What’s Up With Maria

Posted in Authors, New Orleans, Theme Vacations, Uncategorized, Unique Getaways, What's Up With Maria, on 24 May 2014, by , 0 Comments

Ingenioustravel.comWhat a week in New Orleans at the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention where fans had the opportunity to interact with over 700 of their favorite authors!

If you’re a book lover, aspiring author or published author, this was the place to be. The conference offered over 400 panels, workshops, and parties. If you’re an aspiring author, you may have sat in on a CRAFT panel such as Writing with a Partner or A Novel in 30 Days or Less. For READERs, you had our pick, no matter what your favorite sub-genre, from The Annual Shooting Stars Gala and Reader Party, Hats and Tats, Bad Boy Bingo, and many others

My two favorite panels were the Urban Fantasy – Legwork of the Damned (absolutely lover Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles) and Author Chat: Paranormal & Urban Fantasy with P.C Cast, Kresley Cole, Kim Harrison, and Larissa Ione. These women were fabulous and their books are pretty awesome, too! I was a total fan girl at these events. Here’s a clip from their session:



Overall, there were too many favorite parts to name. It was wonderful seeing all my author friends as well as making new connections. Some of the best conversations took place in the hotel’s bar.

RT will be invading Dallas for next year’s convention. Hope they’re ready for everyone!

Be sure to check out our pictures on Pinterest, too!



Continue Reading...

Posted in Anaheim, General Travel Information, Travel, Travel Tips, Uncategorized, Unique Getaways, What's Up With Maria, on 18 April 2014, by , 0 Comments

Park EntranceMore than 15 Million people visit Disneyland a year and last week, I was one of them!

Disneyland, the first of all the Disney parks opened in July of 1955, and it was a disaster! The park really wasn’t ready to open, tickets were copied and too many people were let into the park. Opening day was memorable all right, the park ran out of food and the Mark Twain riverboat nearly capsized.

Today we see a much different Disneyland. The 85-acre theme park is made of eight lands which carry you through time, from the early 1900’s in New Orleans Square all the way to the future that is Tomorrowland. Be sure to visit all eight as you experience a different adventure in each. Here’s a glimpse into them:

Main Street USA – Just like the main streets of old. Take your time to stroll through the various shops and eateries. Be on the look-out for the horse drawn carriage, you don’t want to get run over. For you coffee lovers, Market House will refill your coffee throughout the day, just be sure to hang on to your original receipt.

Continue Reading...

Posted in General Travel Information, Travel, Uncategorized, What's Up With Maria, on 21 January 2014, by , 29 Comments

LA Travel ShowI spent the weekend working a travel agent booth at the LA Times Travel Show and these were the top two questions asked, “Are travel agents back?” and “Why should I use a travel agent instead of booking my own trip online?” Questions we’ve heard over and over.

To answer the first question, YES, travel agents are back. We actually never went away, though we have had to change the way we operate. It’s true, many store front agencies have closed, and some agents have gone on to do other things, but there are many who are still at it and have become independent contractors. You may not hear about them as they don’t have large advertising budgets to let you know they’re there, but they are there. And, the resurgence of travel agents has been in the news, too. Just last week, USA Today ran the article, “Travel agents back in demand.” (The Washingtonian and Time also have articles about the “return” of the travel agent.)

Continue Reading...

Posted in Books, General Travel Information, Gift Ideas, Girlfriend Getaways, Recipes, Uncategorized, Unique Getaways, What's Up With Maria, on 14 January 2014, by , 26 Comments

Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House SignWe stopped for lunch at the infamous Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House before heading to the Jack Daniel Distillery tour. And what a lunch it was!

Rooms in the boarding house have been converted into dining rooms, each holding a long table seating 8-14 guests. This is done purposely, allowing for interaction with those you’re eating with during your family style lunch. (My friends and I were seated with people from California, Tennessee, Alabama, London, and Russia!) The food is already on the table when you walk into your dining room. Keep in mind, there is no menu posted. Each day the chefs decide what they feel like making and all meals come from the Jack Daniel’s Cookbook (one day fried chicken, another day catfish, etc.). A Miss Mary Bobo’s Hostess also joins you for lunch, sharing the history of the boarding house and of those who once resided here.

Today’s lunch, southern fried chicken, meatloaf, fried okra, macaroni and Lunch at miss-mary-boboscheese, boiled potatoes, corn, butter beans, rolls, and apples seasoned with a splash (or ten) of Jack Daniels. Our hostess tasted the apples and told us the chefs were quite happy today and we would be as well after eating them. And for dessert, chocolate fudge pie with Jack Daniel’s whipped cream. (Definitely not the best meal for those who are gluten-free, like me. The meatloaf is gluten-free, made with oats, just ask for it without ketchup.)

I’m sure you noticed the use of Jack in some of the food. Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House is located in a dry county, meaning you can’t buy or sell alcohol. Miss Mary found a way around this by using the local product in her recipes.

This is a quaint restaurant sticking with the traditions and history of Lynchburgh, Tennessee. A definite must for lunch if you’re in the area. Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House offers two lunch time seating options, 11 AM or 1 PM. During peak seasons, you may find a third for 3 PM. No matter when you visit, remember reservations are required.

Continue Reading...

Posted in Gift Ideas, Recipes, Theme Vacations, Travel, Uncategorized, What's Up With Maria, on 7 January 2014, by , 24 Comments

Distillery SignNo visit to Tennessee is complete unless you stop in Lynchburg and take a tour of the Jack Daniel Distillery – even if you don’t drink whiskey!

This free, hour long tour gives you an up close and personal look into the history of this dry county’s thriving distillery. (What is a dry county?  It’s a county where the sales of alcoholic beverages are forbidden. Rather an oxymoron isn’t it…a dry county producing spirits it can’t sell.)

Here’s a sample of what you’ll learn on the tour:

  • Moore County, home to the Jack Daniel Distillery, has beenJack Daniel dry since Prohibition. With a population of approximately 5,000, the county is the smallest in Tennessee and doesn’t have enough people living in it to hold a vote to reverse this. (In Tennessee, a county must have a population of at least 7,500 people in order to pass/change laws.) The Jack Daniel’s company petitioned the state for a special permit to allow the sale of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey souvenir bottles to be sold in the Visitor Center gift shop.
  • Distillery attendance is perfect on the first Friday of the month as all employees get a bonus:  a 750 mL bottle of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7.
  • Each Jack Daniel whiskey barrel is used only once then sold. These used barrels sell for close to $300. (Want to see a unique way a barrel was used – check out this video.)

There’s more I could tell you, but that would spoil your visit. Check out our Pinterest board to see more of our pictures from the tour. Please keep in mind cameras aren’t allowed in all areas of the distillery, so for the full experience, you’ll need to visit yourself.

Are you a fan of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey? (If you’re interested in trying it, but not sure what to mix it with, try these recipes from the Jack Daniel’s website.) If not, what’s your favorite mixed drink?

Continue Reading...

Posted in Authors, Uncategorized, Unique Getaways, What's Up With Maria, on 19 March 2013, by , 4 Comments

authorsI’ve had one of the best weekends in a while, spending it with 200 plus romance authors at the SoCal RWA Conference in sunny Santa Ana, California!

You might wonder what happens when you get this many women (and a few brave men) together for a weekend conference. We have fun! Oh, there are the traditional workshop sessions that deal with writing such as The Basic Guide to Weapons, Baiting your Story, and Writing Action Scenes; but more importantly, is the networking or interaction with the authors. Everyone is so friendly and full of helpful advice.

Top Seven Memories from the Conference:

1. Spending time with friends

It’s great to see your friends at monthly meetings, but nothing enhances a friendship more than getting to spend quality time with them. We spent so much time laughing! So much so, we even received a noise complaint. Nothing compares to feeling like a kid being reprimanded with friends – Louisa Bacio, Nikki Prince, Sabrina Sol, Erin Pryor, and Elise Scott – early on a Saturday night (9:15)!

2. Christie Craig’s session: Using Humor in Your Writing

Christie had us rolling on the floor sharing stories from her life that have made it into her books. Her life truly follows the “I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried” adage. Thanks for the laughs and advice, Christie!

3. Meeting Barbara Vey

If you love to read, Barbara is the lady to follow! She has her own blog (BarbaraVey.com), hosts an annual Reader Appreciation Luncheon in Milwaukee and is contributor to Publisher’s Weekly. Along with providing fantastic social media tips, she an all around hoot!

Continue Reading...

Posted in Authors, Hotel, Uncategorized, Unique Getaways, What's Up With Maria, on 13 March 2013, by , 0 Comments

Ingenious Travel with Jll ShalvisJoin more than 50 romance authors in Santa Ana this Sunday, March 17, at the Doubletree by Hilton from 1:00 p. m. – 2:30 p. m.

As a member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), I’ll be attending the SoCal RWA Writers Conference this weekend. Can you thing of a better way to end the conference than a book signing with so many amazing authors? Meet some of your favorite romance authors and discover new ones! You’ll find books in all genres: Contemporary, Erotica, Historical, Inspirational, Paranormal, Romantic Suspense, Young Adult and mash-ups that combine several genres in one novel.

Books will be for sale through Barnes and Noble or from the authors themselves. Bring your e-readers, smart phones and tablets and buy your favorite authors’ books online as you talk to them!

Additionally, as part of the book signing, we’re offering opportunity drawings for a Nook and a Kindle. There will be a little work involved like talking to your favorite authors, but isn’t that why you’ll be there? Tell your family; tell your friends and come on down to meet all of these fabulous romance authors.

This is one signing, you won’t want to miss!

Attending Authors:

Continue Reading...

Posted in Anaheim, Books, Recipes, Uncategorized, What's Up With Maria, on 6 December 2012, by , 0 Comments

Looking for a holiday themed book to take with you on your holiday travels? I recommend Holiday Grind, first holiday themed book from the Coffeehouse Mystery series by Cleo Coyle.

After a holiday event at the Village Blend coffeehouse, Manager Clare Cosi goes looking for her customer and friend who never showed up.  Alfred Glockner, one of New York’s Traveling Santa never did arrive to play Santa this year. With concern for her friend Clare attempts to track him down only to discover him gunned down in a nearby alley. Knowing there is more to the crime than a mugging gone badly; Clare sets out, on her own to find out what happened to Alfred.  Clues and leads are discovered at every turn along with running the Village Blend.

This book is truly a fun read.  Including everything one would want to know about coffee and recipes for all of the goodies mentioned in the book.

Whether you are traveling near or far this holiday season consider sharing Clare’s Mini Red and Green Holiday Biscotti (featured in Holiday Grind) with your family and friends.

Enjoy the recipe!

P.S. Here’s an additional recipe for high protein oatmeal raisin cookies.

Continue Reading...

Posted in Books, Theme Vacations, Uncategorized, What's Up With Maria, on 23 October 2012, by , 13 Comments

We always hear about summer reading or beach reading, but what about books for the rest of the year? Keeping with the theme of Halloween, I decided to go through my bookshelves to find some that fit the spirit of the Halloween season. With so many to choose from, I decided to chose in the most scientific way…wrote down the names of all my favorite authors then picked five out of a hat!

Shayla Black – Doomsday Brethren

This is a series of modern day witches and wizards in London trying to keep the balance on the side of good while fighting a ruthless wizard who’s returned from exile and building an army of evil in order to achieve dominion over the world. (Books in the correct reading order:  Tempt Me with Darkness, Seduce Me in Shadow, Possess Me at Midnight, Entice Me at Twilight, Embrace Me at Dawn)

Shayla Black

Continue Reading...

Posted in Baseball, General Travel Information, Seattle, Uncategorized, Unique Getaways, What's Up With Maria, on 11 October 2012, by , 0 Comments

It’s our last day in Seattle and there is still so much to see and do! Since our flight was scheduled for late afternoon, we had the opportunity to visit three more attractions before leaving for the airport.

Safeco Field

First stop on our last day was a tour of Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball team. I love sports, so doing a stadium or park tour is always fun. For my sister, who’s not a sports fan, not so much, but she was quite a trooper!

These tours provide a behind the scenes look at the goings on in professional baseball. We walked through the tunnel outside the visitor’s locker room then out to the field. (How else can you make it onto the field and not be arrested?) After our short stop on the field, our tour continued to the Key Bank Diamond Club, the press box, and then we spent some time in the owner’s suite. (One thing that stands Safeco Field apart from other stadiums is its retractable roof. It can open or close in seven (7) minutes!)

View from the Press Box

Continue Reading...