About Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.


Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett

Add Zest to Your Sound With Jet Bluetooth Speakers by Damson Audio

September 7, 2014 by  

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The Jet is the first wireless real stereo set of Bluetoooth speakers and despite the fact that they are only 7.5cm tall, with a diameter of 5.8 cm, they emit 20 watts of power per speaker. In other words, a whole lotta sound comes from a small package, blasting out enough sound to fill large rooms.

Designed in of all places Yorkshire England, Damson Audio has come out with a real gem here. I discovered them at CE Week in New York this past June and fell in love with their combined creative design and size, all of which delivers high quality sound.

Touted as the world’s first true wireless stereo speaker system with a right and left channel, the two speakers can be placed as far as 10-metres apart and will communicate with each other to deliver in-sync stereo audio.

Jet uses Damson’s Incisor Diffusion Technology which amplifies sound by using almost any surface you place it on, alongside a traditional driver to capture the mid and high range frequencies. They connect via Bluetooth so you can access all your favorite music from all of your smart devices.

There is a built in microphone for hands free call operation and Near Field Communication (NFC) instant pairing with the latest smart enabled devices.

As travelers, we know how important battery life is before you need to recharge and the Jet comes with a rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries that give you up to 9 hours of playback time.

They’re available in red, blue, black/white, black and burnt orange but of course, as fans of creativity and color, we opted for the red (shown above). Given their size and their sound quality, we think they’re an ideal choice for any traveler.

Quality matters to me, yet as a an avid traveler myself, it’s hard to travel with a lot of weight and I need products to be simple, light weight and easy to set up. The Jet uses Damson’s Incisor Diffusion Technology to amplify the sound using almost any surface the Jet is placed on — the result is a powerful and rich bass, which makes these also useable for throwing parties.

The in-built transducer increases the range of mid and high frequencies and there’s an in built handsfree call option.  They’re priced at $129.99 and be ordered directly from their website (see link above – at damson audio).

We have the speakers in red and plan to test them out beyond the living room where we did our initial basic test. What we love most is the size and weight against its pure incredible quality — they look like so many of the bluetooth mini speakers out there yet produce superior quality sound.

This August, they released the Vulcan which we haven’t tested out yet.  It apparently features wide field stereo that delivers a rich, full range of audio over a wider field area than traditional two speaker units.  This produces a louder, more complete room filling sound than that of other comparable speakers the the price point.  It also has interchangeable grilles as accessories so you can change the appearance of the speaker to match your mood.

On another note, Damson Audio recently a Kickstarter campaign for their Headbones, which are bone conducting headphones, which are both wireless and water resistant, and have the option of plugging in traditional buds. They received large interest from all walks of life from joggers to those in the deaf community and finished their campaign 191% funded.  These are now in full production and are due for general release December 2014 so stay tuned.

We’d love to test out the Vulcan in the future — in more depth. So far, so good for their splendid combination of fabulous design and sound!

Second photo credit: John Kim.

 

 

A Luxury Stay at Ritz Carlton Westchester, a Stone’s Throw From Manhattan & Charming Towns

August 31, 2014 by  

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I’ve always loved the Ritz Carlton and have never had anything but a luxurious experience with top notch service every single time I’ve stayed in one. Earlier this summer, I began to explore Westchester in New York State for the first time, a stone’s throw from the Big Apple.

The great thing about Westchester is that within an hour or so from New York City, you can get access to nature and a slower pace, which means that Westchester County makes a great weekend getaway from the city, whether you live there or are visiting from overseas or another state. It’s also just minutes from Scarsdale, Tarrytown and Rye New York, charming towns to visit, as well as only 20 minutes from Greenwich CT.

Because my roots are tied to technology and have been for years, I’ve been to White Plains New York but never stayed at their Ritz Carlton until recently….what a surprise!  At one point, Anthony looked at me in the hotel lobby as we were leisurely having lunch on our first day and said, “it feels as if we’re in another state, maybe even country….”

Like all Ritz Carlton properties I’ve experienced, the service was outstanding! We were surprised to find it on par with the kind of service you’d find in a 5 star tourism destination….you know, like Aruba or the Caribbean. Grant you, they knew I was coming and these scrumptious chocolate covered apple surprises were waiting for us. That said, we experienced the same level of service regardless of where we randomly wandered in the hotel.

They boast 146 rooms, including 38 Executive, one bedroom and specialty suites. Below is a standard room and below “it”, a suite, which we had for the night. Notice that it’s more corporate in it’s look and feel than perhaps other Ritz Carltons, however bear in mind it’s location and vicinity to New York City. I also felt that the hotel would be ideal for families visiting the greater New York City area and Westchester County, where there is more to explore than meets the eye.

The suites are spacious and come with a 42 inch LCD flat panel TV (as do the standard rooms), and there’s an iPod docking station and DVD player, both musts if you’re traveling with children. I loved the spacious bathrooms with dual sinks as well, which lately, I’m finding to be a rarity, even in 5 star properties. The same goes for the separate soaking tub and shower.

There’s also a fitness center which is open 24 hours (another rarity), a rooftop pool (enclosed, making it possible to swim during colder months) and a spa. I LOVED the spa, so much so that I’m doing a separate write-up so be sure to check out our review of the spa, which features 11 treatment rooms and a Spa Suite.

Below is the rootop swimming pool.

While we didn’t try the steakhouse despite being tempted by it, we did have lunch in the lobby, which has an elegant look to it — I thought it was perfect for business luncheons and noted that if I lived in the area, that might just be my go to spot for business meet-ups, speaking of which, they also offer a business center, separate meeting rooms, a boardroom, 3 breakout rooms, a 6,100 square foot ballroom and more. In other words, the hotel is completely decked out to handle larger business functions or personal events, such as anniversaries and weddings.

Eating in the lounge rather than one of the hotel’s restaurants doesn’t mean you have a shortage of fabulous dishes to choose from — for example, appetizers alone include shrimp cocktail with a lemon brûlée, a calamari with sweet chili, grilled lemon and marinara sauce, a scrumptious crab cake with mango relish and pepper coulis, a Chipotle shrimp quesadilla with corn, peppers and cheese to name a random few. We chose two polar dishes to get a sense of the chef’s diversity — the seared marinated sea bass which they serve with a delicious lobster orzo, sautéed bok choy, tequila vinaigrette and the veal spaghetti bolognese with shaved parmesan and a basil pesto on top. (both pictured below)

We also saw the penne alfredo come out of the kitchen, which looked fabulous and comes with a choice of shrimp or chicken and is served with sautéed onions and sundried tomatoes.

 

We also tried a few side dishes because they sounded so good and the portions were plentiful — choices include a steamed broccoli, onion rings, sautéed spinach, grilled asparagus, wild mushrooms, baked potato and jasmine rice.

The desserts were also scrumptious…..note we could NOT leave the hotel without sampling a couple after our heavenly experience with the chocolate covered apples earlier in the day. We tried the Ritz Carlton Cake, which is Dark Valrhona Chocolate, Grand Marnier, Candied Orange served with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream (large shot) and the New York cheesecake with a berry compote (both below).

We LOVED our experience and as I mentioned, were surprised by the level of service and quality of the food. Sure sure sure, it’s a Ritz Carlton, but it’s also in a location that many people may not expect there to be one. Consider staying here to get away from the insanity of Manhattan and even if you do have a business meeting in the city, you can take the train in (it’s not that long of a ride on a Metro North train) and when you return, you can lap up the luxury of Ritz Carlton from their warm and hospitable staff. Two thumbs up!

Details:

Ritz Carlton Westchester

3 Renaissance Square, White Plains, NY 10601

Note: we were hosted by the hotel but all opinions and observations are most definitely and entirely my own.

 

Hit Australia in January for a (Second) Summer of Sport

August 20, 2014 by  

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With the FIFA World Cup underway and two major sporting events – the Tour de France and Wimbledon – set to kick off soon in the UK, Brits are in for an exciting sporting summer. However, if you just can’t get enough sunshine and sport, why not take a trip Down Under in January 2015 and take in their Australian equivalents? January sees two of the biggest events on the southern hemisphere’s sporting calendar – the Tour Down Under in Adelaide and South Australia, and the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Even if sport’s not your cup of tea, don’t forget the three-week Sydney Festival takes place in January too. Here, we’ll take a look at all these events in a bit more detail – and if you find yourself tempted to book a trip, this handy Cost of Living tool can help you compare the costs of transport, nights out and shopping in Australia to those of your home city.

 Tour Down Under, January 17th – 25th

As the first event of the Union Cycliste Internationale’s Pro Tour – which also includes the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia – the Tour Down Under is a huge date on the calendar for professional cyclists and fans alike. Stages normally take place around the foothills of Adelaide, the scenic Barossa Valley wine region and the coastal Fleirieu Peninsula, before returning to the city streets for the final race.

Hundreds of thousands of people turn out to watch the cyclists pass by, but there’s much more going on besides the race: the celebrations usually include a Bike Expo in Adelaide, musical events, street parties and, of course, the chance to sample Adelaide’s unique food and wine. If you’ve never been, it’s a wonderful time to get to know Adelaide!

 Australian Open,  January 19th – February 1st

Held at Melbourne Park, the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific is second only to the US Open in attendance figures: the Rod Laver Arena, where much of the action takes place, has a capacity of 15,000. All three main courts have retractable roofs as of June this year, leading organisers to bill the venue as officially “weatherproofed” –particularly important for Australia, where extreme heat is just as capable of stopping play as heavy rain.

Tickets are due to go on sale in October, and if you’re planning a visit there’s also the Festival of Sails to enjoy between January 22nd and the 26th – one of the biggest and oldest regattas in Australia, and always a huge celebration.

 Sydney Festival, January 8th – 26th

A three-week festival of music, theatre, dance, comedy and any other kind of performing art you can imagine, there’s nothing quite like the Sydney Festival. With more than 300 different events to choose from, there’s sure to be something to suit all tastes: from classical music to political street theatre, it’s all here. The festival also traditionally features a large programme of free performances, so you needn’t worry about all those tickets breaking the bank.

Events take place at around 30 venues around the city, including the Sydney Theatre, City Recital Hall and, of course, the Sydney Opera House. Look out for the colourful Spiegeltents that pop up in Hyde Park and Parramatta offering cabaret and circus performances. Much like Edinburgh, festival season is one of the best times to see Sydney at its most expressive and artistic: don’t miss it!

This post was made possible by our partner host BudgetDirect.

 

 

I Think His Name Was Remi…

August 17, 2014 by  

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Or it was something like that. He was nearly bald although i think on purpose yet he couldn’t have been more than 24. He had a navy blazer on with those black capped dance like shoes that serious performers wear and yet I learned that he doesn’t dance at all.

 

He rattled on in French until he realized mine was more than rusty. A boyish face with a twinkle in his eye he held up his joint, close to the end of its use. He continues to speak in french because frankly he had no other choice. Somehow he thought I might be a good choice to access another joint. How wrong was his “read” and yet that was so not why the universe threw is together for that 20 minutes in time at the Bonne nouveau subway stop in Paris at close to 1 am in the morning on a Tuesday night in June.

We began to decipher language, why he chose the words he did and why such am emphasis on his joint. I asked him why he smoked, how often and what it brought him. The latter took three attempts in my broken French and yet third time lucky.

While he agreed it made him sleep better and brought more serenity, he acknowledged it was a way to deal with a troubled life.

I asked him to explain exactly what he meant and he went on to explain how difficult it was to live in France, and what he needed to be and exude to french society and how he never felt he could be what they needed him to be.

He looked french enough to me and he even acknowledged that he was born here but I soon learn that his father was Algerian and his mother was Czech and he felt an affinity to no one….or no-thing, except perhaps the burnt down hashish in his hand.

He asked a guy to translate a word or two once (vent/wind was one of them) but for the most part we were getting by and saying what we needed to say.

He understood sentiment and passion and from that place he told me how much music meant to him and why. The why explanation was beautiful as he didn’t use any word – his fingers, the timing and the energy went from eyes to heart and back again and as a fellow artist and musician I inherently understood.

He tried to justify pot as a higher escape alternative to alcohol and yet while I understood part of his logic, I retorted back that it was a short (court) term fix regardless and would never bring him the serenity he so deeply yearned for.

I asked about his dreams which were different and yet the same answer as the question I posed about his passions. Making people happy through music was a constant theme.

I didn’t want to lecture for who am I to argue about short term pleasures and gains to bring one through a day. After all, don’t we all have our own unique distinctions about what’s right and wrong, serving and not serving, useful or not, growth or unraveling in our lives?

Even if we don’t admit it, we so do feel and have all of those justifications.

On that note and reflection, the 8 train to Creteil pulled up on the track, which I knew was the last train of the night.

Remi who so didn’t look like a Remi with his warm, inviting and artistic smile called to me and said what was your name again? I said my name clearly but unlike I so often do, I left out the name of my website although I’m not quite sure. Did I see him as a piece of cherished art I didn’t want to share or perhaps because I did, I couldn’t bring myself to unveil a personal detail or two?

As I looked at his innocent and yet so eager to learn face through the window of the train as the doors began to shut, I felt as if our exchange was not quite done.

Why wasn’t he getting on the train I thought as it was the track for the 8 line only and I was told from my friend at dinner only 30 minutes prior that it was the last one. Was he homeless, merely hitting people up for another joint, desperate for conversation and connection or ???

Goodbye Remi I felt that I had called out and as I said it because I felt fairly sure it was the name he had given me, I shouted loudly as the doors were closing – what was your name again?

That smile.

A moment in time on a summer night in Paris when encounters like this one can change people’s destinies in a short intervals of 15 minutes or an hour or five ….. or not.

Photo credit: UrbaLife Signs.blogspot.com.

Soak up Luxury & Top Notch Service at Tokyo’s New Otani Hotel

August 16, 2014 by  

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In July, I had a unique opportunity to stay the incredible 5 star New Otani Hotel in Tokyo Japan, which is part of the Otani chain of hotels headquartered in Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan. New Otani Hotels operates 18 hotels in Japan and two hotels outside of Japan. The flagship hotel in Tokyo has been around since 1964 and their management is nothing short of top notch.

The service is beyond exceptional….but it doesn’t stop there. Upon arrival, I was escorted to my room by the hotel manager since my flight was so late and I managed to catch the last limo bus of the night which put me into the center of Tokyo well after 11.

One of the first things I fell in love with beside the ability to manage every light from a series of controls next to the bed, was the heated toilet seats. I soon learned that heated toilet seats were a big part of Japanese culture, at the very least Tokyo culture. I ran into heated toilet seats throughout the city in various establishments and each one had a number of controls which were far too complex for the ordinary brain. Regardless, I quickly fell in love with them even if I couldn’t always figure out how to flush them ‘properly’ or which control to use.

The hotel also had a fabulous carpeted walk in closet with plenty of space for hanging clothes and other storage and a cozy seat in front of the main mirror in the bathroom which sat atop a round cozy and furry rug.

Like most Japanese hotels, I would soon learn, they had a cupboard with a traditional Japanese tea cups, together with a selection of teas, and Green and Jasmine teas were of course among them. They also had assorted coffees, spirits, wines, saki and beautifully presented tea serving sets, as well as glasses for soda, and juice.

On a clear day, apparently you can also get a distant view of Mount Fuji, which of course wasn’t the case over the few days I stayed there (wrong time of year). The style is traditional but most definitely modern, from the bed design to the bathroom, artwork and windows.



There’s a main hotel tower and a Garden Tower adjacent to it. The main tower houses the two floors which have access to the premium Executive Lounge which also gives guests access to the spa, sauna and swimming pool in the same building every morning from 7 am to 10 am. There’s also a beautiful pool outside which is open to guests.

There are four restaurants – Satsuku, which has a buffet of Japan and Chinese items for breakfast and other meals, Top of the Tower, which serves a Breakfast buffet, the Nadaman, which is where I went for my very first breakfast in Tokyo, which serves traditional Japanese meals and lastly, the Garden Lounge, which has lovely views, great lights and is spacious but is more focused on traditional western/American food.

And then there’s breakfast. Yum!!! Below are some shots of my breakfast at Nadaman which was so delicious, I wanted seconds.

 Above, breakfast at New Otani’s Nadaman Restaurant

Below is the Zen Executive Lounge in the Main Tower on one of the upper floors, which also serves food in the morning and late afternoon/early evening for what a “happy hour” period. During that window, they have wine, appetizers, cheese and fruit, beer, fresh juice, raw vegetables, pickles, crackers and nuts. There are light meals served four times a day here.

Above, the New Otani Executive Lounge

I also had an opportunity to experience the spa at the New Otani, which is fairly formal in nature. The experience was in true New Otani style, somewhat formal while offering exquisite service. They have a private gym as well as a main gym, an area for relaxation, a hot (dry) sauna, steam room and two adjacent hot tubs.

Above, the Spa at the New Otani Hotel

On the way to the main outside pool, you need to walk through the infamous gardens of the New Otani property. They walk is beautiful and makes you feel as if you’re far away from a city center, with nothing but peace and tranquility bathing you from all sides. As serenity overtakes you, you feel as if you can get lost in the gardens’ endless greenery and flowers.

There’s a stunning little red bridge that crosses a river area loaded with colorful fish.

With its 400 years of history, the Japanese Garden at Hotel New Otani is one of the most renowned gardens in Tokyo. The vast ten-acre ground, surrounded by the outer moat of the historic Edo Castle, houses numerous kinds of trees, flowers and foliage. They have stone gardens and lanterns, carp ponds and waterfalls.

The highlight of the Garden is its traditional stone gardens, called Karesansui. Pine trees with stones of different sizes represent mountains, while white pebbles and sand are water with rake marks depicting its ripples.

One of the most recognizable structures in the Garden is a square-shaped pagoda, a style which has been kept intact since the Nanboku-cho period (1336-1392).

They also have 42 stone lanterns, some along the pathways and slopes, and some by the pond. For example, the Kaneiji Lantern is a dignified looking lantern from the Kamakura Era (1183-1333), that was acquired by Yonetaro Otani from the Kaneiji Temple in Ueno, Tokyo.  

The Kasuga Lantern has twelve animals of the Japanese zodiac engraved on the hexagonal surface, each facing the direction it represents. The Nuresagi Lantern dates back to the Edo (or Tokugawa Shogunate) Era (1603-1867).  And, there are countless ones you can view taking a stroll through the gardens.

One day during my stay, they had a media event by the pool where Japanese swimmers entertained us for an hour or so with a variety of dances in and outside the pool.

The music was lively and fun, and people were tapping their feet and smiling ear-to-ear while they sipped Bombay Sapphire Gin under colorful umbrellas to protect them from the hot summer sun.

Below is a quick video I shot of the performance.

Conveniently located a stone’s throw from the Akasaka-Mitsuko stop on the Ginza line (other lines also pass through here), it’s hard to beat the area as a place to base yourself. Within five minutes, I was on a main line to get me to the most important parts of the city.

We give it two thumbs up and would definitely recommend putting New Otani on your list for your next trip to Tokyo. As for other choices, there are a few traditional western 4 and 5 star chains but in our opinion, why would you stay there when you could stay in a more authentic Japanese hotel? And since I’m a known snob when it comes to stellar service, you can’t go wrong with the New Otani, who consistently proved themselves again and again — from check in, the spa and loung area to their dining experiences and shops.

We were planning to check out the Palace Hotel near the Imperial Palace, but it didn’t pan out so we didn’t have an opportunity to do so. While it looked great from the street and the lobby (I visited briefly one day), we’ve heard mixed reviews from various sources and since we didn’t have a chance to take a deep nose dive, we can’t verify which sentiment is valid or not.

What We Most Loved:

1. The modern style of the rooms that were astonishing prestine.

2. The fabulous cabinet with the adorable traditional tea kettle and cups, together with the assorted teas and coffees.

3. The walk in closet (sweet)!.

4. The sitting stool atop the plush furry throw carpet in the bathroom.

5. The light controls that are accessible from the bed.

6. The heated toilet seats.

7. The view of the gardens below. (I had a stunning view and while I may not have been able to see Mount Fuji, it was still stunning).

8. The flow of the room (someone with feng shui design sense was involved in the decision making).

9. The service was through the roof (above and beyond — makes many American 5 star hotels feel merely like 5 star wanna-be’s).

10. The traditional Japanese breakfast. (see our separate write-up on Japanese food in Tokyo and beyond, including the New Otani Hotel).

And of course, the traditional spa and Executive Zen Lounge where you can get away from it all throughout the day.

Details:

New Otani Hotel

4-1 KIOI-CHO, CHIYODA-KU
TOKYO 102-8578, JAPAN  
Tel : 81-3-3265-1111

Stylish Yakima Bike Racks, a Step Beyond Robust & Functional

August 14, 2014 by  

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We discovered Yakima bike racks after several hours of fishing on the web and a couple of days of researching options for travelers. Since we’re doing a lot of car travel in New England this summer, we thought we’d test out a couple of bike racks and give them a spin.

We’re starting with the Yakima, since we loved their variety of choices, making it a godsend for people with more than one kind of vehicle. There are various options for how you affix a bike rack to your car (for newbies) and for those who have tried more than one type, you’ll love the fact that Yakima gives you choices within each category.

First, there’s the roof racks for people who like to put their bike on a pedestal but only have a car. The hitch racks go on the back of the car and albeit they can be a little pricier, they are very easy to assemble, install and load. There’s also one that connects to your spare tire and for those who have trunks, they offer racks you can use on the back of the truck to keep them securely fastened while you drive.   Lastly, there are trunk racks which come fully assembled and easy to install on both trunks or hatchbacks.

We like trunk racks since they are flexible and don’t require you to have a SUV or do any extra installation or adjusting. They simply affix to the back of your trunk and off you go.

Our favorite option of their trunk racks is the QuickBack 3 (there’s also a QuickBack 2), which features single-knob adjustment for lightning-fast installation, a steel-reinforced security strap, premium oversized padded feet and anti-sway cradles to eliminate bike contact. Below is the QuickBack 3, which we opted to test out for our first New England road trip.

The installation is fast right out-of-the-fox with its single adjustment knob. We found it fairly easy to install onto a Chevy Malibu.

The unit includes steel-reinforced strap security system, and labeled straps, making it easier to figure out how to install, a godsend for people like me. The arms fold down easily and quickly when you’re not using the unit so you can store it or toss in the car when you take your bikes off to ride. We weren’t traveling with a particularly large car – a Chevy Pontiac – and yet, it presented no problems installing regardless of the size or type of trunk.

First, we love the protective coating! Unlike any other bike rack I’ve ever had, there is a ton of protection for your car. The unit has premium oversized padded feet so its easy on the paint and there are coated metal buckles which also give your car extra protection. It also includes glass hatch hooks and bottle openers. They recommend this option as a great choice for hatchbacks, minivans and SUVs and it comes in a 2 or 3 bike capacity.  We agree!

The price point is $209. Another thing to note is how many choices they offer on their site for accessories – take a look! We added a TubeTop gizmo, which can help mounting onto a mast-style hitch rack. While our unit came with strong straps to hold your bikes, they sell them separately for only $10 if you want to add a few more.

Their stretchy rubber straps come in pairs and are durable and dependable, keeping your bike even more safe and secure.  Each strap has 8 holes which are ½” in diameter.

The other choice we thought was a great (and sturdy choice) was the KingJoe Pro 3, one of their other trunk fitted racks which requires no trailer or truck bed. The QuickTrigger II hub system makes installation fast, and the sleek design fits stably on a wide variety of vehicles. The StableCradles II hold your bikes firmly in place and folding arms let you store this away easily.

 

This is a slightly lighter option but it still includes premium oversized padded feet and coated metal buckles to protect your car. The arm design is narrow so it’s flexible enough to fit a wide variety of bike frames.

Like the QuickBack 3, the arms fold up, making it easy to store in the car when you’re on a ride or in your basement or garage when you’re back home. It’s also a great option for hatchbacks, minivans and SUVs and comes with integrated bottle openers and glass hatch hooks. It is available for either 2 or 3 bikes and is priced at $185.

Yakima is well established so you don’t need to worry about quality, longevity or service. They’ve been around for 30 years so have had plenty of time to learn how to make the best of the best secure racks for your gear.

They unit we tried is too heavy for international travel options but it makes a perfect choice for car travel, which is ideal in our case as we are planning to do some family travel write-ups this summer.

We give them a two thumbs up for design and style, protective coating and materials and sturdiness and would recommend giving their bike racks a try. If you’re uncertain which bike rack to choose based on your needs, they have a great “How Do I Choose” link on their bike rack page on the upper right.

Oh yeah, and I should mention that we love their team and philosophy as well. They’re outdoor enthusiasts and come at design and durability from their own experience in nature. Based on their personal experiences with adventure sports and cycling, they follow something they refer to as “Insight-Inspired Innovation.” I love it!

GO Yakima!

Copper’s Mill Touts Farm-to-Table Experience in Tarrytown New York

August 13, 2014 by  

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Led by General Manager Thomas Szymanowicz and Chef Iain S. Falconer, Cooper’s Mill is a farm-to-table restaurant adjacent to the Marriott Westchester. We discovered it by accident through the marketing folks when we stayed at the Marriott earlier this summer.

The eatery brings food from farm-to-fork in a unique and social setting and if you didn’t know where you were, you’d think you might be somewhere in northern California. They use locally and regionally grown and sourced ingredients and the ambiance is a mixture of rustic and sleek industrial design.

Reclaimed barn wood has been used to create a natural ambiance and feel. The restaurant features hand-crafted booths and table tops fashioned from barn wood, and private dining areas are separated by custom-made sliding barn doors. Another thing to note that is unique about the place is the vast selection of craft beers they offer from local area breweries including Captain Lawrence and Defiant. They are also proud of their bourbons, vodkas and eclectic wine list.

One of our favorite dishes was the scallops with risotto and their presentation was stunning.

Their name Cooper’s Mill, was taken from a flour mill that opened in Tarrytown in 1886 and for many years refined more than 300 barrels of flour a day. Farm-to-table seems fitting given the history. Take a look at this beautiful fish selection below, one of the specials of the day — Skuna Bay Salmon with corn succotash and lemon sauce.

Their salads are organic and incredibly fresh and include pea shoot and english pea with white bean hummus, roasted beet with smoked goat cheese, a steak cobb salad and organic mixed greens with baby carrot, grape tomato, cucumber and summer radish (pictured below).

Some of the New York state vendors they source from include Sprout Creek Farm, Coach Farm, Cooperstown Dairy, Old Chatham Sheepherding, Five Spoke Creamery, Catskill Distillery and Cascun Farms to name a few.

A homemade spring pea soup followed by a scrumptious tomato-based soup.

A fine selection of assorted homemade ice cream with unusual flavors that change regularly. Some odd but yummy sounding flavors on the menu have been basil with tomato, grape jelly, nutter butter, chocolate explosion, tamarin sorbet, bacon walnut, chocolate covered pumpkin seeds and more. The bacon walnut ice cream flavor was influenced by the former chef, who was Scottish. The menu since the current chef, Claude Moreau took over, has more French influence.

Other fabulous dessert choices include sweet ricotta and peach flatbread, beet, white chocolate bread pudding with a honey anglaise sauce, whipped pineapple mascarpone with soy sauce cookie, or a more traditional cheese board, which includes sprouts creek margie, chatham ewes blue, cooperstown dairy toma celena, fig jam (yum) and truffle crisp.  The menu overall is unique for the area and locally grown — even the coffee is locally roasted from Irving Farm.

The inside of the establishment — you can see its rustic ambiance but modern design.

We were pleasantly surprised by how great this was – a real surprise and a gem in Westchester County. Two thumbs up! Definitely give them a try next time you’re in the area. And a huge kudos and thanks to our gracious server Karen who has been there for 32 years and Tom, the GM of the restaurant, who both provided out of this world service.

Details:

Cooper’s Mill Restaurant

670 White Plains Road

Tarrytown, NY 10591
(914) 333-1216

Live Entertainment & Great Food at the Annual Arizona Taco Fest in October

August 13, 2014 by  

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The Arizona Taco Fest is returning to Salt River Fields October 18 & 19 for its 5th year. This ‘Taco-Topia’ will serve an estimated 100,000 tacos to an expected 25,000 attendees and offers plenty of live entertainment including the Ay Chihuahua! Beauty Pageant and live Lucha Libre Wrestling. The National Taco Association will also be in attendance to judge more than 50 team’s tacos as they compete for the Grand Champion title.

The Arizona Taco Festival pits these participants against each other in a double-blind competition. Tacos are submitted to more than 50 National Taco Association judges sequestered in a closed tent for truly anonymous scoring.  Points are awarded and weighed for presentation, taste and texture. Cumulatively, the scores lead to an overall Grand Champion title and $1,000 checks each day.

Outside the judge’s tent, this exciting festival rages on with live Lucha Libre wrestling, a now-legendary Tequila Expo with more than 30 brands participating, and live surf and salsa bands on the main stage. A contest stage also will feature ‘best sombrero’ contests, interactive entertainment and the always popular “Ay Chihuahua! Beauty Pageant.”

The festival humbly began on a dirt lot in the heart of downtown Scottsdale and has since moved to an eight-acre grass field at the Spring Training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks — Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. The Arizona Taco Festival is believed to be the world’s first taco festival, and is estimated to draw more than 30,000 people by 2015.

Tequila Expo Tent, Sat., Oct. 20.  The main tent hosts the popular Tequila Expo. Inside, patrons can sample from more than 100 tequilas. A tasting pass is $20 for 10 samples of fine tequila.

Ay Chihuahua! Beauty Pageant, Sun. Oct. 21.  Sunday at 2pm, watch more than 15 sassy Chihuahuas strut across the Yelp Contest Stage.

 Live Lucha Libre Wrestling. Enjoy live Lucha Libre wrestling all weekend long from comfortable seating around the ring. Also, get a chance to meet the wrestlers themselves during the meet-and-greet.

The Arizona Taco Festival was founded by David Tyda and Rick Phillips of Affordable Food Festivals. They also produce the Arizona Barbecue Festival, Scottsdale Beer Palooza, the most recent Taste Tequila, and run the popular food blog, EATERAZ.com.

Photo credit: penandfork.com.

 

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