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Go With the FLO at Sagamore

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In this case, FLO means “For Locals Only.”  South Beach’s Sagamore, The Art Hotel is inviting Florida residents to staycation and just go with the FLO, offering backyard visitors a first class stay that’s full of added perks.

Upon arrival, those who book the FLO package will present their Florida I.D. in exchange for their key to savings, literally. Once checked-in, guests will be provided with a FLO-branded key card that will serve as their exclusive access pass to experience Read more »

Meeting the Planes: Fire & Rescue Film Makers

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Right after a sneak peek screening of Planes: Fire & Rescue, during my recent trip to Los Angeles, I went over to Disney Toon Studios and actually got to meet two of the film makers–Bobs Gannaway, the Director and Ferrell Barron, the Producer.  I don’t think I’ve met two film makers that were more passionate about their work.  They spoke for about an hour, but looked like they could have easily gone on for days.  I was actually quite impressed.

First of all, they created their own National Park for the film, in animation.    It’s kind of like Yosemite, but also kinda like Yellowstone.  And, I always thought that the scenery in animated films were just cut and pasted–like if you wanted to create a forest, you would just cut and paste groups of trees.  And in some films, they are.  However, with this one, each tree and flower, bush and plant was created separately.  And, they had to be the RIGHT trees–redwoods, incense cedar, etc.  There are more than 2 milliion trees in the fictional Piston Peak National Park.  This is just one example of how the film makers took animation to an entire new level.

One of the coolest things that I took away from the chat was their admiration of firemen, especially those dedicated to wild fires.  Here’s what Bobs said about them:

All the people we met, the Fire Fighters are everything you think they are.  They were amazing, giving, caring, courageous people, so charming, and so giving with their time and wanting to help.  It was really a wonderful experience and they’ve become friends of ours now. 

Because of that, we really took this Movie to heart.  We really put it on our shoulders and we wanted to tell a story that really paid a Tribute and gave homage to Fire Fighters. ..You know, you look even in live action, there’s, you can count on one hand really how many like Fire Fighter Movies there are.  Certainly none in Animation.

So they were all so honored to  be talking with us and being a part of the film, helping tell their story….That’s been the biggest part of this whole project is just making sure that we’re being, truthful and making them proud to watch the Movie.

I’m someone who is absolutely in awe of those who run into burning structures and even wildfires to save and protect strangers.  This resonated deeply with me.  It will with you as well.  I think adults will find this film surprisingly GREAT.  It’s filled with humor and situations that grown folks can appreciate.  I can’t wait for you to finally read my review in a couple weeks.  But stay tuned for next week’s post on Planes:  Fire & Rescue.  I kinda had a cameo!

The film comes out in just a couple weeks–July 18!!  I can’t wait to see it again!

Disclosure:  I was a guest of Disney Film Studios for this trip to Los Angeles.  They provided my travel, lodging, meals, and activities.  All opinions, however, are my own!

Michael Ealy Promotes Think Like a Man Too at Macys

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Michael Ealy was in town recently to promote his new flick, Think Like a Man, Too.  And, as an added bonus, everyone that purchased $35 of Papi Underwear that day at Macy’s at Aventura Mall was able to get a quick pic snapped of him.  Can I just tell you that women of all ages, sizes, colors, and creeds crammed in to catch a glimpse of him?!?!?  They literally came from miles around.   I know that my Twitter and Facebook feeds were abuzz for the entire week before–apparently good ole Mike is in high demand.

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The in-store DJ actually had a lot of fun pretending that he saw Michael Ealy approaching.  The crowd fell for it every single time, screaming and straining necks to get a glimpse. Finally he appeared and did NOT disappoint.  He was a smooth as butter and took a few minutes with each person in line.  I’ll admit it.  I was smitten.

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Later that same evening, he made an appearance at the Miami premiere of the film.  Of course you all know that I just returned from the American Black Film Festival  up in New York City where Think Like a Man Too was the opening film.  Many of the stars showed up on the red carpet and I laughed until I cried.  The film opened over the weekend?  Did you see it?  What did you think?  Here’s one of my favorite scenes:

Disclosure:  This post is sponsored by Macy’s, however all opinions are my own.

Marcus Samuelsson Comes to Miami

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One of my fave chefs, Marcus Samuelsson, hosted a personal appearance at Macy’s at Dadeland Mall recently, as a member of the Macy’s Culinary Council.  I actually met him during a photo opp a few months ago at the Food Network South Beach Food and Wine Fest.  I was fresh out of chemotherapy and probably shouldn’t have been out and about that day.  When he asked me about myself, I told him that I had been fighting cancer and he took a moment to say a quick prayer and give me a few words of encouragement.  So, when I was invited to meet him again at Macy’s, I was eager to see him again and let him know that I am doing well.  Here’s a pic from that first meeting.

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Talk about a genuinely nice guy?  I’m saying.  What other celeb, upon seeing the spread in their green room, invites the media to come in and eat–BEFORE the interviews even took place.  Again, he was gracious and encouraging.  He even shared some of his personal experiences with cancer.  Then we got down to business.  Here’s some of what we spoke about:

Why is it important for someone like you to give back to your community?

It’s very basic.  I was helped by a charitable organization.  I’m an example.  The one thing in life that you can count on is:  Something is going to happen.  We have to be ready to help.

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What does it take to become a good cook?

To be a good cook,  it comes down to repetition.  Ingredients don’t make a great meal.  You have to combine ingredients AND be thought driven.  You have to convey what the dish should taste like.  Repetition will take you from good to great.  Travel will help as well.  Taste good things and be inspired to cook good things.

After my quick interview, Marcus did a quick demo of yumminess that included Salmon Tacos, Peanut Noodles, and Coconut Lime Curry Chicken, before signing copies of his book for Macy’s customers.  It was truly a great afternoon.

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Disclosure:  This post was sponsored by Macy’s  All opinions are my own.

Planes: Fire & Rescue is True to Life

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Ever thought about the research that goes into a Disney animated film?  Yes, I said it.  Research.  You are probably like me, thinking that since it’s clearly a movie that children will be attracted to, there’s no need for have the facts straight, is there?  I mean, really.  Would you spend the time, money, and resources to ensure that the film was true to life?  Well, for Disney, the answer is simple and resounding YES for their new movie,  Planes: Fire and Rescue.  I learned all about it on my recent trip to Los Angeles, where I visited Disney Toon Studios and was able to talk to Paul Gerard, Director of Creative Development and Jeff Howard, co-writer of the film.  I learned a lot of cool stuff!

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Now, we ARE talking about a story that features talking planes. So, there’s that.  But the storyline itself is VERY true to life–it’s the story of an awesome crew of fire fighting aircraft that battle fires in a fictional National Park.  As part of the research for the story, a production team actually spent time with folks at the Hemet-Ryan Air Attack Base.  They used what they learned to enhance the film’s setting, dialogue, characters and story.  They also attended the US Forestry Services‘ annual training exercises, where they met a graduating class of smokejumpers–those brave men and women who parachute into forest fire situations to fight them on the ground.

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They also used research to make the helicopter maneuvers more realistic and make the large scale fire more true to life.  It was also very important to be respectful of the American Indian people and their culture. I truly enjoyed this film and think that you will too.  And, it’s not JUST for kids, if you have any firefighters in your life, I would recommend it.  I’m going to make sure that my brother, the retired firefighter sees it!  Here’s a clip.  Look at it and then look at it again, focusing just on the details.  Amazing…

 

Disclosure:  I was a guest of Disney Film Studios for this trip to Los Angeles.  They provided my travel, lodging, meals, and activities.  All opinions, however, are my own!

Drawing a Disney Movie

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While in Los Angeles recently, I got to sit with some of the very cool folks at Disney Toon Studios.  These folks were part of the team that created and brought to life the upcoming  film, Planes: Fire & Rescue.  I actually met Art Hernandez, Head of Story for the film and Lawrence Gong, one of the story artists.  They explained the process of how the film is created–going from story boards to the final form that will be presented in theaters all over the world.

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After explaining all of this, it was time for them to teach ME to draw!  HA!  Me?  The one who can’t even put together a great stick figure?  Me?  Without a creative bone in my body?  YEP.  They did. They wanted me to draw the flirtatious character of a air tanker named Dipper.  *shudder*  Lucky for me, they provided step by step.  Here’s how it started.

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After I was done, I certainly could see why mine didn’t look quite like his.  First of all, I was nervous.  Actually, I talked to some of the other bloggers on the trip afterwards, explaining that while many of them had anxiety about meeting movie stars and celebs, mine was directly connected to drawing.  I wish we hadn’t known about it beforehand, but from the minute I saw it on the itinerary, I had knots in my stomach.  But I persevered, despite of my shaky hands.  Thank God that they also provided a handy dandy eraser.  Here’s what I ended up with:

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Not too, too bad, huh?  Though I don’t see a future for me in Disney film artistry, it WAS fun.  Sort of.  Kinda.  While I was terrified doing it, looking back on it–it was actually pretty cool!  How gets taught to draw by Disney’s finest, right?!

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The film opens on July 18.  Here’s a scene that features Dipper.  Lucky for you, it was NOT drawn by me.

Disclosure:  I was a guest of Disney Film Studios for this trip to Los Angeles.  They provided my travel, lodging, meals, and activities.  All opinions, however, are my own!

The Water Journey at Grand Velas Spa

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I just returned from a wonderful weekend in Riviera Maya, Mexico at Grand Velas Riviera Maya Resort & Spa.  It’s an extraordinary all inclusive property and I had an amazing time.  While there, I was able to experience their uber awesome spa.  I’m not really big on spas, finding absolutely nothing desirable about strangers touching me.  However, this spa experience just may have changed that for me.  You see, I had their signature treatment, called the Water Journey.  Here’s how it went!

I arrived at the Spa with my swimsuit on under my dress, as instructed.  The check in process was simple.  I filled in a short (about 10 questions) survey about my overall health and areas that I wanted my treatment to exclude.  I was led through a plant filled courtyard into a lavish waiting area, where, if I got on my tippy tippy toes, I could just barely get a glimpse of the 40,000 square foot water lounge, where the water is heated via solar panels.  I was offered a fluted green juice to start the journey and then shown to the changing area.

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With just my swimsuit, robe and slippers on, the Spa Valet ushered me downstairs to the area where the Journey began.  After removing the robe, the first element was a simple rain shower.  When I exited the shower, I was directed to experience various rooms, usually alternating hot and cold.  There was an ice room, where I rubbed shaved ice over my body, a circular steam room, with lit “stars” on the ceiling, etc.  The last room was the “clay room,” where I slathered my body with softened clay, my face with aloe and my hair with conditioner.  They stay in each room was about 10 mins and every amenity was provided, including cold cucumber slices for my eyes while in the Sauna.  I felt a “cleansing” of sorts, very relaxing but also very in touch with my inner self.  There were drinks offered at various intervals.

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Afterwards, I had a hot/cold plunge shower, with alternating water temperatures.  Only then was a ready for the pool.  The first pool area was a walking lap in warm water, followed by a return lap in cold water.  Finally, I was allowed in the huge, infinity pool.  Wait, did I mention that this entire level of the spa is built into an existing natural cenote?  I loved the scenery.

Hotel Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo. Mexico

There were areas of the pool with powerful massaging faucets that massaged your neck and back and stone bubble beds that you could lie on.  I LOVED it. Unfortunately, I only had limited time with the Water Journey, but I did go back in the morning of my last day.  I would HIGHLY recommend this treatment at Grand Velas.

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Disclosure:  I was a guest of Grand Velas Riviera Maya for this trip.  They provided my travel, lodging, meals, and activities, including this spa treatment.  However, I did have a second Water Journey at my own expense.  All opinions are my own.

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