Tuesday, October 20, 2020

5 Essential Travel Tips For When You're On the Go Again



When this year began, my travel horizons were higher than ever. For me and for my clients. And things seemed to be going to plan (my first—now only—getaway—was to NYC in late January and it served up special and fulfilling memories on several fronts.) And then a global pandemic changed everything.

Uncertainty, hopes for a soon-to-come rebound to “life as usual,” and heightened impact on the way we come, go, liaise and live, started to emerge. With more than a few cautionary tales that have arisen on the travel and personal safety terrains, in particular, and because the impacts of COVID-19 continue to linger, I’m sharing FIVE ESSENTIAL TIPS for keeping your travels as stress-free as possible and your wanderlust in high gear.

  1. Secure comprehensive travel insurance to minimize the impact of cancellations and other disruptions (e.g. delayed or lost luggage, local healthcare, etc.)

  2. Regularly check CDC and state department sites for travel updates, alerts, restrictions, etc., before and during travel. Also do as much research as possible to understand conditions at your destination (domestic and international).

  3. Practice excellent personal hygiene, take care of yourself, and do your part as a global citizen to foster healthy environments, including refraining from going out while sick. That vacation or event will come around again once you’re healthy and our world is out of the current health crisis.

  4. Dream, plan, and prepare for future travel. Feed your wanderlust regularly and anticipate the postcard memories on the horizon when your travels resume.

  5. Let my travel company, Postcard Travel Boutique, help you plan and navigate your travels, and related questions, including ensuring you’re informed and have a ready resource on the ground to assist during any travel concerns.

Here’s to more travel and to more postcard-worthy experiences in the days to come!

Happy Travels!

This article originally appeared on Postcard Travel Boutique.

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Friday, September 11, 2020

Baked Doughnuts, Two Ways: Cinnamon Sugar and Vanilla Glazed

Don't ask, because I don't have a good answer. And if you're wondering, yes, I'm referring to the question I've posed to myself many times over as many years: how have I not made doughnuts yet?  Despite my continual cooking and baking for years, somehow this confectionery delight had escaped my kitchen.

Until last weekend.

I finally added doughnut pans to my kitchen arsenal (a part of the original dilemma) and determined that baking homemade doughnuts would make for a leisurely Sunday afternoon in the kitchen.  And so this doughnut story was born.

And like the other things I make with love, these did not disappoint and left me doing the happy dance we all have been known to do when good eats are involved and your vision comes to life.  Not only was I thrilled with how easy they were to whip up (all of the ingredients are pretty much kitchen staples), but I genuinely found them delicious and very much able to hold their own against the more popular (and unquestionably scrumptious) fried variety. 




Because who could dare argue with cinnamon and nutmeg infused doughnuts crowned with cinnamon sugar and vanilla glaze coatings?  Who? :)  Not I--and I'm pretty sure not you, either, once you make these.  In fact, I'm counting on you baking the wheels off of your newly crowned favorite dessert.

Although I recommend consuming them when they're still warm (we all know the obsession hot doughnuts have been known to stoke) for the ultimate in homemade doughnut revelry, you can store them in an airtight container for a day or two and still enjoy them all the same.  If you need more reassuring, I took a dozen-plus to a gathering the following day and they were received with happy mouths and tummies. 



So while there's no suitable answer to my original question of what took me so long, now that I've taken the plunge, there's no turning back.  I'm counting on you joining me, because friends don't let friends bake (and eat) alone. 😉

Happy Eating!

Baked Doughnuts

Ingredients:

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups of sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 cups of milk

2 tablespoons melted brown butter

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract  

 

For the Toppings:

Cinnamon Sugar

4 tablespoons butter, melted 

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Vanilla Glaze

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

1-2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Special Equipment:

2 doughnut baking pans 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray baking pans and set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter until golden brown and let cool. (Cook's Note: it will go quickly so be careful not to burn it!)

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, melted butter, eggs and vanilla extract.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until they are combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pans and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Allow the doughnuts to cool for five minutes, then tap the pan to loosen, and turn them out onto a baking rack set over a lined sheet tray.

Cinnamon Sugar Coating: Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter while the doughnuts are cooling. Combine the cinnamon and sugar into a small bowl. Make a half dozen cinnamon sugar doughnuts by dipping the doughnuts in the butter and then coating with the cinnamon sugar. Set on the baking rack to set.

Vanilla Glazed Coating: Whisk together the confectioner's sugar, milk and vanilla extract.  Dip the doughnuts in the glaze to coat and set on the baking rack to set. 

(If you have leftover batter like I did, repeat!)

Serve warm or store in an airtight container--and enjoy!




    






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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

{Travel Immersion 101}: Dining with Locals

Bocagrande, Cartagena
Food and travel are inextricably linked in my world.  And as I often say, one of the best, most authentic ways to experience a destination is through the lens of its cuisine.  But there's something that actually surpasses the typical tourist dining experience.  Beyond the restaurants found in hotels and resorts, often exceptional in their own right, lies a sometimes overlooked source of true culinary delight and cultural immersion--dining with locals. 

It's like discovering the ultimate best kept secret, because who better to represent the tastes and soul of a people, their history, their heritage, and the essence that represents 'home'--than a local?  Some of my most memorable meals have come from dining with locals.   Not because the trappings were so grand, but because the heartbeat of the food purveyors and the surrounding community were.

Family-Owned Harvey's Restaurant, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

From a crowded (how I like it) and understandably popular beach hut nested on the hot sands of South America, to a multi-generational owned family restaurant touted as the best among locals, and those who know, in the Virgin Islands, to a Fish Fry featuring locals' gold (aka Crack Conch) in the Caribbean, there's no end to the richness each experience offered.

Sitting elbow to elbow with fellow diners, as I settled in for lunch in BocaGrande, Cartagena, to chatting up a family on their exceptional history and landmark restaurant, Harvey's, in Saint Croix, to trying to navigate the massive fish fry platter presented to me in the Bahamas, these are the dining experiences that go well beyond simply satiating an appetite to ultimately nourishing the soul.  From local pride and community, to seeing a people living in their everyday environ, it's an instant segue into the heart of a destination.

My favorite lunch during my time in Cartagena, Colombia
So as you plan out your travels and dining forays in the days ahead, be sure to do yourself the favor of going off the beaten, tourist path and gift yourself with moments and memories spent dining with locals. 

Happy Travels and Eating! 

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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Grilled Shrimp Lettuce Wraps


Frozen shrimp has always been a go-to staple in my freezer--and especially so during the quarantine, shelter-in-place, days of late.  Besides going from frozen to thawed within minutes, there is something comforting about knowing that you've got seafood virtually on-demand and waiting to be transformed into as many delicious iterations as your imagination can muster.

So this past Sunday, after a morning walk, followed by an online worship service, and re-watching Hamilton (squeal!), my mind went to what's for dinner.  And in keeping with my already low-key Sunday vibes, I decided to keep it simple.

What resulted was simple in preparation, indeed, in that I had all of the ingredients on hand in my fridge, but by no means simple in final wow-appeal and delicious-ness.  Translation: it. was. so. good.


Grilled shrimp (I grilled my shrimp on my indoor smokeless grill for extra ease), lettuce leaves to serve as the bed and wrap, piquant scallions, juicy grape tomatoes, hothouse cucumber slices, and a punchy lime vinaigrette, made for one good 'til the last bite creation.  The lightness of the dish (perfect for Summer) x the big flavors made this an instant favorite.  It's a gorgeous meal-in-one that can double as appetizers or a main course, depending on whether you're hungry or hangry. :)

Enjoy--and join me in finding delight in the simple pleasures of...

Happy Eating!

Grilled Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
Ingredients:
Shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper
Old Bay Seasoning
Worcestershire Sauce
Tabasco
Olive Oil
Lettuce leaves (Boston or Bibb, recommended)
Grape tomatoes, halved
Scallions, chopped (white and green parts)
Hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Flaked sea salt for garnish (optional)

Method:
Place shrimp in a bowl and season to taste with salt, pepper, Old Bay, Worcestershire, Tabasco and oil; toss ingredients to combine. Grill shrimp until just done about 2 minutes or so per side. While shrimp is grilling, prepare vinaigrette.  Once done, remove shrimp and drizzle with some of the vinaigrette.  Toss to coat and set aside.

Arrange lettuce, tomatoes, scallions, cucumber and shrimp on a platter.  Place remaining vinaigrette in a dish/bowl and add to platter.  Garnish with a light sprinkle of flaked sea salt to finish, if using.  To assemble, place cucumber, tomatoes, shrimp and scallions on lettuce leaf.  Garnish with a drizzle of vinaigrette to finish--and enjoy!

Lime Vinaigrette
Ingredients:
Juice of 1 lime
Teaspoon of Dijon mustard   
1/2 teaspoon of honey
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil  

Method:
Whisk together lime juice, mustard, honey, salt and pepper.  Drizzle in oil and whisk until emulsified and fully incorporated. (Cook's Note: I like my vinaigrette with a good acidic punch so I typically use less oil than is standard.  Feel free to modify with more oil, as desired.  And you can also double the original recipe for more vinaigrette. Store remaining vinaigrette in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.) 

   

 
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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Five Steps To Becoming an Effective Ally

Along with all the fabulous, soul-satisfying content creation work and passions that I get to share with you on my D.M.R. Fine Foods platform, I also maintain an extensive career in the corporate arena. And during my career, championing and advocating for inclusion, diversity and equity has been—and remains—at the forefront of my professional experience and mission.

It’s not hard to fathom why when you’ve personally experienced the vices of bias, racism, and related ills, in the workplace and want to see true, lasting, impactful change occur for yourself and other Black colleagues and non-people of color.

Photo Credit: Better Allies


While there are myriad avenues to leveling the playing field for Black professionals, dedicated sponsorship is certainly one of the most impactful. And if you’re looking for examples of what sponsorship in action can look like, here are five ways (via Better Allies).
  • Speak our names when we’re not around
  • Endorse us publicly
  • Invite us to high-profile meetings
  • Share our career goals with decision-makers
  • Recommend us for stretch assignments and speaking engagements
While not exhaustive, this is an actionable plan for meaningful allyship that can be leveraged now and further built upon in the days ahead.

Start the new week by putting these into practice on behalf of your diverse talent and make the world the more equitable place it should be—for everyone.

Happy Living!
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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

{Taste of Atlanta}: Black-Owned Atlanta Restaurants

Photo Credit: Busy Bee Cafe
Today's post is one I'm thrilled to write and share, because it's dedicated to spotlighting several of the black-owned restaurants that fill the Atlanta foodscape and contribute to our city's continual culinary evolution.  And beyond anecdotal support of Black Lives Matter, comes an opportunity to demonstrate true support and solidarity where it's often felt (and needed) most: economic empowerment.

So while we as a country continue to grapple with meaningful and sustainable ways forward from systemic racism against Blacks, immediate, measurable impact can be found in amplifying Black businesses, creative voices, anti-racism causes, self-education, along with a commitment to listening to understand the myriad ills that persist as a result of this ugly underbelly of American society--and in the world beyond.

Photo Credit: The Atlanta Breakfast Club

So about the food! Whether you're local to Atlanta, or find yourself here for a visit, seek out these Black-owned restaurants and support their establishments.  As you do, you're likely to discover that the soul food from legendary hallmarks like Busy Bee Cafe and Paschal's, the diner fare from the Atlanta Breakfast Club, the java from Urban Grind Coffehouse, or those famous vegan burgers from The Slutty Vegan, are more than enough to not only satiate your hunger, but to also create memories worth sharing and recreating as often as life allows.

Photo Credit: Urban Grind Atlanta
Now, especially, as Black-owned businesses and communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, your patronage can mean the difference between business survival and impending loss.

More Atlanta Black-Owned Restaurants
Thank you in advance for supporting a more unified and equitable landscape and for amplifying what we've always known: Black lives really do matter.

Happy Eating!
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Monday, May 18, 2020

{Culture Club}: Indulge Your Stay at Home with Travel, Broadway, Art and More!


Photo Credit: Departures
If phrases like, "climbing the walls" "going stir crazy" and "bored in the house" resonate with you these days, you're not alone.  While the impacts of quarantine life are affecting everyone differently, there are some effects that are likely universal.

Beyond the desire to gather, socialize, embrace and simply 'be' in uninhibited ways of days gone by, there's also the desire--dare I say need--to keep in touch with the creative sides of life.  And with that, I aim to help.

Travel and the arts have always been significant in my life and sense of personal fulfillment, so finding ways to fill the voids as best as possible from the inner sanctum of my home proffers a new infusion of life from the outside world, making the continued time indoors less escape-worthy and more stay-worthy.

If Broadway, the Opera, Museums, walks through Disney's Magic Kingdom, U.S. National Parks and the Australian Outback, Zoo Exhibits, Salsa Lessons, Hotel Scenes, and the like, suit your fancy, you'll want to take in some, or all, of the current offerings available to the public. Excited yet?

Opera~
I attended my first opera many, many years ago while vacationing in Nice, France--and it's safe to say I was smitten (and hooked) from that time until now.  Taking in the opera would continue to dot my travels during future stays in Florence, Italy and Paris, France--and I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to take in The Metropolitan Opera right from my living room in the days ahead.  Enjoy nightly opera streams from the Met, featuring classics ranging from Mozart to French masterpieces and more.

Broadway~
A child of the performing arts, who eventually dipped my toe in the community theater pond for an unforgettable (to me) stint, theater--Broadway, particularly, speaks to everything that I love about the arts: song, dance, acting, production, grandeur, storytelling and so on.  So now that my Broadway and local theater outings are on hold, watching from home has become the next best thing.  Cue offerings from iconic British composer Andrew Lloyd Weber that stream every Friday. Each full-length feature begins at 2 p.m. ET and remains accessible for the next 48 hours--just in time for weekend indulgence.  And there's more.  From BroadwayHD, to Netflix, to Amazon Prime, more productions are simply a click away.

Culture, culture and more culture~
I'm a card carrying member of the culture club (aka the art, travel, historical and beyond experiences that immerse the mind, body and soul in stimulating, exciting experiences.) And I happen to have landed upon a collection of 30 experiences ranging from purveyors such as Disney, U.S. National Parks, Tourism Boards, Museums, Zoos and more! Who knows? You may never want to leave your couch again. 

Museums~
There's no way to adequately describe Google Arts and Culture Museum at Home curation of art from museums spanning the globe; you'll really just have to see it for yourself.  And let me just say that as an avid museum lover and patron, you will see renowned exhibitions and art works that might otherwise require a near lifetime to digest in person.

Virtual Vacations~
If you're a travel lover, then it's safe to surmise that you'd welcome the opportunity to travel freely again--absorbing destinations, sights, scenes, and creating memories, that will linger long after you're gone.  If I'm right, then you're going to like what comes next.  From Italy, to Mexico, Malibu, Ireland, St. Barths, and Israel, take a (virtual) vacation to soothe your senses and reinvigorate your appetite for travel once the outdoors are fully reopen again.

Allow these experiences to make the continued days of quarantine more enjoyable (and durable), as we continue our commitment to stay home and stay safe.

Happy (and Safe) Living! 

  





















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