A few years ago I was at work warming leftovers for lunch, when two colleagues walked in raving about their great lunch. They went on and on about a quinoa-stuffed avocado and some of the best chicken they had ever had.
I’m not an avocado lover, so I sort of listened to the rest of what they said, but not nearly as much as I should have. A few days later another colleague mentioned the same place, swearing by the chicken. This time I made a mental note to Google the spot, Viva Chicken.
One look at their menu and I quickly added them to my list of places to try.
It’s Peruvian inspired so everything is seasoned well, especially the chicken. There’s a nice mix of entrees, sandwiches and sides to fit almost any dietary preference. This explains why I have yet to go during lunch and there not be a line.
On my first visit so many people in front of me ordered the avocado I did, too.
Then I understood the hoopla. It was SO. GOOD! If you order it, add pulled chicken. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. And this is coming from someone that has a love-hate relationship with guacamole.
It’s now years later and Viva Chicken is still one of my absolute favorite places for lunch in Charlotte. In addition to the avocado, their chicken, plantains, cilantro-infused rice and French fries are all fantastic.
I also swear by their herbal lemonade!
A couple of things to note if you’re going to Viva Chicken during lunch.
There is always a line, but I love that I can order and pay online, then skip the long line for my food when I arrive. This is perfect for the days I don’t have time to wait in line, but I don’t want leftovers either. I use this option a lot!
There is very limited parking on the street, but you can usually find parking in the lot across the street. Another perk to the lot is you don’t have to worry about getting in the parking spot lines just right to avoid issues with the streetcar.
The sky was a gorgeous rainbow of blues, pinks and lavender this evening, and adorned with some of the fluffiest clouds ever. It was mesmerizing, until I noticed it was almost sunset at 8:15 p.m.
To some this means nothing, but for me it was a reminder that Summer will be over soon. The days are getting shorter and if I’m not careful I’ll be thrown into fall without getting the most from Summer 2015.
So, instead of panicking, I made a fun list. Hopefully this will be my reminder to live in the moment, and not get totally distracted with Back to School planning and all of the many things that vie for my attention. And hopefully it will encourage you to get the most out of yours, too!
“Last Month of Summer” Inspiration List
Serve a Summer-inspired brunch one weekend, featuring lots of summer fruit.
Have an outdoor movie night.
Have a family water fight. My girls have so much fun with water balloons and other water toys!
Up the ante and create a water obstacle course. Include everything from sprinklers and slides, to kiddie pools and buckets for dumping.
Get the most of long summer days by sleeping in one day and then staying up late. On another day get up early and go to bed early!
Be lazy. It’s Summer. No other reason is needed to just relax and enjoy the day.
Spend an hour (or more!) playing childhood games. There’s nothing like a good game of kickball, hopscotch or jump rope. Bonus: It’s fun exercise.
Pick a night to stargaze.
Check out a local festival or event.
Have a “me time” picnic in the park.
Stroll the farmer’s market for fresh dinner idea.
Fit in another trip to some water. Pool, beach, lake… something.
Throw some veggies on the grill; maybe some protein, too, :-).
Attend a free concert in a park.
Choose fun one day over household to-do list. Chores will always be here, but Summer won’t!
I went with gold and white, and splashes of pink, for my theme colors. This saved time and money because I was able to repurpose Christmas decorations.
I love using white for entertaining because it is the perfect backdrop for almost everything. For this event, my white was the tablecloth and some of the serving pieces.
The white tablecloth was a nice balance for the glitzy gold. I draped a bright pink cloth over the cake stand to add a pop of color to the table and to bring out the pink flowers in the floral arrangements. I picked the flowers at Trader Joe’s.
I wanted to keep a carefree atmosphere (and limit the amount of work I needed to do) so I let the ice cream and cake buffet table serve as the decorations. It served as a focal point, and even better, there was only one area to clean up at the end of the night.
I set up a smaller table with drinks and supplies for overflow.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re having an ice cream and cake party.
Make sure you have dairy and non-dairy options. I purchased vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream. I also purchased coconut milk ice cream and soy milk ice cream. This provided options for guests that were vegan and/or dairy free.
Offer different types of toppings. I included fruit (strawberries and blueberries), candy, chocolate and hot fudge. I also added cookies and cake. This way each person could make their own favorite dish.
Start later in the evening. I had a start time of 7 p.m. so that guests could have dinner before coming. I made sure everyone understood it was an ice cream and cake party, but the time was a further reminder to eat dinner beforehand. This also worked for the kids, because it was a great treat after their dinner.
Set everything out and let your guests serve themselves. This was an easy party to organize in a short period of time, because most of the supplies could be purchased in one place, and the buffet was self-explanatory. This also meant I had time to socialize and enjoy the party, not work the party.
AC Santo Mauro is a part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection and it is FABULOUS!
It’s a boutique hotel, which I LOVE, especially when traveling for vacation. With boutiques it really is about the experience and the city you’re visiting. I felt like I was in Spain from the time I walked through the gates, plus there was the perk of earning Marriott reward points, :-).
AC Santo Mauro was built in 1894 as the residence for the Duke of Santo Mauro, and it still feels like it is fit for royalty.
From the time you walk through the gates you are surrounded by elaborate and beautiful details. And while the common areas feel like a palace, our room was modern and sleek with all of the comforts you expect.
When we entered our room we were greeted by a hallway that opened up to the living/sleeping area.
There was a walk-in closet that had plenty of room for me and Hubby’s things.
The bathroom was well-maintained and stocked with Morton Brown toiletries.
We had a basic guest room, so the bed, lounge area and table were in the same space. However, this didn’t make it feel cramped. We were very comfortable.
The grounds are beautiful and have a lot of areas that are perfect for strolling, grabbing a drink or hanging out with friends. During our night stroll we saw groups sitting outside enjoying the patio/garden area and others coming back from an evening on the town.
The staff was very nice and accommodating. We were checked in quickly, they gave us suggestions for things to do and when we called down for extra supplies they were delivered fast. Hubby ordered room service late one night and it was also delivered quickly.
The other great thing about AC Santo Mauro is that it’s walking distance from Puerta del Sol, and the walk is through a vibrant area. It took us about 20 minutes to walk and that’s because we were people-watching and admiring the neighborhood. It’s Madrid, how can you not do this, :-).
You can also jump on transit a couple of blocks away if walking is not your thing.
I’d definitely stay here again and I can’t wait to try another hotel in the Autograph Collection.
Running all day in my Keds. Picking plums off the trees and finding berries in the woods behind Ms. Mattie Mae house.
These are just a few of the childhood memories this tin of Goetze candy brought to mind.
See, as a child I spent lots of summer days with my family in rural South Carolina. This meant days playing with cousins, running from house to house and going to the local church for lunch.
Lunch was a highlight of the day, because close to the church was a little store that sold candy.
Most of the kids went straight to the penny candy, but I had standards.
I would go for quality. Yep, I would be a baller and buy the 5 cent candy, lol! I couldn’t have as much, but it didn’t matter because I had caramel AND a creamy, sugary center. I would eat it that way, too. First, the caramel, then the center.
And now? I’m still eating them the same way, :-).
Goatze is 120 years old this year, so I’m sure they are a part of lots of summer memories.
In fact, they’re celebrating with free samples throughout the Southeast at some Fourth of July parades and community events, so be on the lookout when you’re out making memories this summer.
Happy Birthday Goetze and thank you for the time machine! It made me smile.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary gift pack of Goetze candy. As always, all opinions and words here are my own. I value your trust and would not publish anything that I didn’t believe.
We chose Riad Farnatchi for our couple’s trip to Marrakesh, Morocco this year. To say it was an excellent choice is an understatement.
Everything, from the service and staff to the grounds and accommodations were top-notch.
It is absolutely beautiful.
Walking to the riad you are in the midst of the old medina, a very busy and interesting experience.
However, the riad is the opposite. When you enter the doors you are transported to an oasis of Moroccan luxury and calm.
We were greeted and offered a fabulous glass of mint tea in one of the many lounge areas, while our bags were delivered to our suite.
After we finished our tea, a staff member gave us a tour of the grounds and then showed us to our suite.
We stayed in Suite 8, and absolutely loved it! Just… YES!
It is such a comfortable and luxurious space. I truly felt like I was staying with family, well-to-do family, :-).
I realized this when I was comfortable enough to walk bare feet in my room the first night and I didn’t spray everything with Lysol first.
Until this, I have always prepped my hotel room before getting comfortable.
The staff made sure we were comfortable and that our accommodations were always ready for us. The first night we showered and went out to dinner. Upon return we found our bathrooms had been recleaned and restocked!
When we needed our clothes pressed, they handled it. This happened each night.
One night we came in at midnight and wanted a little snack. The staff gave us these Moroccan pastries and tea. Yes, at midnight, :-).
One reason Riad Farnatchi feels so intimate is the size. There are plenty of lounge areas, a rooftop with lounge chairs and a grill, an amazing dining room, a hammam and a pool, but there are only nine suites.
This means you have this fabulous oasis that is not crowded, but that has the perfect amount of staff to help you and enough options for you to have plenty of peace and quiet.
I’d have to say one of my favorite perks was having my chosen breakfast (the vegetable cheese omelettes were SO. GOOD!) served whenever and wherever I wanted it. Some guests chose the lounge areas throughout the riad, but I chose my room’s patio that overlooked the pool. It felt like the perfect place to eat, enjoy my cup of Moroccan mint tea and relax before starting my day. It was also a great place to read and meditate.
Here is the private outdoor space off of the bedroom.
And the beautiful supply of Molton Brown toiletries.
I used the eucalyptus shower gel every day. Yes, EVERY. DAY.
A few things to remember when you book your stay at Riad Farnatchi:
Make sure you contact Riad Farnatchi and let them know when you’re landing.They will arrange ground transportation for you to and from the airport. This is VERY. IMPORTANT! I am sure we would still be looking for it if we had to find it ourselves, :-). Because the alleys get narrow in the medina, at a point you will need to get out and walk. The first time you do this, you will want a staff member from the riad guiding you.
Have dinner at the riad one night.This is the one thing we didn’t do and I am still kicking myself. The other guests raved about it and it looked amazing. Next time, we’re doing this!
Each suite has its own decor and they are all nice. My friends stayed in Suite 6 and they loved having a private rooftop area. I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of the superior suites.
Let the staff help you book your excursions and ask their opinion on restaurants, etc.They were extremely helpful in booking our day trip and hot air balloon excursion. They are knowledgeable and have developed great relationships with vendors. This is an advantage.
When you check out you will feel like you are leaving family.The managers and staff are extremely friendly and great at their jobs. As such, you will feel like you’ve made lifelong friends.
Enjoy your stay and if you have questions, feel free to ask me! I’ll be happy to offer more insight.
Instead of working a straight 8-5, I have informally adapted the split. Here’s a typical day.
Before I go into the office I check my email and revise my to-do list for the day. Then I do family stuff (help the kids get ready for school, make breakfast, take them to the bus stop). When I know they are ready for their day, I am ready to move on with my day. I work until 4:30ish, then I dedicate the evening to family and working out. Once the kids are in bed (usually by 9 p.m.) I finish any work I didn’t get done during the day.
This working split shift accomplishes three important things.
First, it allows me to be fully present where I am, without worrying about the other. I’m not at work concerned about my kids, and I’m not with my family thinking about work.
Secondly, it allows me to be a happy working mom. I’m sure it’s possible, but I would struggle emotionally if there were no flexibility in my schedule. I am way more productive because I have some control over how I spend the hours of my day.
Third, I can work in a way that fits my personality. Some people do their best work at 7 in the morning. I am not one of them. My best time to be productive begins around 8:30ish. That being said, I don’t need a lunch break in the middle of the day, so I typically eat at my desk. Mini breaks throughout the day work much better for me.
I hope this helps you with your journey of family, work and life!
This post is part of the “Ask Tee” advice column. Have a question about managing work, family and fun? Send it my way!