Please – Leave Comments

You can ask any blogger and they will tell you at some point they wondered if anyone was reading their posts.  Just like the scene from Julie and Julia where Amy Adams ponders this very question, sees a comment on a post and but then realizes that it is from her Mother!  I’ve certainly felt that way.  I always make a point to leave a comment, make a suggestion, etc. when I do read other posts. It’s my way of showing some love for the blogger who probably spent hours typing away in the middle of the night, eating leftovers dark chocolate all the while simultaneously shopping Barney’s on-line sale.  But sometimes a reader leaves you a little gem that brightens your day and puts an enormous smile on your face.  Kinda like the one below that arrived on the post I wrote about my Dad on his birthday.

I was online and decided to google my two favorites cousins whom I had not seen since 1989. I was so saddened to find Joe’s obituary but brightened by your birthday tribute. Joe’s grandmother Cuma was my dad Victor’s sister. Bill and Joe and I raised ornery to a new level when we first met around age 10 or younger. I absolutely loved those guys and the fun we had. We once each came up with the dirtiest words we knew then Joe was going to tell on Bill and me. We clamped our hand on his mouth and ran from the house laughing.

I did not see them from the time I was 16 until I stopped in Carlise when I was 45. It was as if time had not passed and we laughed and teased each other and had a great visit. Another 26 years have passed and I still think about them often. That is what led me to google them.

Your words on his birthday touched my heart and made me so happy to have found them. Your dad made me laugh every time I ever saw him. I will forever be holding rabbit ears behind his head in his pictures in heaven.
Gail Friend, Naples, FL and Danbury, IA

Had it not been for my blog post, a curious cousin Googling his relatives in Arkansas would have never known about his ornery cousin’s untimely passing. I also wouldn’t have this gem of a photo of my great uncle Victor Friend.

My dapper great uncle Friend.

My dapper great uncle Victor Friend.

So on days when I think maybe I’ll stop writing about travels, New York City, crap my ex is doing, raising kids and skin care, I’ll remind myself that people are reading my posts,  even long lost relatives with great memories of my Dad.


Ant-Man – Don’t Call The Exterminator



Summer time and super hero movies go hand in hand. This summer you are going to want to reach out and grab Ant-Man’s hand or whatever you can find to hang onto when Marvel’s tiniest super hero crawls onto the big screen today. Funny man, Paul Rudd, who was part of the screen writing team, proves he can still bring the laughs and kick some serious super hero butt at the same time. I wasn’t so sure how the This Is 40 star was going to pull off this role, but he did and proves he’s got what it takes to wear the Ant-Man suit.

Rudd introduced the film at The Regal Theater in New York City on Thursday night. As I’d hoped, he was funny, charming, handsome and fit as ever. The shrinking Super Hero says he basically didn’t eat for a year in order to fit into the Ant Man costume.

Paul Rudd talks "Ant Man" photo by Adam Cohen @dadarocks

Paul Rudd talks “Ant-Man”
photo by Adam Cohen @dadarocks

He answered a few questions about the film. But not before he shook hands with a couple who’d just arrived late and walked right in front of where he was standing to take their seats. Rudd assured them they didn’t miss a thing and any number of Moms in the audience could share their video clips they’d captured on their iPhones.

Corbin loved the film and so did I. If you’ve ever owned a Thomas the Train set, you’ll get a kick out of one of the films best scenes between Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket played by House of Cards star Corey Stoll. The two battle it out in “real insect” size on a moving train set. Corbin laughed his head off watching some of his old time favorite cars whiz thru the air as the super hero insects battled to save/destroy the human race as we know it.

Word of caution here – not long into the movie someone gets called a pussy! As you might suspect, a theater full of kids quickly picked up on it. Corbin said, “Did he just call him a pussy?”. Actually, just about every kid in the audience said the exact same thing at the same time! I remember the first spoken work in Avengers: Age of Ultron was “shit” which garnered the same response from Corbin. Both films are rated PG-13 so keep this in mind.

Ant-Man will not be nominated for an Oscar – shocker I realize – even with heavy weight Michael Douglas in the cast. The movie was entertaining, funny and even pokes fun at the other super hero team, the Avengers, which I found to be hilarious. Corbin was worried he’d feel like ants were crawling all over him while sitting in the dark watching the film. Instead, he laughed more than he scratched at bug bites that didn’t exist. Make sure to stay for the credits and watch the extra scenes in the credits.

I was on assignment with @luxurytravelmom. Corbin and I enjoyed some free popcorn and a coke. The opinions are my own. I liked the film. If I didn’t, I’d tell you to keep your money and get a mani/pedi because that’s how I roll.

Kids Take Manhattan and One Reluctant Mom

I’ve lived in New York City for years, but I have a confession to make—I have never visited the Statue of Liberty. Or Ellis Island. Not because I don’t appreciate their significance to New York City and America.  But because I have a real dislike for being part of aa sea of tourists.  But now that’s changed, in a big way. After seeing them both on the Exclusive Resorts Kids Take Manhattan Event, I’m glad I waited.

Lady Liberty

On this special Event, we had after-hours access to the Statue of Liberty. We saw Lady Liberty as she’s meant to be seen—without long lines or masses of tourists trying to snap photos. She was impressive close-up. And the only screaming kids were with us! They were thrilled to have room to run to get to the Statue before the rest us. Corbin and I wanted a little background, so we followed our park guide around to the base of the statue for a full rundown.

Statue of Liberty after Dark

Statue of Liberty after Dark

The guide told us that if we wanted to check out the view from her crown, to come back in January or February! Of course, I’d nearly freeze to death getting there, but the crowds are slim and the view is spectacular. Sounds tempting…except the freezing part. We’ll see!

The Great Hall

After our Statue tour (and the requisite trip through the gift shop), we boarded a private ferry toEllis Island. We walked into the main building and into the Registry Room, also known as the Great Hall. It was definitely great, in every sense. The room is awe-inspiring, and had a kid-friendly sit down dinner with the other ER members and their children. Corbin had a blast chatting it up with two boys from Toronto and another one from Alabama.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island

The team of park guides took the kids off to talk with them about their own ancestory. The big kids (adults) hung back with our own guide, who gave us the history of Ellis Island and clarified some of the common day myths – for instance, there was not a book that immigrants signed at Ellis Island that led to names being shortened or changed all together! We all reconvened for a little dessert! Corbin and the boys took off, running, hiding, and playing among the massive beams in the Great Hall until we boarded the ferry for our return trip.

Our Personal Playground

How do you even describe a sleepover at famous toy store FAO Schwarz? Three letters—OMG! Corbin still hasn’t stopped talking about it! He was over-the-moon excited when we showed up. Within in seconds, he was off with the other kids and I left them to their “business”. I’ve heard bits and pieces of how the night unfolded, but I can tell you this: He was up until 2 a.m. and was pretty bleary-eyed when I showed up at 8 a.m. I’ve heard about hide and seek, playing on the renowned giant floor piano, and the candy. Literally buckets of sugary candy. Clearly a recipe for a successful night.

The dream is over, Corbin

Corbin, it’s time to go home!


Our last outing was to see the Tony-winning Broadway show Matilda. Despite the great seats, Corbin wasn’t so sure about this one. But once it started and he realized there were really a lot of boys in the cast, he got into it—his lack of sleep the night before got the better of him. He fell asleep during the second act. Fortunately, despite his cat nap, he managed to see and hear some of my favorite scenes in the show.

Corbin before Matilda and his mid-show nap!

Corbin before Matilda and his mid-show nap!

We’ve since downloaded a few of the tunes, too. Corbin is a big fan of Roald Dahl, so he’s checking out the original book. He’s currently halfway through—which makes me infinitely happy. Any Event that leads to more reading is okay by me!

Showtime Selfie

Showtime Selfie


Happy Birthday Dad

My Dad, Joseph Henry Cunningham, would have been 67-years-old today. That is young in my book, too young to die for sure. Dad had just retired about this time last year. I’d talked to him about throwing a BIG retirement party but he talked me out of it. That is a decision I regret. Maybe he was talking himself out of it because he really didn’t want to retire after all. His two excuses for not having the soiree:

  • People would not show up because it was a Friday night and everyone in Carlisle would be at the high school football game – the Bison were heading to the state championship most likely.
  • No one would want to spend their Sunday afternoon at his retirement party at the hall at the church.

Dad died suddenly on May 22nd. He was in Mt. View working on his cabin when he had his heart attack. I still haven’t gotten my head wrapped around the fact that he is gone. Friends who’ve lost parents tell me that I may never get my head wrapped around it.

Cocktail Hour With Dad

Cocktails and Smiles in NYC with my Dad

What I have figured out and wrapped my head around is this. The next time I want to throw a party for someone I love, I’m going to do it. If I want to talk to someone I love, I’m gonna call them. If they don’t answer, I’m going to leave a message. I’m not sending any text messages. I’m calling. My Dad and I played phone tag the week before he died. He left me the sweetest most heart felt message ever that week. Luckily, I saved it and on occasion I’ll listen to it which usually sets off a river of tears and a simultaneous smile. He just wanted to tell me how much he loved me and to call him when I had some time. I am so glad he didn’t hang up that day when I didn’t answer and went on to leave me such a keepsake of a message. I’ll forever be able to hear his voice even now that he is gone.

Usually on his birthday, Father’s Day or Christmas, I’d ask him what he’d like to have. His response was, “just some time with you.” Our last time together, just the two of us, was on March 13th. I’d flown back to Arkansas to hire an attorney after being served divorce papers the day before on the street at 7:40 in the morning after dropping Corbin off for school. Needless to say, it was not the happiest of times for me. But looking back on it now, it was probably the most time the two of us had spent together alone in a long time.

Despite the legal business at hand for me, Dad managed to help me shift my focus for a bit. He took me to his most recent construction site to show me the progress. He’d bought a small lot in a neighborhood that needed a facelift of sorts and was building a really cute house. Dad was proud of it. I was proud of him for taking the risk. If I was looking to buy a house in Lonoke, Arkansas, I would have bought it. It was that cute!

I would give anything to have some time with him today, right now. I would love to be able to sit and sip on a gin and tonic with him and just “visit” as he liked to say. I would love to take that trip to the White River in Mt. View and check out his wood working workshop. He was looking forward to spending time after his retirement in that workshop. The last time I saw him turning wood on a lathe, I was in middle school! That was a long time ago! He was making miniature duck calls then. I wished he could have found a way to work his retirement dream into his pre-retirement life. I’m pretty sure he thought he would have more that 7 months of retirement before he checked out!

For Dad’s birthday, I’m giving myself a gift since I can’t give him one. The gift is this. I’m going to spend more time with my friends and family – at least the one’s I like! I may be sad, but I haven’t totally lost my mind! And to do what I love TODAY, not next week, next month or next year. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Yes, I’ll plan for the future,  but I’m going to make sure I live each day to the fullest. That’s one hell of a gift, I think. Dad would agree, too.

Hidden Gems on the Upper West Side

I love being able to share my favorite New York spots with you on “Meet Me There“.  Of course, showing you all of my favorites would have made the episode about two hours long! But here are some Upper West Side gems for your next visit:

  • As I said in the episode, Milo’s is my favorite restaurant in New York City. But my favorite neighborhood bistro is Cafe Luxembourg. It’s just around the corner from me, and it’s been a local favorite for more than three decades. The menu is wonderful and the bartender is top notch!

    Cafe Luxembourg New York City

    Cafe Luxembourg

  • I love the bright lights of Broadway, but I’ve discovered and even become a part of some amazing live entertainment at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre. UCB was founded by some very funny folks—including Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live fame—and is the training ground for many of the cast members on that show, The Daily Show, and others. I started taking improv classes at UCB and fell in love with it. The shows are hilarious and, unlike some Broadway productions,don’t require you to take money out of your 401k to pay for tickets! If you like to laugh, you won’t be disappointed.

    UCB Theatre Chelsea

    UCB Theatre Chelsea

  • To my great relief, Corbin found a neighborhood toy store that has cut down on our trips to the Times Square Toys R Us! Now we hit Stationery and Toy on West 72nd Street. Despite the conspicuous lack of an indoor Ferris wheel, he is happy as can be, and so am I.

    Stationery and Toy David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    Stationery and Toy
    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

  • Some big name brand stores have moved onto my main drag, Columbus Avenue, but I still prefer to pop into A Tempo for a new dress or Cafe Margot in the historic Ansonia building for a hot cup of coffee after grocery shopping at my local Fairway grocery store.

    Cafe Margot

    Cafe Margot

  • I’m OVER the cupcake craze, aren’t you? When I’m hungry for a baked treat, I head over to Levain bakery on West 74th. The $4 cookies are as big as softballs. They’re meant to be shared – but don’t ask me to share with you. I won’t. They are that good! Get the chocolate-peanut butter chip cookie. You’re welcome!


    Cookies are THAT big!

Living the Dream in New York City

Living the Dream

When I was anchoring the morning news cast at KTAL-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana, my dream was to move to New York City and take over for Katie Couric. I thought I’d look fantastic alongside Matt and Al. (Some days, I still think that!) But sometimes life takes you on the scenic route. That’s what happened to me.  Fast forward—A few years later, I was no longer in television news.  I was married and soon after nursing a baby and changing diapers. Fast forward to now…

sheep's meadow in Central Park

All Smiles from the Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park

I am living in New York City and loving every minute of it. So half of my dream came true. But Katie, you can sleep easy. I’m no longer gunning for your job! So how did I get here? I would have never in a million years thought that my repeat vacation destination would later become my home town, thanks in part to our Exclusive Resorts Concierge in New York.

From Arkansas to the Apple

One day, at our home in Jonesboro, Arkansas, my husband and I had a serious discussion about moving to New York City. It went like this:

“DJ, what do you think about moving to New York City?”, said Mark.

“I’ll be ready in five minutes!”, DJ exclaimed.

It was one of the most decisive conversations we’d ever had.

We’d lived the majority of our lives in Arkansas, but from the first Exclusive Resorts trip to Manhattan, we were in love with the Big Apple. There wasn’t just one thing about the city that drew us here. There were a lot of different things. From the people and food, to the museums and lights of Broadway, the city captivated us in a way like no other city in the country.

After a few weekend getaways, we found ourselves scouting out apartments instead of sightseeing. Our ER concierge encouraged our curiosity. On her days off, she would go to real estate open houses and then call us with the scoop.(Talk about service that goes above and beyond!)

“It was awful. Total fixer-upper.”

“Those on-line photos have been photoshopped to death”

“It was AMAZING, D.J., you’d love the kitchen! But it’s under contract.”

It was a process. But finally, we found the right place for the whole family. We moved on August 10, 2010, and it was a day I will never forget. We walked into our beautiful new apartment on the Upper West Side with just a few suitcases and Leo, our dachshund.

living room

My Living Room featured in Lonny October 2011

I knew I was no longer just a visitor in New York City. There would not be a car waiting to pick me up in a few days to catch a return flight to Arkansas. Or a packed schedule of things to see and do. All I had to do was put down my bags, kick off my shoes and exhale! I was home and I was over the moon excited about this new chapter in our lives.

Settling In

When we moved, I knew New York pretty well—for a visitor. But as you can probably imagine, living in New York City is a totally different experience. I moved from Jonesboro, Arkansas, a town of roughly 60,000 people, to one of the largest cities in the world in a matter of hours. Everything was different. You can’t just zip across town to the grocery store and park your car in the lot. I learned to love the subway, which is hands down the fastest and easiest way to get around NYC, other than walking!

All-weather gear was not anything I spent much time worrying about before I moved. Proper outwear is essential every day of the year in New York. It is a walking city and you need to be dressed appropriately all the time. Rain, sleet, snow or sun, I don’t want to be stuck in midtown without the proper gear in the event of a downpour or a blizzard in January. Or caught in the sweltering heat of July without my sunglasses and a hat! Without the sanctuary of a car to duck into, it’s just me and the elements most days. Although a taxi or the subway isn’t usually too far away.

Full Contact Shopping

About that grocery store, and shopping in general? It’s not easy to trek four blocks from the grocery store with heavy bags in tow! I learned to shop for a few days at a time so I could carry the bags home—or better yet, have them delivered. I can even order groceries on-line and have them delivered….all from the comfort of my bed! Grocery delivery definitely comes in handy when snow is piled high on the side walks and the temperature drops below freezing.

Maneuvering in a Manhattan grocery store is like living in a bad video game. The aisles are tiny and so are the grocery carts. The energy in my local store, Fairway, is similar at times to what you’d feel at a boxing match. You can feel the anticipation of someone about to take out a shopper with a one-two punch at any given moment, for no reason other than they aren’t moving fast enough!

School Next Door—And Everywhere

Some things are more convenient in New York than they were in Jonesboro. Corbin started kindergarten in the public school right next door to our apartment – no morning commute for us. In Jonesboro, I’d have to get Corbin in his car seat and make the drive across town to his school every day. But now it was just a short three-minute walk to the front of the school! Reading, writing, and arithmetic just steps away from home.

Corbin at Bronx Zoo

Corbin and the Hairy Creature at the Zoo

And let’s talk about the field trips! Corbin and his class have visited the Central Park Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, the Natural History Museum, and Ellis Island. He even has an upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., and a trip to London in his elementary school future. Growing up in Carlisle, Arkansas, I remember one time we checked out a local dairy farm and once even made a trip to the state capitol and the Little Rock Zoo! New York City itself is a classroom for Corbin and the rest of us, too.

Do Not Enter

What’s not part of my New York Experience? Two words: Times Square. Sure, I’ve done the touristy things in the city, and still do on occasion. But I only venture into Times Square if I’m on the losing end of a bet with Corbin and have to take him to the indoor Ferris wheel at Toys R Us to settle up. Other than that? Forget it. Even if I have theater tickets I’ll sidestep the whole area to avoid the chaos. (We did shoot ONE scene of the NYC episode of “Meet Me There” in Times Square. It was NUTS, even more so than usual. After we wrapped the episode, we found out that there had been a crash involving some tour busses a block away from where we were shooting!)

DJ in front of Juniors in Times Square

Escaping the Times Square Bus Crash Insanity

It’s been four years since we moved to New York City but it feels like I’ve been here much longer. I may be Southern by the grace of God, but I’m a big city girl at heart. As for the other half of my dream? I’m living it right now with Exclusive Resorts, getting to create “Meet Me There.” Sharing my adventures with you and introducing you to new people and places is also something my 22-year-old self would have never thought possible! See, dreams do come true, and sometimes turn out even better than you expected.

Not Your Mama’s Cookies – In Search of the Perfect Maracon

With all of the the trips I’ve taken, my favorite souvenirs are not tangible objects, although I’ve snagged some fun things along the way. (Hello, Cartier bracelet!) My favorite souvenirs are the experiences and memories created along the journey.

The Challenge

My recent trip to Paris was no exception. My Aussie friend Jackie Brown gave me a fabulous idea. When she went to Rhode Island, she set out on a quest to find the best clam chowder. The Black Pearl in Newport won out. (I’ve had their clam chowder numerous times and I’d have to agree.) She challenged me to do the same—find the best…something…in all of Paris. My first thought was to set out to find the best flute of champagne!! About two seconds later I decided my son didn’t need to be trotting around Paris with his Mom half lit from the bubbly.

Then I thought about the macaron. If you aren’t familiar with a macaron, it is a perfectly sized, meringue- and almond-based cookie sandwich, simultaneously light and chewy, filled with delicious flavors—everything from raspberry to caramel to green tea. As an Oreo addict, I like to think of a macaron as the Oreo’s upscale, cultured French relative.

Meet the Macaron

Meet the Macaron – photo courtesy of Laduree

So off I went, across the Atlantic, with nearly 50 pounds of luggage and my one and only son in tow, in search of the perfect macaron. Within two minutes of landing at Charles De Gaulle, Corbin and I had a sighting—a delectable little macaron beckoning to us from airport’s Ladurée counter. But tempted as we were, first things first—we needed to get to the hotel to decompress from the long flight.

Our Welcome Macaron

But we didn’t have to wait much longer—walking into our beautiful apartment at the Hotel Raphael, we spied a full spread of treats, including a bucket of chilled champagne, a lovely note from Norbert, the hotel manager, and our first macaron contender. Our quest began.  Strawberry, bite-sized, delicious—the macarons were the perfect welcome to the City of Lights – or the “City of Love,” as Corbin insisted on correcting me about daily!

Diamonds in the Rough

After some sleep and a hot shower, we set out along the Champs Elysees and bought more “classy Oreos”. They came from, of all places, the Publicis Grocery store around the corner, nowhere near as fancy as the Raphael. And they were fantastic! Simple and delicious, they hit the spot.

Temple of the Macaron

For our second macaron stop, we made a pilgrimage to the temple of macarons— Ladurée, the esteemed French bakery and inventors of the macaron as we know it. When we arrived, the line out the door let us know we were in for some serious yumminess. There were two lines – one to sit and eat and a second line to just walk in and buy a box of macarons. After lunch, we munched on the Strawberry, Raspberry, salted caramel, and rose. Corbin devoured two after committing to share them all with me and then reneging once the waiter put them on the table. Of course, they were divine–though the rose macaron was a bit weird to eat. While I love the smell of roses, the taste of rose really threw my senses off. Don’t get me wrong, it was really good. But I wasn’t compelled to order another rose macaron anytime soon. I just like to smell a rose and not taste a rose.

Sharing a salted caramel macaron

Sharing a salted caramel macaron

Our third macaron sample came from Ramella, a little shop in the Marais, one afternoon before we set off on a picnic in a nearby park. We went straight for our favorite flavors strawberry and raspberry. These were good, but I wasn’t blown away. The workmanship was not nearly as neat as the previous two competitors. If you find yourself in the area, though, I highly recommend you pop in and put together some things for a picnic lunch. It was scrumptious, though, I admit, a bit lost on me. By this time in the trip I was over fancy French food and was really craving a quinoa and spinach salad.

Ramella sack

This is all that was left!

We made our fourth and final macaron purchase at an amazing store called Dalloyau. Corbin and I spied the store as we were walking out of the Jardin de Luxembourg after sailing boats.

Corbin at Jardin de Luxembourg

Sailing, takes me away…Jardin de Luxembourg

I’d been encouraged to try a macaron “store” near Jardin de Luxembourg—was this the place? The store was immaculate. The display counters were simply beautiful. I bought one of everything. Corbin yelled at me from across the store, interrupting my impulse-buying spree. He had found the macarons. We bought four and headed out to find a taxi, just as it started to rain.

Dalloyau macaron

Dalloyau Deliciousness- photo by Market Manila

As soon as I bit into the first salted caramel macaron, I knew I’d possibly found the best macaron in Paris. This one had the right amount of firmness and just the perfect amount of soft, sweet filling. It was crafted with the kind of precision that would make an Army sergeant proud. These perfect specimens were so pretty to look at and admire that I almost didn’t want to eat them.

Dalloyau sack

Empty sack #2 from Dalloyau

So where is the best macaroon in Paris? Drum roll, please! I have to give the crown to Dalloyau. From the taste, texture and presentation, they swept the competition. And guess what? I found out later that Dalloyau was actually NOT the store my friend recommended after all—that was a place called Pierre Herme! I guess this means I’ll have to make a return trip, right?

Despite crowning Dalloyau the winner, my advice is this: Next time you’re in Paris, stop and buy macarons whenever you see them! They’re like gelato in Italy – it’s all good! You can’t go wrong. My only caveat? Remember that the calorie exchange rate is exactly the same in Paris as it is in New York City. So leave your skinny jeans at home!

And anyway, half the fun is in the hunting—the time I spent with Corbin taste-testing macarons is what I will treasure long after the cookies are gone.