Friday, August 29, 2008

Fort Lauderdale, Florida is Going Green

"GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – August 26, 2008 – Aiming to preserve its pristine beaches and natural eco-systems such as the Everglades and mangrove preserves, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB) recently established Plan.It.Green, an innovative program created to help offset the carbon footprint from meetings and conventions held within the destination each year.

A partnership with the Broward County Parks and Recreation Division, Plan.It.Green will reestablish native trees and green buffers in Markham Park, located in Sunrise."Tourism is such a significant part of who we are, it now also helps us with who we will be," said Nicki E. Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We are honored to be the first CVB to partner with our meetings industry in this very important green initiative."The GFLCVB has identified three ways to contribute to this program:

Regroup. Recharge. Replant. Meeting planners have the opportunity to be "meeting planters" by stopping by the GFLCVB booth at any tradeshow, a donation will be made on their behalf to help plant a tree in Broward County parks. In addition, planners will receive handmade, biodegradable paper embedded with wildflower seeds that they can take home and grow. Ads in both Meeting Professional International's and the American Society of Association Executives' publications, inform attendees that, by simply visiting the GFLCVB's booth, they will be doing their part to preserve the planet.

As part of the bid process for large meetings, the GFLCVB will provide a donation on behalf of the organization's meeting to Broward Parks for the Plan.It.Green program. The GFLCVB will also extend the same incentive for meeting planners that submit an RFP to the bureau.

The GFLCVB can arrange a volunteer planting day at Markham Park for organizations holding meetings in Greater Fort Lauderdale or groups can make donations directly to Broward Parks for Plan.It.Green. Either way the organizations can contribute to the greening of the destination one tree at a time.

Broward Country certified Florida Green Lodgings are also contributing to Plan.It.Green by making a donation for reforestation in Broward Parks. Florida Green Lodgings are hotels that have been recognized by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for being environmentally conscientious as a result of their conservation practices or building design.

Currently almost 25 hotels in Greater Fort Lauderdale are awaiting certification inspection, while 14 have already received accreditation. These include: Bahia Mar; Comfort Inn & Suites, Fort Lauderdale; Comfort Suites Airport & Cruise Port, Fort Lauderdale; Comfort Suites, Tamarac; Embassy Suites Deerfield Beach Resort & Spa; Embassy Suites Hotel Fort Lauderdale; Fort Lauderdale Grande Hotel & Yacht Club; Hampton Inn, Hallandale Beach – Aventura; Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort; Hyatt Regency Bonaventure Conference Center & Spa, Weston; Hyatt Regency Pier 66; Mainstay Suites, Tamarac; Sheraton Suites Cypress Creek, Fort Lauderdale; Sleep Inn & Suites, Dania Beach.

Kiosk and interpretive signage in Markham Park will recognize the donors of the Plan.It.Green campaign.

The new Greater Fort Lauderdale is a vibrant, year-round destination offering more than 33,000 hotel rooms at a variety of hotels, resorts, and Superior Small Lodgings, plus new five-star resorts and more to come. More than ten million annual visitors enjoy Greater Fort Lauderdale's 23 miles of Blue Wave Beaches, 300+ miles of inland waterways that run from the Intracoastal to the Everglades, 4,000 restaurants, top shopping, and a thriving arts and culture scene. For more information, contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 22-SUNNY or visit www.sunny.org"

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blogging Around the Web

Well, I've been busy lately blogging all over the web. I have two regular gigs where you'll be finding me quite a bit at the Prevention buzz blogger community and over at Green Options Media.

Read my newest post about my glowing skin secrets at Prevention and drop by Green Options to check out their family of sites. I don't have anything up yet but I will soon.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Blog: Creatively Green

I have started a new blog for all my non-wedding musings. The new blog is Creatively Green. The main focus will be on green living, gardening, crafting, nature and my ramblings about anything and everything.

I had quite a few musings, essays and things that I thought about writing for blog posts that just didn't fit in with my green wedding focus here or on my Prevention buzz blog health related posts. And since I find blogger to be the most user friendly of blog sites I created a new blog here. I have MySpace and FaceBook and livejournal accounts but I find they are not as user friendly and they take much longer to load and don't have all the easy to use tools (gadgets).

I have a few posts up already and I'm adding links and gadgets randomly. So if you get a chance, stop by and check it out.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Prevention.com

You may have noticed that I write for Prevention.com as one of their community bloggers now. I love it, it's great to focus on getting fit and being healthy. They have a fabulous group of bloggers in the community that write about everything from getting fit to being a mom and helping kids make healthy choices. I have a sidebar here on this blog with an RSS feed showing the newest posts in the Prevention community. Make sure you drop by and check it out.

In addition to the blogs, the Prevention site is fabulous. There is so much on the site I still haven't had time to get to all of it. There are loads of information, articles and tools to help you lose weight including free videos. There's even a weight loss simulator that you can use to show you how you would look after losing weight. There is also a health tracker that can help you keep track of your goals and help you accomplish them.

Drop by Prevention.com and see what they have to offer. It's a fabulous site that can help get you healthy and on track.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Green Photography On the Rise

I've written several articles and posts about green photography and green photographers. I love that photographers and technology are really getting into the "green" scheme of things.



I recently received information about another photographer that is going green and hopes to help others go green as well.


"Green photographer Patrick Williams recently launched an environmentally-focused photography blog, http://www.ecophotogblog.com/. The blog was created to offer tips and insights for green or aspiring green photographers."


A few other green photographers blog on the site including one I've had a chance to chat with online a couple of times, (Kris)Tina Carter of VRAI Photography.

"Patrick is the founder and operator of PWP Studio, based in Atlanta , where he specializes in wedding, portraiture and freelance photography. Over the past few years, Patrick started a green initiative at his studio and in everything he does. Some of his 'green' practices include: reusing all boxes and shipping materials and recycling whenever possible, using print paper and photo albums created from 100% recycled materials, he has replaced paper address and logo stickers with reusable polymer stamps with soy-based inks, and he has implemented the use of carbon neutral transportation to provide deliverable items to his clients.

Patrick is also in the process of starting a green photography association-- which would be the first of its kind-- to encourage other photographers to implement environmentally friendly practices into their studios. He would like to encourage others to eliminate the impact of studio operations whenever possible and to modify their photography processes by using supporting renewable and sustainable resources. In addition, he will soon open an online store that will provide consumers and future association members with eco-friendly photography supplies and equipment. "


Sounds like Patrick is really dedicated to going green and helping others be more eco-friendly as well in both their lives and their work.

"Patrick hopes to drive awareness and support for the association and store through his Eco Photog Blog at http://www.ecophotogblog.com/. Already, two other green photographers, Tina Carter (based in Chicago ) and Jacklyn Greenberg ( New Haven , Conn. ) have joined Patrick’s cause and contribute as writers on the Eco Photog Blog.

So, whether you are a professional photographer, enjoy photography as a hobby, or simply enjoy reading the thoughts of other passionate environmental stewards, this blog is a great read."

Mountain Rentals of Gatlinburg



If you are planning a vacation in Gatlinburg you really have to stay in a cabin to get the best experience and the most bang for your buck. It’s not much more expensive than staying in a decent hotel and if you have a large family or a lot of people staying with you a cabin is the best deal.



There are several cabin rental companies throughout Gatlinburg. We went through Mountain Rentals of Gatlinburg. They sent a big magazine with all the details of all the cabins they rent out. Everything looked so wonderful. (They have several honeymoon cabins, a couple even have indoor pools.) After going through the magazine and checking stuff out online (you can do a 360 tour) we found the cabin that seemed to suit us the best and that was available the week we were planning to be gone, Appalachian Splendor.



Unfortunately it didn’t have internet access which I thought would be okay but a week with very limited access…not okay for an internet junkie like me. Plus with all my writing stuff I need to have access to my email a lot. I almost missed out on a writing deal because I didn’t check my email for days. The cabin rental office has free wifi and I found one location in a mall that had internet access (didn’t have my laptop with me) other than that no internet access except at the hotels, which we obviously were not at. None of the Burger Kings or McDonalds had wifi that we stopped at. Seriously I thought I was going to die. I was having withdrawals.



Other than the lack of internet access our cabin was beautiful though it did have some issues. I have a two year old and the cabin was not toddler friendly. The front door he could open right up and walk out so they installed a chain lock on it for us. I thought that was wonderful of them. Most of the other problems we solved ourselves by moving furniture and just not letting him go outside. He fell down the front porch the first day and stuck his head through the slats on the back deck. Not cool we are literally way up in the mountains and he could fall right off the edge. The cabin was also two stories. Luckily the stairs were thickly carpeted and he could scoot down them. The loft was nice and had a high wall he couldn’t climb over, thank goodness.



The other major issue I had with the cabin was the drive to get to it. Twisting, turning, narrow, creepy mountain roads that seemed very treacherous, and then there was our driveway…heartattackville. It’s a sharp turn, a steep incline then a quick stop. If you make a wrong move you’re off the mountain…really….boom, bang, crash, and pray a tree stops you from going all the way down. I wouldn’t drive it. I couldn’t. There is no way. I panic driving between two semis. Driving through the mountains would kill me. So I couldn’t go anywhere without my husband which kind of sucked because there were things I wanted to do without the kids in tow. I really wish on the brochure or the Web site or something they would warn you about the area of your cabin and the roads to reach it. I would have been just as happy and a lot less stressed with one of the cute cabins at the bottom of the mountain.



Then the free stuff Mountain Rentals gives you…crap. Okay, the seventh night free when you book six nights is cool but the little bag and pen both sucked…the pen stuck and the bag ripped…and the coupons are no better or different than what you can pick up everywhere. Then the four free horseback riding tickets they gave us we couldn’t even use because we have a two year old. This guy doesn’t allow children under 5 or 6 and no double riders so that left one of us adults staying at the cabin with the little guy. My husband took the oldest kids then the jerk told him he couldn’t ride because he was a couple pounds over the weight limit. So he had to take the kids and pay for horseback riding somewhere else. All of the other stables allow small children to double with a parent and don’t have weight limits. Some even give out free cowboy hats and pictures when you ride. One of the reasons I booked with Mountain Rentals was for the free horseback riding. I figured that would be one less thing we had to pay for, and then we had to pay over $60 for it anyway.



Oh, I forgot to mention Saturday morning we woke up with no water and had to go to my husband’s family reunion in Maryville about an hour from Gatlinburg. It’s freaking hotter than hell in Tennessee in August. You don’t want to go anywhere without showering. So we got creative, we all dunked ourselves in the hot tub to at least rinse off and wet our hair so we didn’t walk around with bedhead all day. Thankfully when we arrived back at the cabin that evening we had water again. Let me tell you something though, that morning I was ticked…and that’s putting it nicely. We’re not really sure what happened something about a water pump going out on the mountain and several cabins were affected. They didn’t offer any kind of compensation for any of our problems.



Now that I’m done ranting let me tell you about the good stuff. We had three bedrooms, one upstairs with a huge king size bed obviously me, the hubby and toddler took that room, another bedroom in the loft area that I think was a regular double bed and super cute that ended up being my daughter’s room, then a nice queen size bed downstairs that was my teenagers room. He liked that he was alone and far away from the rest of us. If we had more people the sofa turned into a bed, too.



The view was spectacular. From our front porch that had a swing and rocking chairs we could look out and see nothing but mountains and trees. On the back deck we had a picnic table, benches, hot tub and a grill. Very nice. Except for a few railing slats that were not built to code and my little guy could stick his head and shoulders right through them. We put the benches in front of those to keep him away from that area.



The cabin had two bathrooms, one with a standard tub/shower and the second with a huge Jacuzzi bathtub. Again, very nice.



We had a full kitchen that was equipped with dishes, silverware, pots and pans and most of everything we needed. All we had to do was supply the food which saved us a fortune on eating out costs. We usually had breakfast at the cabin, maybe lunch or a snack out while we were enjoying the sights then came back to the cabin and had dinner.



Another great feature was the cabin had a washer and drier that we could use (no extra costs either, they weren’t coin operated). I think I did six loads of laundry while we were there. I know most people want to avoid all that on vacation but with three kids you like travelling and still having all the conveniences of home. Kids get dirty, bathing suits and towels get fishy smelling from the rivers and you might have a toddler that decides to get sick, like mine did. Yeah, immediate washer and drier access in the cabin…priceless.



So all in all the cabin was fantastic, sure it had some issues but I suppose everything does. I’ve never been anywhere that gave me 100% satisfaction, at least not when I travel with my kids. I’m a lot pickier when my children are with me because many vacation destinations just are not kid friendly even though many of the sites and attractions are geared towards children you think the accommodations would be more kid friendly.



If Mountain Rentals would fix some of their issues like offering childproof cabins and partnering with a more family friendly stable they might get many more families making return trips. They also should give warning of the drive and the steep incline of some of the cabins (really what if our vehicle couldn’t have made the drive? We didn’t drive our SUV we borrowed a minivan that luckily made it up the mountain). Oh, and if they offered internet access in all the cabins…it would have been heaven…heaven with bears.



I forgot to mention…black bears are plentiful in the Smoky Mountains. You have to be careful and be aware that they are out there and they are wild animals…not cute, little, cuddly bears. Don’t leave food in your vehicle and don’t leave garbage out that will attract them. Smart people have garbage cans or huge dumpsters that get locked up tight at night.

My Smoky Mountain Vacation

My family hasn’t taken a real family vacation in years, something that involved all of us for more than just a day. So when my husband received an invitation for his family reunion back in January we decided that we were going to go to the reunion in Maryville, Tennessee and make a vacation out of it by visiting Gatlinburg and all of the other towns that are clustered together in the Smokies; Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Townsend, Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina. So we started planning a week of fun in the Smokies.

This was one of my most well planned vacations ever also one that we actually had money saved up for. So it was wonderful to go on vacation and not worry about not having money for the things we really wanted to do.

The location is stunning. Ever since my husband brought me to Tennessee several years ago I have been in love with the mountains. The beauty of the Smoky Mountains is indescribable, really something you just have to experience firsthand.

Driving through the mountains is another story. That’s dangerous.

Our cabin was in Gatlinburg up in the mountains not down in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the main strip. Last time we stayed in Pigeon Forge which is also pretty crazy this time of year.

I enjoyed our vacation but it was exhausting and hectic. I think my favorite parts were the ones that didn’t involve a lot of crowds, noise, or money.

I think the best day was our trip to Cades Cove, which is a historical community inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is camp ground, picnic area, and the 11 mile scenic loop full of historical buildings and sites including three churches with very old cemeteries. My husband’s maternal family is from that area of Tennessee (they are even mentioned as being one of the first families in Cades Cove on one Cade’s Cove Web site) and there are old LeQuire tombstones in the cemeteries. There is also a barn in Cade’s Cove that his grandfather claimed was his when he was a child and a wall that his grandfather helped build. It was a wonderful way for my children to get a taste of their genealogic roots.

Members of my husband’s family joined us on our Cade’s Cove trip; his brother, sister, and their children and two of his cousins. My husband, his brother and sister and all of the cousins used to make the trip almost every year when they were children. This time it was a second generation that got to explore where they came from.

We picnicked in the park, played in the river and hiked through the trails in the woods then we drove the scenic loop through Cade’s Cove stopping and checking out the historical locations. The whole day was free (minus the cost of gas) and it was the best part of our vacation.

The rest of our vacation was spent checking out the attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, Wonder Works, and some of the little go cart places and arcades that are extremely plentiful in the area. Parts of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are like a big amusement park, except an amusement park would be cheaper. Everything is separate here. For my family of 5 to get into the aquarium it cost over $85 same for WonderWorks. Both places were noisy, crowded and crazy. Not a good combination for me and obviously not for my two year old either because he screamed and cried through most of it making us all miserable.

We also did some shopping. I found my favorite store of all time in the mall in downtown Gatlinburg, Chillin Turtles. Nothing but turtle stuff; turtle garden décor, turtle home décor, turtle clothing, turtle jewelry, turtles, turtles everywhere. I love turtles. Someday I will have a turtle pond or habitat, maybe a whole turtle preserve. Right now I don’t have any because I think sticking them in a little glass aquarium is cruel. Anyway, I contained myself and exhibited remarkable self control and only purchased one thing, a beautiful turtle wind chime made from copper wire.

There is so much to do it is unbelievable. One day my daughter went to Splash Country inside Dollywood with her aunt while my husband and teenage son went to the NASCAR Speed Park go cart track and went through Ripley’s Haunted Adventure while I relaxed at the cabin with my little guy because he was sick. Another day my husband also took the older kids horseback riding and tubing down the river. My little guy is only two so a bit too small for any of that, and I got to do something I’ve wanted to do…sit in a log cabin in the woods and relax. While the little guy napped I sat in the Jacuzzi tub and read a book. I can’t do that at home and nobody bothered me.

A Smoky Mountain vacation is just so exquisite. There is something for everyone; you have nature, history, adventure and lots of fun for all ages. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is full of beautiful scenery, hiking trails, rivers and waterfalls and if you go to Cade’s Cove it’s like stepping back in time. And it’s free unless you rent a bike or go horseback riding but to just go to the park and hike around, free.

Other mountain adventures include renting ATV’s, taking a ride in a Hummer or seeing the sights by helicopter or you can go white water rafting or fishing. For the less adventurous (though I think braving the crowds, noise and tons of kids takes a lot of guts) you can visit one of the many family friendly attractions. There are a couple underground caverns open for touring. Being underground is so cool, literally…it’s always around 58 degrees underground; a great way to beat the heat in the middle of the summer. If going underground isn’t enough jump in one of the many rivers. That’ll cool you off. Mountain streams and rivers are pretty cold.

We did a lot. It was nice being able to find things the whole family could do since there is such a big age difference in the kids; 16, 9 and 2. We tried to make sure to do things as a family and make sure everyone got to do the things they really wanted to do. It was a fun family vacation, thank goodness though we won’t be repeating it anytime soon though because I am exhausted. We did so much walking and hiking and it was HOT. I’m a Michigan girl, relentless days of 98 degree and up weather doesn’t sit well with me. One day it was over 100. We hit the pool after a day spent in the heat in Pigeon Forge.

I was thankful to go home to Michigan and 70 degree weather. Plus I really needed a vacation from my vacation.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My article on FundsforWriters.com

I have a new article up on the Funds for Writers site if anyone is interested. It has links and ideas for writing "green".

Back From My Smoky Mountain Vacation

I have been gone for over a week in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Absolutely beautiful place, breathtaking views (and heart stopping drives), and just an all around fun place to be. We stayed in a cabin high up in the mountains of Gatlinburg and visited the surrounding areas of Pigeon Forge, Townsend, Sevierville, and Maryville. We didn't make it to Cherokee, NC this time but it is also very close by.

While I was there I checked out some of the wedding opportunities there. What a great place to have a budget and/or a green wedding. Gorgeous natural settings, intimate and adorable little chapels and very reasonable package deals that offer you everything including photography, a honeymoon cabin, even tickets to local attractions.

I will be writing a lot about weddings in the Smoky Mountains in the upcoming weeks once I pull all my info together and type everything up. I also have some photos of a darling little chapel and links for many, many, many Tennessee wedding chapels, planners, flowers, chalets, hotels and more. So stay tuned for that.