's huge!
 
 
Did you know McAdenville, North Carolina is known as Christmastown, USA. Just outside of Charlotte, this small town lights over 350 trees every year. The official tree lighting is tonight and they will stay lit every night until December 26th.
 
 
I crossed many things off my gift list this week (and bought a few goodies for myself) courtesy of my generous gift certificate from Terrain that I won in a giveaway from the adorable Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo. Their store in Westport, CT is a shopping destination in itself - the restaurant there is also excellent. They have a workshop tomorrow on Trimming the Holiday Hearth and a Wreathmaking Class on Sunday.
 

Another gift suggestion - Turn a favorite photo into gallery quality canvas art through Printcopia. They are offering 25% off and free shipping right now.

Have a wonderful weekend!!!
 

November 29, 2012

Thirsty Thursday - Holiday Cocktails from Great Hotels

Today's 'Thirsty Thursday' features festive holiday cocktails created by bartenders at some of the top hotels in the United States.  I can't wait to try some of these at home over the next month!


Photo of Sugar Plum Dreams courtesy of Mansion on Turtle Creek
How pretty is this drink? It is the Sugar Plum Dreams cocktail from the Mansion Bar at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, Texas. Available in December only, it is made with Pisco (Peruvian brandy), Sugar Plum reduction and lemon juice. The recipe is here.
 
 
Photo of S'Mores Martini courtesy of The Peninsula Chicago
 
The S'Mores Martini from The Peninsula Chicago is decadence in a glass. Made with Bourbon, Butterscotch Schnapps, Godiva chocolate and Marshmallow Fluff, it will keep you warm and toasty. The recipe is here.
 
Photo of Mint and Chip Martini courtesy of the Fontainebleau Hotel
 
This little glass of heaven known as the Mint and Chip is from the Bleau Bar at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. Made from rum, white créme de cacao, green créme de mint, and half-n-half, this is clearly a special occasion cocktail. The recipe is here.

Max's Hot Apple Pie courtesy of The Fairmont San Francisco
 
Bartender at The Fairmont, San Francisco, Max Scherff  created the eponymous, Max's Hot Apple Pie, with Stoli Vanilla vodka, Butterscotch Schnapps, hot apple cider and whipped cream. It tastes just like being home for the holidays. The recipe is here.
 
Cheers to the Holiday Season!!!
 
A special thank you to Delish for providing the recipes above.

November 28, 2012

Wednesday Wanderlust ~ Prague Christmas Markets


In Prague, Old Town and Wenceslas Squares are transformed into festive outdoor markets where you can buy handmade gifts and sample traditional Czech holiday delicacies, such as the trdelnik roll, a sweet pastry smothered in cinnamon and sugar.
 
Have you ever been to a European Christmas market?

November 26, 2012

The "You May Be Wandering" Gift Guide

Happy Cyber Monday!! It's the time of year when we all start going crazy trying to come up with  unique and special  holiday gifts. Here are some great travel related items for the globetrotters on your list:


For your adventurous son: The  Go Pro Hero 3  is a hands free waterproof HD video and still camera - perfect for the skier, sailor or surfer. Starting at $199.99.

For your daughter who is getting ready to spend a semester abroad:  Tieks are the new "it" shoe for girls on the go. These adorable ballet flats will fit in her bag and are extraordinarily comfortable. Starting at $165.



For your spouse who seems to spend more time in airports than at home: An annual membership to Priority Pass provides access to over 600 VIP airport lounges around the world.  Annual plans beginning at $99.


For your sister who just returned from a European vacation: A gift certificate to Blurb will let her create her own bookstore quality hardcover book to showcase all of the amazing pictures she took while traveling.

For your niece, the aspiring writer: A monogrammed travel journal by Graphic Image is perfect for her to record the details of her journeys.  $55 plus personalization.


For your nephew who is just discovering his inner wanderlust: He can track his travels with the Scratch Off World Map. $24

For anyone who already has EVERYTHING: A gift certificate to Sidetour or Vayable will offer an opportunity for a unique experience - they won't want to return this one!
Good luck with all your shopping - I hope this list helps a little bit!!

November 21, 2012

Wednesday Wanderlust - There is No Place Like Home!

 
As much as I love traveling, there are certain times when there truly is no place like home.
 
 
I am more than happy to leave the holiday travel rush behind and enjoy Thanksgiving at home with a few of my favorite people in the world! There's always next week for traveling!!

I am taking the rest of the week off to enjoy time with my children who are home and my mother who is visiting from Florida. I will be back Monday with a gift guide for the wanderers in your life!
 
Happy Thanksgiving!!!
 
 

November 20, 2012

Thirsty Thursday on Tuesday ~ Celebrate Thanksgiving in New England

 Since this Thursday is Thanksgiving, I decided to switch my Thirsty Thursday to Tuesday this week, and I thought it would be fun to celebrate with two classic cocktails from New England and another that just sounded good for the holidays:
 
The Cape Codder

Named for Cape Cod, Massachusetts not far from Plymouth where the first Thanksgiving was thought to be celebrated and made with cranberry juice. Cranberries were one of the crops that the Native Americans showed the Pilgrims how to grow.


(from Southern Living)
 
One 48-oz. bottle cranberry juice cocktail


 

1 1/2 cups vodka
 

1/3 cup sweetened lime juice
 
1 (1-liter) bottle ginger ale, chilled

Garnish: fresh cranberries and lime wedges on swizzle sticks
 
Stir together first 3 ingredients. Stir in ginger ale just before serving. Serve over ice. Garnish, if desired.
 
 
The Pilgrim Cocktail
 
Many people do not realize that the the early colonists of Massachusetts and Rhode Island distilled quite a lot of rum with molasses transported from the islands on slave ships. Also called "Oh Be Joyful" and "Kill Devil", rum was the basis for much of the early slave trade centered in New England, and some even believe that the tax on molasses, rather than tea, is what really sparked the American Revolution.
 
 
 
 
(from CocktailDB)
 
1 1/2 oz dark rum
 
1/2 oz lime juice
 
1/2 oz grenadine or Cointreau
 
Shake over ice in a cocktail shaker & strain into a cocktail glass


No particulary ties to New England, this just looks good and Thanksgiving-y!

 

Hot Bourbon Apple Cider

Yields 2 small cocktails
3/4 cup (180 ml) spiced apple cider

1/4 cup (60 ml) bourbon

Splash of fresh orange juice

Cinnamon stick & apple slices, for garnish

Heat apple cider to boiling in a small saucepan on the stove. Remove from heat and divide evenly between glasses. Add half the bourbon to each glass and a splash of fresh orange juice. Add a cinnamon stick to each glass and apple slices for garnish. Serve hot.

Do you have any particular drink that is a Thanksgiving tradition? Also, feel free to share any cocktail, spirit, wine or beer that reminds you of a particular place to be featured in future "Thirsty Thursdays"!
 

CHEERS!

 

November 19, 2012

Stress Free Travel During the Holidays

Photo from etsy.com
Will you be joining the 24 million other Americans flying this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend?
 
Navigating airports, security lines and flying can be stressful any time, but dealing with all that on the busiest weekend of the year can turn into a nightmare very easily.  Here are a few survival tactics to alleviate as much stress as possible:
 

Photo via Guardian
 
Plan ahead:
  • Consider booking your flights in and out of smaller airports. The security lines will be shorter and air traffic control queues will be less of a problem.
  • Book your flight first thing in the morning. Air traffic won't have had a chance to back up and flights are more likely to be delayed later in the day.
  • Try to book direct flights even if it costs a little more.
  •  
  • Do not check your bags if there is any way at all you can avoid it. Send gifts ahead. Ship your bags via a company such as Luggage Free.
  •  
  • If you are driving to the airport, keep in mind parking lots may be full. Check out your parking options before you drive to the airport.
  •  
  • Consider paying a little more for faster access through security. Many airlines offer priority lines if you pay an additional fee. If you are ever going to pay extra for this type of service, the holidays would be the time to do it.
  •  
  • Check the weather in both your departure and arrival locations. If the weather is questionable be prepared to make alternative arrangements. The airline may let you change your flights for free before you leave home if there is impending bad weather.
  •  
  • Bookmark airlinenumbers.com on your phone or laptop so you will have the information handy if you need it.
  •  
  • Install an app such as FlightAware on your phone or request text updates on your specific flight to stay on top of any gate changes or delays.
Day of Travel:
  • Get to the airport VERY early. It's taken me my whole life to learn this lesson and, once I did, it was a game changer. Nobody likes to spend their day at an airport but it's even worse to be standing in a security line watching the minutes tick by just knowing you are going to miss your plane. Arrive several hours early - if you breeze through security, consider yourself lucky and go grab something to eat, sit down and read a book or magazine.
  •  
  • Print your Boarding Passes at home (ideally 24 hours before you are traveling). I am always amazed that people don't do this - it's so simple to print your boarding pass ahead of time and eliminates one entire line at the airport.
  •  
  • Dress and pack your carry-on bags with airport security mind. Be ready with your plastic bags and containers under 3 ounces.  Wear shoes that are easy to take on and off. Don't wear a lot of jewelry and accessories that may need to be removed when going through the scanners.
  •  
  • Pack snacks for the airport and plane (just no liquids). Airlines rarely serve food any more and even if they do, if you are in a long delay situation, that bag of chips will not last you all day. Protein bars, apples and nuts are all things that are easy to toss in your carry-on just in case.
  •  
  • If your flight is canceled or it looks like you may miss a connection, call the airline from your cell phone rather than waiting in line at the customer service center (or call while waiting in line and deal with whoever you reach first).
  •  
  • Patience, Patience, Patience - A good attitude even in the craziest situation will help reduce your stress level considerably.
That's a lot of information - I hope it helps! Do you have any other strategies for reducing stress while flying during busy times?? If so, I would love to hear them. I won't be traveling this Thanksgiving or Christmas - MY number one strategy for travel over the holidays is to invite everyone to my house!!

November 16, 2012

On My Radar Screen

Happy Friday!!! This has been a long and busy week and I am ready for the weekend! I have been struggling to catch up on everything since we returned home after the storm. On Wednesday, I took a very fun and much needed "girls' day out" into New York - nothing like some retail therapy, lunch at BG at Bergdorf's and a visit to The Holiday House showhouse to celebrate the start of the holiday season!
 
Here are some links to some fun travel videos, stories and sites on my radar screen this week:


 
 
Photo via NY Times
 
 
Go behind the scenes on the new Boeing 747-800.
 
Atlas Obscura is a site that is a "Compendium of the World's Wonders, Curiosities and Esoterica" - with a description like that, how could you NOT visit this site??
 
Have a wonderful weekend!!

November 15, 2012

Thirsty Thursday - Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé

I am thinking of beginning a new regular post called "Thirsty Thursday" where I feature a wine, beer or cocktail from a different location around the world each week. 
 
Do you know what the third Thursday of November represents? If you said Thanksgiving you are incorrect - that's the last Thursday of November! Today is "Beaujolais Novueau Day"

Photo via Reuters
The 2012 Beaujolais' were released at 12:01 am this morning, as it is every third Thursday in November. At one minute past midnight, the race is on to be the first to serve and consume the new batch of the Nouveau.
 

Beaujolais Nouveau is a young red wine made from Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region of France. It is bottled only 6-8 weeks after the harvesting of the grapes, hence the "nouveau" in the name.  Interestingly, approximately 20% of the harvest will be shipped to Japan where the wine is very popular. The second biggest consumer of the wine is the United States.  
 
Festivals celebrating the release take place throughout France with the largest taking place in Beaujeu, the capital of the Beaujolais region. Beaujeu hosts a multiday celebration called Sarmentelles, named for the French word for the cuttings from the canes of grapevines, which are burned in the town's center just prior to the midnight unveiling. The huge barrels of wine are opened to much fanfare and the townspeople indulge in the first tastings of the new wine. In Lyon, they hold the 'Beaujolympics' marking the release of the wine with music and fireworks followed by several days of sampling. In Paris, restaurants and bistros stay open through the night and uncork hundreds of bottles after midnight. Many US restaurants are also offering special dinners tonight featuring the newly released wines.
 
 
 
Have you ever participated in a Beaujolais Nouveau celebration?? If so, I would love to hear about it! Also, if you have any suggestions for future "Thirsty Thursday" topics, leave me a comment!!

November 14, 2012

Wednesday Wanderlust - Positano, Italy

Where would you like to be wandering today? 
 
Photo via CN Traveler
 
This terrace at La Sirenuse in Positano, Italy looks pretty inviting to me right now!

November 13, 2012

Acqua Alta in Venice

 
Photo via The Atlantic
Have you seen these photos from Venice over the weekend?? Acqua Alta means "high water" and it is not uncommon for Venice to flood this time of year - the recent flooding has been higher than usual but still not as high as the record flooding of four years ago when the water reached over five feet. There are platforms all over the city that look like banquet tables - they are actually used to create elevated sidewalks when Acqua Alta occurs.
 
Photos via The Atlantic
 
Have you ever been to Venice during Acqua Alta? If so, I would love to hear about it.  I don't think I would enjoy it very much having to wade around in flood waters.
 
 
When we were in Venice a few years ago we arrived during a snowstorm - it was surreal to enter Venice via water taxi with the snow falling!

Using Miles, Points or Cash - My Article in Destinations Travel Magazine

Photo via Destinations Travel Magazine
 
I am very excited to have my article on Using Miles, Points or Cash published in this month's Destinations Travel Magazine!
 
It's a pretty long article so I am not going to reprint it here, but if you are interested in how best to use your airline frequent flier miles and hotel or credit card points, it's worth a read. 

November 12, 2012

Escape to Chicago!!

We all know the phrase "When life hands you lemons...." Well, last week when faced with a full week without electricity and water, my husband and I decided to try to turn "Super Storm Sandy" into an opportunity. Most people affected by the storm did not have the luxury of doing what we did - as much as I bemoan my recent empty nest, it also can be much easier in a crisis to only have to worry about the two of us.
 
 
There were basically no hotel rooms available within a 100 mile radius of here. Armed with only my iPhone's 3G service, I searched over and over again using the apps Room 77 and Orbitz and we called every hotel chain we could think of - when one or two rooms finally did become available the hotels were price gouging like crazy.  We spent one night at a Hampton Inn one town away and they charged three times their normal rate! Our house was safe and secure so there was no reason NOT to head out of town. 
 
 
 We had been planning a trip to Chicago for later in the month, so we decided that as long as we were paying for a hotel room during the power outage anyway, why not change our plans and go early.  I felt like it was meant to be when I discovered Jetsetter.com had an amazing deal at our favorite hotel, the Park Hyatt, for less than the price of the Hampton Inn near our home.  After an hour on the phone with a VERY helpful American Airlines agent we were able to use frequent flier miles to book a flight out of White Plains, New York for last Sunday.  When we arrived the morning for our flight, the airport didn't even have power - they were operating with an emergency generator, but on limited power.  
 
When our plane landed in Chicago, we felt like we were in a different country - after the long gas lines, darkened homes and numerous downed trees, Chicago felt like paradise. Every single person we encountered, from the taxi drivers to the waiters to the housekeepers at the hotel, was genuinely friendly and kind. We left every restaurant on a first name basis and having shaken hands with our waiter or waitress.  I fell in love with Chicago and Midwestern hospitality!
 
Our plan was to spend three nights so we would be able to watch Election Night coverage on TV, knowing that even if we had power at home, it was unlikely we would have cable.  The snow storm forced us to stay an extra night after our flight home was cancelled. As we no longer had the great Jetsetter deal available at the Park Hyatt, we moved over to the Fairmont Hotel instead - the very same Fairmont Hotel where President Obama had watched the election results the night before. We even saw the Secret Service dismantling a telephone bank in the room adjacent to ours - pretty cool!!
 
I feel guilty talking about our trip while so many people were suffering with flooding, property damaged by downed trees, lack of electricity and heat, but we did have a very enjoyable time. I am going to write a separate post on Chicago later in the week with reviews of the hotels, some great restaurant picks and some of our favorite things to do. 
 
 
 

November 9, 2012

Have a Great Weekend!!

 
 
We finally arrived home late last night, to a nice warm house with running water, but no internet, phones or cable. Just when I thought I would have to go to the library to access the internet (other than on my iPhone), like magic it came back on this afternoon after 11 days!! Since my refrigerator and freezer are bare, a trip to the grocery store must take precedence over a blog post for today. I will be back on Monday with tales of our travels to flee the "Hurricane Sandy" power outage and lots of other interesting new travel stories. 

Have a wonderful weekend everyone - it is supposed to hit 60 degrees here in the New York area this weekend!!

November 3, 2012

Surviving Sandy and Helping in the Aftermath

We were the lucky ones. The first two days we were surrounded by downed trees and mangled power lines but fortunately did not sustain any damage to our property. On Wednesday, two Good Samaritans (we don't know who they were) arrived with a chainsaw and removed the tree that blocked one end of our street. Since we have well water after two days with no running water or heat, we decided to hightail it out of Greenwich and head up north to where we could find an available hotel. When we were finally able to watch TV and see the devastation to our neighbors in New York and New Jersey, my heart broke at what I was watching.

I encourage my readers to help in any way they can. You can text "redcross" to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or go to www.redcross.org to donate online.

I pledge to donate $1 to Red Cross relief for every page view I get for this post in the next week and $2 for every comment someone leaves me sharing a story of people coming together to help one another.

Thank you to all the first responders who have put your lives on the line to help others - you truly are the Finest and Bravest. The people in the tri-state area are a resilient group...we will bounce back with time and perseverance.

Most likely I will be continuing my nomadic existence for a few more days as they do not expect to restore power to our area until early next week. In the meantime my posting will be limited.