Holman Ranch: The Perfect Place For a Western Wedding

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Lodging and meals provided for review

Holman Ranch is a vineyard, olive grove, stable, and event venue in Carmel Valley, California. This quiet town is close to Monterey, and about 2 hours south of San Francisco; in addition to housing several wineries, it’s also home to a country store, a couple of art galleries, and an absolutely amazing thrift shop.

I was invited to visit Holman Ranch in mid-March. Nestled in the hills of northern California, the ranch is a perfect place for a secluded, intimate wedding or corporate event, though they can host galas for up to 450 people. They’ve hosted many, many events, and you can rest assured that this isn’t their first rodeo, so to speak: they have a lengthy, vetted list of preferred vendors whom they know act professionally and can deliver whatever you can dream up.

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Holman Ranch, unsurprisingly, sits on former ranch land; it became a vineyard in the 1920s, and the ranching history is apparent in the very Western styling – leather, pictures of cowboys, and rawhide fringe abound. The venue features 10 guestrooms for the bridal party (or people attending the retreats); these feature decorative leather pillows, rocking chairs on the porches (pictured above), and the most beautifully tiled bathrooms you’ve seen in your life.

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The main area for weddings abuts a beautiful vista, and contains a stunning patio, the Great Room, and a small private chapel. All have wood and leather detailing, with many ranching and early California flourishes.

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One of Holman Ranch’s main sidelines is its winery. Their wines – mostly pinot noir and chardonnay – are naturally cooled in their cave, which was dug into the side of a hill, reducing the need to artificially cool or air condition their cave. Conservation is a big theme at Holman Ranch: the wines are all grown organically.

You can include Holman Ranch wines as part of your event, or even make wine tasting a part of the festivities. I know nothing about wine, but I was interested to learn more about the history of the ranch, and wine making in general.

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This being northern California, there is a tranquil Mediterranean climate – the weather is generally clear, and between 60 to 80 degrees. It’s unlikely that your event will be rained out, or be too chilly.

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It really is difficult to overstate the beauty of the venue. As you can see above, there’s a heck of a vista of the hills; at night, the sky is covered with stars, and you feel snugly alone, with only your favorite people for company.

Holman Ranch is a solid, professional venue, dedicated to giving you a sense of seclusion and comfort. As only one event is booked at a time, any event you reserve means that the entire 400 acre property is shut down for you. Sometimes, everyone needs privacy, wines, and starlight, and Holman Ranch provides all three in spades. I highly recommend them.

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Visit Star Wars and see The Death Star at LEGOLAND #StarWars

Since we moved to LA it has been Miles’ dream to go visit LEGOLAND and now that he knows the Death Star is there he wants to go even more. I kept making promises to him that if he did this or did that I would find a way for us to go well I finally found a way. I have partnered with LEGOLAND to share with all of you all about the creation of The Death Star!

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The Death Star spans 8-feet wide, 13-feet high and weighs more than 1900 pounds. Featuring a planet-destroying super laser, the massive LEGO model is made out of more than 500,000 LEGO bricks. LEGOLAND helps bring the creativity and imagination of youngsters to life.

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Featuring a planet-destroying super laser, the massive LEGO model is made out of more than 500,000 LEGO bricks and includes a display of the famous trench run scene where Luke Skywalker maneuvered his X-wing fighter through the combat zone to destroy the Death Star. Adjacent to the LEGO Death Star, guests are invited to use their imaginations to construct their own LEGO starships at building stations while X-Wings, Tie Fighters and Y-Wings circle overhead. DeathStar_0158

The new LEGO model display is LEGOLAND California Resort’s latest major addition in LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland which opened in 2011 and expanded with the addition of the LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Gallery in 2012.  The unveiling of the new LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Death Star Model Display kicked-off the fan favorite, LEGO Star Wars™ Days event.

 

We hope you will go visit the Death Star soon, we know we will be!

Three of America’s Hidden Gems

America’s Hidden Gems

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· Antelope Canyon, Arizona – Located on Navajo land just east of Page, Arizona, Antelope Canyon is a stunning slot canyon with beautiful views at Upper Antelope Canyon, The Crack and Lower Antelope Canyon. Stay at the Days Inn & Suites Lake Powell to enjoy all of Northern Arizona’s beautiful scenery.

· clip_image004Oneonta Gorge, Oregon—The Oneonta Gorge, located in the Columbia River Gorge, has been designated as a botanical area because of the unique vegetation that grows there. Additionally, the gorge has a mystical feel with four major waterfalls in the area. Book a stay at the Days Inn & Suites in Gresham, Oregon to be close to bustling Portland, but also have easy access to the Columbia River and Mt. Hood National Forest.

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· Badlands National Park, South Dakota—This national park in South Dakota covers hundreds of thousands of acres of buttes, pinnacles and spires along with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. Stay at the Howard Johnson Rapid City for easy access to Badlands National Park and Black Hills National Forest (Mount Rushmore, anyone?).

7 Tips on a Successful Family Reunion

 

There are a lot of families who find that they have relativities all over the world these days. Although it is much easier now to keep in touch thanks to the internet this may mean that physically being in the same room as one other may become increasingly rare. That’s why it is important to take the opportunity to plan a family reunion when possible. With flights, rail tickets and time off work this can be expensive. Therefore, it is important to get such an occasion right. Here are a few tips on making your family reunion a success.

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Pick the Right Time of Year

This is a lot easier said than done. If you have relatives in places like Australia you will have to think of seasonal differences (will someone want to swap the tropical warmth of Queensland for the January bitterness of Newcastle?). It is tempting to organize such an occasion on a bank holiday such as New Year’s or Easter but you also have to take into account commitments to in-laws and the like.

Plan ahead

Following on from the last point, the only way to ensure that everyone can make it to your planned reunion is to have the event in everyone’s diaries as far in advance as possible. Try planning at least a year in advance so people can consider annual leave from work and plan their finances around the event. A Facebook group will allow you to venture possible dates to people and take it from there.

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This is a very important one. Diplomacy is a key aspect to organizing a family reunion. If there are certain black sheep of the family which you consider will not be conducive to the spirit of the party perhaps you can leave their invitation strategically closer to the date of the event. If they cannot make it, at least you made the gesture.

Book the Appropriate Venue

A party can suffer from being in a room which is too big. Get an idea of the number of people attending before you book a venue. Chances are a house might be a decent venue rather than a function room or pub. Take into account people’s dietary requirements if food is involved and music should be picked with caution.

Take the Opportunity

It is not often all the family will get together in such numbers so take the opportunity to spend some quality time together. If you have time, try and organize a professional photographer such as Venture for a family portrait. It will provide a nice snapshot of a special event and a memento to everyone who attended.

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Contingency Ice Breakers

If it is a rather small family gathering with relatives who don’t know each other at all it may be wise to have a back-up plan to break the ice. Board games are always a good tool for this, as are family trees or old photos albums.

Follow up the Event

After spending all this effort organizing such an event, follow it up by regularly keeping in contact with your estranged family members and perhaps plan another event if it was a success.

Hyatt Regency McCormick Place: My Favorite Chicago Hotel

Snowy morning in Chicago

Travel consideration provided.

During last week’s trip to the Chicago Auto Show, I stayed once again at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. This was my second time staying at the hotel and it has quickly become my favorite in Chicago. Here’s 3 reasons why:

  • Convenience: As the name implies, the hotel is connected to McCormick Place, where the Auto Show is held. This means you can walk from your room to the show without once having to step outside or brave the February snow in Chicago – a definite plus!
  • Amenities: Thanks to the Convenience Collection, you can call down for complimentary extras you might need during your stay – from shoe shine rags to nail files. Because I knew that they had both of my favorite brands of deodorant and shaving cream available, I was able to save some space in my suitcase when packing, which is a definite plus since I’m limited with how many liquids I can bring in my carry-on. It’s one of those touches that really means a lot and makes your stay so much easier and pleasant!
  • Friendly: The staff at the hotel are so lovely and helpful. I got to chatting with one of the employees about hair and makeup and waved when I saw her around the hotel, which tells you how nice they all are!

Visit McCormickplace.Hyatt.com and follow them on Twitter @HyattMcCormick!

Exploring Rome with your Kids

    A splendid holiday in Rome is not just ideal for history buffs or adventure seekers. Any family that wants to visit the Eiffel Tower, Florence Cathedral, Colosseum, or the Roman Forum, will surely enjoy in this wonderful country.

    But if you are thinking about going on a trip to Italy with your children, careful planning and a whole lot of patience is needed if you want to further enjoy your trip., The city is quite big, so you need to have a keen eye on each family member. If it is your first time to go here, you need to map out all of the family-friendly hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions before you even land. To learn more about travelling to Rome with your kids, check out this short article below.

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1. Pace yourself

    The city is surrounded with numerous monuments, historical sites, ruins, and museums to explore. It is highly recommended that you do not rush your visit and start exploring at your own pace. Start navigating the most accessible tourist attractions around your location. That way, you won’t have to waste your time travelling from one place to another.

2. Squeeze some play time on your schedule

    With so many historical sites to visit, you are probably super excited to explore every last one of them. However, do not forget that you are traveling with your kids. As much as you want them to learn about the rich culture of Rome, the young ones might get tired, bored, and cranky after jumping from one place to the next. Make sure that you take adequate rest every once in a while. In addition, find time to break away from the history lessons and just let them explore the local museums that cater to children. Explora il museo die bambini, for instance, is a museum where kids can learn more about science.

3. Rent some travel gear

    Instead of bringing your baby’s stroller to Rome, it is highly recommended that you just rent one instead. Most online services offer a lot of items ranging from nursery equipment, strollers, cribs, high chairs, travel cots, car seats, toys, and a whole lot more. This method will help you save luggage space, and will make your kids enjoy the trip further.

4. Let the young ones become more involved with the trip

    Before flying to Rome, make sure that you introduce your kids to the city. Together, you can read about the Roman Empire, or watch an online travel documentary about the place. This will help them become more interested about the trip. You can also let him decide which place to go next.

Care to share other useful tips when traveling to Rome with your kids? Share your thoughts below!

Fueling Excitement With Nissan at The Chicago Auto Show! #NissanCAS

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Travel consideration provided.

Last week, Nissan kicked off the Chicago Auto Show media preview in style with their welcome reception. We enjoyed yummy appetizers, a beer truck, games, and a chance to be introduced to the GT-R LM Nismo race car:

Nissan GT-R LM Nismo

You might recognize this sweet ride from its recent Super Bowl commercial:

Talk about a cool car!

Beeb with the GT-R LM Nismo

During the media preview, Nissan also unveiled their 370Z NISMO Roadster concept car:

370Z NISMO Roadster Concept + GT-R LM Nismo

Photo courtesy the Chicago Auto Show.

This is an experimental vehicle created to gauge interest in a ultimate factory Z® Roadster. So what do you think? Would you drive this? It looks pretty awesome to me – maybe they can make one in pink! ;)

In addition to checking out these and many more Nissan vehicles, you can also participate in some fun activities at Nissan’s booth during the Chicago Auto Show. When you snap a selfie in a Nissan car at the booth and tag it with #NissanCAS, you can take a turn spinning the prize wheel for a chance to win some fun swag! Also, don’t forget to check out the very important Red Thumb movement while you’re there. So make sure you get down to McCormick Place before Sunday, February 22nd to check it out!

5 Things to do in Canada’s Cultural Capital, Ville de Montreal

Montreal is a vibrant mega city full of art, culture, architectural masterpieces and good food. The city is well planned and laid out, with a highly efficient public transportation system and a network of bike routes, giving Montreal a more European flavor than the rest of Canada. There’s so much to do here, this article won’t be enough to cover all the magnificent activities and attractions this great city has to offer. So, let’s get started!

1. Head up to Mont Royal

When you’re in Montreal, be sure to include a trip to Mont Royal, the 760-ft. high hill Montreal was named after. Parc du Mont-Royal was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, co-creator of New York’s Central Park. The park offers spectacular views of the entire city, with the Chalet du Mont Royal serving as a wonderful lookout spot. The park is famous for its diverse flora and fauna, and is one of Montreal’s best known and best loved spots.

2. Step back in time and visit Old Montreal

I’m a sucker for all things vintage, and Old Montreal is one fine glimpse into the past. Vieux- Montréal is the site of the original city of Montreal and is a cultural mecca, being the hub and hive of all things artsy. Cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes and horse-drawn carriages will greet you as you set foot in this beautiful part of the city seemingly untouched by time.

Have a drink at one of the many cafes overlooking the river, or enjoy some performance art in the summertime. Most notable is the Hôtel de Ville or the old Town Hall, with its grand architecture and historic past.

3. Say a prayer at Montreal’s grand basilicas

Your Montreal trip wouldn’t be complete without dropping by the Basilique Notre-Dame, one of the city’s most visited attractions. The iconic church is home to a 7,000 pipe organ that’s estimated to be a hundred years old and is located at the rear chapel. It also houses the gigantic 11-ton Jean-Baptiste bell. When you hear those bells toll, better head on inside the church to see the beautiful ornate wood carvings, stained glass windows, centuries old statues and high vaulted ceilings.

There’s also the Basilique-Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde (Mary Queen of the World Cathedral), which is a small scale replica of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Don’t let the word “small scale” fool you, because this church sits proudly right smack in the middle of towering skyscrapers and can hold its own due to the 294 ft. high dome.

4. Experience Nature in the City

If you’re a nature lover or if you want your kids to experience nature up close and personal, go to the Montreal Biodome for a fun nature adventure. The Biodome is split into four ecosystems: a tropical rainforest, a Laurentian forest, a polar environment and the St. Lawrence marine habitat. The most awesome part of this adventure is you get to experience the changes in temperatures as you stroll through the entirety of the Biodome and enter each separate ecosystem. There are monkeys, bats, capybaras, puffins, marine wildlife and penguins!

Located next to the Biodome is the 185-acre Botanical Gardens, which is home to more than 26,000 species of flora thanks to 10 massive greenhouses each tailored to a specific theme, like the tranquil Japanese Zen garden that showcases bonsai trees and the Chinese Garden which features designs from the 14th to 17th century Ming Dynasty. Don’t touch any plants in the popular poisonous plant section though, unless you want a trip to the emergency room.

5. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Being the art and cultural capital of Canada, Montreal is home to a lot of museums. The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal is the city’s most prestigious museum and has been building its collection of fine arts from renowned artists like Picasso, Rembrandt, Cézanne, El Greco and Renoir. The museum is also home to many Canadian and international masterpieces, plus a collection of artifacts from World War I.

Honorable Mention

As I said, we were bound to run out of real estate when talking about all the amazing things you can do in Montreal. A list like this should be 10x long! Anyway, other places you can go to that are worth mentioning are:

· Plateau – you should spend a day or more here. Go to every shop, every café and talk to everyone!

· Stroll the Underground – There’s a network of underground shops, restaurants and even movie theatres for when winter rolls in. A must see.

· The Food – I have to say, Montreal is a foodies’ paradise. Prepare to gain a few pounds when you visit. Don’t forget to try the smoked meat, the Montreal Bagel and their famous poutine.

· The Beer – There are tons of micro-breweries and if you love beer like the people of Montreal do, be sure to go to a few of them.

· Visit the Markets – A trip to Montreal wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Atwater market and Jean-Talon market.

There you have it folks! This list is far from complete because there are a whole lot more activities, events and festivals in Montreal you just have to experience for yourself. If you want to be near the action at all times, you can opt to stay in the many hotels or condos in the heart of Montreal, so you don’t ever miss out.

Get in The Game With The Kia Trail’ster! #KiaTrailster

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Kia Trailster – photo courtesy the Chicago Auto Show


Travel consideration provided.

Last week, Kia unveiled their Kia Trail’ster concept at the Chicago Auto Show. This vehicle gives us a peek at how the Kia Soul could evolve in the coming years, with a sporty, electric all-wheel-drive system to help you deal with a wide variety of terrain, from trailheads, to mud, to snow – definitely the kind of vehicle that would fit right in the Pacific Northwest! The Trail’ster is sleek and modern, packing SUV capability into a more compact vehicle. With its “Through-the-Road” hybrid system that doesn’t need a mechanical link between the engine and the motor, this is one futuristic car!

The Kia Trail’ster is all about getting in the game and being ready for any adventure. Since Chicago is home to the Chicago Bulls, a team which Kia proudly sponsors, they decided to celebrate the unveiling of the Trail’ster concept by going out to a Bulls game later that night, and taking a group of bloggers with them to help root on the team. We got on a bus headed to United Center and got ready to cheer on the Bulls!

Taking in a game with Kia

We had amazing seats in a penthouse suite overlooking the game, complete with a chef whipping up custom pasta dishes and an amazing dessert table.

Food in the penthouse suite

The Bulls were facing off against the Cleveland Cavaliers, so we settled in for an exciting game.

Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Let's Go Bulls!

Chicago Bulls in Action

Bulls play the Cavaliers

While we watched the game, the Chicago LuvaBulls stopped by to say hi!

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Chicago LuvaBulls perform

Our night culminated with the Bulls winning – yeah!!!

Bulls Win!

Between the reveal of the futuristic Trail’ster and watching Chicago’s own Bulls earn another victory in their hometown, I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing and memorable day in the Windy City!

Are you a Bulls fan? Do you think you’d drive a Trail’ster to take in a basketball game?

7 Things You Must do at The Chicago Auto Show

Chicago Auto Show

Travel consideration provided.

Last week, I headed to Illinois for the kickoff off the Chicago Auto Show. This is my second time at the show, and like last year, I had a fantastic time. This auto show is the nation’s largest, covering 1 million square feet; two days before the show opened to the public, it had already sold 250,000 tickets. The atmosphere is like none other and truly an event that is not to be missed – and because there is so much to do, it’s a good idea to make a plan for what you want to see and do before you get there. Here are 7 family-friendly activities that you can’t miss while you’re there:

See The Cars:

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Well, duh. But if this is your first time at the auto show, you might be surprised by the variety of cars on offer. This isn’t just walking into a room and staring at a bunch of standard vehicles – even if you’re not a big “Car person”, I think you’ll be fascinated by what’s on display.

2.6 million Bugatti
SpongeBob Minivan

From vehicles you might want to buy to concept cars, there is a little bit of everything here. Where else could you find a 2.6 million dollar Bugatti and a SpongeBob minivan in the same building?

Pink car, pink hair

Pink cars, blue cars, old cars, new cars – no, it’s not a Dr. Seuss rhyme, it’s the Chicago Auto Show!

Check Out The Giveaways & Goodies:

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I’m all about contests and swag, and the Chicago Auto Show has plenty of opportunity to find both. You can provide app feedback at the Edmunds.com booth and pick a prize, Instagram a photo to claim goodies from the Scion Swag Machine, pick up tote bags from different car manufacturers, spin the Nissan and Shell prize wheels, and much more.

Shell prize wheel

If you’re into entering contests like I am, you’ll also have your pick of giveaways: From Ford’s raffle for giant stuffed penguins to car giveaways, there are plenty of opportunities to test your luck!

Play a Game:

Mustang pinball

From pinball to video games, there are a number of fun diversions for the young and young-at-heart!

Take a Ride:

There multiple exciting test drive and track opportunities available at the Chicago Auto Show, such as the exciting Camp Jeep course shown above, where a professional driver takes you through a course that has more in common with a roller coaster than your typical driving track! Several car manufacturers have test tracks at the show – there is even a special Ford Power Wheels F-150 course just for kids.

Create a Souvenir:

Subaru Adventure

All through the auto show, you’ll see opportunities to take fun souvenir videos and photos. Want to create your own Kia hamster dance video, or take refuge from a dinosaur and bigfoot in a Subaru? You can do all of these things and more to commemorate your visit!

Catch an Appearance:

Haley Reinhart

During First Look For Charity, the Chicago Auto Show’s opening night charity gala, we were treated to a performance from American Idol alum Haley Reinhart. During the show, there are several appearances and autograph sessions from athletes, actors and even cartoon characters – click here to view the event schedule for information on appearance times.

Relax:

Infiniti Lounge

The Chicago Auto Show draws a huge crowd, which creates an exciting atmosphere – but it can get a little overwhelming, so make sure you plan breaks to sit down, rest your feet, and grab a bite to eat or something to drink. The Infiniti Lounge provides an oasis from the crowd with a nice place to sit down and take 5!

Experience the Chicago Auto Show

There really is so much to see at the Chicago Auto Show – I highly recommend checking out their list of interactive displays before you go, so that you can make a general plan of what you’d like to hit up while you’re there.

Ticket Information:

Adults: $12
Children ages 7 through 12 & seniors ages 62+: $6
Children under 6: Free when accompanied by an adult family member.
For information about discounts, this year’s food drive, and special reduced price days, click here.
Tickets can be purchased at the show or ordered online here.

Hours & Dates:

Show runs from February 14th through February 22nd – open 9 AM to 10 PM except for Sunday the 22nd, when the show closes at 8 PM.
Event schedule available here.

Location:

McCormick Place
2301 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60616

Follow the Chicago Auto Show on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest and get more info at ChicagoAutoShow.com.