Protecting Your Vehicle from Summer Theft

cars

Protecting Your Vehicle from Summer Theft: Security Experts Offer “Rules of the Road”

Choosing a road trip over air travel this summer may seem like a smart way to save money on the high cost of airfare. However, families who take this route may be putting themselves in a position for an even costlier risk: having their car and its parts stolen or irreparably damaged.  A June 2013 report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) showed an upward trend in motor vehicle theft for the first time in eight years. (https://www.nicb.org/newsroom/nicb_campaigns/hot_spots)
According to the NICB, July and August are the two most common months for motor vehicle theft. And with nearly two-thirds of Americans planning a road trip this summer according to AAA, security experts caution road travelers to take extra precautions to avoid becoming a target for thieves – thieves who are capitalizing on increased gas prices and the high street value of car parts.

“Wherever your car is parked – whether at a hotel, in a gas station parking lot, or even in your own home – you need to take precautions, especially during warmer weather,” advises Mark McClure, owner of the Signal 88 Security franchise serving Atlanta. “Leaving your windows cracked, even slightly, can be an invitation for theft.”

Signal 88 Security, Inc., a private security company with more than 100 franchise offices across  more than 30 states, offers three key suggestions that can help car owners avoid being victimized during the summer months.

Step One: Identify Possible Threats “There are a variety of items that are attractive to thieves: electronics, gas, metal and even the car itself,” says McClure. “Take a look at your car and note if any of the above are easily accessible.”  If you drive a high-profile vehicle, you’re especially at risk of catalytic convertor theft. In many cases, the platinum inside the part can be sold for scrap. Company fleet vehicles and other cars that are parked for extended time periods are also prime targets.

Step Two: Secure Your Vehicle Always roll up your windows and lock your doors, and activate your security alarm if you have one. If you drive an older model car, consider adding a locking gas cap to prevent siphoning. Watch for gas dripping from the bottom of your vehicle; if a hole has been drilled in the tank, there is a risk of fire should you start the car.
Whether at home or away on vacation, park in a well-lit area, and consider installing motion-sensitive lights around your residence.

Step Three: Keep a Watchful Eye If you will be out of town and your car will be sitting out, ask your neighbors to keep an eye out for suspicious activity. If you live in an apartment complex, notify the management. Contact law enforcement if you see suspicious activity around your residence. “I remind our officers that any pedestrian traffic after dark should be treated with in-depth observation. People walking in groups or less populated parts of a property can be a cause for concern,” says McClure.

While nothing is foolproof, providing barriers to entry such as these makes it more difficult for thieves to target your vehicle, increasing the chance that they will give up and move on to an easier target.

“Vehicle-related crimes threaten our sense of personal security, but taking a few simple precautions can minimize the impact. Creating awareness is key,” says McClure.
For additional information about Signal 88 Security, visit www.signal88security.com.

Summer Smarts: Keep Your Home Safe While You’re Away

With an estimated 136 million Americans going on at least one vacation this summer, safety and security precautions are a must. Proactive measures can help consumers keep their home safe from fire, carbon monoxide, and the threat of burglary while they are away.

Better Business Bureau and home security pioneer, ADT are offering the following safety tips for homeowners during the summer season:

  • Be careful about the vacation details you share via social media. Burglars can use posts on Twitter or Facebook to determine when you’ll be away. More than one third (35%) of Americans polled in ADT’s Safety Data Index survey said they believed their home is too ordinary and would not interest a burglar. However, a vacant home could be enough to attract unwanted attention, so be careful about broadcasting your travel plans.
  • Lock your doors even when you’re gone for a brief amount of time. Two thirds (67%) of Americans surveyed for the Safety Data Index agree they do more to protect their homes when they are going away for a night than when they are just leaving for a few hours. But, according to the FBI, more than half (53%) of home burglaries happen during the day, so homeowners should secure doors and windows every time they leave their home.
  • Check your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors every month. Summer marks the beginning of hurricane season, and if a generator needs to be used in a power outage, a quick test of your monitored life safety devices can help keep your family safe from potentially dangerous fumes.
  • Keep hedges and bushes around your home trimmed, so burglars don’t have places to hide.

If you want to relax on vacation, make sure your vacation planning includes securing your home while you are gone. If you choose to contract with a security company, check out their BBB Business Review first at bbb.org.

Learn more about ADT’s Safety Data Index, a survey examining the safety and lifestyle habits of Americans. For more consumer information you can trust, visit bbb.org, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

NOTE: ADT is a Better Business Bureau National Partner and all locations are BBB Accredited Businesses.

Travelers Make Great Targets for Identity Thieves

traveler

As summer nears, many people start dreaming about and planning vacation getaways. But while you’re enjoying the beach, identity thieves are devising new ways to steal your personal information. Consumers often let their guards down on vacation, putting them at greater risk of identity theft.

In an effort to curb the growing problem of identity theft, Equifax shares the top 10 ways consumers can help protect themselves while traveling:

1. Don’t announce your travel plans on social media. This invites identity thieves to target your house while you’re away.

2.  Place a hold on your mail. When criminals see an overflowing mailbox, they see an easy way to steal personal information.

3.  Go through your wallet and leave at home your library card and other cards with your name on them. Carry only necessities in your wallet when traveling.  Tourist areas are hotspots for pickpockets.

4.  Set up a travel alert on your credit card accounts, and freeze your credit with the three credit bureaus.

5.  Leave your laptop computer at home if you can. If you must travel with a laptop, update your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Do not access bank accounts from your laptop while in a hotel room or at a coffee shop or other public location.

6.  While staying at a hotel, lock important documents such as your passport in a safe.

7.  Use only ATMs located in banks.

8.  Protect your smartphone. Create a password for access, and use an application with a GPS locator to find your phone if it is lost or stolen.

9.  Don’t put your full name and address on luggage tags. Include just your last name and phone number.

10.  Tear up and discard used boarding passes. Many travelers leave boarding passes behind in airplanes or hotels. They often contain full names and other personal information.

“Everyone loves a relaxing vacation, but this is not the time to let your guard down about identity theft,” said Trey Loughran, president of the Personal Solutions unit at Equifax. “By developing good identity protection habits at home and on the road, you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim.”

Visit www.IdentityProtection.com powered by Equifax for more information and resources on identity theft and how to help protect yourself and your family.

About Equifax:  Equifax Personal Solutions empowers consumers with the confidence and control to be their financial best. Find out more about Equifax’s innovative suite of credit monitoring and identity protection products at www.equifax.com.

Starr’s Mill Choir to Perform at Carnegie Hall

starrs mill chorus
Chanticleer, the top choral performing ensemble of the Starr’s Mill High School Department of Choral Music, recently accepted an invitation from Choirs of America to be one of a handful of elite high school choirs to participate in the 2013 American Music performance Nationals for Top Choirs. Other high school choirs selected come from California, Utah, Delaware, Maryland, Colorado, Maine, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina.
“We carefully research, and then select only top choral programs from around the United States,” says Choirs of America Artistic Director, Christopher Scott Olin. “These choirs then come together for unprecedented choral education opportunities and performances.”
Chanticleer will be attending the AMP Nationals April 11-14 in New York City. Dr. Anton Armstrong, the Tosdal Professor of Music at St. Olaf College and one of the world’s most respected choral conductors, will be the AMP Nationals Master Conductor.  Events include adjudicated performances, observational opportunities, full one-hour clinics, school exchanges, and engaging workshops and master classes for the singers.  Chanticleer was one of only four choirs chosen to perform as part of the Aaron Copeland School of Music’s Concert Series at Queen’s College as part of the AMP Nationals activities.  For this performance, Chanticleer will perform choral works by Eric Whitacre, Ola Gjeilo, Gyorgy Orban, and Sergei Rachmaninov.
On the final day, Dr. Armstrong will lead all the selected choirs in a prism concert in Carnegie Hall. During the prism concert, Chanticleer, under the direction of their conductor, Dr. John Odom, will perform selections from Rachmaninov’s Áll Night Vigil” Opus 37 on the Carnegie Hall stage.  This will be Dr. Odom’s conducting debut at Carnegie Hall.
This event marks yet another national, invitational performance by choirs from the Starr’s Mill High School Department of Choral Music. Past performances, of which the choirs were selected by audition to perform, include the Prelude to Evensong service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., being a part of the Distinguished Visiting Choir Series of the St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York; where they served as the choir for the Sunday Eucharist service in the world’s largest Gothic cathedral.
For information about the choral program at Starr’s Mill High School, please contact Dr. John Odom, Director of Choral Activities at odom.john@mail.fcboe.org.  The chorus website is www.starrsmillchorus.org.
Submitted by: Dr. John Odom, Director of Choral Activities at Starr’s Mill High School.  Phone: 678-773-5195.  Email: odom.john@fcboe.org
Photo: Starr’s Mill Chanticleer Chorus

10 Family Travel Tips

family trip

Spring is almost here, and summer is right around the corner! This means increased family travel and fun with the kids. Here are 10 family travel tips:

  1. Pack light – this might not sound easy when we are used to overflowing diaper bags, but with the Babee Covee, a new baby blanket and cover that is six uses in one, you can save a ton of space but have all what you need with a little one in tow. Not to mention the time you will save from packing or turning back to the house when you forgot something.
  2. Always have wipes – use them for everything…from cleaning the usual suspects of diapers to hands and the unexpected mess on you, on them or in the car. I don’t leave home without them.
  3. Bring snacks – for the fussy child or the adult, it’s always better to have a snack to stay on track. Hungry people get cranky; snacks will help avoid this.
  4. Have a box of “tricks” – before going on any travel whether by car or plane, I always head to the $1 store to grab a whole bunch of stuff. So, when necessary, I can give the kids something new and exciting. When you arrive at your destination pack the tricks away so on the return home the toys will be exciting still!
  5. Layer up – you can never predict the weather so it’s always good to have a few layers to take you from morning until night. It’s much easier to take off than to not have enough. Being cold is not fun for anyone.
  6. Charge up – when all else fails, hand your child your phone. Be sure to have a backup battery or charger. There are a ton of smart phone apps that kids can play with too depending on their age.
  7. Use GPS – especially when traveling far, it’s best to know where you are going than to guess. Kids can’t wait to arrive so avoid lengthening the trip by not getting lost.
  8. Bring a friend — the more the merrier so if you can plan a trip with others, do so. Then, you can create lasting family memories together.
  9. Be comfortable – you’re traveling not going on an interview!
  10. Have fun! You are with your family, enjoy them! Life is too precious.

To interview Alma Moussa, Co-Inventor of the trendy must have baby item, Babee Covee, please contact Tasha Mayberry at media@babeecovee.com or call 207.317.6099.

Driving tips for winter weather

driving in winter

(BPT) – Snow, ice, slush and other winter driving challenges can threaten both driver and passenger safety, and adding distractions into the mix only exacerbates the situation. So instead of dashing through the snow in your four-wheeled “sleigh” and ending up o’er the hills, it may be best to simply drive with caution and focus, to stay on the road this winter.

Before heading out to the ski lodge or embarking on a winter road trip, take the proper precautions to ensure the safety of yourself, your friends and your family, as well as others on the road. According to Hankook Tire’s latest Winter Gauge Index, 68 percent of those surveyed are worried about skidding across winter’s icy roadways. Try these simple tips for staying safe while driving in winter weather:

Put distractions on ice: Despite many recent public service announcements and news articles on the dangers of texting and driving, drivers between the ages of 18 and 35 say texting is their top distraction while on the road, according to the Hankook Tire 2012 Fall Gauge Index. Other distractions include talking on the phone, talking to other passengers and eating while driving. Whether driving to a New Year’s party, heading back to school after winter break, or road tripping with a group of friends on a ski trip, it’s important to keep your eyes on the road so you can reach your destination safely.

Check your tire tread to prepare for snow: Worn tread is the No. 1 cause of skidding during the winter season, so it is important to make sure your tires are up to the task before hitting the road. A quick way to do this is to check your tires’ tread depth indicators. Tread depth indicators are small raised bars that run in-between a tire’s tread grooves. When a tire’s tread is worn down to these indicator bars, it’s time to change to a new set of tires.- If your winter driving plans include putting on a set of dedicated winter tires like the Winter i*cept evo, be sure to put them on your vehicle one to two weeks before the next anticipated snow storm.

Check your tire pressure: Every 10-degree drop in air temperature can actually cause a vehicle’s tires to lose up to 2 pounds per square inch (psi) in tire pressure. Improper tire pressure can result in increased tread wear and lowered performance, factors that are highly detrimental to one’s safety in undesirable weather driving conditions.

Be prepared and stock up: Getting stuck on the road is also a major concern during the winter season. Before heading out, check to make sure your engine coolant, no-freeze windshield washer fluid and your gas tank is topped off. Also make sure there are no blockages or obstructions to your heating or window defroster vents. Be sure to pack extra water, a spare tire, ice scraper, snow shovel and brush, blanket, booster cables and a flashlight in your car for emergencies.

With proper preparation you can keep your slipping and sliding confined to the ice rink and make winter pit stops in front of the fireplace instead of in the breakdown lane.

8 Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel with Your Kids

baby in car

Traffic, TSA, and Tantrums, Oh My!: Eight Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel with Your Kids

If you’ve ever traveled with kids (especially over the holidays), you know it’s an adventure. More accurately, it’s a slapstick, Murphy’s-Law, Griswold-family type of adventure. There are poorly timed poops. Lost pacifiers. Traffic jams and road construction. A beyond-awkward screening at airport security as you’re pulled into secondary and patted down while you try to comfort a screaming baby. Having every nook and cranny of your carry-on luggage searched—and subsequently rearranged—so you can’t find anything. The overhead speakers announcing that your departing flight is boarding while you’re in a completely different terminal.

And the list goes on. There are as many potential travel mishaps as there are families with kids. But take a deep breath: According to Princess Ivana Pignatelli Aragona Cortes, holiday travel doesn’t have to be complicated.

“The better organized you are, the easier it gets,” says Ivana, who is a featured blogger at Modern Mom, founder of Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess, and coauthor of the upcoming book A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year. “Yes, I know that this sort of ‘be prepared’ advice sounds simplistic, but that’s the beauty of it—it is! With the right information and a willingness to think ahead, you can save yourself a Santa’s sackful of stress.”

Ivana speaks from experience. While she’s a modern-day princess, she comes from modest means and met her Prince Charming while on scholarship at Pepperdine. What’s more, she has worked with children for over twenty years, has a master’s degree in education, and is a digital strategy consultant. But Ivana’s most valuable source of education by far, she says, is her experience as a mother of two.

“I’m an American who married an Italian, so my family flies fairly frequently,” she shares. “Over time, I’ve learned a lot of travel-disaster lessons in the School of Hard Knocks—and I’ve also developed some crisis-averting strategies that have turned out to be real lifesavers.”

Whether you are traveling near or far, these eight survival tips from Ivana will help make your family trip the wonderful adventure it should be.

Plan ahead. And plan some more. In other words, make a list and check it twice. Write down everything you’ll need while you’re away from home, and do so as far in advance as possible (then put the list in your suitcase so you can use it as a guideline when you’re repacking to come home). Give yourself plenty of time to consider your travel schedule and think through all possible scenarios (e.g., Will there be naptimes and mealtimes? If so, how many?) and what you’ll need to handle these situations.

“For example, if you are going to be mid-flight during naptime, make sure you have sleep essentials like lovies, and also pack a distraction like a portable DVD player in case sleep doesn’t happen and you have a cranky kid on your hands,” Ivana suggests. “It’s also a good idea to check any connecting destinations for restaurants or kid-friendly areas so that you can refuel and kids can burn off energy in between flights.”

Travel light(ish). Yes, this is definitely easier said than done—but it’s not impossible. Ivana advises packing everything you can a day or two before your departure, perhaps while the kids are asleep so that you can focus. Use the list you made earlier and don’t second-guess yourself. Remember, there are probably plenty of stores at your destination if you forget something.

“Speaking of stores at your destination, consider whether there are items you can borrow or buy once you get to your destination,” Ivana suggests. “Or you might even call ahead and ask Mom to pick up a few things like extra diapers and formula so you won’t have to travel like a Sherpa.

“I’ve found that one suitcase works for both of my kids,” she continues. “I recommend consolidating as much of your luggage as possible. Especially if you’ll be traveling with a stroller, carrier, or car seat, you don’t want to be weighed down by anything extra. (Speaking of consolidation, the new Ride On Carry On—a device that converts your carry-on suitcase into a stroller—solves a lot of traveling mommy woes!) And if you’re checking most of your bags, don’t forget a carry-on with extra outfits for the kids and maybe even an extra shirt for you in case of spills or spit-up!”

Organize your Mary Poppins purse. All moms have mastered the art of traveling with a seemingly bottomless bag. The trick is to do so without contracting “I’m lost in my handbag” syndrome! First, find a bag with plenty of separate pockets and compartments so that you’ll be able to store documents, snacks, baby gear, handiwipes, etc. as opposed to simply throwing them into your bag and hoping for the best. Make sure the things you’ll need most often and/or quickly (such as pacifiers, bottles, and snacks) are most easily accessible.

“I always pay special attention to travel documents,” Ivana says. “You’ll have to whip them out while checking in and going through security, so think about storing them in a separate, brightly colored wallet or folder if there isn’t a convenient compartment in your bag. And when I’m traveling by plane, I make sure to pack a carry-on ziplock bag with medications my kids might need, such as infant fever reducer, throat soothers, and gas and allergy relief. There’s nothing worse than being trapped on an airplane with a fussy child who’s feeling bad.”

Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. You may be thinking, Duh! Every amateur knows that!, but the advice bears repeating. It always takes longer to get out of the house than you think it will. Traffic jams tend to pop up at the most inconvenient times. Airport lines can be mind-numbingly long. And you never know when a tantrum or dirty diaper will erupt.

“Thinking back on my family’s many trips, I don’t believe there has been even one that went without a hitch,” Ivana recalls. “And that’s normal! Make sure your time margins are as wide as possible. Leave a half-hour or more earlier than you think you need to. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the middle of a meltdown.”

Ace airport security. “The thought of navigating airport security can strike fear into the heart of even the bravest mothers,” comments Ivana. “While you can’t bypass TSA completely, you can make the process as painless as possible. Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind.”

  • When possible, use the “Green Circle” lanes, where you will be allowed extra time and assistance to get through the lines.
  • Know the latest TSA regulations and pack your carry-ons accordingly. The following tips are based on November 2012 guidelines:
  • Gels, aerosols, and liquids should fit into one quart-sized ziplock per passenger. Maximum container size is 3.4 ounces.
  • Liquids like medicine, baby formula/food, breast milk, or juice do not have to be in baggies, and can be higher than the 3.4 oz. regulation amount. You do have to notify the TSA officer that you are carrying these extra-fluid items.
  • Dress for a Magic Mike night out. Before you get all hot and bothered, what Ivana means is that your family should wear easy-to-slip-on-and-off shoes, jackets, and belts (children under twelve can leave their shoes on). Be sure your little ones aren’t wearing anything metal that could set off beepers. And be prepared—if you are carrying your baby in a sling, you may get an extra pat-down, even if no alarm goes off.
  • If they are old enough, prepare your children beforehand as to what they can expect when they go through security. Explain to them why they need to stay close and follow instructions, and not to be afraid if the beeper sounds.

Fill their bellies. What’s worse than a tired baby? A hungry one! Make sure you have plenty of snacks (e.g., infant formula and finger foods) for your little ones to enjoy for the duration of your travel. If you’re flying, have a baby bottle ready for take-off and landing. Swallowing will help your baby’s ears adjust to pressure changes. For older children, a low-sugar lollipop works great.

“Don’t forget to fuel yourself, either,” reminds Ivana. “You won’t be doing anyone, especially your kids, any good by bottoming out your blood sugar. Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and eating snacks when the kids do. A stop at the airport coffee shop won’t hurt, either!”

Make time fly with entertainment. Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, chances are you’ll have a lot of downtime to fill. Buy a new toy for the trip, and bring books, an iPad, pacifiers, a pony—whatever it takes to keep your children from reaching octave levels that break the sound barrier.

“Having a few ‘new’ things will keep kids occupied longer,” explains Ivana. “Be wary of bringing anything that makes too much noise (think of the other passengers and yourself!). Music is a great soother, so perhaps some kid-friendly headphones would make a great investment. And don’t forget comfort items like a favorite teddy, sleep pillow, or soft blanket.”

Map out your road trip. Just because you may be traveling America’s roads in the trusty family vehicle, that doesn’t mean you should neglect planning. Traveling by car with pint-sized passengers can be just as stressful as flying the friendly skies. Many of the same rules apply: Be sure to have plenty of snacks and toys on hand to keep your children occupied, and make sure you can get to them easily. Also, consider a DVD player and headphones to keep parent sanity intact (and to cut down on the “Are we there yet?”s).

“Look at your route ahead of time and plan stops at locations that will allow little ones to burn off energy, like a park,” Ivana suggests. “In a pinch, a fast-food restaurant with a play area or even a rest stop with an open grassy area will do. Also, be sure to have lots of extras on hand—I’m talking about diapers, and also pacis and wipes. You never know when something might get dropped under the seat, or when sticky hands or spills might make an appearance.”

“Remember, holiday travel with children doesn’t have to mean that the end of your sanity is in sight,” concludes Ivana. “Making it there and back in one piece is simpler than you think if you plan, prepare, and know what to expect. So travel safely—and don’t forget to enjoy this special season.”

# # #

About Princess Ivana:
Ivana is the author of the upcoming book A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year, which was cowritten with her mother, Magdalene Smith, and her sister, Marisa Smith. Their blog, Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess, is a blend of humor, practical advice, and lifestyle tips on the essentials. Ivana is also a featured blogger on Modern Mom.

Fayette Woman at the Home of King Richard the Lionheart

Anna Marie Hendry in France with Fayette Woman

Anna Marie Hendry in France with Fayette Woman

Anna Marie Hendry recently toured the Normandy area of France. Pictured here with her Fayette Woman Magazine at Chateau Gaillard, the once mighty fortress dating back to 1196 in the days when England ruled Normandy and the chateau belonged to King Richard the Lionheart, who was simultaneously the King of England and Duke of Normandy.

Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival

jekyll

 

Located directly on the Georgia coast, Jekyll Island is a shrimpers haven. To celebrate this local treasure, guests are invited to the 7th annual Wild Georgia Shrimp and Grits Festival, to be held Sept. 14 to 16 on Jekyll Island.

Chefs and foodies from across the Southeast flock to the food-centric festival, either to try their hand at creating the festival’s best shrimp and grits recipes, or to eat their way through the plethora of dishes available. Set under the cover of live oaks in the Jekyll Island Historic Landmark District, the Shrimp and Grits Festival provides a laid-back, relaxed Southern atmosphere complimentary of delicious coastal cuisine and great entertainment. Throughout the three-day festival, the theme is simple: taste, sip, enjoy.

For this year’s showdown, hosts Jekyll Island Authority have upped the festival ante with the addition of a craft beer tasting tent. Guests in the Craft Beer tent will have access to a sampling of the best brews in the Southern Eagle Distributors hop and malt line-up. The new tasting selection is $10 for 10 tastes, and a commemorative brew glass will be available for a $3 purchase.

Shrimp and Grits attendees can opt for dish-by-dish sampling and sipping, or treat themselves to the ultimate VIP package. VIP guests will receive up-close parking, passes for $3 dish samples, passes for lunch and sinner both Saturday and Sunday, a festival posted, a 1 lb. bag of stone-ground grits, plus access to the ultra-cool off spot, the VIP tent. An extra bonus? VIP ticket-holders receive exclusive access to their own bar and free admission to the new Craft Beer Tasting.

Throughout the weekend, activities are planned to showcase the vast variety of the staple Southern shrimp and grits recipe. An Amateur as well as Professional Shrimp and Grits cooking competition will be held, as will other cooking demonstrations, cookbook signings, an array of fine arts and craft vendors, live entertainment, and interactive activities for kids.

Plan to spend an entire day enjoying a variety of entertainment, shopping at numerous vendors, and dining on Georgia shrimp. Vendors selling shrimp and grits dishes represent some of our best local restaurants.

Opening Night Plate Samples will be offered on Friday, with plates priced at $3 each. On Saturday and Sunday, the festival will host an amateur Cooking Competition and the Professional Chef Cooking Competition- to be judged by professional chefs including Scott Jones- plus cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs Whitney Otawka, Michelle Weaver, and Rebecca Lang, who will also be on-hand to sign copies of her new book, “Quick Fix Southern.”

Looking for some dining music to pair with that shrimp? We’ve got shows lined up throughout the festival, with the like of regional favorites Soul Gravy, Honey Blue, the WharfRatz and Traveling Riverside Band, among others.

From the Kids Fun Zone and ongoing cooking demos, to the shrimp eating contests and never-ending assortment of tasty finds, the 2012 Shrimp and Grits Festival promises to dish up a good time for the whole family!

Admission to the Festival is free, but V.I.P. tickets are now on sale on the festival web site. For more information and a complete weekend schedule of the Shrimp and Grits Festival, visit www.jekyllisland.com. For more information about Wild Georgia Shrimp, visit www.wildgeorgiashrimp.com.

 

 

Atlantic Shrimp and Grits

 

2 lb. unpeeled, large raw shrimp (16/20 count)

4 cups chicken broth

1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk

1 tsp. salt

1 cup uncooked stone-ground grits

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

31/2 oz. prosciutto, chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced

1 cup chopped white onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup dry white wine

11/2 cups chopped tomatoes

1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

 

1. Peel shrimp; devein, if desired.

2. Bring broth and next 2 ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Add grits; reduce heat to low. Cook, whisking often, 30 minutes or until creamy and tender. (A layer will form on top of grits as they cook. It melts with each stir. If grits become too thick, add 1/4 cup water to thin.) Remove from heat, and keep warm.

3. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto, and cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add jalapeño and next 2 ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in wine. Cook, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet, 1 minute.

4. Add chopped tomatoes, and cook 3 minutes. Add shrimp, thyme, and remaining ingredients. Cover and cook 7 to 8 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Top each serving of grits with shrimp mixture.

 

Makes: 4 servings

Hands-On Time: 40 min. Total Time: 1 hr., 25 min.

 

© 2012 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC/Oxmoor House

Recipe adapted from Around the Southern Table: Coming Home to Comforting Meals and Treasured Memories (Oxmoor House, Oct 2012)

Gibbs Gardens: Public Garden 30 Years in the Making

gibbs 1

The Japanese Gardens are the largest in the nation and contain ponds, sculptures, bridges and seating areas.

Jim Gibbs’s passion for beautiful gardens is in his genes, passed down from his grandmothers, aunts and mother. Even as a child he knew that one day he wanted to create a world-class public garden for all to enjoy. Later, as the founder of Gibbs Landscape Company and the recipient of over 250 landscape design awards, Mr. Gibbs had the expertise and the vision to create this garden paradise.

After searching six years for a lovely setting with mature trees, an abundant water source and rolling topography, Mr. Gibbs settled on 300 acres in Ball Ground, a rural community north of Atlanta. In 1980, he built his personal home, the Manor House, on a high point with a view of the North Georgia mountains and began designing the Manor House Gardens. Mr. Gibbs finally saw his life-long dream come true last March as he timed his grand opening of Gibbs Gardens to coincide with 20 million daffodils bursting into bloom.

Your first stop at Gibbs Gardens is the welcome center, where you’ll find rest rooms, a gift shop, ticketing area and a good map of the property. It is not unusual to see Mr. Gibbs here greeting visitors and explaining the layout of the gardens. A short walk from the welcome center is the Arbor Café, where you can pick up a snack or a delicious sandwich and drink at reasonable prices.  Try the gourmet chicken salad on walnut cranberry bread!  A tranquil seating area outside the café allows guests to continue to experience the gardens as they eat.

Gibbs Gardens is expansive, containing 16 gardens, 24 ponds, 32 bridge crossings and 19 waterfalls. The gardens are divided into two sections: the Valley

The Manor House is Mr. Gibbs' personal residence and was built in 1980 along with extensive gardens around the home.

Gardens, which are wheel-chair accessible and on mostly level ground, and the upper Manor House Gardens. To reach the upper gardens, you walk along winding pathways up a slope with about a 150 feet elevation change. Numerous benches are placed along the way for your convenience to stop, rest and enjoy the views. Plans are in the works to provide a tram for those who can’t walk to the upper gardens. Check the website for the status on tram availability.

Plan at least three hours or more to tour all the gardens. If you are short on time, make it a priority to visit the three featured gardens – the JapaneseGardens, Water Lily Gardens and the Manor House Gardens.

Located on 40 acres in the valley, the Japanese Gardens are the largest in the country. You’ll wander around seven spring-fed ponds and enjoy wonderful Japanese sculptures, pagodas and bridges. Lichen-covered boulders are intermingled with shade plants, including ferns, mountain laurel, native azaleas, dogwood and a stunning collection of Japanese maples.

The Water Lily Gardens include five ponds and over 140 varieties of water lilies, the largest display of lilies in a natural environment in the nation. Here you’ll find an exact replica of Monet’s Japanese Bridge in his Giverny garden near Paris.

When visiting the gardens, take your time, wander down garden pathways and sit for awhile to enjoy the view.

 

If you want to see a wonderful view of the mountains, take the path to the upper Manor House Gardens. At the manor house, Mr. Gibbs’s personal home, you can stroll through his pool and entertainment area and numerous garden rooms, including a lovely walkway underneath a long arbor of ‘New Dawn’ climbing roses. As you walk back down from the manor house, take the path that leads through the hydrangea and rhododendron gardens to view over 1,000 hydrangeas of 150 different varieties.

Gibbs Gardens is located about 85 miles north of Fayette County. The gardens are open from March 1st through November 30th, Wednesday–Sunday from 9:30 am. until 5:00 p.m. Plants have been selected to provide “seasons of color” throughout the year, so you will find something in bloom whenever you go. General admission tickets cost $20. Seniors (65 and older), children 4-17 and tour groups of ten or more can purchase tickets for $18. Children under 3 are free and parking is free. Please note that bringing your own food and beverages is not permitted. For more information on Gibbs Gardens, go to http://gibbsgardens.com.

National Parks Offer Affordable Summer Fun Close To Home

state park

(StatePoint) You can make history, culture, natural beauty and scientific exploration a part of your life this summer by visiting a National Park near you.

The nation’s 397 national parks not only protect some of America’s most iconic treasures, but they also tell diverse stories and teach valuable lessons about our shared heritage. National Parks are fun and affordable tourist destinations for families, friends and even solo travelers looking for a healthy dose of exploration.

School may be out for summer, but the pursuit of knowledge should never take a break – and a national park is like a classroom, but way more fun. Here are some great ideas for how to learn at a national park near you:

• Commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with a trip to a battlefield.

• Visit the childhood home of a historical figure to learn about day-to-day living in a different era. Experience the log cabin in Kentucky where Abraham Lincoln was born, or marvel through Teddy Roosevelt’s childhood home in New York City.

• Connect with your past at a place that has special meaning to your family history.

• Discover an array of wildlife and plant life and truly appreciate the park’s biodiversity. On your visit, take a guided walk with a Park Ranger. Be sure to look up, look down and all around to make a game of spotting as many species as you can.

• Encourage your children to connect to the science, history and natural wonder of parks by becoming a Junior Ranger, or if you can’t make it to the park, explore the WebRanger program online.

• How’d that boulder get there? Discover the geology of canyons, mountains and other scenic landscapes. National park visitor centers can provide you with resources to help you understand the ground below you.

• Challenge yourself to an outdoor adventure like camping, biking or rafting. Pick up skills like pitching a tent and cooking outdoors.

• National parks face many challenges, from threats to wildlife, to the need for more funding. Learn about these concerns and what you can do to help locally and nationally.

“Our national parks are the soul of this country,” says Tom Kiernan, President of the National Parks Conservation Association. “These are special places that can inspire us and connect us to nature and our shared heritage.”

The National Park System was created with enjoyment in mind, so plan a trip that will be fun for you and your family. The good news is that you might not need to travel far; there may be one close to home. Plan your trip at www.nps.gov/findapark.

The National Park System, which covers over 83 million acres nationwide, preserves natural and historical sites, creates jobs, benefits local economies, and educates a diverse public. This summer, help protect its future by fostering the next generation of park-lovers.

For more information on how you can help protect our national parks, and plan your next vacation visit www.npca.org.

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Disconnect in Destin

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Summer has arrived—time to pack a bag and head for some down-time at the beach! We’re fortunate to be just a few hours’ drive from one of the most stunning beach communities in the world: Destin, Florida. Known for its brilliant white sand and blue-green water, Destin is the crown jewel of the beautiful beach towns that comprise the Emerald Coast. It is located on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Choctawhatchee Bay. While the focus of any trip to Destin is the pristine beaches, you’ll discover a wide range of activities on and off the water for the whole family.

Water Attractions

Known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin is a top destination for fishing and other aquatic sports. Stop at the harbor and you will find an array of businesses that offer parasailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing and all types of boating experiences, like dolphin tours on waverunners and glass-bottom boat cruises. For those into extreme water sport experiences, you’ll enjoy opportunities for kite boarding, windsurfing, kayaking, surfing and wakeboarding.

Family Attractions

Off the water, you’ll keep boredom at bay with activities for the whole family. Kids and adults love to twist and turn through the water slides at Big Kahuna’s Water Park, featuring more than 40 water attractions. Another favorite spot is The Track Family Recreation Center, where you can race go-karts, play miniature golf or smash into each other in bumper cars.

Make plans to check out the Air Force Armament Museum, located at Eglin Air Force Base just north of Fort Walton Beach. You’ll tour vintage aircraft dating back to World War I, interactive displays for kids and weaponry exhibits. Best of all—entrance to the museum is free!

 

Kids always enjoy Big Kahuna's Waterpark!

Golf

For many, the lure of the greens doesn’t mean the water, but rather the lush golf courses on the Emerald Coast. Destin offers an experience for every golfer’s skill level amid the unique beauty of the ocean, white dunes, wetlands and woodlands. Indian Bayou Golf Club, Destin’s oldest golf course, has 27 holes for all skill levels. Named “Best on the Emerald Coast,” Regatta Bay Golf and Country Club is an 18-hole championship course that has been rated by Golf Digest as one of the “Top 200 Courses in North America” and “Top 15 Florida Places to Play.” The newest course, Blackstone Golf Course, is family-friendly, with reasonable rates; they offer complimentary lunch at local restaurants after you play.

Shopping and Entertainment

Destin is known for an eclectic mix of shopping experiences, from funky souvenir places to fine antiques, to the nation’s largest designer outlet center. It is the rare person who leaves Destin without at least one visit to Silver Sands Factory Stores, lured by more than 100 designer shops that include Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, Aeropostale, Michael Kors, Coach and Nautica.

Smiths Antiques & Interiors Market has been acclaimed as one of the “Best on the Emerald Coast” for 12 consecutive years in a reader’s choice poll in Emerald Coast Magazine. It is one of the largest antiques mall in the country, known for the quality of its antiques and gifts and unique selections for the home decorator.

If you want to take in the total Destin experience, stroll through HarborWalk Village, where you’ll enjoy wonderful shops and boutiques, restaurants and entertainment. During the summer, HarborWalk offers live music at Rock the Docks each Saturday night.

Accommodations

In Destin, you will find the perfect accommodations to fit every preference. If you are yearning for a romantic getaway right on the beach, you need look no further than Henderson Park Inn. This charming adults-only bed and breakfast was inspired by a New England Inn and features 36 uniquely-furnished suites. Most rooms include private terraces overlooking the spectacular white sand and Gulf waters. The beach location is tranquil and uncrowded, bordering the Henderson State Park’s 1.3 miles of unobstructed beachfront.

Henderson Park Inn has received numerous awards for its ambience and exceptional service including designation as “Destin’s Best Inn” from Southern Living Magazine and voted the “Most Romantic Inn” in all North America by a readers poll from About.com. Suite rates vary by season and suite selection. Amenities include a complimentary sumptuous breakfast buffet (the biscuits and gravy are to die for!) and a box lunch packaged for the beach. In the afternoon, you’ll enjoy lemonade and cookies and a complimentary happy hour at sunset on the veranda overlooking the ocean. The Beach Walk at Henderson Park Inn is the only fine dining restaurant in Destin located right on the Gulf, and its stunning view is complemented by the excellent cuisine. For more information, visit hendersonparkinn.com.

 

Henderson Park Inn is right on the water and provides breathtaking views.

Dining

Locals recommend the rustic ambience of Dewey Destin Seafood, which overlooks Crab Island. You’ll savor some of the best fried and steamed seafood on the Gulf while sitting on the dock and watching boaters gather at nearby Crab Island to socialize in the shallow waters. A second location offers nightly specials overlooking the harbor. Harry T’s at HarborWalk Village has one of the best views of the harbor and is a favorite place to eat good seafood while watching the sunset. The Donut Hole has two locations for great breakfasts.

 

Nearby Attractions

Cruise along the 20 miles of scenic highway 30A east of Destin and while away the hours at the charming beach towns along the way, including Grayton Beach, Watercolor, Seagrove and Seaside. A must-stop is Grayton Beach State Park, where you can view three coastal dune lakes, one of the rarest features in the world. The one-mile nature trail winds through amazing scenery of sand dunes, pines and oaks to one of the dune lakes.

 

See the "real" Florida at Grayton Beach State Park.

For more information about Destin and the Emerald Coast, go to www.emeraldcoast.com.