Guest Blog Post by My Mother, Gina Metallo Shell: “Our Trip to Tybee Island and Savannah for Our 42nd Wedding Anniversary and Meeting Paula Deen””

It has been a goal of ours to visit Savannah, GA for over 20 years. I have been constantly encouraged to see the pre-Civil War structures each time friends and family returned from a trip there.
We discovered that 20 minutes was all it would take to connect from Tybee Island to Savannah. This would be the best of both worlds; touring Savannah and enjoying Tybee Island Beach. I always wanted to visit Tybee Island after our friend Holly Haney spent her Honeymoon there. She was so in love with Tybee Island that she named her son Tybee!

Planning “Vacay 2019” would be shared between Savannah and Tybee. Savannah Beach Raquett Club provided the perfect location for us. It is on the North side, secluded and quiet side of Tybee.

There are few places to eat close to there. It is perfect for us as we enjoy eggs and toast or overnight oats for breakfast on our balcony. Lighthouse Pizza provided great calzones with a quick walk two blocks down.

I have always loved Paula Deen and her restaurant was my favorite! Paula Deen’s Creek House is a quick 10 mile drive with plenty of parking places, friendly staff and delicious food! (I am still thinking about the Smoked Salmon Salad!) I had read the signs posted about Paula Deen’s book-signing for her new book, Paul Deen Cuts the Fat, scheduled for June 28th at 5 pm.

What were the chances that I would get to meet my most favorite southern cook who I have adored for two decades? We returned for another wonderful meal and waited to meet Sweet Paula, her husband Michael, and son Jamie. It was the icing on my cupcake!
We enjoyed the beautiful beach where the Bay and Atlantic Ocean meet, walking on the beach, collecting seashells and watching the dolphins.

This is the first time that I have ever seen so many whole seashells. There were plenty for everyone, especially since this beach is not crowded. We decided to Segway our way through Historic Savannah.

We used Adventure Tours in Motion Segway Tours and booked a 90 minute tour to view as much as possible. Chelsea was an amazing guide offering historical and fun facts. I enjoyed seeing the beautiful city and trees laced with Spanish Moss.

Do not let fear prevent you from stepping on a Segway like I almost did. I am ready to get back on and tour some more!

Our maps and brochures are ready to be filed so we can pick back up in a few years. There is no doubt about it that we will make every attempt to return. We loved Savannah and Tybee Island and they loved us back.

I will close by providing some helpful reminders that will make our journey smoother.

Walking and bicycling are highly encouraged with parking being limited. We plan to throw our bicycles in the back of our camper truck next time so we will be ready to ride. I currently do not own a bicycle so I hope to pick the skill back up quickly. I will soon find out if it is true about not forgetting how to ride a bike. At least for now I can navigate the Segway until I pick the cycling skills back up.
With parking being limited, I will need to remember to leave yourself plenty of time to find a parking place. When you find a place to park, you may need to walk a few blocks and need quarters and dollars for the parking.

My good New Balance Tennis Shoes were packed for walking and the Segway Tour. Somehow in all the excitement, I must have missed the memo on stretching your calf muscles before getting on the Segway. Our guide encouraged us to stretch our muscles every time we made a stop. It made it more comfortable for us and the other 60-ish couple we rode with.
Let’s pack the bikes, stretch the muscles, pack a couple rolls of quarters and dollar bills for parking.

Oh… If your parking meters runs out before you return from cruising the city on Segway, your windshield may be decorated with a parking ticket. Or, you may get lucky with a kind-hearted Parking Meter Attendant who just leaves you a Warning Ticket.

-Gina Metallo Shell (Nick’s mom)
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3 Cities in Georgia for a Family Vacation

By guest blogger Eathen Smith, brought to you by the Hotel Planner campaign.

As one of the original 13 colonies, Georgia is a state with a rich history. It’s reflected in the cities that are prime spots for a family vacation. While Atlanta, the state capital, usually makes it on any list of best cities in the state, there are other cities in the state with their own beauty and community activities. On that note, here are three cities that deserve a closer look. 

St. Mary’s, Georgia 

St. Mary’s was hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017, but it still has seasonal activities. If you are thinking about visiting St. Mary’s with your family between April and July, consider making a stop to the Harriett Bluff Organic Blueberry Farm. If that doesn’t interest you, your family could take part in kayaking or visit St. Mary’s Aquatic Center. You could also enjoy Express Train rides or go fishing.

Other places in the city show its commitment to preserving its rich history. For example, the city has antebellum architecture and a Peace Garden that commemorates the War of 1812.

If you’re looking for good food in St. Mary’s, there are well over 20 places for you and your family to dine. You’ll find local tastes and flavors inspired by Japan, Thailand, and Mexico. The downtown area alone has three cafes, like the Riverside Cafe.

Senoia

If you would like to take your family on a simple, quaint vacation in Georgia, Senoia is the place. The city is the 4th safest in the state and it is where several movies, like “Fried Green Tomatoes,” were filmed.

When you visit Senoia, make sure to visit the Senoia Welcome Center and Marimac Lake. The fishing policy at the lake is “catch and release.”

While staying in Senoia, you have a least 10 options for good eating. For example, you and your family can enjoy some burgers at Nic & Normans or visit Matt’s Smalltown Pizza.

Alpharetta

Alpharetta is an affluent city that is dedicated to fitness, sports, and recreation, so there is plenty for your family to do there during your stay. Wills Park is open to the public, as is the city’s greenway system along Big Creek. There are numerous trails for biking and jogging. You could visit some golf clubs or go to the shopping district at Avalon. If you’re looking for a place to eat in Alpharetta, you have over 200 options, with flavors from around the world. For example, you could eat at AJ’s Country Cooking, which offers a buffet with Southern favorites, or you could also eat at Aomi Japanese Restaurant.

Before staying in Alpharetta — or any of these fine cities — make sure your find the best deals for hotels in the area. Who says that you can’t vacation in comfort without breaking the bank?

When visiting Georgia, you will find numerous cities that are strikingly beautiful and quaint. That is true of St. Mary’s, Senoia, and Alpharetta. Consider visiting any of these three cities as you plan your next family vacation.

Image via Flickr by RobBixbyPhotography

5 Best Things to Do in Alpharetta With Kids

By guest blogger Eathen Smith, brought to you by the Hotel Planner campaign.

Alpharetta in Fulton County, Georgia, has both the vibrancy of a big city and the down-to-earth, accessible charm of a smaller community. Nestled between the Georgia mountains and the city of Atlanta, it’s well situated to offer exciting yet convenient things to fill any traveler’s visit. Plus with many family-friendly hotels near these activities, Alpharetta just might be the perfect destination for that family trip you’ve been planning to take. Here are some things to do in Alpharetta that the whole family can enjoy together.

Adventure at the Big Creek Greenway

If you’re looking for some outdoor fun, the Big Creek Greenway is a great place for both high activity and relaxing downtime. Bikers will enjoy the off-road mountain bike trails, which are easy for beginners and kids. Big Creek Greenway also offers trails that are well-suited for running and rollerblading. What makes the Greenway such a favorite, though, is that all of these activities are enjoyed in nature. The trail under the tree canopies is followed by a gentle stream and stretches along picnic sites, swamps, and ponds where you can bird watch, feed the fish and ducks, or sit down for a picnic.

Outdoor Movies at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

The beautifully landscaped Encore Park, which houses the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, is just the place to set up for a family movie night. The amphitheater is one of Northside hospital’s locations to host Movies in the Park, a free outdoor movie

initiative to show family-friendly movies at kid-friendly times. Carry extra layers for the evening chill, load up on snacks, and watch a film at sundown, which is usually around 6:30 to 7 p.m. What’s more, kids get free face-painting inspired by the movie of the day.

Indoor Fun at Main Event Entertainment

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Main Event Entertainment is the “ultimate fun for people of all ages.” With a wide range of activities such as bowling, laser tag, mini-golf, rope climbing, and video games, we don’t see how anybody wouldn’t enjoy themselves. With this indoor play park open from 11 a.m. daily, rainy days don’t have to be spent cooped up in a hotel room with the great escape that is Main Event.

Shopping at the North Point Mall

If you want to get a little shopping in while in Alpharetta but still want to make a day out of it, then the North Point Mall is the perfect place to tow everyone along. Apart from the thrilling shopping options for all, the young ones can enjoy a ride on the North Point Carousel. Catch your meals at any of the numerous restaurants at the Food Court and wind up your trip with a movie at the mall’s theater.

Fun in Nature at the Webb Bridge Park

Webb Bridge Park is a big park with many sections, including a kids’ play zone that has a great variety of playgrounds with swings, slides, music, and even a covered sand area. Older children can play in the soccer and baseball fields while parents walk the serene trail through the forest of about 1.5 miles.

Who said family travel can’t be entertaining for all? With the above favorites and much more, Alpharetta is sure to change any such opinion.

Image via Flickr by atlnature

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

5 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

Dear Jack,

Throughout my entire childhood, as Papa drove our family to and from Chattanooga where his side of family lives, we would always pass this brown government sign, pointing towards Cloudland Canyon State Park; near Trenton, Georgia.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

I never stopped wondering what was there, just 4 miles off the main road. So I decided to make it an official stop on our 1st father and son road trip.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

Neither of our preconceived ideas of Cloudland Canyon State Park were accurate. I was expecting something much smaller and mediocre. And you later revealed to me you thought it was like a carnival with rides.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

However, we were both very pleased with what the park actually is. It was amazing!

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

There’s a walkway that goes along the side of Lookout Mountain, which allowed us to see down into the valley… way down there.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

And at one part of the trail, we were able to climb a staircase down to a really cool viewpoint.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

I think my favorite part of our visit to Cloudland Canyon was when you looked out and announced, “Oh, I see the 10 Commandments.”

(It was actually a set of rock posts that are part of another trail across the valley.)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

When you are older, I will take you back because there’s another trail that is 2 hours long that goes all the way down to where there’s a waterfall! Maybe in a year or two you’ll be ready for that. I am really looking forward to that…

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

So it turns out that my whole life, there really was something pretty awesome, had we just turned 4 miles down that road where the brown government sign was.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

Cloudland Canyon State Park is a wondrous place to visit. After we left there, we opened the sun roof in the Lexus ES, per your request, and enjoyed the breeze as we made our way closer to Fort Payne, Alabama.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Ghostbusters and The BFG (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

But first, I had a surprise stop planned: an old chapel built into a giant rock…

Love,

Daddy

P.S.

Here’s the collection of stories from our father and son road trip…

Ghostbusters and the BFG

Nick A Jack Road

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel

Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park

2016 Lexus ES 300h Father & Son Road Trip (Table of Contents)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Cloudland Canyon State Park (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Nick A Jack Road (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

5 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Nickajack Road (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Dear Jack,

As you and I were getting ready to start off our 1st ever father and son road trip, you decided to pack a few more of your stuffed animals, in addition to the dozen or so you already had ready by the door.

I let you pack up the Lexus ES with much more than was necessary for your upcoming week-long stay at Nonna and Papa’s, but with the road trip just being you and me, I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Nickajack Road (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Just as the sun was coming up, we left our home in Spring Hill, Tennessee. You used a glow stick and your finger-flashlight to help see in the dark as you spent the first hour designing monster trucks on Mommy’s Kindle.

You also enjoyed checking out one of many brochures you picked up at the rest stop. Your favorite was for Star Cars, which features the car from Ghostbusters; the movie we saw together just the night before.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Nickajack Road (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Nickajack Road (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Granted, we stopped at the Whole Foods Market in Chattanooga, Tennessee for lunch; to cater to my vegan and your vegetarian lifestyle. Right across the road was Learning Express Toys where I bought you a souvenir that you are currently obsessed with.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Nickajack Road (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

The first major stop on our trip was Nick A Jack Road, in Flintstone, Georgia; which borders Chattanooga, Tennessee. I am very familiar with it, since that’s where Papa’s side of the family lives.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Nickajack Road (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

It’s the road that goes from the bottom to the top of Lookout Mountain on the Georgia side; where as Nonna and Papa live on the other end of the mountain, an hour away on the Alabama side.

Nick A Jack Road is a particularly special road for us as father and son, as it always was for Papa and me when I was a kid. Papa’s first name is Jack, just like yours; and of course mine is Nick.

So “Nick A Jack” combines both your name and mine; as it always has for Papa and me…

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Nickajack Road (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Therefore, I made sure we stopped for a photo op there at the top of the mountain, where Nick A Jack Road comes to an end.

I have always wanted us to take our picture together there in front of that street sign. My dream finally came true!

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Ghostbusters and The BFG (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

From there, we drove another 20 minutes to Cloudland Canyon Sate Park, which made for our next amazing stop on our 1st father and son road trip…

Love,

Daddy

P.S.

Here’s the collection of stories from our father and son road trip…

Ghostbusters and the BFG

Nick A Jack Road

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel

Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park

2016 Lexus ES 300h Father & Son Road Trip (Table of Contents)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Nickajack Road (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta

5 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack,

As part of our family’s first road trip as a family of four (in the 2016 Toyota Highlander), we visited the Georgia Aquarium; you are particularly fascinated by whales and sharks.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Of course, the first place we checked out was the souvenir shop, where you found a beluga whale as your companion for the visit. You took my suggestion and named her Bella. She remained by your side throughout our entire Atlanta road trip.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

I didn’t know this at the time, but the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere! This fact is downplayed by how concise the place is structured, as all branches of the aquarium are virtually connected to the main court, which is connected to the gift shop.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

It was even convenient for Mommy to feed and change your baby sister’s diapers, without having to go to the other side of the aquarium to take care of her.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Perhaps our favorite part of the Atlanta Aquarium was the underwater tunnel, in which we stood on a moving walkway as the ocean animals swam above us. I had always wanted to experience that. I finally was able to!

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Something else I really liked about this aquarium is how we were able to see the entire place without ever having to feel rushed. We saw it all and it wasn’t too much or too little- it was the perfect amount!

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Needless to say, you were thought it was so cool to see all the animals of the sea. I’m so glad it worked out for our family to visit the Georgia Aquarium this summer.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

I know there are so many fun family activities to do in Atlanta, but we made the right decision in placing the Georgia Aquarium on our agenda for our family’s first road trip as a family of four.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of LOST

Italians?  Check.  French?  Check.  Koreans?  Check.  Jews?  Oddly, not so much.

When the creators of LOST were in the casting process, they knew they wanted an “international cast”.  Well done.  Who wants to see another show with a bunch of white people and one African-American thrown in for good measure?

The ethnic diversity on the show adds so much to the characterization and even their storylines.  I have gone through the painstaking process (for most, but for me was a lot of fun!) of searching and studying the ethnicity of the entire cast of LOST.  While I won’t bombard my fellow Losties with every single cast member ever, I will feature most of them.  The phrase in (parenthesis) tells where the actor was raised.

Matthew Fox as “Jack Shephard”: Italian-English (America)

Evangeline Lilly as “Kate Austen”: English (Canada)

Josh Holloway as “James ‘Sawyer’ Ford”: Scottish (America); rare in that he is one of the few Southerners on the show- from Georgia in real life, on the show he was born in Jasper, Alabama

Jorge Garcia as “Hugo ‘Hurley” Reyes”: Chilean-Cuban (America)

Naveen Andrews as “Sayid Jarrah”: Indian (England)

Daniel Dae Kim as “Jin-Soo Kwon”: Korean (America)

Yunjin Kim as “Sun-Hwa Kwon”: Korean (America)

Terry O’Quinn as “John Locke”: Irish (America)

Dominic Monaghan as “Charlie Pace”: English-Irish (Germany); he speaks both  English and German

Michael Emerson as “Benjamin Linus”: English (America)

Emilie de Ravin as “Claire Litteton”: French (Australia)

Henry Ian Cusick as “Desmond Hume”: Scottish-Peruvian (both Scotland and Peru)

Sonya Walger as “Penny Widmore”: Argentinean-English (England)

*oddly, married couple “Desmond and Penny” are both in real life half British, half South American

Alan Dale as “Charles Widmore”: New Zealander (New Zealand)

Ken Leung as “Miles Straume”: Chinese (America)

Francois Chau as “Dr. Pierre Chang”: Cambodian-American-Chinese-Vietnamese (America); random fact- he played “Shredder” in the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze

Andewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as “Mr. Eko”: Nigerian (England)

Nestor Carbonell as “Richard Alpert”: Cuban-Spanish (America)

Elizabeth Mitchell as “Dr. Juliet Burke”: English (America); another rare Southerner (from Dallas, TX)

Jeff Fahey as “Frank Lapidus”: Irish (America); though his character his Greek-American

Cynthia Watros as “Libby Smith”: Greek or Czech (America)

Michelle Rodriguez as “Ana Lucia Cortez”: Puerto Rican-Dominican Republican (America)

Tania Raymonde (Katz) as “Alex”: Jewish (America)

Mira Fulan as “Danielle Rousseau”: Jewish (Croatia)

Katy Sagal as “Helen Norwood”: Jewish (America); played Locke’s love interest, also known as “Peg” on Married with Children

Titus Welliver as “Man in Black (Esau): Irish  (America);  though he looks like Billy Joel, who is Jewish

Mark Pellegrino as “Jacob”: Italian (America)

Since Jews only make up 1.7% of the American population, the three confirmed Jewish actors on LOST accurately and proportionately represent themselves in the large number of actors on the show.  And that’s rare.

Of course, as usual, in the strange case there are no Jews or hardly any Jews on a show or movie (like Family Matters or Family Ties), the producers and/or writers are Jewish.  So it goes without saying, that in fact, LOST creators J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof are both Jewish.  Along with Jeffrey Lieber (who most likely is based on his name and physical appearance).  Same thing with LOST writer Adam Horowitz.

It’s safe to say that LOST truly has the most international, most diverse cast of any show in American history.  We as Losties have invested years of our lives in these characters.  They’ve become like real people to us.  I’m so glad this show is made up of such a randomly planned cast of characters and actors.

Read more about the astonishing number of Jewish actors in American film: The Funny Thing about Jews

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on this, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one