The Center Stage Studio (and My Second Childhood)

CSS's cast of Annie takes a bow

CSS’s cast of Annie takes a bow

When we first realize that our child is interested in our own passions, the first thought is elation. I KNOW that! I know how that world works, I did it once too! We can chat with the other adults running the program as if we are old colleagues. We know the requirements, the routines, the general culture around it. And of course there’s that evolutionary parent pride, knowing that they must have gotten some gene that made them more like you.

CSS summer camp production of Matilda

CSS summer camp production of Matilda

But then the next emotions come through: yeah, I know that world. I remember the hard work, the heartbreak, and all the things about it that scared me and made me doubt myself.  Is that what my child will go through? How will she balance it all? Will she be better than me? And I worry, have I subconsciously pushed her into something she wouldn’t have otherwise chosen? I’ve certainly taken her to more theater than sports events. I’ve sung show tunes as lullabies since the day she was born. I will plunk down money to see a show faster than for clothes or beauty products (obviously), and surely she’s sensed that. So how can I make sure that she only does it because she really wants to?

Inara as Miss Hannigan in Annie

Inara as Miss Hannigan in Annie

Thankfully when we moved out here to Southern California, I found The Center Stage Studio, a triple threat school in Orange County (Aliso Viejo), California. We have a 30-minute drive from Laguna Beach and it is well worth it for what they do. Triple Threat in that world means acting, singing and dancing, the foundation skills of a successful career on the stage, specifically in musical theater. Each semester a new show is chosen, and there are classes every day of the week that kids can join. Each class has its own cast, and everyone gets a part regardless of their level of training or talent. The mini versions of Broadway hits are performed at the end of the semesters (or ends of special camp weeks in the summer and winter) on an impressive stage with a shared set, with shared costumes, and the kids get head microphones to wear so they can be heard by all of their fans in the audience. The studio provides training, but even more importantly it provides fun and confidence. My little one still doesn’t grasp the concept of being nervous; it’s all just play for her. And as long a she feels that way, I will enjoy every moment of this “stage mom” life.

Scene from CSS's Annie

Scene from CSS’s Annie

And if it becomes something more than play? She has far more opportunities than I ever had. The studio is run by true professionals, and she’s trained by and alongside Broadway and television veterans ready to take a kid to the next level when they (and their parents) are ready. CSS has over 500 students rotating through the school a year, in shows and classes for all elements of performance. Inara spent a week learning a mini version of the Broadway show Matilda over the summer (one of my favorite Broadway shows), this fall she played a tiny blond Miss Hannigan in Annie, and in the spring she will join one of the casts of Seussical The Musical. During this upcoming winter break the studio is offering 2 week-long camp sessions to do a Frozen-themed musical for all the little Elsa and Anna wannabes in Orange County. And for those mamas like me who may have a missed calling or two, they even occasionally offer adult classes. Every city has its own offerings for performance training, but we feel very lucky to live near The Center Stage Studio and will be involved as long  as we live in Southern California (and as long as my mini-me wants to be).

It’s a wonderful feeling to pass the proverbial torch on to our kids. And the answer to the question “Will she be better than me?” has already been answered: undoubtedly. And I couldn’t be more elated.

CSS Summer Camp cast of Matilda takes a bow

CSS Summer Camp cast of Matilda takes a bow

 

 

 

 


 

Center Stage Studio is located at 27101 Aliso Creek Road Suite #136, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656 Phone: (949) 305-9758

For General Info, Registration, Birthday Parties, email: csseventskristen@gmail.com

Dallas CityScape Visits Galleria Dallas

DallasCityScapeAACThe annual Dallas CityScape exhibit features over 20 models of Dallas’ famous landmarks, all crafted out of Lego bricks, perfect for fans of The Lego Movie or future architects and creative types. There will also be an interactive kids construction zone for anyone to try their hand at building a masterpiece and test their college enrollment process skills with a “College Knowledge IQ” game.DallasCityScapeGalleriaThe goal of Dallas CityScape is to bring together families during the holidays at this unique and interactive exhibit, as well as to showcase the Dallas community and build the foundation for sustainable change in education. This kid and family-friendly exhibit is all for a good cause: All proceeds from the exhibit benefit Education Opens Doors, a local nonprofit that empowers students to purposefully navigate through high school to college using the Roadmap to Success Program.DallasCityScapeReunionAdmission to the exhibit is $5 until January 4, 2015, and each child receives a free toy car with their ticket purchase.

Education Opens Doors from Jayda Batchelder on Vimeo.

Live Nation Will Open The Music Factory in 2016

Last night at the House of Blues, Live Nation Entertainment, the world’s leading live entertainment company, announced that it will open an all-new, state-of-the-art concert venue in Irving, Texas.the-pavilion-at-the-music-factory-indoor-theaterThe Pavilion at The Music Factory lifestyle center, will open in Spring 2016 and will play host to world-class artists! The Pavilion will be the perfect anchor for Irving’s highly anticipated new entertainment and restaurant complex known as The Music Factory. It was Irving that decided it needed to have an entertainment-destination development such as The Music Factory. Live Nation looked throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth before landing in Irving as a regional destination. The 17-acre site sits adjacent to the Irving Convention Center in Las Colinas has proximity to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, State Highway 114, State Highway 183, Interstate 35E and Interstate 635. The proximity to roadways wasn’t the only appealing aspect, he added. The Pavilion at The Music Factory also will be located near rail stations on the newly completed DART Orange Line, include 4,200 dedicated parking spaces and 15 valet stands.Irving Music FactoryThe innovative new venue in Las Colinas will convert from a 4,000-seat indoor theatre to an 8,000-person capacity boutique open-air pavilion! Can’t wait until it opens – live music just got bigger and better in DFW! The convertible concert venue gives Live Nation the ability to bring in a wide variety of concerts ranging from A-list headliners to growing artists by using electronic doors that fold up horizontally before being lifted vertically at the back of the venue to open up in a panoramic view to the grassy lawn.
the-pavilion-at-the-music-factory-outdoor-open-air-pavilionThe live entertainment company plans to hold 60 to 70 concert events at The Pavilion at The Music Factory each year. The Pavilion gives Live Nation the ability to round out its venue portfolio in the region, which is the fourth largest metro area in the United States. The Pavilion at The Music Factory is scheduled to open on April 1, 2016. Live Nation plans to begin marketing shows at the concert venue in fall 2015.

Giving Thanks to All with Intel 2-in-1

Sponsored: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Intel. This could include Intel providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

ThanksgivingIntel2in1It is Thanksgiving, and people enjoying home-cooked feasts of turkey, gravy and stuffing, but holiday travel can often outweigh the joyful anticipation of seeing friends and family. Fortunately for my family, we plan ahead by packing light and traveling with our new Intel 2 in 1 tablet, the Acer Aspire Switch 10. I had out Thanksgiving Day shopping list saved on it along with recipes, Frozen and The Avengers for the kids to watch as we drove and my Skype account set up ready to talk with family and friends who were afar.ThanksgivingTableBeing a smaller hybrid, the Acer Aspire Switch 10 has an Intel Atom CPU, 2GB of RAM, and up to a 64GB SSD for storage. In the hand, it feels solid, and you’re getting is a base with a keyboard and touchpad, plus in this case, a single USB 2.0 port; and a tablet screen that packs all the internal components inside. I love the chunky keys on the keyboard, and keys such as Enter, Shift, and Tab are large. The touchpad is a good size for an ultraportable and works well with multitouch gestures such as two-finger scrolling. The 10.1-inch display has a 1,366×768 native resolution. For the size, it’s perfectly usable.AcerAspireSwitch10Acer Aspire Switch 10 uses a powerful magnetic catch that connects two prongs on the top of the hinge to two openings on the bottom edge of the tablet screen. A small connective strip between the prongs forms the electrical connection between the keyboard and the screen. I think this method of connecting the two halves of a two-in-one hybrid to be one of my favorites so far, mostly because you’re not asked to fumble with a big ugly physical button and hook-style catches that often take two hands and several tries to connect properly.

Thankfully, this Thanksgiving I do not need to worry about food preparation, the kids or how I am going to do it all. This holiday season, I am going to tell the people I love how THANKFUL I am to have them in my life.

1. Jeff, my husband. He makes me a better woman, even though there are times when I wish he would just let me be. The fact that he will not shows me how much he loves me.
2. My kids. These two are the reason it is easy to get out of bed. They are my pride and joy. My only wish is that I could be the woman that they see.
3. My family. From my mom and brother to my aunts, uncles and cousins, I love how they have always supported me and appreciated me for who I am. I love them to pieces, and I only wish that this holiday season that we could all be sitting around the table together.
4. My close friends. You know who you are. I don’t need to write your name. Actually, you’d probably hate it if I did because y’all teach me what humility, authenticity and generous people look like. *besos*
5. Jayne and Jacqueline. You two are true gems, diamonds in the rough. Thanks for being real posh moms and helping me be at more than one place at one time. 🙂
6. My readers. I would not real or posh if it wasn’t for you. I love writing, but if I had no readers than it would only be in my personal journal. Thank you for entering contests and sharing your comments on our stories. We really, really, really are thankful for you!
7. My online friends. What can I say, 15 years ago, who would have thunk that some of you would become some of my dearest friends. That I would travel the world to see you. To stay up late chatting about things that matter and TV show plots that really don’t. I look forward to future discussions and lots of laughs. Thank you for the follows, like and RT. You are awesome!

I’m excited to share more about my Intel 2 in 1 experience with you over the next several weeks, where I will be sharing about this awesome device in my everyday life!

Photo Journal: A Festival of Olives

IMG_6225I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few different food festivals in my day and I must say the festival of olives (Maslinijada) in Montenegro is one of my faves! This year, I was excited to experience the Montenegrin festival with some of my blogging friends and family.

At one point this weekend, I took a break and found the perfect spot on a stonewall to eat some local cheese with polenta (kačamak) and fried fish (ukljeve) with my family and friends. I had been on the move all day; listening to the traditional music, shooting photos, tasting olives and olive oil. I was ready to chill out for a sec. I could hear the bass coming from a stage off in the distance. It was calming and rhythmic. I looked around and noticed the undeniable energy. Everywhere around me I saw people laughing, smiling, eating and moving. Some were walking with linked arms, determined to make it through Old Town (Stari Grad). Others were casually lounging on chairs in nearby restaurants, sharing stories. It was beautiful and quite romantic. I couldn’t help but smile — my heart felt full. But that’s just the thing about festivals, isn’t it? People from all over the world join together in a shared experience, brought together by olives. At that point I realized, I had fallen in love with Montenegro.IMG_6213BloggersIMG_6222IMG_6223IMG_6227IMG_6229IMG_6251IMG_6260IMG_6267IMG_6297IMG_6304For more about Maslinijada, check out Stari Bar: Montenegrin Old Urban Settlement!

Sawdust Art Festival’s Winter Fantasy

Author's daughter watches the glassblowing demonstration at the Sawdust Art Festival's Winter Fantasy

Watching the glassblowing demonstration at the Sawdust Art Festival’s Winter Fantasy

For those of us lucky enough to live in or be visiting Southern California this month, a can’t-miss event is the Sawdust Art Festival’s 24th Annual Winter Festival. As this is our first winter living in Laguna Beach, we were eager to attend the opening day festivities on Saturday. We spent the afternoon and evening walking the sawdust-covered paths through the hand-crafted village with new friends; the kids got their faces painted while the adults enjoyed wine, the weather was SoCal-perfect (Hats and gloves? Purely for fashion’s sake!), and we all filled our heads with visions of local art under our trees this year.

Playing with the pretend snow at Sawdust. Photo Credit: Mary Hurlbut

The festival grounds have been transformed into a winter wonderland, where 175 artists create, display and sell the most unique holiday gifts in all of Southern California, including jewelry, clothing, fused and blown glass, ceramics, woodwork, forged metals, painting, photography, sculpture, clothing and textiles. The experience is heightened with live holiday entertainment, fabulous outdoor cafes, art classes and demonstrations for young and old, a petting zoo, and of course Santa himself, ready to hear Christmas wishes and pose for photos taken by Laguna Beach photographer Mary Hurlbut. Special activities for families and kids include pottery wheel throwing in holiday-themed shapes at the Ceramic Center, and many art and craft projects at both the Children’s Art Spot and Studio One. The Towne Square at the entrance of the festival grounds offers plenty of photo opportunities, including Santa’s House and Sleigh and falling “snow!”

Jayne and her family visit Santa at Sawdust. Photo credit: Mary Hurlbut

My family visit Santa at Sawdust. Photo credit: Mary Hurlbut

Sawdust’s Winter Fantasy: Holiday Tradition will continue over the next four weekends, including the Friday after Thanksgiving, from 10 am to 6 pm each day: November 29, 30 & December 1, December 7, 8, December 14, 15, December 20, and 21, offering plenty of time to do your holiday shopping. Also, November 29th just happens to be Small Business Saturday; what better small businesses to support than your local artisans? Special community events include partnership with Toys for Tots every Sunday of the festival. Toys for Tots is a foundation with a mission of collecting toys to distribute as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community. Visitors can show their support by contributing new unwrapped toys for children, newborn to 17, every Sunday during the festival. Those that donate a new toy with a value of $5 or more will receive free one-day admission to the Winter Fantasy that Sunday.

Adult admission is $7; $6 for Seniors (65+); $4 for children (6-12); FREE for children (5 & under); and $10 for a Season Pass. The festival is located at the Sawdust Art Festival, 935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. For additional information, please visit www.sawdustartfestival.org or call 949-494-3030.
Sawdust Art Festival Winter Fantasy 2014

12 Days of Christmas at Dallas Arboretum

Arboretum12DaysofChristmasCelebrate the holidays at the Dallas Arboretum like never before with this $2 million centerpiece exhibit entitled The 12 Days of Christmas featuring an elaborate collection of 25-foot Victorian gazebos filled with the charming costumed characters and whimsical animals that are made famous by the beloved Christmas carol. Each gazebo is encased in glass and extravagantly decorated on all sides to provide a dramatic, three-dimensional experience, and will feature mechanical parts and festive music that will assist in bringing the characters to an even more life-like state.GazeboEnjoy the .75-mile walk through the garden exhibit, as you witness these handcrafted gazebos spread across a winter wonderland.Dallas Arboretum 12 Days of Christmas Mansion.jpg2During the day, visitors can enjoy the lavishly decorated DeGolyer Estate, filled top to bottom with a collection of Byers’ Choice Ltd. Christmas Caroler figurines. This exhibit runs from November 26, 2014 – January 4, 2015 | Daily | 10AM-4PM Visitors can also stroll the gardens to view seasonal plantings and enjoy a variety of family-friendly activities.ArboretumGazeboDuring the evening, the garden will remain open for extended hours for The 12 Days at Night, where the beautifully illuminated gazebos will be showcased for magical nighttime viewing. During this time, visitors will be even further immersed in the Victorian-era holiday theme as they enjoy live carolers and holiday themed treats.

The 12 Days of Christmas daytime exhibit is included with general garden admission:
Adults | $15 non-members
Seniors | $12 non-members
Children ages 3-12 | $10
Children under 3 receive free admission
Parking | $10 at the gate | $5 online only
Member Parking | Free
Member Admission | Free

Other Holiday Events at The Arboretum

Special Weekend Holiday Festivities
November 29-December 21, 2014 | Saturdays and Sundays | Noon-4PM
Enjoy visits with Santa, reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Holiday Tea
Starting November 28, 2014 – 11AM and 2PM daily
Enjoy an elegant, three-course holiday tea for a special Christmas memory for those 13 and older. Prices range between $47 and $57 and include parking and admission to the garden. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 214.515.6511.

Make this a new Christmas tradition for your family; it will be a truly magical experience!

Celebrate the Holidays in Hill Country with JW Marriott Resort

jwhillcountryxmasJW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa offers a nightly light display with thousands of twinkling lights synchronized to music, Elf School where participants learn the secrets of an elf’s life and become “certified JW elves” and a polar plunge into the resort’s one non-heated pool with prizes for the day’s wackiest plunge.

Nestled in the Texas Hill Country on the edge of San Antonio, which enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year, the season comes alive with experiences at the resort for all ages.  Whether it is a getaway for couples or families during the holidays or home base for those visiting friends and families in the San Antonio area, there are decorations, food offerings and activities to delight the young and the young at heart.

Holiday rates offer significant savings and start at just $199, which is a 40% savings from high season rates.   Visit www.jwhillcountryholidays.com for more information.

HILL COUNTRY HOLIDAY EXPERIENCES:
Saturday, November 22, 2014 thru Wednesday, December 31, 2014

* JW Illumination
Enjoy thousands of twinkling lights choreographed to joyful holiday sounds as you stroll through our outdoor wonderland with a cup of rich, hot cocoa. The perfect companion to a wintry night!
When: Annual Lighting Ceremony – Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 5:30PM
o Nightly shows from 6:30PM to 10PM; 5 minute light show every 20 minutes
• Complimentary for guests and visitors

Friday, November 28, 2014 thru Wednesday, December 24, 2014

* Breakfast with Santa & Mrs. Claus ($)
Enjoy breakfast at 18 Oaks with none other than Santa, Mrs. Claus and the JW Elves.
Cost: $35 Adults / $25 Children ages 4 – 12 (Tax & Gratuity included)
When: Saturday mornings (Check experience schedule for times)
Location: 18 Oaks – Reservations required at 210-483-6653

* Elf Tuck-in ($)
Our playful elves are ready to make a special visit with your child and tuck them into bed.
Cost: $20 per child, ages 4-12. Includes a keepsake for each child.
When: Friday & Saturday nights; 8pm to 10pm
Location: Guest’s room – Reservations required at 210-483-6622satjw_holidays_phototour05* JW Sounds of the Season
Angel Chorus – local school choirs to perform weeknights in December.
Yuletide Carolers – Strolling carolers performing weekends in December.
Radio Rudolph – Keep the holiday spirit with our simultaneous broadcast of the JW Illumination soundtrack on your guest room FM radio. Nightly, 6:30PM-10PM.

* Keep Calm and Plunge On Contest With Lifeguard Elves ($)
Freezing water + freezing weather = the perfect scenario for a Polar Bear! Or…for those who are brave enough to jump into the one pool we decided to not heat this winter. Prizes will be given for the wackiest plunge and for any selfie shared at #JWMARRIOTTSANANTONIO
Cost: Complimentary to participate; $20 for commemorative T-Shirt
When: Saturdays at 9am from November 22-December 31
Location: River Bluff Water Experience – Adult Pool

* Kids’ Night Out ($)
While parents are away the kids will play! Range Riders Kids’ Club will be transformed into a
different fun filled themed party and dinner. From 6pm-10pm children will enjoy creative
activities and games, and receive a special keepsake.
Cost: $65 per child with dinner included, ages 4-12.
When: Check experience schedule for dates
Location: Range Riders Kids’ Club – Reservations recommended

*Making of a Certified JW Marriott San Antonio Elf ($)
Come learn the secrets of the magical and mischievous lives of Santa’s elves AND all good girls and boys will be named honorary JW Elves for the 2014 holiday season.
Cost: $35 includes holiday keepsake
When: Saturdays from 4pm-5pm
Location: Texas Library

* Santa’s Workshop
Write a special letter to Santa and he may just respond with a special note during your stay! Create a masterpiece depicting your favorite JW Hill Country holiday memory and enter the holiday art contest. Select artwork will be chosen for a complimentary one-night stay during the 2015 holiday season.
Cost: Complimentary
o Meet with JW Elves
o Write a letter to Santa
o Enter the JW holiday art contest
When: Check experience schedule for dates and times
Location: Texas Library

* Photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus ($)
Take your photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus!
Cost: $25 per flash drive containing up to 5 photos
When: Saturday nights
Location: Texas Library
Formal family portrait available by appointment only. Call 210-483-6647 for reservations.

* Holiday S’mores
Experience a real Texas tradition with a holiday twist. Gooey marshmallows, graham crackers and sweet peppermint bark chocolate! Regular chocolate will also be available.
Cost: Complimentary
When: Fridays & Saturdays; 5pm-6pm
Location: North Fire Pit

* Story Time with the Elves
The North Pole has sent some expert story readers to share memorable stories with little listeners.
Cost: Complimentary
When: Friday & Saturday nights
Location: Texas Librarysatjw_holidays_phototour03* Tinsel’s Treasures
Teaching children the Spirit of Giving during the holiday season is our JW Elves most favorite thing. Bring your children by Tinsel’s Treasures for a chance to select trinkets for someone very special to them.
Cost: $5- $20
When: Check experience schedule for dates and times
Location: Outside Texas Library

The Hill Country and San Antonio offer rich cultural holiday experiences for everyone.  A few highlights include:

Light the Way, November 22, 2014January 6, 2014: Nearly a million lights decorate the University of Incarnate Word campus.

Holiday Parade, November 28, 2014 at 7PMFor over 30 years, this spectacular one-hour parade along San Antonio’s River Walk has featured illuminated floats with celebrities, bands and lavishly-costumed participants.

La Gran Tamalada, December 14, 2014: At the annual tamal-making community party known as La Gran Tamalada, you’ll get hands-on experience from community tamaleras and enjoy San Antonio storytelling at its finest. Every holiday season, participants of all ages learn valuable methods and techniques in this informative and highly entertaining workshop at the historic Guadalupe Theater.

Hecho a Mano, December 5 – 7, 2014: A three-day festival that features an array of handcrafted specialty items that encompass both traditional and contemporary styles by mostly local and regional artists.

Fredericksburg, driving distance from the resort, is picture-perfect and known as the heart of the Texas Hill Country and offers German traditions, timeless holiday décor and four weeks of festive holiday entertainment during the holidays. Enjoy ice skating, marveling at the 30-foot Christmas tree and 26-foot German Christmas pyramid at Marktplatz.

Microsoft Opening in Dallas

RPMMicrosoftStoreMicrosoft opened its newest and largest store in the nation last weekend, November 8, 2014 in NorthPark Center in Dallas. The opening marked the 106th Microsoft store and the 10th in Texas. “NorthPark was a place we have wanted to be in for a long time,” said Store Manager Mike Williams. “We just couldn’t find the right deal but right now is the perfect time to be here.” The 5,323 square foot store is located between Nordstrom and Macy’s and not too far from the Apple store.Microsoft openingThousands of people were lined up early Saturday morning for the official grand opening ceremony that started at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. The first 2,500 people in line for the ribbon cutting ceremony received a pair of tickets to see Tim McGraw and The Band Perry perform live at 1PM. Some people camped out in the mall’s parking lot in order to be the first 100 in line to win a Meet and Greet with performer Tim McGraw prior to the concert.microsoftstoretexasopeningOn hand for the opening ceremony were Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Windows Phone Darren Laybourn and Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins. As part of the grand opening, Microsoft donated a software grant to community organizations more than double the size of its usual amount. The company’s technology grants totaled $2,125,000 and checks were presented to representatives from the following organizations:

MicrosoftProductsThe store offers an assortment of products including Windows 8.1 desktops, tablets, laptops, Windows Phone devices, Xbox One, Office 365, Surface Pro 3, and W HP’s Sprout.  Also available are Microsoft Surface Pro 3, a PC with built-in project screen and touch pad, only available in 20 of Microsoft’s stores, and Microsoft’s Band, which has various capabilities including GPS, heart rate monitoring and sleep quality tracking. The latest smartphones including Microsoft’s Lumia line and Blu Win HD, which can load SIM cards from two different carriers are available.microsoft-bandThe store has a living room area, where shoppers can play with the Xbox One and try various demos, a theater, which is designated for business training sessions and special events, and its answers desk, where customers can go to check out or find more information. The store’s 51 employees have received at least four weeks of training and will keep learning from two or more teacher staffers in each store.  Customers can receive service, get recommendations and receive help with PC setups.  The store also offers free computer tune ups and free virus removals.

Since 2009 when Microsoft opened their first store in Scottsdale, Arizona they have opened 104 retail locations in 189 countries worldwide. They have welcomed more than 400 million customers to their full line and now count Dallas as one their newest and premier locations!

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of German Reunification

ReaganBerlinWallOn June 12, 1987, US President Ronald Reagan cried, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Today 25 years ago, the world heard the wall fall in Berlin, and finally East and West Germany could experience unity and freedom. Since 1989, Germany has resumed its place at the heart of Europe, politically, economically and even geographically—reunification and the expansion of the European Union eastwards has seen Germany move from the eastern edge of Europe to its center.BerlinerMauerThe Wall, which was established by East Germany in 1961 and was roughly 96 miles long, split the already-divided country’s capital into West Berlin and East Berlin. After weeks of civil protests, the government of Eastern Germany opened up the partition on November 9, 1989, allowing residents to travel to the west side. The chipping away of the wall followed, but its actual demolition didn’t truly begin until the following year, just a few months before Germany would officially reunite.GermanChristmasMarketReunified Germany is still young, but traditions such as the famous Munich Oktoberfest and Christmas Markets are known the world over. Now is a perfect time to rediscover Germany or explore it for the first time – and statistics show that 70% of all first time visitors return. I know my family cannot not wait to return in 2015. Germany is rich in art and culture with the 500th anniversary of the birth of Lucas Cranach the Younger and when religious reformer Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. It is time to discover Germany barrier-free!MartinLuther