Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Take a Guided Tour of Haunted Savannah

Savannah, Georgia, is known as America’s most haunted city. It’s a great place to plan a trip if you are into mysteries and ghost stories. Follow this city guide on your haunted tour of Savannah.

Clary’s Café

In 1994, author John Berendt wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It became a popular book, and later a movie, and helped put Savannah on the map as America’s most haunted city. The book specifically mentioned Savannah’s breakfast institution: Clary’s Café. Made infinitely more famous by the book, the café, located on Abercorn Street, now features a rendering of the dust jacket on an inside stained-glass window. Clary’s Café features more than just good food. It also features intriguing characters and a lot of nostalgia. You’ll start your haunting days in Savannah off right by stopping by Clary’s for breakfast. Hilton Savannah Desoto is only a few blocks away, and will keep you near all of the haunted destinations.

Colonial Park Cemetery

Image via Flickr by steakpinball
Located down Abercorn Street from Clary’s Café is Colonial Park Cemetery, one of Savannah’s spooky graveyards. Take a good look at the Masonic bricks that line the western edge of the park. They were placed there to make sure that whatever lies below the cemetery stays below.  The cemetery is the resting place of many of Savannah’s earliest citizens. It was established in 1750, and the original burial ground for the Christ Church Parish. Distinguished Savannah residents, including Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and more than 700 victims of the 1820 Yellow Fever epidemic are buried in Colonial Park Cemetery. It’s a popular stop on the local ghost tours. One even takes you through the cemetery at night.

Wright Square

Northwest of Colonial Park Cemetery is Wright Square, one of several haunted squares located throughout Savannah, moving south into the city from the river. The squares were used for communal activities during the development of the city, and located at the center of a basic organizational unit called a ward, each ward containing a square. Wright Square is the second square, and has several historical relics. It’s said that town hangings took place here, and it’s the only square with no Spanish Moss because of it.

Pirate’s House Restaurant

The oldest and most reportedly haunted spot in Savannah lies on the east side of the city’s historic district. Pirate’s House Restaurant is located in a building that is over 250 years old. There’s a tunnel that leads from the Rum Cellar in the basement to River Street. Many stories have been told about these tunnels over the years, including how they were once used to shanghaied people through the tunnels out to the boats, where they were forced into work. There are stories about the old sailors themselves, making their rounds through the house. Stop by Pirate’s House Restaurant for dinner one night and check out this local haunt.
You can book a ghost tour on your trip to Savannah, but by following this simple guided tour, you’ll come across plenty of hauntings on your own.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Must-See Sites in Washington, DC.

Planning a trip to our nation’s capital? You won’t want to miss these six sites.
National Mall
Image via Flickr by Kyle Rush
The National Mall is the best spot to view the monuments and memorials DC offers in one place. Known as America’s Front Yard, the Mall symbolizes our nation and its values. Stretching from the United States Capitol to the Potomac, the Mall houses several iconic buildings, including the Washington and Lincoln Memorials, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, and the World War II Memorial. Hotel Monaco Washington, DC is in close proximity.
Visiting the Smithsonian is a must when planning your trip to Washington, DC. A combination of 19 world-class museums, a zoo, and nine research centers, the Smithsonian offers something for everyone. The Air and Space Museum is perfect for the future astronaut or pilot in your family. Art lovers will love the American Art Museum. Historians will get lost in the American History Museum. With so many options, you may need to plan on visiting the Smithsonian more than once on your visit. Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C. is the perfect place to stay, at less than a mile away.
United States Botanic Garden
The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is the result of George Washington’s vision to have a botanic garden in the capital city of the United States that would educate and promote the importance of plants to the young nation.  The Garden was established by Congress in 1820, and is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. Today, the Garden is a living plant museum that informs visitors about the importance of plants to our own well-being, as well as the Earth’s.
Washington National Cathedral
Perhaps a bit off the beaten path, the Washington National Cathedral is not an attraction most tourists think about visiting when planning their trip to Washington, DC. However, the Cathedral is a national treasure, as well as an architectural feat, not just a place of worship. Housed inside the Cathedral are artworks and exhibits that tell the American story of faith. Outside, the grounds and gardens are open for exploring. You can even peer with the gargoyles from the city’s highest point.
The National Archives in Washington, DC
If you’re planning a trip to our nation’s Capital, you must include a visit to the National Archives. There is so much history to see in the Rotunda of this beautiful building, including the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. The National Archives Museum features plenty of hands-on exhibits and learning resources, as well as public programs to help you explore issues of American history.
The White House
No trip to Washington, DC is complete without a visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You can request a visit to the White House from up to six months and no less than 21 days of your planned visit through your Member of Congress.
Be sure to add these six points of interest to your itinerary when planning your trip to Washington, DC.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fall in Love with Books Blog Hop

FALL IN LOVE WITH BOOKSSpring is in the air! Although cool temperatures are still lingering, you can sense the coming of the season. Just look at the trees and flowers popping up, the brilliant blue sky, and the shining sun. My favorite part of spring is a feeling of renewal. I get to shed my winter clothes for shorts and T's, and sit outside with a great book. I have SO many books on my Kindle I'm anxious to read!booksWhat's on your spring reading list? Share in the comments! I'll select a winner for a free eCopy of The Chosen. Be sure to continue on the Hop for your chance to win some great giveaways!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Best of Disneyland Resort Paris Hotels

Disneyland Paris features Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. If you love Disney, and have always wanted to go to Paris, this is your dream vacation. Here are five hotels near Disneyland Paris.

Dream Castle Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Image via Flickr by Sean MacEntee
Disney fans of any age will love staying at Dream Castle Hotel at Disneyland Paris. With features including an indoor pool, an arcade, and a game room, it’s sure to be a favorite with your family. Rooms have refrigerators, free Wi-Fi, cable, and private baths. The hotel also boasts a full service spa and fitness center. A complimentary theme park shuttle is available to take you directly to the parks. The hotel’s restaurant offers garden views and a bar. Room service is also available.

Magic Circus Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Convenient to Disneyland Paris and Golf Disneyland Paris, Magic Circus at Disneyland Paris is another hotel your entire family will love. Rooms feature complimentary Wi-Fi, satellite programming, and a laptop-compatible desk. Private baths feature shower/tub combinations, designer toiletries, and hair dryers. While you enjoy an on-site massage and facial, the kids can hang out at the arcade/game room. The hotel also features an indoor pool and fitness center. There are two restaurants, a bar/lounge area, and complimentary buffet breakfast. A free shuttle service will take you to the parks.

Paxton Resort & Spa

The Ferrieres-en-Brie area of Disneyland Paris features Paxton Resort & Spa, a four-star hotel near the Bussy-Guermantes Golf Course. Rooms feature a kitchenette complete with refrigerators and microwaves, plasma TVs, satellite programming, and free Wi-Fi. The hotel's spa offers daily facials, massages, and other body treatments. There’s an on site restaurant, two bars, and pool. A 2,000-square-foot conference center and meeting room are available to guests.

Novotel Marne Vallee Collegien

Located in Collegien at Disneyland Paris, Novotel Marne Vallee Collegien is a four-star hotel with plenty of amenities. Rooms feature flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, room service, and digital programming. Private baths are complete with bathtubs, safety showers, complimentary toiletries, and hair dryers. The hotel features a pool, a garden, gift shop, and a bar and buffet breakfast in the hotel's restaurant. A business center and computer station are available if needed.

Residhome Val D’Europe Hotel

Located close to Disneyland Resort Paris, as well as the Val d’Europe Shopping Center, the Residhome Val D’Europe Hotel feature air-conditioned studio and apartments that are stylish, functional, and modern. Each unit has a kitchen featuring a dishwasher, cooking ring, and microwave. The Val d’Europe station is located just outside the residence, where you can easily access the RER train, and ride right into the center of Paris. The Sea Life Aquarium, shopping outlet, and, of course, Disneyland Resort Paris, are all in close proximity. This is another great spot for a family vacation. You can even bring the pets along!
These five Disneyland Resort Paris hotels are great choices for a family vacation. They are right next to the parks, and close to anything else you want to do on your trip to Paris.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Book Review | Paper Towns by John Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was very different from other YA books I've read. For one thing, it was written from the guy's POV. I enjoyed learning how a teenage guy sees things. For another, it wasn't your typical teen high school story. Yes, there are the typical clicks and such, but the story itself involved so much more, and it was very powerful. I don't want to give anything away to those who have not read it yet, but to suffice it to say, the book has some very haunting moments, some very thought-provoking moments, and some very are-you-kidding-me?! moments. There were also a ton of moments where I found myself laughing out loud.
This is the second book of John Green's I've read, the first being, of course, The Fault in Our Stars. I couldn't help but notice how, unlike other authors, the two books were so different. They both spoke volumes about teens and their reaction to the world around them, but from two incredibly different perspectives. I love that! I will have to read more of his books to see if the differences continue.
I definitely recommend Paper Towns to any reader. But know this up front: It's a little longer than you might anticipate at first, but each section is a necessary part of the story, and the book reads very well.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Rome's Can't-Miss Sites

Rome is a beautiful city filled with wonderful historical buildings, museums, and a history waiting to be explored. When planning a trip to Rome, be sure to add these spots to your to-do list.


Image via Flickr by _Pek_
You can’t visit Rome and not see the Colosseum. This historical landmark looks back into ancient Roman times when the best gladiators fought not only one another but great beasts, as well. It was an event put on by the Roman emperors that everyone wanted to be a part of - except maybe the gladiators. Today, the Colosseum is a beautiful architectural building that displays the best of Roman history and culture. The top tier and the hypogeum, the underground chambers and passageways beneath the arena floor, are open for public viewing via a guided tour. Make sure to add this to the top of your to-do list. You’ll have a perfect view of the Colosseum from your room at Radisson Blu es. Hotel, Roma.

Vatican Museums

Displaying one of the world’s greatest art collections, the Vatican Museums display exhibits along four miles of halls and corridors. Collections include Egyptian mummies, ancient busts, old masters, and modern paintings. The decorated rooms and galleries of the Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano house the museums. The complex consists of two palaces - the Vatican Palace and the Belvedere Palace. Two long galleries join the palaces. Three courtyards lay inside: the Cortile della Pigna, the Cortile della Biblioteca and, to the south, the Cortile del Belvedere. The Vatican Museums cannot be covered in just one day. You’ll want to plan your excursion wisely and perhaps add a few visits to your itinerary. The Grand Hotel Tiberio is in close proximity to the Museums, making multiple visits more convenient.

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is the site of the Papal Conclave, the process in which a new Pope is selected. Although this ceremony fills the courtyard with tourists and residents alike waiting for the smoke to appear, the Sistine Chapel is visited regularly for what’s inside: a beautiful collection of frescoes, including Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement and, of course, The Creation of Adam, the world-famous painting on the ceiling of the Chapel. In total, there are 47 individual sections in the ceiling. The walls of the Chapel are lined with 43 individual paintings. Collections include Stories of Moses, Stories of Jesus, Resurrection of Christ, and Disputation Over the Body of Moses.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Italy’s most spectacular cathedral is St. Peter’s Basilica. It was built on top of a fourth-century church, and it took 150 years to construct. Many spectacular works of art are housed inside, including Italy’s three most celebrated masterpieces: Michelangelo’s Pieta, the soaring dome, and Bernini’s baldachin. The interior is more than 613 feet long and contains many artistic masterpieces. The dome is 385 feet high. The Basilica receives 20,000 visitors a day, so be sure to check when peak visiting hours are, and plan accordingly.
These four spectacular buildings are a must-see on your trip to Rome. They will give you the best cultural and historical feel of the city and make your visit complete.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday | Favorite Book Quotes

toptentuesdayI have seen Top-Ten Tuesday posts every week on different blogs for a couple of years now. The topic originated on The Broke and the Bookish, and they have a topic set up for each Tuesday of the year.
This week's topic is "Top Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books"
velveteen“'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'"

“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

harry potter 3“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
― Steve Kloves

little women“We'll all grow up someday, Meg, we might as well know what we want.
~Amy March~”
― Louisa May AlcottLittle Women

outsiders“Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.”
― S.E. HintonThe Outsiders

gone with the wind“After all, tomorrow is another day!”
― Margaret MitchellGone with the Wind

twilight“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…" he murmured. I looked away, hiding my eyes as I thrilled to the word.
"What a stupid lamb," I sighed.
"What a sick, masochistic lion.”
― Stephenie MeyerTwilight

new moon“The bond forged between us was not one that could be broken by absence, distance, or time. And no matter how much more special or beautiful or brilliant or perfect than me he might be, he was as irreversibly altered as I was. As I would always belong to him, so would he always be mine.”
― Stephenie MeyerNew Moon

eclipse“And the sound of your heart," he continued. "It's the most significant sound in my world. I'm so attuned to it now, I swear I could pick it out from miles away. But neither of these things matter. This," he said, taking my face in his hands. "You. That's what I'm keeping. You'll always be my Bella, you'll just be a little more durable.”
― Stephenie MeyerEclipse

breaking dawn“Now you know," I said lightly, and shrugged. "No one's ever loved anyone as much as I love you.”
― Stephenie MeyerBreaking Dawn

What's your favorite book quote? Share with me in the comments.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Book Review | A Charming Magic by Tonya Kappes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Once again, Tonya Kappes has engrossed me in the town of Whispering Falls, and enchanted me with all of its colorful characters. I love the mystery and romance that combine to make A Charming Magic just that - magical.
June Heal is definitely one of my favorite characters, and I always enjoy seeing her get out of each sticky situation she finds herself in. I love the new plot line this book created for her, and can't wait to read more about it!
I wish I could visit Whispering Falls in person, but I'm happy to know that I can visit in my imagination any time! Thanks Tonya!

Friday, April 10, 2015

5 Beaches to Choose from on Your Miami Beach Vacation

Planning a trip to sunny Miami Beach? There are several different beaches you can check out, many offering a variety of sunning, surfing, and dining. Here’s a look at five beaches you won’t want to miss.

Bal Harbour Beach

Image via Flickr by charlie llewellin
If you’re looking for some quiet time on your Miami Beach getaway, Bal Harbour Beach is the place for you. North of Miami Beach’s main stretch of beaches, Bal Harbour shares space with luxury condos and five-star hotels. It’s a great spot for swimming in the turquoise water or sunning on the sandy white beach. Small cafes and bistros are located nearby. If this fits your style, stay at the Sea View Hotel , Bal Harbour, On the Ocean, where you’ll be minutes from shopping and Surfside Beach.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Beach

Interested in soaking up some of Miami’s history? Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Beach is home to the oldest-standing building in Miami-Dade County: a historic lighthouse. Take one of the scheduled tours, then enjoy a day full of activities, including walking and cycling on the trails, fishing, and dining. The Lighthouse Café and Boaters Grill offer great views, delicious Cuban food, and cold drinks. Or, pack a picnic and reserve a pavilion right on the beach.

Crandon Beach

Looking for more than just a beach? Crandon Beach offers a family amusement center, a nature center, and an area for renting cabanas. This sprawling stretch of beaches along Key Biscayne, features several different ecosystems including dunes, coastal hammock, and sea grass beds. You can take a tour with a local naturalist and learn all about this beautiful area. Stay at the nearby DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay, where you’ll enjoy close proximity to several beaches, entertainment, and nightlife.

Hobie Beach

Hobie Beach is known for one thing: windsurfing. Both experienced vets and adventurous vacationers visit this area of beach just off the Rickenbacker Causeway. First-timers can sign up for a two-hour lesson, then visit the locally-run windsurfing rental to find the perfect board for you. Hobie Beach is also a dog-friendly beach; bring your furry pal with you for the day to play in the shallow water. Enjoy great views of the city skyline while you surf the day away. Stay in nearby Motel Blu, which is pet friendly, offers a onsite bar, outdoor pool, and free self-parking.

South Beach

If you’re looking for the ultimate Miami party beach, South Beach is exactly what you want. Located at the southern tip of Miami Beach, South Beach is looking for a lively crowd full of energy. There’s plenty of sunning, surfing, swimming, and volleyball. You’ll find ocean-view shady areas under the palm trees at Lummus Park. A walk around the area will introduce you to the Art Deco buildings of South Beach, while a stroll along the beach gives you the perfect view of cruise ships.
These five Miami Beaches give you plenty of options to choose from when planning your trip.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Best of Milan Centre Hotels

Milan Centre, or city center, is located in the inner ring of Milan, and corresponds to the thick walls that protected Milan during the Middle Ages. Today, Milan Centre offers visitors plenty of shopping, dining, and sight-seeing. Highlighted spots you won’t want to miss are the mural of The Last Supper; and Duomo, Milan’s Gothic cathedral. Here are five Milan hotels that will keep you in close proximity to Milan Centre.

Hotel Straf

Image via Flickr by Dzhingarova
Located less than a quarter mile from Milan Centre, Hotel Straf is in close proximity to many of Milan’s famous attractions. La Rinascente, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and Piazza del Duomo are just steps away. An area shuttle with bilingual staff is in close proximity to help you get exactly where you want to go. The hotel offers free breakfast, a fitness center, and an on-site restaurant and bar. Rooms are equipped with Wi-Fi, mini bars, bathrobes, and slippers. They are climate-controlled and soundproof. Pets are welcome too.

UNA Maison Milano

Just as close to Milan Centre is UNA Maison Milano, a luxury hotel where old world charm meets modern-day flair. You’ll be steps away from Milan’s main attractions, including the Piazza del Duomo, Chiesa Santa Maria Presso di San Satiro, and the Cathedral of Milan, as well as the inner cloisters of the Civic Archeological Museum of Milan. The hotel offers spacious guest rooms with comfortable amenities, including premium bedding, plush slippers, and robes. Large bathrooms with vanities and designer toiletries add even more elegance to your room. You can reserve a suite with a Juliet balcony, and enjoy all the views of downtown Milan.

The Gray - A SINA Hotel

Stay in the heart of Milan in the five-star luxurious The Gray - A SINA Hotel. Less than a mile from Milan Centre, you’ll be in close proximity to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Piazza della Scala. Rooms feature iPod docking stations, flat-screen TVs, satellite service, DVD players, and free Wi-Fi. Private baths feature jetted tubs and complimentary toiletries. All rooms are equipped with phones, desks, and safes. The rooftop terrace offers spectacular views, and makes a wonderful place for a wedding. There’s an on-site restaurant and coffee shop, bar/lounge, buffet breakfasts, and a limo/car service.

Hotel Spadari Al Duomo

Less than half a mile from Milan Centre is the centrally located Hotel Spadari Al Duomo. You’ll be steps away from Chiesa Santa Maria Presso di San Satiro and Ambrosian Library, and within close proximity of Piazza dei Mercanti and Loggia degli Osii. Guestrooms feature minibars stocked with a few free items, flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi. Rooms are equipped with safes, desks, and phones. The hotel offers room service, and has an on-site bar/lounge.

Hotel De la Ville - A SINA Hotel

Located in the Fashion Triangle and less than half a mile from Milan Centre is Hotel De la Ville - A SINA Hotel. The hotel offers a unique guest experience, and is designed with personal touches and individualized rooms. Features include marble baths, a rooftop pool, free Wi-Fi, and an on-site bar and restaurant.
These five hotels will keep you in close proximity to Milan Centre.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Heart-Healthy Matzoh Balls

It’s Spring, and Passover begins tonight at sundown. This wonderful holiday commemorates the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt, and the pilgrimage to their Holy Land, led by their savior, Moses. Many people are familiar with the storyline thanks to movies like The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston, and the latest version of the Exodus, Exodus: Gods and Kings starring Christian Bale.
Passover is celebrated via a huge meal called the Sedar, where every dish has a representation of the Exodus. For instance, bitter herbs for the bitterness of the days of slavery, salt water for the tears, and Apple-Walnut Charoset for the mortar used to build the pyramids.
Perhaps the most infamous Passover dish is Matzoh Ball Soup. Made with a blend of Matzoh Meal, chicken broth, eggs, chicken fat or vegetable oil, salt, and pepper, Matzoh Balls are a delicious treat many look forward to year after year.
matzoh ballsImage via Flickr by moonlightbulb
But there are so many health issues linked to fatty, salty foods, including heart disease and diabetes. Having grown up with heart disease, a subject I talk about in my autobiography My Open Heart, I know it’s important to watch what you eat. Eating a lot of fatty food, such as Matzoh Balls, can be very risky to those who suffer these ailments. Is there a way to enjoy the dish without all of the fat and salt? Yes.
Thanks to a user at, you can now create delicious Matzoh Balls for Passover that are more heart healthy.
  1. For the stock the best results come from the chicken bones of an already cooked chicken - so enjoy a chicken dinner and save the bones and the close meat. Cook this until the vegetables are nearly disintegrated. Remember do not add your salt till the boil point has been reached or your stock will be cloudy. Approximately 3 hours.
  2. Cool and strain off all the meat, vegetables and bones. Discard.
  3. Cool and strain off any fats.
  4. For the Matzo Balls: Beat the eggs. Add seltzer, oil, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  5. Add Matzo meal and stir thoroughly. Refrigerate for 1/2 to 1 hour.
  6. Fill a 5 quart pot 3/4 full of water and bring to a rolling boil add 3/4 cup of kosher salt to the water and bring back to rolling boil.
  7. Moisten the palms of your hands with cold water to form your matzo balls - I use a tsp to measure the amount - approximately 1/2" in diameter. Drop matzo balls into boiling water.
  8. Cook for at least 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.
  1. In a 6 quart pot add 1 tsp of olive oil when heated add your onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Over low heat bring to fork tender.
  2. Add the remainder of the ingredients. Add cooked matzo balls and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes.
By following this recipe, you’ll be able to enjoy delicious Matzoh Balls on Passover without the health risks.