Kids Race To Save the Children’s World Marathon Challenge

Save The Children World MarathonStudents in the Dallas/Ft. Worth-based Junior World Affairs Council (JWAC) will take part in Save the Children’s World Marathon Challenge on this Saturday, October 19, 2013 from 9AM to 2:30PM to raced one another to raise funds and awareness for programs focused on child survival and well-being. The World Marathon Challenge is a global relay in which teams of children from around the world will band together throughout the month of October to complete a full marathon distance of 26.2 miles and attempt to break the world marathon record of 2:03:38.

50,000 kids in more than 60 countries around the world will take the World Marathon Challenge. In the US alone, nearly 12,000 kids in schools and clubs in 21 states and the District of Columbia will lace up their sneakers and race to the finish line. Relay races will be held throughout this month worldwide, with the grand finale on Oct. 23, when hundreds of teams will run simultaneously for a global day of action.
Save the ChildrenThe funds raised at each race will be used by Save the Children to provide child-focused interventions, ranging from offering newborn care advice to diagnosing and treating preventable diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria.

In addition, students across America will be advocates for other kids by urging Congress to protect programs that help children in the US and around the world survive and thrive. Kids can take action at race events, where they can sign their name to a World Marathon Challenge-themed postcard or t-shirt, which Save the Children will present to members of Congress.

Achieving this vision is not a sprint, but a marathon – a world marathon.

Trinity High School
500 N Industrial Blvd
Euless, TX 76039

Pumpkin Pancakes Are Back!

Original-Pancake-House-pumpkin-pancakes_151623 It is that time again…PUMPKIN PANCAKES! Fall reminds me of delicious pancakes lightly dusted with powdered sugar and topped with a brown sugar butter or homemade whipped cream. These pancakes not just taste amazing, they are beautiful color, loaded with beta carotene and will keep you full for hours after eating just ONE serving. You can find pumpkin pancakes now through the holidays at Original Pancake House (shown above) andCafe Brazil.

What other dishes do you enjoy in the fall? Which ones have a special memory attached? Please share below as I am ALWAYS looking to try new foods and test new recipes at home.

Tillamook: From Farm to Factory

Tillamook CheesesDisclosure: Tillamook provided me with airfare and lodging to tour their factory and a dairy farm. All opinions are mine and may not reflect those of the company. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” All photos are mine and subject to copyright.

Tillamook IS cheese. It produces about two dozen cheese varieties, from sharp Cheddar to aged Swiss to hot habanero jack. Tillamook  also makes ice cream, butter, sour cream and yogurt, which I hope one day Texans can also enjoy! Tillamook YogurtsTillamook County Creamery Association, which makes Tillamook Cheese, is described as North America’s most successful farmer-owned dairy cooperative for over 100 years. To meet the demand, Tillamook built a satellite cheese plant in the eastern Oregon town of Boardman in 2001, then doubled its size to 150,000 square feet in 2006, boosting the creamery’s cheese output by 50% when both plants run at full capacity.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s go back to when Tillamook was founded. Western settlers tried cheese-making on their farms since it was easier to preserve than butter. Cheese-making blossomed. Residents built in 1854 and launched Morning Star of Tillamook to move their product; the schooner’s image remains on the Tillamook brand’s logo today.Morning StarConsistent quality, though, was hard to come by until 1909, when 10 factories pooled their resources and formed a co-op, the Tillamook County Creamery Association. Farmers and cheese-makers followed strict sanitation rules and craft the same recipe, day in and day out. Time has not changed the quality of their product.

What better way to understand Tillamook than starting at where the cheese is first created – cow’s milk. I had the opportunity to visit one of the 99 dairy farms where Tillamook procures their milk. Wow! I not only gained an appreciation of the high-quality of ingredients that they use, but also the hard work required to be a dairy farmer in this modern world. It’s tough on the dairy farmer’s family: physically hard and exhausting; mentally stressful with few days off or vacations; and, financially challenging with rising feed costs and little to no government agricultural subsidies. Fortunately, these farmers LOVE what they do, and these cows are a part of their family.Dairy FarmerThe farm that I visited raised Holstein and Jersey cows. Holstein cows are the signature milking cows that are black and white and are the world’s highest producer of milk. Socially, they are more cautious of humans, but they can soon warm up to you. Then, you have the Jersey cows which are much smaller than the Holstein but produce some high butterfat content in their milk. They are also more sociable and pretty smart, such as figuring out how to unlock a gate, etc. 😉 Twice a day starting as early as 2AM, each cow delivers her milk in a largely automated milking parlor, where it takes about 20 minutes per cow to get the job done. The milk spills into refrigerated tanker trucks and head to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.Tillamook Cheese FactoryThe Tillamook Cheese Factory’s Visitor Center draws nearly 1 million people each year. Inside, the place swarms with travelers who are curious about where that baby loaf of Cheddar in their refrigerator was born or crave ice cream — this place sold 525,000 cones last year.Tillamook Ice CreamClimb to the second floor history exhibits and peer through windows to the factory floor. On one side, you glimpse enormous stainless steel vats where milk cooks and the cheesemaking process begins. It blends science, art and precise recipes involving enzymes, bacteria, lactic acid, salt and, in the case of yellowish orange Cheddar, coloring. Tillamook uses annatto, derived from the reddish pulp surrounding seeds of tropical achiote trees, to give its signature product that distinctive orange hue. Did you know that Cheddar cheese acquired its classic orange color from annatto in the 1800’s when it was thought that high quality cheeses were yellow due to higher quality green grass fed to cattle?

Workers cut freshly made cheese into 40-pound blocks, vacuum pack them and send them down the line for cooling, curing and grading, where it is sent to the Sensory Lab that test for taste, color and texture, determining which batches need to age longer. Cheddar ages a minimum of 60 days, longer for sharp and extra-sharp. Finally, workers wearing hair nets and gloves carve the big blocks into loaves for the consumer. They wrap about 1 million of those pieces each week and ship them to supermarkets in semis designed to look like chunks of cheese.

During the tour, consistency, quality and savvy marketing stood out to me as the hallmarks of Tillamook‘s brand! I highly recommend that you take a trip to this cheese-making wonderland. Enjoy the gorgeous backdrop of  Tillamook, Oregon while you are visiting. It will surely melt you heart, like a good piece of extra-sharp Cheddar on a  grilled cheese sandwich. 😉

David Crowder*Band Moves to The Digital Age

903836_453221878108456_186502615_oHave you moved to “The Digital Age”? No, I am not referring to your technology use, but the modern-rock Christian band from Waco, Texas composed of Mike Dodson (Mike D)Mark WaldropJack Parker and Jeremy Bush (B-wack). The Grammy-nominated, multiple Dove Award-winning David Crowder*Band has grown up to become The Digital Age. The year 2012 saw a new beginning for former members of the David Crowder *Band. On the heels of their final project with the DC*B, Mike D.Mark, Jack and B-wack sought to continue writing, performing and producing music together. The Digital Age was born. “While The Digital Age feels like a brand new chapter for us, it’s really a continuation of what the David Crowder*Band was all about. The mission remains the same. The Digital Age exists to make music that bridges the gap between our mainstream culture and our Christian faith,” said Mark Waldrop.

First Baptist McKinney will host The Digital Age on Saturday, October 19, 2013. The popular Fair Trade band The Digital Age is on a 30-city tour and released their debut studio album “Evening:Morning.” The Digital Age has opted to sell tickets for their upcoming tour directly to fans without the use of a third-party ticketing system, allowing the band to keep fees low and protect customer privacy. Concert tickets may be purchased at

“We’ve always cherished our interactions with our fans. We are the ones posting and replying on our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc., not some social media company,” said Mike D. “We wanted to extend that direct relationship to include our ticketing process as a way to stay connected with our friends and offer tickets with a greatly reduced service fee. We just want to be able to get in the same room with folks and sing with one voice to our God! It’s why we do what we do.”

4 Smart Spots for a Dallas Coffee Break

Week days use a lot of energy, which is why I always try and savor a good coffee break. Maybe four, but moving on. I fell in love with coffee at age 10, and I went on to spend a lot of my time working in coffee houses while in high school, college and now into my career. In all honesty, if I could be called a snob in any area, it would be coffee. Simply because a bad cup of coffee will put a frown on my face, so when I find a place that does it well with a good roast, I have to shout it from the rooftops. While in Dallas, there are four coffeehouses that make me come back, so here’s my list!

AscensionCoffeeAscension Coffee
This posh coffeehouse in the Design District may be slightly intimidating as you first enter, especially since the baristas are fanatical about the the pour-over brew from single-origin beans, which are calculated with perfect water ratios and extraction times to give you the best cup possible. BUT, just tell them what type of coffee you like from dark to medium to sweet, and enjoy ever sip. By the way, they also make a delicious chai tea latte for your not-coffee-drinking friends. 😉

coffeehousecafeCoffee House Café
This coffee house is an oasis in North Dallas. The certified organic and fair trade espresso is the main attraction here, but if you’re hungry they also serve delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner. I first discovered this coffeehouse because of their delicious cold brew, and with their posh ambiance, you can slip into a booth or relax on the patio, read a good book and enjoy a cup of espresso.

cultivarcoffeeCultivar Coffee
This East Dallas micro-roaster and coffeehouse serves up delicious, handcrafted espresso drinks and amazing brewed single-origin coffees. The baristas are knowledgeable, friendly and ready to prepare the one of the latte that you will ever taste. Unfortunately, this shop is only open from 7am–3pm and closed on Mondays, so get there early. I have learned the hard way, especially when I was jonesin’ for some caffeine. 😉

murraystreetMurray Street Coffee Shop
This Deep Ellum neighborhood coffee shop is warm and inviting. Order drip coffee and pass on your fluffy lattes. Have a seat upstairs and catch up on work or meet your girlfriends for coffee like with my friends Sarah B and Hilary Kennedy.girlfriendscoffee

Hope you enjoyed these few spots, and let us know if there are any more! 🙂

Learn How They Make TV Magic

IMG_8001Did you ever watch a movie or television show and wonder what goes on behind the scenes? Well, this past week when I was in Atlanta for a conference, my good friend Dwan of MommaDJane suggested that we visit the Covington, Georgia, where they shoot The Vampire Diaries along with other TV shows and movies.

Dwan had found a Vampires Diaries tour offered, so on impulse, we paid for the tour, rented a car and headed 45 minutes south of Atlanta to a small town called Covington. Our tour started off at the Mystic Grill, which is now actually turning into a REAL restaurant for the public to enjoy. I mean, how cool is that?! The expected opening date for the Mystic grill is at the end of 2013 or early 2014.Mystic GrillOur tour guide also plays an extra for The Vampire Diaries, so she had many stories from the set. She also told us many little things about the actors, too.  We walked around the square with a dozen other fans, took lots of pictures and jumped in and out of the rental car many times to take pictures of the homes and locations.

Sheriff's OfficeMystic Falls Court House & Sheriff Forbes Office (2nd Floor)

Alaric's ApartmentAlaric’s Apartment (2nd Floor)

Dr Gilbert's OfficeDr. Gilbert’s Office

IMG_8037This is the Lockwood Manor from Flashback Episode. It is actually Twelve Oaks Bed & Breakfast Inn that I highly recommend you staying at if you are passing through Covington, Georgia.

Matt's HouseMatt & Vicki’s House

Gram's HouseSheila Bennett’s House, also known as Bonnie Bennett’s Grams
Isobel's HouseIsobel’s House (Elena’s birth mother)
Lockwood Mansion“Lockwood Mansion” is home to the real Worthington Manor. The front is gorgeous, BUT the backyard is breathless. It is the scene of many of the outdoor shots for the show. You truly have to see it to believe it.
Elena's HouseElena’s and Jeremy’s House

Caroline's HouseCaroline’s House

By the way, you do not need to pay for the tour to see all these sites, minus the grounds tour of the Lockwood Mansion also know as Worthington Manor. I have to say that the “backstage” tour of this house was truly AWE-mazing! If only we all have private ponds and grand gardens in our backyards. 😉 The Covington Visitor Center has a FREE map of all the locations plus other areas where TV and films have been shot there. The people of Covington are very friendly, so do not be afraid to ask them any question. Oh, and you should stop by Scoops in the town square for a sweet treat, where the stars go between shots. Also, you can head a block away from the town square to Bradley’s BBQ and have a “vamped out” burger. It is off-the-menu and completes the whole tour experience. 😉

Finally, The Originals (The Vampire Diaries spin-off) is shooting 15 minutes away in a town called Conyers, Georgia. Here are some final shots that I took when we drove through town in hopes to see them shooting. Oh, and on this trip I discovered one of my new favorite travel sites, On Location Vacations, where you can see where they are filming TV shows and movies. You can thank me later. 😉The Originals

Dallas’ Best Place to Release Your Inner Cowboy: 3 Stacks

3 StacksYou’ve corralled the horses, herded the cattle and mended the barbed wire. Now it’s time to heed the dinner bell and mosey up to 3 Stacks, which has been smoking meat to please the BBQ lovin’ cowboy and cowgirl appetites.Bacon Jalapeno PopperLocated up the Dallas North Tollway in Frisco, this atmospheric “saloon” features black angus brisket, baby back ribs, beef short ribs, pulled pork, smoked turkey breast and their house-made smoked sausage.“The Rib Whisperer” Trace Arnold brings his expertise, tips and tricks on smoking meat and making some AMAZING sausage. Rib WhispererSpecially blended rubs created by Arnold are applied to the brisket, ribs, turkey and chicken. Ladle on sides of Potato Salad, Baked Beans, Mac-n-Cheese and Kale Salad. Slake your thirst with Saint Arnold’s Root Beer on tap, tea or lemonade made fresh-to-order. 3 Stacks keeps cowpokes and their families happy. 😉Cowpoke ApprovedAs the Dixie Chicks sang, “Cowboy, take me away…to 3 Stacks!” Well maybe not necessarily, but any good man who knows good BBQ would know you should eat there, too! 😉

3 Stacks Smoke and Tap Room
4226 Preston Rd
(Right behind Hooters)
Frisco, TX

Reasons Your Family Should Join a Private Club

CountryClubWith a range of country clubs catering to all income brackets, you owe it to yourself to at least consider joining a private club. You get a fantastic restaurant, great views, and other amenities like swimming pools and gyms, all surrounded by beautiful golf courses. ClubCorp has recently “reinvented” two local clubs in North Texas – Gleneagles Country Club and Stonebriar Country Club – to offer more opportunities for its members to connect, play, work, host and celebrate in a less “stuffy” environment, like traditional notions of “country clubs.” Here are some reasons why you may want to tour these ClubCorp private clubs.

Country clubs are generally known for golf, BUT that is not all that they offer. Your family will have hours of fun in their pools. Gleneagles Country Club offers water slides, splash pads, cabanas and more for you to relax without the crowds of a public pool. They also house gyms with state-of-the-art equipment and a variety of exercise classes without the lines or the wait. The gyms are usually very good and have top of the line trainers. Gleneagles Country Club also offers an amazing tennis complex with 18 lighted outdoor courts. I love playing tennis with “the ladies” and then following it up by lunch in the club.IMG_7699Speaking of food, the restaurants in the country clubs serve up delicious eats. Some clubs have themed food nights like Thursday Sushi & Sashimi Night and special dinners featuring lobster or prime rib. At Gleneagles Country Club, you can sit and dine on the terrace while enjoying the sunset over the gold course. The service is generally impeccable and many of the wait staff have been doing it for years. A lot of the clubs do an amazing lunch buffet, while the evenings turn into a fine dining affair. Country clubs have several events throughout the year. Some are private while others are events open to all club members. The parties can range from appetizers, live piano music, and ballroom dancing, to disco parties. Luckily, many clubs these days have a shrinking average age, so you’ll have more members in their 30’s and 40’s, as well as seasoned adults. 😉
IMG_7702Lastly, friendship, community and peace of mind are pillars of any club. Private venues value the sanctity of personal relationships and take great pride in being respites from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Gleneagles Country Club provides a kids club, where the kids can play video games, draw and explore a safe environment while the parents are enjoying the club. Not only can family members come to a club and enjoy golf, but they can meet their friends and fellow club members for a meal, relax at the pool or arrange business meetings. When you find the right club, there’s a level of happiness and contentment that makes it worth it all!

V Spa Dallas Nails It!

VSpaDallasAs a mom my family always comes first, my needs are last and though I am not full of regret, I still don’t get a good pampering often enough. Moms need to recharge, and I have secret for you. Tucked in the back of the Hilton Anatole is the V Spa Dallas. This state-of-the-art spa offers facials, massages and nail service. Hilton Anatole offered me a spa pedicure and manicure at the V Spa Dallas, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. IMG_7652Beware of add-on treatments, such as paraffin, which helps moisturize your feet and hands. It costs extra, BUT if it is the hot season, it is well worth it. 🙂

V Spa – Hilton Anatole
2201 N Stemmons Freeway
Dallas, Texas

Dallas Arboretum Adventures into a Children’s Garden

ChildrenGardenMy family was invited to preview the newest addition to the Dallas Arboretum, the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. It is an 8-acre wonderland that just might be the best kids destination in the area. The garden, which opens to the public on Saturday, September 21, is an expansive tract just east of the main arboretum grounds that contains 17 galleries with more than 150 interactive exhibits. Once you get past the main entry plaza — and if you have young kids, good luck with that, as its dancing fountain is a natural attraction — choosing what to see next can be a bit challenging.EntryPlazaEvery area in the garden is geared toward education, so no matter where you start, you’ll find something to stimulate a child’s brain in one way or another. The main garden at the arboretum highlights the beauty of nature, while the children’s garden showcases the processes that make those beautiful things. What’s really impressive is that education and fun go hand-in-hand with every step in the children’s garden. Your could visit the First Adventure, a toddlers paradise featuring streams, plant shaped like bees and a huge wooden ant.FirstAdventure Or, You could explore the Amazing Secret Garden, a maze with engaging rewards along the way in order to find the secret garden. BEWARE: It may take some bribery to get the kids to leave this area. 😉 AmazingSecretGardenMay I suggest bringing special treats and enjoying them at the Incredible Edible Garden, just above the Amazing Secret Garden. Or, you could head straight to the T. Boone Pickens Pure Energy area, where you can learn about water, solar and wind power through addictive hands-on exhibits.PureEnergy Or, you could go indoors to the Exploration Center with OmniGlobe, a huge building with multiple interactive science experiment stations.ExperimentThe entire garden is so extensive and so detailed that it would take hours, if not days, to properly explore everything it has to offer. Grab your tickets today, or why not consider becoming a member of the Dallas Arboretum and enjoy The Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden for only $3 per ticket at your family’s own leisure. By the way, make sure to say “HOWDY!” to Sprout and his friends when you visit. 🙂Sprout