BRIO Tuscan Grille Art of Grilling Promotion Review

BRIO Tuscan Grille Art of Grilling Promotion Review

We were long overdue for a date night, so when BRIO Tuscan Grille reached out to me about trying their Art of Grilling promotion I jumped at the opportunity.  BRIO (meaning “lively” or “full of life”) is a “polished casual” restaurant serving authentic, northern Italian cuisine. The subtitle, “Tuscan Grille” is descriptive in the menu that features oven-roasted steaks, chops and seafood, similar to what one would find in an authentic ristorante in Tuscany. BRIO’s philosophy is “to eat well, is to live well;” which is why it only uses the finest and freshest ingredients. BRIO brings the pleasure of the Tuscan country villa to the American city.

BRIO Tuscan Grille Promotion

We had our reservation set for a Sunday night at 7:30 PM at the Baltimore Inner Harbor location.  I assumed it would be a perfect time to dine since it wouldn’t be as busy as a Saturday night.  My husband and I arrived around 7:35 and I gave my name to the hostess.  She quickly seated us and we waited for our server to arrive.  Ten minutes into our wait I started to wonder how long it would take for our server to arrive.  The hostess seated at least three other parties after us who’s servers already visited their tables.  Twenty minutes into our wait the server finally arrived at out table.  He shared with us the soup of the day and took our drink orders.

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He asked us about what we wanted to order and I told him we were there specifically to try the Art of Grilling menu, he left to get us the special menu and returned shortly after.

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Our server brought out some bread for us to enjoy and then asked us about what we wanted to order for our meals.  My husband and I had already looked over the Art of Grilling menu.  Items included in the promotion were:

Soup or Salad (choice of one)

  • Soup of the Day — Chef’s seasonal selection
  • Lobster Bisque, with a sautéed shrimp garnish ($1 extra)
  • Caesar Salad with brioche croutons
  • BRIO Chopped Salad — Chopped greens, tomatoes, black olives, red onion, cucumber, Feta and red wine vinaigrette
  • Bistecca Insalata — Lettuce wedge, Gorgonzola, bacon, tomatoes and creamy Parmesan dressing
  • Kale Caesar – Tricolore lettuce, marinated kale, pancetta, tomatoes, chopped egg, croutons, Parmesan (subject to location availability)

Entrée Selections (choice of one)

  • Grilled Beef Medallions with black pepper shrimp
  • Strip Steak — 14 oz., grilled to order with rosemary, lemon
  • Grilled Seasonal Catch (Mahi, Grouper, Snapper, Halibut or Sea Bass)
  • Center-cut Tuscan Grilled Pork Chop

Chef-Inspired Side (choice of one):

  • Fingerling Potatoes BRIO
  • Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprouts
  • Sicilian Cauliflower
  • Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes
  • Haricot Vert & Roasted Peppers

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I ended up choosing the Caesar Salad for my starter while my husband choose the Italian Wedding Soup.  They both were delicious.  The portions were very big, enough that we could easily share with each other and still enjoy it.  I didn’t even get my full salad because I wanted to save room for my meal.

BRIO Tuscan Grille Inner Harbor (8)

BRIO Tuscan Grille Inner Harbor (9)

For my meal I picked the Strip Steak with Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes.  I was actually quite surprised at the size of the steak when it arrived at the table.  I was expecting a smaller portion but this exceeded my expectation. My steak was juicy and delicious.  It was cooked to perfection.  I ended up only eating half before getting full.  I ended up saving the other half for lunch the next day and it was just as juicy and delicious as it was the night before.

BRIO Tuscan Grille Inner Harbor (12)

BRIO Tuscan Grille Inner Harbor (14)

My husband on the other hand choose the Grilled Beef Medallions with Black Pepper Shrimp, and Fingerling Potatoes BRIO for his dinner.  I didn’t try the fingerling potatoes but according to him it was very delicious.  I did however try one of his beef medallions with shrimp and it was simply amazing.  It was tender and the sauce was amazing.

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After dinner we picked our desserts, I went with the Cheesecake and my husband picked the Strawberry Shortcake.  I didn’t eat much of mines because I was so full but my husband ate his entire dessert and finished mines off for me.  Both of them were really good.

The Art of Grilling promotion, is still running through Aug. 21, 2016. Featuring a soup or salad plus a delicious grilled entrée and individual dessert for only $27.95, the promotion is offered seven days a week during dinner.  Visit BRIO Tuscan Grille online to learn more about their menu options and to make reservations for your next night out.

About BRIO Annapolis Town Center

BRIO Annapolis Town Center is located at 305 Sail Place, Annapolis, MD 21401, off Solomons Island Road. BRIO offers lunch and dinner, as well as a special children’s menu; brunch is offered Saturday and Sunday until 3 p.m. The restaurant is open Sunday–Thursday 11 a.m.–10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.–11 p.m. For more information, visit www.brioitalian.com. For reservations, please call (410) 571-5660.

About BRIO Inner Harbor – Baltimore

BRIO Inner Harbor is located at 100 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. BRIO offers lunch and dinner, as well as a special children’s menu; brunch is offered Saturday and Sunday until 3:30 p.m. The restaurant is open Sunday–Thursday 11 a.m.–9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.–10 p.m. For more information, visit www.brioitalian.com. For reservations, please call (410) 637-3440.

Knight Training is Back at Medieval Times For Two Shows Only

Knight Training is Back at Medieval Times For Two Shows Only

My family and I are big fans of Medieval Times, we always enjoy our experience when we visit the local Baltimore Castle, and if you’re kids are fans they’re in for a treat.  Knight Training is back at Medieval Times for two shows only.  If a trip to the castle was in your summer plans, now is a great time to visit.  Medieval Times is hosting junior knight training on July 24 and July 31 for the first 80 children to arrive. They will be taught multiple moves and techniques that the knights’ use in the show by the Medieval Times knights themselves.

Medieval TimesMedieval Times is a family and dinner tournament inside the walls of the king’s 11th century-style castle. Six armor-clad knights on noble horses seek the title of champion amongst the heart-pounding combat. Each location offers a dinner fit to feed royalty, including oven-roasted chicken, sweet buttered corn, tomato bisque soup and garlic bread.

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Medieval Times will be hosting an incredible opportunity for children to live out their dreams of becoming a knight for a day. Children between the ages of 5 and 12 are able to participate in junior knight training, instructed by Medieval Times knights themselves. The first 80 boys and girls to arrive will be taught multiple moves and techniques the knights use every day in the show.

WHEN:             Sunday, July 24, 2016 & Sunday, July 31, 2016

                        3:30 – Doors open

                                4:00 – Training begins (first come, first served to 80 kids)

To learn more and purchase tickets for a show visit Medieval Times online today.

Registration Open for Free Downtown Sailing for Baltimore Families

Registration Open for Free Downtown Sailing for Baltimore Families

Last year my family and I had the opportunity to visit the Downtown Sailing Center with Pathfinders for Autism.  Thanks to Pathfinders our autistic son and my husband were able to head out on a sail boat with a few families and enjoy the water for about thirty minutes or so.  My son really enjoyed his Downtown Sailing Experience and we can’t wait for him to get a chance to do it again.

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I’ve been looking for fun activities for Baltimore families and learned that the Downtown Sailing Center is hosting an open house allowing members of the public the opportunity to sail for free.

Check out all the DSC has to offer.  Learn about membership, classes, summer day camp, social league and moreRegistration is not required but strongly encouraged so that they can plan accordingly with regard to boat inventory and staffing. ALL AGES are welcome to see the facility but they like for sailors to be 7 y/o and Up.

4 attendees can be assigned to a boat plus the Skipper to drive the boat. Skippers are well trained and very experienced with their fleet so you are in SAFE HANDS!

For your convenience they are offering 3 separate arrival times for you to choose from:

  • 10:00 – 11:00 AM
  • 11:00 AM -12:00 PM
  • 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

This is a FREE event that is open to the public.  *Remember to register and dress for the weather! FREE PARKING ANYWHERE ON PROPERTY! Walk ons Welcome!  To learn more or if you have questions please email Office Manager, Jack Pettenati at jack@downtownsailing.org or call 410.727.0722 ext 113. 

UniverSoul Circus Heads to Baltimore #BestCircusEver #UniverSoulCircus

UniverSoul Circus Heads to Baltimore

My family and I huge fans of the circus, but we’ve never been to the UniverSoul Circus before.  The show has been to Baltimore numerous times, and we just never had the opportunity to visit and see this fantastic show.  Thanks to UniverSoul my family and I will attend opening night of the show on June, 1st.

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UniverSoul Circus will be in Baltimore from June 1st, through June 12th at Security Square Mall.  Right now you can grab a special offer by using code “FUN” to scores tickets for $17.50 for the Monday through Thursday shows.  If you’re planning on attending here’s a few things you need to know before you go:

  • Children ages 12 months to 10 years require a ticket to enter the Big Top.

  • Doors open one (1) hour before your scheduled show time. Shows begin promptly at it’s scheduled time.

  • Arriving as early as possible is recommended to avoid heavy traffic and long lines.

  • Will Call tickets (Ticketmaster ordered) are available for pickup one (1) hour prior to your scheduled show time.

  • Our touring on-site box office is open from 9am – 9pm daily

To learn more about what expect at the show and to purchase tickets visit UniverSoul Circus online now.  Be sure to also connect with them on social media on Facebook and Twitter.

Spring Break Fun at Medieval Times

Spring Break Fun at Medieval Times

Maryland Schools are heading on Spring Break soon, leaving parents wondering what to do during the break.  Our family loves checking out Medieval Times and if you’re lucky enough to live close enough to the Maryland castle, you should defiantly plan a trip to check out their Spring Break deals.

Medieval Times

Medieval Times is bringing back Junior Knight Training for Spring Break Week.  Prices will be $36.95 for adults and $29.95 for children 12 and under when guests use the code MARWEB.  Junior Knight Training will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (March 22nd – 24th) before the 5 PM shows.  The gates open at 3:30 and training begins at 4 PM.

Junior Knight Training SB 2016

Junior Knight Training is limited to the first 80 kids to arrive at the castle, and it’s strictly on a first come, first serve basis. Children must be between the ages of 5 and 12 to participate, training is open to both boys and girls. Closed toe shoes are required to participate. Valid only at the Baltimore location.

To learn more and to make your reservations for Medieval Times visit their website or call 1-888-WE-JOUST.

 

Our Hersheypark After Dark Experience

Our Hersheypark After Dark Experience

We’e been to Hersheypark quite a few times this year and each time we go we get a different experience.  Halloween fell on a Saturday this year so we decided to take the kids to Hersheypark After Dark instead of heading out to trick or treat.

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We dressed the kids up in their costumes and headed to the park.  The weather was decent that day so they didn’t need big heavy jackets at the park.  Compared to peak season it was super easy to get into the park.  We didn’t have to wait long to get into the park and parking was a breeze.

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While walking into the park we saw a sign that Cinderella was coming to the Hershey Theatre in January.  We had to stop to get a photo with my daughter and the sign.  We’ll have to check it out once it comes.

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When we visited the park it was still light outside so we didn’t see much lights.  The lines were very short for some rides and popular rides like Laff Trak had extremely long lines.  It was perfect for the kids because the main rides they wanted didn’t have long wait times.  The longest we waited for a ride was about ten minutes.  That was perfect because we got to ride quite a few rides in a short space of time.

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When you’re in the sweetest place on earth on Halloween you get candy.  Hersheypark set up Treatville for kids 12 and under.  Honestly we were a little disappointed with Treatville.  The kids didn’t get as much candy as we thought, especially since we were there on Halloween.  We ended up at Chocolate World buying candy to fill up their bags.

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The park wasn’t crowded at all, which is another reason why I liked visiting during Halloween season.  We could easily get around the park without constantly bumping into people.  This to me was the perfect time to plan a visit for several reasons.  If you’re looking for an affordable way to visit Hersheypark this is it.  of course the water park is closed but you still get to ride all the coasters and other rides in the park with shorter lines.  You won’t have to wait 30 minutes for funnel cake or kettle corn.  You can still visit the zoo during Hersheypark in the Dark.  Parking is a breeze and you’ll be in and out of Chocolate World.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Hersheypark for the year don’t worry you still can visit for Hersheypark Christmas Candylane.  Enjoy thousands of lights while enjoying some of your favorites rides and treats.  Best of all is the price.  Tickets for Christmas Candylane costs $18 per person.  Tickets include admission into the park and Zoo America.  Get more out of your tickets by taking advantage of the Hersheypark Preview Plan.  Show your daily tickets at the admission gate 2.5 hours before park closing and enjoy the evening.  Stay at the official resorts of Hersheypark and take advantage of other discounts and special offers.

Hersheypark Christmas Candylane starts on November 13th, and runs through December 31st.  Be sure to visit Hersheypark on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all the latest news.

 

Thanksgiving Offerings from Cinnamon Tree Restaurant

Cinnamon Tree Restaurant at Hunt Valley Inn

Thanksgiving Offerings from Cinnamon Tree Restaurant

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you’re still looking for dining options I highly suggest Cinnamon Tree Restaurant at the Hunt Valley Inn.  My husband and I had the opportunity to dine at Cinnamon Tree Restaurant a few weeks ago and we both enjoyed it so much.  We can’t wait to go back again in the future.

Cinnamon Tree Restaurant at Hunt Valley InnResidents of Baltimore and surrounding areas can skip the hassle of cooking and take your family to Cinnamon Tree instead.  The newly renovated restaurant is offering a plethora of traditional and modern dishes to dine on at their Thanksgiving Day Brunch from 10am – 4pm including brunch staples like omelets cooked to order, along with standout options like Grouper Filet stuffed with Maryland Crabmeat with red-pepper coulis or Allspice & Cinnamon Scented Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce. A turkey and prime rib carving station with traditional stuffing and side dishes provides the comfort of a home cooked meal for the family. For dessert, try their specialty Cinnamon Tree Cinnamon Buns, which make you wish that Thanksgiving was every day of the year. (Adults: $35.95 / Children under 10: $16.95).

Cinnamon Tree Restaurant at Hunt Valley Inn

Thanksgiving Day Brunch

Omelets Cooked to Order
Belgian Waffles with Whipped Butter, Cream and Maple Syrup
Eggs Benedict Florentine with Hollandaise Sauce
Apple Smoked Bacon & Country Pork Sausage
Breakfast Potatoes

Old Bay Seasoned Steamed Shrimp
Smoked Salmon Display with Traditional Accompaniments
Buffalo Mozzarella & Beefsteak Tomatoes with Basil Vinaigrette
Caesar Salad with Parmesan Cheese, Croutons & Caesar Dressing
Mixed Mesclun Greens Salad – Apple Cider Cinnamon Dressing
Broccoli Salad with Bacon, Eggs and Ranch Dressing

Butternut Squash Soup

Pan Seared Free Range Chicken Breast with Green Peppercorn Sauce
Grouper Filet stuffed with Maryland Crabmeat – Red Pepper Couli
Allspice & Cinnamon Scented Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce
Sweet Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Vegetables Medley

Carving Station
Herb Roasted Whole Turkey with Gravy and Stuffing
Herb Crusted Roasted Prime Rib with Thyme and Port Reduction

Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Cheese Cake and Chocolate Cakes
Cinnamon Tree Cinnamon Buns
Mini French Pastries

Adults – $35.95
Children under 10 – $16.95

Thursday, November 26, 2015
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Save On the Russian Ballet in Baltimore

Save On the Russian Ballet in Baltimore

It’s the ultimate holiday tradition and creates memories for a lifetime. The production includes over 200 romantic costumes and 10′ tall playful animal puppets; shimmering colorful, backdrops splashed with 3-D effects; life-sized Matrushka (Nesting) Dolls and a puppet show for shadowing the Nutcracker Story at the opening Christmas Party.  The Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker s coming to Baltimore Dec. 18-19! My Readers Can Save on Tickets Now with this exclusive offer from US Family Guide.  This is something that I’ve been wanting to do with my daughter for years.  My goal is to take her to the show so she could finally get to see it live and in person.

During the battle with Nutcracker Prince and the 3-headed Rat King, a golden cannon shoots roses! In the Magical Snow Forest an authentic Russian style Troika Sleigh, known as the fastest sleigh in the world, is escorted by Father Christmas (Ded Moroz) and Snow Maiden (Snegurochka) on their way to Act II. The Great Russian Nutcracker is known for its dedication to world peace with Act II named the “Land of Peace and Harmony.” The first scene of Act II features a stunning “Dove of Peace” with a 20′ wingspan and danced by 2 dancers each with one feathered wing. All ages feel the spirit of the season at Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker! Use the code JOY to get the biggest discount of the season for your family.

For a Full Schedule of Event Dates/Venues and Times please visit http://www.nutcracker.com/buy-tickets

Pathfinders for Autism Free Family Fall Events

Pathfinders for Autism Free Family Fall Events

My family recently started using the Pathfinders for Autism website as a resource for helping us navigate JB’s Autism.  I found the site over the summer and it’s been such a great tool for us.  In July we had the opportunity to participate in their free Downtown Sailing event, which was a blast for us.  Pathfinders recently sent out their newsletter sharing their Free Family Fall Events and we already registered for one.  If you live in Maryland be sure to register for these events and connect with other Autism families.

pathfinders events

CLIMB Adventure at Earth Treks Rockville
CLIMB! Mount Khuiten, Mongolia – Kilimanjaro, Tanzania – The Andes, Peru – Mount Everest, Nepal 

A lottery will be held to award CLIMB spots.  Awardees will be notified of their scheduled CLIMB time.
Earth Treks
Saturday, October 17, 2015
12:30pm to 2:30pm

Earth Treks Climbing Centers

725 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
240-283-9942
Ages: 6 and up
Spots are limited for this event and will be reserved for individuals with ASD and one parent/caregiver or sibling or friend.

Of course families are encouraged to attend and take pictures of their favorite climber.

A climbing social story has been created and is available upon request. Additional copies will be available at Earth Treks Rockville on October 17th. To assist with waiting, craft activities will be offered.  In addition, a Quiet Room will be available.
Let’s Science at the Maryland Science Center
Tornados, Dinosaurs, a Bed of Nails and More! Let’s Science at the Maryland Science Center.  Register for a chance to join Pathfinders for Autism at it’s first ever visit to the exciting and interactive Science Center.

MD Science Center
Saturday, November 7, 2015
6:30pm to 10:00pm

Maryland Science Center
600 Light Street
Baltimore, MD  21230

Exhibits:     Dinosaur Mysteries
                  Life Beyond Earth
                  Newton’s Alley
                  Follow the Blue Crab
                  and more . . .
                  Also, Planetarium showings!

Beakers Cafe will be open, offering “grab and go” items.

Directions and parking 
  
Pool and Water Park Fun at North Arundel Aquatic Center
Join Pathfinders for some free family swim and splash time!

Sunday, December 6North Arundel Aquatic Center
6:30-8:30pm

North Arundel Aquatic Center
7888 Crain Hwy Sw
Glen Burnie, MD 21061


A lottery will be held to award spots. Their registration process for our free family fun events will be in effect. 

The North Arundel Aquatic Center offers an 8-lane 25-yard competition pool and a leisure pool. The leisure pool is a zero depth entry pool that includes three 20-yard lap lanes with indoor water park. The water park include a 134-foot water slide, splash down area, water buckets, preschool water slide, vortex area, and poolside spa for adults. Participants must be 48″ or taller to utilize the water slide.

Children must be age 3 and up and completely toilet-trained to be permitted to swim. No swim diapers permitted.

Register online

Prepping for Back to School In Style with the Kia Sedona

Prepping for Back to School In Style with the Kia Sedona

I am honestly ashamed at myself for how long I waited to start getting the kids ready for back to school.  This year our toddler attended Summer School through the Extended School Year Program due to his Autism.  I think I was so focused on helping him have a smooth summer session that I didn’t realize that summer was coming to an end, and I didn’t have the kid’s school supplies taken care of as yet.  Usually I would coupon and get the basic like crayons, pencils, folders, and notebooks.  This year I didn’t get any of that done during the summer, so I found myself running around town a week before school started, trying to find the best deals around.

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Luckily for us we were test driving the 2015 Kia Sedona SX-L that week, so running errands and getting around town was a breeze and the kids loved trying out the new car.  There are so many reasons I could share about why this is the perfect family car, or at least it was for us.  We had a serious case of car envy when it was time for this beauty to be picked up.

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A good car for our family of six needs a lot of trunk space and when you’re shopping for three kids for school you need all the trunk space you can get.  The Kia Sedona had more than enough trunk space for all our shopping needs.  We were able to fit groceries for two weeks in the truck with ease.  Even when we decided on a last-minute trip to the beach for a family outing the trunk held all the food for seventeen people.

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Kia Sorento (37)

These seats also fold down so if you need extra room for bigger items then you can have it.  The captain’s chairs slide forward giving  you lots of space.  Families moving children into college dorms or apartments would love having the space in the trunk because it would be perfect to fit all those dorm essentials.  Plus when you’re done putting everything in, just close with the push of a button.

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We didn’t have to stress about extra long shopping days with the kids because the first class lounge seating provided the ultimate level or comfort and style when traveling.  I wanted to ride in those seats just to feel like I was being chauffeured around town.  Even when the chairs were in lounging position passengers in the third row still had enough space to feel comfortable.

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Although my picture doesn’t do it justice there are dual sunroof on this car.  I was quite impressed with that feature since it allowed us to give the kids the chance to have the rear one open at night for gazing at stars.  My husband spent the most time with the car since he would drive it to work, he told me that he loved the lights when driving at night.  So one night after dinner we jumped in the car and headed out for a late night drive and I have to say the lights were very bright, allowing us to take the long way home.  You know the scenic route that doesn’t have much lights.  We would usually only travel on those roads during daylight hours but we were able to master those roads just like we normally would.  Those front projection fog lights with LED positioning lamps do make night travel safer.

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For a third row these seats are pretty roomy.  We had two car seats back here and one of the kids could easily sit in the middle of both car seats.  I know there is a lot of room back there because when I attended the Monkey Kingdon Event with Disney, I had the opportunity to ride around in the Sedona and I would stretch out on the whole back seat and relax.

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Keeping my whole family connected is key.  Everyone has some sort of device to keep them busy in the car.  The Sedona has USB ports in the front and the rear of the car.  Someone who aided in designing this car must have known this feature was needed for big families.

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Our current vehicle has quite a few cup holders but not enough for six people.  We always had space for cups or bottles of water when riding around in this car.  There had to be at least ten of them, that’s more than enough for our family.  The week we had the car, temperatures outside were above ninety.  It was very hot outdoors.  In addition to the heated seats this car also has cooling seats, they felt heavenly.

When you live in suburban and urban areas parking can be a hassle.  My husband didn’t get his parallel parking skills down till he moved to Baltimore from Tulsa.  He loved having the parking assist feature of this car.  No more opening the doors to see if he’s in the lines, no checking to see if anything is behind him.  All you do it watch the screen and let it guide you.  The Sedona gives you an ariel view as well as additional views when parking.

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We loved this car, and my husband said he received lots of compliments on the car from several people.  You know you are riding in style when you pull up at the supermarket and you can see the people outside mouthing to each other ‘That’s a nice mini-van’.  I can definitely see us owning one of these in the future.  The Kia Sedona has a starting price of $26,100 and comes with lots of features standard, plus you can upgrade to another model for even more features.  To learn more about the 2015 Kia Sedona visit them online www.kia.com.  See what others are saying about Kia by following the hashtag #DriveKia.

The Mission to Please: My Mission BBQ Experience

The Mission to Please: My Mission BBQ Experience

As a southerner the word barbeque is a phrase that can be associated with other words like air, water, and survival. Born in and raised in Oklahoma and having Alabama, Georgia, and Florida roots BBQ’s are a daily occurrence at home. Some much so that I did not realize that everywhere in the country did not do the same. I cut my teeth barbecuing spending my summers in Tampa Florida working at my family’s BBQ pit Big John’s Alabama BBQ founded in the 1960’s by my grandfather Reverend John Stephens. Often rated the best BBQ in the city (and the country) it was always busy with Tampa’s elite (Athletes, Politicians, and prominent business owners). Once I learned when to flip, when to sauce, how to season, and most importantly how not to watch the meat, I became a novice on the grill (not as good as my Brother, and cousins but still respectable).

Fast forward to 2004 I have arrived in Baltimore from Tulsa and i’m looking for two things,soul food and bbq. I was able to go to Baltimore’s famed Lexington Market to get my soul food fix, but I could never quench my BBQ thirst here in Maryland. I tried pit beef, but I simply did not like it, so I pretty just got used to notion that if I wanted good BBQ i’m going to have to cook it myself. That’s exactly what I did for about 10 years. Until I stumbled on a place called Mission BBQ about two years ago, it was an oasis in an otherwise BBQ desert. I normally drove past most BBQ spots in Baltimore but I noticed one thing that made me stop, I smelled wood!!! The familiar smell of my youth from my days in Tampa and Tulsa at BBQ shacks all across the south! Anybody that knows me knows that I despise charcoal, it gives no flavor to the meat and cooks down too fast. Sure if you’re making hotdogs and burgers fine, but if you making anything of quality for an adult pallet wood has to be involved.

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I slowed down my car and turned into the parking lot, found a spot, parked the car and started my deliberation process. I started working through all the scenarios in my head and most importantly would this taste good? I stopped thinking and just got out the car and went inside. I walked in and was welcomed immediately with a smile from a young hostess at the front counter. I immediately noticed the hometown feel of Mission (though it’s a chain that is fastly growing up and down the east coast) seeing local high school football jerseys on the wall along the local fire, police, and military service regalia place through the restaurant.  I was greeted by a gentleman named Josh (who I would later find out that he one of the owners of the restaurant) at the counter after I placed my order for what is now my usual, a three meat platter of sausage, pulled pork, and brisket macaroni and cheese, and green beans with smoked bacon. We struck a conversation about BBQ and how I had lived in Maryland for almost ten years and I had not found any satisfactory bbq. He replied that my search was over and told me to make sure to let him know how it tasted.

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I got the food to go and went back home, once I got settled at my kitchen table, I opened up the box and was pleased by the display. Nice sized portions of quality meats and greatly smelling size dishes. I also had over six different sauces to choose from, sauces that took different aspects of every region in bbq culture. I placed some brisket on my fork and dipped in the Texas-based sauce (beef is prominent in southwest and the lower midwest) took a bite and smiled. I had found my Maryland BBQ placed and all was right in the world!!!

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It was cooked superbly with a good favor and with a choice of over six sauces I was in hog heaven!!! Though the food was good the service keep me satisfied, everybody has a smile on their face, along with great waitresses and staff that are prompt and sincere with their service.

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 Mission is truly All American BBQ their support of the armed forces is unparalleled from their donations to the Wounded Warrior Project, to their support of the local military and law enforcement, to the playing of our national anthem every day at noon Mission proudly does it part to support our country. Lastly I would like to say thanks to my BBQ Brother Josh for always providing supreme service, going the extra mile without being asked, and being a great ambassador from Mission to the world. With locations in the Pennsylvania , North Carolina, Florida, Virginia and here in Maryland they are growing by leaps and bounds. I will try them all but the Nottingham location will always be home.

Pathfinders for Autism Downtown Sailing Event

Pathfinders for Autism Downtown Sailing Event

I’ve always heard that it takes a village to raise a child, I come from a big family and with four kids we could use a village at times.  Honestly it seemed when we needed a village the most, we isolated ourselves and hoped on an island.  Our middle son was diagnosed with Autism last year and life hasn’t been the same since.  I first wrote about JB’s journey in my post Wishing and Waiting for Words, at the time he was two going on three and he was losing the eight words he had, now at four he is completely non-verbal and picking up behaviors that he didn’t have before.  I started feeling defeated and after stressing our for a few weeks I decided it was time to get off our island and find some villages.  My first thought was of course Facebook.  I found a wonderful Autism support group for families that live in Maryland.

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It was in that group that I found Pathfinders for Autism and after spending an entire day on the site I wished I had found it last year, when I was confused and felt alone, when I was looking for tools to help us deal, when I was looking for resources to help us be great parents to JB.  While on the site I found their events calendar and saw they had an opportunity to attend a sailing event in Downtown Baltimore with the Downtown Sailing Center.  I registered JB and crossed my fingers hoping he would get selected.  As soon as I registered the same fear that forced me on that island a year ago started to surface again.  Although it was an event for Autistic children I was worried about his behaviors, worried about him screeching, worried he would have a melt down, worried about getting on the water and when he got selected I worried more.  Finally the day arrived and it was time for us to take him to the event.  I think I was more nervous that he was.

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We arrived and everything was super easy, we signed release forms so we could all go out on the pier to watch him take off.  The plan was for him and I to go out on the water but once I learned we would be sailing alone I was too nervous to take him.  I was worried he would get scared or excited and tilt the boat.  I switched places with my husband and let him go out with our son instead of me and I kept the other kids.  For this event only JB and one adult could sail.  We all wanted to go but we understood since it’s a free event and Pathfinders and the Downtown Sailing Center wanted to give as many families as possible the opportunity to sail.

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There were about twenty other families when we arrived waiting for instructions and their sail boat assignments.  After everyone got registered Pathfinders staff and volunteers were taking the sailors down to the pier to board their boats.  When waiting to board my husband ended up getting on a bigger boat so he didn’t have to sail with just him and JB.  Now I was even more jealous.  I took photos of the families on the water and hubby got a few photos of them on the water.

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JB coming off his sailing experience
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JB and my husband walking back from the sailing experience

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JB’s sail boat
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We saw a pirate ship in the harbor.
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Parents and their child on the two seat sail boats.

 

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Families enjoying the free sailing event.

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It looked like JB and all the other participants had lots of fun during the event.  The weather was great so it was perfect for sailing.  It wasn’t too hot or cold just perfect and the breeze off the water was perfect.  JB didn’t have any melt downs and he enjoyed the time with his dad.  I thought he wouldn’t like being on the water too long but it was actually very relaxing for him.  My husband sent me a few photos he took of them on the boat.  It looks like they had so much fun.

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One of the participants  in the free sail event through the Downtown Sailing Center
One of the participants in the free sail event through the Downtown Sailing Center.

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Thanks to Pathfinders for Autism and the Downtown Sailing Center for providing this free activity for families like mines.  For showing us that it’s okay to want to have a village and how cool it is to have that village support.  We would have never tried this on our own but I can’t wait to do this again with the whole family.  Visit the Pathfinders for Autism events page for upcoming events.  They have lots going on during the summer.

Keep The Kids Busy This Summer

Keep The Kids Busy This Summer

I’ve said before that my summer planning mostly deals with finding things for the kids to do so they are busy and I don’t hear “I’m Bored!” every chance they get.  The good thing about summer break is that there’s always something to do because everyone knows the kids are free during the summer time.  My kids are younger so most of my tips would be geared towards parents with younger kids.  A Worthy Read has a great list of ideas for parents of tweens.

A Worthy Read has a list of 25 Things for Tween To Do This Summer that will keep your tween busy and enjoy all that summer has to offer.  I can’t end this post without sharing some of my own tips so here’s ten things to do with kids this summer – Baltimore Edition.

  1. Visit a State Park – there are lots of great parks in the Baltimore area one of our favorites is North Point State Park.  It costs just $4 per car for MD residents to enter the park.  They have a swimming area, lots of grills and plenty of space for spreading a blanket and hanging out.
  2. Visit a community pool.  One of the benefits of living in and around Baltimore City is getting to visit a public pool.  Here’s a listing of public pools in Baltimore.  Remember to arrive early at public pools and look for the rules of each pool so your family is safe.  Pool fees for the season last year was set at $2 for Park pools and $1 at walk-to pools. Admission for splash pads is free.  You can call the pool you plan to visit for update fees.
  3. Visit the Maryland Zoo at Baltimore.  My family and I recently participated on a Kindness Safari with KIND Snacks at the zoo and it was so much fun for the kids.  Visit the zoo’s website for upcoming events, ticket prices and lots of other great information.
  4. Visit the Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC.  Their offerings of free admission is worth the trip to Washington DC from the Baltimore area.  You could easily make a two – three day trip out of it and enjoy all they have to offer for free.  They even have the National Zoo which is free.  My major tip for the National Zoo is to arrive early to get parking or use the transit system.
  5. Take a hike with your family.  There are lots of great hiking trails near the Baltimore area.  I like hiking because it’s an activity you can do for free, you can go at your own paste and it keeps the family active.
  6. Visit a farmers market for some local produce and a lesson in farming.  I love going to the Farmers Markets around our area.  Not only do we get to support local farmers it’s an opportunity for the kids to learn about gardening and farming from MD farmers.
  7. Take the summer reading challenge through the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Baltimore County Public Library.  Both feature summer reading programs for kids of all ages and even adults.  The kids can earn prizes based on the number of books they read and all kids who reach their goal can go back to the library and get their completion prize.
  8. Enjoy the outdoors.  Two years ago I co-wrote an ebook in partnership with the National Wildlife Foundation and the Motherhood about spending time outdoors.  You can read more about my contributions to the book and download your free copy.
  9. Take the subway or light rail and go exploring.  Maryland has great options for public transportation.  Instead of driving your own car around town take the kids on the subway or light rail to another part of town for them to explore.  The light rail runs from Camden Yards to Hunt Valley and the subway runs from Owings Mills towards Downtown.  There’s so much to explore between the two and I’m sure the kids will enjoy riding if it’s their first time.
  10. Take a trip to Hersheypark in Hershey PA.  Visiting the Sweetest Place on Earth is a must for kids of all ages.  It’s fun for the entire family and something you should definitely do if you live close enough.  Hersheypark is only a 90 minute drive from Baltimore so it’s perfect for day trips or you can make it a two day trip.  My Quick Guide to Hersheypark has tons of information and tips to help you save on your trip to the park and much more.

Summer is always hectic with kids and finding things for them to do can become costly.  If you planning any summer travel or just staying close to home you have to check out these free road trip printables from insuremyrental.com, they created the perfect set of travel games to keep the kids occupied while in the car.  No more worrying about them asking if we arrived yet or fussing over toys and space.

We received our very own in car entertainment pack from insuremyrental.com for the kids to enjoy while traveling in the car during the summer months.  Included in our kit was print-outs of the games, plus a pen, colored crayons, a clipboard and a Disney singalong CD.  The kids loved it because it was one convenient pocket envelope with lots of fun things for them to use.  The clipboard made it super easy for them to use while in the car.  It provided the hard surface they needed to color and draw.   You can easily create your own in car entertainment pack.  Start with the printables from insuremyrental.com, get a clipboard for the pages, crayons for coloring and playing the games, your child’s favorite CD to play music in the car and anything else you think would work for your child.  Package it nicely and enjoy your road trip.

Do you have any favorite road trip games you liked when you were a child?  Mines was spotting license plates from different states.  If you live in the Baltimore area what’s one must do activity for kids?

Free Community Chats for Baltimore Area Families

Free Community Chats for Baltimore Area Families

Dealing with our son’s Autism can be challenging at times.  Some days I have so many questions and I hope for answers.  Lately he’s picked up screeching when he’s excited and I’ve been looking for a way to get him to stop it.  Most times it doesn’t bother me but there are times he does it and its nerve wrecking.  Sheppard Pratt Cares is hosting two free community chats for Baltimore area families.

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Sheppard Pratt Health System will host the following free community talks in early June for those interested in learning more about a child’s behaviors, including identifying reasons behind them and how to properly respond, as well as how to set your child up for a successful transition to a new school.

These will be presented by Dr. Patti Hershfeldt, co-director of the mid-Atlantic Regional Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Center at Sheppard Pratt Health System, where she works to support and modify behaviors to help students achieve social, emotional and academic success in school.

Wednesday, June 3, 6:30 – 8 p.m.

FREE COMMUNITY TALK: “Why Does My Child Do That? And Other Questions About Your Child’s Behavior”

To prevent behavior issues, we must first understand our children’s behavior. During this talk, we will begin to understand and identify reasons behind behaviors, and how we can properly respond. Some of the questions we will answer during the session include: 

  • Why does my child behave this way?
  • How can my response, as a parent, change my child’s behavior?
  • What signs should I look for if my child is struggling emotionally?
    • Is he/she just sad or is there more to it?
    • Does he/she worry more than other children her age?

Wednesday, June 10, 6:30 – 8 p.m.

FREE COMMUNITY TALK: “School Transitions: How You Can Help Your Child Succeed”

These questions are typical of anxious parents whose child is preparing to transition into middle or high school. During this free community talk, we will discuss important steps that we, as parents, can take to help our children make a smooth transition. Some of the questions we will answer during the session include:

  •  Why is it important to get involved?
  • What can I do to best support my child during these transition periods?
  • How can I become more involved with my child’s education (even if I work and can’t always get there)?

Both talks are free, open to the public, and will take place at The Conference Center at Sheppard Pratt, located on campus at 6501 N. Charles St. in Towson. Follow the signs to the Conference Center, or call the receptionist for directions: 410-938-3900.

RSVP is encouraged but not required. Email info@sheppardpratt.org or call Chelsea at 410-938-3133 to reserve your seat.  For more information, visit www.sheppardpratt.org and click “Calendar of Events” at the top-left.

 

Our Kindness Safari Experience at the Maryland Zoo

Our Kindness Safari Experience at the Maryland Zoo

When I was in college I worked at the Baltimore Zoo, the name has since been changed to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.  I really enjoyed my time working at the zoo but surprisingly I had never taken my kids to the zoo before.  Living in this area most schools have field trips to the zoo regularly so we hadn’t gotten around to visiting as a family.  KIND Snacks invited my family and I out to the Maryland Zoo for their Kindness Safari event recently.  We received tickets to attend the event as guests of KIND.  Any opinions expressed are my own.

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The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is about twenty to thirty minutes from where we live.  That Saturday the weather seemed perfect for a trip to the zoo.  We arrived and searched for a parking space in the makeshift parking lots near the entrance.  Thankfully parking is free but if you’ve never been I should note that it’s not traditional parking and it can be bumpy.

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We entered the zoo in no time at all.  There were a few gates open so we didn’t have a long wait.  I was trying to take a photo of the family and a stranger offered to take a shot of the whole family.

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We snapped the photo and headed into the zoo.  Our first stop was the KIND booth to get started on our #KindnessSafari.  All the kids received a booklet to fill out while in the zoo.

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My daughter Kennedi couldn’t wait to get started.  She jumped right on the crossword puzzle while we were checking out the Prairie Dogs.

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Our next stop was to the trolley to take a ride to the other side of the zoo.  The ride was very short to the other side.

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On the other side we could explore exhibits and see all the animals we wanted to see.  First up was the Penguins.

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My son JB had the most fun visiting with the penguins.  He loved waiting for them to drive down so we could see them underwater.  He wasn’t thrilled when I said it was time to head out to another section.

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Our next stop was Africa, the kids wanted to see the lions, elephants, and monkeys.  The first thing we saw were the Sitatunga that looks similar to deer.  There were also a few birds in that habitat as well.

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Next up were the Flamingos and a stroller break for Mase.  Flamingos are my favorite and they are so interesting to me.

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When we went to see the chimpanzees they were inside but we did find a money hanging out.

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The giraffes were a favorite for the kids, and unlike the lion and lioness who were hiding out these guys were out in the open.  They even stuck their tongues out at us a few times.

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The elephants were enjoying the hot weather.  We were on the lookout, which had some shade and it gave us a great view of the elephants.  You could also view them from the lower lookout and get a closer look.

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My son wouldn’t let us leave without him seeing a turtle.  We had to explain to him that this was a tortoise and the difference between the two.

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The White Rhino made the kids happy.  It was fun for them to see and learn about these animals.

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I didn’t want to go into the Aviary but I did get photos of some birds during our visit.

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On our way out we stopped by to see the Polar Bear and we also saw an Arctic Fox.  It was very hot that day so we didn’t stay as long as we wanted but we had lots of fun.

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When visiting the Maryland Zoo be sure to check out the Keeper Chats happening around the zoo.  It’s a great way to learn about the animals and ask questions.

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When it was time to cool down the kids enjoyed frosty drinks in their Maryland Zoo cups.

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The highlight of the day for the older kids was riding the camel.  You can ride the camel for $7.00 per person, and they even stop for you to take photos of the occasion.  There’s a water washing station after you exit the ride.  When visiting be sure to look for other paid activities around the zoo.

Thanks to KIND Snacks for sponsoring our trip to the zoo and hosting the Kindness Safaris all around the country.  We had a blast visiting the zoo and we can’t wait to go back again.  Our next visit will be for Run Wild for Autism and I’ll be sharing about that adventure soon on the blog.