So You Want to Write a Book? #NaNoWriMo

by Desiree Miller on September 14, 2017

the oak pg 1 and 2

There’s a stat floating around out there that 81% of Americans think they have a book in them. That’s about 200 million people…thinking about it…knowing they have a story (or two) to share. I don’t doubt it. That they have great stories. We all do, I’m sure of it. But how many will actually sit down and pound it out?

I did it a few years ago. I didn’t publish it at the time. It’s loosely based on my own life and there are some people who aren’t going to like the way they’re portrayed (hey, if you write the book, you can make the mean kid in junior high school ugly and in jail now if you want to). But I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t know if I care anymore what those people who treated me poorly think about my book. They can go write their own and spin their own version of reality.

I also didn’t like my ending. I was going through a lot of stuff a couple years back and really wanted a different ending to the book. I thought waiting a couple years would lead to better results in real life, and, since this book is loosely based on my life (something a writer pal calls ‘faction’), I was kinda’ hoping real life would work out differently, too.

It hasn’t.

So, the happy ending will have to come in part two.  My next book.

But I digress. The point is we can all write a book. Seriously. I’m not saying they’ll all be good, but I think it’s therapeutic to get it out of your head and onto paper…or computer space…or wherever it is you store your brain child.

If you have any desire whatsoever to write, check out NaNoWriMo. It’s something I stumbled across several years ago and was enough to get my first book out of me. It stands for National Novel Writers Month. People around the world sign up to write a book–all in one month. You start November 1st. You must be done by November 30th. You can’t cheat and start early. The challenge is part of the fun. A book in NaNoWriMo world is a minimum of 50,000 words. I think that averages out to about 1666 words a day. That number sounds evil, so let’s round it up to 1667. Or, you can do it like I did, and write double that for the first couple days…then quit for several weeks, and panic with less than a week left and write like a maniac until you meet your quota. I only wrote for about eight days. The book poured out of me.

I have yet to go back and edit mine. I’m thinking it’s time.

And if you’re thinking it’s time to get your book out of your brain, check out NaNoWriMo.org. It’s a great community of writers who will help inspire you, motivate you, and keep you going.

If you don’t finish, you haven’t lost anything. If you do, they call you a NaNoWriMo winner and who knows what could become of the book, should you decide the world should read it.

Good luck!

NaNoWriMo Badge

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LUZIA_PH2_600x600

If you’ve never been to a Cirque du Soleil performance, you’re missing out, but you can fix that with the upcoming Atlanta shows of LUZIA at Atlantic Station, and we have a ticket giveaway for you.

LUZIA is the newest Big Top show from Cirque, set to open September 14th and run through November 19th. The visually-stunning production LUZIA transports you to a waking dream of the wonder of Mexico.

Tickets start at about $35.  There’s a special 20% offer running now, too, on select show dates and times while supplies last (and the offer cannot be combined with other offers or applied to previously purchased tickets). Here’s the link for tickets.

rain on stage

This new show will be a jaw-dropper, with falling water incorporated inside the big top stage, larger than life props and more of the ‘how do they do that?!’ athleticism incorporated into every Cirque performance. The props and costumes add to the awe. Want to know more? Just watch this quick trailer of the action:

I have two sets of two tickets each to give away for the October 5th performance.

If you can go that night and want to enter, leave me a comment below and let me know who you’d take along for your fun. Then share the post on Facebook and tag that person. Enter by midnight EST on September 12th. I’ll pick one winner at random on September 13th.

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Cirque by the numbers
(in case you’ve never been—this shows just how massive this production is, though you really do need to see it to believe it):

The Big Top seats more than 2,600 people.

The entire site set-up takes 8 days. This includes installation of the Big Top, the entrance tent, the VIP tent and the rehearsal spaces.

The Big Top stands at 19 meters (62 feet) high and is 51 meters (167 feet) in diameter. The 4 steel masts stand at 25 meters (82 feet) tall each.
550 pegs are required to hold the big top rmly to 48,500 square feet of asphalt.
The Big Top can withstand winds up to 120 km/h (75 mph).

The light-coloured canvas helps counter the effects of the sun, thereby reducing energy consumption and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

LUZIA travels via 65 trailer trucks carrying close to 2,000 tons of equipment.

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Your Solution for Smelly Problems: Goodwipes (a Review)

by Desiree Miller on August 27, 2017

Goodwipes in wallet

I went for a brisk walk last week with a friend. Down here in the ‘deep south’ we call Atlanta, it was HOT (understatement). I’d like to say the sweat made me glow, but instead it made me smell. Bad. Just keeping it real, kids.
I still didn’t have a shower curtain up at my new place (I’d only been here 2 days, so don’t give me grief…there are a lot of boxes piled up and the priority was getting the door frame off the wall to fit my luxurious new tub into the bathroom. The house is still a work in progress, so to speak. The plumber came the next morning to hook up the faucet and water, and I have to say it’s dreamy, so I’m not so worried about the shower curtain at the moment.

tub

But the tub issue didn’t help me the night of my walk. My smelly self had to improvise, so I ended up wiping down with a paper towel.
Yeah, not so luxurious.
But now, I have Goodwipes, AKA ‘magical little baths-on-the-go’ that I just recently discovered.
And you can bet I won’t be caught without them again.

shower in a wipe

goodwipes

Between the daily running around with the kids (and you know how they can smell!), and my non-stop style of traveling, maintaining a fresh, clean feeling can be a challenge. Not so much now. These Goodwipes even come in single packages so that I can tuck them away in random places where I’ll know they’ll be needed, like my wallet, my glove box, my airline approved clear plastic bag that I keep packed at all times for last minute flights.
The wipes make it easy to freshen up in all those spots that scream smelly, including ‘down there’. You know what they mean.

stash&dash

I just found out about this brand and I have to say I like what I see.
Their mantra is “doing more, feeling good and living clean”. I sign up for all of that.
The company even took a bus around the country over the summer spreading the word, along with handing out the wipes to people who could use a quick freshening. They even made a stop at Hartsfield Jackson here in Atlanta. They called their trip #WipesonWheels and it included stops at many of the WalMart stores where you can find the wipes. Here’s a list of where they’re available: https://goodwipes.com/pages/stores (there’s even a coupon there currently that you can use!)
The wipes are like skinny, little washcloths, and they’re infused with tea tree oil. There’s aloe, peppermint and ginseng in there, too. There are different scents, like lavender and shea-coco.
They’ll take care of your sweat, oil and smell. Oh, and they’re completely biodegradable.
There’s no alcohol, so they shouldn’t dry out or irritate your skin, especially in sensitive spots.
I’m not saying you should use them to replace a shower. Nope. But these will hold you over until you can do that (or until you get that shower curtain up, like a certain other person you know).

train trip

I have a 36 -hour train trip planned in a couple weeks.  It’s the ultimate adventure in planes, trains, and automobiles. You can bet I’ll load up with these for that journey. And I’ll be bringing them along on my next long flight to Barcelona set for a few months from now.
Who am I kidding? I’ll have them with me pretty much everywhere I go. I want people to remember me smelling good, with Goodwipes.

(Note to readers: Many thanks to The Women Bloggers for telling me about Goodwipes and asking me to put them to the test. I was compensated for my work, but as always, my opinion remains my own.) 

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jax beach surf lessons

When you think of Jacksonville, Florida, what first comes to mind? Maybe the Jaguars NFL team, the Florida-Georgia college football game played there each year, or is it the beach that kicks off the rest of the coastline of the Sunshine State?

For me, it will now eternally conjure up memories of surfing lessons with my daughter, a funky, renovated motor coach inn, and bike rides on the beach.

While on a recent ‘lobsters and lighthouses’ road trip down the coast with my daughter, my friend, and her daughters, we made the Jacksonville area our first overnight stop.

Amelia Island Lighthouse

We popped in at the Amelia Island lighthouse, but our timing was off to see much of it. It turns out that the oldest existing lighthouse in Florida is tucked away in a little corner of a neighborhood of Amelia Island, and is only open to the public for a few hours each Saturday, or as part of a tour every other Wednesday. The 68 foot light was built in 1838 and is the only light from the Territorial Period that has survived without major rebuilding. Yes, that means the light was shining before Florida was even a state! We could only see it through a chain-link fence, so we didn’t get a great view, though we did see it better as we left the neighborhood for the nearby beach.

About an hour later, we made our way down to Atlantic Beach and our home for the night, the Hotel Palms (video above). From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but once you step foot inside its swinging gate, you’re met with a modern, beachside motor court hotel. It’s about three blocks from the ocean and within walking distance to the shops and restaurants of Beaches Town Center, a beachside community in the heart of Atlantic and Neptune Beach.

hotel palms room chimney

The boutique hotel has been renovated with care, using reclaimed wood headboards, palm trees, concrete floors, and uncluttered design touches that you’ll want to duplicate in your own home. There were five of us and we were hosted in two rooms…one with two queen beds and another with a set of bunk beds. Each room had its own bathroom. There’s a fireplace outside for everyone to gather around and a couple of beach cruiser bicycles you can borrow for a trip down to the shore. That little touch made all the difference for us in our stay, and we used the bikes both at night and the next morning, to catch the sunrise.

hotel palms room

hotel palms bunks

hotel palms other part of room

fire pit

bike ride on beach

After watching the sun rise we geared up for our swim lessons over at Jax Surf and Paddle, just a couple blocks from Hotel Palms. We had no idea how much fun we’d have when we pulled up for class.

lessons on shore

When we first met Walker and Amelia, our surf instructors, it was hard not to be intimidated. Both 20-something and super fit, I wondered whether I needed to be in their shape to learn to surf. They reassured me that I’d be fine, and they were right.

We were each given boards, shown how to pop them up on and balance them on our heads, and then headed down to the sand.

Amelia guided us through all the how-to’s, had us give it a try on the sand, and then sent us out into the water.

About an hour after we started lessons, I was on my board with Walker at my back, demanding, “Paddle, paddle, paddle!! And go…”

I caught my wave just as my daughter caught hers, and as we both stood on our boards, our eyes met in sheer glee, laughing at the fact that we were surfing together. My 12-year old and I were riding a wave into shore. Then, mom-mode took over and I realized I didn’t have the first clue on how to control my board to keep from colliding into hers, so I threw myself down into the water, board attached at the ankle. But there was no wiping that grin off my face after that quick thrill.

We rode wave after wave after wave that day, in the surf of the Atlantic Ocean (this region is ideal for gentle waves, making it perfect for beginners). We enjoyed it so much that we even bought our own board to come back and surf again some day (video below of our day on the water)!

des surfboard on head

We checked out of Hotel Palms and headed down to St. Augustine after that. We climbed the lighthouse there and were rewarded with stunning views of the nation’s oldest city. Bonus: there’s a nice, cool breeze at the top. This light was built in 1874 and is 164 feet tall. That translates to 219 steps, in case you’re counting.

St. Augustine lighthouse

We continued with our road trip down the coast after this, but will forever remember our trip to Visit Jacksonville as one that filled our hearts with memories that we know will last a lifetime, though we’re eager to go back and make more.

lobsters lighthouse sand toes

(Note to readers: The Visit Jacksonville CVB arranged our visit, including hotel stay and surfing lessons. I was not otherwise compensated for this review, and as always, my opinion remains my own.)

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Margaritaville Resort

Just as a margarita is the perfect mixture of salt and sweet, the Margaritaville resort in Hollywood Beach is the ideal combination of classy and casual…comfy and chic. To be perfectly honest, if there was ever a hotel I’d like to make into my own home, this would be it.

single king margaritaville

double bed margaritaville

Maragaritaville pays tribute to singer, songwriter and author Jimmy Buffet, but you don’t have to be a Parrothead like me to appreciate its beauty. There are touches of Buffett throughout, and it’s really tough to walk anywhere in the resort without starting to sing one of his tunes. The lyrics are subliminal in some ways, and boldly in your face in others, and it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling other than totally laid back, just as Buffett would be. But even if you’ve never heard a note of his music (impossible, I believe), you’d still enjoy what the resort offers—a comfortable place to play, eat, and stay right on Hollywood Beach’s famed ‘Broadwalk’—or boardwalk—that buffers the beach.

margaritaville pool

While on a recent ‘lobsters and lighthouses’ trip down the coast with my daughter, my friend, and her daughters, we spent the night at this resort and really didn’t want to leave. It would have been fine with us if we’d spent the entire week right here, dining on ‘cheeseburgers in paradise’ at his Margaritaville restaurant (though I would love to try the JWB Prime Steak and Seafood on my next trip).

Margaritaville Resort pool

Our room overlooked the pools below, along with the Landshark Bar and Grill, and the Hollywood bandshell, where we heard live music playing while kicking back on our private balcony.

You can see a video of our stay here, along with the details below.

We stayed in a two bedroom/2 bathroom suite that I truly would duplicate in a home design of my own. We had a living room area, dining area, mini-frig and bar. The balcony was massive—meaning it stretched almost the entire length of the suite. The décor was a beach lover’s dream, complete with pillows that pay tribute to Buffett’s ‘Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes’ hit.

margaritaville resort lobby

And the lobby. Oh, that lobby. I’m typically one to get in and out of a hotel lobby as quickly as possible, but the Margaritaville Resort lobby is the kind of place where you could kick back and talk with friends for hours. It’s like a fun living room, with chandeliers of margarita glasses and a massive statue of a ‘busted out flip flop’. Buffett fans will understand its significance, but others can read the sign next to it if they need an explanation.

bike riding hollywood beach

The Margaritaville coffee shop and gift shops downstairs were perfect for grabbing a bite to eat and a small souvenir, but we spent most of our time at the pool and slide, and using the free bicycle loan program to ride up and down the broadwalk (they don’t have smaller bikes, for little ones, but you can rent one at a nearby bike shop).

There’s also a FlowRider surfing simulator on property that you can pay extra to try if you’re up to the challenge. Or, you can rent a kayak or paddleboard and then kick back in the St. Somewhere Spa on property.

Kids can take part in the Parakeets kids club, which has activities throughout the day, or just jump in with the pool side fun that the resort organizes.

Rates range depending on which room you select (there are some with ocean views and balconies, and some with intracoastal views), how many beds and how many rooms you prefer, along with the time of year. You can look for dates and rates by clicking here—and know there’s a current special for 1 night free if you pay for three. I’m all for more time at Margaritaville!

The sunrise was beautiful…and the sky around sunset…stunning.

sunrise margaritaville

sunset margaritaville

(Note to readers: We paid a media rate for our room and were provided with a free meal at the Margaritaville restaurant. We were not otherwise compensated for this review. #DestinationParadise)

We took the entire trip in a 2017 Toyota Sienna. If you want to read more about that, click here.

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2017 Toyota Sienna Review and Road Trip: VIDEO

August 10, 2017

In some cars, you just want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, but when you’re in a Toyota Sienna, especially as one of the passengers in the back, it’s all about kicking back and enjoying the ride. These minivans are set up with the equivalent of your daddy’s recliner in the middle row, complete with footrest when you’re truly looking to relax. To me, this turns the Sienna into one deluxe way of soaking up the sites from the road, so the question really […]

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Six Flags over Georgia Celebrates 50th Anniversary and Fun, New Ride

June 22, 2017

After five decades in Atlanta, Six Flags over Georgia continues to add new rides and fun to the amusement park that draws thousands to the area—and a combined 300 million dollars to the local economy in the last year alone. The 4D Interactive Action Ride JUSTICE LEAGUE: Battle for Metropolis opened at Six Flags Over Georgia at the end of May. The ride features interactive laser fun that creates competition among the entire family. There’s nothing that loops (ok—there’s a virtual loop, but that’s so not the same thing) or flips, […]

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Nova Scotia: What to See and Do Near Halifax

June 22, 2017

From breathtaking views of sunrise and the chilly splash of water on the rocks of the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove, to the tombstones of those lost at sea when the Titanic went down, Nova Scotia offers sites you’ll long remember after a brief visit to the region. Halifax is the capital of this Canadian province and where you’ll find several museums and memorable landmarks. A trip through the town still shows remnants of the Halifax Explosion in 1917, one of the greatest disasters in Canadian history, when a cargo ship […]

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Strawberry Laser Liposuction: Does It Work?

June 2, 2017

When I mentioned to others that I was trying Strawberry Laser Liposuction, they immediately asked if it really worked. Well, take a look at the photo above and tell me what you think. I tried four treatments around my mid-section and lost more than two inches each time. However, it didn’t add up to eight inches total because sometimes, between treatments, some of it showed up again around my waist. That’s important to note, since my findings show the treatment only works if you’re willing to do the work to […]

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To Kayla: An Open Letter of Love as You Graduate

May 23, 2017

Dear Kayla-bear, In just a matter of days, you’ll be walking across the stage, collecting your high school diploma, the start of a new chapter in life. And as you hurl your way into the future, I can’t help but look back. You were just a little thing when we met. The quiet, sweet child who wrapped her tiny arms tight around my leg, reminding me immediately of a baby koala bear, and quickly earning you my special nickname of Kayla-bear, which still sticks. I remember, as if it happened […]

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