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practice courts

This year’s BB&T Atlanta Open lineup includes four of the top 25 tennis players in the world, and 10 in the top 50, allowing Atlanta tennis fans to see firsthand what’s sure to be some of the most impressive, exciting competition in years. Those players include fan favorite John Isner, Fernando Verdasco, and Kevin Anderson. You can expect some passionate play from currently ranked #18 player Nick Kyrgios, of Australia, who will be joined by Lucas Pouille, Jeremy Chardy, and Borna Coric, among others.

kyrgios

That action will be complimented by a special exhibit honoring Atlanta’s 20th anniversary since hosting the Olympic Games, including a rematch of the 1996 Andre Agassi competition against Sergi Brugera, which earned Agassi the gold medal (scheduled for Sunday evening, July 31st). You’ll find other Olympians at the event, too, as part of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games 20th Anniversary Exhibit presented by Coca-Cola. From GiGi Fernandez to Nancy Kerrigan, fans will be able to take part in a free event showcasing these athletes and highlighting memorabilia from the ’96 games. The exhibit will run for nine days at Atlantic Station as part of the BB&T Atlanta Open.

  christening courts

You’ll also find some new player’s practice courts at Atlantic Station, the host venue for the Open for five years now. Several college players helped christen those courts at a ribbon cutting ceremony that was followed by some tennis action between those college superstars and local media personalities. The college players included Austin Smith, an All-American at UGA, Chris Eubanks of Georgia Tech, and Zach Kenned, who plays at Georgia State and used to be doubles partners in high school with Eubanks (coincidentally, at the same high school Cam Newton graduated from).

austin smith

This year’s activities will include the Ladies Day activities (with Verdasco), a Fireworks Show sponsored by Coca Cola, a Family Zone by Prince, and Tennis Night on the Town. You’ll also be able to see the Fuzzy Car from Lexus, a vehicle completely wrapped in the same felt used to make tennis balls.

lexus fuzzy car

You can get tickets online or by calling the Ticket Hotlines: 855 307-1981 or 404-941-9202.

Schedule of Olympic Athletes (current as of 6/21/16):

Kayla Harrison (Judo ’12 Gold/Rio bound)            Sat/Sun 7/30-31

Nancy Kerrigan (Figure Skating ’92 Bronze/’94 Silver)          Mon 8/1

Gigi Fernandez (Tennis Doubles ’92 Gold/’96 Gold)              Tues 8/2

Kent Steffes (Beach Volleyball ’96 Gold)                  Wed 8/3

Brook Bennett (Swimming 800 Meter ’96 Gold)                    Thurs 8/4

Gail Devers (pending acceptance) or TBD                               Fri 8/5

 

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Cirque du Soleil fans can catch another show in Atlanta this month! Cirque is returning to Atlanta with their touring production, TORUK – The First Flight, which is based on the James Cameron’s record-breaking film AVATAR.  The show will be hosted at the Infinite Energy Center for seven performances. The dates are June 15-19. TORUK – The First Flight comes after their successful run of the big top production KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities this spring.

If you’d like tickets, check here:

https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk.

Tickets range from $34.50 – $125

Photo Credit:  Jesse Faatz

Photo Credit: Jesse Faatz

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Alabama Beaches: A Whole Different State (of Mind)

by Desiree Miller on May 25, 2016

With everything from the quirky Mullet Toss Festival at the world famous Flora-Bama bar, to kayaking among the dolphin and egrets in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, to hanging out with ‘the cool kids’ at the chic Gulf-front restaurant “The Gulf”, where you can kick back on inflatable sofas, you can pretty much find something fun for everyone on the coast of Alabama (watch the video above for a quick look at some of the fun we found).

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With nearby Florida stealing all the glory for its stunning shoreline, many people fail to realize beaches even exist in Alabama, a state better known for its national championship college football teams than a slice of paradise, where you can sit in the sand and soak up the sun.

But after spending four days with girlfriends (hosted by the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Visitor’s Bureau), playing in what is famously referred to as ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, I can attest to the fact that it’s the perfect little place to escape from the world for a bit.

The area’s PR team refers to the coastline with the catchphrase ‘It’s a Whole Different State’, playing on the notion that this state might surprise you when you cross the border to its beaches. I’m taking it one more step, saying it’s a ‘new state of mind’, because that’s how I felt when I was there.

FUN BIG ENOUGH FOR TWO STATES

You can make your way across the border at Flora-Bama, the beach bar that technically resides in Florida, but has a boardwalk separating the sand so that you can step foot in Alabama, too. This bar is big on parties, with a rich history of fun (which you really need to hear from Compton, who you can spot in a kilt and crocs, because he knows the inside scoop on all the best stories). One of it’s best events is the annual Mullet Toss, when tens of thousands of people visit to witness the fish flying from Florida into Alabama, all in the name of good times.

compton

FOOD (AND FUN)

The Flora-Bama Yacht Club sits across the street and is the perfect place for a quieter slice of fun, along with some delicious food that will satisfy any appetite, including the chef’s pick of Lionfish Sashimi. Chef Chris Sherrill is a bit of an environmentalist, too, concerned about the lionfish overrunning the Gulf waters, becoming the underwater equivalent of kudzu on land.   He explained they’re tough to get rid of, with no natural predators, and are essentially choking out the other breeds of fish that we’re more accustomed to eating. Some regions of the world sell lionfish for top dollar, but Chef Sherill wants us to eat more, so he keeps it affordable, serving it up as an appetizer, along with some of his other famous dishes like Chargrilled Fresh Gulf Cobia topped with New Orleans Barbeque Softshell Crab, Alabama Blue Crab Hushpuppies and Beignet Fries with White Chocolate Ganache.

yacht club food

GET FUNKY

A little further into Alabama you’ll find ‘The Gulf’, a funky hangout where I could see spending every Friday or Saturday night if I lived close enough. The burgers are the best I’ve ever eaten—anywhere—with the special house made garlic, and the grouper sandwiches are pretty good, too (I suggest you do what I did and find a friend willing to order one while you order the other—then split each so that you can try both of these favorites). You can slip off your shoes and walk through the sand to one of many inflatable sofas they have peppering the sand. Or, keep those shoes on and kick back in the grass or boardwalk areas situated on the property.   Do not miss the gift shop, though. It’s packed with some of the coolest finds on the beach—all relics you’ll want to take home to remind you of the fun you had while you were away. This beach bar embraces the natural setting, merging old and new, with the building made from a repurposed shipping container and the record player spinning vinyl. Seriously. It’s retro-wonderful and shabby chic. The very definition of a coastal hipster.

gift shop

GET HOOKED

Over on the river side you’ll find Fisher’s, a fabulous restaurant and bar that is famous for its oysters (get the Murder Point farm raised oysters if they’re available), and I highly recommend you try the fried crab claws, too. The chef, Bill Briand, trained under Emeril Lagasse, and there’s a definite Louisana lean to the menu. The décor is to die for—the kind of comfy upscale look you’ll find on the pages of Coastal Living magazine—classy without feeling snooty—with furnishings you’re going to want to take pictures of so that you can duplicate the look in your own home. In fact, the owner, Johnny Fisher, told me enough people have asked for the name and brand of the paint color that the local Sherman Williams paint shop should change the shade to Fisher’s, in honor of all the business he’s sent them. Every area of the restaurant upstairs feels like a home you’ll never want to leave, from the plush pillows plumped perfectly, welcoming you with ‘Hello Beautiful’ printed on the front, to the dining tables with coral pieces decorating the tops, belonging there as much as the salt and pepper shakers should. You can see boats docked around the marina and take in the river views from both the upstairs and downstairs bars. If you want a great drink, do yourself a favor and order up the Double Nipple. I know you won’t really want to even say the name out loud, but this combo of a strawberry daiquiri and pina colada is worth any embarrassment you might feel placing that order.

fishers oysters

GET WILD

If you feel like you need to work off some calories from all this food and fun, you can sign up for a kayak excursion with Wild Native through the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.  No experience necessary. Your guide will help you figure out how to row just right, and she’ll take things at your pace if you’re not looking to row like a madman across the bay. But even the rowing is relaxing when you’re in this natural setting, with dolphin swimming a few dozen feet away, and birds soaring overhead. This experience in the wild is the other extreme to beach life that you expect to find on the coast, away from crashing waves and sandcastles, and totally worth spending a few hours of your vacation sampling.

kayaking

RELAX

Your muscles might ache the next day, so do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a massage at the Spa at the Beach Club in Fort Morgan.  There are several different massage treatments to pick from, along with skin care, body treatments, and salon services. You can request the intensity level you prefer for the massage therapy, along with aromatherapy options intended to help relax you. And after your treatment is done, don’t race out too quickly. Spend half an hour or so in the hot tub, or work your way out to the pool and beach.

spa sign

STRETCH

And since you’re treating yourself so well for a few days, do yourself a favor and drop in for a yoga session on the beach with Glow Yoga. If you don’t normally attend yoga classes, you might struggle with a position or two, but the instructor won’t pressure you to push yourself. Go at your own pace, but keep going, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll make it through the hard stuff and be so glad to get to the poses at the end. The soothing sounds of the waves help it feel more like a spiritual experience, relaxing the mind with the body. And, they offer drop in classes for people vacationing in the area (as it so happens, those classes are typically held at The Gulf that I mentioned earlier).

sunset

SAIL AT SUNSET

If your idea of relaxation goes beyond stretching and spas, book yourself a spot on a sunset cruise with Sail Wild Hearts. You’ll climb aboard a 53-foot, open-ocean catamaran and, if the weather cooperates, head from the bay out into the Gulf of Mexico, where you can typically spot dolphin and enjoy views of the white sand beaches from the water.  The main sail will soak in the warm, Gulf breezes and have you soaring through the water, feeling like a sailor in no time.  It’s a nice escape with a group of friends or a perfect way to spend a romantic evening with your favorite person, watching the sun set for the evening.

condo

SLEEP

And if you need a place to stay, don’t forget to consider VRBO, along with the other traditional options. We stayed in this unit at the Edgewater condo that offered stunning sunrise views, along with some great night time light shows during an overnight storm while we were there.  The unit was clearly decorated by an owner with exquisite taste. Once again, I was snapping photos of furnishings and features that I hoped to duplicate in my own home some day.

If you’re like me, when you have to pack up and leave, you’ll already be planning your return trip to the region. Between all this food, fun and fabulous venues, it truly did offer up a whole new state of mind.

Want to read more about this fabulous fun?  The other gals on the trip have a few articles you might like to read, too.  They’re listed below!

Angela with Spinach Tiger: http://spinachtiger.com/where-girlfriends-eat-in-orange-beach/

and http://spinachtiger.com/fishers-at-orange-beach-marina/.

feet up at gulf

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The crash of another airplane once again has travelers concerned about air safety.  It leaves us all asking, is it safe to fly? Where is it safe to fly? How are the terrorists (assuming they are involved in this latest incident, which experts aren’t yet confirming) able to continue attacking and why can’t we stop them?

In a recent Blab (a livestream broadcast) with co-host Kymri Wilt, I was discussing the bombing in a Belgium airport and we were joined by a pilot (Fabrizio Poli) who has some experience dealing with all of these topics.  What he had to say was incredibly interesting and educational to both Kymri and I, and I think is important for us all to hear, so I’ve edited it down from our one hour broadcast to the 13 or so minutes that seemed most relevant.

He covered everything from the kinds of terrorists that out there (according to him–there are three kinds: mad, bad and sad). He discussed having to kick terrorists off one of his planes in the past and acknowledges those terrorists were most likely just testing the security system to see what they could get away with, most likely for a bigger purpose. He talked about airports where it’s common knowledge that the security guards could be bribed to get through line quicker or to get access directly to the planes.

Crazy stuff, right?

Have a listen and let me know in comments your thoughts about it all…

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sanctuary

The Sanctuary Salon Atlanta is now the Sanctuary Salon & Spa, thanks to some incredibly talented staff additions and some newly remodeled rooms.  When I was invited to come review the new services, I jumped at the chance to see what it was all about.  I have to say, I’ll be back often.

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See this little girl, all screaming, sad and stressed out? That was me just before I walked into Sanctuary Salon & Spa in Atlanta last week.

It had been a rough week. Despite my best efforts, nothing seemed to be going right.

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That all changed when I walked into my appointment there. I was booked for a facial, massage, and blow dry. Basically, they were treating me like royalty, which is how they treat all their clients.

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I’ve had facials before, but this one was designed for my attempts to stop the clock. It was an anti-aging facial, and I have to say, an hour with Aga certainly made a dent—in a good way. A week later, my skin is still feeling the impact of her magical touch. Aga has all the tools at her fingertips, massaging and rolling the skin to rework gravity, while using the best in skin care peels and lotions to repair decades of damage. Aga is a professionally trained, licensed skin care specialist with extensive experience with a wide variety of facials (from peels and microdermabrasion to facial acupressure and sinus relief). Plus, she’s good people (hey, you get to know a girl when she’s ‘in your face’ for an hour).

I walked out feeling younger, and looking it, too.

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From the facial, I went to a full body massage with Anne, a licensed massage therapist who has been working in a chiropractic clinic for the last several years and, in the hour that I was in her care, told me more about the muscles and joints in my body than any doctor I can recall. You can barely hear the Irish accent (she moved to the states many years ago), but you can feel the Irish grit in her determination to leave you feeling fabulous. She worked through all my stress spots, like an artist molding the perfect sculpture. I left her room feeling like she had my back…and my shoulders, and neck.  You get my point.

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Next, I took my turn in the salon, where Mark unbraided my long mane of hair (look, when I’m overloaded, a braid is my standard go-to look)… he washed it, easing away what little stress I had left, then used the blow dryer to transform me into a new person…someone who looked human again, ready to take on the world.

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Now, I’m ready to go back again for a cut and style, too. The salon is clearly packed with talented people who love what they do…who want you to feel your best, inside and out. I call it good ‘juju’… They’ve mastered the art of making you feel good…

The only problem with that is you’re going to want to go there all the time, because, well, it’s fun and makes you feel good. And isn’t that what life is all about?

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If you want to feel this good, too, check out the specials they are running for new clients until the end of June. The deals are good enough that you’re going to want to create a fake identity or two so you can go back again and again as a ‘new’ client. Just don’t tell them I suggested that.

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Visit the new Sanctuary website HERE to get a sneak peak at the beautiful salon and to browse their menu of services.  Tell them I sent you!  (And feel free to buy a gift card to give this special treat to a friend…it’s the best massage and facial I’ve ever had!)

 

 

 

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Panasonic Lumix ZS60 Camera–The Perfect Travel Camera

May 7, 2016

(Note to readers: I was given a Panasonic Lumix ZS60 to put to the test while at a retreat at Walt Disney World. I am not otherwise compensated for this post and, as always, my opinion remains my own.) It’s good to keep things simple when you travel, packing as little as possible, but sometimes, you may find a little extra weight necessary, especially when it comes to making sure you have the right tech gear with you, including a quality camera that will help you document your trip forever. […]

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What NOT to Give a Woman for Mother’s Day

May 4, 2016

I’ve been a mom for 21 years now…almost 22…and I can tell you, I’ve seen the cruddy end of Mother’s Day presents more than once. It sucks. So, here’s my PSA to those of you out there who haven’t put any thought into your Mother’s Day present yet. START. As Nike puts it, ‘just do it’. After all, you count on ‘Dear Ole’ Mom’ for a lot all year long. Don’t you think she’s worth giving a little consideration for this once-a-year holiday in her honor? Maybe you’re clueless on […]

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Vote for Travel as a Great Gift (for Mother’s Day, Hint Hint) Giveaway

May 3, 2016

This month, I am part of the Vote for Travel series hosted by my fellow travel-loving friend, Jen Reyneri, and Word Traveling. There are 30+ bloggers taking part, sharing their thoughts on what makes travel great, along with incredible ways to travel. And, since it’s an election year, we figured we’d make it easy to show your support for something this simple. Vote for… At Stress-free, baby!, you know how much travel means to me already. I believe there’s no greater gift you can give your family than travel—especially when you […]

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Andre Agassi in Atlanta Again–Rematch of 1996 Olympics at BB&T Open

April 29, 2016

Andre Agassi is headed back to the tennis courts of Atlanta, 20 years after the former World No. 1 tennis player won the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics.  And guess who he’ll be playing in that match?  None other than the Spaniard Sergi Bruguera, his opponent who took the silver in those Olympics. The match will take place Sunday, July 31 at 730pm as part of the BB&T Atlanta Open at Atlantic Station. Agassi is eager to return to this hotbed of tennis action, saying “I’ve always loved playing tennis in […]

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Make Homemade Hummus Like a Boss (Even if You Don’t Like to Cook)

April 28, 2016

  (Note to readers: I was paid to try to make this special dish and share it with my friends. I’m proud to say it turned out well and am happy to show you how it’s done. I was not otherwise compensated and my opinion remains my own.) I have to let you in on a little secret. I hate cooking. Not even cooking. Making food, in general. It’s just not my thing. As a child in my family, part of our responsibilities included a cooking rotation. One night a week […]

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