Archives for category: health
Northern Lights are visible during the Southern Iceland Tour, led by Big Chill Adventures

Northern Lights are visible during the Southern Iceland Tour, led by Big Chill Adventures

Some of the most interesting gigs I’ve had as my alter-ego personality, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, have come without forewarning. Don’t laugh. I know the irony of not predicting the phone calls. I may not have used my tea leaf reading or tarot card abilities to see into those future bookings, but I actually asked the Universe/higher power… whatever name is used when one puts out call for an exciting opportunity, for both of the situations that popped up within a few days of my “Hello, it’s me and I’d like…” call outs.

Natasha, The Psychic Lady when I was the dancer for the Eastern Gypsy Band, Tzighantzi, at EPCOT

Natasha, The Psychic Lady when I was the dancer for the Eastern Gypsy Band, Tzighantzi, at EPCOT

The first memorable time was me asking to be a featured performer in a Disney World spectacle. I particularly wanted to dance. Mind you, at that moment I was already working as a psychic for the Disney theme parks and corporate events and had been belly dancing for Morocco promotional events even before the Morocco pavilion was erected at EPCOT, but no dance or big show opportunities loomed in the horizon. Within a few days of my thoughts transmitted to the universe, I received a call asking if I’d like to be the dancer for a new Eastern gypsy band forming at EPCOT. Would I? For the months that followed, I was the dancer for Tzighantzi. Looking like and dancing like the embodiment of Esmerelda (at least all the girls holding their Esmerelda dolls and watching me thought so). I also was backup musician/singer/and co-emcee. Six shows a day, rain or hot summer sun. Loved it!

Most recently, I pondered that several of my entertainment friends had been getting TV and press coverage and it had been a while since that happened to me. I wasn’t jealous of their largesse. It just pointed out that my life had transitioned from a higher profile to one less noteworthy of media attention. Less than 24 hours later, I got a call asking if I was available to be on a TV program, analyzing handwriting of the news team’s anchors. Did I mention it would be early the next morning or that this would be live? I also needed to be available to work during the Pen & Inc Fair that the Channel 35 Good Day Orlando’s show was promoting for Sam Flax’ art store that Read the rest of this entry »

Map of Yakima Valley, WA. photo by Russ Wagner

Map of Yakima Valley, WA. photo by Russ Wagner

This latest visit to Washington wineries confirms what my husband Russ and I had already determined: we prefer bold and brash merlots, cabernet sauvignons, zinfandels, malbecs and syrahs.

Of course, there are other varietals and blends we are happy to wrap our tongues around (so to speak), which includes some crisp and clean whites and rosés, but give me a jammy red that fills my mouth with flavor and I am in my happy place. Which is why Yakima Valley and Walla Walla wineries jumped to the head of our “wine labels to explore” list.

Yakima Valley appellations – which include Yakima, Zillah, Prosser and the Red Mountain & Vicinity AVAs– is an 80-mile stretch of rural countryside. We focused our time in Red Read the rest of this entry »

Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

April 1. April Fool’s Day and the biggest joke of the day was our group thinking our early morning LAN flight to Santiago, Chile would leave on time. We were at the Puerto Montt Airport by 8 am for a 10:15 flight. Technically, our airplane was there but it was somewhere above us circling above the dense fog that rendered anything beyond the glass windows just an opaque smoky haze.

The arduous pace our group has kept has taken its toll. Some are sick. Most of us are exhausted. The hours of fog-induced delay have pushed our schedule back. The plan to tour Santiago before our night’s activity became an hour stroll among crowded streets and an even more crowded plaza (watch out for the pickpockets!!). We spent little time in Santiago but my initial impressions are of a tattered-appearing city, overcrowded and ill-adept or disinclined to preserve their historical architecture. After a quick shower and change of clothes, we met inside the lobby of Hotel Atton Vitacura to find out which home we’d each be visiting for dinner with a local host.

Statue in plaza in Santiago, Chile. photo by Russ Wagner

Statue in plaza in Santiago, Chile. photo by Russ Wagner

As this was Russ and my first group tour, we didn’t quite understand what dinner with a local host meant. In this case, volunteers who are part of the Smithsonian community agree to host a home cooked meal for a designated number of people. As we came to understand, the host is provided requested provisions. Our group of four couples was assigned to Andrea, a well-travelled woman in her 30s who spoke fluent English. A driver picked each group up and delivered us to the respective front door. In our case, Andrea and her five-year-old (total cutie) son Read the rest of this entry »

The Basilica at Notre Dame, just one of six churches used for venue space in Montréal, Canada

The Basilica at Notre Dame, just one of six churches used for venue space in Montréal, Canada

For the several years that I worked on the radio for three different stations as Natasha, The Psychic Lady, I remember one of the co-hosts regularly signing off with “Remember that it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” That singular phrase sums up why I feel so concerned about what’s going on in the world, what’s happening in America with our election season mudslinging, and why I strive to provide the care and attention to how I treat others, even when stressed by circumstances beyond my control.

I’m an avid newspaper reader and watch a national evening news broadcast when possible. Lately I find myself shuddering with the same head-turning reaction I would give at watching a movie where murder and mayhem run rampant, wondering how can people abuse and misuse others so wilfully and destructively. I don’t understand politicians making a case for their presidency by how aggressively they slam and lie about one another instead of stating what they can (or would like to) accomplish (knowing full well that even the best of intentions cannot politically be achieved without the endorsement of people on both sides of the aisle.) I don’t understand the sheer stupidity of supporting candidates just because they spew vitriolic hate. As a newspaper/magazine writer raised on seeking the truth and not what I’d like the end result to be (a novel approach these days, isn’t it?), I find it appalling how many people accept blindly what they’re told and never bother to question or research (think of the plethora of hateful or deceptive emails you receive and wish you didn’t).

Thank goodness when I am working events as Natasha, I am lauded for my positive messages and the hope, comfort, laughter and friendliness I share. My measure of the event’s success isn’t just by the dollars I earned, but did I make an impactful connection with someone and what lingering peace do I feel from having made that connection.

My wish for you today, and tomorrow onward, is to take as your mantra that “it’s more important to be nice.”

 Ka Maka Landing, a popular Waikolohe Valley water play area at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii

Ka Maka Landing, a popular Waikolohe Valley water play area at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii

HOT DEALS

It’s not too early to think about a relaxing Spring Vacation at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Read the rest of this entry »

BOG Hotel in Bogota, Columbia... just one of the deals offered by Design Hotels

BOG Hotel in Bogota, Columbia… just one of the deals offered by Design Hotels

In this issue: meeting package deals you will want to book

Florida Culinary Students win French education trip

NEW ONE-STOP MEETING WEBSITE FOR LOS ANGELES

meetLA.com is the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board’s new website designed for meeting professionals seeking to book business in that famed city. Critical tools include:

Find a Venue – Users can discover L.A.’s robust portfolio of venues Read the rest of this entry »

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The glass garden at (Dale) Chihuly’s Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle, WA. All photos by Karen Kuzsel

The glass garden at (Dale) Chihuly’s Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle, WA. All photos by Karen Kuzsel

The best of intentions can go awry.

Maybe that’s why restaurants over-complicate recipes or hotels focus on the décor and not on guest services. I had the best of intentions to immediately follow up my blog story HOLY C.O.W! (The Wines of California, Oregon and Washington), published in September, with reviews of where to go, where to eat, and where to stay in those same states. Time slipped past like the shadow of an eclipsing moon. So, come into the light with me as I finally shine a spotlight on what places and activities are worth doing, and which ones you may want to forego.

Here’s the itinerary we followed. Russ and I began our trip in Seattle, WA, then moved on to Portland, OR before connecting with friends and family in Bend OR, Jacksonville OR, and then Oakland CA.

SEATTLE, WA

Renaissance Hotel downtown Seattle: Great location. Easy walking distance to many of the city’s main attractions. First impressions: dreary dark colors of burnt orange and muddy brown, especially for a lobby that had just been refurbished. We stayed in room 2308. Musty odor. Called for maintenance to get the AC running or to at least get the air in the room circulating to eliminate the stuffiness. Bottle water in room part of amenity. We had just travelled many hours and needed that water, but there wasn’t any. Both times calls to housekeeping brought prompt service but it wasn’t an Read the rest of this entry »

Omni King Edward Hotel gets a $40 million facelift

Omni King Edward Hotel gets a $40 million facelift

In this issue: Free French breads. Line up soon

Money talks and Resorts reap the benefits

Europe’s hands get cleaner

RENOVATE, RETROFIT AND REDO

It isn’t every day that a hotel receives a $40 million facelift, even an iconic beauty like The Omni King Edward Hotel, built in 1903 as Toronto’s first luxury property. The Canadian luxury hotel, originally including 400 rooms and 300 baths, was designed by Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb and Toronto architect E.J. Lennox. Restoration to its original glory while delivering modern amenities has been an ongoing project since 2013 when first acquired by Omni Hotels & Resorts. All 301 guestrooms, meeting space, and restaurants have been updated while maintaining its historic elegance. New ingredients include the exclusive Royal Club: 29 guestrooms and suites, access to the VIP Royal Club Lounge, breakfast, light bites in the afternoon, evening hors d’oeuvres, and on-site guest services including the business center, complimentary use of boardrooms and car service. The 22,000 sf of small to mid-sized meeting spaces, the lobby, and three ballrooms were updated, including four large teardrop crystal chandeliers added to the Sovereign Ballroom. While Executive Chef Daniel Schick and his team have updated the dining menus to include locally-produced seasonal Read the rest of this entry »

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