Thursday, January 29, 2015

Six Must-See Attractions in Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia is filled with a melting pot of cultures. To celebrate this melting pot, there are many different attractions for experiencing the culture of the city. Here are six attractions you don’t want to miss on your vacation to Sydney.

Sydney Opera House

If you’ve seen any pictures of Sydney, you’ll recognize the Sydney Opera House immediately. The unique architectural style makes it Sydney’s most recognizable building. But what’s inside is just as wonderful as what is outside; the building is a national cultural center that has gained widespread recognition and respect as a performing arts center. The Opera House includes a concert hall, Opera Theater, Drama Theater, play house, and studio. Many of the world’s leading artists perform at the Opera House throughout the year. Visit the website for a list of events.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

For the ultimate Sydney experience, climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The arch bridge spans across Sydney Harbour and carries traffic between the central business district and the North Shore. Now you can experience what it’s like to climb the world’s highest bridge, going up 134 m. At BridgeClimb, your Climb Leader will show you how to ascend the Bridge step-by-step while you experience magnificent views of Sydney and hear stories about the Bridge’s history.

Sydney Tower

If you’d prefer to see Sydney’s glory from high above without the climb, step aboard the Sydney Tower. At 309 m, it’s Sydney’s tallest free-standing structure. The Tower takes you to the highest point above Sydney where you’ll have a 360 degree view of the city. You can dine in the Tower’s restaurant or grab a drink at the bar. You won’t want to miss the gorgeous views this attraction offers you.

The Rocks

To gain a true sense of Sydney’s history, be sure to visit The Rocks. Described as Sydney’s “outdoor museum,” it’s the foundation place of Sydney and Australia. The old district has been transformed into a tourist area, with shops, restaurants, cafes, and stalls, but kept the area’s old world charm and historic buildings.

Sydney Aquarium

Sydney Aquarium is home to the largest collection of all-Australian aquatic life. There’s an incredible mix of platypus, sharks, stingrays, seahorses, as well as a number of habitats, 60 tanks, and three oceanariums. The Aquarium is located on Darling Harbour in the heart of Sydney. While touring the Aquarium, you’ll be taken to the southern rivers, the vast southern oceans, and the Great Barrier Reef. See sharks up close on glass-bottom boats, and even visit a mermaid lagoon.

Bondi Beach Sydney

If you’re traveling to Sydney in the summer, you won’t want to miss a trip to Bondi Beach. Part of a large moon-shaped bay of white sands and breaking surf, the beach is lined with eateries, shops, tourist outlets, and hotels.
These six attractions should definitely be on your to-see list when you visit Sydney. You can stay close to them by searching for Sydney hotels near all of the attractions. Book your vacation today!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Touring Houston

Houston, Texas is known as the world capital of space exploration, has a Theater District second only to New York City, and is home to the Astros. One of the best ways to get to know Houston is by taking a tour. There are many tours you can take around Houston with varying activities and sights. You can even create your own tour based on the activities you want to do. When choosing a tour, determine what you want to see and do on your vacation.

Check Out the Tunnels

In the hot summers, Houston residents stay cool by using the tunnel system located 20 feet underground. You can take a tour of these tunnels during your trip to Houston to get an up-close look at the city's architecture and learn about the city's history. During your tour, you'll be able to see all of Houston from Texas' highest sky lobby and explore the many underground shopping centers. The Heart of the Tunnel Walk is three hours long and can be booked for parties up to 12 people.

Go Back in Time

Image via Flickr by Rennett Stowe
If you're interested in history, taking a tour of Houston's historical sites is perfect for you. Start with the Architecture Tour, which takes you to structures that trace the evolution of American architecture. Bayou Bend will give you a taste of southern aristocratic charm. For a good scare, check out some of Houston's local haunts, including Battleship Texas, Glenwood Cemetery, the Julia Ideson Building, and Alley Theater. Learn about Houston's significant civil aviation history at the 1940 Air Terminal Museum.

Night Life

For a night of fine wines and spirits, be sure to sign up for the Historic Downtown Pub Crawl, featuring four bars in the old Town of Houston. The bars rotate each night, so you can take the tour multiple times and discover new pubs every night. The tour always starts at The Cellar, located in the basement of Georgia's Market. The pubs date from 1861-1934, and offer unique tales of murder, gambling, brothels, and ghosts. If night clubs are more your style, check out Houston's amazing dance clubs, including The Flat, Fox Hollow, and Barbarella.

Family Time

Houston has several wonderful attractions for families that the kids will love. The Houston Zoo is one of Texas' best zoos, with plenty of animal habitats to explore, 4D experiences, and even giraffe feedings. Kemah Boardwalk has shops, restaurants, an aquarium, plenty of rides, and special events.
For a little culture, check out the Children's Museum of Houston, where your kids can explore 90,000 square feet of interactive exhibits. The Houston Museum of Natural Science allows your kids to explore the far reaches of space, roam with dinosaurs, and wander through the African Serengeti. With so much to see and do, you and your kids will have as much fun putting your tour together as you will exploring the places on it.
Putting a tour of Houston together is easy. Choose from existing tours or create your own. Look for Houston hotels during your search.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Five Budget-Friendly Attractions in Lexington

Lexington, Kentucky, can be a great place to visit, especially if you like horses. You might think you need to save a considerable amount of money to enjoy a trip to Lexington, but it’s just not true. Here are five budget-friendly activities to do in Lexington.

Kentucky Horse Park

Image via Flickr by Just chaos
What better way to see the "Horse Capital of the World" than at the Kentucky Horse Park? With free entrance, you can tour the park, see the horses, and explore the history of horse racing in Lexington. Take a tour at the International Museum of the Horse, see spectacular equine presentations, and take a horse-drawn tour of the park. Discount coupons are available for other activities.

Ashland: The Henry Clay Estates

This large, historical mansion takes you back to the 18th century, when Henry Clay and his family lived in the 18-room home. Once you enter the front door, you’ll be taken on a journey through time from the 18th century to the present. When you’re done with your tour, you’ll have access to the Henry Clay exhibit room, watch an informational video about him, and enjoy shopping at the museum store. Outdoor activities include a self-guided tour of the outbuildings, a formal garden, walking trails, and a Civil War monument. Admission is affordable at $10 for adults and $5 for students. There’s also a AAA member rate of $9. Children can enjoy Ashland for free.

Mary Todd Lincoln House

When you come to Lexington, be sure to visit the Kentucky home of President Lincoln. The house has been preserved with several of Mary Todd Lincoln’s possessions, available for viewing. The house serves as a historical landmark, and features period furnishings and portraits of the Lincoln and Todd families. Group tours are available by appointment. Adults can get in for $10 and children for $5. Children under age 6 are free. Check the events calendar when you plan your trip.

The Arboretum

The Arboretum comprises over 100 acres of land with a large variety of trees, gardens, and walking paths. While the Arboretum is open to the public, the institution focuses on being a community environmental education center. Admission is only $3 per person, or $10 per day for up to 10 people. Children under age 2 are free.

Old Friends

Once horses are retired from racing, they live out the rest of their lives at beautiful Old Friends, founded in 2003 to provide a dignified retirement to Thoroughbreds after their racing and breeding careers end. The facility not only provides a wonderful retirement to these horses, but also education to the public. Old Friends is open to the public to come and view these magnificent creatures and learn all about them. Admission is only $10 for adults. Children under 12 are free.
These five attractions are wonderful places for you and your family to visit during your trip to Kentucky, and they are also very affordable. Make your trip more affordable by staying in cheap hotels in Lexington.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Blog Tour | White Swans by Annamaria Bazzi

White Swans Tour banner

Book: White Swans A Regency World (book 1)
By: annamaria bazzi
Cover Design: Natasha Brown
Genre: Young Adult


Kendíka’s second chance at life begins as a nightmare.
Will the eerie eyes always looking down from the sky reveal themselves?
Kendíka challenges the aliens no one has ever seen to bring about a better life for the humans trapped in the surreal Regency world she wakes up in.
While getting to know her alien owner, she discovers the aliens aren’t so perfect and have much to learn about humans.
Will Kendíka survive or perish, attempting to make life better for the people living on Regency?
Purchase link: Amazon
About the Author:
Although born in the United States, Annamaria Bazzi spent a great deal of her childhood in author picSicily, Italy, in a town called Sciacca. Italian was the language spoken at home. Therefore, she had no problems when she found herself growing up in a strange country. Upon returning to the States, she promised herself she would speak without an accent. She attended Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Computers with a minor in Spanish.
Annamaria spent twenty years programming systems for large corporations, creating innovative solution, and addressing customer problems. During those years, she raised four daughters and one husband. Annamaria lives in Richmond Virginia with her small family where she now dedicates a good part of her day writing.
You can visit Annamaria at:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Top 5 Beaches in Sydney, Australia

Many people travel to Sydney for the historical and cultural experience. Sydney is known as a melting pot, made up of several diverse cultures that have accumulated in the city over the past century. The biggest items on travelers’ to-do lists are the Sydney Opera House, The Rocks, and the Sydney Tower. But one of Sydney’s best attractions, and perhaps the most overlooked, is its beaches. Here are the top five beaches in Sydney.

Bondi Beach

Image via Flickr by kevgibbo
Bondi Beach is Australia’s most iconic beach. Bondi Beach is more than just sand and surf; it’s also shopping, dining, and events. You have so many activities to choose from, including surfing, yoga, festivals, and public events. Check an events calendar to see what’s happening during your stay. Take a walk along the kilometer-long city beach expanse. It’s located only 10 kilometers from the center of the city, making it easy to plan a day at the beach and then take in some other sights in the night, or easily head back to many Sydney hotels when you’re ready to go.

Manly Beach

There are several incredible northern beaches along the Manly peninsula. Enjoy a ferry ride to Manly Wharf, the harbourside part of Manly Beach. From the harbor, you’re only a short walk away from the main ocean beach, where you can surf, swim, and enjoy Australia’s best-known tourist landmarks. You can explore Manly on foot, rollerblade, or a bike, exploring several pathways and coastal walks along its shores. You can learn to surf or paddleboard, and enjoy waterside dining at Manly’s seaside dining.

Bilgola Beach

Bilgola Beach is Sydney’s own tropical reserve. If you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing day at the beach, this is the place for you. The beach is quieter than others in the area, with fewer people and more privacy. There are no shops to distract you from the beautiful surf, but there is the convenience of a café. Bilgola Beach is one of Manly’s ocean beaches and will provide you with a great surf.

Bronte Beach

If you’re traveling with kids, Bronte Beach is perfect for you. The grassy reserve is filled with grills, huts, and play spaces for kids. There’s even a little train ride that operates on weekends. There’s plenty of space to kick a ball around, or spread out and listen to music. If a member of your party is looking for a little time-out, the rock pool or more distant sandy areas will provide the much-needed break. This beach is perfect for everyone in your family.

Freshwater Beach

If you’re looking for the infamous blue-green shade of coastal waters, you’ll find it at Freshwater Beach. This protected beach provides great waves, an adjacent park perfect for barbecues, and is one of the most family-friendly beaches. If the waves are too strong, bring your children to rock pool on the northern end. Since the beach is located north of Manly, it’s close to the action you want, but with a bit more intimacy.
These five beaches provide a wonderful spectrum of what Sydney has to offer. Find the perfect one for your trip, or schedule a Sydney beach vacation and experience them all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Top 5 Restaurants in Tarpon Springs, FL

 Tarpon Springs, Florida is home to the Sponge Docks, Gulf Coast beaches, and Fred Howard Park. It’s also home to some great restaurants serving fine cuisine. If you like Greek food, you’ll love the choices available to you in Tarpon Springs. But there’s more than Greek food to whet your appetite. Here’re the top five restaurants in Tarpon Springs.

Mr. Souvlaki

The place for Greek food, Mr. Souvlaki is the eighth-ranked restaurant in Tarpon Springs. They serve lunch and dinner, with items such as spinach pie, Greek chow mein, and of course, gyros and potato salad. It’s a family-owned restaurant with pleasant staff and reasonable prices. Bring your appetite, because the portions are big enough to share.

Hella’s Restaurant

Image via Flickr by femaletrumpet02
If you love Greek food but are traveling with friends or family who aren’t so inclined to it, then Hella’s is for you. With a great mix of Greek and seafood, Hella’s is the perfect combination of fine cuisine for lunch and dinner. Choose from popular Greek dishes including Gyros, Calamari & Greek Salad, and Saganaki. Delicious seafood meals are available for those who don’t enjoy Greek food. But make sure they try some of the delicious potato salad. They’ll be thanking you for the rest of the day. Save room for dessert because Hella’s knows how to do that too. Try Greek Chocolate Mousse, delicious pastries, and of course, baklava. Located in the Sponge Docks, Hella’s makes the perfect place to stop and grab a bite to eat.

Dimitri’s on the Water

With its supreme location on the Gulf of Mexico, Tarpon Springs is a great place for a delicious seafood meal. Dimitri’s offers great seafood selections and of course, Greek food. Their portions are large enough to share, so if you’re stopping in for lunch while shopping at the Sponge Docks, you won’t need to order a big meal. Try their grouper sandwich, Greek salad, souvlaki, or fried eggplant.

Tarpon Tavern

If you’re looking for a great place for lunch that serves items other than Greek food, Tarpon Tavern is your spot. It’s a great place to grab a bite to eat, and maybe even a cold brew. The menu is varied, and includes bar food. Try one of their great tasting burgers, Gorgonzola chicken wing appetizer, fish tacos, and salads. Located on the water, it’s a true tavern experience with décor to match.

Cody’s Roadhouse

Remember a time when you could throw peanut shells on the floor and no one cared? Well, that’s Cody’s Roadhouse. Upon entering, you’ll see the barrels of peanuts waiting for you to grab and munch while waiting to be seated. The atmosphere and staff are friendly, and it makes a great spot for a rowdy family dinner. Enjoy delicious grilled items, including steaks, burgers, prime rib, rotisserie chicken, baby back ribs, fajitas, and fresh fish. Meals are served with Cody’s delicious salad in a big bowl for the whole family to share.
These five restaurants show off the best food Tarpon Springs has to offer: Greek, American, seafood, and even barbecue. Check one or all of them out during your next visit.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Release Event | Before We Say I Do by Emerald Barnes

The follow-up short story to Emerald Barnes' Entertaining Angels, Before We Say I Do, is now available! If you loved Chase and Mads in Entertaining Angels, you'll love this!
About the Book:
Following the best-selling first book of the series, Entertaining Angels, comes Before We Say I Do, An Entertaining Angels Short Story.
Chase Sanders and Madison Andrews are about to declare their love for one another in the most sacred of ways. Everything has been going perfectly, especially when an old friend returns to town to stand by Chase’s side on their big day. But is Zach there to see their union, or is he concealing the truth of why he’s actually back in town?
Chase has lived perfectly fine without his father around, but now that his father is divorcing again, he is seeking forgiveness. Chase can’t look at his father, let alone forgive him.
Before Chase and Mads can say “I Do,” Chase must first learn to let go of the past before the dark forces that haunt his nightmares come to life.


The day had finally come. I was marrying my best friend. Tears of joy stung my eyes, but I tried to hold them in. I couldn’t cry. Not now. Mom and Mandy would kill me if I messed up my makeup.
I stared in the mirror. I had come a long way in the two years since I’d met Zach. We graduated high school, and I was now working on a degree in counseling. I’d fallen head-over-heels in love with my best friend, and I learned to love myself for who I really was. I won’t lie. It hasn’t been easy for me. Sometimes I would look in the mirror, and I’d see the fat girl from high school. Other times, Chase would wrap his arms around my waist and reassure me that he loved every inch of me – whether I was big or small. It didn’t matter to him. I was beautiful. When he’d say that, I’d remind myself that God had loved me enough to send his angel just to show me that I was important, loved, and beautiful.
Eventually, the way I saw myself began to change. I no longer compared myself to photo-shopped pictures of models in magazines or my friends who were smaller sizes than me, and I began to look at myself as a daughter of the King. God formed me. He knew exactly what I would look like, and as He’d told me before, He only makes beautiful things.
A knock sounded at the door, and Mrs. Cheryl asked, “Can I come in?”
Mom answered the door and let her in. I turned to face her and saw the tears form in her eyes. “Don’t!” I said, “I can’t cry. Mom has threatened me if I mess up my makeup.”
She laughed and said, “I’m so happy that you’re going to be my daughter-in-law!”
She wrapped her arms around me and pulled me close. I could hear her sniffle, but I fought the tears back again. I wasn’t going to cry. Not now at least.
“I’m happy that you’ll be my mother-in-law. I couldn’t ask for a better one.”
She pulled away and smiled at me before wiping away her own tears. I had always felt like Mrs. Cheryl was a second mom. And now, she would be!
“How’s Chase?” I asked.
“He’s nervous.” She laughed. “But he’s excited to finally make you his wife, girly.”
She winked at me, and Mom said, “Cheryl, you won’t do! Don’t embarrass the poor child.”
“It’s better than making her cry, Maggie.”
Mom laughed and said, “I’m going to check on the photographer. We need to start doing pictures as soon as we can.”
I nodded, and Mom left the room.
“Can you help me sit?” I asked Mrs. Cheryl.
“Sure, honey.”
She walked over to me and helped lift my train, so I could sit comfortably without wrinkling the dress too much. The beaded bodice felt a little tight, but I wanted to look my best. I wasn’t loosening it at all.
“You look gorgeous,” Mrs. Cheryl said, pulling her phone out of her purse and snapping a picture of me.
“Thank you,” I said, smiling at my future mother-in-law.
“Are you nervous?” she asked, taking a seat beside me.
“Yeah,” I answered, honestly. “Not the marrying Chase part. That I’m okay with, but I’m afraid I’ll trip or mess up my vows or something.”
I laughed, praying that what I’d just spoken wouldn’t come true at all. I don’t suppose it mattered. I was about to be joined with Chase forever in our very own happily ever after. I knew not all marriages were perfect, and I didn’t expect ours to be any different. I did hope that we would have a beautiful marriage as close to perfect as possible. I knew that if we put God first, we could get through anything; however, the wedding night was what really made me nervous. I just didn’t want to tell Cheryl that.
Chase and I had waited until marriage. It was what was right to do according to the Bible. We wanted to be each other’s firsts and each other’s lasts. At least we were both new at it. I wondered if that was why he was nervous, too. I mean, I certainly understood that.
“Is that all?” she asked, staring at me knowingly. I briefly wondered what all Chase might have told her. This might be awkward. I didn’t even talk to my own mom about stuff like this.
I hated to lie, but I didn’t want to have this conversation. I nodded and said, “Yeah. I guess.”
She patted my leg and said, “There’s nothing to worry about, dear. You two will learn each other’s rhythms before you know it.”
Oh my gosh. Was she really talking about this with me? “Uh. Yeah. I know.”
She laughed. “You don’t have to be so shy. I’m not your father. I’m not in denial about what happens on the honeymoon.”
I felt the blood rushing to my cheeks, and I was thankful for the pink blush already coloring them.
“Are you worried about what he may think about your body? I know that’s always been a concern of yours.”
“Well, partly, but I know he loves me for my flaws and all.”
“Honey, you don’t have flaws. You’re perfect. Have you forgotten what God has done for you?”
I shook my head, biting the inside of my cheek. I wasn’t going to cry now. “No,” I said, “I’ll never forget what he’s done. Zach’s here too.” I added on that last bit to distract her from the conversation she seemed wanted to have.
“Is he?” She smiled broadly. “I always loved him. I knew he was special from the start.”
“I was blind,” I said. “I thought I might actually have a crush on him. Boy was I glad when I decided that I wanted Chase! How awkward would it have been to fall in love with an angel?”
Cheryl let out a deep laugh and said, “It could be worse. You could’ve fallen for a man like Chase’s father.”
Her smile faded at the mention of him. She rarely brought him up, but I couldn’t blame her for that. He’d left her for another woman and ignored them for the first seven years he’d been away. He’d only just started talking to Chase again two years ago. Even Chase didn’t want to tell his dad about our union, so we kept it a secret from him. I didn’t know if that would work or not, but Chase really didn’t want him ruining the day. I wasn’t going to force him to invite his father to our wedding, though. It was entirely his decision.
“We didn’t invite him, you know,” I said.
“I know. I told Chase to, but he refused. I don’t blame him.”
“Nor do I, but he may have seen the announcement in the paper.”
“Well, then he’ll understand that his son doesn’t want anything to do with him. He shouldn’t have left us, Mads.”
“I know.”
I didn’t know what else to say. I hated that Chase had such a rocky relationship with his dad. I couldn’t imagine not having Dad around, but then again, Dad didn’t cheat on Mom and have a new family while ignoring me completely for the first few years of his new life.
Mom pushed the door open and said, “Come on, Mads. It’s time for pictures.”
I looked at Mrs. Cheryl and gave her a big smile. She stood and extended her hand out to me. “Let’s go, Mads. It won’t be long until you’re officially part of the family.”
I wrapped my arms around her in a tight hug after she helped pull me off of the chair I sat in. She kissed my cheek, and we walked out of the room and into the sanctuary where we were about to take pictures. It was now a little over two hours before I officially became Mrs. Chase Sanders.


Enter to win one of five digital copies of Before We Say I Do!!
Where can you buy Before We Say I Do?
And, in honor of Before We Say I Do's release, Entertaining Angels, the first book in the series is $0.99!!
Emerald BarnesEmerald Barnes resides in a small town in Mississippi and has the accent to prove it. She tries her hardest to write novels that appeal not only to young adults but to those who are young at heart as well.
She mainly writes suspense/thrillers in the YA genre, but she dabbles in other genres and her books are enjoyed by all ages! She’s constantly working on new novels and has more ideas than she knows what to do with. She’s also a volunteer at the World Literary Cafe which is amazing, and she is a crazy grammar nazi who proofreads novels!
When she isn’t writing or proofreading novels, she’s spending all of her time with her nieces and nephews. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd, avid reader, and TV watcher. God is number One in her life, and she thanks Him continuously for His love and favor.
Connect with Emerald:
Google +

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Top 5 Attractions in Rochester Hills, MI

Rochester Hills, MI is one of the top ten places to live in America. The small town is only 32.2 square miles and is a quick uphill drive from the city of Rochester. A visit to Rochester Hills any time of the year will provide you with plenty of things to do and see.

Meadow Brook Music Festival

Music lovers will devour the programming offered at the Meadow Brook Music Festival. Located on the Oakland University campus, the Festival is a 7,700 capacity amphitheater that opened in 1964. A variety of shows are offered throughout the year, from traditional and eclectic programming to contemporary and rock concerts, family events, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and even ballet.

Yates Cider Mill

Image via Flickr by
If you visit Rochester Hills in the fall, you have to include a trip to Yates Cider Mill on your itinerary. Yates is one of the oldest continually-running businesses in Michigan. There are plenty of things to do and see including feeding the farm animals, going on a pony ride, and watching the Pulp Car haul its load. Kids aren’t the only ones likely to enjoy these attractions. You can also visit the Fudge Shoppe, and of course, the Apple Tent, where you can pick the size, shape, color, and variety of apples you wish to take home. But the Mill is best in the fall when it serves knackwurst, hot dogs, and cinnamon almonds every weekend. And of course, you can’t visit the Cider Mill without sampling some of the Mill’s popular cider.

Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm

Keeping an understanding of the past while still appreciating the present is important to Rochester Hills. At the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm, the past is preserved and collected for future generations. The 16-acre museum was home to the Taylor and Van Hoosen families dating back to 1823, and features structures original to the property. The property’s dairy farm provides a learning environment, with exhibits on the settlement, agriculture, industry, and cultural evolution of the community.

Stoney Creek Village

Another historical landmark of the Taylor family, Stoney Creek Village is a historical landmark showcasing the first settlers to the area. Lemuel Taylor and his family were the first to settle in Stoney Creek in 1823. Over the next year, the family built a sawmill, gristmill, distillery, and blacksmith shop. The Van Hoosen family settled in 1836, and in 1853, the two families were joined when Joshua Van Hoosen married Lemuel’s granddaughter. If you’re a history buff, you must check out Stony Creek Village to live the story of its families for yourself.

Thelma Spencer Park

Spend a day enjoying the beautiful Michigan weather during your stay in Rochester Hills with a visit to Thelma Spencer Park. There are plenty of activities, including ball courts, a playground, swimming, and ice skating. Enjoy a picnic by the lake, or take a walk along the trail. Get out and get some fresh air.
These five attractions will give you a pure taste of life in Rochester Hills, and the beauty Michigan has to offer. Book your vacation today.

Friday, January 9, 2015

SeaTac: A Mountain Biker's Paradise

SeaTac, Washington is an outlying suburb of Seattle, near both Seattle and Tacoma. It's the hub of the area for flying in and out of Seattle or Tacoma, and provides many hotels for visitors to stay in. But there's one more area of expertise SeaTac has that many visitors may be unaware of: SeaTac boasts numerous mountain bike parks and alliances, and is even host to USA BMX sanctioned events. If you’re a mountain biker, you may want to check out the area's parks.

South SeaTac

Just south of SeaTac Airport is a maze of trails that provide a lot of fun mountain bike riding. South SeaTac Park used to be a neighborhood long ago, but it now offers plenty of winding trails. The area is often buzzed by low flying planes coming to and from the airport, which makes riding there more interesting.
There are trails on both the east and west side of the main access road. The east side is fairly flat, which makes it perfect for beginners. The west side trails are more advanced and has more hills. Both trails are a bit sandy and drain well.

North SeaTac BMX

Image via Flickr By yonolatenga
If you're looking for more adventurous BMX biking, check out North SeaTac BMX track. Located in North SeaTac Park, the track is open from dawn to dusk seven days a week. Bikers are welcome to use the track during operating hours. The park hosts USA BMX sanctioned events, and during these events, only USA BMX members are allowed to ride the track.
Be sure to check for upcoming events before your trip if you plan on visiting the park during your stay. Event schedules, entry fees, and needed equipment are available on the website should you wish to become a member of USA BMX.

I-5 Colonnade

Located in Seattle, the I-5 Colonnade is the first urban mountain bike skills park. It was constructed by the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, and features novice, intermediate, and advanced areas. There’s also a dirt jumping section, pump track, and trials area. Surface areas are mainly dry and dusty, but there are several areas exposed to rain, and a few trails that are located under freeway leaks. Both the rain and the leaks can cause the trails to become muddy. I-5 Colonnade provides occasional skills classes. Check the website to see if one will be available during your stay.

Tiger Mountain

Tiger Mountain is one of Seattle's most popular mountain biking areas. There are nine trails open to riders, all varying in difficulty. Some of the trails are moderately technical, while others are fast and flow easily. There are shorter tracks that can take you up the trail quicker than others, and others that having rolling elevations up the mountain. The trails can often be wet following rain, and some can continue to ooze water for up to a week following a rainstorm.
If you're looking for a different kind of vacation, a mountain biking excursion in the SeaTac area may be right for you. Check weather conditions and schedules before booking your vacation.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

6 Lesser Known Seattle Attractions

Seattle, Washington, is home to several attractions that most travelers are familiar with: the Space Needle, Puget Sound, and the original Starbucks. But there's more to Seattle than these iconic features. Be sure to check out the following six lesser-known attractions during your next stay.

Take a Peek Beneath the Streets

Have you ever wondered what lies beneath a city? Take a guided tour through three sections of the historic underground passageways in Pioneer Square on a Beneath the Streets tour. Led by an experienced guide, you’ll see sections of tunnels the public has never seen.

Camp Out at Blake Island State Park

Image via Flickr by
Seattle is a huge coastal town. Why not take advantage of it and camp out on the beach? Blake Island State Park offers 475 marine acres for camping along a five-mile shoreline with spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains and Seattle Skyline. You’ll need to take a tour or private boat to get to the island. Once you’re there, set up camp right along the shoreline, and get ready to see some spectacular mammals, birds, fish, and sea life.

Brush up on Local History at Burke Museum

If you love history, you’ll love learning about Seattle’s unique past at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. The museum houses Washington State collections of natural and cultural heritage, promotes lifelong learning, and encourages respect, responsibility, and reflection. Throughout the year the museum sponsors several fun events for the family. Check the museum’s schedule during your stay to see what events are taking place.

Wine Tastings at Chateau Ste. Michelle

Visit Washington’s oldest and most acclaimed winery, featuring award-winning wines. During your visit you’ll have a tasting session unparalleled to other wineries. Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery is located in Eastern Washington, where there’s a warm and sunny climate perfect for growing world-class wine grapes. Take a tour of the Chateau and its 105 wooded acres, attend a wine and food class, and enjoy a chef dinner.

Enjoy a Whale Watching Cruise

A visit to Seattle is not complete without seeing some of the ocean's most spectacular creatures: whales. A Clipper Vacation Whale Watching cruise takes you around the harbor from downtown Seattle through Deception Pass to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. You’ll enjoy 2 1/2 hours of whale and sea life watching. You can even stay a night or two at one of the San Juan Island hotels.

Emerald City Trolley

For the best guided tour of Seattle, hop aboard the Emerald City Trolley. Your experienced guide will educate you about Seattle’s famous sites as you visit them. You’ll be connected to several downtown attractions including Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, the Museum of Flight, Pioneer Square, and the Seattle Great Wheel. There’s a second route you can take to see other attractions such as the Ballard Locks and Woodland Park Zoo.
There’s so much more to do in Seattle than drink coffee, visit the Space Needle, and attend a Huskies game. Be sure to check out one or all of these attractions on your next visit.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Have You Discovered the Pen?

Image via Google Play

Readers, are you connected to Penned? No. You need to check out this great new app for your Android device.
"Penned is the best way to read, write, and share stories with your friends, followers, and the world for FREE. Share your creativity and gain a following.
- Post your story with a cover photo
- Write fiction, true tales, blogs, fanfiction, poetry, song lyrics, or whatever is on your mind
- Add chapters as you go and let your story unfold into a novel
- Post to the most popular categories, or create your very own category
- Connect with your friends and reading audience with comments on each chapter
- Follow other writers
- Easily share to Twitter and Facebook
It's like a cross between wattpad, instagram, and ibooks"
This is the description on the Google Play store for Penned. It's a terrific app for readers and writers. Discover new books, share favorites with other users, and display your own books. With the new Android app, you can take it anywhere. So what are you waiting for? Get Penned today!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Reading Campaign

2015 Reading Campaign

Have you started?
It’s January, and that means time to ring in the New Year and set some goals! If reading is on your list, why not set up a reading campaign to help you along the way? Here are some great ways to start.
  • Take a look at the books still sitting on your TBR shelf. Set them up in the order you want to read them in, and then give yourself a goal of when you’ll start each one.
  • Keep track of the books you read. There are several ways you can do this:
    • Keep a notebook to list the title and date you read the book
    • Keep a spreadsheet on your computer to track the books and the dates you read them
    • Use an online tracker, such as the Goodreads Reading Challenge App.
  • Join or form a book club.
    • Gather friends and family, set up a schedule, pick some books, and start your 2015 reading group.
    • Start a book club at your school or library
    • Start a reading group on line. Facebook is a great way to set this up!
    • Find an online group to join, such as the Indie YA Wolves Book Club.
The most important part of your campaign is to keep up with it. It doesn’t have to be, nor should it be, a chore. It should become a part of your daily or weekly relaxing schedule. Once you start, you won’t want to quit. Here are some great book suggestions to get you started:

Now my challenge to you: Join me on the 2015 Reading Campaign. I have challenged myself to read 24 books this year, 2 books per month. I am signed up with the Goodreads Challenge to track my progress. If you're on Goodreads, sign up for the Challenge and we can track each other. Leave a message in the comments with your challenge, or a link to your Goodreads Challenge.
I'll post updates to the Campaign from time to time to help keep us on track. Join me! I look forward to connecting through our reading.