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Chocolate and Wine: #ASweetPairing Anyone Should Love

by Desiree Miller on January 27, 2016

ghirardelli pile

(Note to readers: I was chosen to host a party as part of a #SoapboxInfluence campaign and compensated to do so. As always, my opinion remains my own.)

If you want to show me the love, line up a babysitter, pack up a suitcase, and whisk me off to Bora Bora for a few days.

If you can’t do that, bring on the chocolate and the wine!

Lots of it.

josh cellars wine 1

It’s simple enough these days with a quick run down to the local Walmart where two of the more premium brands can be found– without premium price tags.

I’m easy like that (no, not like that).

What I’m trying to say is you don’t have to spend a lot to show me the love (though that’s always nice). You just have to make sure it’s the right chocolate (dark in my case) and be certain that wine is chilled.

chocolate be mine

josh cellars wine 2

Bonus points if you get the Ghirardelli chocolates that are out for Valentine’s Day with special little love notes stamped into the chocolate hearts. Double bonus points if you get the Sauvignon Blanc from Josh Cellars wines (I’m a sucker for the hint of citrus).

darling I love you

hello beautyfull

for my darling

strawberry ghirardelli

And you don’t have to be ‘my man’ to spoil me with these yummy treats on this day when we honor all things Cupid. I believe Valentine’s Day is also about showing the love to your besties who have gotten you through the days when maybe that love for your guy wasn’t flowing as freely as that wine. We all have those days. So, I say pour on the love to your girlfriends, too, when you’re picking up your Valentine’s Day treats.

painting 7

painting fun 1

I had about 20 of my pals come over for an afternoon of fun last weekend while we were all captive to Old Man Winter—with road conditions too rough for us (it doesn’t take much for us to shut down for snow in the South) to be doing most of our regular weekend of running from sports games to picking up the groceries to taking care of the animals.


We turned the snow day into a snow party, uncorked the wine (ok, twisted off the top in this case) and pulled out my favorite plates printed with love messages suitable for Ghirardelli chocolates.

painting 4

painting 2

painting 6

painting 3

And then we broke out the paints and got creative, decorating wine glasses that we could drink from all year long to remember our fun afternoon. How can you not smile when you see your personal work of art and reflect back on an afternoon of #ASweetPairing of chocolate and wine?

Think you and your friends would like to do the same? Well, here’s a quick look at some of the fun we had, in case it inspires you to duplicate the day. We didn’t have to spend a lot (again, Walmart prices for premium products), and I was able to get everything we needed in one shopping trip. Yes, Walmart had the wine glasses and the paints, too, along with party plates, wine and chocolate.

Take a look at our works of art and tell me you aren’t impressed. You can see most of them in the video, but there are pictures of many of them below. Is there one you like best? And what about the chocolates? Which flavor would you go after first?  Whatever you end up doing for Valentine’s Day, make it sweet. xoxo

We then made a party of it again a few nights later with some of my ‘online’ friends from around the country.  You have to admit, it’s easy to make a party of it whenever you have wine and chocolate.

One last note, my friends. If you do decide to host a party where you’re serving alcohol, have a plan in place on how everyone will get home.  You don’t want anyone drinking and driving on your watch (or ever). Drink and party responsibly!

Some of my blogging pals also hosted parties and came up with some incredible recipes of foods to make with their chocolate and wine…check them out in the links below.

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Changing Healthcare in Atlanta: Harken Health

by Desiree Miller on January 26, 2016

you just have to care

(Note to readers: I was compensated to visit a Harken Health facility and find out more about the way they work. As always, my opinion remains my own, and I would never send you somewhere I wouldn’t send my best friend.)

“Relationships heal people. Not transactions.”

Ask most people what their biggest complaint about their doctor is these days, and odds are it’s that they wait forever to see them, and once they do, they’re in with them for just a few minutes. One recent study showed some doctors spend less than nine minutes with each patient.  Often, they’re under pressure to get to the next patient. In the revolving door, they still end up getting further behind for each appointment as the day goes on and need to make the time up somewhere.

Everyone ends up stressed and frustrated, and if you’re already sick, it doesn’t take much to turn cranky into downright disgusted.

harken health on wall

Well, there’s a new concept in healthcare aimed at ending that kind of care, and those of us in Atlanta are fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of this novel new option.

It’s part of Harken Health. Their basic premise is that people need to be cared for.  Many would argue that’s not happening with the current healthcare situation. Harken Health aims to change that.

exam room

Harken Health has six centers in Atlanta (and four in Chicago if you happen to know someone there). I recently visited the office in Brookhaven and walked out in awe. The office not only has exam rooms for doctor’s visits, but also has other rooms set up for appointments with counselors in case you need some mental healthcare, equipment to run light lab work like strep tests, blood tests and glucose testing.

counseling office

exam room

There’s also space for doctors to meet patients and families to talk through options outside an exam room.

consult room

And there’s space for classes to be held at the centers, whether it’s healthy cooking sessions or yoga or Zumba class (a free perk for being part of this health plan).


yoga class

But the real appeal is this: you can go see your doctor as many times as you think you need—without a fee beyond your monthly insurance premium.

It’s part of the package of unlimited, no-charge primary care visits at Harken Health Centers; a dedicated, personal Care Team available by phone, email, text or video chat; and unlimited 24/7 access to their Harken Health care team at their local center.  There’s also prescription drug coverage, online ordering and optional home delivery.

All of that boils down to a combined, no-charge primary care and simple insurance model, packed with perks.

People who want insurance coverage can choose from Gold, Silver or Bronze plans and a health insurance tax credit can be applied.

If you’re interested, you have a few days left this year to apply for coverage (unless you have a change of life circumstance which allows for changes after the deadline). The deadline is January 31st, so check it out soon!


Atlanta Southern Food Tour: Great Way to Learn About MLK

by Desiree Miller on January 14, 2016

paschals chicken

Most people know Martin Luther King, Jr, preached at a church in Atlanta, but odds are they don’t know what his favorite meal was, or how his parents came to be a couple, or how his arrest and release near Atlanta helped to shape a presidency.

Well, those are all things you’ll find out during a food tour in the city.

That’s right. A food tour.

That beats sitting in a history classroom any day, right?

The Downtown Southern Food Walk offers more than a taste of some great Southern cooking. Along with the soul food, barbecue, and Lowcountry cuisine, you’ll be treated to a side of history.

You’ll get to see where the Civil Rights Movement really started, taste the same recipe that was used for MLK’s favorite food, and hear stories about some of the neighborhoods and cultures that even those who live in Atlanta don’t know.

You’ll make stops all along the way, tasting some of the best food Atlanta has to offer, then walk off a little more so your belly can make room for the next bite to eat.

It’s a great way to find out more about MLK and the places around Atlanta that helped change history forever.  You’ll also be treated to a peek at some of Atlanta’s famous movie spots and street art.

You can find out more on the tour by clicking here, and be sure to watch the video below for a sampling of what the food tour has to offer.


subway crossing bridge

There’s one thing you notice right away in New York City: there are bridges everywhere, connecting the city to Jersey, Queens, Staten Island, you name it.  

The most famous one, or at least the one that I have always heard about, is the Brooklyn Bridge. As an outsider, for years I had no idea you could walk—or bike—across it. It’s something I discovered a few years ago, and in the half a dozen visits since, it’s the one thing I’ve really wanted to do, but never ended up doing, for a variety of reasons. It promptly made it on my ‘bucket list’.

Well, I found the time on this last trip into Manhattan and have to admit, I’m so sorry I didn’t do this sooner. It wasn’t something I intended to do on this particular trip, but I found myself with a free night and a friend who was willing to humor me, so, off we went on our adventure.

nyc subway

We took a subway to the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and knew we were in the right spot by the big interstate sign at our crosswalk, directing cars which lane to get into in order to head to the Brooklyn side. We had to cross over a lane to get to the section that allowed for pedestrians—or bicyclists—to make their way across.

entry to bridge

There’s a pathway that runs above the vehicles, essentially through what would be the median. The walkway is made of wood, with steel ropes coming off from various angles. It would be wide enough for a car to drive down—at least in most sections—but has a dividing line marking the side meant for walkers and the side intended for people on their bicycles.

On this particular January night, we were fortunate to have great weather—cold enough for a jacket, but not so cold that we were wishing we were back inside her warm apartment. brooklyn bridge

It was a clear night and the views—especially behind us, showcasing the Manhattan skyline—were stunning. We were even able to capture shots of the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

statue of liberty

under bridge arch

midway bridge shot

We walked under the pillars, past the part where the American flag is suspended, around the sides of that portion and down the other side. There wasn’t a large slope and I truly think most people could handle this walk with no real trouble.

liberty and city

Parts of the bridge are under construction when we walked it, so that could get tricky.

And I’m told that in the summertime, people who cross the bridge on bicycles each day for work grow to despise the crowds of tourists who want to do exactly what we did—experience something we’ll never forget, crossing a bridge that affords beautiful views of this gorgeous city. I can understand why they hate the crowds, because it would be frustrating to try to ride a bicycle around many tourists who probably can’t fit on just the pedestrian portion. We struggled with it in some spots and the bridge truly wasn’t that crowded on the night we went. Maybe there’s a plan in the future to add just a cycling portion. Until then, they’ll have to tolerate us I suppose.

Once on the other side, make time for lunch. We found our way to Grimaldi’s Pizza. I can honestly say it was the best pizza I’ve tasted all my life. The crust was perfect—not too bready—and the sauce not too zesty. We went with the simple cheese and filled up fast. Note that they do not sell alcohol (though I highly recommend the black cherry soda) and you must pay with cash.

the pizza guys

We enjoyed the meal almost as much as the walk, though we decided to take a cab on our way back to her apartment on the Upper East Side. Our bellies were full, our feet were tired, and the temperature had dropped, so we were ready to relax in her warm apartment.  Even from the cab, we were able to snap some incredible shots of other NYC landmarks.

empire state whizzing

I’m not sure what it would be like to make the walk in the daytime, but I can tell you without a doubt, it would have made a very romantic date night if you have your sweetie with you. No offense to my pal—she was the perfect date for that evening—but I’m certain it would have been pretty incredible with someone to hold hands with and sneak in a kiss or two on some of the views looking back at that spectacular skyline.

I’ll have to save that for the next trip.

I absolutely plan to make the trip again and again. It cost me nothing and offered up memories that were priceless. Plus, it’s one more thing checked off my bucket list. 


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head on shoulder

(Note to readers: I was asked to write about the new insurance concept being offered by Harken Health. They are compensating me for this post, but as always, my opinion remains my own. I’ll be writing a follow up post after the grand opening to tell you all about the facility once I see it for myself.)

This year is all about facing some fears and getting fit again, mentally and physically, and I’ve already started making little changes, like taking at least a ten minute walk by myself each day. Yoga and Zumba classes are also on my list to start working into my schedule.

I’ve only tried each one for a few minutes before, so finding classes to make them a regular part of my week will be important. It just so happens both are being offered as part of a membership in a new kind of healthcare plan launching in Atlanta.

It’s called Harken Health, and the company is opening several facilities around our region.

Harken-Identity-transparentUSE THIS ONE

Harken Health administrators say they’re aspiring to change what the world expects from health care.

The intent is to deliver a combined, no-charge primary care and simple insurance model. That’s right—you read no-charge. Sweet, right? Unlimited, too. So, you can go see your doctor as many times as you think you need—without a fee beyond your monthly insurance premium.

Cool concept, right?

They’ll have six new innovative health centers in Atlanta, each with open houses this Saturday. The Health Centers are located in Austell, Brookhaven, Decatur, Duluth, East Cobb and Roswell. You can see specific locations by clicking on this link.

People who want insurance coverage can choose from Gold, Silver or Bronze plans and a health insurance tax credit can be applied. All plans include:

  • Unlimited, no-charge primary care visits at Harken Health Centers; a dedicated, personal Care Team available by phone, email, text or video chat;
  • 24-hour, 7-days a week access to Harken Health doctors; a nationwide network of approximately 850,000 physicians, medical professionals and hospitals;
  • Complimentary wellness classes like nutrition, cooking, yoga and overall fitness at the Health Centers;
  • And prescription drug coverage, online ordering and optional home delivery.

This weekend, they’ll be offering free Zumba at the Duluth location and a free yoga class at the Brookhaven class (that’s where I plan to be Saturday).  Which class would you rather take?


The Pinnacle Inn–A Place to Stay in Beech Mountain, North Carolina

January 10, 2016

(Note to readers: We were hosted by the Pinnacle Inn during our visit to Beech Mountain, NC.  As always, my opinion remains my own. I would never send you to a place I wouldn’t want to visit again.) Sitting on our third floor balcony, the snow from the night before was still clinging to the tree top situated beside us, and in the distance, we had a clear view of the night skiers and snowboarders flying down Beech Mountain about a mile away. We were resting our tired bodies after […]

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What to Do in Beech Mountain, North Carolina

January 8, 2016

  (Note to readers: I was hosted by Beech Mountain, NC, for this family review.  As always, my opinion remains my own.) When it comes to skiing, you need to know two things. One is french fry. That’s a verb in this case. As in, when you french fry, you’re going to flying down the mountain. That’s a good thing to some people. The other is pizza. That’s when you guide the front of your skis together, and the backs apart, making a wedge like a pizza slice. That’s how […]

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Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina–a Must-Not Miss Attraction

January 8, 2016

If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you are truly on top of the world, Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, is the spot for you. It’s the only place I’ve been (beyond an airplane) where I was looking DOWN at the clouds below me. The area around Grandfather Mountain is famous for its skiing options, but this particular destination should be a must-see for everyone visiting the region. It’s about a 20 minute drive from Beech Mountain and well worth the short trip over. With your admission fee you can get […]

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Wyndham Extra Holidays Offers Family Fun for the Holidays

December 21, 2015

(Note to readers: This is a sponsored post with Wyndham Resorts. However, all opinions are my own. #ad) When we ask our children about their favorite holiday memories of the past, it’s always the trips that we took—our adventures together—that they remember most. Whether it’s a flight to warmer temperatures or a getaway ski trip in the cold, they remember the fun we had, the crazy times more than the sane ones, and the experiences always outlast any toy or gift under the tree. So now, we want very much […]

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Turn Your Phone into a Lightsaber with Star Wars Lightsaber Escape Game

December 17, 2015

Who doesn’t wish they were a Star Wars Jedi these days?  Imagine fighting your way through a Star Destroyer using your lightsaber to take down any Storm Trooper who gets in your way. Well, now you can at least play one on your computer screen, and your phone becomes the lightsaber that saves you, if you have the skills. It’s part of a new Chrome experiment with Disney and Lucasfilm. I used it on my Mac with my iPhone 6, but you’re supposed to be able to do it with […]

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