Atlanta International Auto Show Has a Car for Everyone

by Desiree Miller on March 24, 2017

The Mercedes Maybach at the Atlanta International Auto Show.

The Mercedes Maybach at the Atlanta International Auto Show.

If you want to check out the newest models of cars—in many cases, not even on the market yet–you’re going to want to head down to the Georgia World Congress Center between now and Sunday for the Atlanta International Auto Show.

You can sit in most of them, and see for yourself how technology is making time in your car a whole lot more comfortable, whether it’s a camera INSIDE the car so that you can see what’s happening in the back seat, or high-tech additions that will let the car drive itself.

You can get an up-close look at the rare, luxurious Mercedes Maybach model that will run you about 300-grand (but place your order fast—there are only 300 in existence—and only 75 in the US).

Or, you can check out a concept car or two—something you might see on the roads a few years from now.

The Atlanta International Auto Show is underway at the Georgia World Congress Center through March 26th.

You can see a bit of the vehicles on display in the video below, but you’re going to want to see them for yourself.

These are the brands you’ll see at the event:

ACURA, ALFA ROMEO, AUDI, BUICK, CADILLAC, CHEVROLET, CHRYSLER, DODGE, FIAT, FORD, GENESIS, GMC, HONDA, HYUNDAI, INFINITI, JEEP, KIA, LEXUS, LINCOLN, MAZDA, MERCEDES-BENZ, MINI, MITSUBISHI, NISSAN, RAM, SUBARU, TOYOTA, and VOLKSWAGEN.

These are the lines showcasing new models:

2018 Chevrolet Equinox, 2018 Chevrolet Traverse, 2018 Ford EcoSport, 2018 Ford ExpediQon, 2018 Ford, Ingot Silver F-150, 2018 Ford Mustang, 2018 GMC MY Terrain, 2018 Honda Odyssey, 2018 Kia Red SQnger, Kia Niro Triathlon Concept, Kia Sorento Ski Gondola Concept, 2018 Lexus LC 500h, 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe, 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Wagon 4MATIC, 2018 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S-Class Cabriolet, 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA45, 2018 Toyota C-HR, 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

 

Here’s the other info you’ll need if you want to go:

Hours:

Wednesday, March 22, Thursday, March 23

12:00 noon – 9:00 p.m. 12:00 noon – 9:00 p.m.

Friday, March 24, Saturday, March 25

12:00 noon – 10:00 p.m. 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Sunday, March 26 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

BOX OFFICE CLOSES ONE HOUR PRIOR TO SHOW CLOSING DAILY.

 

TICKET PRICES: $12.00 ADULTS
$6.00 CHILDREN 6-12

FREE – CHILDREN UNDER 6

 

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Happily Ever After Disney Fireworks

If there’s one thing you can count on at Disney, it’s that things are always changing, improving in most cases, with the end goal to hold on to the magic that we all love, while incorporating exciting updates into everything from the parks to the cruise line to the movies we see in theaters.

Here’s a roundup of what you can expect in the coming months:

DISNEY PARKS:

Animal Kingdom launched its new Rivers of Light show in mid-February. This dazzling display on the water rivals what many love at World of Color at Disney’s California park. Here’s some video of the show that will have guests pouring into Animal Kingdom at night. And here’s a fun fact: several of the scenes reflected in the lights display are from the Disney Nature shows that come out each Earth Day (speaking of which, you won’t want to miss Born in China—the next release—which features video in places that sometimes took several days to get to—they were that remote!).


The Avatar exhibit opens on May 27th. This is going to be a thrill for fans of the movie and another big draw to the park that used to be considered more a zoo than an amusement park. Avatar will change that!

 

At the Magic Kingdom there’s a new fireworks show set to launch. The Vice President of the Magic Kingdom explains more about Happily Ever After in this video:

 

DISNEY SPRINGS:

The renovation is pretty much complete, with Disney Springs now featuring a dining, shopping, and entertainment district.

It includes World of Disney –the largest Disney merchandise store in the world, along with Planet Hollywood Observatory and Guy Fieri’s new restaurant.

DISNEY MOVIES:

You all already know Beauty and the Beast is launching this month, but there are many more Disney movies being released this year—and they’re good ones!

May 5:

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (and by the way, there’s going to be a Guardians of the Galaxy ride called Mission Breakout at Disney’s California Adventure!)

May 26:

Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales

June 16:

Cars 3 (and here’s another park update: There is a Cruze Ramirez topiary at the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot.) Also–be sure to pay attention to the short at the beginning of Cars 3. It’s about LOU, which you can read more about here.

November 3:

Thor Ragnaraok

November 22:

CoCo (a bright, colorful, vibrant, beautiful story you’ll be hearing a lot more about)

December 15:

Star Wars The Last Jedi (was called Episode 8)

 

CRUISE SHIP UPDATE:

A new Beauty and the Beast show is being launched this November on the Disney Dream cruise ship. It’s a Broadway quality show with new music, humor and heart.

And there’s much more, but these are the highlights.  What are you looking forward to most?  Personally, I can’t wait to walk through the land of Avatar!

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Emma Watson as Belle in Beauty and the Beast

Disney has managed to make ‘a tale as old as time’ brand new again with its latest production of “Beauty and the Beast”, and those who were afraid to watch because they couldn’t picture Emma Watson as anything other than Hermione from Harry Potter–they can relax, because she captures Belle, well, beautifully.

The new movie (set to hit theaters March 17th), is as enchanting as Disney’s other hits from recent years, Cinderella and Maleficent.

Belle is still bright, beautiful and brave, true to the original versions, but there’s more humor in this new release.

Dan Stevens as Beast from Beauty and the Beast

The Beast (Dan Stevens) is still beastly, but not too scary (according to the sweet four year old girl who watched beside me). There are plenty of action scenes to keep the fighting fans pleased, and music galore to thrill the purists. I wanted to get up and dance in my seat to the movie’s version of “Gaston” (sorry—it’s my favorite), but you’re really going to be delighted by the incredibly colorful “Be Our Guest” performance.

I have to admit I didn’t love the scene near the beginning that felt more like a throwback to the Sound of Music than Beauty and the Beast, but I did appreciate that Emma Watson can sing. She sings really well.

I have to say that Ewan McGregor steals the show as candlestick Lumiere. The way Disney has brought the inanimate objects to life is purely magical, with Lumiere in particular.

The scenery is stunning, as are the costumes.

Luke Evans adds great humor to the character of Gaston (and pardon me for being one of the silly girls who falls for him, but he makes Gaston hot—at least in the beginning!).

I struggled a little with Kevin Kline as Belle’s father Maurice. I recognized him from too many other roles to be able to get lost in his acting in this one, and as good as Josh Gad is as Le Fou, there are a few times I definitely heard Olaf (of Frozen) speaking a line or two. Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) and Chip are hard not to love.

There are those who say they’ll boycott the movie because of the quick acknowledgment of a character who happens to be gay, but I believe those folks are missing out on a real treat—the flirting is no different than the Le Fou of the past, and the dance scene creating a stir lasts all of 2 seconds.

The message of the movie remains the same—true beauty is found within—and I love the twist on Belle’s independent, innovative ways of the future—along with her sorrowful glimpse into the past.

Overall, I think fans will enjoy the fantastic journey this updated version of the movie will take them on, in all its new technology, and yes, even with the new characters.

I’ll definitely be one of the first ones back in the theaters to see it again with my family.

Here are some clips to hold you over until the movie is released in two weeks.

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Dave Mullins on the making of LOU, a new Disney Pixar Short

by Desiree Miller on February 27, 2017

lou

There’s a new animated short Pixar movie, called LOU, that will play at the beginning of the Cars 3 moving (being released in June), and I personally am just as excited about LOU as I am about Cars 3.

I recently got to hear from Dave Mullins, the man behind the short movie, about what it took to bring the idea to creation.

He explained that John Lasseter, the Executive Producer of all Pixar movies (since Monsters Inc in 2001), requires every Pixar film to have heart and entertainment, right along with a setting and animation. It needs to be funny and unpredictable, exciting and new, and use animation’s full potential (Lasseter, one of the three founders of Pixar, has the artistic formula down to a magical science, right?)

So, when Mullins started pitching to Pixar back in 2005, he had a few ideas. One was about a family of beavers. Another was about a cars cartoon (ha!). Many more ideas followed. And were rejected.

It wasn’t until he started thinking about his own life, his own story, that this particular pitch formed in his mind.

Mullins moved a lot as a child, and told us during our recent meeting, “I was always the new kid, and a lot of times it made me feel invisible.”

That gave him the idea for a character who could hide in plain site.

In his mind, that evolved to a pile of toys.

So, at the end of 2012, he pitched his idea.

He re-thought the core idea…the pile of toys became a literal Lost and fOUnd (get it—that’s where LOU comes from) box and Lasseter’s rule of bringing an inanimate item to life became not just one toy, but the pile, from a lost sweatshirt to an old football, all into one character. They found mood in the objects as they moved the balls (which were eyes), with the different direction of the stitching changing whether he looked sad, mad, or happy.

The story continued to evolve.

He knew he needed conflict, and got it from a main character who played a role in the items that ended up in the lost and found box.

The story was fresh again: a lost and found pile that loves to return toys to those who lost them…and the bully who takes them, JJ (there’s an inside story to the name, which I’ll explain later).

Mullins finally got the green light and started making panels for the script.

While writing, they also started working on the art for character development…

JJ, the bully….needed to be tough, but with an edge of vulnerability. They ended up using a character from the Inside Out movie and being able to plug him in, which helped, since much of the artistic work was ready to go. In fact, they took other characters already drawn for Inside Out and incorporated them, too, which made it possible to have 26 animated children in a short (probably not possible otherwise).

In the short, LOU transfers from the objects to himself.

It all seemed to be coming together, but Mullins quickly discovered the writing portion was far from being done. The studio told him the story he’d developed up to that point wasn’t working, so he had to rewrite, and rewrite some more. He explained the process this way:

Conception, pitching, writing, art, story, sets, story, characters, story, layout, story, animation, story, effects, lighting, sound, music. (See how many times it comes back to the story?)

But in going back, he found more humor and learned a valuable lesson about better ideas always being around the corner.

I don’t want to spoil the short, so I’m not going to tell you how it ends, but trust me, there’s a valuable lesson in it—not just about being bullied, but about bullies, too.

And as Mullins told us, “The kid who felt so invisible not only made a film he was so proud of, but also made a lot of great friends.”

Oh, and he dedicated the movie to his Dad, who he lost to cancer. Meantime, he found out his mom had cancer in 2014, and she is the inspiration for JJ’s name (hers was Joyce Jean).

Watch for it in theaters when Cars 3 comes out…and mark my words, you should also be watching for it in next year’s Oscars.

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Furniture for Great Prices: Underpriced Furniture Review

by Desiree Miller on February 24, 2017

underpriced couch

(Note to readers: I was compensated for my review of the store. As always, my opinion remains my own. #ShopUPF #sponsored) 

If you’ve lived in Atlanta for any stretch of time, odds are you’ve seen the commercials for Underpriced Furniture (“Saves You Money!”).

It’s one of those lines that you can’t get out of your head after hearing it. But to be brutally honest, I always thought that really meant ‘cheap’ (as in not well-made, instead of cheap—as in what a great deal!). So, I hadn’t made my way over to their massive store in Duluth all these years. That all changed when I was invited to be part of a decorating challenge through WSB-TV.


The challenge started with a tour of the store and I have to say, it was enormous. No, bigger than that. Like ENORMOUS! The store square footage is 72-thousand, but by building several layers into each display, they’ve found a way to show off 108-thousand square feet of furniture. That’s a whole lot of sofas, huh?
We meandered through mattresses, bedding sets, dining tables and so much more. And you know what jumped out at me most? Yes, the prices are low, but the furniture is high quality. It wasn’t ‘cheap’ like I thought all this time…yes, it is priced under what other stores charge, because of the sheer volume they offer. That allows them to keep overhead low.
In fact, they are so good at it that it’s the third highest volume of any single store operation in the US. Third! In the whole country!

grass wall
And here’s something else I found out while getting a tour of the show room: they deliver the same day. Now, you have to order the furniture by 3pm that day to get it delivered that night, but in Atlanta traffic, that’s impressive, oh, and you have to be within a 25 mile radius of the store, but that covers a whole bunch of us. And yes, there’s a fee. Duh.
After our tour it was time for the decorating challenge. We were each assigned a ‘room’ at random to decorate. We were given a thousand ‘Underpriced’ bucks and 20 minutes to make our room look magnificent. I was lucky enough to be near the Magnolia Home collection (yep, that’s the line created by Joanna Gaines of HGTV fame). Have to admit that gave me a bit of an unfair advantage—it’s hard to make that gorgeous line look ugly. I threw in some cute signs and other accessories and voila! I had a beautiful bedroom.
I ended up winning in my category, and took home a $500 gift card.
As it turned out, I needed a new couch, so I returned to the store a couple weeks later to find my newest furnishing.

underpriced
Here’s something you’ll want to know if you’re shopping there: the sales staff doesn’t earn a commission. It truly doesn’t matter which piece you pick—they want you to be happy with what you find, and they don’t earn more depending on you selecting a more expensive model. If you say you just want to look, they won’t bug you. But you’ll want help. I promise. The store is huge, and you’ll have questions. I know I did. I wanted a particular kind of couch…and then changed my mind and wanted another. I also wanted mine right away, so it was important to know if it was a couch that was in stock (at their warehouse a couple miles away, where we could pick it up ourselves, or have it delivered same day), or if it was something that needed to be special ordered (think sleeper sofa here).
I ended up finding a couch in a different color than I even thought I wanted, and got it at such a great price I was able to pick up a fabulous extra piece that I now use as a coffee table/ottoman of sorts. And here’s a valuable tip: I found it in their clearance room! Make sure you take a few minutes to look through the clearance space for a great deal. My piece was marked way down and only has the tiniest scratch on the corner. I also found out it’s a staging expert’s dream room. For people who professionally stage furniture in homes for sale, that clearance room is like a guaranteed jackpot!
But truthfully, the entire store is packed with treasures. From office furniture to mattresses to unique children’s rooms, there is something for everyone at Underpriced—and they will SAVE YOU MONEY! So, don’t be foolish like I was for the last 14 years. Consider this your personal invitation to go see the deals. I think you’ll be glad you did!

(oh–and here’s a photo of the couch and table I bought–pretty, right? and combined, just a little more than $500!!)

new couch

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2017 Atlanta Baby and Child Expo Plans Party for Parents #AtlBabyExpo

February 20, 2017

New parents and those who are ‘expecting’ won’t want to miss the annual Atlanta Baby and Child Expo, planned this year for April 29th at the Atlanta Sheraton Downtown. The event runs from 11am until 2:30pm. This annual event has established a reputation as  THE event of the year for anyone expecting a baby, or couples with little ones. The Atlanta Baby and Child Expo is well-known for its fun, party atmosphere. There’s a fashion show, Cravings Corner, thousands of dollars in prizes and one-of-a-kind vendors with products and services that you will […]

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Cool Future Cars Highlighted at Detroit Auto Show: Concept Cars

January 15, 2017

Autonomous may be the hot topic in automobiles these days, but flashy and funky are also taking center stage at auto shows this year, with concept cars that will thrill the kid in you. From a VW van that truly deserves the nickname Dream Machine (ala’ Scooby Doo and Shaggy), to a Lincoln Navigator tailor-made for James Bond’s lifestyle, the cars of the future make it clear we have plenty to be excited about. These photos show just a few of the cars of the future recently highlighted at the Detroit […]

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Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Site in Atlanta: What You’ll See

January 15, 2017

No visit to Atlanta should be considered complete without a stop at the historic National Site that includes Martin Luther King’s birth home, Ebenezer Baptist Church and his final resting place, the Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The first thing most people come across is the International World Peace Rose Garden. It’s located in front of the Visitor’s Center.  It’s worth taking the time to walk all the way around, reading the various poems written by Atlanta children and put on plaques at the base of the roses. It is […]

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What Would You Do in an Autonomous Car? The Volvo Research Project

January 13, 2017

As autonomous (self-driving) cars take center stage at all the auto shows around the nation, kicking off with the Detroit Auto Show this week, one automaker is taking the wheel on what many other brands have ignored to this point: how we, as riders in those cars, will react to taking a back seat, so to speak. Volvo Cars is launching a test of sorts, putting a Swedish family, the Hain’s (seen in the photo below), in a Volvo XC90 that they’ll be driving on the roads of Gotherburg in […]

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Detroit Auto Show: Buckle Up for the Ride

January 8, 2017

I’ll be spending the next couple of days in an auto lover’s dream…getting a front row seat at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. This is the Super Bowl of car shows, so to speak, and even though I can’t quote you engine size or years and styles of all the classics, I can tell you my heart starts racing at the idea of what I’m going to be part of over the next few days. I’m the daughter of an auto mechanic. He’s gone now, but […]

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