Exploring The Oregon Coast #SubaruLegacy

Sunny day on the Oregon coast

I am a voluntary participant in the Subaru of America Legacy Blogger program. I have been asked by Subaru of America to review their products in exchange for the use of a short-term vehicle loan. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

One of my favorite parts of living on the Oregon coast is having so much beauty right in my own backyard. Sometimes, Jai and I will just get in the car and drive down the coastline with no particular destination in mind. This is exactly what happened last weekend, when I was test driving the 2015 Subaru Legacy: We hopped in the car on a sunny, hot Saturday and just started driving, wondering where the day would take us!

Exploring the Oregon Coast in the 2015 Subaru Legacy

We leisurely began our drive, stopping at a few viewpoints to snap some photos. No matter how many times I take in this scenery, I’ll never be tired of it!

Oregon coast panorama

Oregon coast panorama – click to view larger

I stopped in Nehalem so we could pop into a little discount store and pick up some ice cream cones. There’s nothing like a cool ice cream cone on a hot summer day! Our next stop was Tillamook, where we paid a visit to the Blue Heron French Cheese Company.

Parked at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company

We discovered this place a few years ago and we love it – they have great food and a wonderful petting zoo full of friendly goats, alpaca and birds.

Goat says "Hi"!

After we refueled with a few grilled cheese sandwiches, we bought a bag of animal food to share with the petting zoo residents.

Feeding a Guinea Fowl

These guys are sneaky…they will try to distract you and grab the whole bag of food out of your hand!

Tillamook Cheese Factory

We also stopped by the famous Tillamook Cheese Factory. I hadn’t been there since 1997 and as I learned, Jai had never gone inside before – see, now matter how long you live somewhere, there’s always more to discover!

2015 Subaru Legacy at sunset

After sampling cheese and taking the factory tour, we began the drive home. But that wasn’t the end of our weekend adventures: We also brought the family along and drove the car to Astoria (AKA home of the Goonies) for “Meat Bingo” on Sunday, which is exactly what it sounds like: A game of bingo where you can win meat as prizes! My cousin won a package of bacon, so I’d say it was a highly successful outing!

The new Subaru Legacy was very enjoyable to drive all around the coast. Its smooth handling made it easy to navigate in comfort wherever we went. I also enjoyed having Sirius XM in the car for the road trip, since it has a lot of channels and got better reception in some of these rural areas than regular FM radio; I put it on the Pop2K channel and enjoyed some 2000s jams while I drove!

Have you ever visited the Oregon coast?

New Addition to Universal Orlando Resort: Loews Sapphire Falls


Be one of the first to book reservations for the newest on-site hotel at Universal Orlando Resort – Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Guests can now book reservations at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort for stays beginning July 14, 2016. Built around a lush, tropical lagoon and towering waterfall, the new, 1,000-room Caribbean-themed hideaway is the fifth hotel at Universal Orlando and will bring the number of on-site hotel rooms to 5,200. Images shown are conceptual representations, details are subject to change.  
© Universal Orlando Resort, 2015.

Built around a lush, tropical lagoon and towering waterfall, the new, 1,000-room Caribbean-themed hideaway is the fifth hotel at Universal Orlando and will bring the number of on-site hotel rooms to 5,200.

Guests will be captivated by a vivid retreat that evokes a free-spirited, Caribbean sense of ease with a modern yet timeless feel. The unforgettable island escape will feature Universal Orlando’s largest on-site, zero-entry pool at 16,000 square-feet, with a white sand beach, a water slide, cabanas and a fire pit.

Dining options will include Amatista Cookhouse, a Caribbean-inspired restaurant with open exhibition kitchen and outdoor dining; Strong Water Tavern, a destination lobby lounge overlooking the hotel’s towering waterfalls and offering a tapas-style menu; Drhum Club Kantine, a poolside bar and grill serving freshly-grilled fare and specialty cocktails; New Dutch Trading Co., a quick-service marketplace; and 24-hour room service.

With value season rates starting at $119 per night for a seven-night stay or $143 per night for a four-night stay and summer season rates from $176 per night for a seven-night stay or $206 per night for a four-night stay, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will offer incredible guest benefits, including:

· Early theme park admission

· Complimentary water taxi service and shuttle bus transportation to the theme parks and Universal CityWalk

· Complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout the resort to their hotel

· Resort-wide charging privileges with their room key

· And more!

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will be a preferred on-site hotel. More information about the various levels of on-site hotel experiences is available here.

To book a hotel stay and explore ticket options for Universal Orlando’s two incredible theme parks, visit universalorlando.com or call 800.BE.A.STAR (232-7827).

Summer Adventures in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Travel consideration provided by Kia.

I recently paid a visit to Lake Tahoe, and I can’t think of a more ideal place to kick off summer. It was my first time in the area, and I had a fantastic time – it’s a stunning part of the country.

Room at the Ritz-Carlton

I flew into the Reno, Nevda and then drove across to Truckee, California, where I checked into the Ritz-Carlton, a beautiful spot surrounded by a gorgeous view of the forest and hills.

Beautiful views


Every night, the Ritz-Carlton features “Marshmology” around a campfire in the courtyard. A different selection of handcrafted artisanal marshmallows are served each day – during my stay, it was caramel, passionfruit and tarragon. I can’t think of a better way to kick off a summer trip than with S’mores!


After dinner at Trokay and a good night’s sleep, I got ready for a day of fun activities. I was in town to test drive the 2016 Kia Sorento, which I was introduced to over breakfast during a press conference inside the Ritz. Once our briefing was over, my friend Kristen and I headed to the lobby to hop in the Sorento.

About to Drive The 2016 Kia Sorento

We began a beautiful drive around Lake Tahoe, admiring its breathtaking views. It was the perfect weather!

Exploring Lake Tahoe

Beautiful Lake Tahoe

Beeb on the rocks

Sunlight through the trees

Kristen and I stopped at a few viewing points, grabbed a coffee, then headed back to the Ritz for lunch. After we fueled up, it was time to get up close and personal with Lake Tahoe by embarking on a big adventure: Kayaking!

I’d never been kayaking before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Our group piled into the Sorento with sunscreen and swimsuits and headed down to the lake, where two friendly kayaking guides gave us the low-down on how to paddle, steer, and enter a kayak. We were paired up into teams of two, got into our kayaks and headed out on the lake.

Photo Credit: 2015. Jay McNally/Mcnally Multi Media

Photo Credit: 2015. Jay McNally/Mcnally Multi Media

Photo Credit: 2015. Jay McNally/Mcnally Multi Media

Photo Credit: 2015. Jay McNally/Mcnally Multi Media

It was nerve-wracking at first, because I felt so unstable in a little kayak bouncing on the water. I was afraid I might topple in the water, which also happens to be the second deepest lake in America, and I felt a little intimidated. 😉 But as we got into a rythm, I got used to it and was able to fully enjoy the amazing scenery. I ever brought my waterproof Garmin VIRB with me to capture some video – unfortunately, I realized later that it was on time-lapse mode by by mistake so I didn’t get any useable video, but I did get a few cool still from the lake!

Scenes from kayaking on Lake Tahoe

After we finished kayaking, we had a chance to dry off, snag a few S’mores at Marshmology, and then headed to the Manzanita, Ritz-Carlton’s signature restaurant, for a dinner. Executive Chef Stanley Miller surprised us all by announcing that we would have an “Iron Chef” challenge, where all the writers were divided into teams and lead into the Ritz-Carlton’s kitchen, where we were assigned our own Chef mentor to oversee the concept and creation of a delicious dish. It was so much fun to cook in a true chef’s kitchen! Even under such a chaotic circumstance, I felt like I learned from being able to watch the pros in action!

Photo Credit: 2015. Jay McNally/Mcnally Multi Media

Photo Credit: 2015. Jay McNally/Mcnally Multi Media

Our team made a bison ribeye steak in a wine reduction sauce served with potatoes, Brussels sprouts with bacon & mushrooms. Although we didn’t win this time, we were happy with our dish! After the contest, we were treated to an amazing meal from Chef Stanley. It was the perfect end to a fun and exciting trip!

Have you ever visited Lake Tahoe?

A Quick Guide To Family Friendly Resorts for 2015

Summer 2015 is here and families are traveling near and far for their annual family vacations. Traveling with one or more kids can be challenging and expensive if you don’t plan ahead, research different options or jump on the latest craze of crowdfunding your entire trip. Some destinations are more family-friendly than others or offer perks like free dining for children. For savings deals and the best experience, look for off-the-beat-and-path destinations beyond the typical Disney World stop.

To give you a head start, here’s a list of family-family resorts in the U.S.:

1. Princess Royale. Known as one of the best hotel destinations in Ocean City, MD, Princess Royale’s accommodations are created for family-style vacations with two-room suites and fully-equipped kitchenettes in most rooms. In addition to the property’s amenities including beach access, a sprawling pool and pizza bar, endless activities for kids are located in close proximity.


Courtesy: Tripadvisor.com

2. The Breakers. Perched on 140 acres of pristine waterfront, The Breakers is a luxury destination fit for the entire family. The property features a year-round kids’ camp, private babysitting, playgrounds and more.


Courtesy: TheBreakers.com

3. Kingsmill Resort & Spa. Situated nearby Colonial Williamsburg, attraction options are plenty for this resort. Made up of three-floor condos in villa-like clusters, daytime activities include soccer, fishing, swimming, craft-making and more.

4. The Tyler Place Family Resort. A rustic style summer camp resort with something for every age group, The Tyler Place Family Resort is perfect if you are looking for organized activities for both parents and children. For example, parents can enroll in archery classes, practice yoga, and take painting classes and more.


Courtesy: Tripadvisor.com

So pack yourself a meal replacement shake that’ll energize you for a few hours because a visit to any of these resorts will have your kids running around in hyper drive!

Experiences and Exploration – What Not to Miss in Barcelona

Bustling and cultural, Barcelona offers terrific art, equally fine food and a fun music scene. As a medieval city, the city also has plenty of history to its name. Then there are the stretches of beautiful warm beaches you can throw into the mix. It all combines for a magical Spanish break. Here are some recommendations for enjoying some fantastic city breaks to Barcelona.

Soaking up the arts

Barcelona’s modern architecture and the buildings of the architect Antoni Gaudí are legendary. His work gives the city its distinctive character. Architectural masterpieces include the Pedrera, the Sagrada Família and Park Güell. Take the chance, too, to stroll around the Gothic Quarter with its cathedral, quaint streets and plazas.


photo source https://www.flickr.com/photos/austinevan/259919266/sizes/o/

Culture vultures (and theatre fans!) shouldn’t miss a trip to Gran Teatre del Liceu. Here we have a theatre as it should be —with gold leaf décor and red plush interiors. Art lovers will delight in exploring the Fundació Joan Miró, which has a huge collection of more than 14,000 pieces of work by Miró himself and by other artists.

Exploring every day culture

Poble Nou is a nice place to shop for authentic hand-crafted Spanish goods, but if food is more your thing you’ll want to visit the Boqueria. This famous market sells amazing fresh fruit, veg and seafood. At the higher end of the scale, foodwise, is a marvelous restaurant called Els 4 Gats, which the artist Pablo Picasso used to frequent. The menu here is delicious but pricey. If you want something more affordable, go to the adjacent café and watch the world go by.

Enjoying the splendid outdoors

Adventurers will love a trek to Montjuïc Mountain, which boasts commanding views of the city. While there, you can visit the Olympic Stadium, Jardi Botànic and see the telecommunications tower by Santiago Calatrava.

If marine life and nautical things interest you, L’Aquarium de Barcelona is a must-see, especially for the kids. Equally fascinating if not always obviously touristy are the royal shipyards at Museu Marítim. With multimedia displays, maps and ships, this is a great way to see how navigation has evolved over the years.

And last but not least, no city break to Barcelona is complete without a beach visit. Barceloneta beach is closest to the city, but families will also enjoy Bogatell beach with outdoor climbing frames for kids. Now that’s a lot to pack in on your visit – best get started on having fun!

Image by austinevan, used under Creative Commons license

Loading Up The KIA Sedona For FUN Adventures #AD

This is a sponsored post by Kia.

I only had three full days of reviewing the Kia Sedona LX and feel like I barely scratched the surface of all the fun that can be had in it. And I have to say we had a lot of fun. We set off taking it slow on Saturday and we went to the kids acting class and then to Starbucks. Then we drove to Griffith Park and I forgot to take pictures. I’m sort of out of habit of reviewing vehicles. 20150524_212414271_iOS


The next day we decided to take more of a road trip so I looked at the map and picked out a beach used the GPS and arrived safely. I picked Point Dume State Beach in Malibu. Wow, Malibu was nothing like I expected you travel through these beautiful mountains and then you suddenly are spit out onto the beach. It was breathtaking. I took away all electronics and made the kids enjoy the beauty with me. We had such a fantastic time we just forgot to bring our swimsuits.


I mean we didn’t forget I just thought it was going to be too cold to get into the water and the kids ended up getting soaking wet. So we stopped at Target got some new clothes and the kids were able to change in the back of the Sedona, one kid in each row. The windows are tented so no one can see in. Then after they were in dry clothes we drove in the opposite direction of the beach and found a Sonic Drive in. Then we stopped at home.



Because we had so much fun at the beach we decided the next day we needed to load up and go to the beach again. 20150525_175154034_iOS

This time we planned it and picked up friends on the way. We had the room so why not. The Kia Sedona seats 8 with adjustable seating in the middle. You can move the seats back and forth and from side to side. (Choice of seating available for up to eight,or available Slide-N-Stow™ second row. (translation: multiple configurations for family trips or trips to the hardware store and plenty of cargo room.) When we arrived at our friends’ place I had to pull off to the side very close to the curb, the car sensed a tree and pulled in the side mirror to keep itself from being damaged. That was really a cool feature. (side note, because of all of the cameras on this vehicle parallel parking is a breeze, even with how large it is….I NEVER thought I would park something this big before). They piled in and added their beach supplies and then off to Target we went to get even more supplies. We couldn’t fill up the trunk not at all. 20150525_202416103_iOS

Again, we arrived at the beach for a day full of fun. And driving home the kids reclined their chairs and put up their feet. Yep they were sitting in the lap of luxury. While we also listened to the Kids station on SiriusXM.


Now for features I haven’t mentioned yet. The front seats and steering wheel were heated, while the seats could also be cooled. I love having a hot back so I always use the heat. I mentioned the rear view mirrors and how easily they adjusted when needed and they were quite easy to adjust for the driver. The Kia Sedona also has next-generation, driver assist technology includes Advanced Smart Cruise Control and Blind-Spot Detection with Lane-Change Assist. (translation: conveniences that help make the driving experience enjoyable and safe.) LOVE THIS FEATURE! I ALWAYS use this feature while driving on the highway. Kia collage

It can detect if the car in front of you is slowing down and will slow you down. And, every time I come close to the lane or try to change lanes without using the signal the car beeps at me to alert me that I’m getting close to the line. The sun roof was a feature the kids loved, oh yeah, there were two sun roofs, how cool is that? And opening the sliding glass doors was easy for the kids and if they left them open I had a button in the front seat that I could use to close them.

kia seat orientations

I’m sure there are plenty of features that we didn’t explore. For example we didn’t use the 3rd-Row Seats offer the versatility of a 50/50 split-fold to accommodate a variety of passenger and cargo combinations. The seats easily disappear into the cargo area when not in use. I wish I had this vehicle for the long drive back to Washington. We would be able to take almost all our stuff home in it. Oh and we never took advantage of how many different kinds of electrical plugs this car had.20150526_042114026_iOS

There was USB/12 Volt, and 110 Volt. It’s the perfect vehicle to take on a road trip.


We Loved This Ride

Visiting Paris – Without Breaking The Bank

This is a partnered guest post.

Learn How to Save Money on a European Vacation

If you are starting to think about leaving for vacation, you need to first decide if you have enough money. If you are working with a tight budget or you simply want to get the most enjoyment out of as little money as possible, you will want to check out the following tips.

Finding Discounts in Paris Hotels

There are a lot of people out there that will tell you that they have never paid full price for a hotel in their entire adult lives. Even if you have always paid full price, there is always a chance to change your habit. The first thing you need to do is to remember that there are a lot of discounts that are offered by hotels, that you might not see advertised.

You need to check with your auto insurance or roadside membership assistance company to see if they know of hotels that give discounts because you go through their company. You can also call the hotel that you are interested in staying with and ask them about such discounts. Some hotels will even give room discounts to veterans, the disabled, the elderly, and for workers of certain companies.

Beeb in Paris - 2004

Bring Your Own Snacks

No, it would not save you money to bring snacks from home onto the plane. What you want to do is to wait until you have checked into your hotel room. You can then check out the local stores and stock up on a lot of food and drinks that you are going to be able to leave in your hotel room. Just remember, most hotel rooms have very small refrigerators. Therefore, you might want to stick with a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, chips, and crackers.

Check Out the Free Venues

Sure, there are going to be plenty of places that you are going to want to spend money at. However, you do not always have to spend a lot of money in order to have a lot of fun. You might want to take a little bit of time while you are at home to research all of the different fun things that tourists can do while they are in Paris, completely free of charge. While researching that, you are likely to run into a lot of ideas for things that you can do for a minimal cost.

Make Use of the Breakfast Bar

Even if your hotel only offers donuts, cold cereal, or fruit in the morning, it is usually a part of the cost of your hotel stay. Therefore, you might want to go ahead and take advantage of it. By eating for free in the mornings, you will have more money for the other meals. You could also try to eat light for lunch, so that you have plenty of room in both your stomach and wallet to enjoy a nice hearty dinner in the restaurant of your choice.

Do make sure that you are continuing to look for more money saving tips until it is time for you to leave for the airport. Also, feel free to ask friends and family for advice on cheaper traveling. You might just find yourself surprised at the wealth of information that your friends and family will have.

You will have had the vacation of a lifetime for a lot less money than you would have normally spent.

This article was contributed by Fiona Moriarty of Hipmunk, a travel website that offers customers a fast and easy way to find the best travel deals.

Holman Ranch: The Perfect Place For a Western Wedding

Holman (26)

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.

Holman (23)  Holman (7)

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.

Holman (6)  Holman (14)

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.

Holman (28)   Holman (29)

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.

Holman (5)  Holman (16)

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.

Holman (2)

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.

Holman (1)

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!


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.


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


· 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.


· 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?).