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Monday
Jul272015

The Magic of Swimming with Docile Whale Sharks

When was the last time you took a vacation you could describe as “magical"?

Please enjoy my article describing the exhilarating –and yes, magical--experience of swimming with the docile whale sharks in Baja's Gulf of California. It was all part of an amazing 6-day adventure at the Las Animas Eco-Lodge located on a pristine beach outside of Bahia de los Angeles. 

Please enjoy my published travel article as well as my photo gallery of this amazing experience.

Wednesday
Jul222015

Joanne's Newest Travel Picks....for comfort and safety

Summer travel is in full swing and I’m always looking for items that make me feel more comfortable and secure, whether I am traveling to Europe or to our local San Diego beach.

If, like me, you find it difficult to snooze on a long flight because you are distracted by cabin lights or a seat neighbor who won’t stop talking, the 1 Voice Sleep Headphones Eye Mask is for you.  The mask itself is made of memory foam, is plushy and comfortable, and does a great job of blocking out all light due to its nice size.

But the really cool feature is the fact that the headphones are built right into the mask, so the only thing between you and soothing music on your phone or MP3 is a light cord (provided).  

Oh yes, did I mention the mask is machine washable, making it easy to keep clean.

Having just one item that takes the place of two also saves room in my travel carry-on—always a plus.

 

 

 

 Speaking of beaches, I now have a favorite water tumbler to cart along in my beach bag—Zerowater.  In my quest to rid myself (and the environment) of plastic water bottles, I now make my own filtered water using this innovative system. Just fill it up with tap water and let its 5-stage Ion filter do its job on all impurities such as aluminum, lead, mercury, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. The tumbler does such a great job in removing these pollutants that it has earned top endorsements by Good Housekeeping, the Water Quality Association, and the National Science Foundation.

The sturdy, leak resistant and BPA-free bottle holds a substantial 26 oz of water, perfect for a hot day at the beach.  It pays for itself, especially if you are a frequent flyer. Just cart it empty through airline security and head to the nearest public water fountain—knowing you are getting the purest of filtered water without having to pay those inflated prices for bottled water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who ever thought self-defense could be stylish?  I always carry pepper spray, especially when I am walking in a big city on my travels, but I always end up tucking the ugly spray container in my purse (which sort of defeats the purpose if I needed it quickly).

The Blingsting pepper spray line was created by a mother-daughter team whose love for anything cute and sparkly got them thinking that, if women had fashionable choices for personal safety, they would be more likely to keep them handy. The spray comes in 8 colors to match any outfit, and it’s even refillable so if you have to use your sting, you don’t have to lose your bling!

Be warned, however, that the spray (which is so cute you might forget to take it off your bag) is not allowed on commercial aircraft. It is certified for use in all 50 states.

Being safe never looked so good.

Thursday
Jun252015

Catalina Island: California's Island Resort

 
Although just 22 miles off the Southern California coast, Catalina Island remains a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. The town of Avalon, founded in 1887 as a seaside resort, evokes a charm that is undeniably unique and captivating. It's no surprise that it was a favorite stomping ground for the rich and famous over the decades. Click on the image below to see this magical island through my eyes (and camera lens)!
The beautiful harbor of Avalon, Catalina Island

 

Thursday
Jun112015

Il Cortile Ristorante....an Authentic Taste of Italy in Paso Robles California

     The quaint city of Paso Robles, with its picturesque historic downtown and renowned wine region,
delights the visitor with its share of Central Coast charm. But it also offers something very special: an
authentic taste of Bella Italia at the Il Cortile Ristorante in the heart of downtown.
     While the restaurant's hip, chic décor evokes California cool more than rustic Tuscan, the spirit of
Italian cuisine definitely is reflected in the innovative and extensive menu.
     Having traveled many times to Italy, the birthplace of our parents, my husband Tony and I pride ourselves on ourknowledge of the authentic cuisine of our heritage.
     Our culinary tour of the Old Country began with our “antipasti” a masterfully seasoned plate of
grilled octopus in a spicy vinaigrette, followed by carpaccio di anatra, thinly slice duck blanketed with gorgonzola sauce, balsamic reduction and caramelized onions.
     Il Cortile's pastas are all home­made, which was clearly evident after our first bite of our secondi
piatti, second course. Tony claimed that his selection (ravioli stuffed with lobster and served in a
shrimp-­infused tomato sauce) ­­competed nicely with his Sicilian grandmother's similar family
recipe.
     I, in turn, savored ravioli stuffed with ricotta and tossed with asparagus in a light white wine sauce. To be honest, my grandmother never came close to creating such a wonderful dish. Magnifico.

     Our main course featured the restaurant's signature osso bucco which, as it should, melted off the bone to be enjoyed in its rich sauce. Paired with 2011 Halter Ranch Syrah, it was indeed a culinary match made in heaven.
     We ended the meal with Il Cortile's Panna Cotta, a light creamy dessert topped with fresh Central Coast berries.
     Once again,Tony declared it was every bit as delicious as his grandmother's version and as he admitted later, may have been even better!
      Il Cortile offers an impressive wine list, but if you wish to bring your own special vintage, there is a $20 corkage fee with a limit of two bottles.
     So, when in Paso Robles, do as the Romans do (or visitors who love incredible Italian cuisine) and enjoy an authentic taste of Italy at the Il Cortile Ristorante in the heart of downtown.

 

Wednesday
Jun032015

Savor the Best in Food, Wine, & Art at Maine's Kennebunkport Festival

The Kennebunkport Festival is an annual celebration of the best food, wine and art that Maine has to offer. Now in its 11th year, the festival will take place from June 8 – June 13, 2015 in the seaside village of Kennebunkport, Maine. The festival is packed full of prominent chefs, bartenders, sommeliers, musicians, and artists that will make appearances in some 40 events, including cocktail parties, intimate gourmet dinners hosted in private homes, a gala party, a grand tasting event, art shows, after-parties, and an outdoor concert. Learn more about this year's upcoming event at http://kennebunkportfestival.com.

 

Food & Wine Under the Stars

Come June 8-13, 2015, Maine gears up for its signature annual event: The Kennebunkport Food and Wine Festival. One of the premiere events at the festival is Pop the Kennebunks presented by Cellardoor Winery, one of Maine's signature wineries. This year's event features six chefs who have been recognized as "Maine Chef of the Year", each preparing a taste of the best food coastal Maine has to offer.

Photo courtesy C.A. Smith Photography

Seafood Fresh from the Surf

The Kennebunkport Festival is an annual celebration of the best food, wine and art that Maine has to offer. At the festival, you will taste some of the freshest seafood you’ve ever had in your life, giving new meaning to surf to table cuisine.

Photo ©Joanne DiBona

Raise a Glass

Wine tasting is a favorite activity at this popular festival. Not only are varietals from around the world featured here, but also those of Maine vintners who have mastered the art of fine wine production. Did you know Maine features a Wine Trail comprised of 24 wineries across the state?

Photo by Tony DiBonaRustic Elegance

All dressed up, this antique barn at Wells Reserve, Laudholm, Maine is just awaiting guests. Imagine if you only had a wood fire to prepare a gourmet dinner! That’s all some of Maine's premier chefs used to create an amazing culinary experience inspired by wood elements at this elegant, yet definitely rustic, event.

Photo ©Joanne DiBonaLobster Crostini

The Kennebunkport Festival is not your lobster roll and bib kind of event. While every dish prepared uses the best ingredients Maine has to offer, you’ll find yourself looking at lobster and other Maine sea food in a whole new light.

Photo ©Tony DiBona

Wine and Tapas 

Guests are treated to a variety of tastes and flavors at the Grand Tapas Party. Under a beautiful white tent along the Kennebunk River, over 25 chefs and wineries are on hand to offer samples. You will not leave this event hungry!

Photo courtesy of C.A. Smith Photography

Art & Wine, A Perfect Fit

Imagine having an intimate dinner in an 18th Century barn-turned-art gallery. At last year's event, not only did guests enjoy a culinary feast of multiple courses paired with exquisite wines (prepared by Aurora Provisions in Portland), they were able to savor the fine art, photography, and ambiance of the Maushart Gallery while they dined.

Photo © Joanne DiBona

Meaty Selections

While seafood is definitely king at the festival, visitors will find a wide array of food to sample.....from vegetarian to hearty meat dishes. Wine is paired with each dish to round out the culinary experience.

Photo © Joanne DiBona

Paradise on Earth

When you've had your fill of food and drink, there's nothing like watching surfers at dusk to remind you that you're in a little paradise on earth!

Photo © Joanne DiBona

Rural Charm

Guests at the festival's Wood Fired Grand Cru Event enjoy a spectacular view of Maine's rural charm from the Barn at the historic Wells Reserve at Laudholm during cocktail hour.

Photo © Joanne DiBona

Top Chefs Prepare Intimate Dinners

One of the highlights of the festival is The Art of Dining, a series of intimate dinners prepared by Maine's top chefs and featuring seasoned sommeliers, hosted in Kennebunkport's most exquisite homes. Chef Chris Gould of Central Provisions restaurant in Portland, Maine, whips up a culinary masterpiece in the kitchen of a private residence, to the delight of all.

Photo © Joanne DiBona

Dancing the Night Away

This festival not only features incredible food and wine, but top musical entertainment from some of the nation's hottest bands. Last year's Moroccan-themed event under the tent, which offered culinary delights such as swordfish and lamb kabobs, chickpea fritters, grilled shrimp, and calamari and orzo salad (not to speak of a harem of belly dancers), inspired guests to work off their dinner by dancing the night away.

Photo © Tony DiBona 

Moonlight Stroll

After indulging in some of Maine's premiere food and wine, there's nothing like a moonlight stroll on Kennebunk Beach to digest the day's happenings.

Photo © Joanne DiBona